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Obama Set to Revive Military Commissions

Obama Set to Revive Military Commissions
Changes Would Boost Detainee Rights
By Peter Finn | Washington Post

The Obama administration is preparing to revive the system of military commissions established at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, under new rules that would offer terrorism suspects greater legal protections, government officials said.

The rules would block the use of evidence obtained from coercive interrogations, tighten the admissibility of hearsay testimony and allow detainees greater freedom to choose their attorneys, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

Pentagon’s Black Budget Grows to More Than $50 Billion

Pentagon’s Black Budget Grows to More Than $50 Billion
By Noah Shachtman | Wired

The Pentagon wants to spend just over $50 billion on classified programs next year, newly-released Defense Department budget documents reveal. “That’s the largest-ever sum,” according to Aviation Week’s Bill Sweetman, a longtime black-budget seer — a three percent increase over last year’s total.

Democrats Were Routinely Briefed On Bush ‘Torture’ Techniques, Document Shows

Democrats were routinely briefed on Bush ‘torture’ techniques, document shows
By John Byrne | Raw Story

The CIA has released a devastating document detailing the dates and explicit details of secret Congressional briefings in which members of Congress were told of the Bush administration’s torture techniques and when they had been used.

The document is explicit (PDF here). Most damning, perhaps, is its description of a meeting held between CIA staff and then-House Intelligence Committee Chairman Porter Goss and now-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, which shows that Pelosi was briefed on the Bush Administration’s torture techniques in 2002 — even though she’s publicly said she was never told about the use of waterboarding.

US Threatens 'Military Force' Against Hackers

US threatens 'military force' against hackers
By AP | Independent.co.UK

Cyber espionage and attacks from well-funded nations or terror groups are the biggest threats to the military's computer networks, a top US officer said.

Air Force General Kevin Chilton, who heads US Strategic Command, said he worries that foes will learn to disable or distort battlefield communications.

Chilton told reporters that even as the Pentagon improves its network defences against hackers, he needs more people, training and resources to hone offensive cyber war capacity.

At the same time, however, he asserted that the US would consider using military force against an enemy who attacks and disrupts the nation's critical networks.

Understanding the Long War

Understanding the Long War
By Tom Hayden | The Nation

The concept of the "Long War" is attributed to former CENTCOM Commander Gen. John Abizaid, speaking in 2004. Leading counterinsurgency theorist John Nagl, an Iraq combat veteran and now the head of the Center for a New American Security, writes that "there is a growing realization that the most likely conflicts of the next fifty years will be irregular warfare in an 'Arc of Instability' that encompasses much of the greater Middle East and parts of Africa and Central and South Asia." The Pentagon's official Quadrennial Defense Review (2005) commits the United States to a greater emphasis on fighting terrorism and insurgencies in this "arc of instability." The Center for American Progress repeats the formulation in arguing for a troop escalation and ten-year commitment in Afghanistan, saying that the "infrastructure of jihad" must be destroyed in "the center of an 'arc of instability' through South and Central Asia and the greater Middle East."

The implications of this doctrine are staggering. The very notion of a fifty-year war assumes the consent of the American people, who have yet to hear of the plan, for the next six national elections. The weight of a fifty-year burden will surprise and dismay many in the antiwar movement.

Will Nation That Housed 425,000 Nazis in WWII Find Accommodations for 241 Gitmo Captives?

WILL NATION THAT HOUSED 425,000 NAZIS IN WWII FIND ACCOMMODATIONS FOR 241 GITMO CAPTIVES?
By Sherwood Ross

The mean-spirited attitude of Republican politicians over repatriating Guantanamo’s remaining 241 inmates in the U.S. reflects both their irrational fears and loss of moral compass. House GOP leaders have introduced a “Keep Terrorists Out of America Act” that would give governors’ veto power to stop the transfer or release of detainees in their state. The same governors that never question the building of atomic bombs, napalm, biological, and other banned U.S. terror weapons in their jurisdictions can be expected to make hypocritical political hay out of this issue.

