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Sy Hersh, Exposer of My Lai and Abu Ghraib, Strikes Again, Exposing US Lies...

Photo by -JvL- | CC BY 2.0 Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, the journalist who exposed the My Lai massacre of Vietnamese women, children...
video

Video: Abu Ghraib 2.0? Iraqi army filmed abusing captives in Mosul

Iraqi forces, leading a vigorous battle to liberate Mosul from ISIS, has been exposed torturing and abusing their captives suspected of having terrorists links,...

Not even US president can legalize torture, Abu Ghraib inmates allowed to sue –...

A federal court has ruled in favor of four former Abu Ghraib detainees intending to sue...

Suicide Blast at Abu Ghraib Mosque; 166 Killed in Iraq

Suicide Blast at Abu Ghraib Mosque; 166 Killed in Iraq Although Fallujah is now liberated, it may be weeks or months before...

86 Dead in Iraq; ISIS Attacks a Police Station in Abu Ghraib

Demonstrations broke out in Sadr City a day after a massive bombing killed scores of residents. Some charged the government with lax security. Others, including Hakim al-Zamili,...
video

Video: Former Abu Ghraib Interrogator: Because of Trump & Cruz, Door Still “Wide Open”...

http://democracynow.org - As Republican presidential candidates promise to bring back the torture techniques used under the George W. Bush administration, ... Via Youtube
video

Video: A Torturer’s Confession: Former Abu Ghraib Interrogator Speaks Out

http://democracynow.org - Eric Fair served as an interrogator in Iraq working as a military contractor for the private security firm CACI. He was stationed...
video

Video: Ex-Abu Ghraib Interrogator: Israelis Trained U.S. to Use “Palestinian Chair” Torture Device

http://democracynow.org - As a former interrogator in Iraq working as a military contractor for the private security firm CACI, Eric Fair was stationed at...

A Torturer's Confession: Former Abu Ghraib Interrogator Speaks Out

Eric Fair served as an interrogator in Iraq working as a military contractor for the private security firm CACI. He was stationed...
video

Video: Artist Mariam Ghani, Daughter of Afghan President, Takes on U.S. Abuse from Guantanamo...

http://democracynow.org - We are on the road in Venice, Italy, the site of the Venice Biennale, the oldest and most prestigious international biennial art...

Imprisoned Journalist Details Abu Ghraib Torture and Why He’s Suing US Contractor CACI

Ten years after the first publication of photos from inside the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, we speak to Al Jazeera journalist Salah Hassan...

The Road From Abu Ghraib: A Torture Story Without a Hero or an Ending

Karen Greenberg RINF Alternative News It’s mind-boggling. Torture is still up for grabs in America. No one questions anymore whether the CIA waterboarded one individual 83...

Abu Ghraib 2.0? Horrifying images of US Marines burning Iraqis prompt military investigation

The Pentagon confirmed early Wednesday that a formal investigation has been launched after photographs began to surface purportedly showing United States troops burning the...

Abu Ghraib Torture Victims sued by ‘Torturers’

American defense contractor CACI International has sued four former detainees in Abu Ghraib prison to compensate the legal expenses it paid over their dismissed...

Abu Ghraib victims sued by US 'torturers'

American defense' contractor CACI International has sued four former detainees in Abu Ghraib prison to compensate the legal expenses it paid over their...

US contractor accused of Abu Ghraib human rights violations suing former prisoners

After a US federal judge ruled that CACI International, a US corporation, was not culpable for torture allegations at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq,...

Abu Ghraib Torture Victims Sued by Their Torturers

'Defense' contractor CACI International has taken the shocking step of suing four former Abu Ghraib detainees who are seeking redress in U.S. courts for...

Federal Judge Throws Out Abu Ghraib Torture Lawsuit: Torture by US Company Working for...

US District Court Judge Gerald Bruce Lee has thrown out the lawsuit brought by four Iraqi torture victims against CACI International, the company that...

Defense contractor awards Abu Ghraib torture victims meager $5 million settlement

A board written in Arabic reminds prisoners of their basic rights under the Geneva Conventions, outside Camp Redemption, at the Abu Ghraib jail, on the outskirts of Baghdad, 24 July 2004. (AFP Photo/Karim Sahib)

A board written in Arabic reminds prisoners of their basic rights under the Geneva Conventions, outside Camp Redemption, at the Abu Ghraib jail, on the outskirts of Baghdad, 24 July 2004. (AFP Photo/Karim Sahib)

A US contractor responsible for torturing detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq has paid 71 former detainees $5.28 million in compensation, a meager amount compared to similar cases in the US.

Between 2003 and 2007, the prisoners were subjected to mock executions, severely beaten, stripped naked, threatened with rape and forced to drink water until vomiting blood.

“Private military contractors played a serious but often under-reported role in the worst abuses at Abu Ghraib,” Baher Azmy, the legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, tells the Associated Press. “We are pleased that this settlement provides some accountability for one of those contractors and offers some measure of justice for the victims.”

The Virginia-based defense contractor Engility Holdings Inc. was heavily involved in the treatment of the Iraqi detainees and agreed to pay a total of $5.28 million in payments to 71 former inmates because of it during a deal reached last year. Only now, however, has the AP become aware of the details of the settlement.

L-3 Services Inc., a subsidiary of Engility, sent more than 6,000 private translators to Iraq and “permitted scores of its employees to participate in torturing and abusing prisoners over an extended period of time throughout Iraq,” states the lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in Greenbelt, Md. in 2008. The company “willfully failed to report L-3 employees’ repeated assaults and other criminal conduct by its employees to the United States or Iraq authorities.”

One inmate says he was subjected to a mock execution, in which contractors pointed a gun at his head and pulled the trigger for the entertainment of the staffers. Another was knocked unconscious by being repeatedly slammed against a wall. One man says he was stripped naked with his hands and legs chained together, fearing rape. Some of the inmates claim the contractors did indeed rape them, after which they were beaten and left naked for long periods of time.

