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“I know I can go to hell for what I did to you.” January 20, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, Torture.
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Last week, several Republican senators, including John McCain, called on President Obama to stop releasing detainees from the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Their argument was that after the terror attacks in Paris, the 122 prisoners still in Guantánamo should be made to stay right where they are, where they can do the West no harm.

On Tuesday, one of those detainees, Mohamedou Ould Slahi, who was sent to Guantánamo in 2002 and remains there to this day, is poised to offer a powerful rejoinder. Three years into his detention — years during which he was isolated, tortured, beaten, sexually abused and humiliated — Slahi wrote a 466-page, 122,000-word account of what had happened to him up to that point

A native of Mauritania, Slahi, 44, is fluent in several languages — he learned English while in Guantánamo — and lived in Canada and Germany as well as the Muslim world. He came under suspicion because an Al Qaeda member, who had been based in Montreal — where Slahi had also lived — was arrested and charged with plotting to bomb the Los Angeles International Airport in 1999. Slahi was questioned about this plot several times, but he was always released. After 9/11, Slahi was detained again for questioning. That time, he was turned over to the American authorities, in whose captivity he has been ever since.

What was he accused of? Slahi asked this question of his captors often and was never given a straight answer. This, of course, is part of the problem with Guantánamo, a prison where being formally charged with a crime is a luxury, not a requirement. His efforts to tell the truth — that he had no involvement in any acts of terrorism — only angered his interrogators. “Looks like a dog, walks like a dog, smells like a dog, barks like a dog, must be a dog,” one interrogator used to say. That was the best his captors could do to explain why he was there. Yet the military was so sure he was a key Al Qaeda player that he was subjected to “special interrogation” techniques that had been signed off by the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, himself.

“Special interrogation techniques,” of course, is a euphemism for torture. The sections of the book that describe his torture make for harrowing reading. Slahi was so sleep-deprived that he eventually started to hallucinate. Chained to the ground, he was forced to “stand” in positions that were extremely painful. Interrogators went at him in shifts — 24 hours a day. Sometimes during interrogations, female interrogators rubbed their breasts over his body and fondled him.

It is hard to read about his torture without feeling a sense of shame.

Does Slahi crack? Of course: to get the torture to stop, he finally lied, telling his interrogators what he thought they wanted to hear, just as torture victims have done since the Inquisition. “Torture doesn’t guarantee that the detainee cooperates,” writes Slahi. “In order to stop torture, the detainee has to please his assailant, even with untruthful, and sometime misleading [intelligence].” McCain, who was tortured in Vietnam, knows this; last month, he made a powerful speech in which he condemned America’s use of torture, saying, “the use of torture compromises that which most distinguishes us from our enemies, our belief that all people, even captured enemies, possess basic human rights.” That is also why it is so disheartening that McCain has allied himself with those who want to keep Guantánamo open.

In 2010, a federal district judge ruled in favor of Slahi’s habeas corpus petition because the evidence against him was so thin. The government appealed, and the order remains in limbo.

I asked Nancy Hollander, one of Slahi’s lawyers, to describe her client. “He is funny, smart, compassionate and thoughtful,” she said. All of these qualities come through in his memoir, which is surprisingly without rancor. “I have only written what I experienced, what I saw, and what I learned firsthand,” he writes toward the end of his book. “I have tried not to exaggerate, nor to understate. I have tried to be as fair as possible, to the U.S. government, to my brothers, and to myself.” One of the wonders of the book is that he does come across as fair to all, even his torturers.

But the quote that sticks with me most is something that one of his guards told him, something that could stand as a fitting epitaph for Guantánamo itself: “I know I can go to hell for what I did to you.”

Report: Senate Report on CIA Will Sidestep Look at Bush ‘Torture Team’ October 19, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Constitution, Criminal Justice, Democracy, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Human Rights, Torture, War on Terror.
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Roger’s note: The United States government and military violate international law on a daily basis; the Bush/Cheney torture regime, which Obama has outsourced to Bagram and god knows where else, is one of its most blatant manifestations.  Obama’s “we need to look forward not backward” excuse for violating his oath to defend the constitution does credit to Lewis Carroll and Franz Kafka.  The next time you are before a judge accused of a crime, please remind her that it is time to look forward and not backward.  Your charges are sure to be dropped.

 

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According to sources who spoke with McClatchy, five-year inquiry into agency’s torture regime ignores key role played by Bush administration officials who authorized the abuse

 rumsfeld_bush_cheneyFrom left: Donald Rumsfeld, George W. Bush, and Dick Cheney. Thanks to an Obama adminstration that insisted on “looking forward, not backward” on torture, and a Senate investigation that has limited its scope to the mere “action or inactions” of the CIA, neither these men nor the others who helped authorize the torture program will likely ever face prosecution for what experts say were clear violations of domestic and international law. (Photo: Wikimedia/Public domain)

According to new reporting by McClatchy, the five-year investigation led by the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee into the torture program conducted by the CIA in the aftermath of September 11, 2001 will largely ignore the role played by high-level Bush administration officials, including those on the White House legal team who penned memos that ultimately paved the way for the torture’s authorization.

Though President Obama has repeatedly been criticized for not conducting or allowing a full review of the torture that occured during his predecessor’s tenure, the Senate report—which has been completed, but not released—has repeatedly been cited by lawmakers and the White House as the definitive examination of those policies and practices. According to those with knowledge of the report who spoke with McClatchy, however, the review has quite definite limitations.

The report, one person who was not authorized to discuss it told McClatchy, “does not look at the Bush administration’s lawyers to see if they were trying to literally do an end run around justice and the law.” Instead, the focus is on the actions and inations of the CIA and whether or not they fully informed Congress about those activities. “It’s not about the president,” the person said. “It’s not about criminal liability.”

Responding to comment on the reporting, legal experts and critics of the Bush torture program expressed disappointment that high-level officials in the administration were not part of the review. In addition to the president himself, Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, others considered part of what it sometimes referred to as the “Torture Team,” include: Alberto Gonzales, a former White House counsel and attorney general; David Addington, former vice-president Dick Cheney’s chief of staff; Douglas Feith, who was under-secretary of defence; William Haynes, formerly the Pentagon’s general counsel; and John Yoo and Jay Bybee, who wrote many of the specific legal memos authorizing specific forms of abuse.

“If it’s the case that the report doesn’t really delve into the White House role, then that’s a pretty serious indictment of the report,” Elizabeth Goitein, the co-director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Program at the New York University Law School, said to McClatchy. “Ideally it should come to some sort of conclusions on whether there were legal violations and if so, who was responsible.”

And Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, indicated that limiting the report to just the actions of the CIA doesn’t make much sense from a legal or investigative standpoint. “It doesn’t take much creativity to include senior Bush officials in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s jurisdiction. It’s not hard to link an investigation into the CIA’s torture to the senior officials who authorized it. That’s not a stretch at all.”

As Mclatchy‘s Jonathan S. Landay, Ali Watkins and Marisa Taylor report:

The narrow parameters of the inquiry apparently were structured to secure the support of the committee’s minority Republicans. But the Republicans withdrew only months into the inquiry, and several experts said that the parameters were sufficiently flexible to have allowed an examination of the roles Bush, Cheney and other top administration officials played in a top-secret program that could only have been ordered by the president.

“It doesn’t take much creativity to include senior Bush officials in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s jurisdiction,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “It’s not hard to link an investigation into the CIA’s torture to the senior officials who authorized it. That’s not a stretch at all.”

It’s not as if there wasn’t evidence that Bush and his top national security lieutenants were directly involved in the program’s creation and operation.

The Senate Armed Services Committee concluded in a 2008 report on detainee mistreatment by the Defense Department that Bush opened the way in February 2002 by denying al Qaida and Taliban detainees the protection of an international ban against torture.

White House officials also participated in discussions and reviewed specific CIA interrogation techniques in 2002 and 2003, the public version of the Senate Armed Services Committee report concluded.

