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What a Hell of a Year! Good Riddance to It!

By Dave Lindorff

You know, the year 2009 started out kind of nicely. We watched Barack Obama take the oath of office, serenaded by the awesome Aretha Franklin (wearing her awesome hat), after first hearing Pete Seeger sing the real Woody Guthrie verses to "This Land Is Your Land" on the steps of the Lincoln Monument.

And we saw Congress pass the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, to correct a scum-sucking decision by the US Supreme Court's conservative woman-hating, corporation-loving majority that said women (and minorities and the elderly) couldn't sue for pay discrimination unless they acted within six months of the initiation of the violation, even if they didn't learn about it until years later.

Great stuff.

If power corrupts-are the powerful absolutely hypocritical

Why Powerful People -- Many of Whom Take a Moral High Ground -- Don't Practice What They Preach

ScienceDaily (Dec. 30, 2009)— 2009 may well be remembered for its scandal-ridden headlines, from admissions of extramarital affairs by governors and senators, to corporate executives flying private jets while cutting employee benefits, and most recently, to a mysterious early morning car crash in Florida. The past year has been marked by a series of moral transgressions by powerful figures in political, business and celebrity circles. New research from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University explores why powerful people - many of whom take a moral high ground - don't practice what they preach.

Researchers sought to determine whether power inspires hypocrisy, the tendency to hold high standards for others while performing morally suspect behaviors oneself. The research finds that power makes people stricter in moral judgment of others - while being less strict of their own behavior.

Arresting Peaceful Protesters in Occupied Palestine

Arresting Peaceful Protesters in Occupied Palestine
By Stephen Lendman

For decades, Israel has met peaceful Palestinian protesters disruptively with violence, arrests and at times unprovoked killings. It's no surprise that targeting them and their leaders is now common practice in cities and villages like Jayyous and Bil'in.

On August 3, 200 Israeli soldiers raided five Bel'in homes at 3AM arresting eight Palestinians, including Mohammad Khatib, a leader of the Bel'in Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements. It's part of Israel's repressive routine - late night arrests and imprisonment without charges for indefinite periods. Khatib faces trial, but was released on August 17 on condition he report to a police station with a monitor each Friday until 5PM for its duration. He told supporters:

"The Israeli authorities are worried that the model of popular nonviolent resistance is spreading. They are targeting the popular committees to try to crush (them) but they cannot destroy the spirit of the demonstrations in Bil'in with the arrests of individuals. The whole village is part of the nonviolent resistance and the military would have to arrest (everyone) to stop us from protesting against the Occupation and the theft of our land. Even then, when we all come out of jail, we would continue our struggle."

Krugman's Health Care Sell-Out: The Health Care `Reform' Bill is Worse than Nothing

By Dave Lindorff

Paul Krugman, one of the few liberal columnists writing for the New York Times, claims that at some point in the hoary past when he “began writing a lot about health care,” he was in favor of a Canadian-style single-payer health care system. He adds that even today if he thought there was “any chance of creating Medicare for All any time in the next decade,” he would be “pushing for single-payer now.”

But on Christmas, Krugman threw in the towel, calling on progressives to support the Senate’s version of health care legislation. Suggesting that the so-called Senate Health Reform Bill, if it had been the law back in Dickens’ time in England, would have saved Tiny Tim without any need for the belated charitable intervention of Ebenezer Scrooge, Krugman says progressives should recognize that the Senate bill is the best they can hope for, and that they need to accept that politics is “the art of the possible.”

Mark Roman Tells Bruce Gagnon: It's "An Immoral, Illegal War...They're Eating Grass! There's No Food! It's War Profiteering"

Mark Roman of Waterville (Maine) Area Bridges for Peace and Justice is interviewed by Bruce Gagnon. More info at Waterville Area Bridges for Peace & Justice.

New Year's Resolution: Don't Apologize for Democrats

New Year's Resolution: Don't Apologize for Democrats
By Jeff Cohen | Huffington Post

For the new year, let's resolve: Don't defend Democrats when they don't deserve defending. And that certainly includes President Obama.

