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Obama Has Decriminalized Torture: Do Americans Care?

7:07 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

From President Barack Obama’s inauguration to now, he has treated the issue of torture and the legalization of this supreme violation of human rights as an inconvenience. Obama has kept the possibility of holding former Bush Administration officials accountable for torture shrouded in remarks that contain platitudes on nobody being above the rule of law, yet, in those same remarks, he has shifted the responsibility to people like Attorney General Eric J. Holder to prosecute Bush officials, effectively freeing him of any obligation or liability that might stem from having to launch an investigation.

A new report from Human Rights Watch, “Getting Away with Torture: The Bush Administration and Mistreatment of Detainees,” provides opportunity to reflect on the reality that Bush Administration officials committed and effectively legalized torture and the Obama Administration, in its failure to hold these officials accountable, has in a way decriminalized torture.

As a number of news organizations and blogs have noted, the critical thing about the report is that it appears to give up on any possibility of a thorough investigation being launched by the Obama Administration. It encourages “judicial systems in foreign states to pursue investigations” and prosecute “under the doctrines of ‘universal jurisdiction’ and ‘passive personality’ jurisdiction. Under the principle of international that states have an interest in bringing to justice “perpetrators of particular crimes of international concern.” And, it notes that under the Geneva Conventions of 1949, which the US has ratified, “grave breaches” including “willful killing; torture or inhuman treatment; willfully causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or health; and willfully depriving a prisoner of war or other protected person of the rights of fair and regular trial” puts an obligation on countries that have signed to search for those alleged to have committed “grave breaches” and even push for extradition of officials suspected of violations.

While urging foreign countries to prosecute may show human rights groups are desperate, that human rights groups are now pursuing this as an option says a lot about America’s contempt for the rule of law. Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch explained on Democracy Now! torture is the “intentional infliction of severe pain and suffering, whether physical or mental.” Mock executions, like waterboarding, have been prosecuted by the US previously. But, the political class and establishment lawyers argue that prosecuting violations under the law will “politicize criminal law.” Or, they display as much interest in addressing the misconduct as those who know the war in Libya is a downright illegal war.

Those who were opposed to Bush Administration policies of torture, like human rights groups and lawyers, have been understandably disappointed with the Obama Administration. It has failed to close Guantanamo, indicated support for indefinite detention of terror suspects without a trial, bowed to the rancor of neoconservatives and decided to prosecute terror suspects with military commissions, refused to release “torture photos” and chosen to not charge any former CIA officials with the destruction of interrogation tapes.

Human rights groups have been very patient with the administration. Not only has the Obama Administration failed to uphold its duty to investigate and prosecute Bush officials under signed treaties like the Convention against Torture but it has let Bush officials tour around with their memoirs—books which contain prideful admissions of torture.

When Osama bin Laden was killed in a targeted operation, the administration put up with people like former Vice President Dick Cheney, who suggested torture had likely helped the Obama Administration kill him. And, with the news that the Justice Department was dropping ninety-nine of the one hundred and one cases against the CIA for abuse and torture, Bush officials were effectively absolved of any real threat of prosecution from the Obama Administration.

Jeff Kaye draws attention to how the “fight for transparency” makes this renewed push for prosecutions important. Kaye highlights how the Department of Defense is now considering a new policy for unclassified information that would enable less openness and more secrecy. This proposal is to be expected from an administration that has derailed torture lawsuits by invoking “states secrets” privileges. For example, in Mohamed v. Jeppesen Dataplan, Inc., in a suit brought by five survivors of the CIA’s rendition program, the ACLU reports, the Obama Administration argued against a lower court ruling, claimed the “case could not be litigated without the disclosure of state secrets.”

What’s more striking is how this report further demonstrates the US has no culture of accountability for those in power who do not commit crimes that involve sexual misbehavior. Probe after probe and investigation after investigation can produce pages of evidence that would fill an entire room. Recommendations on what to do and blueprints for moving forward can be drafted. Nobody in Washington wants to be bothered with the business of correcting injustice.

Today, President Obama could call for a criminal investigation into US government detention practices, as recommended in the HRW report. But, in America, those guilty of crimes in the national security establishment are permitted to commit crimes so long as it appears it happened while trying to protect America from terrorism. They can trash people’s civil liberties, torture people and violate treaties that are law and get away with it just like bank executives on Wall Street can get away with collapsing the US economy.

The effect of not investigating and prosecuting torture is not only that laws are violated but that torture becomes normalized. A rot spreads throughout the American population as Americans find power should be granted the benefit of the doubt and be allowed to torture terror suspects. Ignoring the number of people detained by the US, who are innocent and have no relationship to any terror group, they remember the mythology of 9/11 that has been seared into their brain by leaders like President Bush and President Obama, who countlessly retell the story of 9/11 in war speeches, and see no problem dehumanizing people.

Torture legalized as a tool for those carrying out “counterterrorism operations” becomes legitimate for use throughout America. Guards in Abu Ghraib, Bagram and Guantanamo Bay, who tortured detainees, can come home and become guards at prisons like the Pelican Bay prison and torture prisoners by subjecting them to solitary confinement in a prison-within-the-prison called the Security Housing Unit or the SHU. They can get away with using interrogation techniques, which are tantamount to torture, on political prisoners like Bradley Manning, the alleged military whistleblower to WikiLeaks.

As reported yesterday, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez has been restricted from having access to detainees in the US so he can conduct inquiries into torture or inhumane treatment. Mendez reports:

I am assured by the US Government that Mr. Manning’s prison regime and confinement is markedly better than it was when he was in Quantico. However, in addition to obtaining first hand information on my own about his new conditions of confinement, I need to ascertain whether the conditions he was subjected to for several months in Quantico amounted to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. For that, it is imperative that I talk to Mr. Manning under conditions where I can be assured that he is being absolutely candid.

The US Department of Defense has said they would allow Mendez to visit but that he would not be able to have an unmonitored visit, violating “long-standing rules that the UN applies to prison visits.” Mendez reluctantly agreed to a monitored visit, but Manning declined to agree to speaking to Mendez while under close watch by any agents or guards. Now, Mendez concludes the US may no longer wish to allow him to visit detainees in any US prisons if he makes a country visit to the United States.

This prevention of access is not unique to the Obama Administration, as the Bush Administration also put unacceptable conditions on UN visits to Guantanamo Bay. This is part of the “new normal,” an era where officials who commit crimes are shielded from accountability for engaging in warrantless wiretapping, torture, or rendition; state secrets are invoked to prevent transparency; detainees are denied habeas corpus; prisons like Guantanamo and Bagram (along with black prison sites that likely still exist) continue to hold detainees perhaps indefinitely; navy ships hold prisoners that can no longer be sent to Guantanamo because there will be public outrage; the right to target and kill U.S. civilians and bypass due process is asserted; and military commissions or “kangaroo courts” force detainees into Kafkaesque proceedings that make it nearly impossible to not be found guilty.