Several unofficial accounts published as far back as 2008 offered greater detail.

Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld relentlessly pressured interrogators to subject detainees to harsh interrogation methods in part to find evidence of cooperation between al Qaida and the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, McClatchy reported in April 2009. Such evidence, which was non-existent, would have substantiated one of Bush’s main arguments for invading Iraq in 2003.

Other accounts described how Cheney, Rumsfeld, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Attorney General John Ashcroft, and Secretary of State Colin Powell approved specific harsh interrogation techniques. George Tenet, then the CIA director, also reportedly updated them on the results.

“Why are we talking about this in the White House? History will not judge this kindly,” Ashcroft said after one of dozens of meetings on the program, ABC News reported in April 2008 in a story about the White House’s direct oversight of interrogations.

News reports also chronicled the involvement of top White House and Justice Department officials in fashioning a legal rationale giving Bush the authority to override U.S. and international laws prohibiting torture. They also helped craft opinions that effectively legalized the CIA’s use of waterboarding, wall-slamming and sleep deprivation.

Though President Obama casually admitted earlier this, “We tortured some folks.” — what most critics and human rights experts have requested is an open and unbiased review of the full spectrum of the U.S. torture program under President Bush. And though increasingly unlikely, calls remain for those responsible for authorizing and conducting the abuse to be held accountable with indictments, trials, and if guilty, jail sentences. In addition, as a letter earlier this year signed by ten victims of the extrajudicial rendition under the Bush administration stated, the concept of full disclosure and accountability is key to restoring the credibility of the nation when it comes to human rights abuses:

Publishing the truth is not just important for the US’s standing in the world. It is a necessary part of correcting America’s own history. Today in America, the architects of the torture program declare on television they did the right thing. High-profile politicians tell assembled Americans that ‘waterboarding’ is a ‘baptism’ that American forces should still engage in.

These statements only breed hatred and intolerance. This is a moment when America can move away from all that, but only if her people are not sheltered from the truth.

As McClatchy notes, a redacted version of the report’s summary—the only part of it expected to be released to the public—continues to be under review. Its release date remains unclear.

US Complicity in ‘Some of the Most Gruesome Chemical Weapons Attacks’ Revealed August 27, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Chemical Biological Weapons, Iran, Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
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Foreign Policy magazine provides new details in how the CIA helped Saddam gas Iran

– Andrea Germanos, staff writer

As the U.S. and its allies weigh the possibility of military intervention in Syria over the use of chemical weapons, new reporting by Foreign Policy reveals details of how the U.S. helped Iraq launch multiple chemical weapons attacks during the Iran-Iraq war.

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein greets Donald Rumsfeld, then special envoy of President Ronald Reagan, in Baghdad on December 20, 1983.

The magazine reports that formerly unnoticed documents in the National Archives in addition to information obtained in interviews with former intelligence officials “are tantamount to an official American admission of complicity in some of the most gruesome chemical weapons attacks ever launched.”

On Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry railed against chemical weapons he said were used in Syria.  From his remarks:

What we saw in Syria last week should shock the conscience of the world. It defies any code of morality. Let me be clear. The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons is a moral obscenity. By any standard, it is inexcusable. And despite the excuses and equivocations that some have manufactured, it is undeniable.

The meaning of this attack goes beyond the conflict on Syria itself. And that conflict has already brought so much terrible suffering. This is about the large-scale indiscriminate use of weapons that the civilized world long ago decided must never be used at all, a conviction shared even by countries that agree on little else.

There is a clear reason that the world has banned entirely the use of chemical weapons. There is a reason the international community has set a clear standard and why many countries have taken major steps to eradicate these weapons. There is a reason why President Obama has made it such a priority to stop the proliferation of these weapons, and lock them down where they do exist. There is a reason why President Obama has made clear to the Assad regime that this international norm cannot be violated without consequences. And there is a reason why no matter what you believe about Syria, all peoples and all nations who believe in the cause of our common humanity must stand up to assure that there is accountability for the use of chemical weapons so that it never happens again.

Twenty-five years ago, however, the U.S. was not calling for “accountability for the use of chemical weapons.”

Foreign Policy magazine reported on Monday:

In 1988, during the waning days of Iraq’s war with Iran, the United States learned through satellite imagery that Iran was about to gain a major strategic advantage by exploiting a hole in Iraqi defenses. U.S. intelligence officials conveyed the location of the Iranian troops to Iraq, fully aware that Hussein’s military would attack with chemical weapons, including sarin, a lethal nerve agent.

Even years before the U.S. provided Iraq with intelligence it used to carry out chemical attacks, friend of President Ronald Reagan and then Director of Central Intelligence William J. Casey and other intelligence officials were repeatedly informed of Iraq’s use of chemical weapons in attacks, including strikes carried out by Saddam on Iraqis, the magazine reported.

“The Iraqis never told us that they intended to use nerve gas. They didn’t have to. We already knew,” said retired Air Force colonel Rick Francona, a military attache in Baghdad during the 1988 attacks.

In a 1987 report entitled “At the Gates of Basrah,” Reagan wrote in the margins, “An Iranian victory is unacceptable,” Foreign Policy reports. Their reporting continues:

In contrast to today’s wrenching debate over whether the United States should intervene to stop alleged chemical weapons attacks by the Syrian government, the United States applied a cold calculus three decades ago to Hussein’s widespread use of chemical weapons against his enemies and his own people. The Reagan administration decided that it was better to let the attacks continue if they might turn the tide of the war. And even if they were discovered, the CIA wagered that international outrage and condemnation would be muted.

Obama Gives Bush “Absolute Immunity” For Everything August 27, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush.
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by Abby Zimet

Days before Bradley – now Chelsea – Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for helping expose U.S. war crimes in Iraq, the Obama Department of Justice filed a petition in federal court arguing that the perpetrators of those crimes – Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld et al – enjoy “absolute immunity” against criminal charges or civil liability. The filing came in a suit brought by Sundus Shaker Saleh, an Iraqi single mother and refugee now living in Jordan, who alleges that the planning and waging of the Iraq war under false pretenses constituted a “crime of aggression” under a law used in the Nuremberg trials. With neither Congress nor Obama willing to hold Bush & Co. accountable for the Iraq catastrophe, supporters see the suit as a last-chance tactic to force the issue back into the public eye – an effort the Obama adminstration clearly opposes. More, all dispiriting, on the increasingly flawed Bush-Obama-lesser-of-two-evils thesis, and the current culture of impunity.

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Shadow Lives: How the War on Terror in England Became a War on Women and Children March 5, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Britain, Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Racism, Torture, Uncategorized, War on Terror, Women.
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Published on Tuesday, March 5, 2013 by TomDispatch.com

by Victoria Brittain

Once, as a reporter, I covered wars, conflicts, civil wars, and even a genocide in places like Vietnam, Angola, Eritrea, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, keeping away from official briefings and listening to the people who were living the war.  In the years since the Bush administration launched its Global War on Terror, I’ve done the same thing without ever leaving home.

In the last decade, I didn’t travel to distant refugee camps in Pakistan or destroyed villages in Afghanistan, nor did I spend time in besieged cities like Iraq’s Fallujah or Libya’s Misrata.  I stayed in Great Britain.  There, my government, in close conjunction with Washington, was pursuing its own version of what, whether anyone cared to say it or not, was essentially a war against Islam.  Somehow, by a series of chance events, I found myself inside it, spending time with families transformed into enemies.

I hadn’t planned to write about the war on terror, but driven by curiosity about lives most of us never see and a few lucky coincidences, I stumbled into a world of Muslim women in London, Manchester, and Birmingham.  Some of them were British, others from Arab and African countries, but their husbands or sons had been swept up in Washington’s war. Some were in Guantanamo, some were among the dozen Muslim foreigners who did not know each other, and who were surprised to find themselves imprisoned together in Britain on suspicion of links to al-Qaeda. Later, some of these families would find themselves under house arrest.

