Friday 29th of May 2020

pinocchio had been superseded by a new type of creature made of plastic...


Senator, my moral conscience is strong. I would not allow the CIA to carry out any activity that I thought was immoral – even if it was technically legal. I would absolutely not permit it.

From all reports, neither Warner’s nor Haspel’s nose grew longer, but perhaps such deceptive phrasing slyly falls beyond the parameters of Pinocchio’s sins and the Blue Fairy’s sanctions.

So the woman who oversaw detainee torture at a CIA “black site” in Thailand tells us she has a strong moral conscience, but she doesn’t tell us what that conscience considers intrinsically evil, if anything. Nor what that “strong” moral conscience considers moral or immoral in any way, just that the “CIA must undertake activities that are consistent with American values,” whatever they might be. And if she were ordered to carry out an action – let’s say kill a foreign agent or assassinate a political leader – that was technically illegal but accorded with her strong moral conscience, would she do so? Don’t ask; she wasn’t. Even Pinocchio would get confused with this legerdemain, and his “strong” moral conscience, Jiminy Cricket, would be utterly bamboozled.

The good Senator, adept at playing deceptive verbal games as befits his stature, is happy to have his non-question answered with a non-answer, and both he and Haspel are happy. Good question, good answer, good conscience. Nothing bad about that. Then Warner goes and votes for Haspel, who he says is “among the most experienced people to be nominated” to head the CIA, and Haspel says she thinks torture – excuse me, “enhanced interrogation” – doesn’t work anyway. Practicality wins the day.

But here in Rome so many regular people are not so practical. They seem to relish life, not as a task to accomplish, but as a pleasure to enjoy. Despite the history that surrounds them, and the dismal political economy that weighs heavy on their lives and country, they seem less anxious and terrorized than Americans. Of course this may be a visitor’s myopic vision, and when seen clearly, Romans might be as stressed as Americans. But I doubt it.

But for this visiting American, it is hard to dismiss thoughts about the disgraceful charade happening back in Washington D.C. Thinking here in Rome of the Haspel vote, I am reminded of the ex-CIA Director Allen Dulles’s and long-time Chief of Counterintelligence James Angleton’s organized “Ratlines,” the escape routes for Nazi and fascist killers and torturers, so many of whom were brought to the United States and other countries after World War II through Italy to help the newly formed CIA torture the truth out of detainees and assassinate opponents. Operation Paperclip, they called it.

No big deal; just a joining of two like-minded organizations by a tiny device. 

Post September 11 torture is nothing new, and Haspel is nothing if not a traditionalist just doing her job. Is this what Haspel meant by “American values”? Many victims would attest to that.


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happy to hear this news...

Dear Ms. Haspel,

I understand you are now against torture, after supporting it before. Great. As a torture victim, I'm very happy to hear this news.

I hope you won't take it the wrong way, however, if I say that I doubt the sincerity of your change of heart. Let's be honest. There isn't much proof that you regret what you did. The evidence suggests that you helped to cover up for American torturers. Meanwhile, at least in the torture facilities I've known, the officials who get with the program – by which I mean carry out every order in silent obedience – tend to move up in the hierarchy. I assume you're discovering the same thing right now on the day of your Senate confirmation hearing.


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the blood queen..

Lithuania and Romania, which hosted secret CIA prisons for terrorist suspects, are responsible for knowingly allowing the torture of prisoners, a European court ruled. It comes after the appointment of Gina Haspel as CIA head.

The two European nations, which hosted clandestine CIA detention facilities after 9/11, have breached basic tenets of the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights by allowing torture of prisoners to happen on their territory, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg ruled on Thursday.

The ECHR ruling refers to the cases of Saudi-born Abu Zabaydah and Saudi Abd Al Rahim Husseyn Muhammad Al Nashiri, both of whom are currently held at the US Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba.



The new European ruling comes less than a month after the controversial confirmation of Haspel as the new head of the CIA. Critics call her ‘Torture Queen’ and ‘Bloody Gina’ for the role she played in the US program of torturing terrorist suspects. She also reportedly played a key part in the 2005 destruction of videotapes of the interrogations involving torture by the CIA. Those include the abuses of Al Nashiri and Zabaydah.

During her confirmation hearing in the US Congress, Haspel said she pledged that there will be no more torture under her watch, apparently winning over lawmakers, who intended to block her nomination over her past. Her detractors claim she personally took part in interrogations because she liked seeing prisoners being hurt.

Terrorist suspects were subjected to various forms of what the Bush administration preferred to call ‘enhanced interrogation,’ including waterboarding, sensory and sleep deprivation, being forced to remain in stress positions, confinement in extremely small spaces and various forms of intimidation. The program was stopped by the Obama administration, but he failed to prosecute anyone involved in it. The incumbent president, Donald Trump, expressed support for the approach on several occasions and promised to lock up more terrorists in Guantanamo Bay.

The fact that the CIA torturers got away with what they did enables a normalization of torture under the current administration, Moazzam Begg, a former Guantanamo detainee and now a prisoner rights activist, told RT.


