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The Complicity of Psychologists in CIA Torture

The Complicity of Psychologists in CIA Torture

By Roy Eidelson, Ph.D.

This week’s long-awaited Senate report provides gruesome details of the torture and abuse that took place at black site prisons as part of the CIA’s brutal post-9/11 detention and interrogation program. The key involvement of two psychologists in designing and implementing the program raises broad issues and unanswered questions for the profession of psychology.

Two names appear dozens of times in the committee’s summary: Grayson Swigert and Hammond Dunbar. These are the pseudonyms that were given to James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen. It has been known for several years that these two contract psychologists played central roles in designing and implementing the CIA’s torture program. Now we also know how lucrative that work was for Mitchell and Jessen: their company was paid over $80 million by the CIA.

Prior to their CIA contract work, Mitchell and Jessen were psychologists in the military’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) training program. Even though they had no experience as interrogators, spoke no Arabic, and had no expert knowledge of al-Qaeda, they were hired by the CIA in late 2001 to reverse-engineer SERE principles and transform them into a set of new and more aggressive interrogation techniques. Mitchell and Jessen arrived at the CIA black site in Thailand in April 2002 and applied those harsh techniques for the first time in their interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, a Palestinian national thought to be a high-ranking member of al-Qaeda. They kept Zubaydah naked for almost two months, with his clothes provided or removed depending on how cooperative he was judged to be. They deprived him of sleep for weeks at a time by painful shackling of his wrists and feet. And in August 2002 they waterboarded him at least 83 times.

Did torture stop UK terror attack?

The CIA said enhanced interrogations helped capture Dhiren Barot in 2004

Did torture stop UK terror attack?

By Tom McTague, Deputy Political Editor for MailOnline

Al-Qaeda terrorist captured in London after CIA spies interrogated Guantanamo Bay detainee.

Al Qaeda's top British terrorist was captured after CIA spies tortured former Guantanamo Bay detainee Moazzam Begg, it was claimed today.

Crucial information provided by Mr Begg while he was being held helped identify 'dirty bomber' Dhiren Barot who was plotting terror attacks on London, according to the long-awaited publication of a report into CIA torture programmes in the wake of 9/11.

The report claims that drawings by Mr Begg – who claims to have been beaten and deprived of sleep in Guantanamo Bay – helped lead British security services to Barot, who had gone to ground in London.

Barot – also known as 'Issa al-Britani' or 'al-Hindi' – was tracked down in 2004 before being found guilty two years later of planning to detonate a dirty bomb and launch an attack on the Tube.

The revelation will prove highly controversial as it appears to contradict the findings of the Senate's intelligence committee report which found that the CIA's 'enhanced interrogation techniques' did not yield information crucial in stopping terror attacks.

Court rejects attempt to allow Edward Snowden into Germany

Edward Snowden

Court rejects attempt to allow Edward Snowden into Germany

Kate Connolly in Berlin

Opposition parties wanted Snowden to give evidence in person to a parliamentary committee investigating NSA espionage.

Attempts by opposition parties in Germany to bring Edward Snowden to Berlin to give evidence about the NSA’s operations have been thwarted by the country’s highest court.

The Green and Left parties wanted the whistleblower to give evidence in person to a parliamentary committee investigating espionage by the US agency, but Germany’s constitutional court ruled against them on Friday.

The government has argued that Snowden’s presence in Germany could impair relations with the US and put it under pressure to extradite him.

It has suggested sending the committee – which consists of eight MPs – to interview him in Moscow, where Snowden is living in exile. Snowden has said through a lawyer that he is prepared to speak to the panel only if permitted to do so in Germany.

Opposition MPs have been vocal about their wish for Snowden to be granted asylum in Germany, where anger towards the NSA and sympathy for the whistleblower has been particularly high.

If Snowden were to be allowed to enter Germany, the clamour for him to be able to stay would be strong and resistance from the government would be likely to be met with civil unrest.

Support for Snowden in Germany reached a peak after allegations came to light that Angela Merkel’s phone was bugged. But Germany’s top public prosecutor announced this week that an investigation had so far failed to find any firm evidence for the claim.

Did "24"prime Americans to accept torture as a necessary evil?

Did "24" Prime the Pump for Torture?

By Christopher Ryan

Did "24"prime Americans to accept torture as a necessary evil?

I’ve never made it through an entire episode of “24.” Just a couple of minutes of Jack Bauer’s sneering snarl is enough to break my resolve. Everyone breaks eventually, you know. The unabashed celebration of torturing foreign “terrorists” feels too much like brain-washing to me.

One of the show’s co-creators, Cyrus Nowrasteh, whose father was an advisor to the torture-happy Shah of Iran,[1] explained the show’s Cheney-esque rationale to Jane Mayer of The New Yorker: “Every American wishes we had someone out there quietly taking care of business,” he said. “It’s a deep, dark ugly world out there. . . .  It would be nice to have a secret government that can get the answers and take care of business—even kill people. Jack Bauer fulfills that fantasy.”

The Biggest Music Comeback of 2014: Vinyl Records

Pellets of raw vinyl are fed into record-pressing machines like this one, melted down under intense heat, pressed with stampers and cooled in a steel mold that gives the record its round shape. Here, a record comes off the press. QRP can make about 6,000 records a day on its six presses.

The Biggest Music Comeback of 2014: Vinyl Records

Sales of LPs Surge 49% but Aging Factories Struggle to Keep Pace

 By Neil Shah

Nearly eight million old-fashioned vinyl records have been sold this year, up 49% from the same period last year, industry data show. Younger people, especially indie-rock fans, are buying records in greater numbers, attracted to the perceived superior sound quality of vinyl and the ritual of putting needle to groove.

But while new LPs hit stores each week, the creaky machines that make them haven’t been manufactured for decades, and just one company supplies an estimated 90% of the raw vinyl that the industry needs. As such, the nation’s 15 or so still-running factories that press records face daily challenges with breakdowns and supply shortages.

Their efforts point to a problem now bedeviling a curious corner of the music industry. The record-making business is stirring to life—but it’s still on its last legs.

Robert Roczynski ’s dozen employees work overtime at a small factory in Hamden, Conn., to make parts for U.S. record makers struggling to keep abreast of the revived interest in LPs. Mr. Roczynski’s firm says orders for steel molds, which give records their flat, round shape, have tripled since 2008.

