Zebra 3 Report by Joe Anybody
Wednesday, 10 February 2010
Iraq shoe thrower 'was tortured'
Now Playing: Shoe Thrower in Iraq was Tortured!!!!
Iraq shoe thrower 'was tortured'
An Iraqi television reporter who threw a pair of shoes at President Bush has been released from jail, after serving nine months for the offence.
Muntader al-Zaidi has claimed he was tortured while in prison.
Andrew North reports from Baghdad.
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 12:32 PM PST
Tuesday, 26 January 2010
Torture USA style - Bush or Obama - what style do you prefer
Now Playing: Torture Never Stopped Under Obama
Torture Never Stopped Under Obama
|What is Torture? It can be physical or physchological, quick or unhurried. It implies lasting trauma unbefitting a human. The U.N. defines torture as: |
" ...any act by which severe pain or suffering, physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him, or a third person, information or a confession... " (U.N. Convention Against Torture).
By this definition the U.S. continues to practice torture. Yes, Obama outlawed some especially shocking forms of torture — water boarding, for example — but other types of torture were not labeled "torture" and thus continue.
|Surprisingly, this fact was recently discussed at length in The New York Times, under an Op-Ed piece appropriately entitled Torture's Loopholes. In it, an ex-interrogator explains some of the more glaring examples of how the U.S. currently tortures and argues for the practices to end. In reference to Obama's vow to end the systematic, obscene torture under Bush, the article states: |
"... the changes were not as drastic as most Americans think, and elements of our interrogation policy continue to be both inhumane and counterproductive."
The author says bluntly, "If I were to return to one of the war zones today... I would still be allowed to abuse [torture] prisoners."
The article also explains how the U.S. "legally" continues a practice that thousands of people in the U.S. prison system already know to be psychological torture:
"... extended solitary confinement is torture, as confirmed by many scientific studies. Even the initial 30 days of isolation could be considered abuse [torture]."
Other forms of torture commonly practiced — since they are part of the Military's updated Field Manual — are "... stress positions [shackling prisoners in painful positions for extended periods of time], putting detainees into close confinement or environmental manipulation [hot or frigid rooms]... "
Also mentioned as torture is sleep deprivation, a tactic used in combination with 20-hour interrogation sessions. The author concludes that these practices do "not meet the minimum standard of humane treatment, either in terms of American law or simple human decency." (January 20, 2010).
Unmentioned by the article are other forms of torture institutionalized under the Obama administration. One is "sensory deprivation," a deeply traumatizing psychological torture described in detail in Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine. The new Army Field Manual says that the tactic — though not called "sensory deprivation" — should be used to "prolong the shock of capture," and should include "goggles or blindfolds and earmuffs" that completely disconnects the senses from the outside world, where the captive is able to experience only the thoughts in their head.
Yet another blatant form of torture that Obama refused to stop practicing is "extraordinary rendition," or what critics call "outsourcing torture." This is the practice of flying a prisoner to a country where torture is routinely practiced, so that the prisoner can be interrogated. As reported by The New York Times:
"The Obama administration will continue the Bush administration's practice of sending terrorism suspects to third countries for detention and interrogation, but pledges to closely monitor their treatment to ensure that they are not tortured, administration officials said Monday." (August 24, 2009).
Human rights groups instantly called Obama's bluff: why transport terrorism suspects to other countries at all? If not for the fact that torture and other "harsh interrogation methods" are routinely practiced there? No justifiable answer has been given to these questions.
Another common way the U.S. continues to outsource torture is performed in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. There, the U.S. military often arrests suspects and hands over the interrogation duties to Iraqi or Afghan security forces, knowing full well that they regularly torture (this was also the strategy in the Vietnam war). Unfortunately, handing over someone to be tortured means you are also guilty of the crime.
A less obvious form of torture is the concept of "indefinite detention" — holding someone in prison indefinitely without a trial. The terrible experience of hopelessness that a victim of this crime experiences, over years, is a profound form of psychological torture. This is one of the reasons why the American Constitution guarantees due process, a legal detail that the Obama administration continues to ignore.
In connection, The Washington Post recently announced that the Obama administration will detain 50 Guantanamo inmates "indefinitely," without any legal charges or chance of a trial. This act is consistent with earlier statements made by Obama, when he stated that "some detainees are too dangerous, to be released." Of course, there does not exist any evidence to prove that these detainees are dangerous, otherwise they would be prosecuted in a legal court. The article reports that these detainees are "un-prosecutable because officials fear trials... could challenge evidence obtained through coercion [torture]." (January 22, 2010).
The Washington Post article also reports that 35 additional Guantanamo inmates will be tried in Federal or Military courts. In the latter court, far less evidence — if any — is needed, and the military jury can be handpicked to deliver the preferred outcome.
Obama, like Bush, has sought to undermine the legal rights of those detained and the victims of torture who seek accountability. Obama continues to refuse to release pictures (evidence) of detainee abuse, preventing Americans from really understanding what their government is guilty of. Obama has also refused detainees in so-called "black sites" (U.S. Bagram Air Base, for example) access to attorneys or courts. Finally, by not prosecuting anyone for torture crimes in the Bush administration, Obama is guaranteeing that the worst forms of torture will continue, since institutionalized behavior rarely stops unless rewards or punishments are implemented.
In the end, the act of torture is impossible to separate from war in general. The "rules of war" are always ignored by both sides, who implement the most barbaric acts to terrorize their opponents into submission.
