Friday, May 27, 2011

"Girl from the North Country"

Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Documentary on Early U.S. Radiation Experiments on Black Children (Video Trailer)

“…and she told the other nurse, “Oh my God, I’ve given him too much!” —from “Hole in the Head: A Life Revealed”
Greg Reese at Antelope Valley News has written about the early radiation experiments conducted in 1927 on black children at Lyles Station, Indiana. These hideous experiments are part of a largely unexamined legacy of illegal human experimentation, much of it conducted on African-Americans, and other minorities, and also on prisoners.

A 2009 documentary tells the story of one of these children, now deceased, Vertus Hardiman. These experiments took off Hardiman's scalp... literally. But Reese wasn't the only victim, nor the Lyles Station experiments the last. As Reese tells it:
One cannot help but be repulsed by the cruelty of such procedures, especially their application to young children, but this was not an isolated case. Similar research occurred in 1951 on a much larger scale has been uncovered in the then-fledgling state of Israel. Like the Lyles Station incident, where all the affected children were Black, racial overtones abounded since fair-skinned Ashkenazi Jews of European origin administered radiation to upwards of 100,000 Sephardic Jewish children who were refugees from Morocco.

The Ashkenazis served as proxies for Robert Oppenheimer, his Manhattan Project, and the U.S. government, who underwrote the program because they were eager to utilize a convenient pool of guinea pigs for further testing in the wake of their successful atomic bombings at the close of World War II. Sephardic Jews differ visually from their Ashkenazi brethren by virtue of their darker, olive skin tone.

Still more episodes of radiation bombardment were conducted throughout the 1960s at what is now the University of Cincinnati on some 90 working-class citizens, of which two-thirds were Black. During the Clinton Administration these and other Cold War experiment programs were reviewed to determine restitution suitability and the need for formal apologies.
The following is a trailer from Brett Leonard's documentary, "Hole in the Head: A Life Revealed" (h/t Russ Baker at

For more information on the U.S. history on human experiments, see Eileen Welsome's The Plutonium Files; Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present by Harriet Washington; and Acres of Skin: Human Experiments at Holmesburg Prison by Allen M. Hornblum.

Hornblum wrote an op-ed for the Philadelphia Inquirer last March after President Obama's commission on bioethics, hastily assembled last year after the scandals over U.S. health department experiments on syphilis conducted on Guatemalan subjects in the 1940s, began their meetings. Hornblum, who is an expert on the history of unethical human research wrote:
Medical excesses and breaches of research ethics are not just things of the distant past. They still occur and will continue until the penalties exceed the incentives to cut corners and break the rules. The national bioethics commission can foster that goal by not only explaining what went wrong 60 years ago, but by also aggressively pushing recommendations that punish transgressors, keep a vigilant eye on clinical trials both here and abroad, and encourage medical schools and others to bring research ethics out of the basement and into the classroom.
I wrote a letter to the Inquirer in response to Hornblum's op-ed. It was never published, but here it is in its entirety:
Dear Editor,

As someone who has been investigating research ethics issues involving the Department of Defense and the Intelligence Community, I wish to applaud Mr. Hornblum's excellent op-ed ("Research ethics require action and vigilance," March 20, 2011) concerning the deliberations of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues. He makes a number of important points, noting particularly that "Medical excesses and breaches of research ethics are not just things of the distant past."

In an investigatory piece last year with the journalist Jason Leopold, I documented threats by the Defense Research and Engineering component of the Department of Defense to shut down all DoD-related research by the end of 2004 if the requisite assurances of adherence to ethical guidelines were not submitted to it by the end of that year. We do not know what precipitated this threat and DRE review, and attempts to find out from DoD elicited only a "no comment."

But we do know that in 2002 Paul Wolfowitz had loosened the requirements for waivers of informed consent among DoD researchers. Between that time and 2004, there was little or no oversight over DoD research policies at exactly the time when both DoD and CIA were engaged in an experimental torture program, using detainee prisoners as human guinea pigs for the study of the effects of torture and harsh detention.

Any serious government review of bioethical issues would certainly include a look at government-related research, which also has a long history of serious ethical breaches, from the CIA MKULTRA experiments of the 1950s and 1960s, through the Department of Energy's radiation experiments, and the Defense Deparment's Project SHAD nerve gas experiments. It would also include a look at possible experiments done on detainees in the past ten years.

I hold out little hope that the government will address these issues seriously, and share Mr. Hornblum's concern that the results of this commission will be yet another whitewash and blue ribbon attempt to stuff these serious issues back into the closet of public ignorance and governmental indifference.

Jeffrey Kaye, Ph.D.
Amy Gutmann, Ph.D., Chair of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, told the press they believe they will have a report ready for the President this summer. The commission met on May 18-19, and their next meeting is slated for Aug. 29-30, 2011 (though no agenda for that meeting is yet posted).

More coverage on commission hearings can be found at PrisonPlanet, which has been following the earlier Commission meetings.

Update, 5/27/11: Jonathan Moreno, Professor of Medical Ethics and of History and Sociology of Science, and a part-time staffer for the Presidential Bioethics Commission, writes to correct my notion, and that of others who have written on the Commission, that it was "hastily assembled" after the revelations on the Guatemalan syphilis experiments. According to Dr. Moreno, "Actually the commission was in operation for a nearly year before that project started, working on the synthetic biology report, and was then assigned the Guatemala issue."

Indeed, the Commission was enabled via executive order in November 2009 (PDF of Executive Order). The Commission has a webpage describing the history of bioethics commissions in general.

The following is from a FAQ page the Commission has posted (PDF) describing "FAQ about the Commission's Investigation into U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) supported research on sexually transmitted diseases in Guatemala from 1946-1948 involving the intentional infection of vulnerable human populations." As explained in the FAQ, an international research panel was established on March 1, 2011 that will report to the Commission. It is this panel that was formed, in my opinion, and evidently, as a response to the Guatemalan scandal.
On November 24, 2010, President Obama directed his Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (PCSBI), beginning in January, to “oversee a thorough fact-finding investigation into the specifics” of the USPHS supported research. A copy of the President’s charge to the Commission can be seen here:

The Commission’s fact-finding review is underway....

Records are being examined in archives across the United States, including the National Archive and Records Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention archives at Morrow, Georgia, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), successor organization to the Pan American Sanitary Bureau, the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Virginia, the National Library of Medicine, and the National Academies. Records are being sought also from relevant agencies, including the Departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs, and State. An independent physician will review individual medical records. Records from the Government of Guatemala may also be requested in the near future....

President Obama also asked the Bioethics Commission to conduct a review of the adequacy of human subjects protection across the international field of research. Specifically, he asked PCSBI to convene an international panel to review current U.S. Government regulations and international standards and consider if they adequately guard the health and well-being of participants in scientific studies supported by the U.S. Government.

The International Research Panel was announced on March 1 and it will report to the Commission. It includes 14 leaders from the bioethics and medical/science communities. A majority of members come from outside the U.S., including one person from Guatemala. Amy Gutmann, Ph.D., Chair of PCSBI, will lead the International Research Panel. The Panel will meet at least 2-3 times in the next five months and at least once overseas. A copy of the press release announcing the Panel can be seen here: commission-names-international-research-panel.html

Monday, May 23, 2011

Report: Intelligence Unit Told Before 9/11 to Stop Tracking Bin Laden

Cross-posted from Truthout

by Jeffrey Kaye

A great deal of controversy has arisen about what was known about the movements and location of Osama bin Laden in the wake of his killing by US Special Forces on May 2 in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Questions about what intelligence agencies knew or didn't know about al-Qaeda activities go back some years, most prominently in the controversy over the existence of a joint US Special Forces Command and Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) data mining effort known as "Able Danger."

What hasn't been discussed is a September 2008 Department of Defense (DoD) inspector general (IG) report, summarizing an investigation made in response to an accusation by a Joint Forces Intelligence Command (JFIC) whistleblower, which indicated that a senior JFIC commander had halted actions tracking Osama bin Laden prior to 9/11. JFIC is tasked with an intelligence mission in support of United States Joint Force Command (USJFCOM).

The report, titled "Review of Joint Forces Intelligence Command Response to 9/11 Commission," was declassified last year, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from Steven Aftergood at the Federation of American Scientists.

The whistleblower, who the IG report identified as a former JFIC employee represented only by his codename "IRON MAN," claimed in letters written to both the DoD inspector general in May 2006 and, lacking any apparent action by the IG, to the Office of the National Director of Intelligence (ODNI) in October 2007, that JFIC had withheld operational information about al-Qaeda when queried in March 2002 about its activities by the DIA and higher command officials on behalf of the 9/11 Commission. The ODNI passed the complaint back to the IG, who then opened an investigation under the auspices of the deputy inspector general for intelligence.

