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UPDATE: Three of Five US Contractors Arrested in Iraq Are Ordered Freed
By Jeremy Scahill | Rebel Reports
According to Iraqi officials, three of the five US contractors arrested last weekend in connection with the stabbing death of another US contractor have been ordered released. A government spokesperson, Ali al-Dabbagh said, “They are five. Three have been released due to a lack of evidence, two are still being detained on drug issues.”...
This case has attracted significant attention because if the contractors are ultimately charged and prosecuted in Iraq, it would be the first time Baghdad would be permitted by Washington to try US personnel in Iraqi courts. Read more.
It takes at least tacit faith in massive violence to believe that after three decades of horrendous violence in Afghanistan, upping the violence there will improve the situation.
Despite the pronouncements from high Washington places that the problems of Afghanistan can’t be solved by military means, 90 percent of the spending for Afghanistan in the Obama administration’s current supplemental bill is military.
Often it seems that lofty words about war hopes are boilerplate efforts to make us feel better about an endless warfare state. Oratory and punditry laud the Pentagon’s fallen as noble victims of war, while enveloping its other victims in a haze of ambiguity or virtual nonexistence.
When last Sunday’s edition of the Washington Post printed the routine headline “Iraq War Deaths,” the newspaper meant American deaths -- to Washington’s ultra-savvy, the deaths that really count. The only numbers and names under the headline were American.
Ask for whom the bell tolls. That’s the implicit message -- from top journalists and politicians alike. Read more.
By David Swanson
On Tuesday President Obama proposed that any increases in federal spending on anything useful, such as healthcare or retirement security, must be balanced by cuts and savings to something else useful, such as healthcare or retirement security.
"The pay-as-you-go rule is very simple," Obama said. "Congress can only spend a dollar if it saves a dollar elsewhere." Except that it's not so simple. Obama would make an exception to allow Bush's tax cuts for millionaires to be extended past their 2010 expiration date, as well as to prevent the alternative-minimum tax from impacting the overclass. Still, the White House insists that everything is very simple:
"PAYGO would hold us to a simple but important principle: we should pay for new tax or entitlement legislation. Creating a new non-emergency tax cut or entitlement expansion would require offsetting revenue increases or spending reductions."
The tiny Pacific island nation of Palau has agreed to a US request to temporarily resettle 17 Chinese Muslim ethnic Uighurs held at the Guantanamo Bay detention centre for more than seven years.
In a statement on Wednesday Johnson Toribiong, the country's president, said he had agreed to resettle the Uighur detainees "subject to periodic review".
The 17 were cleared for release from Guantanamo four years ago after US officials ruled there was no evidence to hold them as "enemy combatants".
Last year a US federal judge ordered the men released into the US, but an appeals court halted the order, and they have been in legal limbo ever since.
The US state department has said the Uighurs cannot be returned to China, despite requests from Beijing that they be handed over, because of fears they will face persecution and possible execution.
Instead US officials have been trying to find a third country willing to take them in, but in the meantime they have been kept in Guantanamo, spending up to 22 hours a day locked in their cells. Read more.
On Monday, June 8, 2009, exactly 42 years after the USS Liberty (GTR-5) was attacked, in international waters off the coast of Sinai by Israel, members of the USS Liberty Veterans Association were at the U.S. Navy Memorial, in downtown Washington, D.C. Their purpose was to present a model of the vessel to the institution for it to be maintained on permanent display. Accepting the USS Liberty model on behalf of the U.S. Navy Memorial was its CEO, Rear Admiral Edward K.
A deadly Israeli attack on a US ship -- an incident largely kept in the dark by Washington -- receives new attention with survivors reliving the painful memory.
USS Liberty survivors gathered in Washington on Monday to commemorate the 42nd anniversary of the incident and expound on how they were sprayed with bullets by America's "closest ally and beneficiary".
On June 8, 1967, the unarmed spy ship USS Liberty was on duty in international waters off the Sinai Peninsula when it was bombarded by Israeli fighter jets and torpedo boats.
The two-hour-long attacks killed at least 34 sailors, wounded 173 others and nearly sunk the ship.