Obama's wars, like Bush's, are wars of conquest. U.S. corporations want the oil and other raw materials in the region. They also want to privatize the conquered state-owned companies, and to sell U.S. products in the new markets the war has opened them. Many corporations benefit from the act of war itself (arms manufacturers and corporate-employed mercenaries), or from the reconstruction opportunities the destruction creates.
Working people have no interest in this type of war. The hundreds of billions of dollars that Obama is using for destruction should be used to create jobs instead, or for health care, public education, social services, etc. It is up to all working people to organize themselves — through their unions and community organizations — to broadcast this demand and make it a reality.
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 7:21 PM PST
Saturday, 12 December 2009
What the OPR Torture Report Will Not Say
Now Playing: Torture Memos and Judge ByBee Bullshit: by David Swanson
What the OPR Torture Report Will Not Say
Annotated Aggression: Being Jay Bybee
By David Swanson
It's October 23, 2002, and you're Jay Bybee, the man in charge of the Office of Legal Counsel in the United States Department of Justice. John Yoo and a bunch of other lawyers willing to claim that absolutely anything is legal work for you. But you'd much rather be a judge. That would be a cushy job, a lifetime job, a job with a book of the Bible named for it, a job where you would get to decide which crimes to legalize rather than being told by someone else, a job where you might eventually even get to rule on the legality of some of the crimes you were presently engaged in committing. At the moment, however, if you want to become a judge you're going to have to follow instructions, and that means legalizing the greatest crime of them all. Millions may die in the process, but you will get that nomination and you will become a judge.
You pray for divine guidance and sit down to write (or at least sign) this apology for, authorization of, and confession to mass murder, another term for which is often genocide. Here's your opening line in all caps:
"AUTHORITY OF THE PRESIDENT UNDER DOMESTIC AND INTERNATIONAL LAW TO USE MILITARY FORCE AGAINST IRAQ"
This is a remarkable thing for you (or even Yoo, your psychotic sidekick) to have written, because the Constitution is the supreme law domestically, and it gives Congress the exclusive power to decide to wage war. And under the United Nations Charter, no nation has the authority to attack another. But you were Jay Bybee. You were the man. You were the authority handing out personalized torture laws for individual victims. You were, in fact, already a judge convicting and sentencing people in lengthy rulings before "legalizing" and imposing their sadistic punishments. Granting U.S. presidents the power to launch aggressive wars didn't trouble you in the way it might have someone who cared about people and their lives. But this single memo would mean far more pain and suffering than all of your soon-to-be-famous torture memos put together.
You added a bit more to your composition, about 50 pages more in fact. You (or whoever wrote this for you) began thus:
"The President possesses constitutional authority to use military force against Iraq to protect United States national interests."
Now you were showing off, digging yourself deeper. Now you would need to explain how the United States could have national interests in somebody else's distant nation that outweighed that nation's own interest in not being attacked or invaded.
And you were just warming up. You dug deeper:
"This independent constitutional authority is supplemented by congressional authorization in the form of the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution."
This is apparently a reference to the 1991 version of this type of congressional buck passing. In fact, such a resolution could not alter the Constitution to either remove or augment anything. In addition, it was more than a decade old. That wouldn't faze you, Jay Bybee, because you'd already given the president "independent constitutional authority" to treat such an authorization as redundant and superfluous. Its primary purpose was to pack these pages and obscure the simplicity of your primary argument, if that's a name merited by your bald assertion that verily this is that.
You did some international digging too:
"Using force against Iraq would be consistent with international law because it would be authorized by the United Nations Security Council or would be justified as anticipatory self-defense."
Now you were digging deep indeed. By citing the two exceptions that the UN Charter makes to its ban on war, you were acknowledging its authority. But neither exception applied. The UN rejected a US attack on Iraq as something it could not authorize, and such an attack would -- of course -- not be self-defense. But that didn't matter either, because you'd already begun to alter the law. You invented something called "anticipatory self-defense." But international law did not recognize such a thing, and no international authority agreed that it legalized an attack on Iraq. Your citation-packed memo failed to present any citations for this hooey.
Through such alterations, of course, you were increasing the "legal" acceptability of almost any future war launched by any nation against any other.
What could possibly be more damaging? Or more well documented? Your crime is in black and white and continues for almost 50 more pages. Yet, as of December 2009, congressional committees were pretending to await a report on your memos from the Justice Department itself, with the incorporation of watering-down edits from you and your co-conspirators. Even bar associations were awaiting the same report before concluding that a desk-chair mass-murderer like you was unfit to be a lawyer.
Rule for civilians: first kill all the lawyers. Rule for lawyers: first kill everyone else?
This "memo" you were drafting for White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales was going to be treated as a secret law, but it would remain on record as some sort of quasi-law after becoming public. Years later it still hasn't been rejected (its existence in fact barely acknowledged), even if your public reputation has been ruined and the failure of Congress to impeach you now in your current office is commonly cited as evidence of the death of Congress as an institution. In fact, you're facing civil prosecutions at home and a possible indictment in Spain for having drafted much less criminal memos than this one. Here's what you wrote to Gonzales, who had asked you on behalf of President George W. Bush to legalize aggressive wars for him:
"You have asked our Office whether the President has the authority, under both domestic and international law, to use military force against Iraq. This memorandum confirms our prior advice to you regarding the scope of the President's authority. We conclude that the President possesses constitutional authority for ordering the use of force against Iraq to protect our national interests. This independent authority is supplemented by congressional authorization in the form of the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution, Pub. L. No. 102-1, 105 Stat. 3 (1991), which supports the use of force to secure Iraq's compliance with its international obligations following the liberation of Kuwait, and the Authorization for Use of Military Force, Pub. L. No. 107-40, 115 Stat. 224 (2001), which supports military action against Iraq if the President determines Iraq provided assistance to the perpetrators of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001."
