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Attorney General Eric Holder wants to release classified Bush-era interrogation memos. But U.S. intel officials are fiercely lobbying the White House to block him from moving forward.
Michael Isikoff, Newsweek
A fierce internal battle within the White House over the disclosure of internal Justice Department interrogation memos is shaping up as a major test of the Obama administration's commitment to opening up government files about Bush-era counterterrorism policy.
Before leaving office, senior Bush administration lawyers secured changes in a Justice Department watchdog agency’s report that reportedly was sharply critical of legal opinions granting President George W. Bush sweeping powers, including the right to abuse “war on terror” captives.
In a letter to two U.S. senators, the Justice Department said the changes to the report by the Office of Professional Responsibility followed comments from then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey, then-Deputy Attorney General Mark Filip and the Office of Legal Counsel, which was still run by Steven Bradbury, one of three lawyers who had been singled out for criticism in OPR's initial draft.
National Geographic Explorer: Inside Guantanamo | Watch This Sunday, April 5th | Check site & your local listings for other dates, times
The American Civil Liberties Union has called on the Obama administration to end debate ahead of a approaching court deadline in their Freedom of Information Act case which seeks the release of three Office of Legal Counsel memos that are believed to have authorized torture of prisoners in CIA custody.
The memos were written by Stephen Bradbury in May 2005 when he was a lawyer at the Justice Department.
On Wednesday, The New York Times reported that Obama officials are hotly debating whether to release the memos. White House Counsel Gregory Craig and Attorney General Eric Holder are apparently in favor of releasing the memos "as quickly as possible to distance the new administration from the most controversial policies of the Bush years."
Here's video of Powell.
So now, it seems, the wrecked economy – complements of the Bush administration -- is becoming the excuse for congressional inaction after eight years of unremitting malfeasance by the Bush administration.
Consortium Editor’s Note: The U.S. government seems paralyzed at the prospect of holding ex-President George W. Bush and other senior officials accountable for war crimes, even as Spanish investigative judge Baltasar Garzon initiates an inquiry under international law regarding torture sanctioned by Bush’s lawyers.
In this guest essay, investigative journalist and former candidate for Vermont attorney general, Charlotte Dennett, describes a meeting with Sen. Patrick Leahy in which he acknowledges the failure of his plan for a “truth commission”:
Those of you following the George W. Bush prosecution trail will be interested to know that Patrick Leahy’s “truth commission” is a no-go. I was in a meeting with Leahy and four other Vermonters on Monday when he broke the news to us.
Turley states, "It is just as bad to prevent the investigation and prosecution of a war crime as its commission because you become part of it." He later remarks, "This is the most well-defined and publicly known crime I have seen in my lifetime. There is no debate about it. There is no ambiguity. It is well known. You've got people involved who have basically admitted the elements of a war crime that we are committed to prosecuting. We don't need a truth and reconciliation commission because we are already reconciled to the rule of law. There is nothing to reconcile to. What the people have to reconcile are the people who broke the law. They need to reconcile with the law. And he [Obama] happens to be having a debate with one of those people as if they are talking about some quaint notion of policy."
President Obama recently delivered a stinging rebuke to former Vice President Cheney on the issue of torture.
By Dave Lindorff
We are witnessing one of the fastest betrayals of the Democratic Party base in modern memory, as President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party leadership in the Senate slither away from a crucial constituency, the labor movement, and from support of labor’s key legislative agenda item: passage of a bill, “The Employee Free Choice Act,” which would restore a measure of fairness to labor relations.
Spanish court considers trying former US officials
By Paul Haven, AP Press Writer | Yahoo!News
A Spanish court has agreed to consider opening a criminal case against six former Bush administration officials, including former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, over allegations they gave legal cover for torture at Guantanamo Bay, a lawyer in the case said Saturday.
Human rights lawyers brought the case before leading anti-terror judge Baltasar Garzon, who agreed to send it on to prosecutors to decide whether it had merit, Gonzalo Boye, one of the lawyers who brought the charges, told The Associated Press.
Spanish prosecutors may decide this week whether to press ahead with a probe into six former Bush administration officials in connection with the torture of detainees at the U.S. military's Guantanamo Bay prison, court sources said.
The criminal investigation into the officials, who include ex-U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, would likely focus on whether they violated international law by providing a legal justification for the torture.
Spanish prosecutors were asked to review the case by Baltasar Garzon, a High Court judge who came to world prominence when he issued an international warrant for the arrest of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1998.
Note: This article was broadcast on ABC World News this evening. The video of the broadcast is not available on ABC's website.
In what may turn out to be a landmark case, a Spanish court has started a criminal investigation into allegations that six former officials in the Bush administration violated international law by creating the legal justification for torture in Guantanamo Bay.
