"Everything Goes to Hell," from Tom Waits' great album, Blood Money
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
White House Denies Existence of "Task Force" Ex-Guantanamo Psychologist Claims He Was Appointed to by Michelle Obama
This work by Truthout is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
By Susan Lindauer, former U.S. Asset who covered Libya at the United Nations from 1995 to 2003
Who are we kidding? The United States, Britain and NATO don’t care about bombing civilians to contain rebellion. Their militaries bomb civilians every day without mercy. They have destroyed most of the community infrastructure of Iraq and Afghanistan before turning their sights on Libya. So what’s really going on here?
According to the CIA, the following never happened…
Last October, US oil giants— Chevron and Occidental Petroleum— made a surprising decision to pull out of Libya, while China, Germany and Italy stayed on, signing major contracts with Gadhaffi’s government. As the U.S. Asset who started negotiations for the Lockerbie Trial with Libyan diplomats, I had close ties to Libya’s U.N. Mission from 1995 to 2003. Given my long involvement in the Lockerbie saga, I have continued to enjoy special access to high level intelligence gossip on Libya.
Last summer that gossip got juicy!
About July, I started hearing that Gadhaffi was exerting heavy pressure on U.S. and British oil companies to cough up special fees and kick backs to cover the costs of Libya’s reimbursement to the families of Pan Am 103. Payment of damages for the Lockerbie bombing had been one of the chief conditions for ending U.N. sanctions on Libya that ran from 1992 until 2003. And of course the United Nations forced Gadhaffi to hand over two Libyan men for a special trial at The Hague, though everybody credible was fully conscious of Libya’s innocence in the Lockerbie affair. (Only ignorant politicians trying to score publicity points say otherwise.)
Knowing Gadhaffi as well as I do, I was convinced that he’d done it. He’d bided his time until he could extort compensation from U.S. oil companies. He’s a crafty bastard, extremely intelligent and canny. That’s exactly how he operates. And now he was taking his revenge. As expected, the U.S. was hopping mad about it. Gadhaffi wasn’t playing the game the way the Oil Bloodsuckers wanted. The Vampire of our age -- the Oil Industry -- roams the earth, sucking the life out of every nation to feed its thirst for profits. Only when they got to Libya, Gadhaffi took on the role of a modern-day Robin Hood, who insisted on replenishing his people for the costs they’d suffered under U.N. sanctions.
Backing up a year earlier, in August 2009 the lone Libyan convicted of the Lockerbie bombing that killed 270 people, Abdelbasset Megrahi, won a compassionate release from Scottish prison. Ostensibly, the British government and Scottish Courts granted Megrahi’s request to die at home with dignity from advance stage cancer—in exchange for dropping a legal appeal packed with embarrassments for the European Courts. The decision to free Megrahi followed shocking revelations of corruption at the special Court of The Hague that handled the Lockerbie Trial. Prosecution witnesses confessed to receiving payments of $4 million each from the United States, in exchange for testimony against Megrahi, a mind-blowing allegation of judicial corruption.
The Lockerbie conviction was full of holes to begin with. Anybody who knows anything about terrorism in the 1980s knows the CIA got mixed up in heroin trafficking out of the Bekaa Valley during the hostage crisis in Lebanon. The Lockerbie conspiracy had been a false flag operation to kill off a joint CIA and Defense Intelligence investigation into kick backs from Islamic Jihad, in exchange for protecting the heroin transit network.
According to my own CIA handler, Dr. Richard Fuisz, who’d been stationed in Lebanon and Syria at the time, the CIA had established a protected drug route from Lebanon to Europe and on to the United States. His statements support other sources that “Operation Corea” allowed Syrian drug dealers led by Monzer al-Kassar (also linked to Oliver North in the Iran-Contra scandal) to ship heroin to the U.S. ON Pan Am flights, in exchange for intelligence on the hostages’ whereabouts in Lebanon. The CIA allegedly made sure that suitcases carrying heroin were not searched at customs. Nicknamed the “Godfather of Terror,” Al Kassar is now serving a prison sentence for conspiring with Colombian drug cartels to assassinate U.S. nationals.
Building up to Lockerbie, the Defense Intelligence team in Beirut,led by Maj. Charles Dennis McKee and Matthew Gannon, suspected that CIA infiltration of the heroin network might be prolonging the hostage crisis. If so, the consequence was severe. AP Reporter Terry Anderson got chained in a basement for 7 years, while 96 other high profile western hostages suffered beatings, mock executions and overall trauma. McKee’s team raised the alarms in Washington that a CIA double agent profiting from the narco-dollars might be warning the hostage takers whenever their dragnet closed in. Washington sent a fact-finding team to Lebanon to gather evidence.
On the day it was blown out of the sky, Pan Am 103 was carrying that team of CIA and FBI investigators, the CIA’s Deputy Chief assigned to Beirut, and three Defense Intelligence officers, including McKee and Gannon, on their way to Washington to deliver a report on the CIA’s role in heroin trafficking, and the impact on terrorist financing and the hostage crisis. In short, everyone with direct knowledge of CIA kickbacks from heroin trafficking died on Pan Am 103. A suitcase packed with $500,000 worth of heroin was found in the wreckage. It belonged to investigators, as proof of the corruption.
The punch line was that the U.S. State Department issued an internal travel advisory, warning that government officials should get off that specific flight on that specific day, because Pan Am 103 was expected to get bombed. That’s right, folks! The U.S. had prior knowledge of the attack.
Unforgivably, nobody told Charles McKee or Matthew Gannon. But other military officials and diplomats got pulled off the flight—making room for a group of students from Syracuse University traveling stand by for the Christmas holidays.
It was a monstrous act! But condemning Megrahi to cover up the CIA’s role in heroin trafficking has struck many Lockerbie afficiandos as grossly unjust. Add the corruption of purchased testimony -– $4 million a pop -— and Megrahi’s life sentence struck a nerve of obscenity.
It struck Gadhaffi as grievously offensive, as well—The United Nations had forced Libya to fork over $2.7 billion in damages to the Lockerbie families, a rate of $10 million for every death. Once it became clear the U.S. paid two key witnesses $4 million each to commit perjury, spook gossip throughout the summer was rife that Gadhaffi had taken bold action to demand compensation from U.S. (and probably British) oil corporations operating in Libya. More than likely, Libya’s demands for kick backs and compensation extended to other European oil conglomerates as well—particularly France and Italy—who are now spearheading attacks on Libya.
I knew last summer there would be trouble. Payback would be a b—tch on both sides. You don’t lock an innocent man in prison for 10 years on bogus charges of terrorism, and expect forgiveness. The United States and Britain had behaved with remarkable selfishness. You’ve got to admit that Gadhaffi’s attempt to balance the scales of justice demonstrated a flair of righteous nationalism.
Alas, Gadhaffi was playing with fire, no matter how justified his complaint. You don’t strike a tyrant without expecting a tyrant to strike back.
And that’s exactly what’s happening today.
Don’t kid yourself. This is an oil war, and it smacks of imperialist double standards. Two articles by Prof. Chossudovsky at the Global Research Centre are must reading: “Operation Libya and the Battle for Oil: Redrawing the Map of Africa” and “Insurrection and Military Intervention: The US-NATO Attempted Coup d’Etat in Libya?”
There is simply no justification for U.S. or NATO action against Libya. The U.N. charter acknowledges the rights of sovereign nations to put down rebellions against their own governments. Moreover, many observers have commented that plans for military intervention appear to have been much more advanced than U.S. and European leaders want to admit.
For myself, I know in my gut that war planning started months before the democratization movement kicked off throughout the Arab world—a lucky cover for U.S. and European oil policy. Perhaps too lucky.
As Chossudovsky writes, “Hundreds of US, British and French military advisers arrived in Cyrenaica, Libya’s eastern breakaway province” on February 23 and 24— seven (7) days after the start of Gadhaffi’s domestic rebellion. “The advisers, including intelligence officers, were dropped from warships and missile boats at the coastal towns of Benghazi and Tobruk.” (DEBKAfile, US military advisers in Cyrenaica, Feb. 25, 2011) Special forces on the ground in Eastern Libya provided covert support to the rebels.” Eight British Special Forces commandos were arrested in the Benghazi region, while acting as military advisers to opposition forces, according to the Times of London.
