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Did the US Intend to Torture Bin Laden’s Children?

5:01 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

Did the US torture children by placing ants on their bodies? (photo: wizardhat on Flickr)

In the midst of the ongoing orgy of adulation for Seal Team Six killing Osama Bin Laden and the former Vice President appearing on television to advocate a return to waterboarding as official US torture policy, there has been little attention to the fact that Pakistan took several wives and children of Bin Laden into custody after the US raid of the compound. The US now seeks access to these family members. Did the US intend to torture these children with insects as they did Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s children, if the helicopter on which they would have flown had not been destroyed?

Here is Reuters reporting on the children in the immediate aftermath of the raid:

A senior Pakistani intelligence official said one of Osama bin Laden’s daughters had seen her father being shot dead by U.S. forces, and was one of about 10 relatives of the al Qaeda leader in custody pending interrogation.

The official, who declined to be identified, said the daughter, aged 12 or 13, was one of the people who had confirmed that the mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attacks had been killed by U.S. commandos in a raid early on Monday.

The relatives — one of bin Laden’s wives and up to eight children — will be interrogated and then probably turned over to their countries of origin, and not the United States, in accordance with Pakistani law, he said.

The article notes that these family members were left behind because the US had to destroy one of the helicopters used in the raid.  The US now wants these family members (note that now more than one wife is mentioned, although there is only one in the initial Reuters report):

National security adviser Thom­as E. Donilon said Pakistan remains a critical partner in battling al-Qaeda, despite new strains in the relationship a week after the raid in Abbottabad. But he acknowledged that Pakistani officials have not granted Americans access to important information gathered since the raid or allowed interviews with bin Laden family members now in Pakistan’s custody.

“We’ve asked for access, obviously, to those folks,” Donilon said on ABC’s “This Week,” one of four television news shows he visited Sunday.

A Pakistani intelligence official said Sunday that his government needed permission from the wives’ home countries before Pakistan could allow U.S. officials to question them. One of the wives is from Yemen; the official said he did not know the other wives’ nationalities.

Note how the US handled KSM’s sons:

Two young sons of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the suspected mastermind of the September 11 attacks, are being used by the CIA to force their father to talk.

Yousef al-Khalid, nine, and his brother, Abed al-Khalid, seven, were taken into custody in Pakistan last September when intelligence officers raided a flat in Karachi where their father had been hiding.

/snip/

“His sons are important to him. The promise of their release and their return to Pakistan may be the psychological lever we need to break him.”

Yup, trying to “break” KSM consisted of, in addition to waterboarding him 183 times and telling him that if the US were attacked, “We’re going to kill your children“.

In addition, the US may have used insects to torture KSM’s children and other children:

At a military tribunal in 2007, the father of a Guantanamo detainee alleged that Pakistani guards had confessed that American interrogators used ants to coerce the children of alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed into revealing their father’s whereabouts.

The statement was made by Ali Khan, the father of detainee Majid Khan, who gave a detailed account of his son’s interrogation at the hands of American guards in Pakistan. In his statement, Khan asserted that one of his sons was held at the same place as the young children of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

“The Pakistani guards told my son that the boys were kept in a separate area upstairs and were denied food and water by other guards,” the statement read. “They were also mentally tortured by having ants or other creatures put on their legs to scare them and get them to say where their father was hiding.

Also lost somewhere in the maze of being held by Pakistan or the US are one or more of Aafia Siddiqui’s children.

No matter the crimes of the parents, detaining and torturing children is a crime that can only hasten the decline of our country into complete lawlessness. Where is the outcry against such base behavior? What does the US plan to do with Bin Laden’s children if access is granted? What would the US have done with these children if the helicopter on which they would have flown had not been destroyed?

