What Fresh Hell Is This?

August 30, 2009

Jack Kelly Sunday

In this week's column (a column my friend Ed Heath calls "silly") Jack Kelly both attacks and defends the CIA.

And en passant he spins torture into a clumsy euphemism. Take a look:
Attorney General Eric Holder -- who before his confirmation hearings told senators he wouldn't -- has appointed a special prosecutor to pursue CIA interrogators who discomforted al-Qaida bigwigs to get them to talk.
Discomforted? Is that even a word? First off, let's rid ourselves of the clumsy. It was torture. Take a look at this is from January of this year:
The top Bush administration official in charge of deciding whether to bring Guantanamo Bay detainees to trial has concluded that the U.S. military tortured a Saudi national who allegedly planned to participate in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, interrogating him with techniques that included sustained isolation, sleep deprivation, nudity and prolonged exposure to cold, leaving him in a "life-threatening condition."

"We tortured [Mohammed al-]Qahtani," said Susan J. Crawford, in her first interview since being named convening authority of military commissions by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in February 2007. "His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that's why I did not refer the case" for prosecution.

But even what Crawford calls torture won't be prosecuted (as the current investigation will only focus on the torture that wasn't authorized):

Crawford, 61, said the combination of the interrogation techniques, their duration and the impact on Qahtani's health led to her conclusion. "The techniques they used were all authorized, but the manner in which they applied them was overly aggressive and too persistent. . . . You think of torture, you think of some horrendous physical act done to an individual. This was not any one particular act; this was just a combination of things that had a medical impact on him, that hurt his health. It was abusive and uncalled for. And coercive. Clearly coercive. It was that medical impact that pushed me over the edge" to call it torture, she said. [emphasis added.]

So what was that which "discomforted" those bigwigs? From the LATimes:

Reporting from Washington - The CIA staged a mock execution and brandished weapons, including a gun and a power drill, during interrogation sessions with detainees, according to a long-secret internal CIA report expected to be released Monday.

The episodes are part of a catalog of alleged abuses -- a 2004 report by the CIA's inspector general -- that has prompted Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. to consider appointing a criminal prosecutor to investigate cases in which the CIA strayed beyond its authorities.

Do we really need to look at the law again? Yea, I guess we do. Here's the US Code on Torture.

In it "torture" is defined as:
...means an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control;
And includes:
(A) the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering;
(B) the administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality;
(C) the threat of imminent death; or
(D) the threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering, or the administration or application of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality;
So, yea, I am guessing that showing a detainee a mock execution or brandishing a running power drill (leaving him to believe he'll be subject a similar fate if he doesn't cooperate) constitutes torture. And it's against the law.

That's what Jack calls "discomfort." If it's for a good cause, Room 101 is sometimes necessary, I guess.

But let's look at the rest of the column. He says of the CIA:
Most of the intelligence we collect is gathered by the National Security Agency (electronic intercepts) or by the National Geo-Spatial Intelligence Agency (spy satellites). The CIA's role has pretty much been restricted to human intelligence and analyzing intel gathered by others.

It's done a poor job of both. The most frighteningly funny book I've read in a long time is "The Human Factor," the memoir of "Ishmael Jones" of his career as a non-official cover officer (NOC) of the CIA.[emphasis added.]
Ishmael Jones may be in a bit of a pickle, however. Take a look at this from the Congressional Quarterly, July 2008:
A 25-year veteran of the CIA’s clandestine service has written a scathing — and unauthorized — account of the spy agency’s management, setting up an unprecedented legal test of former employees’ rights to pen tell-all books.

Writing under the pseudonym “Ishmael Jones,” the author says he wrote “The Human Factor: Inside the CIA’s Dysfunctional Intelligence Culture” in order to “improve the system and help it defend ourselves and our allies.”
The CQ article compares Jones to another ex-CIA writer, Frank Snepp, who got in trouble with the CIA for, among other things, by-passing the CIA censors. CQ continues:
Jones did something far more dangerous, Snepp thinks, by submitting his manuscript for clearance then “thumbing his nose” at CIA censors because he didn’t like their censorship decisions. “God knows what the hell could happen to him,” Snepp said.

“I did the best I could,” Jones told me. “I sent it to them more than a year ago, and I said, ‘Please tell me what you want taken out of this, or re-written,’ repeatedly. But they disapproved all of it, with the exception of a few sentences. They approved maybe one percent of the book.”

So he went ahead without their clearance, he said.
So it was sent to the CIA sometime in 2007 and he published anyway?? And Jack condones this?

All that aside, I have to ask (rhetorically, for I already know the answer), who was President in 2007? Jack never quite gets around to saying. Though he does, of course, lay out some serious blame on the current AG.

Nor does Jack include this in the chronology:
The CIA has also misled Congress on its spending, he maintains, diverting billions of dollars that were supposed to bolster its spying operations overseas into a dramatic expansion of offices inside the United States.

“It’s been a constant promise to Congress since I joined in the 1980s that we’re going to get out of the embassies. It didn’t mean into the United States,” Jones said. “The billions given to the agency after 9/11 to get case officers out of the embassies were intended to put them overseas,” he said. “And what they’re doing is hiring a lot of people, putting them in training for a very long time, and then they’re stacking them up in U.S. offices.”

“We probably had more case officers in California than we did in Iraq,” he writes.

Tell me again who was President post-9/11 and pre-Eric Holder?

Jack doesn't.

Oh, any by the way: Torture is illegal. Always illegal.

1 comment:

EdHeath said...

I swear Kelly thinks we will look weak unless we torture detainees. I have a suspicion that if captured US servicemen or women were tortured or abused, Kelly would use words like barbaric and evil. Yet we look like a bunch of liberal pansies if we coddle our prisoners.

It makes me think of the "realist" school on international relations, where governments act as if they are a single person, making an assessment of how powerful other countries are. I think Kelly sees Osama Bin Laden, sitting in a cave and thinking to himself, "these Americans are willing to torture their prisoners; they are a formidable and respectable opponent".

Hopefully either I am wrong about all that or hopefully nobody pays attention to Jack Kelly.