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The Obama administration told a judge late Monday that it will continue to withhold information regarding past detainee policies for national security reasons, a decision assailed by the American Civil Liberties Union, which had been seeking Bush-era documents “including a presidential directive authorizing CIA ‘black sites,’” CIA inspector general records, Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel documents about the CIA's use of "enhanced interrogation techniques.”
In the ACLU’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuits, U.S. District Court Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein of the Southern District of New York had ordered the Obama administration to either turn over various documents pertaining to detainee policies by August 31 or provide justification for withholding them. Read more.
Berkeley Demonstration Against War Criminal Yoo Tomorrow, Thursday, Sept. 3, 2009, Noon-1 PM at Sproul Plaza
More Protest at UC Berkeley: Demonstrators Call Law Professor a War Criminal | Press Release
Event: “Information in Action" (Speak Out Against Torture – Fire John Yoo!)
Where: UC Berkeley, Sproul Plaza
When: Noon to 1 PM, Thursday September 3, 2009
BERKELEY– As debate flares over the newly-released CIA Inspector General’s report from Dick Cheney and the halls of Congress to the radio talk shows, World Can’t Wait has announced another protest at the UC Berkeley campus on Thursday, September 3 to challenge UC’s employment of former Bush administration lawyer John Yoo. World Can’t Wait will be joined by other protesters from religious and progressive organizations; they will again call for Yoo to be fired, disbarred, and prosecuted for war crimes as “the legal architect of the Bush-Cheney torture state.”
The “information in action” event on Sproul Plaza will begin at noon.
In August on the first day of classes at UC Berkeley Law, a press conference and protest drew over 60 people to the steps of Boalt Hall, where Yoo currently teaches Civil Procedures. At that press conference, prominent lawyers and psychologists representing four generations of alumni of UC and its law schools denounced the presence of John Yoo on the UC faculty. [Audio of statements by attorneys Dan Siegel, Anne Weills, Sharon Adams, Ann Fagan Ginger, Marc-Tizon Gonzalez, and psychologist Ruth Fallenbaum can be found here.
By Linda Milazzo
It's a GREAT DAY in America when heralds of hate, specifically Glenn Beck and Michelle Malkin, are booted from their Amazon best seller slots on DAY ONE of the publication of progressive leader David Swanson's breakthrough tome, DAYBREAK - now at Number One on Amazon's non-fiction best seller list. From this terrific response to Swanson's new book arises my sincere hope that DAYBREAK attracts a good many of Beck and Malkin's readers, so they, too, will have the opportunity to absorb the depth of information and dedication to solutions that David Swanson offers.
Former U.S. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales on Tuesday defended the decision of his current successor, Eric H. Holder Jr., to investigate alleged prisoner abuse by CIA interrogators over President Obama's desire to look forward.
"As chief prosecutor of the United States, he should make the decision on his own, based on the facts, then inform the White House," said Mr. Gonzales, who was appointed to the post by President George W. Bush in 2005 and resigned in 2007.
Mr. Gonzales also said Bush administration lawyers clearly defined what interrogation techniques were legal and the few who went beyond the rules should be investigated, despite the so-called chilling effect it might have on future intelligence-gathering. Read more, hear audio clip.
Government Withholds Key Torture Documents In ACLU Lawsuit
CIA Defends Interrogations Tactics And Secrecy | Press Release | September 1, 2009
NEW YORK – The government has said it will continue to withhold dozens of documents related to the treatment of detainees in U.S. custody overseas. The Justice Department was facing an August 31 deadline to release the documents, including a presidential directive authorizing CIA "black sites" as well as CIA inspector general (IG) records and documents from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) regarding the CIA's use of "enhanced interrogation techniques," in response to two Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.
U.S. District Court Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein of the Southern District of New York ordered the government to turn over the documents by August 31 or else provide justification for continuing to withhold them. In a filing late Monday, the CIA said it will not release the documents, claiming that disclosing details about the enhanced interrogation program would harm national security.
"The CIA's justification for withholding the documents is entirely incompatible with the Obama administration's stated commitment to ending torture and restoring governmental transparency. On the one hand, President Obama has publicly recognized that torture undermines the rule of law and America's standing in the world, but on the other, the CIA continues to argue in court that it cannot disclose information about its torture techniques because it would jeopardize the CIA's interrogation program," said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project. "The CIA's arguments are utterly disconnected from the Obama administration's stated positions. The agency seems to be disregarding altogether the important policy changes that President Obama announced immediately after he took office."