Torturers Desperately Try to Justify Their Crimes in Wake of Bin Laden Killing

7:51 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

Much of the aftermath of the killing of Osama Bin Laden Sunday night in Pakistan has consisted of sophomoric chest-thumping proclaiming a twisted version of “justice” that Peterr very eloquently exposed here. There is another trend in the response, however, that is even more disgusting. A number of people involved in the torture program created and implemented during the George W. Bush administration are now trying to claim that Bin Laden would not have been found and killed without torture. Marcy Wheeler was out in front of those claims, debunking them before they came out and has stayed on the task with more details as the torturers continue their spin. The torturers are getting more desperate, and today we have none other than Jose Rodriguez, who ordered much of the torture as head of the CounterTerrorism Center (and then was the one who destroyed videotaped evidence of torture, only to be given a “get out of jail free” card by Barack Obama and Eric Holder), appearing in the press to justify his actions.

Rodriguez gave his first interview after escaping justice to Massimo Calabresi of Time. Here is the most disgusting bit from Rodriguez:

Jose Rodriguez ran the CIA’s CounterTerrorism Center from 2002 to 2005 during the period when top al-Qaeda leaders Khalid Sheikh Mohammad (KSM) and Abu Faraj al-Libbi were taken into custody and subjected to “enhanced interrogation techniques” at secret black site prisons overseas. KSM was subjected to waterboarding, sleep deprivation and other techniques. Al Libbi was not waterboarded, but other EITs were used on him.

“Information provided by KSM and Abu Faraj al Libbi about Bin Laden’s courier was the lead information that eventually led to the location of [bin Laden’s] compound and the operation that led to his death,” Rodriguez tells TIME in his first public interview.

Calabresi then quotes National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor debunking Rodriguez’ claim: “There is no way that information obtained by [enhanced interrogation techniques] was the decisive intelligence that led us directly to bin Laden.”
Read the rest of this entry →

Jon Stewart Says My Congressman Cliff Stearns Is Dickish. I Agree.

3:46 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Friends Without Benefits – 9/11 Responders
www.thedailyshow.com
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The entire opening segment of Tuesday night’s Daily Show was devoted to the madness in the Zadroga Bill which requires 9/11 first responders who are suffering health problems due to their work at the Ground Zero site to first be checked against the terrorist watch list before they are eligible for federal assistance with their health bills. As Stewart points out in the initial set-up, this requirement is placed on exactly zero other sets of people before they receive federal funds, even to the point that the Libyan rebels likely aren’t being screened against the list before we fund them. The set-up can be viewed here.

The video above picks up where Stewart begins to wonder just who would propose such a ridiculous requirement. Sadly, that journey winds up with my Congressman, Cliff Stearns, who “represents” the district where I live. Stearns is quite a piece of work, having first burst onto the world scene in 2002 as one of five Republican Congressmen attacking PBS because the South African version of Sesame dared to introduce an HIV-positive character. Stearns also receives a significant portion of his funding from the telecommunications industry, so he was intimately involved in Congressional smoothing over of Bush’s illegal wiretapping and is at the front ranks of those wanting to kill net neutrality. It should come as no surprise, then, that Stearns also is a big fan of torture, even going so far as to dress up for his trip to Guantanamo and give his best Abu Ghraib “thumbs up” for the trip:

Torture fan Cliff Stearns, R-FL, dressed up for his trip to Guantanamo in May 2008.

Obama Appoints War Criminal McChrystal to Support Military Families, Sell Iraq War Extension

4:42 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

Late last month, I jokingly suggested that Barack Obama could emulate his “hero” Ronald Reagan by doing a progressive version of Reagan’s signature move of making appointments that are the exact opposite of the goals of the position by nominating Dennis Kucinich as Secretary of Defense and Donald Daniel Ellsberg to head the CIA.  Sadly, Obama seems to have taken a garbled version of this suggestion, as word came Sunday that Obama is creating “a high-profile initiative in support of military families” and has put war criminal and Pat Tillman cover-up leader Stanley McChrystal in charge of this operation. This is a truly Reaganesque appointment, as it is hard to imagine a military figure who has done more to harm families around the world, and now he is leading the charge to put a happy face on the devastation ten years of war has wreaked on the very small number of US families who have borne the brunt of the death and other sacrifices by our all-volunteer force.

The key point to note in examining this new program for military families is how it will be administered.  The New York Times describes it in this way:

The Joining Forces program will be guided and coordinated by the Center for a New American Security, a nonpartisan policy institute. The center, which is led by two military veterans, has published a series of reports analyzing stress on service members an part of its study of “military wellness.”

