Saturday, February 24

HBO's Ghosts of Abu Ghraib

"There is no such thing as a little bit of torture." -- Alfred W. McCoy, author "A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror"

Last night, literally by accident, I watched the new HBO Documentary Ghosts of Abu Ghraib. Although I've followed this issue and story for years now, I was still stunned at how this film completely deconstructs the Administration's talking points on what occured on their watch at the Abu Ghraib Prison.

Taking the issue step by step they show how rather than being a few bad apples playing "Animal House" on the Night Shift the events of the Summer of 2003 were part of a concerted effort to marginalize the Geneva Conventions and redefine torture which began in the White House, went through the Pentagon and Gitmo and eventually led to the pictures that have left a permanent scar on our nation's honor and credibility.

"These photographs from Abu Ghraib have come to define the United States," says Scott Horton, chairman, Committee on International Law, NYC Bar Association. "The U.S., which was viewed as certainly one of the principal advocates of human rights and...the dignity of human beings in the world, suddenly is viewed as a principle expositor of torture."

The film begins with scenes from the 50's documentary "Obedience" which depicts a test of just how far people will are willing to mistreat someone as long as an authority figure is present prodding them on to go further and further. In this test the subjects where asked to question a unseen - but heard - man behind a screen, who in fact was an actor. When the actor answered the question incorrectly the subjects were directed to give him electric shocks of ever increasing intensity.

Even though the unseen man would cry out and eventually scream in pain the vast majority of subjects would follow the direction of authority and eventually administer shocks which would have been lethal.

This is the context by which this film frame the events of Abu Ghraib, but first let me layout the legal issues, which I have frequently discussed on this topic.

Under the Geneva Conventions all forms of "torture and outrages upon human dignity" have been prohibited by it's signatories since 1949. The U.S. is a Geneva signatory. The film interviews former DOJ attorney John Yoo who attempts to explain how during the early days of the WOT™ a debate raged as to whether or not the Geneva applied to non-soldiers unaffiliated to any nation state such as al-Qaeda. (They also argued that the Taliban were similarly unaligned with any nation although at that point in time the Taliban were the current government of Afghanistan. Since the Taliban were formed far more recently than 1949 - it is fair to point out that they are not signatories of Geneva)

Still this belies the fact that Geneva applies to the conduct of it's signatory members, not the conduct of non-signatories. In other words it applies to the U.S. and our conduct regardless of who we might encounter during a conflict.

Geneva Article 2

Although one of the Powers in conflict may not be a party to the present Convention, the Powers who are parties thereto shall remain bound by it in their mutual relations.

It doesn't matter that al-Qaeda doesn't follow the "rules of war" - we're still supposed to.

Under U.S Law (18 USC 2441 aka The War Crimes Act) any grave breaches of Geneva by civilian personnel are considered War Crimes, punishable by 5 years in prison and even the death penalty.

Similar penalties are included for 18 USC 2340, the prohibition against torture under U.S. Law.

Geneva states that.

Prisoners of war must be humanely treated at all times. Any unlawful act which causes death or seriously endangers the health of a prisoner of war is a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions. In particular, prisoners must not be subject to physical mutilation, biological experiments, violence, intimidation, insults, and public curiosity. (Convention III, Art. 13)

In addition military personnel are prohibited from cruelty and the Maltreatment of Prisoners under the Military Uniform Code of Justice.

Although this was not mentioned by the film, a memo written by Alberto Gonzales (PDF) is where the firewall between legal conduct and war crimes began to crumble.

In that memo Gonzales argued that...

"It is difficult to predict the motives of prosecutors and independent counsels who may in the future decide to pursue unwarranted charges based on Section 2441 [the War Crimes Act]," Gonzales wrote. The best way to guard against such "unwarranted charges," the White House lawyer concluded, would be for President Bush to stick to his decision--then being strongly challenged by Secretary of State Powell-- to exempt the treatment of captured Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters from Geneva convention provisions.

"Your determination would create a reasonable basis in law that (the War Crimes Act) does not apply which would provide a solid defense to any future prosecution," Gonzales wrote.

So contrary to the claims that al-Qaeda and the Taliban were declared to be not covered by Geneva because they were non-Contracting parties - even though this doesn't matter under Geneva - the truth is that they were excluded by president Bush to prevent members of his administration from being prosecuted for War Crimes!

Gonzales recommendation led to this declaration(Pdf) by President Bush which claimed that Geneva did not applied to a brand new category called "Enemy Combatants".

Gonzales later requested the Bybee Memo (Pdf) from the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Council - which included John Yoo. This memo redefined what torture was (under 2340) into such as narrow state that literally any act of cruelty which didn't immediately result on death would not be covered by either Geneva or the War Crimes Act.

