Monday, November 29, 2010

Feds Entrap Teen into "Terrorism", Provided Fake Bomb, Drove Him to "Terror" Site, Paid Him Thousands

What an excellent post by Glenn Greenwald on the utterly outrageous set-up of a youth by the FBI, so they can get their "war on terror" candy. This kid was no threat, though after cozening whatever disgruntled adolescent angst he had into "terrorist" expression, they just might have succeeded in birthing a new jihadist. Here's Glenn rationally setting out the case that 19-year-old Somali-American, Mohamed Osman Mohamud was set-up:
All of the information about this episode -- all of it -- comes exclusively from an FBI affidavit filed in connection with a Criminal Complaint against Mohamud.  As shocking and upsetting as this may be to some, FBI claims are sometimes one-sided, unreliable and even untrue, especially when such claims -- as here -- are uncorroborated and unexamined.  That's why we have what we call "trials" before assuming guilt or even before believing that we know what happened:  because the government doesn't always tell the complete truth, because they often skew reality, because things often look much different once the accused is permitted to present his own facts and subject the government's claims to scrutiny.  The FBI affidavit -- as well as whatever its agents are whispering into the ears of reporters -- contains only those facts the FBI chose to include, but omits the ones it chose to exclude.  And even the "facts" that are included are merely assertions at this point and thus may not be facts at all.

It may very well be that the FBI successfully and within legal limits arrested a dangerous criminal intent on carrying out a serious Terrorist plot that would have killed many innocent people, in which case they deserve praise.  Court-approved surveillance and use of undercover agents to infiltrate terrorist plots are legitimate tactics when used in accordance with the law.

But it may also just as easily be the case that the FBI -- as they've done many times in the past -- found some very young, impressionable, disaffected, hapless, aimless, inept loner; created a plot it then persuaded/manipulated/entrapped him to join, essentially turning him into a Terrorist; and then patted itself on the back once it arrested him for having thwarted a "Terrorist plot" which, from start to finish, was entirely the FBI's own concoction.  Having stopped a plot which it itself manufactured, the FBI then publicly touts -- and an uncritical media amplifies -- its "success" to the world, thus proving both that domestic Terrorism from Muslims is a serious threat and the Government's vast surveillance powers -- current and future new ones -- are necessary.

There are numerous claims here that merit further scrutiny and questioning.  First, the FBI was monitoring the email communications of this American citizen on U.S. soil for months (at least) with what appears to be the flimsiest basis: namely, that he was in email communication with someone in Northwest Pakistan, "an area known to harbor terrorists" (para. 5 of the FBI Affidavit).  Is that enough to obtain court approval to eavesdrop on someone's calls and emails?  I'm glad the FBI is only eavesdropping with court approval, if that's true, but certainly more should be required for judicial authorization than that.  Communicating with someone in Northwest Pakistan is hardly reasonable grounds for suspicion.

Second, in order not to be found to have entrapped someone into committing a crime, law enforcement agents want to be able to prove that, in the 1992 words of the Supreme Court, the accused was "was independently predisposed to commit the crime for which he was arrested."  To prove that, undercover agents are often careful to stress that the accused has multiple choices, and they then induce him into choosing with his own volition to commit the crime.  In this case, that was achieved by the undercover FBI agent's allegedly advising Mohamud that there were at least five ways he could serve the cause of Islam (including by praying, studying engineering, raising funds to send overseas, or becoming "operational"), and Mohamud replied he wanted to "be operational" by using exploding a bomb (para. 35-37).

But strangely, while all other conversations with Mohamud which the FBI summarizes were (according to the affidavit) recorded by numerous recording devices, this conversation -- the crucial one for negating Mohamud's entrapment defense -- was not.  That's because, according to the FBI, the undercover agent "was equipped with audio equipment to record the meeting.  However, due to technical problems, the meeting was not recorded" (para. 37).
Hm, a missing tape, just when they were to nail down the evidence. What a coincidence! The FBI must think this is a country of morons. Maybe it is. But I'd like to believe that they will get their political comeuppance one of these days.

An entire country needs to wake up and smell the coffee. The FBI and the rest of the government agents drank some evil kool-aid, and, eager to serve their masters, they will do anything to justify their love of police-state tactics. They even think, I believe, they are saving America. That's what makes them so dangerous. How odd that in fighting the "true believers," they became the same themselves, and now threaten to bring us all down to the level of a police state.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Wikileaks' First Release of U.S. Embassy Cables Goes Live

They're up. Long awaited, and the subject of U.S. government condemnation, the Wikileaks publication of 251,257 U.S. embassy cables has begun. As explained in their statement reproduced below, Wikileaks will be publishing the full catalog of files over the next months. Those interested in reading and studying the cables can click here to be taken to the relevant Wikileaks site. UK Guardian is also posting their analysis of the data, which was released before hand also to four other news agencies, including the New York Times.

The following is a reposting of the introduction to the Secret U.S. Embassy Cables release at Wikileaks. In it, we can see the political reasoning behind this extraordinary leaking of materials -- a belief that with public knowledge and political transparency the lies governments tell cannot be maintained.
Wikileaks began on Sunday November 28th publishing 251,287 leaked United States embassy cables, the largest set of confidential documents ever to be released into the public domain. The documents will give people around the world an unprecedented insight into US Government foreign activities.

The cables, which date from 1966 up until the end of February this year, contain confidential communications between 274 embassies in countries throughout the world and the State Department in Washington DC. 15,652 of the cables are classified Secret.

The embassy cables will be released in stages over the next few months. The subject matter of these cables is of such importance, and the geographical spread so broad, that to do otherwise would not do this material justice.

The cables show the extent of US spying on its allies and the UN; turning a blind eye to corruption and human rights abuse in "client states"; backroom deals with supposedly neutral countries; lobbying for US corporations; and the measures US diplomats take to advance those who have access to them.

This document release reveals the contradictions between the US’s public persona and what it says behind closed doors – and shows that if citizens in a democracy want their governments to reflect their wishes, they should ask to see what’s going on behind the scenes.

Every American schoolchild is taught that George Washington – the country’s first President – could not tell a lie. If the administrations of his successors lived up to the same principle, today’s document flood would be a mere embarrassment. Instead, the US Government has been warning governments -- even the most corrupt -- around the world about the coming leaks and is bracing itself for the exposures.

The full set consists of 251,287 documents, comprising 261,276,536 words (seven times the size of "The Iraq War Logs", the world's previously largest classified information release).

The cables cover from 28th December 1966 to 28th February 2010 and originate from 274 embassies, consulates and diplomatic missions.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

"Tu che di gel sei cinta"



Renata Tebaldi singing Liu's aria from the second act of Giuseppe Puccini's opera Turandot. The slave Liu is being tortured to give her owner's name, but she resists, even as the crowd around her screams for her to speak and give up the name. In the end, she grabs a nearby knife and stabs herself, as the crowd continues to scream for her to reveal her secret.

"Parla! Parla! Parla!
Il nome! Il nome!"


Despite its grisly ending and subject matter, this is one of the world's most beautiful and recorded arias.

Sign Petition to Free Guantanamo Prisoner Fayiz al-Kandari

Supporters of Guantanamo prisoner Fayiz al-Kandari have a petition to Attorney General Eric Holder posted at the PetitionSite.com. It urgently calls upon the United States government "to immediately release Fayiz al-Kandari to the care of the Kuwaiti government."

