Bush Admits to Secret Prisons

BBC News:

President Bush has acknowledged the existence of secret CIA prisons and said 14 key terrorist suspects have now been sent to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

These would be the same secret prisons Dana Priest wrote about, I take it.

The suspects, who include the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, have now been moved out of CIA custody and will face trial.

Mr Bush said the CIA’s interrogation programme had been “vital” in saving lives, but denied the use of torture.


He said all suspects will be afforded protection under the Geneva Convention.

But they weren’t afforded such protection before.

In a televised address alongside families of those killed in the 11 September 2001 attacks, Mr Bush said there were now no terrorist suspects under the CIA programme.

Mr Bush said he was making a limited disclosure of the CIA programme because interrogation of the men it held was now complete and because a US Supreme Court decision had stopped the use of military commissions for trials.

I wonder what brought this on?

Update: Thanks to merciless for the tip — at Crooks and Liars, Digby writes that this is a classic Rove maneuver to trap the Dems into appearing soft on terrorists. He quotes Mario Loyola at The Corner:

The President just pulled one of the best maneuvers of his entire presidency. By transferring most major Al Qaeda terrorists to Guantanamo, and simultaneously sending Congress a bill to rescue the Military Commissions from the Supreme Court’s ruling Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, the President spectacularly ambushed the Democrats on terrain they fondly thought their own. Now Democrats who oppose (and who have vociferously opposed) the Military Commissions will in effect be opposing the prosecution of the terrorists who planned and launched the attacks of September 11 for war crimes.

The military tribunals that were operating at Guantanamo were not normal trials or even normal courts martial. President Bush declared that non-citizens whom he determined were terrorists would be “tried” by a military commission, which differs from a normal court in several ways. According to Wikipedia:

  • The accused are not allowed access to all the evidence against them. The presiding officers are authorized to consider secret evidence the accused have no opportunity to refute.
  • The presiding officers are authorized to consider evidence extracted under torture.
  • The presiding officers are authorized to consider evidence extracted through coercive interrogation techniques.
  • The general in overall charge of the commissions is sitting in on them. He is authorized to shut down any commission, without warning, and without explanation.
  • Secretary Rumsfeld has said that even an acquittal on all charges is no guarantee of a release; that he may choose to keep any detainee.
  • For all the articles written about the military tribunals I haven’t found one that explains exactly how they work or who has access to the proceedings or records of the proceedings. If anyone could help me out with that I’d appreciate it.

    Very simply, the Hamdan decision said that the President doesn’t have the constitutional authority to establish military tribunals. However, the ruling doesn’t prevent Congress from passing legislation allowing tribunals at Guantanamo. The plan seems to be to use tribunal legislation as a wedge issue to hurt Democrats; if they hesitate to approve whatever nonsense the Republicans come up with, Republicans will claim the Dems are “soft on terrorism.” Dumping famously bad guys like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed into Gitmo ups the ante considerably.

    However, Digby says the Dems can avoid the trap by advocating public trials à la Nuremberg. Considering all the World War II rhetoric coming out of the White House lately, this is a natural. And I have a feeling the White House really does not want public trials under Nuremberg rules

    Under the Nuremberg Charter, each defendant accused of a war crime was afforded the right to be represented by an attorney of his choice. The accused war criminals were presumed innocent by the tribunal and could not be convicted until their guilt was proven beyond a reasonable doubt. In addition, the defendants were guaranteed the right to challenge incriminating evidence, cross-examine adverse witnesses, and introduce exculpatory evidence of their own.

    I say if it was good enough for Hermann Goering, it’s good enough for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Anyway, back to Digby:

    The Republicans are gleefully assuming that Bush has cornered the hapless Democrats once again with this clever move. I don’t think so. Bush and Rumsfeld just repealed Godwin’s law and that means this WWII analogy goes both ways. The Democrats should insist that if it was good enough for the Nazis to have public trials with normal rules of evidence, it is good enough for Al Qaeda.

    Without public trials, there will never be any proof of guilt and the United States will create martyrs in a movement that reveres martyrdom — secret trials play directly into the hands of the terrorists. At the very least, these accused terrorists must be tried under rules such as those used at Nuremberg that cannot be construed as unjust by reasonable people. Without that, we will have given the terrorists another excellent recruiting tool and more reasons for the Islamic moderates we desperately need as allies to mistrust us. It seems to me that we have done quite enough of that.

    So if the Republicans try to use opposition to tribunal legislation (I am assuming Dems will oppose it), all the Dems have to do is holler NUREMBERG! and HERMANN GOERING! That should do it.

    Losing China Again

    Awhile back I wrote a post that explained how, during the Cold War, Republicans claimed credibility as the “war-national security” party when it was three Democratic presidents who had led the nation through World War I and II.

    In a nutshell, it was through a campaign of hysterical charges and bald-faced lies.

