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WaPo: Pelosi briefed on waterboarding in 2002

Discussion in 'BBS Hangout: Debate & Discussion' started by basso, Dec 9, 2007.

  1. rhadamanthus

    rhadamanthus Contributing Member

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    An ad hom would imply an attack on you. Calling your argument "childish wordplay" has nothing to do with you as a person, but has everything to do with your argument technique.


    sigh. Keep dodging. I'm suprised, honestly.
     
  2. rimrocker

    rimrocker Contributing Member

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    Guantanamo Legal Adviser Refuses To Say Iranians Waterboarding Americans Would Be Torture

    During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on “The Legal Rights of Guantanamo Detainees” this morning, Brigadier General Thomas W. Hartmann, the legal adviser at Guantanamo Bay, repeatedly refused to call the hypothetical waterboarding of an American pilot by the Iranian military torture. “I’m not equipped to answer that question,” said Hartmann.

    Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who asked the hypothetical, pushed Hartmann on his answer, asking him directly if it would be a “violation of the Geneva Convention”:

    After Hartmann twice refused to answer, Graham dismissed him in disgust, saying he had “no further questions.”

    Hartmann’s non-answer is reminiscent of State Department Legal Adviser John Bellinger’s refusal in October to condemn “the use of water boarding on an American national by a foreign intelligence service.”

    But not every lawyer who’s worked for the Bush administration has been so hesitant to call waterboarding torture.

    In 2004, after then-acting assistant attorney general Daniel Levin had himself waterboarded, he concluded that the interrogation technique “could be illegal torture.” For his efforts, “Levin was forced out of the Justice Department when Alberto Gonzales became Attorney General.”

    Sen. Graham, a former military judge advocate, has said before that someone doesn’t “have to have a lot of knowledge about the law to understand this technique violates Geneva Convention Common Article Three.”

    http://thinkprogress.org/2007/12/11/graham-waterboarding-iran/
     
  3. rocketsjudoka

    rocketsjudoka Contributing Member
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    I'm just skimming this thread but I'm going to repeat what I've said in other threads regarding torture.

    I can imagine that there might be situations so extreme where torture (and yes waterboarding is torture) is seen as the only acceptable option to deal with it. Heck there are possibly situations where killing pregnant mothers in cold blood might be the only acceptable option. Our laws shouldn't be based on the most extreme situation.

    While we have laws we also have judges and juries. If someone thinks that the situation is so extreme that they needed to break the law then they should be accountable to the law to explain why that is. The thing that I fear is that if we start carving exceptions then the standards to engage in such awful behavior are lessened while the temptation becomes greater.
     
  4. rocketsjudoka

    rocketsjudoka Contributing Member
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    Thanks for saving me the time of bringing up the 4th Geneva Convention. It seems like most of the time people are debating the first three while totally ignoring the 4th.
     
  5. HayesStreet

    HayesStreet Member

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    I'm not saying anything about the legality of it, my point was in response to those who say it should never, ever, under any circumstances, happen. I was just being honest that there are situations where I would order it, if I were in a position to do so.
     
  6. HayesStreet

    HayesStreet Member

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    You left out the next sentence:

    Seriously, these articles are talking about populations caught in war between nation states, not terrorists or terrorism. To claim the Fourth Convention is all inclusive makes absolutely no sense. We know for a fact is does not cover the treatment of soldiers of nation states at war (POWs). Those persons are covered in the prior Third Convention. That fact itself shows everyone is not covered in the Fourth, it would be redundant and nonsensical.
     
    #86 HayesStreet, Dec 12, 2007
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 12, 2007
  7. Ottomaton

    Ottomaton Contributing Member
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    I thought this was the war on terror - we are in a war. If you are changing that position there are so many places we can revisit to discuss things, I am giddy with anticipation.

    Even so, it really isn't relevant:

    [rquoter]
    Fourth Treaty

    Article 2


    The Convention shall also apply to all cases of partial or total occupation of the territory of a High Contracting Party, even if the said occupation meets with no armed resistance.