We’re supposed to believe the United States, Britain and Europe planned, coordinated and executed a full military intervention in 7 short days -— from the start of the Libyan rebellion in mid-February until military advisers appeared on the ground in Libya on February 23-24!
That’s strategically impossible.
Nothing can persuade me that Gadhaffi’s fate wasn’t decided months ago, when Chevron and Occidental Petroleum took their whining to Capitol Hill, complaining that Gadhaffi’s nationalism interfered with their oil profiteering. From that moment, military intervention was on the drawing board as surely as the Patriot Act got stuck in a drawer waiting for 9/11.
The message is simple: Challenge the oil corporations and your government and your people will pay the ultimate price: Give us your oil as cheaply as possible. Or die.
Don’t kid yourself. Nobody gives a damn about suffering in Libya or Iraq. You don’t bomb a village to save it. The U.S., Britain and NATO are the bullies of the neighborhood. The enforcers for Big Oil.
Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan have something in common. They have vast and extraordinary oil and mineral riches. As such, they are all victims of what I call the Vampire Wars. The Arab Princes get paid off, while the bloodsuckers pull the life blood out of the people. They’re scarcely able to survive in their own wealthy societies. The people and the domestic economy are kept alive to uphold the social order, but they are depleted of the nourishment of their own national wealth.Here is a comment I left at Susan's original FDL/MyFDL article:
The democratization movements are sending a warning that I don’t think Big Oil, or their protectors in the U.S. and British governments understand or have figured out how to control. The Arab people are finished with this cycle of victimization. They’ve got their stakes out, and they’re starting to figure out how to strike into the heart of these Vampires, sucking the life blood out of their nations.
And woe to the wicked when they do!
This article may be reprinted in full or part with attribution to the author.
Former U.S. Intelligence Asset, Susan Lindauer covered Iraq, Libya, Yemen and Syria/Hezbollah from 1993 to 2003. She is the author of “Extreme Prejudice: The Terrifying Story of the Patriot Act and the Cover Ups of 9/11 and Iraq.”
Along with this great article, there’s a piece from 2009 by attorney Gareth Peirce, in the London Review of Books, which, as Craig Murray pointed out, proves “that the FCO and MI6 knew that al-Megrahi was not the Lockerbie bomber.
Here’s a quote from the Peirce article, which I believe corroborates much of what Susan writes here. Susan, if you’re around, I wonder if you can comment or knew about the Peirce article?
Extraordinarily, however, distinct from the Dumfries and Galloway police, scores of men, some wearing no insignia, some the insignia of the FBI and Pan Am (it was noted at the time that many of these men were clearly not Pan Am staff), invaded the area. Lockerbie residents reported seeing unmarked helicopters hovering overhead, carrying men with rifles whose telescopic sights were pointing directly at them. And when, much later, items of baggage came to be married up with the passengers they had accompanied, there were disturbing signs of interference. The suitcase belonging to Major McKee (a CIA operative flying back to the US to report on his concern that the couriering of drugs was being officially condoned as a way to entrap users and dealers in the US) was found to have had a hole cut in its side after the explosion, while the clothes in the suitcase were shown on subsequent analysis to bear no trace of explosives. A second suitcase, opened by a Scottish farmer, contained packets of white powder which a local police officer told him was undoubtedly heroin; no heroin was ever recorded as having been discovered. All but two of the labels that Dr Fieldhouse attached to the bodies he found were removed and have never been found….Much more at the article.
That a court of three experienced judges convicted on such evidence and that an appeal court upheld the conviction is profoundly shocking. Köchler, the UN observer, reported finding the guilty verdict ‘incomprehensible’ in view of the court’s admission that Gauci’s identification was ‘not absolute’. We had come to believe that such an outcome, resting on invalid identification, was no longer possible. ‘The guilty verdict’, Köchler wrote, was ‘arbitrary, even irrational’ with an ‘air of international power politics’ present ‘in the whole verdict’, which was ‘based on a series of highly problematic inferences’. He remarked on the withholding of ‘substantial information’ (‘more or less openly exercised influence on the part of actors outside the judicial framework’) and on the very visible interference with the work of the Scottish prosecutors by US lawyers present in the well of the court. But most seriously, he set out his ‘suspicion that political considerations may have been overriding a strictly judicial evaluation of the case’.
Friday, March 25, 2011
While I've little time to blog today, this particular story seemed especially worthy of promotion. Amnesty International has sent the following mailing to its supporters (emphasis in original):
The Egyptian military may have just hit a disturbing, new low: at least 18 women who were arrested during a peaceful protest in Tahrir Square on March 9 said they were forced to take "virginity tests".Journalist William Fisher at The Public Record rightly notes, "I know this sounds like something out of Torquemada in the 15th Century or Mengele in the 20th. But it’s neither. It’s post-Mubarak Egypt in the second decade of the 21st Century."
Those women were threatened with charges of prostitution if they "failed" the tests. One woman, who said she was a virgin but whose test supposedly proved otherwise, was beaten and given electric shocks.
Twenty-year-old Salwa Hosseini told Amnesty International that after she was arrested and taken to a military prison in Heikstep, she was made, with the other women, to take off all her clothes to be searched by a female prison guard, in a room with two open doors and a window. During the strip search, Hosseini said male soldiers were looking into the room and taking pictures of the naked women.Amnesty International is asking people to write to Hillary Clinton to get her "to use her influence to demand immediate action." I am less sanguine that she will either a) do that, or b) really give a damn.
The women were then subjected to ‘virginity tests’ in a different room by a man in a white coat....
According to information received by Amnesty International, one woman who said she was a virgin but whose test supposedly proved otherwise was beaten and given electric shocks.
‘Virginity tests’ are a form of torture when they are forced or coerced.
Those who thought the "revolution" was over don't understand that it's hardly begun, and can easily be derailed onto the same old paths. The military in Egypt is not to be trusted, and those who think it will reform that country are terribly mistaken. What will it take to end illusions in such ideas?
Thursday, March 24, 2011
In a separate article by Marcy Wheeler earlier today, she points out that the report totally accepts the allegation that the anthrax spores originated from flask RMR-1029, and that therefore Ivins had "the motivation and the means" to carry out the attack. Of course, as Wheeler notes, the National Academy of Sciences recently said that there is insufficient scientific evidence to back up DOJ's conclusion regarding this. (Jim White also wrote about the NAS report when it first came out.) Wheeler's article also points out other inconsistencies and illogical aspects of the Panel's report.
I wish to concentrate a bit more on the idea this panel had no "predispositions." Unfortunately, just as the released summary leaves out over 250 pages of the report, including its case narrative and "behavioral analysis and interpretation", that unreleased portion also leaves out the biographies included about the Panel's members. As a result, the lack of presented evidence makes it extremely difficult to comment about the conclusions noted in the Executive Summary regarding Ivins' supposed penchant for "revenge", his purported tendencies towards exploitation and manipulation (as they allege), his being "skilled in deceit", his "obsessions," his "strange and traumatic childhood," and "his desperate need for personal validation," among other post hoc conclusions made by the Panel's authors.
While the lack of evidence makes it difficult to swallow what sounds like character assassination, we do at least have the list of panel members by which to examine the neutral disinterest the forensic psychiatric examination should demand of those who are investigating the background of Dr. Ivins. Instead, what a brief review of the panel's bona fides reveals is an overwhelming stacking of this "expert" panel by doctors and others who are deeply beholden to government interests, and in particular to security agencies, including those involved in bioterrorism security. For such individuals, it is difficult to see that they would buck the position of the FBI and DOJ that Ivins was guilty.
Who are the Behavioral Experts?
As an article at the Los Angeles Times points out, without further elaborating, they weren't all behavioral experts:
The behavioral panel was formed in late 2009 at the suggestion of Saathoff, people familiar with the matter said. Saathoff appointed the remaining panelists: five other psychiatrists, two officials from the American Red Cross and a physician-toxicologist.
The addition of the Red Cross members is curious, especially since Ivins is accused of joining the Red Cross at the time of the anthrax mailings to gain self-importance as an anthrax expert, and to appear "as a prophet and as a defender of the nation" to a woman he was reportedly obsessed with. Indeed, the report has a nine-page appendix dedicated to Ivins and the Red Cross, which has not been published publicly.
