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Tilting at Windmills

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December 30, 2007

THE CIA TORTURE TAPES, CONT'D....As it turns out, the reasoning behind the CIA's decision to record interrogations on video, stop recording interrogations on video, and destroy the interrogation videos was all exactly the same: officials were hoping to avoid a public-relations nightmare.

If Abu Zubaydah, a senior operative of Al Qaeda, died in American hands, Central Intelligence Agency officers pursuing the terrorist group knew that much of the world would believe they had killed him.

So in the spring of 2002, even as the intelligence officers flew in a surgeon from Johns Hopkins Hospital to treat Abu Zubaydah, who had been shot three times during his capture in Pakistan, they set up video cameras to record his every moment: asleep in his cell, having his bandages changed, being interrogated.

In fact, current and former intelligence officials say, the agency's every action in the prolonged drama of the interrogation videotapes was prompted in part by worry about how its conduct might be perceived -- by Congress, by prosecutors, by the American public and by Muslims worldwide.

That worry drove the decision to begin taping interrogations -- and to stop taping just months later, after the treatment of prisoners began to include waterboarding. And it fueled the nearly three-year campaign by the agency's clandestine service for permission to destroy the tapes, culminating in a November 2005 destruction order from the service's director, Jose A. Rodriguez Jr.

Now, the disclosure of the tapes and their destruction in 2005 have become just the public spectacle the agency had sought to avoid. To the already fierce controversy over whether the Bush administration authorized torture has been added the specter of a cover-up.

Jesse Stanchak noted the irony: "First the CIA began taping interrogations because it was trying to avoid a scandal, because it looked like a wounded prisoner might die in custody. Then it stopped taping interrogations because it wanted to avoid a scandal when water-boarding was introduced. Then it destroyed the tapes because it was worried they'd be leaked to the press. But the truth came out anyway, and now the agency has to cope with the public relations nightmare it's been trying to avoid all along."

Steve Benen 10:11 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (30)

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How damaging would those tapes be if they were shown 24/7 to the world?

Videos evoke stronger emotions than photos. The blowback would be worse than Abu Graib. The tapes had to be destroyed. The domestic political consequences are less damaging than the incitement of world opinion would be.

The moral of this story is that torture is wrong for a large number of reasons including the potential blowback.

Posted by: bakho on December 30, 2007 at 10:17 AM | PERMALINK

Destroying the tapes as the least worst option? Not totally irrational. Problem is very illegal, and ultimately easy to prove.

Was it done under the direction of Cheney, Addington and Little George, No wonder these clowns are so hell bent on establishing a Presidential dictatorship with no checks or accountability. It’s the only way to keep their asses out of jail.

Can a President pardon himself, or issue a pardon prospectively?

Posted by: Tom on December 30, 2007 at 10:31 AM | PERMALINK

Thought experiment: what if the next President (hopefully, a Democrat) appointed a kind of Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and granted it subpeona power? It'd have to be done outside the usual structures of government, i.e., it would not be a criminal investigation. It'd have to be bipartisan -- chaired by, say James Baker and George Mitchell.

It'd be charged with examining the relationship between the Executive and Congress, and specifically instructed to examine how the Vice Presidency became a separate branch of government, and the CIA got so much so wrong, and so on.

It'd be something like the Hoover Commission that successfully recommended restructuring the Federal government in the Truman years -- with Mitchell, it'd have Congressional cred, with Baker, it'd be the lethal way to save the (ahem) Bush legacy: after the way Bush2 dissed him over Iraq, there ain't anybody better with the subtle stilleto than Baker.

Posted by: theAmericanist on December 30, 2007 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

Remember how the guards at Abu Ghraib said that they were ordered by the CIA to use the techniques shown in the pictures? Remember how this was mocked as an obvious lie, and how Bush/Cheney characterized them as "just a few bad apples" and left to twist in the wind?

Now, of course, it turns out that Bush/Cheney and the CIA almost certainly did encourage mistreatment of prisoners for the purpose of "extracting information" and were also keen on shifting the blame to the lowest possible level of the hierarchy if news leaked out.

