The Facts: U.S. Treatment of Detainees

As you might have noticed, the ethics debate took a bit longer than our standard debates -- I should have known there would be too much ethical chicanery in the capital to fit into one week. Lots of good discussion in the comments, including the words of patriot1957: "I'm mad as hell and I don't even know who I'm maddest at. But if the schools haven't taught our citizens how to think and the media won't help, I'm going to stand on every streetcorner I can and slap people awake."

The Debate this week is on something else that is making a lot of Americans angry: the treatment of detainees in U.S. custody. Several excuses have been used to explain why the Geneva Conventions should not apply to certain prisoners. Enemy combatants are not soldiers for a particular nation, some argue, so they are not covered by the Conventions; they are not held on U.S. soil, so U.S. rules of prisoner treatment do not apply, etc. For a comprehensive explanation of these various rationales and technicalities, see the 2003 Working Group Report on Detainee Interrogations in the Global War on Terrorism.

In case you need a refresher on the sort of thing we're talking about here, see the photos from Abu Ghraib (note: these are, unsurprisingly, very disturbing images.)

All this is particularly big in the news right now because of the McCain Amendment, which passed the Senate on a 90-9 vote, in the face of strenuous opposition from the Bush administration.

Plenty of internal memos, reports, legal documents and news stories on this subject. Here's a sampling:

Seymour Hersh's series of groundbreaking articles last year for the New Yorker on the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib: Torture at Abu Ghraib, Chain of Command and The Gray Zone.
Newsweek's The Roots of Torture
Dana Priest's story on secret CIA facilities, including some in Eastern European countries
Craig Whitlock's story on rendition

Letter to McCain from various military officials and former military supporting the McCain Amendment
Torture memo from Alberto Gonzales

Congressional Research service report on "Lawfulness of Interrogation Techniques Under the Geneva Conventions"
The Amnesty International report on torture and accountability in the War on Terror
Schlesinger report on DOD treatment of prisoners
(highlights )
Human Rights First report on ending secret detentions
Army report on Abu Ghraib (highlights)

Legal Documents
The Supreme Court opinion in Rasul et al v. Bush and Al Odah et al v. United States explains why six of the nine justices determined that U.S. courts do have jurisdiction over cases regarding indefinite detention of prisoners in U.S. custody.
See also Rasul et al v. Donald Rumsfeld et al, a civil suit filed by four British detainees held in Guantanamo, seeking damages for the treatment they say they received while in U.S. custody.
Sworn statements from detainees (warning: graphic descriptions)

Other Documents of Note
Army Regulation 190-8 on "Enemy Prisoners of War, Retained Personnel, Civilian Internees and other Detainees"
The Interrogation Documents: Debating U.S. Policy and Methods and Prisoner Abuse Patterns from the Past (from the National Security Archive)
The Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The Geneva Conventions on POW treatment
The International Committee of the Red Cross on the Geneva Conventions
Documents released to ACLU
ACLU's pending Freedom of Information Act requests

(Want to file your own FOIA? Don't hold your breath.)

By Emily Messner |  November 9, 2005; 5:23 AM ET  | Category:  Facts
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Abu Ghraib didn't "shock" me and I see pretty much what happened there nothing more than some fraternity pranks over-hyped by the Western media. I think our detainment of terror suspects at Guantanimo is as humane as can be expected in the circumstances. That said, I fully support the McCain Amendment because it will go a long way to protecting our men and women in uniform who all to ofetn are the patsies for the failings of their superiors.

Posted by: D | November 9, 2005 10:04 AM

This Cheney business of "what if there was a ticking time bomb" is just more on the theme of working the "they're soft on terrorism, they think Saddam was good guy" tactic. Mr Cheney, the curtain's been pulled back and we've seen the wizard, it doesn't work anymore.

I lost a lot of respect for McCain when he was acting like Bush's wind up doll, performing on command, but he's earning some of it back.

Posted by: patriot1957 | November 9, 2005 10:24 AM

My God D, you sound just like that fat, sour, hypocrite of a bloat on talk radio who makes the same loathesome apologies for this sickening practice.

Look. This is not who we are. How in God's name do you expect the world to look at us with anything other than contempt and disgust when we use such wretched wordsmithing as does the current President of the United States, to rationalize away the truly perverse, unconscionable behaviour of those in charge of these "enemy combatants"?

