In 1,200 Word Profile on Eric Cantor, WaPo Neglects to Mention His Bet against the US

So the WaPo did a 1200-word profile on Eric Cantor’s central role in debt ceiling negotiations. And somehow they never get around to mentioning that Cantor has a bet placed against US Treasuries.

Eric Cantor, the Republican Whip in the House of Representatives, bought up to $15,000 in shares of ProShares Trust Ultrashort 20+ Year Treasury ETF last December, according to his 2009 financial disclosure statement. The exchange-traded fund takes a short position in long-dated government bonds. In effect, it is a bet against U.S. government bonds—and perhaps on inflation in the future.

You’d think that’d be the sort of thing worth mentioning.

Hamid Karzai’s Brother Killed by Guard

This is going to make it more difficult for us to declare victory and withdraw from Afghanistan.

Ahmed Wali Karzai, the Kandahar provincial council chief, was killed during a gathering, said provincial governor Tooryalai Wesa. He did not know a motive.

While the governor initially said a friend killed Karzai, his spokesman later clarified that the death was at the hands of a guard.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the shooting, saying that the guard accused of shooting him was working for them.

There are reports saying the guard had a grudge, and was not working for the Taliban; whether or not that’s spin, though, it highlights the lack of security in the country. In any case, for all AWK’s corruption, he was a key figure in Hamid Karzai’s exercise of power. (Not to mention the CIA’s past monetary support of AWK.)

How the Government Hid Their Pacha Wazir Mistake by Denying Habeas Corpus

Scott Horton’s revelation that the detainee described as “CAPTUS” in Glenn Carle’s book, The Interrogator, is an Afghan named Pacha Wazir reveals something else: in spite of the fact that Carle realized the CIA had been mistaken about Wazir’s ties to al Qaeda sometime in 2002, Wazir was not released from US custody until February 24, 2010.

We held Wazir for over seven years after the time Carle first figured out the CIA had made a mistake.

Of particular concern, however, are the decisions the government made to prevent Wazir from getting any kind of review of his detention.

Rather than move Wazir from the Salt Pit to Gitmo–where he would have received a Combatant Status Review Tribunal–he was instead moved to Bagram in 2003 or 2004. At Bagram–as John Bates summarized in his opinion regarding habeas petitions for three other Bagram detainees–the review was much less stringent.

The initial “enemy combatant” determination is made “in the field.” Tennison Decl. ¶¶ 11-12. For detainees at Bagram, the initial determination is reviewed within 75 days, and then every six months thereafter.19 Id. ¶ 13. The reviewing body is the Unlawful Enemy Combatant Review Board (“UECRB”), a panel of three commissioned officers. The UECRB reviews “all relevant information reasonably available,” and detainees have the opportunity to make a written statement.20 Id. ¶¶ 12-13. The UECRB then makes a recommendation by majority vote to the Commanding General as to the detainee’s status. Id. ¶ 13. There is no recourse to a neutral decision-maker.

Respondents concede, as they must, that the process used for status determinations at Bagram is less comprehensive than the CSRT process used for the Guantanamo detainees. Tr. at 53. Focusing the inquiry on the flaws Boumediene identified in the CSRT process, the UECRB process is plainly less sophisticated and more error-prone. Unlike a CSRT, where a petitioner has access to a “personal representative,” Bagram detainees represent themselves. Obvious obstacles, including language and cultural differences, obstruct effective self-representation by petitioners such as these. Detainees cannot even speak for themselves; they are only permitted to submit a written statement. But in submitting that statement, detainees do not know what evidence the United States relies upon to justify an “enemy combatant” designation — so they lack a meaningful opportunity to rebut that evidence. Respondents’ far-reaching and everchanging definition of enemy combatant, coupled with the uncertain evidentiary standards, further undercut the reliability of the UECRB review. And, unlike the CSRT process, Bagram detainees receive no review beyond the UECRB itself.

