National Security

More Disturbing Revelations About the CIA Torture Program

Wikimedia Commons
The most important thing to read today is this extraordinary report from Matthew Cole of NBC News about one CIA officer, the agency's top expert on al-Qaeda, and her trail of screw-ups and lies with regard to the torture program. Among other things, she was one of the models for the composite lead character in "Zero Dark Thirty," but this is much more disturbing than what was in that film. She is referred to as "the expert": At one point, she misread intelligence provided by another suspected terrorist, and the faulty information was then used to extract an erroneous admission from Mohammed, often referred to by the acronym KSM, during two days of interrogation in March 2003, the report said. Majid Khan, who was in Pakistani custody, had stated that Mohammed had sought to recruit "two to three unknown Black American Muslim converts who were currently training in Afghanistan" to carry out attacks on gas stations in the U.S. But in a cable describing the intelligence, the expert...

Has the GOP Become the Pro-Torture Party?

If you'll permit me a momentary bit of crowing, I'd like to take some credit for what we learned from Dick Cheney's appearance on Meet the Press last Sunday. Not that we didn't already know about Cheney's enthusiasm for torture, but we now understand better just how morally infantile his thinking is—and this man, don't forget, was more responsible than anyone for the policies instituted under the Bush administration. Because the blithe refusal of people like Cheney to define torture has been bothering me for so long (combined with the fact that they get away with simply saying things like "waterboarding isn't torture" without having to answer what torture is), I suggested to Chuck Todd last week that he might ask Cheney explicitly for his definition. Todd apparently thought it wasn't a bad idea, because this was how the interview began: You can read more of my thoughts here , but it seems that Cheney believes that there is literally nothing the United States can do to prisoners that...

The War On Terror Encapsulated In One Case

U.S. Navy photo showing Jose Padilla in sensory deprivation.
As we continue to debate the question of whether torture is an abomination or actually a great idea that worked well and should be used whenever we're feeling afraid, I want to point to one case in particular, that of Jose Padilla. The entire deranged history of the Bush administration's War on Terror can be seen in Padilla's story, and now we know even more about it. In case you don't remember, on June 10, Attorney General John Ashcroft interrupted a trip to Russia to hold a press conference announcing that a month prior, the United States had thwarted a major terrorist threat by arresting Padilla, a Chicago man who had travelled to the Pakistan and joined up with al Qaeda. Padilla, Ashcroft said, was plotting to detonate a "dirty bomb" that would release radioactive material over Washington, potentially killing thousands. But we got him before he could carry out his horrific plan. By the time of Ashcroft's dramatic press conference, Bush administration officials had already decided...

Harrowing Tales of the Wrongly Deported: U.S. Border Patrol Flouts the Law and Destroys Lives

There are more than 40,000 CBP officers authorized to act like judges but without legal training. The new executive order does not change this.

(AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)
(AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo) In this July 12, 2014, photo, Central American migrants ride a freight train during their journey toward the U.S.-Mexico border in Ixtepec, Mexico. The number of family units and unaccompanied children arrested by Border Patrol in the Rio Grande Valley has doubled in the first nine months of this fiscal year compared to the same period last year. In 2008, Nydia, a transgender woman, fled physical and sexual attacks in Mexico and was granted asylum in the United States. She was saving money to apply for lawful permanent residence (a “green card”) when, in 2010, her mother died. Nydia returned to Mexico for the funeral. “I was afraid [to go back], but in the moment, I just blocked out everything that had happened to me,” she said. “When I got there, I thought ‘Oh my God, why am I here?’” When her family in Mexico rejected her, Nydia found herself alone, attacked by a gang who tried to rip out her breast implants, beat, robbed, and raped her. Nydia returned to...

Do Republicans Want to Bring Torture Back?

A medieval use of stress positions, an oldie but a goodie. (Flickr/Curious Expeditions)
I'd like to follow up on a question I've raised yesterday and today over at the Post (see here and here ) regarding the torture program. It's pretty simple: what do the program's defenders think we should do now? Or more particularly, since Barack Obama isn't going to change his policy toward torture in the last two years of his presidency, what should the next president do? I've seen almost no one talk about the torture question as though it related in any way to the future. Even the most ardent torture advocates are talking only about the past. But if they're right that the program was perfectly legal and produced vital intelligence that could be obtained no other way, then one would assume they'd like to renew the waterboarding sessions as soon as they have the opportunity, i.e. as soon as there's a Republican president. Which makes it particularly important to get the people who want to be that president on record now about whether they have any plans to do so. When I wrote this...