Iranian Students March Toward Democracy, Freedom and Equality and Neither the Mullahs Nor Ahmadinejad Can Stop Them
IRANIAN STUDENTS MARCH TOWARD DEMOCRACY, FREEDOM AND EQUALITY AND NEITHER THE MULLAH'S NOR AHMADINEJAD CAN STOP THEM
By Dana Jill Simpson
On Saturday, August 29, 2009, the Emory University School of Law and a group of Iranian students in Georgia hosted an event called "Iran 2009 Election Seminar, Precursors, Observations and Consequences." The event started with Abdullah Ahmed Al-Na'im, who is a professor at the university, introducing Shirin Ebadi. All there were told Ms. Ebadi is an Iranian lawyer, human rights activist and founder of the Society for Protecting the Rights of Children and the Defenders of the Human Right Center in Iran. She was also the first female judge in the history of Iran but was removed after the 1979 revolution. In 2003, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts regarding democracy and human rights with a focus on women's, children's and refugee rights. She was the first Iranian to ever receive the Nobel Peace Prize. She is known to the students of Iran as Professor Ebadi as she is a law professor at the University of Tehran. As a professor and as a lawyer she is well respected throughout Iran for having spoken out and represented political dissidents, women who are about to be stoned and children who are being executed under current laws in Iran. She is probably the most beloved leader in Iran because she has daringly taken on the government and won on many occasions.
After being introduced, Shirin Ebadi stepped up to the podium. She was small in stature but what caught my eye about her first was she was not wearing a veil, as she would have to do in Iran but instead had her beautiful reddish brown hair coiffed into a beautiful hairstyle. She was wearing a bright yellow suit and she radiated the warmth of a woman who fully knew where she was headed. She softly spoke to the crowd at first and she informed the audience that she was not here to pick a political party but was here for basic human rights. She said, "I hope one day we will all live in a world that has regards for human rights."
The extent to which American physicians and psychologists violated human rights and betrayed the ethical standards of their professions by designing, implementing, and legitimizing a worldwide torture program is greater than previously known, according to a report by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR).
A team of PHR doctors authored the new white paper, Aiding Torture: Health Professionals' Ethics and Human Rights Violations Demonstrated in the May 2004 Inspector General's Report. The report details how the CIA relied on medical expertise to rationalize and carry out abusive and unlawful interrogations. It also refers to aggregate collection of data on detainees' reaction to interrogation methods. PHR is concerned that this data collection and analysis may amount to human experimentation and calls for more investigation on this point. If confirmed, the development of a research protocol to assess and refine the use of the waterboard or other techniques would likely constitute a new, previously unknown category of ethical violations committed by CIA physicians and psychologists.
"Medical doctors and psychologists colluded with the CIA to keep observational records about waterboarding, which approaches unethical and unlawful human experimentation," says PHR Medical Advisor and lead report author Scott Allen, MD. For example, "Interrogators would place a cloth over a detainee's face to block breathing and induce feelings of fear, helplessness, and a loss of control. A doctor would stand by to monitor and calibrate this physically and psychologically harmful act, which amounts to torture. It is profoundly unsettling to learn of the central role of health professionals in laying a foundation for US government lawyers to rationalize the CIA's illegal torture program."
On August 28, 1963, during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and delivered one of the most famous speeches in world history, "I Have A Dream." What has troubled me over the years is how Dr. King, the visionary, prophet, and revolutionary's vision, action, and ultimate sacrifice have been hijacked, compromised, and relegated to being those of just a dreamer.
Dreamers are safe. People are comfortable with dreamers. Why? To be a dreamer you must be in a restful state, usually asleep. Dreamers are comfortable in that sleep state. Dreamers are docile, easy to manipulate, and non-threatening. To cast Dr. King in the light of a dreamer allows people to be convinced that action resulting from clear vision is not necessary. It allows the oppressed to be fooled into being patient and non-revolutionary; yours will come by-and-by.
We hear those powerful words "I Have a Dream ..." What many fail to realize is that Dr. King was no dreamer. He was a visionary, not some abstract thinker or philosopher. He was a prophet and a true revolutionary. Read more.
Homophobia arguably manifests itself in the worst form of discrimination in the military, surpassing even racism. Instead of enabling recruits to vanquish their prejudices and strengthening the individual and the collective spirit, all military training seems to be geared toward invoking the darkest elements in human nature - fear, hatred, pettiness, insecurity and similar aberrations. Under normal conditions, such an orientation legitimizes unacceptable behavior; under harsh and hostile conditions, it makes beasts of men. It is immaterial whether one is at the perpetrating end or the receiving end of unjust behavior. Of greater significance is the general air of violence and inequality that gets normalized in the process.
