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Supreme Court asked to weigh in on detainee photos
By Bill Mears | CNN
The Obama administration is turning to the Supreme Court as it seeks to block public release of photos apparently depicting abuse of suspected terrorists and foreign soldiers in U.S. custody.
Justice Department lawyers late Thursday told a federal appeals court in New York -- the same one on which high court nominee Sonia Sotomayor sits -- to hold off a ruling ordering release of the material, saying they plan to ask the justices to hear their case.
The government said it would proceed "absent intervening legislation" from Congress.
The "motion to recall" comes after President Obama ordered government lawyers this month to object to the court-ordered release of photos depicting the mistreatment of prisoners held in Iraq and Afghanistan, reversing an earlier White House decision. The Pentagon had been set to release hundreds of photos in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.
The ACLU -- which filed the initial lawsuit for disclosure -- has criticized the administration's about-face, saying it "makes a mockery" of Obama's campaign promise of greater transparency and accountability, and damages efforts to hold accountable those responsible for abusing prisoners.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in September that the photos must be released. The president now says doing so "would pose an unacceptable risk of danger to U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq." Sotomayor has served on that court since 1998 but was not involved in that particular appeal....The government has until June 9 to file its initial appeal with the Supreme Court. Read more.
Obama to Skip Liberal Conference, Continues to Court the Center
The liberal coalition is adjusting to new political realities in more ways than simply the lineup of speakers, which doesn't include Obama's name.
By David Chalian | ABCNews.com
Barack Obama was there in 2006. That's when some supporters were urging him to consider a presidential run.
Barack Obama was there in 2007. That's when he was in the thick of the fight for the Democratic presidential nomination and staking out the left wing of the Democratic party as his base turf in his battle against Hillary Clinton.
But when the annual gathering sponsored by the liberal activist group Campaign for America's Future convenes in Washington, D.C.. next week, President Obama will not make the trip up Connecticut Avenue to address the group.
The annual conference is adjusting to new political realities in more ways than simply the lineup of speakers. In years past, the gathering has been called "Take Back America." Now, with emboldened Democratic majorities in the House and Senate and a Democrat sitting in the Oval Office, the conference is being called "America's Future Now." Read more.
DOJ: Attorney General Holder and HHS Secretary Sebelius Announce New Interagency Health Care Fraud Prevention & Enforcement Team
Attorney General Holder and Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today announced the creation of a new interagency effort, the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), to combat Medicare fraud. Holder and Sebelius also announced the expansion of Strike Force team operations to Detroit and Houston. Medicare Fraud Strike Forces, currently in operation in South Florida and Los Angeles, fight Medicare fraud on a targeted local level.
Gen. Petraeus: US Violated Geneva Convention, The Court of Law Could Try Terrorists: We Made Mistakes After 9/11: Close Gitmo
Gen. Petraeus joined FOX News and Martha MacCallum today and gave a blockbuster interview, but probably not the one Fox expected. Once again, he called for the responsible closure of the military prison at Guantanamo Bay. He also said that mistakes were made after 9/11 and that the Army Field Manual is all that we need to use to interrogate prisoners. In addition, he said that we have to have faith in our judicial system and we should try the Khalid Sheikh Muhammads in a court of law.
Martha tried to give him the ticking time bomb scenario to justify torture and he really didn't bite. He did say maybe an Executive Order could be appropriate, but that it really wasn't necessary.Read more.
By Linda Milazzo
On Wednesday evening, in an act of daring befitting a West Point graduate and veteran of Iraq, recently discharged New York National Guard Lieutenant Daniel Choi defied the orders of dozens of crowd control police and stepped into the 'no protest zone' street to ceremoniously salute his Commander in Chief, Barack Obama, out of site at a star-studded fundraiser at the posh Beverly Hilton Hotel.
