OPINION: The presidency of outlaws

Looking at America

In the years since 9/11, we have seen American soldiers abuse, sexually humiliate, torment and murder prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq. A few have been punished, but their leaders have never been called to account. We have seen mercenaries gun down Iraqi civilians with no fear of prosecution. We have seen the president, sworn to defend the Constitution, turn his powers on his own citizens, authorizing the intelligence agencies to spy on Americans, wiretapping phones and intercepting international e-mail messages without a warrant.

We have read accounts of how the government’s top lawyers huddled in secret after the attacks in New York and Washington and plotted ways to circumvent the Geneva Conventions — and both American and international law — to hold anyone the president chose indefinitely without charges or judicial review.

Those same lawyers then twisted other laws beyond recognition to allow Mr. Bush to turn intelligence agents into torturers, to force doctors to abdicate their professional oaths and responsibilities to prepare prisoners for abuse, and then to monitor the torment to make sure it didn’t go just a bit too far and actually kill them.

The White House used the fear of terrorism and the sense of national unity to ram laws through Congress that gave law-enforcement agencies far more power than they truly needed to respond to the threat — and at the same time fulfilled the imperial fantasies of Vice President Dick Cheney and others determined to use the tragedy of 9/11 to arrogate as much power as they could. [complete article]

Stonewalled by the CIA

More than five years ago, Congress and President Bush created the 9/11 commission. The goal was to provide the American people with the fullest possible account of the “facts and circumstances relating to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001” — and to offer recommendations to prevent future attacks. Soon after its creation, the president’s chief of staff directed all executive branch agencies to cooperate with the commission.

The commission’s mandate was sweeping and it explicitly included the intelligence agencies. But the recent revelations that the C.I.A. destroyed videotaped interrogations of Qaeda operatives leads us to conclude that the agency failed to respond to our lawful requests for information about the 9/11 plot. Those who knew about those videotapes — and did not tell us about them — obstructed our investigation.

There could have been absolutely no doubt in the mind of anyone at the C.I.A. — or the White House — of the commission’s interest in any and all information related to Qaeda detainees involved in the 9/11 plot. Yet no one in the administration ever told the commission of the existence of videotapes of detainee interrogations. [complete article]

Judgement and torture

The Administration has launched what Laura Rozen recently termed “Operation Stop Talking,” a program designed to insure that all intelligence officers and former officers maintain complete silence about what transpired with these tapes. This has included some very heavy handed measures, including an FBI investigation targeting John Kiriakou. My own sources tell me that Rozen’s reporting is right on the money about this—the word has been put out that any one allowing further information to slip out, or corroborating Kiriakou’s account, can expect severe retribution. And what is the objective of this extraordinary public relations project? Again, the aspect of Kiriakou’s remarks that gave rise to it was his detailed depiction of the Justice Department’s and the White House’s role in the entire process.

The Bush Administration’s containment strategy for this matter is very clear: it was a CIA affair, start to finish. The decision to make and destroy the tapes came down in the ranks of the CIA. Other agencies and particularly the White House were uninvolved. Yes, there will be a scapegoat offered up. [complete article]

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