    [/rquoter]

    They would be covered by the fourth, but they are already covered by the third which provides a more stringent series of rules with a greater degree of protection. So yes, they are covered by the fourth. It is universal. Have you actually sat down and read all four conventions from start to end?

    How is that relevant? Which nations with nationals in Gitmo who have been waterboarded are we discussing that are not signatory to the Conventions?
     
    #87 Ottomaton, Dec 12, 2007
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2007
  8. HayesStreet

    HayesStreet Member

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    It is relevant because it shows your assertion that the Convention covers everyone is false. That is your baseline argument. Now we can continue to argue over whether or not people like AQ are covered, but we know that your baseline now has to move, because the contention that everyone is covered is not true.


    Now you're being silly (although I have nothing against you being giddy :) ). You know the Convention is built wholly around conflict (ie 'war') between nation states, not around anything labeled a 'war' (ie for War on Poverty has nothing to do with the CONVENTION (IV) RELATIVE TO THE PROTECTION OF CIVILIAN PERSONS IN TIME OF WAR.

    Which still doesn't define IN people like Al Quaeda. You're leaving too much out in your quotes - you forgot the next line again which specifies: Persons taking no active part in the hostilities.

    The Convention further carves out more exceptions:

    Nationals of a State which is not bound by the Convention are not protected by it. Nationals of a neutral State who find themselves in the territory of a belligerent State, and nationals of a co-belligerent State, shall not be regarded as protected persons while the State of which they are nationals has normal diplomatic representation in the State in whose hands they are.

    We can go through the whole Convention if you want. Conventions are agreements made by nation states. They are not all inclusive documents - that is why they enumerate who is covered. As I said before, if it covered everyone there would be NO need to enumerate who the Convention covers.
     
    #88 HayesStreet, Dec 12, 2007
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 12, 2007
  9. Ottomaton

    Ottomaton Contributing Member
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    Posting with you is like getting bogged down in molasses. Probably this is a synergistic effect when the two of us face off. I don't have the energy so I'm just going to back out, while saying that I still disagree and think I have legitimate reason to disagree but I'm not willing to put forth the necessary effort.

    I will bookmark your quotes about the war on poverty vs. war on terror. I used this exact same argument many, many times in the past and have been torn the proverbial new one by the hardcore jingoist-right faction on this BBS. I've also heard people like Bill O'Rilley use the 'time of war'/'war on terror' BS analogy as justification for removing all sorts of civil liberties in the past as well. And the Bush administration, even, has used 'we are in the war on terror so presidential powers in time of war exist' argument several times. Good to see that you are able to make this rational distinction.

    As I said, I still disagree, and am adamant the conventions intended these people to be treated as civilian criminals, but I back out for now. Parsing several hundreds of pages of conventions and treaties is not my idea of a pleasant way to spend an afternoon.
     
  10. rhadamanthus

    rhadamanthus Contributing Member

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    http://www.icrc.org/web/eng/siteeng0.nsf/html/5YNLEV
     
  11. HayesStreet

    HayesStreet Member

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    Fair enough. I appreciate your point of view and just as important your ability to engage in a constructive and civil dialogue when we disagree.
     
  12. rocketsjudoka

    rocketsjudoka Contributing Member
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    Sorry I wasn't trying to argue with you just using your post as a jumping in point.
     
  13. HayesStreet

    HayesStreet Member

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    Absolutely no problem. I totally agree that even if one were to accept that there are situations where we might do the terrible, there should be an extremely high bar for doing so. The problem you hit on it exactly why this is such a difficult question for me - I couldn't draw a bright line on when to or not cross the threshold. I just know it is somewhere between my extreme example (nuke on a clock where I would) and Ottomaton's (let the police waterboard for regular crime where I wouldn't).
     
  14. glynch

    glynch Contributing Member

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    Good to hear your bar for torture is "extremely high" since it sure does not seem to be high for elective wars. Why so high on torture, but so low on the mass killing and hideous maiming of war?

    PS I agree that in the one in a billion or whatever ticking nuclear bomb that torture is acceptable. See my earlier post on the ticking time bomb mental exercise and why it is a largely bogus example.

