Monday, December 15, 2014


Washington Closes Ranks On Torture Report

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Less than a week after the release of the executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee's wide-ranging report on the CIA's torture program, officials in Washington are closing ranks.
The report outlined several shocking revelations, including instances of waterboarding, forced rectal feedings and in one case a detainee's death. Agency officers themselves were upset by the program, the report suggests, requesting transfers away from the "black sites" where interrogations took place and begging CIA headquarters to let them stop.
“Facts aren’t partisan,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a member of the Intelligence Committee, said on "Meet the Press" on Sunday, noting that every major conclusion in the report was backed up by CIA's own documents. “We reviewed 6 million pages of documents. … There are a mountain of contradictions.”
But the damning facts in the executive summary seem unlikely to result in few lasting changes if the response of official Washington is any indication. Republicans are dismissing the document as a biased Democratic product. A few Democrats are calling for Brennan's resignation. Almost no one in office is calling for widespread changes at the CIA -- or for a renewal of the Justice Department investigation into whether to prosecute those who knew about or carried out torture.
The Senate report goes into excruciating details about how the CIA overstepped the boundaries of what even the George W. Bush administration and the Department of Justice had approved. CIA officials from former Counterterrorism Center Chief Jose Rodriguez to current Director John Brennan have admitted to errors. Brennan said some of the abuses were "abhorrent."
On Sunday's talk shows, it was nevertheless torture's defenders who got the most air time -- and they were unrepentant. In a characteristic performance, former Vice President Dick Cheney defended the CIA program without qualification and insisted that he would do it again. Cheney even dismissed the stories of the men who were subjected to "enhanced interrogation" but later found by the CIA itself to be innocent.
"I'm more concerned with bad guys who got out and released than I am with a few that, in fact, were innocent," said Cheney.
Cheney dismissed calls from a UN official for the Justice Department to reopen an investigation into CIA torture. Other CIA defenders on the airwaves on Sunday included Rodriguez, former agency Director Michael Hayden, current Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and former Bush adviser Karl Rove.
The only Republican to speak out against torture was Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), himself a torture victim while held in a North Vietnamese prison.
The most prominent Democratic voice against the CIA's actions to appear on air on Sunday was Ron Wyden. He said Brennan needs to oversee changes at the agency or to be replaced. But like much of official Washington, Wyden stopped short of calling for prosecutions.
It's been an outgoing member of Congress -- Mark Udall, the Colorado Democrat who lost his election in November -- who's been most critical of the agency. Speaking on the Senate floor on Wednesday, he said the CIA is still lying in its response to the torture report, and he directly criticized the White House for helping the agency "cover up the truth." He called for the replacement of Brennan. The CIA director gave a by turns apologetic and defiant defense of the torture report on Thursday, in which he declined to call waterboarding torture.
Obama's support for Brennan in the position has so far been steadfast. The president said this week that some of the CIA's actions after 9/11 were "contrary to our values." But he showed no sign of backing off what he said just a month after assuming office in February 2009, when he expressed "a belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards."
"At the CIA, you've got extraordinarily talented people who are working very hard to keep Americans safe," he said in February 2009. "I don't want them to suddenly feel like they've got to spend all their time looking over their shoulders and lawyering up."





Congress' Job Approval Ratings, Yearly Averages by Party


Saturday, December 13, 2014

We don't fight against terrorists to become more like them.

'We Tortured Some Folks,' But 'That's Not Who We Are'

Absent any criminal prosecutions, the only conclusion we will be left with is that these guys really are "patriots" and torturing people really is "who we are." The morality and ethics of whether or not the CIA can torture people in our name are non-negotiable. There is no argument that can be made to justify this atrocity. The corporate media are treating torture as if it's just another "issue" like immigration reform or the federal budget. It isn't. You cannot justify the unjustifiable. People who attempt to apologize for torture done in their name are embarrassing themselves; raising their heads to be counted as barbarians at the gate. We don't fight against terrorists to become more like them, but to maintain our differences.

 We don't fight against terrorists to become more like them, but to maintain our differences.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Torture Runs Against the American Soul!

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RAMZI HAIDAR via Getty Images
la times

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) chairs the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
There has been a suggestion in recent days that now is not a good time to release a review prepared by the Senate Intelligence Committee of the CIA's detention and interrogation program. But is there ever a good time to admit our country tortured people?
In the wake of 9/11, we were desperate to bring those responsible for the brutal attacks to justice. But even that urgency did not justify torture. The United States must be held to a higher standard than our enemies, yet some of our actions did not clear that bar. It is time to publicly examine how that happened.
The administration has known for months that this document would become public and has been making every effort to safeguard U.S. personnel and interests abroad. But the bottom line is, torture occurred, and we must own up to our actions and move forward.
In the spring of 2009, the Senate Intelligence Committee voted 14-1 to begin a review of the CIA's detention and interrogation program. The goal was to learn exactly what happened to more than 100 individuals secretly detained overseas after 9/11.
More than five years later, our committee's study is complete, and that is the report we released on Tuesday for public review.
Here, briefly, is what we found: After launching a program to detain and interrogate suspected terrorists using coercive techniques -- tactics that at times amounted to torture -- CIA personnel provided extensive inaccurate information about the program to the White House, the Justice Department, Congress and the American public.
Contrary to CIA claims at the time, these so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" did not produce intelligence that thwarted terrorist plots or resulted in the capture of terrorists. That intelligence was already available from other sources or from the detainees themselves before they were tortured. In fact, torture often led to false information.
The earliest case involving CIA interrogation after 9/11 was that of Abu Zubaydah, who ran terrorist training camps and was associated with some of Al Qaeda's top leaders before he was captured in March 2002.
Instead of employing tried and true methods to interrogate him -- such as using the military's authority to hold and question terrorism suspects, partnering with allied governments or using the criminal justice system -- the CIA improvised. It hurriedly arranged overseas black sites to detain individuals and attempt to collect intelligence from them.
During Abu Zubaydah's first months of captivity, FBI and CIA interrogators were able to extract important information from him through traditional interrogation methods. But later, the CIA acted on the advice of unqualified contractors and began using coercive interrogation techniques in an effort to obtain information that Abu Zubaydah never had.

