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Criminal Prosecution and Accountability


So then Who in the Hell Are We?

 

By Dan De Walt

 

“This is not a reflection of who we are or what we stand for.” 

       -- Jeff Gearhart, Wall-Mart general counsel, on the firm’s Mexico bribery 

 

[Torture] “is not the norm.” 

       -- Mike Pannek, Abu Ghraib prison warden.

 

“This is not who we are.” 

       -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the US massacre of 16 Afghan villagers.

 

“This is not who we are.” 

Court rejects torture-related case against Bush lawyer

By Terry Baynes, Reuters, via dailypress.com

(Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court on Wednesday ruled that John Yoo, a former legal counsel to the Bush administration, is immune from a lawsuit by an American citizen convicted on terrorism charges who said he was tortured at a military jail in South Carolina.

Jose Padilla, who was sentenced to 17 years in prison in 2007, had accused Yoo of helping to formulate policies under which those designated as "enemy combatants" by the U.S. government were interrogated and detained.

The San Francisco-based U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court decision which had allowed the suit to proceed.

Real Politics Must be in the Streets: The Constitutional Crimes of Barack Obama

 

By Dave Lindorff

 

As we slog towards another vapid, largely meaningless exercise in pretend democracy with the selection of a new president and Congress this November, it is time to make it clear that the current president, elected four years ago by so many people with such inflated expectations four years ago (myself included, as I had hoped, vainly it turned out, that those who elected him would then press him to act in progressive ways), is not only a betrayer of those hopes, but is a serial violator of his oath of office. He is, in truth, a war criminal easily the equal of his predecessor, George W. Bush, and perhaps even of Bush’s regent, former Vice President Dick Cheney.

 

Let me count the ways:

 

The Supposed Legality of Murder

War is legal, but pointing out its illegality is not mistaken; it's irrelevant and un-strategic. That's the argument I'm hearing from a number of quarters.

On Book Tour Instead of Trial, Part 7,342

Ex-spy: Destroying CIA tapes purged 'ugly visuals'

WASHINGTON (AP) — The retired top CIA officer who ordered the destruction of videos showing waterboarding says in a new book that he was tired of waiting for Washington's bureaucracy to make a decision that protected American lives.

Jose Rodriguez, who oversaw the CIA's once-secret interrogation and detention program, also lashes out at President Barack Obama's administration for calling waterboarding torture and criticizing its use.

"I cannot tell you how disgusted my former colleagues and I felt to hear ourselves labeled 'torturers' by the president of the United States," Rodriguez writes in his book, "Hard Measures."

The book is due out April 30. The Associated Press purchased a copy Tuesday.

Padilla takes torture case to US Supreme Court

(AFP) WASHINGTON — US citizen Jose Padilla, who was jailed for four years as an "enemy combatant" and claims to have been tortured, has asked the Supreme Court to reinstate his civil case against top US officials.

His bid to sue former and present officials -- including Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and former secretary Donald Rumsfeld -- was rejected by an appeals court in January, which said they enjoyed official immunity.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Padilla's mother Estela Lebron appealed the ruling. Padilla is in a maximum-security prison in Colorado after being convicted in 2007 of aiding a homegrown Al-Qaeda cell.

The ACLU claims in the suit that Padilla, who was imprisoned without charge for nearly four years as an "enemy combatant," was subjected to a range of abuse while being held in a Navy brig in South Carolina.

Occupy The Justice Department Challenges Obama Administration Integrity on Prosecutor Misconduct Issue

 

By Linn Washington, Jr.

 

One of the issues driving protesters participating in the April 24, 2012 Occupy The Justice Department demonstration is an issue that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder knows well: prosecutorial misconduct.

Holder knows this misconduct issue well because he has criticized it during congressional testimony, in fact as recently as March 2012 when he was commenting on a special prosecutor’s report castigating the wrongdoing of federal prosecutors.

