Torture documents and news roundup

There's been a wealth of information released on the treatment and torture of detainees in U.S. custody in the past days. Here's a capsule of the new news:

  • The Senate Armed Services Committee released a declassified report, written in November, 2008.  The report describes how the Pentagon used SERE techniques, meant to help captured soldiers resist foreign interrogators, to break down U.S. detainees.
  • A New York Times story pointed out that the CIA did no due diligence on the history of SERE techniques before using them on detainees.
  • The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released a narrative history of the harsh treatment of detainees like Abu Zubayda. It works through the myriad overlapping Office of Legal Counsel opinions pertaining to detainee treatment.  
  • Last week, the Obama administration released four memos, requested by the ACLU under the Freedom of Information Act, detailing the Bush administration's legal case for torture. The memos, which had few redactions, described in intricate detail what happened to detainees during interrogations -- including forced nudity, forced wakefulness, beatings and slappings.  
  • A blogger parsing released memos found that Abu Zubayda and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, two of the three people waterboarded at the hands of CIA interrogators, were waterboarded 266 times
  • Questions arose about whether the brutal treatment of detainees ever led to actionable intelligence. To this end, in a Fox News interview, former Vice President Dick Cheney asked for the release of memos showing that waterboarding worked. Marc Thiessen, a former George W. Bush speechwriter, took to the pages of the Washington Post's editorial section to argue that enhanced interrogation prevented terrorist attacks.
  • President Obama went forward and back about the prosecution for the CIA agents who tortured detainees; ultimately the decision belongs to Attorney General Eric Holder. Top torture reporter Jane Mayer at The New Yorker started to deconstruct the "invisibility cloak" President Obama cast last week. 


Will Obama meet with the Dalai Lama?

The AP's Foster Klug previews a tough decision for the president:

A closely watched visit is set to take place in October, when a frail, 74-year-old Buddhist monk seeks an audience with President Barack Obama.

Obama must make a delicate calculation as he considers a meeting with the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet's Buddhists, seen by his supporters as a symbol of peace but vilified by China as a "wolf in monk's robes" who seeks to split Tibet from the rest of China.

Whatever Obama decides about the visit will spark anger.

Meeting with the Dalai Lama, as every president since George H.W. Bush has done, would infuriate China, whose help the United States sees as crucial to global economic recovery efforts and dealing with nuclear standoffs in North Korea and Iran.

I doubt Obama would flat-out refuse a meeting with the Dalai Lama, but I wouldn't be surprised to see the conversation take a place away from the White House or in some ostensibly unofficial setting as other presidents have done in the past.

Incidentally, I would definitely nominate the Dalai Lama's government-in-exile to Steve Walt's list of global "over-achievers."