Morning Report 11/14/05
Deaths by Torture Don't End Questioning
Why fight it? Let's follow the Pentagon's rules for interrogation at Abu Ghraib. Let's quit hemming and hawing and start unraveling the Bush regime's threads of misconduct.
And we need to make sure that we round up all the suits, including those at the World Bank.
While Dick Cheney and the rest of George W. Bush's handlers circle the wagons at the White House, and the vise president's non-gay daughter, Liz Cheney, and her friend Shaha Ali Riza agit the prop over at the State Department, Riza's boyfriend, Paul Wolfowitz, is battening down the hatches at the World Bank. Over at one of the planet's most powerful financial institutions, the chief architect of the Iraq debacle is building a bunker to rival the one he helped construct at the Pentagon.
The latest speculation inside the World Bank revolves around how long it will be before investigators come knocking on Wolfowitz's newly reinforced doors to quiz him about the Iraq debacle, Abu Ghraib, Plamegate, and other scandals.
Meanwhile, insiders at the World Bank point out to me, Wolfowitz's new "acting director of institutional integrity" is Suzanne Rich Folsom, wife of George A. Folsom, former president of the International Republican Institute.
The accidental humor doesn't stop there. George Folsom's master's thesis years ago at the University of South Carolina was titled "International Law as an Instrument of Foreign Policy." That dovetails nicely with fellow South Carolinian lawyer Lindsey Graham's recent move in the U.S. Senate to deny habeas corpus to our prisoners — a real fine use of our domestic law as an instrument of foreign policy.
Graham says his move is designed to halt "the never-ending litigation that is coming from Guantánamo." You always have to be suspicious of any lawyer's attempt to halt litigation by other lawyers.
Back to Wolfowitz: Not that he doesn't need someone full-time on "institutional integrity." After all, he has brought with him from the Bush White House the disgraced and embarrassed Robin Cleveland, a figure in the Pentagon's Boeing scandal that cost Air Force Secretary James Roche his job.
Those are just two of Wolfie's insiders. On the outside is the World Bank Staff Association, which in an unprecedented move was disinvited by Wolfowitz to the bank's Corporate Day activities this past July.
This is not a union; it's a formal "affiliate" of the bank, part of its structure since 1972, and it's designed to give a management voice to the 10,000 people who work there.
Here's how the Staff Association's chair, Alison Cave, recently characterized the relationship between the powerful bank and its huge staff, neither of which get regular coverage in the mainstream media:
- For the past 10 years, the Staff Association has forged an effective partnership with senior management resulting in an environment of mutual trust and cooperation. We have had "a seat at the table," participating in senior management meetings such as Corporate Day and the annual Strategic Forum. At these events, the SA ensured that staff views were taken into account, that staff were part of the dialogue about the direction and workings of the Bank Group, and that we were all moving forward together. While the SA does not always agree with management, we have continued to represent staff views and play a constructive role. It has been an effective application of Staff Rule 10 (Consultation) and Principle 10 (Staff Consultation) of the Principles of Staff Employment.
Recognizing this value upon taking over the Bank's helm, and to his credit, Mr. Wolfowitz and his incoming team made an effort to reach out to the Staff Association and to staff at large. The SA advised him and his team on the way in which the partnership has been working and he indicated his support for this approach.
Considering such a positive start, we were dismayed and shocked that the Staff Association was "disinvited" from the very first Corporate Day that the president held on July 29th. Despite assurances that the Staff Association would be included in any future senior management meetings, we learned, after the fact, that another had been held … October 31st. While the president obviously needs to forge a bond with senior management, we are concerned that the voice of staff has no hearing. Apparently, no "opportunities" have come up to include the Staff Association — the representative of staff.
It may take some special techniques to get to the bottom of the Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal's activities. So why not use their own techniques designed for Abu Ghraib and other prisons?
For instance, slide No. 17 of the show-and-make-them-tell presentation to U.S. soldiers arriving at the Baghdad prison in 2003 called for "1-infinity interrogations."
Let's apply this briefing by the U.S. Army's 205th Military Intelligence Brigade to our vise president and the rest of Bush's handlers.
As Jane Mayer's recent piece in The New Yorker reveals, we're starting to focus on where the bodies are buried.
Mayer's story on the death of Abu Ghraib prisoner Manadel al-Jamadi is particularly chilling — in some ways, it's even more frightening than the photo of his corpse (directly below).
Mayer sets up her piece this way:
- Two years ago, at Abu Ghraib prison, outside Baghdad, an Iraqi prisoner in [CIA officer Mark] Swanner’s custody, Manadel al-Jamadi, died during an interrogation. His head had been covered with a plastic bag, and he was shackled in a crucifixion-like pose that inhibited his ability to breathe; according to forensic pathologists who have examined the case, he asphyxiated. In a subsequent internal investigation, United States government authorities classified Jamadi’s death as a “homicide,” meaning that it resulted from unnatural causes. Swanner has not been charged with a crime and continues to work for the agency.
The detail that follows is striking. But here's a passage from the piece, "A Deadly Interrogation: Can the CIA Legally Kill a Prisoner?", that presages the difficulty of conducting a full probe of the Bush regime:
- According to Jeffrey Smith, the former general counsel of the C.I.A., now a private-practice lawyer who handles national-security cases, a decision to prosecute Swanner "would probably go all the way up to the Attorney General." Critics of the Administration, such as John Sifton, a lawyer for Human Rights Watch, question whether Alberto Gonzales, who became Attorney General last year, has too many conflicts of interest to weigh the case against Swanner fairly. Sifton said, "It's hard to imagine the current leadership pursuing these guys, because the head of the Justice Department, Alberto Gonzales, is centrally implicated in crafting the policies that led to the abuse." He suggested that the prudent thing for Gonzales to do would be to "recuse himself from such a decision, and leave it to a deputy, or a career officer."
But there are political conflicts here, too. It is in the office of Paul McNulty — whose nomination to become Gonzales's deputy will soon be presented to Congress, and who was a Republican congressional staff member before being named a U.S. Attorney — that the Jamadi case has stalled. And Alice Fisher, the new head of the Justice Department's criminal division, got that job only under a recess appointment; during her confirmation hearings, Fisher, who previously handled counter-terrorism cases for the department, refused to provide all the information requested about her knowledge of C.I.A. prisoner abuse, and Congress did not approve her nomination.
Even more troubling is the possibility that, under the Bush Administration's secret interrogation guidelines, the killing of Jamadi might not have broken any laws. [Former CIA general counsel] Jeffrey Smith says it's possible that the Office of Legal Counsel's memos may have opened too many loopholes for interrogators like Swanner, "making prosecution somehow too hard to do." Smith added, "But, even under the expanded definition of torture, I don't see how someone beaten with his hands bound, who then died while hanging — how that could be legal. I'd be embarrassed if anyone argued that it was."
Manadel al-Jamadi may be dead and cold and buried, but one body that's still alive and warm is buried in the vault of the World Bank. The least we can do is start probing Wolfowitz about prisoners, torture, and other matters.