Saturday, April 18, 2009


This fail blog video seems like the right way to start this torture thread:

Accountability for Torture is Less Important than Building Political Consensus

I’m strongly inclined, in many respects, to agree with Glenn Greenwald and Michael O’Hare that the Obama administration’s unwillingness to really hold anyone accountable for illegal torture during the Bush years is setting a very bad precedent. I won’t restate the argument, because I think it’s pretty clear how it works, but read Greenwald & O’Hare if you want to see it well-stated.

I think the counter-evidence comes from post-communist Eastern and Central Europe. But especially from “central” Europe—the former Soviet satellite states that are now pretty successful liberal democracies. Places like the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, etc. If you look at these countries you’ll see that in many instances there’s been shockingly little accountability for Communist-era crimes. The general pattern is that opposition governments were elected in 1989 or 90, and then in the mid-nineties members of the old regime came back into power with their parties rebranded as social democratic parties. In Romania the pattern was different in that the former regime people came to power right away then lost power in the mid-nineties and then came back in in 2000.

But in no case did you have a really thorough investigation and punishment for past misdeeds. And that hasn’t led to a comeback of totalitarianism.

What you did have, though, was the establishment of a clear national political consensus about certain things. People largely agreed that Russian domination was bad, that Communism was bad, that joining the West was good, that elections were good and that whatever might have happened in the past there was no going back. This was different from the situation in Russia, where there was always the sense that the end of Communism was tied up with the idea of Russia “losing” a geopolitical struggle. And it’s also different from what’s emerging in the United States where there’s a continuing sense of partisanship—Democrats say torture is wrong, Republicans say torture is good, so the media talks about “contorversial” “interrogation tactics” and everyone knows that in the event of a new terrorist attack conservative politicians will run, aggressively, on an assertive pro-torture platform.

That’s a very grave problem. But that is the real problem that needs a solution. We need to find ways to politically delegitimize torture, to help build bridges to people who may disagree with us about tax rates or abortion or even the wisdom of bombing North Korea about the point that torture is wrong, shouldn’t have been done in the past, and shouldn’t be done in the future. And, importantly, about the point that torture actually shouldn’t be done—that you shouldn’t be looking for loopholes in anti-torture rules and seeing legal prohibitions on torture as a big hassle.

Sully: The Contortions Of The Torture Defenders

A reader writes:

The comments by your dissenting reader and Abe Greenwald both contain a typical point made by the pro- "coercive interrogation" crowd. Namely, that the techniques used in the interrogations are not only not torture, but that they are barely mild annoyances, and that it's ludicrous to be making a fuss about them. Some have even gone so far as to apply that characterization to waterboarding, calling it merely a "splash in the face" or a "dunk in the water".

What bothers me about this viewpoint is that if these techniques are so harmless, then how do they even work?

If a face slap is not big deal, then how does it result in information? If putting an insect in a cage with a prisoner is something to laugh about, why are they insisting that it works? Do they really imagine that enemy prisoners with incredible, ticking time-bomb information fold so easily?

Or might it take an extra slap or two? Maybe a bit harder to get to a level that is tougher to withstand? Maybe a few days with no sleep? Still nothing? Ok, then perhaps a stress position as well? Hey, are we getting some weeping? Good, now we're getting somewhere.

Step by step, pushing harder ever more slightly. Until the prisoner breaks, and we get some information. And if the prisoner doesn't break? Then we simply push even harder. After all, our country is at stake, right?

And this leads me to my second point. In the Hayden and Mukasey article today, they make a point that these interrogations are about getting information, not confessions. But what if the captive doesn't have the intelligence we want or has already told us all he knows? If he says he has no further information, do we believe him? Or do we start pushing a little, to see what else might be there? And when that yields nothing, what then? If we truly believe this person has critical intelligence, can we stop?

The soviets used these techniques to elicit false confessions. That is what they were designed for.

  • Think Progress: Limbaugh’s Proof That Torture Works: McCain Was ‘Broken By The North Vietnamese’

    On his radio show yesterday, Rush Limbaugh responded to the Obama administration’s release of four of the OLC torture memos with a full-throated defense of of torture and its effectiveness for gathering useful intelligence. As evidence of the effectiveness of torture, Limbaugh noted that — in his speech to the Republican National Convention last summer — Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said the North Vietnamese “broke” him while he was a POW. Limbaugh suggested that in saying the North Vietnamese “broke” him, McCain was saying that torture worked:

    LIMBAUGH: The idea that torture doesn’t work– that’s been put out from John McCain on down– You know, for the longest time McCain said torture doesn’t work then he admitted in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention last summer that he was broken by North Vietnamese. So what are we to think here?

    Watch it:

    This is not the first time Limbaugh has claimed that McCain’s remarks about his experience with torture proves its effectiveness. But just like the last time, Limbaugh is wrong.

    With regard to his speech to the RNC, McCain explained that after refusing an offer of early release, North Vietnamese soldiers “worked me over harder than they ever had before. For a long time. And they broke me.” While McCain did not go in to detail during his speech, he explained in his memoir Faith of my Fathers that the information he gave the Vietnamese after being “broken” was out of date, fabricated, or of little use to his captors:

    Eventually, I gave them my ship’s name and squadron number, and confirmed that my target had been the power plant. Pressed for more useful information, I gave the names of the Green Bay Packers’ offensive line, and said they were members of my squadron. When asked to identify future targets, I simply recited the names of a number of North Vietnamese cities that had already been bombed.

    Elsewhere in his memoir, McCain recalled providing false information to his captors on multiple occasions in order to “suspend the abuse.” Further, McCain explained in a 2005 Newsweek column that he believed torture would yield little actionable intelligence. “In my experience, abuse of prisoners often produces bad intelligence because under torture a person will say anything he thinks his captors want to hear — whether it is true or false — if he believes it will relieve his suffering,” McCain wrote.

    McCain was right. As the Washington Post reported last month, the torture of Abu Zubaida — who was once thought to be a high-level AQI operative — did not foil “a single significant plot” and provided the CIA with a number of “false leads.” “We spent millions of dollars chasing false alarms,” one former intelligence official told the Post. Further, “most of the useful information from Abu Zubaida — chiefly names of al-Qaeda members and associates — was obtained before waterboarding was introduced.”

    Update: Media Matters notes that a another point during his program today, Limbaugh began slapping himself to mock anyone who believed slapping detainees in U.S. custody qualified as mistreatment. "I just slapped myself. I'm torturing myself right now. That's torture according to these people," Limbaugh said.

Yglesias: The Uselessness of Torture

Scott Shane for The New York Times reports on the non-existent value of torturing Abu Zubayda:

The first use of waterboarding and other rough treatment against a prisoner from Al Qaeda was ordered by senior Central Intelligence Agency officials despite the belief of interrogators that the prisoner had already told them all he knew, according to former intelligence officials and a footnote in a newly released legal memorandum. [...] Abu Zubaydah had provided much valuable information under less severe treatment, and the harsher handling produced no breakthroughs, according to one former intelligence official with direct knowledge of the case. Instead, watching his torment caused great distress to his captors, the official said.

The specific information is good to have. But one doesn’t really need to peer too deeply into a specific case to know that institutionalized torture is not an effective investigative method.

In abstract terms, trained interrogators already have decent methods for getting accurate information out of prisoners. Subjecting the prisoner to coercion, physical suffer, and mental torment can certain get someone to say more things but the very fact that the “things” were coerced out of the captive by torture limits their value. You’ll almost certainly get him to say some accurate stuff. He might, for example, correctly insist that he doesn’t know anything more. But he’ll also say all kinds of inaccurate stuff. He’ll say whatever he thinks will get you to stop torturing him.

