By Mohammad Zargham Dec 04 2005
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House is seeking a compromise with a leading Senate Republican over its efforts to exempt the CIA from a proposed ban on torture and inhumane treatment of prisoners, President George W. Bush's national security adviser Stephen Hadley said on "Fox News Sunday."
Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, whose proposal for a ban on "cruel, inhumane and degrading" treatment of detainees was passed by the Senate in October over White House objections, said he would not compromise on torture.
Hadley's comments appeared to indicate the White House has softened its strong opposition to the blanket ban on degrading and inhumane treatment, which was passed by a 90-9 vote as an amendment to a $440 billion Pentagon funding bill.
The legislation was widely seen as a rebuke to the White House and an effort to repair the damage to the U.S. image caused by reports of prisoner abuse in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Vice President Dick Cheney led a White House bid to exempt the CIA from the ban, arguing that it would hamper the U.S. war on terrorism. Bush last month defended the effort to stop the Congress from imposing rules on the handling of terrorism suspects.
"What the president has said is that we do not torture," Hadley said. "And he said that while we need to be aggressive in the war against terror, we also have to do it in a way that complies with U.S. law, with U.S. treaty obligations and with the Constitution."
'FRANK AND OPEN DISCUSSIONS'
He said on ABC's "This Week" he had had "good conversations" with McCain, a senior member of the Armed Services Committee and a major backer of the Iraq war, and White House staff had been in contact with other congressional officials to hammer out a deal.
McCain said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that he and Hadley had met three times and held "frank and open discussions" without any agreement yet.
McCain, who was tortured as a prisoner during the Vietnam War, said "I won't. We won't," compromise on torture, but said he was in talks with the White House about other aspects of the matter to try to reach an agreement.
Hadley said Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, during a European tour this week, will address European concerns about reports that the United States secretly transfers terrorism suspects to foreign countries to be tortured.
"We comply with U.S. law, we respect the sovereignty of the countries with which we deal, and we do not move people around the world so that they can be tortured," he told Fox.
Hadley said Bush was troubled by revelations last week that the U.S. military secretly paid Iraqi newspapers to print pro-American articles.
He said the administration did not know all the facts, but would stop the practice if the reports turn out to be true.
"The Pentagon is looking into them. To the extent that kind of behavior is inconsistent with our policy, it will be stopped," Hadley said.
(Additional reporting by Joanne Kenen)
Human rights groups said the ruling sent a clear signal to governments around the globe, who are wrestling with accusations they have benefited from information obtained by torture.
The decision by the House of Lords comes a day after the United States explicitly banned its interrogators from treating detainees inhumanely.
The issue has plagued U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on a European trip during which she has tried to convince sceptics Washington does not torture detainees despite reports of secret CIA prisons in East European countries and the covert transportation of prisoners.
The eight defendants at the heart of the case say they were held by British authorities on the basis of evidence extracted using torture in U.S. prison camps such as Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
"Torture is an unqualified evil. It can never be justified. Rather it must always be punished," said Lord Brown, one of seven Law Lords asked to rule on the issue.
The government said it did not condone torture, but that the burden to demonstrate that evidence used against them had been obtained by torture would be placed upon defendants.
The director of human rights group Liberty, Shami Chakbrabati, said Thursday's ruling sent a clear signal around the world and Amnesty International called it "momentous".
"This ruling shreds any vestige of legality with which the UK government had attempted to defend a completely unlawful and reprehensible policy," rights group Amnesty International said.
BRITAIN "DOES NOT CONDONE TORTURE"
The government had argued that its secretive Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) needed to consider all information, no matter how it was obtained, to be able to decide whether terrorism suspects were a threat to national security.
Home Secretary Charles Clarke said the government did not condone torture and said the ruling would not affect its attempts to fight terrorism.
"The majority of their lordships have ruled that evidence should be admitted to SIAC hearings unless those acting for terrorism suspects can establish ... that the evidence was obtained by torture," Clarke said.
The Law Lords overthrew an earlier ruling by the Appeal Court in 2004 that secret tribunals hearing cases relating to the terrorism suspects could consider evidence that would not be acceptable in a British criminal court trial.
