November 06, 2007

An Edifice of Half-Truths, Lies & Obfuscations

In this new war, the enemy conspires in secret -- and often the only source of information on what the terrorists are planning is the terrorists themselves. So we established a program at the Central Intelligence Agency to question key terrorist leaders and operatives captured in the war on terror. This program has produced critical intelligence that has helped us stop a number of attacks -- including a plot to strike the U.S. Marine camp in Djibouti, a planned attack on the U.S. consulate in Karachi, a plot to hijack a passenger plane and fly it into Library Tower in Los Angeles, California, or a plot to fly passenger planes into Heathrow Airport and buildings into downtown London. Despite the record of success, and despite the fact that our professionals use lawful techniques, the CIA program has come under renewed criticism in recent weeks. Those who oppose this vital tool in the war on terror need to answer a simple question: Which of the attacks I have just described would they prefer we had not stopped? [my emphasis]

--President Bush, speaking on October 23rd (Hat Tip: MP)

It is distressing in the extreme such transparently demagogic tactics are being used by a sitting President of the United States. I mean, where's the beef on all these supposed terror plots having been prevented as a result of torture (sorry, "enhanced interrogation techniques")? Are we really meant to believe that Karachi, Djibouti, Library Tower and Heathrow were all stopped because tactics like sleep deprivation and water-boarding were being employed on varied detainees? I think not.

Consider:

Djibouti: Bush was referring to Camp Lemonier, formerly a U.S. Marine Base in Djibouti, now a U.S. Navy Base. The (normally rather thorough) Wikipedia entry doesn't even mention a potential terror attack there, so we must look further afield for evidencing thereto. One of the few sources detailing a potential terror plot is Government-linked, from this "Summary of the High Value Terrorist Detainee Program", released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence:

In early 2004, shortly after his capture, al-Qa'ida facilitator Gouled Hassan Dourad revealed that in mid-2003 al-Qa'ida East Africa cell leader Abu Talha al-Sudani sent him from Mogadishu to Djibouti to case the US Marine base at Camp Lemonier, as part of a plot to send suicide bombers with a truck bomb into the base. His information -- including identifying operatives associated with the plot -- helped us to enhance the security at the camp.

My my. Hardly the much ballyhooed ticking-bomb type case, eh? In "early 2004", so-called 'enhanced interrogation techniques' reportedly had one Gouled Hassan Dourad revealing that way back in "mid-2003" the U.S. Marine base at Camp Lemonier may have been getting cased some, and as a result, security at the camp was enhanced. For this thin gruel we are torturing detainees in our captivity? See too this article from '05, describing a rather quotidian existence at the camp, with nary a mention of an apocalyptic terror plot narrowly averted. Most tellingly, don't miss this piece from a Marine Corps Officer serving in Djibouti--written in January of '03 (before the alleged dastardly plot!)--complaining about the poor security at the camp. Frankly, one wonders if security measures weren't ameliorated for reasons quite separate from an alleged busted terror plot...i.e, grunts on the base ticked off (justifiably so) by the security short-falls.

US Consulate in Karachi: Ah, the Karachi consulate...such a rare target!

The Karachi consulate attacks are a string of attacks against and plots to attack against the U.S. consulate in Karachi, Pakistan during the War on Terrorism. The consulate is a tempting target for Islamic fundamentalists, because it occupies a slightly vulnerable position in downtown Karachi, next to the Marriott Hotel and accessible from two sides by roads.

The same Director of National Intelligence report linked above states: "(i)n the spring of 2003, the US and a partner detained key al-Qa'ida operatives who were in the advanced stages of plotting an attack against several targets in Karachi, Pakistan that would have killed hundreds of innocent men, women, and children."

Interesting, this Wikipedia entry lists a June '02 attack on the Consulate in Karachi, as well as a Feb '03 shooting, nearby March '06 bombing (outside the Karachi Marriott Hotel), and even a thwarted March '04 bomb plot. But no mention of a "spring" (not even a month?) '03 alleged attack, regarding "several targets" in Karachi? Again, where's the beef? Outside of Jack Bauer fantasy-land at least, it appears a March '04 plot on the consulate in Karachi was interrupted--ostensibly by relatively routine Pakistani intelligence and police efforts--not a circa. spring '03 water-boarding fiesta meant to titillate the Camp Gitmo crowd of America's increasingly fascistic right.

Library Tower: This plot has also been described as "The West Coast Airliner Plot", and the Director of National Intelligence report describes it thusly "(i)In mid-2002, thanks to leads from a variety of detainees, the US disrupted a plot by 9/11 mastermind KSM to attack targets on the West Coast of the United States using hijacked airplanes."

Bush first described the plot in a February '06 speech:

Since September the 11th, the United States and our coalition partners have disrupted a number of serious al Qaeda terrorist plots -- including plots to attack targets inside the United States. Let me give you an example. In the weeks after September the 11th, while Americans were still recovering from an unprecedented strike on our homeland, al Qaeda was already busy planning its next attack. We now know that in October 2001, Khalid Shaykh Muhammad -- the mastermind of the September the 11th attacks -- had already set in motion a plan to have terrorist operatives hijack an airplane using shoe bombs to breach the cockpit door, and fly the plane into the tallest building on the West Coast. We believe the intended target was Liberty [sic] Tower in Los Angeles, California.*

Rather than use Arab hijackers as he had on September the 11th, Khalid Shaykh Muhammad sought out young men from Southeast Asia -- whom he believed would not arouse as much suspicion. To help carry out this plan, he tapped a terrorist named Hambali, one of the leaders of an al Qaeda affiliated group in Southeast Asia called "J-I." JI terrorists were responsible for a series of deadly attacks in Southeast Asia, and members of the group had trained with al Qaeda. Hambali recruited several key operatives who had been training in Afghanistan. Once the operatives were recruited, they met with Osama bin Laden, and then began preparations for the West Coast attack.

Their plot was derailed in early 2002 when a Southeast Asian nation arrested a key al Qaeda operative. Subsequent debriefings and other intelligence operations made clear the intended target, and how al Qaeda hoped to execute it. This critical intelligence helped other allies capture the ringleaders and other known operatives who had been recruited for this plot. The West Coast plot had been thwarted. Our efforts did not end there. In the summer of 2003, our partners in Southeast Asia conducted another successful manhunt that led to the capture of the terrorist Hambali.

It's odd that al-Qaeda would be specifically plotting to use shoe-bombs to breach cockpit-doors back in October of '01, especially as it wasn't even until November of that year that the TSA established requirements for "installing reinforced cockpit doors in aircraft." Regardless, al-Qaeda reportedly originally planned for approximately 10 airplanes to strike the East and West Coasts of the U.S. simultaneously--and perhaps not having the requisite amount of capable terrorists who had infiltrated the U.S--Osama prioritized the financial and political capitals of the country on the East Coast. So was the "Library Tower Plot" (Bush in his Feb '06 speech called it, somewhat amusingly, the "Liberty Tower" plot) really something new, or more residue of 9/11 that was far from imminently realizable, particularly given the massive post 9/11 ramped up security at the nation's airports?

As this article details:

But several U.S. intelligence officials played down the relative importance of the alleged plot and attributed the timing of Bush's speech to politics. The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to publicly criticize the White House, said there is deep disagreement within the intelligence community over the seriousness of the Library Tower scheme and whether it was ever much more than talk.

One intelligence official said nothing has changed to precipitate the release of more information on the case. The official attributed the move to the administration's desire to justify its efforts in the face of criticism of the domestic surveillance program, which has no connection to the incident [ed. note: Though note this past week Bush raised it in defense of the CIA interrogation program, whatever suits the moment, no?].

Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism specialist who heads the Washington office of Rand Corp., said Bush's account adds some interesting detail to the Library Tower episode. But he said it still leaves key questions about the case unanswered.

"It doesn't really give us any more indication of whether this was a plot that was derailed or preempted, or a plot that was more in the realm of an idle daydream," Hoffman said.

Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (W.Va.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, mocked the idea of raising the alleged Library Tower plot. "Maybe they're tired of talking about [the] Brooklyn Bridge and they're trying to find a different edifice of some sort," he said, referring to another alleged terrorist plot that some have said was inflated by the government.

But Frances Fragos Townsend, the president's chief counterterrorism adviser, told reporters that "there is no question in my mind that this is a disruption. It's not about credit; it's about protecting the American people. And the American people are absolutely safer as a result of these arrests." [ed. note: Of course the American people became safer as a result of some of these arrests, but did they become any safer as a result of any torture techniques employed with some of the alleged terrorists apprehended by the Southeast Asian nation in question?]

Bush first alluded to the incident in a speech in October when he said the United States and its allies had thwarted 10 serious planned al Qaeda attacks since Sept. 11, 2001. A White House list released at the time referred to a plotto fly a hijacked plane into an unspecified West Coast city in 2002. Citing unnamed sources, news organizations reported that the target was the Library Tower, since renamed the U.S. Bank Tower, and that the plot's author was Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the architect of the Sept. 11 attacks who was captured in 2003.

