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Friday, April 17, 2009

News from America guaranteed to prompt terrorist belly laughs

This makes me laugh too, sorta — but it simultaneously makes me want to weep, for my profession and my country, and for what the former has done to hamstring the latter's desperate fight against the terrorists who would destroy us if they could (first and third bracketed portions mine, others by TIME):

The CIA desire to use insects during interrogations has not previously been disclosed, according to two civil liberties experts contacted by TIME. The Bybee memorandum, which was written on August 1, 2002[, by then-Assistant Attorney General, now U.S. Circuit Judge Jay S. Bybee], described the CIA's plans for using insects this way:

"You [the CIA] would like to place [top Al Qaeda official Abu] Zubaydah in a cramped confinement box with an insect. You have informed us [the Department of Justice] that he appears to have a fear of insects. In particular, you would like to tell Zubaydah that you intend to place a stinging insect into the box with him. You would, however, place a harmless insect in the box. You have orally informed us that you would in fact place a harmless insect such as a caterpillar in the box with him."

An additional sentence at the end of this paragraph is redacted in the copy made public Thursday. Later in the same memo, Bybee concludes that "an individual placed in a box, even an individual with a fear of insects, would not reasonably feel threatened with severe physical pain or suffering if a caterpillar was placed in the box." Bybee adds, however, that the interrogators should not tell Zubaydah that the insect sting "would produce death or severe pain."

One presumes that threatening to dip Zubaydah's pony-tail into an inkwell would likewise have been "torture" unless he were first warned that the "ink" was really easily washed out with ordinary shampoo.

Snark aside: Faced with the choice of putting American lives at mortal risk or putting an al Qaeda terrorist into a juvenile hissy fit, we, as a nation acting through our elected leaders' lawyers, chose the former.

And the Obama administration still calls that "torture," and apologizes for it anyway:

"Those methods, read on a bright, sunny, safe day in April 2009, appear graphic and disturbing,” said [Director of National Intelligence Dennic C.] Blair in a written statement....

I suspect the al Qaeda terrorists are laughing even harder about the part about us all being "safe" now that it's April 2009 and The One has moved into the White House. But that doesn't make me want to laugh at all.

Posted by Beldar at 09:58 AM in Global War on Terror, Law (2009), Obama | Permalink


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(1) A.W. made the following comment | Apr 17, 2009 4:22:51 PM | Permalink

The most depressing argument i ever had with a liberal on this, was about respecting the faith of the prisoners. specifically in the alleged case of the female interrogator who first pretended to smear mestrual blood on the jihadist (it was actually ink) and then cut off water to his cell so he couldn't ritualistically clense himself having been "soiled" by her.

the lib was all upset that we were being so religiously insensitve.

My attitude was that on 9-11, they turned their religion into a weapon against us. She was just returning the favor. I thought that lib was in the minority. now i am not so sure.

Look, i am not saying there isn't a room for good cop as well as bad cop approaches to interrogation, but in terms of morality, she did nothing outside the bounds of decency. if you have a hang up, gee, maybe you shouldn't be a warrior.

If we were a sane country, we would take all of the terrorists and bury them with pigs, starting with the 9-11 hijackers. We would dump a whole jar of (non-lethal) scorpions on your bug-o-phobic terrorist. I wouldn't actually torture them physically, but i would attack them at their psychological weaknesses, if I thought it would make us safer.

(2) Gregory Koster made the following comment | Apr 18, 2009 2:08:24 AM | Permalink

Dear A.W.: I'm curious. Did you think to ask "the lib" what "the lib's" feelings were about, say, Daniel Pearl being beheaded, and how this showed the violent features of Islam in full gory? I would like to see the cognitive dissonance that would cause. More laughs, quite sour, at the witlessness the Left displays on any topic that requires sort of resolution.

