Tuesday, April 21, 2009

MemoGate And The Act Of Insanity

The political definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.

This applies to the sadist(s) in the Bush administration ordering waterboarding of two al-Qaeda prisoners 266 times. Even the Central Intelligence Agency interrogators questioned their superiors about the continued practice of brutal interviewing techniques.

It begs the question of more valuable information obtained between the first and 83rd waterboarding in March 2003 against Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-described planner of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Or the 183 times in August 2002 against Abu Zubaydah, according to a 2005 Justice Department legal memorandum.

A former C.I.A. officer, John Kiriakou, told ABC News and other news media organizations in 2007 that Abu Zubaydah had undergone waterboarding for only 35 seconds before agreeing to tell everything he knew.

The New York Times reported in 2007 that Mohammed had been forced more than 100 times with harsh interrogation methods, causing C.I.A. officers to worry that they might have crossed legal limits and to halt his questioning.

The Remmers Rule I rarely break is rushing to judgment with a knee-jerk reaction to a fast-breaking news story. I'll let other pundits grab the glory and take the first bite of the carcass. I don't trust my initial gut response, ending up with egg on my face more often than not. Besides, hindsight is the best seat in the restaurant.

Therefore, one of the few sane people in MemoGate is Diane Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. She has written a letter to President Obama essentially telling him to shut up and allow her committee time to investigate the enhanced interrogation techniques of enemy combatant prisoners.

Her implication is that Obama is setting himself up for a pratfall by assuring the CIA he will not prosecute those who obeyed orders and tortured prisoners. The president is sticking to his story: To admit past mistakes and go on with the governance of the country.

The Department of Justice also is conducting an investigation, focusing on the lawyers who wrote the memos. I wrote in an earlier post the lawyers should be prosecuted or at least be subject to disbarment.

After the latest disclosure of the 266 times the two al-Qaeda bigwigs were roughed up, I would insist the decision-makers of that repeated process also be prosecuted. Those were some sick dudes.

As long as we are addressing sane approaches, I must grudgingly give credit to former Vice President Dick Cheney for asking the CIA to release classified documents detailing the success of the enhanced interrogations.

It may be a phony overture on Darth Vader's part -- as if the CIA would actually comply and spill all our dirty secrets -- but worth calling his bluff in this high-stakes poker game. If we're going to nail the bad guys, we must know the value gained from their illicit efforts.

Meanwhile, the jockeying for power positions continue.

Philip Zelikow, who served in the Bush administration as a top aide to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, said in a blog for Foreign Policy magazine and in an interview Monday that he believed a decision about a criminal investigation is for the Justice Department to make after an initial inquiry, not for the president to make on his own.

Michael V. Hayden, director of the C.I.A. for the last two years of the Bush administration, disputed an article in The New York Times on Saturday that said Abu Zubaydah had revealed nothing new after being waterboarded, saying that he believed that after unspecified “techniques” were used, Abu Zubaydah revealed information that led to the capture of another terrorist suspect, Ramzi Binalshibh.

The Times article, based on information from former intelligence officers who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Abu Zubaydah had revealed a great deal of information before harsh methods were used and after his captors stripped him of clothes, kept him in a cold cell and kept him awake at night.

The article said interrogators at the secret prison in Thailand believed he had given up all the information he had, but officials at headquarters ordered them to use waterboarding.

He revealed no new information after being waterboarded, the article said, a conclusion that appears to be supported by a footnote to a 2005 Justice Department memo saying the use of the harshest methods appeared to have been “unnecessary” in his case.

Only a prosecution will reveal fact from fiction.

Let's review the numbers. Mohammed and Zubaydah are murderers yet to be tried. Contrast the 266 occasions they were tortured. Compare that to 2,819 civilians killed on that September day, 4,277 U.S. military casualties in Iraq and 607 in Afghanistan.

The sharks of public opinion are circling the waters.

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