"Interrogation of CIA detainees was far more brutal than has been previously described, not just to the public but to Congress, the White House and the Department of Justice."

The CIA adopted these interrogation techniques without informing the congressional oversight committees or key members of the George W. Bush administration. There was essentially no oversight.
After more than two weeks of near-constant coercive interrogations, including painful stress positions and repeated waterboarding, Abu Zubaydah had provided none of the lifesaving information the CIA claimed he possessed.
The interrogations continued, even after on-site interrogators concluded that it was highly unlikely he knew such information.
Abu Zubaydah was just the first of many detainees. In total, at least 119 individuals were held overseas as part of the CIA's detention and interrogation program.
In the end, Intelligence Committee investigators examined more than 6 million pages of CIA records. The 500-page executive summary we released is based on our 6,700-page study, which includes 38,000 footnotes.
The study's 20 findings and conclusions can be grouped into four key areas, each supported by extensive factual records.
First, the use of coercive interrogation techniques did not lead to intelligence that wasn't available through traditional interrogation or that was necessary to stop terrorist attacks and capture terrorists -- the arguments the CIA used to justify the use of the techniques.
Although the CIA repeatedly claimed that enhanced interrogations enabled it to capture terrorists and thwart terrorist plots, the study concludes that any counterterrorism successes were the result of traditional intelligence and law enforcement efforts, not the CIA torture program.
Second, CIA personnel routinely provided inaccurate information to the CIA inspector general, the White House, the Justice Department and Congress about the interrogation techniques being used and the results they were producing.
These inaccurate claims kept those responsible for evaluating and overseeing the program from doing so. Our system of checks and balances requires policymakers to have accurate information about government actions. Unfortunately, the CIA withheld crucial facts.
Third, despite the unprecedented authority the CIA was granted by the Bush administration to detain terrorist suspects, the agency failed to effectively manage and oversee its own program. This was especially true in the program's early years, when more than half of all CIA detainees were taken into custody.
CIA headquarters failed to provide effective guidance or legal advice on who could be detained and how they had to be treated. Almost a quarter of detainees failed to meet the legal standard for detention provided by the Bush administration.
The manner in which coercive interrogation techniques were implemented often differed sharply from Justice Department guidelines, and in some cases other interrogation techniques were used without any approval at all. The study found that inexperienced personnel were allowed to play key roles at black sites, including some individuals with significant red flags in their backgrounds. Contractors initially developed and operated the program and later ran almost all aspects of it.
And finally, the detention and interrogation of CIA detainees was far more brutal than has been previously described, not just to the public but to Congress, the White House and the Department of Justice.
Interrogation techniques were often used in combination and relentlessly, often for days at a time. One otherwise healthy detainee died in CIA custody, and at least one more came close.
Torture goes against the very soul of our country. We are a democracy, established on the rule of law.
We're not perfect and there are some dark patches in our past, but what makes us special is that we recognize these evils, we come to grips with them and we fix them.
President Obama took important steps by prohibiting secret CIA detention and torture in his first days in office, and he has declassified important details about this program.
This report is the next step toward enacting major reforms to ensure something like this never happens again.
Read more in The LA Times Opinion Editorial
Follow the Opinion section on Twitter @latimesopinion

Write your Congressman now and tell him you oppose torture, and that you want him to outlaw torture.  Kenneth Stepp.

Thursday, November 27, 2014


This season we give thanks for all that we have. HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO YOU AND YOUR FAMILY!  Kenneth Stepp.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Bring back the 50 State Democratic Strategy!

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There’s no point sugarcoating it—this was a Republican wave. The GOP won control of the U.S. Senate, elected new governors in big blue states, and washed out Democratic majorities in state legislatures from New Hampshire to Nevada.

We need to rebuild the Democratic Party from the bottom up. We need a new 50-State Strategy.

After George Bush’s re-election in 2004, Howard Dean’s 50-State Strategy led Democrats to enormous wins in 2006 and 2008. The strategy invested heavily in state parties and reached out to engage Democrats no matter where they lived.

Bringing back the 50-State Strategy and rebuilding the Democratic Party should be the DNC’s top priority.

Sign the petition: Bring back the 50-State Strategy.
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Our Message to The DNC
We need to rebuild the Democratic Party from the bottom up. Bring back the 50-State Strategy.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014