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To Angola 3 Supporters, Help Stop LA Gov Jindal From Speaking at House of Commons, London

8:42 am in Uncategorized by Angola 3 News

To all A3 supporters, please pick up the telephone and make 2 calls now.

Governor Bobby Jindal will be in London on Monday speaking at the House of Commons about democracy and human rights whilst the state of Louisiana impedes justice for Albert.

He has been invited by Damian Collins MP and The Henry Jackson Society so we need to call them now and let them know that Jindal should not be given a platform to speak as:

·      Louisiana incarcerates more people that anywhere in the world

·      He has refused to take action to end the injustice being perpetrated on Albert by the State of Louisiana despite his conviction being overturned 3 times

·      Albert is the longest serving prisoner in solitary in the world – 42 years.

Call / text / email today, over the weekend and Monday

1. Damien Collins MP 020 7219 7072 and 01303 253524 (and email damian.collins.mp@parliament.uk)

2. David Rutter +44 (0)20 7340 4520 or +44 (0)798 646 0557 for out-of-office hours (email david.rutter@henryjacksonsociety.org)

Angola 3′s Robert King in Sweden with Amnesty Intl. for the release of a new song and music video about Albert Woodfox by Meja

2:26 pm in Uncategorized by Angola 3 News

 

Robert King of the Angola 3 is currently in Sweden supporting Amnesty International’s ongoing campaign seeking justice for Albert Woodfox through the launch of a new song called Yellow Ribbon, written by the Swedish artist, Meja, as well as an accompanying music video (view Amnesty’s press release here.)

Released in conjunction with Amnesty International, Meja’s song Yellow Ribbon is helping to publicize Amnesty Sweden’s online petition asking Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell “to immediately remove Albert Woodfox from close confinement, and as soon as possible release him as allowing Albert Woodfox his freedom is the only just and humane action the state can take.”

For A3 supporters in the US that have already signed Amnesty USA’s petition to AG Caldwell and Governor Bobby Jindal that call’s for Albert Woodfox’s immediate release, we are asking that you please support Amnesty’s new petition to US Secretary of State John Kerry calling for US super-maximum security prisons to be opened up for UN scrutiny.

The page on Meja’s website focusing on Albert and Yellow Ribbon explains more about how Meja’s new project began:

Meja read about Albert Woodfox in an Amnesty International magazine and was touched by the profound injustice that he had been held in solitary confinement for over 42 years on a conviction so weak it had been overturned three times. Still held in isolation, Albert Woodfox is the only remaining incarcerated member of the Angola 3.

Last Christmas eve, Meja sat down to write him a letter. His reply inspired Meja to write the song ”Yellow Ribbon”. The stamps on the envelope of Albert’s letter to Meja read, ”Liberty Forever – Justice Forever”.  These words became the opening line of the song.

”They encapsulate the hope” says Meja, ”that justice and freedom, for so long denied to Albert, will soon be his.” A November court ruling in his favour shows how close this time may be. As Meja was writing the song, the words ’Yellow Ribbon’ came to her. ”When I looked up their meaning, I understood why: families used to tie yellow ribbons in the trees to welcome released prisoners home”.

The song is being released in collaboration with Amnesty International who has been campaigning for justice for Albert Woodfox and against the cruel use of solitary confinement in the USA.

”I was deeply affected by Albert’s strength of mind in the face of the cruel injustice he continues to suffer. It is hard to believe in 2014 that an innocent man has been entombed in a cell for 23 hours a day for more than four decades. It´s tragic. I chose to leave the Christmas celebrations to sit in quiet solitude to write to Albert, acutely aware that the solitude I sought out has been his imposed daily reality for 42 years” Meja says.

In addition to asking people to join Amnesty International’s campaign for justice for Albert Woodfox, and to end the cruel use of solitary confinement in US prisons, Meja is donating 10% of her profits from the sales of ”Yellow Ribbon” to the organization.

25 Witness Against Torture, CODEPINK Activists Arrested in Anti-Torture, Anti-Racism Protests

4:09 pm in Uncategorized by Ben Norton

In three days, 25 activists from the human rights organizations Witness Against Torture and CODEPINK: Women for Peace were arrested in a series of actions condemning the US government’s use of torture and structural racism in the US justice system.

23 activists
from Witness Against Torture were arrested for protesting in the US Capitol on the afternoon of 12 January 2015.

Some held a sign reading “Ferguson 2 Guantánamo, White Silence = State Violence,” drawing connections between the US government’s use of torture and detention of individuals in the Guantánamo Bay prison without due process and the civil rights uprisings against police brutality and systemic racism that began in Ferguson, Missouri, in response to the killing of unarmed black teen Mike Brown.

They read an official statement in a “mic check,” in which protesters collectively recite lines from an orator. They addressed the racism in the US prison system, seeing it as a common link between Guantánamo and mass incarceration of black Americans.

We’ve come today to call or an end to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of any person by any agent of the US government—which is to say, we call for these constitutional obligations to be implemented. We call for the release of the full torture report of the US Senate so that the American people can begin to have some say of what is being done in our name, so the perpetrators might be prosecuted.

Similarly, we call for an immediate end to the use of long-term solitary confinement in our domestic prison system. This very day, 80,000 US prisoners are subject to long-term solitary confinement. Long-term solitary confinement is torture.

The vast majority of those subjects in solitary confinement are people of color. The large majority of our prisoners are people of color. This is racism. This is the New Jim Crow, subtle and cunning at once: “Three strikes and you’re out,” “Stop and Frisk.”

Guantánamo is also based on the fear induced by racism. Of the 780 men who passed through Guantánamo, 100% have been Muslim men. The vast of majority were guilty of nothing, but being Muslim.

Earlier, they had interrupted Senate proceedings.

Just hours later on the same day, CODEPINK and more Witness Against Torture activists held a protest at the Department of Justice.

The activists, also dressed in the orange jumpsuits that have come to embody Guantánamo Bay, held a similar sign, as well as signs calling for accountability for torture and police killings.

The entered and protested inside a DC cell block, calling “for an end to racism from Ferguson to Gitmo.”

On the previous day, activists gathered outside for another demonstration. Over 30 people were dressed in orange jumpsuits, the same clothes many Guantánamo detainees are forced to wear.

A few days before, on 9 January, the activists stood outside of the White House, again in orange jumpsuits, with a large banner reading “Close Guantanamo.”

These arrests follow a 10 January action in which CODEPINK and Witness Against Torture members gathered on the back porch of former Vice President Dick Cheney, calling for the official’s arrest for his overseeing of torture and war crimes.

Two were arrested at this demonstration, including longtime CODEPINK member Tighe Barry and 83-year-old retired D.C. public-school teacher and peace activist Eve Tetaz.

Witness Against Torture, CODEPINK, and more are leading mounting pressure by human rights organizations to close the Guantánamo Bay prison.

This series of actions coincides with the 13th anniversary of the re-opening of Guantánamo by the Bush administration. For over a decade, the Red Cross and numerous human rights organizations have said that the torture of detainees without trial at Guantánamo constitutes a war crime. The activists say they condemn the continued operation of the prison and hope to see it closed.

Humanist Sociologists Vote to Support the Release of Black Panther Activist Albert Woodfox (of the Angola 3)

9:27 am in Uncategorized by Angola 3 News

Featured below is the full text of a public statement just released by the Association for Humanist Sociology. For more information, contact: Kathleen Fitzgerald, AHS President, fitzy88so@gmail.com or Rebecca Hensley, AHS Secretary, luv2lurn@earthlink.net. The AHS website is www.ahssociology.org.

 

Free Albert!

 

Humanist Sociologists Vote to Support the Release of Black Panther Activist Albert Woodfox

January 6, 2015

The membership of the Association for Humanist Sociology, an organization dedicated to scholarship and action in the service of justice and peace, has voted to call for the immediate release of the last “Angola 3” prisoner, Albert Woodfox, from the Louisiana Department of Corrections where he has been held in solitary confinement for more than forty-two years for the murder of a prison guard in 1972, a deeply flawed conviction that has now been overturned three times.

No physical evidence linked Woodfox or his co-defendant, Herman Wallace, to the crime. A man claiming to be an eyewitness for the prosecution was released from a life sentence as a serial rapist in exchange for his testimony. And potentially exculpatory DNA evidence was lost under questionable circumstances. Today, the widow of the murdered guard has said that she believes the State failed in its mandate to bring her husband’s true murderer to justice.

In the years just previous to the guard’s murder, Woodfox and Wallace had organized the first prison chapter of the Black Panther Party, working to desegregate Angola State Penitentiary, end systematic rape and violence among the prisoners, stop routine corruption and brutality by the guards, and demand better living conditions in the institution. Even from solitary confinement, Woodfox has continued to win legal suits related to prison conditions and the treatment of prisoners, encourage and empower others, and affect change in the community in which he resides. Nevertheless, States Attorney Buddy Caldwell has called Woodfox “the most dangerous man in the world.” And Angola Warden Burl Cain has stated that until Woodfox disavows his Black Panther principles, he belongs in solitary confinement whether he did anything or not.

