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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).
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.”