In September 2006, Wazir did file a habeas petition–his suit was ultimately consolidated with the three Bagram detainees whose DC Circuit habeas denial remains the relevant decision denying Bagram detainees habeas. But Wazir’s petition was denied in spite of the fact that a former Bagram detainee revealed that Wazir had been told some time in June or July 2008 there was no evidence against him.

About four months ago, in June or July of this year, one of the investigators in Bagram told Haji Wazir that there was no incriminating evidence against him.

More troubling, Wazir’s petition was denied on jurisdictional grounds because he’s an Afghan citizen. Yet even before that decision, Afghan prosecutors determined on June 26, 2008 that coalition forces had no evidence of collaboration with al Qaeda, so Wazir should be freed.

In the documents from coalition forces, it has been mentioned that evidence, physical supporting material and pictures do not exist to prove the accusations, he has not been arrested in a face to face battle, has not performed any terrorism related actions, polygraph tests show that there are no evidence of deception.

Based on the requirements of his job and business he has performed currency exchange activities in all parts and corners of the world legally to earn his livelihood.

Therefore, the commission believe that there are no documents in his file that would support the allegations against this person and he has already spent more than five years in prison. Thus, it is considered appropriate if the suspect is released from prison, introduced to National Independent Commission on Peace and Reconciliation and a report be delivered to the President of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

Nevertheless, several weeks after the Afghan determination that coalition forces had no evidence against Wazir, a DOD UECRB determined that he was an unlawful enemy combatant.

Petitioner Wazir is a detainee at BTIF. See id. ¶ 19. DoD’s records reflect that he was captured in Karachi, Pakistan, and was determined to be an unlawful enemy combatant both when he was first brought under DoD custody and in subsequent reviews. See id. ¶ 20. The UECRB’s most recent reevaluation of his status was on July 17, 2008. Id. Following that review, his status as an unlawful enemy combatants was reaffirmed. Id.

So ultimately, John Bates denied his petition on jurisdictional grounds to prevent tensions between the US and Afghans. But the US recertified Wazir as an unlawful enemy combatant even after the Afghans had determined there was no evidence to support such a designation.

Now, there’s a lot else that’s funky about the government’s treatment of Wazir. For example, they claimed he had been arrested November 13, 2003 in Karachi, even while it was clear he had been arrested a year earlier in Dubai. Then, the US sent paperwork transferring custody of Wazir to an Afghan prison, but did not transfer Wazir himself (and then went on to to reaffirm his enemy combatant status).

But ultimately, there’s also the question of why they left someone of such purported import in Afghanistan, rather than Gitmo. And while the government insists they don’t make detention decisions to avoid giving detainees access to habeas, the three other detainees whose habeas petitions were denied recently submitted new evidence, including two WikiLeaks documents disproving a government claim that it had never moved detainees from Gitmo to Bagram. Of particular note is the detainee who–according to an Afghan War Log cable–was transferred from Gitmo to Bagram on January 18, 2009, just two days before Obama would become President.

Of course, even if they had granted jurisdiction for Wazir to file a habeas peittion, two key pieces of evidence had already been disappeared: the two cables Carle wrote in late 2002 or early 2003 documenting that Wazir was not the al Qaeda banker the CIA had made him out to be.

For much of the time the CIA was fighting with Glenn Carle over how much detail he could write about Wazir, Wazir was stuck in Bagram, having already been cleared for release by the Afghans yet still–in spite of the lack of evidence–claimed to be an enemy combatant by the US.

That’s the kind of injustice our refusal to offer habeas corpus to Bagram detainees permits.

No Wonder They Hired Andy Coulson

Amid news that News Corp is playing games with its BSkyB bid (and even that Murdoch might sell News International entirely), the Guardian reports that Gordon Brown, like everyone else in England it seems, was hacked by “journalists across News International.”

Journalists from across News International repeatedly targeted the former prime minister Gordon Brown, attempting to access his voicemail and obtaining information from his bank account, his legal file as well as his family’s medical records.

[snip]

Separately, Brown’s tax paperwork was taken from his accountant’s office apparently by hacking into the firm’s computer. This was passed to another newspaper.

