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A New Report Questions ‘Suicides’ at Guantanamo December 7, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Torture, War.
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Published on Monday, December 7, 2009 by Salon.comby Glenn Greenwald

On the night of June 10, 2006, three Guantanamo detainees were found dead in their individual cells.  Without any autopsy or investigation, U.S. military officials proclaimed “suicide by hanging” as the cause of each death, and immediately sought to exploit the episode as proof of the evil of the detainees.  Admiral Harry Harris, the camp’s commander, said it showed “they have no regard for life” and that the suicides were “not an act of desperation, but an act of asymmetric warfare aimed at us here at Guantanamo”; another official anonymously said that the suicides showed the victims were “committed jihadists [who] will do anything they can to advance their cause,” while another sneered that “it was a good PR move to draw attention.”Questions immediately arose about how it could be possible that three detainees kept in isolation and under constant and intense monitoring could have coordinated and then carried out group suicide without detection, particularly since the military claimed their bodies were not found for over two hours after their deaths.  But from the beginning, there was a clear attempt on the part of Guantanamo officials to prevent any outside investigation of this incident.  To allay the questions that quickly emerged, the military announced it would conduct a sweeping investigation and publicly release its finding, but it did not do so until more than two years later when — in August, 2008 — it released a heavily redacted reported purporting to confirm suicide by hanging as the cause.  Two of the three dead detainees were Saudis and one was Yemeni; they had been detained for years without charges; one of them was 17 years old at the time he was detained and 22 when he died; and they had participated in several of the hunger strikes at the camp to protest the brutality, torture and abuse to which they were routinely subjected.  Perversely, one of the three victims had been cleared for release earlier that month.

A major new report from Seton Hall University School of Law released this morning raises serious doubts about both the military’s version of events and the reliability of its investigation.  The Report details that the three men “died under questionable circumstances”; that “the investigation into their deaths resulted in more questions than answers”; and that “without a proper investigation, it is impossible to determine the circumstances of the three detainees’ deaths.”  The 54-page, heavily-documented Report raises numerous troubling questions, as illustrated by these (click images to enlarge):

There is one way that a meaningful investigation could be conducted into what happened to these three detainees:  a lawsuit filed in federal court by the parents of two of the detainees against various Bush officials for the torture and deaths of their sons — who had never been charged with, let alone convicted of, any wrongdoing (indeed, one had been cleared for release).  By itself, discovery in that lawsuit would shed critical light on what was done to these detainees and what caused their deaths.

The problem, however, is that the Obama DOJ has been using every Bush tactic — and inventing whole new ones — to block the lawsuit from proceeding.  As The Washington Independent‘s Daphne Eviatar detailed in October, “the Obama administration has surprisingly endorsed the same legal positions as its predecessor, insisting that there is no constitutional right to humane treatment by U.S. authorities outside the United States, and that victims of torture and abuse and their survivors have no right to compensation or even an acknowledgment of what occurred.”  As Eviatar wrote about the Obama position, which — among other things — invokes the Military Commissions Act to argue that Congress stripped federal courts of jurisdiction to hear even Constitutional claims from Gitmo detainees:

The Obama administration is insisting, however, that Congress had the power to eliminate judicial review of these claims. It also argues that the Defense Department officials are immune from suit, because, as the Bush Justice Department argued in previous cases, it wasn’t clear at the time that detainees had a right not to be tortured by U.S. officials at Guantanamo. They therefore have “qualified immunity” from suit.

But the Justice Department goes further than that. Under President Obama, the government is arguing not only that it wasn’t clear what rights detainees were entitled to back in 2006, but that even today the prisoners have no right to such basic constitutional protections as due process of law or the right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. The “Fifth and Eighth Amendments do not extend to Guantánamo Bay detainees,” writes the Justice Department in its brief.

And, the government argues, the courts should not imply a right to sue under the Constitution, in part because that could lead to “embarrassment of our government abroad.”

 

Ultimately, the Obama administration is arguing, victims of torture at a U.S.-run detention center abroad have no right to redress from the federal government. Only the military can take action in such cases, by disciplining military officers for abuse of prisoners.

In fact, the Brief filed by the Obama DOJ demanding dismissal of the case explicitly argues — in classic Bush/Cheney fashion — that merely allowing discovery in this case to determine what was done to these detainees would help the Terrorists kill us all:

All of this is depressingly consistent with multiple other cases in which the Obama DOJ is attempting aggressively to shield even the most illegal and allegedly discontinued Bush programs from judicial review.  Time and again, the most radical Bush claims of executive power, immunity and secrecy (ones Democrats and even Obama frequently condemned) are invoked to insist that federal courts have no right to adjudicate claims that the Government violated the Constitution and the law.  As Harper‘s Scott Horton documented over the weekend, a new filing by the Obama DOJ in defense of John Yoo is “seeking to make absolute the immunity granted Justice Department lawyers who counsel torture, disappearings, and other crimes against humanity.”  In other words, as we lecture the world about the need for them to apply the rule of law and hold war criminals accountable, we simultaneously proclaim about ourselves:

We can kidnap your sons from anywhere in the world, far away from any “battlefield,” ship them thousands of miles away to an island-prison, abuse and torture them mercilessly, and when we either drive them to suicide or kill them, you have no right to any legal remedy or even any recourse to find out what happened.  

