Gitmo Roundup

A tag team view of yesterday’s Gitmo news:

Editorial, Washington Post:

PRESIDENT BUSH took major steps yesterday toward cleaning up the mess his administration has made of the detention, interrogation and prosecution of those captured in the war on terrorism. …

… Yet as Mr. Bush took these constructive steps, he also undermined them. He delivered a full-throated defense of the CIA’s “alternative set of procedures” that the world properly regards as torture. With an election pending and families of Sept. 11 victims as his audience, he demanded legislative action on issues of enormous complexity in the few remaining days of the congressional session. And the bill he sent to Congress would authorize the administration to resume some of the worst excesses of the past five years….

…the detention and interrogation regime that Mr. Bush wants Congress to sanction is almost as bad as the one the Supreme Court forced him to set aside in the Hamdan case. Mr. Bush has no regrets about the interrogation tactics used on high-value detainees, which he did not name but which others have said included simulated drowning. He described the techniques as “tough” but “safe and lawful and necessary.” But they were not “lawful” — at least not as the Supreme Court has articulated the law. On the same day that U.S. generals were describing abusive techniques as ineffective and counterproductive, Mr. Bush insisted that the CIA’s program of secret detentions and coercive interrogations needs to continue.

Indeed, the bill he sent to Congress would largely authorize the system the administration created on its own after Sept. 11, 2001. It would allow military commission trials modeled principally on the ad hoc ones the military set up unilaterally. It would define compliance with Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions — which prohibits certain cruel and humiliating treatment of detainees — so as to allow categories of conduct the article clearly forbids. It would limit war crimes prosecutions for violations of Common Article 3 to certain specified serious violations. And it would eliminate most judicial review of detention policies. The administration seems to want a system in which the military keeps its hands clean while the CIA does the dirty work of violating international law and humanitarian norms.

And the president wants this system created in a matter of a few short days. “Time is of the essence,” he said. “Congress is in session just for a few more weeks, and passing this legislation ought to be the top priority.”

Editorial, New York Times:

Mr. Bush’s urgency was phony, driven by the Supreme Court’s ruling, not principle. This should all have happened long ago. If the White House had not wanted to place terror suspects beyond the reach of the law, all 14 of these men could have been tried by now, and America’s reputation would have been spared some grievous damage. And there would be no need for Congress to rush through legislation if the White House had not stymied all of its attempts to do just that before.

The nation needs laws governing Guantánamo Bay, not just for the 14 new prisoners, but also for many others who have been there for years without due process, and who may have done no wrong.

Last month, for example, The Washington Post wrote about some of the first arrivals at Guantánamo Bay in 2002: six men, born in Algeria but living in Bosnia, accused of plotting to attack the United States Embassy in Sarajevo. Two years after their capture, Bosnian officials exonerated them. Last year, the Bosnian prime minister asked Washington to release them. But The Post said the administration has decided the men will never be returned to Bosnia, only to Algeria, and then only if they are confined or kept under close watch. Even the Algerian government won’t go along with that.

Mr. Bush could have prevented this sort of miscarriage of justice if he had not insisted on creating his own system of military tribunals, which the Supreme Court ruled illegal. Even now, the legislation he is proposing to handle Guantánamo prisoners would undermine key principles of justice. It would permit the use of evidence obtained through coercion, along with hearsay evidence, and evidence that is kept secret from the accused. The military’s top lawyers have all publicly opposed these provisions.

Mr. Bush also wants to rewrite American law to create a glaring exception to the Geneva Conventions, to give ex post facto approval to abusive interrogation methods, and to bar legal challenges to the new system.

Some of the most influential Republican voices on military affairs, Senators John Warner, John McCain and Lindsey Graham, are sponsoring a more sensible bill that would bar the use of coerced testimony and secret evidence. Members of this Congress have a nasty habit of caving in to the White House on national security, and there’s a looming election, but it is vital that they stick to their principles this time.

