Americans deserve to hear the dirty secrets of the CIA’s war on terror. We’ll all be better off with the truth.
In April 1975, Sen. Frank Church impaneled a special investigative committee to look into shocking accounts of CIA dirty tricks. The Church Committee ultimately published 14 reports over two years revealing a clandestine agency that was a law unto itself — plotting to assassinate heads of state (Castro, Diem, Lumumba, Trujillo), carrying out weird experiments with LSD, and suborning American journalists. As a result, President Gerald Ford issued an executive order banning the assassination of foreign leaders, the House and Senate established standing intelligence committees, and the United States set up the so-called FISA courts, which oversee request for surveillance warrants against suspected foreign agents.
But the war on terror unleashed the CIA once again to carry out dark deeds against America’s enemies — torture, secret detention, and “rendition” to “black sites” across the world. How have Americans reckoned, this time, with the immoral and illegal acts carried out in their name? They have not: the CIA has retained control over the narrative. As the Constitution Project’s Detainee Treatment report describes in great detail, the CIA falsely reported — to the White House as well as to the public — that torture “worked” in wresting crucial information from high-level detainees, and thus needed to be an instrument available to interrogators. Officials like Vice President Dick Cheney repeated ad nauseum that the CIA’s dark arts had saved thousands of lives. Is it any wonder that a plurality of Americans think the United States should torture terrorists?
I wrote last month about the detainee treatment report, but I find it incredibly frustrating — and all too telling — that the findings were overwhelmed by the tidal wave of coverage of the Boston bombing. Because we fear terrorism far more viscerally than we feared communism — certainly by 1975 — we are all too susceptible to the view that America cannot afford to live by its own professed values. But of course that’s what Chileans and Brazilians thought in the 1970s. That’s why Sri Lankans have granted themselves the right to slaughter homegrown terrorists wholesale, and react furiously to any hint of criticism.
People give themselves a pass unless and until they are forced to face the truth, which is why a public airing of history is so important — and so politically fraught. There’s always a compelling reason to avoid facing the ugly truth. In early 2009, Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, called for an independent commission to investigate allegations of torture. But President Barack Obama’s spokesman said that the proposal would not be “workable.” We know what he meant: you can hardly blame the president for avoiding a colossal fight with Republicans over the past, especially, when he had so many fights he needed to wage over the future.
Obama probably thought that he could put the problem to rest by ending torture as well as the cult of secrecy surrounding CIA practices. He succeeded on the first count, but failed on the latter. In April 2009, he agreed to release the so-called “torture” memos written by President George W. Bush’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), as well as photos of prisoner abuse from Iraq and Afghanistan. But then, after a fierce debate inside the White House said to pit Obama’s military commanders against his counselor, Gregory Craig, among others, the administration reversed itself. The president later signed legislation allowing him to withhold the pictures if he determined that the release would harm national security.
Once adopted, the logic of national security carries all before it. The release of the OLC memos, the detainee treatment report notes, was the high-water mark of Obama-era transparency on torture. CIA reports on the death of three prisoners in custody as well as on broad policy towards detainees remain classified; so do the results of inquiries by the armed forces criminal investigation division. The agency’s ability to withhold information probably contributed to the Justice Department’s decision not to pursue indictments on any of the 100 or so cases of CIA mistreatment which it investigated. Defense lawyers in the military trial of the “9/11 defendants” held at Guantanamo have had to work around a “protection order” which classifies entire subject areas — including anything related to the defendants’ arrest or capture, the conditions in which they were held, or the interrogation techniques to which they were subjected. Whatever becomes of the defendants, Americans will learn nothing from the trials.
On matters of secrecy, Obama has been little better than Bush. This has become notorious in the case of the drone program, a centerpiece of Obama’s prosecution of the war on terror. In a recent speech at the Oxford Union, Harold Koh, the former chief counsel of the State Department, said that the administration has failed to be “transparent about legal standards and the decision-making process that it has been applying.”
I asked Koh why the White House has so regularly deferred to the CIA on issues of transparency and accountability. Koh pointed out that the CIA’s concern that exposing past bad acts could serve as a recruiting tool for al Qaeda was hardly trivial. But, he said of the White House: “They don’t have a good balancing mechanism on the value of disclosures. It’s almost like if nobody’s clamoring for it, the pressure can be resisted.” The pressure comes from the outside — from the press, from civil-liberties groups, and activists — but not from the inside. So the CIA carries the day.
