Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The OLC "torture memos": thoughts from a dissenter

By Philip Zelikow

I first gained access to the OLC memos and learned details about CIA's program for high-value detainees shortly after the set of opinions were issued in May 2005. I did so as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's policy representative to the NSC Deputies Committee on these and other intelligence/terrorism issues. In the State Department, Secretary Rice and her Legal Adviser, John Bellinger, were then the only other individuals briefed on these details. In compliance with the security agreements I have signed, I have never discussed or disclosed any substantive details about the program until the classified information has been released.

Having been the executive director of the 9/11 Commission, I'm aware of what some of these captives did. The Commission wondered how captives were questioned (for details on that, see this previously disclosed report), and the matter is now the subject of a federal criminal investigation by special prosecutor John Durham. Nonetheless, the evidence against most -- if not all -- of the high-value detainees remains damning. But the issue is not about who or what they are. It is about who or what we are.

Based on what had earlier been released, I have offered some general views on "Legal Policy for a Twilight War." With the release of these OLC memos, I can add three more sets of comments, each of which could be developed at much greater length.

1. The focus on water-boarding misses the main point of the program.

Which is that it was a program. Unlike the image of using intense physical coercion as a quick, desperate expedient, the program developed "interrogation plans" to disorient, abuse, dehumanize, and torment individuals over time.

The plan employed the combined, cumulative use of many techniques of medically-monitored physical coercion. Before getting to water-boarding, the captive had already been stripped naked, shackled to ceiling chains keeping him standing so he cannot fall asleep for extended periods, hosed periodically with cold water, slapped around, jammed into boxes, etc. etc. Sleep deprivation is most important.

2. Measuring the value of such methods should be done professionally and morally before turning to lawyers.

A professional analysis would not simply ask: Did they tell us important information? Congress is apparently now preparing to parse the various claims on this score -- and that would be quite valuable.

But the argument that they gave us vital information, which readers can see deployed in the memos just as they were deployed to reassure an uneasy president, is based on a fallacy. The real question is: What is the unique value of these methods?

For this analysis, the administration had the benefit of past U.S. government treatment of high-value detainees in its own history (especially World War II and Vietnam) and substantial, painful lessons from sympathetic foreign governments. By 2005, the Bush administration also had the benefit of what amounted to a double-blind study it had inadvertently conducted, comparing methods that had evolved in Iraq (different Geneva-based rules, different kinds of teams) and the methods the CIA had developed, with both sets being used to against hardened killers.

Opponents should not overstate their side either. Had a serious analysis been conducted beforehand (it apparently was not), my rough guess is that it might have found that physical coercion can break people faster, with some tradeoff in degraded and less reliable results.

Which underscores the importance of moral analysis. There is an elementary distinction, too often lost, between the moral (and policy) question -- "What should we do?" -- and the legal question: "What can we do?" We live in a policy world too inclined to turn lawyers into surrogate priests granting a form of absolution. "The lawyers say it's OK." Well, not really. They say it might be legal. They don't know about OK.

3. The legal opinions have grave weaknesses.

Weakest of all is the May 30 opinion, just because it had to get over the lowest standard -- "cruel, inhuman, or degrading" in Article 16 of the Convention Against Torture. That standard was also being codified in the bill Senator John McCain was fighting to pass. It is also found in Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, a standard that the Supreme Court ruled in 2006 does apply to these prisoners. Violation of Common Article 3 is a war crime under federal law (18 U.S.C. section 2441), a felony punishable by up to life imprisonment. (The OLC opinions do not discuss this law because in 2005 the administration also denied the applicability of Common Article 3.)

The OLC holds, rightly, that the United States complies with the international standard if it complies with the comparable body of constitutional prohibitions in U.S. law (the 5th, 8th, and 14th Amendments). Many years earlier, I had worked in that area of the law. I believed that the OLC opinions (especially the May 30 one) presented the U.S. government with a distorted rendering of relevant U.S. law.

At the time, in 2005, I circulated an opposing view of the legal reasoning. My bureaucratic position, as counselor to the secretary of state, didn't entitle me to offer a legal opinion. But I felt obliged to put an alternative view in front of my colleagues at other agencies, warning them that other lawyers (and judges) might find the OLC views unsustainable. My colleagues were entitled to ignore my views. They did more than that: The White House attempted to collect and destroy all copies of my memo. I expect that one or two are still at least in the State Department's archives.