As the occupation of Afghanistan increasingly leads the military to search for more boots on the ground, homosexual soldiers who are beginning to resist the treatment they are receiving in the military are slowly becoming yet another hurdle the overstretched military faces.
As the Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) policy instituted under President Bill Clinton continues, more soldiers are beginning to resist this repressive and discriminatory practice. Many, like New York Army National Guard member Jennifer Hogg, have found it a reason to begin questioning their involvement in the military.
"Being a lesbian on 9/11 is what initially led me to begin to question my involvement in the military and the military's involvement in the world," Hogg explained to Truthout, "If on 9/11, I did not have the freedom to hug my girlfriend goodbye before we left as a unit for NYC, then what freedom was I protecting? What freedom could we offer to the world if we treat it so restrictively based on who a person falls in love with?" Read more.
If you can't see the whole thing, see it larger online here.
Bad Advice: Bush’s Lawyers in the War on Terror
by Harold H. Bruff | Reviewed by Stephen F. Rohde | Los Angeles Lawyer September 2009
In William Shakespeare’s historical drama, King Henry V asks his trusted advisers, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, whether “with right and conscience” he may make a claim to the crown of France. In their response, the king receives the advice he wants, instead of the advice he needs, and his ensuing invasion of France leads at first to victory but in the end to great tragedy.
Harold Bruff, author of a new and engrossing book Bad Advice: Bush’s Lawyers in the War on Terror, uses
the test of “right and conscience” to judge the wisdom and ethics of the lawyers who advised President George W. Bush. Did John Ashcroft, Alberto Gonzales, John Yoo, David Addington, Jay Bybee, and others at the Justice Department and in the White House meet the fundamental standard of the American Bar Association to “exercise independent professional judgment and render candid advice”? Based on his sober and comprehensive study, Bruff convincingly concludes that to a man, “[i]gnoring the need for detachment
and lacking a willingness to consider constitutional claims of the other branches, President Bush’s lawyers manipulated the law for political ends.”
After tracing the history of the relationship between presidents and their lawyers from George Washington to the present, with particular emphasis on critical episodes when national security was at stake, Bruff, who himself served as a senior attorney-adviser to the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) at the Justice Department from 1979 to 1981, focuses on key decisions made by the Bush administration since September 11, 2001.
SPRING VALLEY, CA -- A dozen ultra-rich protesters pulled up in their stretch limo and stole the show at a Town Hall Meeting hosted by Congresswoman Susan Davis (D-CA) in Spring Valley, California on Saturday, August 29, 2009.
The group, which reportedly consisted of individuals made incredibly rich on US health care industry profits, seemed to delight in engaging with other protesters in the Free Expression Zone. And the super-rich protesters were a hit from the moment they entered the meeting, as cheers and a steadily rising applause indicated strong support from many of the meeting's hundreds of attendees.
The well-off protesters waved signs and urged everyone to consider the importance of continuing to spend wastefully on health care. "We also wanted to thank all of the average folks who put our profits ahead of their own interests by opposing health care reform," said Bitsy Hart Faruthers, a member of the group. "Thank you. And please, for my sake, keep it up!"
Bitsy said her group opposes health care reform. Instead, the group encourages Congress and the public to continue putting a priority on protecting the interests of health care industry profiteers.
For more information on the Billionaire's heavily-funded campaign, visit BillionairesForWealthCare.com
Updated with new pics below the fold!
By Dave Lindorff
The way I see it, President Obama has a couple of months to turn his failing administration around.
The war in Afghanistan is going south, and within a couple of weeks, his General William Westmoreland, Gen. Stanley McCrystal, will be coming to him asking for more troops. Things are getting hairier in Iraq too.
His signature health care initiative is foundering, with Republicans working in lockstep to see to it that it fails.
Pressure is mounting for an honest probe into the criminality of the prior administration in its authorization and promotion of torture against captives--most of them innocent--in the Bush/Cheney "war" on terror.
The stock market, which by climbing back 50% from its collapse and the bottom it hit on March 9, gave the president a breather, is showing signs of exhaustion, and is likely to start sinking again, as investors realize that there is no end in sight for the recession in the real economy.
America's Tortured Past
By Stephen Lendman
On August 24, an ACLU press release stated:
In response to two Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits, "The government today handed over to the American Civil Liberties Union (one of dozens of documents comprising an unprecedented 130,000 previously secret pages, including) a detailed official description of the CIA's interrogation program."
