Senate Votes to Ban Torture

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When have we ever legislated for torture? Torture for me is Pelosi, Feinstein, Obama, and McCain demagoguing about America’s image, standing in the world. And the issue of “torture”. Maybe this is kind of like what it would look like if the Amish banned their use of SUVs to combat global warming?

Isn’t this redundant, political theater:

The Senate on Tuesday overwhelmingly voted to ban the U.S. from ever again subjecting prisoners to waterboarding, “rectal feeding” and other brutal interrogation practices widely condemned as torture.

I’ve not read the measure. What are these other “brutal interrogation practices”? Waterboarding was the harshest technique used by the CIA (on ONLY 3 High Value Terrorists who yielded/led to good, solid intell information). It was never signed off on by Donald Rumsfeld for military officials who requested it. The last HVD who received CIA swimming lessons was KSM in 2003. By 2005 or 2006, with revelation of the technique, the public disclosure of it essentially killed it as an EIT. Its effectiveness, as that of the other EITs, was mostly psychological smoke-screening.

So waterboarding was ended on Bush’s watch. 12 years ago. Legislating a ban on it is just for “feel-good’ reasons about ourselves.

It’s sad, really. Because waterboarding wasn’t banned when they passed the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act. Congress didn’t ban it in 2006 after passage of the Military Commissions Act (Senator Ted Kennedy had offered an amendment which Congress rejected by a vote of 53-46). Why didn’t they ban it in 2007? In the infancy of President Obama’s presidency when Democrats had full control, why not then in 2009? Why now? The CIA Program has been dead for almost a decade, with President Obama driving the nail in the coffin in January 2009, redundantly “banning” torture with EO 13491 which revoked President Bush’s 2007 EO 13440 (which also spoke out against torture). Political theater. The CIA Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation Program has been replaced by President Obama by his High Value Detainee Interrogation Group (I wonder what they’re up to with Umm Sayyaf? How’s that detention/interrogation/held without charge going?).

“Rectal feeding”? It wasn’t an approved of EIT and there is confusion over what that was all about. Jose Rodriguez says it sounded like a medical procedure. Lesson learned by HVDs: Don’t go on hunger strikes. You will be fed. It worked.

In a 78-21 vote, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle supported a new prohibition on “enhanced interrogation” practices and other novel detention methods.

How exactly does that work? So does this bar any creativity? Ingenuity and evolution of interrogation practice? It shouldn’t be a fixed “science”, should superior methods exist. The reason why EITs came about in the first place was because those seeking answers from the likes of KSM and Zubaydah found that standard interrogation techniques weren’t working on them (some HVDs had received resistance training to commonly known interrogation techniques); and they displayed behavior that made it obvious that the harbored intell information they weren’t willing to share.

So how is “enhanced interrogation” being defined in the measure? (Yes, I suppose I should read it).

“We must continue to insist that the methods we employ in this fight for peace and freedom must always, always, be as right and honorable as the goals and ideals we fight for,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee and an author of the amendment.

“Our enemies act without conscience. We must not.”

We did act with a conscience, sir. We were concerned with saving American lives and prevent a second wave of attacks; and our conscience had us seek legal and moral counsel to find out where the boundary was. Some Americans may not like where the Bush Administration and Office of Legal Counsel, and the CIA drew that boundary; but drawn it was. The OLC memo should be more properly defined as the “How not to torture” memo. Our interrogators- acting on our behalf- had clear restrictions and framework beyond which they were not allowed to crossover. Any transgressions were recorded and reported; and reprimands appropriately issued. (Feinstein’s Report fails to credit the CIA for its own oversight and self-policing).

Bush, Cheney…Rumsfeld. These are men of conscience:

“The history of the United States military is clear: Torture doesn’t work”Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld

“We don’t torture. That’s not what we’re involved in.”Vice President Dick Cheney

“This country doesn’t torture, we’re not going to torture.”President Bush

The amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) would limit the entire U.S. government to the interrogation and detention techniques outlined in the Army Field Manual.

