Bush Admits to Secret Prisons

BBC News:

President Bush has acknowledged the existence of secret CIA prisons and said 14 key terrorist suspects have now been sent to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

These would be the same secret prisons Dana Priest wrote about, I take it.

The suspects, who include the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, have now been moved out of CIA custody and will face trial.

Mr Bush said the CIA’s interrogation programme had been “vital” in saving lives, but denied the use of torture.


He said all suspects will be afforded protection under the Geneva Convention.

But they weren’t afforded such protection before.

In a televised address alongside families of those killed in the 11 September 2001 attacks, Mr Bush said there were now no terrorist suspects under the CIA programme.

Mr Bush said he was making a limited disclosure of the CIA programme because interrogation of the men it held was now complete and because a US Supreme Court decision had stopped the use of military commissions for trials.

I wonder what brought this on?

Update: Thanks to merciless for the tip — at Crooks and Liars, Digby writes that this is a classic Rove maneuver to trap the Dems into appearing soft on terrorists. He quotes Mario Loyola at The Corner:

The President just pulled one of the best maneuvers of his entire presidency. By transferring most major Al Qaeda terrorists to Guantanamo, and simultaneously sending Congress a bill to rescue the Military Commissions from the Supreme Court’s ruling Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, the President spectacularly ambushed the Democrats on terrain they fondly thought their own. Now Democrats who oppose (and who have vociferously opposed) the Military Commissions will in effect be opposing the prosecution of the terrorists who planned and launched the attacks of September 11 for war crimes.

The military tribunals that were operating at Guantanamo were not normal trials or even normal courts martial. President Bush declared that non-citizens whom he determined were terrorists would be “tried” by a military commission, which differs from a normal court in several ways. According to Wikipedia:

  • The accused are not allowed access to all the evidence against them. The presiding officers are authorized to consider secret evidence the accused have no opportunity to refute.
  • The presiding officers are authorized to consider evidence extracted under torture.
  • The presiding officers are authorized to consider evidence extracted through coercive interrogation techniques.
  • The general in overall charge of the commissions is sitting in on them. He is authorized to shut down any commission, without warning, and without explanation.
  • Secretary Rumsfeld has said that even an acquittal on all charges is no guarantee of a release; that he may choose to keep any detainee.
  • For all the articles written about the military tribunals I haven’t found one that explains exactly how they work or who has access to the proceedings or records of the proceedings. If anyone could help me out with that I’d appreciate it.

    Very simply, the Hamdan decision said that the President doesn’t have the constitutional authority to establish military tribunals. However, the ruling doesn’t prevent Congress from passing legislation allowing tribunals at Guantanamo. The plan seems to be to use tribunal legislation as a wedge issue to hurt Democrats; if they hesitate to approve whatever nonsense the Republicans come up with, Republicans will claim the Dems are “soft on terrorism.” Dumping famously bad guys like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed into Gitmo ups the ante considerably.

    However, Digby says the Dems can avoid the trap by advocating public trials à la Nuremberg. Considering all the World War II rhetoric coming out of the White House lately, this is a natural. And I have a feeling the White House really does not want public trials under Nuremberg rules

    Under the Nuremberg Charter, each defendant accused of a war crime was afforded the right to be represented by an attorney of his choice. The accused war criminals were presumed innocent by the tribunal and could not be convicted until their guilt was proven beyond a reasonable doubt. In addition, the defendants were guaranteed the right to challenge incriminating evidence, cross-examine adverse witnesses, and introduce exculpatory evidence of their own.

    I say if it was good enough for Hermann Goering, it’s good enough for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Anyway, back to Digby:

    The Republicans are gleefully assuming that Bush has cornered the hapless Democrats once again with this clever move. I don’t think so. Bush and Rumsfeld just repealed Godwin’s law and that means this WWII analogy goes both ways. The Democrats should insist that if it was good enough for the Nazis to have public trials with normal rules of evidence, it is good enough for Al Qaeda.

