Category Archives: Torture

Planning Ahead

Things to Keep in Mind When You Read the Torture Report – Dan, at The Intercept.

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Only an Expert

Still very relevant today, Laurie Anderson’s Only an Expert (2010):

Warning: There are some pretty ugly, violent, and horrible images in this video. Brought to you by experts.

Posted in Kultcha, Politics: US, Torture | 1 Comment

Don’t Just Get Mad: Do Something

My brother has a good strong item up about what should happen in light of yesterday’s revelations that CIA Director John O. Brennan lied to Congress about his agency’s spying on Senate investigators:

So if you’re the president, you fire everyone who lies. Starting with John Brennan.

I agree Brennan should go. But it rankles that we’re still stuck in a world where the coverup is punished more than the crime — and that the underlying war crime here, torture, has not been punished at all.

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Feinstein Savages CIA

Senator Diane Feinstein (D-Cal), one of the more reliable friends the intelligence community has had in the Senate, delivered a remarkable statement on the floor of the Senate yesterday.

It’s really worth reading all of it. Choice bits below (I have boldfaced the choicest bit near the end):

The interrogations and the conditions of confinement at the CIA detentions sites were far different and far more harsh than the way the CIA had described them to us.

Per an exchange of letters in 2009, then-Vice Chairman Bond, then-Director Panetta and I agreed in an exchange of letters that the CIA was to provide a, quote, stand-alone computer system, end quote, with a, quote, network drive segregated from CIA networks, end quote, for the committee that would only be accessed by information technology personnel at the CIA who would, quote, not be permitted to share information from the system with other CIA personnel, except as otherwise authorized by the committee, end quote.

It was this computer network that notwithstanding our agreement with Director Panetta was searched by the CIA this past January — and once before, which I will later describe.

In early 2010, the CIA was continuing to provide documents and the committee staff was gaining familiarity with the information it had already received. In May of 2010, the committee staff noticed that the documents had been provided for the committee — that had been provided for the committee’s review were no longer accessible.

Staff approached the CIA personnel at the off-site location, who initially denied that documents had been removed. CIA personnel then blamed information technology personnel, who were almost all contractors, for removing the documents themselves without direction or authority.

And then the CIA stated that the removal of the documents was ordered by the White House. When the White — when the committee approached the White House, the White House denied giving the CIA any such order.

… this was the exact sort of CIA interference in our investigation that we sought to avoid at the outset.

To be clear, the committee staff did not hack into CIA computers to obtain these documents, as has been suggested in the press.

When the internal Panetta Review documents disappeared from the committee’s computer system, this suggested once again that the CIA had removed documents already provided to the committee, in violation of CIA agreements and White House assurances that the CIA would cease such activities. As I have detailed, the CIA has previously withheld and destroyed information about its detention and interrogation program, including its decision in 2005 to destroy interrogation videotapes over the objections of the Bush White House and the director of national intelligence. Based on the above, there was a need to preserve and protect the internal Panetta Review in the committee’s own secure spaces.

Now, the relocation of the internal Panetta Review was lawful and handled in a manner consistent with its classification. No law prevents the relocation of a document in the committee’s possession from a CIA facility to secure committee offices on Capitol Hill. As I mentioned before, the document was handled and transported in a manner consistent with its classification, redacted appropriately, and it remains secured, with restricted access in committee spaces.

on January 15th, 2014, CIA Director Brennan requested an emergency meeting to inform me and Vice Chairman Chambliss that without prior notification or approval, CIA personnel had conducted a search — that was John Brennan’s word — of the committee computers at the off-site facility.

This search involved not only a search of documents provided by the committee by the CIA, but also a search of the standalone and walled-off committee network drive containing the committee’s own internal work product and communications. According to Brennan, the computer search was conducted in response to indications that some members of the committee staff might already have had access to the internal Panetta review.

The CIA did not ask the committee or its staff if the committee had access to the internal review or we obtained it.

Instead the CIA just went and searched the committee’s computers. The CIA has still not asked the committee any questions about how the committee acquired the Panetta review.

In place of asking any questions, the CIA’s unauthorized search of the committee computers was followed by an allegation, which we now have seen repeated anonymously in the press, that the committee staff had somehow obtained the document through unauthorized or criminal means, perhaps to include hacking into the CIA’s computer network.

As I have described, this is not true. The document was made available to the staff at the off-site facility, and it was located using a CIA-provided search tool running a query of the information provided to the committee pursuant to its investigation. Director Brennan stated that the CIA search had determined that the committee staff had copies of the internal Panetta review on the committee staff shared drive and had accessed them numerous times. He indicated at the meeting that he was going to order further forensic investigation of the committee network to loan — to learn more about activities of the committee’s oversight staff.

Besides the constitutional implications, the CIA search may also have violated the Fourth Amendment, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, as well as Executive Order 12333, which prohibits the CIA from conducting domestic searches or surveillance.

