Tags: civil liberties, Diane Feinstein, Guantanamo, habeas corpus, military commissions, military detention, roger hollander, senate, steven rosenfeld, supreme court, war on terror
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Roger’s note: this frightening news did not make the top of the headlines even in the alternative blogosphere; the notion that the United States is at war in every square inch of the globe, including the “sacred” homeland, gives the Army and its Commander-in-Chief unconditional power to detain, torture and kill anyone, including US citizens, with absolutely Zero accountability. It was, in fact, against such arbitrary and unchecked state power, that the very War for Independence, better and more appropriately known at the Revolutionary War, was fought.
The U.S. Senate on Thursday crossed a major constitutional line and authorized the American military to arrest and indefinitely detain U.S. citizens within the United States in the war on terror.
The 97-3 vote came after days of bitter debate, where hawkish proponents said the United States was part of a global battlefield where the military should be able to seize any citizen if they were part of a terrorist group attacking America. But opponents, who lost a series of attempts to limit the detention to overseas, said it would be a grave mistake of historic proportions to allow the military to arrest and hold American citizens on US soil without the right to a trial or access to civilian courts.
President Obama has pledged to veto the bill, which next goes to the House. Whether he will do so will come into focus as the 2012 defense spending bill works its way to his desk. The White House issued no statement Thursday.
Senate supporters of domestic military detention said the White House had agreed to the bill’s language. But critics, such as Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-CA, whose amendments lost on Thursday, said her proposal to limit the detentions to overseas were the bill’s original text on the matter. The bill emerged from the Senate Armed services Committee without a hearing on the military detention provisions.
The Supreme Court, in a recent Guantanamo case, said the military could arrest anyone, anywhere, in the war on terror. But a handful of Democrats and Republicans said the high court’s opinion was excessive and unconstitutional.They urged their colleagues to put the Bill of Rights — which gives every citizen the right to a trial in American courts — above the urge to expand military arrest powers within the 50 states. They said the country did not do that in two World Wars in the 20th century, and that the nation’s current defense and intelligence community did not seek the change in law.
Posted at December 1, 2011, 11:02 pm
Tags: Abu Ghraib, aclu, amrit singh, amy goodman, bagram, baltasar garzon, bethine church, bush administration, bush six, carl levin, church committee, cia assassination, cia videotapes, COINTELPRO, denis moynihan, detainees, Diane Feinstein, Dick Cheney, enhanced interrogation, frank church, geneva conventions, Guantanamo, independent prosecutor, John Conyers, martin luther king, Nancy Pelosi, nuremburg, patrick leahy, pentagon photos, president obama, roger hollander, rumsfeld, senate armed services, torture, torture memos, waterboarding, watergate, william hayes
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Published on Wednesday, April 29, 2009 by TruthDig.com
The Senate interest in investigation has backers in the U.S. House, from Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee John Conyers, D-Mich., who told The Huffington Post recently, “We’re coming after these guys.”
Amrit Singh, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, said the Pentagon’s photos “provide visual proof that prisoner abuse by U.S. personnel was not aberrational but widespread, reaching far beyond the walls of Abu Ghraib. Their disclosure is critical for helping the public understand the scope and scale of prisoner abuse as well as for holding senior officials accountable for authorizing or permitting such abuse.” The ACLU also won a ruling to obtain documents relating to the CIA’s destruction of 92 videotapes of harsh interrogations. The tapes are gone, supposedly, but notes about the content of the tapes remain, and a federal judge has ordered their release.
In December 2002, when the Bush torture program was well under way, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld signed off on a series of harsh interrogation techniques described in a memo written by William Hayes II (one of the “Bush Six” being investigated by Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon). At the bottom of the memo, under his signature, Rumsfeld scrawled: “I stand for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to 4 hours?” Rumsfeld zealously classified information in his years in government.
