ICC Complaint Filed Against Bush, Cheney, et. al. by UIUC Prof. Francis Boyle and Lawyers Against the War

From: Lawyers Against The War [mailto:law@portal.ca]
Sent: Wednesday, January 20, 2010 7:11 AM
To: Undisclosed-Recipient:;
Subject: ICC Complaint Against Bush, Cheney et al

INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT COMPLAINT FILED AGAINST BUSH, CHENEY, RUMSFELD, TENET, RICE AND GONZALES; INTERNATIONAL ARREST WARRANTS REQUESTED

Champaign, U.S.A./The Hague, Netherlands (19 Jan 2010). -- Professor Francis A. Boyle of the University of Illinois College of Law in Champaign, U.S.A. has filed a Complaint with the Prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (I.C.C.) in The Hague against U.S. citizens George W. Bush, Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, George Tenet, Condoleezza Rice, and Alberto Gonzales (the “Accused”) for their criminal policy and practice of “extraordinary rendition” perpetrated upon about 100 human beings.  This term is really their euphemism for the enforced disappearance of persons and their consequent torture.  This criminal policy and practice by the Accused constitute Crimes against Humanity in violation of the Rome Statute establishing the I.C.C.

The United States is not a party to the Rome Statute.  Nevertheless the Accused have ordered and been responsible for the commission of I.C.C. statutory crimes within the respective territories of many I.C.C. member states, including several in Europe.  Consequently, the I.C.C. has jurisdiction to prosecute the Accused for their I.C.C. statutory crimes under Rome Statute article 12(2)(a) that affords the I.C.C. jurisdiction to prosecute for I.C.C. statutory crimes committed in I.C.C. member states.

The Complaint requests (1) that the I.C.C. Prosecutor open an investigation of the Accused on his own accord under Rome Statute article 15(1); and (2) that the I.C.C. Prosecutor also formally “submit to the [I.C.C.] Pre-Trial Chamber a request for authorization of an investigation” of the Accused under Rome Statute article 15(3).

For similar reasons, the Highest Level Officials of the Obama administration risk the filing of a follow-up Complaint with the I.C.C. if they do not immediately terminate the Accused’s criminal policy and practice of “extraordinary rendition,” which the Obama administration has continued to implement.

The Complaint concludes with a request that the I.C.C. Prosecutor obtain International Arrest Warrants for the Accused from the I.C.C. in accordance with Rome Statute articles 58(1)(a), 58(1)(b)(i), 58(1)(b)(ii), and 58(1)(b)(iii).

In order to demonstrate your support for this Complaint you can contact the I.C.C. Prosecutor by letter, fax, or email as indicated below.

Francis A. Boyle

Professor of International Law

Law Building

504 East Pennsylvania Avenue

Champaign, Illinois  61820

Phone:  217-333-7954

Fax:  217-244-1478

 

 

The Honorable Luis Moreno-Ocampo

Office of the Prosecutor

International Criminal Court

Post Office Box 19519

2500 CM, The Hague

The Netherlands

Fax No.: 31-70-515-8555

Email:  OTP.InformationDesk@icc-cpi.int

 

January 19, 2010

Dear Sir:

            Please accept my personal compliments.   I have the honor hereby to file with you and the International Criminal Court this Complaint against U.S. citizens George W. Bush, Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, George Tenet, Condoleezza Rice , and Alberto Gonzales  (hereinafter referred to as the “Accused”) for their criminal policy and practice of “extraordinary rendition.” This term is really a euphemism for the enforced disappearances of persons, their torture, severe deprivation of their liberty, their violent sexual abuse, and other inhumane acts perpetrated upon these Victims.  The Accused have inflicted this criminal policy and practice of “extraordinary rendition” upon about one hundred (100) human beings, almost all of whom are Muslims/Arabs/Asians and People of Color.  I doubt very seriously that the Accused would have inflicted these criminal practices upon 100 White Judeo-Christian men.

The Accused’s criminal policy and practice of “extraordinary rendition” are both “widespread” and “systematic” within the meaning of Rome Statute article 7(1).  Therefore the Accused have committed numerous “Crimes against Humanity” in flagrant and repeated and longstanding violation of Rome Statute articles 5(1)(b), 7(1)(a), 7(1)(e), 7(1)(f), 7(1)(g), 7(1)(h), 7(1)(i), and 7(1)(k).  Furthermore, the Accused’s Rome Statute Crimes Against Humanity of enforced disappearances of persons constitutes ongoing criminal activity that continues even as of today.

The United States is not a contracting party to the Rome Statute.  Nevertheless, the Accused ordered and were responsible for the commission of these I.C.C. statutory crimes on, in, and over the respective territories of several I.C.C. member states, including many located in Europe.  Therefore, the I.C.C. has jurisdiction over the Accused for their I.C.C. statutory crimes in accordance with Rome Statute article 12(2)(a), which provides as follows:

Article 12

Preconditions to the Exercise of Jurisdiction

     2.  In the case of article 13, paragraph (a) or (c), the Court may exercise its jurisdiction if one or more of the following States are Parties to this Statute or have accepted the jurisdiction of the Court in accordance with paragraph 3:

(a)   The State on the territory of which the conduct in question occurred  …

So the fact that United States is not a contracting party to the Rome Statute is no bar to the I.C.C.’s prosecution of the Accused because they have ordered and been responsible for the commission of Rome Statute Crimes against Humanity on, in, and over the respective territories of several I.C.C. member states.

Consequently, I  hereby respectfully request that the Court exercise its jurisdiction over the Accused for these Crimes against Humanity in accordance with Rome Statute article 13(c), which provides as follows:
 

Article 13

Exercise of Jurisdiction
 

     The Court may exercise its jurisdiction with respect to a crime referred to in article 5 in accordance with the provisions of this Statute if:

        …

(c)    The Prosecutor has initiated an investigation in respect of such a crime in accordance with article 15.

Pursuant to Rome Statute article 13(c), I hereby respectfully request that you initiate an investigation proprio motu against the Accused in accordance with Rome Statute article 15(1): “The Prosecutor may initiate investigations proprio motu on the basis of information on crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court.”  My detailed Complaint against the Accused constitutes the sufficient “information” required by article 15(1).

Furthermore, I respectfully submit that this Complaint by itself constitutes “a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation” under Rome Statute article 15(3).  Hence, I also respectfully request that you formally “submit to the Pre-Trial Chamber a request for authorization of an investigation” of the Accused under Rome Statute article 15(3) at this time.  Please inform me at your earliest convenience about the status and disposition of my two requests set forth immediately above.

Based upon your extensive human rights work in Argentina, you know full well from direct personal experience the terrors and the horrors of enforced disappearances of persons and their consequent torture. According to reputable news media sources here in the United States, about 100 human beings have been subjected to enforced disappearances and subsequent torture by the Accused. We still have no accounting for these Victims. In other words, many of these Victims of enforced disappearances and torture by the Accused could still be alive today. Their very lives are at stake right now as we communicate.  You could very well save some of their lives by publicly stating that you are opening an investigation of my Complaint.

As for those Victims of enforced disappearances by the Accused who have died, your opening an investigation of my Complaint is the only means by which we might be able to obtain some explanation and accounting for their whereabouts and the location of their remains in order to communicate this critical information to their next-of-kin and loved-ones.  Based upon your extensive experience combating enforced disappearances of persons and their consequent torture in Argentina, you know full well how important that objective is.  The next-of-kin, loved-ones, and friends of “disappeared” human beings can never benefit from psychological “closure” unless and until there is an accounting for the fates, if not the remains, of the Victims.  In part that is precisely why the Accused’s enforced disappearances of about 100 human beings constitutes ongoing criminal activity that continues as of today and will continue until the fates of all their Victims have been officially determined by you opening an investigation into my Complaint. 

Let us mutually suppose that during the so-called “dirty war” in Argentina the International Criminal Court had been in existence.  I submit that as an Argentinean human rights lawyer you would have moved heaven and earth and done everything in your power to get the I.C.C. and its Prosecutor to assume jurisdiction over the Argentine Junta in order to terminate and prosecute their enforced disappearances and torture of your fellow Argentinean citizens.  I would have done the same.  Unfortunately, the I.C.C. did not exist during those darkest of days for the Argentine Republic when we could have so acted.  But today as the I.C.C. Prosecutor, you have both the opportunity and the legal power to do something to rectify this mass and total human rights annihilation, and to resolve and to terminate and to prosecute the “widespread” and “systematic” policy and practice of enforced disappearances and consequent torture of about 100 human beings by the Accused.

Unfortunately, the new Obama administration in the United States has made it perfectly clear by means of public statements by President Obama and his Attorney General Eric Holder that they are not going to open any criminal investigation of any of the Accused for these aforementioned Crimes against Humanity.  Hence an I.C.C. “case” against the Accused is “admissible” under Rome Statute article 1(complementarity) and article 17.  As of right now you and the I.C.C. Judges are the only people in the entire world who can bring some degree of Justice, Closure, and Healing into this dire, tragic, and deplorable situation for the lives and well-being of about one hundred “disappeared” and tortured human beings as well as for their loved-ones and next-of-kin, who are also Victims of the Accused’s Crimes against Humanity. On behalf of them all, as a fellow human rights lawyer I implore you to open an investigation into my Complaint and to issue a public statement to that effect.

Also, most regretfully, the new Obama administration has publicly stated that it will continue the Accused’s policy and practice of "extraordinary rendition," which is really their euphemism for enforced disappearances of human beings and consequent torture by other States.  Hence the Highest Level Officials of the Obama administration fully intend to commit their own Crimes against Humanity under the I.C.C. Rome Statute – unless you stop them!  Your opening an investigation of my Complaint will undoubtedly deter the Obama administration from engaging in any more “extraordinary renditions” -- enforced disappearances of human beings and having them tortured by other States. Indeed your opening of an investigation into my Complaint might encourage the Obama administration to terminate its criminal “extraordinary rendition” program immediately and thoroughly by means of issuing a public statement to that effect.  In other words, your opening an investigation of my Complaint could very well save the lives of a large number of additional human beings who otherwise will be subjected by the Obama administration to the Rome Statute Crimes against Humanity of enforced disappearances of persons and their consequent torture by other States, inter alia.

The lives and well-being of countless human beings are now at risk, hanging in the balance, waiting for you to act promptly, effectively, and immediately to save them from becoming Victims of Rome Statute Crimes against Humanity perpetrated by the Highest Level Officials of the  Obama administration as successors-in-law to the Accused by opening an investigation of my Complaint.  Otherwise, I shall be forced to file with you and the I.C.C. a follow-up Complaint against the Highest Level Officials of the Obama administration.  I certainly hope it will not come to that.  Please make it so.

Finally, for reasons more fully explained in the Conclusion to my Complaint, I respectfully request that you obtain I.C.C. arrest warrants for the Accused in accordance with Rome Statute articles 58(1)(a), article 58(1)(b)(i), article 58(1)(b)(ii), and article 58(1)(b)(iii).  The sooner, the better for all humankind.

          

I respectfully request that you schedule a meeting with me at our earliest mutual convenience in order to discuss this Complaint.  I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

This transmission letter is an integral part of my Complaint against the Accused and is hereby incorporated by reference into the attached Complaint dated as of today as well.

Please accept, Sir, the assurance of my highest consideration.

 

Francis A. Boyle

Professor of International Law

All of the contact

All of the contact information listed is through the U of I.  If he is recieving faxes or other correspondence through his office and handling it on state time, it may very well present a situation that the ethics office would be interested in.

 

University Ethics Office
Human Resources Bldg., Rm. 20
One University Plaza, HRB 20
Springfield, IL 62703-5407

ethicsofficer@uillinois.edu
Ethics Help Line: 866-758-2146

I filed one today.  We shall

I filed one today.  We shall see how it turns out.

On Topic in Area of Expertise

I don't see any conflict or issue here. Prof. Boyle is acting within his area of expertise, which is international law. The issues he raises are certainly interesting and seem to offer considerable opportunity and promise for academic inquiry whatever their outcome.This is very much akin to a engineering professor studying the collapse of the World Trade Center towers on 9/11, for instance, which in fact did take place in the Engineering Dept. I'm sure that was done in his office, on a University computer and phone, etc.

Furthermore, it is the responsibility of all citizens, but particularly those who are intellectuals with access to the skills and tools needed to do so, to actively resist violations of international law. That was the lesson of the Nuremberg Tribunals, which were punctuated with the hangings of a number of the culprits who were found guilty. That should be a lesson learned, but seems to have become a lesson forgotten in the USA.

Perhaps it might be better to report all those preofessors doing NOTHING about obvious violations of international law to the ethics officer, as that would seem to be a better use of such a resource?

 

Obama

The university of Illinois Law School must be so proud of you for wasting the time of so many while you go on your own low life witch hunt. After you pursue Bush (and conveniently leave out Obama for some unknown reason) you can go after the families of FDR and Truman. Then you can make your case against Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon for messing with your Utopian ideals. Have a nice life. casino online

Human Rights

It is Uber important to remember citizens, that Human rights only apply to AMERICAN citizens!!!  All others need not apply!!! Right is wrong again!!!

 

 

War Criminal Road Trip

I think "war criminal" is a better term than "low life" and "witch" is rather mysogynist, since the vast majority of all war criminals are male -- not to be all profiling and such.

Wasting time? Golly gee, I bet Goering thought the same thing, since it interfered with the delivery of champagne and cigars.

JFK had that Bay of Pigs thing, which was definitely of questionable legality, but there's no doubt about LBJ and Nixon's swerving across the line into war criminal turf. No doubt at all. But they are all beyond the reach of any court except the one where St. Peter is the bailiff.

As for Obama, he's getting there fast. He campaigned on a platform of taking a different path than Bush's, but now can't find the exit off the Bush/War Crime Expressway. And he's seems to have the floormat jammed up against the skinny pedal. It's looking less and less like this is anything accidental.

SP intvw. with Prof. Boyle

You can read an interview with Prof. Boyle conducted by Joel Gillespie of Smile Politely here:

http://www.smilepolitely.com/news/francis_boyle_vs._extraordinary_rendit...

BD

Ya!!!

I'd love to see those pricks get what's comming to them- Come on Hague DO IT baby

They are responsible for vast injustice and mass death.

It's up to the people - let's follow through

It's always up to the people to bring justice and our voices need to be heard.  Let's all follow-through on this!

Spanish Judge to Probe Guantanamo Torture Claims

MADRID - Spain's top investigating judge Baltasar Garzon is to probe suspected torture and ill-treatment of inmates at the US prison of Guantanamo Bay, a judical source said Saturday.

The judge will be acting on complaints lodged by a number of associations, focussing on one prisoner, Ahmed Abderraman Hamed, who has Spanish nationality, the source added, confirming a report published in daily El Pais

Three other detainees, Moroccan Lahcen Ikasrrien, Palestinian Jamiel Abdulatif al-Banna and Libyan Omar Deghayes would also be concerned as they had links with Spain.

In 2005 Spain declared itself competent to investigate any crime committed abroad, but after diplomatic problems the scope of the inquiries was reduced in 2009.

Spanish courts can now deal only with cases that have a clear link with Spain, or cases that are not being investigated in countries where the offences are alleged to have been committed.

El Pais said Washington had not replied to a request made seven months ago from Madrid as to whether it was investigating the allegations now being taken up by Garzon, who is best-known internationally for his pursuit of Latin American dictators.

The Palestinian Authority's foreign minister Riyad al Malky said in Madrid last week that Spain had agreed to accept a Palestinian Guantanamo Bay detainee.

The unnamed man will be transferred to Spain in early February along with another man whose nationality has not been confirmed, according to press reports quoting Spanish diplomatic sources.

The US detention camp in Cuba was set up to hold foreigners captured after US-led forces invaded Afghanistan to root out al Qaeda and its Taliban protectors in response to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 against the United States.

In one of his first acts in office, US President Barack Obama set a one-year deadline for shutting the prison and the United States has started to slowly empty it of detainees.

Garzon, 54, was thrust into the international limelight in 1998 with his attempt to extradite former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet from Britain on charges of torture and genocide.

He has also investigated suspected drug lords, arms traffickers and terrorists and indicted Osama bin Laden on charges of terrorism, including the September 11 attacks in the United States.

Susan Collins Spreads Central Myth About the Constitution

While it might at first seem a little tangential to the legal question at hand, Greenwald's piece really is not. Applying the rule of law to the actions of the U.S. government and those acting in its name and prosecuting crimes against humanity under national law would preclude the need to apply international law. Unfortunately, the present political situation in the U.S. resembles more the status of the Weimar Republic than, for instance, Argentina and Chile after the overthrow after they overthrew the military dictatorships there. Americans have no excuse, except the shallowest of political ones.

Susan Collins Spreads Central Myth About the Constitution

by Glenn Greenwald

Over the weekend, Sen. Susan Collins released a five-minute video in which she sounded as though she were possessed by the angriest, most unhinged version of Dick Cheney.  Collins recklessly accused the Obama administration of putting us all in serious danger by failing to wage War against the Terrorists.  Most of what she said was just standard right-wing boilerplate, but there was one claim in particular that deserves serious attention, as it has become one of the most pervasive myths in our political discourse:  namely, that the U.S. Constitution protects only American citizens, and not any dreaded foreigners.  Focusing on the DOJ's decision to charge the alleged attempted Christmas Day bomber with crimes, Mirandize him and provide him with counsel, Collins railed:  "Once afforded the protection our Constitution guarantees American citizens, this foreign terrorist 'lawyered up' and stopped talking" (h/t).  This notion that the protections of the Bill of Rights specifically and the Constitution generally apply only to the Government's treatment of American citizens is blatantly, undeniably false -- for multiple reasons -- yet this myth is growing, as a result of being centrally featured in "War on Terror" propaganda.

First, the U.S. Supreme Court, in 2008, issued a highly publicized opinion, in Boumediene v. Bush, which, by itself, makes clear how false is the claim that the Constitution applies only to Americans.  The Boumediene Court held that it was unconstitutional for the Military Commissions Act to deny habeas corpus rights to Guantanamo detainees, none of whom was an American citizen (indeed, the detainees were all foreign nationals outside of the U.S.).  If the Constitution applied only to U.S. citizens, that decision would obviously be impossible.  What's more, although the decision was 5-4, none of the 9 Justices -- and, indeed, not even the Bush administration -- argued that the Constitution applies only to American citizens.  That is such an inane, false, discredited proposition that no responsible person would ever make that claim.

What divided the Boumediene Court was the question of whether foreigners held by the U.S. military outside of the U.S. (as opposed to inside the U.S.) enjoy Constitutional protections.  They debated how Guantanamo should be viewed in that regard (as foreign soil or something else).  But not even the 4 dissenting judges believed -- as Susan Collins and other claim -- that Constitutional rights only extend to Americans.  To the contrary, Justice Scalia, in his scathing dissent, approvingly quoted Justice Jackson in conceding that foreigners detained inside the U.S. are protected by the Constitution (emphasis added):

Justice Jackson then elaborated on the historical scope of the writ:

"The alien, to whom the United States has been traditionally hospitable, has been accorded a generous and ascending scale of rights as he increases his identity with our society . . . .

"But, in extending constitutional protections beyond the citizenry, the Court has been at pains to point out that it was the alien's presence within its territorial jurisdiction that gave the Judiciary power to act." Id., at 770-771.

That's from Scalia, and all the dissenting judges joined in that opinion.  It is indisputable, well-settled Constitutional law that the Constitution restricts the actions of the Government with respect to both American citizens and foreigners.  It's not even within the realm of mainstream legal debate to deny that.  Abdulmutallab was detained inside the U.S.  Not even the Bush DOJ -- not even Antonin Scalia -- believe that the Constitution only applies to American citizens.  Indeed, the whole reason why Guantanamo was created was that Bush officials wanted to claim that the Constitution is inapplicable to foreigners held outside the U.S. -- not even the Bush administration would claim that the Constitution is inapplicable to foreigners generally.

The principle that the Constitution applies not only to Americans, but also to foreigners, was hardly invented by the Court in 2008.  To the contrary, the Supreme Court -- all the way back in 1886 -- explicitly held this to be the case, when, in Yick Wo v. Hopkins, it overturned the criminal conviction of a Chinese citizen living in California on the ground that the law in question violated his Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process and equal protection.  In so doing, the Court explicitly rejected what Susan Collins and many others claim about the Constitution.  Just read what the Court said back then, as it should settle this matter forever (emphasis added):

The rights of the petitioners, as affected by the proceedings of which they complain, are not less because they are aliens and subjects of the emperor of China. . . . The fourteenth amendment to the constitution is not confined to the protection of citizens. It says:  "Nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."  These provisions are universal in their application, to all persons within the territorial jurisdiction, without regard to any differences of race, of color, or of nationality; and the equal protection of the laws is a pledge of the protection of equal laws. . . . The questions we have to consider and decide in these cases, therefore, are to be treated as involving the rights of every citizen of the United States equally with those of the strangers and aliens who now invoke the jurisdiction of the court.

Could that possibly be any clearer?  Over 100 years ago, the Supreme Court explicitly said that the rights of the Constitution extend to citizens and foreigners alike.  The Court has repeatedly applied that principle over and over.  Only extreme ignorance or a true desire to deceive would lead someone like Susan Collins to claim that such rights are "protection[s] our Constitution guarantees American citizens."

Second, basic common sense by itself should prevent people like Susan Collins from claiming the Constitution applies only to American citizens.  There are millions of foreign nationals inside the U.S. at all times -- not only illegally but also legally:   as tourists, students, workers, Green Card holders, etc.  Is there anyone who really believes that the Bill of Rights doesn't apply to them?  If a foreign national is arrested and accused by the U.S. Government of committing a crime, does anyone believe they can be sentenced to prison without a jury trial, denied the right to face their accusers, have their property seized without due process, be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment, and be denied access to counsel?  Anyone who claims that the Constitution only protects American citizens, but not foreigners, would necessarily have to claim that the U.S. Government could do all of that to foreign nationals.  Does anyone believe that?  Would it be Constitutionally permissible to own foreigners as slaves on the ground that the protections of the Constitution -- including the Thirteenth Amendment -- apply only to Americans, not foreigners?

Third, to see how false this notion is that the Constitution only applies to U.S. citizens, one need do nothing more than read the Bill of Rights.  It says nothing about "citizens."  To the contrary, many of the provisions are simply restrictions on what the Government is permitted to do ("Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion . . . or abridging the freedom of speech"; "No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner").  And where rights are expressly vested, they are pointedly not vested in "citizens," but rather in "persons" or "the accused" ("No person shall . . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law"; "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed . . . . and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense").

The only way to argue that these rights apply only to Americans is to argue that only Americans, but not foreigners, are "persons."  Once one makes that claim, then one is in Dred Scott territory.  If foreigners are not "persons," then what are they:  sub-persons?  Non-persons?  Untermenschen?  

There are, of course, certain Constitutional rights that are clearly reserved only for citizens -- such as the right to vote or to hold elective office -- but when that is the case, the Constitution explicitly states that to be so ("The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States . . . .").  Indeed, the Fourteenth Amendment, in the very same clause, demonstrates the distinction between "citizens" (which only includes "Americans") and "persons" (which includes everyone), and proves that the former is merely a subset of the latter:

No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Article II, Section 1 -- in defining eligibility to be President -- makes the same distinction:

No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President;

"Persons" and "citizens" have entirely different meanings in the Constitution.  There are a handful of instances in which the Constitution applies only to American citizens.  When that is the case, the Constitution explicitly uses the word "citizens."  In all other instances, it simply restricts what the Government is permitted to do generally or uses the much broader term "persons" to describe who holds the rights it guarantees.  That's the obvious point the Yick Wo Court made in 1886 in holding "these provisions are universal in their application, to all persons within the territorial jurisdiction," and it ought to prevent the most minimally honest individuals among us from claiming otherwise, as Susan Collins just did.

It's certainly true that, even after Boumediene, there is a viable debate over whether so-called alien "enemy combatants" held outside of the U.S. are entitled to the full panoply of Constitutional protections (of course, that debate ignores the unanswerable question:  how do you know someone is an "enemy combatant" -- let alone a "Terrorist" -- if they don't first have a trial?).  There are also instances (such as deportation hearings) where the due process rights to which foreign nationals are entitled are less stringent than standard rights guaranteed in criminal trials (becuase foreign nationals have no Constitutional right to be admitted entrance to the U.S.). 

But this right-wing demagoguery (coming from both Republicans and some Democrats) has nothing to do with those debates.  For one thing, the accused Christmas Day bomber was captured and is being held inside the U.S. (right-wing fear-mongerers have long argued that we should not bring GITMO detainees to the U.S. because, once inside the U.S., they would then enjoy full Constitutional protections).  But more important, the standard rhetorical formulation being used -- "extending rights to foreign Terrorists which the Constitution reserves for U.S. citizens" -- suggests that Constitutional rights are for American citizens only.  That is blatantly false, and anyone making that claim -- as Susan Collins and so many others have -- is either extremely ignorant or extremely dishonest.

Glenn Greenwald was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy", examines the Bush legacy.

What Exactly Did Bush and Cheney Do Wrong?

by Glenn Greenwald

As I noted several days ago, it is not only Republicans -- but Democratic and media establishment figures as well -- who clearly crave the preservation of the Bush/Cheney approach to Terrorism and civil liberties.  When Bush's popularity collapsed to historic lows, political and media elites pretended for awhile to object to his administration's fear-based and radical policies as extremist and an assault on "our values."  But that was all just such a transparent pretense.  In those few instances where Obama has rejected the Bush/Cheney template, the outrage and hysteria from Democratic and media voices is pervasive, and is growing louder.

Just look at these illustrative incidents.  Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell went on Fred Thompson's radio show yesterday to demand that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed be put before a military commission -- at Guantanamo.  Over the weekend, Time's Joe Klein lambasted the Obama DOJ, and embraced Bush's former CIA and NSA Chief Michael Hayden, by objecting to the criminal charges and Constitutional rights afforded the accused Christmas Day bomber, with Klein decreeing:  "the bomber is an enemy combatant.  He doesn't have Miranda rights."  MSNBC personalities Chuck Todd and Savannah Guthrie chatted yesterday with their boss, MSNBC Washington Bureau Chief Mark Whitaker, all agreeing that the decision to grant civilian trials for "Terrorists" is "a pure, self-inflicted wound."  When Najibullah Zazi was arrested for allegedly plotting a serious Terrorist attack, The New Republic's Michael Crowley said he was so frightened by this that he was open to torturing Zazi.  Democratic Senators are threatening to join the GOP in cutting off funds for civilian trials.  Democratic members of Congress joined with the GOP to prevent even modest reforms of the Patriot Act and other surveillance abuses.  City officials compete with one another over who can be the most frightened and terrorized by Terrorists.

And The Washington Post's Richard Cohen -- who was so frightened by Terrorism that he wrote multiple screeds screeching that we must have vengeance on Saddam -- devotes his entire column today to criticizing Obama for putting us In Grave Danger by rejecting a handful of Bush/Cheney Terrorism policies (headlined:  "Obama administration is tone-deaf to concerns about terrorism"):

There is almost nothing the Obama administration does regarding terrorism that makes me feel safer.  Whether it is guaranteeing captured terrorists that they will not be waterboarded, reciting terrorists their rights, or the legally meandering and confusing rule that some terrorists will be tried in military tribunals and some in civilian courts, what is missing is a firm recognition that what comes first is not the message sent to America's critics but the message sent to Americans themselves. When, oh when, will this administration wake up? . . .

No doubt George Bush soiled America's image abroad with what looked liked vigilante justice and Dick Cheney's hearty endorsement of ugly interrogation measures. But more is at stake here than America's image abroad -- namely the security and peace of mind of Americans in America. . . . The Obama administration, on the other hand, seems to have bent over backward to prove to the world it is not the Bush administration and will, almost no matter what, ensure that everyone gets the benefit of American civil liberties. But the paramount civil liberty is a sense of security and this, sad to say, has eroded under Barack Obama.

Leave aside that Bush -- like Obama -- also tried some accused Terrorists in civilian trials and some before military commissions.  Leave aside that the second-term Bush -- like Obama -- withdrew authorization for waterboarding.  Leave aside the factually inaccurate claim that Obama is "ensuring that everyone gets the benefit of American civil liberties" when he is, in fact, detaining many people without any charges at all and putting many others before military commissions.

Beyond all those factual errors, look at what Cohen is saying:  Bush "soiled America's image," but what he did was right, just and necessary, and Obama should follow that -- which is essentially what many Democratic Party and media elites are saying as well.  Seriously:  if you were a Bush follower, wouldn't you feel as though you were owed a major apology for all the accusations and the fuss that came from Democrats and media figures, accusing you of supporting radical and Constitution-shredding policies when, it turns out, they actually crave those policies in order to feel safe?  Doesn't all of this bolster the Republican claim that those attacks on the Bush administration for civil liberties abuses were not due to genuine conviction, but rather for partisan gain (in the case of Democratic officials) and cheap, preening, wet-finger-in-the-air moralizing (in the case of media stars)?  

Consider the example of military commissions.  When the Bush administration unveiled those, the reaction from Democrats, progressives and media outlets was overwhelmingly and intensely negative, on the ground that military commissions (no matter what rules they followed) were appropriate only for "battlefield justice," when there was no other alternative.  The consensus was that our normal system of justice -- developed over two hundred years -- was the only just and proper venue to try accused Terrorists, had been proven effective, and beyond that, the perception that we were inventing new and inferior tribunals of justice for Muslims would fuel Terrorism and make us more unsafe.  What happened to all of that?  Was there a single Democrat or progressive defending military commissions when Bush and Cheney unveiled them as their preferred method for trying Terrorists?  Now, suddenly, Terrorists belong in military commissions -- at GITMO?  So the defining creations of the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld approach are now the centerpieces of the Democratic and media consensus. 

All of these attacks on the Obama administration really leave one wondering:  what is it exactly that Bush and Cheney did wrong?  Was it just the waterboarding (the official authorization for which was withdrawn several years before Bush left office and which, in any event, people like Richard Cohen and Michael Crowley still crave)?  Everything else other than the "enhanced interrogation techniques" was good?   What happened to all the profound talk about how they ruined our image in the world and violated our "core principles" and how we can simultaneously Stay Safe and adhere to our values -- which happened to be a central theme of Obama's successful presidential campaign?  How can Democrats and media stars claim to find Bush and Cheney so distasteful as they simultaneously attack Obama for reversing their defining policies in a few isolated instances?  In the areas of civil liberties and Terrorism, what exactly did Bush and Cheney do wrong?

Glenn Greenwald was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy", examines the Bush legacy.

US Constitution Not Good Enough Reason

The February 3 News-Gazette has an editorial entitled "No civilian trial for 9/11 plotters." It's prefaced by this statement.

"The only place where enemy combatants should be tried, absent a compelling reason to do otherwise, is before a military commission."

Apparently the US Constitution is not "a compelling reason." Small wonder they have so little regard for so many other aspects of our Constitution that affect so many of our citizens. It's something they think is important in our society when there is a "compelling reason."

Military

Military Commissions

President Bush's executive order of November, 2001, had nothing directly to do with the UCMJ or courts-martial. The order allowed the creation of another form of military court, called the military commission. According to the 2001 Law of War Workshop Deskbook (The Judge Advocate General's School, U.S. Army, Charlottesville, Virginia), they have concurrent jurisdiction with general courts-martial, and are often used to prosecute war crimes. According to the Deskbook, "In theory, [commissions] could provide very limited evidentiary and procedural formality ... and a very streamlined appeal process."

In ex parte Quirin (317 US 1 [1942]), the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the use of military commissions for the trial of German agents landed in the United States by U-boat, and who infiltrated inside the country as spies. The Court denied the accused's request of a writ of habeas corpus, finding that the President had been granted the ability to convene the commission by Congress, and that the alleged offenses fell under the law of nations as war crimes (espionage and conspiracy to commit acts of sabotage and terror). One of the agents contended to be a U.S. citizen by way of naturalization of his parents. The Court did not take up the issue of his citizenship, since a citizen who adheres to the enemy and then returns to the U.S. as an agent is acting in violation of the law of war, regardless of his citizenship.

The Court found that the Congress has the power to allow the President to convene a military commission, and that the President then had the power to actually convene a commission. A lawful combatant had to be captured and treated as a prisoner of war according to international convention. An unlawful combatant, such as a spy or a soldier operating without identifying marks, could be tried by a military commission. The practice used during the Second World War had also been used during the Civil War and during the Mexican War.

The question that remains for us, then, is this: is a terrorist, who is not a member of an organized national armed force, an unlawful belligerent in the context of the law? It would seem that taking up arms against a nation and its people is an act of war, whether that war is declared or not. By international convention, war is waged in a certain way, by uniformed soldiers. This is the way of "civilized warfare." Warlike actions taken by non-uniformed soldiers are taken by unlawful belligerent. It can then be argued that an entire network of terrorists, like the al Qaeda network of Osama bin Laden, is an entire network of unlawful belligerents. Based on ex parte Quirin, these people are subject to military commission.

This appears to answer the question of "can it happen," in the legal sense. The question remains, should it be? This is a question that will be answered as these commissions are convened, and we see who is tried under them, what their sentences are, and the kind of access the public has to the proceedings.

 

 

please see http://www.usconstitution.net/consttop_milj.html for further...

On the Claimed 'War Exception' to the Constitution

You've got a big problem with claiming the viability of military commissions because of an existing state of war. There simply isn't one. It would seem such a claim would violate both US and international law and simply dig an even deeper legal hole. More on that a little further down here:

On the Claimed 'War Exception' to the Constitution

by Glenn Greenwald

Last week, I wrote about a revelation buried in a Washington Post article by Dana Priest which described how the Obama administration has adopted the Bush policy of targeting selected American citizens for assassination if they are deemed (by the Executive Branch) to be Terrorists.  As The Washington Times' Eli Lake reports, Adm. Dennis Blair was asked about this program at a Congressional hearing yesterday and he acknowledged its existence:

The U.S. intelligence community policy on killing American citizens who have joined al Qaeda requires first obtaining high-level government approval, a senior official disclosed to Congress on Wednesday.

Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair said in each case a decision to use lethal force against a U.S. citizen must get special permission. . . .

He also said there are criteria that must be met to authorize the killing of a U.S. citizen that include "whether that American is involved in a group that is trying to attack us, whether that American is a threat to other Americans. Those are the factors involved."

Although Blair emphasized that it requires "special permission" before an American citizen can be placed on the assassination list, consider from whom that "permission" is obtained:  the Preisdent, or someone else under his authority within the Executive Branch.  There are no outside checks or limits at all on how these "factors" are weighed.  In last week's post, I wrote about all the reasons why it's so dangerous -- as well as both legally and Consitutionally dubious -- to allow the President to kill American citizens not on an active battlefield during combat, but while they are sleeping, sitting with their families in their home, walking on the street, etc.  That's basically giving the President the power to impose death sentences on his own citizens without any charges or trial.  Who could possibly support that?

But even if you're someone who does want the President to have the power to order American citizens killed without a trial by decreeing that they are Terrorists (and it's worth remembering that if you advocate that power, it's going to be vested in all Presidents, not just the ones who are as Nice, Good, Kind-Hearted and Trustworthy as Barack Obama), shouldn't there at least be some judicial approval required?  Do we really want the President to be able to make this decision unilaterally and without outside checks?  Remember when many Democrats were horrified (or at least when they purported to be) at the idea that Bush was merely eavesdropping on American citizens without judicial approval?  Shouldn't we be at least as concerned about the President's being able to assassinate Americans without judicial oversight?  That seems much more Draconian to me. 

It would be perverse in the extreme, but wouldn't it be preferable to at least require the President to demonstrate to a court that probable cause exists to warrant the assassination of an American citizen before the President should be allowed to order it?  That would basically mean that courts would issue "assassination warrants" or "murder warrants" -- a repugnant idea given that they're tantamount to imposing the death sentence without a trial -- but isn't that minimal safeguard preferable to allowing the President unchecked authority to do it on his own, the very power he has now claimed for himself?  And if the Fifth Amendment's explicit guarantee -- that one shall not be deprived of life without due process -- does not prohibit the U.S. Government from assassinating you without any process, what exactly does it prohibit?  Noting Scott Brown's campaign to deny accused Terrorists access to lawyers and a real trial, Adam Serwer wrote:  

This is the new normal for Republicans: You can be denied rights not through due process of law but merely based on the nature of the crime you are suspected of committing.

That's absolutely true, but that also perfectly describes this assassination program -- as well as a whole host of other now-Democratic policies, from indefinite detention to denial of civilian trials.

* * * * *

The severe dangers of vesting assassination powers in the President are so glaring that even GOP Rep. Pete Hoekstra is able to see them (at least he is now that there's a Democratic President).  At yesterday's hearing, Hoekstra asked Adm. Blair about the threat that the President might order Americans killed due to their Constitutionally protected political speech rather than because they were actually engaged in Terrorism.  This concern is not an abstract one.  The current controversy has been triggered by the Obama administration's attempt to kill U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen.  But al-Awalki has not been accused (let alone convicted) of trying to attack Americans.  Instead, he's accused of being a so-called "radical cleric" who supports Al Qeada and now provides "encouragement" to others to engage in attacks --  a charge al-Awalki's family vehemently denies (al-Awalki himself is in hiding due to fear that his own Government will assassinate him).

The question of where First Amendment-protected radical advocacy ends and criminality begins is exactly the sort of question with which courts have long grappled.  In the 1969 case of Brandenburg v. Ohio, the Supreme Court unanimously reversed a criminal conviction of a Ku Klux Klan leader who -- surrounded by hooded indivduals holding weapons -- gave a speech threatening "revengeance" against any government official who "continues to suppress the white, Caucasian race."  The Court held that the First Amendment protects advocacy of violence and revolution, and that the State is barred from punishing citizens for the expression of such views.  The Brandenberg Court pointed to a long history of precedent protecting the First Amendment rights of Communists to call for revolution -- even violent revolution -- inside the U.S., and explained that the Government can punish someone for violent actions but not for speech that merely advocates or justifies violence (emphasis added):

As we [395 U.S. 444, 448] said in Noto v. United States, 367 U.S. 290, 297 -298 (1961), "the mere abstract teaching . . . of the moral propriety or even moral necessity for a resort to force and violence, is not the same as preparing a group for violent action and steeling it to such action." See also Herndon v. Lowry, 301 U.S. 242, 259 -261 (1937); Bond v. Floyd, 385 U.S. 116, 134 (1966). A statute which fails to draw this distinction impermissibly intrudes upon the freedoms guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments. It sweeps within its condemnation speech which our Constitution has immunized from governmental control.

From all appearances, al-Awalki seems to believe that violence by Muslims against the U.S. is justified in retaliation for the violence the U.S. has long brought (and continues to bring) to the Muslim world.  But as an American citizen, he has the absolute Constitutional right to express those views and not be punished for them (let alone killed) no matter where he is in the world; it's far from clear that he has transgressed the advocacy line into violent action.  Obviously, there are those who justify such assassination powers on the ground that radical Islam is a grave threat, but that is what is always said to justify Constitutional abrigements (it was obviously said of Communists and war critics during World War I).  Indeed, in light of episodes like the Timothy McVeigh bombing and the various attacks on abortion clinics, shouldn't those who want the President to be able to assassinate American "radical clerics" without a trial also support the President's targeting of Americans who advocate extremism or violence from a far right or extremist Christian perspective?  What's the principle that allows one but not the other?

In response to these concerns, Admiral Blair said yesterday:  "We don't target people for free speech. We target them for taking action that threatens Americans or has resulted in it."  But the U.S. Government -- like all governments -- has a long history of viewing "free speech" as a violent threat or even Terrorism.  That's why this is exactly the type of question that is typically -- and is intended to be -- resolved by courts, according the citizen due process, not by the President acting alone.  That's especially true if the death penalty is to be imposed.  

But Obama's presidential assassination policy completely short-circuits that process.  It literally makes Barack Obama the judge, jury and executioner even of American citizens. Beyond its specific application, it is yet another step -- a rather major one -- towards abandoning our basic system of checks and balances in the name of Terrorism and War.

* * * * * 

That last point is the most important one here.  Atrios wrote the other day that a central prong in the Washington consensus is that "all it takes to nullify the constitution is to call someone a terraist."  That's absolutely true, but a close corollary is that merely uttering the word "war" justifies the same thing.  That's particularly dangerous given that, by all accounts, this is a so-called "war" that will not end for a generation, if ever.  To justify the abridgment or even suspension of the Constitution on the ground of "war" is to advocate serious alterations to our Constitutional framework that are more or less permanent.  Several points about that "war" excuse: 

First, there's no "war exception" in the Constitution.  Even with real wars -- i.e., those involving combat between opposing armies -- the Constitution actually continues to constrain what government officials can do, most stringently as it concerns U.S. citizens.  Second, strictly speaking, we're not really "at war," as Congress has merely authorized the use of military force but has not formally or Constitutionally declared war.  Even the Bush administration conceded that this is a vital difference when it comes to legal rights.  In 2006, the Bush DOJ insisted that the wartime provision of FISA -- allowing the Government to eavesdrop for up to 15 days without a warrant -- didn't apply because Congress only enacted an AUMF, not a declaration of war (click image to enlarge):

The Bush DOJ went on to explain that declarations of war trigger a whole variety of legal effects (such as terminating diplomatic relations and abrogating or suspending treaty obligations) which AUMFs do not trigger (see p. 27).  To authorize military force is not to declare war.  Finally, the U.S. is fighting numerous undeclared wars, including ones involving military action:  given that our "War on Drugs" continues to rage, should the U.S. Government be able to target accused "drug kingpins" for assassination without a trial, the way we attempted to do in Afghanistan?  After all, Terrorists blow up airplanes but Drug Kingpins kill our kids!!!  The mindset that cheers for unlimited Presidential powers in the name of "war" invariably leads to exactly these sorts of expansions.

Far beyond the specific injustices of assassinating Americans without trials, the real significance, the real danger, is that we continue to be frightened into radically altering our system of government.  In Slate yesterday, Dahlia Lithwick encapsulated this problem perfectly; her whole article should be read, but this excerpt is superb:

America has slid back again into its own special brand of terrorism-derangement syndrome. Each time this condition recurs, it presents with more acute and puzzling symptoms. . . .

Moreover, each time Republicans go to their terrorism crazy-place, they go just a little bit farther than they did the last time, so that things that made us feel safe last year make us feel vulnerable today. . . . In short, what was once tough on terror is now soft on terror. And each time the Republicans move their own crazy-place goal posts, the Obama administration moves right along with them. . . .

We're terrified when a terror attack happens, and we're also terrified when it's thwarted. We're terrified when we give terrorists trials, and we're terrified when we warehouse them at Guantanamo without trials. If a terrorist cooperates without being tortured we complain about how much more he would have cooperated if he hadn't been read his rights. No matter how tough we've been on terror, we will never feel safe enough to ask for fewer safeguards. . . .

But here's the paradox: It's not a terrorist's time bomb that's ticking. It's us. Since 9/11, we have become ever more willing to suspend basic protections and more contemptuous of American traditions and institutions. The failed Christmas bombing and its political aftermath have revealed that the terrorists have changed very little in the eight-plus years since the World Trade Center fell. What's changing -- what's slowly ticking its way down to zero -- is our own certainty that we can never be safe enough and our own confidence in the rule of law.