Even the Army FM approves of techniques that have long-been criticized by those human rights watch groups, consistent in their beliefs over political allegiance (i.e., willing to attack a policy, regardless of whether it’s under Bush or Obama; an “R” or a “D”). For the political partisans, they only paid attention to how horrible and cruel such detention and interrogation practices were like isolation, sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, and dietary manipulation when these things occurred under Bush and the CIA RDI Program because they sound “brutal” and “inhumane”. Ignoring the fact that these are techniques long approved of in the Army FM. The Army FM isn’t secret. And techniques well-known and described like “fear up” is in essence an EIT. What the CIA needed were alternative but comparable techniques, not known to the enemy.

As Marc Thiessen writes in Courting Disaster, pg 288-9, regarding an independent investigation conducted by admiral Albert T. Church III (the younger cousin of Senator Frank Church, known for the Church committee investigation of the 70s), who found to his surprise that most of the abuses that occurred in all U.S. detention facilities around the world were not due to interrogation practices, Thiessen writes:

Part of the problem, Church concluded, is one of perception. Many critics of Guantanamo oppose interrogation methods that are fully legal and permitted under the Geneva Conventions. As he put it in his report, “Military interrogators are trained to use creative means of deception and to play upon detainees’ emotions and fears when conducting interrogations of Enemy Prisoners of War (EPWs), who enjoy the full protections of the Geneva Convention. Thus people unfamiliar with military interrogations might view a perfectly legitimate interrogation of an EPW, in full compliance with the Geneva Conventions, as offensive by its very nature.”

The whole business of war is unsavory. The whole business of spying requires us to recruit unsavory characters, willing to betray their countries. The whole business of being a prison guard, of some aspects of police work, and of interrogating terrorists out to kill innocent lives, involves some unpleasant, unsavory business. The general, civilized populace doesn’t have the stomach for it. They leave it up to “rough men” to do the unsavory business that needs doing, so that they and their children can sleep comfortably at night.

According to Admiral Church in the conclusion of his exhaustive investigation, “the vast majority of detainees held by U.S. forces during the Global War on Terror have been treated humanely.” Yet the image we are stuck with thanks to the Feinsteins, the McCains, our Islamist enemies, and the media-driven hysteria and hyperbole that paints the narrative, the U.S. is a hypocrite and the U.S. tortures. Guantanamo is hell on earth. The CIA is a rogue out of control entity.

Back to The Hill article:

That would codify in law an executive order delivered by President Obama days after he entered office in 2009 and expand the scope of a 2005 law that limited the Pentagon — but not intelligence agencies such as the CIA — from engaging in the harsh interrogations.

People have often confused CIA interrogations with military interrogations. These are two different entities with different purposes and should have different constraints. What was appropriate for CIA interrogators should not be for military interrogators.

Among the GOP Senate opponents on Tuesday were Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), Majority Whip John Cornyn (Texas) and firebrand conservative Tom Cotton (Ark.).

The vote split the chamber’s White House hopefuls. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) voted in support of the bill, while Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), another 2016 candidate, voted against it. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) was not in attendance.

It’s of some interest to know the reasons behind each of these voting decisions.

The move comes months after Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee issued a scathing, 6,700-page report on the CIA’s former interrogation and detention program. Not only did the practices amount to torture, the committee claimed in an unclassified 500-page executive summary of the report, but the program was also ineffective and was obscured from its overseers in Washington.

