Tag Archives: Dianne Feinstein

​CIA deceived government on torture program according to Senate report

A classified US Senate probe into the CIA’s post-9/11 interrogation program found that the agency purposely deceived the US Justice Department to attain legal justification for use of torture techniques, according to a new report.

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation into the Bush administration’s detention and interrogation program – active from September 11, 2001 to 2006 – found that the CIA used interrogation methods not approved by the US Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel. Ultimately, the Committee found that the “Justice Department’s legal analyses were based on flawed information provided by the CIA,” McClatchy news service reported Friday.

“The CIA repeatedly provided inaccurate information to the Department of Justice, impeding a proper legal analysis of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program,” the report found, according to McClatchy.

The Senate’s probe, which yielded a yet-unreleased 6,300-page report, also found that the CIA distorted how many detainees it held in “black site” prisons throughout the world and how many were subjected to “enhanced interrogation techniques” many amount to torture. The CIA has claimed only about 30 detainees fell under the mercy of such methods.

“[The CIA is] trying to minimize the damage. They are trying to say it was a very targeted program, but that’s not the case,” said a former US official familiar with the Senate Committee’s four-year, US$40 million investigation.

McClatchy’s anonymous sources say the Senate report outlines 20 main conclusions about the post-9/11 torture program that – the investigation found – intentionally evaded White House, congressional, and intra-agency oversight.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the Senate Intelligence Committee’s chairwoman, quickly condemned McClatchy’s report on the classified conclusions of her committee’s investigation.

“If someone distributed any part of this classified report, they broke the law and should be prosecuted,” Feinstein said in a prepared statement. “The committee is investigating this unauthorized disclosure and I intend to refer the matter to the Department of Justice.”

McClatchy responded to Feinstein’s threat, asserting journalistic privilege and the public’s right to know in the face of persistent government secrecy and conceit.

“We are disappointed that Sen. Feinstein plans to seek a Justice Department investigation of our journalism,” said James Asher, McClatchy’s Washington bureau chief. “We believe that Americans need to know what the CIA might have done to detainees and who is responsible for any questionable practices, which is why we have vigorously covered this story.”

In justifying its interrogation methods in order to win the Justice Department’s legal approval, the CIA told the Office of Legal Counsel that repeated use of torture like waterboarding “will not be substantial because the techniques generally lose their effectiveness after several repetitions.”

The CIA reportedly waterboarded detainees Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed 83 and 183 times, respectively. They weren’t the only prisoners to be waterboarded or subjected to other harsh methods of interrogation, as has been reported for some time.

In its long-suppressed 2002 memo justifying these tactics, the Office of Legal Counsel said that it did not find “harsh interrogation techniques” to be illegal – pursuant to US and international law banning torture – based on information provided by the CIA. The Office of Legal Counsel added that “if these facts were to change, this advice would not necessarily apply.”

A 2004 report by the CIA’s inspector general found that the CIA had gone outside legal parameters in its interrogation activities. The internal watchdog said at the time that the “continued applicability of the DOJ opinion” was in question given the CIA had told the Justice Department that it would utilize waterboarding in the same manner the tactic was used in US military training for personnel in case of enemy capture. The inspector general report found that the CIA used waterboarding in a “manner different” than the military’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape training.

In addition, the CIA did not keep track of detainees captured under the program, the Senate report found, according to McClatchy.

“The CIA did not conduct a comprehensive or accurate accounting of the number of individuals it detained and held individuals who did not meet the legal standard for detention,” the probe found. “The CIA’s claims about the number of detainees held and subjected to its enhanced interrogation techniques were inaccurate.”

“The CIA’s records were hazy, inconsistent and at times inaccurate,” the former US official told McClatchy.

In a separate report published by Al Jazeera America on Thursday, US government sources claimed the Senate report also found that Britain had allowed the US to run a “black site” prison on the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia in order to secretly hold suspects sans accountability.

The Diego Garcia prison held some “high-value” detainees and was operated under the “full cooperation” of the British government, Al Jazeera America reported citing US officials familiar with the Senate report.

Earlier this month, anonymous US officials with knowledge of the Senate investigation told the Washington Post that CIA officials lied to the government and public about the efficacy of their torture methods in accumulating reliable and valuable information from detainees.

Last week, the Senate Intelligence Committee voted to send their report’s 480-page executive summary, the findings, and conclusions to the White House for potential declassification ahead of public release.

