Senator Levin to Do Live Chat on Ongoing Senate Investigation into Detainee Abuse at 11 ET Tuesday

levinhighres.thumbnail.jpgWe had a very engaged liveblog discussion during the Senate Armed Services Committee’s hearing on Detainee Abuse a few weeks ago. Tomorrow, the Chair of the Committee, Senator Carl Levin, will do a live chat at FDL to talk about the next steps in the Committee’s investigation. Senator Levin will join us at 11 AM ET on Tuesday.

In his statement from that earlier hearing, Levin gave a detailed description of how DOD adapted its SERE training techniques for use on prisoners.

So, how did it come about that American military personnel stripped detainees naked, put them in stress positions, used dogs to scare them, put leashes around their necks to humiliate them, hooded them, deprived them of sleep, and blasted music at them. Were these actions the result of “a few bad apples” acting on their own? It would be a lot easier to accept if it were. But that’s not the case. The truth is that senior officials in the United States government sought information on aggressive techniques, twisted the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees. In the process, they damaged our ability to collect intelligence that could save lives.

Today’s hearing will explore part of the story: how it came about that techniques, called SERE resistance training techniques, which are used to teach American soldiers to resist abusive interrogations by enemies that refuse to follow the Geneva Conventions, were turned on their head and sanctioned by Department of Defense officials for use offensively against detainees.

During June’s hearing, a lot of new questions were raised (and DOD General Counsel Jim Haynes proved to have as fuzzy a memory as every other senior Bush official). Tomorrow, join us to talk with Senator Levin about how the investigation will move forward.

Mukasey Flip Flops on Pixie Dust

Back during Michael Mukasey’s confirmation hearings, Sheldon Whitehouse got Michael Mukasey to commit that, when a President changes an executive order, he appropriately should actually change the executive order–so schmoes like you and I can know what the President is actually doing.

2. Do you believe that the President may act contrary to a valid executive order? In the event he does, need he amend the executive order or provide any notice that he is acting contrary to the executive order?

ANSWER: Executive orders reflect the directives of the President. Should an executive order apply to the President and he determines that the order should be modified, the appropriate course would be for him to issue a new order or to amend the prior order.

A few months later, we learned why Whitehouse had asked Mukasey the question–because Bush was claiming that he didn’t need to change his own executive orders, specifically EO 12333–which Americans would have believed protected them against wiretapping when they were overseas.

Let’s start with number one. Bear in mind that the so-called Protect America Act that was stampeded through this great body in August provides no – zero – statutory protections for Americans traveling abroad from government wiretapping. None if you’re a businesswoman traveling on business overseas, none if you’re a father taking the kids to the Caribbean, none if you’re visiting uncles or aunts in Italy or Ireland, none even if you’re a soldier in the uniform of the United States posted overseas. The Bush Administration provided in that hastily-passed law no statutory restrictions on their ability to wiretap you at will, to tap your cell phone, your e-mail, whatever.

The only restriction is an executive order called 12333, which limits executive branch surveillance to Americans who the Attorney General determines to be agents of a foreign power. That’s what the executive order says.

But what does this administration say about executive orders?

An executive order cannot limit a President. There is no constitutional requirement for a President to issue a new executive order whenever he wishes to depart from the terms of a previous executive order. Rather than violate an executive order, the President has instead modified or waived it.

"Whenever (the President) wishes to depart from the terms of a previous executive order," he may do so because "an executive order cannot limit a President." Read more

Pentagon Charges the Third Detainee Who Was Water-Boarded

The Pentagon charged Abd al Rahim al Nashiri in relation to the USS Cole bombing today (and click through for links to the charging documents and more).

The Pentagon Monday announced a proposed death penalty prosecution of a Saudi man at Guantánamo, alleging he organized the October 2000 suicide bombing of the USS Cole off Aden, Yemen, that killed 17 American sailors.

The 11-page charge sheets, signed by a Marine major, accuse Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, 43, of conspiracy, murder and other law of war violations.

It seeks to try him by military commission at the U.S. Navy base in southeast Cuba, and execute him if convicted.

This one will be interesting.

As you recall, the CIA has admitted to water-boarding three detainees: Abu Zubaydah, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and al-Nashiri.

Abu Zubaydah remains uncharged at the moment. Perhaps they think he’s too crazy to stand trial. Perhaps, once they realized he was a glorified travel agent, they didn’t want to try him. Perhaps they simply don’t have the evidence. But for some reason, after accusing Abu Zubaydah of being a 9/11 mastermind for years, they haven’t included him in the batch of people they’re trying for 9/11.

Then there’s KSM. KSM appears ready to lead his four co-defendants straight to the gallows in hopes of becoming martyrs to the cause. And the Bush Show Trial administrators seem only too happy to go along. Thus, while KSM has already repeatedly raised the torture used on him in the one public hearing he had, it won’t make much difference so long as he continues to request to be killed.

