While President Obama told the country to “look forward, not backward” when it came to Bush’s torture program, the United Nations has taken a different route. Recently, the UN Human Rights Committee issued a report excoriating the United States for its human rights violations. It focuses on violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the country is party. The report mentions 25 human rights issues where the United States is failing. This piece will focus on a few of those issues – Guantanamo, NSA surveillance, accountability for Bush-era human rights violations, drone strikes, racism in the prison system, racial profiling, police violence, and criminalization of the homeless.
The UN has delivered a withering verdict on the US’s human rights record, raising concerns on a series of issues including torture, drone strikes, the failure to close Guantánamo Bay and the NSA‘s bulk collection of personal data.
The report was delivered by the UN’s human rights committee in an assessment of how the US is complying with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [ICCPR], which has been in force since the mid 1970s.
The committee, which is chaired by the British law professor Sir Nigel Rodley, catalogued a string of human rights concerns, notably on the mass surveillance exposed by the whistleblower Edward Snowden.
In the summer of 1971, on the campus of one of the nation’s top universities and under the supervision of a faculty member, 11 students tortured 10 others over a six-day period, all in the interest of “science.”
Intended to last two weeks, according to the study’s author, Professor Phil Zimbardo, the original focus of the experiment was to see “how individuals adapt to being in a relatively powerless situation.”
The scenario chosen was a simulated prison, built in the basement of the psychology building on Stanford’s campus. Since the research was to involve people, it had to and was approved by the Stanford Human Subjects Committee. The study was set to begin on August 17, 1971.
Anti-arms trade campaigners have launched an unprecedented private prosecution against two defence companies for allegedly marketing torture equipment at the world’s largest weaponry fair in London. Lawyers said that the rare private proceedings were being mounted because state bodies had failed to act on allegations that laws banning the export of illegal weaponry were broken at the biennial Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) exhibition in London’s Docklands last year.
French company Magforce International and a Chinese exhibitor, Tianjin Myway International, were ejected from the event after brochures, seen by The Independent, were found to contain products including leg restraints and electronic stun batons. Despite details on the companies being passed to investigators at HM Revenue & Customs six months ago, no charges were brought prior to the expiry of a prosecution deadline earlier this month.
After seven years, the American Psychological Association recently decided to close an ethics case against a Guantanamo psychologist without taking disciplinary action. This is not merely an isolated story about a single individual’s reprieve from accountability. Rather, the case of Dr. John Leso illuminates in full measure the APA’s disturbing post-9/11 decision to embrace the burgeoning US “war on terror” national security agenda at the expense of our profession’s do-no-harm ethical principles.
Shortly after the terrorists hit their targets on the morning of September 11, 2001, the American Psychological Association took action. Within hours, it mobilized a broad network of expert practitioners to offer psychological support to the families of victims and to rescue workers. But the APA also worked quickly to ensure that the Bush Administration viewed the world’s largest organization of psychologists as a valued partner in the rapid expansion of military and intelligence operations. High-level efforts were devoted to nurturing relationships with the Department of Defense, the CIA, and other government agencies. The APA aimed to position psychology and behavioral scientists as key players in US counterterrorism and counterintelligence activities.
Federal court to hear challenge to Gitmo force-feeding: Interview with detainee lawyer, Jon Eisenberg
‘The Guantanamo Bay Detention Center in Cuba is saying goodbye to one detainee while defending its practice of force-feeding prisoners on hunger strikes. Ahmed Belbacha, a 44-year-old man held without trial for 12 years, was transferred to the Algerian government. Belbacha was cleared for transfer several years ago, and is the first detainee to be transferred out of Gitmo this year. In the meantime, the military is defending itself in court against charges it is using a form of torture called “water cure” to force feed at least one of the Gitmo detainees participating in a hunger strike since summer of 2013. Lawyers for Emad Abdullah Hassan, a Yemeni who has been on hunger strike in the detention camp intermittently since 2005 and continuously since 2007, filed the first legal challenge to force-feeding at the military base brought before a US federal court. RT’s Ameera David discusses the case with one of Hassan’s lawyers, Jon Eisenberg.’ (RT America)
Officials at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility have come up with an ingeniously misleading new term to describe hunger strikes at the prison: “long-term non-religious fasts.” The rebranding appears in a 24-page document with the equally ingeniously misleading title, “Medical Management of Detainees With Weight Loss.” The standard operating procedure (SOP) document was exclusively obtained by VICE News Monday afternoon in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.