Let's further resolve: Put principles above party and never lose our voice on human rights and social justice.

When we mute ourselves as a Democratic president pursues corporatist or militarist policies, we only encourage such policies.

If it was wrong for Bush to bail out Wall Street with virtually no controls, then it's wrong for Obama. If indefinite "preventative detention" was wrong under Bush, then it's wrong under Obama. If military occupation and deepening troop deployments were wrong under Bush, then they're wrong under Obama. Read more.

Jane Hamsher, Grover Norquist Call for Rahm Emanuel’s Resignation

Jane Hamsher, Grover Norquist Call for Rahm Emanuel’s Resignation

December 23, 2009

Attorney General of the United States of America
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001

Dear Attorney General Holder:

We write to demand an immediate investigation into the activities of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. We believe there is an abundant public record which establishes that the actions of the White House have blocked any investigation into his activities while on the board of Freddie Mac from 2000-2001, and facilitated the cover up of potentially malfeasance until the 10-year statute of limitations has run out.

The purpose of this letter is to connect the dots to establish both the conduct of Mr. Emanuel and those working with him to thwart inquiry, and to support your acting speedily so that the statute of limitations does not run out before the Justice Department is able to empanel a grand jury.

The New York Times reports that the administration is negotiating to double the commitments to Fannie and Freddie for a total of $800 billion by December 31, in order to avoid the congressional approval that would be needed after that date. But there currently is no Inspector General exercising independent oversight of these entities. Acting Inspector General Ed Kelly was stripped of his authority earlier this year by the Justice Department, relying on a loophole in a bill Mr. Emanuel cosponsored and pushed through Congress shortly before he left for the White House. This effectively ended Mr. Kelly’s investigation into what happened at Fannie and Freddie.

Since that time, despite multiple warnings by Congress that having no independent Inspector General for a federal agency that oversees $6 trillion in mortgages is a serious oversight, the White House has not appointed one.

We recognize that these are extremely serious accusations, but the stonewalling by Mr. Emanuel and the White House has left us with no other redress. A 2003 report by Freddie Mac’s regulator indicated that Freddie Mac executives had informed the board of their intention to misstate the earnings to insure their own bonuses during the time Mr. Emanuel was a director. But the White House refused to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request from the Chicago Tribune for those board minutes on the grounds that Freddie Mac was a “commercial” entity, even though it was wholly owned by the government at the time the request was made.

If the Treasury approves the $800 billion commitment to Fannie and Freddie by the end of the year, it will mean that under the influence of Rahm Emanuel, the White House is moving a trillion-dollar slush fund into corruption-riddled companies with no oversight in place. This will allow Fannie and Freddie to continue to purchase more toxic assets from banks, acting as a back-door increase of the TARP without congressional approval.

Neither sleet nor snow or all that other stuff stops protest

Protest on the ice at the mansion of United Health Group's CEO, Stepthen Hemsley

Channel 4 news coverage and Channel 5 news coverage

On Saturday morning, 12/19/09, eight of us met at the intersection of Shoreline Drive and Ferndale Road West, about ¾ mile from the 7.8 million dollar Lake Minnetonka, Minnesota mansion of United Health Group CEO Stephen Hemsley. We had to spend some time at this location waiting for everyone to find their way to this meeting place. So we put up some of our banners and talked to passers by.

Not shown in these photos was a banner that really upset some of the locals that said, “HOME OF INS. BANDIT S. HEMSLEY”. Some of the people in the neighborhood supported us, but this guy was pretty upset!

ACORN Cleared Yet Again of Wrongdoing

ACORN Cleared Yet Again of Wrongdoing
By Brad Friedman | Brad Blog

Earlier this month, a two-month independent investigation of ACORN, by former Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger, found incidents of mismanagement, but no criminal wrongdoing by ACORN, the favorite whipping boy of Republican scammers such as Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Fox "News" and the GOP itself. That investigation also found that the "sting videos" used recently against ACORN were doctored and manipulated.