We conclude that for an act to constitute torture as defined in Section 2340, it must inflict pain that is difficult to endure. Physical pain amounting to torture must be equivalent to intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death.

Issued on the same day as the Bybee Memo, DOJ attorney John Yoo wrote his own memo arguing that interrogation techniques used on al Qaeda detainees would not violate a 1984 international treaty prohibiting torture.

Once the Bybee and Yoo memos were written, the Pentagon began to follow suit on it's new definitions. In a December 2002 memo(Pdf) Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld authorized the use of "stress positions," hooding, 20-hour interrogations, removal of clothing, exploiting phobias to induce stress (e.g., fear of dogs), prolonged isolation, sensory deprivation, and forced grooming.

In the memo he added a hand-written note that argued..

"I stand for 8-10 hours a day, why is standing limited to 4 hours?"

Rumseld uses a "standing desk" in his office - so is indeed on his feet for 8-10 hours, however there is a major difference between standing freely where you can shift, stretch and move constantly and being held immobile in one position for hours. The fact beign held in such a position for hours while being deprived of sleep can lead to renal failure and death - similar to that which was shown in the autopsy report of a detainee held at Bagram AFB in Afghanistan in 2002.

A similar murder occured in 2003 at the hands of British Soldiers These soldiers were eventually charged with War Crimes violations, but not those at Gitmo or Abu Ghraib.

Rumsfeld later reconsidered some of these techniques after establishing a working group to analyze the situation.

April 16, 2003
Rumsfeld approves 24 of the recommended techniques for use at Guantanamo, including dietary and environmental manipulation, sleep adjustment, false flag and isolation.

Not long after these memos were written, Lt. Gen Geoffrey Miller was assigned to take over interrogations at Guantanemo Bay using the new guidelines from Rumsfeld. The JAG's complained. The FBI complained - but it didn't matter. These techniques had began to provide "results", which were sorely lacking and desperately needed in Iraq.

So Miller was then exported to Abu Ghraib in order to "Gitmo-ize" it. A month later Lt. Gen Ricardo Sanchez, the overall commander in the Iraq theater, implemented new Rumsfeldian guidelines for the handling of detainees.

From the ACLU.

September 2003
[Sanchez] authorizes the use of 29 interrogation techniques for use in Iraq, including the use of dogs, stress positions, sensory deprivation, loud music and light control, based on Rumsfeld’s April 16 techniques and suggestions from captain of military unit formerly in Afghanistan.

These techniques were later modified and limited in October of 2003 by Gen Sanchez.

The film depicts that most of the detainees held at Abu Ghraib were housed in tent cities. But a few, about 1000, were housed in what they called The Hard Site which included fairly standard looking cell blocks. The blocks were broken into various tiers. Tier 1A housed males who had been linked, or thought to have been linked to al-Qaeda and the Saddam regime. Tier 1B housed women and children - in some cases the threat of mistreating captured relatives were used to extort information from detainees.

Control of Tier 1A/1B was shifted from Brigadier General Janice Karpinski, who was in charge of all MPs in Iraq including those running the Abu Ghraib prison complex, to General Miller upon his arrival. As this shift occured the MPs at the Hard site were removed from their own standard command structure and placed under the command of Military Intelligence.

The Chain of Command had been deliberately broken.

Besides legal scholars and John Yoo, the film interviews most of the Military Police and Military Intelligence personnel who worked in Tier 1A/1B of the Hard Site, with the exception of the two most famous MPs - Lyndee England and her boyfriend Corporal Charles.

Still, even without those two persons, the picture painted by the others of how Abu Ghraib deteriorated after the arrival of Gen Miller is stark. Military Intelligence would advise the MP's when they were planning to interrogate a particular detainee and tell them...

This guy needs to have bad night tonight.

The intention was to ensure that they wouldn't be able to sleep using loudspeakers, noise and/or lights to keep them awake all night the day before an interogation session - where in many cases it appears they were severely beaten in a cedar building outside the Hard Site. What occured on Tier 1B/1B was just to "Soften them Up" prior to the real interroations.

Often MI personnel would walk through the Tier without any rank insignia. MPs would take commands from them not knowing if they were an officer or not - but in many cases MPs such as Charles Graner actually outranked the MI that they were taking orders from (This I discovered when Paula Zhan interviewed one of the Abu Ghraib MI's, shortly after the original story broke. One whom I'm pretty sure is also featured in the film. His first name is Israel.) The situation created perfect plausible deniability - "How could I command a superior to do anything?"

It was a firewall between the MPs who handled the "softening up" and higher ranking officers such as Miller who were actually in charge.

The MPs describe how the shifting directions from command left them in a "grey area" of uncertainty as to what was and was not allowed. All cards were on the table, and there were no practical limits.

