Daily Archive: 03/12/2014

Mar 12 2014

The Fight About Torture: Covering-up of the Cover-up

Yesterday, the chairperson of the Senate Intelligence committee, Sen, Dianne Feinstein took to Senate floor for forty minutes to blast the CIA for spying on members of the Senate Intelligence Committee while they were reviewing documents at CIA headquarters. That wasn’t entirely what set her off her tirade. It was the CIA’s counter-charge, made through acting CIA general counsel Robert Eatinger, that her staff had illegally accessed and removed the document.

“Our staff involved in this matter have the appropriate clearances, handled this sensitive material according to established procedures and practice to protect classified information, and were provided access to the Panetta Review by the CIA itself,” she said.

“As a result, there is no legitimate reason to allege to the Justice Department that Senate staff may have committed a crime. I view the acting counsel general’s referral as a potential effort to intimidate this staff, and I am not taking this lightly.” [..]

Feinstein’s fighting words were in stark contrast to her role as a champion of NSA surveillance. In most cases, Feinstein has served as an example of how badly oversight over the intelligence community has failed, serving as an accessory to the very kind of excesses her committee was established, in the 1970s,  to prevent.

But torture has been the exception for Feinstein, who in stark contrast to President Obama has demanded an authoritative, official accounting of what happened during the Bush years.

Feinstein made it clear that she is eager for her committee’s report to become public. “If the Senate can declassify this report, we will be able to insure than an un-American, brutal program in interrogation and distension will never again be permitted.”

The CIA had apparently deleted access to documents that it had previously given the Senate Staffers

In May of 2010, the committee staff noticed that [certain] documents that had been provided for the committee’s review were no longer accessible. Staff approached the CIA personnel at the offsite location, who initially denied that documents had been removed. CIA personnel then blamed information technology personnel, who were almost all contractors, for removing the documents themselves without direction or authority. And then the CIA stated that the removal of the documents was ordered by the White House. When the committee approached the White House, the White House denied giving the CIA any such order.

After a series of meetings, I learned that on two occasions, CIA personnel electronically removed committee access to CIA documents after providing them to the committee. This included roughly 870 documents or pages of documents that were removed in February 2010, and secondly roughly another 50 were removed in mid-May 2010.

This was done without the knowledge or approval of committee members or staff, and in violation of our written agreements. Further, this type of behavior would not have been possible had the CIA allowed the committee to conduct the review of documents here in the Senate. In short, this was the exact sort of CIA interference in our investigation that we sought to avoid at the outset.

But what really got Sen. Feinstein fired up was the CIA’s lawyer Eatinger, himself, and his actions at the agency during the Bush administration:

I should note that for most if not all of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, the now-acting general counsel was a lawyer in the CIA’s counterterrorism center, the unit within which the CIA managed and carried out this program. From mid-2004 until the official termination of the detention and interrogation program in January 2009, he was the unit’s chief lawyer. He is mentioned by name more than 1,600 times in our study.

And now, this individual is sending a crimes report to the Department of Justice on the actions of Congressional staff – the same Congressional staff who researched and drafted a report that details how CIA officers, including the acting general counsel himself, provided inaccurate information to the Department of Justice about the program.

Eatinger was the overseer of the CIA’s detention and torture program, who was implicated in the illegal destruction of the torture evidence, and is the focus of the committee’s investigation. He is now in charge of investigating himself and attempting to intimidate the Senate oversight committee and a United States Senator.

Feinstein described Eatinger’s key role as the Counterterrorism Center’s chief lawyer . . . Some things CTC lawyers did were:

   

  • Approved the use of sleep deprivation before DOJ considered the question
  • Altered the record of the original briefing to Nancy Pelosi and Porter Goss
  • Used a John Yoo freelanced memo as the basis of advice to CIA on torture
  • Collaborated with John Yoo to write a “Legal Principles” document that authorized otherwise unauthorized torture techniques

Lawyers probably associated with CTC also lied about the treatment of Hassan Ghul in 2004.

Eatinger also contributed to a CIA cover-up attempt in a key State Secrets case.

To add insult to injury, CIA Director John Brennan immediately went on the offensive:

   Well, first of all, we are not in any way, shape or form trying to thwart this report’s progression, release. As I said in my remarks, we want this behind us. We know that the committee has invested a lot of time, money and effort into this report, and I know that they’re determined to put it forward.

   We have engaged with them extensively over the last year. We have had officers sit down with them and go over their report and point out where we believe there are factual errors or errors in judgment or assessments. So we are not trying at all to prevent its release.

   As far as the allegations of, you know, CIA hacking into, you know, Senate computers, nothing could be further from the truth. I mean, we wouldn’t do that. I mean, that’s – that’s just beyond the – you know, the scope of reason in terms of what we would do.