In historical terms, you don’t look back on the Spanish Inquisition or on Stalin’s Russia and say man, those guys had some crack investigators! Rather, you see that historically the function of torture has been to extract false confessions and to inspire a general climate of fear.

  • More from Shane's: Divisions Arose on Rough Tactics for Qaeda Figure

    His interrogation, according to multiple accounts, began in Pakistan and continued at the secret C.I.A. site in Thailand, with a traditional, rapport-building approach led by two F.B.I. agents, who even helped care for him as his gunshot wounds healed.

    Abu Zubaydah gave up perhaps his single most valuable piece of information early, naming Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, whom he knew as Mukhtar, as the main organizer of the 9/11 plot.

    A C.I.A. interrogation team that arrived a week or two later, which included former military psychologists, did not change the approach to questioning, but began to keep him awake night and day with blasting rock music, have his clothes removed and keep his cell cold.

    The legal basis for this treatment is uncertain, but lawyers at C.I.A. headquarters were in constant touch with interrogators, as well as with Mr. Bybee’s subordinate in the Office of Legal Counsel, John C. Yoo, who was drafting memos on the legal limits of interrogation.

    Through the summer of 2002, Abu Zubaydah continued to provide valuable information. Interrogators began to surmise that he was not a leader, but rather a helpful training camp personnel clerk who would arrange false documents and travel for jihadists, including Qaeda members.

    He knew enough to give interrogators “a road map of Al Qaeda operatives,” an agency officer said. He also repeated talk he had heard about possible plots or targets in the United States, though when F.B.I. agents followed up, most of it turned out to be idle discussion or preliminary brainstorming.

    At the time, former C.I.A. officials say, his tips were extremely useful, helping to track several other important terrorists, including Mr. Mohammed.

    But senior agency officials, still persuaded, as they had told President George W. Bush and his staff, that he was an important Qaeda leader, insisted that he must know more.

    “You get a ton of information, but headquarters says, ‘There must be more,’ ” recalled one intelligence officer who was involved in the case. As described in the footnote to the memo, the use of repeated waterboarding against Abu Zubaydah was ordered “at the direction of C.I.A. headquarters,” and officials were dispatched from headquarters “to watch the last waterboard session.”

    The memo, written in 2005 and signed by Steven G. Bradbury, who worked in the Office of Legal Counsel, concluded that the waterboarding was justified even if the prisoner turned out not to know as much as officials had thought.

    And he did not, according to the former intelligence officer involved in the Abu Zubaydah case. “He pleaded for his life,” the official said. “But he gave up no new information. He had no more information to give.”

    Abu Zubaydah’s own account, given in 2006 to the International Committee of the Red Cross, corroborates that what he called “the real torturing,” including waterboarding, began only “about two and a half or three months” after he arrived at the secret site, according to the group’s 2007 report.

Sully: Zubaydah: First Blood

His story is well known by now. Wiki's entry on him is here. if you have not read Ron Suskind's "One Percent Solution", it's time you did. The significant Washington Post piece is here. The critical thing to remember is that the first person to be subjected to the torture program was not the person Bush and Cheney thought he was, gave up lots of useful (and accurate) information under traditional interrogation techniques, had no information that came close to the "ticking time bomb" criterion used to justify the torture program ... and was brutally tortured anyway. More to the point, the idea that CIA officers were begging to use these torture methods is nonsense. They were forced to do so by higher ups. And all of this took place before they had even instructed Bybee and Yoo to construct patently bad faith legal defenses for all of it. Money quote:

[T]he harsher handling produced no breakthroughs, according to one former intelligence official with direct knowledge of the case. Instead, watching his torment caused great distress to his captors, the official said. Even for those who believed that brutal treatment could produce results, the official said, “seeing these depths of human misery and degradation has a traumatic effect.”

And what was the effect of this very dramatic and clear first foray into the dark side? It was not to reassess and pull back, given the horror and failure of the first act of torture; it was to press on, get legal cover, and set up a program to finesse and intensify torture. Part of the problem is that the president had already bragged in public that Zubaydah was a central figure, and Ron Suskind has argued that the torture was ordered in part to save Bush's face. Tenet denies that strongly. If it's true, then president Bush, if he still has a conscience, must have a hard time sleeping at night.

Torture, you come to realize, was the tip of the spear of the Bush-Cheney war on terror. After first blood, they sharpened it.

John Cole: The Newest Line of Bullshit

Fran Townsend is on CNN trotting out a new line of bullshit, and that is releasing the memos was bad because now the CIA will no longer be trusted by our allies because we can’t keep a secret. These people have no shame.

Also, I will note that for whatever reason, the libertarians over at Reason have multiple hissy fits up about the DHS report from the other day, several stories up about pirates, a couple about pot, and the only mention of the real issue of the day (one would think) for libertarians, the OLC memos detailing how we tortured people, is in a link round-up.

Because you have to have priorities, you know. They do manage to execute a near flawless Cavuto Mark in their current top story, though: “Obama on Warrantless Surveillance: As Bad As Bush? Worse?”

Remember- they aren’t saying he is as bad as Bush or worse, they are just asking! I can’t believe I read Reason for all those years. What a joke.

I will defend them on one account- if you consider the number of people tortured because of those memos and the number of people impinged upon by our immoral and insane drug laws, there is a much larger net loss of liberty (if you could neatly quantify liberty) by our marijuana laws. It isn’t even close. So I do give those guys credit for never wavering on that front. But jeeebus. Torture. No thoughts in the past 48 hours on the memos?

*** Update ***

Can someone come up with an angle on how the OLC memos prove Obama is worse than Bush? Then maybe we can get the folks at Reason to notice the memos.

Response ability April 17: Former Bush administration officials are criticizing the Obama administration for releasing top-secret 'torture memos.' Four former CIA directors even lobbied Obama not to release them. What do they say that is so incriminating? Rachel Maddow is joined by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-FL.

Cognitive Dissonance

I have long thought the above thought would make a dandy bumper sticker. I think Gail Collins would too.

Gail Collins (NYTs): Twitters From Texas

Let us pause to consider Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, and his feelings about seceding from the union.

This all started during the recent anti-tax protests. You undoubtedly saw the pictures of the demonstrations full of people wearing teabags or tricorner hats who kept comparing themselves to the founding fathers at the Boston Tea Party. True, when it comes to taxation without representation, they were slightly different from colonial New Englanders on the minor point of having representation. But let’s not be picky.

Have you ever noticed that the states where anti-tax sentiment is strongest are frequently the same states that get way more back from the federal government than they send in? Alaska gets $1.84 for every tax dollar it sends to Washington, which is a rate of return even Bernard Madoff never pretended to achieve. Yet there they were in Ketchikan waving “Taxed Enough Already!” signs and demanding an end to federal spending.

Also, have you noticed how places that pride themselves on being superpatriotic seem to have the most people who want to abandon the country entirely and set up shop on their own?

“What a great crowd,” Perry twittered, referring to the protesters he addressed in Austin, some of whom were waving American flags and yelling “Secede!”

Afterward, he told reporters that Texas had come into the union with a unique right “to leave if we decided to do that.” This is a beloved piece of state folklore despite its unfortunate drawback of being totally untrue.

“My hope is that America and Washington in particular pays attention,” Perry continued. “We’ve got a great union. There’s absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, who knows what may come of that.”

Later, while Perry was holding another press conference after signing a bill extolling states rights, he repeated the part about this being “a great union” but then said that he understood the secessionists’ feelings.

This is not exactly a ringing endorsement. It’s as if your spouse pointedly noted that it’s extremely easy to dissolve marriages these days, then added that although he was not currently advocating a divorce, he certainly understood why other people who knew you both might think it was a good idea.