How would you react if you were subjected to photographs of your son or daughter in such degrading and humiliating circumstances? How would you feel if your son or daughter were subjected to the practice of "waterboarding" or electrical prodding?

If this is who you think we are, then maybe you right wingers are right. Maybe I don't belong in this country.

Posted by: Jaxas | November 9, 2005 10:52 AM

Emily, thanks for putting out so many links on torture. The general public needs to know and become aware of the many factors that make torture an abomination.

I was particulary appalled by the "Gonzales Memo." It describes torture as "acts inflicting, and that are specifically intended to inflict, severe pain or suffering, whether mental or physical." Then G. adds, "those acts must be of an EXTREME [emphasis added] nature to rise to the level of torture."

Now, this is terrible word-play! The President, too, says, "We do not torture!" So, one must ask, "What IS torture?"

Gonzales has an answer: "We further conclude that certain acts may be cruel, inhuman, or degrading, but still not produce pain and suffering of the required intensity" to be considered torture.

With THIS understanding of torture you can justify ANYTHING short of causing death. First of all, you will decide that some cruel, inhuman treatment is NOT EXTREME; then you will conclude that the pain and suffering (physical and mental) does not rise to the REQUIRED INTENSITY.

Now, this is total license to do anything! By these standards how could you even fault those soldiers who treated the Abu Graib detainess in a "cruel, inhuman" manner by parading them naked, letting bull dogs on them, kicking and stomping and performing other such abominations on hapless individuals?

The way to torture was opened the moment Gonzales counseled the President to throw the Geneva Conventions to the wind and set aside US law. Dick Cheney wants this situation to continue.

There is no way America can allow this. We are a nation of the rule of law and if the law is cruel and unjust it must be changed. That is the case with the Gonzales Memo.

Emily, the Army Report is quite illuminating, too. It does make an honest admission: "Clearly abuses occurred at the prison at Abu Ghraib." But what is missing from the Report is the "T" word (torture). It prefers the word "abuse." Now, everybody knows that "abuse" is an euphemism for "torture," but nobody wants to admit it publicly.

The Army Report seems to absolve the Administration of any wrongdoing. It says, "Neither the Department of Defence nor Army doctrine caused the abuse." Of course, they did not DIRECTLY cause torture but they contributed to it. To be fair, the Army Report does acknowledge this. It cosiders "Command and Control," "Doctrine," and "Training" as factors that "contributed" to abuse (read, torture).

So, what shall we do? Instead of addressing the symptoms of the disease we need to examine the root causes that have given rise to torture. And one of the root causes, perhaps the most important one, is the fact that we chose to ignore Geneva Conventions and US law.

One more question that need be asked is: why practise torture? Is it to punish some individuals? Is it to extract information from them? In both instances, it is bound to fail. First of all, you punish an individual if they are found guilty; even then, you don't torture them, rather you put them behind bars where they are treated "humanely." Secondly, if it is to extract information from the detainees, you never get the truth by intimidation tactics, because people will say anything just to avoid "extreme" pain. So, whichever way you look at it, torture is not helpful.

It is time that we abandon primitive methods and learn to behave "humanely."

Posted by: Jerry | November 9, 2005 12:11 PM

First, I don't consider myself a right-winger but thats besides the point. I in no way, shape or form condone the acts at Abu-Ghraib or anywhere else any acts of torture or abuse have been alleged to have taken place. Its a smear on how we define ourselves as Americans and an embarrassment to how we are perceived in the world. The fact that once these abuses came to light that the perpetrators were suitable held to account speaks volumes to the fact that we are a decent people. My objection to Abu Ghraib is more to the hysterical media coverage of these incidents by folks in the media looking to get a little political mileage while the acts of true barbarity perpetuated against innocents such as Daniel Pearl, Nick berg, Francesco Quatriocchi, were given a quick news cycle and then a collective shrug from the media establishment. We should hold ourselves to a higher standard and I fault this administration for constantly dancing around the whole treatment of enemy combatants and never clearly defining what the procedures for interrogation should be. Who suffers in the end are the individual soldiers, put in dangerous circumstances with dangerous individuals without clear guidelines to how they should conduct themselves in such situations.