In 2004, photographs were released picturing naked inmates piled on top of each other, hooded and wired for electric shocks. A military investigation that year discovered 44 incidents of detainee abuse at the prison, but did nothing to stop L-3 Services from working for the federal government.

But it wasn’t until 2008 that a lawsuit was filed against the defense contractor and until 2012 that the victims were compensated. Such compensation is rare: the US Army has been unable to document a single US government payment for prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, and other defense contractors accused of being involved have refused to make settlements. The Virginia-based company CACI International Inc., which provided interrogators to the US military during the Iraq War, is facing a separate lawsuit by four Iraqis who accused the company’s employees of subjecting them to torture. CACI is taking the case to trial, claiming the “plaintiffs bring claims seeking money damages for their detention and treatment while in the custody of the US military in the midst of a belligerent occupation in Iraq.”

Although monetary compensation in such cases is rare and Engility has been praised for its settlement, the contractor’s payments to the victims are scant in comparison to settlements made in the US. If divided equally, the settlement equates to about $74,000 per detainee. Azmy declined to tell AP how the money was distributed between the victims.

But in the US, victims of mistreatment are often awarded hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in compensation. The wrongful arrest of 55-year-old Doug Miller and his 30-year-old son in Palm Beach County, Fl., ended up in a $600,000 payment. An elderly couple in Baltimore received $500,000 for being falsely arrested for kidnapping their grandchild.

Settlements for prison abuse in the US have been even higher: an inmate who had his head slammed against a cement wall by a corrections officer in a New Jersey state prison received a $1.5 million settlement for his mistreatment. In Virginia, nine women who sued a state prison for sexual harassment were paid $10 million – more than $1 million each.

Even in cases where hundreds of prisoners are involved, the compensation numbers are higher than those paid to the Iraqi victims. The state of Michigan paid $100 million to about 500 female prisoners who said they were sexually assaulted by prison guards, which equates to about $200,000 per victim, if divided equally.

The average $74,000 compensation for each Abu Ghraib victim of rape, torture, death threats and physical harm seems almost inconsiderable in comparison, especially given the high levels of torture the Iraqi prisoners were subjected to. And many more Iraqi victims of abuses are unlikely to receive any sort of compensation at all.

“No court in the United States has allowed aliens – detained on the battlefield or in the course of postwar occupation and military operations by the US military – to seek damages for their detention,” CACI told the federal court.

Defense contractor awards Abu Ghraib torture victims meager $5 million settlement

A board written in Arabic reminds prisoners of their basic rights under the Geneva Conventions, outside Camp Redemption, at the Abu Ghraib jail, on the outskirts of Baghdad, 24 July 2004. (AFP Photo/Karim Sahib)

A board written in Arabic reminds prisoners of their basic rights under the Geneva Conventions, outside Camp Redemption, at the Abu Ghraib jail, on the outskirts of Baghdad, 24 July 2004. (AFP Photo/Karim Sahib)

A US contractor responsible for torturing detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq has paid 71 former detainees $5.28 million in compensation, a meager amount compared to similar cases in the US.

Between 2003 and 2007, the prisoners were subjected to mock executions, severely beaten, stripped naked, threatened with rape and forced to drink water until vomiting blood.

“Private military contractors played a serious but often under-reported role in the worst abuses at Abu Ghraib,” Baher Azmy, the legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, tells the Associated Press. “We are pleased that this settlement provides some accountability for one of those contractors and offers some measure of justice for the victims.”

The Virginia-based defense contractor Engility Holdings Inc. was heavily involved in the treatment of the Iraqi detainees and agreed to pay a total of $5.28 million in payments to 71 former inmates because of it during a deal reached last year. Only now, however, has the AP become aware of the details of the settlement.

L-3 Services Inc., a subsidiary of Engility, sent more than 6,000 private translators to Iraq and “permitted scores of its employees to participate in torturing and abusing prisoners over an extended period of time throughout Iraq,” states the lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in Greenbelt, Md. in 2008. The company “willfully failed to report L-3 employees’ repeated assaults and other criminal conduct by its employees to the United States or Iraq authorities.”

One inmate says he was subjected to a mock execution, in which contractors pointed a gun at his head and pulled the trigger for the entertainment of the staffers. Another was knocked unconscious by being repeatedly slammed against a wall. One man says he was stripped naked with his hands and legs chained together, fearing rape. Some of the inmates claim the contractors did indeed rape them, after which they were beaten and left naked for long periods of time.

In 2004, photographs were released picturing naked inmates piled on top of each other, hooded and wired for electric shocks. A military investigation that year discovered 44 incidents of detainee abuse at the prison, but did nothing to stop L-3 Services from working for the federal government.

But it wasn’t until 2008 that a lawsuit was filed against the defense contractor and until 2012 that the victims were compensated. Such compensation is rare: the US Army has been unable to document a single US government payment for prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, and other defense contractors accused of being involved have refused to make settlements. The Virginia-based company CACI International Inc., which provided interrogators to the US military during the Iraq War, is facing a separate lawsuit by four Iraqis who accused the company’s employees of subjecting them to torture. CACI is taking the case to trial, claiming the “plaintiffs bring claims seeking money damages for their detention and treatment while in the custody of the US military in the midst of a belligerent occupation in Iraq.”

Although monetary compensation in such cases is rare and Engility has been praised for its settlement, the contractor’s payments to the victims are scant in comparison to settlements made in the US. If divided equally, the settlement equates to about $74,000 per detainee. Azmy declined to tell AP how the money was distributed between the victims.

But in the US, victims of mistreatment are often awarded hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in compensation. The wrongful arrest of 55-year-old Doug Miller and his 30-year-old son in Palm Beach County, Fl., ended up in a $600,000 payment. An elderly couple in Baltimore received $500,000 for being falsely arrested for kidnapping their grandchild.

Settlements for prison abuse in the US have been even higher: an inmate who had his head slammed against a cement wall by a corrections officer in a New Jersey state prison received a $1.5 million settlement for his mistreatment. In Virginia, nine women who sued a state prison for sexual harassment were paid $10 million – more than $1 million each.

