Rene — Two Articles On Recent Torture Memors

Topic(s): Torture | Comments Off on Rene — Two Articles On Recent Torture Memors

1. Letter to Cheney: Publish and Be Damned, Mr Cheney
2. Obama: Bush aides may be prosecuted over torture
1. Letter to Cheney: Publish and Be Damned, Mr Cheney
Publish and Be Damned, Mr Cheney
Published on Tuesday, April 21, 2009 by The Guardian/UK
Dick Cheney wants classified material released to show that torture
‘worked’. Let’s see it all ` waterboarding videos included
by Philippe Sands
Dear Mr Cheney,
Last night, you appeared on Fox News’ Hannity show, calling for an
“honest debate” on the benefits of the Bush Administration’s “bold”
interrogation programme. You seem unhappy with last week’s publication
of four new legal memos authorising torture, so you referred to
reports that have not yet been declassified “that show specifically
what we gained as a result of this activity”. You told Hannity:
“I know specifically of reports that I read, that I saw, that lay out
what we learned through the interrogation process and what the
consequences were for the country.”
Of course, you have a terrific track record on the intelligence
material that you have seen and read. I recall that, back in August
2002, you told a Nashville convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars
that “There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass
Now, you seem keen that we should be able to see the reports you read
showing all the benefits of interrogations to be made public. But why
stop there? Let’s have those reports. Let’s also have the
interrogation logs. Let’s have the videos and audio tapes of the
actual interrogations, assuming they haven’t all been destroyed (in
the meantime, you may want to take a quick peek at this, Christopher
Hitchens writing in Vanity Fair, to see what waterboarding actually
looks like in practice, and its effects on one of our more robust
journalists. Why not call for the declassification of the
waterboarding videos, so we can see for ourselves what information was
gleaned in the moments and hours and days after the waterboarding was
carried out?
I hope you’ll excuse me if I am a tad sceptical. I recall, for
example, that when I testified before the House Judiciary Committee
last summer, Congressman Trent Franks reported that wat sed on only
three men and that, in each case, it had lasted no more than one
minute. That gave a grand total of three minutes of
waterboarding. What’s all the fuss about, Congressman Franks seemed to
be saying. It seems that the source on whom he relied ` Michael
Hayden, who happened to be the former head of the CIA ` wasn’t
entirely accurate. This week’s news reports that two of those men were
waterboarded on no less than 266 occasions.
And, more to the point, as I report in my book Torture Team, I made
some inquiries about your administration’s claim that the torture of
Mohammed al-Qahtani at Guantánamo back in the autumn of 2002
had produced a great deal of useful material. It turns out that it
didn’t. I met with the head of al-Qahtani’s exploitation team. Had the
new interrogation techniques produced anything useful, I asked him? He
chose his words with care.
“There was a lot of data of interest”, he said. “It was contextual in
nature, confirming in nature. Did it help us catch Osama bin Laden?
I took that as a no, confirmation that there was little to back up the
usual, bullish overstatements made by your administration back in June
2004 to justify the move to abuse.
So, I’m somewhat sceptical about your claim. Perhaps waterboarding and
the other techniques of torture you approved did produce
information. On the basis of my conversations with seasoned
interrogators, I doubt, however, that it was reliable or particularly
And even if it was, that would not justify the move to torture. As you
well know, such acts are never justified in law, under US law or
international law. The move to torture has heaped shame on the United
States, exposing its servicemen and women and intelligence officers to
even greater dangers around world. It has emboldened those who seek to
do us harm, serving as the primary tool of recruitment across the
As you speak to the wonders of waterboarding, I wonder whether you
have ever reflected on the consequences of your words and actions for
others. If waterboardin en cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment) when
you decide to use on it others, then why should other nations not
resort to its use, even against Americans who may be detained
overseas, at some point in the future. I once had a chance to put that
question to General Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,
until 2005, in respect of a raft of lesser techniques.
“Are you comfortable with all of these techniques being used on
American personnel?”, I asked him.
“Not in this memo,” he replied without pause.