Posted by: D | November 9, 2005 12:17 PM

Nothing new here. Go back to the end of WWII and explain General Patton's directive not to take prisoners who surrender after still having fought within 250 yards of American lines; Did the Geneva Conventions alow that sort of thing?,

Posted by: Hans-H. Boeker | November 9, 2005 11:00 PM

Nothing new here. Go back to the Middle Ages and ... WHAAAAAAT????

Posted by: Will | November 10, 2005 12:33 AM

The right wingers I have discussed the issue with always point out that the kind of people who commit terrorist acts don't merit civilized standards. Their preparation to die in order to take western lives is proof that they need special treatment. They have committed heinous acts. However, having standards for our own behavior entails a rule of law for the responsible party - that party that holds a prisoner of whatever stripe. It's what we bear as a standard for our behavior, and doesn't have hedges for those other guys' expectations. We are humane people and that means that we behave like humane people, or we are lying.

Posted by: | November 10, 2005 05:42 AM

Having counseled combat vets who were commissioned to fight, trained to fight, taught to fight, had to fight etc., we need to make a clear distinction between policy makers (policy defining, making, implementing etc.) and those soldiers who had to fight,endure, endure, fight and survive, and keep on keeping on. Once you are on the battle field, prison fields included, a soldier's soul, mind, spirit, values, endurance,and moral judgement are severly compromised. I can't begin to describe a day in the life of a combat soldier. All the atrocities they see, endure and maybe even participate in, are at least understandable and possibly excusable in light of the context in which they find/found themselves.

Abu Ghraib---an incident in a much wider context. I am not condoning it---I have put it in perspective for myself. WAR (of which torture and abuse are footnotes) is in and of itself torture. Events(all of them without distinction) in war are but moments of time in a cauldron of horror.

If we had enough cameras, we would not have enough film, torture is everywhere and we need to be careful about how we use geography or logistics (battle field vs. prison) to evaluate because you have strained soldiers in a cauldron of everyday slaughter--military and civilians.

I am very disappointed in the disposition of the accused and court martialed from Abu Ghraib. We don't have all the information, but these people, despite what the pictures may seem to show, are US Military who went to serve and put their lives on the line. I think that they could have been salvaged, retrained, counseled etc. The ambiguities around the guidelines regarding interrogation (torture) to say the least would have confused me....and the current debate.

We need to revisit these court martials and come up with a more humane resolution.
Thanks for reading.


Posted by: joejoe | November 11, 2005 04:36 PM

The cry of hte Right:
2001 - We decide when the rule of law prevails, it certainly doesn't cover treatment of Arabs or things we do that we don't get convicted for.

But I digress. Yes, there's a fog of war, and after you watch your buddies get blown to bits and narrowly escape youself its not reasonable to expect the adrenaline surcharge to just stop when you come upon an enemy. To wit, the soldier who shot the wounded man recorded on TV cameras - he was scared witless for his life and when he thought someone might be faking he shot first and asked questions later.

But what happened at Abu Ghraib and way more places than we'll admit to is different. The standard for how to treat the prisoners came from above (probably Cheney), but its the grunts on the lines we fed to the lions for carrying out their orders. I have problems with that - not punishing the grunts, but letting their superiors off scott free, who should have had at least double the punishment.

The right wingers I know responded to Abu Ghraib with "but they're terrorists". The Red Cross said 70-90% of the prisoners there were innocent - caught up in sweeping raids when they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. And sure enough, we let at least 2/3 of the prisoners go after the scandal broke. If they were terrorists why did we let them go? If they were innocent, do your really think torturing them is going to win the PR war over there?

Why does the PR war matter so much? The world is at a crossroads. Western religions and family life and science and technology are declining. Here in the US parents have shockingly abdicated responsibility for disciplining their children and feeding their spirituality. Instead of preparing our next generation of the best and the brightest, our best math and science graduate students are Chinese, and we're replacing teaching the rigor of the scientific method with a magician God. Meanwhile Islam and China are rising. Will it be a glorious Islam that builds libraries and universities and joins with China to build the next golden age (remember the last Islamic golden age 1000 years ago, and remember before then when Iraq had the hanging gardens of Babylon)? Or will it be the Islam of the Taliban, of revenge for the inquisition?

