The Watering Hole, Saturday, May 30th, 2015: Hello, Cuba!

Cuba has finally been removed from the “State-Sponsored Terrorism” list, leaving only 3 nations on the short list: Iran, Sudan and Syria.

And about fucking time. C’mon, we at least have to make some concession to the fact that OUR abomination of a hellhole, that stinking albatross around America’s neck that seems to get little notice anymore, that unholy, immoral “Pit of Despair” known as GTMO, occupies part of THEIR country. We – the United States of America – cannot claim much of a moral high ground when we are deliberately and indifferently crushing hundreds of souls, day by day, year by year, simply because the greatest nation on the face of the earth ever doesn’t want to admit to or clean up the horror it spawned.

Sorry, where was I? Oh, here’s a few articles on Cuba’s elevation in status:

As The New York Times’ Julie Hirshfeld Davis reminds us, President Obama gave official notice of his intent to Congress on April 14th, 2015, beginning the 45-day “Congressional notification period”, which expired yesterday. An excerpt:

“Cuba’s removal from the terrorism list was harshly criticized by several declared or prospective Republican presidential candidates and members of Congress, a sign that the détente may become an issue in the 2016 campaign.
Former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, who is widely expected to run, called the decision “further evidence that President Obama seems more interested in capitulating to our adversaries than in confronting them.”

The House speaker, John A. Boehner, Republican of Ohio, said the administration had “handed the Castro regime a significant political win in return for nothing.” He vowed that the House would ensure that sanctions on Cuba would stay in place.”

One Washington Post article mentions that Jeb also said “I call on Congress to keep pressure on Cuba and hold the administration accountable.” [Does he mean the Cuban “administration”, or the Obama “administration”?] On Congress’ role, the article says:

“Removing the terror designation lifts only some of the numerous U.S. trade barriers against Cuba. An economic embargo remains in effect, and reversing it requires a congressional vote. President Obama has said he hopes to work with Congress to get it lifted.”

Why does President Obama, after all this time, still hold out any hope that Congress will work with him towards any goal? I mean, to Congress, Obama is just continuing his communist/socialist/Muslim/dictator/America-hating/atheist agenda, right? (sigh) Moving on…

A very informative WasPo article by Ishaan Tharoor helps to explain how a country qualifies for the “State-Sponsored Terrorism List”, and why some nations that one would think belonged on the list aren’t. The article also discusses nations who were previously on the list but have been removed. i.e., Iraq (maybe because we totally fucked up their country and left it in no shape to sponsor terrorism?); Libya (maybe because we killed enough members of Mohumar Gaddafi’s family that he finally cried Uncle Sam?)

FoxNews.com has this article, which adds a bit to the Speaker Boehner knee-jerk bluster:

“The communist dictatorship has offered no assurances it will address its long record of repression and human rights at home,” Boehner said in a statement.”

Fair enough, but ONLY if Boehner promises to end the Republicans’ long record of repression and human rights violations in OUR country AND theirs.  Better ‘tend to that log in your own eye’, Boehner.

This is our daily Open Thread – have at it!

The Watering Hole, Monday, December 15th, 2014: Surreal

While the vast majority of the current political, cultural, and social events have become increasingly surreal, here’s just a few examples of the WTF? society in which we are floundering.

In the wake of the release of the Senate Torture Report (“Senate Select Committee on Intelligence: Committee’s Study on the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program”), the defensive reactions of some are wandering in the realm of surrealism. There was that, pardon the expression, bimbo on Fox screaming that “America is AWESOME!”, there’s Dick Cheney calmly and coldly dragging Dubya under the same bus that HOPEFULLY runs down Cheney.

There’s surreal hypocrisy, as in Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (spit!) stating that there’s nothing in the Constitution that prohibits torture. From HuffPost:

“Scalia…said that while there are U.S. laws against torture, nothing in the Constitution appears to prohibit harsh treatment of suspected terrorists. “I don’t know what article of the Constitution that would contravene…”

[How did this scumbag get to be a Supreme?]

“In 2008, he used the example of the hidden bomb [ala the fictional Jack Bauer in 24]. “It seems to me you have to say, as unlikely as that is, it would be absurd to say you couldn’t, I don’t know, stick something under the fingernail, smack him in the face. It would be absurd to say you couldn’t do that,” he said.”

