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Old 03-30-2011, 04:44 PM   #19 (permalink)
LX
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Here's a very interesting piece by a lawyer and journalist named Scott Horton. I think it provides a bridge between both our views BG. There is a conspiracy, but it is one operating rather incompetently, and doing more to further revolution in the Arab world while damaging the interests of the US. It's lengthy, but well worth the time.

Quote:
The current revolution appears to have been profoundly influenced by another
quite specific relic of the Bush years. Shadi Mokhtari, a professor at
American University, dealt with this closely in a smart recent piece in Open
Democracy. She notes that the American patterns of torture so vividly established
at Abu Ghraib, Bagram and Guantánamo dramatically altered the dialogue
throughout the region. Before the Bush years, human rights was viewed
as a Western conceptualization with little relevance to the Middle East.
Moreover, the largely closed societies of the region, while permitting some
nominal dialogue on human rights issues, were closed to any meaningful investigation
or public discussion of their own human rights abuses.

The photographs from Abu Ghraib changed this dramatically. Suddenly newspapers
and broadcast media across the region began to focus intensely on the
torture issue. Mokhtari writes:

“Denials of fair trials in Guantánamo, CIA black sites, renditions of terrorist
suspects to third countries known to torture, and legal formulations paving the
way for ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ all brought discussion of human
rights further to the fore of Arab consciousness. Instead of viewing human
rights as a Western imposition, increasingly it became a language that Arab
populations embraced to challenge America’s post-9/11 policies.”
On the example of the Bush administration’s policies, people learned about the
Convention Against Torture, the Geneva Conventions and the international enforcement
process. In many nations they also learned that their government
had ratified the CAT and passed criminal legislation outlawing torture. America
was excoriated for preaching civil liberties and civil rights and then giving
the Middle East torture practices which sometimes seemed indistinguishable
from those of the dictators they had deposed.

But throughout the region, this criticism of America had a powerful subtext.
It was a proxy criticism of their own regimes. Readers knew and fully appreciated,
for instance, that the stress positions, sensory deprivation tactics and
waterboarding used by the Americans were also tactics developed by Mubarak’s
hated Mabahith Amn al-Dawla (State Security Investigative Service,
SSI), by the Tunisian interior ministry or Morocco’s Direction de la Securité du
Territoire (DST). Moreover, they fixated on the covert relationship between the
American CIA and the intelligence agencies of their own regimes, a partnership
forged in torture as much as intelligence gathering.

The demand for “dignity” that went up in Tunis, Cairo and Alexandria was
most frequently exemplified by a negative--by photographs of prisoners,
stripped naked and held by a leash, smeared with feces, or in body pyramids--
photographs from Abu Ghraib, all images reflecting practices approved by
George Bush, with the formal blessing of his Department of Justice, and implemented
by America’s Defense Department and CIA--but also practices
common to the shadowy police and intelligence agencies of the Arab world.

At the core of the dark relationship between the CIA and the state-security
services of the Arab world is a complex network of secret prisons, black sites
and torture. When things got too hot for the CIA in Europe in 2004 because of
the opening of formal inquiries by the Council of Europe and European Parliament,
the focus of its extraordinary renditions program, and specifically the
“torture by proxy” aspect of that program (as a study by the New York City
Bar termed it), shifted across the Mediterranean to the Middle East, and not
coincidentally, to the three nations where the bonfire of revolution is now raging:
Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt. In these countries, the CIA developed special
arrangements with local security organs--they would import prisoners they
wanted tortured, and their local collaborators would do the torturing, often in
the presence or even under the direction of CIA officers. The CIA, using taxpayer
dollars, would fund the construction of special prisons, and often would
control special sections of prisons run by the local security services.

In Egypt, the CIA’s then-station chief, M.D., who now heads the agency’s powerful
Counter-Terrorist Center, cultivated a special relationship with Mubarak’s
head of international intelligence, Omar Suleiman. M.D. and Suleiman
were effectively the operators of the torture-by-proxy regime that American
and Egyptian intelligence co-ventured. A flavor of the CIA’s relationship with
Suleiman is furnished by this anecdote from author Ron Suskind’s book The
One Percent Doctrine:

“The CIA thought it had killed Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in a bombing
strike in 2002 and believed it had possession of his head. In order to get
confirmation the agency needed genetic material from Zawahiri's brother, who
was then in the custody of Egyptian police.