And so, a CIA official "preserved deniability" for his bosses by destroying the evidence of their war crimes at about the same point in time as some corporals and sergeants were being sentenced to long prison terms for following illegal orders while the persons who gave the orders were shielded from prosecution.

p.s.: My money is on Bush pardoning everyone in his administration, including Cheney, and then resigning shortly before his term expires. President-for-a-day Cheney will then pardon Big W.

Posted by: RepubAnon on December 30, 2007 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

what if the next President (hopefully, a Democrat) appointed a kind of Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and granted it subpeona power?

What's the win in this? It won't change the minds of the die-hard 25%, and they're the only ones whose minds much need changing. Instead, they'll be enraged at the mere suggestion that such a thing is necessary. I'd rather spend my political pennies on fixing health care, fixing the income gap, fixing the trade/government deficit, and addressing global warming.

My money is on Bush pardoning everyone in his administration, including Cheney, and then resigning shortly before his term expires. President-for-a-day Cheney will then pardon Big W.

Works for the US, not so much for the civilized world. Anyplace that takes war crimes seriously, these guys are at risk for indictment, arrest, and trial. Might not make it all the way to guilty, but many people have been sent to Gitmo on far flimsier evidence.

Posted by: dr2chase on December 30, 2007 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

OT, but couldn't resist.

Washington Monthly has a blog called Political Animal that is also picked up by the CBS News website. It is written by Kevin Drum, but recently has been guest penned by a former Clinton intern and Internet gadfly named Steve Benen who makes no bones about the fact that he is an extreme leftist. Looking over his Wash. Monthly blog posts shows that he also makes no bones about the fact that his chief mode of political analysis is to name call his opponents. None of his recent work, though, goes nearly as far as the hatred he displayed for conservative Bill Kristol, newly minted New York Times columnist and Editor of the Weekly Standard magazine. It looks like someone forgot to administer Stevie's distemper shots or something, but it does go to show that the left is pretty comfortable with wild-eyed name calling in place of real political discourse.

Posted by: cheney on December 30, 2007 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

Can a President pardon himself, or issue a pardon prospectively?

I don't believe so - but if he does manage to pull it off, Congress should immediately issue a signing statement.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on December 30, 2007 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

It looks like someone forgot to administer Stevie's distemper shots or something, but it does go to show that the left is pretty comfortable with wild-eyed name calling in place of real political discourse.

I love how he rushes to utilize that which he imagines he sees in Steve's fine writing. He should read some of my more forceful rants if he wants to see vituperation. Or as he calls it, "wild-eyed name calling."

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on December 30, 2007 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

This is just more of the Republican projectionism. They all need to find themselves some good therapists. I believe most Democrats believe that any of the candidates would be a vast improvement to W the Idiot. And, whoever it is has his/her work cutout for his/her regarding damage control for all the damage done to this country by W and the Republicans.

Posted by: Mazurka on December 30, 2007 at 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

Wasn't Ford's pardon of Nixon prospective? Nixon was never actually impeached by the House, if I remember right, much less convicted by the Senate, though he would have been if he'd stayed. And I don't think he'd been indicted by any other prosecutor, either.

Posted by: SqueakyRat on December 30, 2007 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

Can a President pardon himself, or issue a pardon prospectively?

Yes, a president can pardon himself. This was among the options presented to Nixon as his fabulously successful presidency was winding down. And, as Squeaky Rat notes, prospective pardons are also a possibility.

cheney, you need to get out more if you think Steve's nicely restrained posts are wild-eyed. Why not leave that undisclosed location and see the world a bit?

Posted by: shortstop on December 30, 2007 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

If Abu Zubaydah, a senior operative of Al Qaeda, died in American hands, Central Intelligence Agency officers pursuing the terrorist group knew that much of the world would believe they had killed him.

Yeah, ya know? People just will get the wackiest, most unlikely idears stuck in their heads sometimes. Darnedest thing.

Posted by: DrBB on December 30, 2007 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

A Presidential pardon BEFORE a conviction only becomes significant if the guy is then charged with a crime. It's become something radically different than it was intended to be, but it is STILL an admission of guilt: innocent people don't need pardons.