    In the 1930s it was the American Right, not the Left, who thought Hitler was an OK guy who could be appeased into leaving us alone. Before World War II conservatives were staunch isolationists who opposed any move by Franklin Roosevelt to send aid to Europe or prepare for war.

    Here’s just a bit from “Stabbed in the Back!” by Kevin Baker in the June issue of Harper’s, which I urge you to read if you haven’t already.

    In the years immediately following World War II, the American right was facing oblivion. Domestically, the reforms of the New Deal had been largely embraced by the American people. The Roosevelt and Truman administrations—supported by many liberal Republicans—had led the nation successfully through the worst war in human history, and we had emerged as the most powerful nation on earth.

    Franklin Roosevelt and his fellow liberal internationalists had sounded the first alarms about Hitler, but conservatives had stubbornly—even suicidally—maintained their isolationism right into the postwar era. Senator Robert Taft, “Mr. Republican,” and the right’s enduring presidential hope, had not only been a prominent member of the leading isolationist organization, America First, and opposed the nation’s first peacetime draft in 1940, but also appeared to be as naive about the Soviet Union as he had been about the Axis powers. Like many on the right, he was much more concerned about Chiang Kai-shek’s worm-eaten Nationalist regime in China than U.S. allies in Europe. “The whole Atlantic Pact, certainly the arming of Germany, is an incentive for Russia to enter the war before the army is built up,” Taft warned. He was against any U.S. military presence in Europe even in 1951.

    Baker explains the whole sorry episode very nicely. Briefly, in the late 1940s the former appeasers of Hitler got worked up over the Soviet takeover of eastern Europe and Mao Zedong’s takeover of China. One of the catchphrases of the day was “Who lost China?” as if China had been ours to lose. Right-wingers were convinced these things would not have happened except for (liberal) traitors in the government who either allowed them to happen or arranged for them to happen. (They seemed unable to consider that people and events in the USSR, eastern Europe, and China may have been factors.) And the Right put up such a stink about this that by the 1960s Dem politicians were challenged to prove they were as “tough on Communism” as Republicans, never mind that Democrats had a much longer and stronger record on foreign policy and as protectors of national security than Republicans at the time.

    I bring all this up because Glenn Greenwald’s post of this morning makes me wonder if we’re just replaying old tapes.

    Glenn’s post documents that during the Clinton Administration, Republicans in Congress downplayed the threat of terrorism even as President Clinton urged more aggressive counterterrorism measures. “[T]o the extent Republicans spoke about Clinton’s anti-terrorism efforts at all, it was to criticize them for being too bellicose, too militaristic, and just unnecessary,” writes Glenn. Particularly during his second term Clinton urged Congress to become more pro-active about terrorism. With a handful of exceptions, Republicans in Congress ignored the warnings.

    During his first presidential campaign George W. Bush ignored terrorism as an issue even though he offered other specific criticisms of Clinton policies.

    Get this:

    The 2000 Republican Party Platform contains 13 specific criticisms of the Clinton Administration’s foreign and military policies. Not a single one mentions or refers in any way to Al Qaeda or terrorism generally. After that, there is an entire section entitled “The Middle East and Persian Gulf” that deals extensively with Iraq and the alleged threat posed by Saddam Hussein, but it does not say a word — not a single word — about Islamic extremism, Al Qaeda, or Osama bin Laden.

    Even the section of the Platform entitled “Terrorism, International Crime, and Cyber Threats” makes not one reference to Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda, or Islamic extremism. It does not contain a single claim that the Clinton administration was insufficiently aggressive towards Islamic terrorists, nor does it advocate increased militarism in the Middle East or against terrorists. In fact, to the extent Republicans advocated a new approach at all, it was to emphasize the need for the very “law enforcement” and “domestic preparedness” approaches which they now claim to disdain.

    During his debates with Vice President Gore, George Bush was asked to explain his views toward the Middle East. He said not one word about Islamic terrorism. He did say things like “I’m worried about overcommitting our military around the world. I want to be judicious in its use. . . . It needs to be in our vital interest, the mission needs to be clear, and the exit strategy obvious.” And also, “And so I don’t think our troops ought to be used for what’s called nation-building. I think our troops ought to be used to fight and win war.”

    Condi Rice also
    showed no interest whatsoever in al Qaeda or bin Laden.

    When George W. Bush became President, one of his first acts was to kneecap the Hart-Rudman Commission recommendations then before Congress and assign the task of forming national security policies to Dick Cheney, who as of September 11, 2001, had not yet made a start. In spite of the warnings of outgoing Clinton officials that al Qaeda was a terrible threat, in April 2001 the Bush Administration’s first annual terrorism report left out Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden had been discussed extensively in Clinton-era reports. A senior State Department official told CNN the Clinton Administration had made a mistake by focusing so much on bin Laden and “personalizing terrorism.” The Bush Administration planned to focus on governments that sponsored terrorism, not on stateless terrorist organizations like al Qaeda.

