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How a Washington Global Torture Gulag Was Turned Into the Only Gulag-Free Zone on Earth February 18, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Brazil, Chile, Latin America, Torture, War on Terror.
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Published on Monday, February 18, 2013 by TomDispatch.com

The Latin American Exception

by Greg Grandin

(Max Fisher — The Washington Post)

The map tells the story.  To illustrate a damning new report, “Globalizing Torture: CIA Secret Detentions and Extraordinary Rendition,” recently published by the Open Society Institute, the Washington Post put together an equally damning graphic: it’s soaked in red, as if with blood, showing that in the years after 9/11, the CIA turned just about the whole world into a gulag archipelago.

Back in the early twentieth century, a similar red-hued map was used to indicate the global reach of the British Empire, on which, it was said, the sun never set.  It seems that, between 9/11 and the day George W. Bush left the White House, CIA-brokered torture never saw a sunset either.

All told, of the 190-odd countries on this planet, a staggering 54 participated in various ways in this American torture system, hosting CIA “black site” prisons, allowing their airspace and airports to be used for secret flights, providing intelligence, kidnapping foreign nationals or their own citizens and handing them over to U.S. agents to be “rendered” to third-party countries like Egypt and Syria.  The hallmark of this network, Open Society writes, has been torture.  Its report documents the names of 136 individuals swept up in what it says is an ongoing operation, though its authors make clear that the total number, implicitly far higher, “will remain unknown” because of the “extraordinary level of government secrecy associated with secret detention and extraordinary rendition.”

No region escapes the stain.  Not North America, home to the global gulag’s command center.  Not Europe, the Middle East, Africa, or Asia.  Not even social-democratic Scandinavia.  Sweden turned over at least two people to the CIA, who were then rendered to Egypt, where they were subject to electric shocks, among other abuses.  No region, that is, except Latin America.

What’s most striking about the Post’s map is that no part of its wine-dark horror touches Latin America; that is, not one country in what used to be called Washington’s “backyard” participated in rendition or Washington-directed or supported torture and abuse of “terror suspects.”  Not even Colombia, which throughout the last two decades was as close to a U.S.-client state as existed in the area.  It’s true that a fleck of red should show up on Cuba, but that would only underscore the point: Teddy Roosevelt took Guantánamo Bay Naval Base for the U.S. in 1903 “in perpetuity.”

Two, Three, Many CIAs 

How did Latin America come to be territorio libre in this new dystopian world of black sites and midnight flights, the Zion of this militarist matrix (as fans of the Wachowskis’ movies might put it)?  After all, it was in Latin America that an earlier generation of U.S. and U.S.-backed counterinsurgents put into place a prototype of Washington’s twenty-first century Global War on Terror.

Even before the 1959 Cuban Revolution, before Che Guevara urged revolutionaries to create “two, three, many Vietnams,” Washington had already set about establishing two, three, many centralized intelligence agencies in Latin America.  As Michael McClintock shows in his indispensable book Instruments of Statecraft, in late 1954, a few months after the CIA’s infamous coup in Guatemala that overthrew a democratically elected government, the National Security Council first recommended strengthening “the internal security forces of friendly foreign countries.”

In the region, this meant three things.  First, CIA agents and other U.S. officials set to work “professionalizing” the security forces of individual countries like Guatemala, Colombia, and Uruguay; that is, turning brutal but often clumsy and corrupt local intelligence apparatuses into efficient, “centralized,” still brutal agencies, capable of gathering information, analyzing it, and storing it.  Most importantly, they were to coordinate different branches of each country’s security forces — the police, military, and paramilitary squads — to act on that information, often lethally and always ruthlessly.

Second, the U.S. greatly expanded the writ of these far more efficient and effective agencies, making it clear that their portfolio included not just national defense but international offense.  They were to be the vanguard of a global war for “freedom” and of an anticommunist reign of terror in the hemisphere.  Third, our men in Montevideo, Santiago, Buenos Aires, Asunción, La Paz, Lima, Quito, San Salvador, Guatemala City, and Managua were to help synchronize the workings of individual national security forces.

The result was state terror on a nearly continent-wide scale.  In the 1970s and 1980s, Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet’s Operation Condor, which linked together the intelligence services of Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Chile, was the most infamous of Latin America’s transnational terror consortiums, reaching out to commit mayhem as far away as Washington D.C., Paris, and Rome.  The U.S. had earlier helped put in place similar operations elsewhere in the Southern hemisphere, especially in Central America in the 1960s.

By the time the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans had been tortured, killed, disappeared, or imprisoned without trial, thanks in significant part to U.S. organizational skills and support.  Latin America was, by then, Washington’s backyard gulag.  Three of the region’s current presidents — Uruguay’s José Mujica, Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff, and Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega — were victims of this reign of terror.

When the Cold War ended, human rights groups began the herculean task of dismantling the deeply embedded, continent-wide network of intelligence operatives, secret prisons, and torture techniques — and of pushing militaries throughout the region out of governments and back into their barracks.  In the 1990s, Washington not only didn’t stand in the way of this process, but actually lent a hand in depoliticizing Latin America’s armed forces.  Many believed that, with the Soviet Union dispatched, Washington could now project its power in its own “backyard” through softer means like international trade agreements and other forms of economic leverage.  Then 9/11 happened.

“Oh My Goodness”

In late November 2002, just as the basic outlines of the CIA’s secret detention and extraordinary rendition programs were coming into shape elsewhere in the world, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld flew 5,000 miles to Santiago, Chile, to attend a hemispheric meeting of defense ministers.  “Needless to say,” Rumsfeld nonetheless said, “I would not be going all this distance if I did not think this was extremely important.” Indeed.

This was after the invasion of Afghanistan but before the invasion of Iraq and Rumsfeld was riding high, as well as dropping the phrase “September 11th” every chance he got.  Maybe he didn’t know of the special significance that date had in Latin America, but 29 years earlier on the first 9/11, a CIA-backed coup by General Pinochet and his military led to the death of Chile’s democratically elected president Salvador Allende.  Or did he, in fact, know just what it meant and was that the point?  After all, a new global fight for freedom, a proclaimed Global War on Terror, was underway and Rumsfeld had arrived to round up recruits.

There, in Santiago, the city out of which Pinochet had run Operation Condor, Rumsfeld and other Pentagon officials tried to sell what they were now terming the “integration” of “various specialized capabilities into larger regional capabilities” — an insipid way of describing the kidnapping, torturing, and death-dealing already underway elsewhere. “Events around the world before and after September 11th suggest the advantages,” Rumsfeld said, of nations working together to confront the terror threat.

“Oh my goodness,” Rumsfeld told a Chilean reporter, “the kinds of threats we face are global.”  Latin America was at peace, he admitted, but he had a warning for its leaders: they shouldn’t lull themselves into believing that the continent was safe from the clouds gathering elsewhere.  Dangers exist, “old threats, such as drugs, organized crime, illegal arms trafficking, hostage taking, piracy, and money laundering; new threats, such as cyber-crime; and unknown threats, which can emerge without warning.”

“These new threats,” he added ominously, “must be countered with new capabilities.” Thanks to the Open Society report, we can see exactly what Rumsfeld meant by those “new capabilities.”

A few weeks prior to Rumsfeld’s arrival in Santiago, for example, the U.S., acting on false information supplied by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, detained Maher Arar, who holds dual Syrian and Canadian citizenship, at New York’s John F. Kennedy airport and then handed him over to a “Special Removal Unit.” He was flown first to Jordan, where he was beaten, and then to Syria, a country in a time zone five hours ahead of Chile, where he was turned over to local torturers.  On November 18th, when Rumsfeld was giving his noon speech in Santiago, it was five in the afternoon in Arar’s “grave-like” cell in a Syrian prison, where he would spend the next year being abused.

Ghairat Baheer was captured in Pakistan about three weeks before Rumsfeld’s Chile trip, and thrown into a CIA-run prison in Afghanistan called the Salt Pit.  As the secretary of defense praised Latin America’s return to the rule of law after the dark days of the Cold War, Baheer may well have been in the middle of one of his torture sessions, “hung naked for hours on end.”

Taken a month before Rumsfeld’s visit to Santiago, the Saudi national Abd al Rahim al Nashiri was transported to the Salt Pit, after which he was transferred “to another black site in Bangkok, Thailand, where he was waterboarded.” After that, he was passed on to Poland, Morocco, Guantánamo, Romania, and back to Guantánamo, where he remains.  Along the way, he was subjected to a “mock execution with a power drill as he stood naked and hooded,” had U.S. interrogators rack a “semi-automatic handgun close to his head as he sat shackled before them.”  His interrogators also “threatened to bring in his mother and sexually abuse her in front of him.”

Likewise a month before the Santiago meeting, the Yemini Bashi Nasir Ali Al Marwalah was flown to Camp X-Ray in Cuba, where he remains to this day.

Less than two weeks after Rumsfeld swore that the U.S. and Latin America shared “common values,” Mullah Habibullah, an Afghan national, died “after severe mistreatment” in CIA custody at something called the “Bagram Collection Point.” A U.S. military investigation “concluded that the use of stress positions and sleep deprivation combined with other mistreatment… caused, or were direct contributing factors in, his death.”

Two days after the secretary’s Santiago speech, a CIA case officer in the Salt Pit had Gul Rahma stripped naked and chained to a concrete floor without blankets.  Rahma froze to death.

And so the Open Society report goes… on and on and on.

Territorio Libre 

Rumsfeld left Santiago without firm commitments.  Some of the region’s militaries were tempted by the supposed opportunities offered by the secretary’s vision of fusing crime fighting into an ideological campaign against radical Islam, a unified war in which all was to be subordinated to U.S. command.  As political scientist Brian Loveman has noted, around the time of Rumsfeld’s Santiago visit, the head of the Argentine army picked up Washington’s latest set of themes, insisting that “defense must be treated as an integral matter,” without a false divide separating internal and external security.

But history was not on Rumsfeld’s side.  His trip to Santiago coincided with Argentina’s epic financial meltdown, among the worst in recorded history.  It signaled a broader collapse of the economic model — think of it as Reaganism on steroids — that Washington had been promoting in Latin America since the late Cold War years.  Soon, a new generation of leftists would be in power across much of the continent, committed to the idea of national sovereignty and limiting Washington’s influence in the region in a way that their predecessors hadn’t been.

Hugo Chávez was already president of Venezuela.  Just a month before Rumsfeld’s Santiago trip, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva won the presidency of Brazil. A few months later, in early 2003, Argentines elected Néstor Kirchner, who shortly thereafter ended his country’s joint military exercises with the U.S.  In the years that followed, the U.S. experienced one setback after another.  In 2008, for instance, Ecuador evicted the U.S. military from Manta Air Base.

In that same period, the Bush administration’s rush to invade Iraq, an act most Latin American countries opposed, helped squander whatever was left of the post-9/11 goodwill the U.S. had in the region.  Iraq seemed to confirm the worst suspicions of the continent’s new leaders: that what Rumsfeld was trying to peddle as an international “peacekeeping” force would be little more than a bid to use Latin American soldiers as Gurkhas in a revived unilateral imperial war.

Brazil’s “Smokescreen”

Diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks show the degree to which Brazil rebuffed efforts to paint the region red on Washington’s new global gulag map.

A May 2005 U.S. State Department cable, for instance, reveals that Lula’s government refused “multiple requests” by Washington to take in released Guantánamo prisoners, particularly a group of about 15 Uighurs the U.S. had been holding since 2002, who could not be sent back to China.

“[Brazil’s] position regarding this issue has not changed since 2003 and will likely not change in the foreseeable future,” the cable said.  It went on to report that Lula’s government considered the whole system Washington had set up at Guantánamo (and around the world) to be a mockery of international law.  “All attempts to discuss this issue” with Brazilian officials, the cable concluded, “were flatly refused or accepted begrudgingly.”

In addition, Brazil refused to cooperate with the Bush administration’s efforts to create a Western Hemisphere-wide version of the Patriot Act.  It stonewalled, for example, about agreeing to revise its legal code in a way that would lower the standard of evidence needed to prove conspiracy, while widening the definition of what criminal conspiracy entailed.

Lula stalled for years on the initiative, but it seems that the State Department didn’t realize he was doing so until April 2008, when one of its diplomats wrote a memo calling Brazil’s supposed interest in reforming its legal code to suit Washington a “smokescreen.”  The Brazilian government, another Wikileaked cable complained, was afraid that a more expansive definition of terrorism would be used to target “members of what they consider to be legitimate social movements fighting for a more just society.” Apparently, there was no way to “write an anti-terrorism legislation that excludes the actions” of Lula’s left-wing social base.

One U.S. diplomat complained that this “mindset” — that is, a mindset that actually valued civil liberties  — “presents serious challenges to our efforts to enhance counterterrorism cooperation or promote passage of anti-terrorism legislation.”  In addition, the Brazilian government worried that the legislation would be used to go after Arab-Brazilians, of which there are many.  One can imagine that if Brazil and the rest of Latin America had signed up to participate in Washington’s rendition program, Open Society would have a lot more Middle Eastern-sounding names to add to its list.

Finally, cable after Wikileaked cable revealed that Brazil repeatedly brushed off efforts by Washington to isolate Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, which would have been a necessary step if the U.S. was going to marshal South America into its counterterrorism posse.

In February 2008, for example, U.S. ambassador to Brazil Clifford Sobell met with Lula’s Minister of Defense Nelson Jobin to complain about Chávez.  Jobim told Sobell that Brazil shared his “concern about the possibility of Venezuela exporting instability.”  But instead of “isolating Venezuela,” which might only “lead to further posturing,” Jobim instead indicated that his government “supports [the] creation of a ‘South American Defense Council’ to bring Chavez into the mainstream.”

There was only one catch here: that South American Defense Council was Chávez’s idea in the first place!  It was part of his effort, in partnership with Lula, to create independent institutions parallel to those controlled by Washington.  The memo concluded with the U.S. ambassador noting how curious it was that Brazil would use Chavez’s “idea for defense cooperation” as part of a “supposed containment strategy” of Chávez.

Monkey-Wrenching the Perfect Machine of Perpetual War

Unable to put in place its post-9/11 counterterrorism framework in all of Latin America, the Bush administration retrenched.  It attempted instead to build a “perfect machine of perpetual war” in a corridor running from Colombia through Central America to Mexico.  The process of militarizing that more limited region, often under the guise of fighting “the drug wars,” has, if anything, escalated in the Obama years.  Central America has, in fact, become the only place Southcom — the Pentagon command that covers Central and South America — can operate more or less at will.  A look at this other map, put together by the Fellowship of Reconciliation, makes the region look like one big landing strip for U.S. drones and drug-interdiction flights.

Washington does continue to push and probe further south, trying yet again to establish a firmer military foothold in the region and rope it into what is now a less ideological and more technocratic crusade, but one still global in its aspirations.  U.S. military strategists, for instance, would very much like to have an airstrip in French Guyana or the part of Brazil that bulges out into the Atlantic.  The Pentagon would use it as a stepping stone to its increasing presence in Africa, coordinating the work of Southcom with the newest global command, Africom.

But for now, South America has thrown a monkey wrench into the machine.  Returning to that Washington Post map, it’s worth memorializing the simple fact that, in one part of the world, in this century at least, the sun never rose on US-choreographed torture.

© 2013 Greg Grandin
Greg Grandin

Greg Grandin teaches history at New York University and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His most recent book, Fordlandia, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in history.

What Media Coverage Omits about US Hikers Released by Iran September 26, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Iran, Media.
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Published on Monday, September 26, 2011 by Salon.com

 

 

by Glenn Greenwald

Two American hikers imprisoned for more than two years by Iran on extremely dubious espionage charges and in highly oppressive conditions, Joshua Fattal and Shane Bauer, were released last week and spoke yesterday in Manhattan about their ordeal. Most establishment media accounts in the U.S. have predictably exploited the emotions of the drama as a means of bolstering the U.S.-is-Good/Iran-is-Evil narrative which they reflexively spout. But far more revealing is what these media accounts exclude, beginning with the important, insightful and brave remarks from the released prisoners themselves (their full press conference was broadcast this morning on Democracy Now).

 

Fattal began by recounting the horrible conditions of the prison in which they were held, including being kept virtually all day in a tiny cell alone and hearing other prisoners being beaten; he explained that, of everything that was done to them, “solitary confinement was the worst experience of all of our lives.” Bauer then noted that they were imprisoned due solely to what he called the “32 years of mutual hostility between America and Iran,” and said: “the irony is that [we] oppose U.S. policies towards Iran which perpetuate this hostility.” After complaining that the two court sessions they attended were “total shams” and that “we’d been held in almost total isolation – stripped of our rights and freedoms,” he explained:

In prison, every time we complained about our conditions, the guards would remind us of comparable conditions at Guantanamo Bay; they’d remind us of CIA prisons in other parts of the world; and conditions that Iranians and others experience in prisons in the U.S.

We do not believe that such human rights violation on the part of our government justify what has been done to us: not for a moment. However, we do believe that these actions on the part of the U.S. provide an excuse for other governments – including the government of Iran – to act in kind.

[Indeed, as harrowing and unjust as their imprisonment was, Bauer and Fattal on some level are fortunate not to have ended up in the grips of the American War on Terror detention system, where detainees remain for many more years without even the pretense of due process -- still -- to say nothing of the torture regime to which hundreds (at least) were subjected.]

Fattal then expressed “great thanks to world leaders and individuals” who worked for their release, including Hugo Chavez, the governments of Turkey and Brazil, Sean Penn, Noam Chomsky, Mohammad Ali, Cindy Sheehan, Desmond Tutu, as well as Muslims from around the world and “elements within the Iranian government,” as well as U.S. officials.