“Suleiman said, 'It's no problem. We'll just cut the brother's arm off and send
it to you.' The CIA replied that a vial of blood would do just fine, thank you.”
These are the words of a monster. Yet as the unrest spread in Egypt, the CIA
moved aggressively to promote their man, Suleiman, as Mubarak’s successor--
a move that promised to strengthen their already powerful connections to the
Egyptian state, and to subvert the dreams of millions of Egyptians for a new
state that promised human dignity and democracy.

Repeatedly in the course of the revolutions, foreign and particularly American
journalists got to experience first hand what it meant to be the prisoner of one
of these regimes. Americans had read only extremely fleeting and often rather
clinical descriptions of the fate of prisoners of the Tunisian secret police, of
Mubarak’s SSI, of Qaddafi’s thugs. When prominent American anchor personalities
were roughed up, arrested and beaten, suddenly the accounts became far
more colorful--and more authentic. Among the best of the accounts came from
four New York Times reporters captured by Qaddafi’s forces while covering a
clash outside of the eastern Libyan city of Ajdabiya.

“Over the years, all of us had seen men detained, blindfolded and handcuffed at
places like Abu Ghraib, or corralled after some operation in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Now we were the faceless we had covered perhaps too dispassionately.
For the first time, we felt what it was like to be disoriented by a blindfold, to
have plastic cuffs dig into your wrists, for hands to go numb.”

They went on to describe in detail the psychological pressures, acts of physical
degradation and beatings to which they were subjected over a four-day period.
And they noted that their fate was not particularly harsh, in part because they
were foreign journalists, so their lives had distinct value.
On July 14, 1789, citizens of Paris stormed the Bastille, a symbol of the oppression
and brutality of the ancien régime. On January 15, 1990, citizens of
East Berlin stormed the headquarters of the Ministerium für Staatssicherheit,
or Stasi, perhaps the most intrusive instrument of state surveillance in modern
times. On March 6, 2011, citizens of Cairo and Alexandria stormed the headquarters
of Mubarak’s SSI. They did so with the support of the military after
judges got information confirming that SSI officers, fearing their imminent arrest
and prosecution, were busy destroying records of the torture and abuse of
ordinary Egyptians, and of their collaboration with the CIA in the torture-byproxy
regime. Files were seized, and the infamous torture chambers and their
apparatus were taped and immediately put up on YouTube. Now lawyers are
meticulously culling these documents.

As one of Egypt’s leading prosecutors told me, “our nation ratified the Convention
Against Torture. We also passed legislation implementing it. The torture
practices of SSI were criminal acts. And so were the CIA torture-by-proxy arrangements.

All of this could be prosecuted now. All of it should be prosecuted.”
The nightmare of state-sponsored torture in Egypt will not stop unless
it is prosecuted. Much of the success of the revolution in Egypt hinges on this
resolve.

It’s difficult to forecast the way forward in Egypt. Throughout human history
revolutions launched for idealistic purposes have been hijacked by singleminded
men who proceeded to create simply a new kind of tyranny. Successful
revolutions, like the one that Americans launched in 1776, have been rare.

Moreover, the forces opposing this revolution are formidable. The key institutions
of the Mubarak state are still there. The armed forces, with their own
vast commercial interests and deeply entrenched corruption, have now moved
to the nation’s power apex. American diplomats speak of their support for democratic
reform and a realization of the electoral franchise. Yet other Americans
lurk in the shadows, working with the military and the remnants of the
old torture state, plotting against these very reforms--a fact which undermines
the confidence of ordinary Egyptians in the words and sincerity of Barack
Obama. And on the other hand Egypt was the birthing grounds of modern radical
Islamists, groups which killed Anwar el-Sadat and have long formed the
determined and suppressed opposition to Mubarak. It’s unclear whether the aspirations
of Tahrir Square will be realized, and a long waltz remains to be
danced between the forces of the old Egypt, the “brothers” and the core constituencies
of the revolution--the aspiring middle class, professionals and students.
So far, however, the revolutionaries have demonstrated pluck and ingenuity.
It would be a serious error, yet one the American intelligence community
is prone to make, to write off the reformers and work to uphold the vestiges of
the old Egypt.

