Imagine an african tin-pot dictator in his memoires saying:
Torture was legal
because our lawyers said so.
This is what just happened, on prime-time TV,
when George W Bush was interviewed on:
Matt Lauer & George W. Bush on NBC:
Bush43 would not answer if he felt that other countries could use the techniques on Americans. When Lauer asked Bush if he would be okay with other countries using waterboarding on an American soldier, Bush told Lauer just to read the book and decide for himself.
Steve Ballinger from Amnesty International goes on to make the logical assumption, "So President Bush's statement [about waterboarding] is an admission that a crime has been committed." Tom Porteous, the UK Director of Human Rights Watch said, "There is no point having international justice for petty African dictators if you can't apply it to the leaders of powerful countries like the US…
Bush talked about his legacy during his interview. "I hope I'm judged a success. But I'm gonna be dead, Matt, when they finally figure it out,"
(It sounds like Shrub is wise enough to suspect that they will "figure out" that 9/11 was an inside job BEFORE HE IS DEAD)
LIKEWISE... the 9/11 tapes where KHALID SHEIKH MOHAMMED confessed
to having planned the 911 attacks... were DESTROYED.
but no problem.
November 9, 2010
No one will be charged in connection with the 2005 destruction of CIA interrogation videotapes
tension between the Justice Department and the CIA and led to a grand jury investigation that has lasted more than two years. It's still possible someone could be charged with satellite violations, such as lying to the grand jury -- and a broader inquiry into whether CIA contractors broke the law in their harsh interrogation of terrorism suspects is continuing. Robert Siegel talks to NPR's Justice Correspondent Carrie Johnson, who broke the story.
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
No one will face criminal charges for destroying CIA videotapes that showed interrogation of detainees. News of those tapes first came to light in late 2007 and touched off a criminal investigation that's lasted for more than two years. The statute of limitations on the tapes' destruction expired this week.
NPR's justice correspondent Carrie Johnson broke this story, and now she's here to talk about it. Hi.
CARRIE JOHNSON: Hi, Robert.
SIEGEL: And first, remind us when these tapes were made and why they were destroyed.
JOHNSON: These tapes appeared to have been made in 2002, and they captured footage of a few high-value detainees in CIA custody in black site prisons overseas. The reasons behind making these tapes remain a bit murky. All along, though, the CIA executives involved in making the tapes seemed to be uncomfortable about them. They had discussions over a three-year period about what to do with them. And finally, in November 2005, Jose Rodriquez, who was then the agency's top clandestine officer, ordered them to be destroyed.
SIEGEL: These were tapes of interrogations of - they're some people we've heard of - Abu Zubaydah is one of the people who was interrogated.
JOHNSON: Abu Zubaydah, who was a famous al-Qaida money man; and al-Nashiri, a man who's suspected of being involved in the plotting for the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole.
SIEGEL: Now, as you understand it, after this active investigation, why weren't there any criminal charges brought for destroying tapes before the statute of limitations expired this week?
JOHNSON: Well, Robert, it really was not for want of trying. Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey in the Bush administration appointed a special prosecutor to investigate this. That man, John Durham, has been having a very active grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia, hauling in former CIA executives, agency lawyers and a host of other people to testify about the reasons for those tapes' destruction.
And he just, it appears, couldn't prove that the tapes were destroyed for a matter of ill intent. There was no apparently criminal wrongdoing in the destruction of the tapes themselves.
SIEGEL: What is the Obama administration saying about this?
JOHNSON: The Justice Department confirmed a few hours after we broke the story online that the investigation into the destruction of the tapes had ended without charges. That said, I've been calling around all day to sources - lawyers involved in the investigation and others - they tell me there's still a possibility that people could be charged for making false statements to the grand jury, or otherwise obstructing justice.
However, Jose Rodriquez's defense lawyer, Bob Bennett, told me this afternoon that Jose Rodriquez is a real patriot and he never broke the law.
SIEGEL: But there are things - at least it's been reported - there are things that were captured in these destroyed videotapes that were very disturbing, if not plainly illegal.
