The Tortured Justice of Gonzales

What is water-boarding?

Is it as the Vice-President has implied “a little dunk in water”?

Or is it more like this:

We have by now all read of the many terror plots confessed to by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. As was recently reported in the Washington Post

“_ Britain, where he said he planned attacks on London’s Heathrow Airport, Canary Wharf and Big Ben, most of which have been previously mentioned as terror targets by British authorities. Mohammed did not speak of the London transport attacks of 2005, which occurred after his detention.

_ The Philippines, home to the al-Qaida affiliated Abu Sayyaf Group, from where Mohammed said he had surveyed and financed plots to kill the late Pope John Paul II and then-President Clinton in 1995 and former President Carter, as well as blow up the Israeli Embassy in Manila. The capital was also the center of a thwarted plan to blow up a dozen U.S. passenger jets over the Pacific in the mid-1990s, for which Mohammed admitted responsibility, saying he had personally monitored a round-trip Pan Am flight from Manila to Seoul that could have been a target.

_ Indonesia, home to the al-Qaida affiliated Jemaah Islamiyah, where Mohammed said he was directly behind the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings in Indonesia that killed 202 people, many of them Australian tourists. He said he had also planned apparently unsuccessful or unexecuted attacks on the U.S. and Israeli embassies in Jakarta and an oil facility in Sumatra he said was owned by the “Jewish former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.”

_ Thailand, which has been hit by a spate of Muslim-Buddhist violence in recent months, where Mohammed said planned attacks on nightclubs frequented by American and British citizens and was responsible for “surveying and financing” a plot to destroy an Israeli El Al airliner taking off from the Bangkok airport. These have not taken place.

_ Kenya, where Mohammed claimed responsibility for the 2002 bombing of an Israeli-owned Indian Ocean resort that killed 18 and the near simultaneous attempted shoot-down of an Israeli passenger jet there the same day. Mohammed did not mention the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

_ Israel, where Mohammed said he had dispatched holy warriors to conduct surveillance on “several strategic targets” and planned to crash planes into buildings in the tourist resort of Eilat using aircraft departing Saudi Arabia that has not yet happened.

_ Panama, where Mohammed claimed to have been behind a plot to bomb and destroy the Panama Canal that has not occurred.

_ Turkey, where Mohammed said he had financed operations to hit U.S., British and Israeli targets. Several attacks have taken place in Turkey since Mohammed’s arrest but none have been publicly linked to him.

_ South Korea, where Mohammed claimed to have planned to attack U.S. military bases and nightclubs frequented by Americans. None have been hit.

_ Australia, Azerbaijan, India and Japan, where Mohammed said he planned to blow up either the U.S. and Israeli embassies or both. None of those facilities have been attacked.

Other alleged intended targets mentioned by Mohammed on which there have been no attacks are NATO headquarters in Brussels and U.S. military vessels and oil tankers plying the Straits of Hormuz and Gibraltar and the Port of Singapore, one of the world’s largest.”

It has also been reported that Mohammed has been tortured:

“The CIA has reportedly water-boarded Khalid Sheik Mohammed — a practice in which the suspect is made to fear that he is drowning in order to encourage him to talk.

And yet what is the utility of an endless admission of acts obtained under coercion?

Would Mohammed have confessed to being the father of Anna Nicole’s child under torture? Would he have admitted to being in Dallas for Kennedy’s assassination? Would he have admitted to assisting John Wilkes Booth in killing Lincoln? Or turning over information to the British during the Revolutionary War?

With Democrats now in control in both houses of Congress, maybe we can start getting some long-needed oversight of this President.

As reported today, Senators Levin and Graham are interested in finding out more about Mohammed’s treatment and the confessions obtained.

“Allegations of prisoner mistreatment must be taken seriously and properly investigated. To do otherwise would reflect poorly on our nation,” Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), a committee member, said in a statement issued yesterday.

As the report relates:

“The CIA maintains that it does not torture prisoners but has refused to describe what acts it considers to be torture and has not divulged the interrogation techniques it uses against detainees.”

And yet, has the justice being delivered to Mohammed meet our own minimum standards of American jurisprudence?

“Mohammed was denied an attorney for the hearing, which was called to establish whether he qualifies as an enemy combatant. Evidence was withheld from him, and the military panel rejected his request to call two witnesses — also at Guantanamo — to corroborate assertions that nearly half of the military’s case against him is false.”

But where did this concept of justice originate in the Justice Department?

Alberto Gonzales once again, as you may recall, was an author of this whole process.