Weeks later, I was also told that after the inspector general reviewed the CIA’s activities to the Department of Justice — excuse me, referred the CIA’s activities to the Department of Justice, the acting counsel general of the CIA filed a crimes report with the Department of Justice concerning the committee staff’s actions. I have not been provided the specifics of these allegations, or been told whether the department has initiated a criminal investigation based on the allegations of the CIA’s acting general counsel.

As I mentioned before, our staff involved in this matter have the appropriate clearances, handled this sensitive material according to established procedures and practice to protect classified information, and were provided access to the Panetta Review by the CIA itself.

As a result, there is no legitimate reason to allege to the Justice Department that Senate staff may have committed a crime. I view the acting counsel general’s referral as a potential effort to intimidate this staff, and I am not taking this lightly.

I should note that for most if not all of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, the now-acting general counsel was a lawyer in the CIA’s counterterrorism center, the unit within which the CIA managed and carried out this program. From mid-2004 until the official termination of the detention and interrogation program in January 2009, he was the unit’s chief lawyer. He is mentioned by name more than 1,600 times in our study.

And now, this individual is sending a crimes report to the Department of Justice on the actions of Congressional staff — the same Congressional staff who researched and drafted a report that details how CIA officers, including the acting general counsel himself, provided inaccurate information to the Department of Justice about the program.

Mr. President, let me say this: All senators rely on their staff to be their eyes and ears and to carry out our duties. The staff members of the intelligence committee are dedicated professionals who are motivated to do what is best for our nation. The staff members who have been working on this study and this report have devoted years of their lives to it, wading through the horrible details of a CIA program that never, never, never should have existed.

They have worked long hours and produced a report unprecedented in its comprehensive attention to detail in the history of the Senate. They are now being threatened with legal jeopardy just as final revisions to the report and being made so that parts of it can be declassified and released to the American people.

Mr. President, I felt that I needed to come to the floor today to correct the public record and to give the American people the facts about what the dedicated committee staff have been working so hard for the last several years as part of the committee’s investigation.

I also want to reiterate to my colleagues my desire to have all updates to the committee report completed this month and approved for declassification. We’re not going to stop. I intend to move to have the findings, conclusions and the executive summary of the report sent to the president for declassification as release to the American people. The White House has indicated publicly and to me personally that it supports declassification and release.

If the Senate can declassify this report, we will be able to ensure that an un-American, brutal program of detention and interrogation will never again be considered or permitted. But, Mr. President, the recent actions that I have just laid out make this a defining moment for the oversight of our Intelligence Committee. How Congress and how this will be resolved will show whether the Intelligence Committee can be effective in monitoring and investigating our nation’s intelligence activities or whether our work can be thwarted by those we oversee.

Posted in Law: Constitutional Law, National Security, Torture | 2 Comments

CIA Spied on Senate Committee?

This story seems like a Smoking Gun-sized Big Deal. The NYT version, C.I.A. Employees Face New Inquiry Amid Clashes on Detention Program and the less namby-pamby McClatchy version, Probe sought of CIA conduct in Senate study of secret detention program paint a pretty damming picture of an agency totally out of control, and of a potentially massive separation of powers conflict arising out of the Senate’s report on CIA torture.

Compare McClatchy’s leed:

The CIA Inspector General’s Office has asked the Justice Department to investigate allegations of malfeasance at the spy agency in connection with a yet-to-be released Senate Intelligence Committee report into the CIA’s secret detention and interrogation program, McClatchy has learned.

The criminal referral may be related to what several knowledgeable people said was CIA monitoring of computers used by Senate aides to prepare the study. The monitoring may have violated an agreement between the committee and the agency.

to the NYT leed:

The Central Intelligence Agency’s attempt to keep secret the details of a defunct detention and interrogation program has escalated a battle between the agency and members of Congress and led to an investigation by the C.I.A.’s internal watchdog into the conduct of agency employees.

The agency’s inspector general began the inquiry partly as a response to complaints from members of Congress that C.I.A. employees were improperly monitoring the work of staff members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, according to government officials with knowledge of the investigation.

McClatchy also says this:

The committee determined earlier this year that the CIA monitored computers – in possible violation of an agreement against doing so – that the agency had provided to intelligence committee staff in a secure room at CIA headquarters that the agency insisted they use to review millions of pages of top-secret reports, cables and other documents, according to people with knowledge.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, a panel member, apparently was referring to the monitoring when he asked CIA Director John Brennan at a Jan. 9 hearing if provisions of the Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act “apply to the CIA? Seems to me that’s a yes or no answer.”

Brennan replied that he’d have to get back to Wyden after looking into “what the act actually calls for and it’s applicability to CIA’s authorities.”

None of that is in the NYT version, although the NYT (like McClatchy) does have these details:

Then, in December, Mr. Udall revealed that the Intelligence Committee had become aware of an internal C.I.A. study that he said was “consistent with the Intelligence Committee’s report” and “conflicts with the official C.I.A. response to the committee’s report.”

It appears that Mr. Udall’s revelation is what set off the current fight, with C.I.A. officials accusing the Intelligence Committee of learning about the internal review by gaining unauthorized access to agency databases.