Unsurprisingly, one searches in vain for the inclusion of these facts and remarks in American media accounts of their release and subsequent press conference. Instead, typical is this ABC News story, which featured tearful and celebratory reactions from their family, detailed descriptions of their conditions and the pain and fear their family endured, and melodramatic narratives about how their “long, grueling imprisonment is over” after “781 days in Iran’s most notorious prison.” This ABC News article on their press conference features many sentences about Iran’s oppressiveness — “Hikers Return to the U.S.: ‘We Were Held Hostage'”; “we heard the screams of other prisoners being beaten” — with hardly any mention of the criticisms Fattal and Bauer voiced regarding U.S. policy that provided the excuse for their mistreatment and similar treatment which the U.S. doles out both in War on Terror prisons around the world and even domestic prisons at home.

Their story deserves the attention it is getting, and Iran deserves the criticism. But the first duty of the American “watchdog media” should be highlighting the abuses of the U.S. Government, not those of other, already-hated regimes on the other side of the world. Instead, the abuses at home are routinely suppressed while those in the Hated Nations are endlessly touted. There have been thousands of people released after being held for years and years in U.S. detention despite having done nothing wrong. Many were tortured, and many were kept imprisoned despite U.S. government knowledge of their innocence. Have you ever seen anything close to this level of media attention being devoted to their plight, to hearing how America’s lawless detention of them for years — often on a strange island, thousands of miles away from everything they know — and its systematic denial of any legal redress, devastated their families and destroyed their lives?

This is a repeat of what happened with the obsessive American media frenzy surrounding the arrest and imprisonment by Iran of Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi, convicted in a sham proceeding of espionage, sentenced to eight years in prison, but then ordered released by an Iranian appeals court after four months. Saberi’s case became a true cause célèbre among American journalists, with large numbers of them flamboyantly denouncing Iran and demanding her release. But when their own government imprisoned numerous journalists for many years without any charges of any kind — Al Jazeera’s Sami al-Haj in Guantanamo, Associated Press’ Bilal Hussein for more than two years in Iraq, Reuters’ photographer Ibrahim Jassan even after an Iraqi court exonerated him, and literally dozens of other journalists without charge — it was very difficult to find any mention of their cases in American media outlets.

What we find here yet again is that government-serving American establish media outlets relish the opportunity to report negatively on enemies and other adversaries of the U.S. government (that is the same mindset that accounts for the predicable, trite condescension by the New York Times toward the Wall Street protests, the same way they constantly downplayed Iraq War protests). But to exactly the same extent that they love depicting America’s Enemies as Bad, they hate reporting facts that make the U.S. Government look the same.

That’s why Fattal and Bauer receive so much attention while victims of America’s ongoing lawless detention scheme are ignored. It’s why media stars bravely denounce the conditions of Iran’s “notorious prison” while ignoring America’s own inhumane prison regime on both foreign and U.S. soil. It’s why imprisonment via sham trials in Iran stir such outrage while due-process-free imprisonment (and assassinations) by the U.S. stir so little. And it’s why so many Americans know Roxana Saberi but so few know Sami al-Haj.

An actual watchdog press is, first and foremost, eager to expose the corruption and wrongdoing of their own government. By contrast, a propaganda establishment press is eager to suppress that, and there is no better way of doing so than by obsessing on the sins of nations on the other side of the world while ignoring the ones at home. If only establishment media outlets displayed a fraction of the bravery and integrity of Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, who had a good excuse to focus exclusively on Iran’s sins but — a mere few days after being released from a horrible, unjust ordeal — chose instead to present the full picture.

Read more at Salon.com

© 2011 Salon.com

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.”

 

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15 Comments so far
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Posted by Paul Revere

Sep 26 2011 – 12:25pm.

” A propaganda establishment press “. Glenn, that says it all!
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Posted by Progressive101

Sep 26 2011 – 12:27pm.

Another good article by Greenwald.
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Posted by Oikos

Sep 26 2011 – 12:30pm.

Couldn’t our hikers do more to broadcast their sentiments regarding the U.S. policies towards Iran and the U.S. practice of torture and imprisonment without process? There are Facebook and other Web venues.
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Posted by der

Sep 26 2011 – 1:02pm.

For the nth time, the New York Times’ public editor has investigated Ethan Bronner’s conficts of interest for justifying Israel’s crimes, large and small, and for the nth time has found him not guilty. Something tells me the Times’ owners are getting from Bronner exactly what they pay him to do.
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Posted by Curtis

Sep 26 2011 – 1:05pm.

Maybe a travel agency can set up a trip to recreate the hike these adventurers took in Iraq. Of course it would have to stay in Iraq, but with Google Earth that shouldn’t be too hard.
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Posted by Salusa Secundus

Sep 26 2011 – 1:19pm.

Excellent article by Glenn Greenwald

The economic royalist banksters who invest in endless wars for endless profits are We The People’s truest enemies.

As I see it, they have three main weapons at their disposal:

A) Infiltration and control of the government through the rigged/money based election process

B) Infiltration and control of the Pentagon and our defense system, achieved through the corruption of the political process (A), which ensures that gov’t reps and military budget overseers remain trapped in the highly lucrative game of military spending and investiture.

C) Infiltration and control of the public’s information, through full-spectrum dominance and consolidation of the media aparatus. This is perhaps the most insidious of the usurpations by the banksters, as it normalizes the criminality and deep corruption of the first two controls. Through command of the public mouthpiece, the People will *perpetually* be told the same lies, and will have no other means of checking the validity of such narratives, other than turning to ‘underground’ sources, which by definition the mainstream is loath to do.

“Whoever controls the image and information of the past determines what and how future generations will think; whoever controls the information and images of the present determines how those same people will view the past.
—George Orwell
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Posted by marcos

Sep 26 2011 – 1:30pm.

I was imprisoned for three years in New York City federal detention centers and even given a trial. Not only are the worst abuses not in Iran, but they are not even in U.S. prisons where Muslims have been held without charges. The worst abuses have happened right in front of your eyes in U.S. prisons and the lack of media coverage is the biggest contributing reason.

How can you not know about my case? How can even the alternative media ignore my case?

I was imprisoned for sending an email to ABC television online email center on May 19 and May 20, 1999. Actually, I had sent the email 9 times, on May 21, 22, 23, 24, 25,26 and 27, as well as May 19 and 20. Each copy said you have 30 days to answer and then 29, 28, 27 days, etc. — a countdown. I was seeking publicity for my story about the rigging of the U.S. presidency and the stock markets and the fact that I knew a huge terrorist attack was coming to U.S. shores.

But, the federal prosecutor withheld the longer series of sent copies because it would surely have shown that publicity was the goal of the emails. I was held for one and a half years before my trial and was put in the worst solitary confinement cell in federal prison in Manhattan for my trial, where I represented myself.

I claimed at trial, and still claim, that I had prior knowledge of 9/11 and that that information had been received by the government. I wanted to sit down with ABC television and three other corporations in order to discuss what I claimed was damage they had caused me and that terrorism was coming more powerfully than ever to New York. The email was a literary version of the current Wall Street occupation.

The U.S. government knew about 9/11 from me more than two years before it was carried out. I was rendered in Mexico, brought to New Jersey by the FBI, transferred and imprisoned in New York City for three years and had a trial about half way through about an email that was sent to ABC, the New York Times, Newsweek and Time Magazine.

But, not one word about my imprisonment, my email, my claims of prior knowledge of 9/11 or my trial has appeared in any media.

I have 11 years of university education, two degrees, have taught in high schools and universities, including recently in Beijing. I have worked for David Geffen, the William Morris Agency, Anaconda Corporation, covered three national political conventions (two in Madison Square Garden).

It’s more than something being wrong with the USA, Iran and Qaddafi, and other places of extreme injustice.

All you nice, good-intentioned people are living in darkness, absolute darkness about the real conditions of a virtually totalitarian American system

Details of my story and claims are in my http://www.lulu.com/product/file-download/revolution-or-extinction/16532855
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Posted by Galenwainwright…

Sep 26 2011 – 1:31pm.

Dmitri Orlov, a Russian Ex-pat, once observed that the only difference between the USSR and the US was that in America people believed the propaganda.
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Posted by Kane Jeeves

Sep 26 2011 – 1:41pm.

Studied Russian years ago. The instructor, an ex-pat, told us day one about the main newspaper in USSR and the popular saying “Pravda nyet Pravda”. (Pravda/Truth is not true)
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Posted by sheepherder

Sep 26 2011 – 2:45pm.

I recall an old joke about Pravda (Truth) and Izvestia (News). It went: there is no truth in the new and no news in the truth.
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Posted by Aaronica

Sep 26 2011 – 3:07pm.

I thought the joke went that you could find some news in Pravda, and some truth in Izvestia.