America purports to have moral authority in the world to push for prosecutions for crimes in Third World countries. It condemns Middle Eastern and African countries (excluding Israel), which do not allow access to their countries for investigations of human rights violations. But, it does not investigate and prosecute its own officials, who are responsible for committing and legalizing torture.

The country appears to care little when it is suggested that what happened under Bush could happen again because all too many fail to see how shopping around for legal arguments to create justification for torture or “enhanced interrogation techniques” was wrong. The idea of moving forward instead of looking backward to hold Bush officials accountable enchants the population. And so, the population presses on without collectively confronting the system that has been put in place over the past ten years.

Glenn Greenwald: Obama Has Maintained Indefinite Detention, State Secrets Powers [VIDEO]

8:32 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

The Socialism Conference was held in Chicago, IL, over the weekend. On Saturday, July 3, Salon blogger Glenn Greenwald delivered a speech on civil liberties in the age of President Obama.

I attended the conference and recorded Greenwald’s speech. Part 1 of the speech has already been posted. Now, here’s Part 2.

Up front, Greenwald makes clear the critique of Obama should not be that he has been “slow to reverse” Bush policies. Rather, the critique should be that he ”has affirmatively embraced them as his own and in many cases extended far beyond where George Bush and Dick Cheney ever dreamed of taking them” (and, if you saw Part 1, you understand this is now bipartisan consensus in American politics).

Indefinite detention is the first area he outlines. He describes how ”the heart and soul of the controversy over Guantanamo, over Abu Ghraib, over the universal worldwide system of detention,” the notion of putting a person in cage for life without any shred of due process, has been maintained.

A key salient point:

…If you talk to Democratic partisans and apologists of the president, what they will say is that the reason that he hasn’t close Guantanamo is not his fault. The reason is that Congress passed a law or a series of laws impeding his doing so. And that’s not necessarily untrue. Congress did pass a series of laws barring the closing of Guantanamo, in effect. But, before that ever happened, the president’s plan for a “closing of Guantanamo” was not really to close Guantanamo at all. It was simply to move it a few thousand miles north to Illinois, where the aspects that made it so controversial—namely imprisoning people for life without due process—was going to be fully preserved and maintained.

Now, the controversy as I understood it during the Bush presidency about Guantanamo was not, “Isn’t it so outrageous that George Bush and Dick Cheney are imprisoning people without due process on an island in the Caribbean rather than doing it in Illinois?” …

Recently, in May, Rep. Howard McKeon (R-CA) introduced legislation to “embed in law the principle of indefinite detention without trial for suspected terrorists.” This was a part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which gave the president the authority to wage war anytime, anywhere and without congressional authorization (a power that Congress doesn’t need to grant the Executive Branch because it has already claimed the right to engage in worldwide war without the consent of the American people, effectively rendering Congress an administrative and mostly impotent body when it comes to checking the consolidation of power in the Executive Branch).

Greenwald also outlines how habeas corpus rights have been argued against by the Obama Administration:

…Despite the horrendous record of not just imprisoning people without due process but imprisoning obviously innocent people without due process, the Obama Administration took the position that this right the Supreme Court recognized applies only to people in Guantanamo but not anywhere else that the US imprisons people, such as at Bagram, Afghanistan or in places in Yemen or any other places where the US maintains prisons…

By winning this argument in the Supreme Court, President Obama can simply direct agencies and formulate policy that circumvents Guantanamo and instead just use prisons America has in other countries, for example, “black sites.” Or, the US can just use navy ships to indefinitely detain people (and maybe in some cases bring them to trial).

Finally, Greenwald illuminates how Obama has gone along with a Bush policy on state secrets that Bush significantly altered in such a way that his administration was able to guard against judicial review if they were suspected of breaking the law.

[The state secrets doctrine] said that, in certain cases involving national security and certain judicial cases, some documents may be so secretive that, even though they’re relevant to the litigation, even though they’re relevant to the case, even though in all other instances they would be allowed to be used, some documents are so sensitive and risk triggering the disclosure of important state secrets that they can’t be used in the case, even if they’re relevant. And what the Bush presidency did was it converted this doctrine from a document-specific privilege, that said certain documents couldn’t be used, and they developed a new theory that said certain topics are so secretive that they cannot be the subject of litigation, even when the president is accused of breaking the law. And that was basically the tool the Bush presidency used to shield itself from any judicial review for its actions, even the most illegal ones.

Obama has used the state secrets doctrine to guard against investigations into torture, rendition, warrantless wiretapping, etc.

As University of Chicago law professor Geoffrey R. Stone, someone who has spoken publicly about going after WikiLeaks under the Espionage Act, points out in and editorial published on June 26 titled, “Our Untransparent President“:

…The dawn of the Obama administration brought hope that Congress would enact the proposed State Secrets Protection Act of 2009, which would have limited the scope of the doctrine. Indeed, shortly after President Obama took office, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. suggested that the doctrine should be invoked “only when genuine and significant harm to national defense or foreign relations is at stake and only to the extent necessary to safeguard those interests.”

Since then, however, the Obama administration has aggressively asserted the privilege in litigation involving such issues as the C.I.A.’s use of extraordinary rendition and the National Security Agency’s practice of wiretapping American citizens…

*Check back soon for more video of Glenn Greenwald’s speech.

Glenn Greenwald: Bush/Cheney Approach to Civil Liberties Has Been Continued & Embraced by Obama [VIDEO]

3:31 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

The Socialism Conference was held in Chicago, IL, over the weekend. On Saturday, July 3, Salon blogger Glenn Greenwald delivered a speech on civil liberties in the age of President Obama.

I attended the conference and recorded Greenwald’s speech. Throughout the next couple of days, I will be posting video of his speech and, eventually, a full transcript of it will be made available.

In this first part, Greenwald discusses how it has become conventional wisdom that Obama has continued many of the Bush Administration policies, which were once regarded as policies that shredded the Constitution, but now in Democratic circles it is considered to be “Democratic consensus.”

He describes how one year ago it was “controversial” and “provocative” to utter observations that President Obama had virtually continued “the entirety of the Bush/Cheney approach to the war on civil liberties and terrorism.” It was something people found “repellent.” But, now, it has become “so obvious” and “self-evidently true.”

That it has become so blatantly obvious means one no longer has to spend time proving the existence of continuity between the two administrations, Greenwald argues.