In a November 27, 2007, letter from Edward Maguire at the ODNI to Gen. Claude Kicklighter at the DoD's IG office, Maquire identifies the whistleblower as "a DIA employee in the Defense HUMINT Management Office, Policy and Plans Division," who was "personally involved in JFIC intelligence activities related to al-Qa'ida and the 9/11 attacks and had first hand knowledge of circumstances surrounding that alleged false reporting to the Secretary of Defense and Congress."

Maguire also offered to send classified material to the DoD IG that was in possession of the Director of National Intelligence's (DNI) inspector general. He also told Kicklighter that the DNI had not performed even a preliminary inquiry on the allegations.

The IG report, which does not explain the 18-month delay in opening an investigation, cleared JFIC of any wrongdoing and declared that the intelligence agency had "provided a timely and accurate reply in response to the 9/11 Commission." In evident response, IRON MAN indicated to the IG investigating staff that "he had never seen the 9/11 Commission questions or JFIC's response, but that Congress should have asked for files concerning the tracking of Usama Bin Ladin."

According to the IG report, the 9/11 Commission "had not requested the direct submission of any files or requested information regarding the tracking of Usama Bin Ladin." The report said the commission questions "were very specific," and asked what the JFIC knew about "imminent attack" or "hijackers involved" in the 9/11 terrorist attack.

Tracking Bin Laden had been undertaken by a secret unit within the JFIC, the Asymmetric Threats Division, formed in 1999 "to take a non-traditional approach to analysis." Known by its DoD acronym, DO5, it was tasked with providing "current intelligence briefings and produced the Worldwide Terrorist Threat Summary in support of the USJFCOM Intelligence staff [J2]." Almost no public source material exists on DO5 activities, except what is in the IG report.

The IG report does not deny the tracking of Bin Laden, but notes that the JFIC was to provide general and direct intelligence support to USJFCOM and subordinate joint forces commands and that it did not have a mission to track Osama bin Laden or predict imminent targets of terrorism on US soil.

Nevertheless, DO5 was involved in intelligence concerns domestically. It provided assistance to the Joint Task Force - Civil Support (JTF-CS), which, like DO5, was formed in 1999 and based out of Fort Monroe, Virginia. The JTF-CS was tasked with assisting the DoD response to domestic terror incidents, including "managing the consequences of a domestic chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosive (CBRNE) situation." At one point, DO5 assisted the JTF-CS by "establishing fictional terrorist organizations that would mimic real world terrorist groups" that were utilized as part of JTF-CS "exercises."

The obscurity of DO5's mission was summed up by a former JFIC deputy director of intelligence, who told investigators that DO5 had "no theater specific mission." According to the answers the JFIC provided to the 9/11 Commission, the JFIC received over 2,200 messages daily "from other agencies, JFCOM components, or services." It did "not conduct any unilateral collection" of any intelligence domestically.

According to the narrative in the IG report, a previous JFIC deputy director of intelligence said that the JFIC commander, identified elsewhere in the report as Capt. Janice Dundas, US Navy, "directed him to stop tracking Usama Bin Ladin. The Commanding Officer stated that the tracking of Usama Bin Ladin did not fall within JFIC's mission." At the same time, JFIC analysis of purported Afghanistan "terrorist training camps" was also curtailed, with an explanation that such activities were outside the agency's Area of Operations and "that the issues where [sic] not in JFIC's swim lane."

According to the report, the Asymmetric Threats Division was "realigned" in summer 2001 under the "Intelligence Watch Center." The Intelligence Watch Center may be the Combined Intelligence Watch Center associated with NORAD, which is an "indications and warning center for worldwide threats from space, missile and strategic air activity, as well as geopolitical unrest that could affect North America and US forces/interests abroad." This would be consistent with the work DO5 did with the JTF-CS.

The order to stop tracking Bin Laden, therefore, came sometime between the origin of DO5 in 1999 and its realignment just prior to, or right after 9/11. In 2005, the JFIC itself was renamed the Joint Transformation Command-Intelligence, still subordinate to and serving USJFCOM.

Other Allegations

According to the IG report, IRON MAN claimed that the JFIC had "original material created by DO5 relevant to al-Qa'ida," and that the JFIC had constructed "numerous original reports." But the IG investigators found that interviews with other JFIC personnel and a review of historical DO5 briefings did not support these allegations. They claimed that DO5, which "recruited JFIC personnel from the command based upon their counterintelligence and counterterrorism expertise," merely "monitored and compiled intelligence reporting" from other agencies.

IRON MAN told IG investigators that he believed that his agency, JFIC, would deny the existence of the Asymmetric Threat Division and its analyses. But the IG report authors claimed, "JFIC correctly identified the DO5 in its response to question 8" from the 9/11 Commission and explained, in addition, that the JFIC noted that "D05's emphasis was on force protection for the USJFCOM components."

But in the reply to question 8 reproduced in the IG report, there is no mention of either DO5 or the Asymmetric Threat Division. The answer states, "JFIC's Counter-terrorism focus has changed over the years," and that from fall 1999 until September 11, 2001, the JFIC's counterterrorism focus switched to "Asymmetric Threats OCONUS [outside the continental US] to include terrorism and CBRN [Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear] issues," with the aforementioned emphasis on USJFCOM force protection. Nowhere does it indicate the existence of DO5 and there is no reason to believe that 9/11 Commission members were ever aware of its existence. The JFIC was never mentioned in the subsequent 9/11 Commission report.

In addition, IRON MAN's allegations also included charges that the JFIC and specifically DO5, had developed information that the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were the most likely domestic targets of an al-Qaeda attack. The IG report disputes this and claims, with less than definitive assurance, "Evidence indicated that the JFIC did not have knowledge regarding imminent domestic targets prior to 9/11 or specific 9/11 hijacker operations."

The IG report indicated that IG investigators spoke with a number of key ranking JFIC personnel, as well as the previous USJFCOM director of intelligence, the JFIC Commanding Officer and personnel from the Asymmetric Threat Division.

Earlier this year, a blogger, Susie Dow, who has been following the story of Kirk von Ackermann , a US Army contractor in Iraq who disappeared on the road between Tikrit and Kirkuk in October 2003, asserted that von Ackermann had earlier belonged to JFIC's Asymmetric Threat Division. Von Ackermann's vehicle was found by the side of the road with a computer and a briefcase containing $40,000 in cash. An Army Criminal Investigative Division investigation later concluded that he was the victim of a probable kidnapping, while rumors persisted that he was possibly going to blow the whistle on DoD corruption.

An associate of von Ackermann, Ryan Manelick, a former Air Force Intelligence officer, was shot and killed outside a US military base near Baghdad two months later. Manelick had earlier told various people that he was in fear for his life. Both von Ackermann and Manelick worked for the contractor Ultra Services, based in Turkey. No particular link between von Ackermann or Manelick and the IRON MAN allegations has ever been proposed.

Dow has written on the two contractors for the website e Pluribus Media. In a May 6 posting at her own web site, "The Missing Man," Dow noted the IG report's conclusion: "The analysis completed by the Joint Forces Intelligence Command, specifically the Asymmetric Threat Division, was not applicable to the questions asked by the 9/11 Commission."

"Which leads me to believe the 9/11 Commission did not ask the correct questions," Dow said.

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Rep. Rogers: Kidnapped Argentinian Babies Distract From Fight Against Al Qaeda

How nice that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, a Republican Congressman from Michigan, and 206 of his House GOP colleagues live in a country where political opponents are not disappeared, tortured, or murdered in the dead of night, their children stolen to be brought up by the very intelligence officers that disappeared them.

So maybe Rogers didn't appreciate the criminal absurdity of his comments to the Washington Post on Friday May 13, after a House vote defeated a proposed amendment by Democratic Rep. Maurice Hinchey (NY) on the declassification of U.S. intelligence files regarding the 1976 Argentine generals coup and the bloody seven year dictatorship that followed. According to the Post, Rogers "said declassifying them would distract U.S. spies from the fight against al-Qaida."

A similar Congressional vote for declassification of documents related to Chile, in a 1999 amendment by Rep. Hinchey, which passed, led to the release of over 24,000 documents, and to accelerated investigations and prosecutions of state crimes in Chile. But the GOP, which voted largely on party lines to defeat the amendment on declassification of documents related to Argentina, made this vote into a bogus stand in support of the "war on terror."