Now this is curious. You've already granted the president absolute authority. Then you've granted him authority on the basis of an AUMF from 1991. Now you throw in the 2001 version that allowed the attack on Afghanistan. That one will provide additional redundant authorization, you claim, if Iraq provided assistance to 9-11, or rather: if the president determines that to be the case. Congress passed yet another non-declaration of war less than two weeks before the date on your memo. This one, even if you chose to accept it as constitutional, had terms attached to it that George W. Bush had no intention of complying with and in fact violated. And none of these domestic justifications for the crime you are here "legalizing" fit with any of the international justifications you were alleging in this same memo. A war is no more authorized by the UNSC or defensive because Congress misplaces its spine or the president "determines" that pigs fly. And your arguments for the domestic legality of the war do not attempt to portray it as defensive of U.N.-approved.
So, you returned to the international arena with this thesis, to be argued for below:
"In addition, using force against Iraq would be consistent with international law, because it would be authorized by the United Nations ("U.N.") Security Council, or would be justified as anticipatory self-defense."
And you were still just clearing your throat:
"This memorandum is divided into three sections. First, we explain the background to the current conflict with Iraq, touching upon the U.N. Security Council resolutions related to the Persian Gulf War and its aftermath, and highlighting the situations in which the United States has used force against Iraq between 1991 and the present. Second, we discuss the President's authority under domestic law to direct military action against Iraq, examining both his constitutional authority and supplementary congressional support. Finally, we detail the justification under international law for the United States to use force against Iraq, considering the circumstances in which the U.N. Security Council has authorized such action and the scenarios in which it would be appropriate to use force in anticipatory self-defense."
Appropriate? If what is legal morphs into what is appropriate, and the determiner of what is appropriate is Jay Bybee, what are the law books for? And what would best make an aggressive war appropriate? Why, pretending it was simply an ordinary and even defensive continuation of a war long-since legalized. Making that case, however, would require providing some background. Forgive me if I quote and then quickly dismiss a large stinking, steaming pile of it (background). I've deleted your footnotes throughout, by the way, Mr. Bybee, simply because they are in the same vein as the rest of the document and consequently make it even worse, not better. Those wanting to read the footnotes can go to your original:
PDF.To continue reading this annotated blogger's edition of Bybee's confession to mass-murder, open one of these documents:
PDF. Word. Old Word.
David Swanson is the author of the new book "Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union" by Seven Stories Press. You can order it and find out when tour will be in your town: http://davidswanson.org/book. To receive updates from After Downing Street register at http://afterdowningstreet.org/user/registerTo subscribe to other lists go tohttp://davidswanson.org/node/921
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 1:07 PM PST
Updated: Saturday, 12 December 2009 1:15 PM PST
GITMO innocdent prisoneer released 12-2009
Now Playing: oooppppss! A mistake ...? Or maybe more like "abuse and neglect"
Thursday 10 December 2009
by: Andy Worthington, t r u t h o u t | Report
(Image: Lance Page / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: takomabibelot / Flickr)
The long ordeal of Fouad al-Rabiah, an innocent man and a 50-year-old father of four, who had been in US custody for almost exactly eight years, finally came to an end today, when he was flown back to his homeland of Kuwait from Guantánamo, where he had spent the majority of those lost years, after several brutal months in US custody in Afghanistan.
Until the moment of his release, everything about his treatment at the hands of the US government was shameful.Twelve weeks ago, when District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly granted his habeas corpus petition, and ordered his release, she revealed the most extraordinary - and extraordinarily depressing - story. This shone the most unflinching light on Guantánamo as a place where men, who were rounded up for bounty payments by the US military's allies in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and were never adequately screened on capture, were then sent to Guantánamo. Once there, in the absence of any information to back up the administration's claims that they were "the worst of the worst," they became the victims of false allegations made by other prisoners (who were either coerced to do so, or were bribed with the promise of improved living conditions), and were then tortured and abused to make false confessions.
During the prisoners' habeas corpus petitions over the last 14 months, numerous examples of dubious allegations made by unreliable witnesses have been exposed by the judges, as well as other examples of cases that "defie[d] common sense" or exposed the use of torture, but until al-Rabiah's case was examined, the existence of a clear chain of torture and threats inflicted to produce false confessions at Guantánamo had never been revealed with such alarming clarity.
Al-Rabiah's story began when he traveled to Afghanistan in 2001 to provide humanitarian aid, but was caught up in the chaos following the US-led invasion, and ended up in the hands of the US military. What followed was truly shameful. In Guantánamo, unreliable witnesses - whose unreliability was acknowledged by the authorities - claimed that he had met Osama bin Laden and had provided him with a suitcase of money, and also claimed that he had played a supporting role to al-Qaeda in the battle of Tora Bora, the showdown between al-Qaeda and US-supported Afghan forces in December 2001, when bin Laden escaped into Pakistan.
