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Reactions to the CIA torture report

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., on Tuesday released the executive summary of the committee’s five-year review of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program.

The study’s 20 findings and conclusions can be grouped into four central themes, each of which is supported extensively in the executive summary:

  • The CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” were not effective.
  • The CIA provided extensive inaccurate information about the operation of the program and its effectiveness to policymakers and the public.
  • The CIA’s management of the program was inadequate and deeply flawed.
  • The CIA program was far more brutal than the CIA represented to policymakers and the American public.
  • From President Barack Obama:

    “Throughout our history, the United States of America has done more than any other nation to stand up for freedom, democracy, and the inherent dignity and human rights of people around the world. As Americans, we owe a profound debt of gratitude to our fellow citizens who serve to keep us safe, among them the dedicated men and women of our intelligence community, including the Central Intelligence Agency. Since the horrific attacks of 9/11, these public servants have worked tirelessly to devastate core al Qaeda, deliver justice to Osama bin Laden, disrupt terrorist operations and thwart terrorist attacks. Solemn rows of stars on the Memorial Wall at the CIA honor those who have given their lives to protect ours. Our intelligence professionals are patriots, and we are safer because of their heroic service and sacrifices.

    “In the years after 9/11, with legitimate fears of further attacks and with the responsibility to prevent more catastrophic loss of life, the previous administration faced agonizing choices about how to pursue al Qaeda and prevent additional terrorist attacks against our country. As I have said before, our nation did many things right in those difficult years. At the same time, some of the actions that were taken were contrary to our values. That is why I unequivocally banned torture when I took office, because one of our most effective tools in fighting terrorism and keeping Americans safe is staying true to our ideals at home and abroad.

    “Today’s report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence details one element of our nation’s response to 9/11—the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, which I formally ended on one of my first days in office. The report documents a troubling program involving enhanced interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects in secret facilities outside the United States, and it reinforces my long-held view that these harsh methods were not only inconsistent with our values as nation, they did not serve our broader counterterrorism efforts or our national security interests. Moreover, these techniques did significant damage to America’s standing in the world and made it harder to pursue our interests with allies and partners. That is why I will continue to use my authority as President to make sure we never resort to those methods again.

    “As Commander in Chief, I have no greater responsibility than the safety and security of the American people. We will therefore continue to be relentless in our fight against al Qaeda, its affiliates and other violent extremists. We will rely on all elements of our national power, including the power and example of our founding ideals. That is why I have consistently supported the declassification of today’s report. No nation is perfect. But one of the strengths that makes America exceptional is our willingness to openly confront our past, face our imperfections, make changes and do better. Rather than another reason to refight old arguments, I hope that today’s report can help us leave these techniques where they belong — in the past. Today is also a reminder that upholding the values we profess doesn’t make us weaker, it makes us stronger and that the United States of America will remain the greatest force for freedom and human dignity that the world has ever known.”

    From U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.:

    “We have made our way in this often dangerous and cruel world, not by just strictly pursuing our geopolitical interests, but by exemplifying our political values, and influencing other nations to embrace them. When we fight to defend our security we fight also for an idea, not for a tribe or a twisted interpretation of an ancient religion or for a king, but for an idea that all men are endowed by the Creator with inalienable rights. How much safer the world would be if all nations believed the same. How much more dangerous it can become when we forget it ourselves even momentarily.

    “Our enemies act without conscience. We must not. This executive summary of the Committee’s report makes clear that acting without conscience isn’t necessary, it isn’t even helpful, in winning this strange and long war we’re fighting. We should be grateful to have that truth affirmed.”

    From Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland:

    “The report from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released this morning confirms what I’ve long believed: the CIA not only embraced the widespread use of enhanced interrogation techniques, but also repeatedly misled Congress and the American people about their activities. Furthermore, the report found that the CIA exaggerated the usefulness of these methods in gaining reliable intelligence.

    “The use of torture is unacceptable and morally wrong. These practices undermine our values, endanger our national security interests and exacerbate anti-American sentiment abroad.

    “The release of this report is an important step towards providing the American people with the transparency they deserve. These atrocities are a national disgrace and Congress must work to ensure this never happens again.”

