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Obama - Put to the test fails dismally.
« on: 2009-02-10 21:09:55 »
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Obama fails his first test on civil liberties and accountability -- resoundingly and disgracefully

In a statement, Anthony D. Romero, ACLU executive director, said, "Eric Holder's Justice Department stood up in court today and said that it would continue the Bush policy of invoking state secrets to hide the reprehensible history of torture, rendition and the most grievous human rights violations committed by the American government. This is not change. This is definitely more of the same."

He added, "Candidate Obama ran on a platform that would reform the abuse of state secrets, but President Obama's Justice Department has disappointingly reneged on that important civil liberties issue. If this is a harbinger of things to come, it will be a long and arduous road to give us back an America we can be proud of again."


Source: Salon.com
Authors: Glenn Greenwald
Dated: 2009-02-10

I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. I am the author of two New York Times Bestselling books: "How Would a Patriot Act?" (May, 2006), a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, and "A Tragic Legacy" (June, 2007), which examines the Bush legacy. My most recent book, "Great American Hypocrites", examines the manipulative electoral tactics used by the GOP and propagated by the establishment press, and was released in April, 2008, by Random House/Crown.

Two weeks ago, I interviewed the ACLU's Ben Wizner, counsel to 5 individuals suing the subsidiary of Boeing (Jeppesen) which had arranged the Bush administration's rendition program, under which those 5 plaintiffs had been abducted, sent to other countries and brutally tortured.  Today the Obama administration was required to file with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals its position in this case -- i.e., whether it would continue the Bush administration's abusive reliance on the "state secrets" privilege to prevent courts from ruling on such matters, or whether they would adhere to Obama's previous claims about his beliefs on "state secrets" by withdrawing that position and allowing these victims their day in court.

Yesterday, enthusiastic Obama supporter Andrew Sullivan wrote about this case:  "Tomorrow in a federal court hearing in San Francisco, we'll find out if the Obama administration intends to keep the evidence as secret as the Bush administration did."  As I wrote after interviewing Wizner two weeks ago:  "This is the first real test of the authenticity of Obama's commitment to reverse the abuses of executive power over the last eight years."  Today, the Obama administration failed that test -- resoundingly and disgracefully:
    Obama Administration Maintains Bush Position on 'Extraordinary Rendition' Lawsuit
    The Obama Administration today announced that it would keep the same position as the Bush Administration in the lawsuit Mohamed et al v Jeppesen Dataplan, Inc.
    A source inside of the Ninth U.S. District Court tells ABC News that a representative of the Justice Department stood up to say that its position hasn't changed, that new administration stands behind arguments that previous administration made, with no ambiguity at all. The DOJ lawyer said the entire subject matter remains a state secret.
    This is not going to please civil libertarians and human rights activists who had hoped the Obama administration would allow the lawsuit to proceed.

The ACLU's Wizner said this:
    We are shocked and deeply disappointed that the Justice Department has chosen to continue the Bush administration’s practice of dodging judicial scrutiny of extraordinary rendition and torture. This was an opportunity for the new administration to act on its condemnation of torture and rendition, but instead it has chosen to stay the course. Now we must hope that the court will assert its independence by rejecting the government’s false claims of state secrets and allowing the victims of torture and rendition their day in court.

What makes this particularly appalling and inexcusable is that Senate Democrats had long vehemently opposed the use of the "state secrets" privilege in exactly the way that the Bush administration used it in this case, even sponsoring legislation to limits its use and scope.  Yet here is Obama, the very first chance he gets, invoking exactly this doctrine in its most expansive and abusive form to prevent torture victims even from having their day in court, on the ground that national security will be jeopardized if courts examine the Bush administration's rendition and torture programs -- even though (a) the rendition and torture programs have been written about extensively in the public record; (b) numerous other countries have investigated exactly these allegations; and (c) other countries have provided judicial forums in which these same victims could obtain relief.  As Wizner said:
    For one thing, the idea you alluded to, the facts of this story are absolutely well-known, have been the front pages of the New York Times and Washington Post, are in books, and all of these stories are based on CIA and other government sources, that essentially said, well, in this case we got the wrong guy. So the position of the Bush administration, accepted by conservative judges in that case, really the only place in the world where Khalid El-Masri's case could not be discussed was in a federal courtroom. Everywhere else it could be discussed without harm to the nation, but in a federal court before a federal judge there, all kinds of terrible things could happen.

Despite that, the new President -- who repeatedly condemned the extreme secrecy of the Bush administration and vowed greater transparency -- has now acted to protect, purely on secrecy grounds, the government and company that did this, as Wizner described:
    They were essentially the CIA's torture travel agents. They were the one who arranged all the overflight rights for the CIA civilian planes to be able to fly from country to country. They handled the security and the logistics. They filed dummy flight plans to try to trick air traffic controllers into not being able to track where the actual flights were going. And we know they knew what they were doing because we have a witness in our case, someone who's given us a sworn declaration, who was an employee of Jeppesen DataPlan, and who was present when senior officials of the company were openly boasting about their role in the torture flights, and about how much money they made from them because the CIA spared no expense.

    We were able, with the help of an investigative journalist and other documentary evidence, to link Jeppesen to an number of very specific CIA rendition flights, involving these five torture victims who were flown to countries like Egypt, Morocco, to CIA sites in Afghanistan and eastern Europe. . . .

    [Plaintiff Ahmed Agiza] was picked up off the streets of Stockholm and then he was taken to an airport where a CIA rendition team--this is a bunch of men dressed all in black, with their faces covered--sliced off all of his clothes, put a suppository into him, chained him to the floor of an airplane, flew him to Egypt, where he was exposed to absolutely brutal torture, including shock treatment, all kinds of beatings. He was then given a show trial in an Egyptian military court and sentenced to 15 years for involvement in a banned organization.

    His has been an extremely well-documented case; it's been in books by Seymour Hersh and others. The UN has investigated this; the Swedish government has investigated this case.

    In fact, just a couple of months ago, the Swedish government agreed to pay Ahmed Agiza $450,000 for its secondary role in the CIA's rendition of Agiza to Egypt. So there's no real secret involved here. Nothing would be revealed by allowing Agiza to go forward in a case against the CIA, because Jeppesen's role is public, because Sweden's role is public, and because Egypt's role is public--he's in an Egyptian prison right now.[/color]

That's what Barack Obama is now shielding from judicial scrutiny.  Those are the torture victims he is preventing from obtaining judicial relief in our courts.  And he's using one of the most radical and destructive tools in the Bush arsenal -- its wildly expanded version of the "state secrets" privilege -- to accomplish all of that dirty work.  I've been as vigorous a proponent as anyone for waiting to see what Obama does before reaching conclusions about his presidency, but this is a very real and substantial act, and it's hard to disagree with what ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero said today:
    Eric Holder’s Justice Department stood up in court today and said that it would continue the Bush policy of invoking state secrets to hide the reprehensible history of torture, rendition and the most grievous human rights violations committed by the American government. This is not change. This is definitely more of the same. Candidate Obama ran on a platform that would reform the abuse of state secrets, but President Obama’s Justice Department has disappointingly reneged on that important civil liberties issue. If this is a harbinger of things to come, it will be a long and arduous road to give us back an America we can be proud of again.

