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Profile: John W. Warner
John W. Warner was a participant or observer in the following events:
USS ‘Stark’ after being struck by Iraqi missile. [Source: US Department of Defense]Two missiles from an Iraqi F-1 Mirage warplane strike the USS Stark, killing 37 of the sailors aboard. The frigate is a member of a US naval task force sent to the Persian Gulf to keep the Gulf open for shipping during the Iran-Iraq War. The Iraqi fighter locks weapons on the Stark three minutes before firing; the commander of the ship refuses to issue the standard “back off” warning to the Iraqi pilot. The first missile bores deep into the ship but fails to explode; the second missile explodes, incinerating the crew’s quarters, the radar room, and the combat information center. The ship burns for two days. [PBS, 2000; Peniston, 2006, pp. 61-63]
Diverting Blame onto Iran - The Pentagon later claims that the Stark indeed warned the fighter pilot not to approach. Iraq quickly apologizes for the attack. The US continues to patrol the Gulf, and continues its program of re-registering Kuwaiti oil tankers under the American flag in order to protect them from Iranian attacks. A diplomat says that given the scale of casualties in the incident, the American public is going to start asking “what the hell is the US doing in the Gulf?” Iran calls the attack on the Stark a “divine blessing.” US officials quickly divert blame for the attack on Iran, accepting an Iraqi explanation that the fighter pilot must have mistaken the US warship for an Iranian vessel. [Guardian, 5/19/1987]
Excusing Iraq, Punishing 'Stark' Commander - “We’ve never considered them hostile at all,” says President Reagan in regards to Iraq’s military. “They’ve never been in any way hostile.… And the villain in the piece is Iran.” Senator John Warner (R-VA), a former secretary of the Navy, denounces Iran as “a belligerent that knows no rules, no morals.” Fellow senator John Glenn (D-OH) calls Iran “the sponsor of terrorism and the hijacker of airliners.” Iraq later determines that the Stark was in its so-called “forbidden zone,” and refuses to produce the pilot for any disciplinary action. The only punishment for the attack is suffered by the captain of the Stark, Glenn Brindel, who is relieved of his command, and his executive officer, who is punished for “dereliction of duty.” [TomDispatch (.com), 5/3/2007]
Lawsuits Dismissed - Two wrongful death lawsuits arising from the attacks will later be dismissed due to the “state secrets” privilege (see June 13, 1991 and September 16, 1992).
Kie Fallis, a Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) terrorism intelligence analyst, has been gathering evidence of an upcoming al-Qaeda attack or attacks. In 2002, he will describe to the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry a research process similar to what Able Danger is using at the same time: “I began to notice there was a voluminous amount of information, as others have testified, regarding al-Qaeda. Most of it appeared to be unrelated to other pieces of information. It appeared to be almost chat. By using a piece of [commercial software called ‘Analyst’s Notebook’] I was able to put these small snippets of information into, and graphically represent them as well, I was able to, over a course of many months, to determine certain linkages between these items—linkages that would never be apparent without the use of this tool. It would be lost in the weeds. And there were a lot of weeds to look through.” [Washington Times, 8/26/2002; US Congress, 10/8/2002] In his research, he claims to find links between al-Qaeda and Iranian intelligence. By May 2000, he writes a classified report on his conclusion that “terrorists were planning two or three major attacks against the United States. The only gaps were where and when.” Apparently, he envisions at least one of these attacks will use a small boat to blow up a US warship. However, the DIA has already issued a report concluding that such a method of attack would be impossible to carry out successfully, and the agency sticks by this assessment. A video message put out by bin Laden in mid-September convinces Fallis that an al-Qaeda attack will happen in the next month or two.(see Mid-September 2000). Shortly after learning about this message, Fallis reaches “the ‘eureka point‘… in determining an impending terrorist attack.” This comes “from a still-classified intelligence report in September 2000, which he will not discuss.” [Washington Times, 8/26/2002] This may be a reference to a lead by the Able Danger team on increased al-Qaeda activity in Yemen at this time (see Late September 2000), and/or it may refer to other intelligence leads. Fallis goes to his supervisor and asks that at least a general warning of an attack in the Middle East be issued. He hopes such a warning will at least put US military forces in the region on a higher alert. His superior turns him down, and other superiors fail to even learn of his suggested warning. The USS Cole will be successfully attacked in the port of Aden, Yemen, by a small boat of terrorists on October 12, 2000 (see October 12, 2000) . [Washington Times, 8/26/2002] One day after the Cole attack, Fallis will resign in protest. According to Senator John Warner (R-VA),“What [Fallis] felt is that his assessment was not given that proper level of consideration by his superiors and, as such, was not incorporated in the final intelligence reports provided to military commanders in the [Middle East region].” [CNN, 10/25/2000]