One of Greenwald’s most salient points is made as he highlights how the Bush-following American right has had to acknowledge Bush policies have continued under Obama and thus admit he has been strong and courageous on national security.

“The reason why I find it interesting that even the right wing is willing to acknowledge these policies have continued under the Obama presidency is for decades the Republicans have gained really potently on a political level from accusing Democrats of being weak on national security or soft on terrorism in the age of terror,” Greenwald suggests.

He adds:

Now, weak on national security in American political parlance doesn’t mean that somebody shies away from acts of strength and courage. And similarly, strength and national courage doesn’t mean that one acts strongly or engages in acts of courage. It means the opposite. What strength and national security means is a willingness to send other people’s children off to war to risk their lives to kill large numbers of civilians in foreign countries.

Greenwald cites Jack Goldsmith, former National Security Agency head under former President George W. Bush, Michael Hayden, and former Vice President Dick Cheney as proof that one of Obama’s greatest achievements among the political and ruling elite in America is that he has made what was once controversial, and seen as right wing radicalism, part of a bipartisan political consensus. And, by making this part of a consensus, Greenwald argues, debate is effectively ended; the policies are no longer objectionable to the political class in Washington.

Finally, Greenwald notes liberal professors and leaders of liberal groups like the ACLU have noted the continuity and expressed their disgust and outrage at the fact that the assault on civil liberties has continued and in some cases escalated under President Obama.

Discussion of civil liberties and the Obama administration’s assault has been largely absent from conversations. At liberal conferences, discussion has been pushed to the margins.

Netroots Nation had one panel, “What the Government Wants to Know About You,” that looked at some of the policies expanding under Obama. There was little talk about Guantanamo and lack of accountability for torture. Liberal organizers focused on the right wing attack on the middle class, avoiding outright condemnation of the bipartisan support that President Obama has created on national security (although Kaili Joy Gray of Daily Kos did ask White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer why Guantanamo hasn’t been closed).

In October, the liberal Campaign for America’s Future that holds a “Take Back America” conference each year is rebranding their conference, “Take Back the American Dream.” Led by Van Jones, there will likely be minimal conversation on civil liberties or national security policy, as the focus will involve a much more politically safe discussion on jobs and unemployment.

A key difference between those who attend Netroots and “Take Back America” conferences and those who attend Socialism conferences is the fact that those in attendance seldom consist of people with radical views, which in American history have been openly condemned and in many cases left people with those views open to government smearing and prosecution. Those with socialist views understand what many liberals take for granted, why civil liberties must be protected.

How can one fight a right wing assault on what Democratic Party operatives term the middle class if one’s civil liberties or rights under the constitution have been entirely stripped away or rendered meaningless, especially in cases when one is challenging power?

There’s a Twitter town hall tomorrow at 2 pm ET. This is an opportunity to undermine liberal organization leaderships’ efforts to make nice with the Obama Administration and overlook the Administration’s ever-expanding assault on civil liberties by doubling down on Bush Administration “war on terror” policies.

Purify the Tweet stream for #AskObama with lots of questions and remarks on the continuity between the Bush and Obama Administrations.

*Go here for Part 2 of Glenn Greenwald’s speech.

Obama’s Middle East Speech Deceitfully Projects Esteem for People Power

4:06 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

US President Barack Obama delivered a speech at the State Department that described in detail the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa. He focused on the unfolding transformation in the region and how it was a “moment of opportunity.” And, he called the State Department a “fitting venue to mark a new chapter in American diplomacy.”

He called out Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and the rulers of Bahrain in a roll call of ongoing state repression. He illuminated what he thinks a peace deal between Israel and Palestine should look like at this point in world history and put forth an economic of foreign investment plan. And, he drew attention to the use of technology to fuel the Arab Spring but, despite the fact that Amnesty International hailed WikiLeaks as a catalyst in the Arab Spring, he did not mention WikiLeaks and the organization’s release of previously classified US State Embassy cables.

The core of the speech aims to highlight the value of ordinary citizens sparking movements for change. He says these movements “speak to a longing for freedom that has built up for years.” He explicitly highlights how America came from a history of nonviolence, protest and rebellion against empire.

This focus is deceitful on many levels because individuals who engage in nonviolence and fight against repressive domestic and foreign policies here in the United States (some that have to do with what Obama raised in his speech) can easily be harassed, intimidated and even criminalized for engaging in political activity. US citizens who take too much interest in US foreign policy in countries like Colombia or Palestine risk having their homes raided by the FBI/SWAT and subsequently being subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury.

A “giant monster” that began in September of last year and involves six FBI division offices, seven raided homes and twenty-three activists subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury continues. Carlos Montes, long time Chicano activist and an individual who had been actively participating in the struggle against FBI repression of antiwar and international solidarity activists, had his home raided by the FBI and a SWAT Team of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department on May 17 early in the morning.

The Team smashed the front door, rushed in with automatic weapons while Montes was sleeping and proceeded to “ransack the house, taking his computer, cell phones and hundreds of documents, photos, diskettes and mementos of his current political activities in the pro-immigrant rights and Chicano civil rights movement.”
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US Dept of Treasury Freezes Activist’s Bank Accounts

10:15 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

*Scroll down for audio interview

Update – 3:10 PM New York Time

Here is the press release just out. It indicates that this is actually much more sinister than was thought initially. The Department of Treasury is actually behind the freezing of funds.

On Friday, May 6, the U.S. government froze the bank accounts of Hatem Abudayyeh and his wife, Naima. It appears that this is being done by the Department of Treasury (Office of Foreign Assets Control).

Hatem Abudayyeh is one of 23 activists from Minnesota, Michigan, and Illinois subpoenaed to a federal grand jury in Chicago, and his home was raided by the FBI in September of last year. Neither Hatem Abudayyeh nor Naima Abudayyeh have been charged with any crime. One of the bank accounts frozen was exclusively in Naima Abudayyeh’s name.

Joe Iosbaker of the National Committee to Stop FBI Repression said, “We are appalled at the government’s attempt to restrict the family’s access to its finances. Not only does the government’s action seriously disrupt the lives of the Abudayyehs and their five-year-old daughter, but it represents an attack on Chicago’s Arab community and activist community and the fundamental rights of Americans to freedom of speech.”

Joe added, “Apparently OFAC can block your assets pending an investigation on charges of “material support for a foreign terrorist organization” without a hearing. It’s a bit like a chapter out of George Orwell, they don’t need any evidence to freeze your assets and thus far they won’t even acknowledge that they are the source of the freeze. In the case of these activists, assets means money for food and rent.”

