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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.
This week, I released "Reining in the Imperial Presidency," a 486-page report detailing the abuses and excesses of the Bush administration and recommending steps to address them. Arthur Schlesinger Jr. popularized the term "imperial presidency" in the 1970s to describe an executive who had assumed more power than the Constitution allows and circumvented the checks and balances fundamental to our three-branch system of government. Until recently, the Nixon administration seemed to represent a singular embodiment of the idea. Unfortunately, it is clear that the threat of the imperial presidency lives on and, indeed, reached new heights under George W. Bush.
Mohammed Jawad and Obama's efforts to suspend military commissions
By Glenn Greenwald | Salon.com
This is a very good and important step -- not only because of its substance, but also because it was something Obama did almost immediately, even before his first full day in office:
In one of its first actions, the Obama administration instructed military prosecutors late Tuesday to seek a 120-day suspension of legal proceedings involving detainees at the naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba -- a clear break with the approach of the outgoing Bush administration. . . .
Such a request may not be automatically granted by military judges, and not all defense attorneys may agree to such a suspension. But the move is a first step toward closing a detention facility and system of military trials that became a worldwide symbol of the Bush administration's war on terrorism and its unyielding attitude toward foreign and domestic critics. . . .
The motion prompted a clear sense of disappointment among some of the military officials here who had tried to make a success of the system, despite charges that the military tribunals were a legal netherworld. Military prosecutors and other commission officials here were told not to speak to the news media, according to a Pentagon official.
"It's over; I don't want to say any more," said one official involved in the process.
Freed Gitmo prisoner sues U.S. for unlawful detention
From Reza Sayah | CNN
Muhammad Saad Iqbal is a free man after serving more than six years at the U.S. military’s detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba — without any charge.
Now, Iqbal is suing the U.S. government for unlawful detention.
“I am angry in my heart,” Iqbal said in a recent interview. “It’s easy for the U.S. government to say, ‘There are no charges found and he’s free.’ “But who will be responsible for seven years of my life?”
His attorney in Washington, D.C., is suing the U.S. government, on behalf of Iqbal, through the federal court system.
Official: UN may prosecute Bush administration, regardless of US action
By David Edwards | Raw Story
The UN's special torture rapporteur called on the US Tuesday to pursue former president George W. Bush and defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld for torture and bad treatment of Guantanamo prisoners.
"Judicially speaking, the United States has a clear obligation" to bring proceedings against Bush and Rumsfeld, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak said, in remarks to be broadcast on Germany's ZDF television Tuesday evening.
He noted Washington had ratified the UN convention on torture which required "all means, particularly penal law" to be used to bring proceedings against those violating it.
WITNESS AGAINST TORTURE PRAISES EXECUTIVE ORDERS ON GUANTANAMO AND TORTURE; CALLS ON OBAMA ADMIN. TO TAKE ADDITIONAL STEPS
WASHINGTON, January 22—Today, Witness Against Torture — the organization that first marched to Guantanamo in 2005 to protest the prison there — applauds President Barack Obama's executive orders to shut down Guantanamo and the CIA "black sites," and to end the "enhanced interrogation techniques" used by the CIA at Guantanamo and other prisons. According to the Guantanamo order, "The detention facilities at Guantanamo for individuals covered by this order shall be closed as soon as practicable, and no later than one year from the date of this order."
"...conduct a comprehensive review of the lawful options available to the Federal Government with respect to the apprehension, detention, trial, transfer, release, or other disposition of individuals captured or apprehended in connection with armed conflicts and counter-terrorism operations, and to identify such options as are consistent with the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and the interests of justice...."
"...All executive directives, orders, and regulations inconsistent with this order, including but not limited to those issued to or by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) from September 11, 2001, to January 20, 2009, concerning detention or the interrogation of detained individuals, are revoked to the extent of their inconsistency with this order...."
January 22, 2009, New York – In response to President Obama’s signing of new executive orders today, the Center for Constitutional Rights issued the following statement:
We welcome the beginning of the end of lawlessness. Under the previous administration, executive orders became synonymous with secrecy, torture and attempts to override the Constitution. It is genuinely uplifting to see them now used to set things right. President Obama’s orders today are an important first step in restoring the rule of law; let us take the next steps with great care not to open the way for a return to the darkness of these last years.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on US-Run Detention Centers: Hold Abusers Accountable, Review Prisoners' Rights
President Obama signed executive orders Thursday directing the Central Intelligence Agency to shut what remains of its network of secret prisons and ordering the closing of the Guantánamo detention camp within a year, government officials said.
The orders, which are the first steps in undoing detention policies of former President George W. Bush, rewrite American rules for the detention of terrorism suspects. They require an immediate review of the 245 detainees still held at the naval base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to determine if they should be transferred, released or prosecuted.
Top UN official calls for indictment of Bush and Rumsfeld
The incoming American President Barack Obama is legally obligated to prosecute Bush and Rumsfeld because the US has ratified the UN Convention on Torture and has also recognized it as legally binding, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak said.
The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak urged the indictment of outgoing US President George W. Bush and his former secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld for their role in the torture and abuse of prisoners in the Guantanamo prison camp.
"The evidence is on the table," Nowak told German television Tuesday.
He held Bush and Rumsfeld responsible for the brutal interrogation methods and the inhuman treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo.
"One should not quibble, it was torture," Nowak stressed.
David Iglesias has been vindicated, well, to some extent.
The former U.S. prosecutor from New Mexico, one of the U.S. attorneys fired supposedly for non-political reasons, has a new job: Navy JAG. Specifically, Igelsias is working as a Judge Advocate General for the cases in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
As for Igleias, he seems very happy with the change: "It is the most significant set of orders I've had in my 24 years of Navy service," said Iglesias to KRQE-TV, Albuquerque.
But the Obama Administration gets a clearly qualified individual to do an unthankable task in a difficult situation, and gets to hold his hiring up to the Bush Administration, and essentially say, "He's a good employee; you shouldn't say otherwise."
By LARA JAKES and DAVID ESPO, AP
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama plans to sign an executive order Thursday to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center within a year and halt military trials of terror suspects held there, a senior administration official said. The executive order was one of three expected imminently on how to interrogate and prosecute al-Qaida, Taliban or other foreign fighters believed to threaten the United States.
The official said the president would sign the order Thursday, fulfilling his campaign promise to shut down a facility that critics around the world say violates domestic and international detainee rights. The aide spoke on condition of anonymity because the event has not yet been announced.
Hours after taking office, U.S. President Barack Obama ordered military prosecutors in the Guantanamo war crimes tribunals to ask for a 120-day halt in all pending cases and a judge granted the request on Wednesday in the case against a young Canadian.
When defense lawyers did not oppose the move, a judge froze the proceedings against Canadian Omar Khadr, who was captured at age 15 and is accused of murdering a U.S. soldier with a grenade during a firefight in Afghanistan.
Another judge was expected to rule as early as Wednesday in the death penalty case against five prisoners accused of plotting the September 11 hijacked plane attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.
Forget the outgoing President’s lame, reality-defying farewell speech, and Dick Cheney’s last-ditch attempts to claim that the administration in which he served as Vice President never engaged in torture. The Bush era came to an end last Wednesday when, in one short interview, Susan J. Crawford, the senior Pentagon official overseeing the Military Commissions at Guantánamo — the novel system of trials for terror suspects that was conceived in the wake of the 9/11 attacks — condemned the Bush administration’s “War on Terror” detention policies, and paved the way for criminal proceedings against senior administration officials, more acutely than anyone had managed before her.