Secrecy generally, and the state secrets privilege particularly, was the linchpin of the civil liberties abuses and constitutional radicalism of the last eight years.  At the end of 2006, Slate's Dahlia Lithwick listed the Bush administration's "10 most outrageous civil liberties violations" and it included this:
    6. The State-Secrets Doctrine

    The Bush administration's insane argument in court is that judges should dismiss entire lawsuits over many of the outrages detailed on this very list. Why? Because the outrageously illegal things are themselves matters of top-secret national security. The administration has raised this claim in relation to its adventures in secret wiretapping and its fun with extraordinary rendition. A government privilege once used to sidestep civil claims has mushroomed into sweeping immunity for the administration's sometimes criminal behavior.

That the Obama DOJ -- when faced with its first real test to determine what it intends to do in these areas (as opposed to engaging in symbolic rituals and issuing pretty words) -- explicitly adopts exactly the Bush position is about as inauspicious a start in these areas as one can imagine.

UPDATE: I just spoke with Wizner about today's court hearing.  It's really remarkable what happened.  One of the judges on the three-judge panel explicitly asked the DOJ lawyer, Doug Letter, whether the change in administrations had any bearing on the Government's position in this case.  Letter emphatically said it did not.  Instead, he told the court, the new administration -- the new DOJ -- had actively reviewed this case and vetted the Bush positions and decisively opted to embrace the same positions.

There's no doubt about that.  Wizner pointed out that after the interview he did with me 10 days ago, there was substantial press coverage of this matter.  Both The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times wrote editorials in the last week demanding that the Obama administration adhere to its prior pledge and abandon the Bush administration's reliance on "state secrets" in this case.  Wizner said that reporters calling the DOJ were told that the case was under active review.  This was an active, conscious decision made by the Obama DOJ to retain the same abusive, expansive view of "state secrets" as Bush adopted, and to do so for exactly the same purpose:  to prevent any judicial accountability of any kind, to keep government behavior outside of and above the rule of law.

Finally, Wizner noted one last fact that is rather remarkable.  The entire claim of "state secrets" in this case is based on two sworn Declarations from CIA Director Michael Hayden -- one public and one filed secretly with the court.  In them, Hayden argues that courts cannot adjudicate this case because to do so would be to disclose and thus degrade key CIA programs of rendition and interrogation -- the very policies which Obama, in his first week in office, ordered shall no longer exist.  How, then, could continuation of this case possibly jeopardize national security when the rendition and interrogation practices which gave rise to these lawsuits are the very ones that the U.S. Government, under the new administration, claims to have banned?

What this is clearly about is shielding the U.S. Government and Bush officials from any accountability.  Worse, by keeping Bush's secrecy architecture in place, it ensures that any future President -- Obama or any other -- can continue to operate behind an impenetrable wall of secrecy, with no transparency or accountability even for blatantly criminal acts.

UPDATE II: There wasn't a more enthusiastic Obama supporter during the campaign than Andrew Sullivan.  Here is what he wrote just now:
    The Obama administration will continue the cover-up of the alleged torture of the British resident. The argument is that revealing the extent of the man's torture and abuse would reveal state secrets. No shit. This is a depressing sign that the Obama administration will protect the Bush-Cheney torture regime from the light of day.  And with each decision to cover for their predecessors, the Obamaites become retroactively complicit in them. [ Hermit : Of course, the more the Obama administration engages in this cover-up, the more probable it becomes that the primary reason for extending this protection to them is that the Cheney-Bush clique has evidence implicating at least the Democratic leadership in the authorization of "extraordinary rendition" and torture. ]

    So what are they hiding from us? Wouldn't you like to know?

There is no viable excuse, or even mitigation, for what they did here.

UPDATE III: For those interested, I wrote many times in the past about the origins of the State Secrets Privilege and how the Bush administration's abuse of it (endorsed by the Obama DOJ today) has been so severe and destructive -- see, for instance, here and here.  And see this excellent comment from DCLaw1, explaining yet another reason why the Obama administration's decision today is such a substantial setback for the cause of restoring our Constitutional framework.

UPDATE IV: The New York Times' article by John Schwartz on today's hearing contains the quotes from the exchange which I described in the Update above:
    [A] lawyer for the government, Douglas N. Letter, made the same state-secrets argument on Monday, startling several judges on the panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

    "Is there anything material that has happened" that might have caused the Justice Department to shift its views, asked Judge Mary M. Schroeder, an appointee of President Jimmy Carter, coyly referring to the recent election.
    "No, your honor," Mr. Letter replied.
    "The change in administration has no bearing?" she asked.
    "No, your honor," he said once more. The position he was taking in court on behalf of the government had been "thoroughly vetted with the appropriate officials within the new administration," and "these are the authorized positions," he said.

"Thoroughly vetted with the appropriate officials within the new administration":  that's about as explicit as it gets.  It will be extremely difficult for even the most loyal Obama followers to deny that this was an active and conscious decision on the part of the Obama DOJ to embrace one of the most extreme abuses of the Bush presidency. 

It isn't merely that the Obama DOJ is invoking the privilege for this particular case, which contains allegations of torture that are as brutal and severe as any.  That's bad enough. But worse is that they're invoking the most abusive parts of the Bush theory: namely, that the privilege can be used to block the adjudication of entire cases (rather than, say, justify the concealment of specific classified documents or other pieces of evidence), and, worse still, can be used to prevent judicial scrutiny even when the alleged government conduct is blatantly illegal and, as here, a war crime of the greatest seriousness. 

They're embracing a theory that literally places government officials beyond the rule of law.  No minimally honest person who criticized the Bush administration for relying on this instrument can defend the Obama administration for doing so here.

UPDATE V: It's simply not possible to know any less about an issue than The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder apparently knows about the State Secrets privilege, yet that doesn't deter him even for a moment from opining pedantically on what happened today.  Not only doesn't Ambinder have the first idea what the controversy is even about (he defends what the Obama DOJ  did here by arguing that "Obama certainly never promised Americans that he'd declassify everything, or that the government had to renounce its right to assert a state secrets privilege forever" -- as though there is anyone who actually believes that), but he has also anointed himself spokesman for Obama-supporting civil libertarians such that he can read their minds and divine why they voted for Obama:  "civil libertarians and others who voted for Obama did so with the belief that his judgment and his attorney general would be better stewards of that privilege than President Bush and his attorney generals [ sic ] (and vice president.)"

Even if it's true that "civil libertarians" voted for Obama because they believed he and his appointees would "be better stewards of that privilege than President Bush and his attorney generals [sic]," what the Obama DOJ did today -- adopt Bush's abusively broad version of the privilege and then invoke it to shield entire torture and rendition programs from judicial scrutiny -- would be the exact opposite of that.  Is it really that difficult for journalists to refrain from pretending that they understand things until they bother to do the most minimal work to make the pretense slightly convincing?

UPDATE VI:  Someone might want to ask The Atlantic's resident civil liberties expert and self-anointed spokesman for civil libertarians everywhere, Marc Ambinder, who "Patrick Romero" [ sic ] is.  Those who want to mock the ACLU's "outrage" and purport to speak on behalf of civil libertarians might want first to learn who the ACLU's Executive Director actually is.

UPDATE VII: More on Obama's reversal: here.
« Last Edit: 2009-02-11 07:21:14 by Hermit » Report to moderator   Logged

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Re:Obama - Put to the test fails dismally.
« Reply #1 on: 2009-02-11 05:09:40 »
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[Blunderov] Yup. Few people are less surprised than me that Obama has baulked at this hurdle. Hermit is probably correct to suppose that it would open up a can of worms for all his buddies if he stopped renditions.

