Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Torture, Uncategorized.
Tags: Abu Ghraib, Abu Zubaydah, ali soufan, bagram, bush administration, bybee impeachment, cheney, cia videotapes, fbi interrogator, geneva conventions, Guantanamo, jay bybee, john durham, John McCain, jose padilla, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Nancy Pelosi, nuremburg, office of legal counsel, olc, Philip Zelikow, roger hollander, russ feingold, scott horton, sheldon whitehouse, steven bradbury, torture, torture techniques, torture videotapes, War Crimes, waterboarding, zelikow memo
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) opened a hearing on the Bush administration’s torture policy quoting Tallyrand: “The greatest danger in times of crisis comes from the zeal of those who are inexperienced.” Whitehouse promised to separate the “truth” from its “bodyguard of lies.” In doing so, the former federal prosecutor brought the shadowy world of intelligence into Room 226 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building. Former star FBI interrogator Ali Soufan, widely described as the bureau’s best and most effective interrogator working in the Arabic language, testified off-camera and behind a wooden partition. Concerned for his and his family’s security, he made the unusual demand a part of his agreement to appear and testify.
The effort to destroy the Zelikow memo is not just evidence of standard record-keeping practice; it may well spring from recognition that the memo might be used as evidence that the Bush administration was engaged in criminality.
The hearing produced two significant developments as well as a great deal of political rhetoric. Soufan’s testimony focused on the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah. Throughout the history of the torture debate, the Bush administration has cited this as a triumph of its techniques. Sen. Whitehouse read Bush’s September 6, 2006, White House statement making one of these claims. Soufan, who was personally present through the process, called the Bush claims a “half-truth,” accurate as to the circumstances of Abu Zubaydah’s capture and detention, but not as to the claimed successes using highly coercive techniques. One of the Justice Department’s torture memos (from May 2005) contained a similar claim that actionable intelligence was obtained “once enhanced techniques were employed.” Soufan termed this a lie. He also noted that successful interrogations of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Jose Padilla, which gained useful intelligence, occurred before the introduction of the Bush program and therefore couldn’t be claimed as success stories for it. In his remarks, Soufan sharply repudiated the harsh techniques he observed. “These techniques… are ineffective, slow, and unreliable and, as a result, harmful to our efforts to defeat al Qaeda,” he said. He also downplayed claims that there was a dispute between the FBI and CIA about the use of the Bush techniques. CIA interrogators agreed with his assessment, he noted.
Philip Zelikow, a lawyer and history professor who had served as a counselor to Condoleezza Rice at the State Department, testified that the Justice Department had thwarted legislation sponsored by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) that prohibited cruel, inhuman, and degrading techniques on detainees. He noted that McCain and other sponsors understood the legislation as a prohibition on waterboarding and other harsh techniques, but through legal sleight of hand, Steven Bradbury, then head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, had nevertheless found that the legislation was ineffective to make the expected changes. Zelikow recorded his opposition to this view in his own memo, which he disseminated widely within the Bush administration. It was made clear to him that his memo was not appreciated, and, moreover, an effort was made to collect and destroy copies of the memo. One copy has now been identified in the records of the State Department, he noted. Its declassification and release are anticipated shortly.
The story surrounding the efforts to corral and destroy the Zelikow memo is more than a curious vignette. Lawyers studying the issue of criminal liability of the memo writers are focused on evidence of mens rea-a state of mind that reflects recognition of criminal wrongdoing. The effort to destroy the memo is not just evidence of standard record-keeping practice; it may well spring from recognition that the memo might be used as evidence that the Bush administration was engaged in criminality.
Republicans called two legal experts to offer opinions but no fact witnesses. This raised the question of whether they have a CIA interrogator who is ready or willing to make a case to support Cheney’s claims about the efficacy of torture.
In opening remarks, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) leveled a direct attack on former Vice President Dick Cheney, saying he was “misleading the American people” with claims that Bush-era techniques had been effective. “Nothing I have seen-including the two documents to which former Vice President Cheney has repeatedly referred-indicates that the torture techniques… were necessary,” Feingold said. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) entered the debate insisting the hearing was “not really fair to” the Bush administration. “I don’t know whether this is actually pursuing the nobility of the law or a political stunt,” he said. Graham offered a grilling of the former lead FBI interrogator, insisting that his view was “not the whole picture.” However, Graham stumbled during the hearing, citing a debunked and now-retracted statement by former CIA agent John Kiriakou about the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah and was corrected by the witness for his mistake.
Graham was the only Republican to attend the hearing as a questioner, and the Republican side offered no fact witnesses of their own. Soufan’s and Zelikow’s presentations weren’t refuted or weakened. For now the Republican pushback on the torture issue consists of attacks on the credibility of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi-what she knew and when she was told about the Bush administration techniques. Yet that issue has not caught fire and remains distant from the heart of the controversy. The Senate hearing set the stage for the release of the Justice Department’s ethics report conducted while Bush was still in office. Zelikow called for a special investigation during his testimony and disclosed that evening on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show that the special prosecutor appointed under Bush to probe the destruction of CIA videotapes of torture, John Durham, has expanded to cover the CIA’s failure to provide information to the 9/11 Commission about torture. Sen. Whitehouse has declared that he would chair new hearings featuring the Bush administration lawyers after the release of the Justice Department ethics report. Then the focus will fall on the possible impeachment of former OLC chief Jay Bybee, now a federal appeals judge, and bar discipline of other lawyers. The issue continues to build regardless of what the Obama White House wishes.
© 2009 The Daily Beast
Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Criminal Justice, Torture.