Pentagon Rejects Its Own Pundit Program Whitewash

The continuing saga of the Pentagon pundit program just keeps getting curiouser and curiouser, as Alice in Wonderland might say.

Inspector at Pentagon Says Report Was Flawed

Inspector at Pentagon Says Report Was Flawed
By David Barstow | NY Times

The internal review concluded that the report “did not meet accepted quality standards” and “relied on a body of testimonial evidence that was insufficient or inconclusive.” The review found that the former senior Pentagon officials who devised and managed the program refused to speak with the inspector general’s investigators....Mr. Horstman’s memorandum said that no additional investigative work would be done to reissue the report because the public relations program has been terminated and the senior officials who oversaw it have left the Pentagon.

Source: No Criminal Case Likely Over Torture Memos

Source: No Criminal Case Likely Over Torture Memos
By Devlin Barrett, Associated Press Writer | ABCNews.com

Justice Department officials have stopped short of recommending criminal charges against Bush administration lawyers who wrote secret memos approving harsh interrogation techniques of terror suspects. A person familiar with the inquiry, who spoke on condition of anonymity, says investigators recommended referring two of the three lawyers to state bar associations for possible disciplinary action. The person was not authorized to discuss the inquiry.

The person noted that the investigative report was still in draft form and subject to revisions. Attorney General Eric Holder also may make his own determination about what steps to take once the report has been finalized.

US Troops Urged To Share Faith in Afghanistan

US Troops Urged To Share Faith in Afghanistan | Submitted by Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com

US army 'does not promote religion'

The US's highest ranking military officer has said it is not the US military's position to promote any specific religion, after Al Jazeera revealed footage of troops apparently preparing to convert Afghans to their Christian faith.

Pentagon cyber command to create force for future

By LOLITA C. BALDOR, Associated Press

WASHINGTON – The U.S. military must reorganize its offensive and defensive cyber operations and will use a new command at a Maryland Army facility to create a digital warfare force for the future, the director of the National Security Agency says.

Lt. Gen. Keith Alexander, also the Pentagon's leading cyber warfare commander, said the U.S. is determined to lead the global effort to use computer technology to deter or defeat enemies, while still protecting the public's constitutional rights.

In testimony prepared for delivery Tuesday to a House Armed Services subcommittee, Alexander and other military leaders in cyber matters outlined the challenges to keeping up with rapidly changing technologies and the need for more resources and training. In blunt comments, Alexander acknowledged that cyber training for the Pentagon's work force is inadequate and must be improved.

Murtha's Nephew Got Defense Contracts

Millions in Work Came Without Competition

Credit to Air America for forwarding this link even though it's about a Democrat.

The Washington Post reports:

Yet last year, Murtech received $4 million in Pentagon work, all of it without competition, for a variety of warehousing and engineering services. With its long corridor of sparsely occupied offices and an unmanned reception area, Murtech's most striking feature is its owner -- Robert C. Murtha Jr., 49. He is the nephew of Rep. John P. Murtha, the Pennsylvania Democrat who has significant sway over the Defense Department's spending as chairman of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee.

READ THE REST AT THE WASHINGTON POST.

The Lobby Wants War With Iran

The Lobby Wants War With Iran
By Justin Raimondo | Anti-War.com

The Israel lobby has been running into a few problems lately, but it’s nothing they don’t think they can handle: a charge of treason, a strong suspicion of obstructing justice, and a gathering storm of criticism from a few dissident intellectuals and policy types. Nothing to get too exercised about. Having felled Charles "Chas" Freeman, smitten Gen. Zinni, and sidelined those in the Obama administration who question the nature and utility of America’s "special relationship" with Israel, the Lobby’s flagship organization, the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), is primed to hold their national conference in Washington next week, with Jane "This Conversation Doesn’t Exist" Harman slated to address the gathering.

The focus of the conference, and the legislative centerpiece of the event, will be passage of the Iran Diplomatic Enhancement Act, which would ban US companies from providing Iran with refined petroleum products, and seeks to punish European companies — particularly the Swiss, who come in for two specific mentions in the text of the bill — for doing so.