Mohammed's original plan for Sept. 11, as presented to bin Laden in 1998 or 1999, called for hijacking 10 jetliners on both coasts, according to interrogations of Mohammed cited by the commission that investigated the 2001 attacks. U.S. officials concluded that bin Laden had instructed Mohammed to initially focus on the East Coast because it was too difficult to recruit enough operatives to seize 10 planes. After the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center were knocked down, Mohammed set about putting his West Coast plan in motion.

Frankly, the discord in the intelligence community alone would seem to caution against using this plot as a centerpiece example for advocating using torture techniques to interrogate detainees, I'd think...

Heathrow Airport and buildings into downtown London: No, no--this wasn't the circa. '06 'liquid bomb' plot that has us all putting our shaving cream and toothpaste in zip-locs, but rather (again, per the National Intelligence document), Bush seems to have conflated two alleged attacks: 1) "the 2004 UK Urban Targets Plot--in mid 2004, the US and its counter-terrorism partners disrupted a plot that involved attacking urban targets in the United Kingdom with explosive devices...and 2) the Heathrow Airport Plot--In 2003, the US and several partners...disrupted a plot to attack Heathrow Airport using hijacked commercial airlines."

I'll grant some credence to a KSM-linked potential attack on Heathrow, perhaps, but the "2004 UK Urban Targets Plot" is tremendously vague indeed. But even with regard to the more documented prospective Heathrow plot, note the Times article mentions MI5 "received detailed intelligence in February 2003". The Director of National Inteligence report tells us KSM's network was behind this attack, and so we are led to believe water-boarding this human scum lead to an intelligence breakthrough. And yet, KSM wasn't captured until March of '03. Go figure...

Rarely has one seen such an edifice of half-truths, lies and obfuscations put in the service of a democracy turning its back on Enlightenment values to cheerlead use of torture against detainees in its captivity. But the President's repulsively loaded words are nakedly clear in their mendacity: "(w)hich of the attacks I have just described would they prefer we had not stopped?" If Bush genuinely believes he is telling the truth, his shabby mediocrity continues to defile the nation through abject ignorance. And if he is aware of the essential lack of real causation between a scandalous CIA interrogation program and these supposedly interrupted plots, he is purposefully lying to the American people on matters of the greatest import.

Either way, he is engaging in cheap demagoguery. With respect for the Office of the President of the United States, either possibility is deeply repugnant. As a fellow Andover grad, let me remind the President that Andover's 1778 Constitution tasks the school to prepare "(y)outh from every quarter" to appreciate that "goodness without knowledge is weak ... yet knowledge without goodness is dangerous." Bush would seem to fail on both counts. But regardless of whether the President is a weak, well-intentioned ignorant, or a dangerously pernicious dissembler--not least given the great power of his office and bully pulpit--he has proven a nastily effective demagogue indeed regarding issues of essential import to our moral fiber (at least with his increasingly authoritarian cultist base). This crude debasement of our 'better angels' and national honor will be his real legacy, along with his massive strategic blunders in the Middle East.

Posted by Gregory at November 6, 2007 10:39 PM
Comments

that we are even at war is an ABSOLUTE JOKE.

go back to sleep.

that's an order.

Posted by: neill at November 7, 2007 12:57 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

which tactics that stopped the loss of innocent lives would our fearless host preferred were not used?

To the toll of .....how many lives?

Count those of his dear wife and newborn babe....

Posted by: neill at November 7, 2007 01:06 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Interesting timing that Neill should drag that turkey out again, since tonight ABC ( http://blogs.abcnews.com/theblotter/2007/11/cia-rendition-t.html ) has just provided an exclusive on official confirmation from the CIA as to how rendering al-Qaeda camp commander Ibn al Sheikh al-Libi to Egypt, so that their agents could methodically torture him for us, led to him feeding us a crock of bullshit about "how Saddam Hussein had been training al Qaeda in chemical weapons. This evidence was used by Colin Powell at the United Nations a year earlier (February 2003) to justify the war in Iraq. ('I can trace the story of a senior terrorist operative telling how Iraq provided training in these [chemical and biological] weapons to al Qaeda,' Powell said. 'Fortunately, this operative is now detained, and he has told his story.')

"But now, hearing how the information was obtained, the CIA was soon to retract all this intelligence." Just a little bit late, after it had played a major role in leading us into a gigantic and disastrous strategic error.

In another nice piece of timing, the New Republic has just printed a historical retrospective ( http://www.tnr.com/politics/story.html?id=50b70935-6086-4b42-a7dc-36aa41c1647e ) in which Anthony Grafton notes that what the official transcripts of torture-interrogation sessions in the Middle Ages clearly and repeatedly show us is that "Torture does not obtain truth. Applied with leading questions, it can make most ordinary people -- as it would certainly make me -- say anything their examiners want, if they can only work out what that is. Applied to the extraordinarily defiant, it may not work at all." The first, of course, happened all over again with al-Libi -- to America's serious strategic harm. (Admittedly, as Phil Nugent points out, Bush would have used absolutely any excuse to get us into Iraq anyway: "He was a kid who could hardly wait for Christmas.")

So tell me, Neill: just how strategically useful is torture when it leads us off on disastrous snipe hunts more often than it actually puts us on the trail of something real?

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at November 7, 2007 01:41 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

No, no ,Neil, you have it wrong. It's go back to shopping. Not sleep.

Seriously Neil, its a permanent war, declared by none, unless the writ of a gang of criminals be war. The war goes on forever.....it is fought in secret. Sometimes the enemies are our allies. See Syria. See Iran. It is against 'terrorism' which, by the way, we support so long as it is directed at Iran. See PPK. It is fought in the name of the bringing democracy. Yet our best allies in Iraq have turned out to be the Sunni tribes, now that they have allegedly stopped, in theory, killing our troops.For the moment. Said Tribes are not exactly the biggest proponents of democracy.

This permanent war is great in that it does not call for a draft. Or a tax increase. Or rationing. These are some of the most annoying elements of a war and Bush, and America, have dispensed with the need to employ them.

By their deeds you will know them......look around. See America today. See its position in the world. Get a good luck at what the present leadership, Dems and Reps, have given us. What the American people have given themselves.

Posted by: jonst at November 7, 2007 07:49 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

jonst-

"Get a good luck at what the present leadership, Dems and Reps, have given us. What the American people have given themselves. "

Ah, no attacks on US soil since the w/o/t began? And all at the expense of some crying Eurowimps disenchanted at our primeval conduct. Does that mean I get lousy service when I order pastries in Paris or sauerkraut in Hamburg?

Oh, the horror.

I'm with Neill. I vote we go back to the sleepy, elysian days of slick Willie, where all the world embraced us and our golden image brought envy. And respect.

And, btw, an inconsequential thing was brought called extremism, qua bin Laden-who, since you apparently forgot, declared this "permanant war." But don't let an attack in Manhattan get in the way of your talking points.


Posted by: reshufflex at November 7, 2007 09:56 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I've GOT IT!!

The answer to ALL our intelligence shortcomings.


Better human intel and source recruiting?

No...

Better signal gathering techniques?

No...

Better advanced interrogation techniques?

No...

A new-new intelligence bureaucracy?

No...


To solve all of our problems, all we need is Greg Djeredjian and a computer!!

He can use Wikipedia to prepare for and personally deliver the morning intelligence brief to the President. We don't even have to piss away all that money on the CIA, DIA, NSA etc.

We'll save so much money we can build museums commemorating rock and roll shows in every state of the nation.

Posted by: neill at November 7, 2007 10:01 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Neill:

Your argument is specious. Mr Djerejian is not saying that our national intelligence agencies are incompetent or mismanaged. What he is criticizing is the use of the doomsday "ticking-bomb" scenario as a justification for torture when so few actual situations have approached such an extreme.

I refer you to Frank Rich's Op-Ed, "The 'Good Germans' Among Us." At the end, he quotes two intelligence officers from the World War II era and their remarks as to how non-violent their interrogation techniques were (the link is here: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/14/opinion/14rich2.html?em&ex=1192593600&en=a15739cf7909313c&ei=5087%0A)

My point is that the entire torture/ticking bomb scenario is generally a product of Hollywood movies. Further, our use of torture on suspected terrorist detainees (some of whom may be innocent of everything except looking "Islamofascist") opens the door for more beheadings and executions of our own civilians and troops abroad.

So listen to Bruce Moomaw. How can we even begin to trust information that is coerced? We don't do it in criminal courts. We should not do it with national security at stake.

