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Ongoing Torture sticky icon

We've watched the Obama White House announce the end of torture and immunity for torturers, two policies that appear incompatible and have proven to be so.  We've seen the White House claim the right to torture, and seen that greeted with silence and an averted gaze by those pretending torture is over.  We've seen report after report of ongoing torture greeted with silence from the same pretenders, among whom we must include Congress.

Reuters, February 25, 2009.

New York Times, April 15, 2009.

Chris Matthews interview of Axelrod, video and background info, May 21, 2009.

Obama Tortured by Fear

 

 


Torture’s Time for Accountability

 

 

Editor Note: America’s reputation for cognitive dissonance is being tested by the Senate report documenting the U.S. government’s torture of detainees and the fact that nothing is happening to those responsible. Ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern says the nation must choose between crossing the Delaware or the Rubicon.

By Ray McGovern

I trust I was not alone in seeing irony in President Barack Obama’s public chiding of Sony on Friday for caving in to hacker demands to cancel distribution of its comedy “The Interview” – about a fictional CIA plot to assassinate North Korea’s real-life leader Kim Jong-Un – after a retaliatory cyber attack blamed on North Korea.

6 Guantanamo Prisoners Released, Not Sent Home, but to Uruguay

After up to 12 years, some of the prisoners just released are off hunger strike, and in “freedom.” This deal was put together last March, reportedly because of the huge pressure the Guantanamo prisoners' hunger strike put on Obama. But it took another nine months, during which the prisoners could have died, before their release.

One of those released is Abu Wa'el Dhiab, who has been suing the U.S. over forced-feeding he's endured for years, and suing to get the government to release videotape of the feedings.  Reprieve said, about him:

The Case Against Re-Banning Torture Yet Again

Senator Ron Wyden has a petition up at MoveOn.org that reads "Right now, torture is banned because of President Obama's executive order. It's time for Congress to pass a law banning torture, by all agencies, so that a future president can never revoke the ban." It goes on to explain:

"We live in a dangerous world. But when CIA operatives and contractors torture terrorist suspects, it doesn't make us safer -- and it doesn't work. The recent CIA torture report made that abundantly clear. Right now, the federal law that bans torture only applies to the U.S. military -- not our intelligence agencies. President Obama's executive order barring all agencies from using torture could be reversed, even in secret, by a future president. That's why it's critical that Congress act swiftly to pass a law barring all agencies of the U.S. government, and contractors acting on our behalf, from engaging in torture. Without legislation, the door on torture is still open. It's time for Congress to slam that door shut once and for all."

Why in the world would anybody object to this unless they supported torture? Well, let me explain.

Torture and complicity in torture were felonies under U.S. law before George W. Bush moved into the White House, under both the torture statute and the war crimes statute. Nothing has fundamentally changed about that, other than the blatant lack of enforcement for several years running. Nothing in those two sections of the U.S. code limits the law to members of the U.S. military or excludes employees or contractors or subcontractors of so-called intelligence agencies. I emailed a dozen legal experts about that claim in the above petition. Michael Ratner replied "I don’t see where they get that from." Kevin Zeese said simply "They're wrong." If anyone replies to me with any explanation, I'll post it as an update at the top of this article on davidswanson.org -- where I can be contacted if you have an explanation.

For the past several years, the U.S. Congress, White House, Justice Department, and media have gone out of their way to ignore the existence of U.S. laws banning torture. When silence hasn't worked, the primary technique has been proposing over and over and over again to ban torture, as if it were not already banned. In fact, Congress has followed through and banned it a number of times, and done so with new exceptions that by some interpretations have in fact weakened the war crimes statute. This is my best guess where the nonsense about applying only to "intelligence agencies" comes from: laws like the Military Commissions Act of 2006 that claimed to pick and choose which types of torture to ban for whom.

When President Obama took President Bush's place he produced an executive order purporting to ban torture (again), even while publicly telling the Justice Department not to enforce any existing laws. But an executive order, as Wyden seems to recognize, is not a law. Neither can it ban torture, nor can it give legal weight to the pretense that torture wasn't already banned. In fact the order itself states: "Nothing in this order shall be construed to affect the obligations of officers, employees, and other agents of the United States Government to comply with all pertinent laws and treaties of the United States governing detention and interrogation, including but not limited to: the Fifth and Eighth Amendments to the United States Constitution; the Federal torture statute, 18 U.S.C. 2340 2340A; the War Crimes Act, 18 U.S.C. 2441 . . . ."

Senator Wyden says he will introduce yet another bill to "ban torture." Here's how the Washington Post is spinning, and explaining, that:

"Torture is already illegal, but Wyden notes that protections can be strengthened. To oversimplify, the U.S. is a signatory to the U.N. Convention Against Torture, in which participating states agreed to outlaw intentionally inflicting severe pain for specific purposes. The Bush administration obviously found a (supposedly) legal route around that."

In other words, because it was done by a president, it was legal -- the worldview of the Post's old buddy Richard Nixon.

"After the Abu Graib revelations, John McCain helped pass a 2005 amendment that would restrict the military from using specific brutal interrogation tactics — those not in the Army Field Manual. (This didn’t preclude intel services from using these techniques, which might explain why CIA director John Brennan felt free to say the other day that future policymakers might revert to using them). In 2008, Congress passed a measure specifically applying those restrictions to intelligence services, too, but then-President Bush vetoed it. Senator Wyden would revive a version of that 2008 bill as a starting point, with the goal of codifying in law President Obama's executive order banning the use of those specific techniques for all government employees, those in intelligence services included."