As Horton writes, the claim that government officials enjoy a virtually impenetrable shield of immunity even in the commission of war crimes “has emerged as a sort of ignoble mantra for the Justice Department, uniting both the Bush and Obama administrations.”   Indeed, that is the common strain of virtually every act undertaken by the Obama DOJ with regard to our government’s war crimes and other felonies, from torture to renditions to illegal eavesdropping.

With revelations of serious, recent abuse at an ongoing “black site” prison in Afghanistan, serious questions have been raised about the extent to which detainee abuse has actually been curbed under Obama.  But there’s no question that the single greatest impediment to disclosure and accountability for past abuses is the Obama Justice Department, which has repeatedly gone far beyond the call of duty in its attempt to protect Bush war crimes and other illegal acts.  This new Seton Hall Report regarding these three detainees deaths illustrates not only how perverse and unjust, but also how futile, such efforts are.  War crimes never stay hidden, and the only question from the start was whether the Obama DOJ would be complicit in the attempt to shield them from disclosure.  That question has now been answered rather decisively.

UPDATE:  Scott Horton has an interview with Law Professor Mark Denbeaux, the primary author of the report, in which he elaborates on why the military’s claims and “investigation” are so suspect.

Copyright ©2009 Salon Media Group, Inc.

Glenn Greenwald was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book “How Would a Patriot Act?,” a critique of the Bush administration’s use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, “A Tragic Legacy“, examines the Bush legacy.

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Obama Lawyers Invoke “State Secrets” to Block Warrantless Spying Lawsuit April 6, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Criminal Justice, Torture.
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Posted by Liliana Segura, AlterNet at 10:15 AM on April 6, 2009.

It’s not the first time Obama’s DOJ has employed the tactic so often used by the Bush administration to block accountability for government crimes.

Oops, they did it again: lawyers for Barack Obama’s Department of Justice have invoked the “state secrets” privilege to block a lawsuit seeking to reverse one of the most scandalous policies of the Bush administration.

In a motion filed in a San Francisco court on Friday, attorneys for the Obama administration moved to dismiss a challenge to the National Security Agency’s notorious warrantless wiretapping program. “The information implicated by this case, which concerns how the United States seeks to detect and prevent terrorist attacks, would cause exceptionally grave harm to national security,” DOJ lawyers argued in the 36-page brief, echoing an argument made ad nauseum by the Bush administration.

 

 

The case, Jewel v. NSA, was filed in September of 2008 on behalf of five AT&T customers “to stop the illegal, unconstitutional, and ongoing dragnet surveillance of their communications and communications records,” according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the civil liberties organization that brought forth the suit. “Evidence in the case includes undisputed documents provided by former AT&T telecommunications technician Mark Klein showing AT&T has routed copies of Internet traffic to a secret room in San Francisco controlled by the NSA.”

Klein, the whistleblower who blew the lid off AT&T’s participation in the NSA spying program, was an employee at AT&T for 22 years but showed no qualms about exposing the company. “If they’ve done something massively illegal and unconstitutional — well, they should suffer the consequences,” Klein told the Washington Post in 2007. Teaming up with EFF, Klein has played a critical role in furnishing the evidence for multiple lawsuits brought against the NSA’s spying program, including Hepting v. AT&T, a class-action lawsuit against AT&T itself. (That case was brought forth in 2006, before Congress passed legislation granting immunity to telecoms that participated in the government’s warrantless wiretapping program.)

Although Jewel v. NSA is not a lawsuit against AT&T, the DOJ’s court motion displays its full support for the company. “All of plaintiffs’ claims require the disclosure of whether or not AT&T assisted the Government in alleged intelligence activities, and the (Director of National Intelligence) again has demonstrated that disclosure of whether the NSA has an intelligence relationship with a particular private company would also cause exceptional harm to national security”

It may have been fantasy to imagine that the Obama DOJ would allow AT&T — whose corporate logo graced the official goody bags at the Democratic National Convention this summer — to be at all vulnerable to litigation for its role in the warrantless wiretapping scheme, particularly after Obama himself cast a vote for telecom immunity. But its invoking of the state secrets privilege is a disturbing move — particularly because it is not the first time it has done so.

 

 

On Monday EFF sent out a press release condemning the Obama administration’s use of state secrets privilege to conceal the government’s criminal activity. “President Obama promised the American people a new era of transparency, accountability, and respect for civil liberties,” Senior Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston said in a written statement. “But with the Obama Justice Department continuing the Bush administration’s cover-up of the National Security Agency’s dragnet surveillance of millions of Americans, and insisting that the much-publicized warrantless wiretapping program is still a ‘secret’ that cannot be reviewed by the courts, it feels like deja vu all over again.”

Why is the Obama Administration Protecting Bush Officials?

Over e-mail, Cindy Cohn, legal director of EFF, called the legal filing by Obama’s DOJ “very significant.” “Obama is attempting to block the courts from considering serious constitutional issues raised in this case entirely,” she said. “This is the sort of disdain for the rule of law and the role of the courts that he campaigned against.”

 

 

Cohn added, “It’s also a continuation of the outrageous secrecy claims that Bush was criticized for — after all, the warrantless wiretapping is hardly a secret. We presented a box of Congressional testimony, Congressional admissions, news stories, and even a few books to the court describing it. The argument that this is still a secret really strains belief.”

 

 

Jewel v. NSA is not just a lawsuit against the NSA. It is also a lawsuit against the individuals who created the government’s spying program, including George W. Bush and his senior staff.