   [snip]

   This review that was done by the committee was done at a facility where CIA had a responsibility to make sure that they had the computer wherewithal in order to carry out their responsibilities, and so if there was any inappropriate actions that were taken related to that review, either by CIA or by the SSCI staff, I’ll be the first one to say we need to get to the bottom of it.

   And if I did something wrong, I will go to the president, and I will explain to him exactly what I did, and what the findings were. And he is the one who can ask me to stay or to go.

The allegations of spying are a distraction. This is all about torture and covering up the war crimes.

What is it they say? It’s not the crime that gets them, it’s the cover-up.

Mar 12 2014

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day

Since this is Women’s History Month, it is important that we highlight their voices here at Stars Hollow. You will find as you scroll down today even more of those voices. We are women, hear us roar

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Maureen Down: The Spies Who Didn’t Love Her

The C.I.A. hacks into computers that Senate intelligence committee staffers are using in the basement of a C.I.A. facility because the spy agency thinks its Congressional overseers have hacked into the C.I.A. network to purloin hidden documents on torture. It puts a whole new tech twist on the question from Juvenal’s “Satires:” Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who will guard the guards themselves?

The Obama administration was caught off guard by Vladimir Putin’s power grab in Ukraine. Was the C.I.A. was too busy spying on the Senate to spy on Russia?

In his mad odyssey through the dark side – waterboarding, secret rendition, indefinite detention, unnecessary war and manipulation of C.I.A. analysis – Dick Cheney did his best to vitiate our system of checks and balances. His nefarious work is still warping our intelligence system more than a decade later.

Barack Obama, the former Constitutional law teacher who became president vowing to clean up the excesses and Constitutional corrosion of W. and Cheney, will now have to clean up the excesses and Constitutional corrosion in his own administration. And he’d better get out from between two ferns and get in between the warring Congressional Democrats and administration officials – all opening criminal investigations of each other – because it looks as if the C.I.A. is continuing to run amok to cover up what happened in the years W. and Vice encouraged it to run amok.

Langley needs a come-to-Jesus moment – pronto.

New Yrok Times Editorial Board: The C.I.A. Torture Cover-Up

It was outrageous enough when two successive presidents papered over the Central Intelligence Agency’s history of illegal detention, rendition, torture and fruitless harsh interrogation of terrorism suspects. Now, the leader of the Senate intelligence committee, Dianne Feinstein, has provided stark and convincing evidence that the C.I.A. may have committed crimes to prevent the exposure of interrogations that she said were “far different and far more harsh” than anything the agency had described to Congress.

Ms. Feinstein delivered an extraordinary speech on the Senate floor on Tuesday in which she said the C.I.A. improperly searched the computers used by committee staff members who were investigating the interrogation program as recently as January.

Beyond the power of her office and long experience, Ms. Feinstein’s accusations carry an additional weight and credibility because she has been a reliable supporter of the intelligence agencies and their expanded powers since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 (sometimes too reliable). [..]

The lingering fog about the C.I.A. detentions is a result of Mr. Obama’s decision when he took office to conduct no investigation of them. We can only hope he knows that when he has lost Dianne Feinstein, he has no choice but to act in favor of disclosure and accountability.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: The ‘next Citizens United’ may fuel a popular uprising

Pity poor Shaun McCutcheon.

McCutcheon is the Alabama businessman suing the Federal Election Commission for abridging his First Amendment right to free speech

– that is, if we define free speech as McCutcheon’s right to donate upward of $123,200 in a single election cycle. He claims eliminating federal limits on an individual’s aggregate campaign contributions is “about practicing democracy and being free.” To underscore his love of freedom, McCutcheon wrote checks to 15 Republican candidates in the symbolic sum of $1,776.

The Supreme Court is expected to hand down its decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission any day now. Given the Roberts court’s track record, the biggest campaign-finance decision since Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission is likely to blow another gigantic hole in the fabric of our democracy.

Diane Ravitch: Understanding the Propaganda Campaign Against Public Education

A few years ago, when I was blogging at Education Week with Deborah Meier, a reader introduced the term FUD. I had never heard of it. It is a marketing technique used in business and politics to harm your competition. The term and its history can be found on Wikipedia. FUD stands for Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. The reader said that those who were trying to create a market-based system to replace public education were using FUD to undermine public confidence in public education. They were selling the false narrative that our public schools are obsolete and failing. [..]

Why the FUD campaign against one of our nation’s most treasured democratic institutions? It helps the competition. It makes people so desperate that they will seek out unproven alternatives. It makes the public gullible when they hear phony claims about miracle schools, where everyone graduates and everyone gets high test scores, and everyone goes to a four-year college. No such school exists. The “miracle school” usually has a high suspension rate, a high expulsion rate, a high attrition rate, and such schools usually do not replace the kids they somehow got rid of. Some “miracle schools” have never graduated anyone because they have only elementary schools, but that doesn’t stop the claims and boasting.