    Without public trials, there will never be any proof of guilt and the United States will create martyrs in a movement that reveres martyrdom — secret trials play directly into the hands of the terrorists. At the very least, these accused terrorists must be tried under rules such as those used at Nuremberg that cannot be construed as unjust by reasonable people. Without that, we will have given the terrorists another excellent recruiting tool and more reasons for the Islamic moderates we desperately need as allies to mistrust us. It seems to me that we have done quite enough of that.

    So if the Republicans try to use opposition to tribunal legislation (I am assuming Dems will oppose it), all the Dems have to do is holler NUREMBERG! and HERMANN GOERING! That should do it.

    28 thoughts on “Bush Admits to Secret Prisons

    1. …beats me. We know it’s not because of the pre-election polls. Gee Dub is forever reminding us he doesn’t read ’em, and we know neither he or any of his minions would ever play cheap political games with our very security by revealing CIA secrets…

    2. Bush really needs to keep a running record of his public lies.

      I just heard him say that known terrorists were now in US custody so they would never again be able to kill Americans. So, Mr. Bush, why, when in early Oct of 2001 Taliban leaders offered to extradite Bin Laden to a neutral nation, did you turn them down? You said they were “insincere.” Why aren’t Dems campaigning along that line? Tweak it a little and ask Repub candidates if they can answer the question.

      Must Dems forever emulate Bush’s all-over-the-map policies and pronouncements? Why don’t they go off react and go on proact? Who’s responsible? Given the way they’re campaigning, no one is. Bush speaks – they jump. Pitiful.

    3. Digby:

      According to Pete Williams on MSNBC, Bush’s announcement that they are moving the 14 terrorists we’ve had holed up in secret prisons to Guantanamo is a political ploy to force Democrats to have to give “rights” to Khalid Sheik Mohammed if they want to challenge his Guantanamo policies. It’s quite clever.

      Digby suggests that Nurenburg might be a good choice, if the Bush administration is looking for a model.

    4. Something strange is going on. Could it be a plan to make the Democrats look weak on terror for the mid term elections?
      Or is it a lot of bluster to intimidate because they FEAR big losses, a war crimes trial , and punishment. I hear Presidents get very concerned about legacy near the end of their last terms. This President’s base is crumbling at an alarming rate, my take is he is desperately grabbing at straws as he sinks into the quicksand.
      Beware of a cornered animal.

    5. The Supremes slapped him and he’s trying to make it look like he’s fightin terra instead of complying. He wants to push through legislation that is just as illegal as what he’s been doing all along. The military is saying they will play by the rules while the CIA is free to do what ever bush tells tham and until another court case strikes him again. The legislation he’s trying to push is just as bad as what was just overturned- so the courts will be busy for another 5 years. He’s busy telling us how bad these bad boys are but not explaining why he hasn’t tried them. He wants to try people without their being present in court to see the evidence against them.The Dems were going to roast Rummy today but bush had to grab the headline as he had 9/11 families there and he’s doing interviews with Couric and Gibson etc. Lots of access and tough talk lots of dick swinging.This is the fall campaign- terra terra terra 24/7 and no mention of why he’s quoting Bin Laden 17 times instead of trying him in court. Shameless and shamefull.

    6. Perhaps Bush should Go down to Gitmo and get a great photo op standing outside of Khaled Sheik Mohammed’s cell . With the flag in one hand and KSM mugging the bars behind him he’d really look tough wouldn’t he?

    7. Check the small print. The policy change announced today says MILITARY facilities will adhere to Geneva & International law. But the CIA facilities will be exempt.

      Bush assured us that suspects will not be tortured in the CIA facilities, but no one will be allowed to check, and there will be no discussion of techniques which will be used becase that would allow terrorists to effectively resist. I don’t have the exact quote, but that’s what Bush said today.

      I don’t know any specifics about CIA prisons, but generally, if I knew in advance that CIA agents were going to hook up electrodes to my testicles, I doubt I could train to resist the interrogation.

      But maybe the CIA prisons are nice and they are only withholding Krispy Kreme donuts unless terrorists reveal identitties of agents in the US and specific plans for the next 9-11. In my cynical frame of mind, I expect that suspects will not be released to military detention awaiting ‘trial’ in a kangaroo court until they have been wrung dry with illegal (by international standards) methods.