Either way, the Ruskies knew they were reading stories that couldn’t be trusted. The western peoples don’t. (sorry OP, the rest of us westerners seem to be believing the propaganda now too.)
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Posted by HailCODEPINK

Sep 26 2011 – 1:45pm.

Glenn Greenwald, Chris Hedges and David Swanson–three treasures of humanity, shining a bright light on our present plight. We, however, must be our own saviors. Can we organize a coherent educational and political action based on their insights to resist our own destruction, and that of our planet?
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Posted by Kane Jeeves

Sep 26 2011 – 1:46pm.

Can someone point to a link that describes why the hikers were there in the first place? I find it almost impossible to believe they were “just hiking”. If that were the case, then the US has a real problem on it’s hands…what to do with all the “just hikers” around the Mexican border.
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Posted by sheepherder

Sep 26 2011 – 2:47pm.

I wonder about the same thing. Why were they in Iraq in the first place, and why were they hiking anywhere close to a national border, especially the one with Iran?
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Posted by Brian Brademeyer

Sep 26 2011 – 1:49pm.

These “hikers” look a lot healthier than any Gitmo unfortunates that I have seen pictures of. They can still walk upright, and make complex compound sentences.
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Extraordinary rendition lawsuit also window into low point for American experiment September 4, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Torture.
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Sep  2, 2011 17:30 ET

www.salon.com

By Alex Pareene

A lawsuit between two aviation companies concerning a couple hundred thousand dollars in unpaid expenses has inadvertently led to the publicizing of a great deal of information about the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program. (The program involved the illegal transport of thousands of terrorism suspects to secret CIA prisons in foreign nations and then to countries where suspects could be tortured. It is basically “kidnapping” followed by “torture” but the CIA did it so no one went to jail for it.)

The records from this lawsuit between two sub-contractors involved in the renditions will eventually be taught in an undergrad history course titled “America: Where It All Went Wrong.” Detainees were transported by the same companies that fly billionaires on private jets to their resort vacations. (The CIA doesn’t have an air force, so they relied on massive government contractor DynCorp, which… just rented some private planes.)

We learn that the CIA provided the flights with letters from a fictional State Department official (the State Department was almost certainly not involved in the rendition program) providing diplomatic cover.

We learn that one the planes used to transport a suspect (Abu Omar, captured in Italy and tortured in Egypt) was owned by the co-owner of the Boston Red Sox. The plane sported a Red Sox logo on the tail. I mean a Yankees plane might’ve been more poetically apt but either way it seems like such a pat symbol of America’s behavior in the wretched first decade of the 21st century that I’d roll my eyes at it if it turned up in a piece of fiction. An executive’s private plane, sporting the logo of a rich baseball team and carrying an Imam captured overseas by the CIA, touches down in Egypt, a nation led by an American-backed strongman, where the Imam is to be tortured. What preachy liberal hack dreamed up that one? (The executive also owns part of Liverpool FC, because we can’t forget Great Britain’s help in all this.)

Then the hedge funds took an interest in privatized torture:

DynCorp was purchased in 2003 by Computer Sciences Corp., another leading federal contractor, in a $940 million merger. Computer Sciences 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.

So at least a couple rich people got even richer off of our national shame. There’s an upside to everything.

  • Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon. Email him at apareene@salon.com and follow him on Twitter @pareene More: Alex Pareene

Afghan Judges Accuse U.S. of War Crimes July 23, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Iraq and Afghanistan, Torture, War.
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Saturday 23 July 2011
by: David Swanson, War Is a Crime                 | Op-Ed

www.truthout.org

I recently sat down for 90 minutes to speak with six Afghan judges, all of them women, and an English-Dari interpreter, a man.  They spoke to me as individuals.  They aren’t preparing any investigations or indictments.  The relevance of their being judges is that they know the law.  They’ve studied international law, and they were visiting the United States to learn about our legal and political systems.  They believe the United States is guilty of war crimes.

I was the one who raised the subject.  I pointed to Italian convictions of CIA agents for kidnapping, Spanish investigations of U.S. officials for torture, etc., and asked what these judges’ views were on international law violations, universal jurisdiction, and what appear to be clear crimes committed by the United States in Afghanistan.

The first judge to reply spoke of the horrors of the Taliban, and of the initial gratitude for the U.S. overthrow of the Taliban 10 years ago.  But, she said, the mission changed to one of fighting terrorism, and through that “we lost all of our civil rights.”  She described U.S. troops kicking in doors of houses at night with women and girls asleep in their beds.  She described disappearances and accounts of torture.  What the United States and NATO are doing, seizing people, locking them up, disappearing them, and torturing them is clearly illegal and against international law, she said.  According to international treaties, she went on, when one country occupies another, the host country does not lose its sovereignty, and yet all decisions are now being made by the occupying country without any say by the Afghan government.

A second judge spoke up.  “Your Constitution speaks of freedom and a people’s government,” she said, “but the United States is running secret prisons, torturing, disappearing people, and locking people up for years with no due process.”  The behavior of the United States, she said, violates everything that she and her colleagues were being taught the United States stands for.  “It may seem trivial,” she continued, “but it effects our daily lives.”  If a member of the international occupying forces gets into a hit and run with their car, and you go to the base to complain, you are threatened.  They have total immunity from any rule of law, she explained.

She said that in a case involving an Australian, he was turned over to Afghan courts for a murder trial, because the military was not involved.  But with U.S. forces, she said, we have to rely on the U.S. court system, and we often hear about these people being acquitted.  The judge went on to make a broader point.  With the great cost to the United States in blood and treasure, she said, we ought to be grateful.  But the perception Afghans have of the U.S. forces, she explained, if of a group of arrogant occupiers who kick in doors.

The first judge to have spoken then joined back in, remarking that “the United States tells other countries how to be democratic and operate within a rule of law, but the United States as role model breaks every one of those things.”

A third judge expressed her agreement.  She said that she had witnessed helicopters coming and taking away all of the men in a compound, leaving the women and children screaming.  This is not war, she said, but if it is a police action then who authorized it?  There is no probable cause, she said.  None!  And the men are disappeared.

Judge number two broadened the discussion to the topic of the occupation itself, expressing her belief that the U.S. public was being kept in the dark about the real motivations behind the war.  Al Qaeda isn’t there and bin Laden is now dead, she pointed out.  People should be given some reason for this going on, she said.  I replied that actual motivations included the stationing of bases and weapons, a gas pipeline, profiteering, etc.  At that, the women all began nodding and talking. A fourth judge to speak up interjected that even a child in rural Afghanistan knew the truth of what I had said, that the Taliban was simply an excuse.

Then it was my turn to answer questions.  What does the average American think of war casualties?  Why is there so much militarism and patriotism in the United States?  Why is it that for centuries the United States has gone abroad to fight wars in other countries?  Do Americans know how the rest of the world sees their country?  Why do politicians choose policies that kill people?  I answered to the best of my ability.

And then, surprisingly perhaps — although this is quite common in speaking with Afghans, especially better-off urban Afghans — the discussion swung around to the judges’ concern that things might be dramatically worse if the United States were to leave before establishing stability.  I asked them whether, after 10 years, stability was increasing or decreasing.  They admitted that it was decreasing but proposed that a change in approach might reverse that.  The change in approach that at least one of them recommended was for the United States to get tough with Pakistan, which was to blame for the worst forces within Afghanistan.  The interpreter apologetically explained that Afghans blame Pakistan for everything just as every country, he said, blames some other country.  Yet it is certainly true that Pakistan has done great damage to Afghanistan for decades, with great assistance from the United States, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere, not to mention the damage done by the Soviet Union.  This does not, of course, mean that a different U.S. approach to Pakistan would create a stable U.S. occupation of Afghanistan.  The Soviet occupation was destabilizing for the same reason the U.S. occupation is destabilizing: people hate being occupied.

Well, what would I do?  That’s what they wanted to know: what would I advise Obama?  I told them that I would announce that the military occupation was ending soon, that there would be no bases left behind and no weapons left behind, that I would immediately prosecute war crimes, that I would fund educational and civic and aid organizations run and controlled by Afghans, that I would facilitate open and honest elections, and that I would support any temporary international peace-keeping force favored by Afghans’ elected representatives.  As this was being translated, every one of the six judges began applauding and declaring things like “You speak from our hearts.”

David Swanson is the author of “War Is A Lie.”

 

Justice Dept. Gives Torture a Pass July 21, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Torture.
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Published on Wednesday, July 20, 2011 by OtherWords

What will we say when other governments follow our example by providing immunity from prosecution to torturers?

  by  Peter Weiss

The Romans had an expression for it: “Nulla poena sine lege,” no punishment without a law. But people sometimes forget that the opposite is also true: Without punishment for offenders, a law itself can die.

The Justice Department recently announced that, of the 101 cases involving alleged illegal treatment of post-9/11 detainees by the CIA and its contractors, 99 were being closed. The remaining two, which involved deaths in custody, would continue to be investigated.

