jump to navigation

Brennan and Kiriakou, Drones and Torture February 6, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, George W. Bush, Human Rights, Torture, War on Terror.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment
Posted on Feb 6, 2013, http://www.truthdig.com

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.

Human Rights Watch decries U.S. prison system January 31, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Torture, War on Terror.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Thursday, Jan 31, 2013 10:25 AM EST

The NGO’s World Report criticizes mass incarceration and U.S. record of torture and extrajudicial killing

By

 

Human Rights Watch decries U.S. prison system (Credit: Shutterstock)

Human Rights Watch Thursday published its annual World Report, in which it lays out a pointed critique of the U.S. prison system. The enormous prison population  — the largest in the world at 1.6million — “partly reflects harsh sentencing practices contrary to international law,” notes the report.

The 2013 World Report, a 665-page tome which assesses human rights progress in the past year in 90 countries, highlights particular issues undergirding the U.S.’s blighted carceral system. It notes that “practices contrary to human rights principles, such as the death penalty, juvenile life-without-parole sentences, and solitary confinement are common and often marked by racial disparities.” Via HRW:

Research in 2012 found that the massive over-incarceration includes a growing number of elderly people whom prisons are ill-equipped to handle, and an estimated 93,000 youth under age 18 in adult jails and another 2,200 in adult prisons. Hundreds of children are subjected to solitary confinement. Racial and ethnic minorities remain disproportionately represented in the prison population.

HRW cite statistics often used to show racial disparities in the U.S. prison system. For example, while whites, African Americans and Latinos have comparable rates of drug use, African Americans are arrested for drug offenses, including possession, at three times the rate of white men.

“The United States has shown little interest in tackling abusive practices that have contributed to the country’s huge prison population,” said Maria McFarland, deputy U.S. program director at Human Rights Watch. “Unfortunately, it is society’s most vulnerable – racial and ethnic minorities, low-income people, immigrants, children, and the elderly – who are most likely to suffer from injustices in the criminal justice system.”

Although noting some progress in 2012 (both D.C. and Connecticut joined the ranks of 16 states to have abolished the death penalty), HRW also stressed continuing injustices in U.S. immigration policies, labor issues and treatment of minorities, women, the disabled and HIV positive individuals. The report was particularly critical when reviewing the U.S.’s counterterrorism policies. The NGO noted in a statement:

Both the Obama administration and Congress supported abusive counterterrorism laws and policies, including detention without charge at Guantanamo Bay, restrictions on the transfer of detainees held there, and prosecutions in a fundamentally flawed military commission system.  Attacks by US aerial drones were carried out in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, and elsewhere, with important legal questions about the attacks remaining unanswered.

The administration has taken no steps toward accountability for torture and other abuses committed by US officials in the so-called “war on terror,” and a Justice Department criminal investigation into detainee abuse concluded without recommending any charges. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence completed a more than 6,000-page report detailing the CIA’s rendition, detention, and interrogation program, but has yet to seek the report’s declassification so it can be released to the public.

The World Report explicitly mentions Obama’s signing of the NDAA in 2011 (an act he repeated this year), noting, “The act codified the existing executive practice of detaining terrorism suspects indefinitely without charge, and required that certain terrorism suspects be initially detained by the military if captured inside the U.S..”

Next week, the lawsuit against Obama over the NDAA’s definite detention provision will be back in federal court as plaintiffs including Chris Hedges, Daniel Ellsberg and Noam Chomsky seek an injunction prohibiting indefinite detention of civilians without charge or trial.

Comments from HRW’s McFarland point out what’s at stake for the president here: “The Obama administration has a chance in its second term to develop with Congress a real plan for closing Guantanamo and definitively ending abusive counterterrorism practices,” McFarland said. “A failure to do so puts Obama at risk of going down in history as the president who made indefinite detention without trial a permanent part of U.S. law.”

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email nlennard@salon.com. More Natasha Lennard.

‘Tipping Point’: Obama Lawyer Talks About Ending ‘Endless’ US War December 1, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in War on Terror.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Roger’s note: Tom Engelhardt’s quote of the war on terror at the end of this article is an excellent summary of the bogus justification for the so-called global war on terror.  Note that I have appended readers’ comments to the article, which for the most part add greatly to an understanding of US foreign policy.  My own opinion is that the US is too heavily invested in military warfare to take the sane and reasonable approach to acts of terror, which is to treat them as a law enforcement issue.  Simply put, war is too profitable to those who weild the power behind the scenes (i.e. Obama’s puppet masters).  Just one example: drone missiles are a billion dollar industry, and the owners and producers of drone missiles are the same people who are the de facto owners of the president and the congress.  It will take either a catastrophic event or popular citizen uprising to put a halt to this madness.

Published on Friday, November 30, 2012 by Common Dreams

Though he defends its worst worst practices and won’t declare when ‘tipping point’ might be reached, comments by Pentagon attorney could spark renewed debate about timeframe of war against al Qaeda

  – Common Dreams staff

If a global war declared by the world’s sole military and economic superpower against a shadowy, fragmented, franchisable, and loosely-grouped band of erstwhile ‘dangerous’ but also ‘ravaged’ and ‘largely dismantled’ terror group was over, how would you know it?

US defense department general counsel, Jeh Johnson, says responsibility for tackling al-Qaida should pass to the police and other law enforcement agencies when the ‘tipping point’ in pursuit of group is reached. (Photograph: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

You wouldn’t, of course, which is the reason that few ask and almost none, especially members of the US government or military, talk about anything that resembles the “official” end of what has long become known as the “global war on terrorism,” or GWOT.

Today, however, at a speech given at Oxford University, Jeh Johnson, a Pentagon lawyer and one of President Obama’s top legal advisors, spoke openly about what it might mean for the US government to declare an end to its seemingly endless war against—what critics have sharply pointed out is a “tactic”—”terrorism”.

In his presentation at Oxford, Johnson asked, “Now that efforts by the U.S. military against al Qaeda are in their 12th year, we must also ask ourselves: how will this conflict end?”

Though Johnson is an official spokesperson for the Defense Department and an aggressive defender of the controversial policies ensconced within the US war against al Qaeda, he also said that these policies would not, and should not, continue indefinitely. He said:

I do believe that on the present course, there will come a tipping point – a tipping point at which so many of the leaders and operatives of al Qaeda and its affiliates have been killed or captured, and the group is no longer able to attempt or launch a strategic attack against the United States, such that al Qaeda as we know it, the organization that our Congress authorized the military to pursue in 2001, has been effectively destroyed.

At that point, we must be able to say to ourselves that our efforts should no longer be considered an “armed conflict” against al Qaeda and its associated forces; rather, a counterterrorism effort against individuals who are the scattered remnants of al Qaeda, or are parts of groups unaffiliated with al Qaeda, for which the law enforcement and intelligence resources of our government are principally responsible, in cooperation with the international community – with our military assets available in reserve to address continuing and imminent terrorist threats.

At that point we will also need to face the question of what to do with any members of al Qaeda who still remain in U.S. military detention without a criminal conviction and sentence. In general, the military’s authority to detain ends with the “cessation of active hostilities.” For this particular conflict, all I can say today is that we should look to conventional legal principles to supply the answer, and that both our Nations faced similar challenging questions after the cessation of hostilities in World War II, and our governments delayed the release of some Nazi German prisoners of war.

As Reuters reports:

The U.S. government points to the existence of an armed conflict as the legal underpinning of practices such as indefinite detention of the global militant group’s members and allies.

Johnson’s remarks could ignite a global political debate with arguments from both the left and the right.

The speech to the Oxford Union did not forecast when such a moment would arrive because, it said, al Qaeda and its affiliates in Yemen and elsewhere remain a danger.

But Johnson tried to frame the discussion with what he called conventional legal principles rather than a new legal structure emerging from the September 11 attacks.

And The Guardian adds:

Washington’s pursuit of suspected al-Qaida terrorists has been controversial, such as the use of UAVs – or drones – to launch attacks in countries such as Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen.

The administration has been criticised by human rights groups and US academics who say the tactic enrages local populations and causes civilian deaths. It is also legally dubious, they argue.

A fortnight ago the US defence secretary, Leon Panetta, claimed America had “decimated core al-Qaida” and that the group was “widely distributed, loosely knit and geographically dispersed”.

His remarks echoed those of Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the UN, who is Barack Obama’s nominee to succeed Hillary Clinton as secretary of state.

She has been pilloried by Republicans for suggesting the attack in Benghazi, Libya, that led to the death of US ambassador Christopher Stephen was spontaneous rather than planned.

Such characterisations will put Washington under greater pressure to review and justify the military campaign against al-Qaida, which has been virtually wiped out in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and now exists only in small, disorganised regional splinter groups.

Critics of the so-called ‘global war on terror’ have long held that the impulsive decision by the US government to respond to the crimes that took place on September 11th, 2011 with military force—as opposed to treating it as a law enforcement issue—was the original sin of the post-9/11 era.  As Tom Engelhardt, editor of TomDispatch, wrote on the tenth anniversary of 9/11:

It was not a nuclear attack.  It was not apocalyptic.  The cloud of smoke where the towers stood was no mushroom cloud.  It was not potentially civilization ending.  It did not endanger the existence of our country — or even of New York City.  Spectacular as it looked and staggering as the casualty figures were, the operation was hardly more technologically advanced than the failed attack on a single tower of the World Trade Center in 1993 by Islamists using a rented Ryder truck packed with explosives.

A second irreality went with the first.  Almost immediately, key Republicans like Senator John McCain, followed by George W. Bush, top figures in his administration, and soon after, in a drumbeat of agreement, the mainstream media declared that we were “at war.” This was, Bush would say only three days after the attacks, “the first war of the twenty-first century.”  Only problem: it wasn’t.  Despite the screaming headlines, Ground Zero wasn’t Pearl Harbor.  Al-Qaeda wasn’t Japan, nor was it Nazi Germany.  It wasn’t the Soviet Union.  It had no army, nor finances to speak of, and possessed no state (though it had the minimalist protection of a hapless government in Afghanistan, one of the most backward, poverty-stricken lands on the planet).

And yet — another sign of where we were heading — anyone who suggested that this wasn’t war, that it was a criminal act and some sort of international police action was in order, was simply laughed (or derided or insulted) out of the American room.  And so the empire prepared to strike back (just as Osama bin Laden hoped it would) in an apocalyptic, planet-wide “war” for domination that masqueraded as a war for survival.

In the meantime, the populace was mustered through repetitive, nationwide 9/11 rites emphasizing that we Americans were the greatest victims, greatest survivors, and greatest dominators on planet Earth.  It was in this cause that the dead of 9/11 were turned into potent recruiting agents for a revitalized American way of war.

Read Jeh Johnson’s full prepared remarks here.

38 comments 26 reactions

  • Dem. Socialism

    OUT NOW! Enough posturing, lying, concealing, and spinning. There is absolutely NO REASON except supporting Big Oil and the MIC to still be over there pissing off dollars that are needed at home.

    Our “leaders” have no idea why they are in D.C. None! Taking care of America’s people FIRST is their damned jobs. Where is the outrage?! Where are the crowds, like the Egyptians and Greeks, assaulting the capitol?! WHERE IS OUR COURAGE?!

  • itsthethird

    Remember real power in Washington is not at the white house but at Fed. Reserve and beyond the game is rigged.  Now at all times the US economy is at risk  by capital manipulation minor or major ie fiscal mess and in turn the Presidency and the world.   The situation of too much in too few hands is in fact a security risk as great as WMD.  Thus, we are going over the same old fiscal bs.  The president needs to protect usa from financial sabatage both dimestic and foregn but can’t his risk to great.

  • Tom Carberry

    Remarkable words from someone in the Pentagon.  Will he keep his job?  Will it have any effect?  Will anyone but academics in England listen to him?  Will he have any influence on Obama, who seems to love war and killing and has personally directed killing of Muslims?

  • LocalHero

    Oh, that’s right. We’re supposed to all believe that some guy in a cave (who, incidentally, died in late 2001) engineered an ingenious plan to hijack several airliners with box-cutters and, in doing so, managed to outwit the planet’s most all-encompassing intelligence and policing agencies. Yeah, let’s all pretend we believe that.

  • Paul Fretheim

    I agree. What rubbish!

    The worst act of terrorism in history was the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japanese cities. The world has been intimidated by terror ever since and the U.S. is and has been the greatest purveyor of that terror. So terror continues to rule until the nukes are disarmed.

    Here is a brief live news report (32 seconds) from ABC 7 New York from the foot of the World Trade Center Towers. What is seen here directly contradicts the entire fantasy of planes crashing into the buildings caused them to fall down.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?f…

    Think about it. The entire course of history has been altered by an obviously false story.

  • Shantiananda

    Jet fuel is kerosene and kerosene cannot melt steel, let alone pulverize a 110 story building into fine dust particles. And of course, no one can explain WTC #7 that was not hit by a plane! 3000 of our fellow and innocent citizens were murdered in cold blood on 911, plus who knows how many, have died and will die in the future from the toxic dust. I do not know who was behind 911, but the entire governments con- conspiracy theory is a bogus lie.

  • Laurence Schechtman

    The obvious truth that the buildings were brought down by internal explosions can not be stated often enough. No steel frame skyscraper has ever collapsed completely because of fire alone.  There is plenty of other evidence, but that should be enough.

  • beaglebailey

    Please explain what you mean. I watched it but don’t understand what you mean. Thanks. Watched again. The guy said explosions and I could see them. Is that what you meant? Great vid.

  • Memory_Hole

    Yes, it was the “huge explosion(s)” that brought those towers down.  Not jet impacts and jet fuel fires.  This is physics 101.

