You are hereCriminal Prosecution and Accountability
Criminal Prosecution and Accountability
Remarks at the biennial general meeting of the War and Law League in San Francisco on Armistice Day 2012.
I'll try briefly to make five points.
First, there are clear laws on the books that make U.S. wars unlawful, along with U.S. threats of war and U.S. propaganda for war. The laws are either forgotten, ignored, evaded, or cleverly reinterpreted to reverse their meaning. But they could be enforced someday.
Second, U.S. wars are evolving in ways that make them violate additional laws without bringing them into compliance with any of the laws already violated.
Third, participants in U.S. wars face occasional prosecution at home or abroad for their specific actions, although those actions do not stray from the basic purpose of the wars.
Fourth, other nations are prosecuted for or would be prosecuted if they attempted the same behavior engaged in by the United States.
And Fifth, U.S. wars are launched and conducted by officials elected in an illegitimate system dominated by open bribery.
On the original Armistice Day in 1918, much of the world ended a four-year war that served no useful purpose whatsoever while costing the lives of some 10 million soldiers, 6 million civilians, 21 million soldiers wounded, an outbreak of Spanish influenza that took another 100 million lives, environmental destruction that is ongoing today, the development of new weapons -- including chemical weapons -- still used today, huge leaps forward in the art of propaganda still plagiarized today, huge setbacks in the struggle for economic justice, and a culture more militarized, more focused on stupid ideas like banning alcohol, and more ready to restrict civil liberties in the name of nationalism, and all for the bargain price, as one author calculated it, of enough money to have given a $2,500 home with $1,000 worth of furniture and five acres of land to every family in Russia, most of the European nations, Canada, the United States, and Australia, plus enough to give every city of over 20,000 a $2 million library, a $3 million hospital, a $20 million college, and still enough left over to buy every piece of property in Germany and Belgium. And it was all legal. Incredibly stupid, but totally legal. Particular atrocities violated laws, but war was not criminal.
The Outlawry Movement of the 1920s -- the movement to outlaw war -- sought to replace war with arbitration, by first banning war and then developing a code of international law and a court with the authority to settle disputes. The first step was taken in 1928 with the Kellogg-Briand Pact, which banned all war. Today 81 nations are party to that treaty, including ours, and many of them comply with it. I'd like to see additional nations, poorer nations that were left out of the treaty, join it (which they can do simply by stating that intention) and then urge the greatest purveyor of violence in the world to comply.
It's easier to comply with the U.N. Charter because of the two big loopholes it opened up, allowing wars that are either defensive or simply U.N. approved. As you know, the United States fights wars against unarmed impoverished nations halfway around the planet and calls them defensive. The U.S. fights wars never approved of by the U.N. and claims that they were. When the United States chose never to end World War II, never to demilitarize, de-tax, or de-mobilize, when the U.N. Charter, NATO, the Geneva Conventions, and the CIA made war normal and supposedly civilized it, we lost the ability to think of abolition, or even to award Nobel prizes to those who worked for it. However, the U.N. Charter made threatening war illegal, and while the Kellogg-Briand Pact is forgotten, the U.N. Charter must be intentionally ignored, as the United States is constantly threatening wars.
There has been an International Criminal Court for 10 years now, but it only prosecutes particular atrocities, and only those committed by Africans. The idea seems to be that African war makers should get civilized and learn to melt the skin off children and radiate neighborhoods and burn down houses the way the enlightened war makers do. The ICC is years away from possibly prosecuting the crime of making war, and then only for nations that have chosen to subject themselves to its authority, only in cases approved of by the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, and only in cases of aggressive war (as if there were some other kind).
Since 1976, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights has made war propaganda illegal. The argument that our First-Amendment right to freedom of the press and of speech overrides this is severely weakened, I think, by the fact that our major media outlets routinely shut out the viewpoints of the vast majority of us, to the point where people holding majority opinions on most political questions can be expected to believe they are part of a small minority. If we had freedom of the press we would have the ability to effectively counter war propaganda. As it is, we largely lack that freedom, and war propaganda is so pervasive we barely recognize it.
The U.S. Constitution not only makes treaties, along with itself, the supreme law of the land. It also requires that Congress pass a declaration of war. We haven't had one since 1941. Congress is to decide on lesser military actions that might not count as war. Congress is to raise armies as needed, but not to fund them for longer than two years. Most wars in history have lasted less than two years -- a fact worth considering as we credit Obama with supposedly ending a war in Afghanistan over the next two (or is it 12?) years. The War Powers Act legislated exceptions to the Constitution, allowing presidents to launch wars or other military actions for short periods of time prior to gaining Congressional authorization. The authorizations to use force that preceded the attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq went even further, handing presidents the power to declare wars -- which is why even the one for Iraq has never been repealed despite the announcement of that war's end. Obama's lawyer Harold Koh famously told Congress that attacking Libya was neither war nor hostilities (the language the War Powers Act used to include all military actions).