On the other hand, regarding a real imminent potential crisis situation:

“In January, Scalia seemed less concerned about the safety of residents of Los Angeles when the court heard arguments about whether anonymous tips could justify a traffic stop. Urging the lawyer for two suspects appealing their conviction to stand firm, Scalia suggested that not even information that a carload of terrorists heading to Los Angeles with an atomic bomb would be enough to justify police stopping the car, if the tip came from an anonymous source. “I want you to say, ‘Let the car go. Bye-bye, LA,'” Scalia said.

Then there’s surreal racism/white privilege in ‘law enforcement’. As this Daily Kos diary points out, why aren’t vicious white criminals called “thugs”? One particular white Texas criminal who brutally murdered a white prosecutor, the prosecutor’s wife, and the assistant prosecutor, was:

“…a felon who had a prior record of burglary and theft. Yet somehow he had amassed a veritable arsenal of weapons as prosecutors during the penalty phase of his trial revealed:

“On Tuesday afternoon, prosecutors assembled the arsenal of weapons found in Williams’ storage unit in the courtroom. The guns were displayed on three wooden racks in the middle of the courtroom, 42 handguns in the middle and 22 long guns flanking each side. In front of the racks were boxes of ammunition — thousands of rounds were recovered — and a crossbow. Bullets were loose in bags, as well as still packaged in boxes.”

Now let’s switch to more palatable surrealism: I ran across this assemblage of ’30 surreal photos’ while I was clearing out/sorting my emails at work–Wayne had sent me the link in a 2012 email, noting that he liked this photo:

"Seemingly Surreal Swallows in a Snowstorm" - photo by Keith Williams

“Seemingly Surreal Swallows in a Snowstorm” – photo by Keith Williams

While I found many of the “surreal” photos to be too contrived – I like the ones where a simple alteration of one’s perspective reveals a glimpse of other-worldliness (see “Towering”, among others) – I agree with Wayne, I love the swallows photo. For more of photographer Keith Williams’ bird photos, I highly recommend checking out his gallery – makes a nice palate-cleanser.

This is our daily open thread – go ahead, speak up!

The Watering Hole, HumpDay, June 4, 2014: Breaking Gnus: Obama to Offer New Prisoner Bargain With the Taliban

Tweeter calls in another Zoo Exclusive

Tweeter calls in another Zoo Exclusive

THIS JUST IN: PRESIDENT OBAMA TO ANNOUNCE NEW PRISONER BARGAIN WITH THE TALIBAN

With polititians and pundits heating up over the prisoner exhange that saw the release of 5 Taliban leaders in exhange for one American Soldier, President Obama is taking a bold step by conducting further discussions aimed towards the release of the remaining 149 or so prisoners still held in Guantanamo. Early reports by annonymous sources indicate that the President is on the verge of making yet another deal with the Taliban.

According to low-level interns in the White House document shredding room, Obama has struck a hard bargain with the renegade Taliban government: for every Republican Senator they agree to take, Obama will release 2 prisoners held at Guantanamo; should the Taliban accept all of the Republican Senators, the remaining prisoners will be exchanged on a one-for-one basis with Republican members of the House of Representatives.

Republicans expressed immediate outrage. “If an American Soldier is worth 5 Taliban, a Senator should be worth at least 10!” one eexclaimed. On the other side of the aisle, a Democratic aide observed “It’s about time we got rid of those terrorists once and for all. They’ve caused more damage to the United States than all the prisoners in Guantanamo put together.”

Senator McCain reportedly commented, “I’ve been a prisoner of war, and I can tell you it is pure hell. Whatever I can do to relieve the suffering of those poor men, I’ll do it.” After an aide whispered in his ear, the Senator continued, “But I’ll be damned if I let this President, or any other President, for that matter, negotiate with Congress, I mean, Terrorists!” His aide then quickly whisked McCain out of the room.

Calls to the White House were met with the standard “The White House can neither confirm nor deny these reports.”

OPEN THREAD

The Watering Hole, Monday, April 8th, 2013: Close GTMO Now!

Until Chris Hayes spoke so strongly and eloquently about the ongoing hunger strike at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, I was completely unaware that it was happening.