Bill Chambers, of the Chicago Committee Against Political Repression said “The persecution of the Abudayyeh family is another example of the criminalization of Palestinians, their supporters, and their movement for justice and liberation. The government’s attempt to conflate the anti-war and human rights movements with terrorism is a cynical attempt to capitalize on the current political climate in order to silence Palestinians and other people of conscience who exercise their First Amendment rights in a manner which does not conform to the administration’s foreign policy agenda in the Middle East.”

The National Committee to Stop FBI repression is urging activists around the country to take action by calling, The Office of Foreign Assets Control a division of the U.S. Dept of Treasury, Phone numbers 202-622-1649 or 202-622-2420. Demand that they unfreeze the bank accounts of the Abudayyeh family and stop repression against Palestinian, anti-war and international solidarity activists.”

***Original Story including audio interview with Joe Iosbaker appears below.***

Right before Mother’s Day weekend, the US government froze the bank accounts of Hatem Abudayyeh, a long-time Palestinian solidarity activist and organizer, and his wife, Naima. Abudayyeh is one of twenty-three activists from the Midwest in the US, who has been the subject of an FBI Grand Jury investigation since September of last year.

Hatem and Naima Abudayyeh have both been charged with no crimes. Naima Abudayyeh has not been subpoenaed and is not the subject of an investigation.
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Questions On Bin Laden Killing As WikiLeaks Notes Gitmo File Had Details On His Whereabouts

2:06 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Hours ago, WikiLeaks sent out a tweet noting the US had suspected or known since 2008 that Osama bin Laden might have been living in Abottabad, Pakistan, where he was killed by a US black ops team, JSOC, in a pre-dawn raid on Sunday. The note begs a few questions.

Why was this detail missed when the New York Times, McClatchy Newspapers, Washington Post, and NPR put together coverage? How did this detail not become a headline on The Guardian’s or the Telegraph’s website?

Does it have anything to do with the way the media organizations searched the files? Or, was this small detail in one of the files not covered because of the fear that it might jeopardize efforts to track down bin Laden? Is it possible the New York Times met with the Pentagon and was urged to omit this detail?

The section that is getting attention comes from Abu al-Libi’s leaked detainee assessment report:

In October 2002, Nashwan Abd al-Razzaq Abd al-Baqi, aka (Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi),ISN US9IZ-010026DP (IZ-10026), contacted and asked detainee to work with him in Peshawar. Detainee accepted the offer and spent the next five to six months working underIZ-10026 organizing the purchase of supplies for fighters including medicine, lights,batteries, food, and clothing. In July 2003, detainee received a letter from UBL’s designated courier, Maulawi Abd al-Khaliq Jan, requesting detainee take on the responsibility ofcollecting donations, organizing travel, and distributing funds to families in Pakistan. UBL stated detainee would be the official messenger between UBL and others in Pakistan. In mid-2003, detainee moved his family to Abbottabad, PK and worked between Abbottabad and Peshawar.

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World as a Battlefield Policy Leads to Targeted Killing of ‘Bastard’ Bin Laden

8:56 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Nearly a decade after the Bush Administration announced a “war on terrorism” after the attacks on US soil on September 11, 2001, the US mounted a covert military operation that killed Al Qaeda figurehead and leader Osama Bin Laden. The operation was an extrajudicial assassination exercise that involved a firefight, which killed at least twenty people in Abbotabad, Pakistan.

This was how President Barack Obama described the operation in a late-night announcement on a “national security issue” on Sunday, May 1, 2011. After putting the launching of this operation in the context of 9/11 and how the US has “tirelessly” and “heroically” fought al Qaeda and other terrorists over the past ten years, Obama delivered the news:

And so shortly after taking office, I directed Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority of our war against al Qaeda, even as we continued our broader efforts to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat his network.

Then, last August, after years of painstaking work by our intelligence community, I was briefed on a possible lead to bin Laden. It was far from certain, and it took many months to run this thread to ground. I met repeatedly with my national security team as we developed more information about the possibility that we had located bin Laden hiding within a compound deep inside of Pakistan. And finally, last week, I determined that we had enough intelligence to take action, and authorized an operation to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice.

Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability. No Americans were harmed. They took care to avoid civilian casualties. After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.[emphasis added]

What’s remarkable about the operation is not that Bin Laden is dead but rather the fact that he was killed by a targeted military operation. Intelligence the US had was used. With cooperation from Pakistan state security–the ISI, the CIA, the US military and the Obama Administration worked together for months to plan out a mission that could lead to Bin Laden’s assassination (so, as US leaders and pundit are saying, he could be brought to justice).

That special forces were able to bring down what many Americans likely considered to be the chief target in the “war on terrorism” signals how flawed it is and was for the US to argue in the aftermath of 9/11 that it needed to launch a war and occupation in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan or any other country in order to keep America safe from another attack. The killing operation that occurred demonstrates any “bad guys” that pose threats can be killed without sacrificing or spending massive amounts of blood and treasure, without killing tens of thousands if not millions of civilians in a country.

It also showed that the US does not need to use drones to kill people that it deems to be a threat. The technology was not used to kill Bin Laden. A team of human beings was sent to the compound where Bin Laden was hiding and the robotic machine, which the United Nations has suggested is possibly illegal, was not needed at all.

The killing also showed where the Obama Administration is at when it comes to dealing with terrorists. Bin Laden was not arrested, detained, and sent to a secret prison. Had he, one might imagine quite a bit of intelligence could have been gleaned. Would he have talked? It’s tough to answer that question with anything beyond speculation, but, if other individuals were worth sending to Bagram or Guantanamo, certainly Bin Laden would have been worth sending somewhere so that the US could work to glean information necessary for keeping America safe.

Bin Laden died from a “targeted killing” operation, an operation that, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is part of a regimen for “killing terror suspects–including US citizens–located far away from zones of actual armed conflict.” In this case, Bin Laden happened to be in Pakistan, a country where ongoing US military operations have been taking place without proper Congressional authorization and notification .

President Obama used the killing operation to justify the war in Pakistan:

Over the years, I’ve repeatedly made clear that we would take action within Pakistan if we knew where bin Laden was. That is what we’ve done. But it’s important to note that our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding. Indeed, bin Laden had declared war against Pakistan as well, and ordered attacks against the Pakistani people.

Tonight, I called President Zardari, and my team has also spoken with their Pakistani counterparts. They agree that this is a good and historic day for both of our nations. And going forward, it is essential that Pakistan continue to join us in the fight against al Qaeda and its affiliates.