    God only knows what has been done to the probably hundreds, if not thousands, that we have renditioned to proxy torturers. I suspect that a lot of them wish that they had only been waterboarded.
     
  15. HayesStreet

    HayesStreet Member

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    Glynch you were against the first gulf war and intervention in afghanistan, so your extremist mist overwhelms any real credibility.

    I already answered your post on that subject, which wasn't hard since it was devoid of any reasoning and just chalk full of normative opinion. But I'll admit I'm stunned that you've got a rational stance on torture. Congratulations.

    They probably do - which is about as relevant to this thread as your response gets. ;)
     
  16. basso

    basso Contributing Member
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    their gullible fellow travelers in the democratic party don't mind.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/14/AR2007121401519_pf.html

    [rquoter]With Spies Like These . . .
    Anyone Giving Intelligence to the U.S. Could Be an Enemy's Double Agent

    By Joseph Weisberg
    Saturday, December 15, 2007; A21

    The new National Intelligence Estimate on Iran appears to rely heavily on notes from a discussion between Iranian military officials involved in that country's nuclear weapons development program. What if, instead of such easily manipulated documentary evidence, the CIA's National Clandestine Service had been able to recruit a spy at the highest reaches of the Iranian government, someone who could just tell us what the country's nuclear capabilities and plans were?

    It wouldn't have made any difference.

    Ever since the inception of the CIA, the operational side of the agency has both believed in and spread the fantasy that foreign agents can provide vital secret intelligence that will clear up great mysteries, change the outcome of wars or prevent terrorist attacks. But this view of intelligence is a myth. To understand why, it's useful to look at what happened the last time the United States desperately needed a spy to get to the bottom of a covert weapons program and what happened when we actually got one.

    According to statements by Tyler Drumheller, the former chief of the CIA's European operations, the CIA entered into a clandestine relationship with Iraq's then-foreign minister, Naji Sabri, in mid-2002. Drumheller has claimed that Sabri provided the CIA with documentary evidence that Iraq did not have an active program to pursue weapons of mass destruction.

    But Sabri's information had no influence whatsoever on U.S. policy. Nor did it alter the CIA's own assessment of Iraqi weapons capabilities. This is because Sabri, like virtually every other CIA asset, could not possibly have been trusted. So any intelligence he provided was useless.

    Intelligence from almost all CIA assets is unreliable for the simple reason that so many of them are double agents, meaning that the CIA recruited them but that they are being controlled by their own countries' intelligence services. When I worked at CIA headquarters in the early 1990s, I once suggested to a friend who worked in counterintelligence that up to a third of all CIA agents could be doubles. He said the number was probably much higher.

    Concrete proof is always scarce in these matters, but from the late 1970s to the late 1980s, most and very likely all Cuban agents on the CIA payroll were doubles. So were a majority of East German agents during the Cold War.

    If Sabri was being controlled by Iraqi intelligence as a double, the most likely goal of such an operation would have been to convince the U.S. government that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction. This means that Sabri's "intelligence" would have been the same whether he was a double or not -- Iraq had no WMD. So the only way to figure out if it was real intelligence or disinformation would have been to determine with absolute certainty whether Sabri was a double.

    The CIA has methods to try to detect double agents, but they're far from foolproof. Polygraph exams are probably considered the most useful and are frequently administered to agents. But it's unlikely that on the eve of war an Iraqi foreign minister would be able to sneak away for a polygraph exam without risking detection. Even if he did take and pass such an exam, the question of the polygraph's reliability would loom large. And even the biggest supporters of polygraphs would be reluctant to make a case for or against war on the basis of polygraph results.

    But what if the CIA, for whatever reason, was convinced that Sabri was not a double agent? The agency still would have had to factor in the overwhelming likelihood that, like most CIA agents, he was working first and foremost in his own interest. (The collection of defectors and exiles who misled us so badly in Iraq practically gave new meaning to "working in your own interest" -- their goal was to have the United States invade their country.) In Sabri's case, his overriding concern probably would have been securing CIA protection in the event of a U.S. invasion. This could have led him to tell the entire truth about everything he knew. But it could just as easily have led him to tell us what he thought we wanted to hear.