Glenn Greenwald:

This announcement may appear superficially to constitute a reversal, or even a capitulation, by the Bush administration, but there are significant political benefits to be gained from the White House’s maneuver, including election-season pressure on lawmakers to support policies the administration has pursued all along for the “war on terror.” …

…Republican strategists have made explicitly clear that their strategy for the midterm elections, now just two months away, is to highlight the terrorist threat to the fullest extent possible. Accordingly, top Bush officials, including the president, have spent the last week giving a series of extraordinary speeches about terrorism, featuring highly charged accusations of “appeasement,” along with escalated rhetoric equating the threat from al-Qaida to that posed by the Nazis during World War II and by Communists under Lenin and Stalin. Republicans clearly want the news dominated by alarming discussions of the terrorist threat, as opposed to the highly unpopular war in Iraq, which has receded from view in recent weeks despite continued grim developments.

Publicly showcasing the most dangerous and prized al-Qaida suspects, as the White House did Wednesday, has already provoked exactly the visceral reminders of the 9/11 attacks that the administration believes will provide it the most political punch. As the so-called 9/11 mastermind, Khalid Sheik Mohammed is one of the best-known and most ominous terrorists of all. Virtually every news Web site and cable news program is now repeatedly displaying the photograph of a bedraggled, angry Mohammed, taken after he was dragged out of bed in Pakistan in the middle of the night and detained by American soldiers in March 2003. Short of capturing Osama bin Laden, it is difficult to imagine what could bolster the administration’s political objectives more than having such a vivid and alarming image associated with the 9/11 attacks once again filling television and computer screens everywhere.

The transfer of these detainees to Guantánamo is also certain to provide the administration with a powerful new weapon as Congress debates various legislative proposals designed to regulate military commissions and interrogation techniques in the wake of the Hamdan ruling. The Bush administration is insisting that Congress do nothing more than simply endorse, legislatively, the military commissions that the administration already created. The administration is also seeking authorization for the CIA to employ controversial interrogation techniques such as prolonged sleep deprivation and waterboarding — a policy Vice President Cheney in particular has fought for fiercely on Capitol Hill. …

… In the past, the administration has depicted such efforts to protect fundamental principles of due process as “giving rights to terrorists.” By announcing that Mohammed himself is now to be one of the detainees to be tried before a Guantánamo tribunal, the administration is sure to argue that the “mastermind” of the 9/11 attacks does not deserve such privilege. Particularly for those in Congress facing tough reelection battles, the prospect of being depicted as an advocate for Khalid Sheik Mohammed is sure to give them pause when deciding if they will insist on greater safeguards for Guantánamo detainees.

Josh Marshall:

So here’s where we are. It now seems clear to just about everyone that the other shoe has now dropped. We know the president’s final strategy to keep the subpoenas at bay in 2007 and 2008. Put the worst al Qaida bad guys at Gitmo and force a rushed debate over legislation over how they will be tried. An up or down vote, either the president’s kangaroo courts or nothing.

Dare Democrats to vote for nothing. If they do, mutilate them with 30 seconds. If they don’t, sow dissension among the opposition.

It’s hardly a surprise. This whole White House is the fruit of the poison tree. Their national security policy has always been essentially political. Nothing has changed. It’s what all of us have always predicted.

Ezra Klein:

Meanwhile, the Corner is collapsing in paroxysms of glee over Bush’s brilliant move on detainees today. For reasons I don’t quite understand, Mario Loyola seems to think Bush “stole the terms of debate from the Democrats, and rewrote them, all in a single speech. It will be delightful to watch in coming days and hours as bewildered Democrats try to understand what just hit them, and then sort through the rubble of their anti-Bush national security strategy to see what, if anything, remains.” I’m not terrifically sure what the political implications of today’s move are, but it seems to me that Bush was forced by the Supreme Court to stop holding detainees illegally, and by Congress to stop torturing people. That he’s decided to say he’ll do these things is being greeted as a victory of epic proportions by the Corner crowd. The soft bigotry of low expectations, I guess.

Marjorie Cohn, ZNet:

Bush said his administration had “largely completed our questioning of the men” and complained that “the Supreme Court’s recent decision has impaired our ability to prosecute terrorists through military commissions and has put in question the future of the CIA program.”

He was referring to Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, in which the high court recently held that Bush’s military commissions did not comply with the law. …The Court also determined that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions applies to al Qaeda detainees. That provision of Geneva prohibits “outrages upon personal dignity” and “humiliating and degrading treatment.”

Bush called on Congress to define these “vague and undefined” terms in Common Article 3 because “our military and intelligence personnel” involved in capture and interrogation “could now be at risk of prosecution under the War Crimes Act.”

Congress enacted the War Crimes Act in 1996. That act defines violations of Geneva’s Common Article 3 as war crimes. Those convicted face life imprisonment or even the death penalty if the victim dies.

The President is undoubtedly familiar with the doctrine of command responsibility, where commanders, all the way up the chain of command to the commander in chief, can be held liable for war crimes their inferiors commit if the commander knew or should have known they might be committed and did nothing to stop or prevent them.

Bush defensively denied that the United States engages in torture and foreswore authorizing it. But it has been well-documented that policies set at the highest levels of our government have resulted in the torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of U.S. prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo….

…Throughout his speech, Bush carefully denied his administration had violated any laws during its “tough” interrogations of prisoners. Yet, the very same day, the Pentagon released a new interrogation manual that prohibits techniques including “waterboarding,” which amounts to torture.

Jeremy Brecher and Brendan Smith, The Nation:

The US War Crimes Act of 1996 makes it a felony to commit grave violations of the Geneva Conventions. The Washington Post recently reported that the Bush administration is quietly circulating draft legislation to eliminate crucial parts of the War Crimes Act. Observers on The Hill say the Administration plans to slip it through Congress this fall while there still is a guaranteed Republican majority–perhaps as part of the military appropriations bill, the proposals for Guantánamo tribunals or a new catch-all “anti-terrorism” package. …

…As David Cole of the Georgetown University Law Center pointed out in the August 10 issue of The New York Review of Books, the Supreme Court’s decision in Hamdan v. Rusmfeld “suggests that President Bush has already committed a war crime, simply by establishing the [Guantánamo] military tribunals and subjecting detainees to them” because “the Court found that the tribunals violate Common Article 3–and under the War Crimes Act, any violation of Common Article 3 is a war crime.” A similar argument would indicate that top US officials have also committed war crimes by justifying interrogation methods that, according to the testimony of US military lawyers, also violate Common Article 3.

Lo and behold, the legislation the Administration has circulated on Capitol Hill would decriminalize such acts retroactively.

Maura Reynolds, Richard B. Schmitt and David G. Savage, The Los Angeles Times

It is not clear whether the president’s plan will gain traction on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers have been working for weeks on their own proposals for military commissions to try terrorist suspects.

Two of the leading authors of a nearly complete Senate bill, Armed Services Committee Chairman John W. Warner (R-Va.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), said their bill differs from the administration plan in key areas — including the use of classified and coerced evidence — but also said that differences may not be insurmountable.

“The goal for me is to take the committee bill and the administration bill and find middle ground so we can get commissions authorized in a way that will withstand judicial scrutiny, get congressional buy-in, and be a form we can be proud of as a nation to render justice to terrorists,” Graham said.

Details of the Senate-drafted bill are expected to be released in the next two days, Warner said.

Democrats adopted a wait-and-see posture Wednesday, indicating they were more likely to support the Warner-Graham bill than the administration’s plan. Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the committee’s top Democrat, said he had “serious concerns” about the Bush bill.

Many Democrats described the policy outlined by Bush as a retreat for the administration. “This is a major reversal from past Bush administration policy, which held that no new law was needed. It is essentially a mea culpa, cloaked in rhetoric,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).