And yet it’s not too late to expose, and learn from, the sorry history of the last decade. Last December, the Senate Intelligence Committee approved a 6,000-page report on the finding of its secret investigation into the treatment of detainees. The report, which has not been made public, describes the CIA’s detention program in minute detail. Among other things, it puts to rest the canard that torture works. In his confirmation hearings, CIA director John Brennan admitted that the report had led him to question “the information that I was given at the time” that so-called “enhanced techniques” had saved lives.
Brennan has learned this; other Americans may not have the chance. The CIA is likely to both dispute the findings and to try to keep them secret. In a letter to Obama, Sen. Mark Udall complained that Brennan had shown “little to no interest” in working with his staff, and had already missed the deadline for response by more than two months. A congressional aide said that there was no sign that the White House had even examined the report, much less prepared a response.
The good news is that the irrepressible Vice President Joe Biden recently advocated publishing the findings, saying that Americans needed to “excise the demons” through a full disclosure of past abuses. Biden even compared the redemptive value of facing the truth on torture to the effect of the war-crimes tribunals on Germany. Obama probably didn’t authorize the analogy, but he may well have signed off on the position — in which case the comment should be read as a pre-emptive shot across the CIA’s bow.
In the course of questioning Brennan during Senate hearings, Sen. Udall quoted Howard Baker, the widely admired Republican moderate from the bygone age of Republican moderates, to the effect that the Church Committee report may well have weakened the CIA in the short run, but strengthened it in the long run — by reminding the agency of what it should as well as shouldn’t do. Apparently even the CIA agrees, since its website carries an admiring description of the committee’s findings. If and when the Senate Intelligence Committee report is made public, in whole or in part, current and former CIA officials, conservative pundits, and Republican politicians will no doubt join as one to warn that America’s national security has been compromised, its enemies emboldened, its intelligence operatives compromised. That’s what they said in 1975. They were wrong then, and they will be wrong now.
WASHINGTON DC – USA – Former President of the United States, Barack Obama, is facing deportation for being in the country illegally, and will not be treated differently than anyone else under U.S. laws, White House Press Secretary, Larry Hauser, told CBS news on Friday.
CBS news reporter, Murray Asshelhopp, asked, “Was the president aware that he was in the United States as an undocumented immigrant?” But before the question was completely asked, Hauser interjected, saying President Obama “was made aware of this issue when I walked into his office and, among other subjects, mentioned it to him and he was completely unaware.”
The President was only aware of the dire situation when he was met by immigration officers at the runway just before boarding Air Force One going on a day trip to Alaska from Martha’s Vineyard.
After being booked at a police station, he was asked whether he wanted to make a telephone call to arrange for bail. “I think I will call the White House,” he said, according to a report written by Westchester police. He was denied the call and put in a cell with forty other inmates. During the police search at the station, officers also discovered forged documents on Mr Obama’s person, including a forged birth certificate and forged U.S. passport, all items were immediately confiscated and were sent to the FBI for further investigations.
Later on, President Obama’s lawyers tried to get their client bail but were refused on the grounds that he might try to flee back to a nearby golf course in Martha’s Yard or even worse, his campaign bus.
Vice-President, Joe Biden, will be in charge of the country now until an election is called next week.
A look back at his funniest gaffes:
“Folks, I can tell you I’ve known eight presidents, three of them intimately.” —Joe Biden
“A three-letter word: jobs. J-O-B-S, jobs.” –Joe Biden
“Stand up, Chuck, let ’em see ya.” –Joe Biden, to wheelchair-bound state Senator Chuck Graham
”Jill and I had the great honor of standing on that stage, looking across at one of the great justices, Justice Stewart.”
Hillary Clinton for President in 2016? As she steps down as Secretary of State all she wants to do is sleep
Will Hillary run in 2016? It’s the question that her most ardent supporters have been asking themselves since 2008.
According to The New York Times, Politico reported that Public Policy Polling had determined that if the Iowa caucuses were held last week Clinton would get 58 percent of the vote. Joe Biden raked in 17 percent.
