DOD, State, and Obama’s “Pretend” Desire to Close Gitmo

Robert Chesney had an interesting observation about the inter-agency group Dafna Linzer reports is working on some kind of statement with regards to Congress’ restrictions on Obama’s ability to move detainees from Gitmo to the US: the apparent non-participation of DOD in the group.

Second, and perhaps relatedly, note that the story also describes the interagency meetings concerning a possible signing statement, meetings that apparently involved a “small circle of policymakers and lawyers from the White House, the Justice Department and State Department” who “spent the closing hours of 2010 considering drafts for a statement.”  What is interesting about that is the apparent absence of the Defense Department.  Of course, not being involved in drafting would not necessarily mean that DOD has no or little voice in the matter, but it certainly would not suggest DOD has much of a role either.  One might respond that this is really a question for DOJ and the White House Counsel’s office of course, but in that case why is State there?  State has clear equities, of course, so I think it makes perfect sense to include it.  But DOD’s equities seem at least as substantial (yes, the IC has equities here as well, but the DOD omission is what strikes me as remarkable – if there really is an omission).

While I don’t know this to be a case, I’d suggest that we might pair that observation with one I made yesterday: that one of Linzer’s sources used the word “pretend” when discussing Obama’s purported plans to close Gitmo.

If the bill were signed without challenge, the remaining prosecutorial option left for the administration would be to charge detainees in military commissions at Guantanamo, with those convicted serving time at the facility. So far, the administration has been unwilling to bring new charges in that setting.

“The bill,” said one administration official, “undermines the principles outlined in the president’s archives speech and there is no way to pretend you are closing Guantanamo if that law goes through unchallenged.” [my emphasis]

As Adam Serwer noted some weeks ago, if the Obama Administration really objected to Congress restricting its prosecutorial power in this matter, it would have rolled out the Republican Bob Gates to talk about how important closing Gitmo is to winning the war on terror.

I don’t know whether the administration blessed this deal, but they certainly haven’t brought out the big guns–a few words from Defense Secretary Robert Gates would probably go a long way towards dissuading the Senate from going through with this.

(Though Serwer goes on to suggest that another way Obama could indicate the seriousness of his opposition to the restriction would be to issue a signing statement–now we know who to blame for this idea!)

If your desire to close Gitmo is now just pretend, make-believe, then why involve DOD at all? Indeed, a “pretend” desire to close Gitmo would well explain why you involve State, but not DOD.

As I have noted, one of the revelations in the Wikileaks cables is the way in which Spain advised us how to help it combat torture investigations in that country: by proving that some kind of legal process was ongoing in the US.

Zaragoza has also told us that if a proceeding regarding this matter were underway in the U.S., that would effectively bar proceedings in Spain. We intend to further explore this option with him informally (asking about format, timing, how much information he would need, etc.) while making it clear that the USG has not made a decision to follow this course of action.

And the diplomats involved–writing to Secretary of State Clinton–make it clear they will find out from Spain what such a proceeding must look like to serve the purpose of staving off a Spanish investigation.

After which, DOJ seeems to have embarked on a “pretend” investigation into torture that–they insist–is ongoing.

Who do you think the audience for any “pretend” effort to close Gitmo would currently be? Certainly not the bulk of the American people, who have been thoroughly suckered by GOP fearmongering on Gitmo. Nor, probably, would the primary audience be al Qaeda and its potential recruits, which would probably be far more impressed at this point if the US decided to halt drone strikes than if it closed Gitmo.

Indeed, it seems clear that the only reason Obama would feel obliged to pretend to want to close Gitmo anymore (because God knows he seems thoroughly unconcerned by civil libertarians squawking about his campaign promises) is the international community.

And so a statement about Obama opposition to Congress tying his hands on Gitmo wouldn’t matter to DOD, because nothing at Gitmo is actually going to change (aside from his face-saving EO on indefinite detention). But it would matter to the State Department, because they would be the ones who might have had discussions about what a “pretend” effort to close Gitmo would have to look like to please our allies and make them willing to continue to partner with us on counter-terrorism.

