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The Obama administration is trying to protect top Bush administration military officials from lawsuits brought by prisoners who say they were tortured while being held at Guantanamo Bay.
The Justice Department argued in a filing Thursday with the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia that holding military officials liable for their treatment of prisoners could cause them to make future decisions based on fear of litigation rather than appropriate military policy.
The Obama administration said Friday that it is abandoning one of President George W. Bush's key phrases in the war on terrorism: enemy combatant.
But that won't change much for the detainees at the U.S. naval base in Cuba — Obama still asserts the military's authority to hold them. Human rights attorneys said they were disappointed that Obama didn't take a new stance.
The Justice Department said in legal filings that it will no longer use the term "enemy combatants' to justify holding prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.
"This is really a case of old wine in new bottles," the Center for Constitutional Rights, which has been fighting the detainees' detention, said in a statement. "It is still unlawful to hold people indefinitely without charge. The men who have been held for more than seven years by our government must be charged or released."
In another court filing Thursday criticized by human rights advocates, the Obama administration tried to protect top Bush administration military officials from lawsuits brought by prisoners who say they were tortured while being held at Guantanamo Bay.
The Obama administration's position on use of the phrase "enemy combatants" came in response to a deadline by U.S. District Judge John Bates, who is overseeing lawsuits of detainees challenging their detention. Bates asked the administration to give its definition of whom the United States may hold as an "enemy combatant."
Aired February 10, 2009
The Obama administration said Friday that it would abandon the Bush administration’s term “enemy combatant” as it argues in court for the continued detention of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, in a move that seemed intended to symbolically separate the new administration from Bush detention policies.
But in a much anticipated court filing, the Justice Department argued that the president has the authority to detain terrorism suspects there without criminal charges, much as the Bush administration had asserted. It provided a broad definition of those who can be held, which was not significantly different from the one used by the Bush administration.
By Jeremy Gantz, Raw Story
Like most Americans, you've probably seen the infamous Iraqi prisoner abuse photographs.
The American Civil Liberties Union wants you to be able to see more, and is demanding that the Obama administration release additional photos depicting abuse of prisoners by U.S. forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Despite a unanimous federal appeals court panel ruling last year that ordered the Bush administration to do just that, the outgoing administration asked the full court to rehear the case. But the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has yet to do so, according to a statement released Tuesday by the ACLU.
Sneering with contempt, the unrepentant Bush attorney has challenged "Obama's antiwar base" to read his infamous memos closely. So I did.
By Gary Kamiya, Salon
You have to give John Yoo credit for chutzpah. The disgraced author of the so-called torture memo was back in the news last week, when the Obama administration released seven more secret opinions, all but one written in whole or in part by Yoo and fellow Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) lawyer Jay Bybee, arguing that the Bush administration had the right to override the Constitution as long as it claimed to be fighting a "war on terror." Professor Yoo, who I am embarrassed to say holds a tenured position at the law school of my alma mater, the University of California at Berkeley, was already known as the official who provided a legal fig leaf behind which the Bush administration tortured inmates at Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib. His legal misdeeds are widely known, but now they have been exposed chapter and verse. Among the new memos is one written in 2001, in which Yoo and co-author Robert J. Delahunty advised the U.S. that the Posse Comitatus Act, which forbids the Army to be used for law enforcement, and the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures, do not apply to domestic military operations undertaken during a "war on terror." READ THE REST.
CIA Confirms 12 of 92 Videotapes Destroyed Showed Prisoners Tortured
By Jason Leopold | Truthout
Heavily redacted government documents filed in a New York federal court Friday afternoon say the CIA destroyed 12 videotapes that specifically showed two detainees being tortured.
The documents were filed in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. In December 2007, the ACLU filed a motion to hold the CIA in contempt for its destruction of the tapes in violation of a court order requiring the agency to produce or identify all records requested by the ACLU. That motion is still pending.
On Monday, the Justice Department revealed in court documents that the CIA destroyed 92 interrogation videotapes, which is now the subject of a criminal probe. According to Friday's court documents, 90 tapes relate to one detainee and two tapes relate to another detainee.
In a letter filed Friday in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, Acting US Attorney Lev Dassin said a complete list of summaries, transcripts or memoranda related to the videotapes would be filed with the court by March 20.
