Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Impeach Mukasey Now: Waterboarding Not Torture According to Bush's AG

Actually, what Michael B. Mukasey said today at his Senate oversight hearing was that waterboarding, under non-specific certain circumstances, is not torture. Of course, he couldn't say that outright; he said it in legalese. In the obscurity of U.S. law, torture is defined as something that "shocks the conscience." And Mukasey, squirming before Sen. Dick Durbin's questioning, feels that after extensive review, piles of documents and opinions, the question of waterboarding is -- sometimes -- "unresolved."

Here's some of the testimony between Durbin and Mukasey (thanks to Firedoglake):
Durbin: This chamber has voted on a bipartisan basis against torture.

MM: And the chamber voted down a prohibition on waterboarding.

Durbin: If the detainee treatment act is clear, and even went so far as to offer amnesty to employees of the govt, you still think that the jury's out on whether the Senate believes that waterboarding is torture.

[Lots of long silences on Mukasey's part.]

MM: The question is whether the Senate has spoken clearly enough on that issue.

Durbin: Where's the lack of clarity in the McCain legislation?

MM: Words that are general, words that people on both sides of the debate have already disagreed. To point to this language or that language is to pick nits.

Durbin: As the Chairman has noted here, McCain, Warner, and Graham, lead sponsors of this legislation, have said waterboarding is a war crime.

Durbin: Standard so far has depended on circumstances. Do you see a problem with your ambivalence. It's due caution.

[mumble mumble mumble]

MM: Your second question. I said waterboarding would not shock the conscience. I described a situation where it would. So far as it would be, that was something put into place by the person who wrote the opinion. [Is this the Bradbury opinion??] The use of such techniques to discover information that was only historical information would not shock the conscience.

Durbin: if it would save many lives, would that shock the conscience. Under the military interrogation standards. They are not interested. You're saying that when it comes to non-military, it is still unresolved.

MM: It is unresolved.

Unresolved? Mukasey -- a lackey if there ever was one -- means: we want to keep it "unresolved." We need to do whatever we want. We embrace legalistic loopholes. We embrace secrecy. And behind these practices, we will continue our reign of terror.

Oh, and by the way, for the social patriots among my readers, AG Mukasey can't even say whether waterboarding a U.S. citizen is illegal, i.e., it's open season on everybody now. (See the exchange between Mukasey and Senator Leahy here.)

Loopholes and Judicial Chicanery

If you want to fight torture, you better get a law degree. Because the battle against these inhuman practices, in a Kafkaesque irony meant to lull one's putative victims to sleep, is reduced to legislative formulae and (endlessly) interpretable legalese. It starts by dividing torture into something called "torture" and something called "CID" (cruel, inhuman and degrading behavior). Then there are varying definitions: international, by treaty, Constitutional, by judicial precedent, etc.

"Shocks the conscience" is a criteria used to judge the existence of "CID" under U.S. law. In the UN Convention Against Torture (ratified by the U.S. in the 1990s), the U.S. listed an unprecedented number of "reservations" to the treaty, explaining under what conditions it would ratify. (The language was the creation of the Reagan administration, but left unchanged by Clinton, and subsequently written into much subsequent legislation, including the Military Commissions Act.

One of the principle "reservations" to the UN CAN was a redefinition of CID as something to be interpreted under U.S. law. For those who aren't savvy, that means using "shock the conscience" precedents in U.S. courts, rather than more stringent international standards. For the U.S., it meant greater freedom of action by executive agencies in planning and executing coercive interrogations.
Shocks the conscience is a phrase used as a legal standard in the United States and Canada. An action is understood to "shock the conscience" if it is perceived as manifestly and grossly unjust, typically by a judge.... In United States law which describes whether or not the due process requirement of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution has been met. This term originally entered into case law with the decision for Rochin v. California (1953). This balancing test is often cited as having subsequently been used in a particularly subjective manner.

Mike Otterman explains how this dubious criteria has been used to weaken the standards by which a government cannot engage in torture or cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment of a prisoner. First, he quotes Assistant Attorney General William Moschella:
With respect to treatment of detainees by the United States Government... the pertinent Amendment is the Fifth Amendment. As relevant here, that Amendment protects against treatment that, in the words of the Supreme Court, “shocks the conscience,” such as (again in the words of the Court) “only the most egregious conduct,” such as “conduct intended to injure in some way unjustifiable by any government interest.”

The last clause is where the entire issue lies. If the behavior is therefore justified by any governmental interest, it's (grave pause) legal. And guess who decided that? Well, Dick Cheney for one (from Otterman's piece):
If it's something that shocks the conscience, the court has agreed that crosses over the line.

Now, you can get into a debate about what shocks the conscience and what is cruel and inhuman. And to some extent, I suppose, that's in the eye of the beholder. But I believe, and we think it's important to remember, that we are in a war against a group of individuals and terrorist organizations that did, in fact, slaughter 3,000 innocent Americans on 9/11, that it's important for us to be able to have effective interrogation of these people when we capture them.

A Lawless Land
There is no more law in America. We have now only rule by an executive. The rest is pettifogging obfuscation to preoccupy the suckers, those not lucky enough, by birth, or by having morals enough not to steal great wealth, to occupy the tall towers of the power elite.

A Congress that cannot deal with such basic issues of human rights and decency is not only politically bankrupt, it is a serious menace to democracy and freedom. Because in their impotence and blustering, they are bringing the very idea of legislative representation and rule by elected represenatives into disrepute. This does not go unregistered abroad. Nor are the enemies of freedom at home unaware, and they are sharpening their long knives, for the final vivisection of the republic.

All must join -- left, right, Democratic, Republican, the disaffected and the politically astute -- and call for the ouster of this hated man, Michael B. Mukasey. That he is also carrying administration water for obstruction of justice on the U.S. attorneys investigation, and for immunity on FISA, only establishes a trifecta of lawlessness that must be addressed now.

The rot is spreading. The election is months away, but the damage is being done now.

Impeach Mukasey, Bush and Cheney!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Why I'm Leaving APA

I’m sending a letter off to the American Psychological Association (APA) explaining my decision to resign membership from that organization. The text of the letter follows below (with hypertext links added here to assist the reader with context).

January 27, 2008

Alan E. Kazdin, Ph.D.
President, American Psychological Association
750 First Street, NE
Washington, DC 20002-4232

Dear Dr. Kazdin,

I hereby resign my membership in the American Psychological Association (APA). I have up until now been working with Psychologists for an Ethical APA for an overturn in APA policy on psychologist involvement in national security interrogations, and I greatly respect those who are fighting via a dues boycott to influence APA policy on this matter. I hope to still work with these principled and dedicated professionals, but I cannot do it anymore from a position within APA.

Unlike some others who have left APA, my resignation is not based solely on the stance APA has taken regarding the participation of psychologists in national security interrogations. Rather, I view APA’s shifting position on interrogations to spring from a decades-long commitment to serve uncritically the national security apparatus of the United States. Recent publications and both public and closed professional events sponsored by APA have made it clear that this organization is dedicated to serving the national security interests of the American government and military, to the extent of ignoring basic human rights practice and law. The influence of the Pentagon and the CIA in APA activities is overt and pervasive, if often hidden. The revelations over the constitution and behavior of the 2005 Psychological Ethics and National Security (PENS) panel are a case in point. While charged with investigating the dilemmas for psychologists involved in military interrogations in the light of the scandals surrounding Guanatamo’s Camp Delta and Abu Ghraib prison, it was stacked with military and governmental personnel, and closely monitored and pressured by APA staff.

I strongly disagree with APA’s current position on interrogations, and am unimpressed with recent clarifications to that position that allows for voluntary non-participation in specifically defined cases where torture and abuse of prisoners is proved to exist. I have discussed my reasoning for this elsewhere, both blogging on the Internet and in public. In 2007, I was a panelist in the “mini-convention,” which examined the dispute over interrogations held at the APA Convention in San Francisco, presenting my findings on secret and non-secret psychologist research into isolation, sensory deprivation and sensory overload.

I will briefly review my objections to APA policy and practices, then place them in the context of current APA institutional objectives and goals. I find the latter to be antithetical to the ideals of an ethical and beneficent organization promoting psychological knowledge and practice.

*** APA’s position on non-involvement in torture allows psychologists to work in settings that do not allow the basic right of habeas corpus, in addition to practices of humane confinement as delineated in the Conventions of the Geneva Protocols and various international documents and treaties.