The vote comes only weeks after a trial has opened in Argentina, placing into the dock two former Argentine dictators, Jorge Videla and Reynaldo Bignone, for literally stealing babies during what has become known as Argentina's "Dirty War." A recently released document available via National Security Archive shows that the Chilean intelligence attaché to Buenos Aires estimated the number of dead and disappeared in Argentina as over 22,000 between 1975 and 1978 (original document PDF).

The Jurist summarized the baby stealing case against the dictators:
The two are accused in 34 separate cases of infants who were taken from mothers held in clandestine torture and detention centers, the Navy Mechanics School and Campo de Mayo army base. The case was opened 14 years ago at the request of Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, and includes as defendants five military judges and a doctor who attended to the detainees. The trial is expected to hear 370 witnesses and last up to a year. With the help of the Grandmothers' DNA database, 102 people born to vanished detainees have recovered their true identities.
This is not the first trial of the criminal leaders of the former Argentine junta. Former Argentine dictator Jorge Rafael Videla was sentenced last year to life in prison for crimes against humanity. And just recently a former agent of the Argentine Secretariat of State Intelligence (SIDE), Miguel Angel Furci, was arrested and charged with human rights abuses, including kidnapping and torture. His trial starts this June. And there have been others brought up on charges and/or convicted as well.

The baby stealing charges are a particularly sickening part of the Dirty War history. As an AP story explained it, "the existence of babies belonging to people who officially no longer existed created a problem for the junta leaders." So the solution was to falsify documents and arrange "illegal adoptions by people sympathetic to the military regime." According to the indictment, there were hundreds of such "adoptions."

American Complicity: You Can Run But You Can't Hide

The U.S. support for the Argentinian junta and Dirty War was part of a larger program known as Operation Condor, which operated throughout the Southern Cone, and was responsible for death squads and torture and a reign of terror throughout Latin America, as the right-wing operations spread northward into Central America in the 1980s.

Even though the U.S. government still seeks to hide documents implicating U.S. intelligence and other state agencies from complicity in the terrible crimes in Argentina, some documents have been released over the years. There's a goodly collection of them at the National Security Archive website.
The documents include a formerly secret transcript of Henry Kissinger's staff meeting during which he ordered immediate U.S. support for the new military regime, and Defense and State Department reports on the ensuing repression. The Archive has also obtained internal memoranda and cables from the infamous Argentina intelligence unit, Battalion 601, as well as the Chilean secret police agency, known as DINA, which was secretly collaborating with the military in Buenos Aires.

The documents record Washington's initial reaction to the military takeover. "I do want to encourage them. I don't want to give the sense that they're harassed by the United States," Secretary of State Kissinger ordered his staff after his assistants warned him that the junta would initiate a bloodbath following the coup. According to the transcript, Kissinger's top deputy on Latin America, William Rogers, told him two days after the coup that "we've got to expect a fair amount of repression, probably a good deal of blood, in Argentina before too long."
Regarding that last quote, what Rogers actually said in full, according to the transcript (PDF) of Kissinger's March 26, 1976 staff meeting, and following upon a discussion of how the regime would need U.S. financial support: "I think also we've got to expect a fair amount of repression, probably a good deal of blood, in Argentina before too long. I think they're going to have to come down not only on the terrorists but on the dissidents of trade unions and their parties."

Kissinger then tells Rogers, who suggests the U.S. might want to hold off on recognition of the junta, that he wants to "encourage" the generals: "I don't want to give the sense that they're harassed by the United States." Rogers then rushes to assure him his reasoning wasn't humanitarian, but simply that he was concerned about "public posture."

The U.S. government is complicit in war crimes that have killed and tortured and disappeared many, many thousands of people, millions going back to Vietnam. But the U.S. population appears to be largely untouched by these crimes, insensate, living in fear, or complacent... it's hard to say. In any case, those in this country, like Rep. Hinchey, and the many fine workers in human and civil rights organizations, will have to keep pounding on these issues.

Note: Eighteen Republicans did vote for Hinchey's amendment, and seven Democrats voted against it. Twenty-three were listed as "Not Voting," including, surprisingly, two liberal Democratic congresswomen from the Bay Area, Zoe Lofgren and Jackie Speier.

Cross-posted from Firedoglake/MyFDL

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Constitution Project: Stop Searches of Electronic Devices at the Border

The Constitution Project, a group of experts and practitioners from across the political spectrum, who wishes to "promote and safeguard America's founding charter," have issued a press release (PDF) calling for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to stop unreasonable searches of laptops and cell phones carried by citizens and visitors crossing the U.S. border, or arriving internationally at airports.

Such searches are not only intrusive, they are meant to freeze dissent in this country. Recent searches and confiscation of electronic media have happened to people such as Bradley Manning supporter David House, who had a thumb drive, laptop, and digital camera seized when he landed at Chicago's O'Hare Airport from Mexico last November. He's suing DHS, with help from ACLU of Massachusetts, who apparently have targeted him because of his work with the Bradley Manning Support Network. Bradley Manning is accused of leaking Defense Department information, supposedly to Wikileaks, and is currently being held in military custody at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, pending trial.

Another person who had his laptop confiscated back in February 2008, one of thousands of such Americans suffering such warrantless seizure, was freelance journalist Bill Hogan. A U.S. News and World Report article on Hogan's case noted that "an April [2008] ruling by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found that the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees Customs and Border Protection, does have full authority to search any electronic devices without suspicion in the same way that it can inspect briefcases."

It's not just journalists and activists who are having their electronic devices searched or seized, a Washington Post story from 2008 detailed such seizures going back to at least 2006, and gave as examples a therapist and a marketing executive. One person had their daughter's personal calls erased from her phone. Another person, a tech engineer, was forced to give up his password and stood helplessly by as DHS officials copied down his website viewing history.
"It's one thing to say it's reasonable for government agents to open your luggage," said David D. Cole, a law professor at Georgetown University. "It's another thing to say it's reasonable for them to read your mind and everything you have thought over the last year. What a laptop records is as personal as a diary but much more extensive. It records every Web site you have searched. Every e-mail you have sent. It's as if you're crossing the border with your home in your suitcase."
Other lawsuits have been filed against the government policy, and Electronic Frontier Foundation has also been active in supporting these legal actions. Meanwhile, according to Computerworld, the Ninth Circuit ruled again just last April that "Laptop computers and other digital devices carried into the U.S. may be seized from travelers without a warrant and sent to a secondary site for forensic inspection."

From the TCP press release:
U.S. Urged to End Border Searches of Electronic Devices Without Reasonable Suspicion

WASHINGTON -Today, The Constitution Project (TCP) called upon the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to discontinue its policy of searching electronic devices-including laptops and smart phones - at the border without reasonable suspicion. According to a just-released TCP report, between October 1, 2008 and June 2, 2010, over 6,500 people - almost half of whom were U.S. citizens-were subjected to searches of their electronic devices upon crossing the international border.

The report was developed by 19 members of TCP's bipartisan Liberty & Security Committee, including William S. Sessions, a former federal judge and Director of the FBI; Asa Hutchinson, former head of border security for DHS during the George W. Bush administration and former Member of Congress (R-AR); and Mary McCarthy, a former CIA official.

According to TCP Senior Policy Counsel Sharon Bradford Franklin, "Searches of our laptops and smart phones - without reasonable suspicion - can easily result in a breach of our privacy rights, given the amount of personal information we carry on those devices. Courts have historically recognized a limited exception to the Fourth Amendment permitting routine searches at the border, but the scope of those searches has vastly expanded given the storage capacity of electronic devices today. It's a classic example of technology outpacing our legal system, and the government must reform its policy to restore Fourth Amendment protections."

The report cited such search practices as accessing email accounts, examining photographs and looking through personal calendars. In some cases, electronic devices were confiscated for as long as a year. The report recommends that in the case of U.S. persons, officials should be required to obtain a warrant based on probable cause before continuing a search or retaining copies of electronic data beyond 24 hours.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Noam Chomsky on U.S. Imperialism in the Middle East and Africa

Democracy Now! has reproduced the speech Noam Chomsky recently gave at the 25th anniversary celebration of the national media watch group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting:
The U.S. and its allies will do anything they can to prevent authentic democracy in the Arab world. The reason is very simple. Across the region, an overwhelming majority of the population regards the United States as the main threat to their interests. In fact, opposition to U.S. policy is so high that a considerable majority think the region would be more secure if Iran had nuclear weapons. In Egypt, the most important country, that’s 80 percent. Similar figures elsewhere. There are some in the region who regard Iran as a threat—about 10 percent. Well, plainly, the U.S. and its allies are not going to want governments which are responsive to the will of the people. If that happens, not only will the U.S. not control the region, but it will be thrown out. So that’s obviously an intolerable result.

