Iraqi officials said the blast came from a minibus that had been packed with explosives and parked outside a building in the area. U.S. military officials said a team of U.S. bomb experts at the scene had determined that the cause was an explosives-laden truck. They said preliminary intelligence reports point to what they referred to as "special groups," Iranian-backed Shiite militant cells, and not to Sunni insurgents such as those affiliated with al Qaida in Iraq, or AQI for short.
From Richard A. Oppel's Jr.'s "At Least 51 Are Killed in Blast at Baghdad Market" (New York Times, online the article is credited to Richard A. Oppel Jr., Mudhafer al-Husaini and Ali Hameed, in print it is credited to Oppel and noted he wrote it while the other two "reported"):
The blast site was at the heart of the market that was the scene of two huge explosions in 2005 and 2006 that killed a total of more than 100 people.
Ali Mustafa, 25, was in his clothing store during the explosion. "My shop collapsed on my head," he said. Dazed but still conscious, he scrambled and clawed his way outside.
"There was a huge hole and a lake of blood and the burnt flesh of men and women and kids," he said, adding that an American patrol was nearby. "They went crazy, but they tried to help the people."
According to one Iraqi policeman at the scene, the bomber struck as Iraqi and American troops attended a neighborhood meeting. Afterward, the policeman said, some people surrounded Humvees and angrily started throwing rocks and other objects. A rumor swept the crowd of frantic survivors that there was still one car bomb left that had yet to be detonated.
From Ned Parker and Usama Redha's "Iraq car bombing kills at least 51" (Los Angeles Times):
A 14-year-old girl, dressed in a black headdress and robe, towed a boy by the hand and searched for her father.
"Where are they going to take the injured?" the weeping girl asked other distraught pedestrians.
Yesterday the Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing. For a laugh read the New York Times 'report' on it. Click here for the Washington Post's and also here. Kat notes it here (and it was in yesterday's snapshot). This is committee chair Carl Levin's "Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing: The Origins of Aggressive Interrogation Techniques" in full and needed due to the nonsense in the Times:
Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing: The Origins of Aggressive Interrogation Techniques
Part I of the Committee's Inquiry into the Treatment of Detainees in U.S. Custody
Today’s hearing will focus on the origins of aggressive interrogation techniques used against detainees in U.S. custody. We have three panels of witnesses today and I want to thank them for their willingness to voluntarily appear before the Committee.
Intelligence saves lives. Knowing where an insurgent has buried an IED can keep a vehicle carrying Marines in Iraq from being blown up. Knowing that an al Qaeda associate visited an internet cafe in Kabul could be the key piece of information that unravels a terrorist plot targeting our embassy. Intelligence saves lives.
Here’s why, he said -- al Qaeda and Taliban terrorists are taught to expect Americans to abuse them. They're recruited based on false propaganda that says the United States is out to destroy Islam. Treating detainees harshly only reinforces their distorted view and increases their resistance to cooperate. The abuse at Abu Ghraib was a potent recruiting tool for al Qaeda and handed al Qaeda a propaganda weapon they could use to peddle their violent ideology.
Today's hearing will explore part of the story: how it came about that techniques, called SERE resistance training techniques, which are used to teach American soldiers to resist abusive interrogations by enemies that refuse to follow the Geneva Conventions, were turned on their head and sanctioned by Department of Defense officials for use offensively against detainees. Those techniques included use of stress positions, keeping detainees naked, use of dogs, and hooding during interrogations.
Background on Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape (SERE) Training
Some brief background on SERE, which stands for Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape training. The U.S. military has five SERE schools to teach certain military personnel -- whose missions create a high risk that they might be captured -- the skills needed to survive in hostile enemy territory, evade capture, and escape should they be captured. The resistance portion of SERE training exposes students to physical and psychological pressures designed to simulate abusive conditions to which they might be subject if taken prisoner by enemies that may abuse them. The Joint Personnel Recovery Agency -- JPRA -- is the DoD agency that oversees SERE training. JPRA's instructor guide states that a purpose of using physical pressures in the training is "stress inoculation," building soldiers' immunities so that should they be captured and subject to harsh treatment, they will be better prepared to resist. The techniques used in SERE resistance training can include things like stripping students of their clothing, placing them in stress positions, putting hoods over their heads, disrupting their sleep, treating them like animals, subjecting them to loud music and flashing lights, and exposing them to extreme temperatures. It can also include face and body slaps and until recently, for some sailors who attended the Navy's SERE school, it included waterboarding -- mock drowning.