Posted by: Paul at November 7, 2007 11:42 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

reshufflex,

You are, of course, free to adopt what I would call, the patently ignorant, and silly, seminal position that a criminal act, brought about by a pack of criminals, equals war, as that term has been commonly understood since at the time of the Roman Empire. And, this 'declaration of war', as you call it, should be responded to accordingly. The nation embraced your position, and re embraced it, in the 2004 election. In fact when Kerry tried to explain it was a criminal act...that started this 'war' he was laughed out by the media and a great many, indeed, perhaps the majority, in the nation.
So, the nation has rolled out a military designed to fight the Soviet Union, and sent it in search of the criminals, who had 'declared' 'war' on us. Ah, as a "Eurowimp" once wrote...."how good bad reasons, and bad music sound, when marching against an enemy".

So yes reshufflex, the nation embraced your position. Not mine. And we continue to embrace your position. Next up, in this war you, and the nation, say we are in, Iran. Having created, or at least done our part to create, a desert in Iraq and are calling it peace, we start to take on a another nation that has not attacked us.

I fear that our nation will reap what it sows. But then perhaps I am not a manly-man like so many others beating this drum to signal, other, men and women to prepare for battle.

Posted by: jonst at November 7, 2007 11:44 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

If we really wanted Osama, we could get him, no problem. Here's one scenario.

As for solutions, again, if you've just got one, it's because you're not thinking creatively enough. But here's just one anyway.

Case in point, the "Osama Problem."

We actually know where he is, we're just trying to make sure we round him and all his helpers, all up at once. Look for an attack on USA about next June - Sept, and the "capture of Osama" by early October, to be attributed to the "brilliant Republican strategy," in hopes of retaining the White House.

Back to the problem.

Airdrop $100 USA bills in an area where you suspect him to be. If you drop one thousand of them at a time, each drop will cost $100,000 + delivery. Have a drawing each month for one of the serial numbers out of all the dropped bills ever, and the winner is awarded $1,000,000 cash and the option for he/she and family and friends to all get instant USA citizenship and transportation. 24 hours after the drop, Announce the location to the world. Do this once a month. Talk about reality TV! Do the drop at least once a month, and maybe pick on a poverty stricken area, if you have no clue as to where he might be. In fact, just to vary things, and maybe make it easier for the folks who receive the cash to use it, maybe dropping smaller denominations, but more of them, still adding up to $100,000, would be a good idea. Given the cost of everything else, this is a cheap program.

As for violating other nations' rights, well, that certainly didn't stop us in Iraq. Besides, the most likely spots are Afghanistan and Pakistan, according to what the Bush administration wants us to "know." I'm sure the locals would view this as a big improvement over bombs. Embedded information might just as well be shredded information. Our current government doesn't trust our own reporters to tell the story the way they (in government) want it told.

If the drop is near Osama, his own people will leave him to grab the dollars to discourage others from getting them. IR (infrared) camera equipped drones will pick the excess activity. Each individual Osama supporter will also have mixed feelings about what to do with the bills. They each are worth their face value, which is a ton of value in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and they have their potential at the big prize.

The event would focus media and world attention onto the search. It will attract thrill seeking trust fund babies and bounty hunters equally well. It just might turn the Pakistani Northern tribal types against him. If I read them right, they love their privacy and social structure, and this is going to mess with that like mad. This is called "applied anthropology." Osama would become a pariah, a typhoid Mary, a carrier of cultural destruction.

So what's your idea of how to catch Osama ?

I personally think he is squirreled away in a manmade luxury cave in Switzerland, and travels to and from the Mideast via the modified keel of a very large sail boat.

Posted by: Douglas Keachie at November 7, 2007 05:58 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I came, I posted, I see nothing. I assume I am being moderated.

cheers,

Doug

Posted by: Douglas Keachie at November 7, 2007 05:59 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

When did we become a nation of "ends justify the means"? When did we lose the Golden Rule? When did the "Christians" among us forget "As you do to the least of these, you do unto me"? When did "give me liberty or give me death" become "do anything you want as long as I'm safe"? When did we forget that there are some things worse than death, and some things worth dying for?

Oh yeah, it was when 9/11 Changed Everything and we became a nation of assholes.

Posted by: Svensker at November 7, 2007 06:24 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

More on the strategic ineffectiveness of torture from 20-year SERE Instructor Michael Nance (who will be testifying to this effect before the House tomorrow): http://www.tpmmuckraker.com/archives/004659.php . Well, what does he know anyway (particularly as compared to Neill and Reshufflex)?

He does make one interesting additional point in particular, though: "...Al-Qaeda now has, essentially, its own SERE school in U.S. detention facilities, as released detainees have given numerous accounts of their interrogations." So there! We should never have let anyone leave there alive, whether they were innocent or not -- they were bound to squeal. We should have put 'em all in cement overshoes and let 'em sleep with the fishes. THAT would have fixed the problem.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at November 7, 2007 06:41 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Remember the cry of the US religious right -- Jesus embraced torture! Jesus loved torture, and Jesus loved murdering women and children, so therefore the US must do likewise.

:)

Posted by: Jose Ciudadano at November 7, 2007 07:03 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'm sorry to sound pedantic, but mediocrity is very difficult to define in terms of abject ignorance, or defiling the nation. A person with practically superhuman or saintly qualities could still be abjectly ignorant, and end up mediocre, as it were, on average, and a mediocrity could perhaps make the nation more gray or less interesting. But only in the world of Lake Wobegon ("where all the children are above average") is mediocrity a proper term of abuse.

Mediocre means ordinary; it means average. It is a term that in a large numbers of ways applied to President Bush's father, but I don't know very many people who use the word correctly and apply it to President Bush. His remaining admirers -- I see they are still posting away here -- regard him with something close to veneration; his much more numerous detractors regard him as one of the worst Presidents in our history.

As Greg points out here, one of the reasons the latter group feels the way it does is Bush's tendency to make things up, in this case taking credit for preventing things that would have been very bad if they had happened but that probably did not come close to happening, and which in any case he had little role in keeping from happening. You wouldn't want such a tendency, undesirable in any President, to be thought mediocre. Better to describe it straightforwardly as an expression of personal entitlement and want of character, an example for future reference of what can happen when we choose our Presidents based on their last names.

Posted by: Zathras at November 7, 2007 07:29 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg: That was a good and detailed analysis of the different scenarios mentioned by Bush. Brought up several points I hadn't known before. Thanks for doing all that research.

Posted by: Quiddity at November 7, 2007 09:41 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Thank you Greg for using your intelligence. Power corrupts and has totally corrupted our government. Some who prefer simple saviors, like Neill, will conbtinue on their way, but our Middle Eastern disaster will bring down this country- not this decade, but the next one or two.

Posted by: banana man at November 8, 2007 12:46 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"What he is criticizing is the use of the doomsday "ticking-bomb" scenario as a justification for torture when so few actual situations have approached such an extreme."

Paul, thank for your interesting reply.

So a FEW actual situations have approached the extreme that would justify a "ticking-bomb" scenario? By Jove, man, I think you've got it.


http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=ZjNkYmU2NWVlOWE4MTU5MjhiOGNmMWUwMjdjZjU2ZjA=

....U.S. and Pakistani authorities captured KSM on March 1, 2003 in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. KSM stayed mum for months, often answering questions with Koranic chants. Interrogators eventually waterboarded him — for just 90 seconds.

KSM “didn’t resist,” one CIA veteran said in the August 13 issue of The New Yorker. “He sang right away. He cracked real quick.” Another CIA official told ABC News: “KSM lasted the longest under water-boarding, about a minute and a half, but once he broke, it never had to be used again.”

KSM’s revelations helped authorities arrest at least six major terrorists:


Ohio-based trucker Iyman Faris pleaded guilty May 1, 2003 to providing material support to terrorists. He secured 2,000 sleeping bags for al-Qaeda and delivered cash, cell phones, and airline tickets to its men. He also conspired to derail a train near Washington, D.C. and use acetylene torches to sever the Brooklyn Bridge’s cables, plunging it into the East River.


Jemaah Islamiya (JI) agent Rusman “Gun Gun” Gunawan was convicted of transferring money to bomb Jakarta’s Marriott Hotel, killing 12 and injuring 150.


Hambali, Gunawan’s brother and ringleader of JI’s October 2002 Bali nightclub blasts, killed 202 and wounded 209.

Suspected al-Qaeda agent Majid Khan, officials say, provided money to JI terrorists and plotted to assassinate Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf, detonate U.S. gas stations, and poison American water reservoirs.


Jose Padilla, who trained with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, was convicted last August of providing material support to terrorists and conspiring to kidnap, maim, and murder people overseas. Padilla, suspected of but not charged with planning a radioactive “dirty bomb” attack, reportedly learned to incinerate residential high-rises by igniting apartments filled with natural gas.


Malaysian Yazid Sufaat, an American-educated biochemist and JI member, reportedly provided hijackers Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi housing in Kuala Lumpur during a January 2000 9-11 planning summit. He also is suspected of employing “20th hijacker” Zacarias Moussaoui. Page 151 of The 9-11 Commission Report states: “Sufaat would spend several months attempting to cultivate anthrax for al Qaeda in a laboratory he helped set up near the Kandahar airport.”