But let's back up a minute. When a president violates a law, that president -- at least once out of office -- should be prosecuted for violating the law. The law can't be declared void because it was violated. Loopholes can't be created for the CIA. Reliance on the Army Field Manual can't sneak into law the loopholes built into that document. Presidents can't order and un-order things illegal. Here's how the United Nations Special Rapporteur on counter terrorism and human rights, Ben Emmerson responded to the release of the Senate's report summary:

"The individuals responsible for the criminal conspiracy revealed in today’s report must be brought to justice, and must face criminal penalties commensurate with the gravity of their crimes. The fact that the policies revealed in this report were authorised at a high level within the U.S. Government provides no excuse whatsoever. Indeed, it reinforces the need for criminal accountability. International law prohibits the granting of immunities to public officials who have engaged in acts of torture. This applies not only to the actual perpetrators but also to those senior officials within the U.S. Government who devised, planned and authorised these crimes. As a matter of international law, the U.S. is legally obliged to bring those responsible to justice. The UN Convention Against Torture and the UN Convention on Enforced Disappearances require States to prosecute acts of torture and enforced disappearance where there is sufficient evidence to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction. States are not free to maintain or permit impunity for these grave crimes."

Now, one could try to spin the endless re-banning of torture as part of the process of enforcing an international treaty that under Article VI of the U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the land. But banning a practice going forward, even when you ban it better, or ban it more emphatically for the 8th time, does absolutely nothing to fulfill the legal obligation to prosecute those crimes already committed. And here we are dealing with crimes openly confessed to by past officials who assert that they would "do it again" -- crimes that resulted in deaths, thus eliminating any attempt at an argument that statutes of limitations have run out.

Here's a different sort of petition that we've set up at RootsAction.org along with Witness Against Torture and the Bill of Rights Defense Committee: " We call on President Obama to allow the U.S. Department of Justice to enforce our laws, and to immediately appoint a special prosecutor. As torture is a crime of universal jurisdiction, we call on any willing court system in the world to enforce our laws if our own courts will not do so."

The purpose of such a petition is not vengeance or partisanship or a fetish with history. The purpose is to end torture, which is not done by looking forward or even by pardoning the crimes, as the ACLU has proposed -- to its credit recognizing that the crimes exist. That should be a first step for anyone confused by the endless drumbeat to "ban torture."

Facing Down a Key Torture Enabler

Clashing Face-to-Face on Torture

Editor Note: It’s rare on TV when you see two former senior U.S. officials clashing angrily over something as significant as torture. Usually decorum prevails. But ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern wasn’t going to let the ex-House intelligence oversight chief get away with a bland defense of torture.

By Ray McGovern

When you get an opportunity like this, don’t fall back – I heard my Irish grandmother telling me last Thursday as I took my place at the table to discuss torture with a former congressional committee chairman whose job it was to prevent such abuse.

Making a joke of the Supreme Court: Justice Antonin Scalia is a Publicity-Seeking Intellectual Midget

By Dave Lindorff


Sometimes you really don't need to write much to do an article on something. Writing about the inanity of Justice Antonin Scalia, the ethics-challenged, lard-bottomed, right-wing anchor of the Supreme Court, is one of those times.

The US Must Prosecute Torturers and their Enablers, or Forever Be a Labeled a Rogue Nation

By Dave Lindorff

            In all the media debate about the Senate Intelligence Committee’s release, finally, of a heavily redacted report on officially sanctioned torture by the CIA and the US military during the Bush/Cheney administration and the so-called War on Terror, there has been little said about the reality that torture, as clearly defined in the Geneva Convention against Torture which went into effect in 1987, is flat-out illegal in the US as a signatory of that Convention.

Split the CIA in Two

 

 


CIA’s Torturous Maneuvers on Torture

 

 

Editor Note: The CIA is fighting congressional demands to release a report on its covert program for torturing “war on terror” suspects, even as the spy agency contemplates a reorganization that could give the covert-action side more ways to bend the truth.  Is this a great country, or what?

By Ray McGovern

Torturer on the Ballot

Michigan's First Congressional District is cold enough to freeze spit. Half of it is disconnected from the rest of Michigan and tacked onto the top of Wisconsin. A bit of it is further north than that, but rumored to be inhabited nonetheless.

In the recent Congressional elections, incumbent Republican Congressman Dan Benishek was reelected to his third term with 52 percent of the votes. Benishek is a climate-change denier and committed to limiting himself to three terms, a pair of positions that may end up working well together.

Benishek's predecessor in Congress was a Democrat, and a Democrat took 45 percent of the vote this year. Will that Democrat run again in 2016? Some would argue that if he does it should be from prison. Before he ran for office, Jerry Cannon ran the U.S. death camp at Guantanamo and, according to a witness, was personally responsible for ordering torture.

Green Party candidate Ellis Boal took 1 percent of the vote in Michigan's First, after apparently failing to interest corporate media outlets in his campaign, and by his own account failing utterly to interest them in what he managed to learn about Cannon, who also "served" in the war in Iraq.

Now, Congress is jam-packed with members of both major parties who have effectively condoned and covered up torture for years. Both parties have elected numerous veterans of recent wars who have participated in killing in wars that they themselves, in some cases, denounce as misguided. And we've read about the Bush White House overseeing torture in real time from afar. But it still breaks new ground for the party of the President who has claimed to be trying to close Guantanamo for six years to put up as a candidate a man who ran the place, and a man whose role in torture was not entirely from his air-conditioned office.

I would also venture to say that it breaks new media ground for the news outlets covering the recent election nationally and locally in Michigan's First District to not only miss this story but actively refuse to cover it when Boal held it in their faces and screamed. "Despite many attempts," Boal says, "I have been unable to interest any media in it, save for a small newspaper in Traverse City (near me) which gave it cursory attention."

Boal sent out an offer to any reporter willing to take an interest: "I located a witness, a former detainee now cleared and back home in Bosnia, who can testify of an instance of torture visited on him in early 2004, ordered and supervised by Cannon. I can put you in touch with him through his attorney. The details of the incident are here. . . . Without success I tried to make it a campaign issue."