 

 

As Raw Story’s John Byrne points out, “in attempting to block a San Fransisco court from reviewing documents relating to the NSA program, the Obama Administration is also protecting other individuals named as defendants in the suit: Vice President Dick Cheney, former Cheney chief of staff David Addington and former Bush Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.” These, of course, are the same individuals many Americans would like to see prosecuted for their role in implementing the government’s “harsh interrogation” policies. But on the question of torture, the Obama administration has shown no inclination to bring former Bush officials to account.

Quite the opposite. In February Obama lawyers used the same “state secrets” tactic to block a lawsuit brought by the ACLU on behalf of five victims of extraordinary rendition — the CIA’s famed kidnap and torture program. “This case cannot be litigated,” Department of Justice lawyer Douglas Letter declared on February 9th, arguing that the case, Mohamed et al. v. Jeppesen Dataplan, should be thrown out. “The judges shouldn’t play with fire in this national security situation.”

ACLU director Anthony Romero decried the move. “Eric Holder’s Justice Department stood up in court today and said that it would continue the Bush policy of invoking state secrets to hide the reprehensible history of torture, rendition and the most grievous human rights violations committed by the American government.”

 

 

Now, warrantless spying can be added to the list.

 

 

“In our case we have no reason to believe that the warrantless wiretapping has ended,” said Cohn, “so at some point we have to call it Obama’s warrantless wiretapping.”

Liliana Segura is a staff writer and editor of AlterNet’s Rights and Liberties and War on Iraq Special Coverage.

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Obama’s Bush league decision March 6, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice.
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The president’s lawyers continue to block access to information that could expose warrantless wiretapping. Is this change we can believe in?

By Jon B. Eisenberg, www.salon.com

March 6, 2009 | Last July and September, I recounted in Salon how, in the case of Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation Inc. v. Bush, where I am one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers, government attorneys for the Bush administration had gone to extreme and even bizarre lengths to prevent the federal courts from determining the legality of President Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program. The government’s problem is a top-secret document that the Treasury Department accidentally disclosed to Al-Haramain, an Islamic charity in Oregon. The Treasury Department was investigating the charity in 2004 for purportedly financing terrorist activities. We believe the document confirms the surveillance of Al-Haramain and two of its lawyers as part of the 2004 investigation, and confirms their standing to sue as victims of the program, and for an adjudication of its illegality.

For three years, the Bush administration attempted to assert the state secrets privilege in an effort to prevent us from using the secret document to establish standing. (The state secrets privilege, which is rooted in a 1953 Supreme Court case, allows the government to squelch civil lawsuits involving classified evidence that is a state or military secret.) On Jan. 5, 2009, United States District Judge Vaughn Walker issued a key ruling in our favor, saying that, upon issuance of top secret security clearances to some of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, we may be given access, under secure conditions, to the secret document as well as other secret material filed by the government in the case, for the purpose of adjudicating standing. After extensive background checks by the FBI, the government granted top secret security clearances to us.

On Jan. 20, Barack Obama became president of the United States. This gave us “hope.” We finally expected to see, in the Justice Department’s handling of the case under Attorney General Eric Holder, some “change we can believe in.” But it hasn’t happened. Incredibly, the Justice Department has continued to assert the state secrets privilege in the Al-Haramain case, even though Judge Walker ruled last July that the privilege does not apply to the case.

Thus, during the first weeks of the Obama administration, the government is continuing to abuse the state secrets privilege in the Al-Haramain case. The Obama administration, while taking a big step this week toward government transparency by releasing some Bush-era secret memos, at the same time seems to be continuing the Bush-era strategy of preventing the courts from passing judgment on Bush’s (well, really Dick Cheney’s) radical theories of presidential power. The case is now called Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation Inc. v. Obama.

On Feb. 27, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected an emergency request by the Justice Department — that’s Obama’s Justice Department — for an immediate stay of further proceedings before Judge Walker. The 9th Circuit’s ruling allows Judge Walker to give us access to the secret court filings and adjudicate standing. That evening, the government attorneys did something mind-boggling: They informed Judge Walker in a public court filing that if he intends to give us access to the secret filings in the case, the government will “withdraw that information from submission to the Court.” Evidently that means executive branch authorities (who? the FBI? the Army?) will attempt to seize the documents from Judge Walker. That would be a violation of the constitutional separation of powers, unprecedented in this nation’s history. Incredibly, the Obama administration seems to be provoking a separation-of-powers crisis between the executive and judicial branches.

In yet another public filing with Judge Walker on Feb. 27, the government lawyers informed him that the government’s previous secret filings in the Al-Haramain case contain “an inaccuracy” that “cannot be set forth on the public record.” The “inaccuracy” is described only in secret filings accompanying the public filing. It appears that high officials in the Bush administration asserted a falsehood or falsehoods in their previous secret filings with the court, which the Obama administration is attempting to keep secret. What could that “inaccuracy” be? We haven’t a clue, because … it’s a secret!

What on earth is going on here? Have Obama’s people really decided to continue traveling the Bush path of abusing the state secrets privilege — perhaps for reasons of political expediency — or do they just need more time to get up to speed on the Al-Haramain case before they start doing the right thing? We wait to see. And we wait to see how Judge Walker responds to these latest outrages by the Bush — oops, I mean the Obama — administration.