Stated in a shorthand way, mainly for the benefit of other specialists who work these issues, my main concerns were:

the case law on the "shocks the conscience" standard for interrogations would proscribe the CIA's methods;
the OLC memo basically ignored standard 8th Amendment "conditions of confinement" analysis (long incorporated into the 5th amendment as a matter of substantive due process and thus applicable to detentions like these). That case law would regard the conditions of confinement in the CIA facilities as unlawful.
the use of a balancing test to measure constitutional validity (national security gain vs. harm to individuals) is lawful for some techniques, but other kinds of cruel treatment should be barred categorically under U.S. law -- whatever the alleged gain.
The underlying absurdity of the administration's position can be summarized this way. Once you get to a substantive compliance analysis for "cruel, inhuman, and degrading" you get the position that the substantive standard is the same as it is in analogous U.S. constitutional law. So the OLC must argue, in effect, that the methods and the conditions of confinement in the CIA program could constitutionally be inflicted on American citizens in a county jail.

In other words, Americans in any town of this country could constitutionally be hung from the ceiling naked, sleep deprived, water-boarded, and all the rest -- if the alleged national security justification was compelling. I did not believe our federal courts could reasonably be expected to agree with such a reading of the Constitution.

SUSKIND interview on CNN 4-20/09 "CIA memos"


BLITZER: Was it a mistake to actually release the Justice Department documents authorizing these enhanced interrogation techniques?

SUSKIND: The evidence clearly shows it wasn't. I mean, mostly people knew what was in those documents in terms of their basic nature. Beyond that, these were never techniques the CIA used until 9/11 and have never shown any worth. So this is not a sources and methods issue where you're dealing with real sources and methods that the CIA uses to get espionage...

BLITZER: The former CIA director only yesterday, General Hayden, said, "The facts of the case are that the these techniques against these terrorists made us safer. It really did work." That's what he said yesterday.

SUSKIND: The evidence that has come out and the evidence that I think will come out in the coming months shows that these techniques were not meaningfully successful, successful in terms of a bid or piece that they might have gotten through more traditional methods. But that issue of, was this something that worked that now we have abandoned really doesn't hold water. BLITZER: Because when I spoke to the vice president, Dick Cheney, only a few months ago, he said Americans are effectively -- he said Americans are alive right now because these techniques were used against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaydah.

SUSKIND: I think that's Cheney doing his own legacy project. The evidence, again and again, shows that that's not the case, that plots were not foiled based on what was gained from these interrogation techniques.

BLITZER: We know that the current chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Dianne Feinstein of California, she's going to have an investigation now. They're going to go back and see which techniques worked and which techniques didn't work. So we'll get the final result, presumably, from the Senate Intelligence Committee down the road.

SUSKIND: Well, you know, there's more that's going to come out. We have transparency now, we'll have more of it. Accountability is going to be much more difficult.

Frankly, the president and the vice president were involved directly in the interrogation issues, were pushing them forward. They're not to be prosecuted as far as I see. And so what we're now dealing with is the president saying, look, we have this stuff out, it hurts like hell, CIA, but I'm here behind you.

BLITZER: You're an authority on all of this because you've written extensively about it. When you read the documents that were actually released last week, that the president of the United States authorized the declassification of these top-secret Justice Department memos, what did you learn?

SUSKIND: Well, I didn't learn much that was new, but it's painful to read. It's painful to think of these things happening under the stars and stripes...

BLITZER: Did you learn anything new?

SUSKIND: Well, you know, some of the techniques, how they were used, some of the ways they lined them up in a progression to get what they thought would be a value. Ultimately, though, what you're seeing here are many things that were tried over the objections of many, including the FBI, who has long experience here as to what works, and they did not yield the kinds of things that kept...

BLITZER: You saw and listened to the president and his remarks over at CIA headquarters just now. He seemed to be pretty much, when addressing this sensitive subject, on the defensive.

SUSKIND: Well, you know, look, the president understands this is one tough audience at CIA right now. They're very dispirited. These are people who make great sacrifices, mind you. Of course, CIA does deception to get the truth, that's their business. But right now people are saying, should I be risking my life, in many case, to maybe some day be caught in a whipsaw like this that's largely political in terms of what a political leader ordered us to do that now we'll be held accountable for?

Obama is saying to them we need an intelligence service not only as good, but better than it's been for the modern age. And I want to support you.

BLITZER: Because even Leon Panetta, the new CIA director, he recommended against releasing these documents.

SUSKIND: Well, you know, Obama -- he did recommend against it, and I think Obama said, look, I'm going to split the middle here. We have got to at least show what happened, but I'm not going to cross the line to push for prosecutions. And without Obama's support, we're not probably going to get anything that looks like jurisprudence here.
Obama's Foreign Policy Challenge

By Henry A. Kissinger April 22, 2009

The vast diplomatic agenda that the Obama administration has adopted will test its ability to harmonize national priorities such as relations with Iran and North Korea with global and multilateral concerns. President Obama has come into office at a moment of unique opportunity. The economic crisis absorbs the energies of all the major powers; whatever their differences, all need a respite from international confrontation. Overriding challenges such as energy, the environment and proliferation concern them to a considerable degree and in an increasingly parallel way. The possibility of comprehensive solutions is unprecedented.

