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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.
As Rebecca Gordon notes in her new book, Mainstreaming Torture, polls find greater support in the United States for torture now than when Bush was president. And it's not hard to see why that would be the case.
Fifteen years ago, it was possible to pretend the U.S. government opposed torture. Then it became widely known that the government tortured. And it was believed (with whatever accuracy) that officials had tried to keep the torturing secret. Next it became clear that nobody would be punished, that in fact top officials responsible for torture would be permitted to openly defend what they had done as good and noble.
The idea was spread around that the torture was stopping, but the cynical could imagine it must be continuing in secret, the partisan could suppose the halt was only temporary, the trusting could assume torture would be brought back as needed, and the attentive could be and have been aware that the government has gone right on torturing to this day with no end in sight.
Anyone who bases their morality on what their government does (or how Hollywood supports it) might be predicted to have moved in the direction of supporting torture.
Gordon's book, like most others, speaks of torture as being largely in the past -- even while admitting that it isn't really. "Bush administration-era policies" are acknowledged to be ongoing, and yet somehow they retain the name "Bush administration-era policies," and discussion of their possible prosecution in a court of law does not consider the control that the current chief perpetrator has over law enforcement and his obvious preference not to see a predecessor prosecuted for something he's doing.
President Elect Obama made 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-forcefeeding detainees who are on hunger strike." In April 2009 a Guantanamo prisoner phoneda media outlet to report being tortured. As time went by the reports kept coming, as the military's written policywould 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 saidthat 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 reportedthat 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. 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.
The mainstreaming of torture in U.S. policy and entertainment has stimulated a burst of torture use around the globe, even as the U.S. State Department has never stopped claiming to oppose torture when it's engaged in by anyone other than the U.S. government. If "Bush-era policies" is taken to refer to public relations policies, then there really is something to discuss. The U.S. government tortured before, during, and after Bush and Cheney ran the show. But it was during those years that people talked about it, and it is with regard to those years that people still talk about it.
As Rebecca Gordon's book, Mainstreaming Torture: Ethical Approaches in the Post-9/11 United States, recounts well, torture has been around. Native Americans and enslaved African Americans were tortured. The CIA has always tortured. The School of the Americas has long trained torturers. The war on Vietnam was a war of mass-murder and mass-torture. Torture is standard practice in U.S. prisons, where the torture of Muslims began post-9-11, where some techniques originated and some prison guards came from via the National Guard who brought their torturing to an international set of victims for the Bush-Obama era.
One of Gordon's central points, and an important one, is that torture is not an isolated incident. Rather it is an institution, a practice, a collective endeavor that requires planning and organization. Defenders of torture often defend a widespread practice of purely vicious evil by reference to a single imaginary incident in which it would make sense to torture someone. Imagine, they say, that you knew for certain (as of course you would not) that many people were about to be killed unless a particular person revealed something. Imagine you were certain (as of course you would not be) that you had found that person. Imagine that contrary to accumulated wisdom you believed the best way to elicit the information was through torture, and that you were sure (as of course you would not be) that the information would be revealed, that it would be accurate (nobody EVER lies under torture), and that it would prevent the greater tragedy (and not just delay it or move it), with no horrible side-effects or lasting results. Then, in that impossible scenario, wouldn't you agree to torture the person?
And doesn't that fantasy justify having thousands of people prepared to engage in torture even though they'll inevitably torture in all sorts of other situations that actually exist, and even though many thousands of people will be driven to hate the nation responsible? And doesn't it justify training a whole culture to support the maintenance of an apparatus of torture, even though uses of torture outside the fantasized scenario will spread like wildfire through local police and individual vigilantes and allied governments?
Of course not. And that's why I'm glad Gordon has tackled torture as a matter of ethics, although her book seems a bit weighed down by academic jargon. I come at this as someone who got a master's degree in philosophy, focusing on ethics, back before 9-11, back when torture was used as an example of something evil in philosophy classes. Even then, people sometimes referred to "recreational torture," although I never imagined they meant that any other type of torture was good, only that it was slightly less evil. Even today, the polls that show rising -- still minority -- support for torture, show stronger -- majority -- support for murder, that is for a president going through a list of men, women, and children, picking which ones to have murdered, and having them murdered, usually with a missile from a drone -- as long as nobody tortures them.
While many people would rather be tortured than killed, few people oppose the killing of others as strongly as they oppose torturing them. In part this may be because of the difficulty of torturing for the torturers. If foreigners or enemies are valued at little or nothing, and if killing them is easier than torturing them, then why not think of killing as "cleaner" just as the Obama administration does? That's one ethical question I'd like to see taken up even more than that of torture alone. Another is the question of whether we don't have a duty to put everything we have into opposing the evil of the whole -- that being the Nuremberg phrase for war, an institution that brings with it murder, imprisonment, torture, rape, injury, trauma, hatred, and deceit.
If you are going to take on the ethics of torture alone, Mainstreaming Torture provides an excellent summary of how philosophy departments now talk about it. First they try to decide whether to be consequentialist or deontological or virtue-based. This is where the jargon takes over. A consequentialist ethics is one that decides on the propriety of actions based on what their likely consequences will be. A deontological ethics declares certain actions good or bad apart from their consequences. And an ethics of virtues looks at the type of life created by someone who behaves in various ways, and whether that person is made more virtuous in terms of any of a long list of possible virtues.