Which might explain why no one at the White House will claim Obama actually wants to use a hypothetical signing statement. Because merely issuing one–but not actually relying on it–would serve its intended purpose: to allow the Administration and our allies to pretend that the US wants to close Gitmo.

Update: YouTube added per PeasantParty.

W Apparently Understood “What’s Good for GM Is Good for the Country…”

… to refer not to General Motors, but to Genetically Modified food:

The US embassy in Paris advised Washington to start a military-style trade war against any European Union country which opposed genetically modified (GM) crops, newly released WikiLeaks cables show.

In response to moves by France to ban a Monsanto GM corn variety in late 2007, the ambassador, Craig Stapleton, a friend and business partner of former US president George Bush, asked Washington to penalise the EU and particularly countries which did not support the use of GM crops.

“Country team Paris recommends that we calibrate a target retaliation list that causes some pain across the EU since this is a collective responsibility, but that also focuses in part on the worst culprits.

“The list should be measured rather than vicious and must be sustainable over the long term, since we should not expect an early victory. Moving to retaliation will make clear that the current path has real costs to EU interests and could help strengthen European pro-biotech voices,” said Stapleton, who with Bush co-owned the St Louis-based Texas Rangers baseball team in the 1990s.

It would all be funny and pathetic if it didn’t symbolize something bigger about our country.

We refuse to pursue an industrial policy in this country (aside from our unlimited subsidies for the military industrial complex, of course), forgoing the measures that our competitors use to ensure the competitiveness of their country. But we do deploy our diplomats to short circuit democratic and legal means other countries use to support their own economic sovereignty.

Update: I should note that at least one of these GM-shilling cables were written under Obama’s Administration. Though in Obama’s case, he apparently believes both General Motors and genetically modified exports are good for this country, since he bailed out the former.

El País Editor: When Democracy’s Rules Are Flouted, Democracy Is Put at Risk

The Editor of Spain’s El Pais, Javier Moreno, has an interesting piece explaining why he published the Wikileak cables. He points to the same thing I pointed to–American efforts to squelch torture investigations in Spain and Germany–to explain the importance of the cables, though he also adds US efforts to prevent Spanish banks from doing business with Iran, even while Iran had not violated international law. These disclosures are important, Moreno argues, because they show the degree to which the US refuses to abide by the legal procedures in other countries, which in turn represents a danger to democracy.

A democracy comprises diverse elements: institutions and rules; free and fair elections; independent judges and a free press, among others. At the bottom of all this there are legal procedures. When these are flouted, all the rest is put at risk.

We have come to accept the difference between the government that we elect every five years, and the military, bureaucratic, and diplomatic apparatus that it is sustained by, but that all too often it fails to control. The WikiLeaks cables have confirmed this beyond any doubt.

But his second point–that the permanent bureaucracy manages to ignore the law regardless of what the elected officials of either party do–raises another important question: whether that permanent bureaucracy delivers what it promises–ostensibly in exchange for secrecy–instead.

Political classes on both sides of the Atlantic convey a simple message that is tailored to their advantage: trust us, don’t try to reveal our secrets; in exchange, we offer you security.

But just how much security do they really offer in exchange for this moral blackmail? Little or none, since we face the sad paradox that this is the same political elite that was incapable of properly supervising the international financial system, whose implosion triggered the biggest crisis since 1929, ruining entire countries and condemning millions of workers to unemployment and poverty. These are the same people responsible for the deteriorating quality of life of their populations, the uncertain future of the euro, the lack of a viable European project and the global governance crisis that has gripped the world in recent years, and which elites in Washington and Brussels are not oblivious to. I doubt that keeping embassy secrets under wraps is any kind of guarantee of better diplomacy or that such an approach offers us better answers to the problems we face.