“Preventing [redacted] is important to maintaining good order and discipline in the detention environment, and in protecting detainee health,” the document says. “The procedures outlined in this SOP will be protected from release to detainees and other personnel, including [Joint Task Force (JTF)] staff and visitors without a need to know.”
The document advises Guantanamo’s Joint Medical Group (JMG) on how to treat prisoners who engage in hunger strikes (a.k.a. long-term non-religious fasts). The SOP was implemented this past December, which was also when Gitmo public-affairs officers stopped providing the media with daily statistics on the number of prisoners who were engaged in hunger strikes and being subjected to force-feedings.
Who knows, soon we might see headlines and cable TV shows asking: “Is Dianne Feinstein a whistleblower or a traitor?” A truthful answer to that question could not possibly be “whistleblower.” It may already be a historic fact that Senator Feinstein’s speech on March 11, 2014 blew a whistle on CIA surveillance of the Senate intelligence committee, which she chairs. But if that makes her a whistleblower, then Colonel Sanders is a vegetarian evangelist.
In her blockbuster Tuesday speech on the Senate floor, Feinstein charged that the CIA’s intrusions on her committee’s computers quite possibly “violated the Fourth Amendment.” You know, that’s the precious amendment that Feinstein — more than any other senator — has powerfully treated like dirt, worthy only of sweeping under the congressional rug. A tidy defender of the NSA’s Orwellian programs, Feinstein went on the attack against Edward Snowden from the outset of his revelations last June. Within days, she denounced his brave whistleblowing as “an act of treason” — a position she has maintained.
Snowden and other genuine whistleblowers actually take risks to defend the civil liberties and human rights of others, including the most vulnerable among us. Real whistleblowers choose to expose serious wrongdoing. And, if applicable, they renounce their own past complicity in doing those wrongs. Dianne Feinstein remains in a very different place. She’s 180 degrees from a whistleblower orientation; her moral compass is magnetized with solipsism as a leading guardian of the surveillance state.
- Senator Feinstein Takes CIA Spying Accusation to Senate Floor: Interview with William Binney
- Why Won’t Senator Feinstein Call Torture Torture?
- Surveillance-Defending Senator Slams Surveillance of Senate
- Snowden accuses Senate intelligence chair of hypocrisy over CIA disclosures
- CIA steals the limelight from the NSA – and finds itself in full-blown crisis
- Jesse Ventura Interviewed on CIA vs. Senate Scandal
- Did the CIA Chief Just Dare Obama to Fire Him?
- Graham: ‘The Legislative Branch Should Declare War On The CIA’
In 1995, Conrad Harper, the Clinton administration’s top State Department lawyer, appeared before a United Nations panel in Geneva to discuss American compliance with a global Bill of Rights-style treaty the Senate had recently ratified, and he was asked a pointed question: Did the United States believe it applied outside its borders?
Mr. Harper returned two days later and delivered an answer: American officials, he said, had no obligations under the rights accord when operating abroad. The Bush administration would amplify that claim after the Sept. 11 attacks — and extend it to another United Nations convention that bans the use of torture — to justify its treatment of terrorism suspects in overseas prisons operated by the military and the C.I.A.
The United Nations panel in Geneva that monitors compliance with the rights treaty disagrees with the American interpretation, and human rights advocates have urged the United States to reverse its position when it sends a delegation to answer the panel’s questions next week. But the Obama administration is unlikely to do that, according to interviews, rejecting a strong push by two high-ranking State Department officials from President Obama’s first term.
The Central Intelligence Agency is under investigation for allegedly spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee, panel Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein confirmed Wednesday. The CIA is prohibited from spying on Americans, and spying on members of Congress and their staff would raise particular concerns about the separation of powers. Congress created the House and Senate Intelligence committees in the 1970s to oversee the CIA, the National Security Agency, and other spy agencies after uncovering a slew of spying abuses.
The CIA’s internal watchdog, its inspector general, is reviewing whether CIA agents hacked into the computers of Senate staffers who were involved in producing a report critical of the agency’s now-defunct detention and interrogation program, The New York Times reported Wednesday. According to McClatchy, the inspector general’s office has asked the Justice Department to investigate the case. The committee worked on the 6,300-page interrogation report for years. The report, which remains classified, concluded that brutal interrogation techniques produced little valuable intelligence. Last June, the CIA responded with its own 122-page report challenging particular facts and the conclusion of the Senate’s document. Ending the interrogation program was one of President Obama’s first acts in office.
