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This is the panel the Dog has been waiting for! Torture and accountability. On the panel we have Vince Warren,. Rep. Jerry Nadler, Marcy Wheeler and Melisa Goodman. The Dog is going to try to live blog this for those playing our home game.
Update one. Hey this is going to be on the web somewhere in the future. That is pretty damned cool!
Campaign for torture accountability. Heather is put some talking points down and is passing them out. I’ll post them at the end.
The moderator is talking about how even a year ago no one at NN wanted to to speak out for the option of accountability. Today we will be talking about Congresses role, what don’t we know about torture, what is the balance between the law and the nations desire?
First up is Representative Nadler from the NY 9th. Senior Member of the Judiciary and Transportation committees. Is a strong proponent of investigations
Vince Warren – executive director of Center for Constitutional Rights. Has been extremely active in the litigation for torture victims.
Melisa Goodman – Attorney with the ACLU National Security project. Has acted on illegal wiretapping. FISA and National Security letters are among her litigation.
Last and certainly not least Marcy Wheeler of Emptywheel fame. If you don’t know Marcy, then you need to Google her, but do it when you have a lot of time to read!
Rep Nadler: We are at a pivotal moment in this nation in terms of Rule of Law. As Congress debates or fails to, blogger have a big part to play.
We must face the fact the US has tortured and outsourced torture, engaged in it, and tried to conceal it. This is all supported by evidence.
President Obama has said we would stop this criminal activity it is yet to be see if this is a fact.
There is a problem that we have high official up to and including VP Cheney and perhaps President Bush.
The facts must be part of an independent investigation. We must have an outside prosecutor because of the deep involvement of the DOJ in the justification of torture. These sets of circumstances are exactly why the AG has the power to appoint a special counsel.
There are issues, no new administration has ever been required to investigate the previous administration. This is a hard thing, but it is required, under our laws. But it does make for unique challenges.
Rep Nadler has some sympathy for the look forward not backward, because the President is right, this is going to be really divisive. The moment an indictment is issued, the Right is going erupt with the charge of this is vengeance for the Clinton impeachment. This is going to happen, but it a requirement, not a choice.
One of the charges we made of the Bush Administration is the White House made political decisions for the DOJ, which means this is not the President’s decision. This is the AG’s.
AG Holder has been reported as being disgusted by the CIA IG report. We are being told through leaks that the investigation for this will be limited in two ways. You can not prosecute John Yoo for being a moron, which is true as far as it goes. You have to prove criminal intent. We have also been told if the morons who tortured can’t be held accountable for following the legal advice they got.
Rep Nadler feels this is a terrible idea, for the following reason. You might not be able to hold Yoo libel. However we prosecuted and convicted judges at Nuremberg. This established that if you justified torture though legal memos makes you culpable. Also we established following orders is not a justification for torture.
Rep Nadler – If there is no prosecution, then we are letting the door swing open for the future. We have come a long way in this country. We are into a patter where high officials are not going to be held accountable for illegal acts. This is the time to put an end to this pattern, else it will end us as country which has the rule of law.
Vince Warren – How did we get here, what is at stake and how we move forward. Rep. Nedler is a real leader on this.
Center for Constitutional Rights has been a leader on litigation for Gitmo prisoners. They did not know there was torture in the works, but they did it for transparency and accountability issues which needed to be exposed.
Transparency and accountability are the main reasons they do this. Because citizens need to know what their government is doing and then deciding to do about it.
On Transparency we did not find out most of what we know about torture from the Government, it came from ACLU and from the Netroots bloggers. After all only Bloggers call it torture.
We see that President Obama by being the leader of this Administration he has the uncomfortable but critical task of making accountability happen. It is important to know it is hard, and we need to support him in making the right choice.
This does not mean he has to be supported by praise only, being good constituents means pushing him to do the hard things when he resists doing so.
Center for Constitutional Rights represents 338 Iraqis who were detained at Abu Ghrab prison who suffered torture. The question is what is the Obama Administration prepared to do about this?
So far this has been less than acceptable. We have all of the laws which have triggers for investigation and prosecutions for War Crimes, for torture, and other failings. It is still true we are in violation of our treaty obligations. The Bush admin was under Article Three, the Obama Administration is in violation of Article Four.
As we get these leaks, they are testing us, the Netroots and the country, they are testing the willingness of the nation to accept the proposed plan. The problem is a limited investigation has been tried in Iraq, but all it did is get the little folks, not the whole chain of command. We should not repeat this mistake, as it lead to miscarriage of justice.
This can not be allowed as if we don’t get to the top, this will not stop.
The torture memos are being used as shield. They are saying since you wrote the memos we are going to give legal and political cover for memos which were written to justify torture in the first place.
We can not allow the lynch pin of a conspiracy, to be the same piece that prevents them from being prosecuted for it. This is not a theory of law that can be allowed to continue.
Melisa Goodman – You will be shocked to learn I agree completely with everything that has been said.