Of course, readers of The BRAD BLOG know the Republicans' entire, long, sad, anti-democratic (small "d" and large "d" both) campaign is based on little more than the fact that ACORN registers millions of legal low and middle income voters who tend to vote overwhelmingly Democratic (large "d") rather than Republican, and the GOP and their democracy-hating proxies will go to any lengths to keep those legal voters from exercising their legal franchise.

And today, once again, ACORN is cleared of wrongdoing vis a vis yet another independent investigation, this one by the Congressional Research Service [PDF], as noted in a press release from U.S. House Judiciary Chair John Conyers this afternoon (posted in full below). Read more.

Israel Took Organs of Dead Without Permission

Israel Took Organs of Dead Without Permission
Israel Scientist Admits Organs Were Routinely Harvested Without Telling Families
By Simon McGregor-Wood | ABC

A senior Israeli scientist has admitted that in the 1990s Israel routinely harvested organs from dead bodies without telling families.

The revelation came from an interview with Dr. Yehuda Hiss, former head of the country's Abu Kabir forensic institute, which was broadcast on Israel's Channel 2 this weekend. "We started to harvest corneas....Whatever was done was highly informal. No permission was asked from the family," Hiss said in the interview.

According to the program, pathologists at the Abu Kabir institute also took skin, heart valves and bones from the bodies of Israeli soldiers, Israeli civilians and Palestinians. They often did so without seeking the permission of relatives. Read more.

Afghan Surge Troops Won't Target Drug Crops

Afghan surge troops won't target drug crops
By By Yara Bayoumy, Reuters | Washington Post

Marines study opium farming, and have even planted some in a garden on their base so that troops on patrol will know what it looks like and be able to tell when they see it how long it has been growing.

Nicholson said Marines often found black-tar opium alongside bomb-making materials during their raids, a sign of the link between the trade and the insurgency.

"We will go after the processing plants and the labs. We will go after those with great vengeance. We will destroy the poppy seeds if we find it. What we have been very careful not to do is make an enemy of the poppy farmer," he said.

He said farmers had told his troops they were happy the Marines had driven out the Taliban but had made clear they had no plans to stop growing drugs.

British and American programs were being set up to encourage farmers to grow other crops like wheat, but in some areas it was still not always possible to earn a living growing food crops and get them to market safely.

"The fact of the matter is, for a lot of these people the only way they can make any money is to sell the poppy, and that's the sad reality now," he said. "Creating (enemies of) 30,000 to 40,000 farmers, getting them angry at the government and the coalition, is probably not good for us." Read more.

It Takes a Conscience

It Takes a Conscience
By Missy Comley Beattie

In February of 2008, Michelle Obama delivered a speech in which she said about her husband: “He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism.”

I know what cynicism is. I felt it during the eight, long years of the homicidal Bush-Cheney tyranny. And I recognized it, piercingly, when Barack Obama referred to Afghanistan as the “right” war. I experienced it, again and again, before the election, especially, when Obama chose as his running mate the ardent Zionist Joe Biden along with consultants from the corporate sector.

When my youngest son called and told me he wanted to go to DC for the historic inauguration—just to be there—to tell the children he may have someday that he was on the scene, I was aware of my cynicism. I wanted to say to him, “This man is going to disappoint you beyond belief. He’s going to turn off a generation of young people who are inspired by his message of change.”

I hated this cynicism. Because I’ve always been proactive in the face of despair. I would tell you some of the things I’ve done in moments of suffocating negativity, but most examples are too personal for public consumption. Suffice it to say that I’m resourceful and have, almost always, been able to lift myself from the depths to a ledge of optimism.

I’m trying to hang onto this now.

But we are sending at least 30,000 additional troops to a country mangled by corruption whose puppet leader says he’ll need our support for years and years and years, while the people of Afghanistan perceive us as blood-sucking occupiers and want to blow our troops to smithereens. And are.

Plus, Wars R Us, Inc. plans to send between 26,000 and 56,000 additional mercenaries to Afghanistan, swelling the ranks to a possible 160,000.

We have not left Iraq.