I think the sane country you describe has many merits. But it's lacking an essential ingredient: the country must be in a state of declared war when the burying with pigs and scorpion dumping begins. A nation can do in wartime what it would stop at during peace. "The power to wage war is the power to wage war successfully," said Charles Evans Hughes. Geo. W. is not going to rate highly on that scale. He was not able to conclude the struggle despite having seven years to do so. The Iraq conflict is a campaign, finally turning round, but not yet won. It is not a war by any means. More, in conducting the conflict as he did, Geo. W. made himself and his party vulnerable. The One is Prez these days because he was most successful in casting himself as "not-Bush." To be sure, this posturing had a large element of fraud, as befits a Harvard Law trained candidate. But it worked, and there's a distinct possibility that The One will be able to remake America enough so it can't be changed back. In this effort, he will continue to receive Geo. W.'s help, not only in being "not-Bush" but also in the gross overspending Geo. W. indulged in without beefing up tax rates. You want to win against the terrorists? Declare war, saying up front that a draft will come into effect, and taxes are going up until the war is won. All social reform is tossed into cold storage, maybe even the dissecting room. That would focus the nation as it needs to be to win. Geo. W. enlarged the power of government without any corresponding permanent success. To be sure, there were no more 9-11s on his watch. Are you sanguine that this record will continue under The One? I'm not. But I do think that the machine Geo. W. created will be used against The One's adversaries. Without being able to prove it, I would bet that somewhere in the Department of Homeland Security, there's a computer that searches Beldarblog, including comments, and periodically spits out reports on it. How do you feel at being a right-wing extremist in Janet Napolitano's eyes? Her transparently insincere apologies to the American Legion for the report that insinuated (and worse) that veterans were terrorist fodder, is only the first hit serving The One's mass paranoias. All of us who comment here may be on lists. There's a strong possibility that nothing will come of these lists. But possibilities aren't certainties.

Mr. Dyer, I am glad you acknowledge that lawyers have a bigger share of blame than they have acknowledged. It is easy to point at such quacks as Dawn Johnsen, or bullies such as Harold Koh when you apportion blame on this topic. But Geo. W.'s lawyers are no better. Take the Bybee memo that's been released. In the wake of 9-11, this government expended effort having Bybee write memos on how insects should be introduced into close quarters with suspects to break them down. Good God. Joseph Heller would have filled notebooks for his novel CATCH 222 watching such autointoxicated geniuses. Imagine Geo. W. at a press conference, trying to explain what role Bybee played in the Great War on Terror: Bybee is keeper of the (stingless) bees, using his apiarial knowledge to protect the nation... From such zanies, Good Lord deliver us!

Let us not forget the sole justification for torture: it can work. I don't think anyone will dispute the always present risk of false confessions in torture. Only success can justify torture. Given that Douglas Feith can write a 500 page book justifying his decisions and dclassify memos and records by the barrel, it is time to run the declassifier, using the Feith standard, across Bybee & Co's work and see how well it stands up. Well enough to justify the award to him of a Circuit Judgeship? I have my doubts.

Sincerely yours,
Gregory Koster

(3) narciso made the following comment | Apr 18, 2009 10:42:47 AM | Permalink

We have a difference of opinion. Bybee's was a very careful review of the suggested intelligence techniques, that were being considered in the aftermath of 9/11, to be focused on select persons, It was cold calculating work, that I wouldn't wish on anyone. Is he to be held responsible for what happens at say Abu Ghraib, not under his guidance, no

Johnsen and Koh, on the other hand seem to be totally oblivious to the real nature of the world, that outside of the US, is often "nasty brutish and short", thinking they will appreciate our weakness, sadly this is not so. As to the other point, considering the nature of the enemy, and the character of the culture, we probably fought this war, as close to optimum circumstances as possible. You know full well, the left would have used the draft as a tool to undermine the war effort, specially as casualties mounted; why do you think that they kept
suggesting it as a viable option.

(4) Gregory Koster made the following comment | Apr 18, 2009 12:38:47 PM | Permalink

Dear Narciso: Many thanks for your response. We do disagree. First Bybee: are his memos still the foundations of policy? They are not. Why, since they are a "very careful review" of suggested intelligence techniques? If Bybee's work is careful and convincing, why not continue to follow it. Yet it was being repudiated even under Geo. W. Was it poor work? It was, for the same reason G. Gordon Liddy's antics brought Nixon down. The risks Liddy took were grossly out of proportion to the possible benefit. You could argue that the techniques were successful, and uncovered intelligence of great value, but it can't be revealed because of security. It's hard to buy that when Douglas Feith can publish WAR AND DECISION, a 500 page book based on a raft of formerly classified documents. If Feith can declassify without harm, why can't Bybee? Let's see the evidence that torture worked, that it got intelligence of great value.