    More, after the jump…
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    Posted on Tuesday, December 9th, 2014
    Under: Barack Obama, Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, Dianne Feinstein, Eric Swalwell, Jackie Speier, John McCain, Obama presidency, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, War on Terror | 6 Comments »

    Denham, Valadao vote against GOP immigration bill

    The House voted 219-197 today to pass a bill seeking to rein in President Obama’s executive action to protect millions of illegal immigrants from deportation – a purely symbolic move, as the bill is dead on arrival in the Democrat-controlled Senate and would draw the president’s veto, anyway.

    Three Democrats crossed the aisle to join 216 Republicans in voting for the bill; seven Republicans crossed the aisle to join 190 Democrats in voting against it. All Bay Area members opposed it.

    Among the Republicans voting “nay” were Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, and Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, both of whom represent heavily agricultural Central Valley districts with large Latino populations. Both were among the three House Republicans who last year cosponsored their chamber’s version of the immigration reform bill that the Senate passed with bipartisan support in June 2013.

    Neither Denham’s nor Valadao’s offices answered requests for comments on their votes today.

    Denham had issued a statement last month blasting the executive actions. “The President’s decision to bypass Congress and ignore the U.S. Constitution will only further erode trust and create greater obstacles to a lasting fix,” he said in the Nov. 20 statement. “Congress must be involved in fixing our broken system. His actions today deal a harsh blow to our efforts to establish real solutions.”

    Posted on Thursday, December 4th, 2014
    Under: David Valadao, Immigration, Jeff Denham, U.S. House | 2 Comments »

    Lofgren defends Obama at immigration hearing

    Rep. Zoe Lofgren rose to President Obama’s defense Tuesday during the House Judiciary Committee’s hearing on his “executive overreach on immigration.”

    In his opening statement, Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said the president “has just announced one of the biggest constitutional power grabs ever by a president.”

    “The Obama Administration has crossed the line from any justifiable use of its authority to a clear violation of his constitutional responsibility to faithfully execute the laws,” Goodlatte said, adding there’s a difference between setting prosecutorial priorities and “setting enforcement-free zones for millions of unlawful aliens.”

    “By boldly proclaiming that there will be no possibility of removal for millions of unlawful aliens, President Obama eliminates entirely any deterrent effect our immigration laws have,” he said. “He states plainly that those laws can be ignored with impunity. Such actions will entice others around the world to come here illegally, just like his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program encouraged tens of thousands of unaccompanied alien minors and families from Central America to make the dangerous trek to the United States.”

    “By acting lawlessly and assuming legislative power, the Obama Administration is driving full speed ahead to a constitutional crisis, tilting the scales of our three-branch government in his favor and threatening to unravel our system of checks and balances,” Goodlatte concluded. “Rather than working constructively with the new men and women Americans elected to represent them in Congress, the President is making his relationship with Congress increasingly toxic by unconstitutionally acting on his own. Tragically, President Obama’s shortsighted actions have further set back congressional efforts to enact legislation to reform our broken immigration system.”

    But Lofgren, D-San Jose, who is the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee, said while the president can’t change the law, he can take action within it – as has every president since Eisenhower.

    “The President’s actions are lawful. They are also smart, because they will allow DHS to focus limited resources on serious criminals, recent arrivals, and gang members. Finally, they are consistent with basic American values, like accountability, family unity, and compassion, Lofgren said.

    “The legal question isn’t even a close one,” she later added. “The President has clear legal authority to defer removals when it’s in the national interest. Chief Justice Roberts reaffirmed that principle just two years ago – our immigration laws recognize this authority – past Presidents have used this authority regularly. Our President is doing so now and I, for one, am grateful that he is.”

    Posted on Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014
    Under: Immigration, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 3 Comments »

    Rep. Mike Honda schools Sen. Rand Paul

    U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., on Friday likened President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration to President Franklin Roosevelt’s action to put Japanese-Americans in internment camps during World War II. Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, who as a child was forced to live in such a camp, issued a statement Monday taking the presidential aspirant to task.

    honda.jpg“Rand Paul’s comments comparing President Obama’s executive order on Immigration with President Roosevelt’s executive order that imprisoned thousands of Americans of Japanese descent during World War II could not be more misguided. At best, he is confused. At worst, he is just wrong.

    “President Roosevelt’s action was based on racism, fear, hysteria, war, and the lack of real political leadership. He succumbed to political pressure to deny Constitutional protections to 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry, two-thirds of who were US-born citizens.