This descent has certainly not reversed itself -- it has not really even slowed -- with the election of a President who repeatedly vowed to reject this mentality.  Just consider what Al Gore said in his truly excellent 2006 speech decrying the "Constitutional crisis" under the Bush presdiency:

Can it be true that any president really has such powers under our Constitution?

If the answer is yes, then under the theory by which these acts are committed, are there any acts that can on their face be prohibited?

If the president has the inherent authority to eavesdrop on American citizens without a warrant, imprison American citizens on his own declaration, kidnap and torture, then what can't he do?

Here we are, almost four years later with a new party in power, and the President's top intelligence official announces -- without any real controversy -- that the President claims the power to assassinate American citizens with no charges, no trials, no judicial oversight of any kind.  The claimed power isn't "inherent" -- it's based on alleged Congressional approval -- but it's safeguard-free and due-process-free just the same.  As Gore asked of less severe policies in 2006, if the President can do that, "then what can't he do?"  As long as we stay petrified of the Terrorists and wholly submissive whenever the word "war" is uttered, the answer will continue to be:  "nothing."  We'll have Presidents now and then who are marginally more restrained than others -- as the current President is marginally more restrained than the prior one -- but what Lithwick calls our "willingness to suspend basic protections and become more contemptuous of American traditions and institutions" will continue unabated.

Glenn Greenwald was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy", examines the Bush legacy.

Military Commission Crap

There is something else that stinks about using the military commission crap as a way to skate around the rule of law. The reason it is usually invoked is because of the press of time and limited resources available on the battle field.

In none of the cases in the US, in Afghanistan, or anywhere else can a credible case be made that the press of time or because of a shortage of resources has it been shown that there has been any need to relax the legal standards enshrined in our Constitution.

Sure, there has been a lot of pleading related solely to political expediency. But using the Constitution for political asswipe is NOT a good reason for disrespecting our established system of justice.

The Lynch Mob Mentality

by Glenn Greenwald

If I had the power to have one statement of fact be universally recognized in our political discussions, it would be this one:

The fact that the Government labels Person X a "Terrorist" is not proof that Person X is, in fact, a Terrorist.

That proposition should be intrinsically understood by any American who completed sixth grade civics and was thus taught that a central prong of our political system is that government officials often abuse their power and/or err and therefore must prove accusations to be true (with tested evidence) before they're assumed to be true and the person punished accordingly.  In particular, the fact that the U.S. Government, over and over, has falsely accused numerous people of being Terrorists -- only for it to turn out that they did nothing wrong -- by itself should compel a recognition of this truth.  But it doesn't.  

All throughout the Bush years, no matter what one objected to -- illegal eavesdropping, torture, rendition, indefinite detention, denial of civilian trials -- the response from Bush followers was the same:  "But these are Terrorists, and Terrorists have no rights, so who cares what is done to them?"  What they actually meant was:  "the Government has claimed they are Terrorists," but in their minds, that was the same thing as:  "they are Terrorists."  They recognized no distinction between "a government accusation" and "unchallengeable truth"; in the authoritarian's mind, by definition, those are synonymous.  The whole point of the Bush-era controversies was that -- away from an actual battlefield and where the Constitution applies (on U.S. soil and/or towards American citizens wherever they are) -- the Government should have to demonstrate someone's guilt before it's assumed (e.g., they should have to show probable cause to a court and obtain warrants before eavesdropping; they should have to offer evidence that a person engaged in Terrorism before locking them in a cage, etc.).  But to someone who equates unproven government accusations with proof, those processes are entirely unnecessary.  Even in the absence of those processes, they already know that these persons are Terrorists.  How do they know that?  Because the Government said so.  Even when it comes to their fellow citizens, that's all the "proof" that is needed.

That authoritarian mentality is stronger than ever now.  Why?  Because unlike during the Bush years, when it was primarily Republicans willing to blindly trust Government accusations, many Democrats are now willing to do so as well.  Just look at the reaction to the Government's recent attempts to assassinate the U.S.-born American citizen and Islamic cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.  Up until last November, virtually no Americans had ever even heard of al-Awlaki.  But in the past few months, beginning with the Fort Hood shootings, government officials have repeatedly claimed that he's a Terrorist:  usually anonymously, with virtually no evidence, and in the face of al-Awlaki's vehement denials but without any opportunity for him to defend himself (because he's in hiding out of fear of being killed by his own Government).  The Government can literally just flash someone's face on the TV screen with the word Terrorist over it (as was done with al-Awlaki), and provided the face is nefarious and Muslim-looking enough (basically the same thing), nothing else need be offered.

That's enough for many people -- including many Democrats -- to march forward overnight and mindlessly proclaim that al-Awlaki is "a declared enemy of the United States working to kill Americans" (if you can stomach it, read some of these comments -- from Obama defenders at a liberal blog -- with several sounding exactly like Dick Cheney, screeching:  "Of course al-Awlaki should be killed without charges; he's a Terrorist who is trying to kill Americans!!!").  Even now, beyond government assertions about his associations, the public knows virtually nothing about al-Awlaki other than the fact that he's a Muslim cleric with a Muslim name dressed in Muslim garb, sitting in a Bad Arab Country expressing anger towards the actions of the U.S. and Israel.  But no matter.  That's more than enough.  They're willing not only to mindlessly embrace the Government's unproven accusation that their fellow citizen is a TERRORIST ("a declared enemy of the United States working to kill Americans"), but even beyond that, to cheer for his due-process-free execution like drunken fans at a football game.  And the same people declare:  no civilian trials are necessary for Terrorists (meaning:  people accused by the Government of being Terrorists).  Even more amazingly, the identities of the other Americans on the hit list aren't even known, but that's OK:  they're Terrorists, because the Government said so.

A very long time ago, I would be baffled when I'd read about things like the Salem witch hunts.  How could so many people be collectively worked up into that level of irrational frenzy, where they cheered for people's torturous death as "witches" without any real due process or meaningful evidence?  But all one has to do is look at our current Terrorism debates and it's easy to see how things like that happen.  It's just pure mob mentality:  an authority figure appears and affixes a demonizing Other label to someone's forehead, and the adoring crowd -- frothing-at-the-mouth and feeding on each other's hatred, fears and desire to be lead -- demands "justice."  I imagine that if one could travel back in time to the Salem era in order to speak with some of those gathered outside an accused witch's home, screaming for her to be burned, the conversation would go something like this:

Mob Participant:  Hang the Witch!!!  Kill her!!!

Far Left Civil Liberties Extremist-Purist ("FLCLE-P"):  How do you know she's a witch?

Mob Participant:  Didn't you just hear the government official say so?

FLCLE-P:  But don't you want to see real evidence before you assume that's true and call for her death?

Mob Participant:  You just heard the evidence!  The magistrate said she's a witch!

FLCLE-P:  But shouldn't there be a real trial first, with tangible evidence and due process protections, to see if the accusation is actually true?

Mob Participant:  A "real" trial?  She's a witch!  She's trying to curse us and kill us all.  She got more than what she deserved.  Witches don't have rights!!!

Return to Question 1.

That's essentially how I hear our debates over Terrorism, and how I've heard them for quite some time.  And it's how I hear them more loudly now than ever before.  And with those deeply confused premises now locked into place on a bipartisan basis ("no trials are needed to determine if someone is a Terrorist because Terrorists don't have rights"), imagine how much louder that will get if there is another successful terrorist attack in the U.S.  But in fairness to the 17th Century Puritans, at least the Salem witches received pretenses of due process and even trials (albeit with coerced confessions and speculative hearsay).  Even when it comes to our fellow citizens, we don't even bother with those.  For us, the mere accusation by our leaders is sufficient:  Kill that American Terrorist with a drone!

 

UPDATE:  A long-time, regular commenter here, Jestaplero, is a state prosecutor in New York, and he explains -- in this comment -- how the mentality discussed here can and does easily expand beyond the realm of Terrorism.

Interestingly, even Allahpundit at Michelle Malkin's Hot Air recognizes the serious dangers in allowing the Government to decree even U.S. citizens to be "Terrorists" and then treat them accordingly, with no due process.  But note how his right-wing commenters are almost exclusively of the "just-kill-him" school of thought, and how identical they sound to that minority of Daily Kos commenters I linked above who, in their blind loyalty to Obama, also insist that there's nothing wrong with simply snuffing out their lives of their fellow citizens who are "Terrorists" (meaning:  anyone their Leader claims is a Terrorist) with no due process or oversight whatsoever.  Ultimately, authoritarians are authoritarians, regardless of whether they situate themselves on the left or right.

Glenn Greenwald was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy", examines the Bush legacy.

Legal Experts Slam "Targeted Killings" of US Citizens

by William Fisher

NEW YORK - Civil liberties advocates and legal authorities struck back Friday at what they describe as the "deliberate targeted killing of U.S. citizens far away from any active hostilities, as long as the executive branch determines unilaterally that they meet a secret definition of who the enemy is."

In an admission that took the intelligence community and its critics by surprise, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair acknowledged in a congressional hearing Wednesday that the U.S. may, with executive approval, deliberately target and kill U.S. citizens who are suspected of being involved in terrorism.

The American Civil Liberties Union is among those expressing serious concern about the lack of public information about the policy and the potential for abuse of unchecked executive power.

Attorney George Brent Mickum, who has defended a number of Guantanamo Bay detainees, told IPS, "I guess my sense is that it's just more fear mongering. They kill somebody and don't need to offer any justification."

"We have killed thousands of innocent civilians while attempting to target alleged operatives. And let us not forget how frequently our intelligence has been wrong about alleged operatives," Mickum noted.

He added, "My clients Bisher al Rawi, Jamil el-Banna, Martin Mubanga, abu Zubaydah, and Shaker Aamer all are alleged to have been operatives based on intel. In every case that intel was incorrect. I don't have any expectation that our intel with respect to alleged American operatives is likely to be any better."

Another constitutional scholar, Professor Francis A. Boyle of the University of Illinois Law School, told IPS that "this extrajudicial execution of human beings" violates both international human rights law and the fifth amendment of the U.S. constitution.

"The U.S. government has now established a 'death list' for U.S. citizens abroad akin to those established by Latin American dictatorships during their so-called dirty wars," he said.

The human rights advocacy community was equally forceful in its pushback. Daphne Eviatar, an attorney with Human Rights First, told IPS, "The short answer is that combatants can be targeted and civilians cannot under international law. Their citizenship isn't relevant. But just being a 'suspected terrorist' doesn't necessarily mean they're a combatant."

She added, "The key question, and where there may be serious disagreement, is whether the person targeted is 'directly participating in hostilities'. If not, and they're targeted, it's a war crime."

Chip Pitts, president of the Bill of Rights Defence Committee, told IPS, "As with its embrace of the [George W.] Bush approach to indefinite detention, the Obama administration's even greater reliance on targeted extra-judicial killing - including of U.S. citizens - is a tragic legal, moral, and practical mistake."

"Even for those who accept the legitimacy of the death penalty, this further undermines the rule of law that is our best weapon in the fight against true terrorists, while completely subverting due process and constitutional rights of U.S. citizens," he said.

Ben Wizner, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project, said, "It is alarming to hear that the Obama administration is asserting that the president can authorise the assassination of Americans abroad, even if they are far from any battlefield and may have never taken up arms against the U.S., but have only been deemed to constitute an unspecified 'threat.'"

Testifying before the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, Blair said, "We take direct action against terrorists in the intelligence community."

He said U.S. counterterrorism officials may try to kill U.S. citizens embroiled in extremist groups overseas with "specific permission" from higher up.

In response to questions from the panel's top Republican, Rep. Pete Hoekstra of Michigan, Blair said, if "we think that direct action will involve killing an American, we get specific permission to do that."

Blair's remarks followed a Washington Post article reporting that U.S. President Barack Obama had embraced his predecessor's policy of authorising the killing of U.S. citizens involved in terrorist activities overseas.

The Post reported that "After the Sep. 11, 2001, attacks, Bush gave the CIA, and later the military, authority to kill U.S. citizens abroad if strong evidence existed that an American was involved in organizing or carrying out terrorist actions against the United States or U.S. interests, military and intelligence officials said. The evidence has to meet a certain, defined threshold. The person, for example, has to pose 'a continuing and imminent threat' to U.S. persons and interests."

The Obama administration appears to have adopted exactly the same policy as its predecessor.

The Post, citing anonymous U.S. officials, said the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Joint Special Operations Command have three U.S. citizens on their lists of specific people targeted for killing or capture.

Blair said he was offering such unusually detailed information in public because "I just don't want other Americans who are watching to think that we are careless."

Blair didn't specifically articulate the standards he used, saying only that "We don't target people for free speech. We target them for taking action that threatens Americans."

Hoekstra cited an incident in 2001 in which Peru's air force shot down a plane carrying U.S. missionaries, killing a woman and her seven-month-old daughter, after the aircraft was misidentified as a drug-smuggler.

"We were careless and we were reckless," Blair replied. "I want to make sure that this committee does everything that it can and within its power that it does not allow the community to be reckless and careless again."

The Washington Post story, by Pulitzer Prize-winner Dana Priest, revealed that, "In November 2002, a CIA missile strike killed six al Qaeda operatives driving through the desert. The target was Abu Ali al-Harithi, organiser of the 2000 attack on the USS Cole. Killed with him was a U.S. citizen, Kamal Derwish, who the CIA knew was in the car."

The article says, "Word that the CIA had purposefully killed Derwish drew attention to the unconventional nature of the new conflict and to the secret legal deliberations over whether killing a U.S. citizen was legal and ethical."

Binyam Mohamed Torture Evidence Must Be Revealed, Judges Rule

Court of appeal ruling compels British government to disclose what MI5 knew of refugee's treatment in Guantánamo Bay

by Richard Norton-Taylor

Three of Britain's most senior judges have ordered the government to reveal evidence of MI5 complicity in the torture of British resident Binyam Mohamed - unanimously dismissing objections by David Miliband, the foreign secretary.

In a ruling that will cause deep anxiety among the security and intelligence agencies, they rejected Miliband's claims, backed by the US government, that disclosure of a seven-paragraph summary of classified CIA information showing what British agents knew of Mohamed's torture would threaten intelligence sharing between London and Washington, and therefore endanger Britain's national security.

One of the key paragraphs states that there "could readily be contended to be at the very least cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of Binyam Mohamed by the United States authorities".

The judges - Sir Igor Judge, the lord chief justice; Lord Neuberger, the master of the rolls; and Sir Anthony May, president of the Queen's Bench - shattered the convention that the courts should not question claims by the executive relating to national security.

In damning references to claims made by Miliband and his lawyers, and stressing the importance of the media in supporting the principle of open justice, they said the case raised issues of "fundamental importance", of "democratic accountability and ultimately the rule of law itself".

Publication of the material Miliband wanted to suppress was "compelling", Judge said, since they concerned the involvement of wrongdoing by agents of the state in the "abhorrent practice of torture". The material helped to "vindicate Mr Mohamed's assertion that UK authorities had been involved in and facilitated the ill- treatment and torture to which he was subjected while under the control of USA authorities".

The disputed paragraphs have now been published by the Foreign Office.

Miliband said in a statement: "The government accepts the decision of the court of appeal that in the light of disclosures in the US court, it should publish the seven paragraphs at issue in the case of Binyam Mohamed.

"At the heart of this case was the principle that if a country shares intelligence with another, that country must agree before its intelligence is released.

"This 'control principle' is essential to the intelligence relationship between Britain and the US.

"The government fought the case to preserve this principle, and today's judgment upholds it.

"It agreed that the control principle is integral to intelligence sharing. The court has today ordered the publication of the seven paragraphs because in its view their substance had been put into the public domain by a decision of a US court in another case.

"Without that disclosure, it is clear that the court of appeal would have overturned the divisional court's decision to publish the material.

"The government has made sustained and successful efforts to ensure Mr Mohamed's legal counsel had full access to the material in question.

"We remain determined to uphold our very strong commitment against mistreatment of any kind."

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "Under the terms of the embargo we were permitted by the court to notify a small number of US officials in advance of this judgment. We have done so.

"The foreign secretary spoke last night to Hillary Clinton. He stressed to her that the court had strongly supported the control principle and would have agreed with HMG [her majesty's government] had it not been for the Kessler judgment in the US court last December, which had effectively disclosed the material in the seven paragraphs.

"The foreign secretary and the secretary of state reaffirmed the importance of the US-UK intelligence relationship."

Shami Chakrabarti, the director of Liberty, said the ruling and revelations made a public inquiry "inescapable".

"It has been clear for over a year that the Foreign Office has been more concerned with saving face than exposing torture.

"These embarrassing paragraphs reveal nothing of use to terrorists but they do show something of the UK government's complicity with the most shameful part of the war on terror.

"The government has gone to extraordinary lengths to cover up kidnap and torture. A full public inquiry is now inescapable."

Key to the appeal court's ruling was a recent case in a US court where the judge noted that Mohamed's "trauma lasted for two long years. During that time he was physically and psychologically tortured. His genitals were mutilated ... All the while he was forced to inculpate himself and others in various plots to imperil Americans."

The US court, which was hearing a case relating to another detainee at Guantánamo Bay, noted that Mohamed was told "that the British government knew of his situation and sanctioned his detention".

An MI5 officer known only as Witness B is being investigated by the Metropolitan police over his alleged role in questioning Mohamed incommunicado in a Pakistan jail.

The whole basis of Miliband's case had "fallen away" because of the US court case, said Neuberger, who added: "It is a case which is now logically incoherent and therefore irrational and is not based on any convincing evidence."

In his ruling , May said: "In principle a real risk of serious damage to national security, of whatever degree, should not automatically trump a public interest in open justice which may concern a degree of facilitation by UK officials of interrogation using unlawful techniques which may amount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment."

In a stinging reference to claims by Jonathan Sumption QC, Miliband's counsel, that high court judges in earlier rulings were "irresponsible" in saying that CIA intelligence relating to ill treatment and torture and Britain's knowledge of it should be disclosed, the lord chief justice said: "No advantage is achieved by bandying deprecatory epithets."

Mohamed was detained in 2002 in Pakistan, where he was questioned incommunicado by an MI5 officer. The US flew him to Morocco, Afghanistan, and Guantánamo Bay, where he says he was tortured with the knowledge of British agencies.

In the high court last year, Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Lloyd Jones ruled that it was clear from the evidence "that the relationship of the United Kingdom government to the United States authorities in connection with Binyam Mohamed was far beyond that of a bystander or witness to the alleged wrongdoing".

Here are the seven paragraphs that were blanked out in earlier proceedings:

It was reported that a new series of interviews was conducted by the United States authorities prior to 17 May 2002 as part of a new strategy designed by an expert interviewer.

v) It was reported that at some stage during that further interview process by the United States authorities, BM had been intentionally subjected to continuous sleep deprivation. The effects of the sleep deprivation were carefully observed.

vi) It was reported that combined with the sleep deprivation, threats and inducements were made to him. His fears of being removed from United States custody and "disappearing" were played upon.

vii) It was reported that the stress brought about by these deliberate tactics was increased by him being shackled in his interviews

viii) It was clear not only from the reports of the content of the interviews but also from the report that he was being kept under self-harm observation, that the interviews were having a marked effect upon him and causing him significant mental stress and suffering.

ix) We regret to have to conclude that the reports provide to the SyS [security services] made clear to anyone reading them that BM was being subjected to the treatment that we have described and the effect upon him of that intentional treatment.

x) The treatment reported, if had been administered on behalf of the United Kingdom, would clearly have been in breach of the undertakings given by the United Kingdom in 1972. Although it is not necessary for us to categorise the treatment reported, it could readily be contended to be at the very least cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by the United States authorities.

Read David Miliband's statement on the appeal ruling

 

Cheney Exposes Torture Conspiracy

 

Cheney Exposes Torture Conspiracy

By

Robert Parry

February 14, 2010

If the United States had a functioning criminal justice system for the powerful – not just for run-of-the-mill offenders – former Vice President Dick Cheney would have convicted himself and some of his Bush administration colleagues with his comments on ABC’s “This Week.”

On Sunday, Cheney pronounced himself “a big supporter of waterboarding,” a near-drowning technique that has been regarded as torture back to the Spanish Inquisition and that has long been treated by U.S. authorities as a serious war crime, such as when Japanese commanders were prosecuted for using it on American prisoners during World War II.

Cheney was unrepentant about his support for the technique. He answered with an emphatic "yes" when asked if he had opposed the Bush administration’s decision to suspend the use of waterboarding – after it was employed against three “high-value detainees” sometimes in repetitive sequences. He added that waterboarding should still be “on the table” today.

Cheney then went further. Speaking with a sense of impunity, he casually negated a key line of defense that senior Bush officials had hidden behind for years – that the brutal interrogations were approved by independent Justice Department legal experts who thus gave the administration a legitimate reason to believe the actions were within the law.

However, on Sunday, Cheney acknowledged that the White House had told the Justice Department lawyers what legal opinions to render. In other words, the opinions amounted to ordered-up lawyering to permit the administration to do whatever it wanted.

In responding to a question about why he had so aggressively attacked President Barack Obama’s counter-terrorism policies, Cheney explained that he had been concerned about the new administration prosecuting some CIA operatives who had handled the interrogations and “disbarring lawyers with the Justice Department who had helped us put those policies together. …

“I thought it was important for some senior person in the administration to stand up and defend those people who’d done what we asked them to do.”

Cheney’s comment about the Justice lawyers who had “done what we asked them to do” was an apparent reference to John Yoo and his boss, Jay Bybee, at the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), a powerful agency that advises the President on the limits of his power.

In 2002, Yoo – while working closely with White House officials – drafted legal memos that permitted waterboarding and other brutal techniques by narrowly defining torture. He also authored legal opinions that asserted virtual dictatorial powers for a President during war, even one as vaguely defined as the “war on terror.” Yoo’s key memos were then signed by Bybee.

In 2003, after Yoo left to be a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley and Bybee was elevated to a federal appeals court judgeship in San Francisco, their successors withdrew the memos because of the sloppy scholarship. However, in 2005, President George W. Bush appointed a new acting chief of the OLC, Steven Bradbury, who restored many of the Yoo-Bybee opinions.

Legal Fig Leaf

In the years that followed, Bush administration officials repeatedly cited the Yoo-Bybee-Bradbury legal guidance when insisting that the “enhanced interrogation” of “war on terror” detainees – as well as prisoners from the Iraq and Afghan wars – did not cross the line into torture.

In essence, the Bush-Cheney defense was that the OLC lawyers offered honest opinions and that everyone from the President and Vice President, who approved use of the interrogation techniques, down to the CIA interrogators, who conducted the torture, operated in good faith.

If, however, that narrative proved to be false – if the lawyers had colluded with the policymakers to create legal excuses for criminal acts – then the Bush-Cheney defense would collapse. Rather than diligent lawyers providing professional advice, the picture would be of Mob consiglieres counseling crime bosses how to evade the law.

Though Bush administration defenders have long denied that the legal opinions were cooked, the evidence has long supported the conspiratorial interpretation. For instance, in his 2006 book War by Other Means, Yoo himself described his involvement in frequent White House meetings regarding what “other means” should receive a legal stamp of approval. Yoo wrote:

“As the White House held its procession of Christmas parties and receptions in December 2001, senior lawyers from the Attorney General’s office, the White House counsel’s office, the Departments of State and Defense and the NSC [National Security Council] met a few floors away to discuss the work on our opinion. …

“This group of lawyers would meet repeatedly over the next months to develop policy on the war on terrorism. "

Yoo said meetings were usually chaired by Alberto Gonzales, who was then White House counsel and later became Bush’s second Attorney General. Yoo identified other key players as Timothy Flanigan, Gonzales’s deputy; William Howard Taft IV from State; John Bellinger from the NSC; William “Jim” Haynes from the Pentagon; and David Addington, counsel to Cheney.

Yoo’s Account

In his book, Yoo described a give-and-take among participants at the meeting with the State Department’s Taft challenging Yoo’s OLC view that Bush could waive the Geneva Conventions regarding the invasion of Afghanistan (by labeling it a “failed state”). Taft noted that the Taliban was the recognized government of the country.

“We thought Taft’s memo represented the typically conservative thinking of foreign ministries, which places a priority on stabilizing relations with other states – even if it means creating or maintaining fictions – rather than adapting to new circumstances,” Yoo wrote.

Regarding objections from the Pentagon’s judge advocate generals – who feared that waiving the Geneva Conventions would endanger American soldiers – Yoo again stressed policy concerns, not legal logic.

“It was far from obvious that following the Geneva Conventions in the war against al-Qaeda would be wise,” Yoo wrote. “Our policy makers had to ask whether [compliance] would yield any benefit or act as a hindrance.”

What Yoo’s book and other evidence make clear is that the lawyers from the Justice Department’s OLC weren’t just legal scholars handing down opinions from an ivory tower; they were participants in how to make Bush’s desired actions “legal.”

They were the lawyerly equivalents of those U.S. intelligence analysts, who – in the words of the British “Downing Street Memo” – “fixed” the facts around Bush’s desire to justify invading Iraq.

The importance of this question – whether the OLC lawyers were honest brokers or criminal conspirators – was not missed by some of the congressional leaders who pressed for a serious investigation of Bush’s use of torture and other war crimes.

Two years ago, Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island, wrote a letter to the Justice Department’s watchdog agencies requesting an investigation into the role that “Justice Department officials [played] in authorizing and/or overseeing the use of waterboarding by the Central Intelligence Agency... and whether those who authorized it violated the law.”

In the Feb. 12, 2008, letter, the senators questioned whether the OLC lawyers were “insulated from outside pressure to reach a particular conclusion” and whether Bush’s White House and the CIA played any role in influencing “deliberations about the lawfulness of waterboarding,” a technique that creates the sensation of drowning.

Whitehouse, a former federal prosecutor, said those questions were designed to get to the point that having in-house lawyers dream up a legal argument doesn’t make an action legal, especially if the lawyers were somehow induced to produce the opinion.

Defining Torture

In the case of waterboarding and other abusive interrogation tactics, Yoo and Bybee generated a memo, dated Aug. 1, 2002, that came up with a novel and narrow definition of torture, essentially lifting the language from an unrelated law regarding health benefits.

The Yoo-Bybee legal opinion stated that unless the amount of pain administered to a detainee led to injuries that might result in "death, organ failure, or serious impairment of body functions" then the interrogation technique could not be defined as torture.

Since waterboarding is not intended to cause death or organ failure – only the panicked gag reflex associated with drowning – it was deemed not to be torture.

The “torture memo” and related legal opinions were considered so unprofessional that Bybee’s replacement to head the OLC, Jack Goldsmith, himself a conservative Republican, took the extraordinary step of withdrawing them after he was appointed in October 2003.

However, Goldsmith was pushed out of his job after a confrontation with Cheney’s counsel Addington, and the later appointment of Bradbury enabled the Bush White House to reinstate many of the Yoo-Bybee opinions.

Last month, Newsweek reported that Yoo and Bybee had avoided any disciplinary recommendations because a draft report by the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility had been rewritten to remove harsh criticism that the two lawyers had violated professional standards, softening the language to simple criticism of their judgment.

The weaker language meant that the Justice Department would not refer the cases to state bar associations for possible disbarment proceedings.

Cheney’s frank comments on “This Week” – corroborating that Yoo and Bybee “had done what we asked them to do” – suggest that former Bush administration officials are confident that they will face no accountability from the Obama administration for war crimes.

Though the ABC News interviewer Jonathan Karl deserves some credit for posing the waterboarding question to Cheney, it was notable that Karl didn’t react with any shock or even a follow-up when Cheney pronounced himself a fan of the torture practice. Cheney’s waterboarding endorsement was only a footnote in ABC’s online account of the interview.  

Surely, if a leader of another country had called himself “a big supporter of waterboarding,” there would have been a clamor for his immediate arrest and trial at The Hague.

That Cheney feels he can operate with such impunity is a damning commentary on the rule of law in the United States, at least when it comes to the nation’s elites.

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth' are also available there.

http://www.consortiumnews.com

Seven Paragraphs

New York Times Editorial

[Better late than never]

There are times when governments fight to keep documents secret to protect sensitive intelligence or other vital national security interests. And there are times when they are just trying to cover up incompetence, misbehavior or lawbreaking.

Last week, when a British court released secret intelligence material relating to the torture allegations of a former Guantánamo prisoner, Binyam Mohamed, it was clear that the second motive had been in play when both the Bush and the Obama administrations and some high-ranking British officials tried to prevent the disclosure.

Mr. Mohamed, an Ethiopian-born British resident, is a victim of President George W. Bush’s extraordinary rendition program, under which foreigners were kidnapped and flown to other countries for interrogation and torture. He was subjected to physical and psychological abuse in Pakistan, Morocco and a C.I.A.-run prison outside Kabul before being sent to Guantánamo. His seven-year ordeal ended when he was freed last February.

At issue in the British court were seven paragraphs derived from American intelligence documents. The Bush administration claimed the material contained top-secret information and threatened to cut off intelligence sharing with Britain if it was released. Last year, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton repeated those threats, despite President Obama’s campaign promises of openness and the rule of law in his detainee policy.

The paragraphs contained no real secrets. Mainly, the document — a summary of information that American intelligence provided to Britain’s security service, MI5 — echoes previous disclosures by the C.I.A. and Mr. Mohamed’s harrowing account of his ordeal.

But what it does contain is the assessment by British intelligence that his treatment violated legal prohibitions against torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of prisoners.

A spokesman for President Obama expressed “deep disappointment” in the court’s decision, which might have been shocking except that Mr. Obama has refused to support any real investigation of Mr. Bush’s lawless detention policies. His lawyers have tried to shut down court cases filed by victims of those policies, with the same extravagant claims of state secrets and executive power that Mr. Bush made.

The full Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is weighing the Justice Department’s attempt to shut down a civil lawsuit brought by Mr. Mohamed and four others — on a flimsy national security claim that has been rendered even flimsier by the British court.

Then there is the case of Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian citizen who was seized at Kennedy Airport by federal agents acting on bad information. After being harshly interrogated, he was sent to Syria, where he was tortured. In November, Mr. Arar’s civil suit was dismissed by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which essentially bought the Bush administration’s bogus national security claims, extended under Mr. Obama. Mr. Arar has appealed to the Supreme Court. Rather than fight, the Obama administration should offer an apology and a monetary settlement like Canada did three years ago.

It has always been true that a real accounting of the Bush administration’s abuses is vital if Mr. Obama truly wants to repair them and try to prevent them from recurring. It is more important than ever now, when the Republican right is trying hard to turn the clock back to those dark times by painting Democrats as “soft on terror” during an election year.

Copyright 2010 New York Times

Yoo Called Civilian Slaughter OK

A state without a legal system capable of dealing with those who commit, aid or assist in the commission of war crimes in or among military, paramilitary, or police forces or on territories under its control may find that internationals courts or the courts in other nations may choose to enforce applicable international law against those involved in such crimes.

Yoo Called Civilian Slaughter OK

by Jason Leopold

Former Justice Department lawyer John Yoo argued that President George W. Bush's commander-in-chief powers were so sweeping that he could willfully order the massacre of civilians, yet Yoo's culpability in Bush administration abuses was deemed "poor judgment," not a violation of "professional standards."

That downgrading of criticism by the Justice Department - regarding the legal advice from Yoo and his boss at the Office of Legal Counsel, Jay Bybee, to Bush's White House and the CIA - means that the department will not refer them to state bar associations for possible disbarment as lawyers.

But an earlier version of the report by the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility concluded that the legal advice warranted the sterner conclusion and thus possible disbarment.

The judgment was softened by career prosecutor David Margolis, who was put in charge of the final recommendations and who said he was "unpersuaded" by OPR's "misconduct" conclusion, which faulted Yoo and Bybee for their approval of brutal interrogation techniques that were used against terrorism suspects after the 9/11 attacks.

Legal opinions written by Yoo in 2002 and signed by Bybee cleared the way for the Bush administration to subject detainees to the near drowning of waterboarding and other painful treatment at the hands of CIA interrogators.

Waterboarding and some of the other measures, such as slamming detainees against walls and depriving them of sleep, have long been considered acts of torture and have been treated as war crimes in other circumstances. However, Yoo - working closely with Bush administration officials - claimed that the techniques did not violate U.S. criminal laws and international treaties forbidding torture.

Further, Yoo asserted that Bush's presidential powers were virtually unlimited in wartime, even a conflict as vaguely defined as the "war on terror."

The OPR report included an exchange between an OPR investigator and Yoo regarding what he referred to as the "bad things opinion," what Yoo felt the President could do in wartime.

"What about ordering a village of [resistance] to be massacred?" an OPR investigator asked Yoo. "Is that a power that the president could legally-"

"Yeah," Yoo said.

"To order a village of civilians to be [exterminated]?" the questioner replied.

"Sure," Yoo said.

But Margolis, who suggested Yoo and Bybee's flawed legal work was due to efforts to prevent another 9/11, dropped OPR's "misconduct" conclusions.

Despite dozens of cases highlighted in the report that showed Yoo twisted the law in order to advance the Bush administration's torture policy, Margolis said he did "not believe the evidence establishes [that Yoo] set about to knowingly provide inaccurate legal advice to his client or that he acted with conscious indifference to the consequences of his actions."

Still, Margolis said Yoo had behaved as an advocate for an extreme theory of presidential power.

"While I have declined to adopt OPR's findings of misconduct, I fear that John Yoo's loyalty to his own ideology and convictions clouded his view of his obligation to his client and led him to author opinions that reflected his own extreme, albeit sincerely held, view of executive power while speaking for an institutional client," Margolis added.

"These memos contained some significant flaws," Margolis said. "But as all that glitters is not gold, all flaws do not constitute professional misconduct." He left it to the bar associations in the District of Columbia and Pennsylvania to decide whether to take up the issue of further discipline.

Yoo is a law professor at UC Berkeley and Bybee is a 9th Circuit Appeals Court judge.

In the OPR report, Yoo was found to have "committed intentional professional misconduct when he violated his duty to exercise independent legal judgment and render thorough, objective, and candid legal advice."

Bybee was found to have "committed professional misconduct when he acted in reckless disregard of his duty to exercise independent legal judgment and render thorough, objective, and candid legal advice."

Former Justice Department Steven Bradbury also authored several torture memos and was another subject of the OPR probe. But the report did not accuse him of ethical violations.

Former Attorney General John Ashcroft and Michael Chertoff, who was head of the Justice Department's criminal division at the time the torture memos were prepared, were also criticized for not conducting a critical legal analysis of the memos, though neither was charged with misconduct. Ashcroft refused to cooperate with the investigation.

Yoo's attorney, Miguel Estrada, said in an Oct. 9, 2009, rebuttal to the OPR report that "this perversion of the professional rules and myopic pursuit of Professor Yoo and Judge Bybee, can be explained only by a desire to settle a score over Bush administration policies in the war on terror."

"Policy disputes are for the ballot box, not for the bar," Estrada said. "Professor Yoo and Judge Bybee did nothing more than provide a good-faith assessment of the legality of a program deemed vital to our national security."

However, Estrada acknowledged that Yoo and Bybee were well aware of what the CIA hoped to do to the detainees.

"Of course the attorneys at OLC knew what the CIA wanted, since they knew the agency was attempting to get information to thwart further terrorist attacks, and indeed OLC obviously was being asked to opine on specific interrogation techniques that it knew the CIA wished to use if it legally could do so," he said.

An earlier version of the OPR report rejected the argument that pressures associated with the 9/11 attacks justified the Yoo-Bybee opinions.

"Situations of great stress, danger and fear do not relieve department attorneys of their duty to provide thorough, objective and candid legal advice, even if that advice is not what the client wants to hear," said an earlier draft from OPR chief Mary Patrice Brown.

Her report was sharply critical of the legal work that went into the so-called torture memos and found that Yoo-Bybee analysis lacked "thoroughness, objectivity and candor."

OPR investigators also noted that during their four-and-a-half year probe, they were unable to obtain all of the evidence they needed. For example, they said "most" of Yoo's e-mails during the critical time period of August 2002 when the memos were drafted "had been deleted and were not recoverable."

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, whose office released the report, said he will hold a hearing in the weeks ahead. In a statement accompanying the report, Conyers said the report makes clear that the torture memos "were legally flawed and fundamentally unsound."

"Even worse," Conyers said, "it reveals that the memos were not the independent product of the Department of Justice, but were shaped by top officials of the Bush White House. It is nothing short of a travesty that prisoners in U.S. custody were abused and mistreated based on legal work as shoddy as this."

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy also condemned the findings and announced that he will hold a hearing on the report's findings next Friday. In a statement, Leahy said the report "is a condemnation of the legal memoranda drafted by key architects of the Bush administration's legal policy, including Jay Bybee and John Yoo, on the treatment of detainees."

"The deeply flawed legal opinions proffered by these former OLC officials created a ‘golden shield' that sought to protect from scrutiny and prosecution the Bush administration's torture of detainees in U.S. custody," Leahy said.

"In drafting and signing these unsound legal analyses, OLC attorneys sanctioned torture, contrary to our domestic anti-torture laws, our international treaty obligations and the fundamental values of this country," Leahy added.

The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), which represents several detainees at Guantanamo and others who were tortured by military and CIA interrogators, called for Bybee to be impeached as a federal judge and for Holder to order a criminal probe headed by a special prosecutor.

CCR said the report makes it "makes it abundantly clear that the decisions about the torture program took place at the highest level, and the damning description of the program further show that the torture memos were written to order by the lawyers from the Office of Legal Counsel who played a key role in creating the program."

Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU's National Security Project, which is largely responsible for bringing to light many of the revelations about the torture program described in the report, said, "The OPR report confirms the central role that the Office of Legal Counsel played in developing the Bush administration's torture program, and it underscores once again that the decision to endorse torture was made by the Bush administration's most senior officials."

"It also makes clear that the investigation initiated by the Justice Department last year, which focuses on ‘rogue' interrogators, is too narrow," Jaffer added. "Interrogators should be held accountable where they violated the law, but the core problem was not one of rogue interrogators but one of senior government officials who knowingly authorized the gravest crimes.

"The Justice Department should immediately expand its investigation to encompass not just the interrogators who used torture but the senior Bush administration officials who authorized and facilitated it."

The Office of Legal Counsel is a powerful agency in the Justice Department that advises presidents on the limits of their power.

Copyright 2010

The Flailing Falsehoods of America's War Criminals

by Glenn Greenwald

I didn't think it was possible, but former Bush officials -- desperately fighting what they know will be their legacy as war criminals -- have become even more dishonest propagandists out of office than they were in office.  At National Review, Bill Burck and Dana Perino so thoroughly mislead their readers about the DOJ report -- rejecting the findings of the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) of ethical misconduct against John Yoo and Jay Bybee -- that it's hard to know where to begin.  They devote paragraph after paragraph to hailing the intelligence and integrity of the report's author, career DOJ prosecutor David Margolis, in order to pretend that he defended Yoo and Bybee's work, claiming that Margolis "officially exonerated Bush-era lawyers John Yoo and Jay Bybee" and that "Margolis rejected OPR's recommendation and most of its analysis."  Perhaps the most deceitful claim is this one:

So, in one corner we have a legal all-star team of Mukasey, Filip, Estrada, Mahoney, Goldsmith [all right-wing Bush lawyers], and Margolis. In the other corner, we have OPR operating far outside its comfort zone and area of expertise. This shouldn't have been close -- and it wasn't, on the merits.

Compare that to what Margolis actually said (p. 67):

For all of the above reasons, I am not prepared to conclude that the circumstantial evidence much of which is contradicted by the witness testimony regarding Yoo's efforts establishes by a preponderance of the evidence that Yoo intentionally or recklessly provided misleading advice to his client.  It is a close question.  I would be remiss in not observing, however, that these memoranda represent an unfortunate chapter in the history of the Office of Legal Counsel.   While I have declined to adopt OPR's finding of misconduct, I fear that John Yoo's loyalty to his own ideology and convictions clouded his view of his obligation to his client and led him to adopt opinions that reflected his own extreme, albeit sincerely held, views of executive power while speaking for an institutional client.

Just think about that for a minute.  Margolis said that whether Yoo "intentionally or recklessly provided misleading advice to his client" when authorizing torture -- about the most serious accusation one can make against a lawyer, as it means he deliberately made false statements about the law -- "is a close question."  That's the precise opposite of what Burck and Perino told National Review readers about Margolis' conclusion ("This shouldn't have been close - and it wasn't, on the merits"). 

Moreover, Margolis repeatedly adopted the OPR's findings that the Yoo/Bybee torture memos -- on which the entire American torture regime was constructed and which media elites now embrace in order to argue against prosecutions -- were wrong, "extreme," misguided, and the by-product of "poor judgment."  As Yale Law Professor Jack Balkin so clearly explained, the only thing that saved Yoo in Margolis' eyes was that attorney ethical rules have been written by lawyers to protect themselves, and the bar is therefore so low that it basically includes only "sociopaths and people driven to theft and egregious incompetence by serious drug and alcohol abuse problems." As a result, Margolis could not ultimately conclude that Yoo -- as shoddy and misleading as his torture authorizations were -- purposely lied because Yoo "was an ideologue who entered government service with a warped vision of the world in which he sincerely believed."  Does that remotely sound like exoneration?  

Burck and Perino also include this, a common myth among American elites who do not believe the rule of law should apply to them:

For years now this principle [that "honestly held legal and policy opinions are not cause for prosecution or professional discipline"] has been under sustained attack by hard-core left-wing congressional partisans such as Rep. John Conyers and Sen. Patrick Leahy. It's not much of a stretch to imagine some of the more wild-eyed among them searching for ways to revoke the law licenses of conservative Supreme Court justices. Fortunately, this country is not Venezuela - at least not yet; we should not rest easy.

This oft-repeated notion -- that prosecuting political officials and high-levels lawyers when they commit crimes in office is the hallmark of the "banana republics" of South and Central America -- is exactly the opposite of reality.  As leading political scientists have long documented, the actual hallmark of under-developed and backward nations is the immunity which political elites enjoy from the rule of law no matter how serious their crimes (Thomas Carruthers, Foreign Affairs, 1998:  "Rule-of-law reform [in the Third World] will succeed only if it gets at the fundamental problem of leaders who refuse to be ruled by the law . . . . entrenched elites cede their traditional impunity and vested interests only under great pressure").  What makes a backward country backward is the confederation of elites insisting that investigations and prosecutions are only for the dirty people on the street corner, not for them.

As for the extent to which the U.S. is comparable to Venezuela, let's look to the Bush State Department's 2008 Human Rights report, which calls that country a "constitutional democracy" and then notes:

Although the constitution states that no person shall be subjected to cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment, there were credible reports that security forces continued to torture and abuse detainees. . . .PROVEA reported that in the 12 months prior to September, it received 17 complaints of torture (an increase from 11 the previous year), and 573 complaints regarding cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, a decrease from the 692 cases reported in 2007. PROVEA defines "torture" as methods used by state security forces to extract information from victims and "cruel and inhuman treatment" as methods used by members of state security forces in order to punish or intimidate victims. . . .

 

The government did not authorize independent investigation of torture complaints. Human rights groups continued to question the attorney general and the human rights ombudsman's commitment to oversee neutral investigations. There was no data available on convictions in cases of alleged torture. . . .