*** APA maintains in private communications that relegating various modes of psychological torture (sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, isolation) and the use of drugs in interrogations to something less than outright prohibition in recent APA position papers does not mean APA had any intention of providing a “loophole” for interrogators in the practice of coercive interrogations. APA also promises to clarify its position on these matters in an “ethics casebook.” When it has found it exigent, as on the PENS resolution, to step outside normal procedure to clarify its position, it has done so. I find it noteworthy that recent APA clarifications of its position are treated as something requiring less than direct organizational expression.

*** APA continues to propagate a position that it knows is not true, specifically that psychologists operate in interrogation settings to prevent abusive interrogations. While sometimes citing the compelling conclusions about context and behavior outlined by Zimbardo, and stemming from his famous Prisoner Experiment, it twists the representation of this research by making psychologists into a quasi-police force monitoring abusive interrogations. On the contrary, the Zimbardo research leads to a more unsettling conclusion, i.e., that human beings in general are susceptible to participation in abusive behavior based upon contextual factors. In fact, the Zimbardo research argues, as Dr. Zimbardo himself has done, against participation in these kinds of interrogations.

*** APA has shown precious little interest in the many revelations regarding psychologist participation in torture, or in psychologist research into abusive or coercive interrogations. Excepting only a brief period in the late 1970s, when widespread and public exposure of CIA mind control programs raised considerable scandal, APA has shown little inclination to confront the history of psychologist participation in such research, nor of its own institutional role in this research.

*** Finally, recent APA activities, such as the joint CIA/Rand Corporation/APA July 2003 workshop in the “Science of Deception,” point to questionable current participation in unethical practices and illegal governmental activities. I queried relevant actors and APA leaders as to what actually occurred at this workshop, which the APA Science Directorate described as discussing how to use “pharmacological agents to affect apparent truth-telling behavior?” Also considered was the study of “sensory overloads on the maintenance of deceptive behaviors,” with workshop participants asked, “How might we overload the system or overwhelm the senses and see how it affects deceptive behaviors?” I never received any answer from relevant APA personnel, including the current director of ethics, about what was going on at this workshop.

The latter episode captures the terrible trap into which APA has fallen. When making agreements with state intelligence and military agencies, it is usual that secrecy agreements are signed. This makes it impossible to reasonably assess and monitor the activities of psychologists in national security settings. Furthermore, the subordination of military psychologists to the chain of command of the armed forces also allows for ineffective if not impossible oversight of psychologist activities. But the problem with secrecy does not end there. Major researchers, including even a former APA president, who contracted with the government, or had their work utilized by the military, as for the latter’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape or SERE program, have told me they are unable to discuss matters beyond a certain point, or tried to restrict discussion of these matters, no doubt due in part to secrecy restrictions. Summing up this point, governmental secrecy and scientific enterprise are in direct opposition to each other, and secrecy negates the promise of effective oversight, not to mention the distortions it renders upon the scientific process itself.

In the recently APA published book, Psychology in the Service of National Security (APA Press, 2006), the book’s editor, A. David Mangelsdorff, wrote, “As the military adjusts to its changing roles in the new national security environment, psychologists have much to offer” (p. 237). He notes the recent forward military deployment of psychologists, their use in so-called anti-terrorism research, and assistance in influencing public opinion about “national security problems facing the nation.” L. Morgan Banks, himself Chief of the Psychological Applications Directorate of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, and a member of the controversial PENS panel, wrote elsewhere in the same book about the “bright future” (p. 95) for psychologists working with Special Operations Forces. Never mind that SOPs have been implicated in torture in Afghanistan, including receiving instructions in such coercive procedures from psychologists from some of the same psychologists, by the way, that attended the APA/CIA workshop noted above.) Nowhere could I find in the entire book a discussion of ethical problems surrounding these issues, nor certainly of political and social questions implicit in such outright support of governmental initiatives and military policy. Additionally, and curiously, there is no discussion of psychologist participation in military interrogations anywhere in the book.

In my opinion, and despite the otherwise notable and positive stances and activities of APA on other aspects of social note, such as work against prejudice against gays and lesbians, or against race prejudice, it is an unfortunate but urgent fact that APA as an institution has become subordinated to the state when it comes to military matters. In other words, when it comes to interrogations and psychologist military activities in general, APA acts as an arm of the Pentagon and a support agency for the CIA. The differences around interrogation policy APA has with the Bush Administration is itself a mirror of differences with the administration itself, and within different governmental departments. In such instances, APA acts as the instrument of one or another faction within government, but not as an independent actor and representative of the profession and its ideals and goals.

I would suggest the following remedies, if any are still possible, in turning around the degeneration of APA into a willing instrument for U.S. military and intelligence interests:

1) A full opening of all APA archives related to research and participation in activities with the military, including its intelligence arms; and a call for the government to declassify all documents related to the same;

2) The disestablishment of Division 19, the Society for Military Psychology, from the APA;

3) The immediate recission of APA’s Ethics Code 1.02, which was changed from earlier formulations in 2002 to permit adherence “to the requirements of the law, regulations, or other governing legal authority” when there is otherwise a conflict between the law and psychologists’ ethical practice. Opponents of 1.02 have rightly compared it to the Nazi defense of “following orders” at Nuremberg;

4) A call for the formation of a civilian, cross-disciplinary investigatory panel to examine the past history and current collaboration of scientific and medical professionals with the government, especially its military and intelligence agencies, to encompass fields as diverse as psychology, anthropology, linguistics, and sociology, with a goal of producing recommendations on interactions between government and the scientific and medical communities;

5) A moratorium on research into interrogations;

6) Sever the link that ties APA’s definition of “cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment” in its various resolutions from the Reagan-era Reservations to the UN Convention Against Torture, which seeks to weaken that definition by relying on suspect interpretations of U.S. law rather than international definitions;

7) The immediate cessation of all support for involvement of psychological personnel in participation in any activity that supports national security interrogations.

The sordid history of American psychology when it comes to collaboration with governmental agencies in the research and implementation of techniques of psychological torture is one that our field will have to confront sooner or later. In a larger sense, the problems I have presented here are inherent in a larger societal dilemma regarding the uses of knowledge. This problem was recognized by the first critics of untrammeled scientific advance, and represented powerfully by Goethe’s Faust, and Mary Shelley’s Doctor Frankenstein. Human knowledge is capable of producing both good and evil. The scientist, the scholar, and the doctor hold tremendous responsibility in their hands. That they have not shown themselves, in a tragic number of instances, to ethically wield or control this responsibility has meant that the 21st century opens under the awful prospect of worldwide nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare, while a sinister, behaviorally-designed torture apparatus operates as the servant of nation-states wielding these awful weapons of mass destruction.

It’s appropriate that I close with a statement about the problem of serving powerful national interests from a former president of the APA, a leading and important pioneer in our field, and also, for awhile, a member with top secret clearance in the CIA’s MKULTRA mind control program, Carl Rogers. One wonders, along with the authors of a recent study on Dr. Rogers’ CIA collaboration (see Demanchick & Kirschenbaum (2008), Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 48, pp. 6-30), if Rogers’ exposure to the world of secret government military projects didn’t inform his feelings about psychologists and government, as expressed in his famous debate with another seminal psychologist, B. F. Skinner:

To hope that the power which is being made available by the behavioral sciences will be exercised by the scientists, or by a benevolent group, seems to me a hope little supported by either recent or distant history. It seems far more likely that behavioral scientists, holding their present attitudes, will be in the position of the German rocket scientists specializing in guided missiles. First they worked devotedly for Hitler to destroy the U.S.S.R. and the United States. Now, depending on who captured them, they work devotedly for the U.S.S.R. in the interest of destroying the United States, or devotedly for the United States in the interest of destroying the U.S.S.R. If behavioral scientists are concerned solely with advancing their science, it seems most probably that they will serve the purposes of whatever individual or group has the power. (Rogers & Skinner (1956), “Some issues concerning the control of human behavior. A symposium.” Science, 124, p. 1061.)

Sincerely yours,

J------ K------, Ph.D.
San Francisco, CA

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Dissecting the Big Lie(s) on Iraq

A new study by the Center for Public Integrity examines the intense campaign of lies by U.S. leaders as after 9/11 they sought to mobilize the world and domestic opinion for their predatory war in Iraq.

President George W. Bush and seven of his administration's top officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, made at least 935 false statements in the two years following September 11, 2001, about the national security threat posed by Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Nearly five years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, an exhaustive examination of the record shows that the statements were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses.