As one of the Abu Ghraib MPs says in the film, "That place turned me into a monster." Another remarks, "It's easy to sit back in America or in different countries and say, 'Oh, I would have never done that,' but, until you've been there, let's be realistic: You don't know what you would have done."

The Detainees in Tier 1A were kept naked most of the time, this was done to keep them feeling vulnerable but also to humiliate them due to the prescense of female MPs who were sometimes asked by Military Intelligence to repeatedly shower a detainee while remaining within sight and ridicule them. Also much of their treatment was deliberately homoerotic, and considering the homophobia in the Islamic culture (the punishment for being gay in many Islamic states is summary beheading) this was effectively Tim Hardaway's Worse Nightmare

Geneva states.

Internees must be provided with adequate clothing, footwear, and underwear. (Convention IV, Art. 90)

Several of the MPs describe how Abu Ghraib is one of the most frequently attacked targets within all of Iraq. Mortars often landed within the tent city area, killing detainees.

Internees must not be housed in areas exposed to dangers of war. (Convention IV, Art. 83)

One female MP (I think he name is Sabrina - but I need to check) described how she would write on various detainees, for example they were told that one prisoner had been arrested for rape - so she wrote the word "Rapist" on his leg.

Identification by tattooing or imprinting signs or markings on the body is prohibited, and internees must not be subjected to prolonged standing and roll-calls, punishment drill, military drill and maneuvers, or reduction in food rations. (Convention IV, Art. 100)

The photos shown and video shown in the film of the abuse at Abu Ghraib are completely uncensored and extremely graphic (far moreso than the samples I've used here from the web) There is a sequence detailing how two detainees are caught raping a third - all three are dragged out into the hallway naked and handcuffed together by Cpl. Graner in a simulated sexual position. They're ordered to crawl back and forth from one end of the hallway to the other and stay low enough that their genitals drag on the floor.

The same female MP who had written "Rapist" on one detainees leg described how she was "always taking pictures" - it's just something she did. And she was usually smiling in them, regardless of what was happening. After being among naked groaning men for weeks and months, you grow numb to it all. It becomes "just a job". The suffering becomes background noise. "It's war" she said.

In the midst of this abuse and after most of the photos had already been taken, Military Intelligence (who were at the very least witnesses to everything) recommended Graner as NCOIC of Tier 1A for a commendation - which was approved.

This entire series of events would have never seen the light of day if Spc. Joseph Darby (who wasn't stationed at Tier 1A and is interviewed in the flim) hadn't asked Graner for some pics to take back home. "Hey Graner, you're always taking pictures". Graner gave him two CDs, the first contained scenic shots from around Babylon and included the Tower of Babel and other historic landmarks, the second had shots of the abuse of detainees. Darby handed the disc over the Army investigators.

"If there were no photographs, there would be no Abu Ghraib," said Javal Davis, an MP stationed at Abu Ghraib, who was later court-martialed.

One former detainee from the tent city tearfully tells the story of how his father, after being beaten during an interrogation session begins to have shortness of breath. As his condition worsens he desperately begs the guards to let him see a doctor but is repeated told go "Go Away" and even warned that he'll be shot if he comes back.

After his father grows feverish, he does go back and is again rebuffed only to return to his father who not long afterwards "dropped his head, sighed, and died" in his arms.

Internees must have access to adequate medical care. (Convention IV, Art. 91)

Besides the cedar interrogation shack, there were times when interrogations and torture took place on Tier 1A. Blankets were used to cover up what was happening from view - but everyone on the Tier could hear it.

As one former detainee described it...

We listened to one man scream, and scream until we heard his soul crack. Later we learned that this was Manadel al-Jamadi

CIA claimed that al-Jamadi had died as the result of heart failure, but our favorite photo taking, smiling female MP (not Lyndee England) found the body (which had been packed in ice so they could sneak it out he next day with an IV hooked to it so he would look alive) and managed to get a shot. Corporal Graner took the picture.

She had no idea, according to her filmed interview, that al-Jamadi had been beated and murdered the previous day. In her pictures which can be better seen here - it's clear that al-Jamadi is bleeding from places that he shouldn't be - if he'd just suffered a "heart attack".

al-Jamadi was the only photo documented murder to take place in Abu Ghraib and was ruled a homocide - but instead of persuing the CIA and Navy Seals who had killed him, they went after the MPs who took the pictures.

Graner was sentenced to ten years for his role in the abuse. England three years. Most of the other MP received a few months. The Military Intelligence and CIA guys who ordered some of the abuse to "soften up" interrogation targets were not charged.

General Karpinski (who wasn't even in command of Tier 1A/1B) was demoted in rank and forced to retire as a Colonel.

General Geoffrey Miller received a medal in the Pentagon's Hall of Heroes.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was honored with a fanfare and a parade when he retired last year.

Jay Bybee is now a sitting judge.

