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Bush’s Waterboarding Admission Prompts Calls For Criminal Probe

Huff Post- Dan Froomkin-  First Posted: 11-11-10 03:49 PM   |   Updated: 11-11-10 04:01 PM

WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday joined a growing chorus in the human rights community calling for a special prosecutor to investigate whether former president George W. Bush violated federal statutes prohibiting torture.

In his new memoir and ensuing book tour, Bush has repeatedly admitted that he directly authorized the waterboarding of three terror suspects. Use of the waterboard, which creates the sensation of drowning, has been an iconic and almost universally condemned form of torture since the time of the Spanish Inquisition.

Except for a brief period during which a handful of Bush administration lawyers insisted that the exigencies of interrogating terror suspects justified its use, waterboarding has always been considered illegal by the Justice Department. It is also a clear violation of international torture conventions.

The ACLU is urging Attorney General Eric Holder to ask Assistant U.S. Attorney John Durham to investigate Bush. For nearly three years now, Durham has been acting as a special prosecutor investigating a variety of torture-related matters involving government officials considerably lower on the food chain. Just this Tuesday, it was widely reported that Durham had cleared the CIA’s former top clandestine officer and others in the destruction of agency videotapes showing waterboarding of terror suspects — but that he would continue pursuing other aspects of his investigation.

“The ACLU acknowledges the significance of this request, but it bears emphasis that the former President’s acknowledgment that he authorized torture is absolutely without parallel in American history,” the group wrote in its letter to Holder.

“The admission cannot be ignored. In our system, no one is above the law or beyond its reach, not even a former president. That founding principle of our democracy would mean little if it were ignored with respect to those in whom the public most invests its trust. It would also be profoundly unfair for Mr. Durham to focus his inquiry on low-level officials charged with implementing official policy but to ignore the role of those who authorized or ordered the use of torture.”

In his new memoir, “Decision Points,” Bush recalls his thought process after CIA director George Tenet asked for permission to waterboard alleged al Qaeda mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in early 2003. Bush’s response: “Damn right.”

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Rove Is ‘Proud’ Of Waterboarding, But Falsely Claims It Was More ‘Constrained’ Than SERE Training

Think Progress- By Matt Corley at 10:45 am

In an interview with the BBC yesterday, former Bush adviser Karl Rove defended the administration’s use of waterboarding, saying that he was “proud” that Bush “used techniques that broke the will of these terrorists and gave us valuable information.” “Yes, I’m proud that we kept the world safer than it was, by the use of these techniques,” said Rove. “They’re appropriate, they’re in conformity with our international requirements and with US law.” Watch it:

In a separate part of Rove’s interview with the BBC, he invoked a familiar and misleading argument to claim that waterboarding is not torture. “U.S. military personnel go through waterboarding every year in special training courses on survival and escape,” said Rove.

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CIA Man Who Claimed Waterboarding Worked Admits He Was Wrong

TPM Muckraker

Rachel Slajda | January 27, 2010, 9:33AM

In his new book, the former CIA operative who made the bombshell — and thoroughly debunked — claim that a terrorism suspect was made to talk after one waterboarding session has admitted he was wrong.

John Kiriakou made waves, and supplied the pro-torture crowd with ammunition, when he told ABC News in December 2007 that al-Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah gave information that prevented dozens of terrorist attacks after being waterboarded once, for about 30 seconds.

The claim was full of holes, and ABC admitted so, quietly. For one, Zubadayah was actually waterboarded at least 83 times, according to a Justice Department memo. And Kiriakou, the head of the man’s capture team, was not present for his interrogation and instead relied on reports.

Kiriakou admits he was wrong on the second-to-last page of his new book, titled “The Reluctant Spy: My Secret Life in the CIA’s War on Terror,” according to Foreign Policy.

“What I told [ABC reporter] Brian Ross in late 2007 was wrong on a couple counts,” he wrote.

“I suggested that Abu Zubaydah had lasted only thirty or thirty-five seconds during his waterboarding before he begged his interrogators to stop; after that, I said he opened up and gave the agency actionable intelligence,” he wrote. But “I wasn’t there when the interrogation took place; instead, I relied on what I’d heard and read inside the agency at the time.”

“Now we know,” Kiriakou goes on, “that Zubaydah was waterboarded eighty-three times in a single month, raising questions about how much useful information he actually supplied.”

