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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.
Prosecutors Prepare Charges Against Final 'Enemy Combatant' in U.S.
By Carrie Johnson and Julie Tate | Washington Post
Federal prosecutors are preparing to charge Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri with providing material support to al-Qaeda terrorists in a groundbreaking move that would put the alleged sleeper agent under the jurisdiction of the U.S. court system, according to sources familiar with the issue.
Indicting Marri in a federal court marks a significant change from the policies of the Bush administration, which had argued that al-Marri should be tried in a military tribunal proceeding and that he could not use American courts to contest his legal status.
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.