Sen. Mark Udall, a Colorado Democrat and member of the Intelligence panel, wrote a letter to Obama on Tuesday, urging him to support declassification of the full report. Udall referred vaguely to the CIA’s alleged spying on the committee. “As you are aware, the CIA has recently taken unprecedented action against the Committee in relation to the internal CIAreview, and I find these actions to be incredibly troubling for the Committee’s oversight responsibilities and for our democracy,” Udall wrote. “It is essential that the Committee be able to do its oversight work—consistent with our constitutional principle of the separation of powers—without the CIA posing impediments or obstacles as it is today.”
The top ten recipients slated to receive US foreign assistance in 2014 all practice torture and are responsible for major human rights abuses, according to Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other major human rights organizations. The violators and degree of aid they are expected to receive are: 1. Israel – $3.1bn, 2. Afghanistan – $2.2bn, 3. Egypt – $1.6bn, 4. Pakistan – $1.2bn, 5. Nigeria – $693m, 6. Jordan – $671m, 7. Iraq – $573m, 8. Kenya – $564m, 9. Tanzania – $553m, 10. Uganda -$456m.
Each of the listed countries are accused of torturing people in the last year, and at least half are reported to be doing so on a massive scale. Financial support for such governments could violate existing US law mandating that little or no funding be granted to a country that “engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights, including torture.” The United States remains a signatory of the United Nations Convention against Torture, ratified in 1994. That the top ten recipients of US assistance all practice torture calls into serious question the Obama administration’s overall stance on and understanding of fundamental human rights.
The United States used former Nazi doctors to develop interrogation techniques — including some that used hallucinogens like LSD — during the Cold War, according to a new book by investigative journalist Annie Jacobsen. “Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program that Brought Nazi Scientists to America,” published Tuesday, documents a top secret intelligence and military program run with the help of prominent Nazi scientists and doctors, including Nazi Germany’s surgeon general.
“The CIA teamed up with Army, Air Force and Naval Intelligence to run one of the most nefarious, classified, enhanced interrogation programs of the Cold War,” Jacobsen wrote, in an excerpt posted on the Daily Beast. “The work took place inside a clandestine facility in the American zone of occupied Germany, called Camp King. The facility’s chief medical doctor was Operation Paperclip’s Dr. Walter Schreiber, the former Surgeon General of the Third Reich… The activities that went on at Camp King between 1946 and the late 1950s have never been fully accounted for by either the Department of Defense or the CIA.”
Industrial band Skinny Puppy has presented an invoice the U.S. government for using its music to torment inmates at a prison camp for terrorist suspects.
“We heard through a reliable grapevine that our music was being used in Guantanamo Bay prison camps to musically stun or torture people,” founder cEvin Key told the Phoenix New Times. “We heard that our music was used on at least four occasions.”
While the Canadian group tackles transgressive themes in a harsh musical style, Key said the thought that his music was used to torture prisoners made him feel “not too good.”
Tony Blair could face legal action amid claims he “connived” with Colonel Gaddafi to block a multi-million pound compensation claim by IRA victims. An email is said to show the former prime minister intervened in a long-running legal action from victims of Libyan-sponsored terrorism.
The email suggests Mr Blair helped to broker an agreement between Gaddafi and US President George W Bush, which saw Libya pay a one-off £1bn in compensation to US victims of terrorism to settle all actions. A spokesman for Mr Blair branded the claims “malicious”.
The Libyan regime supplied Semtex for IRA attacks, said to include the 1987 Enniskillen bomb which killed 11 people. Lawyers said the disclosure of the email, reported in the Sunday Telegraph, could form the basis for legal action in the UK.
The Obama administration first learned last November about a harrowing trove of photographs that were said to document widespread torture and executions in Syrian prisons when a State Department official viewed some of the images on a laptop belonging to an antigovernment activist, a senior official said Wednesday.
The United States did not act on the photos for the past two months, officials said, because it did not have possession of the digital files and could not establish their authenticity. Nevertheless, they said, the administration believes the photos are genuine, basing that assessment in part on the meticulous way in which the bodies in the photos were numbered.
The photographs, some of which were released this week on the eve of an international peace conference on Syria, have helped prompt the administration to heighten its demand that President Bashar al-Assad release political prisoners and allow Red Cross inspectors access to the prisons.