And what about my country, right or wrong? Weren’t there complaints, some from Texan quarters, during the last election that Barack Obama seemed insufficiently up front about his love of country? Isn’t threatening to dissolve the union over the stimulus package a little less American than failure to wear a flag pin?

Remember the time when Michelle Obama said, in a moment she spent an entire campaign trying to take back, that 2008 was the first time she could remember ever feeling really proud of her country? Can you imagine how the conservative base would have reacted if she said that it was the first time she didn’t feel like renouncing her citizenship?

And how, by the way, can you stand at a rally waving the American flag while yelling “Secede”? It’s like an employer handing out “worker of the week” certificates to employees who just learned that he was moving the plant to Mexico.

Can’t feel the love.

Perry, who is the sort of person who calls other guys “dude,” used to be a cotton farmer, a group that seems to have a special talent for combining rugged individualism with intransigent demands for government assistance. Even as we speak, the Obama administration budget-cutters are trying to end a longstanding federal practice of paying the costs of storing the entire national cotton crop every year. No other farmers get this kind of special treatment, and I am sure Perry’s failure to mention it when he calls for an end to corporate bailouts is a terrible oversight that will be corrected immediately.

The big mystery here is why the tax-protest crowds were behaving as if the world was coming to an end when all Obama’s infant presidency has done is lower taxes for a vast majority of the public. And why people like Perry seem to feel compelled to egg them on.

The answer is that what’s left of the Republican Party is intent on cutting off the knees of the administration before it actually manages to fulfill any campaign promises on reducing the huge economic gap between the top 5 percent of the country and the rest of the populace. In pursuit of that mission, fortune favors the hysterical and rewards politicians who behave like gerbils that just bit into an electric wire.

We don’t want to blame all Texans for the high jinks in Austin. It’s a state full of lovely people, three-fourths of whom, according to a recent Rasmussen Reports poll, have no desire whatsoever to secede from the United States.

But Perry really understands how that other quarter feels.

What Stuart Said ...

Interesting thread at Swampland yesterday. In the hopes that we can continue a discussion from that expired thread here, I'm reposting a few key comments here.

  1. stuartzechman Says:

    It's not crazy to have a problem with welfare when you feel like you're doing a bunch of paying for it, even if rich people who don't really feel it in their paychecks are paying for it, too.
    It's really key that we communicate that we aren't a bunch of spoiled little college kids trying to right all of the wrongs of the world at our parents' expense --because we're not. It's super important that we understand the difference between the complete idiots who can't see the difference between their own dependence on the welfare state and what they're railing against --who the Republican Party depends on for reliable votes-- and normal people who haven't really understood the idea that a rising tide lifts all boats, and that they're helping themselves.
    Issues of fairness and freedom are supposed to be what Democrats and liberals understand best. We can't abandon people to their own ignorant fantasy world, in which they construct all kinds of imaginary injustices out of real ones. In other words, we can't abandon folks to Republican standard operating procedure.
    The Republicans have been able to take real injustices and manufacture fake ones. These guys aren't talking about what's being done to them now, they're talking about where things are headed. They've bought the idea that things are going to be really unfair to them, because the Republicans are selling the idea that the people who are in charge now don't like them, and don't understand them because of who they are.
    Some people are just f*cking idiots, and there's nothing we can do about it, except to make damn sure that they don't get into political power in any capacity, be it school board, President of the United States, dogcatcher, whatever. Lots of people aren't, though, and we need to be able to tell the difference.

  1. rmrd Says:

    The problem with the folks who are not idiots, is that many have reached a comfort zone of beliefs that are difficult to penetrate.
    If you are watching Fox News, reading the Washington Times or NY Post, listening to Rush Limbaugh, and using Drudge Report or Newsmax as your home page, there will have to be a large effort expended to make you receptive to an alternative POV.
    It seems about 25-35% of the country is hard core in their beliefs about Democrats, gay rights, abortion, etc. These are truly core beliefs. The only response for Liberals is to put the actual facts in play, but I wouldn't expect the hard core group to change their political perspective.
    Ms. Wilder would not consider herself a leech on society because she worked hard to earn the benefits. It is the other folks who are slackers.

  2. 53_3 Says:

    "It seems about 25-35% of the country is hard core in their beliefs about Democrats, gay rights, abortion, etc. These are truly core beliefs."
    In our current media climate, one can pick and choose what one wants to listen to, and with the Fairness Doctrine no longer in the way, one never has to hear anything that would be contrary to the opinions they form.
    It's like a cult, nothing goes in unless vetted by the leader. I'm sure that everyone has noticed that right wing websites are rigidly moderated, and all other websites fill the remainder of the spectrum form totally free to loosely moderated.

  3. wvng Says:

    rmrd, Matt Taibbi spoke to your pont the other day. Via sgw:
    The really irritating thing about these morons is that, guaranteed, not one of them has ever taken a serious look at the federal budget. Not one has ever bothered to read an actual detailed study of what their taxes pay for. All they do is listen to one-liners doled out by tawdry Murdoch-hired mouthpieces like Michelle Malkin and then repeat them as if they're their own opinions five seconds later. That's what passes for political thought in this country. Teabag on, you fools.

  4. wvng Says:

    SZ: We can't abandon people to their own ignorant fantasy world, in which they construct all kinds of imaginary injustices out of real ones. In other words, we can't abandon folks to Republican standard operating procedure.
    I agree completely, but I don't know what the remedy is. Many on the right have been conditioned, for a long time, to viscerally mistrust or actively avoid any information that comes from other than their trusted sources- Faux News, Limbaugh, et al. We all know them, and the shell is pretty thick. There is no way to penetrate that shell via mass media, because they are conditioned to ignore it. So you have to do it by ones and twos.
    And most people aren't equipped with both the accurate information and the delivery skills to make a dent against paid propagandists.

  5. stuartzechman Says:

    I don't know what the remedy is
    The remedy that's been suggested by Barack Obama is to talk to them like they're human beings after you're done making sure that they can't harm the country by defeating them politically. That also means making an effort to understand them and how they think, instead of taking refuge in self-congratulatory mockery. It means being better than them when we become more powerful. It means living up to our ideas. It means making an effort not to laugh at them for the wrong reasons. It means being vigilant against hubris, tribalism and exceptionalism. It means making an effort, period.
    I like to think that this is my approach, too.

  6. rmrd Says:

    Part of treating people like they are human beings is pointing out when they say something truly outrageous. If spob calls someone a "nut" or "dummie", you can ask that spob use different language to get a Conservative idea across. I have done this in the past. However, if spob gets responses using negative language identical in tone to that offered by spob, it should not be surprising. Human
    nature is to respond in kind. Many Swamplanders temporarily suspend communication with spob or others because the Swamplander realizes the downward spiral of the online communication.
    There is a difference in how people interact in a face to face situation, and the interaction that happens on a blog. I have a very Conservative friend who often enters into a conversation on a political issue just to get me upset. It is not really malicious, but a way for him to change the pace of the day. I initiate political conservations as well. We discuss the issue. No voices are raised, and the conversation ends with both of us laughing about how misguided the other person seems to be. We have even ....gasp, broken bread together at a wine dinner and were able to finish the meal without a food or fist fight despite a political conversation.
    I think my experience is similar to other Swamplanders. The truly obnoxious Conservatives are avoided. You discuss issues with people you consider reasonable , but you realize that the person on the other side of the issue is not going to change their position on gay marriage, abortion, the stimulus package, or a host of other issues. We agree to disagree.
    The conversations help solidify why you believe what you believe, and the weaknesses in the argument being made by the other side. On rare occasions we actually agree on an issue.
    In short, blog-life like Second life, is very different from real life. The coarser words and tone will tend to be used in a blog.

