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More on the Levin Detainee Treatment Witchhunt


Below is a statement released this afternoon by Republicans on the Senate Armed Service Committee, hitting back at Levin over the supposedly bipartisan Committee report on detainee treatment and the impression it has created. Importantly, some of the senators below voted for the report (most were not present for the “voice-vote”).  All repudiate the insinuation that this report adds anything new, or adds anything that can be a basis for criminal charges. Below that, an excerpt from this morning’s lead editorial in the Wall Street Journal:


Friday, December 19, 2008                            
Chambliss, Inhofe, Sessions, Cornyn, Thune, Martinez Statement on SASC Inquiry into Detainee Treatment

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Saxby Chambliss, R-GA, James Inhofe, R-OK, Jeff Sessions, R-AL, John Cornyn, R-TX, John Thune, R-SD, and Mel Martinez, R-FL, members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, released the following statement in response to the recently released Executive Summary of the Senate Armed Services Committee inquiry into the Treatment of Detainees in U.S. Custody.

Throughout our history, even in the gravest of circumstances, the United States has embodied the ideals of individual freedom and liberty.  This nation adheres to the principle that all detainees in U.S. custody must be treated humanely and in accordance with applicable law.  The fallacious assertion, made in recent newspaper editorials and other media outlets, that illegal treatment of detainees was an intentional or necessary result of administration policy is irresponsible and only serves to aid the propaganda and recruitment efforts of extremists dedicated to the murder of innocents and the destruction of our way of life.

The latest inquiry into detainee treatment by the Senate Armed Services Committee breaks little new ground – merely reiterating the findings of at least 12 previous independent investigations, which reported that certain isolated and limited incidents of detainee abuse occurred in the handling of detainees in U.S. custody.  The implication, however, that this abuse was the direct, necessary, or foreseeable result of policy decisions made by senior administration officials is false and without merit.  It is counter-productive and potentially dangerous to our men and women in uniform to insinuate that illegal treatment of detainees resulted from official U.S. government policies.

Administration officials sought to comply with requests from the field for effective interrogation techniques within the legal constraints in place at the time.  These policies and orders were developed and issued under unprecedented circumstances in which our nation was under the continuous threat of an enemy that does not comply with the established rules of war – wearing no uniform and operating behind the cover of civilians.  

While it is well-documented that the guidelines and orders developed by administration and military officials were not followed in a handful of isolated and well-publicized incidents, and that certain techniques were used in areas and by individuals for which they were not authorized, all credible allegations of abuse by U.S. military personnel were and continue to be taken seriously and investigated in painstaking detail.  Where applicable, offenders have been charged, tried, and punished under federal law.  This commitment to the rule of law permits the United States to operate safe, humane and professional detention facilities for unlawful enemy combatants – many of whom continue to provide valuable information in preventing further terrorist attacks.

The events of September 11, 2001, represent the most horrific violence inflicted on our homeland since the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  After those terrible attacks, our government faced novel and grave issues of policy while having to address the dangers confronting our country.   In good faith, the administration and our military did their utmost to resolve those issues in an effective and lawful way.  It is important to remember and reaffirm the honorable public service of those individuals charged with defending the country – both past and present, civilian and military, at the highest levels of government and in the field – who expose themselves every day to criticism and to many kinds of risk in discharging their solemn responsibilities.  We regret that relevant facts and the contexts in which policy decisions were made were ignored in the Committee’s report.

While it is often difficult to strike the proper balance between preserving America’s security and upholding our nation’s principles, the facts reveal that the United States is committed to providing security to its people while preserving American ideals.

And from the Wall Street Journal, earlier today:

Not one of the 12 nonpartisan investigations in recent years concluded that the Administration condoned or tolerated detainee abuse, while multiple courts martial have punished real offenders. None of the dozen or so Abu Ghraib trials and investigations have implicated higher ups; the most senior officer charged, a lieutenant colonel, was acquitted in 2006. Former Defense Secretary Jim Schlesinger’s panel concluded that the abuses were sadistic behavior by the “night shift.”

Now that Mr. Obama is on his way to the White House, even some Democrats are acknowledging the complicated security realities. Dianne Feinstein, a Bush critic who will chair the Senate Intelligence Committee in January, recently told the New York Times that extreme cases might call for flexibility. “I think that you have to use the noncoercive standard to the greatest extent possible,” she said (our emphasis). Ms. Feinstein later put out a statement that all interrogations should be conducted within the more specific limits of the U.S. Army Field Manual but said she will “consider” other views. But that is already the law for most of the government. What the Bush Administration has insisted on is an exception for the CIA to use other techniques (not waterboarding) in extreme cases.

As for Mr. Levin, his real purpose is to lay the groundwork for war-crimes prosecutions of Bush officials like John Yoo, Jay Bybee and Jim Haynes who acted in good faith to keep the country safe within the confines of the law. Messrs. Obama and Holder would be foolish to spend their political capital on revenge, but Mr. Levin is demanding an “independent” commission to further politicize the issue and smear decent public servants.

As Mr. Levin put it in laying on his innuendo this week, a commission “may or may not lead to indictments or civil action.” It will also encourage some grandstanding foreign prosecutor to arrest Mr. Rumsfeld and other Bush officials like Pinochet if they ever dare to leave the U.S. Why John McCain endorsed this Levin gambit is the kind of mystery that has defined, and damaged, his career. We hope other Republicans push back.

Mr. Levin claims that Bush interrogation programs “damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives.” The truth is closer to the opposite. The second-guessing of Democrats is likely to lead to a risk-averse mindset at the CIA and elsewhere that compromises the ability of terror fighters to break the next KSM. The political winds always shift, but terrorists are as dangerous as ever.

Read the full article here.


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