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torturous language...

David Luban is University Professor in Law and Philosophy at Georgetown University. His most recent book is Torture, Power, and Law.

When the U.S. Department of Justice's secret torture memos were released in 2009, journalist Kathleen Parker wrote in the Washington Post:

"Several years ago, I asked a veteran journalist for advice. 'I'm trying to figure out if I have an ethical conflict', I began."'If you have to ask, you do', he said ..."

Apply the same construct to torture. If we have to ask, it probably is.

Along the same lines, Jeremy Waldron observes that the prohibition on torture is not like a tax regulation, which needs precision because we expect even blameless taxpayers to push to the limits of the law. It is more like the prohibitions on domestic violence and sexual harassment, where you have no business demanding precise guidance on exactly how far you can go.

For Waldron, the prohibition on torture represents a legal archetype:

"a particular provision in a system of norms which has a significance going beyond its immediate normative content, a significance stemming from the fact that it sums up or makes vivid to us the point, purpose, principle, or policy of a whole area of law."

The prohibition of torture is archetypal of the fundamental commitment of law not to rule through brutality or savagery. To paw through the law against torture looking for loopholes undermines that fundamental commitment of the law itself.

I agree with Waldron's analysis and Parker's rule of thumb. Indeed, I have argued at length that the fundamental dishonesty in the torture memos came from pretending that "torture," "severe pain" and "cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment" are purely technical concepts that demand minute legal line-drawing.

It was the fundamental trick that allowed the torture lawyers, quoting Kathleen Parker again, to "[torture] the English language trying to justify the unjustifiable." Pursuing this line of thought, one might suspect that to demand a definition of torture is merely the opening gambit in a game of loophole lawyering. Why muddy the waters with definitions that invite pettifoggery?

One reason is that a definition of torture can help us identify what the most important evils associated with torture are. There are, after all, other reasons to define a concept besides sorting which items do or don't fall under it. We define concepts to learn something about them by seeing how they hang together with our other concepts. That is a fundamentally philosophical aim, distinct from the legal definition of torture. It is my aim here.

The defining feature of torture, I will argue, is the use of pain or suffering as a communicative medium for displaying the absolute mastery of the torturer and the absolute helplessness of the victim. This non-legal definition - focusing not only on the painfulness of torture, but on its inextricable link with subjugation and humiliation - aims to identify the essential features that place torture among the greatest affronts to human dignity. It shows why torture violates a moral archetype.

Defining torture: a new start

The Convention Against Torture (CAT) provides the standard legal definition of torture, as the intentional infliction of severe mental or physical pain or suffering by an agent of the state. CAT also asserts that no war or emergency can ever justify torture - it places torture in an infernal class by itself. States have never said about killing anything remotely as categorical as CAT's declaration that nothing justifies torture. After all, more than half the world's people live in countries that have the death penalty. Killing in war is lawful, and even peacetime human rights treaties prohibit only "arbitrary" killings by the state, not all killings.

CAT's definition of torture sheds no light on what makes torture unique among the misfortunes we visit on each other. For legal purposes, explaining that intuition is unnecessary, and too much theorizing would actually weaken the force of the prohibition by inviting controversy.


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Sadistical expression of the devious human desire to inflict pain, comes to mind... Read from top.

a day for victims of torture...

Later this month on June 26, the United Nation’s will observe a Day for Victims of Torture. 

Before 2002, America would have heralded this day, joining in the remembrance and using the resultant global solidarity to advance even further the goal of stopping torture wherever it might occur. No longer. America is now one of the world’s chief, unrepentant, unapologetic, still-polling-positive-on…torturers.

Since President George W. Bush—under relentless pressure from Dick Cheney, his Machiavellian vice president—withdrew America from the Geneva Conventions in 2002, ostensibly so he could deal with al-Qaeda and Afghanistan’s Taliban, the United States has operated “on the dark side.” Recently reaffirming that position, President Donald Trump nominated and the Senate approved torture’s disciple and supervisory practitioner Gina Haspel to lead the Central Intelligence Agency.

How did we get here?


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female psychos...

Women now control all three directorates of the CIA – a historic milestone for gender equality in the clandestine regime change/assassination sector. Rachel Maddow seems to be celebrating, but why is Twitter full of party poopers?

CIA Director Gina Haspel has appointed a fellow female comrade, Cynthia “Didi” Rapp, as deputy director for analysis, making her the highest-ranking analyst at the agency. Elizabeth Kimber was named the first female deputy director for operations in December, joining Dawn Meyerriecks, who has been the agency’s deputy director for science and technology for several years now. As a result, the main branches of the CIA – operations, analysis and science and technology – are now headed by women.

NBC News toasted the agency’s all-female leadership with an article detailing the new “sisterhood of spies”. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow – usually busy hallucinating about Vladimir Putin hiding under her bed – rushed to tweet the story, in an apparent endorsement of the new trifecta of unaccountable girl power.


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