We should never forget the thousands killed and tortured by US-backed terrorists in their attack on freedom and democracy on September 11.
September 14th, 2011
We should never forget the thousands killed and tortured by US-backed terrorists in their attack on freedom and democracy on September 11.
September 14th, 2011
As Richard Cheney (F-Felon) romps around the airwaves promoting his new book, Daily Kos reminds us of the perhaps unprecedented failures of the Bush administration, and Cheney himself, to tackle or even take seriously the Al Qaeda threat. This provides a useful summary that should be widely disseminated:
Dick Cheney wants you to forget
By Laurence Lewis
Dick Cheney is back in the news again, as he becomes the latest member of the Bush administration to cash in on what should be cause for criminal investigation and likely prosecution. This is a classic chickenhawk, who himself got five deferments to avoid fighting his generation’s war, and whose idea of recreation is to shoot birds that were raised as hunting fodder and released by the staff of an exclusive club, and who even in such a cruel, controlled environment still somehow managed accidentally to shoot a man in the face. This is a man who as regent and Lord Protector to the Lesser Bush oversaw the destruction of the U.S. economy, the evisceration of the Clinton budget surplus and the creation of the largest budget deficit in U.S. history, and was catastrophically irresponsible with what may have been the last chance to address the most important issue humanity has ever faced. But nothing so defined the Bush-Cheney era as issues of national security. And Cheney doesn’t want you to remember what really happened under his Protectorate on national security. And you can be certain that the traditional media won’t recount what happened under Cheney’s Protectorate on national security. That is up to us.I’ve posted this numerous times in numerous forms and it will need to be posted any time Bush or Cheney returns to the headlines. The facts are clear and the evidence overwhelming. Under Bush and his regent and Lord Protector Cheney, U.S. national security was undermined as it never before had been. Remember this. Bear witness. Don’t let anyone forget.
- Just a month before the 9/11 attacks, while on a month-long vacation, Bush was personally handed a presidential daily briefing titled:
Bin Laden determined to strike in US.
With characteristic intelligence and class, Bush responded with the words:
All right. You’ve covered your ass, now.
And went fishing.
- But Bush wasn’t the only member of his administration to blow off warnings, and ignore the threat of terrorism. Indeed, Attorney General John Ashcroft revealed his own lack of concern just a day before the attacks:
In his final budget request for the fiscal year 2003 submitted on Sept. 10 to the budget director, Mitchell E. Daniels Jr., the attorney general called for spending increases in 68 programs, none of which directly involved counterterrorism. Upgrading the F.B.I.’s computer system, one of the areas in which he sought an increase, is relevant to combating terrorism, though Mr. Ashcroft did not defend it on that ground.But in his Sept. 10 submission to the budget office, Mr. Ashcroft did not endorse F.B.I. requests for $58 million for 149 new counterterrorism field agents, 200 intelligence analysts and 54 additional translators.
Mr. Ashcroft proposed cuts in 14 programs. One proposed $65 million cut was for a program that gives state and local counterterrorism grants for equipment, including radios and decontamination suits and training to localities for counterterrorism preparedness.
- And Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld reacted similarly, less than a week before that:
When Senator Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat who was then chairman of the Armed Services Committee, sought to transfer money to counterterrorism from the missile defense program, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld sent a letter on Sept. 6, 2001, saying he would urge Mr. Bush to veto the measure. Mr. Levin nonetheless pushed the measure through the next day on a party-line vote.
- And former counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke had this to say about National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice:
…I believe it was, George Tenet called me and said, “I don’t think we’re getting the message through. These people aren’t acting the way the Clinton people did under similar circumstances.” And I suggested to Tenet that he come down and personally brief Condi Rice, that he bring his terrorism team with him. And we sat in the national security adviser’s office. And I’ve used the phrase in the book to describe George Tenet’s warnings as “He had his hair on fire.” He was about as excited as I’d ever seen him. And he said, “Something is going to happen.”Now, when he said that in December 1999 to the national security adviser, at the time Sandy Berger, Sandy Berger then held daily meetings throughout December 1999 in the White House Situation Room, with the FBI director, the attorney general, the head of the CIA, the head of the Defense Department, and they shook out of their bureaucracies every last piece of information to prevent the attacks. And we did prevent the attacks in December 1999. Dr. Rice chose not to do that.