Herman Wallace died of cancer a few days after his release on habeus corpus in 2013. After Woodfox’ conviction was overturned by the courts for the third time that same year and the Appellate court upheld the 5th Circuit ruling in November of 2014, the State has continued its ongoing commitment to keep Woodfox incarcerated.  Nevertheless, a petition with more than 25,000 signatures from around the world has been delivered to Governor Bobby Jindal, beseeching the State of Louisiana to release Albert Woodfox forthwith and without delay.

The Association for Humanist Sociology stands with Amnesty-International-USA, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (a coalition of 325 organizations committed to end torture and cruel, inhumane, degrading treatment), Juan Mendez (the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture), and Rep. John Conyers, in supporting the petition.

– end of release –

Palestinian Children Win International Math Competition Two Years in a Row

5:58 pm in Uncategorized by Ben Norton

Palestinians Ahmad Ayman Nashwiyeh, 8, on left, who won second place and Dania Husni al-Jaabari, 14, on right, who won first place in the 2014 Intelligent Mental-Arithmetic International Competition
CREDIT: Ma’an

In December 2014, Dania Husni al-Jaabari, a 14-year-old Palestinian girl from Al-Khalil (not Hebron), won first place in the Intelligent Mental-Arithmetic International Competition. She solved 240 math problems in six minutes.

Ahmad Ayman Nashwiyeh, an eight-year-old Palestinian boy also from al-Khalil, won second place. He solved 180 problems in six minutes.

The two children competed against approximately 3,000 children from over 15 countries.

14-year-old Gazan Areej El Madhoun, who won first place in the 2013 Intelligent Mental-Arithmetic International Competition
CREDIT: UNRWA

In January 2013, Areej El Madhoun, a 14-year-old girl from a Gaza refugee camp, won first place as well. As UNRWA writes, in “recent years in Gaza, creativity and achievement has grown and flourished against extraordinary odds; a blockade and the rubble of many conflicts, the last of which was eight-day war on Gaza in November 2012.” UNRWA continued:

Areej sees her success as the greatest gift she can offer to the children of Gaza after the recent eight-day war, which saw houses and infrastructure destroyed, and incidences of psychological trauma rise.

“Winning the first prize is a victory for Palestine. I was very proud to carry my country‘s flag”, said a delighted Areej.

“When I was announced as the winner, I felt overwhelmed and cried so hard”.

The recent memory of war made her victory particularly poignant, Areej added

“I went through some difficult times before the competition. The most recent conflict in Gaza had just ended two weeks before the competition began.”

In the end, the fear and anxiety brought on by the conflict did not subdue her overwhelming joy at winning first prize, she said.

The Intelligent Mental-Arithmetic International Competition takes place every two years. Israel’s genocidal military assaults on Gaza also take place roughly every two years. It is no surprise, ergo, that, just as Areej’s victory came just after

Israel’s Operation Pillar of Cloud,

  • an eight-day attack that, according to the UN,
  • killed 158 Palestinians,
  • 103 of whom were civilians (65%),
  • 30 of whom children (19%), and
  • injured more than 1,000,
  • so too did the victories of al-Jaabari and Nashwiyeh come right after

    Israel’s Operation “Protective” Edge,

  • a 51-day attack that, according to the UN and Amnesty International,
  • killed 2,192 Palestinians,
  • 1,523 of whom were civilians (69%),
  • 519 of whom were children (24%), and
  • injured around 11,000.
  • What is so inspiring is that, in a society that has been illegally military occupied for 47 years, and colonized and ethnically cleansed for 67 years, these children still flourish.

    Palestinians Dania Husni al-Jaabari, 14, on left, who won first place and Ahmad Ayman Nashwiyeh, 8, on right, who won second place in the 2014 Intelligent Mental-Arithmetic International Competition
    CREDIT: Ma’an

    What is so inspiring is that, in occupied lands in which the vast majority of children suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), in which children do not feel safe in their own homes (they are, rightfully, afraid of being kidnapped, detained without charge, tortured, and raped by the Israeli military), and in which almost 100% of children have experienced warfare, these children still flourish. In the words of University of California clinical professor of psychiatry and global health sciences Dr. Jesse Ghannam, nowhere else in the world is there anything “like the levels of traumatic exposure that [Palestinian children have] been exposed to on a chronic and daily basis.”

    These children’s victories serve as a striking testament to the strength of the Palestinians, of their reluctance to give in to the oppression and ultimately death to which Israel has subjected them (with steadfast US support) for these almost seven long decades.

    As the Palestinian slogan goes, “Existence is resistance!”

    A decent nation would have impeached Bush and Obama

    6:59 am in Uncategorized by joe shikspack

    Water_cureThe administration of George W. Bush committed a number of actions, some of which are likely criminal, some of which expand the powers of the executive beyond credible fidelity to the constitution and some of which are just plain offensive regardless of their legality. President Obama, who followed Bush into office, made some show of reversing some of the policies of his predecessor that had brought protest from civil libertarian and good government groups. Other policies were maintained intact or, worse, expanded. Obama’s failures in this regard and his failure to prosecute his predecessor for actions like torture, disappearances, extrajudicial killings, maintaining secret foreign gulags, warrantless mass surveillance, and manipulating intelligence and catapulting propaganda to lead the nation into a dubiously legal preemptive war, among other actions, have created a culture of impunity that makes these sorts of offenses likely to recur.

    First a bit of housekeeping. This is a discussion of the potential impeachment of George W. Bush (which opportunity has passed) and Barack Obama for a variety of actions that their administrations have taken. This is not to say that impeachment is the only remedy that is appropriate for these actions. Though the statute of limitations has run out on some of Bush’s crimes, others have no statute of limitations:

    President Bush and Vice President Cheney may also be criminally culpable for waterboarding and other forms of torture. This should also be investigated now, even though there is no statute of limitations for waterboarding and other life-threatening forms of torture—those responsible may be prosecuted as long as they live. Both President Bush and Vice President Cheney have publicly admitted their involvement in waterboarding detainees abroad. The federal anti-torture statute makes it an apparent crime to have done so.

    Impeachment may not be politically feasible or even necessarily a potentially fruitful pursuit for its own sake (though the public debate around such an effort could be quite useful). Further, the focus on these two presidents is not meant to, in any way, take away from the culpability of members of their administrations, other parts of government, or the military and intelligence communities for their parts in a variety of actions.

    To some extent, this article will make claims about what should have been done in the past. There is yet time, though, to take corrective actions in venues other than a compromised and internally deadlocked Congress, which may be too corrupt and complicit to act or even demand a decent explanation of the President’s deeds. We can yet look to the potential for eventual actions by international legal bodies for violations of laws which the United States has pledged to uphold. Further, and more importantly, in light of the coming change of administrations, our fellow Americans should speak to power on this issue and make it conform to the standards of a decent nation.

    We are often told that elections have consequences and one of them seems to be that what is not punished or prevented becomes precedent for the next administration. So it is critically important for a decent nation to put endless wars, torture, renditions, dragnet surveillance of citizens and other such issues on the agenda so that the next occupant of the White House will not dare to claim or expand the powers that the current occupant has used to such disastrous consequence for Americans and people around the world.

    A culture of impunity leads to an escalation of bad executive behavior

    In the wake of the release of the Pentagon Papers, the Watergate scandal and a flood of other revelations about government overreach, considerable efforts were made to rein in the executive branch.

    In discussing the origins of the War Powers Act, former Senator Mike Gravel, in his book A Political Odyssey: The Rise of American Militarism and One Man’s Fight to Stop It, provides a stark example of how the unpunished abuse of power by one administration goes on to be exploited by future administrations:

    In … April 1972, the Senate began debating a bill that would limit the executive’s war-making powers. The United States overthrew monarchy, but discovered that a profit-motivated democracy can develop its own forms of tyranny. Prior to the Cold War, Congress followed the Constitution. It formally declared wars. But since Truman sent troops to Korea in 1950, Congress had abdicated perhaps its most serious responsibility. Presidential abuse of power in foreign affairs became routine and Nixon seized it with abandon.

    Despite the actions to rein in executive abuses in the wake of the Nixon administration, a chain of actions by later administrations that were not held accountable by Congress has created the culture of impunity that has escalated to the most recent administration’s usurpation of powers that were supposed to be addressed by the remedies created in the mid to late 1970′s.

    There is a culture of impunity that an impeachment action is meant to cure by reasserting the public’s will over executives who go astray. We’ve seen this movie before.