The ISI, Pakistan’s state security agency, allegedly worked with the US to find Osama Bin Laden and mount the operation. That’s significant given the fact that in the past months there has been much tension over what happened with Raymond Davis, the ex-Blackwater contractor who was working for the CIA and shot and killed two Pakistani men. Pakistani authorities arrested Davis. The Obama Administration falsely asserted he was a US diplomat. He was eventually turned over to the US but the Pakistani government wound up issuing calls to the CIA to cease its operations.

President Barack Obama used the death of Bin Laden as a moment for celebration:

The cause of securing our country is not complete. But tonight, we are once again reminded that America can do whatever we set our mind to. That is the story of our history, whether it’s the pursuit of prosperity for our people, or the struggle for equality for all our citizens; our commitment to stand up for our values abroad, and our sacrifices to make the world a safer place.

Let us remember that we can do these things not just because of wealth or power, but because of who we are: one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

What must be said is that there is a risk to celebrating the death of Bin Laden patriotically and proudly. There is nothing wrong with privately enjoying the fact that somebody responsible for the deaths of many people is no longer alive, however, if one really wants to keep the country safe and not do things that might provoke terrorism, bragging about an operation that killed someone who may now be regarded as a martyr is probably not the best reaction.

That argument would be foolish if US citizens did not buy the notion that WikiLeaks endangers lives when it releases previously classified information that terrorists could use against America. That argument would be stupid if it weren’t for the fact that the Obama Administration refused to fulfill a Freedom of Information Act request and release torture photos for fear of endangering US troops. And, that argument would be irrational if not for the Obama Administration’s outrage toward Pastor Terry Jones after he burned a Koran that made people in Afghanistan angry, which subsequently led to the deaths of people connected to the United Nations.

The celebration foreshadows a continuation, reaffirming and, perhaps, expansion of US operations in a “war on terror” that President Obama has worked to rebrand. The speech tonight suggests that, in a country that may be losing interest in waging wars abroad, America will not waver in its commitment to keep hunting terrorists down.

President Obama’s announcement built on his May 2009 speech on national security, where he did not discard the premise for national security that the Bush Administration had used to formulate domestic and international policy but rather embraced that premise. Just like President Bush said while in office, “We’re fighting the terrorists over there so we don’t have to fight them here,” Obama said during that 2009 speech, “For the first time since 2002, we’re providing the necessary resources and strategic direction to take the fight to the extremists who attacked us on 9/11 in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We’re investing in the 21st century military and intelligence capabilities that will allow us to stay one step ahead of a nimble enemy.”

The tactic of “taking the fight to the extremists” sets up theaters for war and ensures entire regions of the world are devastated. For what does this devastation occur and why do Americans allow this tactic born out of fear to be the way the US works to “secure” the world from extremism?

Over nearly ten years, the fight against extremism has produced a “new normal” for Americans. A climate now exists where there is beefed-up airport security that violates rights to privacy, individuals are shielded from accountability for engaging in warrantless wiretapping, torture, or rendition; state secrets are invoked to prevent transparency; detainees are denied habeas corpus; prisons like Guantanamo and Bagram (along with black prison sites that still exist) continue to hold detainees perhaps indefinitely; the right to target and kill U.S. civilians and bypass due process is asserted; and military commissions or “kangaroo courts” force detainees into Kafkaesque proceedings that make it nearly impossible to not be found guilty.

The trampling of civil liberties has been permitted by America largely because many have bought into the idea that there are networks of fanatical enemies out there tirelessly plotting the death and destruction of America, who hate America for its freedom. Americans have allowed terrorism to be personified and now increasingly associate terrorism with Muslims even though all humans could potentially pose a terrorist threat to mankind. The arousal of primal fear from conjured perception and the fact that those who have been imprisoned, abused, tortured, and denied rights don’t look like “real Americans” has pushed America closer and closer to the world one reads about on the pages of George Orwell’s 1984.

The killing of Osama Bin Laden will renew this psyche in Americans’ minds. And, President Barack Obama will be able to re-brand US wars that each and every day more and more Americans reject.

The Guantanamo Children: These Aren’t What You’d Call ‘Little League’ Terrorists

3:28 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

(Photo:Omar Khadr)

Pakistani national Naqib Ullah (also Naqibullah) was 14 years old and out doing an errand for his father when he was kidnapped from his village in Khan, Afghanistan by 11 men that called themselves, “Samoud’s people.” The men, according to Ullah, “forcibly raped him at gunpoint”. He was taken back to the men’s village encampment and “forced to do manual work.”

Ullah was in the camp for three days when, in December 2002, US forces raided the camp. The group had been forewarned. They ordered Ullah and others to stay behind and fight US forces. He was captured and had a weapon but it had not been fired. He was transported to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in January 2003 because the military believed he might have knowledge of “Taliban resistance efforts and local leaders.”

This teenager is just one of twenty-two juveniles who wound up in Guantanamo. And, with the release of the Gitmo Files by WikiLeaks, more details on the capture, transfer, detention and release of juvenile detainees are becoming known.

Article 1 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child defines a child as “every human being below the age of eighteen years unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier.”

UN officials have called on the US to “respect the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child,” which “aims to increase the protection of children during armed conflicts. It requires that all States parties ‘take all feasible measures’ to ensure that members of their armed forces under the age of 18 do not take a direct part in hostilities.” The UN has tried to remind the US “that children under 18 are entitled to special protection and so any voluntary recruitment under the age of 18 must include sufficient safeguards.” But, the Pentagon has effectively shrugged off the concerns of the UN in the same way they shrugged off the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture’s concerns about Bradley Manning when he was being held at Quantico.

For example, eight years prior to the release of the Gitmo Files, then-Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld, when asked about “the juveniles in Guantanamo,” complained, “This constant refrain of “the juveniles,” as though there’s a hundred of children in there — these are not children. Dick Myers responded to that. There are plenty of people who have been killed by people who were still in their teens.”

Indeed, then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Dick Myers did respond. This was his characterization of the children in Guantanamo:

I would say, despite their age, these are very, very dangerous people. They are people that have been vetted mainly in Afghanistan and gone through a thorough process to determine what their involvement was. Some have killed. Some have stated they’re going to kill again. So they may be juveniles, but they’re not on a little-league team anywhere, they’re on a major league team, and it’s a terrorist team. And they’re in Guantanamo for a very good reason — for our safety, for your safety.

These remarks represent the Pentagon’s disregard for the reality that “juveniles” or children might be armed and exploited by terrorist groups. They may have no way out. They may be assaulted sexually or violently if they refuse to fight.

Seventeen year-old Abdullah R. Razaq was with a group of thirty-one other “Arabs, which consisted mostly of Usama Bin Laden bodyguards,” when Pakistani authorities captured him in December 2001. He was transferred to a prison facility in Peshawar and then transferred into the custody of US forces on December 26, 2001, and transported to Kandahar.

