Spanish Justice for American Crimes? June 25, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Torture.
Tags: Alberto Gonzales, baltasar garzon, Baltazar Garzon, bush administration, bush six, david addington, douglas feith, geneva conventions, gitmo, gonzalo boye, Guantanamo, human rights, jay bybee, john yoo, nuremberg, philippe sands, pinochet, roger hollander, spain government, spain poitics, spanish courts, torture, torture team, universal jurisdiction, william haynes
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Can a court in Madrid bring Gonzales, Yoo, and company to justice? Mother Jones talks to the lawyer seeking indictments of the “Bush Six.”
by Bruce Falconer
Will former US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and other senior Bush administration officials end up in jail for crafting the policies that led to the torture of prisoners at Guantánamo? As of yet, no government prosecutor is targeting them in the United States. But thousands of miles away, Spanish attorney Gonzalo Boyé is chasing after Gonzales and five other lawyers, and he has a chance-perhaps not a large one-of convincing his country’s legal system to charge these former Bush aides with human rights violations.
For more than a decade, Spanish courts have been the terror of torturers and genocidaires the world over. Operating under the principle of “universal jurisdiction,” the country has claimed the right to investigate and, if necessary, prosecute human rights cases that occurred beyond its borders if the countries in question fail to act. Spain first invoked its status as the world’s court of last resort in 1998, when Judge Baltazar Garzón of the National Court in Madrid issued an arrest warrant for former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet for his regime’s torture and murder of Spanish citizens. Pinochet ultimately escaped prosecution in Spain, but Garzón’s move paved the way for more cases. Sixteen are currently moving through Spanish courts, targeting perpetrators from Israel, China, Guatemala, Argentina, and El Salvador, among other countries. Still, for all the shuffling of paper, Spain has produced only one conviction under the banner of universal jurisdiction: that of Adolfo Scilingo, an Argentinean convicted in 2005 of assassinating left-wing dissidents during the country’s “dirty war.”
Most recently, Garzón has turned his attention to six former Bush administration figures accused of putting forth specious legal arguments to justify clear violations of the United Nations Convention Against Torture. The so-called “Bush Six” case targets Gonzales; John Yoo, former Justice Department attorney and lead author of the “torture memos“; Douglas Feith, former deputy secretary of defense for policy; William Haynes II, Pentagon general counsel; Jay Bybee, former assistant attorney general; and David Addington, former chief of staff and legal adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney.
The investigation is the handiwork of Boyé, a human rights lawyer who represents several former Guantánamo detainees. According to their criminal complaint, they allege that the Bush Six “participated actively and decisively in the creation, approval and execution of a judicial framework that allowed for the deprivation of fundamental rights to a large number of prisoners,” and legitimized “the implementation of new interrogation techniques including torture.” In March, Garzón took up Boyé’s case and initiated an official investigation; another National Court judge, Ismail Moreno, has since taken over the matter. Theoretically, assuming investigators gather sufficient evidence, indictments and prosecutions could follow, though it’s unlikely that any of the Bush administration lawyers would choose to show up in Spain for a trial.
Boyé himself is no stranger to terrorism cases. He spent eight years in a Spanish prison for his involvement in the 1988 kidnapping of businessman Emiliano Revilla, who was held hostage for eight months by members of ETA, a Basque separatist group that appears on the US State Department’s list of international terrorist organizations. Boyé claims to only have lent the kidnappers his ID and characterizes his incarceration as the result of “a very unfair trial.”
Now, Boyé has become something of a de facto prosecutor. But a recent resolution passed by the Spanish parliament could undermine his case. Spain’s two leading political parties-the Socialists and the People’s Party-overwhelmingly passed a measure on May 19 calling for a law that would restrict the use of universal jurisdiction. Will the measure quash the Bush Six investigation? Mother Jones discussed the case with Boyé.
Mother Jones: How was it that you came to be involved with the Bush Six case?
Gonzalo Boyé: I was concerned about the situation in Guantanamo and was searching for more information about it. Then I found several books, including The Torture Team by Philippe Sands. Reading it, I was sure that the key problem was the lawyers. The lawyers who created the legal framework for Guantanamo are the basis for all that happened there. Without the lawyers, the crime would never have been committed, or at least not in that form and with such a degree of impunity.
MJ: What are you hoping to accomplish?