A similar crisis confronted the U.S. public in the mid-1970s. While the Watergate scandal was unfolding, widespread evidence was mounting of illegal government activity, including domestic spying and the infiltration and disruption of legal political groups, mostly anti-war groups, in a broad-based, secret government crackdown on dissent. In response, the Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations With Respect to Intelligence Activities was formed. It came to be known as the Church Committee, named after its chairman, Idaho Democratic Sen. Frank Church. The Church Committee documented and exposed extraordinary activities on the CIA and FBI, such as CIA efforts to assassinate foreign leaders, and the FBI’s COINTELPRO (counterintelligence) program, which extensively spied on prominent leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
It is not only the practices that are similar, but the people. Frederick A.O. Schwarz Jr., general counsel to the Church Committee, noted two people who were active in the Ford White House and attempted to block the committee’s work: “Rumsfeld and then [Dick] Cheney were people who felt that nothing should be known about these secret operations, and there should be as much disruption as possible.”
Church’s widow, Bethine Church, now 86, continues to be very politically active in Idaho. She was so active in Washington in the 1970s that she was known as “Idaho’s third senator.” She said there needs to be a similar investigation today: “When you think of all the things that the Church Committee tried to straighten out and when you think of the terrific secrecy that Cheney and all of these people dealt with, they were always secretive about everything, and they didn’t want anything known. I think people have to know what went on. And that’s why I think an independent committee [is needed], outside of the Congress, that just looked at the whole problem and everything that happened.”
Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.
Torturers Should Be Punished April 22, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Torture.
Tags: aberto gonzales, Abu Ghraib, Abu Zubaydah, aclu, amy goodman, bagram, baltasar garzon, congress, david addington, Diane Feinstein, eric holder, geneva conventions, Guantanamo, impeach bybee, International law, international red cross, jay bybee, john yoo, Mitchell Jessen & Associates, nuremberg prinicples, office of legal counsel, olc, president obama, Rahm Emanuel, roger hollander, rumsfeld, sere training, torture, torture memos, torture techniques, US constitution, waterboarding, william haynes
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Published on Wednesday, April 22, 2009 by TruthDig.com
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the OLC under Bush “became a facilitator for illegal government conduct, issuing dozens of memos meant to permit gross violations of domestic and international law.”
The memos authorize what the International Committee of the Red Cross called, in a leaked report, “treatment and interrogation techniques … that amounted to torture.”
These torture techniques were developed by two psychologists based in Spokane, Wash.: James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen. Their company, , provided specialized training to members of the U.S. military to deal with capture by enemy forces. The training is called SERE, for Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape. Mitchell and Jessen, both psychologists, were contracted by the U.S. government to train interrogators with techniques they claimed would break prisoners.
They reverse-engineered the SERE training, originally developed to help people withstand and survive torture, to train a new generation of torturers.
The memos provide gruesome details of the torture. Waterboarding was used hundreds of times on a number of prisoners. The Bybee memo includes this Kafkaesque authorization: “You would like to place [Abu] Zubaydah in a cramped confinement box with an insect. You have informed us that he appears to have a fear of insects. In particular, you would like to tell Zubaydah that you intend to place a stinging insect into the box with him.”
After President Barack Obama said there should be no prosecutions, he was received with great fanfare at the CIA this week. Mark Benjamin, the reporter who originally broke the Mitchell and Jessen story, said when I questioned him about Obama’s position: “If you look at the president’s statements and you combine them with the statements of Rahm Emanuel, the chief of staff, and Eric Holder, the attorney general … you will see that over the last couple of days the Obama administration has announced that no one, not the people who carried out the torture program or the people who designed the program or the people that authorized the program or the people who said that it was legal-even though they knew that it frankly wasn’t-none of those people will ever face charges. The attorney general has announced that … the government will pay the legal fees for anybody who is brought up on any charges anywhere in the world or has to go before Congress. They will be provided attorneys … they have been given this blanket immunity … in return for nothing.”
Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein asked Obama to hold off on ruling out prosecutions until her panel finishes an investigation during the next six months. Though Obama promises to let the torturers go, others are pursuing them. Bybee is now a federal judge. A grass-roots movement, including Common Cause and the Center for Constitutional Rights, is calling on Congress to impeach Bybee. In Spain, Judge Baltasar Garzon, who got Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet indicted for crimes against humanity, has named Bybee and five others as targets of a prosecution.
For years, people have felt they have been hitting their heads against walls (some suffered this literally, as the memos detail). On Election Day, it looked like that wall had become a door. But that door is open only a crack. Whether it is kicked open or slammed shut is not up to the president. Though he may occupy the most powerful office on Earth, there is a force more powerful: committed people demanding change. We need a universal standard of justice. Torturers should be punished.
Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.
The Differing Views of the ‘Rule of Law’ in Spain and the US April 14, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Torture.
Tags: Alberto Gonzales, baltasar garzon, CIA torture, constitution, Criminal Justice, david addington, Diane Feinstein, doj, douglas feith, eric holder, geneva conventions, glenn greenwald, Guantanamo, jay bybee, jay rockerfeller, jim white, john brennan, john yoo, justice department, leon panetta, michael hayden, michael isikof, Obama, olc torture memos, rachel maddow, roger hollander, scott horton, spanish justice, stephen kappes, torture, torture memos, war criminals, william haynes
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Published on Tuesday, April 14, 2009 by Salon.com
Scott Horton reports this morning that, in Spain, “prosecutors have decided to press forward with a criminal investigation targeting former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and five top associates [John Yoo, Jay Bybee, David Addington, Doug Feith and William Haynes] over their role in the torture of five Spanish citizens held at Guantánamo.” Spain not only has the right under the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture to prosecute foreign officials for torturing its citizens, but it — like the U.S. — has the affirmative obligation to do so. (Indeed, the Bush administration itself insisted just last year that the U.S. the right to criminally prosecute foreign officials for ordering acts of torture even in the absence of an accusation that any of the victims were American).
As Hilzoy argues, however, the primary obligation for these prosecutions lies with the country whose officials authorized the war crimes — the United States:
It is a requirement of law, the law that the Constitution requires Obama, as President, to faithfully execute. He should not outsource his Constitutional obligations to Spain.
That the U.S. has the legal obligation under the U.S. Constitution, our own laws and international treaties to commence criminal investigations is simply undeniable. That is just a fact. Yet it’s hard to overstate how far away we are from fulfilling our legal obligations to impose accountability on our own torturers and war criminals.
The barriers to these prosecutions are numerous, but one of the principal obstacles is that CIA Director Leon Panetta has been emphatically demanding that there be no investigations of any government officials whose conduct was declared legal by DOJ lawyers (i.e., the very individuals the Spanish are now investigating for war crimes). And it’s not surprising that Panetta has taken this position given that at least two of his top deputies at the CIA are among those implicated, to one degree or another, in the torture regime, as John Sifton detailed earlier this month at The Daily Beast:
The New York Times reported that Leon Panetta, the current CIA director, has taken the position that “no one who took actions based on legal guidance from the Department of Justice at the time should be investigated, let alone punished.” Yet a number of CIA officials implicated in the torture program not only remain at the highest levels of the agency, but are also advising Panetta. Panetta’s attempt to suppress the issue is making Bush’s policy into the Obama administration’s dirty laundry.
Take Stephen Kappes. At the time of the worst torture sessions outlined in the ICRC report, Kappes served as a senior official in the Directorate of Operations-the operational part of the CIA that oversees paramilitary operations as well as the high-value detention program. (The directorate of operations is now known as the National Clandestine Service.) Panetta has kept Kappes as deputy director of the CIA-the number two official in the agency.
And why is it that Stephen Kappes was made the number 2 officials at the CIA despite his being in a key CIA position during the implementation of America’s torture regime? Because the two most important Senate Democrats on intelligence matters – Jay Rockefeller and Dianne Feinstein — insisted that he be so empowered as a condition for their supporting Panetta’s nomination, after both of them first demanded that Kappes actually be made CIA Director. Here’s what Andrea Mitchell reported back in January:
NBC News has learned that Senate Democrats — including Dianne Feinstein and Jay Rockefeller, who are the incoming and outgoing Intelligence chairmen — have privately recommended a career CIA officer to head the agency.
Democratic sources indicate that both have recommended deputy CIA Director Steve Kappes, a veteran CIA intelligence officer who is widely credited with getting the Libyans to give up their nuclear program.
