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The [Wednesday] Papers

"The Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday issued a sweeping indictment of the Central Intelligence Agency's program to detain and interrogate terrorism suspects in the years after the Sept. 11 attacks, drawing on millions of internal C.I.A. documents to illuminate practices that it said were more brutal - and far less effective - than the agency acknowledged either to Bush administration officials or to the public," the New York Times reports.

"The long-delayed report delivers a withering judgment on one of the most controversial tactics of a twilight war waged over a dozen years. The Senate committee's investigation, born of what its chairwoman, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, said was a need to reckon with the excesses of this war, found that C.I.A. officials routinely misled the White House and Congress about the information it obtained, and failed to provide basic oversight of the secret prisons it established around the world."

John Kass is not impressed.

"Detainees were shackled, sometimes hooded, and 'dragged up and down corridors while beings slapped and punched,' according to the committee," he writes. "One Afghan militant, a man named Gul Rahman, died of hypothermia in the pit after he was beaten, stripped naked and left chained to a concrete floor. There were many other details, but the gist of it has been known for years."

Really? Did you know this, John?

Not only that, but Rahman was another case of mistaken identity:

*


"Some members of the committee were critical of the release of the report, saying it would incite emotions and put Americans at risk," Kass continues.

"We've known all this stuff for years," Sen. Dan Coats, the Indiana Republican and member of the committee, told me in an interview Tuesday on my WLS-AM radio program. "It's been discussed on every news show, by every newspaper, by so many journalists. But the real question is: Why now?

If "this stuff" has been known for years - on every news show, by every newspaper, by so many journalists (oh, if only) - then why would there be any danger by releasing a report of it?

*

And if Coats and Kass don't know the answer to the "real" question - Why now? - then neither has been doing their job of paying attention. It's not as if the report is being rushed out the door; it's been in the making for nearly six years. The Senate finished its draft two years ago.

I'll let ProPublica answer:

"What took so long? It's a tale of White House indecisiveness, Republican opposition, and CIA snooping."

And that's being kind.

It's a really a tale of tyranny, shame and lawlessness.

*

So Tribune cartoonist Scott Stantis distrusts government because it operates beyond the rule of law? Which exists only because of government.

I don't get it.

But according to Kass, we already knew whatever it is Stantis is talking about.

*

The Tribune editorial page pulls off a neat trick by opening its reflection on the Torture Report with a reminder of the moment after 9/11:

"America's national security network launched an urgent mission to find and interrogate terror suspects as quickly as possible. We have known that prisoners were brutally interrogated, that some died in captivity. We have known that Justice Department officials scrambled to set some of the rules for that interrogation. CIA officials have long maintained that under brutal techniques, suspects gave up vital information that led to the capture of terrorists and disruption of their plans."

The rules of such interrogations were already in place. The CIA ignored them and Justice Department lawyers invented laughable legal theories to give them cover. And the report makes crystal clear that not a single instance in which the CIA says "brutal techniques" - also known as "torture" - yielded not just vital information but information of any value at all is so; torture was a total whiff.

But watch what the Tribune does next:

"In the relative calm 13 years since, 13 years without a major terror attack on U.S. soil, we're now learning more about what the CIA did in the aftermath of Sept. 11."

See, they want you to believe that the "relative calm" of the past 13 years is somehow due to CIA torture. We had 9/11, we tortured, we've had 13 years of calm. Nothing to see here!

And about how we're now learning more about what the CIA did after 9/11? The Trib goes on to catalog how we already knew all of this, which is always one of the last refuges of the defensive side of an argument.

"Recall that leaders of the Senate and House Intelligence committees of both parties were briefed repeatedly on the techniques over the years," the Trib writes.

"In 2002, four members of Congress met in secret and were 'given a virtual tour of the CIA's overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques interrogators had devised to try to make their prisoners talk,' The Washington Post reported in 2007. Among the techniques described was waterboarding. No objections were heard. 'Instead, at least two lawmakers asked the CIA to push harder, two U.S. officials said,' the Post reported. 'The briefer was specifically asked if the methods were tough enough,' said a U.S. official who witnessed the exchange.'"

Yes, the leaders of the intelligence committees were briefed. Yes, four members of Congress met in secret. Four. In secret. And two anonymously asked the CIA to push harder. According to an anonymous U.S. official.

That's the point of releasing this report: To inform the last ones to know, the American people.

The Trib finishes with its non-apology - and warning that we just might do it again. Justifiably!

"We're still learning about the frenzied effort to protect our citizens in those chaotic and petrifying days after the worst terrorist assault in U.S. history. We've changed what we consider permissible as a response to gather the intelligence needed to protect the nation. Though if, when, there is another attack of such horrifying magnitude, it's unlikely the U.S. response will go neatly according to plan. It will be in real time, not in hindsight."

In other words, the next time we go to war to protect the values our enemies hate, we'll be quite prepared to trash those values to, um, protect them.

Oh, and also, this is all just in hindsight, which is really unfair. But don't question our methods in real time - that only helps our enemies.

In other words, shut up.

*

What America did post-9/11 wasn't just less than neat, in the fog of war. It was the deeply thought out and intellectualized installation of a brutal worldwide torture regime that flourished through fear transmitted through the media - a classic historical construct.

*

From Human Rights Watch: USA and Torture: A History of Hypocrisy.

*

Compare the Tribune's editorial with that of the Detroit Free Press:

"In the hectic days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, with the backing of our allies and the goodwill of many of our historic adversaries, this nation could have embarked on a radically different path. We could have forged new alliances, showed that even in our darkest days, the world should follow where America led. President Bush chose a different path. He launched a shoddy war on the flimsiest of excuses, the intelligence that supposedly justified his assault later proved false. He chose to either ignore what even a casual observer should have known was happening, or authorized a rogue intelligence agency over which he had no control.

"The report found that the CIA routinely lied to Congress and to Bush administration officials about the quality of information obtained through torture and the severity of its tactics; the agency acknowledges it made mistakes but says it never willfully misled. These distinctions are immaterial, incremental gradations of blame that do not dilute our shame.

"Because that is what this report is: A national shame. A chronicle of brutality that should shock even the most hardened reader. To defend the actions of CIA interrogators is impossible. Detainees were forced to stand on broken feet. Raped. Drowned. Subjected to extreme heat and cold, in at least one instance, fatally - all while Bush described the CIA's interrogation methods as 'humane and legal.' All in pursuit of information that never materialized, because it is generally acknowledged that torture does not produce reliable intelligence.

"We did this. So don't look away - from the report, or from the acts of contrition it demands."

*

The Tribune also saw fit to publish an Op-Ed from former CIA official Jose Rodriguez.

Here's a little something you should know about Rodriguez.

*

Nothing new?

The New York Times's key takeaways say otherwise. It's not even close.

*

Says the Times in its editorial:

"The world has long known that the United States government illegally detained and tortured prisoners after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and lied about it to Congress and the world. But the summary of a report released Tuesday of the Senate investigation of these operations, even after being sanitized by the Central Intelligence Agency itself, is a portrait of depravity that is hard to comprehend and even harder to stomach."

-

The Tortured History Of The Senate's Torture Report
The report they didn't want you to see.

The Trews: What Should We Think About CIA Torture?
Russell Brand explains it all.

Unspeakable Acts: Torture In Chicago
Indicting a city.

@BeachwoodReport
More torture report commentary on our Twitter feed.

-

The Beachwood Tip Line: Crystal clarity.



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Posted on December 10, 2014


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