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Would You Go to Jail to Protest Torture?
By Sherwood Ross
Are you ready to go to jail for what you believe? Would you stand up to the Pentagon by engaging in non-violent civil disobedience to protest torture?
Two men of faith who have done so, who have walked the same road of Mohandas Gandhi and Rev. Martin Luther King, are Franciscan Louis Vitale and Jesuit Stephen Kelly. They were 75 and 58, respectively, when they were jailed.
They submitted themselves for arrest in November, 2006, as they knelt in prayer in the driveway at the U.S. Army Intelligence Center and School at Fort Huachuca, Arizona.
Ft. Huachuca has been described as the source of the torture manuals used at the infamous School of the Americas.
The Senate Judiciary Committee plans to move forward with a commission to investigate torture during the Bush administration. Committee Chairman Pat Leahy, D-Vt., told Salon Tuesday that his panel would soon announce a hearing to study various commission plans. His staff said the announcement could come as early as Wednesday.
While Michigan Democrat Rep. John Conyers drafted a bill to create a commission to review abuse of war powers during the Bush administration, co-sponsored by North Carolina Republican Rep. Walter Jones, Leahy's Senate commission would represent the first concrete steps toward a broad review of U.S. torture since 9-11.
Spearheading Senate efforts to establish a torture commission is Rhode Island Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse. As a member of both the Judiciary Committee and the Intelligence Committee, Whitehouse is privy to information about interrogations he can't yet share. Still, regarding a potential torture commission, he told Salon, "I am convinced it is going to happen." In fact, his fervor on the issue was palpable. When asked if there is a lot the public still does not know about these issues during the Bush administration, his eyes grew large and he nodded slowly. "Stay on this," he said. "This is going to be big."
By Daphne Eviatar, Washington Independent
Office of Legal Counsel Director-nominee Dawn Johnsen confirmed today that the OLC does not have the authority to give the president a green light to ignore congressional statutes, such as a prohibition on torture. “It was absolutely wrong for the president to direct that the torture statute not be complied with.”
Referring to former Bush administration OLC attorney John Yoo’s “torture memo” that defined torture in only the most extreme terms and still didn’t ban it, she said: “I have written very critically of that opinion … my view is that that opinion was not written in the best traditions of the office and did not reflect that principle that legal advice should be impartial, independent, principled and accurate.”
By Dave Lindorff
Barack Obama’s first address to Congress provided Americans with yet another example of competent speechmaking, and I suppose, given that we’ve just endured eight painful years of oratorical farce, being able to listen to your president without wincing is something.
The problem is that the way forward proposed by the president as laid out in this address was almost always half-hearted, wrong-headed or doomed.
Obama declared at the outset of his address that the economic crisis was the major issue confronting the country, and while one could argue that this crisis is merely a symptom of much bigger issues, like the nearly completed deindustrialization of the nation, the death grip of militarism, and the growing political power of corporations, one could also concede that there is an urgent need to deal with the deepening recession.
By Luke Baker, Reuters
LONDON (Reuters) - Abuse of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay has worsened sharply since President Barack Obama took office as prison guards "get their kicks in" before the camp is closed, according to a lawyer who represents detainees.
Abuses began to pick up in December after Obama was elected, human rights lawyer Ahmed Ghappour told Reuters. He cited 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.
The Pentagon said on Monday that it had received renewed reports of prisoner abuse during a recent review of conditions at Guantanamo, but had concluded that all prisoners were being kept in accordance with the Geneva Conventions.
Former British resident Binyam Mohamed arrives back in Britain tomorrow after his release from Guantanamo Bay. British and US lawyers claim that sustained beatings - which have only recently stopped - have left him with severe psychological and physical problems....Lieutenant colonel Yvonne Bradley, Mohamed's US military attorney, added: "He has been severely beaten. Sometimes I don't like to think about it because my country is behind all this."
Binyam Mohamed will return to Britain suffering from a huge range of injuries after being beaten by US guards right up to the point of his departure from Guantánamo Bay, according to the first detailed accounts of his treatment inside the camp.
Today, the Department of Defense issued a report that claim conditions of confinement at Guantanamo Bay uphold U.S. and international human rights law. For many of our clients, however, who have endured over seven years of arbitrary detention without charge or trial, the appalling conditions that have characterized the prison camp since its inception continue in violation of international standards to the present day.