“They’re trying to bring the industry back, but the era has gone by,” says Mr. Roczynski, 67 years old, president of Record Products of America Inc., one of the country’s few suppliers of parts for the industry.

Many producers, including the largest, United Record Pressing in Nashville, Tenn., are adding presses, but there has yet to be a big move by entrepreneurs to inject capital and confidence into this largely artisanal industry. Investors aren’t interested in sinking serious cash into an industry that represents 2% of U.S. music sales.

Backers: Romney more open to 2016 run

Supporters of republican presidential candidate former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney hold signs during a campaign rally. | Getty

Backers: Romney more open to 2016 run

He has sounded unimpressed with the emerging GOP field, associates say.

For most of the past year, Mitt Romney supporters have publicly said he should consider running again. And for most of the past year, Romney has seemed uninterested.

Until recently.

While some people close to Romney insist he hasn’t moved from saying he has no plans to run, the 2012 Republican nominee has sounded at least open to the idea in recent conversations, according to more than a dozen people who’ve spoken with him in the past month.

In his private musings, Romney has sounded less than upbeat about most of the potential candidates in the 2016 Republican field, according to the people who’ve spoken with him, all of whom asked for anonymity in order to speak freely.

He has assessed various people’s strengths and weaknesses dispassionately, wearing what one ally called his “consultant cap” to measure the field. He has said, among other things, that Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, would run into problems because of his business dealings, his work with the investment banks Lehman Brothers and Barclays, and his private equity investments.

“You saw what they did to me with Bain [Capital],” he has said, referring to the devastating attacks that his Republican rivals and President Barack Obama’s team launched against him for his time in private equity, according to three sources familiar with the line. “What do you think they’ll do to [Bush] over Barclays?”

Liberals: Obama abandoned us

Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Elizabeth Warren speaks during a campaign rally at the Reggie Lewis Center in Boston, Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Liberals: Obama abandoned us

 By Edward-Isaac Dovere and Burgess Everett

The left revolts, saying Obama gave up too easily on spending bill.

The White House’s aggressive push to salvage a spending bill on Capitol Hill left liberal lawmakers feeling burned by President Barack Obama — and raised significant doubts about their desire to cooperate heading into next year’s Republican takeover of Congress.

Democrats will need every vote they can muster next year as the GOP plans to attack liberal priorities on health care, energy and financial regulation in 2015. But Thursday’s deadline drama offered no signal of party unity, only fresh reminders of the post-election divisions between a president who’s looking to govern during his last two years in office and a newly invigorated populist wing of the party, led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

The $1.1 trillion spending bill passed the House late Thursday, with 57 Democrats voting for the bill while 139 voted against it — with many liberals seething over a provision that rolled back a key financial regulation that is part of the Dodd-Frank law.

“A vote for this bill is a vote for future taxpayer bailouts of Wall Street,” Warren said Thursday. “It is time for all of us to stand up and fight.”

Obama and Biden dialed for votes all day, and dispatched Obama Chief of Staff Denis McDonough to meet with House Democrats, hoping to sooth Democrats’ concerns over policy riders that showed up in the trillion-dollar spending bill and were blasted by liberal stalwarts Warren and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

While the eleventh-hour intervention may have pushed the bill across the finish line, it also sparked a fresh round of finger-pointing among Democrats on Capitol Hill and in the White House. For the increasingly liberal factions of Democrats on Capitol Hill, the White House’s work was too little, too late.

“I do not share the White House’s view,” said Rep. Steve Israel of New York, a member of Democratic leadership after meeting with McDonough.

Obama’s base said he tried to sell them out—and didn’t even wait to do it until Republicans officially expand their majority in the House and take over the Senate come January. And some on the left worried the wide range of policy riders in a spending bill were a worrisome sign as Republicans take over the Senate next year – and are already urging Obama to steel himself and ready his veto pen for what’s to come.

‘Do No Harm’: When Doctors Torture

‘Do No Harm’: When Doctors Torture

Julie Beck

Medical officers used their knowledge to aid and abet the CIA's interrogation tactics.

The Senate released its report on the CIA’s interrogation program on Tuesday, revealing horrendous details of the torture tactics used on prisoners, including waterboarding, sleep deprivation, and “rectal feeding.” Complicit in this treatment were several “medical officers” (it’s not explicitly stated whether they hold M.D.s), who enabled, oversaw, and designed many of the techniques.

Two psychologists, Dr. James Mitchell and Dr. Bruce Jessen, were paid $81 million to design the program, and medical officers and physicians’ assistants are cited throughout the report as consultants who advised on things like forcing detainees to stand on broken limbs and “rehydrating” via a rectal tube rather than a standard IV infusion. While in many medical schools around the United States, students swear the Hippocratic Oath, saying out loud the words “may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help,” CIA medical officers used their intimate knowledge of the human body as a weapon, to harm people the U.S. government deemed enemies.

Dr. Steven Miles is a professor at the University of Minnesota Medical School, a board member of the Center for Victims of Torture, and author of Oath Betrayed: America's Torture Doctors. He has been studying doctors’ involvement in torture programs since photos of the human rights violations at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq came to light in 2003. He maintains the website, which tracks physician standards of conduct and punishments for doctors who aid torture around the world. We spoke by phone about the CIA report, the role doctors play in interrogation, and how they could be held accountable.

Joe Biden: ‘I’ll Kill Your Son’

Joe Biden: ‘I’ll Kill Your Son’

In a speech Wednesday, the vice president recalled a moment from childhood when he ‘smashed [the] head’ of local bully—and then threatened to kill him.

Vice President Joe Biden said he once chased down a bully on his bicycle, physically assaulted him, and threatened to “kill” him—all in the name of protecting the honor of his sister Valerie.

Biden is, of course, famous for being a bit loose in his public remarks. But these comments, made Wednesday night in New York City, were particularly unbound.

The vice president was being honored by Vital Voices, a women’s rights charity, at their event “celebrat[ing] men who combat violence against women.” Biden spoke about standing up for women—both in his personal and professional lives. In doing so, the vice president delighted the audience with a personal anecdote from his childhood as Joey Biden.