Alberto Gonzales remains our Attorney General and George W. Bush remains President.

Their complicity in the murder of Manadel al-Jamadi, as well as at least 30 other detainees who have died in custody in Iraq, Gitmo and Afghanistan as a result of abusive interrogation and neglect - has not been resolved.

Since the revelations at Abu Ghraib, as well as the Secret CIA Prison, the 109th Congress passed the Military Commissions Act which revoked Habeas Corpus for "Enemy Combatants" and effectively re-wrote the War Crimes Act (USC 2441) to comport with Bybee.

The DC Court of appeals has upheld the Constitutionality of the MCA.


Wednesday, February 21

Fitz: There's a Cloud Over the Vice Presidency

As noted today on FDL, Patrick Fitzgerald in is rebutal summation for the Scooter Libby Trial finally revealed exactly who his target in this investigation has been.

The Veep.

There is a cloud over the VP. He wrote those columns, he had those meetings, He sent Libby off to the meeting with Judy. Where Plame was discussed. That cloud remains because the defendant obstructed justice. That cloud was there. That cloud is something that we just can't pretend isn't there.

As he said when he announced his indictedment Libby "kicked dust into the umpire's eye" - but why? To protect his boss who had orchestrated the entire outing of CIA Operative Valerie Plame from behind the scenes. To protect Cheney from charges of Treason.

Fitz summation clearly indicates that the prosecution of Libby for his lies to the FBI and Grand Jury is merely an attempt to gain leverage and flip him into finally telling the truth and dropping a dime on Cheney.

First Prosecutor Zeideberg's laid out the case:

On behalf of defense, Wells elected to give opening. He painted different picture, told you about WH conspiracy to scapegoat Libby. Effort to make LIbby into sacrificial lamb so that Karl Rove would go free. You've heard witnesses testify, you've heard witness after witness, you've heard them testify about one or another conversation with Libby about Valerie Wilson during the time period that Libby claimed he had no memory of Wilson's wife. You heard Russert testify, take an oath and say he never spoke to Libby about Wilson's wife. In direct contrast to what Libby claimed. Now did you hear any evidence about a conspiracy to scapegoat Libby? If you draw a blank, it's not because of a problem with your evidence. I bring that to your attention to remind you that evidence is what happened on witness stand and introduced as evidence. Unfulfilled promises from counsel do no constitute evidence. Fitz told you this is case about lying, and I submit that is right. Not a case about bad memory or forgetting. Libby does claim he forgot 9 separate conversations over a 4 week period, but he also invents out of whole cloth, two conversations that never happened. His conversation with Cooper and his conversation with Russert. That's not a matter of forgetting or misremembering, it's lying.


When you consider Libby's testimony, there's a pattern of always forgetting about Wilson's wife. He remembers Ari conversation, talk about future, Miami Dolphins, Remembers the Dolphins, doesn't remember talking about Wilson's wife. Remembers talking about NIE with Judy. Not about wife. Remembers talking about declassification with Addinton, but not the wife. Convenient pattern.

Yes, it's highly convenient and highly purposeful. As I stated regarding the Addington Question, Libby was trying to distance himself as being the source of the Plame leak and deliberately avoid legal jeopardy. We don't currently know if had proof, but he strongly suspected that Wilson's Wife could have been covert, and that he might be liable to the IIPA, which Addington had provided him a copy of and his CIA briefer Schmall had advised both Libby and Cheney of the danger of outing a CIA agent.

"I thought there was a very grave danger to leaking the name of a CIA officer," the briefer from Langley, Craig Schmall, said he told Messrs. Cheney and Libby during a morning session at the vice president's residence. "Foreign intelligence services where she served now have the opportunity to investigate everyone whom she had come in contact with. They could be arrested, tortured, or killed."

Following the initial prosecution closing, defense had it's chance - and apparently Ted Wells came off mostly like a used car saleman who knew he was peddeling a grade C lemon.

He claimed Libby was totally innocent.

A person who makes a statement based on a belief or opinion that is inaccurate, making an honest statement that turns out to be inaccurate. An honest belief is one of the most complete defenses because such an honest belief is inconsistent with the intent to commit the alleged offenses.

In this case, it is a deliberate, purposeful, intent to lie.

I'm just going to review chart I used in opening statement. Walk through quickly.

* Gave best good faith recollection
* Innocent mistakes
* No knowledge that Plame was classified [whether or not she was classified is out of bounds]
* Did not push reporters to write about Valerie Wilson
* Did not leak to Robert Novak, Armitage did [brings up Ari, leaking to Pincus], when Judy says, he worked at WINPAC Libby's not a nut, he wouldn't go out and leak false info
* Libby is innocent and had no motive to lie

No motive to lie? Yeah, that's rich. Well's attempted to make the case an issue of Libby's credibility vs Russert's.