    Here’s a section from a post that I wrote years ago calling for Bush’s impeachment. Abuses of office by Presidents Reagan and Bush the Elder were let stand by craven Democrats eager for electoral gain at the expense of justice:

    Democrats have a long-standing pattern of sacrificing justice in an attempt to achieve an elusive bipartisan comity. John Conyers and Henry Gonzalez’ call for impeachment in 1983 over Reagan’s Grenada invasion – scuttled. Henry Gonzalez’ 1987 motion for impeachment over Iran Contra – scuttled. Actually, not just scuttled, stillborn by choice of the investigators:

    The shredded documents and shredded memories of the White House cover-up are usually blamed for the failure of the committees to uncover ”all of the facts.” But there are other reasons, namely the limitations that the committees imposed upon themselves or allowed to be imposed on them. They began the investigation by immediately imposing an unrealistic deadline for ending it. They agreed to permit the White House to review all internal documents for ”relevance” before being released to investigators. They made no attempt to locate and make evidentiary use of Presidential calendars, nor did they seek Presidential telephone logs. They were intimidated by the public reaction to the immunized testimony of Marine Lieut. Col. Oliver L. North, and flummoxed by the immunized testimony of Poindexter, who said he had not told the President of the diversion, in order to give him ”deniability.”

    Most important, senior members of the Senate committee, which played the dominant role, agreed from the outset that specific evidence of a Presidential ”act of commission” would be necessary before Reagan himself would become a target. No amount of Presidential negligence or nonfeasance, they decided, would justify a potential impeachment proceeding that could be dangerous for the nation.

    Here’s how the 1987 investigation was described at the time in the Washington Post on August, 4 1987 in an article titled, “Hill to Reagan: All is Forgiven” (sorry no link, I got it from Lexis-Nexis at the library):

    The message from Congress to Reagan was, “Come home, all is forgiven.”

    Congress has been lied to, berated, patronized, needled, baited and, in the case of Lt. Col. Oliver L. North, mugged by witnesses.

    But because the president has thrown two rascals out and replaced them with rational men, Congress is ready to start over. It is grateful to Reagan for not making them impeach him.

    Congress, like a battered wife, will take back the abusive husband. He fell among evil companions, that’s all. She will give him another chance. Divorce, like impeachment, can be so messy.

    With that pattern set, it was no surprise that when Bill Clinton took office in 1993, he and the Democratic leadership of the time scuttled four legal actions that would have led to prosecutions of Bush the elder and many in his administration:

    But, in 1993, Clinton and the Democratic congressional leadership concluded that pursuit of these “old” scandals would only embitter the Republicans, make the Democratic Party look vindictive and endanger the bipartisanship that Clinton saw as essential for his domestic policy agenda…

    The Democratic retreat from the investigative battles in 1993 would have another profound effect on the future of American politics. By letting George H.W. Bush leave the White House with his reputation intact – and even helping Bush fend off accusations of serious wrongdoing – the Democrats unwittingly cleared the way for a restoration of the Bush political dynasty eight years later.

    The investigations and legal actions related to Iran-contra, BNL/BCCI among others spanned several administrations, despite having been undermined all along by timid Democrats and finished off in a bid to obtain political goodwill from Republicans that never materialized. If anything, Clinton and the Democratic leadership’s caving in on these issues was taken as weakness by the congressional Republicans, who rewarded Clinton’s actions with even sharper opposition and impeachment. In terms of the Republican general public, Clinton and the Democrats were demonized and creating anti-Clinton, anti-Democratic, anti-liberal propaganda became a cottage industry, launching the careers of scads of conservative media wingnuts.

    The pattern of craven Democrats selling out justice in hopes of partisan advancement continued through the Bush the Younger administration as a Democratic Congress under Nancy Pelosi refused to put accountability on the table for the many abuses of the Bush administration, both before the election that would bring Democrats back into control of the House:

    Seeking to choke off a Republican rallying cry, the House’s top Democrat has told colleagues that the party will not seek to impeach President Bush even if it gains control of the House in November’s elections, her office said last night.

    Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) told her caucus members during their weekly closed meeting Wednesday “that impeachment is off the table; she is not interested in pursuing it,” spokesman Brendan Daly said.

    … and afterwards:

    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is proving to be the surprise O. Henry ending to last November’s elections. The American voters gave Democrats clear control of Congress, rebuked President George W. Bush, and voiced an unequivocal public craving to trade in customary narrow-minded politics for something more inspiring. Yet motivated by partisan concerns over the 2008 elections, the new speaker is following President Bush around like a sheep while he solidifies an imperial presidency and diminishes the Congress into irrelevancy. …

    The prospect of an impeachment inquiry by the House judiciary committee would concentrate the minds of the president and vice president wonderfully on obeying rather than sabotaging the Constitution. But Speaker Pelosi has at least figuratively joined hands with the White House in opposition. Emulating the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland, she has threatened the removal of Michigan Rep. John Conyers from his chairmanship of the House judiciary committee if an impeachment inquiry were even opened, according to reliable congressional chatter.

    … leading many to the reasonable conclusion that the Democrats were complicit in the crimes of the Bush Administration which the public favored impeachment of Bush and Cheney for:

    It’s just been disclosed that Representative Jane Harmon and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi were briefed by the Bush administration on the use of waterboarding. Harmon objected but Pelosi did not — and when she became speaker of the house, she rejected Harmon for chair of the House Intelligence Committee.

    The Administration has frequently responded to charges of Executive usurpation by saying the Congressional leaders were fully briefed on such questionable practices as NSA surveillance, extraordinary rendition, and enhanced interrogation techniques. …

    According to the Washington Post, since 2002 leading Democrats lawmakers received “about 30 private CIA briefings,’ some of which included descriptions of waterboarding, overseas rendition sites, “and other harsh interrogation methods.” Officials present at some of the meetings, told the Post that the reaction from legislators “was not just approval, but encouragement.”

    Pelosi’s staunch, off-the-rails resistance in the face of public demand for accountability of the Bush administration has set the pattern for craven Democrats following the elections of 2008 to avoid the alleged partisan strife that would cause a lack of comity in the legislative branch leading to, erm, nothing getting done. Ooops, that happened anyway. Regardless, Democrats have been a forward-looking bunch.

    obama-press-conference (Small)

    Obama didn’t take long to warm up to fighting justice and stonewalling investigations. Within about 6 months of taking office, he was already denying UN experts’ requests for visits to Guantanamo and data about CIA prisons, not to mention continuing Bush’s program of renditions. Also, in that time frame Obama “looked forward” about an attempt in Spain to prosecute some of the Bush torture support squad:

    Asked for the first time to respond to the likelihood that Spanish prosecutors will target officials in the Bush administration for sanctioning torture at Guantanamo Bay, Barack Obama stressed, once again, that he prefers to look forward, not backward.

    In an interview with CNN En Español that aired on Wednesday, the president noted that his administration had ordered the closure of Guantanamo and put an end to policies of enhanced interrogation that “ran counter to American values.” But he wouldn’t wade into the debate over a lawsuit filed by six Spaniards who allege they were tortured at the detention center. A Spanish court is threatening to investigate former Bush officials, including Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, for their complicity in torture.

    Obama was stonewalling by refusing to “wade in to the debate over a lawsuit filed by six Spaniards who alleged they were tortured,” and thanks to Wikileaks, Obama’s actions have been exposed:

    In its first months in office, the Obama administration sought to protect Bush administration officials facing criminal investigation overseas for their involvement in establishing policies the that governed interrogations of detained terrorist suspects. A “confidential” April 17, 2009, cable sent from the US embassy in Madrid to the State Department—one of the 251,287 cables obtained by WikiLeaks—details how the Obama administration, working with Republicans, leaned on Spain to derail this potential prosecution.

    Since the days before taking office when Obama decided to “look forward,” many policies of his administration have perpetuated and extended the dubiously legal policies of his predecessor. The failure of the Democratic majority in Congress to hold Bush accountable has created a new baseline of bad actions for Obama to build on to target even the most basic civil rights for destruction, shredding protections of civil liberties – and even Obama’s rhetoric has taken on a remarkable resemblance to Bush’s.

    As Dan Froomkin put it:

    In a lot of ways, we’re worse off today than we were under George W. Bush.

    Back then, Bush’s extremist assault on civil liberties, human rights and other core American values in the name of fighting terror felt like an aberration.

    The expectation was that those policies would be quickly reversed, discredited — and explicitly outlawed — once he was no longer in power.

    Instead, under President Barack Obama, they’ve become institutionalized. …

    Obama has set even darker precedents than his predecessor. Massively invasive bulk surveillance of Americans and others has been expanded, not constrained. This president secretly condemns people to death without any checks or balances, and shrugs as his errant drones massacre innocent civilians. Whistleblowers and journalists who expose national security wrongdoing face unprecedented criminal prosecution.