We know, for example, that then National Security Adviser Rice was warned repeatedly in 2001 about an imminent al-Qaeda attack against the U.S., but, along with Cheney and Rumsfeld, she simply didn’t believe that a cave dweller like Osama bin Laden could be that much of a threat. She was warned by the outgoing Clintonite Sandy Berger, in January 2001. She was warned by the White House counterterrorism scold Richard Clarke. And now, with Bob Woodward’s new book, State of Denial, and subsequent Washington Post reports, we’ve been reminded that cia Director George Tenet warned Rice on July 10, 2001, that “the system was blinking red,” meaning that there could be “multiple, simultaneous” al-Qaeda attacks on U.S. interests in the coming weeks or months.
- The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and even Bush himself later made it clear:
The former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, General Hugh Shelton, said the Bush administration pushed terrorism “farther to the back burner”. And in a sympathetic portrait of the young administration, Bush at War, the president himself told the author, Bob Woodward, that he “didn’t feel that sense of urgency” about going after Osama bin Laden.
- It was clear just a month into the Bush Presidency:
But when it comes to fighting terrorism, administration officials say the United States has no new initiatives to offer. Top antiterrorism officials in the U.S. government tell NEWSWEEK that Bush and his lieutenants have yet to put forth a counterterrorism plan. So far at least, the Bush team has kept on Clinton’s counterterrorism czar, Richard Clarke.
- There had been explicit warnings even during the transition:
One such meeting took place in the White House situation room during the first week of January 2001. The session was part of a program designed by Bill Clinton’s National Security Adviser, Sandy Berger, who wanted the transition between the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations to run as smoothly as possible. With some bitterness, Berger remembered how little he and his colleagues had been helped by the first Bush Administration in 1992-93. Eager to avoid a repeat of that experience, he had set up a series of 10 briefings by his team for his successor, Condoleezza Rice, and her deputy, Stephen Hadley.Berger attended only one of the briefings—the session that dealt with the threat posed to the U.S. by international terrorism, and especially by al-Qaeda. “I’m coming to this briefing,” he says he told Rice, “to underscore how important I think this subject is.” Later, alone in his office with Rice, Berger says he told her, “I believe that the Bush Administration will spend more time on terrorism generally, and on al-Qaeda specifically, than any other subject.”
- But the Bush team was so obliviously sanguine that:
Though Predator drones spotted Osama bin Laden as many as three times in late 2000, the Bush administration did not fly the unmanned planes over Afghanistan during its first eight months and was still refining a plan to use one armed with missiles to kill the al-Qaida leader when Sept. 11 unfolded, current and former U.S. officials say.
- And as for Cheney himself:
Bush administration officials told former Sens. Gary Hart, D-Colo., and Warren Rudman, R-N.H., that they preferred instead to put aside the recommendations issued in the January report by the U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century. Instead, the White House announced in May that it would have Vice President Dick Cheney study the potential problem of domestic terrorism — which the bipartisan group had already spent two and a half years studying — while assigning responsibility for dealing with the issue to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, headed by former Bush campaign manager Joe Allbaugh.The Hart-Rudman Commission had specifically recommended that the issue of terrorism was such a threat it needed far more than FEMA’s attention.
Before the White House decided to go in its own direction, Congress seemed to be taking the commission’s suggestions seriously, according to Hart and Rudman. “Frankly, the White House shut it down,” Hart says. “The president said ‘Please wait, we’re going to turn this over to the vice president. We believe FEMA is competent to coordinate this effort.’ And so Congress moved on to other things, like tax cuts and the issue of the day.”
“We predicted it,” Hart says of Tuesday’s horrific events. “We said Americans will likely die on American soil, possibly in large numbers — that’s a quote (from the commission’s Phase One Report) from the fall of 1999.”
Let’s highlight that:
Instead, the White House announced in May that it would have Vice President Dick Cheney study the potential problem of domestic terrorism — which the bipartisan group had already spent two and a half years studying — while assigning responsibility for dealing with the issue to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, headed by former Bush campaign manager Joe Allbaugh.The Hart-Rudman Commission had specifically recommended that the issue of terrorism was such a threat it needed far more than FEMA’s attention.
- Not only did the entire Bush administration ignore multiple screaming warnings, but Cheney himself was tasked with studying the risk of domestic terrorism! And even though Bush himself said he’d periodically review the issue:
Neither Cheney’s review nor Bush’s took place.
- Bush and Cheney. Both. Both given specific warnings. Both claiming they would study the risks. Neither doing so. Their entire administration failing in every possible way, despite numerous specific and personal warnings. Despite numerous specific and personal warnings that kept coming, right up until the days before the September 11 attacks. And after the attacks we had this:
The Bush administration has concluded that Osama bin Laden was present during the battle for Tora Bora late last year and that failure to commit U.S. ground troops to hunt him was its gravest error in the war against al Qaeda, according to civilian and military officials with first-hand knowledge.
