Constant's pations

If it's more than 30 minutes old, it's not news. It's a blog.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Torture: Congress informed of UN Treaty violations, but failed to act

After the President's lap dogs chimed, "There is no torture problem," we can review the CIA IG report under better light.

Earlier this week, the NYT reported that the CIA IG has issued a report stating the US has likely violated the UN Charter in re torture.

The CIA IG asserts it concluded techniques violated the UN charter. [Ref Guardian and NYT].

But don't wait for the Congress to step in. The CIA IG, under reporting requirements, has already made its concerns known.

* * *

The distinction between US law and the UN Charter although subtle are irrelevant. US personnel through Article VI of the Constitution swear an oath to uphold the laws of the land.

The report, by John L Helgerson, the CIA's inspector general, did not conclude that the techniques constituted torture, which is also prohibited under American law, the officials said.

But Helgerson did find, the officials said, that the techniques appeared to constitute cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment under the convention.Ref

It is curious, but irrelevant whether the US does or does not ban what was going on; the larger issue is why, despite the apparent violations of the UN Charter, is the US still pretending that "if the people are not subject to US law in Eastern Europe, then whatever we do to them is fine."

The UN Charter applies to all member nations , including Eastern Europe; one cannot have an oath to "uphold the laws of the land, including the UN Charter" but take action that ignores the UN Charter.

It remains to be understood how many have failed to uphold their oaths of office in all branches of the government. There's too much secret information floating around for too long to believe "nobody knew."

Apparently, many within the CIA had reservations immediately after 9-11, prompting the White House to change the issue from [a] whether the detainees were being treated appropriately, to [b] whether the standards applied or not.

The mistreatment, in contravention to the UN Charter, continues.

* * *

Earlier in 2005, CIA director met with Congress:
Porter J. Goss, the C.I.A. director, testified this year that eight of the report's recommendations had been accepted, but did not describe them.<Ref
If the IG report recommendations were accepted, why was there not an agreement that the conduct should be banned because it violated the UN Charter against cruel and degrading treatment?

We have on answer. Having a hearing is only the start of the process. The wrong approach is to ignore the implications, and then open up a debate to ask, "Despite our UN treaty obligations, should the US write laws that contradict this treaty and give the green light to torture in Eastern Europe?"

It is absurd to believe that Congress was "doing the right thing" or "adequately overseeing the agencies" when, despite the apparent problems relative to the UN charter, the debate in 2005 is about doing what the UN charter prohibits.

* * *

If Congress wants us to believe "they did the right thing when they were supposedly informed of this problem," why are they:

[a] "debating" whether torture is lawful or not;
[b] listening to arguments by the White House on "it's OK"; and
[c] asking that the CIA leaker (of the Eastern European torture centers) be identified?

The answer is: Congress is ignoring the UN charter, and not simply saying, "We've already signed a treaty on that, this cannot stand." Rather, Congress is doing the opposite and saying, "Even though we have a treaty that bans that, maybe we can find some wiggle room to ensure the White House faces no consequences for this illegal torture that they deny is going on, but we've already been told is occurring and may violate the UN Charter."

* * *

What makes the above inaction absurd is the Republicans, despite the ability to call the CIA IG at any time, would have us believe that they didn't know what was going on. We hear only excuses why the issues are not resolved.
Republicans say they called in the inspector general when Defense officials stopped cooperating with the committee after its Democratic vice chairman, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, suggested Pentagon aides might have engaged in "unlawful" activity.Ref
This shows that the RNC-controlled committees could call the CIA IG at any time; the issue isn't "whether they knew or not," but why despite the CIA IG report on the violations of the UN Charter didn't Congress visibly take the lead and call DoD and the CIA to the carpet?

The answer: Despite the "control of the budget" and the "Congressional power of the purse," the RNC would have us believe that DoD and the CIA "refused to cooperate."

OK, if they aren't responding to lawful inquiry, why did the RNC-controlled bureaucracy self-evidently rubber stamp more funds to be used for "things that Congress can't get straight answers on?"

No answer from the RNC.

* * *

If Congress "had a plan" or "was on top of this," they wouldn’t be debating the issue, but be hauling people forward for hearings. The lack of a hearing, in combination with a rubber-stamped budget implies the opposite: There was and remains no plan to address these issues of torture or their relationship with the US treaty obligations.

Bluntly, it doesn't matter "whether the CIA or DOD personnel are or are not subject to US law if they support torture in Eastern Europe." The larger issue is whether the US, despite reports of apparent treaty violations, failed to take action to correct the problem.

When someone is elected to public office, they take an oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution. Article VI of the Constitution makes the UN Treaty part of the supreme law of the US. This means: If people are ignoring the US treaty obligations of the United Nations, they are not only in violation of the US law, but they have failed to comply with their oath of office.

* * *

The issue isn't just what happened; but what failed to occur once those reports of violations occurred.

People who are aware of violations of the law, but fail to act, become part of the wider conspiracy.

Thus, I conclude that Congress' dance about "torture," isn't so much about defending the White House, but to throw up a smokescreen and obstruct a reasonable discussion: Are US Senators and Representatives part of the ongoing enterprise to sanction unlawful conduct in violation of US Treaty obligations?

Based on the glacial response from the US in re torture, I conclude that the larger Congressional concern isn't whether DoD or the White House will be held liable, but what liability could fall on the specific representatives for them apparently endorsing unlawful treaty violations.

* * *

We see no hearings, nor any outrage; just a targeted investigation to find the leaker of the CIA torture chambers in Eastern Europe.

That is not action, that is blaming and ignoring treaty obligations.