The attack on the Liberty came at a time when Israel had engaged in a brief but intense war with Egypt and its Arab allies, which coincided with the US war on Vietnam.
Although the ship was clearly marked as an American vessel, Israelis declared the attack on Liberty as a simple case of "friendly fire" and "mistaken identity". Read more.
Tomgram: Frida Berrigan, Downloading Disaster
It helps to have spent a childhood reading sci-fi. It means nothing bizarre really surprises you. In June 2008, TomDispatch regular William Astore wrote a post about how the Air Force had jumped big time into cyberspace. That service had even bigger dreams for a "$30 billion cyberspace boondoggle" that would theoretically have provided it "with the ability to fry any computer on Earth." Based on the information Astore mustered, this site offered a prediction: "Expect cyberwar in the Pentagon before this is all over."
Make it so! One year later, all three military services (and, it seems, half the other agencies in Washington) are fully uploaded and stalking each other in a funding cyberwar. As a result, the virtual sun is shining for military-industrial corporations, as Frida Berrigan tells us in her latest post: actual money is starting to flow, and a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed new cybermilitary-industrial complex is in formation. Not surprisingly, it has all the trappings of the older version of the same, right down to the corporate names on the logos and the military-industrial fun in the sun that goes with it.
Take the Air Force's "Collaboration in Cyberspace" symposium due to open a week from now in Shreveport, Louisiana. Northrop Grumman has sponsored one of its coffee breaks; SAIC has taken care of the "attendee registration bags"; Lockheed Martin has ponied up for "the invitations that are in each attendee's conference bag inviting them to a special AFCS [Air Force Cyberspace] event"; and you (if you happen to be a reasonably humongous military-industrial style corporation) can still get your tagline and logo plastered on the symposium's "ever popular" Cyber Café (for a measly $5,000 fee!) -- and for nothing extra, your logo will be a screensaver on every computer in that café. You'd better do it while you can. After all, you've already just about missed your chance for a corporate sponsorship slot at the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association 4th Cyber Cup Invitational golf tournament that same week. Most of those have already been taken. But don't get teed off: there'll be plenty more! Tom
Cyberscares About Cyberwars Equal Cybermoney
Watching the Cybermilitary-Industrial Complex Form
By Frida Berrigan
As though we don't have enough to be afraid of already, what with armed lunatics mowing down military recruiters and doctors, the H1N1 flu virus, the collapse of bee populations, rising sea levels, failed and flailing states, North Korea being North Korea, al-Qaeda wannabes in New York State with terrorist aspirations, and who knows what else -- now cyberjihadis are evidently poised to steal our online identities, hack into our banks, take over our Flickr and Facebook acccounts, and create havoc on the World Wide Web.
Late last year, in a 96-page report, Securing Cyberspace for the 44th Presidency, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) warned that "America's failure to protect cyberspace is one of the most urgent national security problems facing the new administration." In a similar fashion, Dr. Dorothy Denning, a cybersecurity expert at the Naval Postgraduate School, has just described the Internet as a "powerful tool in the hands of criminals and terrorists." And they're hardly alone.
To this fear chorus, our thoughtful, slow-to-histrionics President added his voice in a May 29th East Room address:
"In today's world, acts of terror could come not only from a few extremists in suicide vests but from a few key strokes on a computer -- a weapon of mass disruption...This cyberthreat is one of the most serious economic and national security challenges we face as a nation."
Wartime Contracting Report: We Have Big, Costly Problems
By Robert O'Harrow, Jr. | Government, Inc. Blog
As promised, here's the new report by the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, the organization formed by Congress to examine where all the money went.
It's a sad reminder about just how bad the contracting system has been in recent years, and all the billions that have been wasted because of poor oversight, poor planning and plain old corruption.
"The environment in Iraq and Afghanistan has been and continues to be susceptible to waste, fraud, and abuse," the report said.
The report, called "At What Cost? Contingency Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan," contains the interim findings of the commission, which will issue a final report next year. It underscores the gloomy finding about the troubled federal procurement system from a host of other analysis in recent years.