Strict controls are also in place during SERE resistance training to reduce the risk of psychological harm to students. Psychologists are present throughout SERE training to intervene should the need arise and to talk to students during and after the training to help them cope with associated stress.
Some might say that if our personnel go through it in SERE school, what's wrong with doing it to detainees. Well, our personnel are students and can call off the training at any time. SERE techniques are based on abusive tactics used by our enemies. If we use those same techniques offensively against detainees, it says to the world that they have America's stamp of approval. That puts our troops at greater risk of being abused if they're captured. It also weakens our moral authority and harms our efforts to attract allies to our side in the fight against terrorism.
Department of Defense General Counsel’s Office Contacts JPRA
So, how did SERE techniques come to be considered by DoD for detainee interrogations. In July 2002, Richard Shiffrin, a Deputy General Counsel in the Department of Defense and a witness at today’s hearing, called Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Baumgartner, also a witness today and then the Chief of Staff at JPRA -- the agency that oversees the SERE training -- and asked for information on SERE techniques.
On August 1, 2002, a week after Lt. Col. Baumgartner sent his memos to the DoD General Counsel, the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) issued two legal opinions. One (TAB 5), commonly known as the first Bybee memo, was addressed to then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales and provided OLC’s opinion on standards of conduct in interrogation required under the federal torture statute. That memo concluded:
[F]or an act to constitute torture as defined in [the federal torture statute], it must inflict pain that is difficult to endure. Physical pain amounting to torture must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death. For purely mental pain or suffering to amount to torture under [the federal torture statute], it must result in significant psychological harm of significant duration, e.g., lasting for months or even years.
The other OLC opinion, issued the same day and known commonly as the second Bybee memo, responded to a CIA request, and addressed the legality of specific interrogation tactics.
During the time the DoD General Counsel's office was seeking information from JPRA, JPRA staff, responding to a request from Guantanamo, were finalizing plans to conduct training for interrogation staff from U.S. Southern Command’s Joint Task Force 170 at GTMO. During the week of September 16, 2002, a group from GTMO, including interrogators and behavioral scientists, travelled to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and attended training conducted by instructors from the JPRA SERE school. None of the three JPRA personnel who provided the training was a trained interrogator.
On September 25, 2002, just days after GTMO staff returned from that training, a delegation of senior Administration lawyers, including Jim Haynes, General Counsel to the Department of Defense, John Rizzo, acting CIA General Counsel, David Addington, Counsel to the Vice President, and Michael Chertoff head of the Criminal Division at the Department of Justice, visited GTMO. An after action report (TAB 6) produced by a military lawyer after the visit noted that one purpose of the trip was to receive briefings on "intel techniques."
When the GTMO Chief of Staff suggested at the meeting that GTMO "can't do sleep deprivation," LTC Beaver, GTMO’s senior lawyer, responded "Yes we can -- with approval." LTC Beaver added that GTMO "may need to curb the harsher operations while [International Committee of the Red Cross] is around."
The military services reacted strongly against using many of the techniques in the GTMO request. In early November 2002, in a series of memos, the services identified serious legal concerns with the techniques and they called urgently for additional analysis.
When the Joint Staff received the military services' concerns, RADM Jane Dalton, then-Legal Advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, began her own legal review of the proposed interrogation techniques, but that review was never completed. Today we'll have the opportunity to ask RADM Dalton about that.
Secretary of Defense Approves GTMO Request
Notwithstanding concerns raised by the military services, Department of Defense General Counsel Jim Haynes sent a memo (TAB 15) to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on November 27, 2002, recommending that he approve all but three of the eighteen techniques in the GTMO request. Techniques like stress positions, removal of clothing, use of phobias (such as fear of dogs), and deprivation of light and auditory stimuli were all recommended for approval.
Discussions about "reverse engineering:" SERE techniques for use in interrogations at GTMO had already prompted strong objections by the Department of Defense’s Criminal Investigative Task Force (CITF) at GTMO. CITF Deputy Commander Mark Fallon said that SERE techniques were "developed to better prepare U.S. military personnel to resist interrogations and not as a means of obtaining reliable information" and that "CITF was troubled with the rationale that techniques used to harden resistance to interrogations would be the basis for the utilization of techniques to obtain information."
The dispute over the use of aggressive techniques came to a head with the military's plan for interrogating Mohammed al-Khatani. Both CITF and FBI strongly opposed the military's plan and CITF took their concerns up the Army Chain of Command and even to the DoD General Counsel's office; but over CITF's objections, the military's plan was approved. The Khatani interrogation began on November 23, 2002, just over a week before the Secretary signed the Haynes memo.