A warrant is required for an arrest or detention. . . . . A person accused of a crime may not be detained for longer than the possible minimum sentence for that crime nor for longer than two years, except in certain circumstances, such as when the defendant is responsible for the delay in the proceedings. Detainees were promptly informed of the charges against them. . . . Detainees were provided access to counsel and family members.

So, other than the fact that (a) the number of torture complaints in Venezuela is miniscule when compared to what the U.S. did (there were at least 100 deaths of detainees in U.S. custody alone); (b) all detainees in Venezuela were criminally charged and provided access to counsel and family, and (c) nobody has accused Venezuela of invading and bombing other countries and abducting people off the street and shipping them around the world to be tortured, what is happening in Venezuela actually sounds quite similar to what Burck, Perino and their friends did and continue to advocate and justify.

That Bush officials have to cling to the harsh condemnations of Margolis as "vindication" reveals just how wretched and lawless their conduct was.  Essentially, the current posture of the U.S. to the world is this:

Yes, we implemented a worldwide torture regime that we justified with lawyers' memoranda that were false, wrong, shoddy, lawless, sloppy and extremist, but because those lawyers were such warped radicals, they probably believed what they were saying at the time, so we're going to declare that we had the right to do what we did and are shielded from all consequences, even though we've signed treaties agreeing to prosecute anyone who authorizes torture and demanded that other nations prosecute their own torturers.  Besides, we have important things to do and thus want to Look Forward, not Backward.

Doesn't that make you proud?

* * * * *

How will media stars and right-wing polemicists justify their claim that only fringe Far Leftists care about and oppose "enhanced interrogation techniques" now that General David Petraeus has joined so many other military leaders in resoundingly rejecting the morality, legality and wisdom of those tactics?

Glenn Greenwald was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy", examines the Bush legacy.

Boyle =/= U of I COL

Please do not confuse the views of Boyle with those of the University of Illinois College of Law or any of its students. Boyle is a well-known leftist hack, nobody takes him seriously, and his control of the Jurisprudence class is the reason anyone serious about philosophy of law takes Solum's seminars instead.

Group Wants Courts to Play ‘Keep Away’ from Torture Lawyers

by Sahil Kapur

Critics are working to disbar Bush administration "torture architects" from practicing law in courts again, and if that doesn't work they're enlisting attorneys to move to disqualify them as judges.

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Jay Bybee and fellow author of Bush administration torture memos John Yoo were last week found guilty of "professional midconduct" and "poor judgment" for ignoring established case law. They were nevertheless cleared of any criminal charges.

The Disbar Torture Lawyers campaign, which is part of a consortium that boasts over 120 transparency and watchdog groups, is now working to disbar Bybee and others complicit in advocating illegal interrogation methods.

"Judge Bybee can no longer pretend to be fair, impartial, or to exercise good judgment," said attorney and campaign spokesperson Kevin Zeese in a statement. "He has been found to possess all the qualities that people do not want in a judge - bias, poor judgment, predetermination, failure to follow established law, and professional misconduct."

DisbarTortureLawyers.com, a project of Velvet Revolution, states as its guiding principle, "Torture is illegal under both United States and international law" and prohibited as "cruel and unusual punishment" under the Eighth Amendment.

The group has filed complaints to sanction Bybee and remove him from his judge post, backed with specific language from the Department of Justice's Office of Personal Responsibility that details his wrongdoings.

"No plaintiff or defendant should be subjected to the authority of a judge who has been so thoroughly discredited," said Zesse, who is also urging lawyers and their clients to move to disqualify Bybee.

"We call on every plaintiff and defendant whose case is assigned to Judge Bybee to demand that their lawyer file a motion to disqualify him, and if the lawyer refuses, to take action against the lawyer for failing to protect their interests and the integrity of the judicial process."

Also targeted in the campaign are Bybee's fellow torture memo author John Yoo and former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. The group intends to work with and support Congress in taking further steps to sanction these individuals and disbar those who are still working as judges.

Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) has announced plans to hold House Judiciary Committee hearings on the Bush administration lawyers whose legal memos justified the use of torture on terrorism detainees.

Last year, John Podesta, a leader of President Obama's transition team and former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, said Bybee should be impeached.

There "is a distinction between going back and prosecuting in the criminal courts the actors who were involved in these memos and letting Judge Bybee continue to sit on a court one step removed from the Supreme Court," Podesta said. "He's acting and listening to cases and making judgments of others, and we know that he authorized things that were illegal under U.S. law and violated the U.S. obligations under international treaties."

Podesta heads the Center for American Progress Action, a liberal think tank.

CREW Asks Attorney General to Investigate Destruction of Emails

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 25, 2010
2:38 PM

CONTACT: CREW
Matt Jacob 202.408.5565

CREW Asks Attorney General to Investigate Destruction of Emails Relating to Torture Memos

WASHINGTON - February 25 - Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) asked Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate the destruction of emails of at least two former high-ranking Department of Justice (DOJ) officials, John Yoo and Patrick Philbin, who were involved in drafting the Office of Legal Counsel's (OLC) memoranda authorizing torture.Last week, DOJ's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) released a public version of a July 2009 report examining the actions of the OLC officials and concluded they had not violated any of their ethical obligations as lawyers. That report revealed for the first time that OPR's investigation had been hampered by the destruction of most of Mr. Yoo's emails as well as many of Mr. Philbin's from the period when the torture memos were being drafted.

The destruction of emails from such high-ranking officials related to such a critically important matter clearly violates the agency's obligations under the Federal Records Act (FRA). Among other things, the FRA requires agencies to preserve agency records and maintain safeguards against their removal or loss. The destruction of the key emails may also violate criminal laws, particularly if the destruction was intended to impede the investigation into the origin and preparation of the torture memos.

CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan stated, "Given the disappearance of millions of Bush White House emails, we shouldn't be surprised that crucial emails also disappeared from the Bush Justice Department." Sloan continued, "The question now is what is the Attorney General going to do about it? Even if Mr. Yoo and Mr. Philbin did not violate their professional obligations by writing the torture memos, they - or others seeking to hide the truth -- may have broken the law by deleting their emails."

Click here to read CREW's letter to Attorney General Holder.

###
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to promoting ethics and accountability in government and public life by targeting government officials -- regardless of party affiliation -- who sacrifice the common good to special interests. CREW advances its mission using a combination of research, litigation and media outreach.

When the Castro Brothers will be brought to justice?

Is it only non-communist murderers who should be brought to justice?What about Mugabe,Castro and all the dictators from the left?

In the Belly of the Beast

Hmm, maybe because if you can't clean up your own house, you have no busines complaing about the dust in someone else's home?

I think you didn't pay much attention to the issues addressed in the article. Try reading it before trolling next time.

Bush Admits Torture

by Paul Owen and agencies

George Bush admitted yesterday that Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, was waterboarded by the US, and said he would do it again "to save lives".

"Yeah, we waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed," the former president told a business audience in Grand Rapids, Michigan. "I'd do it again to save lives."

Waterboarding is a simulated drowning technique that the Obama administration has said is torture. Mohammed was captured in Pakistan in 2003 and is the most senior al-Qaida operative in US custody.

In his speech, Bush also defended the decision to go to war with Iraq in 2003. He said ousting Saddam Hussein "was the right thing to do and the world is a better place without him".

But he said he was not tempted to criticise Barack Obama. "You are not going to see me in the public square criticising the president."

In February he said he was "trying to regain a sense of anonymity. I didn't like it when a certain former president made my life miserable." This was said to be a reference to Jimmy Carter, president from 1976 to 1980.

Bush also talked about the role of religion in his life. "I prayed a lot. I really did. I prayed before every major speech. I prayed before debates. It was a very important experience."

And he talked about the morning of 9/11, describing how he had learned that first one, then two planes had hit the World Trade Centre in New York. The third plane, which hit the Pentagon near Washington DC, was "a declaration of war on our country", he said.

Bush's memoir Decision Points will be published in November.

The ICC: Europe's Guantanamo Bay for Africans

 

THE AFRICA RESEARCH CENTRE

 

Website http://www.africaresearchcentre.org/

Email africaresearchcentre@gmail.com

 

 

1 June 2010

 

 

Study shows the International Criminal Court to be European-driven, Africa-focused and irretrievably flawed

 

A new 345-page study of the International Criminal Court, ‘The International Criminal Court: Europe’s Guantánamo Bay?’, published by the Africa Research Centre to coincide with the ICC’s first ever review conference (in Kampala, Uganda, 31 May - 8 June 2010), has found the ICC to be manifestly unfit for purpose. The study demonstrates that the ICC’s claims to international jurisdiction and judicial independence are institutionally flawed and that the Court’s approach has been marred by blatant double-standards and serious judicial irregularities. The Hague-based ICC is increasingly being seen as the European equivalent of the US tribunal at Guantánamo Bay, which similarly claims international jurisdiction.

 

While the ICC presents itself as an international court this is quite simply not the case. Its members represent just over one quarter of the world’s population: China, Russia, the United States, India, Pakistan and Indonesia are just some of the many countries that have remained outside of the Court’s jurisdiction.

 

The truth is also that the ICC is as independent as the United Nations Security Council and the Court’s European Union funding lets it be. Far from being an independent and impartial court, the ICC’s own statute grants special “prosecutorial” rights of referral and deferral to the Security Council, or more specifically its five permanent members. Political interference in the legal process was thus made part of the Court’s founding terms of reference.

 

The Court is also umbilically tied to the European Union which provides over 60 percent of its funding. The English expression, “He who pays the piper calls the tune”, could not be more accurate. The ICC has ignored all European or Western human rights abuses in conflicts such as those in Afghanistan and Iraq or human rights abuses by Western client states. Instead, the Europeans have chosen to focus the Court exclusively on Africa. Despite over 8,000 complaints about alleged crimes in at least 139 countries, the ICC has started investigations into just five countries, all of them African. Given Africa’s previous traumatic experience with the very same colonial powers that now in effect direct the ICC, this must create an alarming déjà vu for those who live on the continent. The EU is additionally guilty of economic blackmail in tying aid for developing countries to ICC membership.

 

The Court’s proceedings have often been questionable where not farcical. Its judges – some of whom have never been lawyers, let alone judges – are the result of vote-trading amongst member states. The Court has produced witnesses who recanted their testimony the moment they got into the witness box, admitting that they were coached by non-governmental organisations as to what false statements to make. There have been prosecutorial decisions which should have ended any fair trial because they compromised the integrity of any subsequent process. The ICC’s first trial stalled because of judicial decisions to add new charges half-way through proceedings. Simply put, the Court has been making things up as it goes along.

 

The ICC claims to be “economical”, yet it has cost half a billion Euros to put on one deeply flawed trial, which subsequently ground to a halt for months. The ICC claims to be victim-centred yet Human Rights Watch has publicly criticised the ICC’s ambivalence towards victim communities. The ICC claims to bring “swift justice” but it has taken several years to bring the first accused to trial for allegedly using child soldiers. The Nuremberg trials, which addressed infinitely more serious charges, were over within a year. The ICC claims to be fighting impunity, yet it has afforded de facto immunity and impunity to several serial abusers of human rights who happen to be friends of the European Union and United States.

 

The study’s author, Dr David Hoile, has noted:

 

“Africa fought long and hard for its independence. It must reject this new ‘legal’ colonialism. The ICC’s double-standards and autistic legal blundering in Africa has derailed delicate peace processes – thereby prolonging devastating civil wars. There is a clear lesson for countries in Africa and elsewhere: do not join the ICC and do not refer your country to the ICC. It is the equivalent of inviting a cancer into your system. The ICC does not have Africa’s welfare at heart, only the furtherance of Western, and especially European, foreign policy and its own bureaucratic imperative – to exist, to employ more Europeans and North Americans and where possible to continue to increase its budget.”

 

 

About the Author

 

Dr David Hoile is an African scholar and public affairs consultant specialising in African affairs. He is the author of ‘Darfur: The Road to Peace’ (2008), ‘Images of Sudan: Case Studies in Propaganda and Misinformation’ (2003), ‘Farce Majeure: The Clinton Administration’s Sudan Policy 1993-2000’ (2000), ‘Mozambique, Resistance and Freedom: A Case for Reassessment’ (1994), and ‘Mozambique: A Nation in Crisis’ (1989). He is also the editor of ‘The Search for Peace in the Sudan: A Chronology of the Sudanese Peace Process 1989-2001’ (2002). Dr Hoile has been a Research Professor at the Sudan University of Science and Technology and a Visiting Professor at the University of Khartoum.

 

The author can be contacted either by telephone on + 44 207 872 5434 or by email at drdavidhoile@yahoo.co.uk

 

Whatever

Not sure your argument about the ICC holds much water when you cite the fact that "China, Russia, the United States, India, Pakistan and Indonesia" are holdouts as a reason to doubt the ICC's commitment to human rights.

Each has a number of human rights issues that need to be addressed. That alone is reason for their absence in the compact. I certainly don't think that any of them believe that the weakness of the Court is the problem they have with it. Their fear is that the ICC would be effective, not that it isn't.

As for an argument about the ICC being "European-driven," none of those nation's is actually European, per se. Russia is the closest to being "European" and no, not really. Kind of strange to see what is essentially a racist argument used in such a way to "defend" the interests of Africans, even more so when it's not supported emprically.

And while the ICC could stand to be more aggressive in its trial schedule, it has not neglected issues in Europe such as the the war crimes cases arising from the former Yugoslavia.

Human rights, official impunity, and corrupt legal systems are the cancers gnawing at the legitimacy of African governments, not the ICC. Cases are referred to the court in the absence of a credible legal system being available to hear them.

My concerns about spreading the idea that international human rights are a negative development for African are only heightened by the fact that Dr. Coile seems to be a paid lobbyist and public relations flack for the Sudanese government and its current president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who was indicted by the ICC for crimes against humanity in early 2009.

Who is signing the checks for Dr. Coile's work and his string of websites that refer to each as "evidence" that the ICC operates to the disadvantage of ordinary people in Africa?

 

Report Says Doctors Helped Refine Harsh Methods

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A prominent physicians group is charging that medical personnel were used to test and refine the effectiveness of waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques for terror detainees in U.S. custody under the guise of safeguarding their health.

Physicians for Human Rights outlined the allegations stemming from a Bush-era interrogation program and called on the White House to investigate. Its report was based on a re-examination and new interpretation of records that had been previously released.

U.S. government officials denounced the report, saying the government did not conduct human research on detainees. The officials said that such charges and documents have already been made public and were examined by multiple government investigations.

The author of the report, Nathaniel Raymond, said the declassified documents had never been examined with an eye on laws including the Nuremberg Code, established to ban Nazi Germany medical experimentation.

''We're not writing the indictment here,'' Raymond said before the report's release at midnight Sunday. ''We're seeing there needs to be a search warrant. If the White House does not act on this, it's turning its back on something that could be perceived as a war crime.''

According to the report, ''Medical personnel were required to monitor all waterboarding practices and collect detailed medical information that was used to design, develop and deploy subsequent waterboarding procedures.''

For example, the report said, doctors recommended adding salt to the water used for waterboarding, so the patient wouldn't experience hyponatremia, ''a condition of low sodium levels in the blood caused by free water intoxication.''

The report interpreted that doctor-recommended practice of using saline solution as ''Waterboarding 2.0.''

It also said information was gathered on the pain inflicted when various techniques were used in combination. Raymond said the purpose was to see if the pain caused violated Bush administration definitions of torture, rather than as a safeguard of the detainees' health.

Medical personnel, the report said, also monitored sleep deprivation, with sleepless stints from 48 hours to 180 hours -- again to make sure it did not cause prolonged physical and mental suffering, as per those Bush administration definitions, rather than to watch out for harm to the detainee.

CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano flatly rejected the claims. ''The CIA did not, as part of its past detention program, conduct human subject research on any detainee or group of detainees,'' Gimigliano said.

The report also raised questions about the Obama administration's new high-value detainee investigation group, known as the HIG. Part of its role is to research new methods of interrogation. The physicians group demanded clarification, asking whether this meant learning by doing.

Wendy Morigi, spokeswoman for the national intelligence director, said this part of the HIG would look at ''scientific research that would allow for a refinement of current best practices'' and was ''in no way was suggesting research on the detainees themselves.''

Physicians for Human Rights, a Cambridge, Mass.-based nonprofit organization, says its mission is, in part, to investigate human rights abuses.

------

Associated Press writer Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this report.

------

Online:

Physicians for Human Rights: http://physiciansforhumanrights.org/

Trial for 27 Anti-Torture Activists Protesting Gitmo Starts 6/14

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 11, 2010
8:55 AM

CONTACT: Witness Against Torture
Jeremy Varon: jvaron@aol.com
Helen Schietinger: h.schietinger@verizon.net

Trial for 27 Anti-Torture Activists Who Protested Obama's Failure to Close GITMO Begins Monday (6/14)

Twenty-Seven to Go on Trial for Protesting the Obama Administration’s Failure to Close Guantanamo, Plan for Indefinite Detention, and Refusal to Prosecute Torture

WASHINGTON - June 11 - On Monday, June 14 twenty-seven will face trial stemming from arrests at the U.S. Capitol on January 21, 2010 — the date by which President Obama had promised the closure of the Guantanamo detention camp. The human rights activists will hold a press conference outside the courthouse defending their protest, condemning the Obama administration’s continuation of Bush policies, and explaining their use in court of the “necessity defense.”

The press conference will be held Monday, June 14 at 8:30 am near the intersection of Fifth Street NW and Indiana Avenue NW, directly across from the Moultrie Superior Courthouse (500 Indiana Ave., N.W. Washington).

On January 21, twenty-seven people dressed as Guantanamo prisoners were arrested on the steps of the Capitol holding banners reading “Broken Promises, Broken Laws, Broken Lives.” Inside the Capitol Rotunda, at the location where deceased presidents lie in state, fourteen activists were arrested performing a memorial service for three men who died at Guantanamo in 2006. Initially reported as suicides, the deaths may have been — as recent evidence suggests — the result of the men being tortured to death (see Scott Horton, “Murders at Guantanamo, March 2010, Harpers).

“The continued operation of the prison camp at Guantanamo is unacceptable,” Matthew W. Daloisio of Witness Against Torture. “If Guantanamo was a foreign policy liability and stain on the rule of law on day one of the Obama presidency, it surely is eighteen months later.”

“The deaths at Guantanamo show how barbaric US policies have been,” says Helen Schietinger, another member of WAT. “We are still waiting for accountability for those who designed and carried out torture policies under President Bush. Obama can’t restore the rule of law if he doesn’t enforce the law.”

The human rights activists plan to mount a “necessity defense” before Judge Russell Canan. “We will be arguing that we broke the law only after exhausting all legal means of opposing a much larger crime—the indefinite detention, mistreatment, and torture of men at Guantanamo and other US prisons,” says Jerica Arents of Chicago, Illinois, another the defendants. The trial comes in the middle of Torture Awareness Month, when many groups--including Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International-- are planning activities.

The January protests were the culmination of a twelve-day fast for justice and an end to torture organized by Witness Against Torture in Washington, DC. More than 100 people participated in the fast and daily actions throughout the nation’s Capital.

###
Witness Against Torture is a grassroots movement that came into being in December 2005 when 24 activists walked to Guantanamo to visit the prisoners and condemn torture policies. Since then, it has engaged in public education, community outreach, and non-violent direct action. For the first 100 days of the Obama administration, the group held a daily vigil at the White House, encouraging the new President to uphold his commitments to shut down Guantanamo.

Witness Against Torture: Peace Activists Face Trial

by Deena Guzde

The recent Catholic priest sex scandal -- and the Papal spokesman’s offensive comparison of the public’s outcry at the Church to, of all things, anti-Semitic persecution during the Holocaust -- have understandably added to secular progressives’ growing skepticism, if not outright disdain, for organized religion. However, the Catholic establishment’s flagrant abuse of power should not eclipse the Catholic vanguard’s long and impressive history of social justice activism. These Catholic peace activists view faith as a personal commitment with public implications, and they are continuing a tradition that harks back to Dorothy Day’s “houses of hospitality”, which served urban America’s most destitute residents, and the Berrigan Brothers' "ultra resistance" to the Vietnam War, which involved raiding draft boards and burning government records with homemade Napalm.

The latest chapter in this dramatic yet underreported tradition of radical Catholic social justice activism involves a group of twenty-seven peace advocates who are now facing trial for protesting the Obama Administration’s abysmal failure to close the high-security prison at Guantánamo Bay, grant detained suspects their right to habeas corpus, and prosecute the Bush Administration architects of torture.

In 2005, a handful of Catholic peace activists spearheaded “Witness Against Torture”. Frida Berrigan, the daughter of Phil Berrigan, recently told me why she helped create the organization:

“It began with a question, ‘How could we act in such a way that resisted the War on Terror?’ We weren’t thinking about consequences or what would happen to us. We decided that Jesus’ questions were simple: Did you visit me when I was prison? Did you feed when I was hungry? Did you clothe me when I was naked? . . . We came out of the Catholic Worker experience of doing the draft board raids and creative actions in the 1960s. It happens that, at this moment, the issue is torture.”

In the winter of 2005, Frida and 24 American members of Witness Against Torture — mostly Catholic Workers — flaunted the travel ban against Cuba and voyaged to the U.S. Naval Base at Guantánamo Bay. Camped outside the detention facility, the peace activists fasted every Friday in solidarity with the hunger strikers and explained to the media, “the definition of what it means to be Catholic is acts of mercy.” The activists were unsuccessful in entering, let alone closing down, the prison at Guantánamo Bay. However, one of the prisoners' lawyers later confirmed the detainees knew about the anti-torture vigil and, for the first time since their arrests, were hopeful that regular American citizens cared about the ideals their nation purported, including the right to a fair trial and the right not to be subjected to cruel punishment. Out of the 25 activists, 10 received notices from Office of Foreign Assets Control with an “invitation to self-incriminate” for how much they spent in Cuba, but the Office took no further action against them at the time. After the activists returned to the United States, they organized more broadly to shut down Guantánamo by working with human rights activists and interfaith organizations.

On May 29, 2008, thirty-four anti-torture activists kneeled and prayed on the Supreme Court’s steps while wearing orange jumpsuits and black hoods similar to the ones donned by Guantanamo detainees. Once inside the majestic edifice of American democracy, they attempted to unfurl a 4-foot-by-30 foot banner reading “Close Guantanamo”. They were promptly arrested and handed a maximum of 120 days in jail. Tim Nolan, one of the arrested activists, later reflected: "Guantánamo is so striking in its immorality and lack of justice . . . if humans were created in God’s image, torture is clearly a defilement of that.”

Six months later, on January 11, 2009, Witness Against Torture began a nationwide, nine-day fast in protest of Guantánamo and in recognition of the detainees' hunger strikes there. More than 90 people participated. On January 22, the day that President Barack Obama was inaugurated, the activists launched “The 100 Days Campaign to Shut Down Guantanamo and End Torture”. During the 100 Days Campaign, Witness Against Torture activists from all over the U.S. maintained a daily vigil at the White House, brought protest signs to congressional hearings, and lobbied lawmakers to change detention policies.

President Obama had promised to close the Guantánamo detention camp by January 21, 2010, but reneged on his promise. On that day, twenty-seven peace activists dressed as Guantanamo prisoners were arrested on the steps of the Capitol holding banners reading “Broken Promises, Broken Laws, Broken Lives.” More than 100 people participated in the fast and daily actions throughout the nation’s Capital. Inside the Capitol Rotunda, fourteen activists performed a memorial service for the three men who died at Guantanamo in 2006 -- men who probably died from torture rather than, as officials conveniently claimed, suicide (see the March 2010 article in Harpers Magazine by Scott Horton, “Murders at Guantanamo” for more information). The January protests were the culmination of a twelve-day fast for justice and an end to torture organized by Witness Against Torture in Washington, DC. Instead of arresting the Guantanamo interrogators likely responsible for murdering the three detainees or the Bush Administration officials who sanctioned a policy of torture, the government decided to arrest the peace activists.

Next week, on June 14, these twenty-seven peace activists will face trial for condemning the Obama administration’s continuation of Bush policies. The human rights activists plan to mount a “necessity defense” before Judge Russell Canan. “We will be arguing that we broke the law only after exhausting all legal means of opposing a much larger crime — the indefinite detention, mistreatment, and torture of men at Guantanamo and other US prisons,” says one of the defendants, Jerica Arents, in a press release distributed by Witness Against Torture. The trial comes in the middle of Torture Awareness Month, when many groups, including Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International, are planning marches, protests, rallies, teach-ins, and vigils.

Religious social justice activists such as Berrigan do not pursue political power or public approval, but the integrity of their own souls. They fear moral suicide over physical death and regard moral autonomy as more liberating than physical freedom. They sacrifice not only their own safety, but also their religious organizations’ approval. I recently visited Frida’s uncle, 89-year-old Daniel Berrigan, in his well-lit Lower West Side apartment in Manhattan. At one time an outlaw priest who embarrassed the FBI by repeatedly evading capture, the grandfather of the Vietnam peace movement told me he’s extremely proud of his niece, Frida, and the new generation of Catholic Workers who are carrying on the tradition of agitating for peace, loving their enemy, and beating swords into plowshares.

While religion often fosters moral indignation and self-aggrandizement, religion is more often a red herring than a Rosetta Stone for understanding the world’s myriad problems. The real division is no longer between believers and atheists but political conservatives, on the one hand, and political moderates and liberals, on the other. Whether or not the Catholic establishment defends the courageous work of Witness Against Torture as they stand trial next week, secular progressives must rally together and provide these anti-torture activists with moral sustenance because they share our vision for a more humane world.

Deena Guzder is a freelance journalist based in New York City who has reported on human rights issues across the world. Her work has appeared in Mother Jones, National Geographic, Time Magazine, and many others including web outlets CommonDreams and the Huffington Post.

Anti-Torture Activists Acquittal a Victory for 'Free Speech'

D.C. judge acquits 27 Guantanamo protesters - including 4 from Pioneer Valley - of charges from Capitol Hill protest

by Patrick Johnson

WASHINGTON - Some two dozen anti-torture activists — including four from Western Massachusetts — were acquitted Monday in Washington D.C. Superior Court on charges of unlawful assembly following their arrests in January during a political demonstration on the steps of the U.S. Capitol.

Judge Russell Canan granted a motion for judgment of acquittal, dropping charges against all 27 defendants after federal prosecutors presented their case. The trial had been expected by some to last up to a week.

Most of the activists sat in the courtroom wearing black shirts during the bench trial.

The group was arrested while protesting the failure of the Obama Administration to follow through on its promise from a year earlier to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. They were arrested after refusing a police order to disperse.

Jeremy Varon, spokesman for the group Witness Against Torture, said “This is a victory for free speech.”

Among the 27 defendants were Patricia “Paki” Wieland of Northampton, Elizabeth Adams of Leverett, Sherrill Hogen of Conway and Ellen Graves of West Springfield.

Wieland, contacted by cell phone outside the court house, called the ruling a major victory because it upheld the First Amendment, namely the protections for freedom of speech and freedom of peaceful assembly.

“We did exactly what the First Amendment tells us to do,” she said. “We actually exercised the First Amendment and won.”

Graves praised the ruling, saying “what it said was we had a right to protest in Washington.”

Hogen said the ruling amounts to a small victory in part of a larger campaign that continues.

The group will continue to speak out as long as Guantanamo is still open as a detention facility, as are other facilities around the world, and some detainees from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are still being held without indefinitely without a trial.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Witness Against Torture Trial: Broken Promises, Broken Laws

Witness Against Torture Trial: Broken Promises, Broken Laws, Broken Lives

by Joy First

When I talk about my work in nonviolent civil resistance, working for peace and social justice, I always tell people that we are never acquitted by a judge at a bench trial.  No matter what the facts are, judges will always find us guilty.   I tell people that only a jury of our peers will acquit us and we don't often have a jury trial.  I have had two jury trials in 29 arrests and have been acquitted in both of those trials.  However, I will not be able to say that anymore as 24 activists were acquitted during a bench trial with Judge Russell Canan in DC Superior Court on June 14, 2010.  You can definitely expect the unexpected when you go to court.

I have been participating with Witness Against Torture (WAT) (www.witnesstorture.org) for the last several years to close Guantanamo and end torture by the U.S. government in Guantanamo, Bagram, and other black hole sites around the world.  We went to trial on June 14 after being arrested in an action organized by WAT on January 21, 2010, the day by which President Obama had promised that he would close Guantanamo.

In this action 28 activists lined up outside on the steps of our United States Capitol wearing orange jumpsuits and black hoods.  They were holding large banners reading "Broken Promises, Broken Laws, Broken Lives".  These 28 individuals, practicing their First Amendment rights, were arrested for standing in a public space reading the names of the men who are being detained in Guantanamo. 

Inside the rotunda I joined 13 other activists in honoring and memorializing three men who died in Guantanamo in 2006.  After they died in 2006, we were initially told by the military that they committed suicide.  However, evidence came out this past January that they were tortured to death by the military at Guantanamo.  Because of this, we decided that part of the group would go inside the rotunda and hold a prayer service for these three men who were murdered.  We brought with us a banner that we laid on the floor in the center of the rotunda where president's lie in state.  The banner read, "We mourn Salah Ahmed Al-Salami, Mani Shaman Al-Utaybi, and Yasser Talal Al-Zahrani."  Carmen spoke about the crime to tour groups and staff who were in the rotunda and others gave a short biographical description of the lives of these men who were murdered.  We sang, "Courage Muslim brothers.  You do not walk alone.  We will walk with you, and sing your spirit home."  These men were killed by our government. We were committed to honoring and memorializing these men, in a prayerful and respectful manner. For our action inside the rotunda, 14 of us were arrested. 

Though Obama promised that Guantanamo would be closed by January 21, 2010, it is still open today.  There are about 200 men still being detained in Guantanamo.  Many of them have been cleared for release and they are still being held.  Many of them have not been charged with any crime in eight years of detention and they are still being held.  Some of them are on hunger strikes and they are being force-fed in a manner which amounts to torture.  But it is not only Guantanamo.  The situation has become much worse in Bagram where torture by our government continues, and in other black hole sites around the world.

And so we continue to find ways to get this story out.  We continue to try to hold our government accountable and call on them to end these illegal actions.  We do these actions in the spirit of, and following the principles of nonviolence that have been handed down by Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day and others.  We do not do these actions to get arrested.  We are exercising our First Amendment rights and following our obligations under Nuremberg.  If we do not speak out as our government continues to be involved in criminal activities, then we are complicit. 

So as we celebrate our acquittal, our spirits are dampened as we remember those still suffering at the hands of our government around the world, and we recognize that this is a small victory.  As Attorney Bill Quigley, legal adviser to the defendants and the Legal Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, said after the trial, "With his decision, the judge validated the effort of the demonstrators to condemn the ongoing crime of indefinite detention at Guantanamo."  And we know that we must and that we will continue our struggle for justice.

Since our arrest in January, a number of activists paid a fine rather than go to trial.  At the end we had 24 activists who went to trial on June 14 to defend our First Amendment rights and to shine a light on the continuing torture by our government.  As usual, we would go pro se, meaning we would be defending ourselves.  We do this so that we can speak for ourselves about what we were doing and why.  We had three attorney advisors working with us.  Ann Wilcox has been working with us for a number of years and we deeply appreciate all the hours she has put in.  We were very happy to welcome Mark Goldstone back.  He has been away for about a year and it was good to be working with him again.  We felt very fortunate to have Bill Quigley join our team.  Bill is a nationally known attorney.  He has represented some of the men being illegally detained in Guantanamo and his expertise in this area was invaluable. 

We spend a couple of months preparing for trial through conference calls and email.  Members of the group volunteer for different roles in the trial and we individually work on those pieces.  I volunteered to give the closing statement.  It is a lot of work to get ready for trial.  The final planning session and trial rehearsal was a meeting at St. Stephen's church on Sunday, the day before the trial started.  I flew out to DC early Sunday to be there for the planning meeting.

It was difficult leaving home because I wasn't sure when I was going to be returning to Madison.  There were quite a few people who thought we might get some jail time for this action.  I think that being separated from my husband, Steve, is the most difficult part of this work I am involved in.  I travel to DC several times a year.  But I know how much Steve loves me and I know how committed he is to supporting my work.  And I know that whenever I come home he will be waiting for me with loving and open arms.  His love sustains me.  I also think about the many men still being illegally detained in Guantanamo.  They have been there for over eight years and not only have they not seen their loved ones in that time, but communication through letters and phone calls has been extremely limited, and in some cases nonexistent.

The planning meeting at St. Stephen's on Sunday afternoon and evening was long and intense, but it went very well.  I was tired after getting up at 4:00 am to catch my plane.  We talked about some general trial strategies, and then went through a trial rehearsal step-by-step.  I was able to read my closing statement to the group.  When the meeting was over, I think most people were feeling prepared and committed to continuing our struggle to end torture in the courtroom the next day.

On Monday morning, we met at the Navy Memorial metro stop and formed a procession to the courthouse.  We were all dressed in black.  We carried three black coffins in memory of  Salah Ahmed Al-Salami, Mani Shaman Al-Utaybi, and Yasser Talal Al-Zahrani, the men who were murdered by our government in Guantanamo.  Three members of our group were dressed in orange jumpsuits with black hoods and carried a sign with the name of each of the three men.  Outside the courthouse, we held a press conference with Bill Quigley, Kathy Kelly, and Carmen Trotta speaking to the group.

The trial was scheduled to start at 9:30 am.  Once we were seated in the courtroom, there were some preliminary matters to deal with before the trial started.  Most notably, Bill Quigley argued a motion we had entered for an acquittal, but if we were not acquitted he argued that we would be allowed to use international law and the necessity defense.

I hadn't been feeling too anxious up till then, but when we sat down in the courtroom and the judge began dealing with some of the preliminary matters, I could feel the anxiety rising in my stomach and moving up to my chest.  A couple of defendants had not shown up by the 9:30 start time and we had to deal with that.  Judge Canan had to ask the defendants a series of questions to make sure we understood that by going pro se we were giving up our right to an attorney.

Judge Canan then asked the prosecutors if they had developed their theory of the case and if they understood what it meant to be charging us with breach of the peace, a part of the unlawful assembly statute.  The two young women, who turned out to be very inexperienced and naïve, said they were ready to proceed to trial.  They said that they were not required to prove that we DID cause a breach of the peace, but that we COULD HAVE caused a breach of the peace.  They said that we were loud and boisterous, a key element they pulled from the statute, and that we were blocking others from moving freely. 

Mark Goldstone stood up and told Judge Canan that he believed that under the unlawful assembly charge, the government is required to prove that we DID cause a breach of the peace.

My anxiety melted away when Bill began his arguments on the motion for acquittal and if not acquittal, that we be allowed to use the international law and the necessity defense during the trial.  I was looking forward to hearing Bill as he is a national figure and very well known as the Legal Director for the Center for Constitutional Rights.  His arguments were so eloquent and moving.  He laid the whole thing out brilliantly and really spoke to the essence of what we were doing and why.  When he was done, it seemed like we could just go home because he had said it all.

In his conclusion, Bill said that if we act as if there is the possibility for change, change will come.  He said that we were acting for that possibility for change on January 21st.  Finally, he said that it is a sad fact that in our culture today, we have the tendency to adjust to injustice.  The outrageous and criminal actions that are perpetrated by our government continue.  We, as citizens, become more complacent every day in the face of this malfeasance.  We must show our outrage and demand change so that we are not dragged down into the depths of despair.

The judge was very interested in what Bill had to say and asked a lot of questions of Bill throughout his presentation.  The judge seemed to lack a real understanding of the issues and was willing and anxious to learn from the expert standing before him.

Art gave a stirring follow-up to Bill's arguments.  He said that any treaty is the supreme law of the land according to the constitution.  What is at stake is people's lives.  People have died.  He reminded the judge that we were acting on behalf of these prisoners who have not had their day in court after being held for over eight years.  We have the legal as well as the moral right to present evidence on international law. 

Others also spoke to this motion, but after listening to everyone, and after taking a short break to consider the arguments, Judge Canan denied the motion.  It was a blow to hear his decision, but not unexpected.

The trial began and after the opening statement by the prosecution, the government attorney's called several police officers as witnesses to provide evidence for their case.  The officers recounted what happened on January 21, but it was clear by the end of their testimony that they could not prove we were loud and boisterous, a key element needed for us to be found guilty.  Malachy and Claire were the pro se defendants who did most of the cross examination of the prosecution witnesses and they did an excellent job.  A couple of the officers specifically stated that we were not loud and boisterous.

When the prosecution rested their case, Beth and Paki made a motion for judgment of acquittal  They said that the government did not prove their case and so we should be acquitted at this point.  We've never been granted a motion for judgment of acquittal at this point in the trial.  We have always had to present our case, and I didn't expect anything different this time.

But this time Judge Canan began to quiz the prosecutors.  He said that he had asked them what their theory was at the beginning of the trial and what it meant to charge us with breach of the peace.  He said that now it is an issue because the prosecution did not prove that we had breached the peace.  The judge said that according to case law, in a breach of the peace individuals use words that could incite violence.

Judge Canan reminded the prosecutors that in the original charging statement we were charged with unlawful assembly, but the government only used part of the unlawful assembly statute in the charging statement.  This was the section on breach of the peace and being loud and boisterous.

After the judge and the prosecutors argued back and forth several times the government said they wanted to use the whole statute at this point.  This was absolutely ludicrous that they would ask for a change in the charging statement AFTER they had rested their case.

After giving the prosecution several chances to try to state how they could save their case, Judge Canan said that he would give them one more chance.  After one more attempt by the prosecutor, the judge said that we were not properly charged and he would grant the motion for judgment of acquittal.

We were stunned.  This kind of victory was unprecedented for us.  There was speculation that the judge wanted to acquit us after Bill Quigley's passionate argument before the trial began.  We thought maybe the judge was just looking for a good excuse to acquit us.  And of course we will never really know what was going on in the judge's mind, but we were all very happy to win for a change. 

I thought I would be in DC for at least a week, but the trial was over in one day.  I stayed an extra day to make a visit to Rep. Tammy Baldwin's office and talk to a senior aide about several matters, including upcoming supplemental funding for the war, and asking what she could do in the wake of the Israeli armies attack on the Gaza freedom flotilla.

I flew home on Wednesday morning, and today I am sitting in my garden writing this report, rather than sitting in jail.  As happy as I am to have my freedom, I think about the men who are still in Guantanamo and have been illegally detained without being charged with any crime, and without having their day in court for over eight years.  What will our next step be in continuing the struggle for their freedom?

My grandchildren are the light of my life.  I would do anything for them.  But as the years pass, and as I continue this work in nonviolent civil resistance, I realize more and more strongly that as a grandmother I must reach my arms wide to embrace all the children of the world.  And so as I think of my own grandchildren and what kind of a world this will be when they grow up, I also think of the children whose fathers, brothers, grandfathers, and uncles are in Guantanamo.  What is it like for these children who have not seen the men who love them for eight long years?  I think of the children of Iraq whose lives have been devastated by the illegal and immoral war of aggression that we have been waging on their country.  I think of the children of Afghanistan and Pakistan who don't even feel safe in their own beds at night as they lie there listening for the drones that could destroy their lives.  I think of all these children and know that I must do everything I can to try to make the world a better place for them.  I will not be deterred - and so our struggle continues.

Joy First, PhD, is a long-time peace activist. She is convener of the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance. She is also affiliated with Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice and Madison Pledge of Resistance.

UN Rights Chief says Torturers Will Face Justice

GENEVA – UN human rights chief Navi Pillay on Friday warned torturers that they could not escape justice even if they might benefit from short term impunity.

"Torturers, and their superiors, need to hear the following message loud and clear: however powerful you are today, there is a strong chance that sooner or later you will be held to account for your inhumanity," Pillay said.

"Torture is an extremely serious crime, and in certain circumstances can amount to a war crime, a crime against humanity or genocide," she added in a statement to mark Saturday's International Day for the Victims of Torture.

The High Commissioner for Human Rights urged governments, the United Nations and campaign groups "to ensure that this message is backed by firm action."

"No one suspected of committing torture can benefit from an amnesty. That is a basic principle of international justice and a vital one," Pillay added.

"I am concerned, however, that some states rigidly maintain amnesties that save torturers from being brought to justice, even though the regimes that employed them are long gone.

"As a result there are a number of well-established democracies that generally abide by the rule of law, and are proud to do so, which are in effect protecting torturers and denying justice," said Pillay.

That often, as a result, denied their victims reparations.

The UN human rights chief noted that more people were being prosecuted for torture every year, including recent prosecutions in Chile and Argentina for cases dating back to the 1970s and 1980s.

She also highlighted the looming verdict in Cambodia's war crimes tribunal on former Khmer Rouge prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, commonly known as 'Duch' which is due on July 26.

"There is one aspect of all this that should cause even the most ruthless and self-confident torturers to stop and think: in time, all regimes change, including the most entrenched and despotic.

"So even those who think their immunity from justice is ironclad can -- and I hope increasingly will-- eventually find themselves in court," Pillay added.

House Comm. Releases Deposition of OLC Torture Memo Author

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 15, 2010
2:16 PM

CONTACT: ACLU
Mandy Simon, (202) 675-2312; media@dcaclu.org
Rachel Myers, (212) 549-2689 or 2666; media@aclu.org

House Committee Releases Deposition of OLC Torture Memo Author Jay Bybee

ACLU Calls for Expanded Torture Investigation

WASHINGTON - July 15 - The House Judiciary Committee today released a transcript from its closed-door deposition of former high-ranking Justice Department lawyer Jay Bybee. As head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) under President George W. Bush, Bybee authored and signed two memoranda dated August 1, 2002 that provided the legal framework for the Bush administration's torture program. Bybee is now a federal appeals court judge.

According to Bybee's testimony, the OLC did not approve many of the torture techniques used on detainees by the CIA. He stated that the memos he wrote did not authorize the "substantial repetition" of OLC-approved techniques including waterboarding and that the August 2002 advice was limited to one specific detainee.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers has referred the transcript of the Bybee deposition to Justice Department prosecutors so that it may be used in the department's ongoing investigation being led by Justice Department prosecutor John Durham.

The following can be attributed to Christopher Anders, ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel:

"The House Judiciary Committee's deposition of Judge Bybee is extraordinarily important because it is Exhibit A in defeating the mistaken argument that there was some kind of ‘golden shield' against liability for torture crimes. But while Bybee's testimony is an important piece of the torture puzzle, there has still been amazingly little oversight and no accountability over the most central piece of the puzzle: decisions made in the Bush White House itself. The deposition confirms what we've known for years - that these policies were authorized and carried out at the highest ranks of the Bush administration. It is now up to Congress and Justice Department prosecutors to continue their work to investigate high level Bush administration involvement and to ensure that no one is above the law."

The following can be attributed to Jameel Jaffer, Deputy Legal Director of the ACLU:

"The documents released today shed further light on the origins of the Bush administration's torture program. They also make it even clearer that the Justice Department needs to conduct a comprehensive criminal investigation. In recent months, many other countries - including some of America's closest allies - have begun to examine their responsibility for the abuse and torture of prisoners in U.S. custody. Indeed, the United States is increasingly isolated in its unwillingness to investigate the roots of the torture program, its refusal to compensate torture survivors and its failure to hold accountable the senior government officials who authorized interrogators to use torture. Judge Bybee's testimony underscores what we've been saying for a long time: that the Justice Department should be conducting an investigation that encompasses not just low-level interrogators but senior government officials who authorized torture."