Obama has launched negotiations on an extraordinary range of subjects. Each has a political as well as a strategic component. Each deals with issues peculiar to itself. Each runs the risk that inherent obstacles could obscure ultimate objectives or that negotiating tactics could warp substance. But the challenges are also closely related. For example, arms control negotiations with Russia will affect Russia's role in the nonproliferation effort with Iran. The strategic dialogue with China will help shape the Korean negotiations. The negotiations will also be affected by perceptions of regional balances -- of the key participants, for Russia, this applies especially to the former Soviet space in Central Asia; for China and the United States, to the political structure of Northeast Asia and the Pacific Rim.

This reality needs to be translated into some operational concept of world order. The administration's approach seems to be pointing toward a sort of concert diplomacy, which existed for some two decades after the Napoleonic Wars, in which groupings of great powers work together to enforce international norms. In that view, American leadership results from the willingness to listen and to provide inspirational affirmations. Common action grows out of shared convictions. Power emerges from a sense of community and is exercised by an allocation of responsibilities related to a country's resources. It is a kind of world order either without a dominating power or in which the potentially dominating power leads through self-restraint.

The economic crisis favors this approach even though there are few examples of sustained operation of such a concert. Typically, members of any grouping reflect an unequal distribution of willingness to run risks, leading to an unequal willingness to allocate efforts on behalf of international order, and hence to the potential veto by the most irresolute. The Obama administration need not choose yet whether to ultimately rely on consensus or equilibrium. But it must fine-tune its national security structure to judge the environment it faces and calibrate its strategy accordingly.

The administration's task, particularly with regard to North Korea and Iran, will be to keep the far-flung negotiations led by energetic personalities heading toward an agreed goal. In the process, it must navigate between two kinds of public pressures toward diplomacy endemic in American attitudes. Both seek to transcend diplomacy's traditional give-and-take. The first reflects an aversion to negotiating with societies that do not share our values and general outlook. It rejects the effort to alter the other side's behavior through negotiations. It treats compromise as appeasement and seeks the conversion or overthrow of the adversary. Critics of this approach, who represent the second sort of pressure, emphasize psychology. They consider the opening of negotiations an inherent transformation. For them, symbolism and gestures represent substance.

Proliferation is perhaps the most immediate illustration of the relationship between world order and diplomacy. If North Korea and Iran succeed in establishing nuclear arsenals in the face of the stated opposition of all the major powers in the U.N. Security Council and outside of it, the prospects for a homogeneous international order will be severely damaged. In a world of multiplying nuclear weapons states, it would be unreasonable to expect that those arsenals will never be used or never fall into the hands of rogue organizations. A new, less universal approach to world order would be needed. The next (literally) few years will be the last opportunity to achieve an enforceable restraint. If the United States, China, Japan, South Korea and Russia cannot achieve this vis-à-vis a country with next to no impact on international trade and no resources needed by anyone, the phrase "world community" will become empty.

North Korea has recently voided all concessions it made in six years of talks. It cannot be permitted to sell the same concessions over and over again. The six-power talks should be resumed only if Pyongyang restores the circumstances to which it has already agreed, mothballing its plutonium reactor and returning international inspectors to the site. When those talks resume, the ultimate quid pro quo must be the abandonment of the Korean nuclear weapons program and the destruction of the existing stockpile in return for normalization of relations at the end of the process. Since the outcome affects all neighbors of North Korea, and since the Korean nuclear program threatens them more than it does the United States, calls to place the emphasis on bilateral Korean-U.S. talks amount to a call for isolating the United States.

Iran is, of course, a far more complex country with a greater direct impact on its region. The diplomatic process with Iran is just beginning. Its outcome will depend on whether it is possible to establish a geostrategic balance in the region in which all countries, including Iran, find security without any country dominating. To that goal, bilateral U.S.-Iranian talks are indispensable. Any negotiations with Iran will be heavily influenced by whether progress toward stability in Iraq continues or whether an emerging vacuum tempts Iranian adventurism.

I have generally found that the best negotiating approach is to put before the other side a full and honest account of one's ultimate objectives. Tactical bargaining -- moving through a series of minimum concessions -- tests endurance via peripheral issues. But it runs the risk of producing misunderstanding about ultimate purposes. Sooner or later, the fundamental issues have to be addressed. This is particularly necessary when dealing with a country with which there has been no effective contact for three decades.

By contrast, the issue of proliferation is intrinsically multilateral. Heretofore, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and now the United States have coordinated by consensus. The price they have paid is that key issues have remained unresolved and even unaddressed. Some are factual: how far Iran is from developing sufficient enriched materials for a nuclear warhead and how far it is from building a warhead for a missile; the degree to which international inspections could verify a limited enrichment program declared as peaceful; and how much warning would be available if the declaration were violated.