On at least 532 separate occasions (in speeches, briefings, interviews, testimony, and the like), Bush and these three key officials, along with Secretary of State Colin Powell, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, and White House press secretaries Ari Fleischer and Scott McClellan, stated unequivocally that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (or was trying to produce or obtain them), links to Al Qaeda, or both. This concerted effort was the underpinning of the Bush administration's case for war.
I've no time to elaborate or embellish with fancy prose what is a tremendous job by CPI. Every reader should go read the entire story. I'll only add a quote from an unlikely source, Adolf Hitler (from Mein Kampf, Chapter 10, with anti-semitic and anti-communist rubbish redacted):

...the sound principle that the magnitude of a lie always contains a certain factor of credibility, since the great masses of the people in the very bottom of their hearts tend to be corrupted rather than consciously and purposely evil, and that, therefore, in view of the primitive simplicity of their minds they more easily fall a victim to a big lie than to a little one, since they themselves lie in little things, but would be ashamed of lies that were too big. Such a falsehood will never enter their heads and they will not be able to believe in the possibility of such monstrous effrontery and infamous misrepresentation in others; yes, even when enlightened on the subject, they will long doubt and waver, and continue to accept at least one of these causes as true. Therefore, something of even the most insolent lie will always remain and stick -- a fact which all the great lie-virtuosi and lying-clubs in this world know only too well and also make the most treacherous use of.
Et tu, George?

Down the Rabbit Hole: HIV, Guantanamo, "Dirty Bombers" & the Devolution of the U.S. into a Torture State

"Whither I fly is Hell..."

Candace Gorman is reporting that her client, Guantanamo prisoner Abdul Hamid al-Ghizzawi, contracted AIDS at Guantanamo's Camp Delta. He believes he was infected during a "routine blood test."

Last October I wrote about Mr. al-Ghizzawi's dire medical state, and the Amnesty International campaign to save him. At that time, all we knew is that he was seriously ill with hepatitis B and tuberculosis. While Guantanamo authorities deny it, he claims he is not receiving adequate medical care. Eyewitness accounts from the U.S. prison confirm his charges.

His attorney wrote the following at The Guantanamo Blog last Sunday:

After I received the distressing news from Mr. Al-Ghizzawi that a doctor at the base has informed him that he has AIDS I sent an email to the government attorney who has been (mis)handling Mr. Al-Ghizzawi's case. I asked him if he could confirm for me whether or not Mr. Al-Ghizzawi has AIDS. Here is his response:

"We are not privy to the particulars of what your client may have been told by his doctor, if anything, but Guantanamo provides high-quality medical care to all detainees."

And so there you have it.... this criminal government will not deny the doctors diagnosis... (which in and of itself is telling) instead they provide an unresponsive answer...of course if it is true that Al-Ghizzawi has AIDS it means that he acquired the disease while at the base because the military claimed it did a complete physical when Al-Ghizzawi arrived and the ONLY condition he suffered from at that time was Hepatitis I guess there is good reason why they don't want to confirm the diagnosis.
HIV transmission in U.S. prisons has long been a humanitarian disaster largely ignored in the press. University of California, San Francisco researchers have an excellent summary of research on this. But they attribute HIV transmission to homosexual sex, voluntary or via rape. (They estimate from 9 to 20% of federal inmates are subjected to homosexual rape.) -- But Al-Ghizzawi claims his infection was caused by medical tests. And the prison authorities are stonewalling on any more information. Just what the hell is happening at Guantanamo? Are experiments being done on prisoners there?

It wouldn't be the first time such experiments were done on prisoners without their consent. Jonathan Moreno, a well-respected academic, and former Clinton appointee to the Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments, wrote a book that summarizes some of what is known about this sinister and repressed history.

I have no evidence the U.S. government is involved in any experimentation at Guantanamo, but if one is even barely aware of the deadly history of U.S. involvement in secret experimentation, from MKULTRA to Edgewood Arsenal, from the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment to Willowbrook, then you couldn't help but wonder, is it possible the U.S. has been conducting medical experiments at Guantanamo?

I bet you never heard of the Willowbrook scandal. It was a doozy.

The Willowbrook study [mid-1950s to early 1970s] involved infecting mentally retarded children with a Hepatitis virus to study the progression of the disease and to test vaccinations that were being developed at the time. Due to overcrowding, children were denied entrance to the Willowbrook State Mental Hospital [in New York] unless parents enrolled their children into the less-crowded hepatitis ward. This practice did not allow for voluntary participation since there were scarce resources available to care for severely retarded children which limited the treatment options from which parents could select. The institution's director was in charge of the study and conducted subject recruitment by sending a misleading informed consent to parents that included an exaggeration of the study benefits.
So, maybe my questioning of how Mr. Al-Ghizzawi was infected with HIV isn't so tinfoil after all. At the very least, his case is one of criminal negligence and cover-up.

Meanwhile, Jose Padilla was sentenced to 17 years and 4 months for supposedly aiding a jihad cell. While he was never tied to any violent activities, and charges that he was planning to set off a "dirty bomb" in an a U.S. city were ditched after the government realized it needed to drop the "enemy combatant" label they'd given him, he was sentenced with no credit for time served. And what did that "time" look like?

The Christian Science Monitor states that Padilla was subjected to "isolated military detention without charge for nearly four years and subjected... to harsh interrogation techniques."

Padilla's cell measured nine feet by seven feet. The windows were covered over… He had no pillow. No sheet. No clock. No calendar. No radio. No television. No telephone calls. No visitors. Even Padilla's lawyer was prevented from seeing him for nearly two years. (Link to CSM quote from Alternet)
Padilla himself claims that during the period of his confinement he was subjected to severe sensory deprivation and isolation, in addition to suffering from sleep deprivation, extreme temperatures, stress positions, and injections of mind-altering drugs. Doctors who have examined him agree that his treatment caused him serious mental harm.

The question is cui bono? Who benefits? Certainly Padilla's treatment represents an attack on U.S. traditional jurisprudence norms, a conclusion ably represented in an article on the sentencing by Jacob Hornberger:

What happened to Padilla continues to hang over the head of every independent-minded American like a Damocles sword....

The reason that the Padilla case is so ominous for the American people is that it established that the government now wields the post-9/11 power to ignore and violate all of those constitutional protections, as long as it is the Pentagon that is doing the ignoring and the violating.

In other words, the Padilla case did not wipe out these constitutional protections as far as the police are concerned. But it does stand for the proposition that all of these constitutional protections are wiped out insofar as the military is concerned. And this despite the fact that the Bill of Rights expressly applies to the entire federal government, not just the non-military parts of the federal government.
While it's possible that the government continues to do experiments on incarceration that involves psychological torture, like sensory deprivation and sensory overload, isolation, use of drugs, etc. -- in fact, this seems likely -- it's certain that he represents a test case on how to subject a human being, in this case a U.S. citizen, to total government control, to break a person's body and will without any restraint of law or morality.

While Canada can't make up its mind whether the United States belongs on a list of nations that torture...

Amnesty International Canada... says it has ample evidence that prisoners are abused both in U.S. and Israeli jails....

"When it comes to an issue like torture, the government's main concern should not be embarrassing allies," Alex Neve, the group's secretary-general, told Reuters. The U.S. embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Under "definition of torture," the document [part of a training course manual on torture awareness given to Canadian diplomats] lists U.S. interrogation techniques such as forced nudity, isolation, sleep deprivation and blindfolding prisoners.

It also mentions the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba....
Down the rabbit hole, Alice got lost. But, in the end, she found herself and was returned to her comfortable home. We just keeping getting more lost.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Exposed: FBI Cover-Up on Nuclear Spying by U.S. Officials

The cover-up is of the Sibel Edmonds revelations about a nuclear secrets ring wherein high U.S. officials sold information on nuclear weapons technology via Turkish intermediaries to foreign countries, most notably Pakistan. It has been covered by bloggers for years, but was first reported in the mainstream press by the British Sunday Times. Daniel Ellsberg recently excoriated the U.S. press for its suspicious quietude:

For the second time in two weeks, the entire U.S. press has let itself be scooped by Rupert Murdoch's London Sunday Times on a dynamite story of criminal activities by corrupt U.S. officials promoting nuclear proliferation. But there is a worse journalistic sin than being scooped, and that is participating in a cover-up of information that demands urgent attention from the public, the U.S. Congress and the courts.

The second time? Ellsberg is referring to yesterday's second article on the Sibel Edmonds revelations reported in the Sunday Times: FBI denies file exposing nuclear secrets theft. The article exposes an FBI cover-up of a crucial document in the investigation of the nuclear secrets ring.

According to the Sunday Times, the Liberty Coalition made a Freedom of Information request from the FBI for a document, labelled "203A-WF-210023." According to a Sibel Edmonds, this document "refers to the counterintelligence programme that the Department of Justice has declared to be a state secret to protect sensitive diplomatic relations." The FBI responded to the FOIA request by saying the file did not exist.

But The Sunday Times has obtained a document signed by an FBI official showing the existence of the file.

