Three events, occuring within days of each other, have revealed a growing impotency by the Obama administration on the world stage. Two have received wide press -Scotland’s release of the convicted Lockerbie bomber, and the O’admin’s puzzling change of heart by refusing to futher contest the ACLU’s FOIA demand that the WH release the CIA EIT detailed report on interrogation techniques. The third is a story running silent, running deep – the ongoing fate of Gitmo detainees, quietly released, using US judicial standards for evidence.
It was on the 20th of August that Curt posted on the return of the Lockerbie convicted bomber to a hero’s welcome. As Obama was busy in the news, condemning Scotland, his admin was launching an assault on our own by releasing redacted details on our CIA’s EIT methods for AG Eric Holder to use as fodder for potential prosecution. But then, slipping under the radar of almost all but the former USS Cole Commander, was a quiet story speaking out about the return of AQ member Gitmo grad, Mohammed Jawad, to Afghanistan.
The three combined events do indeed document a “change” in tone by this administration when it comes to the “overseas operations contingencies”. But it also highlights our deteriorating relationships with, heretofore, close allies. The question now is whether that tone “change” is in the best interests of US national security.
Curt posted on the hero’s welcome (as linked above). And by the 25th, was pondering the Iran connection. Certainly it’s no surprise that Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi proclaimed his innocence all along. If indeed he was a sacrificial lamb, offered up by Iran, there may be more to that angle of the story as time goes on. But al-Megrahi’s guilt or innocence is not the point of my particular examination of the Lockerbie events.
Rather, the Lockerbie bomber release is the quintessential example of our POTUS being ineffectual with our allies on a very important issue. Obama failed to persuade either UK’s Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, or even their Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, to appeal to the Scottish judicial system to hold a convicted terrorist.
Ken Blackwell is asking if the Obama admin actually green-lighted Meghri’s release in his op-ed appearing on the Fox News site. This becomes even more ironic when you consider that Blackwell is a senior fellow at the Family Research Council and the
ACLU ACRU … (American Civil Rights Union… excuse the original typo please)… a group that normally confines itself to American civil liberties and monitoring of judicial nominees, judges, and legal organizations – not international foreign relations.
We simply do not know of any subterfuge from this most “transparent” administration. (yes, Virginia… that was sarcasm…) What we do know is that on August 18th, Obama mouthpiece, Robert Gibbs, was insisting that Obama believed he should remain to die in that Scottish jail. Joining that sentiment were the usual power houses… SOS Clinton, and more than a few Congressional Democrat powerhouse leaders. All to no avail.
Robert Gibbs, a spokesman for the US President, said: “It’s the policy of this administration that this individual should serve out his term where he’s serving it right now.”
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has already called Scottish justice secretary Keny MacAskill to urge that Megrahi serve out his term in Scotland.
And seven US senators, including Edward Kennedy and John Kerry, have written to MacAskill urging him to keep Megrahi, 57, behind bars.
The White House statement came hours after a court heard Megrahi may be close to death and wants to spend his last few hours with his family in Libya.
We also know that the hoopla that constituted al-Megrahi’s reception was condemned by the POTUS as “highly objectionable”. And, in an effort to make a bad situation more palatable, has insisted that Libya keep al-Megrahi under house arrest for his remaining days.
Needless to say, all Obama’s pleas, warnings, suggestions – whatever you may call his public “tut tut’s” – have fallen on deaf ears. No one… not the UK, nor Scotland, or even Libya gave Obama more than a second glance.
If, indeed, Obama did give a covert blessing to the release of al-Megrahi to either Scotland or the UK, he is taking a page from the playbook of Pakistan’s Musharraf… who constantly gave the silent nod for US bombings, while publicly condemning them to his enraged Pakistani countrymen.
Mr. Blackwell will ponder a long time as to Obama’s involvement in this event. Obama is unlikely to admit he supported it, despite his public condemnation, because he scores no humanity points with common citizens all over the world.
Then again … if genuine in his outrage… Obama now finds himself completely impotent of influence over what was a very strong US-UK relationship during the prior administrations of both countries. I can’t believe Obama’s poor choice of diplomatic gifts, cool snubbing, or the return of the Churchhill bust played into this complete disconnect between leaders of two of the strongest western civilization on an issue of this magnitude.
