An ex-CIA officer John Kiriakou has been indicted under the Espionage Act for disclosing classified information to journalists. [more inside]
George Bush cancels a trip to Switzerland citing “threat of demonstrations” . However two victims of torture in U.S. detention have prepared a criminal complaint against Bush backed by a coalition of international human rights groups, two former United Nations rapporteurs, and two Nobel Peace Prize laureates. His legacy continues with the death in Guantanamo of Abdul Gul held without trial for 9 years. The official cause of Mr Gul's death is "Heart attack during exercise". The Obama administration has decided to continue to imprison without trial nearly 50 detainees at Guantanamo.
Demanding that you alone be held accountable and no one else be scapegoated would itself be an act of honor. It would draw a line between the past and the future in the same way that Lincoln’s defense of his brief suspensions of habeas corpus conceded Congress’s sole right to remove this core constitutional provision, but defended his action as a necessary emergency measure because a mass rebellion “had subverted the whole of the laws.” You do not deserve to go down in history as the president who brought torture into the American system and refused to take responsibility for it..An Open Letter to George W Bush
Big Newsfilter: US Attorney General Holder appoints a prosecutor to investigate abusive CIA interrogations in the War on Terror. [more inside]
Newsweek has "four knowledgable sources" who claim attorney general Eric Holder is considering appointing a special prosecutor to investigate Bush administration interrogation practices. (h/t Glenn Greenwald).
"An internal Justice Department inquiry into the conduct of Bush administration lawyers who wrote secret memorandums authorizing brutal interrogations has concluded that the authors committed serious lapses of judgment but should not be criminally prosecuted... The report by the Office of Professional Responsibility, an internal ethics unit within the Justice Department, is also likely to ask that state bar associations consider possible disciplinary action, including reprimands or even disbarment, for some of the lawyers involved in writing the legal opinions..." Meanwhile, "former Bush administration officials are launching a behind-the-scenes lobbying campaign to urge Justice Department leaders to soften" the report.
Recently, Fmr. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was asked some pointed torture questions by two Stanford students after an informal reception in a dorm building (transcript). Did she unwittingly confess to a role in a criminal conspiracy? Signs point to yes. [more inside]
Bringing Justice to the War on Terrorism. 3 views on how the incoming administration should deal with the legal legacy of Bush Administration policies like torture, surveillance, and extraordinary rendition. Charles Fried makes the case against criminal prosecutions, Dahlia Lithwick makes the case for investigations followed by prosecutions, and Jack Balkin argues for truth commissions. [Via]
What killed Sgt. Gray? "He survived the war only to die at home. An exploration of his death and his combat unit's activities reveals what can happen to soldiers who feel the freedom -- or the pressure -- to do things in war they can't live with later." -- An American Radioworks documentary.
Presidential Crimes: Moving on is not an option. "In deciding about legal redress, we need to be clear about the large stakes in our decision. The very multiplicity of the apparent crimes, the sheer array of arguably broken laws, is dizzying. But that multiplicity must be faced, for in it we will see that what got in President Bush’s way was not any one law but the rule of law itself. It is the rule of law that has been put in jeopardy by a project of executive domination; it is the rule of law that will continue to be in peril; and it is only, therefore, by addressing the crimes through legal instruments—through a formal, legal arena, and not simply through the electoral repudiation of bad policy—that the grave and widespread damage stands a chance of being repaired."
“You could almost see their dicks getting hard as they got new ideas." A Vanity Fair reporter investigates the chain of command that tossed out the Geneva Conventions and instituted coercive interrogation techniques -- some might call them torture or even war crimes -- in Bush's Global War on Terror. UC Berkeley law professor John Yoo's now-obsolete 81-page memo to the Pentagon in 2003 [available as PDFs here and here] was crucial, offering a broad range of legal justifications and deniability for disregarding international law in the name of "self-defense." Others say that Yoo was just making "a clear point about the limits of Congress to intrude on the executive branch in its exercise of duties as Commander in Chief." [previously here and here.]
Al Odah v. U.S. and Boumediene v. Bush go before SCOTUS Streaming on C-Span today. The Center for Constitutional Rights (great podcast) will argue before the Supreme Court today:
Immediately after the Supreme Court’s decision in Rasul, The Center for Constitutional Rights and cooperating counsel filed 11 new habeas petitions in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia on behalf of over 70 detainees. These cases eventually became the consolidated cases of Al Odah v. United Statesand Boumediene v. Bush, the leading cases determining the significance of the Supreme Court’s decision in Rasul, the rights of non-citizens to challenge the legality of their detention in an offshore U.S. military base, and the constitutionality of the Military Commissions Act of 2006.
Secret U. S. Endorsement of Severe Interrogations. The New York Times has a 4000-word report today on secret Justice Department opinions--never previously disclosed--authorizing severe interrogation methods. Congress has outlawed cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment; in response, Justice declared that the CIA's most extreme interrogation methods are not cruel, inhuman, and degrading. These secret opinions, issued in 2005, are still in effect. Most lawmakers did not know they existed. White House response: "This country does not torture."
"I failed to disobey a meritless order, I failed to protect a prisoner in my custody, and I failed to uphold the standards of human decency. Instead, I intimidated, degraded and humiliated a man who could not defend himself. I compromised my values. I will never forgive myself."