His continued detention rests on JTF-GTMO’s assessment that he is “an al-Qaida member” and has “associated with numerous other al-Qaida members, including senior al-Qaida operatives.” It also rests on JTF-GTMO’s assessment that he was “selected and prepared by al-Qaida senior leadership for a special mission to attack US forces at PSAB in Saudi Arabia” and is “a former member of UBL’s 55th Arab Brigade who engaged in combat action against US and Coalition forces at Tora Bora.”

Razaq, however, denies being a member of al-Qaida. JTF-GTMO’s “Evaluation of Detainee’s Account,” reads:

Detainee has denied that he was a member of al-Qaida, but admitted that he traveled to Afghanistan to join the jihad and become a martyr, trained extensively at al-Qaida training camps, was selected by senior al-Qaida leaders for a mission to attack PSAB, and fought on the Bagram battle lines. He has also acknowledged having been present at Tora Bora during meetings of senior al-Qaida commanders during the battle. Detainee has reported about his brother SA-231, and has provided much of what is known about SA-231’s timeline. However, he continues to omit specific details regarding SA-231’s activities and his associates at Tora Bora, and has not acknowledged being a UBL bodyguard or a member of UBL’s security detail. He has provided very little information of value about UBL, Sayf al-Adl, or other senior al-Qaida figures to whom he had access, and it is not clear whether he has no valuable information about them or if he is deliberately withholding important information. Detainee has been generally cooperative, though he has used resistance techniques to protect certain past activities and associates, such as periodically changing his account and filling in recent chronological gaps in his timeline with activities conducted at earlier times.

He is assessed to be a “HIGH risk” but, Razaq’s testimony before an Administrative Review Board in 2006 raises doubts about whether Razaq’s was ever involved and cooperated with al-Qaida. During Round 2, he does not appear to have any information that would connect him to al Qaida other than the fact that he went to fight in Chechnya and trained at the al Farouq Training Camp, where others connected to al Qaida have trained. He explicitly says he is not “friends with Usama Bin Laden.” He is alleged to be on a “list” but corrects the military charging him with being on a list of suspected al Qaida members by stating the list is a print-out from a computer in Karachi that was taken by a person who “took all the prisoners’ names to see if they were listed as being missing.”

A Designated Military Officer at the hearing claims again that he and his brother received specialized training on SAM-7A and B missiles. He says it is not true. Then, he explains that “psychological torture” has been used on him to find out if he had trained on the weapon.

This is not the first board I have attended. I attended three other boards. For each Board, I get a new interrogator. Each new interrogator made the allegation that I had trained on SAM-7. Three years ago I was at Camp III and they interrogated me for a month. The air conditioning temperature was 54 degrees. It was very cold. They let me sit there for long hours and they brought big speakers with loud noises. They tortured me while standing up and they insulted me and my religion. They have done many things to me. They have done worse to my brother. While I was being tortured, they asked me whether I had trained on SAM-7 and I told them no. Up to this point, they still ask me and this allegation is still in my folder. If I wanted to lie and say yes, I would have told them when I was being tortured. Please excuse me for what I just said, but this is what happened.

Razaq says he told the interrogators at Camp V about the torture but they wrote it down and did not change anything. He told the interrogators it was cold and he wanted to go back to his cellblock. But, “there was no use in telling them.”

Keeping Razaq in detention becomes further dubious when reading this part of the “Intelligence Assessment” from his report:

Detainee has provided no information regarding UBL, UBL’s security practices and bodyguards, or any of the other information expected as a result of placement as a UBL bodyguard or security detail member. Detainee has not yet been confirmed to have been a UBL bodyguard, and it is not clear whether he is specifically withholding valuable information about UBL and the bodyguards or whether he had only limited exposure to them. Detainee has been partially exploited but remains of significant intelligence value.

Razaq was transferred back to Saudi Arabia, where he was born, in September of 2007.

It’s worth noting with regards to Razaq’s age the assessment has what appears to be a discrepancy error that calls into question whether the military really knew his age. In his “Prior History,” it reads, “In early 2000, when detainee was 18 years old, his 22-year old brother, Abd Abdallah Ibrahim Latif al-Sharakh, aka (Abbad), was killed while participating in jihad in Chechnya.” However, his date of birth is listed as “18 January 1984.” He could not have been 18 years old when his brother died if he was actually born in 1984.

The most well known juvenile detainee to be imprisoned at Guantanamo is Omar Ahmed Khadr. His assessment report from January 2004 explains the reason for his continued detention was because “his father is a senior Al-Qaida financier and reportedly the fourth in command underneath Usama Bin Laden in the Al-Qaida organization.” His brother and him were encouraged to go to Afghanistan and fight the US with the support of Al-Qaida and the Taliban. And, according to JTF-GTMO, though just sixteen years old at the time of his travel, he is “intelligent and educated and understands the gravity of his actions and affiliations.” And, he admitted to participating in mining operations and “harassing attacks” against US forces.

This assessment stands in stark contrast to then-UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Radhika Coomaraswamy’s contention that Khadr is a child soldier whom the US should help rehabilitate.

“Like other children abused by armed groups around the world who are repatriated to their home communities and undergo re-education for their reintegration, Omar should be given the same protections afforded these children…Trying young people for war crimes with regard to acts committed when they are minors could create a dangerous international precedent.”

Fortunately, the world did not see the US—the first nation since World War II to prosecute an alleged child soldier for war crimes—proceed with the trying of a child soldier in a military tribunal. Khadr accepted a plea deal. His defense attorney, Dennis Edney, thought a plea deal was the only way Khadr would get out of Guantanamo Bay.

Khadr was not only faced with the prospect of a military tribunal that rested on dubious charges like “Murder in Violation of the Law of War” but he also faced a situation where the judge had allowed the prosecution to admit evidence obtained when he was tortured into the trial.

The torture of Khadr is worth explicitly noting. Just what he experienced is harrowing to revisit. From an affidavit submitted by Khadr in February 2008, here’s just some of the torture Khadr describes:

…Around the time of Ramadan in 2003, an Afghan man, claiming to be from the Afghan government, interrogated me at Guantanamo. A military interrogator was in the room at the time. The Afghan man said his name was “Izmarai” (Lion), and that he was from Wardeq. He spoke mostly in Farsi, and a little in Pashto and English. He had an American flag on his trousers. The Afghan man appeared displeased with the answers that I was giving him, and after some time both the Afghan and the military interrogator left the room. A military official then removed my chair and short-shackled me by my hands and feet to a bolt in the floor. Military officials then moved my hands behind my knees. They left me in the room in this condition for approximately five to six hours, causing me extreme pain. Occasionally, a military officer and the interrogators would come in and laugh at me.

