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An Israeli military delegation has canceled an official visit to Britain, officials said Tuesday, the latest in a string of politicians and army officials to put off travel to the U.K. because of fears of war crimes prosecution.
Israel complained that the practice, spearheaded by pro-Palestinian activists, is harming relations, and Britain's visiting attorney general said an urgent solution must be found.
The Israelis called off their trip because their British army hosts could not guarantee they would not be arrested, the Israeli officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. Neither the Israeli military nor the British government would comment.
The incident underlined the effectiveness of a pro-Palestinian legal campaign to harass Israeli officials in the wake of war crimes allegations after Israel's devastating invasion of Gaza a year ago to stop rocket attacks. Read more.
Secular campaigners in the Irish Republic defied a strict new blasphemy law which came into force today by publishing a series of anti-religious quotations online and promising to fight the legislation in court.
The new law, which was passed in July, means that blasphemy in Ireland is now a crime punishable with a fine of up to €25,000 (£22,000).
It defines blasphemy as "publishing or uttering matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters sacred by any religion, thereby intentionally causing outrage among a substantial number of adherents of that religion, with some defences permitted".
The justice minister, Dermot Ahern, said that the law was necessary because while immigration had brought a growing diversity of religious faiths, the 1936 constitution extended the protection of belief only to Christians.
But Atheist Ireland, a group that claims to represent the rights of atheists, responded to the new law by publishing 25 anti-religious quotations on its website, from figures including Richard Dawkins, Björk, Frank Zappa and the former Observer editor and Irish ex-minister Conor Cruise O'Brien. Read more.
Sir Jeremy Greenstock, former British ambassador to the UN, testified before an official inquiry, the Committee of Inquiry on the Iraq War, into the decision to invade Iraq and intelligence information as the basis for the decision.
This is about Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, and war crimes; it is important evidence. This committee will decide whether Tony Blair will be charged with war crimes.
This video can't be embedded. Click the picture to view the testimony.
Lithuania's Foreign Ministry on Wednesday rejected a report from lawmakers saying the country had hosted secret CIA prisons as part of the "war on terror."
"There are neither facts nor information that secret CIA detention centers existed in Lithuania," the ministry said in a statement, contradicting Amnesty International statements a day earlier based on a report by Lithuanian lawmakers.
"It has neither concluded that the territory of Lithuania was used to transfer persons under suspicion of terrorism nor that such persons had been brought in or transported from the territory of Lithuania," the Foreign Ministry said of the parliamentary report.
Amnesty International said a day earlier that the former Soviet republic, now a NATO member, had become the first country to admit it hosted secret CIA detention centers for terror suspects. Read more.
Revealed: Bush White House Raised Terror Alert Based On Con Man's Wild Al Jazeera "Decoding" Claims
A new article reports how a Nevada-based software firm employee duped the CIA into believing he held the key to decoding secret terrorist messages.
By Liliana Segura | AlterNet
From the Dept. of You-Can't-Make-This-Shit-Up, TPM Muckracker reports:
A self-styled Nevada codebreaker convinced the CIA he could decode secret terrorist targeting information sent through Al Jazeera broadcasts, prompting the Bush White House to raise the terror alert level to Orange (high) in December 2003, with Tom Ridge warning of "near-term attacks that could either rival or exceed what we experience on September 11," according to a new report in Playboy.
We all knew the DHS color-coded terror alerts were bogus and politically-motivated -- Ridge himself recently admitted as much -- but this? This is just ... loony tunes.
According to TPM, "the man who prompted the December 2003 Orange alert was Dennis Montgomery, who has since been embroiled in various lawsuits, including one for allegedly bouncing $1 million in checks during a Caesars Palace spree. His former lawyer calls him a 'habitual liar engaged in fraud.'" Read more.
The Lithuanian government has concluded that the CIA operated a secret "black site" in Lithuania for high-level Al Qaeda detainees, and that a second secret CIA facility was established in the heart of the capital city of Vilnius. The government began an investigation after an exclusive ABC News report that the CIA operated a secret black site prison for terror suspects in the Baltic country in 2004 and 2005.
