Saturday, October 17, 2009

Per Obama: Torture Evidence Is "Protected" Against Release

This is what a Nobel Prize gives you the chutzpah to do. From Jason Leopold at Truthout:
On Thursday, the House approved a Department of Homeland Security spending bill that included a provision to amend the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and grant Defense Secretary Robert Gates the authority to withhold "protected documents" that, if released, would endanger the lives of US soldiers or government employees deployed outside of the country.

According to the bill, the phrase "protected documents" refers to photographs taken between September 11, 2001 and January 22, 2009, and involves "the treatment of individuals engaged, captured or detained" in the so-called "war on terror." Photographs that Gates determines would endanger troops and government employees could be withheld for three years.
Leopold quotes Democratic Congresswoman Louise Slaughter as saying "the language was quietly reinserted in recent weeks, 'apparently under direct orders from the administration.'" The bill's language is a cover for Obama, who was otherwise threatening an administration petition to the U.S. Supreme Court to stop the release of the controversial, unseen "torture photos."

Will we hear much protest from the progressive blogosphere? Not likely, as the torture issue slips off the radar, and the trudging submission of the progressive punditry to Democratic Party faux-ameliorism continues (there are exceptions, and you know who they are). Millions more on unemployment. Wall Street dances in blue chips. War continues apace, and the torture industry revs up for more high-tech adventures in breaking individuals down. No pictures of war. Nothing messy. Just bright baubles, Nobel Prizes, and proud words about equality... some day. No one in a position of power must lose a wink of sleep: that's how change is measured in America these days.

Congress Fails, But Justice Speaks Out

Meanwhile, over in Great Britain, per the UK Guardian, some very welcome news:

In a devastating judgment, two senior judges roundly dismissed the [British] foreign secretary's claims that disclosing... evidence would harm national security and threaten the UK's vital intelligence-sharing arrangements with the US.

In what they described as an "unprecedented" and "exceptional" case, to which the Guardian is a party, they ordered the release of a seven-paragraph summary of what the CIA told British officials – and maybe ministers – about Ethiopian-born [Binyam] Mohamed before he was secretly interrogated by an MI5 officer in 2002.

"The suppression of reports of wrongdoing by officials in circumstances which cannot in any way affect national security is inimical to the rule of law," Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Lloyd Jones ruled. "Championing the rule of law, not subordinating it, is the cornerstone of democracy."
Readers might remember the case of Binyam Mohamed, who was seized by the United States in Pakistan in 2002, secretly renditioned to Morocco, and later held at Bagram and Guantanamo "terror" prisons, suffering torture in all these sites. He is one of the plaintiffs in the Jeppesen case, a suit brought by the ACLU. That case engendered a decision last summer by the Ninth Circuit Court, which was one of the last legal victories in the U.S. in the struggle for accountability for torture.
In 2007, the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit against Jeppesen DataPlan, Inc., a subsidiary of Boeing Company, on behalf of five victims of the United States government's unlawful "extraordinary rendition" program. The suit charges that Jeppesen knowingly participated by providing critical flight planning and logistical support services to aircraft and crews used by the CIA to forcibly disappear these five men to detention and interrogation. Shortly after the suit was filed, the government intervened and inappropriately asserted the "state secrets privilege," claiming further litigation would undermine national security interests, even though much of the evidence needed to try the case was already available to the public. In April 2009, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court dismissal of the case, ruling that the government must invoke the state secrets privilege with respect to specific evidence, not to dismiss the entire suit. The case is remanded back to district court, providing the first opportunity for Bush-era torture victims to have their day in court.

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