A competition between these types of ethics quickly becomes silly, while an appreciation of them as a collection of insights proves valuable. A consequentialist or utilitarian ethics is easily parodied and denounced, in particular because supporters of torture volunteer such arguments. Would you torture one person to save the lives of two people? Say yes, and you're a simple-minded consequentialist with no soul. But say no and you're demonstrably evil. The correct answer is of course that it's a bad question. You'll never face such a situation, and fantasizing about it is no guide to whether your government should fund an ongoing torture program the real aim and results of which are to generate war propaganda, scare people, and consolidate power.
A careful consideration of all consequences, short- and long-term, structural and subtle, is harder to parody and tends to encompass much of what is imagined to lie outside the purview of the utilitarian simpleton (or corporate columnist). The idea of an ethics that is not based on consequences appeals to people who want to base their ethics on obedience to a god or other such delusion, but the discussions of deontological ethicists are quite helpful nonetheless. In identifying exactly how and why torture is as incredibly offensive as it is, these writers clarify the problem and move people against any support for torture.
The idea of an ethics based entirely on how actions impact the character of the actor is self-indulgent and arbitrary, and yet the discussion of virtues (and their opposite) is terrifically illuminating -- in particular as to the level of cowardice being promoted by the policy of employing torture and any other evil practice in hopes of being kept safe.
I think these last two types of ethics, deontological and virtue -- that is, ongoing discussion in their terms -- have good consequences. And I think that consequentialism and principled integrity are virtues, while engaging in consequentialism and virtue ethics lead to better deontological talk as well as fulfillment of the better imperatives declared by the deontologists. So, the question should not be finding the proper ethical theory but finding the proper ethical behavior. How do you get someone who opposes torturing Americans to oppose torturing human beings? How do you get someone who wants desperately to believe that torture has in fact saved lives to look at the facts? How do you get someone who believes that anyone who is tortured deserves it to consider the evidence, and to face the possibility that the torture is used in part to make us see certain people as evil, rather than their evilness actually preceding and justifying the torture? How do you get Republicans loyal to Bush or Democrats loyal to Obama to put human rights above their loyalty?
As Gordon recounts, torture in reality has generated desired falsehoods to support wars, created lots of enemies rather than eliminating them, encouraged and directly trained more torturers, promoted cowardice rather than courage, degraded our ability to think of others as fully human, perverted our ideas of justice, and trained us all to pretend not to know something is going on while silently supporting its continued practice. None of that can help us much in any other ethical pursuit.
Humanity Versus a Corrupt State:
Coups and Cash Machines in Rio de Janeiro
By John Grant
The Associated Press is denying claims by two of its writers that cost-savings was a motivation. Rather, says editor Richard Giardino, an error resulted in the accidental re-publication last week of an article on a Senate committee report on torture, an article that had originally been published in 2011.
In defense of the wire service, Giardino noted in a 2,000-word explanation, that "while the article may have been dated, it ran in dozens of newspapers without anyone noticing." In fact, wrote Giardino, were it not for a couple of bloggers, the incident "might have passed unnoticed."
I think he has a point. Over the past eight years, there have been 73 separate moments in which major news stories have reported widely across the U.S. media that it has for the first time become clear that former President George W. Bush, Vice President Richard B. Cheney, or their subordinates ordered the commission of torture. That count does not include several interviews, and memoirs, in which Bush and Cheney have openly admitted to the crime, bragged about it, or professed the sentiment that they "would do it again."
While torture has been a violation of international law and U.S. treaty obligations, and a felony under U.S. law, since before George W. Bush moved into the White House, indictments have not been forthcoming. Instead, a series of investigations and reports, and censorship thereof, have generated stories around the possibility that individuals might have done what we've already seen them confess to on camera.
Questioned on CBS Evening News on Monday, Giardino became agitated. "Look," he said, "if we just put out the sort of fact-based news that bloggers say they want, we'd be describing top authorities in this country as routine violators of the law. We have to find a balance between straight-forward reporting and the understanding that we aren't locking up presidents and CIA directors because the investigations are ongoing. And when the investigations are ongoing for years and years and years, then breaking the same news more than once is actually more accurate than inventing new details that haven't taken place."
During the past eight years, thousands of U.S. news reports have discussed the possibility of criminalizing torture, without noting that it already is criminal. Frank Cretino, associate editor of the Washington Post, defends this record, saying, "The fact that torture is already banned does not negate the act of banning it, particularly as most people do not know it is already banned. Of course, we could so inform our readers, but that would be like noting that politicians take bribes, or indicating wherever relevant that our owner makes more money from the CIA than from our paper, or recognizing that torture is just one aspect of a collection of actions made criminal by the illegality of the wars they are part of, or pointing out to people that the date is April 1 at the beginning of a story."
Did the FBI Snuff a Boston Marathon Bombing Witness? Dark Questions About a Deadly FBI Interrogation in Orlando
By Dave Lindorff
(This article was written as an exclusive for Counterpunch magazine, where the full story can be read, along with photos of the crime scene)
David Schwittek posted an announcement 6 days ago "I believe that Redact This! is important in documenting and protesting our country's inhumane, unjust, and ineffective treatment of prisoners..."That's what artist and&n
Ego trumps principle: Sen. Feinstein Finally Goes after the CIA, but not for Lying to and Spying on Us
By Dave Lindorff
Of all the people to come to the rescue of the Constitution, who would have thought it would be Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA).
Feinstein, after all, as head of the Senate Intelligence Committee since 2009, has yet to see an NSA violation of the Constitution, an invasive spying program or a creative “re-interpretation” of the law that she hasn’t applauded as being lawful and “needed” to “keep people safe.”
Not funny, but it’s still hard not to laugh: How Can the US Accuse Russia of Violating International Law?