  • beaglebailey

    Yeah, I have seen the vids where the supposed plane stops in mid air after blowing thru the buildings.It is just so amazing how so many people cannot see thru the bs of the false flag. And why no one ever questions the facts that the US military’s jets never scrambled even with 4 jets in the air for over an hour.

  • Memory_Hole

    I don’t know what vids you’re talking about.  The planes hit the buildings.  And yes, they were planes.  As far as the jets, they *did* scramble, but they scrambled way too slowly and then went at about half speed.

  • Bill_from_Saginaw1

    Jeh Johnson’s spech at Oxford Union is worth reading in its entirety by clicking on the link.  I particularly valued his remark to the effect that “War reverses the natural order of things, in which children bury their parents; in war, parents bury their children.”  Johnson concludes that the concept of “endless war” should not be permitted to become the “new normal” for the United States nor the international community.
    It will be interesting to see what coverage or reaction in commentary there is in the mainstream US media in the near future.  There are several intriguing possible developments to watch.  Maybe only websites like CD, European-oriented media outlets like Reuters, and leftist British papers like the Guardian think there’s something newsworthy going on here.  But we shall see.

    First, in terms of the opaque, glacially slow bureaucratic shifts at the pinnacle of the Washington DC beltway power structure, it may be noteworthy that this is the Pentagon’s chief lawyer – the civilian legal counsel to the post-Robert Gates/Donald Rumsfeld Department of Defense – who is speaking.  He’s not speaking at West Point.  He’s not even speaking on American soil. He’s delivering well-vetted remarks before a receptive assembly of academically minded listeners far away from the crosshairs of the partisan American political scene.

    But very much in the tradition of President Barack Obama’s style of dealing with national security-related issues, we have (miraculously) the military establishment taking the lead,  talking openly about bringing the global war on terror to a finite end, and restoring the concept that “lone wolf” or other scattered “terrorist groups” should be treated as criminals or as criminal conspiracies in the future – a law enforcement priority, not automatically enemy combatants.  On behalf of the troops, Jeh Johnson is cautiously voicing thoughts that John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and the rest of the so-called responsible, reality-based political community back stateside have not dared to utter publicly for over a decade.

    Second, again peering at what the Washington tea leaves may signify, reflect that (reportedly, according to the insiders) the current Attorney General, Secretary of State, and some other members of Obama’s cabinet are ready to exit out the revolving door to pursue other endeavors.  Jeh Johnson?  A distinguished jurist and Morehouse man, loyal to this president and none other (his words, during the course of this speech) may be toe testing some big waters from the other side of the Atlantic pond.

    If the soldiers and sailors and spies can get institutionally herded on board to declare victory in the global war on terror first, then perhaps there may be a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.  The GOP Senate leadership and the right wing media megaphone will no doubt shriek and react vehemently.  Let us see what we shall see.

    Good luck, Jeh.  This is a thoughtful first step on what may be a long and arduous trek back towards sanity from the bloody, dystopian post-9/11 quagmire.  The whole world is not breathlessly watching, but what happens next is well worth a peek for those who consider themselves part of the American peace movement.

    Bill from Saginaw

  • Memory_Hole

    Well, permanent war *has* been permitted to become the new norm in the U.S., regardless of what this fellow says about it.  Actually, I believe Dick Cheney said the GWOT would last generations, so he suggested at least 20 years or more.  So technically, we could say we are not in a state of permanent war, but when you reflect that this particular war was based on false flag terrorism, and you look at all the dictatorial powers that have been granted to the presidency since then, it is pretty clear that the US has been permanently changed.  It’s not as though there are any meaningful sunset provisions to the PATRIOT Act, or the NDAA.

  • dogpaddle

    If you listen to his spiel:  “A distinguished jurist and Morehouse man, loyal to this president” kind of says it all. He nauseated me.

  • Siouxrose

    Thank you for that thorough, helpful analysis. You highlight the most significant possibilities.

  • Norton_Fort

    Even so, the speech needs to be put in context.  Earlier this year Johnson defended Obama’s drone strike policy in a speech at Yale Law School:  “The Obama administration’s top Pentagon lawyer . . . said that courts have no business questioning executive branch decisions about whom to target for extra-judicial executions in the war on terror, even if that target is an American citizen.”  http://news.antiwar.com/2012/0…. However, Johnson also said that the administration’s plans to continue airstrikes against Libya violated the War Powers Act. (So did the DOJ).  Obama rejected that advice and instead followed that of a White House counsel and Secretary of State lawyer Howard Koh.  Koh seems to be the Obama administration’s John Yoo, although he strongly denounced Bush’s Iraq policy.  Guess it depends on who’s paying your salary.

  • rtdrury

    9/11 exposed how very unintelligent and emotionally perverted das elites really are.  They have spent the time since frantically escalating the petro-opiate bread/circus assault on the people in an attempt to stave off popular revolt against the catastrophic turbulence created by their war on humanity.

     

  • Thoughts_Into_Action

    Well, the Obama administration, like the Bush administration before it, is simply making up the law as they go. What’s this concept of breaking the law for just a short while, coming from Obama’s legal advisor? That idea makes the law utterly meaningless. Right now, the law is whatever Obama says it is, and there seems to be no check at all on his illegally presumed powers, including his assumption of the power to assassinate anyone at will.

    Quite frankly, the United States under Bush/Bama has blatantly violated international and U.S. laws. They’ve invaded countries with troops to kill stateless individuals (50 al Quaida members), which is an act of war, rather than a police action. Guys with “plans” in Pakistan or Afghanistan do not represent an imminent threat to the United States.

    Worst of all, this lawyer has the nerve to talk about World War II. He says, “For this particular conflict, all I can say today is that we should look to conventional legal principles to supply the answer, and that both our Nations faced similar challenging questions after the cessation of hostilities in World War II, and our governments delayed the release of some Nazi German prisoners of war.” Well, under those principles, the United States remains as a gross violator of the law.

    I’m not sure why this guy is droning on about this issue. We know the Obama administration is continuing those illegal actions: torture, assassination, war without end.

  • Memory_Hole

    I have to agree TIA.  I don’t think there’s much new here.  Whatever he may have *said* about it, the United States is *de facto* in a state of permanent war.  It is unconstitutional, unlawful, illegal, and as you say, Bush & Obama, with the willful complicity of a corrupt Congress, just making up the law as they go along.

  • Kokr_Spanielesko

    “The speech to the Oxford Union did not forecast when such a moment would arrive”

    It probably won’t.  What would the government, the military and the whole MICC do after all this time without war?  I just don’t believe it.  Chris Hedges wrote a book called ‘War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning’.  That hasn’t changed.  And General Patton’s words still ring true: “Americans traditionally love to fight.”

  • Hello

    Well, it is clear to me that the world community is much more interconnected than it used to be.  It is as if war has lost its purpose:  It has lost its chivalry, in a sense.  Nowadays, nations go to war for the sake of the few to make some serious money while most people in the society foot the bill for it!  It no longer serves to benefit and preserve the national culture of a given people.  Going to war and financially paying for it on credit?  Borrowing money from foreign nations in order to finance a military excursion?  How absurd!  Of course, killing human beings simply for the sake of both commodities and currency that the majority of the society do not benefit from is just…wrong.  Aforementioned, to me, are immoral reasons to go to war!

  • Doug Latimer

    The “war” will never end

    Because in the empire game

    You can’t boogie without a boogeyman

    And given Engelhardt’s undeniably accurate portrayal of the GWOT ™ as a “‘war’ for domination”

    How can you call its launching “impulsive”?

    Inquiring – and incredulous – minds want to know.

  • Memory_Hole

    Hard to know how to take Johnson’s comments.  The whole so-called “global war on terror” has been a big fraud from day one, and everything he says about Al Qaeda today could have been said about it in 2001. Somehow, I can draw no encouragement from them.  If he is someone with perhaps some remnant of conscience left who is trying to speak out and bring this madness of permanent war to an end, well, god be with him.

    My guess is we’ll hear nothing about his comments on CNN, NBC, CBS, NPR, ABC, PBS, MSNBC, Fox et al, nor will we read about them in the pages of the big city newspapers.  The comments will be discussed for a few days on remote corners of the Internet like this site, and then be forgotten about.

  • tutan_khamun

    It’ll never happen, there’s no profit in peace. And war has been the bread and butter of the American economy for 100 years. 50% of our budget goes to “defense” (war) so why is this counsel even considering the possibility of peace? Throwing crumbs to Obama’s base, perhaps.

  • frigate

    Lets cut the BS and prosecute the Bushites responsible for it all.

  • Anton van der Baan

    “the crimes that took place on September 11th, 2011″

    2011??? oops

  • GeorgeA

    Could this be a tiny pinprick of light at the end of the long tunnel?

    Couple things that are noteworthy:

    1. It is very important that the ‘war’ on terror is going to be held to ‘conventional legal standards’.  It is important that the war has been acknowledged to even have an ‘end’, as much of what came out of the Bush Admin indicated that it would be a war ‘without end’.

    2. This could signal the long-term thinking of the Obama admin.  Having a pentagon lawyer sort of float the idea in a bit of a wonky backwater could be a good way to test the reaction to the idea that the GWOT might actually end.  Obama is cautious, and he should proceed with caution.  While ending wars quickly is certainly preferable to extending them, ending wars must be done carefully lest a ‘stab in the back’ type myth emerge a generation later and get us right back into the mess.

    3. Of course, there are those who will simply say Obama loves war/is a MIC puppet/doesn’t care/gets off on killing kids.  But then that raises the question, why send this guy out to say these things at all?  It’s not like he was talking off the record, these were prepared remarks.  If Obama wanted to keep blowing people up, he could simply have maintained the old line about ‘the long war’.

    4. It is very interesting that we first saw that Obama was trying to limit the ability of future presidents to use drones.  Now he’s tentatively putting out the idea that once the GWOT is declared over, many of these operations will no longer have justification.  If Obama is clever (and I think that he is), he is trying to wind this war down in a way that will appear to the hawks as legitimate.  Again, trying to avoid the ‘stab-in-the-back’ problem.

  • Memory_Hole

    Your take on it is interesting.  It’s always good to try to be clear-eyed about these things, neither cynical nor credulous.  I didn’t know Obama had tried to limit the ability of future presidents to use drones?  Source?  You know, even though the man’s remarks were “prepared,” we can’t say for sure that they represent Obama.  They are *supposed* to represent his administration.  But it’s possible he included some unauthorized views as well, for reasons of conscience.

    I believe there are still some good people in govt., at all levels, including the Dept. of Defense, who know damn well the fraudulent basis of the “war on terror”–and it’s possible this Jeh Johnson is one of them.  There are others, who remain nameless, yet work to expose the lies.  I’m thinking of whoever it was in the Dept. of Justice who finally exposed the fact that the calls to Ted Olsen from his wife on Flight 77 never happened.  Clearly, that little leak was not part of the officially sanctioned script.  Unfortunately, almost no one knows about it, because the corporate media doesn’t report it, or reports it so briefly it’s as though it doesn’t register.

  • GeorgeA

    I was referring to the ‘guidelines’ that the Obama administration is working on.  These would set up a framework under which drones strikes would be taken.  They were given priority status when it seemed possible for Romney to win, but are now not being rushed. http://www.commondreams.org/he…

    Still, it shows that Obama is thinking long-term.  Most important, it seems that Mr. Johnson is indicating that if the GWOT is declared over, the kill list becomes completely inoperative.  Obama, who has seemed like such a hawkish president thus far, may end up surprising everyone.

  • Memory_Hole

    I read the article you linked.  It says that Obama claims to want to “put a legal architecture in place…to make sure that not only am I reined in but any president’s reined in terms of some of the decisions that we’re making” (vis a vis drone strikes).

    At the same time, the article doesn’t mention the fact that Obama has increased drone strikes several hundred fold over the prior administration.  Moreover, In court, fighting lawsuits filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and The New York Times seeking secret legal opinions on targeted killings, the administration has refused even to acknowledge the existence of the drone program in Pakistan.

    I find it bizarre that a president who claims to want a lawful process re: drones has in fact expanded what is a de facto process of extrajudicial assassination several hundredfold beyond that of George W. Bush.  I find it bizarre that his seeming democratic sensibilities are contradicted by his arguments in court, which refuse to even acknowledge the existence of the drone program in Pakistan.

    So yes, I agree Obama is thinking long-term.  Long term, he wants to institutionalize the use of drones for these extrajudicial assassinations, which again, he has drastically increased over Bush.  And if we put that together with the NDAA which he signed, his war on whistleblowers and his continued signing on to the country being in a “state of emergency,” I don’t find anything to be reassured about here.

    As far as the GWOT being declared over, I can find nothing in Obama’s *actions* to indicate that he personally is looking toward that day at any time in the foreseeable future, notwithstanding Mr. Johnson’s remarks.

  • Norton_Fort

    Please see my response to Bill from Saginaw, above, about some of Jeh Johnson’s history with the Obama administration.   And Obama is not trying to “limit the ability of future presidents to use drones.”  He’s trying to institutionalize his policy to bind future presidents.  Check out a series of articles on Obama’s attempts to extend these strikes into the future (for a minimum of 10 years, but probably longer) in the Washington Post.  I don’t have the link, because I read the articles in the paper version, but the author of the series is Greg Miller and it was published in the Post on October 24-26.  The caption of the Oct. 24 story (on p. 1) is “U.S. set to keep kill lists for years; ‘Disposition Matrix’ Secretly Crafted; Blueprint would guide hunt for terrorists.” “A senior White House official” gave the following quote:  “One of the things we are looking at very hard is how to institutionalize a process that will outlive this administration.”  I recommend the series.  It is among the best reporting I have seen in the Post, which, although it has lousy editorial policy, occasionally has excellent reporting.  But don’t take my word for it — read the series.  I’d be interested in what you think.