In the case of WikiLeaks, there was an interesting aside on this. The revelations from WikiLeaks that got the most publicity—headlines, euphoric commentary and so on—were that the Arabs support U.S. policy on Iran. They were quoting comments of Arab dictators. Yes, they claim to support U.S. policy on Iran. There was no mention of the Arab—of the Arab population, because it doesn’t matter. If the dictators support us, and the population is under control, then what’s the problem? This is like imperialism. What’s the problem if it works? As long as they can control their populations, fine. They can have campaigns of hatred; our friendly dictators will keep them under control. That’s the reaction not just of the diplomatic service in the State Department or of the media who reported this, but also of the general intellectual community. There is no comment on this. In fact, coverage of these polls is precisely zero in the United States, literally. There’s a few comments in England, but very little. It just doesn’t matter what the population thinks, as long as they’re under control.

Well, from these observations, you can conclude pretty quickly, pretty easily, what policies are going to be. You can almost spell them out. So in the case of an oil-rich country with a reliable, obedient dictator, they’re given free rein. Saudi Arabia is the most important. There were—it’s the most repressive, extremist, strongest center of Islamic fundamentalism, missionaries who spread ultra-radical Islamism from jihadis and so on. But they’re obedient, they’re reliable, so they can do what they like. There was a planned protest in Saudi Arabia. The police presence was so overwhelming and intimidating that literally nobody even was willing to show up in the streets of Riyadh. But that was fine. The same in Kuwait. There was a small demonstration, very quickly crushed, no comment.

Actually, the most interesting case in many respects is Bahrain. Bahrain is quite important for two reasons. One reason, which has been reported, is that it’s the home port of the U.S. Fifth Fleet, major military force in the region. Another more fundamental reason is that Bahrain is about 70 percent Shiite, and it’s right across the causeway from eastern Saudi Arabia, which also is majority Shiite and happens to be where most of Saudi oil is. Saudi Arabia, of course, is the main energy resource, has been since the '40s. By curious accident of history and geography, the world's major energy resources are located pretty much in Shiite regions. They’re a minority in the Middle East, but they happen to be where the oil is, right around the northern part of the Gulf. That’s eastern Saudi Arabia, southern Iraq and southwestern Iran. And there’s been a concern among planners for a long time that there might be a move towards some sort of tacit alliance in these Shiite regions moving towards independence and controlling the bulk of the world’s oil. That’s obviously intolerable.

So, going back to Bahrain, there was an uprising, tent city in the central square, like Tahrir Square. The Saudi-led military forces invaded Bahrain, giving the security forces there the opportunity to crush it violently, destroyed the tent city, even destroyed the Pearl, which is the symbol of Bahrain; invaded the major hospital complex, threw out the patients and the doctors; been regularly, every day, arresting human rights activists, torturing them, occasionally a sort of a pat on the wrist, but nothing much. That’s very much the Carothers principle. If actions correspond to our strategic and economic objectives, that’s OK. We can have elegant rhetoric, but what matters is facts.

Well, that’s the oil-rich obedient dictators. What about Egypt, most important country, but not a center of—major center of oil production? Well, in Egypt and Tunisia and other countries of that category, there is a game plan, which is employed routinely, so commonly it takes virtual genius not to perceive it. But when you have a favored dictator—for those of you who might think of going into the diplomatic service, you might as well learn it—when there’s a favored dictator and he’s getting into trouble, support him as long as possible, full support as long as possible. When it becomes impossible to support him—like, say, maybe the army turns against him, business class turns against him—then send him off somewhere, issue ringing declarations about your love of democracy, and then try to restore the old regime, maybe with new names. And that’s done over and over again. It doesn’t always work, but it’s always tried—Somoza, Nicaragua; Shah in Iran; Marcos in the Philippines; Duvalier in Haiti; Chun in South Korea; Mobutu in the Congo; Ceausescu is one of Western favorites in Romania; Suharto in Indonesia. It’s completely routine. And that’s exactly what’s going on in Egypt and Tunisia. OK, we support them right to the end—Mubarak in Egypt, right to the end, keep supporting him. Doesn’t work any longer, send him off to Sharm el-Sheikh, pull out the rhetoric, try to restore the old regime. That’s, in fact, what the conflict is about right now. As Amy said, we don’t know where it’s going to turn now, but that’s what’s going on.

Well, there’s another category. The other category is an oil-rich dictator who’s not reliable, who’s a loose cannon. That’s Libya. And there, there’s a different policy: try to get a more reliable dictator. And that’s exactly what’s happening. Of course, describe it as a humanitarian intervention. That’s another near historical universal. You check history, virtually every resort to force, by whoever it is, is accompanied by the most noble rhetoric. It’s all completely humanitarian. That includes Hitler taking over Czechoslovakia, the Japanese fascists rampaging in northeast China. In fact, it’s Mussolini in Ethiopia. There’s hardly any exceptions. So you produce that, and the media and commentators present—pretend they don’t notice that it has no—carries no information, because it’s reflexive.

And then—but in this case, they could also add something else, which has been repeated over and over again, namely, the U.S. and its allies were intervening in response to a request by the Arab League. And, of course, we have to recognize the importance of that. Incidentally, the response from the Arab League was tepid and was pretty soon rescinded, because they didn’t like what we were doing. But put that aside. At the very same time, the Arab League produced—issued another request. Here’s a headline from a newspaper: "Arab League Calls for Gaza No-Fly Zone." Actually, I’m quoting from the London Financial Times. That wasn’t reported in the United States. Well, to be precise, it was reported in the Washington Times, but basically blocked in the U.S., like the polls, like the polls of Arab public opinion, not the right kind of news. So, "Arab League Calls for Gaza No-Fly Zone," that’s inconsistent with U.S. policy, so that, we don’t have to honor and observe, and that disappeared.

Now, there are some polls that are reported. So here’s one from the New York Times a couple days ago. I’ll quote it. It said, "The poll found that a majority of Egyptians want to annul the 1979 peace treaty with Israel that has been a cornerstone of Egyptian foreign policy and the region’s stability." Actually, that’s not quite accurate. It’s been a cornerstone of the region’s instability, and that’s exactly why the Egyptian population wants to abandon it. The agreement essentially eliminated Egypt from the Israel-Arab conflict. That means eliminated the only deterrent to Israeli military action. And it freed up Israel to expand its operations—illegal operations—in the Occupied Territories and to attack its northern neighbor, to attack Lebanon. Shortly after, Israel attacked Lebanon, killed 20,000 people, destroyed southern Lebanon, tried to impose a client regime, didn’t quite make it. And that was understood. So the immediate reaction to the peace treaty in Israel was that there are things about it we don’t like—we’re going to have to abandon our settlements in the Sinai, in the Egyptian Sinai. But it has a good side, too, because now the only deterrent is gone; we can use force and violence to achieve our other goals. And that’s exactly what happened. And that’s exactly why the Egyptian population is opposed to it. They understand that, as does everyone in the region.

On the other hand, the Times wasn’t lying when they said that it led to the region’s stability. And the reason is because of the meaning of the word "stability" as a technical meaning. Stability is—it’s kind of like democracy. Stability means conformity to our interests. So, for example, when Iran tries to expand its influence in Afghanistan and Iraq, neighboring countries, that’s called "destabilizing." It’s part of the threat of Iran. It’s destabilizing the region. On the other hand, when the U.S. invades those countries, occupies them, half destroys them, that’s to achieve stability. And that is very common, even to the point where it’s possible to write—former editor of Foreign Affairs—that when the U.S. overthrew the democratic government in Chile and instituted a vicious dictatorship, that was because the U.S. had to destabilize Chile to achieve stability. That’s in one sentence, and nobody noticed it, because that’s correct, if you understand the meaning of the word "stability." Yeah, you overthrow a parliamentary government, you install a dictatorship, you invade a country and kill 20,000 people, you invade Iraq and kill hundreds of thousands of people—that’s all bringing about stability. Instability is when anyone gets in the way.
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Making Guantanamo Permanent, and Other Portents

Originally posted at Firedoglake/MyFDL

A motley crew of Senate Republicans, joined by Sen. Lieberman, have introduced a bill to make Guantanamo a permanent "terrorist" prison. Once upon a time, this could have been dismissed as GOP posturing. But recent events suggest this is more likely a harbinger of the future fate of the US Naval prison, as President Obama has already pronounced that he will support indefinite detention of prisoners based on unchallenged U.S. executive fiat.

It's hard to believe these GOP national security groupies, and their jester Lieberman, could really get this passed, much less signed by the President. But the ways things have been going, who would be ridiculed for thinking such things possible?