Like a number of idealistic Muslims, Fayiz al-Kandari was caught up at a young age by the suffering of Muslims in the war in Bosnia. He became very active in charity work, and this work led him to Afghanistan. Originally from a well-to-do Kuwaiti family, Fayiz was captured in 2001, becoming one of a number of Arabs sold to the Americans in Afghanistan for bounty money. He has been imprisoned for more than eight years.

Andy Worthington describes what happened next:
In Guantánamo, Fayiz al-Kandari’s refusal to accept that “there is no innocent person here” has marked him out as a particularly resistant prisoner — and resistant prisoners are given a particularly hard time. Over the years, he has been subjected to a vast array of “enhanced interrogation techniques,” which, as Lt. Col. Wingard described them, “have included but are not limited to sleep deprivation, physical and verbal assaults, attempts at sexual humiliation through the use of female interrogators, the “frequent flier program,” the prolonged use of stress positions, the use of dogs, the use of loud music and strobe lights, and the use of extreme heat and cold.”

Despite all this, he has not been “broken,” and has been able, unlike Fouad al-Rabiah and numerous other prisoners, to resist making false confessions about his own activities. He has also refused to make false confessions about the activities of other prisoners, despite being offered many opportunities to do so, and despite being told about others who have made false allegations against him.

Al Kandari's attorney, Major Barry Wingard, has made clear that the evidence against his client is based on far-fetched hearsay evidence. Wingard has been outspoken in his criticism of the Guantanamo military commissions and the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques" and other inhumane types of treatment.
What follows is from the petition website. You can go sign the petition immediately by clicking here.
Free Fayiz al-Kandari to the Care of the Kuwaiti Government Now!

Fayiz al-Kandari, a Kuwaiti citizen, has been a detainee in Guantanamo since 2002 after being captured by Pakistani forces and sold into US custody. Despite over 400 interrogations, suffering through endless hours of torture, including but not limited to beatings, sleep deprivation, threats and forced stress positions, the US government has failed to gather any of the coveted information that this treatment was ostensibly designed to garner. Furthermore, the US government has not produced any evidence against Fayiz al-Kandari aside from hearsay accusations of other Guantanamo prisoners and unidentified Afghanis, evidence which, under any other circumstances, would not be allowed in court.

With this in mind, we urgently call upon the United States government to immediately release Fayiz al-Kandari to the care of the Kuwaiti government. Kuwait has made various requests for the repatriation of Mr. al-Kandari which have been refused by the United States on the basis of concerns with Kuwait's ability to monitor and rehabilitate previously returned citizens. In response Kuwait has poured enormous resources into vastly improving the monitoring of returned citizens as well as building a multi-million dollar rehabilitation centre. In consideration of these efforts on the part of Kuwait, combined with the length of Mr. al-Kandari's detention without trial, the questionable nature of the evidence against him and his continued and passionate insistence on his innocence, it is unquestionably incumbent upon the United States Department of Justice, the State Department and the Office of the President to negotiate and arrange with the Kuwaiti government for the return of Fayiz al-Kandari to Kuwait immediately.

For further background information regarding Fayiz al-Kandari, please see these posts by Lt. Col Barry Wingard, the military defense lawyer for Fayiz: Barry Wingard - No Justice Today at Guantanamo - washingtonpost.com http://wapo.st/gsuzX5 and http://www.truth-out.org/nine-years-too-long65253

Monday, November 15, 2010

NYT Releases Unredacted Report on “U.S. Aid for Ex-Nazis”

The New York Times has released a full unredacted version of the Department of Justice's Office of Special Investigation (OSI) report, "Striving for Accountability in the Aftermath of the Holocaust." According to NYT reporter Eric Lichtblau, "The Justice Department has resisted making the report public since 2006." A "heavily redacted" version was released last month to the private National Security Archive (NSA), and now a leaked version of the entire document has been released to the public.

According to a November 13 NSA press release:
The National Security Archive posted today its original FOIA request, the government's response, our appeal by counsel David Sobel, the legal complaint in the case National Security Archive v. Department of Justice, the interim response from DoJ, the "Vaughn index" of withheld pages and alleged justifications for the withholding, and the 45 pages of partial and highly-redacted response.
The evocation of words like "accountability" in the context of suppressed documents, leaks, and war crimes has an eerie resonance in the context of the current struggle to gain accountability for current and recent U.S. war crimes surrounding the methods by which "intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy" of invading Iraq, the widespread use of torture and extraordinary rendition by the government and its allies, and a policy of illegal human experimentation on "war on terror" prisoners.

The fact that DoJ would still be trying to hide information from decades-old files surrounding the U.S. recruitment of Nazi war criminals does not bode well for those trying to force the U.S. government from President Obama's "Don't Look Back" policy towards war crimes. In fact, it took almost fifty years to get a significant opening of U.S. archives to look at government actions at the close of World War II. The NYT leaked document is but the latest in a string of revelations about the use of both high and low ranking Nazis by the U.S. government. Author Christopher Simpson wrote the first major book, Blowback: America's Recruitment of Nazis and Its Effects on the Cold War, documenting this history in 1988, followed by Linda Hunt's excellent Secret Agenda: The United States Government, Nazi Scientists, and Project Paperclip, 1945 to 1990, and other books, many of them unfortunately now out of print.

Anyone wanting to become an archival researcher in Nazi or Japanese war crimes can begin at the National Archives webpage for the Interagency Working Group (IWG), where there are links to tens of thousands of documents and millions of pages from the files of the CIA, FBI, military intelligence, OSS and other agencies. The IWG issued their Final Report of the Nazi War Crimes and [Japanese] Imperial Government Records Interagency Working Group in April 2007, and is available online.

Revelations on U.S. Recruitment of Nazis

The OSI report is not without its new revelations. According to Lichtblau:
The full report disclosed that the Justice Department found “a smoking gun” in 1997 establishing with “definitive proof” that Switzerland had bought gold from the Nazis that had been taken from Jewish victims of the Holocaust. But these references are deleted, as are disputes between the Justice and State Departments over Switzerland’s culpability in the months leading up to a major report on the issue.

Another section describes as “a hideous failure” a series of meetings in 2000 that United States officials held with Latvian officials to pressure them to pursue suspected Nazis. That passage is also deleted.
In its paranoia and animus against its former Soviet ally (a paranoia and animus that ran in two directions), the United States turned to the recruitment of former Nazis in an attempt to gain intelligence and military superiority over the Soviet Union. The Times article describes how the report details the stories of infamous Nazi war criminals protected by the United States.

There was Arthur L. Rudolph, a Nazi scientist who used slave labor to operate Mittelwerk underground factories that produced the V-2 rocket. Twenty-five thousand slave laborers perished in the terrible conditions and treatment meted out at Mittelwerk. But Rudolph was protected from prosecution and went on to work for NASA as a primary designer of the Saturn rockets that took U.S. astronauts to the moon.

The article also notes the CIA's recruitment of "Otto Von Bolschwing, an associate of Adolf Eichmann who had helped develop the initial plans 'to purge Germany of the Jews.'" The Times article gentlemanly forbears the whole story, which was revealed in a 2006 UK Guardian story on new information found in a massive release in that year of CIA documents on its Nazi past. (CIA watchers should note the ironies entailed in the fact the release was approved by then CIA director Porter Goss.) Von Bloschwing, it turns out, had also been Heinrich Himmler's representative in Romania.