CCR issued its own report today - "Conditions of Confinement at Guantanamo: Still in Violation of the Law" - which includes new eyewitness accounts by detainees and their attorneys.
By Globe and Mail/Canada
KABUL - The word "Guantanamo" serves as shorthand among some Afghans for all the reasons they hate foreign troops, but the impending closing of the notorious prison has gotten surprisingly little attention in this country.
Nothing changed with last month's U.S. presidential order to close Guantanamo, many people here say, because another prison inspires even greater fear: Bagram.
Even a man who could be expected to feel the most joy about Guantanamo closing, a former detainee who spent more than six years in the camp, quickly turns the conversation to the detention facility north of Kabul, inside the U.S. military base at Bagram.
"Everybody is happy because our friends will be released from Guantanamo, but there is a big question," said Omar al-Madani, 30, who now lives in Kabul. "What will they do about Bagram?"
The following is a statement released Monday by former Guántanamo detainee Binyam Mohamed:
I hope you will understand that after everything I have been through I am neither physically nor mentally capable of facing the media on the moment of my arrival back to Britain. Please forgive me if I make a simple statement through my lawyer. I hope to be able to do better in days to come, when I am on the road to recovery.
I have been through an experience that I never thought to encounter in my darkest nightmares. Before this ordeal, "torture" was an abstract word to me. I could never have imagined that I would be its victim.
It is still difficult for me to believe that I was abducted, hauled from one country to the next, and tortured in medieval ways - all orchestrated by the United States government.
While I want to recover, and put it all as far in my past as I can, I also know I have an obligation to the people who still remain in those torture chambers.
My own despair was greatest when I thought that everyone had abandoned me. I have a duty to make sure that nobody else is forgotten.
Gitmo detainee who claimed torture is freed | MSNBC
Former British resident is first to be released since Obama took office
A Guantanamo prisoner who claims he was tortured at a covert CIA site in Morocco returned to Britain a free man Monday after nearly seven years in U.S. captivity — the first inmate from the U.S. prison camp freed since President Barack Obama took office.
Binyam Mohamed, once accused by U.S. officials of being part of a conspiracy to detonate a "dirty bomb" on American soil, flew to a British military base.
He was released after being interviewed for four hours by police and immigration officials. He had to fill out new paperwork for residency since his permit expired in 2004.
Mohamed's claims of torture, abuse and extraordinary rendition are at the heart of several lawsuits. Lawyers on both sides of the Atlantic are suing for secret documents they say prove the United States sent Mohamed to Morocco and that Britain knew of the mistreatment — a violation under the 1994 U.N. Convention Against Torture.
wikileaks Classified doc on CIA El-Masri kidnapping: Secrecy promise to US more important than German law
The ZIP Archive presents 4 documents from the questioning of the former German minister of the interior Otto Schily by the Munich prosecutor on the case of Khaled el-Masri, a German citizen that was mistaken as an al-Qaida member, kidnapped by the CIA and brought to Afghanistan. When the mistake became clear, El-Masri was abandoned in an Albanian forrest.
The questioning of the prosectur had been initiated to clarify how much Schily knew about this kidnapping as minister of the interior at that time. The protocol was subsequently classified as "secret".
While Schily denies to answer most questions due to a restriction in his testimony permission, which was issued by Wolfgang Schaeuble, some of the answers raise questions. Never denying to have known about the El-Masri case, Schily's explanation for why he did not inform German officials is especially noteworthy: he felt bound by his promise of confidentiality to the US ambassador Coats.
We're looking only forward ... to detention, torture, murder, and war. NOW does anyone understand the need to prosecute the last guy and -- if we don't -- how hard it will be to prosecute this one?
Very Bad News: Afghanistan's Bagram Air Base Will Be Obama's Guantanamo
By Stephen Foley, Independent UK
Less than a month after signing an executive order to close the Guantanamo Bay prison camp, President Barack Obama has quietly agreed to keep denying the right to trial to hundreds more terror suspects held at a makeshift camp in Afghanistan that human rights lawyers have dubbed "Obama's Guantanamo."