By Dave Lindorff
If you want to make moral or legal pronouncements, or to condemn bad behavior, you have to be a moral, law-abiding person yourself. It is laughable when we see someone like Rush Limbaugh criticizing drug addicts or a corrupt politician like former Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) voting for more prisons, more cops, and tougher rules against appeals of sentences.
The same thing goes for nations.
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Vowing to “Make Guantanamo History,” human rights advocates from around the country marked the beginning of the thirteenth year of torture and indefinite detention at the prison camp with a dramatic protest at the National Museum of American History. 150 activists occupied the atrium of the crowded museum for more than two hours, speaking out against torture and calling for Guantanamo to close.
The activists hung banners, stood in stress positions in hoods and jumpsuits, spoke to the tourists, and with their bodies and voices revised the museum’s “Price of Freedom” exhibit to include twelve years of torture and indefinite detention as the bitter cost of the United States’ misguided pursuit of “national security.”
In a booming chorus, members of Witness Against Torture and other groups read from a statement that closed with the lines: “to honor freedom and justice and the struggles of Americans for these things, we must end torture, close the prison and make Guantanamo history.”
Chantal deAlcuaz, a Witness Against Torture activist from Anchorage, Alaska spent the two hours in an orange jumpsuit and black hood. She reflected that: “We came here today because we want to see Guantanamo relegated to a museum — to be shuttered and condemned, but also understood as an example of where fear, hatred and violence can take us.”
The museum protest followed a robust and spirited rally at the White House that featured speeches from grassroots activists, Guantanamo attorneys and representatives of national human rights organizations.
“It was so great to see the spirit of hope at the White House, in the streets of DC and at the museum,” said Chris Knestrick, a divinity student form Chicago. “We definitely moved closer to our goal of closing Guantanamo today. And the work will continue!!”
Since Monday, January 6, Witness Against Torture activists from throughout the country have gathered in Washington, D.C. to engage in street theater, demonstrations, fasting and direct action to demand that Guantanamo be closed immediately. There were also anti-Guantanamo protests and vigils throughout the country, including in Los Angeles, CA, Boston MA, Chicago IL, Santa Monica, CA Erie, PA, and Cleveland, OH.
Witness Against Torture is a grassroots movement that came into being in December 2005 when 24 activists walked to Guantanamo to visit the prisoners and condemn torture policies. Since then, it has engaged in public education, community outreach, and non-violent direct action. January 2014 is the eighth year the group has gathered annually in Washington, DC to call for justice and accountability. To learn more, visit www.witnesstorture.org
Ann Wright is a 29 year US Army/Army Reserves veteran who retired as a Colonel and a former US diplomat who resigned in March, 2003 in opposition to the war on Iraq. She served in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia and Mongolia. In December, 2001 she was on the small team that reopened the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. She is the co-author of the book "Dissent: Voices of Conscience." (www.voicesofconscience.com)
Coalition Endorses Recommendations of New Report on Health Professional Involvement in Torture, Calls for APA Action
The Coalition for an Ethical Psychology applauds the release yesterday of an important new report titled “Ethics Abandoned: Medical Professionalism and Detainee Abuse in the War on Terror,” funded by the Institute on Medicine as a Profession (IMAP) and the Open Society Foundations. The report from a distinguished panel of military, medical, public health, legal, and ethics experts provides a detailed account of the unethical involvement of health professionals – including psychologists – in abusive and torturous U.S. detention and interrogation operations.
The IMAP report, which follows a similar bipartisan report on detainee treatment from The Constitution Project, offers clear and feasible recommendations for urgent reforms that professional associations, including the American Psychological Association (APA), should now pursue. The Coalition strongly supports these recommendations calling upon health professionals to put ethical considerations at the center of any involvement in national security work. Unfortunately, the APA press release in response to the IMAP report falls well short of the transparency and engagement called for in the report. The APA overstates and misrepresents its current efforts in at least three critical ways:
1. The IMAP report calls for fact-finding investigations and disciplinary action against psychologists who have violated ethical standards. The APA, however, has failed to adequately address ethics complaints brought against APA members for their alleged involvement in the torture and abuse of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay. In particular, the APA quickly dismissed without meaningful investigation a complaint against Larry James, former chief BSCT psychologist at Guantánamo. Furthermore, a complaint filed over six years ago against John Leso, also a former Guantanamo BSCT psychologist, still remains unadjudicated by the APA’s ethics office. The APA press release ignores these complaints.
2. In its response to the IMAP report, the APA press release refers to the 2008 Referendum as an organizational accomplishment. However, this policy was the result of grassroots membership efforts opposed by the APA leadership. The Referendum prohibits psychologists from working in national security settings, such as Guantánamo and the CIA’s secret prisons, which violate international law or the U.S. Constitution. But to date the APA has failed to take meaningful action to implement and enforce the prohibitions. Psychologists continue to serve at Guantánamo.
3. The IMAP report recommends that APA “repudiate the report of its Presidential Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security” (the PENS Report). The APA press release misleadingly asserts that the recent adoption of its “reconciled policy” on anti-torture resolutions and the rescission of the PENS Report represent steps consistent with this recommendation. But in this context repudiation and rescis
To adequately respond to the important recommendations of the IMAP report, the Association must adjudicate the pending ethics complaints against BSCT psychologists and make certain that such cases are properly handled in the future. The APA must fully work to implement the Referendum policy and acknowledge that places like Guantánamo Bay and other national security detention settings violate U.S. and international law. The APA must also repudiate the PENS Report, which continues to raise serious questions about the Association’s independence from the military/intelligence establishment on matters of professional ethics. These are just several steps in policy and organizational reform that would help ensure that the ethical, human rights, and legal violations cited in the IMAP and other reports will never occur again. We call upon all psychologists, APA members and non-members alike, to pressure the Association to take these steps.