Jerry Cannon, according to both Wikipedia and his own website, first "served" in the war that killed three to four million Vietnamese. He was commander of the Joint Detention Operations Group Joint Task Force Guantanamo from 2003 to 2004. He was Deputy Commanding General responsible for developing Iraqi police forces in Iraq from 2008 to 2009, and U.S. Forces-Iraq Provost Marshal General and Deputy Commanding General for Detention Operations in Iraq from 2010 to 2011. Boy, everything this guy touches turns out golden!

Boal has collected evidence of torture during Cannon's time at Guantanamo, from the Red Cross, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the U.S. Senate, and public reports including in the New York Times, here.

Boal focuses on Mustafa Ait Idir, a former prisoner of Guantanamo who, like most, has been widely written about, and who, like most, has been found innocent of any wrong-doing and been released (in November 2008 after years of wrongful imprisonment).

Mustafa Ait Idir says that soldiers at Guantanamo threw him down on rocks and jumped on him, causing injuries including a broken finger, dislocated knuckles, and half his face paralyzed; they sprayed chemicals in his face, squeezed his testicles, and slammed his head on the floor and jumped on him. They bent his fingers back to cause pain, and broke one of them in the process. They stuck his head in a toilet and flushed it. They stuck a hose in his mouth and forced water down his throat. They refused him medical attention.

Boal communicated with Idir through Idir's lawyer, and Idir identified Cannon from photos and a video as the man who had threatened him with punishment if he did not hand over his pants. (Prisoners who believed they needed pants in order to pray were being stripped of their pants as a means of humiliation and abuse.) Idir refused to give up his pants unless he could have them back to wear for praying. Consequently, he was "enhanced interrogated."

Torture and complicity in torture are felonies under U.S. law, a fact that the entire U.S. political establishment has gone to great lengths to obscure.

I shared the information above with Rebecca Gordon, author of Mainstreaming Torture, and she replied:

"Torture is a 'non-partisan' practice in this country. It's beyond disgraceful that the Democratic Party would run Jerry Cannon for Congress. Sadly, while most (but clearly not all!) Dems have repudiated torture in words, their deeds have been more ambiguous. Five years after President Obama took office, the prison at Guantánamo remains open, and torture continues there. The Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture has yet to be released. (Perhaps lame duck senator Mark Udall will be persuaded to read the whole thing into the Congressional Record, as some of us are hoping.) We have yet to get a full accounting, not only of the CIA's activities, but of all U.S. torture in the 'war on terror.' Equally important, President Obama made it clear at the beginning of his first term that no one would be held accountable for torture. 'Nothing will be gained,' he said 'by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past.' But we know this is not true. When high government officials know that they can torture with impunity, torture will continue."

Noting Cannon's resume post-Guantanamo, Gordon said, "Under the al-Maliki government, the Iraqi police force, and in particular the detention centers operated by the Iraqi Special Police Commandos, routinely abused members of Iraq's Sunni communities, thereby further inflaming the political and social enmity between Sunnis and Shias in Iraq. When the so-called Islamic State began operating in Iraq, they found willing collaborators in Sunni communities whose members had been tortured by the al-Maliki government's police. When Jerry Cannon went to Guantánamo, he went as an Army reservist. In civilian life he was Sheriff of Kalkaska County in Michigan. Cannon's abusive practices and contemptuous attitudes towards detainees did not originate in Guantánamo. He brought them with him from the United States. Similarly, in civilian life, the members of the reservist unit responsible for the famous outrages at Abu Ghraib were prison guards from West Virginia. Their ringleader, Specialist Charles Graner, famously wrote home to friends about his activities at Abu Ghraib, 'The Christian in me says it's wrong, but the corrections officer in me says, "I love to make a grown man piss himself."' In fact, if you want to find torture hidden in plain sight, look no farther than the jails and prisons of this country."

The mystery of where torture came from turns out to be no mystery at all. It came from the prison industrial complex. And it's now been so mainstreamed that it's no bar to running for public office. But here's another mystery: Why is President Obama going to such lengths to cover up his predecessor's torture, including insisting on redactions in the Senate report on CIA torture that even Senator Dianne Feinstein claims not to want censored? Surely it's not because of all the gratitude Obama's receiving from former President Bush or his supporters! Actually, it's no mystery at all. As Gordon points out: the torture is ongoing.

President Elect Obama made very clear in January 2009 that he would not allow torturers to be prosecuted and would be "looking forward" instead of (what all law enforcement outside of science fiction requires) backward. By February 2009, reports were coming in that torture at Guantanamo was worsening rather than ceasing, and included: "beatings, the dislocation of limbs, spraying of pepper spray into closed cells, applying pepper spray to toilet paper and over-force-feeding detainees who are on hunger strike." In April 2009 a Guantanamo prisoner phoned a media outlet to report being tortured. As time went by the reports kept coming, as the military's written policy would lead one to expect.

In May 2009, former vice president Dick Cheney forced into the news the fact that, even though Obama had "banned torture" by executive order (torture being a felony and a treaty violation before and after the "banning") Obama maintained the power to use torture as needed. Cheney said that Obama's continued claim of the power to torture vindicated his own (Cheney's) authorization of torture. David Axelrod, White House Senior Advisor, refused repeatedly, to dispute Cheney's assertion -- also supported by Leon Panetta's confirmation hearing for CIA director, at which he said the president had the power to torture and noted that rendition would continue. In fact, it did. The New York Times quickly reported that the U.S. was now outsourcing more torture to other countries. The Obama administration announced a new policy on renditions that kept them in place, and a new policy on lawless permanent imprisonment that kept it in place but formalized it, mainstreamed it. Before long Obama-era rendition victims were alleging torture.

