On, April 11, 2009, Congresswoman, Diane Watson, who represents, California's 33rd District, which is located in Los Angeles, held a Resource Fair in her district.
The following week, the Congresswoman, was gracious enough to sit down with me for an interview. Below is Part I of that interview.
Kathleen Wells: Last week, it was reported in the New York Times and re-published on Huffingtonpost, that the NSA had wiretapped a member of Congress without a warrant. Can you give me your thoughts on that?
Congresswoman Watson: Well, number one, that is patently illegal. Number two, it happened often in the last administration. Number three, not every person working in an agency, leaves when the administration, changes. Those who are career personnel, stay -- the appointees, leave. And so, it was a mentality under the Bush administration, that it was alright to tap in, without alerting the member, because it was all about Homeland Security. A lot of lines were breached, after 9-11, in terms of protecting America. We have a Constitution; we have a Bill of Rights that lays out the right of an individual in America. And the right to privacy, Freedom of Speech, is the first one. Why couldn't they go to a judge who would be available 24/7 and get permission?
And my experience being in the House, in the last 8 years, is that many things that were done, were done above the law. We are a nation of laws. I was an Ambassador and consistently it was pressed, that we are a nation of laws and that we intend to see that the laws prevail. Certainly, the Bush Administration, cherry picked -- between things that were legal and things that were illegal. Illegal things were overlooked.
Let's take Guatanamo Bay -- they were torturing people down there. I went down to Guantanamo Bay, with a codel ("Congressional Delegation.") We visited as members of an international organization on security and cooperation.
Kathleen Wells: Specifically, who invited the codel and what did they promise?
Congresswoman Watson: We, the United States, belong to an organization -- security and cooperation ("OSCE"). And around 2005, and on my first visit there, they mentioned that there was a resolution, which they wanted to pick up again, that condemned the United States, for their handling of prisoners, at Guantanamo Bay.
To wit, I stood up and said: Mr. Chair, could we possibly, table this motion and let a Codel, that's a Congressional Delegation, go down, take a look at Guantanamo Bay and when we come back, maybe we can amend the resolution. He said: no, we've had it on the table, for a couple of years now and we are going to go ahead with it.
So, they took the vote and there were only 15 nations that voted in accord with the United States. The others voted against us.
Later, I encouraged our Committee and that was the Foreign Relations Committee, to go down on a Codel and we did.
We always fly military - Air Force, aircraft. So, it was a special mission. There were about 6 of us and we left and landed in Havana.
When we landed there, we went out to the waters edge and there was a yacht, waiting for us to take us around (you know the United States has leased that property - I think for 99 years or so.).
When we were going around, they pointed out the Commander's home - these beautiful mansions, overlooking the ocean and so on. We were only going to be on the ground for 6 hours. By the time, we got around to Guantanamo Bay, 2 of those hours, had lapsed.
They took us then to the mess hall to have lunch. And that took about an hour and 45 minutes. Then, they took us around to the PX. Now remember, we are only on the ground for 6 hours. We have now used up about 4 of those hours. They took us to the PX and we had no interest in the PX. They had closed it down so we could go shopping.
Well, by the time, we got to the prison area, we had less than 1 hour.
We wanted to find out and view, where they were actually interrogating. They took us into rooms - concrete, I would say they were about 10X12. And there was a slab and a pedestal. And in the floor, there was a drain. And above, there was a light.
And I said: why the slab. And the answer was: they do better, when they are proned out - that means lying flat. And I said: oh, do you give them sodium pentathlon. You know that's sorta like the truth drug. And he said: oh, no, we don't touch them. And I said: But, I see a drain at the bottom of the floor and there is nothing on these walls - just concrete. So, I figured when they lose their body fluids, all you have to do is take a hose and wash down the whole room.
I was really shocked when I saw the place where they interrogated the detainees. And found out from the Commander, who was with us, that they contract out interrogations. They are not done by the military, on the base. They are done by a contractor, and the contractor and the contract says that no one with the military can be in on the interrogation session - they can not see the interrogation.
They don't know what procedures they use to interrogate them.
And I said: if the military can not see and can not be involved, can not sit in, then how do we know you are using legal methods.
We don't know what they were doing and I raised this question.
And they give them a bag full of money - hundreds of thousands of dollars. And they are on their way.
Kathleen Wells: To the contractors performing the interrogations?
Congresswoman Watson: Yes. I don't know how much, was stated in the contract, however, I'm sure if you are going in with the detainees and with terrorists, you are going to charge, handsomely, to do that kind of work.
And so, we raised these questions. And I also raised the question as to why in all these years, had they not processed more of the detainees and sent them back to their homes.