JOHNSON: Robert, that's a very important point. In some of the content portrayed on these videotapes and elsewhere, including menacing of a detainee with a gun and a drill, some detainees were injured and some even died after interrogations. And all of that conduct remains under active criminal investigation by the special prosecutor John Durham.
The Justice Department has said it will not prosecute CIA operatives who acted within the bounds of the law. But if they violated those laws, they still could face criminal jeopardy.
SIEGEL: So the investigation of what was being videotaped may still be going on. The actual destruction of the videotapes is what is now at an end.
JOHNSON: That's exactly right. And that investigation into what was being videotaped could take some period of time because we do know the special prosecutor in this case, John Durham, is an exceedingly cautious man.
SIEGEL: NPR's Carrie Johnson.
Thank you, Carrie.
JOHNSON: Thank you, Robert.
Former president George W. Bush kicked off a week-long book promotion tour with a television interview broadcast on NBC in which he defended every crime committed by his administration, from the illegal wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, to torture, to the abandonment of New Orleans and the Gulf coast during Hurricane Katrina.
The NBC interview is the beginning of a systematic effort to politically rehabilitate the disgraced former president. Bush left office in January 2009 with the lowest approval of any US president since Herbert Hoover, denounced internationally as a mass murderer whose proper fate would be to face a war crimes tribunal.
Bush will follow up the hour-long prime-time interview with appearances on the Oprah Winfrey Show, the Today Show, and other watering holes on the celebrity publicity circuit, aimed at boosting sales of his book, which is expected to earn him tens of millions of dollars. Republican Party leaders reportedly pressed him not to release the book until after the November 2 election, to avoid antagonizing voters.
The greatest media attention has been on Bush's boast that he personally authorized the torture of three Al Qaeda prisoners. Bush had previously acknowledged his role as the ultimate decider on waterboarding, in an interview with Martha Raddatz of ABC News in April 2008. (See: "Top Bush aides directed torture from the White House")
But it was the first time that the former president has discussed the subject since he left office, and he seemed to relish this chapter of his presidency, at one point urging his interviewer, Today Show host Matt Lauer, "Let's talk about waterboarding."
Bush blandly denied that waterboarding was torture, despite the consensus among human rights groups, including the International Commission of the Red Cross, that waterboarding and many other forms of interrogation used at Guantanamo Bay, Bagram and CIA secret prisons violate the Geneva Conventions. Prior to Bush, waterboarding was viewed as a war crime by the US military, and Japanese officers were tried and prosecuted after World War II for using water torture.
The former president claimed that waterboarding was not torture because the lawyers he consulted had said so. This is a transparently circular argument, since these lawyers worked in the Justice Department as his employees, and devised legal opinions to legitimize the actions that Bush, Cheney & Co. wanted to carry out. By that standard, Hitler's "final solution" was also legal, because it conformed to German law as laid down by the Nazis.
While Bush argued that the waterboarding was justified because it "saved lives," supposedly by giving US officials advance warning of terrorist operations, no evidence has ever been presented to support such claims. Last year the New York Times reported that the real motivation for the torture of
Khalid Sheikh Muhammed (waterboarded 183 times) and Abu Zubaida (waterboarded 83 times) was to extract testimony from them about a nonexistent Al Qaeda connection to Saddam Hussein, to strengthen the Bush administration's case for invading Iraq.
As the World Socialist Web Site wrote, "This fact establishes a direct connection between the violation of domestic and international laws barring torture, the preparation of an unprovoked war of aggression against Iraq, and a conspiracy by the president and his top officials to deceive the American people and drag them into war on the basis of lies." (See: "Bush, top cabinet officials monitored torture of detainees")
The rest of the hour-long interview featured friendly questions from Lauer and smirking, self-justifying answers from Bush. The discussion was structured around the "decision points" which are the focus of Bush's newly released memoir of the same name, and excluded large swathes of the history of the Bush administration.
