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I've gotten so sickened about this that I have been actively avoiding news on torture because Obama becomes so freaking disgusting as the days pass. But I thought you might wanna know...

On eve of receiving Nobel, Obama's DOJ files amicus brief upending Nuremberg Protocols.

"John Yoo is being defended in court this month by the Administration. Not the Bush Administration. The Obama Administration. As with the lawsuits over electronic surveillance and torture, the Obama administration wants the lawsuit against Yoo dismissed and is defending the right of Justice Department officials to help establish a torture program — an established war crime. I will be discussing this issue tonight on MSNBC Countdown.

The Obama Administration has filed a brief that brushes over the war crimes aspects of Yoo’s work at the Justice Department. Instead, it insists that attorneys must be free to give advice — even if it is to establish a torture program.
In its filing before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Justice Department insists that there is "the risk of deterring full and frank advice regarding the military’s detention and treatment of those determined to be enemies during an armed conflict." Instead it argues that the Justice Department has other means to punish lawyers like the Office of Professional Responsibility. Of course, the Bush Administration effectively blocked such investigations and Yoo is no longer with the Justice Department. The OPR has been dismissed as ineffectual, including in an ABA Journal, as the Justice Department’s "roach motel"—"the cases go in, but nothing ever comes out."

The Justice Department first defended Yoo as counsel and then paid for private counsel to represent him (here). His public-funded private counsel is Miguel Estrada, who was forced to withdraw his nomination by George Bush for the Court of Appeals after strong opposition from the Democrats.

Yoo is being sued by Jose Padilla, who was effectively blocked in contesting his abusive confinement and mistreatment as part of this criminal case and in a habeas action. The Bush Administration brought new charges to moot a case before the Supreme Court could rule. The Court previously sent his case back on a technicality.
It is important to note that the Administration did not have to file this brief since it had withdrawn as counsel and paid for Yoo’s private counsel. It has decided that it wants to establish the law claimed by the Bush Administration protecting Justice officials who support alleged war crimes. They are effectively doubling down by withdrawing as counsel and then reappearing as a non-party amicus.

The Obama Administration has gutted the hard-fought victories in Nuremberg where lawyers and judges were often guilty of war crimes in their legal advice and opinions. The third of the twelve trials for war crimes involved 16 German jurists and lawyers. Nine had been officials of the Reich Ministry of Justice, the others were prosecutors and judges of the Special Courts and People’s Courts of Nazi Germany. It would have been a larger group but two lawyers committed suicide before trial: Adolf Georg Thierack, former minister of justice, and Carl Westphal, a ministerial counsellor.

Now. Where is our media? Still chasing Tiger's girlfriends? What the fuck is the point of a free press if it muzzles itself and effectively colludes with a corrupt administration? What check are they serving as?
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Obama’s “Civil Detention System”

The Obama administration has said that it wants to create a “truly civil detention system.” Orwellian or earnest? Aarti Shahani founder of Families for Freedom and lead author of the Justice Strategies report, “Local Democracy on ICE” discusses the Obama administration’s plan and the closure of the T. Don Hutto detention center in Texas.

Will Holder Prosecute Architects of Torture Policy?

Is it possible that the Obama administration’s attempt to prosecute the crimes of the Bush administration could actually be worse than doing nothing? That’s what Andrew Sullivan concluded in response to an LA Times article suggesting that Holder will prosecute only those who went beyond the parameters outlined by the Bush administration torture memos. “This strikes me as the very very worst of all possible worlds,” writes Sullivan, “- the kind of split-the-difference pragmatism that will end up alienating everyone.”
Scott Horton, Contributing Editor at Harper’s Magazine, Vince Warren, Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, and Vijay Padmanabhan, former US State Department Lawyer and a professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law on the Justice Department decision.
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Obama’s First Rendition Looks Very Questionable

If his first publicly known rendition case is any indication, there may well be a legitimate question as to whether Obama's rendition program is even more repulsive than that of George Bush. More evidence will be required for an informed answer, but Obama is off to a very inauspicious beginning. From Scott Horton in an exclusive for Huffington Post:
[I]n a federal court in suburban Washington, a case is unfolding that gives us a practical sense of what an Obama-era rendition looks like.

Raymond Azar, a 45-year-old Lebanese construction manager with a grade school education, is employed by Sima International, a Lebanon-based contractor that does work for the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan. He also has the unlikely distinction of being the first target of a rendition carried out on the Obama watch.

According to court papers, on April 7, 2009, Azar and a Lebanese-American colleague, Dinorah Cobos, were seized by "at least eight" heavily armed FBI agents in Kabul, Afghanistan, where they had traveled for a meeting to discuss the status of one of his company's U.S. government contracts. The trip ended with Azar alighting in manacles from a Gulfstream V executive jet in Manassas, Virginia, where he was formally arrested and charged in a federal antitrust probe.

This rendition involved no black sites and was clearly driven by a desire to get the target quickly before a court. Also unlike renditions of the Bush-era, the target wasn't even a terror suspect; rather, he was suspected of fraud. But in a troubling intimation of the last administration, accusations of torture hover menacingly over the case. According to papers filed by his lawyers, Azar was threatened, subjected to coercive interrogation techniques and induced to sign a confession. Azar claims he was hooded, stripped naked (while being photographed) and subjected to a "body cavity search."
And now, it has gone to the point where we are conducting renditions for alleged contractor fraud. So much for breaking laws to protect the country from terrorism. Meanwhile, what about the contractor fraud from Halliburton and Blackwater and KBR?  Oh yeah.