The EP-3 on an airstrip on Hainan Island. [Source: CNN]Chinese and US authorities continue to mediate the dispute over the crash of a US spy plane in Chinese territory (see March 31, 2001 and April 4-5, 2001). John Warner (R-VA), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, says the two sides are working on a written agreement on what happened, which would be approved by the leaders of both countries. Bush officials have been careful to call the detained US crew members “detainees”, but Senator Henry Hyde (R-IL) denounces the detention of the crew, calling them “hostages.” [CNN, 4/2001] Secretary of State Colin Powell is careful not to call the crew “hostages,” instead calling them “detainees[dq] who are being held [dq]incommunicado under circumstances which I don’t find acceptable.” [CNN, 4/4/2001] The pilot of the spy plane, Lieutenant Shane Osborn, later describes the interrogation tactics of the Chinese, which include verbal abuse and sleep deprivation. [PBS Frontline, 10/18/2001] Hyde is joined by outraged neoconservatives such as Robert Tracinski, who writes on April 9, “Meanwhile, [the Chinese] are ‘holding’ the airplane’s crew; ‘holding’ is the term we use to avoid calling our airmen ‘prisoners’ or ‘hostages.’” Tracinski echoes the sentiments of other neoconservatives when he accuses the US of pandering to the Chinese over the incident, and ignoring the plight of jailed Chinese dissidents. [Capitalism Magazine, 4/9/2001] On April 7, some details of the written agreement are revealed, with the US expressing further regrets over the death of the pilot of the Chinese fighter jet involved in the collision, but without the formal apology demanded by China. [CNN, 4/2001; Capitalism Magazine, 4/9/2001]
Charles Burlingame. [Source: Family photo / Associated Press]The 9/11 Commission says the hijacking of Flight 77 takes place between 8:51 a.m., when the plane transmits its last routine radio communication (see 8:51 a.m. September 11, 2001), and 8:54 a.m., when it deviates from its assigned course (see (8:54 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Based on phone calls made from the plane by flight attendant Renee May (see (9:12 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and passenger Barbara Olson (see (9:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001), the commission concludes that the hijackers “initiated and sustained their command of the aircraft using knives and box cutters… and moved all of the passengers (and possibly crew) to the rear of the aircraft.” It adds, “Neither of the firsthand accounts to come from Flight 77… mentioned any actual use of violence (e.g., stabbings) or the threat or use of either a bomb or Mace.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 8-9; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 29] People who knew Charles Burlingame, the pilot of Flight 77, will later contend that it would have required a difficult struggle for the hijackers to gain control of the plane from him. [Washington Post, 9/11/2002] Burlingame was a military man who’d flown Navy jets for eight years, served several tours at the Navy’s elite Top Gun school, and been in the Naval Reserve for 17 years. [Associated Press, 12/6/2001] His sister, Debra Burlingame, says, “This was a guy that’s been through SERE [Survival Evasion Resistance Escape] school in the Navy and had very tough psychological and physical preparation.” [Journal News (Westchester), 12/30/2003] Admiral Timothy Keating, who was a classmate of Burlingame’s from the Navy and a flight school friend, says, “I was in a plebe summer boxing match with Chick, and he pounded me.… Chick was really tough, and the terrorists had to perform some inhumane act to get him out of that cockpit, I guarantee you.” [CNN, 5/16/2006] Yet the five alleged hijackers do not appear to have been the kinds of people that would be a particularly dangerous opponent. Pilot Hani Hanjour was skinny and barely over 5 feet tall. [Washington Post, 10/15/2001] And according to the 9/11 Commission, the “so-called muscle hijackers actually were not physically imposing,” with the majority of them being between 5 feet 5 and 5 feet 7 in height, “and slender in build.” [9/11 Commission, 6/16/2004] Senator John Warner (R-VA) later says “the examination of his remains… indicated Captain Burlingame was in a struggle and died before the crash, doing his best to save lives on the aircraft and on the ground.” [Washington Post, 12/8/2001]
Donald Rumsfeld speaking at his 6:42 p.m. news briefing. Behind the secretary of defense, left to right, are Thomas White, Henry Shelton, John Warner, and Carl Levin. [Source: Bob Houlihan/US Navy]Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and four other senior officials give a news briefing at the Pentagon, which is broadcast live around the world, to reassure the public that the US government is still functioning and the nation is strong, and during the briefing Rumsfeld says that, despite the devastating attack there, the Pentagon will reopen the following day. [Government Executive, 9/11/2001; CNN, 9/12/2001; Giesemann, 2008, pp. 34; Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell, 2010, pp. 436] Joining Rumsfeld in the Pentagon press room to give the briefing are Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and John Warner (R-VA), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the committee’s ranking minority member, respectively; General Henry Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who has returned to the US after his flight to Europe was aborted (see (8:50 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001); and Secretary of the Army Thomas White, who has come to the Pentagon from the alternate command location. [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 145] Levin and Warner called Rumsfeld earlier in the day, promising him their wholehearted support, and he had suggested they come over to the Pentagon. [Clarke, 2006, pp. 228]
Officials Addressing Millions of Americans - As Rumsfeld and the four other men stood outside the press room before the briefing, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Victoria Clarke informed them, “Gentlemen, you are about to address 320 million Americans who have witnessed an unspeakable tragedy today.” [Giesemann, 2008, pp. 34]
Pentagon 'Will Be in Business Tomorrow' - Rumsfeld begins the briefing, reading out a statement he has written by hand. He says, “This is a tragic day for our country,” and adds, “We have taken a series of measures to prevent further attacks and to determine who is responsible.” After summarizing some of the Defense Department’s actions throughout the day, Rumsfeld gives reassurance that the Pentagon is still up and running, pointing out that “the briefing here is taking place in the Pentagon. The Pentagon’s functioning,” and, he adds, “It will be in business tomorrow.” Shelton calls the day’s terrorist attacks “an outrageous act of barbaric terrorism carried out by fanatics,” and states, “I have no intentions of discussing today what comes next, but make no mistake about it, your armed forces are ready.”