Tags: Abu Ghraib, aclu, amrit singh, anti-American sentiment, bagram, beltway, Bill Kristol, binyam mohamed, bush crimes, cia interrogation, doj, foia, freedom of information, geneva conventions, glenn greenwald, Guantanamo, International law, justice department, max boot, michael goldfarb, national security, nuremburg, obama administration, obama cover-up, obama coverup, olc torture memos, rendition, roger hollander, torture, torture memos, torture photos, torture techniques, torture videos, un convention, War Crimes, warrantless wiretapping, waterboarding
It’s difficult to react much to Obama’s complete reversal today of his own prior decision to release photographs depicting extreme detainee abuse by the United States. He’s left no doubt that this is what he does: ever since he was inaugurated, Obama has taken one extreme step after the next to keep concealed both the details and the evidence of Bush’s crimes, including rendition, torture and warrantless eavesdropping. The ACLU’s Amrit Singh — who litigated the thus-far-successful FOIA lawsuit to compel disclosure of these photographs — is exactly right:
The reversal is another indication of a continuance of the Bush administration policies under the Obama administration. President Obama’s promise of accountability is meaningless, this is inconsistent with his promise of transparency, it violates the government’s commitment to the court. People need to examine these abusive photographs, but also the government officials need to be held accountable.
Andrew Sullivan, one of Obama’s earliest and most enthusiastic supporters, wrote of today’s photograph-concealment decision and yesterday’s story of Obama’s pressuring Britain to conceal evidence of Binyam Mohamed’s torture:
Slowly but surely, Obama is owning the cover-up of his predecessors’ war crimes. But covering up war crimes, refusing to prosecute them, promoting those associated with them, and suppressing evidence of them are themselves violations of Geneva and the UN Convention. So Cheney begins to successfully coopt his successor. . .
From extending and deepening the war in Afghanistan, to suppressing evidence of rampant and widespread abuse and torture of prisoners under Bush, to thuggishly threatening the British with intelligence cut-off if they reveal the brutal torture inflicted on Binyam Mohamed, Obama now has new cheer-leaders: Bill Kristol, Michael Goldfarb and Max Boot. . . .
Those of us who held out hope that the Obama administration would not be actively covering up the brutal torture of a Gitmo prisoner who was subject to abuse in several countries must now concede the obvious. They’re covering it up – in such a crude and obvious fashion that it is actually a crime in Britain.
John Aravosis said Obama’s logic was “a bit Bushian.” Steve Hynd observes that “Obama Trades Our Principles For Cheneyism.” TPM decalres: ”Obama falls back on Bushisms.” Dan Froomkin writes: ”Obama Joins the Cover-Up.” I’ll just note a few points for now about Obama’s efforts to keep these photographs concealed:
(1) Think about what Obama’s rationale would justify. Obama’s claim — that release of the photographs “would be to further inflame anti-American opinion and to put our troops in greater danger” — means we should conceal or even outright lie about all the bad things we do that might reflect poorly on us. For instance, if an Obama bombing raid slaughters civilians in Afghanistan (as has happened several times already), then, by this reasoning, we ought to lie about what happened and conceal the evidence depicting what was done — as the Bush administration did — because release of such evidence would “would be to further inflame anti-American opinion and to put our troops in greater danger.” Indeed, evidence of our killing civilians in Afghanistan inflames anti-American sentiment far more than these photographs would. Isn’t it better to hide the evidence showing the bad things we do?
Apparently, the proper reaction to heinous acts by our political leaders is not to hold them accountable but, instead, to hide evidence of what they did. That’s the warped mentality Obama is endorsing today, and has been endorsing since January 20.
(2) How can anyone who supports what Obama is doing here complain about the CIA’s destruction of their torture videos? The torture videos, like the torture photos, would, if released, generate anti-American sentiment and make us look bad. By Obama’s reasoning, didn’t the CIA do exactly the right thing by destroying them?
(3) This is just another manifestation of the generalized Beltway religion that we should suppress and ignore the heinous acts our government committed and to which we acquiesced, because if we just agree to forget about all of it, then we can blissfully pretend that it never happened and avoid doing anything about it.
(4) Obama’s claim that he has to hide this evidence to protect our soldiers is the sort of crass, self-serving exploitation of “The Troops” which was the rancid hallmark of Bush/Cheney rhetoric. Everyone knows what the real effect of these photographs would be: they would highlight just how brutal and criminal was our treatment of detainees in our custody, and further underscore how amoral and lawless are Obama’s calls that we Look To the Future, Not the Past. Manifestly, that is why they’re being suppressed.
(5) For all of you defend-Obama-at-all-cost cheerleaders who are about to descend into my comment section and other online venues to explain how Obama did the right thing because of National Security, I have this question: if you actually want to argue that concealing these photographs is the right thing to do, then you must have been criticizing Obama when, two weeks ago, he announced that he would release them. Otherwise, it’s pretty clear that you don’t have any actual beliefs other than: ”I support what Obama does because it’s Obama who does it.” So for those arguing today that concealing these photographs is the right thing to do: were you criticizing Obama two weeks ago for announcing he would release these photographs?
Also, the OLC torture memos released several weeks ago surely increased anti-American sentiment. Indeed, those on the Right who objected to the release of those memos cited exactly that argument. How can anyone cheer on Obama’s decision today to conceal these photographs while also cheering on his decision to release the OLC memos? Those who have any intellectual coherence would have to oppose both or support both. Those two decisions only have one fact in common: Obama made them. Thus, the only way to cheer on both decisions is to be guided by the modified Nixonian mantra: what Obama does is right because Obama does it.
Also, during the Bush years, were you — along with Bill Kristol and National Review — attacking the ACLU and Congressional Democrats for demanding that the Bush administration stop concealing evidence of its torture, on the ground that disclosure of such evidence would harm America’s national security? Were you defending Bush then for doing what Obama is doing now?