The decision to drop virtually all these cases is based on a policy promulgated by Attorney General Eric Holder shortly after he took office. Reiterating this policy on June 30, Holder wrote that the Justice Department “would not prosecute anyone who acted in good faith and within the scope of the legal guidance given by the Office of Legal Counsel regarding the interrogation of detainees.”

This refers to the infamous “torture memos” provided in 2002 to Alberto Gonzales while he was White House counsel by John Yoo, then Deputy Assistant Attorney General and Jay Bybee, who was Assistant Attorney General and now serves as a judge on the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. These memos, which sanctioned virtually all forms of “enhanced interrogation” (or torture, in common parlance), were withdrawn as legally deficient by Jack Goldsmith, President George W. Bush’s head of the Office of Legal Counsel, and specifically disavowed later by President Barack Obama himself.Creative Commons image by the US Dept. of Agricultureholder

Holder’s recent move is completely consistent with Obama’s insistence on looking “forward, not back” when it comes to accountability for torture. Prosecuting most of these cases would require seriously examining the perpetrators’ faith that the Yoo memos acted as a “golden shield,” as one Bush administration official called them. But the law says that this defense, “the defense of superior orders,” doesn’t work when the act in question is palpably or manifestly illegal.

It didn’t work for Lt. William Calley when he and his platoon killed over 300 women, children, and elderly men in the village of My Lai during the Vietnam War. It didn’t work for Lynndie England, the hapless army reservist convicted of torturing and abusing detainees at Abu Ghraib.

And it didn’t work for most of the defendants at Nuremberg.

Why should it now work for CIA agents and others who relied “in good faith” on the torture memos? The journalist Christopher Hitchens was himself waterboarded by Special Forces soldiers to help him decide whether it was torture. His conclusion: “If waterboarding does not constitute torture, then there is no such thing as torture.” Indeed, since the Spanish inquisition, waterboarding has never been considered anything other than torture, and in this century torture is absolutely forbidden under both domestic and international law.

And waterboarding is only one of several torture techniques used by U.S. personnel in the years following 9/11, including prolonged sleep deprivation, shackling in stress positions, and exposure to extreme cold and heat. All of these have been largely or completely abandoned under the Obama administration. But what lesson are we to draw from the fact that no prosecutions have been started, nor are likely to start, against those who authorized and practiced them? What will we say when other governments follow our example by providing immunity from prosecution to torturers on the basis of phony, made-to-order legal memos?

June 30, 2011 will go down as a dark day in the annals of the struggle against torture.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License

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Peter Weiss

Peter Weiss is a vice president of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

America’s Disappeared July 18, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Argentina, Barack Obama, Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Latin America, Torture.
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Published on Monday, July 18, 2011 by TruthDig.com 

  by  Chris Hedges

Dr. Silvia Quintela was “disappeared” by the death squads in Argentina in 1977 when she was four months pregnant with her first child. She reportedly was kept alive at a military base until she gave birth to her son and then, like other victims of the military junta, most probably was drugged, stripped naked, chained to other unconscious victims and piled onto a cargo plane that was part of the “death flights” that disposed of the estimated 20,000 disappeared. The military planes with their inert human cargo would fly over the Atlantic at night and the chained bodies would be pushed out the door into the ocean. Quintela, who had worked as a doctor in the city’s slums, was 28 when she was murdered.(Illustration by Mr. Fish)

A military doctor, Maj. Norberto Atilio Bianco, who was extradited Friday from Paraguay to Argentina for baby trafficking, is alleged to have seized Quintela’s infant son along with dozens, perhaps hundreds, of other babies. The children were handed to military families for adoption. Bianco, who was the head of the clandestine maternity unit that functioned during the Dirty War in the military hospital of Campo de Mayo, was reported by eyewitnesses to have personally carried the babies out of the military hospital. He also kept one of the infants. Argentina on Thursday convicted retired Gen. Hector Gamen and former Col. Hugo Pascarelli of committing crimes against humanity at the “El Vesubio” prison, where 2,500 people were tortured in 1976-1978. They were sentenced to life in prison. Since revoking an amnesty law in 2005 designed to protect the military, Argentina has prosecuted 807 for crimes against humanity, although only 212 people have been sentenced. It has been, for those of us who lived in Argentina during the military dictatorship, a painfully slow march toward justice.

Most of the disappeared in Argentina were not armed radicals but labor leaders, community organizers, leftist intellectuals, student activists and those who happened to be in the wrong spot at the wrong time. Few had any connection with armed campaigns of resistance. Indeed, by the time of the 1976 Argentine coup, the armed guerrilla groups, such as the Montoneros, had largely been wiped out. These radical groups, like al-Qaida in its campaign against the United States, never posed an existential threat to the regime, but the national drive against terror in both Argentina and the United States became an excuse to subvert the legal system, instill fear and passivity in the populace, and form a vast underground prison system populated with torturers and interrogators, as well as government officials and lawyers who operated beyond the rule of law. Torture, prolonged detention without trial, sexual humiliation, rape, disappearance, extortion, looting, random murder and abuse have become, as in Argentina during the Dirty War, part of our own subterranean world of detention sites and torture centers.

We Americans have rewritten our laws, as the Argentines did, to make criminal behavior legal. John Rizzo, the former acting general counsel for the CIA, approved drone attacks that have killed hundreds of people, many of them civilians in Pakistan, although we are not at war with Pakistan. Rizzo has admitted that he signed off on so-called enhanced interrogation techniques. He told Newsweek that the CIA operated “a hit list.” He asked in the interview: “How many law professors have signed off on a death warrant?” Rizzo, in moral terms, is no different from the deported Argentine doctor Bianco, and this is why lawyers in Britain and Pakistan are calling for his extradition to Pakistan to face charges of murder. Let us hope they succeed.

We know of at least 100 detainees who died during interrogations at our “black sites,” many of them succumbing to the blows and mistreatment of our interrogators. There are probably many, many more whose fate has never been made public. Tens of thousands of Muslim men have passed through our clandestine detention centers without due process. “We tortured people unmercifully,” admitted retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey. “We probably murdered dozens of them …, both the armed forces and the C.I.A.”

Tens of thousands of Americans are being held in super-maximum-security prisons where they are deprived of contact and psychologically destroyed. Undocumented workers are rounded up and vanish from their families for weeks or months. Militarized police units break down the doors of some 40,000 Americans a year and haul them away in the dead of night as if they were enemy combatants. Habeas corpus no longer exists. American citizens can “legally” be assassinated. Illegal abductions, known euphemistically as “extraordinary rendition,” are a staple of the war on terror. Secret evidence makes it impossible for the accused and their lawyers to see the charges against them. All this was experienced by the Argentines. Domestic violence, whether in the form of social unrest, riots or another catastrophic terrorist attack on American soil, would, I fear, see the brutal tools of empire cemented into place in the homeland. At that point we would embark on our own version of the Dirty War.

Marguerite Feitlowitz writes in “The Lexicon of Terror” of the experiences of one Argentine prisoner, a physicist named Mario Villani. The collapse of the moral universe of the torturers is displayed when, between torture sessions, the guards take Villani and a few pregnant women prisoners to an amusement park. They make them ride the kiddie train and then take them to a cafe for a beer. A guard, whose nom de guerre is Blood, brings his 6- or 7-year-old daughter into the detention facility to meet Villani and other prisoners. A few years later, Villani runs into one of his principal torturers, a sadist known in the camps as Julian the Turk. Julian recommends that Villani go see another of his former prisoners to ask for a job. The way torture became routine, part of daily work, numbed the torturers to their own crimes. They saw it as a job. Years later they expected their victims to view it with the same twisted logic.

Human Rights Watch, in a new report, “Getting Away With Torture: The Bush Administration and Mistreatment of Detainees,” declared there is “overwhelming evidence of torture by the Bush administration.” President Barack Obama, the report went on, is obliged “to order a criminal investigation into allegations of detainee abuse authorized by former President George W. Bush and other senior officials.”

But Obama has no intention of restoring the rule of law. He not only refuses to prosecute flagrant war crimes, but has immunized those who orchestrated, led and carried out the torture. At the same time he has dramatically increased war crimes, including drone strikes in Pakistan. He continues to preside over hundreds of the offshore penal colonies, where abuse and torture remain common. He is complicit with the killers and the torturers.

The only way the rule of law will be restored, if it is restored, is piece by piece, extradition by extradition, trial by trial. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, former CIA Director George Tenet, Condoleezza Rice and John Ashcroft will, if we return to the rule of law, face trial. The lawyers who made legal what under international and domestic law is illegal, including not only Rizzo but Alberto Gonzales, Jay Bybee, David Addington, William J. Haynes and John Yoo, will, if we are to dig our way out of this morass, be disbarred and prosecuted. Our senior military leaders, including Gen. David Petraeus, who oversaw death squads in Iraq and widespread torture in clandestine prisons, will be lined up in a courtroom, as were the generals in Argentina, and made to answer for these crimes. This is the only route back. If it happens it will happen because a few courageous souls such as the attorney and president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, Michael Ratner, are trying to make it happen. It will take time—a lot of time; the crimes committed by Bianco and the two former officers sent to prison this month are nearly four decades old. If it does not happen, then we will continue to descend into a terrifying, dystopian police state where our guards will, on a whim, haul us out of our cells to an amusement park and make us ride, numb and bewildered, on the kiddie train, before the next round of torture.

© 2011 TruthDig.com

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Chris Hedges

Chris Hedges writes a regular column for Truthdig.com. Hedges graduated from Harvard Divinity School and was for nearly two decades a foreign correspondent for The New York Times. He is the author of many books, including: War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, What Every Person Should Know About War, and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.  His most recent book is Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.

 

 

 

 

21 Comments so far

Posted by sivasm
Jul 18 2011 – 9:03am

Chris Hedges, as always one of the best piece I’ve read especially on Obama. I will rejoice when they drag Obama in chains, together with his cronies to stand trials for crimes against humanity.

Posted by Gdpxhk
Jul 18 2011 – 9:12am

Obama is just another puppet. He would only be replaced by another marionette. The men in the shadows need to be revealed like night crawlers under a rock. Follow the money trail and they can be found, but would anyone listen? Actually, I should say, follow the gold trail as fiat money means nothing to these creatures…and they will have all the gold.

Posted by Richard-Ralph-Roehl
Jul 18 2011 – 9:11am

After reading this disturbing article, another masterpiece of sober truth-telling by Chris Hedges, I’m not entirely surprised there no comments yet posted herein. Hedges’ article makes one wonder if blogging makes people a target for nefarious action by Amerika’s $ociopathic ruling class. And like Mr. Hedges, I blog under my legal name. Perhaps I’m more brave (or foolish) than I believe I am. Albeit… I’m not as brave as Mr. Hedges.

It is my opinion that Amerika’s foreign policy is delusional, violent and criminallly insane. It is the fruit of $ociopaths and psychopaths. It is why 9-11 happened.

And Amerika’s domestic policy isn’t much different. It is cruel and stupid and mean-espirited. I rest my case on the latter policy with the damn War on Drrrugs, a vicious minded policy that is the antithesis of personal freedom. Rome is burning! It burns because Amerika’s rapacious ruling class has the insight of rabid dogs.

Amerika is NOT a beacon of light for the world. It is a violent, war mongering beast that pushes humanity down the road toward an extinction event. It is evil.

What to do? Well… you don’t pet rabid dogs. You fukin’ shoot ‘em!

Posted by Thalidomide
Jul 18 2011 – 9:12am

Obama is the leader of a terrorist theocracy and in case people think things will get better someday it is important to realize that a large majority of young Americans support torture.

Posted by Demonstorm
Jul 18 2011 – 11:25am

Correct. You always hear about “someday, our children will ask us why we did what we did – why did we leave them such a horrible nation.” WRONG. Young people today grew up in this Orwellian police state – they don’t know how Amerika “used to be.” This is the “norm” to them. They are growing up quite acclimated to torture, illegal invasions, the destruction of civil liberties once enshrined in the Constitution, no habeas corpus, the president claiming he has the powers of a dictator, etc.

As Thalidomide says – don’t count on our youth to straighten out the mess we are making. They will take the ball we have handed to them and run with it.

Posted by James Edwards
Jul 18 2011 – 9:17am

The USA is far worse than Argentina was. The body count, the period of time, the area over which the US’ns have killed and their glee makes this blatantly clear.
The USA is a grand human mistake (actually fuck-up in modern parlance). Humanity must eradicate its influence. There is no other way forward. Present US citizens are part of humanity and have a duty to perform. They must deny the authority of their government and the validity of the structure called the USA.
Hedges does not write so and as the likes of Steve Biko have discovered it is dangerous to do so, but it is so and those who cannot see so are in Hell already.
We must remember that it is an honour if Hell kicks us out.
The man Jesus said so and he was no Christian.

Posted by raydelcamino
Jul 18 2011 – 10:19am

Definitely far worse…Argentine facists actions killed Argentinians, American fascists kill people from every nation on earth.

Posted by Space Cadet
Jul 18 2011 – 9:43am

Excellent analogy.  Americans like to consider themselves as a first world country while they label Argenrina as some backward, third world country with no respect for the rule of law.  Unfortunately the American ruling class feels confident that they will never see the inside of a cortroom because of their wealth, sense of moral superiority and a complacent population that basically says… “better them than me”.
I for one, don’t see any of the culprits being brought to justice in my lifetime because most Americans still buy into the official State line that they’re just “doing their job” to help keep us safe.  Muslims have been vilified so successfully that the average American feels nervous next to a Middle Eastern man if he dons a long beard and speaks a foreign language.  We cloak our racism in the camoflauge of patriotism as we place  ‘support pur troops’ bumper stickers on our cars and wave tiny American flags as military processions roll by in tanks and armoured personnel carriers.  We’re taught to hold our founding fathers in high esteem while ignoring uncomfortable truths about them such as their slaves, genocide of the aboriginals and their selfish, financial motivations for declaring war on behalf or their fellow countrymen.
Critical thinking in our schools have been replaced by standarized tests that just have the narrow focus of honing our literacy and numeracy skills so that we may all be able to improve our chances of entering that rapidly shrinking employment pool known as corporate America in exchange for minimal wages, routine drug tests and a psychotic corporate mantra that places profits above family, empathy and morality.
One thing Argentina lacked compared to their U.S. contemporaries is the omnipotent influence of their State propaganda apparatus.  The Argentine elite couldn’t unabashedly expect a private media to cheer lead their crimes and responded with their own State run media lies.  But it had neither the sophistication, the reach or the deep pockets that America has and the populace quickly ignored it for the bunk that it was.
The elite in the U.S. have no such worries as the masses goose step with pride in defence of the status quo boasting of a free press, the greatest military in the world and a country personally blessed by God Almighty.  Everyone’s on board, or at least those who really matter  as we assuage our moral conscience that only America can save the world if the world would only embrace Big Macs, Paris Hilton and the Super Bowl as proof of a superior culture.  How stubborn the world must seem to be, when so few recognize that unchecked consumerism, limitless entertainment and blind patriotism are the only true paths to happiness.

Posted by Demonstorm
Jul 18 2011 – 11:30am

Extremely well-said. It is scary how much Amereichans today resemble Germans of the 30’s and 40’s. Only worse. Back then, at least many Germans could use the excuse they didn’t know what their government was really doing. Amereichans see it every day and don’t give a rat’s ass, for the reasons you so well stated. Indoctrinated and acclimated to Amerikka the Great, anything and everything she does is hunky-dory for them. They say most evil people don’t really believe they are evil, in their own minds. No better example of this exists than in this country.

Posted by memento
Jul 18 2011 – 9:44am

Hedges writes:

“Tens of thousands of Americans are being held in super-maximum-security prisons where they are deprived of contact and psychologically destroyed. Undocumented workers are rounded up and vanish from their families for weeks or months. Militarized police units break down the doors of some 40,000 Americans a year and haul them away in the dead of night as if they were enemy combatants.”

I am having problems believing what Hedges has written. If each disappeared American had at least 10 friends and relatives, then well over 400,000 Americans a year would experience personally knowing someone who was disappeared by militarized police units breaking down doors. Someone, please explain where Hedges gets the numbers he writes.

Posted by Brian Brademeyer
Jul 18 2011 – 10:15am

>>>> Militarized police units break down the doors of some 40,000 Americans a year and haul them away …

Hint: The “blue” text (haul them away) in the article is a link to more information (assuming you’re not just a concern troll and actually want to learn).

Posted by gardenernorcal
Jul 18 2011 – 10:50am

I am not sure where Mr. Hedges got his information but there is information out there.

http://www.immigrantjustice.org/isolatedindetention

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/laplaza/2010/09/immigration-detention-report.html

http://www.detentionwatchnetwork.org/aboutdetention

“The recent impact of ICE enforcement includes:

•Approximately 380,000 immigrants were detained in 2009, more than 30,000 people per day. The average length of detention is currently 33.5 days.
•More than 369,211 immigrants were deported in 2009, a record for the agency and a twenty seven percent increase from 2007.
•DHS has spent over $2.8 billion on efforts to deport immigrants since the creation of ICE in 2003.
•In total, 3.7 million immigrants have been deported since 1994.
•A 12 fold increase in worksite arrests between 2002 and 2008. A new trend is to use “identify theft” charges to put immigrants in the category of “criminal alien” to make it easier to deport them.
•Over 100 “Fugitive Operations Teams” and the development of other specialized operations. ICE claims these are focused on specific groups but they are often used as a pretext for wide scale arrests in apartment complexes, workplaces, and public spaces.
•67% of ICE detainees are housed in local and county jail facilities, 17% in contract detention facilities, 13% in ICE-owned facilities, and 3% in other facilities such as those run by the Bureau of Prisons.
•According to the Washington Post, “with roughly 1.6 million immigrants in some stage of immigration proceedings, the government holds more detainees a night than Clarion Hotels have guests, operates nearly as many vehicles as Greyhound has buses and flies more people each day than do many small U.S. airlines.” (Washington Post, February 2, 2007)”

http://www.detentionwatchnetwork.org/node/2382

Posted by Randy G
Jul 18 2011 – 11:10am

Memento — as Brian mentioned there is a link to Hedges’ assertion & you might want to read it on Truth Dig.