“You can’t sweep unlawful activities under the table” February 21, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Iraq and Afghanistan, Torture, War.
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general-tagubaReuters/Larry Downing.  Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee about the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq by U.S. military personnel, May 11, 2004.

By Mark Benjamin, www.salon.com, February 21, 2009

Abu Ghraib investigator Antonio Taguba talks to Salon about why he backs a commission to examine Bush torture policies.

Feb. 20, 2009 | WASHINGTON — President Obama vowed that “the United States will not torture” only two days into his new administration. But one big question Obama hasn’t answered is whether and how to investigate notorious Bush-era interrogation and detention policies. On Thursday, 18 human rights organizations, former State Department officials and former law enforcement and military leaders asked the president to create a nonpartisan commission to investigate those allegedly abusive detention practices.

Retired Maj. Gen. Tony Taguba, who investigated the famed abuses at Abu Ghraib, signed on to the effort. He explained his support in an interview with Salon. Taguba agrees with many attorneys who think it would be difficult, and perhaps impossible, to prosecute former Bush administration officials. A nonpartisan fact-finding commission, however, might provide some degree of accountability for official U.S. detention and interrogation policies that Taguba called misguided and illegal.

Taguba would like to see a broad mandate for the commission, including a study of administration claims that abuse gleans good intelligence, which he fervently disputes. And while he believes the commission should look at the decisions of military and civilian policymakers, he has a particular interest in getting to the bottom of civilian leaders’ claims for the legality of the administration’s interrogation and detention policies, which he called “despicable and questionable.” The retired general would also like to see the commission empowered to make recommendations for the future, to help ensure such abuses never occur again.

You are best known for doing an honest investigation of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib. You suffered some consequences for that. Is that fair to say?

As far as consequences are concerned, the report and testimony were not going to be well received. I followed my conscience and integrity — the best I could do to honor the Army uniform I had the privilege of wearing for over 34 years.

They parked you at the back of the Pentagon in retribution, right?

I was disappointed in my assignment back to the Pentagon to be on Rumsfeld’s staff. I was suspicious about the assignment. But I served at the pleasure of the president and performed as expected. It was conveyed to me by close friends that I had to be watched closely by senior leaders.

Can you describe this torture commission that you and others are advocating?

I would not refer to it as a torture commission. [It remains to be decided] if it is to be a truth and reconciliation commission, or a presidential commission, or a congressional commission, or a private commission … Interest groups have talked about establishing a special prosecutor in that regard. I feel we have to come to terms with policies that have gained such notoriety and have been debated about whether they were in the best interest of our national security, and whether those who created these policies were pressured by their senior leadership.

Are you advocating one particular flavor of a commission, or are you simply advocating for an investigation in general?

“Investigation” is a good term, but not one I would subscribe to. [I support] a structured commission with some form of authority with clear objectives and a follow-on action plan. I’m not looking for anything that is prosecutorial in nature, unless a suspected violation of relevant laws occurred, which should be referred to the Department of Justice.

That was going to be my next question. Why not?

Because it would be difficult. In my opinion, our military prosecuted those who were involved in torture or unlawful interrogation. And I think our military has come to terms with that. We are an institution that prides itself on taking corrective action immediately, admitting to it, and holding ourselves accountable. And we have done that. But I am not so sure that our civilian authorities in government have done that for themselves.

Is there still a lot of dirty laundry out there that we don’t know about?

I think so. This notion that a lot of constitutional legal experts — lawyers with great intellect, well-educated — came up with such despicable and questionable legal findings that were contrary to the definition of defending the Constitution? And then they framed this as if the executive branch had the authority to extend beyond the Constitution to establish a policy of torture and illegal detention?

The argument against a commission is that it would turn into a political catfight between Democrats and Republicans. What is your response to that?

I think we have to satisfy the American public at large. Some of those that were tortured were innocent. How do we come to terms with those that were cruelly mistreated and were innocent, never charged, were illegally detained and never compensated for their suffering? This is not a political issue, but a moral and ethical dilemma which has far-reaching implications.

Proponents of coercive interrogation argue that it works. I can’t find an experienced interrogator who thinks torture is an effective way of gathering quality intelligence. Should the efficacy of torture be a part of this commission’s work?

I think so. You have two sides here. One says, “We had to do it.” The other says, “It never actually worked.” You have to consider this in those terms. Some of those activities were actually not effective and those who thought so were in the academic or pristine settings of their offices. What would they know?

Should people receive amnesty for coming forward and participating in a commission of this type?

If you want people to talk, you need to give them that immunity. I would submit to you that issuing a subpoena to people like [former counsel to the vice president David] Addington, [former Justice Department attorneys John] Yoo and [Jay] Bybee or [former Pentagon general counsel Jim] Haynes will not work. They are not going to come up and talk freely because they want to save their reputations and write books about it. They know their positions and so do the public. They know that it was illegal.

But you have other folks, soldiers, for example, or civilian contractors who are willing to address why things happened and who gave them the authority to do these things.

What else should I have asked you?

This is a comment. In the opinion of some legal experts, it would be extremely difficult to stand up a commission and question those in government because they were supposedly acting in the interest of national security. What do we say to the soldiers who committed wrongdoings with regard to detention operations who were also acting in the interest of national security and who are now in jail or who have been punished? If the military can hold themselves accountable, why can’t the civilian authorities be as well? Why can’t they hold themselves accountable as well?