    8. I don’t know about the whole public trial thing. I assume that one of the reasons the executive branch wants these secret tribunals is because the prosecution’s case involves intelligence that can’t be made public at this time. You didn’t have that problem with Nuremburg.

    9. the prosecution’s case involves intelligence that can’t be made public at this time.

      That’s what the Bushies will claim, but for reasons Digby explained evidence against these guys has to be made public.

      Perhaps not ALL of the evidence can be put into record, but surely there must be some evidence that the guys really are terrorists or al Qaeda collaborators that can be made public.

    10. Also, I don’t agree with Digby’s remark that by not having public trials we would be playing into the hands of terrorists. Why would terrorists care one way or another? It’s not like they are fighting for more transparency. They will martyr these guys no matter what. The “proof of guilt” Digby is describing is more likely to vindicate them in the eyes of their compatriots. Moreover, public trials (in the sense Digby is describing) give the accused a national audience to rant to. It’s just different from trying Eichman because the ideology of militant Islam is very much alive and well, whereas the ideology of Nazism was more or less wiped out (for all practical purposes) with the fall of Berlin.

    11. Maha, I wonder if your concern is really with accountability (well, that’s my main concern anyway). Making trials public is one way to solve that problem, maybe, but providing for independent review by higher tribunals, federal courts (under seal), or some independent body would be another.

    12. Hey, I hate to seem like a smart ass but I coulda swore Binforgotten was THE master mind of 911.So wtf is with the shelll game of masterminds? How many masterminds can there be?Then wouldn’t it be many minor minds?No doubt this mohammed jerk is not a nice fellow,I am not saying that.But I take issue with the slight of hand that somehow this person was the mastermind while the person who is thought to be the true mastermind is swept under a rug.Frankly I find it insulting to those who died and to their families and to all those who witnessed it,lived thru it , ran from it, and who will spend the rest of their lives coping with it.Where is the justice for them with the shell game of calling this second hand rose, at best, the mastermind?….Try him alright, no doubt!We should show the whole world what we stand for (or use to ) Justice,, but don’t try to turn him into binforgotten, that is just a sad insult,Why are they allowed to get away with morphing masterminds? Wouldn’t he be co- mastermind?or masterminds helper?Or why not right hand man? Have we killed so many “right hand men” the term has lost it’s punch?….anyhow I hate to nit pick words and their meanings but I would like to throw down a flag and call a foul on the rightie team.Does the right really think people are that stupid that we have forgotten who was the mastermind of 911? Hmmm, Mohammed, Bin laden….close enough!????

    13. Why would terrorists care one way or another?

      They wouldn’t, but the rest of the world would. Success in fourth generation warfare depends on holding the moral high ground.

      If you missed my posts on fourth generation warfare, start here.

    14. Maybe vengeance can be found in the dark, but justice needs the light of truth. Secret evidence and testimony will destroy any concept of justice. I could really give a shit if they executed every captive in Guantanamo..considering all the innocent people who have died thus far in Bush’s war on terror nonsense..what I’d hate to see is a further tearing down of civilization by trampling on the precepts of justice and law that mankind has struggled to achieve through the ages.It’s a kill the chicken to get the egg mentality that Bush is using and he’s missing an opportunity to correct the damage he’s done to America by his stupidity.

    15. I hate to admit it but I think Rove might just have pulled it off again. I think we were all expecting the next ‘wag the dog’ moment, but I was hoping it would be a color change in the terror alert or a highly publicized interception of a possible terror attack (benign as it may be). But it doesn’t matter how much we see through his moves, it only matters that they may have managed to pull back into the fold those that may have been thinking of jumping the repulican ship to vote for the dems (or not show up to vote for the repukes) in November. Those of us that follow politics know just how insane this guy is, but they don’t need to persuade us, they only need to persuade those that were starting to climb the fence. I just hope that these potential sway voters were not paying attention.