"The government is needlessly withholding information about these tapes from the public, despite the fact that the CIA's use of torture - including waterboarding - is no secret," said Amrit Singh, staff attorney with the ACLU. "This new information only underscores the need for full and immediate disclosure of the CIA's illegal interrogation methods. The time has come for the CIA to be held accountable for flouting the rule of law."
John Yoo authored the Bush memos on torture and suspending civil liberties. But an upcoming Justice Department report could contain new revelations—perhaps that the memos were written to provide legal cover for programs already in place....Yoo is also the target of a civil lawsuit brought by Jose Padilla....Yoo’s defense rests on highly technical arguments of immunity, directly contradicting the basic position taken by the United States in the London accords of 1945 that a defense of immunity would not be available to officials involved in the abuse of prisoners.
A new Justice Department report could contain a bombshell that would spell fresh legal trouble for top Bush officials. The report may link controversial memos on civil liberties and torture—written by Justice Department lawyer John Yoo—directly to the White House, putting Yoo and other Bushies in the crosshairs of criminal prosecution.
The ongoing political crisis in Sudan is expected to worsen in the face of a rash of threats and warnings following the indictment last week of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.
The beleaguered Sudanese president has threatened to expel diplomats from Khartoum and throw out more humanitarian organisations - in addition to the 13 that were run out of town last week - in retaliation for the indictment.
At the same time, there is considerable speculation that some, or all, of the 30 African countries who are state parties (of a total of 108) to the Rome Statute that created the ICC, may decide to pull out, threatening the virtual collapse of the world's key criminal court.
Guantanamo Under Obama
by Stephen Lendman
As The New York Times reported on January 22, Barack Obama signed Executive Orders (EOs) banning torture and "directing the CIA to shut what remains of its network of secret prisons and ordering the closing of the Guantanamo detention camp within a year, government official said."
The closure EO is titled: "Executive Order -- Review and Disposition of Individuals Detained at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base and Closure of Detention Facilities."
How MI5 Colluded In My Torture: Binyam Mohamed Claims British Agents Fed Moroccan Torturers Their Questions
MI5 directly colluded in the savage 'medieval' torture in Morocco of Binyam Mohamed, the Guantanamo inmate who was last week released to live in Britain.
The revelation came as Mohamed broke his silence about the full horror of his seven years in detention in a compelling interview with The Mail on Sunday.
Documents obtained by this newspaper - which were disclosed to Mohamed through a court case he filed in America - show that months after he was taken to Morocco aboard an illegal 'extraordinary rendition' flight by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, MI5 twice gave the CIA details of questions they wanted his interrogators to put to him, together with dossiers of photographs.
At the time, in November 2002, Mohamed was being subject to intense, regular beatings and sessions in which his chief Moroccan torturer, a man he knew as Marwan, slashed his chest and genitals with a scalpel.
Ex-UN prosecutor: Bush may be next up for International Criminal Court
By Stephen C. Webster | Raw Story
An ex-UN prosecutor has said that following the issuance of an arrest warrant for the president of Sudan, former US President George W. Bush could -- and should -- be next on the International Criminal Court's list.
The former prosecutor's assessment was echoed in some respect by United Nations General Assembly chief Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann of Nicaragua, who said America's military occupation of Iraq has caused over a million deaths and should be probed by the United Nations.
"David Crane, an international law professor at Syracuse University, said the principle of law used to issue an arrest warrant for [Sudanese President] Omar al-Bashir could extend to former US President Bush over claims officials from his Administration may have engaged in torture by using coercive interrogation techniques on terror suspects," reported the New Zealand Herald.
In a California federal court, President Obama's Justice Department is defending former Bush official John Yoo, author of the so-called "torture memo."
Yoo is being sued by Jose Padilla, currently serving 17 years in prison for conspiring to provide support to Islamist extremists. Padilla's lawyers say that Yoo's memos on interrogation policies led to his detention and torture.
The Obama Justice Department moved to dismiss the case before U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White.
The CIA destroyed a dozen videotapes of harsh interrogations of terror suspects, according to documents filed Friday in a lawsuit over the government's treatment of detainees. The 12 tapes were part of a larger collection of 92 videotapes of terror suspects that the CIA destroyed. The extent of the tape destruction was disclosed through a suit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union against the government.
Heavily redacted papers filed in the case indicate a dozen destroyed tapes show so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques."
The CIA's enhanced interrogation methods are secret, but they once included waterboarding, which simulates drowning.