Dorgan Accuses White House of Unethically Politicizing Safety Warnings From the FDA

Dorgan Accuses White House of Unethically Politicizing Safety Warnings From the FDA
By David Sirota | Open Left

We've been aggressively covering the crazy story of the Obama administration crushing drug importation legislation that President Obama campaigned on as a presidential candidate and supported as a U.S. Senator. Now, days after the administration colluded with the pharmaceutical industry to kill the measure, one Democratic senator is making an extremely serious accusation.

The Food and Drug Administration is supposed to be one of those science-based agencies somewhat removed from politics - specifically to protect the integrity of its declarations on health and safety issues. That's why this story from the Wall Street Journal is very problematic:

There are several sets of fingerprints in the Senate chamber where (drug importation) legislation died, including some from the White House, says Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND). "They did not support this," and worked with Democratic Senate leaders to kill it in order to move the larger bill forward, he said in an interview. The amendment failed in the Senate Tuesday evening...

Dorgan said he can't get answers from the administration about what's going on, though he called the White House and FDA prior to the vote.

Last week, he said he heard rumors that the FDA was going to send a letter objecting to drug importation on safety grounds, which he has said is a bogus reason. He said he called FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, who said she knew nothing about such a letter.

He said his timeline shows that a letter, signed by Hamburg questioning the safety of drug imports, was sent 24 hours later to a few senators who opposed importation. That piece of paper became a rallying cry for other senators who voted down Dorgan's amendment.

"I think the letter was prompted, probably drafted somewhere else," like "the White House" Dorgan said.

The White House has not responded to repeated calls and emails. The FDA did not immediately comment.

So Hamburg, who is supposed to be concerned only with science, first says she has no idea what Dorgan is talking about. Then, suddenly, 24 hours later, she's signed onto a headline-grabbing letter saying Dorgan's bill would threaten American consumers - a letter that just happens to serve the pharmaceutical industry and preserve the secret White House-drug company deal on the health care bill.

Something smells here - something smells really bad. Read more.

Maliki: Security Forces Involved in Massive Baghdad Attack

Maliki: Security Forces Involved in Massive Baghdad Attack
At Least 45 Members Colluded in Attack
By Jason Ditz |

With officials at a loss to explain the security forces’ inability to stop the repeated massive bombings in Baghdad, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced today that the security forces themselves were in no small measure complicit in the attacks.

“The network was a large one, 24 from one arm of the Iraqi security forces, 12 from another, and eight or nine from another,” Maliki announced. Last week’s bombing killed at least 127 Iraqis, and wounded over 500 others.

Maliki’s statement insisted that some Iraqi forces took bribes, while others were directly involved with militant groups themselves, and had infiltrated the police and military.

Several major coordinated attacks have hit the capital in the last several months, and each time the government has struggled to explain the security lapses which allowed truckloads of explosives to be delivered unquestioned to the sites of attacks. Top officials have been arrested after each attack, and promises of additional security measures made. Read more.

Mr. Obama Do You REALLY Want A Healthcare Bill?

Mr. Obama Do You REALLY Want A Healthcare Bill?
By Bob Fertik |

President Obama, here's a simple question: Do you really want a healthcare bill?

I'm asking because if you really want one, I can help you. I mean it.

You don't have to meet with your implacable foes, as you promised to meet with Iran. All you have to do is meet with your most thoughtful friends.

Who exactly? Howard Dean. Jane Hamsher. Marcy Wheeler. Markos. Glenn Greenwald. Slinkerwink. Jon Walker. In other words, the healthcare heroes of the Netroots.

Trust me, they won't betray you. They really want to be your friends. If they're still supporting you after all the bad deals you've made, that means they really care.

So all you have to do is meet with them - and make a deal. Just like you did with Joe Lieberman.

Here's the deal: Read more.

The Democrats' Health "Reform" Bill: Kill It Before It Comes to Life!

By Dave Lindorff

Give credit to Howard Dean. This still practicing physician, former governor of Vermont, former chair of the Democratic Party and former Democratic presidential candidate has called for progressive members of Congress in both houses to join their Republican colleagues in killing what he rightly says has become "an insurance company's dream."