Imagine how many innocent people these six Islamo-fascists (and perhaps others) would have murdered, had interrogators left KSM unwaterboarded and his secrets unuttered.

“The most important source of intelligence we had after 9/11 came from the interrogation of high-value detainees,” Robert Grenier, former chief of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, told The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer. He called KSM “the most valuable of the high-value detainees, because he had operational knowledge.”

Thank goodness they are outlawing this filthy practice, of not a smidge of practical use, merely a sadists' refuge.

Anyway, we're a big country, we can afford a FEW deaths of innocents.

Posted by: neill at November 8, 2007 01:19 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Quite apart from the fact that the government's initial charges against Jose Padilla turned out to be -- er -- exaggerated, it's appropriate at this point to quote Ron Suskind's "The One Percent Doctrine" on just how well torture worked as an information-getting system in the case of Abu Zubaydah ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/06/19/AR2006061901211_pf.html ):

"One example out of many comes in Ron Suskind's gripping narrative of what the White House has celebrated as one of the war's major victories: the capture of Abu Zubaydah in Pakistan in March 2002. Described as al-Qaeda's chief of operations even after U.S. and Pakistani forces kicked down his door in Faisalabad, the Saudi-born jihadist was the first al-Qaeda detainee to be shipped to a secret prison abroad. Suskind shatters the official story line here.

"Abu Zubaydah, his captors discovered, turned out to be mentally ill and nothing like the pivotal figure they supposed him to be. CIA and FBI analysts, poring over a diary he kept for more than a decade, found entries 'in the voice of three people: Hani 1, Hani 2, and Hani 3' -- a boy, a young man and a middle-aged alter ego. All three recorded in numbing detail 'what people ate, or wore, or trifling things they said.' Dan Coleman, then the FBI's top al-Qaeda analyst, told a senior bureau official, 'This guy is insane, certifiable, split personality.'

"Abu Zubaydah also appeared to know nothing about terrorist operations; rather, he was al-Qaeda's go-to guy for minor logistics -- travel for wives and children and the like. That judgment was 'echoed at the top of CIA and was, of course, briefed to the President and Vice President,' Suskind writes. And yet somehow, in a speech delivered two weeks later, President Bush portrayed Abu Zubaydah as 'one of the top operatives plotting and planning death and destruction on the United States.' And over the months to come, under White House and Justice Department direction, the CIA would make him its first test subject for harsh interrogation techniques.

"How could this have happened? Why are we learning about it only now? Those questions form the spine of Suskind's impressively reported book.

"In interviews with intelligence officers, Suskind often finds them baffled by White House statements. 'Why the hell did the President have to put us in a box like this?' one top CIA official asked about the overblown public portrait of Abu Zubaydah. But Suskind sees a deliberate management choice: Bush ensnared his director of central intelligence at the time, George J. Tenet, and many others in a new kind of war in which action and evidence were consciously divorced...

"Which brings us back to the unbalanced Abu Zubaydah. 'I said he was important,' Bush reportedly told Tenet at one of their daily meetings. 'You're not going to let me lose face on this, are you?' 'No sir, Mr. President,' Tenet replied. Bush 'was fixated on how to get Zubaydah to tell us the truth,' Suskind writes, and he asked one briefer, 'Do some of these harsh methods really work?' Interrogators did their best to find out, Suskind reports. They strapped Abu Zubaydah to a water-board, which reproduces the agony of drowning. They threatened him with certain death. They withheld medication. They bombarded him with deafening noise and harsh lights, depriving him of sleep. Under that duress, he began to speak of plots of every variety -- against shopping malls, banks, supermarkets, water systems, nuclear plants, apartment buildings, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty. With each new tale, 'thousands of uniformed men and women raced in a panic to each . . . target.' And so, Suskind writes, 'the United States would torture a mentally disturbed man and then leap, screaming, at every word he uttered.' "
________________________

As I (and those other figures I've mentioned) said before: REALLY productive strategically. (Which is why the US made a point of not using it against Japanese POWs in WW 2 -- although, by National Review's reasoning, we could have gotten an awful lot of very useful information out of them.) And, to repeat myself for the billionth time: in those extremely rare cases in which it might be justifiable, who makes that decision? One man by himself, at any point in the chain of command ? Or a FISA-type assembly of independent judges (with a supermajority required to allow it)?


Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at November 8, 2007 02:56 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

And a bit more on the Padilla case, courtesy of the Christian Science Monitor's series on him ( http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0815/p01s08-usju.html?page=1 ):

"Many legal scholars and intelligence experts say Padilla's ordeal highlights the danger of a government that obtains information through secret, coercive means and then selectively releases some of it to justify its actions...

"Although they seek a life sentence, prosecutors introduced no evidence of personal involvement by Padilla in planning or carrying out any specific terrorist plot or violent act.

"There is a reason the government's case is so thin, legal analysts say.

"If prosecutors brought the dirty-bomb plot or other alleged illegal actions by Padilla into the Miami case, it would open the door for courtroom scrutiny of the government's use of coercive interrogation techniques against Al Qaeda suspects, including Padilla. And that would have taken jurors deep into the shadowy underside of America's war on terror – a journey in Padilla's case that wends its way from his cell on an isolated wing of the US Naval Consolidated Brig in Charleston, S.C., through covert CIA interrogation sites overseas to an alleged torture chamber in Morocco.

"This is a part of the war on terror the Bush administration would rather keep quiet. But details are emerging.

"What they reveal is the aggressive – and at times, ruthless – pursuit of intelligence information, and the selective public release of some of that intelligence when it serves the administration's goals.

"The Padilla story burst into the national consciousness in June 2002 when then-Attorney General John Ashcroft interrupted a trip to Moscow to make a dramatic televised announcement.

" 'We have disrupted an unfolding terrorist plot to attack the United States by exploding a radioactive "dirty bomb," ' he said. Padilla was a 'known terrorist' who had trained with Al Qaeda, studied how to wire explosives, and researched radiological dispersion devices, he told the world.

"What he didn't say was that Padilla had been locked in a solitary confinement cell in New York City for the past month and that Padilla was only now being taken into military custody on the eve of a scheduled court hearing that would have required the government to legally justify Padilla's continued detention.

"Instead, President Bush declared Padilla an 'enemy combatant' who posed a 'continuing, present, and grave danger' to US national security. The president said Padilla possessed intelligence information that could help prevent Al Qaeda attacks on the US.

"Some officials offered a less dramatic take on the dirty-bomb plot than Mr. Ashcroft's. Then-Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told the CBS 'Early Show' that Padilla was 'in the very early stages of his planning.' He added, 'I don't think there was actually a plot beyond some fairly loose talk.'

"Nonetheless, the dirty-bomb announcement sent shock waves across the country and immediately helped justify the use of coercive interrogation techniques against Padilla, analysts say. And it gave news reporters an irresistible tag line to link to Padilla's name – 'dirty bomber.'

"The dirty-bomb stigma would later help the government battle constitutional challenges to Padilla's military detention, according to many legal scholars. And it helped rally public support for an array of tough counter-terror policies by feeding national anxiety about possible terrorist use of weapons of mass destruction...

"The dirty-bomb allegation emerged from information obtained through a Bush administration innovation in the war on terror. That innovation called for the open-ended detention of terror suspects to facilitate aggressive, prolonged interrogations. The questioning was often accompanied by specially authorized harsh interrogation techniques, including isolation, sensory deprivation, and stress positions, among others, according to former interrogators.

"No judge in an American courtroom could permit the introduction of information gathered under such coercive techniques, in part because they carry a high risk of producing unreliable results. If the technique is coercive enough, a subject will say whatever it takes to make it stop, former interrogators say...

"When Federal Bureau of Investigation agents first took Padilla into custody, administration officials thought they had nabbed an intelligence prize. Five years later, legal and intelligence analysts say, these claims look increasingly hollow as the administration maneuvers to keep Padilla from having a meaningful day in court. Its tactics are also keeping the public from knowing the truth about Padilla and the dirty-bomb plot, they say.

" 'You don't go on the Internet and spend a day reading and become an expert on how to put together a dirty bomb,' says [Larry] Johnson, the counterterrorism expert. 'I'm not knocking folks who work at Taco Bell, but that's not a place you'd go to ramp up your skills' as a nuclear jihadist...

"The underlying information about Jose Padilla's alleged dirty-bomb plot came primarily from three individuals, according to a Federal Bureau of Investigation affidavit on file in Mr. Padilla's Miami case. All three were subject to harsh interrogation techniques, and all three have subsequently charged that they were tortured at secret Central Intelligence Agency interrogation sites overseas. They include two of the highest-profile terror suspects in US custody at the US Naval Base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba – Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaydah.

"Mr. Mohammed made a public statement at Guantánamo earlier this year claiming to be in charge of 'dirty-bomb operations on American soil.' Mohammed's own shower of extravagant claims -- of whom we have no idea what fraction were actually truthful -- is now famous -- Moomaw.]

"Mr. Zubaydah reportedly talked about the plot early on in his interrogation.

