The Watering Hole, Monday, February 8, 2016: Trump the Lawless

Over the weekend, Donald J. Trump, the billionaire racist real estate developer son of a millionaire racist real estate developer, told CNN’s Jake Tapper that he would bring back waterboarding (and “worse” techniques). When it was explained to the authoritarian favorite that waterboarding and many other forms of torture are illegal under both US and international law and treaty, Trump demonstrated his complete lack of comprehension of the law, how it works, how national security works, and why subjects are classified at all, by saying he would bring it back by “declassifying” it.

Sorry, Donald, but whether or not the use of waterboarding is classified has nothing whatsoever to do with its legality. In fact, classifying its use would violate several additional laws besides the ones barring its use in the first place. It is illegal to classify something just to keep it hidden from the public, or because it was illegal at the time. For those who never served or never learned the distinction, information is classified (or not) based on the damage its disclosure would do to national security. Nothing more. If it could cause some identifiable damage to national security (not national reputation), some minor information that could give a potential enemy information they could use to their advantage over ours, it would be given the level “Confidential.” The exact number of troops in a unit would be classified Confidential, since it could help an enemy to know the exact number of persons they’d be facing. Information whose disclosure could cause serious damage to our national security would be classified Secret. Mission logs in a communication unit that does presidential support missions would be classified Secret. (I’ve written some.) But information whose release could cause exceptionally grave damage to national security is classified Top Secret. Obvious things like nuclear launch codes would be classified Top Secret. And there are levels of Top Secret requiring even higher levels of clearance to obtain. Sometimes they fall into the category of Sensitive Compartmentalized Information (SCI). A good example would be safes that have two combination dials where nobody is allowed to know both combinations. (It’s called the Two Man Integrity System.) You could be cleared for that level of classified info, but it doesn’t mean they have to grant you access to it. I don’t think many in the civilian world understand that in order to have access to classified information, you require three things. First, you must have proper identification or be personally known to the person revealing you the information. Second, you must have the proper level of security clearance for that information. This can be waived by the Commander-in-Chief or a command level officer, but not by lower ranking personnel who might have to handle it as part of their everyday duties. The third and most important thing you must have is a need to know. I happened to have held a very high level security clearance, but that didn’t mean I had the authority to just open up the safes and read classified reports, even for things well below my clearance level. I didn’t have any need to know the classified information, so I would never have been given access to it. This is often overlooked in many lesser-quality TV shows or movies, and people are told things they shouldn’t know because they don’t need to know it. So nobody could say they sat and read a bunch of classified reports and learned stuff because they would have had to demonstrate a need to know the information they sought. When something is classified, it has to be because its unauthorized disclosure would damage national security. And despite the idea I personally believe some Bush Administration officials may have harbored, our national reputation is not part of our national security. You can’t classify something just because it would make America look bad. So if waterboarding were being used, that fact alone could not be considered classified. By Trump saying he would “declassify” its use, he shows he has no understanding of how and why information is classified.

“You can say what you want. I have no doubt that it does work in terms of information and other things — and maybe not always but nothing works always. But I have no doubt that it works,” he insisted.

Then there’s the matter of whether or not one believes “it works.” Whether or not one believes it, the fact is it does not “work.” It never has. (And, please, if you have to twist and manipulate the facts around one small piece of information which may or may not have been learned as a result of torture, it still wouldn’t prove it “works” or was justified.) It does not generate usable or reliable information because a person being tortured will say anything to get the torture to stop. Wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t you tell them anything you think they might want to hear, even if you made it up entirely, if you thought it would make the torture stop? Don’t lie. And waterboarding is torture, you can ask Sean Hannity. Oh, wait. He’s never fulfilled his promise to be waterboarded for charity, so he wouldn’t know. I’ve never been waterboarded, either, but I never offered to be. I believe the people who have undergone it and said it was torture, including conservatives. What you see happening on TV and in the movies, where torturing someone gains useful intelligence, is bullshit. Torture is done as a show of power and domination over a prisoner. I’m assuming it’s a prisoner that’s being tortured, because if it isn’t there are far more serious problems being neglected here. And once you start torturing someone, they’ll say whatever they think you want to hear, whether or not it’s the truth, as long as they think it will make you stop torturing him. This is reality, and to deny it and claim torture does “work” is to reveal a level of mental illness usually reserved to the people being chased by the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit. These are sick people we’re dealing with here, and when you combine that with the overwhelmingly authoritarian streak Trump and his supporters have, waterboarding will be the least of your problems. Torture is illegal for a reason. And it makes no difference what handpicked lawyers in your administration say, it is still illegal. If you cannot wrap your already-wrapped-with-something head around that idea, you are completely and totally unfit to occupy the office of President of the United States. Or even Senior Domestic Policy Adviser.

“When they’re chopping off the heads of people — and innocent people in most cases — beyond waterboarding is fine with me.”