  • New Afrikan ImageMakers

    its a dangerous position, for Prez Obama and the rest of us, too, isn’t it…its eazy to level heavy criticism at presidents in general…but Obama’s behind is literally on the line–especially if he goes against the war machine.

  • jimbojamesiv

    While I disagree with a lot of what you say the thing about Obama “trying to limit the ability of future presidents to use drones,” is unequivocally false.

    The reason Obama rushed to codify the rules on drones was to cover his ass.

  • lucitanian

    What absolute Hollywood virtual reality nonsense ; a terrorist state declares the end of a war against a myth they invented. What broody next, “aliens”? How gullible do the people who think this crap up believe their audience is?

    He guys, more people are killed by their household furniture than by terrorism and that is not because Ikea is doing a bad job while DHS is doing a good one. But, certainly a Global War on Falling Kitchen Cabinets would be a lot cheaper than DHS Annual budget, US$60.4 billion (FY 2012).

    You know what really is a security risk? Climate change, but for that they would actually have to “do” something rather than shovel money between friends and lobbies.

  • timebiter

    While they are at it why not end the drug war, overturn the patriot act revamp and disperse./end DHS. Oops! I forgot. To many corporations getting welfare from these programs and laws.

  • Laurence Schechtman

    You get about 3 times as many jobs hiring teachers as you do supporting the military.  Obama and many capitalists know that an economic collapse is coming, and that converting “Defense” spending to the civilian economy MAY be the only way to head it off, without pre-Reagan taxes on the rich, which they are not going to do.  So MAYBE, ending “permanent war” is the only way Obama can see to avoid a 30′s style depression, which would wreck his “legacy” forever.  MAYBE.  We can only hope.

  • Paul_Klinkman_two

    American:  Hi, we’ve come to give you democracy.

    Afghani: The local warlord has ordered me to grow opium for him.  I’ll be shot if I don’t follow his directions.  When will I get this democracy and be free?

    American:  The heck I know.  Maybe we’re really here to give ourselves the democracy.

    Afghani:  But when will you get this democracy?

    American:  The heck I know.

  • MidaFo

    Yet more Dubyaspeak.

                We were unable to load Disqus. If you are a moderator please                see our troubleshooting guide.

  • 38 comments

  • 26 reactions

Leave a message…
                        ⬇ Drag and drop your images here to upload them.
Connect with
                            or register with Disqus
Next

No one has commented yet.
  • Avatar
    Dem. Socialism16 hours ago

    OUT NOW! Enough posturing, lying, concealing, and spinning. There is absolutely NO REASON except supporting Big Oil and the MIC to still be over there pissing off dollars that are needed at home.

    Our “leaders” have no idea why they are in D.C. None! Taking care of America’s people FIRST is their damned jobs. Where is the outrage?! Where are the crowds, like the Egyptians and Greeks, assaulting the capitol?! WHERE IS OUR COURAGE?!

  • Avatar
    Tom Carberry15 hours ago

    Remarkable words from someone in the Pentagon.  Will he keep his job?  Will it have any effect?  Will anyone but academics in England listen to him?  Will he have any influence on Obama, who seems to love war and killing and has personally directed killing of Muslims?

  • Avatar
    LocalHero14 hours ago

    Oh, that’s right. We’re supposed to all believe that some guy in a cave (who, incidentally, died in late 2001) engineered an ingenious plan to hijack several airliners with box-cutters and, in doing so, managed to outwit the planet’s most all-encompassing intelligence and policing agencies. Yeah, let’s all pretend we believe that.

  • Avatar
    Bill_from_Saginaw115 hours ago

    Jeh Johnson’s spech at Oxford Union is worth reading in its entirety by clicking on the link.  I particularly valued his remark to the effect that “War reverses the natural order of things, in which children bury their parents; in war, parents bury their children.”  Johnson concludes that the concept of “endless war” should not be permitted to become the “new normal” for the United States nor the international community.
    It will be interesting to see what coverage or reaction in commentary there is in the mainstream US media in the near future.  There are several intriguing possible developments to watch.  Maybe only websites like CD, European-oriented media outlets like Reuters, and leftist British papers like the Guardian think there’s something newsworthy going on here.  But we shall see.

    First, in terms of the opaque, glacially slow bureaucratic shifts at the pinnacle of the Washington DC beltway power structure, it may be noteworthy that this is the Pentagon’s chief lawyer – the civilian legal counsel to the post-Robert Gates/Donald Rumsfeld Department of Defense – who is speaking.  He’s not speaking at West Point.  He’s not even speaking on American soil. He’s delivering well-vetted remarks before a receptive assembly of academically minded listeners far away from the crosshairs of the partisan American political scene.

    But very much in the tradition of President Barack Obama’s style of dealing with national security-related issues, we have (miraculously) the military establishment taking the lead,  talking openly about bringing the global war on terror to a finite end, and restoring the concept that “lone wolf” or other scattered “terrorist groups” should be treated as criminals or as criminal conspiracies in the future – a law enforcement priority, not automatically enemy combatants.  On behalf of the troops, Jeh Johnson is cautiously voicing thoughts that John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and the rest of the so-called responsible, reality-based political community back stateside have not dared to utter publicly for over a decade.

    Second, again peering at what the Washington tea leaves may signify, reflect that (reportedly, according to the insiders) the current Attorney General, Secretary of State, and some other members of Obama’s cabinet are ready to exit out the revolving door to pursue other endeavors.  Jeh Johnson?  A distinguished jurist and Morehouse man, loyal to this president and none other (his words, during the course of this speech) may be toe testing some big waters from the other side of the Atlantic pond.

    If the soldiers and sailors and spies can get institutionally herded on board to declare victory in the global war on terror first, then perhaps there may be a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.  The GOP Senate leadership and the right wing media megaphone will no doubt shriek and react vehemently.  Let us see what we shall see.

    Good luck, Jeh.  This is a thoughtful first step on what may be a long and arduous trek back towards sanity from the bloody, dystopian post-9/11 quagmire.  The whole world is not breathlessly watching, but what happens next is well worth a peek for those who consider themselves part of the American peace movement.

    Bill from Saginaw

  • Avatar
    rtdrury14 hours ago

    9/11 exposed how very unintelligent and emotionally perverted das elites really are.  They have spent the time since frantically escalating the petro-opiate bread/circus assault on the people in an attempt to stave off popular revolt against the catastrophic turbulence created by their war on humanity.

     

  • Avatar
    Thoughts_Into_Action12 hours ago

    Well, the Obama administration, like the Bush administration before it, is simply making up the law as they go. What’s this concept of breaking the law for just a short while, coming from Obama’s legal advisor? That idea makes the law utterly meaningless. Right now, the law is whatever Obama says it is, and there seems to be no check at all on his illegally presumed powers, including his assumption of the power to assassinate anyone at will.

    Quite frankly, the United States under Bush/Bama has blatantly violated international and U.S. laws. They’ve invaded countries with troops to kill stateless individuals (50 al Quaida members), which is an act of war, rather than a police action. Guys with “plans” in Pakistan or Afghanistan do not represent an imminent threat to the United States.

    Worst of all, this lawyer has the nerve to talk about World War II. He says, “For this particular conflict, all I can say today is that we should look to conventional legal principles to supply the answer, and that both our Nations faced similar challenging questions after the cessation of hostilities in World War II, and our governments delayed the release of some Nazi German prisoners of war.” Well, under those principles, the United States remains as a gross violator of the law.

    I’m not sure why this guy is droning on about this issue. We know the Obama administration is continuing those illegal actions: torture, assassination, war without end.

  • Avatar
    Kokr_Spanielesko14 hours ago

    “The speech to the Oxford Union did not forecast when such a moment would arrive”

    It probably won’t.  What would the government, the military and the whole MICC do after all this time without war?  I just don’t believe it.  Chris Hedges wrote a book called ‘War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning’.  That hasn’t changed.  And General Patton’s words still ring true: “Americans traditionally love to fight.”

  • Avatar
    Hello15 hours ago

    Well, it is clear to me that the world community is much more interconnected than it used to be.  It is as if war has lost its purpose:  It has lost its chivalry, in a sense.  Nowadays, nations go to war for the sake of the few to make some serious money while most people in the society foot the bill for it!  It no longer serves to benefit and preserve the national culture of a given people.  Going to war and financially paying for it on credit?  Borrowing money from foreign nations in order to finance a military excursion?  How absurd!  Of course, killing human beings simply for the sake of both commodities and currency that the majority of the society do not benefit from is just…wrong.  Aforementioned, to me, are immoral reasons to go to war!

  • Avatar
    Doug Latimer8 hours ago

    The “war” will never end

    Because in the empire game

    You can’t boogie without a boogeyman

    And given Engelhardt’s undeniably accurate portrayal of the GWOT ™ as a “‘war’ for domination”

    How can you call its launching “impulsive”?

    Inquiring – and incredulous – minds want to know.

  • Avatar
    Memory_Hole12 hours ago

    Hard to know how to take Johnson’s comments.  The whole so-called “global war on terror” has been a big fraud from day one, and everything he says about Al Qaeda today could have been said about it in 2001. Somehow, I can draw no encouragement from them.  If he is someone with perhaps some remnant of conscience left who is trying to speak out and bring this madness of permanent war to an end, well, god be with him.

    My guess is we’ll hear nothing about his comments on CNN, NBC, CBS, NPR, ABC, PBS, MSNBC, Fox et al, nor will we read about them in the pages of the big city newspapers.  The comments will be discussed for a few days on remote corners of the Internet like this site, and then be forgotten about.

  • Avatar
    tutan_khamun13 hours ago

    It’ll never happen, there’s no profit in peace. And war has been the bread and butter of the American economy for 100 years. 50% of our budget goes to “defense” (war) so why is this counsel even considering the possibility of peace? Throwing crumbs to Obama’s base, perhaps.

  • Avatar
    frigate10 hours ago

    Lets cut the BS and prosecute the Bushites responsible for it all.

  • Avatar
    Anton van der Baan16 hours ago

    “the crimes that took place on September 11th, 2011″

    2011??? oops

  • Avatar
    GeorgeA12 hours ago

    Could this be a tiny pinprick of light at the end of the long tunnel?

    Couple things that are noteworthy:

    1. It is very important that the ‘war’ on terror is going to be held to ‘conventional legal standards’.  It is important that the war has been acknowledged to even have an ‘end’, as much of what came out of the Bush Admin indicated that it would be a war ‘without end’.

    2. This could signal the long-term thinking of the Obama admin.  Having a pentagon lawyer sort of float the idea in a bit of a wonky backwater could be a good way to test the reaction to the idea that the GWOT might actually end.  Obama is cautious, and he should proceed with caution.  While ending wars quickly is certainly preferable to extending them, ending wars must be done carefully lest a ‘stab in the back’ type myth emerge a generation later and get us right back into the mess.

    3. Of course, there are those who will simply say Obama loves war/is a MIC puppet/doesn’t care/gets off on killing kids.  But then that raises the question, why send this guy out to say these things at all?  It’s not like he was talking off the record, these were prepared remarks.  If Obama wanted to keep blowing people up, he could simply have maintained the old line about ‘the long war’.

    4. It is very interesting that we first saw that Obama was trying to limit the ability of future presidents to use drones.  Now he’s tentatively putting out the idea that once the GWOT is declared over, many of these operations will no longer have justification.  If Obama is clever (and I think that he is), he is trying to wind this war down in a way that will appear to the hawks as legitimate.  Again, trying to avoid the ‘stab-in-the-back’ problem.

    • Avatar
      Memory_Hole GeorgeA11 hours ago

      Your take on it is interesting.  It’s always good to try to be clear-eyed about these things, neither cynical nor credulous.  I didn’t know Obama had tried to limit the ability of future presidents to use drones?  Source?  You know, even though the man’s remarks were “prepared,” we can’t say for sure that they represent Obama.  They are *supposed* to represent his administration.  But it’s possible he included some unauthorized views as well, for reasons of conscience.

      I believe there are still some good people in govt., at all levels, including the Dept. of Defense, who know damn well the fraudulent basis of the “war on terror”–and it’s possible this Jeh Johnson is one of them.  There are others, who remain nameless, yet work to expose the lies.  I’m thinking of whoever it was in the Dept. of Justice who finally exposed the fact that the calls to Ted Olsen from his wife on Flight 77 never happened.  Clearly, that little leak was not part of the officially sanctioned script.  Unfortunately, almost no one knows about it, because the corporate media doesn’t report it, or reports it so briefly it’s as though it doesn’t register.

      • Avatar
        GeorgeA Memory_Hole10 hours ago

        I was referring to the ‘guidelines’ that the Obama administration is working on.  These would set up a framework under which drones strikes would be taken.  They were given priority status when it seemed possible for Romney to win, but are now not being rushed. http://www.commondreams.org/he…

        Still, it shows that Obama is thinking long-term.  Most important, it seems that Mr. Johnson is indicating that if the GWOT is declared over, the kill list becomes completely inoperative.  Obama, who has seemed like such a hawkish president thus far, may end up surprising everyone.

        • Avatar
          Memory_Hole GeorgeA9 hours ago

          I read the article you linked.  It says that Obama claims to want to “put a legal architecture in place…to make sure that not only am I reined in but any president’s reined in terms of some of the decisions that we’re making” (vis a vis drone strikes).

          At the same time, the article doesn’t mention the fact that Obama has increased drone strikes several hundred fold over the prior administration.  Moreover, In court, fighting lawsuits filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and The New York Times seeking secret legal opinions on targeted killings, the administration has refused even to acknowledge the existence of the drone program in Pakistan.