But it seems clear that the photos that appear to document the torture and executions will not fundamentally alter American policy, which is to push for a political settlement that will remove Mr. Assad from power but to avoid direct military intervention in the conflict.
A devastating 250-page dossier, detailing allegations of beatings, electrocution, mock executions and sexual assault, has been presented to the International Criminal Court, and could result in some of Britain’s leading defence figures facing prosecution for “systematic” war crimes.
General Sir Peter Wall, the head of the British Army; former defence secretary Geoff Hoon; and former defence minister Adam Ingram are among those named in the report, entitled “The Responsibility of UK Officials for War Crimes Involving Systematic Detainee Abuse in Iraq from 2003-2008″.
The damning dossier draws on cases of more than 400 Iraqis, representing “thousands of allegations of mistreatment amounting to war crimes of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment”.
They range from “hooding” prisoners to burning, electric shocks, threats to kill and “cultural and religious humiliation”. Other forms of alleged abuse include sexual assault, mock executions, threats of rape, death, and torture.
The formal complaint to the ICC, lodged yesterday, is the cumulation of several years’ work by Public Interest Lawyers (PIL) and the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR). It calls for an investigation into the alleged war crimes, under Article 15 of the Rome Statute.
The dossier, seen by The Independent on Sunday, is the most detailed ever submitted to the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor on war crimes allegedly committed by British forces in Iraq. The court has already acknowledged that there was little doubt that war crimes were committed.
One of America’s best friends and allies is torturing children, even as they continue to receive U.S. aid, weapons, training, and defense guarantees [according to a new report by Amnesty International].
These are not the first revelations of Bahraini children being abused by the U.S. backed regime. “Bahrain security forces routinely detain children without cause and subject them to ill-treatment that may rise to the level of torture,” Human Rights Watch said in a report last September.
[...] And it’s not just the children. The regime continues to imprison political dissidents. Protests have been outlawed, specifically “sit-ins, rallies and gatherings in the capital Manama.” It is also illegal to “incite hatred” against the security forces (whatever that means), and people can be thrown in prison for calling the king a “dictator” on Twitter (something that has happened to at least eleven people).
A group known as the Hooded Men have claimed that new evidence has emerged that proves the UK government subjected them to torture in Northern Ireland.
Fourteen men, arrested under the policy of internment in 1971, were taken to a secret location and subjected to what was called “deep interrogation”.
It has since been confirmed the secret location was Ballykelly Army base.
The Ministry of Defence (MOD) has consistently rejected allegations that it used torture.
It has also pointed out that it has “always fully co-operated” with statutory inquiries.
In 1978, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the men had been subjected to inhumane and degrading treatment, but not torture.
However, the 14 men and their lawyers have now said that documents, recently discovered in the public records office in London, could lead to that decision being reversed.
Guantánamo’s military tribunals were not created to try crimes, but to hide them. This system was set up to ensure that the U.S. government’s torture program would never face trial, and so far it has succeeded. For the past decade, Guantánamo has been a parallel universe where information tainted by torture may be admitted as evidence, where the centuries-old attorney-client privilege is subject to arbitrary interference by military officials, and where people spend a decade or more waiting for a day in court.
- Eric Holder: 9/11 Suspects ‘Would Be on Death Row’ If Not for Politics
- Doctors: Force-Feedings at Guantanamo Have Been Used to Break Political Protests, Not Save Lives
- Torture Permanently Damages Normal Perception of Pain
- Obama meets with newly appointed Pentagon, State Department envoys on closing Guantanamo Bay
- CIA’s Resistance to 6,300-Page Report on the Agency’s Use of Torture
- Lawyers want Obama to declassify CIA prison program
- Commission finds ‘systematic violation of human rights’ at Guantanamo Bay
Dick Cheney is ready to laugh about waterboarding.
Conservatives gathered at the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan Monday night to roast the former vice president at an event where many of the biggest laugh lines touched on the most controversial policies of a key architect of his administration’s war on terror. At the gathering, hosted by Commentary, figures including former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and former Attorney General Michael Mukasey drew a mix of chuckles and winces with jokes that left few lines uncrossed, according to three guests.
Former Sen. Joe Lieberman “said something to the effect that it’s nice that we’re all here at the Plaza instead of in cages after some war crimes trial,” recalled one person who was there.
