warprompts

Torture Comes Home, McCain and Torture

How is the torture mandate in the so-called War on Terror affecting domestic policing? Well, if the following story is any indication, it’s bleeding through:

A man alleges that police entered his home illegally and ripped a catheter from his body during a child pornography investigation that led to the arrest of two neighbors.

[Name redacted by warprompts], 60, of New Britain filed a notice with the city Thursday that he intends to pursue a federal civil rights lawsuit. He accused the officers of inflicting severe injuries as he was recovering from intestinal surgery in February.

[Name redacted’s] lawyer, Paul Spinella, said police entered [the] apartment Jan. 30 and Feb. 28. Glover wasn’t involved in child pornography, has not been charged and has no criminal record, Spinella said.

“The poor guy,” Spinella said. “They ripped the catheter off his person. They assaulted the guy. He’s got major problems as a result of this. He’s a mess now.”

Lt. James Wardwell, a police spokesman, said Friday that the department had not received the intent-to-sue notice and would not comment. A message was left for the city’s corporation counsel

[Name redacted] has two years to file a lawsuit in U.S. District Court.

Read this for a good commentary on the Connecticut man’s assault.

Andrew Sullivan argues that John McCain “single-handedly wrested the GOP from its pro-torture position, which is a huge, by no means inevitable, advance over Bush-Cheney.” Sullivan writes:

Yes, he has made a few compromises that were disappointing – and more disappointing for those of us who admire him. But he took on the issue when it could have hurt him badly – against demagogues like Giuliani and say-anything opportunists like Romney – and stood up for American and Western values. Because of McCain, we now know that the next president, unlike the current one, will not be a war criminal.

Oh, has he?

[T]he Senate brought the Intelligence Authorization Bill — which contained a provision banning waterboarding — to the floor for a vote. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), an outspoken waterboarding critic, voted against the bill.

At the time, ThinkProgress questioned whether McCain would stand with Bush’s threatened veto of the legislation. Today, the AP reports that McCain has come out saying Bush should veto the measure, which would make the Army Field Manual the standard for CIA interrogations.

(Source: Think Progress)

Glenn Greenwald reports that the Military Commissions Act, another bill that McCain voted for, actually gives the Bush administration power to torture:

An article by The New York Times’s Mark Mazzetti this morning discloses a letter (.pdf) from the Justice Department to Congress which asserts “that American intelligence operatives attempting to thwart terrorist attacks can legally use interrogation methods that might otherwise be prohibited under international law.” In other words, even after all of the dramatic anti-torture laws and other decrees, the Bush administration insists that American interrogators have the right to use methods that are widely considered violations of the Geneva Conventions if we decide that doing so might help “thwart terrorist attacks.”

There are two reasons, and two reasons only, that the Bush administration is able to claim this power: John McCain and the Military Commissions Act. In September, 2006, McCain made a melodramatic display — with great media fanfare — of insisting that the MCA require compliance with the Geneva Conventions for all detainees. But while the MCA purports to require that, it also vested sole and unchallenged discretion in the President to determine what does and does not constitute a violation of the Conventions

As Columbia Law Professor Michael Dorf wrote at the time:

Americans following the news coverage of the debate about how to treat captives in the ongoing military conflicts could be forgiven for believing that the bill recently passed by Congress, the Military Commissions Act (“MCA”), was a compromise between a White House seeking far-reaching powers, and Senators seeking to restrain the Executive. After all, prior to reaching an agreement with the President, four prominent Republican Senators — Susan Collins, Lindsey Graham, John McCain, and John Warner — had drawn a line in the sand, refusing to go along with a measure that would have redefined the Geneva Conventions’ references to “outrages upon personal dignity” and “humiliating and degrading treatment.” No doubt many Americans believe that because these four courageous Senators stood on moral principle, the bill that emerged, and which President Bush will certainly sign, reflects a careful balance between liberty and security. Yet if that is what Americans believe, they are sorely mistaken. On nearly every issue, the MCA gives the White House everything it sought. It immunizes government officials for past war crimes; it cuts the United States off from its obligations under the Geneva Conventions; and it all but eliminates access to civilian courts for non-citizens — including permanent residents whose children are citizens — that the government, in its nearly unreviewable discretion, determines to be unlawful enemy combatants.