Referring to a heavily redacted December 2004 report (originally commissioned by CIA director George Tenet) detailing torture of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan, it "describes the use of abusive interrogation techniques including forced nudity, sleep deprivation, dietary manipulation and stress positions." Far worse ones were understated or redacted entirely.
According to Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project:
Ridge, Cheney Assail Holder's Decision to Investigate CIA Officials
Bush-Era Officials Such as Cheney Say Justice Department's Investigation into Interrogation Techniques is Wrong
By Jake Tapper | ABCNews.com
Ridge backed Cheney this morning on "Good Morning America," saying, "I think he's right, pure and simple. It's wrong, it's chilling, and it's inappropriate."
Even though Ridge said he believed waterboarding was wrong and "wasn't the appropriate way for America to be conducting itself," the former Pennsylvania governor said that "to suggest four or five years later what they [CIA officers] did was criminal -- I think that's criminal."
Officials from the Bush administration this week entered the debate over national security, although President Barack Obama's administration was not the only one criticized.
While former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge's new book, "The Test of Our Times: America Under Siege ... And How We Can Be Safe Again," raised questions about whether some national security decisions by various Bush administration officials were based on political, and not counterterrorism, concerns, former Vice President Dick Cheney took to the airwaves to assail Obama's commitment to making the nation safe.
Cheney Sunday told his preferred venue, Fox News, that Attorney General Eric Holder's decision to allow a preliminary review into whether any CIA officers crossed the line in its interrogations of detainees was "outrageous." Read more.
"Dick Cheney has shown through the years, frankly, a disrespect for the Constitution, for sharing of information with Congress, respect for the law, and I'm not surprised that he is upset about this," Kerry said.
Also speaking on "This Week," Liz Cheney, the former vice president's daughter, told Stephanopoulos that the Bush administration looked into the way terror suspects were treated and found no reason to prosecute CIA officials.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney, who has been a fierce critic of the Obama administration, today attacked Attorney General Eric Holder's decision to investigate whether the CIA abused terror suspects during the Bush years.
"I think it's an outrageous political act that will do great damage long-term to our capacity to be able to have people take on difficult jobs, make difficult decisions without having to worry about what the next administration's going to say about it," Cheney said on Fox News.
On ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., retorted that Cheney couldn't be expected to support an investigation of the treatment of terror suspects. Read more.
Fox News Sunday's Chris Wallace was able to get an important, and clarifying, admission from Vice President Dick Cheney in an interview that was broadcast today. Wallace mentions a list of techniques that CIA agents are accused of using in violation of the legal guidance that the Bush Administration established. These include threatening a naked detainee with a power drill and a gun, and staging mock executions. Then Wallace asks Cheney this question:
WALLACE: So even these cases where they went beyond the specific legal authorization, you're OK with it. CHENEY: I am.
There is not much nuance there. Cheney is saying he does not object to the rogue behavior of CIA agents who went beyond their legal mandate. (In the same interview, Cheney says that the Bush Justice Department found there was nothing "improper or illegal" in this behavior, a determination that is now under review by the Obama Justice Department.) Speaking of the interrogation program as a whole, Cheney says, "It was good policy. It was properly carried out. It worked very, very well."
Power drills and mock executions are not the only extralegal techniques that CIA employees are alleged to have committed. One CIA contractor, according to the CIA Inspector General, is alleged to have beaten an Afghan detainee to death with a large metal flashlight and his foot. Released criminal records show that another CIA employee was interrogating a detainee at Abu Ghraib prison in a stress position with a bag over his head, when the detainee died of asphyxiation. Assuming that Cheney did not misspeak, his statement to Wallace suggests that he believes these deaths are "OK' given the circumstances. Read more.
A week ago, two convicted mass murderers leaped back into public consciousness as news coverage of their stories briefly intersected. One was freed from prison, continuing to proclaim his innocence, and his release was vehemently denounced in the United States as were the well-wishers who welcomed him home. The other expressed his contrition, after almost 35 years living in his country in a state of freedom, and few commented.
When Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, the Libyan sentenced in 2001 to 27 years in prison for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, was released from incarceration by the Scottish government on "compassionate grounds," a furor erupted. On August 22nd, ABC World News with Charles Gibson featured a segment on outrage over the Libyan's release. It was aired shortly before a report on an apology offered by William Calley, who, in 1971 as a young lieutenant, was sentenced to life in prison for the massacre of civilians in the Vietnamese village of My Lai.