In the process, I came to know women and children who were living in almost complete isolation and with the stigma of a supposed link to terrorism. They had few friends, and were cut off from the wider world. Those with a husband under house arrest were allowed no visitors who had not been vetted for “security,” nor could they have computers, even for their children to do their homework.  Other lonely women had husbands or sons who had sometimes spent a decade or more in prison without charges in the United Kingdom, and were fighting deportation or extradition.

Gradually, they came to accept me into their isolated lives and talked to me about their children, their mothers, their childhoods — but seldom, at first, about the grim situations of their husbands, which seemed too intimate, too raw, too frightening, too unknowable to be put into words.

In the early years, it was a steep learning curve for me, spending time in homes where faith was the primary reality, Allah was constantly invoked, English was a second language, and privacy and reticence were givens. Facebook culture had not come to most of these families. The reticence faded over the years, especially when the children were not there, or in the face of the kind of desolation that came from a failed court appeal to lift the restrictions on their lives, an unexpected police raid on the house, a husband’s suicide attempt, or the coming of a new torture report from Washington’s then-expanding global gulag of black sites and, of course, Guantanamo.

In these years, I met some of their husbands and sons as well.  The first was a British man from Birmingham, Moazzam Begg. He had been held for three years in Washington’s notorious offshore prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, only to be released without charges.  When he came home, through his lawyer, he asked me to help write his memoir, the first to come out of Guantanamo.  We worked long months on Enemy Combatant. It was hard for him to relive his nightmare days and nights in American custody in Kandahar and in the U.S. prison at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan and then those limbo years in Cuba. It was even harder for him to visit the women whose absent husbands he had known in prison and who, unlike him, were still there.

Was My Husband Tortured?

In these homes he visited, there was always one great unspoken question: Was my husband or son tortured? It was the single question no one could bear to ask a survivor of that nightmare, even for reassurance. When working on his book, I deliberately left the chapter on his experiences in American hands in Bagram prison for last, as I sensed how difficult it would be for both of us to speak about the worst of the torture I knew he had experienced.

Through Moazzam, I met other men who had been swept up in the post-9/11 dragnet for Muslims in Great Britain, refugees who sought him out as an Arabic speaker and a British citizen to help them negotiate Britain’s newly hostile atmosphere in the post-9/11 years.  Soon, I began to visit some of their wives, too.

In time, I found myself deep inside a world of civilian women who were being warred upon (after a fashion) in my own country, which was how I came upon a locked-down hospital ward with a man determined to starve himself to death unless he was given refugee documents to leave Britain, children who cried in terror in response to a knock on the door, wives faced with a husband changed beyond words by prison.

I found myself deep inside a world of civilian women who were being warred upon (after a fashion) in my own country, which was how I came upon a locked-down hospital ward with a man determined to starve himself to death, children who cried in terror in response to a knock on the door, wives faced with a husband changed beyond words by prison.

I was halfway through working on Moazzam’s book when London was struck by our 9/11, which we call 7/7. The July 7, 2005, suicide bombings, in three parts of the London underground and a bus, killed 52 civilians and injured more than 700. The four bombers were all young British men between 18 and 30, two of them married with children, and one of them a mentor at a primary school. In video statements left behind they described themselves as “soldiers” whose aim was to force the British government to pull its troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Just three weeks later, there were four more coordinated bomb attacks on the London subway system.  (All failed to detonate.) The four men responsible, longterm British residents originally from the Horn of Africa, were captured, tried, and sentenced to life imprisonment. In this way, the whole country was traumatised in 2005, and that particularly includes the various strands of the Muslim community in Great Britain.

The British security services quickly returned to a post-9/11 stance on overdrive. The same MI5 intelligence agents who had interrogated Moazzam while he was in U.S. custody asked to meet him again to get his thoughts on who might be behind the attacks. However, three years in U.S. custody and five months at home occupied with his family and his book had not made him a likely source of information on current strains of thought in the British Muslim community.

At the same time, the dozen foreign Muslim refugees detained in the aftermath of 9/11 and held without trial for two years before being released on the orders of the House of Lords were rearrested. In the summer of 2005, the government prepared to deport them to countries they had originally fled as refugees.

All of them had been made anonymous by court order and in legal documents were referred to as Mr. G, Mr. U, and so on. This was no doubt intended to safeguard their privacy, but in a sense it also condemned them.  It made them faceless, inhuman, and their families experienced it just that way. “They even took my husband’s name away, why?” one wife asked me.

The women I was meeting in these years were mostly from this small group, as well as the relatives of a handful of British residents — Arabs — who were not initially returned from Guantanamo with the nine British citizens that the Americans finally released without charges in 2004 and 2005.

Perhaps no one in the country was, in the end, more terrorised than them, thanks to the various terror plots by British nationals that followed. And they were right to be fearful.  The pressure on them was overwhelming.  Some of them simply gave up and went home voluntarily because they could not bear house arrest, though they risked being sent to prison in their native lands; others went through years of house arrest and court appeals against deportation, all of which continues to this day.

Among the plots that unnerved them were one in 2006 against transatlantic aircraft, for which a total of 12 Britons were jailed for life in 2009, and the 2007 attempt to blow up a London nightclub and Glasgow International Airport, in which one bomber died and the second was jailed for 32 years. In the post-9/11 decade, 237 people were convicted of terror-related offences in Britain.

Though all of this was going on, much of it remained remote from the world of the refugee women I came to know who, in the larger world, were mainly preoccupied with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that, with Palestinian developments, filled their TV screens tuned only to Arabic stations.

These women did not tend to dwell on their own private nightmares, but for anyone in their company there was no mistaking them: a wife prevented from taking her baby into the hospital to visit her hunger-striking husband and get him to eat before he starved to death; another, with several small children, turned back from a prison visit, despite a long journey, because her husband was being punished that day; children whose toys were taken in a police raid and never given back; midnight visits from a private security company to check on a man already electronically tagged.

These women did not tend to dwell on their own private nightmares: a wife prevented from taking her baby into the hospital to visit her hunger-striking husband and get him to eat before he starved to death; another turned back from a prison visit because her husband was being punished that day; children whose toys were taken in a police raid and never given back; midnight visits from a private security company to check on a man already electronically tagged.

Here was the texture of a hidden war of continual harassment against a largely helpless population.  This was how some of the most vulnerable people in British society — often already traumatised refugees and torture survivors — were made permanent scapegoats for our post-9/11, and then post-7/7 fears.

So powerful is the stigma of “terrorism” today that, in the name of “our security,” whether in Great Britain or the United States, just about anything now goes, and ever fewer people ask questions about what that “anything” might actually be. Here in London, repeated attempts to get influential religious or political figures simply to visit one of these officially locked-down families and see these lives for themselves have failed. In the present political climate, such a personal, fact-finding visit proved to be anything but a priority for such people.

A Legal System of Secret Evidence, House Arrest, and Financial Sanctions

Against this captive population, in such an anything-goes atmosphere, all sorts of experimental perversions of the legal system were tried out.  As a result, the British system of post-9/11 justice contains many features which should frighten us all but are completely unfamiliar to the vast majority of people in the United Kingdom.

Key aspects for the families I have been concerned with include the use of secret evidence in cases involving deportation, bail conditions, and imprisonment without trial. In addition, most of their cases have been heard in a special court known as the Special Immigration Appeals Commission or SIAC, which is housed in an anonymous basement set of rooms in central London.

One of SIAC’s innovative features is the use of “special advocates,” senior barristers who have security clearance to see secret evidence on behalf of their clients, but without being allowed to disclose it or discuss it, even with the client or his or her own lawyer. The resignation on principle of a highly respected barrister, Ian Macdonald, as a special advocate in November 2004 exposed this process to the public for the first time — but almost no one took any interest.