Egyptians not only demonstrated great courage in standing up to Mubarak’s
thugs and maintaining peace and composure in their struggle for a new and
more worthy society, they are also furnishing a positive example to America
about how to deal with intelligence services whose arrogant lawlessness threatens
the integrity of the state. They have forced the dissolution of SSI and have
organized a new intelligence service. Answering to the demands of the people,
the interim government states that the era of impunity for misconduct by intelligence
agents is over. They promise accountability for past abuses. They
also promise a special structure of continuous judicial oversight and review covering
the new agencies activities to protect prisoners against abuse. Conversely,
in America the CIA’s operations remain enshrouded in secrecy and beyond any
meaningful form of accountability under law.

Between ten and twenty thousand Americans serve in the CIA. Many of them
serve selflessly and with a strong sense of American values and ethics. Many
sacrifice and subject themselves to great danger in the service of their country
and fellow citizens. Their service is essential to the nation’s security. But
America’s intelligence services have hit a historical low-water mark in terms
of both ethics and competence. Increasingly it is difficult for an ethical citizen
to serve at the CIA and in other intelligence services. And that fact threatens
our nation’s security.

The recent decline starts with the Bush-era torture practices which have historically
involved only a miniscule part of the agency’s staff. Throughout the
agency, employees were told that if they had a problem with torture, they
could leave. Hundreds of the agency’s best and most dedicated agents did exactly
that. I’ve interviewed some of them. And the flip side is that the small
coterie who embraced torture with zeal and formed the core of its torture programs
quickly formed a secret elite; they found themselves on an express track
to the top. Consider a recent Associated Press study looking at fourteen CIA
agents who were involved in abusive conduct connected with the torture-byproxy
system. Most of these cases involved serious crimes, including homicides,
kidnapping, assault and torture. In no case was the agent subjected to serious
disciplinary action. Just the opposite in fact: Involvement in torture programs
marked them for advancement. Engaging in abuses showed that they
were willing to take risks, that they “had chalk on their cleats.” This is how a
tiny clique of torture promoters within the agency, probably no more than 60
persons in total, protected and advanced themselves with a helping hand from
the top of the agency. Let’s look at just one striking case from the AP study.
In December 2003, Macedonian intelligence (for all practical purposes a CIA
satellite agency) informed the CIA that a man with a German passport named
Khaled el-Masri had appeared at a border crossing. The report went to a young
analyst named A.B. to assess. After examining the matter, A.B. was convinced
that el-Masri was not, as his passport showed, a German greengrocer from
Neu-Ulm, but instead a dangerous Al Qaeda terrorist whose name was the
same but for two letters. Even when told that the suspect’s claims about his
innocence checked out, A.B. persisted because her “gut told her” that a
swarthy-skinned bearded man like this just had to be a dangerous terrorist.
He was kidnapped, beaten, drugged, and flown to Afghanistan’s notorious Salt
Pit, where he was beaten, drugged and abused again. A.B.’s gut was 100 percent
wrong and an innocent German citizen was tortured and separated from
his distraught wife and children for half a year because of her incompetent
bigotry. He was released, but those who knew him said they could hardly recognize
the Khaled el-Masri they knew in this man. Now he was a broken shell
of his former self. German psychologists have concluded that as a direct result
of the torture and abuse to which he was subjected--on A.B.’s directions--el-
Masri had become a broken and deranged man, marked with acute delusions of
persecution, dangerous to himself and to others. He may well spend the rest of
his life imprisoned under psychiatric oversight. The U.S. offered a quick
“sorry” to German prime minister Angela Merkel; but to the victim himself it
offered nothing. What consequence did this have for A.B.? She was applauded
for being willing to take risks. She was offered a plum position in London and
then was placed in charge of the Al Qaeda unit, one of the most prestigious
postings in the agency. On the other hand, I’m not permitted to tell you A.B.’s
full name, even though it is known to many who have studied the el-Masri
case, and indeed it is known to law enforcement officers around the world-—her
arrest is being sought by German police, in fact. They believe she is responsible
for the kidnapping, assault, drugging and torture of an innocent German citizen,
offenses which ordinarily would carry a hefty jail term. And they also believe
that the CIA has given her a covert position (which she did not have at the
time of her involvement with el-Masri) as part of a scheme to obstruct the
criminal justice process. And they’re almost certainly right about all of that.