The incompetence of Western governments, and their inability to deal with the economic crisis, climate change, corruption, or the illegal war in Iraq and other countries has been eloquently exposed in recent years. Now, thanks to WikiLeaks, we also know that our leaders are all too aware of their shameful fallibility, and that it is only thanks to the inertia of the machinery of power that they have been able to fulfill their democratic responsibility and answer to the electorate.

The whole point of democracy is to ensure better decision-making by subjecting ideas and policies to debate and transparency. I’m none too sanguine about the seriousness with which voters take their job. But so many of the decisions getting us in trouble are those made by the permanent bureaucracy, in secret.

And when those decisions prove to be wrong or dangerous or illegal, the permanent bureaucracy secretly (and sometimes not so secretly) breaks the rules that exist for the rest of us–like rule of law.

Constitutional lawyer Floyd Abrams may not care about all this. But it is vitally important the citizens of democracy have the opportunity to see this.  It is vitally important to demonstrate that all that secrecy the permanent bureaucracy likes to claim leads to good governance not only leads, instead, to rank incompetence, but also to the decay of our democracy itself.

Lamo’s Two (?!) Laptops

In the original story about Adrian Lamo’s involuntary hospitalization, he loses his medication and calls the cops.

Last month Adrian Lamo, a man once hunted by the FBI, did something contrary to his nature. He picked up a payphone outside a Northern California supermarket and called the cops.

Someone had grabbed Lamo’s backpack containing the prescription anti-depressants he’d been on since 2004, the year he pleaded guilty to hacking The New York Times. He wanted his medication back. But when the police arrived at the Safeway parking lot it was Lamo, not the missing backpack, that interested them. Something about his halting, monotone speech, perhaps slowed by his medication, got the officers’ attention.

But in Ryan Singel’s telling of it, Lamo lost his laptop.

For instance, you make it sound creepy that Poulsen wrote a long profile about Lamo. Huh. Read the story again. Basically, it goes like this. A convicted hacker, now gone legit, calls the police to report a stolen laptop. When the police arrive, instead of focussing on the crime, they 5150 the victim.

I find that rather interesting for several reasons.

First, because the larger story ends with Lamo losing his laptop, too.

Agents from the Army’s criminal and counter-intelligence units and the Diplomatic Security Service met with Lamo on Friday night, Lamo said. The agents asked for files related to the communications between him and Manning, Lamo said, and he gave them a laptop and the hard drive from another laptop, as well as encrypted e-mails that had been stored on a remote server. Lamo said he is scheduled to give a sworn statement to authorities on Sunday.

So is the laptop the authorities took (and the hard drive from another one) a new laptop, purchased to replace the one that got taken? Another one that Lamo had lying about at home?

And then there’s this detail: the PGP key Lamo “no longer had access to” when Bradley Manning first tried to contact Lamo via encrypted email.

GREENWALD: And so the first contact he made with you, was that be email or was that some other way?

LAMO: [Sound of rustling papers] First contact was by email.

GREENWALD: And can you tell me generally what he said?

LAMO: I can’t unfortunately. It’s cryptographically impossible since he encrypted it to an outdated PGP key of mine.

GREENWALD: So were you unable to understand what he said in that first email?

LAMO: Correct. First, second, and third at the very least. I get a lot of random email and the hassle of decrypting it even if I had the key would be enough to push it back about a week or so in my “to read” stack.

GREENWALD: Right. So when you got this email that you were incapable of deciphering did you respond to him in some way, or what did you do?

LAMO: I ignored it for the first couple of hours and then I received a few subsequent emails and then I finally replied, “Hey I can’t read your emails encrypted to a PGP key I no longer have access to. Why don’t we chat via AOL IM instead?”

And finally there are the number of hackers who have had their laptops confiscated (though usually as part of a border crossing) of late.

It’s just a data point. But the story of Lamo being involuntarily hospitalized in response to reporting having his laptop taken is a whole lot different than it is if he has just had his drugs taken away.

