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US: Rights Groups Denounce Dropping of CIA Torture Cases September 2, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Constitution, Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Torture.
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Roger’s note: when Obama made that ridiculous and inane statement, I posted here an article entitled “Looking forward not backward code for no justice.”  Next time you commit a crime and are put on trial, just tell the judge that it is time to look forward and not backward.  Refer to the brilliant opinion of that constitutional law scholar who is the current president of the United States.  The charges against you are sure to be dropped.
 
Published on Saturday, September 1, 2012 by Inter Press Service

 

by Jim Lobe

WASHINGTON – U.S. human rights groups have roundly condemned Thursday’s announcement by Attorney General Eric Holder that the Justice Department will not pursue prosecutions of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officers who may have been responsible for the deaths of two prisoners in their custody.

 Rights groups denounced the decision not to pursue prosecutions of CIA officers who may have been responsible for the deaths of two prisoners in their custody. (Credit: Fahim Siddiqi/IPS)

The announcement appeared to mark the end of all efforts by the U.S. government to hold CIA interrogators accountable for torture and mistreating prisoners detained during the so-called “Global War on Terror” launched shortly after the Al Qaeda attacks on Sep. 11, 2001.

For rights activists and for supporters of President Barack Obama, it was the latest in a series of disappointing decisions, including the failure to close the detention facility at the U.S. base in Guantanamo, Cuba. They had hoped Obama would not only end the excesses of President George W. Bush’s prosecution of the war, but also conduct a full investigation of those excesses, if not prosecute those responsible.

“This is truly a disastrous development,” said Laura Pitter, counter-terrorism advisor at Human Rights Watch (HRW). “To now have no accountability whatsoever for any of the CIA abuses for which there are now mountains of evidence is just appalling.”

“It completely undermines the U.S.’s ability to have any credibility on any of these issues in other countries, even as it calls for other countries to account for abuses and prosecute cases of torture and mistreatment,” she told IPS.

“Continuing impunity threatens to undermine the universally recognised prohibition on torture and other abusive treatment and sends the dangerous signal to government officials that there will be no consequences for their use of torture and other cruelty,” noted Jameel Jaffar, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

“Today’s decision not to file charges against individuals who tortured prisoners to death is yet another entry in what is already a shameful record.”

In his announcement, Holder suggested that crimes were indeed committed in the two cases that were being investigated by Assistant U.S. Attorney John Durham but that convictions were unlikely.

“Based on the fully developed factual record concerning the two deaths, the department has declined prosecution because the admissible evidence would not be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt,” he said.

The two deaths took place at a secret CIA detention facility known as the Salt Pit in Afghanistan in 2002 and at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison the following year. The victims have been identified as Gul Rahman, a suspected Taliban militant, and Manadel Al-Jamadi, an alleged Iraqi insurgent.

The two were the last reviewed by Durham, who had originally been tasked by Bush’s attorney general, Michael Mukasey, in 2008 with conducting a criminal investigation into CIA interrogators’ use of “waterboarding” against detainees and the apparently intentional destruction of interrogation videotapes that recorded those sessions.

In August 2009, Holder expanded Durham’s mandate to include 101 cases of alleged mistreatment by CIA interrogators of detainees held abroad to determine whether any of them may be liable to prosecution.

At the time, he also stressed that he would not prosecute anyone who acted in good faith and within the scope of the controversial legal guidance given by the Bush administration regarding possible “enhanced interrogation” techniques that could be used against detainees.

Such techniques, which include waterboarding, the use of stress positions and extreme heat and cold, are widely considered torture by human rights groups and international legal experts. As such, they violate the U.N. Convention Against Torture (CAT), as well as the Geneva Conventions and a 1996 U.S. federal law against torture.

Holder’s position was consistent with Obama’s statement, which human rights groups also strongly criticised, shortly after taking office in 2009 that he did not want CIA officials to “suddenly feel like they’ve got to spend all their time looking over their shoulders and lawyering” to escape prosecution and that he preferred “to look forward as opposed to…backwards”.

In his first days in office, Obama ordered all secret CIA detention facilities closed and banned the enhanced techniques authorised by his predecessor.

In late 2010, Durham announced that he would not pursue criminal charges related to the destruction of the CIA videotapes. Seven months later, he recommended that, of the 101 cases of alleged CIA abuse referred to him, only two warranted full criminal investigations in which CIA officers had allegedly exceeded the Bush administration’s guidelines for permissible interrogation techniques.

Now that Holder and Durham have concluded that prosecutions of the individuals involved are unlikely to result in convictions, it appears certain that no CIA officer will be prosecuted in a U.S. jurisdiction. Prosecutions of Bush officials responsible for authorising the “enhanced interrogation” techniques have also been ruled out.

In 2006, a private contractor for the CIA was successfully prosecuted and sentenced to six years in prison for beating an Afghan detainee to death three years before.

Some commentators suggested that these decisions, including the dropping of the two remaining cases, have been motivated primarily by political considerations. Indeed, HRW director Kenneth Roth wrote in an op-ed last year that “dredging up the crimes of the previous administration was seen as too distracting and too antagonistic an enterprise when Republican votes were needed”.

In a statement Thursday, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee praised Holder’s decision. Republicans protested Holder’s referral of the 101 cases to Durham in 2009.

But rights activists expressed great frustration. Holder’s announcement “is disappointing because it’s well documented that in the aftermath of 9/11, torture and abuse were widespread and systematic,” said Melina Milazzo of Human Rights First (HRF), which has been one of the most aggressive groups in investigating and publicising torture and abuse by U.S. intelligence and military personnel.

“It’s shocking that the department’s review of hundreds of instances of torture and abuse will fail to hold even one person accountable.”

Similarly, the Centre for Constitutional Rights (CCR) noted that Holder’s announcement “belies U.S. claims that it can be trusted to hold accountable Americans who have perpetrated torture and other human rights abuses”.

It said the decision “underscores the need for independent investigations elsewhere, such as the investigation in Spain, to continue”. Victims and rights groups including CCR filed criminal complaints against former Bush officials in Spanish courts in 2009, launching two separate investigations by judges there.

© 2012 IPS
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Amnesty Calls on Canada to Arrest Bush October 13, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, George W. Bush, Human Rights, Torture.
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Published on Thursday, October 13, 2011 by Agence France-Presse

 

OTTAWA – Amnesty International called on Canadian authorities Wednesday to arrest and prosecute George W. Bush, saying the former US president authorised “torture” when he directed the US-led war on terror.

Former US president George W. Bush speaks at the ceremony marking the opening of the Flight 93 National Memorial and the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attack in Shanksville, Pennsylvania September 10, 2011. (Photo: Reuters File)

 Bush is expected to attend an economic summit in Surrey in Canada’s westernmost British Columbia province on October 20.

In a memorandum submitted last month to Canada’s attorney general but only now released to the media, the London-based group charged that Bush has legal responsibility for a series of human rights violations.

“Canada is required by its international obligations to arrest and prosecute former president Bush given his responsibility for crimes under international law including torture,” Amnesty’s Susan Lee said in a statement.

“As the US authorities have, so far, failed to bring former president Bush to justice, the international community must step in. A failure by Canada to take action during his visit would violate the UN Convention Against Torture and demonstrate contempt for fundamental human rights,” Lee said.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney blasted Amnesty for “cherry picking cases to publicize, based on ideology.”

“This kind of stunt helps explain why so many respected human rights advocates have abandoned Amnesty International,” he said.

Kenney said it will be up to Canadian border officials to decide independently whether to allow Bush into the country.

Bush canceled a visit to Switzerland in February, after facing similar public calls for his arrest.

Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International’s Canadian branch, told a press conference the rights group will pursue its case against the former US president with the governments of other countries he might visit.

“Torturers must face justice and their crimes are so egregious that the responsibility for ensuring justice is shared by all nations,” Neve said.

“Friend or foe, extraordinary or very ordinary times, most or least powerful nation, faced with concerns about terrorism or any other threat, torture must be stopped.

“Bringing to justice the people responsible for torture is central to that goal. It is the law… And no one, including the man who served as president of the world’s most powerful nation for eight years can be allowed to stand above that law.”

Amnesty, backed by the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, claims Bush authorised the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” and “waterboarding” on detainees held in secret by the Central Intelligence Agency between 2002 and 2009.

The detention program included “torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment (such as being forced to stay for hours in painful positions and sleep deprivation), and enforced disappearances,” it alleged.

Amnesty’s case, outlined in its 1,000-page memorandum, relies on the public record, US documents obtained through access to information requests, Bush’s own memoir and a Red Cross report critical of the US’s war on terror policies.

Amnesty cites several instances of alleged torture of detainees at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, naval facility, in Afghanistan and in Iraq, by the US military.

The cases include that of Zayn al Abidin Muhammed Husayn (known as Abu Zubaydah) and 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed , both arrested in Pakistan. The two men were waterboarded 266 times between them from 2002 to 2003, according to the CIA inspector general, cited by Amnesty.