Under torture, which included, but was not limited to prolonged sleep deprivation - being moved from cell to cell every few hours over a period lasting for several weeks at least, in a program that was euphemistically known as the "frequent flier program" - al-Rabiah finally broke down, inventing a story to please his captors, and dutifully repeating it in 2004 during his Combatant Status Review tribunal, a military review board designed to establish that he had been correctly designated as an "enemy combatant," who could continue to be held without charge or trial.
Although the authorities knew that the witnesses were unreliable, and interrogators and other personnel cast serious doubts on al-Rabiah's story, he was, nevertheless, put forward for a trial by military commission at Guantánamo in November 2008, based on the credible-sounding story he had parroted at his tribunal, and it was only when Judge Kollar-Kotelly was able to review his case that the whole sordid story emerged.
As she noted in her ruling, in one of several passages loaded with controlled disdain for the Bush administration (and for the Obama administration for pursuing the case):
Not only did al-Rabiah's interrogators repeatedly conclude that [his] confessions were not believable - which al-Rabiah's counsel attributes to abuse and coercion, some of which is supported by the record - but it is also undisputed that al-Rabiah confessed to information that his interrogators obtained from either alleged eyewitnesses who are not credible and as to whom the Government has now largely withdrawn any reliance, or from sources that never even existed ... If there exists a basis for al-Rabiah's indefinite detention, it most certainly has not been presented to this Court.
What makes this story even more shocking is that al-Rabiah's innocence was established in the summer of 2002, when a CIA analyst and an Arabic expert interviewed him as part of a fact-finding mission to Guantánamo, which revealed that a large number of the men held "had no connection to terrorism whatsoever." As Jane Mayer described his findings about al-Rabiah in her book, "The Dark Side":
One man was a rich Kuwaiti businessman who took a trip to a different part of the world every year to do charity work. In 2001, the country he chose was Afghanistan. "He wasn't a jihadi, but I told him he should have been arrested for stupidity," the CIA officer recalled. The man was furious with the United States for rounding him up. He mentioned that every year up until then, he had bought himself a new Cadillac, but when he was released, he said, he would never buy another American car. He was switching to Mercedes.
What followed was even more disturbing and demonstrates, succinctly, how the "enemy combatant" program developed by the Bush administration was fueled by the most damaging arrogance. As Mayer explained, when John Bellinger, the legal adviser to the National Security Council (NSC), and Gen. John Gordon, the NSC's senior terrorism expert, learned of the agent's report and tried to reveal the information to President Bush to ask him to urgently review the cases of the men held at Guantánamo, a meeting with Alberto Gonzales, who was then the White House counsel, was hijacked by David Addington, Vice President Dick Cheney's legal counsel, who dismissed their concerns by declaring, imperiously, "No, there will be no review. The President has determined that they are ALL enemy combatants. We are not going to revisit it!"
As Fouad al-Rabiah prepares to greet his family for the first time in over eight years, having spent the last 12 weeks detained at Guantánamo for no reason whatsoever (beyond the two weeks' notice demanded by Congress before any prisoner is released), David Cynamon, one of his attorneys, provided me by email with the following statement on behalf of the legal team that worked so hard to secure his release:
We are pleased that the US Government has at long last complied with the court order to return Mr. al-Rabiah to Kuwait. The court's opinion in his case is proof that his release is long overdue. Mr. al-Rabiah is an innocent man. His complete innocence is clearly demonstrated in the trial court's decision, which the U.S. Government did not attempt to appeal. In fact, at the very outset of Mr. al- Rabiah's confinement, the United States' own expert intelligence analyst concluded Mr. al-Rabiah was an innocent man in the wrong place at the wrong time. Nonetheless, this innocent citizen of one of the United States' best allies was wrongfully imprisoned at Guantánamo Bay for almost eight years, during which he was tortured, abused, and coerced into making false confessions. We call upon President Obama to provide both a formal apology on behalf of the United States and appropriate compensation for Mr. al-Rabiah's ordeal. Mr. al- Rabiah can never reclaim the eight years he lost at Guantánamo Bay - and the United States must not simply turn and forget.
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 1:58 AM PST
Saturday, 21 November 2009
ByBee Torture Defense fund
Now Playing: Torture Memo Author Sets Up Defense Fund to Fight Possible Impeachment
Posted Thursday, November 19, 2009 7:32 AM
The federal judge who helped draft Justice Department memos on torture has set up a legal defense fund to pay the costs of defending against possible disciplinary or impeachment proceedings. Jay Bybee, a U.S. Court of Appeals judge in Las Vegas, quietly set up the fund last July following widespread news reports that he and a former deputy, John Yoo, were the focus of a long-running investigation by the Justice Department's internal ethics unit, the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), over their role in crafting the memos.
But there were no public references to the fund until this, week when Declassified noticed that a link to the fund had popped up on the Web site of Keep America Safe, an advocacy group set up last month by Liz Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, that is highly critical of President Obama's national-security policies. The fund is listed as one of Keep America Safe's "causes we support."
The defense fund may be about to become extremely useful for Bybee, who anticipates legal expenses "well in excess of $500,000" as a result of the Justice investigation, according to a letter from the U.S. Judicial Conference ethics committee posted on the fund's Web site. Attorney General Eric Holder told the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday that, after a nearly year-long delay and numerous internal reviews, the OPR report into the torture memos was finally slated to be released at the end of this month.