Evidence shows Russert could have known about Wilson's wife, you know Gregory was told by Fleischer.

Correct, it is theoretically possible - even though no one in the trial confirmed this theory. But even if it's true, it's only because Libby had previously TOLD FLIESCHER about Wilson's Wife and claimed it was "hush hush" in the first place. Richard Armitage wouldn't have known (or been able to leak to Novak) if Libby hadn't started making inquiries with Marc Grossman. It's Circular Neo-Con Logic. Libby told Fleischer, who told Gregory who might have told somebody at NBC who also might have told managing editor Tim Russert - and then Russert told Libby - except that he didn't. Either way, all oars on this leaky boat point right back to Libby - and Cheney.

In terms of Russert's credibility, we know he filed misleading affadavit with Hogan when he said he was protecting first amendment. He filed misleading affadavit. Ask yourselves, does that comport with what happened in November.

Russert gave misleading account to public. He never tells the public I had been called by FBI and discussed whole conversation freely.

Finally, Russert has memory problems. He forgot a very important telephone call that involved himself involving the Buffalo news. He had to write public letter of apology, where he had to regret for not recollecting something. He was candid at the time, the only thing that shook that confidence was that he had a note. There's no note in this case, you can't have reasonable doubt. You can't decide that's firm and convincing evidence of guilt.

Yeah, it's all that NBC scumbag Russert's fault. He had an axe to grind with Libby and the Bush Administration - cuz he's from - from - NBC! Yeah, that's the ticket - oh and NBC shot JFK too.

At the end of his closing Well's apparently broke down into tears and cried "Give Libby Back to ME!"

So this is all just one sad mistake. Libby simply forgot about 9 different conversations he had about Wilson's Wife working at CIA, and Russert can't be trusted since he's from the evil NBC. It's all so unfair. Oh Pharoah have mercy - Let my Libby go!

Don't sacrifice Scooter LIbby for how you may feel about the war in Iraq or Bush Administration. Treat him the way he deserves to be treated. He worked every day to be NSA for this country. Analyze it fairly. Fight any temptation for your views if you're a Democrat or whatever party. This is a man who has a wife kid. He's been under my protection for the last month. Just give him back. Give him back to me, give him back.

[Wells gets all choked up, crying.]

Comments from the Press Room as reported by FDL:

He did a much better job of the crying thing in the tobacco trial... This time he really didn't sell it

Atter this Well's retreated to the defense table with his hand over his head, never looking up or apparently paying attention while Fitz went into his rebuttal, which he started out on fire, and woke the jury up fully.

Madness. Madness. Outrageous. The govt brought a case about 2 phone calls? And they just want you to speculate? The defense wishes that were so. Saying it, Saying it loudly, pounding the table, doesn't change the facts.

Is this case about 2 reporters, that's it? Is this about a one on one he said she said?

It's a he said he said he said he said she said she said she said he said (shows the graphic of nine people)

Is this the greatest coincidence in the world. That the only person he said he talked to forgot it. It's not one on one, it's all the evidence taken together.


No one wished this, but if Tim Russert were run over by a bus and went to that great newsroom in the sky, you could still find plenty of evidence that Libby was not surprised when [claims] he heard this from Russert.

Fitz then goes on to lay out all the other evidence and witnesses who specifically discussed "Wilson's Wife" with Libby, including notes made by the VP on a copy of Wilson's op-ed.

Have they done this sort of thing?

Send an Amb to answer a question?

Do we ordinarily send people out pro bono to work for us?

Or did his wife send him on a junket?

Yes, they - the CIA - often do this sort of thing. During the Presidency of George Bush Sr. Dick Cheney himself went on a "junket" with then State Dept official Richard Clark (As documented in his book "Against All Enemies") to convice the Saudi's to allow the U.S. to store equipment and supplies on thier soil as a method to help deter the Soviet Union from invading as they had with Afghanistan. That trip helped put in place the infrastructure that was later fully utilized during the first Gulf War. These weren't questions that Cheney wrote, they were marching orders, they were talking points.

Fitz knows this too.

First bullet–It is not clear who sent Wilson. "Or did his wife write him on a junket" A day or two after [Cheney] writes this, he makes it the number one talking point. The question of who sent Wilson is important, it's the number one bullet. There's something funny. They don't want to talk about the wife.

Or rather, they don't want to be caught talking about Wilson's wife since they know damn well that she could be covert. She is specifically left out of the talking points that Cheney provide Cathie Martin, but when she balks at revealing information from the then still classified NIE -- Libby gets the ball and starts making the contacts Ari Fliescher, whom he's never had lunch with before, and with reporters such as Miller and Cooper.

Conincidence? Hmm, I think not.

At a certain point Fitz starts to get dangerously close to the NOC question.