One more time for those who have trouble with polysyllabic (big) words: You can’t do it. It would break the law. You would go to jail and pay a yuge fine. Does that make it clear? We signed international treaties where we agreed that Torture was never, under any circumstances, justifiable. Never. It makes no difference whatsoever what criminals do, it does not justify stooping to their level. I understand why you think it would. You are an Authoritarian, as are most of your followers. You believe in the use of brutal tactics to have your way. You lack empathy. You lack ethics, too. You will say anything to get people to give you what you want, and you aren’t even being tortured! You think this makes you a good businessman. It might make you a rich businessman, but I would hardly say it makes you “good.” You wrongly believe that one of the qualifications that makes one a good president is the ability to negotiate a deal. But that wouldn’t be your job as president, either domestically or overseas. There are people who have been working for the government far longer than you whose job it is to negotiate labor contracts and international treaties. You aren’t the one who will be doing that, so stop going around telling everyone you will. It’s a lie. One among many you tell all the time. But just because you say it’s true doesn’t mean it is, and it doesn’t matter if people think it’s true, it still isn’t. Waterboarding is torture. Torture is never legal or justifiable. It doesn’t work and never has. It’s not going to save anyone’s life and does more long term harm than any short term good it arguably might do. And it is a really, really, sick, depraved thing to do. No decent human being would even think of using it, and you’ve proven to everyone you are anything but. And so are the people who adore you and believe in everything you say. I weep for this country.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss whatever you wish. I won;t torture you.

The Watering Hole: Wednesday, November 17, 2010: Hump Day

What does it mean when the President of the United States of America, the most powerful country in the world, admits to the world that he authorized waterboarding?

His lawyers said (remember the “Loyal Bushies” that staffed the Department of Justice curing Bush’s tenure) that waterboarding does not violate 18 U.S.C. 2340; that waterboarding is not “torture.”

The statute says,

As used in this chapter—
(1) “torture” means an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control;
(2) “severe mental pain or suffering” means the prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from—
(A) the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering;
(B) the administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality;
(C) the threat of imminent death…

I leave it to you, our readers, to decide for yourselves: Did President Bush authorize torture?

What Waterboarding IsWaterboarding induces panic and suffering by forcing a person to inhale water into the sinuses, pharynx, larynx, and trachea.

The head is tilted back and water is poured into the upturned mouth or nose. Eventually the subject cannot exhale more air or cough out more water, the lungs are collapsed, and the sinuses and trachea are filled with water. The subject is drowned from the inside, filling with water from the head down. The chest and lungs are kept higher than the head so that coughing draws water up and into the lungs while avoiding total suffocation. “His sufferings must be that of a man who is drowning, but cannot drown.”

The prohibition against torture is so global that no country, great or small, can authorize torture.

This is our Open Thread. Please feel free to add your thoughts on this, or any other topic that comes to mind.

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The Watering Hole: February 8 – WTF?

This story caught my eye. Almost every sane person finds a way to deal with being angry at their kids, I usually leave the room until the anger passes, some use the skills they’ve honed in their professional careers.

A soldier waterboarded his four-year-old daughter because she was unable to recite her alphabet.

Joshua Tabor admitted to police he had used the CIA torture technique because he was so angry.

As his daughter ‘squirmed’ to get away, Tabor said he submerged her face three or four times until the water was lapping around her forehead and jawline.

Tabor, 27, who had won custody of his daughter only four weeks earlier, admitted choosing the punishment because the girl was terrified of water.

Children and the old and the frail are so very vulnerable. Empathy and protecting the weak is the one thing that makes us human. Some of us.
This is our open thread. Feel free to let us know about your thoughts on this and anything else.

Should this man be waterboarded?

I’d like to post this on every Conservative blog on the internet.

The man charged with murdering a high-profile abortion doctor claimed from his jail cell Sunday that similar violence was planned around the nation for as long as the procedure remained legal, a threat that comes days after a federal investigation launched into his possible accomplices.

This is about as close to the ticking time-bomb scenario as we’re going to get. This man claims to have knowledge about planned murders.

So, under the Bush/Cheney/Jack Bauer/Justice Scalia doctrine, should this man be waterboarded?

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It’s the Torture, Stupid

Who cares what Speaker Nancy Pelosi knew and when she knew it? That isn’t the point. The point is what it is that she is accused of knowing – That the Bush Administration, in violation of both US Law and International Treaty, tortured people. Continue reading

Stewart finds moral hypocrisy: Waterboarding good, gays bad

 Raw Story

Lt. Dan Choi is an Arabic translator that is being fired from the military for admitting that he is gay. Jon Stewart finds hypocrisy in that the government will bend its moral standards to allow waterboarding but then fires the resources that could translate the results of that waterboarding.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Sean Hannity consents to be waterboarded for charity!!

Sean Hannity is another of Fox News personalities that won’t call waterboarding torture.  Instead, he answers in this video “I am for enhanced interrogation.”  When asked if he was ever waterboarded by Grodin, his response was, “No, but Ollie North has.”  I’m lost, what in the hell does North’s being waterboarded have to do with Hannity being waterboarded???  Talking to someone about their experiences being tortured is a whole different animal than being waterboarded yourself.  Grodin asked Hannity if he would consent to be waterboarded, Hannity’s response, “I’ll do it for charity. I’ll let you do it. I’ll do it for the troops’ families.”

Having Grodin in this video made it bearable to watch.  In the end, he calls Hannity a fascist.  You will see Hannity cuts him off and talks over him.  Hats off to Grodin for having the moral fortitude to tolerate Hannity at all.