Pulling Some Threads on Lamo’s Inconsistencies

In her post laying out the many inconsistencies in Adrian Lamo’s account of turning in Bradley Manning, Jane says:

I only see two possibilities.  One, Wired had the chat logs before Lamo made any calls to authorities, and was a party to whatever subsequently happened.  Or two, the copies of the chat logs that have been given to the press have been done so at the instigation of the US government, and with their full approval.

Of course there’s always c) all of the above, which is what I’m guessing is the most likely scenario.

I’m not entirely sure those are the only possibilities.

To my mind, there are several questions that remain entirely unanswered:

  • When did Lamo and Manning start communicating?
  • When and through whom did Lamo contact authorities (or, did authorities find him and not vice versa)?
  • How does that relate to other dates, such as Manning’s arrest, and when did the arrest happen?

Just as a threshold issue, I think the only source dating the beginning of the Lamo-Manning conversation to May 20 is Lamo, claimed in his conversation with Glenn and with the NYT. Particularly given his squirreliness about the encrypted emails Manning sent him before they started chatting on AIM, not to mention some odd details about their earliest chats, I see no reason to treat that claim uncritically.

Then there’s Manning’s arrest date, which Lamo claimed to be May 26 based on a conversation he described to Wired having with the FBI on May 27. But Manning’s charging documents seem to say Manning’s alleged actions continued until May 27 and he was arrested on May 29. Moreover, the time lapse on the chat logs may well suggest that Lamo and Manning were chatting past the time Lamo claims the FBI told him Manning had been arrested. If, as seems almost certain, Lamo was wrong about Manning’s arrest date, we need to ask whether he is hiding his own actions (perhaps, at the direction of the Feds, Lamo got Manning to send him classified documents on May 27, but he doesn’t want to admit that publicly) or whether the Feds misled Lamo.

There seem to be at least four or five versions of how and through whom Manning contacted authorities:

Version 1: Lamo told his father that Manning was the source for the Collateral Murder video (not the diplomatic cables) and his father pressured him to contact the government (the subsequent contact may or may not have been done through Chet Uber).

Version 2: In response to learning about the 260,000 State cables (which the chat logs portray as happening on May 22), Lamo reached out to his “ex” who “worked” for Army counterintelligence.

Version 3: In response to learning about the 260,000 cables, Lamo contacted Chet Uber (as one of a number of people he contacted) one or two days before he first met with the Feds on May 25. CJR’s timeline based on conversations with Kevin Poulsen dates Lamo’s first contact with the Feds before May 24, his first meeting with them on May 25, and his second meeting on May 27.

Version 4: Another version of Uber’s story says Lamo first contacted him in early June, which would have placed it after Manning’s arrest.

Version 5: Lamo contacted Timothy Webster (who is not explicitly identified as Lamo’s ex and who is portrayed as formerly, not currently, working in counterintelligence) on May 26 and told him that Manning was the source for the Collateral Murder video. Of course this scenario would put his Webster contact after his first contacts with the Feds, per Wired.

And none of these versions make any mention of the top secret ongoing op that Manning reportedly leaked to Lamo.

Now, I lay all these versions out not to impugn anyone’s reporting. After all, only Webster claims to be certain when his contact with Lamo happened. Uber admits he is uncertain (though the May and June dates obviously conflict significantly). And Lamo has been careful to note he had contacts with people outside of the Project Vigilant chain, which presumably includes but may not be limited to Webster.

But it does open up the possibility that there were several levels of contact here: a first one from his father, encouraging him to go to the Feds about the Collateral Murder video, a second one–of indefinite time frame–that went through Project Vigilant, and a third (and possibly fourth) that went through counterintelligence people. Furthermore, remember there are at least four investigative agencies: Army counterintelligence, Army CID, which is reported to have the lead on the Manning investigation, Diplomatic Security, which according to Manning was investigating the Rejkjavik cable going back to February, and the FBI. Note, too, that another version of Lamo’s story describes him worried about the FBI agents “knocking at the door” and implication in obstruction of justice; if any of these investigative agencies were investigating Lamo, the FBI would seem to be the most logical one.