"The third individual, an Ethiopian refugee to Britain named Binyam Mohammed, does not deny making statements about Padilla and a dirty-bomb plot, according to his lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith. But Mr. Mohammed says the statements were made to get interrogators in Pakistan, Morocco, and Afghanistan to leave him alone. In Morocco, he claims interrogators used a scalpel to make 20 to 30 small cuts on his genitals every three to four weeks for months, Mr. Smith says. 'Binyam says he never met Padilla and doesn't know who he is.' "
____________________________

Yet again: very inefficient as a means of actually acquiring information, since it leads the military to expend all its time and personnel charging around frantically to investigate confessions most of which are fake. But REALLY effective as a way to get people to say what you wanted them to say in the first place -- which also means that it's extremely effective as a way for a militarily incompetent adminstration to conceal its military incompetence from outside observers.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at November 8, 2007 03:14 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Typo: I left out a bracket in one of my last paragraphs above:

"Mr. Mohammed made a public statement at Guantánamo earlier this year claiming to be in charge of 'dirty-bomb operations on American soil.' [Mohammed's own shower of extravagant claims -- of whom we have no idea what fraction were actually truthful -- is now famous -- Moomaw.] "

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at November 8, 2007 03:16 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Imagine how many innocent people these six Islamo-fascists (and perhaps others) would have murdered, had interrogators left KSM unwaterboarded and his secrets unuttered.

I think much of the point here is that Al-Qaeda plots take months, often years to mature. Most of them never leave the drawing board. And the few plots that reach the "operational" stage create more and more evidence the more active they become. Any plots in the pipeline are generally considered compromised and called off as soon as any participant is captured. So the danger is by no means as immediate and urgent as "ticking bomb" enthusiasts claim.

Furthermore, there are other sources of information than torture. Zarqawi did not live long enough to be interrogated, but he told us volumes from beyond the grave through his captured documents. In the end, "coercive interrogation" may be the easiest and most convenient way of gaining information. But it is by no means the only one, especially when terrorist documents, laptops, cell phones, etc. are captured. In the interest of maintaining our deepest moral principles, we will just have to accept some inconvenience.

Posted by: Enlightened Layperson at November 8, 2007 04:13 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

More on waterboarding from former Master Instructor and Chief of Training at the US Navy Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape School (SERE) in San Diego, California

http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/2007/10/waterboarding-is-torture-perio/

money quote:

>>>However, when performed with even moderate intensity over an extended time on an unsuspecting prisoner – it is torture, without doubt. Couple that with waterboarding and the entire medley not only “shock the conscience” as the statute forbids -it would terrify you. Most people can not stand to watch a high intensity kinetic interrogation. One has to overcome basic human decency to endure watching or causing the effects. The brutality would force you into a personal moral dilemma between humanity and hatred. It would leave you to question the meaning of what it is to be an American.

Posted by: jonst at November 8, 2007 08:23 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

So, Neill, given your utilitarian argument -- why don't we start torturing criminal suspects as well? If we could get confessions from some of the nastier sort -- particularly pedophiles, serial murders and serial rapists -- we could avoid a number of them going free on technicalities or lack of evidence, thereby saving many innocent people down the road.

Why limit yourself?

Posted by: Svensker at November 8, 2007 10:25 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

SERE uses waterboarding as part of its program to train potential prisoners to be able to withstand the panoply of tactics captors will use to break them, correct?

Al Quaeda has training manuals with tactics specifically designed to make interrogations of AQ prisoners fruitless, correct?

Waterboarding has been effective in at least one case in getting actionable information from a "high-value" prisoner.

In trying to prevent a terror catastrophe, where timely (and correct) information is critical, and other tactics are not working, how can you justify taking waterboarding off the table for good in regard to high-value prisoners?

Timely and correct information from just one source could have prevented 9-11 after all....

Posted by: neill at November 8, 2007 10:50 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Neil writes, and I respond:

>>>>Al Quaeda has training manuals with tactics specifically designed to make interrogations of AQ prisoners fruitless, correct?

Man, it must be good to know that a training manual can BE "specifically designed to make [torture] fruitless". So, armed with the knowledge from my trusty training manual I proceed to the interrogation with all of the calmness of a Tibetan monk on a lazy summer morning, fresh from a full breakfast.

>>>>Waterboarding has been effective in at least one case in getting actionable information from a "high-value" prisoner.

I noted Neil, that unlike your other sentences you chose not to put this in the form of a question. Who says it has been "effective", leaving aside for the moment, whether or not that is relevant to question regarding the employment of torture AS AN OFFICIALLY SANCTIONED POLICY OF THE US GOVT? I will tell you who says it....the same people who sanctioned the torture.

>>>>>In trying to prevent a terror catastrophe, where timely (and correct) information is critical, and other tactics are not working, how can you justify taking waterboarding off the table for good in regard to high-value prisoners?

Ah, because it is illegal. Did I miss you disputing the asseration of the trainer that waterboarding is torture? Do you dispute his comments? And if it is torture do you dispute that torture is illegal according to US law?

Posted by: jonst at November 8, 2007 01:00 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

And incorrect information offered up in response to torture could still lead all of the military and the CIA off in the wrong direction at a particularly important moment -- an idea which I think it's safe to say has occurred to al-Qaeda. Particularly since the whole point about the Ticking Bomb scenario is that it's supposed to go off in the NEAR future.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at November 8, 2007 01:02 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Neill and johnst debate the efficacy of torture, I think.

I believe that decades ago, it was demonstrated in the USSR that torture is efficacious at making the guilty and the innocent all confess -- that it is a good method for turning an pretend hunt for information into a propaganda victory.

I think that this was also demonstrated in part during the Cultural Great Leap Somewhere - that torture is a good tool of terror by government, very efficacious in silencing dissent.

Posted by: John Carlos at November 8, 2007 03:02 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

That was my point in mentioning the Monitor's piece on the torture of Jose Padilla -- it was lousy at providing accurate information, but absolutely terrific at providing FAKE information that the Administration could use to conceal its military incompetence from outside observers.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at November 8, 2007 04:35 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Until Bush endorses baby raping, he's not serious enough about the War on Terror.

Posted by: LL at November 8, 2007 05:49 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Water-boarding broke KSM -- after months of nothing -- and he gave up information leading to the apprehension of 6 co-conspirators who, if not in custody, had plans for horrific terror against the West.

Timely and correct information from just one source could have prevented 9-11.

Are you satisfied that we will have it in time next go-round?

If not, then what's the plan, stan?

Posted by: neill at November 8, 2007 11:13 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The plan, Stan, is to make sure that this is used damned infrequently -- by requiring that it be enabled only on the separate recommendation of about a half-dozen men, rather than just one. Unless, of course, you want to start using it routinely as a means of military interrogation, which possibly you do.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at November 9, 2007 12:34 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

(And that, of course, is assuming that National Review's claims about the extreme importance of the people and plots that KSM gave up was actually accurate. In the case of Padilla, at least, it was pure hooey -- for the reasons I've described above.)

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at November 9, 2007 12:38 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

BM,

I certainly agree with you that water-boarding as a tactic should be used only in special cases.

Posted by: neill at November 9, 2007 01:29 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

VERY rare cases. Anyone can think up a Ticking Nuclear Bomb scenario in which it might theoretically be useful. The point is that cases where it's conceivably justifiable are so incredibly rare (which is why it was never legalized against Japanese POWs during WW II) that there is absolutely no way it should ever be allowed without emergency -- and unanimous or near-unanimous -- agreement from a board of independent judges (appointed by some people besides the President). And even then, I think it should be officially recognized that their decision should be reviewable by Congress to see if they think it worthy of impeachment. Otherwise, down that slippery slope we go into moral -- and strategic -- Hell.

In any case, if we do decide to do this, let's keep reminding ourselves of just what we really are doing, by officially calling any such FISA-type court the Permissible Torture Court instead of giving it some euphemism. An ugly name for an ugly procedure.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at November 9, 2007 02:18 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It really doesn't matter if torture is efficacious or not (altho most seem to agree that it works to get people to talk, not necessarily tell the truth). It should never be allowed, period. If someone -- a president, a general, a policeman - feels that it is so important to use torture in order to save countless lives a la Jack Bauer, then let him or her suffer the consequences and be charged with a crime. Then let the case be decided in court with a jury -- was the torture justified or not?

The Axis used torture, the Soviets used torture, Pol Pot used torture, brutal regimes around the world and through time have used torture. Some successfully (depends on the purpose) probably. If we torture, then how are we any different from these? What are our values, the ones the politicians are always proclaiming as so important? What makes any of it worth fighting and dying for, if we're no different than the Khmer Rouge? Is it all simply tribal - U.S.A. U.S.A. No. 1!!!! -- ? And we're free to torture and kill anyone outside the tribe whom we perceive to be a threat?

Well, so much for western civilization. Kinda quick end, huh?