In any case, one of the Red Cross personnel is in fact the vice-chair of the Panel, Gerald DeFrancisco, listed as President, Humanitarian Services, American National Red Cross. DeFrancisco is also on the Board of Directors of Research Strategies Network (RSN), the 2008-founded “professional services organization... whose missions support the national security of the United States and its allies.” RSN is the publisher and copyright holder of the Expert Panel's report. The Panel Chair is Dr. Gregory Saathoff, who is also President of RSN, while the Chairman of RSN is former Reagan-era Attorney General Edward Meese.
Saathoff specifically cites "guidance" by Meese in the making of the Ivins report, as well as that of another RSN board member, former U.S. senator Chuck Robb. Among other things, Robb is former President Bush, Jr.'s co-chairman to the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction. He is also on the board of Defense Department-DARPA-linked Mitre Corporation. Other RSN board members are also linked to the military. As far as DeFrancisco goes, it's hard to know what expertise he brings to the Panel, as formerly he worked at AT&T as Vice President of Business Innovation, and Executive Vice President of Broadband & Internet Services, as well as CEO at AT&T Alascom, a $300 million AT&T subsidiary.
The other Red Cross member of the panel is Joseph C. White, listed as Senior Vice President, Chapter Operations, American National Red Cross. White is a banker, the former Chairman and CEO of Boatmen’s Bancshares, and Vice President in Investor Relations at Fleishman-Hillard. He retired from Bank of America. But he was also "chief executive officer of the St. Louis Area Chapter of the Red Cross," when he "was sworn in January 10  as a member of the Emergency Response Senior Advisory Committee. The committee is one of five panels that advise the Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC), which provides recommendations to DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff on homeland security."
Among the actual doctors, we have Dr. Sally C. Johnson, listed as Professor, Department of Psychiatry at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She may be best known as one of the forensic psychiatric examiners of Theodore Kaczynski, but more recently, she testified regarding the fitness of supposed Al Qaeda-linked suspect Dr. Aafia Siddique to stand trial for attempted murder. In her written report on Siddique, "Johnson left a warning... saying that in spite of Siddiqui’s frail and timid appearance – she has weighed as little as 90 pounds – ‘her potential for aggression towards herself or others might be underestimated.’"
Then there is Dr. David Benedek, listed as Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Uniformed Services University School of Medicine. Dr. Benedek has served at Guantanamo, although we don't know in what capacity. He was also acting as an army psychiatrist on the panel which consulted with others about Nidal Hasan in Spring 2008. Apparently, they failed to find him dangerous at that time, for which I can't fault Dr. Benedek, as it is a notorious fact that forensic evaluations of dangerousness are terribly unreliable, eliciting high levels of false positives, and a failure to distinguish who will or won't be dangerous. Unfortunately, the panel's executive summary never refers to this poor forensic record in determining who is or isn't dangerous while they put forth their certain but "circumstantial" evidence regarding the state of mind of the late Dr. Ivins.
Interestingly, Dr. Benedek was on a 2003 panel presentation on "Psychological Reactions to Chemical, Biological, and Radiological Events" at the Annual Meeting of Psychiatry and the Law, along with another military psychiatrist, who was at Guantanamo, Col. Elspeth Ritchie, who was Psychiatry Consultant to the US Army Surgeon General, and involved in psychiatric examinations for the government of at least a few of the detainees to come before the military commissions, including Salim Hamden.
Another panel member, Dr. Ronald Schouten (MD and JD) is listed as Director of the Law and Psychiatry Service, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard University School of Medicine. A forensic psychitrist, Dr. Schouten also "served as a subject matter expert for the Biological Threat Classification Program of the Department of Homeland Security and has testified before the Congressional Subcommittee on Prevention of Nuclear and Biological Attack.
And yet another panel member has government connections, as Dr. Anita Everett, listed as Section Director, Community and General Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, is a senior medical advisor on psychiatric issues at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in Rockland, Maryland.
The chair of the Expert Panel is Gregory Saathoff MD, who is listed as Executive Director of the Critical Incident Analysis Group (CIAG) at the University of Virginia. An entire article could be spent on Dr. Saathoff and the CIAG, which was founded in the wake of the Waco events. I found it kind of interesting that CIAG's Spring 2001 conference was entitled "Public Responsibility and Mass Destruction: Facing the Threat of Bioterrorism," and considered among the various terrorist possiblities "potential anthrax attack."
But probably most apposite for the point of this article is Dr. Saathoff's links to the FBI.
In 1996 he was appointed to a Commission charged with developing a methodology to enable the FBI to better access non-governmental expertise during times of crisis. In that regard, Dr. Saathoff has since 1996 served as the Conflict Resolution Specialist to the FBI’s Critical Incident Response Group. In this role, he consults with the Crisis Negotiation Unit and the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime.
I believe I have set out more than enough information here to challenge the supposed disinterest and lack of "predispositions" that supposedly animated this group of "behavioral experts." In fact, it's hard to believe that any group thus constituted could have or would have challenged the conclusions of the DOJ. Reading the Executive Summary, it's apparent how their case is built on a flimsy and prejudiced analysis, as they consistently refer to "circumstantial" evidence, as they construct a dire portrait of a man who is portrayed as "clever," who "cultivated" a benign presence, while masking his "criminal thoughts."
Since someone saw fit to show the entire report to the L.A. Times, perhaps the government would want to have this report examined by peer-review. It wouldn't be so hard to find individuals not linked to the government, but capable of the requisite security clearances. But then, the government hasn't taken the anthrax terrorism really seriously, leading many to conclude, rightly or wrongly, they have something to cover up. In any case, this latest "expert behavioral analysis" isn't going to convince anyone, as it is stacked with government-linked authorities, many of them to DoJ, DHS, or the Pentagon.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
For the seven lakes, and by no man these verses:-- Ezra Pound, The Cantos (link to this poem)
Rain; empty river; a voyage,
Fire from frozen cloud, heavy rain in the twilight
Under the cabin roof was one lantern.
The reeds are heavy; bent;
and the bamboos speak as if weeping.
Autumn moon; hills rise about lakes
Evening is like a curtain of cloud,
a blurr above ripples; and through it
sharp long spikes of the cinnamon,
a cold tune amid reeds.
Behind hill the monk's bell
borne on the wind.
Sail passed here in April; may return in October
Boat fades in silver; slowly;
Sun blaze alone on the river.
Where wine flag catches the sunset
Sparse chimneys smoke in the cross light
Comes then snow scur on the river
And a world is covered with jade
Small boat floats like a lanthorn,
The flowing water closts as with cold. And at San Yin
they are a people of leisure.
Wild geese swoop to the sand-bar,
Clouds gather about the hole of the window
Broad water; geese line out with the autumn
Rooks clatter over the fishermen's lanthorns,
A light moves on the north sky line;
where the young boys prod stones for shrimp.
In seventeen hundred came Tsing to these hill lakes.
A light moves on the South sky line.
State by creating riches shd. thereby get into debt?
This is infamy; this is Geryon.
This canal goes still to TenShi
Though the old king built it for pleasure
K E I M E N R A N K E I
K I U M A N M A N K E I
JITSU GETSU K O K W A
T A N FUKU T A N K A I
Sun up; work
sundown; to rest
dig well and drink of the water
dig field; eat of the grain
Imperial power is? and to us what is it?
The fourth; the dimension of stillness.
And the power over wild beasts.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Jason Leopold and I co-authored the new story, which includes a video interview with Captain Kearns, who helped hire Jessen back in 1989 for his new SERE role helping put together the class titled SV-91. The documents include notes for a portion of that class, known as "Psychological Aspects of Detention." The other document is a paper by Jessen, "Psychological Advances in Training to Survive Captivity, Interrogation and Torture," which was prepared for a symposium at that time: "Advances in Clinical Psychological Support of National Security Affairs, Operational Problems in the Behavioral Sciences Course."