In a report released Tuesday, the National Security Committee of the Lithuanian parliament recommended that intelligence officials be criminally investigated for their role in establishing the prisons. In addition to the prison outside Vilnius that was located and revealed by ABC News, the report says that Lithuanian intelligence made a guesthouse in downtown Vilnius available for CIA use as early as 2002, though they could not prove that it had been used.
Lithuanian Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius criticized the U.S. government for establishing the prisons, saying it had manipulated Lithuanian officials with "essentially Soviet methods" into breaking the law. However, he suggested that the second prison, which could only hold one prisoner in a single cell, had never been used. Read more.
In August this year, US media reports claimed that Lithuania, Poland and Romania all hosted secret CIA interrogation centres.
But the parliamentary report appears to absolve Lithuania's political leaders of responsibility for any human rights violations that may have been committed by the CIA, the BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes reports from Moscow.
It says even the president was unaware of exactly what the US intelligence service was doing.
The CIA used at least two secret detention centres in Lithuania after the 11 September 2001 terror attacks on the US, a Lithuanian inquiry has found.
The report by a Lithuanian parliamentary committee says that in 2005 and 2006 CIA chartered planes were allowed to land in Lithuania.
It says that no Lithuanian officials were allowed near the aircraft, nor were they told who was on board. Read more.
Courts Free Faraj Hassan, Government’s Case Falls Through | Press Release
Today the Courts ruled that the control order imposed by the government on Faraj Hassan (also known as prisoner AS) was illegal in nature. His case was bought before the courts after the Law Lords ruled in June that the use of secret evidence in the imposition of control orders by the government was illegal. The evidence which neither Hassan or his Solicitors were able to see until last June was used to incarcerate him in HMP Long Lartin for four years from which he was released onto a control order in 2007. He has been under the control order since then until this morning.
Today’s ruling shows that the use of secret evidence contravenes emphatically the principle of due process. What became apparent throughout the case was that the evidence used by the government was circumstantial, false or negligently poor in nature. Yet due to the use of it as secret evidence it was never forced to meet the internationally recognised standards of evidence required in a prima facie case to deny an individual of his liberty.
Faraj Hassan said about the ruling:
“A control order is nothing more than a euphemism for what is basically Apartheid style house arrest. Likewise there should be no doubt that its purpose is the same as well: to break you and make you want to leave that country.”
Cageprisoners spokesperson Moazzam Begg said:
“If a person cannot hear the evidence that is being used against them, then how can they and their legal teams mount an effective defence? The use of secret evidence makes a mockery of due process and allows the government to abuse its power. Let us hope today’s ruling was another significant step in restoring the legal system which has become so eroded in Britain”
For interviews with Faraj Hassan or Cageprisoners please contact the Press Office on (+44) 207 953 4074 or Humza Qureshi on (+44) 772 862 7911.
From TomDispatch this evening, a fabulous near end-of-year piece by Rebecca Solnit on our apocalyptic imagination versus the real apocalypse that may await us -- Rebecca Solnit, "Terminator 2009, Judgment Days in Copenhagen."
Rebecca Solnit, TomDispatch regular and author of A Paradise Built in Hell, recently watched Terminator 2 on a TV set in New Orleans, the Superdome where thousands were trapped after hurricane Katrina just out the hotel window. In a fever dream, possibly from swine flu, she conjurs up Sarah Palin ("a Terminator cyborg sent from the future to destroy something -- but what?") and the film's heroine Sarah Connor, attempting to save the human race from a plague of Terminators, but in the wrong apocalypse. How comfortable, she thinks, T2's apocalypse now seems in which our own intelligent machines set out to destroy us when, unfortunately, it's our perfectly dumb ones that seem determined to do the actual deed, while the leaders of the world's major greenhouse gas emitters fail to agree in a meaningful way at Copenhagen and elsewhere.
Like Solnit's state in New Orleans, our world might be mistaken for a fever dream of some sort. After all, the Terminator who, in T2, saves John Connor (and so the world), is now the governor of California, a "state with an uncertain shoreline," thanks to globally rising waters, a conservative who has nonetheless tried to deal with climate change. She considers the governor releasing California's 2009 "climate adaption strategy" on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay, which "with even modest further rises in sea-level... will disappear entirely. Hasta la vista, baby." And assesses our world and its fate from the coast of California to Copenhagen.
