US President Barack Obama announces that laws will be changed to make preventive “Prolonged Detention” possible, a proposal that civil rights groups were able to prevent George Bush from implementing. On top of his flip flop on closure of Guantánamo Bay, continued allowance of torture at Bagram, and his decision to censor the torture tapes, it is getting harder to tell the difference between the two presidents; something for which both Rachel Madow (liberal) Dick Cheney (conservative) has publicly taken him to task (see below).
But first, watch Rachel Madow explain in the clip below, how President Obama, principled opponent of prosecuting or even investigating past crimes, plans to lock people up for future crimes. Forever. Like the “Pre-Crime” lock-ups portrayed in the movie, Minority Report. (Posted by Matt Barganier.) According to one participant in a 90-minute meeting in the Cabinet Room at the White House on Wednesday 20 May 2009 (as reported in the New York Times; see also NYT):
“We’ve known this is on the horizon for many years, but we were able to hold it off with George Bush. The idea that we might find ourselves fighting with the Obama administration over these powers is really stunning.”
On Cheney’s critique, see See jJack Midnight’s post, reproduced in full below:
Cheney Refutes Obama’s Moralism With Facts: Two National Security Speeches Analyzed
May 23, 2009 12:06 PM EDT
On May 21st, the United States was witness to something extraordinary.
President Obama gave a speech detailing his national security goals and
objectives, while laying much of the “blame” for the “problems” he
faces, at the feet of George W. Bush, the former president. Read the text of Obama’s speech.
a speech from Bush’s vice president, former V.P. Dick Cheney. His
speech was about 6-7 years too late, despite the vigorously aggressive
tone his words held. It was a logical, and well reasoned, setting forth
the facts to counter the disinformation coming from the
Obama administration. Read the text of Cheney’s speech.
started with 2 pages of flowery words with little meaning. You must go
to the bottom of the 2nd page to find the first sign of real “meaning”
to find this–
First, I banned the use of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques by the United States of America.
While this is true- Cheney’s rebuttal of this claim effectively neuters Obama’s tone of absolute morality. Cheney replied–
might explain why President Obama has reserved unto himself the right
to order the use of enhanced interrogation should he deem it
appropriate. Yet having reserved for himself the authority to order
enhanced interrogation after an emergency, you would think that
President Obama would be less disdainful of what his predecessor
authorized after 9/11. It’s almost gone unnoticed that the president
has retained the power to order the same methods in the same
circumstances. When they talk about interrogations, he and his
administration speak as if they have resolved some great moral dilemma
in how to extract critical information from terrorists. Instead they
have put the decision off, while assigning a presumption of moral
superiority to any decision they make in the future.
Language in the Executive order seems to validate Cheney’s claim, to wit:
(e) Mission. The mission of the Special Task Force shall be:
to study and evaluate whether the interrogation practices and
techniques in Army Field Manual 2 22.3, when employed by departments or
agencies outside the military, provide an appropriate means of
acquiring the intelligence necessary to protect the Nation, and, if
warranted, to recommend any additional or different guidance for other
departments or agencies; and
In other words, the E.O.
establishes a Special Task Force that will decide if and when
“additional or different” guidance might be required.
Director Panetta also seems to leave open the possibility “enhanced
interrogation” techniques might also be requested in the future:
has signed an executive order limiting interrogation techniques to the
19 outlined in the Army Field Manual, but Panetta conceded those might
not be enough. He said he would not hesitate to go to the president and
ask for additional authority if there was “a ticking bomb situation.” SOURCE
Obama then adds this–
know some have argued that brutal methods like waterboarding were
necessary to keep us safe. I could not disagree more. As
Commander-in-Chief, I see the intelligence. I bear the responsibility
for keeping this country safe. And I categorically reject the assertion
that these are the most effective means of interrogation. (Applause.)
What’s more, they undermine the rule of law. They alienate us in the
world. They serve as a recruitment tool for terrorists, and increase
the will of our enemies to fight us, while decreasing the will of
others to work with America. They risk the lives of our troops by
making it less likely that others will surrender to them in battle, and
more likely that Americans will be mistreated if they are captured. In
short, they did not advance our war and counterterrorism efforts –
they undermined them, and that is why I ended them once and for all.
