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NEW YORK – The Justice Department today repeated Bush administration claims of "state secrets" in a lawsuit against Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen DataPlan for its role in the extraordinary rendition program. Mohamed et al. v. Jeppesen was brought on behalf of five men who were kidnapped and secretly transferred to U.S.-run prisons or foreign intelligence agencies overseas where they were interrogated under torture. The Bush administration intervened in the case, inappropriately asserting the "state secrets" privilege and claiming the case would undermine national security. Oral arguments were presented today in the American Civil Liberties Union's appeal of the dismissal, and the Obama administration opted not to change the government position in the case, instead reasserting that the entire subject matter of the case is a state secret.
The following can be attributed to Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU:
Gitmo Detainee’s ‘Genitals Were Sliced With A Scalpel,’ Waterboarding ‘Far Down The List Of Things They Did’
Can we perhaps finally move beyond the stupid waterboarding discussion? Is that possible?
By David Swanson
If we can move beyond torture, do we not have a responsibility also to think for a moment about the obvious fact that torture is not the cruelest thing we do? Torture offends us, in part, because the torturer is not at risk, but neither are most pilots dropping bombs. And how exactly does the risk taken by ground troops mitigate the suffering of those they wound, kill, and terrorize? Hanging someone by the wrists offends us, and yet we might rather have it done to us than be kept in 23-hours-a-day isolation for a decade, a practice that is part of our accepted justice system. Clearly our morality is a scrambled hodge-podge of reactions that could use some improvement.
Lieutenant-Colonel Yvonne Bradley, an American military lawyer, will step through the grand entrance of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London tomorrow and demand the release of her client - a British resident who claims he was repeatedly tortured at the behest of US intelligence officials - from Guantánamo Bay. Bradley will also request the disclosure of 42 secret documents that allegedly chronicle not only how Binyam Mohamed was tortured, but may also corroborate claims that Britain was complicit in his treatment.
By PAMELA HESS
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration will not prosecute CIA officers who participated in harsh interrogations that critics say crossed the line into torture, CIA Director-nominee Leon Panetta said Friday.
Asked by The Associated Press if that was official policy, Panetta said, "That is the case."
It was the clearest statement yet on what Panetta and other Democratic officials had only strongly suggested: CIA officers who acted on legal orders from the Bush administration would not be held responsible for those policies. On Thursday, he told senators that the Obama administration had no intention of seeking prosecutions for that reason.
Panetta, in an interview with the AP after a second day of confirmation hearings with the Senate Intelligence Committee, said that he arrived at that conclusion even before he began meeting with CIA officials.
When President Obama signed executive orders to end torture and shut down Guantanamo, did he leave open the controversial rendition policy of kidnapping foreigners abroad? We host a debate between human rights attorneys Michael Ratner and Scott Horton.
Obama Supports Bush Secrecy About U.S.-Sponsored Torture
By Daphne Eviatar | Washington Independent
The Obama administration may have just failed the first big test of its promises to end unwarranted government secrecy.
According to a decision issued Wednesday by the High Court in Great Britain, the court will not publish its summary of the alleged torture of Guantanamo Bay detainee Binyam Mohamed because the U.S. government threatened to end intelligence cooperation with the British if it did.
Mohamed, a lawful U.K. resident, claims he was seized by U.S. agents in Pakistan and tortured before being “extraordinarily rendered” to Morocco to be tortured some more.
Clive Stafford Smith, director of Reprieve, the legal charity and human rights group which acted for Mohamed, said last night: "The US is under a legal duty to investigate the crime of torture, not to suppress evidence that it happened ... For the foreign secretary to give in to these illegal demands by the Bush administration is capitulation to blackmail, pure and simple."
The government was accused last night of hiding behind claims of a threat to national security to suppress evidence of torture by the CIA on a prisoner still held in Guantánamo Bay.