'No Information' that Military Shot Down Any Aircraft - Rumsfeld takes a number of questions from reporters, but refuses to speculate about any uncertain information. When asked: “What about Osama bin Laden? Do you suspect him as the prime suspect in this?” Rumsfeld answers, “It’s not the time for discussions like that.” One reporter says, “[T]here were rumors earlier in the day that the plane which crashed in Pennsylvania had been brought down by the United States, either shot down or in some other manner,” to which Rumsfeld responds, “We have absolutely no information that any US aircraft shot down any other aircraft today.” [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001; Clarke, 2006, pp. 230-231]
Briefing Would Be a 'Powerful Statement' - The briefing has come about because Clarke felt earlier on that Rumsfeld should do a media briefing today and that, despite the objections of others, it should be conducted at the Pentagon, as this would be “the most powerful statement we could deliver that we were open for business.” Rumsfeld agreed with Clarke’s suggestion to hold such a briefing. [Clarke, 2006, pp. 229-230] Shelton will later recall that the feedback the briefing generates “by far surpassed any other I have ever received. The nation was obviously shaken and looking for reassurance that their government was still functioning.” [Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell, 2010, pp. 436]
Wayne Allard. [Source: Publicity photo]General Ralph Eberhart, the commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), appears before the Senate Armed Services Committee and gives NORAD’s account of the events of September 11 and the military’s response to the terrorist attacks that day, but the 9/11 Commission will later find that some of the information he provides is incorrect. [US Congress. Senate, 10/25/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/29/2004; Farmer, 2009, pp. 248] Eberhart was at NORAD headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, and then went to NORAD’s operations center in Cheyenne Mountain when the 9/11 attacks were taking place. [9/11 Commission, 3/1/2004 ; 9/11 Commission, 3/1/2004] NORAD released a timeline of its response to the hijackings on September 18 (see September 18, 2001) and Eberhart’s testimony is consistent with that account. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001]
Eberhart Says Fighters Were Scrambled in Response to First Hijacking - During the hearing, Eberhart tells Senator Wayne Allard (R-CO) that after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) alerted NORAD to the first hijacking, of Flight 11 (see (8:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001), NORAD ordered two F-15 fighter jets to take off from Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), “almost simultaneously to the first crash” at the World Trade Center (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). Eberhart says that after he learned a plane had hit the WTC, he was initially unsure if that plane was Flight 11. “I’m sitting there hoping that someone has made a mistake; there has been an accident; that this isn’t the hijacked airplane [that hit the WTC], because there is confusion,” he recalls. He says he was informed that “it was a light commuter airplane” that hit the WTC, although, he says, it “didn’t look like that was caused by a light commuter airplane.”
Fighters Didn't Have Enough Time to Stop Second Crash - Eberhart says the FAA notified NORAD that there was “a second hijacked plane”—referring to Flight 175—“somewhere in there,” but although the Otis fighters were “flying toward New York” after being scrambled, they were still eight minutes away from the city when Flight 175 crashed into the WTC at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). “Tragically, there was just too much distance between Otis and New York City to get there in time,” Eberhart comments.
Eberhart Says NORAD Learned Flight 77 Was Hijacked before It Crashed - Eberhart says the first documented instance NORAD has of the FAA notifying it about Flight 77, the third aircraft to be hijacked, was at 9:24 a.m. After the hearing, in responses submitted for the record, Eberhart adds that the FAA notified NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) that Flight 77 “was headed towards Washington, DC.” NEADS, he states, “then passed this information to NORAD’s Air Warning Center and Command Center in Cheyenne Mountain, and to the Continental US NORAD Region’s Regional Air Operations Center.”
Fighters Were Scrambled Too Late to Prevent the Pentagon Attack - Eberhart says NORAD launched two F-16 fighters from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia “as soon as” the FAA alerted it to the hijacking of Flight 77 (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). However, he says, these fighters were still “approximately 13 minutes away from Washington, DC, when that tragic crash [at the Pentagon] occurred.”