Martha Rosenberg: “Ask Your Doc” Ads Reach New Inanity with Radiation Ads

Direct to Consumer Drug Advertising Works So Well, They are Now Selling Radiation Treatment Directly to Consumers

Seventeen years after direct-to-consumer (DTC) drug advertising was instituted in the US, 70 percent of adults and 25 percent of children are on at least one prescription drug. Topping the adult pill category for central nervous system drugs is–surprise!–antidepressants which are used by an astounding one in four women between 50 and 64. Topping the pill category for children 12 to 17 is–another surprise!–ADHD meds, though kids increasingly take blood pressure, diabetes and insomnia meds too. (Babies are actually given GERD medicine for spitting up.) Twenty percent of the population is now on five or more prescription medications. Ka-ching.

DTC advertising has done two pernicious things. It has created a nation of hypochondriacs with depression, bipolar disorder, GERD, Restless Legs, insomnia, seasonal allergies and assorted pain, mood and “risk” conditions and it has reduced doctors to order takers and gate keepers. Thanks to TV drug ads, patients tell doctors what is wrong with them and what pill they need, coupon in hand. Drug company-funded web sites even give patients talking points to use when they see the doctor, lest they don’t ring up a sale.

Rebecca Solnit: By the Way, Your Home Is on Fire

The Climate of Change and the Dangers of Stasis

As the San Francisco bureaucrats on the dais murmured about why they weren’t getting anywhere near what we in the audience passionately hoped for, asked for, and worked for, my mind began to wander. I began to think of another sunny day on the other side of the country 13 years earlier, when nothing happened the way anyone expected. I had met a survivor of that day who told me his story.

A high-powered financial executive, he had just arrived on the 66th floor of his office building and entered his office carrying his coffee, when he saw what looked like confetti falling everywhere — not a typical 66th floor spectacle. Moments later, one of his friends ran out of a meeting room shouting, “They’re back.”

Laura Reyes: Paul Ryan and the Politics That Turn Stomachs

It’s hard to imagine conservative political ideology becoming so twisted that one of its standard bearers would step up to a podium and assert poor children are better off going hungry.

Yet when pPaul Ryan addressed the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) last week http://www.thenation.com/blog/… he did just that, bashing progressives for supporting federally funded school lunch programs. He accused those of us uncomfortable with children going hungry of offering them “a full belly and an empty soul.”

In service of this deeply troubling belief, he told a story about a boy getting a federally funded school lunch who asked for it in a brown paper bag like his classmates, because that — according to Ryan — meant they had parents who cared about them.

Paul Ryan’s politics dictate that it’s better for a child to go hungry than get help. Paul Ryan’s politics dictate that parents who rely on public assistance don’t care about their children. Paul Ryan’s politics dictate that those who are down on their luck — even children — are soulless, not the Wall Street bankers who crashed our nation’s economy and continue to crush the American middle class, necessitating such assistance in the first place.

Bryce Covert: Why Americans Should Take August Off

By now you have definitely seen it: the Cadillac ad for its first hybrid car that has a hard on for America’s work ethic. “Other countries,” actor Neal McDonough says while strutting through his perfectly landscaped yard alongside his in-ground pool, “they work, they stroll home, they stop by the café, they take August off. Off.” Quelle horreur! And he explains that Americans, from Bill Gates to Ali, aren’t like that. “We’re crazy, driven, hard-working believers,” he says. And he implies we do it for the glory, but also for the stuff, like a luxury car: the latter is “the upside of only taking two weeks off in August.”

But McDonough, or this hyper-capitalist alter ego, is dead wrong. Americans should absolutely take August off. It will, in fact, lead to more stuff-among other things.

Mar 12 2014

All Hope Is Gone.

All hope is gone. This is serious. Give up. Surrender.

All is lost. It’s all over.

They have you outnumbered.

For the purposes of this graph I made the assumption that the total number of “reds” is 5000.

I then had to multiply them by 500 to get them to show up in the graph.

Mar 12 2014

On This Day In History March 12

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

March 12 is the 71st day of the year (72nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 294 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1947, in a dramatic speech to a joint session of Congress, President Harry S. Truman asks for U.S. assistance for Greece and Turkey to forestall communist domination of the two nations. Historians have often cited Truman’s address, which came to be known as the Truman Doctrine, as the official declaration of the Cold War.

In February 1947, the British government informed the United States that it could no longer furnish the economic and military assistance it had been providing to Greece and Turkey since the end of World War II. The Truman administration believed that both nations were threatened by communism and it jumped at the chance to take a tough stance against the Soviet Union. In Greece, leftist forces had been battling the Greek royal government since the end of World War II. In Turkey, the Soviets were demanding some manner of control over the Dardanelles, territory from which Turkey was able to dominate the strategic waterway from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean.