    What impeachment is and what it’s for

    Among the greatest concerns of the US founding fathers was the potential of the federal government that they created to revert into a tyrannical oppressor state. They had concerns about the executive committing the nation to perpetual war. Incidentally, they had concerns about the use of torture and created explicit constitutional prohibitions against it. They created a mechanism to hold the executive accountable, so as not to grant the sort of authority of a tyrant:

    The President of the United States would be liable to be impeached, tried, and, upon conviction of treason, bribery, or other high crimes or misdemeanors, removed from office; and would afterwards be liable to prosecution and punishment in the ordinary course of law. The person of the king of Great Britain is sacred and inviolable; there is no constitutional tribunal to which he is amenable; no punishment to which he can be subjected without involving the crisis of a national revolution.

    As Hamilton alludes to in Federalist #69 above, the founders left a legacy of two means to deal with the arrogation of tyrannical powers, the example set by their actions and the method embedded in the Constitution.

    In discussions of impeachment, there is often considerable discussion of whether the charges against the president amount to criminal acts. This excerpt from a report written and released by the Judiciary Committee in 1974 in the aftermath of the Watergate crisis explains (briefly) what sort of charges may be raised:

    Impeachment is a constitutional remedy addressed to serious offenses against the system of government. The purpose of impeachment under the Constitution is indicated by the limited scope of the remedy (removal from office and possible disqualification from future office) and by the stated grounds for impeachment (treason, bribery, and other high crimes and misdemeanors). It is not controlling whether treason and bribery are criminal. More important, they are constitutional wrongs that subvert the structure of government, or undermine the integrity of office and even the Constitution itself, and thus are “high” offenses in the sense that word was used in English impeachments.

    While it may be argued that some articles of impeachment have charged conduct that constituted crime and thus that criminality is an essential ingredient, or that some have charged conduct that was not criminal and thus that criminality is not essential, the fact remains that in the English practice and in several of the American impeachments the criminality issue was not raised at all. The emphasis has been on the significant effects of the conduct– undermining the integrity of office, disregard of constitutional duties and oath of office, arrogation of power, abuse of the governmental process, adverse impact on the system of government. Clearly, these effects can be brought about in ways not anticipated by the criminal law. Criminal standards and criminal courts were established to control individual conduct. Impeachment was evolved by Parliament to cope with both the inadequacy of criminal standards and the impotence of courts to deal with the conduct of great public figures. It would be anomalous if the framers, having barred criminal sanctions from the impeachment remedy and limited it to removal and possible disqualification from office, intended to restrict the grounds for impeachment to conduct that was criminal. …

    It is useful to note three major presidential duties of broad scope that are explicitly recited in the Constitution: “to take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed,” to “faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States” and to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States” to the best of his ability. The first is directly imposed by the Constitution; the second and third are included in the constitutionally prescribed oath that the President is required to take before he enters upon the execution of his office and are, therefore, also expressly imposed by the Constitution.

    Why a decent nation would impeach Obama

    A decent nation does not engage in wars of choice. The United States, as a signatory to the UN Charter, recognizes this. Obama has, however, operated wars on a global scale that target countries, groups and individuals that pose no imminent threat to the United States. In order to provide a figleaf of persiflage for these actions, he has tortured language well beyond any common meaning. Consider this gem from Obama’s legal justification for drone strikes:

    Certain aspects of this legal framework require additional explication. First, the condition that an operational leader present an “imminent” threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons will take place in the immediate future.

    The wars that Obama has initiated are of dubious legality. Obama misled the public by misrepresenting the conditions in Libya in order to make war in violation of the War Powers Act. Obama’s newly launched war against ISIS, similar to his war against Libya, is without congressional authorization.

    Obama’s drone strike program is a war crime. Even if the drone program was legal to pursue, how could a decent nation support a program that has a 96% failure rate, meaning that the deaths caused by it are almost entirely inappropriate targets – civilians, women and children? Yet Obama continues to stonewall providing a justification for this program.

    Obama has long engaged in spreading propaganda about his drone program:

    Obama Finally Talks Drone War, But It’s Almost Impossible to Believe Him

    On Wednesday, however, CNN’s Jessica Yellin managed to get Obama to open up, just a little, about his criteria for approving drone attacks. His comments may have been the president’s most extensive so far on robot warfare. They were also total baloney, outside experts say. …

    “What I found most striking was his claim that legitimate targets are a ‘threat that is serious and not speculative,’ and engaged in ‘some operational plot against the United States,’ That is simply not true,” emails the Council on Foreign Relations’ Micah Zenko, who has tracked the drone war as closely as any outside analyst. “The claim that the 3,000+ people killed in roughly 375 nonbattlefield targeted killings were all engaged in actual operational plots against the U.S. defies any understanding of the scope of what America has been doing for the past ten years.”

    Obama has continued Bush propaganda programs and made selective leaks of classified information to journalists.

    It is well to remember that these unnecessary wars are used as the justification for both the need for war powers and secrecy, which in turn is used as a justification for the failure to hold individuals accountable for wrongs done in pursuit of these wars.

    A decent nation does not maintain a “kill list” of people to assassinate. Obama has declared himself judge, jury and executioner as he picks and chooses whom to incinerate on Tuesdays:

    Obama and approximately a hundred members of his national security team gather for their “Terror Tuesday” meetings in which they hand pick the next so-called national security “threat” to die by way of the American military/CIA drone program. Obama signs off personally on about a third of the drone strikes: all of the ones in Yemen and Somalia, and the risky ones in Pakistan. … These “Terror Tuesday” sessions run counter to every constitutional and moral principle that has guided America since its inception. It’s not only suspected terrorists whose death warrants are being personally signed by the president but innocent civilians geographically situated near a strike zone, as well, whether or not they have any ties to a suspected terrorist. As an anonymous government official on Obama’s drone campaign observed, “They count the corpses and they’re not really sure who they are.” Indeed, Obama’s first authorized drone attack in Yemen led to the deaths of 14 women and 21 children, and only one al Qaeda affiliate. …

    Should we fail to recognize and rectify the danger in allowing a single individual to declare himself the exception to the rule of law and assume the role of judge, jury, and executioner, we will have no one else to blame when we plunge once and for all into the abyss that is tyranny.

    A decent nation does not torture. That is why it is a crime which has been prosecuted domestically and during war. It is also a violation of the UN Convention Against Torture to which the US is a signatory. While Obama has sought to justify the infliction of torture in the wake of 9/11 as an understandable reaction, Article 2, Section 2 of the Convention states: “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”

    Obama, while claiming to have ordered a halt to torture, has continued to torture Guantanamo prisoners and has also tortured Chelsea (then Bradley) Manning. His order that interrogations conform to the standards of the Army Field Manual leaves a gaping loophole. The UN says that the Army Field Manual Annex M leaves the door open to torture methods:

    Annex M is part of the Army Field Manual. It allows sensory deprivation, it allows sleep deprivation, and it allows solitary confinement. Those three taken together can certainly constitute cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, as well as torture. The Obama administration just flip-flopped around it, saying that we require a minimum of four hours of sleep. Well, four hours’ sleep day after day is basically cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment if not more. When combined with others it can be worse. The people on the committee said, why don’t you just take Annex M out of that? The administration demured on it, as they have for a number of years.

    So we still have in our law an authorization to use cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment if not more. Those are the four key things that came out of this.

    Further, in light of revelations in the testimony of Obama’s first choice for Director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, at his confirmation hearing, it is hard to believe that Obama’s bold rhetoric about reining in the CIA’s interrogation techniques is more than just obfuscation:

    Vice Chairman Bond. President Obama has issued an Executive Order applying the field manual. But, as I understand the situation, he has an Executive Order–the authority to issue an Executive Order describing techniques, classified techniques, that could be used by the Agency that would be different from that used by the Army. Is that your understanding?

    Admiral Blair. My understanding is we want to revise the Army field manual and make it the manual that goes for both military and intelligence interrogation and to have the guidance so that it’s uniform across those agencies, depending, of course. There are many different things in the manual. … We have large amounts of unclassified doctrine for our troops to use, but we don’t put anything in there that our enemies can use against us. And we’ll figure it out for this manual, which will be the manual for everyone to use. …

    It will be limited to those who need it, both within the armed forces and within the intelligence service. … When I said this manual would be available to those need it, there will be some sort of document that’s widely available in an unclassified form, but the specific techniques that can provide training value to adversaries, we will handle much more carefully.

    So it appears likely that there are secret, classified interrogation techniques available to CIA torturers interrogators that citizens are not allowed to know about.

    A decent nation does not render prisoners to other states where the likelihood that they will be tortured is high:

    Shortly after Obama’s first inauguration, both he and Leon Panetta, the new Director of the CIA, explicitly stated that “rendition” was not being ended. As the Los Angeles Times reported at the time: “Under executive orders issued by Obama recently, the CIA still has authority to carry out what are known as renditions, secret abductions and transfers of prisoners to countries that cooperate with the United States.”