What may have confused you is that you seem to assume that Hedges is claiming that the 40,000 were executed clandestinely and never seen again. He is simply describing the number of arrests performed during which police execute military style raids in the middle of the night — often without knocking.

There are many, many incidents where it later turns out police have raided the wrong house, innocent people are shot, and the level of police violence in the raid is out of all reasonable proportion to the alleged offense.

Here is one tragic example of a raid gone bad:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/05/17/aiyana-jones-7-year-old-s_n_578246.html

I don’t want to bore you with the details, but I was recently surrounded –while camping legally in my car– by over a dozen sheriff’s officers with semi-automatic weapons and night vision goggles. This occurred in Arizona. It was, needless to say,  scary. They screamed at me to keep my hands in clear site while I was “laser sighted” from multiple rifles.

There was no warrant, there was no evidence of me doing anything wrong (I was asleep but my dogs started barking at them), and they admitted that I had committed no crime. I was 100 miles from the border but they had ‘suspicions’ that I might be a drug trafficker….

I wrote up more details in an earlier post but my main point is that I could have easily been killed if I had slipped trying to get out of the car or seemed like I was reaching for a gun.

They had not even bothered to run my vehicle license plate before launching their little raid. Since I was eventually let go without being arrested (or shot) there is not even an official statistic on this encounter.

There is no presumption of innocence and the 4th amendment is a joke.

You have to experience or witness something like this to appreciate how totally militarized our police have become. This is not a highway patrol officer cautiously approaching your car after stopping you for speeding.

The total number of arrests in the U.S. — much of it in the service of the ‘drug war’– is simple  mind boggling.

How many arrests per year are made in the U.S.?

14,172,384.

“From 2005 to 2008, there are on average 14,172,384 arrests made per year in the United States. This is based on data from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reporting program. Of all reported arrests, drug abuse violations remains the greatest, with on average 1,819,970 arrests made per year.”

http://www.numberof.net/number-of-arrests-per-year/

“Arrests for drug law violations this year are expected to exceed the 1,663,582 arrests of 2009. Law enforcement made more arrests for drug abuse violations (an estimated 1.6 million arrests, or 13.0 percent of the total number of arrests) than for any other offense in 2009.”

“Someone is arrested for violating a drug law every 19 seconds.”

http://www.drugsense.org/cms/wodclock

http://able2know.org/topic/172440-1

Posted by Jill
Jul 18 2011 – 9:52am

Gdpxhk,

Arrest a puppett and he will tell you who pulls his strings.

I agree that following the money is also essential.

Posted by readytotransform
Jul 18 2011 – 10:11am

.

Posted by Oikos
Jul 18 2011 – 10:18am

Richard-Ralph-Roehl, Jul 18 2011 – 9:11am, is unfortunately right.

What a painful, albeit necesary, article by Hedges.

Posted by Jim Shea
Jul 18 2011 – 10:36am

Thanks again to Chris Hedges. Unfortunately, he is a voice crying in the wilderness, and NOTHING will be done to bring the American war criminals to justice. We American are too caught up in our own mythology.
Jim Shea

Posted by Stig
Jul 18 2011 – 10:50am

The concerted effort by thousands of ordinary Argentinians, over decades, made sure the junta responsible were punished. In the States there is no equivalent embodiment of injustice by its citizens, no strong sense of moral outrage, nothing to bring ordinary people together, to insure a prison cell for Bush, Cheney and the rest of them. There is no cacerolada here, our hands and voices have been effectively amputated, by ourselves. Indeed, Bush would probably receive a Nobel peace prize, before anything here, resembles the type of justice that is taking place in Argentina.

Posted by downtownwalker
Jul 18 2011 – 11:03am

“Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, former CIA Director George Tenet, Condoleezza Rice and John Ashcroft will, if we return to the rule of law, face trial. “
I will certainly feel less “soiled” by my country’s dirty deeds when some of our laundry has been hung. No doubt that we are no longer a country where the “rule of law” means much any more. Hopefully one day that will change (and it will probably change “in one day”).

Posted by chaokoh
Jul 18 2011 – 11:24am

The condors* have come home to roost.

*http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Condor

Posted by chaokoh
Jul 18 2011 – 11:36am

Collapse and disintegration is a much more likely destiny for the dumb ol’ USA than any kind of long march to justice. The US hasn’t got three decades to spend defending its criminal acts in court. It probably hasn’t got three years. The US is perched on the mother of all tipping points, economically, socially and militarily and one wing beat from one black swan will send the US into the ravine. Here, for instance is just one of them:

Al Jazeera: CIA veteran: Israel to attack Iran in fall

http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/07/201171775828434786.html

US Calls Mount to Investigate Bush Era Officials for Torture July 12, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Criminal Justice, Dick Cheney, Human Rights, Torture.
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Published on Tuesday, July 12, 2011 by Inter Press Service

  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.

Copyright © 2011 IPS-Inter Press Service

The Hidden Horrors of WikiLeaks’ Guantánamo Files April 27, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Torture.
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Published on Wednesday, April 27, 2011 by CommonDreams.org

 

WikiLeaks’ latest revelations — secret military files on almost all of the 779 prisoners held in the US “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba — are already causing a stir, and for good reason, as they resuscitate a story that appears to have been forgotten in the last few years: how, in their rush to prove themselves tough and vengeful in response to the 9/11 attacks, the most senior officials in the Bush administration not only discarded international laws and treaties including the Geneva Conventions and the UN Convention Against Torture, but also threw out safeguards designed to protect innocent people from being wrongly imprisoned in wartime.

Some of the key discoveries in the Guantánamo files are the documents on the 201 prisoners released between 2002 and summer 2004, which cover new ground, as the US military has never publicly released any of this information before. For the other 578 prisoners, information has at least been revealed through the release of the government’s allegations against the prisoners, and the transcripts of the tribunals and review boards used to assess their significance, which were released in 2006 (with follow-ups in the years since), but for these 201 prisoners, many of the stories are being related for the very first time. These are mostly dispiriting revelations about how children as young as 14 and old men in their 80s were rounded up and sent to Guantánamo, joining farmers, taxi drivers and unwilling Taliban recruits — hordes of the innocent or the insignificant, whose stories help to confirm the folly of Guantánamo.

Just as significant, however, are the stories of the majority of the other prisoners — the nearly 400 others released, and most of the 171 still held. Understanding their stories generally requires more effort, as the allegations marshalled against them seem to prove what a threat they are — until, that is, the sources of these allegations are investigated, and are revealed, time and again, as very dubious indeed.

Although JTF-GTMO, the Joint Task Force at Guantánamo, responsible for creating these files, has done a good job of creating the illusion of coherent intelligence dossiers, an illusion is all it is. On close inspection, the files are full of lies and distortions, with certain figures appearing over and over again. They include “high-value detainees” like Abu Zubaydah, waterboarded 83 times and held for four and a half years in secret CIA prisons, and Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, tortured in Egypt until he falsely confessed that there were connections between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein (used to justify the invasion of Iraq in March 2003), who was finally sent back to Libya to be murdered.

There are also others, held only in Guantánamo, who are known as notoriously unreliable informants, and who, whether through the use of torture, coercion, or bribery (the promise of better living conditions) have repeatedly told lies about their fellow prisoners. These have been seen through, generally by some official figures at Guantánamo, and also by judges in the prisoners’ habeas corpus petitions, who have recognized their baleful influence, and have often moved to dismiss their testimony, damaging or even eviscerating the government’s cases.

There are dangerous men in Guantánamo, of course — some, if not all of the 14 ‘high-value detainees,” including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, who arrived in Guantánamo from secret CIA prisons in September 2006, some of the ten others transferred to Guantánamo from secret prisons in September 2004, plus a handful of others. Essentially, these are the 36 men recommended for trials by the Obama administration’s Guantánamo Review Task Force, which spent the whole of 2009 analysing the prisoners’ cases.

As for the rest of the 171 men still held, 47 of whom are being held indefinitely without charge or trial by President Obama on the basis that they are too dangerous to release, even though no evidence exists that can be used in court, these documents reveal how the distortions engendered by Guantánamo continue to erode all hope of a rational settlement to the vexed question of when Guantánamo will actually close.