“…of the 166 detainees left at Guantanamo over half of them have already been cleared for release, meaning that the government does not have a case against them and does not think they pose a threat to the United States. And yet they languish at the prison at Guantanamo…The dozens of men who have been cleared by the United States government for release should be released immediately, should be paid restitution, and offered legal residence in the United States.

If that sounds radical or outside the boundaries of political feasibility, I would say that shoving tubes up the noses of men a few times a day to force them to stay alive in our prisons, even though we readily admit we have to no reason to continue to keep them, is pretty damn radical, too.

According to a Miami Herald article from March 3rd,

“Under that procedure[force-feeding], military medical staff strap a captive into a feeding chair and pump a can of Ensure nutritional supplement into each man’s stomach through his nose twice a day.

President Obama issued an executive order to close the Guantanamo detention facility back in 2009, and has stated:

“It is a rallying cry for our enemies. It sets back the willingness of our allies to work with us in fighting an enemy that operates in scores of countries. By any measure, the costs of keeping it open far exceed the complications involved in closing it. I want to be very clear that our goal is to construct a legitimate legal framework for the remaining Guantanamo detainees that cannot be transferred.”

It is abundantly clear that the political grandstanding and fear-mongering are blocking such a goal. However, since 2009, President Obama seems to have put the detainee issue on the back burner. And despite the undeniable fact that 86 of the 166 remaining detainees have been cleared for release, and the majority of the other detainees have not even been officially charged with anything, there are plenty of idiots (mostly Republican) who still believe that these prisoners are the “worst of the worst” terrorists. These idiots also seem to suffer under the delusion that if Guantanamo is closed down, the prisoners will be let loose into the streets of America, even though there have been offers from States with empty prisons to take in any or all of them if necessary. However, continued incarceration of most or all of the prisoners is unthinkable to any sane and humane person.

The detainee hunger strike has been going on since about February 6th. RT news has a timeline from that date through April 6th (in reverse chronological order.)

Groups such as Human Rights Watch, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, are all calling for the detention center to be shut down. From John Knefel at Rolling Stone, Pillay says:

“The continuing indefinite incarceration of many of the detainees amounts to arbitrary detention.” “The United States is in clear breach not just of its own commitments but also of international laws and standards that it is obliged to uphold.”

In the meantime, according to the Huffington Post, the press is being blocked from access to the prison base; worse, due to the sequester cuts, even some of the detainees’ lawyers are unable to see their clients, with military flights to Guantanamo being cut back in frequency. Yet, prior to the sequester, the DoD had requested approximate $250,000,000 in funding to upgrade the facility and additional building – why?

The United States of America gave up its moral high ground when we went to war in Iraq based on a lie. We cannot continue this treatment of, if it weren’t for the thrice-damned PATRIOT Act, “prisoners of war.” The detainees who have been cleared for release MUST be released, and the others either charged and tried in civilian courts or released as well. This blackest stain on our country must be cleansed.

If/when the hunger strikes start to gain real national attention, perhaps that simmering pot on the back burner will start to boil over.

This is an Open Thread. What’s on your mind today?

Spreading the Word of Christ through Terror

Nine alleged members of a Christian militia group that was girding for battle with the Antichrist were charged Monday with plotting to kill a police officer and slaughter scores more by bombing the funeral — all in hopes of touching off an uprising against the U.S. government.

It’s time for “Trial by Media.”

They were plotting a terrorist attack, in the Name of Christ. By taking up arms against the United States, they are unlawful enemy combatants. They should be sent to Guantanamo, waterboarded and subjected to other harsh interrogation techniques until they reveal the rest of their terrorist network. It’s time to go all Jack Bauer over their white Christian asses! They don’t deserve a trial. Reading them their rights is just coddling to terrorists!

***

Somehow, I don’t think you’ll hear the Right-Wing talking heads spewing the above venom. More likely, they’ll be saying what they were plotting is a justifiable reaction to Obamacare.

Your thoughts are welcome.

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The Republican Version of the 6th Amendment

This is the 6th Amendment to the United States Constitution, written in response to King George’s abuse of the judicial system:

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district where in the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

On Friday, November 13th, 2009, I received this email from Erick.Erickson@RedState.com:

Today Barack Obama is going to announce that the terrorist mastermind of September 11th, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, will be sent to New York City for a criminal trial in a civilian court.