The argument for renditions usually riffs that it is necessary to rendition all the dread legions of Islamunofascists that have inconveniently perched themselves out of easy reach and there is no other means of preventing them from carrying out their nefarious plans (which probably include the use of various sorts of WMD ) . This, to my mind, does not address the question of why it is seems to be also necessary to render them to any almost other country than the United States itself. Clearly it's not because the United States has some kind of vibrant human rights culture that might coddle them at all, so it's a bit of a mystery to me why they bother with all of these extraordinary logistics. Perhaps somebody somewhere has an interest in the travel agency involved?

But no matter. The point is that this argument is entirely irrelevant to the question of compensation for these innocent victims of this massive ineptitude and overwhelming hubris. (Imagine that this happened to someone in your family? It quite easily might.)

One of the remarkable things about Obama's victory was that it was achieved by a black man. Suffice it to say that he seems now to have shown his true colours.

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Re:Obama - Put to the test fails dismally.
« Reply #2 on: 2009-02-11 12:31:25 »
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Okay, let me suggest a non-ominous take on this, since apparently none has been offered yet. To me this sounds like a procedural block on this lawsuit about torture rendition etc, and not a position on torture itself. Its not like Justice is saying keep up the warrantless wiretaps or anything, at this point in the process we are talking about a lawsuit by some victims, which isn't directly a civil liberties issue except that we may be slowing down someone's monetary compensation. SO, I think to call this Obama's first test on civil liberties is a bit of an unjustifiable hyperventilation of the subject. Its not.

His first test was to establish the definition of torture (or rather re-establish it), and on that point both he and Eric Holder passed the test just fine. I'm for criticizing them and all but let's put this in some perspective. Both the BBS subject line and the story title are misleadingly over-dramatic and in that regard I think frankly inaccurate, of course that's what the media do but we don't need to be copying them that way.

So for the non-ominous interpretation -- its only been a few weeks, making something unsecret is a relatively permanent decision that can't be unmade. This particular decision while frustrating is reversible. Perhaps in the bustle of changing administrations and the pendency of the AG appointment process, etc. there simply hasn't been time for the attorneys to adequately review this particular case pursuant to new policies. What with Dick Cheney publicly begging to be prosecuted for war crimes (ex VP is definitely going off the deep end early and often), I'm sure their to do list can get a bit squeezed.
« Last Edit: 2009-02-11 13:08:01 by MoEnzyme » Report to moderator   Logged

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Re:Obama - Put to the test fails dismally.
« Reply #3 on: 2009-02-11 13:13:13 »
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[MoEnzyme 2]  ...which isn't directly a civil liberties issue ...making something unsecret is a relatively permanent decision that can't be unmade

[Hermit 3] There are no secrets in this case. What was supposed to be kept from the light of day has been exposed in books, web sites, reports and a mass of revolting evidence developed by European governments. The USA captured random people, at least some of them without even the excuse of faulty intelligence because they simply were the wrong people, and subjected them to torture and the handover of them to torturers and for kangaroo trials in nations notorious for abuse of prisoners, in the face of treaties (and through them, US law), of US law, and of any form of decency.

[Hermit 3] What there isn't, is an acknowledgment by the US government about what it was doing, a way to evaluate if it has stopped (noting that Obama's "prohibition on torture" did not and does not prohibit handing people over to be tortured), and a system to prevent this from ever happening again.

[MoEnzyme 2]  ...but let's put this in some perspective. Both the BBS subject line and the story title are misleadingly over-dramatic and in that regard I think frankly inaccurate...

[Hermit 3] What there is, is absolute clarity that the Obama administration is not only going to keep Bush appointees, and dredge up Clinton era refugees where they don't, they are also just fine with the use of the "State Secrets" doctrine to suppress the use of the judicial system to expose the necrosis that has been developing under the political masks for the past 50 years. The courts are clearly the correct constitutional approach to dealing with this mess, but for now the constitution is being blocked, not by Bush, but by Obama. Who has a duty to support it. When the administration attempts to use the "State Secrets" doctrine to bar investigation by a legitimate body then the administration is acting unconstitutionally. The excuse doesn't matter. The fact of it happening at all is a breach of the repeatedly administered oath of office.

[Hermit 3] The article makes the above quite clear, as does the ACLU position. Reflexive defense is all very well, but the use of unwarranted secrecy as a cloak for illegality was one of the major hallmarks and problems of the Bush era. Here not even the form has changed i.e. the Obama administration has presented the same putative show stopper, to the same jurisdiction, on the same case! So there is no wiggle room. No place for an attorney, be he never so practiced, to argue that there are grounds to suggest that this is any different from what was criticized when the Bush administration engaged in it. Should we excuse the Obama administration because they purportedly mean well? Or because they were in too much of a hurry for "a thorough vetting" [ infra ] or "authorized position" [ infra ] to mean what we think it does? Or is there some other special pleading we should consider?

[Hermit 3] In my opinion the hypothetical
Quote:
"Perhaps in the bustle of changing administrations and the pendency of the AG appointment process, etc. there simply hasn't been time for the attorneys to adequately review this particular case pursuant to new policies"
[MoEnzyme 2] just doesn't seem to begin to address the definitive,
Quote:
"No, your honor" he said once more. The position he was taking in court on behalf of the government had been "thoroughly vetted with the appropriate officials within the new administration," and "these are the authorized positions," he said.
[Hermit 0:  Douglas N. Letter articulating the DOJ position]
« Last Edit: 2009-02-11 17:30:39 by Hermit » Report to moderator   Logged

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Re:Obama - Put to the test fails dismally.
« Reply #4 on: 2009-02-11 15:23:16 »
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Hermit: thanks for pointing out the lawyer's claim that he vetted with the current administration. I missed it on the first glance, however I still think his response leaves open a lot of possibilities, plus we are talking about at least two levels of upper administration he's supposedly dealing with about a procedural issue in a civil lawsuit. I think its highly possible that he really doesn't have his marching orders straight even if he may believe that he does.

Also, if he was the DOJ attorney on the case before Obama's administration, (ie a supposedly "career" attorney in Alberto Gonzalez's politically cleansed office), which the dialogue seems to indicate, he also may be trying to cover his own ass over something he did while the neo-cons were in charge. In which case one would hope he may yet be losing his job or may be facing charges himself. I suppose Holder could fire all the non-appointed attorney staff and start over, but then that's how Gonzalez started down the path to his own ruin. One political cleansing won't justify another, so some of these problems will take more than a couple of weeks to solve.

I agree that this particular position in this particular case is concerning, but at this point to say the sky is falling and that Obama has failed his first test on civil liberties is simply unwarranted if not possibly false.
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Re:Obama - Put to the test fails dismally.
« Reply #5 on: 2009-02-16 00:17:13 »
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[Blunderov] Perhaps, in view of the new regime in Washington and all the "change" that was promised so lavishly in that successful presidential campaign, the White House should be renamed to reflect this. "Uncle Tom's Cabin" seems appropriate.

http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=102x3740552

IndianaGreen  (1000+ posts)       
Sun Feb-15-09 07:33 PM

Miliband faces new 'torture cover-up' storm

Source: The Guardian

Miliband faces new 'torture cover-up' storm

Richard Norton-Taylor
The Guardian, Monday 16 February 2009

David Miliband, the foreign secretary, was last night facing fresh pressure over torture allegations after it was revealed that his officials asked the US for help in suppressing crucial evidence.