But what does it say about the CIA that a proven incompetent is placed in
charge of an extremely sensitive mission and given cover to help her cope with
a pending criminal inquiry? It shows that competence and excellence take a
back seat to covering up crimes. Because of the torture programs, 23 U.S. intelligence
operatives have been tried and convicted in Italy. Others have become
the targets of criminal investigations now pending in Spain, Britain, Germany,
Poland, Lithuania and Australia. And the process has barely begun. Indeed, in
Egypt it’s only now getting under way.

How has torture affected the CIA? It has caused the agency to rot from within.
Many of the agency’s best have left, while those who behaved thuggishly were
promoted and advanced to the agency’s top echelons. The agency’s deep fear of
exposure of its torture programs--which constitute crimes against humanity
under international law, subject to no statute of limitations--has led it to destroy
evidence and lie about its past programs systematically, to foreign governments,
congressional oversight and U.S. and foreign law enforcement officers.
It also deepened its ties with its torture-partners throughout the Arab
world. If America today is viewed as being on the wrong side of the Arab Revolution,
as an ally of the oppressors who run the torture cells where prisoners
are systematically humiliated and degraded--and not with the crowds calling
for freedom, democracy and a better life--then the CIA and its torture-byproxy
scheme is the principal reason why.

The bonds to torture and torturers also caused the CIA to misjudge the situation
across the Middle East and to produce bad analysis and advice. The agency
failed to see the Arab Revolution coming, and when it started, it consistently
failed to appreciate the developments. The ill-considered effort to install Omar
Suleiman is a good demonstration of the CIA’s amateurish meddling in these
events in progress. It’s easy to understand how this served the short-term (and
short-sighted) institutional needs of the CIA; after all, Suleiman was their best
friend in Egypt. It’s impossible to see how it served the long-term strategic interests
of the United States. Consider Leon Panetta’s confident--and erroneous--
predictions about Mubarak’s resignation. Delivered with the bravado of a
man determined to rebut criticisms of the agency and anxious to make the case
that he should be the next secretary of defense, these comments greatly complicated
the removal of Mubarak and enabled General Mohammed Tantawi to
outflank Omar Suleiman in the competition for interim authority. CIA analysis
routinely reflects institutional interests, striving to protect and advance its key
relationships and assets, foremost its torture partners; only rarely does it reflect
the actual situation on the ground. The CIA continues to operate from a
fundamental misunderstanding of the revolution and the complex new dynamics
that launched it. If the CIA today is a dangerously degraded institution--and
I am convinced that is so--then the reason is simple. Torture always comes
home.

Today the CIA and its sister agencies are so absorbed with covering the tracks
of their torture handiwork--and insisting that they made no mistakes in the
past--that they seem to have forgotten that their mission is actually to provide
current intelligence and analysis that serves the nation. There is no clearer
demonstration of that fact than in the current crisis in the Middle East. With
a total intelligence community annual budget in the vicinity of $80 billion, the
expenditure of funds has mushroomed and vast resources have been lavished
on the Middle East. But for all of that, American intelligence has been lobotomized.
A Washington decision-maker would do better investing a few hours a
day watching the news on Al Jazeera than getting a stream of highly classified
intelligence community briefings. Al Jazeera has to account for mistakes and
slanted reporting in a public forum, whereas the myriad imbecilities of U.S. intelligence
reports are allowed to hide unchallenged behind poorly justified security
classifications. The results for the United States are ominous. In a time of
tectonic shifts in the region, American leaders are essentially blind to new opportunities
and uninformed about challenges--and particularly the challenges
that can be traced directly back to the agency’s own crimes and blunders. The
legacy of torture is an intelligence community wedded to the dark side. This is
producing an America which is less smart, less safe and less faithful to its own
principles.
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