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Criminal Prosecution and Accountability
By Linn Washington, Jr.
Those intent on tormenting now ex-death-row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal have done it again, this time perhaps even exceeding their past efforts to painfully harass this man widely perceived as a political prisoner.
By Chris Hedges
Attorneys Carl J. Mayer and Bruce I. Afran filed a complaint Friday in the Southern U.S. District Court in New York City on my behalf as a plaintiff against Barack Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to challenge the legality of the Authorization for Use of Military Force as embedded in the latest version of the National Defense Authorization Act, signed by the president Dec. 31.
The act authorizes the military in Title X, Subtitle D, entitled “Counter-Terrorism,” for the first time in more than 200 years, to carry out domestic policing. With this bill, which will take effect March 3, the military can indefinitely detain without trial any U.S. citizen deemed to be a terrorist or an accessory to terrorism. And suspects can be shipped by the military to our offshore penal colony in Guantanamo Bay and kept there until “the end of hostilities.” It is a catastrophic blow to civil liberties.
MADRID - A Spanish judge says he is proceeding with a probe into human rights abuses at the U.S. prison for terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay, after Washington failed to respond to requests for information.
The probe stems from torture complaints filed by four Muslims who are either citizens or residents of Spain and were once held at the prison.
The probe had been on hold while Judge Pablo Ruz awaited a response from the United States. Ruz said Friday he had received no answer from the U.S. and had thus decided to continue the case.
The judge asked prosecutors to report back to him with the names of U.S. officials who should be targeted in the probe.
Now, the Center for Constitutional Rights claims to have evidence of mistreatment of at least one detainee, Mohammed Al-Qahtani. He was believed to have been recruited by Al Qaeda to be one of the enforcers aboard the four hijacked planes on 9/11. He failed to join the 19 other terrorists because he was refused entry into the U.S. days earlier. He was subsequently hunted down, arrested in Afghanistan, and detained at the Guantanamo Bay compound. He has never gone to trial.
The human rights group claims Qahtani was tortured and subjected to "cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment" and that the Center's lawyers have seen videotape that proves it. The group has filed suit in federal court, demanding that the government release the tape for the public to see.
Killer Cops Aren't Heroes: We Need Police Who Think Like Firefighters, Not Like Soldiers in a War Zone
By Dave Lindorff
The sad slaying of troubled eighth-grader Jaime Gonzalez in Brownsville by trigger-happy local police illustrates the sad an dangerous state we have arrived at as we turn our local police forces into SWAT team soldiers up-armed with assault rifles, black facemasks and stun grenades.
The reason Gonzalez, who had no hostages and was just armed with a pellet gun, was killed by police bullets was because the primary concern of the officers confronting him was to eliminate the threat to themselves, not to rescue a troubled kid.
This recently released report, Indefensible: A Reference for Prosecuting Torture and Other Felonies Committed by U.S. Officials Following September 11th, serves as a practitioner’s reference addressing the domestic and international laws implicated by the actions of certain former high-ranking government officials. The report lays the groundwork for litigation against those responsible for approving and using illegal interrogation techniques that were the official policy of the Bush Administration.
More than a decade after the onset of the Bush Administration’s post-9/11 anti-terrorism policies, not a single torture survivor has succeeded in holding a top government official accountable in a U.S. court for the indefensible act of torture due in large part to legal maneuvering by both the Bush and Obama Administrations. While certain actions taken by President Obama indicate his desire to break with the lawlessness characterized by the Bush Administration, he has failed to fulfill his international legal obligation to investigate these crimes of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. The report is a call for action. If accountability cannot be achieved through the courts, it becomes even more critical that the U.S. government properly investigate acts of torture either through the appointment of a Special Counsel or alternatively by Congressional enactment of a Commission of Inquiry.
The report is the result of a multi-year collaborative effort between Human Rights USA and the International Human Rights Law Clinic at American University Washington College of Law.
Read the full report, and view the press release. In addition, you may request a hardcopy of the report by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include “Accountability Report Request” in the subject line, as well as the appropriate return address listed in the body of the e-mail. You may also make a request by calling (202) 296-5702.
By Bob Egelko, The San Francisco Chronicle
The nation's telecommunications companies can't be sued for cooperating with the Bush administration's secret surveillance program, but their customers can sue the government for allegedly intercepting their phone calls and e-mails without a warrant, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday.
In a pair of decisions, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco upheld a 2008 law immunizing AT&T and other companies for their roles in wiretapping calls to alleged foreign terrorists, but revived a suit that accused the government of illegally intercepting millions of messages from U.S. residents.