As the Obama White House continued and sought to extend the occupation of Iraq, torture continued to be an Iraqi policy, as it has post-occupation and during occupation 3.0. It has also remained a U.S. and Afghan policy in Afghanistan, with no end in sight. The U.S. military has continued to use the same personnel as part of its torture infrastructure. And secret CIA torture prisons have continued to pop into the news even though the CIA was falsely said to have abandoned that practice. While the Obama administration has claimed unprecedented powers to block civil suits against torturers, it has also used, in court, testimony produced by torture, something that used to be illegal (and still is if you go by written laws).

"Look at the current situation," Obama said in 2013, "where we are force-feeding detainees who are being held on a hunger strike . . . Is this who we are?" Well, it is certainly who some of us have become, including Obama, the senior authority in charge of the soldiers doing the force-feeding, and a human chameleon able to express outrage at his own policies, a trick that is perhaps more central to the mainstreaming of vicious and sadistic practices than we always care to acknowledge.

Those retaining some sense of decency are currently urging the Obama administration to go easy in its punishment of a nurse who refused to participate in the force-feeding, who in fact insisted on being "who we are."

Hot tub poll shows Republicans don’t like their politicians: Election Night Wasn’t a GOP Victory, It was a Democratic Rout

By Dave Lindorff


The sclerotic Democratic Party was trounced yet again yesterday, as Republicans outdid projections and appear to have taken at least seven Senate seats away from the Democrats, giving them control of the both houses of Congress. 


Twelve Nobel Prize Winners Call Nobel Prize Winner Obama To Release Report on Torture

As 12 Nobel Peace Prize winners call on Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama to release the long-awaited report on torture that the Senate conducted, and the Obama administration debates codifying key aspects of Bush doctrine which allowed torture on foreign soil, it's worthwhile to analyze why this has continued to be such a unsolvable problem for the rulers of the U.S.

Shadow Report on Torture

Shadow Report to the United Nations Committee Against Torture on the Review of the Periodic Report of the United States of America

Prepared by

Advocates for U.S. Torture Prosecutions

Dr. Trudy Bond, Prof. Benjamin Davis, Dr. Curtis F. J. Doebbler, and The International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School

Summary:

Since the United States last reported to the Committee Against Torture in 2006, even more evidence has emerged confirming that civilian and military officials at the highest level created, designed, authorized, and implemented a sophisticated, international criminal program of torture. In August 2014, President Barack Obama conceded that the United States tortured people as part of its so-called “War on Terror,” yet the United States continues to shield senior officials from liability for these crimes, in violation of its obligations under the Convention Against Torture.

OPEN AS PDF.

New Evidence Links CIA to APA’s “War on Terror” Ethics

By Roy Eidelson and Trudy Bond, CounterPunch

“The position of the American Psychological Association is clear and unequivocal: For more than 25 years, the association has absolutely condemned any psychologist participation in torture.”

    -- Statement by the APA, November 2013

“The American Psychological Association, the largest professional organization for psychologists, worked assiduously to protect the psychologists who did get involved in the torture program.”

    --James Risen, Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War, October 2014

********

New information may soon be revealed by the Senate Intelligence Committee’s yet-to-be-released report on the CIA’s post-9/11 abusive and torturous detention and interrogation operations. But what already has been clear for a long time – through reports from journalists, independent task forces, congressional investigations, and other documents – is that psychologists and other health professionals were directly involved in brutalizing “war on terror” prisoners in U.S. custody. Of particular note, contract psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen have been identified as the architects of the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques,” which included waterboarding, stress positions, exposure to extreme cold, sensory and sleep deprivation, and isolation.

At the same time, what has remained a matter of dispute is the extent to which the American Psychological Association (APA) collaborated with and worked to support the intelligence community and its program of torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. Critics (including both of us) have argued that the APA repeatedly failed to take the steps necessary to prevent the misuse of psychology, instead allowing perceived opportunities for a “seat at the table” to trump a firm commitment to professional ethics. In response to these allegations, the APA’s leadership has issued denials and statements asserting that the Association has always been steadfast in its opposition to torture.

Where the truth lies in this ongoing debate just became much clearer with the publication of James Risen’s new book, Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War. In a chapter titled “War on Decency,” the Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist offers fresh evidence from an unexpected inside source: Scott Gerwehr, a RAND Corporation analyst with close ties to the CIA, the Pentagon, and the APA. When Gerwehr died in a motorcycle accident in 2008, he left behind an archive of personal emails, which Risen obtained while conducting research for his book.

These emails document that the CIA and the Bush Administration played a direct role in guiding APA’s stance and actions in regard to the ethics of psychologists’ involvement in national security detention and interrogation operations. As Risen writes:

The e-mail archives of one researcher with ties to the CIA, who died on the cusp of becoming a whistleblower, provide a revealing glimpse into the tight network of psychologists and other behavioral scientists so eager for CIA and Pentagon contracts that they showed few qualms about helping to develop and later protect the interrogation infrastructure. The e-mails show the secret, close relationships among some of the nation’s leading psychologists and officials at the CIA and Pentagon. And the e-mails reveal how the American Psychological Association (APA), the nation’s largest professional group for psychologists, put its seal of approval on those close ties – and thus indirectly on torture. (pp. 178-179)

The emails of particular interest are Gerwehr’s correspondence over several years with a small group of regular confidants and collaborators: the CIA’s chief behavioral scientist Kirk Hubbard (who introduced Mitchell and Jessen to the CIA as “potential assets” and then went to work for their firm when he retired from the CIA), White House science advisor Susan Brandon (who previously had been a senior scientist at the APA and is currently research director for the government’s High Value Detainee Interrogation Group), and the APA’s Director of Science Policy Geoff Mumford. Risen’s book offers important details about that collaboration.