Today is a good moment to give some thought to one of the worst remaining legacies of the Bush era, the prison where that administration's grotesque offshore detention policies -- the beatings, the torture, the works -- were first put into play, the prison that has yet to go away. And as Karen Greenberg, the Executive Director of the Center on Law and Security at the New York University School of Law and the author of a striking new book, The Least Worst Place, Guantanamo's First 100 Days, points out, it's not, as you might expect, Guantanamo, but our grim prison at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.
CIA Director Leon Panetta says agency employees who took part in harsh interrogations of terrorism suspects are not in danger of being punished.
Panetta delivered that message to CIA employees in an e-mail Thursday, reiterating what he told Congress last month. He said then that he would oppose prosecutions of any CIA employee who adhered to their legal guidance on interrogations.
He sent the message after the Senate Intelligence Committee announced its review of the CIA's interrogation and detention program under President George W. Bush.
The committee will look at how the CIA decided whom to interrogate, whether it told Congress the truth about the program and whether it was legal. It will also try to determine whether the harsher methods the CIA used elicited valuable intelligence.
Senate Panel Reaches Terms For Probe of CIA Detentions
By Joby Warrick | Washington Post
The Senate intelligence committee reached an agreement yesterday on the framework of a wide-ranging review of the CIA's past treatment of terrorism detainees, even as members acknowledged that the bulk of the panel's work will be conducted in secret.
The committee's Democratic and Republican leaders settled on a blueprint for a year-long probe that will examine the agency's detention and interrogation of about 100 suspected al-Qaeda operatives held in secret overseas prisons between 2002 and 2006. Panel members last week confirmed their intention to conduct such an inquiry.
GOP senator would support probe of 'shocking' anti-terror memos
By Rachel Oswald | Raw Story
Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) said he was opposed to any Truth Commission tasked with investigating Bush administration abuses, but that he could support criminal investigations into political appointees who authored the controversial OLC memos.
Speaking at Sen. Patrick Leahy's (D-VT) Wednesday hearing on exploring the possibilities of setting up a nonpartisan Truth Commission, Specter, a moderate in his party who has supported past Senate inquiries into polices of the Bush administration, said:
“I would not mind looking backward if there’s reason to do so. If we have evidence of torture – go after it. If there’s reason to believe that these Justice Department officials have knowingly given the president cover for practices they know not to be right or sound – go after them. Some of the [OLC] opinions are more than startling, they’re shocking. If [OLC counsel] did that knowingly…it sounds to me that it may fall within criminal conduct.
Release of Memos Fuels Push for Inquiry Into Bush’s Terror-Fighting Policies
By Charlie Savage and Neil A. Lewis | NYTimes
But David B. Rivkin Jr., an associate White House counsel under the first President Bush who is scheduled to testify at the hearing on Wednesday, said he planned to urge Congress not to move forward with that proposal, which he said would violate the rights of Bush administration officials and set them up for prosecutions by foreign courts.“They want to pillory people,” Mr. Rivkin said. “They want to destroy their reputation. They want to drag them through the mud and single them out for foreign prosecutions. And if you get someone in a perjury trap, so much the better.”
Andy Worthington, London-based journalist and author of "The Guantánamo Files" (Pluto Press), today releases the first definitive list of the 779 prisoners held in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
Links to the list:
I've been led to understand that the House Intelligence Committee is conducting a classified investigation into torture. But can somebody explain to me how this works? I mean, we all know that there are reports, photos, videos, all sorts of things that are classified. But any investigation of torture that looked even at just publicly available material would recognize that crimes had been committed within the first hour of "investigating," at which point is there not a requirement to report that information to law enforcement? Does Congress not also have any responsibility to the citizens and any power to declassify? Did the Senate Armed Services Committee not already release a report chock full of evidence of crimes? What, then, are we supposed to assume that the House Intelligence Committee is up to? My guess is not much. Surely not restoring the rule of law. Obviously not educating the public for "truth and reconciliation." Almost certainly not arriving at new evidence or insights. Probably just appeasing constituents by claiming to be doing something. At the risk of disappointing ourselves, we could ask Chairman Silvestre Reyes to make public anything he knows: (202) 225-4831.
By Dave Lindorff
The dithering and ducking going on in the Obama White House and the Holder Justice Department over the crimes of the Bush administration are taking on a comic aspect.
