Friday, April 24, 2009

This is the "Transparency" President Obama spoke of?!

An Iraqi girl watches a U.S. soldier on a patrol in Baghdad's Sadr City. U.S. troops have been patrolling the Shiite stronghold since March 4, 2007 under a deal that allows them to enter the area without resistance.
Adil al-Khazali, AP


First, the CIA....now our military targeted in Administration cross-hairs...

Hat tip, Brutally Honest, from ABC News Political Punch:

In a letter from the Justice Department to a federal judge yesterday, the Obama administration announced that the Pentagon would turn over to the American Civil Liberties Union 44 photographs showing detainee abuse of prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq during the Bush administration.

The photographs are part of a 2003 Freedom of Information Act request by the ACLU for all information relating to the treatment of detainees -- the same battle that led, last week, to President Obama's decision to release memos from the Bush Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel providing legal justifications for harsh interrogation methods that human rights groups call torture.

Courts had ruled against the Bush administration's attempts to keep the photographs from public view. ACLU attorney Amrit Singh tells ABC News that "the fact that the Obama administration opted not to seek further review is a sign that it is committed to more transparency."

Singh added that the photographs "only underscore the need for a criminal investigation and prosecution if warranted" of U.S. officials responsible for the harsh treatment of detainees.

But some experts say the move could have a chilling effect on the CIA even beyond President Obama's decision last week to release the so-called "torture memos."

Calling the ACLU push to release the photographs "prurient" and "reprehensible," Dr. Mark M. Lowenthal, former Assistant Director of Central Intelligence for Analysis and Production, tells ABC News that the Obama administration should have taken the case all the way to the Supreme Court.

"They should have fought it all the way; if they lost, they lost," Lowenthal said. "There's nothing to be gained from it. There's no substantive reason why those photos have to be released."

Lowenthal said the president's moves in the last week have left many in the CIA dispirited, based on "the undercurrent I've been getting from colleagues still in the building, or colleagues who have left not that long ago."

"We ask these people to do extremely dangerous things, things they've been ordered to do by legal authorities, with the understanding that they will get top cover if something goes wrong," Lowenthal says. "They don't believe they have that cover anymore." Releasing the photographs "will make it much worse," he said.

Of what purpose will this serve? We've all witnessed how volatile Islamist-loonies are for the smallest slights and even imagined slights. MSM reportage of the incidents of abu Ghraib, almost single-handedly destroyed our efforts to secure post-war Iraq. Instead of serving to enlighten, it only served to inflame and recruit takfiri terrorists to the global jihad movement. How will the release of these 44 photos, while we are still in a state of "overseas contingency operations", help protect America? What is the point of releasing these photos now?

The photos, taken from Air Force and Army criminal investigations, apparently are not as shocking as the photographs from the Abu Ghraib investigation that became a lasting symbol of U.S. mistakes in Iraq. But some show military personnel intimidating or threatening detainees by pointing weapons at them. Military officers have been court-martialed for threatening detainees at gunpoint.
Does anyone besides myself, see a strong disconnect here?! Just whose side is the Administration on? "We support the CIA and we support the troops" by humiliating them and giving validation to anti-Americanism abroad as well as here at home.

You want to know the difference between "us and them"? Watch this. Then note:

Well, at least they didn't waterboard their victims; that would have been so wrong!- Dana, commenter at American Power
Cross-posted at Flopping Aces

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7 Comments:

Blogger repsac3 said...

As I said at the American Power post when faced with that same "us vs them" false choice:

The day America starts judging our morality, legitimacy, or legality by comparing ourselves favorably to our enemies, rather than to our own ideals, is the day I know we're done for as a rights-respecting nation.

We're better than that...

As far as your point, I don't think the problem is the photos, Wordsmith. The problem is the poor (& perhaps illegal or immoral) treatment that's depicted in the photos.