In July 2004, shortly after the shocking photos from Abu Ghraib prison became public, senior APA staff from the Ethics Office and Science Directorate arranged a private meeting with officials from intelligence agencies and the Department of Defense (DOD). The email invitation from APA Ethics Office Director Stephen Behnke – to Hubbard from the CIA, Kirk Kennedy from DOD, and Gerwehr from RAND, among others – noted that the purpose of the meeting, at least in part, was to “identify the important questions, and to discuss how we as a national organization can better assist psychologists and other mental health professionals sort out appropriate from inappropriate uses of psychology” (p. 198).

But it is unclear how or why these particular invitees would be considered well suited to provide instruction to the APA on psychological ethics. Indeed Risen suggests a different motivation:

The invitation to the lunch meeting showed that the APA was opening the door to psychologists and other behavioral science experts inside the government's national security apparatus to provide advice and guidance about how to address the furor over the role of psychologists in torture before the APA went to its own membership. The insiders were being given a chance to influence the APA’s stance before anyone else. (p. 199)

According to Gerwehr’s emails, APA’s Behnke also highlighted the following in his invitation:

I would like to emphasize that we will not advertise the meeting other than this letter to the individual invitees, that we will not publish or otherwise make public the names of attendees or the substance of our discussions, and that in the meeting we will neither assess nor investigate the behavior of any specific individual or group. (p. 198)

It is difficult to discern how such constraints and reassurances could have served the interests of the public or the profession, or how they could have helped “sort out appropriate from inappropriate uses of psychology” as Behnke stated in his invitation. Rather, these pre-conditions ensured that the actions of the psychologists in question would be protected from scrutiny rather than questioned – and that the CIA and DOD would take the lead role in establishing the ethics for psychologists in U.S. counter-terrorism and counter-intelligence activities. The national security psychologists would also guide the APA’s response to resistance or uproar from the public or its own members.

From this private meeting of undisclosed participants emerged a proposal for the creation of the APA’s Presidential Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security (PENS). This task force met in June of 2005 at APA headquarters in Washington, DC. The small group quickly decided that it was ethical for psychologists to serve in various national security-related roles, including as consultants to detainee interrogations. Risen describes the events leading up to the weekend meeting this way:

Gerwehr’s e-mails show for the first time the degree to which behavioral science experts from within the government’s national security apparatus played roles in shaping the PENS task force. They show that APA officials were secretly working behind the scenes with CIA and Pentagon officials to discuss how to shape the organization’s position to be supportive of psychologists involved in interrogations – long before the task force was even formed. (p. 197)

In this regard, critics have long noted irregularities and possible collusion in the PENS process and the report itself. For example, most members selected for the task force worked for the military or intelligence agencies, and several had served in chains of command where detainee abuses reportedly took place. There were several participant-observers whose identities were never officially disclosed; among them were Susan Brandon, who had just recently left a position at the White House, and Russ Newman, a senior APA official whose spouse was a BSCT psychologist at Guantanamo. APA staff withheld the names of the task force members in response to press inquiries, and these names never appeared on the published report. The APA Board quickly adopted the PENS report in an inexplicable “emergency” session, without bringing it to the Association’s full governing body for review. The report included language nearly identical to the DOD language provided to the task force before the meeting had even started – namely, that psychologists serve to keep detention and interrogation operations safe, legal, ethical, and effective. And the task force and report prioritized the Bush Administration’s contorted interpretations of U.S. law over longstanding and broadly respected principles of international human rights law and health profession ethics.

Another email in Gerwehr’s archive reinforces these significant concerns. As Risen writes:

After succeeding in getting the PENS task force to endorse the continued involvement of psychologists in the interrogation program, congratulations were in order among the small number of behavioral scientists with connections to the national security community who had been part of the effort. In a July 2005 e-mail to Hubbard from Geoffrey Mumford (on which Gerwehr was copied), Mumford thanked Hubbard for helping to influence the outcome of the task force. “I also wanted to semi-publicly acknowledge your personal contribution... in getting this effort off the ground,” Mumford wrote. “Your views were well represented by very carefully selected task force members.” Mumford also noted that Susan Brandon had served as an “observer” at the PENS task force meetings and “helped craft some language related to research” for the task force report. (p. 200).

In unmistakable terms, the APA’s Science Policy Director Mumford first thanked Hubbard – a top CIA official with close professional ties to Mitchell and Jessen – for initiating the collaboration that led to the PENS report and then assured him that the task force members were carefully chosen with Hubbard’s own expressed objectives in mind. As well, the same email reveals that part of the responsibility for drafting the PENS report – a report that was supposed to reflect a full and careful consideration of the APA’s ethics code – was given to Susan Brandon, who only weeks earlier was working for the Bush White House.

Beyond the evidence highlighted here, Risen also offers a broader description of psychologists’ and the APA’s involvement with and acquiescence to U.S. government torture and abuse. Based on his research, he reports that those psychologists who supported the White House and CIA agenda “were showered with government money and benefits,” and that the APA “worked assiduously to protect the psychologists who did get involved in the torture program.” Risen also notes that changes to the APA’s ethics code in 2002 “gave greater professional cover for psychologists who had been helping to monitor and oversee harsh interrogations.” Indeed, he suggests that the entire “enhanced interrogation” program may have depended upon the willingness of the APA to go along with it. Finally, he refers to the desperate “spin control” that absorbed senior APA staff once journalists began to uncover the extent to which psychologists played essential roles in the torture program.

It is reasonable to wonder whether Risen’s investigative work will matter. For the past decade the APA’s leadership has repeatedly denied any collaboration with the military or intelligence agencies that engaged in torture and abuse. Such APA statements have consistently been coupled with a professed resolute commitment to defend the profession’s do-no-harm ethics. Even when these pronouncements have strained credulity, the APA’s rank-and-file members – eager to believe that critics’ assertions could not possibly be true – have accepted the claims of innocence and independence. This insistent benefit of the doubt, along with unwarranted deference to APA’s leaders, continues to insulate the Association from calls for investigations, accountability, and reform. To date, no psychologist has been held accountable for involvement in the abuse and torture of detainees, and no APA official has been held accountable for facilitating or protecting government programs that violated core professional ethics.