Jean Maria Arrigo
For the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology
North American Anarchist Black Cross Medical Justice Committee statement on the state of health care of Political Prisoners in the U.S.
Denver, October 16, 2013 - On October 4, 2013, the world lost one of its greatest fighters in the struggle against oppression and injustice. Herman Wallace spent 41 years in solitary confinement after being targeted by the state for his work against racism and oppression from within the prison system. Amnesty International and mainstream news sources recently highlighted the release of Herman Wallace from prison. Tragically, Herman was able to breathe the air of freedom for only 3 days before he passed away. Herman was denied any kind of compassionate release by the state of Louisiana, despite his advanced liver cancer and the prognosis of a mere two months to live. Though it was the circumstances of his original conviction that compelled a judge to grant Herman his freedom, it was the state’s lack of concern for his medical condition that led to the resurgence of public and media interest in his case.
Herman was just one of many, ageing political prisoners (and prisoners of war) in the United States who are currently being denied adequate medical care and the compassionate release for which they qualify. These people are incarcerated for their opposition to actions or policies of the US government that are in violation of human rights, and as such should be afforded the protections of international law. It is the opinion of the North American Anarchist Black Cross Medical Justice Committee that these captured dissidents and combatants be granted compassionate release and dignified medical care, with respect to their age, health and sacrifice in service of legitimate struggles against oppression and exploitation. It was too little, too late for Herman; that must not be the fate of our other elder comrades.
Unfortunately, cases like Herman’s are far too common. Albert “Nuh” Washington, Bashir Hameed and Marilyn Buck are other recent victims of prison medical neglect. Some, such as Merle Africa, have died under suspicious medical circumstances. More will soon follow, if swift action is not taken.
Lynne Stewart is a 73 year old movement attorney convicted of materially aiding a terrorist organization for issuing two press releases on behalf of her client Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman. Lynne was initially sentenced to 2 years in prison. But after publicly claiming that she could survive the 2 years, the government appealed her sentencing and she was punitively re-sentenced to an outrageous 10 years in prison. Diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer prior to her sentencing in 2009, Lynne was denied compassionate release because the BOP (Bureau of Prisons) claimed "she is not suffering from a condition which is terminal within 18 months," though treating physicians have estimated her life expectancy at 12 to 18 months. She is currently awaiting a decision from an independent committee within the BOP. From there it will go to the director of the BOP for the final recommendation and request for a motion to the Judge. Lynne’s health deteriorates daily. Her case is one example of many ongoing cases of medical neglect, including Abdul Majid, Robert Seth Hayes, Tom Manning, Jalil Muntaqim, Dr. Mutulu Shakur, Chelsea Manning, and Leonard Peltier.
There are currently over 100 political prisoners in the United States. These women and men are listed and recognized as political prisoners by numerous human rights, legal defense and progressive/socialist organizations. They come from the Civil Rights/Black Power/New African Liberation struggles, the Puerto Rican Independence Movement, Indigenous Peoples survival struggles, Chicano/Mexicano Movements, anti-imperialist/anti-war movements, anti-racist/anti-fascist struggles, the Women’s Movement, social and economic justice struggles, and especially in the past several years, from the Environmental/Animal Rights movement. They are Black, white, Latino and Native American. Most of these political prisoners have been in captivity since the 1970s and 80s. Some were convicted on totally fabricated charges, others for nebulous political conspiracies or for acts of resistance. All received huge sentences for their political beliefs or actions in support of these beliefs.
Despite international recognition of political prisoners within the US, the US government continues to deny their existence. An article in the Harvard Black Letter Law Journal Vol. 18, states that “Despite their prevalence in United States society, U.S. Government officials have long denied the very existence of political prisoners. When Andrew Young, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, publicly acknowledged the existence of over 100 political prisoners in his country, he was swiftly removed from office.” - The Reality of Political Prisoners in the United States: What September 11 Taught Us About Defending Themby J. Soffiyah Elijah
The harsh punitive conditions of confinement, often in special “control unit” type prisons, that political prisoners face daily, decade after decade, exposes and refutes this government myth.
The Geneva Conventions contain the internationally recognized standard of care for prisoners of war. The standard of care for Political Prisoners in the United States ought to be at least as sound as the Geneva Conventions. It currently is not. We have many ageing comrades struggling for the most basic health care while incarcerated. Even the Office of the Inspector General found that the existing BOP compassionate release program has been poorly managed and implemented inconsistently, likely resulting in eligible inmates not being considered for release and in terminally ill inmates dying before their requests were decided, as noted in the Department of Justice April 2013 review of the BOP compassionate release program . We cannot allow this to keep happening. What’s happened to Herman Wallace should never happen again. No one should die in prison. Least of all, perhaps, those who have spent their lives fighting oppression and injustice.
The Faces of Medical Neglect
The problem of medical neglect is a systematic one and affects many Political Prisoners / Prisoners of War. Following you will find some examples of folks who are suffering right now, as well as a list of people who have died because of medical neglect in prison or who were denied compassionate release before dying in prison:
•Abdul Majid: Black Liberation Army / Republic of New Afrika POW who recently suffered pressure on his sciatic nerve and was rendered unable to walk. After a week in this condition, he still had not been seen by a doctor, despite following the "sick call" procedure and all other necessary steps to get medical attention. After a call-in campaign, he was seen by a doctor but had not received the surgery he needed. It is presumed he is still unable to.