Other major targets included former Secretary of State Colin Powell, mocked for leaking, and President Barack Obama, who was mocked, repeatedly, for the relative strength of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The event, sponsored by Rupert Murdoch, Paul Singer, and other top conservatives (listed here) also starred Lieberman and Scooter Libby, the Cheney aide convicted of lying to investigators in a leak hunt. Two attendees said the edgy jokes were in appropriate spirit of a roast; the third found them in poor taste, even in that setting. The dinner was, to the surprise of some guests, punctuated by a live performance of Yiddish songs and by an video featuring Cheney’s face on others’ bodies, which emcee and Commentaryeditor John Podhoretz joked he would release only for $1 million in an email to BuzzFeed.
‘Defense’ contractor CACI International has taken the shocking step of suing four former Abu Ghraib detainees who are seeking redress in U.S. courts for the company’s role in torturing, humiliating and dehumanizing them, with the U.S. corporation recently requesting that the judge order the plaintiffs—all of whom are Iraqi—to pay CACI for legal costs.
CACI is demanding over $15,000 in compensation, mostly for witness fees, travel allowances and deposition transcripts, according to court documents.
“Given the wealth disparities between this multi-billion dollar entity and four torture victims, given what they went through, it’s surprising and appears to be an attempt to intimidate and punish these individuals for asserting their rights to sue in U.S. courts,” Baher Azny, legal director for the Center for Constitutional Rights, which is working on the case, told Common Dreams.
Just weeks ago, a federal judge dismissed the former Abu Ghraib prisoners’ lawsuit against CACI International on the grounds that because Abu Ghraib is oversees, it is beyond the jurisdiction of U.S. courts.
The plaintiffs are appealing the decision, with their lawyers arguing that a U.S. corporation operating in a U.S. military prison should be subject to U.S. law.
The ruling is expected to have far-reaching ramifications for the shadowy networks of private contractors who operate in war-torn Iraq under veils of secrecy and with near-immunity, despite widely documented war crimes.
MORE RECENT WAR ON TERROR NEWS:
- Report says DNA test verified bin Laden’s identity (AP)
- CIA finds 1 in 5 flagged job applicants come from Hamas, Hezbollah, al Qaeda (Washington Times)
- Senate told war on terrorism’s price tag, $17.82b (IHT)
- Muslims challenging U.S. ‘no fly’ list win partial court victory (Reuters)
- UK investigates porn DVDs sent to mosques, fears religious strife (RT)
- Tony Blair attacks Islam as “fundamentally extremist” religion (Press TV)
Accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four alleged co-conspirators were back before a military judge at Guantánamo on Monday as lawyers began a week-long series of hearings to decide unresolved legal issues in advance of the still-unscheduled war crimes trial.
Pending before the court are matters related to the protection of classified information, alleged government invasion of the attorney-client privilege, and the severity of the conditions of the defendants’ pre-trial confinement in a secret wing of the US terror detention facility, among others.
The proceedings were monitored by reporters at Guantánamo and via a live broadcast at Fort Meade in Maryland.
During the hearing, Mr. Mohammed sat at the defense table dressed in a green military-style camouflage jacket and white turban. Much of his lower face was concealed beneath a thick red beard.
He appeared alert and engaged in the proceeding.
The session marked the fifth time lawyers for the five defendants have squared off against military prosecutors since May 2012, when the defendants were formally charged with nearly 3,000 counts of murder and other crimes related to the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.
The US government is seeking the death penalty for all five defendants.
Much of the legal wrangling is over how to handle classified information.
- A visit to Guantanamo’s secretive Camp 7 (BBC)
- 9/11 defendant leaves Guantánamo hearing, citing ‘psychological torture’ (CS Monitor)
- Lawyer in 9/11 case questions whether U.S. Guantanamo interrogation was voluntary (Reuters)
- Guantanamo prosecutors want September 2014 trial for 9/11 case (Reuters)
- 9/11 lawyer to challenge secret Guantanamo camp (WDEF12)
- Some of Guantanamo’s hardest cases to get new look (AP)
- Malaria drug overused on Guantanamo Bay prisoners? (Al Jazeera)
The last British resident in Guantanamo Bay claims he is being assaulted, sometimes sexually, during prison searches as he continues a hunger strike against his unlawful detention.
In a declassified phone call with his lawyer last week, Shaker Aamer, who has been held in the Cuban prison for more than 11 years without being charged with any offence, said he still faces “forced cell extractions” on a daily basis.