We had the sympathy of the world on 911. We could have used it to create scorn for radical Islam, to get teh people to rise up agaist those who hijacked their religion. Instead we not only failed to take down Bin Laden and the brains of his outfit, we gave it new purpose and zeal. WE made BinLaden, and WE made al Zakawari. It may not be too late - the people of Jordan may create a rising tide of backlash againt the terrorists, but its still in hte balance. Competent leadership is CRITICAL now more than ever. The PR war is the most important war we're fighting right now. And Dick Cheney is losing it for us. Can you impeach the VP?

Posted by: patriot1957 | November 11, 2005 05:38 PM


GRAHAM'S AMENDMENT passed! I heard it on the Rachel Maddow show this morning :-( A democracy is no place for Stealth amendment or law passage. There should be mandatory publication of Congressional activity, followed by a period for public comment BEFORE a VOTE is Cast by Congress! This would inform 'we the people' about what laws we will have to live with if the law passes, and give Congress time to read all the material to understand what they are voting for.

From News Day article:
"The unusual provision, passed by a 49-42 vote, would reverse a Supreme Court ruling last year that permitted inmates to file habeas corpus petitions, triggering hundreds of lawsuits from prisoners who said they were being held with no basis.",0,6972229.story?

This needs to be challenged immediately, starting with the FIVE Democratic Senators who voted for it!

According to the New York Times:
"The five Democrats voting for the bill were Senators Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Ron Wyden of Oregon."

Additionally there were 2 Democrats who did not vote!!!Corzine - New Jersey (didn't vote) and Inouye - Hawaii (didn't vote). If the Democratic Yes Votes and those who abstained had voted NO, this amendment would have been defeated!!
This information came from the following commentary :;sid=2005/11/11/10538/783

The appropriations bill, to which it is attached, is expected to be up for final vote next week. This is what it does:


From The Center for Constitutional Rights:

Bush's New Assault on Democracy: Habeas Corpus Stabbed in the Back


The Bush Administration, through an amendment introduced by South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, has just successfully stripped federal courts of jurisdiction to hear applications for habeas corpus brought by those unilaterally declared enemy combatants without any process and held by the U.S. indefinitely throughout the world and even in the United States. This was accomplished by means of a last minute amendment to the Military Authorization Bill, brought up on the floor of the Senate without committee deliberations and virtually no advance warning to the American people that it was happening.

Description and Status

It was not only human rights groups like the Center for Constitutional Rights, but many in the military or retired from the military who opposed the Graham amendment: Judge John Gibbons, who argued the landmark CCR case Rasul v. Bush before the Supreme Court, John Hutson, Dean of Franklin Pierce Law Center and former Judge Advocate General of the U.S. Navy, and the National Institute for Military Justice, among others, wrote open letters to the Senate to oppose the dismantling of habeas corpus.

The Graham amendment will create a thousand points of darkness across the globe where the United States will be free to hold people indefinitely without a hearing and beyond the reach of U.S. law and the checks and balances of the courts enshrined in our Constitution. The last time this country suspended habeas corpus was for the internment of tens of thousands of Japanese Americans during World War II, a travesty that is now universally recognized as a blot on our nation's history. The purpose of the writ of habeas corpus has always been to relieve those wrongfully held from the oppression of unchecked executive power. The most reliable way to determine whether someone is properly held or a victim of injustice is to have a right to judicial review of the detention. This has been understood at least since the proclamation of the Magna Carta in 1215.

While the Administration and its supporters have tried to characterize the men being held at Guantánamo as the worst of the worst against all evidence, the fact is that even the military has admitted that they often apprehended the wrong people. Most have no ties to Al Qaida, many were turned over to the U.S. for bounty, and many more were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. If they have no way to appeal their innocence or their status, they will be left to rot in detention indefinitely.

Senator Graham's jurisdiction-stripping efforts come as allegations of secret CIA detention facilities around the world dominate headlines; the Bush Administration has consistently sought to put itself above the law and evade oversight and accountability for torture and other abuse. It is no secret that arbitrary indefinite detention and widespread prisoner mistreatment have taken and continue to take place at Guantánamo and other U.S.-run facilities. The Graham Amendment will only serve to reinforce the growing perception in the world that the United States has become an enemy of human rights.