So-called "special" forces, the CIA, and our brave drones are engaged in military action in dozens of nations, none defensively or U.N. authorized, none in a manner that escapes the Kellogg-Briand Pact, none with a Constitutional declaration, many without any sort of authorization from Congress, most without the knowledge of Congress. Civil cases brought against U.S. military actions are shut down by claims of secret powers, or authorized by secret laws that we are not permitted to read, including secret sections of the PATRIOT Act, which we must comply with without seeing. Obama famously announced that he would review all of Bush's secret laws in the form of memos from the Office of Legal Counsel, but never announced the results of that review, what all the laws were, which were kept, which tossed, what new ones added, or what would prevent the next president from reworking all of that. While Constitutionally, Congress is required to make every law, the Congressional Research Service has been reduced to speculating on what sort of twisted logic the White House could use to make something like its assassination program look legal, were the White House inclined to bother.
While many have continued, even after the 1928 ban on war as mass murder, to think of war as an exception to the ban on murder, U.S. wars are now evolving to more closely resemble most people's conception of what murder looks like. Balanced against that is, of course, the power of racism and xenophobia. War techniques that supposedly reduce the murders of U.S. troops are acceptable to those who don't mind murdering the other 95% of humanity. But drones and night raids and other assassinations don't escape the ban on war, they simply add to their criminality by violating prohibitions on assassination. Nor do they fall under the protection of the barbaric U.S. laws of capital punishment. Drones provide no charges, trials, or due process. Our government has intentionally avoided arresting a 16-year-old boy in Pakistan, only to target and murder him with a drone when he tried to film the damage done by earlier drone strikes. This is not law enforcement, but lawless force.
On May 4th, the Congressional Research Service released a memo that attempted to guess at how drone killings of U.S. citizens or other mere humans geographically far removed from other warfare, not engaged in warfare on behalf of any nation, and residing in independent sovereign nations could be legal. According to the New York Times there is a secret memo from the Office of Legal Counsel that concludes, rather as John Yoo and Jay Bybee concluded that torture is not torture, that murder is not murder. But even Congress is not allowed to see the memo, so the Congressional Research Service was reduced to guessing what could be in it. Yet, the CRS was unable to guess anything clearly coherent. And the incoherence of the various public comments from the White House obscures the fact that the victims are not all suspected of plotting attacks on the United States. Most of the victims are simply innocent people in the wrong place. Others are targeted without so much as knowing their names, based on behavior that supposedly suggests, not that they are attacking the United States, but that they are aligned with those defending a foreign nation against U.S. attack. And that's not counting the children and adults traumatized by the threatening buzz overhead. The U.N. special Rapporteur has called drone strikes extrajudicial killing. The U.S. response was that it was none of his business.
You know whose business it is? It's the big business of some major campaign funders / job creators. Of course, military spending creates fewer jobs than any other kind of spending, but they are jobs easily eliminated. At one Congressional hearing not long ago, the Director of National Intelligence was asked what foreign nation might attack the United States, and he was unable to name one. War that is limited to nations, rather than individuals, is not good for business. Generating hostility abroad is. So is arming foreign groups and dictatorships. The U.S. sells 85% of international weapons sales, much of that also illegal, and all of it immoral. With no cover of law, Obama is arming Syrian terrorists, training Iranian terrorists, engaging in cyber attacks, and imposing what he calls so proudly crippling sanctions, all arguably illegal acts of war.
The UK Attorney General has decided that attacking Iran would be illegal. Top Israeli officials, according to one view of events that occurred two years ago, have refused orders to prepare an attack on Iran, in part because of the illegality. Yet, the United States continues to threaten Iran, to lie about Iran, to propagandize for war, to prepare for war, to arm Israel at our expense, and to protect Israel from any consequences for its crimes. At best, the United States has reached the conclusion that attacking Iran would be wrong if a Republican did it. After years of refusing, U.S. residents now tell pollsters they favor an attack on Iran, and -- not coincidentally -- that they now believe the lies about Iran that the U.S. government had been peddling for years unsuccessfully.
And the law be damned. The United States now allows spying without a warrant, imprisonment without a trial, rendition, torture, and murder. And that's for U.S. citizens, the people we supposedly slaughter the world to protect. Bahrain, that good human-rights-loving friend of the U.S. Navy, recently stripped protesters of citizenship. Apparently Bahrain didn't get the memo on how to strip citizens of all their rights.
Bradley Manning, tortured and held for years without a trial, and at risk as are other whistleblowers now of the hideous thing we call the death penalty, is trying to take a plea bargain, pleading to the crime of blowing the whistle on murder. The government is not eager to take the deal because Obama and gang have bigger fish to fry, hoping to prosecute Wikileaks for journalism. Manning's struggle, and that of every whistleblower and of every person who refuses illegal orders, is our struggle.
So are the legal struggles in courts of law still interested in the law. In Turkey, Israelis are being prosecuted in absentia for the murder of those trying to bring aid to Gaza. In Italy, two dozen CIA agents have been convicted in absentia for kidnapping a man to torture him. In the U.S. we've seen occasional court martials of low-ranking soldiers accused of torture, rape, murder, or -- oddly enough -- mistreatment of corpses they've murdered in an acceptable manner.