According to the UK Guardian:
After the war Bolschwing had been recruited by the Gehlen Organisation, the prototype German intelligence agency set up by the Americans under Reinhard Gehlen, who had run military intelligence on the eastern front under the Nazis. "US army intelligence accepted Reinhard Gehlen's offer to furnish alleged expertise on the Red army - and was bilked by the many mass murderers he hired," said Robert Wolfe, a historian at the US national archives.
Of even more interest, perhaps, was the U.S. recruitment of Nazis and war criminals for its clandestine secret military groups after the war. Such secret armies were organized across Europe in the aftermath of World War II, and were later implicated in a number of right-wing terrorist actions and coups. The headquarters for this was ultimately centered in the NATO high command, and its various activities, including false flag operations to implicate leftists as terrorists became known as Operation Gladio.

Again, from the UK Guardian article:
Alongside the Gehlen Organisation, US intelligence had set up "stay-behind networks" in West Germany, who were supposed to stay put in the event of a Soviet invasion and transmit intelligence from behind enemy lines. Those networks were also riddled with ex-Nazis who had horrendous records.

One of the networks, codenamed Kibitz-15, was run by a former German army officer, Lieutenant Colonel Walter Kopp, who was described by his own American handlers as an "unreconstructed Nazi".
A more detailed description of the U.S. organization of stay-behind networks is told in an essay by Timothy Naftali at the University of Virginia (PDF).

The New York Times is to be commended for the release of this important new document, whose 600-plus pages will take awhile to be fully digested. The Times also was one of four news outlets to release, against considerable government pressure, the Wikileaks war logs from Iraq and Afghanistan. But the Times editorial stance for accountability for torture has not been met with action by the U.S. President, Justice Department, or Congress. The Democrats had two years of full control of both houses of Congress and never brought any substantive hearings or investigations on the issue of torture or the machinations behind the invasion of Iraq. While there is no doubt that much was withheld from Congress by the Pentagon and White House, the Democrats demonstrated no appetite to press for accountability, and this will be their ignoble legacy.

We must not wait fifty, sixty, or seventy years for the truth about recent and ongoing war crimes to come fully out, and for accountability for these crimes. It appears that will only happen if the citizens of the United States take history into their own hands and form new political entities or parties capable of handling the truth and meting out justice. Such new political forces will be unlikely to stop there, and turn towards implementing the kinds of change we desperately need in this society.

Originally posted at Firedoglake/MyFDL

VIDEO: TSA Out of Control - "The everyday people are now the terrorists... This is bullshit"



If you can't see the video above, click here.

There's a definite feeling of mass protest filling the air around the new full-body scanners and "enhanced" pat-downs (i.e., molestations) at U.S. airports. Many feel it is the means to soften up the population for mass police state procedures. They should be rescinded by the government, who is using "terrorism" hysteria to further hoodwink and control the populace.

Pilots unions are starting to boycott the scanners, while Reddit users have formed a grass-roots site, Fly with Dignity, which is providing information on which airports have the back-scatter scanners, and is attempting to form actions to oppose this new policy.

Do Americans, who have shown a lackluster attitude, to say the least, about confronting their government on human rights abuses, such as torture, have the balls to stand up against being multiply X-rayed and having their children groped by government agents at airports? I don't know, but I hope so. Telling people they have to be sexually molested for their safety is the height of Orwellian madness.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

What was the CIA's MKNAOMI?

The following is reproduced from the August 1977 MKULTRA hearings (Appendix A) in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee and the Subcommittee on Health and Scientific Research of the Committee on Human Resources, United States Senate. While it is not the last word by any means on this subject, information on the MKNAOMI program is scarce, and this is one of the primary source materials we have.
MKNAOMI was another major CIA program in this area. In 1967, the CIA summarized the purposes of MKNAOMI:

(a) To provide for a covert support base to meet clandestine operational requirements.

(b) To stockpile severely incapacitating and lethal materials for the specific use of TSD [Technical Services Division].

(c) To maintain in operational readiness special and unique items for the dissemination of biological and chemical materials.

(d) To provide for the required surveillance, testing, upgrading, and evaluation of materials and items in order to assure absence of defects and complete predictability of results to be expected under operational conditions. [9]

Under an agreement reached with the Army in 1952, the Special Operations Division (SOD) at Fort Detrick was to assist CIA in developing, testing, and maintaining biological agents and delivery systems. By this agreement, CIA acquired the knowledge, skill, and facilities of the Army to develop biological weapons suited for CIA use.

SOD developed darts coated with biological agents and pills containing several different biological agents which could remain potent for weeks or months. SOD developed a special gun for firing darts coated with a chemical which could allow CIA agents to incapacitate a guard dog, enter an installation secretly, and return the dog to consciousness when leaving. SOD scientists were unable to develop a similar incapacitant for humans.

SOD also physically transferred to CIA personnel biological agents in "bulk" form, and delivery devices, including some containing biological agents.

In addition to the CIA's interest in biological weapons for use against humans, it also asked SOD to study use of biological agents against crops and animals. In its 1967 memorandum, the CIA stated:

Three methods and systems for carrying out a covert attack against crop and causing severe crop loss have been developed and evaluated under field conditions. This was accomplished in anticipation of a requirement which was later developed but was subsequently scrubbed just prior to putting into action. [9a]

MKNAOMI was terminated in 1970. On November 25,1969, President Nixon renounced the use of any form of biological weapons that kill or incapacitate and ordered the disposal of existing stocks of bacteriological weapons. On February 14, 1970, the President clarified the extent of his earlier order and indicated that toxins -- chemicals that are not living organisms but are produced by living organisms -- were considered biological weapons subject to his previous directive and were to be destroyed. Although instructed to relinquish control of material held for the CIA by SOD, a CIA scientist acquired approximately 11 grams of shellfish toxin from SOD personnel at Fort Detrick which were stored in a little-used CIA laboratory where it went undetected for five years. [10]

[9] Memorandum from Chief, TSD/Biological Branch to Chief, TSD "MKNAOMI: Funding. Objectives, and Accomplishments." 10/18/67, p. 1. For a fuller description of MKNAOMI and the relationship between CIA and SOD, see p. 360.
[9a] Ibid. p. 2.
[10] Senate Select Committee, 9/16/75, Hearings, Vol. 1.
For more on MKNAOMI, see this article by H.P. Albarelli and Zoe Martell.

Texas State Board of Psychologists Consider Complaint Against Torture Psychologist James Mitchell

The New York Times has posted an article on the complaint lodged against James Mitchell with the Texas Board of Psychologists. A copy of the complaint itself is available online (PDF). I examined the role of the American Psychological Association in the Mitchell complaint in an article last August. A similar complaint against SERE psychologist and APA member Major John Leso, made by the Center for Justice and Accountability, was rejected by the New York Office of Professional Discipline last July. The APA has not taken any known actions on its own accord against Maj. Leso.

As the NYT article on Mitchell states:
Along with Dr. Bruce Jessen, a fellow military psychologist, Dr. Mitchell was a primary developer of post-Sept. 11 C.I.A. interrogation methods that are currently under a criminal torture investigation by the Department of Justice.

Dr. Mitchell, who did not respond to repeated requests for comment for this article, parlayed his experience in training American soldiers to survive as prisoners of war into a lucrative consulting business with the C.I.A. He orchestrated — and, according to the complaint, participated in — the harsh interrogation of terror suspects using sexual humiliation and the drowning technique called waterboarding.