© 2011 Agence France-Presse

Welcome to Boston, Mr. Rumsfeld. You Are Under Arrest. September 23, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Iraq and Afghanistan, Torture.
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http://www.opednews.com/articles/1/Welcome-to-Boston-Mr-Rum-by-Ralph-Lopez-110920-706.html

September 23, 2011

By Ralph Lopez

(about the author)
Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has been stripped of legal immunityfor acts of torture against US citizens authorized while he was in office.   The 7th Circuit made the ruling in the case of two American contractors who were tortured by the US military in Iraq after uncovering a smuggling ring within an Iraqi security company.  The company was under contract to the Department of Defense.   The company was assisting Iraqi insurgent groups in the “mass acquisition” of American weapons.  The ruling comes as Rumsfeld begins his book tour with a visit to Boston on Monday, September 26, and as new, uncensored photos of Abu Ghraib spark fresh outrage across Internet.  Awareness is growing that Bush-era crimes went far beyond mere waterboarding.

Torture Room, Abu Ghraib

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told reporters in 2004of photos withheld by the Defense Department from Abu Ghraib, “The American public needs to understand, we’re talking about rape and murder here…We’re not just talking about giving people a humiliating experience. We’re talking about rape and murder and some very serious charges.”  And journalist Seymour Hersh says: “boys were sodomized with the cameras rolling. And the worst above all of that is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking that your government has.”

Rumsfeld resigned days before a criminal complaintwas filed in Germany in which the American general who commanded the military police battalion at Abu Ghraib had promised to testify.  General Janis Karpinski in an interview with Salon.comwas asked: “Do you feel like Rumsfeld is at the heart of all of this and should be held completely accountable for what happened [at Abu Ghraib]?”

Karpinski answered: “Yes, absolutely.”  In the criminal complaint filed in Germany against Rumsfeld, Karpinski submitted 17 pages of testimonyand offered to appear before the German prosecutor as a witness.  Congressman Kendrick Meek of Florida, who participated in the hearings on Abu Ghraib, said of Rumsfeld: “There was no way Rumsfeld didn’t know what was going on. He’s a guy who wants to know everything.”

And Major General Antonio Taguba, who led the official Army investigation into Abu Ghraib, said in his report:

“there is no longer any doubt as to whether the [Bush] administration has committed war crimes. The only question is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.”

Abu Ghraib Prisoner Smeared with Feces

In a puzzling and incriminating move, Camp Cropper base commander General John Gardner ordered Nathan Ertel released on May 17, 2006, while keeping Donald Vance in detention for another two months of torture.  By ordering the release of one man but not the other, Gardner revealed awareness of the situation but prolonged it at the same time.

It is unlikely that Gardner could act alone in a situation as sensitive as the illegal detention and torture of two Americans confirmed by the FBI to be working undercover in the national interest, to prevent American weapons and munitions from reaching the hands of insurgents, for the sole purpose of using them to kill American troops.  Vance and Ertel suggest he was acting on orders from the highest political level.

The forms of torture employed against the Americans included “techniques” which crop up frequently in descriptions of Iraqi and Afghan prisoner abuse at Bagram, Guantanamo, and Abu Ghraib.  They included “walling,” where the head is slammed repeatedly into a concrete wall, sleep deprivation to the point of psychosis by use of round-the-clock bright lights and harsh music at ear-splitting volume, in total isolation, for days, weeks or months at a time, and intolerable cold.

The 7th Circuit ruling is the latest in a growing number of legal actions involving hundreds of former prisoners and torture victims filed in courts around the world.  Criminal complaints have been filed against Rumsfeld and other Bush administration officials in Germany, France, and Spain.  Former President Bush recently curbed travel to Switzerlanddue to fear of arrest following criminal complaints lodged in Geneva.  “He’s avoiding the handcuffs,” Reed Brody, counsel for Human Rights Watch, told Reuters.  And this month Canadian citizens forced Bush to cancel an invitation-only appearance in Toronto.

And the Mayor of London threatened Bush with arrest for war crimes earlier this year should he ever set foot in his city, saying that were heto land in London to “flog his memoirs,” that “the real trouble — from the Bush point of view — is that he might never see Texas again.”

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s Chief-of-Staff Col. Lawrence Wilkerson surmised on MSNBCearlier this year that soon, Saudi Arabia and Israel will be “the only two countries Cheney, Rumsfeld and the rest will travel too.”

Abu Ghraib: Dog Bites

What would seem to make Rumsfeld’s situation more precarious is the number of credible former officials and military officers who seem to be eager to testify against him, such as Col. Wilkerson and General Janis Karpinsky.

In a signed declaration in support of torture plaintiffs in a civil suit naming Rumsfeld in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, Col. Wilkerson, one of Rumsfeld’s most vociferous critics,  stated:“I am willing to testify in person regarding the  content of this declaration, should that be necessary.”  That declaration, among other things, affirmed that a documentary on the chilling murder of a 22-year-old Afghan farmer and taxi driver in Afghanistan was “accurate.”  Wilkerson said earlier this yearthat in that case, and in the case of another murder at Bagram at about the same time, “authorization for the abuse went to the very top of the United States government.”

Dilawar

The young farmer’s name was Dilawar.  The New York Times reported on May 20, 2005:

“Four days before [his death,] on the eve of the Muslim holiday of Id al-Fitr, Mr. Dilawar set out from his tiny village of Yakubi in a prized new possession, a used Toyota sedan that his family bought for him a few weeks earlier to drive as a taxi.
On the day that he disappeared, Mr. Dilawar’s mother had asked him to gather his three sisters from their nearby villages and bring them home for the holiday. However, he needed gas money and decided instead to drive to the provincial capital, Khost, about 45 minutes away, to look for fares.”

Dilawar’s misfortune was to drive past the gate of an American base which had been hit by a rocket attack that morning.  Dilawar and his fares were arrested at a checkpoint by a warlord, who was later suspected of mounting the rocket attack himself, and then turning over randam captures like Dilawar in order to win trust.

The UK Guardian reports:

“Guards at Bagram routinely kneed prisoners in their thighs — a blow called a “peroneal strike”…Whenever a guard did this to Dilawar, he would cry out, “Allah! Allah!” Some guards apparently found this amusing, and would strike him repeatedly to show off the behavior to buddies.
One military policeman told investigators, “Everybody heard him cry out and thought it was funny. … It went on over a 24-hour period, and I would think that it was over 100 strikes.””

The New York Times reported that on the last day of his life, four days after he was arrested:

“Mr. Dilawar asked for a drink of water, and one of the two interrogators, Specialist Joshua R. Claus, 21, picked up a large plastic bottle. But first he punched a hole in the bottom, the interpreter said, so as the prisoner fumbled weakly with the cap, the water poured out over his orange prison scrubs. The soldier then grabbed the bottle back and began squirting the water forcefully into Mr. Dilawar’s face.
“Come on, drink!” the interpreter said Specialist Claus had shouted, as the prisoner gagged on the spray. “Drink!”

At the interrogators’ behest, a guard tried to force the young man to his knees. But his legs, which had been pummeled by guards for several days, could no longer bend. An interrogator told Mr. Dilawar that he could see a doctor after they finished with him. When he was finally sent back to his cell, though, the guards were instructed only to chain the prisoner back to the ceiling.

“Leave him up,” one of the guards quoted Specialist Claus as saying.”

The next time the prison medic saw Dilawar a few hours later, he was dead, his head lolled to one side and his body beginning to stiffen.  A coroner would testify that his legs “had basically been pulpified.”The Army coroner, Maj. Elizabeth Rouse, said: “I’ve seen similar injuries in an individual run over by a bus.” She testified that had he lived, Dilawar’s legs would have had to be amputated.

Despite the military’s false statement that Dilawar’s death was the result of “natural causes,” Maj. Rouse marked the death certificate as a “homicide” and arranged for the certificate to be delivered to the family.  The military was forced to retract the statement when a reporter for the New York Times, Carlotta Gall, tracked down Dilawar’s family in Afghanistan and was given a folded piece of paper by Dilawar’s brother.  It was the death certificate, which he couldn’t read, because it was in English.

The practice of forcing prisoners to stand for long periods of time, links Dilawar’s treatment to a memo which bears Rumsfeld’s own handwriting on that particular subject.  Obtained through a Freedom of Information Act Request, the memo may show how fairly benign-sounding authorizations for clear circumventions of the Geneva Conventions may have translated into gruesome practice on the battlefield.