The purpose of a pardon (like clemency) after all, is the chance for the executive to show mercy after somebody is charged and convicted by the judiciary. Nixon's pardon was widely seen as a smart move to help the nation 'heal', but lots of Constitutional scholars at the time objected because Nixon hadn't been prosecuted, much less convicted. I forget who said at the time that it was like Ford thought Nixon could give birth before the nation had fucked him.

If Bush was to pardon himself (which would be unprecedented and pretty much seal his disgrace on an historic scale; they could find he'd cured cancer doodling during Cabinet meetings and he'd never recover from such an easy to understand shame) for crimes he'd not been charged with, no Supreme Court would EVER uphold it as an inoculation against prosecution.

It'd never happen if there was a Republican president succeeding Bush, because it's be the new guy who would pardon him if necessary (which would be unlikely). It'd only become even a remote possibility when he realized he'd be replaced by a Democratic, after November and before Inauguration -- when, as Mr. Dooley noted, the Supremes follow the election returns.

Hell, if he even tried to do it, there would be Federal prosecutors lining up to take him down: it's not like they don't have INCENTIVE.

Y'all are hallucinating again.

Posted by: theAmericanist on December 30, 2007 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

"Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive..."

One good way to avoid public-relations nightmares is to do things legally and in accordance with the highest American standards. Then, even when it ends up on the front page of the New York Times, it looks good.

Posted by: biggerbox on December 30, 2007 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

At least until something like a Truth and Reconciliation Commission does its work, those who took any part in torture will have to spend their lives looking over their shoulders. Good. They can consult some experts in Argentina, Chile and eastern Germany as to how to deal with it.

Posted by: kendo on December 30, 2007 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

At least until something like a Truth and Reconciliation Commission does its work, those who took any part in torture will have to spend their lives looking over their shoulders. Good. They can consult some experts in Argentina, Chile and eastern Germany as to how to deal with it.

One thing I never seem to see discussed on blogs (or anywhere else) is the Bush administration's flat refusal to even acknowledge the ICC. As all this unfolds, I wonder what the U.S. position will mean. If cmdicely or Stefan happen by this weekend, I'd be very interested in their perspectives.

Posted by: shortstop on December 30, 2007 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

How did we get stuck with this anti-American clown whose idiocy includes the notion that Bush is capable of shame?

Bush ordered the terrorist bombing of Baghdad on the pretense that Iraq was a threat to our national security - no person capable of shame could do that.

Bush has presided over the firing of US Attorney's for failing to adequately support the Republican junta - no person capable of shame could do that.

Bush let his closest advisor commit treason and gave an effective pardon to one of the co-conspirators in the plot - no person capable of shame could do that.

Over the past decade the Republicans have clearly demonstrated that they have nothing but contempt for the rule of law, the traditions of government, and the American people.

But some dumb ass on the internet thinks that it is unlikely that Bush, whose term leaves one yearning for the (by comparison to Bush) law-abiding Nixon, wouldn't continue to disgrace our nation. Right.

Clue for the clownish theFascist - Bush is a disgrace on a historical scale; even if the only thing he had done had been his unprovoked assault on the people of Iraq his disgrace would have been sealed. Pardoning himself might not happen but to suggest that anything is beyond this monstrous administration is to revel in one's idiocy.

Posted by: heavy on December 30, 2007 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

Heavy, it really would help you if you didn't assume that everybody is as stooopid as you.

Posted by: theAmericanist on December 30, 2007 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

Did you actually intend to contribute to the discussion theFascist? When you do, feel free to write something that demonstrates an understanding of the history of the United States over the past four decades, or even a basic ability to understand English.

Given your track record of failure on both counts I wish you luck in your endeavor.

Posted by: heavy on December 30, 2007 at 4:31 PM | PERMALINK

Heavy, as often noted, you're abysmally ignorant and stooopid. If you were also consqeuential in any capacity beyond bad example, I'd be happy to demonstrate your errors in detail.

But fortunately, you ain't.

So one simple instance: "he'd never recover from the shame" does NOT say that he wouldn't do it for fear of shame.

If you were literate (I know, it asks too much), you'd have noticed that I pointed out that the pardon power was established for the executive to show mercy AFTER the judiciary has convicted and passed sentence. Innocent people are not pardoned because there is nothing to pardon them FOR.