Edmonds believes the crucial file is being deliberately covered up by the FBI because its contents are explosive. She accuses the agency of an “outright lie”.

“I can tell you that that file and the operations it refers to did exist from 1996 to February 2002."

The Valerie Plame Connection

Just as explosive are the assertions of the anonymous tipster to Liberty Coalition that a U.S. official warned members of the Turkish network to steer clear of the Brewster Jennings company "because it was a CIA front company investigating the nuclear black market." Of course, Brewster Jennings was in fact such a CIA front, and the operational cover for Valerie Plame, which was outed by a number of White House operatives back in 2003. This new information corroborates the suppositions of the blogger Lukery, who contended Marc Grossman outed Brewster Jennings as early as 2001. (Grossman was named by prosecutor Fitzgerald as passing information on Valerie Plame to convicted perjurer I. Lewis Libby. He worked in Bush's State Department, and was Clinton's Ambassador to Turkey in the late 1990s.)

How would Grossman know about Brewster Jennings? How widespread was this nuclear secrets cabal within the U.S. government? Widespread enough to have compromised the FBI? These and other equally disturbing questions can and should be asked by politicians and the press in the United States. Yet nothing is heard from either. Why?

Ellsburg's guest op-ed over at Brad Blog explains who in American government should be following up on this:

...there must be pressure by the public on Congressional committee chairpersons, in particular Representative Henry Waxman and Senator Patrick Leahy. Both have been sitting for years on classified, sworn testimony by Edmonds --- as she revealed in the Times' new story on Sunday --- along with documentation, in their possession, confirming parts of her account. Pressure must be brought for them to hold public hearings to investigate her accusations of widespread criminal activities, over several administrations, that endanger national security. They should call for open testimony under oath by Edmonds --- as she has urged for five years --- and by other FBI officials she has named to them, as cited anonymously in the first Times' story.

From Rot to the Danger of Gangrene

The rot of greed and bankrupt great power political maneuvering is totally exposed for all to see. The Sibel Edmonds revelations about U.S. officials selling state nuclear secrets to foreign governments offers a counter-narrative to the myth of U.S. "good intentions" in the world. In fact, it reveals a destabilizing force for war and nuclear blackmail emanating from the most powerful chambers of government. Furthermore, the silence of the press and so-called progressive politicians shows that the corrosion of values and truth-telling in society has seriously degenerated, and gangrene has set in.

I put no faith in Waxman or Leahy. Even less in the New York Times or the Washington Post (who published Ellsberg's Pentagon Papers over a generation ago). The Sunday Times articles are likely the expression (on some level) of a widening breach between the U.S. and Britain, and meant by the British to tweak the beard of their more powerful American patrons (asking the latter, perhaps, not to push the Brits too hard re their commitment to Iraq or Afghanistan).

Ellsberg is right about one thing: unless the American people stand up and make their political voices heard, nothing will be done by the current people in power. And the gangrene will spread. It may already be too late.

See related articles:

*** UK Times: Official Documents Prove FBI lied to protect US officials
*** The Story We've All Been Waiting For
*** UK Sunday Times Scoops US Media Again, Confirms FBI Cover-Up of Documents in Sibel Edmonds Nuke Secrets Case

MLK on "Maladjustment" & Social Justice

While probably not his most famous speech, Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke before the annual convention of the American Psychological Association back in September 1967, held in Washington D.C. Dr. King would be dead before the next convention could meet, the victim of an assassination. While the plot that ended his life may have been murky or ultimately unprovable, it is a fact that Dr. King was a central target for disruption and disinformation by the U.S. federal government, especially as part of the FBI's Cointelpro program.

A copy of the speech was published in the APA's house organ in January 1999, most likely as a commemorative to Dr. King on his eponymous federal holiday. It was originally published in the Journal of Social Issues (Vol. 24, No. 1, 1968). I thought it would be worth quoting a small excerpt (and thanks to colleagues B.O. and E.T. who brought this to the attention of the APA's Social Justice listserv):

There are certain technical words in every academic discipline which soon become stereotypes and even clichés. Every academic discipline has its technical nomenclature. You who are in the field of psychology have given us a great word. It is the word maladjusted. This word is probably used more than any other word in psychology. It is a good word; certainly it is good that in dealing with what the word implies you are declaring that destructive maladjustment should be destroyed. You are saying that all must seek the well-adjusted life in order to avoid neurotic and schizophrenic personalities.

But on the other hand, I am sure that we will recognize that there are some things in our society, some things in our world, to which we should never be adjusted. There are some things concerning which we must always be maladjusted if we are to be people of good will. We must never adjust ourselves to racial discrimination and racial segregation. We must never adjust ourselves to religious bigotry. We must never adjust ourselves to economic conditions that take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few. We must never adjust ourselves to the madness of militarism, and the self-defeating effects of physical violence.

In a day when Sputniks, Explorers and Geminies are dashing through outer space, when guided ballistic missiles are carving highways of death through the stratosphere, no nation can finally win a war. It is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence, it is either nonviolence or nonexistence....

Thus, it may well be that our world is in dire need of a new organization, The International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment.

Friday, January 18, 2008

WashPost: Wall Street Steals Billions from Shareholders

Also posted at Daily Kos

OK, so the Washington Post article today doesn't stay "steal." The headline reads Dire Year on Wall Street Yields Gigantic Bonuses. And how big were these bonuses? Reportedly larger than the GNP of of Sri Lanka, Lebanon or Bulgaria, or more precisely, $39 billion dollars in year-end bonuses for the top five Wall Street firms. Meanwhile, shareholders in three of these five firms lost $80 billion dollars.

Now I know that economics is supposed to be the "dismal science," but who knew how dismal? The shareholders of these companies may want to pause and consider the math. The money out of shareholder pockets, much of which comes from institutional investments by union funds, IRA mutual funds, state retirement agencies, etc., goes directly into the pockets of a handful of the super-rich. Meanwhile these same firms plan to ax "at least 4,900 jobs as losses mount from the collapse of the subprime mortgage market."

Ah, this is capitalism.

Of course, Wall Street understands:

Goldman Sachs Group, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers Holdings and Bear Stearns together paid $65.6 billion in compensation and benefits last year to their 186,000 employees. Year-end bonuses usually account for 60 percent of the total, meaning bonuses exceeded the $36 billion distributed in 2006 when the industry reported all-time high profits....

"To many people, it will be shocking and questionable," said Jeanne Branthover, managing director of Boyden Global Executive Search. "People in New York in the world of investment banking will understand it. It's critical that pay is still there or you're going to lose really good people."

Something doesn't add up, and it's this: A small group of individuals have appropriated the massive wealth produced by a vastly larger number of individuals. So some people will wind up on the street, and lose their homes, and have their lives seriously disrupted or destroyed, all because another, much smaller bunch of people might walk off their jobs if they don't receive millions of dollars, even tens of millions, in extra money each year.

Call it government by extortion, an economy run on massive theft and fraud.

The candidates for president -- almost all millionaires themselves -- might raise enough outrage to summon up a soundbite on this. But don't hold your breath.

We need real change in this country. But it won't come until the American people rise up and demand it.

How hard will the bankers and corporations have to squeeze? How many lives will be destroyed before the irrationality of allowing such giant discrepancies in wealth will be recognized for the intolerable evil it is?

This story suddenly elicited an old tune in my head, Woody Guthrie's old ballad about "Pretty Boy Floyd":

Yes, as through this world I've wandered
I've seen lots of funny men;
Some will rob you with a six-gun,
And some with a fountain pen.

And as through your life you travel,
Yes, as through your life you roam,
You won't never see an outlaw
Drive a family from their home.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Soldz: "American and California Psychological Associations move to gut bill on interrogations"

The title really says it all. I've written about California State Senator Ridley-Thomas's attempt to pass a resolution in the California legislature threatening loss of licensure for psychologists involved Bush's torture-ridden national security interrogations. A hearing took place last Monday and the resolution was moved out of commmittee. Stephen Behnke was there to testify on behalf of both the American and California Psychological Associations. It seems on behalf of APA and CPA, he tried to slip a fast one on the committee, but was rebuffed. Here's a link to Stephen Soldz's story on the whole affair, a peek at the commentary:

In particular, by inserting three words [bolded below], the APA/CPA entirely change the meaning of the critical Resolved clause. Rather than follow the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association and state that involvement in interrogations is in conflict with the ethics of a health profession, they would turn this into another vacuous statement against torture, as if everyone, even those who order it, doesn’t claim to be against torture:

Resolved, That the Legislature hereby requests the United States Department of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency to remove all California-licensed health professionals, including, but not limited to, physicians and psychologists, from participating in any way in prisoner and detainee interrogations that involve torture, in view of their respective ethical obligations, the record of abusive interrogation practices, and the Legislature’s interest in protecting California health professionals from the risk of criminal liability; and be it further...