I have come away from the Feinstein Report believing that it is indeed a partisan hack job. After going through Mike Morrell’s book, which is a far cry from political partisanship (he offers praise and admiration for Feinstein), I’m firmly convinced that Feinstein’s investigation was agenda-driven and that she and her committee found what they wanted to find and only reported it the way they wanted the American people to see it. Mike Morrell in an interview with Hugh Hewitt:

Former Deputy CIA Director Mike Morell on Hugh Hewitt had some choice words for Feinstein’s Report:

HH: And I want the audience to know specifically about this book, the reason you can trust it. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report on 9/11 and on the CIA’s actions thereafter on rendition and enhanced interrogation techniques, Mr. Morell writes it’s 6,000 pages, and “the report is not the history of the program that Senator Feinstein said it is. It is one of the worst pieces of analysis that this 33 year veteran of the CIA has ever seen. I believe that the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence staff produced the committee study, did a great disservice to the committee, the CIA and the country. Senator Feinstein bears significant responsibility for the many flaws in the report.” That’s tough. That’s blunt. But obviously, you felt very passionate about that.

MM: Yeah, you know, this is a very difficult issue, right, and this is something that we in America should actually talk about, and there’s actually four fundamental questions about the enhanced interrogation program. The first is what it legal? And although there are debates about whether the lawyers at the Justice Department at the time made the right call, at the time, they said this was legal. They said this was not torture. And it drives me crazy when people call it torture, because that means that my officers were torturers, and they were not. They wouldn’t do that. They only did it because they were told it was legal. And I’m going to defend those officers to my last breath. The second question, the second question is was it effective? And this is where the Senate reports gets it completely wrong. The Senate report said it wasn’t effective at all, that we got no useful intelligence out of the program. Can you imagine that? No useful intelligence.

HH: And yet, 32 of the 37 detainees, they obviously admit by indirection, gave you intelligence that you used, among them, KSM.

MM: Isn’t that remarkable? I’m absolutely convinced, Hugh, that we got intelligence that saved American lives by using these techniques. I’m absolutely convinced of that. Then the third question is was it necessary, all right? Was it necessary to do these things to get this information from these people? And we’ll never know the answer to that, right? We’ll never know whether some other approach would have worked. But that’s true, as I say, as I talk about in the book, that’s true of almost every major national security decision ever made, right? As I say in the book, was it necessary for President Lincoln to suspend habeas corpus to save the Union? We’ll never know. So that question is unanswerable. And then we get to the fundamental question of morality, right? Was it moral for the United States to do this? And most people, Hugh, think that’s an easy question, and it’s not, because of course, on the one hand, it’s very easy to say the United States of America should never do something like that to another human being. The United States stands for human dignity, for human freedom, etc., etc., etc. But there’s actually a flip side of the coin, Hugh. And the flip side of the coin is, is it moral not to do it when you absolutely believe it is necessary to save American lives?

HH: And that is, you quote your law school professor friend. In fact, I would tell the audience that Michael Morell’s The Great War Of Our Time has in it one of the most sophisticated discussions of the enhanced interrogation techniques and waterboarding I’ve ever read. I’ve been teaching Con Law for 20 years. I’ve had this debate a hundred times. But the law school professor who absolutely rejects it says it’s illegal, then admits to you, then of course, unless I was the president of the United States and somebody told me by using waterboarding, I could save America from a nuclear attack.

MM: Right, and you know, that’s in a sense what happened here, right? People forget, and Senator Feinstein forgets about the context of the times. 3,000 people had just been killed. This was the largest single attack on America ever. We were telling the President that a second wave attack was being planned by al Qaeda. We had credible intelligence on that. We were telling the President that bin Laden was meeting with Pakistani nuclear scientists, right, to try to get his hand on a nuclear weapon. That turned out to be true. We were telling the President that al Qaeda was trying to smuggle a nuclear weapon into New York City. That turned out not to be true, but we didn’t know that at the time. So that’s the context in which the President made his decision. And George Tenent walks in his office and says we’ve captured these guys, who we think know about these plots, about these attacks, and traditional interrogation techniques aren’t working. And Mr. President, here’s what we think we need to do, and we think we need to do it or Americans are going to die.