During the course of his interrogation of me, the Afghan man told me that a new detention center was being built in Afghanistan for non-cooperative detainees at Guantanamo. The Afghan man told me that I would be sent to Afghanistan and raped. The Afghan man also told me that they like small boys in Afghanistan, a comment that I understood as a threat of sexual violence. Before leaving the room, the Afghan man took a piece of paper on which my picture appeared, and wrote on it in the Pashto language, “This detainee must be transferred to Bagram.”

Khadr’s detailing of torture would not provoke any judicial empathy. What the juvenile shared would be completely and callously overlooked by a judge who, on August 17, 2010, turned down his motion to prevent statements that were “the product of torture, involuntary [and] unreliable” from being used against him.

Judge Parrish contended, “There is no credible evidence that the accused was ever tortured,” and added,“While the accused was 15 years old at the time he was captured, he was not immature for his age.”

As Andy Worthington, who has partnered with WikiLeaks to cover the Gitmo Files, wrote, “All this really demonstrates is how spectacularly [the judge] missed the point. Held for two years without access to a lawyer, for three years without ever being charged, and at no point treated as a juvenile deserving of rehabilitation, Khadr’s entire experience of US detention has been lawless and abusive, and, in any case, it should be irrelevant whether a 15-year old apparently made self-incriminating statements, when the focus should be on his father, Ahmed Khadr, an alleged fundraiser for Osama bin Laden, who was responsible for indoctrinating his child in the first place.”

US unwillingness to release Khadr is even more atrocious when considered alongside JTF-GTMO’s assessment of Naqib Ullah, who was recommended for release on August 15, 2003. JTF-GTMO conclude, eight months after he had been brought to Guantanamo, Ullah is a “kidnap victim and a forced conscript of a local warring tribe, affiliated with the Taliban.” They further conclude:

Though the detainee may still have some remaining intelligence, it’s been assessed that that information does not outweigh the necessity to remove the juvenile from his current environment and afford him an opportunity to “grow out” of the radical extremism he has been subject to. Based on the detainee folder, the knowledgeability brief, and interrogations by JTF Guantanamo, the detainee has no further intelligence value to the United States. Detainee has not expressed thoughts of violence or made threats toward the US or its allies during interrogations or in the course of his detention. He is considered low threat to the US, its interest and its allies.

Anyone who reads that and considers the assessment in conjunction with the case of Khadr must conclude that Khadr’s crime is really being born to a father with ties to al Qaeda. One must also conclude that perhaps it was less taboo for the Bush Administration in 2003 to release detainees without trying them or keeping them in indefinite detention than it is for the Obama Administration now. And, perhaps, that’s why JTF-GTMO labeled as a “HIGH” value intelligence asset in their assessment: to justify not giving him an opportunity to “rehabilitate” and “grow out” of his “extremism.”

At 7:00 AM New York Time, files on Omar Khadr, Naqib Ullah, Abdulrazzaq al-Sharekh, Yasser al-Zahrani, Abdul Qudus, Mohammed Ismail,  have all been released.

Here’s a list of juveniles whose reports have yet to be released:

Mohamed Jawad (ISN 900) Born 1985, seized December 2002
Mohammed El-Gharani (ISN 269) Born 1986, seized October 2001
Faris Muslim al-Ansari (ISN 253) Born 1984, seized December 2001
Hassan bin Attash (ISN 1456) Born 1985, seized 11 September 2002
Shams Ullah (ISN 783) Born 1986, arrived in Guantánamo October 2002
Qari Esmhatulla (ISN 591) Born 1984, seized March 2002
Peta Mohammed (ISN 908) Born 1985, seized December 2002
Yousef al-Shehri (ISN 114) Born 8 September 1985, seized November 2001
Abdulsalam al-Shehri (ISN 132) Born 14 December 1984, seized November 2001
Rasul Kudayev (ISN 82) Born 23 January 1984, seized November 2001
Haji Mohammed Ayub (ISN 279) Born 15 April 1984, seized December 2001
Mohammed Omar (ISN 540) Born 1986, seized December 2001
Saji Ur Rahman (ISN 545) Born 1984, seized December 2001 (Rahman said he was 15 when captured)
Khalil Rahman Hafez (ISN 301) Born 20 January 1984, seized December 2001
Sultan Ahmad (ISN 842) Born 1 November 1984, seized before November 2002

Will WikiLeaks vs. NYT, The Guardian & Daniel Domscheit-Berg Drama Overshadow Contents of Gitmo Files?

4:22 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

The release of the files should draw attention to the reality that, despite US President Barack Obama’s promise to close the Guantanamo Bay prison, the prison is still open. In fact, El Pais has posted analysis to complement coverage of the Guantanamo Files, which details how “legal and political setbacks” prevented Obama from closing the military prison:

Barack Obama criticized George W. Bush for orchestrating, executive order, a labyrinthine detention center that sent hundreds of terror suspects after the attacks of [September 11th] , condemning them to oblivion and without the right to a fair trial in civil court. Obama has perpetuated the shame of Guantánamo to the president’s decision, also through an executive order to reinstate the military commissions created by Bush and formalize the system of indefinite detention, which offers the only solution to many of the 172 inmates who reside in the prison to rot within its walls.

There is no other solution. And there is none because the invention was conceived Guantanamo from violating the most basic principle of humanity and legality rules for governing the United States and the developed democracies for centuries. To send to whom the administration of George W. Bush considered suspected of violating U.S. and be soldiers of Al Qaeda, the legal architects of the “war on terror” was invented the concept of unlawful enemy combatants, thus bypassing the safeguards offered by the Geneva Convention on prisoners of war . Detainees in secret CIA prisons anywhere in the world began to land in Guantanamo in January 2002, hooded and shackled hand and foot.

It should draw attention to each of the individual reports and place them in the context of information that journalists have already reported. It should help us further understand what has been going on in the dark and murky military prison that has become so notorious and perhaps further color the world’s understanding of documents the ACLU and other organizations have managed to obtain in the past years.

But, the New York Times has published coverage of the documents and did not obtain them from WikiLeaks. Also, according to Greg Mitchell, who has been covering WikiLeaks for TheNation.com with a daily blog since Cablegate began, “”WikiLeaks abruptly lifted the embargo Sunday night, after the organization became aware that the documents had been leaked to other news organizations, which were about to publish stories about them.”