Those namby-pamby, self-described "progressives" in the Democratic Party who claim that the health bill can still be saved with the inclusion of a fake, carefully circumscribed and thoroughly emasculated "public option" government insurance plan that at best would only be able to offer lousy coverage at high rates to a small number of self-employed poor people are wrong. This supposed attempt at reforming the US health care system--the costliest and least effective in the developed world--is simply past saving.

The only appropriate place for the bill at this point is a dumpster.

"Progressives For Obama" Change Name To Omit Their President

Honest ObeA Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

It has taken almost a year for “Progressives for Obama” to make a partial break with their former object of adulation, proof that groupie-love is a powerful emotion. “Two of the founding members, Bill Fletcher and Tom Hayden, are making uncharacteristically loud anti-Obama noises and acting as if they played no role in convincing Obama that he could make war and serve corporate interests to his heart’s content, without fear of any trouble from the Left.”
Obama’s “Progressives” Do a Name Change
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
Even the president’s most loyal sycophants on the Left are running for cover.”
The organization formerly known as “Progressives for Obama” has changed its name. After almost a year of President Obama’s massive transfers of the people’s wealth to Wall Street, his escalation of U.S. wars in South Asia, his shameless alliance with insurance and drug corporations, and his callous disregard for Depression-level Black unemployment, even the president’s most loyal sycophants on the Left are running for cover. It’s not a pretty sight.
Progressives for Obama” are now calling themselves “Progressive America Rising.” Two of the founding members, Bill Fletcher and Tom Hayden, are making uncharacteristically loud anti-Obama noises and acting as if they played no role in convincing Obama that he could make war and serve corporate interests to his heart’s content, without fear of any trouble from the Left. They had his back.

Government Accused Over Binyam Mohamed Torture Claims

Government accused over Binyam Mohamed torture claims | BBC

A QC told the court CIA admissions over his treatment would expose the government to "criminal liability for an international war crime"....

But on the second day of the hearing, Dinah Rose QC, appearing for Mr Mohamed, argued: "Admissions of serious international war crimes cannot properly be described as confidential."

She said: "The US must have have understood in sending such information to the UK that the UK is a responsible democracy and must, in some circumstances, come under an obligation further to disclose that material.

"It could never have expected admissions of such serious criminal conduct could be covered up in all the circumstances."

The High Court was entitled to find the material had "no operational intelligence sensitivity at all," she added.

The government has been accused of trying to suppress "embarrassing and shaming" evidence of the UK's role in torture, at a High Court hearing.

It is appealing against a ruling that allegations by former Guantanamo Bay detainee Binyam Mohamed be made public. Read more.

Help Stop the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Fox News, and Death Threats

We need your organization to sign onto and spread the word. To do so, Email us.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is behind the worst of U.S. policies, from blocking the right to organize to impeding healthcare reform, from increasing global warming to arguing in favor of the Supreme Court's impending decision to allow no limits on corporate funding of elections, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the enemy of the public will. is encouraging corporations to drop their memberships and having some success.

We've also offered a $200,000 reward for information leading to the criminal conviction of Chamber CEO Tom Donohue. This has resulted in vicious attacks from Fox News viewers and U.S. Chamber of Commerce supporters, including hundreds of death threats which has reported to the FBI.

We need your help to advance our efforts against increasing odds. Won't you read more and sign on?

The Makings of a Police State-Part IV

The Makings of a Police State-Part IV
By Sibel Edmonds | Boiling Frogs

Secret reports, Secret budgets, Secret operations, Secret courts ... A Secret Government!

The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them. — Patrick Henry

As stated by Patrick Henry with conviction and passion, a democratic government will not last if its operations and policies are not visible to its public. The foundation of our democratic republic is supposed to be based on an open and accountable government. Transparency is what enables accountability.

For several decades post 1945, under the guise of the Cold War, with the creation of the Central Intelligence Agency and an aggressive foreign policy based on overt and covert intervention abroad, the seeds of excessive secrecy were planted, aggressively nurtured, and taken to heights not imaginable in our founding fathers’ vision of transparent and accountable government. Although the Watergate Scandal brought a short-lived wave of awakening, and to a certain degree defiance, by getting Americans to question the extent of and the real need for governmental secrecy, the subsequent political movements were eventually halted with no real action ever taken, thanks to a Congress unwilling to truly exercise its oversight authority over the intelligence community.