So, you’ve got low-level soldiers in jail. Why not take a look at the people who put those policies together in the first place?

When the policymakers create a policy, you have to account yourself for the consequences unintended or intended. The question we ought to ask these civilian authorities is, What was your intent in creating those illegal policies? What was the intent? Was the intent in the interest of national security, which is broad and contestable? What was the intent and what were the lawful precedents, if any, that led them to these highly questionable opinions?

It seems to me that if we don’t do some sort of review, this thing will just continue to come out in dribs and drabs and sort of haunt us forever. Do you agree with that?

I agree with that. You can’t sweep unlawful activities under the table and just forget about it. I feel strongly about this because we have future generations who will be the beneficiaries of these actions. We have a president who declared that torture is illegal. He signed executive orders repudiating torture and unlawful interrogation practices.

We have a lot of unanswered questions on accountability, questions that need to be answered and hold responsible officials — civilians and military — accountable. These include contractors. We ought not to refer to accountability as a bumper sticker or to be used loosely. We have an integrity issue to contend with if we are to prevent this matter from recurring.

Lawrence Walsh and America’s law-free zone February 17, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush.
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Glenn Greenwald

(updated below)

David Rivkin and Lee Casey are right-wing lawyers and former Reagan DOJ officials who, over the last eight years, have been extremely prolific in jointly defending Bush/Cheney theories of executive power. Today, they have one of their standard Op-Eds, this time in The Washington Post, demanding that there be no investigations or prosecutions of Bush officials.  Most of the arguments they advance are the standard platitudes now composing Beltway conventional wisdom on this matter.  But there is one aspect of their advocacy that is somewhat remarkable and worth noting.

Rivkin and Casey have long been vigorous opponents of the legitimacy of international tribunals to adjudicate crimes committed by American officials.  In February, 2007, they wrote an Op-Ed in the Post bitterly criticizing Italian officials for indicting 25 CIA agents who had literally kidnapped a Muslim cleric from Italy and “rendered” him from Milan to Egypt.  In that Op-Ed, the Bush-defending duo argued that Italy had no right to prosecute these agents (h/t reader tc):

An Italian court announced this month that it is moving forward with the indictment and trial of 25 CIA agents charged with kidnapping a radical Muslim cleric. These proceedings may well violate international law, but the case serves as a wake-up call to the United States . . . .

[T]he United States must still vigorously resist the prosecution of its indicted agents. . . . [I]t is up to American, not Italian, authorities to determine whether any offense was committed in the capture and rendition of Nasr.

Unfortunately, the effort to prosecute these American agents is only one instance of a growing problem. Efforts to use domestic and international legal systems to intimidate U.S. officials are proliferating, especially in Europe. Cases are pending in Germany against other CIA agents and former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld — all because of controversial aspects of the war on terrorism. These follow Belgium’s misguided effort to pursue “universal jurisdiction” claims for alleged violations of international law, which also resulted in complaints against American officials including Vice President Cheney and former secretary of state Colin Powell. That law was amended, but the overall problem is unlikely to go away.  The initiation of judicial proceedings against individual Americans is too attractive a means of striking at the United States — and one often not subject to control by the relevant foreign government.

Accordingly, Congress should make it a crime to initiate or maintain a prosecution against American officials if the proceeding itself otherwise violates accepted international legal norms.

So it’s up to the U.S. — not any foreign tribunals — to prosecute war crimes and other felonies committed by American officials (for reasons that, at least in part and under certain circumstances (not prevailing in the Italian case), I find persuasive).  In fact, they argue, international prosecutions are so illegitimate that such proceedings themselves should be declared crimes.  Indeed, like most of their political comrades, Rivkin and Casey have consistently argued that U.S. jurisdiction over alleged violations of international law and U.S. treaties by U.S. citizens — including our leaders — is exclusive. 

They made the same argument when opposing U.S. ratification of the enabling statute of the International Criminal Court (.pdf), arguing that “[t]he question is whether [international] law can, or should, be enforced outside national legal systems that have generally functioned well.”  Their answer, of course, is that, when it comes to Americans, international law obligations cannot and shouldn’t be enforced anywhere but America:

There are many problems with the Rome Treaty.  The most immediate one, for Americans, is the danger of its being used as a political instrument against us.  But the most profound flaw is a philosophical one:  The concept of “international” justice underpinning the ICC project is more apparent than real. . . .

The prosecution of political leaders is inherently political, and there are at least two sides to every political conflict. . . . From America’s perspective, the greatest practical danger of joining the ICC regime would be that the court, driven by those who may resent American global preeminence, could seek to restrain the use of U.S. military power through prosecutions of U.S. leaders.

They then went on to call for the Bush administration to vocally and decisively reject the legitimacy of the ICC  so that the whole edifice would collapse.  This is because American leaders should not be subjected to prosecution in foreign countries for their crimes — only in America.

Yet what do these two argue today?  That domestic investigations and prosecutions — by American tribunals and American courts — are also inappropriate, illegitimate and destructive.  Though they acknowledge that “the Justice Department is capable of considering whether any criminal charges are appropriate,” they nonetheless insist that this must not be done:

For his part, President Obama has reacted coolly to calls to investigate Bush officials. Obama is right to be skeptical; this is a profoundly bad idea — for policy and, depending on how such a commission were organized and operated, for legal and constitutional reasons. . . .