That lawsuit was partly based on testimony in 2003 by former AT&T technician Mark Klein about equipment in the company's office on Folsom Street in San Francisco that allowed Internet traffic to be routed to the government.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a privacy-rights organization representing AT&T customers, claimed the company had similar installations in other cities and used them for "dragnet" surveillance of everyday e-mails and phone calls, which the National Security Agency purportedly screened electronically for connections to terrorism.
"We look forward to proving the program is an unconstitutional and illegal violation of the rights of millions of ordinary Americans," said Cindy Cohn, the foundation's legal director.
Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd declined comment.
President George W. Bush acknowledged in 2005 that his administration had eavesdropped on calls to suspected foreign terrorists without the warrants required by federal law, but his Justice Department denied the existence of a dragnet surveillance program.
Dozens of suits challenging the surveillance were transferred to San Francisco. In one case, then-Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker ruled in March 2010 that federal agents had illegally wiretapped an Islamic organization, which was accidentally sent a copy of the surveillance documents. The Obama administration, which inherited the case, is appealing the ruling.
Across the country in the next two weeks, we will be marking the 10th anniversary of the U.S. prison at Guantánamo with protests, film showings, talks, and benefits. We do this for:
171 prisoners still in Guantánamo, even though most were cleared for release by the Bush regime. Read about one: Holiday Thoughts for Omar Khadr, Still Held at Guantanamo by Andy Worthington.
By Associated Press
Most major Occupy encampments have been dispersed, but they live on in a flurry of lawsuits in which protesters are asserting their constitutional rights to free speech and assembly and challenging authorities’ mass arrests and use of force to break up tent cities.
Lawyers representing protesters have filed lawsuits — or are planning them — in state and federal courts from coast to coast, challenging eviction orders and what they call heavy-handed police tactics and the banning of demonstrators from public properties.
Some say the fundamental right of protest has been criminalized in places, with protesters facing arrest and charges while doing nothing more than exercising protected rights to demonstrate.
Montanans Launch Recall of Senators Who Approved NDAA Military Detention. Merry Christmas, US Senate.
Disclaimer: I am now a volunteer press contact for this campaign.
From the press release (last revised 12/28/2011):
Moving quickly on Christmas Day after the US Senate voted 86 - 14 to pass the National Defense Authorization Act of 2011 (NDAA) which allows for the indefinite military detention of American citizens without charge or trial, Montanans have announced the launch of recall campaigns against Senators Max Baucus and Jonathan Tester, and Congressman Denny Reberg, who all voted for the bill.
19 December 2011 - Almost two-thirds of countries asked by human rights groups about their involvement in extraordinary rendition flights have failed to comply with freedom of information requests – with European nations in particular accused of withholding evidence of the controversial CIA programme.
Was the Attack on Pakistani Outposts Deliberate?: How Far Will the US Go to Target Pakistan's Military?
By Shaukat Qadir
This past June I posted an article by Anatol Lieven on Facebook. For those who are not familiar with his name, Anatol is from the UK and numbers among the few journalists whom I always enjoy reading. I have met Anatol a few times and he is the kind of person who likes to get acquainted with the psycho-social environment of the people he writes about. Written in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s execution, Anatol’s article was critical of the US approach to the region, particularly Pakistan.
December 14, 2011 - One by one, the Marines sat down, swore to tell the truth and began to give secret interviews discussing one of the most horrific episodes of America’s time in Iraq: the 2005 massacre by Marines of Iraqi civilians in the town of Haditha.
“I mean, whether it’s a result of our action or other action, you know, discovering 20 bodies, throats slit, 20 bodies, you know, beheaded, 20 bodies here, 20 bodies there,” Col. Thomas Cariker, a commander in Anbar Province at the time, told investigators as he described the chaos of Iraq.
Local Newspaper The Hook Makes Me Runner Up Person of Year for Chasing Dick Cheney Away - Gotta Love Charlottesville
When conservatives hear progressive political activist David Swanson coming, they might want to run away. But sometimes, they do so quite literally. After Vice President Dick Cheney announced plans to speak at the Miller Center on November 16, Swanson publicly called for Cheney's arrest for conspiracy to commit torture. "Were a local resident credibly accused of torture, I sincerely doubt you would hesitate to seek his or her immediate arrest and indictment," Swanson wrote in a November 14 letter emailed to Charlottesville and Albemarle law enforcement and posted on his website, warisacrime.org. Mere hours later, the Miller Center announced that Cheney's visit would be postponed for "personal reasons" and that he'd reschedule for early next year. Coincidence? Perhaps. But either way, Swanson will undoubtedly lead the welcome parade if the former Veep appears.