          I find it bizarre that a president who claims to want a lawful process re: drones has in fact expanded what is a de facto process of extrajudicial assassination several hundredfold beyond that of George W. Bush.  I find it bizarre that his seeming democratic sensibilities are contradicted by his arguments in court, which refuse to even acknowledge the existence of the drone program in Pakistan.

          So yes, I agree Obama is thinking long-term.  Long term, he wants to institutionalize the use of drones for these extrajudicial assassinations, which again, he has drastically increased over Bush.  And if we put that together with the NDAA which he signed, his war on whistleblowers and his continued signing on to the country being in a “state of emergency,” I don’t find anything to be reassured about here.

          As far as the GWOT being declared over, I can find nothing in Obama’s *actions* to indicate that he personally is looking toward that day at any time in the foreseeable future, notwithstanding Mr. Johnson’s remarks.

      • Avatar
        Norton_Fort Memory_Hole7 hours ago

        Please see my response to Bill from Saginaw, above, about some of Jeh Johnson’s history with the Obama administration.   And Obama is not trying to “limit the ability of future presidents to use drones.”  He’s trying to institutionalize his policy to bind future presidents.  Check out a series of articles on Obama’s attempts to extend these strikes into the future (for a minimum of 10 years, but probably longer) in the Washington Post.  I don’t have the link, because I read the articles in the paper version, but the author of the series is Greg Miller and it was published in the Post on October 24-26.  The caption of the Oct. 24 story (on p. 1) is “U.S. set to keep kill lists for years; ‘Disposition Matrix’ Secretly Crafted; Blueprint would guide hunt for terrorists.” “A senior White House official” gave the following quote:  “One of the things we are looking at very hard is how to institutionalize a process that will outlive this administration.”  I recommend the series.  It is among the best reporting I have seen in the Post, which, although it has lousy editorial policy, occasionally has excellent reporting.  But don’t take my word for it — read the series.  I’d be interested in what you think.

    • Avatar
      New Afrikan ImageMakers GeorgeA9 hours ago

      its a dangerous position, for Prez Obama and the rest of us, too, isn’t it…its eazy to level heavy criticism at presidents in general…but Obama’s behind is literally on the line–especially if he goes against the war machine.

    • Avatar
      jimbojamesiv GeorgeA6 hours ago

      While I disagree with a lot of what you say the thing about Obama “trying to limit the ability of future presidents to use drones,” is unequivocally false.

      The reason Obama rushed to codify the rules on drones was to cover his ass.

  • Avatar
    lucitanianan hour ago

    What absolute Hollywood virtual reality nonsense ; a terrorist state declares the end of a war against a myth they invented. What broody next, “aliens”? How gullible do the people who think this crap up believe their audience is?

    He guys, more people are killed by their household furniture than by terrorism and that is not because Ikea is doing a bad job while DHS is doing a good one. But, certainly a Global War on Falling Kitchen Cabinets would be a lot cheaper than DHS Annual budget, US$60.4 billion (FY 2012).

    You know what really is a security risk? Climate change, but for that they would actually have to “do” something rather than shovel money between friends and lobbies.

  • Avatar
    timebiter3 hours ago

    While they are at it why not end the drug war, overturn the patriot act revamp and disperse./end DHS. Oops! I forgot. To many corporations getting welfare from these programs and laws.

  • Avatar
    Laurence Schechtman6 hours ago

    You get about 3 times as many jobs hiring teachers as you do supporting the military.  Obama and many capitalists know that an economic collapse is coming, and that converting “Defense” spending to the civilian economy MAY be the only way to head it off, without pre-Reagan taxes on the rich, which they are not going to do.  So MAYBE, ending “permanent war” is the only way Obama can see to avoid a 30′s style depression, which would wreck his “legacy” forever.  MAYBE.  We can only hope.

  • Avatar
    Paul_Klinkman_two11 hours ago

    American:  Hi, we’ve come to give you democracy.

    Afghani: The local warlord has ordered me to grow opium for him.  I’ll be shot if I don’t follow his directions.  When will I get this democracy and be free?

    American:  The heck I know.  Maybe we’re really here to give ourselves the democracy.

    Afghani:  But when will you get this democracy?

    American:  The heck I know.

Top Discussions on     Common Dreams

Top Commenters

Nothing for you here … yet. But as you comment with Disqus and follow        other Disqus users, you will start to receive notifications here, as well as a personalized        feed of activity by you and the people you follow. So get out there and participate in        some discussions!

                The new DISQUS Discovery box helps you find other vibrant discussions on the communities you love. Feedback? Let us know.

    Also on Common Dreams

    Obama fights ban on indefinite detention of Americans August 8, 2012

    Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Civil Liberties, Constitution, Criminal Justice.
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
    add a comment

    (AFP Photo / Paul J. Richards)

    (AFP Photo / Paul J. Richards)

    Roger’s note: The phrase “lock ‘em up and throw away the key” used to be used jokingly.  It is no joke what Obama is doing.  This president, who is reputed to be a constitutional scholar, is systematically tramping over the constitution and what is perhaps the most important and precious civil and legal protections, habeas corpus.  Imagine how this precedent will be used under some of the Republican nut cases who are likely to be future presidents.  Frightening.

    www.rt.com, August 7, 2012

    The White House has filed an appeal in hopes of reversing a federal judge’s ruling that bans the indefinite military detention of Americans because attorneys for the president say they are justified to imprison alleged terrorists without charge.

    Manhattan federal court Judge Katherine Forrest ruled in May that the indefinite detention provisions signed into law late last year by US President Barack Obama failed to “pass constitutional muster” and ordered a temporary injunction to keep the military from locking up any person, American or other, over allegations of terrorist ties. On Monday, however, federal prosecutors representing President Obama and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta filed a claim with the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in hopes of eliminating that ban.

    The plaintiffs “cannot point to a single example of the military’s detaining anyone for engaging in conduct even remotely similar to the type of expressive activities they allege could lead to detention,” Obama’s attorneys insist. With that, the White House is arguing that as long as the indefinite detention law hasn’t be enforced yet, there is no reason for a judge to invalidate it.

    Reuters reports this week that the government believes they are justified to have the authorization to lock alleged belligerents up indefinitely because cases involving militants directly aligned against the good of the US government warrants such punishment. Separate from Judge Forrest’s injunction, nine states have attempted to, at least in part, remove themselves from the indefinite detention provisions of included in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, or NDAA.

    In section 1021 of the NDAA, the president’s authority to hold a terrorism suspect “without trial, until the end of the hostilities” is reaffirmed by Congress. Despite an accompanying signing statement voicing his opposition to that provision, President Obama quietly inked his name to the NDAA on December 31, 2011. In May, however, a group of plaintiffs including notable journalists and civil liberty proponents challenged section 1021 in court, leading to Just Forrest to find it unconstitutional one month later.

    “There is a strong public interest in protecting rights guaranteed by the First Amendment,” Forrest wrote in her 68-page ruling. “There is also a strong public interest in ensuring that due process rights guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment are protected by ensuring that ordinary citizens are able to understand the scope of conduct that could subject them to indefinite military detention.”

    At the time Just Forrest made her injunction, attorney Carl Mayer told RT on behalf of the plaintiffs that, although he expected the White House to appeal, “It may not be in their best interest.”

    “[T]here are so many people from all sides of the political spectrum opposed to this law that they ought to just say, ‘We’re not going to appeal,’” Mayer said. “The NDAA cannot be used to pick up Americans in a proverbial black van or in any other way that the administration might decide to try to get people into the military justice system. It means that the government is foreclosed now from engaging in this type of action against the civil liberties of Americans.”

    The original plaintiffs, who include Pulitzer Prize-winner Chris Hedges, have asked Just Forrest to make her injunction permanent. Oral arguments in the case are expected to begin this week.

    The Obama GITMO myth July 24, 2012

    Posted by rogerhollander in Uncategorized.
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
    add a comment

    New vindictive restrictions on detainees highlights the falsity of Obama defenders regarding closing the camp

    By , Monday, Jul 23, 2012, www.salon.com

    The Obama GITMO mythAccused Sept. 11 co-conspirator Ramzi Binalshibh is shown while attending his military hearing at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base in Cuba. (AP/Janet Hamlin)

    Most of the 168 detainees at Guantanamo have been imprisoned by the U.S. Government for close to a decade without charges and with no end in sight to their captivity. Some now die at Guantanamo, thousands of miles away from their homes and families, without ever having had the chance to contest accusations of guilt. During the Bush years, the plight of these detainees was a major source of political controversy, but under Obama, it is now almost entirely forgotten. On those rare occasions when it is raised, Obama defenders invoke a blatant myth to shield the President from blame: he wanted and tried so very hard to end all of this, but Congress would not let him. Especially now that we’re in an Election Year, and in light of very recent developments, it’s long overdue to document clearly how misleading that excuse is.

    Last week, the Obama administration imposed new arbitrary rules for Guantanamo detainees who have lost their first habeas corpus challenge. Those new rules eliminate the right of lawyers to visit their clients at the detention facility; the old rules establishing that right were in place since 2004, and were bolstered by the Supreme Court’s 2008 Boumediene ruling that detainees were entitled to a “meaningful” opportunity to contest the legality of their detention. The DOJ recently informed a lawyer for a Yemeni detainee, Yasein Khasem Mohammad Esmail, that he would be barred from visiting his client unless he agreed to a new regime of restrictive rules, including acknowledging that such visits are within the sole discretion of the camp’s military commander. Moreover, as SCOTUSblog’s Lyle Denniston explains:

    Besides putting control over legal contacts entirely under a military commander’s control, the “memorandum of understanding” does not allow attorneys to share with other detainee lawyers what they learn, and does not appear to allow them to use any such information to help prepare their own client for a system of periodic review at Guantanamo of whether continued detention is justified, and may even forbid the use of such information to help prepare a defense to formal terrorism criminal charges against their client.

    The New York Times Editorial Page today denounced these new rules as “spiteful,” cited it as “the Obama administration’s latest overuse of executive authority,” and said “the administration looks as if it is imperiously punishing detainees for their temerity in bringing legal challenges to their detention and losing.” Detainee lawyers are refusing to submit to these new rules and are asking a federal court to rule that they violate the detainees’ right to legal counsel.

    But every time the issue of ongoing injustices at Guantanamo is raised, one hears the same apologia from the President’s defenders: the President wanted and tried to end all of this, but Congress — including even liberals such as Russ Feingold and Bernie Sanders — overwhelming voted to deny him the funds to close Guantanamo. While those claims, standing alone, are true, they omit crucial facts and thus paint a wildly misleading picture about what Obama actually did and did not seek to do.

    What made Guantanamo controversial was not its physical location: that it was located in the Caribbean Sea rather than on American soil (that’s especially true since the Supreme Court ruled in 2004 that U.S. courts have jurisdiction over the camp). What made Guantanamo such a travesty — and what still makes it such — is that it is a system of indefinite detention whereby human beings are put in cages for years and years without ever being charged with a crime. President Obama’s so-called “plan to close Guantanamo” — even if it had been approved in full by Congress — did not seek to end that core injustice. It sought to do the opposite: Obama’s plan would have continued the system of indefinite detention, but simply re-located it from Guantanamo Bay onto American soil.

    Long before, and fully independent of, anything Congress did, President Obama made clear that he was going to preserve the indefinite detention system at Guantanamo even once he closed the camp. President Obama fully embraced indefinite detention — the defining injustice of Guantanamo — as his own policy.

    In February, 2009, the Obama DOJ told an appellate court it was embracing the Bush DOJ’s theory that Bagram detainees have no legal rights whatsoever, an announcement that shocked the judges on the panel hearing the case. In May, 2009, President Obama delivered a speech at the National Archives — in front of the U.S. Constitution — and, as his plan for closing Guantanamo, proposed a system of preventative “prolonged detention” without trial inside the U.S.; The New York Times – in an article headlined “President’s Detention Plan Tests American Legal Tradition” – said Obama’s plan “would be a departure from the way this country sees itself, as a place where people in the grip of the government either face criminal charges or walk free.” In January, 2010, the Obama administration announced it would continue to imprison several dozen Guantanamo detainees without any charges or trials of any kind, including even a military commission, on the ground that they were “too difficult to prosecute but too dangerous to release.” That was all Obama’s doing, completely independent of anything Congress did.

    When the President finally unveiled his plan for “closing Guantanamo,” it became clear that it wasn’t a plan to “close” the camp as much as it was a plan simply to re-locate it — import it — onto American soil, at a newly purchased federal prison in Thompson, Illinois. William Lynn, Obama’s Deputy Defense Secretary, sent a letter to inquiring Senators that expressly stated that the Obama administration intended to continue indefinitely to imprison some of the detainees with no charges of any kind. The plan was classic Obama: a pretty, feel-good, empty symbolic gesture (get rid of the symbolic face of Bush War on Terror excesses) while preserving the core abuses (the powers of indefinite detention ), even strengthening and expanding those abuses by bringing them into the U.S.

    Recall that the ACLU immediately condemned what it called the President’s plan to create “GITMO North.” About the President’s so-called “plan to close Guantanamo,” Executive Director Anthony Romero said:

    The creation of a “Gitmo North” in Illinois is hardly a meaningful step forward. Shutting down Guantánamo will be nothing more than a symbolic gesture if we continue its lawless policies onshore.

    Alarmingly, all indications are that the administration plans to continue its predecessor’s policy of indefinite detention without charge or trial for some detainees, with only a change of location. Such a policy is completely at odds with our democratic commitment to due process and human rights whether it’s occurring in Cuba or in Illinois.