The APA-CPA revision would make this Resolution even weaker than APA resolutions, which condemn not only torture, but the similar but legally distinct “cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Notice also that, in order to make this change palatable, they totally distort the fundamental guidelines of the World Medical Association, as you can see from the language they want remove, here indicated by strikeout:

WHEREAS, The World Medical Association (WMA) issued guidelines stating that physicians shall not use nor allow to be used their medical knowledge or skills, or health information specific to individuals, to facilitate or otherwise aid any interrogation, legal or illegal; and

WHEREAS, The guidelines issued by the WMA also state that physicians shall not participate in or facilitate torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman, or degrading procedures of prisoners or detainees in any situations;

In the category of the humorous, if it wasn’t an indicator of how closely allied with the military the APA is, is that they remove the word “military” from a phrase pointing to the clear record that psychologists participated in abuse.

WHEREAS, Evidence in the public record indicates that certain military psychologists, working on behalf of the United States government, participated in the design and implementation of psychologically abusive interrogation methods used at Guantanamo Bay, in Iraq, and elsewhere....

If this attempt to gut this important legislative initiative is to be stopped, California psychologists, other health providers, and all citizens concerned about human rights will have to organize a massive lobbying campaign. Letters, phone calls, and personal meetings with State Senators and Assembly members are critical. Remember to be polite and to focus upon why this matters to the citizens and government of California. The legislature is not interested in internal conflicts within the health professions. Many are not concerned about foreign affairs. But they are very interested in kinds of activities the health providers licensed by the state are engaged in. Remember also that they may know little or nothing about these issues. Explain succinctly and to the point.

Let us not mistake the attitude of the APA/CPA as a fault of their leadership. The truth is that APA, at least, has over a period of four or five decades become intricately entwined in the workings of U.S. national security, and there's nothing this leadership is doing that is any worse than what came before them. A historical reckoning looms for APA, especially when it comes to the history of mainstream behavioral science and torture/mind control programs, going back to the early days of MKULTRA. Someday there will be a commission formed to tell the truth about what doctors, psychiatrists, and psychologists have wrought, and how some of them were used, in the name of furthering a sinister agenda of total control by their federal masters. This immoral program was forged in the crucible of the Cold War, and has reappeared as part of the hubris and fury of Bush's deadly "war on terror." Hopefully, justice will someday be meted out by the powers that be, and young psychologists, and other medical practitioners and researchers will come to know their full history.

In the meantime, I hope my readers will take Dr. Soldz's suggestions seriously and lobby their legislators and pressure the press to report this story.

Did Robert Gates Order Iran Speedboat Provocation?

The story of the Iranian speedboats in the Strait of Hormuz that supposedly threatened U.S. warships has been pretty thoroughly debunked by now. Now Asia Times has an article that details how the disinformation was created and spread by the Pentagon, as the Pentagon planted stories with the press, starting with CBS and CNN. Even though the encounter at sea was "not that different from many others in the Gulf over more than a decade," the Pentagon timed the news about the supposed provocation to a trip by Bush to the region.

The key line in the Asia Times piece is right at the beginning (my bold emphasis):

Senior Pentagon officials, evidently reflecting a broader administration policy decision, used an off-the-record Pentagon briefing to turn the January 6 US-Iranian incident in the Strait of Hormuz into a sensational story demonstrating Iran's military aggressiveness, a reconstruction of the events following the incident shows.

Forget the small fry, like Bryan Whitman, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs in charge of media operations, who initially spread the story at an "off the record" briefing for reporters. From whence did this "broader administration policy decision" derive? Who ordered it?

A little into the AT story, we get our answer (or the first inklings of it):

Lieutenant Colonel Mark Ballesteros of the Pentagon's Public Affairs Office told IPS the decision on what to include in the video was "a collaborative effort of leadership here, the Central Command and navy leadership in the field".

"Leadership here", of course, refers to the secretary of defense and other top policymakers at the department. An official in the US Navy Office of Information in Washington, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue, said that decision was made in the office of the secretary of defense.

So it was Gates. It's Secretary of Defense, and former CIA chief Gates's resignation we should be calling for. But, I find it hard Gates would have initiated this all on his own. He must have consulted with, if not received orders from either Cheney or Bush. -- Funny though how those three letters keep popping up whereever you look: C-I-A.

Where's a free and enquiring press when you need one? The whistleblowers on this one probably emanate from the Navy itself, as commanders in Iraq were not apparently too happy at this dangerous exercise in spin and provocation from Washington:

The commanding officer of the guided missile cruiser Port Royal, Captain David Adler, dismissed the Pentagon's story that he had felt threatened by the dropping of white boxes in the water.... "I saw them float by. They didn't look threatening to me."

The naval commanders seemed most determined, however, to scotch the idea that they had been close to firing on the Iranians....

Asked whether the navy's reporting of the episode was distorted by Pentagon officials, Lydia Robertson of Fifth Fleet Public Affairs would not comment directly. But she said, "There is a different perspective over there."

Coming after the startling revelations in the British press by FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds that U.S. officials have been involved in a bribery scheme involving the export of nuclear secrets to countries like Pakistan (which has been suppressed in the U.S. press), the emerging truth about this latest provocation and misinformation in the Gulf, presaging war against Iran, demonstrates that the rulers of the U.S. are the most dangerous threats to the world on the planet. We can only hope, given the current political dynamic in the U.S., that Robert Wexler and Dennis Kucinich in the U.S. House of Representatives are successful in bringing impeachment charges against Bush and Cheney. Because short of that, I can't imagine what will stop them in their insane quest for war.

H/T to FishOutOfWater for this story and his excellent diary on it at Daily Kos.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Law and Ethics for Non-Persons in U.S. Gulag

Last week the D.C. Court of Appeals threw out a suit by three British former prisoners at Gitmo, and in their ruling legitimated the use of torture at Guantanamo's Camp Delta, saying that such "seriously criminal" actions by the government was "foreseen", and that no one could be held responsible for following orders. It also stated that Guantanamo prisoners were not legally "persons." Could I be making this up?

No chance. Here's Scott Horton's take at Harper's:

Three British detainees held at Gitmo, who were seized for bounty payments for no good reason and who were pried free by the British Government, filed suit alleging that they had been tortured and denied their religious freedom. They sought redress from the authors of the Gitmo system, including former Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, who crafted a series of once-secret orders directing the Guantánamo torture system. Among the practices introduced and used were waterboarding, hypothermia, long-time standing, sleep deprivation in excess of two days and the use of psychotropic drugs—each of which constitutes torture under American law and under international standards. These orders and their implementation were criminal acts under United States law....

The judges hearing the case, all movement conservative Republicans appointed by a President named Bush– Karen LeCraft Henderson, Janice Rogers Brown and A. Raymond Randolph–concluded that the plaintiffs were not “persons” for purpose of the relevant statute protecting religious freedom. They further concluded that acts of torture and contempt and abuse targeting religious belief were within the legitimate scope of conduct of an American cabinet officer, so that official immunity blocked the suit.

McClatchy news had the story, too:

The court rejected other claims on the grounds that then-Attorney General John Ashcroft had certified that the military officials were acting within the scope of their jobs when they authorized the tactics, and that such tactics were "foreseeable."

"It was foreseeable that conduct that would ordinarily be indisputably `seriously criminal' would be implemented by military officials responsible for detaining and interrogating suspected enemy combatants," Circuit Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson wrote in the court's main opinion.

Meanwhile, the American Psychological Association, which just can't bring itself to restrict use of its members at Guantanamo, CIA "black site" prisons, and other military hellholes where Bush corrals his victims in the predatory "war on terror" (places like Baghram), has opened up a period of public comment on its policies, with the aim of producing an ethics casebook "on psychological ethics and national security". Never mind that the latter two terms constitute an oxymoron.

The goal of the casebook/commentary is to provide ethical guidance to psychologists advising or consulting to national security-related interrogations

There is really no point in constructing casebooks restricting the military and CIA in their use of torture. Nor does it seem the courts can be counted upon to rule against it. As the recent ruling reported above makes clear, instead, the legitimization of human beings into non-persons is well under way. Supposedly "liberal" organizations like APA are anxious to provide ethical cover for atrocities and attacks against freedom. While some of those involved may be well-meaning individuals, the weight of social conformity and institutional identification, not to mention bureaucratic conservatism and narrow-minded guild consciousness, combines to make this call for a casebook something more than insipid. It asks APA critics to take a hand in crafting a policy that will involve them in the interrogation practices of individuals without rights, without oversight, by institutions that have a fifty year policy of researching and conducting torture.