And a sense of the injustice in this arcane system was never sufficiently sparked by such voices, which found little echo in the media. Nor was there a wide audience for reports from ateam of top psychiatrists about the devastating psychological impact on the men and their families of indefinite detention without trial, and of a house-arrest system framed by “control orders” that allow the government to place restrictions of almost any sort on the lives of those it designates.

An even less noted aspect of the anti-terror legal system brought into existence after 9/11 was the financial sanctions that could freeze the assets of designated individuals.  First ordered by the United Nations, the financial-sanctions regime was consolidated here through a European Union list of designated people. The few lawyers who specialized in this area were scathing about the draconian measures involved and the utter lack of transparency when it came to which governments had put which names on which list.

The effect on the listed families was draconian.  Marriages collapsed under the strain. The listed men were barred from working and only allowed £10 a week for personal expenses. Their wives — often from conservative cultures where all dealings with the outside world had been left to husbands — suddenly were the families’ faces to the world, responsible for everything from shopping to accounting monthly to the government’s Home Office for every item the family purchased, right down to a bottle of milk or a pencil for a child. It was humiliating for the men, who lost their family role overnight, and exhausting and frustrating for the women, while in some cases the rest of their families shunned them because of the taint of alleged terrorism. Almost no one except specialist lawyers even knew that such financial sanctions existed in Britain.

In the country’s High Court, the first judicial challenge to the financial-sanctions regime was brought in 2008 by five British Muslim men known only as G, K, A, M, and Q. In response, Justice Andrew Collins said he found it “totally unacceptable” that, to take an especially absurd example, a man should have to get a license for legal advice about the sanctions from the very body that was imposing them. The man in question had waited three months for a “basic expense” license permitting funds for food and rent, and six months for a license to obtain legal advice about the situation he found himself in.

In a related case before the judicial committee of the House of Lords, Justice Leonard Hoffman expressed incredulity at the “meanness and squalor” of a regime that “monitored who had what for lunch.” More recently, the United Kingdom’s Supreme Court endorsed the comments of Lord Justice Stephen Sedley who described those subject to the regime as being akin to “prisoners of the state.”

Among senior lawyers concerned about this hidden world of punishment was Ben Emmerson, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms While Countering Terrorism. He devoted one of his official U.N. reports to the financial sanctions issue. His recommendations included significantly more transparency from governments who put people on such a list, the explicit exclusion of evidence obtained by torture, and the obligation of governments to give reasons when they refuse to remove individuals from the list.  Of course, no one who mattered was paying the slightest attention.

Against ideological governments obsessed by terrorism on both sides of the Atlantic and a culture numbed by violent anti-terrorist tales like “24” and Zero Dark Thirty, such complicated and technical initiatives on behalf of individuals who have been given the tag, implicitly if not explicitly, of “terrorist” stand little chance of getting attention.

“Each Time It’s Worse”

Nearly a decade ago, at the New York opening night of Guantanamo: Honour Bound to Defend Freedom, the play Gillian Slovo and I wrote using only the words of the relatives of prisoners in that jail, their lawyers, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, an elderly man approached Moazzam Begg’s father and me.  He introduced himself as a former foreign policy adviser to President John Kennedy. “It could never have happened in our time,” he said.

When the Global War on Terror was still relatively new, it was common for audiences to react similarly and with shock to a play in which fathers and brothers describe their bewilderment over the way their relation had disappeared into the legal black hole of Guantanamo Bay. In the years since, we have become numb to the destruction of lives, livelihoods, futures, childhoods, legal systems, and trust by Washington’s and London’s never-ending war on terror.

In that time, I have seen children grow from toddlers to teenagers locked inside this particular war machine.  What they say today should startle us out of such numbness. Here, for instance, are the words of two teenagers, a girl and a boy whose fathers had been imprisoned or under house arrest in Britain for 10 years and whose lives in those same years were filled with indignities and humiliations:

“People seem to think that we get used to things being how they are for us, so we don’t feel the injustices so much now. They are quite wrong: it was painful the first time, more painful the second, even more so the third. In fact, each time it’s worse, if you can believe that. There isn’t a limit on how much pain you can feel.”

The boy added this:

“There is never one day when I feel safe. It can be the authorities, it can be ordinary people, they can do something bad for us. Only like now when we are all in the house together can I stop worrying about my mum and my sisters, and even me, what might happen to us. On the tube [subway], in class at university, people look at my beard.  I see them looking and I know they are thinking bad things about me. I would like to be a normal guy who no one looks at. You know, other boys, some of my friends, they cut corners, things like driving without a current license, everyone does it. But I can’t, I can’t ever, ever, take even a small risk. I have to always be cautious, be responsible… for my family.”

These children have been brought up by women who, against all odds, have often preserved their dignity and kept at least a modicum of joy in their families’ lives, and so, however despised, however unnoticed, however locked away, made themselves an inspiration to others. They are not victims to be pitied, but women our societies should embrace.

South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s response to recent proposals that Washington establish a secret court to oversee the targeting of terrorist suspects for death-by-drone and President Obama’s expanding executive power to kill, speak for the world beyond the West.  They offer a different perspective on the war on terror that Washington and Great Britain continue to pursue with no end in sight:

“Do the United States and its people really want to tell those of us who live in the rest of the world that our lives are not of the same value as yours? That President Obama can sign off on a decision to kill us with less worry about judicial scrutiny than if the target is an American? Would your Supreme Court really want to tell humankind that we, like the slave Dred Scott in the nineteenth century, are not as human as you are? I cannot believe it.  I used to say of apartheid that it dehumanized its perpetrators as much as, if not more than, its victims. Your response as a society to Osama bin Laden and his followers threatens to undermine your moral standards and your humanity.”

© 2013 Victoria Brittain
Victoria Brittain

Victoria Brittain, journalist and former editor at the Guardian, has authored or co-authored two plays and four books, including Enemy Combatant with Moazzam Begg. Her latest book, Shadow Lives: The Forgotten Women of the War on Terror (Palgrave/Macmillan, 2013) has just been published.

Accountability for Bush’s Torture November 30, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Civil Liberties, Constitution, Criminal Justice, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Human Rights, Torture.
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Roger’s note: the United States government has a long history of disgraceful behavior, and the Bush/Cheney torture regime is one of the most heinous.  We need to be constantly reminded, and we need to acknowledge that the Obama government’s disregard of its constitutional obligation to prosecute constitutes legal and moral complicity.

By (about the author)
OpEdNews Op Eds 11/29/2012 at 20:45:34

opednews.com

In June 2004, in the wake of the Abu Ghraib scandal,    a notorious memo from August 2002 was leaked . It was written by John Yoo, a lawyer in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel and it claimed to redefine torture and to authorize its use on prisoners seized in the “war on terror.” I had no idea at the time that its influence would prove to be so long-lasting.
Ten years and four months since it was first issued, that memo — one of two issued on the same day that will forever be known as the “torture memos” — is still protecting the senior Bush administration officials who commissioned it (as well as Yoo and his boss, Jay S. Bybee, who signed it).

Those officials include George W. Bush, former Vice President Dick Cheney, and their senior lawyers, Alberto Gonzales and David Addington. None of them should be immune from prosecution, because torture is illegal under U.S. domestic law and is prohibited under the terms of the UN Convention Against Torture, which the United States, under Ronald Reagan, signed in 1988 and ratified in 1994. As Article 2.2 states, unequivocally, “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”

However, the architects of the torture program didn’t care, and still don’t care, because for them the disgraceful memos written by Yoo were designed to be a “golden shield,” a guarantee that, whatever they did, they were covered, because they had legal advice telling them that torture was not torture.

Barack Obama came into office promising to ban the use of torture. His administration released the second Yoo and Bybee “torture memo” and three later “torture memos” from 2005 as part of a court case in April 2009. That, however, was the end of the Obama administration’s flirtation with accountability. In court, every avenue that lawyers have tried to open up has been aggressively shut down by the government, citing the “state secrets doctrine,” another “golden shield” for torturers, which prohibits the discussion of anything the government doesn’t want discussed, for spurious reasons of national security.