In that trial, the terrorist will get all the rights afforded an American citizen in a criminal trial, including the right to a fair trial, the right to a taxpayer funded attorney, the right to review all the evidence against him, potentially including classified intelligence matters, the right to exclude evidence against him including, potentially, any confession obtained through enhanced interrogation techniques, etc.

This, then, is the Republican version of the 6th Amendment:

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district where in the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence. the accused shall be guilty.

One important point Erik and his ilk miss: the 6th Amendment is not limited to “American citizens.” It applies to “the accused” regardless of citizenship.

Secessionists v. the Military Commissions Act of 2006

Under Bush’s Military Commissions Act of 2006, anyone determined to be an “unlawful alien enemy combatant” may be picked up and held without charges until the end of the “war on terror” i.e. for the rest of their life., without getting a phone call, without access to an attorney, or outside contact of any kind.

Under the Military Commissions Act, a person who has supported hostilities against the United States is an enemy combatant. The terms are broad enough to encompass people who speak at secession rallies.

They become an “unlawful enemy combatant” if they don’t wear a recognizable insignia identifying them as belonging to an army or militia. i.e. if they are not wearing a uniform, like those photographed carrying pistols and assault rifles to Obama’s meetings this past August.

The only step left, to become an “unlawful alien enemy combatant” is to declare secession. Once that is done, U.S. citizenship is renounced.

IN SUMMARY: the minute Secessionists declare independence from the United States, they become “unlawful alien enemy combatants” and may be captured, detained indefinitely, and questioned, possibly with the “legal” techniques they support as being highly effective in rooting out valuable intelligence information leading to the arrest of their co-conspirators.

Rumor has it Bush built detention centers across the country designed to hold thousands of such folks.

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Hippocrates weeps..

From Hippocrates’ Oath:

Into whatever houses I enter, I will go into them for the benefit of the sick, and will abstain from every voluntary act of mischief and corruption; and, further from the seduction of females or males, of freemen and slaves.

The non-profit organization Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) has issued a report on the extent that medical professionals were involved in the torture programs at Abu Ghraib, Bagram and Guantanamo.

The version of the 2004 CIA Inspector General’s report released on August 24, 2009 provides greater detail on the central role that health professionals played in the CIA’s torture program and reveals a level of ethical misconduct that had not previously come to light.
The report confirms that the CIA inflicted torture on detainees interrogated while in US custody as part of the agency’s counterterrorism activities and exposes additional interrogation techniques that had not yet been reported. It also demonstrates that health professionals were involved at every stage in the development, implementation and legitimization of this torture program.
The doctors and psychologists who laid the foundation upon which attorneys rationalized an illegal program of torture also actively participated in abusive and illegal interrogations, thus betraying the ethical standards of their professions by contributing to physical and mental suffering and anguish. The very premise of health professional involvement in abusive interrogations — that they have a role in safeguarding detainees — is an unconscionable affront to the profession of medicine. (read full report)

So how will this fit into the ethics every doctor swears to uphold? PHR likens the involvement of doctors onto the torture program to illegal medical experimentation on humans as forbidden by the Nuremberg Code.

Torture is vile and inexcusable in any instance. The licence to practice medicine must be taken away from everybody who takes part in it.

HT: The Guardian

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The Ethics of Indefinite Detention 101

Think Progress has a thread about a Washington Post article stating that President Obama’s considering using an Executive Order to allow indefinite detention.

Before we obsess too much about a Washington Post article, we should read the damn thing. Here’s the problem Obama inherited:

Three months into the Justice Department’s reviews, several officials involved said they have found themselves agreeing with conclusions reached years earlier by the Bush administration: As many as 90 detainees cannot be charged or released.

Continue reading

“Torture Works” vs. “I Make Up Stories”

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Dick Cheney has been trying to tell us that torture works (okay, he still refuses to use the word “torture”, but in the interests of accuracy and clarity, I will substitute the word “torture” for any other euphemism they may utilize), that we gained valuable intelligence from its use, and that “it saved lives.” Did it, Dick? Did it really save lives? Or did it cost lives? American lives? Americans in uniform? Did your insistence on the use, and staunch defense, of a series of illegally-authorized interrogation techniques, which were based on methods known to elicit false confessions, actually end up getting one or more of our soldiers killed?