(6) If these photographs don’t shed any new light on what our Government did — if all they do is replicate what we already know from the Abu Ghraib photographs — then how can it possibly be the case that they will do any damage? To argue that they will harm how we are perceived is, necessarily, to acknowledge that they reveal new information that is not already widely known.
(7) We are supposed to have what is called Open Government in the United States. The actions of our government — and the evidence documenting it — is presumptively available to the public. Only an authoritarian would argue that evidence of government actions should be kept secret in the absence of a compelling reason to release it.
The presumption is the opposite: documents in the government’s possession relating to what it does is presumptively public in the absence of compelling reasons to keep it concealed. That the documents reflect poorly on the government is not such a reason to keep them concealed. If it were, then it would always be preferable to have political leaders cover-up their crimes on the ground that disclosing them would reflect poorly on the U.S. and spur anti-American sentiment. Open government is necessary precisely because only transparency deters political leaders from doing heinous acts in the first place.
UPDATE: Here (.pdf) is the letter the DOJ sent to the court this afternoon, advising the judge that they changed their minds “at the highest levels of Government” and would not, as previously promised, release the photographs, but instead would attempt to appeal the Second Circuit’s decision compelling their release to the Roberts Supreme Court.
UPDATE II: In comments, Paul Daniel Ash addresses the Obama supporters who are defending Obama’s decision to keep these photographs concealed on the ground that “no good would come” from disclosure:
I’m pretty jaded, but even I’m outraged and saddened by the number of voices being raised in this comment thread supporting the decision to conceal these photos.
“No good will come?” Would we even have had an Abu Ghraib scandal without the pictures of bloody prisoners and men cowering in front of dogs? “No good?” Is there or is there not an active debate in this country about whether or not torture is acceptable? “No good?” Did a United States Senator not say just today, in the Judiciary Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts, that torture techniques have been used for the past five centuries because “apparently they work?”
“No good will come?”
Indeed, it’s pretty hard to believe that the people who are arguing that “no good will come” from release of these photos either (a) lived through the impact of the Abu Ghraib photos and/or (b) are living through the “torture debate” we are now having.
Photographs convey the reality of things in a way that mere words cannot. They prevent people who want to deny what was done the ability to do so. They force citizens to face what their country did and what they are now justifying and advocating. They impede the ability of political leaders to use euphemisms to obscure the truth. They show in graphic detail what the effects are of sanctioning torture policies. They prove that this was about more than ”dunking three terrorists into water.” They highlight the fact that no decent person believes that this should all just be forgotten and its victims told that they have no right to have accountability. That’s precisely why the photographs are being suppressed: because of how much good they would do.
© 2009 Salon.com
Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Iraq and Afghanistan, Torture.
Tags: Abu Ghraib, Afghanistan, Afghanistan War, anti-American sentiment, bush crimes, detainee torture, geneva conventions, International law, Iraq, iraq detainees, iraq prisons, Iraq war, jennifer love, national security, nuremburg, president obama, robert gibbs, torture, torture methods, torture photos, u.s. troops, War Crimes, waterboarding
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is seeking to block the release of hundreds of photos showing prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan being abused, reversing his position after military commanders warned that the images could stoke anti-American sentiment and endanger U.S. troops.
The pictures show mistreatment of detainees at locations beyond the infamous U.S.-run Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
Word of Mr. Obama’s decision on Wednesday came after top military commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan expressed fears that publicizing the pictures could put their troops in danger. When the Abu Ghraib photos emerged in 2004 of grinning U.S. soldiers posing with detainees, some naked, some being held on leashes, they caused a huge anti-American backlash around the globe, particularly in the Muslim world.
Mr. Obama decided he did not feel comfortable with the photos release, and was concerned it would inflame tensions in Iraq and Afghanistan, put U.S. soldiers at higher risk and make the U.S. mission in those two wars more difficult, according to White House officials.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters that the President was concerned that the photos’ release would pose a national security threat, an argument the administration has not made yet in the courts.
“The President does not believe that the strongest case regarding the release of these photos was presented to the court and that was a case based on his concern about what the release would do to our national security,” Mr. Gibbs said.
Mr. Gibbs said that the main argument previously was a privacy one.
The move represented a sharp reversal from Mr. Obama’s repeated pledges for open government, and in particular from his promise to be forthcoming with information that courts have ruled should be publicly available.
As such, it was sure to invite criticism from the more liberal segments of the Democratic Party that want a full accounting — and even redress — for what they see as the misdeeds of previous years under former president George W. Bush.
Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Torture.
Tags: Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, Abu Ghraib, Abu Zubaydah, aclu, american civil liberties union, amrit singh, bagram, bush administration, cia, cia videotapes, Criminal Justice, destroyed cia tapes, detainees, doj, enhanced interrogation techniques, foia, freedom of information, geneva conventions, Guantanamo, International law, interrogation, interrogation videotapes, jason leopold, john durham, justice department, kyle foggo, nuremburg, roger hollander, special prosecutor, torture, torture memos, torture methods, torture videotapes, waterboarding
(Roger’s note: no, that is not a typo finding the words “integrity” and “CIA” in the same sentence. If it weren’t so tragic it would be funny. And, by the way, John Durham was appointed in January of 2008 to lead a criminal probe into the destruction of the CIA torture, aka interrogation tapes. One wonders what is taking so long.)
Wednesday 13 May 2009, www.truthout.org
by: Jason Leopold, t r u t h o u t | Report
The CIA claims the integrity of a special prosecutor’s criminal investigation into the destruction of 92 interrogation videotapes will be compromised if the agency is forced to turn over detailed documents to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) describing the contents of the tapes, according to newly released court documents.
In a May 5 letter to US District Court Judge Alvin Hellerstein, Lev Dassin, the acting US attorney for the Southern District of New York, said the Justice Department recently had discussions with prosecutors working on the criminal investigation into the destruction of the interrogation tapes and was informed that “the production of documents … would conflict and substantially interfere with the [criminal] investigation” into the destruction of the interrogation tapes.
”As the court is aware, the scope of the tapes investigation includes the review of whether any person obstructed justice, knowingly made materially false statements, or acted in contempt of court or Congress in connection with the destruction of videotapes,” Dassin’s letter says. “The Government thus respectfully requests that [a previous court order demanding the CIA turn over detailed descriptions of the contents of the destroyed tapes] be withdrawn or otherwise stayed until the tapes investigation has been completed.”
Amrit Singh, an ACLU staff attorney, said the move is “a classic CIA delay tactic.”
In court papers, she said the government is using the criminal investigation “as a pretext for indefinitely postponing” its obligation to produce documents related to the destruction of the videotapes.
”The Government makes no mention of an expected timeline for completion of [Special Prosecutor John] Durham['s] investigation,” the ACLU said in court papers. “Nor has Mr. Durham provided a declaration in support of the Government’s position.”
Hellerstein seemed to agree. He pointed out in a two-page order that Durham had not stepped forward to state that his probe would be hindered if documents related to the destruction of the tapes were turned over to the ACLU.
In fact, in a March court filing, Dassin noted that a stay of the contempt motion filed by the ACLU seeking release of the tapes was allowed to expire on February 28 without a request for a continuation – signaling that Durham’s investigation was complete. In January, Durham had indicated in a court filing that he expected to wrap up his probe by the end of February.
Last month, however, Durham questioned the CIA’s former number three official, Kyle “Dusty” Foggo, about the destruction of the tapes. Foggo, who was sentenced to three years in prison for fraud for steering lucrative contracts to a friend, was due to report to federal prison, but Durham asked for a delay so he could question him about the tape destruction.
In December 2007, the ACLU filed a motion to hold the CIA in contempt for its destruction of the tapes in violation of a court order requiring the agency to produce or identify all records requested by the ACLU related to the CIA’s interrogation of “war on terror” detainees.
Hellerstein ordered the Justice Department, on behalf of the CIA, to file legal briefs by May 27 justifying the reasons for withholding the documents. He added that those papers should include affidavits, including a declaration from the special prosecutor investigating the tape destruction
Those documents “may include also any reasons why the identity of persons involved in the destruction should not be disclosed,” Hellerstein wrote in a two-page order.
Several weeks ago, Dassin revealed in another court filing that the CIA has about 3,000 documents related to the 92 destroyed videotapes, suggesting an extensive back-and-forth between CIA field operatives and officials of the Bush administration. The Justice Department said the documents include “cables, memoranda, notes and e-mails” related to the destroyed CIA videotapes.
In last week’s court filing, Dassin said, “those 3,000 records included ‘contemporaneous records,’ which were created at the time of the interrogation or at the time the videotapes were viewed, ‘intelligence record,’ which do not describe the interrogations but contain raw intelligence collected from the interrogations, ‘derivative records,’ which summarize information contained within the contemporaneous records, and documents related to the location of the interrogations, that upon further review by the CIA, were determined not to relate to the interrogations or to the destroyed videotapes.”
The ACLU and the government have jointly proposed that the government describe the contents of the “contemporaneous” and “derivative” records, but not the intelligence records or the “other records that ultimately proved to be unrelated to the interrogations or the videotapes.”
Dassin said the Justice Department intends to turn over additional indexes next month, and on May 18 will produce a list of “all contemporaneous records and all derivative records” related to the destruction of the interrogation tapes, but he added that quite a bit of information will be withheld.
In previous court filings, Dassin acknowledged that 12 videotapes, showed Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the alleged mastermind of the attack on the USS Cole in 2000, being subjected to waterboarding and other harsh methods. The 80 other videotapes purportedly show Zubaydah and al-Nashiri in their prison cells. Some of the videotapes predated the Justice Department’s August 1, 2002, legal memo authorizing CIA interrogators to use ten torturous methods against “high-value” detainees.
But it’s unknown whether the interrogation tapes that predate the August 1, 2002, “torture” depict “enhanced interrogation” techniques not yet approved by the Justice Department.
Last week, the CIA turned over to the ACLU documents that showed CIA interrogators at a secret “black site” prison provided top agency officials in Langley with daily “torture” updates of Abu Zubaydah, the alleged “high-level” terrorist detainee, who was waterboarded 83 times in August 2002.
The documents included two sets of indexes (Part I) (Part II), totaling 52 pages that contained general descriptions of cables sent back to CIA headquarters describing the August 2002, videotaped interrogation sessions of Zubaydah. Those cable transmissions included a description of the techniques interrogators had used and the intelligence, if any, culled from those sessions.
The CIA and the Justice Department declined to turn over a more detailed description of the cables its field agents sent back to headquarters, citing several exemptions under the Freedom of Information Act.
In a two-page letter accompanying the indexes, CIA Associate General Counsel John McPherson wrote that a “senior government official” would submit a declaration on May 22 “that more fully explains the justifications for withholding a more detailed description of the cables.”
Jason Leopold is editor in chief of The Public Record, www.pubrecord.org.
Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Education, Iraq and Afghanistan, Torture, War.
Tags: Abu Ghraib, bagram, Condoleezza Rice, geneva conventions, Guantanamo, International law, Iraq occupation, Iraq war, marjorie cohn, nuremburg, roger hollander, rule of law, saddam hussein, stanford, stanford alumni, stanford students, stanford university, torture, un convention torture, War Crimes, wmds
Published on Wednesday, May 6, 2009 by CommonDreams.org
During the Vietnam War, Stanford students succeeded in banning secret military research from campus. Last weekend, 150 activist alumni and present Stanford students targeted Condoleezza Rice for authorizing torture and misleading Americans into the illegal Iraq War.
Veterans of the Stanford anti-Vietnam War movement had gathered for a 40th anniversary reunion during the weekend. The gathering featured panels on foreign policy, the economy, political and social movements, science and technology, media, energy and the environment, and strategies for aging activists.
On Sunday, surrounded by alumni and students, Lenny Siegel and I nailed a petition to the University President’s office door. The petition, circulated by Stanford Say No to War, reads:
“We the undersigned students, faculty, staff, alumni, and other concerned members of the Stanford community, believe that high officials of the U.S. Government, including our former Provost, current Political Science Professor, and Hoover Institution Senior Fellow, Condoleezza Rice, should be held accountable for any serious violations of the Law (included ratified treaties, statutes, and/or the U.S. Constitution) through investigation and, if the facts warrant, prosecution, by appropriate legal authorities.”
I stated, “By nailing this petition to the door of the President’s office, we are telling Stanford that the university should not have war criminals on its faculty. There is prima facie evidence that Rice approved torture and misled the country into the Iraq War. Stanford has an obligation to investigate those charges.”
After the petition nailing, I cited the law and evidence of Condoleezza Rice’s responsibility for war crimes – including torture – and for selling the illegal Iraq War:
As National Security Advisor, Rice authorized waterboarding in July 2002, according to a newly released report of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Less than two months later, she hyped the impending U.S. invasion of Iraq, saying, “We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.” Her ominous warning was part of the Bush administration’s campaign to sell the Iraq war, in spite of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency’s assurances that Saddam Hussein did not possess nuclear weapons.
A week before the nailing of the petition, Rice made some Nixonian admissions
in response to questions from Stanford students during a campus dinner designed to burnish Rice’s image on campus.
In October 1968, Stanford anti-war activists had nailed a document to the door of the trustees’ office which demanded that Stanford “halt all military and economic projects concerned with Southeast Asia.”
Posted by rogerhollander in Religion, Torture.
Tags: Abu Ghraib, atonement, bagram, convention against torture, evangelical theology, evangelicals, geneva conventions, Guantanamo, jesus torture, mel gibson, nuremburg, penal theory atonement, pew forum, protestants, religion, religious conservatives, religious dogma, religious sadism, roger hollander, susan brooks thistlethwaite, torture, white evangelical
Prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. A recent poll shows the more often you go to church, the more you approve of torture. (Photo: Catholic News Agency)
Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite
Washington Post, May 1, 2009
The more often you go to church, the more you approve of torture. This is a troubling finding of a new survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. Shouldn’t it be the opposite? After all, who would Jesus torture? Since Jesus wouldn’t even let Peter use a sword and defend him from arrest, it would seem that those who follow Jesus would strenuously oppose the violence of torture. But, not so in America today.
Instead, more than half of people who attend worship at least once a week, or 54%, said that using torture on suspected terrorists was “often” or “sometimes” justified. White evangelical Protestants were the church-going group most likely to approve of torture. By contrast, those who are unaffiliated with a religious organization and didn’t attend worship were most opposed to torture – only 42% of those people approved of using torture.
One possible way to interpret this extraordinary Pew data is cultural. White evangelical Protestants tend to be culturally conservative and they make up a large percentage of the so-called Republican “base”. Does the approval of torture by this group demonstrate their continuing support for the previous administration? That may be.
But I think it is possible, even likely, that this finding has a theological root. The UN Convention Against Torture defines torture as “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person…” White Evangelical theology bases its view of Christian salvation on the severe pain and suffering undergone by Jesus in his flogging and crucifixion by the Romans. This is called the “penal theory of the atonement” – that is, the way Jesus paid for our sins is by this extreme torture inflicted on him.
For Christian conservatives, severe pain and suffering are central to their theology. This is very clear in the 2002 Mel Gibson movie, The Passion of the Christ. Evangelical Christians flocked to this movie, promoted it and still show it in their churches, despite the fact that it is R-rated for the extraordinary amount of violence in the film. It is, in fact, the highest grossing R-rated movie in the history of film. The flogging of Jesus by the Romans goes on for fully 40 minutes. It is truly the most violent film I have ever seen.
The message of the movie, and a message of a lot of conservative Christian theology, is that severe pain and suffering are not foreign to Christian faith, but central.
Of course, this is an interpretation of Jesus life, death and resurrection that I reject. It is also an interpretation that I believe has done a lot of harm through the centuries. I think it is impossible, yes, impossible, if you read the Gospels, to make the case that God wanted Jesus tortured for the sins of humanity. But that is an interpretation that has sometimes been made in the history of Christianity and the social and political fallout has been, and is today, that torture is OK, maybe even more than OK. This Pew finding may just be another in a long line of horrible historical examples of that.
Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite is the former president of the Chicago Theological Seminary (1998-2008), Thistlethwaite is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.
Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Torture.
Tags: Abu Ghraib, afghanistan occupation, Alberto Gonzales, bagram, bush administration, Canada, cheney, cia interrogation, CIA torture, crimes against humanity, extraordinary rendition, feith, gaza, geneva conventions, George Bush, Guantanamo, human rights, human rights abuses, International law, Iraq occupation, israeli occupation, jay bybee, jim miles, john yoo, mahar arar, Michael Ignatieff, Military Commissions Act, nuremburg, obama complicity, Omar Khadr, Palestine, phillippe sands, president obama, prisoners of war, rendition, roger hollander, Stephen Harper, terror, ticking bomb, torture, torture objectives, torture team, torture techniques, War Crimes, william haynes
Artwork: Matthew Langley
www.onlinejournal.com, May 1, 2009
The current media frenzy concerning Obama’s coming release of more information on U.S. torture between 2000 and 2005 is a political storm conveniently kept out of context.
There are two aspects to the context that are missing. First, this is not new information and well before current events erupted into the news, the case has been made all along that the Bush administration in general — Bush and Cheney, their political advisors and legal representatives — are all complicit in contravening the Geneva Conventions on torture and the treatment of prisoners of war. Secondly, terror and torture go hand in glove, the two are fully related and have been used by the U.S. and its proxies in many different contexts around the world — and are still doing so as Obama has put an end to torture at Guantanamo, but has not denied renditions to friendly torturers elsewhere.
The spin-doctors in the White House are no longer allowing the use of the term “war on terror” although the facts of the war have not changed. As the global war on whatever or the long war on whomever continues, the abuses associated with terror and torture will continue to spread.
The initiator of terror, of course, is the occupier of foreign territories creating the obvious wish on the part of the indigenous populations for the occupier to go home, currently involving most of the Middle East from Israel/Palestine through to Pakistan. This has happened throughout history, ancient and modern, from the Crusades and the Mongol hordes through the genocide of native populations in the Americas to the more modern terrors of a highly developed technological warfare that readily conquers “enemies” as defined by the political elites for a variety of reasons, from religious zealotry to political zealotry, frequently one and the same thing, seen most evidently in the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the U.S. occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. . . . and Pakistan?
Put in simpler terms, the U.S. uses terror, the U.S. uses torture, its allies and compatriots use terror, use torture, and as the U.S. expands its war frontiers further into Pakistan, so will the edges of terror and torture expand.
Power and control
Torture is ultimately about power and control. It ranges from the pure brutality of physical torture often described in many of the wars for suppression of indigenous control in Central America to the more ‘refined’ torture currently used to break down a prisoner’s psychological persona without leaving the physical scars of the less sophisticated forms of torture. Torture is used to create terror, to create a population that is subservient and easily controlled by the very fear of the terror that it spreads. In turn, as terror and torture strips away the thin layers of civilization that control man’s baser instincts, terror and torture become devices used by the combatants on both sides.
As the most powerful country in the world, the U.S. role in abrogating human rights and crimes against humanity have a powerful effect elsewhere in the world. “The actions of the United States have also made it more difficult to critize the violations of international law by other countries, most notably Israel.” What occurred at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and Bagram airbase “bear more than a passing resemblance” with the “testimonies of Palestinians released from Israeli prisons.” 
As expressed shortly after Abu Ghraib, “the powerful often turn to torture in times of crisis not because it works but because it salves their fears and insecurities with the psychic balm of empowerment.” Even though torture does not do what it is purported to do, provide useful information, “a plea to torture one terrorist with a ticking bomb becomes the rationale for insecure leaders to win the right to torture someone, anyone, to assuage the uncertainties of rule and empower themselves for dominion.” 
I have no sympathy — and perhaps a seed of disdain — for Obama’s current problems on the political front with his inheritance of the Bush legacy of torture. If the world is to look forward with “hope” for “change” it needs to start at home. Simply releasing more information will provide neither hope nor change. If Obama wishes to be more than a man of wonderful sounding phrases, he will have to do what is correct by international law and arrange whatever is necessary under U.S. law to investigate and prosecute those involved with the torture — not just the low level people, those “following orders,” but the ones in the executive and legislative branches who formed the concept and provided the legal okay for it, contrary to international laws.
From readings of international law, Obama himself becomes guilty of torture as anyone who is complicit with aiding and abetting torture becomes guilty of the crime. If he refuses to act, then under international standards, Obama becomes guilty of the crime. Unfortunately the U.S. is one of the most contradictory countries when it comes to upholding laws, always telling others that they need to be transparent, open, democratic, but when it suits its own purposes it relies on ignoring, abrogating, or denying international law.
Guilty until proven innocent
Phillippe Sands’ work “Torture Team” examines one particular case related to Guantanamo and arrives at the clear conclusion that there is good case for prosecuting Bush, Cheney, Feith, Haynes, Gonzales, Yoo, Bybee and others from this case in itself.  Others included in this list are the medical workers, physicians and psychologists, who supported those actually applying the torture.
Within its own internal laws the U.S. has provided immunity from prosecution under the Military Commissions Act as it “Gives US officials immunity from prosecution for torturing detainees that were captured before the end of 2005 by US military and CIA.” 
Sands adds, “Legislation creating such an immunity would allow the crime to be covered up: it was almost an admission that a crime had occurred.”  That immunity, however arguable under U.S. law, does not extend outside the U.S.: “Under the principle of universal jurisdiction, any country may prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by anyone anywhere.” 
Alfred McCoy in “A Question of Torture — CIA Interrogation From the Cold War to the War on Terror” examines the history of torture up to the days of Abu Ghraib. He starts by stating “five intertwined aspects of its perverse psychology,” the fifth of which needs to be restated strongly today: “ . . . a nation that sanctions torture in defiance of its democratic principles pays a terrible price. For nearly two millennia, the practice has been identified with tyrants and empires. For the past two centuries, its repudiation has been synonymous with the humanist ideals of the Enlightenment and democracy. When any modern state tortures even a few victims, the stigma compromises its majesty and corrupts its integrity. Its officials must spin an ever more complex web of lies that, in the end, weakens the bonds of trust and the rule of law that are the sine qua non of a democracy.” 
For Obama to avoid complicity, for Obama to not be seen as opposing basic human rights, for Obama to avoid being labelled an ineffective orator, he needs to act on the information that is at hand and proceed with some form of investigation that has the power it needs to fully complete its legal tasks. For the U.S. to not be seen as it has for the past decade as a country that trammels other people’s international rights, the people of the U.S., and their elected representatives, need to support that investigation.
Canada is a minor player on the world political scene, increasingly seen as nothing more than a U.S. puppet, a minion succouring favour, trying to be one of the big boys on the global stage by supporting the Bush doctrine, even after Bush is gone. The Canadian government under Harper has supported the U.S. in Afghanistan and currently on into Pakistan without considering the context of who started the great mujahideen warriors in the first place (the U.S. CIA and Pakistani ISI) and why they are now fighting them in Central Asia (gas, oil, containment of China and Russia).
This complicity extends to torture. The case of Maher Arar is a relatively well-known extradition case that the government aided in. More recently, now that Guantanamo is being shut down, a Canadian citizen Omar Khadr is being denied entry back into Canada even though the Federal Court has said it should be allowed. One of the government’s arguments is that Khadr needs to be processed through the U.S. legal system (hmm . . . see above) even though under international law he could be tried here in Canada. While Harper wishes to appear tough on terrorism, he is only making himself complicit in the illegal practices utilized by the U.S. at Guantanamo, soon perhaps to be sanctioned by Obama as well.
The Canadian pretender to the throne, whom I do not always agree with, appears to understand the situation more clearly than Harper. Michael Ignatieff states, . . . even in emergency, even if some liberties must be suspended, a constitutional state must remain answerable to the higher law, a set of standards that protect foundational commitments to the dignity of every person. 
Terror is an act of aggression. It is part and parcel of the nature of warfare, and is a particular conjoint of unilateral preemptive warfare. The answer to terror is twofold. First the initiating countries, those that are doing the invading, manipulating, coercive activities, need to stop. The second is that terror used in response to terror cannot be stopped by war, but needs to be stopped by international police work and the upholding of international law internally and internationally by all parties.
For Canada, hopefully, Harper will see the last of his controlling reign in the next election and equally hopefully, Ignatieff can stand up his own beliefs in human rights extending beyond state legalities. Obama needs to act in his own backyard and ignore his own state legalities of the Military Commissions Act, or terror will continue regardless of any war label applied to U.S. actions. If it cannot be contained and brought to justice in the U.S., it will not happen internationally.
 Byers, Michael. War Law — Understanding International Law and Armed Conflict. Douglas & McIntyre, Vancouver, 2005. p. 154.
 McCoy, Alfred W. A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, From the Cold War to the War on Terror. Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt and Company, New York, 2006. p. 207.
 Sands, Phillippe. Torture Team — Deception, Cruelty and the Compromise of Law. Allen Lane (Penguin), 2008. See review at
 Anup Shah. “Military Commissions Act 2006—Unchecked Powers?” Znet. October 02, 2006.
 Sands, ibid, p. 252.
 Byers, ibid, p. 143
 McCoy, ibid, p. 14.
 Ignatieff, Michael. The Lesser Evil — Political Ethics in an Age of Terror. Princeton University, 2004. p. 44.
Jim Miles is a Canadian educator and a regular contributor/columnist of opinion pieces and book reviews for The Palestine Chronicle. Miles’ work is also presented globally through other alternative websites and news publications.
Copyright © 1998-2007 Online Journal
Email Online Journal Editor
Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Human Rights, Iraq and Afghanistan, Torture.
Tags: Abu Ghraib, cia torturers, convention against torture, defense department, detainee abuse, Dick Cheney, dod, doj, geneva conventions, Guantanamo, human rights, human rights abuses, International law, interrogation, iraqi police, iraqi prisons, jeremy scahill, justice department, kurdish regions, nuremburg, obama administration, roger hollander, rule of law, torture, torture techniques, u.s. torture system, un human rights, War Crimes
Published on Friday, May 1, 2009 by Rebel Reports
Part of the deadly serious problem with the Obama administration’s position on (not) holding accountable CIA torturers, their lawyers and the Bush administration officials who authorized and ordered all of these crimes is this: It sends a message to other governments that if Washington does it, we can too. Especially governments completely created by the US government.
No governments on the planet are more controlled by the US right now than the ones in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A new UN human rights report examining Iraq shows that torture of prisoners by Iraqi authorities is widespread and accountability is nonexistent. “The lack of accountability of the perpetrators of such human rights abuses reinforces the culture of impunity,” the UN bluntly states. The 30-page report by the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, which examined conditions in Iraq from July to December 2008, was just released Wednesday.
At times, the report reads as though it could have been written about the US torture program at Guantanamo and other US-run prisons and the total lack of accountability. In Iraq, the UN cites “the use of torture as an interrogation method” and “prolonged periods of detention without charge or access to legal counsel and the use of torture or physical abuse against detainees to extract confessions.”
UN investigators said it was of “particular concern” that a senior Iraqi police official complained that the Iraqi government’s pending ratification of the Convention against Torture would “not be helpful,” stating, “How are we going to get confessions? We have to force the criminals to confess and how are we going to do that now?” It sounds like that Iraqi police official has been listening to Dick Cheney.
The UN says “there are no documented cases to this day where an official of the Minister of Defence has been held accountable for human rights abuses.” That is exactly the situation within the US Department of Defense (and Justice and CIA and White House for that matter). “This laxity in the prosecution is contrary to the international obligations undertaken by Iraq and to the provisions of the Convention against Torture.”
Iraq hasn’t even ratified the convention, but the US has-so what does that say about US conduct?
Some of the worst abuses in Iraqi prisons are said to take place in the northern autonomous Kurdish region, which has long been an area of major US influence (going back to the Saddam era). Among the findings of the UN:
claims of beatings during interrogation, torture by electric shocks, forced confessions, secret detention facilities, and a lack of medical attention. Abuse is often committed by masked men or while detainees are blindfolded. In general, detainees fear the interrogators and investigative personnel more than prison guards.
As of December 2008, there were 41,271 people being held in prisons throughout Iraq, 15,058 of them in the custody of the US-controlled “Multi-National Forces.” The UN found that “many” of the prisoners “have been deprived of their liberty for months or even years in overcrowded cells” and expressed concerns “about violations of the minimum rules of due process as many did not have access to defence counsel, or were not formally charged with a crime or appeared before a judge.”