Even in cases where hundreds of prisoners are involved, the compensation numbers are higher than those paid to the Iraqi victims. The state of Michigan paid $100 million to about 500 female prisoners who said they were sexually assaulted by prison guards, which equates to about $200,000 per victim, if divided equally.

The average $74,000 compensation for each Abu Ghraib victim of rape, torture, death threats and physical harm seems almost inconsiderable in comparison, especially given the high levels of torture the Iraqi prisoners were subjected to. And many more Iraqi victims of abuses are unlikely to receive any sort of compensation at all.

“No court in the United States has allowed aliens – detained on the battlefield or in the course of postwar occupation and military operations by the US military – to seek damages for their detention,” CACI told the federal court.

Ex-Abu Ghraib prisoners sue US contractors, claim torture

Yahoo | Four Iraqis announced Monday in Istanbul they are suing two US firms and their employees for allegedly torturing them at the notorious...

Iraqi alleges Abu Ghraib torture, sues US contractors

AP | An Iraqi man sued two U.S. military contractors, claiming he was repeatedly tortured while being held at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison...

Abu Ghraib Film Obscures Truth

By Sam Provance | Former Army Sgt. Sam Provance was the only uniformed military intelligence officer at Abu Ghraib who broke the code of...

Interrogating Abu Ghraib

Tony Diaz, a former military-police sergeant who served at Abu Ghraib, stares into Errol Morris' camera and speaks in baffled tones about being called...

Abu Zubaydah: Torture’s ‘Poster Child’

Exclusive: The ugly legacy of George W. Bush’s torture program continues to haunt U.S. foreign policy as the “poster child”...

Pentagon Releases 200 Photos of Bush-Era Prisoner Abuse, Thousands Kept Secret

'What the photos that the government has suppressed would show is that abuse was so widespread that it could only have resulted from policy...

White House Losing Ground in Bid to Keep Guantanamo Bay Abuse Secret

Federal judge rejects Obama administration request for secret trial and demands partial public release of videos showing force-feeding abuse of Guantanamo captive Sarah Lazare Federal Judge...

Torture at Guantanamo: Lt. Col. Stuart Couch on His Refusal to Prosecute Abused Prisoner

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Today we spend the hour taking an inside look at the Guantánamo military prison, where 166 men remain locked up. Many have been held for over a decade without charge. Our first guest today was one of the first military officers assigned to prosecute prisoners at Guantánamo. Stuart Couch joined the Marines in 1987, enrolled in law school, became a military prosecutor, and rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel. He eventually left active duty but returned after the September 11th attacks. A friend of his, Michael Horrocks, died on September 11th. Horrocks was the co-pilot of United Airlines Flight 175, the second plane to hit the World Trade Center.

AMY GOODMAN: Two months after the attacks, President Bush issued an order creating military commissions to try prisoners captured abroad. Lieutenant Colonel Couch's first assignment was the prosecution of a man named Mohamedou Ould Slahi. At one point, Slahi was described as "the highest value detainee" at Guantánamo Bay. The case would change Couch's life and put him at the center of a national debate around torture, interrogations and ethics.

Couch's story is featured in the new book, Terror Courts: Rough Justice at Guantanamo Bay. It's by Wall Street Journal reporter Jess Bravin. Later in the show, we'll be joined by Jess, but first we turn to Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Couch, who's joining us from Charlotte, North Carolina, where he now works as an immigration judge.

Lieutenant Colonel, welcome to Democracy Now! Talk about the first day you went to Guantánamo and what you found.

LT. COL. STUART COUCH: Well, Amy, it was in October of 2003, shortly after I had joined the Office of Military Commissions. And on that particular day, I was waiting to watch the interrogation of one of the detainees who had been assigned to me to prosecute his case. This was a detainee that was particularly cooperative and involved in some very serious activities in the Gulf region. As I was waiting in a room next to his interrogation room, I heard some loud heavy metal rock music playing down the—down the hallway. I went down to investigate. I thought it was a couple of guards that were off duty and didn't realize that we were getting ready to conduct the interview. So I walked down the hallway, and as I reached the room where the source of the music was coming out, the door was cracked. And I looked into the room, and I could—all I could see was a strobe light flashing. The rest of the lights in the room were out, but from the flashes of the strobe light, I could see a detainee in orange sitting on the—seated on the floor and shackled, hand to feet, and rocking back and forth.

There were two civilians who asked me, you know, what was I doing. And I said, "I'm Lieutenant Colonel Couch. You need to turn that down. What's going on here?" And they just basically told me to move along, and shut the door in my face. There was a judge advocate reservist with me, and I said, "Did you see that?" And his immediate response: "Well, yes. That's approved." And so, that was my first inclination that there was—of evidence of coerced interrogations going on at Guantánamo.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, what did you do at that point?

LT. COL. STUART COUCH: Well, I started mulling that over. For me, it was—it was a degree of a flashback. Before I had become a lawyer, I was a naval aviator in the Marine Corps, a C-130 pilot. And part of that training as an aviator, we were sent to a school called SERE school—Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape. It's a school conducted by various Department of Defense entities to help train aviators for how to conduct themselves if they're ever taken into captivity by the enemy. Basically, it's—the course is based upon lessons learned of the treatment of aviators in the war in Vietnam and also the treatment of our own POWs that suffered in Korea. And so, what I saw occurring on that day in October of 2003 was right out of the SERE school playbook. It was precisely the same treatment that I had received there.

And so, having had that experience, my immediate concern was, if this is how the evidence is being collected in some of our cases, it's going to be inadmissible, because it's going to be at least coercive and at worst torture that precipitates that information. And so, there—at that time, I was still becoming acquainted with the military commissions process that had been set up. The rules and standards of admissibility of evidence were significantly different than I was accustomed to, both in civilian prosecutions as well as military courts-martial. And so, in my view, this incident sort of crystallized for me very quickly that there were going to be some problems with some of the evidence that we were to use.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Now, this, of course, was in 2003, before the Abu Ghraib photos were revealed to the world and where—before there was real discussion of possible mistreatment or torture of prisoners in U.S. custody. Could you talk about the—when you then began to get the case of Mohamedou Ould Slahi and what you found as you began to deal with that particular case?