The benefit of sunlight and investigations of wrongdoing is to show that we are a country that respects our laws and takes them seriously, and to prevent similar bad acts in future.

We do these things for the same reason we investigate any other potential criminal acts, and prosecute those we find... Punishment for past criminal acts, and deterrence of future criminal acts...

It's like I kept hearing when folks were pooh-poohing the privacy concerns surrounding wiretapping, data-mining, and other provisions of the PATRIOT Act: If you did nothing wrong, what've you got to hide?

No, it isn't the release of these photographic and written records that will upset our fellow Americans and our friends and enemies around the world; it's the acts that the records describe and depict.

Friday, April 24, 2009 3:10:00 PM  
Blogger Chuck said...

I think what is going on here is obvious. I think relaqesing these is nothing more than a distraction.

Support for Obama is weakening due to the sour economy, his astronomical deficit spending, and his poor nomination choices. What better way to draw attention from himself than to release info damaging to Bush?

Look no further for proof than the selection of information he is releasing.

If he is so interested in transperancy why doesn't he release info on which Congressional members knew what about the "torture" and when they knew it?

Why doesn't he honor Dick Cheney's FOIA request to release the CIA memos that show the questioning worked? This would be an easy request to fill, he knows where the memos are because he has read them.

Stop all of the nonsense about "transparency". Obama may have some virtues, transperancy is not one of them.

Friday, April 24, 2009 3:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Foxwood said...

Let's go surfin' now
Everybody's learnin' how
Do some waterboardin' with me!

Friday, April 24, 2009 8:02:00 PM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

We're better than that...
Of course we are; which is why there were already several on-going investigations and a press release by CentCom regarding the abu Ghraib abuses months before 60 Minutes ran with the inflammatory photos. Should we know about those? Sure. But the sensationalist way in which these were reported, with 33 consecutive frontpage headlines from the NYTimes, served to do as much if not more harm, than good.

Of course we prosecute our own and hold ourselves to a higher standard. But those things get lost and become propaganda fodder for our enemies and for anti-Americanism.

We're "civilized" to the point of laughability where we've dumbed down the definition of "torture" for ourselves. Here's what real torture is.

Yes, I believe ends justifies means.

Harsh interrogations on KSM and Zubaydah doesn't make us "stoop to their level" or "compromise our moral high horse". Not one bit.

Friday, April 24, 2009 11:23:00 PM  
Blogger J_G said...

Word, releasing these photos is an ongoing attack on America by the ACLU. Obama is having to bend to will of the left because he is losing support from the independents and wishy washy middle. Every thing Obama does is calculated to maintain his poll numbers. They are dropping fast too so he has to do something and his choice is apparently to go to his far left base for support. The pictures that are in question to be released as you point out are meant to be sensational. Investigations have been ongoing and some have concluded with convictions and punishments since their discovery.

Enhanced interrogation methods have to be part of our arsenal and Obama with his position has made us weaker and will embolden our enemies to attack us again and again. The left is blind to this because they have no sense.

The thing that is so inconsitant with the left and Obama is that they are so willing to make sure that a baby that has survived an abortion is left to die alone with no care, no food but when it comes to terrorists that have killed or are more than willing to kill innocent American citizens they should have more rights than that innocent baby who wants to live.

I'm pissed and I'm going to make it known.

Saturday, April 25, 2009 12:26:00 AM  
Blogger repsac3 said...

Of course we are [better than that]; which is why there were already several on-going investigations and a press release by CentCom regarding the abu Ghraib abuses months before 60 Minutes ran with the inflammatory photos.Where I come from, that's called doing one's job. The first reports of abuse were in mid 2003; the photos aren't discovered until January, 2004, and weren't made public by CBS until late April, after agreeing to delay the release an additional two weeks. I would hope there were internal investigations taking place before the photos ran...

Should we know about those? Sure. But the sensationalist way in which these were reported, with 33 consecutive frontpage headlines from the NYTimes, served to do as much if not more harm, than good. A Freeper posting at the time put the number at 32, with a caviat that some of them may not've actually run on the front page, but I understand your point.