After al-Megrahi, who served eight years in prison, arrived home to a hero's welcome in Libya, officials in Washington expressed their dismay. To White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, it was "outrageous and disgusting"; to President Barrack Obama, "highly objectionable." Calley, who admitted at trial to killing Vietnamese civilians personally, but served only three years of house arrest following an intervention by President Richard Nixon, received a standing ovation from the Kiwanis Club of Greater Columbus, Georgia, the city where he lived for years following the war. (He now resides in Atlanta.) For him, there was no such uproar, and no one, apparently, thought to ask either Gibbs or the president for comment, despite the eerie confluence of the two men and their fates. Read more.
"Billionaires for Wealthcare" Steal the Show in San Diego
Congresswoman Susan Davis had a town hall in spring Valley Ca yesterday. The venue changed from a library to a gymnasium due to the number who rsvp'd. She scheduled only 1, yes, one hour to respond to the 1500 or so who attended. The temperature soared to well over 100 degress. We Billionaires enjoyed the air conditioned comfort of our Escalade Limo both before and after our appearance.
Approaching the venue, we saw many anti Obama messages, bumper stickers, lots of patriots wrapped in flags and flag clothing, an indicator of things to come. It was clear they did not attend to discuss healthcare. Staff handed out very detailed fact sheets with the most common questions asked and answered. These were mostly left on the floor and never even opened. Questions were done by lottery and most were not questions at all but rather long angry accusatory statements. When a real question was asked, the questioner was shouted down and the congresswoman was called a LIAR among other things.
Before the main event the hall was taken by surprise by BILLIONAIRES FOR WEALTHCARE! The San Diego troupe, dressed to the nines, entered the hall with great panache, blowing kisses to the poor people. We told them to keep the status quo, we like being rich! Go across the border and get your healthcare in Mexico, for heavens sake! There was some confusion as the no reform crowd did not know what to do, they were flummoxed about our message at first. Smart people "got it" right away.
Billionaires is a great idea and I urge you to try it in your own communities. You only need 10-12 people, vintage thrift stores for dress, collect for limo or use luxury cars for drop off. Ta Ta!
Americans have long supported a universal national health care plan. Typical of this support was a June 12th poll that showed 72% of Americans in favor of a government administered health insurance plan that would compete with private health insurance plans, compared to 20% who opposed. A little over a month later, due to a barrage of insurance company propaganda, the margin of support for that statement was down to 66% in favor to 27% opposed. But nevertheless, American support for a universal national health care plan, as shown by polls worded in numerous different ways, has been consistent over at least two decades.
How then does one explain a July 2009 opinion poll indicating that 42% of Americans believe that President Obama's health plan is a bad idea, compared to only 36% who say that it's a good idea? That answer is a combination of corporate propaganda and misleading polling. Most important, we are bombarded by the claim that government will ration health care, thus resulting in so-called death panels, while ignoring the fact that health care is already rationed by private health insurance companies, and that a government plan would make health care available to millions of Americans who currently have very limited access to it. Read more.
To the credit of opponents of health-care reform, the lies and exaggerations they're spreading are not made up out of whole cloth—which makes the misinformation that much more credible. Instead, because opponents demand that everyone within earshot (or e-mail range) look, say, "at page 425 of the House bill!," the lies take on a patina of credibility. Take the claim in one chain e-mail that the government will have electronic access to everyone's bank account, implying that the Feds will rob you blind. The 1,017-page bill passed by the House Ways and Means Committee does call for electronic fund transfers—but from insurers to doctors and other providers. There is zero provision to include patients in any such system. Five other myths that won't die:
You'll have no choice in what health benefits you receive. Read more.
On the same day as Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s funeral, protesters rallied in support of health care reform in Times Square. Slide Show: Health Care Rally in Times Square
Recovering from our local fight against the proposed industrial gravel mine and an early victory (We could get used to that!) Backbone Campaign is regrouping to marshal our resources for a variety of other regional and national campaigns, but our coffers are empty and we've had to reduce staff time to keep the doors open.
The most pressing call for our imagery is the national effort to ensure access to quality healthcare for all Americans regardless of ability to pay. The Backbone Campaign has since its inception supported the HR676, Medicare for All bill.
We'd LOVE to send Count Bleed-Ya-Dry and the other great props built by us and Single Payer Vashon across the country to make appearances in front of Congressional offices, Big Pharma, and Insurance Industry offices. Ideally, this would happen along the same route as the Mad As Hell Doctors Tour, doing pre-publicity for their tour.