“I remember coming back from Mass on Sunday,” Biden began. “Always the big treat was, we’d stop at the donut shop…We’d get donuts, and my dad would wait in the car. As I was coming out, my sister [Valerie] tugged on me and said, ‘That’s the boy who kicked me off my bicycle.’”

“So I went home—we only lived about a quarter mile away—and I got on my bicycle and rode back, and he was in the donut shop.”

Biden remembered the boy was in a physically vulnerable position: “leaning down on one of those slanted counters.”

Sensing his opportunity, Joey Biden pounced: “I walked up behind him and smashed his head next to the counter.”

“I’m not recommending it,” he added.

“His father grabbed me, and I looked at his son and said, ‘If you ever touch my sister again, I’ll come back here again and I’ll kill your son.’ Now, that was a euphemism. I thought I was really, really in trouble… My father never once raised his hand to any one of his children—never once—and I thought I was in trouble. He pulled me aside and said, ‘Joey, you shouldn’t do that, but I’m proud of you, son.’”

The point of the story, Biden informed his audience as he accepted his “Voice of Solidarity” award, was that he was raised to know that it was necessary to “speak up and speak out” to correct wrongdoings. (Full disclosure: The event was held at the headquarters of IAC, the corporate parent of The Daily Beast. Vital Voices also funds the Women in the World Foundation, which was started by Daily Beast founder Tina Brown.)

In telling the tale of testosterone and a truly American desire for justice joining to propel him on his bicycle to defeat the Bad Guy in the donut shop, the vice president appeared to merge with The Onion’s caricature of him—achieving a moment of Peak Biden, or the bro-like state of being visibly pleased with the degree to which you do not give a damn.

Michael Gerson: The arrogance of liberals

The arrogance of liberals

Michael Gerson

Jonathan Gruber reveals the belief that Americans are stupid and need to be managed.

Jonathan Gruber — the source of more smoking guns than the battle of Gettysburg — recently appeared before a hostile House committee. The good professor, you might recall, is an MIT economist who played a significant (and paid) role in producing and defending the Affordable Care Act. He also later admitted, in an astonishing variety of settings, that the law was written in a “tortured way” to hide tax increases and other flaws. “Lack of transparency,” he cheerfully conceded, “is a huge political advantage. And basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical to getting the thing to pass.”

At the hearing, some Republicans seemed oddly focused on Gruber’s profit motive, as though a real scandal must involve venality. Democrats attempted to salvage the credibility of Obamacare by throwing the witness to the wolves. Rep. Elijah Cummings declared Gruber’s past statements “disrespectful,” “insulting, “stupid” and “absolutely stupid.”

But the problem for Democrats is that Gruber is not stupid. By all accounts, he is knowledgeable, candid and willing, on occasion, to criticize the Obama administration — an advocate for Obamacare without being a shill. But he is perfectly representative of a certain approach to politics that is common in academic circles, influential in modern liberalism and destructive to the Democratic Party.

“My own inexcusable arrogance,” Gruber told the committee, “is not a flaw in the Affordable Care Act.” Oh, yes it is.

Many academic liberals have fully internalized the “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” theory, given vivid expression by Thomas Frank. In its simplified version (and there is seldom any other kind), this is the argument that people who are suffering from economic inequality should naturally vote Democratic. But they often get distracted by the shiny objects of the culture war and tricked into resentment against liberal elites.

It’s a very short step from this belief to its more muscular corollary: Liberal elites (through liberal politicians) should constructively mislead Americans. The task of persuasion is pretty nigh hopeless, given the unfortunate “stupidity of the American voter or whatever.” So the people must be given what they need, even if they don’t want it.

This involves a very high regard for policy experts and a very low opinion of the political profession. Gruber clearly views his own world of policy as a place of idealism and integrity.
In CIA report, an unprecedented narrative of black sites’ rise and fall

Rise and fall of CIA’s overseas prisons traced in Senate report on interrogations


Three days after the planes had plunged into New York’s tallest towers, a secret message went out to CIA stations overseas. Start making a list of potential detention sites, it said, a request that was relayed as an “urgent requirement” from the chief of the agency’s Counterterrorism Center.

It would be three more days before the CIA would even be given authority to capture and hold terrorism suspects as part of a highly classified memorandum signed by President George W. Bush. But with that frantic plea from headquarters, the CIA had taken an initial, fateful step toward setting up its secret prisons.

In time, the agency would establish a clandestine archipelago of “black sites” in countries including Afghanistan, Thailand, Poland, Romania and Lithuania. The brutal means the CIA employed in those compounds to get terrorism suspects to talk would have far-reaching consequences for the agency and the United States’ fight against terrorism, as well as the country’s standing in the world.

A long-awaited report by the Senate Intelligence Committee released this week describes those interrogation measures in unprecedented detail, a document that is designed mainly to make the case that such harsh tactics failed to produce any decisive intelligence.

But the 528-page report also serves as the most comprehensive history of the interrogation program so far revealed to the public. It includes details on how the CIA selected the prison sites, the multimillion-dollar inducement payments it made to countries that hosted them, as well as the extent to which their locations were kept secret from U.S. ambassadors, members of Congress and even the president.

Racists and Partisans in the Age of Obama

Racists and Partisans in the Age of Obama

Since 2008, the Republican Party has increasingly drawn its support from whites.

By Norm Ornstei

One of my fondest memories was spending four days in February 1977 as a staffer sitting on the Senate floor, mostly wedged between Gaylord Nelson and Russell Long as the Senate debated a resolution to reform its committee system. They were good friends, lovely people, and great storytellers, and I mostly sat there taking their conversation in, occasionally earning my pay by letting them know what a particular provision of the resolution did or what an amendment would do.

At my request, Long opened up his Senate desk so I could see the signatures of all the senators who had used the same desk over many previous decades. The signature of Theodore Bilbo just jumped out at me. Bilbo was a legend—and not in a good way. In his two Senate terms representing Mississippi, from 1935 to 1947, he stood out as a mean and vicious racist, not shy about spouting ugly bile on the floor or elsewhere.