Attempting to prosecute political opponents at home or facilitating their prosecution abroad, however much one disagrees with their policy choices while in office, is like pouring acid into our democratic machinery. As the history of the late, unlamented independent counsel statute taught, once a Pandora’s box is opened, its contents can wreak havoc equally across the political and party spectrum. . . .

Obama and the Democratic Congress are entitled to revise and reject any or all of the Bush administration’s policies. But no one is entitled to hound political opponents with criminal prosecution, whether directly or through the device of a commission, and those who support such efforts now may someday regret the precedent it sets.

So no international tribunals or foreign countries have any power to investigate or prosecute American officials for war crimes (even when those war crimes are against citizens of those countries and/or committed within their borders).  And, American political officials must also not be prosecuted inside the U.S., by American courts.  “Nobody is entitled” to do that either, because “attempting to prosecute political opponents at home or facilitating their prosecution abroad is like pouring acid into our democratic machinery.”

The implication of their argument — which is now the conventional Beltway view — is too obvious to require much elaboration.  If our political leaders can’t be held accountable for their war crimes and other serious felonies in foreign countries or international tribunals, and must never be held accountable in the U.S. either (because to do so is to “pour acid into our democratic machinery”), then it means that American political officials (in contrast to most other leaders) are completely and explicitly exempt from, placed above, the rule of law.  That conclusion is compelled from their premises. 

At least to me, it’s just endlessly perplexing how anyone — let alone our political class in unison — could actually endorse such absolute lawlessness for political leaders.  Didn’t our opinion-making elites learn in the eighth grade that the alternative to a “nation of laws” was a “nation of men” — i.e., the definition of tyranny?  Those are the only two choices.  It’s just so basic.

Apparently, though, this is all fine with our political establishment, since none of this is new.  Here’s what Iran-contra prosecutor (and life-long Republican official) Lawrence Walsh said in 1992 after George H.W. Bush pardoned Casper Weinberger days before his trial was set to begin:

President Bush’s pardon of Caspar Weinberger and other Iran-contra defendants undermines the principle that no man is above the law. It demonstrates that powerful people with powerful allies can commit serious crimes in high office — deliberately abusing the public trust without consequence.

Weinberger, who faced four felony charges, deserved to be tried by a jury of citizens. Although it is the President’s prerogative to grant pardons, it is every American’s right that the criminal justice system be administered fairly, regardless of a person’s rank and connections.

The Iran-contra cover-up, which has continued for more than six years, has now been completed with the pardon of Caspar Weinberger. . . . Weinberger’s early and deliberate decision to conceal and withhold extensive contemporaneous notes of the Iran-contra matter radically altered the official investigations and possibly forestalled timely impeachment proceedings against President Reagan and other officials. Weinberger’s notes contain evidence of a conspiracy among the highest-ranking Reagan Administration officials to lie to Congress and the American public. . . .

In light of President Bush’s own misconduct, we are gravely concerned about his decision to pardon others who lied to Congress and obstructed official investigations.

Does anyone deny that we are exactly the country that Walsh described:  one where “powerful people with powerful allies can commit serious crimes in high office — deliberately abusing the public trust without consequence”? And what rational person could think that’s a desirable state of affairs that ought not only be preserved — but fortified still further– as we move now to immunize Bush 43 officials for their far more serious and disgraceful crimes? As the Rivkin/Casey oeuvre demonstrates, we’ve created a zone of lawlessness around our highest political leaders and either refuse to acknowledge that we’ve done that or, worse, have decided that we don’t really mind.

 

UPDATE:  In a world in which the Rivkin/Casey mentality dominates (i.e., the world in which we actually live), imagine that you’re the American President, sitting in the Oval Office, tempted to issue a secret order that you know directs that laws be broken.  What possible pragmatic motive would you have to refrain from doing that?  Wouldn’t any rational person in that situation think to themselves:  

There’s nothing that would stop me from doing this because, fortunately, we live in a country where the President actually has the right to break the law and to do so without consequences.  In fact, amazingly enough, the citizenry — or at least the opinion-making elite — has somehow become convinced that it’s a good thing — vital even — for the President to have this lawbreaking right and to be shielded from consequences when he commits crimes.  I don’t know how that they got convinced of that, but that’s actually how they think.  As strange as it is, I know that if I decide to commit this crime, political and media figures from across the political spectrum will join together to insist that there must be no consequences for what I have done.

Ironically, while there is consensus horror in America’s political class over the idea that our political leaders might be charged and tried in the U.S. (let alone a foreign country) for their torture and other war crimes, we — Americans — have adopted a statute that expressly arrogates unto ourselves the power to do exactly that to leaders of other countries, and the Bush administration — even as they presided over their own torture regime — actually invoked that law to pursue such prosecutions.  After a torture prosecution of a Liberian official last December, Bush’s Attorney General, Michael Mukasey, actually spoke these words — what very well might be the most audaciously hypocritical quote of all of 2008:

Law without conscience is no guarantee of freedom; that even the seemingly most advanced of nations can be led down the path of evil; and that we must confront horror with action and vigilance, not lethargy and cowardice. . . .

His conviction – the first in history under our criminal anti-torture statute – provides a measure of justice to those who were victimized by his reprehensible acts, and it sends a powerful message to human rights violators around the world that, when we can, we will hold them accountable for their crimes.

No torturer is safe from American judicial accountability — as long as the torturer is not an American political official.