The memo, which addresses keeping prisoners “standing” for up to four hours, is annotated with a note initialed by Rumsfeld reading: “”I stand for 8–10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to 4 hours?”  Not mentioned in writing anywhere is anything about accomplishing this by chaining prisoners to the ceiling.  There is evidence that, unable to support his weight on tiptoe for the days on end he was chained to the ceiling, Dilawars arms dislocated, and they flapped around uselessly when he was taken down for interrogation.  The National Catholic Reporter writes “They flapped like a bird’s broken wings”

Contradicting, on the record, a February 2003 statement by Rumsfeld’s top commander in Afghanistan at the time, General Daniel McNeill, that “we are not chaining people to the ceilings,” is Spc. Willie Brand, the only soldier disciplined in the death of Dilawar, with a reduction in rank.  Told of McNeill’s statement, Brand told Scott Pelley on 60 Minutes: “Well, he’s lying.”  Brand said of his punishment: “I didn’t understand how they could do this after they had trained you to do this stuff and they turn around and say you’ve been bad”

Exhibit: Dilawar Death Certificate marked “homicide”

Exhibit: Rumsfeld Memo: “I stand 8-10 hours a day.  Why only 4 hours?”

Dilawar’s daughter and her grandfather

Binyam, Genital-Slicing

Binyam Mohamed was seized by the Pakistani Forces in April 2002 and turned over to the Americans for a $5,000 bounty.  He was held for more than five years without charge or trial in Bagram Air Force Base, Guantánamo Bay, and third country “black” sites.

“They cut off my clothes with some kind of doctor’s scalpel. I was naked. I tried to put on a brave face. But maybe I was going to be raped. Maybe they’d electrocute me. Maybe castrate me…
One of them took my penis in his hand and began to make cuts. He did it once, and they stood still for maybe a minute, watching my reaction. I was in agony. They must have done this 20 to 30 times, in maybe two hours. There was blood all over. “I told you I was going to teach you who’s the man,” [one] eventually said.

They cut all over my private parts. One of them said it would be better just to cut it off, as I would only breed terrorists. I asked for a doctor.”

I was in Morocco for 18 months. Once they began this, they would do it to me about once a month. One time I asked a guard: “What’s the point of this? I’ve got nothing I can say to them. I’ve told them everything I possibly could.”

“As far as I know, it’s just to degrade you. So when you leave here, you’ll have these scars and you’ll never forget. So you’ll always fear doing anything but what the US wants.”

Later, when a US airplane picked me up the following January, a female MP took pictures. She was one of the few Americans who ever showed me any sympathy. When she saw the injuries I had she gasped. They treated me and took more photos when I was in Kabul. Someone told me this was “to show Washington it’s healing”.

The obvious question for any prosecutor in Binyam’s case is: Who does “Washington” refer to?  Rumsfeld?  Cheney?  Is it not in the national interest to uncover these most depraved of sadists at the highest level?  US Judge Gladys Kessler, in her findings on Binyam made in relation to a Guantanamo prisoner’s petition, found Binyam exceedingly credible.  She wrote:

“His genitals were mutilated. He was deprived of sleep and food. He was summarily transported from one foreign prison to another. Captors held him in stress positions for days at a time. He was forced to listen to piercingly loud music and the screams of other prisoners while locked in a pitch-black cell. All the while, he was forced to inculpate himself and others in plots to imperil Americans. The government does not dispute this evidence.”

Obama: Torturers’ Last Defense

The prospect of Rumsfeld in a courtroom cannot possibly be relished by the Obama administration, which has now cast itself as the last and staunchest defender of the embattled former officials, including John Yoo, Alberto Gonzalez, Judge Jay Bybee, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, and others.  The administration employed an unprecedented twisting of arms in order to keep evidence in a lawsuit which Binyam had filedin the UK suppressed, threatening an end of cooperation between the British MI5 and the CIA.  This even though the British judges whose hand was forced puzzled that the evidence “contained “no disclosure of sensitive intelligence matters.”  The judges suggested another reason for the secrecy requested by the Obama administration, that it might be “politically embarrassing.”

The Obama Justice Department’s active involvement in seeking the dismissal of the cases is by choice, as the statutory obligation of the US Attorney General to defend cases against public officials ends the day they leave office.  Indeed, the real significance of recent court decisions, the one by the 7th Circuit and yet another against Rumsfeld in a DC federal court, may be the clarification the common misconception that high officials are forever immune for crimes committed while in office, in the name of the state.  The misconception persists despite just a moment of thought telling one that if this were true, Hermann Goering, Augusto Pinochet, and Charles Taylor would never have been arrested, for they were all in office at the time they ordered atrocities, and they all invoked national security.

Andy Worthington writes that:

“As it happens, one of the confessions that was tortured out of Binyam is so ludicrous that it was soon dropped…The US authorities insisted that Padilla and Binyam had dinner with various high-up members of al-Qaeda the night before Padilla was to fly off to America. According to their theory the dinner party had to have been on the evening of 3 April in Karachi … Binyam was  meant to have dined with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah, Sheikh al-Libi, Ramzi bin al-Shibh and Jose Padilla.” What made the scenario “absurd,” as [Binyam’s lawyer] pointed out, was that “two of the conspirators were already in U.S. custody at the time — Abu Zubaydah was seized six days before, on 28 March 2002, and al-Libi had been held since November 2001.””

The charges against Binyam were dropped, after the prosecutor, Lieutenant Colonel Darrel Vandeveld, resigned. He told the BBC later that he had concerns at the repeated suppression of evidence that could prove prisoners’ innocence.

The litany of tortures alleged against Rumsfeld in the military prisons he ran could go on for some time.  The new photographic images from Abu Ghraib make it hard to conceive of how the methods of torture and dehumanization could have possibly served a national purpose.

The approved use of attack dogs, sexual humiliation, forced masturbation, and treatments which plumb the depths of human depravity are either documented in Rumsfeld’s own memos, or credibly reported on.

The UK Guardian writes:

The techniques devised in the system, called R2I – resistance to interrogation – match the crude exploitation and abuse of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib jail in Baghdad.

One former British special forces officer who returned last week from Iraq, said: “It was clear from discussions with US private contractors in Iraq that the prison guards were using R2I techniques, but they didn’t know what they were doing.””

Torture Now Aimed at Americans, Programs Designed to Obtain False Confessions, Not Intelligence

The worst of the worst is that Rumsfeld’s logic strikes directly at the foundations of our democracy and the legitimacy of the War on Terror.  The torture methods studied and adopted by the Bush administration were not new, but adopted from the Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape program (SERE) which is taught to elite military units.  The program was developed during the Cold War, in response to North Korean, Chinese, and Soviet Bloc torture methods.  But the aim of those methods was never to obtain intelligence, but to elicit false confessions.  The Bush administration asked the military to “reverse engineer” the methods, i.e. figure out how to break down resistance to false confessions.

In the 2008 Senate Armed Services Committee reportwhich indicted high-level Bush administration officials, including Rumsfeld, as bearing major responsibility for the torture at Abu Gharib, Guantanamo, and Bagram, the Committee said:

“SERE instructors explained “Biderman’s Principles” — which were based on coercive methods used by the Chinese Communist dictatorship to elicit false confessions from U.S. POWs during the Korean War — and left with GTMO personnel a chart of those coercive techniques.”

The Biderman Principles were based on the work of Air Force Psychiatrist Albert Biderman, who wrote the landmark “Communist Attempts to Elecit False Confessions from Air Force Prisoners of War,” on which SERE resistance was based.  Biderman wrote:

“The experiences of American Air Force prisoners of war in Korea who were pressured for false confessions, enabled us to compile an outline of methods of eliciting compliance, not much different, it turned out, from those reported by persons held by Communists of other nations.  I have prepared a chart showing a condensed version of this outline.”

The chart is a how-to for communist torturers interested only in false confessions for propaganda purposes, not intelligence.  It was the manual for, in Biderman’s words, “brainwashing.”  In the reference for Principle Number 7, “Degradation,” the chart explains:

“Makes Costs of Resistance Appear More Damaging to Self-Esteem than Capitulation; Reduces Prisoner to “Animal Level…Personal Hygiene Prevented; Filthy, Infested Surroundings; Demeaning Punishments; Insults and Taunts; Denial of Privacy”

Appallingly, this could explain that even photos such as those of feces-smeared prisoners at Abu Ghraib might not, as we would hope, be only the individual work of particularly demented guards, but part of systematic degradation authorized at the highest levels.

Exhibit: Abu Ghraib, Female POW

This could go far toward explaining why the Bush administration seemed so tone-deaf to intelligence professionals, including legendary CIA Director William Colby, who essentially told them they were doing it all wrong.  A startling level of consensus existed within the intelligence community that the way to produce good intelligence was to gain the trust of prisoners and to prove everything they had been told by their recruiters, about the cruelty and degeneracy of America, to be wrong.

But why would the administration care about what worked to produce intelligence, if the goal was never intelligence in the first place?  What the Ponzi scheme of either innocent men or low-level operatives incriminating each other  DID accomplish, was produce a framework of rapid successes and trophies in the new War on Terror.