While the administration seeks to persuade Iran to enter into dialogue (and there must be some point when reiterated requests turn on themselves), it should energetically seek to resolve the factual disputes among our prospective negotiating partners described above. That is the only way to sustain multilateral diplomacy. If no agreement can be reached on these issues, the long-sought negotiations will end in stalemate and wind up, through the veto by the least resolute, legitimizing an Iranian nuclear weapons program.

The administration has launched the country on an important diplomatic enterprise. It now needs to fulfill its vision with a diplomatic plan.
Lawmaker Asks for Release of Spy Case Transcripts

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The former senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee asked the Justice Department on Tuesday to release all transcripts of her recorded conversations involving the treatment of two pro-Israel lobbyists accused of spying.

Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., said in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder that she never interceded in a government investigation of the two lobbyists awaiting trial on charges of passing classified information to reporters and former diplomats.

Congressional Quarterly reported Monday that Harman was overheard agreeing to seek lenient treatment for Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman, former lobbyists for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. CQ attributed the information to anonymous current and former national security officials familiar with a transcript of the recorded call.

Rosen and Weissman were charged in 2005 with conspiring to communicate national defense information to unauthorized personnel in violation of the 1917 Espionage Act. The indictment said the classified material included information about the al-Qaida terror network, the bombing of the Khobar Towers dormitory in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 U.S. Air Force personnel, and U.S. policy in Iran.

In her letter to Holder, Harman said she never contacted the Justice Department, White House nor anyone else seeking favorable treatment for Rosen and Weisman. But she maintained that it was ''entirely appropriate to converse with advocacy organizations and constituent groups.''

She said she learned from news reports that the FBI or National Security Agency secretly wiretapped her conversations in 2005 or 2006 while she was ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee. She urged Holder to investigate possible wiretapping of members of Congress and selective leaks of investigative material for political purposes, calling the recordings an abuse of power.

Harman campaigned to become the committee's chairman when Democrats won control of the House in the 2006. The transcripts raised the question of whether she agreed to intercede in exchange for help in persuading party leaders to give her the powerful post.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi instead gave the chairmanship to Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas.

In October 2006, a federal law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation, told The Associated Press that Harman's ties with AIPAC had been under scrutiny since the previous year. However, the inquiry had failed to turn up evidence of illegal activity, the official said at the time.

CQ said Harman was said to have been picked up on a court-approved NSA tap directed at alleged Israel covert action operations in Washington. Contrary to reports that the Harman investigation was dropped for ''lack of evidence,'' it was Alberto Gonzales, President George W. Bush's top counsel and then attorney general, who intervened to stop the Harman probe, CQ said.

Three top former national security officials were quoted by CQ as saying Gonzales wanted Harman to be able to help defend the administration's warrantless wiretapping program, which was about to be revealed by The New York Times. CQ said Gonzales declined to comment through a spokesman.
Supreme Court Limits Warrantless Vehicle Searches

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that police need a warrant to search the vehicle of someone they have arrested if the person is locked up in a patrol cruiser and poses no safety threat to officers.

The court's 5-4 decision puts new limits on the ability of police to search a vehicle immediately after the arrest of a suspect, particularly when the alleged offense is nothing more serious than a traffic violation.

Justice John Paul Stevens said in the majority opinion that warrantless searches still may be conducted if a car's passenger compartment is within reach of a suspect who has been removed from the vehicle or there is reason to believe evidence will be found of the crime that led to the arrest.

''When these justifications are absent, a search of an arrestee's vehicle will be unreasonable unless police obtain a warrant,'' Stevens said.

Justice Samuel Alito, in dissent, complained that the decision upsets police practice that has developed since the court, 28 years ago, first authorized warrantless searches of cars immediately following an arrest.

''There are cases in which it is unclear whether an arrestee could retrieve a weapon or evidence,'' Alito said.

Even more confusing, he said, is asking police to determine whether the vehicle contains evidence of a crime. ''What this rule permits in a variety of situations is entirely unclear,'' Alito said.

Stevens conceded that police academies teach the more permissive practice and that law enforcement officers have relied on it. Yet, he said, ''Countless individuals guilty of nothing more serious than a traffic violation have had their constitutional right to the security of their private effects violated as a result.''

Fordham University law professor Dan Capra said the ruling ''will have a major impact when the driver is arrested for a traffic offense.'' When police have probable cause to arrest someone for drug crimes, Capra said, they ordinarily will be able to search a car in pursuit of illegal drugs and drug paraphernalia.

The decision backs an Arizona high court ruling in favor of Rodney Joseph Gant, who was handcuffed, seated in the back of a patrol car and under police supervision when Tucson, Ariz., police officers searched his car. They found cocaine and drug paraphernalia.