This marvelous post manages to catch the dark edge of a difficult and dangerous situation, but in the normal Solnitsian fashion, with hope for what we -- all of us -- can still do. She concludes:
"The learning curve for so many of us, for so many people and even nations, has been speeding up impressively. If we had 40 years to figure it all out, we might be headed toward just the sort of victory that civil society has, in fact, achieved on so many other environmental and human-rights ideas. But there aren’t decades to spare. It needs to happen now. It should have happened even before the last century ended.
"Even in my fever dream, with the Superdome just out the window, I couldn’t help noting the key axiom repeated in Terminator 2: 'The future is not set. There is no fate but what we make for ourselves.'
"So here’s the lesson: there are no superheroes but us.
"And here’s the question: what are you going to do about it?"
It’s clear now that, from her immovable titanium bangs to her chaotic approximation of human speech, Sarah Palin is a Terminator cyborg sent from the future to destroy something -- but what? It could be the Republican Party she’ll ravage by herding the fundamentalists and extremists into a place where sane fiscal conservatives and swing voters can’t follow. Or maybe she was sent to destroy civilization at this crucial moment by preaching the gospel of climate-change denial, abetted by tools like the Washington Post, which ran a factually outrageous editorial by her on the subject earlier this month. No one (even her, undoubtedly) knows, but we do know that this month we all hover on the brink.
I’ve had the great Hollywood epic Terminator 2: Judgment Day on my mind ever since I watched it in a hotel room in New Orleans a few weeks ago with the Superdome visible out the window. In 1991, at the time of its release, T2 was supposedly about a terrible future; now, it seems situated in an oddly comfortable past.
What apocalypses are you nostalgic for? The premise of the movie was that the machines we needed to worry about had not yet been invented, no less put to use: intelligent machines that would rebel against their human masters in 1997, setting off an all-out nuclear war that would get rid of the first three billion of us and lead to a campaign of extermination against the remnant of the human race scrabbling in the rubble of what had once been civilization. Read more.
Last week, as I explained in a recent article, Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, who was seized in Afghanistan in 2001 after traveling to Afghanistan with his friend Moazzam Begg (and their families) to establish a girls’ school in Kabul, won a significant victory in the British High Court. Lord Justice Jeremy Sullivan ruled that evidence in the possession of the British government, regarding his torture in US custody in Kandahar, Afghanistan, before his transfer to Guantánamo, must be made available to lawyers working on his behalf in the United States, so that they can make representations to the Obama administration’s interagency Task Force, which is currently reviewing the cases of the remaining prisoners in Guantánamo, and is expected to reach a decision sometime next month.
The documents include claims that British agents were, on occasion, present during brutal interrogations that punctuated a regime in which Aamer was “subjected to weeks of torture including sleep deprivation over nine days, cold water torture which led to frostbite, ‘hog tying’ and regular beatings along with threats that he would be sent to be tortured in Egypt, Jordan, or Israel.” As a result of this treatment, Aamer has claimed that he made false confessions, which are being used against him, even though a military review board under the Bush administration cleared him for release from Guantánamo in 2007.
On Wednesday, the legal action charity Reprieve, which represents Aamer in the US, announced that, at a hearing on Thursday, the British security services would argue that they are not required to release the information to Aamer “because he has not been formally charged with a crime.” This prompted Reprieve’s director, Clive Stafford Smith, to exclaim, “Essentially, MI5 are saying they would owe Shaker this evidence if the Americans would bother to charge him. But because Shaker will have no charge and no trial, they say he has no right to any evidence at all and must continue to face indefinite detention with no end in sight. What kind of down-the-rabbit-hole argument is this?” Read more.
There is no one more qualified than Reg Keys -- whose son Tom was killed in Iraq -- to comment on Tony Blair's admission to the BBC that, if he hadn't used the non-existent weapons of mass destruction to justify a war crime, he would have found another "argument" -- that is, another lie. VIDEO.