And now, American contractors Vance and Ertel show, unless there are prosecutions, the law has effectively changed and they can do it to Americans. Jane Mayer in the New Yorker describes a new regime for prisoners which has become coldly methodical, quoting a report issued by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, titled “Secret Detentions and Illegal Transfers of Detainees.”  In the report on the CIA paramilitary Special Activities Division detainees were “taken to their cells by strong people who wore black outfits, masks that covered their whole faces, and dark visors over their eyes.”

Mayer writes that a former member of a C.I.A. transport team has described the “takeout” of prisoners as:

“a carefully choreographed twenty-minute routine, during which a suspect was hog-tied, stripped naked, photographed, hooded, sedated with anal suppositories, placed in diapers, and transported by plane to a secret location.”

A person involved in the Council of Europe inquiry, referring to cavity searches and the frequent use of suppositories, likened the treatment to “sodomy.” He said, “It was used to absolutely strip the detainee of any dignity. It breaks down someone’s sense of impenetrability.”

Of course we have seen these images before, in the trial balloon treatment of Jose Padilla, the first American citizen arrested and declared “enemy combatant” in the first undeclared war without end.  The designation placed Padilla outside of his Bill of Rights as an American citizen even though he was arrested on American soil.  Padilla was kept in isolation and tortured for nearly 4 years before being released to a civilian trial, at which point according to his lawyer he was useless in his own defense, and exhibited fear and mistrust of everyone, complete docility, and a range of nervous facial tics.

Jose Padilla in Military Custody

Rumsfeld’s avuncular “golly-gee, gee-whiz”  performances in public are legendary.  Randall M. Schmidt, the Air Force Lieutenant General appointed by the Army to investigate abuses at Guantanamo, and who recommended holding Rumsfeld protege and close associate General Geoffrey Miller “accountable” as the commander of Guantanamo, watched Rumsfeld’s performance before a House Committee with some interest. “He was going, “My God! Did I authorize putting a bra and underwear on this guy’s head and telling him all his buddies knew he was a homosexual?’ ”

But General Taguba said of Rumsfeld: “Rummy did what we called “case law’ policy — verbal and not in writing. What he’s really saying is that if this decision comes back to haunt me I’ll deny it.”

Taguba went on: “Rumsfeld is very perceptive and has a mind like a steel trap. There’s no way he’s suffering from C.R.S.–Can’t Remember sh*t.”

Miller was the general deployed by Rumsfeld to “Gitmo-ize” Abu Ghraib in 2003 after Rumsfeld had determined they were being too “soft” on prisoners.  He said famously in one memo “you have to treat them like dogs.”  General Karpinski questioned the fall of Charles Graner and Lyndie England as the main focus of low-level “bad apple” abuse in the Abu Ghraib investigations.  “Did Lyndie England deploy with a dog leash?” she asks.

Exhibit: Dog deployed at Abu Ghraib, mentally-ill prisoner

Abu Ghraib prisoner in “restraint” chair, screaming “Allah!!”

Rumsfeld’s worry now is the doctrine of Universal Jurisdiction, as well as ordinary common law.  The veil of immunity stripped in civil cases would seem to free the hand of any prosecutor who determines there is sufficient evidence that a crime has been committed based on available evidence.  A grand jury’s bar for opening a prosecution is minimal.  It has been said “a grand jury would indict a ham sandwich.”  Rumsfeld, and the evidence against him, would certainly seem to pass this test.

The name Dilawar translates to English roughly as “Braveheart.”  Let us pray he had one to endure the manner of his death.  But the more spiritual may believe that somehow it had a purpose, to shock the world and begin the toppling of unimaginable evil among us.  Dilawar represented the poorest of the poor and most powerless, wanting only to pick up his three sisters, as his mother had told him to, for the holiday.  The question now is whether Americans will finally draw a line, as the case against Rumsfeld falls into place and becomes legally bulletproof.  Andy Worthington noted that the case for prosecutors became rock solid when Susan Crawford, senior Pentagon official overseeing the Military Commissions at Guantánamo — told Bob Woodward that the Bush administration had “met the legal definition of torture.”

As Rumsfeld continues his book tour and people like Dilawar are remembered, it is not beyond the pale that an ambitious prosecutor, whether local, state, or federal, might sense the advantage.  It is perhaps unlikely, but not inconceivable, that upon landing at Logan International Airport on Wed., Sept. 21st, or similarly anywhere he travels thereafter, Rumsfeld could be greeted with the words such as: “Welcome to Boston, Mr. Secretary.  You are under arrest.”

Take action — click here to contact your local newspaper or congress people:
Prosecute Rumsfeld NOW for torture!

Click here to see the most recent messages sent to congressional reps and local newspapers

Massachusetts District Attorneys Who Can Indict Rumsfeld, Please Email them this post and call them.SAMPLE INDICTMENT
LEGAL BACKGROUND

RELEVANT US CODE:

a. Conspiracy to torture in violation of the U.S. Code, in both Title 18, Section 2340

b. Conspiracy to commit war crimes including torture, cruel or inhuman treatment, murder, mutilation or maiming and intentionally causing serious bodily injury in violation of Title 18, Section 2441

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley:
email:  Email address removed

One Ashburton Place
Boston, MA 02108 -1518
Phone: (617) 727-2200 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (617) 727-2200     end_of_the_skype_highlighting

//

And Gov. Duval Patrick has an obligation to order the state police to do the same: CONTACT FORM

Local District Attorneys
Berkshire County: District Attorney David F. Capeless
Elected November 2006
OFFICE ADDRESS:     P.O. Box 973
888 Purchase Street
New Bedford, MA 02741
PHONE:     (508) 997-0711 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (508) 997-0711     end_of_the_skype_highlighting
FAX:     (508) 997-0396
INTERNET ADDRESS:     http://www.bristolda.com

Bristol County     District Attorney C. Samuel Sutter
Appointed March 2004
Elected November 2004
OFFICE ADDRESS:     7 North Street
P.O. Box 1969
Pittsfield, MA 01202-1969
PHONE:     (413) 443-5951 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (413) 443-5951     end_of_the_skype_highlighting
FAX:     (413) 499-6349
Internet Address:     http://www.mass.gov/…

Cape & Islands     District Attorney Michael O’Keefe
Elected November 2002
OFFICE ADDRESS:     P.O.Box 455
3231 Main Street
Barnstable, MA 02630
PHONE:     (508) 362-8113 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (508) 362-8113     end_of_the_skype_highlighting
FAX:     (508) 362-8221
INTERNET ADDRESS:     http://www.mass.gov/…

Essex County: District Attorney Jonathan W. Blodgett
Elected November 2002
OFFICE ADDRESS:     Ten Federal Street
Salem, MA 01970
PHONE:     (978) 745-6610 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (978) 745-6610     end_of_the_skype_highlighting
FAX:     (978) 741-4971
INTERNET ADDRESS:     http://www.mass.gov/…

Hampden     District Attorney Mark Mastroianni
Elected 2010
OFFICE ADDRESS:     Hall of Justice
50 State Street
Springfield, MA 01103
PHONE:     (413) 747-1000 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (413) 747-1000     end_of_the_skype_highlighting
FAX:     (413) 781-4745

Middlesex County: District Attorney Gerard T. Leone, Jr.
Elected November 2006
OFFICE ADDRESS:     15 Commonwealth Avenue
Woburn, MA 01801
PHONE:     (781) 897-8300 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (781) 897-8300     end_of_the_skype_highlighting
FAX:     ((781) 897-8301
INTERNET ADDRESS:     http://www.middlesexda.com

Norfolk     District Attorney Michael Morrissey
Elected 2010
OFFICE ADDRESS:     45 Shawmut Ave.
Canton, MA 02021
PHONE:     (781) 830-4800 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (781) 830-4800     end_of_the_skype_highlighting
FAX:     (781) 830-4801
INTERNET ADDRESS:     http://www.mass.gov/…

Northwestern     District Attorney David Sullivan
Elected 2010
HAMPSHIRE OFFICE ADDRESS:     One Gleason Plaza
Northampton, MA 01060
PHONE:     (413) 586-9225 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (413) 586-9225     end_of_the_skype_highlighting
FAX:     (413) 584-3635
FRANKLIN OFFICE ADDRESS:     13 Conway Street
Greenfield, MA 01301
PHONE:     (413) 774-3186 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (413) 774-3186     end_of_the_skype_highlighting
FAX:     (413) 773-3278
WEBSITE:
Northwestern     http://www.mass.gov/…

< a href=”http://media.fastclick.net/w/click.here?sid=48406&m=6&c=1&#8243; target=”_blank”><img src=”http://media.fastclick.net/w/get.media?sid=48406&m=6&tp=8&d=s&c=1&#8243; width=300 height=250 border=1></Plymouth     District Attorney Timothy J. Cruz
Appointed November 2001
Elected November 2002
OFFICE ADDRESS:     32 Belmont Street
Brockton, MA 02303
PHONE:     (508) 584-8120 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (508) 584-8120     end_of_the_skype_highlighting
FAX:     (508) 586-3578
INTERNET ADDRESS:     http://www.mass.gov/…

Suffolk County:     District Attorney Daniel F. Conley
Appointed January 2002
Elected November 2002
OFFICE ADDRESS:     One Bulfinch Place
Boston, MA 02114
PHONE:     (617) 619-4000 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (617) 619-4000     end_of_the_skype_highlighting
FAX:     (617) 619-4009
INTERNET ADDRESS:     http://www.mass.gov/…

Worcester     District Attorney Joseph D. Early, Jr.
Elected November 2006
OFFICE ADDRESS:     Courthouse – Room 220
2 Main Street
Worcester, MA 01608
PHONE:     (508) 755-8601 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (508) 755-8601     end_of_the_skype_highlighting
FAX:     (508) 831-9899
INTERNET ADDRESS:     http://www.worcesterda.com

Justice Dept. Gives Torture a Pass July 21, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Torture.
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Published on Wednesday, July 20, 2011 by OtherWords

What will we say when other governments follow our example by providing immunity from prosecution to torturers?

  by  Peter Weiss

The Romans had an expression for it: “Nulla poena sine lege,” no punishment without a law. But people sometimes forget that the opposite is also true: Without punishment for offenders, a law itself can die.