GB: To get a conviction against the people responsible for what happened in Guantánamo. Accountability is the first step toward deterrence. With criminal offenses like this, it is necessary to send a clear message: No one is above the law, no matter their intentions. The security of any country can only exist within the rule of law. The war on terror is no exception. Thanks to Guantánamo, no evidence obtained there can be used in any court of law. Bush and his advisers have done a great favor for Islamic terrorists.
MJ: Are there any legal precedents for what you are attempting to do?
GB: Yes, at the Nuremberg trials several lawyers and judges were convicted for actions similar to those of the Bush Six. And in other countries, legal advisers and physicians have been convicted for taking part in torture. I do not see any reason why this case should be different.
MJ: A similar case in Germany against the Bush administration failed. Why? And what do you plan to do differently in order to optimize your chances of success?
GB: Because in Germany only the state prosecutor can exercise criminal action. In Spain, victims and civil society can do so themselves. There is no political control over what can go to court. According to the Spanish constitution, anyone can file criminal charges. That is the main difference between Spain and any other legal system in which universal jurisdiction is recognized.
MJ: What would you characterize as success in this case? Indictments?
GB: We are seeking more than just indictments. These people will be convicted, either in Spain or in the United States. I would prefer that the trial take place in North America, as that would be the best example of a legal system working for everyone.
MJ: The Spanish parliament passed a draft law on May 19, setting additional restrictions on universal jurisdiction cases like yours, presumably with the intent of making them more difficult to file. How might the new law affect the Bush Six case? Does it target your investigation specifically?
GB: The Spanish parliament is in the process of approving new regulations, but that will have no effect on this case. We represent Spanish victims, so there is sufficient relevance to Spain for the case to go forward. The new regulations are being devised in order to obtain impunity for the Chinese and Israeli authorities involved in other universal jurisdiction cases. They will not apply to people involved in torture committed at Guantánamo. In the Bush Six case, we fulfill all the new requirements of the draft law, so there is no reason for the Bush Six to relax or celebrate.
MJ: How likely is it that this draft law will pass? When do you expect it will?
GB: The law will be passed without a doubt, as it is in the interest of both major political parties. For the first time in several years, they are in agreement on something. They want to grant impunity to people who have committed the most serious criminal offences as defined under international treaties. Sooner than later, the government will regret changing the law and its collaboration with the opposition. The draft law would never have been written without political pressure exerted by both Israel and China.
MJ: Why do you think both major parties in Spain are so eager to weaken universal jurisdiction?
GB: They are bending to pressure from abroad. Politicians never considered changing the law until we brought criminal cases against some Israeli and Chinese officials. At the end of the day, the new draft law was not planned in Madrid, but in Tel Aviv and Beijing. Instead of keeping a dignified and independent position, Spanish politicians are running to meet the demands of these two foreign governments. Spain does not have a long-standing democratic culture, so it feels the need to be friendly with everyone rather than only those countries that respect human rights. In cases like this, a middle-of-the-road position is unacceptable: Either you are with the victims, or you are with the perpetrators. Spain was to play a major role in a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian problem, but with decisions like this, its position will become unacceptable to the Palestinian side. Politicians have a double standard when it comes to these types of crimes. That is quite evident.
MJ: How far along is the investigation? Have you requested that Judge Moreno call any witnesses? Gather any documents?
GB: We have requested a lot of documents and are waiting for US authorities to respond. We have presented some expert reports to the court. The next step will be to call witnesses.
MJ: Do you intend to urge the court to call members of the Bush Six to testify?
GB: Yes, all of them will be called as defendants. They are people responsible for serious criminal offences. We will guarantee them due process, as that is the only way to achieve proper justice.
© 2009 Mother Jones
‘Ugly’ Questions for Gen. Myers May 14, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Torture.
Tags: Abu Ghraib, al-Qaeda, Alberto Gonzales, david addington, detainees, Dick Cheney, donald rumsfeld, douglas feith, general myers, geneva conventions, Guantanamo, james hill, jane dalton, jay bybee, john rizzo, national security counsel, nuremberg, olc, Pentagon, philippe sands, president bush, richard myers, roger hollander, sere, smoking gun, Taliban, torture, torture team, torture techniques, waterboarding, william haynes
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Tuesday evening offered an unusual opportunity to question the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (2001-2005), Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, at an alumni club dinner. He was eager to talk about his just-published memoir, Eyes on the Horizon (and I was able to scan through a copy during the cocktail hour).
Myers’s presentation, like his book, was thin gruel. After his brief talk, he seemed intent on filibustering during a meandering Q & A session. He finally called on me since no other hands were up. Some were yawning, but it was too early to simply leave.
