President Trump should immediately free Army LT Clint Lorance unjustly convicted of murdering Taliban attacking his platoon

On July 2, 2012, in broad daylight, in Taliban-controlled territory, three men on a motorcycle were speeding towards Army Lieutenant Clint Lorance’s dismounted infantry platoon subordinates. They had ignored signs on the road saying it was to be used only by ISAF and Afghanistan military and police units. The Taliban had recently conducted several suicide attacks upon U.S. forces using motorcycles, the platoon had been repeatedly attacked during the past month, and they had been sniped at from that same road the day before. Then 27-year old Iraq War veteran Lorance had assumed command of the platoon 3 days earlier after the previous platoon leader and another soldier were badly wounded by an IED nearby. An endangered American soldier asked Lorance for permission to fire.

Lorance gave the order to shoot. Had he not given it, within seconds more American soldiers would most likely be dead or maimed for life.

Two Taliban riders died and the third escaped. (More about them in a moment.) While the motorcycle did not explode, it could not be recovered to check for bombs as an attack from another direction loomed. Villagers dragged off the bike and the dead riders were buried by locals without an autopsy to determine if the bullets that killed them were fired by U.S. troops of by Afghanistan Army troops who also fired at the motorcycle.

Even without knowing the exculpatory evidence – proof positive bio-metric and other evidence that the riders were Taliban bombers – which the prosecution later withheld from his defense lawyers and the jury, Lorance knew enough to make giving the order to shoot his duty.

A year later, Lorance was acquitted of ROE violations. Yet, incredibly, he was convicted of murder and is spending the prime years of his life in Fort Leavenworth’s prison for making the right, split-second decision. After nearly 10 years of honorable and heroic service in the Army, he may spend 19 years in a cell and be nearing 50-years old before he is freed.

President Trump has the authority to disapprove Lorance’s conviction with prejudice, restore him to military duty with back pay, and, by doing so, begin to reverse this travesty of justice.

According to military prosecutors, when the enemy acted as though they were about to attack, our troops were required under the Rules of Engagement (ROE) to delay firing their weapons until determining whether the fast-approaching motorcycle displayed a “hostile intent.” They then were to make a battlefield determination as to whether the fast-moving inbound motorcycle constituted a “hostile act.” But doing so would have increased the risk to themselves and the lives of their fellow troops. In other words, they were to play battlefield lawyer when all they did was sign up to defend our nation.

While Lorance was acquitted of ROE-related charges, his chain of command’s gutless, political and self-serving decision to charge him was all about ROE that should never been formulated or enforced. The chain of command – from the then President down to his company commander – more than failed Clint Lorance; they failed our country. They made an example of him. Yet they also empowered our nation’s sworn enemies with strategic and tactical advantages.

President Trump doing the right thing by Lorance would send two main messages to our military: stop prosecuting your troops for doing their sworn duty; and your mission is to win battles and help prevent further attacks upon our homeland and interests abroad.

An experienced and decorated American combat veteran soldier was convicted and incarcerated for the very thing his superiors gave him the authority and responsibility to do. Moreover, he did what the American people expect our small unit leaders to do. Clint Lorance made a combat decision to protect our side’s troops.

The American people don’t expect our troops to commit suicide to accomplish the missions we send them on. If anyone made that same decision 70 years earlier during WWII while fighting the suicide-for-their-emperor-loving forces of Imperial Japan, they’d have received praise from their superiors.

President Trump should act immediately. Clint Lorance has already spent 6 years in a cell.

Post updated at 12:22 PM, May 16, 2019.