As NEWSWEEK reported last February, the initial draft of the report, completed during the waning days of the Bush administration, concluded that Bybee (at the time assistant attorney general in charge of the Office of Legal Counsel) and Yoo may have violated their professional obligations as lawyers when they drafted a controversial Aug. 1, 2002, memo on torture.
But then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey rejected the draft report and directed that copies of its findings be sent for comment to the targets (including Bybee, Yoo, and Steve Bradbury, who had by then become assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel). Since then, the report has been redrafted and, after a further round of comments, is now being reviewed for final release by David Margolis, a veteran career prosecutor at the Justice Department.
The initial 2002 memo, signed by Bybee but believed to have been principally drafted by Yoo, concluded that during wartime, President Bush as commander in chief could unilaterally disregard a federal law banning torture in the prosecution of the war on terror. It also concluded that harsh interrogation techniques proposed by the CIA did not constitute torture unless they resulted in the "equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death." That conclusion opened the door for the CIA to use a wide array of "enhanced" interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, that were approved in a separate memo by Bybee and Yoo on the same day.
Since then, there have been calls for Bybee's impeachment from some liberal advocacy groups and law professors. "He's the only person holding an office that could be the target" of impeachment, said Nan Aron, president of Alliance for Justice, a liberal advocacy group that has campaigned for "accountability" over the use of torture techniques during the Bush era.
But legal sources familiar with the OPR report (who asked not to be identified discussing it because the process is ongoing) say it is believed to have undergone numerous revisions since the original draft and that it is far from clear what its final conclusions will be. Maureen Mahoney, Bybee's lawyer, declined to comment on the specifics of the report but said, "If DOJ follows settled rules of law, it cannot possibly conclude that Judge Bybee's conduct was unethical."
Bybee, who served in the Justice Department under both Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, was President George W. Bush's first nominee to be assistant attorney general in charge of OLC, the office that effectively serves as legal adviser for the entire federal government. He was then nominated by Bush to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and confirmed in March 2003—well before the existence of the torture memos or the CIA's use of waterboarding had become publicly known.
The letter sent to Bybee in May by the chair of the U.S. Judicial Conference's Committee on Codes of Conduct gave approval for the judge to set up the fund based on a set of facts he had presented. Those include the OPR inquiry, and the possibility that the Justice Department might launch investigations into torture and that "some members of Congress have indicated impeachment may be considered."
The letter, from Judge M. Margaret McKeown, approves the creation of a defense fund in which "others may solicit contributions," provided it adheres to rules that the committee has laid down for other judicial funds in the past, namely that the list of contributors be "blind" so that Bybee never learns their identities, and it not include lawyers who have cases before the judge.
James Spears, a Washington lawyer who is one of three trustees of the fund, declined to comment on how much the fund has raised. But the former Justice Department colleague of Bybee's did say, "We're confident that he'll be vindicated."
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 8:03 PM PST
Monday, 16 November 2009
GITMO detainees = Court - update Nov 16 2009
Now Playing: refer a further five GTMO detainees, including self-proclaimed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, for trial federal court i
A Half Measure of Justice
The Obama administration’s decision to refer a further five GTMO detainees, including self-proclaimed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, for trial federal court in New York City is a small but significant victory for the rule of law.
Carrie Lemack, whose mother was killed on board one the planes flown into the World Trade Center, welcomed the transfer telling the BBC:
“At the end of the day my mother and nearly three thousand others were murdered. And they deserve the right to have a trial of their murders and their families, me, my sister, so many other families of 9/11, deserve our day in court to hold to account those who did these terrible offenses.”
Yet this decision has predictably provoked a backlash from right-wing Republicans who can’t seem to help themselves when the opportunity for fear-mongering presents itself. Indeed, the Republican Party is proving to be one of Osama bin Laden’s most consistent boosters.
Rudy Giuliani was one of many Republican politicians to make the pilgrimage to Fox News to denounce the decision. The former mayor said that bringing KSM to New York would be “repeating the mistake of history” and he accused the Obama administration of adopting a “pre-9/11 approach” to fighting terrorists.
Rather odd since this is the selfsame Giuliani who hailed the conviction of the aspirant 9/11 hijacker Zacarias Moussaoui in federal court in May 2006 by telling reporters: “The greater value is demonstrating what America is like. America won tonight.” Poor Rudy, he seems a bit confused.
Carrie Lemack and Rudy 2006 have a powerful point, one President Obama himself recently underscored in his eulogy to the victims of the Fort Hood shootings:
“We are a nation of laws whose commitment to justice is so enduring that we would treat a gunman and give him due process, just as surely as we will see that he pays for his crimes.”
Being a nation of laws is no small thing. The rule of law is the foundation on which our way of life is built. It commands respect. Without the rule of law the constitution would, as John J. McCloy famously remarked, be just a scrap of paper.
It is the rule of law that has made America what it is and we set it aside at our peril. That is why the transfer of five terrorist suspects to the federal courts is such a good thing.
It also why the referral of five other cases to the reconstituted Military Commissions is such a mistake. Of particular concern is the referral of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri’s case. Al-Nashiri is alleged to have been the leader of the successful plot to bomb the USS Cole in 2000, in which 17 US sailors were killed.
The USS Cole bombing occurred prior to the apparent start of the Global War on Terror or the passage of the Congressional Authorization for the Use of Military Force, which begs the question of whether or not Military Commissions have any logical jurisdiction over the case. Furthermore, the Cole bombing was investigated by the FBI and federal prosecutors making the federal courts a practical venue as well.