The Committee and the CIA have in recent weeks gone back and forth with accusations of spying, meddling, and misrepresentation, highlighting an ongoing feud between the agency and the Committee since the Senate probe began in 2009.

Related articles

Enhanced by Zemanta
Advertisements

MH370 search could take years, U.S. navy official says, as nations race to find black box before its too late

The search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 could take years, a senior U.S. Navy official said Sunday, as search and rescue officials raced to locate the plane’s black box recorder days before its batteries are set to die.

Ten ships and as many aircraft are searching a massive area in the Indian Ocean west of Perth, in Australia, trying to find some trace of the aircraft, which went missing more than three weeks ago and is presumed to have crashed.

The Malaysian government announced moves to tighten airport security, but the head of the U.S. senate intelligence committee said there was no evidence that terrorism had any role to play in the flight’s disappearance. “There’s speculation, but there’s nothing,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein. “This is a very difficult mission.”

Among the vessels to join the search is an Australian defence force ship, the Ocean Shield, that has been fitted with a sophisticated U.S. black box locator and an underwater drone.

Captain Mark Matthews, a U.S. navy officer who is in charge of the black box pinger detector, said the search area of 123,000 square miles needs to be significantly reduced before there is any serious prospect of finding the black box.

“Right now the search area is basically the size of the Indian Ocean, which would take an untenable amount of time to search,” he said.

Todd Curtis, an aviation expert and former Boeing engineer, warned that the hunt for the plane could last for years.

He said the black box was unlikely to be found before its 30-day pinger, which helps searchers to locate both the box and the plane, runs out of battery life in about a week.

“The likelihood of finding the plane quickly, especially given the pinger will soon end, is going down astronomically,” he told The Daily Telegraph.

“Even if they found the debris today, there is the problem of estimating where it drifted over the past three weeks and then estimating the new area. It all has the potential to take much more than two years.”

Dr Curtis said the search was likely to be “very prolonged” and may end in failure. “There is a chance they will never find the plane,” he said.

CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE

5477

Related

MH370 searchers reveal objects found in Indian Ocean not related to missing Malaysia Airlines plane

MH370 black box may never give up its secrets … even if it isn’t ‘impossible’ to find

MH370 searchers struggle after days staring out at the empty Pacific expanse: ‘It is incredibly fatiguing work’

The failure to find any wreckage from the plane has been harrowing for the families of the 239 passengers, many of whom continue to cling to the hope that survivors will be found.

Twenty-nine distraught Chinese family members flew to Malaysia yesterday, demanding that the authorities “reveal the truth” and “hand over the murderer.” At an emotive press conference they chanted: “We want the evidence, we want the truth, we want our families back.”

 National Post.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Obama admin to propose end to NSA bulk phone data collection – report

te

The Obama administration will introduce legislation to overhaul the National Security Agency’s bulk telephony metadata collection program, senior administration officials told The New York Times.

The proposal would end the agency’s bulk collection program, a systematic dragnet that gathers the telephone records of millions of Americans each day. The Times’ anonymous sources said the records would, rather, stay in the possession of phone companies, which would be required to retain the information for a legally required period of 18 months. The NSA currently holds data for up to five years.

In addition, the legislation, should Congress approve, would allow the NSA to access specific records only through a newly established court order.

The new court order, crafted by Department of Justice and intelligence officials, would require phone companies to provide the US government records “in a technologically compatible data format, including making available, on a continuing basis, data about any new calls placed or received after the order is received,” the Times reported.

The revamped orders would also allow the government to look for related records for callers up to two “hops” away from the number that is being surveilled.

The current authorization for the bulk records collection – Section 215 of the Patriot Act – expires on Friday. The administration’s proposal calls on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court, which approves US surveillance requests, to renew the program as is for at least another 90-day cycle, administration officials said, then the administration’s proposal would later institute new practices.

Section 215 allows the NSA to analyze associations between callers, if possible. The collection program was launched after the attacks of September 11, 2001 by the George W. Bush administration as a secret spying program that eventually received more solid legal footing from the FISA court in 2006. The Justice Department claimed that Section 215 could be interpreted as allowing the NSA to collect domestic call information that is “relevant” to an investigation.

The administration’s proposal would only pertain to telephony data and would not impact other forms of bulk collection under Section 215.

Marc Rotenberg, head of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, told the Times that the administration’s new proposal was a “sensible outcome, given that the 215 program likely exceeded current legal authority and has not proved to be effective.”

