TPM News

Philip Zelikow is now being asked about the decision by President Obama to close Guantanamo.

He told the committee:

Guantanamo has become in world public opinion a toxic problem for the United States America. And so we needed to address that in our foreign policy.

Zelikow also said -- contra the fear-mongering by GOPers lately -- we routinely hold in US mainland prisons terror suspects like Ramzi Yousef who are believed to be far more dangerous than many of the detainees in Gitmo.

The Republicans have filibustered the nomination of David Hayes to be Deputy Secretary of the Interior. The move comes after Sen. Robert Bennett (R-UT) had put a hold on Hayes, supposedly because of the Obama Interior Department's decision to cancel oil and gas leases in Utah.

Holds, though, are informal--honored as a matter of courtesy within the Senate--and it seems like what happened is that the GOP blocked cloture in order to ensure that Bennett's hold wasn't ignored. We'll have more for you on that later today, but Bennett himself has said he'd lift the hold and vote for Hayes if and when the Interior Department addresses the cancellation of those leases.

The final tally was 57-39, with 60 votes required to end debate. CNN reported that if Hayes' nomination couldn't overcome this procedural hurdle, it would fail. But that's not necessarily true. Among the 39 senators voting to filibuster Hayes was Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid--not, of course, because he opposes Hayes, but because it keeps Hayes' chances alive. That vote will allow him to bring the issue back to the floor at a later date when, presumably, the conflict is resolved.

Ali Soufan is now making the point that torture advocates cite the interrogations of KSM and Jose Padilla as two cases in which torture produced results. But waterboarding wasn't approved until August 1, 2002 -- after the interrogations of those two suspects occurred.

In other words, he seems to be arguing that such techniques weren't used, at least with legal sign-off, to produce that information.

This will undoubtedly need follow up.

This is fascinating...

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.

Philip Zelikow just offered a bit of news about the memo he wrote offering an alternative view on the legality of torture, which he said the White House tried to have destroyed.

Zelikow told the Senate committee that the memo, which had not previously been found, "has been located in State Department files and is being reviewed for declassification."

He said that at the time, he thought the effort to have the memo destroyed -- which he described as "informal" -- was "improper" and ignored it.

And it sounds like we may get a look at it soon.

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.

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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.