    In fact, while the Obama administration inherited the Guantánamo debacle, this current move is its own affirmative adoption of those policies. It is unimaginable that the Obama administration is using the same justification as the Bush administration used to undercut centuries of legal jurisprudence and the principle of innocent until proven guilty and the right to confront one’s accusers. . . . .The Obama administration’s announcement today contradicts everything the president has said about the need for America to return to leading with its values.

    In fact, Obama’s “close GITMO” plan — if it had been adopted by Congress — would have done something worse than merely continue the camp’s defining injustice of indefinite detention. It would likely have expanded those powers by importing them into the U.S. The day after President Obama’s speech proposing a system of “prolonged detention” on U.S. soil, the ACLU’s Ben Wizner told me in an interview:

    It may to serve to enshrine into law the very departures from the law that the Bush administration led us on, and that we all criticized so much. And I’ll elaborate on that. But that’s really my initial reaction to it; that what President Obama was talking about yesterday is making permanent some of the worst features of the Guantanamo regime. He may be shutting down the prison on that camp, but what’s worse is he may be importing some of those legal principles into our own legal system, where they’ll do great harm for a long time.

    So even if Congress had fully supported and funded Obama’s plan to “close Guantanamo,” the core injustices that made the camp such a travesty would remain. In fact, they’d not only remain, but would be in full force within the U.S. That’s what makes the prime excuse offered for Obama — he tried to end all of this but couldn’t – so misleading. He only wanted to change the locale of these injustices, but sought fully to preserve them.

    Indeed, as part of that excuse, one frequently hears that even liberal civil liberties stalwarts in the Senate — such as Russ Feingold and Bernie Sanders — voted to deny funding for the closing of Guantanamo: as though it is they who are to blame for these enduring travesties, rather than Obama. But this, too, is misleading in the extreme.

    The reason these Democratic Senators voted to deny funds for closing Guantanamo is not because they lacked the courage to close Guantanamo. It’s because they did not want to fund a plan to close the camp without knowing exactly what Obama planned to do with the detainees there — because people like Feingold and Sanders did not want to fund the importation of a system of indefinite detention onto U.S. soil. Here’s what actually happened when the Senate, including most Democrats, refused to fund the closing of Guantanamo:

    [White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs] added Obama has not yet decided where some of the detainees will be sent. A presidential commission is studying the issue. . . .

    Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, chairman of the Appropriations Committee, favors closing Guantanamo, and the legislation his panel originally sent to the floor provided money for that purpose once the administration submitted a plan for the shutdown.

    In changing course and seeking to delete the funds, he said, “The fact that the administration has not offered a workable plan at this point made that decision rather easy.”

    Can that be any clearer? They would have voted to fund the closing of Guantanamo, but only once they knew what Obama’s plan was for the detainees there. Feingold — whose vote against funding the closing of Guantanamo is invariably cited by Obama defenders — wrote a letter to the President specifically to object to any plan to import the system of indefinite detention onto U.S. soil:

    My primary concern, however, relates to your reference to the possibility of indefinite detention without trial for certain detainees. While I appreciate your good faith desire to at least enact a statutory basis for such a regime, any system that permits the government to indefinitely detain individuals without charge or without a meaningful opportunity to have accusations against them adjudicated by an impartial arbiter violates basic American values and is likely unconstitutional.

    While I recognize that your administration inherited detainees who, because of torture, other forms of coercive interrogations, or other problems related to their detention or the evidence against them, pose considerable challenges to prosecution, holding them indefinitely without trial is inconsistent with the respect for the rule of law that the rest of your speech so eloquently invoked. Indeed, such detention is a hallmark of abusive systems that we have historically criticized around the world. It is hard to imagine that our country would regard as acceptable a system in another country where an individual other than a prisoner of war is held indefinitely without charge or trial.

    Once a system of indefinite detention without trial is established, the temptation to use it in the future would be powerful. And, while your administration may resist such a temptation, future administrations may not. There is a real risk, then, of establishing policies and legal precedents that rather than ridding our country of the burden of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, merely set the stage for future Guantanamos, whether on our shores or elsewhere, with disastrous consequences for our national security.

    Worse, those policies and legal precedents would be effectively enshrined as acceptable in our system of justice, having been established not by one, largely discredited administration, but by successive administrations of both parties with greatly contrasting positions on legal and constitutional issues.

    Feingold was not going to vote for a plan to close Guantanamo if it meant that its core injustice — indefinite detention — was going simply to be re-located onto American soil, where it would be entrenched rather than dismantled. That, as all of this evidence makes clear, is why so many Democratic Senators voted to deny funding for the closing of Guantanamo: not because they favored the continuation of indefinite detention, but precisely because they did not want to fund its continuation on American soil, as Obama clearly intended.

    Now, here we are, almost four years after the vow to close Guantanamo was enshrined in an Executive Order, and the rights of detainees — including the basic right to legal counsel — are being constricted further, in plainly vindictive ways. Conditions at Guantanamo are undoubtedly better than they were in 2003, and some of the deficiencies in military commissions (for the few who appear before them) have been redressed. But the real stain of Guantanamo — keeping people locked up in cages for years with no charges — endures. And contrary to the blatant myth propagated by Obama defenders, that has happened not because Obama tried but failed to eliminate it, but precisely because he embraced it as his own policy from the start.

    Continue ReadingClose

    Glenn GreenwaldFollow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald. More Glenn Greenwald.

    Federal court enjoins NDAA May 16, 2012

    Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Constitution, Criminal Justice, Democracy.
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
    add a comment

    ROGER’S NOTE:  THIS IS AN ENCOURAGING DEVELOPMENT; HOWEVER, IF AND WHEN THIS GETS TO THE SUPREME COURT, WE CAN, UNFORTUNATELY, ONLY EXPECT  THAT THE TOTALITARIAN MINDED MAJORITY WILL UPHOLD THE DRACONIAN ELEMENTS OF NDAA.

    Wednesday, May 16, 2012 04:14 PM EST

     

    An Obama-appointed judge rules its indefinite detention provisions likely violate the 1st and 5th Amendments

    By , www.salon.com

    President Obama (Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster)

    (updated below)

    A federal district judge today, the newly-appointed Katherine Forrest of the Southern District of New York, issued an amazing ruling: one which preliminarily enjoins enforcement of the highly controversial indefinite provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act, enacted by Congress and signed into law by President Obama last December. This afternoon’s ruling came as part of a lawsuit brought by seven dissident plaintiffs — including Chris Hedges, Dan Ellsberg, Noam Chomsky, and Brigitta Jonsdottir — alleging that the NDAA violates ”both their free speech and associational rights guaranteed by the First Amendment as well as due process rights guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution.”

    The ruling was a sweeping victory for the plaintiffs, as it rejected each of the Obama DOJ’s three arguments: (1) because none of the plaintiffs has yet been indefinitely detained, they lack “standing” to challenge the statute; (2) even if they have standing, the lack of imminent enforcement against them renders injunctive relief unnecessary; and (3) the NDAA creates no new detention powers beyond what the 2001 AUMF already provides.

    As for the DOJ’s first argument — lack of standing — the court found that the plaintiffs are already suffering substantial injury from the reasonable fear that they could be indefinitely detained under section 1021 of the NDAA as a result of their constitutionally protected activities. As the court explained (h/t Charles Michael):

    In support of their motion, Plaintiffs assert that § 1021 already has impacted their associational and expressive activities–and would continue to impact them, and that § 1021 is vague to such an extent that it provokes fear that certain of their associational and expressive activities could subject them to indefinite or prolonged military detention.

    The court found that the plaintiffs have “shown an actual fear that their expressive and associational activities” could subject them to indefinite detention under the law,and “each of them has put forward uncontroverted evidence of concrete — non-hypothetical — ways in which the presence of the legislation has already impacted those expressive and associational activities” (as but one example, Hedges presented evidence that his “prior journalistic activities relating to certain organizations such as al-Qaeda and the Taliban” proves “he has a realistic fear that those activities will subject him to detention under § 1021″). Thus, concluded the court, these plaintiffs have the right to challenge the constitutionality of the statute notwithstanding the fact that they have not yet been detained under it; that’s because its broad, menacing detention powers are already harming them and the exercise of their constitutional rights.

    Significantly, the court here repeatedly told the DOJ that it could preclude standing for the plaintiffs if they were willing to state clearly that none of the journalistic and free speech conduct that the plaintiffs engage in could subject them to indefinite detention. But the Government refused to make any such representation. Thus, concluded the court, “plaintiffs have stated a more than plausible claim that the statute inappropriately encroaches on their rights under the First Amendment.”

    Independently, the court found that plaintiffs are likely to succeed on their claim that the NDAA violates their Fifth Amendment due process rights because the statute is so vague that it is virtually impossible to know what conduct could subject one to indefinite detention. Specifically, the court focused on the NDAA’s authorization to indefinitely detain not only Al Qaeda members, but also members of so-called “associated forces” and/or anyone who “substantially supports” such forces, and noted:

    Plaintiffs have shown a likelihood of success on their vagueness challenge. The terms upon which they focused at the hearing relate to who is a “covered person.” In that regard, plaintiffs took issue with the lack of definition and clarity regarding who constitutes an “associated forces,” and what it means to “substantially” or “directly” “support” such forces or, al-Qaeda or the Taliban. . . .

    The Government was unable to define precisely what ”direct” or “substantial” “support” means. . . .Thus, an individual could run the risk of substantially supporting or directly supporting an associated force without even being aware that he or she was doing so.

    Perhaps most importantly, the court categorically rejected the central defense of this odious bill from the Obama administration and its defenders: namely, that it did nothing more than the 2001 AUMF already did and thus did not really expand the Government’s power of indefinite detention. The court cited three reasons why the NDAA clearly expands the Government’s detention power over the 2001 AUMF (all of which I previously cited when denouncing this bill).

    First, “by its terms, the AUMF is tied directly and only to those involved in the events of 9/11,” whereas the NDAA “has a non-specific definition of ‘covered person’ that reaches beyond those involved in the 9/11 attacks by its very terms.” Second, “the individuals or groups at issue in the AUMF are also more specific than those at issue in § 1021″ of the NDAA; that’s because the AUMF covered those “directly involved in the 9/11 attacks while those in § 1021 [of the NDAA] are specific groups and ‘associated forces’.” Moreover, “the Government has not provided a concrete, cognizable set of organizations or individuals that constitute ‘associated forces,’ lending further indefiniteness to § 1021.” Third, the AUMF is much more specific about how one is guilty of “supporting” the covered Terrorist groups, while the NDAA is incredibly broad and un-specific in that regard, thus leading the court to believe that even legitimate activities could subject a person to indefinite detention.

    The court also decisively rejected the argument that President Obama’s signing statement – expressing limits on how he intends to exercise the NDAA’s detention powers — solves any of these problems. That’s because, said the court, the signing statement “does not state that § 1021 of the NDAA will not be applied to otherwise-protected First Amendment speech nor does it give concrete definitions to the vague terms used in the statute.”

    The court concluded by taking note of what is indeed the extraordinary nature of her ruling, but explained it this way:

    This Court is acutely aware that preliminarily enjoining an act of Congress must be done with great caution. However, it is the responsibility of our judicial system to protect the public from acts of Congress which infringe upon constitutional rights.

    I’ve been very hard on the federal judiciary in the past year due to its shameful, craven deference in the post-9/11 world to executive power and, especially, attempts to prosecute Muslims on Terrorism charges. But this is definitely an exception to that trend. This is an extraordinary and encouraging decision. All the usual caveats apply: this is only a preliminary injunction (though the court made it clear that she believes plaintiffs will ultimately prevail). It will certainly be appealed and can be reversed. There are still other authorities (including the AUMF) which the DOJ can use to assert the power of indefinite detention. Nonetheless, this is a rare and significant limit placed on the U.S. Government’s ability to seize ever-greater powers of detention-without-charges, and it is grounded in exactly the right constitutional principles: ones that federal courts and the Executive Branch have been willfully ignoring for the past decade.

    UPDATE: I really should mention the rest of the plaintiffs who brought this lawsuit beyond the four well-known ones I named above, because each deserves immense credit for doing this. Alexa O’Brien is an independent journalist who writes for WL Central, regarding WikiLeaks, Guantanamo and other issues, and founded a website to work on America’s corrupted elections, Day of Rage. Kai Wargalla is a British activist who founded Occupy London and has done extensive work in advocating for WikiLeaks. Jennifer Bolen, who along with Hedges spearheaded the organization of this lawsuit, is an activist with Revolution Truth who did substantial work to defeat the NDAA.

    Though I knew a fair amount about it as it proceeded, I hadn’t written about this lawsuit before, largely because I did not expect it to succeed; I anticipated that it would be dismissed on “standing” grounds, the favored tactic (along with the State Secrets privilege) for both the Bush and Obama DOJs to persuade federal courts not to even adjudicate constitutional challenges to the War on Terror powers. Serious kudos to all of the plaintiffs and lawyers here who persevered in what I’m certain they knew would be an uphill battle.