With the September 11 Terrorist Attacks the establishment had all it needed to take government secrecy to new heights where neither the Constitution nor the separation of powers would matter or be applicable. These new heights could never be reached in a functioning and live democracy, nor could they be sustained and flourish without a home marked by all the characteristics of a police state. Those new heights were indeed reached, and they surely have been not only sustained, but actually increased; notch by notch. Waving the national security flag nonstop, reminding us on a daily basis of some vague boogiemen terrorists who may be hiding under our beds, drilling the words terror-terrorists-terrorism every hour, did the magic; thanks to the US Media.

Let’s examine some of these new heights of secrecy we’ve reached and appear to have accepted:

The Cost

For the fiscal year 2005, based on an official report released by the National Archives, the total security classification cost estimates for Government was $7.7 billion. Read more.

22 Million Missing Bush White House E-mails Found

22 Million Missing Bush White House E-mails Found
By Associated Press | Yahoo! News

Computer technicians have found 22 million missing White House e-mails from the administration of President George W. Bush and the Obama administration is searching for dozens more days' worth of potentially lost e-mail from the Bush years, according to two groups that filed suit over the failure by the Bush White House to install an electronic record keeping system.

The two private groups — Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the National Security Archive — said Monday they were settling the lawsuits they filed against the Executive Office of the President in 2007.

It will be years before the public sees any of the recovered e-mails because they will now go through the National Archives' process for releasing presidential and agency records. Presidential records of the Bush administration won't be available until 2014 at the earliest. Read more.

Huge Win For "Restore Justice At Justice" Campaign! Politically Prosecuted Attorney Paul Minor’s Bribery Convictions Overturned

Huge Win For Our Restore Justice At Justice Campaign
Politically Prosecuted Attorney Paul Minor’s Bribery Convictions Overturned
If you have not joined our Restore Justice At Justice Campaign, do so here.

Last spring we launched a campaign to pressure the Department of Justice to clean up all the Bush political prosecutions, starting with former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman and famed trial attorney Paul Minor. In fact, to emphasize the point, our site has photos of Siegelman and Minor flanking that of Attorney General Eric Holder. We placed ads, sent out press releases, posted blog items, sent letters to officials, held a press conference at the National Press Club, and contacted Members of Congress.

In our April 13th letter to Mr. Holder, we stated the following:
“And then there is Paul Minor, an attorney now in federal prison for a “crime” related to the funding of Democratic candidates and causes. Minor’s wife is dying of cancer in a hospital in Baton Rouge. Last month, he was given a three-hour pass to spend a moment with her (under supervision), but she had no chance to talk to him because she had been given her pain medication and lay fast asleep throughout his visit. Why should this man have to spend another hour away from his wife’s bedside, awaiting the decision of a court, when the flagrant partisan intent behind his prosecution should move the DOJ to withdraw charges, just as you did in Sen. Stevens' case? ”

Paul Minor’s wife died, he was not allowed to attend her funeral, and he has suffered grievously due to the unethical conduct of the Justice Department. But now, there is light and hope at the end of his very dark nightmare. Friday, in a unanimous decision, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals completely overturned his three bribery convictions and sent his case back for resentencing.

And guess who was a major force behind the prosecution of Paul Minor and his co-defendant, Judge Diaz? None other than the corrupt U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which spent millions of dollars to defeat Judge Diaz and worked with the White House and Karl Rove to target Paul Minor because he was a trial lawyer who went after corrupt businesses and supported Democratic candidates. And who was Minor’s prosecutor? Dunn Lampton, one of the United States Attorneys under investigation for taking on political prosecutions in exchange for not being fired by the Bush White House. So with this decision, we have a one-two win against the bad guys.

Today we issued a press release calling on Mr. Holder to immediately release Paul Minor pending the final resolution of his case, and to clean up all the remaining political prosecutions. You can help us keep the pressure on with a secure donation.

