Saturday, November 19, 2005
Harsh interrogation techniques authorized by top officials of the CIA have led to questionable confessions and the death of a detainee since the techniques were first authorized in mid-March 2002, ABC News has been told by former and current intelligence officers and supervisors.
They say they are revealing specific details of the techniques, and their impact on confessions, because the public needs to know the direction their agency has chosen. All gave their accounts on the condition that their names and identities not be revealed. Portions of their accounts are corrobrated by public statements of former CIA officers and by reports recently published that cite a classified CIA Inspector General's report.
Other portions of their accounts echo the accounts of escaped prisoners from one CIA prison in Afghanistan.
"They would not let you rest, day or night. Stand up, sit down, stand up, sit down. Don't sleep. Don't lie on the floor," one prisoner said through a translator. The detainees were also forced to listen to rap artist Eminem's "Slim Shady" album. The music was so foreign to them it made them frantic, sources said.
Contacted after the completion of the ABC News investigation, CIA officials would neither confirm nor deny the accounts. They simply declined to comment.
The CIA sources described a list of six "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques" instituted in mid-March 2002 and used, they said, on a dozen top al Qaeda targets incarcerated in isolation at secret locations on military bases in regions from Asia to Eastern Europe. According to the sources, only a handful of CIA interrogators are trained and authorized to use the techniques:
1. The Attention Grab: The interrogator forcefully grabs the shirt front of the prisoner and shakes him.
2. Attention Slap: An open-handed slap aimed at causing pain and triggering fear.
3. The Belly Slap: A hard open-handed slap to the stomach. The aim is to cause pain, but not internal injury. Doctors consulted advised against using a punch, which could cause lasting internal damage.
4. Long Time Standing: This technique is described as among the most effective. Prisoners are forced to stand, handcuffed and with their feet shackled to an eye bolt in the floor for more than 40 hours. Exhaustion and sleep deprivation are effective in yielding confessions.
5. The Cold Cell: The prisoner is left to stand naked in a cell kept near 50 degrees. Throughout the time in the cell the prisoner is doused with cold water.
6. Water Boarding: The prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet. Cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner's face and water is poured over him. Unavoidably, the gag reflex kicks in and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt.
According to the sources, CIA officers who subjected themselves to the water boarding technique lasted an average of 14 seconds before caving in. They said al Qaeda's toughest prisoner, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, won the admiration of interrogators when he was able to last between two and two-and-a-half minutes before begging to confess.
Friday, November 18, 2005
WASHINGTON (AP) -- House Republicans sought a showdown Friday with Democrats on a proposal by one of their most senior members to force an end to the U.S. deployment of troops in Iraq.
Rep. John Murtha, D-Pennsylvania, offered the resolution demanding a pullout. The GOP-run House was expected to reject it -- and make a prominent statement about where Congress stands on Iraq -- as the chamber scurried toward a Thanksgiving break.
"We'll let the members debate it and then let them vote on it," said Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri, the acting majority leader.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's office had no immediate comment.
Murtha, a well-respected Vietnam veteran who voted for the Iraq war, called for the immediate withdrawal of troops Thursday, intensifying the already red-hot debate on Capitol Hill over President Bush's war policies. (Full Story)
Murtha's resolution would force the president to withdrawal the nearly 160,000 troops in Iraq "at the earliest predictable date."
Second item is that I want to thank all my “blogger buddies” – Jessica, James, Alice, Happy Feminist, all of you folks, for helping my maintain my sanity during a very trying period. You’re a really great bunch of folks, and I appreciate all of you.
Now, the main item is that I received a pretty cool email this morning from a new blogger who goes by the handle “Abben”. Abben recently started his own blog and decided to take on a fairly ambitious, but small piece, attacking some of the logical fallacies that have been used to minimize and deflect criticism from the outing of Valerie Plame on a random conservative blog. I think this is pretty good for a new blogger; I think my first political piece was mostly me ranting and raving about the 2004 elections, all emotion and spite.