The only other opportunity to stop the rot came three years ago, when an internal DoJ ethics investigation concluded, after several years of diligent work, that Yoo and Bybee were guilty of “professional misconduct” when they wrote and signed the memos. That could have led to their being disbarred, which would have been inconvenient for a law professor at UC Berkeley (Yoo) and a judge in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (Bybee). It also might well have set off ripples that would have led to Bush and Cheney and their lawyers.

However, at the last minute a long-time DoJ fixer, David Margolis, was allowed to override the report’s conclusions, claiming that both men were guilty only of “poor judgment,” which, he alleged, was understandable in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, and which carried no sanctions whatsoever.

Thwarted in the United States, those seeking accountability have had to seek it elsewhere: in Spain; in Poland, where one of the CIA’s “black sites” was located; and in Italy, where 23 Americans — 22 CIA agents and an Air Force colonel — were convicted in November 2009, in a ruling that was upheld on appeal in September this year, of kidnapping an Egyptian cleric, Abu Omar, and rendering him to Egypt, where he was tortured.

The United States has refused to extradite any of the men and women convicted in Italy, but the ruling is a reminder that not everyone around the world believes in Yoo’s and Bybee’s “golden shield.”

Moreover, although senior Bush administration officials — Bush and Cheney themselves and Donald Rumsfeld — have so far evaded accountability, their ability to travel the world freely has been hampered by their actions. In February 2011, for example, Bush called off a visit to Switzerland when he was notified that lawyers — at the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights — had prepared a massive torture indictment that was to be presented to the Swiss government the moment he landed in the country.

The former president was told that foreign countries might take their responsibilities under the UN Convention Against Torture more seriously than America has and arrest him on the basis that his home country had failed to act on the clear evidence that he had authorized torture, which he had actually boasted about in his memoir, Decision Points, published in November 2010.

Most recently, lawyers seeking accountability have tried pursuing Bush in Canada. Last September, prior to a visit by the former president, CCR and the Canadian Centre for International Justice (CCIJ) submitted a 69-page draft indictment to Attorney General Robert Nicholson, along with more than 4,000 pages of supporting material setting forth the case against Bush for torture.

When that was turned down, the lawyers launched a private prosecution in Provincial Court in Surrey, British Columbia, on behalf of four Guantanamo prisoners — Hassan bin Attash, Sami el-Hajj, Muhammed Khan Tumani, and Murat Kurnaz (all released, with the exception of bin Attash) — on the day of Bush’s arrival in Canada.

That avenue also led nowhere because the attorney general of British Columbia swiftly intervened to shut down the prosecution. Undeterred, however, CCR and CCIJ last week tried a new approach on behalf of those four men who, as Katherine Gallagher of CCR explained in the Guardian, “are all survivors of the systematic torture program the Bush administration authorized and carried out in locations including Afghanistan, Iraq, Guantánamo, and numerous prisons and CIA “black sites’ around the world.”

“Between them,” she added, “they have been beaten; hung from walls or ceilings; deprived of sleep, food, and water; and subjected to freezing temperatures and other forms of torture and abuse while held in U.S. custody.”

The new approach taken by the lawyers was to file a complaint with the UN Committee Against Torture, in which the four men “are asking one question: how can the man responsible for ordering these heinous crimes openly enter a country that has pledged to prosecute all torturers regardless of their position and not face legal action?”

As Gallagher explained, “Canada should have investigated these crimes. The responsibility to do so is embedded in its domestic criminal code that explicitly authorizes the government to prosecute torture occurring outside Canadian borders. There is no reason it cannot apply to former heads of state, and indeed, the convention has been found to apply to such figures including Hissène Habré [the former president of Chad] and Augusto Pinochet.”

That is true, and it will be interesting to see how the UN Committee Against Torture responds. Probably the “golden shield” will not need to be invoked once more by the United States, as the Canadian government evidently has no wish to annoy its neighbor. Moreover, it has its own appalling track record when it comes to preserving human rights in the “war on terror,” as the cases of Omar Khadr in Guantanamo, and Mahar Arar and others who were tortured in Syria demonstrate. However, the submission is to be commended for reminding people that great crimes — committed by the most senior U.S. officials and their lawyers — still remain unpunished, and that that is a situation that ought to be considered a major disgrace rather than something to be brushed aside.

War Tribunal Finds Bush, Cheney Guilty of War Crimes May 13, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Torture, War on Terror.
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Published on Sunday, May 13, 2012 by Common Dreams

 

Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal orders reparations be given to torture victims

– Common Dreams staff

Former US President George W Bush, his Vice-President Dick Cheney and six other members of his administration have been found guilty of war crimes by a tribunal in Malaysia.

Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal president judge Tan Sri Lamin Mohd Yunus (center) delivering the verdict yesterday. He is flanked by says reparations should be given to the complainant war crime victims. With him are Prof Salleh Buang (left) and Datuk Mohd Sa’ari Yusof. (Photo/Hasriyasyah Sabudin) Bush, Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and five of their legal advisers were tried in their absence and convicted on Saturday.

Victims of torture told a panel of five judges in Kuala Lumpur of their suffering at the hands of US soldiers and contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Among the evidence, Briton Moazzam Begg, an ex-Guantanamo detainee, said he was beaten, put in a hood and left in solitary confinement. Iraqi woman Jameelah Abbas Hameedi said she was stripped and humiliated in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison.

Transcripts of the five-day trial will be sent to the chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court, the United Nations and the Security Council.

A member of the prosecution team, Professor Francis Boyle of Illinois University’s College of Law, said he was hopeful that Bush and his colleagues could soon find themselves facing similar trials elsewhere in the world.

The eight accused are Bush; former US Vice President Richard Cheney; former US Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld; former Counsel to Bush, Alberto Gonzales; former General Counsel to the Vice President, David Addington; former General Counsel to the Defense Secretary, William Haynes II; former Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee and former Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo.

Tribunal president judge Tan Sri Lamin Mohd Yunus said the eight accused were also individually and jointly liable for crimes of torture in accordance with Article 6 of the Nuremberg Charter. “The US is subject to customary international law and to the principles of the Nuremberg Charter and exceptional circumstances such as war, instability and public emergency cannot excuse torture.”

* * *

The Star (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) reports:

Bush Found Guilty of War Crimes

KUALA LUMPUR: The War Crimes Tribunal has convicted former US President George W. Bush and seven of his associates as war criminals for torture and inhumane treatment of war crime victims at US military facilities.

However, being a tribunal of conscience, the five-member panel chaired by tribunal president judge Lamin Mohd Yunus had no power to enforce or impose custodial sentence on the convicted eight.

“We find the witnesses, who were victims placed in detention illegally by the convicted persons and their government, are entitled to payment of reparations,” said Lamin at a public hearing held in an open court at the Kuala Lumpur Foundation to Crimi­na­lize War yesterday.

He added that the tribunal’s award of reparations would be submitted to the War Crimes Commission and recommended the victims to find a judiciary entity that could enforce the verdict.

The tribunal would also submit the finding and records of the proceedings to the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, the United Nations’ Security Council.

On Thursday, head of the prosecution Prof Gurdial Singh Nijar said Bush had issued an executive order to commit war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Five former Iraqi detainees, who were tortured while being detained in various prisons, including Guantanamo Bay, were called to give their testimonies before the Tribunal during the trial which started on May 7.

* * *

The Malaysia Sun reports:

[…] In a unanimous vote on Saturday the symbolic Malaysian war crimes tribunal, part of an initiative by former Malaysian premier Mahathir Mohamad, found the former US President guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Former Malaysian Premier Mahatir Mohamad said of Bush and others: “These are basically murderers and they kill on large scale.”Seven of his former political associates, including former Vice President Dick Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, were also found guilty of war crimes and torture.

Press TV has reported the court heard evidence from former detainees in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay of torture methods used by US soldiers in prisons run by the American forces.