But it is not quite true that the Center for a New American Security is “nonpartisan”.  It is an operation founded by Democrats but is completely pro-war.  Late last month, Nathan Hodge had a revealing profile of CNAS at The Nation, which he titled “Coalition of the Shilling“.  Hodge provides this about the funding of CNAS:

But Jaffe’s argument begs the question of whether think tanks, even centrist ones, truly offer the same independence that newspapers purport to have. CNAS is an instructive case. Two former Clinton administration officials, Michèle Flournoy and Kurt Campbell, founded CNAS in 2007 as a way for centrist Democrats to reclaim a place in the national security debate ahead of the 2008 presidential race. It was an expert triangulation: Flournoy, Campbell and their associates staked out a hawkish (or, as they would term it, a “pragmatic and principled”) position on Iraq, opposing early deadlines for withdrawal. After Obama’s election, CNAS would emerge as a key feeder for the new administration’s national security team. No fewer than fourteen CNAS grads would land slots in the Defense and State departments. Flournoy now occupies the number-three post at the Pentagon, and Campbell is the head of the State Department’s Asia bureau.

How exactly did Flournoy and Campbell conjure up a think tank out of thin air? In addition to support from foundations like the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Ploughshares Foundation, CNAS received heavy backing from the military industry. Its list of donors includes major weapons manufacturers like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Raytheon and BAE Systems. It also receives contributions from private security firms like Aegis Defence Services, as well as from KBR, the logistics support contractor notorious for overbilling the Pentagon for its services in Iraq and Afghanistan. And it generates income from research contracts with the Pentagon and intelligence agencies, as do others like the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

So, in reality, CNAS is a front group for the Pentagon and military contractors making sure they keep their gravy train running.  But even more informative from Hodge’s article is the information in the very first paragraph, where we see the role of CNAS in selling the idea that the US needs to keep combat forces in Iraq:

On February 25 journalist Thomas Ricks published an important scoop on his blog at ForeignPolicy.com: Army Gen. Raymond Odierno, the top US commander in Iraq, had requested keeping a brigade in northern Iraq beyond President Obama’s deadline for the withdrawal of combat forces. The timing of the story was intriguing. Just two days earlier, Ricks had published an op-ed in the New York Times calling for US troops to remain in Iraq long term. “I think leaders in both countries may come to recognize that the best way to deter a return to civil war is to find a way to keep 30,000 to 50,000 United States service members in Iraq for many years to come,” he wrote. The op-ed coincided with a policy brief by Ricks issued by the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), the Washington think tank where he is a senior fellow.

Now Obama’s choice of McChrystal fits into a neat package developed by CNAS.  They want the Iraq war extended, they know this will cause a lot of grief to military families, they have worked extensively with McChrystal in the past (documented also by Hodge in the article), McChrystal needs a new job to rehabilitate his image and so they have created a job for him selling the idea of extending the Iraq war to military families.

What could possibly go wrong with this plan?  Jason Leopold suggested on Twitter last night that the Tillman family might not be so pleased about this move:

Amazing that Obama admin wld appoint McChrystal 2 anything having 2 do w/military families after wht he put Pat Tillman’s family through

From the CBS story accompanying the video above, here is Pat Tillman’s mother describing her efforts to contact Obama and prevent McChrystal being elevated to head the military effort in Afghanistan when he was nominated in the summer of 2009:

Mary explained, “I wrote the book, came out in 2008, and I indicate that McChrystal was involved in orchestrating the cover-up. He falsified the Silver Star. He was very aware that Pat was killed by friendlies. And then, when he was going to be promoted to the head commander in Afghanistan, I had contacted President Obama, I e-mailed him and written a letter and contacted members of Congress, just trying to remind them that this man needed to be scrutinized very carefully. And in the end, it turned out that he was pretty much meant for that position. He was a shoo-in. Of course, he was promoted. And, that is part of the foreword.”