An unprecedented high court ruling yesterday blamed the US, with British connivance, for keeping the "powerful evidence" secret, sparking criticism from lawyers, campaigners and MPs, who claimed the government had capitulated to American bullying.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney warned that there is a “high probability” that terrorists will attempt a catastrophic nuclear or biological attack in coming years, and said he fears the Obama administration’s policies will make it more likely the attempt will succeed.
In an interview Tuesday with Politico, Cheney unyieldingly defended the Bush administration’s support for the Guantanamo Bay prison and coercive interrogation of terrorism suspects.
And he asserted that President Obama will either backtrack on his stated intentions to end those policies or put the country at risk in ways more severe than most Americans — and, he charged, many members of Obama’s own team — understand.
Call President Obama and Attorney General Holder and tell them:
1. You support the Executive Order to Shut Down Guantanamo.
2. You request that, as a first and immediate step, the Obama administration should drop the Bush administration's appeal of Judge Urbina's order to release the 17 Uighurs into the United States.
White House: 202-456-1111
Attorney General: 202-353-1555
By Jason Leopold, http://www.consortiumnews.com
Amid grassroots pressure to hold senior Bush administration officials accountable for torture and other crimes, an influential Democratic senator said President Barack Obama and Congress have no choice but to mount a serious investigation because to do nothing would invite a repetition of the abuses.
“We need to follow this thing into those dense weeds and shine a bright light into what was done,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island, said in a speech at Brown University on Saturday. “We can paper it over if we choose, but the blueprint is still lying there for others to do it all over again. It’s important that we not let this moment pass.”
Whitehouse’s remarks were made at two-day medical conference sponsored by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), which has called for an investigation into the Bush administration’s use of interrogation techniques that have been widely regarded as torture.
By Jason Leopold, The Public Record
President Barack Obama and Congress have no choice but to investigate the Bush administration’s directive to torture suspected terrorists, despite the fact that lawmakers are now dealing with more pressing issues, such as the economy and unemployment, said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse in a speech to more than 400 students Saturday.
“We need to follow this thing into those dense weeds and shine a bright light into what was done,” Whitehouse, the Democratic senator from Rhode Island, told students at Brown University. “We can paper it over if we choose, but the blueprint is still lying there for others to do it all over again. It’s important that we not let this moment pass.”
That's the case made here.
By Larry Beinhart, Smirking Chimp
Credit where credit is due. The TV show 24 is probably the most significant piece of political drama in the last decade.
On one hand, it is very likely that Barack Obama got elected because America had already had a serious black presidential candidate (one season) and two black presidents (one season each). And he was always the most decent guy in the room. Often, the only decent guy in the room. Just like Obama.
On the other hand, there's torture.
* Terrorists are going to nuke Los Angeles in three hours.
* Agent Jack Bauer has a suspect who knows where the bomb is.
* If Jack Bauer tortures the suspect, he can force him to say where it is, get there in two hours and fifty-nine minutes, stop the bomb, and save ten million people.
* What should, what must, Jack Bauer do?
That's a no-brainer. Clip the electrodes to his balls and turn on the juice.
By Julio Godoy, IPS
BERLIN, Feb 2 (IPS) - Now that former U.S. president George W. Bush is an ordinary citizen again, many legal and human rights activists in Europe are demanding that he and high-ranking members of his government be brought before justice for crimes against humanity committed in the so-called war on terror.
"Judicial clarification of the crimes against international law the former U.S. government committed is one of the most delicate issues that the new U.S. president Barack Obama will have to deal with," Wolfgang Kaleck, general secretary of the European Centre for Human and Constitutional Rights told IPS.
U.S. justice will have to "deal with the turpitudes committed by the Bush government," says Kaleck, who has already tried unsuccessfully to sue the former U.S. authorities in European courts. "And, furthermore, the U.S. government will have to pay compensation to the innocent people who were victims of these crimes."
One reason Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was forced to resign was the growing support for a bill in the House that read in its entirety:
Resolved, That the Committee on the Judiciary shall investigate fully whether sufficient grounds exist for the House of Representatives to impeach Alberto R. Gonzales, Attorney General of the United States, for high crimes and misdemeanors.