Thank all of you for being part of this important campaign. And if you have not joined, do so by signing on here. Thousands of others have already let the Department of Justice know that it needs to clean house and clean up past political prosecutions.

Please send this alert to your friends asking them to sign on.

Remember: Become a Fan of Velvet Revolution on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

And check out our other campaigns:

Guantanamo Detainee Deaths

Guantanamo Detainee Deaths
By Stephen Lendman | Stephen Lendman Blog

Under the direction of Professor Mark Denbeaux, Seton Hall University School of Law's Center for Policy & Research (CP&R) published 15 "GTMO Reports," including profiles of detainees held, allegations against them, and discrepancies in government accounts explaining reasons for reported deaths.

An earlier report analyzed unclassified government data (obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests) based on evidentiary summaries of 2004 military hearings on whether 517 detainees held at the time were "enemy combatants." Most were non-belligerents. In fact, a shocking 95% were seized randomly by bounty hunters, then sold to US forces for $5,000 per claimed Taliban and $25,000 for supposed Al Qaeda members. At least 20 were children, some as young as 13.

The latest report titled, "Death in Camp Delta," covers three simultaneous detainee deaths on June 9, 2006 in the maximum security Alpha Block. Yassar Talal Al Zahrani, Mani Shaman Turki Al Habardi Al Tabi, and Ali Abdullah Ahmed were found dead shortly after midnight on June 10.

At first, the Pentagon's said they were found hanging in their cells as part of an anti-American "asymmetrical warfare conspiracy" based on medical personnel saying a short written note on each body indicated a coordinated effort to rebel against confinement as martyrs as well as longer confirming statements in their cells. At the same time, the media was shut out and lawyers prevented from visiting clients to minimize the incident and suppress truths.

CP&R's report found "dramatic flaws in the government's investigation (and) raise(s) serious questions about the security of the Camp (and) derelictions of duty by officials of multiple defense and intelligence agencies" who let them die, more likely killed them, then whitewashed the investigation to suppress it.

Fifth Circuit Overturns Paul Minor Bribery Conviction

Mark Crispin Miller wrote:

Here, for once, is some great news--and a reminder that justice can be done, eventually; although no stroke of justice can make up for this man's horrible ordeal. Just to remind you, Paul Minor was forbidden to spend his wife's last days with her, when she lay dying of brain
cancer in a hospital; and then the DoJ--that is, Obama's DoJ--would not allow him out of prison to attend her funeral.

And for what? Why? As the Fifth Court of Appeals has now made crystal clear, this man did not engage in any bribery. (Note, incidentally, that the decision does not overturn Minor's conviction under the "Honest Services" statute--which SCOTUS will soon nullify, thereby
wiping out the other "crime" for which they locked him up.)

For this good outcome, we need to thank all those who worked so hard to shine a light on this appalling case: Scott Horton at Harper's, Larisa Alexandrovna at Raw Story, and Velvet Revolution. Because of them (and that includes, of course, Brad Friedman), a gross injustice has been righted at long last.

And now we need to focus on those many other cases that Karl Rove engineered for BushCo's sake. We cannot rest until they have him, and all his cohorts, in a federal cell, which will be a punishment long overdue, and, unlike all those others, well-deserved.


Fifth Circuit Overturns Paul Minor Bribery Conviction
By Adam Lynch | Jackson Free Press | December 11, 2009

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has partially overturned the convictions of Mississippi attorney Paul Minor and former judges John Whitfield and Walter "Wes" Teel. A federal jury convicted Minor, Teel and Whitfield in 2007 for federal bribery and honest services fraud, but they appealed, arguing that prosecutors changed jury instructions to muddy the definition of an exchange of services for corruption, among other arguments.

Attorneys representing the three argue that Judge Henry Wingate agreed to loosen the jury instructions so that jurors could decide to convict, even if there was no clear exchange of services, or quid pro quo, between the judges or Minor. All three had successfully fought back allegations of corruption in an earlier trial in which the jury instructions were more clearly defined.