  7. somepeoplelikeit Says:

    SZ, The remedy that's been suggested by Barack Obama is to talk to them like they're human beings
    Yes, in reality. But I remind you I live in Texas. They are not sure I'm a human being. Trying not to laugh in mockery is one thing, but I would be laughed at if I said Jesus wasn't coming back.
    But at least there are some minorities and honest white guys around, makes the day go by.

TPM's Zach Roth : Sleep Expert "Surprised And Saddened" To Find Research Twisted In Torture Memo

A British professor whose research on sleep was cited in one of the just-released Bush administration torture memos has expressed outrage that his work was used to justify extreme sleep deprivation, including keeping subjects awake for up to 11 days.

In an interview with TPMmuckraker, James Horne, a leading authority in the field of sleep research, said he was "surprised and saddened" to see Bush officials "misrepresent" his research to argue that such sleep deprivation does not cause serious harm to its subjects.

In one of the Office of Legal Counsel memos released yesterday, authored in May 2005, DOJ official Steven Bradbury wrote:

We understand from OMS, and from our review of the literature on the physiology of sleep, that even very extended sleep deprivation does not cause physical pain, let alone severe physical pain. "The longest studies of sleep deprivation in humans ... involved volunteers [who] were deprived of sleep for 8-11 days ... Surprisingly little seemed to go wrong with the subjects physically. The main effects lay with sleepiness and impaired brain functioning, but even these were no great cause for concern." James Horne, Why We Sleep: The Functions Of Sleep in Humans and Other Mammals 23-24 (1988).

Bradbury continues, quoting Horne again:

We note that there are important differences between sleep deprivation as an interrogation technique used by the CIA and the controlled experiments documented in the literature. The subjects of the experiments were free to move about and engage in normal activities and often led a "tranquil existence" with "plenty of time for relaxation" ... whereas a detainee in CIA custody would be shackled and prevented from moving freely. Moreover, the subjects in the experiments often increased their food consumption during periods of extended sleep loss ... whereas the detainee undergoing interrogation may be placed on a reduced-calorie diet, as discussed above. Nevertheless, we understand that experts who have studied sleep deprivation have concluded that "the most plausible reason for the uneventful physical findings with these human beings is that ... sleep loss is not particularly harmful."

Informed by TPMmuckraker that his work had been put to this use, Horne -- who heads the Sleep Research Centre, at Loughborough University in Leicestershire, U.K. -- was indignant. He explained the crucial difference between his controlled experiments, in which subjects were under no additional stress, and the CIA's use of sleep deprivation on interrogation subjects.

"As soon as you add in any other stress, any other psychological stress, then the sleep deprivation feeds on that, and the two compound each other to make things far worse. I made that very, very clear," he said. "And there's been a lot of research by others since then to show that this is the case."

As for whether such stress could be considered "harmful," Horne was unequivocal. "I thought it was totally inappropriate to cite my book as being evidence that you can do this and there's not much harm. With additional stress, these people are suffering. It's obviously traumatic," he said. "I just find it absurd."

Further, Horne continued, sleep-deprived subjects become so confused that they're highly unlikely to offer useful intelligence. "I don't understand what you're going to get out of it," he said. "You can no longer think rationally, you just become more of an automaton ... These people will just be spewing nonsense anyway. It's pointless!"

In sum, said Horne, he feels "saddened" that the memo's author "didn't fully interpret what I actually wrote." The memo "distorts what I really meant, and I never meant for it to be, in any way, indicative that you could start torturing people in this way. That was not the intention at all."

Bradbury did not respond to an email from TPMmuckraker requesting comment.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Those Wacky Wingnuts: A Friday Evening Primer

QOTD, John Cole concluded, "And you know what? As stupid as that piece is, you can guarantee some wingnut will repeat it. Why? Because it has numbers in it, so it must be true. That is a veritable dissertation compared to the movement that brought us Liberal Fascism."

sgw says: I told you so Remember when a while back when I told you that Michele Bachmann and Glenn Beck flogging the "one world currency" meme was a dog whistle for the religious right implying that President Obama was the anti-Christ? Well here is confirmation.

I've decided there is no functional distinction between non elected wingnuts and Repuglican elected officials, so from here on out PRIVCORR will consider the words "wingnut" and "repuglican" to be interchangeable. For example, here's ...

AmericaBlog's Joe Sudbay (DC)
Today is the last day of the recess so Congress goes back in session next week. No doubt, the Republicans are going to be all charged up after their teabagging sessions. Teabagging is the only idea the GOP has had in years.

And, can you believe that the word "secession" is even being used? It just shows how extreme the GOP is. Seriously. Secession? It's beyond shocking -- and so 1861.

Yesterday, Obama was talking about high speed rail to insure the U.S. is a leader in the 21st century. Top Republicans are trying to figure out how to bring the U.S. back to the mid-1800s....
Gotta give it to them: Rasmussen knows how to chase those links. They've already finished a poll asking Texans whether they want to secede from the union. "If the matter was put to a vote, it wouldn’t even be close," says Rasmussen. "Three-fourths (75%) of Lone Star State voters would opt to remain in the United States. Only 18% would vote to secede, and seven percent (7%) are not sure what they'd choose."

I'd sort of figured all the secession talk yesterday was good fun. But so much as Rasmussen is impressed by the overwhelming majority opposing secession, I'm struck by the sizable minority supporting it. A full 18 percent of Texans want to leave the union? And seven percent more aren't sure? That means that one out of four Texans either doesn't want to be part of the United States of America or isn't sure. And yet it's we Californians who are always being accused of hating America...

Related: What would happen if Texas seceded?

  • Atrios about SUPERTRAINS: The Great Orange Satan writes: That Georgia network might be nice, but they want to secede, so send the money (and jobs and economic development) elsewhere.

It seems to me there was some talk a few years back about Hollywood celebrities who flirted the idea of leaving the United States if Bush/Cheney won. As I recall, this was widely ridiculed, and was seen as evidence that the entertainment industry was out of touch with American culture.

The argument, in a nutshell, was that any Americans who'd want to leave the country and stop being Americans must not love their country much. It's a pretty basic test of patriotism.

It's odd, then, to hear elected Republican officials casually throw around references to secession.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), who's been talking up the idea all week, tried to add some caveats yesterday to his secession talk:

"This is interesting that this has really kind of bubbled up, to uh... I refer people back to my statement, and I gotta a charge out of it. I was kinda thinking that, maybe the same people who hadn't been reading the Constitution right were reading that article and they got the wrong impression about what I said.

"Clearly, I stated that we have a great union. And Texas is part of a great union. I see no reason for that to change. I think that may not be the exact quote, but that is, in essence what I said."

Well, "essence" aside, what Perry actually said was that he saw "no reason" to "dissolve" the "union." He added, "But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, who knows what may come of that."

Forget "wrong impressions." What the elected chief executive of one of the nation's largest states is supposed to say is secession is ridiculous. That Perry has left it on the table only helps reinforce how completely batty some Republican officials have become. If the GOP wants to rejoin the American mainstream, the party needs to reject these absurdities out of hand. It's radical, fringe politics.

State Democratic lawmakers in Texas were not at all amused by Perry's nonsense, and hosted a press conference yesterday to denounce the governor's flirtation with madness. "Talk of secession is an attack on our country," one state representative said. "It can be nothing else. It is the ultimate anti-American statement."

Making matters slightly more ludicrous, Brian Beutler reported late yesterday that members of the Georgia Senate, the South Dakota House, and both chambers of the Oklahoma legislature have also unveiled non-binding resolutions on the nullification of the U.S. Constitution.