 

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The ACLU conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.


a key element is missing

Yes the war criminals Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice should be indicted for their ordering of kidnapping and torture. But there is an even larger crime for which they have to be indicted: The launching of a war of aggression against Iraq. Remember that Iraq wasn't provoking the U.S. and that its government such as it was jumped through several degrading hoops in trying to avoid a war with the U.S., all to no avail as it was obvious to any objective observer from more than a year before March 2003 that nothing was going to dissuade the Cheney regime from its unprovoked war. There is nothing fundamentally different from the P.N.A.C. Cheneyites having their war against Iraq and the Hitlerites launching a war against Poland. Wrong is wrong.

 

The U.N. was founded to try to prevent wars of aggression, sensibly as it was founded by the Allies in World War II. If it was Nigeria having invaded Cameroun in 2003 then Nigeria would have been condemned and kicked out of the U.N. if it refused to withdraw from Cameroun's territory. But the U.S. has a permanent seat on the security council so it could potentially veto the motion to expel the U.S., it pays about one-fifth of the U.N.'s expenses and its headquarters building is in New York City so America's aggression against Iraq isn't condemned for the barbarism that anyone of conscience knows it is. The impotence of the U.S.-backed U.N. notwithstanding, the I.C.C. needs to unequivocally state that the invasion and occupation of Iraq constitutes a vast crime against humanity and that the Cheney-Bush-Rumsfeld-Rice clique should be indicted and arrested for crimes against humanity the next time they step outside the U.S. If it's good for the Charles Taylors and Slobodan Miloseviches of the world then it is good for the bigger war criminals as well.

Bush Admin Removed Detainees From Guantánamo to Avoid The Law

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 6, 2010
1:16 PM

CONTACT: ACLU
Rachel Myers, (212) 549-2689 or 2666; media@aclu.org

Bush Administration Removed Detainees From Guantánamo to Avoid The Law

ACLU Calls For Broad Investigation Into Bush Torture Program

NEW YORK - August 6 - The Bush administration moved four detainees from Guantánamo to secret CIA prisons overseas in 2003 to keep them from having access to lawyers, according to the Associated Press today. The transfer came just before the Supreme Court ruled that prisoners at Guantánamo could challenge their detention in U.S. courts. The American Civil Liberties Union has long called for a broad investigation into the torture program and accountability for the government officials who knew about and authorized abusive practices.

The following can be attributed to Jameel Jaffer, Deputy Legal Director of the ACLU:

"This revelation illustrates the lengths to which the Bush administration went in order to shield its conduct from the courts and keep prisoners outside the protection of the law. Secret detention constitutes a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions, and the officials who authorized the CIA's secret prisons and torture program should be held accountable.

"The Bush administration's efforts to defeat the courts' jurisdiction must be added to the list of abuses that the current administration has thus far failed to prosecute or even to investigate. The Justice Department has initiated a criminal investigation into instances in which CIA interrogators exceeded their authority, but that investigation is too narrow. The Justice Department's investigation should examine not just the conduct of interrogators, but the conduct of the officials who authorized torture. The Obama administration's failure to hold senior officials accountable undermines the rule of law."

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The ACLU conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.


CIA Torture Tapes Destroyed: Waterboarding for Dummies

The US government confirmed today there will be no prosecutions of those involved in destroying evidence of CIA torture sessions. Maybe it's because what we know of the truth is already damning evidence of American war crimes.

Waterboarding for Dummies

by Mark Benjamin

Self-proclaimed waterboarding fan Dick Cheney called it a no-brainer in a 2006 radio interview: Terror suspects should get a "a dunk in the water." But recently released internal documents reveal the controversial "enhanced interrogation" practice was far more brutal on detainees than Cheney's description sounds, and was administered with meticulous cruelty.

Interrogators pumped detainees full of so much water that the CIA turned to a special saline solution to minimize the risk of death, the documents show. The agency used a gurney "specially designed" to tilt backwards at a perfect angle to maximize the water entering the prisoner's nose and mouth, intensifying the sense of choking – and to be lifted upright quickly in the event that a prisoner stopped breathing.

The documents also lay out, in chilling detail, exactly what should occur in each two-hour waterboarding "session." Interrogators were instructed to start pouring water right after a detainee exhaled, to ensure he inhaled water, not air, in his next breath. They could use their hands to "dam the runoff" and prevent water from spilling out of a detainee's mouth. They were allowed six separate 40-second "applications" of liquid in each two-hour session – and could dump water over a detainee's nose and mouth for a total of 12 minutes a day. Finally, to keep detainees alive even if they inhaled their own vomit during a session – a not-uncommon side effect of waterboarding – the prisoners were kept on a liquid diet. The agency recommended Ensure Plus.

"This is revolting and it is deeply disturbing," said Dr. Scott Allen, co-director of the Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights at Brown University who has reviewed all of the documents for Physicians for Human Rights. "The so-called science here is a total departure from any ethics or any legitimate purpose. They are saying, ‘This is how risky and harmful the procedure is, but we are still going to do it.' It just sounds like lunacy," he said. "This fine-tuning of torture is unethical, incompetent and a disgrace to medicine."

These torture guidelines were contained in a ream of internal government documents made public over the past year, including a legal review of Bush-era CIA interrogations by the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility released late last month.

Though public, the hundreds of pages of documents authorizing or later reviewing the agency's "enhanced interrogation program" haven't been mined for waterboarding details until now. While Bush-Cheney officials defended the legality and safety of waterboarding by noting the practice has been used to train U.S. service members to resist torture, the documents show that the agency's methods went far beyond anything ever done to a soldier during training. U.S. soldiers, for example, were generally waterboarded with a cloth over their face one time, never more than twice, for about 20 seconds, the CIA admits in its own documents.

(After this story was published, Salon learned that Marcy Wheeler, the author of the blog Emptywheel, and several other bloggers have written about many of the documents released over the past year.)

These memos show the CIA went much further than that with terror suspects, using huge and dangerous quantities of liquid over long periods of time. The CIA's waterboarding was "different" from training for elite soldiers, according to the Justice Department document released last month. "The difference was in the manner in which the detainee's breathing was obstructed," the document notes. In soldier training, "The interrogator applies a small amount of water to the cloth (on a soldier's face) in a controlled manner," DOJ wrote. "By contrast, the agency interrogator ... continuously applied large volumes of water to a cloth that covered the detainee's mouth and nose."

One of the more interesting revelations in the documents is the use of a saline solution in waterboarding. Why? Because the CIA forced such massive quantities of water into the mouths and noses of detainees, prisoners inevitably swallowed huge amounts of liquid – enough to conceivably kill them from hyponatremia, a rare but deadly condition in which ingesting enormous quantities of water results in a dangerously low concentration of sodium in the blood. Generally a concern only for marathon runners , who on extremely rare occasions drink that much water, hyponatremia could set in during a prolonged waterboarding session. A waterlogged, sodium-deprived prisoner might become confused and lethargic, slip into convulsions, enter a coma and die.

Therefore, "based on advice of medical personnel," Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Steven Bradbury wrote in a May 10, 2005, memo authorizing continued use of waterboarding, "the CIA requires that saline solution be used instead of plain water to reduce the possibility of hyponatremia."

The agency used so much water there was also another risk: pneumonia resulting from detainees inhaling the fluid forced into their mouths and noses. Saline, the CIA argued, might reduce the risk of pneumonia when this occurred.

"The detainee might aspirate some of the water, and the resulting water in the lungs might lead to pneumonia," Bradbury noted in the same memo. "To mitigate this risk, a potable saline solution is used in the procedure."

That particular Bradbury memo laid out a precise and disturbing protocol for what went on in each waterboarding session. The CIA used a "specially designed" gurney for waterboarding, Bradbury wrote. After immobilizing a prisoner by strapping him down, interrogators then tilted the gurney to a 10-15 degree downward angle, with the detainee's head at the lower end. They put a black cloth over his face and poured water, or saline, from a height of 6 to 18 inches, documents show. The slant of the gurney helped drive the water more directly into the prisoner's nose and mouth. But the gurney could also be tilted upright quickly, in the event the prisoner stopped breathing.

Detainees would be strapped to the gurney for a two-hour "session." During that session, the continuous flow of water onto a detainee's face was not supposed to exceed 40 seconds during each pour. Interrogators could perform six separate 40-second pours during each session, for a total of four minutes of pouring. Detainees could be subjected to two of those two-hour sessions during a 24-hour period, which adds up to eight minutes of pouring. But the CIA's guidelines say interrogators could pour water over the nose and mouth of a detainee for 12 minutes total during each 24-hour period. The documents do not explain the extra four minutes to get to 12.

Interrogators were instructed to pour the water when a detainee had just exhaled so that he would inhale during the pour. An interrogator was also allowed to force the water down a detainee's mouth and nose using his hands. "The interrogator may cup his hands around the detainee's nose and mouth to dam the runoff," the Bradbury memo notes. "In which case it would not be possible for the detainee to breathe during the application of the water."

"We understand that water may enter – and accumulate in – the detainee's mouth and nasal cavity, preventing him from breathing," the memo admits.

Should a prisoner stop breathing during the procedure, the documents instructed interrogators to rapidly tilt the gurney to an upright position to help expel the saline. "If the detainee is not breathing freely after the cloth is removed from his face, he is immediately moved to a vertical position in order to clear the water from his mouth, nose, and nasopharynx," Bradbury wrote. "The gurney used for administering this technique is specially designed so that this can be accomplished very quickly if necessary."

Documents drafted by CIA medical officials in 2003, about a year after the agency started using the waterboard, describe more aggressive procedures to get the water out and the subject breathing. "An unresponsive subject should be righted immediately," the CIA Office of Medical Services ordered in its Sept. 4, 2003, medical guidelines for interrogations. "The interrogator should then deliver a sub-xyphoid thrust to expel the water." (That's a blow below the sternum, similar to the thrust delivered to a chocking victim in the Heimlich maneuver.)

But even those steps might not force the prisoner to resume breathing. Waterboarding, according to the Bradbury memo, could produce "spasms of the larynx" that might keep a prisoner from breathing "even when the application of water is stopped and the detainee is returned to an upright position." In such cases, Bradbury wrote, "a qualified physician would immediately intervene to address the problem and, if necessary, the intervening physician would perform a tracheotomy." The agency required that "necessary emergency medical equipment" be kept readily available for that procedure. The documents do not say if doctors ever performed a tracheotomy on a prisoner.

The doctors were also present to monitor the detainee "to ensure that he does not develop respiratory distress." A leaked 2007 report from the International Committee of the Red Cross says that meant the detainee's finger was fixed with a pulse oxymeter, a device that measures the oxygen saturation level in the blood during the procedure. Doctors like Allen say this would allow interrogators to push a detainee close to death – but help them from crossing the line. "It is measuring in real time the oxygen content in the blood second by second," Allen explained about the pulse oxymeter. "It basically allows them to push these prisoners more to the edge. With that, you can keep going. This is calibration of harm by health professionals."

One of the weirdest details in the documents is the revelation that the agency placed detainees on liquid diets prior to the use of waterboarding. That's because during waterboarding, "a detainee might vomit and then aspirate the emesis," Bradbury wrote. In other words, breathe in his own vomit. The CIA recommended the use of Ensure Plus for the liquid diet.

Plowing through hundreds of pages of these documents is an unsettling experience. On one level, the detailed instructions can be seen as helping to carry out kinder, gentler waterboarding, with so much care and attention given to making sure detainees didn't stop breathing, get pneumonia, breathe in their own vomit or die. But of course dead detainees tell no tales, so the CIA needed to keep many of its prisoners alive. It should be noted, though, that six human rights groups in 2007 released a report showing that 39 people who appeared to have gone into the CIA's secret prison network haven't shown up since. The careful attention to detail in the documents was also used to provide legal cover for the harsh and probably illegal interrogation tactics.

As brutal as the waterboarding process was, the memos also reveal that the Bush-era Justice Department authorized the CIA to use it in combination with other forms of torture. Specifically, a detainee could be kept awake for more than seven days straight by shackling his hands in a standing position to a bolt in the ceiling so he could never sit down. The agency diapered and hand-fed its detainees during this period before putting them on the waterboard. Another memo from Bradbury, also from 2005, says that in between waterboarding sessions, a detainee could be physically slammed into a wall, crammed into a small box, placed in "stress positions" to increase discomfort and doused with cold water, among other things.

The CIA's waterboarding regimen was so excruciating, the memos show, that agency officials found themselves grappling with an unexpected development: detainees simply gave up and tried to let themselves drown. "In our limited experience, extensive sustained use of the waterboard can introduce new risks," the CIA's Office of Medical Services wrote in its 2003 memo. "Most seriously, for reasons of physical fatigue or psychological resignation, the subject may simply give up, allowing excessive filling of the airways and loss of consciousness."

The agency's medical guidelines say that after a case of "psychological resignation" by a detainee on the waterboard, an interrogator had to get approval from a CIA doctor before doing it again.

The memo also contains a last, little-noticed paragraph that may be the most disturbing of all. It seems to say that the detainees subjected to waterboarding were also guinea pigs. The language is eerily reminiscent of the very reasons the Nuremberg Code was written in the first place. That paragraph reads as follows:

"NOTE: In order to best inform future medical judgments and recommendations, it is important that every application of the waterboard be thoroughly documented: how long each application (and the entire procedure) lasted, how much water was used in the process (realizing that much splashes off), how exactly the water was applied, if a seal was achieved, if the naso- or oropharynx was filled, what sort of volume was expelled, how long was the break between applications, and how the subject looked between each treatment."

 

Human Rights Groups United in Demand for Bush's Prosecution

by César Chelala

Several human rights groups are united in their demand that former president George W. Bush face prosecution following his open admission that he authorized the use of waterboarding, one of the cruelest forms of torture. Former president Bush made his admission during interviews publicizing his book, Decision Points. Bush's admission of having authorized torture, however serious the claim is, is just one of the reasons the former president could be prosecuted.

During an interview with NBC News Bush said, "Three people were waterboarded and I believe that decision saved lives." And he added, "My job was to protect America. And I did." This is not the opinion of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch, three of the most prestigious human rights organizations.

"The Department of Justice has made clear that waterboarding is torture and, as such, a crime under the federal anti-torture statute.18 U.S.C. 2340 (c). The United States has historically prosecuted waterboarding as a crime. In light of the admission by the former President, and the legally correct determination by the Department of Justice that waterboarding is a crime, you should ensure that Mr. Durham's current investigation into detainee interrogations encompasses the conduct and decisions of former President Bush," says the ACLU in a letter addressed to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

According to Human Rights Watch, the U.S. government's conduct on alleged torture of its detainees sends an "ugly message" to the international community. "It sends the ugly message that there are no legal consequences in the United States for committing the most heinous of international crimes," said in a statement Joanne Mariner, a counter-terrorism program director at Human Rights Watch.

While the U.S. has so far taken a lenient attitude towards those that committed or ordained human rights abuses such as torture, both Argentina and Peru have shown that it is possible to indict and punish the highest officials in the land.

In Argentina, more than 30 high ranking officials, including several members of Argentina's military juntas, were prosecuted and sent to prison on long sentences following their indictment for human rights abuses committed while the military were in power. Among those crimes were the torture and enforced "disappearance" of prisoners.

In Peru, in 2009, former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori was sentenced to 25 years in jail for ordering killings and kidnapping by security forces. Mr. Fujimori was already serving a six-year term after being found guilty in 2007 on separate charges of abuse of power.

"Under international law, the former President's admission to having authorized acts that amount to torture are enough t trigger the USA's obligations to investigate his admissions and if substantiated, to prosecute him," said Claudio Cordone, senior director at Amnesty International. And he added, "His admissions also highlighted once again the absence of accountability for the crimes under international law of torture and enforced disappearance committed by the USA."

Regarding its request to prosecute former President Bush the ACLU stated, "The ACLU acknowledges the significance of this request, but it bears emphasis that the former President's acknowledgement that he authorized torture is without parallel in American history. The admission cannot be ignored. In our system, no one is above the law or beyond its reach, not even a former president."

During his recent visit to Indonesia, President Barak Obama urged the leaders of that country to acknowledge the human rights abuses of the Suharto regime. Among those abuses is the 1991 killing of over 200 East Timorese civilians in Dili, East Timor. The same principles should be applied to the conduct of former president George W. Bush. As stated by the ACLU, "A nation committed to the rule of law cannot simply ignore evidence that its most senior leaders authorized torture."

César Chelala, MD, PhD, is a co-winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award for an article on human rights.

Amnesty Int. Calls on European Union to Prosecute CIA Renditions

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 15, 2010
11:27 AM

CONTACT: Amnesty International - USA
AIUSA media relations office, 202-509-8194

In New Report, Amnesty International Calls on European Union to Continue Pursuing Justice for CIA Renditions

Human rights organization cites some movement by EU states but far more is needed

WASHINGTON - November 15 - In its new report published today, Open secret: Mounting evidence of Europe's complicity in rendition and secret detention, Amnesty International reveals the latest details in the growing body of proof that European countries were complicit in the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) renditions program.

The new report focuses on key developments and highlights recently released reports and sources that may help advance accountability in eight European countries. A summit between the European Union and the United States will occur next week in Brussels, Belgium.

"While EU states have made some efforts to investigate their role in the CIA extraordinary renditions program, very little has been done in the United States to formally investigate this dark chapter in our history," said Tom Parker, Amnesty International USA policy director for (counter) terrorism and human rights. "Those responsible for ordering and carrying out acts of kidnap and torture cannot be allowed to hide their crimes behind a spurious screen of state secrecy. Real accountability requires real remedies."

The countries highlighted in the report include German, Italy, Lithuania, Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Below is a listing of the key cases in the nations listed above:

Germany was complicit in the detention of Muhammad Zammar, interrogated by German agents while in secret detention in Syria in November 2002. German officials acknowledged that torture occurred in Syria. He has yet to receive justice despite a German parliamentary enquiry into his and others' claims of abuse.

Italy has convicted U.S. and Italian agents for their involvement Abu Omar's abduction in Milan in February 2003. He was unlawfully sent to Egypt where he was held in secret and allegedly tortured. Cases against senior U.S. and Italian officials were dismissed on grounds of state secrecy and diplomatic immunity. Italian claims of the need to protect ‘state secrets' continue to obstruct justice. Appeal proceedings in Abu Omar's case began in October 2010.

Lithuania has admitted that two secret prisons existed. A delegation from the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture visited them in June 2010, the first publicized visit by an independent monitoring body to a secret CIA prison in Europe. Ongoing criminal investigations must ensure that those responsible are held accountable.

Macedonia allegedly assisted in the unlawful detention and subsequent CIA-led rendition to Afghanistan of German national Khaled el-Masri, who has accused Macedonia at the European Court of Human Rights: probably the first time this court will consider a case involving a Council of Europe country's alleged complicity in the CIA program. Macedonia continues to deny that its agents acted unlawfully.

Poland's Border Guard Office in July 2010 revealed that seven planes operating the CIA's rendition program landed at the Polish airport at Szmany. In September, the prosecutor's office confirmed it was investigating claims by Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, that he was held in secret in Poland. He was granted ‘victim' status in October 2010, the first time a rendition victim's claims have been acknowledged in this context.

Romania is alleged to have hosted a secret CIA prison. It denies responsibility despite fresh evidence of its Involvement in the rendition program.

Sweden is charged with failing to investigate fully the rendition at the hands of the CIA in December 2001 of Ahmed Agiza and Mohammed al-Zari to Egypt, where the men reported they were tortured. Sweden has failed to provide the men with full and effective redress.

The UK announced in July 2010 that it would establish an enquiry into the involvement of British officials in the alleged mistreatment of individuals detained abroad by foreign intelligence services. The UK government has also acknowledged that the United States used British territory for rendition flights.

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Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 2.8 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

UN Expert Urges Full US Torture Investigation

by Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA - The new U.N. torture expert urged the United States on Tuesday to conduct a full investigation into torture under the Bush administration and prosecute offenders as well as senior officials who ordered it.

Juan Ernesto Mendez told Reuters he also hoped to visit Iraq to probe a "very widespread practice of torture" of detainees with the help of coalition forces, revealed in confidential U.S. files issued by Wikileaks.

He will also try to visit the U.S. detention centre at Guantanamo -- on condition that he is granted private interviews with prisoners still being held by the Obama administration, he said in his first interview with an international media organisation since taking up the independent post two weeks ago.

"The United States has a duty to investigate every act of torture. Unfortunately, we haven't seen much in the way of accountability," said Mendez, himself a former torture victim, in the wide-ranging interview at the United Nations in Geneva.

"There has to be a more serious inquiry into what happened and by whose orders... It doesn't need to be seen to be partisan or vindictive, just an obligation to follow where the evidence leads," added Mendez, the U.N. special rapporteur on torture.

A previous investigation by a U.S. special prosecutor into torture allegations was limited in scope, and congressional inquiries focused on the Pentagon but not the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), according to Mendez.

"There is a lot more to the story than has been revealed. It is important to get to the bottom of what happened and under whose orders, and if necessary to bring charges," he added.

Mendez dismissed as "very disingenuous" comments by former President George W. Bush, who in his memoir "Decision Points" strongly defends the use of waterboarding as crucial to his efforts to prevent a repeat of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Bush's approval of waterboarding, a form of simulated drowning condemned by human rights activists as torture, to try to wrench information from captured al Qaeda operatives, was among the most controversial decisions he made during eight years in the White House.

Amnesty International said last week that the United States must prosecute Bush for torture if his admission in the memoir that he authorised waterboarding holds true.

"VICTIM-CENTRED"

Mendez, 65, is a lawyer who himself survived torture while jailed by Argentina's military dictatorship in the mid-1970s for denouncing torture and defending opponents of the regime, before being expelled from his homeland.

He recalled his arrest on the street and being tortured with electric prods and beatings, a treatment also suffered by lawyers defending political opponents of President Isabel Peron.

"It was very intense, they gave me five sessions with cattle prods in less than 24 hours. They kept me in incommunicado detention about a week so the signs on my body would disappear."

Mendez said he would place victims at the heart of his three-year mandate, reporting to the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Winning permission to visit Zimbabwe and Kyrgyzstan would be among his priorities in the coming year, as well as a first-ever trip to Cuba to probe the prison conditions of hunger strikers.

"Victims have the right to see justice done, and to participate in the process, and the state also has an obligation to provide reparations," he said.

Mendez, a law professor at American University in Washington, D.C., succeeds Austrian Manfred Nowak and is the fifth expert to hold the position in 25 years. (Editing by Jonathan Lynn and Tim Pearce)

 

Bush At Large

by Ralph Nader

George W. Bush is on a roll-a money roll with a $7 million advance for his book Decision Points and a rehabilitation roll to paint his war crimes as justifiable mass-slaughter and torture.

His carefully chosen interviewers-NBC's Matt Lauer and Oprah Winfrey-agreed to a safe pre-taping to avoid demonstrations and tough questions. Requests for him to speak are pouring in from business conventions and other rich assemblages willing to pay $200,000 for "the Decider's" banalities. This is "Shrub's" month in the sun. In his first week of book promotion, he was asked about anything he would have done had he known then what he knew now-especially regarding Iraq and its encircled dictator. Well, he deplored receiving "false intelligence" about Saddam Hussein having weapons of mass destruction which was one of several false claims he fed the American people before invading Iraq in 2003. But he has no regrets, saying that "the world was undoubtedly safer with Saddam gone."

But was it safer for over a million Iraqis who lost their lives due to the invasion, over 4 million refugees, 4500 American soldiers lost, 1100 amputees, tens of thousands injured, sick and tens of thousands more GIs coming back with trauma to lost jobs, broken families and permanent damage to their health.

Was it worth a trillion dollars to blow apart the country of Iraq and incur many more enemies? Was it worth starting a war paid for by a massive debt handed to our children so that George W. and Dick Cheney could give themselves and their rich buddies a massive tax cut? Ex-presidents possess self-excusing delusions, but this is non compos mentis run amuck.

Then there is his escape from legal sanctions because the law enforcers in the Justice Department act as if Bush and Dick Cheney are above the law. "What is Attorney General Holder waiting for," declared conservative/libertarian former Judge Andrew Napolitano, the legal analyst for Fox News, adding that Holder should criminally prosecute both Bush and Cheney for their many crimes. Just as a Justice Department task force was about to do to Richard Nixon after he resigned his office in 1974, for far lesser crimes, when President Ford pardoned him.

I asked Bruce Fein, an associate deputy attorney general under Ronald Reagan, constitutional rights litigator, author of books and articles and many Congressional testimonies on the imperial presidency, and its unlawful penchant for Empire, for his reaction. Here is his response:

"Former President Bush's selective memoir is a little like Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark. With the exception of authorizing waterboarding, a form of torture, Bush neglects his serial vandalizing of the Constitution and the federal criminal code: five years of illegal surveillances of Americans on American soil; a war against Iraq without proper authorization by Congress; illegal detentions of enemy combatants without accusation or trials; hundred of unconstitutional signing statements professing an intent to refuse to faithfully execute the laws; unconstitutional defiance of congressional subpoenas; and, employing unilateral executive agreements to circumvent the treaty authority of the Senate over military commitments."

"Despite his constitutional literacy, President Obama has balked at faithful execution of the laws against torture, warrantless spying on Americans, or obstruction of justice perpetrated by Bush and his servile minions. On that score, Obama resembles President Nixon, who was impeached by the House Judiciary Committee and forced to resign for sneering at his constitutional obligation to enforce, not ignore the laws.

"If Obama believes exculpatory circumstances justify non-prosecution of Bush-Cheney," Fein continued, "then he should pardon them as authorized by the Constitution. A pardon must be accepted by the recipient to be effective, and acknowledges guilt and the inviolability of the rule of law. Ignoring lawlessness at the highest levels like Obama wounds the rule of law, and creates a precedent that lies around like a loaded weapon ready to destroy the Constitution. Obama himself is thus violating his oath of office by nonfeasance."

Lawyer Fein is not referring to a one time episode like Watergate but a recurrent, pattern of massive outlawry here and abroad stretching for years. In 2005-2006, the large and very conservative American Bar Association, led by its then president, corporate attorney, Michael Greco, convened three task forces that produced white papers documenting three patterns of Bush's unconstitutional behavior. Mr. Fein served on the panel that condemned the outpourings of Presidential signing statements. Although addressed and sent to President Bush, the ABA received no response to these unprecedented condemnations.

Our legal system and Constitution touted as the greatest in the world, decay when we allow epidemics of grave violations by the President and other White House violators to be rewarded for their unconstitutionalism and criminality.

On Armistice Day, November 11, 2010, The Washington Post put on page one the excruciating, but brave struggle of quadruple amputee, Marine Cpl. Todd A Nicely trying to make the best of his surviving an explosive device in Afghanistan. On the reverse page two there was a picture of a smiling George W. Bush signing his book. He is getting away with it.

Holding Bush/Cheney accountable by the soldiers he sent to kill and die in illegal wars, with few exceptions such as the Military Families Speak Out (MFSO.org) and the Iraq Veterans Against the War (ivaw.org) and Veterans for Peace (veteransforpeace.org) are not being made in public by enough soldiers after their service. Many know who was responsible but under pressure from their superiors and not wanting, along with their families, to admit publically that they suffered and fought in vain, they remain silent. With their credibility, more of them need to exert real patriotism and speak out against the militant White House draft-dodgers and their neo-con advisors who drove them and our country into these boomeranging, destructive wars.

The Post completed this grim trilogy with a full page color ad by the profitable munitions manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, which taxpayers paid for, thanking the "commitment" and "sacrifice" of those who are serving today in America's military forces.

For the political cowards and their corporate profiteers, wars do not demand their sacrifice, they only invite their manipulative flattery. Same old racket, recalling double Congressional Medal of Honor winner, Marine General Smedley Butler whose book "War Is A Racket" said it all decades ago.

Of course more members of another profession should declare itself for prosecution-the one million-strong licensed attorneys sworn to uphold the law as "officers of the court"!

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His most recent book - and first novel -  is, Only The Super-Rich Can Save Us. His most recent work of non-fiction is The Seventeen Traditions.

Warmonger: Bush in His Own Words

US Intelligence Thwarted Attack on Iran

by Ray McGovern

Why should George W. Bush have been "angry" to learn in late 2007 of the "high-confidence" unanimous judgment of all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies that Iran had stopped working on a nuclear weapon four years earlier? Seems to me he might have said "Hot Dog!" rather than curse under his breath. 

Nowhere in his memoir, Decision Points, is Bush's bizarre relationship with truth so manifest as when he describes his dismay at learning that the intelligence community had redeemed itself for its lies about Iraq by preparing an honest National Intelligence Estimate on Iran.  As the Bush-book makes abundantly clear, that NIE rammed an iron rod through the wheels of the juggernaut rolling toward war.

Nowhere is Bush's abiding conviction clearer, now as then, that his role as "decider" include the option to create his own reality.

The Fawning Corporate Media (FCM) has missed that part of the book. And hundreds of Dallas "sheriffs," assembled to ensure decorum at the Bush library groundbreaking last week, kept us hoi polloi well out of presidential earshot. 

But someone should ask Bush why he was not relieved, rather than angered, to learn from U.S. intelligence that Iran had had no active nuclear weapons program since 2003. And would someone dare ask why Bush thought Israel should have been "furious with the United States over the NIE?"

It seems likely that Bush actually dictated this part of the book himself.  For, in setting down his reaction to the NIE on Iran, he unwittingly confirmed an insight that Dr. Justin Frank, M.D., who teaches psychiatry at George Washington University Hospital, gave us veteran intelligence officers into how Bush comes at reality - or doesn't.

"His pathology is a patchwork of false beliefs and incomplete information woven into what he asserts is the whole truth... He lies - not just to us, but to himself as well... What makes lying so easy for Bush is his contempt - for language, for law, and for anybody who dares question him.... So his words mean nothing. That is very important for people to understand." [See Consortiumnews.com's "Dangers of a Cornered Bush."]

Not Enough Sycophants

When the NIE on Iran came out in late 2007, Bush may have pined for his sycophant-in-chief, former CIA Director George Tenet and his co-conspirator deputy, John McLaughlin, who had shepherded the bogus Iraq-WMD analysis through the process in 2002 but had resigned in 2004 when their role in the deceptions became so obvious that it shamed even them.

Tenet and his CIA cronies had been expert at preparing estimates-to-go - to go to war, that is. They had proved themselves worthy rivals of the other CIA, the Culinary Institute of America, in cooking intelligence to the White House menu.

On Iraq, they had distinguished themselves by their willingness to conjure up "intelligence" that Senate Intelligence Committee chair Jay Rockefeller described as "uncorroborated, unconfirmed, and nonexistent," after a five-year review by his panel. (That finding was no news to any attentive observer, despite Herculean - and largely successful - efforts by the FCM to promote drinking the White House Kool-Aid.)

What is surprising in the case of Iran is the candor with which George W. Bush explains his chagrin at learning of the unanimous judgment of the intelligence community that Iran had not been working on a nuclear weapon since late 2003. [There is even new doubt about reports that the Iranians were working on a nuclear warhead before 2003. See Consortiumnews.com's "Iranian Nuke Documents May Be Fake."]

The Estimate's findings were certainly not what the Israelis and their neoconservative allies in Washington had been telling the White House - and not what President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were dutifully proclaiming to the rest of us.

Shocked at Honesty

Bush lets it all hang out in Decision Points. He complains bitterly that the NIE "tied my hands on the military side." He notes that the Estimate opened with this "eye-popping" finding of the intelligence community:

"We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program."

The former president adds, "The NIE's conclusion was so stunning that I felt it would immediately leak to the press." He writes that he authorized declassification of the key findings "so that we could shape the news stories with the facts." Facts?

The mind boggles at the thought that Bush actually thought the White House, even with de rigueur help from an ever-obliging FCM, could put a positive spin on intelligence conclusions that let a meretricious cat out of the bag-that showed that the Bush administration's case for war against Iran was as flimsy as its bogus case for invading Iraq.

How painful it was to watch the contortions the hapless Stephen Hadley, national security adviser at the time, went through in trying to square that circle. His task was the more difficult since, unlike the experience with the dishonestly edited/declassified version of what some refer to as the Whore of Babylon - the Oct. 1, 2002 NIE on WMD in Iraq, this time the managers of the Estimate made sure that the declassified version of the key judgments presented a faithful rendering of the main points in the classified Estimate.

A disappointed Bush writes, "The backlash was immediate. [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad hailed the NIE as a ‘great victory.'" Bush's apparent "logic" here is to use the widespread disdain for Ahmadinejad to discredit the NIE through association, i.e. whatever Ahmadinejad praises must be false.

But can you blame Bush for his chagrin? Alas, the NIE had knocked out the props from under the anti-Iran propaganda machine, imported duty-free from Israel and tuned up by neoconservatives here at home.

How embarrassing. Here before the world were the key judgments of an NIE, the most authoritative genre of intelligence analysis, unanimously approved "with high confidence" by16 agencies and signed by the Director of National Intelligence, saying, in effect, that Bush and Cheney were lying about the "Iranian nuclear threat."

It is inconceivable that as the drafting of the Estimate on Iran proceeded during 2007, the intelligence community would have kept the White House in the dark about the emerging tenor of its conclusions. And yet, just a month before the Estimate was issued, Bush was claiming that the threat from Iran could lead to "World War III."

The Russians More Honest?

Ironically, Russian President Vladimir Putin, unencumbered by special pleading and faux intelligence, had come to the same conclusions as the NIE.

Putin told French President Nicolas Sarkozy in early October 2007:

"We don't have information showing that Iran is striving to produce nuclear weapons. That's why we're proceeding on the basis that Iran does not have such plans."

In a mocking tone, Putin asked what evidence the U.S. and France had for asserting that Iran intends to make nuclear weapons. And, adding insult to injury, during a visit to Tehran on Oct. 16, 2007, Putin warned: "Not only should we reject the use of force, but also the mention of force as a possibility."

This brought an interesting outburst by President Bush the next day at a press conference, a bizarre reaction complete with his famously tortured syntax:

Q. "Mr. President, I'd like to follow on Mr.--on President Putin's visit to Tehran ... about the words that Vladimir Putin said there. He issued a stern warning against potential U.S. military action against Tehran. ...Were you disappointed with [Putin's] message?"

Bush: "I -- as I say, I look forward to -- if those are, in fact, his comments, I look forward to having him clarify those ... And so I will visit with him about it."

Q. "But you definitively believe Iran wants to build a nuclear weapon?"

Bush: "I think so long -- until they suspend and/or make it clear that they -- that their statements aren't real, yes, I believe they want to have the capacity, the knowledge, in order to make a nuclear weapon. And I know it's in the world's interest to prevent them from doing so. I believe that the Iranian -- if Iran had a nuclear weapon, it would be a dangerous threat to world peace.

"But this is -- we got a leader in Iran who has announced that he wants to destroy Israel. So I've told people that if you're interested in avoiding world war III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon. I take the threat of Iran with a nuclear weapon very seriously, and we'll continue to work with all nations about the seriousness of this threat."

Can't Handle the Truth

In his memoir, Bush laments: "I don't know why the NIE was written the way it was. ... Whatever the explanation, the NIE had a big impact - and not a good one." Spelling out how the Estimate had tied his hands "on the military side," Bush included this (apparently unedited) kicker:

"But after the NIE, how could I possible explain using the military to destroy the nuclear facilities of a country the intelligence community said had no active nuclear weapons program?"

Thankfully, not even Dick Cheney could persuade Bush to repair the juggernaut and let it loose for war on Iran. The avuncular Vice President has made it clear that he was very disappointed in his protégé. On Aug. 30, 2009, he told "Fox News Sunday" that he was isolated among Bush advisers in his enthusiasm for war with Iran.

"I was probably a bigger advocate of military action than any of my colleagues," Cheney said when asked whether the Bush administration should have launched a pre-emptive attack on Iran before leaving office.

Bush briefed Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert before the NIE was released. Bush later said publicly that he did not agree with his own intelligence agencies. [For more on the Bush memoir's conflicts with the truth, see Consortiumnews.com's "George W. Bush: Dupe or Deceiver?"]

And it is entirely possible that the Iran-war juggernaut would have been repaired and turned loose anyway, were it not for strong opposition by the top military brass who convinced Bush that Cheney, his neocon friends and Olmert had no idea of the chaos that war with Iran would unleash.

There's lots of evidence that this is precisely what Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen and then-CENTCOM commander Adm. William Fallon told Bush, in no uncertain terms. And it is a safe bet that these two were among those hinting broadly to Bush that the NIE was likely to "leak," if he did not himself make its key judgments public.

Whew!

What About Now

The good news is that Cheney is gone and that Adm. Mullen is still around.

The bad news is that Adm. Fallon was sacked for making it explicitly clear that, "We're not going to do Iran on my watch," and there are few flag officers with Fallon's guts and honesty. Moreover, President Barack Obama continues to show himself to be an invertebrate vis-à-vis Israel and its neocon disciples.

Meanwhile, a draft NIE update on Iran's nuclear program, completed earlier this year, is dead in its tracks, apparently because anti-Iran hawks inside the Obama administration are afraid it will leak. It is said to repeat pretty much the same conclusions as the NIE from 2007.

There are other ominous signs. The new Director of National Intelligence, retired Air Force Lt. Gen. James Clapper, is a subscriber to the Tenet school of malleability. It was Clapper whom former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld put in charge of imagery analysis to ensure that no one would cast serious doubt on all those neocon and Iraqi "defector" reports of WMD in Iraq. 

And, when no WMD caches were found, it was Clapper who blithely suggested, without a shred of good evidence, that Saddam Hussein had sent them to Syria. This was a theory also being pushed by neocons both to deflect criticism of their false assurances about WMD in Iraq and to open a new military front against another Israeli nemesis, Syria.

In these circumstances, there may be some value in keeping the NIE update bottled up. At least that way, Clapper and other malleable managers won't have the chance to play chef to another "cooked-to-order" analysis.

On the other hand, the neocons and our invertebrate President may well decide to order Clapper to "fix" the updated Estimate to fit in better with a policy of confrontation toward Iran.  In that case, the new Director of National Intelligence might want to think twice. For Clapper could come a cropper. How?

The experience of 2007 showed that there are still some honest intelligence analysts around with integrity and guts-and with a strong aversion to managers who prostitute their work.  This time around, such truth-tellers could opt for speedy, anonymous ways of getting the truth out-like, say, WikiLeaks.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC. During his career as a CIA analyst, he prepared and briefed the President's Daily Brief and chaired National Intelligence Estimates. He is a member of the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

U.S. Pressured Germany Not to Prosecute CIA Officers for Torture

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 29, 2010
3:01 PM

CONTACT: ACLU
Rachel Myers, (212) 549-2689 or 2666; media@aclu.org

U.S. Pressured Germany Not to Prosecute CIA Officers for Torture and Rendition

Wikileaks Release Reveals Meeting About ACLU Client Khaled El-Masri

new - November 29 - The Bush administration pressured Germany not to prosecute CIA officers responsible for the kidnapping, extraordinary rendition and torture of German national Khaled El-Masri, according to a document made public Sunday night by Wikileaks. The document, a 2007 cable from the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, describes a meeting during which the then-deputy chief of the U.S. mission to Germany, John M. Koenig, urged German officials to "weigh carefully at every step of the way the implications for relations with the U.S." of issuing international arrest warrants in the El-Masri case.

In 2003, El-Masri was kidnapped from Macedonia and transported to a secret CIA-run prison in Afghanistan where he was held for several months and tortured before being dumped on a hillside in Albania. The American Civil Liberties Union brought a case in the U.S. on El-Masri's behalf in 2005, charging that former CIA director George Tenet violated U.S. and universal human rights laws when he authorized agents to abduct and abuse El-Masri. Lower courts dismissed the lawsuit on state secrecy grounds, and in 2007 the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case. In 2008, the ACLU filed a petition on El-Masri's behalf against the United States with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, but the government has failed to respond. To date, no top U.S. officials have been held accountable for their role in the Bush administration torture program.

The following can be attributed to Ben Wizner, Litigation Director of the ACLU National Security Project:

"We have long known that both the Bush and Obama administrations have shielded perpetrators of torture and rendition from accountability for their illegal acts. We now know that U.S. diplomats have also sought to shut down accountability efforts abroad. The United States' employment of diplomatic pressure to influence the legal proceedings of a democratic ally was improper and unseemly, particularly where the goal of that interference was to shield U.S. officials from accountability for torture.

"Even as many of our closest allies have acknowledged and addressed their official complicity in the Bush administration's human rights abuses, the United States has yet to reckon with its legacy of torture. The best way to restore our standing in the world, reassert the rule of law and strengthen our democracy is to support, not obstruct, meaningful accountability for torture."

The cable released by Wikileaks concerning El-Masri is available online at: cablegate.wikileaks.org/cable/2007/02/07BERLIN242.html

 

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The ACLU conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.


Rights Groups Urge Spanish Court to Open Investigation into Bush

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 14, 2010
10:09 AM

CONTACT: Center for Constitutional Rights
Jen Nessel, 212.614.6449, jnessel@ccrjustice.org
David Lerner, Riptide Communications, 212.260.5000

Leading Rights Groups Urge Spanish Court to Open Investigation without Further Delay into Role of Bush Lawyers in Torture of Guantanamo Detainees

WikiLeak Cables Reveal Obama Administration Sought to Use Political Means to Circumvent Legal Process and Avoid Accountability for Bush-Era Abuses

MADRID, Spain - December 14 - Today, two leading human rights groups filed papers urging a Spanish judge to open a criminal investigation into the role of former Bush administration officials, including torture memo authors John Yoo and Jay Bybee, for their part in creating a legal framework that permitted the torture of detainees held in U.S. custody. The filing comes on the heels of the release of diplomatic cables by the media organization WikiLeaks that show how the U.S. pressured Spanish officials to derail the investigation. 

In their filing, the New York based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the Berlin based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) submitted a joint expert opinion that supplements papers filed in April of this year. CCR and ECCHR urge Judge Eloy Velasco to retain jurisdiction over the investigation due to the failure of the United States to conduct its own investigation into the torture program and the ongoing failure of the Obama administration to prosecute those responsible. A complaint had been filed against six former Bush administration officials in March 2009 alleging violations of international law, including war crimes and torture. In May 2009 and again in April 2010, Judge Velasco issued formal requests to the United States seeking information regarding any pending investigations in the U.S. that would render the Spanish complaint unnecessary. In October, Judge Velasco issued an order in which he noted the "urgency of compliance" with his earlier requests to the U.S. The Obama Administration has ignored the request, while, as the WikiLeaks cables reveal, they acted to undermine the legal process through political means and disregarded the independence of the Spanish judiciary.

"The State Department cables make it crystal clear that a culture of impunity still exists in the United States and that the U.S. sought to subvert efforts for justice in Spain in order to ensure that U.S. officials never face accountability for their involvement in serious violations of international law," said Katherine Gallagher, a senior staff attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights. "The U.S. has had more than sufficient time to respond to the Spanish court's request for information but it is now disturbingly clear that the Obama administration not only rejects accountability but actually sought to subvert justice."

