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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).
Presentation of the new book "Witness Against Torture: The Campaign to Shut Down Guantanamo". Matt Daloisio, the author and organizer of Witness Against Torture, will speak about this movement as Witness Against Torture enters what it hopes will be Guantanamo's final chapter, the 100 Days Campaign .
The book also contains a DVD, which captures several of the key events of Witness Against Torture's work, including its 2005 journey to Guantanamo, Cuba.
When: Wednesday, January 28, 2009 at 7 PM.
Where: Church of the Savior Festival Center, 1640 Columbia Road NW, Washington DC 20009.
President Obama promises to close Guantanamo, but a court proceeding in Louisiana exposes brutality closer to home
By Jordan Flaherty
The torture of prisoners in US custody is not only found in military prisons in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo. If President Obama is serious about ending US support for torture, he can start here in Louisiana.
The Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola is already notorious for a range of offenses, including keeping former Black Panthers Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox, in solitary for over 36 years. Now a death penalty trial in St. Francisville, Louisiana has exposed widespread and systemic abuse at the prison. Even in the context of eight years of the Bush administration, the behavior documented at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola stands out both for its brutality and for the significant evidence that it was condoned and encouraged from the very top of the chain of command.
U.S. lawmakers considering the closure of the controversial Guantanamo Bay detention center will likely be looking at a rehabilitation program in Saudi Arabia that focuses on religious re-education for captured jihadists.
President Barack Obama last week issued executive orders relating to Guantanamo, including one requiring that the facility at a U.S. Naval base in Cuba be closed within a year.
Now some analysts are asking not only if intelligence agencies will be able to get the information they need to keep America safe -- but also where the prisoners will eventually end up.
The answer to the second part of this question may lie partly in the Saudi rehab program that analysts in that country say has helped deal a big blow to al Qaeda.
As promised, President Obama has halted the Guantánamo Bay military commissions. He is on track to shutter the prison camp and will likely transfer many of the detainees to military prisons at home.
Guantánamo marks a dismal episode in American history, signifying seven years of tension with American tradition, the Constitution, international standards of humane treatment, habeas corpus, and the rule of law. It brings to mind the entirety of Bush’s detention policy—citizens imprisoned without trial, immigrants jailed for months without due process, hundreds indiscriminately rounded up in Iraq and Afghanistan, and “black sites” and foreign dictatorships where captives endure brutal interrogation under the auspices of “extraordinary rendition.”
The Obama administration is reluctant to turn over too many rocks in the Bush administration’s conduct in the War on Terror. Obama has pledged to reach a post-partisan nirvana, and Republicans could condemn any investigation of Bush administration abuse of the republic as a partisan witch-hunt. Also, the Obama administration has a conflict of interest in pursuing investigations and prosecutions against Bush administration officials because now that Obama is president, he may not want to entirely discredit Bush’s precedents, which significantly expanded executive powers.
CNN Exclusive: "Clear Evidence Rumsfeld Ordered Torture"
6:23 mins. This video is from CNNs Newsroom, broadcast Jan. 26, 2009.
UN Official: Clear evidence Rumsfeld ordered torture
By David Edwards
United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak told CNNs Rick Sanchez that the U.S. had an obligation to investigate whether Bush administration officials ordered torture. Nowak believes that there is already enough evidence to prosecute Donald Rumsfeld.
We have clear evidence. In our report that we sent to the United Nations, we made it clear that former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld clearly authorized torture methods and he was told at that time by Alberto Mora, the legal council of the Navy, Mr. Secretary, what you are actual ordering here amounts to torture. So, there we have the clear evidence that Mr. Rumsfeld knew what he was doing but, nevertheless, he ordered torture.
Will Obama Administration Break From Bush on Extraordinary Rendition?
By Daphne Eviatar
President Obama’s sweeping reversals of torture and state secret policies are about to face an early test.
After Obama issued an executive order and two presidential memoranda last week proclaiming a new transparency in the workings of the federal government, advocates for open government were thrilled.
“That was an order we were really looking for,” said Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights.
The test of those commitments will come soon in key court cases involving CIA “black sites” and torture that the Bush administration had quashed by claiming they would reveal state secrets and endanger national security. Legal experts say that the Bush Department of Justice used what’s known as the “state secrets privilege” – created originally as a narrow evidentiary privilege for sensitive national security information — as a broad shield to protect the government from exposure of its own misconduct.
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Obama:
We write collectively as human rights organizations that work on behalf of individuals secretly detained by, or at the direction of, the United States since 2001. These individuals have been detained in secret overseas Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) prisons and have been subject to an enforced disappearance for which the United States bears legal and moral responsibility.
Accordingly, we strongly welcome and applaud your Executive Order of January 22, 2009, in which you order the CIA to close current detention facilities and to not operate any such facilities in the future. This is a significant step forward for human rights, transparency and the rule of law.
by Linda Milazzo
President Barack Obama of the Capitol of Washington, it is my most sincere honor to introduce you to Citizen Bob Alexander of the State of Washington, who by the standards you have set to 'give our all' has valiantly answered your call. In fact, Citizen Bob answered that call long before you were President. He seized his responsibilities gladly, not grudgingly, just as you asked at your inauguration. And now President Obama, Citizen Bob and millions more, would like you to hear THEIR call.
Before I tell you more about Citizen Bob, allow me to remind you of a few of the inspirational words you delivered at your inauguration. Here they are in a 31 second clip:
In one of his first actions as president, Barack Obama announced today that Guantánamo will be closed, the secret CIA prisons will be shut down, and torture and other “enhanced interrogation techniques” will be prohibited. Much work remains to be done to see through the vision set forth today, but President Obama has begun his administration by sending a clear signal to friend and foe alike that America is back and ready once again to lead the community of nations toward a future that is both more secure and more free.
Is not just academic. Read this:
President Obama's plans to expeditiously determine the fates of about 245 terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and quickly close the military prison there were set back last week when incoming legal and national security officials - barred until the inauguration from examining classified material on the detainees - discovered that there were no comprehensive case files on many of them.
Before President Obama can do, he must undo. Repairing the damage that George W. Bush did to the nation’s values, honor and pride will be complicated and, at times, politically inconvenient. But nothing is more urgent, and nothing will ultimately reap more benefits at home and abroad.
The executive orders that Barack Obama signed Thursday concerning the detention of terrorism suspects are a beginning. Much more remains to be undone.
By David Swanson
The Center for Constitutional Rights has expressed concern that President Obama's executive order banning torture may contain a loophole. But no president has any right to declare torture legal or illegal, with or without loopholes. And if we accept that presidents have such powers, even if our new president does good with them, then loopholes will be the least of our worries.
Torture is, and has long been, illegal in every case, without exception. It is banned by our Bill of Rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and Title 18, U.S. Code, Section 2340A. Nothing any president can do can change this or unchange it, weaken it or strengthen it in any way.
National Religious Campaign Against Torture Lauds President Obama for Issuing Executive Order Ending Torture
Statement from National Religious Campaign Against Torture President, Linda Gustitus:
President Obama asked this country during his campaign to join him in changing the world. By requiring the CIA to abide by the restrictions in the Army Field Manual in conducting interrogations of detainees, by closing the CIA’s secret prisons, and by providing the International Committee of the Red Cross access to all US-held detainees, he has already changed the world with respect to America’s use of torture. He has rejected the use of torture as an interrogation technique and allowed the United States to again find its moral bearing.
As President Barack Obama reverses some of ex-President George W. Bush’s most controversial “war on terror” policies, a consensus seems to be building among Democratic congressional leaders that further investigations are needed into Bush’s use of torture and other potential crimes.
One interesting passage in President Obama's order limiting interrogation techniques lays out the laws that interrogators are subject to, in addition to the Army Field Manual. Here's the passage:
By Dave Lindorff
As someone who has spent nearly three frustrating years actively advocating the impeachment of President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney for their many crimes and abuses of power, I have to admit that not only did it not happen, but that the likelihood of their being indicted and brought to trial now that they have left office is exceedingly slim.