The trial court said the evidence could be used against Gant, but Arizona appeals courts overturned the convictions because the officers already had secured the scene and thus faced no threat to their safety or concern about evidence being preserved.

Gant was placed under arrest for driving on a suspended license and he already was at least 8 feet away from his car when he was arrested.

Arizona, backed by the Bush administration and 25 other states, complained that a decision in favor of Gant would impose a ''dangerous and unworkable test'' that would complicate the daily lives of law enforcement officers.

But civil liberties groups argued that police routinely invade suspects' privacy by conducting warrantless searches when there is no chance suspects could have access to their vehicles. The groups also suggested that police would not increase the danger to themselves by leaving suspects unrestrained and near their cars just to justify a search in the absence of a warrant.

The justices divided in an unusual fashion. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Antonin Scalia, David Souter and Clarence Thomas joined the majority opinion. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Stephen Breyer and Anthony Kennedy were in dissent along with Alito.

Scalia said in a separate opinion that he would allow warrantless searches only to look for ''evidence of the crime for which the arrest was made, or of another crime that the officer has probable cause to believe occurred.'' He said he joined Stevens' opinion anyway because there otherwise would not have been a majority for that view and Alito's desire to maintain current police practice ''is the greater evil.''

The case is Arizona v. Gant, 07-542.


Former VP Cheney said he has asked the CIA to release memos that
indicate torture was useful!

CIA reports NO SUCH REQUEST has been made!!

AND - these memos, if they exist, would allow actual REAL secrets to be
give to America's enemies!

Again NO LOGIC in the DICKster!
Helmsley Estate: $136M to Charity, $1M to Dogs

NEW YORK (AP) -- Trustees of real estate baroness Leona Helmsley's estate say they're giving $136 million to charity -- with just $1 million going to the dogs.

Helmsley's estate announced its first round of charitable grants on Tuesday. The largest, $40 million, goes to New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. The majority goes to New York City hospitals and other health care systems across the country.

Helmsley's estate distributed $1 million to 10 animal rights groups, including $100,000 to the ASPCA.
Probe of Interrogations,

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama left the door open Tuesday to prosecuting Bush administration officials who devised the legal authority for gruesome terror-suspect interrogations, saying the United States lost ''our moral bearings'' with use of the tactics.

The question of whether to bring charges against those who devised justification for the methods ''is going to be more of a decision for the attorney general within the parameters of various laws and I don't want to prejudge that,'' Obama said. The president discussed the issue of terrorism-era interrogation tactics with reporters as he finished an Oval Office meeting with visiting King Abdullah II of Jordan.

Obama also said he could support a congressional investigation into the Bush-era terrorist detainee program, but only under certain conditions, such as if it were done on a bipartisan basis. He said he worries about the impact that high-intensity, politicized hearings in Congress could have on the government's efforts to cope with terrorism.

Press secretary Robert Gibbs said later that the independent Sept. 11 Commission, which investigated and then reported on the terror attacks of 2001, might be a model.

The president had said earlier that he didn't want to see prosecutions of the CIA agents and interrogators who took part in waterboarding and other harsh interrogation tactics, so long as they acted within parameters spelled out by government superiors who held that such practices were legal at the time.

The vexing issue of how terrorism-era detainees held by the United States were interrogated has presented Obama with a quandary, both political and pragmatic. He harshly criticized these practices as the campaigning Democratic presidential candidate, and still feels pressure from his party's liberal wing to come down hard on it, even after the fact. But he also is being criticized by Republicans, including people as high-ranking as former Vice President Dick Cheney, who say the Bush administration doesn't get enough credit for protecting the country from a second 9/11-style attack.

Worsening Obama's dilemma: Now that he is president, he has to worry even more about the fallout of a release of government interrogation memoranda since he now oversees the entire national security establishment, including the spy apparatus.

Cheney said in a Fox News Channel interview that the U.S. government gained valuable intelligence from its aggressive interrogations. This came after conservatives roundly criticized Obama for releasing the internal Bush administration memos, saying that action was not in the U.S. national security interests.

The new administration's stance on Bush administration lawyers who actually wrote the memos approving these tactics has been somewhat murky. ''There are a host of very complicated issues involved,'' Obama said Tuesday.

White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel said in a television interview over the weekend that the administration does not support prosecutions for ''those who devised policy.'' Later, White House aides said that he was referring to CIA superiors who ordered the interrogations, not the Justice Department officials who wrote the legal memos allowing them.

White House press secretary Gibbs was peppered with questions at a Tuesday briefing about whether Obama's latest statements conflicted with signals the administration had sent earlier and Emanuel's statements of Sunday.

''Instead of referring to what anybody might have said ... I think it's important to refer to what the president said,'' Gibbs replied. He said that Obama has said ''he does not believe that people are above the rule of law.'' And his spokesman reiterated Obama's position that any determination on whether laws were broken ''would be rightly determined by the United States Department of Justice.''