Amazing isn't it that the US government can snatch Azar at gunpoint, bag him, tag him and fly him to Virginia for minor contracting fraud by his employer, yet they cannot seem to do so much as stop giving bonuses to KBR who kills American soldiers through their reckless disregard. Nor have they bagged and sensory deprived anybody from DynCorp, who has engaged in major fraud on defense contracts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Go figure.

The rot deepens.


Aug. 4th, 2009 09:13 pm
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via:crooks and liars...

Erik Prince's company Blackwater (now known as XE) has been embroiled in controversy for years. Company employees have posted videos online of their own ruthless behavior and abuses against Iraqi citizens, and can be heard laughing off camera. We're now finding out that this brutality most likely came from the top, down from Prince himself -- former employees are finding their consciences and telling horrifying stories about their former boss:
A former Blackwater employee and an ex-US Marine who has worked as a security operative for the company have made a series of explosive allegations in sworn statements filed on August 3 in federal court in Virginia. The two men claim that the company's owner, Erik Prince, may have murdered or facilitated the murder of individuals who were cooperating with federal authorities investigating the company. The former employee also alleges that Prince "views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe," and that Prince's companies "encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life."
In their testimony, both men also allege that Blackwater was smuggling weapons into Iraq. One of the men alleges that Prince turned a profit by transporting "illegal" or "unlawful" weapons into the country on Prince's private planes. They also charge that Prince and other Blackwater executives destroyed incriminating videos, emails and other documents and have intentionally deceived the US State Department and other federal agencies. The identities of the two individuals were sealed out of concerns for their safety.
These allegations, and a series of other charges, are contained in sworn affidavits, given under penalty of perjury, filed late at night on August 3 in the Eastern District of Virginia as part of a seventy-page motion by lawyers for Iraqi civilians suing Blackwater for alleged war crimes and other misconduct. Read on...

It would be nice if the news networks would stop trying to dig up MJ's life and turn their investigative skills to this atrocity.
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Are you listening Americans? The press? The President? WHAT THE FUCK?????

Fer instance:
No criminal charges have ever been brought against any C.I.A. officer involved in the torture program, despite the fact that at least three prisoners interrogated by agency personnel died as the result of mistreatment. In the first case, an unnamed detainee under C.I.A. supervision in Afghanistan froze to death after having been chained, naked, to a concrete floor overnight. The body was buried in an unmarked grave. In the second case, an Iraqi prisoner named Manadel al-Jamadi died on November 4, 2003, while being interrogated by the C.I.A. at Abu Ghraib prison, outside Baghdad. A forensic examiner found that he had essentially been crucified; he died from asphyxiation after having been hung by his arms, in a hood, and suffering broken ribs. Military pathologists classified the case a homicide. A third prisoner died after an interrogation in which a C.I.A. officer participated, though the officer evidently did not cause the death. (Several other detainees have disappeared and remain unaccounted for, according to Human Rights Watch.)
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Case of Tortured U.S. Citizen Tests Obama Administration on Human Rights.

In 2 weeks, US citizen Naji Hamdan will be tried in the United Arab Emirates for "nonspecific charges of ‘promoting terrorism.’"
Last July, Hamdan was "summoned" to the US Embassy in UAE:
He drove two hours through the desert heat from Dubai to answer questions from FBI agents who had arrived from Los Angeles, where Hamdan had gone to school, started a family, built a successful auto-parts business and become a U.S. citizen.
Six weeks later, men kidnapped and rendered him from his apartment for his imprisonment in UAE, where he was tortured in a case his lawyer claims was torture by proxy, or "at the behest" of his own government:
Hamdan was told he was a prisoner of the UAE and was held in a cell painted glossy white to reflect the lights that burned round the clock, according to a note he wrote from prison. Between interrogations, he wrote, he was confined in a frigid room overnight, strapped into "an electric chair" and punched in the head until he lost consciousness.
In one session, the blindfolded prisoner recalled hearing a voice that sounded American. The voice said, "Do what they want or these people will [expletive] you up," Hamdan wrote.
The prisoner obliged, signing a confession that he later said meant only that he would do anything to make the pain stop. The case might have ended there but for Hamdan's U.S. citizenship and his American attorney's assertion that he was tortured "at the behest" of his own government.
The way he was tortured is similar to Bush’s torture program:
In criminal custody, Mr. Hamdan told both his family and the U.S. consular officer who visited him that he had been severely tortured: repeatedly beaten on his head, kicked on his sides, stripped and held in a freezing cold room, placed in an electric chair and made to believe that he would be electrocuted, and held down in a stress position while his captors beat the bottoms of his feet with a large stick. During this horrific process, he said whatever the agents wanted him to say, and those statements may now be used against him in a criminal trial in the U.A.E.
This is not be the first time that Americans asked foreign governments to render, arrest or imprison US citizens under a practice known as "proxy detention."MORE Torture roundup here

Asshole POS Democrat Joe Lieberman teamed up with Republican Graham to insert an amendment in a supplemental bill that would suppress the detainee torture pics in the name of national security Progressive Dems and pissed off progressive bloggers unite to defeat the bill.

