Memorandum for the President

Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) was founded in January 2003 by five former intelligence professionals who were dismayed by the misuse of their profession to justify an invasion of Iraq. Their concerns, expressed at the time in a Memorandum to George W. Bush, were — obviously — ignored.

Now, VIPS — which has grown to a membership of “70 intelligence professionals, mostly retired, who have served in virtually all U.S. civilian and military intelligence agencies” — has sent another Memorandum to the President: to Pres. Obama, on the issue of torture.

VIPS calls torture an “accumulated evil” — a concept that is part of the Nuremberg Tribunal’s definition of a “war of aggression.” In the Introduction that precedes the text of the Memorandum, VIPS says that the war against Iraq fits that definition:

… Nuremberg defined [a war of aggression] as “the supreme international crime, differing from other war crimes only in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” […] Torture is one of those accumulated evils. Violating domestic laws like the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 is another.

A bit further down, the Introduction continues with this striking passage:

Please do not be deceived into thinking that most intelligence officials, past and present, condone torture — still less that they are angry that you have put a stop to such techniques.
You need to know that the vast majority of intelligence professionals deplore “extraordinary rendition” and the other torture procedures that were subsequently ordered by senior Bush administration officials.

The complete text of the Memeorandum can be found after the jump (bolded section at the end is in original):

Statement of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity on Torture

Interrogation Abuses and Those Responsible Must Be Fully Exposed

Inasmuch as we have gone on record as strongly opposed to torture, both on moral and practical grounds, from the first public awareness that the Bush administration had decided to violate international and domestic law, treaty provisions, and American tradition;

As former intelligence officials we understand that unless intelligence is “actionable” — accurate, specific, and timely enough to be acted upon with some confidence — it is ineffective.

Equally important, we acknowledge our responsibility to expose fallacious reasoning regarding the utility of torture in acquiring actionable intelligence. This issue comes to the fore especially in the celebrated, but specious “ticking time-bomb hypothetical”—a regular feature of Jack Bauer TV fiction.

The fact that the exploits of Jack Bauer have injected a dangerous level of fiction and fear among impressionable viewers, and have misled not only interrogators at Guantanamo but also the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Silvestre Reyes — not to mention Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia — leaves no doubt that such illusionary scenarios need to be addressed by professionals with real-life experience.

Inasmuch as the recently released legal memos that comprised part of the “golden shield” constructed by Bush Administration lawyers do shed some light but also provide inadequate information on “harsh interrogation tactics,” and that the memos sow confusion regarding which officials were responsible for institutionalizing those methods — not to mention whether they were actually effective, as former Vice President Cheney continues to insist;

Inasmuch as it has come to light that two detainees were waterboarded at least 266 times, throwing strong doubt on various rationalizations regarding the effectiveness of waterboarding in providing timely actionable intelligence (in a “ticking time-bomb” scenario, for example);

Whereas CIA Director Leon Panetta has insisted that the “harsh interrogation tactics that some officials have declared to be torture” (the circumlocution now in vogue in the corporate media) might again be used in a future “ticking time-bomb hypothetical;”

Whereas, when the torture technique of waterboarding, a practice with antecedents in the Spanish Inquisition, was applied by Japanese troops in WWII to American and British prisoners — Japanese officers were later tried and executed;

Whereas there has been no better system devised — despite some shortcomings — to ascertain the truth of potential wrongdoing than the criminal investigative and judicial adversary process, which provides the right to attorney and right to jury and is governed by judicial rules which attempt to ensure fairness;

Whereas we recognize that the criminal justice process serves the important goal of stopping and deterring criminal actions and cannot be dismissed as merely “retribution;”

Whereas 92 videotapes showing application and results of the “harsh interrogation tactics that some officials have declared to be torture” have already been destroyed, and there is understandable concern that other evidence is being destroyed as the days go by;

Whereas other civilian and military intelligence professionals have also gone on record (see Annex below) with respect to how torture tactics are not only ineffective in terms of getting reliable, actionable intelligence but have fueled recruitment by Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups to the point that, arguably, more U.S. troops have been killed by terrorists bent on revenge for torture than the 3,000 civilians killed on 9/11;

Whereas the false confessions that were elicited by the torture of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, for example, were used by the president, vice president, and the secretary of state (at the U.N.) to claim that proof existed of operational ties between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, and whereas such false confessions also diverted limited investigative resources to pursue bogus leads;

We of VIPS call for a full, truthful and public fact-finding process to begin without delay. We ask that you give careful consideration to Senator Carl Levin’s suggestion that the attorney general appoint retired judges with solid reputations for integrity to begin the process.

Another viable possibility would be the appointment of an independent “blue-ribbon commission,” perhaps modeled on the Church Committee of the mid-Seventies, to assess any illegal or improper activities and make recommendations for reform in government operations against terrorism.

We commend the administration for releasing the Department of Justice memos attempting to legalize torture. We believe the remaining relevant information must be released promptly so that the citizenry can make informed judgments about what was done in our name and, if warranted, an independent prosecutor can be appointed without unnecessary delay.

We believe strongly that any judgments regarding amnesty, forgiveness or pardon can only be made on the basis of a fully developed, public record — and not used as some sort of political bargaining chip.

Finally, we firmly oppose the notion that anyone can arrogate a right to ignore the Nuremberg Tribunal’s rejection of “only-following-orders” as an acceptable defense.

(signatories are listed alphabetically with former intelligence affiliations)

Gene Betit, US Army, DIA, Arlington, VA
Ray Close, National Clandestine Service (CIA), Princeton, NJ
Phil Giraldi, National Clandestine Service (CIA), Purcellville, VA
Larry Johnson, CIA & Department of State, Bethesda, MD
Pat Lang, US Army (Special Forces), DIA, Alexandria, VA
David MacMichael, National Intelligence Council, Linden, VA
Tom Maertens, Department of State, Mankato, MN
Ray McGovern, US Army, CIA, Arlington, VA
Sam Provance, US Army (Abu Ghraib), Greenville, SC
Coleen Rowley, FBI, Apple Valley, MN
Greg Theilmann, Department of State & Senate Intel. Committee staff, Arlington, VA
Ann Wright, US Army, Department of State, Honolulu, HI

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