The families of the USS Cole victims have been particularly outspoken in their criticism of President Obama’s national security policies and it is difficult to escape the conclusion that in this instance the administration simply decided to sacrifice principle to political expediency.
And that’s the problem. The Military Commissions are political courts. They exist to ensure convictions in cases where there is insufficient evidence to take to a real court. This is not justice and Commission judgments will lack any legitimacy. And once again we will have allowed the unscrupulous fear-mongers among us to undermine American values and hand Al Qaeda another propaganda victory.
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 12:01 AM PST
Wednesday, 11 November 2009
Italyâs Justice System Treads Where US Courts Wonât
Now Playing: torture crime is treated differently in Italy
Italy’s Justice System Treads
Where US Courts Won’t
The United States of America owes much of the hope it has right now of remaining what John Adams called “a nation of laws, not men” to Italian law enforcement.
Were it not for the fact that Italian prosecutors, unlike their American counterparts, answer to the law rather than a president, the enforcement of laws against a massive crime spree by U.S. officials (and their Italian accomplices) would not have begun.
In 2003, the CIA and the United States military kidnapped a man, a political refugee, in Italy. His name was Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, also known as Abu Omar.
CIA agents spied on him from their luxury hotels and gourmet-meal lives in Milano (all paid for by U.S. taxpayers). They were told to kidnap Nasr and send him to Egypt to be tortured, and they did so.
According to recent statements by two of them, they knew perfectly well they were violating the law. But they were not worried enough at the time to refrain from discussing the matter on their cell phones as they enjoyed the dolce vita and racked up credit card bills wasting the same currency the U.S. government claims it has a moral duty not to waste on healthcare.
Nasr was indeed kidnapped, flown to Egypt, and tortured. His wife, Ghali Nabila, testified in Italian court for over six hours. In October 2004, she had been able to see him, briefly out of Egyptian prison. (He was eventually released years later.) Nabila said in court:
“I found him wasted, skinny – so skinny his hair had turned white, he had a hearing aid.”
Ordered, against her will, to describe his torture, she said:
“He was tied up like he was being crucified. He was beaten up, especially around his ears. He was subject to electroshocks to many body parts.”
Asked if that included genitals, she replied “Yes.”
Nasr himself wrote in a letter smuggled out of prison and printed in the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera:
“I was hung by my feet from the ceiling, my head down, my hands tied to my back, my feet tied up. I was subjected to electric shocks all over my body, especially in my head, nipples, testicles, and penis. My testicles where also beaten with a stick and squeezed tightly if I refused to answer their questions or was suspected of telling lies.
“They fixed my body to an iron door and on a wooden instrument they call the bride, where my hands where tied over my head from behind and my legs tied together or sometimes each leg on different sides. The torture that takes place during this is electric shocks, and beating with a shoe and cables.”
Presidents Barack Obama and Silvio Berlusconi oppose prosecuting Americans or Italians for kidnapping this man and transporting him to his torturers. The U.S. Department of Justice will, therefore, not prosecute.
In Italy, on the other hand, there is still some measure of law, law as a standard applied to all equally, without immunity for those with the power to commit the greatest crimes.
Last Wednesday, an Italian court convicted 22 CIA agents and one member of the U.S. Air Force. The prosecutor Armando Spataro has repeatedly asked the Italian government to issue an international arrest warrant and request extradition by the United States. It has not yet done so.
One of the convicted CIA agents, Sabrina De Sousa, openly admits that the kidnapping was illegal, but says that she feels betrayed by those who authorized the operation and failed to protect its participants from prosecution.
De Sousa ignores Nuremberg Principle IV, which requires noncompliance with illegal orders or instructions:
“The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.”
But De Sousa also has a point, one well exemplified at Nuremberg: Those at the bottom are not the most responsible.
Those who must be held accountable first and foremost are the decision-makers at the top. And who authorized the policy of kidnapping people and shipping them off to be tortured? Three top U.S. officials have authorized rendition: Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama. And in this case, the presidents responsible were Bush and, almost certainly, Berlusconi.
The New York Times reported that most top CIA officials who planned the Abu Omar rendition have since left the agency, with the exception of Stephen Kappes, who was then assistant director of the CIA’s clandestine branch and is now CIA deputy director.
For justice to reach to the highest levels and thereby deter the practice of kidnapping, under the name rendition, in the years ahead, justice must be permitted to proceed on the paths it has blazed thus far.
Americans must make Italians aware of our gratitude for their efforts to save us from ourselves. And Italy must be compelled to obey its laws rather than its president on the question of issuing international arrest warrants and a demand for extradition.
The 23 fugitives already can expect arrest if they visit any nation of Europe. They should not be free to roam the rest of the world.
By U.S. standards, Italy would be justified in kidnapping these fugitives and “rendering” them to Italian prisons. An extradition request would be a generous favor of a sort that the United States does not grant to others.
Failure to take that step on behalf of the rule of law will put the blood of future rendition victims on the hands of the Italian as well as the American people.