That meant authorities could consider information that might have been extracted using torture in another country, provided British agents were not directly involved.
Clarke said the verdict would have no effect on appeals to SIAC by some of the suspects detained in the wake of the July 7 attacks on London which killed 52 people.
The men are being held prior to being deported on the grounds they pose a threat to national security although they argue they face being tortured in their homelands.
The cases include that of Jordanian cleric Abu Qatada who is accused of being the inspiration for the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.
The Appeal Court's original decision related to the case of 10 foreigners held without charge by Britain under a now defunct security law which allowed police to detain terrorism suspects if there were "reasonable grounds" to think they were a threat.
The court ruled torture evidence could be considered by SIAC, arguing the September 11 attacks justified such a stance.
Two of the 10 have since left
Britain, but the eight suspects remaining challenged the verdict.
The following is yet another example of how the United States government and legal authorities are confused, hypocritical and totally lost on the matter of torture. I have explained clearly, at the beginning of this file, that deniable torture, carried out without the explicit permission of the very highest authority, is the very thing that must be avoided. It is however possible that it could be the responsibility of the supreme executive authority of a state to authorise pressure or extreme medical treatment on an individual to get them to release information, though such circumstances have not so far arisen to my knowledge.
designate has specifically ruled out this
possibility, leaving open the only other possibility: that in desperate
circumstances individuals lower down the chain of command and
responsibility might use such methods without approval and in the
certaiun knowledge that they could not ask for it. This is the worst of
all possible worlds and resembles the situation in which appalling
errors have already been made. I refer the reader to the start of this
By LAURIE KELLMAN, Associated Press Writer
Attorney General-designate Michael Mukasey said Wednesday the president doesn't have the authority to use torture techniques against terrorism suspects, a stance not taken by predecessor Alberto Gonzales and considered key to the nominee's confirmation.
Mukasey repudiated a 2002 memo by then-Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee that said the president has the power to issue orders that violate the Geneva Conventions as well as international and U.S. laws prohibiting torture. The memo was later disavowed and overridden by an executive order on interrogation of terrorism suspects, which allowed harsh questioning but included a vaguely worded ban on cruel and inhuman treatment.
"The Bybee memo, to paraphrase a French diplomat, was worse than a sin, it was a mistake. It was unnecessary," Mukasey, 66, told the Senate Judiciary Committee under questioning by Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
Leahy said that he and other senators did not vote for Gonzales in large part because he refused to disavow the Bybee memo.
Mukasey's confirmation was all but assured even before he made the statement at the top of proceedings on whether to confirm him as the nation's 81st attorney general. Democrats from Majority Leader Harry Reid and Leahy on down long have predicted easy and quick Senate approval.
President Bush urged Leahy's committee to endorse Mukasey's nomination in the next few days and the full Senate to confirm him next week. But committee rules would prohibit a vote on the nomination until at least next week.
Within minutes of convening the hearings, Leahy elicited specific assurances from the nominee that had been sought by liberal interest groups and senators who had endured months of Gonzales' faulty memory during congressional hearings and highly parsed statements.
Under questioning by Leahy, Mukasey promised to bar all but the top Justice employees from taking calls or making calls "to political figures to talk about cases," a problem under Gonzales.
"Partisan politics plays no part in either the bringing of charges or the timing of charges," Mukasey said.
Mukasey, a legal adviser to Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani, pledged to recuse himself from matters involving his longtime friend and legal colleague.
And under questioning from the panel's senior Republican, Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, Mukasey said he'd have no problem resigning if the president ignores his legal or ethical reservations about administration policy.
"I would try to talk him out of it or leave," Mukasey replied, his American flag lapel pin mirroring Specter's.
Measuring Mukasey's independence from the White House has long been an ephemeral, but key, factor in securing support from lawmakers of both parties. Gonzales was accused of being a Bush ally unwilling or unable to stop underlings from broaching ethical and legal boundaries.