That wrongdoing, Holder acknowledged, unlawfully tainted the corruption investigation and 2008 trial of the late U.S. Senator Ted Stevens, who was convicted of corruption in his home state of Alaska.

How Dare Russia

"Self-purification through suffering is easier, I tell you: easier -- than that destiny which you are paving for many of them by wholesale acquittals in court.  You are merely planting cynicism in their souls." --Fyodor Dostoyevsky

The United States Congress is outraged.  Russia, it seems, may have wrongly imprisoned, tortured, and murdered a whistleblower.  In the land of the free, our good representatives are outraged, I tell you.  And not just I.  NPR will tell you.  This calls for action.  There's a bill in the Senate and a bill in the House.  The Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act. 

Who wouldn't support the rule of law and accountability?

Well, let me think.

Oh, I know. The United States Congress. 

Bush and Cheney are selling books confessing to the crime of war and all that comes with it, including lawless imprisonment and torture.  They have openly confessed in their books and on television, repeatedly, to a form of torture that the current Attorney General of the United States admits is torture.  Bush's torture program tortured numerous people to death.  And what has Congress wrought?

No impeachments.

No enforcement of subpoenas.

No defunding of operations.

No criminalizing of secrecy.

No protection of whistleblowers.

No mandating of diplomacy, reparations, foreign aid, or commitments to international standards.

In other words, we have no Congress with the right to talk about the Rule of Law or Accountability without being mocked.

But keep hope alive.

Change is on the way.

Look!

Up in the sky!

It's Captain Peace Prize!

Obama launches wars without bothering to lie to Congress or the United Nations, has formalized the powers of lawless imprisonment, rendition, and murder, and places the protection of Bush and Cheney above almost anything else -- certainly above the rule of law or accountability.

Obama has badgered Spain, Italy, Germany, and the U.K. to leave the Bush gang in peace, publicly instructed the U.S. Department of Justice not to prosecute, and expanded claims of "State Secrets" beyond anything previously imagined in order to shut down legal accountability.  Italy has convicted CIA agents in absentia, and Obama has not shipped them over to do their time.  Poland is prosecuting its bit players in U.S. crimes.  Former top British official Jack Straw is being hauled into court for his tangential role.  But Obama has chosen a path to success in Washington, or thinks he has, and that path is immunity for anyone with power. 

The trouble is that Obama now wants to apply that same standard to Russia, and Congress won't stand for it.  Obama is opposed to the Hold Russia Accountable Act because he prefers to kiss up to the government of Russia.  It's a policy that has worked beautifully for him at home.  Why not apply it abroad?

Of course, the United States has no moral standing to speak against imprisonment, torture, or murder.  The United States imprisons more of its people than any other country, keeps hundreds of thousands of them in supermaxes or long-term isolation, tolerates prison rape and violence, openly treats torture as a policy option, facilitates torture in what may be the two countries torturing the greatest number of people today: Iraq and Afghanistan, and kills with capital punishment, special forces, and drones. 

The United States has no moral standing to speak against the punishment of whistleblowers, Obama having prosecuted seven of them under the Espionage Act of 1917, fittingly enough for the offense of having made U.S. war-making look bad by revealing facts about it. 

But the answer cannot be to support Russian crimes just because there are U.S. crimes.  Congress, revolting as it is to say, is right: the Russian government should be held to a decent rule of law.  And it should be held to it through the language that speaks louder than words: action.  U.S. immunity for torturers is one of the greatest factors in the current spread of acceptability for torture around the world.

Congress should impeach Bush and Obama, enforce its subpoenas, ship convicted CIA criminals to Italy, strengthen the War Powers Act, criminalize war profiteering, ban private mercenaries, ban unconstitutional detentions, ban secret budgets and laws and agencies, ban rendition, and ratify and enforce the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.  Congress should also cease encircling Russia with missiles, and end its wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc.

Or, short of moving in a useful direction, sad to say, the best thing the United States Congress could do for the rule of law in Russia at the moment would be to shut the hell up.