- And just half a year later, we had Bush saying this:
And, again, I don’t know where he is. I — I’ll repeat what I said. I truly am not that concerned about him.
And the Taliban grew stronger. Al Qaeda regrouped and grew stronger. And then the administration made at least 935 false statements to lie the nation into war with Iraq, which undermined the war in Afghanistan, spawned a new generation of terrorists, with terrorism increasing around the globe under their rule.
But that was only the beginning. There was more. Much more. The Bush-Cheney team undermined national security in multiple ways, including abusing and damaging the U.S. military. Click through to see the links. And share. And never forget.
September 5th, 2011
And then this followup:
March 6th, 2010
Susan Collins demagogued about how reading the attempted Christmas day bomber his Miranda rights demolished the ability to get intelligence from him. When caught out, she falls back on nonsense about a supposed “lack of consultation” that Andrea Mitchell demolishes:
[H/t Crooks & Liars.]
In addition to the point about the cooperation of the bomber’s family, there is another point I haven’t seen made anywhere. The US was warned by the bomber’s father that his son posed a danger. If the father believed his son would be subjected to the “enhanced interrogation” [torture] tactics so beloved by conservatives, it is extremely unlikely that such a warning would have come. It is even likely that the threat of a military commission would have discouraged the family.
The point is that torture destroys the ability to gather intelligence. Sources will not turn in family or acquaintances to be tortured. But they are likely to turn in enemies, often with false accusations. Thus torture and an absence of due process discourage good intelligence and encourage bad.
Glenn Greenwald demolishes Collins in a piece where he takes on the right wing fiction ["lie"] that Constitutional rights only apply to American citizens:
Collins railed: “Once afforded the protection our Constitution guarantees American citizens, this foreign terrorist ‘lawyered up’ and stopped talking” (h/t). This notion that the protections of the Bill of Rights specifically and the Constitution generally apply only to the Government’s treatment of American citizens is blatantly, undeniably false — for multiple reasons — yet this myth is growing, as a result of being centrally featured in “War on Terror” propaganda.
First, the U.S. Supreme Court, in 2008, issued a highly publicized opinion, in Boumediene v. Bush, which, by itself, makes clear how false is the claim that the Constitution applies only to Americans. The Boumediene Court held that it was unconstitutional for the Military Commissions Act to deny habeas corpus rights to Guantanamo detainees, none of whom was an American citizen (indeed, the detainees were all foreign nationals outside of the U.S.). If the Constitution applied only to U.S. citizens, that decision would obviously be impossible. What’s more, although the decision was 5-4, none of the 9 Justices — and, indeed, not even the Bush administration — argued that the Constitution applies only to American citizens. That is such an inane, false, discredited proposition that no responsible person would ever make that claim.
What divided the Boumediene Court was the question of whether foreigners held by the U.S. military outside of the U.S. (as opposed to inside the U.S.) enjoy Constitutional protections. They debated how Guantanamo should be viewed in that regard (as foreign soil or something else). But not even the 4 dissenting judges believed — as Susan Collins and other claim — that Constitutional rights only extend to Americans. To the contrary, Justice Scalia, in his scathing dissent, approvingly quoted Justice Jackson in conceding that foreigners detained inside the U.S. are protected by the Constitution….
[B]asic common sense by itself should prevent people like Susan Collins from claiming the Constitution applies only to American citizens. There are millions of foreign nationals inside the U.S. at all times — not only illegally but also legally: as tourists, students, workers, Green Card holders, etc. Is there anyone who really believes that the Bill of Rights doesn’t apply to them? If a foreign national is arrested and accused by the U.S. Government of committing a crime, does anyone believe they can be sentenced to prison without a jury trial, denied the right to face their accusers, have their property seized without due process, be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment, and be denied access to counsel? Anyone who claims that the Constitution only protects American citizens, but not foreigners, would necessarily have to claim that the U.S. Government could do all of that to foreign nationals. Does anyone believe that? Would it be Constitutionally permissible to own foreigners as slaves on the ground that the protections of the Constitution — including the Thirteenth Amendment — apply only to Americans, not foreigners?
February 4th, 2010
Like Glenn Greenwald, I think this David Brooks column is really excellent. at last someone in the mainstream media takes on the childish belief that we can be made completely safe. This is true in regard to terrorism as Brooks discusses here, or in healthcare, where the best public health strategy, such as vaccines, will not work every time.
The take home lines:
In a mature nation, President Obama could go on TV and say, “Listen, we’re doing the best we can, but some terrorists are bound to get through.” But this is apparently a country that must be spoken to in childish ways.