As has been the practice of this Administration, this latest scheme was accomplished stealthily and in secret. The Center for Constitutional Rights vows to continue to fight for the rule of law. We will not allow American democracy to be eroded a little at a time, until, finally looking around, we can longer recognize what has become of this democratic nation."

Tell everyone you know about this amendment. Please help stop it before it becomes law. If it passes, ANYONE AT ALL could be detained without being able to the defend themselves in a court of law.

See my comments and post from yesterday on this subject: Here is a direct link to petition the Senate to stop Grahams ill conceived stealth admendment:

Note: Here is a direct link to petition the Senate to stop Grahams ill conceived stealth admendment:

Posted by: Che | November 12, 2005 06:19 AM

Natural Disasters and the Militarization of America

by Michel Chossudovsky

October 23, 2005

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Both the Avian Flu threat, which has taken on a political twist, and the hurricane disasters are being used by the Bush White House to justify a greater role for the Military in the country's civilian affairs.

Bush hinted, offhandedly, at the height of Hurricane Rita that the Military should become the "lead agency" in disaster relief:

"Is there a natural disaster--of a certain size--that would then enable the Defense Department to become the lead agency in coordinating and leading the response effort? That's going to be a very important consideration for Congress to think about."

A few weeks later at a White House Press Conference, President Bush pointed to a role for the Military in enforcing quarantines in the case of an outbreak of avian flu:

"I have thought through the scenarios of what an avian flu outbreak could mean. ... If we had an outbreak somewhere in the United States, do we not then quarantine that part of the country? And how do you, then, enforce a quarantine? ... And who best to be able to effect a quarantine? One option is the use of a military that's able to plan and move. So that's why I put it on the table. I think it's an important debate for Congress to have." (White House Press conference, October 4, 2005)

Meanwhile, a new media consensus is in the making. Highlighted in the tabloids and on network TV, the threats of natural disasters are now casually lumped together with those associated with a terror attack on the Homeland. According to Daniel Henniger writing in the Wall Street Journal:

"The question raised by the Katrina fiasco. is whether the threat from madmen [Osama and Al Zarqawi] and nature is now sufficiently huge in its potential horror and unacceptable loss that we should modify existing jurisdictional authority to give the Pentagon functional first-responder status."

Fait Accompli

What is the dividing line, from the point of view of emergency procedures, between these two distinct phenomena? Or is there a dividing line between a humanitarian disaster resulting from a natural cause on the one hand, and a real or perceived "terror attack on America" on the other?

The Department of Homeland Security's National Response Plan (NRP) (December2004) eliminates the distinction between a civilian and a national security emergency situation:

"This approach is unique and far reaching in that it, for the first time, eliminates critical seams and ties together a complete spectrum of incident management activities to include the prevention of, preparedness for, response to, and recovery from terrorism, major natural disasters, and other major emergencies. The end result is vastly improved coordination among Federal, State, local, and tribal organizations to help save lives and protect America's communities by increasing the speed, effectiveness, and efficiency of incident management." italics added

The NRP is fully operational: the militarisation of emergency procedures is, in many regards, "a done deal".

The NRP is built around emergency procedures in the case of a "terrorist attack": it focuses on ":incident management". It is endorsed by lead federal agencies and government departments (including the CIA and the DoD).

Deployment in the case of a major civilian emergency (e.g. hurricane and/or avian flu pandemic) would be governed by the same criteria in conformity with the basic tenets of the "war on terrorism". The latter also characterize the workings of FEMA.

The Militarization of "Civil Society" Relief Organizations

The militarisation of disaster relief has also been endorsed by the American Red Cross , the Corporation for National and Community Service and the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) These key organizations are signatories of the National Response Plan. They have endorsed Homeland Security's definition of a national emergency. Under the NRP, these key civilian organizations are directly under the authority of the DHS, FEMA and the Pentagon. Distinct from the Corporation for National and Community Service, the NVOAD regroups a large number of individual non-governmental organizations . In signing the NRP, these organizations have foregone their "civilian" mandate in disaster relief.

In relation to Hurricane Wilma, the DoD has set up a Defense Coordinating Office, which operates out of the State Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee, Florida.