— Glenn Greenwald

The 180-Degree Reversal of Obama’s State Secrets Position February 10, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Criminal Justice.
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by Glenn Greenwald

From the Obama/Biden campaign website, mybarackobama.com, here was what the Obama campaign was saying — back then — about the State Secrets privilege:

 

Apparently, the operative word in that highlighted paragraph — unbeknownst to most people at the time — was “the Bush administration,” since the Obama administration is now doing exactly that which, during the campaign, it defined as “The Problem,” the only difference being that it is now Obama, and not Bush, doing it.  For journalists who haven’t bothered to learn the first thing about this issue even as they hold themselves out as experts on it, and for Obama followers eager to find an excuse to justify what was done, a brief review of the State Secrets privilege controversy is in order. 

Nobody — not the ACLU or anyone else — argues that the State Secrets privilege is inherently invalid.  Nobody contests that there is such a thing as a legitimate state secret.  Nobody believes that Obama should declassify every last secret and never classify anything else ever again.  Nor does anyone even assert that this particular lawsuit clearly involves no specific documents or portions of documents that might be legitimately subject to the privilege.  Those are all transparent, moronic strawmen advanced by people who have no idea what they’re talking about.

What was abusive and dangerous about the Bush administration’s version of the States Secret privilege — just as the Obama/Biden campaign pointed out — was that it was used not (as originally intended) to argue that specific pieces of evidence or documents were secret and therefore shouldn’t be allowed in a court case, but instead, to compel dismissal of entire lawsuits in advance based on the claim that any judicial adjudication of even the most illegal secret government programs would harm national security.  That is the theory that caused the bulk of the controversy when used by the Bush DOJ — because it shields entire government programs from any judicial scrutiny — and it is that exact version of the privilege that the Obama DOJ yesterday expressly advocated (and, by implication, sought to preserve for all Presidents, including Obama).  

Go read any critic of Bush’s use of the State Secrets privilege and those are the objections you will find (.pdf).  Kevin Drum last night explained it quite clearly:

By itself, this [the quantitative increase in the post-9/11 use of the privilege] is bad enough. But it’s not the worst part of the Bush administration’s use of the privilege.

Before 2001, the state secrets privilege was mostly used to object to specific pieces of evidence being introduced in court, something that nearly everyone agrees is at least occasionally necessary. But the Bush administration changed all that. In their typical expansive way, they decided to apply the privilege not just to individual pieces of evidence, but to get entire cases thrown out of court. What’s more, they did this not merely when a state secret was incidental to some unrelated complaint, but when the government itself was the target of the suit.

Now Barack Obama is president, and unfortunately he’s decided to continue the Bush administration’s expansive reading of the privilege.

To underscore just what a complete reversal the Obama DOJ’s conduct is, consider what Seante Democrats were saying for the last several years.  In early 2008, Sens. Kennedy and Leahy, along with Sen. Arlen Specter, sponsored the State Secrets Protection Act.  It had numerous co-sponsors, including Joe Biden.  In April, 2008, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bill, with all Committee Democrats voting for it, along with Specter.  The scheme restrictions imposed on the privilege by that bill was the consensus view of the pre-2009 Democratic Party.

The primary purpose of that bill is to bar the precise use of the State Secrets privilege which the Obama DOJ yesterday defended:   namely, as a tool to force courts to dismiss entire lawsuits from the start without any proceedings being held, rather than as a focused instrument for protecting specific pieces of classified information from disclosure. 

That bill explicitly provides that “the state secrets privilege shall not constitute grounds for dismissal of a case or claim” (Sec. 4053(b)).  Instead, the President could only “invoke the state secrets privilege as a ground for withholding information or evidence in discovery or for preventing the introduction of evidence at trial” (Sec. 4054(a)), and must submit each allegedly privileged piece of evidence to the court for the court to determine whether each item is legitimately subject to the privilege (Sec. 4054(d-e).  Where the court rules that a specific piece of evidence is privileged, it must attempt to find an evidentiary substitute (e.g., a summary of the evidence, a partially redacted copy, compelled admissions by the Government of certain allegations), and then — only after all the evidence is gathered in discovery — can the court dismiss the lawsuit only if it finds, in essence, that the plaintiffs cannot prove their case without reliance on the specific privileged information (Sec. 4055).

That has been the argument of Democrats for quite some time — as well as civil libertarians such as Russ Feingold and the ACLU, both of whom endorsed that bill:  that what was abusive and dangerous about Bush’s use of the State Secrets privilege was the preemptive, generalized use of this privilege to force dismissal of entire lawsuits in advance, even where the supposed secret to be concealed was the allegedly criminal activity itself.  And that is exactly the usage that the Obama administration is now defending. 

It doesn’t take much time or energy to understand why that instrument is so pernicious.  It enables a Government to break the law — repeatedly and deliberately — and then block courts from subjecting its behavior to any judicial accountability, and prevent the public from learning about the lawbreaking, by claiming that its conduct generally is too secret to allow any judicial review.  Put another way, it places Presidents and their aides beyond and above the rule of law, since it empowers them to break the law and then prevent their victims — or anyone else — from holding them accountable in a court of law.  As Russ Feingold put it:

When the executive branch invokes the state secrets privilege to shut down lawsuits, hides its programs behind secret OLC opinions, over-classifies information to avoid public disclosure, and interprets the Freedom of Information Act as an information withholding statute, it shuts down all of the means to detect and respond to its abuses of the rule of law – whether those abuses involve torture, domestic spying, or the firing of U.S. Attorneys for partisan gain.