Remember, we're not talking about right-wing bloggers or radio talk-show hosts, but actual elected officials, and in Perry's case, a sitting governor.

All from the party that believes it has the moral high ground on patriotism and love of country.

Post Script: Just in case Texas decides to be its own country, Chuck Norris is interested in being its president. Seriously.

If at first you don't secede. April 16: Governor Rick Perry, R-TX, raised the idea of his state seceding from the union. Why is the Governor talking about this now? Rachel Maddow is joined by Wall Street Journal columnist Thomas Frank.

... in which there is much laughter.

Yglesias: Attacks on Rosa Brooks

Former LA Times columnist Rosa Brooks is going to work for Michele Flournoy in the defense department and now is being subject to attacks via some kind of right-wing email campaign being hyped up by The Weekly Standard. Taken out of the oppo writeup form, the basic case against Brooks seems to be that:

ONE: She thinks the Vietnam War was a mistake with tragic consequences for civilians across Southeast Asia.

TWO: She thinks the Bush administration’s pre-war statements about Iraq intelligence were misleading.

THREE: She thought the “surge” would not produce an enduring solution to Iraq’s political problems.

FOUR: She favors prosecuting terrorists in normal courts rather than kangaroo courts.

FIVE: She thinks George W. Bush was a generally crappy president.

With the exception of point four, I honestly don’t understand how anyone could even begin to disagree with any of this. On point four, the complaint amounts to something like “she supports the policy of the Obama administration, rather than the policy of the Republican Party.” But of course she does! To be honest, given that she was a pretty regular newspaper columnist and occasional blogger, I find it a bit shocking that they don’t have anything better on her. It’s hard to write on current affairs without occasionally saying something that’s totally wrong or incredibly dumb. But the right’s oppo team has come up with . . . nothing . . . other than that she’s not a conservative. Which is what happens when the conservative candidate loses an election and the new team comes in.

Beyond pettiness and sour grapes, one thing that comes through here is the extent to which the conservative movement just can’t quit George W. Bush. Nominally, the right’s new view is that Bush really was a bad president, but he was bad because he wasn’t conservative enough or something. But show a conservative a liberal who’s subjected Bush to the strongly-worded criticism he so richly deserves, and it’s like waving a cape in the face of a bull. Out comes the whole message operation, the smear machine, the whole deal to defend the sterling record of Bush, Bush’s policies, and the view that anyone who criticized them is borderline treasonous.


It's only fair to give Republicans credit for one of the party's strongest skills: manufacturing a controversy out of nothing. Turning molehills into mountains is an art, the GOP leaders -- in conjunction with their various allies -- are genuine masters.

This week's flap over a DHS report on potentially dangerous right-wing extremists is the best example of this, at least since the manufactured controversy over President Obama "apologizing" for American "arrogance." Which was the best manufactured controversy since the administration's plan to "cut" military spending. Which was the best since Obama "bowed." Which was the best since the "outrage" over the president using a teleprompter. Which was the best since conservatives bristled after seeing the president chuckle during a "60 Minutes" interview.

Consider this take from Oliver North, chatting with Sean Hannity about the DHS report last night:

"[H]ere's what's really disturbing about [the DHS report]. One is the intrusion into political thought in America that vilifies those of us who have subscribed to any of those, or guys like you and me that subscribe to all of them.

"Second of all, it's a twisted idea. They're saying that right-wing extremism is the number one threat to American safety and security. That means that if you're a Hamas organizer or a Hezbollah recruiter or a Somali terrorist trying to recruit suicide terrorists, you're lower on the totem pole in terms of scrutiny than a regular American citizen concerned about these things, to include, outrageously enough, American veterans who they think are a target for being radicalized."

This is so obviously ridiculous, it's a challenge counting all the errors. The DHS report doesn't "vilify" conservatives, unless North is prepared to argue that he and Hannity have embraced a extremist, borderline-violent ideology. The department isn't singling out people like North and Hannity; it prepared a similar report about left-wing radicals (curious that no one seems worked about that one).

When North complains about what "they're saying," he's referring to the Obama administration, which is also wrong, since the report in question was initiated and prepared by Bush administration officials. No one in any position of authority has ever said, in any context, that "right-wing extremism is the number one threat to American safety and security." And the only reason officials believe veterans might be "a target for being radicalized" because veterans are often a target for being radicalized.

Here's the thing: I suspect North and Hannity know their rhetoric is nonsense. Sure, they're pretty far gone, but they're not illiterate. No one is dumb enough to believe these arguments, not even these two.

Which is why I'm almost impressed with their act. I mean, really, how many days have these clowns kept this non-story alive?

The statue bit is interesting, but then Rachel corrects the record on Senator Burr, whose office has taken exception to her reporting - and that is priceless. The phrase - "does not suffer fools lightly" - comes to mind.

Make room for the 'Gipper' April 16: Ms. Information: Rachel Maddow reports on some stories that didn't make the front page, including how a bronze statue of former President Ronald Reagan is heading to the U.S. Capitol's Statuary Hall.


Rep. Mark Kirk, an Illinois Republican, told the Chicago Tribune on Wednesday that Gov. Pat Quinn's (D) plan to raise taxes would be unacceptable. "I think the people of Illinois are ready to shoot anyone who is going to raise taxes by that degree," Kirk said.

Now, I don't imagine Kirk was being literal. It's a figure of speech, not a sincere call for political violence. But given the recent gun tragedies, and the over-the-top nature of conservative Republican rhetoric of late, elected leaders probably shouldn't make jokes about shooting governors over policy disputes.

I assumed reporters would ask Kirk about this and he'd walk it back, chalking it up to a macabre sense of humor. I assumed wrong.

Congressman Mark Kirk is standing by his earlier comments that Illinois residents "are ready to shoot anyone who is going to raise taxes" as much as Gov. Pat Quinn is proposing.

Kirk says the many people facing unemployment don't need a tax increase. Quinn has proposed a graduated income tax increase to help fill an $11.5 billion deficit.

Remember, political reporters generally refer to Kirk, who has acknowledged his interest in running for governor, as a "moderate."

As was the case with the Richard Poplawski shootings, disturbed people sometimes do horrible things, and it's not fair to blame politics for their crimes. That said, political leaders in positions of influence and authority shouldn't encourage them.

Mark Kirk didn't call for violence, but he's egging on those who might be thinking about it. And when given a chance to walk it back, Kirk refused.

Responsible leaders don't behave this way. Decent leaders don't behave this way

This isn't a "watch what you say" moment; it's simply a plea to turn down the temperature. These guys continue to push the envelope a little too much.

Yglesias: Ralph Peters Says Monitoring Right-Wing Extremism Is “Racist”

As I’ve been saying, you never see a conservative feeling that any kind of racism against non-white people is a problem. But they’re hyper-sensitive to the made-up problem of anti-white racism. Thus, this unhinged rant from Ralph Peters on Fox News who feels that the Department of Homeland Security’s memo recommending vigilance against violent right-wing extremists is a “racist” attack on “white Christians”:

Meanwhile, conservative members of congress are calling for bloodshed as tea parties warn of Obama’s plan to enslave the white race.

C&L's Neiwert: Pat Robertson urges his callers to crash Homeland Security hotline

Pat Robertson, on The 700 Club yesterday, got in on the collective right-wing teeth-gnashing over that Department of Homeland Security bulletin on the threat posed by right-wing extremists in America.

You know, the controversy that's been demonstrated to be a lot of hot air -- not to mention a terribly revealing one about how mainstream right-wingers see themselves.