By 8:50 ET, the Times had posted a story on the Gitmo Files. The Telegraph then reported seeing the cables. The Pentagon had posted a statement that was circulating by 9:15 PM ET. Around 9:20 PM ET, WikiLeaks began to post the files and had an editorial written by Andy Worthington up on the site framing the Guantanamo Files. As 9:50 ET rolled around, the Washington Post finally had their package on the Guantanamo Files posted.

The Times claimed that the Guardian and NPR had files. NPR reported it had obtained the files from the Times. And, by 11:10, The Guardian’s David Leigh was talking about the media organization’s the just released files, which he said were obtained from the Times.

The timeline of events in the release of the documents raises numerous questions, as many of the WikiLeaks releases have. Some of these questions Mitchell asks:

Who leaked the WikiLeaks files to The Times? To summarize: WikiLeaks gave its Gitmo files to 7 news outlets but not the NYT or The Guardian, probably due to falling out with them over previous leaks. But someone leaked the files to the Times, which in turn gave them to The Guardian and NPR. The Times decided to go ahead tonight with covering / publishing files tonight, and WikiLeaks and partners apparently then rushed to lift embargo and come out with their coverage an hour or two behind the Times. At least that’s all suggested by McClatchy and The Guardian. Or did NYT learn that embarge was about to be broken and so moved “abruptly” first? In any case: WHO LEAKED THE FILES TO THE TIMES? Remember, the Times is not claiming that it got them from a government or Gitmo or military source, or from the original leaker — it says these ARE the WikiLeaks documents. So does that mean they came from one of several disgruntled ex-WikiLeakers?

The tension WikiLeaks has with prominent newspapers of the world like the New York Times and The Guardian now inevitably means any release will have this sort of drama. Like teenagers in high school, WikiLeaks selects a few “trusted” media organizations to provide the material. But, since it has sour relationships with organizations and a few disgruntled former members of WikiLeaks out there like Daniel Domscheit-Berg (who likely still has many of the files WikiLeaks plans to release), the material that is planned for release gets shared with other news organizations. And, in some cases, the “trusted” organization defies WikiLeaks and shares the material with organizations that have been left out so they can get in on the coverage.

At 12:00 pm ET, WikiLeaks tweeted, “Domschiet, NYT, Guardian, attempted Gitmo spoiler against our 8 group coalition. We had intel on them and published first.”

It appears WikiLeaks moved to release the files at this time because there was a conspiracy afoot to pre-empt WikiLeaks’ release, which may have been planned to take place some time later on April 25th and late in the evening on Easter Sunday.

Now the material is out. The reports deserve more attention than what just unfolded in the past twenty-four hours between some of the world’s most prominent media organizations. Nonetheless, WikiLeaks yet again demonstrates how it is a prism for understanding how the press operates.

The Guardian and the New York Times desperately wanted to beat WikiLeaks on the release. And that is not just because the two media organizations have beefs with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. It’s also because WikiLeaks challenges their traditional role as gatekeepers—organizations that decide what to leak and what not to leak and when to leak material and when not to leak material. Beating WikiLeaks was about reclaiming that gatekeeper function, but, unfortunately for the organizations that weren’t in on the project, they were unable to get their material up and out to people before the partners and WikiLeaks began to cover the Guantanamo Files.

Update

Michael Calderone has posted a full backstory: what supposedly happened in the run-up to the release of the Gitmo Files.

At US Chamber of Commerce, US Government Strategy for “Identity Ecosystems” in Cyberspace Unveiled

12:54 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

The National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC), which some believe could establish and require Internet users to have ID on the Internet, was unveiled today at the US Chamber of Commerce. NSTIC aims to establish “identity ecosystems,” what the National Institute for Standards in Technology describes as a “a user-centric online environment, a set of technologies, policies, and agreed upon standards that securely supports transactions ranging from anonymous to fully authenticated and from low to high value.”

Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke delivered the following remarks:

“I’m optimistic that NSTIC will jump-start a range of private-sector initiatives to enhance the security of online transactions. This strategy will leverage the power and imagination of entrepreneurs in the private sector to find uniquely American solutions. Other countries have chosen to rely on government-led initiatives to essentially create national ID cards. We don’t think that’s a good model, despite what you might have read on blogs frequented by the conspiracy theory set. To the contrary, we expect the private sector to lead the way in fulfilling the goals of NSTIC. Having a single issuer of identities creates unacceptable privacy and civil liberties issues. We also want to spur innovation, not limit it. And we want to set a floor for privacy protection that is higher than what we see today, without placing a ceiling on the potential of American innovators to make additional improvements over time. “

What might this mean for the Internet as citizens of the world know it today? As the US government, in cooperation with the private sector, works to preserve cyber infrastructure or networks that it considers to be “strategic national assets,” how might this protection of assets fundamentally alter key characteristics of the Internet, which many have grown to appreciate? In the age of WikiLeaks and Anonymous, in an era where the US government has been unable to prevent the Chinese government and military from stealing usernames and passwords for State Department computers, it seems that this strategic plan could transform the Internet into a realm that requires you to prove your identity with an approved and issued identification card every time you move in to a new website.

President George W. Bush, in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks, used the climate to fundamentally transform security. The “global war on terror” was launched and the Bush Administration led a conditioning and recalibration of the way citizens in the country thought of civil liberties. This made possible a warrantless wiretapping program, which the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) considers to be “part of a broad pattern of the executive branch using “national security” as an excuse for encroaching on the privacy and free speech rights of Americans without adequate oversight.”

The memory of a horrific tragedy allowed for the metamorphosis of society into a suspect society. Born were two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Other countries became zones for launching unmanned aircraft or drone strikes. And, citizens saw the US government detain and imprison indefinitely terror suspects in Guantanamo Bay, Baghram Air Force Base and other prisons denying them due process and in many cases subjecting them to harsh interrogations or torture.

All of these developments have, for the most part, become something US citizens have found a way to justify. In a society where citizens are told “if they see something, say something,” they believe the escalation of security, the detention, the strikes, and all the expansions of the deep state, which controls and operates the national security apparatuses in the US, is allowable. The civil liberties one has are not to be given up except in cases where one might be in danger and then, in that case, it is okay. So, in the past months, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) expanded the scope of its security forcing travelers to go through body scanners that might pose a risk to travelers’ health because of radiation or be subject to a pat-down procedure that if witnessed in public by a police officer would likely lead to the arrest of the person doing the pat-down.

Now, the connecting of systems in more and more ways, the increased complexity that has come as a result of innovation and the reality that, without cyber-connectivity, the economy of the United States could grind to a halt and its national security could be breached has pushed the US government in the past years to work in concert with the private sector to begin to bring order to a networked public sphere that many value because it does not require you to authenticate your identity and does not require you to be inspected before moving along to your destination.
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