Obama’s DOJ: Gina Haspel’s CIA and Enhanced Interrogation Program ‘Saved Lives’

“I was crushed by the South Tower — my chest was caved in. I was buried, almost suffocated and drowned in my own blood. Then the ambulance that I was in was nearly crushed by the collapsing North Tower. Once in the hospital, my chest was cut open while I was wide awake and I watched the burn victim on the next gurney screaming as the doctors attempted to treat her horrifying injuries. I thought 9/11 might be a cure for American amnesia. I was mistaken.” — Robert Reeg, former FDNY, Engine 44

Gina Haspel’s nomination to lead the Central Intelligence Agency as its first female director has hit a stumbling block because of reports that she played some role in the Rendition, Detention, Interrogation (RDI) program at a so-called CIA black site. After news that some members of the Senate are unhappy that she might have been involved in the harsh but then legal interrogation program, Robert Reeg expressed his anger on Facebook, noting that he was about to undergo his sixth surgery for the injuries he sustained 16 years ago responding to the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

Those most personally affected by 9/11 have maintained the perspective and moral clarity that the entire country once shared. The permanence of their losses, the vivid memories of the horrors they witnessed, prevent them from forgetting the ultimate cause of our government’s inability to protect its citizens from the most deadly attack on America in our nation’s history. The 9/11 Commission declared it a “failure of imagination.” But that was a gloss over of the real problem — the refusal of vast government bureaucracies to put aside turf wars, careerism, and more attention to partisan politics than the real threats that face us.

Now we are seeing it again. Politicians are attacking the very people who have done the most to keep America safe for some of the same reasons, and this is a grave danger.

The RDI program has been unfairly branded a rogue operation and Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (EITs) “torture.” Real torture can be seen in videos made by Al Qaeda and ISIS — Daniel Pearl, Nick Berg, humanitarian aid workers and Christian martyrs lined up for beheading, a caged Jordanian pilot burned alive — which testify to the savage inhumanity of the enemy we, and our troops, continue to face. Worse, contradicting hard evidence, critics of the program are advancing the narrative that it didn’t work.

A succession of CIA directors has declared that the RDI program have netted more actionable intelligence than every other source combined. We don’t have to take their word for it, we can turn to the sworn statement of former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara for verification. Appointed by President Barack Obama to head the New York Southern District, he was the lead prosecutor in the 2009 trial of Al Qaeda bomb maker Ahmed Ghailani, captured in Pakistan after a 14-hour gun battle, and charged in a 286 count indictment for his role in the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya that killed 224 people and injured 4,000.

In a 132-page legal brief explaining why holding Ghailani for two years in the CIA’s Enhanced Interrogation program hadn’t violated his right to a speedy trial, Bharara described how Ghailani’s status as a senior member of Al Qaeda with knowledge of the organization made him suitable for the program. “[T]he defendant was believed to have, and did have, actionable intelligence about al-Qaeda, by virtue of his longstanding position in al-Qaeda; his assistance to known al-Qaeda terrorists; and his close relationship to long-standing al-Qaeda leaders, including Usama Bin Laden.”

The brief continues, “[T]he United States justifiably treated the defendant as an intelligence asset — to obtain from him whatever information it could concerning terrorists and terrorist plots. This was done, simply put, to save lives. And when significant intelligence had been collected from the defendant, the U.S. made the decision to continue holding him as an alien enemy combatant pursuant to the laws of war….” [Emphasis added.]

The brief added a citation to a 4th Circuit Court ruling in the 2004 Zacarias Moussaoui case (charged for his role in the Al Qaeda plan for a “2nd wave” of aviation attacks) which stated that “the value of the detainees in the CIA’s interrogation program ‘can hardly be overstated.’” This was followed by pages of classified information elicited from Ghailani, further stating that “the results of the CIA’s efforts show that the defendant’s value as an intelligence source was not just speculative.” [Emphasis added.]

Ruling in the government’s favor, presiding judge Lewis A. Kaplan, stated that the government had offered credible evidence not only that it was reasonable to believe Ghailani had valuable information essential to combating al-Qaeda and protecting national security, but that this valuable information “could not have been obtained except by putting him in that program….” [Emphasis added.]