Of course it turned out to be more than just a criticism of some random blogger. Here’s what he had to say:
”Little did I realize that the blog I was taking on was actually the personal blog Mark Tapscott, Director of the Center for Media and Public Policy at the Heritage Foundation, writer for Fox News, Washington Post, etc . I bring out quite an indictment against his ability to accurately represent a situation, a man whose career is in the media, and I can't wait to see if he responds.”
I’ll let you read his blog for the good stuff, but here’s the real stinger for me:
The easy excuse is that the poster never intended to imply these things. If true, the poster still has the responsibility of being remotely conscious of the directions in which they pull the tilt of the story, which they failed to fufill. If this is too much to ask, then so is coherent and insightful analysis into the Plame affair (or any other politcal matter).
This post, insofar as it is to be considered a piece of information, is damaging and useless. It has no value for anyone who is objectively concerned with engaging in critical thought, and is damaging to one's efforts to critically think. For any accusations that this level of criticism is overly pedantic, I would answer that it is exactly the level necessary, if we care about making any progress in political discussions.
And, like he said, this is addressed to someone who, while working for the odious Heritage Foundation, has a career based in media. It pulls the curtain on some of the stupid tricks that some media figures use to sway their readers and viewers. I recommend you check it out; Abben’s blog will always be linked at this site, as well.
Thursday, November 17, 2005
Now we see the ACTUAL president joining in the parade of Democrat-bashing, falling, of course, on the same side as Bush:
Cheney joins GOP criticism of Democrats
MARY CLARE JALONICK
WASHINGTON - Vice President Dick Cheney added his voice on Wednesday to the chorus of Republican criticism of Democrats who have accused the Bush administration of manipulating intelligence on Iraq, calling it "one of the most dishonest and reprehensible charges ever aired in this city."
"Some of the most irresponsible comments have, of course, come from politicians who actually voted in favor of authorizing force against Saddam Hussein," Cheney said in remarks prepared for a GOP fundraiser.
Cheney's attack was part of a GOP effort to push back against criticism on Iraq. Bush within the past week has made two speeches that painted Democrats as hypocrites for criticizing the Iraq war after earlier supporting the idea that Saddam should go. On Tuesday, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld joined the offensive, singling out Democrats who in the past had depicted Saddam as a threat with weapons of mass destruction, including former President Clinton and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
The Republican National Committee also posted on its Web site a video compilation of past statements by prominent Democrats - including several 2008 presidential hopefuls - supporting a hard line against Saddam.
"These are elected officials who had access to the intelligence, and were free to draw their own conclusions. They arrived at the same judgment about Iraq's capabilities and intentions that was made by this administration and by the previous administration," Cheney said.
He said there was "broad-based, bipartisan agreement that Saddam Hussein was a threat, that he had violated U.N. Security Council Resolutions" and had weapons of mass destruction.
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Document Says Oil Chiefs Met With Cheney Task Force
By Dana Milbank and Justin Blum
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, November 16, 2005; Page A01
A White House document shows that executives from big oil companies met with Vice President Cheney's energy task force in 2001 -- something long suspected by environmentalists but denied as recently as last week by industry officials testifying before Congress.
The document, obtained this week by The Washington Post, shows that officials from Exxon Mobil Corp., Conoco (before its merger with Phillips), Shell Oil Co. and BP America Inc. met in the White House complex with the Cheney aides who were developing a national energy policy, parts of which became law and parts of which are still being debated.
In a joint hearing last week of the Senate Energy and Commerce committees, the chief executives of Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp. and ConocoPhillips said their firms did not participate in the 2001 task force. The president of Shell Oil said his company did not participate "to my knowledge," and the chief of BP America Inc. said he did not know.
Chevron was not named in the White House document, but the Government Accountability Office has found that Chevron was one of several companies that "gave detailed energy policy recommendations" to the task force. In addition, Cheney had a separate meeting with John Browne, BP's chief executive, according to a person familiar with the task force's work; that meeting is not noted in the document.
The task force's activities attracted complaints from environmentalists, who said they were shut out of the task force discussions while corporate interests were present. The meetings were held in secret and the White House refused to release a list of participants. The task force was made up primarily of Cabinet-level officials. Judicial Watch and the Sierra Club unsuccessfully sued to obtain the records.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), who posed the question about the task force, said he will ask the Justice Department today to investigate. "The White House went to great lengths to keep these meetings secret, and now oil executives may be lying to Congress about their role in the Cheney task force," Lautenberg said.
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Poll: Bush approval mark at all-time low
Monday, November 14, 2005; Posted: 11:13 p.m. EST (04:13 GMT)
Bush also received his all-time worst marks in three other categories in the CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll. The categories were terrorism, Bush's trustworthiness and whether the Iraq war was worthwhile.
Bush's 37 percent overall approval rating was two percentage points below his ranking in an October survey. Both polls had a sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.
Sixty percent of the 1,006 adult Americans interviewed by telephone Friday through Sunday said they disapprove of how Bush is handling his job as president.
The White House has said it doesn't pay attention to poll numbers and the figures do not affect policy.
"We have a proud record of accomplishment and a positive agenda for the future," White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters Wednesday.
"We look forward to continuing to talk about it. I mean, you can get caught up in polls; we don't. Polls are snapshots in time."
Bush, who received high marks after the terrorist attacks of 2001, also rated poorly in the new poll for his policy on terrorism. For the first time, less than half -- 48 percent -- of those surveyed said they approved of how the president was handling the war on terror. Forty-nine percent said they disapprove.
Tuesday November 15, 2005 1:46 PM
By ROBERT H. REID
Associated Press Writer
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - U.S. and Iraqi forces fighting insurgents near the Syrian border ran into fierce resistance Tuesday, with troops encountering 107 explosive booby traps and killing at least 30 insurgents, the military said.
The U.S. command said three U.S. Marines have died in combat while trying to clear the town of Obeidi as part of ``Operation Steel Curtain'' since Monday. At least 80 insurgents have been killed in the same period, mostly in airstrikes, the statement said.
``Iraqi and coalition forces continue to clear the city house by house, occasionally encountering buildings that are rigged with explosives and triggered to detonate upon entering the building,'' the statement said. ``Numerous weapons caches have also been seized, to include several that contained suicide vests and bomb making material.''
The U.S.-Iraqi attack on Obeidi was the latest stage of an offensive to clear al-Qaida-led insurgents from a string of towns and cities in the Euphrates River valley near the border with Syria and seal off a major route for foreign fighters sneaking into Iraq.
Monday, November 14, 2005
Bill O’Reilly, in his own inimical fashion, has started us down the road of this year’s War on Christmas, preferring to break out the eggnog and ammo early. I predicted this a few weeks ago, if you recall. Anyway, here’s what Bill had to say…
O'REILLY: See, I think you're, I think you're crazy. And here's why. I think the backlash against stores that don't say "Merry Christmas" is enormous because now people are aware of the issue. There's going to be -- it's like the third or fourth year that we've reported it. I know everybody's hypersensitive about are they going to say "Merry Christmas"? Are they going to say "Happy Holidays"? What are they going to say? Are there decorations that say "Merry Christmas"? They're hypersensitive. And when you walk into a secular environment, most Christians are looking around, and they're really aware of it. Now, the other thing is, I don't believe most people who aren't Christian are offended by the words "Merry Christmas." I think those people are nuts. I think you're crazy if you're offended by the words "Merry Christmas."
NULMAN: "Season's Greetings" and "Happy Holidays," Bill, does not offend Christians.
O'REILLY: Yes, it does. It absolutely does. And I know that for a fact. But the smart way to do it is "Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Season's Greetings, Happy Kwanzaa."
Hey Bill, you ever think those stores don't want to offend anyone of a different faith, because every – not just Christian – but EVERY customer is important to them?
Oh, and John Gibson was not to be beaten. From XK on the Something Awful forums:
“Fox had John Gibson on talking about this subject. He cited a story about someone writing into Walmart asking why they say "happy holidays" instead of "merry christmas", and the Walmart representative responded with information about Christmas being derived from a pagan celebration and how a bunch of different elements of Christmas came from various ancient groups and religions.
