TORTURER-IN-CHIEF

Well, it’s all beginning to come out now. The CIA has been operating a secret network of detainment facilities across the globe to capture and interrogate suspected terrorists, facilities that would be illegal in the U.S. and where torture is enforced by explicit permission by the president. These facilities were improvised on the fly – like the rest of the war. Money quote:

“We never sat down, as far as I know, and came up with a grand strategy,” said one former senior intelligence officer who is familiar with the program but not the location of the prisons. “Everything was very reactive. That’s how you get to a situation where you pick people up, send them into a netherworld and don’t say, ‘What are we going to do with them afterwards?'”

What goes on in these centers? You already know, don’t you:

Host countries have signed the U.N. Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, as has the United States. Yet CIA interrogators in the overseas sites are permitted to use the CIA’s approved “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques,” some of which are prohibited by the U.N. convention and by U.S. military law. They include tactics such as “waterboarding,” in which a prisoner is made to believe he or she is drowning… Most of the facilities were built and are maintained with congressionally appropriated funds, but the White House has refused to allow the CIA to brief anyone except the chairman and vice chairman of the House and Senate intelligence committees on the program’s generalities.

As so often, the original plan to seize just those suspects who were responsible for 9/11 metastasized into a general program for seizing many suspects, incarcerating them in places like the elegantly named “Salt Pit” in Afghanistan, and torturing them:

[A]s the volume of leads pouring into the CTC from abroad increased, and the capacity of its paramilitary group to seize suspects grew, the CIA began apprehending more people whose intelligence value and links to terrorism were less certain, according to four current and former officials. The original standard for consigning suspects to the invisible universe was lowered or ignored, they said. “They’ve got many, many more who don’t reach any threshold,” one intelligence official said.

One detainee was killed by the CIA, by being exposed naked to freezing cold temperatures overnight. Hey, this is America. We do this kind of thing now. Is it easier to understand why Bush wants an explicit torture exception for the CIA in the McCain Amendment? It’s particularly ironic that Eastern European countries, recently freed from the horrors of communism, now acquiesce to a new prison system where torture takes place beyond the law. These days, though, it’s run by the United States! Just for the record: when the president says he doesn’t condone torture, he is lying. By that I mean: deliberately telling the American people something he knows is not the truth.

THE PRESIDENT AND THE LAW: Here’s a more pertinent question: has Bush broken the law? The WaPo article states the following:

It is illegal for the government to hold prisoners in such isolation in secret prisons in the United States, which is why the CIA placed them overseas, according to several former and current intelligence officials and other U.S. government officials. Legal experts and intelligence officials said that the CIA’s internment practices also would be considered illegal under the laws of several host countries, where detainees have rights to have a lawyer or to mount a defense against allegations of wrongdoing.

All this was achieved by the president signing a “finding” on September 17, 2001:

Under U.S. law, only the president can authorize a covert action, by signing a document called a presidential finding. Findings must not break U.S. law and are reviewed and approved by CIA, Justice Department and White House legal advisers.

The assumption is that the president has authority to set up prisons that would be illegal in the U.S. and illegal in foreign countries, but legal … according to what? No wonder Bush wants Roberts and Alito on the court.

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