Posted by: Svensker at November 9, 2007 07:34 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Footnote on the supposed effectiveness of torture in extracting useful info from KSM ( http://theweekdaily.com/news_opinion/briefing/28686/briefing_drowning_on_dry_land.html ):

"When Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the architect of the Sept. 11 attacks, was waterboarded, he revealed valuable details about the operations of al Qaida, the Bush administration says. But CIA agents say Mohammed also 'confessed' that al Qaida was plotting to kill former presidents Clinton and Carter and Pope John Paul II, making them realize that he was inventing sensational information to satisfy his interrogators."

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at November 9, 2007 10:44 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

CIA agents? Like who, exactly?

The CIA and the State Dept are by and large opponents of the Bush administation. What would you expect from such leakers?

blather your way back to the halcyon days before 9-11, BDers.


"If someone -- a president, a general, a policeman - feels that it is so important to use torture in order to save countless lives a la Jack Bauer, then let him or her suffer the consequences and be charged with a crime."


Do you know how profoundly ignorant and weak and stupid you sound?

Posted by: neill at November 9, 2007 11:35 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

There certainly is a lot of well-researched comments in this thread. Well done. And points can be made on both sides of the debate as to whether torture could save lives.

But I think in the end it comes down to whether one looks at islamic terrorists as fully human or something less than that. Let us imagine, for example, that the Weathermen were resurrected and young white ex-college students were terrorizing the countryside. Would we see the same demand for waterboarding and the like? Would we feel comfortable seeing white people strapped to the board? We certainly did not feel that way in the 1970s.

So what has changed since then? Is it just the times, or is it actually the skin color?

Posted by: Nathan at November 10, 2007 12:04 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

read the Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright (a lefty) and I'd be curious to hear your comment.

also, explain Darfur.

Posted by: neill at November 10, 2007 12:51 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Interesting, Neill. No one in the Administration has said that the CIA is making up anything about KSM's extravagant testimony -- in fact, it was announced in the Pentagon's official transcripts of his testimony. As for its believability, let's quote Wikipedia:

" One CIA official cautioned that 'many of Mohammed's claims during interrogation were "white noise" designed to send the U.S. on wild goose chases or to get him through the day's interrogation session.' For example according to Michigan Rep. Mike Rogers, a former FBI agent and the top Republican on the terrorism panel of the House Intelligence Committee, he has admitted responsibility for the Bali nightclub bombing, but his involvement 'could have been as small as arranging a safe house for travel. It could have been arranging finance.' Mohammed also made the admission that he was 'responsible for the 1993 World Trade Center Operation', which killed six and injured more than 1,000 when a bomb was detonated in an underground garage, Mohammed did not plan the attack, but he may have supported it. Dr. Michael Welner ['an expert on terrorism and confessions and an associate professor of psychiatry at New York University School of Medicine'] noted that by offering legitimate information to interrogators, Mohammed had secured the leverage to provide disinformation as well."

In that connection, let's quote another passage from the Wikipedia article: "On March 19, 2007, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh's lawyers cited Mohammed's confession in defense of their client. Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, also known as Sheikh Omar, was sentenced to death in a Pakistani court for the murder of Daniel Pearl. Omar's lawyers recently announced that they planned to use Mohammed's confession in an appeal. They had always acknowledged that Omar played a role in Pearl's murder, but argue that Mohammed was the actual murderer."

KSM's total list of confessions includes:

The February 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York City

A failed "shoe bomber" operation

The October 2002 attack in Kuwait

The nightclub bombing in Bali, Indonesia

A plan for a "second wave" of attacks on major U.S. landmarks to be set in the spring or summer of 2002 after the 9/11 attacks, which includes more hijackings of commercial airlines and having them flown into various buildings in the U.S. including the Library Tower in Los Angeles, the Sears Tower in Chicago, the Plaza Bank building in Seattle and the Empire State Building in New York

Plots to attack oil tankers and U.S. naval ships in the Straits of Hormuz, the Straits of Gibraltar and in Singapore

A plan to blow up the Panama Canal

Plans to assassinate Jimmy Carter

A plot to blow up suspension bridges in New York City

A plan to destroy the Sears Tower in Chicago with burning fuel trucks

Plans to "destroy" Heathrow Airport, Canary Wharf and Big Ben in London

A planned attack on "many" nightclubs in Thailand

A plot targeting the New York Stock Exchange and other U.S. financial targets

A plan to destroy buildings in Eilat, Israel

Plans to destroy U.S. embassies in Indonesia, Australia and Japan in 2002.

Plots to destroy Israeli embassies in India, Azerbaijan, the Philippines and Australia

Surveying and financing an attack on an Israeli El-Al flight from Bangkok

Sending several "mujahideen" into Israel to survey "strategic targets" with the intention of attacking them

The November 2002 suicide bombing of a hotel in Mombasa, Kenya

The failed attempt to shoot down an Israeli passenger jet leaving Mombasa airport in Kenya

Plans to attack U.S. targets in South Korea

Providing financial support for a plan to attack U.S., British and Jewish targets in Turkey

Surveillance of U.S. nuclear power plants in order to attack them

A plot to attack NATO's headquarters in Europe

Planning and surveillance in a 1995 plan (the "Bojinka Operation") to bomb 12 American passenger jets

The planned assassination attempt against then-U.S. President Bill Clinton during a mid-1990s trip to the Philippines.

"Shared responsibility" for a plot to kill Pope John Paul II

Plans to assassinate Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf

An attempt to attack a U.S. oil company in Sumatra, Indonesia, "owned by the Jewish former [U.S.] Secretary of State Henry Kissinger"

(No confession yet to the murder of Abraham Lincoln, although I imagine it's only a matter of time.)


Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at November 10, 2007 06:16 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Svensker: "If someone -- a president, a general, a policeman - feels that it is so important to use torture in order to save countless lives a la Jack Bauer, then let him or her suffer the consequences and be charged with a crime."


Neill: "Do you know how profoundly ignorant and weak and stupid you sound?"

Actually, Neill, most of us do know: he doesn't sound ignorant, weak or stupid at all. In cases where torture actually IS necessary to "save countless lives", it's (1) extremely unlikely that any DA would ever indict the torturer; (2) virtually certain that no 12 jurors would ever vote unanimously to convict him; and (3) virtually certain that if they did, the President would pardon him. Given all these certainties, let's meditate on just how frequent and casual the Administration must want to make torture if they feel a need to set up ADDITIONAL legal shields for torturers to hide behind.


Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at November 10, 2007 06:23 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Anyone who countenances torture should be willing to have it done to himself as well. Neill, you up for this? I predict that after locking you in a room with someone large armed with spiked clubs we'll very shortly hear that you are the secret second hand of Bin Laden, are in cahoots with the Mafia, Tamil Tigers, and are responsible for JFK's assassination.

The reason we're against torture is--aside from a moral viewpoint--is that IT DOESN'T WORK. You don't get actual, true data. You get whatever the person is telling you in an attempt to STOP THE PAIN. You have to winkle out what possible strands of truth are there in a huge amount of false data.

This is a hell of a way to run a railroad.

Posted by: grumpy realist at November 10, 2007 11:20 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It's an ignorant and stupid and contradictory statement, displaying profound muddleheadedness and weakness in a time of national peril.

The President should be charged with a CRIME (and have to defend himself) for carrying out his constitutional duties as commander-in-chief, doing his utmost to secure America during time of war, in order "to save countless lives"?

That you are defending such a statement is in itself absurd.

Posted by: neill at November 10, 2007 11:30 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

btw, what's the actual charge?

Posted by: neill at November 10, 2007 11:34 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Waterboarding has worked, in a case where nothing else has before it.

Unfortunately, it's impossible to calculate the number of lives saved, damage to economies averted, and morale preserved (perhaps most precious all of for a democracy) by the apprehension of some very bad characters -- made possible by specifically by waterboarding.

Incalculable, yet inescapable as well.

Posted by: neill at November 10, 2007 11:44 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
"If someone -- a president, a general, a policeman - feels that it is so important to use torture in order to save countless lives a la Jack Bauer, then let him or her suffer the consequences and be charged with a crime."


Do you know how profoundly ignorant and weak and stupid you sound?
Posted by: neill at November 9, 2007 11:35 PM |

No, actually, I don't. Why don't you explain it to me?

Torture is wrong, period. It is illegal. If you need to torture to save the "morale" of a democracy (huh?), then the democracy ain't worth the morale it's pinned on.

My point about the crime and trial is -- torture's illegal. It is a crime. If the act of saving people via torture is so clear cut and all, then a police officer or president should be ready and willing to face a trial for said crime, sure in his own heart (no mind, since we're talking Bush, oh wait, no heart either) that he (or she) will have the understanding and sympathy of a jury of his peers and will be acquitted of said crime. If the jury doesn't think so, then the torturer has a real problem.

Basically, what you're saying is a president as "commander in chief" can do anything at all -- legal or illegal -- under the rubric of "keeping the people safe"? So, what's the point of the Constitution?