Jessen's notes, in particular, demonstrate that this course material, which was "reverse-engineered" to provide a blueprint for the interrogation and detention policies of the Bush administration -- some of which remain in use today -- emphasized not just the ways to coercively interrogate an individual for intelligence purposes, but to "exploit" the detainee for a number of uses. As Jessen wrote (and those following the Bradley Manning torture case will find this quite chilling, I suspect):
"From the moment you are detained (if some kind of exploitation is your Detainer's goal) everything your Detainer does will be contrived to bring about these factors: CONTROL, DEPENDENCY, COMPLIANCE AND COOPERATION," Jessen wrote. "Your detainer will work to take away your sense of control. This will be done mostly by removing external control (i.e., sleep, food, communication, personal routines etc. )…Your detainer wants you to feel 'EVERYTHING' is dependent on him, from the smallest detail, (food, sleep, human interaction), to your release or your very life … Your detainer wants you to comply with everything he wishes. He will attempt to make everything from personal comfort to your release unavoidably connected to compliance in your mind."What is "Exploitation"?
Jessen wrote that cooperation is the "end goal" of the detainer, who wants the detainee "to see that [the detainer] has 'total' control of you because you are completely dependent on him, and thus you must comply with his wishes. Therefore, it is absolutely inevitable that you must cooperate with him in some way (propaganda, special favors, confession, etc.)."
If one were to search for the term "exploitation" in the Senate Armed Services Committee report on detainee abuse, published with numerous redactions in late 2009 (PDF), you would find numerous mentions of the term. While at times the word "exploitation" appears to be used as a synonym for the "breaking down" of prisoners, it doesn't usually explain for what purpose. Indeed, many have noted that such "breaking down" is antithetical to the production of information from an interrogation suspect. Jessen says as much in his notes. But there are other reasons to break someone down.
For instance, the SASC report notes that "The 'Al Qaeda Resistance Contingency Training' presentation described methods used by al Qaeda to resist interrogation and exploitation..." (p. 39 of the PDF). "The presentation on detainee "exploitation" described phases of exploitation and included instruction on initial capture and handling, conducting interrogations, and long-term exploitation." "Another slide describing captor motives states: establish absolute control, induce dependence to meet needs, elicit compliance, shape cooperation.... techniques designed to achieve these goals include isolation or solitary confinement, induced physical weakness and exhaustion, degradation, conditioning, sensory deprivation, sensory overload, disruption of sleep and biorhythms, and manipulation of diet" (p. 40 of the PDF). When intelligence is the aim of the "exploitation process", it is specifically called "intelligence exploitation" in the report.
One of the primary reasons exploitation is used on prisoners is to produce false confessions. Indeed, it was the torture of Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi that was used to provide the false intelligence about Saddam Hussein seeking nuclear materials that was to provide a major casus belli for the United States for their war with Iraq.
Other examples of exploitation include the recruitment of prisoners as intelligence assets, i.e., as snitches and spies. Indeed, the Truthout article notes a number of cases of attempting just such recruitment of former Guantanamo detainees, while they were still incarcerated. Another long-standing example of such exploitation is the use of prisoners in show trials, which have been used in a number of countries as a means of squashing dissent and offering a faux-legitimate function to governmental security forces. This was the case in the famous 1949 show trial of Cardinal Mindzenty of Hungary by the Stalinist government there.
It was also the case more recently in the military commissions show trial of former "child soldier" Omar Khadr, who was tortured, held in solitary for years, then forced to sign a confession and endure a military show trial which sentenced him to 40 years in prison (while a backroom deal supposedly has reduced that to 8 years and release from Guantanamo to Canada sometime next year).
Show Trials, False Confessions, Spying, Medical Experimentation
In a little remarked aspect of the Khadr case, his brother, Abdurahman, who was also held as a prisoner at Guantanamo while also working as a spy for the CIA, trying to get intelligence from prisoners there, testified under oath in 2004 that Omar had agreed to collaborate with the FBI, but was returned to onerous torture conditions after he changed his mind. We don't know the kind of collaboration he was ready to provide, though it's noteworthy that his brother had already been working for a few years as a CIA asset.
A. My brother Omar cooperated with the FBI and he was ready, they were being ready to release him and then he was in his cellblock and people saw that he was being ready to be released so they told him: "Oh, you told everything. You are going to hell. So if you don't change you are going to go to hell." So the next time he went to interrogation he denied everything so they took away everything from him and he is still there till now.Perhaps one of the most heart-rending accounts of a prisoner being broken and used for false confessions is in the autobiography of David Hicks. Hicks also discussed his torture in an interview recently with Jason Leopold at Truthout, describing his experience of solitary confinement, beatings, stress positions, being drugged, and having "every aspect of our lives" controlled by the Guantanamo authorities. In particular, he describes another aspect of exploitation of prisoners I haven't mentioned thus far, medical experimentation, as he was constantly given different pills, injections, blood tests. His sense of being an experimental guinea pig has been echoed by a number of other former detainees, most recently the German-born ethnic Turk, Murat Kurnaz.
Q. Because he decided not to continue the collaboration?
A. Not to continue the cooperation.
The following is from Mr. Hicks' book, Guantanamo: My Journey. It could be used as a teaching text on the meaning of "exploitation," and what the U.S. government implemented at Guantanamo. But we cannot forget that an innocent human being was the subject of this evil.
As time passed, the threat of ‘special treatment’ and psychological conditioning took its toll. The interrogators wore me down so that when they said, ‘So when you attended the al-Qaeda training camp...’ I would answer the question without denial or protest. I became too exhausted to argue. I allowed the interrogators to frame my words and say anything they wanted....Up until now, the primary narrative surrounding the torture scandal has been about the purported efficacy of using torture to produce intelligence in the "war on terror." But the new Jessen material demonstrates that the program used as the basis for the "reverse-engineering" of the SERE torture techniques was a full-blown exploitation program, whose aims went far beyond the mere elicitation of information, but included the physical and psychological pressures to produce absolute compliance in prisoners for the purpose of false confessions, show trials, recruitment of spies, and medical experimentation.
The interrogator’s associate, who had remained quiet until now, said they had a proposal for me: they would place me next to the various English-speaking detainees over a period of time, and I was to milk each one for information and report it back to the interrogators. If I agreed to do this, I would be allowed fifteen minutes with a lady from the Philippines. I instantly refused and requested to be sent back to my cage....
A goal of interrogation is to repeatedly break you and then put you back together until the parts can be manipulated. You become the interrogators’ creation.... The memory of what I have described depresses me deeply to this day. It does something to the soul; it felt like something had died inside me....
My end of the bargain was that I had to verbally repeat my story, agreeing with anything they added, even when they dictated my thoughts, beliefs and actions incorrectly. They also fed me things to say about other detainees as well. I did so obediently, even though I knew they were all lies. I struggled terribly with this and hated every minute of it, especially when they brought up other detainees. I searched desperately for the courage to resist and renege on the deal. I had no recourse. I had crumbled and was fully theirs.
As Capt. Kearns is quoted in the Truthout article, "The Jessen notes clearly state the totality of what was being reverse-engineered - not just 'enhanced interrogation techniques,' but an entire program of exploitation of prisoners using torture as a central pillar."
It will be up to the press and the blogosphere to make the full reality of the Bush-era torture program fully understood to the population at large, to weave the kinds of information provided here into the narrative of events. Only when the full extent of this program is revealed, can we begin to take steps to end such heinous activities, and bring to justice those who sought a number of nefarious ends through means almost too awful to recount.
Originally posted at Firedoglake/MyFDL
Friday, March 18, 2011
Witnesses say the first shots were fired by security forces trying to disperse the protesters and they were joined by plain-clothed men who fired on the demonstrators with Kalashnikovs from the roofs of nearby houses....The violent attack on demonstrators, who have been protesting the rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, is not the first, but it is the most deadly in recent weeks in this country which fought a bloody civil war in the 1990s. The opposition is a disparate group of Islamists, socialists, Houthi, tribalists, and southern secessionists who seek a return to the days when South Yemen ruled itself. Al Qaeda has pledged support to the opposition, but has not been welcomed by the latter.
"They shot people in the back of the head as they were running away," said Mohammed al-Jamil, an Indian doctor treating the wounded. "Whoever did this wanted these people to die."
Just a week ago, the U.S. gave strong support to a supposed "reform" initiative proposed by Saleh (emphasis added):
“The idea of the president’s downfall is not a real solution to the country’s woes,” U.S. Ambassador Gerald Feierstein said in an interview with the state daily al-Syasiah....The Saleh government's lies about protecting protesters has been met by the truth of many dead. Xinhua is reporting this morning 41 dead, including a child, and more than 200 wounded.