The officials named in the 98-page complaint include former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who once famously described the Geneva Conventions as "quaint" and "obsolete."
Others include John Yoo, a former Justice Department lawyer who wrote the so-called "torture memo" that justified waterboarding and other extreme interrogation methods for terror suspects.
Also named are: former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith; former General Counsel for the Department of Defense William Haynes II; Jay S. Bybee, formerly of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel; and David S. Addington, former chief of staff and legal advisor to former Vice President Dick Cheney.
By ANDREW O. SELSKY, AP
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — A former State Department lawyer responsible for Guantanamo-related cases said Friday that the Bush administration overreacted after 9/11 and set up a system in which torture occurred.
Vijay Padmanabhan is at least the second former Bush administration official to publicly label "enhanced interrogation techniques" as torture. He said the administration was wrong in its entire approach when it sent detainees to the remote Navy base and declared it out of reach of any court.
"I think Guantanamo was one of the worst overreactions of the Bush administration," Padmanabhan told The Associated Press. He said other overreactions included extraordinary renditions, waterboarding that occurred at secret CIA prisons and "other enhanced interrogation techniques that would constitute torture."
One of the problems for the U.S. Government in releasing Guantanamo detainees has been that, upon release, they are free to talk to the world about the treatment to which they were subjected. When the Bush administration agreed to release Australian David Hicks after almost 6 years in captivity, they did so only on the condition that he first sign a documenting stating that he was not abused and that he also agree -- as The Australian put it -- to an "extraordinary 12-month gag order that prevent[ed] Hicks from speaking publicly about the actions to which he has pleaded guilty or the circumstances surrounding his capture, interrogation and detention," a gag order which "also silence[d] family members and any third party."
Longer version with more detail and advice: HERE.
For Meetings with Congress Members and Senators
During April 4-19, 2009, Recess
Adjust to your communities’ priorities and to fit your representative and senators. Make the case to them of the necessary trade-off in defunding war in order to fund human needs. Make alliances with activist groups wishing to pressure elected officials on domestic funding needs and workers’ rights.
Oppose Escalation of War in Afghanistan and Pakistan
A bipartisan group of fourteen members of Congress recently wrote to the president asking him to reconsider his proposal to send more troops to Afghanistan. Your representative and senators should send similar letters, and should include opposition to missile strikes or the introduction of troops into Pakistan.
From Public Record: Senate Committee Report to Reveal New Details Implicating Bush Officials in Torture
By Jason Leopold, Public Record
While Congress has focused primarily on the country’s economic turmoil and the lavish bonuses paid to Wall Street executives, a Senate Armed Services Committee report currently in the process of being declassified will force lawmakers to shift gears.
The Armed Services Committee will release--possibly as early as next week—its voluminous report on the treatment of alleged terrorist detainees held in U.S. custody and the brutal interrogation techniques they were subjected to, according to Defense Department and intelligence sources who described the report as the most detailed account to date of the roles senior Bush administration and Defense Department officials played in implementing a policy of torture at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and other detention centers.
It’s a sign of how much the Bush administration skewed America’s moral compass that we are currently facing the possibility that the only way to bring the torturers to account is through a “Nonpartisan Commission Of Inquiry” -- essentially, a toothless truth and reconciliation commission -- of the type proposed by Sen. Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal again found himself carrying the Republican mantle opposite a primetime appearance from President Barack Obama on Tuesday, saying Republicans must be ready to defy the president when they disagree with his policies. He also joked about his widely panned response to Obama's address to Congress last month.
"We are now in the position of being the loyal opposition," Jindal said at a Republican congressional fundraising dinner that only by coincidence fell on the same night as Obama's news conference. "The right question to ask is not if we want the president to fail or succeed, but whether we want America to succeed."
By Jason Leopold, Consortium News
In 2005, after pushing out the Justice Department lawyer who had overturned President George W. Bush’s claimed authority to abuse “war on terror” prisoners, his administration reinstated key elements of the memos granting Bush virtually unlimited powers over the detainees, according to a list of still-secret documents.
According to knowledgeable sources, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has hired John Kiriakou, the former CIA official who assisted with the 2002 capture of al-Qaeda detainee Abu Zubaydah and who said the detainee was tortured, as an investigator. Kiriakou, a CIA counterterrorism official from 1998 to 2004, will start work this week, focusing on the Middle East and South Asia for the committee.
Mr. Cheney, What About This 'Executive Assassination Squad'?