As Chris Floyd noted some time ago:

It is obvious beyond all dispute by now that the Bush Regime will simply ignore any and all attempts to put fetters on its atrocities. They will not stop torturing people. They will not stop kidnapping people and holding them without charges. They will not stop launching mass-murdering wars of aggression. They will not stop perverting the electoral system to keep their extremist fringe views ensconced in power.

The only possible way to stop these criminal depradations is to remove Bush and Cheney from office. Nothing else will do it. And any national political figure or presidential candidate who does not have this removal at the top of their agenda, who is not beating this drum day after day and using all their power and influence and position to help bring it about is, as we have noted here before, nothing but an accomplice to torture and murder.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

PHR Letter in Support of California Bill to Stop Doctor/Psychologist Participation in U.S. Torture Interrogations

Tomorrow, a California State Senate Select Committee is holding a hearing on the Ridley-Thomas Resolution which would require California licensing agencies to send letters to their health professional licensees to inform them that participation in abusive detainee treatment and coercive interrogations could be subject to prosecution. I described this bill last week. Now, the president of Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) has written to State Senator Ridley-Thomas offering full support for this important piece of legislation.

All opponents of state-sponsored torture and abusive interrogations should support this bill, and put maximum pressure on California legislators to vote this bill into law. Additionally, with the presidential campaign headed for a February primary showdown in 20 states, including California, all candidates should tell us where they stand on this potentially landmark bill.

PHR's full letter follows. Its text also appears, with suitable commentary, at Stephen Soldz's website, Psyche, Science, and Society. Bold text below represents my own emphasis.

January 11, 2007

Senator Mark Ridley Thomas
State Capitol, Room 4061
Sacramento, CA 95814

Re: Support for Resolution on Health Professional Involvement in Torture

Dear Senator Thomas:

I am writing on behalf of Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), an organization that for 20 years has been engaged in mobilizing the health professions to advance human rights. We strongly support the resolution you have offered. It is a critical step toward restoring the integrity of the health professions in the context of national security policy and renewing public confidence in these professions.

For its entire history, PHR has been engaged in documenting torture throughout the world and ending medical complicity in it. We also led the process of establishing international standards for medical documentation of torture (the Istanbul Protocol), which were endorsed by the UN General Assembly. In 1997 Physicians for Human Rights shared in the Nobel Peace Prize as a member of the Steering Committee of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines.

In recent years, we have been actively engaged in stopping torture by the United States and any medical participation in it. We issued a seminal report on the use of psychological torture, Break Them Down, and a medico-legal analysis of “enhanced” interrogation techniques, Leave No Marks (available on our web site, PHR has been particularly concerned about the role of health professionals as designers, implementers, and supervisors of systematic torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of detainees. This role is in direct contravention of the foundational tenets of medical ethics and domestic and international human rights law and significantly undermines the health professional’s role as healer. We and our advisers have written analyses of the problem for the Journal of the American Medical Association and other scientific and legal journals, provided op-ed articles for major newspapers including the Los Angeles Times, and provided testimony to the U.S. Congress. We have also played an active role in providing guidance and advice to professional associations, including the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Psychological Association, in setting out the ethical standards applicable to the health profession in the context of interrogation.

It is this background that leads us to support the resolution you are offering. It states clearly that all health professionals should not participate in torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Moreover, it follows the approach the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association took after careful study, which holds that to be true to ethical commitments, physicians should not participate in the interrogation of individual detainees at all – even an interrogation that doesn’t involve torture or cruel treatment. These organizations adopted this stance in recognition that the traditional standard – no participation in torture and cruel treatment – is inadequate. I would like to review the reasons for this stance.

First, it is indisputable that even the most benign interrogation is designed to induce distress and anxiety. Interrogations conducted by the United States in the context of detention of terrorist suspects, significantly exacerbate this distress, and the potential for long-term harm, because they take place in a closed environment where human rights violations, including no due process and indefinite confinement, can easily occur. Engaging in any interrogation support in these circumstances, even where the interrogation is legal, is inconsistent with core ethical value of all the health professions in avoiding harm. This stance is similar to the ethical prohibition on physicians from participation in executions even in states where, as in California, capital punishment is legal.

Second, while it is often claimed that health professionals can play the role of a “safety officer” in interrogations, the investigations we and others have conducted have shown that the opposite is the case: in this role, health professionals in Behavioral Science Consultation Teams become the decision-makers in the calibration of the degree of pain and distress to be inflicted. This is shown in a forthright report issued by the Army Surgeon General in 2005, which on the one hand affirmed that health professionals act to assure that interrogations are safe, but expected them to advise interrogators when it was permissible to increase the distress and pain inflicted on a detainee.

Third, it is often argued that health professionals, particularly behavioral scientists, by sharing information and insights about individual detainees, can help establish rapport with a detainee and otherwise support non-coercive interrogations. But this role provides an invitation – which is embodied in current military rules – to share medical records and results of examinations with interrogators. The AMA and American Psychiatric Association have therefore come to the view that their members may train interrogators generally about human behavior and interrogation but not participate in individual interrogations.

Finally, there is a terrible slippery slope in engaging in interrogations that fall short of torture or cruel treatment. As we know, the interpretations of what amounts to torture and cruel treatment by the Justice Department, CIA and Department of Defense are ever-changing, and health professionals ought not to be in the position of being told that a certain interrogation method is acceptable because the lawyers have said so. They are not in a position, either from the point of view of legal knowledge of authority, to contest such determinations, and the prudent approach is to remove them from the situation where such choices must be made. The record of interrogations by the United States has indeed shown that psychologists and physicians have been reassured that the conduct involved does not involve torture and cruel treatment, when in fact it does. Whether serving as supposed “safety officers,” members of Behavioral Consultative Science Teams (BSCTs), or as advisors and implementers to interrogations, health professionals, especially psychologists and physicians, have had their medical expertise and prestige twisted to legitimate criminal treatment of suspected terrorists. The untenable position in which they have been placed can only be avoided by banning participation altogether.

We are aware that some health professionals and the American Psychological Association wish to continue a role for health professionals in interrogations, and thus urge adherence to the pre-9/11 standard, which only prohibits participation in torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. But the experience of the past six years shows why that standard is unworkable and ineffective, and why both internationally – through the World Medical Association – and domestically, the majority approach since 9/11 has been to end the participation of members of health professions obligated to “do no harm” in interrogation altogether.

Because your resolution does precisely this approach we support it. It can help provide health professionals serving in national security environments the ethical and legal guidance they so desperately require to operate in US detention facilities in a manner that comports with their professional ethics and values. By passing this resolution, California will also send a strong message to national security agencies that there is no circumstance where a health professional should be allowed to participate in the willful infliction of harm, and that California will hold health professionals who engage in these activities accountable for their violation of their solemn duty to “do no harm”.


Leonard S. Rubenstein

Friday, January 11, 2008

On Wars and Casualities: "Numbers Sanctify"

A new study on Iraqi casualites due to the U.S. invasion have engendered some controversy, and the newspapers duly report the figures. Is it 30,000? 150,000? 600,000?

In these crazy, deadly times, how appropriate to give the final word to a celluloid figure, whose own final words were recorded over sixty years ago now:

Wars, conflict, it's all business. One murder makes a villain. Millions a hero. Numbers sanctify. (Monsieur Verdoux)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Close Guantamo: All Out for January 11 Demos

From the ACLU website:

JANUARY 11, 2008, is the six-year anniversary of the first arrival of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay.

On January 11, we are calling on everyone opposed to torture and indefinite detention to WEAR ORANGE to symbolize their sadness and disgust with the national shame that is Guantánamo Bay.

Download the CLOSE GUANTÁNAMO Toolkit now to find out how you can organize for January 11 at home, in your office, on campus, in your community, and online. Learn More About Guantánamo

There are events planned all around the country. Go to the site to find out what's planned in your area. While you're at it, you may want to think about contributing to ACLU or any of the other organizations involved in this event, and in fight against torture and for human and democratic rights in general.

Meanwhile, DWG over at Daily Kos brings us up to date on the case of Abdul Al-Ghizzawi, whose case I described last autumn.

Thanks to the government failing to retain (read: destroyed) evidence used in the 2004 tribunals, Mr. Al-Ghizzawi may have a third crack at the kangaroo court. Gorman is pessimistic she will be given the opportunity to serve as his advocate in a third CSRT hearing.

What’s more, I asked if I could be present at Mr. Al-Ghizzawi’s third CSRT if such an event is to take place and I queried as to whether the military has decided whether attorneys can be present at the new tribunals.