The blog Bootstrapping Andrew Sullivan points out that:

McCain has voted for legislation with enough ambiguity for the CIA to conduct … enhanced interrogation.

At the end of the day, all that is unique to McCain is that he is visibly opposed to waterboarding, while his “friends” are not or won’t say (cf. Mukasey).

Still, McCain, so far as I know, has not said anything about how his administration would pursue a Truth Commission on what occurred under the GOP’s Bush-Cheney regime …

Even if he promised anything, we couldn’t take it seriously. If he was distancing himself from “torture”, then why did he go to see George Bush, immediately after having secured the nomination?

Sullivan articulates a McCain myth (one of the many propagated by the media) that gets frequent play in the mainstream media. Again, the brilliant Glenn Greenwald

That’s John McCain — and his Principled Maverickism and alleged torture opposition — in a nutshell. He continuously preens as some sort of independent moralizer only to use that status to endorse and enable that which he claims to oppose. In Great American Hypocrites, I wrote about his numerous deceitful maneuvers to legalize torture as follows:The mirage-like nature of McCain’s alleged convictions can be seen most clearly, and most depressingly, with his public posturing over the issue of torture. Time and again, McCain has made a dramatic showing of standing firm against the use of torture by the United States only to reveal that his so-called principles are confined to the realm of rhetoric and theater, but never action that follows through on that rhetoric.

In 2005, McCain led the effort in the Senate to pass the Detainee Treatment Act (DTA), which made the use of torture illegal. While claiming that he had succeeded in passing a categorical ban on torture, however, McCain meekly accepted two White House maneuvers that diluted his legislation to the point of meaningless: (1) the torture ban expressly applied only to the U.S. military, but not to the intelligence community, which was exempt, thus ensuring that the C.I.A.—the principal torture agent for the United States—could continue to torture legally; and (2) after signing the DTA into law, which passed the Senate by a vote of 90–9, President Bush issued one of his first controversial “signing statements” in which he, in essence, declared that, as President, he had the power to disregard even the limited prohibitions on torture imposed by McCain’s law.

McCain never once objected to Bush’s open, explicit defiance of his cherished anti-torture legislation, preferring to bask in the media’s glory while choosing to ignore the fact that his legislative accomplishment would amount to nothing. Put another way, McCain opted for the political rewards of grandstanding on the issue while knowing that he had accomplished little, if anything, in the way of actually promoting his “principles.”

The myth that McCain is anti-torture persists. In today’s Washington Post Dick Morris writes,

McCain needs to not run as a traditional Republican, which is easy, since he’s not one. After all, how did an anti-torture, anti-tobacco, pro-campaign finance reform, anti-pork, pro-alternative-energy Republican ever emerge from the primaries alive?

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May 18, 2008 Posted by | Media Criticism, Torture News | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lexis Hits on Sami al-Haj’s Release

Let’s play the Glenn Greenwald game and see how much the mainstream media covered al-Haj’s release:

Lexis hits, 05/01/08-05/05/08

Sami al-Haj:

US Newspapers and Wires — 20 hits

Transcripts of News programs — 8 hits, not one from a network or cable newscast

Federal News Service — 4

CQ Transcriptions — 2

Global Broadcast Database — 2

Jeremiah Wright

US Newspapers and Wires — 695

Transcripts of News Programs — 245

May 12, 2008 Posted by | Media Criticism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

White House Tortured

No surprise here: ABC News reported that,

The discussions in the White House were top secret and sources say, involve some of the President’s most senior and influential advisors, principals of the National Security Council. In dozens of private talks and meetings, sources said that a handful of top advisors discussed specific high-value al Qaeda prisoners and exactly how those prisoners would be interrogated. Whether, for example, they would be slapped, pushed, deprived of sleep or subjected to simulated drowning, called waterboarding. The discussion about the “enhanced interrogation techniques” were so detailed, sources said, the interrogations were almost choreographed, down to the number of times the CIA could use a specific tactic. Former CIA director George Tenet, in an interview last year with ABC News told Charles Gibson.