Apparently that representative got fired for the response, and John Gibson and his guest were having a circle-jerk over how ridiculous it was to say Christmas had anything to do with pagans or any other religions, and that retailers should focus on making Christians feel comfortable and not worry about anybody else. I felt like I was watching some sort of bizarro sketch comedy show.”
Do you see what you people are forcing?? DO YOU SEE?
War on Christmas Wages; North Pole Compound Under Siege
SPRINGDALE, AR- Emboldened by a handful of recent victories including the ousting of Intelligent Design advocates from the Dover, Pennsylvania, school board, the shadowy forces secularism appear to have set their sights on the figure at the center of modern Christianity: Santa Claus himself. Late last week Fox News reported that greeters at Wal-Mart have been instructed not to wish shoppers a "Merry Christmas" this holiday season. Although the order was quickly rescinded, the damage had already been done. The War on Christmas had begun in earnest.
In much the same way that terrorists coordinate attacks in rapid succession for maximum effect, the unseen foes of America's founding faith quickly regrouped for another assault. Sunday evening FNC broke into its regularly scheduled Breaking News interruption to announce reports of sporadic gunfire at the North Pole. The network broadcast a grainy green-and-white feed of the snowy, featureless landscape well into the night. Although the image appeared not to change from moment to moment, several viewers called in claiming to have seen muzzle flashes in the darkness.
Incensed by the brazen attack, concerned citizens pleaded with President Bush to dispatch an elite Special Forces team to secure the workshop, save Christmas, and root out the secular rebels. Bush reluctantly explained that, unlike the other 90% of the earth's surface, the North Pole does not belong to the United States, and until people there request help his hands are tied.
The lack of any reports of violence from the region has only intensified concerns and supported the rumor that Claus may already be dead. With this in mind, the Commander in Chief took it upon himself to reassure the nation's children.
"Don't you worry about Saint Nick, folks," said Bush. "As an ex-Marine, he knows more than three dozen ways to kill a naughty person with nothing more than his bare hands and a pencil. He'll be fine. Besides, the real War on Christmas is being fought right here at home."
Won’t someone think of the children?
Sunday, November 13, 2005
The Right Way in Iraq
By John Edwards
Sunday, November 13, 2005; B07
I was wrong.
Almost three years ago we went into Iraq to remove what we were told -- and what many of us believed and argued -- was a threat to America. But in fact we now know that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction when our forces invaded Iraq in 2003. The intelligence was deeply flawed and, in some cases, manipulated to fit a political agenda.
It was a mistake to vote for this war in 2002. I take responsibility for that mistake. It has been hard to say these words because those who didn't make a mistake -- the men and women of our armed forces and their families -- have performed heroically and paid a dear price.
The world desperately needs moral leadership from America, and the foundation for moral leadership is telling the truth.
While we can't change the past, we need to accept responsibility, because a key part of restoring America's moral leadership is acknowledging when we've made mistakes or been proven wrong -- and showing that we have the creativity and guts to make it right.
The argument for going to war with Iraq was based on intelligence that we now know was inaccurate. The information the American people were hearing from the president -- and that I was being given by our intelligence community -- wasn't the whole story. Had I known this at the time, I never would have voted for this war.
George Bush won't accept responsibility for his mistakes. Along with Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, he has made horrible mistakes at almost every step: failed diplomacy; not going in with enough troops; not giving our forces the equipment they need; not having a plan for peace.
Because of these failures, Iraq is a mess and has become a far greater threat than it ever was. It is now a haven for terrorists, and our presence there is draining the goodwill our country once enjoyed, diminishing our global standing. It has made fighting the global war against terrorist organizations more difficult, not less.
The urgent question isn't how we got here but what we do now. We have to give our troops a way to end their mission honorably. That means leaving behind a success, not a failure.
What is success? I don't think it is Iraq as a Jeffersonian democracy. I think it is an Iraq that is relatively stable, largely self-sufficient, comparatively open and free, and in control of its own destiny.
A plan for success needs to focus on three interlocking objectives: reducing the American presence, building Iraq's capacity and getting other countries to meet their responsibilities to help.