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January 10, 2007

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Definitely an excellent book! :)

I'm glad you're writing about this. I have wanted for a long time to write about the interplay between the mosaic theory and KUBARK's theories on how they reinforce each other's worst qualities--a subject I wished he'd had time or space to explore further in the book, and which I always vaguely wanted to write about on my own. But there was just so much to explain that I never knew where to start.

I should be quiet for now and not get ahead of your posts, though.

Sort of off topic, sort of not:

new evidence in support of suspicions about CIA prisons in Poland. And everyone interested in rendition should set up a Google News alert or run periodic searches for John Crewsdon's stories in the Chicago Tribune on the rendition of Osama Moustafa Nasr to Egypt.

All captured Islamists will, as a matter of course, claim to have been tortured. Hence Padilla's brief contains no information.

The only interesting question which comes out of this is why an American Leftist would accept, without question, 100% of the accusations which an Islamist makes against the USA?

All claims of torture submitted against the US will, as a matter of course, be rejected out of hand by a segment of the American public. Hence your reply to Hilzoy's post contains no information.

The only interesting question which comes out of this is why an American Rightist would reject, without question, 100% of the accusations which a possible torture victim makes against the USA?

(...or why I'm feeding the trolls...)

So, a, you don't believe Padilla's attorney's brief to be accurate, but you also imply that you aren't at all interested in the question of whether or not a fellow citizen detained by your government has been tortured (or that question is vastly less interesting than the question of why Hilzoy would believe Padilla's attorney's brief to be substantially true).

That's mildly interesting.

I'm interested in the question of what has been happening to Jose Padilla partly because it might give some clues about the very interesting (to me) question of has been done by your government to my fellow citizen, David Hicks.

It's interesting what folks find interesting.

The only interesting question which comes out of this is why an American Leftist would accept, without question, 100% of the accusations which an Islamist makes against the USA?

i think Dinesh D'Souza would probably have an opinion on this. after all, he did title his latest book: The Enemy At Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11

to which, i think, the only reasonable reply is a swift kick in the ass.

Have they given Padilla his medical records yet? And does anyone know if Congress is or is going to investigate his treatment?

If his/her comment is edited a little bit, a's point is somewhat legitimate.

Change "all" to "many"; change "as a matter of course" to "at sometime during their defense", and he's actually correct.

However, that does not change the possibility/probability of their claims being correct. And in this case, it probably wouldn't be too hard to confirm the claims.

When a says "claim", I think what he really means is "falsely claim" which is something else entirely. If I am wrong in that perception, I am sure he/she will correct me.

However, I prefer to state that rather than reject the claims outright, they do need to be taken with a grain of salt. It is not uncommon for some accused people to exaggerate the trreatment they have received. That doesn't meant that none of it occured.

This is backed up by affidavits from Padilla's previous counsel, medical records, to say nothing of that sensory deprivation video. It's also perfectly consistent with the guy being imprisoned without charge, and with interrogation practices used elsewhere. It's also notable that he is primarily alleging psychological rather than physical mistreatment.

If you've been following this closely you know this already, and might not feel the need to re-post the corroborating evidence every time you write about it. I mean, Padilla's gotten *a lot* of press.

And to the newspapers of course, everything is "allegedly" when the torture allegations first come out, and when the corroborating information slowly drips out and confirms all those allegations, well--it's old news. So most of the press keeps using the word "allegedly" in stories that have been corroborated in every way possible, and has no idea what follow up questions to ask at press conference.

It's all very frustrating.

Now, if you've been following this closely you also know that the administration's denials about mistreating prisoners are utterly, utterly, utterly untrustworthy. But it remains possible that they are true in a given case, and prisoners aren't always honest either. So prisoners' claims *should* be taken with a grain of salt at first. But I'm afraid a lot of those allegations have been confirmed, or corroborated as much is reasonably possible given how much of the evidence the gov't has seen fit to classify.

(when I say "interrogation practices used elsewhere" I mean by the U.S. military over the past 4 years, btw.)

The mosaic theory, though, justifies much more than we're doing. If it were permissible to harshly interrogate innocent people for years because they might drop the occasional useful bit of information that could be assembled into something important, why haven't we swept up everyone who's ever known our identified Al Qaeda members -- whole congregations, entire families -- and interrogated them like Padilla? What gets me is that it's simultaneously too much and not enough -- the arguments that justify Padilla's treatment justify much, much broader detention and interrogation, that we don't appear to be doing.

the arguments that justify Padilla's treatment justify much, much broader detention and interrogation, that we don't appear to be doing.

And note that all the torture apologists and enthusiasts who insisted that we needed to have available and use these techniques are the ones that are insisting that Padilla cannot be believed because, gosh, we would never to that to someone.

Right. The mosaic theory, as a description of how you gather intelligence, is not a terrible thing. (Turning it around--it's not a bad description about how I learned about rendition, GTMO, etc. Basically every single thing I know is public information--news stories, human rights reports, gov't documents--it's just a question of reading and remembering them and putting them together.) But as a justification for indefinite detention for anyone who *might* know anything about al Qaeda--you have to weigh the value of the intelligence against the very high costs of locking people up and throwing the key. They didn't. They used this like the "one percent doctrine": you don't actually lock up indefinitely *everyone* who might or might not know *anything*. You don't actually act as if every 1% possibility of catastrophe is a certainty, that's impossible. It's just an excuse for arbitrary power.