    “President Obama, on the other hand, through his commitment to immigration reform and American values, is using his Executive Order to include, not exclude, people. He is working to keep intact immigrant families who play by the rules, not exclude undocumented parents and other DACA eligible individuals.

    “President Obama is showing true leadership by taking action when the Republican leadership of the House has failed to let Congress do so.

    “The incarceration of US citizens of Japanese origin, including me and my family, was a misuse of executive order. As someone who as victim of executive order 9066, I can say without hesitation that Roosevelt was wrong. It was a misuse of power. President Obama’s order is an appropriate use of executive order because Congress did not do its job.

    “Every President has the Constitutional right to use Executive Orders. What Senator Paul fails to say, recognize, or admit to, is the motive and outcome of the use of this power. President Obama is using this power correctly – President Roosevelt did not.”

    Posted on Monday, November 24th, 2014
    Under: Barack Obama, Immigration, Mike Honda, Obama presidency, Rand Paul, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 15 Comments »

    Electeds react to Obama’s immigration speech

    Talking points

    From House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio

    “The American people want both parties to focus on solving problems together; they don’t support unilateral action from a president who is more interested in partisan politics than working with the people’s elected representatives. That is not how American democracy works. Not long ago, President Obama said the unilateral action he just announced was ‘not an option’ and claimed he’d already ‘done everything that I can on my own.’ He said it would lead to a ‘surge in more illegal immigration.’ He said he was ‘not a king’ and ‘not the emperor’ and that he was ‘bound by the Constitution.’ He said an action like this would exceed his authority and be ‘difficult to justify legally.’ He may have changed his position, but that doesn’t change the Constitution.

    “By ignoring the will of the American people, President Obama has cemented his legacy of lawlessness and squandered what little credibility he had left. His ‘my way or the highway’ approach makes it harder to build the trust with the American people that is necessary to get things done on behalf of the country. Republicans are left with the serious responsibility of upholding our oath of office. We will not shrink from this duty, because our allegiance lies with the American people. We will listen to them, work with our members, and protect the Constitution.”

    From House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco:

    “Tonight, President Obama announced bold action to bring our broken immigration system into line with our values as a people and our needs as a nation. The President’s Immigration Accountability Executive Actions will secure our borders, prioritize enforcement, and provide relief to millions of hard-working, law-abiding families who may now have a happy Thanksgiving free from the fear of separation.

    “The President’s actions fall well within the clear constitutional and legal authority of his office, and the well-established precedent set by every president since Eisenhower. Even Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush used this authority to refine our immigration system in service of the national interest.

    “Executive action is no substitute for legislation, and the President’s action does not absolve Congress of its own responsibility. Democrats will continue to demand action on bipartisan immigration legislation that will provide lasting certainty to immigrant families, and secure the billions of dollars in economic benefits Republicans’ inaction has denied our country.”

    From House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield:

    “The President doesn’t seem to get the point that he must work with the government he has, not the government he wants. But despite Congress and the American people’s resistance to President Obama’s unilateral action—action the President himself said would ‘violate our laws’ and be ‘very difficult to defend legally’—the President has decided to go it alone yet again. As President Obama himself said, ‘there are enough laws on the books by Congress that are very clear in terms of how we have to enforce our immigration system.’ We urge the President to listen to his own words. America is a country of laws, and our Constitution does not grant the President the authority to legalize millions of immigrants with the stroke of a pen.

    “Not only is this action wrong, it does absolutely nothing to solve the underlying problems of our open border and broken immigration system. In fact, it may exacerbate the problem.

    “The President’s action is a prime example of Washington cynicism. He has responded to Congress and the public’s desire for positive change with an all-or-nothing approach that only damages the prospect of future cooperation. He did not even attempt to start on the right foot and work with us in the new year.

    “While House Republicans will still work to do everything we can to move the country forward, it is our obligation and responsibility to fight this brazen power grab that doesn’t solve the real problems.”

    From U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.:

    “The president tonight announced he will temporarily suspend deportation of some undocumented immigrants, allowing families to stay together and bringing workers out of the shadows. While I continue to believe the House should vote on the Senate bill to address this issue, I support the president’s decision to help millions of individuals who have lived in the United States for years.

    “This decision is not ‘amnesty,’ as some critics contend, nor will anyone receive citizenship or a green card. The president is offering temporary work authorization and halting deportations of certain immigrants who have lived in the United States for at least five years, including parents of U.S. citizens and individuals who arrived before age 16. The authority he is using has been employed by every president since Eisenhower, including 14 times during the Reagan and Bush presidencies.