Human Rights First reports (H/T Barry Eisler):

Washington, D.C. — Legislation introduced today [11 May] in the Senate to force the Obama administration to declare Guantánamo a permanent prison for terror suspects will inspire America’s enemies and undermine the American justice system, a leading human rights group said.

U.S. Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), along with Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Joseph I. Lieberman (I-CT), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Scott Brown (R-MA) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced the “Detaining Terrorists To Secure America Act” (S. 944) – legislation that would keep open the Guantánamo Bay terrorist detention facility for the detention and interrogation of current and future terrorism suspects. The legislation also permanently limits the transfer of detainees to foreign countries and prohibits funding for the construction of terrorist detention facilities within the United States.

A perpetual Guantanamo to match the indefinite detention policy enshrined by President Barack Obama is truly a sign of the debauched times in which we live, ruled by those whose lust for naked rule and capitalist gain are rarely hidden anymore. I presume, by the way, that the torture via isolation, sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, exploitation of fears, stress positions and drugs -- all fine and "legal" thanks to the near-universal acceptance of the 2006 Army Field Manual on interrogation -- will continue "forever" at Guantanamo as well.

The Terrorist Who Lived Happily Ever After -- in Miami

I can tell you one person who will not be sent to Guantanamo, even though he was involved in bombing hotels and tourist spots in the 1990s. Luis Posada Carriles walked a free man out of a Texas courtroom last month, only weeks before another terrorist was shot in the head, "taken out" by the "heroes" of Seal Team Six. An article in the Mexican paper La Jornada, translated and reposted at The Nation. It was translated by Machetera/Tlaxcala describes more of Posada Carriles' fascinating career:

In addition to working for the CIA, it’s worth recalling that Posada Carriles participated in the US-supported invasion of the Bay of Pigs; that he was an officer in the US Army and that in 1976 he moved to Venezuela to head the intelligence service in that country. That same year he was arrested after being accused of being the mastermind of the attack on the Cuban airliner, and escaped before facing a civil trial for what was at the time the worst terrorist act in the hemisphere. In 2001, he was arrested in Panama, for planning to kill Fidel Castro with 200 pounds of dynamite and C-4 explosives, in a university auditorium filled with students in 2000, but was pardoned by then–Panamanian president Mireya Moscoso in 2004, showing up a short time later in the United States. In 2005 he was arrested here, which led to the beginning of the process that ended last Friday in El Paso with his acquittal.

Posada Carriles walked on charges of immigration fraud and obstruction of justice, and not for any of his terrorist actions, for which he was never charged by American authorities. The U.S. ignores extradition requests to Venezuela. With the latest court decision, the ex-CIA terrorist can return to Miami and sip cocktails and be lionized by the anti-Castro crowd, and the host of SOF that live in southern Florida. It's enough to make me fantasize about leading a Cuban team in the extrajudicial rendition of Posada Carriles back to Cuba, where he could face his victims in trial. (I can't even allow my fantasies the vicarious bloodlust that many Americans seem to luxuriate in, by imagining my neat placement of a kill shot straight through the eyeball of a non-human, reviled villain, monster of all fantasies.)

Will the Obama administration and the pathetic Democratic Party supporters, who have set forth their belief in indefinite detention for those prisoners it deems "unlawful" enemy combatants, who have shown inordinate lust for murder as it tries to assassinate even U.S. citizens (Al-Awlaki), or blow up more and more "enemies" with Hellfire missiles from drone aircraft buzzing with death in the skies, will they hesitate to move against the U.S. population itself with terrorist prisons, indefinite detention for those deemed "terrorists"? Damn if we are not already more than half-way there now.

Torture is the new state religion. The arguments between those who find torture effective and those who find it ineffective are like the arguments between Catholics and Protestants in the seventeenth century, articulated with great passion and earnestness, but totally besides the point. Underlying the actual conflicts and debates is nothing more than a raw grab for power, as the U.S. seeks greater instruments of repression at home and abroad in the name of securing the world for U.S. plunder for the greater good of a small clique of corporations and a coterie of military men, academics, and spies that keep the wheels of the machine well-oiled and ready to strike.

Bravo, Senators Ayotte, Graham, Lieberman, Chambliss, Brown, and Rubio. You have brought the logic of the "war on terror" to its true purpose. You have struck at the heart of the matter, and like the loyal knights-errant of a previous era, your adventures bring back to the King matter for great celebration at the castle. I know you will be well-rewarded.

Torture & the Art of the Gratuitous Lie: Dissecting Rumsfeld & Thiessen's Wild Whoppers

Cross-posted at Firedoglake/MyFDL, where an important membership campaign is now underway. For more on that, see below.

As if we already didn't know the media is full of lies and stupidity, two new examples have surfaced in recent days, with former administration officials and their media mouthpieces vying for who can pronounce the most incredible lies about the torture policies of the U.S. government. What's even more amazing is that one ostensible progressive website and its members have taken at least one of these lies as good coin, a lie so blatant that it only takes a moment's reflection to realize it's total BS.

First, though, precedence should be given to the op-ed by Donald Rumsfeld in last Thursday's Washington Post. Titled "How WikiLeaks vindicated Bush’s anti-terrorism strategy," the former Secretary of Defense -- who was the Bush administration official who authorized aggressive torture techniques based on SERE torture resistance training for use in DoD interrogations, a fact the Washington Post forgot to mention in its brief bio on Rumsfeld -- manages to dredge up every falsehood and canard spewed out by the government to justify the torture they used, from Al Qaeda's purported threats to unleash a "nuclear hellstorm" if Bin Laden was captured, to the supposed "dirty" bomb plot (dreamed up from "confessions" made under torture by Binyam Mohamed, who had looked at a joke website on nuclear bombs online, and was originally a charge against Jose Padilla, later dropped because it would have been laughed out of even Bush's courts).

But the oddest lie, gratuitously thrown in, concerns Rumsfeld's claims about what the Wikileaks documents allegedly reveal about the purported "suicides" of three Guantanamo prisoners in June 2006. Readers might remember the Scott Horton article in Harper's Magazine back in January 2010, "The Guantánamo “Suicides”: A Camp Delta sergeant blows the whistle." (Horton's article produced an upset of sorts at the National Magazine Awards last week, winning the “Reporting” award, beating out Michael Hasting's Rolling Stone article on Gen. Stanley McChrystal, and Jane Mayer's New Yorker exposé on the Koch brothers. -- Congrats, Scott!)

While Horton's article laid out compelling evidence of a cover-up over the possible killings of these three detainees, one of whom had already been cleared for release and return to Saudi Arabia only weeks prior to his death, Rumsfeld claims that the recent Wikileaks release of Guantanamo documents (Detainee Assessment Briefs, or DABs) provide evidence backing the government's contention the three prisoners committed simultaneous suicide.
The documents should also disprove some myths that have dogged Guantanamo and the reputations of those who honorably serve there. The classified record, for example, confirms that three detainees who died in 2006 were suicides — not, as some have irresponsibly alleged, victims of brutal interrogations.
Yet nowhere in the Wikileaks documents, and nowhere in the DABs for Salah Ahmed Al-Salami, Mani Shaman Al-Utaybi, or Yasser Talal Al-Zahrani -- the three men who died -- is there any evidence or claim that their deaths were suicides. Nowhere in these documents is there even a discussion of these suicides, so it is very odd that Rumsfeld, who was sued by the parents of two of the deceased prisoners, should even bring up this story. In Horton's article, it's noted that Rumsfeld might have put the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in charge of a secret interrogation black site at Guantanamo, called unofficially Camp No by some Gitmo personnel, where the three men were seen taken by guards on duty that night. Rumsfeld has never spoken out on the "suicides" before. I wonder what he's trying to preempt.

For a thorough demolition of Rumsfeld's lies, readers may wish to peruse former Col. Larry Wilkerson's declaration under oath "that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld all knew — and didn’t care — that 'the vast majority of Guantánamo detainees were innocent.'”

Marc Thiessen's Theater of the Absurd

Even more gratuitous, and a lie easily disprovable on its face, is the recent assertion, as reported by the overly-creduous Josh Gerstein at Politico, that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed "figured out" how to outlast his 183 waterboardings by CIA torturers (bold emphasis added).
"He figured out the limits," Marc Theissen, a speechwriter for President George W. Bush, said during a panel discussion at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. KSM "actually mocked his interrogators by holding out his arm and counting off the seconds with his hand. He knew exactly how far we could go and when the terrorists know how far you can go it’s very very hard to break them."
Aside from the ridiculous, if not scandalous assertions about the efficacy of torture -- a crime considered "jus cogens," a crime against humanity, and a war crime outlawed by U.S. treaties -- the idea of KSM "holding out his arm to count off the seconds with his hand" would be amazing... if it weren't that his arms and legs were strapped down to a gurney!