If an investigation for a ''further accounting'' of the interrogation decision-making is launched, Gibbs said that Obama might favor the kind of independent, bipartisan commission that investigated the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. Congress set up that panel but did not run it.

''I think that the president would see a 9/11 commission, in all honesty, a model for how ... a commission might be set up,'' Gibbs said. He added, ''I'm reminded that Congress has a pretty big say in something like that given their ability and their lawmaking power.''

Obama earlier Tuesday had taken a question on this for the first time since he ordered Justice to release top-secret Bush-era memos that gave the government's first full accounting of the CIA's use of waterboarding -- a form of simulated drowning -- and other harsh methods criticized as torture. The previously classified memos were released Thursday, over the objections of many in the intelligence community. CIA Director Leon Panetta had pressed for heavier censorship when they were released, but the memos were put out with only light redactions.

Obama said an investigation might be acceptable ''outside of the typical hearing process'' and with the participation of ''independent participants who are above reproach.'' This, he said, could help ensure that any investigation would be a tool to learn, not to provide partisan advantage to one side or another.

''That would probably be a more sensible approach to take,'' Obama said. ''I'm not saying that it should be done, I'm saying that if you've got a choice.''

The president made clear that his preference would be not to revisit the era extensively.

''As a general view, I do think we should be looking forward, not back,'' Obama said. ''I do worry about this getting so politicized that we cannot function effectively and it hampers our ability to carry out critical national security operations.''
Crimes suspected in 20 bailout cases -- for starters

The special inspector general says TARP is 'inherently vulnerable to fraud, waste and abuse.' The risk grows as the plan becomes more complex, he says.
By Ralph Vartabedian and Tom Hamburger

Reporting from Washington and Los Angeles — In the first major disclosure of corruption in the $750-billion financial bailout program, federal investigators said Monday they have opened 20 criminal probes into possible securities fraud, tax violations, insider trading and other crimes.

The cases represent only the first wave of investigations, and the total fraud could ultimately reach into the tens of billions of dollars, according to Neil Barofsky, the special inspector general overseeing the bailout program.

The disclosures reinforce fears that the hastily designed and rapidly changing bailout program run by the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve is going to carry a heavy price of fraud against taxpayers -- even as questions grow about its ability to stabilize the nation's financial system.

Barofsky said the complex nature of the bailout program makes it "inherently vulnerable to fraud, waste and abuse, including significant issues relating to conflicts of interest facing fund managers, collusion between participants, and vulnerabilities to money laundering."

The report said little about who is under investigation and how the fraudulent schemes work, but investigators are already on alert for a long list of potential scams. Such schemes could include obtaining bailout money under false pretenses, bilking the government with phony mortgage modifications, and cheating on taxes with fraudulent filings.

"You don't need an entirely corrupt institution to pull one of these schemes off," Barofsky said. "You only need a few corrupt managers whose compensation may be tied to the performance of these assets in order to effectively pull off a collusion or a kickback scheme."

The risk of fraud is only increasing as the bailout becomes "more complex and larger in scope," he said.

Indeed, much of the 247-page report released in Washington today by Barofsky's office focuses on a segment of the bailout that is only now being put into motion -- an effort to buy toxic securities from banks and other investment groups in which the federal government would provide up to 92.5% of the money. That effort could be the most vulnerable to fraud, Barofsky said, because investors would have so little at risk.

Among the toughest recommendations in the report is for the Treasury to abandon its planned structure for buying the toxic securities, which include intricate bundles of bad mortgages and loans, before it gets rolling.

Members of Congress and consumer advocates expressed outrage Monday when they heard about the findings of the report.

"It shouldn't be a big surprise that a huge pot of honey attracts a lot of flies," said Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, the senior Republican on the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which is also examining the program. "I would guess that 20 investigations, while a good start, is only the tip of the iceberg."

"That's an appalling record," Barbara Roper, director of investor protection for the Consumer Federation of America, said of the 20 criminal investigations. "In the midst of this crisis from which they are being bailed out, the same people who created this mess are apparently still breaking the law. What is it with these people?"

In a series of recommendations, Barofsky asked the Treasury Department for greater transparency and greater fraud protections.

The Treasury Department's bailout chief, Neel Kashkari, said in a letter dated April 14 that the recommendations would be "considered."

The report underscores just how complicated the bailout program has become.

What started out in October as a $750-billion effort only to buy toxic securities has morphed into 12 separate programs that cover up to $3 trillion in direct spending, loans and loan guarantees -- an amount roughly equal to the annual federal budget.

Today, banks, insurers, brokerages, auto companies, car parts makers and homeowners are just some of the beneficiaries of the program, known formally as the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP.