    16. With respect to the granting of Nuremberg type trials to KSM and others, I think it’s worth mentioning that in the case of the Nazis, the war that they started was over. In the case of the war on terror, it still goes on. In the case of the Nazis at Nuremberg, the war was decided: it resulted in a defeat of their ideology. In the case of the jihadists, the war is still undecided.


    17. Greg —

      the war is still undecided.

      The “war” never will be “decided.” It’s not the sort of conflict that will lend itself to decisive decision, as was conventional war.

      If these guys cannot be tried publicly for war crimes, then let the Bush Administration make its argument (publicly) why they should be kept incarcerated. “Because we say so” does not cut it.

    18. It requires an alive, elusive, and ultimately non-capturable or non-publically prosecuted ‘enemy’ to continue a ‘war’. By endlessly morphing the nature of and identity of that ‘enemy’ and overlaying reality with secrecy, the Republican power freaks hope to do the impossible, i.e., continue to snow the American public into letting them stay in power.

      If it seems that enough Americans fall for that, I would say that is either 1] because Americans have been so dumbed-down through the media, or 2] the elections will have been thrown by hackers of the paper-less machines and/or manipulation of the central paper-less regional tallying machines.

    19. I am absolutely with Maha on this one. To fight ideology you have to demonstrate that your ideology is superior. The Muslim world has consistently rejected the ideology of secret police, secret trials and secret execution of political enemies–surely the terrorists are political enemies of America. Think what happened to the Shah of Iran and how nearly 30 years later we are still dealing with the ideology that emerged. If these guys are really guilty, I think we can convict them without jeopardizing ongoing intelligence work and at some point choices have to be made. Is keeping an intelligence operation going more important than convicting a specific terrorist? I would argue that convicting even Bin Laden himself is less important than the harm caused the war effort by demonstrating to 1.2 billion Muslims that we use secret police, secret trials and secret executions as our rule of law. I think the call for Nuremburg type safeguards is appropriate.

    20. Maha, just as a side note, I’d be careful about trusting wikipedia as an authoritative source on highly political matters. This is the same source that for a while had “swiftboating” defined roughly as “the fair and accurate debumnking of John Kerry’s lies about his Vietnam war record.”

      Seriously, it’s great for a lot of things, but not political issues. It’s just too easy to change.

    21. You crazy liberal lady!
      Clearly you don’t understand the significance of George Bush,jr’s trailblazing, bold announcement. When Dana Bash announced in the sicko Washington Post about secret prisons they were still secret, so what she did was wrong, wrong, wrong. She was undermining democracy and aiding the terrorists. Fortunately George Bush,jr is the decider, and he, in his munificence, has decided that now is the time to discuss these no longer secret prisons. Why didn’t she wait to reveal her scoop? Because Dana Bash hates freedom, that’s why! If she waited to reveal the existence of these no longer secret prisons like she was suppposed to, Mrs. Bash would have been a great heroine of freedom!

      Thank you for letting me comment, you crazy liberal lady.

    22. Maha, just as a side note, I’d be careful about trusting wikipedia as an authoritative source on highly political matters.

      I agree, but after nearly an hour of googling Wikipedia’s was the only simple explanation I found of how the military tribunals at Gitmo actually operated. Every other article I found went into scholarly explanations of constitutional law but didn’t tell me anything about the tribunals themselves. And I still don’t know how much public access, if any, there are to the proceedings.

    23. The elements of the Commission process recited are ostensibly correct, Wiki, or not. They have been confirmed in interviews given by Col. Mike Mori and LT. Cmdr. Charles Swift and other military counsel for the detainees (Mori has called them show trials); some of these details have been told to me by some of the civilian attorneys for detainees facing trial, whom I have interviewed. Of course, the tribunal rules could change at whim– and frequently did… all part of the fun.

      The commission process was (and, as proposed by the President in his mid-term pageant, still is) arbitrary, and does not comply with our Common Article 3 Geneva Conventions of 1949 treaty obligations, or customary international law, or any basic notions of fairness or justice, let alone the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which is our regularly established method for such trials.

      Needless to say, Rove is banking on them being a very popular wedge issue amidst a not very popular presidency and Congress at the moment.

    Comments are closed.