The Foreign Office solicited a letter from the US to back up its claim that if the evidence was disclosed, Washington could stop sharing intelligence with Britain. The claim persuaded two high court judges earlier this month to suppress what they called "powerful evidence" relating to the ill treatment of Binyam Mohamed, the British resident being held in Guantánamo Bay.

In response to the British request, John Bellinger, the state department's chief legal adviser, said in a letter to the Foreign Office last August: "We want to affirm the public disclosure of these documents is likely to result in serious damage to US national security and could harm existing intelligence information-sharing arrangements between our two governments".

In their judgment, Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Lloyd Jones made it clear that without Miliband's claim about what they called the "gravity of the threat" from the US, they would have ordered the evidence to be revealed. Though the judges repeatedly used the word "threat", Miliband subsequently denied the US had threatened to stop sharing intelligence with Britain.

Miliband's denial last week led lawyers for Mohamed and the media, including the Guardian, to ask the judges to reopen the case on the grounds that the foreign secretary had fundamentally undermined his case.* The judges agreed, against Foreign Office opposition, to reopen the case next month.

Clive Stafford Smith, director of Reprieve, the legal charity which represents Mohamed, said yesterday: "This just isn't going to go away unless both the US and the UK stop trying to suppress evidence of torture

Read more: http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/feb/16/miliband...

[Bl.] The letter that follows is not for those of delicate sensibilities. <Projectile vomiting warning>**

chill_wind  (1000+ posts)        Sun Feb-15-09 09:23 PM

Response to Original message

5. The British are not bluffing. UK officials are in Guantanamo right now 
to take Binyam home if U.S. will release him. There are no charges holding him.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/feb/15/guantanamo-...

Bring Binyam home

The greatest injustice I fear is that Binyam Mohamed is still being held at Guantánamo only to suppress evidence of his torture

Yvonne Bradley
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 11 February 2009 13.57 GMT

I am a lawyer and a soldier, and I act for Binyam Mohamed, who is currently on hunger strike in Guantánamo Bay. I came to England to ask everyone to work as hard as possible to get Binyam home. The new administration in the US has said that it wants to close Guantánamo. The UK government says that it has been asking for Binyam's return since August 2007. Despite that, and despite England being the US's closest ally, Binyam is still in a cell in Guantánamo Bay. I believe that now is the time to press the new administration.

Guards told Binyam that he was going home in December, and so he is on hunger strike (together with 50 or so other prisoners). This means that he is tube-fed while strapped to a chair, twice a day. Binyam has lost so much weight that he speaks of the pain he suffers from being strapped to the chair for hours each day – he speaks of feeling his bones against the chair. I am really worried that if Binyam does not come home soon, he will leave Guantánamo Bay in a coffin.

The Joint Task Force, which runs Guantánamo Bay, gives me no information about Binyam. When I called to enquire about his condition, they said first, that they would look into it and then that they would tell me nothing and that I should make a Freedom of Information request, which would have taken months to process. Therefore, whenever I want information about Binyam, I have to make the 5-hour trip to Guantánamo. Each time, he asks why he is still there.

It is worth bearing in mind that all charges against Binyam have been dropped and that Binyam's chief prosecutor resigned, citing the unfairness of the system.

I profoundly hope that he is not being kept in Guantánamo to avoid information surrounding his rendition and torture coming out. Clive Stafford Smith and I are testifying at the All Party Parliamentary Group on Extraordinary Rendition in Portcullis House, Westminster today, which is open to members of the public. I understand that a number of intelligence agents and politicians will also speak in an attempt to get Binyam home. I am meeting with David Miliband , this Thursday, and I hope that he will assure me that Binyam is coming home.

*[Bl.] The having of the cake or the eating thereof? What would Jesus do? Oh wait. Milleband is a card carrying Zionist. Silly me.



**[Bl.] Whatever did happen to the color coded terror alerts? Oh wait. Cheney saved us all. No longer necessary. Silly me.











« Last Edit: 2009-02-16 00:34:40 by Blunderov » Report to moderator   Logged
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Re:Obama - Put to the test fails dismally.
« Reply #6 on: 2009-02-19 14:03:33 »
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[MoEnzyme] ...at this point to say the sky is falling and that Obama has failed his first test on civil liberties is simply unwarranted if not possibly false.

[Hermit] It seems our conclusions differ. To offer a "State Secrets" defense to attempt to prevent people who were tortured by us from seeking redress through the legal system is invidious. That it is offered by by the same people as criticized it when it was done by their political rivals is hypocritical in the extreme. Here is a second test. And failure?

Do we still pretend that we abide by treaties?

Source: Salon.com

Glenn Greenwald was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York and is the author of two New York Times Bestselling books: "How Would a Patriot Act?" (May, 2006), a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, and "A Tragic Legacy" (June, 2007), which examines the Bush legacy. His most recent book, "Great American Hypocrites", examines the manipulative electoral tactics used by the GOP and propagated by the establishment press, and was released in April, 2008, by Random House/Crown. [ Hermit : Biographic information from Salon.com]

On Friday in Salon, Joe Conason argued that there should be no criminal investigations of any kind for Bush officials "who authorized torture or other outrages in the 'war on terror'."  Instead, Conason suggests that there be a presidential commission created that is "purely investigative," and Obama should "promis[e] a complete pardon to anyone who testifies fully, honestly and publicly."  So, under this proposal, not only would we adopt an absolute bar against prosecuting war criminals and other Bush administration felons, we would go in the other direction and pardon them from any criminal liability of any kind. [ Hermit : A TRC like process works when it is arranged by those representing the subjects of the torture. Nobody can validly agree not to prosecute on behalf of those not represented.]

I've already written volumes about why immunizing political officials from the consequences for their lawbreaking is both destructive and unjust -- principally:  the obvious incentives which such immunity creates (and, for decades, has been creating) for high-level executive branch officials to break the law and, even worse, the grotesque two-tiered system of justice we've implemented in this country (i.e., the creation of an incomparably harsh prison state for ordinary Americans who commit even low-level offenses as contrasted with what Conason calls, approvingly, "the institutional reluctance in Washington to punish political offenders").  Rather than repeat those arguments, I want to focus on an issue that pro-immunity advocates such as Conason simply never address.

The U.S. really has bound itself to a treaty called the Convention Against Torture, signed by Ronald Reagan in 1988 and ratified by the U.S. Senate in 1994.  When there are credible allegations that government officials have participated or been complicit in torture, that Convention really does compel all signatories -- in language as clear as can be devised -- to "submit the case to its competent authorities for the purpose of prosecution" (Art. 7(1)).  And the treaty explicitly bars the standard excuses that America's political class is currently offering for refusing to investigate and prosecute:  "No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture" and "an order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture" (Art. 2 (2-3)).  By definition, then, the far less compelling excuses cited by Conason (a criminal probe would undermine bipartisanship and distract us from more important matters) are plainly barred as grounds for evading the Convention's obligations.

There is reasonable dispute about the scope of prosecutorial discretion permitted by the Convention, and there is also some lack of clarity about how many of these provisions were incorporated into domestic law when the Senate ratified the Convention with reservations.  But what is absolutely clear beyond any doubt is that -- just as is true for any advance promises by the Obama DOJ not to investigate or prosecute -- issuing preemptive pardons to government torturers would be an unambiguous and blatant violation of our obligations under the Convention.  There can't be any doubt about that.  It just goes without saying that if the U.S. issued pardons or other forms of immunity to accused torturers (as the Military Commissions Act purported to do), that would be a clear violation of our obligation to "submit the [torture] case to [our] competent authorities for the purpose of prosecution."  Those two acts -- the granting of immunity and submission for prosecution -- are opposites.