Canadian Lawyers Brief the Committee Against Torture on Canada's Failure to Prosecute George W. Bush

CANADA: Briefing to CAT on the Failure to Prosecute George W. Bush for Torture
From Lawyers against the War
 
Lawyers against the War (LAW) is a Canada-based committee that advocates for adherence to
international humanitarian law and against impunity for violators. LAW engages in education,
produces legal analyses and has participated in legal actions to hold members of the Bush
administration accountable for torture and other grave crimes.  
 
Introduction: Visits to Canada by George W. Bush
 
George W. Bush (Bush) was President of the United States of America and Commander in Chief
of the U.S. Armed Forces from January 20, 2001 to January 20, 2009. Evidence indicates that
during his term in office, Bush authorized, directed, supervised, failed to supervise or otherwise
was a party to the widespread and systemic use of torture by the U.S. and is therefore an alleged
torturer.
 
As a party to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment
or Punishment (Convention)1 Canada has an obligation to take effective measures to prevent and
punish torture. A significant part of that duty obliges Canada to ensure that alleged torturers such
as Bush do not receive safe haven from prosecution for torture in Canada. This report chronicles
Canada’s failure to enforce Canadian law and adhere to Convention duties triggered by visits to
Canada by Bush.  
 
Since his term as president of the U.S. and commander in chief of the U.S. Armed Forces came
to an end, Bush has entered Canada on a number of occasions including, but not limited to, visits
to:    
• Calgary in the province of Alberta on March 28, 2009,
• Toronto in the province of Ontario on May 29, 2009,  
• Edmonton in the province of Alberta on October 20, 2009,
• Saskatoon in the province of Saskatchewan on October 21, 2009,
• Montreal in the province of Quebec on October 22, 2009,  
• Surrey in the province of British Columbia on October 20, 2011.  
 
This report is focused on visits by Bush to Calgary Alberta on March 28, 2009 and to Surrey
British Columbia on October 20, 2011. The law and principles cited in this report apply to all
visits to Canada by Bush and others members of the former Bush administration who have been
accused on reasonable grounds of criminal involvement in torture.  
 
On both occasions LAW sent letters to the Prime Minister and ministers of Justice, Immigration,
Public Safety, and Foreign Affairs advising them of Canada’s legal duties to take effective
measures to prevent and punish the torture authorized and directed by the Bush administration
and to ensure that Bush not receive safe haven in Canada from prosecution for torture.  LAW2
advised of the obligation to bar Bush, as an alleged torturer, from entering Canada pursuant to
the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.  
 
LAW advised Canadian officials of the legal obligation to “…arrest the alleged torturer [Bush]
and to carry out proper criminal investigations, as provided for in Article 6, and to submit the
case to its competent authorities for the purpose of prosecution, as stipulated in Article 7(1)”3
once the jurisdictional requirements of the Article 5 of the Convention against Torture and other
Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Convention)4 were satisfied by Bush’s
presence in Canada.
 
On the occasion of Bush’s visit to Surrey British Columbia, Canada was also advised of the duty
to arrest and prosecute the former president once he entered the country by letter and legal brief
sent jointly by the Canada-based Canadian Centre for International Justice (CCIJ) and the New
York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and by a letter and legal brief from Amnesty
International Canada (Amnesty). CCIJ and CCR sent a 69 page draft indictment backed up by
some 4,000 pages of evidence of the widespread and systemic torture used by the U.S. under the
command of Bush in U.S. controlled prisons around the world.5 Amnesty’s letter calling on
Canada to arrest and prosecute Bush was accompanied by a 27 page legal brief outlining the
evidence of torture, Bush’s complicity, and Canada’s legal duty to arrest and prosecute Bush. 6  

READ THE REST: PDF.

Jack Straw Faces Legal Action for Playing Bit Part in U.S. Torture Program, the Architects of Which Have Books to Sell You

From BBC:

A Libyan military commander is taking legal action against Jack Straw, to find out if the ex-foreign secretary signed papers allowing his rendition.