Several questions will be answered in the days immediately ahead, as the world’s largest organization of psychologists grapples with the damning revelations in Pay Any Price. Will APA members once again dutifully follow the Association’s leaders and drink from a polluted well of tired clichés and obfuscating language? Will they still find feeble justifications and implausible denials palatable? Or will the membership and the governing Council of Representatives finally demand the substantive independent investigation that is so long overdue? With the profession’s ethics and credibility hanging in the balance, we believe it is certainly time to hold the APA accountable for the choices it has made.

Murder? Homicide? Torture? .... whatever

A Murder Mystery at Guantanamo Bay

Editor Note: America’s plunge into the “dark side” last decade created a hidden history of shocking brutality, including torture and homicides, that the U.S. government would prefer to keep secret, even though many of the perpetrators are out of office.

By Ray McGovern

There’s more of a mystery to how three Guantanamo detainees died on June 10, 2006, than I realized when I described their deaths as suicides in a recent article about force-feeding methods at the notorious U.S. prison. Some very experienced investigators who have examined the evidence suspect the three were victims of homicides amid the torture regime employed by President George W. Bush’s underlings.

Scott Horton, whose upcoming book Lords of Secrecy contains new insights into the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Tenet go-ahead on torture and other abuses, has supplied me with additional detail highly suggestive of foul play by CIA interrogators.

President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney receive an Oval Office briefing from CIA Director George Tenet. Also present is Chief of Staff Andy Card (on right).

President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney receive an Oval Office briefing from CIA Director George Tenet. Also present is Chief of Staff Andy Card (on right).

Horton noted that the three prisoners were scheduled to be released and repatriated and that key details about the U.S. government’s suicide claims have been disproved. For instance, the first reports said the inmates had hanged themselves with linens in their jail cells, but medical records, which the government sought to suppress, indicate otherwise.

UK’s Highest Court: No immunity for Alkhalifa prince in torture case

In a landmark ruling the High Court in London yesterday ruled that Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa did not have immunity from prosecution in a case against him involving allegations of torture.  After two year court battle, the UK’s Director of Public Prosecution has accepted that Nasser is not immune from Prosecution. Lord Justice Laws and Mr Justice Cranston granted a declaration confirming this decision at a divisional court hearing in London’s High Court yesterday. This decision opens the door to an investigation by the metropolitan police War Crimes Team SO15 into allegations that the prince was involved in the torture of political prisoners, and a possible prosecution. The ruling received wide coverage by UK’s main stream media including the BBC, Reuters, the Press Association and others.

Last night a Press Conference was held at The Garden Court Chambers at the heart of the UK’s legal district, to highlight the significance of the case. The title was: “Bahrain, universal jurisdiction and state immunity: What are the implications of the case of FF v DPP (ECCHR intervening) after the final hearing on 7/10/14”. It was chaired by Sue Willman of Deighton Pierce Glynn and addressed by Tom Hickamn, barrister Blackstone Chambers, Stephen Knafler QC, Member of ECCHR’s legal team, Redress: Kevin Laue, Legal Advisor of Redress, Daniel Machover, solicitor Hickman Rose on broader universal jurisdiction issues and Dr Saeed Shehabi of the Bahrain Freedom Movement.

A new report has revealed that Bahrain spends $95 million a year in its crackdown on the country’s pro-democracy protesters. Arabic newspaper Al-Maidan said the regime in Bahrain has hired 21,000 security personnel, which includes Pakistani expats. Bahrain has also spent over $2.5 billion on buying arms since the protests against the Al Khalifa royal family began three years ago.

Amnesty International has issued an Urgent Action about a Bahraini youth who had been sentenced to death by Alkhalifa regime. It said: A Bahraini man under sentence of death has lodged his final appeal and could be at risk of execution. He was sentenced to death in February 2014 and lost his first appeal in August. Death row prisoner Maher Abbas Ahmad (also known as Maher al-Khabbaz) is waiting for a decision from the Court of Cassation to know whether he is to be executed. Amnesty International has called on the regime to acknowledge its responsibility to protect the public and bring to justice those who commit crimes. But insist that this should always be done in accordance with international law and Bahrain’s international human rights obligations, and order a retrial where no evidence obtained under torture is used in court and urge the ruler to commute the death sentence imposed on Maher Abbas Ahmad immediately.

Amnesty International has also issued an Urgent Action on the case of Nabeel Rajab, the President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights for tweeting anti-regime criticism. It said: Amnesty International has reviewed Nabeel Rajab’s statements on Twitter and considers him a prisoner of conscience, jailed solely for peacefully expressing his opinion. He is being investigated under Article 216 of Bahrain’s Penal Code, which criminalizes those who “offend by any method of expression the National Assembly, or other constitutional institutions, the army, law courts, authorities or government agencies”. If convicted, he could face up to three years in prison. It called on the regime to release Nabeel Rajab immediately and unconditionally, as he is a prisoner of conscience, held solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression, to uphold the right to freedom of expression and repeal laws that criminalize the peaceful exercise of the rights to freedo m of expression, association and assembly including Article 216 of the Penal Code.

Under the title “Wave of arbitrary arrests of dissident information providers” Reporters Without Borders issued a statement on 2nd October condemning Bahrain’s crackdown on civil liberties. It said: “Freelance journalist, blogger and activist Ahmed Radhi was freed on 29 September after being held arbitrarily for four days but the Bahraini authorities struck again on 1 October, arresting leading human rights activist Nabeel Rajab for allegedly insulting the government security forces in tweets two days before.” Reporters Without Borders condemns this systematic persecution of human right defenders and the renewed deterioration in the climate for freedom of information in Bahrain. Bahrain is ranked 163rd out of 180 countries in the 2014 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.