In 2009 Obama demonstrated that he was immune to the arguments presented by the Tillman family and he went ahead with appointing McChrystal to head troops in Afghanistan. How sad that Obama is now compounding that pain to the Tillman family by appointing McChrystal for a position which is on the surface meant to be addressing much of the harm that McChrystal himself has directly caused.

Obama now owns all of McChrystal’s war crimes by appointing him to an important position not once, but twice.

Egypt’s Massive Interior Ministry Blamed for Violence, But Beware of Suleiman

8:47 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

One of the main narratives emerging in coverage of the violence that plagued Egypt’s popular uprising on Wednesday and Thursday is that the Interior Ministry is primarily responsible, as seen for example in the CNN video here. We heard from Al Jazeera English on Thursday that Egypt’s attorney general has banned former Interior Minister Habib al-Adly from leaving the country and has frozen his assets. In this post, I provide some background on the Interior Ministry and how its 1.4 million employees are deployed. But one should not assume that the Interior Ministry is the only other problem once Mubarak is gone. As Jane Mayer has pointed out in detail, Vice President Omar Suleiman, who is now being openly discussed by the US government as the leader of a potential interim government should Mubarak step down, has been the primary conduit for CIA renditions to Egypt for torture.

Here is the description of the actions taken by the attorney general against Habib al-Adly in addition to his being banned from leaving the country:

An Al Jazeera correspondent, reporting from Egypt, said al-Adly is also being interrogated for his decision to order police off the streets, and whether any security forces were involved in clashes between pro-democracy protesters and Mubarak loyalists that are continuing to rage in Cairo.
Read the rest of this entry →

Who Are Those Guys Who Want Petraeus to Get His Fifth Star?

6:56 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

White House photo of Vets for Freedom appearing with George W. Bush on July 20, 2007.

An op-ed appeared in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal bearing the title “A Fifth Star for David Petraeus“. The byline for the op-ed lists Pete Hegseth and Wade Zirkle and the Journal provides this “description” of their association at the bottom of the piece: “Messrs. Hegseth and Zirkle are directors at Vets for Freedom. Mr. Hegseth served in Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division and will deploy to Afghanistan in 2011. Mr. Zirkle served two deployments to Iraq as a Marine infantry officer and is a recipient of the Purple Heart.” The Journal provides no further information on Vets for Freedom. Thursday night, Pouting Baby gave us the description of Vets for Freedom off their website:

Vets for Freedom is a nonpartisan organization established by combat veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Our mission is to educate the American public about the importance of achieving success in these conflicts by applying our first-hand knowledge to issues of American strategy and tactics in Iraq and Afghanistan.

/snip/

Vets for Freedom PAC is a Political Action Committee whose mission is to help candidates-mostly combat veterans-who believe in achieving success in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the overall War on Terrorism, get elected to the United States Congress and other Federal positions.

Digging a little further, I note that Vets for Freedom places Republican Allen West at the top of their list of candidates they supported in the 2010 elections. Bragging about getting such a deranged person elected to Congress tells me a lot about where this group is coming from.

But there is much more. SourceWatch has a very long, highly documented portrait of Vets for Freedom, which includes this pithy, one-sentence summation:

It was, in essence, a Republican front group managed by Republican-affiliated public relations[8], media[9], legal[10], and political consultants, including former White House spokesman Taylor Gross, to defeat candidates who advocate an end to the US occupation of Iraq.

When he provided testimony against confirmation of Elena Kagan for the Supreme Court, Mother Jones provided this description of Hegseth:

Finally, there’s Pete Hegseth, the former Bear Stearns banker and head of the Republican-friendly political action committee Vets for Freedom, whose way through Princeton was paid by the anti-gay Family Research Council. While a student, he started the Princeton Tory, a conservative school paper funded with thousands of dollars from national right-wing groups, including the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, Leadership Institute, and YAF. Hegseth used the Tory’s pages to attack “atheist public schools” while advocating spanking and “a return of the acceptability of the ‘homemaker’ vocation.” He also called the National Organization for Women “a radical, leftist, feminist organization” and, for a would-be Army civil affairs officer, did a really poor job of predicting success in Iraq in late 2002:

I believe, if done correctly, eliminating Saddam and liberating Iraq could be the ‘Normandy Invasion’ or ‘fall of the Berlin Wall’ of our generation…the Iraqi people are eager to be rid of Saddam, and there is equally encouraging evidence that republican principles could thrive there.