As Brooks points out, this childish belief leads to awful policy-making, as President Obama has to pretend that he can create some magical system that will never fail. What Brooks doesn’t discuss is the way in which this belief also feeds our society’s worst tendencies, from supporting torture “to make us safe” to the ever-greater expansion of the total surveillance society:
The God That Fails
By David Brooks
During the middle third of the 20th century, Americans had impressive faith in their own institutions. It was not because these institutions always worked well. The Congress and the Federal Reserve exacerbated the Great Depression. The military made horrific mistakes during World War II, which led to American planes bombing American troops and American torpedoes sinking ships with American prisoners of war.
But there was a realistic sense that human institutions are necessarily flawed. History is not knowable or controllable. People should be grateful for whatever assistance that government can provide and had better do what they can to be responsible for their own fates.
That mature attitude seems to have largely vanished. Now we seem to expect perfection from government and then throw temper tantrums when it is not achieved. We seem to be in the position of young adolescents — who believe mommy and daddy can take care of everything, and then grow angry and cynical when it becomes clear they can’t.
After Sept. 11, we Americans indulged our faith in the god of technocracy. We expanded the country’s information-gathering capacities so that the National Security Agency alone now gathers four times more data each day than is contained in the Library of Congress.
We set up protocols to convert that information into a form that can be processed by computers and bureaucracies. We linked agencies and created new offices. We set up a centralized focal point, the National Counterterrorism Center.
All this money and technology seems to have reduced the risk of future attack. But, of course, the system is bound to fail sometimes. Reality is unpredictable, and no amount of computer technology is going to change that. Bureaucracies are always blind because they convert the rich flow of personalities and events into crude notations that can be filed and collated. Human institutions are always going to miss crucial clues because the information in the universe is infinite and events do not conform to algorithmic regularity.
Resilient societies have a level-headed understanding of the risks inherent in this kind of warfare.
But, of course, this is not how the country has reacted over the past week. There have been outraged calls for Secretary Janet Napolitano of the Department of Homeland Security to resign, as if changing the leader of the bureaucracy would fix the flaws inherent in the bureaucracy. There have been demands for systemic reform — for more protocols, more layers and more review systems.
Much of the criticism has been contemptuous and hysterical. Various experts have gathered bits of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s biography. Since they can string the facts together to accurately predict the past, they thunder, the intelligence services should have been able to connect the dots to predict the future.
Dick Cheney argues that the error was caused by some ideological choice. Arlen Specter screams for more technology — full-body examining devices. “We thought that had been remedied,” said Senator Kit Bond, as if omniscience could be accomplished with legislation.
Many people seem to be in the middle of a religious crisis of faith. All the gods they believe in — technology, technocracy, centralized government control — have failed them in this instance.
In a mature nation, President Obama could go on TV and say, “Listen, we’re doing the best we can, but some terrorists are bound to get through.” But this is apparently a country that must be spoken to in childish ways. The original line out of the White House was that the system worked. Don’t worry, little Johnny.
When that didn’t work the official line went to the other extreme. “I consider that totally unacceptable,” Obama said. I’m really mad, Johnny. But don’t worry, I’ll make it all better.
Meanwhile, the Transportation Security Administration has to be seen doing something, so it added another layer to its stage play, “Security Theater” — more baggage regulations, more in-flight restrictions.
At some point, it’s worth pointing out that it wasn’t the centralized system that stopped terrorism in this instance. As with the shoe bomber, as with the plane that went down in Shanksville, Pa., it was decentralized citizen action. The plot was foiled by nonexpert civilians who had the advantage of the concrete information right in front of them — and the spirit to take the initiative.
For better or worse, over the past 50 years we have concentrated authority in centralized agencies and reduced the role of decentralized citizen action. We’ve done this in many spheres of life. Maybe that’s wise, maybe it’s not. But we shouldn’t imagine that these centralized institutions are going to work perfectly or even well most of the time. It would be nice if we reacted to their inevitable failures not with rabid denunciation and cynicism, but with a little resiliency, an awareness that human systems fail and bad things will happen and we don’t have to lose our heads every time they do.
1 comment January 3rd, 2010
A Congressman has stated what many have speculated, that the Bush administration deliberately let bin Laden and other al-Qaeda escape from Tora Bora because of the need to keep a bogey to justify the Iraq invasion. In what passes for acceptable discourse in this country, the idea cannot even be discussed without attacking the one expressing this opinion as crazy:
Rep. Hinchey: Bush ‘intentionally let Bin Laden get away’
By Stephen C. Webster
The Bush administration permitted the world’s most notorious terrorist mastermind to escape because it needed additional justification to invade Iraq, according to a Democratic lawmaker from New York.
Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) leveled the allegation during an interview with MSNBC host David Shuster on Monday afternoon.
“Look what happened with regard to our invasion into Afghanistan, how we apparently intentionally let bin Laden get away,” he said. “How we intentionally did not follow the Taliban and al-Qaeda as they were escaping. That was done by the previous administration because they knew very well that if they would capture al-Qaeda, there would be no justification for an invasion in Iraq.”
“They deliberately let Osama bin Laden get away?” asked an incredulous Shuster. “They deliberately let the head of al-Qaeda get away right after he, right after the 9/11 attacks? You really believe that?”
“Yes, I do,” Hinchey replied. “There’s no question about that. The leader of the military operation in the United States called back our military, called them back from going after the head of al-Qaeda because there was a sense that they didn’t want to capture him.”
“…To suggest that they deliberately let Osama bin Laden get away so they could invade Iraq, that will strike a lot of people as crazy,” Shuster countered.
“I don’t think it will strike a lot of people as crazy,” Hinchey said. “I think it will strike a lot of people as very accurate and all you have to do is look at the facts of that set of circumstances and you can see that’s exactly what happened. When we went in there, when our military went in there, we could have captured them. We could have captured most of the Taliban and we could have captured the al-Qaeda. But we didn’t, and we didn’t because of the need felt by the previous administration and the previous head of the military — that need to attack Iraq, which is completely unjustified.”
Hinchy apparently based his allegations on a recently released Senate report that found then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld rejected calls for reinforcements in December 2001, when the military allegedly had bin Laden trapped in Afghanistan.
“The vast array of American military power, from sniper teams to the most mobile divisions of the marine corps and the army, was kept on the sidelines,” the report says.
“Instead, the US command chose to rely on airstrikes and untrained Afghan militias to attack Bin Laden and on Pakistan’s loosely organized Frontier Corps to seal his escape routes.”
Entitled “Tora Bora revisited: how we failed to get Bin Laden and why it matters today,” the report — commissioned by Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — says Bin Laden expected to die and had even written a will.
“But the Al-Qaeda leader would live to fight another day. Fewer than 100 American commandos were on the scene with their Afghan allies and calls for reinforcements to launch an assault were rejected.
“Requests were also turned down for US troops to block the mountain paths leading to sanctuary a few miles away in Pakistan.
“The decision not to deploy American forces to go after Bin Laden or block his escape was made by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his top commander, General Tommy Franks,” the report says.
“On or around December 16, two days after writing his will, Bin Laden and an entourage of bodyguards walked unmolested out of Tora Bora and disappeared into Pakistan’s unregulated tribal area. Most analysts say he is still there today.”
This video was broadcast by MSNBC on Monday, Nov. 30, 2009, as snipped by Talking Points Memo.
December 1st, 2009
Bryant Welch, the former director of the American Psychological Association’s Practice directorate, has published another article on the background behind the APA’s policies on psychologists participating in sometimes abusive national security interrogations. In this article he tells of the task force who’s conclusions threatened the national security state, leading to its suppression by APA leadership through parliamentary chicanery:
The American Psychological Association and Torture: The Day the Tide Turned
by Bryant Welch
In my blog last month, I described the complicity of psychologists and the American Psychological Association (APA) with torture under the Bush Administration’s War on Terror. I also described APA’s transition from an organization highly sensitive to human rights to one that supported the Bush Administration’s torture interrogation program. I pointed both to excessive and unchecked connections with the military and to a longstanding management style that left the APA governance ill -prepared to stand up to the military and intelligence pressures even on an issue as evil as torture.
There was a critical turning point to this story that has not received the attention it deserves. It illustrates “what could have been” had the APA preserved psychologists’ historically humanitarian values. It also underscores why the current battle for the heart and soul of American psychology is something that should concern all Americans.
The governance of the APA at first responded to the War on Terror when a group of respected psychologists concerned with human rights proposed a task force to study the psychological cost to America of the Bush Administration’s War on Terror. At the time there was a desperate need for a psychological explanation of the practical importance of human rights. Many Americans in their state of fear felt America could no longer afford to support what to many Americans were simply vague principles embodied in human rights and in our own Bill of Rights. The proposed task force, chaired by Dr. Paul Kimmel, was to study the psychological ill-effects on Americans of living in the perpetual state of war that President George Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney were prescribing as their post 9/11 strategy.
The task force findings provide a tragic illustration of what the American Psychological Association’s contribution to post 9-11 efforts could have been had its leadership at the time remained consistent to the historical values of the APA and psychologists everywhere.