Key documents relating to Khatani's interrogation remain classified. Published accounts, however, indicate that Khatani was deprived of adequate sleep for weeks on end, stripped naked, subjected to loud music, a dog was used to scare him, and a leash was placed around his neck as he was forced to perform dog tricks.
GTMO Develops SERE SOP – Navy SERE School Trainers Visit GTMO
In the week following the Secretary’s December 2, 2002, authorization, senior staff at GTMO set to work drafting a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) specifically for the use of SERE techniques in interrogations. The first page of one draft of that SOP (TAB 16) stated that "The premise behind this is that the interrogation tactics used at U.S. military SERE schools are appropriate for use in real-world interrogations. These tactics and techniques are used at SERE school to 'break' SERE detainees. The same tactics and techniques can be used to break real detainees during interrogation." The draft described how to slap, strip, and place detainees in stress positions. It also described "hooding," "manhandling," and "walling" detainees.
Two weeks earlier, on December 20, 2002, Alberto Mora had met with DoD General Counsel Jim Haynes. In a memo describing the meeting (TAB 18), Mr. Mora says he told Mr. Haynes that he thought interrogation techniques that had been authorized by the Secretary of Defense on December 2, 2002 "could rise to the level of torture" and asked him, "What did 'deprivation of light and auditory stimuli' mean? Could a detainee be locked in a completely dark cell? And for how long? A month? Longer? What exactly did the authority to exploit phobias permit? Could a detainee be held in a coffin? Could phobias be applied until madness set in?"
On January 9, 2003, Alberto Mora met with Jim Haynes again. According to his memo, Mora expressed frustration that the Secretary's authorization had not been revoked and told Haynes that the policies could threaten Secretary Rumsfeld’s tenure and even damage the presidency.
On January 15, 2003, the Secretary rescinded his December 2, 2002, authorization (TAB 20). At the same time, he directed the establishment of a "Working Group" to review interrogation techniques. What happened next has already become well known. For the next few months the judgments of senior military and civilian lawyers critical of legal arguments supporting aggressive interrogation techniques were rejected in favor of a legal opinion from Office of Legal Counsel's (OLC) John Yoo. The Yoo opinion (TAB 21), the final version of which was dated March 14, 2003, was requested by Jim Haynes, and repeated much of what the first Bybee memo had said six months earlier.
The August 1, 2002, Bybee memo, again, had said that to violate the federal anti-torture statute, physical pain that resulted from an act would have to be "equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death." John Yoo's March 14, 2003 memo stated that criminal laws, such as the federal anti-torture statute, would not even apply to certain military interrogations and that interrogators could not be prosecuted by the Justice Department for using interrogation methods that would otherwise violate the law. One CIA lawyer reportedly called the Bybee memo of August 2002 a "golden shield." Combining it with the Yoo memo of March 2003, the Justice Department had attempted to create a shield to make it difficult or impossible to hold anyone accountable for their conduct.
Just a few months later, one such request arrived at the Pentagon. The detainee was Mohamedou Ould Slahi. While several documents relating to the Slahi interrogation plan remain classified, the recent report from the Department of Justice Inspector General includes newly declassified information suggesting the plan included hooding Slahi and subjecting him to sensory deprivation and "sleep adjustment." The Inspector General's report says that an FBI agent who saw a draft of the interrogation plan said it was similar to Khatani's interrogation plan. Secretary Rumsfeld approved the Slahi plan on August 13, 2003.
Influence in Afghanistan
How did SERE techniques make their way to Afghanistan and Iraq? Shortly after the Secretary approved Jim Haynes's recommendation on December 2, 2002, the techniques -- and the fact the Secretary had authorized them == became known to interrogators in Afghanistan. A copy of the Secretary’s memo was sent from GTMO to Afghanistan. The Officer in Charge of the Intelligence Section at Bagram Airfield, in Afghanistan has said that in January 2003 she saw -- in Afghanistan -- a power point presentation listing the aggressive techniques authorized by the Secretary on December 2, 2002.
Documents and interviews also indicate that the influence of the Secretary’s approval of aggressive interrogation techniques survived their January 15, 2003 rescission.
"influenced by the counterresistance memorandum that the Secretary of Defense approved on December 2, 2002 and incorporated techniques designed for detainees who were identified as unlawful combatants. Subsequent battlefield interrogation SOPs included techniques such as yelling, loud music, and light control, environmental manipulation, sleep deprivation/adjustment, stress positions, 20-hour interrogations, and controlled fear (muzzled dogs) . . ."
