Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was at the very least informed in May 2003 by the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer III, that the Iraqi army would be disbanded, a decision that was instrumental in helping to spur the Iraqi insurgency, and one that former Bush administration officials to this day have refused to take responsibility for.
Dec 12, 2008
Senate Report Finds Rumsfeld Directly Responsible for US Torture of Prisoners
A bipartisan Senate report has accused former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other top Bush administration officials of being directly responsible for the abuse and torture of prisoners at Guantanamo and other US prisons. We speak with the man who sued Donald Rumsfeld in Berlin, German, attorney Wolfgang Kaleck. [includes rush transcript]
Rumsfeld directly responsible for torture
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by Tom Burghardt
Global Research, October 6, 2008
“Continuity of Government” (COG) Provisions activated in 2001
Ten months before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld approved an updated version of the U.S. Army’s secret operational Continuity of Government (COG) plans.
A draft document published by the whistleblowing website Wikileaks entitled, “Army Regulation 500-3, Emergency Employment of Army and Other Resources. Army Continuity of Operations (COOP) Program,” dated 19 January 2001, spells out changes in Army doctrine.
Issued by Headquarters, Department of the Army and signed off by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and the Secretary of the Army, the document is affixed with a warning: “Destruction Notice: Destroy by any method that will prevent disclosure of contents or reconstruction of the document.” The restricted document as published by Wikileaks states:
History. This regulation is a revision of the original regulation that was effective on 10 July 1989. Since that time, no changes have been published to amend the original.
Summary. This regulation on the Army Continuity of Operations (COOP) Program has been revised to update Army COOP policy and extend the requirement for all-hazards COOP planning to all Army organizations. Classified information contained in the 1989 version of this AR has been removed and placed in a classified HQDA Operations Plan (OPLAN).
Applicability. This regulation applies to the Active Army, the U.S. Army Reserve (USAR), and when federalized to the Army National Guard (ARNG). In the event of conflict between this regulation and approved OSD or JCS publications, the provisions of the latter will apply. (“Army Regulation 500-3, Emergency Employment of Army and Other Resources. Army Continuity of Operations (COOP) Program,” 19 January 2001, p. 3) [emphasis added]
“All-hazards COOP planning” is described as the means by which “the Army remains capable of continuing mission-essential operations during any situation, including military attack, terrorist activities, and natural or man-made disasters.” While the Army stresses the updates described in AR 500-3 relate to chemical, biological, nuclear attacks, “natural disasters” and “technical or man-made disasters or accidents,” current Army doctrine is also heavily weighted towards contingency planning for “civil disturbances.”
by Prof. Marjorie Cohn
Global Research, October 8, 2007
JURIST Contributing Editor Marjorie Cohn of Thomas Jefferson School of Law says that the Bush administration’s repeated insistence that it has not endorsed the torture of prisoners rings hollow in light of newly-disclosed US Department of Justice memos supporting the harshest techniques the CIA has ever used…
The April 2004 publication of grotesque photographs of naked Iraqis piled on top of each other, forced to masturbate, and led around on leashes like dogs, sent shock waves around the world. George W. Bush declared, “I shared a deep disgust that those prisoners were treated the way they were treated.” Yet less than a year later, his Justice Department issued a secret opinion endorsing the harshest techniques the CIA has ever used, according to a report in the New York Times. These include head slapping, frigid temperatures, and water boarding, in which the subject is made to feel he is drowning. Water boarding is widely considered a torture technique. Once again, Bush is compelled to issue a denial. “This government does not torture people,” he insisted.
This was not the first time the Bush administration had officially endorsed torture, however. John Yoo, writing for the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, penned an August 2002 memorandum that rewrote the legal definition of torture to require the equivalent of organ failure. This memo violated the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, a treaty the United States ratified, and therefore part of U.S. law under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution.
In December 2002, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld approved interrogation methods that included the use of dogs, hooding, stress positions, isolation for up to 30 days, 20-hour interrogations, deprivation of light and sound, and water boarding. U.S. Navy General Counsel Alberto Mora told William Haynes, the Pentagon’s general counsel, that Rumsfeld’s “authorized interrogation techniques could rise to the level of torture.” As a result, Rumsfeld rescinded some methods but reserved the right to approve others, including water boarding, on a case-by-case basis.
When Bush maintained last week that his government doesn’t torture prisoners, he stressed the necessity of interrogation to “protect the American people.” Notwithstanding the myth perpetuated by shows like “24,” however, torture doesn’t work. Experts agree that people who are tortured will say anything to make the torture stop.