To begin with, the name affixed to this piece of legislative legerdemain is a prime example of congressional doublethink: will it really enhance diplomatic relations with Iran to impose draconian sanctions, the equivalent of an economic chokehold and a prelude to a military blockade? Hardly, and that is very far from its clear intent.

This bill is all about provoking the Iranians, effectively sabotaging efforts to engage in a mutual dialogue with Tehran. Why the egregious packaging? Well, it seems the American people are sick and tired of war, and preparations for war, and so it is far less incriminating if a member of Congress can say he (or she) voted for "the Iran Diplomatic Enhancement Act" than it is to admit they supported isolating Iran economically.

Fighting A High-Tech War With A Low-Tech Mule

Fighting a high-tech war with a low-tech mule
US Marines and soldiers are training to fight in Afghanistan, where mules and donkeys can haul supplies and weapons to places where Humvees and helicopters can't easily go.
By Gordon Lubold | CSM

Tucked at the base of a small mountain in the eastern Sierras is a makeshift paddock where a handful of US Marine Corps instructors reach deep into the history of warfare to give their charges a critical skill when they deploy to Afghanistan: how to pack a mule.

It is a peculiar course to teach in a military that is widely considered the best-trained, most capable, and highest-tech in the world.

But as the US girds to deploy more than 21,000 additional troops to Afghanistan this spring and summer, the military is having to prepare for a decidedly different kind of fight from the one in Iraq.

Torture and Treason: Can We Face Up To What Has Been Done In Our Name?

Torture and treason: Can we face up to what has been done in our name?
By Robert C. Koehler | The Smirking Chimp

The Gitmo intelligence crew was being told, from the highest levels of the Bush White House and the Pentagon -- think Cheney, think Rumsfeld -- to keep slamming these guys' heads against the wall, to keep pouring water down their throats, to keep tormenting them with dogs and insects, until they blubbered, in their pain and terror, a word or two that would justify the long-planned (and completely pointless) invasion of Iraq. This drags the torture "debate" out of the fog that mainstream pundits are paid to generate -- does it work? is it legal? is it cruel? is it counterproductive? -- and exposes something that is troubling at the level of the soul, and begs only one question. Is it treason?

None dare call it . . . what is that word again?

It's a word I associate with the McCarthy era and patriotic fanaticism; its commission is the cardinal sin against the nation-state and, as such, not only too easily flung at an ideological opponent but a frayed, simplistic concept, in that humankind ought to be reaching beyond national identities for global allegiance and a security that doesn't devalue life anywhere on the planet. It's a word I avoid. Certainly I've never accused anyone of it. Till now.

Buying Brand Obama

Buying Brand Obama
By Chris Hedges | Truthdig

Barack Obama is a brand. And the Obama brand is designed to make us feel good about our government while corporate overlords loot the Treasury, our elected officials continue to have their palms greased by armies of corporate lobbyists, our corporate media diverts us with gossip and trivia and our imperial wars expand in the Middle East. Brand Obama is about being happy consumers. We are entertained. We feel hopeful. We like our president. We believe he is like us. But like all branded products spun out from the manipulative world of corporate advertising, we are being duped into doing and supporting a lot of things that are not in our interest.

The Torture Timeline


The Torture Timeline
By Annie Lowrey | Foreign Policy

Having trouble keeping track of all the memos, executive orders, and policy decisions that led the United States into the moral low ground? FP brings you the ultimate guide to the Bush administration's journey to the dark side.

In the past 10 days, the revelation of once classified memos and Senate reports has greatly elucidated how torture happened. This timeline shows the key relevant legal and military events. New information is marked in italics.

2001

September 11: Afghanistan-based terrorist organization al Qaeda attacks the United States. Nearly 3,000 people die.

September 14: A congressional resolution authorizes U.S. President George W. Bush to use "all necessary and appropriate force" to combat the countries and groups behind 9/11. Vice President Dick Cheney promises that the United States will use "any means at our disposal" to combat terrorism.