“They flip me over for the search. Mostly, that’s just an assault, sometimes a sexual assault. We call it the Gitmo massage,” Mr Aamer said. “There is meant to be a board, like a wooden stretcher, and they are meant to roll me on. But now they don’t have them. Now they carry me like a sack of potatoes, which is really painful for me.”
Along with scores of other detainees, Mr Aamer, who is 46, has been on hunger strike since January over conditions at the camp and a lack of progress on individual cases. The comedian Frankie Boyle recently went on a week’s sympathy hunger strike to draw attention to Mr Aamer’s plight.
The latest developments come barely six weeks after David Cameron, said he had raised Mr Aamer’s case with US President Barack Obama during the G8 conference amid concerns that the US is trying to render the man known as prisoner 239 to Saudi Arabia.
A British resident, Mr Aamer was born in Saudi Arabia but has a wife and four children in London. He had indefinite leave to remain in the UK when he was arrested in Afghanistan in 2001. He claims he was doing charity work; the US claims he was assisting the Taliban.
Earlier this month, the US announced two Algerians detainees would be released from the prison but said there were no plans to return detainees to Britain. Mr Aamer’s lawyers said this could be because the US wanted to send him to Saudi Arabia where he could be silenced from speaking out about the torture and rendition, including sometimes in the presence of UK secret service agents, he said.
Mr Aamer’s lawyer in the US, Clive Stafford Smith, said: “Surely the US cannot think they can render him involuntarily for further abuse in Saudi Arabia, never to see his British wife and kids, and never to give evidence against his torturers in the ongoing criminal investigation by the Met Police?”
“They flip me over for the search. Mostly, that’s just an assault, sometimes a sexual assault”
The nonpartisan, 577-page report concluded that the events of the “war on terror” following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks were “unprecedented” in American history. While the authors concede that some U.S. forces have committed brutal acts, they wrote that there has been no evidence that a U.S. president and top officials discussed the legality and effectiveness of “inflicting pain and torment on some detainees in custody.”
The report is a rebuke to President Barack Obama’s opposition to investigating torture under the Bush administration. As he said in an interview following his election in 2008, Obama has advocated “a belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backward.”
“Task Force members believe that having as thorough as possible an understanding of what occurred during this period of serious threat — and a willingness to acknowledge any shortcomings — strengthens the nation, and equips us to better cope with the next crisis and ones after that,” the authors wrote. “Moving on without such a reckoning weakens our ability to claim our place as an exemplary practitioner of the rule of law.”
by Coleen Rowley
The New York Times
WHEN President Obama nominated James B. Comey to lead the F.B.I., he lauded Mr. Comey as someone who understands the challenge of “striking a balance” between security and privacy, and had been “prepared to give up a job he loved rather than be part of something he felt was fundamentally wrong.”
High praise, but was it deserved? We may find out today, when the Senate Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on his confirmation.
Mr. Comey’s reputation for courage and probity rests largely on a dramatic episode in March 2004 when he and the current F.B.I. director, Robert S. Mueller III, tried to squelch the George W. Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program. But that was just one night in the 20 months that Mr. Comey served as deputy attorney general.
And while it was not the only time he expressed reservations, Mr. Comey apparently did eventually sign off on most of the worst of the Bush administration’s legal abuses and questionable interpretations of federal and international law. He ultimately approved the C.I.A.’s list of “enhanced interrogation” techniques, including waterboarding, which experts on international law consider a form of torture. He defended holding an American citizen, Jose Padilla, without charges for more than three years as an “enemy combatant,” and subjecting him to interrogation without counsel to obtain information from him. (Mr. Padilla was ultimately convicted of terrorism charges in civilian court.)
Mr. Mueller and Mr. Comey famously thwarted efforts by two Bush officials, Alberto R. Gonzales and Andrew H. Card Jr., to pressure a hospitalized Attorney General John Ashcroft to sign off on Mr. Bush’s warrantless monitoring order after the Justice Department found it illegal. But within days, Mr. Mueller and Mr. Comey, having threatened to resign, spoke with Mr. Bush. Whatever assurances the president may have given them are not (and may never be) known — but we know that the surveillance program continued, perhaps with modification, and certainly without further public dissent from Mr. Mueller and Mr. Comey.
I suggest that the senators ask Mr. Comey these questions…