Connecting the Dots to Donald Rumsfeld
by Charles Lemos, Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 10:32:58 PM EDT
"What sets us apart from our enemies in this fight ... is how we behave. In everything we do, we must observe the standards and values that dictate that we treat noncombatants and detainees with dignity and respect. While we are warriors, we are also all human beings. "- General David Petraeus, May 10, 2007
It runs 263 pages and it makes for chilling if mystifying reading on a hotter than hell San Francisco night. Formally its title is An Inquiry Into The Treatment of Detainees in US Custody (pdf.) and it is the result of an 18-month inquiry by Senate Armed Services Committee chaired by Carl Levin of Michigan.
The Levin Report documents how some of the techniques -- stripping detainees, placing them in "stress positions" or depriving them of sleep - used by the American military at prisons in Afghanistan, in Iraq and at the naval base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba originated in a series of high-level meetings in 2002, without a single dissent from Cabinet members or lawmakers even though several branches of the US military cited "serious concerns regarding the legality of many of the proposed techniques" and stated that "techniques described may be subject to challenge as failing to meet the requirements outlined in the military order to treat detainees humanely..."
The Levin Report shows that largely at the request of then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld that the United States for the first time officially embraced the brutal methods of interrogation it had always condemned and had long felt to hold no intelligence value.
From the New York Times:
According to several former top officials involved in the discussions seven years ago, they did not know that the military training program, called SERE, for Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, had been created decades earlier to give American pilots and soldiers a sample of the torture methods used by Communists in the Korean War, methods that had wrung false confessions from Americans.
Even George J. Tenet, the C.I.A. director who insisted that the agency had thoroughly researched its proposal and pressed it on other officials, did not examine the history of the most shocking method, the near-drowning technique known as waterboarding.
The top officials he briefed did not learn that waterboarding had been prosecuted by the United States in war-crimes trials after World War II and was a well-documented favorite of despotic governments since the Spanish Inquisition; one waterboard used under Pol Pot was even on display at the genocide museum in Cambodia.
They did not know that some veteran trainers from the SERE program itself had warned in internal memorandums that, morality aside, the methods were ineffective. Nor were most of the officials aware that the former military psychologist who played a central role in persuading C.I.A. officials to use the harsh methods had never conducted a real interrogation, or that the Justice Department lawyer most responsible for declaring the methods legal had idiosyncratic ideas that even the Bush Justice Department would later renounce.
The process was "a perfect storm of ignorance and enthusiasm," a former C.I.A. official said.
In short, the decision to torture was a political decision, not a military one. Secretary Rumsfeld approved 15 interrogation techniques. Moreover, Secretary Rumsfeld authorized the techniques without apparently providing any written guidance as to how they should be administered. "The paper trail on abuse leads to top civilian leaders, and our report connects the dots," Senator Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said on Tuesday in a conference call with reporters. "This report, in great detail, shows a paper trail going from that authorization" by Secretary Rumsfeld "to Guantánamo to Afghanistan and to Iraq," Mr. Levin said.
Now this weekend's ruminations on Fox News with Sean Hannity by former Vice President Dick Cheney make more sense, he is in a panic to protect his old chum Donald Rumsfeld. The right-wing is crying foul suggesting that this marks a "politicization" of intelligence. I regret to inform them that already took place the moment Donald Rumsfeld chose to make torture an instrument of state policy.