Bahrain Freedom Movement
8th October 2014

Judge Gives Guantanamo Abuses a Hearing

 

 


Guantanamo’s Force-Feeding Challenged

 

 

Editor Note: In the Kafkaesque world of Guantanamo, even inmates cleared for release are held indefinitely and – if they try to kill themselves via hunger strikes – are brutally force-fed to keep them alive. Finally, a U.S. court is confronting whether the force-feeding can be done more humanely.

By Ray McGovern

In the first trial weighing the legality of force-feeding methods at the Guantanamo Bay prison, U.S. government lawyers have tried to disparage doctors and refute medical assessments regarding the best practices and ethics for treating inmates who have engaged in hunger strikes to protest their indefinite confinements, often after being cleared for release.

Force Feeding on Trial

 


 

Forced-Feeding is Torture!  No Secret Courts!

 

Emergency Call to Action and Solidarity Fast – Witness Against Torture

Gather at the US Federal District Court (333 Constitution Ave) on October 6 and 7

8:30 am.  333 Constitution Ave, Washington, D.C.

 

On Monday October 6 a trial will begin in which attorneys for Wa-ei Dhiab will seek a stop to the brutal forced-feeding of men at Guantánamo protesting their indefinite detention and abuse at the prison.  Witness Against Torture is calling for a public presence at the courthouse to demand an end to forced-feeding and the closing of Guantánamo.

Dhiab is a Syrian man held without charge or trial at Guantánamo since 2002 and cleared for release in 2009 by the US government.  He has, according to his attorneys, been forcibly extracted from his cell and force-fed as many as three times a day since the start of the most recent Guantanamo hunger strike in the winter/spring 2012.

Dhiab’s lawsuit seeks an end to forced-feeding.  Justice Gladys Kessler, who is hearing the case, has described forced-feeding at the prison as “painful, humiliating, and degrading.”  The lawsuit is our best chance to have the courts do what President Obama has been unwilling to do — end forced-feeding.

 

----------------------------------------------

Pack the Court – No Secret Trials

Dhiab’s attorneys will present as evidence videotapes showing Dhaib being violently extracted from his cell and/or force-fed.  The government has petitioned that the trial be held entirely in secret so that the press and public may not see or otherwise learn about the gruesome reality of forced-feeding.  Judge Kessler has denied the request, describing the government’s request of a secret trial as  “deeply troubling.”  As of today, portions of the trial will be open to the public.

We need to pack the courthouse and demonstrate that the torture of forced-feeding is immoral, illegal, and unacceptable.

Plan on attending the hearing.  The attorneys for Dhiab have requested that there be no signs or anything else that may irritate the judge.  Our presence, and gestures of our protest such as orange ribbons on our clothes, will convey our protest.

Click here to read more: 

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/article2295641.html

https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/10/02/judge-knocks-government-attempt-keep-gitmo-hearing-secret/

------------------------------------------------

Fast for Dhiab and the Hunger Strikers — Fast for Justice

Witness Against Torture is calling for an emergency fast in solidarity with Wa-ei Dhiab, other hunger strikers, and all the men at Guantánamo. Please consider fasting on October 6 and/or October 7.

If you plan to fast, send an email to witnesstorture@gmail.com.  Please included in the email where you live and a brief statement as to why you are fasting.

Witness Against Torture will report to the media, Dhiab’s attorneys, and the public the numbers of those fasting and convey, through attorneys, your messages to Dhiab and others at Guantánamo.

Furthermore, please consider making two phone calls to:

1.      Cliff Sloan at the State Department (202-647-4000) to insist he tells the military to stop the inhumane practice of force feeding prisoners on hunger strike and to work more quickly to shut the doors and empty the cells of the prison.

2.      U.S. Southern Command (305-437-1213) to decry the conditions at Guantánamo, especially the force feeding.

Example script: I am fasting for 24 hours in solidarity with the prisoners at Guantánamo, especially for those who are on hunger strike and being force fed.  I am particularly mindful of Wa-ei Dhiab, a prisoner who is being represented by attorneys in Federal District Court October 6th and 7th.  His attorneys are seeking a stop to the brutal force-feeding of men at Guantánamo protesting their indefinite detention and abuse at the prison   I am calling today out of concern for him and for the rest of the prisoners. I am asking you to stop the inhumane practice of force feeding and resume releasing the number of prisoners on hunger strike.

The men at Guantánamo have repeatedly expressed how important it is to them to know that people in the United States and the world fast in solidarity with them.

Join us on Monday, October 6th at 8:30 am.  333 Constitution Ave, Washington, D.C.

-------------------------------------------------

Witness Against Torture on Social Media:

Please "like us on Facebook & follow us on Twitter & Instagram

Post any pictures of your local activities to our flicker account and we will help spread the word on Tumblr.  

--------------------------------------------------

Donate to support our work:

Witness Against Torture is completely volunteer driven and run.  We have no paid staff, but do have expenses associated with our organizing work.  If you are able, please donate here. www.witnesstorture.org

Goodbye, Eric Holder. Now Can We Prosecute Torture?

Dear Colleagues,

Attached (PDF) is the shadow report of Advocates for US Torture Prosecutions submitted to the UN Committee Against Torture through the US Human Rights Network.

We are gathering organization and  individual signatures of support for the shadow report.  If you are interested in signing on, please contact Deborah Popowski (dpopowski@law.harvard.edu) of the Harvard Human Rights Clinic  before Monday, September 29, 2014.  