The Justice Department recently announced that, of the 101 cases involving alleged illegal treatment of post-9/11 detainees by the CIA and its contractors, 99 were being closed. The remaining two, which involved deaths in custody, would continue to be investigated.

The decision to drop virtually all these cases is based on a policy promulgated by Attorney General Eric Holder shortly after he took office. Reiterating this policy on June 30, Holder wrote that the Justice Department “would not prosecute anyone who acted in good faith and within the scope of the legal guidance given by the Office of Legal Counsel regarding the interrogation of detainees.”

This refers to the infamous “torture memos” provided in 2002 to Alberto Gonzales while he was White House counsel by John Yoo, then Deputy Assistant Attorney General and Jay Bybee, who was Assistant Attorney General and now serves as a judge on the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. These memos, which sanctioned virtually all forms of “enhanced interrogation” (or torture, in common parlance), were withdrawn as legally deficient by Jack Goldsmith, President George W. Bush’s head of the Office of Legal Counsel, and specifically disavowed later by President Barack Obama himself.Creative Commons image by the US Dept. of Agricultureholder

Holder’s recent move is completely consistent with Obama’s insistence on looking “forward, not back” when it comes to accountability for torture. Prosecuting most of these cases would require seriously examining the perpetrators’ faith that the Yoo memos acted as a “golden shield,” as one Bush administration official called them. But the law says that this defense, “the defense of superior orders,” doesn’t work when the act in question is palpably or manifestly illegal.

It didn’t work for Lt. William Calley when he and his platoon killed over 300 women, children, and elderly men in the village of My Lai during the Vietnam War. It didn’t work for Lynndie England, the hapless army reservist convicted of torturing and abusing detainees at Abu Ghraib.

And it didn’t work for most of the defendants at Nuremberg.

Why should it now work for CIA agents and others who relied “in good faith” on the torture memos? The journalist Christopher Hitchens was himself waterboarded by Special Forces soldiers to help him decide whether it was torture. His conclusion: “If waterboarding does not constitute torture, then there is no such thing as torture.” Indeed, since the Spanish inquisition, waterboarding has never been considered anything other than torture, and in this century torture is absolutely forbidden under both domestic and international law.

And waterboarding is only one of several torture techniques used by U.S. personnel in the years following 9/11, including prolonged sleep deprivation, shackling in stress positions, and exposure to extreme cold and heat. All of these have been largely or completely abandoned under the Obama administration. But what lesson are we to draw from the fact that no prosecutions have been started, nor are likely to start, against those who authorized and practiced them? What will we say when other governments follow our example by providing immunity from prosecution to torturers on the basis of phony, made-to-order legal memos?

June 30, 2011 will go down as a dark day in the annals of the struggle against torture.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License

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Peter Weiss

Peter Weiss is a vice president of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Interview: Tortured, Exiled Honduran Journalist Recalls His Experiences February 14, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Uncategorized.
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1 comment so far
     
Written by Tamar Sharabi   
Sunday, 14 February 2010 13:04
Upside Down World: Before the Honduras Coup Detat of June 28th 2009, tell me a little about your life.

Cesar Silva: I have always been involved in popular struggles. During university I was elected Secretary of the University Reform Front (FRU) from where we constantly held a line of complaints denouncing corruption and participating in different actions to benefit students. I was also elected president of Journalism Students for two consecutive terms from 1998 to 2002, during which we founded the “Vanguard University Journal” and “Magazine Alert” that circulated once a month across the country’s universities.

Upon graduating from the National Autonomous University of Honduras (UNAH), I worked for six years as a reporter for Channel 9 TV (Vica TV), the last two years of which I was a news director for that company in Tegucigalpa. I also worked for Channel 63 for two years, along with Renato Alvarez who is now director of the news of Televicentro. (Read, ‘Coup Mouthpiece’) I also worked four years at Channel 54, which produced a program called “The protagonists of the News.”

In 2006 Jorge Arturo Reina Idiáquez (Ambassador of Honduras to the UN) offered me a position with the Ministry of Interior and Justice in the Zelaya Government. My position was Director of Communications where I worked directly with the newspaper and Channel 8, called ‘Citizen Power Information Network’ founded under Zelaya’s government.

In May 2009 I was called to work with the Presidential Palace to coordinate work for production and coverage of the popular consultation process (‘cuarta urna’) for public Channel 8. I was assigned a mobile unit to report from the northern municipalities of Olancho and Francisco Morazán beside the first lady, Xiomara Castro. That’s how I became involved directly in the events during the coup.

UDW: What happened to you on June 28th?

CS: Preparations were intense in the days before the coup and increased when the Armed Forces refused to distribute electoral materials. The ballot boxes were held at the air base Hernan Acosta. President Zelaya along with supporters came to rescue the ballots to distribute them into state cars. From there it was a race of information.

The night of June 27, I was at the Presidential Palace until midnight and in the early morning I left towards Olancho. When I passed the town of Guaimaca (a town 90 km from Tegucigalpa) the President was being captured. There, police and the army captured me as well. My cameraman, driver, and assistants managed to escape to warn people what had happened.

People gathered in Guaimaca at the town’s central park and demanded that the police release me. I was finally released by noontime because of the people’s pressure. Still, the police called for reinforcements from another municipality and within a half hour an army truck arrived and began to repress people in the park and the police forces chased me down.

People took me from house to house, jumping lots and properties until I was in a safe place outside the town. I stayed there until nighttime when presidential house vehicles (that were still under the legitimate government) came to pick me up. We had to travel on back roads to evade the army and police posts to arrive in Tegucigalpa at two in the morning. Since their was a curfew we had no choice but to reach the presidential palace where people remained gathered in protest.

They seized the entire equipment of the team; cameras and microphones. In Olancho they stole our truck the mobile unit that accompanied the first lady, Xiomara Castro. On the 29th more chaos came and repression continued.

UDW:
The 5th of July you helped carry the dead body of Isis Obed. How did it feel to pause from your reporters role to help Isis receive medical attention?

CS:
It is impossible to separate being a journalist and being a human being. As a reporter I was interested in taking pictures, and I took the first ones because I thought that Isis Murillo Obed was dead. Then I approached him and saw that he was breathing and moving in the density of all the tear gas. People were shouting that he was dead, but when I took him in my arms he opened his eyes and tried to say something that molded into a moan of pain.

There was still army gunfire hitting a small wall near where Isis Obed fell. We could hear the bullets striking the wall, and at that very moment there was an explosion and everyone hit the ground. It turned out to be a motorcycle that had exploded. Consequently, I gave the camera to a friend and shouted that we needed to move Isis. With the help of some other guys we carried him about 300 meters to a car that we found.

I felt anger, pain and helplessness. I did not know the child’s age, and perhaps had never seen him in my life. I thought he was 10 or 12 years old. He had no weapons, he just looked helpless. It looked so unfair that I just felt like yelling “Gorillas assassinate children.”

I forgot that I was a reporter and I just thought of the life of that child. I asked for his family but nobody knew anything. I hoped he would be saved in the hospital, but taking the pictures, it seemed impossible for him to live. The shot impacted his skull. On my chest there were remains of his brain and his blood.

UDW: After this day, did anything change about the way you reported on the situation in the country?

CS:
I will never forget that moment. That event drives me to continue so that Isis’s life and others will not go unpunished. The murderers must pay their crime. Witnessing so many beatings, so much unjustified repression, it was clear that the intentions of the coup were to establish a dictatorship. I decided to continue looking for ways to disseminate what was happening. I started working for the internet blog and the National Resistance Front Against the Coup, and freelanced with Radio Globo, Telesur and the History Channel.