By John Nichols | The Nation
An elite assassination squad run out of the vice president's office? That certainly sounds like an interesting point at which to begin an official inquiry. And since the vice president is so willing to talk about his time in office--as evidenced by his recent media appearances--why not invite him up to Capitol Hill to engage in it? Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich has a suggestion that might get the ball rolling. Kucinich has asked New York Congressman Edolphus Towns, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, to begin an immediate investigation into Hersh's allegations.
Fast Track This! CA Dems Seek Support for Impeachment Resolution of Torture Enabler Jay Bybee; Text & Background Available Here
Note: The deadline for resolutions is this Wednesday, March 25th. Please don't delay!
Hi... Just a note to let you know that I'm organizing a resolution from the California Democratic Party to impeach Jay Bybee.
Below, please find my letter requesting support, and the resolution itself:
Friends and Fellow Members of the California Democratic Party SCC:
This e-mail is marked "urgent" because new revelations are breaking daily about Bush-sanctioned torture, and the legal opinions that underpinned this unprecedented abuse of presidential power.
Next week's "Newsweek" magazine promises that the Obama administration will soon declassify three more key memos from 2005 by Bush's Justice Department detailing "enhanced interrogation" techniques, such as "waterboarding, head-slapping and other rough tactics."
By Luke Baker, Reuters
LONDON, March 23 (Reuters) - U.S. government lawyers tried to get a British resident held at Guantanamo Bay to sign a deal saying he had never been tortured and that he would not speak to the media as a condition of his release, according to documents presented in Britain's High Court.
U.S. lawyers also wanted Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian citizen held at Guantanamo for more than 4 years, to plead guilty to secure his freedom, even though he was never charged with a crime, according to documents released by two judges who ruled in the High Court case.
The documents, relating to a ruling the judges made last October, reveal the U.S. military wanted Mohamed to agree not to sue the United States or any of its allies, and that any rights to compensation should be assigned to the U.S. government.
White House ready to let Guantánamo inmates settle on US mainland
Obama administration reconciled to allowing some of Guantánamo Bay inmates on to US soil
By Julian Borger & Ewen MacAskill | Guardian UK
The White House is set to reverse a key Bush administration policy by allowing some of the 240 remaining Guantánamo Bay inmates to be resettled on American soil.
The US is pushing for Europe to take a share of released inmates, but the Obama administration is reconciled to taking some of them, even though there will be noisy resistance from individual states.
Washington has told European officials that once a review of the Guantánamo cases is completed, the US will almost certainly allow some inmates to resettle on the mainland.
UNLV colleagues of man who advised Bush on interrogation techniques agonize as they try to reconcile that work with the legal scholar they knew
By Patrick Coolican, Las Vegas Sun
Jay S. Bybee is described as a gentle soul. His legal scholarship was considered rigorous and his positions well reasoned and, though conservative, not dogmatic.
Even as he moved up easily through the elite echelons of government and academe, Bybee remained true to his nature, generous and kind.
So how could Bybee, now a judge on the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, sign his name to a legal document that seemed to sanction the use of torture?
This is the question now facing Bybee’s colleagues at UNLV’s Boyd School of Law, where he remains a tenured professor, and others who have worked with him. How he answers that question, if he ever decides to, will decide his legacy, those colleagues say.
By Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball, NEWSWEEK
Over objections from the U.S. intelligence community, the White House is moving to declassify—and publicly release—three internal memos that will lay out, for the first time, details of the "enhanced" interrogation techniques approved by the Bush administration for use against "high value" Qaeda detainees. The memos, written by Justice Department lawyers in May 2005, provide the legal rationale for waterboarding, head slapping and other rough tactics used by the CIA. One senior Obama official, who like others interviewed for this story requested anonymity because of the issue's sensitivity, said the memos were "ugly" and could embarrass the CIA. Other officials predicted they would fuel demands for a "truth commission" on torture.
[And non-officials might even suggest enforcing the *&$^%%^@! law. Gasp!]
Mr. Obama also should stop resisting an investigation of Mr. Bush’s policies on terrorism, state secrets, wiretapping, detention and interrogation....But understanding all that has gone wrong is the only way to ensure that abuses will truly end. That investigation should be done calmly rather than under the pressure of some new, shocking revelation. Former Vice President Dick Cheney is still proclaiming that waterboarding detainees prevented another attack. Among other things, an investigation would examine that assertion — for which Mr. Cheney offers no evidence, and which others have challenged. Everyone wants to move forward. The only way to do that, and make sure the system of justice is working properly, is to know exactly how Mr. Bush broke it.
As much as it needs to happen, we never expected President Obama to immediately reverse every one of President George W. Bush’s misguided and dangerous policies on terrorism, prisoners, the rule of law and government secrecy. Fixing this calamitous mess will take time and care — and Mr. Obama has taken important steps in that direction.