After ABC News Report of Secret CIA Prison, Head Spy Resigns
Chief of Lithuanian Intelligence Steps Down Over "Black Site" Investigation
By Matthew Cole and Mark Schone | ABC News
The head of Lithuanian intelligence resigned Monday in the wake of ABC News' exclusive report that the CIA operated a secret prison for al-Qaeda detainees in 2004 and 2005.
Povilas Malakauskas, head of Lithuania's State Security department, left without prior public notice after two years in the position. Lithuanian media quoted Arydas Anusauskas, head of a parliamentary committee investigating the prison, as saying that the intelligence chief stepped down "in part" because of the government's effort to investigate the details surrounding the CIA facility.
Anusauskas told LNK TV that much of the government's investigation could have been avoided if the intel chief had told the truth about his department's involvement in the CIA program. Anusauskas told ABC News that the resignation was first discussed in September, when Malakauskas refused to provide information to investigators. Read more.
By David Swanson
Compare Tony Blair's latest confession to mass murder with Bush's. The BBC has just aired an interview of Blair in which he was asked whether he would have attacked Iraq even if he had known there were no "weapons of mass destruction" there. Blair replied:
"I would still have thought it right to remove him."
Him is, of course, Saddam Hussein. And of course Blair did know that Iraq had no serious weapons and that any such weapons were not Bush's real motivation. The Downing Street Minutes record a meeting at which Blair was informed of that fact. The White House Memo (from January 31, 2003) does the same.
Like the peaks of the Hindu Kusch dominating much of Afghanistan, the war in that unhappy country increasingly overshadows the political scenery in Germany. Parallels with the situation in the USA are unmistakable.
On December 3rd the Bundestag voted on prolonging the use of German troops in Afghanistan for another year. But before the delegates crowded to the front of the house to put their ballots in the container, they were surprised to hear an unusual statement. It came close to a confession.
For three months one event has repeatedly grabbed the headlines: the bombing on September 4th of two hijacked German fuel trucks in Kunduz, in northern Afghanistan. The air attack, ordered by a German colonel, resulted in the deaths of 142 people, including women, children and many other civilians despite the fact that the trucks, stuck in the mud while crossing a river, were of no immediate danger to German troops. American pilots suggested flying low over them to frighten civilians and the Taliban hijackers away. But no, the colonel insisted on bombs -- and got them. The fuel caused a terrible explosion.
Army spokespersons, including Franz Josef Jung, Minister of Defense, tried to belittle the matter and denied any certainty about even a few civilian casualties. This was a crucial matter; it was the first such case involving German troops in Afghanistan and the worst bloodshed caused by Germans in uniform since World War Two. Read more.
By Alice Ritchie, AFP
LONDON (AFP) – Tony Blair's admission that Britain would have backed the Iraq war even if he knew it did not have weapons of mass destruction sparked outrage Sunday and calls for his prosecution for war crimes.
The former British prime minister, who backed the US-led invasion in 2003, told the BBC he would "still have thought it right to remove" Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein because of the threat he posed to the region.
Lawyers representing the deposed Iraqi leadership said they would seek to prosecute Blair following his remarks, while one newspaper commentator said it was a "game-changing admission" for the ongoing official inquiry into the war.
Former UN weapons inspector Hans Blix added: "The war was sold on the WMD, and now you feel, or hear that it was only a question of deployment of arguments, as he said, it sounds a bit like a fig leaf that was held up."
Poland, U.S. sign deal on troop deployments | Reuters | Submitted by Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com
Poland and the United States signed a deal on Friday that paves the way for the stationing of U.S. troops on the territory of its east European NATO ally.
The "status of forces" accord (SOFA), a technical document tentatively approved in November after 15 months of talks, also makes possible deployments of a U.S. Patriot missile battery in Poland next year as part of plans to upgrade its air defences.
"This agreement is a good basis for cooperation between the U.S. and Polish armed forces in the future," Polish Defense Minister Bogdan Klich told reporters at the signing ceremony.
"For Poland, this signifies a strengthening of our national security."
Poland, perturbed by Russia's more assertive foreign policy, has long complained that it hosts no U.S. troops or major military installations 10 years after it joined NATO and despite a strong track record of sending troops to help in U.S.-led missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Read more.