I think it helps, btw, to understand the mosaic theory as the justification/motivation for indefinite imprisonment without trial & based on very little evidence. The rationale for the psychological torture techniques they used on Padilla is something different--they seem to come from the CIA's cold war interrogation manuals (that was the reference to "KUBARK" above).

LB: I think the mosaic theory is fine in itself, and moreover it normally doesn't operate without check. The affidavit I quoted is from an FBI officer, and the FBI normally has to operate within the US legal system, and thus is limited in what it can do. So the mosaic theory provides a rationale that would, unchecked, justify indefinite detention of (basically) everyone, and normal checks provide a structure that keeps it within bounds.

It's the combination of the mosaic theory with the business of detaining people as enemy combatants, or in some other way that involves being utterly beyond the law and its checks, that's the problem; and it's compounded by the interrogation methods, which are, as K. said, a separate issue.

Exactly -- it's a perfectly reasonable model of intelligence gathering. I can see that hanging around relevant mosques, buying people coffee, and chatting them up endlessly could be very effective. But if you use it as a sufficient justification for detaining people, then it justifies mindboggling levels of detention.

The mosaic theory would, of course, justify the indefinite detention and torture of random members of the House of Saud, given bin Laden's background.

The one responsible for this outrage should be prosecuted and imprisoned for life. And the one responsible, of course is GW Bush, war criminal. http://greendreams.wordpress.com/2006/12/10/cia-acknowledges-bush-signed-secret-directive-on-interrogating-terror-suspect/
I hope the Democrats get a copy of that torture directive. I want everyone to know the exact contents.

That link didn't work, try this
http://tinyurl.com/yxx9ph

It seems to me the "mosaic theory" is a confession by our "intelligence" guys that they cannot understand or infiltrate potential terrorist cells. That is, they are incompetent at normal police work, so let's throw up a pseudo-science theory of "intelligence" and make a few people pay for our impotence.

Janinsanfran: Yes, it is, and it's not a new problem. There's a 1992 book called Informing Statecraft by Angelo Codevilla, who was part of Reagan's transitional team, very much experienced with intel in practice. It's brutal. He articulately and ruthlessly lays into the human intelligence deficiencies of American intel, with a brilliant passage early on about all the things a typical Ivy League graduate has never done or even seen done by anyone he knows, that would be important in infiltrating terrorist organizations just like Al Qaeda.

He's also wonderful on the extent to which policy made in secret is likely to be stupider than policy made in public. (He uses Iran-Contra as an example at several points, too; he's conservative but not blindly partisan.) At one point he remarks that almost everything that sounds too wise and cunning to tell others about is actually too stupid, and that on some level those who want to keep it secret almost always know it, that secrecy is an excuse to avoid honesty to themselves.

And sure enough, here we are.

Yikes. This whole thing strikes me as creepily hermetic. First thing that popped into my head was Foucault's Pendulum. A closed circle of initiates enthralled by a fixed idea who will grab on to any bit of information they can, by any means necessary, to perpetuate it. The idea shapes the information instead of t'other way around.

Maybe after 9-11, everyone in FBI/intelligence was (justifiably) panicked and at sea. People don't like to be in that state, and in the absence of any real substantial human intelligence or infrastructure/competence to get the sort of information they would need to feel less scared and lost, they needed some sort of solid ground to work from. So, a theory. The Mosaic, the comforting promise of emergent order from the terrifying disorder and uncertainty they faced.

But, the purported existence of a Mosaic bestows an immediate and disproportionate illusion of meaning on vast amounts of otherwise meaningless information. This ends with all information being equally meaningful, precious, worth even what they did to Padilla, in their eyes anyway. I have a hint that this impulse might be the driving force behind persistent and pernicious ideas like Total Information Awareness as well. What they never really spell out is what practical use they could possibly make of all that information. It's a hubristic attempt to control reality and prevent uncertainty which predictably and tragically multiplies the confusion, chaos, and suffering it is conceived to prevent.

It doesn't strike me as much of a rational, stepwise process at all, or anything like how normal police and intelligence work has operated in the past(which to me means systematically eliminating irrelevant information and false leads until you arrive at the truth, or the best approximation thereof you can get.) It's more like group magical thinking, which we've of course seen plenty of in lots of other areas of our government and society over the past few years.

All captured Islamists will, as a matter of course, claim to have been tortured.

No doubt. So, I guess we can all just forget about it, right?

Some of them have been tortured. And some who have been tortured were not Islamists.

Padilla's particular torture was to have been deliberately and systematically driven insane. In a nutshell, his sense of self and reality were annihilated through a program of total isolation. Kind of fiendish, but it does work.

If there is still enough of Jose Padilla left to actually have preferences, which may not be so, my guess is that would have preferred to just have the crap beaten out of him.

Thanks -

with a brilliant passage early on about all the things a typical Ivy League graduate has never done or even seen done by anyone he knows, that would be important in infiltrating terrorist organizations just like Al Qaeda.

I think I found this by Searching Inside for "Maronite" at Amazon, but it didn't seem as good as I was expecting.

Attention Comrades,
Please visit http://ministryoflove.wordpress.com to learn about our creative protest of the Military Commissions Act.
Regards,
O'Brien

War is Peace, Love is Hate, Slavery is Freedom

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