I introduced myself as a former Army intelligence officer and CIA analyst with combined service of almost 30 years. I thanked him for his stated opposition to interrogation techniques that go beyond “our interrogation manual”; and his conviction that “the Geneva Conventions were a fundamental part of our military culture”-both viewpoints emphasized in his book.
I then noted that the recently published Senate Armed Services Committee report, “Inquiry Into the Treatment of Detainees in U.S. Custody,” sowed some doubt regarding the strength of his convictions.
Why, I asked, did Gen. Myers choose to go along in Dec. 2002 when then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld authorized harsh interrogation techniques and, earlier, in Feb. 2002, when President George W. Bush himself issued an executive order arbitrarily denying Geneva protections to al-Qaeda and Taliban detainees?
I referred Gen. Myers to the Senate committee’s finding that he had nipped in the bud an in-depth legal review of interrogation techniques, when all interested parties were eager for an authoritative ruling on their lawfulness. (The following account borrows heavily from the Senate committee report.)
Background: The summer of 2002 brought to interrogators at Guantanamo fresh guidance, plus new techniques adopted from the Korean War practices of Chinese Communist interrogators who had extracted false confessions from captured American troops.
On Aug. 1, 2002 a memo signed by the head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, Jay Bybee, stated that for an act to qualify as “torture”:
–”Physical pain … must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death.
–”Purely mental pain or suffering … must result in significant psychological harm of significant duration, e.g., lasting for months or even years.”
During the week of Sept. 16, 2002, a group of interrogators from Guantanamo flew to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, for training in the use of these SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, & Escape) techniques, which were originally designed to help downed pilots withstand the regimen of torture employed by China. Now, SERE techniques were being “reverse engineered” and placed in the toolkit of U.S. military and CIA interrogators.
As soon as the Guantanamo interrogators returned from Fort Bragg, senior administration lawyers, including William “Jim” Haynes II (Department of Defense), John Rizzo (CIA), and David Addington (counsel to Vice President Dick Cheney), visited Guantanamo for consultations.
And, just to make quite sure there was no doubt about the new license given to interrogators, Jonathan Fredman, chief counsel to CIA’s Counterterrorist Center, also arrived and gathered the Guantanamo staff together on Oct. 2, 2002, to resolve any lingering questions regarding unfamiliar aggressive interrogation techniques, like waterboarding.
Fredman stressed, “The language of the statutes is written vaguely.” He repeated Bybee’s Aug. 1 guidance and summed up the legalities in this way: “It is basically subject to perception. If the detainee dies, you’re doing it wrong.”
Needed: More Authoritative Guidance
Small wonder that on Oct. 11, 2002, Gen. Michael Dunlavey, the commander at Guantanamo, saw fit to double check with his superior, SOUTHCOM commander Gen. James Hill and request formal authorization to use aggressive interrogation techniques, including waterboarding.
On Oct. 25, 2002, Hill forwarded the request to Gen. Myers and Secretary Rumsfeld, commenting that, while lawyers were saying the techniques could be used, “I want a legal review of it, and I want you to tell me that, policy-wise, it’s the right way to do business.” Hill later told the Army Inspector General that he (Hill) thought the request “was important enough that there ought to be a high-level look at it … ought to be a major policy discussion of this and everybody ought to be involved.”
Gen. Myers, in turn, solicited the views of the military services on the Dunlavey/Hill request.
The Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force all expressed serious concerns about the legality of the techniques and called for a comprehensive legal review. The Marine Corps, for example, wrote, “Several of the techniques arguably violate federal law, and would expose our service members to possible prosecution.”
Ends Justify Means?
The Defense Department’s Criminal Investigative Task Force (CITF) at Guantanamo joined the services in expressing grave misgivings. Reflecting the tenor of the four services’ concerns, CITF’s chief legal advisor wrote that the “legality of applying certain techniques” for which authorization was requested was “questionable.” He added that he could not “advocate any action, interrogation or otherwise, that is predicated upon the principle that all is well if the ends justify the means and others are not aware of how we conduct our business.”
Myers’s Legal Counsel, Captain (now Rear Admiral) Jane Dalton, had her own concerns (and has testified that she made Gen. Myers aware of them), together with those expressed in writing by the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force. Dalton directed her staff to initiate a thorough legal and policy review of the proposed techniques.
The review got off to a quick start. As a first step, Dalton ordered a secure video teleconference including Guantanamo, SOUTHCOM, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the Army’s intelligence school at Fort Huachuca. Dalton said she wanted to find out more information about the techniques in question and to begin discussing the legal issues to see if her office could do its own independent legal analysis.
See No Evil
Under oath before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Captain Dalton testified that, after she and her staff had begun their analysis, Gen. Myers directed her in November 2002 to stop the review.
She explained that Myers returned from a meeting and “advised me that [Pentagon General Counsel] Mr. Haynes wanted me … to cancel the video teleconference and to stop the review” because of concerns that “people were going to see” the Guantanamo request and the military services’ analysis of it. Haynes “wanted to keep it much more close-hold,” Dalton said.
Dalton ordered her staff to stop the legal analysis. She testified that this was the only time that she had ever been asked to stop analyzing a request that came to her for review.
I asked Gen. Myers why he stopped the in-depth legal review. He bobbed and weaved, contending first that some of the Senate report was wrong.
“But you did stop the review, that is a matter of record. Why?” I asked again.
“I stopped the broad review,” Myers replied, “but I asked Dalton to do her personal review and keep me advised.”
(Myers had a memory lapse when Senate committee members asked him about stopping the review.)
I asked again why he stopped the review, but was shouted down by an audience not used to having plain folks ask direct questions of very senior officials, past or present.
I Confess: Rumsfeld Made Me Do It
Haynes told the Senate committee that “there was a sense by DoD leadership that this decision was taking too long.”
On Nov. 27, 2002, shortly after Haynes told Myers to order Dalton to stop her review – and despite the serious legal concerns of the military services – Haynes sent Rumsfeld a one-page memo recommending that he approve all but three of the 18 techniques in the request from Guantanamo. Techniques like stress positions, nudity, exploitation of phobias (like fear of dogs), deprivation of light and auditory stimuli were all recommended for approval.
On Dec. 2, 2002, Rumsfeld signed Haynes’s recommendation, adding a handwritten note referring to the use of stress positions: “I stand for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to 4 hours?”
As the shouting by my distinguished colleagues died down, I too remained standing, reminding myself that I had wanted to say a word about the Geneva Conventions, “for which you, Gen. Myers, express such strong support in your book.”
I waved a copy of the smoking-gun, two-page executive memorandum signed by George W. Bush on Feb. 7, 2002. That’s the one in which the President arbitrarily declared that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions did not apply to al-Qaeda and Taliban detainees, and then threw in obfuscatory language from lawyers Addington and Alberto Gonzales that such detainees would nonetheless be treated “humanely and, to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles of Geneva.”
I then made reference to “Conclusion 1″ of the Senate committee report:
“On Feb. 7, 2002, President George W. Bush made a written determination that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which would have afforded minimum standards for humane treatment, did not apply to al-Qaeda or Taliban detainees.
“Following the President’s determination, techniques such as waterboarding, nudity, and stress positions … were authorized for use in interrogations of detainees in U.S. custody.”
“Gen. Myers,” I asked, “you were one of eight addressees for the President’s directive of Feb. 7, 2002. What did you do when you learned of the President’s decision to ignore Geneva?”
“Please just read my book,” Myers said. I told him I already had, and proceeded to read aloud a couple of sentences from my copy:
“You write that you told Douglas Feith, ‘I feel very strongly about this. And if Rumsfeld doesn’t defend the Geneva Conventions, I’ll contradict him in front of the President.’
“You go on to explain very clearly, ‘I was legally obligated to provide the President my best military advice – not the best advice as approved by the Secretary of Defense.’
“So, again, what did you do after you read the President’s executive order of Feb. 7, 2002?”
Myers said he had fought the good fight before the President’s decision. The sense was that, if the President wanted to dismiss Geneva, what was a mere Chairman of the Joint Chiefs to do?
In this connection, Myers included this curious passage in his book:
“By relying so heavily on just the lawyers, the President did not get the broader advice on these matters that he needed to fully consider the consequences of his actions. I thought it was critical that the nation’s leadership convey the right message to those engaged in the War on Terror.
“Showing respect for the Geneva Conventions was important to all of us in uniform. This episode epitomized the Secretary’s and the Chairman’s different statutory responsibilities to the President and the nation. The fact that the President appeared to change his previous decision showed that the system, however, imperfect, had worked.”
Enter Douglas Feith
Interestingly, Myers writes, “Douglas Feith supported my views strongly … noting that the United States had no choice but to apply the Geneva Conventions, because, like all treaties in force for the country, they bore the same weight as a federal statute.”
Myers goes on to corroborate what British lawyer/author Philippe Sands writes in The Torture Team about the apparent twinning of Feith and Myers on this issue. Sands says Feith portrayed himself and Myers as of one mind on Geneva.
Just before the President issued his Feb. 7, 2002 executive order, Feith developed this novel line of reasoning: The Geneva Conventions are very important. The best way to defend them is by honoring their “incentive system,” which rewards soldiers who fight openly and in uniform with all kinds of protections if captured.
In his book, Myers notes approvingly that this is indeed the line Feith took with the President at an NSC meeting on Feb. 4, 2002, to which Feith had been invited, three days before President Bush signed the order that has now become a smoking gun.
According to Feith, the all-important corollary is to take care not to “promiscuously hand out POW status to fighters who don’t obey the rules.” “In other words, the best way to protect the Geneva Conventions is to gut them,” as Dahlia Lithwick of Slate put it in a commentary last July.
I suppose it could even be the case that this seemed persuasive to President Bush, as well. Which would mean that Doug Feith has at least two contenders for the unenviable sobriquet with which Gen. Tommy Franks tagged him – “the f—ing stupidest guy on the face of the earth.”
It is not really funny, of course.
While researching his book, Sands, a very astute observer, emerged from a three-hour session with Myers convinced that Myers did not understand the implications of what was being done and was “confused” about the decisions that were taken.
Sands writes that when he described the interrogation techniques introduced and stressed that they were not in the manual but rather breached U.S. military guidelines, Myers became increasingly hesitant and troubled. Author Sands concludes that Myers was “hoodwinked;” that “Haynes and Rumsfeld had been able to run rings around him.”
There is no doubt something to that. And the apparent absence of Myers from the infamous torture boutiques in the White House Situation Room, aimed at discerning which particular techniques might be most appropriate for which “high-value” detainees, tends to support an out-of-the-loop defense for Myers.
I imagine it should not be all that surprising, given the way general officers are promoted these days, that Myers’ vacuousness-cum deference-boarding-on-servility-could land him at the pinnacle of our entire military establishment. Certainly, nothing he said or did Tuesday evening would contradict Sands’ assessment regarding naïveté.
Myers still writes that he found Rumsfeld to be “an insightful and incisive leader.” The general seems to have been putty in Rumsfeld’s hands – one reason he was promoted, no doubt.
My best guess is that it is a combination of dullness, cowardice and careerism that accounts for Myers’ behavior – then and now. And, with those attributes and propensities firmly in place, falling in with bad companions, as Richard Myers did, can really do you in.
As we said our good-byes Tuesday evening, one of my alumni colleagues lamented my “ugly” behavior, although it was no more ugly than it was on May 4, 2006, during my four-minute debate with Donald Rumsfeld in Atlanta. (Sadly, my encounter with Myers was not broadcast live on TV.)
A Plaudit From the Press
In attendance was a reporter from the Washington Post, but his note-taking was confined to computing whether he should take the Post’s buyout, or try to hang around for the newspaper’s inevitable funeral in a couple of years. (So don’t bother looking for a print story on the Myers event.) As we departed, the Post-man gave me what he seemed to think was the ultimate compliment – I should have been a journalist, he said.
I told him thanks just the same – that my experience has been that, unless they promise not to ask “ugly” questions and keep that promise, journalists of the Fawning Corporate Media (FCM) are not permitted to stay around long enough to qualify for a meager 401k – much less an eventual buyout.
At least I was consistent, retaining with such groups an unblemished winning-no-friends-and-influencing-no-people record, originally set three years ago when I had a chance to ask an “ugly” question or two of Donald Rumsfeld.
Terror and torture May 3, 2009Posted 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
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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.
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Spanish Judge Accuses Six Top Bush Officials of Torture March 29, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Torture.
Tags: Abu Ghraib, Alberto Gonzales, Augusto Pinochet, baltasar garzon, binyam mohamed, bush administration, crimes against humanity, Criminal Justice, dale fuchs, david addington, douglas feith, geneva conventions, Guantanamo, interrogation, jay bybee, john yoo, julian borger, lady scotland, m15, philippe sands, president obama, prisoner rights, roger hollander, rumsfeld, spain justice, spanish law, torture, torture memo, torture team, un convention, universal jurisdiction, william haynes
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Published on Saturday, March 28, 2009 by the Guardian/UK
Legal moves may force Obama’s government into starting a new inquiry into abuses at Guantánamo Bay and Abu Ghraib
MADRID – Criminal proceedings have begun in Spain against six senior officials in the Bush administration for the use of torture against detainees in Guantánamo Bay. Baltasar Garzón, the counter-terrorism judge whose prosecution of General Augusto Pinochet led to his arrest in Britain in 1998, has referred the case to the chief prosecutor before deciding whether to proceed.
The case is bound to threaten Spain’s relations with the new administration in Washington, but Gonzalo Boyé, one of the four lawyers who wrote the lawsuit, said the prosecutor would have little choice under Spanish law but to approve the prosecution.
“The only route of escape the prosecutor might have is to ask whether there is ongoing process in the US against these people,” Boyé told the Observer. “This case will go ahead. It will be against the law not to go ahead.”
The officials named in the case include the most senior legal minds in the Bush administration. They are: Alberto Gonzales, a former White House counsel and attorney general; David Addington, former vice-president Dick Cheney’s chief of staff; Douglas Feith, who was under-secretary of defence; William Haynes, formerly the Pentagon’s general counsel; and John Yoo and Jay Bybee, who were both senior justice department legal advisers.
Court documents say that, without their legal advice in a series of internal administration memos, “it would have been impossible to structure a legal framework that supported what happened [in Guantánamo]“.
Boyé predicted that Garzón would issue subpoenas in the next two weeks, summoning the six former officials to present evidence: “If I were them, I would search for a good lawyer.”
If Garzón decided to go further and issued arrest warrants against the six, it would mean they would risk detention and extradition if they travelled outside the US. It would also present President Barack Obama with a serious dilemma. He would have either to open proceedings against the accused or tackle an extradition request from Spain.
Obama administration officials have confirmed that they believe torture was committed by American interrogators. The president has not ruled out a criminal inquiry, but has signalled he is reluctant to do so for political reasons.
“Obviously we’re going to be looking at past practices, and I don’t believe that anybody is above the law,” Obama said in January. “But my orientation’s going to be to move forward.”
Philippe Sands, whose book Torture Team first made the case against the Bush lawyers and which Boyé said was instrumental in formulating the Spanish case, said yesterday: “What this does is force the Obama administration to come to terms with the fact that torture has happened and to decide, sooner rather than later, whether it is going to criminally investigate. If it decides not to investigate, then inevitably the Garzón investigation, and no doubt many others, will be given the green light.”
Germany’s federal prosecutor was asked in November 2006 to pursue a case against Donald Rumsfeld, the former defence secretary, Gonzales and other officials for abuses committed in Guantánamo Bay and Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. But the prosecutor declined on the grounds that the issue should be investigated in the US.
Legal observers say the Spanish lawsuit has a better chance of ending in charges. The high court, on which Garzón sits, has more leeway than the German prosecutor to seek “universal jurisdiction”.
The lawsuit also points to a direct link with Spain, as six Spaniards were held at Guantánamo and are argued to have suffered directly from the Bush administration’s departure from international law. Unlike the German lawsuit, the Spanish case is aimed at second-tier figures, advisers to Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld, with the aim of being less politically explosive.
The lawsuit claimed the six former aides “participated actively and decisively in the creation, approval and execution of a judicial framework that allowed for the deprivation of fundamental rights of a large number of prisoners, the implementation of new interrogation techniques including torture, the legal cover for the treatment of those prisoners, the protection of the people who participated in illegal tortures and, above all, the establishment of impunity for all the government workers, military personnel, doctors and others who participated in the detention centre at Guantánamo”.
“All the accused are members of what they themselves called the ‘war council’,” court documents allege. “This group met almost weekly either in Gonzales’s or Haynes’s offices.”
In a now notorious legal opinion signed in August 2002, Yoo and Bybee argued that torture occurred only when pain was inflicted “equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death”.
Another key document cited in the Spanish case is a November 2002 “action memo” written by Haynes, in which he recommends that Rumsfeld give “blanket approval” to 15 forms of aggressive interrogation, including stress positions, isolation, hooding, 20-hour interrogations and nudity. Rumsfeld approved the document.
The 1984 UN Convention against Torture, signed and ratified by the US, requires states to investigate allegations of torture committed on their territory or by their nationals, or extradite them to stand trial elsewhere.
Last week, Britain’s attorney general, Lady Scotland, launched a criminal investigation into MI5 complicity in the torture of Binyam Mohamed, a British resident held in Guantánamo.
The Obama administration has so far avoided taking similar steps. But the possibility of US prosecutions was brought closer by a report by the Senate armed services committee at the end of last year, which found: “The abuse of detainees in US custody cannot simply be attributed to the actions of ‘a few bad apples’ acting on their own. The fact is that senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorised their use against detainees.”
None of the six former officials could be reached for comment yesterday. Meanwhile, Vijay Padmanabhan, a former state department lawyer, said the creation of the Guantánamo Bay detention camp was “one of the worst over-reactions of the Bush administration”.
Are We Civilized Enough to Hold Our Leaders Accountable for War Crimes? The World Is Watching January 26, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Torture, War.
Tags: Abu Ghraib, Alberto Gonzales, Barack Obama, bush administration, cia secret prisons, crimes against humanity, david addington, department of defense, department of justice, detainees, Dick Cheney, dod, doj, eric holder, geneva conventions, George Bush, Guantanamo, John Dean, john yoo, Keith Olbermann, obama administration, philippe sands, rendition, republicans, roger hollander, rumsfeld, susan crawford, torture, torture convention, torture team, War Crimes, waterboarding
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Other countries are likely to take action against officials who condoned torture, even if the United States fails to do so.
Remarkably, the confirmation of President Obama’s Attorney General nominee, Eric Holder, is being held up by Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn, who apparently is unhappy that Holder might actually investigate and prosecute Bush Administration officials who engaged in torture. Aside from this repugnant new Republican embrace of torture (which might be a winning issue for the lunatic fringe of the party and a nice way to further marginalize the GOP), any effort to protect Bush officials from legal responsibility for war crimes, in the long run, will not work.
It is difficult to believe that Eric Holder would agree not to enforce the law, like his recent Republican predecessors. Indeed, if he were to do so, President Obama should withdraw his nomination. But as MSNBC “Countdown” anchor Keith Olbermann stated earlier this week, even if the Obama Administration for whatever reason does not investigate and prosecute these crimes, this still does not mean that the Bush Administration officials who were involved in torture are going to get a pass.
With few exceptions, the discussion about what the Obama Administration will do regarding the torture of detainees during the Bush years has been framed as a domestic matter, and the fate of those involved in torturing has been largely viewed as a question of whether the Department of Justice will take action. In fact, not only is the world watching what the Obama Administration does regarding Bush’s torturers, but other countries are very likely to take action if the United States fails to do so.
Bush’s Torturers Have Serious Jeopardy
Philippe Sands, a Queen’s Counsel at Matrix Chambers and Professor of International law at University College London, has assembled a powerful indictment of the key Bush Administration people involved in torture in his book Torture Team: Rumsfeld’s Memo and the Betrayal of American Values. He explains the legal exposure of people like former attorney general Alberto Gonzales, Dick Cheney’s counsel and later chief of staff David Addington, former Office of Legal Counsel attorney John Yoo, the former Department of Defense general counsel Jim Haynes, and others for their involvement in the torture of detainees at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and CIA secret prisons.
After reading Sands’s book and, more recently, listening to his comments on Terry Gross’s NPR show “Fresh Air,” on January 7, 2009 I realized how closely the rest of the world is following the actions of these former officials, and was reminded that these actions appear to constitute not merely violations of American law, but also, and very literally, crimes against humanity — for which the world is ready to hold them responsible.
Here is what Professor Sands told Terry Gross on NPR: “In talking to prosecutors around the world, as I have done, they all recognize the very real political difficulties of taking on someone who has been Vice President of the United States, or President of the United States, or Secretary of Defense of the United States. But those arguments melt away as you go a little down the chain. And I don’t think the same arguments would apply in relation to the man, for example, who was Vice President Cheney’s general counsel, at the time the decisions were taken, David Addington … I think he faces a very real risk of, you know, investigation for complicity in an act that amounts to torture … ” Later, referring to “international investigations,” he added that Addington (and others) were at “serious risk of being investigated.”
These are remarkable statements from a very well-informed man. Because we have a common publisher, I was able to contact him in London, and pose a few questions. I find his book, statements and responses to my questions chilling.
Q & A With Professor Philippe Sands
The following is my email exchange with Professor Sands:
John W. Dean: When talking to Ms. Gross you said you were not calling for such international investigations because we all need more facts. Given the fact that Judge Susan Crawford has now made clear that torture occurred, do you — and others with your expertise and background — have sufficient information to call for other countries to take action if the Obama Administration fails to act?