Eberhart Is Unaware of Reason for FAA's Delay in Contacting NORAD - Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) tells Eberhart: “The timeline that we’ve been given is that at 8:55 on September 11, American Airlines Flight 77 began turning east, away from its intended course. And at 9:10, Flight 77 was detected by the FAA radar over West Virginia heading east. That was after the two planes had struck the World Trade Center towers. Then 15 minutes later, at 9:25, the FAA notified NORAD that Flight 77 was headed toward Washington.” In light of this, he asks, “[D]o you know why it took 15 minutes for the FAA to notify NORAD?” Eberhart replies: “I do not know, sir, why it took that amount of time for FAA. I hate to say it, but you’ll have to ask FAA.” Senator John Warner (R-VA), who has an extensive military background, tells Eberhart he is “a little bit stunned that you don’t know why that delay occurred.” He continues, saying, “I would have thought by now all of you in this chain would have gone back, rehearsed these things, figured out what happened, what went wrong, so that we ensure it won’t happen again.” In his responses submitted for the record, Eberhart suggests possible reasons for the delay, stating that after the FAA lost radar contact with Flight 77, it “began to receive calls from outside agencies with reports of a possible downed aircraft. Additionally, the loss of radio contact with the aircraft added to the confusion.” Consequently, he states, “I believe the FAA was faced with conflicting information, which hindered them from making an accurate assessment of the actual location of the aircraft.”
Eberhart Says NORAD Was Following Flight 93 before It Crashed - Eberhart says NORAD was aware of the problems with Flight 93, the fourth hijacked plane, before it crashed in Pennsylvania (see (10:03 a.m.-10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). He tells Allard that the FAA “knew before it deviated its flight pattern” that Flight 93 “was hijacked.” He says NORAD had been “trying to decide, initially, if that flight was going to continue west and if there was some other target for that flight. Was it Chicago? Was it St. Louis? And what might we do to launch an aircraft to intercept it.” But he says that after the FAA reacquired Flight 93 on radar, NORAD thought the plane “was headed probably for Washington, DC, but maybe New York.” He says NORAD decided at that time to keep the Otis and Langley fighters in place over New York and Washington. If another suspicious plane was approaching, he says, “our intent was to go out and meet that aircraft and destroy it if we needed to, if it entered either Washington, DC, or New York City airspace.” However, in his responses submitted for the record, Eberhart states that the “data/log entries received by NORAD from the FAA [after September 11] do not show a time or entry indicating the FAA specifically notified the Pentagon that United Airlines Flight 93 was hijacked.” He also states that NORAD “did not notify” the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon that Flight 93 had been hijacked.
9/11 Commission Disputes Some of Eberhart's Claims - Several claims Eberhart makes in the hearing will be contradicted by evidence uncovered by the 9/11 Commission during its investigation of the terrorist attacks. Whereas Eberhart says the military was first notified about the hijacking of Flight 77 at 9:24 a.m. and implies that this notification prompted the scrambling of fighters from Langley Air Force Base, according to John Farmer, the senior counsel to the 9/11 Commission, “[T]he first notification regarding American 77 occurred at 9:34, when it was reported ‘lost’” (see 9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). [US Congress. Senate, 10/25/2001; Farmer, 2009, pp. 248-254] The notice NEADS received at 9:24 a.m., according to the 9/11 Commission Report, was the incorrect claim that Flight 11 “had not hit the World Trade Center and was heading for Washington, DC” (see 9:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 34] Consequently, Farmer will write, “the scramble of the Langley fighters did occur as an immediate reaction to a notification about hijacking, but that notification was not, as [Eberhart’s] testimony implies, a report that American 77 was hijacked, but the report that American 11 was still airborne and heading for Washington.” And while Eberhart claims the FAA told NEADS that Flight 77 was heading toward Washington, according to Farmer: “The FAA never notified NEADS that American 77 was heading for Washington, DC. There is no such notification recorded on any tape or in any log maintained at NEADS or at NORAD.” Furthermore, while Eberhart claims the military was following Flight 93 on radar before it crashed and was in position to shoot it down if it approached Washington, Farmer will write that “in fact, NEADS never located United 93 on radar, because the plane had already crashed by the time NEADS was notified.” [Farmer, 2009, pp. 251, 254-255]
President Bush, responding to the news of the continuous and mounting stream of attacks on coalition troops, says: “There are some who feel that, you know, the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is, bring ‘em on. We have the force necessary to deal with the situation.” In reference to the administration’s state goal of peace in the Middle East, Bush says: “I mean, there are people there who still hate. They hate Israel. They hate the idea of peace. They can’t stand the thought of a peaceful state existing side-by-side with Israel. And they may be willing to attack. And what we must continue to do is to reject that kind of thought.” A delegation of senators visiting Iraq mirrors the president’s message. “This coalition of armed forces is never, ever going to give in, irrespective of what is thrown at it,” says Republican Sen. John W. Warner. “It will never give in until freedom replaces the tyranny of Saddam Hussein and his regime.” Democrat Sen. Carl Levin says: “We need the patience to stay the course.” However, Jay Garner, replaced by Paul Bremer as head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, noted earlier in the week that it “appears now that it’s taken on a guerrilla war nature, so we might need more” troops. [New York Times, 7/2/2003]
(Show related quotes)
