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Old 04-16-2009, 11:44 PM   #1
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Obama releases the "Torture Memos"

and they're exactly what you think they are.



Quote:
CIA interrogation memos: Obama unseals Justice Department documents
President says CIA operatives will be protected from prosecution

By Greg Miller and Josh Meyer

Washington Bureau

April 17, 2009


WASHINGTON — Prisoners could be kept awake for more than a week. They could be stripped of their clothes, fed nothing but liquid and thrown against a wall 30 consecutive times.

In one case, the CIA was told it could prey on one prisoner's fear of insects by stuffing him into a box with a bug. When all else failed, the CIA could turn to what a Justice Department memo described as "the most traumatic" interrogation technique of all, waterboarding.

Baring what he called a "dark and painful chapter in our history," President Barack Obama on Thursday released a collection of secret Justice Department documents that provided graphic guidance to the CIA on how far the agency could go to extract information from terrorism suspects.

The memos provide the most detailed account to date not only of the interrogation arsenal the CIA employed against Al Qaeda captives in secret prisons around the world, but the legal arguments that the Bush administration constructed to justify their use.

At the same time, Obama assured CIA employees and other U.S. operatives that they would be protected from prosecution or other legal exposure for their roles in the nation's counterterrorism efforts over the past eight years.

"This is a time for reflection, not retribution," Obama said in a message delivered to CIA employees Thursday, explaining his decision to release a collection of documents that CIA veterans and some senior officials in his administration had fought to keep sealed.

The release of the memos was seen as a test of the Obama administration's commitment to its pledge of transparency, as well as its promise to roll back Bush administration counterterrorism policies.

But the decision was met with criticism among conservatives and CIA veterans who warned that the highly detailed documents would serve as a counterinterrogation training manual for Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

Former CIA Director Michael Hayden said Thursday that the release of the memos would make the country less safe.

The documents go beyond cataloging the methods that the CIA was authorized to use and spell out in often disconcerting detail how such methods were to be administered.

Prisoners could be kept shackled in a standing position for as many as 180 hours. The documents provide statistics, noting that more than a dozen CIA prisoners had been deprived of sleep for at least 48 hours, three for more than 96, and one for the nearly eight-day maximum stated on one memo. Another seemed to endorse sleep deprivation for 11 days.

The documents include elaborate legal debate over waterboarding, the interrogation technique that makes a prisoner believe he is in imminent danger of drowning. The memos spell out that a prisoner could be waterboarded at most six times during a two-hour session, and they require an attending physician to be on duty in case a prisoner didn't recover after being returned to an upright position.

In that event, "the intervening physician would perform a tracheotomy," said a May 10, 2005, memo, one of several documents that seemed to strain to find a legal rationale for the technique.

The memos were crafted by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, a unit that was at the center of a series of legal debates during the Bush administration over the limits of executive power and counterterrorism tactics.

The memos were designed to fill in details left out of more theoretical opinions—some of which eventually surfaced publicly—that were produced by the Justice Department as it sought to lay out the legal boundaries of the Bush administration's "war on terror."

The four documents cover a period from 2002 until 2005, when the government was recalculating its approach to detention and interrogation matters in the aftermath of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq.

The release of the documents was preceded by months of jostling between CIA and Justice Department officials over how much to disclose. A Justice Department official said Atty. Gen. Eric Holder urged full disclosure to help restore trust in a department that had been beleaguered by criticism that it had twisted the law to fit the Bush administration's political ends.

The release of the memos was driven to a large degree by an ACLU lawsuit aimed at forcing the government to disclose secret rulings issued in connection with the CIA's detention and interrogation programs.

But Obama's decision to shield agency employees from legal liability drew criticism from human-rights groups. Holder said the Justice Department would provide legal representation to CIA employees facing legal challenge in the United States or overseas.

Meanwhile, Spain's attorney general Thursday rejected opening an investigation into whether six Bush administration officials sanctioned torture against terror suspects at the prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, saying a U.S. courtroom would be the proper forum. Candido Conde-Pumpido's remarks reduce the chance of a case moving forward against the Americans, including former U.S. Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales.
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Old 04-16-2009, 11:54 PM   #2
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you can read them here:

American Civil Liberties Union : Office of Legal Counsel Memos
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Old 04-17-2009, 02:04 AM   #3
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If only you signed the Rome Statute and actually ratified it.
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Old 04-17-2009, 04:07 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Irvine511 View Post
Have any of you guys read this stuff? I've only had time to read the shortest one so far.


http://luxmedia.vo.llnwd.net/o10/cli...2002_bybee.pdf
(added emphasis mine: )
Quote:
Section 2340A makes it a criminal offense for any person "outside of the United States [to] commit[] or attempt[] to commit torture." Section 2340(1) defines torture as:
an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain and suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody of physical control.
.....................................................................................................

As we explained in our recent opinion, an individual must have the specific intent to cause prolonged mental harm in order to have the specific intent to inflict severe mental pain or suffering. See Section 2340A Memorandum at 8. Prolonged mental harm is substantial mental harm of a sustained duration, e.g., harm lasting months or even years after the acts were inflicted upon the prisoner. As we indicated above, a good faith belief can negate this element. Accordingly, if an individual conducting the interrogation has a good faith belief that the procedures he will apply, separately or together, would not result in prolonged mental harm, that individual lacks the requisite specific intent.
...etc., etc.

"Yes, the law forbids intentionally inflicting severe mental pain--but don't worry, we've decided that 'severe' means you know it'll last for years and 'intentionally' means you want it to last for years. So, as long as you doubt it will last for years, and aren't aiming for it to either, then intentionally inflicting severe mental pain is A-OK."

Can you believe this shit?

If anything, it makes it even more disturbing to read the work of the attorneys whose job it was to apply their advanced learning and professional expertise to come up with rationalizations for circumventing the law.
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Old 04-17-2009, 04:43 AM   #5
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It's frustrating that Obama won't prosecute these people. Olbermann eloquently articulated in a special comment why Obama is wrong about not prosecuting:

YouTube - PROSECUTE! MR PRESIDENT! Olbermann Special Comment
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Old 04-17-2009, 05:40 AM   #6
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http://luxmedia.vo.llnwd.net/o10/cli...5_bradbury.pdf

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We recognize that as a matter of diplomacy, the United States may for various reasons in various circumstances call another nation to account for practices that may in some respects resemble conduct in which the United States might in some circumstances engage, covertly or otherwise. Diplomatic relations with regard to foreign countries are not reliable evidence of United States executive practice and thus may be of only limited relevance here.
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Old 04-17-2009, 09:02 AM   #7
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If they were prosecuted, wouldn't former President Bush be included? Since, he was the Commander and Chief.
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Old 04-17-2009, 10:19 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by yolland View Post
Can you believe this shit?

If anything, it makes it even more disturbing to read the work of the attorneys whose job it was to apply their advanced learning and professional expertise to come up with rationalizations for circumventing the law.


i did read, somewhere, last night, that Obama has actually given himself some wiggle room. if it's determined that these memos don't rise to the status of what is understood as "legal advice," and they're revealed to be entirely political in nature, then the protection Holder has given to the CIA operatives as well as John Yoo and others would vanish.
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Old 04-17-2009, 10:26 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yolland View Post
Have any of you guys read this stuff? I've only had time to read the shortest one so far.


http://luxmedia.vo.llnwd.net/o10/cli...2002_bybee.pdf
(added emphasis mine: )

...etc., etc.

"Yes, the law forbids intentionally inflicting severe mental pain--but don't worry, we've decided that 'severe' means you know it'll last for years and 'intentionally' means you want it to last for years. So, as long as you doubt it will last for years, and aren't aiming for it to either, then intentionally inflicting severe mental pain is A-OK."

Can you believe this shit?

If anything, it makes it even more disturbing to read the work of the attorneys whose job it was to apply their advanced learning and professional expertise to come up with rationalizations for circumventing the law.
Doing my internship at an organisation that treats victims of torture I had to read up a little on (chronic) trauma and torture.
In no way am I an expert on this, but from my readings I feel safe to say: It is utter bullshit to claim that any person who engaged in torture could honestly believe that the victim won't suffer for the rest of his life. The whole concept of torture relies on breaking the victim, it is a slow process of systematically undermining the person's dignity and self-respect, something that will leave that person permanently traumatized and in need of extensive treatment.
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Old 04-17-2009, 01:09 PM   #10
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the Right Wing talking points are up in the WSJ:


Quote:
The President Ties His Own Hands on Terror
The point of interrogation is intelligence, not confession.

By MICHAEL HAYDEN and MICHAEL B. MUKASEY

The Obama administration has declassified and released opinions of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) given in 2005 and earlier that analyze the legality of interrogation techniques authorized for use by the CIA. Those techniques were applied only when expressly permitted by the director, and are described in these opinions in detail, along with their limits and the safeguards applied to them.

The release of these opinions was unnecessary as a legal matter, and is unsound as a matter of policy. Its effect will be to invite the kind of institutional timidity and fear of recrimination that weakened intelligence gathering in the past, and that we came sorely to regret on Sept. 11, 2001.

Proponents of the release have argued that the techniques have been abandoned and thus there is no point in keeping them secret any longer; that they were in any event ineffective; that their disclosure was somehow legally compelled; and that they cost us more in the coin of world opinion than they were worth. None of these claims survives scrutiny.

Soon after he was sworn in, President Barack Obama signed an executive order that suspended use of these techniques and confined not only the military but all U.S. agencies -- including the CIA -- to the interrogation limits set in the Army Field Manual. This suspension was accompanied by a commitment to further study the interrogation program, and government personnel were cautioned that they could no longer rely on earlier opinions of the OLC.

Although evidence shows that the Army Field Manual, which is available online, is already used by al Qaeda for training purposes, it was certainly the president's right to suspend use of any technique. However, public disclosure of the OLC opinions, and thus of the techniques themselves, assures that terrorists are now aware of the absolute limit of what the U.S. government could do to extract information from them, and can supplement their training accordingly and thus diminish the effectiveness of these techniques as they have the ones in the Army Field Manual.

Moreover, disclosure of the details of the program pre-empts the study of the president's task force and assures that the suspension imposed by the president's executive order is effectively permanent. There would be little point in the president authorizing measures whose nature and precise limits have already been disclosed in detail to those whose resolve we hope to overcome. This conflicts with the sworn promise of the current director of the CIA, Leon Panetta, who testified in aid of securing Senate confirmation that if he thought he needed additional authority to conduct interrogation to get necessary information, he would seek it from the president. By allowing this disclosure, President Obama has tied not only his own hands but also the hands of any future administration faced with the prospect of attack.

Disclosure of the techniques is likely to be met by faux outrage, and is perfectly packaged for media consumption. It will also incur the utter contempt of our enemies. Somehow, it seems unlikely that the people who beheaded Nicholas Berg and Daniel Pearl, and have tortured and slain other American captives, are likely to be shamed into giving up violence by the news that the U.S. will no longer interrupt the sleep cycle of captured terrorists even to help elicit intelligence that could save the lives of its citizens.

Which brings us to the next of the justifications for disclosing and thus abandoning these measures: that they don't work anyway, and that those who are subjected to them will simply make up information in order to end their ordeal. This ignorant view of how interrogations are conducted is belied by both experience and common sense. If coercive interrogation had been administered to obtain confessions, one might understand the argument. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), who organized the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, among others, and who has boasted of having beheaded Daniel Pearl, could eventually have felt pressed to provide a false confession. But confessions aren't the point. Intelligence is. Interrogation is conducted by using such obvious approaches as asking questions whose correct answers are already known and only when truthful information is provided proceeding to what may not be known. Moreover, intelligence can be verified, correlated and used to get information from other detainees, and has been; none of this information is used in isolation.

The terrorist Abu Zubaydah (sometimes derided as a low-level operative of questionable reliability, but who was in fact close to KSM and other senior al Qaeda leaders) disclosed some information voluntarily. But he was coerced into disclosing information that led to the capture of Ramzi bin al Shibh, another of the planners of Sept. 11, who in turn disclosed information which -- when combined with what was learned from Abu Zubaydah -- helped lead to the capture of KSM and other senior terrorists, and the disruption of follow-on plots aimed at both Europe and the U.S. Details of these successes, and the methods used to obtain them, were disclosed repeatedly in more than 30 congressional briefings and hearings beginning in 2002, and open to all members of the Intelligence Committees of both Houses of Congress beginning in September 2006. Any protestation of ignorance of those details, particularly by members of those committees, is pretense.

The techniques themselves were used selectively against only a small number of hard-core prisoners who successfully resisted other forms of interrogation, and then only with the explicit authorization of the director of the CIA. Of the thousands of unlawful combatants captured by the U.S., fewer than 100 were detained and questioned in the CIA program. Of those, fewer than one-third were subjected to any of the techniques discussed in these opinions. As already disclosed by Director Hayden, as late as 2006, even with the growing success of other intelligence tools, fully half of the government's knowledge about the structure and activities of al Qaeda came from those interrogations.

Nor was there any legal reason compelling such disclosure. To be sure, the American Civil Liberties Union has sued under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain copies of these and other memoranda, but the government until now has successfully resisted such lawsuits. Even when the government disclosed that three members of al Qaeda had been subjected to waterboarding but that the technique was no longer part of the CIA interrogation program, the court sustained the government's argument that the precise details of how it was done, including limits and safeguards, could remain classified against the possibility that some future president may authorize its use. Therefore, notwithstanding the suggestion that disclosure was somehow legally compelled, there was no legal impediment to the Justice Department making the same argument even with respect to any techniques that remained in the CIA program until last January.

There is something of the self-fulfilling prophecy in the claim that our interrogation of some unlawful combatants beyond the limits set in the Army Field Manual has disgraced us before the world. Such a claim often conflates interrogation with the sadism engaged in by some soldiers at Abu Ghraib, an incident that had nothing whatever to do with intelligence gathering. The limits of the Army Field Manual are entirely appropriate for young soldiers, for the conditions in which they operate, for the detainees they routinely question, and for the kinds of tactically relevant information they pursue. Those limits are not appropriate, however, for more experienced people in controlled circumstances with high-value detainees. Indeed, the Army Field Manual was created with awareness that there was an alternative protocol for high-value detainees.

In addition, there were those who believed that the U.S. deserved what it got on Sept. 11, 2001. Such people, and many who purport to speak for world opinion, were resourceful both before and after the Sept. 11 attacks in crafting reasons to resent America's role as a superpower. Recall also that the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993, the attacks on our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the punctiliously correct trials of defendants in connection with those incidents, and the bombing of the USS Cole took place long before the advent of CIA interrogations, the invasion of Saddam Hussein's Iraq, or the many other purported grievances asserted over the past eight years.

The effect of this disclosure on the morale and effectiveness of many in the intelligence community is not hard to predict. Those charged with the responsibility of gathering potentially lifesaving information from unwilling captives are now told essentially that any legal opinion they get as to the lawfulness of their activity is only as durable as political fashion permits. Even with a seemingly binding opinion in hand, which future CIA operations personnel would take the risk? There would be no wink, no nod, no handshake that would convince them that legal guidance is durable. Any president who wants to apply such techniques without such a binding and durable legal opinion had better be prepared to apply them himself.

Beyond that, anyone in government who seeks an opinion from the OLC as to the propriety of any action, or who authors an opinion for the OLC, is on notice henceforth that such a request for advice, and the advice itself, is now more likely than before to be subject after the fact to public and partisan criticism. It is hard to see how that will promote candor either from those who should be encouraged to ask for advice before they act, or from those who must give it.

In his book "The Terror Presidency," Jack Goldsmith describes the phenomenon we are now experiencing, and its inevitable effect, referring to what he calls "cycles of timidity and aggression" that have weakened intelligence gathering in the past. Politicians pressure the intelligence community to push to the legal limit, and then cast accusations when aggressiveness goes out of style, thereby encouraging risk aversion, and then, as occurred in the wake of 9/11, criticizing the intelligence community for feckless timidity. He calls these cycles "a terrible problem for our national security." Indeed they are, and the precipitous release of these OLC opinions simply makes the problem worse.
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Old 04-17-2009, 01:18 PM   #11
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and Sullivan has a forceful blog entry that's worth posting:


Quote:
It will take some time to absorb the full implications of the ICRC report and the OLC memos. Right now, many are understandably focused on the legal details, the grotesque specifics of the techniques ("insects", "walling"?), the inconsistencies of the memos, the weakness of the legal arguments, the human context in which some of these decisions were made. I certainly think we have to remember the climate of terror and fear of the unknown that followed the 9/11 attacks, a climate that dragged all of us, including this blogger, to places we now wish we hadn't gone. And it's equally important to remember the sense of responsibility Bush and Cheney must have felt for already presiding over the worst attack on the mainland US in history. This helps explain, even if it does not excuse, the extremism of a Yoo or Cheney, whose eagerness to prove the absolute power of an untrammeled executive branch led us into the legal and moral and strategic darkness.

No: what is far more important and far graver is the decision after the 2004 re-election, after the original period of panic, to set up a torture program, replete with every professional and bureaucratic nicety. This is why the Bradbury memo of 2005 is so much more chilling in its way. This was long after Abu Ghraib, long after the initial panic, and a pre-meditated attempt to turn the US into a secret torture state. These legal memos construct a form of torture, through various classic torture techniques, used separately and in combination, that were to be used systematically, by a professional torture team along the lines proposed by Charles Krauthammer, and buttressed by a small army of lawyers, psychologists and doctors - especially doctors - to turn the US into a torture state. The legal limits were designed to maximize the torture while minimizing excessive physical damage, to take prisoners to the edge while making sure, by the use of medical professionals, that they did not die and would not have permanent injuries.

The core point of this, one infers from the memos, is to create a sense among the prisoners that their assumptions about the West, the US, and countries constructed on the rule of law are without any basis whatever. The torture techniques were all the more brutal in order to push back against the reputation of the US even in the minds of Qaeda or alleged Qaeda members. What Mukasey and Hayden are arguing for today is a scheme whereby, in secret, the US government credibly allows captives to believe they are in an endless, bottomless pit of extra-legal terror. This is the state of mind they are trying to construct by torture. That's the point of the sensory deprivation, the disappearances, the sequestering from the Red Cross, the endless solitary confinement, the IRFing, the hoods, the nudity, and all the other sadism. It is precisely to persuade the barbarians that we are as bad as they are and have no limits and no qualms in doing to them whatever we want.

Looked at from a distance, the Bush administration wanted to do two things at once: to declare to the world that freedom is on the march, and human rights are coming to the world with American help, while simultaneously declaring to captives that the US has no interest in the law, human rights, accountability, transparency or humanity. They wanted to give hope to all the oppressed of the planet, while surgically banishing all hope from the prisoners they captured and tortured. And the only way they could pull this off is by the total secrecy they constructed and defended. So we had a public government respectful of the rule of law, and a secret government whose main goal was persuading terror suspects that there was no rule of law at all. It is hard to convey just how dangerous this was and is.

Moreover, this was done by the professional classes in this society. It was not done by Lynndie England or some night-shift sadists at Abu Ghraib. According to these documents, almost nothing that was done at Abu Ghraib was outside the limits agreed to by Bush - and much of what was done at Abu Ghraib was mild in comparison. So when the president acted "shocked" at what we all saw, and said it was not America, he was also authorizing far worse in secret - and systematizing it long after Abu Ghraib was over. He was either therefore a fantastic liar on one of the gravest matters imaginable or so psychologically compartmentalized and prone to rigid denial of reality and so unversed in history, law and morality that he had no reason being president.

