Thursday, January 31, 2008

How can we reclaim a sense of security in this climate?

By Carol Gee

Several forces conspire to steal our sense of security. They are man-made, not natural forces. These forces, however are not conspiring with each other to steal from us. I say that to allay any suspicion that I am a conspiracy theorist or that I am paranoid. I am sane and rational, though not always perfectly so. But these are truly dark times.

Today I am relieved that one of the conspirators, Rudy Giuliani, will no longer be as active among us. His endorsement of another of the current players of the "fear card," Senator John McCain, reminded me that they do not want us to relax. The forces of aggression that set in motion the loss of a million Iraqis, are now supported by McCain's seeming commitment to a "forever war." Because our nation is an integral part of such violence, his candidacy does not allow us normal folks to feel at ease.

Other maladaptive psychological traits in and out of our current administration tend to keep us agitated. Let me give you another example example. You could see much agitation on C-SPAN yesterday when Attorney General Michael Mukasey (the 3rd member of Mr. Bush's Tough Guy Triumvirate that includes Mike McConnell-DNI and Michael Hayden-CIA Director) testified before the Senate yesterday. The most prevalent questions from Senators to our nation's most senior legal official, were about water boarding. Mukasey, seemingly in absolute psychological denial, refused to rule it out, at the same time as he termed it "repugnant." How are we to feel he will staunchly defend the rule of law? He will not, according to the New York Times story on 1/31/08. To quote:

The legality of waterboarding, in which a prisoner experiences a sensation of drowning, has been come under fierce debate since the acknowledgment by Bush administration officials that a small number of prisoners who were members of Al Qaeda had been subjected to it after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Mr. Mukasey said in a letter delivered to the Judiciary Committee on Tuesday night that he had been authorized by the White House to reveal that waterboarding was no longer being carried out and, for now, was considered an unapproved interrogation technique within the C.I.A. He repeated that assurance in his testimony Wednesday.

Legislative leaders formulate the laws that are then to be executed by another branch of government. The U.S. Constitution assures us of those basics. It does not make me feel more secure to suspect that the CIA sees itself as above the law. How am I to believe that my civil liberties and those of others will be protected as the agency goes about its business? The following story is another example of ignoring the basic rules of evidence. The headline reads, "Detainee's Lawyers Rebut C.I.A. on Tapes" -- NYT 1/19/08. To quote:

Lawyers for Majid Khan, a detainee at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, have challenged the Central Intelligence Agency’s assertion that videotaping of interrogations stopped in 2002, saying that Mr. Khan’s interrogations after that time were recorded on videotape.

In papers filed Jan. 4, Mr. Khan’s lawyers challenged a Dec. 6 statement by the C.I.A. director, Gen. Michael V. Hayden. General Hayden, addressing agency employees after being told that The New York Times was about to publish an article about the tapes, wrote that the taping stopped in 2002.

Having a responsible position and years of experience does not necessarily endow a man with integrity or the ability to do well by his subordinates. General Mike Hayden's predecessor, Porter Goss was a high ranking legislator just prior to his appointment to head the CIA. And he left his staff member hanging out to dry with a decision on the side of the law, that should have been his own to make. We should have been able to trust him to do the right thing. Goss chaired the House Intelligence Committee; Rep. Jane Harman was the Democratic ranking Member. Headlined Porter Goss and the tapes (1/17/08), the story came from the AP. To quote:

Former CIA Director Porter Goss never criticized plans to destroy interrogation videotapes, a lawyer said Thursday as the investigation began shaping up as a matter of competing storylines.

Jose Rodriguez, the CIA official who gave the order to destroy the tapes, is at the center of Justice Department and congressional investigations into who approved the plan and whether it was illegal. His attorney, Robert Bennett, said Goss and Rodriquez met several times to discuss the tapes and Goss was never critical of Rodriquez' decision.

Many of us began to feel more secure back in December when Congress sought to ban torture altogether. The NYT headline read, "House Votes to Ban Harsh C.I.A. Methods." It was by AP from December 13, 2007. To quote:

The House approved an intelligence bill Thursday that would prohibit the CIA from using waterboarding, mock executions and other harsh interrogation methods.

The 222-199 vote sent the measure to the Senate, which still must act before it can go to President Bush. The White House has threatened a veto.

The bill, a House-Senate compromise to authorize intelligence operations in 2008, also blocks spending 70 percent of the intelligence budget until the House and Senate intelligence committees are briefed on Israel's Sept. 6 air strike on an alleged nuclear site in Syria.

The 2008 intelligence budget is classified, but it is more than the $43 billion approved for 2007.

The New York Times editorialized at about the same time with this headline: "In Arrogant defense of torture."

According to, HR. 2082 has not been signed by the president. So, despite passing laws, an active opposition from a leading newspaper, and with yesterday's AG refusal to disavow torture, we cannot yet feel secure that our government is operating under the rule of law.

Update: Senator Whitehouse told us -- during his very effective C-SPAN call-in this morning -- that the Conference Report on the Intelligence bill must still be accepted by the Senate. So it is not yet on the President's desk, to be fair.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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