Such a blatant lie should have been caught by Gerstein, or by the naive diarist that posted the story over
at Daily Kos, winning a spot on the "recommended" list, even though the diarist and many of the commenters there took Theissen's mendacious fiction to be fact. It wouldn't take more than a few minutes on Google to find this description from the 2002 Office of Legal Counsel memo by Jay Bybee and John Yoo (bold emphasis added): "In this procedure, the individual is bound securely to an inclined bench, which is approximately four feet by seven feet. The individual's feet are generally elevated. A cloth is placed over the forehead and eyes. Water is then applied to the cloth in a controlled manner.

Additionally, one could go to the horse's mouth, so to speak, and read the CIA's own guidelines from its Office of Medical Services (OMS) (PDF). Except for the manner in which breathing was obstructed in the prisoner (as discussed in the CIA IG report on the torture program - PDF), the CIA's waterboarding followed the SERE model, in which, OMS noted (bold emphasis added), "the subject is immobilized on his back, and his forehead and eyes covered with a cloth."

The idea that frustrated CIA torturers were repeatedly waterboarding KSM as he stubbornly held up his arm and hand to count off the seconds of torture is ridiculously absurd, not least because it was physically impossible. What the CIA medical personnel did have to report about the waterboarding showed that some resistance was, in their opinion, possible: "While SERE trainers believe that trainees are unable to maintain psychological resistance to the waterboard, our experience was otherwise. Some subjects [KSM?] unquestionably can withstand a large number of applications, with no immediately discernable [sic] cumulative impact beyond their strong aversion to the experience."

Now, the CIA is no more believable than their mouthpiece, Marc Theissen, but it's notable that even for the unnamed detainee or detainees who supposdely could "withstand a large number of applications," the torture produced a "strong aversion." What the words "withstand" or "aversion" even mean when issuing from the offices of the CIA, I'm not even sure anymore. But it certainly is far different than the picture of an obstreperous KSM that Thiessen provides in order to show that Al Qaeda had learned how to "resist" even a technique as powerful as the waterboard. That this says nothing about the legality or logic of using such torture is an example of how an implicit and dangerous lie is hidden within the blatant outer husk of an absurd lie, i.e., that U.S. torture was not harmful.

As for waterboarding, the fact that SERE training had largely banned waterboarding as too dangerous for their trainees, and the fact that government lawyers hid that fact in the memos they wrote to approve Bush's "enhanced interrogation program," was revealed in a series of exclusive articles I wrote here at Firedoglake last year (see here and here).

News and Analysis You Can Count On -- Become a FDL Member Today

No matter what news source you like, you're not going to find truth-telling and analysis on issues like torture as often as you will at Firedoglake. FDL has initiated a membership program to help put this great site on a firmer financial basis, free from corporate influence or subservience to the mainstream media. If you're reading this, you already know that in-depth reporting and analysis by Marcy Wheeler, Jane Hamsher, David Dayen, Jon Walker, and many others is an everyday occurrence here. And then there are the movie discussions, the Book Salon every weekend, with important and relevant authors interacting with our readers, webinars for FDL members, and more.

When you can be an FDL member for as little as $5 or $10 per month, you're doing yourself a favor by signing up right now. It will be the best few dollars you'll have spent recently, and you'll become part of a thriving and growing online community.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

"Letters From A Man In Solitary"

"Letters From A Man In Solitary" by the famous Turkish poet, Nâzim Hikmet (1902-1963), as posted along with a number of his other poems at
I carved your name on my watchband
with my fingernail.
Where I am, you know,
I don't have a pearl-handled jackknife
(they won't give me anything sharp)
or a plane tree with its head in the clouds.
Trees may grow in the yard,
but I'm not allowed
to see the sky overhead...
How many others are in this place?
I don't know.
I'm alone far from them,
they're all together far from me.
To talk anyone besides myself
is forbidden.
So I talk to myself.
But I find my conversation so boring,
my dear wife, that I sing songs.
And what do you know,
that awful, always off-key voice of mine
touches me so
that my heart breaks.
And just like the barefoot orphan
lost in the snow
in those old sad stories, my heart
-- with moist blue eyes
and a little red runny rose --
wants to snuggle up in your arms.
It doesn't make me blush
that right now
I'm this weak,
this selfish,
this human simply.
No doubt my state can be explained
physiologically, psychologically, etc.
Or maybe it's
this barred window,
this earthen jug,
these four walls,
which for months have kept me from hearing
another human voice.

It's five o'clock, my dear.
with its dryness,
eerie whispers,
mud roof,
and lame, skinny horse
standing motionless in infinity
-- I mean, it's enough to drive the man inside crazy with grief --
outside, with all its machinery and all its art,
a plains night comes down red on treeless space.

Again today, night will fall in no time.
A light will circle the lame, skinny horse.
And the treeless space, in this hopeless landscape
stretched out before me like the body of a hard man,
will suddenly be filled with stars.
We'll reach the inevitable end once more,
which is to say the stage is set
again today for an elaborate nostalgia.
the man inside,
once more I'll exhibit my customary talent,
and singing an old-fashioned lament
in the reedy voice of my childhood,
once more, by God, it will crush my unhappy heart
to hear you inside my head,
so far
away, as if I were watching you
in a smoky, broken mirror...

It's spring outside, my dear wife, spring.
Outside on the plain, suddenly the smell
of fresh earth, birds singing, etc.
It's spring, my dear wife,
the plain outside sparkles...
And inside the bed comes alive with bugs,
the water jug no longer freezes,
and in the morning sun floods the concrete...
The sun--
every day till noon now
it comes and goes
from me, flashing off
and on...
And as the day turns to afternoon, shadows climb the walls,
the glass of the barred window catches fire,
and it's night outside,
a cloudless spring night...
And inside this is spring's darkest hour.
In short, the demon called freedom,
with its glittering scales and fiery eyes,
possesses the man inside
especially in spring...
I know this from experience, my dear wife,
from experience...

Sunday today.
Today they took me out in the sun for the first time.
And I just stood there, struck for the first time in my life
by how far away the sky is,
how blue
and how wide.
Then I respectfully sat down on the earth.
I leaned back against the wall.
For a moment no trap to fall into,
no struggle, no freedom, no wife.
Only earth, sun, and me...
I am happy.

Trans. by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk (1993)
For more on the life of this extraordinary poet, click here.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Partisan Anthem of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

One of the submissions in The Nation's contest on the Top Ten Protest Songs Ever. According to Wikipedia:
"Zog Nit Keyn Mol" (Yiddish: זאָג ניט קיין מאָל) (also referred to as "Partizaner Lid" or "Partisan song", though it shares this title with other works) is the name of a Yiddish song written in 1943 by Hirsh Glick, a young Jewish inmate of the Vilna Ghetto. The song is considered one of the chief anthems of Holocaust survivors and is sung in memorial services around the world. During World War II, it was the anthem of various Jewish partisan brigades.

The lyrics Glick wrote were later set to music by Dmitri Pokrass. The music was actually written earlier than the lyrics, in 1935, for the song "Одесская Походная" (Odessa March), also known as "То не тучи - грозовые облака" (those aren't just clouds - they are storm clouds) about the Russian Civil War. That song was first performed by the well known Soviet Jewish singer Leonid Utyosov.

Hirsch was inspired to write the song by news of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
Note, one of the commenters at YouTube reports the front page of the NY Times in the video is a fake.

As for protest songs, my vote is for Bob Dylan's "Masters of War".

Lyrics to "Zog Nit Keyn Mol" (from Wikipedia page linked above)
Never say this is the final road for you,
Though leaden skies may cover over days of blue.
As the hour that we longed for is so near,
Our step beats out the message: we are here!

From lands so green with palms to lands all white with snow.
We shall be coming with our anguish and our woe,
And where a spurt of our blood fell on the earth,
There our courage and our spirit have rebirth!

The early morning sun will brighten our day,
And yesterday with our foe will fade away,
But if the sun delays and in the east remains –
This song as password generations must remain.

This song was written with our blood and not with lead,
It's not a little tune that birds sing overhead,
This song a people sang amid collapsing walls,
With pistols in hand [1] they heeded to the call.

Therefore never say the road now ends for you,
Though leaden skies may cover over days of blue.
As the hour that we longed for is so near,
Our step beats out the message: we are here!

[1] The actual words used are "with naganes in the hand", a reference to either the Nagant M1895 pistol or the Mosin–Nagant rifle, both widely used in the Soviet Union and both having a reputation for ruggedness, making them especially fitted for the conditions of partisan life.
H/T Greg Mitchell

Open North Korean Political Prison Camps for Inspection by International Commission

Amnesty International is reporting on the increasing scope of the political prison camps, really concentration camps, in North Korea. If the reports are true, they are a monstrosity, and they should be shut down.