Thanks to the ACLU, we now know that Dick Cheney was lying through his gritting teeth when he said we received valuable intelligence through the use of torture, particularly in the case of Khalid Sheikh Muhammad (also, and more conveniently, known as “KSM”.) He claimed that intel “saved lives.” Given Dick’s well-documented history of spreading falsehoods, I have every reason in the world to believe that not only was this statement a lie, it was actually the opposite of the truth. I have reason to believe that people died because of the information we gained through torture. And the reason is a very simple one. KSM himself said, in his statement at his “Combatant Status Review Tribunal Hearing” (Pg 15):

I ah cannot remember now…I be under questioning so-many statement which been some them l make up stories just location UBL. Continue reading

OPEN THREAD: Who is Ali Soufan?

Ali Soufan, FBI agent, testified today at the congressional hearing on the Bush Administration’s detention and interrogation program led by Senator Whitehouse. He testified that he had interrogated Abu Zubaydah and garnered significant information from him before enhanced interrogation and water boarding of him by the CIA began.

From Wikipedia:

The FBI Interrogation of Abu Zubaydah: Pre-CIA

Following Abu Zubaydah’s capture he was interrogated by FBI agents Ali Soufan and Steve Gaudin. The interrogation followed standard FBI protocol and involved cleaning and dressing Abu Zubaydah’s wounds. Ali Soufan stated in a Newsweek article in April, 2009 “We kept him alive… It wasn’t easy, he couldn’t drink, he had a fever. I was holding ice to his lips.”[86] The agents attempted to convince Abu Zubaydah that they knew of his activities in languages he understood; English and Arabic. Both agents believed they were making good progress in gathering intelligence from Abu Zubayda: He disclosed Khalid Sheihkh Muhamed’s alias, “Mukhtar,” as well as other details of the attacks on New York and Washington D.C. Abu Aubzaydah also revealed the identity of Jose Padilla to the FBI agents.

Why the “Who is Ali Soufan?” Because already the right wing pundits are discrediting him as a disgruntled former FBI agent.

GOP Hoekstra: Not Concerned That Interrogation Program Was Based On Chinese Communist Torture Methods

Hoekstra goes even further, stating that Democrats should have reported their concerns about the Interrogation Program to their designated Majority Leader. Also, they would not have been leaking classified information.

It’s interesting that the Republicans like to call Obama a communist, but they are the ones who approved using Communist Torture Techniques.   It’s also disturbing that Hoekstra’s committee reviewed the program, did what they believed in, and he feels that the Interrogation Program met U.S. law.  WOW and double wow.  It makes me wonder how they can sleep at night.

Torture Used to Link Saddam With 9/11

by Marjorie Cohn (Posted with permission)

When I testified last year before the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties about Bush interrogation policies, Congressman Trent Franks (R-Arizona) stated that former CIA Director Michael Hayden had confirmed that the Bush administration only waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah, and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashirit for one minute each. I told Franks that I didn’t believe that. Sure enough, one of the newly released torture memos reveals that Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times and Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times. One of Stephen Bradbury’s 2005 memos asserted that “enhanced techniques” on Zubaydah yielded the identification of Mohammed and an alleged radioactive bomb plot by Jose Padilla. But FBI supervisory special agent Ali Soufan, who interrogated Zubaydah from March to June 2002, wrote in The New York Times that Zubaydah produced that information under traditional interrogation methods, before the harsh techniques were ever used.

Why, then, the relentless waterboarding of these two men? It turns out that high Bush officials put heavy pressure on Pentagon interrogators to get Mohammed and Zubaydah to reveal a link between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 hijackers, in order to justify Bush’s illegal and unnecessary invasion of Iraq in 2003. That link was never established.

Continue reading

Lawrence O’Donnell Smacks Down Liz Cheney

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Liz Cheney was allowed to spew lies on MSNBC with Norah O’Donnell. That video is everywhere. What doesn’t show up here is right after that segment Lawrence O’Donnell was visibly angry that he wasn’t on to refute Ms. Cheney’s claims. He pointed out that just like her father, Dick Cheney, Liz would never appear in a segment where somebody could point out her lies.

America’s standing in the world: The chickens come home to roost

We had to know that the Bush/Cheney policies of torture and imprisoning suspects for years and years without charge would come back to bite us in the ass, right?

