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

Thursday, May 14, 2009

That Incredible Hearing

That torture hearing yesterday with former FBI agent Ali Soufan and Bush State Department official Philip Zelikow and others was truly amazing. Here are just a few of the things we learned:

• During questioning, Russ Feingold stated that he has seen the classified documents "proving" torture worked of which Fourthbranch Cheney often speaks, and nothing he saw "indicates that the torture techniques authorized by the last administration were necessary, or that they were the best way to get information out of detainees."

• Ali Soufan, who sat behind a curtain, making for a hearing that looked like the Monty Python sketch about the talk show featuring a tree and a Chesterfield, testified that the torture techniques were slow and unreliable, that lawful techniques were able to pry key information from Abu Zubaydah within an hour, and that waterboarding wasn't approved until after it was used, according to the timeline put forward by the CIA about Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Jose Padilla. Either the CIA is lying about the intelligence information they got from KSM and Padilla, or they broke the law and then retroactively sought clearance for it.

• Soufan also called false information in some of the Bradbury torture memos supposedly proving the value of torture.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, who’s presiding over the hearing, read aloud a key passage in the May 30th, 2005 torture memo that credited “enhanced techniques” with getting Abu Zubaydah to reveal “detailed information regarding Al Qaeda’s organizational structure, key operatives, and modus operandi.”

The passage Whitehouse read also said the techniques had gotten the suspect to identify Khalid Shaikh Mohammed as the September 11th mastermind.

Whitehouse then asked Soufan if, based on what he witnessed, he knew that statement “not to be true.”

“Yes, sir,” Soufan replied.

• During cross-examination, Lindsey Graham cited the debunked ABC News report claiming that Abu Zubaydah was only waterboarded once, a claim that even ABC News has distanced themselves from. He also called the law "a nicety we could not afford."

• Zelikow, who offered an alternative viewpoint to the Bush Administration on torture in a memo the White House tried to destroy, said that his memo has been found, and will soon be declassified.

And there was more, like the browbeating Graham gave a law professor. I believe Sheldon Whitehouse, who put this hearing together, is building a fact pattern. He wants these things public, so that the drumbeat for real investigations and real accountability will grow. And we have to help him in that regard.

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