Is Italy capable of delivering a thermonuclear strike? Could the Belgians and the Dutch drop hydrogen bombs on enemy targets? And what about Germany — a country where fear of atomkraft is so great that the last government opposed all civilian nuclear power? Germany's air force couldn't possibly be training to deliver bombs 13 times more powerful than the one that destroyed Hiroshima, could it?
It is Europe's dirty secret that the list of nuclear-capable countries extends beyond those — Britain and France — who have built their own weapons. Nuclear bombs are stored on air-force bases in Italy, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands — and planes from each of those countries are capable of delivering them. The Federation of American Scientists believes that there are some 200 B61 thermonuclear gravity bombs scattered across these four countries. Under a NATO agreement struck during the Cold War, the bombs, which are technically owned by the U.S., can be transferred to the control of a host nation's air force in times of conflict. Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Dutch, Belgian, Italian and German pilots remain ready to engage in nuclear war.
These weapons are more than an anachronism or historical oddity. They are a violation of the spirit of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) — the 1968 agreement governing nuclear weapons that acts as one of the linchpins of global security by providing a legal restraint on the nuclear ambitions of rogue states. Because "nuclear burden-sharing," as the dispersion of B61s in Europe is called, was set up before the NPT came into force, it is technically legal. But as signatories to the NPT, the four European countries and the U.S. have pledged "not to receive the transfer ... of nuclear weapons or control over such weapons directly, or indirectly." That, of course, is precisely what the long-standing NATO arrangement entails. Read more.
The High Court ruled yesterday that the use of secret evidence to deny bail to those accused of terrorism was unlawful. The ruling echoes the Law Lords decision in June which similarly banned the use of secret evidence but in the imposition of control orders.
Inevitably the news of yet another British soldier dying in Afghanistan coincided with Gordon Brown's announcement that he is sending 500 more British troops to fight in a war which in the latest poll 71 per cent of the British public opposes.
We are witnessing a very dangerous escalation of the war. With Barack Obama likely to announce a surge of around 30,000 troops, and other Nato allies adding a further five thousand, the total number of foreign troops occupying Afghanistan will equal that deployed by the Soviet Union in the 1979-89 Afghan war, which ended in its catastrophic defeat.
Gordon Brown's troop surge is a response to failure after eight years of war. All the various war aims have been shown to be false. The war has not made Britain safer from
From: Mr Iftikhar Chaudri Most Immediate
Journalists For International Peace
Mr Hans-Rudolf Merz
President of Swiss Confederation
Dated: 30 Nov 2009
Subject: Ban on Minarets, attached to Mosques
I hope that letter of mine will find you in the best of health and prosperity. The peace lovers and promoters of Interfaith Dialogue, all over the world met a set-back , when Swiss government banned construction of minarets , the slender towers attached to mosques, after the most controversial Referendum (29 Nov), in the history of Switzerland ever. The Swiss government invariably prompted the other countries to take similar actions against the minority religions on the demand of the public and its pressure. The accusation of the Swiss People’s Party, the largest party in the Swiss parliament, that minarets can be divisive political symbols and signs of an increasing Islamic presence in Switzerland - is absurd and without any reasoning.
The architectural designs are not aimed at promoting any ‘ism’ in general or Islamization in particular. Journalists For International Peace supports the stance of The Swiss Council of Religions, which includes Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders - it issued a statement rejecting the call for the ban. In a statement, Catholic bishops said the ban would hinder interreligious dialogue and that Swiss building codes already regulate the construction and operation of minarets.
Iraq inquiry: Blair deal on regime change? UK former ambassador to Washington tells Iraq inquiry he was excluded from Blair and Bush talks in 2002
Minarets are tall spires extending from mosques or built next to them. They help identify a mosque and also serve as a spot where a religious leader can call the faithful to daily prayers.
The move to amend the constitution to ban new construction is part of a campaign by the nationalist Swiss People's Party (SVP).
The party says the minarets are political symbols and therefore go against the the country's constitution.
It designed fliers that feature a veiled woman against a background of a Swiss flag pierced by several minarets resembling missiles.
Swiss voters on Sunday adopted a referendum banning the construction of minarets, seen by some on the far right as a sign of encroaching Islamism.