It’s not as if she hasn’t read the tea leaves herself. In fact, she says, every day strangers come up and tell her she has an obligation to run and become the nation’s first woman president.
‘Oh, I’ve ruled it out, but you know me,’ she tells the Times. ‘Everybody keeps asking me. So I keep ruling it out and being asked.’
What she has not done, supporters and critics note, is rule it out
Right now she’d rather list all the things she won’t do when she’s no longer secretary of state.
‘I am so looking forward to next year,’ she told the Times. ‘I just want to sleep and exercise and travel for fun. And relax. It sounds so ordinary, but I haven’t done it for 20 years. I would like to see whether I can get untired. I work out and stuff, but I don’t do it enough and I don’t do it hard enough because I can’t expend that much energy on it.’
At 65, you can’t deny her the impulse to relax a bit. But it’s highly unlikely she will for long.
But there is the matter of her history to consider too. If Hillary Clinton ran for president again, the Times observes, she would probably be the best-prepared candidate in American history. She has lived in the White House, she has served in the United States Senate, she knows virtually every head of state in the world. She’s more than ready.
In a move that has caused a firestorm of controversy in both the press and the pews, a number of Catholic bishops are making blunt appeals to mass-goers to vote for Mitt Romney and the Republican Party on Election Day over President Obama.
Illinois Bishop Daniel Jenky has ordered all the priests in his diocese to read a strongly worded letter he wrote accusing the Obama administration of an unprecedented ‘assault upon our religious freedom’ and implying that Catholics who support Democrats who support abortion rights are like those who condemned Jesus to death.
‘Since the foundation of the American Republic and the adoption of the Bill of Rights, I do not think there has ever been a time more threatening to our religious liberty than the present,’ Jenky wrote in the five alarm letter, which he has ordered priests in his Peoria diocese to read at all Masses this Sunday, November 4.
On Thursday, the bishops of Pennsylvania — a key battleground state where most Catholics are currently supporting Obama — released an unmistakably partisan letter to local voters declaring that the White House’s policies on contraception, abortion and gay rights meant the nation was ‘losing its soul by little steps.’
Legal equality for gays, the letter implied, would defy God, and contraception and abortion should not be contemplated under any circumstances.
In Wisconsin, Bishop David Ricken wrote a letter to parishioners saying that the Democratic platform was evil. The party’s support for abortion rights and same-sex marriage and other ‘intrinsic evils’ made it impossible for Catholics to support the party without putting their souls at risk. Vote for Mitt Romney and the Republican Party or burn in hell, Bishop Ricken suggested.
In Alaska, Bishop Edward J. Burns wrote a column in the local newspaper on October 27 comparing Vice President Joe Biden’s support for abortion rights to supporting slave owners in the antebellum South, and he reportedly questioned both Biden’s character and his Catholic faith.
Meanwhile bishops from Newark, New Jersy to Springfield, Illinois to Colorado Springs have made similar party political appeals. Although they stress they are not endorsing any particular party or candidate they usually start with their opposition to abortion and marriage equality and other policies that Republicans support and Democrats generally oppose.
The flocks standing as Catholics and their eternal salvation are always in peril if they make the wrong choice, the bishops declare.
Although the Catholic hierarchy’s growing support for Republicans has been plainly obvious to church-watchers for years now, their blunt statements in the 2012 campaign still stand out.
‘Yes, the bishops, some of them anyway, are more active this year. The tone — again, of some — is more stark,’ Russell Shaw, a former spokesman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told the Washington Post.
There is a fear, Shaw said, that American society is ready to embrace greater rights for gays and lesbians and maintain or expand on current abortion policies.
But James Salt, executive director of the progressive group Catholics United, said Jenky was ‘using the pulpits of his diocese for partisan proclamations’ and he said that was not only wrong but was driving young people away from the church.
‘By brazenly violating IRS and church guidelines against partisan activity, Bishop Jenky has shown that he is more interested in following the paths of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson than the Gospel of Jesus Christ,’ said Salt.
‘As more and more younger Catholics abandon the faith on account of the bishops’ far-right politics, Bishop Jenky should ponder how his antics will affect the relevance of the Catholic bishops for generations to come.’