I changed; I am more insistent, I’m more critical. During the Michelletti regime I collaborated in every way possible to denounce the coup. We went from neighborhood to neighborhood, people to people. I grew more into a neighborhood journalist, I just had to be more creative because they stole or destroyed the equipment we had at every opportunity.

UDW:
As a national reporter, how did you feel about the international media reporting on Honduras?

CS:
As always there are many interests. At first it seemed somewhat balanced, but within a few days it was clear who uninformed and those who told the truth. The big chains such as CNN, Univision, Telemundo and others within a few days took off their mask and began calling Michelletti president and considered it a constitutional succession. Other European countries were more objective.

The independent press were the ones who maintained the reality. They called it like it was. Telesur was objective about the crackdowns and repression, but in fact they were favorable towards Zelaya.

UDW:
Talk about the elections that took place under the coup regime.

CS:
I classify the elections on November 29th in two scenarios:

1 . The Resistance and the conscious people knew that the elections were only to change the face of the coup, but that the situation would stay the same.

2. The Nationalists interested in winning the elections wanted to secure work with the new government.

There was a low turnout. Supporters of the National party took advantage of the situation because the Liberal party was split and had called on supporters to boycott the elections. The images speak for themselves. The streets were full of policemen and soldiers, the military in the polling areas, and a permanent anxiety in the population; panic, fear, terror and empty booths.

UDW: When did you begin to be threatened personally?

CS:
The threats started after July 5 when the police and army did not view me as a journalist anymore. This increased when I traveled to Nicaragua to do reports on Zelaya and after the demonstration on August 12 at the National Congress when Deputy Ramon Velasquez Nassar was kicked. There was brutal repression that day and I was physically assaulted. The military forces took pictures and video of me.

In every march afterwards the police would see me. Also in the eviction of the peasants from the National Agrarian Institute (INA), the police assaulted me and took pictures. Later, I would constantly receive anonymous threatening phone calls. I changed my number, but I was still being watched and persecuted. I ignored these threats and didn’t take them seriously because everyday nothing would happen.

Then I received a call from the Intelligence of the Armed Forces who warned me to stop doing my work. I denounced this to Cofadeh and CODEH, two human rights organizations.

UDW:
Explain the events on that day you were kidnapped.

CS: I was kidnapped on Monday December 29th when I was on my way from the south where I went to distribute a documentary about the resistance and met with related colleagues. Arriving in Tegucigalpa, I took a taxi from ‘Loarque’ on the beltway around the city to my house. Having traveled less than one kilometer, a vehicle approached us, a beige van, and individuals drew their weapons from the window ordering the taxi to pull over. We initially tried to run, but another vehicle crossed us on the highway and we could not advance.

They approached the taxi and held the driver at gunpoint, telling him to stay quiet otherwise they would kill him. They pulled me out of the taxi beating me up and took me into their car to a remote place in the mountains. We traveled about an hour while I was beaten inside the car. First they made me sit with my head between my legs, then they put a hood on me.

The kidnappers did not cover their faces nor were they wearing military clothes but by their vocabulary and communication by telephone with the ‘Jackal,’ it was clear they were getting orders. We reached an area away from the city where they put me in a dark room.

I was held from December 29 at 9:00am until the December 30th at noon. During these 27 hours I was interrogated every 45 minutes and punched in areas that leave no trace; my feet soles, testicles, stomach, and back, using their fists. I was naked and they kept wetting my body. In a moment of increased tension they tried to suffocate me with water. They threw water on my face until I was no longer able to breathe. I swallowed as much water as possible, but as I felt like I was drowning, another officer yelled that they would kill me another faster way.

The interrogations were about weapons; where they were, who were my contacts and how many leaders existed. They also asked where all my photos and videos were stored and what type of profile information we had of military leaders. They continued to threaten that I would not leave there alive and that I’d better trust in God. They offered me drugs to take to ease the pain of dying which I refused to accept.

On the morning of December 30, one of the officers told me that my life might be saved but that he wasn’t sure. Then I heard the torturers begin to plan my death. One of them suggested a shot in the head but then decided I would not suffer enough that way. Another one said they would let me hang myself from a tree or that they drag me attached to the car along the street. Then one of them said they could open my stomach and slowly pull out my intestines so I could talk as I died.

Hours later they took me out of there blindfolded with a hood and took me to “throw me out”. They dumped me in Tegucigalpa between the neighborhood ‘Cerro Grande’ and ‘El Chile,’ in a sector that is mountainous and very isolated.

UDW:
You are currently living in exile. How much time do you imagine you will need to live outside your country in order to protect yourself?

CS: Yes I am in exile now. Human rights organizations supported me to leave Honduras and my few remaining friends recommended me to do the same in order to save my life since Renan Fajardo who edited my documentary was murdered in his apartment and Walter Trochez who helped distributed the material was also killed. Without a doubt the next one was me.

I do not know how long I’ll be out of the country. I am anxious to return to be with my family and to continue to produce reports of the experiences of people in the street, but it is difficult at this point.

UDW: In what way do you continue working from exile?

CS: I have been fortunate to find many people who have been supportive and have invited me to do lectures in universities and in grassroots organizations. I’ve given four lectures with audiovisual students about media coverage in risky situations.

I also do some radio and television to discuss my experiences and do political analysis on the situation in Honduras. I continue to write the chronicles of the coup repression and am working on a book which I think will be called “Repressed Honduras,” which tells the whole story that people really lived.

UDW: What is the hardest part of being in exile?

CS:
Maybe it’s the hurry of leaving everything abandoned; your home, your family, the stuff you had a hard time sacrificing and working for. In my case, I left my loved ones in tears; my mother, my son.

The difficulty in arriving in the new place is getting rid of the hatred and to stop thinking of what you left behind. You have to live here as a ‘nobody’ so that know one can find you and you can avoid the risks. The dreams abandon you, the uncertainty eats you.

UDW: As you analyze the difficulties of the ‘free press’ in Honduras with the new “unity government” of Pepe Lobo?

CS: Free Press?! That will be difficult. This government is only the continuation of the coup d’etat. They are not interested in telling the truth to the the population. Porfirio Lobo and his people are interested in being well and having their companies and their businesses do well.

The independent press will remain at war, but the economically suffocating private enterprise will remove them within a short time. Watch Channel 36 and you will realize that the editorial policy has changed. Although it continues to support the resistance, its profile is different; it is more ‘pepista’.

The program ‘Habla como Habla’ of Channel 66 has also changed, it is not with the resistance anymore, but with the new government. Only Radio Globo stands firm. Independent journalists and foreigners using their own websites are those that will continue telling the truth.

Tamar Sharabi is an environmental engineer and freelance journalist living in Central America. She is working on media empowerment with human rights organizations and on a documentary about the Honduran coup detat. To support her work visit: www.giveforward.com/tamardocuments.

Bush, Cheney and the Great Escape February 9, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Iraq and Afghanistan, Torture.
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Friday 05 February 2010

by: William Rivers Pitt, t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed

photo
(Photo: phxpma; Edited: Lance Page / t r u t h o u t)

With each passing day, it becomes more and more astonishing to encompass the fact that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and their henchmen from the prior administration have managed thus far to escape any accounting whatsoever for the massive battery of criminal activity committed during their time in office. More than a year has passed since these men had their hands on the levers of power, and evidence of their myriad crimes and frauds is laying all over the countryside, yet nothing has come of it.

The British government has been running a wide-ranging inquiry into the manner in which the UK and United States were led to war in Iraq by then-President Bush and then-Prime Minister Tony Blair. An astonishing amount of damning evidence and information has been uncovered and publicly aired, including the following statements delivered by a senior member of Parliament (MP) on Tuesday:

A senior Welsh MP said last night he knew “for certain” Tony Blair and George Bush struck a deal to invade Iraq at their notorious Crawford Ranch meeting in 2002 – a year before war was declared. Elfyn Llwyd, Plaid Cymru’s parliamentary leader, said he had seen a confidential memo to that effect, although he would not divulge its exact contents.

Critics of the military action in Iraq have long suspected Mr Blair and President Bush came to an agreement at the president’s ranch in Crawford, Texas in April 2002, a claim Mr Blair denied in evidence to the Chilcot Inquiry last week. Mr Llwyd said he had offered to give evidence to the Chilcot Inquiry himself, in private if necessary.

The Meirionnydd Nant Conwy MP said: “I think other things should have been pursued [at the inquiry], in particular the detailed conversation at the ranch in Crawford in April 2002. I do know that the deal was struck, I know for certain it was struck at that stage so just to pretend months down the road that no deal had been struck I think is unforgivable. I have offered to give evidence and Chilcot has said ‘I’ll come back to you’. At that stage I will have private discussions with him.”