•Oso Blanco (Byron Shane Chubbuck): Indigenous POW, long-term chronic liver patient. Oso Blanco has been denied medical treatment for daily vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, irregular breathing, etc. He was unable to eat and had a large, hard mass in his liver, though Florence medical staff refused to do anything about it except look in his cell and pronounce him "fine." A call in / letter-writing campaign was necessary to get him a blood test, and he still did not receive a proper ultrasound (which was part of the call-in request). More answers from Oso are required before Dr. Lana Habash can properly interpret the results of his blood test. Oso also faced retribution from the call in campaign in the forms of mail being held and phone calls being cut short. As of right now he is still experiencing liver pain.
•Robert Seth Hayes: Black Liberation Army POW with Type II diabetes and Hep C. Seth has been fighting for adequate blood sugar monitoring since 2000. He had been consistently denied medical care for frequent, insulin-shock-induced blackouts in 2004 at Clinton Correctional facility. In 2009, when his sugar plunged to 32 and then up to 620 in a short amount of time, he had a seizure, for which he was taken off of honor block and thrown in keep-lock in Wende Correctional facility (supposedly a medical facility, though they denied him the diabetic diet necessary for his health). In August of 2012, at Sullivan Correctional Facility, he broke his index and middle fingers (injuries to the hands and feet, which can heal on their own, are very dangerous for diabetics). He was given x-rays and seen only by a physician’s assistant (not a doctor), and the diagnosis as to which fingers were broken kept changing. He has now lost the full range of motion in his hand.
•Tom Manning: United Freedom Front POW. In February of 2010, he needed a transfer to a medical prison to biopsy a lump in his groin, under his nipple and inside his shoulder blade. Recently, he was in need of knee replacement surgery. Also suffering from two tears in his shoulder tendons and advanced muscle atrophy, he was unable to lift a cup and unable to participate in the physical therapy necessary for walking (after eventually getting the knee replacement surgery). Nothing was done until a call in campaign was launched.
•Jalil Muntaqim: Black Liberation Army POW. Jalil had a stroke in January. The treating physician recommended he be transferred to an outside hospital, but the head physician refused. Four months later, he was given a CT scan, which reported brain damage consistent with a stroke. In June he was finally taken to Wende, where a neurologist examined him. After refusing Jalil's request for an MRI, the neurologist said that all the damage that will be done has been done, and that he should continue to exercise as he has been.
•Mutulu Shakur: Black Liberation Army / Republic of New Afrika POW, up for release in 2015. Mutulu has yet to be given physical therapy for the stroke he suffered in February.
•Chelsea Manning: "Whistleblower" who made available thousands of classified files pertaining to US war crimes / crimes against humanity. We do not know if her gender reassignment needs will be met by the military prison in which she is incarcerated, and how this will affect her physically and psychologically (she has already been subjected to torture while in the penal system).
•Leonard Peltier: American Indian Movement POW who had a prostate cancer scare (was exhibiting symptoms) in 2010. In June of that year, after being pressured by lawyers and the community, the BOP ordered blood tests. He received the results 4 months later. A biopsy was deemed necessary for proper diagnosis (and had not been performed as of April, 2011), and even if cancer is/was not present, a serious medical condition was nonetheless indicated by his symptoms. He has suffered a stroke which left him partially blind in one eye. For many years, he had a seriously debilitating jaw condition which left him unable to chew properly and caused consistent pain and headaches. The prison medical facilities could not properly treat this condition. In fact, two prison surgeries only worsened Leonard Peltier's condition. A physician from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, offered to repair Leonard Peltier's jaw free-of-charge, but was turned down again and again by prison authorities until the United Nations sharply rebuked the United States for subjecting Leonard Peltier to inhumane conditions. Surgery was performed and Leonard's condition improved somewhat. Subsequent surgeries are required, however, to fully address his condition. To date, such treatment has not been approved by prison officials. In recent years, Leonard Peltier has again begun to experience severe discomfort related to his jaw, teeth, and gums. Today, Leonard Peltier suffers from bone spurs in his feet and is affected by diabetes, high blood pressure, a heart condition, and other emerging health issues. According to an affiliate of Physicians for Human Rights, he risks blindness, kidney failure, and stroke given his inadequate diet, living conditions, and health care.
- Bashir Hameed, a Deputy Chairman in the Black Panther Party and COINTELPRO target, was charged and convicted of the murder and the attempted murder of two police officers in April 1981. This conviction came as a direct result of his political activity. Bashir Hameed and his co-defendant, Abdul Majid were tried three times (Queens Two) before the state was able to convict them. Bashir was serving a sentence of 25 years to life when, in 2008, he began to physically suffer. He was continuously denied any kind of medical attention or care. In May 2008, the Anarchist Black Cross Federation joined with comrades from Malcolm X Commemoration Committee, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, and Jericho Movement to coordinate call-in days during the month of June of 2008, demanding immediate medical attention. By early July, Hameed was receiving the requested care and testing thanks to consistent agitation from his family and supporters. Bashir Hameed died from complications of a triple bypass surgery at the New York prison system on August 30th 2008 because the prison administration refused to take him to an outside hospital.
-Kuwasi Balagoon, a member of the Black Liberation Army. Captured and convicted of various crimes against the State, he spent much of the 1970s in prison, escaping twice. After each escape, he went underground and resumed BLA activity. He was captured in December 1981, charged with participating in an armoured truck expropriation in West Nyack, New York, on October 21 of that year, an action in which two police officers and a money courier were killed. Convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment, he died of pneumocystis carninii pneumonia, an AIDS-related illness, on December 13, 1986.