Abdel Hakim Belhadj claims CIA agents took him from Thailand to Gaddafi-led Libya, via UK-controlled Diego Garcia.

His lawyers have served papers on Mr Straw after the Sunday Times reported claims that he allowed this to happen.

UK ministers have denied any complicity in rendition or torture and Mr Straw did not comment further.

He said he could not do so because of the ongoing police investigation into the UK's alleged role in illegal rendition.

Earlier this month, the BBC revealed that the UK government had approved the rendition of Mr Belhadj and his wife - Fatima Bouchar - to Col Muammar Gaddafi's regime, though it was unclear at what level.

On 15 April, the Sunday Times published an article, which quoted sources as alleging Mr Straw had personally authorised Mr Belhadj's rendition to Libya.

On Tuesday, Mr Belhadj's lawyers - Leigh Day & Co - served papers on Mr Straw, referencing the article and seeking his response to allegations that he was complicit in torture and misfeasance in public office.

The civil action is against Mr Straw personally - Mr Belhadj's lawyers believe it is the first time legal action of this kind has been taken against a former foreign secretary.

Mr Belhadj and his wife allege Mr Straw was complicit in the "torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, batteries and assaults" which they say were perpetrated on them by Thai and US agents, as well as the Libyan authorities.

They are seeking damages from Mr Straw for the trauma involved.

Tony Blair's Legacy and His Upcoming Visit to Maine

Carole Whelan, Military Families Speak Out, Hope, Maine

When I read that former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, will deliver the Colby commencement address, I thought it must be somebody’s idea of a joke, that Colby students wouldn’t accept such an insult to them and their venerable school.

Colby’s president, William Adams, says that Blair’s presence will be a potent reminder of his impact on the world. It is a painful reminder indeed, for military families, and one that does not speak well of Colby’s decision makers.

Blair, in the most important decision of his life and against the recommendations of his top advisors, condemned millions of innocent people to the brutality of war. Many people believe that Blair knew at the time that the so-called intelligence about Iraq WMDs was deliberately falsified to justify war plans already in progress. The revelations in the “Downing St. Memo” and Blair’s own statements lead them to this conclusion.

Blair has never manned-up and apologized or even acknowledged this act. All his self-serving, alternative-history-building efforts for the rest of his life will never erase his real legacy: the destruction and suffering he inflicted on so many.

Most people think the Iraq war is “over”. It is never over for those who lost their loved ones or for those who lost their limbs, their mind, their spirit. The consequences of war are a burden that is passed down through succeeding generations.  If there is a greater evil than waging a war of choice, I don’t know what that could be. Whether Colby's administrators agree with others' conclusions or not, they should be sensitive to the terrible price military families and Iraqi civilians have paid. They should have been aware of all the pain that would be dredged up by inappropriately choosing a speaker who is most remembered for his disastrous failure.

U.S. Supreme Court Says You Can't Sue Other Nations or Foreign Corporations for Torturing You Either

From Bloomberg:

Torture Suits Against Companies Blocked by Top U.S. Court

 
The U.S. Supreme Court limited the reach of a law that protects American citizens from torture in other countries, ruling that victims can sue only individuals, not organizations or corporations.

The justices unanimously threw out a suit filed against the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian Liberation Organization by the relatives of Azzam Rahim, an American allegedly tortured and murdered in the West Bank during the 1990s.

Mohammed ElBaradei's The Age of Deception calls for war crimes trials and reparations.

"ElBaradei is so morally outraged by the blatant pulverization of a sovereign Middle East country by a Western superpower and its allies that he also advises the Iraqis to demand war reparations..."  

Kaveh Afrasiabi of Asia Times reviews Mohammed ElBaradei's passionate last-ditch plea for global sanity, which includes new revelations about the U.S.'s failure to provide the IAEA with confirming evidence that Iran has ever had a nuclear weapons program: http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/ND14Ak04.html

The Killers All Around Us

 

By Dave Lindorff

 

I've often wondered why so many innocent people who are shot by police end up dead.