    Let's assume, despite all these obstacles, that the CIA somehow determined that Sabri was being truthful. Being truthful still wouldn't mean that Sabri knew the truth. Would the Iraqi foreign minister know whether Iraq had WMD? In Saddam Hussein's secretive police state, the answer could easily be no.

    Intelligence professionals have to sort through these kinds of problems all the time. But it's rarely, if ever, possible to come to a definitive conclusion.

    So the CIA, on the eve of war, may have had something close to the dream recruit -- a member of Hussein's inner circle -- and he was providing intelligence on the most salient question of the war -- did Iraq possess WMD? -- and he was right. But what good did the intelligence do? None.

    This shouldn't be a surprise. Although we dedicate enormous resources to recruiting "human sources," there just aren't many good ones available. The central problem is that the people who actually know the secrets we'd be interested in aren't recruitable. Officials at the highest reaches of foreign governments have wealth and power and usually no compelling reason to put those at risk. The most knowledgeable members of terrorist groups are ideologically committed and aren't going to work for the CIA or anyone else.

    Unfortunately, everyone expects the CIA to recruit sources with access to important secret intelligence, and both Congress and the public count it as a "human intelligence failure" when there aren't any such sources to tip us off before major events. After each of these "failures" -- the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Sept. 11 attacks, Iraq's non-weapons -- the usual suspects are trotted out to explain what happened: Cuts in CIA funding as far back as the Carter presidency devastated the Directorate of Operations (poor Stansfield Turner is still getting blamed for CIA failures 30 years after he reduced the number of overseas slots for case officers); case officers don't receive adequate language training; Anglo-American case officers can't pass for locals in the world's foreign bazaars; and the CIA uses inadequate cover arrangements for its officers abroad. But the actual explanation is much simpler: The CIA can't recruit top-quality agents because it isn't possible.

    This does not mean that there isn't some useful intelligence to be gleaned from various human sources -- just that these sources aren't always going to be recruited agents and that they aren't going to prevent terrorist attacks or change the outcome of wars. Sympathetic Europeans who work at companies involved in the illicit transfer of nuclear components might help us understand how the underground nuclear supply chain works. Scientists who attend highly specialized conferences might glean valuable insights into foreign capabilities.

    But the majority of CIA agents do not fall into even these less glamorous categories. Most are worthless as sources of information, mid-level bureaucrats with no access to vital intelligence. They are recruited to give case officers something to do (at least they were when I worked at the CIA) since recruiting truly valuable sources is close to impossible.

    Although the CIA probably can't alter this equation in any fundamental way, there are some ways to change how agents are recruited that would have a positive effect. Far fewer case officers, working in teams that carefully targeted potential agents, might be a good start. If the CIA had six or seven such teams, with 10 members each, and each team hoped to recruit a single agent every few years, the number of valuable agents might go up and the number of useless agents would definitely go down. Potential foreign agents should also have to pass a simple test before being selected as recruitment targets: Can they currently produce, or are there concrete reasons to believe they will eventually produce, information that would alter U.S. policies or actions? If the answer is no, recruiting and running a foreign agent isn't worth the personal risk to the agent, not to mention the risk to the United States in a world that is already paranoid about the CIA and where international reputation is an increasingly vital component of national security.

    Joseph Weisberg worked in the CIA's Directorate of Operations from 1990 to 1994. His novel "An Ordinary Spy" will be published next month.[/rquoter]
     
  17. Refman

    Refman Contributing Member

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    You can apply that logic to anything.

    The KGB would have stated that it is ok to do that in order to protect mother Russia from the capitalist pig dog that would enslave its people.

    I am all for security and am willing to go to some extremes to get it, but allowing unabashed torture sacrifices the principles on which our nation was founded. Liberty...justice...etc.

    If we forego all that we were founded on, is there really anything left?
     
  18. rimrocker

    rimrocker Contributing Member

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    Well, we've been here before...
     

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