Posted by: Svensker at November 10, 2007 04:12 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

What law was broken?

How was the Constitution "thrown out?

What obligation does the President have toward Americans to do what's necessary so that their ultimate civil liberty won't be taken away by being slaughtered by terrorists?

Simulating the effect of drowning on an AVOWED ENEMY SEEKING OUR DESTRUCTION in order to extract information to save the lives of our OWN COUNTRYMEN AND WOMEN is a step too far for you? When it's proven to work previously?

This is not an army protected by the Geneva Conventions we're talking about.

We waterboard our own soldiers to train them for what to expect from the enemy, for gosh sakes!

Drilling into kneecaps and skulls, a la al quaeda, now that is torture.

Is it okay if we raise our voice while they're eating their meals, prepared according to strict halal guidelines?

No?

Where's the line?

Posted by: neill at November 10, 2007 05:53 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

What law was broken?

How was the Constitution "thrown out?

What obligation does the President have toward Americans to do what's necessary so that their ultimate civil liberty won't be taken away by being slaughtered by terrorists?

Simulating the effect of drowning on an AVOWED ENEMY SEEKING OUR DESTRUCTION in order to extract information to save the lives of our OWN COUNTRYMEN AND WOMEN is a step too far for you? When it's proven to work previously?

This is not an army protected by the Geneva Conventions we're talking about.

We waterboard our own soldiers to train them for what to expect from the enemy, for gosh sakes!

Drilling into kneecaps and skulls, a la al quaeda, now that is torture.

Is it okay if we raise our voice while they're eating their meals, prepared according to strict halal guidelines?

No?

Where's the line?

Posted by: neill at November 10, 2007 05:55 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Neill: "I certainly agree with you that water-boarding as a tactic should be used only in special cases."

For the trillionth time: how do we define such "special" cases, and why the hell should that definition be left up to one man anywhere in the command chain? Particularly given the dismal military counterproductivity of torture in almost every case, for multiple reasons? As for the consequences of NOT setting some such very rigid limit, and thus sliding rapidly down the Slippery Slope: see -- as just one of countless examples -- Fred Hiatt's 2004 piece ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A39343-2004Jun13.html ).

To review those reasons again (something I'm getting very tired of):

(1) It stirs up intense additional hatred in the enemy (as the French discovered in Algeria, where their attempt to use it literally blew up in their faces) -- whereas treating POWs humanely has repeatedly proved to be amazingly effective in reducing such hatred (which is exactly why George Washington, FDR and Churchill commanded it even in situations where the enemy was refusing to reciprocate by not torturing OUR POWs. They were correct; casting our bread upon the waters in this way was a major factor in our success after those wars.) If you think all Moslems are so religiously fanatical as to be immune to that last factor, think again: there are at least two recorded cases where it's worked with al-Qaida members. And these two factors are even more necessary given that our potential enemy in this case is an entire billion-strong worldwide religious community that we cannot even begin to militarily occupy, control or fully monitor.

(2) It's spectacularly inefficient compared to other forms of intelligence -- both because it leads investigators off on one resource-wasting snipe hunt after another (see the al-Libi, Zubaydah and KSM examples), AND because it's very effective at extracting statements that a particular interrogator wanted to hear, and thus concealing a particular officer's (or administration's) incompetence from outside observers, whether they're his own higher-ups or the public and the press. Again, see the above examples -- and consider also Vladimir Bukovsky's piece on how Stalin's reliance on it wrecked the KGB as an intelligence-gathering organiazation (and thus probably played a major role in Hitler's successful surprise attack on Russia): http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/12/17/AR2005121700018.html . (Note also Bukovsky's laundry list of unquestionable torture techniques which don't require pinchers, branding irons, racks or electricity -- and add to it Menachem Begin's observation, based on first-hand experience as a victim, that "sleep deprivation is one of the most excruciating forms of torture.")

In this last connection, note also something else that should be obvious and has been pointed out by many peole besides Bukovsky: it's very psychologically hard for most people to torture someone face-to-face. The only people who can do it efficiently are psychological sadists -- who, for obvious reasons, make lousy interrogators. (In C.S. Lewis' 1945 novel "That Hideous Strength", a female secret police chief is chastised by a superior for torturing in strategically counterproductive ways, and responds by growling, "You won't get someone to do my kind of job well unless they get a kick out of it.")

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at November 11, 2007 07:53 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

1. Waterboarding is not the first option. It's the last, after everything else has been tried and failed repeatedly.

2. Waterboarding has proven extemely effective on the highest-value prisoner yet in custody in extracting timely and correct information regarding co-conspirators.

Posted by: neill at November 11, 2007 11:17 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Neill is creating a contradiction. If he agrees that waterboarding should be done in rare instances (presumably ticking time bomb...etc. yadda yadda), how can it then be applied as a last resort? How much time would he allow for regular methods to be used, before resorting to waterboarding? There's less than 24 hours...!

Posted by: Tom S at November 11, 2007 02:26 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

you never heard "ticking time bomb" pass through my fingers.

Posted by: neill at November 11, 2007 04:08 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Waterboarding is not the first option. It's the last, after everything else has been tried and failed repeatedly."

Tried and failed repeatedly to do WHAT? Extract "information" from someone who doesn't have any real information to offer?

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at November 11, 2007 07:06 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Tried and failed repeatedly to extract information from a high-value prisoner who then spills on 6 of his co-conspirators.

Who are then taken off the battlefield, unable to inflict harm on innocents, genius.

it's a huge, but very quiet victory.

a huge victory.

one you can't seem to ingest.

Posted by: neill at November 11, 2007 10:45 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

That's the cartoon version, Neill. Real life is more complicated than that.

Posted by: DRS at November 12, 2007 09:19 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Terror is not a philosophy, it is merely a tactic, like lying, and cheating and stealing.

There is no cohesive group of those who adopt this tactic. Many adopt all of these tactics. People who advocate terror, such as neill here, Stalin in time past, and dozens, nay, hundreds of others, are not all members of a cohesive group of "terrorists", but merely individuals who happen to at some time share some of the same moral weaknesses (cowardice, in this case, at least if you believe that the resort to immorality and depravity is essentially a sign of moral cowardice, as many do).

If we look inside ourselves honestly, we can often see fears of our own, and empathize with those such as neill, and others who advocate depravity out of their own insecurity and cowardice, because we all have some measure of insecurity, and some fear.

As Christians, we are responsible for accepting our fears and our insecurities, and not acting them out, and not going down this path of moral cowardice. We should not set up such depraved people (as neill and the other torturers and would-be torturers) as our guideposts to avoid. Rather, we should set up the virtuous as our examples to emulate, and shun the actions of the depraved, while praying for their remorse, that there may be hope for them in God's grace.

Posted by: Fr. Beckham at November 12, 2007 02:52 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Fr. B-

"Rather, we should set up the virtuous as our examples to emulate, and shun the actions of the depraved, while praying for their remorse, that there may be hope for them in God's grace."

God's grace is certainly a worthy pursuit but, sorry to say, it was exactly that pursuit which induced a dozen or so zealots to drive planes into buildings that left thousands dead. The intersection of the providential with the existential more often leads to the pathways of hell than to the gateways of heaven.


Posted by: reshufflex at November 13, 2007 07:23 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"People who advocate terror, such as neill here, Stalin in time past, and dozens, nay, hundreds of others, are not all members of a cohesive group of "terrorists", but merely individuals who happen to at some time share some of the same moral weaknesses (cowardice, in this case, at least if you believe that the resort to immorality and depravity is essentially a sign of moral cowardice, as many do)."

Gag me with a frickin spoon.

If you're the Christian as you claim to be, then talk straight. Christians also can make distinctions as well, or hopefully better, than non-Christians.

You accuse me of being a terrorist?

You apparently are unable to distinguish between indiscriminate slaughter of innocents in order to intimidate and cow populations politically and socially in order to institue a tyranny......

and SIMULATING a drowning of AN INDIVIDUAL WHO IS PLANNING the slaughter of innocents in order to intimidate and cow populations politically and socially in order to institue a tyranny......

in order to AVERT the slaughter of innocents in order to intimidate and cow populations politically and socially in order to institue a tyranny.......

You, my friend are a moral equivacator par excellence.

You can't distinguish between red, yellow, green, and orange -- because I mean, really, they're all part of the same color spectrum.

And as for moral cowardice, depraved, etc, I wouldn't take moral guidance from you if you were the man on the moon.

(and when I think of all the hundreds of thousands upon hundreds of thousands who have SACRAFICED their very beings for America in the name of defending against tyranny, and I reflect upon your benighted commentary....I just want to cry.)

Posted by: neill at November 13, 2007 10:56 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"People who advocate terror, such as neill here, Stalin in time past, and dozens, nay, hundreds of others, are not all members of a cohesive group of "terrorists", but merely individuals who happen to at some time share some of the same moral weaknesses (cowardice, in this case, at least if you believe that the resort to immorality and depravity is essentially a sign of moral cowardice, as many do)."

