Sheldon Whitehouse is leading Ali Soufan through questioning. What Soufan is saying is that when he used lawful interrogation techniques agaist Zubaydah, he got actionable intelligence within an hour, including the identification of Khalid Sheik Mohamed as the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.
However, when a contractor came in and began using harsher techniques, Zubaydah clammed up. It became clear that Zubaydah had received training on how to resist torture.
Ali Soufan, who has participated in interrogations of high-level terror suspects including Abu Zubaydah, is giving a detailed explanation of superior intelligence methods, within the Army field manual, that don't involve torture.
Soufan said that when he used such methods on Zubaydah, they produced actionable intelligence in less than an hour.
As for torture, said Soufan: "This amateurish technique is harmful to our long-term interests. It plays into the enemies playbook."
Soufan made clear: "My interest is not to advocate the prosecution of anyone." Rather, he wants to see us learn from our mistakes.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, chairing the torture hearings, quotes French revolutionary era diplomat Talleyrand:
The greatest danger in times of crisis comes from the zeal of those who are inexperienced.
Now the next witness, former FBI agent Ali Soufan, is speaking. Soufan has asked that his face not be shown, so most cameras have been removed from the room. The CSPAN camera is showing the other witnesses.
The group American Rights at Work is targeting Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) with a new ad asking whether he'll stand "with Obama, Biden, and the working families of Pennsylvania, or with greedy CEOs and big business lobbyists" on Employee Free Choice.
"We hope Senator Specter will join the President and the majority of Congress who understand that if we truly wish to restore our middle class, workers must be able to bargain, not borrow their way to a better life," said Kimberly Freeman, Acting Executive Director of ARW.
The ad is among the first to target Specter on any issue since he switched parties last month, and by far the most explicit. In recent days, progressive groups have seemingly demonstrated a renewed willingness to target conservative Democrats. Earlier this spring a variety of campaigns aimed at pressuring House Blue Dogs and their Senate counterparts were scrapped (or all-but scrapped) after party leaders said the initiatives weren't helping.
Specter cosponsored the Employee Free Choice Act last Congress, but reneged that support this spring when, as a Republican, he faced a 2010 primary challenge from conservative Pat Toomey. Now, as a Democrat, he's supposedly working toward a compromise with the bill's lead sponsor, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA).
As we prepare for a Senate hearing on the Bush torture program, it's worth taking a look at an interview that one of the key witnesses, Philip Zelikow, gave to Foreign Policy's Laura Rozen yesterday, which provided an advanced look at what he's likely to say.
Zelikow, a top State Department lawyer under Condoleezza Rice, recently revealed that the White House tried to destroy all copies of a memo he wrote that offered an alternative view on the legality of torture. He later said he suspected at the time that Dick Cheney had led that effort.
House Energy and Commerce chair, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), says he now has the votes necessary to move his climate change legislation out of committee next week. It has faced stiff opposition from--surprise!--industry, Republicans, and Blue Dog Democrats, and, after a momentous roll out, Waxman was ultimately forced to delay action on the bill for more than a week.
Now, thanks to a series of significant concessions, he says he's confident it will move forward after the committee holds a series of hearings starting this week. According to Roll Call, "Waxman had to compromise with Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) on one of his key goals --the overall level of carbon reductions by 2020."
Waxman had wanted a 20 percent cut; Boucher has worried such a steep cut would outpace the development of new technologies like carbon capture from coal-fired power plants. They settled on a 17 percent cut instead.
Waxman also agreed to give utilities free initial allocations on nearly all of their emissions. Boucher had sought to give utilities the credits to avoid rate hikes for consumers.
The Energy Committee chairman added that details have not yet been worked out on all of the allocations, including those for refineries, but said he expected that they would be reached quickly.
Former Rep. Pat Toomey (R-PA), whose conservative primary challenge against Sen. Arlen Specter triggered Specter's switch from the GOP to the Democratic Party, has a new op-ed piece in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, arguing that the GOP is in fact a big tent for people who believe in freedom. But, he says, it's Arlen Specter who doesn't fit in with this overarching theme of freedom:
Arlen Specter never believed in limiting the power of government and defending the freedom of the individual. As long as he is wielding the levers of power, he wants that power to grow. His active cooperation with the current regime's massive expansion of government power was the straw that broke the camel's back for Pennsylvania Republicans. Or perhaps the last tearing of the fabric of freedom of the Republican tent.
That's the reason Mr. Specter fit so uncomfortably in the Republican tent. But for all of those out there who share the desire for more personal freedom and a less intrusive and growing government in Washington, the Republican Party's tent has the welcome mat out for you.
It's been clear for weeks now that Senate leadership hadn't brought the question of confirming Dawn Johnsen--the President's nominee to head the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel--to a vote on the floor because he hasn't had the votes. Sen. Harry Reid's office never said as much, but how else to explain that other, less critical nominations were moving and not hers?
Last night Reid made it explicit. "Right now we're finding out when to do that," Reid said, according to Roll Call. "We need a couple Republican votes until we can get to 60."
Right now there are 59 Democrats in the caucus. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) has said he's "concerned" about her nomination, but his office strongly suggested to me that he'd vote for cloture on her confirmation. Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) has said he "opposes" Johnsen, but hasn't answered the cloture question thusfar. Republican Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN), though, says he supports her. Assuming Nelson's cloture vote really will be there, but that Specter will continue his...unpredictable streak, that means Democrats need one more Republican to get behind her.
For what it's worth, the Senators from Maine haven't responded to my repeated requests for comment on this question.
Judiciary Subcommittee Holding Torture Memos Hearing Today
Capitol Hill is set to hold the first hearing on the torture memos today, with a 10 a.m. ET hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee's subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts. The meeting is entitled, "What Went Wrong: Torture and the Office of Legal Counsel in the Bush Administration," and witnesses will include former FBI supervisory special agent Ali Soufan, former State Department counselor Phillip Zelikow, and others.
Obama's Day Ahead
President Obama and Vice President Biden will meet at 9:30 a.m. ET with some top House Democrats: Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and Reps. Charlie Rangel (NY), Henry Waxman (CA) and George Miller (CA). Obama will deliver a statement at 10 a.m. ET. At 11:15 a.m. ET, Obama and Biden will meet with top Senators of both parties to discuss the Supreme Court vacancy: Majority Leader Harry Reid, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, and ranking Judiciary Republican Jeff Sessions. Obama and Biden will have lunch at 1 p.m. ET. Obama will depart the White House at 4:15 p.m. ET, and at 9:10 p.m. ET he will deliver the commencement address at Arizona State University.