The ABC Sunday show This Week had not one but two roundtables this weekend. Right-winger George Will appeared on both of them, because… well, he knows a lot of stuff.
The Obama administration has pursued an unprecedented campaign to prosecute whistleblowers. The fact that John Kirikaou is facing such punishment reinforces the sense that he should be viewed as such a whistleblower, someone who was trying to expose the CIA's torture practices. But was that really his motivation?
Reporting on the news that President Barack Obama plans to nominate his terrorism adviser John Brennan to be head of the CIA, the New York Times writes that critics had been "claiming that…Brennan had supported, or at least had failed to stop, the use of interrogation techniques like waterboarding."
That Brennan was a torture supporter is not a claim, though–it's a matter of public record.
Documents discovered in Libya suggest a close relationship between the Libyan government and the CIA. The New York Times described it this way on September 3: TRIPOLI, Libya — Documents found at the abandoned office of Libya's former spymaster appear to provide new details of the close relations the Central Intelligence Agency shared with the Libyan intelligence service — most notably suggesting that the Americans sent terrorism suspects at least eight times for questioning in Libya despite that country's reputation for torture. And then today (9/6/11) the Times put it this way: The cooperation appeared to be far greater with [...]
The answer might depend on which media outlet you rely on. I read the headline at Democracy Now! on Friday: "Justice Dept Drops 99 of 101 Cases Against CIA for Abuse and Torture" The New York Times, on the other hand, offered a different sort of emphasis: "U.S. Widens Inquiries Into 2 Jail Deaths"
If you feel like there hasn't been enough attention paid to the fact that the democratic movements in the Arab world are undermining the power of U.S. elites to have troublemakers tortured and/or killed, rest assured that Newsweek's Christopher Dickey has you covered this week (6/12/11): Among American spies there's more than a little nostalgia for the bad old days. You know, back before dictators started toppling in the Middle East; back when suspected bad guys could be snatched off a street somewhere and delivered to the not-so-tender mercies of interrogators in their home countries; back when thuggish tyrants, however [...]
USA Today weighs in today (5/10/11) on the argument that U.S. torture of detainees like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was instrumental to tracking down Osama bin Laden. Like other outlets, the newspaper does a pretty lousy job of summarizing the evidence. Under the headline "Raid Renews Debate on Interrogations," reporter Oren Dorell suggests this starting point: But the revelation that tips prodded from captured Al-Qaeda members subjected to "enhanced interrogations" led to the capture of Osama bin Laden has ignited a debate over whether Obama should revisit the policies he cast aside. There is no strong evidence that torture "led" to [...]
The argument that the finding and killing of Osama bin Laden shows that George W. Bush's torture policies were justified got another rehearsal in Newsweek fromYale professorStephen Carter (5/5/11): In the end, we were able to track bin Laden because he communicated only through two couriers believed to be brothers. And what was the source of this vital clue? The intelligence apparently came from detainees imprisoned in secret facilities overseas and subjected to what has been euphemistically called "enhanced" interrogation…. So the information from the detainees was crucial, and we face an uncomfortable irony, both political and ethical. The finest [...]
It's bad enough that corporate media are having such an ill-informed debate about whether torturing some prisoners helped find Osama bin Laden. But considering whom the media invite to this debate, it's probably not a surprise. Take yesterday's Sunday shows (please!). On NBC's Meet the Press, Obama national security adviser Thomas Donilon basically refused to take a definitive position on torture, waterboarding and intelligence. "No single piece of intelligence led to this," was his line. They followed up with a segment with former CIA head Michael Hayden and Rudy Giuliani, both of whom basically endorsed the idea that torture worked. [...]
Time magazine's new issue (no link to the text is available) includes this weird explanation of how torture helped track down Osama bin Laden: Interrogators grilled 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed for details about the courier. When he pleaded ignorance, they knew they were on to something promising. Al-Libbi, the senior Al-Qaeda figure captured in 2005, also played dumb. Both men were subjected to so-called enhanced interrogation techniques, including, in Mohammed's case, the waterboard. As best I can tell, the argument here is that they got no information about the Al-Qaeda courier from torturing these two detainees–which was just the [...]
OK, this isn't Sean Hannity's byline in the Post today, but it might as well be. The headline should stop you: In bin Laden Victory, Echoes of the Bush Years The piece–actually written by Scott Wilson and Anne Kornblut–lays out the argument: As President Obama celebrates the signature national-security success of his tenure, he has a long list of people to thank. On the list: George W. Bush. After the September 11, 2001, attacks, Bush waged wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that have forged a military so skilled that it carried out a complicated covert raid with only a minor [...]
The Washington Post yesterday (2/13/11): Mubarak Resignation Throws Into Question U.S./Egyptian Counterterrorism Work By Mary Beth Sheridan and Joby Warrick Washington Post Staff Writers Sunday, February 13, 2011; A01 For decades, Egypt's government has been a critical partner for U.S. intelligence agencies, sharing information on extremist groups such as al-Qaeda and working hand in glove on counterterrorism operations. Now the future of that cooperation is in question. That "work" and "cooperation" includes, among other things, rendition and torture. It'd be more helpful if this were made clear from the outset, instead of being mentioned in the 11th paragraph of the [...]
The White House position on Egypt would seem to back the transfer of some level of official power to Omar Suleiman, who Hosni Mubarak recently named vice president. Suleiman's former role as intelligence chief made him a key player in Egypt's use of torture, against Egyptian citizens and in connection with CIA-backed rendition. That part of the story hasn't received enough media attention, but today the New York Times does a great job, splashing the story on the front page…. Sorry, that's not right. It must be here somewhere. Perhaps a stinging editorial denouncing torture… no, that's not it. OK, [...]