(Photo by Linda Milazzo)
SECOND ROUND OF HOMELESSNESS FOR KATRINA VICTIMS AS FEMA PREPARES TO ENFORCE JUNE 1 EVICTION DATE | Press Release
US Human Rights Network Condemns Federal Government’s Move to Repossess Trailers and Leave Thousands Homeless
Atlanta, May 29, 2009 - In response to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s decision to repossess temporary housing from survivors of Hurricane Katrina on June 1, the US Human Rights Network issued the following statement:
The move by FEMA to enforce the June 1st eviction date for Gulf Region residents who live in temporary trailers not only lacks basic compassion but is also a derogation of the government’s responsibilities to uphold fundamental human rights. If FEMA moves forward with the Bush administration's plan to forcefully evict people living in temporary housing, it will make a mockery of the Gulf Region recovery promised by President Obama and Congress.
Earnest Hammond is a 70 year-old retired truck driver who received no assistance after Hurricane Katrina destroyed his home. He took matters into his own hands and by collecting aluminum cans, raised thousands of dollars to repair his badly damaged house. He is eager to move back but can’t restore his home by the June 1st deadline, and is facing eviction. “I have nowhere to go if they take my trailer. It’s hard to believe I have to go through this again.”
By David Swanson
The president's open government site was supposed to allow brainstorming through May 28th, but the top policy proposal and third highest ranked proposal overall, as of the end of the 28th, was "End the Imperial Presidency."
It is not too late for you to vote for this proposal.
That's because the Open Government just changed the rules and won't be moving on to phase 2 until June 3rd, and will be leaving phase 1 (brainstorming) open until June 19th. Of course the Open Government had openly announced that the brainstorming would be open only from May 21 to May 28.
Now it is entirely possible that other ideas will move to the top by June 3rd or June 19th (or another date announced later). It's also entirely possible that prosecuting Bush and Cheney and ending the imperial presidency will remain where it is or climb even higher. The outcome is really up to you. How many people can you send this link to?
Former President George W. Bush on Thursday repeated Dick Cheney's assertion that the administration's enhanced interrogation program, which included controversial techniques such as waterboarding, was legal and garnered valuable information that prevented terrorist attacks.
Bush told a southwestern Michigan audience of nearly 2,500 -- the largest he has addressed in the United States since leaving the White House in January -- that, after the September 11 attacks, "I vowed to take whatever steps that were necessary to protect you."
In his speech, Bush did not specifically refer to the high-profile debate over President Obama's decision to halt the use of harsh interrogation techniques. Bush also didn't mention Cheney, his former vice president, by name.
Instead, he described how he proceeded after the capture of terrorism suspect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in March 2003.
"The first thing you do is ask what's legal?" Bush said. "What do the lawyers say is possible? I made the decision, within the law, to get information so I can say to myself, 'I've done what it takes to do my duty to protect the American people.' I can tell you that the information we got saved lives." Read more.
The Pentagon on Thursday denied a British newspaper report that photographs of Iraqi prisoner abuse, whose release U.S. President Barack Obama wants to block, include images of apparent rape and sexual abuse.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the Daily Telegraph newspaper had shown "an inability to get the facts right".
"That news organization has completely mischaracterized the images," Whitman told reporters. "None of the photos in question depict the images that are described in that article."
Thursday's Telegraph quoted retired U.S. Army Major General Antonio Taguba, who conducted a 2004 investigation into abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, as saying the pictures showed "torture, abuse, rape and every indecency."
The newspaper said at least one picture showed an American soldier apparently raping a female prisoner while another is said to show a male translator raping a male detainee.
Others were said to depict sexual assaults with objects including a truncheon, wire and a phosphorescent tube. Read more.