Former ambassador Joseph Wilson is the leadoff guest on NBC’s Meet the Press. Wilson is there to discuss his op-ed article in the New York Times detailing his debunking of the Iraq-Niger uranium claims (see July 6, 2003). He is followed by Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and John Warner (R-VA), who have both just returned from a tour of Iraq; Washington Post columnist David Broder; New York Times reporter Elisabeth Bumiller; and syndicated conservative columnist Robert Novak. During his interview with guest host Andrea Mitchell, Wilson makes two main points, as he will later recall: “First, that in a democracy the decision to send troops to war had to be based on commonly accepted facts; and second, that if the war had in fact been based on a trumped-up threat of weapons of mass destruction, should we in the future face a real WMD threat, it would be much more difficult to convince the world or even the American people of its actual seriousness.” Wilson will recall that both Levin and Warner are “supportive” of his positions in their appearances, and that Broder characterizes his points as important. “The positions I had taken,” he will write, “were now part of the public discussion, and my credibility, though sure to be attacked, had been vouched for.” [Wilson, 2004, pp. 333-334] Appearing after Wilson, Novak derides any concerns that the administration’s claims of Iraqi WMD might be false. “Weapons of mass destruction or uranium are little elitist issues that don’t bother most of the people,” he says. [Rich, 2006, pp. 98-99]
According to anonymous White House sources, the Bush administration is using a two-track political strategy to counter fallout from the Plame Wilson investigation. White House officials are encouraging Republicans to attack the credibility and impartiality of Joseph Wilson, the husband of outed CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson, and portray him as a partisan Democrat with a bent towards smearing the administration; the Republicans are also being encouraged to portray Democrats as politically driven scandalmongers hoping to use the investigation to influence the 2004 presidential election. Simultaneously, White House officials, in conjunction with Republican leaders on Capitol Hill, are scrambling to ensure that no Congressional Republicans break ranks and call for an independent inquiry into the leak that would not fall under the direct control of the Justice Department. The White House is resisting Democratic calls for an independent special counsel to handle the investigation (see October 1, 2003). One Republican Congressional aide calls the strategy “slime and defend,” referring to the White House’s attempt to besmirch Wilson’s motivations and simultaneously shore up Republican support. The strategy seems to be working, the aide says: “So far so good. There’s nervousness on the part of the party leadership, but no defections in the sense of calling for an independent counsel.” A Republican National Committee memo distributed to Congressional Republicans gives one suggested talking point on attacking Democrats: “Lacking a positive issue agenda to offer the American people, the Democratic Party now returns to what they have long seen as their best opportunity to defeat President Bush and Republicans—scandalmongering.” House Republicans are passing out white paper bags labeled “Leak Hyperventilation Bag,” explaining that the bags are for Democrats who might be having trouble catching their breath over the subject. House Democrats have canceled a planned closed-door meeting with Wilson, fearing that they might be accused of playing politics on the investigation. The White House is closely monitoring five Congressional Republicans known for having something of an independent streak: Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Richard Lugar (R-IN), Chuck Hagel (R-NE), and John Warner (R-VA), and Representative Porter Goss (R-FL). The White House is working to keep these five, in particular, in line with its desired responses. [New York Times, 10/1/2003]
A former high-level Defense Department official later tells journalist Seymour Hersh that when the Abu Ghraib scandal broke, Senator John Warner (R-VA), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, was warned “to back off” on the investigation, because “it would spill over to more important things.” A spokesman for Warner later acknowledges that there had been pressure on Warner, but says that Warner stood up to it. For instance, Warner insisted on putting Rumsfeld under oath when he testified about Abu Ghraib (see May 7, 2004). However, Hersh will later note, “Despite the subsequent public furor over Abu Ghraib, neither the House nor the Senate Armed Services Committee hearings led to a serious effort to determine whether the scandal was a result of a high-level interrogation policy that encouraged abuse.… An aggressive congressional inquiry into Abu Ghraib could have provoked unwanted questions about what the Pentagon was doing, in Iraq and elsewhere, and under what authority.” [New Yorker, 6/17/2007]
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John W. Warner asks Pentagon officials to testify before his committee. The Army’s vice chief of staff, Gen. George Casey, briefs the committee behind closed doors. Expressing anger at the fact he was not informed earlier of problems at Abu Ghraib, Democratic Sen. Joseph Biden, says: “Accountability is essential. So the question for me is, what did Secretary Rumsfeld and others in the Pentagon know, when did they know it and what did they do about it?” Biden says in a statement. “If the answers are unsatisfactory, resignations should be sought,” referring to Rumsfeld and others. [CNN, 5/5/2004]
General Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, admits that interrogation techniques used by US guards and interrogators in Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib prison violated the Geneva Conventions. Pace says he is not sure who approved those techniques. Pace, who a week before had blamed lower-ranking soldiers for carrying out the abuses (see May 5, 2004), contradicts Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who has insisted that the techniques used on prisoners at Abu Ghraib meet international standards for humane treatment. In a hearing conducted by the Senate Armed Services Committee, Jack Reed (D-RI) asks Pace what he would think if he saw a US Marine in enemy custody, bound, naked, and forced into a painful position with a hood over his head. Would it violate the Geneva standards? Reed asks. “I would describe it as a violation, sir,” Pace replies. Reed notes that just that sort of treatment had previously been authorized by Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, commander of US ground forces in Iraq. Pace says he knows of no military