Not that such mere trifles would ever deter Pat Robertson. His attack on the DHS yesterday, alongside his coanchor Terry Meeuwsen, featured an unending stream of flatly false information and mischaracterizations. Plus, of course, the requisite gay-bashing and liberal bashing, all wrapped up in a neat little ball:

Robertson: If that had been a Republican, there would be outrage and screams for Janet Napolitano to resign immediately. That -- Terry, you're somebody who favors life, wants to keep little babies alive. Somebody who has been a veteran and served our country as a proud member of the military. Somebody who is opposed to the left-wing policies of the administration and who wants to express his or her views as they are entitled to under our Constitution, these people are now being stigmatized as terrorists! This is an outrage!

Ladies and gentlemen, I want you to do something about it. If that doesn't get you excited, I don't know what would. And I want you to call a number. This is the Department of Homeland Security.

[Reads number]

... And just say you protest. This is an outrage!

And Janet Napolitano has got a lot of explaining to do. And that lame excuse she was giving -- 'Oh, I'm sorry they characterized all veterans that way' -- I mean, come off it!

Meeuwsen: The report was the report. I mean, it is astonishing that it was allowed to leave under that --

Robertson: It -- it shows somebody down in the bowels of that organization is either a convinced left-winger or somebody whose sexual orientation is somewhat in question.

But it's that kind of thing, somebody who doesn't think that we should have abortion on demand, is labeled a terrorist! It's outrageous!

Then, after a news segment that ended with a story about Somali pirates, Robertson gets back to his rant:

Robertson: These people [pirates] are terrorists. Al Qaeda is a terrorist organization. The extreme Muslims are terrorists and they are being trained to destroy America.

So what does our Homeland Security Department come out with? They say, well, the real terrorists are people who are conservative, who are former veterans of the United States military, who believe in the sanctity of human life, and who don't like the policies of the current administration. These are the major threat to America.

Now, that in my opinion, is an outrage. And I think if you don't speak out against it, it's going to be allowed to stand. So I want to give you that number again. Ring those phones up there in Washington, let them know people care.

[Reads number]

That you protest this -- ah, stigmatism of law-abiding Americans as being right-wing threats to America.

[Repeats number]

And if you jam up their lines, good for you!

While I could think of a few organizations whose lines it might be a good idea to jam, Homeland Security would not be one of them.

Hell, if Janet Napolitano and Obama were half the tyrants Pat Robertson makes them out to be, wouldn't they be charging him with an act of terrorism?

I'll have a lot more about the DHS bulletin and the wingnut furor around it later today.


The argument has always been a little tough to follow, but the "going Galt" crowd has argued that raising taxes on the elite wealth-producers may compel them to give up their industries trades to spite society for "punishing" them.

Except, according to a report from Pajamas Media, the elite have already "gone Galt."

It's quite a creative piece, which argues that the global recession began in 2008 as a result of the "Pelosi-Obama-Reid economy," which began failing about seven months before Obama took office. The Democratic economic agenda hadn't been presented yet -- Obama hadn't even accepted the nomination yet -- but the leadership's "intent" sent "businesses, investors, and entrepreneurs" fleeing.

Then there's this evidence:

March is supposed to be a big month for tax receipts from regular corporations whose years end in December. In March 2008 (go to Table 3 on page 2 at the link), $32.6 billion poured in. This year? I'm not kidding: $3.4 billion. For the fiscal year thus far, corporate income tax collections are down almost 57%. [...]

It's clear that quite a few ordinarily industrious people "went Galt" months before the tea party movement even came into existence.... Pelosi, Obama, Reid, and their party created the conditions that led to this and are primarily responsible for how bad things are.

I see. Tax receipts aren't down because of the deep global recession; they're down because "quite a few ordinarily industrious people 'went Galt.'" These Galt folks didn't even wait for tax increases -- they went on strike to spite society based on proposals that haven't even passed. They went Galt, in other words, out of a sense that they'll eventually feel persecuted.

I'll give Pajamas Media this much: it's hard to argue with logic like this.

John Cole concluded, "And you know what? As stupid as that piece is, you can guarantee some wingnut will repeat it. Why? Because it has numbers in it, so it must be true. That is a veritable dissertation compared to the movement that brought us Liberal Fascism."

Sargent: Top Senate Republican Admits That Torture Helps Al Qaeda Recruitment

This is a good one. In the course of attacking Obama’s decision to release the torture memos, GOP Senator Kit Bond appears to have admitted that the image of the U.S. torturing terror suspects actually helps terror recruitment and hurts our national security — one of the principle arguments of torture opponents.

Check out this nugget buried in an interview Bond, the ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, gave to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos:

Bond believes the administration “released far too much information,” adding that he thinks Al Qaeda will use this information to train their followers to resist interrogation and that it will provide “propaganda for Al Qaeda’s media machine.”

Bottom line: Bond believes this release will “make us less safe and “heighten anger” in parts of the world “where we’re trying to make friends.”

Now that Obama has released the torture memos, Bond is arguing that the image of America torturing would provide “propaganda” for terrorists and leave us less safe. But the claim that the image of America torturing would have this effect has been made by opponents of torture for years — and it’s an argument that has long been dismissed as irrelevant by “harsh interrogation” proponents.

Bond, to be sure, is arguing that torture should be kept secret for these very reasons. But in the process, he’s inadvertently acknowledged that one of the key arguments long made against torture is correct. Either you believe the image of America torturing makes us less safe, or you don’t — and a top Senate Republican has now revealed that he does believe this.

sgw finds Conservatives Tone Deaf On Torture

Tick Tock, Start the Clock

.... and he apologizes in 4, 3, 2, .....

Think Progress: GOP Rep. Todd Tiahrt Rejects Rush Limbaugh: ‘No, No, He’s Just An Entertainer’
In an interview with the Kansas City Star editorial board earlier this week, Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-KS) rejected the notion that hate radio host Rush Limbaugh is the foremost Republican leader right now:

U.S. Rep. Todd Tiahrt of Kansas is a feisty and ardent conservative. But he said something Tuesday that might irritate Rush Limbaugh’s ditto-head followers.

Tiahrt was asked by a Kansas City Star Editorial Board member whether Limbaugh was now the de facto leader of the GOP.

“No, no, he’s just an entertainer,” Tiahrt said.

Tiahrt’s remarks could get him into hot water. Remember that Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) also had the temerity to criticize Limbaugh and other right-wing talkers who are able to “stand back and throw bricks” instead of offering “real leadership.” The next day, Gingrich issued a retraction in response to a “high volume of phone calls and correspondence” in response to his comments, saying that Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Newt Gingrich were “the voices of the conservative movement’s conscience.” He then went on Limbaugh’s show and pledged his allegiance:

GINGREY: Rush, thank you so much. I thank you for the opportunity, of course this is not exactly the way to I wanted to come on. … Mainly, I want to express to you and all your listeners my very sincere regret for those comments I made yesterday to Politico. … I clearly ended up putting my foot in my mouth on some of those comments. … I regret those stupid comments.

Of course, there was also RNC chairman Michael Steele, whose criticisms of Limbaugh even more closely mirrored Tiahrt’s. “Rush Limbaugh, his whole thing is entertainment. Yes, it’s incendiary. Yes, it’s ugly.” Steele also later backed down, insisting, “My intent was not to go after Rush — I have enormous respect for Rush Limbaugh.”

Political Courage

Glenn Greenwald:
Regardless of motives, good acts (releasing the torture memos) should be praised, and bad acts (arguing against prosecutions) should be condemned.

Beyond those generalities, I think the significance of Obama's decision to release those memos -- and the political courage it took -- shouldn't be minimized. There is no question that many key factions in the "intelligence community" were vehemently opposed to release of those memos. I have no doubt that reports that they waged a "war" to prevent release of these memos were absolutely true. The disgusting comments of former CIA Director Mike Hayden on MSNBC yesterday -- where he made clear that he simply does not believe in the right of citizens to know what their government does and that government crimes should be kept hidden-- is clearly what Obama was hearing from many powerful circles. That twisted anti-democratic mentality is the one that predominates in our political class.