    The English translation of “cooperate” is “torture.” Rendition is simply outsourcing torture. There was no other reason to take prisoners to Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Egypt, Jordan, Kenya, Somalia, Kosovo or the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia, to name some of the known torture centers frequented by the United States.

    Highly questionable rendition activities continue under Obama.

    A decent nation does not indefinitely detain prisoners without charge in a gulag:

    Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel, a Yemeni man accused of serving in Osama bin Laden’s security detail, described conditions at Guantanamo that included the repeated, seemingly incessant interrogations he faced at the hands of U.S. officials. …

    Naji listed sleep deprivation, humiliation and beatings — abuses similar to those described as “tantamount to torture” in a 2004 International Committee of the Red Cross report leaked to The New York Times.

    Naji also described the painful force-feeding he has been subjected to as he and as many as 100 other prisoners have engaged in hunger strikes to protest their continued detention without charge. …

    Guantanamo detainees — of which there have been nearly 800 — were allegedly tortured at the site, drawing widespread international condemnation from human rights and civil liberties advocates who decried the interrogation techniques and the U.S. authority to detain the suspected terrorists without charges.

    Nearly all Guantanamo prisoners are being held without charges.

    A decent nation does not allow a dragnet spying operation that invades individual privacy regardless of probable cause.

    Through a series of legal contortions, the Obama administration has argued that Congress, since 9/11, intended to implicitly authorize mass surveillance. But this strategy mostly consists of wordplay, fear-mongering and a highly selective reading of the law. Americans deserve better from the White House — and from President Obama, who has seemingly forgotten the constitutional law he once taught. …

    We may never know all the details of the mass surveillance programs, but we know this: The administration has justified them through abuse of language, intentional evasion of statutory protections, secret, unreviewable investigative procedures and constitutional arguments that make a mockery of the government’s professed concern with protecting Americans’ privacy. It’s time to call the N.S.A.’s mass surveillance programs what they are: criminal.

    A decent nation does not allow a two-tiered justice system.

    Obama’s failure to see to it that the laws be faithfully executed has created a culture of impunity that is corrosive to both the government and the culture.

    Obama has refused to prosecute George W. Bush and others from that administration for torture, contrary to domestic legal obligations and the UN Convention Against Torture.

    Obama admits that torture has occurred and that torture is a war crime. Obama’s Attorney General, Eric Holder, even in light of the release of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence executive summary of its torture report, continues to refuse to prosecute those who committed these crimes on the grounds that evidence wasn’t sufficient “to obtain and sustain convictions beyond a reasonable doubt.”

    Frankly, if your Attorney General thinks that he can’t convict persons for a crime that they have boasted about committing in a book or on national teevee, then you really ought to fire the guy for prosecutorial incompetence, misfeasance or nonfeasance.

    Obama’s use of government secrecy and national security claims in a judicial setting amounts to an abuse of power. Obama has abused his office to prevent embarrassing information from becoming public.

    A decent nation doesn’t occupy its citizens by military force. twitter 5The US passed the Posse Comitatus Act in 1878, but since the start of the “War on Drugs,” the federal government has been performing an end run around the law by militarizing local and state police forces and providing coordination of these forces. Despite congressional complaints and citizen uprisings against police brutality and abuses, Obama is unwilling to stop the distribution of military hardware and training to police forces.

    More than just militarizing police under Obama, the military is becoming an ubiquitous presence along with the intelligence apparatus which have infiltrated the American university system:

    Since the tragic events of 9/11, state-sanctioned violence and the formative culture that makes it possible has increasingly made its way into higher education. While there is a long history of higher education taking on research funds and projects that serve the military industrial complex, such projects were often hidden from public view. When they did become public, they were often the object of student protests and opposition, especially during the 1960s. What is new today is that more research projects in higher education than ever before are being funded by various branches of the military, but either no one is paying attention or no one seems to care about such projects. Ethical and political considerations about the role of the university in a democratic society have given way to a hyper-pragmatism couched in the language of austerity and largely driven by a decrease in state funding for higher education and the dire lack of jobs for many graduates. …

    As research funds dry up for programs aimed at addressing crucial social problems, new opportunities open up with the glut of military funding aimed at creating more
    sophisticated weapons, surveillance technologies, and modes of knowledge that connect anthropological concerns with winning wars.

    Higher education should be one place where young people learn to question the framing mechanisms that allow them both to be turned into producers and consumers of violence and to become increasingly indifferent to matters of social and moral responsibility. Military modes of education largely driven by the demands of war and organized violence are investing heavily in pedagogical practices that train students in various intelligence operations.

    The increasingly intensified and expansive symbiosis between the military-industrial complex and academia is also on full display the creation of the “Minerva Consortium,” ironically named after the goddess of wisdom, whose purpose is to fund various universities to “carry out social sciences research relevant to national security” (Brainard, 2008). As David Price (2010) has brilliantly documented, the CIA and other intelligence agencies “today sneak unidentified students with undisclosed links to intelligence agencies into university classrooms. A new generation of so-called flagship programs have quietly taken root on campuses, and, with each new flagship, our universities are transformed into vessels of the militarized state.” As Price (2011) points out, not only is knowledge militarized, but specific disciplines such a anthropology are now weaponized.

    Conclusion

    So why should the nation demand that Bush and Obama be prosecuted for their actions? Well, because America has a duty to be a good citizen of the world, both to redeem the intent of our founding documents and also from a desire for self-preservation.

    terrorists winningHow long can a nation, even one as powerful as the United States, continue to destabilize, terrorize and immiserate millions of people and fail to reap consequences for its actions? The fact that the numbers of jihadists and terrorist acts are on a massive increase is indicative that the policies are not just wrong, but counterproductive. Nonetheless, they are continued by administration after administration.

    The Obama administration has expanded violent military and intelligence interventions to more than half of the countries of the world:

    In his book “The One Percent Doctrine,” journalist Ron Suskind reported on CIA plans, unveiled in September 2001 and known as the “Worldwide Attack Matrix,” for “detailed operations against terrorists in 80 countries.” At about the same time, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld proclaimed that the nation had embarked on “a large multi-headed effort that probably spans 60 countries.” By the end of the Bush years, the Pentagon would indeed have special operations forces deployed in 60 countries around the world.

    It has been the Obama administration, however, that has embraced the concept far more fully and engaged the region even more broadly. Last year, the Washington Post reported that U.S. had deployed special operations forces in 75 countries, from South America to Central Asia. Recently, however, U.S. Special Operations Command spokesman Colonel Tim Nye told me that on any given day, America’s elite troops are working in about 70 countries, and that its country total by year’s end would be around 120.

    Since Obama’s policies seem to be making enemies faster than they can be murdered by the vast armory at his disposal, surely one day America’s enemies will outnumber its friends.

    Then there is the effect that inevitably happens when countries are at war – the tactics that are used against foreign populations are eventually used against the home country’s people. It shows up in the militarization of police forces and tactics. It also turns up in places that you’d never expect, like the oil and gas industry hiring military psy-ops experts to fight back against citizen and media opposition to fracking:

    Matt Pitzarella, head of the public relations team at the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based natural gas corporation, Range Resources, openly admitted that his corporation utilizes psychological warfare (psyops) military veterans as community relations professionals, hired to apply the skills gained on the periphery for work to be done here at home.

    The oil and gas industry apparently feels that it is fighting an insurgency:

    Matt Carmichael, External Affairs Manager at Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, suggested three things to attendees during his presentation:

    “If you are a PR representative in this industry in this room today, I recommend you do three things. These are three things that I’ve read recently that are pretty interesting.

    “(1) Download the U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Manual [audible gasps from the audience], because we are dealing with an insurgency. There’s a lot of good lessons in there, and coming from a military background, I found the insight in that extremely remarkable. (2) With that said, there’s a course provided by Harvard and MIT twice a year, and it’s called ‘Dealing With an Angry Public.’ Take that course. Tied back to the Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency [Field] Manual, is that a lot of the officers in our military are attending this course. It gives you the tools, it gives you the media tools on how to deal with a lot of the controversy that we as an industry are dealing with. (3) Thirdly, I have a copy of “Rumsfeld’s Rules.” You’re all familiar with Donald Rumsfeld – that’s kind of my bible, by the way, of how I operate.”

    People who want to preserve their water, air and land resources are of course not the only civilians targeted by military psy-ops. The military thinks that it’s a great tactic to use on US Senators, too.

    Now these examples of Obama’s policies are indeed bad, but it’s not like he is deploying the technology of an authoritarian state; engaging in mass, dragnet surveillance of citizens; asking people to rat out their co-workers or neighbors, acquaintances or even people spotted in public based upon broad “risk” profiles generated by the government; or targeting people based upon their religious or political beliefs or the success of their online activism.

    Oops, they do that stuff.