guidelines that would allow prisoners to be put in so-called “stress positions,” denied sleep, threatened with dogs, or kept in isolation for weeks on end. Committee Democrats contend with the committee chairman, John Warner (R-VA), who initially attempts to stop discussion of the Abu Ghraib torture allegations and focus only on the issue of the Bush administration’s new request for $25 million in funding for the military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Warner eventually gives way to the Democrats after Ted Kennedy (D-MA) says: “I’ve been in the Senate 42 years, and I have never been denied the opportunity to question any person that’s come before a committee, on what I wanted to ask for it. And I resent it and reject it on a matter of national importance.” The New York Times notes, “Outrage over the prison abuse has been near-universal, but in recent days Republicans have been quicker than Democrats to try to change the subject or insist on limiting release of the new prison photos.” House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) says that “[s]ome people are overreacting” to the prison photos and surrounding revelations of abuse. “The people who are against the war are using this to their political ends.” [New York Times, 5/13/2004]
Citing personal reasons, CIA Director George Tenet announces he will be stepping down in the next month. President Bush praises Tenet’s service, but there is widespread agreement that significant intelligence failures occurred during his tenure, most strikingly 9/11 itself. Sources also suggest that Tenet, originally a Clinton appointee, has been made a convenient scapegoat for Bush administration intelligence failures in Iraq and elsewhere. [CNN, 6/4/2004; Independent, 6/4/2004] Tenet and the Bush administration are expecting harsh criticism from several reports expected to find serious failures in intelligence gathering and analysis related to the 9/11 attacks. Most damaging is an upcoming Senate Intelligence Committee report expected to single out the CIA for errors in its judgments before the Iraq war (see June-November 2004). Committee chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) has warned the administration that the report will be so harsh that questions will be raised as to whether senior CIA officials should be held accountable. Tenet will be replaced by Deputy Director John McLaughlin until a replacement is named, and will eventually be replaced by Porter Goss (see September 24, 2004). A friend of Tenet’s, former Deputy Director Richard Kerr, says that Tenet “may have believed that he was hurting the president. He’s an honorable person, and he may have had that as a consideration.” Former Democratic senator David Boren, a close friend and mentor of Tenet’s, says Tenet is not leaving because of criticisms likely to be leveled at either him or the agency: “If criticism either actual or anticipated was a factor, he would have left a long time ago. It’s been months of his desiring to leave.” Bush has asked Tenet to remain in the job several times over the past few months. When Tenet told Bush of his intentions to leave on June 2, Bush asked him to stay through the end of the year. Tenet replied that summer is a natural break point and a good time for him to depart. All the camaraderie and mutual praise between the two men aside, many believe that Tenet is departing in part because he is seen as a possible political liability for Bush. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) says, “I don’t think there are any tears over there” in the White House over Tenet’s departure. Former Senator Bob Graham (D-FL) believes that Tenet was in some way pushed to leave. “This president has been enamored of George Tenet, and has been reluctant to hold him or anyone else accountable, and that failure was becoming a bigger and bigger liability,” he says. According to Graham, Bush announces Tenet’s resignation for his own political well-being, “under circumstances where he is at the crime scene as short as possible.” Apparently, senior White House officials such as Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Colin Powell learn of Tenet’s resignation just a few moments before it is announced to the press. Two Congressmen who knew last night of the resignation were Goss (R-FL) and John Warner (R-VA), the chairmen of the House Intelligence and Senate Armed Services Committees, respectively. [New York Times, 6/4/2004]
Entity Tags: Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Senate Intelligence Committee, Richard Shelby, Pat Roberts, Richard Kerr, Porter J. Goss, John E. McLaughlin, George W. Bush, John W. Warner, Bush administration (43), Central Intelligence Agency, Daniel Robert (“Bob”) Graham, David Boren, Colin Powell, George J. Tenet
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Iraq under US Occupation
Senator Patrick Leahy, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, releases a statement condemning the allegations of the abuse and torture of Iraqi and Afghan detainees; the statement coincides with a letter Leahy sends to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. [Pyes, 9/20/2004] In the statement, Leahy says that committee chairman Sen. John Warner’s efforts to investigate the scandals "remain… hampered by the leadership of his own party and an Administration that does not want the full truth revealed.… Despite calls from a small handful of us who want to find the truth, Congress and this Administration have failed to seriously investigate acts that bring dishonor upon our great Nation and endanger our soldiers overseas.… The Bush Administration circled the wagons long ago and has continually maintained that the abuses were the work of ‘a few bad apples.’ I have long said that somewhere in the upper reaches of the executive branch a process was set in motion that rolled forward until it produced this scandal. Even without a truly independent investigation, we now know that the responsibility for abuse runs high up into the chain of command." He accuses the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the Senate as a whole, of falling “short in its oversight responsibilities.” He calls for a truly independent investigation into the torture allegations, along the lines of the 9/11 Commission. He also calls for the US to once again begin following the guidelines of the Geneva Conventions. [US Senate, 10/1/2004] Sen. Warner’s office will later admit that Warner was pressured by unnamed Bush administration officials to “back off” investigating the Abu Ghraib abuses (see May 2004).