It'll be the subject of a hearing today by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee's national security and foreign affairs subcommittee. Read more.
Roadside Bombs: An Iraqi Tactic on the Upsurge in Afghanistan
By Jason Motlagh / Ghazni | Yahoo! News
The highway that runs between Kabul and the southeastern city of Kandahar is the most brutal evidence of the Taliban's IED offensive. The road is a showcase U.S.-funded project, meant to connect two of the country's most vital commercial centers. But today it is an automotive graveyard, littered with burned-out carcasses of vehicles and disrupted by crumbled bridges. One infamous stretch is lined with the wreckage of 40 transport trucks, the remains of a 90-minute enemy ambush dubbed the "jingle-truck massacre." (Afghans hang chains and coins from their truck bumpers, which create a jingling sound.) Every few miles, craters of varying size pock the pavement, interspersed with suspicious patches of dirt that compel patrol convoys to make off-road detours or dismount to investigate before proceeding.
Outmatched in frontal combat, the militants have taken a cue from Iraqi counterparts in making IEDs, or improvised explosive devices, their weapon of choice. While their use has declined in Iraq, IEDs are now taking a deadlier toll on coalition forces in Afghanistan. The latest NATO figures show that the use of roadside bombs is up 80% so far this year, making them the primary killer of U.S. and international troops. In 2008, 172 troops died from a record 3,276 IEDs, a 45% jump from the year before, according to the Joint IED Defeat Organization, a Pentagon agency. This trend is expected to worsen in the months ahead, as thousands of incoming U.S. reinforcements push into areas where the Taliban has operated unchallenged. (See pictures of Afghanistan's deadly Korengal valley.) Read more.
The American Civil Liberties Union today called for a full and transparent investigation into the death of a Yemeni national held at Guantánamo Bay. Military officials have described the death as an "apparent suicide."
The following can be attributed to Ben Wizner, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project:
"Tragic deaths like this one have become all too common in a system that locks up detainees indefinitely without charge or trial. There must be an immediate, independent and transparent investigation into the circumstances surrounding this apparent suicide and the conditions of confinement at Guantánamo.
"There is no room for a system of indefinite detention without charge or trial under our Constitution. Detainees against whom there is legitimate evidence should be tried in our federal courts – not in the reconstituted military commissions now being proposed. Those against whom there is no legitimate evidence must not be given a de-facto life sentence by being locked up forever."
In January, the ACLU and other leading human rights groups sent a letter to President Obama asking him to grant them full access to the Guantánamo detention center so that they can review the conditions of confinement and make recommendations for revising U.S. detention policies.
The letter to President Obama is available online.
- US accounts for more than half total increase to $1.4tn
- China now second biggest spender in world league table
Worldwide spending on weapons has reached record levels amounting to well over $1tn last year, a leading research organisation reported today.
Global military expenditure has risen by 45% over the past decade to $1.46tn, according to the latest annual Yearbook on Armaments, Disarmament, and International Security published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri).
Though the US accounts for more than half the total increase, China and Russia nearly tripled their military expenditure over the decade, with China now second only to the US in the military expenditure league table. Read more.
From the FEMA Website:
National Level Exercise 2009 (NLE 09) is scheduled for July 27 through July 31, 2009. NLE 09 will be the first major exercise conducted by the United States government that will focus exclusively on terrorism prevention and protection, as opposed to incident response and recovery.
NLE 09 is designated as a Tier I National Level Exercise. Tier I exercises (formerly known as the Top Officials exercise series or TOPOFF) are conducted annually in accordance with the National Exercise Program (NEP), which serves as the nation's overarching exercise program for planning, organizing, conducting and evaluating national level exercises. The NEP was established to provide the U.S. government, at all levels, exercise opportunities to prepare for catastrophic crises ranging from terrorism to natural disasters.
NLE 09 is a White House directed, Congressionally- mandated exercise that includes the participation of all appropriate federal department and agency senior officials, their deputies, staff and key operational elements. In addition, broad regional participation of state, tribal, local, and private sector is anticipated. This year the United States welcomes the participation of Australia, Canada, Mexico and the United Kingdom in NLE 09. Read more.