By Jason Leopold, Public Record
A Department of Justice investigation into the legal work John Yoo and two other former DOJ officials performed for the Bush administration was harshly critical of the former agency attorneys for failing to cite legal precedent and existing case law in legal opinions they prepared for the of Bush administration on a wide-range of controversial policy issues, including torture and domestic surveillance, according to several legal sources who have been briefed on the contents of the still classified report.
From Captive To Suicide Bomber
Accused of Being Little More Than a Low-Level Taliban Fighter, Abdallah al-Ajmi Was Held by the U.S. for Nearly Four Years. After His Release, He Blew Up an Iraqi Army Outpost. Did Guantanamo Propel Him to Do It? Read the rest.
Mr Ridge said the US and other countries had had to deal with a new kind of enemy - "individuals who sought to kill innocent civilians, accepted a belief system that the end justified the means." Many suspects had "embraced an ideology, a belief system, that said it's perfectly all right in order to advance a cause to kill innocents along the way", he said.
America's first homeland security secretary has accepted some criticisms of the US "war on terror" made in a recent report by legal experts.
Tom Ridge told the BBC that the report's attacks on extended detention and torture were justified.
But he also said the US had been dealing with a new kind of threat.
Greenwald: U.S. Is Bound By Treaty to Prosecute Torture Crimes
By Susie Madrak | Salon.com | Jan. 18, 2009
It seems fairly easy -- even for those overtly hostile to the basic rules of logic and law -- to see what conclusions are compelled by these clear premises:
Bush administration officials from Vice President Dick Cheney on down signed off on using harsh interrogation techniques against suspected terrorists after asking the Justice Department to endorse their legality, The Associated Press has learned.
The officials also took care to insulate President Bush from a series of meetings where CIA interrogation methods, including waterboarding, which simulates drowning, were discussed and ultimately approved....
The meetings were held in the White House Situation Room in the years immediately following the Sept. 11 attacks. Attending the sessions were Cheney, then-Bush aides Attorney General John Ashcroft, Secretary of State Colin Powell, CIA Director George Tenet and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice.
SUMMARY OF PRELIMINARY MEMORANDUM OF THE JUSTICE ROBERT H. JACKSON CONFERENCE ON FEDERAL PROSECUTION OF WAR CRIMINALS
Propelling prisoners' heads into concrete walls by means of towels wrapped around their necks, savage beatings with fists and rifles that left prisoners crippled, hanging prisoners by the arms with their arms strung up behind them, depriving prisoners of sleep for weeks on end, which has been thought the worst torture possible for 500 years, causing prisoners to freeze -- sometimes to death, and waterboarding are but a partial list of the torture methods ordered by America's highest officials. In the "Preliminary Memorandum of the Justice Robert H. Jackson Conference on Federal Prosecutions of War Criminals," law school Dean Lawrence Velvel, the founder of the Jackson Conference, details the full spectrum of tortures performed in wholesale combinations -- not one torture by itself -- on detainees around the world. His Preliminary Memorandum is a precursor to a formal legal complaint to be filed with the Justice Department this spring.
A 28-year-old US Army medic has been sentenced by a US military court in Germany to life in prison with the possibility of parole for his role in murdering four Iraqi prisoners in 2007.
The US military court in Vilseck, Germany, on Friday evening, Feb. 20, found Sgt. Michael Leahy guilty of murder for his role in the execution-style killings of four Iraqi detainees.
The nine-member jury convicted Leahy, one of four soldiers charged in the slayings, of murder and conspiracy to commit murder. His rank will be reduced to private and he will be dishonorably discharged from the Army.
Another US soldier, Steven Ribordy, in October was sentenced to eight months in prison for his role in the killings as part of a plea deal.
Obama backs Bush: No rights for Bagram prisoners
By NEDRA PICKLER and MATT APUZZO, AP
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration, siding with the Bush White House, contended Friday that detainees in Afghanistan have no constitutional rights.
In a two-sentence court filing, the Justice Department said it agreed that detainees at Bagram Airfield cannot use U.S. courts to challenge their detention. The filing shocked human rights attorneys.
"The hope we all had in President Obama to lead us on a different path has not turned out as we'd hoped," said Tina Monshipour Foster, a human rights attorney representing a detainee at the Bagram Airfield. "We all expected better."