The last time Barack Obama was elected president, his transition team asked for proposals to be voted on through their website. The top vote getter was this:
“Will you appoint a Special Prosecutor – ideally Patrick Fitzgerald – to independently investigate the gravest crimes of the Bush Administration, including torture and warrantless wiretapping?”
Obama refused to answer the question. The dean of the University of California at Berkeley Law School Christopher Edley, Jr., said that he'd been party to very high level discussions and Obama's transition team had decided that the CIA, NSA, and military would revolt, and that Republicans would retaliate by blocking every piece of legislation. Wow, wouldn't that have been different? Now the question isn't even asked, and John Conyer's threat to impeach a president who attacked Iran is universally understood not to apply to Democrats.
We should remember at a time like this that when the slightly less funded of two corporate funded candidates wins, we don't. Obama publicly and illegally instructed the Attorney General not to prosecute the CIA for torture. We accepted that. Obama told environmental groups not to talk about climate change. Most of them obeyed. Obama told unions not to say "single payer" and they didn't. Now we're being told we must not demand military spending cuts or the prosecution of war crimes or the immediate withdrawal of forces abroad.
I propose that we pledge instead to protest and vote against and consider the impeachment of (I've listed plenty of grounds for that already) anyone in Congress or the White House who gives an inch on protecting Social Security and Medicare, who votes for current levels of military spending or anything above 75% of current levels, or who fails to oppose wars or to act against climate change. No more honey moons. No more veal pens in which the public servants tell the public organizations how to serve them. And no more promises to vote for you no matter what you do to us or to our brothers and sisters around the world. We need to use noviolent action not only to end war but also to provide an alternative path for our young people who might otherwise sign up to kill and die. Nonviolence requires more bravery, more commitment, more morality, and is far more satisfying than joining the war machine. The Declaration of Independence says we have the right to institute new government. It's getting to be about that time.
By Linn Washington, Jr.
Two police lieutenants face a similar criminal charge but one gets a slap on the wrist while the other is fired.
One of these two police supervisors is an officer with a distinguished record of exposing corruption and misconduct.
Guess which of those two veteran police officers received the harsher punishment?
By David Rose
The Mail on Sunday today reveals shocking new evidence of the full horrific impact of US drone attacks in Pakistan.
A damning dossier assembled from exhaustive research into the strikes’ targets sets out in heartbreaking detail the deaths of teachers, students and Pakistani policemen. It also describes how bereaved relatives are forced to gather their loved ones’ dismembered body parts in the aftermath of strikes.
By Linn Washington, Jr.
Much is rightly made of the ‘maverick’ character of former Pennsylvania U.S. Senator Arlen Specter in obituaries and other media coverage since his recent death.
That maverick streak certainly animated Specter’s December 2010 Farewell Speech from the Senate where he criticized the lack of civility currently rampant in that body plus assailed both political parties for perpetuating legislative gridlock and abuses of Senate rules.
By Dave Lindorff
Six children were attacked in Afghanistan and Pakistan this past week. Three of them, teenaged girls on a school bus in Peshawar, in the tribal region of western Pakistan, were shot and gravely wounded by two Taliban gunmen who were after Malala Yousufzai, a 14-year-old girl who has been bravely demanding the right of girls to an education. After taking a bullet to the head, and facing further death threats, she has been moved to a specialty hospital in Britain. Her two wounded classmates are being treated in Pakistan.
English version below.
Con la condanna degli agenti della Cia coinvolti nell'illegale sequestro dell'imam Abu Omar il sistema giudiziario italiano ha dimostrato che davvero la legge può essere “uguale per tutti”. Ora, quasi diecimila cittadini americani chiedono all'Italia di andare oltre.
di David Swanson*, traduzione di Patrick Boylan
Quasi diecimila americani hanno già inviato i loro ringraziamenti all'Ambasciata italiana a Washington in seguito alle condanne definitive inflitte in Italia dalla Cassazione, lo scorso 19 settembre, ai 23 agenti della Cia rei di aver rapito l'ex imam di Milano il 17 febbraio, 2003, e di averlo mandato in Egitto per essere interrogato sotto tortura. Noi di RootsAction.org, movimento di cittadinanza tra i più attivi negli USA, abbiamo promosso una raccolta di ringraziamenti per dire al governo italiano che esiste un'America felice della sentenza della Cassazione e che ora vuole l'estradizione in Italia dei 23 condannati che altrimenti continuerebbero a vivere liberi e impuniti negli Stati Uniti.
New Book for Ages 6 to 10: Tube World
Parents: Have your kids been tired in the morning? Have you found wet bathing suits in their beds? Do they know things about far-away places that you didn’t teach them and they didn’t learn in school? Do children visiting your town from halfway around the world always seem to be friends with your kids, and to only be around during certain hours of the day? You won’t believe the explanation, but your kids might grin and wink at each other if you read it to them.