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Massachusetts could elect senator who supports waterboarding

RAW STORY- By John Byrne
Monday, January 18th, 2010 — 9:16 am

The Republican state senator vying to fill the Senate seat recently vacated by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) says he doesn’t believe waterboarding — where a suspect is effectively temporarily drowned — is torture.

State senator Scott Brown’s candidacy has taken Massachusetts by storm and political analysts by surprise. Until recently, Democratic state attorney Martha Coakley was considered a shoe-in for the position. But Massachusetts independents have apparently grown so frustrated with Democrats in Congress, and so tepid on Coakley’s candidacy, that they may send a Republican to the Senate who seems to contravene many of the state’s apparently liberal ideals.

At a press conference in early January, for example, Brown said that the US should continue to employ waterboarding against terrorist suspects, a technique considered torture for which the US executed Japanese soldiers during World War II.

Speaking of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, the Nigerian attempted “Christmas bomber,” Brown said that the would-be terrorist should be subject to “our rules of engagement and laws of war,’’ and not be tried in civilian courts.

Noted the Boston Globe, “Brown asserted that waterboarding does not constitute torture, but he did not specifically say Abdulmutallab should be subjected to waterboarding.

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FBI planning a bigger role in terrorism fight

Bureau agents will gather evidence to ensure that criminal prosecutions of alleged terrorists are an option. The move is a reversal of the Bush administration’s emphasis on covert CIA actions.

Los Angeles Times

By Josh Meyer
May 28, 2009

Reporting from Washington — The FBI and Justice Department plan to significantly expand their role in global counter-terrorism operations, part of a U.S. policy shift that will replace a CIA-dominated system of clandestine detentions and interrogations with one built around transparent investigations and prosecutions.

Under the “global justice” initiative, which has been in the works for several months, FBI agents will have a central role in overseas counter-terrorism cases. They will expand their questioning of suspects and evidence-gathering to try to ensure that criminal prosecutions are an option, officials familiar with the effort said.

Though the initiative is a work in progress, some senior counter-terrorism officials and administration policy-makers envision it as key to the national security strategy President Obama laid out last week — one that presumes most accused terrorists have the right to contest the charges against them in a “legitimate” setting.

The approach effectively reverses a mainstay of the Bush administration’s war on terrorism, in which global counter-terrorism was treated primarily as an intelligence and military problem, not a law enforcement one. That policy led to the establishment of the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; harsh interrogations; and detentions without trials.

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Torture Images From Set Of Standard Operating Procedure Retell Story Of Abu Ghraib

Huffington Post Contributors |  Nubar Alexanian and Katharine Thomas   |   05/ 7/09 06:01 PM

Photographs by Nubar Alexanian

Text by Katharine Thomas

One of President Obama’s first executive decisions in office was to prohibit the use of interrogation techniques previously sanctioned by the Justice Department under the Bush administration.

PHOTOS HERE  (WARNING: GRAPHIC PHOTOS)

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The CIA’s $1,000 a Day Specialists on Waterboarding, Interrogations

The New Focus on Two Retired Military Psychologists Called the ‘Architects’ of the CIA’s Techniques

According to current and former government officials, the CIA’s secret waterboarding program was designed and assured to be safe by two well-paid psychologists now working out of an unmarked office building in Spokane, Washington.

Bruce Jessen and Jim Mitchell, former military officers, together founded Mitchell Jessen and Associates.

Both men declined to speak to ABC News citing non-disclosure agreements with the CIA. But sources say Jessen and Mitchell together designed and implemented the CIA’s interrogation program.

Click here to see Jessen refusing to talk to ABC News.

“It’s clear that these psychologists had an important role in developing what became the CIA’s torture program,” said Jameel Jaffer, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union.

Click here to see Mitchell refusing to talk to ABC News.

Former U.S. officials say the two men were essentially the architects of the CIA’s 10-step interrogation plan that culminated in waterboarding.

Associates say the two made good money doing it, boasting of being paid a $1,000 a day by the CIA to oversee the use of the techniques on top al Qaeda suspects at CIA secret sites.

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William Fisher | Inter Press Service

NEW YORK, Apr 29 (IPS) – A coalition of 19 human rights, faith-based and justice organisations is calling on President Barack Obama to investigate torture they charge was sanctioned by the administration of former President George W. Bush.

