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This article, by Jason Leopold, was originally posted to Truthout.org, June 17, 2009
On January 25, 2002, then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales advised George W. Bush in a memo to deny al-Qaeda and Taliban prisoners protections under the Geneva Conventions because doing so would "substantially reduces the threat of domestic criminal prosecution under the War Crimes Act" and "provide a solid defense to any future prosecution."
Two weeks later, Bush signed an action memorandum dated February 7, 2002, addressed to Vice President Dick Cheney, which denied baseline protections to al-Qaeda and Taliban prisoners under the Third Geneva Convention. That memo, according to a recently released bipartisan report issued by the Senate Armed Services Committee, opened the door to "considering aggressive techniques," which were then developed with the complicity of then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Bush's National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and other senior Bush officials.
"The President's order closed off application of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which would have afforded minimum standards for humane treatment, to al-Qaeda or Taliban detainees," says the committee's December 11 report.
"While the President's order stated that, as 'a matter of policy, the United States Armed Forces shall continue to treat detainees humanely and, to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles of the Geneva Conventions,' the decision to replace well established military doctrine, i.e., legal compliance with the Geneva Conventions, with a policy subject to interpretation, impacted the treatment of detainees in US custody."
The Supreme Court held in 2006, in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, that the prisoners were entitled to protections under the Geneva Conventions.
Many of the classified policy directives, such as Gonzales's memo to Bush, are now part of the public record thanks to the American Civil Liberties Union's (ACLU) Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Bush administration, which has so far resulted in the release of more than 100,000 pages of documents that shows how Bush officials twisted the law in order to build a legal framework for torture.
These documents have been posted on the ACLU's web site. But several hundred of the most explosive records were republished in the book "Administration of Torture" along with hard-hitting commentary by the ACLU's Jameel Jaffer, who heads the group's National Security Project, and Amrit Singh, a staff attorney with the organization.
Rumsfeld Wanted a "Product"
On February 14, 2002, just one week after Bush signed the action memo, Maj. Gen. Mike Dunlavey was contacted by Rumsfeld, who asked him to attend a Defense Department meeting with Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and others on February 21 or 22. At the meeting, Rumsfeld told Dunlavey he wanted him to oversee interrogations at the Guantanamo Bay naval facility in Cuba. Prisoners captured by US military personnel had first arrived at Guantanamo a month earlier. Dunlavey was a family court judge in Erie County, Pennsylvania, when he got the call from Rumsfeld and was placed in charge of interrogations at Guantanamo.
Rumsfeld told Dunlavey, according to a witness statement he made on March 17, 2005, to US Air Force Lt. Gen. Randall Schmidt, who was investigating FBI complaints about abuse at Guantanamo, that the Department of Defense had rounded up "a number of bad guys" and the secretary of defense "wanted a product and wanted intelligence now." Rumsfeld "wanted to set up interrogation operations and to identify the senior Taliban and senior operatives and to obtain information on what they were going to do regarding their operations and structure," Dunlavey said, according to a copy of his witness statement. "Initially, I was told that I would answer to SECDEF (Secretary of Defense) and [US Southern Command]. The directions changed and I got my marching orders from the President of the United States. I was told by the SECDEF that he wanted me back in Washington, DC every week to brief him.... The mission was to get intelligence to prevent another 9/11." Dunlavey did not explain what he meant by "I got my marching orders from the president." But his comments suggest that Bush may have played a much larger role in the interrogation of prisoners than he has let on. Moreover, Dunlavey's witness statement indicates that harsh interrogations, such as waterboarding, may have taken place earlier than previously known and may have preceded an August 1, 2002, legal opinion issued by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel authorizing specific interrogation techniques to use against prisoners.
As early as December 2001, according to the documents obtained by the ACLU, high-ranking military officials began to implement an Army and Air Force survival-training program called Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE), which were meant to prepare US soldiers for abuse they might suffer if captured by an outlaw regime.
In June 2004, Gen. James Hill of Southern Command, the Defense Department's command unit responsible for military operations in Central and South America and the Caribbean, held a press briefing and confirmed that interrogation techniques specifically authorized by Rumsfeld for use at Guantanamo were derived from the SERE school. In October 2002, Dunlavey wrote to Hill to seek authorization that interrogators be granted the authority to use methods that strayed from the Army Field Manual in order to extract information from prisoners.
Dunlavey, in making his case to Hill for authority to use more aggressive techniques, attached a copy of Bush's then classified February 7, 2002, action memo along with an analysis that said, "since the detainees are not [Enemy Prisoners of War] the Geneva Conventions limitations that ordinarily would govern captured enemy personnel interrogations are not binding on US personnel." Hill sent Dunlavey's request to Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Myers discussed it with William Haynes II, the Defense Department's general counsel, who briefed Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Doug Feith. The request ultimately ended up on Rumsfeld's desk and he approved it, according to the documents.
"The documents establish that senior officials in Washington, including White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, constructed a legal framework that would permit the abuse and torture of prisoners," the ACLU's Jaffer and Singh wrote in "Administration of Torture." "They establish that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, relying on this legal framework, expressly authorized the use of interrogation methods - including SERE methods - that went far beyond those endorsed by the Army Field Manual. They establish that Rumsfeld and Gen. Geoffrey Miller oversaw the implementation of the newly authorized interrogation methods and closely supervised the interrogation of prisoners thought to be especially valuable."
In early December 2002, FBI officials who had participated in some interrogations at Guantanamo complained to Miller that the methods used against prisoners at Guantanamo were unlawful. But Miller was not receptive. That led FBI officials to conclude that senior Bush administration officials and Rumsfeld were making decisions about interrogations in particular.
A December 16, 2002, email written by an FBI official expressed frustration that the Defense Department refused to budge from its controversial interrogation methods.
"Looks like we are stuck in the mud with the interview approach of the military vs. law enforcement," the email said.
In May 2004, Miller told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he briefed Wolfowitz and Undersecretary of Defense Stephen Cambone about his plan to "Gitmo-ize" the Abu Ghraib prison.
That month, an email written by a senior FBI agent in Iraq in 2004 specifically stated that President George W. Bush had signed an executive order approving the use of military dogs, sleep deprivation, and other tactics to intimidate Iraqi detainees.The FBI email, dated May 22, 2004, followed disclosures about abuse of Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib prison and sought guidance on whether FBI agents in Iraq were obligated to report the US military's harsh interrogation of inmates when that treatment violated FBI standards, but fit within the guidelines of a presidential executive order.
According to the email, Bush's executive order authorized interrogators to use military dogs, "stress positions," sleep "management," loud music and "sensory deprivation through the use of hoods, etc." to extract information from detainees in Iraq.
The May 2004, FBI email stated that the FBI interrogation team in Iraq understood that despite revisions in the executive order that occurred after the furor over the Abu Ghraib abuses, the presidential sanctioning of harsh interrogation tactics had not been rescinded.
"I have been told that all interrogation techniques previously authorized by the Executive Order are still on the table but that certain techniques can only be used if very high-level authority is granted," the author of the FBI email said.
"We have also instructed our personnel not to participate in interrogations by military personnel which might include techniques authorized by Executive Order but beyond the bounds of FBI practices."
The White House had emphatically denied that any such presidential executive order existed, calling the unnamed FBI official who wrote the email "mistaken." Prior to the May 22, 2004, email several others written by FBI agents that month were sent to Valerie Caproni, the FBI's general counsel, about detainees being tortured before the unnamed agent sent Caproni the email citing Bush's alleged executive order.|
On July 9, 2004, the FBI's Office of Inspections distributed an email asking its agents who were stationed at Guantanamo whether they had witnessed, "Aggressive treatment, interrogations or interview techniques ... which were not consistent with FBI interview policy/guidelines." More than two-dozen agents responded that they observed numerous instances of detainee abuse. One FBI agent wrote that, despite Rumsfeld's public statements to the contrary, the interrogation methods "were approved at high levels w/in DoD." In addition to Rumsfeld, the FBI emails said Paul Wolfowitz, one Bush administration official who has largely escaped scrutiny in the torture debate, approved the methods at Guantanamo.
In 2006, Miller received a Distinguished Service Medal for "exceptionally meritorious service." Dunlavey is an Erie County judge.
This article, by Jason Leopold, was posted to the Public Record, March 27, 2009
While Congress has focused primarily on the country’s economic turmoil and the lavish bonuses paid to Wall Street executives, a Senate Armed Services Committee report currently in the process of being declassified will force lawmakers to shift gears.
The Armed Services Committee will release--possibly as early as next week—its voluminous report on the treatment of alleged terrorist detainees held in U.S. custody and the brutal interrogation techniques they were subjected to, according to Defense Department and intelligence sources who described the report as the most detailed account to date of the roles senior Bush administration and Defense Department officials played in implementing a policy of torture at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and other detention centers.
The full declassified version of the report is 200 pages, contains 2,000 footnotes, and will reveal a plethora of new information about the genesis of the Bush administration's interrogation policies. The investigation relied upon the testimony of 70 people, generated 38,000 pages of documents, and took 18 months to complete. The declassified version of his report will include a full account of the roles military psychologists played in assisting the Bush administration implement a policy of torture.
The committee released a 19-page summary of its investigation last year and voted last November to accept the full classified version of the report's findings. According to the executive summary, “efforts by administration officials to place responsibility for detainee abuses mostly on lower ranking military personnel as both inaccurate and misleading.”
The release of the full declassified version of the Armed Service's Committee report will also put additional pressure on the Obama administration to immediately launch a full-scale investigation into the Bush administration’s interrogation program. Last week, the ACLU called on Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special prosecutor to probe Bush administration officials who signed off on and approved the torture of prisoners.
But at his first prime-time news conference in February, Obama said in response to questions about the Bush administration's interrogation practices that no one is above the law but that he favored looking forward, not backward.
“What I have said is that my administration is going to operate in a way that leaves no doubt that we do not torture that we abide by the Geneva Conventions and that we observe our traditions of rule of law and due process as we are vigorously going after terrorists that can do us harm,” Obama said.
"My view is also that nobody is above the law, and if there are clear instances of wrongdoing then people should be prosecuted just like any ordinary citizen. But generally speaking I am more interested in looking forward than I am in looking backwards.”
Levin has asked Holder to appoint someone to further probe his report’s findings and make a recommendation to Holder on how to proceed. The attorney general hasn't yet responded. Matthew Miller, a Justice Department spokesman, said Friday he was working on obtaining a response to Levin's recommendation to Holder but Miller was unable to provide The Public Record with a response by the time this story was published. We will, however, update this report with Miller's response when we receive it.
In January, at a progressive media summit, Levin said, “There needs to be, I believe, an accounting of torture in this country.”
“I suggested to Eric Holder, who will be the next Attorney General despite the delay that took place today, that he select some people or hire an outside person who's got real credibility, perhaps a retired federal judge, to take all the available information, and there’s reams of it,” Levin said Jan. 21. “Look, the Vice President, the former Vice President of the United States, acknowledged that they engaged in torture. He says that waterboarding’s not torture, he’s wrong. Waterboarding is torture, period.
“And this administration and Eric Holder has said so. It’s torture and there’s other forms that they engaged in, so what needs to be done, I believe, in addition to finishing the investigation, is for the Attorney General, the new Attorney General, to identify some people in his office to take the existing documentation. The acknowledgment, folks, this is not a very difficult — this is almost like a case in court with an agreed upon statement of facts, that the previous administration acknowledges that they engaged in waterboarding, period. . .”
The Armed Serivces Committee investigation has already concluded that “members of [Bush’s] Cabinet and other senior officials participated in meetings inside the White House in 2002 and 2003 where specific interrogation techniques were discussed. National Security Council Principals reviewed the CIA’s interrogation program during that period.”
But the declassified committee report contains detailed information about those secret meetings. John Yoo, a deputy assistant attorney general at the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, participated in several of these meetings prior to writing a legal opinion authorizing interrogators to subject detainees to waterboarding and other brutal techniques.
Last year, in response to questions by Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, Condoleezza Rice, who was National Security Adviser when interrogation methods were discussed, said that beginning as early as the summer of 2002 Yoo provided legal advice at “several” meetings that she attended and that the Department of Justice’s advice on the interrogation program “was being coordinated by Counsel to the President Alberto Gonzales.”
Yoo met with Gonzales and David Addington, counsel to Vice President Dick Cheney, to discuss the subjects he intended to address in the August 2002 torture memos, according to a declassified summary of the Armed Services Committee report.
Those meetings and the legal opinions that followed have also been scrutinized in a separate report by the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), which spent four years reviewing the legal work of Yoo and other attorneys at the OLC. The OPR report, which is still classified, zeroed in on the meetings Yoo participated in and concluded that Yoo had breached “professional standards” by acting as an advocate for White House policy, according to Justice Department officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the report is still classified. SERE Techniques
The declassified report will include a full accounting of how the military’s Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape (SERE) training program, which was meant to prepare U.S. soldiers for abuse they might suffer if captured by an outlaw regime, was reverse engineered and used against detainees during interrogations. SERE training techniques include stress positions, forced nudity, use of fear, sleep deprivation and, until recently, the Navy SERE school used the waterboard.
Already, the committee has revealed that discussion surrounding the use of SERE techniques on detainees began in the spring of 2002 and inquiries about the use of SERE methods were made in December 2001, well before the issuance of a legal opinion authorizing the use of harsh interrogation methods.
“Resistance training (the “R” in SERE) was a subject of discussion,” Levin said in a statement last December accompanying an executive summary of his committee’s report. “We discovered that in July 2002, at the request of [Department of Defense] General Counsel Jim Haynes’s office, the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JPRA) - the DoD agency that oversees SERE training - provided Haynes’s office a list of techniques used in SERE school and an assessment of the psychological effect of using those techniques on students.
“In December 2002, Secretary of Defense [Donald] Rumsfeld authorized some of those same techniques for use against detainees at [Guantanamo]. We discovered that, in January 2003, SERE instructors traveled to [Guantanamo] and trained interrogators to hit detainees and put them in stress positions. And the investigation revealed that instructors from JPRA’s SERE school participated in at least one abusive interrogation and were present for others during a visit to Iraq in September 2003.
“Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s authorization of aggressive interrogation techniques for use at Guantanamo Bay was a direct cause of detainee abuse there,” the Armed Services Committee report concluded.” Secretary Rumsfeld’s December 2, 2002 approval of Mr. Haynes’s recommendation that most of the techniques contained in [Guantanamo’s] October 11, 2002 request be authorized, influenced and contributed to the use of abusive techniques, including military working dogs, forced nudity, and stress positions, in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
The investigation found that the CIA’s interrogation program “included at least one SERE training technique, waterboarding.”
“Senior Administration lawyers, including Alberto Gonzales, Counsel to the President, and David Addington, Counsel to the Vice President, were consulted on the development of legal analysis of CIA interrogation techniques,” a declassified summary of the report said. “Legal opinions subsequently issued by the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) interpreted legal obligations under U.S. anti-torture laws and determined the legality of CIA interrogation techniques.
“Those OLC opinions distorted the meaning and intent of anti-torture laws, rationalized the abuse of detainees in U.S. custody and influenced Department of Defense determinations as to what interrogation techniques were legal for use during interrogations conducted by U.S. military personnel.”
Last June, Levin said he sent Jay Bybee, the former assistant attorney general at OLC who signed the infamous Aug. 1, 2002 torture memo, a list of questions about the implementation of SERE methods.
“In his response to my questions, Jay Bybee said that, in July 2002 – just before those two OLC opinions were issued and about the same time Jim Haynes’s office requested a list of SERE training techniques and information on the psychological effects of SERE (including waterboarding), the CIA provided OLC with an assessment of the psychological effects of SERE resistance training,” Levin said last December. “Jay Bybee wrote me that the assessment provided by the CIA was used to “inform” the August 1, 2002 OLC legal opinion that has yet to be made public. (CIA officials, including George Tenet and acting General Counsel John Rizzo declined to answer questions relating to both that assessment and the CIA’s interrogation program.)
“Judge Bybee’s answers provide insight into how senior officials in the United States government sought information on aggressive techniques used in SERE training, twisted the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees.”
Bybee’s legal work in this area was also harshly criticized by OPR, according to sources familiar with the contents of the watchdog's report. Bybee is now a judge on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
The investigation Levin's committee conducted concluded that a Feb. 7, 2002, action memorandum signed by George W. Bush that excluded “war on terror” suspects from Geneva Convention protections was responsible for the abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.
“Following the President’s determination, techniques such as waterboarding, nudity, and stress positions, used in SERE training to simulate tactics used by enemies that refuse to follow the Geneva Conventions, were authorized for use in interrogations of detainees in U.S. custody,” the committee’s report concluded.
“The abuse of detainees in U.S. custody cannot simply be attributed to the actions of ‘a few bad apples’ acting on their own. The fact is that senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees.”
Rumsfeld and Chertoff
Rice told Levin in written responses to his committee’s queries last September that the CIA’s interrogation program was reviewed by National Security Council principals and that Rumsfeld participated in that review.
Rice said that when the CIA sought approval of the interrogation program she asked Tenet to brief the principals and asked Attorney General John Ashcroft to “personally advise NSC Principals whether the program was lawful.”
John Bellinger, Rice’s Legal Advisor, told Levin that he asked CIA lawyers to seek legal advice not only from the OLC, but also from the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice, headed at the time by Michael Chertoff.
Chertoff reportedly advised the CIA General Counsel Scott Muller and his deputy, John Rizzo, that the August 1, 2002, legal opinion protected CIA interrogators from prosecution if they used waterboarding or other harsh tactics.
In February 2005, during his Senate confirmation hearing to become Homeland Security secretary, Chertoff said he provided the CIA broad guidance in response to its questions about interrogation methods, but never addressed the legality of specific techniques.
Abu Zubaydah’s Torture
The declassified report will also for the first time include a full account about the fierce objections the FBI had toward the CIA’s interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, an alleged “high-value” al-Qaeda detainee, and an in-depth accounting of the meetings and discussions that led to his torture..
According to documents Levin’s committee obtained from the Department of Justice, Daniel Levin, the former head of the agency’s Office of Legal Counsel, indicated that in 2002 "in the context of the Zubaydah interrogation, he attended a meeting at the National Security Council (NSC) at which CIA techniques were discussed.
Daniel “Levin stated that a DOJ Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) attorney gave advice at the meeting about the legality of CIA interrogation techniques. Levin stated that in connection with this meeting, or immediately after it, FBI Director Mueller decided that FBI agents would not participate in interrogations involving techniques the FBI did not normally use in the United States, even though OLC had determined such techniques were legal," according to questions directed to Rice by Sen. Levin.
Daniel Levin was forced to resign in 2004 when Alberto Gonzales became Attorney General because he objected to waterboarding.
The CIA videotaped Zubaydah’s interrogations and the tapes were destroyed. Two weeks ago, author Mark Danner disclosed a report prepared by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), concluding that the abuse of 14 “high-value” detainees, including Zubaydah, “constituted torture.”
“In addition, many other elements of the ill treatment, either singly or in combination, constituted cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment,” according to the ICRC report. Since the ICRC’s responsibilities involve ensuring compliance with the Geneva Conventions and supervising the treatment of prisoners of war, the organization’s findings carry legal weight.
The ICRC report also found that there was a consistency in many details from the detainees who were interviewed separately and that the first “high-value” detainee to be captured, Abu Zubaydah, appeared to have been used as something of a test case by his interrogators. Zubaydah was one of the prisoners whose interrogations were videotaped by the CIA.
In her responses to Sen. Levin’s questions regarding Zubaydah’s interrogation, Rice said she had “general recollection that FBI had decided not to participate in the CIA interrogations but I do not recall any specific discussions about withdrawing FBI personnel from the Abu Zubaydah interrogation.”
In the book The One Percent Doctrine, author Ron Suskind said Zubaydah was not the “high-value detainee” the CIA had claimed. Rather, Zubaydah was a minor player in the al-Qaeda organization, handling travel for associates and their families, Suskind wrote.
However, “Bush was fixated on how to get Zubaydah to tell us the truth,” Suskind wrote. Bush asked one CIA briefer, “Do some of these harsh methods really work?”
Zubaydah was strapped to a waterboard and, fearing imminent death, he spoke about a wide range of plots against a number of U.S. targets, such as shopping malls, the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty. Yet, Suskind wrote, the information Zubaydah provided under duress was not credible.
According to Suskind, Zubaydah’s captors soon discovered that their prisoner was mentally ill and knew nothing about terrorist operations or impending plots. That realization was “echoed at the top of CIA and was, of course, briefed to the President and Vice President,” Suskind wrote.
Still, in public statements, President Bush portrayed Zubaydah as “one of the top operatives plotting and planning death and destruction on the United States” and added: “So, the CIA used an alternative set of procedures” to get Zubaydah to talk.
The President did not want to “lose face” because he had stated his importance publicly, Suskind wrote.
The final conclusion of Levin’s investigation was that the “abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib in late 2003 was not simply the result of a few soldiers acting on their own.”
“Interrogation techniques such as stripping detainees of their clothes, placing them in stress positions, and using military working dogs to intimidate them appeared in Iraq only after they had been approved for use in Afghanistan and at [Guantanamo],” a declassified summary of his report said. “Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s December 2, 2002 authorization of aggressive interrogation techniques and subsequent interrogation policies and plans approved by senior military and civilian officials conveyed the message that physical pressures and degradation were appropriate treatment for detainees in U.S. military custody. What followed was an erosion in standards dictating that detainees be treated humanely.”
This article, by Jason Leopold, was posted to the Public Record, March 31, 2009
Doug Feith, the former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, is best known for cooking up bogus prewar Iraq intelligence linking Iraq and al-Qaeda and 9/11.
But in addition to his duties to his duties stove piping phony intelligence directly to former Vice President Dick Cheney, Feith was also a key member of a small working group of Defense Department officials who oversaw the implementation of “enhanced interrogation techniques” at Guantanamo Bay that has been widely regarded as torture.
Last weekend, Spain’s investigating magistrate Baltasar Garzon, who issued an arrest warrant for former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1998, ordered prosecutors to investigate Feith and five other senior Bush administration officials for sanctioning torture at the prison facility.
On Sunday, Feith responded to the charges. He told the BBC he that "the charges as related to me make no sense.”
"They criticize me for promoting a controversial position that I never advocated," Feith claimed. But Feith’s denials ring hollow.
The allegations against Feith contained in the 98-page complaint filed in March 2008 by human rights lawyer Gonzalo Boye and the Association for the [Dignity] was largely gleaned from a lengthy interview Feith gave to international attorney and University College London professor Phillpe Sands. Sands is the author of “Torture Team: Rumsfeld's Memo and the Betrayal of American Values.
The other Bush officials named in the complaint are: former Justice Department attorneys John Yoo and Jay Bybee, Alberto Gonzales, Cheney’s counsel David Addington, and former Pentagon general counsel William Haynes, II. The charges cited in the complaint against these officials was also largely based on material Sands cited in his book about the roles they played in sanctioning torture.
Last year, in response to questions by Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, Condoleezza Rice, who, as National Security Adviser, was part of a working group that included Haynes, Yoo, Addington and Gonzales, said interrogation methods were discussed as early as the summer of 2002 and Yoo provided legal advice at “several” meetings that she attended. She said the DOJ’s advice on the interrogation program “was being coordinated by Counsel to the President Alberto Gonzales.”
Yoo met with Gonzales and Addington to discuss the subjects he intended to address in two August 2002 torture memos, according to a declassified summary of the Armed Services Committee report. Feith’s was also included in the discussions.
Sands wrote that as early as 2002, “Feith’s job was to provide advice across a wide range of issues, and the issues came to include advice on the Geneva Conventions and the conduct of military interrogations.”
Feith told Sands that he “played a major role in” George W. Bush’s decision to sign a Feb. 7, 2002 action memorandum suspending the Geneva Conventions for al-Qaeda and Taliban prisoners who were imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay.
The memo did say that prisoners had to be treated “humanely,” but Feith told Sands the verbiage needed “to be fleshed out.” “But it’s a fine phrase—‘humane treatment,’” Feith added. Still, even with the phrase intact, the Common Article 3 restrictions against torture and “outrages upon personal dignity” were removed. Feith said 2002 was a special year for him.
“This year I was really a player,” Feith told Sands.
“I asked him whether, in the end, he was at all concerned that the Geneva decision might have diminished America’s moral authority,” Sands wrote. “He was not. ‘The problem with moral authority,’ [Feith] said, was ‘people who should know better, like yourself, siding with the assholes, to put it crudely.’”
“Douglas Feith had a long-standing intellectual interest in Geneva, and for many years had opposed legal protections for terrorists under international law” Sands wrote in his book. “He referred me to an article he had written in 1985, in The National Interest, setting out his basic view. Geneva provided incentives to play by the rules; those who chose not to follow the rules, he argued, shouldn’t be allowed to rely on them, or else the whole Geneva structure would collapse. The only way to protect Geneva, in other words, was sometimes to limit its scope. To uphold Geneva’s protections, you might have to cast them aside.”
In addition to Sands’ account, the Senate Armed Services Committee and the American Civil Liberties Union have released documents showing that Haynes regularly briefed Feith about a list of aggressive interrogation techniques for use against “high-value” Guantanamo detainees.
According to an executive summary of the Armed Services Committee report released last December, “techniques such as stress positions, removal of clothing, use of phobias (such as fear of dogs), and deprivation of light and auditory stimuli were all recommended for approval.”
In November 2002, Haynes sent Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld a memo stating that he “had discussed the issue [of enhanced interrogations] with Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Doug Feith, and General [Richard] Myers and that he believed they concurred in his recommendation.”
The Senate Armed Services Committee is expected to release a declassified version of its report that will include a full account of Feith’s role in implementing a policy of torture at Guantanamo. The report is 200 pages, contains 2,000 footnotes, and will reveal a wealth of new information about the genesis of the Bush administration's interrogation policies, according to these sources. The investigation relied upon the testimony of 70 people, generated 38,000 pages of documents, and took 18 months to complete.
Other documents released last year show that Feith worked closely with Pentagon general counsel William Haynes II in 2002 on an Army and Air Force survival-training program called Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE), which were meant to prepare U.S. soldiers for abuse they might suffer if captured by an outlaw regime, against detainees at Guantanamo. One of the SERE techniques used against detainees was waterboarding.
Moreover, Feith and Haynes were members of a Pentagon "working group" that met from January through March 2003 and prepared a report for Rumsfeld stating what methods military interrogators could use to extract information from a prisoner at Guantanamo. Yoo worked on the legal memo for the group.
Early drafts of the report advocated intimidating prisoners with dogs, removing prisoners' clothing, shaving their beards, slapping prisoners in the face and waterboarding.
Though some of the more extreme techniques were dropped as the list was winnowed down to 24 from 35, the final set of methods still included tactics for isolating and demeaning a detainee, known as "pride and ego down."
Such degrading tactics violated the Geneva Convention, which bars abusive or demeaning treatment of captives.
Rumsfeld signed the Feith’s and Haynes final report on April 2, 2003, two weeks after Bush ordered U.S. forces to invade Iraq.
One year later, photos depicting U.S. soldiers abusing and humiliating detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq were publicly released.
According to a report by a panel headed by James Schlesinger on the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuses in 2004, Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez said Bush’s Feb. 7, 2002, memo suspending Geneva Conventions, which Feith had said he was principally responsible for, led him to implement "additional, tougher measures" against detainees.
This report was posted by Paul Reickoff on, to IAVA.org February 12
Earlier this week, I told you about an amazing group of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans that were coming to Capitol Hill for a historic trip to Congress, to advocate on behalf of their fellow vets. Today, I want to tell you just one of their extraordinary stories. Rey Leal served as a Marine in Fallujah during some of the heaviest fighting, earning a Bronze Star with valor as a Private First Class, an almost unheard of accomplishment for a soldier of his rank. But when he returned to southern Texas, he needed help coming home from war. Instead of having resources at his fingertips, his closest VA hospital was over five hours away. Rey’s a tough Marine, and a boxer, but he shouldn’t have to fight to get care at a veterans’ hospital. And at his nearest outpatient clinic, there was just one psychologist, taking appointments only two days a week.
The psychologist only works two days because that Texas clinic, like many VA clinics and hospitals, has to stretch its’ funding to make sure the money lasts the whole year. They don’t know how much funding they’ll have next year because the VA budget is routinely passed late. In fact, 19 of the past 22 years, the budget has not been passed on time. As a result, the VA is forced to ration care for the almost 6 million veterans that depend on its services.
For the millions of veterans like Rey, we must fix this broken VA funding system.
Imagine trying to balance your family’s budget without knowing what your next paycheck will be. That’s what we’re asking of the largest health care provider in the nation to do. And it doesn’t work.
The good news is that there is a solution. “Advance appropriations,” approving the VA health care budget one year in advance, would supply timely and predictable funding, and it’s an effective way to ensure the highest quality care that our veterans deserve. It doesn’t make for a sexy news story. But it is a critical, comprehensive way to tackle many of the challenges facing vets ranging from PTSD, to homelessness to military sexual trauma. And it wouldn’t cost a dime. That is not something you hear much down in Washington lately.
While the lack of cost is highly unusual, advance appropriations is not a new concept for how the federal government does business. Low-income housing and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting already depend on the advance appropriations process to plan their programming. If this policy is good enough for Big Bird, then it should be good enough for vets like Rey.
That has been our message all week in Washington. Now this week, in the face of a surge of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans from across the country, Congress has rapidly responded. Senator Daniel Akaka (D-HI) and Congressman Bob Filner (D-CA), the chairmen of the Senate and House Veterans’ Affairs Committees, are introducing bipartisan legislation to provide advance appropriations for the VA. And Rey and the rest of our Storm the Hill team of young veterans will be there to support this historic change.
It’s reassuring to know that in these tough fiscal times, Congress is not only listening to Wall Street CEOs, but that they are also listening to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.
And Senator Akaka and Congressman Filner are not alone in supporting advanced VA funding. It has a broad coalition of support. President Obama and Senator McCain both backed the idea during the 2008 campaign, and new VA Secretary Eric Shinseki has signaled early support for the concept.
Every major veterans’ organization in America is also on board. The IAVA crew in Washington this week represents the first wave of veterans’ groups hitting Capitol Hill to push for advance appropriations in 2009. This week, the young vets have boldly taken the beach. And in the coming days and weeks, other generations of veterans will follow. We are coordinating our political fire—just like we did on the battlefields of Baghdad and Normandy. Together, we will show Capitol Hill, the media, and the entire country, that 25 million veterans of all generations stand united behind the right solution to fix VA health care funding once and for all.
From March 13-16, 2008, members of the antiwar group Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) will gather in Washington, DC to “testify” against the US military at a protest event called Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan. The name “Winter Soldier” is taken from the infamous 1971 event at which members of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) related gruesome stories of crimes they claimed to have participated in or witnessed. The VVAW insisted that rape, torture and murder were standard practices for the US military in Vietnam. Organizers of the new IVAW tribunal, which is supported by several former VVAW leaders, say the 1971 conference was where “a courageous group of veterans exposed the criminal nature of the Vietnam War.” In reality, it was part of a sophisticated, vicious propaganda effort designed to poison public opinion against the US military. Newly discovered records now reveal what happened when Army investigators asked VVAW activists for evidence of the hundreds of crimes they claimed to have seen.
In our book, To Set The Record Straight: How Swift Boat Veterans, POWs and the New Media Defeated John Kerry, Tim Ziegler and I trace the course of the anti-US war crimes propaganda campaign, which began in Europe with KGB-sponsored events that were organized before the first US ground troops ever arrived in Vietnam. In 1969, leaders of those conferences helped American radicals form the “Citizens Commission of Inquiry into US War Crimes in Indochina” (CCI), which set up a series of so-called investigations where US military actions in Vietnam were compared to those of Nazi Germany during World War II. The CCI soon joined forces with the VVAW, another leftist group created with financing and assistance from members of the Communist Party, USA, the Socialist Workers Party and the communist front Veterans for Peace.
The VVAW’s Winter Soldier Investigation (WSI) took place in Detroit from Jan. 31 through Feb. 2, 1971. Financed primarily by pro-Hanoi actress Jane Fonda, the event’s honorary national coordinator, WSI was the largest war crimes tribunal held in the US during the Vietnam War. Several of the discussion panel moderators were radical leaders who had previously met with top North Vietnamese and Vietcong representatives in Hanoi and Paris. Also present were leftist psychiatrists, psychoanalysts and clinicians, who pressured the witnesses to help end the war by publicly confessing their “crimes.” Former VVAW member Steve Pitkin later recalled how the civilians went from man to man, “bombarding them; laying on the guilt.” Pitkin signed an affidavit in 2004 charging that John Kerry and other VVAW leaders had coerced him into making a false statement.
WSI was the source of the allegations John Kerry presented to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in April 1971, at a hearing set up by antiwar Senators to showcase the VVAW’s atrocity tales. The highly publicized appearance launched Kerry’s political career and helped to create a lasting image of Vietnam veterans as drugged-out murderers too damaged to function in normal society. Justice was served in 2004 when a political movement led by some of the veterans John Kerry had defamed sank his presidential bid.
Investigating the winter soldiers
In 2005, I visited the National Archives at College Park, Maryland with Vietnam veteran and researcher John Boyle. Sifting through the limited material available, we found summary data for the WSI allegations the Army had investigated. The Army’s Criminal Investigative Division (CID) had opened cases for 43 WSI “witnesses” whose claims, if true, would qualify as crimes. An additional 25 Army WSI participants had criticized the military in general terms, without sufficient substance to warrant any investigation.
The 43 WSI CID cases were eventually resolved as follows: 25 WSI participants refused to cooperate, 13 provided information but failed to support the allegations, and five could not be located. No criminal charges were filed as a result of any of the investigations. The individual CID case files, which had been available to the public beginning in 1994, were withdrawn from public access around 2003, when the National Archives realized that the documents should have been embargoed until the personal information they contained could be removed, or “redacted,” as required by the Privacy Act of 1974.
Early in 2007, Boyle learned that a historian had copied the entire collection of CID war crime investigation summaries at the National Archives, including those involving the VVAW, while they were still publicly available. The historian permitted Boyle to photocopy these documents, which we have now posted at WinterSoldier.com:
The CID summary reports are revealing. Most of the WSI participants refused to provide evidence to support their allegations. Some made statements that were contradicted by other witnesses, were discredited, or were not substantiated by subsequent investigation.
Several of the VVAW activists backtracked significantly on their WSI statements:
Douglas Craig claimed at WSI that members of his battalion had fired mortar rounds each night into a local dump, intentionally killing civilians who were scavenging for food. Craig told investigators he had no direct knowledge of these events and expressed misgivings about making allegations in Detroit he could not substantiate.
Larry Craig claimed at WSI that he watched US soldiers murder a Vietnamese civilian and, on another occasion, desecrate Vietnamese graves. Craig admitted to investigators that the man who was killed could have been Vietcong, and that the soldier allegedly digging in a cemetery could have been looking for weapons caches.
Donald Donner claimed at WSI that Army personnel had murdered a Vietnamese male, intentionally wounded a 14-year-old Vietnamese girl, indiscriminately slaughtered livestock and failed to bury enemy dead. Donner admitted to the CID that his stories were actually lies, rumors and accounts of accidental events.
John Lytle claimed at WSI that his unit murdered civilians by destroying villages with artillery fire without making any effort to determine who was there. However, Lytle told the CID that the villages were actually fired on because it was suspected that Vietcong occupied them and incoming fire had been received from the area.
Robert McConnachie claimed at WSI that Army troops in a convoy threw C-ration cans at Vietnamese children with such force as to kill one or two. He also said an artillery unit had intentionally shelled a hospital and killed civilians. McConnachie backtracked when questioned by military investigators, saying that no Vietnamese children were actually killed by troops throwing C-rations. He said he now believed that the alleged killing of civilians in a hospital by artillery fire was accidental.
Ronald Palosaari claimed at WSI that Army troops killed two children and an old lady by throwing a grenade into a bunker next to a house. He also said he saw a Vietnamese soldier cut off the ear of a NVA soldier who had just been killed. Interviewed by Army investigators, Palosaari was unable to provide specific dates, locations or the names of any individuals involved in the alleged grenade incident. He admitted that he did not actually witness the mutilation of any enemy dead.
Donald Pugsley claimed at WSI that a helicopter gunship strafed and killed water buffalo. He admitted to investigators that no water buffalo were actually fired upon.
Kenneth Ruth claimed at WSI to have witnessed the torture of Vietcong suspects, and told Life Magazine that he saw troops test fire weapons into a village, wounding 43 civilians. However, Ruth admitted to Army investigators that he had no personal knowledge of such an event. The CID found his torture claims unsubstantiated.
George Smith claimed at WSI that members of his Special Forces unit had beaten enemy prisoners and placed them in small barbed-wire cages. Smith backtracked on these claims when interviewed by Army investigators, saying that the alleged acts were actually committed by South Vietnamese forces rather than American troops.
David Stark claimed at WSI that hundreds of Vietnamese civilians were killed by indiscriminate bombing and strafing in the Saigon area during late 1968. He also claimed to have witnessed the maltreatment of prisoners. However, Stark told CID interviewers that he actually saw no bodies, was unable to identify the aircraft or military units involved in the attacks or the cleanup operation, and admitted that he had never witnessed maltreatment of prisoners, except for a single occasion when he said he saw a prisoner pushed and shoved by two South Vietnamese officers.
The only Army witness to appear at WSI whose allegations have been substantiated was James Henry. Military authorities closed Henry’s case, which had already been under review for nearly a year by the time of WSI, after “an extensive investigation did not reveal sufficient evidence to prove or disprove Mr. Henry’s allegations.” However, the CID also opened a supplemental investigation into whether a group of civilians had been killed by US troops. The results of that investigation indicate that crimes were probably committed, but no documentation of any prosecutions has been found or reported.
The Naval Investigative Service (NIS) was ordered to investigate charges made at WSI by VVAW members representing themselves as veterans of the Navy or Marines. Their reports have not been located, and it is uncertain whether they were destroyed or are lost in the vast government archives system. Historian Guenter Lewy cited a summary report by NIS in his 1978 book America in Vietnam, noting that many participants refused to provide evidence to Navy investigators, and others backtracked on their stories – the same pattern found in the newly discovered Army CID documents. Lewy also reported that several veterans told the NIS in sworn statements corroborated by witnesses that they had not been in Detroit – i.e., the VVAW activists who used their names were imposters.
It is unfortunate that the military didn’t simply release the results of the investigations as they were completed. America’s Vietnam veterans might have been spared several decades of public distrust and contempt stimulated by the leftist “baby-killer” agitprop. Unfortunately, US military leaders during the Vietnam era failed to understand that home-front psychological warfare operations pose at least as great a threat to the military’s ability to successfully complete its mission as enemy operations in the field.
The (not so) new winter soldiers
Among the VVAW retreads supporting the IVAW’s new propaganda campaign is Joe Bangert, a former Marine mechanic who claimed at WSI that he had watched while his fellow Americans casually gunned down Vietnamese children and murdered and skinned a Vietnamese woman. Bangert, a fervent supporter of America’s wartime enemies, met in 1971 with North Vietnamese and Vietcong delegations in Paris, where he proudly sang “We Will Liberate the South,” and the “Ballad of Uncle Ho” for his hosts. He later moved to join his comrades in communist Vietnam, where he lived for several years.
Members of the military with actual knowledge of crimes committed by US troops in Iraq or Afghanistan have a legal and moral obligation to report them to military authorities. The activists who will claim in Washington that they saw or participated in such crimes presumably failed to do this. What are we to make of “witnesses” who ignore crimes while in the field, but later make allegations in a venue designed to smear the military and its mission? Add the near-certainty that the charges themselves will be vague, lacking the specific details and supporting evidence that real investigations require. Perhaps this time we should assume that the troops who defend us are innocent when they are accused of unsubstantiated “crimes” by a radical movement with a long history of deceit.
In light of the new CID documents, will John Kerry admit that the war crime allegations he presented to the Senate in 1971 were largely fictitious? When the Winter Soldier documentary is shown to college students, will liberal professors now point out that it has been thoroughly discredited? Will the Washington Post reconsider its credulous 2005 film review? Can we expect the new discovery to be reported accurately on Wikipedia’s leftist-controlled Winter Soldier page? Will the IVAW radicals currently preparing their own attack on the US military be embarrassed to learn that they are emulating a fraud?
Not a chance. WSI was always about perceptions; never reality. America’s detractors will peddle the VVAW’s grisly myths for as long as people are willing to believe them.
Sen. Levin: There was a recent series of Denver Post articles that reported 79 soldiers were determined to be medical no-goes had been knowingly deployed to Iraq. General Schoomaker, this question is for you. The most recent article describes a soldier being taken from a hospital where he's been treated for bipolar disorder and alcohol abuse so he could be deployed to Kuwait. Thirty-one days later he was returned to Fort Carson because health care professionals in Kuwait determined that he should not have been sent there in the first place because of his medical condition. These articles quoted e-mail from Fort Carson's third brigade combat team that says, quote, "We have been having issues reaching deployable strength, and thus have been taking along some borderline soldiers who would otherwise have been left behind for continued treatment."
Are these reports accurate? What's the Army doing to address them?
Maybe Secretary Geren and General Schoomaker. Let me start with you, Secretary, and then I'll go to the general. Mr. Geren: Yes, sir. We are looking into those issues, sir. Before a soldier deploys, they are evaluated. And it's a subjective process to determine whether or not they are fit for deployment, and judgment is exercised.
We've had this issue come up a number of -- deployment platforms around the country, and in fact, one, this time last year that was raised down at Fort Stewart. I guess the essential point is that the judgment is exercised at the point of deployment. And sometimes the judgment turns out to be wrong. But the Post article -- Sen. Levin: Is it the shortage of deployable strength what is now causing some of these decisions to be made that otherwise would not be made? Mr. Geren: That should not be happening. I can't tell you that it's not, but it certainly should not be happening, that every soldier must be considered, whether or not he or she is fit for duty, and if not, they should not be sent, and everyone understands that. And I don't believe we found any evidence that pressure has caused people to be sent that shouldn't have. Maybe cases where something was overlooked or whether a mistake was made. But the commanders who evaluate these soldiers understand what the requirements are, and should never send anybody that's unfit. But we look into every one of these cases. Sen. Levin: Are you familiar with that e-mail, that article? Mr. Geren: Yes, sir, I am familiar with the article. Sen. Levin: Have you checked the person who wrote that e-mail to say that that is not an acceptable reason for deploying somebody? Could you do that?
MR. GEREN: Yes, sir, certainly can. Sen. Levin: Do you want to add anything to that, General? Lt. Gen. Eric Schoomaker: Well, sir, I've not seen the case myself. I am familiar with the story. My understanding at this point because of the profile -- the soldiers who possess those profiles who were deployed to include the soldier who is the center piece of the article, their profiles and the decision to deploy have been looked at carefully. And all the cases in which soldiers were deployed with profiles, they were placed in positions and in conditions which could be supported by their profile. The profile itself does not limit deployment.
My understanding of the indexed soldier was that he was not hospitalized, and the opinion of outside consultants was that his condition should not limit his ability to be deployed. But I think it's still being looked at. Sen. Levin: Well, the e-mail itself, however, says, that we've been having issues reaching deployable strength. I mean, that's a contemporaneous e-mail. And that should not be a factor. Would you both agree with that? Lt. Gen. Eric Schoomaker: Oh yes, sir. Mr. Geren: Yes. Sen. Levin: So whoever thought that was a factor has got to be corrected, and that message has got to be made clear across the board, would you agree with that? Lt. Gen. Eric Schoomaker: I agree with that. Sen. Levin: Thank you.