President Obama announced in January a desire to reform the NSA’s bulk collection of domestic phone data, though without significantly weakening the agency’s surveillance capabilities. Thus, critics of bulk collection are hesitant to celebrate the proposal just yet.

“We have many questions about the details, but we agree with the administration that the N.S.A.’s bulk collection of call records should end,” said Jameel Jaffer of the American Civil Liberties Union.

“As we’ve argued since the program was disclosed, the government can track suspected terrorists without placing millions of people under permanent surveillance.”

The administration’s proposal would join various bills in Congress that range from applying minor tweaks to the metadata program to those that would end it completely.

One bill crafted by leaders of the House Intelligence Committee calls for the court to issue an “overarching order authorizing the program” while allowing the NSA to ask for specific phone records from companies without judicial approval.

Critics of the Intelligence Committee’s bill say it is a Trojan horse for the NSA to actually expand its surveillance scope.

The bill is “not a ‘fix’ of the phone dragnet at all, except insofar as NSA appears to be bidding to use it to do all the things they want to do with domestic dragnets but haven’t been able to do legally. Rather, it appears to be an attempt to outsource to telecoms some of the things the NSA hasn’t been able to do legally since 2009,” wrote independent journalist Marcy Wheeler.

The administration’s plan, meanwhile, would also come with a provision that defines more clearly whether Section 215 could, in the future, be legitimately interpreted as sanctioning bulk data collection. Section 215 is set to expire next year unless Congress reauthorizes it.

The bulk telephony data collection program was first disclosed in June via classified documents supplied to news outlets by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The US government calls the program a useful tool in its anti-terrorism operations, yet has offered few specifics on how the program has helped thwart any attacks.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Officials’ defenses of NSA phone program may be unraveling

From the moment the government’s massive database of citizens’ call records was exposed this year, U.S. officials have clung to two main lines of defense: The secret surveillance program was constitutional and critical to keeping the nation safe.

But six months into the controversy triggered by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the viability of those claims is no longer clear.

In a three-day span, those rationales were upended by a federal judge who declared that the program was probably unconstitutional and the release of a report by a White House panel utterly unconvinced that stockpiling such data had played any meaningful role in preventing terrorist attacks.

Either of those developments would have been enough to ratchet up the pressure on President Obama, who must decide whether to stand behind the sweeping collection or dismantle it and risk blame if there is a terrorist attack.

Beyond that dilemma for the president, the decision by U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon and the recommendations from the review panel shifted the footing of almost every major player in the surveillance debate.

NSA officials, who rarely miss a chance to cite Snowden’s status as a fugitive from the law, now stand accused of presiding over a program whose capabilities were deemed by the judge to be “Orwellian” and likely illegal. Snowden’s defenders, on the other hand, have new ammunition to argue that he is more whistleblower than traitor.

Similarly, U.S. officials who have dismissed NSA critics as naive about the true nature of the terrorist threat now face the findings of a panel handpicked by Obama and with access to classified files. Among its members were former deputy CIA director Michael J. Morrell and former White House counterterrorism adviser Richard A. Clarke, both of whom spent years immersed in intelligence reports on al-Qaeda.

A day after the panel’s report was made public, U.S. officials said its findings had stunned senior officials at the White House as well as at U.S. intelligence services, prompting a scramble to assess the potential effect of its proposals as well as to calculate its political fallout.

The president is “faced with a program that has intelligence value but also has political liabilities,” said Mark M. Lowenthal, a former senior CIA official. “Now that he has a set of recommendations from a panel he appointed, if he doesn’t follow them people are going to say, ‘are they just for show?’ Or if he does follow them, he scales back a program that he supported.”

Members of the panel met with Obama on Wednesday and said he was receptive to the group’s findings.

“Obama didn’t say, we accept this on the spot,” Clarke said in an interview. “But we didn’t get a lot of negative feedback. They’re going to talk to the agencies and see what the agencies’ objections are and then make their decisions.”

White House officials declined to comment on specific recommendations Thursday, but press secretary Jay Carney signaled that the administration remains reluctant to dismantle the data-collection program. “The program is an important tool in our efforts to combat threats against the United States and the American people,” Carney said.

Several current and former U.S. officials sought to downplay the impact of the court case and the review panel, saying that their influence is likely to be offset by the work of an internal White House group made up of national security officials who are regular consumers of NSA intercepts and may be more cautious about curtailing the agency’s capabilities.