The group, led by the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT), is proposing both a special prosecutor and an “independent, non-partisan commission to examine and report publicly on torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of detainees in the period since September 11, 2001.”

The campaign’s call for accountability comes just days after the release of the Senate Armed Services Committee report on interrogation and torture and the Justice Department legal memos sanctioning torture and inhumane treatment.

Rev. Richard Killmer, executive director of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, told IPS, “NRCAT supports both the establishment of an independent, non-partisan commission of inquiry to investigate the use of torture and a Department of Justice investigation for criminal culpability of those who authorised or carried out acts of torture. Each process is important and can be pursued independently.”

He added, “A commission will help us understand how the illegal interrogation policies came into effect and how they were implemented so that we can ensure that safeguards are in place to prevent future administrations from following the same path.”

“A criminal investigation will send the clear message that government officials cannot violate laws against torture without facing serious criminal sanctions. If we hope to end the practice of torture by agents of the United States once and for all, we must pursue both avenues.”

The coalition proposes a commission, “comparable in stature to the 9/11 commission,” to “look into the facts and circumstances of such abuses, report on lessons learned and recommend measures that would prevent any future abuses.”

Continued >>

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Rice Channels Nixon: Since The President Authorized Torture, That Makes It Legal

Think Progress- By Ali Frick at 9:40 am

Recently, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke with some students at Stanford University, where she is a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institute. When a student asked whether Rice had authorized torture, she refused to take responsibility, saying only that she “conveyed the authorization of the administration.” She added that, “by definition,” once the president authorized “enhanced interrogations,” they were automatically legal:

Q: Is waterboarding torture?

RICE: The president instructed us that nothing we would do would be outside of our obligations, legal obligations under the Convention Against Torture. So that’s — And by the way, I didn’t authorize anything. I conveyed the authorization of the administration to the agency, that they had policy authorization, subject to the Justice Department’s clearance. That’s what I did.

Q: Okay. Is waterboarding torture in your opinion?

RICE: I just said, the United States was told, we were told, nothing that violates our obligations under the Convention Against Torture. And so by definition, if it was authorized by the president, it did not violate our obligations under the Convention Against Torture.

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FILE - In this Feb. 23, 2009 file photo, MSNBC talk show host Keith Olbermann attends the Defying Inequality Broadway concert, a celebrity benefit for equal rights, in New York. (AP Photo/Peter Kramer, file)

FILE - In this Feb. 23, 2009 file photo, MSNBC talk show host Keith Olbermann attends the "Defying Inequality" Broadway concert, a celebrity benefit for equal rights, in New York. (AP Photo/Peter Kramer, file)

Hannity Waterboard Offer: Olbermann Increases The Pressure

DAVID BAUDER | April 28, 2009 09:03 PM EST | AP

NEW YORK — The debate over torture is getting personal for two of cable TV’s prime-time hosts. After Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity made a seemingly impromptu offer last week to undergo waterboarding as a benefit for charity, MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann leapt at it. He offered $1,000 to the families of U.S. troops for every second Hannity withstood the technique.

Olbermann repeated the offer on Monday’s show and said in an interview Tuesday that he’s heard no response. He said he’ll continue to pursue it.

“I don’t think he has the courage to even respond to this _ let alone do it,” Olbermann said.

Fox News Channel representatives did not respond to requests for comment.

The two men are on opposite poles of a debate that has preoccupied the worlds of talk TV and radio. Hannity says waterboarding is a fair and necessary interrogation technique for suspected terrorists; Olbermann calls it torture, says it’s ineffective and should not be done by Americans.

Charles Grodin was challenging Hannity on the issue on Fox last week, and asked whether he would consent to be waterboarded.

“Sure,” Hannity said. “I’ll do it for charity … I’ll do it for the troops’ families.”

It wasn’t exactly clear how serious the conversation was, since Grodin joked, “Are you busy on Sunday?” and Hannity laughed.

“I’ll let you do it,” Hannity said.

“I wouldn’t do it,” Grodin said. “I’ll hand you a towel when you come out of the shower.”

Olbermann’s offer was quick. Besides the $1,000 per second, Olbermann said he’d double it if Hannity acknowledges he feared for his life and admits that waterboarding is torture.

“The idea of putting somebody in a position they have volunteered for, for charity, to respond to their own unsupportable claims, is in many ways priceless,” Olbermann said.

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