And the Associated Press reported on 08/10/08 that:

Bush administration officials from Vice President Dick Cheney on down signed off on using harsh interrogation techniques against suspected terrorists after asking the Justice Department to endorse their legality, The Associated Press has learned.

The officials also took care to insulate President Bush from a series of meetings where CIA interrogation methods, including waterboarding, which simulates drowning, were discussed and ultimately approved…

The meetings were held in the White House Situation Room in the years immediately following the Sept. 11 attacks. Attending the sessions were then-Bush aides Attorney General John Ashcroft, Secretary of State Colin Powell, CIA Director George Tenet and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice.

Reactions, coverage and commentary:

Buzzflash.com:

If you recall, Ashcroft was the one who resisted, from his hospital bed, a White House effort to strong arm him into signing off on actions that he deemed unConstitutional. When you have John Ashcroft as a conscientious objector, you know that Cheney Inc. has crossed the line into uber illegal activity

Brains and Eggs:

There’s no blaring headline in the Washington Post online about this story. Nothing even very significant that I can find from the source, ABC News, on their website. There is a story there, however about how “absolutely appalling” Dick Cheney thinks Rev. Wright’s comments were.

deadlineUSA (The Guardian)

But will this get any traction? Will people at the top of the Bush administration including Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, George Tenet, and John Ashcroft be held responsible? I doubt it. It would appear Barack Obama’s bowling prowess or lack thereof garners more attention in the mainstream media.

Salon.com (Glenn Greenwald):

In the past two weeks, the following events transpired. A Department of Justice memo, authored by John Yoo, was released which authorized torture and presidential lawbreaking. It was revealed that the Bush administration declared the Fourth Amendment of the Bill of Rights to be inapplicable to “domestic military operations” within the U.S. The U.S. Attorney General appears to have fabricated a key event leading to the 9/11 attacks and made patently false statements about surveillance laws and related lawsuits. Barack Obama went bowling in Pennsylvania and had a low score.

Here are the number of times, according to NEXIS, that various topics have been mentioned in the media over the past thirty days:

“Yoo and torture” – 102

“Mukasey and 9/11” — 73

“Yoo and Fourth Amendment” — 16

“Obama and bowling” — 1,043

“Obama and Wright” — More than 3,000 (too many to be counted)

“Obama and patriotism” – 1,607

“Clinton and Lewinsky” — 1,079

Center for Constitutional Rights:

American torturers must not go unpunished.

The Center for Constitutional Rights has, since 2006, been pursuing high-level Bush administration officials in national courts across Europe for their program of torture and coercive interrogations…

CCR represents men who were tortured while held in U.S. custody… Mohammed al Qahtani, who has been at Guantanamo since 2002, was subjected to a brutal interrogation program – specifically authorized by Donald Rumsfeld – that included 20-hour interrogations, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and severe sleep deprivation, among other tactics. The government is seeking the death penalty against al Qahtani based on evidence that was likely obtained through torture.

And check out the excellent coverage found in these outlets:

Daily Mail (UK)

Crooks and Liars

Emptywheel

Left in the West

IntoxiNation

Make it matter. Contact your representatives and demand they investigate these war crimes.

And speaking of making it matter… The National Lawyers Guild is calling on Berkeley to dismiss John Yoo, “whose torture memos led to commission of war crimes.” Help out their effort by contacting Yoo’s dean and asking why they have a war criminal on staff.

April 13, 2008 Posted by | Media Criticism, Torture News, Yoo Torture Memo | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment