Archive for April, 2009|Monthly archive page

U.S. Military Flies Jet Low Over New York City for Photo-Op: New Yorkers Reminded of 9/11 and Panic

In 9/11 News on April 28, 2009 at 9:13 am

A photo-op for the U.S. military scares New Yorkers:

NEW YORK (AP) — It was supposed to be a photo op that captured images of an Air Force One plane with a majestic Statue of Liberty in the background. Instead, it turned into a public relations nightmare that led to recriminations from the president and mayor and prompted thousands other to ask, “What were they thinking?”  Just before the workday began on Monday, an airliner and supersonic fighter jet zoomed past the lower Manhattan skyline. Within minutes, startled financial workers streamed out of their offices, fearing a nightmarish replay of Sept. 11.

For a half-hour, the Boeing 747 and F-16 jet circled the Statue of Liberty and the Financial District near the World Trade Center site. Offices evacuated. Dispatchers were inundated with calls. Witnesses thought the planes were flying dangerously low. But the flyover was nothing but a photo op, apparently one of a series of flights to get pictures of the plane in front of national landmarks.

It was carried out by the Defense Department with little warning, infuriating New York officials and putting the White House on the defense. Even Mayor Michael Bloomberg didn’t know about it, and he later called it “insensitive” to fly so near the site of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.  “Why the Defense Department wanted to do a photo op right around the site of the World Trade Center catastrophe defies the imagination,” Bloomberg said. “Poor judgment would be a nice way to phrase it. … Had I known about it, I would have called them right away and asked them not to.”

When told of the flight, President Barack Obama was furious, a White House official said on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.


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How 2007 Interview with Former CIA Official John Kiriakou Helped to Promote Torture of Terror Suspects

In Torture on April 28, 2009 at 8:59 am

The NYTimes has an interesting article about how claims by government officials — in this case, of the CIA — helped to promote the use of torture on terror suspects by claiming it saves American lives:

In late 2007, there was the first crack of daylight into the government’s use of waterboarding during interrogations of Al Qaeda detainees. On Dec. 10, John Kiriakou, a former C.I.A. officer who had participated in the capture of the suspected terrorist Abu Zubaydah in Pakistan in 2002, appeared on ABC News to say that while he considered waterboarding a form of torture, the technique worked and yielded results very quickly. Mr. Zubaydah started to cooperate after being waterboarded for “probably 30, 35 seconds,” Mr. Kiriakou told the ABC reporter Brian Ross. “From that day on he answered every question.”

His claims — unverified at the time, but repeated by dozens of broadcasts, blogs and newspapers — have been sharply contradicted by a newly declassified Justice Department memo that said waterboarding had been used on Mr. Zubaydah “at least 83 times.”

During the heated debate in 2007 over the use of waterboarding and other techniques, Mr. Kiriakou’s comments quickly ricocheted around the media. “It works, is the bottom line,” Rush Limbaugh exclaimed on his radio show the next day. “Thirty to 35 seconds, and it works.”  Mr. Kiriakou subsequently granted interviews to The Washington Post, The New York Times, National Public Radio, CBS, CNN, MSNBC and other media organizations. A CNN anchor called him “the man of the hour.”

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Ali Soufan: “traditional interrogation techniques are successful in identifying operatives, uncovering plots and saving lives”

In Civil Liberties, Torture on April 23, 2009 at 8:46 pm

Ali Soufan, whom Lawrence Wright made famous in his Pulitzer Prize winning “The Looming Tower,” says that traditional interrogation techniques are superior to the “harsh interrogation” techniques approves under the Bush Administration.  His op-ed piece is here:

FOR seven years I have remained silent about the false claims magnifying the effectiveness of the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques like waterboarding. I have spoken only in closed government hearings, as these matters were classified. But the release last week of four Justice Department memos on interrogations allows me to shed light on the story, and on some of the lessons to be learned.

One of the most striking parts of the memos is the false premises on which they are based. The first, dated August 2002, grants authorization to use harsh interrogation techniques on a high-ranking terrorist, Abu Zubaydah, on the grounds that previous methods hadn’t been working. The next three memos cite the successes of those methods as a justification for their continued use.

It is inaccurate, however, to say that Abu Zubaydah had been uncooperative. Along with another F.B.I. agent, and with several C.I.A. officers present, I questioned him from March to June 2002, before the harsh techniques were introduced later in August. Under traditional interrogation methods, he provided us with important actionable intelligence.

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9/11 Hijackers Did Not Come Through Canada

In 9/11 News on April 23, 2009 at 9:25 am

An old “urban legend” that the 9/11 hijackers entered the U.S. through Canada was apparently mentioned as fact by the new head of the Department of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano:

The furor began when Napolitano was asked to clarify statements she had made about equal treatment for the Mexican and Canadian borders, despite the fact that a flood of illegal immigrants and a massive drug war are two serious issues on the southern border. “Yes, Canada is not Mexico, it doesn’t have a drug war going on, it didn’t have 6,000 homicides that were drug-related last year,” she said.

“Nonetheless, to the extent that terrorists have come into our country or suspected or known terrorists have entered our country across a border, it’s been across the Canadian border. There are real issues there.”  When asked if she was referring to the 9-11 terrorists, Napolitano added: “Not just those but others as well.”

The U.S. Homeland Security chief has clarified earlier remarks that suggested the 9-11 terrorists entered the U.S. through Canada. In a release Tuesday night following the interview, she called Canada a “close ally and an important partner” and said she was simply misunderstood. “I know that the September 11th hijackers did not come through Canada to the United States,” she said in the statement.

Obama’s National Intelligence Director Says Now Banned Interrogation Techniques Yielded Good Intelligence

In Civil Liberties, Torture on April 22, 2009 at 9:30 am

According to the New York Times:

President Obama’s national intelligence director told colleagues in a private memo last week that the harsh interrogation techniques banned by the White House did produce significant information that helped the nation in its struggle with terrorists.  “High value information came from interrogations in which those methods were used and provided a deeper understanding of the al Qa’ida organization that was attacking this country,” Adm. Dennis C. Blair, the intelligence director, wrote in a memo to his staff last Thursday.

“I like to think I would not have approved those methods in the past,” he wrote, “but I do not fault those who made the decisions at that time, and I will absolutely defend those who carried out the interrogations within the orders they were given.”

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Donald Rumsfeld Approved SERE Interrogation Techniques for Military Use Against Terror Suspects

In Torture on April 22, 2009 at 9:24 am

A recently declassified report shows that the harsh interrogation techniques included in SERE were approved by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for use by military personnel in the interrogation of suspects in the War On Terror:

The report focused solely on interrogations carried out by the military, not those conducted by the Central Intelligence Agency at its secret prisons overseas. It rejected claims by former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and others that Pentagon policies played no role in harsh treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq or other military facilities.

The 232-page report, the product of an 18-month inquiry, was approved on Nov. 20 by the Senate Armed Services Committee, but has since been under Pentagon review for declassification. Some of the findings were made public in a Dec. 12 article in The New York Times; a spokesman for Mr. Rumsfeld dismissed the report at the time as “unfounded allegations against those who have served our nation.”

The Senate report documented how some of the techniques used by the military at prisons in Afghanistan and at the naval base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, as well as in Iraq — stripping detainees, placing them in “stress positions” or depriving them of sleep — originated in a military program known as Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape, or SERE, intended to train American troops to resist abusive enemy interrogations.

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In 9/11 News, Torture on April 21, 2009 at 9:11 am

That’s how many times 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed was waterboarded:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – CIA interrogators used the waterboarding technique on Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the admitted planner of the September 11 attacks, 183 times and 83 times on another al Qaeda suspect, The New York Times said on Sunday.  The Times said a 2005 Justice Department memorandum showed that Abu Zubaydah, the first prisoner questioned in the CIA’s overseas detention program in August 2002, was waterboarded 83 times, although a former CIA officer had told news media he had been subjected to only 35 seconds underwater before talking.

President Barack Obama has banned the use of waterboarding, overturning a Bush administration policy that it did not constitute torture. The Justice Department memo said the simulated drowning technique was used on Mohammed 183 times in March 2003. The Times said some copies of the memos appeared to have the number of waterboardings redacted while others did not.

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Former VP Cheney Calls for Release of “Successful” Interrogation Memos

In Civil Liberties, Torture on April 21, 2009 at 9:08 am

Former Vice President under President Bush, Dick Cheney, told FOX news that he called for the release of other interrogation memos to be released that highlight “successes” of the CIA interrogation program:

Former Vice President Dick Cheney last month formally asked the Central Intelligence Agency to de-classify top secret documents he believes show harsh interrogation techniques such as waterboarding helped prevent terrorist attacks against U.S. targets, according to source familiar with the effort. The request was made in late March, before President Barack Obama unsealed top-secret memos about past interrogation techniques last week.

“It worked. It’s been enormously valuable in terms of saving lives,” Cheney said on Fox News Channel’s “Hannity.” “I know specifically of reports that I read, that I saw, that lay out what we learned through the interrogation process and what the consequences were for the country.”

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Justice Department Releases CIA Interrogation Memos: Obama Vows Not to Prosecute CIA Operatives

In Rendition, Torture on April 17, 2009 at 9:13 am

Justice Department releases CIA interrogation memos while President Obama confirms that he will not seek prosecution for CIA operatives who engaged in these interrogation techniques:

The Justice Department on Thursday made public detailed memos describing brutal interrogation techniques used by the Central Intelligence Agency, as President Obama sought to reassure the agency that the C.I.A. operatives involved would not be prosecuted. 

In dozens of pages of dispassionate legal prose, the methods approved by the Bush administration for extracting information from senior operatives of Al Qaeda are spelled out in careful detail — like keeping detainees awake for up to 11 straight days, placing them in a dark, cramped box or putting insects into the box to exploit their fears.  The interrogation methods were authorized beginning in 2002, and some were used as late as 2005 in the C.I.A.’s secret overseas prisons. The techniques were among the Bush administration’s most closely guarded secrets, and the documents released Thursday afternoon were the most comprehensive public accounting to date of the program.

Mr. Obama condemned what he called a “dark and painful chapter in our history” and said that the interrogation techniques would never be used again. But he also repeated his opposition to a lengthy inquiry into the program, saying that “nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past.”

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Justice Department Admits that NSA Abused Their Power

In Civil Liberties on April 16, 2009 at 1:25 pm

Justice Department finds illegality in National Security Agency monitoring of Americans:

The Justice Department has reined in electronic surveillance by the National Security Agency after finding the agency had improperly accessed American phone calls and e-mails.

The problems were discovered during a review of the intelligence activities, the Justice Department said in a statement Wednesday night.  The New York Times, which first reported the matter on its Web site, said the NSA had been improperly intercepting communications by Americans.  In its statement, the Justice Department said it has taken “comprehensive steps to correct the situation and bring the program into compliance.”  The Justice Department did not elaborate on what problems it found.

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