LT. COL. STUART COUCH: Well, by the—not long after I joined the office in August of 2003, the Slahi case was presented to me. And at that time, to our knowledge, he was one of the very few detainees held at Guantánamo Bay that had a 9/11 connection. As I was studying over the different statements that he had made, the intelligence reports that had come out of his interrogations, I could see a trend where he was uncooperative for a long period of time, but then, beginning in the later part of the summer of 2003, I saw where he began to give up significant information. And so, again, as a prosecutor, my view was past conduct and what evidence I had of past conduct and what was going to be his connection to 9/11, if any.

The vast majority—virtually all of the evidence I had against Slahi at that point were his own statements, as well as statements of another detainee. And so, to determine the veracity of that information, I had to find out, OK, why is he saying the things he's saying about his own conduct? And I actually plotted it out over a chart on a timeline, and I could see a definite point where he went from giving no information to giving a lot of information. And so, that was—after I saw what I saw in October of 2003, my concern was, if this—if these were the kinds of interrogation techniques that were being applied to Slahi to get his cooperation, then we might very well have a significant problem with the body of evidence that we were able to present as to his guilt.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Could you go into the details of some of his interrogations and what they reported?

LT. COL. STUART COUCH: Well, at that time—at that time, I was not privy to what techniques were applied in his interrogations. All I had was the intelligence reports that came out that stated what he—what admissions he made. And I do want to make sure I'm clear on this, that none of the information that I'm going to talk about today is classified at this point; it's all been subject to a congressional inquiry and is a matter of congressional record.

I requested information to tell me, OK, give me the circumstances of the interrogations and interviews where Slahi was giving his information, again, in preparation for the day down the road that I would have to present this evidence in court, with the concern of basically credibility of the information. That information was not provided to me. I had a criminal investigator that was working on this case, and as we began to discuss these matters, he had the same concerns that we might have a problem with the evidence. And I would note he's—he was also a former marine, as well, so we had a lot of commonality on how we viewed the world. This criminal investigator had unofficial sources of information on the intelligence side. There was kind of this dividing line between the law enforcement efforts at Guantánamo and the intelligence efforts at Guantánamo. My investigator had sources of information on the intelligence side, and he was able to start receiving documents and information that painted, for lack of a better term, the rest of the story—in other words, why—you know, what was the nature of these interrogations. And that information was coming out piecemeal.

And so, over the subsequent eight or nine months, it became clear that this information—that what had been done to Slahi amounted to torture. Specifically, he had been subjected to a mock execution. He had sensory deprivation. He had environmental manipulation; that is, you know, cell is too cold, or the cell is too hot. He, at one point, was taken off of the island and driven around in a boat to make him believe that he was being transferred to a foreign country for interrogation. He was presented with a ruse that the United States had taken custody of his mother and his brother and that they were being brought to Guantánamo. It was on a letter with fake letterhead from the State Department, I believe it was. And in the letter, there was a discussion that his mother would be the only female detainee held at Guantánamo and concerns for her safety.

So, any one of these individual things, I don't believe, as a legal matter, rose to the level of torture, until I got evidence of an email between one of the officers responsible for the—for the guards that were guarding Slahi and a military psychologist. And there was this discussion over this email about the fact that Slahi was experiencing hallucinations. And then—and the psychologist, as she was giving her opinion as to this concern raised, it was clear to me that she was aware that the circumstances of Slahi's detention had been set up to such a point where he would experience these types of mental breakdown.

And at that point, I had done some research. We had another lawyer in the office, another prosecutor, who was very experienced in international law, and I had discussed the issue with him. And under the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment—it's a treaty that was ratified by the United States in 1996—under that treaty, there is a definition of torture. And under that definition of torture, it includes mental suffering. And so, as I put it all together, what I saw was the fact that Slahi ultimately began to give information after all of these different interrogation techniques had been applied to him. I came to the conclusion we had knowingly set him up for mental suffering in order for him to provide information—

AMY GOODMAN: He was also sexually humiliated.

LT. COL. STUART COUCH: —and that that met the definition under the U.N. Torture Convention.

AMY GOODMAN: Is that right? He was also sexually humiliated.

LT. COL. STUART COUCH: He was. The evidence I saw was—apparently, he had a—he had an issue about the fact that he had been unable to impregnate his wife. And the interrogators at some point learned that and then began to capitalize on that with various issues related to sexuality. There was like a room set up with photographs of male and female genitalia on the walls, a baby crib, just some kind of, you know, just bizarre types of efforts related to his sexual hang-up, if you will.

AMY GOODMAN: We're going to break and then come back to this discussion, and we'll be joined, as well as Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Couch, retired U.S. Marine Corps prosecutor, by the author of the book called Terror Courts, Jess Bravin of The Wall Street Journal. This is Democracy Now! Back in a minute.

[break]

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Lieutenant Colonel Couch, if you could, talk to us about your decision to tell your superiors that you did not feel you could prosecute this case because of the issues of possible torture.

LT. COL. STUART COUCH: Well, Juan, it was—again, it was sort of an incremental thing. I was receiving this information from a criminal investigator that he was gleaning through these unofficial sources. And after studying the U.N. Torture Convention, I found that there was a provision under Article 15 of the U.N. Torture Convention that said any evidence derived as a result of torture was inadmissible in any proceeding. And so, you know, I was trying to figure out, OK, what is "any proceeding"? And as I could tell from the source material behind the U.N. Torture Convention, I came to the legal conclusion that that included a military commission, as we were conducting them at that time under the president's military order of November of 2001.