So let’s just imagine another scenario. Read more

Assange Alerts His Hostages

Remember how I suggested that Obama was establishing a practice of only making deals with people–whether they be Republicans or Democrats–who take hostages?

Well, Julian Assange just made it clear who his hostages are:

Top officials in several Arab countries have close links with the CIA, and many officials keep visiting US embassies in their respective countries voluntarily to establish links with this key US intelligence agency, says Julian Assange, founder of the whistle-blowing website, WikiLeaks.“These officials are spies for the US in their countries,” Assange told Al Jazeera Arabic channel in an interview yesterday.

The interviewer, Ahmed Mansour, said at the start of the interview which was a continuation of last week’s interface, that Assange had even shown him the files that contained the names of some top Arab officials with alleged links with the CIA.

[snip]

“If I am killed or detained for a long time, there are 2,000 websites ready to publish the remaining files. We have protected these websites through very safe passwords,” said Assange.

Assange’s message–on Al Jazeera, in a message directed to “the Arab Street”? If he is disappeared or killed or put away, the names of America’s stooges in the Middle East will be released on some outlet like Al Jazeera.

Given that some of those people are probably our crack oil dealers from Saudi Arabia, I can imagine how such a message might be persuasive–and might be made to be persuasive to the US government.

Mind you, we already know that the US has a long history of close ties between its clients–even with people like Saddam Hussein–and the CIA. We already knew this.

Much like we already knew this:

Some Arab countries even have torture houses where Washington regularly sends ‘suspects’ for ‘interrogation and torture’, he said.

But I would imagine Jordanians and Egyptians (in the case of our torturers) would be very interested in reading how their country tortured other Arabs at the behest of the US.

Floyd Abrams’ Abuse of Power

I promise I’m going to catch up on the WikiLeaks stuff in more detail soon, but I wanted to do a quick post pointing out the idiocy of Floyd Abrams’ attack on WikiLeaks. The logic of Abrams’ op-ed–which argues that WikiLeaks is different from the Pentagon Papers and therefore bad and also ohbytheway bad for journalists–is as follows:

Daniel Ellsberg chose not to release the last four volumes of the Pentagon Papers because he didn’t want to get in the way of diplomacy.

The diplomatic volumes were not published, even in part, for another dozen years. Mr. Ellsberg later explained his decision to keep them secret, according to Sanford Ungar’s 1972 book “The Papers & The Papers,” by saying, “I didn’t want to get in the way of the diplomacy.”

But Assange–because of what Abrams characterizes as WikiLeaks’ “general disdain for any secrecy at all”–did release diplomacy-damaging materials.

The recent release of a torrent of State Department documents is typical. Some, containing unflattering appraisals by American diplomats of foreign leaders of France, Germany, Italy, Libya and elsewhere, contain the very sort of diplomacy-destructive materials that Mr. Ellsberg withheld.

Abrams tries to draw a distinction between Ellsberg and Assange with what are apparently meant to be rhetorical questions.

Can anyone doubt that he would have made those four volumes public on WikiLeaks regardless of their sensitivity? Or that he would have paid not even the slightest heed to the possibility that they might seriously compromise efforts to bring a speedier end to the war?

From there, Abrams predicts that what he characterizes as WikiLeaks’ irresponsible actions will lead to legislation and legal cases restricting the First Amendment.

Mr. Assange is no boon to American journalists. His activities have already doomed proposed federal shield-law legislation protecting journalists’ use of confidential sources in the just-adjourned Congress. An indictment of him could be followed by the judicial articulation of far more speech-limiting legal principles than currently exist with respect to even the most responsible reporting about both diplomacy and defense. If he is not charged or is acquitted of whatever charges may be made, that may well lead to the adoption of new and dangerously restrictive legislation. In more than one way, Mr. Assange may yet have much to answer for.