Here's the problem:
PROSECUTING BUSH AND CHENEY COULD PREVENT FUTURE CRIMES
By Sherwood Ross
Allowing today’s leaders to get away with war crimes will send a dangerous signal to future leaders that they can do the same.
“The battle to impose criminal responsibility upon them (Bush, Cheney, etc.) is not for today alone but to safeguard a vast future,” points out Lawrence Velvel, dean of the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover.
“Otherwise the future will be threatened by Executive lawlessness undertaken because of knowledge that leaders need fear no personal consequences,” he writes in his recently published “America 2008”(Doukathsan Press).
“Today, there is no accountability for our leaders, nor do their own families face death on the front lines as occurred during the Civil War when several Cabinet officials’ sons or brothers faced battle and World WII when one of FDR’s sons participated in extraordinarily dangerous missions in the Pacific.”
Mohammed Jawad: 'I was 12 when I was arrested and sent to Guantanamo'
By Jeremy Page in Kabul | Times Online
Sitting cross-legged on the cushioned floor of a family friend’s house, Mohammed Jawad furrowed his brow and fidgeted nervously as he struggled to explain his extraordinary ordeal over the past seven years.
In December 2002, when he says he was only 12, he was arrested on suspicion of throwing a grenade into a Jeep carrying US special forces soldiers through Kabul, wounding two of them and an interpreter. He was taken first to an airbase north of Kabul, then to the US prison in Guantánamo Bay, where he remained until his release a few days ago after a ruling by a US judge that his confession had been obtained by force.
One of the youngest and most controversial prisoners in Guantánamo, Mr Jawad is now finally a free man after being flown back to Kabul on Monday and reunited with his family and friends.
But after seven years in custody — six of them in Guantánamo — he faces a long struggle to pick up the pieces of his lost childhood and teenage years, and to build a future for himself in a country still at war with the Taleban. Read more.
What every American should be made to learn about the IG Torture Report
By Glenn Greenwald | Salon
I wrote earlier today about Eric Holder's decision to "review" whether criminal prosecutions are warranted in connection with the torture of Terrorism suspects -- that can be read here -- but I want to write separately about the release today of the 2004 CIA's Inspector General Report (.pdf), both because it's extraordinary in its own right and because it underscores how unjust it would be to prosecute only low-level interrogators rather than the high-level officials who implemented the torture regime. Initially, it should be emphasized that yet again, it is not the Congress or the establishment media which is uncovering these abuses and forcing disclosure of government misconduct. Rather, it is the ACLU (with which I consult) that, along with other human rights organizations, has had to fill the void left by those failed institutions, using their own funds to pursue litigation to compel disclosure. Without their efforts, we would know vastly less than we know now about the crimes our government committed.
Before saying anything about the implications of this Report, I want to post some excerpts of what CIA interrogators did. Every American should be forced to read and learn this in order to know what was done in their names. Read more.
There's another floater. Four years on, there's another victim face down in the waters of Hurricane Katrina, Dr. Ivor van Heerden.
I don't get to use the word "heroic" very often. Van Heerden is heroic. The Deputy Director of the Louisiana State University Hurricane Center, it was van Heerden who told me, on camera, something so horrible, so frightening, that, if it weren't for his international stature, it would have been hard to believe:
"By midnight on Monday the White House knew. Monday night I was at the state Emergency Operations Center and nobody was aware that the levees had breeched. Nobody."
On the night of August 29, 2005, van Heerden was shut in at the state emergency center in Baton Rouge, providing technical advice to the rescue effort. As Hurricane Katrina came ashore, van Heerden and the State Police there were high-fiving it: Katrina missed the city of New Orleans, turning east.
What they did not know was that the levees had cracked. For crucial hours, the White House knew, but withheld the information that the levees of New Orleans had broken and that the city was about to drown. Bush's boys did not notify the State of the flood to come which would have allowed police to launch an emergency hunt for the thousands that remained stranded.
"Fifteen hundred people drowned. That's the bottom line," said von Heerden. He shouldn't have told me that. The professor was already in trouble for saying, publicly, that the levees around New Orleans were no good, too short, by 18". They couldn't stand up to a storm like Katrina. He said it months before Katrina hit - in a call to the White House, and later in the press.
So, even before Katrina, even before our interview, the professor was in hot water. Van Heerden was told by University officials that his complaints jeopardized funding from the Bush Administration. They tried to gag him. He didn't care: he ripped off the gag and spoke out. Read more.