    “While the president’s executive action will provide much-needed relief for immigrant families, a permanent solution can only be achieved by Congress. The Senate bill passed in June 2013 was painstakingly negotiated over many months and received 68 votes, including 14 Republicans. Unfortunately, House leadership has ignored this commonsense bill. I hope they reconsider.

    “The president’s decision is especially important for California. According to the White House, more than 150,000 of California’s agricultural workers will likely be eligible for deferred action and temporary work authorization. This will help ensure that our farms can continue to feed the country and the world.

    “I plan to re-introduce a bill similar to the agricultural worker provisions from the Senate bill as stand-alone legislation next year, which I believe will offer Congress a starting point for further action.”

    Lots more, after the jump…
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted on Thursday, November 20th, 2014
    Under: Barack Obama, Immigration, Obama presidency, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 17 Comments »

    Obama’s immigration speech: video & transcript

    Full transcript of remarks as prepared, after the jump…
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted on Thursday, November 20th, 2014
    Under: Barack Obama, Immigration, Obama presidency | 3 Comments »

    Dems urge Obama to act on immigration

    U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer added her voice Monday to the chorus of Democrats urging President Obama to move forward with immigration reform by executive action.

    Barbara Boxer“For 17 months, you have been very patient with House Republican leaders, encouraging them to either take up and pass the bipartisan Senate bill or work with you to craft a different bill,” Boxer, D-Calif., wrote in her letter to the president.

    “Mr. President, I don’t remember hearing one Republican in Congress complain when Republican presidents took executive action on immigration,” she continued. “I urge you to ignore the angry voices of the do-nothing crowd in Congress who have repeatedly blocked progress on immigration reform. If they really cared about fixing our broken immigration system, they would not be threatening to shut down the government or file wasteful lawsuits – they would just do their job and pass comprehensive immigration reform.”

    Last week, 117 House Democrats – including all Bay Area members except House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco – sent a letter to President Obama urging him to take executive action.

    “As you have said, it is ultimately the job of Congress to reform our broken immigration system by enacting legislation,” the lawmakers wrote. “But by failing to do their job – and repeatedly interfering with your efforts to do your job – congressional Republicans threaten to take our immigration system hostage and preserve a status quo that everyone agrees is unacceptable. Their failure to act must not inhibit your commitment to governing.”

    “We will stand with you as you take bold and meaningful action, consistent with existing law and historical precedent, to protect American families, strengthen local communities and grow the economy,” they wrote.

    At House Democrats news conference Thursday, Pelosi urged the president to act as well. “I don’t think there’s any question that the President can act administratively, take executive action.”

    That same day, Rep. Jeff Denham – one of only three House Republicans to co-sponsor the House version of a bipartisan immigration bill that the Senate approved June 2013 – told Al Jazeera America that executive action is the wrong answer.

    “It is hard to pass legislation of any kind without being able to trust the Commander in Chief on whether he’s going to implement the will of Congress and ultimately the will of the American people,” said Denham, R-Turlock, adding immigration is a complex issue that will require a package of bills brought forth at the same time. “This is a long term-problem that we’ve got to fix in Congress.”

    House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, are mulling how best to stymie any executive action Obama might take, but without giving in to calls from their party’s conservative wing to return to the kind of brinksmanship that led to last year’s government shutdown.

    Posted on Monday, November 17th, 2014
    Under: Barack Obama, Barbara Boxer, Immigration, Jeff Denham, Nancy Pelosi, Obama presidency, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 14 Comments »

    Field Poll memo: Why GOP wave missed California

    California was an exception to the Republican wave that swept the nation in Nov. 4’s low-turnout midterm election in part because Californians are happier than the rest of the nation with how things are going, according to a new Field Poll memo.

    Mark DiCamillo“At the time of this year’s election, the average of national polls showed that more voters disapproved than approved of the job President Obama was doing 53 percent to 42 percent,” wrote Field Poll Director Mark DiCamillo. “By contrast, in California more voters approved than disapproved of the job their chief executive Governor Jerry Brown was doing 58 percent to 36 percent. In addition, the direction of change in voter assessments was moving in the opposite directions, with Obama’s ratings trending downward, and Brown’s on the rise.”