The response? Lieberman-Graham Threaten to Shut Down Senate, Add Detainee Photo Suppresion Amendment to FDA Tobacco Regulation Bill


There are torture documents that describe in detail how the US tortured Abu Zubaydah (same guy whose torture was videotaped, and said videotapes destroyed by the CIA.) The ACLU is fighting a court case to get those things introduced into evidence. Mr Panetta is refusing. Because:
Leon Panetta: I’ve Got to Protect the Contractors from Unwarranted Invasion of Privacy


Glenn Greenwald weighs in with Defeat of Graham-Lieberman and the ongoing war on transparency

(I will point out that there are very good arguments to be made about the release of pics not being best for the detainees see here and here that are giving me a lot to think about. This, obvs., is NOT what teh adminstration is up to. They are specifically trying to avoid being brought to justice for war crimes. There can be ways to deal with the pics, like releasing them to the judges and juries for instance, blocking faces etc.)

and ABC News' interview with Lakhdar Boumedienean and our current policies

(Algerian (and Bosnian citizen) who, while living in Bosnia and working for the International Red Crescent, was arrested by the Bosnian government (at the behest of the Bush administration) shortly after 9/11 on charges of plotting to blow up a U.S. and British embassy, but was then quickly cleared by Bosnian courts of any wrongdoing and ordered released. But as he was about to be released -- in January, 2002 -- he was abducted by the U.S. military inside Bosnia and shipped to Guantanamo, where he remained without charges for the next almost 8 years, and was clearly tortured.) MORE

What the new Jim Comey torture emails actually reveal

Also: Did Obama’s New GM Chairman Spy on Americans?

WTF Monday.

Jun. 9th, 2009 12:01 am
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Massacre in Peru in the name of Free Trade

Today brings news from Peru of a massacre of indigenous people who were protesting policies set in place based on the Peru Free Trade Agreement with the United States. Remember, Obama was actually FOR the Peru FTA.

What were the protesters opposing?
People have been protesting against a government - a government policy that ignores indigenous peoples, that sees the Amazon as being unproductive and sees indigenous people as, essentially, a waste of space. What the government wants to do is open up the Amazon to private investment - they see the future of development there to be biofuel plantations, oil drilling, mining, forestry, and large corporate investments and indigenous people are just getting in the way. So what the government did when it was given powers in the context of the free trade agreement was issue a series of laws that never went through Congress, that were never consulted with indigenous people, that basically restructure land rights, taking away land from indigenous people and allow rainforest to be reclassified as agricultural land - opening a legal loophole for biofuel companies to move in with plantations, for oil companies and mining companies to be able to work in the area without the troublesome part of having to negotiate or speak to the local communities for using their lands.
About how the Peru Free Trade Agreement with the U.S. fit into this..
Unfortunately, the process of the implementation of this free trade agreement - the president was given executive powers to pass laws to implement the free trade agreement. Using that excuse, the government passed these laws that take away indigenous rights and [present] a threat to the Amazon rainforest. The government here has been standing up and saying it can't repeal the laws because they are necessary for the free trade agreement and the development of Peru, and they are positioning the indigenous people as being against Free Trade and development and using the Free Trade Agreement as an excuse for passing these laws that undermine the indigenous rights.

Result? Around 2500 protestors attacked by 500 police {warning:graphic photos] with tear gas and live bullets. Some police killed in self-defense.

Eyes on Trade has got some good stuff on the perniciousness of those blasted Free Trade Agreements.


President Obama has appointed Alexia Kelley, executive director of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good (CACG), to head the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the Department of Health and Human Services. Kelley is a leading proponent of "common ground" abortion reduction -- only CACG's common ground is at odds with that of Obama. While the administration favors reducing the need for abortion by reducing unintended pregnancies, Kelley has made clear that she seeks instead to reduce access to abortion. That is an extremely disturbing development, especially coming this week in the wake of George Tiller's assassination.

Under George W. Bush, the faith-based centers didn't play a policy role. But Obama has expanded the faith-based project to include a policy side, and one of its chief goals is to reduce the need for abortion. I have opposed this, because reproductive health is a public health, not a religious issue. Also problematic: It is counterproductive for Obama to appoint someone who disagrees with the administration's stance. Obama finds himself now in the difficult position of having elevated the importance of religion to making policy, and having appointed a religious figure whose opinions on policy conflict with his.

Kelley and CACG have made clear they are committed to Catholic doctrine on abortion and birth control. CACG has supported the Pregnant Women's Support Act, aimed at stigmatizing abortion and making it less accessible. In discussing legislation on reducing the need for abortion, Kelley has written that various pieces of legislation concerned with women's health "are not all perfect; some include contraception -- which the Church opposes." Never mind that more than 90 percent of American Catholics use it anyway.

As Catholics for Choice points out in its press release criticizing the pick, "the Department of Health and Human Services is responsible for providing and expanding access to key sexual and reproductive health services. As such, we need those working in HHS to rely on evidence-based methods to reduce the need for abortion. We need them to believe in men's and women's capacity to make moral decisions about their own lives. Unfortunately, as seen from her work at CACG, Ms. Kelley does not fit the bill." MORE

see alsoTrojans and Horses

Re: a good health care bill?