    Leon Panetta’s explicitly authoritarian decree January 30, 2012

    Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Democracy, Uncategorized, War on Terror.
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
    add a comment
    Defense Secretary Leon Panetta listens as President Barack Obama speaks on the Defense Strategic Review, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2012, at the Pentagon. (Credit: AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)
    Roger’s note: I try not to burden the readers of this Blog with excessive repetition, and I have posted articles on this theme several times.  Just as the blatant torture regime of Cheney/Bush was mind-boggling in its violation of constitutional and international law, so is the Obama regime’s institution of presidential assassination of US citizens with no process and no accountability.  If the president says you are a terrorist, he can kill you.  Doesn’t even measure up to the Alice in Wonderland standard of “execution first, trial later.”  There is no trial.  The United States was founded upon a basic and fundamental principle that reflected the real danger of unchecked government power.  This principle is embedded in the constitution and the Bill of Rights; and today it is simply ignored with impunity.  When all is said and done, Obama justifies this monstrous abuse of authority on the notion that the entire world is a battleground in the so-called War on Terror, which gives him the right to execute an “identified” enemy as a soldier would on a real battlefield.  The flaws in this logic are too obvious to need pointing out.  It is the same logic that justifies sending predator missiles into anywhere he chooses, regardless of how many innocent civilians he kills in the process.  So far Obama has only killed a couple of American citizens.  Imagine the precedent he has set and how it would possibly be used in the hands of one of the Republican maniacs that could occupy the White House one day soon.
    Glenn Greenwald,  www.salon.com, January 30, 2012

    CBS News‘ Scott Pelley appears to be one of the very few American journalists bothered by, or even interested in, the fact that President Obama has asserted and exercised the power to target U.S. citizens for execution-by-CIA without a shred of due process and far from any battlefield. It was Pelley who deftly interrogated the GOP presidential candidates at a November debate about the propriety of due-process-free assassinations, prompting Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, and Michele Bachmann to applaud President Obama for assassinating Awlaki (just as Rick Perry, Dick and Liz Cheney, and Bill Kristol had done). Last night, Pelley did the same when he interviewed Defense Secretary and former CIA chief Leon Panetta on 60 Minutes. It’s well worth watching this three-minute clip because, although Panetta doesn’t say much that is new (he simply asserts the standard slogans and unproven assertions that Obama defenders on this topic always assert), watching a top Obama official, under decent questioning, defend the power to target U.S. citizens for assassination viscerally conveys the rigidly authoritarian mindset driving all of this:

    Panetta’s answers are suffused with dubious and even factually false claims. It is, for instance, false that the U.S. provides due process to everyone apprehended for Terrorism. To the contrary, the Obama administration has been holding dozens of Terrorism suspects without any charges for years, and President Obama just signed into law a bill codifying the power of indefinite detention for accused Terrorists. But even if it were true that all Terrorism suspects who are detained were entitled to receive due process, that merely underscores how warped it is to assert the power to target them for execution without due process. After all, how can it be that the Government must prove guilt merely to imprison Terrorists but not to execute them?

    But this is one of the towering, unanswerable hypocrisies of Democratic Party politics. The very same faction that pretended for years to be so distraught by Bush’s mere eavesdropping on and detention of accused Terrorists without due process is now perfectly content to have their own President kill accused Terrorists without due process, even when those targeted are their fellow citizens: obviously a far more Draconian and permanent abuse than eavesdropping or detention (identically, the very same faction that objected to Bush’s radical whole-world-is-a-Battlefield theory now must embrace exactly that theory to justify how someone riding in a car, or sitting at home, or sleeping in his bed, in a country where no war is declared, is “on a battlefield” at the time the CIA ends his life).

    It is equally false, and independently both misleading and perverse, for Panetta to assert that a citizen in Awlaki’s position could come to the U.S. to assert his due process rights. For one thing, Awlaki was never charged or indicted for anything in the U.S. — he was simply executed without any charges (the Obama administration, after trying to kill him, reportedly “considered” charging him with crimes at one point but never did) – and thus, there was nothing to which he could “turn himself” in even if he wanted to. Even worse, President Obama’s hit list of those he approves for assassination is completely secret; we only learned that Awlaki was being targeted because someone happened to leak that fact to Dana Priest. The way the process normally works, as Reuters described it, is that targeted Americans are selected “by a secretive panel of senior government officials, which then informs the president of its decisions”; moreover, “there is no public record of the operations or decisions of the panel” nor “any law establishing its existence or setting out the rules by which it is supposed to operate.” So, absent a fortuitous leak (acts for which the Obama administration is vindictively doling out the most severe punishment), it would be impossible for American citizens to know that they’ve been selected for execution by President Obama (and thus obviously impossible to to assert one’s due process rights to stop it).

    Worse still, if a judicial proceeding is commenced by a targeted American seeking to put a halt to the assassination attempt in the absence of a trial — as Awlaki’s father did, with the help of the ACLU and CCR, on behalf of his son — then the Obama DOJ will insist that the reasons for the assassination are “state secrets” and cannot be judicially examined, and independently, that such matters are for the President alone to decide and courts thus have no role to play in interfering with such decisions (see POINT II). American courts, largely deferential to claims of presidential secrecy and authority in the post-9/11 era, almost reflexively accept such claims. In other words, if a targeted American tries to assert these due process rights, the Obama administration will go into court and take exactly the opposite position of the one Panetta is claiming here: namely, that the person has no rights to have a court interfere in the President’s assassination order.

    So for so many reasons, Panetta’s claim is utterly false: American citizens secretely targeted by President Obama for execution have no means of obtaining due process even in the unlikely case that they learn they have been so targeted. And this is all independent of Panetta’s warped notion that an American has to be on U.S. soil to claim constitutional protections, a wholesale rejection of well-settled Constitutional law that Americans have the right to travel abroad and, when they do, they retain their Constitutional rights against the U.S. government even when on foreign soil. As the Supreme Court put it in 1956, specifically discussing the requirement that a citizen be given a trial before punishment can be doled out (emphasis added):

    At the beginning, we reject the idea that, when the United States acts against citizens abroad, it can do so free of the Bill of Rights. The United States is entirely a creature of the Constitution.  Its power and authority have no other source. It can only act in accordance with all the limitations imposed by the Constitution. When the Government reaches out to punish a citizen who is abroad, the shield which the Bill of Rights and other parts of the Constitution provide to protect his life and liberty should not be stripped away just because he happens to be in another land. This is not a novel concept. To the contrary, it is as old as government.

    But the final point is the most important and revealing of all: Panetta’s whole case rests on simply asserting, without proving, that Awlaki was a Terrorist trying to “kill Americans.” That, of course, is precisely what is in dispute: actual Yemen experts have long questioned whether Awlaki had any operational role at all in Al Qaeda (as opposed to a role as its advocate, which is clearly protected free speech). No evidence has been publicly presented that Awlaki had any such role. We simply have the untested, unverified accusations of government officials, such as Leon Panetta, that he is guilty: in other words, we have nothing but decrees of guilt. The U.S. Constitution, first and foremost, was designed to prohibit the doling out of punishments based on government accusations untested and unproven in a court of law; for those who doubt that, just read the relevant provisions (“No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court“; “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law”).

    But as I wrote the other day, “the U.S. really is a society that simply no longer believes in due process: once the defining feature of American freedom that is now scorned as some sort of fringe, radical, academic doctrine.” Instead:

    Supporters of both political parties endorse, or at least tolerate, all manner of government punishment without so much as the pretense of a trial, based solely on government accusation: imprisonment for life, renditions to other countries, even assassinations of their fellow citizens. Simply uttering the word Terrorist, without proving it, is sufficient.

    Here we have the U.S. Defense Secretary, life-long Democrat Leon Panetta, telling you as clearly as he can that this is exactly the operating premise of the administration in which he serves: once the President accuses you of being a Terrorist, a decision made in secert and with no checks or due process, we can do anything we want to you, including executing you wherever we find you. It’s hard to know what’s more extraordinary: that he feels so comfortable saying this right out in the open, or that so few people seem to mind.

    * * * * *

    ABC News‘ Jake Tapper pressed White House spokesman Jay Carney back in October about the evidence the administration possesses showing Awlaki’s guilt, and the same authoritarian decree issued: we have said he’s a Terrorist and that is all that is necessary.

    Glenn Greenwald
    Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.More Glenn Greenwald

    Spanish Judge Reopens Guantánamo Torture Probe January 15, 2012

    Posted by rogerhollander in Torture.
    Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
    add a comment
    Published on Sunday, January 15, 2012 by Common Dreams

    Also: British authorities launch a probe into CIA renditions to Libya

    - Common Dreams staff

    Just days after the 10th anniversary of the Guantánamo, the notorious prison remains in the news. On Thursday, Witness Against Torture led 40 people who were arrested protesting outside of Obama’s White House protesting Guantánamo and indefinite detention.

    Members of the group “Witness Against Torture” dressed in orange prison jump suits protest against the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, along Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C. January 10, 2012. REUTERS/Larry Downing 

    Now a Spanish judge has re-launched an investigation into the alleged torture of detainees held at the U.S. detention center.

    * * *

    UPDATE: The Associated Press is reporting:

    Russia Assails US over Guantanamo Prison

    MOSCOW  — Russia’s Foreign Ministry has accused the U.S. of breaking international law by keeping terror suspects in indefinite custody without trial at the Guantanamo Bay prison.

    In a statement posted on its website Sunday, the ministry said the prison at the U.S. Navy base in eastern Cuba represents a “flagrant violation of international law.”

    The Foreign Ministry also criticized the National Defense Authorization Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama on Dec. 31, which includes a provision allowing indefinite military detention without trial. The ministry claimed the act contradicts U.S. obligations under international humanitarian law.

    Russia in the past has reacted angrily to the accusations of human rights breaches that the U.S. State Department has leveled at it in its annual reports.

    * * *

    Carol Rosenberg of the McClatchy Newspapers writes:

    A Spanish judge on Friday re-launched an investigation into the alleged torture of detainees held at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, one day after a British authorities launched a probe into CIA renditions to Libya.

    The twin developments demonstrated that while the Obama administration has stuck to its promise not to investigate whether Bush administration officials acted illegally by authorizing the use of harsh interrogation techniques, other countries are still interested in determining whether Bush-era anti-terror practices violated international law.

    In Madrid, Judge Pablo Rafael Ruz Gutierrez handed down a 19-page decision Friday in which he said he would seek additional information – medical data, a translation of a Human Rights Watch report, elaboration on material made public by WikiLeaks, and testimony from three senior U.S. military officers who served at Guantanamo – in the case of four released Guantanamo captives who allege they were humiliated and subjected to torture while in U.S. custody. [...]

    In London, the Crown Prosecution Service and Scotland Yard said Thursday that they would investigate allegations of British involvement in the Bush-era “extraordinary rendition” program, specifically whether British intelligence had a hand in delivering two Libyan opponents of Col. Moammar Gadhafi to Libyan jails, where they were tortured by Gadhafi’s secret police.

    Scotland Yard agreed to go forward on that probe while dropping another involving the interrogation in Morocco of former Guantanamo detainee Binyam Mohamed. British human rights activists had sought to hold British intelligence responsible for Mohamed’s treatment in Morocco – he called it torture, and the investigators said there was no reason to doubt his account. But they found “it is not possible to bring criminal charges against an identifiable individual.”

    These crimes are universal crimes and it’s very clear that until the United States holds to account those responsible for these crimes, other judicial actors in other countries are going to press for accountability.International human rights groups have turned to the European courts after losing successive efforts to bring cases in U.S. courts, which typically invoked the states secret doctrine to get lawsuits dismissed not on the merits but as a national security necessity.

    “In the globalized world in which we live, justice processes are going to go forward,” said James Goldston, executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative, a legal advocacy group founded by investor George Soros. “These crimes are universal crimes and it’s very clear that until the United States holds to account those responsible for these crimes, other judicial actors in other countries are going to press for accountability.”

    Goldston said international investigations were necessary because the United States has heeded President Barack Obama’s call to look forward, not back.

    “There’s no accountability process,” he said. “There’re no court proceedings. There’re no truth commissions. There’s even less appetite today than there was three years ago.”

    Ten Years of Guantanamo: One of the Prison’s First Detainees Breaks His Silence January 10, 2012

    Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Torture, War on Terror.
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
    add a comment

    Tuesday 10 January 2012
    by: Jason Leopold, Truthout         | Interview

    David Hicks, author of “Guantanamo: My Journey.” (Image: Random House Australia)

    To mark the tenth anniversary of the opening of the Guantanamo Bay prison to house “war on terror” detainees captured after 9/11, Truthout will republish a handful of exclusive reports by Jason Leopold about the facility.

    This exclsuive interview with former Guantanamo detainee David Hicks was originally published on Truthout on February 16, 2011.

    David Hicks was the Australian drifter who, years before 9/11, converted to Islam, changed his name to Muhammed Dawood and ended up at training camps in Afghanistan the US government said was linked to al-Qaeda.

    Hicks was picked up at a taxi stand by the Northern Alliance in November 2001 and sold to US forces for about $1,500. Hicks was detainee 002, the second person processed into Guantanamo on January 11, 2002, the day the facility opened. He is one of the small group of detainees who challenged President George W. Bush’s November 13, 2001 executive order authorizing indefinite detention, which led to a landmark 2004 Supreme Court case, Rasul v. Bush, in which the High-Court said detainees have the right to habeas corpus.

    Hicks spent five-and-a-half years at Guantanamo, where he was tortured. In 2007, he agreed to plead guilty to a charge of providing material support for terrorism in order to finally be freed from Guantanamo. In October 2010, he published a memoir, “Guantanamo: My Journey.” The book is unavailable in the United States and is not available for sale on Amazon or other online booksellers to US readers.

    This is his first interview Hicks gave following his release from the “least worst place” on earth.

    Please click here to read the main story about David Hicks, which includes exclusive interviews with former Guantanamo guards who he interacted with, one of whom was barred from reenlistment in the Army reserves for speaking to Truthout about his experience.

    Truthout: Can you describe for me what you felt, emotionally, as you were writing the book and having to relive the torture you were subjected to?

    David Hicks: At times I wrote as a third person, as if I was writing a chronological research report as part of my day job. At other times I had moments of vivid clarity. I would stop typing, sit back, and stare into nothing. The smells, sounds, the feeling of actually being there came flooding back as if had been transported to the camps of Guantanamo, clearly remembering what it was like to have actually been there.