Brown was targeted during a period of more than 10 years, both as chancellor of the exchequer and as prime minister. Some of the activity clearly was illegal. Other incidents breached his privacy but not the law.

So here’s a question I’m mystified that no one is asking.

A couple of Liberal Democrats are now reporting that, after having received non-public briefings on Andy Coulson’s role in the hacking scandal, they warned David Cameron not to hire Coulson as his spokesperson. But Cameron ignored those warnings.

The crisis engulfing David Cameron over phone hacking deepened on Saturday as Paddy Ashdown revealed that he had warned No 10 only days after the general election of “terrible damage” to the coalition if he employed Andy Coulson in Downing Street.

The former Liberal Democrat leader, who had been extensively briefed on details that had not been made public for legal reasons, was so convinced that the truth would eventually emerge that he contacted the prime minister’s office.

Ashdown, a key player as the Liberal Democrats agonised over whether to join in a coalition with the Tories, told the Observer that, based on what he had been told, it was obvious Coulson’s appointment as Cameron’s director of communications would be a disaster.

“I warned No 10 within days of the election that they would suffer terrible damage if they did not get rid of Coulson, when these things came out, as it was inevitable they would,” he said.

Isn’t it possible that Cameron insisted on hiring Coulson because of his role in the scandal? That is, is it possible that, either before or after the election, Coulson shared some of this intelligence–which we know included personal information about Gordon Brown–with the Tories for political advantage?

RomneyCare Didn’t End Medical Bankruptcies

Surprise surprise. Getting everyone insurance is not enough to eliminate medical bankruptcies. (h/t Susie)

To gauge whether healthcare reform in Massachusetts had eased bankruptcies, the researchers looked at a random sample of Massachusetts bankruptcy filers in July 2009, sending surveys to almost 500 households. They compared their results to national and Massachusetts data collected in 2007, before the Massachusetts reform was implemented in 2008.

They found that while the percentage was down slightly, medical bills still contributed to 52.9% of all bankruptcies in the state. Absolute numbers of medical bankruptcies were up by a third. Total bankruptcies in Massachusetts went up 51% between 2007 and 2009.

Families still faced substantial medical debt, they wrote, because healthcare costs continued to rise.

Who could have known?

Lucky for us we may never get to the point where national health care reform fails to prevent medical bankruptcies, since the TeaPartiers seem intent on crashing our economy but good because they don’t think the US should have to pay for Bush’s unfunded wars.

On the Wisdom of Keeping Up Offensive Pressure

As we hear about how heroic this victory was over the next few days, remember what went into it: first, superior fitness. Thankfully these women did not rest on their reputation for greatness, but instead put in the hours of training to make sure that if they had to, they could beat one of the best teams in the world a person down.

And just as importantly? Offensive pressure. Relentless, fearless, offensive pressure.

Good luck, women!

Is “National Security” a Good Excuse to Pursue Policies that Undermine the Nation-State?

DIY Drone (image: wbaiv)

Here I was steeling myself for a big rebuttal from Benjamin Wittes to my “Drone War on Westphalia” post on the implications of our use of drones. But all I got was a difference in emphasis.

In his response, Wittes generally agrees that our use of drones has implications for sovereignty. But he goes further–arguing it has implications for governance–and focuses particularly on the way technology–rather than the increasing importance of transnational entities I focused on–can undermine the nation-state by empowering non-state actors.

I agree emphatically with Wheeler’s focus on sovereignty here–although for reasons somewhat different from the ones she offers. Indeed, I think Wheeler doesn’t go quite far enough. For it isn’t just sovereignty at issue in the long run, it is governance itself. Robotics are one of several technological platforms that we can expect to greatly enhance the power of individuals and small groups relative to states. The more advanced of these technological areas are networked computers and biotechnology, but robotics is not all that far behind–a point Ken Anderson alludes to at a post over at the Volokh Conspiracy. Right now, the United States is using robotics, as Wheeler points out, in situations that raises issues for other countries’ sovereignty and governance and has a dominant technological advantage in the field. But that’s not going to continue. Eventually, other countries–and other groups, and other individuals–will use robotics in a fashion that has implications for American sovereignty, and, more generally, for the ability of governments in general to protect security. [my emphasis]