I waited more than a week for a response. Then I sent an email asking those questions again. This time I received a reply: “We are in receipt of your letter and email. We are not in a position to provide any information at this time.” I immediately responded asking if he could tell me when he might anticipate being able to provide that information to me.... I don’t expect a response.

Perhaps one day I will learn that the military conducted a third tribunal for al-Ghizzawi. He will probably be too ill to attend or at least too ill to participate. The media will be there, government attorneys too… but I do not expect the government will extend me an invitation.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The Dark Nexus of the World: More on the Edmonds Revelations & the Meaning of Deep Politics

The "dark nexus" of the world is where its most secretive business is conducted, such as the bribes and secret payoffs that Sibel Edmonds recently revealed were behind a nuclear proliferation ring that involved many top U.S. officials. According to a recent compelling article by Chris Floyd (whose descriptor above I have quoted), this "shadowlands" is "where covert operations, criminal networks, terrorism, high finance and state policy mingle, and battle, in profitable murk." I believe Peter Dale Scott famously called this essential, if diabolical aspect of modern history, "deep politics."

Floyd likens the recent Edmonds tale to that of the scandal around BCCI, "the 'Bank of Credit and Commercial International,' a supposed financial group that a U.S. Senate investigation called 'one of the largest criminal enterprises in history'".

And what were the illicit activities that BCCI facilitated for its entangled crime gangs and government agents? The Senate report:

"BCCI's criminality included fraud by BCCI and BCCI customers involving billions of dollars; money laundering in Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas; BCCI's bribery of officials in most of those locations; support of terrorism, arms trafficking, and the sale of nuclear technologies; management of prostitution; the commission and facilitation of income tax evasion, smuggling, and illegal immigration; illicit purchases of banks and real estate; and a panoply of financial crimes limited only by the imagination of its officers and customers."
The Senate investigators found that the CIA lied about is extensive, long-term contacts with BCCI, although the Kerry panel [John Kerry led the 1992 Senate investigation] often couched this flagrant falsehood in more decorous tones, e.g., "the CIA inadvertently failed" to tell the proper federal officials about BCCI's criminal activities (emphasis added). Still, much of the findings are straightforward on this point: "After the CIA knew that BCCI was as an institution a fundamentally corrupt criminal enterprise, it continued to use both BCCI and First American, BCCI's secretly held U.S. subsidiary, for CIA operations."
There's more... a lot more. BCCI helped funnel money to Saddam Hussein in the 1980s, including money for chemical weapons and WMD. Bush Sr. squashed investigations that threatened to expose this. Then there's the links to Bush Jr. (and possibly Bill Clinton).

As Kevin Phillips points out in his devastating – and woefully ignored – book on the Bushes, American Dynasty, Bush II's first large-scale business enterprise, the Arbusto oil company, was almost certainly financed in part with investments from American frontmen for BCCI-connected Saudi grandees Salem bin Laden, older brother of Osama bin Laden and then the head of the family, and Khalid bin Mahfouz, a major stockholder in BCCI.
The failing Arbusto was later bought out by Harken Energy in a sweetheart deal that landed business failure Bush a plum spot on the Harken board and plenty of stock to play with. Bush soon worked his magic touch on Harken: the company began to tank. It was saved by an unusual infusion of $25 million from the Union Bank of Switzerland, one of BCCI's associates. The deal was brokered by long-time Bush family contributor Jackson Stephens – who, curiously enough, was also a major paymaster for Bill Clinton's political rise. In fact, in 1992, Stephens was the largest individual contributor to both Bush I and Clinton in their presidential contest.
There's much, much more, and I courteously encourage the reader to go read all of Floyd's well-written piece. (And a h/t to Inky99 over at Daily Kos, whose own article on this directed my attention to Chris's article.)
According to Peter Dale Scott, who draws conclusions in an academic sort of way (he is a professor, after all):

A deep political system or process is one which resorts to decision-making and enforcement procedures outside as well as inside those sanctioned by law and society. What makes these supplementary procedures "deep" is the fact that they are covert or suppressed, outside public awareness as well as outside sanctioned political processes.
We see deep politics in imperial and post-imperial systems which are accustomed to use criminal assets to intervene lawlessly in other societies....
Deep political analysis focuses on the usually ignored mechanics of accommodation. From the viewpoint of conventional political science, law enforcement and the underworld are opposed to each other, the former struggling to gain control of the latter. A deep political analysis notes that in practice these efforts at control lead to the use of criminal informants; and this practice, continued over a long period of time, turns informants into double agents with status within the police as well as the mob. The protection of informants and their crimes encourages favors, payoffs, and eventually systemic corruption. The phenomenon of "organized crime" arises: entire criminal structures that come to be tolerated by the police because of their usefulness in informing on lesser criminals. In time one may arrive at the kind of police-crime symbiosis familiar from Chicago, where the controlling hand may be more with the mob than with the police it has now corrupted.
Floyd concludes his own article in a more succinct fashion, getting right to the point:

This is the way the world works. Behind the glitz and gossip of presidential campaigns, behind all the earnest "policy debates" on Capitol Hill, behind all the "position papers" and "vision statements" of think tanks and political parties, behind all the great panoply of state and our august Establishment institutions, thieves and murderers have their way, in league with the great and good.
But neither Scott nor Floyd says what has to be said (because each believes the dark political realities are almost too great to fight), that the time is now overripe for the entry of the regular people into history. When it happens, such action shatters the previous status quo, with its networks of criminals and politicians, and changes the society forever. The classic example of this was the storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789. The storming of the Winter Palace in 1917, backed up by the sailors of the Russian Navy, was another such moment in history.

For the "deep politics" of the criminal gangs and the titans of industry and politics that govern this world are aimed at exploiting the working peoples of the world, and the only answer to such activity must come from the heart and soul of humanity itself. Life against death: what is good in human beings against what is fearful and tyrannical.

Now, I am not advocating a storming of anything. Nor can I predict in what form any revolutionary emergence or change will take place. But the thoroughly corrupt leadership of the nation states and empires that jostle and struggle for supremacy on this globe are leading humanity to the edge of the nuclear precipice, and time is growing far too short. This blog is a minuscule voice in the shout and wild hurrah that is the eternal buzzing of the Internet. It is my stone cast into the void. It is my wish for a spark. It is a prediction awaiting fulfillment, or a drowning in the coming flood of war and holocaust, led by the greedy men and women that ply their trade in and out of the dark nexus of the world's "business."

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Support California Bill to Stop U.S. Torture Collaboration by M.D.s & Psychologists

While the the American Psychological Association (APA) readies its ethics casebook, which is supposed to clarify their "strong" position against torture and abuse interrogations, APA still supports the participation of psychologists assisting the interrogation process at Guantanamo and CIA "black site" prisons. Now, the California State Legislature may be moving to try and stop such psychologist involvement.

Next Monday, January 14, a California State Senate Select Committee is holding a hearing on the Ridley-Thomas Resolution which would require California licensing agencies to send letters to their health professional licensees to inform them that participation in abusive detainee treatment and coercive interrogations could be subject to prosecution. Dr. Jean Maria Arrigo is testifying to the committee on Monday and will deliver a letter of support from, which has been fighting within the APA for a moratorium against psychologist participation in torture and abusive and coercive interrogations at national security settings.

Mark Ridley-Thomas (D-Los Angeles) was a co-sponsor of an earlier California Assembly resolution that called for a U.S. Congressional impeachment investigation against President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Now he's going after the apparatus that allows for military and CIA torture at U.S. prisons in Bush's misnamed "war on terror" (the link is to a cached page, as the regular page isn't coming up for some reason):

In the humanitarian spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Senator Ridley-Thomas is stepping out front to address the controversial issue of physician-involved torture of detainees and prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. The Senator has called for a legislative hearing on January 14th to fully explore the topic.

As Chair of the Senate Committee on Business, Professions and Economic Development, Ridley-Thomas will also be presenting a Senate Resolution to remove all California physicians from participating in prisoner and detainee interrogation practices.

The Senate Resolution states in part, that the U.S. Department of Defense has "failed to oversee the ethical conduct of California licensed health professionals related to torture." It further requests all relevant California agencies to notify California licensed health professionals that those participating in torture may be subject to prosecution.

Physician groups, including the American Medical Association and national humanitarian organizations, including the (AFSC), have condemned the involvement of physicians in the torture of prisoners.

AFSC has begun a Californians to Stop the Torture Campaign. The group hopes to collect 10,000 signatures petitioning the State of California to notify its doctors, psychologists, and other licensees of their obligations to refrain from participating in acts of torture. For more information regarding the upcoming hearing, please visit the Senator's website:

This proposed resolution deserves ALL of our support, not just citizens of California. I suspect that it's possible that behind the scenes moves are already taking place to submarine this resolution, or at least relegate it to the realm of non-event by stifling publicity. We must not let this happen!