Read this: Musing over Morning Coffee: the Public Option, this: Your (Very Special Edition) Health reform Roundup, this: How Canada got Universal Health Care AKA the story of the man voted the Greatest Canadian, Going Dutch: How I learned to love the European Welfare State, Health Care Reform: The Cost of Failure, FAIR Reports: Media quarantine on discussion of single payer health care. ANd just read this for good measure:Child Well-Being Index Foretells Hard Time For Kids

And fervently hope that this is a lie
Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the senior Republican on the Finance Committee, recalled how Mr. Obama made a personal pledge of bipartisanship when he and Senator Max Baucus of Montana, the committee’s Democratic chairman, joined the president for a private lunch at the White House last month.
“I said, ‘Yeah, it’s a problem,’ ” Mr. Grassley said of the public plan, “and he said something along the lines of, ‘If I get 85 percent of what I want with a bipartisan vote, or 100 percent with 51 votes, all Democrat, I’d rather have it be bipartisan.’ ”

Also: WTF???? Just. What. the. FUCK???? Obama’s Pick to Lead Afghan War Linked to Abuse of Prisoners & Secret Assassination Unit Headdesk. Headdesk. HEADDESK!!!! Whatever happened to the Office of Urban Policy?
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Glenn Greenwald and Rachel Maddow step forward:

Rachel Maddow: Indefinite detention? Shame on you... President Obama

(1) What does "preventive detention" allow?
It's important to be clear about what "preventive detention" authorizes. It does not merely allow the U.S. Government to imprison people alleged to have committed Terrorist acts yet who are unable to be convicted in a civilian court proceeding. That class is merely a subset, perhaps a small subset, of who the Government can detain. Far more significant, "preventive detention" allows indefinite imprisonment not based on proven crimes or past violations of law, but of those deemed generally "dangerous" by the Government for various reasons (such as, as Obama put it yesterday, they "expressed their allegiance to Osama bin Laden" or "otherwise made it clear that they want to kill Americans"). That's what "preventive" means: imprisoning people because the Government claims they are likely to engage in violent acts in the future because they are alleged to be "combatants."
Once known, the details of the proposal could -- and likely will -- make this even more extreme by extending the "preventive detention" power beyond a handful of Guantanamo detainees to anyone, anywhere in the world, alleged to be a "combatant." After all, once you accept the rationale on which this proposal is based -- namely, that the U.S. Government must, in order to keep us safe, preventively detain "dangerous" people even when they can't prove they violated any laws -- there's no coherent reason whatsoever to limit that power to people already at Guantanamo, as opposed to indefinitely imprisoning with no trials all allegedly "dangerous" combatants, whether located in Pakistan, Thailand, Indonesia, Western countries and even the U.S.

UPDATE IV: The New Yorker's Amy Davidson compares Obama's detention proposal to the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II (as did Professor Amann, quoted above). Hilzoy, of The Washington Monthly, writes: "If we don't have enough evidence to charge someone with a crime, we don't have enough evidence to hold them. Period" and "the power to detain people without filing criminal charges against them is a dictatorial power." Salon's Joan Walsh quotes the Center for Constitutional Rights' Vincent Warren as saying: "They’re creating, essentially, an American Gulag." The Philadelphia Inquirer's Will Bunch says of Obama's proposal: "What he's proposing is against one of this country's core principles" and "this is why people need to keep the pressure on Obama -- even those inclined to view his presidency favorably."Go read the rest I'll be over here laughing bitterly at the irony that it took Nixon to go to China, and it takes a Democratic President to complete the country's slide into fascism. You know, lots of people made much note of his intelligence and knowlege of Constitutional law. I think we are seeing once again that intelligence by itself sure as hell does not stop you from committing some rather evil acts.
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'He raised the issue of preventive detention himself...'
WASHINGTON — President Obama told human rights advocates at the White House on Wednesday that he was mulling the need for a “preventive detention” system that would establish a legal basis for the United States to incarcerate terrorism suspects who are deemed a threat to national security but cannot be tried, two participants in the private session said.

More torture under Obama at Guantonomo: Say hello to the Immediate Reaction Force
While there’s been a lot of focus on torture under the Bush administration, what about under President Obama? In a new article, investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill writes the Obama administration is continuing to use a notorious military police unit at Guantanamo that regularly brutalizes unarmed prisoners, including gang-beating them, breaking their bones, gouging their eyes, dousing them with chemicals.

This force, officially known as the Immediate Reaction Force, has been labeled the “Extreme Repression Force” by Guantanamo prisoners, and human rights lawyers call their actions illegal, Jeremy writes. MORE

Hailing the leader as a War President and the powers that go with it

This week, Newsweek's Editor Jon Meacham interviewed Barack Obama, adopted Bush's label and applied it to Obama, asking him:
Can anything get you ready to be a war president?
Nothing excites our media stars more than saluting and fetishizing the President as a "War President" and "Commander-in-Chief" (David Broder today, in his column entitled "Obama in Command": Obama is "continuing, with minor modifications, the policies and practices of his Republican predecessor . . . . Obama's liberal critics are right. He is a different man now. He has learned what it means to be commander in chief"). But isn't the phrase "war president" a complete redundancy when it comes to the U.S.? Which American presidents were not "war presidents"?

And I've omitted far more American military actions from this list than I included.


In any event, the U.S. is, more or less, a nation permanently at war. One can debate whether all or some of our wars are good or not, but what can't be debated is that we fight wars far, far more than any other country -- basically, continuously. That's just a fact. After Bush 41's invasion of Panama, R.W. Apple wrote on the front page of The New York Times that the invasion "constituted a Presidential initiation rite" whereby:
For better or for worse, most American leaders since World War II have felt a need to demonstrate their willingness to shed blood to protect or advance what they construe as the national interest.
In other words, there's no such thing as an American President who is not a "war President."