-Albert Nuh Washington, former member of the Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army. Washington was imprisoned in 1971 as a result of the U.S. government`s war against the Black Liberation Movement and subsequently spent 29 years as a political prisoner (one of the New York Three). He died of cancer in the U.S. prison system on April 28, 2000.
Indefinite Detention and Force-Feeding Are Torture!
Pack the Court to Demand Justice for Guantánamo Detainees
Friday, October 18 at US District Court
333 Constitution Ave NW, Washington, . D.C
Enter court at 9 am; Nasal tube feeding and vigil at 11 am
Beginning last February, more than 100 men at Guantánamo engaged in a hunger strike to protest their indefinite detention. To try to break the protest, the US military subjected dozens of the hunger strikers to the cruel and degrading practice of nasogastric force-feeding.
On October 18, the Federal Court of Appeals in Washington, DC will hear a case, first ruled on in July, seeking an injunction against force-feeding at Guantánamo on the grounds that it violates human rights and the right of religious worship. The case goes to the heart of the evil of the prison, as it argues that the purpose of force-feeding is to sustain an illegal and immoral policy of indefinite detention.
Anti-torture groups are asking that we pack the courtroom to show our support for the attorneys arguing the case and their clients at Guantanamo.
We will gather at 9 am to enter court.
Let us know if you can join us by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Andrés Thomas Conteris — on day 103 of a water-only fast — will undergo a nasal tube feeding in solidarity with the men at Guantánamo and to dramatize the cruelty of force-feeding. Conteris, who has lost 57 pounds, has undergone nasogastric feedings at the White House, in Oakland, California, and at US embassies in Uruguay and Argentina. Conteris, age 52, began his fast at the height of the Guantánamo hunger strike July 8, when thousands of US prisoners began hunger striking to protest the use of extended solitary confinement at Pelican Bay and other prisons.
The nasal tube feeding will begin at 11 am, directly after the hearing of the Guantanamo case.
Seventeen men remain on hunger strike at Guantánamo, with sixteen force-fed. Senators Dianne Feinstein and John McCain, the American Medical Association, and the United Nations have all denounced force-feeding.
Prompted by the hunger strike and the global outcry against Guantánamo, President Obama on May 23, 2013 renewed his pledge to close the prison. Since that time, only two prisoners, both among the 86 long cleared for release by the US government, have been freed.
Witness Against Torture
***SAVE THE DATE(S) -- Jan. 6-13, 2014 (Fast for Justice in Washington DC)...details coming soon.
by War Criminals Watch Torture suspect and former U.S. Vice President Richard (Dick) Cheney is scheduled to speak at the Toronto Global Forum, October 31, 2013, at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. The event is hosted by the International Economic Forum of the Americas.
(Toronto) Torture suspect and former U.S. Vice President Richard (Dick) Cheney is scheduled to speak at the Toronto Global Forum, October 31, 2013, at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. The event is hosted by the International Economic Forum of the Americas.
Lawyers and others are urging Canada to either bar Dick Cheney from Canada as a person credibly accused of torture – or to arrest and prosecute him on arrival, as required by the Convention against Torture. That Dick Cheney authorized, directed and failed to prevent the widespread use of torture by US officials on non-Americans detained in off-shore prisons is no longer open to question. The United Nations Committee Against Torture has determined that torture suspects temporarily in Canada must be dealt with in accordance with the Convention.
A letter has been sent to Canada’s Prime Minister, Attorney General and Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Immigration advising them of Canada’s legal obligations. For a complete copy of the letter submitted click here.
Gail Davidson, spokesperson for Lawyers Against the War noted, "Evidence of Dick Cheney’s involvement in torture and other gross human rights abuses is overwhelming. It is time for the law to step in."
"Former Vice President Cheney led the Bush administration into a war based on lies which destroyed Iraq, directing a far-flung regime of torture, rendition and detention he referred to as 'the dark side.' He should be indicted and prosecuted for violations of the conventions against torture," stated Debra Sweet, director of World Can’t Wait.
"Thus far the U.S. has failed to prosecute anyone up the chain of command for abuses that have occurred in the highest offices of the United States of America, setting a precedent for future leaders to repeat the same crimes," states Nancy Mancias, CODEPINK organizer. "We look to the leaders in Canada to take steps to ban former Vice President Dick Cheney from entering the country because of his involvement in torture and the Iraq war."
Lawyers Against the War(LAW) is a Canada-based committee of jurists and others who oppose war and advocate for adherence to international humanitarian law and against impunity for violators.
World Can't Wait is a US-based movement formed to halt and reverse the terrible program of war and repression, initiated by the Bush/Cheney regime as well as the on-going crimes that continue to this day – www.worldcantwait.net. War Criminals Watch is a project of World Can’t Wait – www.warcriminalswatch.org.
CODEPINK is a US women-initiated grassroots peace and social justice movement working to end US- funded wars and occupations, to challenge militarism globall, and to redirect our resources into health care, education, green jobs and other life-affirming activities –www.codepink.org.
Cross-Posted from FireDogLake
On September 9, former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director David Petraeus -- who also formerly headed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) International Security Assistance Force for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and co-wrote the Counterinsurgency Field Manual -- began a new job as an adjunct professor at City University of New York (CUNY) Macaulay Honors College.
The routine never varies here, so I was startled when there was a knock, followed immediately by a key turning in the door. “It’s not time for breakfast yet,” I told Henry, the massive attendant.
“Get dressed anyway,” he told me. “The Director wants you in his office in fifteen minutes.”
By John Grant
Every generation occupies itself with interpreting Trickster anew.