We found that this stressful environment often leads authorities to overestimate the threat and consequence of terrorist activities and to make poor decisions in trying to prevent these activities. The “war on terror” has affected the emotions, beliefs, and behaviors of the American public in ways typical of situations characterized by uncertainty, extreme stress, and fear.
(Collateral Damage, Kimmel and Stout (Eds.) Praeger, 2006, p.xvi)In short, psychology, through its national organization, was positioned to provide a scientific rationale documenting the practical cost of subverting our democratic values and terrorizing our citizenry. The task force made clear it was not just a vague set of liberal values at stake; it was America’s ability to function rationally in its hour of peril. America’s need for such a voice at that time is now painfully obvious.
When I worked at the APA from the mid-1980′s to the mid-1990′s, I was frequently stunned by the extent to which the press was eager for any word from APA on just about any subject. Had APA issued a document like the one the task force prepared, there is no question it would have received widespread play in the mass media. Naturally, for an Administration trying to sell a war on terror, the Bush/Cheney regime would not have relished such a document. Neither would the military or intelligence apparatus that supported its efforts.
The proposed APA task force received broad support when it was introduced in February of 2003 to the APA Council of Representatives, the legislative assembly of the APA that has ultimate control of the Association under its by-laws. The Council vote authorizing the task force to proceed passed 127 to 0, with two abstentions. The two abstentions in the Council vote, task force members believe, were military psychologists. The report was to be completed and submitted to the Council for the final approval at the upcoming Council meeting.
It was not to be. How APA turned psychology away from these humanitarian values is a study in organizational failure and professional disaster for psychology and the APA.
At the Council meeting when the task force report was to be submitted for Council approval, Dr. Kimmel and another task force member were called out of the room, during the luncheon recess. Waiting for them were APA President-elect Dr. Ronald Levant, APA public affairs director Rhea Farberman, APA Public interest director Dr. Henry Tomes, and task force member New York psychologist Dr. Nina Thomas. (Personal Communication, Kimmel to Welch, July 10, 2009.)
The group explained to Dr. Kimmel that he would be ill advised to submit the task force report to Council at that meeting because, as currently worded, APA could “only receive the report” but not “do anything” with it. The task force objectives could be better achieved, he was advised by Levant and the group, by delaying the presentation of the report so this problem could be addressed. (Personal Communication, Kimmel to Welch, July 10, 2009.) While in actuality any such problem that might have existed could have been corrected on the Council floor with little difficulty, Dr. Kimmel and fellow task force members, unfamiliar with APA procedures, reluctantly agreed.
This was hardly a friendly suggestion, as the task force was to find out. When the report reached the APA Board of Directors for the Board’s vote on whether to endorse the report prior to sending it back to Council, to the surprise of the task force members, the Board voted unanimously to reject the task force report in its entirety. Prior to that Board meeting the Board of Directors liaisons to the task force had given the task force members no indication the report was even controversial on the Board.
As I explained in my prior column, the APA Council had become increasingly ineffectual over the course of the previous CEO’s administration and was heavily controlled by upper echelon staff operating through the APA Board of Directors. With such strong opposition from the Board, passage of the task force report by the Council of Representatives was unlikely. Nonetheless, given the strong support they had received previously from the Council and other governance entities, the task force members decided to submit the report to the Council of Representatives for a vote at the winter 2004 meeting, hoping to override the Board’s recommendation.
Dr. Ronald Levant, as APA president, was the presiding officer at the Council meeting when the report was ultimately submitted to the Council floor for deliberation. Task force members report that throughout the day on which the matter was scheduled to come to a vote, Levant announced several changes in the order of the agenda, ostensibly to accommodate other groups. The effect of these delays was to postpone the vote on the task force report until the last few minutes of the meeting. After minimal discussion, in which the task force members were unable to make their planned presentation, Levant called the matter to a voice vote. According to task force members, Levant proclaimed that the report had been defeated “unanimously” although task force members insist votes of support were quite audible. (Personal Communication, Kimmel to Welch, July 10, 2009.)
With that action, the APA rejected the effort by psychological experts in the field to call attention to the psychological cost to America of being turned into a fear-plagued nation under siege. The report was referred to another APA Board and never surfaced again, despite efforts by the task force members to revive it. (Dr. Kimmel and several members of his task force did find an independent publisher for their report, now entitled Collateral Damage: The Psychological Consequences of America’s War on Terrorism. Edited by Paul R. Kimmel and Chris E. Stout. Praeger, 2006. http://www.amazon.com/Collateral-Damage-Psychological-Consequences).