He wanted pure segregation and ultimately to send black Americans to Africa. He said, "The experiences and history of thousands of years prove that whenever and wherever the white and black man have tried to live side by side, the result has been mongrelization, which has destroyed both races and left a brown mongrel people." When he filibustered an antilynching bill in 1938, he called its supporters "mulattoes, octoroons, and quadroons." He use the "N" word incessantly, in and out of the Senate. Among a large collection of segregationists, he stood out for his ugly rhetoric and incitement of white Southerners to violence. As I sat on the Senate floor 37 years ago, I thought, "Well, we have at least come a long way."

And we have. After Bilbo, and despite a set of Southern Democratic senators who were more civil than he was but still tenaciously segregationist, Congress passed civil-rights bills in 1957 and 1964, and the landmark Voting Rights Act in 1965—thanks in large part to the efforts of Republican heroes like Bill McCulloch and Everett Dirksen. We have seen a sharp decline in racist attitudes, a widespread acceptance of interracial marriage, and many other salutary changes. But we are seeing vividly now that race remains a defining gulf in our society, despite remarkable progress over the past five decades.

Christopher Ingraham in The Washington Post recently showed a series of poll results reflecting major change. For example, in 1972, about two-thirds of whites said homeowners should be able to discriminate against blacks when selling their homes, but that was down to 28 percent in 2008. In 1988, two-thirds of whites said they would not be happy if a family member married a black person; that was down to 25 percent in 2008. Great progress, but the fact that over a quarter of whites still recently held racially prejudicial views is unsettling.

Americans of all stripes were justifiably proud when the country elected its first black president in 2008, and again when he was reelected in 2012. The fact is that no other comparable democracy, in Europe or elsewhere, was then or would now be prepared to elect a leader from a minority group.
But even as I watched the celebrations on election night in November 2008, I felt an undercurrent of unease. Heartening as it was, this was not a sign that we had broken the back of racism or of racially driven divisions in the country. The election of an African-American president could be seen by racists in America as a sign that they could be more blunt in expressing their views. After all, who could now say America is racist? And the same mindset could lead others to enable statements or actions that would otherwise be seen as over the line. And, of course, the inevitable harsh criticism of a president by partisans on the other side, something that comes with the territory, could easily take on a racial dimension for Barack Obama.

It didn't take long for the latter phenomenon to emerge, with the birther movement, which on its face was ludicrous. To believe that Obama was not born in the United States meant that you had to believe that there had been a vast conspiracy 47 years earlier that included two Hawaiian newspapers that reported contemporaneously on his birth. A conspiracy, apparently, to enable a Kenyan-born Muslim plant smuggled in via Indonesia to be cultivated for decades as a Manchurian candidate to become president and destroy America as we know it. To be sure, delegitimizing a president has become a reality in the age of the permanent campaign—Bill Clinton, remember, was accused of being an accessory to murder—but to suggest that a president is a foreigner born in Africa takes it to a different level.

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Amid Rancor, House Passes Spending Bill

Amid Rancor, House Passes Spending Bill

The House on Thursday narrowly passed a $1.1 trillion spending package that would fund most government operations for the fiscal year after a rancorous debate that reflected the new power held by Republicans and disarray among Democrats in the aftermath of the midterm elections.

The accord was reached amid last-minute brinkmanship and bickering that has come to mark one of the capital’s most polarized eras.

The split in the Democratic Party dramatically came into view when Representative Nancy Pelosi, the minority leader and one of Mr. Obama’s most loyal supporters, broke with the administration over a provision in the bill that would roll back regulation of the Dodd-Frank Act, which Ms. Pelosi said was a giveaway to big banks whose practices helped trigger the Great Recession. She spoke on the House floor in the early afternoon, asking Democrats not to vote for the bill.

Mr. Obama and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. were pressed to make a furious round of phone calls to try to persuade wavering Democrats, while House Speaker John A. Boehner worked to get more Republican votes.

The public support of the bill by the White House — which came just as Ms. Pelosi was making her speech on the House floor opposing it — was a rare public rebuke of the minority leader and infuriated many of her loyalists.

With an opportunity to return to a more conventional legislative process — funding the government for an entire fiscal year rather than for months at a time — Republican leaders had thought they had sufficient bipartisan support to pass the bill.

An early sign of the headwinds facing legislation came around noon, when the deal barely cleared a procedural hurdle to allow a vote. In several tense minutes on the House floor, support to move forward on the package seesawed, with Democrats shouting “Call the vote” and Republicans holding it open until they were able to persuade two lawmakers to switch their votes.

With no Democrats supporting the move to bring the legislation to a vote, Republican Representatives Kerry Bentivolio of Michigan and Marlin Stutzman of Indiana gave their leadership the final votes to clear that obstacle.

House Democrats — who were already trying to strike a delicate balance — found their calculation complicated by the White House, which released a pre-emptive signal that Mr. Obama would sign the bipartisan legislation if it made it out of Congress.

4 Things You Can Learn From Google About Solving Problems

4 Things You Can Learn From Google About Solving Problems

Rebecca Borison

It's not just the free food and napping areas that employees appreciate.

Google is often held up as an example of what an office--and office culture--should look like. Many companies look to the search giant for ideas on how to engage employees and create a fun environment that makes people excited to come to work.

But Google also is an example of something perhaps even more important: how to approach problem solving at a company.

In a Harvard Business Review article, Greg Satell, an expert on digital strategy and innovation, points to one specific example of this problem-solving culture. As the story goes, in 2002 co-founder Larry Page walked into the office kitchen and hung up printouts of Google's AdWords engine. At the top he wrote, "THESE ADS SUCK."

"In most companies, this would be seen as cruel--an arrogant executive publicly humiliating his hapless employees for shoddy work--but not at Google," Satell writes. "In fact, his unusual act was a show of confidence, defining a tough problem that he knew his talented engineers would want to solve."

Page's tactic worked, and within days Google engineers had improved AdWords, sending the ad engine on its way to becoming the leader in the space. According to Satell, the key was that Page focused on the problem itself, not the people behind it. He shared four different explanations for why this works.

3. "People perform best at tasks that interest them."

Page could have brought the problem to specific employees, but instead he opened it up to anyone who was interested in trying to solve it. That means that the people who are more passionate about the specific issue would jump on it, most likely leading to better results.

What are the two traits you should insist on finding in a partner?