And yet those who advocate that we refrain from criminal investigations rarely even mention our obligations under the Convention.  There isn't even a pretense of an effort to reconcile what they're advocating with the treaty obligations to which Ronald Reagan bound the U.S. in 1988.  Do we now just explicitly consider ourselves immune from the treaties we signed?  Does our political class now officially (rather than through its actions) consider treaties to be mere suggestions that we can violate at will without even pretending to have any justifications for doing so?  Most of the time, our binding treaty obligations under the Convention -- as valid and binding as every other treaty -- don't even make it into the discussion about criminal investigations of Bush officials, let alone impose any limits on what we believe we can do.

What was all the sturm und drang about in 2003 over Bush's invasion of Iraq without U.N. approval, in violation of the U.N. charter?  Wasn't it supposed to be a bad thing for the U.S. to violate its own treaties?  What happened to that?  Conason himself was actually one of the clearest and most emphatic voices presciently highlighting the deceit on which the pro-war case was based, stridently warning of "ruined alliances and damaged institutions."  Why, then, is it acceptable now to ignore and violate our treaty obligations with regard to torture and other war crimes committed by high-level Bush officials?  What's the argument for simply pretending that these obligations under the Convention don't exist?

[ Editing in following 5 paragraphs by Hermit of material related to criticism of a subsequently corrected article ]

More than 60 percent of Americans believe that alleged abuses and atrocities ordered by the Bush administration should be investigated either by an independent commission or by federal prosecutors, according to a poll released yesterday by the Gallup Organization. A significant minority favors criminal sanctions against officials who authorized torture or other outrages in the "war on terror." The Gallup poll asked about three different acts of Bush lawbreaking:  (1) politicization of DOJ prosecutions, (2) warrantless eavesdropping on Americans, and (3) torture.  For each crime, it asked which of three options respondents favored:  (1) a criminal investigation by the DOJ; (2) a non-criminal, fact-finding investigation by an independent panel; or (3) neither.  The full results are here. [ Hermit : Always remembering that Gallup is a conservative Christian organization ]

For all three separate acts of alleged crimes, the option that receives the most support from Americans is criminal investigation.

As White notes, the breakdowns are even more revealing.  For all three areas of lawbreaking, majorities of Democrats (which, by the way, is now the majority party) favor criminal investigations.  For each of the three areas, more independents favor criminal prosecutions than favor doing nothing, and large majorities of independents -- ranging from 59% to 71%  -- want either a criminal investigation or an independent fact-finding investigation.  A Washington Post poll from a couple weeks ago found very similar results:  majorities of Americans (and large majorities of Democrats) favor investigations into whether Bush officials broke the law and, by a wide margin, oppose the issuance of pardons to Bush officials.

Imagine what those numbers would be in a world where virtually every establishment political pundit -- literally:  whether Democratic or Republican, liberal or conservative -- weren't uniting together to oppose prosecutions for torture and war crimes.  Even with that unified anti-prosecution stance from a trans-partisan rainbow of Beltway opinion-makers, criminal investigations remain the leading position among Americans generally and among majorities of Democrats specifically.  Those are just facts.

As is always the case, the mere fact that majorities of Americans believe X does not mean that X is right or true.  But pundits, journalists and politicians should stop claiming that they're speaking for most Americans when they argue that we should just "move on"  -- or that the belief in investigations is the province of the leftist fringe -- because that claim is demonstrably false.

Recall when opposition to the Iraq War and a demand for a withdrawal timetable was routinely depicted by the Beltway class as a "liberal" or even Far Left position -- even though large majorities of Americans held exactly those views.  Apparently, the Far Left encompassed more than 60% of the country.  Or recall when Time's Managing Editor, Rick Stengel, went on national TV and claimed that Americans don't want Bush officials and Karl Rove investigated for the U.S. Attorney scandal even when polls showed that large majorities of Americans favored exactly those investigations (a false claim which, to this day, Stengel refuses to retract).

That is the same flagrant distortion of public opinion that one finds here in the debate over investigations.  The Washington Post's David Ignatius claims that a desire for investigations of Bush crimes is confined to "liberal score-settlers."  Lindsey Graham asserts that only the "hard Left" wants criminal investigations.  Newsweek's Jon Barry is certain that the desire for investigations is only about "vengeance, pure and simple." [ Hermit : The sad reality is that Greenwald only needed to include the NY Times to have quoted the three most right wing mainstream papers in the USA. ]

Apparently, huge numbers of Americans -- majorities, actually -- are now liberal, vengeance-seeking, score-settlers from the Hard Left.  What we actually have is what one finds again and again:  establishment journalists who will resort to outright distortions about American public opinion in order to render it irrelevant, by claiming that "most Americans" believe as they believe even where, as here, that claim is categorically false.  It's hardly surprising (except to an insular Beltway maven) that Americans, who know that they will be subjected to one of the world's harshest and most merciless criminal justice systems if they break the law, don't want political elites exempted from the rule of law.  Imagine that.

* * * * *

Finally, Newsweek's Michael Isikoff -- echoing a report from John Yoo's Berkeley colleague, Brad DeLong -- reports that an internal DOJ probe (initiated during the Bush administration) has preliminarily concluded that Bush DOJ lawyers who authorized torture (John Yoo, Jay Bybee, Stephen Bradbury) violated their professional duties as lawyers by issuing legal conclusions that had no good faith basis, and that this behavior will be referred to their state bar associations for possible disciplinary action.  Those conclusions so infuriated the allegedly honorable Michael Mukasey that he refused to accept the report until changes were made.  Now it is up to Eric Holder to accept and then release that report.

The implications of this event can't be overstated.  One of the primary excuses offered by Bush apologists and those who oppose investigations is that Bush DOJ lawyers authorized the torture and opined that it was legal.  But a finding that those lawyers breached their ethical obligations would mean, by definition, that the opinions they issued were not legitimate legal opinions -- i.e., that they were not merely wrong in their conclusions, but so blatantly and self-evidently wrong that they were issued in bad faith (with the intent to justify what they knew the President wanted to do, rather than to offer their good faith views of what the law permitted).

The Convention Against Torture explicitly prohibits the domestic legalization of torture, and specifically states that it shall not be a defense that government officials authorized it. So whether or not these legal opinions were issued in good faith is irrelevant to our obligations under that treaty to investigate and prosecute.  But a finding that these legal opinions were issued in bad faith -- with the deliberate intent to knowingly legalize what was plainly criminal behavior -- will gut the primary political excuse for treating Bush officials differently than common criminals.

UPDATE:  Citing numerous leading international law authorities, Valtin has an excellent discussion of the obligations the U.S. has to criminally investigate Bush crimes, not only under the Convention Against Torture but also under the Geneva ConventionsIf we don't consider ourselves bound by the treaties we sign, we should just say so and abrogate them.  Those demanding criminal immunity for Bush officials are advocating that we can and should violate our treaty obligations; they really ought to be honest about it.