    There can be little doubt that the policies of the Bush and Obama administrations will continue if there is impunity. As was shown by David Petraeus at his ill-fated nomination hearings for CIA director, the powers will be shamelessly requested:

    As the Los Angeles Times reported, [David Petraeas] the highly-decorated general told senators in his confirmation hearing as Obama’s new CIA director that “humane” questioning standards mandated by the Army Field Manual are almost always sufficient to persuade detainees to talk. But he said that “there should be discussion … by policymakers and by Congress” about something “more than the normal techniques” for use in special cases where there is perceived to be imminent catastrophic danger.

    “That David Petraeus quote is a sign of what to worry about in the future,” said Karen Greenberg, executive director of the New York University Center on Law and Security and a scholar of detainee policy.

    “We’re not a nation you can rely on not to torture,” she said.

    Obama’s current CIA director, John Brennan, is still shilling for torture and insists that the CIA bureaucracy will eagerly support it:

    CIA Director John Brennan gave no ground to his critics during a press conference on Thursday, singing his agency’s praises and saying it “did a lot of things right” in its interrogation program. …

    Brennan’s dismissive response to the report was manifest in his refusal to even use the word “torture,” instead referring multiple times to the Bush-administration euphemism of choice: “enhanced interrogation techniques,” or EITs.

    Brennan also left open the possibility that some of the torture tactics currently prohibited by President Obama could return in the future. Some torture critics have said that could happen, because the people responsible for torture have never been held accountable and remain unbowed.

    “We are not contemplating at all getting back into the interrogation program,” Brennan said.

    As for the future, he said, “I defer to future policymakers.”

    There was a time when the Congress itself was interested in redressing the wrongs of a national security state that had overstepped its bounds. The current Congress does not appear to have that sort of concern for supporting and defending the Constitution in service to their constituents. Given that a culture of impunity encourages the continuation of corruption and infelicitous policies that are destructive of civil liberties, there should be a limit to the negligent political malpractice we are willing to tolerate in this expansion of abusive executive powers. The Democrats have avoided prosecuting several presidents for political convenience; it appears that they need some considerable motivational support to do the right thing. The American people, in the past absence of a Congress that responded to its demands, have stood up a sustained campaign to demand the end of wars and executive overreach when denied it by a flawed system bent on insulating itself from change.

    Such an effort may again be required. Impeachment and prosecutions are desperately needed.

    The Case Against Re-Banning Torture Yet Again

    1:09 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

    Senator Ron Wyden has a petition up at MoveOn.org that reads “Right now, torture is banned because of President Obama’s executive order. It’s time for Congress to pass a law banning torture, by all agencies, so that a future president can never revoke the ban.” It goes on to explain:

    “We live in a dangerous world. But when CIA operatives and contractors torture terrorist suspects, it doesn’t make us safer — and it doesn’t work. The recent CIA torture report made that abundantly clear. Right now, the federal law that bans torture only applies to the U.S. military — not our intelligence agencies. President Obama’s executive order barring all agencies from using torture could be reversed, even in secret, by a future president. That’s why it’s critical that Congress act swiftly to pass a law barring all agencies of the U.S. government, and contractors acting on our behalf, from engaging in torture. Without legislation, the door on torture is still open. It’s time for Congress to slam that door shut once and for all.”

    Why in the world would anybody object to this unless they supported torture? Well, let me explain.

    Torture and complicity in torture were felonies under U.S. law before George W. Bush moved into the White House, under both the torture statute and the war crimes statute. Nothing has fundamentally changed about that, other than the blatant lack of enforcement for several years running. Nothing in those two sections of the U.S. code limits the law to members of the U.S. military or excludes employees or contractors or subcontractors of so-called intelligence agencies. I emailed a dozen legal experts about that claim in the above petition. Michael Ratner replied “I don’t see where they get that from.” Kevin Zeese said simply “They’re wrong.” If anyone replies to me with any explanation, I’ll post it as an update at the top of this article on davidswanson.org — where I can be contacted if you have an explanation.

    For the past several years, the U.S. Congress, White House, Justice Department, and media have gone out of their way to ignore the existence of U.S. laws banning torture. When silence hasn’t worked, the primary technique has been proposing over and over and over again to ban torture, as if it were not already banned. In fact, Congress has followed through and banned it a number of times, and done so with new exceptions that by some interpretations have in fact weakened the war crimes statute. This is my best guess where the nonsense about applying only to “intelligence agencies” comes from: laws like the Military Commissions Act of 2006 that claimed to pick and choose which types of torture to ban for whom.

    When President Obama took President Bush’s place he produced an executive order purporting to ban torture (again), even while publicly telling the Justice Department not to enforce any existing laws. But an executive order, as Wyden seems to recognize, is not a law. Neither can it ban torture, nor can it give legal weight to the pretense that torture wasn’t already banned. In fact the order itself states: “Nothing in this order shall be construed to affect the obligations of officers, employees, and other agents of the United States Government to comply with all pertinent laws and treaties of the United States governing detention and interrogation, including but not limited to: the Fifth and Eighth Amendments to the United States Constitution; the Federal torture statute, 18 U.S.C. 2340 2340A; the War Crimes Act, 18 U.S.C. 2441 . . . .”

    Senator Wyden says he will introduce yet another bill to “ban torture.” Here’s how the Washington Post is spinning, and explaining, that:

    Torture is already illegal, but Wyden notes that protections can be strengthened. To oversimplify, the U.S. is a signatory to the U.N. Convention Against Torture, in which participating states agreed to outlaw intentionally inflicting severe pain for specific purposes. The Bush administration obviously found a (supposedly) legal route around that.”

    In other words, because it was done by a president, it was legal — the worldview of the Post’s old buddy Richard Nixon.

    “After the Abu Graib revelations, John McCain helped pass a 2005 amendment that would restrict the military from using specific brutal interrogation tactics — those not in the Army Field Manual. (This didn’t preclude intel services from using these techniques, which might explain why CIA director John Brennan felt free to say the other day that future policymakers might revert to using them). In 2008, Congress passed a measure specifically applying those restrictions to intelligence services, too, but then-President Bush vetoed it. Senator Wyden would revive a version of that 2008 bill as a starting point, with the goal of codifying in law President Obama’s executive order banning the use of those specific techniques for all government employees, those in intelligence services included.”

    But let’s back up a minute. When a president violates a law, that president — at least once out of office — should be prosecuted for violating the law. The law can’t be declared void because it was violated. Loopholes can’t be created for the CIA. Reliance on the Army Field Manual can’t sneak into law the loopholes built into that document. Presidents can’t order and un-order things illegal. Here’s how the United Nations Special Rapporteur on counter terrorism and human rights, Ben Emmerson responded to the release of the Senate’s report summary:

    “The individuals responsible for the criminal conspiracy revealed in today’s report must be brought to justice, and must face criminal penalties commensurate with the gravity of their crimes. The fact that the policies revealed in this report were authorised at a high level within the U.S. Government provides no excuse whatsoever. Indeed, it reinforces the need for criminal accountability. International law prohibits the granting of immunities to public officials who have engaged in acts of torture. This applies not only to the actual perpetrators but also to those senior officials within the U.S. Government who devised, planned and authorised these crimes. As a matter of international law, the U.S. is legally obliged to bring those responsible to justice. The UN Convention Against Torture and the UN Convention on Enforced Disappearances require States to prosecute acts of torture and enforced disappearance where there is sufficient evidence to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction. States are not free to maintain or permit impunity for these grave crimes.”

    Now, one could try to spin the endless re-banning of torture as part of the process of enforcing an international treaty that under Article VI of the U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the land. But banning a practice going forward, even when you ban it better, or ban it more emphatically for the 8th time, does absolutely nothing to fulfill the legal obligation to prosecute those crimes already committed. And here we are dealing with crimes openly confessed to by past officials who assert that they would “do it again” — crimes that resulted in deaths, thus eliminating any attempt at an argument that statutes of limitations have run out.

    Here’s a different sort of petition that we’ve set up at RootsAction.org along with Witness Against Torture and the Bill of Rights Defense Committee: ” We call on President Obama to allow the U.S. Department of Justice to enforce our laws, and to immediately appoint a special prosecutor. As torture is a crime of universal jurisdiction, we call on any willing court system in the world to enforce our laws if our own courts will not do so.”

    The purpose of such a petition is not vengeance or partisanship or a fetish with history. The purpose is to end torture, which is not done by looking forward or even by pardoning the crimes, as the ACLU has proposed — to its credit recognizing that the crimes exist. That should be a first step for anyone confused by the endless drumbeat to “ban torture.”

    Torture, Police Brutality and the Arrogance of Power

    7:08 am in Uncategorized by Nat Parry

    The international fallout from last week’s long-delayed release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s 500-page executive summary of its still-classified 6,000 report on CIA torture could hardly be more intense, with calls coming from the United Nations, foreign governments and the human rights community for prosecutions of those who carried out or authorized the torture techniques described in the report, including senior officials from the Bush administration.