On the one hand, we have President Obama assuring us that under his administration, there will be respect for the rule of law, and on the other hand we have this one-time constitutional law professor and his attorney general declaiming that there is no need for the appointment of a prosecutor to bring charges against the people in the last administration, in the CIA, in the National Security Agency and in the Defense Department and the military who clearly have broken the law in serious and felonious ways.
What gets silly is that America is either a nation of laws…or it isn’t. It is either a place where “nobody is above the law”…or it isn’t.
There is really no middle ground here.
Holder: US won't 'justify, rationalize, condone' waterboarding torture, Agence France-Presse
US Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday ruled out the use of waterboarding as an interrogation technique for "war on terror" suspects, saying it amounted to torture.
"Waterboarding is torture. My justice department will not justify it, will not rationalize it and will not condone it," Holder said in a speech to the Jewish Council of Public Affairs.
"The use and sanction of torture is at odds with the history of American jurisprudence and American values. It undermines our ability to pursue justice fairly, and it puts our own brave soldiers in peril should they ever be captured on a foreign battlefield."
By RAW STORY
While it has been known for some time that the CIA had destroyed tapes of interrogations with terrorism suspects, the Monday news that 92 videotapes had been destroyed by the agency was still shocking.
The CIA acknowledged the number of tape erasures in a letter filed by government lawyers in New York. The letter was filed in response to an ongoing lawsuit from the the American Civil Liberties Union that is seeking more details of terror interrogation programs.
The ACLU has responded to the news that 92 videotapes were destroyed with calls for a “prompt finding of contempt" from the judge against the CIA.
Amrit Singh, an attorney with the ACLU and counsel on the case said to Raw Story, “The large number of video tapes destroyed confirms that this was a systemic attempt to evade court orders.”
By William Fisher, The Public Record
Lawyers for imprisoned “enemy combatant” Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri are vowing to press the Supreme Court to hear their case even though al-Marri was suddenly transferred to the civilian justice system after more than five years in solitary confinement in a military brig.
According to American Civil Liberties Union attorney Jonathan Hafetz, the case is far too loaded with potential precedent-setting issues to simply disappear “on the eve of a dispositive ruling” by the Supreme Court.
There are two principal reasons, Hafetz told us. “First, al-Marri could be detained as an “enemy combatant” again if acquitted at trial. Second, absent a Supreme Court review, this power could be used again against other legal residents or American citizens in the future, absent a definitive ruling from the high court that it is illegal.”
The Senate intelligence committee is planning an unprecedented review of the CIA's handling of captured terrorist suspects, drawing back the curtain for the first time on the agency's use of waterboarding and other interrogation tactics inside secret CIA prisons, congressional sources said yesterday.
The review, which could be announced as early as today, will use official testimony and hundreds of classified documents to piece together an authoritative account of one of the most clandestine -- and, to some former and current agency officials, darkest -- chapters of the Bush administration's anti-terrorism war, the officials said.
Top International Law Experts Call on US Administration to Reject War Paradigm, Reform Counter Terrorism Policies
This week the Eminent Jurists Panel, an independent body of experts convened by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), will present the results of a worldwide investigation into the impact of counter-terrorism laws and practices on human rights in Washington D.C.. The report Assessing Damage, Urging Action is the result of a three-year investigation that draws on sixteen hearings covering forty countries in all regions of the world.
A United Nations special investigator has concluded in a report scheduled for release Friday that foreign intelligence agents sent to question U.S.-held terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay had violated international human-rights laws.
In January, Dianne Feinstein replaced Jay Rockefeller as chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. And her first act as chair will be to coverup the Bush System of Torture. Joby Warrick of the Pentagon Post is the CIA's embedded spokesliar:
The officials described the planned inquiry as a "study" and stressed that it would not yield recommendations for possible legal proceedings.
Why not? Because the new CIA Director, Leon Panetta, wants to protect the torturers:
"I would not support, obviously, an investigation or a prosecution of those individuals" involved in the interrogation program, he said. "They did their job, they did it pursuant to the guidance that was provided them, whether you agreed or disagreed with it.
We can debate whether lower-level CIA torturers who "just followed orders" should be prosecuted. The United States emphatically rejected that defense for Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg. The fact that Dick Cheney's neo-Nazi lawyer, David Addington, instructed John Yoo to write flagrantly lawless (and hence criminal) memos "legalizing" torture does not change the moral and legal responsibility of CIA officials to refuse to follow orders to torture.