But I do know that while Obama publicly “condemns”, PM Gordon Brown and David Miliband remain strangely quiet. Both refuse to express any opinions on Scotland’s controversial decision, other than to say they (like Obama) deplored the Libyan hero’s welcome.
The Foreign Sec’y and PM are, of course, not granted any particular authority over the Scottish judicial system. England and Wales have one judicial system, the Scots another, and the Northern Irish a third. There is an exception. But that common law also happens to lie in common immigration and asylum laws, as well as special tribunals.
There is also the swirling stories in the UK press of Britain’s denial of rumours they struck a deal with Moammar Gadhafi, combined with the Scottish government’s refusal to provide details of the doctor’s expertise and qualifications on al-Megrahi’s medical condition, as demanded by UK’s Labour and Conservative pols.
All in all, this “compassionate” decision by the Scottish courts, the rumours of back room deals, sketchy medical details by potentially unqualified physicians, and the bigwigs’ silence sniffs of suspicion. If the Sec’y, the PM and Parliament wielded (or refused to wield) no political influence over Scotland, we can also say they demonstrated no interest to pursue common judicial systems that may possibly been used to keep al-Megrahi in jail either.
Either way, Obama has been left in the cold – alone in his insistence that al-Megrahi remain imprisoned. This leaves him standing alone on the foreign stage, unacknowledged by our western allies, and his opinions considered virtually irrelevant.
It’s entirely possible that the UK refused to hear Obama’s opinions on al-Megrahi’s release since his hypocrisy is simply overwhelming. Case in point…. on Monday, August 21st, Gitmo detainee, Mohammed Jawad, was returned to Kabul, Afghanistan… warmly welcomed by friends and families.
Out of the 229 Gitmo detainees, 26 have been released and returned to various locations, while five have remained – their detention upheld by federal judges.
Jawad was charged with the attempted murder of two US soldiers by a grenade. He confessed, but both a civilian and military judge decided the confession was coerced, and thereby could not be admissible as evidence.
According to the Summary of Evidence from the Defense Department**, six men recruited Jawad to clear Russian mines in Kabul, Afghanistan. “The detainee was affiliated with the Hazb-E-Islami organization,” the Pentagon report says. “The Hazb-E-Islami organization is a terrorist organization with long-established ties to [Osama] Bin Laden.”
[**Mata Musing: The linked summary contains profiles of 70+ detainees… Mohammed Jawad is on pg 52]
The Pentagon Summary of Evidence states that “The detainee attended training camp in late 2002 and received instruction on the AK-47, shoulder held rocket launchers, and grenades.”
It continues, “The detainee admits to telling terrorist organization associates that he would kill Northern Alliance and American forces,” and “The detainee was captured approximately 17 December 2002 in Kabul, Afghanistan while fleeing from the scene of a grenade attack targeting American soldiers.”
According to the Summary of Evidence, linked above in the blockquotes, Jawad is originally from Pakistan, and recruited while attending a local mosque. He attended a Jihad Madrassas, as well as a training camp in late 2002. How coincidental he was trained in rocket launchers and grenades, and also found fleeing the site of an attack of that nature.
Aside from the admissible status of his “confession” – supposedly coerced by some bizarre standards of what constitutes “torture” – this is clearly a man who’s history of associations on record dictate he should not be back on the streets of Kabul to take another aim at US or NATO soldiers. Nor should he be set free to resume his relationship with his Taliban Muslim comrades.
But there he is… released by US District Court Judge, Ellen Segal Huvelle, much to the pleasure of ACLU staff attorney Jonathon Hafetz. Why? Because “more evidence” was not presented within the designated time frame.
What is most interesting is just why the military and civilian judges decided that Jawad’s treatment was labeled “torture”. Most certainly, he was not one of those named as being waterboarded. Nor is his treatment outlined in the released Summary of Evidence. Was he the “victim” of cigar smoke? Diapers? Well, we just may find out.