Granted that police officers spend a fair amount of time training with their service revolvers, and are thus likely to be better shots with a pistol than your average gun-owner. But even so, in so many cases where some unarmed person is shot by police, the result is death, and it makes you wonder how cops, often in the dark and on the run, manage with their notoriously hard-to-aim pistols to hit a vital organ with such depressing regularity.

Pakistani Lawyer Representing Victims of Drone Strikes Prevented From Speaking in U.S.

From Code Pink and CCR:
 
National — Pakistani lawyer Shahzad Akbar has been invited to speak at an International Drone Summit in Washington DC on April 28, but the U.S. government is failing to grant him a visa. 
 
The Summit is organized by the peace group CODEPINK and the legal advocacy organizations Reprieve and the Center for Constitutional Rights. Akbar, co-founder of the Pakistani human rights organization Foundation for Fundamental Rights, is important to the Summit because of his work providing legal aid to victims of CIA-operated drone strikes.

Hi-Ho! The US is a Police State

 

By Dave Lindorff

 

Back in the early 1980s, I had the extraordinary good fortune to get to meet one of my literary heroes, Kurt Vonnegut, up close and personal.  We shared a police wagon, sitting next to each other for a ride to the station to be booked for blocking the door to the South African consulate in a demonstration against that country’s then policy of white rule and apartheid.

 

I can’t say I got to know the author very well, but he was quite friendly and interesting to talk to, and after our arrest and booking was over, and we were released, I shared a cab as far as his house.

 

The Trayvon Blues

By John Grant

 

Founded and preserved by acts of aggression, characterized by a continuing tradition of self-righteous violence against suspected subversion and by a vigorous sense of personal freedom, usually involving the widespread possession of firearms, the United States has evidenced a unique tolerance for homicide.

-David Brion Davis
Homicide in American Fiction 1798-1860

 


The Trayvon Martin story is not going to go away. It was a narrative event waiting to happen, and the story only gets richer with meaning as time goes on. There are the obvious racial aspects, but the most important elements are about police power versus citizen power -- and who can get away with shooting whom?

FINALLY Someone's Prosecuted (and not in absentia) for U.S. Torture -- And It's Poland That Comes Through

Poland Charges Ex-Spy Chief over Involvement in Bush Torture Program
From ALL GOV .COM

Poland Charges Ex-Spy Chief over Involvement in Bush Torture Program
Zbigniew Siemiatkowski (photo: Tomasz Urbanek, East News)
Unlike President Barack Obama, who has refused to prosecute American intelligence agents involved in the kidnapping and torture of terrorism suspects, leaders in Poland have charged their former top spymaster for helping the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) imprison detainees in their country.
 
Zbigniew Siemiatkowski, the former head of Poland’s intelligence service, faces charges of violating international law by “unlawfully depriving prisoners of their liberty” while allowing the CIA to hold and interrogate detainees at a secret base near Szymany Airport, north of Warsaw. Siemiatkowski was the intelligence chief from 2002 to 2004, the period when the CIA prison in Poland was in operation.
 
The New York Times reported that all three of the CIA prisoners who are known to have been waterboarded spent time in Poland, including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the architect of the September 11, 2001, attacks; Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who is charged in the 2000 bombing of the American destroyer Cole; and Abu Zubaydah, who ran a terrorist camp and facilitated militants’ travel.
 
The Polish media reported that former Prime Minister Leszek Miller, who served in office last decade while the extraordinary renditions took place, may, at the least, be called to testify. Poland’s president at the time, Aleksander Kwasniewski, has said that he didn’t know about the CIA prison until U.S. President George W. Bush thanked him during a visit to Poland in June 2003. Bush’s thanks were “so profuse” that Kwasniewski knew “something was not right” considering that Polish support for U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq had been relatively limited.
 