The report dedicated an entire section to what many experts believe is its most risky operation -- a toxic asset purchase plan under a broader program known as the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility, known as TALF. Originally, TALF was aimed at expanding consumer lending programs for autos, student loans and other types of credit.

But the Obama administration expanded TALF to include funding and federal loan guarantees to purchase toxic securities.

That program has at least two parts: one to buy up bad loans from banks and another to buy up bundled loans in the form of mortgage-backed securities from investment markets. The government would split any profits with the private investors it partnered with.

The latter has sparked greater concern because of the possibility that buyers could collude to manipulate prices and extract kickbacks, with the government taking virtually all of the risk.

"When you are buying from the market or the street, transparency comes into question," Barofsky, a former federal prosecutor, said. "The potential for pricing fixing and collusion becomes greater because the government doesn't have control or knowledge of who" all the players are.

Members of Congress, who were given Barofsky's report Monday, have already expressed concern over the plan.

House Financial Services Committee member Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks), a certified public accountant, said that under the plan, taxpayers would take virtually all the risk, get zero control and only 50% of the profits.

"That doesn't sound like a good deal," he said.

"I can't imagine Warren Buffett signing something like that."

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JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: President Obama has gone abroad and gourd an ox, according to an AP analysis that examines how the president's challenging the deeply held belief that the United States doesn't make mistakes when it comes to dealing with other nations. In three months in office, Mr. Obama has been very vocal to our friends and foes about where the U.S. has gone wrong. The list includes admitting to Europe that the America deserves at least part of the blame for the global financial crisis; telling Russia he wants to reset relations that deteriorated the Cold War levels under President Bush; asking NATO for more troops for Afghanistan, and then not throwing a tantrum when he didn't get much help; lifting restrictions on Cuban-Americans traveling home and sending money to relatives; saying that America's hunger for illegal drugs and poor control of the borders over guns and money flowing into Mexico are partly to blame for the drug cartel violence south of the border; and shaking hands and accepting a book from the anti-American dictator, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

The AP compares President Obama's rather hard-core efforts to change America's image abroad to former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who pretty much scrambled nonstop to break the communist empire's image before it literally ran itself into the ground. President Obama says he's committed to telling the world that the U.S. is a powerful and wealthy nation, but just one among many that needs to respect other cultures and perspectives. Critics worry the new president might be making the U.S. vulnerable by so readily admitting mistakes and being so willing to talk to our foes and opponents.

So here's the question: When it comes to dealing with foreign countries, is President Obama moving too fast?
What Are Friends for? A Longer Life
In the quest for better health, many people turn to doctors, self-help books or herbal supplements. But they overlook a powerful weapon that could help them fight illness and depression, speed recovery, slow aging and prolong life: their friends.

Researchers are only now starting to pay attention to the importance of friendship and social networks in overall health. A 10-year Australian study found that older people with a large circle of friends were 22 percent less likely to die during the study period than those with fewer friends. A large 2007 study showed an increase of nearly 60 percent in the risk for obesity among people whose friends gained weight. And last year, Harvard researchers reported that strong social ties could promote brain health as we age.

“In general, the role of friendship in our lives isn’t terribly well appreciated,” said Rebecca G. Adams, a professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. “There is just scads of stuff on families and marriage, but very little on friendship. It baffles me. Friendship has a bigger impact on our psychological well-being than family relationships.”

In a new book, “The Girls From Ames: A Story of Women and a 40-Year Friendship” (Gotham), Jeffrey Zaslow tells the story of 11 childhood friends who scattered from Iowa to eight different states. Despite the distance, their friendships endured through college and marriage, divorce and other crises, including the death of one of the women in her 20s.

Using scrapbooks, photo albums and the women’s own memories, Mr. Zaslow chronicles how their close friendships have shaped their lives and continue to sustain them. The role of friendship in their health and well-being is evident in almost every chapter.

Two of the friends have recently learned they have breast cancer. Kelly Zwagerman, now a high school teacher who lives in Northfield, Minn., said that when she got her diagnosis in September 2007, her doctor told her to surround herself with loved ones. Instead, she reached out to her childhood friends, even though they lived far away.

“The first people I told were the women from Ames,” she said in an interview. “I e-mailed them. I immediately had e-mails and phone calls and messages of support. It was instant that the love poured in from all of them.”

When she complained that her treatment led to painful sores in her throat, an Ames girl sent a smoothie maker and recipes. Another, who had lost a daughter to leukemia, sent Ms. Zwagerman a hand-knitted hat, knowing her head would be cold without hair; still another sent pajamas made of special fabric to help cope with night sweats.

Ms. Zwagerman said she was often more comfortable discussing her illness with her girlfriends than with her doctor. “We go so far back that these women will talk about anything,” she said.