Second, you write:

"You know full well, the left would have used the draft as a tool to undermine the war effort, specially as casualties mounted; why do you think that they kept suggesting it as a viable option."

I think you are right about the Left's motivations e.g. Charlie Rangel's ostensible sponsorship of a draft. There's an easy way to handle that: call his bluff. Get the draft going. Would casualties rise? They would, along with civilian discontent. That too, is the point: "The power to wage war is the power to wage war successfully," said Charlie Hughes. Was Geo. W.'s strategy for Iraq in 2003-06 successful? Far from it. At best it was a stalemate that threatened to collapse from inner discontent. It is to Geo. W.'s eternal credit that he not only changed his strategy, but did so in the face of what he knew then that it was a hugely risky policy that might fail. But this leads to the question: why not execute a "surge" strategy from the beginning? The dogged persistence in failure from 2003 to 2006 would have been cut short far sooner with a draft, and high taxes, on the citizenry. I believe that the American people will stand for great sacrifice---but only if it brings victory. Geo. W.'s performance did not bring victory. It might have if executed earlier. But it wasn't executed earlier. His generals and top civilian staff bear much of the blame for this. But it all falls on the President in the end.

The implications of your statement that the Left can undermine any strategy are dismal. It implies that America can't defend itself without unanimous consent. Since that is never forthcoming, America is destined to a long, painful collapse. I reject that argument, but only as a matter of faith. You could be right. If you are, it is appalling for all Americans.

Sincerely yours,
Gregory Koster

(5) narciso made the following comment | Apr 18, 2009 8:51:59 PM | Permalink

With due respect, demagoguery no matter how shallow and devious works, at least in the short run. This last election proved that
to some degree. The savagery of the attack on Governor Sarah Palin, which continues to this day, not so much on McCain, because he had given up the fight sometime in early October, indicates that technique has some success. All my earlier apprehensions about this Presidency have been born out, if not
to the fullest extent, at least half way there. Latest with the odious DHS memo, But I still have hope that the process can be reversed. It will take a more forceful attitude however from the leadership that doesnt apologize for the measures employed in
such an irregular context.

(6) Beldar made the following comment | Apr 18, 2009 9:05:57 PM | Permalink

These are thoughtful and articulate comments, but right now I only want to make one clarification of my original post, in response to something written by narciso (#3):

I have no fault to find with Jay Bybee in particular. My criticism is of the larger situation he was in — one that obliges the Commander in Chief to oblige his CIA officials to ask government lawyers whether the bug placed in the box with Abu Zubaydah may or may not have a stinger, and which obliges those lawyers in turn to pretend that they're giving legal advice when they answer that a caterpillar would be okay but Zubaydah may not be misled into believing that it's dangerous.

"The Rule of Law" is not intended to become "The Reign of the Lawyers," but that's unfortunately how it's being misinterpreted. The Bush-43 Administration was only guilty of continuing the trend in that direction, not starting it.

And while it is to the credit of the Obama Administration that it has not quite yet sunk to the level of actually trying to prosecute the Bush-43 Administration officials involved, the Obama Administration has indeed sunk to the level of publicizing its predecessors' internal operations and documents — in the process giving direct and material aid to our enemies as they actively train to resist our interrogations — for the most craven and transitory political purposes (i.e., that of partially gratifying the Soros/MoveOn/Hard Left bloodsuckers). That decision will further intimidate and worry the relevant decision-makers today and in the future, who must weigh, as they decide what to do and what to leave undone in protecting America, their personal risks of someday being hung out to dry — extradited perhaps to Spain or another foreign venue to appear before a prosecutor eager to second-guess and then crucify those who've been at the pointed end of the spear in defending western civilization.