Gag me with a frickin spoon.

If you're the Christian as you claim to be, then talk straight. Christians also can make distinctions as well, or hopefully better, than non-Christians.

You accuse me of being a terrorist?

You apparently are unable to distinguish between indiscriminate slaughter of innocents in order to intimidate and cow populations politically and socially in order to institue a tyranny......

and SIMULATING a drowning of AN INDIVIDUAL WHO IS PLANNING the slaughter of innocents in order to intimidate and cow populations politically and socially in order to institue a tyranny......

in order to AVERT the slaughter of innocents in order to intimidate and cow populations politically and socially in order to institue a tyranny.......

You, my friend are a moral equivacator par excellence.

You can't distinguish between red, yellow, green, and orange -- because I mean, really, they're all part of the same color spectrum.

And as for moral cowardice, depraved, etc, I wouldn't take moral guidance from you if you were the man on the moon.

(and when I think of all the hundreds of thousands upon hundreds of thousands who have SACRAFICED their very beings for America in the name of defending against tyranny, and I reflect upon your benighted commentary....I just want to cry.)

Posted by: neill at November 13, 2007 10:58 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

neill is quite an uneducated Christian, I'm afraid, as he seems unaware of Jesus teachings in general -- both the ones disavowing rape, torture, and genocde, and the far more serious ones teaching that the one who desires torture (such as neill) is as damned as the one who commits it. This is one of the hardest Christian lessons, not only for the depraved such as neill, but for us all, and we all must struggle, because our inner cowardice wants to excuse ourselves, and disclaim responsibility for our desires -- wants to be like neill, and say, I desire depravity, but do not condemn me, because I do not execute the depravity like those nasty people over there, and do not judge me for my desires.

It is a truly hard teaching, but unfortunately, fundamental to Christianity itself, that we are to be judged, at all times, at the end, but also NOW, for our desires, and for what we advocate, and for what we condone, as much as for what we do. Most pretend-Christians do not accept this teaching. It does not help bolster their pride, or their wealth, and the US evangelical movement has become addicted to pride and wealth, and hates Christian humility.

This is the outer struggle emblemizing the inner struggle we all must fight. Our proud selves wish to condemn others, and call for depravity, out of our fear and anger and insecurity, and these fears and hatred and insecurity can overwhelm us, til we all become as neill at times, caught in the difficult turbulence of fear and hatred, and incapable of hearing that quiet call of our Lord, to humility, and sorrow, and penance, and away from hatred and all his spawn.

Posted by: Fr. Beckham at November 14, 2007 12:53 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Also, neill, your lies and your depravity, and your condoning of torture, put your in the place with those who tortured Jesus -- but, not much less importantly, your cursing, and your insulting, put you in the company of those who cursed and insulted Jesus. We have all been their, in our sin, but we must find remorse, and we must embrace humility.

There is yet hope for you, and for all torturers. This the beauty of Christianity. Even while you are embedded deeply with the prince of hatred, and even while you preach depravity as did Lucifer, you are yet precious in the eyes of the Lord. If you would only repent, and let go your hatred and your pride, the Lord can wash you clean, and you can be forgiven. Your insecurities and your fears can be healed, and you will find you do not need your depravities any longer for your self-worth, for you will find your self may be hidden in the Lord's loving embrace, and you may find worth in the Lord, and no longer in yourself.

You need only repent, and confess your depravity, and beg Jesus, and he will be swift to embrace you. I promise, no matter how much more depravity you hide, it is not too much for Our Lord. He is greater than you imagine, and he can overwhelm and wash away your sin, and you can be clean as a newborn babe.

You need only repent, and turn from your evil path, and the Lord will lead you. You may not now imagine that you might become a kind and humble and gentle person like Jesus, but you will find that indeed it may come to pass.

People will be amazed. You can put off the hateful depraved neill, and you can become as clean as a baby, and as humble as a poor Franciscan. It may seem impossible in your eyes, and in others', but that is only because you see with the eyes of the world.

All your fears and your hatred are only your worldly soul. Your eyes do not know how to see humility, because you only lack the sweet Holy Spirit. But embrace it, my brother, and repent, and confess, and you can be made new and beautiful. Put off hatred, and you will find love, unending and unfathomable, more beautiful and extensive than all the minds of men.

You will find beauty, far beyond imaginging.

Only repent, and turn from depravity, and the sweetness of purity and holiness will astound you, and all of us.

Posted by: Fr. Beckham at November 14, 2007 01:00 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

there is wisdom in what you say, and there is much depravity (myself included) at BD.

My question is, what are YOU doing here?

And, beyond that, what is your solution for protecting the American people from those who plot their earthly destruction?

Posted by: neill at November 14, 2007 02:00 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Neill: "Waterboarding is not the first option. It's the last, after everything else has been tried and failed repeatedly."

Me: "Tried and failed repeatedly to do WHAT? Extract 'information' from someone who doesn't have any real information to offer?"

Neill: "Tried and failed repeatedly to extract information from a high-value prisoner who then spills on 6 of his co-conspirators."
____________

So, for the trillionth time: How do we decide which prisoners are "high-value" enough to be tortured? And how do we decide when to stop torturing them? Do we just keep it up forever, on the assumption that the torturees might still have something else useful to reveal (both in cases where they HAVE revealed something useful, and in cases where they haven't)? Which, of course, is what I was talking about, nitwit.


Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at November 14, 2007 08:25 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Nice piece by conservative Sebastian Holsclaw at "Obsidian Wings" (and by thread commenter Gary Farber), making exactly the points I made above -- that situations in which one can regard torture as strategically justifiable are very, very, very rare, but that the Bush Administration is cheerfully using it with vastly greater frequency.

http://obsidianwings.blogs.com/obsidian_wings/2007/11/on-torture-hypo.html#comments :

"In actual practice, we find that Bush's administration has tortured men who not only didn't know anything about what they were being tortured about, but weren't even affiliated with Al Qaeda.

"Let me say that again. Bush's administration has tortured men who were factually innocent. Not men who got off on technicalities. Factually innocent.

"[Justifiable torture] demands that the government be CERTAIN of the following things: 'This man is who we think he is. This man knows what we think he knows. No non-torture technique will work.' "

To which Farber adds: "You've left out another crucial premise: 'So [KSM or some other torturee] gives up information — reliable information — that stops a plot involving people flying planes into buildings.'

"1) Why, exactly, would KSM give up 'reliable information', rather than 'information that will make the waterboarding stop for now'?

"2) How, exactly, would the government be able to know that the information was 'reliable,' or correct in any way, in time to stop this hypothetical attack/disaster?

"So far as I can tell, the only way for all these conditions to be fulfilled even once, let alone very time the government has a whim to question someone they suspect of possible knowledge of an attack, would be reliable magic. Or omniscience, which would make the whole water-boarding thing rather redundant."
___________________________

Commenters "Zmulls" and "Pete" elaborate on this a little lower down in the thread, again making more of the same points that I've made previously here. The moral being -- to point out the excruciatingly obvious to Neill yet again -- that the circumstances under which torture may be strategically and therefore morally justifiable are so extremely rare that no one man anywhere in the chain of command has the right to authorize its use. If we are EVER to use it, we had better do so only with the unanimous or near-unanimous permission of a fairly large FISA-type board, consisting of judges picked by different people. And, to repeat, we had better officially call it the "Permissible Torture Court" to keep firmly in mind exactly what we are really doing.

Oh, yes: also note "Katherine's" note on the thread that -- contrary to Deroy Murdock -- Yazir Sufaat and Jose Padilla were both arrested, and charged with their offenses, years before KSM was caught. Which may help explain why Ramesh Ponnuru also agrees back at "The Corner" that Murdock is full of it.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at November 15, 2007 12:24 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

your conditions will never be met, of course.

so after the next catastrophic terror event on our soil, ask yourself was it really worth all the innocent death and destruction -- which could have been prevented with timely and correct information -- just to convince yourself of your own moral righteousness?

I hope it doesn't happen.

But if it does, I hope you remember this exchange.

Posted by: neill at November 15, 2007 03:29 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

If we follow your alternative advice and turn torture into a routine form of military interrogation, Neill -- with all that will follow from that -- I hope YOU remember this exchange. Until the, I suggest you try growing up mentally. You can start by seriously asking yourself the obvious question: under what conditions would I myself NOT allow torture?

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at November 15, 2007 09:21 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

And Katherine on the same subject: http://obsidianwings.blogs.com/obsidian_wings/2007/11/choose-your-own.html .

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at November 15, 2007 09:54 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
the US evangelical movement has become addicted to pride and wealth, and hates Christian humility.

They have also become idol worshipers, with the USA as their Baal.

Posted by: Svensker at November 17, 2007 09:23 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

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Gregory Djerejian comments intermittently on global politics, finance & diplomacy at this site. The views expressed herein are solely his own and do not represent those of any organization.


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