Administration of Torture

Much of what is publicly known regarding the abuse of detainees held in U.S. custody did not emerge from congressional investigations — there were no such investigations — or from other conventional means of oversight.

Instead, a large portion of the public record on interrogation policy was uncovered through an unusually effective Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union.

A new documentary collection on detainee abuse edited by ACLU attorneys Jameel Jaffer and Amrit Singh has just been published by Columbia University Press under the title “Administration of Torture,” with a narrative introduction by the editors.

America and the Islamic Bomb

The U.S. Government was acquiescent in Pakistan’s acquisition of nuclear weapons technology over a period of decades, according to a new book on the subject.

The activities of individual members of Pakistan’s nuclear procurement network in the United States are examined in detail by investigative reporters David Armstrong and Joseph Trento in “America and the Islamic Bomb,” Steerforth Press, 2007.

Richard M. Barlow, a former CIA and Defense official who attempted to “blow the whistle” on Pakistan’s pursuit of nuclear technology in the 1980s, was effectively punished for his efforts.

“For his candor, and despite the backing of some top intelligence officials, Barlow was stripped of his Top Secret/Codeword clearances and hounded out of the Pentagon,” wrote Jeff Stein in “The Nuclear Bombshell That Never Went Off,” CQ Homeland Security, October 19.

Intelligence Budget Will Be Disclosed, ODNI Says

Within a week, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence will formally disclose the size of the National Intelligence Program budget for fiscal year 2007, an ODNI spokeswoman said.

The anticipated disclosure marks the culmination of decades of advocacy, debate and litigation.

Last July Congress enacted an intelligence budget disclosure requirement over White House objections as part of a bill to implement the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.

“The Administration strongly opposes the requirement in the bill to publicly disclose sensitive information about the intelligence budget,” according to a February 28 statement of administration policy (pdf).

But on August 3 President Bush nevertheless signed the final bill, which allows the (next) President to waive the disclosure requirement on national security grounds, if necessary, starting in 2009.

The disclosure requirement states (in section 601 of H.R. 1):

“Not later than 30 days after the end of each fiscal year beginning with fiscal year 2007, the Director of National Intelligence shall disclose to the public the aggregate amount of funds appropriated by Congress for the National Intelligence Program for such fiscal year.”

Since fiscal year 2007 ended on September 30, the legal deadline for budget disclosure is October 30.

Will the DNI comply?

“That’s what the law requires,” said Vanee Vines of the ODNI public affairs office today, “and we’re going to follow the law.”

The aggregate intelligence budget (a broad term which included “tactical” as well as “national” intelligence spending) was first officially disclosed ten years ago, in October 1997, in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the Federation of American Scientists. At that time, the (FY 1997) budget figure was $26.6 billion. The last officially authorized disclosure was in March 1998, when the budget was $26.7 billion.

Treatment of Chemical Weapons Casualties

The treatment of injuries caused by chemical weapons and other chemical agents is addressed in a new military field manual (pdf). The manual, issued jointly by the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force, characterizes the threat from chemical weapons, describes the diagnosis of chemical injuries and outlines preventive and remedial measures.

See “Multiservice Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures for Treatment of Chemical Agent Casualties and Conventional Military Chemical Injuries,” FM 4-02.285, September 2007.

Last week, President Bush issued Homeland Security Presidential Directive 21 on “Public Health and Medical Preparedness,” which is intended to advance “preparedness for all potential catastrophic health events.”

Wanted: ISOO Director

It’s an impossible job, and perhaps it was meant to be.

The Director of the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) has “responsibility for security classification, safeguarding and declassification policy and oversight throughout the Executive Branch of the United States Government.” Ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound is preferred but not required.

Except for the last part, that is the job description that was posted online yesterday as the search for a new ISOO Director commenced in earnest.

Bill Leonard, the highly regarded current Director, announced his retirement last month, to the surprise and dismay of many.

See the Job Announcement for the position of ISOO Director.

Classification Clash Over Iraqi Corruption

“It is an abuse of the classification process to withhold from Congress and the people of the United States broad assessments of the extent of corruption in the Iraqi Government.”