One former inmate described how he had been subjected to electric shocks, beatings and sexual abuse over a number of months.

A high ranking former UN official, former UN Assistant Secretary General, Denis Halliday, who also attended the trial, later told Press TV that the UN had been too weak during the Bush administration to enforce the Geneva Conventions.

He said: “The UN is a weak body, corrupted by member states, who use the Security Council for their own interests. They don’t respect the charter. They don’t respect the international law. They don’t respect the Geneva Conventions… A redundant, possibly a dangerous, and certainly corrupted organization.”

Following the hearing, former Malaysian premier Mahatir said of Bush and others: “These are basically murderers and they kill on large scale.”

It was the second so-called war crimes tribunal in Malaysia.

The token court was first held in November 2011 during which Bush and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair were found guilty of committing “crimes against peace” during the Iraq war.

Haditha massacre: Covering up war crimes in a criminal war January 27, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Imperialism, Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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Falsifying history in the service of Empire

The Pentagon has decided that U.S. Marines who killed 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha, Iraq on Nov. 19, 2005, will serve no jail time.

By Brian Becker, National Coordinator of the ANSWER Coalition

If only Private Bradley Manning had slaughtered innocent Iraqi civilians he would have been set free by the Pentagon. The Pentagon brass has kept Manning locked up for 21 months. They say that he leaked the 2007 video of a U.S. helicopter gunship massacring Iraqi civilians and journalists. Manning is facing life in prison for allegedly releasing classified documents and information to WikiLeaks that revealed U.S. war crimes.

In contrast, the Pentagon decided on Jan. 23, 2012, that there will be no jail time for any of the U.S. Marines who systematically and deliberately slaughtered 24 Iraqi civilians in their homes in Haditha, Iraq on Nov. 19, 2005. This was not a battle. They entered the homes of unarmed civilians at night and murdered children and their moms, dads and grandparents. The murdered were in their pajamas.

The superior officers of the rampaging Marines in Haditha lied and covered up the crime. The Pentagon brass, then under the leadership of Donald Rumsfeld, knew about the massacre and covered it up as well. A Pentagon statement issued just after the Haditha massacre described the incident as an insurgent ambush on a joint U.S.-Iraqi patrol that left insurgents, civilians and U.S. troops dead.

If only Private Bradley Manning had slaughtered innocent Iraqi civilians he would have been set free by the Pentagon.

That the Pentagon lied about this war crime should be understood as the norm and not an exception. All Iraqis were seen as the enemy or potential enemy. Indeed, Iraqis from across the political and religious spectrum opposed the occupation of their country. As in the Vietnam War, rampant racism allowed occupying forces to treat the occupied people as less than human. For those involved it was just one more war crime in a criminal war.

The truth about the massacre came out when investigative journalist Tim McGirk broke the story in Time Magazine in March 2006. McGirk had been in contact with an Iraqi human rights organization that provided a video of the aftermath of the massacre. The evidence revealed the bodies of bloodied children in their pajamas, killed in their homes by grenades and direct gunfire.

The trial of the Marine unit’s leader, Sgt. Frank Wuterich, who was facing life in prison for the massacre, came to an abrupt end this week when he accepted the Pentagon prosecutor’s plea offer. In return for pleading guilty to negligent dereliction of duty, Wuterich was demoted in rank and will have his pay level reduced. Earlier, six other Marines had their charges for their roles in the massacre dropped, and one was acquitted. Those who carried out this known and documented war crime will suffer no real punishment at all.

Even if these individual Marines had been convicted, however, the big shot war criminals—both in and out of uniform—who ordered the invasion and occupation of Iraq, who authorized and institutionalized torture, secret prisons and targeted assassinations, have never been charged for their crimes.

This is part of an unspoken bipartisan agreement between the two parties of imperialism. Both Republican and Democratic administrations are unofficially immunized for any crime committed in the service of the U.S. global empire.

Exposing Pentagon lies

Iraq was torn apart by the U.S. war of aggression. No one knows for certain how many Iraqis perished, but it is minimally in the hundreds of thousands, and probably well over 1 million. Many more suffered grievous wounds. More than 5 million became internal and external refugees. A whole generation of Iraqi children suffered the trauma of living through a decade of war. Every family faced the fear and terror of simply driving up to a U.S.-staffed checkpoint in their own city or town. The rules of engagement for nervous U.S. soldiers was “shoot first, ask questions later.” After all, U.S. casualties inflamed anti-war sentiment at home, while Iraqi casualties were not even a brief media blip.

U.S. crimes in Iraq are being whitewashed inside the United States. Not only were Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld shielded from prosecution by the Obama administration, but the semi-official narrative of the war can only be described as an example of falsification and national chauvinism.

When President Obama spoke to announce the removal of U.S. troops from Iraq in December 2011, he chose to speak at the military base in Fort Bragg to thousands of assembled soldiers. The speech was widely publicized and his version of history was designed to reach into homes throughout the United States.

He paid tribute to the suffering of U.S. soldiers in Iraq, but did not say anything about the Haditha massacre, the destruction of the city of Fallujah, the torture and humiliation at Abu Ghraib prison, or the multiple other episodes that are permanently imprinted on the consciousness of the Iraqi people. That comes as no surprise. But President Obama’s speech did not include even one word about the suffering of Iraqis from the war.

He said, “We know too well the heavy cost of this war. More than 1.5 million Americans have served in Iraq—1.5 million. Over 30,000 Americans have been wounded, and those are only the wounds that show. Nearly 4,500 Americans made the ultimate sacrifice—including 202 fallen heroes from here at Fort Bragg—202. So today, we pause to say a prayer for all those families who have lost their loved ones, for they are part of our broader American family. We grieve with them.”

The attempt to omit from history the pain and suffering—as well as the heroic resistance—of the Iraqi people must be challenged and contested. This falsified history is a prescription for promoting national chauvinism in the broader population. Such consciousness is useful for the Pentagon and the Military-Industrial Complex as they continue the era of endless imperialist war. We need to tell the truth about Iraq and expose the lies of the Pentagon.

Instead of endless war and occupation on behalf of capitalism and imperialism, we promote a program of international solidarity. Millions of people in the United States recognize that the war and occupation are great crimes. They support the demand that Iraq be paid reparations by the U.S. government for the wanton acts of death and destruction inflicted by the invading forces.

Also read: The Logic of War Crimes in a Criminal War, written by Brian Becker and Mara Verheyden-Hilliard in 2006.

The ANSWER Coalition is organizing every day all over the country against war, racism and economic injustice. Please make an urgently needed donation now to support this critical work.

 

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Jose Padilla and how American justice functions September 20, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Human Rights, War on Terror.
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By Glenn Greenwald

(updated below – Update II)

The story of Jose Padilla, continuing through the events of yesterday, expresses so much of the true nature of the War on Terror and especially America’s justice system.  In 2002, the American citizen was arrested at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, publicly labeled by John Ashcroft as The Dirty Bomber, and then imprisoned for the next three years on U.S. soil as an “enemy combatant” without charges of any kind, and denied all contact with the outside world, including even a lawyer.  During his lawless incarceration, he was kept not just in extreme solitary confinement but extreme sensory deprivation as well, and was abused and tortured to the point of severe and probably permanent mental incapacity (Bush lawyers told a court that they were unable to produce videos of Padilla’s interrogations because those videos were mysteriously and tragically “lost”).

Needless to say, none of the government officials responsible for this abuse of a U.S. citizen on American soil has been held accountable in any way.  That’s because President Obama decreed that Bush officials shall not be criminally investigated for War on Terror crimes, while his Justice Department vigorously defended John Yoo, Donald Rumsfeld and other responsible functionaries in civil suits brought by Padilla seeking damages for what was done to him.