Just to give a sense for how our political class thinks about torture, here is what Mitchell appended to the end of her report: “One potential downside for Kappes: Like former counter-terror chief John Brennan, some critics says [sic] he had line authority over controversial decisions involving interrogation and detention.” So Kappes’ connection to the CIA’s torture program was a “potential downside” to his becoming CIA Director. A potential downside. Once Obama chose Panetta rather than Kappes, Rockefeller and Feinstein agreed to support Panetta’s nomination only once they were given assurances that Kappes would become Panetta’s deputy.
This Thursday will be a very significant test for how much influence the anti-accountability camp exerts within the Obama administration and for how serious Obama’s pledges of transparency were, as that day is the latest deadline for the Obama DOJ either to release the three key OLC torture-authorizing memos, release them in heavily redacted form, or refuse to release them at all. It has been widely reported that a “war” has broken out within the Obama administration over their release, with key Bush-era intelligence officials — such as Obama’s top counter-terrorism aide John Brennan and ex-CIA Director Michael Hayden — demanding the ongoing concealment of the memos. Those torture memos are reputed to be among the most vivid torture documents of the Bush era, and thus will almost certainly fuel the flames of investigations and prosecution — both here and internationally. That is what has prompted the “war” over their disclosure. It’s hardly a surprise that if you empower the very people most connected to the Bush CIA, there will be substantial forces blocking any attempt to bring accountability under the rule of law for the crimes that were committed.
Just think about what all this means: not only are we failing to investigate or indict those who authorized torture, but we haven’t even reached the point yet where we’ve decided that these crimes are bad enough that those implicated ought to be barred from serving in the highest positions in our Government. While Spain proceeds to fulfill the Obama administration’s duties to investigate and prosecute our war criminals, some of those most implicated remain in positions of high authority within our own intelligence and counter-terrorism agencies — thanks to Senate Democrats such as Feinstein and Rockefeller.
Our political class has simply never come to terms with how severe are these war crimes and how acquiescent to and outright supportive so many officials from both parties — and so many of our media stars — were. That’s why huge numbers, arguably majorities, of Americans want criminal investigations to commence, but our political class remains virtually unified against them — notwithstanding that they are legally required — because, as has been conclusively proven over and over, the last thing our political and media elites care about is the “rule of law.” That will become more apparent as other countries, such as Spain, demonstrate that they actually take things like that seriously.
* * * * *
On a related note, Rachel Maddow last night potently eviscerated Barack Obama for his attempts to deny Bagram detainees any rights of any kind, and she and Newsweek‘s Michael Isikoff then discussed the significance of Thursday’s deadline for the release of the OLC torture memos:
UPDATE: In comments, Jim White highlights a fact from Horton’s story that I intended but neglected to mention: the Spanish “advised the Americans that they would suspend their investigation if at any point the United States were to undertake an investigation of its own into these matters.” As White points out, that is how war crimes investigations are intended to proceed under numerous treaty provisions by which the U.S. has bound itself: namely, the country whose officials commit the crimes have the primary obligation to investigate and hold the criminals accountable. But other treaty signatories are not only entitled, but required, to commence such proceedings if the violating country refuses or otherwise fails to do so.
Thus, the only way to object to what Spain is doing here is if one: (a) suffers from total ignorance of the basic provisions of Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture; (b) believes that the U.S. has no obligation to abide by its treaties even though the U.S. Constitution provides that such treaties are “the supreme law of the land”; and/or (c) believes that the U.S. need not abide by rules we impose on other countries, such as when we prosecuted other countries’ leaders for war crimes in the past. None of those is a particularly noble excuse.
Coming Soon: Declassified Bush-Era Torture Memos March 22, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Torture.
Tags: aclu, al qaeda detainees, bush administration, CIA torture, Diane Feinstein, doj, enhanced interrogation, eric holder, freedom of information, interrogation techniques, justice department, mark hosenball, michael hayden, michale isikoff, roger hollander, torture, torture memos, truth commission, waterboarding
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Published on Sunday, March 22, 2009 by Newsweek
Over objections from the U.S. intelligence community, the White House is moving to declassify-and publicly release-three internal memos that will lay out, for the first time, details of the “enhanced” interrogation techniques approved by the Bush administration for use against “high value” Qaeda detainees. The memos, written by Justice Department lawyers in May 2005, provide the legal rationale for waterboarding, head slapping and other rough tactics used by the CIA. One senior Obama official, who like others interviewed for this story requested anonymity because of the issue’s sensitivity, said the memos were “ugly” and could embarrass the CIA. Other officials predicted they would fuel demands for a “truth commission” on torture.
Because of an executive order signed by President Obama on Jan. 22 banning such aggressive tactics, deputies to Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. concluded there was no longer any reason to keep the interrogation memos classified. But current and former intel officials pushed back, arguing that any public release might still compromise “sources and methods.” According to the administration official, ex-CIA director Michael Hayden was “furious” about the prospect of disclosure and tried to intervene directly with Obama officials. But the White House has sided with Holder. Faced with a court deadline in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit regarding the memos filed by the ACLU, Justice lawyers asked for a two-week extension “because the memoranda are being reviewed for possible release.” (White House, Justice and CIA spokesmen all declined to comment.)
The debate about torture ramped up again last week with an account in the New York Review of Books about a secret International Red Cross report that was delivered to the CIA in February 2007. The report, according to journalist Mark Danner, quotes detainees describing, often in gruesome detail, how they were locked in coffin-size boxes; swung by towels around their necks into plywood walls; and forced to stand naked for days while their arms were shackled above their heads.
“I now know we were not fully and completely briefed on the CIA program,” Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein told NEWSWEEK. A U.S. official disputed the charge, claiming that members of Congress received more than 30 briefings over the life of the CIA program and that Congressional intel panels had seen the Red Cross report. But the CIA insisted that the report be treated as if it had higher than top-secret classification, precluding any public discussion of its contents. That’s why declassification of the memos is significant, administration officials say: it would remove, at long last, the veil of secrecy about how detainees in the war on terror were actually treated.
Name Change Won’t Alter Resources Agency’s Dark Mission February 10, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in California, Environment.
Tags: California, california central valley, california fish, california fish population, california fishing, california natural resources, dan bacher, Diane Feinstein, dredge gold mining, environment, fish terminator, karuk tribe, natural resources, natural resources agency, roger hollander, sacramento splittail, salmon, salmon fisheries, san joaquin river, san joaquin river delta, schwarzenegger, steelhead
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06 February 2009The Resources Agency on January 1 adopted a new name, the California “Natural” Resources Agency, to give the agency a more “green” veneer. Unfortunately, nothing has changed at the agency that has presided over the collapse of the state’s salmon, steelhead and other fish populations.
A press release from the agency in late December claimed that the name change was adopted to “better reflect its mission.”
”Since 1961, the Resources Agency has been responsible for the safeguarding and stewardship of California’s precious natural resources,” according to the release. “From water and wildlife management and conservation to wildland fire protection, energy, ocean and coastal policy, land stewardship, climate change adaptation, sustainable living, and the promotion of outdoor recreation, the agency oversees most all of the state’s functions designed to protect California’s natural resources.”
In July, Gov. Arnold “Fish Terminator” Schwarzenegger signed Senate Bill 1464 (Maldonado) authorizing the Resources Agency to change its name. “The new Agency logo will remain largely the same and the change will be phased in gradually as new supplies are ordered,” the release stated. “In this way there will be little or no cost to the Agency or any of its departments, boards or commissions save for any replacement costs that would normally be incurred.”
California’s Natural Resources Agency is responsible for the state’s natural resource policies, programs and activities. It has 17,000 employees and oversees 25 departments, commissions, boards and conservancies, including the Department of Fish and Game, Department of Water Resources, CALFED Bay-Delta Program, California Conservation Corps, Department of Boating and Waterways, Department of Conservation, Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and Department of Parks and Recreation.