In the United States, what Obama did yesterday is simply not done. American Presidents do not disseminate to the world documents which narrate in vivid, elaborate detail the dirty, illegal deeds done by the CIA, especially not when the actions are very recent, were approved and ordered by the President of the United States, and the CIA is aggressively demanding that the documents remain concealed and claiming that their release will harm national security. When is the last time a President did that?

Other than mildly placating growing anger over his betrayals of his civil liberties commitments (which, by the way, is proof of the need to criticize Obama when he does the wrong thing), there wasn't much political gain for Obama in releasing these documents. And he certainly knew that, by doing so, he would be subjected to an onslaught of accusations that he was helping Al Qaeda and endangering American National Security. And that's exactly what happened, as in this cliché-filled tripe from Hayden and Michael Mukasey in today's Wall St. Journal, and this from an anonymous, cowardly "top Bush official" smearing Obama while being allowed to hide behind the Jay Bybee of journalism, Politico's Mike Allen.

But Obama knowingly infuriated the CIA, including many of his own top intelligence advisers; purposely subjected himself to widespread attacks from the Right that he was giving Al Qaeda our "playbook"; and he released to the world documents that conclusively prove how that the U.S. Government, at the highest levels, purported to legalize torture and committed blatant war crimes. There's just no denying that those actions are praiseworthy. I understand the argument that Obama only did what the law requires. That is absolutely true. We're so trained to meekly accept that our Government has the right to do whatever it wants in secret -- we accept that it's best that most things be kept from us -- that we forget that a core premise of our government is transparency; that the law permits secrecy only in the narrowest of cases; and that it's certainly not legal to suppress evidence of government criminality on the grounds that it is classified.

Still, as a matter of political reality, Obama had to incur significant wrath from powerful factions by releasing these memos, and he did that. That's an extremely unusual act for a politician, especially a President, and it deserves praise. None of this mitigates any of the bad acts Obama has engaged in recently -- particularly his ongoing efforts to shield Bush crimes from judicial review by relying on extreme assertions of presidential secrecy powers -- but, standing alone, his actions yesterday are quite significant.

As is obvious from everything I've written over the past three years, I think the need to criminally prosecute those who authorized and ordered torture (as well as illegal surveillance) is absolute and non-negotiable (and, as I wrote earlier today, in the case of torture, criminal investigations are legally compelled). A collective refusal to prosecute the grotesque war crimes that we know our Government committed is to indict all of us in those crimes, to make us complict in their commission. ...


Yglesias on Jay Bybee

I don’t really have much to add to what’s being said by the usual progressive blogosphere suspects on the subject of the torture memos or torture in general. But it is worth emphasizing the chilling fact that one of the principle authors of this nonsense, Jay Bybee, is now a federal judge on the 9th Circuit.

That’s a pretty outrageous situation. But it’s also something that, completely apart from prosecuting anyone, the country can do something about. I think the case for impeaching him on the grounds of misconduct would be pretty clear. And though as Jonathan Zasloff says, he could almost certainly round up enough pro-torture votes in the Senate to avoid removal, it’s at least something folks can be put on the record about.

Required Viewing

Afghanistan, Pakistan update

April 16: Rachel Maddow talks to Ahmed Rashid, a journalist based in Lahore, Pakistan, to talk about the situations in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

A superlative interview with Elizabeth Warren.
The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Elizabeth Warren Pt. 1
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic CrisisPolitical Humor

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Elizabeth Warren Pt. 2
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic CrisisPolitical Humor

Sully: We Are Now Indonesia


Greenwald points to this nugget:

They explicitly recognized that the techniques they were authorizing were ones that we condemned other countries for using -- including as "torture" -- but nonetheless approved them, explicitly saying that the standards we impose on others do not bind us in any way.

And this is, in fact, the Bush-Cheney position. Because America did these things, they are not torture. This is also, by the way, the position of the news reporters and editors at the New York Times and the Washington Post. Does anyone believe that if Iran, say, captured an American soldier, kept him awake for eleven days straight, bashed his head and body against plywood walls with a towel around his neck, forced him to stand and sit in stress positions finessed by the Communist Chinese, stuck him in a dark coffin for hours, and then waterboarded him, that the NYT would describe him as a victim of "harsh interrogation techniques"? Do you think Mike Allen would give anonymity to a top Iranian official who defended these techniques as vital to Iran's national security?

The last seven years have revealed that almost the entire American establishment views itself as immune to the moral and ethical rules it applies to every other country in the world. Now we know, at least. And you can be sure they will protecting each other to the bitter end.

... but at least the King looked dashing."

In response to last night's "Evening Wingnut: Denim Edition" post, Cliff said...

Edmund Burke -- what he would have thought of the denimization of America can be inferred from his lament that the French Revolution assaulted "the decent drapery of life"; it is a straight line from the fall of the Bastille to the rise of denimI take it Will doesn't really get what that whole "French Revolution" thing was about.
"I mean, yeah, peasants were being tortured in the Bastille," Will says, "and starving on the streets, but at least the King looked dashing."

Sully has a roundup of what both informed and stoopid people are saying In The Wake Of War Crimes. It's well worth clicking through for a look.

Included in Sully's excerpts is The Anonymous Liberal, a lawyer who takes his craft seriously. Here is his response in full:
A Controlled Acute Episode
I wish I had more time to write about the truly revolting Bush administration torture memos that were released today. They really need to be required reading for everyone. I think the line that probably sums them up best is on page 11 of the Bybee memo, where he casually observes that "[t]he waterboard is simply a controlled acute episode, lacking the connotation of a protracted period of time generally given to suffering."

With that wonderful bit of "analysis," our government lawyers concluded that the most iconic example of torture in human history--a technique that dates back to the Spanish Inquisition, if not earlier--was not in fact torture. That's like writing a memo concluding that forced sexual intercourse doesn't constitute rape so long as you make it quick.

Indeed, the entire Bybee memo (which was likely written by John Yoo) is shockingly conclusory in its reasoning. One obvious torture technique after the next is quickly dismissed as not generating a sufficient level of suffering to constitute torture. But there's no attempt to back these conclusions up or explain away possible objections to them. No attempt to address the wide array of contrary precedent. And there's virtually no evidence that the author of the memo even spent much time imagining what it might actually be like to be subjected to some of these techniques.

As I've said many times here before, the most culpable parties in this whole disgusting affair are the lawyers. Their job was to stand up for the rule of law, to tell the Dick Cheneys of the world that what they wanted to do was clearly illegal. They didn't do that. Indeed, they went to elaborate lengths to give their legal blessing to conduct they had to have known was illegal.

I know many of you disagree with me on this, but I think Obama did the right thing by promising not to prosecute CIA officers who acted in accordance with the OLC's prior advice. Given the kind of things these folks are asked to do and the important missions entrusted to them, they have to be able to rely on the legal advice they're given by the government. If we start prosecuting people for conduct they were specifically advised was legal by the OLC, it will severely hamper our ability to conduct future intelligence work. No one will trust the advice they are given, they'll worry that the rug will be pulled out from under them at some point down the road. That's an untenable situation.

The people who should be punished are the people who gave the advice. The lawyers. The Jay Bybees, John Yoos, and David Addingtons of the world. Obama did the right thing by releasing these memos today. It is now up to us to make sure they generate the degree of outrage that they should.
hilzoy says: Something Is Missing

I'm still digesting the torture memos, and probably won't say anything comprehensive about them tonight. I did, however, want to flag one thing that is missing.