Too Picky?

By Duana C. Welch, Ph.D.

What are the two traits you should insist on finding in a partner?

Have you been told you’re too picky? Those were the words that launched a thousand chocolate-bar wrappers when I was searching for a mate. Some told me I would never find what I wanted; I needed to settle, or I’d be single forever.

Michael Kinsley: Why Ronald Reagan Should Be Seen as a Complete Failure

The Irony and the Ecstasy

By Michael Kinsley

Every serious G.O.P. presidential aspirant invokes the glorious era of Ronald Reagan, to which the country must return. Ignore the fact that, for the likes of Paul Ryan and Rand Paul, Reagan’s actual record—from increased bureaucracy to higher deficits—should be seen as a complete failure.

Paul Ryan doesn’t care for “politics or politicians.” He says so in his recent book, The Way Forward: Renewing the American Idea. He prefers the ordinary folks of his childhood in small-town Wisconsin. It must have been sheer selflessness that propelled him into Congress at age 28. As chairman of the House Budget Committee (and the Republican vice-presidential nominee in 2012, who is eyeing 2016), Ryan has to deal with politicians all day long. Yuck!

But there is one politician who escapes Ryan’s censure: “The one exception was Ronald Reagan. I knew about him mostly because my dad thought his story was so inspiring.… An Irish guy who … had overcome a childhood of modest means and adversity and become president of the United States.” Ryan Sr. “would often see Reagan on the news and nod quietly, approvingly.”

Things were pretty dire when Reagan took office back in 1981, as Ryan remembers it. But Reagan “was not defeated or deterred. Instead, he proposed a plan to get America back on track.”

Well, yes, in his speech to a joint session of Congress shortly after becoming president, Reagan presented his “plan”—a reasonably detailed discussion of proposed tax cuts and spending cuts, pursuant to his vision of smaller government. The thing is, almost none of these changes ever happened. The tax cuts went through in 1981 but were partially repealed in 1982. In his “plan,” Reagan promised to cut two Cabinet departments (Energy and Education). Instead he added one (Veterans Affairs, now the government’s second-largest). Ryan chooses to remember the Reagan of 1981, when anything was possible. This allows him to take Reagan’s promises as some kind of reality. Thirty-four years down the road, it’s too late for that.

If you’re thinking of running for president, you need to have a book. I don’t mean own one—I mean write one. Or at least pretend to do so. You don’t actually have to write the book, as long as your name is on the cover as if you did. The contents don’t matter much. They can be your “vision”—lifted in whole or in part from think-tank research on the Web. They can be your life story. If you love your wife or husband, mention that here. Ditto if you’ve ever overcome adversity of any kind. Do you like hunting? Great! Got any photos of you and an animal carcass?

But the indispensable ingredient of a campaign book, if you are a Republican, is Ronald Reagan. Somewhere in the book, you must invoke the memory of our 40th president and say that we should return to his values of small government, low taxes, self-reliance, and so on. I’m sorry, it’s a rule. (Even Arianna has to obey. “But I am not a Republican, darling,” she protested. “This is outrageous—I haven’t been a Republican for over a decade and am not scheduled to become one again, at least for the moment.”)

You can usually get a Republican to admit, if you beat him or her with a stick, that Reagan’s actual performance in office was a bit of a disappointment. But that, you see, is because the Democrats were so vicious in opposing Reagan’s policies. What you cannot get many Republicans to admit is that the entire Reaganite golden age is a fantasy—even if they really think so. Why burst the bubble?

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The Health Benefits of Going Outside

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

Experiments in ecotherapy in San Francisco

By James Hamblin and Katherine Wells

As people spend more time indoors, ecotherapy has emerged as a way to help rebuild our relationships with nature—and improve mental and physical health. James Hamblin visits San Francisco to learn more.
Brennan: CIA Was Unprepared to Interrogate Prisoners

Brennan: CIA Was Unprepared to Interrogate Prisoners

CIA Director John Brennan admitted the CIA was unprepared to detain and interrogate prisoners in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, but added that agents did what they were asked to do.

Beverly Johnson: Bill Cosby Drugged Me. This Is My Story.

Bill Cosby Drugged Me. This Is My Story.

John Brennan defends CIA, won’t say torture wasn’t useful

John Brennan defends CIA, won’t say torture wasn’t useful

By Jennifer Epstein and Josh Gerstein

The director of the CIA concedes that there were some missteps.

CIA Director John Brennan took an extraordinary step Thursday to contain the roiling controversy over his agency’s past use of aggressive interrogation techniques: inviting journalists and cameras to the spy agency’s secretive headquarters and conducting a full-scale press conference that was carried on live television around the world.

But he struck a largely defensive tone, praising the integrity of the agency’s work force while conceding that some of its personnel use techniques “had not been authorized, were abhorrent and rightly should be repudiated by all.”

Brennan threaded a needle on the usefulness of tactics that many view as torture, such as waterboarding. He insisted that that detainees subjected to what the agency calls “enhanced interrogation techniques” gave up “useful and valuable” information, but conceded that it can’t be said whether the harsh treatment yielded that information.

That is “unknown and unknowable,” he said.

The Mergers and Acquisitions Cycle: Buy. Divide. Conquer.

The Mergers and Acquisitions Cycle: Buy. Divide. Conquer.

By Andrew Ross Sorkin

In the fall of 2001, Hewlett-Packard announced a momentous $25 billion merger with Compaq.

“This is a decisive move that accelerates our strategy and positions us to win by offering even greater value to our customers and partners,” declared Carly Fiorina, HP’s chairwoman and chief executive at the time, describing how the deal would “create substantial share owner value.”

Thirteen years later, just this fall, Meg Whitman, HP’s current chairwoman and chief executive, undid that deal, splitting the company in two. “It will provide each new company with the independence, focus, financial resources and flexibility they need to adapt quickly to market and customer dynamics.”

Eerily mirroring Ms. Fiorina’s words, she said the divorced companies “will be in an even better position to compete in the market, support our customers and partners, and deliver maximum value to our shareholders.”

So which was the right decision? The merger or the spinoff?

The current deal-making boom has been filled with headline-grabbing mergers. At the same time, corporate America is spinning off assets by the truckload.