Importance Remember the others things going on. He had ten conversation with nine people. He's asking Schmall about. He's monitoring Hardball. He's not watching other things. He's remembering Rove telling him. Why is that important? It goes into his brain, bc that's important. VP cuts out column, he makes note on Dowd column. One thing that's really important, Schmall told him, this is a big deal, every intell service, whether innocent or not, they could arrest, torture, kill them. If you're sitting on the beach as a 21 year old, and you say, what you did, that can get people killed. If someone brought to your attention, you could get some people killed, that better be important, certainly NSA to VP in time of war.

At this point Well's was still doing his "oh woah is my defendant" act with his hand over his face. His co-council Jeffries realizes that Fitz is dangerously close to making statements that Valerie Wilson was an undercover agent, which has been ruled inadmissable by the court previously. Sheepishly he requests a sidebar, but not an outright objection since Well's has to do that - and he's still in crying jag-land. The question of whether this would be an appealable issue, which would require a timely objection be made during trial, seems somewhat open to me.

After the sidebar, Fitz continued.

Just so we're perfectly clear, I'm talking about Libby's state of mind. They're saying he's like a 21 year kid not remembering anything after the summer. Schmall did not know about Plame. He's saying that if this happens, you can get people killed. For his state of mind, When you're reading about a front company being exposed. Isn't that important? They want to tell you the wife wasn't important until later. They're saying it was important enough to read on July 14. Important when someone tells you, harm can happen and unimportant when facts prove defendant told a lie.

Go get 'em Fitz. That's when he brought it home.

Is this about a bunch of madmen, two men. Or is about something bigger, Is it about someone to whom Wilson's wife wasn't a person, but an argument. He focused on it June 23, July 8, July 7, focused on it when he talked to Addington. His boss thought it was important. His boss thought it was important. Did his boss forget about the wife/ One of the first thing he wrote, did his wife send him on a junket. They both talked to a briefer about it. You can't believe that 9 witnesses remember 10 conversations the same way. There is no conspiracy. There is no memory problem. He remembers a conversation that did not happen. But forgets all of his. He had a motive to lie, and he lied in a way that exactly matches his motive. You don't forget something on Thursday that you've passed along on Monday and Tueday. You don't forget about important arguments. You know they talked about a cloud over the VP.

DON'T YOU THINK THE AMERICAN PEOPLE ARE ENTITELD TO ANSWERS. If as a result his wife had a job, she worked at CPD, She gets dragged into newspapers. People want to find out was a law broken when people want to know, who did it. What role did Defendant play? What role did VP play? He told you he may have discussed this with VP. Don't you think FBI deserves straight answers?

When you go in that jury room, you common sense will tell you that he made a gamble. He threw sand in the eyes o fthe FBI. He stole the truth of the judicial system. You return guilty You give truth back.

And thus the Prosecution completed it's closing statment. If the jury isn't nullified, it's quite likely IMO that they will return a guilty verdict. Perjury cases can be difficult and usually require at least two persons who can confirm that the defendant made deliberately false statements. This is why President Clitnon could never have been convicted for his statements at the Jones deposition or the Starr Grand Jury because it quite literally was He Said/She Said. But as Fitz pointed out - there are 9 other He's and She's besides Libby and they all agree.

Libby's description of how things occured is simply not possible, it's not a memory lapse - it's a series of lies meant to protect Libby and the VP from criminal liability.

Unfortunately for them that effort has failed. If Libby is convicted he will have to face Fitz on his sentencing. Certainly he will appeal and it's quite possible that he will be pardoned just like Susan McDougal who after enduring years of pressure to LIE from Starr was pardoned by President Clinton

Maybe. Eventually.

In the meanwhile - he'll be in the vice - looking at a possible sentence of 30 years for perjury and obstruction. He'll be in the perfect position to cut a deal. Will he break and give up the Veep or will he hold his ground as Susan did? Some indication in his defense case already indicates he may be ready to bolt, and if he does... All hell's gonna break loose for Cheney.

I've already got the popcorn out, this is going to get good in just a few more days.


Tuesday, February 20

24 Tones Down the Torture

Last week the the New Yorker featured an article that described how several military and human rights experts including the commandant of West Point took a trip to the set of "24" to have a little chat with it's stars and producers over the issue of torture.

They charged that the shows repeated depiction of extreme methods in order to obtain intelligence methods was causing confusion not only among the students and future officers at west point, but also among those already serving in Iraq.

Not long after that meeting executive producer Howard Gordon made an annoucement.

Fox's 24 will become less torturous, but not because the U.S. military, human rights groups and children's advocates want it to.

So Howard this decision has nothing to do with this statement from Brig General Patrick Finnegan?