David Swanson is the author of the new book Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union by Seven Stories Press. You can order it and find out when tour will be in your town by visiting davidswanson.org
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 12:01 AM PST
Updated: Thursday, 12 November 2009 5:07 PM PST
Saturday, 7 November 2009
We Do Not Torture
Now Playing: The USA does not torture people
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 2:18 PM PST
Monday, 2 November 2009
No Justice for Rendition Victim Maher Arar
Now Playing: USA covers ass and holds no one accountable for "mistaken torture & rendittion"
No Justice for Canadian Rendition Victim Maher Arar
Court Refuses to Hold US Officials Accountable for Complicity in Torture Abroad
WASHINGTON - November 2 2009
Today, a federal Court of Appeals dismissed Canadian citizen Maher Arar's case against U.S. officials for their role in sending him to Syria to be tortured and interrogated for a year. Arar is represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR). The court concluded that Arar's case raised too many sensitive foreign policy and secrecy issues to permit relief. It leaves the federal officials involved free of any legal accountability for what they did.
Maher Arar is not available to comment in person, but is issuing the following statement: "After seven years of pain and hard struggle it was my hope that the court system would listen to my plea and act as an independent body from the executive branch. Unfortunately, this recent decision and decisions taken on other similar cases, prove that the court system in the United States has become more or less a tool that the executive branch can easily manipulate through unfounded allegations and fear mongering. If anything, this decision is a loss to all Americans and to the rule of law."
Said Georgetown law professor and CCR cooperating attorney David Cole, who argued the case, "This decision says that U.S. officials can intentionally send a man to be tortured abroad, bar him from any access to the courts while doing so, and then avoid any legal accountability thereafter. It effectively places executive officials above the law, even when accused of a conscious conspiracy to torture. If the rule of law means anything, it must mean that courts can hear the claim of an innocent man subjected to torture that violates our most basic constitutional commitments."
CCR Senior Staff Attorney Maria LaHood said, "With this decision, we have lost much more than Maher Arar's case against torture - we have lost the rule of law, the moral high ground, our independent judiciary, and our commitment to the Constitution of the United States."
The case was re-heard before twelve Second Circuit judges after a rare decision in August 2008 to rehear the case sua sponte, that is, of their own accord before Arar had even sought rehearing.
Mr. Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian citizen, was detained at JFK Airport in September 2002 while changing planes on his way home to Canada. The Bush administration labeled him a member of Al Qaeda and sent him not to Canada, his home and country of citizenship, but against his will to Syrian intelligence authorities renowned for torture. He was tortured, interrogated and detained in a tiny underground cell for nearly a year before the Syrian government released him, stating they had found no connection to any criminal or terrorist organization or activity.
In January 2004, just three months after he returned home to Canada from his ordeal, CCR filed a suit on Mr. Arar's behalf against John Ashcroft and other U.S. officials, the first to challenge the government's policy of "extraordinary rendition," also known as "outsourcing torture."
The Canadian government, after an exhaustive public inquiry, found that Mr. Arar had no connection to terrorism and, in January 2007, apologized to Mr. Arar for Canada's role in his rendition and awarded him a multi-million-dollar settlement. The contrast between the two governments' responses to their mistakes could not be more stark, say Mr. Arar's attorneys. Both the Executive and Judicial branches of the United States government have barred inquiry and refused to hold anyone accountable for ruining the life of an innocent man.
Two Congressional hearings in October 2007 dealt with his case. On October 18, 2007 Mr. Arar testified via video at a House Joint Committee Hearing convened to discuss his rendition by the U.S. to Syria for interrogation under torture. During that hearing - the first time Mr. Arar testified before any U.S. governmental body - individual members of Congress publicly apologized to him, though the government still has not issued a formal apology. The next week, on October 24, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice admitted during a House Foreign Affairs Committee Hearing that the U.S. government mishandled his case.
In a strongly worded dissent, Judge Guido Calabresi wrote, "I believe that when the history of this distinguished court is written, today's majority decision will be viewed with dismay."
Joshua Sohn of DLA Piper US LLP, Katherine Gallagher of CCR, and Jules Lobel, professor at University of Pittsburgh Law School and CCR cooperating attorney, are co-counsel in Mr. Arar's case.
The Center for Constitutional Rights represents other victims of the Bush administration's programs, from Iraqis tortured and abused at Abu Ghraib prison to Muslim and Arab men rounded up and abused in immigration sweeps in the U.S. in the aftermath of 9/11, to Guantanamo detainees in the recent Supreme Court case.
For more on Mr. Arar's case, including a timeline, court papers and other documents, go to http://ccrjustice.org/ourcases/current-cases/arar-v.-ashcroft. Additional information may be found by entering the search term "Arar" at the Center for Constitutional Rights website, www.ccrjustice.org.
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 7:18 AM PST
Updated: Monday, 2 November 2009 2:20 PM PST
Wednesday, 21 October 2009
Christians and Torture
Now Playing: Torture is Not Only Immoral, It is Criminal
Major Religions Call for
Monday, September 28, 2009
by Charles Busch
Our nation is presently involved in a debate about the sanctioned use of torture by the United States since 9/11. Is it enough to denounce torture and focus on the future, or do we need to investigate the past and seek accountability? This question takes in considerable territory, including the security of the state and the insistence of justice. But for me, ultimately, it is a question of conscience, collective and individual.
On June 11 this year, in solidarity with religious leaders from five major religions standing in front of the White House, it was my privilege to stand with Rev. Bonnie Tarwater, minister of the Congregational United Church of Christ in Lincoln City and Rev. Carl Reynolds, a member of that congregation. The purpose of our witness along Highway 101 in downtown was to add our voices to the call for a Commission of Inquiry into U.S. torture practices.