Joseph Margulies, a Northwestern University law professor, and Dicky Grigg, an Austin lawyer, worked with a Texas psychologist, Jim L. H. Cox, to bring the complaint, which documents in lurid detail Dr. Mitchell’s role in the questioning of prisoners.
The actions taken at a state level against psychologists or other medical providers involved in torture appear to be one of few legal avenues left for those who are pursuing accountability against the torturing U.S. government, by going after its ready servants. It remains to be seen if this is a fruitful approach, but it deserves both following and our support.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

"Epitaph on a Tyrant"

Perfection, of a kind, was what he was after,
And the poetry he invented was easy to understand;
He knew human folly like the back of his hand,
And was greatly interested in armies and fleets;
When he laughed, respectable senators burst with laughter,
And when he cried the little children died in the streets.
by W. H. Auden

365AM: New Documentary on Israeli Attack on Gaza

365 AM Teaser from Abdallah Omeish on Vimeo.

This film by 3rd Eye Productions, with the tag, "A story on the war you were never meant to see," does not have a release date. Check out the clip and go to the film's website and sign up for updates, so you'll know the release date.

From all signs, it looks like it will be an incredible documentary on a war crime that Americans must know about, especially as this is quickly becoming a country inured to war crime. We must fight the descent into militaristic totalitarianism.

UK Guardian Releases British Torture Tape


The UK Guardian yesterday released a videotape of a 2007 interrogation of a suspected Iraqi insurgent, one of 1,253 tapes made by interrogators at a secret British military center near Basra, run by the Joint Forces Interrogation Team (JFIT). The release came only days before the U.S. Justice Department investigation into the CIA’s destruction of videotapes of the torture of three high-value detainees at secret black site prisons was closed, with no charges brought. The news about torture was not a complete surprise as revelations last month showed torture techniques were taught to British interrogators in secret training manuals.

The release of the British torture tapes was the result of a lawsuit brought before the British high court by 220 former Iraqi prisoners. The Guardian warns that the video embedded here “contains material that viewers may find disturbing.” Having watched it, I can vouch it is difficult material to watch. Amazingly, the U.S. press, and much of the British press, have totally ignored this material. The truth is going to be difficult to stomach, but this is a taste of what might have occurred had U.S. tapes found their way to public viewing.

One difference between the tape here and the tapes the CIA destroyed (if in fact they were all destroyed), is that the tape here is not of waterboarding or any of the “enhanced interrogation techniques”, but of what the British call “harshing” — techniques that appear to be similar to the U.S. Army Field Manual’s “Fear Up,” i.e., the induction of fear into the prisoner. As I noted in an article that examined the latest (2006) version of the Army Field Manual (AFM) on interrogation, in the previous version of the AFM (FM 34-52), published in 1992, the use of fear-based techniques was divided into Fear Up Harsh and Fear Up Mild. A strong warning was issued noting the use of Fear Up “has the greatest potential to violate the law of war.” In the current version of the AFM, the cautionary language is weakened, while the definition of Fear Up has changed as well.   . . .
From the 1992 manual:
The fear-up approach is the exploitation of a source’s pre-existing fear during the period of capture and interrogation. (pp. 3-15)
In the 2006 manual, the definition adds a sinister new twist (emphasis added):
In the fear-up approach, the HUMINT [human intelligence] collector identifies a pre-existing fear or creates a fear within the source. He then links the elimination or reduction of the fear to cooperation on the part of the source. … The HUMINT collector should also be extremely careful that he does not create so much fear that the source becomes unresponsive. (pp. 8-10)
What that means is that the in the 2006 version of “Fear Up”, creating a new fear within a detainee becomes part of the interrogation “approach.” Interestingly, the old 1992 AFM says that “increased fear-up” is a “proven effective” technique, but elsewhere describes fear-up harsh as “usually a dead-end,” interrogation-wise.

The Guardian video appears to be a standard example of “harshing” or “fear up technique” as utilized by the British. As Ian Cobain at the UK Guardian reports:
The recordings… show this man being forced to stand to attention while two soldiers scream abuse at him and threaten him with execution. They ignore his complaints that he is not being allowed to sleep and that he has had nothing to eat or drink for two days. At the end of each session, he is forced to don a pair of blackened goggles, ear muffs are placed over his head, and he is ordered to place the palms of his hands together so that a guard can grasp his thumbs to lead him away.

At the end of one session, an interrogator can be heard ordering the guard to “rough the fucker off”, or possibly “knock the fucker off”. The guard then runs down a corridor, dragging the prisoner behind him by his thumbs. This man’s lawyers say he was then severely beaten: they allege that the initial blows, and their client’s moans, can be heard faintly at the end of the video.
The British Ministry of Defense is claiming that any inquiry as a result of this release of tapes be restricted to the Ministry. Of course. The British courts have already demonstrated that they are not the lap dogs to the executive that the courts and Department of Justice in the United States have become. According to another UK Guardian story on November 9, Birmingham human rights lawyer Phil Shiner, who represents the former prisoners and is pressing for a public investigation, “has documented 59 allegations of detainees being hooded, 11 of electric shocks, 122 of sound deprivation through the use of earmuffs, 52 of sleep deprivation, 160 of sight deprivation, including 117 using blackened goggles, 132 of the use of stress positions,” 39 of enforced nakedness, and 18 allegations that detainees were kept awake by pornographic DVDs played on laptops. Meanwhile, three of the interrogators have been “referred to the Director of Service Prosecutions, who has been asked to consider war crimes charges under the 2001 International Criminal Court Act.”

One can only guess what evidence exists in the many, many videotapes hidden away on disk drives in the vaults of the U.S. Defense Department, not to mention those held by or destroyed by the CIA. Barack Obama’s Justice Department is doing all it can to make sure that the truth about U.S. torture will never come out. But as the British lawsuit and the posting of videos makes clear, you can’t hide all of the evidence forever. It’s bound to come out, no matter how many John Durhams try to pull the wool over our eyes. Just yesterday, the UK Guardian released a second video of the torture in Basra, with the headline “‘I hope you die of cancer… I hope your kids die’”.

Watch the video posted here, and then ponder what role we all play in this monstrous enterprise. If we do not speak out, if we do not demand that all torture stop, and that the entire secret archives be opened so we can know once and for all what has been and is going on, then we put our own futures into dire jeopardy, and will surely earn the scorn of future generations. The Wikileaks Iraqi war logs already have plenty of evidence of torture and war crimes by the United States. Where are the investigations? The prosecutions? The outcry?

Originally posted at Firedoglake/MyFDL

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"Government harassing and intimidating Bradley Manning supporters"

You must catch this Glenn Greenwald article, as the possibility of the U.S. devolving into a totally fascistic state becomes actualized before our eyes. This is the kind of thing that must not stand. Political change is not only becoming an impossibility, making it so is the primary policy of the Barack Obama administration. Sure, the GOP may be worse, but that thin line of difference is becoming as transparent as fine gossamer. For all practical reasons, there's been no difference, and hasn't for a long time.