In the House, where Republican members largely have supported the administration’s approach to detainees, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-El Cajon), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, planned to convene a hearing on the administration’s proposal today. The administration’s proposed system would incorporate many procedures used for U.S. military personnel in court-martial proceedings — but with several major distinctions. It would allow hearsay evidence and confessions obtained through coercive interrogations, assuming a judge found the information to be probative and credible.


Since this is going to get nasty very quickly let me try to write it as slowly as I can:

It’s important to respect human rights because of what it says about us, not because of what it says about some of the assholes in custody.

13 thoughts on “Gitmo Roundup

  1. All part of the mid-terms pageant.

    Video-tape featuring Al-Zawahiri? Check. Capture of suposed AQ big? Well, we’ll count the “AQ in Iraq” no. 2 guy. Check. Exploit 9-11 and claim Dems weak and soft on terror? Check. So now, in the face of a resounding “in your face” by the Supreme Court, a big “It will be on YOUR hands if we have to release Khlaid Sheikh Mohammed, for not rewriting (gutting, actually) our treaty obligations and giving me the ability to have MY kangaroo kourts! We won’t discuss the fact that the only reason that we have virtually no ability whatsoever to lawfully prosecute any of these 14 “worst of the worst”, or whatever they’re called today, is because the Presisdent quite intentionally looked for any available excuse to violate our Constitution, statutes, treaties, and every norm of civilized behavior, not so much to gain useful information so much as to gain propaganda confessions in the manner that would make the North Koreans proud (though, they are at least experienced and skilled in the practice, while our people tend to have to improvise more.)

    Will the American people be stupid (or craven, or asleep at the whell enough…) to buy ANY of this crap? Well, it’s been working for nearly 5 years… I guess Karl’s attitude is “why stop now?”

  2. As long the corporate media keep pushing the G(reedy) O(ld) P(lutocrats) party line, counting on the people to stop buying this crap is pissing into the wind.

    I weep for my (former) country.

  3. Now the question remains.. Are there enough decent and honorable men and women in Congress to come against the scurrilous beady eyed slime bucket called Bush. It really hurts to watch the destruction of America’s moral standing. I can only think to ask myself the scriptural question and apply it to my nation..”What does it profit a man (nation) if they gain the whole world, but lose their soul?”

  4. Swami, Bush has already lost his soul and is trying to save his corporeal ass from prosecution. Notice that he wants to hurry through some legislation that will retroactively give cover for himself and his buddies from ‘war crime acts’ they have already committed in their willingness to torture.
    I guess the good news I picked up between the lines of the quotes offered by Maha’s post is that the Bush team is so worried about losing Congress that he is in a hurry now to persuade the [for-awhile-yet] majority Repubs to legislatively cover his ass before he loses their perfidious complicity.
    It seems, though, from reading about testimony of top military lawyers, and statements of heavy-weight Republican congress-critters like McCain and Warner, Bush may not get his ass covered by legislation, anyway…….which tells me that karma is alive and well and that there really are some decent and honorable ones in Congress.

  5. Pingback: The Heretik » Blog Archive » Lost in the Rhetoric Zone

  6. Last week they were yelling Hitler Stalin and Lenin. This week it is Osama KSM 9/11 9/11 9/11. The propaganada barrage has begun Bush is giving interviews to CBS and ABC, ABC is running a propaganda movie and Al Qaeda complied and released martyrdom video 5 yrs old today. That really took the cake.( Remember Bin al shib was ‘captured’ 9-11-02?)b Evidently Al Qaeda really takes it’s orders from the GOP because when ever they need to pull a win out of their ass AQ complies with video.And yes now that Bush has sat on these people for 5 years- we need to rush rush legislation to cover his ass and tie up the courts for 5 more years. Could it be any more transparent?
    What tickles me is the military has got their new manual out on treatment of prisoners and they have turned authority over Iraqi army to the Maliki government. So evidently the uniforms are distancing themselves from the Bushco debacle. The FBI says “we won’t torture” More distancing.
    I wish someone with money would put up ads with video of Bush saying” Bin Laden, He doesn’t concern me any more” and of course the ” have mores, my base” clip. The public needs a reminder of the real Bush