To which, Cheney responded with:
Obama’s own Director of National Intelligence, Admiral Blair, has put
it this way: “High value information came from interrogations in which
those methods were used and provided a deeper understanding of the
al-Qaeda organization that was attacking this country.” End quote.
Blair put that conclusion in writing, only to see it mysteriously
deleted in a later version released by the administration – the missing
26 words that tell an inconvenient truth. But they couldn’t change the
words of George Tenet, the CIA Director under Presidents Clinton and
Bush, who bluntly said: “I know that this program has saved lives. I
know we’ve disrupted plots. I know this program alone is worth more
than the FBI, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the National
Security Agency put together have been able to tell us.” End of quote.
Americans do get the chance to learn what our country was spared, it’ll
do more than clarify the urgency and the rightness of enhanced
interrogations in the years after 9/11.
In another portion of the speech, Cheney said:
term out there that slipped into the discussion is the notion that
American interrogation practices were a “recruitment tool” for the
enemy. On this theory, by the tough questioning of killers, we have
supposedly fallen short of our own values. This recruitment-tool theory
has become something of a mantra lately, including from the President
himself. And after a familiar fashion, it excuses the violent and
blames America for the evil that others do. It’s another version of
that same old refrain from the Left, “We brought it on ourselves.”
is much closer to the truth that terrorists hate this country precisely
because of the values we profess and seek to live by, not by some
alleged failure to do so. Nor are terrorists or those who see them as
victims exactly the best judges of America’s moral standards, one way
or the other.
Critics of our policies are
given to lecturing on the theme of being consistent with American
values. But no moral value held dear by the American people obliges
public servants ever to sacrifice innocent lives to spare a captured
terrorist from unpleasant things. And when an entire population is
targeted by a terror network, nothing is more consistent with American
values than to stop them.
As a practical
matter, too, terrorists may lack much, but they have never lacked for
grievances against the United States. Our belief in freedom of speech
and religion … our belief in equal rights for women … our support
for Israel … our cultural and political influence in the world -
these are the true sources of resentment, all mixed in with the lies
and conspiracy theories of the radical clerics. These recruitment tools
were in vigorous use throughout the 1990s, and they were sufficient to
motivate the 19 recruits who boarded those planes on September 11th,
Next, Obama moved on to Guantanamo Bay–
The second decision that I made was to order the closing of the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay.
Obama doesn’t say is, democrats will not fund the closing of Gitmo,
until he presents a coherent plan on what he plans to do with the
For over seven years, we have
detained hundreds of people at Guantanamo. During that time, the system
of military commissions that were in place at Guantanamo succeeded in
convicting a grand total of three suspected terrorists. Let me repeat
that: three convictions in over seven years.
long years now, we’ve heard the hoopla over “torture,” when ONLY THREE
terrorists were ever subjected to such treatment. Let me repeat that:
ONLY THREE terrorists, from the thousands that were captured, were ever
subjected to “torture,”as defined by Obama.
Cheney responds by saying:
presidential decision, last month we saw the selective release of
documents relating to enhanced interrogations. This is held up as a
bold exercise in open government, honoring the public’s right to know.
We’re informed, as well, that there was much agonizing over this
Yet somehow, when the
soul-searching was done and the veil was lifted on the policies of the
Bush administration, the public was given less than half the truth. The
released memos were carefully redacted to leave out references to what
our government learned through the methods in question. Other memos,
laying out specific terrorist plots that were averted, apparently were
not even considered for release.
reasons the administration has yet to explain, they believe the public
has a right to know the method of the questions, but not the content of
Over on the left wing of the
president’s party, there appears to be little curiosity in finding out
what was learned from the terrorists. The kind of answers they’re after
would be heard before a so-called “Truth Commission.” Some are even
demanding that those who recommended and approved the interrogations be
prosecuted, in effect treating political disagreements as a punishable
offense, and political opponents as criminals.