In 2008, Hegseth pulled down a $100,000 base salary as the head of Vets for Freedom. Tax filings from that election year also show his “nonpartisan” group has deep GOP ties, paying out hundreds of thousands of dollars to right-wing consultants, including one lobby group connected to former Republican senator Bill Frist, the Bush-Cheney campaigns, and Frank Donatelli, the treasurer of Youngblood’s YAF.

In a glowing profile of him at Power Line, we learn more about Hegseth when they quote a newspaper column by Katherine Kersten:

At Princeton, Hegseth joined ROTC and the National Guard. But the opportunity to serve came sooner than he expected. In March 2004, three days after he started at Bear Stearns — and three weeks after he married Meredith Schwarz, his high school sweetheart — he was called up.

Hegseth was sent to the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The SourceWatch article also contained the White House photo you see above, where Pete Hegseth is closest to George W. Bush. The photo was taken on July 20, 2007. In a very interesting coincidence, that is also the date that George W. Bush signed Executive Order 13440, which provided a “new” interpretation of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions and has been described as allowing “harsh” interrogations.

Isn’t that interesting? On the day a former Guantanamo guard (who later would go on to help a elect a former torturer to Congress) visits him, Bush signs an Executive Order that re-starts torture.

To see a little bit of Hegseth in action catapulting the propaganda on Iraq, here is a very low resolution YouTube posted by Vets for Freedom of Hegseth appearing with Glenn Beck during the 2008 “National Heroes Tour” that Vets for Freedom organized to gin up support for the Iraq War:

As for Wade Zirkle, he doesn’t appear much better. Here’s a happy picture of him with Gordon Liddy.

Is Vets for Freedom preparing to support David Petraeus as a candidate for President? Shouldn’t the Wall Street Journal have mentioned that Vets for Freedom supports candidates for office who are veterans and support “victory” in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Irony Alert: US Expresses “Concern” Over Pakistan Holding Prisoners Without Charges, Torture and Extrajudicial Killings

7:16 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

Without even a hint that they realize the deep irony in their story, the New York Times yields front page space on Thursday to a report that the Obama administration now suddenly is concerned about prisoners who are being held without being charged, possibly subjected to torture or even killed without a judicial pronouncement of guilt. The irony, of course, is that although there is strong documentation that the US engages regularly in these same acts, the US now condemns Pakistan for these injustices.

Here is how the Times describes the concern:

The Obama administration is expressing alarm over reports that thousands of political separatists and captured Taliban insurgents have disappeared into the hands of Pakistan’s police and security forces, and that some may have been tortured or killed.

/snip/

The concern is over a steady stream of accounts from human rights groups that Pakistan’s security services have rounded up thousands of people over the past decade, mainly in Baluchistan, a vast and restive province far from the fight with the Taliban, and are holding them incommunicado without charges.

/snip/

Separately, the report also described concerns that the Pakistani military had killed unarmed members of the Taliban, rather than put them on trial.

In breathlessly repeating the US concern over prisoners being held without charges, the Times seems to have forgotten the status of prisoners the US holds at Guantanamo and elsewhere without charging them and the ridiculous attempts by the Obama administration to provide a substitute for due process, which the Times even praised earlier this week in an editorial.

Torture plays a huge role in the reason true legal proceedings can’t be held for the prisoners the US keeps in legal limbo, and yet the Times sees no reason to point this out while relaying the “concern” from the US over the potential torture of Pakistan’s prisoners.

And as for the extrajudicial killings? The Times sees no reason to mention that the UN Specal Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings finds the US use of drones in Pakistan may also violate international standards against extrajudicial killings.