In Abrams’ mind, Assange is responsible for the response the government is taking toward him, not the government actors themselves. Nor are those who misrepresent Assange’s and WikiLeaks’ actions–thereby making it easier for the government to curtail legal rights–responsible.

You know, people like Floyd Abrams.

Abrams’ purported rhetorical questions–can anyone doubt that WikiLeaks would have published the diplomatic volumes of the Pentagon Papers? can anyone doubt he wouldn’t have paid the slightest heed to efforts to end the war?–are one of two things that dismantle his entire argument laying the responsibility for the government’s overreaction to Assange with Assange. Because–as Digby has explained at length–we have every reason to doubt whether WikiLeaks would have published the diplomatic volumes of the Pentagon Papers. And we have solid evidence that WikiLeaks would shield really dangerous information.

Because they already have. And because they have now outsourced responsibility for choosing what is dangerous and newsworthy or not to a bunch of newspapers.

Indeed, back before WikiLeaks ceded that role to a bunch of newspapers, WikiLeaks was actually being more cautious with the publication of sensitive information than the NYT was.

So rather than blaming the government and the press for mischaracterizing what WikiLeaks has done here and then using that mischaracterization to justify an overreaction to that mischaracterization, Floyd Abrams just participates in it. WikiLeaks is responsible, Floyd Abrams says, and I’m going to misrepresent what they have done to prove that case.

Effectively, Abrams contributes to the myth that he says will result in new government action restricting the First Amendment.

Thanks Floyd.

But, as I said, there are two fundamental problems with Abrams’ argument.

Here’s the other one:

The Pentagon Papers revelations dealt with a discrete topic, the ever-increasing level of duplicity of our leaders over a score of years in increasing the nation’s involvement in Vietnam while denying it. It revealed official wrongdoing or, at the least, a pervasive lack of candor by the government to its people.

WikiLeaks is different. It revels in the revelation of “secrets” simply because they are secret. It assaults the very notion of diplomacy that is not presented live on C-Span. It has sometimes served the public by its revelations but it also offers, at considerable potential price, a vast amount of material that discloses no abuses of power at all.

[snip]

Taken as a whole, however, a leak of this elephantine magnitude, which appears to demonstrate no misconduct by the U.S., is difficult to defend on any basis other than WikiLeaks’ general disdain for any secrecy at all. [my emphasis]

Floyd Abrams’ entire argument about WikiLeaks is premised on his claim that these diplomatic cables demonstrate no abuse of power at all. No misconduct by the US. Read more

When Did Adrian Lamo Start Working with Federal Investigators?

The first suspicious moment in the chats between Adrian Lamo and Bradley Manning occurred at 12:54 on May 22–ostensibly the second day of chat communication between them (though Manning had sent Lamo encrypted emails for an unspecified period of time before that point). The BoingBoing version of the logs shows that Manning had just referenced 260,000 cables that, he went on to say, would give Hillary Clinton and other diplomats a heart attack when they were released. The chat was seemingly plagued by 3 minute delays in message transmission, with Lamo’s side reporting resource issues. Lamo tells Manning he’s going for a cigarette–“brb”–but that he should “keep typing.”

(12:54:47 PM) Adrian: What sort of content?
(12:56:36 PM) Adrian: brb cigarette
(12:56:43 PM) Adrian: keep typing <3

It is over 45 minutes before Lamo returns from his “cigarette” at 1:43:51. In the meantime, Manning did as he was told, typing out agonized confessions about how isolated he was. After Lamo returned from his “cigarette,” all the resource issues appear to be fixed and the delay in transmission appears to be gone, with response time in the 9 to 20 second range. It seems likely that Lamo did something other than smoke a cigarette in those 45 minutes. It appears he altered something technical on his side of the chat, chats that Lamo had directed Manning to use instead of encrypted emails.

