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President Obama “ignited an interrogation furor” yesterday when he clarified his position about “looking back vs. looking forward” at a photo opportunity with King Abdullah of Jordan. To quote from the CQ Politics story:
. . . [the President] made a point of saying Tuesday that “with respect to those who formulated those legal decisions, I would say that that is going to be more of a decision for the attorney general within the parameters of various laws, and I don’t want to prejudge that.”
. . . “If and when there needs to be a further accounting of what took place during this period, I think for Congress to examine ways that it can be done in a bipartisan fashion, outside of the typical [committee] hearing process that can sometimes break down and break it entirely along party lines . . . would probably be a more sensible approach to take,” Obama said.
Like the 9/11 Commission — Writing for Marc Ambinder at The Atlantic, Chris Good believes that Obama’s truth commission ideas mesh with congress. The President prefers that rank and file CIA operatives not be prosecuted for war crimes because he believes they acted in good faith with what they assumed was valid legal advice. He made a trip to CIA headquarters to assuage the anxiety felt by the employees, according to Josh Gerstein’s Politico story written with Alexander Burns. The author explored the differences between the proposed legislation in the House and Senate. By pointing out that Senator Leahy’s not written a bill yet, but House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers has proposed a commission that is designed to not be partisan, Good assumes the President would prefer something like that. The Hill reports that Conyers has announced he will soon hold hold hearings on the torture memos.
And Republicans are howling. Former Vice President Cheney had requested the declassification of files he asserts would prove that the CIA’s coercive interrogation techniques worked well to produce actionable intelligence. Cheney wanted to use the memos to write his memoirs, according to Mike Allen and Josh Gerstein at Politico, but now Cheney wants them released to the public also. There is likely to be a showdown with the current administration over such a move.
One of the main drivers, it seems, for the use of torture of detainees early on was to establish a link between alQaeda and Saddam Hussein. A Salon report on the just released Senate Armed Services investigation revealed that, Paul “Wolfowitz said GTMO should use more aggressive interrogation techniques.” To quote the intro, “A Senate report describes how the Bush administration began its torture program — and may have pushed for the use of torture to produce evidence linking al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein. HT to “anamariecox” at Twitter for this link.
“Banned Techniques Yielded ‘High Value Information,’ Memo Says,”was written by PETER BAKER on April 22, 2009, in the New York Times. To quote:
President Obama’s national intelligence director wrote that controversial methods produced information that helped the nation in its struggle with terrorists.
“The information gained from these techniques was valuable in some instances, but there is no way of knowing whether the same information could have been obtained through other means,” Admiral Blair said in a written statement issued last night. “The bottom line is these techniques have hurt our image around the world, the damage they have done to our interests far outweighed whatever benefit they gave us and they are not essential to our national security.”
Admiral Blair’s private memo was provided by a critic of Mr. Obama’s policy. His assessment could bolster Bush administration veterans who argue that the interrogations were an important tool in the battle against al Qaeda.
Thoughts from a dissenter — Tuesday night’s Rachel Maddow program featured Philip Zelikow, former assistant to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and also former head of the 9/11 Commission staff. Zelico was a dissenter, on behalf of his boss, within the Bush administration as the decisions to use coercive interrogation techniques were being taken. He put his dissenting opinion in writing. And his memos (all those that could be gathered) were destroyed. He chose not to resign , but to work from within the government to get the policies changed. Read his recent piece, “The OLC ‘Torture Memos:’ Thoughts from a dissenter,” in Foreign Policy Magazine (4/21/09).
References: “Military Interrogation Techniques: A History,” from The Atlantic Politic, Channel (4/21/09).
[Post date – 4/22/09]
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