By Chris Dorsey
I cannot vote for any of the candidates for my party’s nomination for governor because they are prostitutes for the entities that destroy the planet, enslave its inhabitants through debt and terrorize through military aggression. I asked the three about Northrop Grumman’s control of the IT infrastructure of Virginia’s state agencies and received disturbing answers.
I first broached the subject to Deeds at a Richmond Democratic Committee meeting. I asked Deeds if he thought it was good that the Commonwealth’s IT infrastructure was controlled by Northrop Grumman which is a military contractor. He first said he didn’t understand the question. I repeated myself and he said he was unaware of the contract. I replied that he should know about the biggest contract awarded in Virginia’s history: $2 Billion to Northrop Grumman.
Brave New Films Captures Hard Evidence Against Cheney Torture Policies
Reported by Ellen | News Hounds
Brave New Films (with whom we are proud to be affiliated) did an interview with someone who, unlike Dick Cheney, actually served in the military and conducted interrogations. His verdict? Torture has not saved American lives but has cost lots of them, perhaps thousands. Video after the jump.
Brave New Films writes:
Matthew Alexander was the senior military interrogator for the task force that tracked down Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq and, at the time, a higher priority target than Osama bin Laden. Mr. Alexander has personally conducted hundreds of interrogations and supervised over a thousand of them.
"Torture does not save lives. Torture costs us lives," Mr. Alexander said in an exclusive interview at Brave New Studios. "And the reason why is that our enemies use it, number one, as a recruiting tool...These same foreign fighters who came to Iraq to fight because of torture and abuse....literally cost us hundreds if not thousands of American lives."
Massachusetts State Democratic Party Resolution on Accountability and the Rule of Law; Calls for Special Prosecutor
The Massachusetts State Democratic Party convention was held June 5th and 6th in Springfield, MA. The assembled passed this resolution calling for the appointment of a Special Prosecutor to investigate and prosecute war crimes and violations of our Constitution, Federal and international laws, and treaties.
MASSACHUSETTS STATE DEMOCRATIC PARTY RESOLUTION on ACCOUNTABILITY and the RULE OF LAW
Whereas the Massachusetts Democratic Party supports the Rule of Law in the federal government and elsewhere; and
Whereas the Massachusetts Democratic Party reveres the Constitution of the United States and finds abhorrent acts contrary to its intent, such as excessive executive privilege leading to "preemptive" war and torture
Therefore be it resolved that the Massachusetts Democratic Party instructs our Congressional delegation to support and work for the appointment of a Special Prosecutor to investigate, and, where appropriate, to hold accountable, any person, including persons at any level of government, who is found to be responsible for willfully violating the laws and the Constitution of the United States, and/or willfully violating the rights of citizens and the rights guaranteed to all persons under international treaties, and/or employing or advocating torture, and/or waging illegal wars with wanton disregard for truth and for the lives and safety of civilians, and/or presenting false testimony, and/or ignoring, bypassing and sabotaging the law, or resolutions and subpoenas issued by the Congress of the United States.
Slave soldiers honored, called 'national treasures'
By Wayne Drash | CNN
Hobbled with age, weathered with time, the World War II veterans stood at attention. One by one, a two-star general delivered flags flown over the Pentagon in their honor. He looked them in their eyes and snapped his right hand in salute.
"National treasures," Maj. Gen. Vincent Boles said Saturday evening.
It marked the first time in history the U.S. Army recognized 350 soldiers held as slaves inside Nazi Germany. The men were beaten, starved and forced to work in tunnels at Berga an der Elster where the Nazi government had a hidden V-2 rocket factory. Berga was a subcamp of the notorious concentration camp Buchenwald.
"These men were abused and put under some of the most horrific conditions," the general told a private gathering of Berga survivors. "It wasn't a prison camp. It was a slave labor camp."
No ranking Army official had ever uttered the words "slave labor camp" in reference to the men's captivity at Berga. Boles knew the gravity of his statement -- that he was setting the historical record straight after 64 years.
"That's why I'm here. That's why the Army sent me here: To look them in the eye and tell them that." Read more.