* * *

Congress needs to answer why, if the CIA report has already been provided to Congress, why Congress is feigning shock over the torture in Eastern Europe. It looks as though the Congress is embarrassed that their knowledge of these treaty violations is now surfacing, but Congress failed to act to correct the problem.

The questions:

  • Given the CIA IG's conclusions, how did the Congress, when it received these findings, review the Administration’s efforts?

  • Did the Senate Intelligence Committee adequately review the matters raised by the CIA IG?

  • What efforts, if any, did the Congress make to ensure US personnel were sanctioned/disciplined for these apparent violations?

  • What oversight did Congress fail to increase in the wake of these reports?

  • Was Congress dissuaded by anyone in the White House not to follow-up on these statements by the CIA IG?


    The comments surface at the very time that the RNC-poodles are denying there is a leadership problem in the White House. Many in the wake of the President's Veteran's Day speech, got on their knees to kiss the President's rear end, "OH, thank you for making such a believable denial about everything."

    Usually people want to be immune from something when they're doing something they don't want to be held accountable for: Committing torture in violation of the UN Charter, as the CIA IG should have already informed the Congress.

    Now that the CIA IG has confirmed there are possible violations of the UN Charter, will Congress launch an investigation into the CIA IG to find out about that leak; or are there other people in the CIA IG office who have been threatened to "not talk about" allegations of war crimes?

    "Blurred rules" is a code word for: War crimes. The rules are clear, and the US has violated them.

    It doesn't matter what the DoJ may or may not have done on "narrowing the definition of torture." The CIA IG's view is that the US's treaty obligations have likely been violated; no amount of DoJ hand waving is going to change history.

    Notice the only catalyst for the Administration to act is public embarrassment or knowledge. Thus, we conclude that the primary motivation behind the CIA "secret detention centers" has nothing to do with protecting the operation, but in avoiding public oversight. You can forget Congressional oversight -- the Senate Intelligence Committee appears to be willing to go along with anything, just as long as their campaign contributions are not affected.

    What's most amazing is that despite the 90-8 vote against torture, the White House is acting as if this Senate Action on the McCain Amendment is something that can be "overcome" with aggressive lobbying. Wow, that sounds like the same "excuse to engage in propaganda with WMD, Iraq, Plame, and Libby" we've grown all too uncomfortably familiar with thanks to the Fitzgerald indictments.

    At this juncture, it's clear the "negotiations" with the White House are about compromising on something that should be enforced: The rule of law.

    You can't "compromise" on a treaty, when the CIA IG has already said the conduct is a problem: Today's negotiations are about avoiding sanctions, not in asserting the rule of law or preserving US national security.

    * * *

    This means that the US government has known since just after 9-11 that there was a problem with prisoner treatment, but it has taken many years to get the US Supreme Court to say, "We can review their case."

    What happened to "Habeas Corpus"? If you can suppress in 2001 the CIA report saying the conduct may violate the treaty, you can ignore the UN Charter and US Constitution.

    Why would they go to such lengths to hide "evidence of wrongdoing" if the later argument is "Despite that bad treatment, we aren't liable because we don’t' have to follow those rules; and the detainees aren't protected."

    Apparently, no amount of hand waving over their status as detainees, freedom fighters, lawful/unlawful combatants does anything to make the UN Treaty inapplicable, either in Guantanamo or Eastern Europe.

    The entire "debate over detainee’s status" in re whether they are lawful or unlawful combatants has been a red herring from the real problem: The US treatment of prisoners has been a violation of the UN Charter; Congress has known about it; and has failed to timely resolve this issue and bring the United States under UN Treaty compliance.

    * * *

    Supposedly after the Iraqis "violated their UN agreements" the US gave itself permission to invade.

    What's the US's excuse to "have this rule [if you violate the UN agreement you are subject to invasion] that was absurdly applied to Iraq, not applicable to the US in re torture?"

    "Oh, that rule we applied to Iraq doesn't apply to US."

    * * *

    Leadership failures jeopardize the safety and security of the Constitution and undermine the notion of "rule of law."

    * * *

    Let's keep in mind: There are at least five different timelines, none of them match:

  • Congress: Was informed, aware of problems as evidenced by the Rhode Island Senator Staff visit to GITMO in November 2002

  • Joint Staff: They were informed at least as early as November 2002 through 6th Group that there was a problem at GITMO with treatment

  • CIA: Discussion immediately after 9-11 raised concerns

  • CIA IG: Completed their report in 2005

  • White House: Denies any problem

    * * *

  • How many different times has Congress been briefed on the matters?

    Appears the Senate Intelligence committee has been briefed numerous times, but has squashed any public discussion or hearing on the matters.

  • What is the statutory requirement when a member of Congress is notified of a possible violation of the law and/or US treaty obligations?

    If there is no statutory reporting requirement, then the secret report of unlawful actions will get no attention or action; the law is meaningless if all agree to remain silent about the actions; and this is evidence of a wider conspiracy of silence. The secrecy doesn’t appear to protect national security or serve a lawful purpose, but to thwart lawful oversight, inquiry, and prosecutors from gathering facts.

  • Why, despite the JCS being notified in November 2002 there was a problem with treatment, did it take until 2005 for Congress to discuss with the CIA the treatment issues?

    The time lag makes no sense, suggesting that other agencies besides DoD after 2002 were also aware and have done nothing: DoJ.

  • Why should we believe that any discussion on "detainee status" has any relevance to whether the US is or is not a signatory to the UN Charter in re human rights?

    This is a red herring.

    * * *

    It remains to be understood to what extent, if any, the Senators on the Joint Intelligence Committee have thwarted lawful inquiry into allegations of violations of the US treaty obligations under the UN Charter.