When people representing the USA are accused of abusing prisoners, it's a big story, especially when there are photos, and a large segment of the population that questioned whether we should've been there in the first place.

My only question is whether the Times held stories back to hit that 30-something day mark, or whether they were reporting "new" news (that wasn't available to them to publish the day before, I mean) each day... (I don't have the time or inclination to investigate that, but the 30-something headlines is only a story to me if a significant number of the stories were sensationalist fillers from previous days, rather than fresh headline news... YMMV...)

Of course we prosecute our own and hold ourselves to a higher standard. But those things get lost and become propaganda fodder for our enemies and for anti-Americanism.As you've pointed out previously, enemies and those who are legitimately anti-American will use anything (and make stuff up if they have nothing) to spread propaganda. Maintaining our standards should never be about them or what they'll do; our standards are about who we are and the ideals for which we stand (and fight).

We're "civilized" to the point of laughability where we've dumbed down the definition of "torture" for ourselves. Here's what real torture is. I don't agree that the definition of torture should be a comparative exercise, with anything less than "they" would do deemed acceptable. We know torture when we see it, and we know what our moral, spiritual, and legal values dictate, quite apart from what other countries do and do not do.

But if we insist on using others to define our methods one way or the other, I would say torture should be defined by those actions we would find unacceptable and prosecutable when done to our own citizens by an enemy force. If it's a legal, acceptable interrogation technique when done by us, it should be a legal, acceptable interrogation technique when done to us.

(Actually, it turns out that an aide to Condi Rice did refuse to rule out waterboarding of American citizens by enemy intelligence services. Such are the knots we tie ourselves in when we redefine torture to make more of it acceptable, rather than less. But at least they were walkin' the walk... Not that that makes their willingness to torture foreigners or be tortured by foreigners any more acceptable in my eyes... This aide aside, I would guess that his wasn't (and isn't) a popular opinion, even among those who supported the use of these "enhanced" methods on our enemies.)

And as far as changing the definition of torturous acts: Liberals didn't change them... the Bush lawyers changed them. America used to prosecute acts of waterboarding as a crime, both in war and in civilian life, and now we're inflicting it on others. We reverse engineered training on how to survive communist chinese torture methods--and they were called torture methods, then--for US soldiers in developing and deploying these "enhanced" methods. How far through the looking glass do we need to step, when our current "enhanced" interrogation methods were once called enemy torture methods, as defined by our own government?

Yes, I believe ends justifies means.Jack Baur was willing to break the law to do what he believed was right. Truth be told, I'm all for that. Torture (including those methods that were "redefined" into acceptance for friend & foe alike by the Bush folks) should be illegal. But I'm all for our Jack Baurs taking the law into their own hands when they really believe the timebomb is ticking, as long as they're willing to defend their actions and show their results afterward. If hundreds of lives are saved, who would vote to convict, regardless of what the law says? If "Jack" can show that hundreds were saved, I'm not even sure anyone would prosecute...

I don't know whether I could torture or kill, but if stealing something (a car, drugs) was the only way I could save a person's life, there's a pretty fair chance I'd do it. But I'd also expect to face a jury of my peers and defend my actions, and hope that, like my buddy, Jack, saving a life was a greater good than my act of stealing was a societal bad.

For every moral or legal rule, there are exceptions in the name of justice. Maybe the ends do justify the means, occasionally. But we shouldn't base our morality or legality on the possibility of those exceptions. Torture and theft are against the law. They should be. Whether or not Jack Baur or I will meet justice after breaking those laws may be another matter, but even so, I don't believe that we should amend the laws to give cover to either of our actions, because the probability of misuse is so strong.

Harsh interrogations on KSM and Zubaydah doesn't make us "stoop to their level" or "compromise our moral high horse". Not one bit.I'd probably say "stoop toward their level"--but then, I don't buy into judging our actions in comparison to theirs, regardless of how it's worded.