As usual, the Obama DOJ cited national security imperatives and sweeping theories of presidential power to demand that Executive Branch officials be fully shielded from judicial scrutiny (i.e., shielded from the rule of law) for their illegal acts (the Obama DOJ: “Here, where Padilla’s damage claims directly relate, inter alia, to the President’s war powers, including whether and when a person captured in this country during an armed conflict can be held in military detention under the laws of war, it would be particularly inappropriate for this Court to unnecessarily reach the merits of the constitutional claims” (emphasis added)).  With one rare exception, federal courts, as usual, meekly complied.  Thus, a full-scale shield of immunity has been constructed around the high-level government officials who put Padilla in a hermetically sealed cage with no charges and then abused and tortured him for years.

The treatment Padilla has received in the justice system is, needless to say, the polar opposite of that enjoyed by these political elites.  Literally days before it was required to justify to the U.S. Supreme Court how it could imprison an American citizen for years without charges or access to a lawyer, the Bush administration suddenly indicted Padilla — on charges unrelated to, and far less serious than, the accusation that he was A Dirty Bomber — and then successfully convinced the Supreme Court to refuse to decide the legality of Padilla’s imprisonment on the grounds of “mootness” (he’s no longer being held without charges so there’s nothing to decide).

At Padilla’s trial, the judge excluded all evidence of the abuse to which he was subjected and even admitted statements he made while in custody before he was Mirandized.  Unsurprisingly, Padilla was convicted on charges of “supporting Islamic terrorism overseas” — but not any actual Terrorist plots (“The government’s chief evidence was an application form that government prosecutors said Mr. Padilla, 36, filled out to attend an Al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan in 2000″) — and then sentenced to 17 years in prison, all above and beyond the five years he was imprisoned with no due process.

Not content with what was done to Padilla, the Bush DOJ — and then the Obama DOJ — contested the sentence on appeal, insisting that it was too lenient; Padilla also appealed, arguing that the trial court made numerous errors in excluding his evidence while allowing the Government’s.  Yesterday, a federal appeals panel of the 11th Circuit issued a ruling, by a 2-1 vote, rejecting each and every one of Padilla’s arguments.  It then took the very unusual step of  vacating the 17-year-sentence imposed by the trial court as too lenient and, in effect, ordered the trial judge to impose a substantially harsher prison term:

Padilla’s sentence is substantively unreasonable because it does not adequately reflect his criminal history, does not adequately account for his risk of recidivism, was based partly on an impermissible comparison to sentences imposed in other terrorism cases, and was based in part on inappropriate factors . . . .

 

As the dissenting judge explained, this decision is extraordinary because trial judges — not judges sitting afterward on appeal — are the ones who hear all the evidence and thus have very wide discretion to determine the appropriate sentence.  But more so, in this case, a sentence less than the full maximum was warranted because “the trial judge correctly concluded that a sentence reduction is available to offenders who have been subjected to extraordinarily harsh conditions of pre-trial confinement.”  About that point, the dissenting judge documented:

Padilla presented substantial, detailed, and compelling evidence about the inhumane, cruel, and physically, emotionally, and mentally painful conditions in which he had already been detained for a period of almost four years. For example, he presented evidence at sentencing of being kept in extreme isolation at he military brig in South Carolina where he was subjected to cruel interrogations, prolonged physical and mental pain, extreme environmental stresses, noise and temperature variations, and deprivation of sensory stimuli and sleep.

In sentencing Padilla, the trial judge accepted the facts of his confinement that had been presented both during the trial and at sentencing, which also included evidence about the impact on one’s mental health of prolonged isolation and solitary confinement, all of which were properly taken into account in deciding how much more confinement should be imposed. None of these factual findings, nor the trial judge’s consideration of them in fashioning Padilla’s sentence, are challenged on appeal by the government or the majority.

 

Thus: American officials who are responsible for this “inhumane” and “cruel” abuse of detainees act with full impunity, as usual.  Those who are its victims are not merely denied all redress (though they are), and do not merely have the courthouse doors slammed in their faces in the name of secrecy, national security and presidential power (though they do), but they are also mercilessly punished to the fullest extent possible.

It should be said that part of what happened here is just the typical politicization of the judiciary, as the two-judge majority was comprised of a hard-core right-wing Reagan/Bush 41 appointee from Alabama (Joel Dubina), while the other was one of Bush 43’s most controversial appointees, the former Alabama Attorney General who was filibustered by the Democrats and allowed onto the bench only by virtue of the “Gang of 14″ compromise (William Pryor).  Meanwhile, the dissenting judge was born in Mexico to Syrian parents and, after moving to Miami at the age of 6, became the first female judge (as well as the first Hispanic and Arab American judge) on the Florida Supreme Court (rising to Chief Justice), and was a Clinton appointee to the federal appeals court (Rosemary Barkett); Barkett, incidentally, dissented from an 11th Circuit ruling denying a habeas petition to Troy Davis, the African-American death row inmate scheduled to be executed by the State of Georgia this week despite mountains of evidence showing his innocence.  So this episode highlights one of the few genuine differences that remain between the two parties that can truly impact people’s lives: their judicial appointments.

But the overriding theme is what we have seen time and again, that which — as it turns out — is the subject of my book to be released next month: America is plagued by a two-tiered justice system in which political and financial elites enjoy virtually absolute immunity for even the most egregious of crimes, while ordinary Americans (and especially fully stigmatized ones like Padilla) are subject with few defenses to the world’s largest and one of its most merciless systems of punishment.  Thus do Jose Padilla’s lawless jailers and torturers walk free and prosper, while no punishment is sufficiently harsh for him.

* * * * *
Almost immediately after I published this, it was announced that Troy Davis’ last chance for clemency has been denied, virtually assuring that a likely innocent man will be killed by the State of Georgia tomorrow.  Obviously, everything I just wrote applies in abundance to that event.

 

UPDATE:  As usual, America’s propaganda-spreading, government-serving establishment media spouts blatant falsehoods to justify all this; from ABC News:

 

From CNN:

 

 

Padilla was never even charged with, let alone convicted of, having anything to do with a “dirty bomb.”  “Dirty Bomber” was the villain nickname given to him by Bush officials and mindlessy repeated by its media to justify the treatment to which he was subjected.  The U.S. Government gave up long ago using this accusation to demonize him (NYT on his conviction: “The dirty bomb accusations were not mentioned during Mr. Padilla’s three-month trial here“), but their lying “watchdog media” servants continue unabated.  Who would possibly object to a longer prison term for A Dirty Bomber who tried to detonate radioactive weapons in American cities?  The fact that not even the Government charged with him that is no deterrent to its media continuing to claim he did.

 

UPDATE II:  Padilla was consigned to the SuperMax prison in Florence, Colorado to serve his 17-year sentence.  The New York Bar Association last week issued a comprehensive study of America’s SuperMax system and concluded:

 

But 17 years in a torture system like that — on top of the 5 years of abuse he endured — is insufficient: “too lenient.”

 

The Fascist Moses September 10, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in History.
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Roger’s note: A stroll down Memory Lane for those of us who lived through and survived the 60s, 70s, etc.

By David Glenn Cox

(about the author)
www.opednews.com, September 10, 2011

Let’s kick Richard Nixon, its great fun; we all did it at parties back in the 1970s. But that was the previous generation and this generation has missed out on the fun, like Woodstock. Unbeknownst to this current generation there would have been hundreds of fistfights and stabbings at Woodstock had it not been for three little words, “f**k Richard Nixon!”

All one had to do was simply step between the adversaries and say, “Come on now, guys, hey, look. f**k Richard Nixon!” Instantly the opponents would separate and begin to smile and agree, “Yeah, you’re right, man. f**k Richard Nixon!” The potential warriors would depart as buddies and would exchange bong hits until their eyeballs melted in their sockets and they would forget all about their conflicts.

That was in the twilight’s last gleaming of American democracy, when a President could still be removed from office for malfeasance. Let me rephrase that, Richard Nixon could be removed from office for malfeasance; it’s doubtful whether anyone else could be. I know all about George W. Bush and Bush was a drunken, coke-snorting, mean-spirited, frat boy. There is no doubt in my mind that he is the truest definition of a sociopath, but Nixon was just plain crazy.