Here's a piece from the article, which I think readers should click through to and read the whole thing.
In July of this year, U.S. citizen Jacob Appelbaum, a researcher and spokesman for WikiLeaks, was detained for several hours at the Newark airport after returning from a trip to Holland, and had his laptop, cellphones and other electronic products seized -- all without a search warrant, without being charged with a crime, and without even being under investigation, at least to his knowledge.  He was interrogated at length about WikiLeaks, and was told by the detaining agents that he could expect to be subjected to the same treatment every time he left the country and attempted to return to the U.S. Days later, two FBI agents approached him at a computer conference he was attending in New York and asked to speak with him again.  To date, he has never been charged with any crime or even told he's under investigation for anything; this was clearly a thuggish attempt by federal officials to intimidate any American citizen involved with or supporting WikiLeaks.
That campaign of intimidation is now clearly spreading to supporters of Bradley Manning.  Last Wednesday, November 3, David House, a 23-year-old researcher who works at MIT, was returning to the U.S. from a short vacation with his girlfriend in Mexico, and was subjected to similar and even worse treatment.  House's crime:  he did work in helping set up the Bradley Manning Support Network, an organization created to raise money for Manning's legal defense fund, and he has now visited Manning three times in Quantico, Virginia, where the accused WikiLeaks leaker is currently being detained (all those visits are fully monitored by government agents).  Like Appelbaum, House has never been accused of any crime, never been advised that he's under investigation, and was never told by any federal agents that he's suspected of any wrongdoing at all.

Last Wednesday, House arrived at Chicago's O'Hare Airport, and his flight was met in the concourse by customs agents, who examined the passports of all deplaning passengers until they saw House's, at which point they stopped.  He was then directed to Customs, where his and his girlfriend's bags were extensively searched.  After the search was complete, two men identifying themselves as Homeland Security officials told House and his girlfriend they were being detained for questioning and would miss their connecting flight.  House was told that he was required to relinquish all of his electronic products, and thus gave them his laptop, cellphone, digital camera and UBS flash drive.  The document he received itemizing his seized property is here.  He was also told to give the agents all of his passwords and encryption keys, which he refused to do.

House was then taken to a detention room by two armed agents and on his way there, he passed by a room in which several individuals were plugging various instruments into his laptop and cellphone.  The two agents, Marcial Santiago and Darin Louck, proceeded to question him for 90 minutes about why he was visiting Manning in prison, what work he did to support the Manning campaign, who else was involved in the Manning support group, and what his views were on WikiLeaks.  He was told that he would not receive his laptop or camera back, and the agents kept it.  To date, he has not received them back and very well may never.... He subsequently learned from Agent Santiago that although Agent Louck identified himself as a Homeland Security agent, he is, in fact, with the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force.
A commenter at Salon inquires, wisely: "Why were they so quick on these guys tails, when the Mumbai guy gets off scott free, hired by the government and sent to Pakistan over his ex-wives attempts to alert 'authorities' of the craziness of their husband?"

Why, indeed?

Assassination in Court, U.S. Argues to Make Legal What It’s Always Done

What an incredible era we live in!

Today in federal court, government attorney Douglas Letter argued against a lawsuit brought by both the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) that the U.S. executive power had the right to kill an American citizen abroad, without review by the judiciary. In his argument to drop the suit, brought on behalf of the father of "radical" Muslim cleric Anwar Al-Aulaqi [Awlaki], Letter claimed, "“If we use lethal force we do so consistent with the law."

According to the Christian Science Monitor story on today's proceedings:
The lawsuit does not seek to prevent the government from carrying out targeted killings. Instead, the ACLU is asking Judge Bates to examine the government’s criteria for placing Awlaki on the alleged kill list.

To justify lethal action, the ACLU suit says, the government must be able to demonstrate that the targeted killing is necessary to prevent a direct and imminent threat to public safety. In addition, the suit says, the government must be able to show there are no non-lethal options available to neutralize a threat from Awlaki.
According to a joint press release by ACLU and CCR:
"If the Constitution means anything, it surely means that the president does not have unreviewable authority to summarily execute any American whom he concludes is an enemy of the state," said Jameel Jaffer, Deputy Legal Director of the ACLU, who presented arguments in the case. "It's the government's responsibility to protect the nation from terrorist attacks, but the courts have a crucial role to play in ensuring that counterterrorism policies are consistent with the Constitution."
Chickens and Coincidences

It seems strongly coincidental that on the day of the hearing, a new Awlaki video should appear on the scene, courtesy of the dubious SITE Institute, remembered for their unveiling of another timely video, the 2007 Osama bin Laden 9/11 statement, which featured a robotic, unmoving bin Laden, which even MSNBC questioned as faked. Then there was that Gainsville, Georgia chicken farm, whose lawsuit against SITE is still pending, accused by SITE of funneling money to terrorists. SITE's founder Rita Katz delivered one of the more memorable of all "war on terror" quotes when she told 60 Minutes, ""Chicken is one of the things that no one can really track down."

Now SITE is back, with a new name (from SITE Institute to SITE Intelligence Group), with a new fire-snorting Awlaki video, just in time for the government's arguments to dismiss the suit that would challenge the government's right to kill the U.S.-born cleric, supposedly hiding out in Yemen, a leader of Al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninula (AQAP). The New York Times led the way with a blog story by Robert Mackey this morning, "Kill Americans, Says Yemeni-American Cleric." The story followed the news last week that You Tube had removed all of al-Awlaki's videos from its site. Mackey references SITE and their new Awlaki video, while blandly noting that Monday was the day "a federal judge will hear arguments in a lawsuit brought by civil libertarians who claim that the Obama administration does not have the right to order the targeted assassination of Mr. Awlaki and other suspected militants." Gee, what a coincidence the headline for that same Monday article quotes the same Mr. Awlaki as inciting the killing of Americans. As is often the case, the rest of the U.S. press stood up and saluted as the Times sent the story up the proverbial flagpole.

"How popular will Anwar al-Awlaki's latest video be?" asks the Christian Science Monitor. CNN weighed in, too: "U.S.-born cleric rails against Yemen, Iran, United States." Paula Kruger at Australia's ABC was not to be outdone, however, with a headline clanging in its clarion call of danger: "US-born cleric calls for death of all Americans."
ANWAR AL-AWLAKI (translation): Do not seek any permission when it comes to the killing of the Americans. Fighting the devil doesn't need a religious edict, deliberation, prayer or guidance. They are the party of the devil and fighting them is the personal duty of our times.

We reach that moment when it is either us or them. We are two opposites that will never meet. They want something that cannot happen unless they wipe us out. This is a decisive battle. This is a battle of Moses and pharaoh; this is a battle of righteousness and falsehood.
"We reach that moment when it is either us or them." Well, if it was your head being hunted by the CIA or the Pentagon's JSOC Special Forces assassination squads, you might see the world that way, too. In fact, the blurriness of right and wrong is only made worse by the U.S. assertion that it can kill whomever it wants to, irregardless of constitutional niceties, if only it can claim the right is somehow lodged in the 9/11-inspired Authorization for Use of Military Force. Congress has rubber-stamped the AUMF for years now, and President Obama dutifully pressed it upon a Democratic Party-controlled House and Senate... well, once controlled, as Democratic Party lassitude in the wake of the worst economic recession, if not depression, in sixty years saw their short lived ascendancy in both houses of Congress come crashing down around their well-deserving heads.

Mackey at the Times makes sure we don't forget that Awlaki is associated with AQAP, which smuggled -- no doubt in Mackey's mind -- those bomb packages on freight cargo jets last month. And he notes that a Yemeni judge has issued an order for Awlaki's capture. But, in the tradition of open-mindedness so bally-hooed around the Times, he gives the final word to legal pundit Jonathan Turley, who noted last August:
If a President can unilaterally kill a U.S. citizens on his own authority, our court system (and indeed our constitutional rights) become entirely discretionary. The position of the Administration contains no substantial limitations on such authority other than its own promise to make such decisions with care.
Bathed in Blood

"War is the statesman's game, the priest's delight, The lawyer's jest, the hired assassin's trade," wrote the Romantic English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley almost 200 years ago now. But one can only look back to an interesting story in the London Times to gain another kind of perspective on the current events surrounding the obscene U.S. argument for assassinating its own citizens without due process, of running hit teams and killing or death lists.