Meanwhile, EU called for all Yemeni political parties to positively respond to the Thursday’s reform initiative of President Saleh, urging them to engage in an open and constructive dialogue....
The government said that while security forces are busy protecting the protests, al-Qaida wing on Friday gunned down four more policemen on a patrol vehicle in southeast province of Hadramout, bringing the death toll of security and army personnel targeted by the terrorist group to 20 since Feb. 11.
US President Barack Obama’s top anti-terror advisor John Brennan on Friday called Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh to welcome his pledge to devolve power and urged the opposition to support the plan.
This blood is partly on the hands of U.S. and EU leaders who are propping up a murderous, corrupt dictator -- including by drone assassinations -- while claiming the mantle of justice while attacking another dictator in Libya. The main difference? Libya has a lot of oil, while Yemen is running out of oil.
The cynicism of the Obama administration knows no bounds. Will the American press, which follows the rulers of America like a puppy dog, raise a fuss over this atrocity? Not while U.S. forces are operating in Yemen, and the administration screams about terrorists. While Al Qaeda is present in Yemen, the vast majority of the protesters have legitimate grievances, if not at times at odds with each other, as the opposition is quite fractious.
So while the eyes of the world are on Libya and the Japanese nuclear reactors, U.S. ally Saleh is given the green light to shoot protesters down in the street.
Where is the conscience of this country? Has militarism and fear completely taken hold so that, as I imagine the Pentagon and intelligence community believe at this point, the U.S. Executive Branch can do whatever they want, that there are no real consequences?
Cross-posted from MyFDL/Firedoglake
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Government Calls Native American Resistance of 1800s “Much Like Modern-Day al Qaeda”Andy Worthington wrote a summary of Al Bahlul's case last September:
March 16, 2011, New York – Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) issued the following statement concerning the hearing before the United States Court of Military Commission Review in United States v. Al Bahlul, scheduled for March 17, 2011, at 10:00 a.m. in Washington, D.C.:
[Ali] Al Bahlul is the first appeal of a Guantánamo military commission conviction to proceed before the Court of Military Commission Review. It is notable because it involves a conviction and life sentence in search of supporting war crimes offenses.The Center for Constitutional Rights has led the legal battle over Guantanamo for the last nine years – sending the first ever habeas attorney to the base and sending the first attorney to meet with an individual transferred from CIA “ghost detention” to Guantanamo. CCR has been responsible for organizing and coordinating more than 500 pro bono lawyers across the country to represent the men at Guantanamo, ensuring that nearly all have the option of legal representation. In addition, CCR has been working to resettle the approximately 30 men who remain at Guantánamo because they cannot return to their country of origin for fear of persecution and torture.
Mr. Bahlul has been imprisoned at Guantánamo for nearly a decade. After two presidential administrations, one Supreme Court decision, two acts of Congress, three sets of charges, a trial that concluded more than two years ago, appellate proceedings that began more than a year ago, a reshuffling of the Court of Military Commission Review and a decision to hear the appeal en banc, the government has all but conceded that the offenses for which Mr. Bahlul was originally convicted before a military commission – conspiracy, solicitation and providing material support for terrorism – were not established law-of-war offenses under U.S. or international law at the time they were allegedly committed.
The court appears to recognize this as well, because on January 25, 2011, it issued certified questions on its own and ordered the parties to address whether Mr. Bahlul’s conviction can nonetheless be supported under a “joint criminal enterprise” theory of liability, or on the grounds that he “aided the enemy,” despite the fact that he owed no duty or allegiance to the United States. These questions are the subject of tomorrow’s hearing.
The court’s action is highly irregular because the government expressly withdrew reliance on a “joint criminal enterprise” theory of liability and never argued a charge of “aiding the enemy” at Mr. Bahlul’s commission trial. Common sense also dictates that attempting to justify a life sentence for an alleged “enemy” who owes no duty or allegiance to the United States because he “aided the enemy” is legal bootstrapping.
Military commission judges, no less than other military officers, are sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution, not to devise creative legal theories never argued by the parties at trial in order to uphold law-of-war convictions. Although the government may have badly botched the prosecution of Mr. Bahlul, the court should reject the invitation in the government’s response to the certified questions to search out some legal theory – any legal theory – to support his conviction. Nothing less is demanded of a regularly constituted court.
The court should also reject the government’s notable reliance on the “Seminole Wars” of the 1800s, a genocide that led to the Trail of Tears. The government’s characterization of Native American resistance to the United States as “much like modern-day al Qaeda” is not only factually wrong but overtly racist and cannot present any legitimate legal basis to uphold Mr. Bahlul’s conviction.
Sadly, however, the removal and attempted eradication of Native Americans is not unlike the treatment of detainees at Guantánamo in that each stands alongside slavery and Jim Crow, the targeting of immigrants, and the internment of Japanese Americans, among other examples, as a stark reminder of how in times of fear and xenophobia our nation has brutalized and demonized human beings as “others” who are unworthy of the rights most Americans take for granted in order to deny them equal protection of the law.
Guantánamo was designed to be a prison where no laws applied. Today, it remains a prison reserved exclusively for Arab and Muslim men, many of whom the president recently announced would be subjected to military commissions, an ad hoc system intended to manufacture convictions unattainable in federal court. This secondary system of justice should be abandoned. Mr. Al Bahlul’s conviction should be overturned, and the prison, which administration officials continue to recognize threatens and demeans the United States, must be closed now.
ISN 039 Al Bahlul, Ali Hamza (Yemen)
Widely described as Osama bin Laden’s “press secretary,” al-Bahlul produced a propaganda video for al-Qaeda and was first put forward for trial by Military Commission in February 2004. He was formally charged in June 2004. At a pre-trial hearing in August 2004, he declared, “I am an al-Qaeda member,” and asked the judge, “Am I allowed to represent myself?” and at another hearing in January 2006, he decided to withdraw from the proceedings, waving a sign that read “boycott” in Arabic, He was charged for a second time in February 2008, after the first version of the Commissions was ruled illegal by the US Supreme Court in June 2006, and in May 2008 he again decided to boycott pre-trial hearings, explaining, “I am responsible for my own actions in this world and the afterworld. I don’t consider it to be a crime.” His trial took place in October 2008, and he was convicted of conspiracy, solicitation of murder, and providing material support to terrorism after a one-sided trial in which he refused to mount a defense. He received a life sentence, which he is serving in solitary confinement in Guantánamo, away from all the other prisoners, but his lawyers are currently appealing the sentence, on the basis that providing material support to terrorism is “a fabricated war crime that was not traditionally triable in a military commission as of the time of Mr. al-Bahlul’s affiliation with al-Qaeda” (as his former military defense attorney, Lt. Col. David Frakt, explained), and also on the basis that his trial was unfair because he was denied the right to represent himself.
Friday, March 11, 2011
See fuller discussion at Emptywheel's blog.
UPDATE, (March 16): As most reading this or viewing the video by now must know, U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley was fired by the Obama administration for telling a group of MIT students that the military's treatment of Pvt. Manning was "ridiculous and counter-productive and stupid."With respect to Private Manning, I have actually asked the Pentagon whether or not the procedures that have been taken in terms of his confinement are appropriate and are meeting our basic standards. They assure me that they are. I can’t go into details about some of their concerns, but some of this has to do with Private Manning’s safety as well. [my emphasis]So not only won’t Obama close Gitmo, then, but he’s willing to rubber stamp the standards introduced there for use on American soil.
Crowley subsequently backtracked his statement, saying "I defer to the Department of Defense regarding the treatment of Bradley Manning." He also added some criticisms regarding the "strategic impact of discreet actions undertaken by national security agencies every day and their impact on our global standing and leadership,” he wrote. “The exercise of power in today’s challenging times and relentless media environment must be prudent and consistent with our laws and values.”
For a diplomat, this is rough criticism. But from the standpoint of those of us who are sick and tired of the U.S. government's brutality, it amounts to a lot of sound and fury, signifying very little, as the Pentagon and their enabler in the White House continue to arrogantly flout law and convention in their belief that they are masters of the universe who cannot be gainsaid.