The legal controversies that plagued the department under Gonzales spanned the public policy spectrum. From the administration's interrogation techniques to the president's controversial eavesdropping program and whether nine federal prosecutors were purged for political reasons, the scandals and congressional investigations left the Justice Department leaderless and demoralized.
Setting the more than 100,000-member law enforcement agency back on its feet would be the first order of business. Since the start of the year and Congress' probe of the prosecutor firings, at least 15 senior Justice Department officials have resigned — including Gonzales, his second- and third-in-command and five assistant attorneys general.
"This is a job interview for a big job, a big job that has become even bigger," Leahy said as he opened the proceedings. "The next attorney general has to begin to regain the public trust."
Sen. Charles Schumer, a Democrat from Mukasey's home state of New York, said he already had heard the answer he wanted in a private meeting with Mukasey a day earlier. Schumer said he asked the nominee, "Will you have the courage to look squarely into the eyes of the president of the United States and tell him 'no,' if that is your best legal and ethical judgment?"
Mukasey, Schumer said, replied: "Absolutely. That is what I am there for."
The White House has seldom, if ever, placated prickly Democrats into the kind of support they are exhibiting for Mukasey. But in the troubled twilight of Bush's second term, Mukasey's nomination is a political peace offering.
Mukasey was nominated to the federal bench in 1987 by President Reagan and eventually became the chief judge of the high-profile U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. He played a key role in the courts' response to the Sept. 11 terror attacks, signing material witness warrants to round up Muslim suspects.
DECEMBER 11th 2007
I have added this note today to the first entry in this file:
[Note added 2007: Techniques
which may scare or discomfort to a very high degree, but which do not
damage the individual, can arguably lie outside the definition of
torture. When writing this I did not consider 'waterboarding' to be
torture. But they should be subject to approval at the highest level if
used, and evaluated continuously to verify effectiveness.]
FEBRUARY 14th 2008
I am pleased to see that my advice on all of this, as set out in this file, has been taken to the letter.
Waterboarding is not torture, but neither is it legal unless sanctioned at the highest level on a case by case basis. See the last line of the report below. The fact remains that unlimited detention is a reasonable treatment of anyone who refuses to answer questions on a matter of clear national security on which any legal process to discover the guilt, innocence and involvement of individuals must depend. The proviso is that it must be transparent and under regular review.
By LAURIE KELLMAN, Associated Press Writer
A senior Justice Department official says laws and other limits enacted since three terrorism suspects were waterboarded has eliminated the technique from what is now legally allowed, going a step beyond what CIA Director Michael Hayden has said.
"The set of interrogation methods authorized for current use is narrower than before, and it does not today include waterboarding," Steven G. Bradbury, acting head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, says in remarks prepared for his appearance Thursday before the House Judiciary Constitution subcommittee.
"There has been no determination by the Justice Department that the use of waterboarding, under any circumstances, would be lawful under current law," he said. It is the first time the department has expressed such an opinion publicly.
Bradbury in 2005 signed two secret legal memos that authorized the CIA to use head slaps, freezing temperatures and waterboarding when questioning terror detainees. Because of that, Senate Democrats have opposed his nomination by President Bush to formally head the legal counsel's office.
Bradbury's testimony comes as majority Democrats in Congress try to clamp down on interrogation methods that can be used on terrorism suspects.
Congress on Wednesday moved to prohibit the CIA from using waterboarding and other harsh tactics, despite Bush's threat to veto any measure that limits the agency's interrogation techniques.
The prohibition was contained in a bill authorizing intelligence activities for the current year, which the Senate approved on a 51-45 vote. It would restrict the CIA to the 19 interrogation techniques outlined in the Army field manual. That manual prohibits waterboarding, a method that makes an interrogation subject feel he is drowning.
The House had approved the measure in December. Wednesday's Senate vote set up a confrontation with the White House, where Bush has promised to veto any bill that restricts CIA questioning.
The legislation bars the CIA from using waterboarding, sensory deprivation or other harsh coercive methods to break a prisoner who refuses to answer questions. Those practices were banned by the military in 2006.
Bradbury's comments go a step further than Hayden's last week. In testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, the CIA director acknowledged for the first time publicly that the CIA has used waterboarding against three prisoners.