Finally, there’s Nashiri. Though there appears to be abundant evidence tying Nashiri to the Cole bombing, the Administration hasn’t vilified (or glorified, if you’re KSM) him like they have other high value detainees. To most Americans, I’d guess, he’s a rather anonymous terrorist.

But Nashiri, unlike KSM, is fighting his charges.

In March 2007, according to a partially censored Pentagon transcript, Nashiri told U.S. military officers at Guantánamo that he concocted the confession to please his captors. ”From the time I was arrested five years ago, they have been torturing me,” he said then.

Which, for all that KSM wants and seems capable of orchestrating a collective martyrdom, means Nashiri’s trial will be particularly interesting. Given that he claims his confession was false, it’ll really expose how the Gitmo Show Trials will deal with people who claim to be being falsely Read more

David Addington and The Barnacle Branch Exhibits

Remember how, in lieu of an opening statement, David Addington entered a bunch of "exhibits" into the record yesterday?

Well, it looks like Addington was trying to do a couple of things with his collection of exhibits. First, and least interesting, was to make sure he had three documents in which President Bush directly guided the nation’s torture policy ready at hand:

  • February 7, 2002 Bush memo calling for detainees to be treated humanely–but without Geneva Convention rights
  • September 6, 2006 press conference in which Bush admitted to water-boarding Al Qaeda detainees
  • July 20, 2007 Bush Executive Order establishing guidelines for interrogations

More interesting, Addington was making sure that the correspondence between HJC and OVP regarding his own testimony was readily available. And I think he did that for two reasons. The correspondence includes a fairly narrow description of what the expected testimony would include:

  • No representations about "the nature and scope of Presidential power in time of war" or US "policies regarding interrogation of persons in the custody of the nation’s intelligence services and armed forces"
  • Only "personal knowledge of key historical facts" relating to interrogation and presidential power
  • No details about Vice Presidential communications to the President
  • No details "relating to the Senate functions of the Vice Presidency"
  • The availability of applicable legal privileges (don’t miss the bit of snark where footnote 11 in the April 28 Conyers letter reminds, "I assume that counsel’s citation to the’state secrets’ privilege was an oversight as that is a judge-made litigation privilege that has no application before a Committee of Congress")

In other words, Addington wanted to be ready to show his hall pass and prove that certain questions–about Dick’s role in outing a CIA spy or Dick’s role in killing most of the salmon in the Northwest; or about whether Dick ever told Bush that the warrantless wiretapping program was illegal; or why Dick voted to drown the federal government in a bathtub on December 21, 2005–would be out of bounds.

In addition, Addington seems to have wanted evidence of a little squabble over the Fourth Barnacle Branch, such as this argument:

The Committee request seeks authoritative representation on the three subjects identified in the Committee request. The Chief of Staff to the Vice President is an employee of the Vice President, and not the President. With respect to Presidential power in wartime and related issues under U.S. and international law, the Attorney General or his designee would be the appropriate witness. Read more

It’s Not Just that Levin Was Ousted–It’s Bradbury’s Trial Run on Torture

ABC reports something that had been somewhat clear for some time. Daniel Levin was ousted from the Office of Legal Counsel after he wrote a memo that limited the use of torture.

Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, now under investigation for allegedly politicizing the Justice Department, ousted a top lawyer for failing to adopt the administration’s position on torture and then promised him a position as a U.S. attorney to placate him, highly placed sources tell ABC News.

Gonzales, who was just taking over as attorney general, asked Justice Department lawyer Daniel Levin to leave in early 2005, shortly after Levin wrote a legal opinion that declared "torture is abhorrent" and limited the administration’s use of harsh interrogation techniques.

At the time, Levin was in the middle of drafting a second, critical memo that analyzed the legality of specific interrogation techniques, like waterboarding.

Gonzales, however, was concerned about how it would be perceived if Levin were ousted immediately after issuing the opinion — and just before he finished another — so he offered Levin a less significant job outside the Department of Justice at the National Security Council, sources tell ABC News.


Levin took the NSC job in March 2005. The U.S. attorney position never materialized, and sources close to Levin say he never believed Gonzales was serious.

As ABC points out, Kyle Sampson floated Levin’s name to replace Kevin Ryan in San Francisco.

But what ABC only hints at is what happened next: the trial run of Stephen Bradbury for the position of OLC head. Within months after Levin was ousted, we know, Bradbury wrote three new memos on torture, endorsing the combined use of harsh techniques.

When the Justice Department publicly declared torture “abhorrent” in a legal opinion in December 2004, the Bush administration appeared to have abandoned its assertion of nearly unlimited presidential authority to order brutal interrogations.

