6

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.:

    http://youtu.be/wR7qsQDWVPU

    “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…
    Continue Reading

    0

    Looking behind California’s unemployment snafu

    As an Assembly committee prepares to hold an oversight hearing tomorrow to probe how a computer snafu delayed unemployment insurance checks to hundreds of thousands of Californians, a new national report shows many states rely on decades-old, failure-prone technology to run their unemployment systems.

    The Assembly Insurance Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing at 11 a.m. Wednesday on what went wrong when the Employment Development Department’s tried to upgrade its 30-year-old computer system at Labor Day. State workers have been struggling ever since to clear the backlog of claims for checks that never arrived.

    This is hardly surprising, according to the National Employment Law Project’s new “State of Disrepair” report: California might be the poster child, but this problem is nationwide. The report lays blame at the feet of chronic federal underfunding, and says that since the Great Recession’s start, millions of unemployed workers have suffered unnecessary payment delays and application problems.

    “Federal underinvestment in state unemployment IT systems doesn’t save money in the long run. Not only do unemployed workers suffer when systems fail, but the government misses out on productivity gains and cost savings,” Rebecca Dixon, NELP policy analyst and the report’s lead author, said in a news release. “Because a majority of these systems still run outdated programming languages, there is a significant cost to their ongoing maintenance. Worse still, these legacy systems increase the likelihood of problems such as benefit overpayments.”

    Congress for decades has failed to adjust state unemployment insurance administrative funding for inflation, employment growth, or continuing capital investments such as computer upgrades, the report notes; instead, states have cobbled together networks of computer programs and hardware that complicate reprogramming and scaling up during surges in claims. The lack of federal funding also has made it hard for states to hire enough staff to process claims fast enough.

    And with federal funding cutbacks compounded by budget sequestration, more states are laying off unemployment insurance staff, even though 2012 caseloads were still 155 percent higher than they were when the recession began in 2007, the report says.

    The effects seem clear. In 2007, before jobless claims increased with the recession’s onset, 84 percent of states met federal standards for timely UI payments; by 2009, only 43 percent of states met the standard, and in 2012, only 41 percent met the standard, despite a decrease in jobless claims.

    Even before EDD’s Labor Day snafu, the report says, California’s FY 2011-12 call volumes were such that 17 million out of 72 million calls – 24 percent – couldn’t even access the automated phone system. Of nearly 30 million callers who asked to speak with a live agent, only 4.8 million were successful.

    4

    Report: California condemns many, executes few

    The death penalty is a very local affair, with most condemnations and executions occurring in just a tiny handful of the nation’s counties, according to a new report from a group opposing capital punishment.

    The Death Penalty Information Center’s study found no California counties rank among the top 15 among the two percent of counties responsible for
    over half of the executions since 1976; Texas boasts nine. The Golden State went from conducting executions at a glacial pace to conducting none at all after being stymied by a court order.

    But five California counties – Los Angeles, Riverside, Orange, Alameda and San Diego – make the top 10 among the 2 percent responsible for more than half of the nation’s current death row population. California voters – despite no executions having occurred here since 2006 – keeps condemning inmates to death and last year rejected a ballot measure to abolish capital punishment. California now has 742 death-row inmates.

    7

    East Bay lawmaker offers two gun control bills

    California handguns would have to have owner-authorized safety mechanisms such as biometric readers, and stolen firearms would have to be reported within two days, under new bills from an East Bay lawmaker.

    “Senseless violence occurs far too often when guns fall into the wrong hands,” state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, said in a news release today. “I introduced these bills to improve gun safety and help law enforcement better keep firearms out of the hands of criminals or illicit gun traffickers.”

    SB 293 would require that handguns have an owner authorized safety mechanism, such as biometric readers or other technologies.

    SB 299 would require that anyone whose firearm is lost or stolen must notify local law enforcement within 48 hours of the time they knew, or reasonably should have known, of the loss or theft. If the firearm is later recovered, local law enforcement would have to be notified within 48 hours of the recovery.

    DeSaulnier said his bills also take aim at reducing gun-related suicides, by decreasing illicit guns on the streets and preventing unauthorized users from operating handguns. About about 19,000 of the nation’s more than 31,000 gun-related deaths each year are due to suicide, he said, and firearms are the nation’s leading method of suicide.

    DeSaulnier last year had authored SB 1366 requiring lost or stolen firearms to be reported to local law enforcement. Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed the bill in September, writing that “(f)or the most part, responsible people report the loss or theft of a firearm and irresponsible people do not,” and he was “skeptical that this bill would change those behaviors.”

    21

    Skinner brings back bill to control ammo sales

    A Bay Area lawmaker is re-introducing a bill that would tighten up on ammunition sales, which aren’t tracked by current law.

    “In California, it’s harder to get some cold medicines than ammunition,” Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, said in a news release, referring to the state’s law restricting sales of pseudoephedrine, which can be used as a precursor for making methamphetamine. “Something has to change.”

    Skinner this past summer authored AB 2512, which would have required large ammunition purchases to be reported to local law enforcement. The bill was inspired by July’s shooting rampage at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo.

    Her bill also sought to close a loophole in the assault weapons law allowing individuals to have high-capacity magazines, like those found on the man who killed 26 people last Friday in Newtown, Conn. But the legislation, introduced by gutting and amending an already-existing bill, came too late in the year to have any hearings before the session ended.

    Her new bill would require all ammunition purchasers to show their IDs; require all ammunition sales to be reported to the state Department of Justice; require all ammunition sellers to be licensed and undergo a background check; and
    ban kits to convert ammunition clips into high-capacity magazines.

    Skinner had told me last week – two days before the Newtown massacre – that she had been meeting with law enforcement and other stakeholders to develop a revised version of the bill.

    “Among the most shocking details from the shooting massacre in Colorado is the undetected stockpiling of ammunition and weapons by the alleged shooter. In Newtown, the shooter had hundreds of unspent rounds. While incidents like Aurora and Newtown may be rare, we can’t let ammunition stockpiling go unnoticed,” Skinner said today. “Gun violence is an ongoing, yet unnecessary threat in communities throughout California. As lawmakers, we need to do everything we can to stop this trend.”

    2

    Report: Death penalty continues to fade in U.S.

    Though California voters rejected a ballot measure last month that would’ve abolished the state’s death penalty, a new report shows capital punishment continues to decline nationwide.

    2012 executionsThe Death Penalty Information Center’s survey found only nine states carried out executions in 2012 – the fewest number of states to do so in 20 years. More than half of the states (29) now either have no death penalty or have not carried out an execution in five years.

    The 43 executions carried out in the United States in 2012 was 56 percent less than the peak in 1999, and equal to last year’s total. The number of new death sentences in 2012 was the second-lowest since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976: 80 people were sentenced to death in 2012, representing a 74 percent decline since the 315 sentences rendered in 1996.

    Many death penalty states with histories of high use had no new death sentences or no executions in 2012; for example, there were none in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia, the latter of which is second only to Texas in total executions since 1976,

    “Capital punishment is becoming marginalized and meaningless in most of the country,” Richard Dieter, DPIC’s executive director and the report’s author, said in a news release. “In 2012, fewer states have the death penalty, fewer carried out executions, and death sentences and executions were clustered in a small number of states. It is very likely that more states will take up the question of death penalty repeal in the years ahead.”

    California’s Proposition 34, which would’ve abolished the state’s death penalty and replaced it with life in prison without possibility of parole, won the support of only 48 percent of voters in November’s election. Elsewhere, Connecticut this year became the 17th state to repeal its death penalty.