Still, the Crowley imbroglio hit a nerve and made Manning's case more prominent in the news, with a number of major editorials at U.S. newspapers, petitions from academics, etc. We'll see what kind of effect that has over the next weeks and months. I'm not holding my breath. Without social struggle of the sort that began in Wisconsin, but is being demonstration-wearied-out by do-nothing labor leaders who refuse to actually harness the power of labor through the strike, the U.S. will pretty much do whatever it wants, until such time as their economic house of cards collapses. After that, it will be a new ballgame.
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Should Assange’s current British appeal fail against his extradition to Sweden, he will probably, once charged, be denied bail and held incommunicado until his trial in secret. The case against him has already been dismissed by a senior prosecutor in Stockholm and given new life only when a right-wing politician, Claes Borgstrom, intervened and made public statements about Assange’s “guilt”. Borgstrom, a lawyer, now represents the two women involved. His law partner is Thomas Bodstrom, who as Sweden’s minister for justice in 2001, was implicated in the handover of two innocent Egyptian refugees to a CIA kidnap squad at Stockholm airport. Sweden later awarded them damages for their torture.
These facts were documented in an Australian parliamentary briefing in Canberra on 2 March. Outlining an epic miscarriage of justice threatening Assange, the enquiry heard expert evidence that, under international standards of justice, the behavior of certain officials in Sweden would be considered “highly improper and reprehensible [and] preclude a fair trial”. A former senior Australian diplomat, Tony Kevin, described the close ties between the Swedish prime minister Frederic Reinheldt, and the Republican right in the US. “Reinfeldt and [George W] Bush are friends,” he said. Reinhaldt has attacked Assange publicly and hired Karl Rove, the former Bush crony, to advise him. The implications for Assange’s extradition to the US from Sweden are dire.
The Coalition for an Ethical Psychology today announces the release of an interactive online Timeline (www.ethicalpsychology.org/
timeline) detailing the roles of psychologists in the torture and unethical treatment of national security detainees over the years since the 9/11 attacks. The Timeline also constitutes the most comprehensive record of the partnership between the American Psychological Association (APA) and the U.S. national security sector in expanding and legitimizing torture and abuse.
The Coalition’s Timeline speaks to diverse audiences: human rights scholars, policymakers, health professionals, social scientists, military ethicists and intelligence professionals, educators, journalists, social activists, churches, and conscientious citizens. It brings together information which otherwise is only available through hundreds of separate sources.
As the Timeline reveals, the psychology profession is directly implicated in the U.S. government’s program of torture and detainee abuse as psychologists designed, implemented, monitored, and researched the torture program. Furthermore, the APA was complicit in these abuses by providing crucial political and ethical support for psychologist involvement in coercive interrogations.
The Coalition Timeline, which currently has over 350 entries, is fully searchable and will be regularly updated as new information becomes available. Suggestions for additional events to include are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org
We encourage you to share the webpage (www.ethicalpsychology.org/
timeline) with colleagues, listservs, and other groups and individuals to whom it may be of interest.
Please also read the Coalition's statement: "Reclaiming Our Profession: Psychology Ten Years After 9/11".
Here’s the actual language of Obama’s EO:Amen.
Sec. 2. Standard for Continued Detention. Continued law of war detention is warranted for a detainee subject to the periodic review in section 3 of this order if it is necessary to protect against a significant threat to the security of the United States. [Emphasis added]The grammar of the EO is a clear admission on the government’s part that it is willing to indefinitely detain a human being not for what he has done, but because of the big swirling boogeymen it believes to lurk out there.
And it’s important that those who write about this make that distinction clear.
In addition, Gude’s claim that “A detainee must be lawfully held under the laws of war, must have had that detention upheld by a federal court in a habeas proceeding,” doesn’t jibe with my reading. The EO states that “Detainees at Guantánamo have the constitutional privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, and nothing in this order is intended to affect the jurisdiction of Federal courts to determine the legality of their detention....”
As I read it, the latter is a pro forma statement, because it appears the Obama administration believes it can indefinitely hold someone despite a habeas decision. Moreover, they have been quite active in appealing successful habeas petitions, and is doing so with, as Andy Worthington puts it, "a political bent."
Since last January, when President Obama announced a moratorium on releasing any Yemenis from Guantánamo — in response to the hysteria that greeted the news that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the failed Christmas 2009 plane bomber, had been recruited in Yemen — every successful habeas petition by a Yemeni (with the exception of Mohammed Hassan Odaini, a student whose clearly mistaken detention was picked up by the mainstream media) has been appealed.The U.S. government is seeking to eviscerate habeas (as has already been done, really) not by formally taking away habeas petitions, but ignoring or contesting their outcome, and claiming a new entity, their Periodic Review Board, will determine who is actually released, not some (cough) court.
And who is on the Periodic Review Board?
“Periodic Review Board” means: a board composed of senior officials tasked with fulfilling the functions described in section 3 of this order, one appointed by each of the following departments and offices: the Departments of State, Defense, Justice, and Homeland Security, as well as the Offices of the Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.This puts the national IC community and military in charge of indefinite detention review. DOJ and State are mere rumps, at this point, of a militarist state seeking to put in place new institutions that will better represent their interests and rule.
Human Rights Watch, alone among human rights groups, while condemning the resumption of the military commissions, calls the latest position on indefinite detention "authorized but restricted," noting it "provides an additional layer of review not previously available."
While these new provisions are an improvement over the current system, which does not have such a review, the use by the US of indefinite detention without trial still fails to meet the most basic elements of due process under international law, Human Rights Watch said. Importantly however, the order only applies to detainees currently held at Guantanamo and not to anyone who might be captured in the future, a significant limitation given calls for sweeping detention authority by critics of the administration.It's strange, this search for something positive to say by HRW, as if the EO represented any kind of moral victory by providing a "significant limitation" of its abrogration of rights, and usurpation by the executive branch of unchecked review. It's quite clear that Obama is setting up a new version of the Combatant Status Review Boards set up during the Bush years, with bogus oversight by high defense department and intelligence officials, with fig leaf cover by State and DoJ.
"Is added review an improvement? Yes. Does it make US detention policies lawful? No,"
said Andrea Prasow, senior counterterrorism counsel at Human Rights Watch. "Signing an executive order does not suddenly make it legal to lock people up and hold them forever without proving they have committed a crime."
Sabin Willett, an attorney at Bingham McCutchen in Boston, representing the Chinese Uighurs at Guantanamo since 2005, had an apt question for the leaders of this country, or perhaps really for those unconvinced the U.S. government is out of control here (H/T powwow at Emptywheel/FDL).
The thing I’ve never understood is, why at least not convert GTMO to a POW camp? A real one? With real, honorable treatment of the enemy, as required by law and the service field manuals? Why the cages, interrogations, etc etc etc? Why aren’t there gardens, orchestras, newsletters, canteens, jobs — or were the Nazis (who had all those things in camps in Texas and Alabama) less dangerous than Taliban privates?Powwow adds:
America is Winston Smith. You remember how Orwell’s 1984 ends.
It is all the more important that the Supreme Court act to rein in the D.C. Circuit, because evidently no branch of our federal government is the least bit inclined to forcibly remind the President that he too has “a solemn duty to follow” the law of war in wartime, including “competent tribunal” review of the default POW status of any (actual belligerent) wartime detainees captured or held by the United States military during a Congressionally-authorized armed conflict.For aspects of the latest EO has they pertain to issues of indefinite detention at Bagram and elsewhere in Afghanistan, see also this article by Marcy Wheeler.
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
America is not broke.Read the whole speech.
Contrary to what those in power would like you to believe so that you’ll give up your pension, cut your wages, and settle for the life your great-grandparents had, America is not broke. Not by a long shot. The country is awash in wealth and cash. It’s just that it’s not in your hands. It has been transferred, in the greatest heist in history, from the workers and consumers to the banks and the portfolios of the uber-rich.
Today just 400 Americans have more wealth than half of all Americans combined.
Let me say that again. 400 obscenely rich people, most of whom benefited in some way from the multi-trillion dollar taxpayer “bailout” of 2008, now have more loot, stock and property than the assets of 155 million Americans combined. If you can’t bring yourself to call that a financial coup d’état, then you are simply not being honest about what you know in your heart to be true.