    Likewise, “for some time now many more Americans have felt the country was seriously off on the wrong track than have believed it was moving in the right direction,” DiCamillo wrote. “The average of the national polls at the time of the election showed that 66 percent of U.S. voters felt the country was seriously off on the wrong track, while just 28 percent felt it was moving in the right direction.”

    But in California, the most recent Field Poll “showed slightly more voters here believing the state was heading in the right direction than seriously off on the wrong track, 43 percent to 41 percent, and that over time it was trending in the positive direction.”

    Nationally, 81 percent disapprove of Congress’ job performance while just 13 percent approve. “In California, while voters have not been wild about the job performance of the state legislature – the most recent Field Poll shows 34 percent approving and 42 percent disapproving – views about its performance have been improving compared to prior years,” DiCamillo noted.

    Exit polls conducted by Edison Media Research for NBC and CNN found that when voters nationwide were asked about the influence that President Obama had on their voting preferences in their local House races, more said theirs was a vote against President Obama (33 percent) than said it was a vote in support of him (19 percent), while the rest said he wasn’t a factor. But the reverse was true when California voters were asked the same question, with more saying their House vote was a vote in support of Obama than a vote against him, 28 percent to 22 percent.

    And when asked to assess the nation’s health insurance reform law, slightly more voters nationwide (49 percent) felt the law went too far than said it was about right or didn’t go far enough (46 percent) – but here in California, the exit poll showed a 54 percent majority saying the law was about right or didn’t go far enough, while just 38 percent felt it went too far.

    The exit polls also found Californians likelier than the nation as a whole to support the government’s response to the Ebola crisis and to support same-sex marriage.

    Not only is California’s electorate less white than the rest of the nation’s, but while exit polls showed whites across the nation generally voted Republican in House races by a wide margin, California’s white voters split evenly between Democrats and Republicans in the contests for six partisan down-ballot statewide offices. Combined with wider margins for Democrats in the population-rich coastal counties than for Republicans in the sparser-populated inland counties, this was a recipe for a blue victory, DiCamillo wrote.

    Posted on Friday, November 14th, 2014
    Under: 2014 general, polls | 6 Comments »

    Inside President Obama’s San Francisco fundraiser

    Here’s the complete pool report I’ve just filed via the White House for tonight’s Democratic National Convention fundraiser at the W Hotel in San Francisco, for which tickets went for from $500 to $32,400 each:

    Press pool was ushered into event room at 7:07 p.m., where well-heeled Democrats mixed and mingled with drinks and hors d’oeuvres. Spotted in the crowd: Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland.

    President Obama entered the room at 7:15 p.m. to wild cheers, with a hearty “Hello, San Francisco!”

    Obama recognized the presence of Congresswoman Lee and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee. “No relation,” he quipped. He also thanked Maxwell for having performed, said the First Lady is a fan.

    “Obviously the news lately has been dominated by what’s taking place overseas, and a lot of the news has been scary to people, and rightfully so,” he said – ISIL, Ebola, Russian aggression in Ukraine. On each of these issues, amid efforts at international response, “at the center of it, leading it, is the United States” – not just because of our capacity, but because of our values.

    “That kind of leadership depends on us also showing leadership here at home,” he said, and over past six years we’ve made “real, genuine, documentable progress” at recovering from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

    Much more, after the jump…
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    Posted on Friday, October 10th, 2014
    Under: 2014 general, Barack Obama, Obama presidency | 2 Comments »

    Obama returns to Bay Area on Oct. 10

    President Barack Obama will visit the Bay Area on Friday, Oct. 10 for a Democratic National Committee fundraiser, a White House official said Friday.

    More details will be made available in the coming days, the official said.

    An invitation indicates Obama will attend a DNC reception that day at San Francisco’s Palace Hotel (though earlier invites had said it would be at San Francisco City Hall) with tickets ranging from $500 to $32,400 each. But Obama typically does several fundraising events on such visit, often a mix of larger receptions like this one and smaller, more expensive gatherings.

    Another invitation shows Obama will be in Los Angeles the day before for a DNC reception hosted by actress Gwyneth Paltrow; tickets for that one range from $1,000 to $32,400.

    Obama last visited the Bay Area in July, for a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fundraiser at the Los Altos Hills home of real estate mogul George Marcus.

    Posted on Friday, September 26th, 2014
    Under: Barack Obama, Obama presidency | 8 Comments »