Hayden said current law and court decisions, including the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, cast doubt on whether waterboarding would be legal now. Hayden prohibited its use in CIA interrogations in 2006; it has not been used since 2003, he said.
The Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 prohibited cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment for all detainees in U.S. custody, including CIA prisoners.
Waterboarding is still officially in the CIA tool kit but it requires the consent of the attorney general and president on a case-by-case basis.
JANUARY 23rd 2009
Barack Obama has made his first mistake. He has taken the US from one extreme to the other. Under George Bush we had incompetence and deniability on the torture front, with lack of control from the top. What was needed was honesty, clarity and responsibility. The Bush administration was being dragged towards that posiition. Now, Obama has classified Waterboarding as torture.
Waterboarding was designed to avoid torture - that was its purpose. Obviously, repeated waterboarding would be torture, as would repeated almost anything including Christina Aguillera or Whitney Houston. But the obvious definition of torture is an action that inflicts serious physical and hence mental pain, with the real threat to the individual, accepted by the interrogator, of permanent damage. In the case of waterboarding the aim is to quickly convince the person being interrogated that his life is at immediate threat, when in reality it is not, and in a way that is likely to elicit the rapid and involuntary and accurate release of information.
on very few important terrorists, withholding
information that could save many lives, and then only with
authorisation from the highest executive level. In this case, the
President. It is hot in the kitchen. I fear President Obama has been
seriously misinformed. However, for the moment no harm has been done
other than to his own CIA's self esteem, and if popularity in the
hearts and minds of the sadly manipulatable populations of the world is
the aim, he will have succeed in that. In the future, he may be asked
what he would advise in the way of alternatives when getting
information required for the interdiction of terrorist attacks. Bribery
APRIL 16th 2009
Obama has correctly declared his opinion that the agents who used severe interrogation procedures including waterboarding willnot face prosecution. It would be crazy if they were, as they had both legal and political authority at the time, and a reasonable interpretation of the Geneva convention could not sensibly be used as a counter-argument. It does not required a degree in philosophy to work out that if, by giving a homicidal bastard a serious fright you can get information that avoids death and destruction on a large scale, and you have explained your methods and checked in detail with the highest political and legal authorities in the land, you are doing your duty as defined by any moral code yet defined.
to point out, if, gentle reader, you had the brains to
read between the lines of my previous entries, all the psychological
techniques devised to avoid torture are now rendered useless by the
world-wide publicity of their existence, let alone the detailed
description that President Obama has insisted on releasing, since once
known about any fule can learn the techniques of resisting them.
Waterboarding is harmless. The whole world now knows it, and the same
applies to any other technique that is permitted. Welcome to the world
of Homer Simpson.
accept this is a good thing, because I am perfectly
prepared to live with the results. However the bleeding-heart liberals
who want the interrogators, their lawyers and even the previous
President prosecuted will not accept the results. And how could you
prosecute G W Bush for being stupid when he can claim he was only
playing dumb because to engage in anything clever gets you into a worse
situation domestically, surrounded as you are by a public as confused
as today's Americans.
APRIL 20th 2009
We are now being told that the CIA was using waterboarding not as a shock means of extracting information but as a repeated operation. This alters the perspective quite a lot, including (possibly) the validity of the information received, although that can be verified by other means if it led correctly to other persons whose involvement in terrorism has been verified. It also brings the technique closer to the definition of torture, which otherwise it clearly avoids.
Now we know with hindsight, for certain, that what was wrong with Guantanamo Bay detention centre was not that it existed but what, on occasions, went on there that was extremely unintelligent. Persistent Waterboarding is torture, and cruel and demeaning and abusive behaviour is not the way to behave either toward those who are going to be released or those who are likely to remain in detention after due process.
a strange and perverse experience in the UK where the
Master of the Rolls has accused MI5 of colluding in torture, something
I find so extremely unlikely that I call Lord Neuberger's
qualifications and judgment into question. It is an allegation that is
absurd and damaging. The case is made as follows:
Binyam Mohamed, a man who had been once allowed asylum in the UK but then joined the Taliban to fight in Afghnistan on the grounds that "they were the best government Afghanistan had ever had" was arrested by Pakistani authorities. The CIA became involved and Mohamed spent some time in detention in Karachi and then Morocco where he claims to have been tortured before being transferred to Guantanamo. Because of his UK asylum status, MI5 was involved in submitting questions they required answers to, via the CIA. Because Mohamed subsequently claimed he has been roughly treated in Morocco, and because he was visited by a UK agent (to whom he made no complaint at the time) MI5 is accused being complicit in his torture.
