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CIA officers against torture

May 1, 2009 - Jim Anderson
Five former CIA officers established Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) in January 2003, because, they say, “... We saw our profession being corrupted to justify an attack on Iraq.”

The group now claims a membership of 70 intelligence professionals, mostly retired, who have served in virtually all U.S. civilian and military intelligence agencies.

In a recent memorandum to President Obama, they asked, among other things, that careful consideration be given to U.S. Sen. Carl Levin’s suggestion that the attorney general appoint a panel of retired judges to investigate the Bush administration’s policies on imprisonment, interrogation and eavesdropping.

Here is a portion of the lengthy VIPS memorandum.

“The Senate Armed Services Committee recently concluded that it was President Bush himself who, by Executive Memorandum of Feb. 7, 2002, exempting al-Qaeda and the Taliban from Geneva protections, ‘opened the door’ to the abuse that ensued. You need to know that the vast majority of intelligence professionals deplore ‘extraordinary rendition’ and the other torture procedures that were subsequently ordered by senior Bush administration officials,” the memorandum says.

“Sadly, President Bush was not the first chief executive to find a small cabal of superpatriots, amateur thugs, and contractors to do his administration’s bidding. But never before in this country were lawless thugs given such free rein. The congressional ‘oversight’ committees looked the other way.”

Extraordinary rendition, these former CIA officials say, is the process by which the Bush administration transferred suspected terrorists to other countries to enable torture.

Is it true that the vast majority of intelligence professionals deplore this tactic? I have no idea. I do know that the people who signed the memorandum have families to protect, too.

VIPS points out that a number of civilian and military intelligence professionals have “gone on record ... with respect to how torture tactics are not only ineffective in terms of getting reliable, actionable intelligence but have fueled recruitment by al Qaeda and other terrorist groups to the point that, arguably, more U.S. troops have been killed by terrorists bent on revenge for torture than the 3,000 civilians killed on 9/11.”

The Obama administration has made a declaration against torture. The president, however, is reluctant to perpetuate what would likely be a political bloodbath over policies of the past.

VIPS, certainly, is more left than center.

A week ago, I briefly addressed waterboarding to show that Sean Hannity and other defenders of abusive interrogation sometimes try to trivialize it. That post remains (under View All Posts) along with a subsequent post and the reader comments.

The most disturbing accusation against the Bush administration is that torture was used in an attempt to gain confessions — false or otherwise — of ties between al Qaeda and Iraq. That claim surfaced with recent reports of testimony by former U.S. Army psychiatrist, Maj. Charles Burney, who told Army investigators in 2006 that interrogators at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention facility were under “pressure” to produce evidence of ties between al Qaeda and Iraq.

Regardless of whether such accusations are well-grounded, it appears that abusive interrogation took place well beyond the “ticking time bomb” scenario frequently offered up in its defense.

Here are the people who signed the VIPS memorandum:

Gene Betit, U.S. Army, DIA, Arlington, VA

Ray Close, National Clandestine Service (CIA), Princeton, NJ

Phil Giraldi, National Clandestine Service (CIA), Purcellville, VA

Larry Johnson, CIA & Department of State, Bethesda, MD

Pat Lang, U.S. Army (Special Forces), DIA, Alexandria, VA

David MacMichael, National Intelligence Council, Linden, VA

Tom Maertens, Department of State, Mankato, MN

Ray McGovern, U.S. Army, CIA, Arlington, VA

Sam Provance, U.S. Army (Abu Ghraib), Greenville, SC

Coleen Rowley, FBI, Apple Valley, MN

Greg Theilmann, Department of State & Senate Intel. Committee staff, Arlington, VA

Ann Wright, U.S. Army, Department of State, Honolulu, HI

 
 

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