In 1976, journalist Peter Watson was at a NATO conference in Oslo, when a U.S. Navy psychologist, Dr. Thomas Narut, from the U.S. Naval Hospital in Naples told Watson and New Jersey psychologist Dr. Alfred Zitani, that the Navy sought men to train as assassins in overseas embassies. The following is from the London Sunday Times, "The soldiers who become killers," September 8, 1974, but reproduced from a conspiracy site, as the original, and most references to it, plentiful even when I first read about it some years ago, are limited now to a few dozen conspiracy sites. The story is also told at some length in Watson's book (out of print), War on the Mind: The Military Uses and Abuses of Psychology, published by Basic Books in 1978.
[Narut's] naval work involved establishing how to induce servicemen who ma[y] not be naturally inclined to kill, to do so under certain conditions. When pressed afterwards as to what was meant by "combat readiness units," he explained this included men for commando-type operations and - so he said - for insertion into U.S. embassies under cover, ready to kill in those countries should the need arise. Dr. Narut used the word "hitmen" and "assassin" of these men.

The method, according to Dr. Narut, was to show films specially designed to show people being killed and injured in violent ways. By being acclimated through these films, the men eventually became able to dissociate any feelings
from such a situation. Dr. Narut also added that U.S. Naval psychologists specially selected men for these commando tasks, from submarine crews, paratroops, and some were convicted murderers from military prisons. Asked whether he was suggesting that murderers were being released from prisons to become assassins, he replied: "It's happened more than once."
The story goes into various mind-control methods by which the training was done. The Pentagon denied the story, and also wouldn't allow Watson access to interview personnel at the U.S. Naval Neuropsychiatric Center in San Diego, where the training was supposedly done. The whole tale might seem fantastic, unless one remembered that the U.S.-sponsored Phoenix Program in Vietnam was responsible for the assassination of 20,000 or more people in the 1960s. The U.S. also supplied assassination lists to the Indonesian government during the bloody 1965 coup that slaughtered half a million people.
“For the first time, U.S. officials acknowledge that in 1965 they systematically compiled comprehensive lists of Communist operatives, from top echelons down to village cadres. As many as 5,000 names were furnished to the Indonesian army, and the Americans later checked off the names of those who had been killed or captured, according to the U.S. officials,” Kathy Kadane wrote for South Carolina’s Herald-Journal on May 19, 1990. [Kadane's article also appeared in the San Francisco Examiner on May 20, 1990, the Washington Post on May 21, 1990, and the Boston Globe on May 23, 1990.]

The Indonesian mass murder program was based in part on experiences gleaned by the CIA in the Philippines. “US military advisers of the Joint US Military Advisory Group (JUSMAG) and the CIA station in Manila designed and led the bloody suppression of the nationalist Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan,” notes Roland G. Simbulan (Covert Operations and the CIA’s Hidden History in the Philippines).
The history of the United States and assassination, post-World War II, and particularly from the 1960s on, has been a sorry tale of botched public attempts (as of Castro), and a bloodbath dealt by U.S. proxy death squads, and if we can believe the Watson story, by deep cover U.S. assassins themselves. In 1976, in the wake of the many revelations about U.S. government crimes, including assassinations, President Gerald Ford issued a presidential directive (EO 11905) banning assassinations, a directive whose basic premises lie in shreds after ten years of Bush/Obama rule.

It would be remiss not to note in this context the blood bath that is U.S. history on the subject, not to bring up Phoenix, and all the rest of it. Recent revelations in the Iraq logs Wikileaks cache of documents suggests that the U.S. helped form torture squads, and perhaps death squads in Iraq. In any case, they certainly turned thousands of prisoners over to Iraqi forces they knew from hundreds of observations were torturing prisoners, often to death. This deliberate war crime, a direct violation of the Convention Against Torture treaty, was conducted under both the Bush and Obama administrations. But where in our society is the outrage? The society cannot seems to pick itself up out of the muck of triviality and standard party politics and cable TV scandal-mongering.

So forgive me if I don't jump on the bandwagon to talk about Bush and his approval of waterboarding claims. Is he smug? Of course he's smug, because Americans have been ignoring news about torture and assassinations on behalf of the ruling elite for decades now. I don't know what it will take to turn such a historical situation around. Looking at the young and those vulnerable to such confusions as massive societal hypocrisy can allow, one can understand why some have turned even to radical Islam. But I can't recommend it. I'd like to see the young take up the banner that was once Percy Shelley's: free love, hatred of tyrannies, including -- if not especially -- the tyranny of one's own state, and equality of all sexes, peoples, religious practice (including atheism), and add to it the wisdom of a century's struggle for economic justice and against the exploiters of mankind.

But for now, all forward-seeking and progressive individuals should be backing the CCR/ACLU lawsuit, because if the U.S. gets its way, tomorrow it may not be the unsavory Awlaki, it may be you or me. And anyone who was forced to study history a semester or two knows that to be true.

Cross-posted from Firedoglake

Monday, November 8, 2010

Video from "Just Say No to Torture Week"

In this clip from Berkeley's "Just Say No to Torture" Week, some minutes in, I read a letter from Guantanamo inmate and former "child soldier" Omar Khadr, who ponders the fate that brought him to prison, and test case for the Obama revamped but terribly flawed military commissions. The letter was written prior to the plea deal later worked out with the government, that traded eight years more in prison (seven presumably in Canada) for a false confession of guilt. The November 9 New York Times has an editorial summing up the injustices of the recent penalty phase of Khadr's trial.



You can find more videos from the week's events, including the rest of the presentation showcased in the video above at wesaynototorture.net/

Sunday, November 7, 2010

"No Appetite for Prosecution: In Memoir, Bush Admits He Authorized the Use of Torture, But No One Cares"

The following is reposted with permission by its author, Andy Worthington:
With just days to go before George W. Bush’s memoir, Decision Points, hits bookstores (on November 9), and with reports on the book’s contents doing the rounds after review copies were made available to the New York Times and Reuters, it will be interesting to see how many media outlets allow the former President the opportunity to try to salvage his reputation, how many are distracted by his spat with Kanye West or his claim that he thought about replacing Dick Cheney as Vice President in 2004, and how many decide that, on balance, it would be more honest to remind readers and viewers of the former President’s many crimes — including the illegal invasion of Iraq, and the authorization of the use of torture on “high-value detainees” seized in the “War on Terror.”

As I fall firmly into the latter camp, this article focuses on what little has so far emerged regarding the President’s views on Guantánamo, and, in particular, on his confession that he authorized the waterboarding of “high-value detainee” Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, which is rather more important than trading blows with a rapper about whether or not his response to the Katrina disaster was racist, as it is a crime under domestic and international law.

On Guantánamo

On Guantánamo, the only comments in the book that have so far emerged are insultingly flippant, which is disgraceful from the man who shredded the Geneva Conventions and authorized an unprecedented program of arbitrary detention, coercive interrogation and torture. In addition, Bush’s baleful legacy lives on in the cases of the 174 men still held, in the recent show trial of Omar Khadr, and in the complacency regarding the basis for detaining prisoners of the “War on Terror” — the Authorization for Use of Military Force, passed by Congress the week after the 9/11 attacks — on which Barack Obama continues to rely, despite its formidable shortcomings.