hard to imagine a worse precedent, filled with more possibilities for
trouble and abuse, than to have an incoming administration criminalize
the policy decisions of its predecessors. Apart from doing a serious
injustice to intelligence operators and lawyers who deserve far better
for their devoted service, the danger here is a loss of focus on
national security, and what it requires. I would advise the
administration to think very carefully about the course ahead. All the
zeal that has been directed at interrogations is utterly misplaced. And
staying on that path will only lead our government further away from
its duty to protect the American people.
person who by all accounts objected to the release of the interrogation
memos was the Director of Central Intelligence, Leon Panetta. He was
joined in that view by at least four of his predecessors. I assume they
felt this way because they understand the importance of protecting
intelligence sources, methods, and personnel. But now that this once
top-secret information is out for all to see – including the enemy -
let me draw your attention to some points that are routinely overlooked.
is a fact that only detainees of the highest intelligence value were
ever subjected to enhanced interrogation. You’ve heard endlessly about
waterboarding. It happened to three terrorists. One of them was Khalid
Sheikh Muhammed – the mastermind of 9/11, who has also boasted about
beheading Daniel Pearl.
We had a lot of
blind spots after the attacks on our country. We didn’t know about
al-Qaeda’s plans, but Khalid Sheikh Muhammed and a few others did know.
And with many thousands of innocent lives potentially in the balance,
we didn’t think it made sense to let the terrorists answer questions in
their own good time, if they answered them at all.
What Obama says next, is rather surprising, in that he seems to find it meaningful–
over 525 detainees were released from Guantanamo under not my
administration, under the previous administration. Let me repeat that:
Two-thirds of the detainees were released before I took office and
ordered the closure of Guantanamo.
It is hardly surprising
many people were released, since not all of them were “guilty” of the
crimes they were suspected of undertaking. When you begin the weeding
out process, you are naturally going to reject a large number very
quickly– leaving the “worst of the worst” suspects in detention.
This indicates to me, even more care should be taken, when considering the release of all current terrorists in Gitmo.
Obama adds conjecture to his misplaced opinion when he says–
became a symbol that helped al Qaeda recruit terrorists to its cause.
Indeed, the existence of Guantanamo likely created more terrorists
around the world than it ever detained. So the record is clear: Rather
than keeping us safer, the prison at Guantanamo has weakened American
“Likely created” more terrorists, and how
would, or could Obama POSSIBLY know such a thing? It is pure
conjecture, manufactured to serve a political agenda. The “record” is
anything BUT clear– and in fact, the record REFUTES any denial of
“enhanced interrogation,” but Obama REFUSES TO RELEASE the CIA memos
that detail the results of the use of those techniques. He is content
to release memos detailing the torture, but not what was learned from
Obama then says proudly–
The third decision that I made was to order a review of all pending cases at Guantanamo.
that review, he decided to maintain “military tribunals.” Of course
that’s in direct contradiction with what Obama said as a candidate.
Obama naturally “changed” the process by which the tribunals will
operate, but the changes are largely cosmetic, and the retention of the
tribunals is obviously the result of the recognition, the Bush team had
On page four Obama goes on to say–
make these decisions, bear in mind the following fact: Nobody has ever
escaped from one of our federal, supermax prisons, which hold hundreds
of convicted terrorists. As Republican Lindsey Graham said, the idea
that we cannot find a place to securely house 250-plus detainees within
the United States is not rational.
This paragraph makes it
sound as if– any Gitmo prisoners brought to the USA will be housed in
“federal, supermax prisons.” There is only ONE federal, supermax prison
in the USA, and it’s full, there are no “SHUs” (special housing units,)
There are several prisons that have supermax
wings, within their facilities, but nearly every SHU in these prisons
are occupied as well.
Sure, there’s room in the USA for these
prisoners, Hardin, Montana surely wants as many as Obama will send. But
no one wants the terrorists in their state, as the Governor of Kansas,
the home of a federal prison, made clear.