“We try to treat our Constitution seriously and try not to forget the fact that there was a manifest violation of the Polish Constitution within the country’s borders,” Adam Bodnar, vice president of the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, based in Warsaw, told The New York Times. He added, “I remember the lessons of constitutionality given by the Americans in the early ’90s, always saying to us, you have to create a new constitution and every action by state authorities must have limits. Poland has just learned this lesson well.”
-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky
 
To Lean More:
Polish Ex-Official Charged With Aiding C.I.A. (by Joanna Berendt and Nicholas Kulish, New York Times)

Obama Justice Dept. Refuses to Help Polish Torture Probe (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)

White Sheets Surround Florida Teen's Slaying

 

By Linn Washington, Jr.


In March 1799 authorities in North Carolina found no fault in a teen fatally shooting a black man after confronting that man about his being on a public road.

Dear Department of Justice: Please Investigate Your Old Boss for Material Support of Terrorism!

Dear Department of Justice and Department of Treasury Officials: 

We might have just helped you bag another material supporter of terrorism this week!  And you'll never believe who the culprit is!  We were even able to tape record some of his own damning admissions!  (That's the reason for my calls last week to your duty attorneys and media offices.) 

UK to face legal challenge over drones policy

From Reprieve:

Reprieve and solicitors Leigh Day & Co have announced that they will be issuing formal legal proceedings this week against the UK Foreign Secretary on behalf of Noor Khan, whose father was killed last year in a drone strike on a Jirga – or council of elders – in North West Pakistan.

Noor Khan (27), lives in Miranshah, North Waziristan Agency, in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan. His father, Malik Daud Khan, was a member of the local Jirga, a peaceful council of tribal elders whose functions included the settling of commercial disputes.

Pitfalls in Judges Judging Judges (Not)

 

By Linn Washington, Jr.


Richard Cebull, the chief federal district court judge in Montana, went into damage control mode recently after newspaper reporters in his state discovered a racist and sexist email Cebull had sent to six close friends insinuating that President Obama’s mother had had sex with a dog.

Afghan Law Makers Demand That Mass Murderer Be Given a Public Trial

It's hard to imagine the United States complying with this perfectly appropriate demand or producing any actually persuasive justification for refusing to.

Call top Pentagon attorney Jeh Johnson. Tell him to let U.N. officials meet with Bradley Manning

Bradley Manning Support Network

On Monday, Juan Mendez, the United Nations' top official on torture, blasted the Obama Administration for its abuses of accused WikiLeaks whistle-blower PFC Bradley Manning.

Speaking at a meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, Mendez stated:

"I believe Bradley Manning was subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in the excessive and prolonged isolation he was put in during the eight months he was in Quantico."

Jeh Johnson, in his capacity as General Counsel, has been the Pentagon's main point of contact with Juan Mendez. He has been the official mouthpiece through which the Obama administration has repeatedly denied a private meeting between the U.N. torture investigator and PFC Manning.

Call Jeh Johnson's office: 703-695-3341

If the main line is busy: 703-697-7248

You can also fax his office: 703-693-7278

Tell him:

  1. Let Juan Mendez meet with Bradley Manning in private, to conduct a proper fact-finding mission, according to the terms of his U.N. mandate.
  2. Drop all charges against Bradley Manning. There is no excuse to imprison and subject anyone, let alone a soldier and a whistle-blower, to prolonged cruel and degrading treatment.
  3. If he is unable to stand up for PFC Manning's rights under the Constitution and international humanitarian law, he should resign.

Goebbels Would Stand in Awe: The US Corporate News Media are Rank Propagandists on Iran

 

By Dave Lindorff

 

The sorry state of American journalism is on full display in the coverage by the corporate media of the ongoing crisis surrounding Iran’s nuclear fuel program.

 

The leaders of both Israel and the U.S. have publicly threatened to attack Iran -- Israel saying it could do so within weeks, President Obama warning that he would consider attacking Iran militarily if he were convinced that that nation was building an atomic bomb.