In a letter to President Obama on Tuesday, Mr. Udall made a vague reference to the dispute over the C.I.A.’s internal report.

“As you are aware, the C.I.A. has recently taken unprecedented action against the committee in relation to the internal C.I.A. review, and I find these actions to be incredibly troubling for the committee’s oversight responsibilities and for our democracy,” he wrote.

Developing.

Posted in Law: Constitutional Law, National Security, Surveillance, Torture | Leave a comment

A Second-Term Agenda

Vincent Warren, Executive Director at the Center for Constitutional Rights, has an agenda for President’s Obama’s second term:

Obama’s re-election means we need to hold the president accountable for the change we want to see. Here are the changes we will keep fighting for in Obama’s second term:

  • Close Guantanamo, and end torture through indefinite detention. Repatriate or resettle the men the government does not intend to prosecute, and provide fair trials for the rest
  • End the use of solitary confinement in prisons across the country
  • End unlawful “targeted killings” and the expansion of the Orwellian “disposition matrix.” Acknowledge, investigate and provide reparations for unlawful civilian killings
  • End the war in Afghanistan and pull all private military contractors out of Iraq and Afghanistan
  • Abandon the endless global war paradigm as the basis for abusive national security policies and end the use of war force outside of war zones
  • Investigate and prosecute former high-level U.S. officials who bear responsibility for torture and war crimes committed in Afghanistan, Iraq and the “black sites”
  • Provide medical treatment and compensation to people subjected to torture in U.S.-run detention facilities, including in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as Guantánamo, and provide war reparations to communities in Iraq and Afghanistan for harms done to the people and the environment
  • End the persecution of whistleblowers and journalists like Julian Assange, Wikileaks and Bradley Manning for protected First Amendment activity
  • Increase transparency, sunshine and freedom of information in federal law enforcement and prisons and end overclassification of unlawful or embarrassing government conduct
  • Stop the criminalization of dissent: end the stifling of activist expression under the anti-free-speech National Defense Authorization Act and the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act and end overbroad prosecutions for terrorism under material support laws
  • Stop the criminalization and profiling of communities based on race and religion: end the devastating Secure Communities program that destroys families and spreads fear in immigrant neighborhoods
  • End warrantless surveillance and stop the indiscriminate targeting and surveillance of Muslim, Middle Eastern, and South Asian communities under the guise of national security
  • Support human rights internationally: stop funding and training police and militaries abroad implicated in human rights abuses in places like Honduras
  • Center women’s equality in all policy and legislative initiatives concerning their bodily autonomy and right to health

Off the top of my head, I don’t think Obama is for any of these, is he?

I myself am not on board for some items on this list either. For example, I think it is entirely legal to prosecute Bradley Manning, as I don’t think he was engaged in a protected First Amendment activity; whether one believes he did a public service relates to moral culpability and hero/villain status, but not legal guilt. I don’t feel well informed about the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, but it certainly hasn’t reached my radar as s civil liberties issue. There’s probably more. Even so, I respect the ambition and energy that motivates this list; what I’m wondering is which if any of these items will be able to get traction?

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When Even Sen. Feinstein is Ready to Call You Out for Pro-Torture Falsehood

Joint statement from: Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Chairman, Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Chairman, Senate Armed Services Committee, April 27, 2012:

It begins:

We are deeply troubled by the claims of the CIA’s former Deputy Director of Operations Jose Rodriguez regarding the effectiveness of the CIA’s coercive interrogation techniques.

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence will soon complete a comprehensive review of the CIA’s former Detention and Interrogation Program. Committee staff has reviewed more than 6 million pages of records and the Committee’s final report, which we expect to exceed 5000 pages, will provide a detailed, factual description of how interrogation techniques were used, the conditions under which detainees were held, and the intelligence that was – or wasn’t – gained from the program.

Statements made by Mr. Rodriguez and other former senior government officials about the role of the CIA interrogation program in locating Usama bin Laden (UBL) are inconsistent with CIA records.

And there’s lots more…

This is an excellent and forceful reaction to ex-CIA chief Jose Rodriguez’s recent book and 60 Minutes appearance in which he defended waterboarding “to protect Americans” and claimed that “torture works.”

In addition to his fantasy-based defense of torture, Rodriguez defended his destruction of 92 videotapes of interrogations involving waterboarding, despite a law requiring the tapes’ recording and a judge’s order not to destroy the tapes.  In his book, Hard Decisions, Rodriguez justifies the tapes’ destruction because of their “bad visuals” — worse than Abu Ghraib. Those illegal actions did not lead to prosecution, see No Criminal Charges Sought Over C.I.A. Tapes, as Rodriguez claimed advice of CIA counsel. Not entirely unreasonably, the Justice Department wants US officials to feel they can rely on their government lawyers’ advice; less reasonably it was unwilling to make an exception for indubitable torture or war crimes. Not that the lawyers were prosecuted either.

Sen. Feinstein has not exactly been a progressive champion on most issues, but she seems energized over this issue — not that there should be anything partisan or progressive about condemning torture or lying, but there we are — and deserves credit for it.

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