No Execution for Mumia: 30 Years after a Police Shooting, Abu-Jamal Backers Vow to Free Him from Life in Prison
By Dave Lindorff
The mood was both celebratory and angry among a 1000-plus overflow audience packed into the balcony space of the Constitution Center in Philadelphia on the evening of Dec. 9.
The crowd of supporters of Philadelphia journalist and black political activist Mumia Abu-Jamal had come to denounce the over 29 years that he has spent locked in solitary confinement on Pennsylvania’s grim death row since his conviction for the shooting of a white police officer, Daniel Faulkner. But they were also there to celebrate the surprise decision, announced two days earlier by Philadelphia DA Seth Williams, not to seek to reinstate Abu-Jamal’s death sentence, which had been permanently vacated by a recent decision of the U.S. Supreme Court.
No Healing: Ann Kristin Neuhaus Faces Her Past Every Day as Kansas Chases the Ghost of George Tiller
Massachusetts Files Major Foreclosure-Abuse Lawsuit
he Massachusetts attorney general has filed a lawsuit against five large U.S. banks accusing them of deceptive foreclosure practices, a signal of ebbing confidence that a multi-state agreement can be worked out.
Attorney General Martha Coakley said on Thursday she filed the lawsuit partly because it has been taking too long to hammer out a nationwide settlement.
Attorney General of N.Y. Is Said to Face Pressure on Bank Foreclosure Deal
Eric T. Schneiderman, the attorney general of New York, has come under increasing pressure from the Obama administration to drop his opposition to a wide-ranging state settlement with banks over dubious foreclosure practices, according to people briefed on discussions about the deal.
In recent weeks, Shaun Donovan, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and high-level Justice Department officials have been waging an intensifying campaign to try to persuade the attorney general to support the settlement, said the people briefed on the talks.
State is key to deal on mortgages
California's attorney general has a crucial role in national talks with lenders.
NEW YORK AND LOS ANGELES — California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris has emerged as a key player in pursuing a nationwide settlement with major U.S. banks accused of wrongful foreclosures and is facing increased pressure from consumer groups seeking help for homeowners devastated by the mortgage crisis.
eorge W. Bush should be arrested for his role in waterboarding, Amnesty International says, and his trip to Africa presents an opportunity for that. “International law requires that there be no safe haven for those responsible for torture; Ethiopia, Tanzania and Zambia must seize this opportunity to fulfill their obligations and end the impunity George W. Bush has so far enjoyed,” the human rights organization said. (It's not the first time.)
Bush is in Africa to promote awareness of HIV/AIDS as well as breast and cervical cancer. While Amnesty applauds that goal, “this cannot lessen the damage to the fight against torture caused by allowing someone who has admitted to authorizing waterboarding to travel without facing the consequences prescribed by law,” the statement said. Bush's trip coincides with World AIDS Day today, and he has been receiving much praise for the global AIDS initiative he launched as president.
US to Pay $2.5M in Photo Editor's Anthrax Death
Although a number of lawsuits have been dismissed, the U.S. Government chose to settle in the case of Mr. Stevens' death. The deal comes on the heels of [ new evidence ] that further clouds the summary determination that Dr. Bruce Ivins, who committed suicide during the investigation, was the lone source of the anthrax attack. This deal forestalls the possibility of new details being revealed in court. - JPS/RSN
ore than a decade after tabloid photo editor Robert Stevens became the first victim of the 2001 anthrax attacks, the U.S. government has agreed to pay his widow and family $2.5 million to settle their lawsuit, according to documents released Tuesday.
Stevens, 63, died on Oct. 5, 2001, when a letter containing deadly anthrax spores was opened at the then-headquarters in Boca Raton of American Media Inc., publisher of the National Enquirer, Sun and Globe tabloids. Eventually four other people would die and 17 others would be sickened in similar letter attacks, which the FBI blames on a lone government scientist who committed suicide.
Stevens' widow, Maureen Stevens, sued the government in 2003, claiming its negligence caused her husband's death by failing to adequately safeguard anthrax at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Md. The FBI probe concluded that Fort Detrick was the source of the spores used in the attacks in New York, Washington and Florida.
The government failed to carry out its "duty of care, the highest degree of care" in making sure the deadly microbes were kept tightly under lock and key, said the lawsuit filed in West Palm Beach federal court.
The case languished for years in procedural delays and appeals until the FBI announced in 2008 that a Fort Detrick scientist, Dr. Bruce Ivins, was responsible for the attacks. Although some of his colleagues and outside experts have raised doubts about his intent and ability to weaponize the anthrax, the FBI formally closed its "Amerithrax" investigation in 2010.
Ivins killed himself with an overdose of Tylenol and valium as investigators closed in. His attorney has maintained Ivins is innocent, but Justice Department prosecutors say they had more than enough evidence to convict him at trial.