In defending the Obama administration’s position (without beginning to understand it), The Atlantic‘s Marc Ambinder revealingly wrote — on behalf of civil libertarians who he fantasizes have anointed him their spokesman:

It wouldn’t be wise for a new administration to come in, take over a case from a prosecutor, and completely change a legal strategy in mid-course without a more thorough review of the national security implications. And, of course, the invocation itself isn’t necessarily an issue; civil libertarians and others who voted for Obama did so with the belief that his judgment and his attorney general would be better stewards of that privilege than President Bush and his attorney generals (and vice president.)

We don’t actually have a system of government (or at least we’re not supposed to) where we rely on the magnanimity and inherent Goodness of specific leaders to exercise secret powers wisely.  That, by definition, is how grateful subjects of benevolent tyrants think (“this power was bad in Bush’s hands because he’s bad, but it’s OK in Obama’s hands because he is good and kind”).  Countries that are nations of laws rather than of men don’t rely on blind faith in the good character of leaders to prevent abuse.  They rely on what we call “law” and “accountability” and “checks and balances” to provide those safeguards — exactly the type that Democrats, when it came to the States Secret privilege, long insisted upon before January 20, 2009.  

Democrats have large majorities in both houses of Congress; they ought to use it to legislatively bar the power that the Obama DOJ is now attempting to vest in the new President by enacting the legislation they spent all of last year insisting they favored.  Now that the Obama DOJ is seeking to acquire that power for its new President, the need for that law is more acute than ever.

Glenn Greenwald was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book “How Would a Patriot Act?,” a critique of the Bush administration’s use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, “A Tragic Legacy“, examines the Bush legacy.

Are We Civilized Enough to Hold Our Leaders Accountable for War Crimes? The World Is Watching January 26, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Torture, War.
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 John W. Dean, FindLaw.com. Posted January 24, 2009.

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.

US: Soaring Rates of Rape and Violence Against Women December 22, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, Women.
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www.truthout.org

8 December 2008

by: Human Rights Watch

 

More accurate methodology shows urgent need for preventive action.

  New York – A new government report showing huge increases in the incidences of domestic violence, rape, and sexual assault over a two-year period in the United States deserves immediate attention from lawmakers and the incoming administration, Human Rights Watch said today. The statistics show a 42-percent increase in reported domestic violence and a 25-percent increase in the reported incidence of rape and sexual assault.

    The National Crime Victimization Survey, based on projections from a national sample survey, says that at least 248,300 individuals were raped or sexually assaulted in 2007, up from 190,600 in 2005, the last year the survey was conducted. The study surveyed 73,600 individuals in 41,500 households. Among all violent crimes, domestic violence, rape, and sexual assault showed the largest increases. Except for simple assault, which increased by 3 percent, the incidence of every other crime surveyed decreased.

    “The numbers in this survey show an alarmingly high rate of sexual violence in this country,” said Sarah Tofte, researcher for the US Program at Human Rights Watch. “This should serve as a wake-up call that more must be done to address the problem in the US.”

    The projected number of violent crimes committed by intimate partners against women increased from 389,100 in 2005 to 554,260 in the 2007 report. By comparison, the number of violent crimes against men by intimate partners went down.

    “Domestic violence is often a hidden crime, and these numbers are a stark reminder of how serious and widespread this problem is,” said Tofte. “The Obama-Biden administration should make prevention and protection against all forms of domestic and sexual violence a top priority.”

    The National Crime Victimization Survey is conducted every two years, with data gathered in phone calls made to a sample of households across the United States. Due to criticism from experts in the subject, the survey’s methodology was adjusted in 2007 to capture more accurately the incidence of gender-based violence. The authors say in the report that the higher numbers may reflect the new, more accurate methodology rather than an actual increase. Two major shifts were to describe types of sexual assault to those being interviewed, and to replace “computer-assisted telephone interviews conducted from two telephone centers” nationwide with interviews “by field representatives either by telephone or in person.”

    “The new numbers indicate that previously, the government significantly underestimated the number of individuals affected by domestic and sexual violence in this country,” said Tofte. “Authorities should urgently adjust public policies, law enforcement, and provision of support services accordingly.”

    Human Rights Watch is currently investigating and monitoring the criminal justice response to sexual violence. The organization’s recent work includes investigating the backlog in untested DNA evidence collected in rape cases in the US. In Los Angeles City and County alone, there is a combined total of at least 13,000 untested sets of evidence, known as rape kits, sitting in storage.

    Human Rights Watch’s national recommendations include:

  • The Obama administration should appoint a special adviser on violence against women in the US;
  • Congress should restore full funding to the Office on Violence Against Women;
  • The Department of Justice, through the National Institute of Justice, should authorize comprehensive studies that more accurately track sexual and domestic violence in the US, especially among individuals who are least likely to be surveyed by the National Crime Victimization Survey;
  • Congress should increase funding for sexual and domestic violence prevention, intervention, and treatment programs;
  • Congress should amend the federal Debbie Smith Act, a grant program designed to eliminate the rape kit backlog, but that states can and have used for other kinds of DNA backlogs;
  • The US should ratify the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which obligates states to prevent, protect against, and punish violence against women.