MP Llwyd refers here to the infamous Downing Street Memos, a collection of British government documents that lay out George W. Bush’s intent to invade and occupy Iraq whether or not there was any WMD/terrorism evidence to support the action, documents that further demonstrate Prime Minister Tony Blair’s willing acquiescence to the plan. Most damning of all is the secret memo dated 23 July 2002, explaining that war in Iraq was coming, and if the facts did not support the action, those facts would be twisted and buried. “There was a perceptible shift in attitude,” read the memo [emphasis added]. “Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime’s record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.”

These documents, along with testimony from the likes of MP Llwyd, offer a vivid portrait of a Bush administration far gone in the pursuit of its own militant plans, and more than willing to break laws and deceive the public to achieve the ends they sought. It was a nest of criminals that occupied the White House for those eight long years, proof of this continues to pile up in vast drifts, and nothing comes of it.

Quite the contrary, in fact. A recent report from the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility slapped a big fat “Not Guilty” stamp on the jackets of John Yoo and Jay Bybee, the two central authors of the notorious “torture memos” that argued the legal justifications for the use of torture by the Bush administration. Worse, it appears Obama’s DOJ went out of the way to make sure Bybee and Yoo escaped free and clear from any censure for their despicable activities. According to a recent Newsweek report:

An upcoming Justice Department report from its ethics-watchdog unit, the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), clears the Bush administration lawyers who authored the “torture” memos of professional-misconduct allegations.

While the probe is sharply critical of the legal reasoning used to justify waterboarding and other “enhanced” interrogation techniques, NEWSWEEK has learned that a senior Justice official who did the final review of the report softened an earlier OPR finding. Previously, the report concluded that two key authors – Jay Bybee, now a federal appellate court judge, and John Yoo, now a law professor – violated their professional obligations as lawyers when they crafted a crucial 2002 memo approving the use of harsh tactics, say two Justice sources who asked for anonymity discussing an internal matter.

But the reviewer, career veteran David Margolis, downgraded that assessment to say they showed “poor judgment,” say the sources. (Under department rules, poor judgment does not constitute professional misconduct.) The shift is significant: the original finding would have triggered a referral to state bar associations for potential disciplinary action – which, in Bybee’s case, could have led to an impeachment inquiry.

The truth of the matter is plain enough. Yoo and Bybee are not going to turn themselves in. Neither are any of the other actors in this gruesome play. If any measure of justice is going to be achieved, it will fall upon Congress, President Obama and his Department of Justice to get it done. Subpoenas must be issued, evidence gathered and testimony heard for the truth to be brought forth and for punishment to be meted out.

But this DOJ cannot even accept the judgment of its own OPR on two comparatively minor foot soldiers of the Bush administration without sanding down the conclusions enough to spare Yoo and Bybee the punishment they so richly deserve. Is there any hope at all that the larger players in the Bush-era criminal activities – Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rove, Perle, Feith and Wolfowitz most prominently – will be brought to justice when those two lesser lights are allowed to return to a law school classroom and a seat on the federal bench?

Disgraceful as it is to say, don’t hold your breath.

Speaking of evidence, there is this: a bomb in Karbala exploded on Wednesday, killing and wounding dozens of Shiite pilgrims. Another bomb in Karbala was attached to a military vehicle and killed and wounded dozens on Wednesday. Another bomb killed and wounded several other pilgrims outside Baghdad on Wednesday. Gunmen shot and killed a police officer in Kirkuk on Wednesday. The day before, a suicide bomber killed 54 and wounded dozens more in the outskirts of Baghdad. As of Wednesday, almost 5,000 US soldiers had been killed in Iraq, and nearly 50,000 more have been wounded. More than a million Iraqi civilians have likewise been killed and wounded.

Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rove, Perle, Feith, Wolfowitz, Rice, and a dozen other members of the Bush administration, including Yoo and Bybee, are directly responsible for this carnage. They lied through their teeth and broke any number of laws to see it done. They are guilty of much more than the war crimes they committed in both Iraq and the United States. They are guilty of bankrupting this nation with two wars begun on false pretenses and perpetuated to enrich the few, while further cementing the stranglehold “defense spending” has on our growth as a civilized nation.

Thanks in no small part to the Iraq debacle, there is no political impetus to lay a finger on the wildly bloated “defense” budget, even as the fabric of our society shreds and shatters under the economic yoke placed upon our necks by the previous administration. Ours is a government staffed from stem to stern with political cowards who refuse to heal these wounds, and with those who are just as culpable as those members of the Bush administration (read: members of Congress who voted to support each and every criminal act that led us to this place).

Justice? When it comes to the Bush administration, the word has no meaning. They have escaped that justice, and we are all less free because of it.

William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: “War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn’t Want You to Know” and “The Greatest Sedition Is Silence.” His newest book, “House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America’s Ravaged Reputation,” is now available from PoliPointPress.

Happy New Year December 31, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Political Commentary.
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A Very Bad Year

 

 

 

by: William Rivers Pitt, t r u t h o u t | Columnist

 

 

There is no present or future, only the past, happening over and over again, now.
– Eugene O’Neill
bush
 George W. Bush presided over a very bad year. (Photo: Getty Images)
The year 2008 began on a Tuesday. Matters went downhill swiftly from there.
     On that first day of 2008, the Taliban threatened to further escalate attacks in Afghanistan, eight people died in Gaza amid the violence of the Fatah-Hamas conflict and US diplomat John Granville was murdered along with his driver in Sudan. After that first day of 2008, the price of crude oil jumped to $100 a barrel, five armed Iranian boats confronted US warships near the Strait of Hormuz and a Taliban attack upon the Serena Hotel in Kabul killed six people. The Pentagon announced they were sending an additional 3,200 marines to Afghanistan, the year’s first significant stock market convulsion brought the Dow down 482 points, Barack Obama won Iowa and South Carolina, Clinton won New Hampshire and Florida and George W. Bush delivered the last State of the Union address of his presidency. Edmund Hillary died, Bobby Fischer died and Heath Ledger died. Forty American soldiers died in Iraq, seven American soldiers died in Afghanistan, and that’s not nearly all that happened, but that’s some of what happened in January of 2008.

    At least 43 people were killed in Baghdad when bombs exploded in two marketplaces, the US military admitted accidentally killing nine civilians south of Baghdad and George W. Bush introduced a $3.1 trillion budget on top of a near-record deficit of $410 billion. Tornados killed 57 people in the Southern US, a $158 billion economic stimulus package failed to pass a procedural vote, but a subsequent $168 billion stimulus package was successfully passed. Hamas launched 20 rockets into Israel, a suicide bomber killed 20 people at a political rally in Pakistan and a car bomb killed 25 people in Iraq. The US Congress voted in favor of granting immunity to the telecommunications companies involved in the NSA surveillance scandal, voted against letting the CIA use “waterboarding” while interrogating prisoners and voted to hold Bush administration officials Harriet Miers and Joshua Bolten in contempt regarding the fired US attorneys scandal. Obama won a bunch of states, Clinton won a bunch of other states and Ralph Nader got into the race. Roy Scheider and William F. Buckley died. Twenty-nine American soldiers died in Iraq, one American soldier died in Afghanistan, and that’s not nearly all that happened, but that’s some of what happened in February of 2008.

    A US submarine flipped at least one missile into Somalia, two bombs killed 54 people in Baghdad, a bomb was set off outside a US military recruiting center in Times Square and the US began talks with Iraqi officials about establishing the long-term presence of US forces in that country. New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer was implicated in the investigation of a prostitution ring and resigned his office, the US Congress failed to override Bush’s veto of the anti-waterboarding legislation and Adm. William Fallon resigned as commander of the US Central Command over disagreements with the Bush administration regarding their posture towards Iran. The value of the US dollar dropped to its lowest point in 13 years, Bear Stearns received emergency funding from JPMorgan Chase and was later bought out by Chase for pennies on the dollar. Obama won some states, Clinton won some other states and McCain won enough states to become the presumed GOP nominee for president. Arthur C. Clark died, Richard Widmark died and Dith Pran died. Thirty-nine American soldiers died in Iraq, eight American soldiers died in Afghanistan and the total number of US soldiers killed in Iraq passed 4,000. That’s not nearly all that happened, but that’s some of what happened in March of 2008.

    A suicide bomber attacked a checkpoint in Mosul and killed seven people, the US State Department renewed their security contract with Blackwater despite several investigations into that company’s involvement in the massacre of Iraqi civilians, gunmen kidnapped 42 university students in Mosul, all of whom were later released unharmed. Twenty people were killed in Sadr City clashes, rockets fell into the US Green Zone in Baghdad, two bombings in Baquba and Ramadi killed 60 people and the massive $736 million US embassy in Iraq opened for business. The Bush administration brought back the one-year Treasury note to combat the onrushing recession, real estate prices plummeted 12.7 percent and consumer confidence dropped again. Clinton won Pennsylvania but lost Mark Penn, the GOP lost Alan Keyes and John McCain kept on rolling. Charlton Heston died and Albert Hoffman died. Fifty-two American soldiers died in Iraq, five American soldiers died in Afghanistan, and that’s not nearly all that happened, but that’s some of what happened in April of 2008.