Truman stated the Doctrine would be “the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.” Truman reasoned, because these “totalitarian regimes” coerced “free peoples,” they represented a threat to international peace and the national security of the United States. Truman made the plea amid the crisis of the Greek Civil War (1946-1949). He argued that if Greece and Turkey did not receive the aid that they urgently needed, they would inevitably fall to communism with grave consequences throughout the region.

The policy won the support of Republicans who controlled Congress and involved sending $400 million in American money, but no military forces, to the region. The effect was to end the Communist threat, and in 1952 both countries joined NATO, a military alliance that guaranteed their protection.

The Doctrine was informally extended to become the basis of American Cold War policy throughout Europe and around the world. It shifted American foreign policy toward the Soviet Union from détente (friendship) to, as George F. Kennan phrased it, a policy of containment of Soviet expansion. Historians often use its announcement to mark the starting date of the Cold War.

Long-term policy and metaphor

The Truman Doctrine underpinned American Cold War policy in Europe and around the world. The doctrine endured because it addressed a broader cultural insecurity regarding modern life in a globalized world. It dealt with Washington’s concern over communism’s domino effect, it enabled a media-sensitive presentation of the doctrine that won bipartisan support, and it mobilized American economic power to modernize and stabilize unstable regions without direct military intervention. It brought nation-building activities and modernization programs to the forefront of foreign policy.

The Truman Doctrine became a metaphor for emergency aid to keep a nation from communist influence. Truman used disease imagery not only to communicate a sense of impending disaster in the spread of communism but also to create a “rhetorical vision” of containing it by extending a protective shield around non-communist countries throughout the world. It echoed the “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quarantine_Speech quarantine the aggressor]” policy Franklin Delano Roosevelt sought to impose to contain German and Japanese expansion in 1937. The medical metaphor extended beyond the immediate aims of the Truman Doctrine in that the imagery combined with fire and flood imagery evocative of disaster provided the United States with an easy transition to direct military confrontation in later years with communist forces in Korea and Vietnam. By presenting ideological differences in life or death terms, Truman was able to garner support for this communism-containing policy.

Mar 12 2014

Sure……

Transcript

CIA says it doesn’t spy on the Senate

By JOSH GERSTEIN and TAL KOPAN, Politico

3/11/14 10:09 AM EDT Updated: 3/11/14 1:11 PM EDT

“I have grave concerns that the CIA’s search may well have violated the separation of powers principles embodied in the United States Constitution,” Feinstein charged. “It may have undermined the constitutional framework essential to effective Congressional oversight of intelligence activities….I have asked for an apology and a recognition that this CIA search of computers used by its oversight committee was inappropriate.”



Making her first detailed remarks on the issue, Feinstein said Tuesday she was compelled to take the floor to answer “inaccurate information” that has been spreading about actions the committee’s staff took with CIA documents detailing an internal agency review ordered by former CIA Director Leon Panetta in 2009.

Feinstein said contrary to the reports, the documents in question were willingly provided before the CIA attempted to revoke staffers’ access and inhibit the committee’s ability to investigate the now-defunct interrogation and detention program.

After an agreement with Panetta in 2009 to provide a way for Senate staffers to review what Feinstein called a “document dump,” Feinstein said staffers noticed in 2010 that access to previously accessible files had been revoked.

“In short, this was the exact sort of CIA interference in our investigation that we sought to avoid at the outset,” Feinstein said, saying she raised the issue with the White House counsel. “He recognized the severity of the situation and the grave implications of executive branch personnel interfering with an official congressional investigation. The matter was resolved with a renewed commitment from the White House counsel and the CIA that there would be no further unauthorized access to the committee’s network or removal of access to CIA documents already provided to the committee.”

In regards to press reports that Senate staffers should not have had access to the documents, Feinstein said, “I reject that claim completely,” and she slammed the CIA’s apparent accessing of the congressional network and what she called attempts to “intimidate” Congress.

“The CIA’s unauthorized search of the committee computers was followed by an allegation which we now have seen repeated anonymously in the press, that the committee staff had somehow obtained the document through unauthorized or criminal means, perhaps to include hacking into the CIA’s computer network,” Feinstein said. “As I have described, this is not true. The document was made available to the staff at the offsite facility and it was located using a CIA-provided search tool, running a query of the information provided to the committee pursuant to its investigation.”



Feinstein acknowledged that by taking a copy of the CIA’s internal study, intelligence committee staffers violated an agreement with the CIA not to remove documents without prior clearance from the agency.

“There was a need to preserve and protect the internal Panetta review in the committee’s own secure spaces,” she argued. “The relocation of the internal Panetta review was lawful and handled in a manner consistent with its classification. No law prevents the relocation of a document in the committee’s possession from a CIA facility to secure committee offices on Capitol Hill.”