Kids: Did you know the center of the Earth was hollow? Do you know the words that can take you there, if you’re under the covers in your swimming suit and prepared for the trip? Can you imagine traveling anywhere in the world where there’s a swimming pool — and being home again in time for breakfast? If you haven’t been to Tube World yet, this book will tell you the secrets you need to know. And it will tell you about some children who discovered Tube World and used it to make the whole world a better place.
The paperback has been published in two versions, one with slightly better color, slightly better paper, and a dramatically higher price.
Buy the standard paperback from Amazon,
(If you order from Amazon it will ship right away even if Amazon says it won't ship for weeks; it is print-on-demand.)
Buy the premium paperback from Amazon,
Your local independent bookstore can order the book through Ingram.
Anyone can order the book in bulk at the lowest possible price right here.
Buy PDF, Audio, EPUB, or Kindle for $8 right here:
Advance Praise for Tube World:
“This book will make you laugh till water comes out your ears!”--Wesley
“This story is super flibba garibbidy schmibbadie libbidie awesome, mostly!”--Travis
“The best part is we saved 2,000 islands and pretty much the whole world in our swimming suits!”--Hallie
About Shane Burke:
Shane Burke lives in Denver Colorado and has been drawing and painting since he could hold a pencil. He took private art lessons when he was young and began winning awards and contests by the age of seven. His first big commission came at age nine when he created artwork for a billboard near his home town of Tracy California. His greatest influences came from his grandfather and elementary school teachers. He loved watching his grandfather paint landscapes and wanted to be just like him. Shane is a creative day dreamer and at complete peace when putting ink to paper. You can see more of Shane's work at www.beezink.com
Shooting to Kill Immigrants on the Mexican Border: WTF? A Border Agent Fired First at Immigrant Smugglers?
By Dave Lindorff
Sometimes it takes a small tragedy to call attention to expose a much bigger one.
The small tragedy happened when Nicholas Ivey, a US Border Patrol agent, was shot dead on a dark night in rough terrain along the border with Mexico in Arizona, a state that has been obsessing about illegal border crossers coming into the US from Mexico seeking jobs.
A new movie has just been released based on Vincent Bugliosi's book "The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder." Bugliosi, of course, prosecuted Charles Manson and authored best sellers about Manson's guilt, O.J. Simpson's guilt, and Lee Harvey Oswald's guilt. Whether we all agree with all of those conclusions, it is worth noting that each book was reviewed and considered by the biggest U.S. newspapers and television networks. When Bugliosi wrote a book about George W. Bush's guilt, something we're almost all united on, the corporate media shut it out. Will the same fate greet this movie?
I hope not. In the book, and in this new movie, Bugliosi makes a devastating, well documented case that President George W. Bush is guilty of the murder of U.S. soldiers as a result of the lies he told to justify the invasion of Iraq, and can be prosecuted by any state attorney general in the country, or by any county prosecutor from a jurisdiction where a U.S. soldier lived prior to being killed in Iraq.
In the movie, we watch Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz remark that if presidents had to live in fear of their actions being scrutinized for criminality that would have a huge impact on their behavior. Dershowitz means this as somehow a negative thing. Bugliosi points out that that is exactly the point: we ought to deter criminal behavior in presidents.
Bugliosi's argument for prosecution is simple. Bush wanted a war with Iraq. He had to show that a preemptive invasion of Iraq was justified. To do this Iraq had to be an imminent threat to the United States. There were two major problems. Bush couldn't prove any connection between Saddam Hussein and 9/11. More importantly, Bush's own 2002 classified intelligence estimate found that Saddam was not an imminent threat to the United States. Bush simply reversed the findings of the National Intelligence Estimate of 2002, and sent men and women off to fight a fraudulent and unnecessary war, knowing full well that some of them would come home in boxes.
The facts are not in dispute. Bush chose to send US troops into Iraq. He did not do so in self-defense or as a last resort or under an international mandate, but rather went out of his way to concoct false motives for war and to rush its launching. By sending troops into war, Bush was knowingly and needlessly but certainly condemning some of them to death. The Iraqis who killed those soldiers in predictable and legally justifiable defense of their country fall into the legal category of "third-party innocent agent." This does not mean they are innocent, but rather that their actions do nothing to lessen the guilt of George W. Bush as murderer of those soldiers. Bugliosi calls this the "vicarious liability rule of conspiracy."
"In other words, if Bush personally killed an American soldier, he would be guilty of murder. Under the law, he cannot immunize himself from his criminal responsibility by causing a third party to do the killing. He's still responsible. George Bush cannot sit safely in his Oval Office in Washington, D.C., while young American soldiers fighting his war are being blown to pieces by roadside bombs in Iraq, and wash his hands of all culpability. It's not quite that easy. He could only do this if he did not take this nation into war under false pretenses. If he did, which the evidence overwhelmingly shows, he is criminally responsible for the thousands of American deaths in Iraq."
In addition, Bugliosi argues, Bush could be found guilty of murder under the rule of "aiding and abetting," because he instigated the killing of American soldiers by ordering the invasion of Iraq.