But soon after Alberto R. Gonzales’s arrival as attorney general in February 2005, the Justice Department issued another opinion, this one in secret. It was a very different document, according to officials briefed on it, an expansive endorsement of the harshest interrogation techniques ever used by the Central Intelligence Agency.

The new opinion, the officials said, for the first time provided explicit authorization to barrage terror suspects with a combination of painful physical and psychological tactics, including head-slapping, simulated drowning and frigid temperatures.

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The Removal of Clothing Does Not Lead to Nudity

nudity.JPGThat’s a claim that Jim "Chevron" Haynes made yesterday in the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on torture. In a pathetic attempt to claim that his own 2-page (with zero footnotes) recommendation and Rummy’s subsequent authorization of a number of techniques–including the use of fear and the removal of clothing–did not lead to the horrors of Abu Ghraib, Haynes actually claimed that the removal of clothing was in some way qualitatively different than nudity.

Haynes: Some conflation. Two of items for Qahtani included clothing and use of phobia. What was approved by SecDef. Widely held understanding of what was in those two categories. Use of dogs not intended to be dogs in interrogation room with detainee. Muzzled dogs in perimeter. Removal of clothing not nudity. You then jumped to dogs in room and naked people.

As Claire McCaskill pointed out to Diane Beaver and Jane Dalton, if the written documentation allows the use of phobias and removal of clothing, and that written documentation doesn’t rule out the removal of all clothing, you’re going to have nudity.

McCaskill Reading memo. You understand words matter. Removal of clothing. It says Using detainee phobias such as fear of dogs. I’m trying to figure out as a lawyer, how that does not envision naked people having dogs sicced on them. How does that not occur?

Beaver When you develop a plan, if someone had said, lets sic the dogs on them. That did not happen.

McCaskill Dogs were used with naked people.

Beaver Not at Gitmo

McCaskill Within our military. It happened.

Beaver I can’t comment..

McCaskill Ms Dalton

Dalton: Those approved for Gitmo and did not involve nudity.

McCaskill Removal of clothing. When you were discussing safeguards. Did any one talk putting in the word "all"? If I saw removal of clothing and I was trying to get info, how would anyone know?

Dalton General Miller said it did not involve nudity.

McCaskill there’s nothing here that would say removal of clothing. It’s not in there.

All three of these people are pretending that "everyone" involved knew there were a certain set of conditions that limited the use of phobias and removal of clothing that would somehow prevent piling detainees into heaps of naked human flesh–conditions that, unfortunately, Haynes’ two page memo failed to communicate. Read more

Senate Armed Services Torture Hearing, Four (Haynes)

Haynes: How our country deals with this unprecedented threat. This is as it should be. The end of this can only come with history’s judgment of how our Administration served in protecting America. We know that America’s enemies are relentless. I look forward to watching our nation’s leaders to advancing our nation’s security and freedom.

[Alright, Levin, just like you did to Ickes.]

Levin: In July 2002, Shiffrin, contacted JPRA asked about SERE techniques. Did you ask him to obtain info on SERE.

Haynes: Six years ago. Memory not perfect. What I remember is a govt wide concern about poss of another terrorist attack. A widespread belief that the people captured in war on terror. [filibuster filibuster 9/11 9/11 9/11] As Chief legal officer I was interested and concerned. I inquired generally about where sources of expertise might be. Shiffrin would have been the person I asked for that kind of info.

Levin: Specifically about SERE.

Haynes Late summer, did get info (refreshed memory form doct).

Levin: Don’t remember about SERE.

Haynes: Not specifically.

Levin: Addington, Gonzales, Yoo, Philbin, and Rizzo. Did this request to Shiffrin come from that group?

Haynes: Six years ago. a long time. I had ten meetings a day. I met with many groups. I met with many lawyers. To key into one particular meeting.

[Does this remind anyone of Scooter Libby’s defense?]

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Senate Armed Services Torture Hearing, Three

Graham: I understand from Schmitt-Furlow report that a dog was used in interrogation.

Beaver: I was not aware of it.

Graham when you said this didn’t happen at Gitmo, you’re not right.

Beaver: What was approved did not happen.

Graham Who did this?

Beaver: I don’t know.

Graham it was part of interrogation plan. Also strip-searched in front of female personnel. Based on this report we know in at least one interrogation dogs were used a person was stripped.

Beaver I haven’t read it, but I take your word for it.

Graham Mora, you spoke up, you continued to speak up, other lawyers continued to speak up, some of your criticism was listened to, they were ratcheted down.

Mora: I’m not sure

Graham They reevaluated the techniques, and a new group came up, Dalton. You were never involved in any final approval of new techniques.

Mora: that’s correct. To my knowledge, I thought draft was never finalized, not part of final approval.