I then turned to the ethical concern about what information did I need to be able to turn over to a defense counsel for Slahi in the future. And I would note, at that time, Slahi did not have a defense counsel, because we had not gone through the formal process of bringing a charge against him. So, I reviewed the pertinent ethical obligations. Under the discovery provisions of the president's military order at that time, it was evidence of his guilt known to the prosecution. And another provision was that the detainees would have a full and fair trial. And so, it was a very broad, broad construct, if you will, for discovery. As I looked at the ethical obligations that we have in the United States under the ABA Model Rules, and specifically under the rules of professional conduct of my bar, the state of North Carolina, I concluded that if I was in possession of information that, if given to his defense counsel, would allow his defense counsel to utilize those protections under Article 15 of the U.N. Torture Convention, I had that obligation to turn over to that defense counsel what I knew. And that was, again, prospective.

I was wrestling with these—with this legal issue and with this ethical issue. And then, ultimately, you know, one Sunday when I was in church, it all kind of came together. I describe myself as an evangelical Christian. I was attending a church service in the Anglican tradition, and it was a baptism of a child. And anybody who's ever been to one of these services knows that at the end of the baptism all of the congregants in the church stand up, and the pastor goes back and forth with basically the tenets of the Christian faith. And one of those tenets was that we would respect the dignity of every human being. And it was at that time, when I was professing that on Sunday, begged the question to me, if this is what you believe as a Christian, then how does that inform how you're going to act the other six days of the week? And that really, for me, was the moral point that I came to of what I had to do next.

And what I did next was I went and met with the chief prosecutor for the Office of Military Commissions. I told him my legal opinion. I told him my ethical opinion. And then I stated in—you know, I have a moral reservation at this point that what's been done to Slahi is just reprehensible, and for that reason alone, I'm going to refuse to participate in the prosecution of his case. Shortly, within a couple of days, I reduced that—those positions into writing. I provided them to the chief prosecutor. And then, after a few days, I was told to transfer that case to someone else and for me to get busy on my other cases.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, in that memorandum, you not only raised the question, you said that, quote, "If these techniques are deemed to be 'torture' under the [Geneva] Convention, then they would also constitute criminal violations of the War Crimes Act." And you went on to say, "As a practical matter, I am morally opposed to the interrogation techniques employed with this detainee and for that reason alone, refuse to participate in his prosecution in any manner." Now that must have been a bomb for you to put that into a memorandum to your supervisors in resigning from the case. What was the reaction?

LT. COL. STUART COUCH: Well, he wasn't happy about it. And—

AMY GOODMAN: And his name was?

LT. COL. STUART COUCH: —in our—that was Colonel Bob Swann. He was not happy about it. I felt like putting it into a memorandum was what I had to do to allow him to make an informed decision about the reservations that I had. My hope was that that memorandum would be shared with higher authorities over in the Department of Defense; you know, even if he didn't agree with my legal reasoning or my ethics opinion or my moral reservations, for that matter, at least to present to someone, "Hey, this is a potential issue that could be raised, and we need to be able to address that." And to my knowledge, that memorandum was never shared outside of the office.

AMY GOODMAN: So the defense never saw it, either.

LT. COL. STUART COUCH: Well, at this point, Slahi has never been charged in a military commission. He does have of counsel who represents him for a habeas corpus petition that he has brought in federal court, but where that memorandum went after that point, I don't know.

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Mission Unaccomplished: Why the Invasion of Iraq Was the Single Worst Foreign Policy Decision...

I was there. And “there” was nowhere. And nowhere was the place to be if you wanted to see the signs of end times for the American Empire up close. It was the place to be if you wanted to see the madness -- and oh yes, it was madness -- not filtered through a complacent and sleepy media that made Washington’s war policy seem, if not sensible, at least sane and serious enough. I stood at Ground Zero of what was intended to be the new centerpiece for a Pax Americana in the Greater Middle East.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the invasion of Iraq turned out to be a joke. Not for the Iraqis, of course, and not for American soldiers, and not the ha-ha sort of joke either. And here’s the saddest truth of all: on March 20th as we mark the 10th anniversary of the invasion from hell, we still don’t get it. In case you want to jump to the punch line, though, it’s this: by invading Iraq, the U.S. did more to destabilize the Middle East than we could possibly have imagined at the time. And we -- and so many others -- will pay the price for it for a long, long time.

The Madness of King George

It’s easy to forget just how normal the madness looked back then. By 2009, when I arrived in Iraq, we were already at the last-gasp moment when it came to salvaging something from what may yet be seen as the single worst foreign policy decision in American history. It was then that, as a State Department officer assigned to lead two provincial reconstruction teams in eastern Iraq, I first walked into the chicken processing plant in the middle of nowhere.

"By invading Iraq, the U.S. did more to destabilize the Middle East than we could possibly have imagined at the time. And we -- and so many others -- will pay the price for it for a long, long time."

By then, the U.S. “reconstruction” plan for that country was drowning in rivers of money foolishly spent. As the centerpiece for those American efforts -- at least after Plan A, that our invading troops would be greeted with flowers and sweets as liberators, crashed and burned -- we had managed to reconstruct nothing of significance. First conceived as a Marshall Plan for the New American Century, six long years later it had devolved into farce.

In my act of the play, the U.S. spent some $2.2 million dollars to build a huge facility in the boondocks. Ignoring the stark reality that Iraqis had raised and sold chickens locally for some 2,000 years, the U.S. decided to finance the construction of a central processing facility, have the Iraqis running the plant purchase local chickens, pluck them and slice them up with complex machinery brought in from Chicago, package the breasts and wings in plastic wrap, and then truck it all to local grocery stores. Perhaps it was the desert heat, but this made sense at the time, and the plan was supported by the Army, the State Department, and the White House.

Elegant in conception, at least to us, it failed to account for a few simple things, like a lack of regular electricity, or logistics systems to bring the chickens to and from the plant, or working capital, or... um... grocery stores. As a result, the gleaming $2.2 million plant processed no chickens. To use a few of the catchwords of that moment, it transformed nothing, empowered no one, stabilized and economically uplifted not a single Iraqi. It just sat there empty, dark, and unused in the middle of the desert. Like the chickens, we were plucked.

In keeping with the madness of the times, however, the simple fact that the plant failed to meet any of its real-world goals did not mean the project wasn't a success. In fact, the factory was a hit with the U.S. media. After all, for every propaganda-driven visit to the plant, my group stocked the place with hastily purchased chickens, geared up the machinery, and put on a dog-and-pony, er, chicken-and-rooster, show.