    TO: Solitary confinement appears to be among the worst of all the terrible experiences prisoners faced at Guantanamo. Can you explain what it does to you in a way that Americans, with no experience of such things, can understand what such isolation, especially with no knowledge of how long it will last, does to a person?

    DH: Solitary and indefinite detention are two different things and are devastating when combined. Isolation has a powerful impact on the mind, especially when coupled with incommunicado detention as in GTMO. Everything outside the four walls is quickly forgotten. With no mental stimulation the mind becomes confused and dull. That state of mind is an advantage to interrogators who manipulate every aspect of your environment. They create a new world reality. Time ceases to exist. Talking becomes difficult, so when conversations do take place, you cannot form words or think. Even when hostility is not present such as during a visit with a lawyer or International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) visit, coherent sentences become elusive and huge mental blanks become common, as though you are forgetting the very act of speaking. Everything you think and know is dictated by the interrogators. You become fully dependent with a childlike reliance on your captors. They pull you apart and put you back together, dismantling into smaller pieces each time, until you become something different, their creation, when eventually reassembled. Indefinite detention is draining and cruel. Only after five and a half years when I had been promised a date of release did the intense battle with insanity subside, and that I started to feel a little more normal again. I finally had some certainty and felt a glimmer of control return. I began to remember that another world existed and could once again dream about what that world used to feel like. Indefinite detention is draining because you are taken prisoner and thrown into a cage. No reason is given or any relevant information or explanation offered. There are no accusations, no court rooms or judges. Nobody informs “you will be here for X amount of time.” It’s an impossible situation to accept and every minute is spent silently asking and hoping, “this cannot last forever, I will have to be released soon‚”. But when the mind is so desperate, when you are on your last legs, you can’t let go of the thought that you could be released any moment, even if all seems lost and hopeless. In a strange way it is one of those things the mind latches onto for a source of strength, a reason to keep going: false hopes and dreams are better than nothing.

    TO: What do you believe gave you the strength to survive in such terrible conditions? Have you sought medical or psychological help since returning? If so, has it helped you?

    DH: I survived because I had no choice, as many of us may unfortunately experience at some time in our lives. It was a psychological battle, a serious and dangerous one. It was a constant struggle not to lose my sanity and go mad. It would have been so easy just to let go: it offered the only escape. I have attended regular counseling since being released. It has helped but the passing of time has been just as helpful. Being exposed to such a consuming environment for five and a half years leaves a stain that cannot be removed overnight. It will take longer to reverse the consequences but even so, some experiences, especially one so prolonged, can never be entirely forgotten. I shudder to think what state of mind those who are still detained in GTMO must be in, and wonder how damaged they will be upon release. If they are released. At the time of writing, the US government is seriously considering enacting indefinite detention into law. It is hard to comprehend that they will effectively sentence someone to life in prison, without ever being charged, accused of breaking a law, or not even being told why they are being held. As with medical experimentation, indefinite detention on its own is a form of torture which causes mental anguish.

    TO: At what moment in your mind did you begin to realize or understand that you were being tortured?

    DH: I was beaten by US forces the first time I saw them and realized straight away that torture was going to be a reality, it was very scary. As I say in my book, I could not help thinking of the saying, “like trying to get blood from a stone,” and I was afraid of becoming that stone.

    TO: What do you think makes a human being torture another human being?

    DH: In Guantanamo torture was driven by anger and frustration. It seemed like a mad fruitless quest to pin crimes on detainees, to extract false confessions, and produce so-called intelligence of value. The guards were desensitized and detainees de-humanized. Soldiers were not allowed to engage us in conversation. They were told to address us by number only and not by name. They were constantly drilled with propaganda about how much we supposedly hated them and wanted them dead and how much they needed to hate us. On occasion, when some groups of soldiers jogged around the camp perimeters I heard them sing lyrics such as, ‘you hate us and we hate you.’ One time in the privacy of Camp Echo a male soldier broke down when we were alone repeating, “what have I become?‚” after having arrived from an interrogation of a detainee in another camp.

    TO: Can you describe for me the facial expressions of the interrogators and /or the guards as you were being abused? How did they react to your pain?

    DH: Usually the guards seemed cold and indifferent. They deployed a “just doing my job‚” attitude, such as when they chained me to the floor in stress positions or made me sleep directly on a metal or concrete floor in a very cold air-conditioned room in only a pair of shorts. However some soldiers displayed discomfort and embarrassment. Usually guards were only used to restrain detainees, move them about, or help in the back ground with equipment. It was the interrogators who did the dirty work, expressing, hatred and frustration. At times soldiers did participate directly in beatings however, such the beatings I received before I arrived in GTMO (in Afghanistan, in transit, or when I was rendered to the two ships). These soldiers made a sport of it.

    TO: Did any US soldier or any US official present at Guantanamo during your interrogations ever speak out about your torture or the torture of other detainees?

    DH: If you mean protest during the act of torture, never. Many soldiers in private however apologized for what their government was doing to us and emphasized that not all Americans were like that or agreed with such treatment.

    TO: Were you ever interrogated by anyone from the CIA?

    DH: Some interrogators stated which agencies they represented, some didn’t, while others lied about who they worked for. To the best of my knowledge I was seen by the CIA, FBI, US military intelligence, MI5 from the UK, ASIO and the AFP from Australia. There were other organizations working in GTMO, some I had never heard of before.

    TO: In your book you write: “These beatings and other activities were systematic and ordered from above, not the result of low- ranking MPs looking for ways to have some fun.” Did anyone ever state who from above ordered the beatings?

    DH: The soldiers were very open about where their orders came from and interrogators never allowed us to forget that they controlled every aspect of our lives; whether it was torturing us, allowing us a shower, clothing, or a letter from home. Then there were examples such as when General [Geoffrey] Miller took over camp procedures in early 2003. He unleashed a new wave of interrogation techniques upon us. Each new General, and wave of interrogators who were accompanied by experts from various professions, brought newly signed orders from Department of Justice employees allowing ever harsher techniques.

    TO: Have you read the torture memos written by former Justice Department attorneys John Yoo and Jay Bybee? Were you ever subjected to torture techniques described in those memos?

    DH: I have read them but it was some time ago and I cannot currently recollect all that they contained. Some of the techniques I was subjected to from the memos was being chained to the floor, known as “stress positions.” Sleep deprivation was an everyday occurrence during all of the years I spent in GTMO. Noise manipulation also happened often depending on what camp I was in. They used chainsaw motors and loud music in Camp Delta. They used temperature extremes on me, which meant subjecting me to the freezing cold because they knew I have a low tolerance to the cold. Sensory deprivation, prolonged isolation and other psychological manipulation techniques were also used on me (injecting me with substances, giving me cold and sometimes green food such as eggs, putting cameras up on the ceiling). They also used techniques that exploited my fears.

    TO: You write that at Camp Echo that guards were placed to observe you constantly and that they wrote notes about your every behavior. Did you ever ask these guards what their instructions were, or if they knew what their superiors did with these notes? Did they ever tell you?

    DH: We were observed in all camps. Guards always carried a pen and note book having been ordered to write down everything we did, including the trivial such as what we did to pass the time and what we spoke about when other detainees were around. They even recorded how we went to the bathroom, i.e. did we shield ourselves from neighboring detainees or guards and if so, how? Nothing went un-noted. This information was combined with personality traits learnt from interrogations, ranging from how we spoke to how we responded to the so called “enhanced interrogation techniques.” The end result was the US government compiling files on each of us, including a micro level psychoanalysis. They knew our likes and dislikes, fears and weaknesses. These files were then used against us in interrogation and in daily camp life. It was about crushing and defeating us, to make us become so desperate that we would do and agree to anything to escape. Collecting this information and what they used it for was no secret and some guards explained this program when in private. In Camp Echo guards who sat outside our cages staring at us twenty four hours a day had to write what we were doing every fifteen minutes night and day. The interrogation rooms of Camp Delta had an entire wall as a one way observation glass. Behind these walls sat teams of so-called experts: Intelligence officers, behavioral scientists, psychologists; people who made conclusions upon which they decided what techniques were to be employed. By this I mean what programs the detainee would be subjected to in his cage such as sleep deprivation, noise or food ‚Äòmanipulation‚Äô. There was no shortage of ideas, resources, expertise, or personnel. A lot of effort went into these customized interrogations. Nothing was private. We were violated internally, psychologically, spiritually. They probed and tinkered in recesses so deep; parts of ourselves we are not conscious of or in touch with in our daily lives and may not even connect with and discover in our lifetimes.

    TO: Did you ever meet separately with a psychologist or psychiatrist when at Guantanamo, for ostensibly psychological reasons, either a psychological test or assessment, or for supposed treatment of any sort?

    DH: No, but they did approach me occasionally during the last year or so I spent in GTMO to see if I would talk and cooperate. Apart from their contributions in interrogations they were always lurking in the back ground, waiting to “help a detainee,” but to really act as another prong to interrogation. If a detainee even whispered for such medical intervention a “mental health expert,” would appear with a pocket of unknown medication and a long list of probing questions. They were not there to help, but to harm. We knew this and so I always refused to speak with them when they offered. If I did speak with them, such as the period when I eventually, after two years, had limited access to a lawyer for example, the questions would have been centered on how I intended to defend myself and any court actions I was considering. All they wanted was information, or to find a new way to defeat you.

    TO: Were psychologists and/or medical professionals present at all interrogations? Were the interrogations ever stopped to check your heart rate and/or pulse?

    DH: The major physical beatings I endured occurred in Afghanistan, during transportation and en-route to GTMO. During those sessions, one was around 10 hours, my vital signs were checked often. In GTMO medical personnel were not in the same room as me during actual interrogations but from my understanding they were monitoring my interrogations from behind the one way glass in Camp Delta. For other detainees, such as those being shocked or water boarded, medical personnel were present, or if drugs were being administrated during interrogation as I describe in my book when they extracted false confessions from one of the UK detainees. They were present when I was injected in the spine, but that experience is one that I don’t like to talk about.

    TO: Have your attorneys tried to get a copy of your medical records?

    DH: Yes, but with no luck. We gave up thinking me might be allowed to see them long ago. Even upon return to Australian where I was forced to spend the first seven months in isolated detention as part of the agreement to get out of GTMO. My family requested an independent blood test be taken on my return to Australia. They were refused without an excuse. It was nearly eight months since GTMO and about a year since being given medication before I was allowed to have my first blood test. I was informed that too much time had passed to see what I had been given.

    TO: During your interrogations, did the interrogators ever ask you questions about Iraq ?

    DH: No, the policy of incommunicado was strictly enforced, for years we knew absolutely nothing about the outside world. We weren’t even meant to know the time of day, let alone our location, especially any news. The first time I learnt about the war in Iraq was the end of 2003. A guard was kind enough to allow me to read his copy of FHM magazine and it contained an article about the US invasion, otherwise I would not have known. Rumors of a war in Iraq did not begin to circulate amongst the detainees until 2004 and was viewed with skepticism by most. The military did not inform us officially of the Iraq invasion until late 2006 by placing large posters of Saddam hanging from a noose around the camps with slogans splashed across the front like, “this could be you.” It was only then that detainees believed that the war had taken place.

    TO: You have written eloquently of your terrible experience with what you say was medical experimentation, calling it the worst and darkest of your experiences there. Have you talked with any other detainees about whether they had similar experiences? How do you think about it now?

    DH: When I was injected in the back of the neck I was being held in isolation, so I was unable to discuss what had happened with other detainees. A year passed before I was eventually able to see and communicate with fellow detainees, and I am unable to remember today if I discussed that particular personal experience with them. We did discuss medical experimentation in general however. A detainee with UK citizenship described being injected daily, resulting in one of his testicles becoming swollen and racked with pain. Along with these daily injections he was subjected to mind games by interrogators, medical personnel, and guards whom worked as a team. Under these conditions they were able to extract written false confessions from him. How I experienced the injection at the base of my neck is described in detail in my book. In a nutshell, I felt my soul had been violated. That is just one experience I had with medication. There were many pills and injections, plus constant blood tests over the years. Everybody regardless of their citizenship should acknowledge that medical experimentation, whether on human beings or animals, is unacceptable. As with animals, we were held as prisoners when these procedures were forced upon us against our will. And as with animals, we were voiceless.

    TO: Did any interrogator or other official working for the US government ever use the word “torture” or “experiment” as you were being interrogated?

    DH: I don’t remember the word torture being used but there were many ways to imply it. After a torture session for example an interrogator would just say, “the treatment you have recently endured can always be repeated,” and threats were often made referring to past treatment or what was happening to other detainees. Guards often alluded to GTMO as being a big laboratory where we were subjected to their government’s well-honed techniques. I remember in the early days while being held aboard a US ship when a soldier said, “be strong man no matter what they do to you, just keep your head in God man,”. It didn’t leave me with much confidence.

    TO: Did you ever sign any document stating that you consented to the medications/injections you received? Did anyone ever ask you to sign such a document?

    DH: I had two surgeries while in GTMO. One was for a double hernia, while the other was to remove painful golf ball size lumps on my chest. The cause of the lumps or what they were was never explained to me but research since my release indicates that it was either the mediations I was forced to take or the extreme stress levels may have been responsible. On the two occasions I was operated on I was asked to sign a consent form, which I did. However my permission was not sought nor had I any choice when it came to being forced fed tablets, or the numerous injections that we were all given. Many blood tests were also taken consistently over the years I was detained.

    TO: How typical was it, do you think, that interrogators attempted to get prisoners to become agents for their government?