Democracy Now!: Obama Reluctance on Bush Prosecutions Affirms Culture of Impunity

More video below the fold: click "Read more" for Part 2

60 Anti-Torture Activists Arrested at White House

U.S. Park Police have arrested about 60 anti-torture activists in front of the White House | Watch Videos here

Sgt. David Schlosser says the protesters violated a permit regulation that required them to remain in motion on the center portion of a sidewalk. The protesters, wearing orange jumpsuits to represent Guantánamo Bay detainees who have been cleared for release, remain in custody.

Earlier, protesters marched from the U.S. Capitol to protest detention policies in the United States and what they call the government's refusal to prosecute torture. Read more.

Seven Arrested at Philadelphia Mall Over Military Recruiting Practices

Updates below

Seven Arrested at Philadelphia Mall Over Military Recruiting Practices | Press Release
300 Veterans, military families, religious leaders and voters rallied, marched and closed the "Army Experience Center" to decry the Army pilot program that entices teens with violent video games
Col. Anne Wright, former State Department official of 16 years shouted, "We demand that our policy isn't militarism but diplomacy."

PHILADELPHIA - May 2 - Several hundred demonstrators from a coalition of 30 national and regional veteran, youth and peace groups, including the Iraq Veterans Against the War, Veterans for Peace, BuxMont Coalition for Peace Action, Student Peace Action Network, protested what they claimed were unethical military recruitment of teenagers at Franklin Mills Mall in northeast Philadelphia.

The protesters rallied at a church, then marched one mile to the Franklin Mills mall where dozens of police blocked them from entering the "Army Experience Center" (AEC). After nearly an hour of chants of "War is no game, shut down the Army Experience Center" and speeches, Bob Smith of the Brandywine Peace Community (a member of United for Peace and Justice, a coalition of 1,300 national and local organizations) delivered a criminal complaint (4) to a Captain at the AEC and to a representative of the mall's parent company, The Simon Property Group, Inc. After two police warnings, hundreds of protesters continued to chant and listen to speeches by Col. Wright and others, until the police arrested seven conducting civil disobedience by refusing to leave. Forced out of the mall, people continued to vigil and listen to songs by the Granny Peace Brigade outside the "red" entrance to the mall.

U.S. May Revive Guantánamo Military Courts

U.S. May Revive Guantánamo Military Courts
By William Glaberson | NY Times

Still, during the presidential campaign Mr. Obama criticized the commissions, saying that “by any measure our system of trying detainees has been an enormous failure,” and declaring that as president he would “reject the Military Commissions Act.”...Anthony D. Romero, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said that Mr. Obama had pledged to return the country to the rule of law and that “continuing with the military commission system would be a retreat from that promise.”

Debate Over Interrogations Sharply Divided Bush White House

Debate Over Interrogations Sharply Divided Bush White House
By Mark Mazzetti and Scott Shane | NY Times

Acutely aware that the agency would be blamed if the policies lost political support, nervous C.I.A. officials began to curb its practices much earlier than most Americans know: no one was waterboarded after March 2003, and coercive interrogation methods were shelved altogether in 2005....The real trouble began on May 7, 2004, the day the C.I.A. inspector general, John L. Helgerson, completed a devastating report. In thousands of pages, it challenged the legality of some interrogation methods, found that interrogators were exceeding the rules imposed by the Justice Department and questioned the effectiveness of the entire program.

Who Authorized The Torture of Abu Zubaydah?

Who Authorized The Torture of Abu Zubaydah?
By Andy Worthington | www.andyworthington.co.uk

For the defendants of the use of torture by US forces — still led by former Vice President Dick Cheney — this has been a rocky few weeks, with the publication, in swift succession, of the leaked report by the International Committee of the Red Cross (PDF), based on interviews with the 14 “high-value detainees” transferred to Guantánamo from secret CIA prisons in September 2006, which concluded that their treatment “consti

Obama Administration Seeks Extraordinary Military Powers In Pakistan

Obama administration seeks extraordinary military powers in Pakistan
By Bill Van Auken | WSWS

In his testimony, Gates also revealed that, even after the planned closure of the Guantanamo detention center, the US government may still imprison up to 100 of the inmates without charges or trials. The administration asked Congress for $50 million to build prison facilities in the US for detainees it claims are dangerous but cannot be tried, principally because the supposed evidence against them was extracted through torture.