HH: And that is the context.

~~~

HH: Before we leave the EIT and rendition program, you did me a service, and you wrote in the book that to merge the two programs, the enhanced interrogation techniques and the detention programs and rendition, is to do a disservice. Each needs to be addressed separately. It had never occurred to me that of course, that’s true.

MM: Right, and you know, the detention program, just to give you an example, right, when we questioned Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and another senior al Qaeda operative about Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, the guy who turned out to be the courier who took us to Abbottabad, to bin Laden, they lied to us, right? And then they went back to their cell, and they told every, and KSM, KSM told everybody don’t talk about the courier. And the reason he knew he said that, of course, is because we were monitoring him. And the only reason we could monitor him is because he was in our detention, not in somebody else’s.

Back over to The Hill:

“Whether one may think of the CIA’s former detention and interrogation program, we should all agree that there should be no turning back to the era of torture,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who led the push to release the report last year, said on the Senate floor shortly before the vote.

The practices “corrode our moral standing, and ultimately they undermine any counterterrorism policies they are intended to support,” she added.

I’d say it’s more the hyperbole and hysteria narrative that distorted and conflated abu Ghraib, other military abuses, Guantanamo, and the CIA RDI that did obtain a wealth of information on al Qaeda.

McCain, who was tortured as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, has long been a vocal critic of the CIA’s interrogation practices and spoke passionately against them on Tuesday.

“I know from personal experience that abuse of prisoners does not provide good, reliable intelligence,” he said. “I firmly believe that all people, even captured enemies, are protected by basic human rights.”

I agree with Senator McCain (suspend for a moment that McCain himself eventually broke and gave some factual information to his captors). I disagree with his perception of the CIA RDI Program. Read more on my respectful disagreement with McCain. I think the fact that he has personal experience in detention and torture has been a liability, not personal, expert testimony in objectively assessing the CIA enhanced interrogation techniques for what they are and not what they’re perceived to have been.

The Senate is scheduled to hold a procedural vote on the NDAA, which gives a blueprint for the nation’s defense powers, on Tuesday afternoon.

God help us all.

Opposition from some Democrats, however, could stall the bill. Some Democratic lawmakers object to GOP leaders’ use of budget maneuvers that they say skirt congressional budget caps on defense spending while keeping them in place for nondefense funds.

Um…..go Dems? Maybe.

8 Responses to “Senate Votes to Ban Torture”

  1. 1

    Msssgeee

    You wanna talk ‘redundant?’ How about all the Benghazi investigations which have found nothing even when they were conducted by Republicons. How about the billions spend on repealing Obamacare? How about the vote the GOP stages every few years to prevent the government for paying for abortions-when they NEVER did!

    Grow up.

  2. 2

    Nathan Blue

    @Msssgeee: Please see the Bush Lied, et al, Democratic psychosis that continues to infect the minds of millions. These people believe “Bush lied” instead of going to war the legal way, as opposed to the highly moral move of summarily executing people with no-mess drone attacks…letting the world go to hell rather than making tough decisions (the GOP will clean up the mess, as they often have to). They also believe we tortured people, when we did not. These people will suspend reality to convince you of the propaganda-led one they swallowed.

    Grow up…

    …or just go f*cking die.

    Either way.

  3. 3

    john

    Waterboarding was only one of the many types of torture. If you would like you can also see how many times people died under American torture. Probably the most disturbing thing to me personally was when Iraqi Shia under the control of and with Americans present video taped Iraqi boys being raped while their mothers were forced to watch. This was done to persuade their fathers who were wanted high level Iraqi generals to surrender themselves. Of course this is also one of the reasons that we now have ISIS. Perhaps you would like to reread the report done by Maj Gen Taguba that may indicate what “torture” is.

  4. 6

    Randy

    @john: Are you off your meds again John? We don’t want you to hurt yourself. Maybe you should get back into therapy. Your hallucinations may give the readers here the wrong impression that you are one of those radical liberals.

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