Stevens' attorney, Richard Schuler, said when the FBI announced that Ivins was their man that it proved a key allegation in their lawsuit: "We've maintained all along this was an inside job," he said. Schuler called the settlement a "tremendous victory" for the Stevens family after years of litigation.
"They fought us at every turn and dragged this thing out," Schuler said. "You have to control access to these tremendously dangerous organisms and they didn't have any of that. You had security that was Swiss cheese out there."
The Justice Department declined comment beyond the settlement documents.
Government attorneys who handled the Stevens settlement said in the court papers that it is not "an admission of liability or fault on the part of the United States" and that the intent of the deal was "avoiding the expenses and risks of further litigation."
The settlement avoids a trial that had been set for early 2012 before Senior U.S. District Judge Daniel T.K. Hurley, who had earlier rebuffed U.S. efforts to get the case dismissed.
The deal allows for attorney fees of up to 25 percent and requires that a host of sensitive documents be destroyed or returned to U.S. officials. In addition to Maureen Stevens, 68, the settlement will benefit her three grown children.
Schuler said he felt confident Stevens would prevail at a trial but likely would face years of appeals and uncertainty about whether she would ever collect. The settlement avoids all that.
"She's delighted that the case has come to a successful conclusion and with the improved security the government has engaged in," Schuler said.
For years the FBI investigation focused on another scientist, Steven Hatfill, who was identified as a "person of interest" in 2001 by then-Attorney General John Ashcroft. Hatfill was eventually cleared and sued the government for invasion of privacy, eventually reaching a $5.8 million settlement.
Lawsuits filed by other victims have been dismissed, although at least one is on appeal. Employees of a postal facility in Washington, D.C., where two workers died, sued the Postal Service for allegedly failing to protect them, but a judge in 2004 ruled that the service was immune.
The 67,200-square foot AMI building in Boca Raton, meanwhile, took years to decontaminate and was finally reopened in 2007. AMI had long since moved its headquarters to New York, leaving behind an archive of some 5 million photographs, although many were digitally scanned for preservation.
An AMI mailroom worker, Ernesto Blanco, was sickened in the attack but recovered.
A seven-member panel chaired by former Malaysian Federal Court judge Abdul Kadir Sulaiman presided over the trial, which began last Saturday, and both Bush and Blair were tried in absentia.
"The evidence showed that the drums of wars were being beaten long before the invasion. The accused in their own memoirs have admitted their own intention to invade Iraq regardless of international law," it said.
The verdict is purely symbolic as the tribunal has no enforcement powers.
The tribunal is also expected to later hear torture and war crimes charges against seven others, including former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and former vice president Dick Cheney.
by Debra Sweet, National Director, World Can't Wait
Why would Founders create a class of criminal, "domestic enemies" of the "United States Constitution," if there were no such thing?
If you think soldiers won't do it, think again. Some of the stupidest people on Earth join the Army, and they, in contrast to the many intelligent young patriots who join for the right reasons, will always be there. Reading blogs arguing about Posse Comitatus and martial law I've seen comments like "I expect I might be picking a few civvies (civilians) off the wire someday...but I like my home on base and my kids need the nice playground. Life is good."
I also have close relatives in. I couldn't make this up.
Dear High Road Traveler -
Together we collected over 2,000 signatures demanding the application of laws forbidding wars of aggression, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and warrantless surveillance. Today, High Road for Human Rights sends our message to President Obama, Attorney General Holder, Members of Congress, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and the United Nations Committee Against Torture. See the letter below.
The Kuala Lumpur exhibition, which contains gory images of decapitated bodies, aims to inform the public that war is a crime against humanity.
The event was opened during a ceremony attended by former Malaysian Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohammad and president of the Perdana Global Peace Foundation.
Organizers of the war crime exhibition said they hoped the public could be educated about the consequences of the war in Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam through the exhibition.
By Dave Lindorff
With Congress no longer performing its sworn role of defending the US Constitution, the National Lawyers Guild Mass Defense Committee and the Partnership for Civil Justice today filed requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) asking the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the CIA and the National Parks Service to release "all their information on the planning of the coordinated law enforcement crackdown on Occupy protest encampments in multiple cities over the course of recent days and weeks."
By Charles M. Young
After watching the Packers beat the Vikings on Monday Night Football, I had insomnia, so it was kind of an accident that I checked my email at 2 a.m. and discovered the police were clearing Zuccotti Park. Everyone had been expecting an eviction since it all started on September 17, but not expecting it at that particular moment. On my cell phone, there were several frantic texts from Occupy Wall Street begging for community support. So I hopped on a slow subway and arrived at Chambers Street about 3 a.m.