Thursday, May 21, 2009

Torture, Revisited

Two items on torture.

First, love that Obama. Here is what he said today in his speech on national security:

I know some have argued that brutal methods like water-boarding were necessary to keep us safe. I could not disagree more. As Commander-in-Chief, I see the intelligence, I bear responsibility for keeping this country safe, and I reject the assertion that these are the most effective means of interrogation. What’s more, they undermine the rule of law. They alienate us in the world. They serve as a recruitment tool for terrorists, and increase the will of our enemies to fight us, while decreasing the will of others to work with America. They risk the lives of our troops by making it less likely that others will surrender to them in battle, and more likely that Americans will be mistreated if they are captured. In short, they did not advance our war and counter-terrorism efforts – they undermined them, and that is why I ended them once and for all.

(And though I do not quote it here, I also appreciate the part of his speech that outlines his plan on dealing with Guantanamo detainees - very smart, methodical.)

Second - and this fits in a "did you know" category - according to NPR, it turns out that James Mitchell - one of the two Spokane psychologists who formed the basis of the opinions in the 2002 torture memos that torture isn't torture (I've outlined this issue here) - was in daily contact with the White House back then, and apparently with Alberto Gonzalez in particular. Here's an excerpt:

One source with knowledge of Zubaydah's interrogations agreed to describe the legal guidance process, on the condition of anonymity.

The source says nearly every day, Mitchell would sit at his computer and write a top-secret cable to the CIA's counterterrorism center. Each day, Mitchell would request permission to use enhanced interrogation techniques on Zubaydah. The source says the CIA would then forward the request to the White House, where White House counsel Alberto Gonzales would sign off on the technique. That would provide the administration's legal blessing for Mitchell to increase the pressure on Zubaydah in the next interrogation.

A new document is consistent with the source's account.

The CIA sent the ACLU a spreadsheet late Tuesday as part of a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act. The log shows the number of top-secret cables that went from Zubaydah's black site prison to CIA headquarters each day. Through the spring and summer of 2002, the log shows, someone sent headquarters several cables a day.

"At the very least, it's clear that CIA headquarters was choreographing what was going on at the black site," says Jameel Jaffer, the ACLU lawyer who sued to get the document. "But there's still this question about the relationship between CIA headquarters and the White House and the Justice Department and the question of which senior officials were driving this process."

The more we learn, the darker it gets. As the story notes at a later point, it is "highly unusual" for the White House to tell interrogators what they can and cannot do. You can read the entire NPR story here.

No comments: