Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, Torture.
Tags: cia interrogation, CIA rendition, CIA torture, isis, islamic state, james foley, jon queally, rendition, roger hollander, torture, water boarding, waterboarding
Thursday, August 28, 2014
Sources quoted by the Washinton Post say ISIS “knew exactly how it was done” as it employed brutal techniques also approved by Bush administration
Anti-torture demonstrators performed a mock waterboarding outside the White House during the Bush years to protest CIA use of the technique. (Photo: flickr)
The Washington Post reports on Thursday that at least four individuals taken captive by the Islamic State were tortured and that the group—also known as ISIS—appeared to be modeling the CIA’s use of torture as it employed waterboarding as one of the painful techniques they used.
Worldwide condemnation followed revelations that in the aftermath of 9/11, the Bush administration approved the CIA to torture suspected terrorists during interoggations conducted at secret ‘Black Sites’ – or clandestine holding facilities.
Among those subjected to the brutal treatment by ISIS, according to sources quoted in thePost‘s reporting, was American journalist James Foley who was subsequently executed by the group.
From the Post:
“They knew exactly how it was done,” said a person with direct knowledge of what happened to the hostages. The person, who would only discuss the hostages’ experience on condition of anonymity, said the captives, including Foley, were held in Raqqah, a city in the north-central region of Syria.
James Foley was beheaded by the Islamic State last week in apparent retaliation for U.S. airstrikes in Iraq where the militant group has seized large swaths of territory. The group, which also controls parts of Syria, has threatened to kill another American, journalist Steven J. Sotloff. He was seen at the end of a video showing Foley’s killing that was released by the militant group. Two other Americans are also held by Islamic State.
A second person familiar with Foley’s time in captivity confirmed Foley was tortured, including by waterboarding.
“Yes, that is part of the information that bubbled up and Jim was subject to it,” the person said. “I believe he suffered a lot of physical abuse.”
Foley’s mother, Diane, said in a brief phone interview Thursday that she didn’t know her son had been waterboarded.
The FBI, which is investigating Foley’s death and the abduction of Americans in Syria, declined to comment. The CIA had no official comment.
As the Huffington Post‘s Jack Mirkinson points out:
Waterboarding became perhaps the most notorious method of torture practiced by American interrogators in the years after September 11th.
Interestingly, while the Post has, like most mainstream outlets, typically been reluctant to call methods such as waterboarding “torture” when it was practiced by Americans, the paper had no apparent problem calling what ISIS did to Foley “torture.”
“A second person familiar with Foley’s time in captivity confirmed Foley was tortured, including by waterboarding,” the Post wrote.
Still, the paper has not followed the New York Times in vowing to use the word “torture” more firmly in its articles.
One unnamed “U.S. official” quoted by the Post scoffed at the idea that there could be any comparison between the torture conducted by ISIS and the torture conducted by U.S. military or intelligence agents.
“ISIL is a group that routinely crucifies and beheads people,” the unnamed official said. “To suggest that there is any correlation between ISIL’s brutality and past U.S. actions is ridiculous and feeds into their twisted propaganda.”
But early reactions on Twitter were not niave to the implications of the news relative to the consistent and continued defense of torture by U.S. officials—and members of the U.S. media—when it was conducted by the CIA against their perceived enemies:
Rendition Victims Urge Obama to Declassify Senate Torture Report
‘You must now take responsibility for telling the world — and more importantly the American people — the whole truth about rendition and American torture.’
Abdul Hakim Belhadj, one of the 10 signatories to the rendition letter. (Photo: Libya Herald)
As officials continue to delay the release of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on post-9/11 CIA interrogation techniques, 10 victims of CIA rendition and torture have signed an open letter (pdf) to President Obama asking him to declassify the heavily redacted report.
The 500-page summary of the report, which includes details about secret overseas prisons, waterboarding of suspected enemy combatants, and rendition — the practice of sending a terrorist suspect covertly to be interrogated in a foreign country — was so extensively redacted as to render it “impossible to understand,” as one critic put it. The report was expected to be released in August, but has been delayed and is currently thought to be sitting on President Obama’s desk while negotiations over declassification continue.
The signatories to the letter want these blackouts removed, in order to force a public reckoning with and official acknowledgement of their experiences.
“Despite living thousands of miles apart and leading different lives today, a shared experience unites us: the CIA abducted each of us in the past and flew us to secret prisons for torture,” reads the letter, which was coordinated by the international human rights group Reprieve. “Some of us were kidnapped with our pregnant wives or children. All of us were later released without charge, redress or apology from the US. We now want the American public to read that story, in full, and without redactions… You must now take responsibility for telling the world — and more importantly the American people — the whole truth about rendition and American torture.”
The letter, which details prolonged confinement in small boxes and dark spaces, waterboarding, sleep deprivation, and “bombardment with noise and weapons,” continues:
Torture, we thought, was something only dictators did. Colonel Gaddafi’s thugs were infamous for maiming and killing political opponents in Libya. In Egypt activists often disappeared. Moroccan interrogation techniques include “bottle torture,” where bottles are used to violate prisoners. We understood the Syrian regime’s brutality well before it murdered thousands of its citizens.
Before our abductions, though, none of us imagined the torturers standing over us one day would come from the United States.
Publishing the truth is not just important for the US’s standing in the world. It is a necessary part of correcting America’s own history. Today in America, the architects of the torture program declare on television they did the right thing. High-profile politicians tell assembled Americans that ‘waterboarding’ is a ‘baptism’ that American forces should still engage in.
These statements only breed hatred and intolerance. This is a moment when America can move away from all that, but only if her people are not sheltered from the truth.
In advance of an August 29 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) filing deadline, Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has reportedly asked for an additional one-month delay due to “ongoing negotiations” between the Committee, the Obama administration, and the CIA regarding declassification.
Earlier this week, the ACLU filed a FOIA lawsuit demanding the CIA release all three reports about “its post-9/11 program of rendition, secret detention, and torture of detainees” — the 6,000-page Senate Select Committee Intelligence Committee report; the CIA’s report in response, defending the agency’s actions; and a report commissioned by former CIA Director Leon Panetta, which is reportedly consistent with the Committee’s investigative report findings, but contradicts the CIA’s response to the SSCI.
The Guardian reports:
While Feinstein and the CIA have reached the nadir of their relationship — the CIA intends to attack her report’s credibility — there are concerns that the CIA has weighed the scale in favor of secrecy. Obama allowed it to lead the declassification review, despite its interest in keeping the report secret. McClatchy reported this week that the main declassification interlocutor with Feinstein, top intelligence lawyer Robert Litt, represented CIA clients in private practice in undisclosed lawsuits.
“We believe the public should know the full story of what took place in the CIA’s secret prisons and that all of these documents – the Senate report, the CIA response, and the Panetta review should be released to the public,” said Jameel Jaffer, the deputy legal director of the ACLU, which filed the freedom-of-information case.
“It’s disappointing that the government is seeking further delay, but, given Senator Feinstein’s assurances, we’re hopeful that all of the documents will be released with very limited redactions in September.”
Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Dick Cheney, War on Terror.
Tags: abby zimet, Dick Cheney, donald rumsfeld, joe liberman, roger hollander, rupert murdoch, torture, War Crimes, waterboarding
Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, George W. Bush, Human Rights, Torture, War on Terror.
Tags: Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, Abu Zubaydah, amy goodman, Anwar al-Awlak, assassination, Democracy Now, denis moynihan, hit list, indefinite detention, john brennan, john kiriakou, lawrence wilkerson, roger hollander, torture, war on terror, waterboarding
By Amy Goodman
John Brennan and John Kiriakou worked together years ago, but their careers have dramatically diverged. Brennan is now on track to head the CIA, while Kiriakou is headed off to prison. Each of their fates is tied to the so-called war on terror, which under President George W. Bush provoked worldwide condemnation. President Barack Obama rebranded the war on terror innocuously as “overseas contingency operations,” but, rather than retrench from the odious practices of his predecessor, Obama instead escalated. His promotion of Brennan, and his prosecution of Kiriakou, demonstrate how the recent excesses of U.S. presidential power are not transient aberrations, but the creation of a frightening new normal, where drone strikes, warrantless surveillance, assassination and indefinite detention are conducted with arrogance and impunity, shielded by secrecy and beyond the reach of law.
John Kiriakou spent 14 years at the CIA as an analyst and a case officer. In 2002, he led the team that found Abu Zubaydah, alleged to be a high-ranking member of al-Qaida. Kiriakou was the first to publicly confirm the use of waterboarding by the CIA, in a 2007 interview with ABC’s Brian Ross. He told Ross: “At the time, I felt that waterboarding was something that we needed to do. … I think I’ve changed my mind, and I think that waterboarding is probably something that we shouldn’t be in the business of doing.” Kiriakou says he found the “enhanced interrogation techniques” immoral, and declined to be trained to use them.
Since the interview, it has become known that Zubaydah was waterboarded at least 83 times, and that he provided no useful information as a result. He remains imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, without charge. Kiriakou will soon start serving his 30-month prison sentence, but not for disclosing anything about waterboarding. He pled guilty to disclosing the name of a former CIA interrogator to a journalist, with information that the interrogator himself had posted to a publicly available website.
Meanwhile, John Brennan, longtime counterterrorism advisor to Obama, is expected to receive Senate confirmation as the new director of central intelligence. I recently asked Kiriakou what he thought of Brennan:
“I’ve known John Brennan since 1990. I worked directly for John Brennan twice. I think that he is a terrible choice to lead the CIA. I think that it’s time for the CIA to move beyond the ugliness of the post-September 11th regime, and we need someone who is going to respect the Constitution and to not be bogged down by a legacy of torture. I think that President Obama’s appointment of John Brennan sends the wrong message to all Americans.”
Obama has once already considered Brennan for the top CIA job, back in 2008. Brennan withdrew his nomination then under a hail of criticism for supporting the Bush-era torture policies in his various top-level intelligence positions, including head of the National Counterterrorism Center.
What a difference four years makes. With the killing of Osama bin Laden notched in his belt, Obama seems immune from counterterror criticism. John Brennan is said to manage the notorious “kill list” of people that Obama believes he has the right to kill anytime, anywhere on the planet, as part of his “overseas contingency operations.” This includes the killing of U.S. citizens, without any charge, trial or due process whatsoever. Drone strikes are one way these assassinations are carried out. U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki was killed in Yemen by a drone strike, then, two weeks later, his 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, was killed the same way.
I asked Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, who served as chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell from 2002 to 2005, what he thought of Brennan. He told me: “What’s happening with drone strikes around the world right now is, in my opinion, as bad a development as many of the things we now condemn so readily, with 20/20 hindsight, in the George W. Bush administration. We are creating more enemies than we’re killing. We are doing things that violate international law. We are even killing American citizens without due process and have an attorney general who has said that due process does not necessarily include the legal process. Those are really scary words.”
While Kiriakou goes to prison for revealing a name, the U.K.-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism is launching a project called “Naming the Dead,” hoping “to identify as many as possible of those killed in U.S. covert drone strikes in Pakistan, whether civilian or militant.” The BIJ reports a “minimum 2,629 people who appear to have so far died in CIA drone strikes in Pakistan.” John Brennan should be asked about each of them.
Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.
Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 1,000 stations in North America. She is the co-author of “The Silenced Majority,” a New York Times best-seller.
Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Criminal Justice, Democracy, Torture.
Tags: Bush torture, CIA torture, jacob chamberlain, john kiriakou, obama administration, Ralph Nader, ray mcgovern, roger hollander, torture, waterboarding, whistleblower
Roger’s note: the Obama administration knows no shame. Our articulate, intelligent, urbane and witty president, by protecting the Bush torture regime in violation of his oath to defend the constitution, makes himself complicit in the torture; and inconvenient truth for those Obama fans.
Published on Friday, January 25, 2013 by Common Dreams
Sentencing exemplifies the ‘second McCarthy era’ against US whistleblowers by the Obama administration
- Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer
CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou was sentenced to 2 ½ years in prison on Friday for what critics of his prosecution are calling trumped-up charges by the Department of Justice for his exposure of the spy agency’s torture program established by the former Bush administration.
In a letter urging President Barack Obama to pardon the whistleblower, several high profile civil rights defenders including Ralph Nader and retired CIA officer Raymond McGovern stated:
[Kiriakou] is an anti-torture whistleblower who spoke out against torture because he believed it violated his oath to the Constitution. He never tortured anyone, yet he is the only individual to be prosecuted in relation to the torture program of the past decade. [...]
The interrogators who tortured prisoners, the officials who gave the orders, the attorneys who authored the torture memos, and the CIA officers who destroyed the interrogation tapes have not been held professionally accountable.
Please, Mr. President, do not allow your legacy to be one where only the whistleblower goes to prison.
“He [was] prosecuted not by the Bush administration but by Obama’s,” added Robert Shetterly, an artist and activist who pointed to the fact that President Obama has prosecuted more whistleblowers than all other presidents combined, despite pledges during his first presidential campaign to protect whistleblowers.
“The CIA leadership was furious that I blew the whistle on torture and the Justice Department never stopped investigating me…” – John Kiriakou
Such protections, then Senator Obama said, were vital “to maintain integrity in government.”
In October, Kiriakou was charged by the DoJ for violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA) for releasing the name of an officer implicated in a CIA torture program to the media. Federal prosecutors had originally charged Kiriakou for violations against the Espionage Act—which held a sentence of up to 35 years—but a plea agreement saw those charges lessened.
Kiriakou was the first employee of the CIA to publicly acknowledge and describe details of the torture program that thrived under the Bush administration.
“There is a legal definition of whistleblower and I meet that legal definition,” Kiriakou told Firedoglake in an interview Thursday.
I was the first person to acknowledge that the CIA was using waterboarding against al Qaeda prisoners. I said in 2007 that I regarded waterboarding as torture and I also said that it was not the result of rogue CIA officers but that it was official US government policy. So, that’s whistleblowing. That’s the definition of whistleblowing. [...]
The CIA leadership was furious that I blew the whistle on torture and the Justice Department never stopped investigating me from December 2007…They found their opportunity and threw in a bunch of trumped up charges they knew they could bargain away and finally found something with which to prosecute me. [...]
I don’t think I am overstating this when I say I feel like we’re entering a second McCarthy era where the Justice Department uses the law as a fist or as a hammer not just to try and convict people but to ruin them personally and professionally because they don’t like where they stand on different issues… they can convict anybody of anything if they put their minds to it.
On the eve of the sentencing, Americans Who Tell the Truth and the Government Accountability Project unveiled a portrait of Kiriakou by Shetterly, the latest in the AWTT portrait series. Kiriakou was heralded for his opposition to “this country’s flagrant use of torture and its attempt to justify that use.”
Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Torture.
Tags: albert florence, bradley manning, chris floyd, cia interrogation, julian assange, justice department, obama administration, roberts court, roger hollander, scott horton, spencer ackerman, strip search, supreme court, torture, torture memos, waterboarding, william blum, zilikow
Chris Floyd , www.opednews.com, April 8, 2012
In two brief posts over the past week, Scott Horton at Harper’s gives us a harrowing sketch of the entrenchment and ever-spreading expansion of the Torture Matrix that now sits enthroned at the very heart of the American state. This entrenchment and expansion has been carried out — enthusiastically, energetically, relentlessly — by the current president of the United States: a progressive Democrat and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.
Horton notes the uncovering of the Zelikow Memo, written by one of the chief factotums of the Bush Administration, Philip Zelikow. While serving as a State Department lawyer in 2006, Zelikow wrote a legal brief that demolished the written-to-order “torture memos” by White House lawyers, which sanctioned the widespread use of torture techniques that were — and still are — clearly war crimes. As Horton points out, the Zelikow memo did not even address the most brutal tortures instigated by the Bush administration, but confined itself to the so-called “torture lite” methods (many of which are still in use today). Yet even here, Zelikow clearly demonstrated “that the use of these techniques would constitute prosecutable felonies — war crimes.” The existence of the Zelikow memo proves that there was indeed official recognition throughout the highest reaches of government that war crimes were being committed at the order of the White House and the intelligence agencies. Horton goes on:
“In order for a prosecution to succeed, a prosecutor would have to show that the accused understood that what he was doing was a crime. In United States v. Altstoetter, a case in which government lawyers were prosecuted for their role in, among other things, providing a legal pretext for the torture and mistreatment of prisoners, the court fashioned a similar rule, saying that the law requires “proof before conviction that the accused knew or should have known that in matters of international concern he was guilty of participation in a nationally organized system of injustice and persecution shocking to the moral sense of mankind, and that he knew or should have known that he would be subject to punishment if caught.”The Zelikow memo satisfies both of these elements — it makes clear that the techniques the Justice Department endorsed constituted criminal conduct, and it applied the “shock the conscience” test of American constitutional law to help reach that conclusion. It could therefore be introduced as Exhibit A by prosecutors bringing future charges.”
Horton also provides a succinct background to the other “torture memos” that Bush attorneys wrote in support of the criminal operation — a perpetrators’ paper trail that is actually much more extensive than is usually known.
This memo has been in the possession of the Obama Administration since its first day in office. It was in the possession of the special prosecutor that Obama’s Justice Department appointed to look into the torture system — a special prosecutor who found that there was nothing to prosecute. Horton writes:
“Spencer Ackerman, whose persistence is to be credited for the publication of Zelikow’s memo, astutely pressed its author to answer this question: Why, in light of Zelikow’s findings, did the special prosecutor appointed by Eric Holder to investigate the legality of CIA interrogation techniques fail to bring charges?”‘I don’t know why Mr. Durham came to the conclusions he did,’ Zelikow says, referring to the Justice Department special prosecutor for the CIA torture inquiry, John Durham. ‘I’m not impugning them, I just literally don’t know why, because he never published any details about either the factual analysis or legal analysis that led to those conclusions.'”
To reiterate: one of the chief insiders of the right-wing Republican Bush White House believes that the war crimes ordered by the Bush White House deserve prosecution. The chief insiders of the progressive Democratic Obama White House believe these war crimes should not be prosecuted.
Then again, why should Barack Obama want to prosecute torture — when he is successfully arguing for it to be applied not only to the American population at large? In another post, Horton writes of Obama’s great success at the Supreme Court: the ruling that allows all Americans to be strip-searched when taken into custody for even the most minor infractions. The purpose of this, as Horton points out, is clearly to humiliate and “break” the citizen — who is, you might recall, entirely innocent in the eyes of the law at that point. In fact, as Horton notes, the U.S. military itself recognizes the strip search as a torture technique that American pilots might face if captured by heinous rogue states. Horton:
“…the Supreme Court has decided on the claim of Albert Florence, a man apprehended for the well-known offense of traveling in an automobile while being black. Florence was hustled off to jail over a couple of bench warrants involving minor fines that had in fact been paid — evidence of which he produced to unimpressed police officers. He was then twice subjected to humiliating strip searches involving the inspection of body cavities. Florence sued, arguing that this process violated his rights.
“There is very little doubt under the law about the right of prison authorities to subject a person convicted or suspected of a serious crime to conduct a strip search before introducing someone to the general prison population. But does the right to conduct a strip search outweigh the right to dignity and bodily integrity of a person who committed no crime whatsoever, who is apprehended based on a false suspicion that he hadn’t discharged a petty fine — for walking a dog without a leash, say, or turning a car from the wrong lane? Yes. In a 5-4 decision, the Court backed the position advocated by President Obama’s Justice Department, upholding the power of jailers against the interests of innocent citizens. As Justice Anthony Kennedy reasons in his majority opinion (in terms that would be familiar to anyone who has lived in a police state), who is to say that innocent citizens are really innocent? ‘[P]eople detained for minor offenses,’ he writes, ‘can turn out to be the most devious and dangerous criminals.’ ….
“The decision reflects the elevation of the prison industry’s interest in maintaining order in its facilities above the interests of individuals. And it does so by systematically misunderstanding the reasons behind strip searches. Kennedy insists that they are all done for the aim of fostering order, and he backs up this position with exemplary bits of pretzel logic. For instance, he suggests that a person stopped for failing to yield at an intersection may well have heroin taped to his scrotum, and may attempt to bring it into the prison to which he is taken. In advancing such rationales, the Court ignores the darker truth about strip searches: they are employed for the conscious humiliation and psychological preparation of prisoners, as part of a practice designed to break them down and render them submissive.
“Just as the Florence decision was being prepared, the Department of Defense released a previously classified training manual used to prepare American pilots for resistance to foreign governments that might use illegal and immoral techniques to render them cooperative. Key in this manual are the precise practices highlighted in Florence. Body-cavity searches are performed, it explains, to make the prisoner ‘feel uncomfortable and degraded.’ Forced nudity and invasion of the body make the prisoner feel helpless, by removing all items that provide the prisoner with psychological support. In other words, the strip search is an essential step in efforts to destroy an individual’s sense of self-confidence, well-being, and even his or her identity. The value of this tool has been recognized by authoritarian governments around the world, and now, thanks to the Roberts Court, it will belong to the standard jailhouse repertoire in the United States.”
To reiterate: the Obama Administration vigorously defended the introduction of this authoritarian practice into every place of incarceration in the United States. The fact that this draconian stricture will fall most heavily on African-Americans cut no ice with the historic, epoch-shaking first minority president in American history. (But why should it? By almost every measure — employment, housing, wealth, poverty programs, community support, voting rights, civil rights, etc. — African-Americans have been sent reeling backwards by the policies of the Obama Administration.)
Obama has adamantly refused to prosecute clear, credible and copious allegations of war crimes by his predecessor. He is now applying acknowledged torture techniques to the general American population. And as William Blum reminds us in his latest “Anti-Empire Report,” Obama is still carrying out torture on a massive, systematic scale in the gulag he commands — despite the pervasive progressive myth that he has formally ended “torture” in the American system. Blum:
“…the executive order concerning torture, issued January 22, 2009 — ‘Executive Order 13491 — Ensuring Lawful Interrogations’ — leaves loopholes, such as being applicable only ‘in any armed conflict.’ Thus, torture by Americans outside environments of ‘armed conflict,’ which is where much torture in the world happens anyway, is not prohibited. And what about torture in a ‘counter-terrorism’ environment?
“One of Mr. Obama’s orders required the CIA to use only the interrogation methods outlined in a revised Army Field Manual. However, using the Army Field Manual as a guide to prisoner treatment and interrogation still allows solitary confinement, perceptual or sensory deprivation, sleep deprivation, the induction of fear and hopelessness, mind-altering drugs, environmental manipulation such as temperature and perhaps noise, and possibly stress positions and sensory overload. …
“Just as no one in the Bush and Obama administrations has been punished in any way for war crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan and the other countries they waged illegal war against, no one has been punished for torture. And, it could be added, no American bankster has been punished for their indispensable role in the world-wide financial torture. What a marvelously forgiving land is America. This, however, does not apply to Julian Assange and Bradley Manning. …
“I’d like at this point to remind my dear readers of the words of the ‘Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment,’ which was drafted by the United Nations in 1984, came into force in 1987, and ratified by the United States in 1994. Article 2, section 2 of the Convention states: ‘No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.’
Such marvelously clear, unequivocal, and principled language, to set a single standard for a world that makes it increasingly difficult for one to feel proud of humanity. We cannot slide back.”
No exceptions whatsoever — not even an eternal “War on Terror.” This is indeed clear language — and it is indisputably the law of the land, as the constitutional law professor in the White House well knows. But this no longer means anything. As we noted here a couple of years ago, in an excerpt from a “conversation during Civil War”:
“But in days past, I was a lawyer. Yes, a lawyer, can you believe it? It seems ” ridiculous now, doesn’t it? An orderly system meant to govern human society, to establish justice, to advance the progress and enlightenment of the human race. Yet that system, that civil cosmos — to which I was so passionately committed — embraced and protected the most wretched evils, entrenched the powerful in their unjust privilege, oppressed the poor and weak most relentlessly and wickedly, yet at every step — at every step — sang hosannas to itself as some kind of divinity. The ‘Law’ — oh, what a hush of reverence surrounded that word, how deeply that reverence and respect penetrated the heart. Well, my heart, anyway. But in these last few years we have seen — in intense, concentrated, microscopic view — the truth about the law, a truth which too often escaped us in the slow unrolling of peacetime. The truth that there is no law, no Platonic Form out there to which we give paltry representation. There is only power: power in conflict with power, power seeking to drive out power, to establish its dominance, maintain its privilege. Power … acquiesces to law — sometimes — but it never, never bows to it. Power goes along with the law when it is convenient to do so, when it is not too restrictive, when it demands little more than the occasional sacrifice — for the powerful are certainly not above throwing one of their own to the mob when circumstances require. But when it comes to the crisis, power shreds the law like a filthy rag and has its own way. And then you see that the law is nothing but a rag, to be torn and patched and fitted to power’s aims. The worst atrocities I have seen or heard of in this war have been committed wholly and completely under the law. This thing I held in such reverence was, is, nothing but a scrap soaked with blood and sh*t.”
Or, pertaining more directly to the case at hand, and under-girding some of Blum’s points, including his insights on rendition, is a piece I wrote in 2011:
“There is of course a myth that Barack Obama has ‘ended’ the practice of torture. This is not even remotely true. For one thing, as we have often noted here, the Army Field Manual that Obama has adopted as his interrogation standard permits many practices that any rational person would consider torture. For another, we have no way of verifying what techniques are actually being used by the government’s innumerable ‘security’ and intelligence agencies, by the covert units of the military — and by other entities whose very existence is still unknown. These agencies are almost entirely self-policed; they investigate themselves, they report on themselves to the toothless Congressional ‘oversight’ committees; we simply have to take these organizations — whose entire raison d’etre is deceit, deception, lawlessness and subterfuge — at their word. And of course, we have no way of knowing what is being done in the torture chambers of foreign lands where the United States often ‘outsources’ its captives, including American citizens.
“Finally, even if the comforting bedtime story of Obama’s ban of torture techniques in interrogation were true, there remains his ardent championing of the right to seize anyone on earth — without a warrant, without producing any evidence whatsoever of wrongdoing — and hold them indefinitely, often for years on end, in a legal limbo, with no inherent rights whatsoever, beyond whatever narrowly constricted, ever-changing, legally baseless and often farcical ‘hearings’ and tribunals the captors deign to allow them. Incarceration under these conditions is itself an horrendous act of torture, no matter what else might happen to the captive. Yet Obama has actively, avidly applied this torture, and has gone to court numerous times to defend this torture, and to expand the use of this torture …
“….Murder, cowardice, torture, dishonor: these are fruits — and the distinguishing characteristics — of the militarized society. What Americans once would not do even to Nazis with the blood of millions on their hands, they now do routinely to weak and wretched captives seized on little or no evidence of wrongdoing at all. We are deep in the darkness, and hurtling deeper, headlong, all the time.”
Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Torture, War on Terror.
Tags: Abu Zubaydah, al-Qaeda, bill van awken, bradley manning, CIA torture, eric holder, Guantanamo, john kirakou, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, military commission, Obama, roger hollander, state secrets, torture, torture memos, waterboarding, wikileaks
Bill van Auken, www.opednews.com, April 8, 2012
Thursday’s indictment of John Kiriakou for exposing CIA torture of detainees confirms yet again that the Obama administration is continuing and deepening the crimes carried out by the Bush White House. Kiriakou, a CIA agent for 14 years, is being prosecuted for speaking to two journalists about the waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah.
In December 2007, he appeared in an ABC News interview, becoming the first CIA official to confirm the use of waterboarding of so-called “enemy combatants” and to describe the practice as torture. It is now known that Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times in the space of one month while being held in a series of CIA “black sites” from Thailand to Poland to Diego Garcia.
Zubaydah, severely wounded when he was captured by US and Pakistani intelligence agents, had already been suffering the effects of a shrapnel wound to the head he received during the CIA-backed war in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Under US control, he was beaten, placed in extreme temperatures, and subjected to music played at debilitating volumes, sexual humiliation and sleep deprivation.
His interrogators also locked him for protracted periods in a small box, where he was forced to crouch in complete darkness, while the stressful position caused his wounds to open up and bleed.
At some point during this ordeal, the CIA removed Zubaydah’s left eye.
Zubaydah’s co-counsel, Joseph Margulies, in a 2009 column published by the Los Angeles Times provided a wrenching description of the effect of protracted torture, isolation and unlawful detention upon his client. He wrote: “Abu Zubaydah’s mental grasp is slipping away. Today, he suffers blinding headaches and has permanent brain damage. He has an excruciating sensitivity to sounds, hearing what others do not. The slightest noise drives him nearly insane. In the last two years alone, he has experienced about 200 seizures. Already, he cannot picture his mother’s face or recall his father’s name. Gradually, his past, like his future, eludes him.”
Zubaydah’s torture was overseen in detail by the top officials of the US government, from President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney on down.
Bush publicly described Zubaydah as Al Qaeda’s chief of operations, in charge of “plotting and planning death and destruction on the United States.” He was charged not only with planning 9/11, but with involvement in virtually every other crime attributed to Al Qaeda.
In September of last year, in response to habeas corpus filings by Zubaydah’s attorneys demanding justification for his continued imprisonment at the US prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the government formally recanted these charges. It acknowledged that Zubaydah had no “direct role in or advance knowledge of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001,” and had not been a “member” of Al Qaeda or even “formally” identified with the organization.
Yet, after a decade of imprisonment and torture, the government refuses to either try or release him. He is one of those designated by the Obama administration to be detained indefinitely without charges.
The reasons are clear. There appears to be no evidence against him, and his case raises a whole range of crimes by government officials, including torture and the CIA’s destruction of videotapes recording his interrogation sessions, carried out in defiance of court demands that they be produced.
Nor have any of those responsible for the torture of Zubaydah and countless others been brought to justice. This includes not just the CIA torturers, but Bush, Cheney, former CIA Director George Tenet, former National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, and ex-Justice Department officials like Jay Bybee, and John Yoo, who drafted the memos arguing that torture was legal.
The Obama administration has protected all of these individuals, repeatedly intervening in court and invoking “state secrets” to quash cases brought by torture victims.
While refusing to either try or release the victim of torture, Zubaydah, or to prosecute those responsible for the crimes committed against him, the Obama administration is prosecuting Kiriakou for daring to publicly expose these crimes, threatening him with up to 45 years in prison.
It is not an accident that the indictment of Kiriakou comes just a day after the Pentagon’s formal presentation of capital charges against Khalid Sheik Mohammed — waterboarded 183 times — and four others alleged to be part of the 9/11 conspiracy. It is a means of intimidating the attorneys of the defendants. The government wants to preclude any disruption of its rigged military commission at Guantanamo with charges of torture.
More fundamentally, the prosecution of Kiriakou is part of a policy of state secrecy and repression that pervades the US government under Obama, who came into office promising “the most transparent administration in history.” This marks the sixth government whistleblower to be charged by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act, twice as many such prosecutions as have been brought by all preceding administrations combined. Prominent among them is Private Bradley Manning, who is alleged to have leaked documents exposing US war crimes to WikiLeaks. He has been held under conditions tantamount to torture and faces a possible death penalty.
In all of these cases, the World War I-era Espionage Act is being used to punish not spying on behalf of a foreign government, but exposing the US government’s own crimes to the American people. The utter lawlessness of US foreign policy goes hand-in-hand with the collapse of democracy at home.
These cases make clear that it is the American working people whom the government views as its most dangerous enemy. It is determined to keep them in the dark as it systematically erects the framework for a police-state dictatorship.
Over the last few months, Obama has signed into law legislation granting himself the power to condemn alleged enemies of the state to indefinite military detention without charges or trials, and his attorney general, Eric Holder, has publicly asserted the “right” of the president to order the assassination of American citizens alleged to be involved in “hostilities” towards the US government.
After more than three years in office, it is abundantly clear that the Obama administration has substantially escalated the crimes carried out by its predecessor, both in terms of militarism abroad and state repression at home. These crimes were not the outcome of some specific right-wing ideology of the Bush White House, but rather the response of the US ruling elite to the decline in the global position of American capitalism and the growth of social inequality at home, which has increasingly rendered democratic methods of rule untenable.
The repressive measures being implemented by the government are targeted first and foremost at an anticipated eruption of mass popular struggles against the policies of the ruling class and the conditions being created by the crisis of the capitalist system
April 4, 2012
Posted by rogerhollander in George W. Bush, Torture.
Tags: cruel and unusual, George W. Bush, International law, jordan michael smith, nuremberg, Philip Zelikow, roger hollander, torture, torture memo, waterboarding
Wednesday, Apr 4, 2012 11:45 AM 11:54:33 EST, www.salon.com
Thought to have been lost, a document advising the Bush administration against torture has resurfaced
George W. Bush in 2006 (Credit: AP/Ron Edmonds)
In February of 2006, Philip Zelikow, Counselor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, authored a memo opposing the Bush administration’s torture practices (though he employed the infamous obfuscation of “enhanced interrogation techniques”). The White House tried to collect and destroy all copies of the memo, but one survived in the State Department’s bowels and was declassified yesterday in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by the National Security Archive.
The memo argues that the Convention Against Torture, and the Constitution’s prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment, do indeed apply to the CIA’s use of “waterboard[ing], walling, dousing, stress positions, and cramped confinement.” Zelikow further wrote in the memo that “we are unaware of any precedent in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, or any subsequent conflict for authorized, systematic interrogation practices similar to those in question here, even when the prisoners were presumed to be unlawful combatants.” According to the memo, the techniques are legally prohibited, even if there is a compelling state interest to justify them, since they should be considered cruel and unusual punishment and “shock the conscience.”
Chillingly, the memo notes that “corrective techniques, such as slaps,” may be legally sustained, as might be “[C]ontrol conditions, such as nudity, sleep deprivation, and liquid diets…depending on the circumstances and details of how these techniques are used.” However much distress Zelikow’s memo caused the White House, it was not an ACLU briefing paper.
“I’m pleased the memo is now part of the historical record and available for study,” Zelikow wrote Salon in an email. The White House had determined that the memo — which was not binding since Zelikow’s was a bureaucratic position without legal authority — was too dangerous to exist. “I later heard the memo was not considered appropriate for further discussion and that copies of my memo should be collected and destroyed,” he said in a May 2009 Congressional hearing.
At that hearing, before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts, Zelikow said he had “no view on whether former officials should be prosecuted,” a decision he thinks should be left to “institutions.” However, he did call for a thorough inquiry and a public report examining how the U.S. came to employ torture.
Of course, no such inquiry was ever launched. The Obama administration declined to revisit the U.S. employment of torture, with the president saying he didn’t want to “look back.” Zelikow believes this was a mistake. “I still believe an inquiry would be useful, though less so as time passes and more information becomes available, especially after the 9/11 trials conclude, hopefully this year,” he says in an email.
During his Congressional testimony, Zelikow declined to say whether Department of Justice lawyers acted improperly or immorally, conceding only that their opinions were “unsound, even unreasonable.” But in a 2007 lecture in Houston, he had no problem saying “the cool, carefully considered, methodical, prolonged, and repeated subjection of captives to physical torment, and the accompanying psychological terror, is immoral.”
The importance of the memo lies in its revelation that there was real, serious debate inside the Bush administration about how to interrogate captured terrorist suspects. The members of the White House declined to enter that debate — indeed, they did their best to squash it. The destruction of Zelikow’s carefully reasoned memo suggests the White House did not want any record of alternative views even existing, lest they be considered reasonable or people get the idea that the torture policies were thought controversial even by members of the administration.
- Jordan Michael Smith writes about U.S. foreign policy for Salon. He has written for the New York Times, Boston Globe and Washington Post. More Jordan Michael Smith
Posted by rogerhollander in Torture, War on Terror.
Tags: army field manual, CIA torture, dod, enhanced interrogation, geneva conventions, human rights, jeffrrey kaye, kelley ayotte, lindsay graham, roger hollander, secret torture, sensory deprivation, torture, waterboarding
Wednesday 30 November 2011
by: Jeffrey Kaye, Truthout | Report
Ayotte amendment on secret torture overshadows abuse problems with “Army Field Manual.”
An amendment by Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-New Hampshire) to the current Defense Authorization Bill (SA 1068) now before Congress would roll back the 2009 Obama executive order against torture by re-establishing a secret “classified” set of interrogation techniques and then attaching them to the current “Army Field Manual” on human intelligence collection. But whether the amendment passes or not, the existence of certain interrogation techniques as used currently by the US military and intelligence services in the “Manual” do not comply with international norms, such as the Geneva Conventions.
A recent United Kingdom high court ruling on the use of hooding prisoners as a detention or interrogation technique indicated that use of any form of sensory obstruction, such as use of blindfolds, goggles or earmuffs, in place of hooding, which is outlawed, could only be temporary and “only for the time and extent necessary to preserve operational security.” British military and security officers are directed not to work with governments that do not observe these rules.
Yet currently, use of goggles and earmuffs as a form of sensory deprivation used on prisoners is part of “Appendix M” of the “Army Field Manual.” Their use is part of something called “Field Expedient Separation,” and only to be used on “war on terror” detainees, who are deemed not subject to Geneva Conventions protections. Their purpose is beyond “operational” or security based and is meant to “Prolong the shock of capture … and foster a feeling of futility.”
The abusive use of sensory deprivation through use of blinding goggles and earmuffs is made even more explicit in the “Appendix M” discussion of the 12-hour time limitation on “field expedient separation,” wherein such “limit on duration does not include the time that goggles or blindfolds and earmuffs are used on detainees for security purposes during transit and evacuation,” i.e., the time limits concern use of goggles/blindfolds/earmuffs for purposes of psychological derangement. In addition, the technique cannot be applied without medical staff present, because of the dangers involved.
Sensory deprivation studies have shown that psychological symptoms, including panic and hallucinations, can be produced within hours of the application of such techniques.
A “Hooding” Substitute
In a “Statement on Hooding,” written by the International Forensic Experts Group (IFEG) of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims and presented to the UK high court in its deliberations, hooding was described as “a form of torture and/or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment (CIDT) [recognized] by a number of international and regional human rights bodies,” and “a form of sensory deprivation that is associated with a number of physical and psychological effects and also may have significant adverse legal consequences.”
The effects include psychological symptoms such as anxiety and claustrophobia. Hooding also “increases the likelihood of severe physical pain, injury and subsequent disability as it increases an individual’s vulnerability to other methods of torture by preventing the anticipation of harm such as kicks and punches and subsequent defensive response.”
While the US “Army Field Manual” forbids the use of hooding, it appears to have merely substituted parallel forms of abuse, as Field Expedient Separation mimics the effects of hooding. Indeed, the IFEG notes, “Hooding in this statement also refers to other equivalent forms of sensory deprivation such as the use of goggles or blindfolds and earmuffs.”
Dr. Vincent Iacopino, the lead author of the IFEG statement, told Truthout in an email, “Although the DoD [Department of Defense] may not consider the use of goggles and earmuffs as a form of sensory deprivation, the IFEG Statement does…. Since the IFEG Statement makes clear that the use of goggles and earmuffs is a form of sensory deprivation, equivalent to hooding, that constitutes CIDT and, under some circumstances, torture, it should be clear that we consider the DoD’s use of goggles and earmuffs a form of CIDT and/or torture as well.” (Emphasis added.)
Interestingly, when the “Army Field Manual” was being rewritten in 2005 and 2006, the procedures used in its “Appendix M,” which also includes use of solitary confinement (isolation up to 30 days or more), sleep deprivation and manipulation of “environmental conditions, were initially meant to be included in a “secret annex” to the manual. Apparently, there are some in the military or intelligence services who wish the decision to make “Appendix M” public had never been made. In fact, there is no indication as to what the fate of this little known appendix would be should Ayotte’s amendment pass.
Secret Torture and “Enhanced Interrogation”
There is little question that the proposed “classified annex” would mean a return to the “enhanced interrogation” torture (EIT) practiced by the Bush administration, including use of waterboarding, water dousing (induction of hypothermia), stress positions, extreme sleep deprivation, various forms of physical abuse, confinement in a box, and more. Sen. Lindsay Graham, one of three Republican senators co-sponsoring the Ayotte amendment, hinted as much in a November 11 article at the National Review where he labeled President Obama’s executive order stopping the EITs a “major mistake.”
Graham called the EITs “consistent with our national values,” and lauded the fact they “remain unknown to our enemies.” (In fact, the EITs were later exposed and are as available online as the “Army Field Manual” is. See here and here.) But some veteran interrogators and a number of former military officers have expressed their opposition to Ayotte’s amendment, this despite the fact that Ayotte ties the new secret interrogation rules to use by Obama’s High-Value Interrogation Group (HIG), a fact little mentioned in press accounts.
Former interrogator Matthew Alexander, author of “How to Break a Terrorist,” told Truthout in an email exchange that he was unaware of any secret annex on interrogation related to the HIG. Additionally, he added, “I’m against a secret annex and sensory deprivation outside of transport,” he said, adding he believes “more, in-depth cultural training [of interrogators] is needed to eradicate prejudice.”
Alexander noted, “I have been searching for a Muslim interrogator in the Army for five years and have yet to find one (compared to WW II where about 70% of interrogators were ethnic Americans – Japanese, German, Italian, Austrian, etc.),” noting he supports an “emphasis on what is now being called the Informed Interrogation Method, which Ali Soufan has advocated.
In an exchange of op-eds with Mr. Alexander at The New York Times in January 2010, Sen. Dianne Feinstein indicated that the Obama administration was reviewing the varied complaints against “Appendix M.” No public result of this review was ever released and a recent query to Senator Feinstein’s office by Truthout regarding the fate of the review was not answered.
What Kind of Standard Is the “Army Field Manual”?
While the Ayotte amendment represents an appetite by some in government to return to a more unbridled form of torture, the current “Army Field Manual” is not “a respected standard that put an end to torture as an interrogation practice,” as it was described recently in a column opposing the Ayotte amendment by Rev. Richard Killmer of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT). In a recent emailing to supporters, also opposing Ayotte’s amendment, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) referred to the “Army Field Manual” as the “gold standard” for interrogation.
Yet, both NRCAT and PHR have openly criticized the “Army Field Manual” and its “Appendix M” at other times in the past (see here and here), as have other human rights groups, including Human Rights First, Center for Constitutional Rights, Amnesty International, and others. It is an indication of how far the interrogation discussion has drifted to the right that criticism of the manual has been dropped in order to defend it against a likely return to the days of secret interrogation techniques used by the Bush/Cheney White House, DoD and the CIA.
Kathleen Long, a spokeswoman for the Senate Armed Services Committee, told Truthout, “We expect strong opposition to the amendment” in the Senate. Senator Ayotte has complained that her critics do not notice that any proposed classified techniques stemming from her amendment must abide by the laws against torture, including those in the UN Convention Against Torture treaty and the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act. But these laws have been interpreted in such a fashion that the definitions of torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment have been eviscerated from their original meanings.
Dr. Stephen Miles, professor and Maas family endowed chair in bioethics, Center for Bioethics at the University of Minnesota, and a noted anti-torture author and activist, told Truthout, “The Army Field Manual is not an authoritative reference work on torture. The United States has adjusted its definitions of terms in international law to make its practices appear to comply with international law even in instances where we have called such acts ‘torture’ or unacceptable (i.e., cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment) when practiced by other nations. The United States is out of compliance with numerous conventions pertaining to the treatment of prisoners.”
Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Criminal Justice.
Tags: academic freedom, andrew krieg, boalt law school, bush/cheney, christopher edley, constitution, john yoo, justice integrity project, obama transition team, president-elect obama, roger hollander, rule of law, susan harman, torture, torture memos, War Crimes, waterboarding
Roger’s note: This article should be on the front page of every newspaper in every city in the country. It explains not only the Obama Administration’s failure to uphold the Constitution by prosecuting the known war criminals of the Bush/Cheney Administration, but it in effect explains the entire Obama presidency. If only a nutcase conspiracy theorist would suggest that there was seriours consideration at the highest levels about the “clear and present danger” of a coup d’etat against the democratically elected president of the United States, then I suppose the Dean of the University of California School of Law is a nutcase. Note the cruel irony of the notion that Obama chickened out on prosecution because he feared the Republican would obstruct.
By Andrew Krieg
www.opednews.com, September 7, 2011
Christopher Edley, Jr.
President-elect Obama’s advisors feared in 2008 that authorities would oust him in a coup and that Republicans would block his policy agenda if he prosecuted Bush-era war crimes, according to a law school dean who served as one of Obama’s top transition advisers.
University of California at Berkeley Law School Dean Christopher Edley, Jr., above, the sixth highest-ranking member of the 2008 post-election transition team preparing Obama’s administration, revealed the team’s thinking on Sept. 2 in moderating a forum on 9/11 held by his law school (also known as Boalt Hall). Edley was seeking to explain Obama’s “look forward” policy on suspected Bush-era law-breaking that the president-elect announced on a TV talk show in January 2009.
But Edley’s rationale implies that Obama, or at least his team, feared the military/national security forces that the president is supposed be commanding — and that Republicans have intimidated him right from the start of his presidency even after voters in 2008 rejected Republicans by the largest combined presidential-congressional mandate in recent U.S. history.
Edley responded to my request for additional information by providing a description of the transition team’s fears. Edley said that transition officials, not Obama, agreed that he faced the possibility of a coup.
I’m grateful, of course, that this eminent scholar took time on short notice to describe such important decision-making. But I have two blunt reactions that frame the details below:
First, this doesn’t look like presidential leadership, no matter what the rationales. Voters “hired” the Obama team to lead the country, not fret about possible retaliation. No one wants to see an assassination or coup. But the kids fighting Mideast wars, like those in wars before them, have no guarantees — or even Secret Service protection.
Our country has a long history that the President is the boss, not the military or the covert agencies. President Eisenhower stood up for this principle time and again, including in his Farewell Address in 1961 warning of the dangers of the “military-industrial complex.” So did President Truman when he fired the popular General MacArthur over different strategies for the Korean War. As for Republicans, the Democratic President Johnson knew enough not to treat them any better than his friends — whom he treated terribly many times.
Second, shouldn’t such an important matter have been revealed long ago? The mainstream news organizations, courts and Congress are supposed to be ferreting out this kind of information.
Here, it took an anti-war activist asking the right question during Q&A at a law school forum to bring the tale to light. I suppose that’s inspirational in a sense: Perhaps it’s like a destitute blind person stumbling on a bag of money and finally, with the help of kind strangers, being able to afford an eye operation. But is this really the best procedure?
You be the judge.
First, we summarize below what happened. Those interested in more historical background and related controversies can find them on the longer version of this column cross-posted today on the website of the Justice Integrity Project, the non-partisan legal reform group I lead.
Longtime peace advocate Susan Harman, a Californian, elicited Edley’s opinions during Q&A at the Boalt Hall forum, which was organized by the school’s Miller Institute for Global Challenges and the Law. Boalt Hall’s faculty includes Professor John C. Yoo, above, a former Justice Department attorney with stellar career credentials but a notorious reputation for his legal justifications for waterboarding terror suspects and similar Executive Branch abuses.
Harman shared her observations Friday by email and Google Groups with our Justice Integrity Project and others. David Swanson, the prominent antiwar activist, wrote a blog noting that accountability under the law was a top concern of Obama supporters, as illustrated by the incoming administration’s own 2008 poll of supporter suggestions.
Around that time, I published my first blogs in a series of Huffington Post and OpEd News columns. The first chronicled my fond hopes for Obama, with a scoop about “Why the President “Stepped Out’ During His Inaugural Parade.” Next was a call for the new administration to “Probe the Past to Protect the Future.” Finally, and more ominously, came my reports on the huge scandals involving the Bush Justice Department’s frame-up of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, his state’s most important Democrat. His persecution, like those of many other Bush-Rove political victims, continues under the Obama Justice Department.
With this context, last Friday’s Boalt Hall forum provides vital new insight on why the White House and Justice Department have been so disappointing in responding to public demands for accountability for injustices, particularly for clear-cut cases during the Bush administration that carry fingerprints of malefactors such as Rove and Yoo.
Let’s start with Harman’s account below of her comments during the audience Q&A segment at Boalt Hall’s forum Sept. 2:
I said I was overwhelmed by the surreality of Yoo being on the law faculty . . . when he was singlehandedly responsible for the three worst policies of the Bush Administration. They all burbled about academic freedom and the McCarthy era, and said it isn’t their job to prosecute him. Duh.
Dean Chris Edley volunteered that he’d been party to very high level discussions during Obama’s transition about prosecuting the criminals. He said they decided against it. I asked why. Two reasons: 1) it was thought that the CIA, NSA, and military would revolt, and 2) it was thought the Repugnants would retaliate by blocking every piece of legislation they tried to move (which, of course, they’ve done anyhow).
Harman says that she approached Edley privately after the forum closed and said she appreciated that Obama might have been in danger but felt that he “bent over backwards” to protect lawbreakers within the Bush administration. According to her account: “He shrugged and said they will never be prosecuted, and that sometimes politics trumps rule of law.”
I wrote Edley to confirm Harman’s quotations, which he did. Edley, dean of the law school since 2004, also sent me links to his statements on the Yoo appointment here and earlier here. And, he amplified with six bulletin-points, primarily about the Obama transition process and academic freedom for professors.
Regarding the transition, he wrote:
I never discussed these matters with the President Elect; the summary offered by one of the senior national security folks was, “We don’t want to engage in a witch hunt,” to which I replied, “Neither do I, but I also care about the Rule of Law and, whether or not there ultimately are prosecutions, the question of whether laws were broken and where the lines should be drawn deserve to be aired”; that discussion as a whole was brief.
My point about politics is simple and non-controversial to people trained in law. I was not referring to politics trumping Law in the sense of President Nixon thinking he could do anything he wanted with respect to the Watergate scandal. I was referring to what every first year law student learns about prosecutorial discretion and the political accountability of prosecutors, which the “system” assumes will be a check on prosecutorial abuses more often than a source of them.
Regarding Yoo’s invitation to return to Boalt Hall as a faculty member after his work in the Bush Justice Department, Edley wrote:
A frustrating thing to me about these discussions is that non-academics don’t seem particularly to appreciate the fragility and importance of academic freedom. A university isn’t equipped or competent to do a factual investigation of what took place at DOJ or in secret White House meetings. Nor should it make judgments about what faculty do outside of their professorial duties when there is no evident impermissible impact on their teaching. (For Professor Yoo, there is none.) The right forum investigating and punishing alleged crimes is in the criminal justice system, not a research university. Our job is already tough enough.