What You Really Need to Know About the Torture Report

The two contractors who designed the program were paid $81 million. And that's just one thing.

CIA.gov
This article was originally published by BillMoyers.com . O n Tuesday, amid much controversy and after a year of political combat between the Senate Intelligence Committee and the CIA, a long-anticipated summary of the committee’s report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation program was released. Here’s what you need to know… What are the key points? You can read a quick roundup of the report’s main findings here . New York Times reporters Matt Apuzzo, Haeyoun Park and Larry Buchanan looked at what the report says about the efficacy of torture techniques in a series of specific cases. For those with strong stomachs, The Daily Beast’ s Shane Harris and Tim Mak sifted through the report to unearth “ the most gruesome details ,” which we chose to omit below. It was torture… According to the report, after being authorized by the Bush White House to detain people with suspected ties to terrorist groups, the agency’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” were far more brutal than the...

Torture Gets the 'Only In America' Treatment

Joe Biden, Bidening. (Flickr/Adam Fagen)
L et it not be said anywhere, at any time, by anyone, that Joe Biden does not love America. Biden's love for America is high as a mountain, and deep as the sea. In fact, Biden's love for America is so great that he is convinced that all other countries fortunate enough to share this planet with America are populated by nothing but knaves and fools. Or maybe it's just that his love gets the better of him sometimes, as it did in this discussion of the torture report issued yesterday by the Senate Intelligence Committee: "No, I think it's a badge of honor," Biden said when asked at Politico 's Women Rule Summit whether the sharply critical report by the Senate Intelligence Committee is a "black stain." "Every country, every country, has engaged in activities somewhere along the line that it has not been proud of," he added. "Think about it, name me another country that’s prepared to stand and say, 'This was a mistake, we should not have done what we’ve done and we will not do it again...

Former U.S. Ambassador to Syria Asks: After Assad, Then What?

"It’s not clear who or what would come in his place," says Robert Ford, "and it’s a valid concern."

(AP Photo/SANA, File)
(AP Photo/SANA, File) In this January 27, 2011, file photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad, left, meets with Robert Ford, the new U.S. ambassador to Syria, in Damascus, Syria. D espite stern rhetoric and barrages of missiles from Western forces, ISIL, the insurgency that calls itself the Islamic State, isn’t looking very degraded or destroyed. While the coalition led by the United States , as the crucial test of its effectiveness, focused its attention and more than 270 airstrikes on the fight for Kobani, the predominantly Kurdish town in northern Syria where small gains have been made against ISIL, the terrorist army captured two gas fields in central Syria, murdered 300 members of a Sunni tribe that dared to oppose it in Iraq, and beheaded 26-year-old American aid worker Abdul Rahman Kassig, also known as Peter. ISIL, with its extreme religious ideology, states its aim as the creation of a caliphate, a temporal expression of its...

How Obama Boxed In Republicans With His Immigration Order

(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) President Barack Obama shakes hands with people in the crowd following his remarks on immigration reform at Chamizal National Memorial Park in El Paso, Texas, May 10, 2011. I f there's an elected Republican who thinks it wasn't a bad idea for President Obama to take executive action on immigration, he or she has yet to make that opinion known. Not surprisingly, the 20 or 30 men (and one woman ) hoping to get the GOP nomination for president in 2016 have been particularly vocal on the topic. But while thunderous denunciations of the Constitution-shredding socialist dictator in the White House may seem to them today like exactly what the situation demands, before long they're going to be asked a simple yet dangerous question: If you become president, what are you going to do about it? Although they haven't actually answered that question yet, their feelings have been unambiguous. Ted Cruz said Obama has "gotten in the job of counterfeiting...

Iran Nuclear Talks Still Face Sabotage

(AP Photo/Ronald Zak, pool)
One of the best and most predictive pieces of the 2008 presidential campaign was one by Michael Scherer and Michael Weisskopf , which examined the gambling styles of John McCain and Barack Obama, and what this suggested about their approaches to strategy. McCain, the craps enthusiast, was a risk- taker, ready to bet a thousand dollars on a single, luck-changing roll. This is the McCain we saw who tried to enliven his presidential campaign with the surprise selection of the comically unqualified Sarah Palin as his running mate and who tried to change the game by suspending his campaign in the face of the financial crisis. Obama, on the other hand, favored poker. A cautious player, Obama rarely took big risks, but, according to those who played with him when he was an Illinois State Senator, he almost always left the table with more money that he came with. This has predicted Obama’s general approach to governing, most notably with the Affordable Care Act: Frustratingly for his...

Election 2014: Surge or Theft?