One of the first victims of the Bush administration’s 2002 torture policy was Abu Zubaydah, whom they called “chief of operations” for al Qaeda and bin Laden’s “number three man.” He was repeatedly tortured at the secret CIA “black sites.” They water boarded him, withheld his medication, threatened him with impending death, and bombarded him with continuous deafening noise and harsh lights.
But Zubaydah wasn’t a top al Qaeda leader. Dan Coleman, one of the FBI’s leading experts on al Qaeda, said of Zubaydah, “He knew very little about real operations, or strategy … He was expendable, you know, the greeter . . . Joe Louis in the lobby of Caeser’s Palace, shaking hands.” Moreover, Zubaydah was schizophrenic; according to Coleman, “This guy is insane, certifiable split personality.” Coleman’s views were echoed at the top levels of the CIA and were communicated to Bush and Cheney. But Bush scolded CIA director George Tenet, saying, “I said [Zubaydah] was important. You’re not going to let me lose face on this, are you?” Zubaydah’s minor role in al Qaeda and his apparent insanity were kept secret.
In response to the torture, Zubaydah told his interrogators about myriad terrorist targets al Qaeda had in its sights: the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statute of Liberty, shopping malls, banks, supermarkets, water systems, nuclear plants, and apartment buildings. Al Qaeda was close to building a crude nuclear bomb, Zubaydah reported. None of this was corroborated but the Bush gang reacted to each report zealously.
Moreover, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, considered the mastermind of the September 11 attacks, was tortured so severely – including by water boarding – that the information he provided is virtually worthless. A potentially rich source of intelligence was lost as a result of the torture.
Bush’s insistence that his administration doesn’t torture rings hollow. He lied about weapons of mass destruction and a Saddam-al Qaeda connection in Iraq. He lied when he assured us his officials would not wiretap without warrants. As evidence of secret memos detailing harsh interrogation policies continues to emerge, we can’t believe Bush’s denials about torture.
Democrats in Congress have demanded they be allowed to see the memos, but Bush said the interrogation methods have been “fully disclosed to appropriate members of Congress.” Senator John D. Rockefeller IV was unmoved. “I’m tired of these games,” he said. “They can’t say that Congress has been fully briefed while refusing to turn over key documents used to justify the legality of the program.”
It is incumbent upon the Senate Judiciary Committee to vigorously interrogate Michael Mukasey during his attorney general confirmation hearing. As AG, Mukasey would oversee the department that writes interrogation policy. Mukasey should know that the Convention Against Torture prohibits torture in all circumstances, even in times of war.
Torture is a war crime. Those who commit or order torture can be convicted under the U.S. War Crimes Statute. Techniques that don’t rise to the level of torture but constitute cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment also violate U.S. law. Congress should provide for the appointment of a special independent counsel to fully investigate and prosecute all who are complicit in the torture of prisoners in U.S. custody.
Marjorie Cohn is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and president of the National Lawyers Guild. She is the author of Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law. Her articles are archived at http://www.marjoriecohn.com/
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I remember that my first response to the reports of abuse and torture at Guantanamo Bay was to accuse the accusers of exaggeration or deliberate deception. I didn’t believe America would ever do those things. I’d also supported George W Bush in 2000, believed it necessary to give the president the benefit of the doubt in wartime, and knew Donald Rumsfeld as a friend.
It struck me as a no-brainer that this stuff was being invented by the far left or was part of Al-Qaeda propaganda. After all, they train captives to lie about this stuff, don’t they? Bottom line: I trusted the president in a time of war to obey the rule of law that we were and are defending. And then I was forced to confront the evidence.
From almost the beginning of the war, it is now indisputable, the Bush administration made a strong and formative decision: in the absence of good intelligence on the Islamist terror threat after 9/11, it would do what no American administration had done before. It would torture detainees to get information.
This decision was and is illegal, and violates America’s treaty obligations, the military code of justice, the United Nations convention against torture, and US law. Although America has allied itself over the decades with some unsavoury regimes around the world and has come close to acquiescing to torture, it has never itself tortured. It has also, in liberating the world from the evils of Nazism and communism, and in crafting the Geneva conventions, done more than any other nation to banish torture from the world. George Washington himself vowed that it would be a defining mark of the new nation that such tactics, used by the British in his day, would be anathema to Americans.
But Bush decided that 9/11 changed all that. Islamists were apparently more dangerous than the Nazis or the Soviets, whom Americans fought and defeated without resorting to torture. The decision to enter what Dick Cheney called “the dark side” was made, moreover, in secret; interrogators who had no idea how to do these things were asked to replicate some of the methods US soldiers had been trained to resist if captured by the Soviets or Vietcong.