    DH: Interrogators attempted to bribe detainees with food, bed sheets, toilet paper and other “luxuries‚” to become spies and to give information about other detainees. On occasion some detainees in GTMO became so drained and broken that they would succumb to the temptation. Interrogators tried everything to make detainees “confess,” including being asked to lie via imagination or simply to agree to an interrogator’s theories. Interrogators became desperate with the passing of time to find and pin actual crimes on detainees, and paper trails have shown they were willing to manipulate evidence in their favor. There was one time in 2003 when we were all asked if we would work for the US government performing secret operations off the island, somewhere abroad. Nearly every detainee laughed at this question and word quickly spread so we knew we weren’t alone. Apparently the proposition was a part of their profiling system. Interrogators worked around the clock to break us. Once broken, detainees were asked to agree to anything by interrogators, to repeat after them, to sign confessions, to be false witnesses, or to sow discord amongst detainees.

    TO: When did you become aware that journalists were writing about torture at Guantanamo and at prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan?

    DH: Not until the photos from Abu Ghraib in Iraq had become public. I found the public debate interesting. At first it was, “are they being tortured or not.” Then once torture was confirmed, the debate evolved to, “is it acceptable, is it justified, is it legal?” I am surprised by how many people still try to justify torture and support it as government policy, as an extra “necessary” tool to tackle terrorism.

    TO: Do you know if any prisoners ever died at Guantanamo while you were there?

    DH: Four died during my time in Guantanamo.

    TO: Have you heard about the three prisoners who allegedly committed suicide in June 2006? Do you know anything about them? Do you believe they committed suicide?

    DH: Suicide is possible in that situation, but evidence has emerged in various forms and from various sources suggesting foul play. Some witnesses are soldiers and have said that they believe that the detainees were “accidentally‚” killed during an interrogation at a secret camp on the island called “Camp No‚” as in no, it doesn’t exist. It seems they pushed their dangerous techniques too far. The fact that the organs were removed from the bodies so that an independent autopsy could not be carried out raises more questions than answers. This topic is covered in detail in my book with researched references pointing to foul play.

    TO: Did you ever interact with Shaker Aamer, the last British resident still held at Guantanamo?

    DH: I saw him on the odd occasion over the years and exchanged greetings, otherwise I never had the chance to talk or interact with him. The military has often kept him separated from other detainees and I believe subjected him to horrific treatment. When I left GTMO in early 2007 I knew that he was being held in isolation in Camp Echo because that is where I was. Whenever I saw him he always looked so skinny, weak, and tired. I cannot understand why they continue to hold him and the nearly two hundred men still detained there.

    TO: Were dogs ever used to invoke fear in you? You describe the use of chainsaws in your book. What was the purpose of this?

    DH: Not personally, dogs were mainly used against detainees known to have a fear of them. Our individual fears and weaknesses were used against us as customized interrogations. The chainsaw engines kept at full revs were used as part of their noise manipulation program. It prevented detainees from communicating with each other, prevented sleep, and basically drove us mad.

    TO: Can you tell me whether you have any flashbacks and if so what triggers it? When that happens, what do you start to feel?

    DH: Day time flashbacks consist of those moments of vivid clarity as I described previously, but it is the dreams that are the worst. I see myself having to begin the long process of imprisonment again accompanied with vivid feelings of hopelessness and no knowledge of the future or how long it will last. The other dreams consist of gruesome medical experimentations too horrible to describe. Losing my personality, my identity, memories and self is much more frightening to me than any physical harm. It is these dreams that are the most common and terrifying.

    TO: Do you remember former Guantanamo guards Brandon Neely and Albert Melise?

    DH: Unfortunately, I don’t remember Neely from Camp X-ray, it was a very confusing time for me. We established contact last year, but I became aware of Neely some time ago when he flew to the UK and publicly met some of the former UK detainees. He apologized for what he and his government had done. He is a brave man and I admire his courage and moral values so it was an honor to speak with him. I remember the polite and respectful soldiers, and the bad, but especially the good men and women I spent time with privately, such as in Camp Echo. One of those good men is Albert Melise who made contact with me to apologize, to offer help, and to see if I was alright. I remember him well because he did what he could in that controlled high security environment to help slow the deterioration of my sanity for the few months I spent with him. He is another brave man that I respect and admire, to add his voice to the growing number of witnesses that are coming forward to publicly share the truth and expose that shameful time in our history. Melise did a lot to help me in those dark times, and it was a joy to hear his voice that first time as a free man. I hope to gather enough funds so I can fly these two men to Australia to thank them personally and show my gratitude for their friendship and trust. I’d like to show them my hospitality and my country, and to show them how much I appreciate their past kindness and current bravery. Neely and Melise were not alone in covertly showing humanity to myself and other detainees whenever they had the opportunity. A handshake, an apology (though that responsibility shouldn’t have to have been shouldered by them), even a simple hello and a smile goes a long way in an environment drowning in hostility and hatred. There were other soldiers who helped me in their own way and apologized for what was happening when no one else was around. As bad as that place was, and some of the people who worked there, they were all human and there is good in all of us. A good percentage of the soldiers were very young and most were only reservists who had never expected to be deployed. It was always interesting to watch the shock on their faces when they first entered the camps, a scene they had often seen only in old war movies and the realization that their government “did torture.” Some of these poor souls suffered greatly as they experienced the “other” America and struggled to carry out questionable orders. It is not just the tortured who suffer.

    TO: What do you think should happen, if anything, to the individuals who tortured you and the government officials who sanctioned it?

    DH: As for the soldiers I don’t think “following orders” is an excuse. Interrogators should be disciplined and charged if found to have acted illegally. All medical personnel who participated in interrogations, whether doctors, nurses, corpsman, psychologists and psychiatrists should be investigated and banned from practicing, even if they only gave advice or kept silent if aware of what was happening. I also think that the highest ranking military officials, politicians, and lawyers who created and supported the system need to go in front of an international court.

    But these are not the only issues. GTMO should be closed, torture abolished, military commissions scrapped, renditions ceased, indefinite detention should be a thing of the past, and people (including children) should no longer be made to “disappear” into unknown black site prisons.

    Justice is coming slowly however. Former Guantanamo soldiers, translators, FBI and other US employees, even prosecutors, have gone public to expose the truth of GTMO and many documents have made it into the public realm. Spain and Germany had begun the process of prosecuting former president Bush and members of his regime but after being pressured by the US they dropped the proceedings. The latest country said to be exploring the possibility of prosecuting US officials is Poland for the US using its soil in its rendition program. Last year Italy convicted 26 CIA agents in absentia for their involvement in kidnapping an Italian citizen and then dumping him in the woods near his home in the middle of the night a year later. The former UK detainees were recently paid just over a million pounds each in compensation and the Australian government has just paid compensation to the other Australian who was held in GTMO after being tortured in Egypt. In both instances these men were required to drop their court cases against the state. Wikileaks has been another vehicle shedding light on what took place at GTMO and beyond, exposing those responsible for illegal acts. Sometime this year about thirteen hundred diplomatic cables are to be released concerning Australia. I have been told to look out for information concerning my case. Especially cables that talk about the treatment I was receiving, and who was involved with the political interference and creation of the plea deal that I was forced to sign if I was ever to come home. I will be watching with great interest once all that information comes to light.

    TO: Is there anything the US government or the Australian government told you that you can never speak about?

    There was a one year gag order upon my release and I had to sign a plea agreement that said I had never been mistreated by US officials or their employees while in US detention. I am also not allowed to challenge or “collaterally attack‚” my conviction, seek compensation or other remedies, or sue anyone for my illegal imprisonment and treatment. I have been advised that no court would uphold the plea agreement.

    TO: There aren’t many Caucasians at Guantanamo? How were you treated by the other detainees? And now that you’ve been released, how have you been treated by the public?

    DH: There weren’t many Caucasians at GTMO but I wasn’t the only one. Before the release of detainees began there must have been close to forty European citizens spread between eight or nine western European countries. Usually most detainees treated each other the same regardless of their geo-political or cultural background. The Australian public has been wonderful; very welcoming, glad to see me home and very helpful. I often have people approach me to say hello.

    TO: How did you and your wife Aloysia meet?

    DH: Aloysia has been involved in human rights activism for years and in her efforts for social justice became involved in the Australian campaign to see me released from Guantanamo bay. Over the years she came to know my dad quite well, and he played a part in our relationship.

    TO: You have a long life ahead of you. What would you like to accomplish? What are your hopes and dreams?

    DH: When I was released I wondered if refugees newly arrived in a country felt similar. I had to begin a new life from the beginning, from collecting a set of identification papers to such privileges as a vehicle license and obtaining a Medicare card. Despite long term plans such as owning a home I have been taking a day at a time, receiving treatment for physical and mental injuries, finding employment and working, and when I get the chance or in the mood fishing or socializing. Writing my book for two years took up a lot of my time, as does keeping abreast of all the continuous developments regarding GTMO, the so-called war on terror and its related policies, and those whose lives (detained or not) they continue to effect, including my own. Life is very busy for me. Finding the love of my life has been my biggest accomplishment, of course! And then writing my book. Otherwise there is a lot of work left to do and in the years to come I will continue to rebuild my life, seek normality, and to live in peace with the hardships of the past far behind me.

    The Hidden Horrors of WikiLeaks’ Guantánamo Files April 27, 2011

    Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Torture.
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
    comments closed
    Published on Wednesday, April 27, 2011 by CommonDreams.org

     

    WikiLeaks’ latest revelations — secret military files on almost all of the 779 prisoners held in the US “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba — are already causing a stir, and for good reason, as they resuscitate a story that appears to have been forgotten in the last few years: how, in their rush to prove themselves tough and vengeful in response to the 9/11 attacks, the most senior officials in the Bush administration not only discarded international laws and treaties including the Geneva Conventions and the UN Convention Against Torture, but also threw out safeguards designed to protect innocent people from being wrongly imprisoned in wartime.

    Some of the key discoveries in the Guantánamo files are the documents on the 201 prisoners released between 2002 and summer 2004, which cover new ground, as the US military has never publicly released any of this information before. For the other 578 prisoners, information has at least been revealed through the release of the government’s allegations against the prisoners, and the transcripts of the tribunals and review boards used to assess their significance, which were released in 2006 (with follow-ups in the years since), but for these 201 prisoners, many of the stories are being related for the very first time. These are mostly dispiriting revelations about how children as young as 14 and old men in their 80s were rounded up and sent to Guantánamo, joining farmers, taxi drivers and unwilling Taliban recruits — hordes of the innocent or the insignificant, whose stories help to confirm the folly of Guantánamo.

    Just as significant, however, are the stories of the majority of the other prisoners — the nearly 400 others released, and most of the 171 still held. Understanding their stories generally requires more effort, as the allegations marshalled against them seem to prove what a threat they are — until, that is, the sources of these allegations are investigated, and are revealed, time and again, as very dubious indeed.

    Although JTF-GTMO, the Joint Task Force at Guantánamo, responsible for creating these files, has done a good job of creating the illusion of coherent intelligence dossiers, an illusion is all it is. On close inspection, the files are full of lies and distortions, with certain figures appearing over and over again. They include “high-value detainees” like Abu Zubaydah, waterboarded 83 times and held for four and a half years in secret CIA prisons, and Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, tortured in Egypt until he falsely confessed that there were connections between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein (used to justify the invasion of Iraq in March 2003), who was finally sent back to Libya to be murdered.

    There are also others, held only in Guantánamo, who are known as notoriously unreliable informants, and who, whether through the use of torture, coercion, or bribery (the promise of better living conditions) have repeatedly told lies about their fellow prisoners. These have been seen through, generally by some official figures at Guantánamo, and also by judges in the prisoners’ habeas corpus petitions, who have recognized their baleful influence, and have often moved to dismiss their testimony, damaging or even eviscerating the government’s cases.

    There are dangerous men in Guantánamo, of course — some, if not all of the 14 ‘high-value detainees,” including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, who arrived in Guantánamo from secret CIA prisons in September 2006, some of the ten others transferred to Guantánamo from secret prisons in September 2004, plus a handful of others. Essentially, these are the 36 men recommended for trials by the Obama administration’s Guantánamo Review Task Force, which spent the whole of 2009 analysing the prisoners’ cases.

    As for the rest of the 171 men still held, 47 of whom are being held indefinitely without charge or trial by President Obama on the basis that they are too dangerous to release, even though no evidence exists that can be used in court, these documents reveal how the distortions engendered by Guantánamo continue to erode all hope of a rational settlement to the vexed question of when Guantánamo will actually close.

    When innocent people are labelled as “low risk” detainees, and foot soldiers are labelled as “medium risk” or “high risk,” as they are in these official documents, the proper outcome — that prisoners should either be charged or released, and the abomination that is Guantánamo should be closed as soon as possible — is lost in a miasma of misplaced fear.

    Politically, it appears that President Obama has decided that Guantánamo is too toxic to touch. That is a disgrace, as it shows him to be a man lacking in firm principles, after all his fine talk about the importance of justice and the law, when he was a Senator, and it is also a tragedy for America.

    I won’t hold my breath hoping for enlightenment, but these documents released by WikiLeaks deserve to be read widely, and to be acted upon decisively by Americans who care about justice and the rule of law, because, with Guantánamo still open, they reveal the unjustifiable triumph, from beyond the electoral grave, of the Bush adminstration, whose actions, whatever their supposed justification, took the country to a wretched and disturbing place that still needs to be abandoned and repudiated as a thoroughly unacceptable aberration from the principles on which the United States was founded.

    <!–

    –>

    Andy Worthington

    Andy Worthington is a journalist and historian, based in London. He is the author of The Guantanamo Files: The Stories of the 759 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison, the first book to tell the stories of all the detainees in America’s illegal prison. For more information, visit his blog here.

    Follow

    Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

    Join 184 other followers