Please pass this message on.
Best,
Ben
Benjamin G. Davis
Advocates for US Torture Prosecutions
Ben.davis@utoledo.edu

The Nazis Had Their Law Professors Too, John Yoo

by Debra Sweet      Intense world events have again eclipsed news of the Guantanamo prisoners, meaning that their situation grows worse. No wave of releases has followed Obama's promise in May 2013 to once again close it. Andy Worthington reported Friday in Guantanamo Violence: Prisoners Report Shaker Aamer "Beaten," Another Man Assaulted "For Nearly Two Hours":

State Dept. Overseers of Contentious Enbridge Tar Sands Pipeline Workaround Have Industry, Torture Ties

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

The Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and other green groups recently revealed that pipeline giant Enbridge got U.S. State Department permission in response to its request to construct a U.S.-Canada border-crossing tar sands pipeline without earning an obligatory Presidential Permit.

"The Lawyer" Made Me Do It

 

 


The Rear-Guard Defense of Torture

 

 

Editor Note:  Official U.S. policy is to decry torture – at least when done by adversaries – but ambiguities abound when U.S. operatives do the torturing. Then, torture becomes debatable and its defenders go on TV talk shows and even get honors from universities, as ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern notes.

By Ray McGovern

A Meditation on Peacemaking: Americans Need to Break the Cycle of War

By John Grant


All we are saying is give peace a chance
             -John Lennon


Democracy...going, going gone: Leaving Brennan as CIA Director Means the Triumph of Secret Government

By Dave Lindorff


Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), head of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, says that John Brennan, the director of the CIA who has finally admitted that he lied when he angrily and repeatedly insisted that the agency did not spy on staff members of the Senate committee charged with oversight US intelligence agencies, “has a lot of work to do,” before she can forgive him for lying to and spying on her committee.


John Yoo - UC Berkeley Law School Endowed Chair

By Debra Sweet   Curt Wechsler writes on FireJohnYoo.net "The selection of John Yoo to fill an endowed faculty chair at Boalt Hall has raised righteous indignation across the board, from academics to un-credentialed people of conscience. The appointment represents a huge leap in institutional complicity in war crimes.

Obama lawyers: Guantanamo detainees ‘not persons’ like Hobby Lobby

From REPRIEVE:

The Obama Administration is resisting giving religious rights to Guantanamo detainees on the basis that they are “not…‘person[s]’” entitled to the protection of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) – unlike US corporation Hobby Lobby.

Responding to attempts by the detainees’ attorneys at international human rights organization Reprieve to ensure that their religious freedoms are recognised, Department of Justice lawyers argue that last week's Supreme Court decision that “defines a ‘person’ to include ‘corporations’” makes no difference to their view that Guantanamo detainees remain non-persons.

Last week, the Supreme Court ruled that Hobby Lobby was legally a ‘person’ entitled to religious freedom under the RFRA.  In their submission to the US District Court in Washington, D.C. which is considering the case brought by lawyers for detainees Emad Hassan and Ahmed Rabbani, President Obama’s lawyers do not contest that ruling.  However, they do take issue with the argument that Guantanamo prisoners should be considered ‘people’ under the same law.

In court documents filed last night ahead of a hearing tomorrow (Thursday July 10), the DoJ claims that “Guantanamo detainees […] are not protected “person[s]” within the meaning and scope of RFRA.”  They note that “In Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court held RFRA rights extend to for profit

closely held corporations, reasoning in part that the Dictionary Act defines a “person” to include “corporations,”’ but argue that “that opinion cannot be read as extending RFRA rights to [Guantanamo detainees].”

The court will tomorrow hear arguments concerning whether Guantanamo detainees can be denied the right to communal prayer, a key part of their faith during the current Ramadan period.

Cori Crider, an attorney at international human rights organisation Reprieve, which represents Mr Hassan and Mr Rabbani, said: “It is staggering that the Obama administration is prepared to argue that Guantanamo prisoners aren’t people, while accepting that corporations are. I fail to see how the President can stand up and claim Guantánamo is a scandal while his lawyers call detainees non-persons in court. If the President is serious about closing this prison, he could start by recognising that its inmates are people – most of whom have been cleared by his own Government.”

ENDS


1. The next hearing on Mr Hassan and Mr Rabbani’s emergency motion is expected at 10am (EST) on Thursday July 10th at the DC District Court.

2. For the full court filing, see here.

3. For a full timeline of the force-feeding litigation, see here.

4. The motions filed by Reprieve can be accessed here (Emad Hassan and Ahmad Rabbani)

3. Details of the separate force-feeding case Dhiab v Obama can be accessed here.

4. For further information, please contact Reprieve's press office in the US: clemency.wells@reprieve.org.uk / 001 (929) 258 2754 or UK: alice.gillham@reprieve.org.uk / +44 207 553 8160.

Sign up to join our press mailing list.

No justice at the US DOJ: AG Holder’s Big News about Prosecuting Chinese Spying and a Crooked Swiss Bank are a Joke

By Dave Lindorff 


The Justice Department is really pumping out the pointless prosecutions these days. 


New questions in FBI Boston bombing witness killing: Agent Who Killed Tsarnaev Pal During Grilling had Brutal, Corrupt History

By Dave Lindorff


Almost a year after an FBI agent shot and killed, under suspicious circumstances, a crucial witness in the Boston Marathon bombing case during a botched midnight interrogation in an Orlando apartment, serious questions are being raised about the FBI agent who fired seven short into Chechen immigrant Ibragim Todashev last May 22. 


Talk Nation Radio: Rebecca Gordon on Mainstreaming Torture

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-rebecca-gordon-on-mainstreaming-torture

A new book called Mainstreaming Torture argues that torture has been with us for a long time and remains with us and has been mainstreamed and increased in acceptability in the years since Bush and Cheney left office.  We speak with the author, Rebecca Gordon. She teaches in the Philosophy department at the University of San Francisco. Previous publications include Letters From Nicaragua  and Cruel and Usual: How Welfare “Reform” Punishes Poor People. She is an editor of WarTimes/Tiempo de guerras, which seeks to bring a race, class, and gender perspective to issues of war and peace.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from Archive or LetsTryDemocracy.

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Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

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Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
http://davidswanson.org/talknationradio

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