As related by Newsweek Magazine

“The White House was undeterred. By Jan. 25, 2002, according to a memo obtained by NEWSWEEK, it was clear that Bush had already decided that the Geneva Conventions did not apply at all, either to the Taliban or Al Qaeda. In the memo, which was written to Bush by Gonzales, the White House legal counsel told the president that Powell had “requested that you reconsider that decision.” Gonzales then laid out startlingly broad arguments that anticipated any objections to the conduct of U.S. soldiers or CIA interrogators in the future. “As you have said, the war against terrorism is a new kind of war,” Gonzales wrote to Bush. “The nature of the new war places a —high premium on other factors, such as the ability to quickly obtain information from captured terrorists and their sponsors in order to avoid further atrocities against American civilians.” Gonzales concluded in stark terms: “In my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva’s strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions.”

Gonzales also argued that dropping Geneva would allow the president to “preserve his flexibility” in the war on terror. His reasoning? That U.S. officials might otherwise be subject to war-crimes prosecutions under the Geneva Conventions. Gonzales said he feared “prosecutors and independent counsels who may in the future decide to pursue unwarranted charges” based on a 1996 U.S. law that bars “war crimes,” which were defined to include “any grave breach” of the Geneva Conventions. As to arguments that U.S. soldiers might suffer abuses themselves if Washington did not observe the conventions, Gonzales argued wishfully to Bush that “your policy of providing humane treatment to enemy detainees gives us the credibility to insist on like treatment for our soldiers.”

When Powell read the Gonzales memo, he “hit the roof,” says a State source. Desperately seeking to change Bush’s mind, Powell fired off his own blistering response the next day, Jan. 26, and sought an immediate meeting with the president. The proposed anti-Geneva Convention declaration, he warned, “will reverse over a century of U.S. policy and practice” and have “a high cost in terms of negative international reaction.” Powell won a partial victory: On Feb. 7, 2002, the White House announced that the United States would indeed apply the Geneva Conventions to the Afghan war—but that Taliban and Qaeda detainees would still not be afforded prisoner-of-war status. The White House’s halfway retreat was, in the eyes of State Department lawyers, a “hollow” victory for Powell that did not fundamentally change the administration’s position. It also set the stage for the new interrogation procedures ungoverned by international law.”

So much of the twisted logic of our current Justice Department has been molded and shaped by Attorney General Gonzales.

Gonzales should never been confirmed as Attorney General. And now it is time to ask him to step down. Whether it be about torture, the abuse of the independence of the Justice Department from political interference, or the President’s power in regards to signing statements, FISA Courts, or War Powers, President Bush is ill-served by Mr. Gonzales.

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About Robert Freedland

A concerned American and supporter of Senator John Kerry, I am the author of the blog "John Kerry for President 2008". I am also the author of the stock market investing blog, "Stock Picks Bob's Advice".
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4 Responses to The Tortured Justice of Gonzales

  1. Back in the day, this technique was once referred to as “The Ducking Stool”, and was very popular in Colonial times as a method of torture. That it would enjoy a “renaissance” in George Bush’s 21st Century America is a shame beyond none.

  2. Darrell Prows says:

    Bush is well served by Gonzales. Gonzales gives Bush excatly what he asks for.

    If you are a president, and want to engage in dubious enterprises or adventures, having a “big shot” lawyer ratify your agenda provides excellent cover. It’s always so nice to be able to say “I only went forward in conformity with the advice of legal counsel”. And so what if you only hire lawyers who will say what you tell them to say.

  3. Buzz says:

    I served in Vietnam with the 25th Infantry Corps.(25th Military Intelligence Detachment)
    One of the primary principles we were taught in intelligence school was that torture was a poor method in extacting reliable information. In most cases the person being tortured, in their attempt to end it, will provide false information. It has been proven that we sustain more casualties by reacting to false information, than no information at all. Even worse, these methods are contrary to the provisions of the Geneva Convention, of which we are a signatory. They put our captured GI’s at greater risk of being killed or tortured should they be captured.
    This represents just one more example of the brutal, vicious, and secretive tone of this administration. To “The Decider” the end always justifies the means. This president, who considers himself a “compassionate conservative”, has proven time and time again that he totally lacks compassion.( as in the Hurricane Katrina response) His legacy will surely be one of corruption and deceit. Unlike president Teddy Roosevelt whose foreign relations motto was “Speak softly but carry a big stick”, this presidents should be, “just stick it to them”. His cowboy mentality, as exampled by “Bring ’em on!”, has changed our world image from being the beacon of democracy, to one of being the world’s bully.

  4. Darrell

    The rest of us would be well served if GOnzales reigned!

    By the way, I don’t know that I have welcomed you to the Dem Daily yet. I’ve had a lot on my plate and haven’t had a chance to respond much in the comments. I’ve been enjoying reading your input.