More significantly, the Pentagon has dispatched US Northern Command officials to FEMA national headquarters. According to Frances Fragos Townsend, Homeland Security Adviser to President Bush, the U.S. Northern Command "planners" have a mandate "to deploy the military if needed." (quoted in Seattle Times, 22 Oct 2005).

Criminal Charges against Bush Administration officials

The renewed call for a greater role for the military in the country's civilian affairs has emerged at a critical political juncture. The Plame-CIA leak investigation, led by Special Counsel Fitzgerald could result in criminal charges and impeachment procedures directed against key members of the Bush Cabinet, including Vice President Dick Cheney.

While the "war on terrorism" is still the main pretext for a greater role of the military, natural disasters constitute a new and innovative justification.

Meanwhile, the humanitarian disaster in the Gulf as well as the perceived threat of a bird flu pandemic are being used to deflect public attention from the broader issue of conspiracy and war crimes revealed by counsel Fitzgerald. More generally, heightened terror alerts or the perceived dangers of an avian flu pandemic, could also be used to trigger emergency procedures with a view to creating an atmosphere of fear and intimidation.

Congressman Jerrold Nadler, in a letter to the Deputy Attorney General, has called for Special Counsel Fitzgerald "to expand his investigation to include a criminal investigation to examine whether the President, the Vice President, and members of the White House Iraq Group conspired to deliberately deceive Congress into authorizing the war in Iraq."

This initiative follows that of Congressman John Conyers and 90 other Congressional Democrats who addressed a letter to President Bush regarding "a coordinated effort to fix the intelligence and facts to justify the war. Congressman Conyers and other Congressional Democrats on June 16 held an unofficial hearing concerning the Downing Street Memo that resembled an impeachment inquiry."


Congressman Nadler's letter to the Deputy Attorney General points to the "'White House Iraq Group' whose sole purpose appears to have been to market and sell a decision to go to war to Congress..."

The letter also points to the leaked Downing Street memo:

"Although Mr. Fitzgerald's investigation has yet to determine whether a crime was committed by any Administration official(s) in leaking the identity of Wilson's wife as a covert CIA operative, it is abundantly clear that the White House Iraq Group was engaged in an effort to discredit revelations of the falsity of the Administration's justifications for the war, and to intimidate and punish those who would reveal the truth.... We now know that top Administration officials, including Vice President Cheney's Chief of Staff, I. Lewis Libby, misrepresented to the media the scope and nature of what the U.S. intelligence community knew and didn't know about Saddam Hussein's weapons programs before the war.

It is self-evident that the Administration cannot investigate itself in this matter. I therefore urge you to expand the Special Counsel's investigation to include these matters crucial to our national security and national integrity."

For full text of the letter to the Deputy Attorney General )


An impeachment procedure could be undermined by the Administration in a number of ways.

We recall, in this regard, how Clinton launched punitive bombing raids on the Sudan and Afghanistan on the day Monica Lewinsky was summoned before a grand jury in August 1998. The bombing raids immediately contributed to deflecting attention from the issue of impeachment. (August 21, 1998). Similarly, a few months later, December 16, 1998, Clinton ordered the bombing of Iraq. The bombs were dropped on Baghdad on the very same day as the launching of an impeachment motion in the House of Representatives. Overriding the UN Security Council, Sec of State Madeleine Albright had ordered the withdrawal of UN weapons inspectors, who left Iraq on December 15th, a day prior to the impeachment motion.

To galvanize public support, Cheney and Rumsfeld could take the opportunity of the UN report into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, to launch (in collaboration with Israel) punitive bombings against Syria. Military action against Syria is already contemplated and has been part of the US military agenda since 2003.

An impeachment process directed against Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld et al. would inevitably undermine the entire neoconservative construct. Iit would also backlash on the Pentagon's top military brass. If criminal charges are laid, Vice President Cheney would be one of the main targets:

The Oct. 11 grand jury appearance by New York Times reporter Judith Miller has shifted the focus of attention to Cheney's office. Miller's hour-long testimony, according to news accounts, focussed on a third meeting that she had with Cheney's chief of staff Lewis "Scooter" Libby in June 2003--a month prior to the publication of Valerie Plame's name in a Robert Novak syndicated column. Plame, the wife of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson IV, was "outed" by Novak as a CIA officer. Novak reported that he had been given Plame's name by two "senior administration officials," now widely believed to be Libby and President Bush's chief political counsel Karl Rove.