In particular, there seems to have been a ban on questions about politics. Lauer asked nothing about the stolen 2000 election, which placed Bush in the White House; about the 2002 election, during which the Bush administration pushed through a vote in Congress to authorize war in Iraq, warning of "mushroom clouds" over American cities otherwise; about Bush's reelection campaign in 2004; or about the 2006 election, in which the Republican Party was swept out of power in a wave of popular hostility to Bush and his policies, particularly the war in Iraq.
Bush gave predictable, formulaic answers to questions about 9/11 (he said he never asked whether more could have been done to prevent the terrorist attacks), the decision to go to war in Iraq, the failure to find the "weapons of mass destruction" that were the pretext for the war, the atrocity photos from Abu Ghraib, and his handling of the Katrina disaster and the Wall Street collapse of September-October 2008.
The only regret he expressed over the war in Iraq was his appearance on an aircraft carrier in May 2003 under the banner "Mission Accomplished," which proved a public relations disaster. Of the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Bush claimed, "No one was more shocked or angry than I was."
When Lauer asked him whether he had considered apologizing for leading the country into war on false pretenses, Bush rejected the suggestion. "I mean, apologizing would basically say the decision was a wrong decision," he said. "And I don't believe it was the wrong decision."
Lauer asked him whether he would do the same thing again if he had known then what he knows now. Bush evaded the issue, replying, "I, first of all, didn't have that luxury. You just don't have the luxury when you're president."
This is the kind of response that is meant to sound tough-minded, but actually has zero content. What's past is past for everyone, not just presidents. That doesn't prevent human beings from reflecting on the past and considering what could have been done differently. Bush wishes to avoid, not just retrospection, but above all, accountability.
Lauer was always deferential, never suggesting, let alone expressing, the visceral hatred that millions of Americans felt and feel for the former "commander-in-chief." Some of his questions were of a disgustingly fawning character. How had the support of military families sustained him when the American public turned against the war in Iraq? Did Bush feel he got enough credit for the decision to escalate the war in late 2006 (the "surge")?
When Bush offered transparent evasions of questions, there was little or no attempt to follow up. Did he expect the war in Afghanistan to last so long? Bush replied that "building a democracy takes a long time," and Lauer made no effort to point out the absurdity of applying such a label to the corrupt narco-puppet state of Hamid Karzai.
When Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld offered to resign over Abu Ghraib, why had Bush decided to keep him? Bush said he couldn't find anyone else to fill the job, a non-answer if there ever was one.
On Katrina, Bush admitted to errors of public relations, not performance, such as the notorious photo of his flyover of the drowned city of New Orleans. The actual failure to forestall the disaster and rescue the survivors he attributed entirely to local and state officials.
The discussion of Katrina brought the moment most revealing of the small, narrow-minded personality of George W. Bush, as he described the statement by rap singer Kanye West, attributing the administration's failure to the fact that "George Bush doesn't care about black people," as the low point of his presidency.
Even Lauer was non-plussed by this. "You're not saying that the worst moment in your presidency was watching the misery in Louisiana," he said. "You're saying it was when someone insulted you because of that."
He could have added that Bush felt this criticism more deeply than the 3,000 killed on 9/11, or the 4,000 US dead in Iraq, or the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis slaughtered in that war.
Bush made a point of not criticizing his successor, without acknowledging that Obama has largely continued his policies, including the two wars, the bailouts of Wall Street and the auto industry, the use of secret detention, spying, torture, and, in a significant escalation of the attack on democratic rights, the assertion of the president's right to order the assassination of an American citizen.
He could have been speaking for Obama as he defended the decision to bail out the big financial institutions that precipitated the crisis of September-October 2008, saying he "had to abandon the free market to save the free market." Bush went on to say that the financial disaster was "not a crisis of the lack of regulation," another claim that Lauer did not challenge or follow up.
According to press reports, there is not a word of criticism of Obama in Bush's 477-page memoir, and the former president expresses his support for the escalation of the war in Afghanistan, where Obama has followed the example of the Bush "surge" in Iraq by ordering an additional 70,000 US troops into the Central Asian country.