Peter Beinart writes: Something revealing happened over the weekend on Fox News Sunday. Dick Cheney had stopped by to bash President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal and promote his new book (co-authored with his daughter Liz). But moderator Chris Wallace, to his credit, wanted to ask Cheney about his own failings on Iran. On the Bush administration’s watch, Wallace noted, Iran’s centrifuges for enriching uranium “went from zero to 5,000.” Cheney protested, declaring that, “That happened on Obama’s watch and not on our watch.” But Wallace held his ground. “No, no, no,” he insisted. “By 2009, they were at 5,000.” Cheney paused for an instant, muttered, “right,” and went back to his talking points.
The exchange illustrated why the former vice president is such an effective purveyor of untruths. Even when caught in a falsehood, he displays no discomfort. Unlike Rick Perry, he never ever says “oops.”
Cheney has needed that sangfroid in recent days, because his falsehoods keep piling up. On Fox, he said that in the nuclear negotiations, the Iranians “got everything they asked for.” Really? In a June 24 tweet, Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, declared “we do not accept 10, 12 years long-term restrictions.” But under the deal signed a few weeks later, the Iranians accepted restrictions on their uranium enrichment and their plutonium reprocessing that last 15 years. They accepted international inspections of their uranium mines and mills for 25 years. And they agreed to implement the Additional Protocol of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which gives inspectors the right to see undeclared nuclear sites in perpetuity. Khamenei also demanded “immediate removal of economic, financial and banking sanctions,” adding that, “We do not agree with IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] verification as precondition for the other side to implement its commitments.” But under the agreement, U.S. and European economic, financial, and banking sanctions imposed against Iran’s nuclear program are not immediately removed. They will remain until, you guessed it, “IAEA verification” that Iran has curbed its nuclear program. [Continue reading…]
Fred Kaplan writes: Of all the shocks and revelations in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on CIA torture, one seems very strange and unlikely: that the agency misinformed the White House and didn’t even brief President George W. Bush about its controversial program until April 2006.
The question of the claim’s truth or implausibility is not trivial or academic; it goes well beyond score-settling, Bush-bashing, or scapegoating. Rather, it speaks to an issue that’s central in the report in the long history of CIA scandals, and in debates over whether and how policy should be changed: Did the torture begin, and did it get out of hand, because the CIA’s detention and interrogation program devolved into a rogue operation? Or were the program’s managers actually doing the president’s dirty business?
If the former was the case, then heads should roll, grand juries should be assembled, organizational charts should be reshuffled, and mechanisms of oversight should be tightened. If the latter was the case, well, that’s what elections are for. “Enhanced-interrogation techniques” were formally ended by President Obama after the 2008 election, and perhaps future presidents will read the report with an eye toward avoiding the mistakes of the past.
But which was it? Were the CIA’s directorate of operations and its counterterrorism center freelancing after the Sept. 11 attacks, or were they exchanging winks and nods with the commander-in-chief?
The annals of history suggest the latter, and in a few passages, so does the report. [Continue reading…]
Mark Fallon writes: It’s official: torture doesn’t work. Waterboarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11, did not in fact “produce the intelligence that allowed us to get Osama bin Laden,” as former Vice President Dick Cheney asserted in 2011. Those are among the central findings of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA interrogation and detention after 9/11.
The report’s executive summary is expected to be released Tuesday. After reviewing thousands of the CIA’s own documents, the committee has concluded that torture was ineffective as an intelligence-gathering technique. Torture produced little information of value, and what little it did produce could’ve been gained through humane, legal methods that uphold American ideals.
I had long since come to that conclusion myself. As special agent in charge of the criminal investigation task force with investigators and intelligence personnel at Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan, and Iraq, I was privy to the information provided by Khalid Sheik Mohammed. I was aware of no valuable information that came from waterboarding. And the Senate Intelligence Committee—which had access to all CIA documents related to the “enhanced interrogation” program—has concluded that abusive techniques didn’t help the hunt for Bin Laden. Cheney’s claim that the frequent waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed “produced phenomenal results for us” is simply false. [Continue reading…]
Andy Kroll and David Corn report: What do former Vice President Dick Cheney, billionaire mega-donor Sheldon Adelson, and Republican activists and funders talk about — and applaud — when they’re behind closed doors at a Las Vegas hotel? Bombing Iran.