There are forms of accountablity beyond torture prosecution. The idea we are debating accountablity is just strange. We know it was an lawless administation. None of the crimes were rouge acts. This was the policy of the administration. We kiddnapped, tortured and killed people. This is know. Kidnapping is a War Crime, murder is a crime, and torture is a War Crime and crime.
We absolutely need a special prosecutor with a broad mandate. This is must. The investigation should not be limited to those who violated the bounds of the memos. Everyone who covered up the torture program, everyone who crafted the program, everyone who has done the acts must be investigated. This is a requirement.
By focusing on the low level folks, this gives the worst criminals a pass. It allows the crafters of criminal policy. They can not allow bad law advice to become the boundaries of the law. It is insane to think the OLC Memos were reasonable analysis of the law.
It is not political to investigate, it is political to give a pass to someone because they are a politician.
But criminal prosecution is not the only avenue of accountability. To this day not one torture victim has had a day in court. This is because of State Secrets and immunity. This is not acceptable. One thing is Congress must fix the State Secrets laws.
Congress has been AWOL on their oversight. They should be doing full public select committees with subpoena power.
Last important point. Congress must stop enabling lawlessness. In the last 8 years Congress has not reigned in abuse, instead they have moved to make the acts legal. As Netroots we should be pushing Congress to do this.
Update 6 – Big news the destroyed CIA interrogation tapes were destroyed will never be seen but there are transcripts of all of them. ACLU is working to get them released.
While Gitmo is getting a little better we still have a black hole at Bagram Airbase. They have less rights and less access to counsel.
There is a part of accountability which could and should be handled by acknowledging we tortured and apologizing for it. Melissa thinks a strong country owns its mistakes and apologies.
Marcy Wheeler – I did a similar panel 10 weeks ago. Here are things which have happened since.
The president has asked the wrong agency (State Dept) to investigate policy to prevent torture.
The office of public responsibility is being held up by CIA
CIA IG report is going to come out in a couple of weeks.
Leon Penetta – I am trying in no way to prevent embarrassment to the CIA. The descriptions of the EIT’s in operation are very different from the memo’s which is the point.
One of the interesting points about the leaks is that is shows that the AG wants to investigate, but CoS Emmanuel keeps saying it will cost us health care.
House Intel committee is trying to expand Gang of 8 though funding, but the president threatened to veto it. This is part of why the House came out saying the CIA lied to them. This is why we are getting investigations on violations of the oversight act.
Porter Goss has confirmed that Speaker Pelosi was not told that we had water boarded Abu Zebayha
Marcy thinks we should work on flipping Judge Bybee – he is a horrible person, but he is the least horrible and he wants to keep his job. This is good place to start.
Another place is where a Judge is investigating 5 CIA lawyers who the Judge says have lied to his face. Marcy thinks this is good place to bring in all the Bush era Directors without going directly at torture.
Update 7 – Big deal is to make Emmanuel the story. He is going to try to obstruct the investigation. It will not be true, but it will really pressure the president to stay out of the way.
Spencer Ackerman asks – Congressman Holt is looking for a new Church Committee. This would investigate how the law insuring compliance on the reporting.
Heather tells about Dan’s torture, and explains her actions to stop torture. She brings up the kids of KSM who have been disappeared. She is announcing a march for accountability.
Occams Hatchet – there is evidence the torture was instigated for justification for war. Could the president joint the ICC and then wash his hands of the issue and give it to them?
Vince thinks that is interesting. He thinks the resistance to joining was part and parcel of fearing this. He does not think it would work. Because it our legal obligation to investigate ourselves. It would take much longer and the politics of joining the ICC would be harder than actually prosecuting ourselves.
What about Bagram? ACLU is all over trying to find out if we really are not torturing in fact there? Things are being asked who is there? What nationality are they? How many were taken from the battle field and how many were kidnapped? Who decides were they go when they get out, what they are accused of, what kinds of access to counsel?
To date they have gotten from the CIA a refusal to confirm or deny the existence of any records at Bagram.
The DOD has found the list, but they are going to withhold it on Nat Sec and privacy grounds. This is the same argument they made for the same info from Gitmo.
Rep. Nedler says there is real problem with the State Secrets Act. The problem is if you don’t have a right with a remedy, then it is not a right. The ability of an Administration to declare things State Secrets prevents remedy when the Administration breaks the law.
Update 8 – The panel is running long, so they let an asshole ask one last question. The Dog asked the panel to what we could all do to get this issue out to the general public since all it takes to get this done is to have 50 million people call for it.
Marcy says we need to work the wiretapping angle with the Conservatives who will fear the government getting at their data. This is a backdoor way to get at all Bush era illegality.
Rep. Nedler talked about being sure we talk about our framing. Not accountability for torture, but accountability to the law.
Both the CCR and ACLU say go to their sites, they have info and organizing tools.
The CCR is also going to put out a “Torture Team” deck of baseball cards which are funny and give torture facts. Look for the launch of this in a couple of weeks.
There it is folks! Whew! Live blogging is exhausting! The floor is yours