UPDATE II: On June 28, 2004, George Bush commemorated the U.N. Day to Support Torture Victims and vowed that the U.S. "will investigate and prosecute all acts of torture and undertake to prevent other cruel and unusual punishment in all territory under our jurisdiction."  In doing so, he specifically cited the U.S.'s binding obligation under the Convention to do so (h/t leftydem):
    To help fulfill this commitment, the United States has joined 135 other nations in ratifying the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. America stands against and will not tolerate torture. We will investigate and prosecute all acts of torture and undertake to prevent other cruel and unusual punishment in all territory under our jurisdiction. American personnel are required to comply with all U.S. laws, including the United States Constitution, Federal statutes, including statutes prohibiting torture, and our treaty obligations with respect to the treatment of all detainees. . . .

    The United States also remains steadfastly committed to upholding the Geneva Conventions, which have been the bedrock of protection in armed conflict for more than 50 years. . . . [W]e will not compromise the rule of law or the values and principles that make us strong. Torture is wrong no matter where it occurs, and the United States will continue to lead the fight to eliminate it everywhere.
[ Hermit : Oh the irony! ]

If George Bush, citing our obligations under the Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions, can publicly vow that "we will investigate and prosecute all acts of torture," why can't Democratic politicians and liberal pundits simply cite the same treaty obligations and make the same commitment?

<snip - update related to edited section above>
« Last Edit: 2009-02-21 12:22:42 by Hermit » Report to moderator   Logged

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Re:Obama - Put to the test fails dismally.
« Reply #7 on: 2009-02-19 15:10:24 »
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Quote from: Hermit on 2009-02-19 14:03:33   
[MoEnzyme] ...at this point to say the sky is falling and that Obama has failed his first test on civil liberties is simply unwarranted if not possibly false.


[Hermit] It seems our conclusions differ. To offer a "State Secrets" defense to attempt to prevent people who were tortured by us from seeking redress through the legal system is invidious. That it is offered by by the same people as criticized it when it was done by their political rivals is hypocritical in the extreme. Here is a second test. And failure?

Hermit,

In terms of the issues that concern us, I think we are largely in agreement . . . however I don't think I'm yet in violation of the political rival's hypocrisy. Indeed, I thank you for bringing these things especially as I know I probably wouldn't push it as hard as you due to my own political biases -- that's not hypocrisy but rather just understanding my own partial role in the discussion.

I would hower like to reurge my reservations about these particular cases at least for the first 100days/few months etc. The Bush administration has purged and politicized both justice and intelligence in a way that no post WWII presidents ever have -- which in my mind and that of 60% or more of the US population should earn many of them individually indictments. Especially when they have publicly confessed to facts which amount to war crimes regardless of their own neo-con self-delusions. However, unlike previous GOP administrations they have indulged themselves in a no-holds-barred political purging of both justice and intelligence to such a degree that it will probably take Obama until sometime in 2010 to get full control over the policy, rightfully fire those who have violated their mission for political purposes, and get a new team of career public servants capabable of implementing the rule of law in their missions. Perhaps they could do it faster, however a dramatic purge today without better documentation would probably expose the new justice department to the same political criticisms as the previous one.

I know its a long messy process, but that's what doing it the right way requires. Fucking things up is easy, whereas fixing them takes time. I'm sure at this point, Obama is still dealing with a large number of "career" civil servants who still think Dick Cheney had something important or even possibly relevant to say. I'm sure people like you and I could set it straight faster, but the government doesn't turn on a dime that way even when the political system has effectively mandated it. Especially when we have to replace incompetant rulers with engaged governors the way Bush II has forced us. If we are still screwing up this badly in 2010 you won't get any argument from me over these issues - but until then I'm still a "wait and see" partisan. Feel free to keep up the criticism, however. Even if I lack your personal engagement, I know its important.

Love,

-Mo
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Re:Obama - Put to the test fails dismally.
« Reply #8 on: 2009-02-19 16:02:15 »
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Thank-you for the clarification of your position above. I didn't need it, but it is always well to have these things be explicit.

To expand on your clarification, the charge of hypocrisy was not (yet) leveled at those defending the Obama maladministration, but rather at those offering the "State Secrets" trump card in a blatant attempt prevent the case from proceeding to trial - noting that if the case is dismissed again, those harmed likely have no redress and the Obama administration will have been responsible for that. Which would mean, in my book, that Obama and the leadership of his alleged justice department would be as eligible for arrest and trial in any country with more civilized values than the US, for conspiracy to torture, as the Cheney-Bush administration and the department of injustice they created. After all, western law as practiced in the US, and US sentencing guidelines demonstrate that we regard those engaging in conspiracy after the fact as being as culpable as those conspiring before the fact or participating in the deed itself. The US even hanged (yellow) people for this after VJ day.

Huggles

Hermit & Co.

PS Another interesting issue I have not seen raised is that the raising of a "State Secrets" defense may just be contra Section IV annex, Article 23 of the Hague convention of 1907: "it is forbidden to declare abolished, suspended, or inadmissible in a court of law the rights and actions of the nationals of the hostile party" and therefore there may be grounds for taking such an action to the World Court.

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Re:Obama - Put to the test fails dismally.
« Reply #9 on: 2009-03-14 12:37:00 »
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Obama Justice Dept. defends Rumsfeld in torture case

Source: RawStory
Authors: Rachel Oswald
Dated: 2009-03-09

Exclusive: Attorney had hoped Obama admin would take 'stronger moral stance' on torture

In a brief filed Thursday evening, Obama Justice Department lawyers extended many of the same arguments made by Bush attorneys -- that top government officials have qualified immunity from prosecution and that Guantanamo detainees do not have constitutional rights to due process.

The Department of Justice has asserted that a Supreme Court ruling reaffirming the rights of Guantanamo detainees to habeas corpus does not apply to plaintiffs in a case against former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld because the plaintiffs were released from prison four years prior to the Supreme Court's decision.

"It is fair to say that the current brief that is filed by the new administration supports a lot of the arguments that were made by the previous administration," said Kate Toomey, an attorney with Baach Robinson & Lewis who is representing the former detainees in an interview with RAW STORY. "They continue to assert that torture was in the scope of employment and could be reasonably expected. They continue to assert that these [top officials] be entitled to immunity. They also continue to argue that detainees at Guantanamo don't have constitutional rights."


The brief was filed as part of the Rasul v. Rumsfeld lawsuit of four former detainees, who include the "Tipton Three," and are seeking damages for their detention and reported torture at Guantanamo Bay against Rumsfeld, the Chairmen of the Joint Chief of Staffs and other top military officials. The suit charges them with violations of the Fifth and Eighth Amendments, the Alien Tort Statute, the Geneva Conventions and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The plaintiffs are individually each seeking $10 million in damages.

The men were held for more than two years at Guantanamo where they were reportedly subjected to regular beatings, death threats, sleep deprivation, extreme temperatures, forced nakedness, interrogations at gun point and religious and racial harassment. They were never charged with any crime. The men were released in March 2004 and returned to their home country of Britain.

The plaintiffs are also being represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights, which has a full background of the case, including all court documents here.

Thursday's brief is the latest action in the case after the Supreme Court in December granted the former detainees' petition to review their case in light of the court's June 2008 ruling in Boumediene v. Bush that Guantanamo detainees do have a right to habeas corpus. All charges in the case had previously been dismissed by the D.C. Circuit of the Court of Appeals except for the charge of violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

"Boumediene - decided four years after plaintiffs' detention ended - cannot support a finding that the law was so clearly established that a reasonable official would have known that his or her conduct violated the Constitution or the RFRA statute," the brief states.

The department's request that the Boumediene ruling not be considered in the Rumsfeld case puts the Justice Department directly at odds with statements made by President Obama during the 2008 campaign.