Unfortunately, the Obama administration feeds this kind of fear-mongering with its own recent policies, via Executive Order, calling for indefinite detention of "terrorists" at Guantanamo. Rep. King was thrilled by this latest travesty by the Obama administration, and certainly, it fits right in with his campaign of fear.
For more on this issue, see the release by the Leadership Conference of their report, "Restoring a National Consensus: The Need to End Racial Profiling in America." The website Faith in Public Life also has a interesting round-up of commentary by religious leaders speaking out against the King hearings.
On the issue of Obama's lifting of the stay on military commissions trials, and the setting up of an apparatus for indefinite detention of uncharged and/or unconvicted "terrorists" at Guantanamo, see the analysis by Center for Constitutional Rights, and article out today by Marcy Wheeler and Glenn Greenwald.
The ACLU press release and letter to Rep. King:
ACLU And Broad Coalition Tell Rep. King Of Concerns About Muslim “Radicalization” Hearing
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 8, 2011
CONTACT:(202) 675-2312 or email@example.com
WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union, along with several other human rights and civil liberties organizations, sent a letter today to House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep. Peter King (R-NY) expressing deep concern about his committee’s upcoming hearing on the so-called “radicalization of the American Muslim community.” The hearing is scheduled for Thursday, March 10.
The letter, sent by over 40 groups, urges Rep. King and his committee not to conflate First Amendment-protected practices with involvement in terrorism. The letter also criticizes the hearing’s false premise that the Muslim community and its leaders are uncooperative with law enforcement.
The letter states, “Treating an entire community as suspect because of the bad acts or intolerant statements of a few is imprudent and unfair, and in the past has only led to greater misunderstanding, injustice and discrimination. Erroneous theories of eugenics supported racist immigration policies and Jim Crow anti-miscegenation laws for decades. Misguided ‘red’ scares and racism drove abominable policies like blacklists, McCarthyism and Japanese internment, betrayed American values and did not improve security. To avoid the same mistakes, the Committee should rely on facts and scientifically rigorous analysis, not biased opinions or unsupported theories positing a discernable ‘radicalization’ process that are belied by available evidence.”
According to the letter, “A fact-based approach enhanced with scientifically rigorous analysis will likely be more successful at providing a clear picture of the threats we face and the appropriate methods we need to employ to address them without violating the constitutional rights of innocent persons. Fear and misunderstanding should not drive our government policies.”
The full text of the letter can be found below:
March 8, 2011
Representative Peter King
U.S.House Committee on Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Chairman King:
As organizations dedicated to protecting rights guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution, we write to express our concern that your Committee’s planned hearings on the “radicalization of the American Muslim community” risk chilling fundamental First Amendment freedoms of religion, speech, and association. These freedoms occupy a special place in our history and in the Constitution. They define who we are as a country, and may not be set aside.
Our concerns are driven by your public statements justifying the basis for, and goals of, the Committee’s proposed hearings, which raise significant and troubling issues.[i] Holding hearings based on a deeply flawed theory of “radicalization” that falsely conflates religious practices with preparation for terrorism and focuses exclusively on Muslim-Americans will burden the free exercise of religion, give the appearance of official endorsement of one set of religious beliefs over another and chill free association and free speech. We are also deeply troubled by your plan to use the hearing to air the unsubstantiated allegation that Muslim-American leaders are uncooperative with U.S. counterterrorism efforts, both because the allegation is demonstrably incorrect and because it will only sow discord when national unity is most needed.
At the outset, and as organizations devoted to the protection of free speech, we want to emphasize that it is entirely appropriate for a member of Congress to express his or her views regarding issues of national interest, as you have done, including when such views are controversial. While we, in turn, challenge the factual basis supporting some of your arguments, your views and your speech are protected by the First Amendment.[ii] Indeed, as free speech organizations, we have and would defend the First Amendment rights of all individuals to express any, even hateful, views on matters of public debate, including whether particular religious or political beliefs are used to justify violence.
But when conducting official inquiries under the auspices of a standing committee of Congress, members have a higher duty to ensure that constitutional rights are not diminished under the weight of government scrutiny. While Congress has broad and necessary powers of oversight and inquiry, they are not unlimited. As the Supreme Court held in 1957 in one of the cases arising out of the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings, congressional inquiries, like legislation, may not entrench on First Amendment freedoms of religion, speech and association.[iii]
In order to accomplish its goals in accordance with the Constitution, therefore, the Committee, like law enforcement, must distinguish between First Amendment-protected ideological beliefs – whether radical or not – and criminal terrorist activity or plots. Only the latter may properly be the subject of official inquiry. Congress simply has no business examining Americans’ religious or political beliefs in official hearings – even if these beliefs are considered “radical” by some. Congress must also avoid giving the appearance of an official endorsement of one set of religious beliefs over another. It would be inappropriate and unwise for Congress to conduct an inquiry into the nature of Islam, the different interpretations of the faith among Muslims, whether there exists an “ideology” of “political Islam,” or whether some Muslims are more loyal Americans than others, just as it would be inappropriate for Congress to examine different interpretations of Christianity or debate whether Baptists or Catholics are more trustworthy.
Treating an entire community as suspect because of the bad acts or intolerant statements of a few is imprudent and unfair, and in the past has only led to greater misunderstanding, injustice and discrimination. Erroneous theories of eugenics supported racist immigration policies and Jim Crow anti-miscegenation laws for decades. Misguided “red” scares and racism drove abominable policies like blacklists, McCarthyism and Japanese internment, betrayed American values and did not improve security. To avoid the same mistakes, the Committee should rely on facts and scientifically rigorous analysis, not biased opinions or unsupported theories positing a discernable “radicalization” process that are belied by available evidence.[iv] “Radicalization” is simply a euphemism for religious and ideological profiling, which can only lead to further discrimination.
Targeting a minority religious community for official scrutiny also poses a great risk of promoting divisiveness, rather than national unity, which can only impair the government’s national security efforts on behalf of us all. Avoiding religious divisiveness was a main objective of the Founders in drafting both the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses of the First Amendment.[v] Official congressional inquiry only adds to divisiveness by putting enormous pressure on private groups and individuals who are singled out for scrutiny. Many American Muslim community and faith groups have objected that the Committee’s hearings will present a false or misleading picture both of Islam and of the various and diverse Muslim communities in our country.[vi] Negative repercussions may be especially likely in the case of the American Muslim community, which has already been the target of both hate speech and actual violence. Recent media reports about the Committee’s proposed hearings demonstrate that they already have contributed to an atmosphere of increased religious animosity.[vii]
Your Committee can carry out its important function in a wide variety of ways without trampling on the constitutional rights of American Muslims. The Committee may quite properly examine the continuing serious threat of domestic terrorism, and pursue broad areas of inquiry related to efforts by al Qaeda and others to commit acts of violence in the United States. Terrorist methodologies, including efforts to recruit individuals to carry out terrorist acts, are properly the subject of government scrutiny. Indeed, Congress has addressed these issues many times over the past several years, and many of the undersigned groups have long advocated that the proper focus of congressional hearings is on better understanding the nature and scope of the threat, vigorously exercising Congress’s authorities to oversee the government’s response, holding our military, law enforcement and intelligence agencies accountable, and crafting sensible legislation to enhance security while protecting the rights of innocent persons. We will continue to work with Congress to ensure our government’s counterterrorism efforts are productive, effective, and legal. The Committee’s hearing this month on “Threats to the Homeland” with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and National Counterterrorism Center Director Michael Leiter is an example of appropriate congressional inquiry, as are the hearings focusing on the domestic threat posed by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and the threat to air commerce.
Secondly, we are deeply concerned that a focus of your Committee’s hearing is based on the mischaracterization of leaders in the American Muslim community as uncooperative with U.S. counterterrorism efforts. This allegation is demonstrably false. Numerous law enforcement officials have gone on the record to dispute this allegation,[viii]academic studies have catalogued the assistance Muslims have provided to anti-terrorism efforts,[ix]and the undersigned organizations work closely with many Muslim civil rights and advocacy groups that are deeply involved in efforts to improve security policies. Indeed, your Committee has heard testimony from several law enforcement witnesses regarding their engagement with Muslim-American communities on a host of issues.[x]
Our concern is heightened by your statements implying that American Muslims’ “cooperation” in national security efforts must be measured by their willingness to provide information voluntarily to counterterrorism enforcement agencies. Although warning law enforcement officials of threats is indeed a shared civic and social responsibility, it would be illegal, unfair and impractical for Congress or law enforcement officials to require any religious or belief community to prove its loyalty to this country by “informing” on its members. To the contrary, American Muslims, like the rest of this country’s citizens, have the right to protest illegal, over-zealous or abusive government security measures and to vigorously exercise, and encourage others to exercise rights guaranteed in the Constitution. There are also legitimate concerns about whether individuals who volunteer information to law enforcement will find themselves threatened with legal jeopardy. Advising individuals to speak to lawyers before talking to law enforcement or even to refrain from talking to law enforcement is both prudent and completely legal speech protected by the Bill of Rights. We expect that many corporations, businesses and even congressional offices would advise their employees to consult a lawyer before speaking with law enforcement as well.