That's why this media construct that things are different for "war presidents" -- we have to give "war presidents" greater power and leeway; demand less transparency and accept more secrecy; acquiesce to abridgments of civil liberties when "America is at war"; and, coming soon under the Change banner, allow them the right to imprison people indefinitely with no trials even beyond "war zones" -- is so manipulative and misleading. It implies that "America at war" is some sort of unusual and temporary circumstance rather than what it is: our permanent state of affairs. MORE

So. Full blown fascism in 10, 9, 8 ...
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We tortured to justify the Iraq War

Yet evidence is mounting that under Cheney’s direction, "enhanced interrogation" was not used exclusively to prevent imminent acts of terror or collect actionable intelligence -- the aims that he constantly emphasizes -- but to invent evidence that would link al-Qaida with Saddam Hussein and connect the late Iraqi dictator to the 9/11 attacks.

In one report after another, from journalists, former administration officials and Senate investigators, the same theme continues to emerge: Whenever a prisoner believed to possess any knowledge of al-Qaida’s operations or Iraqi intelligence came into American custody, CIA interrogators felt intense pressure from the Bush White House to produce evidence of an Iraq-Qaida relationship (which contradicted everything that U.S. intelligence and other experts knew about the enmity between Saddam’s Baath Party and Osama bin Laden’s jihadists). Indeed, the futile quest for proof of that connection is the common thread running through the gruesome stories of torture from the Guantánamo detainee camp to Egyptian prisons to the CIA's black sites in Thailand and elsewhere.MORE

Glenn Greenwald lay out the latest civil liberties trashing being down by our new Pres People keep yakking on about his Godliness and his constitutional lawyer background. And yet we keep getting results such as these. What is the point?

Monday - Obama administration's letter to Britian threatening to cut off intelligence-sharing if British courts reveal the details of how we tortured British resident Binyam Mohamed;
Tuesday - Promoted to military commander in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChyrstal, who was deeply involved in some of the worst abuses of the Bush era;
Wednesday - Announced he was reversing himself and would try to conceal photographic evidence showing widespread detainee abuse -- despite the rulings from two separate courts (four federal judges unanimously) that the law compels their disclosure;
Friday - Unveiled his plan to preserve a modified system of military commissions for trying Guantanamo detainees, rather than using our extant-judicial processes for doing so.
It's not the fault of civil libertarians that Obama did all of those things, just in this week alone. These are the very policies -- along with things like the claimed power to abduct and imprison people indefinitely with no charges of any kind and the use of the "state secrets privilege" to deny torture and spying victims a day in court -- that caused such extreme anger and criticisms toward the Bush presidency.MORE

En Tequila Es Verdad Offers more info
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Toture vs Freedom

While specific false claims about torture and the Bush administration's conduct should be challenged, it's especially important to emphasize torture's immorality and its clear illegality. Torture is the very antithesis of freedom. The key dynamics are not truth, security or patriotism. They are power, dehumanization and sadism. As Rear Admiral John Hutson observed, "torture is the method of choice of the lazy, the stupid and the pseudo-tough." When someone is tortured, it means that someone else in a position of power over the victim has deliberately chosen to inflict significant pain and suffering on a fellow human being. Torture spreads and corrupts in a democracy. Not only do torturers often not recognize the truth even when it's told to them, sometimes the torturers get so carried away they don't "even bother to ask questions" and "torture becomes an end unto itself." As Soviet-era torture victim Vladimir Bukovsky put it, "Why run the risk of unleashing a fury that even Stalin had problems controlling?" He also explains how, after several days of torture, "neither the doctor nor those guards could ever look me in the eye again." (See also The Lucifer Effect.)

... It's hard to imagine a more clear moral line.

Torture is (1) immoral, (2) illegal, (3) endangers us (especially American troops in the Middle East), and (4) doesn't "work" – unless one wants to inflict pain, terrorize the populace, produce bogus intelligence or elicit false confessions. It's not that torture never produces a true statement, but at best, torture "works" much the same way amputation "cures" all hand ailments. (That's still probably far too generous.) Experienced interrogators know that torture is unreliable and counterproductive in addition to being cruel and illegal. For obtaining reliable information, more humane, rapport-building techniques are far more effective. Furthermore, as John Sifton has pointed out, intel from prisoners typically grows "stale" quickly, and "if you’re relying on interrogations for intelligence, you’re already on the back foot. You’ve already lost the war, so to speak." Regardless, skilled, experienced interrogator pursuing accurate information would not be approaching a prisoner asking, "How much pain can I legally inflict?" That is a self-defeating, dangerous path that leads all too easily to becoming "the enemies of all humankind."More
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little war criminal abetting ass:

We wouldn't want to inflame anti-American sentiment

We're currently occupying two Muslim countries. We're killing civilians regularly (as usual) -- with airplanes and unmanned sky robots. We're imprisoning tens of thousands of Muslims with no trial, for years. Our government continues to insist that it has the power to abduct people -- virtually all Muslim -- ship them to Bagram, put them in cages, and keep them there indefinitely with no charges of any kind. We're denying our torture victims any ability to obtain justice for what was done to them by insisting that the way we tortured them is a "state secret" and that we need to "look to the future." We provide Israel with the arms and money used to do things like devastate Gaza. Independent of whether any or all of these policies are justifiable, the extent to which those actions "inflame anti-American sentiment" is impossible to overstate.