"Habeus corpus ... is the foundation of Anglo-American law, which says very simply, if the government grabs you, then you have the right to at least ask, `Why was I grabbed?' and say, `Maybe, you've got the wrong person," said Obama at a early Sept. 2008 campaign rally where he seemed to refer to just such exactly the case posed by the the Tipton Three.

Shortly after 9/11, the former detainees were in Afghanistan reportedly doing humanitarian work when they were grabbed by a local warlord and handed over to American forces allegedly in exchange for the bounty the military was offering for suspected terrorists.

"The reason we have that safeguard is we don't always have the right person," said Obama at the campaign rally. "We don't always catch the right person. We may think this is Muhammad the terrorist. It might be Muhammad the cab driver."

Given statements like these made by President Obama, Toomey said she and others involved with the case had been hopeful that the new Justice Department would have taken a stronger stance on some of the most criticized policies of the Bush administration.

"We had hoped that they would file something that separated them from the former administration and obviously we had hoped that they would be taking a stronger moral stance about what should be anticipated from senior officers including the Secretary of Defense on legally standing prohibitions," Toomey said, adding, "There's no question that the U.S. law forbids people from ordering torture. And so it's unfortunate that they have sort of squandered an opportunity to have made that point."

The Obama Justice Department extends the argument made by the Bush Justice Department that top government officials have qualified immunity when it writes:

"Because government officials are not 'expected to predict the future course of constitutional law'... decisions that post-date the conduct in question cannot be used to deny qualified immunity."

Language used in the brief of the individual defendants in the case, including Rumsfeld, having a "clear entitlement to qualified immunity" casts doubt on the hopes of civil and human rights activists that the Justice Department will take up calls to launch criminal prosecutions into the architects and policy designers of some of the most criticized Bush policies such as waterboarding, extraordinary rendition and warrantless wiretapping.


Further light on the department's position on individual prosecutions of members of the Bush Administration can be gleaned from statements like this in the brief:

"The prospect of individual liability increases the likelihood that officials will make decisions based upon fear of litigation rather than appropriate military policy."

The brief also makes the claim that it is "unnecessary" for the Supreme Court to address the question of whether the former detainees have "constitutional due process rights."

"Plainly, the constitutional rights asserted by plaintiffs, which are still not established today... were not clearly established at the time of the alleged acts in question here. Accordingly, this Court was correct in concluding that a reasonable officer would not have concluded that plaintiffs here possessed Fifth and Eighth Amendment rights while they were detained at Guantanamo."
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Re:Obama - Put to the test fails dismally.
« Reply #10 on: 2009-03-14 13:47:53 »
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"The prospect of individual liability increases the likelihood that officials will make decisions based upon fear of litigation rather than appropriate military policy."

[Blunderov] Disingenuous in the extreme. It has never, until now, been even remotely considered possible that torture could ever conceivably be an "appropriate military policy". There are very clear laws against it in both American and international law for one thing. Then again, they could always have ask themselves "what would Jesus do?" if they were in any doubt. But clearly these people do not really believe in this Christian stuff although they like to say they do.

May their arseholes grow shut in the night so that they may be literally, as well as figuratively, full of shit. A pox upon their houses!
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Re:Obama - Put to the test fails dismally.
« Reply #11 on: 2009-03-14 20:23:25 »
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For the record after umpteen life times in my nations capital, ( I regularly loose my reflection in the mirror after a days work); I have witness BUREAUCRAT after BUREAUCRAT decimate politicians, some idiots, some with their hearts in the right places.

It will take a while for the lingering stench to clear and Obama may never be able get all the excrement and blood stains out; resident evil, so often wins .... I'm just saying.

Cheers

Fritz
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Re:Obama - Put to the test fails dismally.
« Reply #12 on: 2009-03-15 05:57:08 »
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I do think its probably appropriate to start refering to US Justice as the Bush/Obama Justice Department. A lot of what finally got Alberto Gonzalez (our first hispanic AG) out of office was the fact that in violation of federal law he was conducting political and (anti)ethical purges of what were supposed to be the non-political career public servants over issues like torture, state secrets, and party loyalties. Although he got caught and resigned, it was not before a lot of the damage was already done. There have been no corrective measures since. Its basically now a damaged piece of government that has been handed off to Eric Holder (our first black AG). That's not Obama's fault, of course, but its certainly his problem now. A dumbed-down justice department stripped of its most proven competant employess.
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Re:Obama - Put to the test fails dismally.
« Reply #13 on: 2009-03-17 23:21:16 »
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[MoEnzyme] I do think its probably appropriate to start refering to US Justice as the Bush/Obama Justice Department.

[Hermit] And the Bush/Obama Secretary of State? And the Bush/Obama Department of Defence? Why didn't we just save ourselves the pretense of change we can believe in (To quote Bob the Builder) and vote for Rush Limburger and Ms Pain?

Self-Sacrifice

Father, chancing to chastise
  His indignant daughter Sue,
Said, "I hope you realize
  That this hurts me more than you."

Susan straightway ceased to roar.
  "If that's really true," said she,
"I can stand a good deal more;
  Pray go on, and don't mind me."



These Secretaries Can't Even Type

Source: Zen Huber
Authors: Jeff Huber
Dated: 2009-09-17

[Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (retired), is a regular columnist at Antiwar.com. Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books), a lampoon on America's rise to global dominance, is on sale now.]

Young Mr. Bush and his handlers managed to squander more than two centuries of American progress. Two interminable armed conflicts and the economic collapse they produced left President Obama with the worst combination of foreign and domestic policy disasters in our country's history. He faces a conundrum; he needs to take care of the economic problems first, but they won't fully heal until he straightens out the tangled web of war Bush created in the Middle East. Unfortunately, he made very bad decisions when he chose his foreign policy cabinet secretaries.

Smart Power poster girl Hillary Clinton bombed relations with the Iranians back to the Cheney age when she said that diplomacy with Iran probably won't work. You can be assured it won't work if she's in charge of it. After two days of talks in Egypt and Israel, where she heard "over and over and over again" how worried Arabs and Israelis are about the Persian state, she accused Iran of "fomenting" divisions in the Arab world and seeking to "intimidate as far as they think their voice can reach." That's abject hypocrisy coming from the chief diplomat of a superpower that single-handedly placed the Middle East in a state of perpetual turmoil. If Hillary's remarks were calculated, they were miscalculated. We need a secretary of state who sounds like an intelligent adult, not a two-faced harpy who flies around the world hurling fireballs at straw men. We just had four years of that from Keystone Kondi.

Hillary has confirmed that despite her campaign claim of possessing a foreign policy experience edge over Obama, it was Bill, not she, who was commander in chief during the Clinton administration. Like candidate Hillary, Secretary Hillary feels the need to act tough so the draft-dodging neocons won't call her a girly man. She shouldn't worry. They'll call her a girly man no matter what she does. And if she goes into high orbit every time the Arabs and Israelis lie to her about Iran, she'll never come down to earth.

The neocons will never have anything bad to say about Hillary's counterpart at Defense. Bill Kristol must have thought he'd ascended into heaven when young Mr. Bush named Bob Gates to replace Donald Rumsfeld. Gates was brought in to serve as a welcome mat for the surge strategy, the key to attaining Kristol's dream of permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq. Kristol especially likes having a warmonger around who says even dumber things than he does.