As Michiko Kakutani explained in a review of the book for the New York Times:
He tries to play down the problems of Guantánamo Bay, writing that detainees were given “a personal copy of the Koran” and access to a library among whose popular offerings was “an Arabic translation of Harry Potter.”
On torture

On torture, however, Bush remains as casual about authorizing waterboarding (a form of controlled drowning used on at least three “high-value detainees” held in secret CIA prisons), as he did in June this year, when he told the Economic Club of Grand Rapids, Michigan, “Yeah, we waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. I’d do it again to save lives.”

In his book, he writes that his response, when asked if he would approve the waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, was, “Damn right!” He added,  “Had I not authorized waterboarding on senior al-Qaeda leaders, I would have had to accept a greater risk that the country would be attacked.”
On Thursday, Reuters revealed more about the passages in the book in which Bush discusses waterboarding. This largely revisits the scenario as he described it in a press conference in September 2006, when Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri (the three men waterboarded by the CIA), plus 11 other “high-value detainees,” were transferred to Guantánamo from the secret CIA prisons whose existence, until that moment, had been strenuously denied by the administration.
On that occasion, he spoke at length about Abu Zubaydah, the supposed “high-value detainee” for whom the torture program was specifically developed, who, according to the “torture memos” released last year (written by lawyers in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel in 2002 and 2005) was waterboarded 83 times.

Revisiting his claims that, “When Abu Zubaydah stopped answering questions from the FBI, CIA Director George Tenet told Bush he thought the detainee had more information to offer” (as Reuters described it), Bush explains that “CIA and Justice Department lawyers conducted a careful legal review and came up with an ‘enhanced interrogation program,’ which he said complied with the US Constitution and all applicable laws, including those that ban torture.”

“No doubt the procedure was tough, but medical experts assured the CIA that it did no lasting harm,” Bush writes, adding that the methods were “highly effective,” and that Abu Zubaydah “revealed large amounts of information about al-Qaeda’s structure as well as the location of Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who he called the logistical planner of September 11 attacks” — an analysis that is unconvincing, as FBI interrogator Ali Soufan explained in an op-ed for the New York Times in April 2009. Soufan wrote:
Defenders of these techniques have claimed that they got Abu Zubaydah to give up information leading to the capture of Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a top aide to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed … This is false. The information that led to Mr. Shibh’s capture came primarily from a different terrorist operative who was interviewed using traditional methods.
Bizarrely, Bush also attempts to explain how Abu Zubaydah began cooperating, in a troubling passage in which he seems to be trying to make out that waterboarding was some sort of specific test for Muslims. He writes, “His understanding of Islam was that he had to resist interrogation only up to a certain point. Waterboarding was the technique that allowed him to reach that threshold, fulfill his religious duty, and then cooperate.” He adds that Abu Zubaydah then explained, “You must do this for all the brothers.”

Writing of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times, according to the OLC memos, Bush describes him as “difficult to break,” as Reuters put it, “but when he did, he gave us a lot.” As Reuters explained, “He disclosed plans to attack American targets with anthrax and ‘directed us to three people involved in the al-Qaeda biological weapons program,’ among other breakthroughs.”

Again, this is a claim that is not backed up with any evidence. As David Rose explained in an article for Vanity Fair in December 2008, “according to a former senior CIA official, who read all the interrogation reports on KSM, ‘90 percent of it was total f*cking bullsh*t.’ A former Pentagon analyst adds: ‘KSM produced no actionable intelligence. He was trying to tell us how stupid we were.’”
In conclusion, however, Bush claims that “the CIA interrogation program saved lives,” as Reuters described it, and states, “Had we captured more al-Qaeda operatives with significant intelligence value, I would have used the program for them as well.”

Why waterboarding is torture, and torture is a crime

The problem with Bush’s off-hand acknowledgment that he authorized the waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — and Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri — is that waterboarding is torture, and torture is a crime.

As Isabel Macdonald of FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting) explained in 2008 in an excellent overview of US reporting on waterboarding, “During the insurrection against the US occupation of the Philippines, the Washington Post described how the US military tortured suspected members of the Filipino resistance using “the form of torture known as the water cure.” That was in September 1902, but after the Second World War, when US military tribunals tried Japanese military officials for war crimes for torturing prisoners of war with techniques including waterboarding, the New York Times described the procedure as “forced drownings,” and it was referred to by the Washington Post as “water torture.”

Similarly, in March 1968:
“water torture” was mentioned in the headline of a Washington Post article about the Australian army’s admission that a soldier had administered the “water treatment” to a Vietnamese woman suspected of being a guerilla. Six months later, the Post published a front-page photographic exposé of US soldiers administering this same “water treatment” to a Vietnamese prisoner. A follow-up report in the Post [in 1970] referred to this practice, which resulted in charges against the commander of the US Army troops in South Vietnam, as “an ancient Oriental torture called ‘the water treatment.’”
Moreover, when it comes to torture in more general terms, the US anti-torture statute (Title 18, Part I, Chapter 113C of the US Code, introduced in 1994) describes torture as “an act … specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering … upon another person within his custody or physical control,” and, as I explained in an article in July this year about Jay S. Bybee, the former OLC head (and now a judge in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals) who signed his name to the most notorious of the “torture memos,” written by John Yoo in the summer of 2002:
The US anti-torture statute [also] requires a fine, or 20 years’ imprisonment (or both) for “[w]hoever outside the United States commits or attempts to commit torture,” and a death sentence, or a prison sentence up to and including a life sentence, “if death results to any person from conduct prohibited by this subsection.”
In addition:
The UN Convention Against Torture [ratified by Ronald Reagan in 1987] stipulates (Article 2.2), “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.” Moreover, the Convention also stipulates (Article 4. 1) that signatories “shall ensure that all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law” and requires each State, when torture has been exposed, to “submit the case to its competent authorities for the purpose of prosecution” (Article 7.1).
These facts are generally ignored by mainstream media outlets, where those in charge have, since 2004, when waterboarding under the Bush administration was first introduced to the US public, coyly — and deceptively — chosen to refer to it as “a form of simulated drowning condemned by human rights activists as torture” (as Reuters did on Thursday), thereby helping to foster the culture of impunity which has allowed Bush to make this statement so publicly, and which, in February, allowed Dick Cheney to tell Jonathan Karl, on ABC News’ “This Week,” “I was a big supporter of waterboarding.”

Why the Obama administration bears responsibility for Bush’s impunity

In addition, the Obama administration is also responsible. Neither President Obama nor Attorney General Eric Holder has chosen to hold Bush administration officials and lawyers — up to and including the former President — accountable for their crimes, even though, as I explained in an article in March 2009:
In an interview with ABC News on January 11, 2009, President-Elect Obama responded to a recent CBS interview with Dick Cheney, in which the then-Vice President had sounded his usual alarms about the need for “extraordinary” policies to deal with terror suspects, by stating, “Vice President Cheney I think continues to defend what he calls extraordinary measures or procedures and from my view waterboarding is torture. I have said that under my administration we will not torture.”