Upon returning, Lamo immediately reverts back to Manning’s comment just after he left for his “cigarette,” picking up on the reference to diplomatic scandals. Using that as a segue, Lamo asks Manning to prove his bona fides.

(1:43:51 PM) Lamo: back
(1:43:59 PM) Manning: im self medicating like crazy when im not toiling in the supply office (my new location, since im being discharged, im not offically intel anymore)
(1:44:11 PM) Manning: you missed a lot…
(1:45:00 PM) Lamo: what kind of scandal?
(1:45:16 PM) Manning: hundreds of them
(1:45:40 PM) Lamo: like what? I’m genuinely curious about details.
(1:46:01 PM) Manning: i dont know… theres so many… i dont have the original material anymore
(1:46:26 PM) Lamo: play it by ear
(1:46:29 PM) Manning: the broiling one in Germany
(1:47:36 PM) Manning: im sorry, there’s so many… its impossible for any one human to read all quarter-million… and not feel overwhelmed… and possibly desensitized
(1:48:20 PM) Manning: the scope is so broad… and yet the depth so rich
(1:48:50 PM) Lamo: give me some bona fides … yanno? any specifics.

So Manning mentions the cables, Lamo leaves and fixes technical issues on the chat, and Lamo returns to demand specifics about what the 260,000 cables include.

Over the course of that allegedly first substantial conversation, Lamo’s attitude towards Wikileaks varies. He first asks a generic question.

(12:46:17 PM) Adrian: how long have you helped WIkileaks?

He then makes what–from the context of the logs thus far released, at least–appears to be an unsupported insinuation (and one that, given current reports about the Administration’s prosecution strategy, is a critical issue): that Manning “answers to” Julian Assange.

(1:51:14 PM) Lamo: Anything unreleased?
(1:51:25 PM) Manning: i’d have to ask assange
(1:51:53 PM) Manning: i zerofilled the original
(1:51:54 PM) Lamo: why do you answer to him?
(1:52:29 PM) Manning: i dont… i just want the material out there… i dont want to be a part of it

So, in spite of the fact that just two days before this exchange, Lamo had solicited donations for Wikileaks, he still suggested it was a problem if Manning “answered to Julian Assange.”

Lamo then immediately presses a point he would return to numerous times in their chats–a probe about their operational security.

(1:52:54 PM) Adrian: i’ve been considering helping wikileaks with opsec
(1:53:13 PM) bradass87: they have decent opsec… im obviously violating it

Then there’s a gap of about 10 minutes in the published chat logs during which–from the context–further conversation about Assange personally appears to have taken place. Such content is suggested from the way the chat moves from Manning reporting he is a “total fucking wreck” to returning to Manning’s relationship with Assange, with Manning seemingly correcting what appears to have been a Lamo suggestion that he–Manning–is a “volunteer” (remember, Lamo was pretending he wanted to “volunteer” to help Wikileaks with operational security).

(2:04:29 PM) Manning: im a source, not quite a volunteer
(2:05:38 PM) Manning: i mean, im a high profile source… and i’ve developed a relationship with assange… but i dont know much more than what he tells me, which is very little

Again, note how this exchange–Manning’s apparent correction regarding his relationship with Assange–actually hurts the reported current prosecution strategy of painting the Assange-Manning relationship as something other than a journalistic one.

Now, one of the many narratives he would tell about his role in turning Manning in,  Lamo suggested he contacted the military when he heard that Manning had accessed the 260,000 cables (though Lamo’s story varies on what day he contacted the Feds). Which is why I find this sequence–which Wired summarized but did not publish in its own publication of the chat logs–so interesting. All of the narratives about how Lamo came to out Manning to investigators start a day or two after this curious day of activity.

Yet already on this first substantive day of chat logs, Lamo appears to be fixing technical issues in the chat, demanding specific evidence about the cables, and–most suspiciously–presenting seemingly contradictory opinions about Wikileaks and Assange that had the effect of eliciting information about operational specifics and details on Assange’s own role in Wikileaks’ operations.