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld gathers a group of senior subordinates and warns them to stay away from three senators—John McCain (R-AZ), John Warner (R-VA), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC)—who are drafting a bill to govern the handling of terrorism suspects (see December 30, 2005). A Pentagon official with direct knowledge of the meeting will later recall, “Rumsfeld made clear, emphatically, that the vice president had the lead on this issue.” Though Vice President Dick Cheney has, as he so often has done in the past, ensured that his bureaucratic fingerprints are not on the issue, he has already staked out a hardline position for the White House. This time, it came as a last-minute insert in a July 2005 “statement of administration policy” by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), where Nancy Dorn, Cheney’s former chief of legislative affairs, is deputy director. Cheney’s staff adds, without the required staff clearance, a paragraph to the OMB’s guidance for the 2006 defense appropriations bill (see July 21, 2005). Among those surprised by the position is Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, who for a year has advocated that the US issue clear rules about detention and interrogation of terror suspects. England attempts to clarify the issue (see Late 2005). [Washington Post, 6/25/2007]
Senator John McCain (R-AZ) introduces an amendment to the annual legislation to fund the Defense Department. McCain’s amendment, co-sponsored by Senate Armed Services Committee chairman John Warner (R-VA) and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a former military lawyer, states that military interrogators cannot exceed the limits on detainee treatment set forth in the US Army Field Manual. In essence, the amendment would prohibit the use of harsh interrogation techniques that many, including McCain, feel constitute torture. The Field Manual limits were specifically written to comply with the Geneva Conventions. The amendment also prohibits US officials, including CIA agents, from inflicting not just torture but any form of “cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment” on anyone in their custody, no matter where in the world the prisoner is being kept. The amendment, later known as the McCain Amendment or the McCain Torture Ban, becomes the subject of fierce, largely private negotiations between McCain and the White House. Vice President Cheney quickly lobbies friendly Republicans in Congress to oppose the amendment, and has private meetings with Warner and McCain. At Cheney’s behest, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) withdraws the entire bill from consideration rather than allow it to pass with the McCain amendment attached. [Savage, 2007, pp. 220-221]
The Bush administration relents in its opposition to the Detainee Treatment Act (DTA), which would ban torture of prisoners by US personnel (see July 24, 2005 and After and December 30, 2005). President Bush meets with the bill’s primary sponsor, Senator John McCain (R-AZ), and John Warner (R-VA), chairman of the Senate Armed Service Committee, in a press conference to praise the bill. McCain says after the conference that the bill “is a done deal.” The bill still faces some opposition from Congressional Republicans such as House Armed Services Committee chairman Duncan Hunter (R-CA), who says he won’t vote for the bill unless it can be amended to ensure that the nation’s ability to gather intelligence is not diminished. Both the House and Senate have voted by veto-proof margins to accept the bill, which is actually an amendment to a defense appropriations bill. McCain says after the conference with Bush and Warner, “We’ve sent a message to the world that the United States is not like the terrorists. We have no grief for them, but what we are is a nation that upholds values and standards of behavior and treatment of all people, no matter how evil or bad they are.” Bush says the ban “is to make it clear to the world that this government does not torture and that we adhere to the international convention of torture, whether it be here at home or abroad.” McCain has been the target of months of vilification and opposition from the White House over the bill, which argued that the bill would limit Bush’s authority to protect the US from terrorist attacks, and that the bill is unnecessary because US officials do not torture. [CNN, 12/15/2005]
Loopholes - But the bill contains key loopholes that some experts believe significantly waters down the bill’s impact. Author Alfred McCoy, an expert on the CIA, notes that the bill as revised by White House officials does not give any real specifics. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will assert that the only restrictions on prisoner interrogations are the ban on “severe” psychological or physical pain, “the same linguistic legerdemain that had allowed the administration to start torturing back in 2002” (see August 1, 2002). Gonzales also implies that practices such as waterboarding are not prohibited. [TomDispatch (.com), 2/8/2006]
Legal Cover - A provision of the bill inserted after negotiation with White House officials says that CIA and military officials accused of torture can claim legal protection by arguing that they were simply following the orders of their superiors, or they have a reasonable belief that they are carrying out their superiors’ wishes. McCain dropped the original provision that all military personnel must follow the stringent guidelines for interrogation laid out in the Army Field Manual; the bill now follows the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which says that anyone accused of violating interrogation rules can defend themselves if a “reasonable” person could conclude they were following a lawful order. McCain resisted pressure from the White House to include language that would afford interrogators accused of torture protection from civil or criminal lawsuits. [CNN, 12/15/2005; Associated Press, 12/15/2005]