Given DOD’s complete inability to protect our computer toys from intrusion, I’ll wager that time will come sooner rather than later. Iraqi insurgents already figured out how to compromise our drones once using off-the-shelf software.  [cont’d.] (more…)

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Glenn Carle, Author of The Interrogator: An Education

Welcome Glenn L. Carle and Host Marcy Wheeler (Emptywheel.com)

The Interrogator: An Education

Host, Marcy Wheeler:

In The Interrogator: An Education, retired CIA clandestine officer Glenn Carle tells how, in fall 2002, he was sent to the Middle East to interrogate a purportedly high level al Qaeda figure he calls CAPTUS. While Carle does not identify either the detainee or the countries in which he interrogated him, Scott Horton reports the detainee is an Afghan named Pacha Wazir who, before he was captured, ran a hawala al Qaeda used; the two locations are Morocco and Afghanistan’s Salt Pit. After some weeks of rapport-based interrogation, Carle became convinced CAPTUS wasn’t as involved in al Qaeda as CIA believed him to be.

The parts of Carle’s straightforward narrative that describe his failed efforts to prevent CAPTUS from being abused offer a number of damning details, such as the revelations he never got documents CAPTUS had with him when he was rendered and two cables he wrote decrying the abuse disappeared. The afterword, in which Carle argues that the CIA’s abusive interrogation program “obtained little of critical benefit,” is an important addition to debates about our torture program. But I was most interested in the ways the book textually replicated the sheer insanity of that program.

For example, to narrate what happened just after he and CAPTUS arrived at Afghanistan’s Salt Pit, Carle juxtaposes a description of his own dislocation as a result of SERE training…

I descended into a world of trauma and dreams, where I was not awake, or asleep, or coherent, or able to think straight. For the first time in my life, I lost the ability to distinguish where I ended, and where the outside world began. I could not tell. I started to lose control of my personality, to inhabit a world in which I was completely isolated, and in which I could not trust my senses. I hallucinated—I saw slimy things, told myself they did not exist, but also told myself I had better stay still so that they would go away.

[snip]

It all accumulated on my mind. It never stopped. Nothing existed but the dark, cold, confusion, pain, fear . . . and the slow loss of myself. The only salvation was the moment of sanity when I sat facing an interrogator.

… With CAPTUS’ slow recognition of Carle (whom he knows only as “Jacques”) after he had been rendered to Afghanistan’s Salt Pit and abused by Americans:

“CAPTUS.” He looked at me, not understanding what was happening. My tone was declaratory, matter-of-fact, not imperious.

“CAPTUS, it’s Jacques.” He continued to stare, his eyes glassy, not making sense of anything yet. I could see his mind starting to work.

“CAPTUS, it’s Jacques. I am here too, now.”

“Jacques . . .”

[cont’d.] (more…)

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Glenn Carle, Author of The Interrogator: An Education

Welcome Glenn L. Carle and Host Marcy Wheeler (Emptywheel.com)

The Interrogator: An Education

Host, Marcy Wheeler:

In The Interrogator: An Education, retired CIA clandestine officer Glenn Carle tells how, in fall 2002, he was sent to the Middle East to interrogate a purportedly high level al Qaeda figure he calls CAPTUS. While Carle does not identify either the detainee or the countries in which he interrogated him, Scott Horton reports the detainee is an Afghan named Pacha Wazir who, before he was captured, ran a hawala al Qaeda used; the two locations are Morocco and Afghanistan’s Salt Pit. After some weeks of rapport-based interrogation, Carle became convinced CAPTUS wasn’t as involved in al Qaeda as CIA believed him to be.

The parts of Carle’s straightforward narrative that describe his failed efforts to prevent CAPTUS from being abused offer a number of damning details, such as the revelations he never got documents CAPTUS had with him when he was rendered and two cables he wrote decrying the abuse disappeared. The afterword, in which Carle argues that the CIA’s abusive interrogation program “obtained little of critical benefit,” is an important addition to debates about our torture program. But I was most interested in the ways the book textually replicated the sheer insanity of that program. (more…)

Is “National Security” a Good Excuse to Pursue Policies that Undermine the Nation-State?