    But judging from the self-assured comments of CIA and former administration officials, there is no real concern over the possibility of any criminal liability, a lack of accountability which has led to a palpable arrogance among those who would be behind bars if laws were actually enforced on an equal basis in the United States.

    The above-the-law sense of entitlement was perhaps most clearly on display in former Vice President Dick Cheney’s appearance this Sunday on Meet the Press, stating that when it comes to using torture, “I’d do it again in a minute.”

    When presented with gruesome details from the Senate report on torture – for example the newly revealed “enhanced interrogation technique” of “rectal feeding,” i.e., anal rape – and asked for his definition of what might constitute “torture” in a legal sense, Cheney retorted that torture is “an American citizen on his cellphone making a last call to his four young daughters shortly before he burns to death in the upper levels of the Trade Center in New York on 9/11.”

    Short of this rather high bar, nothing, by definition, that the United States does to its detainees could conceivably be considered torture.

    Similarly, when asked about the large number of innocent people (26 out of 119 CIA detainees, according to the report) who had tragically been detained and tortured in error, for example Gul Rahman – a victim of mistaken identity who was chained to the wall of his cell, doused with water and froze to death in CIA custody – Cheney stated indifferently that these individuals essentially don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. The only problem that Cheney had was “with the folks that we did release that end up back on the battlefield.”

    “I’m more concerned with bad guys who got out and released than I am with a few that, in fact, were innocent,” he said. Taken to its logical conclusion, Cheney’s reasoning would seem to hold that it is preferable to indefinitely detain and torture a million innocent people than to allow one “bad guy” to slip through the cracks. The implications of this logic are, needless to say, chilling (not to mention completely at odds with the legal principle of presumed innocence).

    At times, watching Cheney make these cold rationalizations on Meet the Press, it may have occurred to viewers that the more appropriate venue for this interview would have been on the witness stand of a courtroom. After all, what Cheney was defending was not just controversial policy choices, but clearly defined crimes of torture and murder. Although he was sure to emphasize that “All of the techniques that were authorized by the president were, in effect, blessed by the Justice Department,” the fact remains that providing the cover of law to a crime makes it no less of a crime.

    This is a point that UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counterterrorism Ben Emmerson specifically made last week following the release of the report. In a statement, Emmerson said, “The fact that the policies revealed in this report were authorized at a high level within the U.S. government provides no excuse whatsoever. Indeed, it reinforces the need for criminal accountability.”

    Emphasizing that all individuals responsible for “the criminal conspiracy” described in the Senate report “must be brought to justice, and must face criminal penalties commensurate with the gravity of their crimes,” Emmerson noted that “international law prohibits the granting of immunities to public officials who have engaged in acts of torture.”

    Judging from Cheney’s arrogant display on Meet the Press, however, there appears to be very little appreciation for the niceties of international law such as its expressed prohibition on official immunity when it comes to the crime of torture. He seems to be quite confident, indeed, that official immunity is unnecessary when there is an implied unofficial immunity that is granted to public officials in the United States, this being the case whether it pertains to CIA torture or police brutality.

    The same arrogance that Cheney is so casually displaying can also be seen in the closely paralleled story of the recent spate of police shootings of innocent African Americans, and the remarkable wave of demonstrations that has taken hold across the country in response. With large-scale protests happening in most major American cities over the past month – particularly since grand juries decided not to indict the police officers who killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York City – one might think that cops would be extra careful these days not to come across overly arrogant or obdurate.

    This, however, would not be the case.

    In response to the NFL’s Cleveland Browns’ wide receiver Andrew Hawkins taking the field on Sunday wearing a T-shirt protesting recent police shootings in Ohio – reading “Justice for Tamir Rice and John Crawford” on the front and “The Real Battle for Ohio” on the back – Jeff Follmer, president of the Cleveland police union, claimed the shirt was disrespectful and disparaged the very idea of athletes holding opinions about anything other than sports.

    “It’s pretty pathetic when athletes think they know the law,” Follmer said in a statement. “They should stick to what they know best on the field.” In other words, keep your opinions to yourself, boy, and just play football. Follmer also demanded an apology from the Clevelend Browns organization, which to their credit, the Browns did not extend.

    Instead, the Browns fired back with a statement saying the organization endorses the rights of players “to project their support and bring awareness to issues that are important to them if done so in a responsible manner.”

    Hawkins also weighed in with comments to the media that revealed, in fact, a deep knowledge and understanding of what law and justice mean (or should mean), contrary to Follmer’s condescending remarks. “Justice,” he said, “is a right that every American should have. Justice means that the innocent should be found innocent. It means that those who do wrong should get their due punishment.”

    His six-minute locker-room monologue to reporters ended with him choking up while drawing a parallel between his own young son and the tragic death of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy shot by police in Cleveland on Nov. 22 while holding a toy gun.

    “My number one reason for wearing the T-shirt was the thought of what happened to Tamir Rice happening to my little Austin. And that scares the living hell out of me,” he said.

    This genuine, personal fear of police violence is one that has been widely expressed over the last several weeks of protests taking hold across the country. As Democracy Now’s Aaron Maté reported from New York’s “Millions March” on Saturday, one of the dominant themes being expressed on the streets was “a sense of not feeling safe, not feeling safe themselves and not feeling safe for their loved ones, people of color in heavily policed communities.”

    Interviewing protester Darrell Greene, Maté asked him to explain his sign, which read “Me, my father, my son. Who’s next?”

    Greene responded, “At this point, I know I’m a productive citizen, and I don’t feel safe in my own community. I’ve never been in trouble with law enforcement. And from what I’m seeing on the news and what’s been going on, I really wonder: Am I next? I’m wondering if the people in my community are next. We’re all productive citizens, and we’re in fear for our life. We feel like it’s open season on all minorities, and we want to know if we’re really safe.”

    Protester Nilan Johnson echoed these sentiments. “I’m here because Americans, period, are being preyed on, right now,” he said. “African Americans are once again fighting for the right to be human, and I think that’s horrible.”

    Asked whether he feels, as a person of color, whether he is unsafe in his community, Johnson replied, “That’s – I feel that daily, so I feel that’s a preconditioned nature now. I feel threatened and marked and cornered. And everybody here feels the same way. And we’re trying to keep our humanity.”

    If not a direct byproduct of the war on terror’s excesses and the impunity that law-breakers at the highest levels of government enjoy, this feeling of powerlessness, insecurity and injustice is certainly closely related. Indeed, as far back as 2007, civil rights leaders were drawing these connections, in particular in a report prepared for the United Nations entitled “In The Shadows Of The War On Terror: Persistent Police Brutality and Abuse of People of Color in the United States.”

    Since 9/11, the report explained, “there have been dramatic increases in law enforcement powers in the name of waging the ‘war on terror,’” while simultaneously, counter-terrorism policies have “created a generalized climate of impunity for law enforcement officers, and contributed to the erosion of what few accountability mechanisms exist for civilian control over law enforcement agencies.”

    This has led to an erosion of public discussion and accountability with respect to the use of excessive force against people of color, while at the same time, “systemic abuse of people of color by law enforcement officers has not only continued since 2001 but has worsened in both practice and severity,” according to the report. As a representative of the NAACP put it, “the degree to which police brutality occurs … is the worst I’ve seen in 50 years.”

    Even establishment publications such as the Wall Street Journal have noticed the troubling trend of rising police violence and its connections with the war on terror. As a feature article in WSJ put it in August 2013, “the war on drugs and, more recently, post-9/11 antiterrorism efforts have created a new figure on the U.S. scene: the warrior cop – armed to the teeth, ready to deal harshly with targeted wrongdoers, and a growing threat to familiar American liberties.”

    This threat to liberties is compounded when the justice system fails to hold accountable those who break the law and violate people’s rights. Whether it is Eric Garner in New York or Gul Rahman in Afghanistan, the victims of injustice must have redress, and “those who do wrong should get their due punishment,” in the words of Cleveland Browns wide receiver Andrew Hawkins.

    As human rights advocates and civil libertarians have warned since the early days of the war on terror, human rights violations of terror suspects will eventually set the United States on a slippery slope in which authorities deem it optional whether to respect the human rights of anyone, including U.S. citizens. At that point, anyone is fair game, and all of us, including law-abiding Americans, may find ourselves at the mercy of an unsympathetic authoritarian state.

    This article originally appeared at Essential Opinion.

    The ‘Anti-Imperialist’ Nations of Iran, Syria, and Libya Participated in the CIA Torture Program

    9:00 am in Uncategorized by Ben Norton

    As of now, only a 525-page summary of the confidential, over 6,000-page Senate Intelligence Committee Study of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program has been released. Yet even this small and heavily redacted excerpt, constituting only 8% of the entire report, shows CIA “enhanced interrogation” (a euphemism for torture formerly employed by none other than the Nazis—”Verschärfte Vernehmung“) to be most unsavory, to put it mildly.