However, wouldn’t it be more appropriate for the Resources Agency to adopt a name that truly reflects its REAL primary mission? Based on my years covering California fisheries, this mission appears to be engineering the collapse of Central Valley salmon fisheries, driving the California Delta’s pelagic fish populations to the edge of extinction, building a peripheral canal, constructing more dams, slashing funds for salmon and steelhead restoration, and instituting massive closures of public trust fisheries throughout the state’s ocean waters.
Considering all of this, wouldn’t “the Natural Destruction Agency” be a more appropriate name for the agency? Other potential names for the agency could be “Bureau of Corporate Greenwashing,” “Raping of Natural Resources Agency,” “No More Natural Resources Agency,” “The Fish Termination Agency,” or the “Water Exports Agency.” Readers of my articles have also suggested the “Final Legislative Usurpation of Significant Habitats, FLUSH,” and “The Death Star” as more appropriate names for this agency with such a legacy of environmental destruction behind it.
More recently, Karuk Tribe Vice Chair Leaf Hillman proposed that the name of one of the agency’s member departments, the Department of Fish and Game (DFG), be changed more accurately to reflect its “mission” after DFG Director Donald Koch rejected a petition by the Tribe, California Trout and Friends of the North Fork to restrict suction dredge gold mining in order to protect salmon and steelhead populations. “I guess DFG really stands for Department of Frontier Greed,” Hillman quipped.
While the name of the agency has changed, pelagic (open water) fish populations of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta continue to collapse. There is nothing “natural” about this unprecedented and catastrophic species decline.
The delta smelt population has declined to its lowest level ever, according to the latest data from the DFG’s fall midwater trawl survey. The DFG studies the health of these populations by compiling an “index” – a relative measure of abundance. The index declined to 23 in fall 2008, down from the previous low level of 28 in fall 2009.
American shad also reached a record low level in 2008. The index was 271, compared to 533 in 2007 and 9,360 in 2003. Threadfin shad also declined to a record low population level, down to 450 from 3,177 in 2007.
The Sacramento splittail, a native minnow, declined to the lowest-ever level this fall. In fact, no splittail were observed in the fall survey, while only one fish was documented the previous autumn.
Only the striped bass and longfin smelt showed an increase, though the population levels are still precariously low. The striper index rose to 220 in 2008 from 82 in 2007, both alarmingly low numbers. In contrast, the index was 9,500 in 1971, when the population was still healthy before the fish-killing state and federal pumps went into full operation. The longfin smelt abundance index rose from a record low of 13 in fall 2007 to 113 this fall. By comparison, the index was 6,654 in 1998.
These fish populations have declined to unprecedented low population levels because of the deplorable water and fishery management policies of the California “Natural” Resources Agency under the Schwarzenegger administration, combined with extremely bad management by the federal government. State and federal fishery biologists have pinpointed three major causes of the fishery decline – increased water exports, toxics and invasive species. More recently, increases in ammonia discharges from sewage treatment plants have been cited by scientists as a possible factor.
Record water export levels occurred in 2003 (6.3 million acre-feet, or MAF), 2004 (6.1 MAF), 2005 (6.5 MAF) and 2006 (6.3 MAF). Exports averaged 4.6 MAF annually between 1990 and 1999 and increased to an average of 6 MAF between 2000 and 2007, a rise of almost 30 percent, according to the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance.
The crisis in Delta fisheries will not be solved by changing the agency’s name – or taking more water out of the Delta through the peripheral canal proposed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Department of Water Resources, Sen. Diane Feinstein and the Nature Conservancy as a “solution” to the Delta’s problems. The canal and more dams that Schwarzenegger and Mike Chrisman, resources secretary, are campaigning for will only exacerbate the imperiled status of these fish populations, driving them over the precipice of extinction.
The only way the Resources Agency can live up to its new “natural” name is to abandon the mad campaign for a peripheral canal and more dams, mandate water conservation by corporate agribusiness, adopt tough agricultural water pollution standards and require the retirement of toxic selenium-filled soil in the Westlands Water District.
Dan Bacher is a local activist and an editor of The Fish Sniffer, “The No. 1 newspaper in the world dedicated entirely to fishermen.”
by: Dan Bacher, t r u t h o u t | Perspective