What I predicted some time ago is happening today. Jawad – captured outside US soil, and never setting foot in the US – now having enjoyed jurisdiction by the US court system, is busy planning a lawsuit, alleging US soldiers made insults towards Islam and behaved in an “inhumane way.” One can only imagine where his proceeds may go… The US government, in their folly, may now unwittingly find themselves as direct Taliban terrorist sponsors.
It’s no surprise that, during the health care townhalls, Obama’s Martha’s Vineyard vacation, and the Lockerbie bomber’s release, this news should slip thru the cracks of a tunnel-visioned media’s coverage. In fact, the only voice raised in indignation came from former USS Cole Commander Kirk S. Lippold.
Though a federal court ordered the release, Lippold blames the Obama administration for not appealing the district court ruling. He argued politics were involved.
“If you want to close Guantanamo Bay and release as many people as possible, why would you want to present more evidence?” he said.
The bigger problem, he said, is the prevailing wisdom of combating terrorism under law enforcement rules.
“A federal judge views the world through the mind of what evidence standards are for a U.S. court of law,” Lippold said. “If we are going to impose that standard of evidence on our U.S. soldiers when they capture someone, we have lost the war.
“You can’t expect a private out there, just finishing a firefight, to lay down his weapon and pick up an evidence bag and ensure whatever evidence he gathered that the al Qaeda guy that just tried to capture or just tried to kill him is al Qaeda. To have that standard of evidence in order to detain battlefield terrorists is setting us up for failure.”
This is, in fact, the heart of Obama’s “non-policy” on Gitmo. He can quietly send home all but the most notorious that he cannot hide from the press, under the cover of more strict criminal court evidentiary criteria. Then simply blame the previous administration for holding “innocent men”. But are they so innocent?
This style of evasive governance by a POTUS has it’s repercussions. Obama’s credibility is eroded. He appears the foolish stooge on the world stage… morally insisting Scotland hold the Lockerbie bomber… when he allows the release of those known to have worked for, and been trained by the Taliban, and captured on the battlefield. If the standard is that there must substantial proof that Jawad, trained in RPGs, actually propelled the grenades himself, then even Lockerbie’s al-Megrahi’s evidence could be questioned… which was his six degrees of separation from a MST-13 timer.
All of which begs the question, just what will it take to convict an obvious enemy combatant using the US judicial system evidentiary criteria? And what demands does this make of our troops in the battlefield?
But Cmdr. Lippold has made an even more serious point… why would Obama – bent on keeping his promise to close Gitmo – make much of an effort to detain and prosecute detainees when it’s easier to just throw it all out, and send them back to the battlefield? Which brings me to my last event showing Obama’s foreign policy/jihad impotence…
It’s an odd (or not…) coincidence that the release of the CIA interrogation techniques to the public, plus the Obama admin announcement that the WH would be assuming top dog position on future interrogations with “interrogation czars”, occurred almost simultaneously to Jawad’s return to Afghanistan. The power shift in interrogations away from the CIA and to the WH was a coindence that did not go unnoticed by the former USS Cole commander.
After many Democrats and some Republican lawmakers called the Central Intelligence Agency’s interrogation techniques such as playing loud music and waterboarding “torture,” President Barack Obama reassigned interrogation responsibilities from the CIA to the National Security Council – which is run out of the White House, the Washington Post first reported.
“They are taking a page right out of the Lyndon Johnson Vietnam playbook, where it’s ‘let’s run things right out of the White House on a day-to-day basis, because we trust no one else in the government to be competent enough, talented enough or dedicated enough to be able to run a major war time effort,” former USS Cole Commander Kirk S. Lippold told CNSNews.com.~~~
The release of Mohammed Jawad and his return to Afghanistan is the latest of dangerous decision by the Obama administration, argued Lippold, a senior military fellow at Military Families United, an advocacy group for military families. Obama has pledged to shut down the controversial prison by January 2010.
“Now we are in the awkward position of judges, lawyers and everyone else thinking they now have a piece of this legal pie with respect to detainees, when in fact the administration has no policy in place; they have no plan for how to deal with the detainees in Gunatanomo Bay,” Lippold said.