If you want to know how democracies die, read these memos. Read how gifted professionals in the CIA were able to convince experienced doctors that what they were doing was ethical and legal. Read how American psychologists were able to find justifications for the imposition of psychological torture, and were able to analyze its effects without ever stopping and asking: what on earth are we doing?


Read how no one is even close to debating "ticking time bomb" scenarios as they strap people to boards and drown them until they break. Then read how they adjusted the waterboarding, for fear it was too much, for fear that they were actually in danger of suffocating their captives, and then read how they found self-described loopholes in the law to tell themselves that what the US had once prosecuted as torture could not possibly be torture because we're doing it, and we're different from the Viet Cong. We're doing torture right and for the right reasons and with the right motive. Many of the people who did this are mild, kind, courteous, family men and women, who somehow were able to defend slamming human beings against walls in the daytime while watching the Charlie Rose show over a glass of wine at night. We've seen this syndrome before, in other places and at other times. Yes: it can happen here. And imagine how this already functioning torture machine would have operated in the wake of another attack under a president Romney or Giuliani.

It is this professionalism and bureaucratic mastery that chills in the end. Not the brutality of "the program," but the modernity and banality of the apparatus around it. As Orwell predicted, the English language had to disappear first. The president referred to waterboarding prisoners as "asking them questions." Bringing prisoners' temperatures down to hypothermia levels was simply an "alternative set of procedures." The entire process is "enhanced interrogation." Even the press has to find a way to call it merely "harsh", a term now changed to "brutal" in the NYT, even though nothing we found out yesterday was more brutal than anything we knew about before.

Mukasey and Hayden complain that the president has tied the hands of future presidents in this. Yes, he has. What Obama understands is that what is truly vital is that this dark and shameful period not become a workable precedent. It must be repudiated at the very heart of the American political system, and removed like the cancer it is.

The question of prosecution remains. It's a painful decision. My view is that those who pay the legal price should be, first and foremost, those who authorized this at the highest levels. My view is also that it is a travesty that the Abu Ghraib reservists were prosecuted, and yet far, far more culpable people are claiming it would be too divisive to prosecute them. My view is that no one is above the law, and that when a society based on law prosecutes the powerless and excuses the powerful, it is corroding its own soul.

But my view is also that the president has acted wisely in this. As president in wartime, he knows how wounding it would be to engage in this kind of activity right now. But he has also ensured that a process of transparency continue. A full accounting of all of this - by people from both parties with real power to investigate and report (a 9/11 style commission, in other words) would be a natural next step. There is still much we don't know. It should take its time to get everything right. Justice can be slow as long as it is guaranteed. From the president, some well-chosen words he clearly wrote himself:

Quote:
At a time of great challenges and disturbing disunity, nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past. Our national greatness is embedded in America's ability to right its course in concert with our core values, and to move forward with confidence. That is why we must resist the forces that divide us, and instead come together on behalf of our common future. The United States is a nation of laws. My Administration will always act in accordance with those laws, and with an unshakeable commitment to our ideals. That is why we have released these memos, and that is why we have taken steps to ensure that the actions described within them never take place again.
Let me repeat the critical two words in that paragraph: Never. Again.
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Old 04-17-2009, 06:57 PM   #12
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ENHANCED INTERROGATIONS!!!

When are you libs going to get it right?
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Old 04-17-2009, 08:14 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WSJ
The techniques themselves were used selectively against only a small number of hard-core prisoners who successfully resisted other forms of interrogation, and then only with the explicit authorization of the director of the CIA. Of the thousands of unlawful combatants captured by the U.S., fewer than 100 were detained and questioned in the CIA program. Of those, fewer than one-third were subjected to any of the techniques discussed in these opinions. As already disclosed by Director Hayden, as late as 2006, even with the growing success of other intelligence tools, fully half of the government's knowledge about the structure and activities of al Qaeda came from those interrogations.
I think your average citizen is ok with this.
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Old 04-17-2009, 08:22 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Bluer White View Post
I think your average citizen is ok with this.
What's the position of the average citizen regarding the child rape and torture?
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Old 04-18-2009, 12:31 AM   #15
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I think your average citizen is ok with this.
No. We are not okay with this.
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