The Madrid cables detail meetings between U.S. officials, including Madrid embassy staff and members of the United States Congress, and Spanish officials from various ministries as well as the Spanish Attorney General, with the U.S. pressing to have this case dismissed. In one of the leaked cables it is revealed that the U.S. was particularly concerned that the case would be heard by a prominent Investigating Judge, Baltasar Garzon, who is known for accepting universal jurisdiction cases.  In one cable, Spain's Chief Prosecutor Javier Zaragoza is reported to have said that "in all likelihood he would have no option but to open a case," as "the complaint appears well-documented" but  reassures that "he was in no rush to proceed with the case." Zaragoza also said he will "argue against the case being assigned to Garzon." The cables also detail improper interventions by U.S. officials in other cases involving the U.S. that are pending before the Spanish judiciary.

"The U.S. government seems to fear an independent justice system and tries to put European prosecutors and judges under pressure to ensure impunity for torture and rendition flights. We hope that European jurists will resist this pressure and stand up and defend their independence," said Wolfgang Kaleck, Secretary General of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights.

In the United States, the Department of Justice closed the investigation into the destruction of 92 CIA torture tapes without charging anyone with a crime; it has failed to open an investigation of torture by former U.S. officials - including against the authors of the torture memos - even when they confess that they authorized or were otherwise complicit in the torture of detainees in U.S. custody.

Madrid-based lawyer Gonzalo Boye, who has brought numerous cases under universal jurisdiction in Spanish courts, is the counsel for CCR and ECCHR in this case.

For more information on the Bush Six case in Spain, see http://www.ccrjustice.org/ourcases/current-cases/spanish-investigation-us-torture.

CCR has led the legal battle over Guantanamo for the last eight years - sending the first ever habeas attorney to the base and sending the first attorney to meet with an individual transferred from CIA "ghost detention" to Guantanamo.  CCR has been responsible for organizing and coordinating more than 500 pro bono lawyers across the country to represent the men at Guantanamo, ensuring that nearly all have the option of legal representation. In addition, CCR has been working to resettle the approximately 30 men who remain at Guantánamo because they cannot return to their country of origin for fear of persecution and torture.

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The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.

Low-Level Perps: Italian Court Ups Sentences for 23 CIA Agents

ROME - An Italian court on Wednesday upped the sentences for 23 CIA agents convicted in absentia of abducting an Egyptian imam in one of the biggest cases against the US "extraordinary rendition" program.

The 23 CIA agents, originally sentenced in November 2009 to five to eight years in prison, had their sentences increased to seven to nine years on appeal in what one of the defense lawyers described as a "shocking blow" for the US.

They were also ordered to pay 1.5 million euros (2.0 million dollars) in damages to the imam and his wife for the 2003 abduction.

Washington has refused to extradite the agents, who all remain at liberty but now risk arrest if they travel to Europe.

Osama Mustafa Hassan, a radical Islamist opposition figure better known as Abu Omar, was snatched from a street in Milan in 2003 in an operation coordinated by the CIA and the Italian military intelligence agency SISMI.

Abu Omar, who enjoyed political asylum in Italy, was then allegedly taken to the Aviano US air base in northeastern Italy, then flown to a US base in Germany, and on to Cairo, where he says he was tortured.

Among the defendants sentenced on Wednesday was Bob Seldon Lady, former head of the CIA station in Milan, whose sentence was increased to nine years from eight. The other 22 agents had their sentences upped from five to seven years.

Guido Meroni, a defense lawyer for six of the 23 agents, said he believed the sentences had been increased because the court had rejected the mitigating circumstances that had led to the original judgment.

"The judges had originally ruled they had just been following orders, but it seems the court of appeals didn't agree," he told AFP.

"I am surprised, I didn't think the sentences would be increased. Of course we will take it to the supreme court," he added.

The court also acquitted the then head of Italian military intelligence, Nicolo Pollari, and his assistant Marco Mancini, because producing evidence against them would have violated state secrecy rules.

In an earlier hearing on Wednesday, the court ordered a re-trial for three other CIA officers, including the then CIA chief for Italy Jeffrey Castelli, because of irregularities in the appeal procedures.

In the first trial they had benefited from diplomatic immunity and had been acquitted.

Their lawyer, Alessia Sorgato, said she was "pleased" that the court had acknowledged the "irregularities" surrounding their case, but said the court had taken a hard line against the other agents.

"It's a shocking blow for the Americans," she said.

The "extraordinary rendition" program was launched in 2003 by then US president George W. Bush and saw scores of suspects returned to their home countries, some of which were known to use torture.

Abu Omar's US captors failed to take many standard precautions, notably speaking openly on cell phones, leaving investigators to suspect they had cleared their intentions with Italian intelligence.

Impunity: Dick Cheney's $250-Million 'Get Out of Jail Free' Card

by John Nichols

What's the going rate for getting a former vice president off the hook in a major criminal case that involves charges of government corruption and raises concerns about violent wrongdoing and even murder?

If you're Dick Cheney, it's roughly $250 million.

That's the amount that Halliburton and its former subsidiary KBR Inc. are reported, by Nigerian officials and international observers, to have paid to get the government of the African country to drop bribery charges against the former corporate CEO and other Halliburton employees and operatives.

Top Nigerian lawyers and newspapers are objecting, and rightly so.

The charges against Cheney and his colleagues go far beyond the usual corporate corruption.

I've been following them for the better part of a decade.

In the biography I wrote about then-Vice President Richard B. Cheney — Dick: The Man Who Is President, published in 2004 by New Press — I devoted a good deal of space to the former Halliburton CEO's business engagements in Nigeria.

The section on the dirty dealings in that country by Halliburton during the time when Cheney served as that company’s CEO in the 1990s, argued that: “One of the ugliest stories of Halliburton’s globe-trotting comes out of Nigeria, the oil-and-gas rich West African country where the brutal dictatorship of Sani Abacha garnered a good deal of attention for jailing and executing environmentalists—including playwright Ken Saro-Wiwa—who were displeased by its willingness to allow the government’s international oil industry partners to dislocate communities and despoil vast stretches of the countryside. Abacha looked like someone with whom Halliburton could do business. The price that Halliburton and its partners in an international consortium had to pay was high—they are alleged to have paid a $180 million bribe to the Abacha government—but it was a pittance compared with the potential payout. The liquefied natural gas plant they planned to build was valued at as much as $6 billion. Things went swimmingly until the Abacha dictatorship began to crumble and details of its dealings with companies such as Halliburton leaked out.”

By early 2004, in the midst of Cheney’s tenure as the most powerful vice president in American history, French investigators were talking about calling the former CEO to testify regarding his alleged awareness of wrongdoing in Nigeria.

Around the same time, the new government of Nigeria opened an inquiry.

Things move slowly when it comes to corporate crime investigations.

But the Nigerian inquiry finally reached a critical stage this year—for Cheney and for the global quest for corporate accountability.

"We are filing charges against Cheney," Femi Babafemi, a spokesperson for Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), announced this fall.

Godwin Obla, prosecuting counsel for the commission, announced in late November that Nigerian officials would bring significant charges against Cheney and officials from five foreign companies (including Halliburton) in relation to the bribery scandal.

Business Week, which reported that: “An arrest warrant for Cheney ‘will be issued and transmitted through Interpol,” the world’s biggest international police organization...”

That was no idle threat.

At the time of the announcement, Nigeria had already arrested roughly two dozen officials with Halliburton and its partner companies—Technip SA, Europe’s second-largest oilfield- services provider; Eni SpA, Italy’s biggest oil company; and Saipem Construction Co., a unit of Eni—in connection with alleged illegal payments to Nigerian officials, according to Business Week.

But Cheney and his compatriots did not appear to be interested in clearing their names in a court of law.

After weeks of behind-the-scenes negotiating by Halliburton representatives with the Nigerians—a process that reportedly saw former President George H.W, Bush and former Secretary of State James Baker make calls on Cheney's behalf—the charges against Cheney have been dropped.

Why? Did new evidence of Cheney's innocence come to light?

No.

According to the Associated Press, "Nigeria's anti-corruption watchdog, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, said the charges were dropped on Friday after Halliburton agreed to pay fines up to $250 million over allegations it paid millions of dollars in bribe to Nigerian officials."

The company acknowledges it has agreed to pay $35 million to the Nigerian government over "allegations of improper payments to government officials in Nigeria."

But it appears that the even bigger payout will take the form of a deal to free up Nigerian money that had been locked away in Swiss bank accounts.

The revelation that Halliburton and KBR paid tens of millions of dollars directly, and hundreds of millions indirectly, to get Cheney and his associates off the hook, has not set well with Nigerians who have campaigned for transparency and accountability.

Calling for a rethink of the agreement, Osuagwu Ugochukwu, the principal partner Nigeria's St. Francis Xavier Solicitors firm, argued that Cheney and his compatriots received special treatment that was not in accordance with proper legal procedures. "We know as a point of law that once a criminal charge has been filed in a competent court, issue of penalty of fine is for the courts to impose and not parties," argued the prominent lawyer. "Hence, we are shocked to hear that EFCC imposed a fine on an accused person. We also know as a point of law that criminal matters cannot be settled out of court as in civil matters in Nigeria."

Declaring that deal raises "troubling questions about business ethics and the government’s anti-corruption posture," the Daily Sun newspaper editorial declared that: "We therefore condemn in strong terms this kind of under the table settlement. (This) is making Nigeria look like a country where money can buy justice. More importantly, the Halliburton case questions the seriousness of government in holding corrupt foreign firms and their officials accountable for their action, while on the other hand encouraging and patronizing companies that have not only confessed corrupt practices, but are not known to respect wholesome business ethics."

"Only a painstaking trial and possible conviction, if found guilty, would have forced Halliburton to change its corrupt ways of doing business in Nigeria," concluded the Sun.

That's the proper stance.

It's unlikely that Nigeria will take it.

But does a payment in Nigeria mean that Cheney will not be held to account anywhere?

That's an important question for US officials. 

The United States government began an investigation into Halliburton’s dealings in Nigeria around the same time that the Nigerians started looking into the matter. In February, 2009, Halliburton and its former subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR) agreed to the largest corruption settlement ever paid by a US company under the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) -- $579 million. This year, Business Week reports, one of the Halliburton partner companies,  Technip, “took a charge of 245 million euros ($342 million) related to its stake in (Nigerian projects) and discussed ‘resolution of all potential claims’ with the U.S. Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Paris-based company said on Feb. 12.

But are massive payments sufficient accountability for a scandal that involved not just bribery of foreign officials but partnership with a dictatorship that allegedly stopped at nothing—even murder—to deliver for its foreign paymasters?

This is a question Nigerian officials have wrestled with. The resolution they have accepted is an unsatisfying one.

But the process opens new questions for US investigators and prosecutors—not to mention members of Congress—to consider. Indeed, we would all do well to consider whether the standards of accountability are met with massive payments. Or whether, perhaps, a more serious inquiry is required.

John Nichols is Washington correspondent for The Nation and associate editor of The Capital Times in Madison, Wisconsin. A co-founder of the media reform organization Free Press, Nichols is is co-author with Robert W. McChesney of The Death and Life of American Journalism: The Media Revolution that Will Begin the World Again and Tragedy & Farce: How the American Media Sell Wars, Spin Elections, and Destroy Democracy. Nichols is also author of Dick: The Man Who is President and The Genius of Impeachment: The Founders' Cure for Royalism.

Helsinki: US Refuses Poles Help in CIA Prison Probe

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — A human rights group says the U.S. government has refused assistance to Polish prosecutors investigating whether the CIA maintained a secret prison in Poland.

The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights posted a letter from the prosecutors on its website Tuesday saying the U.S. Justice Department in October refused to provide legal assistance requested by the Polish investigators by citing a bilateral agreement on the protection of state interests.

The prosecutors, who were not immediately available for comment, are investigating allegations that Poland hosted a secret CIA prison, but no findings have been released yet.

U.S. and Polish attorneys have filed complaints with prosecutors over alleged brutal treatment of two terrorism suspects in the facility.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press

Bringing the 'Bush Six' to Justice

If those responsible for the Bush administration's torture policy will not face charges in the US, then in Spain it must be

by Michael Ratner

Today, the Centre for Constitutional Rights filed papers encouraging Judge Eloy Velasco and the Spanish national court to do what the United States will not: prosecute the "Bush Six". These are the former senior administration legal advisors, headed by then US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who violated international law by creating a legal framework that materially contributed to the torture of suspected terrorists at US-run facilities at Guantánamo and other overseas locations.

Friday's filing provides Judge Velasco with the legal framework for the prosecution of government lawyers – a prosecution that last took place during the Nuremberg trials, when Nazi lawyers who provided cover for the Third Reich's war crimes and crimes against humanity were held accountable for their complicity.

CCR would prefer to see American cases tried in American courts. But we have joined the effort to pursue the Bush Six overseas because two successive American presidents have made it clear that there will be no justice for the architects of the US torture programme, or any of their accomplices, on American soil.

Thanks to the US diplomatic cables recently released by WikiLeaks, we now know why seeking justice abroad has also been fraught with difficulty – why there have been so many delays and even dismissals. The same US government that will not pursue justice at home, not even when the CIA destroys 92 videotapes that show detainees being tortured, has put a heavy thumb on the scales of justice in other countries as well.

During the Bush presidency, the US intervened to derail the case of German citizen Khaled el-Masri, who was abducted by the CIA in 2003 and flown to Afghanistan for interrogation as part of the U.S. "extraordinary rendition" program—until they realized they had kidnapped the wrong man and dumped el-Masri on the side of an Albanian road. A leaked 2007 cable reveals the extent both of U.S. pressure and German collusion. In public, Munich prosecutors issued arrest warrants for 13 suspected CIA operatives while Angela Merkel's office called for an investigation. In private, the German justice ministry and foreign ministry both made it clear to the US that they were not interested in pursuing the case. Later that year, then Justice Minster Brigitte Zypries went public with her decision against attempting extradition, citing US refusal to arrest or hand over the agents.

Will this toxic combination of American pressure and a European ally's acquiescence derail justice in Spain, as well?

This 1 April 2009 cable, released 1 December 2010, shows Obama administration officials trying their best to stop the prosecution of the Bush Six. They fret that "the fact that this complaint targets former administration legal officials may reflect a 'stepping-stone' strategy designed to pave the way for complaints against even more senior officials" and bemoan Spain's "reputation for liberally invoking universal jurisdiction". Chief Prosecutor Javier Zaragoza reassures the US that while "in all likelihood he would have no option but to open a case", he does not "envision indictments or arrest warrants in the near future", and will "argue against the case being assigned to Garzon" (a notoriously tough judge, who has since been removed from the case).

Judge Velasco, who has since been assigned to the case, has been scrupulous in his oversight. The Spanish court has thrice asked the US, in accordance with international law, "whether the acts referred to in this complaint are or are not being investigated or prosecuted", and if so, "to identify the prosecuting authority and to inform this court of the specific procedure by which to refer the complaints for joinder". Of course, no response to any of these requests has been received, because the Obama administration has no intention whatsoever of pursuing justice on this matter. 

Democracy demands a fully functioning legal system – one that does not bend to hidden pressures and political agendas. We have faith that Judge Velasco will justify the US officials' concerns about Spain's independent judiciary, and its respect for international law, and move forward with the Bush Six case.

The Bush Legacy Strikes Out American Justice

by Michael Winship

The Detroit Tigers are retiring the great baseball manager Sparky Anderson's number 11 this season. "It's a wonderful gesture," Detroit Free Press columnist Michael Rosenberg wrote. "I just wish Sparky could see it."

Anderson won three World Series -- one managing the Tigers, two with the Cincinnati Reds -- and passed away this past November. Rosenberg said, "Retiring his number now is the baseball version of waiting until a relative dies to say thank you."

That's because it comes sixteen years after Anderson left the Tigers in a bitter feud with owner Mike Ilitch. Yet as Sparky once said, "I've got my faults, but living in the past is not one of them. There's no future in it."

I wish I could say the same, let bygones be bygones and the rest, but when it comes to two other baseball devotees, the Presidents Bush, it's tough. Father and especially son left behind a heap of wreckage.

I hear some of you say forget it, time to move on. Maybe, but theirs is not a legacy that simply fades in the distance and leaves us in peace. What they did continues to impact our lives in deleterious ways, notably when it comes to the full speed, head-on collision of partisan politics with American justice.

Just this week, the US Office of Special Counsel (OSC) released a long overdue, 118-page report concluding that George Jr.'s White House used government agencies for Republican pep rallies and sent officials off on electioneering trips using taxpayer money, especially in the lead-up to the 2006 midterm elections. These are violations of the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from engaging in partisan political activities in the workplace and forbids the use of tax revenues for political purposes.

According to the OSC's findings the abuses were "a systemic misuse of federal resources." As the website Talking Points Memo reported, "The Office of Political Affairs (OPA) in Bush's White House, overseen by Karl Rove, dispatched cabinet officials to campaign for Republican candidates on the federal dime and forced federal political appointees to attend political meetings during work time."

One memo, at the US Department of Health and Human Services, read, "This meeting is mandatory. It will essentially be the same large meeting that we had last year about this time. So, please clear your schedule, put your pom-poms on, and let's go!!!"

There won't be any punishment for the cheerleaders -- unless you count Democrats taking back the House and Senate in 2006, despite Rove and the GOP pulling out all the stops with their White House boiler room operation. No request has been made asking the Justice Department to file charges; Rove and any other miscreants fled the scene of the crime before Inauguration Day 2009 and can no longer be prosecuted. The Obama White House, however, has moved its Office of Political Affairs to Democratic National Committee HQ and the presidential re-election effort to Chicago. What could possibly go wrong in Chicago?

Attempting to rectify another Bush injustice this week, the Obama administration named two new commissioners to the US Commission on Civil Rights, which currently has an imbalance of four Republicans (two claim to be "independents") to three Democrats (one commissioner's reappointment by House Speaker Boehner will even things up -- it's a little complicated). Talking Points Memo: "The Bush administration stacked the commission with conservatives by having two of the commissioners switch their affiliation from Republican to independent. The move, said the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, was legal. But it was also, as former Commission Chairman Gerald Reynolds (a Republican appointee) acknowledged, intended to 'game' the system. The scheme unfolded in 2004, and the panel has since focused on racism against white people and claimed that measures intended to aid minority groups are discriminatory."

Meanwhile, the Bush family's Supreme Court appointees -- along with that mossback relic of the Reagan era, Antonin Scalia -- habitually thumb their noses at the very notion of an independent and impartial judiciary. Last week, the citizen's lobby Common Cause formally requested that the Justice Department investigate whether Justices Scalia and Clarence Thomas (Bush Sr.'s notorious appointee) should have been disqualified from hearing the Citizens United case, last year's landmark ruling that lifted restrictions on corporate political contributions, allowing huge amounts of secret cash to pour into our elections.

In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, Common Cause President and CEO Bob Edgar wrote, "It appears both justices have participated in political strategy sessions, perhaps while the case was pending, with corporate leaders whose political aims were advanced by the decision. With respect to Justice Thomas, there may also be an undisclosed financial conflict of interest due to his wife's role as CEO of Liberty Central, a 501(c)(4) organization that stood to benefit from the decision and played an active role in the 2010 elections."

Justice Thomas dismissed his failure to report his wife's income -- not only from the right wing Liberty Central but also the conservative Heritage Foundation -- as a "misunderstanding of the filing instructions." As for those "political strategy sessions," Thomas and Scalia attended secretive, invitation-only desert retreats, fundraisers held by billionaire Charles Koch, who, with his brother David, owns the energy giant Koch Industries, the second largest private company in the United States, and bankrolls the right wing, including elements of the Tea Party movement.

At those sessions, discussions may have been held about Citizens United while the case was under consideration; certainly, many of those in attendance have taken full advantage of the ruling and poured millions into the campaigns of conservative candidates -- Common Cause reports that Koch Industries' political action committee spent $2.6 million on last year's elections, in addition to tens of millions contributed by Americans for Prosperity, the right wing group founded by the two brothers. (The 2011 Koch retreat takes place this weekend; thousands plan to gather in nearby Rancho Mirage, California, to protest.)

This isn't the first time Justices Scalia and Thomas have hobnobbed with corporate bigwigs and right wing muck-a-mucks. Scalia is a regular headliner at the right-wing Federalist Society. In 2009, Thomas was featured at the Heritage Foundation's annual fundraiser and in 2008 delivered the Wriston Lecture at the conservative Manhattan Institute, an event that costs $5,000 to $25,000 to attend. Conservative court colleague and George W. Bush appointee Samuel Alito has also given the Wriston Lecture and attended fundraisers for The American Spectator magazine and the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, the wonderful folks who gave us ACORN hoaxster James O'Keefe.

(Thanks for this information to the progressive ThinkProgress website. And yes, I know liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has allowed the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund to name a lectureship after her; that's an issue, too.)

"The Supreme Court is the guardian of its own integrity," The Boston Globe editorialized on Thursday. "That means staying above politics and maintaining an air of dispassionate consideration of constitutional issues. The court is not an elected body, and shouldn't function like one. This is especially important because, unlike with an elected body, there are few external constraints on the justices: They set their own rules, and the need for comity on the court largely prevents them from policing each other. Their shared commitment to maintaining judicial decorum is all that binds them."

No one is above the law, it's said, but Justices Scalia, Thomas and Alito certainly behave like they are. None of them attended Tuesday's State of the Union address -- certainly not the first time that's happened, but still symbolically disrespectful. Sadly, unlike baseball legend Sparky Anderson's, their numbers are unlikely to be retired any time soon.

Michael Winship is senior writer at Public Affairs Television in New York City.

Bush Trip to Switzerland Axed Over Torture Protest Fears

by Carol Rosenberg

The United Israel Appeal scrapped a plan to showcase President George W. Bush at a Feb. 12 gala in Geneva amid reports that human rights groups were poised to protest and file a torture complaint.

The charity, also known as Keren Hayesod, notified the former president on Friday morning "that the event has been called off," a Bush spokesman, David Sherzer, said Saturday.

"We regret that the speech has been canceled," Sherzer said. "President Bush was looking forward to speaking about freedom and offering reflections from his time in office."

The United Israel Appeal did not respond to an emailed request for an explanation on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath. But the Associated Press, citing a Swiss newspaper report, said charity officials were worried protests could turn violent at the speech by the 43rd American president.

It was to be held at the Hotel Wilson, named for the 28th American president, Woodrow Wilson.

Protest organizers told participants to bring an extra shoe, prompting fears that someone might re-enact an Iraqi journalist's 2008 assault on President Bush in Baghdad. The reporter hurled his own footwear as a sign of contempt.

The New York based Center for Constitutional Rights said Saturday that European human rights groups had compiled a 2,500-page Convention Against Torture complaint against Bush, seeking to trigger it once he set foot onto Swiss soil.

CCR, a law firm led by New York civil rights lawyer Michael Ratner, has for years filed a series of mixed-result lawsuits against Bush administration policies, alleging civil liberties and human rights abuses in its detention, rendition and warrantless wiretapping policies.

It systematically sued in U.S. courts on behalf of Guantánamo captives, expanding detainee rights since the Pentagon inaugurated the prison camps opened in southeast Cuba in January 2002.

It also is a party to a complaint in Spain against former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and five other Bush era lawyers that alleges international human-rights abuses in the U.S. treatment of war on terror captives.

That complaint has been stalled for years, and a series of U.S. diplomatic cables posted on the Internet late last year by Wikileaks showed the efforts both the Bush and Obama administrations made to derail it.

Still, a Spanish magistrate has given the United States a March 1 deadline to say whether it was pursuing its own probe of the Bush legal brain trust.

Saturday, Ratner's firm all-but claimed credit for grounding Bush.

"The message from civil society is clear," it said in a statement. "If you're a torturer, be careful in your travel plans. It's a slow process for accountability, but we keep going."

Bush's spokesman countered that the Texan, who scarcely traveled abroad before his time in the White House, has been a frequent flier in retirement.

"President Bush has made several trips outside of the United States, including to South Korea, China, Japan, Brazil, Canada, and the Middle East," Sherzer said. "He gave more than 60 speeches last year, and we expect this year to be similar."

CCR Announces Bush Indictment for Convention Against Torture

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 7, 2011
11:02 AM

CONTACT: Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR)
press@ccrjustice.org

CCR Announces Bush Indictment for Convention Against Torture Signatory States

No Immunity for Former Presidents Under Law

GENEVA and NEW YORK - February 7 - Today, two torture victims were to have filed  criminal complaints, with more than 2,500-pages of supporting material, in Geneva against former U.S. President George W. Bush, who was due to speak at an event there on  12 February. Swiss law requires the presence of the torturer on Swiss soil before a preliminary investigation can be opened.  When Bush cancelled his trip to avoid prosecution, the human rights groups who prepared the complaints made it public and announced that the Bush Torture Indictment would be waiting wherever he travels next. The Indictment serves as the basis on which to prepare country-specific, plaintiff-specific indictments, with additional evidence and updated information. According to international law experts at the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), former presidents do not enjoy special immunity under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). 

"Waterboarding is torture, and Bush has admitted, without any sign of remorse, that he approved its use," said Katherine Gallagher, Senior Staff Attorney at CCR and Vice President of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH). "The reach of the Convention Against Torture is wide - this case is prepared and will be waiting for him wherever he travels next. Torturers - even if they are former presidents of the United States - must be held to account and prosecuted. Impunity for Bush must end."  

While the U.S. has thus far failed to comply with its obligations under the Convention Against Torture to prosecute and punish those who commit torture, all other signatories, too, are obligated to prosecute or extradite for prosecution anyone present in their territory they have a reasonable basis for believing has committed torture. If the evidence warrants, as the Bush Torture Indictment contends it does, and the U.S. fails to request the extradition of Bush and others to face charges of torture there, CAT signatories must, under law, prosecute them for torture.

In a statement this weekend, the groups who organized the complaints said, "Whatever Bush or his hosts say, we have no doubt he cancelled his trip to avoid our case. The message from civil society is clear - If you're a torturer, be careful in your travel plans."  

The complaints that had been scheduled to be filed on Monday asked that the General Prosecutor of the Canton of Geneva investigate allegations that men were tortured as part of the Bush administration's well-documented torture program. Bush proudly recounted in his recently published memoir that when asked in 2002 to if it was permissible to waterboard a detainee - a recognized act of torture - he replied "damn right."  

Monday, February 7, is the ninth anniversary of the day Bush decided the Geneva Conventions did not apply to ‘enemy combatants.'  

According to the Bush Indictment, which was written on behalf of torture victims by CCR and ECCHR, former President Bush bears individual and command responsibility for the acts of his subordinates which he ordered, authorized, condoned or otherwise aided and abetted, as well as for the violations committed by his subordinates which he failed to prevent or punish.  

"Bush is a torturer and deserves to be remembered as such," said Gavin Sullivan, Solicitor and Counterterrorism Program Manager, ECCHR.   "He bears ultimate responsibility for authorizing the torture of thousands of individuals at places like Guantánamo and secret CIA ‘black sites' around the world.  As all states are obliged to prosecute such torturers, Bush has good reason to be very worried."  

CCR, ECCHR and FIDH were joined by more than 60 human rights organizations and prominent individuals who signed on to support the call for George W. Bush's prosecution, including former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Theo van Boven, former UN Special Rapporteur on Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Leandro Despouy, and Nobel Peace Prize recipients Shirin Ebadi and Pérez Esquivel. A number of the human rights organizations which signed on are facing the on-going harms of the "counterterrorism" policies advanced under the Bush administration and then adopted or employed in their own countries.. The complaint included 2500 pages of supporting materials.  

Manfred Nowak, former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture (2004-2010), was to submit an expert opinion on the complaints concluding that the conduct to which both plaintiffs were subjected constitutes torture, that Switzerland had an obligation to open a preliminary investigation, and that George W. Bush enjoys no immunity.  

The Bush Torture Indictment, the official "letter of denunciation" summarizing the case and other materials are available here: http://ccrjustice.org/ourcases/current-cases/bush-torture-indictment.

The Center for Constitutional Rights, in addition to filing the first cases representing men detained at Guantánamo, has filed universal jurisdiction cases seeking accountability for torture by Bush administration officials in Germany, France and submitted expert opinions and other documentation to ongoing cases in Spain in collaboration with ECCHR. The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change. Visit www.ccrjustice.org. Follow @theCCR.

The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) is an independent, non-profit legal organization that enforces human rights by holding state and non-state actors to account for egregious abuses through innovative strategic litigation.  For more information visit www.ecchr.eu  

The International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) is a non-governmental federation for 164 human rights organizations. FIDH's core mandate is to promote respect for all the rights set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Its priority areas include protecting human rights defenders and fighting impunity. For more information on FIDH, see www.fidh.org.

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The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.

Swiss Miss Bush – GWB Ducks Geneva Criminal Torture Charges

by Bill Quigley

Justice for George W’s torture violations jumped much closer this weekend.  Ex-President George W Bush was supposed to fly to Switzerland to speak in Geneva February 15.  But his speech was cancelled over the weekend because of concerns about protests and efforts by human rights organizations asking Swiss prosecutors to charge Bush with torture and serve him with an arrest warrant.

Two things made this possible. Switzerland allows the prosecution of human rights violators from other countries if the violator is on Swiss soil and George W admitted he authorized water boarding detainees in his recent memoir.  Torture is internationally banned by the Convention Against Torture.

The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, the International Federation for Human Rights, and the US-based Center for Constitutional Rights prepared criminal complaints with more than 2500 pages of supporting material to submit to the Swiss prosecutor.  These criminal complaints were signed by more than 60 human rights organizations world wide and by the former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, the former UN Special Rapporteur on Independence of Judges and Lawyers, and Nobel Peace Prize recipients Shirin Ebadi and Perez Esquivel. 

Amnesty International, which has repeatedly called for criminal investigation of torture by GWB, sent Swiss prosecutors a detailed legal and factual analysis of President Bush’s criminal responsibility for torture.

While some traditionalists in the human rights community scoff at the notion that GWB and others will ever be held accountable for their violations, experts disagree.

"Nobody – from those who administered the practices to those at the top of the chain of command – is under a shield of absolute immunity for the practices of secret detention, extraordinary rendition and torture," Martin Scheinin, UN special rapporteur on human rights and professor of public international law at the European University Institute told The Guardian. "Legally this case is quite clear. Bush does not enjoy immunity as a former head of state, and he has command responsibility for the decisions that were taken."

Similar efforts to prosecute former President Bush, former Bush lawyers Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Federal Appeals Court Judge Jay Bybee, John Yoo, William J. Haynes II, David Addington, and Douglas J Feith are proceeding in Spain.

All of these international efforts to seek justice for the human rights violations committed by the Bush administration are possible only because the US has refused to prosecute – another disappointment by the Obama administration. 

Ironically, February 7 is the ninth anniversary of the date when GWB unilaterally decided that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to enemy combatants. GWB denied, as most facing criminal charges do, that the possibility of prosecution was involved at all in the decision to cancel his trip.

The human rights community promised to pursue Bush and the other human rights violators whenever they leave the US.  Katherine Gallagher and Claire Tixiere, the lead lawyers authoring the 2500 page criminal case in Geneva stated:  “The reach of the Convention Against Torture is wide – this case is prepared and will be waiting for him wherever he travels next. Torturers – even if they are former presidents of the United States – must be held to account and prosecuted. Impunity for Bush must end.”

Bill is Legal Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights and law professor at Loyola University New Orleans.  For more on the Bush Torture Indictment see http://ccrjustice.org/ourcases/current-cases/bush-torture-indictment You can reach Bill Quigley at quigley77@gmail.com

Mind Control Weapons abuses and tortures

I have sent my letter and wished to file my lawsuits to against government who covered horrible mind control weapons (and Directed Energy Weapons) abuses and tortures. 

Some lawsuits of Soleilmavis

http://peacepink.ning.com/profiles/blogs/some-lawsuits-filed-by

 

Please help.

 

Thousands people have claimed that they have been torturing and abusing by covert Mind Control Weapons (and Directed Energy Weapons).

Some victims were tortured to death or driven to crazy, some victims were controlled to do bad, please have a look:

http://peacepink.ning.com/forum/topics/memorials-of-mind-control-and  

 

An anonymous Survey for Mind Control Victims (result on 19 Dec 2009), the result shows that victims have suffered many symptoms. You can read these symptoms in question16 of the survey from the following link:

http://peacepink.ning.com/forum/topics/surveys-in-many-languages

 

More information about Mind Reading technologies

http://peacepink.ning.com/forum/topics/information-about-mind-reading    

More information about Mind Control technologies

http://peacepink.ning.com/forum/topics/introduce-mind-control-and  

 

General ordering probe into report of mind tricks

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110224/ap_on_re_us/us_pentagon_general_investigated  

WASHINGTON – The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan is ordering an investigation into charges that an army unit trained in psychological operations was improperly told to manipulate American senators to get more money and troops for the war.

 

More reports of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues

http://www.examiner.com/human-rights-in-national/extreme-human-rights-abuses-through-experimentation-presented-to-obama-1-vid

Obama Won’t Investigate Bush Lawyers’ Role in Torture

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 13, 2011
5:53 PM

CONTACT: Center for Constitutional Rights and European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights

Obama Administration to Spanish Judge: We Won’t Investigate Bush Lawyers’ Role in Torture

Rights Groups Say Court Has No Choice But to Move Forward With Criminal Investigation

NEW YORK and MADRID - April 13 - After a two-year delay punctuated by efforts to undermine the Spanish judiciary’s independence, the Obama administration recently told a Spanish court that they have no intention of investigating six former Bush administration officials for their part in creating a legal framework that permitted the torture of detainees held in U.S. custody. The named defendants in the case are torture memo authors Jay Bybee and John Yoo, and David Addington, Douglas Feith, William Haynes and Alberto Gonzales.

In a seven-page submission in response to a request from Judge Eloy Velasco of the Audencia Nacional, the U.S. clearly demonstrated that it is not investigating or prosecuting the allegations and charges set forth in the March 2009 criminal complaint. Under Spanish law, Spain shall pursue a case when no other competent jurisdiction has initiated an effective investigation and prosecution into the punishable acts. 

“Now that the Obama administration has made it plain it will not exercise its jurisdiction over very serious and well-documented allegations of torture, it is incumbent upon Judge Velasco to act,” said Katherine Gallagher, a senior attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights. “His is the court of last resort for the victims of the Bush administration’s torture program.”

The U.S. was able to cite evidence only that it is capable of investigating and prosecuting the serious mistreatment of detainees, including administrative investigations or the prosecutions of two civilian contractors, but no evidence that it has, in fact, undertaken such investigations or prosecutions against mid or high-level U.S. officials. Indeed, the U.S. submission clearly states, “the Department of Justice has concluded that it is not appropriate to bring criminal cases with respect to any other executive branch officials, including those named in the complaint, who acted in reliance on [Office of Legal Counsel] memoranda during the course of their involvement with the policies and procedures for detention and interrogation.”  

“It is profoundly disappointing that, as a matter of policy, the Obama administration has acted to protect the architects of a torture program that it was quite happy to attack when it was in campaign mode,” said CCR President Michael Ratner. “Remarkably,” he added “this administration has embraced a policy of impunity, acting in lockstep with its predecessor to forestall accountability. It is not only shameful, it violates our international obligations and is contrary to our domestic laws as well.”

The case began in March, 2009 when a complaint was filed against six former officials alleging violations of international law, including war crimes and torture. In May 2009 and again in April 2010, Judge Velasco issued formal requests to the United States seeking information regarding any pending investigations in the U.S. that would render the Spanish complaint unnecessary. In October 2010, Judge Velasco issued an order in which he noted the “urgency of compliance” with his earlier requests to the U.S. The Obama administration repeatedly ignored the request, while, as the WikiLeaks cables reveal, they acted to undermine the legal process through political means and disregarded the independence of the Spanish judiciary. In January 2011, Judge Velasco issued a final order for compliance, setting a March 1 deadline for the U.S., to which the Department of Justice finally replied. The Office of International Affairs within the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice submitted the U.S. views to Judge Velasco.

“The position under European law is quite clear”, said Gavin Sullivan, lawyer with the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), “administrative and professional misconduct proceedings are patently inadequate means of effectively investigating serious criminal allegations such as torture.”

Today, CCR and ECCHR issued a public response to the U.S. submission, available here.

The U.S. submission is available here in English and here in Spanish.

A document summarizing the public response is available in English and Spanish on the CCR case page here.

CCR and ECCHR have filed three joint expert opinions in the “Bush Six” case, including one setting out the legal framework for holding government lawyers, such as the defendants, liable for violations of international law, and two in which the groups detailed the Obama administration’s efforts to ensure impunity, not accountability, for former U.S. officials, including by exerting pressure on Spanish government officials to have these cases dismissed. Both organizations are also involved in a second criminal investigation pending in Spain related to the U.S. torture program, brought on behalf of released Guantánamo detainees. In January, CCR and ECCHR asked another Spanish judge to subpoena the former commanding officer at Guantánamo Bay, Geoffrey Miller, to explain his role in the torture of four former detainees.

For more information on the investigations of U.S. torture pending in Spain, see: http://ccrjustice.org/ourcases/current-cases/spanish-investigation-us-torture. For more information on CCR and ECCHR's work to hold U.S. officials accountable using universal jurisdiction, see: http://www.ccrjustice.org/case-against-rumsfeld and http://www.ecchr.org/index.php/us-accountablity/articles/rumsfeld-torture-cases---criminal-charges-filed.html

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The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change. Visit www.ccrjustice.org. Follow @theCCR.

The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights is an independent, non- profit legal organization that enforces human rights by holding state and non-state actors to account for egregious abuses through innovative strategic litigation. For more information, visit www.ecchr.eu

Justice Department Wrong to Let Torture Lawyers Off the Hook

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 14, 2011
2:23 PM

CONTACT: ACLU

Rachel Myers, (212) 549-2689 or 2666; media@aclu.org

Justice Department Wrong to Let Torture Lawyers Off the Hook, Says ACLU

Extensive Evidence Exists to Hold Yoo and Bybee Accountable for Their Role in Torture

NEW YORK - April 14 - he American Civil Liberties Union today condemned a statement by the Department of Justice (DOJ) indicating that it will not prosecute two lawyers who helped develop the Bush-era torture program. In a letter to Spanish Judge Eloy Velasco Nuñez dated March 1 but made public yesterday, the DOJ stated that it would not prosecute Jay Bybee and John Yoo, former DOJ lawyers who authored memos that provided the legal basis for the torture program, because an earlier investigation by Associate Deputy Attorney General David Margolis concluded that Bybee and Yoo exercised poor judgment but did not violate ethical norms. Margolis was not a criminal investigator, however, and he did not have the mandate to examine issues of criminal responsibility.

The following can be attributed to Jameel Jaffer, Deputy Legal Director of the ACLU:

“The Justice Department’s contention that ‘there exists no basis’ for the prosecution of Bush administration lawyers who authorized torture is simply indefensible. These lawyers wrote memos to green-light interrogation methods that the United States has always considered to be illegal, and prisoners were tortured in U.S. custody as a result. They should have provided bona fide legal advice, but instead they served as knowing facilitators of criminal conduct. The Justice Department says that there are ongoing investigations into the abuse of prisoners in U.S. custody, but if these investigations focus on ‘rogue interrogators,’ they are too narrow. The core problem was not one of rogue interrogators but one of senior government officials who knowingly authorized the gravest crimes.”

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Gitmo Files: US Agencies Fought Internal War over Detainees

Professional investigators who deplored torture were repeatedly sidelined as CIA and soldiers with little training took harsh steps

What crimes were commited in the competition to curry favor at the White House through assertions of interrogation "success"?

by Ewen MacAskill in Washington

One of the biggest and most explosive clashes at Guantánamo Bay has been fought not between guards and prisoners but between US interrogators, the leaked files reveal.

George Bush made the CIA the lead agency for interrogation at Guantánamo and regarded waterboarding as a 'procedure that did no lasting harm'. (Photograph: Jeff Mitchell/Reuters) It was a fundamental clash of cultures: between those who stuck rigidly to US law and those who, in the frightening post-9/11 world, adopted techniques from a US manual detailing psychological and physical torture used by China during the Korean war.

In theory there was – and still is – a simple command structure at Guantánamo, run by the commander of the Joint Task Force Guantánamo (JTF GTMO in military jargon). But in reality there were lots of agencies at the naval base in Cuba, sometimes working together but more often at odds and at times barely speaking.

On the ground alongside the JTF GTMO interrogators were the Criminal Investigative Task Force (CITF), an elite unit, many of whose members had a law enforcement background and opposed the use of harsh methods.

Also in the mix was the CIA, which George Bush made the lead agency in spite of its failure to stop 9/11. Jostling for a piece of the action were the FBI and the Behavioural Science Consultation Team, a group of psychiatrists and psychologists set up by the defence department. The files confirm that interrogators were also present from foreign intelligence services.

The battles being fought on the ground mirrored the debate and power plays in Washington, as figures such as Bush, his vice-president, Dick Cheney, defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and secretary of state Colin Powell argued over the ethics and legality of what was happening at the naval base.

The first Guantánamo detainees arrived on 11 January 2002. Rumsfeld ordered the US Southern Command – based in Miami and responsible for Latin America and the Caribbean – to take responsibility for guarding the detainees and oversee interrogation. Southern Command on 16 February gave this role to JTF-170, which eventually became JTF GTMO.

Evidence of the in-fighting among the agencies can be found towards the end of the detainee reports, in which the camp commander assesses the risk posed by a prisoner and his intelligence value. The commander makes a recommendation whether to release, keep in detention or send to another government for imprisonment.

The final paragraph deals with "co-ordination" between the agencies and it is here that the friction surfaces. The commander often reports that CITF "defers" to JTF GTMO. "Defers" sounds dull and bureaucratic but it is a loaded word in the context of Guantánamo, reflecting a profound difference in interrogation techniques and conclusions.

Typical is a report on Saleh Abdall al-Oshan, a Saudi who was among the first to arrive at Guantánamo, on 21 January 2002. The JTF GTMO assessment, written in 2004, was that "this detainee is a member of al-Qaida and/or its global terrorist network". But the commander added: "CITF assessed the detainee as a low risk on 22 March 2004. In the interest of national security and pursuant to an agreement between the CITF and JTF GTMO Commanders, CITF will defer to JTF GTMO's assessment that the detainee poses a medium to high risk."

Time and time again CITF is at odds with JTF GTMO but forced to defer.

CITF, whose members are drawn from the army, navy and air force, is part of the defence department and is based at Fort Belvoir, near Washington. Its approach to interrogation was to try to befriend prisoners, chat to them over tea, win their confidence and build up information gradually. Some members of the team eventually went public, in television interviews and Senate hearings, saying that harsh interrogation techniques made cases unprosecutable and were counterproductive in any case, pushing detainees into cocoons of silence.

By contrast, JTF GTMO is made up of troops from a traditional military background. They saw their mission as primarily intelligence-gathering rather than constructing a legal case. Again, in the case of Oshan, the commander's report emphasises he was transferred to Guantánamo in hopes of providing intelligence. "Detainee may provide information on the refugee camp outside Spin Buldok, AF [Afghanistan], and Islamic presence in the Philippines," the report says.