Personally I would think that although he was subjected to sleep deprivation and threats and physical strain, the fact that he was clearly NOT tortured in the strict sense of the word is probably due to MI5's involvement and the very clear anti-torture policy that MI5 has stuck to in private ever since its foundation and in public ever since MI5's existence was officially revealed. This policy would be known to those detaining him and may well have saved him from worse conditions.
It is hard to take seriously the complaints of a supporter of the Taliban, whose treatment of Afghan citizens is indescribably brutal, that he was not rescued from the discomforts of Pakistan and Morocco by a visitng MI5 agent, even if one accepts that his personal experience of the official Afghanistan government was unpleasant and abusive so as to cause him to turn at the time to the Taliban, perhaps unaware of their fanatical, intolerant and murderous bahviour. One can sympathise with all those who find themselves, in this world, caught between a choice of evils. But to draw from that conclusions on which to denigrate the UK's security service, which has the highest ethical standards in the world of any such service, is unacceptable.
David Cameron's decision on how to deal with the points raised in the February entry above is one of the best he has made. He has clearly given the matter some serious thought. Read the BBC news report carefully. This issue cannot be left to fester and, if there hs been negligence or confusion or an acceptance of practises not appropriate in the present circumstances, government and the security services must be on the same page. The deniability trick so popular in some quarters is no longer acceptable. I refer the reader to the third paragraph of the first entry in this file.
OCTOBER 28th 2010
MI6 chief Sir John Sawers has spoken clearly on torture. There are still some who claim not to understand what he said. It was perfect;ly clear. British security services do not take any action that condones torture or makes it likely. They will take all possible action to prevent it.
The accusation has never been of direct participation in torture but rather an uncritical relationship with partners who sometimes employ unsavoury methods.
Sir John tried to address that, carefully arguing that MI6 would receive intelligence from partners and act on it to save lives even if it did not always know how that information was produced.
But it would not take any action itself which would lead to torture, even if that allowed terrorists to continue their work. Instead, other methods - consistent with human rights - would be sought to foil their work.
I repeat, as author if this file, whether or not you agree with the thinking, 'water-boarding' was designed as a means of avoiding torture when the extraction of information that could lead to saving lives was considered likely and of major importance. We often hear 'there has to be a line beyond which you cannot go'. How wonderful, and how impossible such a world would be. There is a line beyond which you DO not go. It is a line beyond which people often go in some countries. We do not. That does not mean that a terrorist with knowledge of the location of an explosive device should not be frightened into revealing it. If the information is wrong it is still worth a look.
NOVEMBER 9th 2010
Now read this: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-11715577
The situation is clear. The US administration did not regard waterboarding as torture (see preceding para). Its use was authorised by President G W Bush. The UK government now considers waterboarding as torture. It is highly probable that GWB is accurate in his claim that vital information from which the UK benefited was obtained by waterboarding.
has not changed. In the case of techniques that do not inflict
physical damage, what decides whether they are torture in the mind of a
reasonable person, or not, is a matter of degree and repetition and
duration on the one hand, and the mental and physical constitution of
the person they are applied to on the other. Armchair lawyers who
benefit from the protection of security services should not be taken as
authorities on the issue. As stated at the start of this file, if
torture as such is used, any information to stop the torture that
satisfies the torturer may be given, making it unreliable if it cannot
then be verified by investigation. The difference between getting
information on a planned bombing attack which can be found and stopped,
and allegations that cannot be verified (such as the existence of WMD
in Iraq, which could never be proved or disproved), is an important