In the dark humor of that moment, we christened the place the Potemkin Chicken Factory. In between media and VIP visits, it sat in the dark, only to rise with the rooster’s cry each morning some camera crew came out for a visit. Our factory was thus considered a great success. Robert Ford, then at the Baghdad Embassy and now America's rugged shadow ambassador to Syria, said his visit was the best day out he enjoyed in Iraq. General Ray Odierno, then commanding all U.S. forces in Iraq, sent bloggers and camp followers to view the victory project. Some of the propaganda, which proclaimed that “teaching Iraqis methods to flourish on their own gives them the ability to provide their own stability without needing to rely on Americans,” is still online (including this charming image of American-Iraqi mentorship, a particular favorite of mine).

We weren’t stupid, mind you. In fact, we all felt smart and clever enough to learn to look the other way. The chicken plant was a funny story at first, a kind of insider’s joke you all think you know the punch line to. Hey, we wasted some money, but $2.2 million was a small amount in a war whose costs will someday be toted up in the trillions. Really, at the end of the day, what was the harm?

The harm was this: we wanted to leave Iraq (and Afghanistan) stable to advance American goals. We did so by spending our time and money on obviously pointless things, while most Iraqis lacked access to clean water, regular electricity, and medical or hospital care. Another State Department official in Iraq wrote in his weekly summary to me, “At our project ribbon-cuttings we are typically greeted now with a cursory ‘thank you,’ followed by a long list of crushing needs for essential services such as water and power.” How could we help stabilize Iraq when we acted like buffoons? As one Iraqi told me, “It is like I am standing naked in a room with a big hat on my head. Everyone comes in and helps put flowers and ribbons on my hat, but no one seems to notice that I am naked.”

By 2009, of course, it should all have been so obvious. We were no longer inside the neocon dream of unrivaled global superpowerdom, just mired in what happened to it. We were a chicken factory in the desert that no one wanted.

Time Travel to 2003

Anniversaries are times for reflection, in part because it’s often only with hindsight that we recognize the most significant moments in our lives. On the other hand, on anniversaries it’s often hard to remember what it was really like back when it all began. Amid the chaos of the Middle East today, it’s easy, for instance, to forget what things looked like as 2003 began. Afghanistan, it appeared, had been invaded and occupied quickly and cleanly, in a way the Soviets (the British, the ancient Greeks…) could never have dreamed of. Iran was frightened, seeing the mighty American military on its eastern border and soon to be on the western one as well, and was ready to deal. Syria was controlled by the stable thuggery of Bashar al-Assad and relations were so good that the U.S. was rendering terror suspects to his secret prisons for torture.

For decades to come, the U.S. will have a big enough military to ensure that our decline is slow, bloody, ugly, and reluctant, if inevitable. One day, however, even the drones will have to land.

Most of the rest of the Middle East was tucked in for a long sleep with dictators reliable enough to maintain stability. Libya was an exception, though predictions were that before too long Muammar Qaddafi would make some sort of deal. (He did.) All that was needed was a quick slash into Iraq to establish a permanent American military presence in the heart of Mesopotamia. Our future garrisons there could obviously oversee things, providing the necessary muscle to swat down any future destabilizing elements. It all made so much sense to the neocon visionaries of the early Bush years. The only thing that Washington couldn’t imagine was this: that the primary destabilizing element would be us.

Indeed, its mighty plan was disintegrating even as it was being dreamed up. In their lust for everything on no terms but their own, the Bush team missed a diplomatic opportunity with Iran that might have rendered today’s saber rattling unnecessary, even as Afghanistan fell apart and Iraq imploded. As part of the breakdown, desperate men, blindsided by history, turned up the volume on desperate measures: torture, secret gulags, rendition, drone killings, extra-constitutional actions at home. The sleaziest of deals were cut to try to salvage something, including ignoring the A.Q. Khan network of Pakistani nuclear proliferation in return for a cheesy Condi Rice-Qaddafi photo-op rapprochement in Libya.

Inside Iraq, the forces of Sunni-Shia sectarian conflict had been unleashed by the U.S. invasion. That, in turn, was creating the conditions for a proxy war between the U.S. and Iran, similar to the growing proxy war between Israel and Iran inside Lebanon (where another destabilizing event, the U.S.-sanctioned Israeli invasion of 2006, followed in hand). None of this has ever ended. Today, in fact, that proxy war has simply found a fresh host, Syria, with multiple powers using “humanitarian aid” to push and shove their Sunni and Shia avatars around.

Staggering neocon expectations, Iran emerged from the U.S. decade in Iraq economically more powerful, with sanctions-busting trade between the two neighbors now valued at some $5 billion a year and still growing. In that decade, the U.S. also managed to remove one of Iran’s strategic counterbalances, Saddam Hussein, replacing him with a government run by Nouri al-Malaki, who had once found asylum in Tehran.

Meanwhile, Turkey is now engaged in an open war with the Kurds of northern Iraq. Turkey is, of course, part of NATO, so imagine the U.S. government sitting by silently while Germany bombed Poland. To complete the circle, Iraq’s prime minister recently warned that a victory for Syria's rebels will spark sectarian wars in his own country and will create a new haven for al-Qaeda which would further destabilize the region.

Meanwhile, militarily burnt out, economically reeling from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and lacking any moral standing in the Middle East post-Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, the U.S. sat on its hands as the regional spark that came to be called the Arab Spring flickered out, to be replaced by yet more destabilization across the region. And even that hasn’t stopped Washington from pursuing the latest version of the (now-nameless) global war on terror into ever-newer regions in need of destabilization.

Having noted the ease with which a numbed American public patriotically looked the other way while our wars followed their particular paths to hell, our leaders no longer blink at the thought of sending American drones and special operations forces ever farther afield, most notably ever deeper into Africa, creating from the ashes of Iraq a frontier version of the state of perpetual war George Orwell once imagined for his dystopian novel 1984. And don’t doubt for a second that there is a direct path from the invasion of 2003 and that chicken plant to the dangerous and chaotic place that today passes for our American world.