The window blinds were closed at the East County home of Navy Lt. Florence Bacong Choe, where grief-stricken family members gathered yesterday to mourn her death while she was serving in Afghanistan.
Lt. Choe, 35, was killed Friday afternoon in northern Afghanistan when an insurgent posing as an Afghan National Army soldier opened fire on troops assigned to Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan at Camp Shaheen, Mazar-e-Sharif.
Lt. j.g. Francis L. Toner IV, 26, a civil engineer from Narragansett, R.I., also was killed. A third service member was wounded, the military reported.
Military officials said the insurgent killed himself after the shooting.
Lt. Choe was serving as a medical administration and logistics mentor to the Afghan National Army. Her home duty station was the Naval Medical Center San Diego, where she was born. She had volunteered to serve in Afghanistan, according to a biography released yesterday by a spokeswoman for the naval hospital.
She is survived by her husband, Lt. Cmdr. Chong “Jay” Choe, a urology resident at the medical center; her daughter, Kristin, 3; mother, Francisca Bacong; father, Rufino Bacong Sr., retired Navy; and brothers Rufino Bacong Jr. and Ron Bacong. Read more.
Saturday marked the 65th anniversary of D-Day. Obama was on hand at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer in northern France, as was France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy, Britain’s Prince Charles, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
“No man who shed blood or lost a brother would say that war is good,” said Obama, reading from his trusty teleprompters. “But all know that this war was essential. For what we faced in Nazi totalitarianism was not just a battle of competing interests. It was a competing vision of humanity.”
It was an essential war because it was designed that way. Corporations associated with the Morgan-Rockefeller international investment bankers subsidized and facilitated the rise of Nazi totalitarianism and industry. “General Motors, Ford, General Electric, DuPont and the handful of U.S. companies intimately involved with the development of Nazi Germany were — except for the Ford Motor Company — controlled by the Wall Street elite — the J.P. Morgan firm, the Rockefeller Chase Bank and to a lesser extent the Warburg Manhattan bank,” writes economist, historian, and author Antony C. Sutton in his book, Wall Street and the Rise of Hitler. Read more.
Obama's Outreach to Muslims: Empty Rhetoric, Same Old Policies
By Stephen Lendman
As well as anyone, Edward Said understood the West's long-standing antipathy to Islam - reflected in Samuel Huntington's "The Clash of Civilizations" article in the summer 1993 issue of Foreign Affairs and later a 1996 book.
He wrote that future conflicts won't be "primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural....the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics. The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future" - demagogically suggesting a benevolent, superior West confronting a belligerent, hostile, inferior Muslim world. In other words, good v. evil.
EXCLUSIVE: Recently Released Gitmo Detainee Talks to ABC News | Watch video interview
Held Seven Years, Former Aid Worker Tells ABC News He Was Tortured
By Jake Tapper, Karen Travers, and Stephanie Z. Smith | ABCNews.com
For 7½ years, Lakhdar Boumediene was known simply by a number: "10005."
These were the digits assigned to him when he arrived at the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, swept up in a post-Sept. 11 dragnet and accused of plotting to blow up the U.S. and British Embassies in Sarajevo.
In an exclusive interview with ABC News, Boumediene said the interrogators at Gitmo never once asked him about this alleged plot, which he denied playing any part it.
"I'm a normal man," said Boumediene, who at the time of his arrest worked for the Red Crescent, providing help to orphans and others in need. "I'm not a terrorist." Read more, watch video interview .
By Jorn Madslien
Business reporter, BBC News
The value of military hardware manufacturers has soared.
Global military spending rose 4% in 2008 to a record $1,464bn (£914bn) - up 45% since 1999, according to the Stockholm-based peace institute Sipri.
In contrast with civilian aerospace and airlines, the defence industry remains healthy.
"The global financial crisis has yet to have an impact on major arms companies' revenues, profits and order backlogs," Sipri said.
Peace-keeping operations - which also benefit defence firms - rose 11%.