    The Fed auctioned off $24.12 billion in Treasury securities to try and blunt the impact of the subprime mortgage crisis, crude oil futures reached $130 for the first time in history, US home prices dropped 14.1 percent and the US Congress approved a $300 billion loan to help homeowners avoid foreclosure. Cyclone Nargis killed nearly 30,000 people in Burma, dozens were killed and wounded in Iraq during fighting between Iraqi militias and US forces, suicide bombers killed dozens more in and around Baghdad and an independent investigation into Pentagon spending on Iraq contracts found that 95 percent of the billions of dollars spent could not be accounted for. Obama won some states, Clinton won some other states and the Democratic primary season inched closer to a final conclusion. Willis Lamb and Sydney Pollack died. Nineteen American soldiers died in Iraq, 17 American soldiers died in Afghanistan, and that’s not nearly all that happened, but that’s some of what happened in May of 2008.

    A suicide bomber killed eight people outside the Danish embassy in Pakistan, US forces accidentally killed ten Pakistani soldiers in an airstrike, two bombs killed 12 people at a train station in Algeria and a car bomb killed 51 people at a bus station in Baghdad. Wachovia fired its CEO over the subprime crisis, AIG fired its CEO over the subprime crisis, General Motors announced the closing of several factories and the elimination of 10,000 jobs, two Bear Stearns executives were arrested on criminal charges and the price of a barrel of crude oil spiked $11 in one day. A bill to lower greenhouse gas emissions died in Congress after being successfully filibustered by Senate Republicans, and flooding in Wisconsin, Indiana and Iowa killed ten people. Clinton officially conceded defeat, making Obama the presumptive Democratic nominee for president. Bo Diddley died, Tim Russert died and George Carlin died. Twenty-nine American soldiers died in Iraq, 28 American soldiers died in Afghanistan, and that’s not nearly all that happened, but that’s some of what happened in June of 2008.

    Starbucks closed 600 coffee shops in the US, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke assured Congress that neither Fannie May nor Freddie Mac were in danger of failing and GOP Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska was indicted. The Pentagon extended the 24th Marine Expeditionary Force’s tour of duty in Afghanistan, an explosion near the Red Mosque in Pakistan killed ten people, a car bomb killed 41 people outside the Indian embassy in Afghanistan, another suicide bomber killed 18 people near a Pakistani police station, a suicide bomber killed 35 people in Baquba and Iran test-fired nine long- and medium-range missiles. A global study of coral reefs determined that one-third of the world’s coral-building species faced extinction, wildfires in California forced 10,000 people to evacuate and George W. Bush lifted the ban on offshore oil drilling. Jesse Helms died, Tony Snow died and Estelle Getty died. Thirteen American soldiers died in Iraq, 20 American soldiers died in Afghanistan, and that’s not nearly all that happened, but that’s some of what happened in July of 2008.

    US unemployment rose to 5.7 percent, the highest level in four years, 12 people were killed when a minibus exploded in Baghdad and 21 street cleaners were killed by an explosion in Somalia. The Georgia-Ossetia conflict erupted, thousands of civilians were killed and GOP presidential candidate John McCain declared all Americans to be Georgians. Taliban fighters forced the retreat of Pakistani soldiers from the Afghan border and later attacked a US base in the Khost province. The US inked a missile shield deal with Poland, causing Russia to declare Poland a “legitimate military target” that had “opened itself to a nuclear strike.” Conservative columnist Robert Novak retired, former Democratic Senator and vice-presidential candidate John Edwards admitted to cheating on his cancer-stricken wife, the Democratic National Convention nominated Barack Obama for president and GOP presidential candidate John McCain chose Sarah Palin to be his running mate. Bernie Mac and Isaac Hayes died. Twenty-three American soldiers died in Iraq, 22 American soldiers died in Afghanistan, and that’s not nearly all that happened, but that’s some of what happened in August of 2008.

    The Republican National Convention nominated John McCain and Sarah Palin for president and vice president and Jack Abramoff was sentenced to four years in prison for his role in the US lobbying scandal. The US economy lost 84,000 jobs, the US government took Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac into conservatorship, Washington Mutual fired its CEO over the subprime mortgage crisis and HP announced they were eliminating nearly 25,000 jobs. In the space of 48 hours, AIG asked the US government for a $40 billion loan to save it from collapse, Bank of America bought Merrill Lynch, Citibank acquired Wachovia, Lehman Brothers filed Chapter 11 and the Dow dropped more than 500 points. The US government loaned AIG more than $80 billion, a car bomb in northern Pakistan killed more than 30 people, video surfaced implicating the US military in the bombing deaths of more than 90 civilians in Afghanistan, a car bomb killed 32 people in Iraq, five explosions in India killed 30 people, the Marriott Hotel in Pakistan was bombed and Hurricane Ike made its deadly landfall in Texas. David Foster Wallace and Paul Newman died. Twenty-five American soldiers died in Iraq, 27 American soldiers died in Afghanistan, and that’s not nearly all that happened, but that’s some of what happened in September of 2008.

    The Senate approved a massive $700 billion bailout plan aimed at salvaging the American economy, Bush signed it, the Dow dropped 800 points in its single largest loss on record and retail sales plummeted for the third straight month. A senior British military commander was quoted as saying that victory in Afghanistan would be impossible to achieve, a suicide bomber killed 27 people in Pakistan, a suicide bomber killed 25 people in Sri Lanka, the Taliban executed 30 people they had kidnapped in Afghanistan, a series of bomb blasts killed 66 people and wounded nearly 500 in India, North Korea threatened to turn South Korea into “debris” and US forces attacked a civilian building in Syria. The NSA was accused of listening in on thousands of telephone conversations between Americans at home and Americans abroad, including conversations between US soldiers serving overseas and their families and two white supremacists were arrested for plotting to assassinate Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. Tony Hillerman and Studs Terkel died. Fourteen American soldiers died in Iraq, 16 American soldiers died in Afghanistan, and that’s not nearly all that happened, but that’s some of what happened in October of 2008.

    The Alaskan legislature concluded that Gov. Sarah Palin acted improperly in the “Troopergate” scandal, which mattered little after the McCain/Palin GOP presidential ticket was soundly thrashed at the polls by the Democratic presidential ticket of Barack Obama and Joe Biden. The passage of Proposition 8 ended same-sex marriages in California and inspired protests by millions of people in 300 cities. An anonymous hold by a GOP senator disrupted the mandated oversight of the $700 billion bailout deal, an explosion on a Minibus killed 11 people in Russia, five Guantanamo detainees were ordered released by a US judge and terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India’s financial heartland, killed hundreds of people. Unemployment levels in the US reached their highest level in 14 years, a second bailout of AIG cost taxpayers an additional $150 billion, retail chain Circuit City filed for Chapter 11 and the euro zone entered the first official recession in its history. Citigroup announced the elimination of 75,000 jobs and got $32 billion from the US government, Pepsi announced 3,000 layoffs and representatives from the “Big Three” automakers began pushing for a bailout of their crippled industry. Two people were shot to death in a Toys ‘R Us in California and a Wal-Mart employee was trampled to death in New York on the first official day of the Christmas shopping season. Michael Crichton and Mitch Mitchell died. Seventeen American soldiers died in Iraq, one American soldier died in Afghanistan, and that’s not nearly all that happened, but that’s some of what happened in November of 2008.

    GOP Sen. Saxby Chambliss won re-election, O.J. Simpson was sentenced to prison and Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was arrested for his role in a vast pay-for-play bribery scheme involving, among other things, the open Senate seat recently vacated by president-elect Obama. The Tribune Company filed for Chapter 11, Sony announced the elimination of 8,000 jobs and the closure of 10 percent of its manufacturing facilities, the “Big Three” automotive industry bailout staggered to and fro in Washington, hundreds of thousands in New England lost electrical power for more than a week after a massive ice storm struck the region and the US consumer price index fell to its lowest point since the Great Depression. A suicide bomber killed ten people in Afghanistan, a bomb in Pakistan killed 17 people and rioters turned Athens into a war zone. A suicide bomber killed 48 people in Iraq, four Royal Marines were killed in Afghanistan, Pakistan deployed thousands of troops along the Indian border amid rising tensions after the Mumbai attacks, Israel launched a massive attack against Hamas and an Iraqi journalist threw his shoes at George W. Bush. Odetta died, Bettie Page died, Deep Throat died, Harold Pinter died, Eartha Kitt died and Freddie Hubbard died. Twelve American soldiers died in Iraq, three American soldiers died in Afghanistan, and that’s not nearly all that happened, but that’s some of what happened in December of 2008.

    Happy New Year. Who else needs a drink?

William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: “War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn’t Want You to Know” and “The Greatest Sedition Is Silence.” His newest book, “House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America’s Ravaged Reputation,” is now available from PoliPointPress