US Iraq Casualties rise to 72,239
Compiled by Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com
US military occupation forces in Iraq under Commander-in-Chief Obama suffered 30 combat casualties in the six days ending May 27, 2009 as the official total rose to at least 72,239. The total includes 34,758 dead and wounded from what the Pentagon classifies as "hostile" causes and more than 37,481 dead and medically evacuated (last reported April 4, 2009) from "non-hostile" causes.*
The actual total is over 100,000 because the Pentagon chooses not to count as "Iraq casualties" the more than 30,000 veterans whose injuries - mainly brain trauma from explosions and PTSD - diagnosed only after they had left Iraq.**
US media divert attention from the actual cost in American life and limb by occasionally reporting only the total killed (4,303 as of May 27) but rarely mentioning the 31,312 wounded in combat. To further minimize public perception of the cost, they cover for the Pentagon by ignoring the 36,624 (as of April 4, 2009))*** military victims of accidents and illness serious enough to require medical air evacuation, although the 4,303 reported deaths include 857 (up one) who died from those same causes, including at least 18 from faulty electrical work by KBR and 177 suicides through 2008.****
* The number of wounded is usually updated on Tuesdays by the Pentagon.
** New York Times, Jan 26, 2009
*** the number of "non combat" injured was reported by the Pentagon.
**** NYTimes, Jan 30, 2009
One might think that the American public’s toleration of torture reflects the breakdown of the country’s Christian faith. Alas, a recent poll released by the Pew Forum reveals that most white Christian evangelicals and white Catholics condone torture. In contrast, only a minority of those who seldom or never attend church services condone torture.
Torture is a violation of US and international law. Yet, president George W. Bush and vice president Dick Cheney, on the basis of legally incompetent memos prepared by Justice Department officials, gave the OK to interrogators to violate US and international law.
The new Obama administration shows no inclination to uphold the rule of law by prosecuting those who abused their offices and broke the law.
Cheney claims, absurdly, that torture was necessary in order to save American cities from nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorists. Many Americans have bought the argument that torture is morally justified in order to make terrorists reveal where ticking nuclear bombs are before they explode.
However, there were no hidden ticking nuclear bombs. Hypothetical scenarios were used to justify torture for other purposes.
We now know that the reason the Bush regime tortured its captives was to coerce false testimony that linked Iraq and Saddam Hussein to al Qaeda and September 11. Without this “evidence,” the US invasion of Iraq remains a war crime under the Nuremberg standard.
Torture, then, was a second Bush regime crime used to produce an alibi for the illegal and unprovoked US invasion of Iraq. Read more.
TOMORROW, 5 PM, NYC: Protesters to Demand Release of Torture Photos & Prosecution of War Crimes of Bush Administration
Protesters to Demand Release of Torture Photos & Prosecution of War Crimes of Bush Administration, March to Site of General Petraeus Award
EVENT: Protest demonstration/Photo opportunity
WHEN: Thursday, May 28, 2009 - National Day of Resistance to U.S. Torture
WHERE: Part 1: Grand Central Station, 5:00 pm
Part 2: March to Union League Club, 6:00 pm
Part 3: Union League Club, 38 E. 37th Street, NYC
Portraying detainees at Guantanamo, torture opponents will appear in a dramatic tableau in Grand Central Station on Thursday with photos purported to be among those the Obama administration is refusing to make public. Later, a procession will move several blocks to the Union League Club, where CENT COMM Commander General David Petraeus, architect of the Iraq war “surge” will receive an award presented by John Negroponte, former Director of National Intelligence.
This event is part of May 28 non-violent civil resistance actions in 14 other cities which will demand the release of the photos and prosecution for war crimes of those officials of the Bush administration who directed, wrote the legal justification for and participated in torture. These protests, called by the national World Can’t Wait organization and others, will respond to the growing body of evidence of torture by US military, CIA and contractors.
This column originally appeared on the web site of the Australian Broadcasting Company.
“My Administration is also confronting challenges to what is known as the ‘State Secrets’ privilege. This is a doctrine that allows the government to challenge legal cases involving secret programs. It has been used by many past Presidents - Republican and Democrat - for many decades. And while this principle is absolutely necessary to protect national security, I am concerned that it has been over-used. We must not protect information merely because it reveals the violation of a law or embarrasses the government.”
Thus spoke President Obama in his national security speech last week.
Important rulings on executive authority — striking down military commissions and upholding habeas corpus rights for Guantánamo detainees — have been decided by a five-vote majority, including Justice Souter, on the nine-member court.