(7) Adam Dyer made the following comment | Apr 19, 2009 12:15:54 AM | Permalink

I do not have the wealth of knowledge or skill in political writing that all the previous commenters seem to have, and I'm about to go to bed (I also don't comment often, but I feel like it this time).

I would call myself liberal (Although I don't like branding myself with anything, really, because there are many areas, including this one, in which I disagree with the "stock liberal" or the "stock democrat"), however my feeling on torture is this:

If someone is trying to kill innocent Americans, or innocent Russians, or innocent Africans, or innocent WHOEVER, and we are certain of that fact (Not "Hey, you look kinda suspicious so we're going to electrode your genitalia"), I think there is absolutely nothing wrong with torture. In the aforementioned situation, what I like to call a "Jack Bauer" situation, we SHOULD use torture. It doesn't need to be called Enhanced Interrogation. It's torture, and it's justified. We should come up with every damn thing we can do to make those people talk, because they're trying to hurt innocent people. Usually, a lot of innocent people. And it's okay, because the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, especially when those few are the ones trying to kill the many.

Just my two cents :P

(8) narciso made the following comment | Apr 19, 2009 9:49:03 AM | Permalink

In a sane world, I'd say call it by it's name, but statutes are designed to prosecute people for doing such activities under that
rubric. The pressure would have been much greater for prosecution
if any acknowledgement of what was being done, in a forthright manner. There is a penalty for being forthright. The previous administration was trying to work around the 1949 Geneva rules, because they have empowered the unlawful combatant. Yet conversely
they are rarely applied to regimes that come to power through insurgency, like China or Russia or Cuba, or a future Talibanized
Pakistan. That's not a coincidence.

(9) A.W. made the following comment | Apr 20, 2009 3:16:24 PM | Permalink

Well, Koster, if you want to argue i and GWB are big softies compared to what we should be, I would say you have a reasonable point, even if i disagree. Imho, you don't do whatever it takes to win, but you do alot more than the left would.

As for those whining that we went too far, supposedly breaking laws, have you actually read these laws? they are chock full of mushy language that have no clear meaning. they talk for instance, of "severe physical suffering." how severe is severe, though? And of course the rule in the federal criminal law is the doctrine of lenity, which means that any ambiguity is settled in favor of the accused. that means that when you seek to punish an american for "torturing" an AQ moron, that phrase "severe physical suffering" is interpreted in the American's favor. There is a growing idea that we should structure the law so that a regular american can crack open the US Code and have half a chance of figuring out what is required of him. this law doesn't serve that purpose. And given that it handcuffs us in a time of war, the need for clarity is greater than ever.

(10) Raider Red made the following comment | Apr 21, 2009 7:53:20 PM | Permalink

We're talking about techniques applied to the people who planned 9/11. If their captors had reason to believe they had knowledge of further planned attacks (which of course they had every reason to believe), as long as they were certain about who they had in custody the cuffs are off as far as I am concerned. If it would prevent another 9/11, I don't care if they shoved burning bamboo splints under his fingernails.

Jack Bauer for President!

(11) JS made the following comment | Apr 25, 2009 10:58:07 AM | Permalink

The problem, once again, is that the Libs are being allowed to define "torture" and insisting that everyone agree with their definition. At THAT point, they will allow a "discussion". But since no one agrees with torturing anyone, they win on a technicality. It's BS. The techniques that Barry released are not torture (seriously, if the idea of waterboarding is that the poor "victim" believes he's going to die, after which session in 180+ does he start to realize that he's not?). They are scary, but then, that's the idea.

Just as the Libs were allowed to define racism as anything White, they have successfully done their job of redefining terrorism and torture. They don't believe that there is a terrorist threat, they really don't. And if there is no terrorist threat, there are no terrorists. No terrorists mean that anyone who is suspected of terrorism is innocent. And-TaDa!-who would "torture" an innocent person? Game, set, match.

How would you like it if I waterboarded you?! (This logic was actually used by that idiot Larry Johnson at the "No Quarter" blog!) He, like all good Libs, equates innocent Americans and terrorists (except that he knows the whole terrorism thing was a Bush and Cheney plot). No one is waterboarding innocent folks out walking around.

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