From that point forward, it was quite clear that a small number of upper echelon members of the APA Board and APA staff working in conjunction with military psychologists and their colleagues were highly committed to psychologist’s continued participation in “enhanced interrogation techniques.”
When the American Psychiatric Association and other health care organizations passed measures deeming it unethical for their members to participate in the Bush detention center activities, the American Psychological Association, instead, appointed a task force to study the matter and make recommendations to Council on the appropriate positions for the APA to take with respect to national security interrogations and related matters. The task force was known as The Task Force for Psychological Ethics in National Security (PENS). After the fact, many APA members were surprised to learn that of the ten members appointed to the task force six were employed by the military and/or the national security apparatus.
As I have indicated, many, and probably even most, of the people in the APA Governance are not evil people who support the Bush/Cheney interrogation policies. The APA organizational structure was cleverly debilitated through psychological and structural changes over a fifteen year period largely for in-house political reasons. When the military took a strong interest in APA, these people were simply over their heads and succumbed to the rationalizations and pseudo-logic they were handed by people whom they wanted to believe knew more than they did or with whom they wished to gain favor.
Arguments which to most observers lacked all credibility prevailed in the APA Council deliberations. For example, it would be “disrespectful” to military psychologists for any Council member to imply a military psychologist would do anything untoward in the detention centers. Other council members were naïve (or in some cases grandiose) enough to believe that psychologists’ participation in the interrogations could serve as a protective buffer against torture. People who were critical of the APA positions were dismissed as mean-spirited, biased, and insincere. Thus, the substance of their arguments was ignored.
Many of the governance members, however, could probably have been led in just about any direction. The fact that it was torture in this case probably proves that point. What is remarkable from an organizational perspective is just how small a number of people operating in such a system could manipulate the APA for evil purposes.
I have been trained in two professions, the law and psychology. Each sheds light on the causes and consequences of torture. Torture is visible only indirectly in the law. Our Bill of Rights and the modern concept of human rights stand like gravestone monuments to man’s historical capacity for inhumanity to man through torture. They also symbolize a cluster of fragile barriers established against torture by those who have seen its horrors in the past.
It’s in psychology, however, especially in psychotherapy, the true horror of torture becomes much more visible to the naked eye. When I am doing psychotherapy with a patient I am not advising or “counseling” the patient as many think. Nor am I trying to construct arid intellectual rationales about the patient’s past. Instead, I am doing my best to sit inside the inner-most experience the patient is having at that moment. If I can successfully give myself over to that experience, I can walk about in very sensitive and personal regions of a person’s mind. What I see there is extremely tender and fragile.
Often, I can see where feelings of love, anger, shame or fear, for whatever reason, are being held at bay and stifling patients’ capacity to experience their own existence and their deepest and most personal feelings. Even words like “soul” do not do justice to the sensitive nature of this terrain. It is in this area where life defines itself by virtue of its capacity to feel.
If I can gently help patients look at those walled off experiences and slowly assimilate these split off parts of their mind, over time, remarkable things begin to happen. Patients become happier and healthier, they are better parents, they are more understanding spouses, and they are more productive workers. Their lives are more robust and richer.
If, on the other hand, a therapist approaches these sensitive realms with heavy handedness, it can be devastating to the patients. Some may never recover from the stultifying, even petrifying effect it can have.
When one sees this sensitivity of the human spirit on a daily basis, as a psychotherapist does, the thought of one human being torturing another is literally nauseating, whether one focuses on the tortured victim or the grotesque and twisted dead soul of the torturer. When a psychologist sees the tools of his trade twisted by colleagues to inflict pain, it is an experience that defies description.
Psychology has wonderful things to offer, but, like most disciplines, and like most nations, it can be used for good or evil. Ultimately, it comes down to the quality and character of the individuals who are making the decisions and providing leadership. The American Psychological Association’s fall to the dark side is all the more tragic when one recognizes the lost potential of the APA’s Task Force on the Psychological Effects of Efforts to Prevent Terrorism. It is that potential, however that makes psychology worth fighting for.
Bryant L. Welch, J.D., Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and attorney. He is the author of State of Confusion: Political Manipulation and the Assault on the American Mind (St. Martin’s Press, 2008.)
1 comment July 21st, 2009
Just to give a snse of what we’re up against with the national security industry using fear to control public discourse, former CIA employee Michael Scheuer with Fox News‘ Glenn Beck says that the only thing that will “save the country” is for Al-Qaeda to detonate a major weapon in the US, so politicians will come to their senses and authorize brutality ["as much force as necessary"]:
1 comment July 1st, 2009
McClatchy Newspapers has more on the evolving story that a major factor in the development of the Bush administration torture program was the desire to demonstrate an Al Qaeda-Irq link. McClatchy now reports that Vice President Cheney told a newspaper in 2004 that Guantanamo detainees had admitted that Al Qaeda had sent members to Iraq for training in Chemical and Biological Warfare.