Finally, another frustrating thing is that advocates are often fierce in their belief that they know what the law is, and they know when someone else’s view is extreme. Your typical law professor is, I think, far more humble. We tend to see multiple sides to important issues, and lots of gray. Even if we are convinced of something, we work hard to understand the counterarguments, just to be sure. If there aren’t any, then MAYBE one could characterize the other position as extreme. My guess is that Professor Yoo’s constitutional theories and statutory interpretation would win at least three votes among current justices of the U.S. Supreme Court. I don’t like it, but that’s my reading of the case law. Does 3 out of 9 make it extreme? If so, then a lot of my heroes are or were “extreme.”
Much as I appreciate his efforts to provide these expert, behind-the-scenes insights, I’m afraid I’m more comfortable with a few basic rules:
First, the U.S. president should be a fearless leader who enforces our laws with a passion for justice, to the best of his ability. Many in the justice system — both intrepid government agents and taxpayer-protecting whistleblowers alike — are risking their health, money and even lives on a frequent basis. Why shouldn’t those at the top?
Second, as one who works a block from the site on Pennsylvania Avenue where Lincoln’s assassins planned their crime (where the Newseum is now located), I’d suggest that any conspirators against today’s elected leadership should be prepared to pay a similar and rapid price to the hangman; Third, academic freedom is a fine goal, but so is freedom from torture and freedom from being falsely imprisoned for political reasons.
Knowing the law constitutes the basic tool of every lawyer. But working for what the law should be is an even higher calling for our lawyers and top office-holders. And in a democracy, I’m not the first to stress that our highest office does not go by the title Senator, Justice or even President. Instead, it’s “Citizen.”
Andrew Kreig is executive director of the Justice Integrity Project, a Washington, DC-based non-profit organization focused on reforming abusive federal investigative procedures.
He is an attorney, non-profit executive and investigative journalist.
As President and CEO of the Wireless Communications Association International from 1996 until 2008, Kreig led its evolution into the premier worldwide advocate for high-capacity wireless services. Previously, he authored some two thousand bylined news and magazine articles, plus the pioneering 1987 book “Spiked: How Chain Management Corrupted America’s Oldest Newspaper.” The book documented unethical practices within the news media, including misleading applications by prominent news industry executives to win coveted Pulitzer Prizes.
Listed in numerous Who’s Who volumes for more than a dozen years, he has lectured on five continents about communications issues and has been active in civic affairs in Washington. He holds degrees from Yale Law School and University of Chicago School of Law. His previous employers include the Hartford Courant, Connecticut General Assembly Speaker Irving Stolberg, Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf in Boston and the global law firm Latham & Watkins.
Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Criminal Justice, Dick Cheney, Human Rights, Torture.
Tags: Abu Ghraib, cheney, cia prisons, convention against torture, detainees, doj, eric holder, george busy, george tenet, Guantanamo, hrw, human rights, International law, justice department, naseema noor, olc, rendition, roger hollander, rumsfeld, torture, torture memos, waterboarding
Published on Tuesday, July 12, 2011 by Inter Press Service
by Naseema Noor
WASHINGTON – Senior officials under the former George W. Bush administration knowingly authorized the torture of terrorism suspects held under United States custody, a Human Right Watch (HRW) report released here Tuesday revealed.
Titled “Getting Away with Torture”, the 107-page report presents a plethora of evidence that HRW says warrants criminal investigations against former Vice President Dick Cheney, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director George Tenet and Bush himself, among others. (photo: pantagrapher)
Titled “Getting Away with Torture”, the 107-page report presents a plethora of evidence that HRW says warrants criminal investigations against former Vice President Dick Cheney, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director George Tenet and Bush himself, among others.
Newly de-classified memos, transcriptions of congressional hearings, and other sources indicate that Bush officials authorized the use of interrogation techniques almost universally considered torture – such as waterboarding – as well as the operation of covert CIA prisons abroad and the rendition of detainees to other countries where they were subsequently tortured.
HRW also criticized the United States under the current Barack Obama administration for failing to meets it obligations under the United Nations Convention Against Torture to investigate acts of torture and other inhumane treatment.
“President Obama has defended the decision not to prosecute officials in his predecessor’s administration by arguing that the country needs ‘to look forward, not backward,'” said HRW executive director Kenneth Roth. “[He] has treated torture as an unfortunate policy choice rather than a crime.”
To date, both the Bush and Obama administrations have successfully prevented courts from reviewing the merits of torture allegations in civil lawsuits by arguing that the cases involve sensitive information, which, if revealed, might endanger national security.
Last year, Bush defended the use of waterboarding on the grounds that the Justice Department deemed it legal. In 2002, lawyers in the Office of Legal Counsel had drafted memos approving the legality of a list of abusive interrogation techniques, including waterboarding. However, HRW documents evidence that shows senior administration officials pressured the politically-appointed lawyers to write these legal justifications.
“Senior Bush officials shouldn’t be allowed to shape and hand-pick legal advice and then hide behind it as if were autonomously delivered,” Roth said.
HRW further recommends that Congress establish an independent, nonpartisan commission to examine the mistreatment of detainees in U.S. custody since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and compensate victims of torture, as required by the U.N. Convention Against Torture.
“Without [a commission], torture very much remains within the toolbox of accepted policies. People are not going to back away from it until there is accountability,” Karen Greenberg, executive director of New York University’s Center on Law and Security and author of “The Least Worst Place: Guantanamo’s First 100 Days”, told IPS.
In 2009, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder appointed a special prosecutor to investigate detainee abuse, but limited the mandate to only “unauthorized” acts, which effectively excluded violations like waterboarding and forcing prisoners to maintain stress positions that were approved by the Bush administration.
But on Jun. 30 of this year, the Justice Department announced that it would continue probing only two of nearly 100 allegations of torture. The open cases involve the deaths of two men – Manadel al-Jamadi, an Iraqi, and Gul Rahman, an Afghan – in CIA custody.
Human and civil rights group criticized the narrow scope of the torture investigations, while HRW said they failed to address the systematic character of the abuses.
“The U.S. government’s pattern of abuse across several countries did not result from acts of individuals who broke the rules,” Roth said. “It resulted from decisions made by senior U.S. officials to bend, ignore, or cast aside the rules.” If the U.S. does not pursue criminal investigations, HRW is urging other countries to exercise universal jurisdiction under international law and prosecute the aforementioned officials.
A number of former detainees have already taken this step by filing criminal complaints in courts outside of the U.S.
In February 2011, alleged victims of torture living in Switzerland planned to file a suit against Bush, causing him to cancel his trip there.
Another investigation is underway in Spain, where the Center for Constitutional Rights and the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights requested a subpoena for a former commander of the Abu Ghraib prison to explain his role in the alleged torture of four detainees.
Washington’s failure to investigate its own citizens for abuses like torture ultimately undercuts its efforts to hold other governments accountable for human rights violations, according to HRW.
“The U.S. is right to call for justice when serious international crimes are committed in places like Darfur, Libya, and Sri Lanka, but there should be no double standards,” Roth said.
“When the U.S. government shields its own officials from investigation and prosecution, it makes it easier for others to dismiss global efforts to bring violators of serious crimes to justice,” he added.
Failing to prosecute ultimately sends the message that “if you are powerful, you can get away with even torture,” Greenberg said.
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