Finnegan told the producers that "24," by suggesting that the U.S. government perpetrates myriad forms of torture, hurts the country’s image internationally. Finnegan, who is a lawyer, has for a number of years taught a course on the laws of war to West Point seniors—cadets who would soon be commanders in the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. He always tries, he said, to get his students to sort out not just what is legal but what is right. However, it had become increasingly hard to convince some cadets that America had to respect the rule of law and human rights, even when terrorists did not. One reason for the growing resistance, he suggested, was misperceptions spread by "24," which was exceptionally popular with his students. As he told me, "The kids see it, and say, ‘If torture is wrong, what about "24"?’ " He continued, "The disturbing thing is that although torture may cause Jack Bauer some angst, it is always the patriotic thing to do."

Really now?

How about these statements...

The third expert at the meeting was Tony Lagouranis, a former Army interrogator in the war in Iraq. He told the show’s staff that DVDs of shows such as "24" circulate widely among soldiers stationed in Iraq. Lagouranis said to me, "People watch the shows, and then walk into the interrogation booths and do the same things they’ve just seen."

Instead of paying attention to what people who actually work directly with the troops and interrogators had to say Gordon instead doubts their claims.

Gordon is skeptical of the show's power over U.S. troops.

"The thesis that we are affecting our soldiers in Iraq in their treatment of prisoners is being exaggerated, I think. Hopefully, there are a lot of filters between their watching 24 and their work in the field."

I'm not going to claim I'm unsympathetic to Gordon's position. "24" is just a TV Show. It's drama. It's fiction. It's NOT REAL!

Ever since C. Delores Tucker began to speak out about so-called "Violent" Rap Music, the PMRC attempted to censor sexually explicit Rock, Ozzy Osborne and Judas Priest were sued for the subliminal messages and "backward masking" messages of suicide into their songs -- the impact of the entertainment media on our collective consciousness has been a hot button issue. I would say that it goes all the way back to the beginings of the entertainment industry - Chuck Berry and Elvis wiggling their hips on TV, the "Standards and Practices" offices at film studios, the "Comics Code Authority" which acted as defacto censor for that industry once Fredrick Wertham ridiculous screed "The Seduction of the Innocent" was published, which claimed that Wonder Woman was a "bondage babe" and Batman was a pedophile.

But at the same time Hollywood has often walked hand in hand with Washington propaganda, particularly during wartime. During WWII Hollywood created a veritable cottage industry of patriotic pro-war films, usually starring (Republican) John Wayne. Wayne continued this trend even during Vietnam with the frankly awful movie - The Green Berets. So it's not like Hollywood is completely independant of the political winds.

However, what I think is a far more dangerous tool for distortion and propaganda than any form of entertainment - is the News. Everyday we can turn on the local news station and usually the old adage - "If it bleeds - it leads" applies. Night after night our local and network news stations attempt to scare the bejeezus out of us with tales of murder, crime, disease and horror that is occuring right in our own neighborhoods. Or at least in somebodies neighborhood, somewhere.

White Chicks in PeriL has become a staple of many cable networks from CNN to MSNBC and Fox News. Jennifer Willbanks, Terri Schiavo and now the endless death of Anna Nicole Smith. Keeping us scared is big business for the News industry.

But when it comes to entertainment by an large I come down strongly on the side of the artists to express themselves in nearly all these causes. For example the arguement that Marilyn Manson was in anyway responsible for the Columbine Massacre is just plain goofy - especially since Dylan Kleibold and Eric Harris didn't like Marilyn Manson - they liked the band Rammstein who they couldn't even understand since they sing in German. Again the News distorts the facts in the interests of spreading fear.

Yet Manson was resoundingly condemned anyway.

With all this in mind it might be argued that Finnegan and Lagouranis are being a bit hysterical, but then again it might not - since they aren't talking about hypotheticals, they're talking about real impacts and viewpoints which come directly from the arguments justifying torture put forward by "24" (which are echoed loudly by the Bush Administration) and how it's making their jobs of teaching our troops to abide by international law more difficult. I don't think that something you can just brush off.

In nearly all these cases above there are other alternatives to look at and compare against. Someone who doesn't like Ozzy could listen to Amy Grant or Striper if they want to. But if you happen to enjoy a modern day action/drama that realistically addresses the issues of terrorism - where else can you go but "24"?

The only show I can think of is "Sleeper Cell" but that is on Showtime and not available to the same audience that Fox TV can reach. With it's enormous ratings the impact of "24", in the absense of other viable and equally well distributed alternatives can not be completely ignored.

Gordon says he's open to working with outside groups, "but my bottom line is that this is a TV show and that's reality. I'm optimistic that most people are able to distinguish between the two."

Yes, most people can distingish between the two - when they actually have two equally well defined options to compare against. In this case - IMO - they don't. And that isn't neccesarily "24"'s fault - it's the News medias fault for failing to seriously address these issues in a responsible way and leaving us without a "fair and balanced" picture of the situation.