I hope the Obama administration is able to use diplomacy to undo the damage of the Bush years, and bring Laura Ling and Euna Lee, two reporters being held in North Korea, safely home.

George W. Bush and Dick Cheney should offer to take their places — let’s not hold our breath on that one…

Petraeus: Disagrees With Cheney’s “Less Safe” Remarks About Obama

CNN:  Are the American people “less safe” under this new President?

PETRAEUS: Well, I wouldn’t necessarily agree with that. I think in fact that there is a good debate going on about the importance of values in all that we do.

Even GOP Hates Cheney, Begs Him To Go Back Into Hiding!

It is nice to see a glimmer of common sense among the GOP.  They even want Cheney to go hide under a rock in a undisclosed location, sounds like an excellent idea to me.  If I never see his face again, all the better.  So it gave me a chuckle when I read the headline from The Hill, that the GOP is begging Cheney to hide.

Since Cheney’s approval ratings are even lower than George Bush, which are getting close to subterranean, they are worried he is hurting their efforts to rebuild the party.  As one lawmaker put it:

Cheney did “House Republicans no favors,” the lawmaker said, adding, “I could never understand him anyway.”

Another House Republican lawmaker who requested anonymity said he wasn’t surprised that Cheney has strongly criticized Obama early in his term, but argued that it’s not helping the GOP cause.

If they are so worried about their reputation building, they need to quit allowing Rush Limbaugh to be their cheerleader, as well.  They should abhor not only the misdeeds of Cheney’s lies and treachery but also, the falsehoods spewed across the airwaves that some believe to be based in facts.

Continue reading

Turley: Obama gets low grade on prosecuting Cheney

Raw Story:

On 60 Minutes, the president fired back at comments made by former Vice President Cheney about his foreign policies. He even repudiated Bush/Cheney torture policies and Guantanamo Bay.

Did Obama do enough? Rachel Maddow is joined by George Washington University professor Jonathan Turley.

Turley just can’t say it any clearer than this. There is NO need for a “Truth Commission”. Congress has ALL the evidence necessary to call for a criminal investigation into war crimes for the Bush/Cheney torture programs. There is no question, no debate or ambiguity here.

Turley: “This would be the shortest investigation in history”.

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The sooner they close Guantanamo, the better..

This yesterday from Reuters, reporting from London:

Abuse of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay has worsened sharply since President Barack Obama took office as prison guards “get their kicks in” before the camp is closed, according to a lawyer who represents detainees.

Abuses began to pick up in December after Obama was elected, human rights lawyer Ahmed Ghappour told Reuters. He cited beatings, the dislocation of limbs, spraying of pepper spray into closed cells, applying pepper spray to toilet paper and over-forcefeeding detainees who are on hunger strike.

The Pentagon said on Monday that it had received renewed reports of prisoner abuse during a recent review of conditions at Guantanamo, but had concluded that all prisoners were being kept in accordance with the Geneva Conventions.

“According to my clients, there has been a ramping up in abuse since President Obama was inaugurated,” said Ghappour, a British-American lawyer with Reprieve, a legal charity that represents 31 detainees at Guantanamo.

Continue reading

Former Gitmo guard tells of detainee abuse

On the Rachel Maddow Show last night former Guantanamo Bay prison guard Pvt. Brendan Neely talks about the abuse he witnessed there.

It’s clear from his words and body language that he is still struggling with what he saw and experienced at Guantanamo. It is also clear that these young people serving at Guantanamo were primed to believe that the prisoners being sent there were “the people who planned 9/11” – before the prisoner/detainees who were caught up in the ‘terrorist’ sweep were delivered there.

I hope more and more people begin to speak up so we can finally begin to fix all that is broken.

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I was just following orders…

is now a sufficient excuse to get away with…torture!

According to Leon Pannetta:

CIA officers who acted on legal orders from the Bush administration would not be held responsible for those policies.

So, all one need do is find one lawyer, somewhere in the United States (or world now, for that matter) willing to re-define torture to allow anything short of disembowelment and those folks who commit torture are immune from prosecution.

This decision to not prosecute under domestic law opens up the door for International prosecutions. After all, how can an order to torture ever be considered a legal order?

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Now, this is not acceptable Mr President!