Special mission unit techniques eventually made their way into Standard Operating Procedures issued for all U.S. forces in Iraq. The Interrogation Officer in Charge at Abu Ghraib obtained a copy of the special mission unit interrogation policy and submitted it, virtually unchanged, to her chain of command as proposed policy for the conventional forces in Iraq, led at the time by Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez.
On September 14, 2003, Lieutenant General Sanchez issued the first Combined Joint Task Force 7 interrogation SOP. That SOP authorized interrogators in Iraq to use stress positions, environmental manipulation, sleep management, and military working dogs to exploit detainees’ fears in interrogations.
JPRA Support to the Special Mission Unit Task Force In Iraq
Not only did SERE resistance training techniques make their way to Iraq, but instructors from the JPRA SERE school followed. The Department of Defense Inspector General reported that in September 2003, at the request of the Commander of the Special Mission Unit Task Force, JPRA deployed a team to Iraq to provide assistance to interrogation operations. During that trip, SERE instructors were authorized to participate in the interrogation of detainees in U.S. military custody. Accounts of that trip will be explored at a later time.
"Recent requests from OSD and the Combatant Commands have solicited JPRA support based on knowledge and information gained through the debriefing of former U.S. POWs and detainees and their application to U.S. Strategic debriefing and interrogation techniques. These requests, which can be characterized as 'offensive' support, go beyond the chartered responsibilities of JPRA… The use of resistance to interrogation knowledge for 'offensive' purposes lies outside the roles and responsibilities of JPRA."
Lieutenant General Robert Wagner, the Deputy Commander of JFCOM, has likewise said that (TAB 25) "Relative to interrogation capability, the expertise of JPRA lies in training personnel how to respond and resist interrogations -- not in how to conduct interrogations… requests for JPRA ‘interrogation support’ were both inconsistent with the unit’s charter and might create conditions which tasked JPRA to engage in offensive operational activities outside of JPRA’s defensive mission."
The Department of Defense Inspector General report completed in August 2006 said techniques in Iraq and Afghanistan had derived, in part from JPRA and SERE.
Many have questioned why we should care about the rights of detainees. On May 10, 2007, General David Petraeus answered that question in a letter to his troops. General Petraeus wrote:
"Our values and the laws governing warfare teach us to respect human dignity, maintain our integrity, and do what is right. Adherence to our values distinguishes us from our enemy. This fight depends on securing the population, which must understand that we – not our enemies – occupy the moral high ground.
Lastly, if you need a belly laugh this morning, check out this New York Times nonsense and note that someone who entered a guilty plea is allowed to be presented as possibly innocent -- it's who you are, not what you did or what you admitted to doing in court.
Dropping back to January 13, 2005:
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.]
I never did go back and insert, my apologies. I believe this was the NPR report.
We noted Elizabeth Nash's "Exiled leader of Equatorial Guinea coup plot goes missing" (Independent of London) in April 2005:
Mark Thatcher, the son of the former prime minister, was fined after pleading guilty to help finance the coup. Mr Moto's wife, Margarita Eki, made a statement to Spanish police yesterday denouncing the possible disappearance of her husband, from whom she had heard nothing for several days.
And April 3, 2005, Billie highlighted Harvey McGavin's "Thatcher is refused US visa over coup plot conviction" (Independent of London):
Sir Mark Thatcher has been refused a visa to live in the United States following his conviction for involvement in the failed coup attempt in Equatorial Guinea. Sir Mark, the son of Baroness Thatcher, the former prime minister, had intended to join his wife and their two children in the US after being given a four-year suspended jail sentence and fine at his trial in January, but immigration authorities turned down his visa application, it was confirmed yesterday.
"It is quite true that my visa application has been rejected," Sir Mark said in a statement. "It was always a calculated risk when I plea-bargained in South Africa."
Sir Mark was fined £265,000 by a South African court but escaped jail as part of a deal in which he admitted to having "unwittingly" financed the attempted overthrow of the government in Equatorial Guinea.
But Lydia Polgreen's article in today's New York Times works hard to scrub Thatcher clean: "The case ultimately ensnared a motley cast of upper-class Britons, including Sir Mark Thatcher, the son of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who was arrested by the South African police for helping finance the plot and pleaded guilty to avoid jail time, though he insisted that he was an unwitting participant." Don't expect the Times to show others the same good p.r. Any average person who enters a guilty plea will always be mentioned as having entered that plea and that will be that.
the new york times
richard a. oppel jr.
the los angeles times