And in the final bit of extreme irony, the Times paints Pakistan’s judicial system as rudimentary and in need of US help. After providing us with this gem of a statement: “American officials are expanding programs to build up the judicial system in Pakistan”, the Times then quotes anonymous US “officials” on how “We’re trying to help Pakistan build democratic institutions so they can be a more effective partner.” It would seem to me that in holding prisoners without charging them, overlooking torture of prisoners and sanctioning extrajudicial killings, the Pakistani judicial system has emulated US judicial processes completely.

The Times paints its image of Pakistan as lacking in judicial process despite having noted earlier in the article that a report to Pakistan’s Supreme Court from a judicial commission assigned to investigate the missing prisoners is due to provide a report on Friday. Also missing from this description of Pakistan’s legal system as backwards is any reference to the massive outcry by Pakistan’s lawyers and other judicial officials resulting in “Black Flag Week”, when massive demonstrations forced then-President Pervez Musharraf to reinstate the Supreme Court’s Chief Justice, whom he had illegally sacked. See the video above for coverage of that development back in 2007. The reality is that there may well be a better route to true justice in Pakistan than there is under the Obama Department of Justice.

Obama’s Cowardice on Guantanamo Continues, Unites Insurgents Against US

4:33 pm in Uncategorized by Jim White

(photo: Paul Keller on Flickr)

An editorial in Tuesday’s New York Times praises as “A Step Toward Fairness” a ridiculous new proposal from the Obama administration that will keep a number of Guantanamo prisoners in legal limbo with no hope of a real judicial hearing on their status. At the same time, it appears that there will be no effort to close Guantanamo, now approaching more than a year past Obama’s target for closing it. Little wonder, then, that Tuesday’s Times also reports that erstwhile rival insurgent groups in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area now seem to be setting rivalries aside to attack US interests. Keeping Guantanamo open only feeds such hatred against the US that rivals will team up.

The “step toward fairness” heralded by the Times seems to have no basis in known law to be announced in an Obama executive order:

The proposed order could give these prisoners a form of legal representation and a system to review their cases. It would not remove the tarnish to the American justice system of holding prisoners without trial. But it could represent a significant step forward in dealing with these cases and possibly reducing their number.

The order, which could be signed by the president as early as next month, would require periodic review of each prisoner’s case by a kind of parole board drawn from agencies throughout the executive branch and not just the military.

This board would regularly assess whether a prisoner still represented a danger to public safety or was safe enough to release. The prisoners would have access to an outside lawyer, if they requested one, and would also be allowed an advocate within the system — a change from the Bush administration’s policy of allowing them only a “personal representative,” who was unable to help them make the case for release.

The Times (and the Obama administration) still doesn’t understand the nature of evidence obtained under torture. The editorial laments that some prisoners can’t be tried because the evidence against them “was obtained through torture”, but it omits consideration of the fact that the reason that evidence obtained under torture can’t be used is because torture victims will say anything to make the torture stop. If a prisoner is held only because of evidence obtained under torture, then there would seem to be no reason to hold the prisoner. If there is independent evidence that would indicate a prisoner is a risk, then the prisoner should be tried on that evidence. A real judicial process, with proper rules of evidence, could and should be used to determine whether a prisoner should be held. The proposal to use a “parole board” type process is laughable on its face. And yet, even with this ridiculous substitute for a legal process, the Times editorial notes that Congress will fight even this plan and praises Obama for “the work of bringing fairness to the justice system at Guantánamo”, which they state Congress should not thwart.

The Times also noted on Tuesday that rival insurgent groups are working together in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area:

New intelligence assessments from the region assert that insurgent factions now are setting aside their historic rivalries to behave like “a syndicate,” joining forces in ways not seen before. After one recent attack on a remote base in eastern Afghanistan, a check of the enemy dead found evidence that the fighters were from three different factions, military officials said.

In a bit of blindness, the Times accepts at face value the explanation that this teaming up of rivals is only in response to the “withering attacks” from the recent NATO offensives:

The change reveals the resilience and flexibility of the militant groups. But at the same time, officials say, the unusual and expanding alliances suggest that the factions are feeling new military pressure. American and NATO officials say these decisions by insurgent leaders are the result of operations from American, Afghan and allied forces on one side of the border, and from the Pakistani military — and American drone strikes — on the other.

