As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Rogue's Gallery

Chris Matthews has Jon Ensign dancing on the head of a pin today, as he tries to distinguish between Gitmo and the exact same techniques and abuses at Abu Ghraib, as he tries to dismiss the Senate Armed Services Committee document as a "Democrat (sic) report" when the ranking member, one John McCain, signed off on it, claiming that the intelligence gained through torture stopped "a terrorist attack in California" when that attack was allegedly thwarted a year before KSM was captured, etc. It's just not worth the breath of the argument, though seeing the Republican Party become The Party of Torture right before our eyes just pushes them further into a cocoon of irrelevance.

What concerns me is whether or not we'll see any accountability for the architects of torture. Let's start with the California Two, Jay Bybee and John Yoo, one who has burrowed into the federal judiciary, the other who has no problem defending his discredited, insane theories of executive power. Yoo held a public event yesterday, in the middle of this:

At a spirited forum Tuesday at (Chapman University), Yoo, who was the author of much of the legal rationale for using waterboarding and other severe interrogation techniques, defended his legal guidance as correct and necessary to protect the nation.

"Three thousand of our fellow citizens had been killed in a deliberate attack by a foreign enemy," Yoo, unruffled by shouts that he is a war criminal and should be in jail, told a packed auditorium on the Orange County campus. "That forced us in the government to have to consider measures to gain information using presidential constitutional provisions to protect the country from further attack."

In a war with a non-state enemy that doesn't follow international law, getting information from captured combatants is vital, Yoo said, contending that 50% of U.S. intelligence about Al Qaeda was gleaned from interrogations.

"Was it worth it?" he asked, brushing off the reproachful reaction. "We haven't had an attack in more than seven years."

Correlation is not causation, and anyway, terrorism has of course skyrocketed worldwide since 9/11. John Yoo is a moral reprobate who would subvert the Constitution to use techniques that have not made us safer, have endangered our relations with allies, and quite simply violated both domestic and international law, not to mention the conscience of the sane. After the DoJ IG report, which I suspect will denounce his flawed reasoning, he should be disbarred.

Bybee burrowed into the federal judiciary so he won't go public on these issues, but for much the same reasons he ought to be impeached. John Dean doesn't seem to think it could happen, because of the precedent set by Justice Chase over "impeaching and removing an office holder for his or her official opinions", but other legal scholars disagree, and in this case, Nuremberg precedent shows that those opinions constitute a violation of war crimes statutes.

Moving on, we have a key architect, John Rizzo at the CIA, still working for the Obama Administration.

John Rizzo, the man who worked with both Jay Bybee and Steven Bradbury to pre-authorize torture, is still being paid by you and me to make sure that the CIA follows the law.

As the SASC report notes, Rizzo is the man who provided the list of torture techniques to Jay Bybee for inclusion in the memo--the key link in turning SERE techniques into torture.

"According to Acting CIA General Counsel John Rizzo, the techniques that the OLC analyzed in the Second Bybee memo were provided by his office. In his testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Mr. Rizzo stated that his office was 'the vehicle' for getting the interrogation practices analyzed in the Second Bybee memo to the Department of Justice."

That information that Rizzo gave to OLC were a bunch of lies, by the way, and to the extent that they mitigated OLC opinions over torture, he certainly is implicated in designing the torture regime. How does he still hold a job in this executive branch?

Jane Mayer cites a couple other culprits for us:

The Levin report provides some new details. On April 16, 2002—a couple weeks after Zubaydah’s capture, and three and a half months before the Bybee memo—a military psychologist named Dr. Bruce Jessen was already circulating a blueprint for cruelly coercive interrogations based on torture methods used by Chinese Communist forces during the Korean War. The report describes Jessen’s blueprint as a “draft exploitation plan” for U.S.-held captives. (I wrote about Dr. Jessen’s partner, James Mitchell, in the July 11, 2005, issue of The New Yorker.)

By June 2002—again, months before the Department of Justice gave the legal green light for interrogations—an F.B.I. special agent on the scene of the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah refused to participate in what he called “borderline torture,” according to a D.O.J. investigation cited in the Levin report. Soon after, F.B.I. Director Robert Mueller commanded his personnel to stay away from the C.I.A.’s coercive interrogations.

What did the F.B.I. see in the spring of 2002? And exactly who was involved? How high up was this activity authorized? Is it off-limits for criminal investigation?

There are plenty of new names and details in the Armed Services Committee report, including a scene of two military men teaching the C.I.A. how to use Chinese torture techniques. One of the instructors, Joseph Witsch, played the “beater,” while the other, Gary Percival, became the “beatee.” By the mid-summer of 2002, beating was no longer just an academic exercise. Precisely when these tactics were used on live captives, and at what point top Bush officials endorsed them, may be a matter of serious interest to Attorney General Eric Holder.

The list goes on and on. And we should follow the lead of Dick Cheney and offer full disclosure, and then let the chips fall where they may. And that includes prosecution.

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