Happy Anniversary

On this 10th anniversary of the Iraq War, Iraq itself remains, by any measure, a dangerous and unstable place. Even the usually sunny Department of State advises American travelers to Iraq that U.S. citizens “remain at risk for kidnapping... [as] numerous insurgent groups, including Al Qaida, remain active...” and notes that “State Department guidance to U.S. businesses in Iraq advises the use of Protective Security Details.”

In the bigger picture, the world is also a far more dangerous place than it was in 2003. Indeed, for the State Department, which sent me to Iraq to witness the follies of empire, the world has become ever more daunting. In 2003, at that infamous “mission accomplished” moment, only Afghanistan was on the list of overseas embassies that were considered “extreme danger posts.” Soon enough, however, Iraq and Pakistan were added. Today, Yemen and Libya, once boring but secure outposts for State’s officials, now fall into the same category.

Other places once considered safe for diplomats and their families such as Syria and Mali have been evacuated and have no American diplomatic presence at all. Even sleepy Tunisia, once calm enough that the State Department had its Arabic language school there, is now on reduced staff with no diplomatic family members resident. Egypt teeters.

The Iranian leadership watched carefully as the American imperial version of Iraq collapsed, concluded that Washington was a paper tiger, backed away from initial offers to talk over contested issues, and instead (at least for a while) doubled-down on achieving nuclear breakout capacity, aided by the past work of that same A.Q. Khan network. North Korea, another A.Q. Khan beneficiary, followed the same pivot ever farther from Washington, while it became a genuine nuclear power. Its neighbor China pursued its own path of economic dominance, while helping to “pay” for the Iraq War by becoming the number-one holder of U.S. debt among foreign governments. It now owns more than 21% of the U.S. debt held overseas.

And don’t put away the joke book just yet. Subbing as apologist-in-chief for an absent George W. Bush and the top officials of his administration on this 10th anniversary, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair recently reminded us that there is more on the horizon. Conceding that he had “long since given up trying to persuade people Iraq was the right decision,” Blair added that new crises are looming. “You’ve got one in Syria right now, you’ve got one in Iran to come,” he said. “We are in the middle of this struggle, it is going to take a generation, it is going to be very arduous and difficult. But I think we are making a mistake, a profound error, if we think we can stay out of that struggle.”

Think of his comment as a warning. Having somehow turned much of Islam into a foe, Washington has essentially assured itself of never-ending crises that it stands no chance whatsoever of winning. In this sense, Iraq was not an aberration, but the historic zenith and nadir for a way of thinking that is only now slowing waning. For decades to come, the U.S. will have a big enough military to ensure that our decline is slow, bloody, ugly, and reluctant, if inevitable. One day, however, even the drones will have to land.

And so, happy 10th anniversary, Iraq War! A decade after the invasion, a chaotic and unstable Middle East is the unfinished legacy of our invasion. I guess the joke is on us after all, though no one is laughing.

© 2013 Peter Van Buren

Peter Van Buren

Peter Van Buren spent a year in Iraq as a State Department Foreign Service Officer serving as Team Leader for two Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs). Now in Washington, he writes about Iraq and the Middle East at his blog, We Meant Well. His new book is We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People (The American Empire Project, Metropolitan Books).

The Privatization of War: Mercenaries, Private Military and Security Companies (PMSC)

The Privatization of War: Mercenaries, Private Military and Security Companies (PMSC)

Private military and security companies (PMSC) are the modern reincarnation of a long lineage of private providers of physical force: corsairs, privateers and mercenaries. Mercenaries, which had practically disappeared during the XIXth and XXth centuries, reappeared in the 1960’s during the decolonization period operating mainly in Africa and Asia. Under the United Nations a convention was adopted which outlaws and criminalizes their activities. Additional Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions also contains a definition of mercenary.

These non-state entities of the XXIst century operate in extremely blurred situations where the frontiers are difficult to separate. The new security industry of private companies moves large quantities of weapons and military equipment. It provides services for military operations recruiting former militaries as civilians to carry out passive or defensive security.

However, these individuals cannot be considered as civilians, given that they often carry and use weapons, interrogate prisoners, load bombs, drive military trucks and fulfill other essential military functions. Those who are armed can easily switch from a passive/defensive to an active/offensive role and can commit human rights violations and even destabilize governments. They cannot be considered soldiers or supporting militias under international humanitarian law either, since they are not part of the army or in the chain of command, and often belong to a large number of different nationalities.

PMSC personnel cannot usually be considered to be mercenaries for the definition of mercenaries as stipulated in the international conventions dealing with this issue does not generally apply to the personnel of PMSCs which are legally operating in foreign countries under contracts of legally registered companies.

Private military and security companies operate in a legal vacuum: they pose a threat to civilians and to international human rights law. The UN Human Rights Council has entrusted the UN Working Group on the use of mercenaries, principally, with the mandate: “To monitor and study the effects of the activities of private companies offering military assistance, consultancy and security services on the international market on the enjoyment of human Rights (…) and to prepare draft international basic principles that encourage respect for human rights on the part of those companies in their activities”.

During the past five years, the Working Group has been studying emerging issues, manifestations and trends regarding private military and security companies.  In our reports we have informed the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly about these issues. Of particular importance are the reports of the Working Group to the last session of the Human Rights Council, held in September 2010, on the Mission to the United States of America  (20 July to 3 August 2009), Document A/HRC/15/25/Add.3; on the Mission to Afghanistan (4-9 April 2009), Document A/HRC/15/25/Add.2, and the general report of the Working Group containing the Draft of a possible Convention on Private Military and Security Companies (PMSCs) for consideration and action by the Human Rights Council, Document A/HRC/15/25.