America has a perfectly functional moral compass of our own, and there's no reason to borrow anyone else's, especially those we know to be defective.

Other than that, we disagree on this point.

Saturday, April 25, 2009 6:31:00 AM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

Where I come from, that's called doing one's job. And what do you suppose the results are sometimes when you run with stories without regard to its effects? When the sensationalism drowns out the news coverage of what our actual purpose and efforts are in Iraq, which is not the abuse of Iraqis?

In a time of war, 60 Minutes did not have to run with the story. But they did, and yes it was newsworthy. But did they ever counterbalance those types of stories? I watched 60 Minutes religiously during the Bush years and there were two semi-positive stories. The rest, week after week, were negative stories and anti-Bush pieces. Yup...."doing one's job". NYTimes leaking "need to know" stories irregardless of the effects on national security.

I don't disparage the soldier who provided the photos, btw. He might have considered going through the proper chain of command, first; but then, maybe he did, and maybe nothing would have changed. There is something to be said about the pressure of public outcry.

Primary concern is the act itself in endangering the lives of soldiers; second would be the manner in which the news is sensationalized and propagandized to endanger and inflame the enemy and provide a recruiting bonanza.

It's "funny" how we agonize over the photos while takfiri terrorists proudly hold up severed heads and put out videos. The conspiratorial and volatile Middle East mindset is quicker to believe abu Ghraib as standard MO rather than the U.S. military providing security and rebuilding hospitals, schools, etc. The media could help a bit in that dept, don't you think?


The first reports of abuse were in mid 2003; the photos aren't discovered until January, 2004, and weren't made public by CBS until late April, after agreeing to delay the release an additional two weeks. I would hope there were internal investigations taking place before the photos ran...There were, just as there are investigations and prosecutions that are going on in regards to these latest 44 photos.


A Freeper posting at the time put the number at 32, with a caviat that some of them may not've actually run on the front page, but I understand your point.
The stories ran on the front; but to be honest, some of those were simple reports and not hysteria-driving op-ed type pieces. But yes, my point being the "if it bleeds, it leads" type of story that not only feeds the hunger for the story but also throws fuels on it to keep it alive. During a time of war, this sort of "transparency" is akin to shooting ourselves in the foot if people don't understand that the military was already conducting internal investigations, that Americans were deeply outraged, that this is not the standard conduct of your average American soldier, etc.


When people representing the USA are accused of abusing prisoners, it's a big story, especially when there are photos, and a large segment of the population that questioned whether we should've been there in the first place. Yes it's a big story since we hold ourselves to the higher standard, and the world more or less looks at us as such. As to the second point, that's the similar problem as the actual enemy who propagandizes the incident(s): It becomes political propaganda fodder that feeds into partisan notions to delegitimize the war decision.


Maintaining our standards should never be about them or what they'll do; our standards are about who we are and the ideals for which we stand (and fight).
What standards are we compromising in regards to the "harsh interrogations"? Attorneys were consulted and the Administration proceeded with serious deliberations.


I don't agree that the definition of torture should be a comparative exercise, with anything less than "they" would do deemed acceptable. We know torture when we see it, and we know what our moral, spiritual, and legal values dictate, quite apart from what other countries do and do not do.And what I'm saying, based upon the memos released, is that the Administration proceeded very cautiously on the legal front (for instance: Zubaydah's fear of bugs and attorney's note that any bug used can't actually cause harm) and that the definition of torture is a comparative exercise; that it isn't well-defined. Certain things, I'm sure we can agree upon (severing a limb, plucking out fingernails....); others can be argued (tickling, listening to kanye west, etc).