Two days later, at his confirmation hearing, Eric Holder reinforced Obama’s opinion. Noting, as the New York Times described it, that waterboarding had been used to torment prisoners during the Inquisition, by the Japanese in World War II and in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, and adding, “We prosecuted our own soldiers for using it in Vietnam,” he stated unequivocally, “Waterboarding is torture,” and reiterated his opinion on March 2, 2009, in a speech to the Jewish Council of Public Affairs in Washington.

“Waterboarding is torture,” he said again, adding, “My Justice Department will not justify it, will not rationalize it and will not condone it.”
Instead, after a promising start on torture, which involved the President upholding the absolute ban on torture in an executive order issued on his second day in office, and the release of the OLC “torture memos” last April, in response to a court order, the Obama administration has retreated to a place where every attempt to seek accountability for the Bush administration’s torturers has been resolutely blocked.

In January this year, it was revealed that Holder had appointed — or had allowed — the veteran Justice Department fixer David Margolis to override the conclusions of a four-year internal investigation into the behavior of John Yoo and Jay Bybee, in which the author’s conclusions — that both men had been willfully guilty of “professional misconduct” — were watered down so that they were merely reprimanded for exercising “poor judgment.”

In addition, the administration’s stock response to attempts to investigate torture claims in court — as, for example, in the cases of five men subjected to “extraordinary rendition” and torture, who sought to sue Jeppesen Dataplan Inc., a Boeing subsidiary that acted as the CIA’s torture travel agent — has been to slam all the doors shut mercilessly, inappropriately invoking the little-known “state secrets” privilege to prevent anyone with a valid complaint from even getting anywhere near a court.

This is unlikely to change in the near future, of course, leaving George W. Bush able to boast openly about his crimes, apparently secure in the knowledge that he is untouchable, although as David Cole, a law professor at Georgetown University, and a long-standing critic of the Bush administration’s interrogation and detention policies, told the Washington Post on Thursday, “The fact that he did admit it suggests he believes he is politically immune from being held accountable … But politics can change.”

At present, it is difficult to see how, but those compiling evidence will have taken note that, in the very public forum of an internationally available memoir, George W. Bush has failed to rehabilitate his legacy and has, instead, openly confessed to war crimes.

Note: For a perceptive analysis of George W. Bush’s thoughts about his responsibility for the Iraq fiasco, see this post by Amy Davidson of the New Yorker.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Propaganda Kabuki in Jury Verdict on Omar Khadr

Andy Worthington has posted his take on the Khadr verdict last Sunday, where a 7-person military jury ignored all evidence of torture and sentenced former child soldier Omar Khadr to 40 years in prison. For more on my take on the verdict, see my live-blogging of the event at Firedoglake.

While a plea bargain with the Pentagon allowed Khadr to plead guilty in exchange for an 8-year sentence, making the jury deliberation a fancy piece of propagandistic kabuki, he will spend one more year at Guantanamo before being transferred to Canada (if everything works out, and in my opinion that's a big "if"). Meanwhile, the 24-year-old prisoner, who has spent all of his adult years at Guantanamo, was sent upon announcement of the sentence, back to solitary confinement, itself a hideous form of sensory and social deprivation torture.

In Andy's article, Omar Khadr Jury Hammers the Final Nail Into the Coffin of American Justice, he notes that the plea bargain, with its admission of guilt, followed by the jury's 40 year sentence (even if shaved by the plea bargain to 8 years), was a major propaganda coup for the government. As I noted in my "live-blogging" article the other day,  "This propaganda show is one example of how prisoners are used for exploitation, i.e., psychological warfare purposes. It is no different than the Stalinists using show trials of dissenters, complete with confessions and fake juries, the entire panoply of juridical proceedings, but with none of the content."

From Andy Worthington's article:
In other words, then, a former child prisoner, who should have been rehabilitated rather than punished, because the responsibility for his actions lay with his militant father, was convicted on war crimes charges that were invented by Congress and were then reworked by the Obama administration so that the glaring contradiction between real war crimes and invented war crimes could be papered over with a veneer of legitimacy.

Small wonder then that, in the “Statement of Fact” that Khadr signed as part of his plea deal, he was also obliged to waive his right to appeal, in a passage that stated that he “does not have any legal defense to any of the offenses to which he is pleading guilty.”

With such grotesque distortions of justice taking place over the last week, it is easy to forget that the judge, Army Col. Patrick Parrish, had also prevented Khadr’s lawyers from drawing on their client’s well-chronicled reports of his torture and abuse in US custody....

n their closing comments, his lawyers managed to introduce a statement, written by Khadr, referring to the terror he felt when an interrogator, Sgt. Joshua Claus, threatened him with being sent to a US jail where he would be raped by "four big black guys"....

In conclusion, while those who exult in the depths to which America has sunk over the last nine years, since "the gloves came off" following the 9/11 attacks, will rejoice in Khadr's 40-year sentence (and will complain that his real sentence is only eight years), anyone who retains a shred of decency and respect for the rule of law will be more inclined to accept the words of Dennis Edney, one of Khadr's long-term Canadian civilian lawyers, who stated after the military jury announced its sentence:
The fact that the trial of a child soldier, Omar Khadr, has ended with a guilty plea in exchange for his eventual release to Canada does not change the fact that fundamental principles of law and due process were long since abandoned in Omar's case. Politics also played a role. To date, there have been in excess of 1,200 US troops killed in Afghanistan, yet it is only Omar who has been put on trial.
In a comment at the Emptywheel blog the other day, I noted some strange threads hanging from the government's Khadr story:
The question of how Omar Khadr got to the compound where he would later experience the firefight, and perhaps participate (although his family is clear he was sent only as a translator), is an interesting one because it involves, as the stipulation notes, the appearance of “Sheikh Abu Leith al-Libi, a senior LIFG and al Qaeda military commander.” Somehow, Sheikh al-Libi was to absent himself from this firefight, only to be killed as one of the numerous ostensible number threes of Al Qaeda by CIA airstrike in January 2008.

Al-Libi was a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) which the stipulation document noted, with some strained language, “is a designated terrorist organization and was associated with Al Qaeda at the time of Omar Khadr’s offenses. “Is?” “Was?” In fact, the LIFG was not considered a terrorist organization prior to 9/11, and according to numerous accounts in the British Press (based on a document leak and the testimony of ex-MI5 agent David Shayler, had received British funds and arms in an attempt to overthrow Libyan leader Colonel Moammar al-Qadhafi.

Besides Abu Leith al-Libi, another leader of LIFG was Anas Al-Libi, who worked closely with the dubious Ali Mohamed (who worked closely with portions of the U.S. government and military, as a double or triple agent, no one can be sure). It was a raid on Anas Al-Libi’s house that brought us the famous Manchester document, otherwise known as the Al Qaeda manual, including its interrogation component.

Omar Khadr’s link to Sheikh al-Libi isn’t necessarily sinister or anything more than it seems (apparently, Omar’s father was later furious with al-Libi for endangering his son), but it does point to some strange connections. You can’t probe too closely on any of these affairs and not find something nefarious; in this case, the Judge’s reticence to notice that the man who brought Omar Khadr to the compound in 2002 was only a few years before a paid coup plotter, if not assassin, for the British government. And Omar Khadr showed poor judgment?

—— Khadr’s case is one of the more egregious of countless cases of torture, false imprisonment, kidnapping and murder by the U.S. government. The fact this was done to someone who would not even have been tried in an adult court in most of the United States only adds to the special nature of the Khadr case. It speaks personally to many, and says, this is a vulnerable human being. This person should not be used as a piece of propaganda. His fate dehumanizes all of us.

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