Graham Dalton, Do you ever remember Miller going to Iraq?

Beaver: asked me to travel with him.

Graham: Sanchez said we need better intell. Was that the nature of the visit?

Beaver: A number of problems. Read more

Senate Armed Services Torture Hearing, Two

Here are the documents released by the committee.

Are here are some links to Spencer Ackerman’s work on this: here, here, here, and here.

McCaskill: We disrespect men and women who serve if we don’t have this hearing. Did you review Beaver opinion?


McCaskill: If you came across phrase, "immnuity in advance," would it cause you pause?

Shiffrin: yes.

McCaskill: Any lawyer would ask what planet are we on? That would be a crime!

McCaskill: In fact, as I just said, if someone visits with someone about committing a crime and I’ll give you immunity, wouldn’t they be guilty of a crime.

Shiffrin: they could be, Senator.

McCaskill: This legal memorandum, basis for SOD to sick dogs on them, contained a legal theory called immunity in advance, and no one, your boss got this, he is a trained prosecutor. Has he had experience as a prosecutor, experience in a court room. It is mindboggling to me that no one would hear the raging offense to rule of law.

McCaskill: what are the names of people who gave you impression we needed more aggressive techniques. WHo told you.

Shiffrin: Not what I said. Discussoin of progress, lack of progress, obtaining actionable intelligence out of detainees. Chaired by Haynes, 5-6 other lawyers.

McCaskill: Who was in the room?

Shiffrin: frustration, didn’t say we needed to change techniques. Whit Cobb, DGCIA Charles Allen, Marine worked in Counsel office, Bill Lietsow, there was a lawyer now my successor, Eleana Davidson, responsible for detainee matters. Those were the lawyers would have been present.

McCaskill: ever present after Haynes recommended approval of these techniques?

Shiffrin: Met with Haynes every day. I forget the date.

McCaskill: I can give the date. November 27, 2002, Approved December 2, 2002.

Shiffrin: Vague recollection that memorandum approved.

McCaskill: Aware memorandum existed. I think you’re a good lawyer care about your country. We’re trying to figure out who decided. Did this come from David Addington and Cheney, Gonzales’ shop? Chertoff. There are people still in responsibility in our govt. No one is willing to say where this came from. This move towards imploding the traditions of this country.

Shiffrin: The GC office often operated in compartmentalized fashion. Not unusual to get request about SERE and I’d find out that someone else was doing the same thing, or that it was going to be used at Gitmo, never be part of discussion about what they were going to do. Read more

Senate Armed Services Torture Hearing

Joby Warrick maps out what we can expect from today’s Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, now showing on CSPAN3.

A Senate investigation has concluded that top Pentagon officials began assembling lists of harsh interrogation techniques in the summer of 2002 for use on detainees at Guantanamo Bay and that those officials later cited memos from field commanders to suggest that the proposals originated far down the chain of command, according to congressional sources briefed on the findings.

The sources said that memos and other evidence obtained during the inquiry show that officials in the office of then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld started to research the use of waterboarding, stress positions, sensory deprivation and other practices in July 2002, months before memos from commanders at the detention facility in Cuba requested permission to use those measures on suspected terrorists.

The reported evidence — some of which is expected to be made public at a Senate hearing today — also shows that military lawyers raised strong concerns about the legality of the practices as early as November 2002, a month before Rumsfeld approved them. The findings contradict previous accounts by top Bush administration appointees, setting the stage for new clashes between the White House and Congress over the origins of interrogation methods that many lawmakers regard as torture and possibly illegal.

This is a well-constructed hearing–and I say that not just because my Senator, Carl Levin, put it together. It has three panels. The first features the people who turned SERE techniques into torture techniques:

Mr. Richard L. Shiffrin
Former Deputy General Counsel for Intelligence
Department of Defense

Lieutenant Colonel Daniel J. Baumgartner, Jr., USAF (Ret.)
Former Chief of Staff
Joint Personnel Recovery Agency

Dr. Jerald F. Ogrisseg
Former Chief, Psychology Services
336th Training Group
United States Air Force Survival School

The second panel will expose the debate among military lawyers about whether or not to use torture:

Mr. Alberto J. Mora
Former General Counsel
United States Navy

Rear Admiral Jane G. Dalton, USN (Ret.)
Former Legal Advisor to the Chairman
Joint Chiefs of Staff

Lieutenant Colonel Diane E. Beaver, USA (Ret.)
Former Staff Judge Advocate
Joint Task Force 170/JTF Guantanamo Bay

And the third features Jim "Chevron" Haynes, who is under some pressure for his changing testimony, potentially amounting to perjury:

Mr. William J. Haynes II
Former General Counsel
Department of Defense

Here are the documents that will be discussed during the hearing (courtesy of WO and Marty Lederman).

Read more