The US Code defines torture as "an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control. "Severe mental pain or suffering", in turn, is defined as: "the prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from", among other things, "the administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality."

Suppose there were something that these memos said, in passing was done to detainees (see e.g. here, p. 4), and that we know independently was done to detainees in US custody; that was known to reliably induce terror and pyschosis in fairly short order; that was described as doing so in government documents that are among the obvious antecedents of the interrogation procedures described in these memos; and that was used precisely in order to produce its psychological effects.

You'd expect the memos to consider whether this technique might count as an act intended to produce "severe mental pain or suffering", since it involves a mind-altering procedure "calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality", and might well produce "lasting psychological harm", right?

Wrong. There is no consideration of sensory deprivation as a form of torture in these memos.

Here's an account of early CIA experiments on sensory deprivation:

"Dr Donald O. Hebb at McGill University found that he could induce a state akin to psychosis in a subject within 48 hours. Now, what had the doctor done? Hypnosis, electroshock, LSD, drugs? No. None of the above. All Dr Hebb did was take student volunteers at McGill University where he was head of Psychology, put them in comfortable airconditioned cubicles and put goggles, gloves and ear muffs on them. In 24 hours the hallucinations started. In 48 hours they suffered a complete breakdown. Dr Hebb noted they suffered a disintegration of personality. Just goggles, gloves and ear muffs and this discovered the foundation, or the key technique which has been applied under extreme conditions at Guantanamo. The technique of sensory disorientation. I've tracked down some of the original subjects in Dr Hebb's experiments of 1952 and men now in their 70s still suffer psychological damage from just two days of isolation with goggles, gloves and ear muffs."

Here's the CIA's Kubark Manual:

"Drs. Wexler, Mendelson, Leiderman, and Solomon conducted a somewhat similar experiment on seventeen paid volunteers. These subjects were "... placed in a tank-type respirator with a specially built mattress.... The vents of the respirator were left open, so that the subject breathed for himself. His arms and legs were enclosed in comfortable but rigid cylinders to inhibit movement and tactile contact. The subject lay on his back and was unable to see any part of his body. The motor of the respirator was run constantly, producing a dull, repetitive auditory stimulus. The room admitted no natural light, and artificial light was minimal and constant." (42) Although the established time limit was 36 hours and though all physical needs were taken care of, only 6 of the 17 completed the stint. The other eleven soon asked for release. Four of these terminated the experiment because of anxiety and panic; seven did so because of physical discomfort. The results confirmed earlier findings that (1) the deprivation of sensory stimuli induces stress; (2) the stress becomes unbearable for most subjects; (3) the subject has a growing need for physical and social stimuli; and (4) some subjects progressively lose touch with reality, focus inwardly, and produce delusions, hallucinations, and other pathological effects."

Doesn't that sound like the sort of thing that might constitute a mind-altering procedure "calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality"? It does to me. And guess what? Just sixteen months after this memo was written, the Army published a brand new field manual that said:

"Separation does not constitute sensory deprivation, which is prohibited. For the purposes of this manual, sensory deprivation is defined as an arranged situation causing significant psychological distress due to a prolonged absence, or significant reduction, of the usual external stimuli and perceptual opportunities. Sensory deprivation may result in extreme anxiety, hallucinations, bizarre thoughts, depression, and anti-social behavior. Detainees will not be subjected to sensory deprivation."

So I'm wondering: didn't it occur to anyone to ask the OLC whether sensory deprivation was a form of torture? If so, where's that memo? And if not, why not?

Getting away with torture? April 16: The White House released Bush-era secret memos that appear to depict and promote waterboarding and other torture techniques. Obama has ruled out prosecuting CIA officials used these tactics. Is this the right decision? Rachel Maddow is joined by George Washington University law school professor Jonathan Turley. In which Turley says: "It's not retribution to enforce criminal laws."

For your morning Chutzpah, here's hudson (Daily Kos): NY-20 !!!??! Down by 178 votes, Tedisco sues to be declared winner

Just when you thought the Tedisco campaign's tactics couldn't get any more absurd here in the 20th Congressional District, they just became utterly ridiculous.

According to late Thursday night report in the Hudson Register-Star, the Tedisco legal team filed suit in Dutchess County court demanding to be declared the winner in the special election race with Scott Murphy.

Yup, you heard that right.

Tedisco's down by 178 votes, according to the official New York State Board of Elections tally. Yet he's asking a judge to declare him the winner.

Come again?

Even though he's falling farther and farther behind as the count reaches its final stages (before a court rules on challenged ballots), and even though the vast majority of ballots yet to be opened are Democrats challenged by Tedisco...

Here's the front page headline and lede in Friday's Register-Star:

Tedisco asks to be declared winner

Murphy still holds lead

By Jamie Larson

COLUMBIA COUNTY — 20th Congressional District candidate Republican Jim Tedisco submitted a petition to the Dutchess County Supreme Court Thursday asking the judge to declare him the winner of the extremely close special election race, despite the numbers currently being in favor of his opponent, Democrat Scott Murphy.

According to The Associated Press, Murphy leads Tedisco by 178 votes district wide — 79,452 to 79,274. The only ballots that have not been counted are those challenged by each candidate’s lawyers, and while Tedisco’s office has said the challenges are roughly evenly split between the two camps, Columbia County lawyers for Murphy have only challenged 22 ballots, while Tedisco’s have challenged 258.

Yes, folks, we have officially entered Bizarroland in the 20th CD, with the GOP candidate arguing that (as the guy whose lead has evaporated, from a high of up 25 votes on Election Night to a deficit of down 178 votes today) he should be declared the winner by a hand-picked judge.

Despite the fact that he's losing.

The Register-Star also notes that:

Tedisco is also asking the court to authorize recanvasing of all machine ballots to acquire the “proper” tallies. He would like them to reassess the validity of absentee votes already counted, and keep ballots challenged by Tedisco unopened. County Board of Elections Democratic Commissioner Virginia Martin said this new development could result in the election taking quite a bit more time to be decided. She would not venture a guess on how long it will be before the 20th District has a representative in congress.

I didn't think it could get worse than Tedisco's lawyer and a GOP election commissioner stalling the vote count by going to the first regular-season game at the new Yankee Stadium instead of showing up to count votes.

But this is beyond laughable. It's loony-tunes. Frankly, I'm speechless.

Attaturk: Epilogue
Since the right-wing blogs likely will not revisit and the press certainly will not.

The coda of the Beauchamp Affair:
A senior enlisted Army soldier was convicted on Wednesday of killing four handcuffed and blindfolded Iraqi men with pistol shots to the backs of their heads shortly after arresting them in Baghdad two years ago, The Associated Press reported.

A military jury in Germany, where his unit is deployed, found the soldier, Master Sgt. John E. Hatley, guilty of premeditated murder in the deaths of the men, whom he and several other members of his unit had detained after a firefight with insurgents in Baghdad in spring 2007, according to testimony in the case.
If you cannot place the name, Master Sgt. Hatley was the direct superior of Pvt. Scott Beauchamp and the person most used to discredit (along with the gay porn star) the New Republic diary of the life of a soldier in Iraq and the ways they dealt with the pressures of Operation Clusterfuck. All of which Hatley said was absolutely not what his ever virtuous soldiers did.

In February, another military jury convicted the unit’s medic, Sgt. Michael Leahy Jr., 28, of premeditated murder and sentenced him to life in prison. On March 30, Sgt. First Class Joseph P. Mayo, 27, pleaded guilty to murder and received a 35-year sentence.

Military legal experts said the soldiers’ rank showed the frustration of fighting insurgents who blended in with the locals.
Which was exactly the subject Scott Beauchamp was writing about.