The numbers tell the story: Through last month, global merger activity had surpassed $3 trillion, according to Thomson Reuters. At least 28 large companies like eBay and HP are pursuing spinoffs or divestiture plans, according to Credit Suisse. That is more than any other year in the last decade.

All of which leads to the all-important question swirling in the boardrooms of corporate America: Who is creating more value? Is the bigger-is-better crowd right? Or is the smaller-and-more-focused pack the one to follow? And is the premise of the question even correct? Is it an either-or proposition?

Mergers have a spotty record of creating value. Putting two companies together is risky. Take your pick from dozens of academic studies and the consensus is that mergers destroy value at least half of the time, to the point that it’s almost become a cliché. But when mergers are timed right — usually during a downturn in the market — and executed properly (usually with smaller acquisitions), much value can be created.

Spinoffs and divestitures, however, are usually a much better bet. The studies repeatedly show that spinoffs and divestitures create value both in the short and long term. Some studies show that companies that are involved in a spinoff outperform the market by 15 to 30 percent over three years. Even the announcement of a spinoff seems to push stock prices higher. According to the Boston Consulting Group, “55 percent of all divestitures created value, as measured by the average cumulative abnormal return” over seven days.

Of course, it is an axiom in the deal-making game that companies go through buildup cycles only to later tear down. Rinse and repeat. Of course, the armies of bankers and lawyers involved in these deals — often orchestrating an acquisition and its eventual divestiture — command huge fees along the way.

Nike sues three of its former designers for $10m

Sued: Former Nike designers Mark Miner (left), Denis Dekovic (center) and Marc Dolce (right) stand accused of stealing intellectual property to take jobs at Adidas, then destroying the evidence 

Nike sues three of its former designers for $10m

By Annabel Fenwick Elliott for MailOnline

Nike sues three of its former designers for $10m claiming they stole 'a treasure trove' of trade secrets before joining arch-rival Adidas 

Designers Marc Dolce, Mark Miner and Denis Dekovic announced their departure from Nike to join Adidas in September

Nike has filed a lawsuit against three of its former footwear designers seeking $10million in damages over allegations that they stole 'a treasure trove' of trade secrets before joining its arch-rival Adidas.

High-ranking designers Marc Dolce, Mark Miner and Denis Dekovic announced their departure from Nike in September to join Adidas at its new design studio - dubbed the Brooklyn Creative Studio in Brooklyn, New York.

In the lawsuit, a copy of which was published on digital library Scribd, Nike alleges that this new studio is essentially a knock-off of its own Portland Oregeon-based hub, The Innovation Kitchen, and that its former designers had been 'conspiring' with Adidas to 'develop a blueprint' since April.

Mr Dolce was formerly Nike's global basketball and training design director, Mr Dekovich was the brand's global football design director and Mr Miner was a senior global footwear designer.

According to Nike's allegations, the designers stole 'future strategic development plans, product launches, unreleased product technology, virtual testing methodologies and marketing campaign materials.'

Nike further claims that before the designers left their positions, they erased incriminating emails and text messages in a bid to hide 'evidence of their betrayals.'

The Nitty Gritty of Jet Lag Management

Up and Away Part II: The Nitty Gritty of Jet Lag Management

By Michael Terman, Ph.D.

Jet lag can ruin a vacation or business trip. Some travelers are more vulnerable than others. Major factors are east/west direction and number of time zones crossed. In Part I, Dr. Oren pointed to circadian rhythms disrupted by the sudden shift in the light-dark cycle. Here he points also to activity and rest patterns, and offers a program to minimize ill effects.

Number of Americans expected to hit 400 million by 2051, led by more immigrants

Number of Americans expected to hit 400 million by 2051, led by more immigrants

By Mark Trumbull

While a new Census projection shows the birth-rate slowing, immigration-related growth is expected to account for nearly two-thirds of the population increase.

 The number of people in the United States will reach 400 million by 2051, according to new projections from the Census Bureau. Immigration-related growth is expected to account for nearly two-thirds of the increase.

Although prior Census reports have had a similar forecast for the US population by mid-century, the composition of the expected growth has shifted.

Compared with a 2012 forecast, less of the growth is expected to be based on “natural increase” through births. The 2014 report, released Wednesday, finds most of the growth rooted in immigration. Yet, in a seeming paradox, the report also reduces projections for the growth of America’s Hispanic population.

Part of the explanation may be that migration from Mexico has cooled noticeably since the recession of 2007 to 2009. Declining birth rates in Mexico, coupled with an improving economy there, have reduced the number of people expected to migrate from Mexico to the US, says Mark Lopez, director of  Hispanic research at the Pew Research Center in Washington. 

At the same time, overall “net migration” – the balance of people entering the US minus people departing – remains strong. 

“Now we have more new immigrants arriving from Asia than from Latin America,” Mr. Lopez says.

Opposition to Omnibus Bill Is Building

Opposition to Omnibus Bill Is Building

By Daniel Newhauser and Sarah Mimms

Provisions on Dodd-Frank, campaign finance alienate Pelosi, Warren. Republican critics have also emerged.

House Republicans are projecting confidence they'll be able to pass a massive spending bill to keep the government afloat, but simmering discontent over numerous provisions is setting up a difficult test vote Thursday that threatens to derail the entire package.

Opposition has steadily built since the Tuesday night unveiling of a spending bill that would keep the government funded through the fall, narrowing the already tight window that party whips have to round up support for the must-pass legislation. House Republican aides estimated that as many as 70 GOP lawmakers would vote against final passage of the so-called CROmnibus, mostly driven by discontent that the bill does not directly attempt to block President Obama's executive action that will grant work visas to millions of undocumented immigrants living in the United States.

A vote on the rules for debate Thursday morning could presage how much trouble party whips will have corralling the votes to pass the omnibus, with one GOP whip projecting at least 20 defections from the conference and little help from Democrats lifting the rule to passage. House Republicans are predicting floor action—including a vote on a three-day continuing resolution to keep the government open through the weekend—will be finished by early afternoon.

The measure is loaded with dozens of policy riders, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is calling on Republicans to remove two particular sections of the bill that she said are destructive and will jeopardize Democratic support.