Then-Vice President Dick Cheney, defending the invasion of Iraq, asserted in 2004 that detainees interrogated at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp had revealed that Iraq had trained al Qaida operatives in chemical and biological warfare, an assertion that wasn’t true.
Cheney’s 2004 comments to the now-defunct Rocky Mountain News were largely overlooked at the time. However, they appear to substantiate recent reports that interrogators at Guantanamo and other prison camps were ordered to find evidence of alleged cooperation between al Qaida and the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein — despite CIA reports that there were only sporadic, insignificant contacts between the militant Islamic group and the secular Iraqi dictatorship.
The head of the Criminal Investigation Task Force at Guantanamo from 2002-2005 confirmed to McClatchy that in late 2002 and early 2003, intelligence officials were tasked to find, among other things, Iraq-al Qaida ties, which were a central pillar of the Bush administration’s case for its March 2003 invasion of Iraq.
“I’m aware of the fact that in late 2002, early 2003, that (the alleged al Qaida-Iraq link) was an interest on the intelligence side,” said retired Army Lt. Col. Brittain Mallow, a former military criminal investigator. “That was something they were tasked to look at.”
Was Cheney lying or simply anticipating the “evidence” the torturers were being encouraged to produce?
May 17th, 2009
This weeks’ news brings new perspectives on the role of Vice President [or is it President for Vice?] Cheney’s office in promoting torture. Former chief of Staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell Col. Lawrence Wilkerson attributes the emphasis given to the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” [a.k.a "torture"] program to the the administration need to develop evidence of an Iraq-Al Qaeda link:
Likewise, what I have learned is that as the administration authorized harsh interrogation in April and May of 2002–well before the Justice Department had rendered any legal opinion–its principal priority for intelligence was not aimed at pre-empting another terrorist attack on the U.S. but discovering a smoking gun linking Iraq and al-Qa’ida.
So furious was this effort that on one particular detainee, even when the interrogation team had reported to Cheney’s office that their detainee “was compliant” (meaning the team recommended no more torture), the VP’s office ordered them to continue the enhanced methods. The detainee had not revealed any al-Qa’ida-Baghdad contacts yet. This ceased only after Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, under waterboarding in Egypt, “revealed” such contacts. Of course later we learned that al-Libi revealed these contacts only to get the torture to stop.
Former NBC News investigative producer Robert Windrem confirms Wilkerson’s basic clasms in The Daily Beast where he reports that VP Cheney’s office recommending waterboarding an Iraqi prisoner in April 2003 in hopes of producing “evidence” of the elusive [and nonexistent] Iraq-Al Qaeda link:
In his new book, Hide and Seek: The Search for Truth in Iraq, and in an interview with The Daily Beast, Duelfer says he heard from “some in Washington at very senior levels (not in the CIA),” who thought Khudayr’s interrogation had been “too gentle” and suggested another route, one that they believed has proven effective elsewhere. “They asked if enhanced measures, such as waterboarding, should be used,” Duelfer writes. “The executive authorities addressing those measures made clear that such techniques could legally be applied only to terrorism cases, and our debriefings were not as yet terrorism-related. The debriefings were just debriefings, even for this creature.”
Duelfer will not disclose who in Washington had proposed the use of waterboarding, saying only: “The language I can use is what has been cleared.” In fact, two senior U.S. intelligence officials at the time tell The Daily Beast that the suggestion to waterboard came from the Office of Vice President Cheney.
Interestingly, Wilkerson also claims that the CIA’s torture program was shut down after the Abu Ghraib photos were released. [I'll wait for confirmation from other sources before believing this.]:
My investigations have revealed to me–vividly and clearly–that once the Abu Ghraib photographs were made public in the Spring of 2004, the CIA, its contractors, and everyone else involved in administering “the Cheney methods of interrogation”, simply shut down. Nada. Nothing. No torture or harsh techniques were employed by any U.S. interrogator. Period. People were too frightened by what might happen to them if they continued.
What I am saying is that no torture or harsh interrogation techniques were employed by any U.S. interrogator for the entire second term of Cheney-Bush, 2005-2009. So, if we are to believe the protestations of Dick Cheney, that Obama’s having shut down the “Cheney interrogation methods” will endanger the nation, what are we to say to Dick Cheney for having endangered the nation for the last four years of his vice presidency?
May 14th, 2009