The Obama administration is increasingly treating its growing intervention in Pakistan as a separate counter-insurgency war for which it is demanding the same kind of extraordinary military powers obtained by the Bush administration in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Obama Continues Bush Policy On Weapons To Georgia

Obama Continues Bush Policy On Weapons To Georgia
By Bruce Gagnon | Organizing Notes

President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton have announced that they intend to keep the promise of former president George W. Bush to send $242 million in military aid to Georgia in the 2010 budget.

This comes at the very time that NATO war games are being prepared in Georgia, right on Russia's southern border. Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev sounded the alarm about the NATO military operations saying, "“Military exercises can’t be conducted where the war has been recently unleashed. Those who took a decision to conduct them will bear responsibility for their negative consequences."

Russia vows to help South Ossetia and Abkhazia protect their borders against a new Georgian attack that could well come following the NATO war games and efforts by the US to rearm Georgia after their failed attack on Russia last summer. NATO is accusing Russia of destabilizing the Southern Caucasus region by building up its military stronghold on the Georgian breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

The absurdity of NATO blaming Russia for securing their southern border, at the very time the US and NATO are surrounding them, indicates the real agenda underway.

You Say Torture Works? Prove It


You say torture works? Prove it
by Don Williams

The usual suspects--Dick Cheney, Fox News, even some at Newsweek--are suggesting that waterboarding and other tough interrogation techniques just might have made us safer during the Bush years. As if there's still reason to debate the use of torture, kidnapping and black box prisons.

There's one compelling reason we should not embrace this cold, sly notion. His name is al-Libi (Al-LEE-bee). It means "the Libyan," and there are many people so named in the Arab world. The fact that Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi is not the most famous of them all is an indictment of American media and politics, including the Democrats, for his lies, obtained under torture, led to the death and displacement of millions. I keep waiting for Obama to utter al-Libi's name. What's he waiting for? Until he and others do, it's up to us to shout it from the rooftops.

Won't you join me? It's not hard to say. Al-Libi. So shout it out. In doing so, we just might rescue the soul of the nation. Email me at DonWilliams7@charter.net to find out how making al-Libi famous could end the debate over torture.

Al-Libi is not a nice man. He's a terrorist and a trainer of terrorists. Yet even he should never have been tortured, not only because torture's wrong, which it is, but because the lies al-Libi told to end his CIA-sponsored abuse were used to bomb, invade and occupy Iraq, a terrible mistake in the opinion of most, and one for which we've paid and continue to pay dearly.

Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) Write An Open Letter to Obama (Updated)

April 29, 2009

MEMORANDUM FOR: The President

FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity

SUBJECT: Torture

This memorandum is VIPS’ first attempt to inform you on a major intelligence issue, as we did your predecessor; thus, some background might be helpful. Five former CIA officers established Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) in January 2003, when we saw our profession being corrupted to justify an attack on Iraq. Since then, our numbers have grown to 70 intelligence professionals, mostly retired, who have served in virtually all U.S. civilian and military intelligence agencies.

Debating The US Record On Torture

Debating the US Record on Torture | Common Dreams

A RebelReports guest post by Avi Lewis of Al Jazeera:

I hosted a panel on Al Jazeera English the other day about Obama’s first 100 days of policy around torture, rendition and detention. It yielded a moment of inconvenient truth.

Former CIA analyst Michael Scheuer, the architect of the rendition program under Bill Clinton, said what many Democrats know but would rather not hear: that when it comes to sending people to face torture in other countries, the Clinton administration may be as vulnerable to indictment as the Bush administration.

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