Some will say the Helgerson Report (see below docTOC) is another Obama/Axelrod “distraction” meant to pull the media focus away from the heat of the health care debate. I’m not convinced of that “too easy”, or obvious explanation. Granted, it does give the media the opportunity to spread the focus.
However this refusal of the Obama admin to continue to appeal the ACLU’s insistence to expose detailed interrogation techniques has too many down sides for Obama. It becomes yet another Obama “broken promise” – to not to look back, but ahead. It was a President-elect Obama who commented during his vast run of Sunday talking head shows.
While strongly condemning the practices during his campaign, Obama has publicly signaled a reluctance to launch a formal inquiry that could, in the view of some advisers, undermine the agency’s effectiveness at a time when it is helping wage two foreign wars. In a televised interview Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” Obama said his “orientation’s going to be to move forward.”
“When it comes to national security, what we have to focus on is getting things right in the future, as opposed to looking at what we got wrong in the past,” he said.
Another drawback to this “distraction” is it adds yet another pothole to the already rocky road Obama has traveled in his first months with the CIA. First with his baffling pick of a bureacratic political figure, Leon Panetta. Then further acerbated by his decision to release the OLC memos in spring. Taking the CIA morale and mistrust to a new low, Obama had promised *not* to prosecute CIA interrogators.
So much for promises.
Now we have to compound that broken promise of “no prosecution” with Obama’s seizure of CIA authority, and creation of his interrogation czars – aka the HIG, or the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group – based within the FBI offices. Word is that the bureaucratic paperpusher, Panetta, is stepping up to the plate big time for the CIA, and going toe to toe with the admin. Rumours abound that he’s threatened to quit, and the WH has another, no doubt more pliable guppy, lined up for the gig. Time will tell.
But none of this can bode well for a POTUS at odds with our intel agency. First Obama’s sold us all some bridges to get elected, and now he’s making sure he burns them – agency by agency.
We can certainly attempt to give the Obama admin the benefit of the doubt and say that they insist on interrogation oversight and control in order to prevent the release of those like Jawad. But sans any “crime scene” evidence (which would require soldiers on the battlefield acting as law enforcement crime investigators in addition to warriors), we still run into the same end game realities. Sans a “smoking gun”, any interrogator – whether CIA or Obama appointee – must deal with the realities of the level of evidence required by the federal courts.
This leaves us only to question the motivation and dedication of the interrogators themselves. Instead of CIA operatives, who’s devotion to country and the desire to keep this nation safe is well known, we’ll now have a group of hired Obama guns who may think more about their job security and their boss’s image than results. So I wouldn’t expect much effort extended beyond plying detainees with Mickey D happy meals to gain intel.
When you examine Obama’s deliberate slap at the CIA, the threat of prosecutions, the seizure of power… combined with a steady stream of Gitmo detainees quietly being put on jets out of the country with lawyers’ business cards tucked in their pockets … Obama is castrating our ability to wage war on “overseas operations contingencies” by gutting our intel, the morale of our operatives, and making sure the WH is constantly looking over the agency’s shoulder.
It’s small wonder that Ghadafi merely shrugged off any Obama criticism or warnings that a hero’s welcome for al-Megrahi was inappropriate. Even the Libyan leader can see there’s a paper tiger at the helm, with little desire to wage war on the global Islamic jihad movements.
Instead, our enemies know they will not be pressured if caught. In fact, a clever terrorist will exploit Obama’s system by getting nabbed merely to get processed thru the US court system, then filing for a cash settlement to add to their jihad coffers.
Our western allies don’t bat an eye at the POTUS utterings. And our CIA, no longer in charge of one of their prime directives – obtaining intelligence from detainees – are instead waiting for the doorbell to ring by the court summons servers.
All these actions send a very clear message to our western allies, as well as to our enemies. To return to a pre-911 mentality would be an improvement over this impotence our Commander in Chief demonstrates to the world today.
2004 CIA Inspector General Report on Torture –
Vietnam era Navy wife, indy/conservative, and an official California escapee now residing as a red speck in the sea of Oregon blue.