Nixon had paranoid delusions that people were out to get him and so he responded with bile, tirades, enemy lists and dirty tricks. Because of his paranoid delusions he alienated everyone around him until even members of his own party would walk all the way across the street just to piss on Richard Nixon. Eventually these self-fulfilling, paranoid delusions gave to Richard Nixon a kind of an Eeyore quality.

Nixon’s most trusted advisor was Henry Kissinger and Nixon only trusted him while he was in the room. Kissinger’s first government job was as a translator for the head of the CIA, Allen Dulles. Kissinger was his protege and it was Dulles who helped to plan the Bay of Pigs invasion and Dulles who told Kennedy that he needed to launch an unprovoked, full-scale military attack on Cuba. Kennedy fired Dulles and his Deputy Director Charles Cabell, whose brother Earl Cabell changed the presidential motorcade route in Dallas.

Nice folks. It was Dulles who proposed a plan to fake an aircraft hijacking and to blame it on Cuba. This is where this cast of unknowns began their rise into the halls of corporate fascism. George Bush, E. Howard Hunt, Porter Goss were all operatives under Dulles, and after Dulles was fired their futures were in question. But when Richard Nixon chose Henry Kissinger as Secretary of State their meal tickets became safe and secure. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, CIA operative General Richard Secord was moving heroin on military aircraft in Vietnam and depositing the profits in banks in Australia. Then Secord began to sell pilfered US military hardware to friend and foe alike, and when this was discovered Secord was promoted!

Nixon ran for the presidency with the promise of a secret plan to end the Vietnam War. His secret plan, as it turned out, was this: get Richard Nixon elected President and then fight the North Vietnamese until they give up. Nixon authorized the secret bombings of neutral countries, as well as illegal invasions. Cambodia’s President Norodom Sihanouk was playing both sides so the CIA had him overthrown. Sihanouk had signed a secret pact with China in 1965 but was playing footsie with the CIA, so when the CIA disposed of him, China said, “Good riddance!”

Kennedy wouldn’t expand the Vietnam War, and well, he had an accident. So when Richard Nixon ended the Vietnam War without a victory he, well, he had an accident, too. After invading and bombing civilian areas in neutral countries and bombing civilian and humanitarian targets in North Vietnam, Nixon was removed from office because of a bungled burglary and financial campaign irregularities, and Americans with a straight face say the Catholic Church is in denial!

With Spiro Agnew’s departure due to racketeering conviction two chief executives of the country are removed from office within ten months and no one suspects anything is amiss. No one suspects levers behind the throne but Gerald Ford is elected President by one vote, Richard Nixon’s vote. Ford’s lone claim to fame was to pardon Richard Nixon to end the long national nightmare of Watergate. Nightmare is a good synonym for the coup d’etat that happened while America slept. Two attempts were made on Ford’s life in little more than two years and who was the director of the CIA then? Anyone? Why, it was good old George H. W. Bush.

The first Witch says, “When shall we three meet again, In thunder, lightning, or in rain?”

The second Witch, “When the hurlyburly’s done, When the battle’s lost and won.”

The third Witch says, “That will be ere the set of sun.”

The first Witch, “Where the place?”

The second Witch, “Upon the heath.”

The third Witch, “There to meet with Macbeth.”

All, “Fair is foul, and foul is fair: Hover through the fog and filthy air.”

Gerald Ford was lampooned in the press as a buffoon and even though he was a buffoon he never shot his friend in the face on a drunken hunting excursion or played golf with a Supreme Court Judge who might have to hear cases involving his administration. So either you’re in or you’re out. James Earl Carter was elected with on strong anti-Washington sentiment and Washington responded with a strong Anti-Carter sentiment. For four years Carter and his staff complained of phone calls not being returned and policies not being carried out. Riots and demonstrations were happening in Tehran; did anyone think of reducing the embassy staff or closing the embassy? That’s the job the CIA is supposed to do, and when the Iranians took Americans hostage, who took the fall?

When the military rescue mission failed, who took the fall?

The hostages were released twenty minutes after the swearing in of Ronald Reagan, but the story goes that no deals were struck. Sure, I believe. Somehow the Reagan camp came into possession of Carter’s national security briefings and even Carter’s debate notes. Richard Allen was Reagan’s foreign policy chief during the campaign and he said that he was told to report to Theodore Shackley. Shackley had been fired from the CIA by the Carter administration and it was Theodore Shackley who was the station chief in Miami during the Bay of Pigs invasion and the senior agent was E. Howard Hunt.

So who did the Carter administration suspect had been leaking the classified documents? Two national security officials named Donald Gregg and Robert Gates. That’s somewhat illuminating considering Gates was the lone holdover from the Bush administration. Shackley reported to Bush Senior on the campaign and Gregg reported directly to Shackley.

So Reagan gets elected and hell comes to breakfast: tax cuts for the rich, education cuts for the poor. The giveaways of national resources to coal and timber interests. Drug smuggling in South America, the looting of the savings and loans. For the CIA it was glory days until something went horribly wrong just sixty-nine days into Reagan’s first term. Another of America’s oh so famous lone nuts with a gun shot Reagan as he walked out the front door of the hotel where he was speaking.

I’ll repeat that, the President of the United States walked out the front door of the hotel. Does that sound like good security policy to you? Reagan and aide James Brady were hit with bullets and the hospital was immediately notified, but Reagan’s limo showed up at the hospital almost fifteen minutes after Brady’s and no stretcher was waiting. The excuse given was that the driver, a highly-trained ten year veteran of the Washington Secret Service, got lost in his own hometown. If you had told me that he got lost in Omaha, maybe I’d believe it. If you pulled a stunt like that in Stalin’s Russia, you and your family would be chopping wood in Siberia for generations to come.

During his short tenure as Secretary of State, Al Haig had complained that someone within the administration had been trying to undermine him in the eyes of the President. After hearing that the President had been shot it was Haig’s staff who notified Vice President Bush who was away giving a speech in Fort Worth. It was Haig who convened the cabinet for a status report and began an investigation into the shooter or shooters and then made his famous “I am in charge” statement, which meant that he was in charge of the White House until Bush returned. He later said that Bush had agreed to this over the phone.

When Bush returned to the White House he cancelled the investigation into the shooter or shooters and Haig was then vilified in the press. Al Haig had been hired by Henry Kissinger to serve in the Nixon administration in 1969. Secretary of state George Schultz was also a Nixon/Kissinger protege as were Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and Paul Bremer. Nixon begat Reagan, Reagan begat Bush, Bush begat son of Bush.

In the first one hundred and seventy-four years of American history there were three assassination attempts on chief executives and candidates, with only two being successful. Since 1963 there have been six assassinations or attempts: John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Gerald Ford (twice), George Wallace and Ronald Reagan. Interestingly when Wallace ran in 1968 he ran as a Democrat and was seen as taking votes away from Democrats. When he ran again in 1972 he ran as an independent and was expected to take votes from Republicans and was shot by yet another lone nut with a gun.

In one hundred and seventy-four years only one chief executive was ever impeached. Since 1968 one President was impeached, one President stepped down to keep from being impeached and one Vice President resigned upon conviction for racketeering.

It is tied and twisted like a Gordian Knot; the fiascos and failures of a generation of political leadership can all be tied to the tail of one delusional paranoid, but the names and numbers speak for themselves. It is impossible to say that it all happened because of Richard Nixon, but Nixon hired Kissinger and in doing so made himself the Fascist Moses.

We have wandered in the political desert for forty years and we cannot seem to find our way home. Maybe defense secretary Robert Gates knows the way; He was a Kissinger protege. Maybe Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner knows; he worked for Kissinger, too. Maybe CIA Director Panetta knows. He, too, worked in the Nixon administration. Funny, isn’t it? Defense, Treasury and CIA.

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