This Is What Waterboarding Looks Like -- David Corn, co-author with Michael Isikoff of HUBRIS: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal and the Selling of the Iraq War, writes about what waterboarding is and what the torturer's tools look like. Back in the day, the Khmer Rouge, among other repressive regimes, used it. Interestingly, waterboarding typically isn't employed to gain useful information. No, this near-drowning technique is most useful for eliciting "confessions". Good times, good times. ( via reddit via Diggdot.us)
Gonzalez seeks "protection" from War Crimes Act of 1996 Ten years ago, the Republican Congress passed the War Crimes Act, which makes violations of the Geneva Convention by Americans criminal acts. Now, the Attorney General is urging the current Republican Congress to "shield" those who participate in the War On Terror from the Act.
The Pentagon has decided to omit from new detainee policies a key tenet of the Geneva Conventions that explicitly bans "humiliating and degrading treatment," according to knowledgeable military officials, a step that would mark a further shift away from strict adherence to international human rights standards.
Adieu, Abu Ghraib -- we hardly knew ye (classified, ya know.) In the wake of a damning Amnesty International report, military spokesperson Keir-Kevin Curry says the infamous Baghdad prison will be closed within three months, its occupants transferred to other facilities in Iraq, including Camp Cropper (and don't ask what's happening there , or the terrorists win.) Or is Curry's statement premature? And would the closing of Abu Ghraib represent a change of policy, or merely rebranding the same old same old to avoid bad associations?
Conyers Flies Paper Airplane into Whitehouse. Rep. John Conyers has submitted motions to censure Bush and Cheney, and to establish a select committee to investigate their offenses. He outlines the evidence in The Constitution in Crisis: The Downing Street Minutes and Deception, Manipulation, Torture, Retribution, and Coverups in the Iraq War. (3.8MB pdf)
The feeding pipe was thick, thicker than my nostril, and would not go in. Blood came gushing out of my nose and tears down my cheeks, but they kept pushing until the cartilages cracked. I guess I would have screamed if I could, but I could not with the pipe in my throat. . . . . When torture is condoned, these rare talented people leave the service, having been outstripped by less gifted colleagues with their quick-fix methods, and the service itself degenerates into a playground for sadists. Thus, in its heyday, Joseph Stalin's notorious NKVD (the Soviet secret police) became nothing more than an army of butchers terrorizing the whole country but incapable of solving the simplest of crimes.Vladimir Bukovsky, "who spent nearly 12 years in Soviet prisons, labor camps and psychiatric hospitals for nonviolent human rights activities," explains how America's use of torture "will destroy your nation's important strategy to develop democracy in the Middle East."
Has the C.I.A. legally killed prisoners? Two years ago, Manadel al-Jamadi, a suspected Iraqi insurgent, walked into a Baghdad interrogation room. He was dead in 45 minutes, his head covered with a plastic bag, shackled in a crucifixion-like pose that led to his asphyxiation. U.S. authorities classified his death a homicide. His CIA interrogator has not been charged with a crime and continues to work for the agency. President Bush says "We do not torture." But if that’s true, then why is Vice President Cheney fighting to exempt CIA interrogators from a torture ban? And al-Jamadi? His case is stalled in the Alberto Gonzalez Justice Department, two years after soldiers posed for thumbs-up pictures next to his corpse.
Being Press Secretary is a difficult job. Link to a hilariously uncomfortable transcript of Scott McClellan dancing his way through a White House press briefing doing his best to clarify whether or not the American government sanctions terror.
"Mom, you're not going to like this." A mother of a U.S. soldier tells her son about the latest Iraq torture admissions, only to be told that his unit routinely beat and abused Iraqis. "...suppose you visit an Imam and you want him to call off IED attacks in his neighborhood. If you just go in and ask him politely, he'll tell you he'll try to help; but, he won't . . . But, if you go to that same guy and beat him up thoroughly, then ask him to knock off the attacks, he'll respect you and he'll try to help. . . ." The mother reports that her son was "under the impression that the conduct was in line with military policy."
Bush administration threatens veto against Geneva Convention. After hearing about the latest torture scandal in Iraq, Republican Armed Services Committee Senators John McCain, John W. Warner, and Lindsey Graham are seeking an amendment to a defense bill which would require the military to abide by the Geneva Convention... but the Bush administration is reportedly opposed to any such legislation, and have threatened to veto it. To make matters worse, many prominent Congressional Republicans are also opposed to abiding by the Geneva Convention, to the point that overturning such a veto is far from assured.
"The Bush administration intervened to argue that their claims should be dismissed" I seriously can't believe it. This is Brechtian. Something has to be missing. This can't be my government.
Outsourcing Torture The secret history of America’s “extraordinary rendition” program.
The Road To Abu Ghraib A generation from now, historians may look back to April 28, 2004, as the day the United States lost the war in Iraq... It was a direct—and predictable—consequence of a policy, hatched at the highest levels of the administration, by senior White House officials and lawyers, in the weeks and months after 9/11. Yet the administration has largely managed to escape responsibility for those decisions; a month from election day, almost no one in the press or the political class is talking about what is, without question, the worst scandal to emerge from President Bush's nearly four years in office... Given the particular conditions faced by the president and his deputies after 9/11—a war against terrorists, in which the need to extract intelligence via interrogations was intensely pressing, but the limits placed by international law on interrogation techniques were very constricting—did those leaders have better alternatives than the one they chose? The answer is that they did. And we will be living with the consequences of the choices they made for years to come.
Bush administration fights to legalize torture. Secret arrests by mysterious people in private jets, as documented by Swedish television and Seymour Hersh. It's called extraordinary rendition -- the outsourcing of torture on unconvicted -- and often innocent -- individuals. The American Bar Association is strongly against it, and the Democrats are trying to pass legislation to ban it -- apparently international treaties against torture aren't enough anymore.
The Scandal's Growing Stain Time Magazine: "Abuses by U.S. soldiers in Iraq shock the world and roil the Bush Administration. the inside story of what went wrong—and who's to blame"