"The Federal Council respects this decision," said a statement from Switzerland's government. "Consequently the construction of new minarets in Switzerland is no longer permitted. The four existing minarets will remain.
"It will also be possible to continue to construct mosques," the government statement said. "Muslims in Switzerland are able to practice their religion alone or in community with others, and live according to their beliefs just as before." Read more.
BLOOD ON THEIR HANDS PROTEST AT IRAQ INQUIRY
What: BLOOD ON THEIR HANDS PROTEST
When: IRAQ INQUIRY TUESDAY 24 NOVEMBER 09.30 - 12.30
Where: QUEEN ELIZABETH II CONFERENCE CENTRE, SW1P 3EE (Near Parliament)
The first public hearings of the Iraq Inquiry begin on Tuesday 24 November and Stop the War has called a protest outside to demand that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown are held to account for war crimes which led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and 179 British troops.
Joining the protest will be representatives from Military Families Against the War, reminding the inquiry committee of the anger felt by many relatives of British soldiers killed in Iraq.
Sir John Chilcot, the chairman of the inquiry, insists that it will not be a whitewash but the committee - the five members of which were all hand picked by Gordon Brown - looks like it was set up with exactly that purpose.
Leaked secret government reports that prove Tony Blair's serial lying throughout 2002, as he repeatedly denied there were any preparations for war, will make it difficult for the enquiry to deny that Parliament and the British public were mislead.
But the logical conclusion that Blair or anyone in his government should be indicted on the basis of such evidence has already been discounted by Chilcot, despite the majority of bereaved military families having already told his committee that this is the outcome they expect if war crimes are proven.
Did Rumsfeld Tour KGB Torture Museum to Pick Up Useful Tips?
By Jonathan Schwarz | Tiny Revolution
Where has the CIA tortured people? ABC has just reported that one place was Lithuania:
The CIA built one of its secret European prisons inside an exclusive riding academy outside Vilnius, Lithuania, a current Lithuanian government official and a former U.S. intelligence official told ABC News this week. Where affluent Lithuanians once rode show horses and sipped coffee at a café, the CIA installed a concrete structure where it could use harsh tactics to interrogate up to eight suspected al-Qaeda terrorists at a time.
But here's the lighter side of the CIA-Lithuania torture story, which ABC didn't mention: Donald Rumsfeld visited Vilnius in 2005, where he took the time to tour the KGB torture museum there. Then the U.S. embassy in Vilnius released an "Open Letter to People of Lithuania" from Rumsfeld: Read more.
By Alice Ritchie, AFP
LONDON (AFP) – Prime Minister Gordon Brown offered to host an international conference on Afghanistan in London, which he said could set a timeframe for a handover of security to Afghan forces from 2010.
In a speech here late on Monday, Brown stressed that such a handover was a requirement for the withdrawal of Britain's 9,000 troops deployed in the country.
"I have offered London as a venue in the new year," Brown said in his annual speech to the Lord Mayor's Banquet. A pre-released version of the speech quoted him as offering to host a conference in January.
"I want that conference to chart a comprehensive political framework within which the military strategy can be accomplished.
"It should identify a process for transferring district by district to full Afghan control and if at all possible set a timetable for transfer starting in 2010."
ANTI-WAR SOLDIER ARRESTED: PROTEST NOW
Lance Corporal Joe Glenton, the soldier who faces desertion charges for refusing to return to Afghanistan, has been arrested and charged with five further offences for leading Stop the War's demonstration in London on 24 October and for expressing his opposition to the media in defiance of orders.
The new charges carry a maximum of ten years imprisonment in addition to the sentence of three to four years that Joe could get if the desertion charge is upheld.
Joe's mother, Sue Glenton, has spoken out against his arrest: "You've got government ministers, army commanders and MPs speaking every day in support of the war. What's so scary about a Lance Corporal having his say? My son is only speaking out for what he thinks is right."
By David Swanson
The United States of America owes much of the hope it has right now of remaining what John Adams called "a nation of laws, not men" to Italian law enforcement. Were it not for the fact that Italian prosecutors, unlike their American counterparts, answer to the law rather than a president, the enforcement of laws against a massive crime spree by U.S. officials (and their Italian accomplices) would not have begun.