The Guardian reports:

US threats mean evidence of British resident’s Guantánamo torture must stay secret, judges rule

The US government obviously has blackmailed the UK into not releasing details about Guantanamo torture and threatened the country with such dire consequences that UK judges ruled evidence of torture must remain secret due to the severity of the consequences for Britain’s safety,

Here’s the same story from The Times The Telegraph The Independent

The Independent has the most extensive quotes from the ruling:

“Indeed we did not consider that a democracy governed by the rule of law would expect a court in another democracy to suppress a summary of the evidence contained in reports by its own officials … relevant to allegations of torture and cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment, politically embarrassing though it might be.

“We had no reason … to anticipate there would be made a threat of the gravity of the kind made by the United States Government that it would reconsider its intelligence sharing relationship, when all the considerations in relation to open justice pointed to us providing a limited but important summary of the reports.”

In another part of the ruling, the judges said they had been informed by lawyers for Foreign Secretary David Miliband that the threat to withdraw co-operation remained even under President Barack Obama’s new administration.

I was wondering how long it took until I got mad at President Obama. It didn’t take long. I still give him the it’s-the-first-100-days-and-you-can’t-do-everything-at-once benefit of the doubt, but only just. This is not the kind of foreign policy I expect and President Obama promised. This gag order must go.

No-mo Gitmo!

President Barack Obama began overhauling U.S. treatment of terror suspects Thursday, signing orders to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center, shut down secret overseas CIA prisons, review military war crimes trials and ban the harshest interrogation methods.

Now, I was thinking, perhaps it shouldn’t be closed entirely. It would be the ideal facility to house, try, and hold members of the previous administration for international war crimes, crimes against humanity, state-sponsored terrorist acts….

Countdown: Tortured Logic

Raw Story

Turley compares Bush war crimes to Pinochet

Prof. Jonathan Turley talks about what will happen to President Bush if the Obama administration decides to prosecute what they deem as war crimes.

“If waterboarding is torture — and Barack Obama has said that it is torture,” Turley emphasized, “and torture is a war crime, then the president has committed a war crime if he did order waterboarding. You have to do some heavy lifting to avoid the simplicity of that logic.”

This segment made me stop what I was doing and caught my full attention. I wish with all my heart that those taking over the administration and the Justice Department pay attention to this. Nobody says it as simply and straightforward as Professor Turley.

It is what it is. No amount of spin changes that..

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Send Bush to jail (and throw away the key)

I wrote in an earlier post, that one of my wishes for the Obama Presidency was signature and ratification of the Rome Statute which constitutes the International Criminal Court in The Hague. I still believe this should be done to restore the trust of the world in American politics by accepting accountability to international standards.  Initially my idea was to find a way to hold President Bush accountable and try him for his crimes in a court of law. However, after some research, I doubt that end would be achieved by joining in the ICC. The Rome Statute states explicitly that it’s rules apply to the signatory states only after the ratification unless it’s jurisdiction was approved retroactively by the signing state.  At least that is how I understood the text.  There may be lawyers among you who know better than me and I would very much appreciate to learn more from you.

I do think it is possible that an Obama Administration signs the statute (or re-signs it, it has already been signed by the Clinton Administration, but the Bush Administration “un-signed” it) and the Democratic Congress ratifies it. I don’t believe it would be made retroactive though, because that would amount to handing Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and some more to The Hague. Barack Obama, among other things, has stressed bi-partisanship and just imagine the Republican’s and their voters’ reaction.

So where does that leave you? You will have to go it alone. And the Bush Administration must be held accountable for their actions. There is a number of crimes that have been assembled by the National Lawyers Guild in an attempt to impeach Bush. In November Joel S. Hirschhorn wrote an article in MWCnews saying:

I want President Obama soon after taking office to go on television and announce the formation of a special group of outstanding jurists and attorneys to make a recommendation whether or not the US Justice Department should bring criminal charges against George W. Bush.  Based on earlier analyses, including work by the American Bar Association, I have no doubt they will recommend indictment.

I could not agree more. The documentary “Taxi to the Dark Side” ran on a German tv-channel yesterday and it brought back the atrocities of the “War on Terror”. And yes, I would like to see Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gonzales, Yoo and some more held accountable for these crimes and more in a court of law.