This past weekend, the Republican Jewish Coalition held its spring leadership meeting at Adelson’s Venetian hotel, where several possible 2016 contenders, including ex-Governor Jeb Bush and current Governors Chris Christie, Scott Walker, and John Kasich, showed up to kiss the ring of the casino magnate, who’s looking to bankroll a viable Republican presidential candidate. Though the heavy-on-Israel speeches of the White House wannabes were open to the press, the keynote address delivered by Cheney on Saturday night was off-limits to reporters and the public. But Mother Jones has obtained a recording of Cheney’s talk, during which he once again derided President Barack Obama on foreign policy, blasted the isolationists within his own party, assailed critics of the National Security Agency, and seemingly endorsed the idea of an Israeli strike against Iran.
Speaking about the possibility of Iran developing a nuclear weapon, Cheney dismissed Obama’s negotiations with Tehran, and he recalled a dinner meeting he had in 2007 with Israeli General Amos Yadlin. Yadlin had flown in the Israeli Defense Force’s mission in 1981 that destroyed Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor, and he was the country’s military intelligence chief in 2007 when the Israel Defense Forces obliterated Syria’s nuclear reactor in the Deir ez-Zor region. Recalling his conversation with Yadlin, Cheney said, “He looked across the table over dinner, and he said, ‘Two down, one to go.’ I knew exactly what he meant.”
“One to go” was an obvious reference to bombing Iran’s nuclear program. The crowd responded approvingly with laughter and applause. [Continue reading…]
The New York Times reports:
Former Vice President Dick Cheney says in a new memoir that he urged President George W. Bush to bomb a suspected Syrian nuclear reactor site in June 2007. But, he wrote, Mr. Bush opted for a diplomatic approach after other advisers — still stinging over “the bad intelligence we had received about Iraq’s stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction” — expressed misgivings.
“I again made the case for U.S. military action against the reactor,” Mr. Cheney wrote about a meeting on the issue. “But I was a lone voice. After I finished, the president asked, ‘Does anyone here agree with the vice president?’ Not a single hand went up around the room.”
Mr. Bush chose to try diplomatic pressure to force the Syrians to abandon the secret program, but the Israelis bombed the site in September 2007. Mr. Cheney’s account of the discussion appears in his autobiography, “In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir,” which is to be published by Simon & Schuster next week. A copy was obtained by The New York Times.
Mr. Cheney’s book — which is often pugnacious in tone and in which he expresses little regret about many of the most controversial decisions of the Bush administration — casts him as something of an outlier among top advisers who increasingly took what he saw as a misguided course on national security issues. While he praises Mr. Bush as “an outstanding leader,” Mr. Cheney, who made guarding the secrecy of internal deliberations a hallmark of his time in office, divulges a number of conflicts with others in the inner circle.
Glenn Greenwald writes:
One of the hallmarks of an authoritarian government is its fixation on hiding everything it does behind a wall of secrecy while simultaneously monitoring, invading and collecting files on everything its citizenry does. Based on the Francis Bacon aphorism that “knowledge is power,” this is the extreme imbalance that renders the ruling class omnipotent and citizens powerless.
In the Washington Post today, Dana Priest and William Arkin continue their “Top Secret America” series by describing how America’s vast and growing Surveillance State now encompasses state and local law enforcement agencies, collecting and storing always-growing amounts of information about even the most innocuous activities undertaken by citizens suspected of no wrongdoing. As was true of the first several installments of their “Top Secret America,” there aren’t any particularly new revelations for those paying attention to such matters, but the picture it paints — and the fact that it is presented in an establishment organ such as the Washington Post — is nonetheless valuable.
Today, the Post reporters document how surveillance and enforcement methods pioneered in America’s foreign wars and occupations are being rapidly imported into domestic surveillance (wireless fingerprint scanners, military-grade infrared cameras, biometric face scanners, drones on the border).
In this respect — whose significance can hardly be overstated — Barack Obama is worse than George Bush: Bush’s excesses and the ideology he represented could be circumscribed by his administration and in theory America could purge itself of the effects through the ritual purification of an election. What Obama is doing is normalizing those excesses so that the Bush era can be perpetuated without being tainted by the names Bush and Cheney.
Nigeria will file charges against former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney and officials from five foreign companies including Halliburton Co. over a $180 million bribery scandal, a prosecutor at the anti-graft agency said.