He is right and, with respect, you are wrong. The acts you authorised
constitute torture, with all the consequences of criminality that
follows. Bring on that honest debate, I say. Put your money where your
mouth is. Call for all the evidence ` all of it ` to be put before the
US Congress or an independent investigation.
© 2009 Guardian News and Media Limited
Philippe Sands QC is professor of law at University College London and
author of Torture Team: Uncovering War Crimes in the Land of the Free
2. Obama: Bush aides may be prosecuted over torture
. Decision to prosecute rests with attorney general, Obama says
. Obama lifts opposition to separate congressional inquiry
. No prosecution of CIA agents expected
* Ewen MacAskill in Washington
* guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 21 April 2009 21.42 BST
Senior members of the Bush administration who approved the use of
waterboarding and other harsh interrogation measures could face
prosecution, Barack Obama said today, in a surprise about-turn by the
He said his attorney general, Eric Holder, was conducting an
investigation and the final decision rested with him.
Obama cited four Bush administration memos he released last week
detailing CIA interrogation measures, saying they “reflected, in my
view, us losing our moral bearings”.
The revelation of possible prosecutions amounts to a turnaround by
Obama, who had been resisting a prolonged and divisive partisan row
that could distract from his heavy domestic and foreign agenda.
He also lifted his opposition to a separate congressional inquiry
The White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, said the president
would like to see the inquiry modelled on the 9/11 commission.
Obama reiterated that there would be no prosecutions of CIA agents who
carried out the interrogation of suspected al-Qaida members at
Guantánamo and secret prisons around the world.
But for the first time he opened up the possibility that those in the
Bush administration who gave the go-ahead for the use of waterboarding
and other interrogation techniques could be prosecuted.
“For those who carried out some of these operations within the four
corners of legal opinions or guidance that had been provided from the
White House, I do not think it’s appropriate for them to be
prosecuted,” Obama said. “With respect to those who formulated those
legal decisions, I would say that that is going to be more of a
decision for the attorney general within the parameters of various
laws, and I don’t want to prejudge that.”
He d uals. Those in the frame could be George Bush’s attorney general,
Alberto Gonzales, or, lower down the chain, justice department
The White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, said only three days ago
that the administration did not favour prosecutions of those who had
devised the policy, and Gibbs echoed that on Monday.
Obama’s about-turn may reflect the sense of outrage, at least among US
liberals, over further details of CIA interrogations that have emerged
during the last few days, including the use of waterboarding against
one detainee 183 times. Or it could be purely political, a retaliation
for sniping against him by Cheney.
In an interview with Fox News on Monday night, Cheney said he was
disturbed by the release of the previously classified memos. He called
for the declassification of other memos that he said would illustrate
the value of intelligence gained from the interrogations.
“I know specifically of reports that I read, that I saw, that lay out
what we learned through the interrogation process and what the
consequences were for the country,” he said.
Earlier this year, momentum had been building among Democrats in
Congress for a commission to look into Guantánamo and the CIA’s
secret sites. But that began to fizzle out when the Obama White House
indicated it was opposed to the idea.
Obama again today indicated he remained opposed to politicisation of
the issue, saying it might hamper national security operations.
But, in a switch, he said: “If and when there needs to be a further
accounting of what took place during this period, I think for Congress
to examine ways that it can be done in a bipartisan fashion … that
would probably be a more sensible approach to take.
“I’m not suggesting that that should be done, but … I think it’s
very important for the American people to feel as if this is not being
dealt with to provide one side or another political advantage, but
rather is being done to learn some lessons so that we move forward in
an effective way.”
Prominent in any inquiry will b s setting out the legal basis for the
interrogation methods, Jay Bybee, assistant attorney general under
Bush, and Steven Bradbury, principal deputy assistant attorney
It is not just Cheney who has been sniping at Obama over
Guantánamo and interrogation.
Marc Thiessen, a former Pentagon and White House official, criticised
the president for releasing the memos. “President Obama’s decision to
release these documents is one of the most dangerous and irresponsible
acts ever by an American president during a time of war – and
Americans may die as a result.”