By Alfredo Lopez
The Bradley Manning verdict may seem a victory of sorts for the defense -- it's certainly being treated that way in the mainstream media -- but the decision handed down Tuesday by Court Marshal Judge Colonel Denise Lind is actually a devastating blow not only to Manning, who was convicted of unjustifiably serious charges brought by an aggressive administration seeking to make an example of him, but also to Internet activity in general and information-sharing in particular.
Judith Newman is, together with Allen Hornblum and Gregory Dober, author of Against Their Will: The Secret History of Medical Experimentation on Children in Cold War America. She discusses the background for and the extent of non-consentual experimentation on human beings, in particular underprivileged children, in the United States through the twentieth century.
Dr. Judith Newman has been a faculty member at Penn State's Abington College for 36 years and has been the recipient of several outstanding teaching awards during that time. Dr. Newman teaches a wide array of life-span developmental courses, from Infancy and Early Childhood to Adult Development and Aging. She also teaches an Ethics course for students entering the mental health field.
For a discussion that touches on current forced sterilization of women in California prisons see last week's program at http://davidswanson.org/node/4098
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.
Syndicated by Pacifica Network.
Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!
Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
Activists on Long-term Hunger Strike to Close US Prison at Guantanamo
Will Simulate Forced-Feeding Outside Senate Office Building
Washington, DC -- At noon on July 30, 2013 several American activists who have been on a long-term hunger strike in solidarity with the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay prison will hold a press conference and a creative demonstration outside of the Hart Senate building on Capitol Hill.
The action will begin with a simulated force-feeding session that shows the brutality of this process of strapping down the prisoner, shoving a feeding tube down his nose and pouring Ensure into his writhing body. There will be doctors present to explain the grueling physical repercussions of the hunger strike and force-feeding.
Over 30 of the 100 hunger strikers at Guantanamo are currently being force-fed, a practice which the American Medical Association says constitutes torture. Activists will highlight the egregious nature of this practice and demand that the Congress and President Obama address the demands of the hunger strikers for justice instead of force-feeding them.
The action will be followed by a press conference featuring activists on long-term solidarity hunger strikes:
Vietnam veteran Elliott Adams, former President of Veterans For Peace, on day 70 of his strike, and
Tarak Kauff, a Board member of Veterans For Peace, who will be on day 53.
These activists have put their bodies on the line to draw attention to the plight of the prisoners at Guantanamo who face indefinite detention without charge or trial.
“I am on hunger strike in solidarity with prisoners in Guantanamo,” said Tarak Kauff. “Eighty-six of them have been cleared for release for years now, but remain in prison because Congress and President Obama lack the political will to act. So it’s up to us, as Americans of conscience, to draw attention to their plight and demand that our elected officials take action immediately.”
The long fasting veterans will also express their solidarity with hundreds of prisoners in California who have been hunger striking for over three weeks, calling for an end to indefinite solitary confinement and other prison abuses.
For more information, visit www.CloseGitmo.net
By John Grant
by Debra Sweet This is day #162, with 80 or more prisoners on strike, 45 of them being force-fed. There was a temporary federal court order against the new genital searches, but that has been overturned, and the searches have not stopped. Some prisoners report to their attorneys having their rectums searched ten times a day as punishment and pressure to drop the hunger strike.
By Dave Lindorff
Ah, the rule of law. How often we hear our government leaders angrily demand that the rest of the world adhere to this sacred stricture, most recently as it demands that countries -- even countries with which the US has signed no extradition treaty like Russia or China -- honor the US charges leveled against National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden and send him to the US for trial.
Announcing video contest examining torture and torture accountability: Open to amateurs and professionals.
June 30, 2013, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA--The Tackling Torture Video Contest is accepting entries now. It is open to both amateur and professional filmmakers.
· Four prizes:
§ $500 jury prize for the serious category,
§ $500 jury prize for the humorous/satirical category, and
By Dave Lindorff
Now that Edward Snowden is safely away out of the clutches of the US police state, at least for now, let’s take a moment to contemplate how this one brave man’s principled confrontation with the Orwellian US government has damaged our national security state.
By Dave Lindorff
Just for the sake of argument, let's suspend our disbelief for a moment and pretend (I know it's a stretch) that the Obama administration and the apologists for the nation's spy apparatus in Congress, Democratic and Republican, are telling us the gods' honest truth.
There are probably more innocent men and women in prison in the United States now than there were people in prison here total -- innocent and guilty -- 30 years ago, or than there are total people in prison (proportionately or as an absolute number) in most nations on earth.
I don't mean that people are locked up for actions that shouldn't be considered crimes, although they are. I don't mean that people are policed and indicted and prosecuted by a racist system that makes some people far more likely to end up in prison than other people guilty of the same actions, although that is true, just as it's also true that the justice system works better for the wealthy than for the poor. I am referring rather to men (it's mostly men) who have been wrongly convicted of crimes they simply did not commit. I'm not even counting Guantanamo or Bagram or immigrants' prisons. I'm talking about the prisons just up the road, full of people from just down the road.
I don't know whether wrongful convictions have increased as a percentage of convictions. What has indisputably increased is the number of convictions and the lengths of sentences. The prison population has skyrocketed. It's multiplied several fold. And it's done so during a political climate that has rewarded legislators, judges, prosecutors, and police for locking people up -- and not for preventing the conviction of innocents. This growth does not correlate in any way with an underlying growth in crime.
At the same time, evidence has emerged of a pattern of wrongful convictions. This emerging evidence is largely the result of prosecutions during the 1980s, primarily for rape but also for murder, before DNA testing had come into its own, but when evidence (including semen and blood) was sometimes preserved. Other factors have contributed: messy murderers, rapists who didn't use condoms, advances in DNA science that helps to convict the guilty as well as to free the innocent, avenues for appeal that were in some ways wider before the 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, and the heroic work of a relative handful of people.
