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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.
January 19, 2009, Washington, DC
As we continue to try and make visible the men who are in Guantanamo, over 110 people from around the country will end the nine-day Fast for Justice, and Witness Against Torture will begin the 100 Days Campaign. Those who have come to DC to participate in the fast will gather in McPherson Square at 7am today, share a simple meal, and then head into the inauguration crowds with our jumpsuits, hoods, leaflets and signs.
On Sunday, eight of us in DC joined the throngs of people going to the Inaugural concert on the Mall. Rather than sporting Obama tee shirts, flags and posters, seven of us wore orange jumpsuits and black hoods and one wore a "Shut Guantanamo" tee shirt. The reception from the celebratory crowd was quite positive, and one of the photos from our presence ended up on an AP article about Guantanamo: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2009/01/19-7
January 17, 2009
As we end day 7 of our fast, we have heard from others around the country who have been joining us for a day, for a few days, or for the duration. There is a great spirit here amongst the fasters in DC, and we have managed to be a noticeable presence around the city, something we hope to continue as the fast nears its end and the 100 Days Campaign begins.
Our daily vigil the last two days took us from DuPont Circle to the White House. For video of today’s presence, click here: http://www.100dayscampaign.org/node/231
and for a photo that appeared on the CNN political ticker, click here: LINK.
By Dave Lindorff
The calls for a reckoning for the criminals of the Bush/Cheney administration are growing by the day, as the final few days of the Bush presidency tick down, and as new evidence of their crimes keep pouring out of the deflating gas bag that was the Bush White House.
For years, the Democrats in Congress, with a few notable exceptions, have sat on their hands, allowing the ongoing destruction of the Constitution, of the US military, of the nation’s reputation, and of the rule of law, as well as of the institution of Congress itself, by a cabal of Republicans in the White House, led by Vice President Dick Cheney, who have sought to establish an executive-led government that answered only to itself.
By Ray McGovern
Outgoing CIA Director Michael Hayden is going around town telling folks he has warned President-elect Barack Obama "personally and forcefully" that if Obama authorizes an investigation into controversial activities like water boarding, "no one in Langley will ever take a risk again."
Upon learning this from what we former intelligence officers used to call an "A-1 source" (completely reliable with excellent access to the information), the thought that came to me in the face of such chutzpah was from Cicero's livid oration against the Roman usurper Cataline: "Quousque, tandem, abutere, Catalina, patientia nostra!" — or "How long, at last, O Cataline, will you abuse our patience!"
The United States may never be able to prosecute an alleged plotter of the September 11, 2001 attacks because he was tortured, a top Pentagon official said in an interview.
Susan Crawford, who is charged with deciding whether to bring Guantanamo detainees to trial, told The Washington Post that US interrogators had tortured Saudi terror suspect Mohammed al-Qahtani.
"We tortured Qahtani," she said, thus becoming the first senior Bush administration official to publicly state that a detainee was tortured.