    We know with absolute certainty that, at the very least, the CIA used the following forms of torture on detainees (who were never even charged with a crime):

  • waterboarding,
  • “rectal feeding”—i.e., feeding by rape; liquidating entire solid-food meals, inserting it into detainees rectum via IV, and pumping it into the large intestines,
  • rape threats with broomsticks,
  • “ice water baths,”
  • standing sleep deprivation; sleep deprivation for up to 180 hours,
  • threats with buzzing power drills
  • threats to kill family members and rape mothers,
  • and more.

    Remember, these are just the redacted, “lighter” crimes.

    In their own emails and documents, the CIA referred to their torture facilities as “dungeons.” Reed Brody, spokesperson for Human Rights Watch, called the CIA’s illegal torture tactics “medieval.”

    The only person involved in the CIA torture program who has been charged with a crime is John Kiriakou—a whistleblower who, in 2007, was the first person involved in the program to confirm its existence. He was sentenced to 30 months in prison for the worst crime of all: telling the truth.

    As the utmost horrors of CIA crimes become popular knowledge, as the CIA’s detention and extraordinary rendition program is back in public consciousness, it may be a good time to remind everyone of Open Society Foundations 2013 report “Globalizing Torture: CIA Secret Detention and Extraordinary Rendition.” Said study showed just how widespread foreign complicity was in this grotesque, inexpressibly immoral program.

    Take a look at the map of the nations involved and you’ll see that, in spite of the insistence of the fervent authoritarian, RT- and Press TV-watching pseudo-”leftist” (or, in actual leftist parlance, “tankie”) to the contrary, the supposedly “anti-imperialist” nations of Iran, Syria, and Libya indeed participated in the CIA torture program.

    Yes, that is right, the purported “anti-imperialist” autocratic regimes of the Ayatollah, Bashar al-Assad, and Muammar Gaddafi helped the world’s leading imperialist, in the words of Obama, “torture some folks” (ahem, a lot of folks).

    (On this note, don’t err in assuming the absence of Latin American participation in the program is indicative of widespread anti-imperialism. While some Latin American countries (e.g., Venezuela, Cuba, etc.) may indeed be some of the leading anti-imperialist and overall progressive forces, many Central American countries in particular are thoroughly embedded within US hegemony.

    The School of the Americas—renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) in 2000 in another euphemistic sleight of hand—has helped train far-right terrorist paramilitary groups and dictators for the past two-thirds of a century. School of the Americas Watch (SOAW) has been keeping track of this torture training camp for some time now.

    History shows us that, if there’s a corner of the world with ultra-reactionary paramilitaries itching for power, you can bet the US has funded them, supplied them with weapons, and taught them how to torture.)

    Torture “Architect” Mistaken in Claim Nobody’s Punished for Drone Murders

    8:29 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

    A psychologist who played a key role in a U.S. torture program said on a video yesterday that torture was excusable because blowing up families with a drone is worse (and nobody’s punished for that). Well, of course the existence of something worse is no excuse for torture. And he’s wrong that no one is punished for drone murders. The protesters are. Latest example:

    “Missouri judge convicts and sentences two peace activists for protesting drone warfare at Whiteman Air Force Base.

    “Jefferson City, MO—On December 10, a federal magistrate found Georgia Walker, of  Kansas  City, MO and Chicagoan Kathy Kelly guilty of criminal trespass to a military installation  as a result of their June 1 effort to deliver a loaf of bread and a citizens’ indictment of drone warfare to authorities at Whiteman AFB.   Judge Matt Whitworth sentenced Kelly to three months in prison and Walker to one year of supervised probation.

    “In testimony, Kelly, who recently returned from Afghanistan, recounted her conversation with an Afghan mother whose son, a recent police academy graduate, was killed by a drone as he sat with colleagues in a garden.  “I’m educated and humbled by experiences talking with people who’ve been trapped and impoverished by U.S. warfare,” said Kelly. ‘The U.S. prison system also traps and impoverishes people.  In coming months, I’ll surely learn more about who goes to prison and why.’

    “During sentencing, prosecution attorneys asked that Walker be sentenced to five years of probation and banned from going within 500 feet of any military base.  Judge Whitworth imposed a sentence of one year probation with a condition that Walker refrain from approaching any military base for one year. Walker coordinates an organization that provides re-entry services to newly released prisoners throughout Missouri.  Noting that the condition to stay away from military bases will affect her ability to travel in the region, Walker expressed concern that this condition will limit her work among former prisoners.

    “Kelly’s work as a co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence places her alongside people in a working class neighborhood of Kabul.  She said that the day’s proceedings offered a valuable opportunity to shed light on experiences of Afghan families whose grievances are seldom heard. At the conclusion of the sentencing, Kelly said that every branch of U.S. government, including the judicial branch, shares responsibility for suffering caused when drones target and kill civilians.”

    On December 3, Mark Colville, a protester of drone murders at Hancock Air Base in New York, was sentenced to a one year conditional release, $1000 fine, $255 court costs, and to give a DNA sample to NY State. “This sentence was a great departure from what Judge Jokl threatened to give Mark,” said Ellen Grady. “We are relieved that the judge did not give him the maximum and we in the courtroom were very moved by Mark’s powerful statement to the court. May the resistance continue!”

    This was Colville’s statement in court:

    “Judge Jokl:

    “I am standing here before you tonight because I tried to intervene on behalf of a family in Afghanistan whose members have experienced the unspeakable trauma of witnessing loved ones being blown to pieces, murdered by hellfire missiles fired from remote control aircraft like those flown from the 174th Attack Wing at Hancock Airbase. I stand here, under judgement in this court, because a member of that family, Raz Mohammad, wrote an urgent plea to the courts of the United States, to our government and military, to stop these unprovoked attacks on his people, and I made a conscientious decision to carry Mr. Mohammad’s plea to the gates of Hancock. Make no mistake: I am proud of that decision. As a husband and father myself, and as a child of God, I do not hesitate to affirm that the actions for which I stand subject to punishment in this court tonight were responsible, loving and nonviolent. As such, no sentence that you pronounce here can either condemn me or deligitimize what I’ve done, nor will it have any impact on the truth of similar actions undertaken by dozens of others who are still awaiting trial in this court.

    “The drone base within your jurisdiction is part of a military/intelligence undertaking that is not only founded upon criminality, but is also, by any sober analysis, allowed to operate beyond the reach of law. Extrajudicial killings, targeted assassinations, acts of state terrorism, the deliberate targeting of civilians- all of these crimes form the essence of the weaponized drone program that the United States government claims to be legal in its prosecution of the so called “war on terror”. Recent studies have shown that for every targeted person killed in a drone strike, twenty eight people of undetermined identity have also been slaughtered. The military admits to employing a mode of operation called “double-tapping”, in which a weaponized drone is directed back to strike a target a second time, after first responders have arrived to help the wounded. Yet never has any of this been subject to congressional approval or, more importantly, to the scrutiny of U.S. courts. In this case, you had the opportunity, from where you sit, to change that. You’ve heard the testimony of several trials similar to mine; you know what the reality is. You also heard the desperate plea of Raz Mohammad, which was read in open court during this trial. What you chose was to further legitimize these crimes by ignoring them. The faces of dead children, murdered by our nation’s hand, had no place in this court. They were excluded. Objected to. Irrelevant. Until that changes, this court continues to take an active, crucial role in condemning the innocent to death. In so doing, this court condemns itself.

    “And I think it’s fitting to end with the words of Raz that were sent to me this afternoon on behalf of his sister, widowed after a drone attack killed her young husband:

    “‘My sister says that for the sake of her 7 year old son, she doesn’t want to bear any grudges or take revenge against the U.S./NATO forces for the drone attack that killed his father. But, she asks that the U.S./NATO forces end their drone attacks in Afghanistan, and that they give an open account of deaths cause by drone attacks in this country.’”

    Plans are being made for big national protests at Shaw Air Base in South Carolina (dates to be determined) and at Creech Air Base in Nevada (that one March 1-4).

    Actions at Hancock Air Base in New York are ongoing, as at Beale in CA and Battle Creek, MI.

    Want to get involved in opposing drone murder?

    Sign BanWeaponizedDrones.org

    Organize with KnowDrones

    Support Voices for Creative Nonviolence

    Get your city or state to oppose drones.

    Get anti-drone shirts, stickers, hats, etc.

    Brian Terrell, who has spent 6 months behind bars already for opposing murder by drone, offers some useful insights in an article called Redefining “Imminent”.

    So does a victim’s child in My father was killed by a computer, says 7 year old Afghan child.

    As does drone murder protester Joy First in  What Happens When You Talk With Americans About Drone Murders.

    Find more articles here.