Did Bush have "malice aforethought"? Yes, according to Bugliosi. We convict people of murder for driving 100 mph through a school zone and hitting a child, or for blowing up a building while unaware that someone is inside. These are cases where the murderer does not know he is committing murder but where he is reckless enough to take an unreasonable risk of doing so. In Bush's case, he absolutely knew that invading Iraq would involve U.S. casualties, and yet he ordered the invasion, thereby acting with the intent that American soldiers be killed.
Bugliosi strengthens this argument by pointing out that we often convict people of murder for accidental killings that occur in the act of committing other felonies:
"A robber, for instance, was convicted of first degree murder under the felony-murder rule where, as he was leaving the store in which he had robbed the owner, he told the owner not to say a word or he'd be harmed, and fired into the ceiling to scare the owner. The shot, after two or three ricochets, pierced the head of the owner, killing him. In fact, the felony-murder rule applies even where the defendant is not the killer! There have been cases where the proprietor of the store fired at a robber, missed him and hit and killed a customer. And the robber was convicted of first degree murder of the customer."
Bugliosi missed an opportunity here to further strengthen his case by noting that in the act of ordering the invasion of Iraq, Bush was committing a number of felonies. When Bush submitted his March 18, 2003, letter and report to the United States Congress providing reasons for attacking Iraq, he violated the federal anti-conspiracy statute, 18 U.S.C. - 371, which makes it a felony "to commit any offense against the United States, or to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose..."; and The False Statements Accountability Act of 1996, 18 U.S.C. - 1001, which makes it a felony to issue knowingly and willfully false statements to the United States Congress. Bush also committed a felony by misappropriating funds to secretly begin the invasion prior to this date.
Bugliosi notes that there is no statute of limitations for murder. Bush could be prosecuted by any future federal prosecutor who had the nerve to do so and could do so while keeping his or her job. But Bugliosi writes that a state attorney general or any district attorney in any city or county could bring a murder charge against Bush for any soldiers from that state or county who lost their lives in Iraq. And not just Bush, but Cheney, Rice, et alia. Bugliosi provides some truly talented proposals for questioning Bush in court and adds:
"I would be more than happy, if requested, to consult with any prosecutor who decides to prosecute Bush in preparation of additional cross-examination questions for him to face on the witness stand. I believe the cross-examination would be such that they'd have to carry the arrogant son of privilege off the stand on a stretcher."
I know the same offer to assist stands from former federal prosecutor Elizabeth de la Vega, author of "United States versus George W. Bush et al.," who also appears in the film.
Bugliosi believes he's found the one true way to bring Bush to justice. I think numerous avenues lie open, and that what is lacking is the will. But the statutes of limitations are running out on many crimes, narrowing the field for prosecution. Only those torture cases that resulted in death, for example, can now be prosecuted without running up against the statutes of limitations.
The root of warfare, I believe, is the valuing of U.S. lives over the lives of others. So it is unfortunate that Bugliosi's approach encourages that, even if unintentionally. Bugliosi does not see any legal case to try Bush for the murders of Iraqis, but he also openly admits that he cares more about the deaths of Americans. Bugliosi repeatedly cites the figure 100,000, or "over 100,000" as the number of Iraqi deaths, but never indicates where he came up with that number or how he ignores the fact that every serious study has placed the count above a million. Even if Bugliosi sees no way to prosecute Bush for the murder of Iraqis, he does not seem to have considered the possibility that U.S. troops are guilty of those murders. The U.S. troops in this story (and, sadly, it is thus far just a story, not a prosecution) play exclusively the role of victim. The legal and moral reality assigns them multiple roles.
I don't think it hurts Bugliosi's legal case, but I doubt that most Congress members believed Bush's lies about Iraq. At the very least, they were as reckless as he was. And I think there is a fundamental problem with Bugliosi's belief that there was something unique about Bush lying us into a war in Iraq. It has been firmly established that the U.S. invaded Mexico, that there was no evidence to tie Spain to the sinking of the Maine, that the troops and weapons on the Lusitania were public knowledge, that FDR told numerous lies about Japan and Germany, that the Gulf of Tonkin incident never happened, that the Taliban was willing to hand bin Laden over to a third nation to be tried, etc. The belief that Iraq was a first led me to correct the record with a book called War Is A Lie.
Because I know war lies are not unusual, I may value deterrence more highly. I also do not thirst, as Bugliosi does, for anger and vengeance against "evil monsters." But Bugliosi, too, argues for deterrence as a central motivation, so it's interesting to see what the lack of deterrence has already wrought. President Obama continued Bush's wars, including the one in Iraq. President Obama has an open policy of murder including weekly Tuesday reviews of the names of victims. The evidence is abundant. Bugliosi promises in the movie that he would treat a Democrat exactly the same way he treats Bush. I sure hope so.
Here's a radio interview I did with Bugliosi.
Here's a preview of the movie:
By Clint Henderson
The internet is full of videos exposing police officers' use of excessive physical force when trying to apprehend or detain "potential criminals". Every year in fact there seems to be an increase in YouTube video uploads, video views, and news stories depicting this type of injustice.
By Linn Washington Jr.