I know everyone is mesmerized by all the drama around the presidential primaries. Indeed, such political struggle is red meat to many of the denizens of this site. But let's now lose sight of the struggle still going on among those currently elected to serve us.

While a copy of this resolution cannot be accessed online, so far as I know, a copy of it has come into my possession. Whether it is the final copy, I cannot say (notice there are some blanks in the copy, meant I suppose to be filled in with relevant data). Please note, all bolded text is my emphasis only.

10/15/07 08:1OAM
58048 RN 07 29989 PAGE 1
as introduced, Ridley-Thomas.

General Subject: Health professionals: torture.

This measure would request all relevant California agencies to notify California-licensed health professionals about their professional obligations under international law relating to torture and the treatment of detainees, as specified, and to also notify those professionals that those who participate in torture, among other forms of treatment, may be subject to prosecution. In addition, the measure would request the United States Department of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency to remove all California-licensed health professionals from participating in prisoner and detainee interrogations

Fiscal committee: yes.

WHEREAS, Health professionals licensed in California, including, but not limited to, physicians, osteopaths, psychologists, psychiatric workers, and nurses, have and continue to serve nobly and honorably in the armed services of the United States; and

WHEREAS, United States Army regulations and the War Crimes Act and, relative to the treatment of prisoners of war, Common Article III of the Geneva Conventions and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) require that all military personnel report and not engage in acts of abuse or torture; and

WHEREAS, CAT defines the term “torture” as “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity”; and

WHEREAS, In 2002, the United States Department of Justice reinterpreted national and international law related to the treatment of prisoners of war in a manner that purported to justify long-prohibited interrogation methods and treatment of detainees; and

WHEREAS, Physicians and other medical personnel and psychologists serving in noncombat roles are bound by international law and professional ethics to care for enemy prisoners and to report any evidence of coercion, or abuse of detainees; and

WHEREAS, The World Medical Association (WMA) issued guidelines stating that physicians shall not use nor allow to be used their medical knowledge or skills, or health information specific to individuals, to facilitate or otherwise aid any interrogation, legal or illegal; and

WHEREAS, The guidelines issued by the WMA also state that physicians shall not participate in or facilitate torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman, or degrading procedures of prisoners or detainees in any situations; and

WHEREAS, The American Medical Association’s (AMA) ethical policy prohibits physicians from conducting or directly participating in an interrogation and from monitoring interrogations with the intention of intervening; and

WHEREAS, AMA policy also states that “(t)orture refers to the deliberate, systematic or wanton administration of cruel, inhumane > and degrading treatments or punishments during imprisonment or detainment. Physicians must oppose and must not participate in torture for any reason ... Physicians should help provide support for victims of torture and, whenever possible, strive to change the situation in which torture is practiced or the potential for torture is great”; and

WHEREAS, In May 2006, the American Psychiatric Association stated that psychiatrists should not “participate directly in the interrogation of persons held in custody by military or civilian investigative or law enforcement authorities, whether in the United States or elsewhere,” and that “psychiatrists should not participate in, or otherwise assist or facilitate, the commission of torture of any person. Psychiatrists who become aware that torture has occurred, is occurring, or has been planned must report it promptly to a person or persons in a position to take corrective action”; and

WHEREAS, In August 2006, the American Psychological Association stated _____ that “psychologists shall not knowingly participate in any procedure in which torture _____ or other forms of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment is used or threatened” and that “should torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment evolve during a procedure where a psychologist is present, the psychologist shall attempt to intervene to stop such behavior, and failing that exit the procedure”; and

WHEREAS, In June 2005, the House of Delegates of the American Nurses Association issued a resolution stating all of the following: “prisoners and detainees have the right to health care and humane treatment”; “registered nurses shall not voluntarily participate in any deliberate infliction of physical or mental suffering”; “registered nurses who have knowledge of ill- treatment of any individuals including detainees and prisoners must take appropriate action to safeguard the rights of that individual”; “the American Nurses Association shall condemn interrogation procedures that are harmful to mental and physical health”; “the American Nurses Association shall advocate for nondiscriminatory access to health care for wounded military and paramilitary personnel and prisoners of war”; and “the American Nurses Association shall counsel and support nurses who speak out about acts of torture and abuse”; and

WHEREAS, In March 2005, the California Medical Association stated that it “condemns any participation in, cooperation with, or failure to report by physicians and other health professionals the mental or physical abuse, sexual degradation, or torture of prisoners or detainees”; and

WHEREAS, In November 2004, the American Public Health Association stated that it “condemns any participation in, cooperation with, or failure to report by health professionals the mental or physical abuse, sexual degradation, or torture of prisoners or detainees:’ that it “urges health professionals to report abuse or torture of prisoners and detainees;’ and that it “supports the rights of health workers to be protected from retribution for refusing to participate or cooperate in abuse or torture in military settings”; and

WHEREAS, The United States military medical system in Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan, Iraq, and other United States operated foreign military prisons failed to protect detainees’ rights to medical treatment, failed to prevent disclosure of confidential medical information to interrogators and others, failed to promptly report injuries or deaths caused by beatings, failed to report acts of psychological and sexual degradation, and sometimes collaborated with abusive interrogators and guards; and

WHEREAS, Current United States Department of Defense guidelines authorize the participation of certain military health personnel, especially psychologists, in the interrogation of detainees as members of “Behavioral Science Consulting Teams” in violation of professional ethics. These guidelines also permit the use of confidential clinical information from medical records to aid in interrogations and

WHEREAS, Evidence in the public record indicates that military psychologists participated in the design and implementation of psychologically abusive interrogation methods used at Guantanamo Bay, in Iraq, and elsewhere, including sleep deprivation, long-term isolation, sexual and cultural humiliation, forced nudity, induced hypothermia and other temperature extremes, stress positions, sensory bombardment, manipulation of phobias, force-feeding hunger strikers, and more; and

WHEREAS, Published reports indicate that the so-called “enhanced interrogation methods” of the Central Intelligence Agency reportedly include similar abusive methods and that agency psychologists may have assisted in their development; and

WHEREAS, Medical and psychological studies and clinical experience show that these abuses can cause severe or serious mental pain and suffering in their victims, and therefore may violate the “torture” and “cruel and inhuman treatment” provisions of CAT and the United States War Crimes Act, as amended by the Military Commissions Act of 2006; and

WHEREAS, The United States Department of Defense has failed to oversee the ethical conduct of California-licensed health professionals related to torture; now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the Senate and the Assembly of the State of California, jointly, That the Legislature hereby requests all relevant California agencies, including, but not limited to, the Board of Behavioral Sciences, the Dental Board of California, the Medical Board of California, the Osteopathic Medical Board of California, the California State Board of Pharmacy, the Physician Assistant Committee of the Medical Board of California, the California Board of Pediatric Medicine, the Board of vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians, the Board of Psychology, and the Board of Registered Nursing, to notify California-licensed health professionals via newsletter, email, and Web site about their professional obligations under international law, specifically Common Article HI of the Geneva Conventions, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and the amended War Crimes Act, which prohibit the torture of and the cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment of detainees in United States custody; and be it further __

Resolved, That the Legislature hereby requests all relevant California agencies _____ to notify health professionals licensed in California that those who participate in torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment may one day be subject to prosecution; and be it further

Resolved. That the Legislature hereby requests the United States Department of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency to remove all California-licensed health professionals, including, but not limited to, physicians and psychologists, from participating in any way in prisoner and detainee interrogations, in view of their respective ethical obligations, the record of abusive interrogation practices, and the Legislature’s interest in protecting California health professionals from the risk of criminal liability; and be it further

Resolved, That the Secretary of the Senate transmit copies of this resolution to the United States Department of Defense, the Central Intelligence Agency, and all relevant California agencies, including, but not limited to, the Board of Behavioral Sciences, the Dental Board of California. the Medical Board of California, the Osteopathic Medical Board of California, the California State Board of Pharmacy, the Physician Assistant Committee of the Medical Board of California, the California Board of Pediatric Medicine, the Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians, the Board of Psychology, and the Board of Registered Nursing.

This is a stupendous blow against the federal government's torture regime. It may, in the end, not be enforceable; I don't know. But it won't go anywhere, I can guarantee you, without public support and pressure. Call (Office -- (916) 651-4026
or Fax -- (916) 445-8899) or contact Mark Ridley-Thomas and tell him you support him, and send messages to your local California State Senator and Assemblyperson telling them to support the Ridley-Thomas Resolution Against Participation by Medical Professionals in Torture!

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