How dark money and voter disenfranchisement combined in a toxic brew that resulted in the lowest voter turnout in more than 70 years, hampering whatever chance Democrats had to win.

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File) In this November 6, 2012 file photo, a voter holds their voting permit and ID card at the Washington Mill Elementary School near Mount Vernon, Virginia. Across the South, Republicans are working to take advantage of a new political landscape after a divided U.S. Supreme Court freed all or part of 15 states, many of them in the old Confederacy, from having to ask Washington's permission before changing election procedures in jurisdictions with histories of discrimination. L ast Tuesday’s election was, by any measure, a sweeping victory for the Republicans—their second consecutive midterm sweep since Barack Obama took office, by which they’ve now picked up a total 77 seats combined in the United States House of Representatives and the Senate. In the House they’ve not had a majority this size since Herbert Hoover occupied the White House—and they control more statehouses now than at any time in the nation’s history. But what does that mean—or more...

No Love for Obama as Election Day Approaches

Official White House photo by Pete Souza
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza I f Republicans win a significant victory in next Tuesday's election—and it now looks like they will indeed take the Senate—get ready for a whole lot of Obama-bashing, not only from the press and Republicans, but from liberals, as well. Some will go so far as to declare his presidency over, and I suspect more than a few genuine leftists will heap scorn on their liberal friends for their naïve embrace of a politician promising (as politicians always do) to change Washington. We can see one variant of this critique, the Jimmy Carter comparison, in a piece by Thomas Frank , based on an interview he conducted with historian Rick Perlstein: The moral of this story is not directed at Democratic politicians; it is meant for us, the liberal rank and file. We still "yearn to believe," as Perlstein says. There is something about the Carter/Obama personality that appeals to us in a deep, unspoken way, and that has led Democrats to fall for a whole string...

Whether Lies or B.S., Netanyahu's Interviews Pose Special Challenges for Journalists

The storyline and most of the details of a tale told by the Israeli prime minister on American television were deliberately untrue.

Face The Nation/CBS News
Face the Nation/CBS News Benjamin Netanyau, prime minister of Israel, is interviewed by Bob Schieffer of CBS News on the October 5, 2014, edition of Face the Nation . A journalist colleague in Jerusalem sent me a link to the prime minister of our land speaking to a faraway audience on CBS News’s Face the Nation . She expected the video clip to make me laugh and choke at the same time. She was right. It also made me think of philosopher Harry Frankfurt's immortal essay , "On Bullshit," because the unavoidable question, while watching Benjamin Netanyahu responding to White House criticism of settlement activity in Jerusalem, was whether he was deliberately speaking untruths, or was spinning words with absolutely no concern about whether they were true or not. As Frankfurt demonstrated, this is the difference between lying and bullshitting. (Understand that I follow Frankfurt in using the latter word strictly as a philosophical category. In contrast to the New York Times , therefore, the...

Why Your New iPhone Has Law Enforcement In a Tizzy

Apple’s move won’t lead to terrorist attacks or unsolved kidnappings; it will simply make FBI investigators’ jobs a bit harder.

iStock/07-12-09 © billyfoto
07-12-09 © billyfoto T he debut of a new iPhone is always big news, but this time it’s surrounded by unusual controversy. That’s because the iPhone6 automatically encrypts the phone’s contents. Decrypting requires a code that the user sets and does not share with Apple—which means that, if the FBI orders Apple to turn over data kept on the customer’s phone, the company will produce data that amount to “gibberish” (as the New York Times reported ). The FBI then will have to decrypt the data—a process that could take years—or try to compel the user to reveal the code. FBI director James Comey responded with outrage, claiming that companies like Apple are “marketing something expressly to allow people to hold themselves beyond the law.” Other law enforcement officials have made similar pronouncements. Yet the law doesn’t give the government any right to the contents of your phone. It’s more accurate to say that, in recent years, the advent of widespread third-party data storage has...

The War With No Name

Every president, along with the people who work for him, will tell you that they barely ever think about politics and public relations. "Good policy is good politics," they'll say, or "We believe that if we do the right thing, the politics will take care of themselves." Of course, it'll all baloney. Even in the most serious matters, like making war, appearances are never far from their minds. Which is why, every time we get ready to bomb or invade somebody, the military comes up with a super-cool name for the operation. Not only does it give the enterprise the proper triumphal air, it gives the media something to call it, so they can make their jazzy graphics and pick out the right musical accompaniment. So why doesn't our new quasi-war have a name yet? The idea of naming military operations began in World War I, but initially they were secret code names, intended to conceal rather than to boast. Winston Churchill was very concerned with the code names of military operations in World...

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