Today the appeals court tossed the federal bribery charges connected to the 2007 trial, leaving intact only the charges of honest services fraud. Read more.

Blackwater Guards Tied to Secret Raids by the C.I.A.

Blackwater Guards Tied to Secret Raids by the C.I.A.
By James Risen and Mark Mazzetti | NY Times

Private security guards from Blackwater Worldwide participated in some of the C.I.A.’s most sensitive activities — clandestine raids with agency officers against people suspected of being insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan and the transporting of detainees, according to former company employees and intelligence officials.

The raids against suspects occurred on an almost nightly basis during the height of the Iraqi insurgency from 2004 to 2006, with Blackwater personnel playing central roles in what company insiders called “snatch and grab” operations, the former employees and current and former intelligence officers said.

Several former Blackwater guards said that their involvement in the operations became so routine that the lines supposedly dividing the Central Intelligence Agency, the military and Blackwater became blurred. Instead of simply providing security for C.I.A. officers, they say, Blackwater personnel at times became partners in missions to capture or kill militants in Iraq and Afghanistan, a practice that raises questions about the use of guns for hire on the battlefield.

Separately, former Blackwater employees said they helped provide security on some C.I.A. flights transporting detainees in the years after the 2001 terror attacks in the United States.

The secret missions illuminate a far deeper relationship between the spy agency and the private security company than government officials had acknowledged. Blackwater’s partnership with the C.I.A. has been enormously profitable for the North Carolina-based company, and became even closer after several top agency officials joined Blackwater. Read more.

Shadow Army: ABC Discloses Use of Blackwater Contractors as Possible Mercenaries

Shadow Army: ABC Discloses Use of Blackwater Contractors as Possible Mercenaries | Jonathan Turley

Brian Ross at ABC has aired the results of his investigation into the use of alleged mercenaries by the United States. I was interviewed on the story, though I was obviously not at liberty to discuss it before it aired yesterday. Ross found evidence that private contractors were being used in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq for combat missions — a role that raises very disturbing legal and policy questions.

The ABC storyis based on four current and former U.S. military and intelligence officers. The New York Times has also reported that raids against Iraqi insurgents were conducted “almost nightly” between 2004 and 2006, and “the operations became so routine that the lines supposedly dividing the Central Intelligence Agency, the military and Blackwater became blurred.”

Congress has historically moved against the use of private contractors for such purposes. The Defense Department bars the use of private security contractors (PSCs) for combat operations. In the FY2008 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), Congress required full reporting on the use and weaponry of PSCs. Such contractors have been involved in controversial shootings such as the shooting of 17 Iraqi civilians at a Baghdad traffic circle in Nisoor Square by Blackwater employees.

The debate over PSCs has been over their use in combat areas, not just their use in combat — a role restricted for our regular forces. However, even their use in combat areas is viewed as inimical by military professionals. The executive summary for the U.S. Naval Academy’s 9th Annual McCain Conference on Ethics and Military Leadership stated this position recently:

We therefore conclude that contractors should not be deployed as security guards, sentries, or even prison guards within combat areas. APSCs should be restricted to appropriate support functions and those geographic areas where the rule of law prevails. In irregular warfare (IW) environments, where civilian cooperation is crucial, this restriction is both ethically and strategically necessary. Read more.

Mercenaries? CIA Says Expanded Role for Contractors Legitimate

Mercenaries? CIA Says Expanded Role for Contractors Legitimate
Blackwater, Other Firms Said to Be "Hired Guns" in Iraq, Afghanistan -- Combat Role Would Be Against U.S. Law
By Matthew Cole, Richard Esposito and Brian Ross | ABC News

The CIA and the military special forces have quietly expanded the role of private contractors, including Blackwater, to include their involvement in raids and secret paramilitary operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, four current and former U.S. military and intelligence officers tell ABC News.

American law specifically prohibits the use of private soldiers or mercenaries in combat, according to Jonathan Turley, a professor of public interest law at George Washington University.

"The United States Congress has never approved the use of private contractors for combat operations," Turley told ABC News in an interview...Read more.

Watch Brian Ross report on Blackwater

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