Where will Gitmo
detainees go? The answer is more than likely, NO WHERE soon, not even
by January 2010, the supposed deadline to close Gitmo.
himself admits, there are some terrorists that simply cannot be dealt
with in a traditional manner, consistent with what he perceives as
Now, finally, there remains the question
of detainees at Guantanamo who cannot be prosecuted yet who pose a
clear danger to the American people. And I have to be honest here –
this is the toughest single issue that we will face. We’re going to
exhaust every avenue that we have to prosecute those at Guantanamo who
pose a danger to our country. But even when this process is complete,
there may be a number of people who cannot be prosecuted for past
crimes, in some cases because evidence may be tainted, but who
nonetheless pose a threat to the security of the United States.
Examples of that threat include people who’ve received extensive
explosives training at al Qaeda training camps, or commanded Taliban
troops in battle, or expressed their allegiance to Osama bin Laden, or
otherwise made it clear that they want to kill Americans. These are
people who, in effect, remain at war with the United States.
me repeat: I am not going to release individuals who endanger the
American people. Al Qaeda terrorists and their affiliates are at war
with the United States, and those that we capture — like other
prisoners of war — must be prevented from attacking us again. Having
said that, we must recognize that these detention policies cannot be
unbounded. They can’t be based simply on what I or the executive branch
That’s why my administration has begun to
reshape the standards that apply to ensure that they are in line with
the rule of law. We must have clear, defensible, and lawful standards
for those who fall into this category. We must have fair procedures so
that we don’t make mistakes. We must have a thorough process of
periodic review, so that any prolonged detention is carefully evaluated
Obama seems to ignore the fact the Speaker of
the House is embroiled in a controversy that would, if settled, reveal
quite clearly that Congress was briefed, and signed off on, ALL BUSH
POLICIES as it pertains to “torture” and the detention of terrorists at
Congress authorized the military use of force, not only in
Afghanistan and Iraq, but around the world. Intelligence committee
members were briefed on the “torture” techniques being used.
The rule of law was followed in the Bush administration, as Cheney makes clear:
interrogations were used on hardened terrorists after other efforts
failed. They were legal, essential, justified, successful, and the
right thing to do. The intelligence officers who questioned the
terrorists can be proud of their work and proud of the results, because
they prevented the violent death of thousands, if not hundreds of
thousands, of innocent people.
Obama then says something we can all agree about–
have confidence that the American people are more interested in doing
what is right to protect this country than in political posturing.
too, have confidence, the American people don’t mind a bit of torture
if it gets the information we need to save lives, and further, that
Obama’s posturing on the issue is nothing more than politics as usual.
No matter how much Obama insists he has “changed course” from the “mess” of the last 8 years, the facts remain–
Leon Panetta has said, “he would not hesitate to go to the president and ask for additional authority if there was “a ticking bomb situation,”
even as he presents what he says is now the official policy of limiting
interrogation techniques to the 19 outlined in the Army Field Manual.
Leon Panetta has said, renditions are an “appropriate tool,” and has certainly not ended the practice.
One of Obama’s first actions in office
was to sign an executive order securing the continued practice of
secretly capturing, transporting and imprisoning so called “enemy
We also know the Obama administration also vigorously supports the “national interests/state secrets” rationale when it feels so compelled, willing to use the same courts Bush used to keep similar secrets.
The Obama administration also intends to continue the NSA wiretapping program,
though, as usual, they want to emphasize Bush broke the rules but they
sure won’t, no no, not them— but guess what, they’ve already admitted
they were “over collecting.”
Obama administration officials tell
us they can’t give us the full details because “the over collection
problem involves classified intelligence-gathering techniques.”
The Obama administration simply says, what one might have expected the Bush administration to say, “the
issue appears focused in part on technical problems in the N.S.A.’s
ability at times to distinguish between communications inside the
United States and those overseas as it uses its access to American
telecommunications companies’ fiber-optic lines and its own spy
satellites to intercept millions of calls and e-mail messages.”
Can you imagine if Bush had said the same thing?
The Obama administration also seems to be defining “battlefield” in the same manner as the Bush administration,
thereby maintaining anyone captured on the “battlefield” does not have
“civil rights” available to them, such as habeas corpus, and could be
held in detention indefinitely.
They’ll all defend whatever they
do, no matter who they are. It’s called politics and it’s the game they
all play once in office.
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