Thursday, January 13, 2005

CIA and torture on the front page of this morning's New York Times

Douglas Jehl and David Johnston's White House Fought New Curbs on Interrogations, Officials Say is a front page must read on this morning's New York Times.

In December, acting on a recommendation from the 9-11 commission, Congress attempted to deal with "extreme interrogation measures by American intelligence officers."

The Senate had approved the new restrictions, by a 96-to-2 vote, as part of the intelligence reform legislation. They would have explicitly extended to intelligence officers a prohibition against torture or inhumane treatment, and would have required the C.I.A. as well as the Pentagon to report to Congress about the methods they were using.
But in intense closed-door negotiations, Congressional officials said, four senior members from the House and Senate deleted the restrictions from the final bill after the White House expressed opposition.
In a letter to members of Congress, sent in October and made available by the White House on Wednesday in response to inquiries, Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, expressed opposition to the measure on the grounds that it "provides legal protections to foreign prisoners to which they are not now entitled under applicable law and policy."

Condi Rice. The one who wants to run the State Department which deals with . . . other countries. She's obviously going to continue the charm-free offensive she's pursued for the last four years. Kara recently e-mailed: "If she wants to be the face of the United States when it comes to other countries could someone please ask her to stop scowling everytime Bush isn't around? And could someone suggest that she lose that bulky shoulder purse she's often photographed with, one that never goes with the outfit she's wearing?" Mismatched purses may be the least of her problems when it comes to interacting with representatives of other countries, but it's noted and agreed with. (I believe it's a bulky black purse, if I'm remembering it correctly.)

Ben: "So Bullies Without Borders wanted a loophole and our Congress was happy to give it to them? I see Joe Lieberman's name in this morning's story. Old Useless Joe's happy to talk about his faith and values when he wants to declare war on Hollywood but it sure is strange that his faith never appears to pop up when the issue is torture. It's a selective kind of faith apparently. Congress wouldn't have backed off without bipartisan support for the administration so I just want to ask that everyone spread the blame around equally to both sides of the aisle [in Congress]."

Agreed. And we should also note this from the article:

An August 2002 legal opinion by the Justice Department said that interrogation methods just short of those that might cause pain comparable to "organ failure, impairment of bodily function or even death" could be allowable without being considered torture. The administration disavowed that opinion last summer after the classified legal opinion was publicly disclosed.
A new opinion made public late last month, signed by James B. Comey, the deputy attorney general, explicitly rejected torture and adopted more restrictive standards to define it.
But a cryptic footnote to the new document about the "treatment of detainees" referred to what the officials said were other still-classified opinions. The footnote meant, the officials said, that coercive techniques approved by the Justice Department under the looser interpretation of the torture statutes were still lawful even under the new, more restrictive interpretation.
Current and former government officials said specific interrogation methods were addressed in a series of still-secret documents, including an August 2002 one by the Justice Department that authorized the C.I.A.'s use of some 20 interrogation practices. The legal opinion was sent to the C.I.A. via the National Security Council at the White House.

NPR's Morning Edition is reporting this:
Mark Thatcher has pleaded guilty to criminal charges. That would be Margret Thatcher's son. He's gotten a suspended prison sentence. "He was facing 15 years if he was convicted of all the charges he was facing." I wonder how this will play out elsewhere. The Times has run a few items on this (small items), all inside the paper. "He's going to get his passport back and get away with just paying a fine." When Morning Edition's stories are available online later today, I'll try to post a link to it. [I was typing as quickly as I could and also trying to sort through what was being said, so consider the quotes paraphrases and listen to the story yourself later today if you're interested in it.]

Linda Greenhouse's Supreme Court Transforms Use of Sentence Guidelines is a long article and one I'm still weighing so I'll just suggest that you read it.

If you're interested in the issue, please also see this story from inside the paper by Carl Hulse and Adam Liptak: New Fight Over Controlling Punishments Is Widely Seen.

This was noted late last night in "Snapshots
Snapshots: Chertoff and it's an ugly picture" ( but it's now in this morning's paper and everyone should read Eric Lichtblau's Nomination May Revisit Case of Citizen Seized in Afghanistan on Chertoff:

But Ms. [ Jesselyn] Radack, the former lawyer in the ethics office who advised in 2001 that questioning Mr. Lindh would be improper, said she was troubled by Mr. Chertoff's statements to Congress.
Ms. Radack has admitted giving internal e-mail messages on the dispute to Newsweek magazine after leaving the department in 2002, and her actions led to investigations and bar referrals by the Justice Department over accusations that she had violated the attorney-client privilege. Ms. Radack maintains that her disclosure of the messages was protected by whistle-blower rules. She is suing the department.
Ms. Radack said she did not believe that Mr. Chertoff was forthcoming with senators on Mr. Lindh's case.
"It's incredible to me that we would want someone leading the Department of Homeland Security who gives equivocal and misleading statements to Congress and avoids answering the tough questions," she said.

For more on Jesselyn Radack please see: