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More on Torture – McCain from the floor of the Senate

As I mentioned almost two weeks ago, we needed to wait until more of the facts were available before coming to a definitive conclusion concerning the role of “enhanced interrogation techniques” in the eventual killing of Osama bin Laden. On one hand, you have Donald Rumsfeld, Vice President Cheney and former Attorney General Michael Mukasey stating that the trail to bin Laden started with the waterboarding of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. On the other hand, you have a recent Washington Post op-ed by former POW Senator John McCain, in which states, “I asked CIA Director Leon Panetta for the facts, and he told me the following: The trail to bin Laden did not begin with a disclosure from Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times. The first mention of Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti — the nickname of the al-Qaeda courier who ultimately led us to bin Laden — as well as a description of him as an important member of al-Qaeda, came from a detainee held in another country, who we believe was not tortured. None of the three detainees who were waterboarded provided Abu Ahmed’s real name, his whereabouts or an accurate description of his role in al-Qaeda.”

Both sides of this torture debate are probably wrong. Intelligence and torture are not parts of an all-or-nothing proposal. There are multiple shades of gray. Was everything that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed spewed out under torture wrong? I doubt it. I think that he probably did give us some valuable information. On the other hand, could we have possibly gathered information from Khalid Shaikh Mohammed through other methods? Probably. Our interrogators seem to be very skilled at garnering information over a period of time.

Our moral compass seems to have been broken for some time. We’ve adopted a “win at any cost” type of mentality. It is as if we were prominently playing some sort of reality game. Whether it is reelecting Senator David Vitter or Representative William “cash in my freezer” Jefferson because he is a senior politician and will bring more money to the state, it is simply wrong. Why the good people of Arizona are putting up with the craziness of Senator John Ensign who has proven himself to be unfit to represent anyone is beyond me. In the name of laissez-faire capitalism and open markets, we allowed the American people to get ripped off for over $13 trillion in which Wall Street banks got rich and the rest of us got to see our housing nest eggs depreciate in value.

Torture is wrong.
Wherever you want to draw that line in the sand (on one side there’s torture and the other side there is no torture), I want to be far away from that dividing line. Now, conservatives always come up with the 24-hour scenario (based on the Kiefer Sutherland series 24 hours). What if you detain a terrorist who you “know” has information about an impending terrorist attack? Getting that information will save hundreds, if not thousands, of American lives. What you do? In my opinion, you get special permission from Congress to use your enhanced interrogation techniques on this specific terrorist at this specific point in time. I’m hoping that we can find our moral compass before it is too late.

By |2011-05-13T12:45:37-04:00May 13th, 2011|Bin Laden, Party Politics, Torture|Comments Off on More on Torture – McCain from the floor of the Senate

The Errington Thompson Show 4-25-09

Now, this is good stuff.

My special guest is Marcy Wheeler who scooped the mainstream media I actually reading the torture memos. She was one of discovered that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was waterboarded over 100 times. I discussed with my producer, Agnes, who’s back from a long hiatus, the importance of people being involved in the government.

Marcy Wheeler and I go into some detail about the torture memos. This should not be missed. Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.

From the Bybee memo:

Our advice is based upon the following facts, which you have provided to us. We also understand that you do not have any facts in your possession contrary to the facts outlined here, and this opinion is limited to these facts. If these facts were to change, this advice would not necessarily apply.  Zubaydah is currently being held by the United States.  The interrogation team is certain that he has additional information that he refuses to divulge.  Specifically, he is withholding information regarding terrorist networks in the United States or in Saudi Arabia and information regarding plans to conduct attacks within the United States or against our interests overseas.  Zubaydah has become accustomed to a certain level of treatment and displays no signs of willingness to disclose further information. Moreover, your intelligence indicates that there is currently a level of “chatter” equal to that which preceded the September 11 attacks. In light of the information you believe Zubaydah has and the high level of threat you believe now exists, you wish to move the interrogations into what you have described as an “increased pressure phase.'”

We spend some time discussing this paragraph.  It is very important.  I think that it shows, since none of the criteria were met, that even under the Bush torture memos, we violated even that standard.  This is a great interview.  enjoy!

By |2012-05-07T15:38:43-04:00June 26th, 2009|Podcasts, State and Local Politics, Torture|Comments Off on The Errington Thompson Show 4-25-09

Reflections on September 11th

September 11… I do not want to be misunderstood. I think that having a moment of silence and introspection and reflection is always good. Memorial celebrations and remembrances are also good. But should there be more? Should we do more to honor the lives of those lost on September 11th?

Here are a few things that I thought we should do or think about to honor those who died in a senseless act of violence.

Rebuild something on the World Trade Center site. I have no idea what kind of building needs to be built. I know it should be some sort skyscraper. It has now been seven years and all we have is a large hole in the ground. Both Republicans and Democrats talk about leadership, but this would be one thing a president should stand up about and stop the bickering. Let’s build something we can all be proud of.

After we have reflected, one question that always comes up in my mind is — are we safer? Are we safer today than we were on September 11, 2001? I think the answer is yes. I don’t think that airplanes are as easy to target for hijacking as they were seven years ago. Cockpit doors had been reinforced. There is more thorough screening at airports. This is good. We should be proud that we have done something constructive that should make it harder to attack us the next time.

As a country, it seems like we should demand more. The security at seaports still remains porous so our enemies could do something like ship themselves here in a cargo container. There is very little security on our railroads, which carry a huge amount of hazardous chemicals through densely populated areas. Our borders with Canada and Mexico have yet to be seriously addressed. We have tens of thousands of miles of coastline which also need to be addressed. It would seem that after seven years, we would have at least a plan to secure these areas that I just mentioned. But as far as I know, there is no such plan.

Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Although our military routed the Taliban in late 2001 and early 2002, we did not kill or capture many of the masterminds of 9/11. Yes, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is sitting in Guantánamo Bay. Yet so many of the other high profile Al Qaeda agents and leaders are still on the loose. After seven years, this seems to be a glaring piece of unfinished business.

Finally, I don’t think a free society will ever be invulnerable to terrorism. Once you lock down a society so tight that there never be a car bomb or any type of terrorist act, you have to trample all over civil liberties. So I don’t think it’s practical. Since we want to be able to freely move throughout our country, we have to balance safety with freedom. Maybe this is what needs more public discussion. Maybe this (safety – freedom) is what we all should be thinking about on this September 11th and future anniversaries to come.

By |2008-09-11T16:37:17-04:00September 11th, 2008|9-11, Bin Laden, Terrorism|Comments Off on Reflections on September 11th
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