So for Bush to pardon himself PROSPECTIVELY would essentially be an odd kind of confession. The pardon would indicate that he considered himself guilty of crimes with which he had not been charged, on which he had not been tried, and for which he had not been sentenced.

THAT alone strikes me as a pretty good reason not to do something as downright weird as to pardon himself. (As noted, if Bush was to so completely lose his marbles as to do this, there are literally dozens of Federal prosecutors who would file cases against him to test the extremely doubtful Constitutionality of such a hallucinatory gesture: Heavy, it'd precipitate exactly the prosecutions he'd be seeking to AVOID, you rectangular asshole.)

What color is the sky in your world, Heavy?

Moreover, you also missed when I pointed out that the only circumstances in which a Bush prospective pardon would matter even in theory, would be after November when (insha'allah) a Democrat would be elected to succeed him.

Try to follow this, Heavy, cuz you missed it the first time: If a REPUBLICAN won the White House, Bush would be unlikely to pardon himself, since that would properly be the responsibility of his successor. More to the Politics 101 point, the prosecutorial discretion of Bush's Republican successor would be unlikely to focus on Bush's crimes, so no pardon would be necessary.

But if a DEMOCRAT wins the Presidency, I commend to you the sage observations of Mr. Dooley regarding SCOTUS and elections.

Posted by: theAmericanist on December 30, 2007 at 4:44 PM | PERMALINK

We may never know all the reasons why the CIA and Gitmo Military Intelligence recorded and then destroyed tapes. But one thing you can be sure of: if the tapes proved torture "worked" they would not have been destroyed.

Posted by: jerseymissouri on December 30, 2007 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

And theFascist keeps digging. Listen you sub-moron - repeating yourself doesn't make you right, it merely makes you repetitive. You were boring and wrong the first time, you are even more boring the second (as you will be the third when you fail to provide, yet again, any substance).

The importance of a lack of shame here is vital you illiterate scumbag. Bush doesn't care what history says about him and once he's pardoned no one can do anything about it - that means (take it from an adult, this is important) it makes no difference if he has admitted guilt. No shame, no consequences, no problem.

As for a Supreme Court that consists of the people who appointed him in the first place and then people he appointed (something you might have noticed if you weren't walking around with your severe case of cranial-rectal inversion) they are unlikely to rule against him.

So no, you mindless little twit, there is nothing you've mentioned that adds anything to the discussion - we all knew you were more than a few bulbs short of a christmas tree, so demonstrating your inability to understand anything even at the level of "see dick run" isn't even new.

Posted by: heavy on December 30, 2007 at 5:18 PM | PERMALINK

The NYT says: "So in the spring of 2002, even as the intelligence officers flew in a surgeon from Johns Hopkins Hospital to treat Abu Zubaydah, who had been shot three times during his capture in Pakistan"

Do we have any reason to believe that he was, in fact, shot three times during his capture? It's information given by our government (liars), filtered through the NYT (liars).

Might be true, might not. My general rule is anything that coincides with a favored government narrative AND cannot be independently verified (most events in a war zone) is probably a lie.

Posted by: luci on December 30, 2007 at 5:38 PM | PERMALINK

If any of you lazy asses would bother to read the Constitution, you'd see that the President can not pardon himself:

...he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.

That's at the beginning of Section 2.

Geez.

Posted by: Dr. Morpheus on December 30, 2007 at 5:49 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry, Cases of Impeachment aren't under discussion here. While Bush has committed multiple impeachable offenses, there is no way the Democrats are going to impeach him. Sad too, because the precedent set by the Republicans means that impeachment is merely a tool used by a majority party who merely doesn't like the President. By not impeaching a rogue actor like Bush the Democrats let that precedent stand. That Bush would fail to be convicted by the Senate is a testament to the Republicans' partisanship over the interests of the nation.

The "High Crimes and Misdemeanors" phrase has been, like advise and consent, and that who silly notion of declaring war, rendered meaningless.

Posted by: heavy on December 30, 2007 at 6:11 PM | PERMALINK

"If any of you lazy asses would bother to read the Constitution, you'd see that the President can not pardon himself:

...he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment."