The recent outrage in Pennsylvania over the scheduled October 3 execution of a man who killed two men who had sexually abused him during his childhood has tarnished the reformer image of Philadelphia DA Seth Williams, exposing him as just another prosecutor willing to trample justice to preserve a death penalty.
By Dave Lindorff
The United States never misses an opportunity to castigate other countries for “uncivilized” behavior, and certainly there is enough of that to go around almost anywhere you look in the world. But there’s plenty of it here in the U.S. too.
Forza Italia! After years of appeals, Italy's highest court has upheld the conviction of 23 Americans involved in a CIA kidnapping of a man off the street in Milan, whom the CIA shipped to Egypt to be brutally tortured. This ruling could result in Italy demanding their extradition. For, you see, the 23 are living comfortably in the United States. They look just like decent people. They blend in. I don't advise Italy to kidnap (or "rendition") these Americans just because President Obama says that's legal. But I do encourage Italy to demand extradition. And I hope that one or another of them will be so good as to seek sanctuary in an Ecuadorean Embassy, just to see how many heads explode in Washington as people try to determine what they're supposed to think of that.
For background on this case, sadly still relevant, here's something I wrote on November 6, 2010:
One Place to Cut Spending: Kidnapping and Torture
By David Swanson
I know it seems like more of a noble sacrifice to cut spending on things people less fortunate than ourselves need, but can somebody explain to me why it wouldn't be at least that noble to eliminate the budget of the CIA, which serves no one?
The Washington Post and the Obama administration have been busy telling us that it's legal to kidnap people and send them to countries that torture. They may call it "renditioning" to nations that use "enhanced interrogation techniques," but a new book details what this means in English.
A man was walking near his home in Milano, Italy, and was stopped and questioned by a policeman. When they had been engaged in conversation for some minutes, the side door of a van parked behind the man crashed open with a thunderous sound, two extremely large and strong men grabbed the civilian and hauled him inside, and the door slammed shut three seconds after it had opened, as the van accelerated and the two men hit and kicked their victim repeatedly in the dark of the van's interior, pounding his head, chest, stomach, and legs. They stopped. They stuffed a gag in his mouth and put a hood over his head, as they cinched cords tight around his wrists and ankles. Hours later they threw him into another vehicle. An hour later they took him out, stood him up, cut his clothes off, shoved something hard up his anus, stuck a diaper and pajamas on him, wrapped his head almost entirely with duct tape, and tossed him in an airplane.
The torture he received when he got where he was going left him nearly dead, prematurely aged, and barely able to walk. It was US-sponsored and Egyptian administered. And it is described in all of its almost unbearable detail in Steve Hendricks' "A Kidnapping in Milan: The CIA on Trial."
Believe it or not, most of this book is enjoyable. Hendricks knows the United States and Italy and how to write about one for readers in the other. His remarks on Italian culture are outdone only by his background on Muslim terrorism, his account of who this kidnapping victim was, and the inclusion of dialogue picked up by Italian wiretaps of terrorism suspects' private conversations. But just as terrific reading are Hendricks' histories of the practice of rendition, of the use of torture, of U.S.-Italian relations, of domestic Italian terrorism, and of modern Egypt.
Not to ruin the punch line -- and this has long been public knowledge -- the kidnapping, transporting, imprisoning, and torturing of this man and many others is paid for with U.S. tax dollars. I'm sure it all sounds very important and rational given how demonically evil Muslims are supposed to be. But how do you justify the dozens of CIA agents living it up in Italy's most luxurious hotels while plotting this operation? And how do you rationalize the damage done to U.S. relations with Italy? Of course, Italians quickly discovered that the CIA was behind this crime. It would have been harder to track them if they'd worn neon signs on their chests. They used cell phones and frequent flyer accounts that were easily identified, not to mention names and addresses similar to their real ones. Hendricks describes their methods as Keystone Kommandoism.
No doubt some of these CIA bunglers and butchers were outsourced and untrained, but they also believed they were above the law. They thought they had immunity. Italian law enforcement thought otherwise. For decades during the Cold War, the CIA kept an army and caches of weapons in Italy to be used if communists were ever able to gain significant political power. A long list of abuses has come to light and no one ever been held accountable. Magistrate Armando Spataro, like many Italians, adored the United States. When reporters asked him why he had indicted two dozen CIA agents, Spataro said he was opposing lawlessness, not his beloved United States. He warned of following the path of Mussolini. He pointed out that Italy had defeated domestic terrorists with the rule of law. He showed that the new U.S. lawlessness was just encouraging terror. His record of prosecuting leftist terrorists and his indictment for terrorism of the victim himself of the U.S. kidnapping made claims of bias difficult to pin on Spataro. The approach resorted to by the U.S. media was -- to the extent possible -- to ignore the whole thing, especially when Spataro won convictions of the agents tried in absentia.