Recognizing and respecting the line between protected beliefs and illegal activity does not undermine our security, but rather strengthens it. Basing security policy on factually flawed “radicalization” theories will only waste precious security resources. Law enforcement has been successful in preventing terrorist plots many times over the past few years by focusing on facts and evidence. Inquiring into how many Muslims hold “radical” beliefs, however those are defined, will not aid those efforts. To the contrary, it will undermine the crucial bonds between communities and the government and law enforcement. Most dangerously, it is likely to undermine our efforts to demonstrate to Muslims at home and abroad that the United States seeks to live up to its ideals in its treatment of all Americans, including Muslims, and is not engaged in a “war against Islam.”
As civil liberties and free speech organizations, we have fought for many years against government proposals to investigate the religious or political beliefs of any group of Americans. We subscribe to the views of the Attorney General that “law enforcement has an obligation to ensure that members of every religious community enjoy the ability to worship and to practice their faith in peace, free from intimidation, violence or suspicion. That is the right of all Americans. And it must be a reality for every citizen. In this nation, our many faiths, origins, and appearances must bind us together, not break us apart.” We hope that you will agree that this is also the obligation of the Congress.
We respectfully urge that your Committee treat unsubstantiated theories about “radicalization” with skepticism and focus its efforts on actual terrorist acts and those who commit them rather than on the adoption of beliefs or the expression of dissent. A fact-based approach enhanced with scientifically rigorous analysis will likely be more successful at providing a clear picture of the threats we face and the appropriate methods we need to employ to address them without violating the constitutional rights of innocent persons. Fear and misunderstanding should not drive our government policies.
We would be happy to supply any additional information and would welcome the opportunity to discuss this with you further. Thank you for considering our views.
American Civil Liberties Union
American Association of University Professors
American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression
American Friends Service Committee
American Library Association
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
Americans United for Separation of Church and State
Arab American Institute
Bill of Rights Defense Committee
Center for Media and Democracy
Council on American-Islamic Relations
Defending Dissent Foundation
DRUM- Desis Rising Up & Moving
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Friends of the Earth
Greater NYC for Change
Humanitarian Law Project
Muslim Bar Association of New York
Muslim Bar Association of Southern California
Muslim Public Affairs Council
National Coalition Against Censorship
New Security Action
NYC Coalition to Stop Islamophobia
Pakistan American Public Affairs Committee
People For the American Way
Pipe Organs/Golden Ponds Farm
Queens Federation of Churches
Secular Coalition for America
Sikh Council on Religion and Education
South Asian Americans Leading Together
South Asian Network
The Sikh Coalition
Cc: Ranking Member Bennie Thompson
Members of the House Committee on Homeland Security
Speaker John Boehner
Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi
[i]Peter King, “What’s Radicalizing Muslim Americans?,” Newsday (Dec. 17, 2010) available at http://www.house.gov/apps/
list/speech/ny03_king/ radicalizingmuslimamericans. html(hereinafter “Newsday op-ed”); Frank Gaffney Interview with Peter King, Secure Freedom Radio with Frank Gaffney (Jan. 6, 2011) available at http://www.securefreedomradio. org/2011/01/06/january-6-2011- faith-mcdonnell-rep-pete-king- sara-carter/.
[ii]We are disturbed, for example, by your unsubstantiated and divisive assertion that 85 percent of American mosques are run by extremists, especially given that experts on the subject have found that American Muslims’ attendance at mosques helps to prevent violent extremism. See David Schanzer, Charles Kurzman, and Ebrahim Mooza, Anti-terror Lessons of Muslim-Americans, National Institute of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance, U.S. Department of Justice, p. 1, (Jan. 6, 2010) available at http://fds.duke.edu/db?
[iii]Watkins v. United States, 354 U.S. 178, 188 (1957).
[iv]Recent “radicalization” theories are not supported by empirical evidence. For example, the 2007 New York Police Department (“NYPD’) report, Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat, drew quick condemnation from the civil liberties and Muslim communities for its serious factual and methodological flaws. New York City Muslim and Arab community leaders formed a coalition in response to the NYPD report and issued a detailed analysis criticizing NYPD for wrongfully “positing a direct causal relation between Islam and terrorism such that expressions of faith are equated with signs of danger,” potentially putting millions of Muslims at risk. Muslim American Civil Liberties Coalition, CountertERRORism Policy: MACLC’s Critique of the NYPD’s Report on Homegrown Terrorism (2008) available at http://maclcnypdcritique.
files.wordpress.com/2008/11/ counterterrorism-policy-final- paper3.pdf. See also Aziz Huq, Concerns with Mitchell D. Silber and Arvin Bhatt, N.Y. Police Dep’t, Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat, New York University School of Law, Brennan Center for Justice (Aug. 30, 2007) available at http://brennan.3cdn.net/ 436ea44aae969ab3c5_sbm6vtxgi. pdf; American Civil Liberties Union et al., Coalition Memo to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Regarding “Homegrown Terrorism”(May 7, 2008) available at http://www.aclu.org/safefree/ general/35209leg20080507.html. NYPD added a “clarification” in 2009. See http://maclc1.wordpress.com/ 2009/09/08/maclc-90809-letter- response-to-nypd-statement-of- clarification/.
[v]Annals of Congress (Sat., Aug. 15, 1789) pp. 730–31; McCreary County v. American Civil Liberties Union of Ky., 545 U.S. 844, 876 (2005) (“The Framers and the citizens of their time intended not only to protect the integrity of individual conscience in religious matters, but to guard against the civic divisiveness that follows when the government weighs in on one side of religious debate; nothing does a better job of roiling society, a point that needed no explanation to the descendants of English Puritans and Cavaliers (or Massachusetts Puritans and Baptists)”); Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602, 622 (1971) (“political division along religious lines was one of the principal evils against which the First Amendment was intended to protect”).
[vi]“51 Organizations Tell Congress that Hearings Targeting American Muslims are Divisive,” Muslim Advocates (Feb. 1, 2011) available at http://www.muslimadvocates.
[vii]Arun Venugopal, King’s Hearings on Radical Islam Draw Rival Protest Groups, WNYC Newsblog (Feb. 23, 2011) available at http://www.wnyc.org/blogs/
wnyc-news-blog/2011/feb/22/ rival-protests-rep-kings- office-over-islam-hearings/
[viii]See Counterterrorism Experts Reject Peter King’s Targeting of Muslims, National Security Network (Jan. 28, 2011) available at http://www.nsnetwork.org/node/
1847; “Baca: No Evidence Muslims Not Cooperating with Police,” CBS Los Angeles (Feb. 11, 2011) available at http://losangeles.cbslocal. com/2011/02/07/baca-no- evidence-us-muslims-not- cooperating-with-police/
[ix]See Charles Kurzman, “Muslim-American Terrorism Since 9/11: An Accounting,” Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security (Feb. 2, 2011) available at http://sanford.duke.edu/
centers/tcths/about/documents/ Kurzman_Muslim-American_ Terrorism_Since_911_An_ Accounting.pdf
[x]See, e.g., Hearing of the House Homeland Security Committee Subcommittee on Intelligence, Information Sharing, and Terrorism Risk Assessment, “Working with Communities to Disrupt Terror Plots” (Mar. 17, 2010); Hearing of the House Homeland Security Committee Subcommittee on Intelligence, Information Sharing, and Terrorism Risk Assessment, “Radicalization, Information Sharing and Community Outreach: Protecting the Homeland from Homegrown Terror” (Apr. 5, 2007).
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