For those who think this is a job for the United States, think again. The U.S. itself is implicated in the torture and murder of 100,000s in recent years, and millions over the past five decades or so, i.e., since the North Korean camps were built. A recent South Korean "truth and reconciliation" commission established U.S. complicity in mass killings of over 100,000 leftists and others in South Korea before the start of the Korean War.

The U.S., of course, has its own problems with torture, and the recent assassination of Osama bin Laden by U.S. Special Forces has reignited the mendacious debate over the effectiveness of torture by the former minions of the Bush administration. Few, in the U.S. anyway, are questioning the legality of the U.S. extrajudicial murder of bin Laden and other presumed terrorists. (That's not the case in Europe, as Glenn Greenwald pointed out).

The world is in a heap of trouble, as there is no established state power on this planet that really gives a damn about human rights, and even worse, uses pious words about human rights to conquer and destroy other lands, as the U.S. did in Iraq. (See Michael Otterman's incredible book, Erasing Iraq: The Human Costs of Carnage, written with Paul Wilson and Richard Hill.)

International commissions formed of workers unions, associations and other civil organizations from around the world should be formed to assess and gather information about torture and other crimes against humanity in countries around the world. These commissions should be free of any governmental interference, and be beholden to know particular NGO organization, as well.

From the AI article:
Amnesty International has published satellite imagery and new testimony that shed light on the horrific conditions in North Korea’s network of political prison camps, which hold an estimated 200,000 people.

The images reveal the location, size and conditions inside the camps. Amnesty International spoke to a number of people, including former inmates from the political prison camp at Yodok as well as guards in other political prison camps, to obtain information about life in the camps.

According to former detainees at the political prison camp at Yodok, prisoners are forced to work in conditions approaching slavery and are frequently subjected to torture and other cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment. All the detainees at Yodok have witnessed public executions.

“North Korea can no longer deny the undeniable. For decades the authorities have refused to admit to the existence of mass political prison camps,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International Asia Pacific Director.

“These are places out of sight of the rest of the world, where almost the entire range of human rights protections that international law has tried to set up for last 60 years are ignored.”

“As North Korea seems to be moving towards a new leader in Kim Jong-un and a period of political instability, the big worry is that the prison camps appear to be growing in size.”

Amnesty International believes the camps have been in operation since the 1950s, yet only three people are ever known to have escaped Total Control Zones and managed to leave North Korea. About 30 are known to have been released from the Revolutionary Zone at Political Prison Camp in Yodok and managed to leave North Korea. According to the testimony of a former detainee at the revolutionary zone in the political prison camp at Yodok, an estimated 40 per cent of inmates died from malnutrition .between 1999 and 2001.

Satellite images show four of the six camps occupying huge areas of land and located in vast wilderness sites in South Pyongan, South Hamkyung and North Hamkyung provinces, and producing products ranging from soy bean paste and sweets to coal and cement.

A comparison of the latest images with satellite imagery from 2001 indicates a significant increase in the scale of the camps.

In just one camp, Kwanliso 15 at Yodok, thousands of people are believed to be held as "guilty-by-association" or sent to the camps simply because one of their relatives has been detained.

The majority of prisoners, including some of those ‘guilty-by-association’, are held in areas known as ‘Total Control Zones’ from which they will never be released.

A significant proportion of those sent to the camps don’t even know what crimes they’re accused of.

Amnesty International spoke to former detainees of the political prison camp known as Kwanliso 15 at Yodok.

A former inmate, Kim, told Amnesty International: “Everyone in Kwanliso witnessed executions. When I was an inmate in Kwanliso15 at Yodok, all those who tried to escape were caught. They were interrogated for two to three months and then executed.”

"One Killer Killing Another": Allan Nairn on the Bin Laden Hit

From Democracy Now!, some necessary and important commentary from journalist Allan Nairn on what the death of Osama bin Laden means, and doesn't mean.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to bring Allan Nairn into this conversation. Your response to the news and what you think this could mean? Could this mean the end of the U.S. war with Afghanistan?

ALLAN NAIRN: I don’t think it will. It should. It definitely should be an occasion for rethinking everything on a much bigger scale than Afghanistan.

The first thing that struck me was seeing the Americans out in the streets celebrating outside the White House, outside the old World Trade Center site, people cheering, people exultant. And while some of that may come from bloodlust, I think a lot of it comes from a sense of justice. People like justice. They want to see it. And in this case, I think many people have the feeling, well, he got what he deserved. This was a man who had massacred civilians; he got what he deserved. And there’s a lot of truth to that. But if we recognize that someone who is willing to kill civilians en masse, someone who is willing to send young people out with weapons and bombs to, as President Obama put it, see to it that a family doesn’t have a loved one sitting at the dinner table anymore, see to it that a child and a parent never meet again, if we say that someone like that deserves to die, then we have to follow through on that idea, and we have to recognize, OK, if these things really are so enormous, we have to stop them. Killing bin Laden does not stop them. Bin Laden is dead, but the world is still governed by bin Ladens. People cheer because they thought they saw justice, but this was not justice delivered by—a kind of rough justice delivered by victims. This was one killer killing another, a big killer, the United States government, killing another, someone who’s actually a smaller one, bin Laden. And the bin Laden doctrine that, to take out the CIA office that was at the World Trade Center, it’s OK to blow up the whole World Trade Center, to teach Americans a lesson, it’s OK to slaughter thousands of Americans—that doctrine lives on in the American White House, in the American Pentagon. You know, every day—and in seats of authority all over the world.

Every day, the U.S., directly with its own forces, or indirectly through its proxy forces, its clients, is killing, at a minimum, dozens of people. I mean, just since Obama came in, in the one limited area of drone strikes in Pakistan, something like 1,900 have been killed just under Obama. And that started decades before 9/11. We have to stop these people, these powerful people like Obama, like Bush, like those who run the Pentagon, and who think it’s OK to take civilian life. And it doesn’t seem that they can be stopped by normal, routine politics, because under the American system, as in most other systems, people don’t even know this is happening. People know the face of bin Laden. They know the evil deeds that he’s done. They see that he is dead, and they say, "Oh, great, we killed bin Laden." But they don’t see the other 20, 30, 50, 100 people who the U.S. killed that day, many of them children, many of them civilians. If they did, they probably wouldn’t be out in the street cheering about those deaths.

We’ve got to stop this practice. And Americans aren’t doing it. Egyptians, Tunisians are doing their part. They’ve risen up against the repression they face. I think we need an American uprising, if we’re to put a stop to this kind of killing of innocent people. And we need an American Romero, someone like Archbishop Romero of Salvador, who, in the face of massacres, of daily massacres of what in the end was more than 70,000 Salvadorans, stood up and said to the army of his country, "Stop the repression. Defy your orders to kill, because there’s a higher principle." About a little more than a week ago, I was in El Salvador and visited Romero’s old home, which I had never been to before, and saw that on his bookshelf he had Why Not the Best?, a campaign book by Jimmy Carter, which he had apparently been reading. Romero wrote to Jimmy Carter in his capacity as the archbishop in 1980, asking Carter to stop supporting the Salvadoran military that was slaughtering his people. And from what I know of Romero, he probably really believed that Carter would respond. He didn’t. Carter kept sending the aid. And within weeks, Romero himself was assassinated by death squad, that had originated from U.S. backing. Writing letters didn’t work in that case. And it doesn’t work here. You know, we’ve got to put a stop to this. Bin Laden is dead. And bin-Ladenism, if you want to call it that, should die also.
Video stream of the interview here

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Important Files Missing in Wikileaks Guantanamo Release

Important detainee files are missing in the Guantanamo files released by Wikileaks. There appear to be sixteen missing files, one of which is mislabeled in the database. The mislabeled file concerns a "Detainee Assessment Brief" for Abdurahman Khadr, the brother of Omar Khadr and an admitted "asset" for the CIA, who once described how he was sent to Guantanamo as a fake prisoner to spy.

The other missing files are suspicious, not least because of who these men were, or the stories behind their capture or subsequent fate.

The missing men include Yaser Hamdi (called Himdy Yasser in the database), ISN 009, who was an American citizen labeled an "illegal enemy combatant," and like U.S. citizen Jose Padilla (who never was at Guantanamo), was sent from Guantanamo to the Navy Brig at Charleston, South Carolina, where he endured terrible isolation and sensory deprivation. His habeas case went all the way to the Supreme Court, which issued a landmark ruling, Hamdi v Rumsfeld, limiting executive rights in regards to incarcerating prisoners without a hearing. Hamdi was later forced to renounce his U.S. citizenship and sent to Saudi Arabia.