An examination of the plea bargains and trials that put people behind bars ought to make clear to anyone that many of those convicted are innocent. But DNA exonerations have opened a lot of eyes to that fact. The trouble is that most convicts do not have anything that can be tested for DNA to prove their guilt or innocence. Here are 1,138 documented exonerations out of that tiny fraction of the overall prison population for which there was evidence to test. One study found that 6% of these prisoners are innocent. If you could extrapolate that to the whole population you'd be talking about 136,000 innocent people in U.S. prisons today. In the 1990s, a federal inquiry found that DNA testing, then new, was clearing 25% of primary suspects. You do the math.
Of course you can't simply do the math, because wrongful convictions could be higher or lower for the available sample than for all prisoners. What we can be sure of is that we are talking about a large number of people whose lives (and the lives of their loved ones) have been ruined -- not to mention the lives of additional victims of actual criminals left free.
One way to be fairly sure that the rate of wrongful conviction carries over, at least very roughly, to a variety of criminal prosecutions is to examine how those convictions came about. Brandon Garrett's Convicting the Innocent: Where Criminal Prosecutions Go Wrong examines the prosecutions of the first 250 people exonerated by DNA testing. Garrett finds broad systemic problems that could be remedied but largely have not been.
Of the 250, 76% were misidentified by an eyewitness -- most of the witnesses having been led to that act by police and/or prosecutor, some of them badgered and threatened, others merely manipulated. Invalid forensic science expertise contributed to 61% of the convictions, much of it willfully manipulated, some fraction perhaps attributable to well-intentioned but negligent incompetence. Informants, mostly jailhouse informants, and most of them manipulated and bribed by police or prosecutor, helped out in 21% of the trials. In 16% of the cases, the accused supposedly confessed to the crime, but these "confessions" tended to be the result of police intimidation, manipulation, brutality, and simple lying. Garrett fears that similar problems infect the U.S. justice system as a whole.
Garrett focuses on problems in policy and perspective. People who believe all eyewitnesses are correct and truthful can mean well and nonetheless get an important point wrong. People who aren't aware that false confessions exist won't look for them. But people unaware of such things are not typically part of the criminal justice system, where awareness of these problems is built in but steamrolled over. Judges ask whether witnesses were improperly led to misidentify a witness, but care little for the answers they receive. While Garrett begins and ends his book by claiming that pretty much everyone means well, the intervening pages grown under the weight of endless malevolence. In reading the book, I found myself over and over again scribbling "Did this guy mean well?" in the margin.
Do police feeding a false confession to their victim mean well? When they falsely report on that procedure to a court do they mean well? When they use tape recorders but shut them off each time they feed the prisoner new facts, do they mean well? When they hide evidence? When they destroy evidence? When they stack lineups and pressure witnesses to make identifications? When they hypnotize witnesses? When the prosecutor employs junk science and knowingly makes false claims about it? When simple procedures to avoid bias are known but avoided? When expert witnesses lie for a living? When crime labs alter reports to coverup exculpatory evidence? When police or prosecutors bribe other convicts or codefendants to testify and tell them what to say, but lie about that procedure? When the defense is denied competent counsel or the ability to call witnesses? When the judge effectively acts as part of the prosecution? When jurors pressure and threaten a fellow juror to vote "guilty"?
"It is almost unheard of for prosecutors to be disciplined or sanctioned for misconduct," writes Garrett, who is no doubt also familiar with this saying: "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Garrett believes that serious reforms are needed, and points to North Carolina where a commission has been set up to aid in freeing and not convicting the innocent. If you imagine that that's what appeals courts are for, read how they handled these 250 cases. In 23 cases, the victim was tried more than once for the same crime. One in a blue moon the system works and frees an innocent -- just often enough to keep hope floating out there like a lottery ticket in the distance. Even when DNA clears a prisoner, a prosecutor may propose to try him again, and then do nothing for years while he rots in prison waiting. North Carolina has passed legislation reforming procedures for eyewitnesses, requiring the recording of interrogations, enhancing the preservation of evidence and access to DNA testing, etc.
But one of the major reforms needed is clearly a reform of attitude. And that probably will come more quickly if we recognize what current attitudes are. Jurors and judges should be aware of how often many prosecutors and police officers pursue conviction at the expense of the truth. They should not prejudge in that direction any more than in the other, but they should be aware of what they are up against. If, as a society, we valued the freedom of innocents as much as the punishment of the guilty, we would treat judges and prosecutors and defense attorneys and police differently. We would reward protection of the innocent as much as convictions. A "successful" prosecution would be redefined as one that, first, did no harm. The police officer who found an alibi for a suspect would be praised and promoted just like the officer who found evidence of his guilt. A defendant might even someday find it possible to gain representation from an attorney who at least pretended to believe in at least the possibility of his innocence, and who behaved accordingly.
In the meantime, we are generating and compounding tragedies by the thousands. When James O'Donnell was wrongly convicted, he exploded with anger and cursed the judge and jury. Then he composed himself and said, "I am really sorry for my outburst. I tried to be as civil as possible. I would never do a crime like this. And my life is over now as I know it, my wife and kids' life. I don't understand how the jury did this to me. It's really not right, what they did. I was home in bed. I was sleeping. I would never hit a woman. I have a wife. I never hit my kids, ever. I never forced a woman to do anything in my whole life. That's the God's honest truth . . . It's just -- I'm very sorry for my outburst. Don't take my life away, please."