Indictments will be lodged in a Nigerian court “in the next three days,” Godwin Obla, prosecuting counsel at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, said in an interview today at his office in Abuja, the capital. An arrest warrant for Cheney “will be issued and transmitted through Interpol,” the world’s biggest international police organization, he said.
Peter Long, Cheney’s spokesman, said he couldn’t immediately comment when contacted today and said he would respond later to an e-mailed request for comment.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney hinted that, in the waning days of the Bush administration, he had pushed for a military strike to destroy Iran’s nuclear-weapons program.
In an interview on Fox News Sunday, Mr. Cheney described himself as being isolated among advisers to then-President George W. Bush, who ultimately decided against direct military action.
“I was probably a bigger advocate of military action than any of my colleagues,” Mr. Cheney said in response to questions about whether the Bush administration should have launched a pre-emptive attack prior to handing over the White House to Barack Obama. [continued…]
Mr. Cheney said he also supported officers who strayed outside Justice Department rules and used unauthorized interrogation techniques, saying they did so to keep Americans safe. And he warned that Mr. Holder’s investigation would demoralize intelligence officers and discourage them from working aggressively to protect the nation. [continued…]
Editor’s Comment — Will this become known as The Cheney Defense? “I broke the law to keep Americans safe.” Unlike the Nuremberg defense which was rejected by a panel of judges, The Cheney Defense would most likely seem compelling to the average American jury whose allegiance to the patriotic concept of defending America is no doubt far stronger than the constitutionally abstract notion of upholding the law.
In his first few months after leaving office, former vice president Richard B. Cheney threw himself into public combat against the “far left” agenda of the new commander in chief. More private reflections, as his memoir takes shape in slashing longhand on legal pads, have opened a second front against Cheney’s White House partner of eight years, George W. Bush.
Cheney’s disappointment with the former president surfaced recently in one of the informal conversations he is holding to discuss the book with authors, diplomats, policy experts and past colleagues. By habit, he listens more than he talks, but Cheney broke form when asked about his regrets.
“In the second term, he felt Bush was moving away from him,” said a participant in the recent gathering, describing Cheney’s reply. “He said Bush was shackled by the public reaction and the criticism he took. Bush was more malleable to that. The implication was that Bush had gone soft on him, or rather Bush had hardened against Cheney’s advice. He’d showed an independence that Cheney didn’t see coming. It was clear that Cheney’s doctrine was cast-iron strength at all times — never apologize, never explain — and Bush moved toward the conciliatory.”
The two men maintain respectful ties, speaking on the telephone now and then, though aides to both said they were never quite friends. But there is a sting in Cheney’s critique, because he views concessions to public sentiment as moral weakness. After years of praising Bush as a man of resolve, Cheney now intimates that the former president turned out to be more like an ordinary politician in the end. [continued…]
On Saturday, Mark Mazetti and David Johnston of the New York Times, quoting sources close to former President Bush, revealed that former Vice President Dick Cheney had advocated deploying the military for domestic policing purposes. Bush apparently declined to take Cheney’s advice. The discussions occurred against the backdrop of the so-called “Lackawanna Six” case, involving a group of six Yemeni-Americans from the Buffalo area who later pleaded guilty to charges of providing material support to Al Qaeda and received prison sentences.
The disclosures shed considerable light on two memoranda prepared in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel by John Yoo (with the help of Robert J. Delahunty on the second memo) at the request of then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales. The principal memo was part of a group published by the Obama Administration on May 16, provoking widespread public concern. In the memo, Yoo argued that the Fourth Amendment could be viewed as suspended in the event of domestic operations by the military in war time. The second memo, not yet released but discussed here by Prof. Kim Scheppele on the basis of references to it in other documents, apparently attempted to read the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which forbids the domestic deployment of the military for police functions, into oblivion. In “George W. Bush’s Disposable Constitution,” I argued that Yoo’s memo was the formula for a dictatorship. Yoo responded to this objection in the Wall Street Journal, arguing that the memo had been authored with a very narrow set of facts in mind, namely an invasion like the sort of attack that was launched on Mumbai on November 26, 2008. But the latest disclosures make clear, once more, that Yoo’s claims are dishonest. [continued…]
Pressure mounted on President Obama on Monday for more thorough investigation into harsh interrogations of terrorism suspects under the Bush administration, even as he tried to reassure the Central Intelligence Agency that it would not be blamed for following legal advice.