However, Fitzgerald's probe, from the outset, has centered on an obscure but powerful White House unit, the White House Iraq Group, which was constituted in July-August 2002, to coordinate all Bush-Cheney Administration efforts to win support for an Iraq invasion. Rove and Libby, along with White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, her deputy Stephen Hadley, White House Counsellor Karen Hughes, and a half-dozen other White House and NSC senior staffers were all part of the WHIG. (See Jeffrey Steinberg )

In the eventuality of criminal charges and/or an impeachment procedure, a national emergency could be used to suspend the legal procedures required to carry out the indictments against key Bush administration officials.

In other words, the Administration could use a national disaster as a pretext for Martial law, in which case all criminal charges would be thwarted through the (temporary) suspension of constitutional government. Under a Code Red alert, US Northern Command (NORTHCOM) would take over the functions of civilian administration.

Posted by: Che | November 13, 2005 10:35 AM

Emily, thanks for the wonderful summary and juxtaposition of both codes of mutually agreed conduct and photos, memos, and legal documents demonstrating the paradoxes in American military/intelligence policy and behavior.

I think this particular blog post is one of the mustest reads of the Bush era. While these issues may not surprise some people, they should, I hope, make us realize that the issue of torture is one that should be a no-brainer for a society that is purportedly as noble and exemplary as ours.

We cannot claim to be a civil society only nominally; we must thoroughly internalize and externalize the concepts of civil society if this is what we truly wish to have. To do otherwise is to give a very large out to those who seek at every turn to work against Western culture and liberal democracy as a whole.

Posted by: Thomas F. O'Connell | November 13, 2005 11:46 AM

We should probably reserve the standard "right wing nut job" labels on this particular issue. The Mcain bill passed by 90 to 9. Lots of conservative lawmakers (Mcain included) voted for it. As well, support for this bill comes from a wide swath of political camps.

I suspect that just about everyone realizes that juxtaposing organ failure in torture and medical practices is ridiculous. Does the Gonzales opinion mean, for example, that the pain could equal heart, lung, or brain failure (ie: death)?

As for Zarqawi, I don't think beheading qualifies as torture (except perhaps to this administration). We generally call that execution.

Posted by: chris | November 13, 2005 06:09 PM

At the time of the Cuban missile crisis, I can recall the pictures of missiles on the decks of Russian ships heading for Cuba in Life magazine. The collective consensus was, it's time to take action. The missiles were removed without a shot being fired, and we all lived to build even more bombs.

For almost twelve years prior to the second war in Iraq we restricted two thirds of Iraq's air space, enforced by our constant presence in the air with our war planes, radar tracking equipment, and best guess the planes took a few pictures along the way. We used satellite surveillance also to monitor Iraq military movements, through the whole process of selling war, not one senator, not one congressman, not one newspaper asked the most basic question, show me a picture of a nuclear weapons factory, the we will discuss the most appropriate way to deal we any possible threat.

We have in excess of six thousand nuclear warhead ready to go. Why are we the only ones who can be trusted?

Posted by: Dennis Maloney | November 29, 2005 10:10 AM

At the time of the Cuban missile crisis, I can recall the pictures of missiles on the decks of Russian ships heading for Cuba in Life magazine. The collective consensus was, that it was time to take action. The missiles were removed without a shot being fired, and we all lived to build even more bombs.

For almost twelve years prior to the second war in Iraq we restricted two thirds of Iraq's air space, enforced by our constant presence in the air with our war planes, radar tracking equipment, and best guess the planes took a few pictures along the way. We used satellite surveillance also to monitor Iraq's military movements, through the whole process of selling war, not one senator, not one congressman, not one newspaper asked the most basic question, show me a picture of a nuclear weapons factory, then we will discuss the most appropriate way to deal we any possible threat.

We have in excess of six thousand nuclear warhead ready to go. Why are we the only ones who can be trusted?

Posted by: Dennis Maloney | November 29, 2005 10:17 AM

Dennis, what does a nuclear factory that is doing its best to look innoculous look like from the air?

Posted by: Ernest Vance | November 29, 2005 08:25 PM

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