While the report primarily focused on Iraqi run prisons, it notes that in US-run prisons “detainees have remained in custody for prolonged periods without judicial review of their cases.” And remember, the US is in the process of turning over more prisoners to Iraqi custody.
It is well known that after Bush launched the so-called “War on Terror,” the US torture system was exported from Guantanamo to Afghanistan and Iraq. Apparently the disdain for accountability and international law was as well when the US was setting up the new Iraqi government. Wasn’t Saddams torture and disdain for international law one of the justifications for the invasion (after the WMD myth was exposed)? This UN report should serve as a sobering reminder of why it is so important to hold those who created, ordered, justified and implemented the US torture program responsible for their crimes. Sadly, the US at present has zero credibility in confronting these crimes by the Iraqi authorities.
For more information, see: http://uniraq.org/
© 2009 Jeremy Scahill
Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Torture.
Tags: Abu Ghraib, abu ghraib guards, abu ghraib photographs, bagram, carolyn wood, chales graner, CIA torture, detainee abuse, doj, geneva conventions, George Bush, Guantanamo, International law, interrogation techniques, Iraq war, janis karpinski, josh white, justice department, lynndie england, nuremburg, roger hollander, rumsfeld, torture, torture memos, torture techniques, War Crimes
Published on Friday, May 1, 2009 by the Washington Post
When the photos of detainee abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq surfaced in 2004, U.S. officials portrayed Army Pvt. Charles A. Graner Jr. as the ringleader of a few low-ranking “bad apples” who illegally put naked Iraqi detainees in painful positions, shackled them to cell doors with women’s underwear on their heads and menaced them with military dogs.
Now, the recent release of Justice Department memos authorizing the use of harsh interrogation techniques has given Graner and other soldiers new reason to argue that they were made scapegoats for policies approved at high levels. They also contend that the government’s refusal to acknowledge those polices when Graner and others were tried undermined their legal defenses.
Graner remains locked up at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., about halfway through a 10-year prison sentence for detainee abuse, assault and dereliction of duty. His lawyer said this week that he is drafting appeals arguments centered largely on the revelations in the memos and a newly released congressional investigation into the interrogation practices.
President George W. Bush “was so disappointed in what happened, yet the whole time he knew what was going on,” said Graner, answering questions through his wife, Megan, who also worked at Abu Ghraib. He is the only one of about a dozen soldiers tried for abuses at the prison who remains incarcerated.
Graner and other defendants — including Lynndie R. England, who was photographed holding a naked detainee by a leash — were blocked by military judges from calling senior U.S. officials to the stand at their trials in 2004 and 2005. The government would not acknowledge any policy or procedure that could have led to what the world saw in the photographs.
Some of what the guards at Abu Ghraib did, such as throwing hooded detainees into walls, echoes tactics authorized in the Justice Department memos, such as “walling,” in which interrogators were allowed to push detainees in CIA custody into a flexible wall designed to make a loud noise.
But the Abu Ghraib photographs also depicted some actions, such as punching or stomping, that bear no relation to the techniques described in the memos, as well as others that were improvised by guards, such as forcing detainees to masturbate or to form human pyramids while naked.
Charles Gittins, a Virginia lawyer who represents Graner, said he has been fuming since reading the memos. He said he has long believed that there was no way Graner and the other Army Reservists invented techniques such as stress positions, leashing and the use of dogs, and he says the documents confirmed his suspicions.
“Once the pictures came out, the senior officials involved in the decision-making, they knew. They knew they had to have a cover story,” Gittins said. ” ‘It was the bad apples led by Charles Graner.’ “
Gittins said he hopes to convince the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces that top officials improperly influenced the court and kept evidence from the defense.
According to the memos and congressional documents, U.S. officials reverse-engineered techniques from U.S. survival training courses designed to teach troops how to endure capture and interrogation. Justice and Defense department officials approved the use of dogs, nudity, stress positions, sleep deprivation and other techniques.
Those tactics, according to the documents, were put into use at the facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and in the CIA’s secret prisons, and eventually were adopted in Afghanistan and Iraq after then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld’s approval was forwarded from officials at Guantanamo to Capt. Carolyn Wood, a military intelligence officer. She told investigators that she then sought approvals in Afghanistan for the tactics and brought them with her to Iraq and Abu Ghraib. Senior officers in Iraq also approved the methods there.
Though considered illegal under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the tactics were put into official use in late 2003. They have since been banned in a new Army Field Manual on interrogations.
Janis L. Karpinski, a former Army Reserve general in charge of prisons in Iraq who was demoted and left the service as a result of the Abu Ghraib scandal, said she was stunned silent by the administration memos.
“I could have cried,” Karpinski said. “I always had a sense of betrayal because it’s just disgusting. I’m sure those photos scared the hell out of them,” she added, referring to Bush administration officials. “Here, in living color, you have a photographic rendition of your memos. Is that what they wanted it to look like? Guess what, that is what it looks like.”
It is unclear whether low-level soldiers who were convicted of crimes can retrospectively use the Justice Department memos to their advantage. Gary Myers, a New Hampshire lawyer who represented Ivan L. “Chip” Frederick on abuse charges, said that unless the soldiers knew about the policies specifically, the memos might be irrelevant in a courtroom. Still, Myers said he is going to use the recent developments to try to get Frederick’s dishonorable discharge removed from his record.
“If what was suggested as license was itself illegal, relying on illegal documents or opinions is not in my mind a defense,” Myers said. “What we know now is we had at the time a rogue government that created an environment where this sort of conduct was condoned, if not encouraged. But it doesn’t do anything for you when you hold it up against the maltreatment statute of the [Uniform Code of Military Justice], which is law, passed by the Congress.”
Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.
© 2009 The Washington Post Company