Gates is a grand master of self-contradiction, as he illustrated once again on a recent Tavis Smiley Show. He said that one of the "biggest lessons learned" from the Iraq experience "is if you are going to contemplate preempting an attack, you had better be very confident of the intelligence that you have." Gates repeated that sentiment several times, then noted that the war in Afghanistan is now his "biggest challenge," seemingly oblivious to the fact that he encouraged Obama to preemptively escalate the conflict there on the basis of no intelligence at all. We will never have good intelligence on the Bananastans. You can count the number of people who speak both Pashtun and English and can also pass a background check on the toes and fingers of a duck. Our best sources of intelligence on Afghanistan and Pakistan are Afghan and Pakistani intelligence officials. If we're going to trust them, we may as well believe everything the Mossad tells us.

You'd think Gates would understand that, having been chief of the CIA, but you'd be wrong. Where Hillary made her mark in Washington by clinging to a coattail, Gates built his career as a bureaucratic dimwit the old-fashioned way: by not rocking the boat. He "succeeded" as secretary of defense by telling Bush what he wanted to hear and being more popular with his subordinates than Rummy was, a feat considerably easier than falling off a log. You do everything General A tells you to do, say everything General B tells you to say, pretend you don't know General C is tagging his enlisted driver and, by golly, you're such a military genius the next administration simply has to keep you on for a year or so.

After Adm. William Fallon lost the showdown for control of Central Command, the generals that remained – including Adm. Mike Mullen, now the Joint Chiefs chairman – were all aboard the Petraeus train; there's nobody left but the long warriors. The way things look now, the status of forces agreement won't amount to a speed bump on the road to eternal occupation of Iraq, and we'll continue to bury ourselves in the Bananastans whether we cook up a flimsy excuse to be there or not.

In a bizarre turn on the BBC comedy Yes, Minister, our state and defense secretaries are little more than figureheads for the career military officers who have gained a stranglehold on U.S. foreign policy. I recommended several weeks ago that Obama should order every officer from the full bird level up to submit a request to retire, but he may consider that politically untenable. And if he canned Hillary, oh, my: double, double, toil and trouble!

He can marginalize Hillary by encircling her with advisers and special envoys and such who report directly to him. Hopefully, by the end of Gates' "year or so," Virginia governor Tim Kaine will have been succeeded by a Democrat and can take Jim Webb's Senate seat, freeing Webb to take over at Defense. The best way to "get rid" of King David may be to promote him to Joint Chiefs chairman. The chairman doesn't have any command authority; he's merely the president's top uniformed military adviser. Obama can privately make it loud and clear that he expects Petraeus to have his 10-word advice memorandum to the Oval Office by 5 p.m. every tenth Friday, pronto.

With Petraeus neutralized, maybe – just maybe – Webb or someone like him can begin developing a new generation of generals who don't believe that defending their country involves keeping it entangled in never ending, counterproductive wars that defeat its economy.
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Re:Obama - Put to the test fails dismally.
« Reply #14 on: 2009-04-04 15:52:40 »
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‘Holy Hell’ Over Torture Memos

Attorney General Eric Holder wants to release classified Bush-era interrogation memos. But U.S. intel officials are fiercely lobbying the White House to block him from moving forward.

Source: Newsweek
Authors: Michael Isikoff
Dated: 2009-04-03
Refer Also: A fierce internal battle within the White House over the disclosure of internal Justice Department interrogation memos is shaping up as a major test of the Obama administration's commitment to opening up government files about Bush-era counterterrorism policy.

As reported by Newsweek, the White House last month had accepted a recommendation from Attorney General Eric Holder to declassify and publicly release three 2005 memos that graphically describe harsh interrogation techniques approved for the CIA to use against Al Qaeda suspects. But after the story, U.S. intelligence officials, led by senior national-security aide John Brennan, mounted an intense campaign to get the decision reversed, according to a senior administration official familiar with the debate. "Holy hell has broken loose over this," said the official, who asked not to be identified because of political sensitivities.

Brennan is a former senior CIA official who was once considered by Obama for agency director but withdrew his name late last year after public criticism that he was too close to past officials involved in Bush administration decisions. Brennan, who now oversees intelligence issues at the National Security Council, argued that release of the memos could embarrass foreign intelligence services who cooperated with the CIA, either by participating in overseas "extraordinary renditions" of high-level detainees or housing them in overseas "black site" prisons.

Brennan succeeded in persuading CIA Director Leon Panetta to become "engaged" in his efforts to block release, according to the senior official. Their joint arguments stalled plans to declassify the memos even though White House counsel Gregory Craig had already signed off on Holder's recommendation that they should be disclosed, according to an official and another government source familiar with the debate. No final decision has been made, and it is likely Obama will have to resolve the matter, according to the sources who spoke to NEWSWEEK.

The continued internal debate explains the Justice Department's decision late Thursday to ask a federal judge for another two-week delay (until April 16) to file a final response in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union seeking the release of the memos. The ACLU agreed to the two-week delay only after Justice officials represented that "high-level Government officials will consider for possible release" the three 2005 memos as well as another Aug. 1, 2002, memo on torture, that has long been sought by congressional committees and members of Congress, according to a motion filed by Justice lawyers with U.S. Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein in New York, who is overseeing the case.

The 2002 memo, written by former Justice lawyers Jay Bybee and John Yoo, concluded that waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques could be used against Qaeda suspects without violating a federal law that prohibits torture. That memo was publicly withdrawn by the Justice Department in 2004 after its existence became publicly known and sparked a public controversy. But a new set of Justice lawyers—led by Steven Bradbury, the newly installed chief of the department's Office of Legal Counsel—later secretly authored additional memos in the spring of 2005 that essentially approved the same techniques, permitting the agency to barrage terror suspects with a combination of physical and psychological tactics, including head-slapping and frigid temperatures, according to a 2007 New York Times account. Those memos concluded that the harsh interrogation techniques used by the CIA would not violate Geneva Conventions restrictions on "cruel, inhuman and degrading" treatment of prisoners.

The internal controversy over the memos is viewed as especially significant in light of the larger debate over whether there should be "accountability" for Bush-era tactics in the war on terror, including calls in Congress for a "truth commission" to investigate the matter. Until now, that debate has been cramped by the fact that most of the key material—including those that describe precisely what tactics were used by the CIA in interrogations and what happened to high-level suspects in U.S. custody—has been classified, making it at least theoretically a federal crime for officials with direct knowledge of these issues to publicly discuss them.

If the Justice memos were to be declassified, it would free up a host of former officials to talk about precisely what took place during White House and Justice Department meetings over the issue of interrogations. If the White House were to overrule Holder and side with Brennan and Panetta, it could essentially shut the door on attempts to have a full public airing of these issues, according to human-rights activists, lawyers and others who have followed the debate.

"It is our goal to release [Office of Legal Counsel] opinions to the maximum extent possible, while still protecting national security information and ensuring robust executive branch decision-making," said Tracy Schmaler, a Justice Department spokeswoman, in a statement. "We continue to review OLC memos for possible release and to consult with the departments and agencies to whom OLC provides legal advice about the appropriate path forward with respect to other memos."

Jameel Jaffer, an ACLU lawyer who is overseeing the litigation, said he still remains hopeful that the Justice Department will release the memos later this month. He added, "This is arguably the most important test thus far of the Obama administration's commitment to transparency." [ Hermit : Watch this space ]
« Last Edit: 2009-04-04 15:57:31 by Hermit » Report to moderator   Logged

With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion. - Steven Weinberg, 1999
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