The Italian legal system is one thing, its government in Rome quite another. The latter will never ask the United States to extradite the convicts unless the U.S. president requests it first, just as the United States would never kidnap a man in Italy without telling the Italian president and the Italian spy service first. So, none of the culprits are behind bars, but they are unable to live in or travel to Europe. And a strong signal has been sent about the likelihood of Italy tolerating more such crimes. This is the sort of message Nancy Pelosi would have sent by impeaching Bush even if the Senate had not convicted him.
Hendricks tracked down most of the scofflaws. They're spread around the United States engaged in a variety of work, most of them completely unknown to the public. The man chiefly responsible, on the other hand, is undergoing a public rehabilitation and it about to open a presidential library, while the man responsible for the continued practice and for the freedom of his predecessor has two more years in the White House.
Italy's highest criminal court on Wednesday upheld the convictions of 23 Americans in the kidnapping of an Egyptian terror suspect as part of the CIA's extraordinary rendition program.
The ruling marks the final appeal in the first trial anywhere in the world involving the CIA's practice of abducting terror suspects and transferring them to third countries where torture is permitted.
The 23 Americans all were convicted in absentia following a three-and-a-half-year trial, and have never been in Italian custody. They risk arrest if they travel to Europe and one of their court-appointed lawyers suggested that the final verdict would open the way for the Italian government to seek their extradition.
`'It went badly. It went very badly,” lawyer Alessia Sorgato said. `'Now they will ask for extradition.”
The Americans and two Italians were convicted last year of involvement in the kidnapping of Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, from a Milan street on Feb. 17, 2003 — the first convictions anywhere in the world against people involved in the CIA's practice of abducting terror suspects and transferring them to third countries where torture was permitted. The cleric was transferred to U.S. military bases in Italy and Germany before being moved to Egypt, where he says he was tortured. He has since been released.
Those convicted include the former Milan CIA station chief, Robert Seldon Lady, whose original seven-year sentence was raised to nine years on appeal. The other 22 Americans, all but one identified by prosecutors as CIA agents, face seven-year terms.
Previous Italian governments had declined to act on prosecutors' request to extradite the American suspects, most of whom had court-appointed lawyers the defendants never met. While some of the defendants in the case were known figures attached to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in Milan, many of those named in the trial are believed to have been aliases, impeding any formal extradition.
Among those whose sentence was upheld was Air Force Col. Joseph Romano, who was head of security at the Aviano Air Force base where the Egyptian cleric was driven from Milan before being taken by plane to Germany and eventually Egypt.
Romano's lawyer, Cesare Bulgheroni, said he would appeal the verdict to the EU human rights court in Strasbourg on the basis that Romano was never formally notified of the charges against him, and that lower courts had rejected some witnesses. Romano was one of only two Americans who received permission to hire his own lawyer during the original trial.
The court also ordered new appeals trials for five Italian intelligence agents, including the former head of military intelligence, Nicolo Pollari. They had been acquitted by lower courts because of state secrets.
During the original trial, three other Americans were acquitted: the then-Rome CIA station chief Jeffrey Castelli and two other diplomats formerly assigned to the Rome Embassy. Prosecutors appealed the acquittal, as they can in Italy. The appeal is still pending in Milan.
European Parliament criticises failure to investigate CIA torture and renditions, calls for ‘transparent’ inquiry in UK
Today the European Parliament adopted by an overwhelming majority a new resolution condemning the role of European states in the CIA's secret detention and torture programme.
The Parliament criticises member states for failing to fulfil their obligation to investigate serious human rights violations connected with the CIA programme, pointing out that previous investigations have been hampered by lack of transparency, prevalence of political interests, restriction of victims' right to effective participation, and lack of rigorous investigative techniques.
In the wake of the abandonment of the UK’s Gibson Inquiry into the mistreatment of detainees in the ‘War on Terror’, the report “calls on the UK to conduct [a future] inquiry with due transparency, allowing the effective participation of victims and civil society.”
The Parliament calls on Romania and Lithuania, in particular, to reopen investigations in the light of new evidence produced by Reprieve. In Poland, where a prosecutorial investigation is still ongoing after several years, the Parliament has deplored the lack of official communication on the scope, conduct and state of play of the investigation.
Rapporteur Hélène Flautre MEP noted that until now, progress had been made difficult by a "miasma of secrecy, footdragging and obfuscation" in countries involved in the programme, but said she hoped that the Parliament would be able to assist in inspiring action.
Reprieve investigator Crofton Black said: “This comprehensive statement shows that Europe – including the UK – has failed to come to terms with its key role in the CIA’s programme of torture and rendition. Countries including Britain, Romania and Lithuania have failed to carry out the necessary inquiries into the part they played in some of the worst human rights abuses of the war on terror.”
Notes to editors
1. For further information, please contact Donald Campbell in Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 207 427 1082 / firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. More information on the new evidence produced by Reprieve on Romania’s and Lithuania’s involvement in the CIA programme can be found on Reprieve’s website:
3. Regarding the UK Government’s Detainee Inquiry, initially established under Sir Peter Gibson before being halted in early 2012 in the face of criticisms over its lack of power and independence, the European Parliament today “Notes the criminal investigation launched in the UK on renditions to Libya, and welcomes the decision to continue the wider inquiry into the UK’s responsibility in the CIA programme once the investigation has been concluded; calls on the UK to conduct this inquiry with due transparency, allowing the effective participation of victims and civil society.”
4. Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives. Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.
Reprieve’s current casework involves representing 15 prisoners in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, assisting over 70 prisoners facing the death penalty around the world, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’ Follow Reprieve on twitter: @ReprieveUK; if you were forwarded this release, sign up to join our press mailing list.
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By Ann Wright
In a landmark case, on September 6, 2012, a Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Circuit Court Judge gave standing to an Australian woman to collect a Japanese civil judgment against a former US Navy sailor for raping her in Japan ten years ago.
Perpetrator Given Honorable Discharge and Left Japan without informing Japanese Court
A civil judgment by a Tokyo court in 2004 ordered sailor Bloke T. Deans to pay ¥3 million yen in damages to Catherine Jane Fisher as compensation for emotional and physical harm from the rape. However, despite knowing of the Japanese court case against Deans, the US Navy issued Deans an honorable discharge and allowed Deans to leave Japan without informing the Japanese court or Ms. Fisher.
By Charles M. Young
By Marjorie Cohn
The Obama administration has closed the books on prosecutions of those
who violated our laws by authorizing and conducting the torture and
abuse of prisoners in U.S. custody. Last year, Attorney General Eric
Holder announced that his office would investigate only two incidents,
in which CIA interrogations ended in deaths. He said the Justice
Department “has determined that an expanded criminal investigation of
the remaining matters is not warranted.” With that decision, Holder
conferred amnesty on countless Bush officials, lawyers and
interrogators who set and carried out a policy of cruel treatment.
By Dave Lindorff
Police brutality is in the news, thanks to the widespread availability of amateur video.
We've seen scene after scene of police beating the crap out of, and even shooting and killing unarmed or minimally dangrous students, women, old men and crazy people, many of them after they have been handcuffed and checked for weapons.
By Linn Washington, Jr.
The perplexing predicament confronting Daryl Brooks could confound writers Albert Camus and Franz Kafka, two authors acclaimed for their works about individuals subjected to surreal forms of injustice.
Brooks, a community activist in Trenton, New Jersey, is facing a Kafkaesque return to prison because some NJ state parole personnel charged him with committing a parole violation that top NJ Parole Board officials contend is not actually a violation.
By Dave Lindorff
Sometimes a journalist just has to go with the story, even if it’s going all wrong.
By Linn Washington, Jr.
Mumia Abu-Jamal, the internationally recognized American political prisoner, thwarted a Philadelphia judge’s secretive court order that could have eliminated his future appeal rights when he filed a last- minute motion on August 23rd challenging that order sentencing him to life-without-parole.
By Dave Lindorff
Wow, it's been a while, but protests of war makers in Charlottesville will be back big time next Wednesday. It seems like ages since we protested John Yoo, or even since our threatened protest of Dick Cheney scared him out of coming to town. But opportunity is knocking and a massive nonviolent protest is sure to answer.
How could it not? On Wednesday, Charlottesville will host a man who has escalated war in Afghanistan and continued it in the face of overwhelming public opposition. He's invented a new kind of war using drones and launched such wars in numerous nations, building intense hostility toward the United States. He keeps a list of "nominees" for murder. On the list are adults and children, Americans and non-Americans. He holds meetings with his staff on Tuesdays to decide whom to kill next, and then kills them. He'll have one of these Terror Tuesday meetings the day before his visit to our town.
Goldman Sachs Free to Keep Stealing
by Stephen Lendman
Goldman again got off scot-free. On August 9, the Justice Department dropped criminal fraud charges. Evidence the equivalent of enough firepower to sink a carrier battle group was buried and forgotten. More on what happened below.
By Linn Washington
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, the same conservative Republican who recently cut 70,000 from receiving their meager welfare payments in order to cut government costs, is ready to spend millions of bucks to implement a voter suppression scheme that evidence indicates is a blatant partisan measure designed to help Mitt Romney gain a presidential election victory.
By Dave Lindorff
Imagine for a moment what would happen if former President George W. Bush were to give an interview on television and declare that his invasion of Iraq, and the ensuing nine years of death and mayhem that resulted from that war, had been the wrong thing to do. Imagine if he were to say of that decision, “Mistakes were made.”
By John Grant
About 50 people converged on Tuesday afternoon July 17 along Route 29 in Montgomery County near the Graterford State Prison to declare their opposition to the building of more prisons and the expansion of existing prisons like Graterford in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Graterford is already a massive institution.
…the Islamic Republic has a strong case which could prevent war
By Franklin Lamb
This observer’s best ever (and shortest) job involved “ sort of” representing Iran before The Hague based International Court of Justice back in the ancient history days of 1980 following the American hostage events when the US government sued the new Islamic Republic of Iran before the ICJ under Articles 22 (2), 24, 25, 26, 27 and 29 of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations as well as Article 111 (4) of the 1955Treaty of Amity, Economic Relations and Consular Rights (USA/Iran).