How Does Frago 242 Relate to Our Collaboration with the Wolf Brigade?

The biggest headline from Friday’s Wikileaks dump (everywhere but the NYT, anyway) is that the “US ignored torture.” But the way in which an official policy ignoring torture was followed by collaboration with one of Iraq’s torture squads raises the question whether the US involvement in Iraqi torture was more direct.

Did the US “ignore” torture, or “encourage” it?

The basis for the claim that the US ignored torture comes from references to Frago 242, which officially instituted a policy of looking the other way in cases of Iraqi on Iraqi abuse.

This is the impact of Frago 242. A frago is a “fragmentary order” which summarises a complex requirement. This one, issued in June 2004, about a year after the invasion of Iraq, orders coalition troops not to investigate any breach of the laws of armed conflict, such as the abuse of detainees, unless it directly involves members of the coalition. Where the alleged abuse is committed by Iraqi on Iraqi, “only an initial report will be made … No further investigation will be required unless directed by HQ”.

While the Guardian ascribes the timing of this order–which they date to June 2004–to Iraqi sovereignty and the effort to get Iraqis to take over more of their own security, it also coincides with the time when Abu Ghraib made it politically difficult for the US to remain in the torture business.

By the end of 2004, according to the Wikileaks dump, the US was handing over detainees to a US trained group known to torture.

In Samarra, the series of log entries in 2004 and 2005 describe repeated raids by US infantry, who then handed their captives over to the Wolf Brigade for “further questioning”. Typical entries read: “All 5 detainees were turned over to Ministry of Interior for further questioning” (from 29 November 2004) and “The detainee was then turned over to the 2nd Ministry of Interior Commando Battalion for further questioning” (30 November 2004).

The field reports chime with allegations made by New York Times writer Peter Maass, who was in Samarra at the time. He told Guardian Films : “US soldiers, US advisers, were standing aside and doing nothing,” while members of the Wolf Brigade beat and tortured prisoners. The interior ministry commandos took over the public library in Samarra, and turned it into a detention centre, he said.

[snip]

The Wolf Brigade was created and supported by the US in an attempt to re-employ elements of Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guard, this time to terrorise insurgents. Members typically wore red berets, sunglasses and balaclavas, and drove out on raids in convoys of Toyota Landcruisers. They were accused by Iraqis of beating prisoners, torturing them with electric drills and sometimes executing suspects. The then interior minister in charge of them was alleged to have been a former member of the Shia Badr militia.

Now, the timing of the two events–the formal policy of doing nothing about Iraqi on Iraqi torture and the collaboration with the Wolf Brigade–is not exact. Wolf Brigade was founded in October 2004, some time after Frago 242 was issued.

But given how adamant Rummy was in late 2005 that US soldiers were not required to physically stop any abuse they found,

Q    And General Pace, what guidance do you have for your military commanders over there as to what to do if — like when General Horst found this Interior Ministry jail?

GEN. PACE:  It is absolutely the responsibility of every U.S. service member, if they see inhumane treatment being conducted, to intervene to stop it.  As an example of how to do it if you don’t see it happening but you’re told about it is exactly what happened a couple weeks ago.  There’s a report from an Iraqi to a U.S. commander that there was possibility of inhumane treatment in a particular facility.  That U.S. commander got together with his Iraqi counterparts.  They went together to the facility, found what they found, reported it to the Iraqi government, and the Iraqi government has taken ownership of that problem and is investigating it.  So they did exactly what they should have done.

SEC. RUMSFELD:  But I don’t think you mean they have an obligation to physically stop it; it’s to report it.

GEN. PACE:  If they are physically present when inhumane treatment is taking place, sir, they have an obligation to try to stop it.

It sure seems that the relationship between Frago 242 and the torture committed by the Wolf Brigade constitutes even more than just “ignoring” torture.

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