Controversial Amendment - Perhaps even more troubling is an amendment to the bill that would essentially strip the judiciary’s ability to enforce the ban. The amendment, originally crafted by senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and added to by Carl Levin (D-MI), denies Guantanamo detainees the right to bring legal action against US personnel who torture or abuse them—effectively denying them the fundamental legal right of habeas corpus. It also gives the Defense Department the implicit ability to consider evidence obtained through torture or inhumane treatment in assessing detainees’ status. Human Rights Watch (HRW) says that the DTA marks the first time in history that Congress would allow the use of evidence obtained through torture. HRW’s Tom Malinowski says, “With the McCain amendment, Congress has clearly said that anyone who authorizes or engages in cruel techniques like water boarding is violating the law. But the Graham-Levin amendment leaves Guantanamo detainees no legal recourse if they are, in fact, tortured or mistreated. The treatment of Guantanamo Bay detainees will be shrouded in secrecy, placing detainees at risk for future abuse.… If the McCain law demonstrates to the world that the United States really opposes torture, the Graham-Levin amendment risks telling the world the opposite.” [Human Rights Watch, 12/16/2005] Geoffrey Corn, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and Judge Advocate General lawyer, agrees. In January 2006, he will write that the “recent compromise inclusion of an ‘obedience to orders’ defense… has effectively undermined the goal Senator John McCain fought so long to achieve. Instead of sending a clear message to US forces that cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment of detainees is never permissible, the compromise has validated President Bush’s belief that the necessities of war provide the ultimate ‘trump card’ to justify ‘whatever it takes’ in the war on terror.” [Jurist, 1/6/2006]
Entity Tags: Tom Malinowski, Lindsey Graham, US Department of Defense, Jon Kyl, Uniform Code of Military Justice, John McCain, John W. Warner, Geoffrey Corn, Alberto R. Gonzales, Bush administration (43), Alfred McCoy, Carl Levin, Detainee Treatment Act, Central Intelligence Agency, Human Rights Watch, Duncan Hunter
Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Civil Liberties
The three Republican senators who co-sponsored the recently passed Detainee Treatment Act prohibiting torture (see December 15, 2005) criticize President Bush for his signing statement indicating that he would not follow the law if he sees fit (see December 30, 2005). Senators John McCain (R-AZ), the primary sponsor of the bill, and John Warner (R-VA) issue a statement rejecting Bush’s signing statement. “We believe the president understands Congress’s intent in passing, by very large majorities, legislation governing the treatment of detainees,” the senators write. “The Congress declined when asked by administration officials to include a presidential waiver of the restrictions included in our legislation. Our committee intends through strict oversight to monitor the administration’s implementation of the new law.” The third co-sponsor, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), says he agrees with the letter, “and would go a little bit further.” Graham says: “I do not believe that any political figure in the country has the ability to set aside any… law of armed conflict that we have adopted or treaties that we have ratified. If we go down that road, it will cause great problems for our troops in future conflicts because [nothing] is to prevent other nations’ leaders from doing the same.” The White House refuses to respond to the senators’ comments. Law professor David Golove, a specialist in executive power issues, says the senators’ statements “mean that the battle lines are drawn” for an escalating fight over the balance of power between the two branches of government. “The president is pointing to his commander in chief power, claiming that it somehow gives him the power to dispense with the law when he’s conducting war,” Golove says. “The senators are saying: ‘Wait a minute, we’ve gone over this. This is a law Congress has passed by very large margins, and you are compelled and bound to comply with it.’” Elisa Massimino of Human Rights First says the senators’ statements should warn military and CIA interrogators that they could be subject to prosecution if they torture or abuse a detainee, regardless of Bush’s signing statement. “That power [to override the law] was explicitly sought by the White House, and it was considered and rejected by the Congress,” she says. “And any US official who relies on legal advice from a government lawyer saying there is a presidential override of a law passed by Congress does so at their peril. Cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment is illegal.” Golove notes that it is highly unlikely that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales would prosecute anyone for performing actions Bush had authorized. [Boston Globe, 1/5/2006; Savage, 2007, pp. 225-226]
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