    And, of course, through the summer of 2001 the Bush White House blissfully ignored warning after warning that bin Laden was determined to strike in the United States.

    Yet no sooner had the dust settled at Ground Zero that the Republicans declared themselves to be the All-High God-Appointed National Security Honchos, rightie fingers pointed at Bill Clinton, and Prince Pissant persuaded the American people that he, and he alone, could protect them from terrorism.

    ABC’s controversial 9/11 film
    has inspired many other bloggers to write about actions Clinton had taken against terrorism, and al Qaeda in particular, before he left office. Here’s an old article by William Rivers Pitt that provides details, plus there are a wealth of good links in the comments to Glenn’s post.

    You could argue that Clinton could have done more. But you cannot argue, based on their own record, that the Republicans or President Bush have more credibility in national security and counter-terrorism than Democrats do. If facts are our guide, Republicans ought to have less credibility in national security and counter-terrorism than Democrats do.

    The only reason the Right gets away with claiming credibility in national security is through a relentless campaign of hysterical charges and bald-faced lies — just like the bad old days, when Joe McCarthy was shrieking about traitors in the State Department who lost China.

    Alive and Well and Living in Pakistan?

    Last night ABC’s Brian Ross reported that Osama bin Laden has been offered sanctuary in Pakistan. This morning ABC and other news sources are denying this report.

    You can watch the video of Brian Ross’s original report here. You can draw your own conclusions about who got to whom.

    Whether bin Laden was involved in the deal or not, Pakistan did make a deal with the Taliban that amounts to a one-finger salute at President Bush. Agence France-Presse and The Associated Press report:

    The Pakistani government and pro-Taliban militants announced that they signed a peace accord Tuesday aimed at ending five years of violent unrest in a tribal region bordering Afghanistan.

    The agreement came as a NATO-led offensive in southern Afghanistan continued for a fourth day, with U.S. artillery and airstrikes killing 50 to 60 suspected Taliban militants Tuesday, a NATO spokesman said.

    Under the peace deal, the militants are to halt attacks on Pakistani forces in the semiautonomous North Waziristan region and stop crossing into nearby eastern Afghanistan to attack U.S. and Afghan forces hunting Qaeda and Taliban forces. It came as Pakistan’s president, General Pervez Musharraf, was set to visit Kabul on Wednesday in a move aimed at improving strained relations between the United States’ two key allies in the fight against terrorism.

    The accord calls for Pakistani troops to stop their hugely unpopular military campaign in the restive Pakistani region, in which more than 350 soldiers have died, along with hundreds of militants and scores of civilians.

    But the agreement, which one official said offered an “implicit amnesty” to foreign and local militants, highlights the Pakistani military’s inability to crush a violent pro-Taliban insurgency on its own soil.

    Pakistani forces had no alternative but to reconcile with the militants, whose knowledge of the terrain and determination to protect their region would have forced the conflict to continue, said Rusul Basksh Rais, a Pakistani political analyst.

    Pamela Constable reports for the Washington Post:

    Reached as Pakistan’s president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, prepared to visit the Afghan capital Wednesday, the accord aroused alarm among some analysts in Afghanistan. They expressed concern that, whatever the militias promise, a Pakistani army withdrawal might backfire, emboldening the groups to operate more freely in Pakistan and to infiltrate more aggressively into Afghanistan to fight U.S. and allied forces there.

    “This could be a very dangerous development,” said one official at an international agency, speaking anonymously because the issue is sensitive in both countries. “Until recently there has been relative stability in eastern Afghanistan, but now that could start to deteriorate.”

    The agreement could add a new element of tension to Musharraf’s visit, aimed at smoothing over his relations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The two Muslim leaders, both allies in the U.S.-led war against Islamic extremists, have clashed heatedly over allegations that Taliban forces in Afghanistan are receiving support and shelter from inside Pakistan.

    Pakistan’s move also appeared to complicate the U.S. role in the region. U.S. officials have praised Musharraf for his help in capturing al-Qaeda members and refrained from pressing him hard on cross-border violence. A withdrawal of Pakistani forces could reduce pressure on al-Qaeda figures believed to be hiding in the region, including Osama bin Laden, allowing them more freedom of action.

    NATO forces are currently in a fierce conflict with Taliban insurgents in southern Afghanistan, where the militia has attacked in rural districts with increasing boldness in recent months. In the past four days, officials said, a NATO military operation in Kandahar province has killed more than 200 insurgents.

    Steve M. reports that (per the Right Blogosphere) Pakistan caved to terrorist demands because American lefties got to Musharraf. Fear of Michael Moore? I think not; more likely Musharraf was visited by the ghost of Alger Hiss.