Tucked into the omnibus is a provision that would loosen campaign finance rules by allowing bigger donations to party committees and another that would soften the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform bill.

Government shutdown would not stop Obama on immigration

Government shutdown would not stop Obama on immigration

By Scott Wong

Even if Republicans shut down the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) next year, President Obama could still carry out his executive actions giving legal status to up to 5 million undocumented immigrants.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other GOP leaders have punted the funding fight over Obama’s immigration action to February, arguing their new majority will have more leverage to stop the plan dead in its tracks.

But it’s unclear how much weight the threat of withholding funding would carry. Eighty-five percent of DHS employees continued to work during last year’s 16-day shutdown because they were funded with mandatory funds or deemed “essential” to national security or public safety, according to figures the Congressional Research Service (CRS) tracked down for GOP lawmakers.

Only 15 percent of DHS employees were furloughed in last year’s shutdown, the CRS found. On top of that, some 90 percent of the department’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the agency key to implementing Obama’s executive action, continued operating.

Some rank-and-file Republicans are worried that Obama could declare all DHS workers “essential” and keep them on the job — then simply pay them once a funding deal is reached.

They say fellow Republicans should be under no illusion that the “cromnibus” coming up for a vote in the House on Thursday would put Republicans in a stronger negotiating position next year. The $1.1 trillion bill would fund nearly all of the federal government through September 2015, but would only fund the DHS through Feb. 27.

“People will vote for [the funding package] and feel that they may have some real advantage in February, but it may not happen that way,” one House Republican who has studied the CRS figures told The Hill.

Added Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), whose state has become ground zero in the immigration fight: “If we are only talking about affecting 15 percent of the non-essential DHS employees, along with a president that thumbs his nose at the Constitution before he eats breakfast, it’s a real challenge.”

Because of the difficulty in stopping Obama, these lawmakers say, Republicans in the House and Senate should quickly pass a series of immigration bills once the new Congress is sworn in on Jan. 6.

Republicans seek to cripple IRS

Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen is pictured. | Getty

Republicans seek to cripple IRS

By Rachael Bade

The GOP’s moves will gut the tax agency, advocates warn.

Confused taxpayers, jammed help lines and tax cheaters running rampant — the IRS for months has warned that drastic budget cuts will disable an already troubled agency.

Republicans aren’t buying it.

Instead, they’re biding their time until they seize control of both chambers next year, giving them majorities to financially gut the most hated government agencies and new leverage to get agencies to do what they want.

A top priority? Crippling IRS regulatory actions, from Obamacare’s individual mandate to the looming draft rule that will limit political activities of groups like Crossroads GPS. The Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Health and Human Services are among the others in the cross hairs.

“We need to push back on the regulatory overreach of this administration across the board, whether that’s the IRS, the EPA or any other agency,” said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.). “The power of the purse is the greatest lever of power Congress holds.”

With seemingly little pushback from Democrats, the GOP this week secured $350 million in IRS budget cuts into the “cromnibus,” just weeks before one of the toughest tax seasons starts. The cuts to the IRS — and the larger negotiations on the year-end spending bill — offer a sneak peek at what Republicans plan to do when they are able to dominate government spending decisions.

IRS watchers warn that the agency is spiraling toward a rocky future that will rival some of its darkest days in its history, when whistleblowers blew the lid off IRS agents abusing power and thousands of tax returns were lost in the mail.

The 'Graywashing' of CIA Torture

The 'Graywashing' of CIA Torture

Conor Friedersdorf

The brutal interrogation program was far less defensible than its moderate critics seem to realize.

As the Senate report on CIA interrogations courses through the national media this week, the once-popular notion that the Bush Administration never really tortured anyone, or engaged only in "torture-lite," is no longer a tenable position. Still, the most expansive look to date at post-9/11 interrogation policy has generated nothing like universal outrage or condemnation. For every American who believes that those who participated in waterboarding, "rectal rehydration," and other depraved interrogation tactics ought to be prosecuted (per U.S. treaty obligations), many more would rather stop short of censure and move on. And that isn't just because Republicans have mischaracterized the report as partisan.

The impulse to forgive and forget unlawful torture is inseparable from the belief held by many that Bush Administration officials, CIA interrogators, and private contractors acted in good faith to protect America and shouldn't be punished for doing so. If that were true, legal accountability for torturers would still be necessary to preserve a core civilizational taboo (as bygone Americans understood when joining a treaty that banned torture in literally all circumstances).

But the conceit that the CIA engaged in a relatively forgivable form of torture is wrong (even assuming a logic where there's such a thing as forgivable torture). The Senate report makes the untruth of this conceit abundantly clear, yet the conceit survives.

"After Torture Report, Our Moral Authority As a Nation Is Gone"

After Torture Report, Our Moral Authority As a Nation Is Gone

The torture report is nauseating, and the initial response almost equally so. We are in an existential leadership crisis with no way out.

By now, we’ve all glossed The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s “Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program or skimmed summaries of it, hunting for the sickest parts the same way we fast-forwarded through “Two Girls, One Cup” and The Human Centipede movies back in the day. Whatever its limitations, the “torture report” is a profoundly grim and dispiriting document, filled with more “rectal rehydrations” and other forms of ass play than the most outlandish fetish porn. God help us, it all took place on our taxpayer dime, all in the name of defending the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.

We need to be clear about the ultimate import of the torture report, which covers a period from late 2001 through 2009 and whose release was unconscionably delayed for years. It won’t be the cause of lowered international esteem for America or even attacks on overseas personnel. No, that’s all due to the same old failed interventionist foreign policy, massive and ongoing drone attacks, and the proliferation of “dumb wars” over the past dozen years under both Republican and Democratic presidents and Congresses.

The torture report is simply the latest and most graphic incarnation of an existential leadership crisis that has eaten through Washington’s moral authority and ability to govern, in the way road salt and rust eat through car mufflers in a Buffalo winter. “America is great because she is good,” wrote Tocqueville back in the day. “If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.” We’ve got a lot of explaining to do, not just to the rest of the world but to ourselves. How much longer will we countenance the post-9/11 national security state, which Edward Snowden’s ongoing revelations remind us are constantly mutating into new forms and outrages?