Ms. Zwagerman says her friends from Ames have been an essential factor in her treatment and recovery, and research bears her out. In 2006, a study of nearly 3,000 nurses with breast cancer found that women without close friends were four times as likely to die from the disease as women with 10 or more friends. And notably, proximity and the amount of contact with a friend wasn’t associated with survival. Just having friends was protective.

Bella DePaulo, a visiting psychology professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, whose work focuses on single people and friendships, notes that in many studies, friendship has an even greater effect on health than a spouse or family member. In the study of nurses with breast cancer, having a spouse wasn’t associated with survival.

While many friendship studies focus on the intense relationships of women, some research shows that men can benefit, too. In a six-year study of 736 middle-age Swedish men, attachment to a single person didn’t appear to affect the risk of heart attack and fatal coronary heart disease, but having friendships did. Only smoking was as important a risk factor as lack of social support.

Exactly why friendship has such a big effect isn’t entirely clear. While friends can run errands and pick up medicine for a sick person, the benefits go well beyond physical assistance; indeed, proximity does not seem to be a factor.

It may be that people with strong social ties also have better access to health services and care. Beyond that, however, friendship clearly has a profound psychological effect. People with strong friendships are less likely than others to get colds, perhaps because they have lower stress levels.

Last year, researchers studied 34 students at the University of Virginia, taking them to the base of a steep hill and fitting them with a weighted backpack. They were then asked to estimate the steepness of the hill. Some participants stood next to friends during the exercise, while others were alone.

The students who stood with friends gave lower estimates of the steepness of the hill. And the longer the friends had known each other, the less steep the hill appeared.

“People with stronger friendship networks feel like there is someone they can turn to,” said Karen A. Roberto, director of the center for gerontology at Virginia Tech. “Friendship is an undervalued resource. The consistent message of these studies is that friends make your life better.”
Editorial New York Times
The very idea that unions would endorse legalizing illegal immigrants, as the country’s two big labor federations did this month, strikes some as absurd. Americans have a hard enough time competing with cheap foreign labor. Why undercut them within our own borders? Especially with millions of citizens losing their jobs?

These questions deserve an answer since the bad economy will only strengthen the stiff winds of opposition that President Obama will have to fight if he is going to win the sweeping immigration overhaul he has promised. Legalization was already politically treacherous thanks to the tireless work of restrictionists who have spent years denouncing illegal immigrants as harmful to the country’s health. They have long compared the undocumented to invaders and parasites; it’s a very short distance from there to scabs.

To understand why that view is misguided, it helps to remember that the country has largely bought that argument and spent decades and billions to seal the border as tightly as possible.

It stages raids to pull people off assembly lines and out of their beds and cars. It has added hundreds of thousands of prison beds to hold illegal immigrants and enlisted local police officers to enforce federal laws. It has done everything it can to make illegal immigrants miserable in the hope that they will abandon their jobs, houses and citizen-children and tell everyone back home to forget about America. And how has that worked? It hasn’t.

The agricultural work force is still overwhelmingly undocumented, as are the workers doing other dirty or dangerous jobs in places like hotels, carwashes and restaurants. Soaring unemployment has hit both skilled and unskilled workers hard. But laid-off construction workers have not been lining up to plant onions or pick tomatoes, and a hidden population of 12 million undocumented immigrants has not begun a mass exodus anywhere.

Nor have the forces of global economic migration magically adjusted to fit the American mood. Thousands of workers still cross the border, although the numbers are down — a sign of the downturn, particularly in home building. When the economy recovers, the flow will revive. (Economic forces are dynamic, even if our immigration policies are not.)

The unions, at least, understand that there is a better way. They see immigration reform as an issue of worker empowerment. If undocumented immigrants undercut wages and job conditions for Americans — and many do, by tolerating low pay and abuse and bolstering an off-the-books system that robs law-abiding employers and taxpayers — it is because they cannot stand up for their rights.

“Workers don’t depress wages. Unscrupulous employers do,” said Terence O’Sullivan, president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America. Unemployment in his industry is above 21 percent. Nearly two million construction workers are out of work. So what does Mr. O’Sullivan want? Reform that allows immigrants to legalize. “If we can free them so they can come out of the shadows, we can not only improve their lives, but all workers’ lives,” he said.

Eliseo Medina, the international executive vice president of the Service Employees International Union, agreed. “First and foremost, this is an economic argument,” he said.

Making the pro-union case for reform is not necessarily going to be easy. Even as immigration has changed the face of many American unions, hostility to foreigners remains a problem among some of the rank and file. Mr. Medina said union leaders were going to have to work hard to make members understand that false populism was not on their side.

“You may not want to do this because you like José Rodríguez,” Mr. Medina said, “but this affects you. Your standard of living is not going to improve, and you’re not going to be in a stronger position to solve your problems as long as you have all of these people out there without any rights — without any ability to contribute. Things will only get worse, not better.”