It is important to note that all four Office of Legal Counsel memos describing the Rendition, Detention (RDI), and Interrogation program, detailing EIT methods, as well as two Inspector General reports were part of discovery in the case. Thus, the defense was unable to make the kind of egregious accusations and outright falsehoods which have characterized much of the media’s reporting about the program over the last ten years.

Judge Kaplan further said that the government provided credible evidence that Ghailani continued to provide valuable evidence which didn’t diminish over time. This suggests that the CIA repeatedly went back to him after he began cooperating, as new intelligence was acquired. Indeed, to reduce his sentence, Ghailani’s lead defense attorney actually described his client as a “hero” for providing so much valuable intelligence.

Here we have the Obama Justice Department and two federal courts crediting the work done at CIA black sites and the life-saving intelligence gained in the process. Now we have United States Senators condemning Gina Haspel because she was a part of that process.

The record in the Ghailani case is an important rebuttal to the shameful slander of the men and women of the CIA as they scrambled to defend our county after the devastating attack of September 11. At great personal cost, they did everything asked of them by their government. They repeatedly sought legal confirmation that the RDI/EIT program conformed to policy and law. They repeatedly fulfilled their obligation to inform the legislative branch of government as to the details of the program, even inviting members of Congress to help them shape it. Those members stood silent.

How can Congress ask dedicated CIA officers to fulfill their responsibility to protect the country from future attacks knowing that their careers might be in jeopardy or that they might be subject to prosecution, depending on shifting political winds? Gina Haspel has accumulated an exemplary record of achievement in her 33 years with the agency. The rank and file of the agency and 53 former CIA senior officials who cumulatively served seven presidents endorse her. Senators must show that they respect, support and understand the mission of our defenders.

Gina Haspel answered the call on 9/11. Confirm her, senators.

Debra Burlingame, a former attorney, is the sister of Charles F. Burlingame, III, pilot of American Airlines flight 77, Pentagon attack, September 11, 2001.

Gina Haspel, Congress, the CIA, and deliberately failing memories

Al Qaeda ruthlessly slaughtered 3,000 men, women, and children on 9/11.

Terrified and screaming, eight kids aboard the planes were slammed into the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Seen among the 200 forced by searing heat to leap to their deaths from the Towers was an eight-months pregnant woman whose last act was to wrap her arms around her stomach. As FDNY Engine 216 set up near the South Tower, a falling body struck and killed Danny Suhr, who had been a firefighter since 1983. Most remember the numerous acts of courage, humanity, and self-sacrifice that day.

The American people – including every Member of Congress – said, “Never again.” It was mandate to every soldier, law enforcement officer, intelligence officer, and official charged with the responsibility of defending our nation. We knew the enemy was still coming and had to be stopped. Our best and brightest had to step up and they did.

Gina Haspel was among the patriots who answered the call.

The intelligence gained by the CIA using EITs was enormous. On June 23, 2013, then CIA Director John Brennan predicated the CIA’s response to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Report on the Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation Program. In part, Brennan wrote:

“In particular, the Agency disagrees with the Study’s unqualified assertions that the overall detention and interrogation program did not produce unique intelligence that led terrorist plots to be disrupted, terrorists to be captured, or lives to be saved. The Study’s claims on this score are inconsistent with the factual record, and we provide detailed comments in TAB C on where and why the Study’s assertions and representations are wrong.”

The implementation of the Enhanced Interrogation Program was not Gina Haspel’s decision; it was the President’s decision after her seniors at the CIA recommended its approval. It had been cleared by the Office of Legal Counsel and briefed to Majority and Minority Leaders of Congress, to include the Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee Nancy Pelosi. The moral high ground was to deny unlawful enemy combatants the protections of the Geneva Conventions, to not allow those who acted outside of the Rules of War, who slaughtered civilians and soldiers alike, to remain silent.

Gina Haspel has served our nation with honor for thirty years. The EIT Program saved American lives. She deserves our thanks and far better than to be smeared by those with short memories.