Over and over again the stress in the reports is on intelligence-gathering.

Some of the troops transferred to JTF Guantánamo had no background in interrogation. Among the first were a group from Fort Huachuca, Arizona. They had had six weeks of training in how to withstand torture – very different from conducting interrogations.

The military used harsh techniques abhorred by the CITF, and the CIA went even further. It was responsible for one of the most notorious cases at Guantánamo, the waterboarding of the self-confessed al-Qaida leader Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. The CIA had relative independence. It ran a secret camp, Camp Seven, whose existence only became public late in 2008.

Also operating on the island was the FBI, which approached interrogations in much the same way as the CITF and opposed waterboarding and similar methods. Jane Mayer, in her book The Dark Side, records one interrogation in which the FBI claimed to have been getting "phenomenal" information, only to be pushed out by a CIA team. The FBI, fearful of being implicated in something potentially illegal, fled the scene.

The role of psychologists and psychiatrists has raised medical ethical questions, given that some participated in interrogations. One of the files shows a behavioural science team winning a rare victory over the JTF GTMO in December 2003. The behavioural team assessed a detainee as "high threat" while the JTF GTMO had him as "medium threat". JTF GTMO deferred to the behavioural team.

As if the mix was not volatile enough, also on the island base at various times were intelligence officers from other countries. One of the files records that "from 3 to 10 August 2002 Pakistani intelligence officers interrogated" a detainee. Adding to the confusion, another file claims that another detainee, described by JTF GTMO as a "high risk", was also a Pakistani intelligence agent.

The early JTF GTMO commanders included Major General Michael Dunlavey and Major General Geoffrey Miller, whose names appear at the bottom of many of the detainee reports. They came under a lot of pressure from Washington to produce results after a first year that yielded little intelligence.

Miller is controversial, having served at Guantánamo from November 2002 to August 2003 before being transferred to run prisons in Iraq.

He has been accused of introducing tactics used at Guantánamo to Iraq, blurring the line between guard duties and interrogation, a move that could have contributed to the Abu Ghraib scandal.

The chain of command from Guantánamo to Washington is illustrated by a request sent by Miller's predecessor Dunlavey in 2002 which, according to a Senate investigation, asked for authorisation to use harsher interrogation techniques.

It went first to General James Hill, the commander of US Southern Command, the recipient of the detainee reports. Hill forwarded it to General Richard Myers, who was chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. The chairman of the joint chiefs is the highest-ranking military officer in the US and advises both the president and defence secretary.

There was some resistance to such requests in Washington, from figures such as Powell and, to a lesser extent, Rice. But the dominant mood was in favour of harsh methods. Cheney is unrepentant: in a rare public foray he made a speech in 2008 in Washington denying that waterboarding constituted torture and insisting that the information obtained from interrogations saved lives. That line is repeated by Rumsfeld in his autobiography published this year, and Bush in his in November.

"No doubt the procedure was tough but medical experts assured the CIA that it did no lasting harm," Bush wrote.

Newly leaked documents show the ongoing travesty of Guantanamo

The rule of law is missing in action, in large part because of a criminally complicit media

by Glenn Greenwald

Numerous media outlets -- The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Telegraph, and NPR, among others – last night published classified files on more than 700 past and present Guantanamo detainees. The leak was originally provided to WikiLeaks, which then gave them to the Post, NPR and others; the NYT and The Guardian claim to have received them from “another source” (WikiLeaks suggested the “other source” was Daniel Domscheit-Berg, a former WikiLeaks associate who WikiLeaks claims took, without authorization, many WikiLeaks files when he left).

The documents reveal vast new information about these detainees and, in particular, the shoddy and unreliable nature of the “evidence” used (both before and now) to justify their due-process-free detentions. There are several points worth noting about all this:

(1) Given that multiple media outlets have just published huge amounts of classified information, it is more difficult than ever to distinguish between WikiLeaks and, say, the NYT or the Post under the law. How could anyone possibly justify prosecuting WikiLeaks for disseminating classified information while not prosecuting these newspapers who have done exactly the same thing? If Dianne Feinstein, the DOJ and Newt Gingrich are eager to prosecute WikiLeaks for “espionage” – and they are – how can that not also sweep up these media outlets?

(2) Once again we find how much we now rely on whistleblowers in general – and WikiLeaks and (if he did what’s accused) Bradley Manning in particular – to learn the truth and see the evidence about what the world’s most powerful factions are actually doing. WikiLeaks is responsible for more newsworthy scoops over the last year than all media outlets combined: it’s not even a close call. And if Bradley Manning is the leaker, he has done more than any other human being in our lifetime to bring about transparency and shine a light on what military and government power is doing.

(3) The difference among the various newspapers in how these leaks are being presented is stark, predictable and revealing. The Guardian emphasizes exactly what is most important about these documents: how oppressive is this American detention system, how unreliable the evidence is on which the accusations are based, and how so many people were put in cages for years without any justification:

On its front page, the Telegraph trumpets the “more than 150 innocent people held at the U.S. prison.”

The NYT, by stark contrast, emphasizes how Dangerous and Menacing these Evil Terrorists are shown to be (while at least noting underneath that many were held without cause):

Unsurprisingly, the Washington Post is the most absurd of all; here’s what they found most newsworthy:

In sum, foreign newspapers highlight how these documents show U.S. actions to be so oppressive and unjust, while American newspapers downplayed that fact. That reflects Jack Goldsmith's praise of American media outlets as comprising a “patriotic media”.

(4) These documents shed new light on the persecution of Sami al-Haj, the Al Jazeera cameraman who was encaged at the camp for more than 6 years and then abruptly released without ever being charged. As I’ve written many times, this was one of the most discussed cases in the Muslim world – that the U.S. would imprison an Al Jazeera journalist without charges for years – yet (outside of Nicholas Kristof) it was almost entirely suppressed in establishment media outlets (even as American journalists obsessed on the imprisonment of American journalists by Iran and North Korea for far shorter periods of time).

Al-Haj has long claimed that he was interrogated almost exclusively about his work for Al Jazeera, and virtually nothing about the accusations against him (being an “Al Qaeda courier”). The files released about him corroborate that claim, as The Guardian notes : “An al-Jazeera journalist was held at Guantánamo for six years partly in order to be interrogated about the Arabic news network.” In particular:

 

His file makes clear that one of the reasons he was sent to Guantánamo was "to provide information on ... the al-Jazeera news network's training programme, telecommunications equipment, and newsgathering operations in Chechnya, Kosovo and Afghanistan, including the network's acquisition of a video of UBL [Osama bin Laden] and a subsequent interview with UBL".

Al-Haj was far from the only journalist the U.S. imprisoned for years without charges during the War on Terror, but his case represents one of the most egregious – and under-reported – American acts during the last decade, given that he was detained to learn more about Al Jazeera. These newly released files dispel any doubt about the accuracy of al-Haj’s claims regarding his detention experience.

(5) Perhaps most important of all, these documents conclusively underscore the evils of the Obama administration’s indefinite detention regime. Just last month, President Obama signed an Executive Order directing that dozens of detainees held for years at Guantanamo continue to be imprisoned indefinitely without any charges: either in a real court or even before a military commission. Although indefinite detention was one of the primary hallmarks of Bush/Cheney radicalism, this order was justified by the White House and its followers on the ground that the President knows of secret evidence that shows that these detainees are Too Dangerous to Release, yet cannot be prosecuted because the evidence against them is tainted (see this post for why that line of reasoning is so logically and morally twisted).

The idea of trusting the government to imprison people for life based on secret, untested evidence never reviewed by a court should repel any decent or minimally rational person, but these newly released files demonstrate how warped is this indefinite detention policy specifically.  The New Yorker's Amy Davidson highlights some of the most extreme inanities in how "evidence" was assembled, while McClatchy’s Carol Rosenberg describes just some of the reasons to find this “evidence” so unreliable: beyond the fact that so much of it was extracted using torture:

 

The U.S. military set up a human intelligence laboratory at Guantanamo that used interrogation and detention practices that they largely made up as they went along. . . .

The documents, more than 750 individual assessments of former and current Guantanamo detainees, show an intelligence operation that was tremendously dependent on informants — both prison camp snitches repeating what they'd heard from fellow captives and self-described, at times self-aggrandizing, alleged al Qaida insiders turned government witnesses who Pentagon records show have since been released.

Intelligence analysts are at odds with each other over which informants to trust, at times drawing inferences from prisoners' exercise habits. They order DNA tests, tether Taliban suspects to polygraphs, string together tidbits in ways that seemed to defy common sense.

In one sense this is not new, as federal courts which have reviewed these detentions during the Obama administration have overwhelmingly found them lacking any credible evidence. Still, these files provide important new specifics. The NYT describes the case of Omar Hamzayavich Abdulayev – placed in Guantanamo in 2002 when he was 23 (he’s now 32) and one of the detainees just ordered indefinitely detained by Obama. The newly released files reveal what the NYT calls “the haunting conclusion of his 2008 assessment: ‘Detainee’s identity remains uncertain’.” In other words, the person who has been in Guantanamo for 9 years – most of his adult life – and whom Obama just ordered detained indefinitely with no charges, very well may not even be the person we think he is.

(6) Those condemning these disclosures – consisting of the now-familiar union of Bush neocons and the hardest-core Obama followers – are saying, in essence, that it would be far better if we had remained ignorant about the extreme unreliability of the “evidence” justifying these detentions, and that it would be preferable if the evidence showing the extreme injustice of continuing to imprison people there without so much as charging them with any crimes continued to be concealed.

* * * * *

Over the weekend, The Washington Post published a detailed account of why Obama has not closed Guantanamo, debunking the apologists' claim that he did everything he could but was thwarted by an independent Congress. Marcy Wheeler highlights just some of the key points from that article.

For those in New York and the Baltimore/D.C. area, I'll be speaking this week at these events.

Copyright ©2011 Salon Media Group, Inc

Gitmo Files Highlight Need for Fair Trials and Accountability

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 26, 2011
12:32 PM

Leaked Guantanamo Files Highlight Need for Fair Trials and Accountability, Says Amnesty International

WASHINGTON - April 26 - Amnesty International today renewed its call on U.S. authorities to release or give fair trials to remaining Guantanamo Bay detainees, after leaked files revealed fresh details about those held at the detention center.

"The files confirm what we have been saying all along about Guantanamo Bay - that many were detained for spurious reasons and held for years without access to the U.S. legal system," said Susan Lee, Americas director at Amnesty International. "The authorities must either try those that remain there - in U.S. civilian courts rather than military commissions - or set them free."

The vast majority of the nearly 800 men who have been held at Guantanamo have been released without charge. To date only five have been convicted by the military commission system and one has been tried by civilian court. None of those released without charge are known to have been provided with compensation or any other form of remedy by the U.S. authorities.

"Of hundreds of detainees who have been held unlawfully for years, fewer than 50 are likely to be charged eventually - yet the U.S. government hasn't provided remedy to anyone,” said Lee. “There has been no accountability on the part of the U.S. authorities for the abuses committed against these men.”

Guantanamo currently holds 172 detainees, although the U.S. authorities are only planning to try a small number.

“Many detainees who have been cleared for release continue to languish at Guantanamo,” said Tom Parker, policy director for terrorism and human rights at Amnesty International USA. “As a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the United States is obligated to provide an enforceable remedy to any individual unlawfully or arbitrarily detained. At the very least, this should include an apology, compensation and the punishment of those responsible for this outrageous conduct."

The Guantanamo Review Task Force established under President Barack Obama in 2009 recommended that 36 of those still held should be prosecuted by the United States.

It advised that 48 others should continue to be held without charge or trial, with the remainder transferred to countries other than the United States.

About half of the detainees still at Guantanamo are Yemeni nationals, of which 36 were approved for repatriation by the review task force with another 30 designated for possible future transfer, dependent on security conditions in Yemen.  

However, transfers to Yemen from Guantanamo were suspended in December 2009, with the exception of Mohammed al-Odaini’s repatriation in June 2010.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

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We are people from across the world standing up for humanity and human rights. Our purpose is to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied. We investigate and expose abuses, educate and mobilize the public, and help transform societies to create a safer, more just world.

Supreme Court & the Rule of Law: Malign Neglect

Who will hold official lawbreakers accountable? Apparently no one in the U.S. legal system...

NY Times editorial

[ironically, the NY Times has carried plenty of water for official crimes]

Extraordinary rendition — the abduction of foreigners, often innocent ones, by American agents who sent them to countries well known for torturing prisoners — was central to President George W. Bush’s antiterrorism policy. His administration then used wildly broad claims of state secrets to thwart any accountability for this immoral practice.

President Obama has adopted the same legal tactic of using the secrecy privilege to kill lawsuits. So the only hope was that the courts would not permit these widely known abuses of power to go unchecked.

Last Monday, the Supreme Court abdicated that duty. It declined to review a case brought by five individuals who say — credibly — that they were kidnapped and tortured in overseas prisons. The question was whether people injured by illegal interrogation and detention should be allowed their day in court or summarily tossed out.

The court’s choice is a major stain on American justice. By slamming its door on these victims without explanation, it removed the essential judicial block against the executive branch’s use of claims of secrecy to cover up misconduct that shocks the conscience. It has further diminished any hope of obtaining a definitive ruling that the government’s conduct was illegal — a vital step for repairing damage and preventing future abuses.

The lead plaintiff, an Ethiopian citizen and resident of Britain named Binyam Mohamed, was arrested in Pakistan in 2002. The C.I.A. turned him over to Moroccan interrogators, who subjected him to brutal treatment that he says included cutting his penis with a scalpel and then pouring a hot, stinging liquid on the open wound.

After the trial court gave in to the secrecy argument, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the case should proceed. It said the idea that the executive branch was entitled to have lawsuits shut down with a blanket claim of national security would “effectively cordon off all secret actions from judicial scrutiny, immunizing the C.I.A. and its partners from the demands and limits of the law.”

Last September, the full appeals court, ruling en banc, reversed that decision by a 6-to-5 vote. The dissenters noted that the basic facts of the plaintiffs’ renditions were already public knowledge. But the majority gave in to the pretzel logic shaped by the Bush administration that allowing the torture victims a chance to make their case in court using nonsecret evidence would risk divulging state secrets.

The Supreme Court allowed that nonsense to stand.

It is difficult to believe there are legitimate secrets regarding the plaintiffs’ ill treatment at this late date. Last year, a British court released secret files containing the assessment of British intelligence that the detention of Mr. Mohamed violated legal prohibitions against torture and cruel and degrading treatment.

The Supreme Court should have grabbed the case and used it to rein in the distorted use of the state secrets privilege, a court-created doctrine meant to shield sensitive evidence in actions against the government, not to dismiss cases before evidence is produced.

But this is not the first time the Supreme Court has abdicated its responsibility to hear cases involving national security questions of this sort. A year ago, the Supreme Court refused to consider the claims of Maher Arar, an innocent Canadian whom the Bush administration sent to Syria to be tortured. In 2007, the court could not muster the four votes needed to grant review in the case of Khaled el-Masri, a German citizen subjected to torture in a secret overseas prison.

As President Obama’s first solicitor general, Justice Elena Kagan was in on the benighted decision to use overwrought secrecy claims to stop any hearing for torture victims. She properly recused herself from voting on the case. Surely among the eight remaining judges there was at least one sensitive to the gross violation of rights, and apparently law. We wish they would have at least offered a dissent or comment to let the world know that the court’s indifference was not unanimous.

Instead, what the world sees is rendition victims blocked from American courts while architects of their torment write books bragging about their role in this legal and moral travesty. Some torture victims bounced from American courts, including Mr. Mohamed and Mr. Arar, have received money from nations with comparatively minor involvement in their ordeals.

The Supreme Court’s action ends an important legal case, but not President Obama’s duty to acknowledge what occurred, and to come up with ways to compensate torture victims and advance accountability. It is hard, right now, to be optimistic.

Copyright 2011 The New York Times

Adolph and Me

by Abby Zimet

A middle school in Russellville, Arkansas is in hot water after its yearbook listed the "Top 5 Worst People of All Time" - to wit: Hitler, Bin Laden, Charles Manson, George Bush and Dick Cheney. Some parents were unhappy. Maybe they thought Cheney should've gotten the second slot? Icing on the cake: The school district tried to solve the problem by covering the list with tape, which promptly fell off. Cherry on top: In its report, Fox News spelled 'Adolf' wrong.

"Really?" said (school superintendent) Williams when told the tape could be pulled off. "Well, that's disappointing because the yearbook supplier told us this was a definite fix."

 

Torture Crimes Officially, Permanently Shielded

by Glenn Greenwald

In August, 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder -- under continuous, aggressive prodding by the Obama White House -- announced that three categories of individuals responsible for Bush-era torture crimes would be fully immunized from any form of criminal investigation and prosecution:  (1) Bush officials who ordered the torture (Bush, Cheney, Rice, Powell, Ashcroft, Rumsfeld); (2) Bush lawyers who legally approved it (Yoo, Bybee, Levin), and (3) those in the CIA and the military who tortured within the confines of the permission slips they were given by those officials and lawyers (i.e., "good-faith" torturers).  The one exception to this sweeping immunity was that low-level CIA agents and servicemembers who went so far beyond the torture permission slips as to basically commit brutal, unauthorized murder would be subject to a "preliminary review" to determine if a full investigation was warranted -- in other words, the Abu Ghraib model of justice was being applied, where only low-ranking scapegoats would be subject to possible punishment while high-level officials would be protected.

Yesterday, it was announced that this "preliminary review" by the prosecutor assigned to conduct it, U.S. Attorney John Durham, is now complete, and -- exactly as one would expect -- even this category of criminals has been almost entirely protected, meaning a total legal whitewash for the Bush torture regime:

The Justice Department has opened full criminal investigations of the deaths in CIA custody of two detainees, including one who perished at Iraq's notorious Abu Ghraib prison, U.S. officials said Thursday.

The decision, announced by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., means continued legal jeopardy for several CIA operatives but at the same time closes the book on inquiries that potentially threatened many others. A federal prosecutor reviewed 101 cases in which agency officers and contractors interrogated suspected terrorists during years of military action after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks but found cause to pursue criminal cases in only two. . . .

The two token cases to be investigated involve the most grotesque brutality imaginable: they apparently are (1) a detainee who froze to death in an American secret prison in Afghanistan in 2002 after being ordered stripped and chained to a concrete floor, and (2) the 2003 death of a detainee at Abu Ghraib whose body was infamously photographed by Abu Ghraib giving a thumbs-up sign.  All other crimes in the Bush torture era will be fully protected.  Lest there be any doubt about what a profound victory this is for those responsible for the torture regime, consider the reaction of the CIA:

"On this, my last day as director, I welcome the news that the broader inquiries are behind us," said a statement from CIA Director Leon Panetta, who will take over as defense secretary on Friday. "We are now finally about to close this chapter of our agency's history" . . . . At CIA headquarters on Thursday, Holder’s announcement was greeted with relief. . . .

Consider what's being permanently shielded from legal accountability.  The Bush torture regime extended to numerous prisons around the world, in which tens of thousands of mostly Muslim men were indefinitely imprisoned without a whiff of due process, and included a network of secret prisons -- "black sites" -- purposely placed beyond the monitoring reach of even international human rights groups, such as the International Red Cross. 

Over 100 detainees died during U.S. interrogations, dozens due directly to interrogation abuse.  Gen. Barry McCaffrey said: "We tortured people unmercifully. We probably murdered dozens of them during the course of that, both the armed forces and the C.I.A."  Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, who oversaw the official investigation into detainee abuse, wrote:  "there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account."

Thanks to the Obama DOJ, that is no longer in question.  The answer is resoundingly clear: American war criminals, responsible for some of the most shameful and inexcusable crimes in the nation's history -- the systematic, deliberate legalization of a worldwide torture regime -- will be fully immunized for those crimes.  And, of course, the Obama administration has spent years just as aggressively shielding those war criminals from all other forms of accountability beyond the criminal realm: invoking secrecy and immunity doctrines to prevent their victims from imposing civil liability, exploiting their party's control of Congress to suppress formal inquiries, and pressuring and coercing other nations not to investigate their own citizens' torture at American hands. 

All of those efforts, culminating in yesterday's entirely unsurprising announcement, means that the U.S. Government has effectively shielded itself from even minimal accountability for its vast torture crimes of the last decade.  Without a doubt, that will be one of the most significant, enduring and consequential legacies of the Obama presidency.

Glenn Greenwald

Glenn Greenwald was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy", examines the Bush legacy. His next book is titled "With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful."

 

 

The Torturers’ Memoirs

The banality of evil is a common way of explaining why non-descript bureaucrats let their careerism and cowardice lead them into the practice of torture and other human rights crimes endorsed by their superiors. Yet, if these banal operatives are American, they don’t expect to get punished, as David Swanson notes in this guest essay.

By David Swanson

June 29, 2011

On Sept. 18, 2009, seven former heads of the CIA publicly told President Barack Obama not to prosecute CIA torturers.  Obama had already told Attorney General Eric Holder not to prosecute CIA torturers on April 16, 2009. On Sept. 18, Holder publicly reassured the CIA. 

Thus, the coast was clear. The books started flowing. George W. Bush and John Yoo put their books out in 2010, Donald Rumsfeld in 2011, and Dick Cheney’s later this summer.

Just as the torture techniques drifted down the chain of command from these dealers in death to the rank-and-file, so too the book contracts. The cogs in the machine are now documenting their bit parts in the past decade’s torture epidemic with pride and publishing deals.

Witness The Interrogator: An Education by Glenn L. Carle, the story of how a none-too-bright, self-centered, insecure, careerist bureaucrat with weak principles, a fragile ego, a troubled marriage, and no interrogation experience, but the ability to actually speak Arabic, was chosen to lead the interrogating (or “interviewing”) of an innocent man the CIA bone-headedly believed to be a “top al Qaeda terrorist” when they kidnapped him off a street and flew him to an undisclosed location outside any rule of law.

As to who got an education in the process of living, writing or reading this book, your guess is as good as mine.

You may have spotted the author in the media last week, since he managed to get James Risen at the New York Times to print his revelation that the Bush White House had asked the CIA to investigate American blogger Juan Cole. 

That story is not in the book, but was apparently timed to boost the book’s sales. Who knows what other nasty anecdotes Carle is sitting on in hopes of productively producing them when and if he writes a sequel. Even with that prospect, let’s hope fervently that he does not.

What an awful book! What an awful example of how to live!

Yes, Carle asserts what all of the experts agree on: torture and abuse are not useful interrogation techniques. The most effective tools for eliciting useful information are the legal ones. But Carle simply asserts this. He provides no new evidence to back it up — not that there was a shortage.

Carle is like a veteran soldier joining in demonstrations against the war he was part of but still talking about how he “served” his country.

“I made it possible for American children to sleep safe at night,” he brags. How exactly did he do this? Why, by participating in criminal operations that enraged billions of people against the United States of America. Good going, Glenn!

Carle discusses, by way of background, the “victims of the Iran-Contra scandal,” by which he means not the men, women and children illegally killed, but the criminals prosecuted or otherwise inconvenienced.

When Carle was yanked out of his cubicle to employ his linguistic skills in interrogating a kidnapping victim, he was not long in coming to view himself as the victim of most concern to the reader. He had concerns about what he was being sent into, but he “was not about to question the apparent basis for my involvement in a very important case.” 

“Suppose our partners do something to CAPTUS [the kidnapped man] that I consider unacceptable?” he asked a superior.

“Well, then, you just walk out of the room, if you feel you should. Then you won’t have to see anything, will you? You will not have been party to anything.”

Wow, with that defense, get-away drivers aren’t guilty of robberies anymore. And that defense was plenty good enough for Carle. He was largely interested in venting his own emotions, he tells us, just as he must have been when composing the book:

“Every American — and perhaps we in the CIA more than anyone — was outraged and determined to destroy the jihadists who had killed our countrymen [on 9-11] and had been attacking our countrymen for years. I was being sent to the front lines, as it were. I was going to be part of the avenging and protective hidden hand of the CIA, striking al Qaeda for us all. I WANTED to interrogate the S.O.B. and play a key role in our counter-terrorism operations.”

I for one would prefer he had settled for tweeting a photo of his penis.

Carle presented himself with the important moral dilemma of whether to screw up this immoral operation or do it right:

“This conversation — this case — was clearly one of the key moments in my career; I needed to GET IT RIGHT, to exercise refined judgment, to see and act clearly where values and goals conflicted, in the murky areas where there might be no right choice, but one had to choose and act nonetheless.”

Why was resigning and going public at any moment not always an available option?

Carle read one of John Yoo’s torture memos, thought it was illegal, and went along anyway:

“I recall thinking when I read it (a view shared by many colleagues at the time [yet, not a one of whom said a damn word to the American people about it]) that it was tendentious and intellectually shoddy, an obvious bit of hack work, a bit of legal sophistry to justify what the administration wanted done, not a guideline and interpretation of the spirit and intention of the laws and statutes that had guided the Agency for decades.  . . .

“Challenging a finding, though, was, as the expression goes, way beyond my pay grade, and in any event, would be viewed as presumptuous and out of place at the moment.”

God forbid!

“We were talking about what some, what I, might consider the torture of a helpless man,” Carle recalls. 

“What about the Geneva Convention?” he asked his superior.

“Which flag do you serve?” was the reply.

“I flew out of Dulles two days later,” Carle recounts. He had chosen knowingly and inexcusably to become a cog in a machine of kidnapping, torture and death.

Was it really rage over 9-11 that drove Carle onward? He tells us that when the planes hit the towers, he was too busy being petty and self-centered on the telephone to be bothered to watch. He then tried to go shopping and couldn’t get clerks in stores to stop obsessing over 9-11 long enough to help him. 

Carle’s wife inexplicably became an alcoholic, resulting in this touching scene:

“One evening I was working on the computer in the bedroom, not wanting to think about work, or home; I just wanted to turn off my brain [how would one tell?]. Sally was cooking in the kitchen. I heard a plate crash. I paid no attention and was barely aware of it. 

“Ten minutes later I wandered into the kitchen to get a soda from the refrigerator. Sally lay unconscious on the floor. I was angry, disdainful. I decided to leave her there to sleep it off. I stepped over her into a huge and growing pool of blood.  It covered half the kitchen floor. ‘Oh no!  Sally!  What have you done?’”

Carle describes his interrogation of “CAPTUS,” whom he knew to have been kidnapped and who he knew was being held outside of any legal system. Carle repeatedly threatened him with harsh treatment by others. 

The interrogation was helped by Carle’s preference for humane tactics, even while threatening others, as well as by his openness to recognizing the man’s innocence. But it was hampered by the CIA’s incredibly incompetent failure to get Carle access to the documents that had been seized along with his victim, and by the CIA’s refusal to consider the possibility that CAPTUS was not who they thought he was.

Carle took a “don’t ask/don’t tell” approach to the question of whether CAPTUS was being tortured in between periods of interrogation at the first location where Carle interrogated him. Carle did ask, but the CIA blacked out in the book whatever he tried to tell us, about what was done to CAPTUS upon relocating him to a different lawless prison. 

When Bush gave a speech pretending to oppose torture, Carle “found this speech infuriating. I knew what we were doing; our actions soiled what it meant to be an American, perverted our oath, and betrayed our flag. Lawyers could argue our actions were legal. But I had lived what we were doing. I knew otherwise.”

Did Carle quit and go public? Of course not.

Did any of his colleagues? Of course not.

Carle sat in on meetings discussing blatantly false propaganda aimed at launching the 2003 invasion of Iraq. He saw through the lies. 

Did he then, in that moment when a million lives could be spared, quit and go public? Of course not. 

Carle concludes his book by opposing prosecuting anyone involved in the crimes he was involved in. “Punishment metes out no justice,” he claims.

Justice, these days, is presumably measured in book sales.

David Swanson is the author of War Is A Lie at http://warisalie.org

http://consortiumnews.com

Avoiding Impunity: The Need to Broaden Torture Prosecutions

by Marjorie Cohn

President Barack Obama declared "nobody's above the law" in 2009, as Congress contemplated an investigation of torture authorized by the Bush administration. However, Obama has failed to honor those words. His Justice Department proclaimed its intention to grant a free pass to Bush officials and their lawyers who constructed a regime of torture and abuse. US Attorney General Eric Holder announced last week that his office will investigate only two instances of detainee mistreatment. He said the department "has determined that an expanded criminal investigation of the remaining matters is not warranted." Holder has granted impunity to those who authorized, provided legal cover, and carried out the "remaining matters."

Both of the incidents that Holder has agreed to investigate involved egregious treatment and both resulted in death. In one case, Gul Rahman froze to death in 2002 after being stripped and shackled to a cold cement floor in a secret American prison in Afghanistan known as the Salt Pit. The other man, Manadel al-Jamadi, died in 2003 at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. He was suspended from the ceiling by his wrists, which were bound behind his back. Tony Diaz, a military police officer who witnessed al-Jamadi's torture, reported that blood gushed from his mouth like "a faucet had turned on" when al-Jamadi was lowered to the ground. These two deaths should be investigated and those responsible punished in accordance with the law.

The investigation must also have a much broader scope. More than 100 detainees have died in US custody, many from torture. Untold numbers were subjected to torture and cruel treatment in violation of US and international law. General Barry McCaffrey said, "We tortured people unmercifully. We probably murdered dozens of them during the course of that, both the armed forces and the C.I.A."

Detainees were put in stress positions, including being chained to the floor, slammed against walls, placed into small boxes with insects, subjected to extremely cold and hot temperatures as well as diet manipulation, blaring music, and threats against themselves and their families.

At least three men were waterboarded, a technique that makes the subject feel as though he is drowning. Pursuant to the Bush administration's efforts to create a link between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times. Abu Zubaydah received this treatment on 83 occasions.

US law has long recognized that waterboarding constitutes torture. The United States prosecuted Japanese military leaders for torture based on waterboarding after World War II. The Geneva Conventions and the US War Crimes Act make torture punishable as a war crime.

Lawyers in the Office of Legal Counsel under President George W. Bush, including John Yoo and Jay Bybee, wrote the torture memos. They redefined torture much more narrowly than the Convention Against Torture and the War Crimes Act, knowing interrogators would follow their advice. They also created elaborate justifications for torture and abuse, notwithstanding the absolute prohibition of torture in our law. When the United States ratified the Convention Against Torture, it became part of US law under the Constitution's Supremacy Clause. The convention says, "No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture."

Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Yoo have all said they participated in the decision to waterboard and would do it again. Thus, they have admitted the commission of war crimes. Major General Anthony Taguba, who directed the investigation of mistreatment at Abu Ghraib, wrote, "there is no longer any doubt as to whether the [Bush] administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account."

Taguba's question has been answered. None of those lawyers or officials will be brought to justice. Outgoing CIA Director Leon Panetta said, "We are now finally about to close this chapter of our agency's history." Ominously, David Petraeus, incoming CIA Director, told Congress there might be circumstances in which a return to "enhanced interrogation" is warranted. That means torture may well continue during Obama's tenure. This is unacceptable.

Not only is torture illegal; it does not work and it makes people outside the US resent us even more. High-level interrogators such as FBI agent Ali Soufan have said the most valuable intelligence was obtained using traditional, humane interrogation methods. Former FBI agent Dan Coleman agrees. "Brutalization doesn't work," he said. "Besides that, you lose your soul."

Marjorie Cohn

Marjorie Cohn, a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and past President of the National Lawyers Guild, is the deputy secretary general for external communications of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, and the U.S. representative to the executive committee of the American Association of Jurists. She is the author of Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law and co-author of Rules of Disengagement: The Politics and Honor of Military Dissent (with Kathleen Gilberd). Her anthology, The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration and Abuse, is now available. Her articles are archived at www.marjoriecohn.com

 

US Calls Mount to Investigate Bush Era Officials for Torture

by Naseema Noor

WASHINGTON - Senior officials under the former George W. Bush administration knowingly authorized the torture of terrorism suspects held under United States custody, a Human Right Watch (HRW) report released here Tuesday revealed.Titled "Getting Away with Torture", the 107-page report presents a plethora of evidence that HRW says warrants criminal investigations against former Vice President Dick Cheney, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director George Tenet and Bush himself, among others. (photo: pantagrapher)

Titled "Getting Away with Torture", the 107-page report presents a plethora of evidence that HRW says warrants criminal investigations against former Vice President Dick Cheney, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director George Tenet and Bush himself, among others.

Newly de-classified memos, transcriptions of congressional hearings, and other sources indicate that Bush officials authorized the use of interrogation techniques almost universally considered torture – such as waterboarding – as well as the operation of covert CIA prisons abroad and the rendition of detainees to other countries where they were subsequently tortured.

HRW also criticized the United States under the current Barack Obama administration for failing to meets it obligations under the United Nations Convention Against Torture to investigate acts of torture and other inhumane treatment.

"President Obama has defended the decision not to prosecute officials in his predecessor's administration by arguing that the country needs 'to look forward, not backward,'" said HRW executive director Kenneth Roth. "[He] has treated torture as an unfortunate policy choice rather than a crime."

To date, both the Bush and Obama administrations have successfully prevented courts from reviewing the merits of torture allegations in civil lawsuits by arguing that the cases involve sensitive information, which, if revealed, might endanger national security.

Last year, Bush defended the use of waterboarding on the grounds that the Justice Department deemed it legal. In 2002, lawyers in the Office of Legal Counsel had drafted memos approving the legality of a list of abusive interrogation techniques, including waterboarding. However, HRW documents evidence that shows senior administration officials pressured the politically-appointed lawyers to write these legal justifications.

"Senior Bush officials shouldn't be allowed to shape and hand-pick legal advice and then hide behind it as if were autonomously delivered," Roth said.

HRW further recommends that Congress establish an independent, nonpartisan commission to examine the mistreatment of detainees in U.S. custody since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and compensate victims of torture, as required by the U.N. Convention Against Torture.

"Without [a commission], torture very much remains within the toolbox of accepted policies. People are not going to back away from it until there is accountability," Karen Greenberg, executive director of New York University's Center on Law and Security and author of "The Least Worst Place: Guantanamo's First 100 Days", told IPS.

In 2009, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder appointed a special prosecutor to investigate detainee abuse, but limited the mandate to only "unauthorized" acts, which effectively excluded violations like waterboarding and forcing prisoners to maintain stress positions that were approved by the Bush administration.

But on Jun. 30 of this year, the Justice Department announced that it would continue probing only two of nearly 100 allegations of torture. The open cases involve the deaths of two men – Manadel al-Jamadi, an Iraqi, and Gul Rahman, an Afghan – in CIA custody.

Human and civil rights group criticized the narrow scope of the torture investigations, while HRW said they failed to address the systematic character of the abuses.

"The U.S. government's pattern of abuse across several countries did not result from acts of individuals who broke the rules," Roth said. "It resulted from decisions made by senior U.S. officials to bend, ignore, or cast aside the rules." If the U.S. does not pursue criminal investigations, HRW is urging other countries to exercise universal jurisdiction under international law and prosecute the aforementioned officials.

A number of former detainees have already taken this step by filing criminal complaints in courts outside of the U.S.

In February 2011, alleged victims of torture living in Switzerland planned to file a suit against Bush, causing him to cancel his trip there.

Another investigation is underway in Spain, where the Center for Constitutional Rights and the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights requested a subpoena for a former commander of the Abu Ghraib prison to explain his role in the alleged torture of four detainees.

Washington's failure to investigate its own citizens for abuses like torture ultimately undercuts its efforts to hold other governments accountable for human rights violations, according to HRW.

"The U.S. is right to call for justice when serious international crimes are committed in places like Darfur, Libya, and Sri Lanka, but there should be no double standards," Roth said.

"When the U.S. government shields its own officials from investigation and prosecution, it makes it easier for others to dismiss global efforts to bring violators of serious crimes to justice," he added.

Failing to prosecute ultimately sends the message that "if you are powerful, you can get away with even torture," Greenberg said.

 

Ex-Bushie Promises to Testify if Someone Will ‘Pinochet’ Cheney

by David Edwards

The former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell pledged Tuesday to testify against former Vice President Dick Cheney if he is ever tried for war crimes.

Col. Lawrence Wilkerson told Democracy Now‘s Amy Goodman that he would participate in a trial even if it meant personal repercussions.

“I, unfortunately — and I’ve admitted to this a number of times, publicly and privately — was the person who put together Colin Powell’s presentation at the United Nations Security Council on 5 February, 2003,” Wilkerson said. “It was probably the biggest mistake of my life. I regret it to this day. I regret not having resigned over it.”

In an interview that aired on NBC Monday, Cheney told Jamie Gangel that unlike President George W. Bush, he did not have a “sickening feeling” when they discovered there were no weapons of mass destruction after the invasion of Iraq.

“I think we did the right thing,” Cheney said.

Joining Wilkerson and Goodman to discuss Cheney’s new book “In My Time,” Salon’s Glenn Greenwald said that it was disturbing to see the former vice president treated simply as an “elder statesman.”

“The evidence is overwhelming… that Dick Cheney is not just a political figure with controversial views, but is an actual criminal, that he was centrally involved in a whole variety not just of war crimes in Iraq, but of domestic crimes, as well, including the authorization of warrantless eavesdropping on American citizens in violation of FISA, which says that you go to jail for five years for each offense, as well as the authorization and implementation of a worldwide torture regime that, according to General Barry McCaffrey, resulted in the murder — his word — of dozens of detainees, far beyond just the three or four cases of waterboarding that media figures typically ask Cheney about,” Greenwald explained.

“And as a result, Dick Cheney goes around the country profiting off of this, you know, sleazy, sensationalistic, self-serving book, basically profiting from his crimes, and at the same time normalizing the idea that these kind of policies, though maybe in the view of some wrongheaded, are perfectly legitimate political choices to make. And I think that’s the really damaging legacy from all of this.”

“Colonel Wilkerson, do you think the Bush administration officials should be held accountable in the way that Glenn Greenwald is talking about?” Goodman asked.

“I certainly do,” Wilkerson replied. “And I’d be willing to testify, and I’d be willing to take any punishment I’m due. And I have to say, I agree with almost everything [Greenwald] just said. And I think that explains the aggressiveness, to a large extent, of the Cheney attack and of the words like ‘exploding heads all over Washington.’ This is a book written out of fear, fear that one day someone will ‘Pinochet’ Dick Cheney.”

Wilkerson was referring to former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, who was arrested in London in 1998 after being indicted for crimes against humanity. It was the first time the principle of universal jurisdiction had been applied to a former foreign head of state.

Watch this video from Democracy Now, broadcast Aug. 30, 2011.

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© 2011 Raw Story

Rights Chief: Countless Crimes in Counterterrorism

BRUSSELS (AP) — Europe's human rights chief has launched launching a blistering attack on European governments' counterterrorism actions, accusing them of helping the United States commit "countless" crimes in the past 10 years.

Thomas Hammarberg, the Council of Europe's rights commissioner, says "many of those crimes have been carefully and deliberately covered up."

European governments were "deeply complicit" in U.S. counterterrorism strategies, including torture. And they all blocked proper investigations into rendition cases in line with Washington's wishes, he said Thursday.

The 47-nation Council of Europe believes at least 14 European nations colluded in the CIA's rendition program. On Monday, it will publish a list of CIA "black sites" in Poland, Lithuania and Romania where detainees are believed to have been held covertly.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press

Case Reveals Details of C.I.A. Flights

WASHINGTON (AP) — The secret airlift of terrorism suspects and American intelligence officials to CIA-operated overseas prisons via luxury jets was mounted by a hidden network of U.S. companies and coordinated by a prominent defense contractor, newly disclosed documents show.

More than 1,700 pages of court files in a business dispute between two aviation companies reveal how integral private contractors were in the government's covert "extraordinary rendition" flights. They shuttled between Washington, foreign capitals, the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and, at times, landing points near once-secret, CIA-run overseas prisons.

The companies ranged from DynCorp, a leading government contractor that secretly oversaw the flights, to caterers that unwittingly stocked the planes with fruit platters and bottles of wine, the court files and testimony show.

A New York-based charter company, Richmor Aviation Inc., which supplied corporate jets and crews to the government, and a private aviation broker, SportsFlight Air, which organized flights for DynCorp, have been engaged in a four-year legal dispute. Both sides have cited the government's program of forced transport of detainees in testimony, evidence and legal arguments. The companies are fighting over $874,000 awarded to Richmor by a New York state appeals court to cover unpaid costs for the secret flights.

The court files, which include contracts, flight invoices, cell phone logs and correspondence, paint a sweeping portrait of collusion between the government and the private contractors that did its bidding — some eagerly, some hesitantly. Other companies turned a blind eye to what was going on.

Trial testimony studiously avoided references to the CIA. When lawyers pressed a witness about flying terrorists from Washington or Europe to Guantanamo Bay, Columbia County, N.Y., Supreme Court Judge Paul Czajka put on the brakes: "Does this have anything to do with the contract? I mean, it's all very interesting, and I would love to hear about it, but does it have anything to do with how much money is owed?"

At another point, the name of a high-level CIA official was mentioned, but the official's intelligence ties were not divulged.

Among the new disclosures:

—DynCorp, which was reorganized and split up between another major contractor and a separate firm now known as DynCorp International, functioned as the primary contractor over the airlift. The company had not been previously linked to the secret flights.

—Airport invoices and other commercial records provide a new paper trail for the movements of some high-value terrorism suspects who vanished into the CIA "black site" prisons, along with government operatives who rushed to the scenes of their capture. The records include flight itineraries closely coordinated with the arrest of accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and the suspected transport of other captives.

—The private jets were furnished with State Department transit letters providing diplomatic cover for their flights. Former top State Department officials said similar arrangements aided other government-leased flights, but the documents in the court files may not be authentic since there are indications that the official who purportedly signed them was fictitious.

—The private business jets shuttled among as many as 10 landings over a single mission, costing the government as much as $300,000 per flight.

According to invoices between 2002 and 2005, many of the flights carried U.S. officials between Washington Dulles International Airport and the Guantanamo Bay detention compound, where the U.S. was housing a growing population of terror detainees. Other flights landed at a dizzying array of international airports.

Jets were dispatched to Islamabad; Rome; Djibouti; Frankfurt, Germany; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Shannon, Ireland; Glasgow, Scotland; Tenerife, Spain; Sharm el Sheik, Egypt; and even Tripoli.

Some flights landed at airports near where CIA black sites operated: Kabul, Bangkok and Bucharest. Others touched down at foreign outposts where obliging security services reportedly took in U.S. terror detainees for their own severe brand of persuasion: Cairo; Damascus, Syria; Amman, Jordan; and Rabat, Morocco. Billing records show scores of baggage handlers, ramp officials, van and car providers, satellite and flight phone firms, hotels and caterers routinely serviced the flights and crews and earned tens of thousands of dollars.

The court records do not specify who was aboard the planes beyond a count of crew and passengers. But in several cases, the flights dovetail with the arrests and transport of some of the most prominent accused terrorism suspects captured in the months immediately following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks: Mohammed, the purported mastermind, and Ramzi bin Alshib, his key logistics man; Abd al-Nashiri, who allegedly planned the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole; and Hambali, an Indonesia terror leader tied to the 2002 bombing of a Bali nightclub. The detainees all vanished into the CIA's now-shuttered "black site" prison network and all are now at Guantanamo awaiting military trials.