Torture is Not Only Immoral,
It is Criminal
As a Christian, I am heartened by this public witness because, during the Nazi reign in Germany, almost all the leaders of Christian churches held their tongues and ignored Nazi crimes in exchange for being left alone to worship and pursue personal piety. Among the few heroic leaders who risked dissention, was Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a pastor and theologian. Marilynne Robinson writes that Bonheoffer “chastised those who accommodated their religion to the prevailing culture so thoroughly as to have made the prevailing culture their religion.”
Bonhoeffer was imprisoned and hanged in 1945 as a traitor.
As a child in Sunday school, I learned that intentional cruelty to another person is immoral, and as a Marine Corps recruit, I learned that torture is a crime under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. These early instructions confirmed what my conscience already knew, that the nightmare stuff of torture is evil.
Humans throughout the world hate and fear torture. This is evidenced by more than a century of Geneva Conventions. Specifically, the Third Geneva Conventions were enacted in 1949 to govern the treatment of prisoners of war. Articles 13 to 16 state that prisoners of war must be treated humanely and their medical needs met. Articles 17 to 20 state what information a prisoner must give and the limits of interrogation: “No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion.” Nearly all 200 countries of the world are signatory nations.
In addition, the 1985 U.N. Convention against Torture was ratified by the United States and 64 other nations. Nationally, our Constitution has guarantees against cruel and unusual punishment, the Uniform Code of Military Justice prohibits torture, and the War Crimes Act of 1996 limits interrogation practices. We are a nation of laws.
Evidence that these codes against torture had been violated by U.S. personnel emerged when photographs were published in April 2004 of prisoners being abused in Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq. Then came allegations of excessive interrogation practices of “enemy combatants” at the American naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In 2005, the secretary-general of Amnesty International called Guantanamo ”the gulag of our times.”
Then, word of secret “black site” prisons emerged. In April 2009, the Washington Post published a leaked confidential inspection report by the International Red Cross (which is charged with monitoring war crimes). This report provided detailed evidence of the torture of prisoners at “black sites” by CIA and other government-paid personnel. The evidence is persuasive and mounting that crimes against humanity have been committed and were sanctioned (i.e., practiced in multiple prisons over a period of years).
The details are horrific. They include: the water-boarding of a single prisoner 183 times, men chained by their wrists from the ceiling for days, toes barely touching the floor, men deprived of sleep for more than a week straight, forced feeding, slamming prisoners into walls up to 30 times in a row, brain washing, and men sitting in cells with music blasting their ears for days on end. Many men were jailed without evidence or any legal charge for years. A child would know these acts are monstrous.
How Will our Nation
Respond to its Own Crimes?
How will we, as a nation, respond to evidence of our own crimes against humanity? In this, I am guided by my Christian understanding that the life of each person is sacred, and that we are all part of one intricate, indivisible whole. I am also guided by two principles.
First: However politically inconvenient, when a crime has been committed, it may not be ignored.
Second: To create a just future, we must first be honest about our past.
To date, only a few low-level soldiers have been held accountable and served jail sentences. But with the recent release of the “Torture Memos,” written in August 2002 and March 2003 by five Justice Department lawyers, it is obvious that torture was policy approved at the highest levels of government. The purpose of these memos, which attempt a legal rationale for torture, was to provide immunity from future prosecution.
As I stood in Lincoln City, the leaders of five major religious faiths also stood, with other clergy and lay leaders, on Pennsylvania Ave in front of the White House to deliver a collective message to our President. Participants included the president of my church denomination, Rev. John Thomas (United Church of Christ), Archbishop Vicken Aykazian (Armenian Church in America), Rabbi Steve Gutow (Executive Director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs), Ingrid Mattson (President of the Islamic Society of North America), and the Rev. Michael Cinnamon (General Secretary of the National Council of Churches).
They came as a united part of The National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT). The message they delivered: President Obama, we look to you and the Department of Justice to authorize a Commission of Inquiry into recent U.S. torture practices. This Commission must be independent and nonpartisan. If it is found that crimes have been committed, then the responsible individuals must be indicted and held accountable.
In this call for accountability, there is no place for self-righteousness. Since May 2004, it has been public information that torture was being committed by the United States, and we citizens did not do what was needed to stop it. We are all complicit.
At the heart of torture is an ancient, recurring lie: That the pain inflicted on just one more person will save us. Every Christian knows and ought to abhor this lie; it’s the very lie that led to Jesus’ torture and political execution.
Will we as a nation investigate and be accountable? As we consider our answer, we do well to listen to these words from Stanley Kunitz’s poem, “Bonhoeffer.”
Slime, in the grains of the State,
like smut in the corn,
from the top infected
Hatred made law,
wolves bred out of maggots
rolling in blood,
and the seal of the church ravished
to receive the crooked sign.
All the steeples were burning.
In the chapel of his ear
he had heard the midnight bells
jangling: if you permit
this evil, what is the good
of the good of your life?
And he forsook the last things,
the dear inviolable mysteries—
Plato’s lamp, passed from the hand
of saint to saint—
that he might risk his soul in the streets, where the things given
are only next to last.Φ
Charles Busch, the founder and President of Peace Village, Inc. and a United Church of Christ minister, lives on the Oregon Coast.
Photo courtesy of : Ken McCormack
I have a link on "Torture Proof" on my website located here:
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 7:02 AM PDT
Updated: Sunday, 25 October 2009 7:19 PM PDT
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