Well, I am a lazy ass. But that language would not preclude a pardon for crimes under statute.

Also, can you tell us the deal on immunity for these ass clowns?. We know Cheney/Addeington is of the view of absolute immunity for anything, like a monarch (circa 1200AD).

Posted by: Tom on December 30, 2007 at 6:11 PM | PERMALINK

"... and now the agency has to cope with the public relations nightmare it's been trying to avoid all along"

Down (R)ight 'Spooky'


Snerd

Posted by: Snerd Gronk on December 31, 2007 at 1:23 AM | PERMALINK

Tom:

European rulers weren't absolute monarchs in 1200. Early medieval politics was radically decentralized, with most power residing at the local level, and even during the high middle ages, strong monarchies were few and far between. Royal absolutism was really a creation of the early modern period, which is why Louis XIV (but not Louis IX) could say "l'etat c'est moi" and why Peter the Great had so much more power than did Ivan the Terrible.

Now, Chinese monarchs had much greater power, and 1200 would put you just after Kubilai Khan's reign, but even in China the extraordinarily powerful Ming and Qing monarchs like Wanli, Kangxi and Qianlong were products of the late imperial period (in their case, 1500-1800).

Of course, it's a good bet that history major George W. Bush knows none of this...

Posted by: keith on December 31, 2007 at 5:09 AM | PERMALINK

LOL -- Heavy, you're just too precious when you try to think in public: "As for a Supreme Court that consists of the people who appointed him in the first place and then people he appointed (something you might have noticed if you weren't walking around with your severe case of cranial-rectal inversion) they are unlikely to rule against him."

Not so. This is where some of us use these things called "facts", which are collected and organized into "evidence". I commend the practice to you:

Supreme Court justices are famously contrary, largely because they serve far beyond the Presidents who nominated (not "appointed") 'em.

Warren, Brennan, Blackmun, Burger, O'Connor, Souter -- it is a VERY long list of Justices who proceeded to vote and write opinions that were unexpected, or even flat out contrary to what folks figured when they were nominated and confirmed.

The key to understanding this -- I realize that's not what you're all about, you don't WANT to understand, it would get in the way of your astonishing stoooopidity -- is to realize that SCOTUS decisions are about the future. (This is why the 2000 election decision is sorta the exception that proves the rule, at least that is PRECISELY what the Court said at the time: 'this is no precedent.')

The best real example of what you're describing is Chief Justice Burger and the Watergate tapes: Nixon had nominated the Chief Justice, after all. He expected Burger to back him.

He didn't. See how facts are assembled into evidence? Try it sometime, Heavy. You'll find that what you claim is generally 180 degrees wrong, cuz the facts build into contrary evidence.

Bush isn't going to pardon himself.

If a Republican wins the White House, there won't be any need -- either he won't be charged with anything (most likely -- the evidence will stay buried and the new Republican US prosecutors will stay clear), OR if by some quirk Bush WAS charged, the new Republican President can pardon him the way Ford pardoned Nixon: "let the healing begin". QED.

OTOH, if a Democrat wins next year, there will be that window between November and January when Bush would -- arguably, if delusionally -- try this bizarre idea. Try to read this part carefully, Heavy, cuz you didn't get it the first two times:

Innocent people don't need pardons.

For Bush to attempt to pardon himself BEFORE he is charged, tried, or convicted, would be a kind of confession. It would be more than dubious, Constitutionally -- never having been done before (Ford pardoned Nixon before he was tried, but Ford wasn't Nixon HIMSELF). And there would be a whole new crop of Federal prosecutors taking office who would be delighted to take a shot at Bush.

So if he was to do something this nuts, he would bring on precisely the prosecutions he'd be trying to avoid.

See how it works? You cite a fact (like a Democrat bringing in new prosecutors), and assemble it into evidence (what would new prosecutors do with an unprecedented claim by an outgoing President whom they opposed in office?) to reach a conclusion (the Supremes would NEVER uphold a President pardoning himself).

Hell, if you want, I can give you a template with training wheels so YOU can try it.

Posted by: theAmericanist on December 31, 2007 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: oexvcqpjg ojatk on May 23, 2008 at 5:36 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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