Missions were launched in trouble spots such as Darfur and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
"Another record was set, with the total of international peace operation personnel reaching 187,586," said Sipri, or Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
As the world's aerospace and defence industry prepares for next week's Paris air show centenary, it seems much of the focus is set to shift away from troubled civilian aircraft makers, which are struggling with reduced orders from recession-hit airlines, towards the companies that make fighter jets and other military hardware.
In her book, The Dark Side, author and New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer wrote that the White House was so pleased with Bradbury’s work that “the day after he completed his opinion legalizing the cruelest treatment of U.S.-held in history, President Bush sent his name forewarned to the FBI to begin work on a background check, so that Bradbury could be formally nominated to run the OLC.”
In 2005, after pushing out the Justice Department lawyer who had overturned President George W. Bush’s claimed authority to abuse “war on terror” prisoners, his administration reinstated key elements of the memos granting Bush virtually unlimited powers over the detainees.
Steven Bradbury, who headed the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel during Bush’s second term, signed the May 2005 memos to reverse efforts led by former Assistant Attorney General Jack Goldsmith in 2003 and 2004 to scrap earlier OLC memos asserting Bush’s powers.
Senior Bush administration officials were furious at the attempts by Goldsmith, who with the support of then-Deputy Attorney General James Comey, knocked down memos by previous OLC lawyers John Yoo and Jay Bybee....
Before leaving the vice presidency, Cheney acknowledged that he personally “signed off” on the waterboarding of al-Qaeda suspect Abu Zubaydah and two other alleged terrorist detainees and personally approved brutal interrogations of 33 others.
“I was aware of the program, certainly, and involved in helping get the process cleared, as the [Central Intelligence] Agency, in effect, came in and wanted to know what they could and couldn't do,” Cheney said in an interview last December with ABC News. “And they talked to me, as well as others, to explain what they wanted to do. And I supported it." Read more.
Pakistan diverted U.S. aid meant for fighting Taliban terrorists to bolster its conventional warfare capabilities against India, documents indicate.
U.S. Defense Department documents accessed by the Press Trust of India reveal Islamabad secretly diverted a substantial portion of nearly $7 billion in foreign military financing and arms sales from the administration of former U.S. President George W. Bush to beef up its armed forces along the Indian border instead of fighting terrorists. Read more.
What the new Jim Comey torture emails actually reveal
By Glenn Greenwald | Salon.com
The New York Times was provided 3 extremely important internal Justice Department emails from April, 2005 (.pdf) -- all written by then-Deputy Attorney General Jim Comey -- which highlight how the Bush administration's torture techniques became legally authorized by Bush lawyers. As Marcy Wheeler documents, the leak to the NYT was clearly from someone eager to defend Bush officials by suggesting that Comey's emails prove that all DOJ lawyers --- even those opposed to torture on policy grounds -- agreed these techniques were legal, and the NYT reporters, Scott Shane and David Johnston, dutifully do the leakers' bidding by misleadingly depicting the Comey emails as vindication for Bush/Cheney (Headline: "U.S. Lawyers Agreed on the Legality of Brutal Tactic"; First Paragraph: "When Justice Department lawyers engaged in a sharp internal debate in 2005 over brutal interrogation techniques, even some who believed that using tough tactics was a serious mistake agreed on a basic point: the methods themselves were legal").
I defy anyone to read Comey's 3 emails and walk away with that conclusion. Marcy has detailed many of the reasons the NYT article is so misleading, so I want to focus on what the Comey emails actually demonstrate about what these DOJ torture memos really are. The primary argument against prosecutions for Bush officials who ordered torture is that DOJ lawyers told the White House that these tactics were legal, and White House officials therefore had the right to rely on those legal opinions. The premise is that White House officials inquired in good faith with the DOJ about what they could and could not do under the law, and only ordered those tactics which the DOJ lawyers told them were legal. As these Comey emails prove, that simply is not what happened.