When innocent people are labelled as “low risk” detainees, and foot soldiers are labelled as “medium risk” or “high risk,” as they are in these official documents, the proper outcome — that prisoners should either be charged or released, and the abomination that is Guantánamo should be closed as soon as possible — is lost in a miasma of misplaced fear.

Politically, it appears that President Obama has decided that Guantánamo is too toxic to touch. That is a disgrace, as it shows him to be a man lacking in firm principles, after all his fine talk about the importance of justice and the law, when he was a Senator, and it is also a tragedy for America.

I won’t hold my breath hoping for enlightenment, but these documents released by WikiLeaks deserve to be read widely, and to be acted upon decisively by Americans who care about justice and the rule of law, because, with Guantánamo still open, they reveal the unjustifiable triumph, from beyond the electoral grave, of the Bush adminstration, whose actions, whatever their supposed justification, took the country to a wretched and disturbing place that still needs to be abandoned and repudiated as a thoroughly unacceptable aberration from the principles on which the United States was founded.

<!–

–>

Andy Worthington

Andy Worthington is a journalist and historian, based in London. He is the author of The Guantanamo Files: The Stories of the 759 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison, the first book to tell the stories of all the detainees in America’s illegal prison. For more information, visit his blog here.

At Jail in Bagram, a Detainee Protest July 17, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Iraq and Afghanistan, Torture.
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Thursday 16 July 2009

by: Greg Jaffe and Julie Tate  |  The Washington Post
Prisoners being held at Bagram Prison in Afghanistan are protesting their indefinite incarceration.

    Indefinite incarceration by US at issue.

    The prisoners at the largest US detention facility in Afghanistan have refused to leave their cells for at least the past two weeks to protest their indefinite imprisonment, according to lawyers and the families of detainees.

    The prison-wide protest, which has been going on since at least July 1, offers a rare glimpse inside a facility that is even more closed off to the public than the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Information about the protest came to light when the International Committee of the Red Cross informed the families of several detainees that scheduled video teleconferences and family visits were being canceled.

    Representatives of the ICRC, which monitors the treatment of detainees and arranges the calls, last visited the Bagram prison on July 5, but inmates were unwilling to meet with them.

    “We have suspended our video telephone conference and family visit programs because the detainees have informed us they do not wish to participate in the programs for the time being,” said Bernard Barrett, a spokesman for the organization.

    Although the prisoners are refusing to leave their cells to shower or exercise, they are not engaging in hunger strikes or violence. Ramzi Kassem, an attorney for Yemeni national Amin al-Bakri, said detainees are protesting being held indefinitely without trial or legal recourse.

    “We don’t want to hold detainees longer than necessary,” said a U.S. military official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “We engage in regular releases and transfers when we feel a detainee’s threat can be sufficiently mitigated to warrant being released or transferred. Of course, there will continue to be some detainees whose high threat level can only be successfully mitigated via detention, but we review their status regularly to assess whether other options are available.”

    Unlike at Guantanamo Bay, where detainees have access to lawyers, the 620 prisoners at Bagram are not permitted to visit with their attorneys. Afghan government representatives are generally not allowed to visit or inspect the Bagram facility.

    President Obama signed an executive order in January to review detention policy options. The Justice Department is leading an interagency task force examining the issue and is set to deliver a report to the president on Tuesday.

    In recent years, Bagram became the destination for many terrorism suspects as Guantanamo Bay came under more scrutiny through legal challenges. The last significant group transfer from the battlefield to the prison in Cuba occurred in September 2004, when 10 detainees were moved there; in September 2006, 14 high-value detainees were transferred to Guantanamo Bay from secret CIA prisons. Since then, six detainees have been moved there.

    The Bagram prison population, meanwhile, has ballooned. U.S. officials are building a bigger facility there that will hold nearly 1,000.

    The Bagram facility includes inmates from Afghanistan as well as those arrested by U.S. authorities in other countries as part of counterterrorism efforts. The prison now holds close to 40 detainees who are not Afghan citizens, many of whom were not captured in Afghanistan.

    In April, a D.C. district judge ruled that the Supreme Court decision that extended habeas corpus rights to detainees at Guantanamo Bay also applied to a certain set of detainees held at Bagram — those who were not arrested in Afghanistan and who are not Afghan citizens. The Justice Department has appealed the decision.

    The indefinite detention of Afghan prisoners also has been a source of anger among Afghan citizens, human rights advocates say. “U.S. detention policy is destroying the trust and confidence that many Afghans had in U.S. forces when they first arrived in the country,” said Jonathan Horowitz, a consultant at the Open Society Institute, which seeks to promote democracy around the world. Horowitz is in Afghanistan interviewing the relatives of Bagram detainees, as well as former Bagram prisoners.

Is Obama Continuing the Bush/Cheney Assassination Program? July 14, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Pakistan, Torture, War.
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Published on Tuesday, July 14, 2009 by RebelReports

Congress is outraged that Cheney concealed a CIA program to assassinate al Qaeda leaders, but they should also be investigating why Obama is continuing—and expanding—U.S. assassinations.

by Jeremy Scahill

In June, CIA Director Leon Panetta allegedly informed members of the House Intelligence Committee of the existence of a secret Bush era program implemented in the days after 9-11 that, until last month, had been hidden from lawmakers. The concealment of the plan, Panetta alleged, happened at the orders of then-Vice President Dick Cheney.

Now, The New York Times is reporting that this secret program that had “been hidden from lawmakers” by Cheney was a plan “to dispatch small teams overseas to kill senior Qaeda terrorists.” The Wall Street Journal, which originally reported on the plan, reported that the paramilitary teams were to implement a “2001 presidential legal pronouncement, known as a finding, which authorized the CIA to pursue such efforts.”

The plan, the Times says, never was carried out because “Officials at the spy agency over the years ran into myriad logistical, legal and diplomatic obstacles.” Instead, the Bush administration “sought an alternative to killing terror suspects with missiles fired from drone aircraft or seizing them overseas and imprisoning them in secret C.I.A. jails.”

The House Intelligence Committee is now reportedly preparing an investigation into this program and the Senate may follow suit. “We were kept in the dark. That’s something that should never, ever happen again,” said Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein. Withholding this information from Congress “is a big problem, because the law is very clear.”

There are several important issues raised by this unfolding story. First, while the Times claims the program was never implemented, the program sounds very similar to what Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Sy Hersh described in March as an “executive assassination ring” run by Dick Cheney that operated throughout the Bush years:

“Congress has no oversight of it. It’s an executive assassination ring essentially, and it’s been going on and on and on. Just today in the Times there was a story that its leaders, a three star admiral named [William H.] McRaven, ordered a stop to it because there were so many collateral deaths.”Under President Bush’s authority, they’ve been going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving. That’s been going on, in the name of all of us.

Hersh’s description sounds remarkably similar to that offered by the Times and the Wall Street Journal. While the House and Senate should certainly investigate this program-and lying to Congress, misleading it or concealing from it such programs is likely illegal-it is also important to guarantee that it has actually stopped. But another pressing issue for the Congress is investigating the Obama administration’s adoption of this secret program’s central components. As the Times noted, the major reason-beyond logistical hurdles-that the program was not implemented (if that is even true) was that the Bush administration began increasing its use of weaponized drones to conduct Israeli-style targeted assassinations (often, these drones kill many more civilians than so-called “targets”). These drone attacks, coupled with the use of extraordinary rendition and secret prisons, became the official program for “eliminating” specific individuals labeled “high value” targets by the administration.

The Obama administration has not only continued the Bush policy of using drones to carry out targeted assassinations, but has also continued the use of prisons where people are held indefinitely without charge or access to the International Committee of the Red Cross. Under Obama, Bagram air base in Afghanistan is expanding and, at present, hundreds of prisoners are held there without charges. In essence, the Obama administration is doing exactly what this secret CIA program sought to do, albeit out in the open.

Beyond the Cheney assassination program, what is really worthy of Congressional investigation right now is the legality of Obama’s current policy of assassination. In 1976, President Gerald Ford issued an executive order banning assassinations. “No employee of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, political assassination,” states Executive Order 11905.

White House lawyers–with their seemingly infinite legal creativity–would likely say that the drone strikes are not assassinations, but rather part of war. That putting poison in a cigar of a foreign leader is different than launching missiles at a funeral where an “enemy” is believed to be among the mourners. While the implications of the U.S. assassinating heads of state or foreign officials are grave, it could be argued that, on some levels, the drone attacks are worse in the sense that they kill many more civilians. Moreover, these drone attacks largely take place is Pakistan, which is a sovereign nation. There is no legal or Congressional declaration of war against Pakistan.

It is long past due that the Congress investigate this U.S. government assassination program. The politically inconvenient truth, however, is this: An actual investigation would require the Democrats pounding Cheney over his concealment of an assassination program (that allegedly was not implemented) to focus their investigation on how President Obama actually implemented and expanded that very program.

© 2009 Jeremy Scahill

Jeremy Scahill is the author of the New York Times bestseller Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army. He is currently a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at the Nation Institute.

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