Philippe Sands: Last week’s intervention by Susan Crawford, confirming that torture occurred at Guantanamo, is highly significant (as I explain in a piece I wrote with Dahlia Lithwick: “The Turning Point: How the Susan Crawford interview changes everything we know about torture”). The evidence as to torture, with all that implies for domestic and foreign criminal investigation, is compelling. Domestic and foreign investigators already have ample evidence to commence investigation, if so requested or on their own account, even if the whole picture is not yet available. That has implications for the potential exposure of different individuals, depending on the nature and extent of their involvement in acts that have elements of a criminal conspiracy to subvert the law.
JD: If yes, can you share what you and others might do, and when?
PS: I am in the process of completing the epilogue to my book Torture Team, which will be published in May 2009. That will set out, in detail, what I learned when I made a return visit to the European judge and prosecutor with whom I met in the summer of 2007, as described in the book. Watch this space.
JD: If no, what would it take for those like you to call for all countries with potential jurisdiction to take action?
PS: More than 140 countries may potentially exercise jurisdiction over former members of the Bush Administration for violations of the 1984 Torture Convention and the 1949 Geneva Conventions, including the standards reflected in their Common Article 3. Whether they do so, and how they might do so, turns on a range of factors, including their domestic procedural rules. In the United Kingdom, one criminal investigation is already underway, in relation to the alleged treatment of Binyam Mohammed, a Guantanamo detainee who is a British resident. I doubt it will be the last. That said, having set out the relevant facts in one case [in my book], to the best of my abilities, I feel it will now be for others to take this forward as they consider appropriate.
JD: Also, when talking to Ms. Gross you said that you did not think that David Addington and others involved in torture were likely to be travelling outside the United States. Do you know for a fact that any country might take action? Have you discussed this with any prosecutors who could do so?
PS: This will be addressed in the epilogue to Torture Team.
JD: Do you believe that a failure of the Obama Administration to investigate, and if necessary, prosecute, those involved in torture would make them legally complicit in the torture undertaken by the Bush Administration?
PS: No, although it may give rise to violations by the United States of its obligations under the Torture Convention. In the past few days there have been a series of significant statements: that of Susan Crawford, of former Vice President Cheney’s confirming that he approved the use of waterboarding, and by the new Attorney General Eric Holder that he considers waterboarding to be torture. On the basis of these and other statements it is difficult to see how the obligations under Articles 7(1) and (2) of the Torture Convention do not cut in: these require the US to “submit the case to its competent authorities for the purpose of prosecution”. What happens thereafter is a matter for the prosecutor, who may decide that, in accordance with applicable standards (“authorities shall take their decision in the same manner as in the case of any ordinary offence of a serious nature under the law of that State”) and the facts of the case, including the prospects for a successful prosecution, that proceeding to actual prosecution is not justified.
JD: Finally, you mentioned the case proceeding in the UK regarding possible torture of a British national. Is it possible that even an American ally like Great Britain could seek extradition, and undertake prosecution, of U.S. officials like Addington and Yoo for facilitating the torture of a citizen of Great Britain — if the U.S. fails to act?
PS: It is possible. The more likely scenario, however, is that which occurred in Senator Pinochet’s case: the unwitting traveller sets foot in the wrong country at the wrong time.
What Will The Obama Administration Do?
As all who have followed this issue know, President Obama hedged after he was elected as to what he may or may not do. So too did his Attorney General nominee. After Eric Holder declared waterboarding to be unlawful, no one on the Senate Judiciary Committee truly followed up as to what he was going to do, but it appears they are going to now press him on that point.
My question is how can the Obama Administration not investigate, and, if appropriate, prosecute given the world is watching, because if they do not, other may do so? How could there be “change we can believe in” if the new administration harbors war criminals — which is the way that Philippe Sands and the rest of the world, familiar with the facts which have surfaced even without an investigation, view those who facilitated or engaged in torture?
One would think that people like Cheney, Rumsfeld, Addington, Gonzales, Yoo, Haynes and others, who claim to have done nothing wrong, would call for investigations to clear themselves if they really believed that to be the case. Only they, however, seem to believe in their innocence — the entire gutless and cowardly group of them, who have shamed themselves and the nation by committing crimes against humanity in the name of the United States.
We must all hope that the Obama Administration does the right thing, rather than forcing another country to clean up the mess and seek to erase the dangerous precedent these people have created for our country. A first clue may come when Holder resumes testifying.