Mr. Obama said it was time to admit “mistakes” and “move forward.” But there were signs that he might not be able to avoid a protracted inquiry into the use of interrogation techniques that the president’s top aides and many critics say crossed the line into torture. [continued…]
Researching his memoirs, former Vice President Dick Cheney is pushing the CIA to declassify files that he claims would vindicate the CIA’s use of coercive interrogation techniques that President Barack Obama has banned.
The request, which the CIA has not yet answered, sets up a showdown between the past and current administrations. Cheney can be expected to argue that the Obama administration’s publication of other files last week is a precedent for release of the reports he wants. Cheney contends that the information he seeks does not pose a threat to anyone, nor to intelligence sources and methods. [continued…]
In releasing highly classified documents on the CIA interrogation program last week, President Obama declared that the techniques used to question captured terrorists “did not make us safer.” This is patently false. The proof is in the memos Obama made public — in sections that have gone virtually unreported in the media.
Consider the Justice Department memo of May 30, 2005. It notes that “the CIA believes ‘the intelligence acquired from these interrogations has been a key reason why al Qaeda has failed to launch a spectacular attack in the West since 11 September 2001.’ . . . In particular, the CIA believes that it would have been unable to obtain critical information from numerous detainees, including [Khalid Sheik Mohammed] and Abu Zubaydah, without these enhanced techniques.” The memo continues: “Before the CIA used enhanced techniques . . . KSM resisted giving any answers to questions about future attacks, simply noting, ‘Soon you will find out.’ ” Once the techniques were applied, “interrogations have led to specific, actionable intelligence, as well as a general increase in the amount of intelligence regarding al Qaeda and its affiliates.” [continued…]
Editor’s Comment — Cheney’s interests — as always — are preeminently political, rather than legal or moral. He understands that the argument that the vast majority of Americans will buy without a second thought is that when it comes to counterterrorism, whatever can be demonstrated as having “worked” is demonstrably justifiable. If waterboarding yielded vital intelligence, it was warranted. Lives were saved. Cheney et al did the right thing.
The problem with this line of reasoning is that it provides an ironclad justification for torture. If the protection of American lives is a supreme good, it follows that success in extracting vital intelligence by torturing a terrorist suspect and thereby saving lives, would provide the necessary moral justification for torture — at least for those who subscribe to this ends-justifies-the-means line of reasoning.
Yet — and here’s the problem — the Bush administration cleaved assiduously to the line: “we do not torture.” Why? Simply because it was illegal? Laws can be changed. If the administration was unwilling to change the law then this either means the pragmatic argument didn’t hold — because torture is wrong even when if it saves lives — or, and this would be utterly contrived, the proponents of not-quite-torture believed that their “legal” torture techniques were more effective than illegal torture.
The question Cheney needs to answer is this: If torturing terrorist suspects can save American lives, do you support the use and thus the legalization of torture?
If his answer is “no,” then the documentary evidence of how CIA interrogations “made us safer” is irrelevant to the current debate. If his answer is “yes,” then this begs a further question: Why have you spent all these years arguing that the US does not torture, rather than arguing that the US needs the legal freedom to do whatever it takes — including using torture — to protect its citizens?
Of course, even if Cheney was to face such questions he would decline the debate since he knows perfectly well that torture is indefensible — unless it can be dressed up as something else. “We didn’t torture. We defended America.”
The green light
The abuse, rising to the level of torture, of those captured and detained in the war on terror is a defining feature of the presidency of George W. Bush. Its military beginnings, however, lie not in Abu Ghraib, as is commonly thought, or in the “rendition” of prisoners to other countries for questioning, but in the treatment of the very first prisoners at Guantanamo. Starting in late 2002 a detainee bearing the number 063 was tortured over a period of more than seven weeks. In his story lies the answer to a crucial question: How was the decision made to let the U.S. military start using coercive interrogations at Guantanamo?
The Bush administration has always taken refuge behind a “trickle up” explanation: that is, the decision was generated by military commanders and interrogators on the ground. This explanation is false. The origins lie in actions taken at the very highest levels of the administration—by some of the most senior personal advisers to the president, the vice president, and the secretary of defense. At the heart of the matter stand several political appointees—lawyers—who, it can be argued, broke their ethical codes of conduct and took themselves into a zone of international criminality, where formal investigation is now a very real option. This is the story of how the torture at Guantanamo began, and how it spread. [complete article]