The DOJ torture-authorizing memos are perfectly analogous to the CIA's pre-war intelligence reports about Iraq's WMDs. Bush officials justify their pre-war statements about WMDs by pointing to the CIA's reports -- as though those reports just magically appeared on their desks from the CIA -- when, as is well documented, Dick Cheney and friends were continuously pressuring and cajoling the CIA to give them those threat reports in order to supply bureaucratic justification for the attack on Iraq. That is exactly how the DOJ torture-authorizing memos came to be: Dick Cheney, David Addington and George Bush himself continuously exerted extreme pressure on DOJ lawyers to produce memos authorizing them to do what they wanted to do -- not because they were interested in knowing in good faith what the law did and did not allow, but because they wanted DOJ memos as cover -- legal immunity -- for the torture they had already ordered and were continuing to order. Though one won't find this in the NYT article, that is, far and away, the most important revelation from the Comey emails.
* * * * *
Just read the Comey emails for yourself -- they're not long -- and you'll see exactly how these DOJ torture memos were actually produced. The key excerpts tell the story as clearly as can be. Comey was vehemently opposed to a draft memo written by Acting OLC Chief Steven Bradbury -- ultimately dated May 10, 2005 (.pdf) -- that legally authorized the simultaneous, combined use of numerous "enhanced interrogation techniques" on detainees. This "combined techniques" memo was crucial because these were the tactics that had already been used on detainees, and -- after the prior OLC memos authorizing those tactics were withdrawn -- the White House was desperate for legal approval for what they had already done and what they wanted to do in the future.
Comey begins by noting that OLC lawyer Patrick Philbin had expressed numerous objections to the Bradbury memo -- all of which were being ignored in the rush to give the White House what it wanted: Read more.
Tom wrote: When the Abu Ghraib photos were released in 2004, it seemed that most Americans were shocked by such novel and horrific images, but at least one was not. I'm talking about Alfred McCoy, who had been following the Central Intelligence Agency since the early 1970s, when it unsuccessfully tried to stop the publication of his book, The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade.
As soon as McCoy saw the now grimly iconic images of hooded figures, naked men on leashes, and the like, his reaction -- even grimmer than that of the rest of us -- was recognition. He had long been studying the CIA's pioneering research into methods of psychological torture. (The Agency had embarked on this project in the early 1950s, initially studying old Soviet and Chinese methods of interrogating and breaking prisoners.) As a result, he knew that what was unique at Abu Ghraib was not the methods of abuse, but those images. Thanks to cell phones and computers, these could be taken in quantity and passed around by anyone in the vicinity. Those photos, he also knew, were no record of aberrations: they represented policy and were recognizably out of the CIA's several-decade-old torture playbook.
That this was so still remains little understood today, even though in 2006 McCoy published an important book, A Question of Torture, on the subject (and even earlier wrote a post at TomDispatch laying out some of this grim history). His work has since been incorporated into, for instance, Jane Mayer's The Dark Side, a striking account of the war on terror as a torture fest. Yet the history offered in his book remains largely ignored or missing-in-action in our world -- and without it much of the so-called torture debate of this moment makes less sense than it should.
Recently, McCoy read a front-page New York Times piece headlined "U.S. Relies More on Aid of Allies in Terror Cases," which began this way: "The United States is now relying heavily on foreign intelligence services to capture, interrogate and detain all but the highest-level terrorist suspects seized outside the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, according to current and former American government officials."
Again, McCoy quickly recognized ancient history returning to haunt us. After all, until the Bush era, American administrations regularly outsourced torture (and torture techniques) to foreign allies. So read his latest piece of missing history below and then, if you want to grasp the depths of this old story, which shows no sign of ending, get your hands on a copy of his book. (To catch a superb TomDispatch audio interview with McCoy in which he discusses the CIA's "Manhattan Project of the mind," click here.) Tom
Confronting the CIA's Mind Maze
America's Political Paralysis Over Torture
By Alfred W. McCoy
If, like me, you've been following America's torture policies not just for the last few years, but for decades, you can't help but experience that eerie feeling of déjà vu these days. With the departure of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney from Washington and the arrival of Barack Obama, it may just be back to the future when it comes to torture policy, a turn away from a dark, do-it-yourself ethos and a return to the outsourcing of torture that went on, with the support of both Democrats and Republicans, in the Cold War years.