And now, the very same people who are doing all of that are claiming that they must suppress evidence of our government's abuse of detainees because to allow the evidence to be seen would "inflame anti-American sentiment." It's not hard to believe that releasing the photos would do so to some extent -- people generally consider it a bad thing to torture and brutally abuse helpless detainees -- but compared to everything else we're doing, the notion that releasing or concealing these photos would make an appreciable difference in terms of how we're perceived in the Muslim world is laughable on its face.

Moreover, isn't it rather obvious that Obama's decision to hide this evidence -- certain to be a prominent news story in the Muslim world, and justifiably so -- will itself inflame anti-American sentiment? It's not exactly a compelling advertisement for the virtues of transparency, honesty and open government. What do you think the impact is when we announce to the world: "What we did is so heinous that we're going to suppress the evidence?" Some Americans might be grateful to Obama for hiding evidence of what we did to detainees, but that is unlikely to be the reaction of people around the world.MORE

see also:Obama's latest effort to conceal evidence of Bush era crimes

and About the Foto Flip-Flop

It's inexcusable, Obama's flip-flop on the DOD abuse photos.
Not (just) because I think he's wrong on the law and he'll probably not get Cert with SCOTUS, making this a big pose.
Rather, it's inexcusable because Obama issued new guidelines on FOIA that he now abandons:
The Freedom of Information Act should be administered with a clear presumption: In the face of doubt, openness prevails. The Government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears. Nondisclosure should never be based on an effort to protect the personal interests of Government officials at the expense of those they are supposed to serve. In responding to requests under the FOIA, executive branch agencies (agencies) should act promptly and in a spirit of cooperation, recognizing that such agencies are servants of the public.
All agencies should adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure, in order to renew their commitment to the principles embodied in FOIA, and to usher in a new era of open Government. The presumption of disclosure should be applied to all decisions involving FOIA.
Granted, a bunch of Generals and Colonels would undoubtedly be embarrassed by the disclosure of abuse that happened on their watch (above all--as Nell suggests--Stanley McChrystal, newly tapped to take over in Afghanistan). Granted, some of those Generals and Colonels (the aforementioned McChrystal) would probably lose their next promotion if these pictures became public. Granted, pundits speculate, abstractly, that the release of another round of torture pictures will inflame the already volatile Iraq and Afghanistan.
But those are all invalid excuses, according to President Obama's own FOIA guidelines. If you're going to set a rule, follow it yourself. http://emptywheel.firedoglake.com/2009/05/13/about-the-foto-flip-flop/">MORE

Isn't it interesting how "god is in the mix" when it comes on to being a homobigot, but is noticeably absent when it comes on to treating people humanely and lawfully? Refraining from breaking international law? Refusing to coddle and protect war criminals?

While we are at it

...A simple fact is being overlooked in the Bush-era torture scandal: the number of cases in which detainees have been tortured to death. Abuse did not only involve the high-profile cases of smashing detainees into plywood barriers (“walling”), confinement in coffin-like boxes with insects, sleep deprivation, cold, and waterboarding. To date approximately 100 detainees, including CIA-held detainees, have died during U.S. interrogations, and some are known to have been tortured to death.
The bottom line is that many detainee homicides in Iraq and Afghanistan were the direct result of approval and orders from the highest levels of government, and that high officials in the government are accomplices. MORE

Yeah. Talk about inciting anti-American sentiment, that. Here's a suggestion. You want to deal with anti-American sentiment cause by the fact that government and army official are torturing. murdering war criminals? PROSECUTE THEM. How about that?


May. 5th, 2009 07:06 pm
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The Jay Bybee Problem

How did Jay Bybee breeze through a confirmation hearing for his appointment to the Federal Appeals Court in February 2003? Not a single Democrat questioned Bybee at the session, and the proceedings came to a quick conclusion. The following month he was confirmed by the full Senate.
Just six months prior to the hearing, Jay Bybee had signed legal memos providing cover for CIA agents torturing detainees -- yet Congress voted him to a lifetime on the federal bench. How did this happen? And what will become of Judge Bybee now?

Daily Kos Diarist Chacounne is running a series entitled: Why I fight against Torture

Triggering. Extreme triggering )
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America's Tough Love Habit.
We are, famously, blasé about our acts of torture overseas. But why? The laser-like focus on fixing the economy, wanting to avoid more political divisiveness, the diminishment of watchdog journalism—are all part of the explanation. But there's another overlooked reason as well. Americans tend to valorize tough love—at times, even tough love that verges on torture—in prisons, mental hospitals, drug rehabs, and teen boot camps. We aren't squeamish about the psychological aspects of torture. We might even admire them. Thousands of troubled children, for instance, now attend tough "wilderness programs" "emotional growth boarding schools" and other "tough love" camps where they face conditions like total isolation, sleep deprivation, food deprivation, and daily emotional attacks. Thousands also attend religiously based residential programs, some of which claim to "cure" homosexuality and stop teen promiscuity. In this context, the recent poll showing that evangelicals are the group with the highest level of support for torture begins to make sense. If we think humiliation, stress positions, and isolation are OK for disobedient teens, why not for suspected terrorists? As the author of the first book-length history and expose of the troubled-teen industry, I’m familiar not only with the distressing stories of abuse coming from these programs, but also with their roots in the same tactics now being exposed in the CIA torture program. If more people understood the psychological and physical consequences of these "thought reform" techniques, I don't think we'd find them acceptable for anyone. Here's what is known about the parallels between "enhanced interrogation" teen boot camps and the idea of "thought reform" programs first described by psychiatrist Robert J. Lifton in the 1950’s—and about how they damage the mind and body.MORE
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Sebelius was confirmed last night, sworn in this morning and set right to work on our swine flu