Classic torture techniques, such as waterboarding, hypothermia, beatings, excruciating stress positions, days and days of sleep deprivation, and threats to family members (even the children of terror suspects), were approved by Bush and inflicted on an unknown number of terror suspects by American officials, CIA agents and, in the chaos of Iraq, incompetents and sadists at Abu Ghraib. And when the horror came to light, they denied all of it and prosecuted a few grunts at the lowest level. The official reports were barred from investigating fully up the chain of command.
Legally, the White House knew from the start that it was on extremely shaky ground. And so officials told pliant in-house lawyers to concoct memos to make what was illegal legal. Their irritation with the rule of law, and their belief that the president had the constitutional authority to waive it, became a hallmark of their work.
They redefined torture solely as something that would be equivalent to the loss of major organs or leading to imminent death. Everything else was what was first called “coercive interrogation”, subsequently amended to “enhanced interrogation”. These terms were deployed in order for the president to be able to say that he didn’t support “torture”. We were through the looking glass.
After Abu Ghraib, some progress was made in restraining these torture policies. The memo defining torture out of existence was rescinded. The Military Commissions Act was crafted to prevent the military itself from being forced to violate its own code of justice. But the administration clung to its torture policies, and tried every legal manoeuvre to keep it going and keep it secret. Much of this stemmed from the vice-president’s office.
Last week The New York Times revealed more. We now know that long after Abu Ghraib was exposed, the administration issued internal legal memos that asserted the legality of many of the techniques exposed there. The memos not only gave legal cover to waterboarding, hypothermia and beating but allowed them in combination to intensify the effect.
The argument was that stripping a chained detainee naked, pouring water over him while keeping room temperatures cold enough to induce repeated episodes of dangerous hypothermia, was not “cruel, inhuman or degrading”. We have a log of such a technique being used at Guantanamo. The victim had to be rushed to hospital, brought back from death, then submitted once again to “enhanced interrogation”.
George Orwell would have been impressed by the phrase “enhanced interrogation technique”. By relying on it, the White House spokesman last week was able to say with a straight face that the administration strongly opposed torture and that “any procedures they use are tough, safe, necessary and lawful”.
So is “enhanced interrogation” torture? One way to answer this question is to examine history. The phrase has a lineage. Verschärfte Verneh-mung, enhanced or intensified interrogation, was the exact term innovated by the Gestapo to describe what became known as the “third degree”. It left no marks. It included hypothermia, stress positions and long-time sleep deprivation.
The United States prosecuted it as a war crime in Norway in 1948. The victims were not in uniform – they were part of the Norwegian insurgency against the German occupation – and the Nazis argued, just as Cheney has done, that this put them outside base-line protections (subsequently formalised by the Geneva conventions).
The Nazis even argued that “the acts of torture in no case resulted in death. Most of the injuries inflicted were slight and did not result in permanent disablement”. This argument is almost verbatim that made by John Yoo, the Bush administration’s house lawyer, who now sits comfortably at the Washington think tank, the American Enterprise Institute.
The US-run court at the time clearly rejected Cheney’s arguments. Base-line protections against torture applied, the court argued, to all detainees, including those out of uniform. They didn’t qualify for full POW status, but they couldn’t be abused either. The court also relied on the plain meaning of torture as defined under US and international law: “The court found it decisive that the defendants had inflicted serious physical and mental suffering on their victims, and did not find sufficient reason for a mitigation of the punishment . . .”
The definition of torture remains the infliction of “severe mental or physical pain or suffering” with the intent of procuring intelligence. In 1948, in other words, America rejected the semantics of the current president and his aides. The penalty for those who were found guilty was death. This is how far we’ve come. And this fateful, profound decision to change what America stands for was made in secret. The president kept it from Congress and from many parts of his own administration.
Ever since, the United States has been struggling to figure out what to do about this, if anything. So far Congress has been extremely passive, although last week’s leaks about the secret pro-torture memos after Abu Ghraib forced Arlen Specter, a Republican senator, to proclaim that the memos “are more than surprising. I think they are shocking”. Yet the public, by and large, remains indifferent; and all the Republican candidates, bar John McCain and Ron Paul, endorse continuing the use of torture.
One day America will come back– the America that defends human rights, the America that would never torture detainees, the America that leads the world in barring the inhuman and barbaric. But not until this president leaves office. And maybe not even then.
Andrew Sullivan is an author, academic and journalist. He holds a PhD from Harvard in political science, and is a former editor of The New Republic. His 1995 book, Virtually Normal: An Argument About Homosexuality, became one of the best-selling books on gay rights. He has been a regular columnist for The Sunday Times since the 1990s, and also writes for Time and other publications.
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