Also missing is the file for "high-value" detainee Muhammad Rahim, held by the CIA and only sent to Guantanamo in March 2008, making him a quite late arrival. His ISN, 10030, is not even listed on the Wikileaks database. Another late arrival is also missing. Inayatullah was sent to Guantanamo in August 2007, after having been captured in Afghanistan and, according to press coverage quoting the Defense Department, admitting that he was a leader of al-Qaeda in Zahedan, Iran.

Some of the missing detainee files concern obscure fates. Fael Roda Al-Waleeli was an Egyptian detainee who the Egyptian government still was asking U.S. authorities to repatriate as late as November 2004 (BBC report). Even though Combatant Status Reviews had begun four months earlier, there is no known CSR review of Al-Waleeli's case. A Wikipedia page on Egyptians at Guantanamo reports, "On March 28, 2008 the Egyptian newspaper Al Ahram reported that Fael had been transferred from Guantanamo "three years earlier", but that they had been unable to find out any reliable information about what happened to him after his transfer." According to an October 2008 Department of Defense list (PDF) of detainees "released, transferred for released" as of that date, he was released on July 1, 2003. But no one has heard of him again.

One strange file gone AWOL is that of Abdullah Tabarak Ahmad, who had been denied access to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for reasons of "military necessity" (see PDF of JTF GTMO memorandum for the record, 10/9/03), in 2002-03, only to be released into Moroccan custody less than a year later.

Hiding a CIA Informant at Guantanamo

Another prisoner denied ICRC visitation on October 9, 2003 was ISN 990, otherwise known as Abdul Khadr, aka Abdurahman Khadr, brother of Omar Khadr. Abdurahman's file, moreover, was incorrectly identified as that of another man int he Wikileaks database. I recently wrote to Andy Worthington to discuss the situation. Worthington was the only single blogger who was included as an official partner, along with the UK Telegraph, the McClatchy Company, the Washington Post, and other foreign major media, in the Wikileaks Guantanamo Files release.

The following is the exchange we had:
Andy, I’m so glad to see you out there, giving the great analysis about what this giant leak actually means, to provide context.

Since I know you are one of the press outlets who Wikileaks utilized for release, I hope you can get back to them to let them know their database has one serious error.

The file for detainee ISN 990 is actually that for detainee ISN 1001. When you click on the file for Abdul Khadr, you get the DAB for Hafizullah Shabaz Khaul. The actual file for ISN 1001 and Khaul are dimmed on the Wikileaks site, as if they are not available, or yet prepared for download, when actually they are there, under Abdul Khadr’s name and ISN number.

This is especially frustrating, as there are many who would like to see Abdul Khadr’s file, as he is the brother of Omar Khadr. Even more, Abdul Khadr is better known as Abdurahman Khadr, the second oldest of the Khadr sons, and an admitted informant for the CIA, even when he was placed into Guantanamo, where he communicated with his brother Omar.

So if you can help clear up the document issue at Wikileaks, it would be tremendously helpful.
Andy replied the next day, May 1:
Hi Jeff,
Thanks for the supportive words — and also for your work analyzing some of the documents, which readers can find at FireDogLake and on your own site:
I had noticed the confusion regarding Abdurahman Khadr’s file, and will try and make sure that it’s acknowledged. Strange that such an important file is missing, though …
I agree with Andy Worthington, it is strange. Though reported in the U.S. media as part of a big story at PBS's Frontline in April 2004, the consciousness of Abdurahman's tale has faded in the public's awareness. No one to date has noticed the absence of his file in the Guantanamo Wikileaks database until now.

[Update, May 1, 4:20pm, PDT: As commenter skadl notes at Firedoglake, on April 28, WL Central reported the discrepancy in Abdurahman Khadr's Wikileaks file, which did "not match biographical details of any of the Khadr family." They didn't notice that the file did belong to another detainee, Hafizullah Shabaz Khaul, as noted above. WL Central also noted that Jason Leopold had also tweeted on the matter. But no one followed up the story until now.

Update November 29, 2017: I'm just looking back at this issue now, and I see that Wikileaks fixed the problem with the misidentification of the files. Also Hafizullah Shabaz Khaul is now listed under the name "Hafizullah Shabaz Khail." The same ISN number, 1001, still applies. Now Abdurahaman Khadr's ISN 990 is dimmed, as no such report was discovered by Wikileaks, at least so we can surmise.]

According to the UC Davis Center for the Study for Human Rights' website: "On July 13, 2004, Mr. Abdurahman Khadr gave testimony before a Federal Court of Canada in the case MCI & Solliciteur General du Canada c. Adil Charkaoui (# DES-3-03). CSHRA has gone over the transcription of that testimony, selected the portions relevant to prisoner abuse at Guantanamo, and included them below (together with references to the pages of the transcription). To download in its entirety the official court transcription of his testimony, click here [PDF]."

Khadr told Frontline that he was paid $3000 per month to work for the CIA, along with a $5000 bonus, after being captured in Afghanistan in 2002. According to Frontline, he was actually arrested and released a number of times, and all the aspects of his story, particularly while he was in prison, are difficult to fully determine.

From the Frontline interview:
Okay, so to go back over something: From your point of view, what was your deal with the CIA?

The CIA wanted me to work for them. They found me very good with people, very good with languages, with cultures. I can fit in anywhere in a very fast time. I can find people to become friends with. … So they found that I was a good person to work for them.

So from your point of view, what was the deal? They would pay you every month?

They would pay me monthly. The money would go to my account until I stopped working for them, and then that account, I could go and take my money out of the account, or they can send it to me in Canada, or something like that. So I didn't have any control over the account. I didn't know where the account was. That was one of the things I always brought up when they mentioned money. I said I don't know if I have a penny. You're saying I have that much and I'm counting the money I have in your account, but I don't know if I have a penny. Because it's not in my hand. I don't know anything about it.

But they said you would give up the money if?

The money would be gone if I told anyone. It just goes. It disappears if I tell anyone.
Ultimately, he was sent to Bagram, to be processed and infiltrated into Guantanamo like other prisoners. Unfortunately for Abdurahman, this meant often enduring the same abuse and torture as other detainees.
I stayed in Bagram for 10 days and then they took us, they showered us, they put us in new orange suits. The cuffed us up -- hands, legs -- to the stomach and they put us in a room. They had us sit cross-legged on our ass for eight to nine hours. And you could not move. You could not move your back, so you couldn't bend or straight. There's one position, you stay in it. If you move they hit you or they push you. So they tell you not to move....

When we got to Cuba, after two hours they took us into the clinic. They wrote us up and did all the handprints, pictures, everything and then they took us to isolation. They took us into isolation for a month....

Their hopes was when they take me to Cuba they could put me next to anyone that was stubborn and that wouldn't talk and, you know, I would talk him into it. Well, it's not that easy, first thing, because lots of people won't talk to anyone because everybody in Cuba is scared of the person next to him.

And I was feeling depressed. At one point I just started hitting the wall of the cage and tried to hang myself. I wasn't going to hang myself, but I just threatened to do it. I just was thinking, you know, I did everything to get out of this mess and this is what I get. You know, I did everything that I could to get out of this mess and this is what I get. And it took me, when I banged my head against the wall, they took me, they cuffed me up and they took me into the insane people's block. Then they brought me back to general population.
While it has been generally recognized that the Guantanamo Files released by Wikileaks represent the trumped up "mosaic" prosecutorial briefs of a totally corrupt system, there is much still unanalyzed about this material. I noted in an article at Truthout last week the strange lists of "areas of potential exploitation" in most of the detainee files. Some of these "areas" appeared to pertain, for instance, to further psychological research on detainees. In at least one case, there was a possible reference to "exploitation" after the release of the detainee, i.e., to recruitment of a U.S. asset.

The bottom line is that we know very little still about what really has gone on in the secret prisons of the United States. Congress has done literally nothing to look into this since the Senate Armed Services Committee released its report on detainee abuse in 2009. While the Senate Intelligence Committee claims that it has been investigating the detainee interrogation program, nothing has been released about this investigation, and is not likely to be.

Even more upsetting is that the documents are not being examined with a critical-enough eye by the various news agencies that are writing about them. It shouldn't have taken the researches of a not-very-well known blogger to notice a major error in the Wikileaks database, which most likely mirrors distortions in the DoD Guantanamo database itself, especially when this problem concerned a detainee known to be a CIA informant in the prison. Once upon a time, that would have been a front-page story at the New York Times or the Washington Post. Now, it's a footnote.

Cross-posted at Firedoglake/MyFDL

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