Here I was steeling myself for a big rebuttal from Benjamin Wittes to my “Drone War on Westphalia” post on the implications of our use of drones. But all I got was a difference in emphasis.

In his response, Wittes generally agrees that our use of drones has implications for sovereignty. But he goes further–arguing it has implications for governance–and focuses particularly on the way technology–rather than the increasing importance of transnational entities I focused on–can undermine the nation-state by empowering non-state actors.

I agree emphatically with Wheeler’s focus on sovereignty here–although for reasons somewhat different from the ones she offers. Indeed, I think Wheeler doesn’t go quite far enough. For it isn’t just sovereignty at issue in the long run, it is governance itself. Robotics are one of several technological platforms that we can expect to  greatly enhance the power of individuals and small groups relative to states. The more advanced of these technological areas are networked computers and biotechnology, but robotics is not all that far behind–a point Ken Anderson alludes to at a post over at the Volokh Conspiracy. Right now, the United States is using robotics, as Wheeler points out, in situations that raises issues for other countries’ sovereignty and governance and has a dominant technological advantage in the field. But that’s not going to continue. Eventually, other countries–and other groups, and other individuals–will use robotics in a fashion that has implications for American sovereignty, and, more generally, for the ability of governments in general to protect security. [my emphasis]

Given DOD’s complete inability to protect our computer toys from intrusion, I’ll wager that time will come sooner rather than later. Iraqi insurgents already figured out how to compromise our drones once using off-the-shelf software.

Militants in Iraq have used $26 off-the-shelf software to intercept live video feeds from U.S. Predator drones, potentially providing them with information they need to evade or monitor U.S. military operations.Senior defense and intelligence officials said Iranian-backed insurgents intercepted the video feeds by taking advantage of an unprotected communications link in some of the remotely flown planes’ systems. Shiite fighters in Iraq used software programs such as SkyGrabber — available for as little as $25.95 on the Internet — to regularly capture drone video feeds, according to a person familiar with reports on the matter.

It may not take long, then, for a country like Iran or an entity like a Mexican drug cartel to develop and disseminate a way to hack drones. And given the way other arms proliferate, it won’t be long before drones are available on the private market. (Incidentally, remember how some of the crap intelligence used to trump up a war against Saddam involved a balsa-wood drone? Great times those were!)

So Wittes and I are in pretty close agreement here; he even agrees that the larger issue “ought to be the subject of wider and more serious public debate.”

But shouldn’t it be, then, part of the question whether facilitating this process serves national security or not?

In the interest of fostering some disagreement here–er, um, in an interest in furthering this discussion–I wanted to unpack the thought process in this passage from Wittes’ response to Spencer with what appears to be Wittes’ and my agreement in mind:

The point with merit is the idea that drones enable the waging of war without many of the attendant public costs–including the sort of public accounting that necessarily happens when you deploy large numbers of troops. I have no argument with him on this score, save that he seems to be looking at only one side of a coin that, in fact, has two sides. Ackerman sees that drones make it easy to get involved in wars. But he ignores the fact that for exactly the same reason, they make it easier to limit involvement in wars. How one feels about drones is partly conditioned by what one believes the null hypothesis to be. If one imagines that absent drones, our involvement in certain countries where we now use them would look more like law enforcement operations, one will tend to feel differently, I suspect, that if one thinks our involvement would look more like what happened in Iraq. Drones enable an ongoing, serious, military and intelligence involvement in countries without significant troop commitments.

As I read it, the logic of the passage goes like this:

  1. Drones minimize the costs of involvement in wars
  2. We will either be involved in these countries in a war or a law enforcement fashion
  3. Therefore, we’re better off using drones than large scale military operations

Now, before I get to the implications of this logic, let me point out a few things.

First, note how Wittes uses “what happened in Iraq” as the alternative kind of military deployment? (more…)