9th Circuit Rejects Obama/Bush State Secrets Argument In Mohammed
A three judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Chief Judge Mary Schroeder, William Canby and Michael Hawkins, has firmly rejected the vile cover up attempted against several detainees/former detainees led by Binyam Mohamed. The full decision is here.
I would like to note two things quickly; first off this is a wonderful panel (they are all from Arizona and I have known all of them) and I really expected no less from them. Secondly, it appears from a skimming of the decision that they did not dismiss the ability of the government to assert state secrets, rather indicated the time was not ripe for it. Do not be mistaken, however, this is a big blow to the government and a win for the rule of law.

Glenn Greenwald gives more context:
Major defeat for Bush/Obama position on secrecy
The first sign that the Obama DOJ would replicate many of the worst and most radical arguments of the Bush DOJ was in the Jeppesen case, a lawsuit brought by five victims of the CIA's rendition and torture program (including Binyam Mohamed). The Bush administration had argued that the entire "subject matter" raised by the lawsuit (the rendition program) was such a gravely important "state secret" that the court could not consider any lawsuit relating to that issue. That argument was a by-product of one of the Bush DOJ's most controversial actions: its radical expansion of the "state secrets" doctrine. Whereas that privilege was once an evidentiary privilege enabling the Government to declare specific documents too secret to use in litigation, the Bush DOJ converted it into an all-purpose shield allowing them to have entire lawsuits dismissed even where the lawsuit alleged that the President's conduct was illegal.
The District Court in Jeppesen had accepted the Bush DOJ's argument and dismissed the lawsuit, and on appeal in February, the Obama DOJ -- to the obvious surprise of the judges and in a reversal of everything Democrats claimed they believed during the Bush presidency -- told the Ninth Circuit panel that they embrace the Bush DOJ "state secrets" position in full (a position they've since repeated in other cases).
Today, in a 26-page ruling (.pdf), the appellate court resoundingly rejected the Bush/Obama position, holding that the "state secrets" privilege -- except in extremely rare circumstances not applicable here -- does not entitle the Government to demand dismissal of an entire lawsuit based on the assertion that the "subject matter" of the lawsuit is a state secret. Instead, the privilege only allows the Government to make specific claims of secrecy with regard to specific documents and other facts -- exactly how the privilege was virtually always used before the Bush and Obama DOJs sought to expand it into a vast weapon of immunity from all lawsuits challenging the legality of any executive branch program relating to national security.MORE
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Honor and the Lack thereof
If you want an example of how disconnected our federal government is from the world that the rest of us live in, you can't do much better than to contemplate the case of Alyssa Peterson and then contrast it with the behavior of the Congress, the Senate in particular, and the President over the last few days.

As Kevin Elston of the Arizona Republic reports:

A Flagstaff soldier who in 2003 became the third woman to die in Iraq killed herself two weeks after objecting to the interrogation techniques being used on Iraqi prisoners, according to documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

Spc. Alyssa Peterson, 27, an Arabic-speaking interrogator who trained at Fort Huachuca in southern Arizona, was assigned to a unit at Tal Afar Air Base in northwestern Iraq. According to a criminal investigation report recently released by the military under the Freedom of Information Act, Peterson had been in Iraq for two weeks and participated in two interrogations in late August 2003.

She objected to interrogation techniques after the first session, the documents show, and after the second session she told her supervisor that she "could not carry out" the interrogation methods that were being used and asked to be reassigned.

Her objections came seven months before the prisoner abuse allegations at Abu Ghraib prison in central Iraq became public.

Soldier Opposed Interrogations

Greg Mitchell notes in an article at the Huffington Post:

The official probe of her death would later note that earlier she had been "reprimanded" for showing "empathy" for the prisoners. One of the most moving parts of the report, in fact, is this: "She said that she did not know how to be two people; she ... could not be one person in the cage and another outside the wire."

She was then assigned to the base gate, where she monitored Iraqi guards, and sent to suicide prevention training. "But on the night of September 15th, 2003, Army investigators concluded she shot and killed herself with her service rifle," the documents disclose.

The official report revealed that a notebook she had written in was found next to her body, but blacked out its contents.

U.S. Soldier Killed Herself -- After Refusing to Take Part in Torture

In short, Specialist Peterson was another victim of the illegal behavior of the Bush Administration and the people who supported it, and the Army did its best to cover up this fact. This young woman was apparently so disturbed by what she had experienced while interrogating Iraqi prisoners, or the isolation that had resulted from refusing to commit the crime of torture, that she took her own life. Which of those reasons it is may be impossible to find out, thanks in part to our "leadership".

And then the blogger really goes to town Go read!
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Daily Kos Diarist Chacounne is running a series entitled: Why I fight against Torture.