Obama lets CIA keep controversial renditions tool
By Greg Miller, Chicago Tribune
WASHINGTON — The CIA's secret prisons are being shuttered. Harsh interrogation techniques are off-limits. And Guantanamo Bay will eventually go back to being a wind-swept naval base on the southeastern corner of Cuba.
But even while dismantling these discredited programs, President Barack Obama left an equally controversial counterterrorism tool intact.
Under executive orders issued by Obama last week, the CIA still has authority to carry out what are known as renditions, or the secret abductions and transfers of prisoners to countries that cooperate with the U.S.
By John Byrne, RawStory
Attorneys for US citizen Jose Padilla -- who was convicted of material support for terrorist activities in 2007 -- say that high-level Bush Administration officials knew their client was being tortured during the time he was held an enemy combatant in a South Carolina brig, because of the command structure and that then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld employed in approving harsh interrogation tactics.
Rumsfeld approved the harsh interrogation techniques early in Bush's presidency. In Iraq, a cheat sheet titled "Interrogation Rules of Engagement," revealed that some of them required the Iraq commanding general's approval.
By Jim Naureckas, FAIR
Looking back on the good old days when we all supported torture, Richard Cohen writes today in the Washington Post (1/27/09):
"The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there." So goes an aphorism that needs to be applied to the current debate over whether those who authorized and used torture should be prosecuted. In the very different country called September 11, 2001, the answer would be a resounding no.
Back then, a Post poll gave George W. Bush an approval rating of 92 percent, which meant that almost no one thought he was on the wrong course. At the same time, questions about the viability of torture were very much in the air. Alan Dershowitz was suggesting the creation of torture warrants--permission from a court to, in effect, break some bones....
Doing so would avoid this sort of crazy discussion:
Close Torture Loopholes, Physicians' Group Urges
By William Fisher, Inter Press Service
NEW YORK - While applauding President Barack Obama's recent executive orders banning torture and other harsh interrogation practices, medical authorities are calling attention to a little-reported section of the Army's Field Manual on Interrogation that they say still allows the use of tactics that can constitute torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment under U.S. and international law.
The suspect section of the Manual is known as Annex M, which allows the use of sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, and isolation, termed "separation" in the Manual. Obama's executive orders directed all government agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), to follow the manual for interrogations.
By GEORGE KNAPP, Las Vegas City Life
Few eyebrows were raised on Sunday when an otherwise-obscure Boeing 757 slipped into McCarran airport. The airliner is known to sometimes carry a crew of 11 and can accommodate 178 passengers, but it's unlikely the plane was ferrying gamblers or CES conventioneers to our fair city.
The plane is well-known, though, to a cadre of die-hard aviation watchers who recognized the registration number -- N226G. That number speaks volumes to those who understand what it represents.
N226G is widely suspected of being one of the infamous "rendition planes." As readers know, American intelligence agencies have been waging their own secret war on terror. They use an innocuous term "rendition" to describe the tactics they employ, but there's another word that would work just as well -- torture.
From Yoo in the Wall Street Journal via Dailykos:
What is needed are the tools to gain vital intelligence, which is why, under President George W. Bush, the CIA could hold and interrogate high-value al Qaeda leaders. On the advice of his intelligence advisers, the president could have authorized coercive interrogation methods like those used by Israel and Great Britain in their antiterrorism campaigns. (He could even authorize waterboarding, which he did three times in the years after 9/11.)
"If he says it was torture, he has to do something."
ACLU Calls On Justice Department To Release Bush Administration Torture And Surveillance Memos | Press Release
Releasing Secret Legal Opinions Will Help Turn Page On Lawless Era, Group Says
In a letter sent to the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) today, the American Civil Liberties Union requested the release of secret memos that provided the legal basis for many of the Bush administration's controversial national security policies. The Justice Department continues to withhold many legal opinions, including memos purporting to allow torture and warrantless surveillance. The ACLU has previously sought the memos through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).