The article contains no references to the ongoing process of holding many prisoners without charges and on the basis of evidence obtained only under torture. There really is no hope of improving the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan if the only strategy to employed by the US is to keep increasing attacks while never allowing a true legal process for the prisoners held at Guantanamo and elsewhere.

US Presses China on Rule of Law Issue, Ignores Own Failures

5:47 am in Justice Department by Jim White

The concept of blind justice following the rule of law is now "quaint" in the US. (photo: Dave King on Flickr)

Demonstrating once again the damage inflicted on itself by its slide into lawlessness, the United States could only use an Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission to deliver a condemnation of China for not adhering to the rule of law in its handling of a jailed naturalized US citizen. Had the condemnation come from high level authorities at the State Department, the extra level of attention to the issue likely would have brought observations in the world press that the US doesn’t fare so well itself lately on the issue of the rule of law.

A Reuters article from Tuesday morning describes the US condemnation of China:

The United States pressed China again Tuesday to release a U.S. geologist jailed on charges of stealing state secrets, saying his case had not been handled transparently.

Xue Feng, who was born in China and later became a naturalized U.S. citizen, was detained late in 2007 after negotiating the sale of an oil industry database to his employer at the time, Colorado-based consultancy IHS Energy, now known as IHS Inc.

“Our sense has been that the case has not been handled with the kind of transparency that would befit a nation which tells us that the rule of law is paramount in all judicial processes,” said Robert Goldberg, U.S. Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission.

Oh, my. Does the US really want global attention to focus on whether “the rule of law is paramount in all judicial processes” in the US? Take, for example, what passes for “debate” on the issue of the proper venue for trying terrorism suspects currently held at Guantanamo. Here is how the Washington Post described the status of those discussions back in March:  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

Torture Fan Cliff Stearns (R-FL) Wants to Kill Net Neutrality

6:05 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

Torture fan Cliff Stearns, R-FL, is now setting his sites on killing net neutrality in return for campaign contributions from the telecommunications industry.

As a resident of the ridiculously gerrymandered Sixth Congressional District of Florida, I am subjected to being represented in Congress by wingnut Republican Congressman Cliff Stearns even though the Gainesville area is heavily Democratic. I spent some time during the 2008 campaign cycle writing posts for the blog The Case Against Cliff, and two major themes developed from the research for my writing. First, Stearns appears to be a fan of torture, as seen in the photo on the left of this composite, which was taken from his website in May of 2008, when he visited Guantanamo. He clearly was excited by the visit, even dressing up for it and posing in an Abu Ghraib pose. Second, it was clear from my research that Stearns’ primary source of funding is the telecommunications industry. That was true of the 2008 cycle and is also true of the 2010 cycle. It is little wonder then, that this morning NPR went to Cliff Stearns for quotes about killing net neutrality, as he is the ranking member of the House Telecommunications Subcommittee.

For the 2010 election cycle, three of Stearns’ top five contributors were telecommunications-related: Comcast, National Cable & Telecommunications Association and AT&T. Furthermore, The Hill reported back in September that Stearns was using his relationship with NCTA to raise money in an attempt to endear himself to John Boehner, and thereby win a prestigious committee chairmanship when Boehner becomes Speaker:

Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) has stepped up his campaign to lead the House Energy and Commerce Committee should the GOP win the House this November, but some Republicans see the late-game effort as too little too late.

Stearns presented House Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio) with $300,000 at a fund-raising event on Tuesday night. Half of the money came from Stearns’ political action committee; the other half was raised at the dinner.

The fundraising event, hosted by the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA), had a suggested contribution of $5,000.

/snip/

At Tuesday’s dinner, Stearns accompanied his fundraising dollars with a complimentary speech about Boehner, who gets five votes on the steering committee, more influence than any other member.

Here is NPR’s story on Republicans’ efforts to kill net neutrality and how Cliff Stearns is poised to deliver the death blow:


What a surprise: the NPR story details Comcast getting caught blocking transfer of some files and, you will recall, they were at the top of the list of contributors to Stearns, who is duly carrying out their wishes.