One "24" critic Dave Trotter puts it this way....

Here’s how the writers illustrate the concept: in episode 18 they make the distinction between torturing: (1) suspects who've been actually charged with a crime, and (2) suspects who haven't been charged but who still might know something.

They pose the question as an over-the-top ethical issue, and the Arab supervillain plays the system expertly, using an Amnesty International clone agency lawyer like an IED to sidetrack CTU's "hot on his trail" investigation.

So the lawyers advocating due process for the suspect are working for the terrorists! I knew it! (Dang you, Osama! Dang you, Zarqawi/Saddam/Goldstein!)

Just as Fox News new "1/2 Hour News Hour" would present the ACLU or Human Rights Watch - if you're not With us, You're Against us. If you dare criticize our policies, even when they don't work - you're doing the work of the terrorist for them.

The problem is that the writers linger on the distinction that Jack wants to torture a suspect but has insufficient evidence to charge him. By this point, Spring of 2005, most citizens had seen enough wild precedents in the four years since 9/11 to recognize that the "material support" hurdle of the Patriot Act is a low one indeed. They couldn’t charge this guy?

Somebody was trying to make a point.

You bet they were. And I think that someone is Joel Surnow, co-creator of 24, "the 1/2 Hour News Hour" and card-carrying Neo-Con Wacko!

But never fear – Jack Bauer knocks out a pawn-like Federal Marshall escorting the suspect and breaks every bone in one of the suspect’s hands until he talks, which of course renders exactly the information they need, just in the nick of time. Thanks, God, for Jack Bauer, who has the stomach and the temerity to pummel my face – or yours! – into concrete in the name of national security! Finally, a hero emerges!

Never mind that we've moved far afield, by this point, whether the predication for any of this executive activity is legitimate. We're in a damned fervor, here. We ain't got time for discernment!

It's easy to rationalize when the "worst-case scenario" mentality really takes root, too. It was that guy's hand or millions of innocent lives, right? How do any of us stack up against that?

How indeed? How do the rights of terrorist to a fair hearing and habeus corpus, or the right to protest these outrages stack up against the specter of an American City destroy by a nuclear dirty bomb?

Our current Attorney General says - in all seriousness - that obeying the law and the Constitution is a grave threat to our nation, yet hardly anyone blinks an eye. This might not be because so many people have become comfortable with Jack Baeur Justice ™, and then against it just might.

Time and time again this show indicates that the rights of the accused are insignificant and that doing everything in your power including breaking the law is acceptable as long as it's for "the greater good" - just as Jonah Goldberg argued in his very first LA Times Column that the President Bush lying us into a war with Iraq was just fine, since it was for the "greater good" or that the subsequent Iraq War was a "Worthy Mistake."

The Ends Justifies the Means, no matter what price - is their mantra and credo.

One last thing from Trotter...

During season 4, Walt Cummings, one of the traitorous villains working for President Logan, advises the president that the torture of the uncharged suspect would haunt the administration if he turns out to be innocent. Jack disagrees, of course, and after torturing the suspect illegally, Jack is vindicated when the suspect reveals pertinent information. In season five, to prove a larger point, Cummings is revealed to be a traitor in patriot’s clothing.

So in case you’re keeping score, that’s "good guys" who advocate torture and incarceration without criminal charges, 1, and "bad guys" who insist that charges and evidence should at least be a requirement for torture, nothing. And where’s the party advocating no torture under any circumstances, you ask? Good question.

Yes, that's a very good question - where are the News agencies and programs which display an alternative to "24"'s incessant use of violence to achieve it's ends? Where are the shows that point out that information gained through coercian is inadmissable in court and anything gained from that info is "fruit of the poison tree" and also inadmissable?

Where are the shows or even the News programs telling the American public the truth, that even during a "ticking time-bomb" scenario TORTURE DOESN'T WORK!

One interrogator said that he would apply physical coercion only if he received a personal directive from the President. But Navarro, who estimates that he has conducted some twelve thousand interrogations, replied that torture was not an effective response. "These are very determined people, and they won’t turn just because you pull a fingernail out," he told me. And Finnegan argued that torturing fanatical Islamist terrorists is particularly pointless. "They almost welcome torture," he said. "They expect it. They want to be martyred." A ticking time bomb, he pointed out, would make a suspect only more unwilling to talk. "They know if they can simply hold out several hours, all the more glory—the ticking time bomb will go off!"

With Gordon announcing this new direction for "24" that alternative might be the very same show that put forth the "by any means unneccesary" argument in the first place.

But somehow - I doubt it.


Sunday, February 18

Nonpoint - In the Air Tonight

Nonpoint - In the Air Tonight

King's X - Alone

King's X - Alone.