  7. Now that Richard Armitage has admitted he leaked the name of Plame, will you now admit you were wrong and apologize to Karl Rove, the President and the Vice President. Or will you still refuse to admit you are wrong. Stand up and admit it — oh, you can’t and you won’t. Why? Because you are willing to destroy the US in your efforts to destroy the President.

    The idiot above can’t get it into his very tiny brain that the role of Armitage doesn’t exonerate what Rove, Libby, et al. did to smear Joe Wilson for political purposes. From a recent David Corn commentary:

    The Armitage leak was not directly a part of the White House’s fierce anti-Wilson crusade. But as Hubris notes, it was, in a way, linked to the White House effort, for Amitage had been sent a key memo about Wilson’s trip that referred to his wife and her CIA connection, and this memo had been written, according to special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, at the request of I. Lewis Scooter Libby, the vice president’s chief of staff. Libby had asked for the memo because he was looking to protect his boss from the mounting criticism that Bush and Cheney had misrepresented the WMD intelligence to garner public support for the invasion of Iraq.

    The memo included information on Valerie Wilson’s role in a meeting at the CIA that led to her husband’s trip. This critical memo was–as Hubris discloses–based on notes that were not accurate. (You’re going to have to read the book for more on this.) But because of Libby’s request, a memo did circulate among State Department officials, including Armitage, that briefly mentioned Wilson’s wife.

    Armitage’s role aside, the public record is without question: senior White House aides wanted to use Valerie Wilson’s CIA employment against her husband. Rove leaked the information to Cooper, and Libby confirmed Rove’s leak to Cooper. Libby also disclosed information on Wilson’s wife to New York Times reporter Judith Miller.

    — maha

  8. Comment #7, He-Who-etc. 1] you are off topic; 2] Armitage being involved in the leak does not absolve Karl, Libby, and Cheney of their involvement nor absolve them of playing politics [and in Libby’s case, lying about it] with our national security by trying to smear Joe Wilson; and

    3] it is awfully dramatic of you to think that criticism of the Bush team constitutes ‘a willingness’ to destroy the US. Which US do you live in? Do you have any concern that the US you grew up in is now led by a team that shows ‘a willingness’ to torture suspects? It is appalling to me as an American that today’s headlines on the 5th anniversary of 9/11 are all about the Bush White House promoting legislation that would allow the stain of our being torturers to spread wider, blackening America as the first nation to ‘legalize torture’.

    Well, I guess your psyche cannot handle the headlines, so you nit-pick at a non-issue. How brave of you…..

  9. “It was a terrible error on my part. There wasn’t a day when I didn’t feel like I had let down the president, the secretary of state, my colleagues, my family and the Wilsons. I value my ability to keep state secrets. This was bad, and I really felt badly about this.”


    This one goes out to my bud, Armitage…. I commend him for wrestling and overpowering his personal demons even if his victory was 3 years in the making. I celebrate with him in his joy of basking in the light of truth.

    turn up the volume and throw away the dial.. and if you got some..smoke it

  10. Let me see if I got this right. The CIA got it wrong when Bush said there were WMD in Iraq. The CIA got it wrong when Bush said there was a link between al Quada and Saddam. The CIA got it wrong when Bush declared that they had mobile labs to produce chemical weapons. Therefore, because of their proven track record, we can trust the CIA to administer secret prison camps which will be more strict than the military prisons that might be within the Geneva Convention. We can trust without any inspection by any interntaional agency, or any other branch of the government they will be run in a humane fashon, because the President (who favors the right to torture) says it will all be OK. Tonight I will sleep better.

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