But if we insist on using others to define our methods one way or the other, I would say torture should be defined by those actions we would find unacceptable and prosecutable when done to our own citizens by an enemy force.Sounds reasonable enough. But then, part of my belief is that under extraordinary circumstances (keep in mind that 8 years away from 9/11, we have the luxury of relaxation and reflection; but many of us felt differently then, on the heels and its aftermath) waterboarding and other harsh means of 3 terrorists after standard means didn't work, is something I don't lose sleep over. The descriptions in the memos are still a far cry from what I'd be ashamed of from my country.


If it's a legal, acceptable interrogation technique when done by us, it should be a legal, acceptable interrogation technique when done to us. It's a fair point. I wonder if waterboarding in SERES training should be banned? In regards to the WWII Japanese soldiers talking point being bandied around, weren't most of the prosecutions for things above and beyond waterboarding? Two Japanese soldiers were charged with waterboarding exclusively. The one who waterboarded an American soldier was found innocent. The other, who waterboarded an American civilian, was convicted. And they were charged under the provisions of the Geneva Convention because both states (the U.S. and Japan) were signatories.



... This aide aside, I would guess that his wasn't (and isn't) a popular opinion, even among those who supported the use of these "enhanced" methods on our enemies.)I'm wondering if there are different degrees/methods of waterboarding? I've heard some versions where the lungs do fill with water and the person is actually drowning; and others where it's only a feeling of drowning and simulation. SERES training is under controlled supervision, but then, so were the 3 al Qaeda operatives. In the training exercise, you still get restrained and the objective is to find one's breaking point. Since the approval to waterboard was based upon the fact that we do it to our own soldiers, was there a difference in methodology?



Jack Baur was willing to break the law to do what he believed was right. Truth be told, I'm all for that. Torture (including those methods that were "redefined" into acceptance for friend & foe alike by the Bush folks) should be illegal. But I'm all for our Jack Baurs taking the law into their own hands when they really believe the timebomb is ticking, as long as they're willing to defend their actions and show their results afterward. If hundreds of lives are saved, who would vote to convict, regardless of what the law says? If "Jack" can show that hundreds were saved, I'm not even sure anyone would prosecute...My way of looking at it, to use an extreme and unlikely scenario, is if the whole frakkin' planet were to be blown up and my one choice to stop it is to gain information from the one person who can tell me how to disarm the uber nuclear device, I'd do whatever it takes. It's insane to me to go to my grave and put the rest of the planet out of its misery and smugly proclaim, "Well...at least I stuck to principle and didn't compromise my moral bearing." That's just great. Meanwhile, everyone I love and everyone I don't love is no more.

If lives were saved and plots foiled, then I'd say the "torture" of the three was justified. It's not like we drilled holes in their hands, took a spoon and scooped out an eyeball, and used other extremes that even I would have moral qualms over.

The Jack Bauer situation, btw, is an unlikely scenario. I subscribe to it, in the event of a ticking bomb where time is of the essence. But I think that the scenario would be a rarity.

The best defense I've read in regards to torture but not in making it legal, was written by Mark Bowden. Basically, extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary measures. There should be exceptions to the rule, but the exceptions should not become the rule, lest it leads to abuse.

Bowden also wrote a clarification to his earlier piece, if you're interested.

I think the articles basically supports your Jack Bauer reflections.

But I'd also expect to face a jury of my peers and defend my actions, and hope that, like my buddy, Jack, saving a life was a greater good than my act of stealing was a societal bad.Which is why I think, ultimately, he was willing to face the Senate Committee hearing and possibly pay for his trespasses; basically, sacrificing his own freedom for the greater good of his country.

Even not being locked up, I think the character suffers in his own private conscience hell- a conscience he keeps locked away in order to carry out what he believes must be done "for the greater good". Otherwise, he wouldn't be able to "do his job" and save lives.

He's emblematic of what your common soldier must go through. How damaging psychologically, to kill for your country? Some people need killing and deserve no tears; others are questionable on both counts, but the duty is still carried out in the name of saving greater lives.

Saturday, April 25, 2009 9:16:00 AM  

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