Prologue:Omar Khadr's US Lawyer is Re-Assigned

There’s young man in Guantanamo Bay Detention facility, a young man who has been there since he was 15 years old, almost seven years. His name is Omar Khadr. He is a Canadian born in Toronto, Ontario, During that time, and that he has been tortured:
Trigger Warnings. Extreme Trigger Warnings. This was done in our names. )

Why I fight Against Torture Part Two

Murat Kurnaz Murat Kurnaz 3

Mr. Kurnaz was born in Bremen, Germany, had always lived in Germany, and was of Turkish descent. In Germany, those of Turkish descent having a much more difficult time becoming German citizens even those born in Germany. In 2001, he decided to learn more about his religion, Islam, in preparation for his Turkish wife joining him, so he traveled to Pakistan to learn from peaceful Imams. Enroute back to Germany, on December 1, 2001, he was taken off a bus in Pakistan, and taken to a prison in Peshawar, Pakistan, then to Kandahar, Afghanistan, and, finally to Guantanamo Bay, where he remained until August 4th, 2006. {He wroet a book about his experiences and teh following is an excerpt:

In Kandahar:

Did they have a lie detector? I asked myself. The man was holding something in his hands. It looked like two irons that he was rubbing together. Or one of those machines used to revive people who have heart attacks. Before I realized what was happening, I felt the first jolt.

It was electricity. An electric shock. They put the electrodes to the soles of my feet. There was no way to remain seated. It was as though my body was lifting itself off the ground of its own accord. I felt the electric current going through my whole body. There was a bang. It hurt a lot. I felt warmth, jolts, cramps. My muscles cramped up and quivered. That hurt, too.

... I heard screams.

They were my screams


Why I fight against torture Part Three Murat Kurnaz's story continued. The following is an excerpt from his book:

He was young, around my age, maybe nineteen or twenty. He lay on the ground making soft noises.
He didn't have any legs. His wounds were still fresh.

I sat in my cage, hardly daring to look, but every once in a while I had to look in his direction. The stumps of his legs were full of pus. The bandages wrapped around them had turned red and yellow. Everything was bloody and moist. He had frostbite marks on his hands. He seemed hardly able to move his fingers. I watched as he tried to get up. He crawled over to the bucket in his cage and tried to sit on it. He had to go to the toilet. He tried to raise himself up with his hands on the chain-link fence, but he didn't make it. He couldn't hold on with his swollen fingers. Still, he tried, until a guard came and hit his hands with his billy-club. The young man fell to the ground.
Every time he tried to hoist himself onto the bucket, the guards came and hit him on the hands. No one was allowed to touch the fence - that was an iron law. But a young man with no legs? They told him he wasn't allowed to stand up. But how could he have done that without any legs? He wasn't even allowed to lean on the fence or to crawl onto the bucket.
The bandages wrapped around Abdul's stumps were never changed. When he took them off himself, they were full of blood and pus. He showed the bandages to the guards and pointed to his open wounds. The guardsw ignored him. Later, I saw how he tried to wash the bandages in his bucket of drinking water. But he could hardly move his hands, so he wasn't able to. And even if he had, where would he have hung them up to dry? He wasn't allowed to touch the fence. He wrapped his stumps back up in the dirty bandages.MORE

Updated: Why I Fight Against Torture: Part Four

Today I will share the story of Omar Khadr:
Omar Khadr
Omar was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Much has been said about his family and his childhood. It is complicated, and to get the entire background I recommend the Wikipedia article, which has lots of links to the relevent original documents and news articles. I also highly recommend the book "Guantanamo's Child" by Michelle Shephard.
In the end, Omar was captured by US troops in Afghanistan on July 27, 2002, after a firefight during which a grenade was thrown. The grenade killed Sgt. Christopher Speer and allegedly blinded Sgt. Layne Morris in one eye. Omar is accused of throwing that grenade, but documents surfaced last year which cast doubt that he was the one who threw the grenade. He was severely injured in the firefight, including major wounds to his chest and at least one eye.
Omar was 15 years old when he was taken into custody.

Around the time of Ramadan in 2003, an Afghan man, claiming to be from the Afghan government, interrogated me at Guantanamo. A military interrogator was in the room at the time. The Afghan man said his name was "Izmarai" (Lion), and that he was from Wardeq. He spoke mostly in Farsi, and a little in Pashto and English. He had an American flag on his trousers. The Afghan man appeared displeased with the answers that I was giving him, and after some time both the Afghan and the military interrogator left the room. A military official then removed my chair and short-shackled me by my hands and feet to a bolt in the floor. Military officials then moved my hands behind my knees. They left me in the room in this condition for approximately five to six hours, causing me extreme pain. Occasionally, a military officer and the interrogators would come in and laugh at me. MORE

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Where are the CIA's missing prisoners?

Dafna Linzer pointed out at ProPublica Wednesday that, according to Human Rights Watch, 35 suspects known to have been held in secret prisons as far back as 2001 are still unaccounted for.
The Cheney-Bush administration admitted in 2006 that it had secretly held prisoners incommunicado for years at "black sites." In the words of then-CIA Director Michael Hayden, the prisoners totaled somewhat fewer than 100. In September that year, 14 high-level captives from this group were transferred to military custody at the U.S. detention center at Guantánamo Bay. Others were sent to Egypt, Jordan and Pakistan. At the time, however, six human rights groups said 39 other captives were still believed to be held by the CIA.
More than two-and-a-half years later, 35 of these captives remain "disappeared," ghost detainees. Thus, a third of those the CIA once held, if Hayden's 100 figure can be believed, have vanished as surely as the Argentinians who were pushed out of helicopters into the Atlantic in the 1980s. [which the CIA sure as hell had a hand in]MORE

Rachel Breaks down the torture memos in easy to understand pieces: Part 1

torture profiteers on the flip )


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