The controversial program to amass the call records of millions of Americans also continues to have influential supporters on Capitol Hill, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

“It’s just an advisory report,” said former acting CIA director John E. McLaughlin. Obama “can take credit for having turned some smart people loose to independently look at this issue. And he can say at the end of the day, . . . ‘I’m the president. I’m responsible for the security of this country. Here’s where I come out.’ ”

However, the developments this week were a reminder that the outcome may be beyond Obama’s control. Leon’s ruling set in motion a legal battle that may culminate in a ruling by the Supreme Court. The panel’s findings gave new momentum to lawmakers who have introduced legislation that would bring an end to the NSA’s bulk collection of phone records.

As part of their initial research, members of the review panel spent a day at NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, Md. But officials said that neither the NSA chief, Gen. Keith B. Alexander, nor Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper was given a copy of the report in advance or a chance to comment on its findings.

A DNI spokesman declined to comment, but officials said U.S. intelligence officials would evaluate the panel’s proposals and prepare material for the White House on the potential effects of implementing its recommendations.

That effort will likely focus on the panel’s push for new legislation that “terminates the storage of bulk telephony metadata by the government,” requiring those records to be held by phone and Internet companies, and searched only when the government has a court order.

Technology leaders met with Obama at the White House on Tuesday. Although industry reaction to the review board’s report has been muted, officials see it as largely in line with their goals.

The proposal to no longer allow the NSA to store domestic records, one of the panel’s 46 recommendations, would end an arrangement that has enabled the agency to stockpile call “metadata”: billions of records on virtually every phone customer in the United States, including records of the numbers dialed and durations of calls, but not their contents.

The NSA is allowed to retain those records for five years, and officials have repeatedly described the program as a critical safeguard against terror plots, allowing the NSA and FBI to establish links between terrorism suspects overseas and potential accomplices in the United States.

In congressional testimony, Alexander has credited the program with helping to detect dozens of plots both in the United States and overseas. The developments this week cut deeply into the credibility of those claims.

Leon’s opinion said that the government had failed to “cite a single instance in which analysis of the NSA’s bulk metadata collection actually stopped an imminent attack.”

The review panel said the program “was not essential to preventing attacks and could readily have been obtained in a timely manner using conventional [court] orders.”

Officials’ defenses of NSA phone program may be unraveling – The Washington Post.

Homeland Security chairman: Threat of terrorism spreading like ‘wildfire’ overseas – CNN Political Ticker – CNN.com Blogs

yertwe(CNN) – The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee said the threat of terrorism overseas is “getting worse, not better.”

“I personally see it spreading like a spiderweb, like a wildfire, through Northern Africa and the Middle East,” Rep. Mike McCaul, R-Texas, told CNN’s Candy Crowley on “State of the Union.”

“As that threat increases overseas, so too does it increase to the homeland – and that’s my basic concern as Homeland chairman, is to keep that threat outside the United States.”

Leaders of the House and Senate intelligence committees told CNN earlier this month on “State of the Union” that terrorists have gained ground in the past two years and that the U.S. is not any safer than it was at the outset of 2011. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Michigan, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, agreed that the Obama administration has lost ground in the ongoing battle with global terrorism.

McCaul said that though policies put in place as a result of the September 11 terrorist attacks have prevented a similar large-scale event on U.S. soil, President Barack Obama is pushing a false narrative about the nation’s safety in the world.

“When the President of the United States talks about the, downgrades the threat, his narrative is that al Qaeda is on the run, and since bin Laden has been killed the threat is no longer existing – I think is a false narrative and premise because, as we see this threat all throughout northern Africa, as we saw Egypt fall, Libya, now Syria is a great culmination of the Sunni-Shia conflict.”

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said Feinstein’s and Rogers’ comments surprised him but acknowledged that low-level attacks by lone-wolf actors, like the Boston Marathon bombing, are still “very threatening.”

But is the U.S. more effective now at keeping terrorism off its shores?

“I think we are better now than we have ever been, but we are never going to be 100% safe,” Schiff said, pointing to the ongoing conflict in Syria, a country that he said has become a “magnet” for those looking to join Jihad.

McCaul agreed: “I think Syria is now the training ground for the world. … These rebel forces are more of a threat than anything.”

Homeland Security chairman: Threat of terrorism spreading like ‘wildfire’ overseas – CNN Political Ticker – CNN.com Blogs.