Remarkably, that complaint was endorsed Tuesday by a large majority of the House of Representatives, which voted 395-21 to condemn the Administration’s restrictions on disclosure of information about Iraqi corruption.

The resolution condemning the restrictions, sponsored by Rep. Henry Waxman, emerged from the conflict between his Oversight Committee and the State Department over access to and disclosure of government records on this topic. See the October 16 floor debate on House Resolution 734.

One of the assessments of Iraqi corruption that was retroactively classified after Rep. Waxman’s committee requested it has been made widely available (pdf) on the Federation of American Scientists web site.

State Department official David Satterfield disputed allegations that the Department had improperly withheld information in an October 16 conference call.

Post Office Box 1142

A resolution has been introduced in the House of Representatives to honor the participants in “Post Office Box 1142,” a military intelligence interrogation program from World War II.

“In advancing the Nation’s interests and uncovering vital secrets, the interrogators at P.O. Box 1142 never resorted to tactics such as sleep deprivation, electrical shock, or waterboarding. Their captives were never sexually abused, humiliated, or tortured. They never resorted to the methods that have recently branded our Nation so negatively,” said Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA).

See also “Fort Hunt’s Quiet Men Break Silence on WWII” by Petula Dvorak, Washington Post, October 6.

Chuck Hansen’s Swords of Armageddon

The late Chuck Hansen, a relentless and resourceful researcher, worked for decades to document the history, technology, design and development of nuclear weapons. His findings helped nurture a continuing wave of scholarship and historical reflection on nuclear policy and technology.

An extensive new collection of his most valuable and important acquisitions has recently been published on compact disk under the title Swords of Armageddon, Version 2. It is a veritable encyclopedia of nuclear weapons history.

More details about the collection and ordering information can be found here.

Abraham Lincoln and the Jews

In a remarkable episode from the Civil War that is not as widely known as it might be, General Ulysses S. Grant issued Order No. 11 on December 17, 1862 expelling all Jews from those portions of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi where his forces had taken the field.

Equally remarkable, President Lincoln did not say he would “stand by” his generals or that “we must give the military the tools it needs” to accomplish its mission. Instead, he rescinded the Order.

A century-old account of General Grant’s short-lived ban on Jews has recently been published online.

During the Civil War, President Lincoln repeatedly suspended habeas corpus and authorized other serious infringements on civil liberties. But there are some things that are not done in America, it appears, even when the survival of the nation is at stake. This was one of them.

General Grant’s action was not entirely irrational and prejudice-driven. An estimated 25,000 of the nation’s 150,000 Jews lived in the South and were loyal to the Confederacy, according to a 2005 Library of Congress exhibition. And some Jewish merchants would “roam through the country contrary to government regulations,” Grant complained.

“The President has no objection to your expelling traitors and Jew peddlers which I suppose was the object of your order,” wrote Gen. Henry Halleck to Gen. Grant, somewhat inelegantly. “But as it in terms proscribed an entire religious class, some of whom are fighting in our ranks, the President deems it necessary to revoke it.”

The story received only cursory, two-sentence treatment in the preeminent Lincoln biography (“Lincoln”) by David Herbert Donald, which mistakenly attributed Halleck’s “Jew peddler” phrase to Grant (p. 409).

And Grant himself did not mention Order No. 11 in his Memoirs. He deliberately omitted it, his son explained in a 1907 letter, because “that was a matter long past and best not referred to.”

To the contrary, however, this principled exercise of restraint by the President in time of war seems well worth remembering and pondering today, when basic civil liberties are again in dispute. (At his confirmation hearing today, Attorney General-nominee Michael Mukasey was unable or unwilling to categorically reject the possibility of indefinite detention of an American citizen without trial.)

The most detailed account of the origins and aftermath of General Grant’s Order No. 11 expelling the Jews from the areas under his control seems to be a 1909 book entitled “Abraham Lincoln and the Jews,” self-published by author Isaac Markens (pp. 10-17). That book, long out of print, was recently digitized and published by Google Books and is now freely available.

In 1876, President Ulysses S. Grant was an honored guest at the dedication of Adas Israel, which is now the largest Conservative synagogue in Washington, DC.