Like Chile after the regime of General Augusto Pinochet or the Philippines after the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, Washington after Bush is now trapped in the painful politics of impunity. Unlike anything our allies have experienced, however, for Washington, and so for the rest of us, this may prove a political crisis without end or exit.
AMID THE media frenzy and speculation over the disappearance of Air France's ill-fated Flight 447, the loss of two of the world's most prominent figures in the war on the illegal arms trade and international drug trafficking has been virtually overlooked.
Pablo Dreyfus, a 39-year-old Argentine who was travelling with his wife Ana Carolina Rodrigues aboard the doomed flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, had worked tirelessly with the Brazilian authorities to stem the flow of arms and ammunition that for years has fuelled the bloody turf wars waged by drug gangs in Rio's sprawling favelas.
Also travelling with Dreyfus on the doomed flight was his friend and colleague Ronald Dreyer, a Swiss diplomat and co-ordinator of the Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence who had worked with UN missions in El Salvador, Mozambique, Azerbaijan, Kosovo and Angola. Both men were consultants at the Small Arms Survey, an independent think tank based at Geneva's Graduate Institute of International Studies. The Survey said on its website that Dryer had helped mobilise the support of more than 100 countries to the cause of disarmament and development....
Dreyfus and Dreyer were on their way to Geneva to present the latest edition of the Small Arms Survey handbook, of which Dreyfus was a joint editor. It was to have been their latest step in their relentless fight against evil. Read more.
Love Is a Battlefield: For some soldiers, there's no place like combat
By Daniel Stone, Eve Conant and John Barry | Newsweek
Staff Sgt. Shaun McBride would rather be in a war zone than at home. He likes the adrenaline, he says, even the "fear someone can shoot you." He hates the petty responsibilities of home life, the bills and family issues.
He's clocked 43 months in Afghanistan and Iraq. His first wife of three years sent him divorce papers while he was fighting Taliban militants—she wanted to marry a friend of his. (She couldn't be reached for comment.) "Whatever," says McBride, 32, with a shrug. Now he's remarried—to Evangeline (Star) McBride, a 27-year-old divorced mother of one—and getting ready for his fifth deployment with the Third Brigade combat team of the 101st Airborne Division.
When asked in front of Star what he misses most when he's overseas, he doesn't hesitate: his souped-up Mustang. He likes to drive it fast, and "show what's what" when another flashy car pulls up next to him at a stoplight. But even the driving is better in Iraq. There, you "do whatever you want on the road. You own the road … You can go into people's houses without being invited in. It's like you own their house." Read more.
Once the suspects are charged and referred to trial, the case would be sent to Iraq's Central Criminal Court, the Iraqi official said. If that happens, it would be the first time U.S. citizens were tried in Iraq since the United States returned the country's government to the Iraqis.
Five American security contractors were detained in connection with the killing of another American contractor last month inside Baghdad's Green Zone, sources with knowledge of the investigation told CNN Saturday.
Iraqi and U.S. personnel took the five into custody in an operation inside the Green Zone before dawn on Friday, according to an Iraqi official involved in the investigation into the killing of James Kitterman. The five, who have not yet been charged, were being held by Iraqi security forces Saturday at a jail inside the heavily protected zone, he said. Read more.
Obama may toss ‘full trials’ for alleged 9/11 plotters
By Agence France-Presse | Raw Story
One advantage of permitting guilty pleas by defendants in the Sept. 11 case would be that the government would not have to expose harsh interrogation techniques during full trials that would otherwise have to be carried out, the Times said. It said the proposal to permit guilty pleas — which are not allowed in the legal framework the U.S. military uses in trials for its own personnel — would in effect permit the Sept. 11 defendants to achieve a self-proclaimed desire for martyrdom.
A plan under consideration by the Obama administration would permit Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detainees facing the death penalty to plead guilty without a full trial, it has been reported.
This option would principally be aimed at a group of detainees accused of planning the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, five people who have already indicated they prefer this resolution of the case, The New York Times said in a story posted late Friday on its Web site.
The terrorism-era U.S. military commission format has come under withering criticism from legal and human rights quarters, and American military prosecutions employing this structure and legal rules have for the most part been put on hold since January while the new administration considered other options. Read more.