We went back, several months later. This time, they picked us up and they took us to the mess hall. There were maybe 8 or so of us, members, and each member sat at a table with somebody from the military and/or somebody from the interrogation team, etc...
Kathleen Wells: And when you say you went back, when was this?
Congresswoman Watson: Several months later - it might have been 6 or 7 months. We gave our report and then we went back to see, if there were any changes. Now, remember: I promised to come back and offer amendments, but we never did go back to the OSCE, to tell them what we saw. We turned in our report here, to our Committee.
Kathleen Wells: In the House?
Congresswoman Watson: Yes. Our Foreign Affairs Committee. And, at that time, there was a Republican, as the Chair - Henry Hyde.
On our second visit, they had a woman's firm, as the interrogators. Before I sat down, I let her know my credentials - my background. I told her that I was a school psychologist and I was the one who tested and evaluated and did an assessment on children, who were referred to me by the teachers, for many different reasons.
I would establish their I.Q. I would establish their ability to learn and I would recommend the proper program for them.
So, I know how to ask the questions, to get the answers that are needed for me to score them to identify their level of intelligence - their I.Q.
And so when I said that, then she... well, you know they try to tell you want they think you want to hear. I wanted her to know, at the outset, that I understand these things. She said, "yes and we know that the environment is very important. And we need to have a friendly environment."
At this time, they had built new interrogation centers. There was a glass cube and you could go in a door and sit in the middle and you could see, in the glass, the rooms (there were 4 rooms attached to this glass tube) -- you could sit, listen and watch, but not to the interrogations.
And that was what really shocked me was the fact that no one attached to the military could sit in, and listen and watch. Apparently, they weren't informed as to the rule of law. And this was still true, even on our second visit.
This was under the Bush administration, and under the Attorney General, who wrote the memo, which stretched what was acceptable and made waterboarding appear acceptable.
We would say it was a torture device, but the way the memo was written to President Bush, it was written as if, this was acceptable, on certain detainees and under certain circumstances.
Kathleen Wells: And you are referring to Alberto Gonzales?
Congresswoman Watson: Yes, he is the one that wrote the torture memo. And so, we felt - it was what we didn't see that gave me clues because I was trained to watch for body language, room setting -- I was trained as a school psychologist.
So, you look for many indicators. The person's emotional and mental condition, at the moment.
And so, when you go into a room - gray walls, with a drain - that drain and the slab, told me so much about the techniques. And then to find out that in the contract, they can not participate, they can not listen, they can not watch.
Kathleen Wells: You are saying "they" being the military?
Congresswoman Watson: The military.
Kathleen Wells: So, this is second hand information. In other words, the interrogators, who are contracted, are telling the military what's actually taking place in the interrogation?
Congresswoman Watson: No, they don't tell them what took place. They tell them what came out of the interrogation.
Kathleen Wells: So, in essence, we don't' know...
Congresswoman Watson: We don't know, because what they are finding now is that the more painful the method is, and if it is torture, they will say anything to get you to stop - to let up. So, they are finding now, that torture does not give you any accurate information that you can rely on.
The President, said a few days ago, that the FBI, has let us down, because they are not giving us the kind of information that will lead to the capture of Osama Bin Laden. That's what this is all about. And, the capture of those who were directly involved with 9-11.
Kathleen Wells: What are you thoughts about the President releasing the torture memos, last Thursday and from that, what do you think needs to happen?
Congresswoman Watson: The President talked about, when he ran, the openness of government - the transparency government - the responsible oversight of government. And I feel that the President is doing what he should do. If we are torturing human beings, and we are going around the world, saying that we are a role model for a Democratic government -- because we abide by the rule of law, I feel that the only thing he could do, was make public the torture memos, to show where President Bush and those in his administration, felt they were above the law.
I don't think we ought to cover these things up. Because, then the rest of the world, will find us to be hypocritical. How can we condemn China, for its assault on human rights, when we are doing the same thing?
And other countries, in the world where we feel they deprive their citizens of their rights.
And if we are going to be a tower of virtue, then let justice take its course. What is the symbol of justice: It's a woman, with a blindfold and holding a scale.
And where does that scale tip? Martin Luther King, Jr., said, the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.
I really feel that the things that happened under the last administration were not only scurrilous, but they were illegal.
Kathleen Wells: How do you think that the Obama Administration will differ from the Bush Administration regarding Guantanamo Bay?
Congresswoman Watson: He has already signed the executive order. An order, that allows for the closure of Guantanamo Bay. That's already done. He did that the second day he was in office. He has only been in office, 12 weeks. That's the first thing he did.