President George W. Bush acknowledged the existence of the prison network in 2006, and the CIA director in 2009, Leon Panetta, said the prisons were no longer in use. The intelligence agency has never acknowledged specific locations, but prisons overseen by U.S. officials reportedly operated in Poland, Romania, Thailand, Lithuania and Afghanistan. Detainees have claimed in legal actions that they were flown, often hooded and shackled, to the prisons, where some were exposed to simulated drowning known as waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques.

The inner workings of the flight program have leaked previously. Aviation logs and other records were exposed by lawsuits and European parliamentary inquiries, and investigative accounts have traced patterns of some planes used in the flights. The Council of Europe estimated in 2007 that 1,245 CIA-operated flights passed over the continent, but an accurate count of actual rendition flights will probably never be known without a U.S. government accounting.

But few court and corporate records have emerged describing the backstage role of private companies that aided in the secret flights. The international human rights group, Reprieve, which discovered the court case in New York, said the material provides "an unprecedented insight into the government's outsourcing of torture."

In the court case, Richmor accused SportsFlight in 2007 of failing to pay more than $1.15 million for at least 55 missions flown by planes and crews chartered by DynCorp for government use. A state judge ruled for Richmor in January 2010, awarding the company $1.6 million. In May, an appeals court affirmed the decision, cutting the judgment to $874,000. Richmor contends it still has not been paid in full.

During the trial, Richmor's president, Mahlon Richards, carefully described flights as classified and said passengers were "government personnel and their invitees." But he also said he was aware of allegations his planes flew "terrorists" and "bad guys." In a phone interview this week, Richards said he had agreed to work with the government as a patriotic response to the Sept. 11 attacks, adding that his company was only one of several air charter concerns that provided jets.

"We thought we were doing a good thing," Richards said. He declined to specify which government agency he dealt with or describe how the flights operated, citing confidentiality agreements with the government. But he noted, "It was the government that called the shots."

SportsFlight's lawyers made the nature of the flights a central part of its legal appeal, insisting that SportsFlight's president, Don Moss, learned over time that "the flights would be going to and from Guantanamo Bay and would be used for assorted rendition missions."

In one deposition, he blurted out the name of a CIA official during a line of questioning quickly aborted by the lawyers. The official's intelligence background was not mentioned, but The Associated Press has independently confirmed the official's role in CIA operations. Contacted at his New York home, Moss would only verify that his trial testimony was accurate.

A CIA spokeswoman said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.

DynCorp is the largest company known to be involved in the secret flights. Previously, the most prominent company linked to the airlift had been Boeing subsidiary Jeppeson Dataplan, which was accused in a 2007 ACLU lawsuit of providing flight planning and navigation for rendition jets. Justice Department attorneys intervened in that case, urging judges to dismiss the case on national security grounds, and a federal appeals court agreed. There is no indication the government intervened in the New York state case.

DynCorp was purchased in 2003 by Computer Services Corp., another leading federal contractor, in a $940 million merger. Computer Services Corp. then took on a supervising role in the rendition flights through 2006, according to invoices and emails in the court files. CSC sold three DynCorp units in 2005 to Veritas Capital Fund, a private equity firm, for $850 million, but retained ownership of other parts of the old company. Veritas in turn sold the restructured DynCorp — now known as DynCorp International — for about $1 billion in 2010 to Cerebrus Capital Management, another private equity fund.

DynCorp International spokeswoman Ashley Burke said Wednesday that the company "has no involvement in or information about the litigation between Richmor and SportsFlight." She added that none of the DynCorp entities listed in the court files is owned by or has any affiliation with DynCorp International.

A Computer Sciences spokesman, Chris Grandis, said the company could not comment because of the ongoing lawsuit.

Under DynCorp's guidance, Richmor provided 10-passenger Gulfstream jets and flight crews for its government clients nearly once a month between May 2002 and January 2005, according to flight invoices. The maiden flight was a May 2002 trip from Washington to Guantanamo and back, but by year's end, the Gulfstreams were flying more complex routes that paralleled the suspected movements of high-value al-Qaida and other terrorist captives to black prison sites.

Every time the Gulfstream and other planes in Richmor's fleet took to the air, they carried one-page transit documents on State Department letterhead. The notices, known as "letters of public convenience," were addressed "to whom it may concern," stating that the jets should be treated as official flights and that "accompanying personnel are under contract with the U.S. government."

In trial testimony, Moss said the documents were provided from the government to DynCorp, which furnished them to Richmor. Richards said the letters were given to flight crews before they left on each flight, but declined to explain their use.

The notes, signed by a State Department administrative assistant, Terry A. Hogan, described the planes' travels as "global support for U.S. embassies worldwide."

The AP could not locate Hogan. No official with that name is currently listed in State's department-wide directory. A comprehensive 2004 State Department telephone directory contains no reference to Hogan, or variations of that name — despite records of four separate transit letters signed by Terry A. Hogan in January, March and April 2004. Several of the signatures on the diplomatic letters under Hogan's name were noticeably different.

A State Department spokesman said the department has a policy of not commenting on "alleged intelligence activities."

In some cases, the notes added that the jets were not restricted by standard federal flight rules governing aircraft for hire. Although such exemptions are vague in practice, said Gregory Winton, a former Federal Aviation Administration lawyer, they might allow pilots to avoid normal FAA restrictions on the amount of duty hours they could fly — helpful on the long international missions such as those flown by the Gulfstreams.

In some circumstances, Winton added, such diplomatic cover letters might also be used to allow pilots to deviate from their flight plans and to win cooperation from foreign authorities after an international landing. Human rights groups and foreign critics have contended that some rendition flights obscured their real destinations when they dropped off detainees at airfields near the black sites.

"When you go overseas and show up in somebody's backyard in your private plane working for the U.S. government, that's a diplomacy issue, not a flight issue," Winton said.

The court files break down costs incurred for on-flight computers and phones, landing fees and even money spent for meals. A $440 catering bill from Ohio-based Air Chef for an October 2003 flight from Washington to Guantanamo showed the Gulfstream was well stocked as it headed south. It carried fruit platters, assorted muffins and bagels, deli sandwiches, potato chips, cookies and two $39 bottles of wine.

Sav Momgelli, Air Chef's vice president for sales, said the company had no idea it had been providing meals for secret government flights.

"We don't ask questions," he said. "We're never told and we never ask. It could be a VIP, but to us it doesn't matter. It's just another customer."

___

Associated Press writers Adam Goldman and Barry Schweid in Washington and Michael Hill in Albany, N.Y., contributed to this report.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press

Files Note Close C.I.A. Ties to Qaddafi Spy Unit

by Rod Nordland

TRIPOLI, Libya — Documents found at the abandoned office of Libya’s former spymaster appear to provide new details of the close relations the Central Intelligence Agency shared with the Libyan intelligence service — most notably suggesting that the Americans sent terrorism suspects at least eight times for questioning in Libya despite that country’s reputation for torture.

Although it has been known that Western intelligence services began cooperating with Libya after it abandoned its program to build unconventional weapons in 2004, the files left behind as Tripoli fell to rebels show that the cooperation was much more extensive than generally known with both the C.I.A. and its British equivalent, MI-6.

Some documents indicate that the British agency was even willing to trace phone numbers for the Libyans, and another appears to be a proposed speech written by the Americans for Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi about renouncing unconventional weapons.

The documents were discovered Friday by journalists and Human Rights Watch. There were at least three binders of English-language documents, one marked C.I.A. and the other two marked MI-6, among a larger stash of documents in Arabic.

It was impossible to verify their authenticity, and none of them were written on letterhead. But the binders included some documents that made specific reference to the C.I.A., and their details seem consistent with what is known about the transfer of terrorism suspects abroad for interrogation and with other agency practices.

And although the scope of prisoner transfers to Libya has not been made public, news media reports have sometimes mentioned it as one country that the United States used as part of its much criticized rendition program for terrorism suspects.

A C.I.A. spokeswoman, Jennifer Youngblood, declined to comment on Friday on the documents. But she added: “It can’t come as a surprise that the Central Intelligence Agency works with foreign governments to help protect our country from terrorism and other deadly threats.”

The British Foreign Office said, “It is the longstanding policy of the government not to comment on intelligence matters.”

While most of the renditions referred to in the documents appear to have been C.I.A. operations, at least one was claimed to have been carried out by MI-6.

“The rendition program was all about handing over these significant figures related to Al Qaeda so they could torture them and get the information they wanted,” said Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director of Human Rights Watch, who studied the documents in the intelligence headquarters in downtown Tripoli.

The documents cover 2002 to 2007, with many of them concentrated in late 2003 and 2004, when Moussa Koussa was head of the External Security Organization. (Mr. Koussa was most recently Libya’s foreign minister.)

The speech that appears to have been drafted for Colonel Qaddafi was found in the C.I.A. folder and appears to have been sent just before Christmas in 2003. The one-page speech seems intended to depict the Libyan dictator in a positive light. It concluded, using the revolutionary name for the Libyan government: “At a time when the world is celebrating the birth of Jesus, and as a token of our contributions towards a world full of peace, security, stability and compassion, the Great Jamhariya presents its honest call for a W.M.D.-free zone in the Middle East,” referring to weapons of mass destruction.

The flurry of communications about renditions are dated after Libya’s renouncement of its weapons program. In several of the cases, the documents explicitly talked about having a friendly country arrest a suspect, and then suggested aircraft would be sent to pick the suspect up and deliver him to the Libyans for questioning. One document included a list of 89 questions for the Libyans to ask a suspect.

While some of the documents warned Libyan authorities to respect such detainees’ human rights, the C.I.A. nonetheless turned them over for interrogation to a Libyan service with a well-known history of brutality.

One document in the C.I.A. binder said operatives were “in a position to deliver Shaykh Musa to your physical custody, similar to what we have done with other senior L.I.F.G. members in the recent past.” The reference was to the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which was dedicated to the overthrow of Colonel Qaddafi, and which American officials believed had ties to Al Qaeda.

When Libyans asked to be sent Abu Abdullah al-Sadiq, another member of the group, a case officer wrote back on March 4, 2004, that “we are committed to developing this relationship for the benefit of both our services,” and promised to do their best to locate him, according to a document in the C.I.A. binder.

Two days later, an officer faxed the Libyans to say that Mr. Sadiq and his pregnant wife were planning to fly into Malaysia, and the authorities there agreed to put them on a British Airways flight to London that would stop in Bangkok. “We are planning to take control of the pair in Bangkok and place them on our aircraft for a flight to your country,” the case officer wrote.

Mr. Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch said he had learned from the documents that Sadiq was a nom de guerre for Abdel Hakim Belhaj, who is now a military leader for the rebels.

In an interview on Wednesday, Mr. Belhaj gave a detailed description of his incarceration that matched many of those in the documents. He also said that when he was held in Bangkok he was tortured by two people from the C.I.A.

On one occasion, the Libyans tried to send their own plane to extradite a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, Abu Munthir, and his wife and children, who were being held in Hong Kong because of passport irregularities.

The Libyan aircraft, however, was turned back, apparently because Hong Kong authorities were reluctant to let Libyan planes land. In a document labeled “Secret/ U.S. Only/ Except Libya,” the Libyans were advised to charter an aircraft from a third country. “If payment of a charter aircraft is an issue, our service would be willing to assist financially,” the document said.

While questioning alleged terror group members who plainly had value to Western intelligence, the cooperation went beyond that. In one case, for example, the Libyans asked operatives to trace a phone number for them, and a document that was in the MI-6 binder replied that it belonged to the Arab News Network in London. It is unclear why the Libyans sought who the phone number belonged to.

The document also suggested signs of agency rivalries over Libya. In the MI-6 binder, a document boasted of having turned over someone named Abu Abd Alla to the Libyans. “This was the least we could do for you to demonstrate the remarkable relationship we have built over recent years,” an unsigned fax in 2004 said. “Amusingly, we got a request from the Americans to channel requests for information from Abu Abd through the Americans. I have no intention of doing any such thing.”

Scott Shane contributed reporting from Washington.

Copyright 2011 The New York Times

 

 

Human Rights Groups Urge Bush Torture Prosecution

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 29, 2011
11:23 AM

Human Rights Groups Urge Bush Torture Prosecution

Groups Follow Former U.S. President George W. Bush’s Path to Canada; Press Canadian Government to Prosecute Him for Torture

VANCOUVER - September 29 - Today, the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the Canadian Centre for International Justice (CCIJ) lodged a detailed and lengthy indictment setting forth the case against former U.S. president George W. Bush with the Attorney General of Canada, urging him to open a criminal investigation against Bush for his role in authorizing and overseeing his administration’s well-documented torture program. Bush will visit Surrey, British Columbia on October 20th, as a paid speaker at the Surrey Regional Economic Summit at the invitation of Surrey Mayor Diane Watts.

Earlier this year, CCR, supported by CCIJ and more than 60 international human rights organizations, called on Swiss authorities to prosecute Bush for torture based on his own admission that he authorized torture and the plethora of evidence in the public domain setting out his role in the U.S. torture program. However, Bush canceled his February trip to Switzerland at the last minute, a move that many speculated was motivated by fear of arrest.

“George Bush has openly admitted that he approved the use of torture against men held in U.S. custody,” said Katherine Gallagher, Senior Staff Attorney at CCR. “Despite this admission, no country has been willing to investigate and prosecute Bush’s criminal acts, leaving the victims of his torture policies without any justice or accountability. Canada is a signatory to the Convention Against Torture, and has an obligation to investigate Bush for his leadership role in the U.S. torture program. Torturers – even if they are former presidents of the United States – must be held to account and prosecuted. We urge Canada to put an end to impunity for Bush.”

“Canada has a strong legal framework and there is absolutely no ambiguity in our criminal code when it comes to committing or allowing torture,” said Matt Eisenbrandt, Legal Director of CCIJ. “There is grave evidence that former President Bush sanctioned and authorized acts of torture, not only in violation of Canadian laws, but also of international treaties that Canada has ratified. It is therefore clear that our government has both the jurisdiction and the obligation to prosecute Bush should he set foot again on Canadian territory.”

According to the indictment submitted to the Attorney General for his action, former President Bush bears individual and command responsibility for the acts of his subordinates, which he ordered, authorized, condoned, or otherwise aided and abetted, as well as for violations committed by his subordinates, which he failed to prevent or punish. In particular, Bush is alleged to have authorized or overseen enforced disappearance and secret detention, exposure to extreme temperatures, sleep deprivation, punching, kicking, isolation in “coffin” cells for prolonged periods, threats of bad treatment, solitary confinement, and forced nudity.

One hundred and forty-seven countries, including Canada and the United States, are party to the United Nations Convention Against Torture (CAT), meaning that those countries have committed to promptly investigate, prosecute, and punish torturers. While the U.S. has thus far failed to comply with its obligations under the CAT, all other signatories are similarly obligated to prosecute or extradite for prosecution anyone present in their territory who they reasonably believe has committed torture. If the evidence warrants, as the Bush indictment contends it does, and if the U.S. fails to request that Bush be extradited to face charges of torture, Canada must, under law, prosecute him for torture.

The indictment prepared by CCR and CCIJ, along with more than 4,000 pages of supporting materials, are available at: http://ccrjustice.org/ourcases/current-cases/bush-torture-indictment.
 

###

The Canadian Centre for International Justice works with survivors of genocide, torture and other atrocities to seek redress and bring perpetrators to justice. The CCIJ seeks to ensure that individuals present in Canada who are accused of responsibility for serious human rights violations are held accountable and their victims recognized, supported and compensated. For more information visit www.ccij.ca

The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.

 

Amnesty Calls on Canada to Arrest Bush

OTTAWA -  Amnesty International called on Canadian authorities Wednesday to arrest and prosecute George W. Bush, saying the former US president authorised “torture” when he directed the US-led war on terror.

Bush is expected to attend an economic summit in Surrey in Canada’s westernmost British Columbia province on October 20.

In a memorandum submitted last month to Canada’s attorney general but only now released to the media, the London-based group charged that Bush has legal responsibility for a series of human rights violations.

“Canada is required by its international obligations to arrest and prosecute former president Bush given his responsibility for crimes under international law including torture,” Amnesty’s Susan Lee said in a statement.

“As the US authorities have, so far, failed to bring former president Bush to justice, the international community must step in. A failure by Canada to take action during his visit would violate the UN Convention Against Torture and demonstrate contempt for fundamental human rights,” Lee said.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney blasted Amnesty for “cherry picking cases to publicize, based on ideology.”

“This kind of stunt helps explain why so many respected human rights advocates have abandoned Amnesty International,” he said.

Kenney said it will be up to Canadian border officials to decide independently whether to allow Bush into the country.

Bush canceled a visit to Switzerland in February, after facing similar public calls for his arrest.

Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International’s Canadian branch, told a press conference the rights group will pursue its case against the former US president with the governments of other countries he might visit.

“Torturers must face justice and their crimes are so egregious that the responsibility for ensuring justice is shared by all nations,” Neve said.

“Friend or foe, extraordinary or very ordinary times, most or least powerful nation, faced with concerns about terrorism or any other threat, torture must be stopped.

“Bringing to justice the people responsible for torture is central to that goal. It is the law… And no one, including the man who served as president of the world’s most powerful nation for eight years can be allowed to stand above that law.”

Amnesty, backed by the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, claims Bush authorised the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” and “waterboarding” on detainees held in secret by the Central Intelligence Agency between 2002 and 2009.

The detention program included “torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment (such as being forced to stay for hours in painful positions and sleep deprivation), and enforced disappearances,” it alleged.

Amnesty’s case, outlined in its 1,000-page memorandum, relies on the public record, US documents obtained through access to information requests, Bush’s own memoir and a Red Cross report critical of the US’s war on terror policies.

Amnesty cites several instances of alleged torture of detainees at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, naval facility, in Afghanistan and in Iraq, by the US military.

The cases include that of Zayn al Abidin Muhammed Husayn (known as Abu Zubaydah) and 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, both arrested in Pakistan. The two men were waterboarded 266 times between them from 2002 to 2003, according to the CIA inspector general, cited by Amnesty.

Former US Chief Prosecutor Condemns 'Law-Free Zone' of Gitmo

Ten years on from its creation, calls are mounting from legal and human rights experts for closure of the 'torture' centre on Cuba
by Ed Vulliamy

The former chief prosecutor for the US government at Guantánamo Bay has accused the administration he served of operating a "law-free zone" there, on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the order to establish the detention camp on Cuba.

Retired air force colonel Morris Davis resigned in October 2007 in protest against interrogation methods at Guantánamo, and has made his remarks in the lead-up to 13 November, the anniversary of President George W Bush's executive order setting up military commissions to try terrorist suspects.

Davis said that the methods of interrogation used on Guantánamo detainees – which he described as "torture" – were in breach of the US's own statutes on torture, and added: "If torture is a crime, it should be prosecuted."

The US military, he said, had been ordered to use unlawful methods of interrogation by "civilian politicians, and to do so against our will and judgment".

Davis was speaking at a conference on human rights law at Bard College in New York state. After resigning from the armed forces, in a dramatic defection to the other side of the raging debate over conditions at the camp, he became executive director of, and counsel to, the Crimes of War project based in Washington DC. The speech was to launch the project's 10th anniversary campaign and to protest against the existence of the camp and the torture there and at so-called "black sites" run by US intelligence around the world.

"No court has jurisdiction over Guantánamo," said Davis. "Some senior civilian Bush adminstration officials chose Guantánamo to interrogate detainees because they thought it's a law-free zone where we can unlawfully… handle a very small number of cases. We have turned our backs on the law and created what we believed was a place outside the law's reach." He added that America was "great at preaching to others, but not so good at practising what we preach. There is a point when enough is enough, and you have to look at yourself in the mirror. Torture has no place in American courts."

He admitted that "for a couple of years I was a leading advocate of military tribunals", but at his first meeting as prosecutor "I told my prosecution team that I would not use any enhanced interrogation techniques – we didn't need to". However, he continued: "We had these political appointees telling us to get in there and use them."

Speaking to the Observer, he said: "The uniformed services were in opposition to what was going on. But the military was cut out of the loop. Civilian politicians excluded the military in establishing the process and then handed it to me, saying: 'Here, go make it work.' Political appointees were making the decisions and, so far as I was concerned, the methods being used were unlawful. They said: 'President Bush said we don't use torture, so if the president said it's not torture, who are you to say it is?' " At first, said Davis, "the Bush administration didn't want civilian lawyers involved. They didn't even want the Red Cross on the island."

Davis, an expert on the law of war, and former judge advocate for the US Air Force, said that prisoners at Guantánamo have "fallen between" the conventions and rules governing prisoners of war. He questioned the notion of a "war on terror", saying: "Prisoners of war are supposed to have been captured on the battlefield. Abducting people off the streets of Indonesia and other places far from Afghanistan is pushing the envelope on what is a battlefield. The whole world is in essence the battlefield."

After his resignation in 2007 and retirement in 2008, Morris was officially deemed to have acted "dishonourably". But, he said: "The people who said I had behaved dishonourably were all political appointees. I've had no one from the military or the intelligence community who has criticised what I did."

Davis's Crimes of War project is leading pressure on the administration of President Barack Obama during Guantánamo's 10th anniversary, with firm reminders of Obama's unequivocal pledges to abolish military commissions and close the camp. Professor Thomas Keenan, the head of the Bard College human rights programme, which staged the conference, said: "The president campaigned on a pledge to close down the jail at Guantánamo Bay, and to end the use of military commissions to try its inmates. How is it possible that, two years after he was elected, there are still more than 150 prisoners there, and this November, one of them will go on trial before one of those very commissions?"

The 10th anniversary of the executive order will come four days after the arraignment on 9 November of Saudi-born former millionaire Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, accused of masterminding the attack on the USS Cole that killed 17 US sailors in 2000. The trial is the first to be held at Guantánamo in which the government will seek the death penalty.

But lawyers for al-Nashiri, who claim he was tortured at a "black site" in Poland, will present a motion arguing that the trial is meaningless, since the government has said it will not necessarily release the accused even if he is acquitted.

Davis said he thought the handling of terrorist suspects should proceed "one step at a time, and the first step is to close Guantánamo". Trials could then be moved to the federal courts.

© 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/oct/30/guantanamo-morris-davis

Who Did Give the Green Light to Torture?

When they behave disgracefully, the military are imitating a contempt for human rights found higher up the chain of command
by Paul Vallely

There has been something artificially over-heated about the international reaction to the video of four American soldiers urinating on the bodies of their dead Taliban enemies in Afghanistan. It was, of course, a fairly disgusting thing to do. But all the breastbeating about how the men's "egregious inhumanity" had brought "disgrace to their armed forces" and "dishonor to their nation" had something of bluster about it. How could anybody do such a thing, asked people who had never been to war, heard their wounded friends scream or seen them die, blown to pieces, before their very eyes.

There may yet be demonstrations and deadly riots around the world in protest. But I suspect not. This is no Abu Ghraib, for the scenes of degraded torture in that Iraqi prison were inflicted upon the living rather than the dead. But what the two have in common is that both have exposed a systematic pattern of abuse in a culture which had been nurtured or authorized at higher levels.

The Taliban, for all their perfunctory condemnation, have announced that the video will not affect the process of political negotiating that has begun in Afghanistan. As part of a deal to bring a modicum of stability in that country ahead of the withdrawal of US combat troops in 2014, Washington has offered to allow them to open a political office in Qatar. The Taliban are far more concerned about that than the desecration of three dead bodies. They and their al-Qa'ida allies are, after all, happy enough to desecrate living bodies, stoning to death young women who have had the ill fortune to be raped, or cutting the throats of hostages and filming it for the internet.

Bad things happen in war. When men have been under extreme fire, or seen their best friend die, anger and hatred flow freely. Enemies are dehumanized. Contempt for the other is a battlefield weapon. Young soldiers – and nearly 40 per cent of the US Marine Corps are below the age of 22 – are prone to callow as well as gallows humor. Some of them do stupid things. With a total of 90,000 American troops on the ground in Afghanistan, the real wonder is that there haven't been more videos like this. British soldiers did worse things in the Second World War. They just weren't able to video it and stick it on YouTube.

There is something far more disturbing at work here. It was at play, too, last week at the end of the two 30-month long investigations into reports that members of MI5 and MI6 were complicit in the torture of terrorist suspects in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Scotland Yard and the Crown Prosecution Service decided that there was not enough evidence against any named individual to bring charges. But they have decided to pursue two cases involving other allegations that the British secret services handed Libyan dissidents over to Gaddafi's torturers when the maverick Libyan was persuaded by Tony Blair to switch sides in the "war on terror". Among those now to be investigated is a woman interrogator from MI6 and two other female agents.

The urination and rendition debacles share another common factor. Both serve to draw public attention to the little men, and women, involved at the sharp end of these dirty situations. And that draws attention away from the real culprits who make the polices or set the culture in which such dubious practices thrive.

All the charges made by suspected terrorists about our intelligence and security services cannot be accepted at face value. Even so, the documents that were discovered when Gaddafi fled from Tripoli suggested that a cozy conspiracy over rendition had been authorized at a pretty senior British level. Already the top spooks and politicians are squaring up each to blame the other.

Sources in the security services are briefing that rendition operations were "ministerially authorized government policy", hinting that they must have been signed off by Jack Straw, foreign secretary between 2001-06, under section seven of the Intelligence Services Act, the clause the popular press likes to describe as a "license to kill". The politicians of the day are countering by pointing out that the Tripoli documents could be interpreted as suggesting that MI6's then head of counter-terrorism, Sir Mark Allen, could have been the authorizer. It might have been neither of them. It is all very opaque.

The same is true in the United States where it is unclear what are the forces which are preventing President Obama from keeping his election promise to close the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay where 171 prisoners have now been held without trial for 10 years. They are deemed "too dangerous to transfer but not feasible for prosecution" in an Alice-in-Wonderland world of punishment first, trial later – or never. Indeed, far from closing the camp as he pledged, Obama this month signed into law a bill which prevents the transfer of the prisoners to the US mainland or to other countries. Hopes for the closure of the camp are now dead.

The focus on individual wrong-doers obscures this bigger picture. But if we cannot pin down who is to blame, what is clear is that something is being eroded in the West's idea of what should be the ethical norms by which a civilized country acts. There is a new tolerance of acts outside the law.

No intelligence service can do its job without dealing with unsavory regimes. And no soldiering unit can build the comradeship needed on the frontline without engendering a sense of animus against the enemy. But when in court the Master of the Rolls criticizes the behavior of a British interrogator accused of collusion with torture as "dubious" – and brands him as less than "frank" about what happened – it is disturbing to hear the head of MI6, Sir John Sawers, describe the same agent as a "courageous individual" who would now be able to continue his work in support of national security.

Perhaps the man is blameless. But someone here is not. If that agent was not acting on his own initiative, who authorized his activities? The guidelines under which he and his fellows in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Libya were operating should be published so that the public can trace responsibility for his actions up the security service's chain of command, and perhaps beyond.

It is easier, of course, to find a few little men, or women, to blame. But it is not our ordinary soldiers, or even spies, who are pissing from the greatest height on the values which are supposed to be what separate us from our enemies.

© 2012 Independent/UK
http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/paul-vallely-who-did-g...
Paul Vallely is a leading British writer on Africa and development issues. He first coined, in his seminal 1990 book Bad Samaritans: First World Ethics and Third World Debt, the expression that campaigners needed to move "from charity to justice" – a slogan that was taken up by Jubilee 2000 and Live 8.

Canada 'not friendly', Cheney cancels Toronto talk

by Kristy Bronwlee

TORONTO -- Former U.S. vice-president Dick Cheney has cancelled a speaking engagement in Toronto, citing security concerns related to violent protesters at a Vancouver event last year, the promoter said Monday.

Protesters blocked the entrance to the private downtown Vancouver Club on Sept. 26 and prevented Cheney from leaving for seven hours until the violence ceased, a statement from Toronto-based promoter Spectre Live said.

"On the advice of security, they were worried that quite simply Canada is just not a friendly country to them," said Ryan Ruppert, president of Spectre Live.

One man was arrested for allegedly choking a staff member at the sold-out Vancouver event.

Protesters rallied against Cheney for his support of controversial interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding, to combat terrorism.

A few days before Cheney's B.C. visit, NDP immigration critic Don Davies called on Immigration Minister Jason Kenney to deny entry to Cheney, who was in Vancouver to promote his memoir.

Cheney, and his daughter Liz, were scheduled to speak at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on April 24 about his time in the White House and current U.S. politics.

In place of the Cheney family, the Sun News Network's Michael Coren will speak, alongside free-speech activist Mark Steyn.

http://www.torontosun.com/2012/03/12/canada-not-friendly-cheney-cancels-...

Render to Caesar, Extraordinarily

On Good Friday, Christians observe the brutal torture and crucifixion of Jesus at the hands of Roman occupiers, but many modern Christians don’t mind when it’s “their” side doing the extraordinary renditions of alleged subversives to be tortured and sometimes killed, ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern notes.

By Ray McGovern

Some of us pause on Good Friday to mark the torture and death of a high-value detainee rendered, extraordinarily, to Roman occupiers.

Although the charges against Jesus of Nazareth were trumped up, the Romans decided to err on the safe side by going to the “dark side.” They applied enhanced torture techniques with the ultimate hanging.

I try my best to follow the example set by that fellow from Nazareth. I do get beat up on occasion for “knowing where I stand and standing there,” as Dan Berrigan has told us. But I don’t expect to be tortured — much less hung up to die. Those things just happen to folks who don’t look like me.

In my worst nightmares I never dreamed that my country of birth, the country I love, would resort to torturing prisoners. Still less, did I expect my alma mater, Fordham University, to honor a person known to have championed kidnapping and torture (as well as illegal eavesdropping on Americans), by inviting him to give the commencement address.

What’s the big deal? I have been asked. Aren’t you proud to have a fellow Fordham alumnus at the right hand of the President as deputy national security adviser? When I answer, “Not proud, but shamed,” I am met with a quizzical look.

When the shock wears off, I realize this should come as no surprise. The findings of a Pew poll conducted three years ago should have accustomed me to the shame. Those polled were white non-Hispanic Catholics, white Evangelicals, and white mainline Protestants. A majority of those who attend church regularly (54 percent) said torture could be “justified,” while a majority of those not attending church regularly responded that torture was rarely or never justified.

I let myself wonder whether similar results might obtain, if a similar poll were conducted today at Fordham. And then I remembered that most of the college students at Fordham had not yet reached their teens, when President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney decided to resort to techniques developed for the Spanish Inquisition and honed by the Nazis — “enhanced” methods to use on suspected terrorists.

Here’s some background for those just coming of age — and a refresher for others — with particular attention to what you should know about John Brennan (College, 1977).

Brennan’s Role in Torture

John Brennan had been CIA Director George Tenet’s chief of staff for two years when Tenet promoted him to be CIA’s Deputy Executive Director in March 2001. In that post he continued to function as one of Tenet’s closest aides – after the 9/11 attacks – as President Bush and Vice President Cheney ordered the CIA onto what Cheney (and later Brennan himself) came to call the “dark side.”

A Bush Executive Order of Feb. 7, 2002, made the highly dubious claim that al-Qaeda and Taliban detainees were not covered by Geneva Convention protections. And the order had consequences.

On Dec. 11, 2008, Sen. John McCain and Sen. Carl Levin released the summary of a Senate Armed Services Committee report, issued without dissent, indicating that Bush’s Feb. 7, 2002, Memorandum, had “opened the way to considering aggressive techniques.” And a report of the International Committee of the Red Cross, published in the spring of 2009, recounted in gory detail the torture of so-called “high-value” detainees.

However, back in the early days of the “war on terror,” Bush had to choose between rivals for “jurisdiction” and interrogation of such detainees. Tenet was able to use his daily sessions with Bush to win the battle over whether the CIA or the FBI should control the “dark-side” handling of “high-value” detainees. (To be absolutely clear, Tenet wanted it; he got it.)

Recently released documents provide chapter and verse about White House meetings in spring 2002 on the “high-value” detainees, including discussion of a “Guidebook to False Confessions.” The main objective was to determine which harsh interrogation techniques would be approved.

Last week, Philip Zelikow openly branded much of what was approved “torture.” This was something of a surprise, since Zelikow had been a very close confidant of Bush’s national security adviser (and later Secretary of State) Condoleezza Rice and is very protective of her.

Chairing the White House meetings on torture techniques, Rice famously sent off the malleable, affable, can-do Tenet with: “This is your baby, go do it.” And so he did.

Zelikow later worked for Rice as Counselor of the State Department, where in early 2006 he wrote a memo, the text of which has just been released, which identified several of the CIA interrogation techniques as illegal. Not surprisingly, all copies of that memo were ordered destroyed. But, alas, one was squirreled away, reportedly at State’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research. It is now available.

Brennan’s very close working relationship with then-CIA Director George Tenet on torture issues landed him in the room as Tenet’s aide when the “Principals” met in the White House on torture techniques. (It was not until 2003 that Tenet appointed Brennan to head the Terrorist Threat Integration Center, a unit also very much involved with the issue of interrogation.)

The “Principals” included Rice, Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Attorney General John Ashcroft, and Tenet.

The evidence is overwhelming that Brennan was deeply involved not only in the discussion of various “enhanced interrogation techniques,” but also in the planning of the faux-legal memoranda from Ashcroft’s Justice Department.

Those “legal opinions” made it possible for George W. Bush to tell NBC’s Matt Lauer in November 2010 that waterboarding is legal “because the lawyer said it was legal. … I’m not a lawyer, but you gotta trust the judgment of people around you and I do.”

Reports this week that the Polish government is going after Polish officials who allowed the CIA to establish a black site in Poland for “high-value” detainees brings to mind what Jane Mayer wrote in the New Yorker in 2007 about black sites:

“Among the few C.I.A. officials who knew the details of the detention and interrogation program, there was a tense debate about where to draw the line in terms of treatment. John Brennan, Tenet’s former chief of staff, said, ‘It all comes down to individual moral barometers.’ …

“Setting aside the moral, ethical, and legal issues, even supporters, such as John Brennan, acknowledge that much of the information that coercion produces is unreliable. As he put it, ‘All these methods produced useful information, but there was also a lot that was bogus.’”

Brennan In His Own Words

Perhaps the most damning evidence on Brennan’s role in torture, rendition (aka kidnapping), black prisons and such comes from his own mouth. Here are excerpts from the PBS “NewsHour” with Margaret Warner on Dec. 5, 2005:

MARGARET WARNER: This issue [rendition of terrorist suspects to third countries] and the separate one of reported secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe is expected to come up during her [Condoleezza Rice’s] five-day European tour. … So are renditions necessary and effective in fighting terrorism?

JOHN BRENNAN: I think it’s an absolutely vital tool. I have been intimately familiar now over the past decade with the cases of rendition that the U.S. Government has been involved in. And I can say without a doubt that it has been very successful as far as producing intelligence that has saved lives.

WARNER: So is it — are you saying both in two ways — both in getting terrorists off the streets and also in the interrogation?

BRENNAN: Yes. The rendition is the practice or the process of rendering somebody from one place to another place. It is moving them and the U.S. Government will frequently facilitate that movement from one country to another. …

Quite frankly I think it’s rather arrogant to think that we are the best in every case in terms of eliciting information from terror suspects. So other countries and other services have a long experience in dealing with this challenge because they are confronting terrorism on a day-to-day basis.

Oops!

Brennan later tried to square the circle in defending his role in this “dark side” business, in an interview with PBS’s Frontline in 2006 in which he spoke directly of CIA Director Tenet’s concern to have explicit legal approval for what Zelikow and many others now concede was torture. In fact, Brennan came close to making an “act of contrition,” saying:

“Hopefully, that ‘dark side’ is not going to be something that’s going to forever tarnish the image of the United States abroad, and that we’re going to look back on this time and regret some of the things that we did, because it is not in keeping with our values.”

After Obama assumed office, Brennan was one of those most fiercely opposed to Obama’s release of the “torture memos,” lest they expose his own guilty knowledge and activist role. The Senate Intelligence Committee started looking into all this several years ago and, reportedly, is still doing so.

All this may be a large part of the reason that President-Elect Barack Obama was told that the Committee already had enough on Brennan to make any confirmation process very painful, should Obama follow through with his original plan to nominate Brennan to be CIA Director.

Audacity of Hope

Some of you may recall that I was privileged to be a passenger on the Audacity of Hope, the U.S. Boat to Gaza, last June. It was a tense time. Stuffing my backpack before flying to Athens, I got a familiar call from a puzzled friend, who said as gently as the words allow, “You know you can get killed, don’t you?”

This was not the first such expression of concern. From some others — who have zero interest in the plight of Gazans, and/or did not wish us passengers well – similar words carried an edge: “Aren’t you just asking for it?”

Before I left the U.S., I was pointedly disabused of any notion that the U.S. government would do something to protect us American citizens sailing on an American-flagged boat from the kind of violence used by the Israelis against a similar flotilla led by a Turkish boat in May 2010. As reported to me, the warning came from a source with access to senior officials at the National Security Council.

I was told that the Obama administration planned to do absolutely nothing to protect our boat from Israeli attack or illegal boarding, and that White House officials “would be happy if something happened to us.” They were, I was told, “perfectly willing to have the cold corpses of activists shown on American TV.”

Can you guess who was the ultimate source? Last week, I went back to my original source and asked if the source could tell me who uttered those words. The answer: John Brennan,

I included mention of that warning in an article I wrote before boarding the boat. The warning stretched credulity to the breaking point for a good friend, former UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, who blogged:

“While I know Ray to be an extremely honest man, I thought it was possible that his source was exaggerating. I therefore set my own diplomatic sources to work in Washington, without giving them any indication of Ray’s information.

“They came back with an independent report from a different source – close to Hillary Clinton rather than the White House – with exactly the same result of which Ray was warned. … Fatalities would be ‘not a problem’ for Obama.”

That the macho, Israeli-friendly Brennan, turns out to be the White House policy official behind the official bluster surprises me not in the least, though it is nice, I suppose, to have confirmation.

As things turned out, Obama had the presence of mind to seek out and heed some adult advice. After trying unsuccessfully to extract a promise from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to shoot us up, Obama decided to pressure the Greeks to deny us permission to sail for Gaza — which they did, holding their noses.

Blockade Legal or Illegal?

Were we within our rights? Was/is Israel’s sea blockade of Gaza legal under international law? No. And that’s why, to its credit, the legal section of our Department of State will not prostitute itself by calling it legal.

On June 24, while we were stranded, literally, in Athens, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland danced around the question at one of the most bizarre press conferences in memory.

AP reporter Matt Lee and some of his colleagues decided to be more matter-of-fact than diplomatic with Nuland, a former national security adviser to Vice President Cheney (from 2003 to 2005) and the wife of neoconservative writer Robert Kagan.

Asked directly, three times, whether the U.S. government considers the Israeli blockade of Gaza legal, Ms. Nuland would give no answer.

“I am not a Law of the Sea expert,” she insisted (four times). Her talking points were that the U.S. Boat to Gaza should not be a “repeat of what happened last year” (four times). It was as though last year’s flotilla was responsible for the attacks by Israeli naval commandos and this year’s flotilla would be considered responsible as well.

Audacity of Hope organizer/leader Ann Wright and I asked Craig Murray for a straightforward opinion on the legality issue, since he is an expert. We knew he had worked on preparing the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and — more to the point — that he had become an internationally recognized authority on maritime jurisdiction and naval boarding issues.

When he was Head of the Maritime Section of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, he was responsible for giving real-time political and legal clearance to Royal Navy boarding operations in the Persian Gulf following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, in enforcement of the UN-authorized blockade against Iraqi weapons shipments.

On June 20, 2011, he wrote the following one-paragraph comment and then gave his considered appreciation of the legal situation:

“The boarding of a U.S. flagged ship on the High Seas is something which, in any other circumstances, the U.S. would never tolerate, and I am hoping that it will give (Secretary) Clinton a headache now. … What is for certain, is that a U.S. court would have jurisdiction over any incidents that happen on board, and I cannot imagine any U.S. judge would renounce that jurisdiction.”

Murray then added: “The legal position is plain. A vessel outwith the territorial waters (12-mile limit) of a coastal state is on the high seas under the sole jurisdiction of the flag state of the vessel. The ship has a positive right of passage on the high seas. … The vessel is entitled to free passage. …

“This right of free passage is guaranteed by the UN Convention on the Law of the Seas, to which the United States is a full party. Any incident that takes place upon a U.S. flagged ship on the High Seas is subject to United States legal jurisdiction. A ship is entitled to look to its flag state for protection from attack on the High Seas.”

Law – Quaint; Humans – Real

I don’t think Brennan was in the White House bunker with top national security officials on the evening of 9/11, when President Bush set the tone by declaring, “I don’t care what the international lawyers say.” But, clearly, Brennan caught the drift. And, saddest of all, that tone persists today — with respect to rendition, as well as on legal niceties like the Law of the Sea.

Granted, now that drones have come into their own, it is much easier to kill folks rather than to capture and “render” them — like Jesus was rendered to the Romans by the corrupt religious authorities.

Good Friday is a day for pondering such things. While I believe what happened to Jesus gives those of us of Judeo-Christian heritage an additional, highly poignant reason to do so, my atheist friends have warned me against attitudes boarding on snobbery.

One said, “You don’t have to be a Christian, Ray, to know instinctively that human beings simply must not torture other human beings.” He is right, of course.

And my friend’s caution reminded me of one of my favorite quotes from Kurt Vonnegut who, at one point named himself Honorary President of the American Humanist Association:

“How do humanists feel about Jesus? I say of Jesus, as all humanists do, ‘If what he said is good, and so much of it is absolutely beautiful, what does it matter if he was God or not?’

“But if Christ hadn’t delivered the Sermon on the Mount, with its message of mercy and pity, I wouldn’t want to be a human being.

“I’d just as soon be a rattlesnake.”

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was an intelligence analyst for the Army and the CIA for a total of 30 years, and now serves on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).
http://consortiumnews.com/

No Secret Why CIA is Now Romanticizing 'Harsh Interrogation'

by Robert Crawford

"The dark side -- that’s what we do."

José Rodriguez, former head of the CIA’s clandestine service, used these words in a "60 Minutes" interview last Sunday to defend the use of water-boarding and other "harsh interrogation" techniques on suspected terrorists. His self-assurance recalls the observation of General Taguba, the lead investigator into the abuses at Abu Ghraib, that "the only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account." Rodriguez’s new book, Harsh Measures is an undisguised justification of CIA torture.

Interviewer Leslie Stahl offered only mild push-back. The broadcast exemplifies the normalization of the monstrous, the transmutation of the radical and stunning reality of U.S. torture into a reasonable topic of "debate." There was no mention of the absolute, no-exceptions-permitted prohibition of torture under the Torture Convention and the Geneva Conventions; no mention of the U.S. Anti-Torture Statute or War Crimes Act; no acknowledgment that the so-called "torture memos," written in secret by the Bush administration and immediately rescinded by the Obama administration, were intended (in the words of a CIA official) as a "golden shield" against criminal prosecution.