“Given that the decisions have generally been 5-4 in this area, this could be terribly consequential,” said David Golove, a New York University law professor. “We’re losing one of the court’s strongest leaders on the side of limiting executive power to reasonable bounds. If the person who replaces Souter is different than him, the balance of power may shift.”
Meanwhile not even Barbara Boxer will join with Russ Feingold in supporting habeas corpus, which has now become a radical leftist position.
If you’re watching this then it means I’m not around anymore. I imagine you’re probably in your late teens now. Maybe Mt. Kilimanjaro no longer has snow on its peak. Maybe the ice shelves on the northern coasts of Alaska have melted back and polar bears are dwindling in number. I always wanted to get up there and see Alaska. Maybe you’ll make it up there one day yourself. I wonder if it’s somehow possible for you to buy a plane ticket to Baghdad, to visit Iraq as a tourist. Will you visit the places where I’ve been? Will you talk to the people there? Will you tell them my name?
At some point in the future, soldiers will pack up their rucks, equipment will be loaded into huge shipping containers, C-130s will rise wheels-up off the tarmac, and Navy transport ships will cross the high seas to return home once again. At some point — the timing of which I don’t have the slightest guess at — the war in Iraq will end. And I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately — I’ve been thinking about the last American soldier to die in Iraq.
Tonight, at 3 a.m., a hunter’s moon shines down into the misty ravines of Vermont’s Green Mountains. I’m standing out on the back deck of a friend’s house, listening to the quiet of the woods. At the Fairbanks Museum in nearby St. Johnsbury, the lights have been turned off for hours and all is dark inside the glass display cases, filled with Civil War memorabilia. The checkerboard of Jefferson Davis. Smoothbore rifles. Canteens. Reading glasses. Letters written home. Read more.
Obama Betrays The Liberals
By Sherwood Ross
America’s liberals stand betrayed. Their new president, the one they sweated to elect----a brilliant, charismatic leader with a professional background in constitutional law---has transmogrified himself from the champion who denounced in his campaign the illegalities of the Bush White House into a president bent on their perpetuation.
Liberals are stunned by Obama’s plan to “restart Bush-era military tribunals” for some Guantanamo detainees, reviving what the Associated Press pointed out, is “a fiercely disputed trial system he once denounced.”(May 15). Liberals are appalled by Obama’s May 21st proposal to hold terrorism suspects in “prolonged detention” inside the U.S. without a trial. “Such detention,” Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) wrote him, “is a hallmark of abusive systems that we have historically criticized around the world.”
A humanitarian catastrophe is taking place in areas of Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province (NWFP), as a result of the Obama administration’s expansion of the occupation of Afghanistan into the so-called “AfPak war”.
Over the past seven years, ethnic Pashtun Islamist movements in NWFP and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) have lent assistance to the resistance being waged against the American-led forces in Afghanistan by the Pashtun-based Taliban, including by disrupting US and NATO supply routes through Pakistan.
On Washington’s insistence, the Pakistani government of President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has ordered the military to embark on operations to crush the militants. In late April, Pakistani forces deployed into the Lower Dir and Buner districts of NWFP to drive out a small number who had moved into the area from their strongholds to the north, in the Swat Valley district.
Since May 8, the operation, which now involves up to 18,000 Pakistani troops, backed by air support and heavy artillery, has extended deep inside the Swat Valley. Over the past two weeks they have engaged in a series of battles against the vastly outnumbered and outgunned Islamist fighters.
There is virtually no independent reporting from the conflict zone. Most information coming out of Swat is sourced directly from the military, making its accuracy questionable.
What is clear, however, is that the assault into Buner, Lower Dir and the Swat Valley has rapidly degenerated into the savage collective punishment of entire Pashtun communities. Hundreds of thousands of terrified civilians have taken to the roads to get out of the conflict zone. By the beginning of this week, the United Nations had registered 1.45 million internally displaced persons.
Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) has sent a letter (pdf) to President Barack Obama which praises many aspects of his Thursday speech but also expresses concerns about his intention to create a system of “prolonged detention” without trial for certain terrorists.
Feingold announces in the letter that he plans to hold a hearing on the matter next month and asks for top Justice Department officials to testify.
“While I appreciate your good faith desire to at least enact a statutory basis for such a regime,” Feingold writes, “any system that permits the government to indefinitely detain individuals without charge or without a meaningful opportunity to have accusations against them adjudicated by an impartial arbiter violates basic American values and is likely unconstitutional.”
Feingold goes on to note that “such detention is a hallmark of abusive systems that we have historically criticized around the world. It is hard to imagine that our country would regard as acceptable a system in another country where an individual other than a prisoner of war is held indefinitely without charge or trial.”
“Once a system of indefinite detention without trial is established, the temptation to use it in the future would be powerful,” Feingold continues. “And, while your administration may resist such a temptation, future administrations may not.”
A federal judge on Friday threatened to severely sanction the Obama Administration for withholding a top secret document he ordered given to lawyers suing the government over its warrantless wiretapping program.
U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker in San Francisco ordered Justice Department lawyers to court on June 3 to tell him why he shouldn't award unspecified damages to the now-defunct Oregon arm of the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation. The group alleges that government officials eavesdropped on their telephone calls without court authorization.
The National Security Agency has also refused the judge's previous orders to provide security clearances to two of the charity's lawyers so they can view the top secret document.
The judge had issued a written order on Jan. 5 and then reinforced it during a hearing later that month. He also barred the prosecutors from appealing the order, but they asked the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to step in anyway. The appeals court refused to hear the case.
On May 15, government lawyers told Walker they would refuse to comply with his order.
"Enough is enough," said Jon Eisenberg, the charity's lead appellate attorney. "The DOJ has been so uncooperative for so long that this Draconian approach is now needed."
Seymour Hersh says that Dick Cheney headed a secret assassination wing and the head of the wing has just been named as the new commander in Afghanistan.
In an interview with GulfNews on May 12, 2009 Pulitzer prize-winning American investigative journalist, Seymour Hersh, said that there is a special unit called the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) that does high-value targeting of men that are known to be involved in anti-American activities, or are believed to be planning such activities.
According to Hersh, the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) was headed by former US vice president Dick Cheney and the former head of JSOC, Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal who has just been named the new commander in charge of the war in Afghanistan.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will soon announce that gay American diplomats will be given benefits similar to those that their heterosexual counterparts enjoy, U.S. officials said Saturday.
In a notice to be sent soon to State Department employees, Clinton says regulations that denied same-sex couples and their families the same rights and privileges that straight diplomats enjoyed are "unfair and must end," as they harm U.S. diplomacy.
The Obama administration's efforts to craft what it calls a "preventive detention" plan for suspected terrorists will face constitutional challenges similar to those raised against the Bush administration's policies.
Some detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are deemed too dangerous to release and may not be able to put on trial, creating a quandary that President Barack Obama said Thursday poses "the toughest issue we will face."
...In the name of looking to the future, we are being asked to forget the past....
It is instructive that the neoconservatives who gave us the Bush war program are now delighted with Obama’s policies, including his escalation in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
This all should be troubling to anyone who thinks elections can bring needed change. Presidents come and go, with little obvious effect on foreign policy, no matter what they say during their campaigns. Republican and Democrat, right and left — those terms are more about style than substance. In subtle ways and with staunch corporate media support, the system maintained by the ruling elite ensures that no successful national candidate will deviate too far from its plumb line. The marginalization of real anti-war candidates during the 2008 election was just the latest demonstration.
Ian Welsh corrects President Obama, a former constitutional law professor, as to what is his most important duty. (Here's a hint: it has nothing to do with safety.) Recognizing the President's actual most important duty is pivotal to understanding how far off base he is proposing to take the nation. Read Ian Welsh's "The Thought Crimes President" here.