Amazingly, the early response to the torture report is almost as nauseating as the document itself. “I don’t want to know about it, I think people do nasty things in the dark,” whinged Fox News correspondent Jesse Watters on Outnumbered. “They didn’t even interview any of the CIA interrogators to do the report.” In the rush to avert his gaze, Watters didn’t bother reading footnote 3 on page 9 of the report, which documents how the CIA said “it would not compel CIA personnel to participate in interviews” with the committee. Watters and other critics also ignore the fact that the whole report is based on CIA documents. The investigators didn’t bother interviewing any Gitmo prisoners, either.

Architects of C.I.A. Interrogation Drew on Psychology to Induce ‘Helplessness’

Architects of C.I.A. Interrogation Drew on Psychology to Induce ‘Helplessness’

The dogs wouldn’t jump. All they had to do to avoid electric shocks was leap over a small barrier, but there they sat in boxes in a lab at the University of Pennsylvania, passive and whining.

They had previously been given a series of mild shocks and learned they could do nothing to stop them. Now, they had given up trying. In the words of the scientists, they had “learned helplessness.”

The release of a Senate report on interrogation techniques used by the Central Intelligence Agency has revived interest in that study, one of the most classic experiments in modern psychology. It and others like it, performed in the 1960s, became the basis for an influential theory about depression and informed the development of effective talk therapies.

Nearly a half-century later, a pair of military psychologists became convinced that the theory provided a basis for brutal interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, that were supposed to eliminate detainees’ “sense of control and predictability” and induce “a desired level of helplessness,” the Senate report said. The architects of the C.I.A.’s interrogation program have been identified as James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen.

“My impression is that they misread the theory,” said Dr. Charles A. Morgan III, a psychiatrist at the University of New Haven who met Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Jessen while studying the effects of stress on American troops. “They’re not really scientists.”

One of the researchers who conducted the initial studies on dogs, the prominent psychologist Martin J. Seligman, said he was “grieved and horrified” that his work was cited to justify the abusive interrogations.

It is not the first time that academic research has been used for brutal interrogations, experts said. After the Second World War, the intelligence community began to study methods of interrogation, often financing outside psychiatrists and psychologists.

“A lot of the early work came out of psychoanalysis,” or Freudian thinking, said Steven Reisner, a psychologist in New York and co-founder of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology, which opposes the profession’s participation in coercive interrogations. “Studies of sensory deprivation and sleep deprivation induced a psychosis, in which people lost control of what they said and what they thought.” At that point they might begin to cooperate — or so the theory went, Mr. Reisner said.

One interrogation guide derived in part from such research, the C.I.A.’s “Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual,” set forth the so-called D.D.D method of interrogation, for Debility, Dependency and Dread. “The purpose of all coercive techniques is to induce psychological regression in the subject by bringing a superior outside force to bear on his will to resist,” the manual reads.

Some of the techniques in the manual — isolation, sleep deprivation, threats — were also used in the post-9/11 interrogations and are cited by the Senate report. “It’s very similar to what we’re hearing about now, and it’s astounding that the agency didn’t use the research it had already paid for,” said Stephen Soldz of the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis, referring to D.D.D. He is an outspoken critic of psychologists’ participation in interrogations.

The American Psychology Association, divided and convulsed by the revelations of members’ participation in the interrogation program, has hired an independent auditor to investigate ties between the association and the intelligence agency. Debates over psychologists’ role at the base in Guantánamo Bay and so-called black sites have raged for years within the association.

The two architects of the C.I.A. interrogations were convinced that they would uncover intelligence that would save lives, their colleagues have told reporters, and that their methods were justified by the events of 9/11 and afterward.

So, too, were psychologists within the agency. In an article titled “Psychologists and Interrogation: What’s Torture Got to Do With It?” Kirk M. Hubbard, a psychologist formerly with the C.I.A., wrote, justifying the methods, “We no longer live in a world where people agree on what is ethical or even acceptable, and where concern for other humans transcends familial ties. When adolescents carry bombs on their bodies and plan suicides that will kill others, we know that shared values no longer exist.”

Senate report on CIA torture could lead to prosecutions of Americans abroad

The international criminal court

Senate report on CIA torture could lead to prosecutions of Americans abroad

Julian Borger

Human rights groups say actions on foreign soil could fall under legal jurisdictions of those countries or the ICC in The Hague

US officials and military officers implicated by the Senate report on torture could face arrest in other countries as a result of investigations by their national courts, human rights lawyers said on Wednesday.

The report, released on Tuesday by the Senate intelligence committee, found the CIA misled the White House, the Justice Department, Congress and the public over a torture programme, launched in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks, that was both ineffective and more brutal than the agency disclosed.

“If I was one of those people, I would hesitate before making any travel arrangements,” said Michael Bochenek, director of law and policy at Amnesty International.

The Obama administration wound up an inquiry into criminal responsibility for the use of torture in 2012, without launching any prosecutions and it is unclear whether the Senate intelligence comittee’s findings on the CIA’s interrogation techniques will lead to that decision being reviewed.

“Obviously this is something for US justice, both military and civilian, to take up. They have the first bite of the apple,” said Richard Dicker, the director of Human Rights Watch’s international justice programme. “But we have not seen any persuasive indicators that the department of justice is willing to step up to its responsibilities.”

However, because torture is considered a grave crime under international law, other governments could arrest and prosecute anyone implicated in the report who happened to be on their territory under the principle of universal jurisdiction.

“It is a legal avenue open to states with those laws on their books and the political will,” Dicker said. “Many European states and many states internationally have those laws”

“Some of these people will never leave US borders again,” Bochenek said. “If say, one of them goes on holiday in Paris, then France would have the legal obligation to arrest and prosecute that individual. States have clear obligation in cases of torture.”

As the repercussions of the report spread around the world, Poland’s president, Bronislaw Komorowski, said it would be critical for an inquiry underway on the running of a secret US prison “black site’’ on Polish soil. “I think the American report will revive that inquiry. I also think that it will provide, if not new information, then guidance as to the conduct of the investigation in Poland.”

Former Polish president Aleksander Kwasniewski admitted on Wednesday that there had been a secret CIA interrogation site in the country, but insisted he tried to convince US President George Bush to close it.

“I told Bush that this cooperation must end and it did end,” Kwasniewski said.

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