Rodriguez claimed that 92 CIA videos of "harsh interrogation" methods were destroyed in order to protect interrogators from Al Qaeda reprisals, but the U.S. government can and regularly does hide the identity of Americans when releasing documents to the public. Missing from the "60 Minutes" exchange was any mention that the CIA was under court order to preserve the tapes, and that their destruction constituted a possible obstruction of justice. The entire discussion unfolded without any mention of the law.

Since Stahl omitted another critical question, I will ask it here: Why now? Why a CIA authorized book justifying CIA torture? There are two possible explanations. First, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) will soon release its long-awaited report on CIA torture. The report is expected to find no convincing evidence that harsh interrogation techniques led to any breakthroughs in the fight against terrorism. We should not be surprised if the CIA might want to preempt this inconvenient finding. How many will heed a report released by Senate Democrats compared to the high-profile interview and book tour of a tough CIA veteran pushing the romance of "dark-side" fixes to America’s security problems?

Second, Romney will soon be asked to clarify his pro-"enhanced interrogation" position, stated most clearly in the 2007-08 Republican primary. Will Romney stick by his defense of the Bush-Cheney program? The Rodriguez-CIA initiative might be designed to provide Romney with more "authoritative" support for his position.

Three responses are essential. First, the SSCI report should be completed and released soon -- with minimal redaction. While the report may sadly fail to address the crucial legal and moral issues at stake, I expect it will demonstrate both that claims of effectiveness are unsupported and that the damage to our nation’s reputation and national security has been severe. The report needs to receive full and sustained attention from the media.

Second, President Obama should avoid the politics of amnesia and speak out more forcefully against torture. His relative silence has ceded the initiative to defenders of "enhanced interrogation" methods. While Obama did issue a critical statement last November after several Republican presidential candidates endorsed coercive interrogations in a televised debate, he needs to do far more.

Finally, the vitality of our democratic republic requires all people of good conscience to condemn torture, recommit our nation to the respect of human rights, and call on our government to return to the rule of law by holding accountable those who committed war crimes. Just as Rodriguez should be more directly challenged for his defense of war crimes, the president should be equally challenged for his failure to live up to the rule of law, particularly his unwillingness to hold accountable those who ordered and administered torture in our name.

http://www.nrcat.org/

Robert Crawford is a professor in Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at the University of Washington, Tacoma. Robert facilitates the Washington State Religious Campaign Against Torture, part of National Religious Campaign Against Torture.

War Tribunal Finds Bush, Cheney Guilty of War Crimes

Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal orders reparations be given to torture victims
by Common Dreams staff
http://www.commondreams.org/

Former US President George W Bush, his Vice-President Dick Cheney and six other members of his administration have been found guilty of war crimes by a tribunal in Malaysia.

Bush, Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and five of their legal advisers were tried in their absence and convicted on Saturday.

Victims of torture told a panel of five judges in Kuala Lumpur of their suffering at the hands of US soldiers and contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Among the evidence, Briton Moazzam Begg, an ex-Guantanamo detainee, said he was beaten, put in a hood and left in solitary confinement. Iraqi woman Jameelah Abbas Hameedi said she was stripped and humiliated in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison.

Transcripts of the five-day trial will be sent to the chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court, the United Nations and the Security Council.

A member of the prosecution team, Professor Francis Boyle of Illinois University’s College of Law, said he was hopeful that Bush and his colleagues could soon find themselves facing similar trials elsewhere in the world.

The eight accused are Bush; former US Vice President Richard Cheney; former US Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld; former Counsel to Bush, Alberto Gonzales; former General Counsel to the Vice President, David Addington; former General Counsel to the Defense Secretary, William Haynes II; former Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee and former Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo.

Tribunal president judge Tan Sri Lamin Mohd Yunus said the eight accused were also individually and jointly liable for crimes of torture in accordance with Article 6 of the Nuremberg Charter. "The US is subject to customary international law and to the principles of the Nuremberg Charter and exceptional circumstances such as war, instability and public emergency cannot excuse torture."

* * *

The Star (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) reports:

Bush Found Guilty of War Crimes

KUALA LUMPUR: The War Crimes Tribunal has convicted former US President George W. Bush and seven of his associates as war criminals for torture and inhumane treatment of war crime victims at US military facilities.

However, being a tribunal of conscience, the five-member panel chaired by tribunal president judge Lamin Mohd Yunus had no power to enforce or impose custodial sentence on the convicted eight.

“We find the witnesses, who were victims placed in detention illegally by the convicted persons and their government, are entitled to payment of reparations,” said Lamin at a public hearing held in an open court at the Kuala Lumpur Foundation to Crimi­na­lize War yesterday.

He added that the tribunal’s award of reparations would be submitted to the War Crimes Commission and recommended the victims to find a judiciary entity that could enforce the verdict.

The tribunal would also submit the finding and records of the proceedings to the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, the United Nations’ Security Council.

On Thursday, head of the prosecution Prof Gurdial Singh Nijar said Bush had issued an executive order to commit war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Five former Iraqi detainees, who were tortured while being detained in various prisons, including Guantanamo Bay, were called to give their testimonies before the Tribunal during the trial which started on May 7.

* * *

The Malaysia Sun reports:

[...] In a unanimous vote on Saturday the symbolic Malaysian war crimes tribunal, part of an initiative by former Malaysian premier Mahathir Mohamad, found the former US President guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Seven of his former political associates, including former Vice President Dick Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, were also found guilty of war crimes and torture.

Press TV has reported the court heard evidence from former detainees in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay of torture methods used by US soldiers in prisons run by the American forces.

One former inmate described how he had been subjected to electric shocks, beatings and sexual abuse over a number of months.

A high ranking former UN official, former UN Assistant Secretary General, Denis Halliday, who also attended the trial, later told Press TV that the UN had been too weak during the Bush administration to enforce the Geneva Conventions.

He said: "The UN is a weak body, corrupted by member states, who use the Security Council for their own interests. They don't respect the charter. They don't respect the international law. They don't respect the Geneva Conventions... A redundant, possibly a dangerous, and certainly corrupted organization."

Following the hearing, former Malaysian premier Mahatir said of Bush and others: "These are basically murderers and they kill on large scale."

It was the second so-called war crimes tribunal in Malaysia.

The token court was first held in November 2011 during which Bush and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair were found guilty of committing "crimes against peace" during the Iraq war.

# # #

Damn Right, Bush Should Face Criminal Proceedings for Torture

Damn Right, George Bush Should Face Criminal Proceedings for Waterboarding

Though signatory to the convention against torture, Canada neglected to investigate George Bush. Will the UN now act?
by Katherine Gallagher

One thing brings together these four men – Hassan bin Attash, Sami el-Hajj, Muhammed Khan Tumani and Murat Kurnaz (http://www.canada.com/Detainees+complain+failure+arrest+Bush/7554276/sto...): they are all survivors of the systematic torture program the Bush administration authorized and carried out in locations including Afghanistan, Iraq, Guantánamo, and numerous prisons and CIA "black sites" around the world. Between them, they have been beaten, hung from walls or ceilings, deprived of sleep, food and water, and subjected to freezing temperatures and other forms of torture and abuse while held in US custody.

None was charged with a crime. Two were detained while still minors. And one of them remains at Guantánamo.

This week, in a complaint filed with the United Nations committee against torture, they are asking one question: how can the man responsible for ordering these heinous crimes, openly enter a country that has pledged to prosecute all torturers regardless of their position and not face legal action?

The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the Canadian Centre for International Justice (CCIJ) filed the complaint on the men's behalf. The country in question is Canada, visited last year by former US President George W Bush during a paid speaking engagement in Surrey, British Columbia.

Bush's visit drew hundreds in protest, calling for his arrest, and it also provided bin Attash, el-Hajj, Tumani and Kurnaz the opportunity to call on the Canadian government to uphold its legal obligation under the UN convention against torture, and conduct a criminal investigation against Bush while he was on Canadian soil.

To this end, the four men, submitted a 69-page draft indictment (http://www.ccrjustice.org/files/2011.09.29%20Bush%20Canada%20Indictment.pdf) that CCR and CCIJ had presented to Canada's attorney general ahead of Bush's arrival in support of their private prosecution. The submission included thousands of pages of evidence against Bush, consisting of extensive reports and investigations conducted by multiple US agencies and the UN. The evidence is overwhelming – not to mention the fact that Bush has admitted, even, boasted of his crimes, saying "damn right" (http://www.cnn.com/2010/POLITICS/11/05/bush.book/index.html) when asked if it was permissible to waterboard a detainee, a recognized act of torture.

Canada should have investigated these crimes. The responsibility to do so is embedded in its domestic criminal code that explicitly authorizes the government to prosecute torture occurring outside Canadian borders. There is no reason it cannot apply to former heads of state, and indeed, the convention has been found to apply to such figures including Hissène Habré and Augusto Pinochet. A criminal investigation into the allegations was the lawful thing to do. It was also what Canada had agreed to do when it pledged its support to end impunity for torture by ratifying the convention.

But Canada looked the other way. Not only did federal Attorney General Robert Nicholson refuse to investigate Bush, but the attorney general of British Columbia swiftly intervened to shut down a private criminal prosecution (http://ccrjustice.org/files/Private%20Prosecution_Oct_18_2011.pdf) submitted to a provincial court in his jurisdiction the morning of Bush's visit.

Thanks to the Obama administration's call to look only "forward" (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/obama-administration) – even in the face of torture that demands a proper reckoning – and a court system in the US that has readily closed its doors to torture survivors, the crimes of the Bush era are effectively beyond the reach of justice in the US. But the immunity – the impunity – granted to these criminals here should not follow them into other countries, particularly those that are signatories to international laws and treaties against torture.

If the UN convention against torture is to have any hope of fulfilling its mission of preventing torture, the committee must send countries like Canada a clear message: it is their legal obligation to ensure there is no safe haven for torturers; and any action to the contrary makes these states effectively complicit in furthering impunity for some of the worst crimes of the past decade.

These four survivors are asking the UN to enforce its own convention, nothing more and nothing less. They call upon the UN, unlike Canada, to unequivocally reject a worldview in which the powerful are exempt from rules, treaties and prohibitions against senseless acts of barbarity. Will the UN now hear their call?

© 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/nov/17/george-bush-criminal...

Katherine Gallagher is senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR - http://ccrjustice.org/about), where she focuses on holding individuals, including US and foreign government officials, and corporations, including private military contractors, accountable for serious human rights violations. Prior to joining CCR, Katherine worked at the UN's International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia from 2001-2006. During negotiations to establish the International Criminal Court, she worked as a member of the Women's Caucus for Gender Justice in the International Criminal Court.

CIA Rendition & Torture Victim Wins European Human Rights Case

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 13, 2012
12:16 PM

CONTACT: ACLU
http://www.aclu.org/
Josh Bell, (202) 549-2666; media@aclu.org

CIA Rendition & Torture Victim Wins European Human Rights Case

NEW YORK - December 13 - In a historic ruling, the European Court of Human Rights today condemned Macedonia's illegal transfer of Khaled El-Masri into CIA custody and found that his abusive treatment at Macedonia's airport by the U.S. rendition team "amounted to torture." The court also found that his abduction and detention – including the time he was in U.S. custody – constituted "enforced disappearance" under international law.

"Today’s landmark decision is a stark reminder of America's utter failure to hold its own officials accountable for serious violations of both U.S. and international law. Continued lack of accountability is turning the United States into an outlier among its European allies, which is an appalling outcome for a nation that prides itself as a global leader on the rule of law and human rights," said Jamil Dakwar, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Human Rights Program. "Today’s ruling makes it harder for the United States to continue burying its head in the sand and ignoring domestic and global calls for full accountability for torture. This remarkable decision will no doubt put greater pressure on European nations to fully account for their complicity in cooperating with the illegal CIA 'extraordinary rendition' program, and to hold responsible those who violated the human rights of El-Masri and those like him."

El-Masri is a German citizen who in 2003 was mistaken for another person and abducted by Macedonian authorities at a border crossing and held incommunicado for 23 days. He was then handed over to CIA operatives who put him on a secret flight a "black site" in Afghanistan where he was secretly held, tortured and abused for about four months.

The ACLU currently represents El-Masri in a case against the U.S. now being considered by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and also represented him in a lawsuit in U.S. federal court, which was dismissed.

In a unanimous decision awarding El-Masri 60,000 Euros, the European court said that the court "underlines the great importance of the present case not only for the applicant and his family, but also for other victims of similar crimes and the general public, who had the right to know what had happened... The concept of 'State secrets' has often been invoked to obstruct the search for the truth. State secret privilege was also asserted by the US government in the applicant’s case before the US courts."

The court's ruling is available at:
www.aclu.org/files/assets/el_masri_ruling.pdf

###

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

ACLU Links:
http://www.aclu.org/

>>>

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 13, 2012
12:21 PM

CONTACT: Amnesty International
http://www.amnesty.org/
Carolyn Lang, clang@aiusa.org, 202-675-8761

Today's Historic Ruling on Europe's Role in CIA Renditions Is a Milestone in the Fight Against Impunity, Amnesty International Says

WASHINGTON - December 13 - Today’s ruling on the CIA’s detention and rendition of German national Khaled El-Masri is a historic moment and a milestone in the fight against impunity because for the first time it holds a European state accountable for its involvement in the secret U.S.-led programs, Amnesty International and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said.

The European Court of Human Rights held unanimously that the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (Macedonia) was responsible for the German national’s unlawful detention, enforced disappearance, torture and other ill-treatment, and for his transfer out of Macedonia to locations where he suffered further serious violations of his human rights.

Further, that Macedonia did not satisfy its obligation to carry out an effective investigation.

“This judgment confirms the role Macedonia played in the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) rendition and secret detention programs, and is an important step towards accountability for European complicity in rendition and torture,” said Julia Hall, Amnesty International’s expert on counter-terrorism and human rights. “Macedonia is not alone. Many other European governments colluded with the United States to abduct, transfer, ‘disappear’ and torture people in the course of rendition operations. This judgment represents progress, but much more needs to be done to ensure accountability across Europe.”

The Court’s ruling also serves to highlight the absence of accountability and remedy in the United States, noting that the claim filed against the CIA by Khaled El-Masri was dismissed by the U.S. courts after the U.S. administration invoked the “state secrets privilege.”

"This ruling is historic. It recognizes that the CIA rendition and secret detention system involved torture and enforced disappearances. It emphasizes that both the victims and the public have the right to know the truth about these serious violations. It affirms without doubt that Europe cannot be an area of impunity but it must be a place of redress and accountability where international human rights law obligations are not bypassed but fulfilled," said Wilder Tayler, Secretary General of the ICJ. “Other European governments – such as Poland, Lithuania, and Romania, against which cases are also pending with the Court – should note today’s European Court judgment and take measures to ensure that the truth is told, thorough, effective, independent and impartial investigations are carried out and those responsible are held accountable."

On December 31, 2003, the Macedonian authorities arrested El-Masri, who is of Lebanese descent, after he entered Macedonia from Serbia.

They held him incommunicado, subjecting him to enforced disappearance, repeated interrogations and to ill-treatment, until January 23, 2004 when they handed him over to Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) agents.

As part of the covert, U.S.-led rendition and secret detention program, the CIA transferred El-Masri to a secret detention facility in Afghanistan.

There he was held unlawfully in secret, not charged with any crime and his detention was not subject to judicial review. He did not have access to a lawyer. His whereabouts were not acknowledged and he was held incommunicado. As a result he was subjected to enforced disappearance for over four months. While in Afghanistan, he was subjected to torture and other ill-treatment.

###

Amnesty International is a worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights for all. Our supporters are outraged by human rights abuses but inspired by hope for a better world - so we work to improve human rights through campaigning and international solidarity. We have more than 2.2 million members and subscribers in more than 150 countries and regions and we coordinate this support to act for justice on a wide range of issues.

Amnesty International Links:
http://www.amnesty.org/

Crime Watch: American Presidents, their Advisors - War Criminals

by:
Dave Lindorff

This article originally appeared on the website of PressTV
http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2012/12/16/278304/obama-biden-are-war-crimi...

Most Americans, their minds focused at the moment on the tragic slaughter of 20 young children aged 5-10, along with five teachers and a school principal in Connecticut by a heavily-armed psychotic 21-year-old, are blissfully unaware that their last president, George W. Bush, along with five key members of his administration, were convicted in absentia of war crimes earlier this month at a tribunal in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

They are unaware because the US corporate media have ignored the story, just as that same corporate media have failed to note that the crimes of which Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and five White House lawyers, were convicted all could apply equally well to current President Barack Obama and his administration.

Bush, Cheney, White House counsel (and later Attorney General) Alberto Gonzalez and others were found guilty earlier this month of war crimes and crimes against humanity relating to the executive orders that launched the wars against Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as of authorizing and failing to punish torture and other war crimes by US forces, including the military and the CIA.

But as international law expert Francis Boyle, a professor of law at the University of Illinois, notes, under the Geneva Convention, failing to take action to prosecute those guilty of war crimes such as the “Crime against Peace” (invading a country that does not pose an imminent threat to the attacker), and torture, is a war crimes in and of itself.

Speaking last week at a Summit Conference on Human Rights held at the University of the Sacred Heart in the US island colony of Puerto Rico, Boyle said US authorities, including President Obama, are engaged in an “ongoing criminal conspiracy under international law” both to cover up and protect criminals like Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld, and to continue the commission of war crimes by the US government.

Support for both the Malaysian Tribunal’s judgement against Bush, Cheney et al, and for Boyle’s charges against Obama and his administration, comes, interestingly, from President Bush’s own White House counsel Gonzalez. As I noted in my book The Case for Impeachment (St. Martin’s Press, 2006), about Bush’s and Cheney’s war crimes and impeachable offenses, Gonzalez, writing in a Jan. 25, 2002 memo in support of torture of captured terrorist suspects, warned President Bush that “it is difficult to predict the motives of prosecutors and independent counsels who may in the future decide to pursue unwarranted charges based upon” the Geneva Conventions and the War Crimes Act. He went on to caution that in the event that the president were some day so prosecuted and convicted of war crimes, the potential penalty could “include the death penalty.” In the same memo, sounding more like a mob lawyer than a judicious legal advisor, Gonzalez told the president that as the president’s legal counsel, he was making a determination that torture of suspected Al Qaeda and Taliban captives would be legal in order to provide the president and his staff with legal cover that “substantially reduces the threat of domestic criminal prosecution under the War Crimes Act.”

As it turns out, Bush and Gonzalez needn’t have worried. Though Obama, when initially campaigning in 2008 for the presidency, vowed that he wanted to restore the respect for the law and the Constitution, once elected President, he and his attorney general Eric Holder quickly made it clear that they were “looking forward, not backward,” and that there would be no prosecutions or indictments for war crimes of any Bush administration people.

The thing is, at that moment, both President Obama and AG Holder became war criminals themselves under the U.N. Charter and the Nuremberg Principles, which declare that covering up war crimes by prior government and military leaders, and failure to prosecute such war crimes, are in themselves war crimes.

But as Boyle noted in his address in San Juan, P.R., Obama, Vice President Joseph Biden, and the various secretaries of Defense and State, the head of the CIA and the Pentagon Chiefs of Staff, as well as other Obama administration personnel, are also guilty of perpetrating ongoing war crimes themselves. Boyle accuses the Obama administration of continuing to conduct a “bogus” war on “international terrorism” including the ever escalating campaign of drone strikes in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen and other jurisdictions. He termed the president’s program of “targeted killings,” in which President Obama himself draws up the “kill list,” to be simply a case of “pure murder” under both traditional British common law and international law, and says these attacks constitute a “Crime against Humanity under Article 7(1)(a) of the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court.”

It would seem that it is unlikely Nobel Peace Laureate Obama will be prosecuted by any country, at least while he remains president, but the recent Malaysian tribunal conviction of Bush, Cheney and several Bush administration legal advisors suggests there could be similar tribunals and convictions of current administration personnel in years to come.

While America’s outsized military and economic power for now make it unlikely any retired American leaders will find themselves in the dock at the Hague like war criminals from Serbia, Bosnia or Rwanda, it is possible that these kinds of charges and convictions could, at a minimum, make them, like former Nixon administration Secretary of State and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, reluctant to travel internationally in their dotage. (Kissinger, in his last public trip to Europe, famously had to furtively and hastily slip out through the servants' exit of a hotel to dodge lawyers seeking to serve him with an indictment for war crimes in Vietnam. His travel itinery since then has been seriously truncated, even on behalf of his business consulting firm.)

Copyright © 2012 This Can't Be Happening.
http://www.thiscantbehappening.net/node/1477

Italian Ex-Intel Chief Given 10-year Sentence for CIA Kidnapping

Italy's Ex-Intelligence Chief Given 10-year Sentence for Role in CIA Kidnapping

Such accountability for high-level government officials is inconceivable in the US, highlighting its culture of impunity

A US State Department official on Monday "expressed concern" about what he called "a 'climate of impunity' over abuses by police and security forces" - in Egypt. The official, Michael Posner, warned that failure to investigate Egyptian state agents responsible for "cruel treatment of those in their custody" - including torture - creates "a lack of meaningful accountability for these actions". Last week, I wrote that "I've become somewhat of a connoisseur of US government statements that are so drowning in obvious, glaring irony that the officials uttering them simply must have been mischievously cackling to themselves when they created them," and this American denunciation of Egypt's "climate of impunity" almost certainly goes to the top of the list.
 

After all, Michael Posner works for the very same administration that not only refused to prosecute or even investigate US officials who tortured, kidnapped and illegally eavesdropped, but actively shielded them all from all forms of accountability: criminal, civil or investigative. Indeed, Posner works for the very same State Department that actively impeded efforts by countries whose citizens were subjected to those abuses - such as Spain and Germany - to investigate them. Being lectured by the US State Department about a "culture of impunity" is like being lectured by David Cameron about supporting Arab dictators.

To see just how extreme the US "culture of impunity" is, consider the extraordinary 2003 kidnapping by the CIA of the Muslim cleric, Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr (Abu Omar), from the streets of Milan. Nasr, who in 2001 had been granted asylum by Italy from persecution in Egypt, was abducted by the CIA and then shipped back to Egypt where he was imprisoned for four years without charges and, he says, brutally tortured by America's long-standing ally, the Mubarak regime.

Der Spiegel described just what a standard kidnapping it was: Nasr "was seized in broad daylight on the open street, pushed into a white van, taken to the Aviano military airport and then flown to Egypt via the US Ramstein Air Base in Germany". Yesterday, an Italian appellate court sentenced the country's former intelligence chief, Niccolò Pollari, to ten years in prison "for complicity" in that kidnapping:

The appeals court, in Milan, sentenced the former chief, Niccolò Pollari, to 10 years and his former deputy Marco Mancini to nine years for their role in the kidnapping of the cleric, Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr . . . . Three Italian secret service officials were also sentenced to six years each.

Mr. Nasr was kidnapped under the practice of 'extraordinary rendition', in which people suspected of being Islamic militants were abducted in one country and then transferred to another, often one where torture was common.

While Mr. Nasr was initially charged with membership in an illegal organization, the charges were ultimately dropped. He has since been released.

In other words, not only did the CIA kidnap Nasr and deliberately send him to an allied regime notorious for torture - a serious crime no matter who he was - but, as it turns out, he was guilty of absolutely nothing. What made him a kidnapping target was that, according to the New York Times, his "anti-American speeches and calls to jihad were resonating with young Muslim men who were attending his Islamic center".

Despite being convicted of no crime (other than criticizing US aggression), he was imprisoned in Egypt without charges for four years until a Cairo court found his detention unfounded and ordered him released. Upon release, he said "he had been reduced to a 'human wreck' by torture he had undergone in a Cairo jail". Nasr detailed the truly horrific kidnapping and torture he endured in a 2008 interview with Peter Bergen for Mother Jones, who used Italian court documents to write a comprehensive report on the case:

"A little before noon on February 17, 2003, Abu Omar was headed to his mosque, incongruously located inside a garage. He strolled down Via Guerzoni, a quiet street mostly empty of businesses and lined with high, view-blocking walls. A red Fiat pulled up beside him and a man jumped out, shouting 'Polizia! Polizia!' Abu Omar produced his ID. 'Suddenly I was lifted in the air,' he recalled. He was dragged into a white van and beaten, he said, by wordless men wearing balaclavas. After trussing him with restraints and blindfolding him, they sped away.

"Hours later, when the van stopped, Abu Omar heard airplane noise. His clothes were cut off and something was stuffed in his anus, likely a tranquilizing suppository. His head was entirely covered in tape with only small holes for his mouth and nose, and he was placed on a plane. Hours later he was hustled off the jet. He heard someone speaking Arabic in a familiar cadence; in the distance, a muezzin was calling the dawn prayer. After more than a decade in exile, he was back in Egypt. . . .

"Spreading his arms in a crucifixion position, he demonstrates how he was tied to a metal door as shocks were administered to his nipples and genitals. His legs tremble as he describes how he was twice raped. He mentions, almost casually, the hearing loss in his left ear from the beatings, and how he still wakes up at night screaming, takes tranquilizers, finds it hard to concentrate, and has unspecified 'problems with my wife at home.' He is, in short, a broken man."

Yesterday's 10-year sentence was based on a 2010 finding by an Italian judge that "the Italian secret service was most likely aware of, 'and perhaps complicit in,' the operation". In 2009, an Italian criminal court found 23 individual CIA agents (including the Milan station chief, Robert Lady) guilty of kidnapping and other crimes, but was forced to try them in abstentia because the US (first under Bush and then Obama) pressured the Italian government to suppress extradition requests issued by Italian courts to compel those CIA agents to travel to Italy to stand trial.

This entire case reveals vital facts about the culture of impunity for high-level officials that prevails in the US even when they commit the most egregious crimes:

First, it is completely inconceivable that anything like what just happened in Italy could happen in the US. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence that the highest-level US officials had systematically committed felonies under the War on Terror rubric, both political parties, bolstered by a virtual consensus of the DC press, united to block all forms of accountability. A sacred rule in US political culture is that high-level state officials are to be shielded from all accountability, let alone criminal punishment, for how they abuse power.

In sum, US officials are not subject to the rule of law but reside above it. Neither party's establishment nor their Adversarial Press Corps would ever tolerate the CIA Director being prosecuted for his crimes the way Italy's just was. The defense offered to the press by Lady, the CIA's Milan station chief - I was just following orders - is exactly what resonates in US elite circles as an excuse for all crimes: if the US government does it, then it is, by definition, shielded from legal punishment.

Second, both Bush and Obama officials continuously attempted to apply coercive pressure on Italian magistrates to obstruct this investigation, and when that failed, applied the same pressure to the Berlusconi and Prodi governments. Indeed, numerous diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks detail those efforts, and the Italian journalist Stefania Maurizi of L'Espresso described that campaign of obstruction in her book "Dossier WikiLeaks. Segreti Italiani."

One 2006 cable describes a meeting between US Ambassador Ronald Spogli and Italy's new Undersecretary to the Prime Minister Enrico Letta in which the US made not-so-subtle threats about the need of the Italian government to suppress extradition requests for the CIA agents:

In the context of keeping our excellent bilateral relationship on sound footing, the Ambassador explained to Letta that nothing would damage relations faster or more seriously than a decision by the GOI to forward warrants for arrests of the alleged CIA agents named in connection with the Abu Omar case. This was absolutely critical. Letta took note of this and suggested the Ambassador discuss the matter personally with Justice Minister Mastella, who Letta suggested should be invited to Washington for an early meeting with the Attorney General.

A 2007 cable describes plotting between the US and Italian governments to thwart the judicial investigation. They agreed that the US should "send something in writing to [the Italian justice official] explaining that the US would not act on extradition requests in the Abu Omar case if tendered", which "could be used pre-emptively by the GOI to fend off action by Italian magistrates to seek the extradition of the implicated Americans". In response, "the [US] Ambassador agreed that we should work to avoid having extradition requests forwarded."

A 2010 cable details a meeting between Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Berlusconi in which Gates "asked Berlusconi for his assistance in affirming US jurisdiction" over one of the high-level CIA defendants." A 2011 cable noted that "Justice Minister Mastella has so far kept the lid on recurring judicial demands to extradite presumed CIA officers allegedly involved in a rendition of Muslim cleric Abu Omar."

This US pressure campaign succeeded in quashing the efforts of the Italian judiciary to hold these CIA agents criminally accountable for their crimes in Italy. Indeed, as Maurizi told me yesterday, "five different Italian ministers of Justice refused to forward extradition requests for CIA agents." After Italy's highest court upheld the convictions of the CIA agents last September, the Guardian noted: "successive Italian governments denied all knowledge of the case and consistently ruled out extradition."

Under serious pressure from two successive US administrations, the Italian justice ministers simply refused to forward their own courts' extradition demands. The Italian courts were thus left to imprison their own officials for the ancillary role they played in the kidnapping because the US government, as usual, draped its own officials with a full-scale shield of immunity.

Third, what allowed this accountability in Italy is exactly what the US so tragically lacks: a brave and independent judiciary willing to perform its core ostensible function of applying the law equally to everyone, including those who wield the greatest power. Indeed, a 2005 US diplomatic cable complained that "Italian magistrates [prosecutors] are fiercely independent and are not answerable to any government authority/entity, including the Minister of Justice" and that "consequently, it is nearly impossible to prevent them from undertaking action in Italy that they wish to carry out."

This prosecution was possible in the first instance only because a single Italian magistrate, Armando Spataro, insisted on pursuing it despite all sorts of attacks against him. This 2009 Der Spiegel article reports that, as a result of his pursuit of the case, "his communications were monitored, the Italian intelligence service placed him under observation and there were even investigations into whether he had betrayed state secrets. The government tried again and again to silence him." But the magistrates ignored those repressive efforts, eventually even seizing Lady's retirement villa in Italy to cover court costs.

Numerous cables show Italian officials, especially Berlusconi himself, attacking the Italian magistrates and assuring the US that Italian courts would eventually stop them. One 2005 US cable celebrates that Minister of Justice Roberto Castelli "took the unusual step of publicly criticizing a member of Italy's highly independent magistracy" over this case, specifically that he "called Armando Spataro a "militant'. meaning a communist" (ironically, Spataro previously "faced accusations of right-wing bias when he led prosecutions of the Red Brigade terrorist organization in the late 1970's and 1980's".) That public denunciation of the magistrate happened, recounted the US cable, after he "presented Castelli with requests for the provisional arrest in contemplation of extradition for 22 Americans involved in the alleged rendition of Egyptian Imam Abu Omar from Milan."

Assuring Washington that the prosecution of the CIA agents was politically motivated and would be stopped, this US cable claimed:

"In the 1960s and 1970s Italian communists made a concerted effort to 'infiltrate' the judiciary; today, many Italian judges are considered to be sympathetic to the left and some have made decisions that undermine our shared security objectives. . . .

"Berlusconi's government certainly believes that judicial treatment of the Abu Omar case is an example of a politically motivated action directed, not at the US, but at Berlusconi in an further attempt to embarrass the Prime Minister. Castelli's very public criticism of Spataro is a sign he is willing to risk criticizing the judiciary in order to avoid precipitous action in this case."

The 2010 cable describing the meeting between Gates and Berlusconi describes how "Berlusconi gave an extended rant about the Italian judicial system - which frequently targets him since it is 'dominated
by leftists' as the public prosecutor level." Moreover, "Berlusconi predicted that the 'courts will come down in our favor' upon appeal, noting that higher-level appellate courts are significantly less politicized than local courts."

But that did not happen. Indeed, the opposite happened: Italian appellate courts were even more aggressive and steadfast in demanding accountability than the lower courts. Just two weeks ago, an Italian appellate court vacated the acquittals of three CIA agents whom a lower court had protected on the ground of diplomatic immunity and then sentenced one of them - former CIA Rome station chief Jeffrey Castelli - to seven years in prison. Last September, it was Italy's highest court that upheld the convictions of the 23 CIA agents. And yesterday's 10-year sentence for Italy's ex-intelligence chief was also imposed by an appeals court.

So what Berlucsoni predicted never happened. Italian courts exercised great independence and courage in applying the law to both the American and Italian kidnappers without regard to their power and position.

The contrast with the US federal judiciary is stark. American federal judges have proven themselves indescribably servile to the US government. It is impossible to imagine American federal judges - except in the most aberrational and quickly-overturned instances - defying the wishes of the US government when it comes to claims of national security and secrecy.

Indeed, not a single victim of the abuses of the US War on Terror - not one - has even been allowed by the US federal judiciary to have a day in court, let alone obtain accountability for what was done to them. Federal judges have obediently slammed the courthouse doors shut in the faces of War on Terror victims even when everyone recognizes that the victims were treated savagely and were guilty of nothing. Indeed, US courts have refused even to hear cases brought by rendition (kidnapping) victims. Instead, US federal judges, over and over, have meekly submitted to the decrees of US national security state officials that the mandates of secrecy and national security shield them from any form of judicial review even when they kidnap and torture innocent people.

An independent judiciary, willing to apply the law even to the most powerful political officials, is a prerequisite to a healthy political system that functions under the rule of law. As this case vividly demonstrates, Italy has that and the US does not. Of all the US institutions that have shamefully abdicated their duties in the post-9/11 era, the federal judiciary is at the top of that list. That is why even the former head of Italy's intelligence service faces criminal punishment for kidnapping an innocent person while such accountability is inconceivable in the US. It is why the "rule of law" is a ludicrous joke when it comes to US elites.

The importance of leaks

We also see here, yet again, how monumentally important leaks are. Almost everything we know about the conduct of the US government in this case comes from diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks and allegedly disclosed by Bradley Manning. It is remarkable how often major media outlets rely on WikiLeaks documents to report to their readers what is happening in the world. For exactly that reason, it is no mystery why the US government is so eager to punish so severely those responsible for leaks generally and these disclosures specifically: precisely because nothing sheds light on their bad acts the way whistleblowing does.

 

Glenn Greenwald is a columnist on civil liberties and US national security issues for the Guardian. A former constitutional lawyer, he was until 2012 a contributing writer at Salon.  His most recent book is, With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful.

About Those Black Sites

The details of American antiterrorism policies, put in place after 9/11, are still largely hidden, but more pieces of this sordid history are dribbling out.
 

A valuable new report issued this month by the Open Society Justice Initiative documents the extent of the Central Intelligence Agency’s use of extraordinary rendition — the practice of abducting suspected terrorists and transferring them to countries with reputations for torturing prisoners during interrogations.

Reporting by The Times and other news media has long established that the C.I.A. operated a secret detention program with “black site” prisons outside the United States. In December, the Senate Intelligence Committee approved a highly critical, classified report on this program that has not been released. Committee members invoked its findings without revealing any useful new information at the recent confirmation hearing for John Brennan, the Obama administration’s top counterterrorism official, who was named to head the C.I.A. But the committee chairwoman, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, has said that the black sites and coercive techniques were “terrible mistakes.”

According to the Open Society report, 54 countries participated in this program, including many where the rule of law is weak or nonexistent, like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, Malaysia and Somalia. More surprising and alarming is the collusion of leading democracies. Belgium, Finland and Denmark, among others, allowed their airports and airspace to be used for flights associated with C.I.A. rendition operations. Britain, Italy, Germany and Australia helped interrogate one or more suspects and either allowed or actively aided in their transfers.

The report also contains information about the identities and treatment of 136 suspects who were subjected to C.I.A. detention or rendition. There may be many more individuals caught in this program, but the total number remains unknown. There has been no accountability for the program’s violations of American or international law. President Obama refused to investigate Bush administration officials who bear responsibility for authorizing human rights abuses. He ordered an end to President George W. Bush’s torture policies and the closing of C.I.A. detention facilities, but the Open Society report said Mr. Obama did not repudiate rendition and suggested that some activities could be continuing, including a secret prison in Somalia run with C.I.A. involvement.

In a connected matter, Mr. Obama has adopted the Bush administration’s claim of a right to carry out targeted killings of suspected terrorists, including Americans, off the battlefield without judicial review or meaningful Congressional oversight.

Victims seeking compensation for wrongful detention and torture in overseas prisons have been turned away by federal courts because the Obama administration has continued its predecessor’s wildly broad claims that such lawsuits divulge state secrets. But there is hope in legal recourse in other venues.

Two weeks ago, an appeals court in Italy convicted a C.I.A. station chief and two other Americans for kidnapping a radical cleric in Milan in 2003 and sending him to Egypt. The decision means all 26 Americans tried in absentia for the abduction have been found guilty. On Tuesday, Italy’s former military intelligence chief was sentenced to 10 years in prison for complicity in the case.

In December, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the kidnapping and treatment of Khaled el-Masri, a German citizen mistaken for a terrorist and brutalized by a C.I.A. team at the airport in Macedonia in 2003, amounted to torture. He was never charged with a crime or given access to a lawyer. The case was brought against Macedonia because the European court does not have jurisdiction over the United States.

Both judgments are important condemnations of C.I.A. tactics under the Bush administration. They are also a warning to Mr. Obama that pressure for the United States and its partners to acknowledge and make amends for gross violations of international legal and human rights standards is unlikely to subside.

Copyright 2013 The New York Times

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/18/opinion/about-those-black-sites.html?hp&gwh=E73E047323C9843F9EF5A7488019E301

U.S. Engaged in Torture After 9/11, Review Concludes

by Scott Shane

WASHINGTON — A nonpartisan, independent review of interrogation and detention programs in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks concludes that “it is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture” and that the nation’s highest officials bore ultimate responsibility for it.

The sweeping, 577-page report says that while brutality has occurred in every American war, there never before had been “the kind of considered and detailed discussions that occurred after 9/11 directly involving a president and his top advisers on the wisdom, propriety and legality of inflicting pain and torment on some detainees in our custody.” The study, by an 11-member panel convened by the Constitution Project, a legal research and advocacy group, is to be released on Tuesday morning.

Debate over the coercive interrogation methods used by the administration of President George W. Bush has often broken down on largely partisan lines. The Constitution Project’s task force on detainee treatment, led by two former members of Congress with experience in the executive branch — a Republican, Asa Hutchinson, and a Democrat, James R. Jones — seeks to produce a stronger national consensus on the torture question.

While the task force did not have access to classified records, it is the most ambitious independent attempt to date to assess the detention and interrogation programs. A separate 6,000-page report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s record by the Senate Intelligence Committee, based exclusively on agency records, rather than interviews, remains classified.

“As long as the debate continues, so too does the possibility that the United States could again engage in torture,” the report says.

The use of torture, the report concludes, has “no justification” and “damaged the standing of our nation, reduced our capacity to convey moral censure when necessary and potentially increased the danger to U.S. military personnel taken captive.” The task force found “no firm or persuasive evidence” that these interrogation methods produced valuable information that could not have been obtained by other means. While “a person subjected to torture might well divulge useful information,” much of the information obtained by force was not reliable, the report says.

Interrogation and abuse at the C.I.A.’s so-called black sites, the Guantánamo Bay prison in Cuba and war-zone detention centers, have been described in considerable detail by the news media and in declassified documents, though the Constitution Project report adds many new details.

It confirms a report by Human Rights Watch that one or more Libyan militants were waterboarded by the C.I.A., challenging the agency’s longtime assertion that only three Al Qaeda prisoners were subjected to the near-drowning technique. It includes a detailed account by Albert J. Shimkus Jr., then a Navy captain who ran a hospital for detainees at the Guantánamo Bay prison, of his own disillusionment when he discovered what he considered to be the unethical mistreatment of prisoners.

But the report’s main significance may be its attempt to assess what the United States government did in the years after 2001 and how it should be judged. The C.I.A. not only waterboarded prisoners, but slammed them into walls, chained them in uncomfortable positions for hours, stripped them of clothing and kept them awake for days on end.

The question of whether those methods amounted to torture is a historically and legally momentous issue that has been debated for more than a decade inside and outside the government. The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel wrote a series of legal opinions from 2002 to 2005 concluding that the methods were not torture if used under strict rules; all the memos were later withdrawn. News organizations have wrestled with whether to label the brutal methods unequivocally as torture in the face of some government officials’ claims that they were not.

In addition, the United States is a signatory to the international Convention Against Torture, which requires the prompt investigation of allegations of torture and the compensation of its victims.

Like the still-secret Senate interrogation report, the Constitution Project study was initiated after President Obama decided in 2009 not to support a national commission to investigate the post-9/11 counterterrorism programs, as proposed by Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, and others. Mr. Obama said then that he wanted to “look forward, not backward.” Aides have said he feared that his own policy agenda might get sidetracked in a battle over his predecessor’s programs.

The panel studied the treatment of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, in Afghanistan and Iraq, and at the C.I.A’s secret prisons. Staff members, including the executive director, Neil A. Lewis, a former reporter for The New York Times, traveled to multiple detention sites and interviewed dozens of former American and foreign officials, as well as former detainees.

Mr. Hutchinson, who served in the Bush administration as chief of the Drug Enforcement Administration and under secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said he “took convincing” on the torture issue. But after the panel’s nearly two years of research, he said he had no doubts about what the United States did.

“This has not been an easy inquiry for me, because I know many of the players,” Mr. Hutchinson said in an interview. He said he thought everyone involved in decisions, from Mr. Bush down, had acted in good faith, in a desperate effort to try to prevent more attacks.

“But I just think we learn from history,” Mr. Hutchinson said. “It’s incredibly important to have an accurate account not just of what happened but of how decisions were made.”

He added, “The United States has a historic and unique character, and part of that character is that we do not torture.”

The panel found that the United States violated its international legal obligations by engineering “enforced disappearances” and secret detentions. It questions recidivism figures published by the Defense Intelligence Agency for Guantánamo detainees who have been released, saying they conflict with independent reviews.

It describes in detail the ethical compromise of government lawyers who offered “acrobatic” advice to justify brutal interrogations and medical professionals who helped direct and monitor them. And it reveals an internal debate at the International Committee of the Red Cross over whether the organization should speak publicly about American abuses; advocates of going public lost the fight, delaying public exposure for months, the report finds.

Mr. Jones, a former ambassador to Mexico, noted that his panel called for the release of a declassified version of the Senate report and said he believed that the two reports, one based on documents and the other largely on interviews, would complement each other in documenting what he called a grave series of policy errors.

“I had not recognized the depths of torture in some cases,” Mr. Jones said. “We lost our compass.”

While the Constitution Project report covers mainly the Bush years, it is critical of some Obama administration policies, especially what it calls excessive secrecy. It says that keeping the details of rendition and torture from the public “cannot continue to be justified on the basis of national security” and urges the administration to stop citing state secrets to block lawsuits by former detainees.

The report calls for the revision of the Army Field Manual on interrogation to eliminate Appendix M, which it says would permit an interrogation for 40 consecutive hours, and to restore an explicit ban on stress positions and sleep manipulation.

The core of the report, however, may be an appendix: a detailed 22-page legal and historical analysis that explains why the task force concluded that what the United States did was torture. It offers dozens of legal cases in which similar treatment was prosecuted in the United States or denounced as torture by American officials when used by other countries.

The report compares the torture of detainees to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. “What was once generally taken to be understandable and justifiable behavior,” the report says, “can later become a case of historical regret.”

The Report:
http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2013/04/16/world/16torture-report.htm...

Copyright 2013 The New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/16/world/us-practiced-torture-after-9-11-...

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