By Mohamed Farag Bashmilah, Huffington Post
From October 2003 until May 2005, I was illegally detained by the U.S. government and held in CIA-run "black sites" with no contact with the outside world. On May 5, 2005, without explanation, my American captors removed me from my cell and cuffed, hooded, and bundled me onto a plane that delivered me to Sana'a, Yemen. I was transferred into the custody of my own government, which held me -- apparently at the behest of the United States -- until March 27, 2006, when I was finally released, never once having faced any terrorism-related charges. Since my release, the U.S. government has never explained why I was detained and has blocked all attempts to find out more about my detention.
Cross-party group of British politicians writes to US president as David Miliband defends himself over Mohamed case
By Richard Norton-Taylor, guardian.co.uk
A cross-party coalition of MPs and human-rights campaigners has written to Barack Obama calling on him to publish secret documents that allegedly contain evidence of US and British complicity in torture.
The move came as David Miliband, the foreign secretary, defended his position on the Guardian website over the suppression of evidence of the torture of Binyam Mohamed, the former UK resident held in Guantánamo Bay.
"Far from suppressing evidence, it was our efforts that got documents disclosed to Mr Mohamed's lawyers," Miliband wrote. He was referring to the handing over of 42 US intelligence documents to Mohamed's lawyers for the purposes of a secret military trial in the US.
(Or will his torture just be mentioned in passing, as below?)
Bush's "icy smile" enraged Iraq shoe-thrower
By Khalid al-Ansary
BAGHDAD, Feb. 19, 2009 (Reuters) — An Iraqi reporter who hurled his shoes at George W. Bush said in the past he had videotaped himself practicing the Arab insult to use against the president whose "icy smile" had filled him with uncontrollable rage.
Muntazer al-Zaidi said on Thursday at the start of his trial in Baghdad on charges of assaulting a foreign leader that he took a recording of his shoe-throwing training two years ago and had hoped to accost Bush in Jordan but this did not take place.
Zaidi, who was hailed across the Middle East by critics of the Iraq invasion and who also called Bush a "dog," told the court he had acknowledged making a training film under interrogation after his arrest at a Baghdad news conference.
British authorities are searching for a missing suitcase that reportedly contains highly sensitive documents relating to the Iraq War.
Court: Chinese at Guantanamo Can't Be Freed in U.S.
From Bill Mears | CNN
Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday he will travel to the Guantanamo detention center next week as a "first step" in a process to determine what to do with detainees held there. Holder told reporters after a speech on civil rights that he will make the trip to Cuba on Monday with the Justice Department's point man on counterterrorism, Matt Olsen. Spokesman Dean Boyd termed the trip "the beginning of a review process." Holder told reporters review of the Guantanamo detainees' individual cases has begun and officials are "making progress," but he declined to be more specific.
Cageprisoners is deeply concerned by today’s House of Lords’ decision in the case of Abu Qatadah that deportation of foreign nationals to countries which practice torture was not a bar to their removal.
In reversing the decision of the Court of Appeal, the House of Lords has effectively sanctioned the deportation of Abu Qatadah and other foreign nationals to countries where the only evidence of wrongdoing against them has been obtained through torture. Both the Special Immigrations Appeal Commission ! (SIAC) and the Court of Appeal have accepted that the only evidence against Abu Qatadah has been extracted from the torture of his co-defendants in Jordan and that there is no other genuine evidence against him.
Cageprisoners view the decision as a major setback for human rights and the rule of law.
Cageprisoners spokesman, Moazzam Begg, stated:
Obama is uniquely positioned to restore America’s moral standing on this issue. For the victims, and for this nation, he must pursue possible crimes committed on his predecessor’s watch.
By Diane McWhorter, USA Today
With former vice president Dick Cheney taunting the torture-renouncing Obama team for "turning the other cheek" to terrorists, it's a bit surreal that punt remains on the list of the new president's potential responses to the "enhanced interrogation" carried out under his predecessor. Yet at his news conference on Monday, even in the wake of Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy's vigorous calls for a truth commission, President Obama was still signaling his preference to "get it right moving forward" rather than look back at any possible criminal wrongdoing by the Bush-Cheney government.
Former Bush Administration official John Yoo has temporarily traded his job on the law faculty at the University of California, Berkeley, for a teaching gig in more conservative Orange County, CA.
Yoo, one of the architects of the Bush policy on torture, is spending this semester as a visiting professor at the relatively new Chapman University School of Law, which opened in 1995, reports the Los Angeles Times.