In the course of our research, since 2006, we have collected ample information which indicate the negative impact of the activities of “private contractors”, “private soldiers” or “guns for hire”, whatever denomination we may choose to name the individuals employed by private military and security companies as civilians but in general heavily armed. In the cluster of human rights violations allegedly perpetrated by employees of these companies, which the Working Group has examined one can find: summary executions, acts of torture, cases of arbitrary detention; of trafficking of persons; serious health damages caused by their activities; as well as attempts against the right of self-determination. It also appears that PMSCs, in their search for profit, neglect security and do not provide their employees with their basic rights, and often put their staff in situations of danger and vulnerability.

Summary executions

On 16 September 2007 in Baghdad, employees of the US-based firm Blackwater[1] were involved in a shooting incident in Nisoor Square in which 17 civilians were killed and more than 20 other persons were wounded including women and children. Local eyewitness accounts indicate the use of arms from vehicles and rocket fire from a helicopter belonging to this company.

There are also concerns over the activities and approach of PMSC personnel, their convoys of armored vehicles and their conduct in traffic, in particular their use of lethal force. This particular incident was not the first of its kind, neither the first involving Blackwater.

According to a congressional report on the behaviour of Xe/Blackwater in Iraq, Xe/Blackwater guards were found to have been involved in nearly 200 escalation-of-force incidents that involved the firing of shots since 2005. Despite the terms of the contracts which provided that the company could engage only in defensive use of force, the company reported that in over 80 per cent of the shooting incidents, its forces fired the first shots.

In Najaf in April 2004 and on several other occasions, employees of this company took part in direct hostilities, as well as in May 2007, where another incident involving the same company reportedly occurred involving guards belonging to the company and forces belonging to the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior allegedly exchanged gunfire in a sector of Baghdad.

Also in central Baghdad the shooting of employees of the PMSC, Unity Resources Group (URG)[2], protecting a convoy, left two Armenian women, Genevia Antranick and Mary Awanis dead on 9 October 2007 when their car came too close to a protected convoy. The family of Genevia Antranick was offered no compensation and has begun court proceedings against URG in the United States.

This company was also involved in the shooting of 72-year-old Australian Kays Juma. Professor Juma was shot in March 2006 as he approached an intersection being blockaded for a convoy URG was protecting. Professor Juma, a 25-year resident of Baghdad who drove through the city every day, allegedly sped up his vehicle as he approached the guards and did not heed warnings to stop, including hand signals, flares, warning shots into the body of his car and floodlights. The incident occurred at 10am[3].

Torture

Two United States-based corporations, CACI and L-3 Services (formerly Titan Corporation), were involved in the torture of Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib. CACI and L-3 Services, contracted by the Government of the United States, were responsible for interrogation and translation services, respectively, at Abu Ghraib prison and other facilities in Iraq.

Seventy two Iraqi citizens who were formerly detained at military prisons in Iraq, have sued L-3 Services, Inc. (“L-3”), a military private contractor which provided civilian translators for United States military forces in Iraq and Adel Nakhla, a former employee of L-3 who served as one of its translators there under the Alien Tort Statute. They allege having been tortured and physically and mentally abused during their detention and that they should be held liable in damages for their actions. The plaintiffs assert 20 causes of action, among which: torture; cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment; assault and battery; intentional infliction of emotional distress[4].

Arbitrary detention 

A number of reports indicate that private security guards have played central roles in some of the most sensitive activities of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) such as the arbitrary detention and clandestine raids against alleged insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan[5] and the involvement in CIA rendition flights[6] as well as joint covert operations[7]. Employees of PMSC would have been involved in the taking of detainees, from “pick up points” (such as Tuzla, Islamabad or Skopje) transporting them in rendition flights and delivering them to drop off points (such as Cairo, Rabat, Bucharest, Amman or Guantanamo) as well as in the construction, equipping and staffing of CIA’s “black sites”.

Within this context, the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit in May 2007 against Jeppesen DataPlan Inc. (a subsidiary company of Boeing) on behalf of five persons who were kidnapped by the CIA disappearing in overseas prisons kept by USA secret services. Jeppesen would have participated in the rendition by providing flight planning and logistical support. The five persons were tortured during their arbitrary detention[8].

Health

The 2009 annual report of DynCorp International refers to four lawsuits concerning the spraying of narcotic plant crops along the Colombian border adjacent to Ecuador on behalf of 3 Ecuadorian Providences and 3266 plaintiffs[9].

From 1991, the United States Department of State contracted the private company DynCorp to supply services for this air-spraying program against narcotics in the Andean region. In accordance with the subscribed contract of 30 January 1998, DynCorp provides the essential logistics to the anti-drug Office of activities of Colombia, in conformity with three main objectives: eradication of cultivations of illicit drugs, training of the army and of personnel of the country, and dismantling of illicit drug laboratories and illicit drug-trafficking networks.

An NGO report indicated the consequences of the spraying carried out within the Plan Colombia had on persons living in the frontier region[10].  One third of the 47 women in the study exposed to the spraying showed cells with some genetic damage. The study established the relationship of the air fumigations of the Plan Colombia with damages in the genetic material. The study demonstrates that when the population is subjected to fumigations “the risk of cellular damage can increase and that, once permanent, the cases of cancerous mutations and important embryonic alterations are increased that prompt among other possibilities the rise in abortions in the area.

This example is particularly important given that Plan Colombia has served as the model for the arrangements that the United States would apply later to Iraq and Afghanistan. Plan Colombia provides immunity to the employees of the PMSC contracted (DynCorp) the same as Order 14 of the Coalition Provisional Authority did in Iraq.

Self-determination

The 2004 attempted coup d’état, which was perpetrated in Equatorial Guinea is a clear example of the link between the phenomenon of mercenaries and PMSCs as a means of violating the sovereignty of States. In this particular case, the mercenaries involved were mostly former directors and personnel of Executive Outcomes, a PMSC that had become famous for its operations in Angola and Sierra Leone. The team of mercenaries also included security guards who were still employed by PMSCs as was the case of two employees of the company Meteoric Tactical Systems providing security to diplomats of Western Embassies in Baghdad-among which to the Ambassador of Switzerland. It also included a security guard who had previously worked for the PMSC “Steele Foundation” and had given protection to President Aristide of Haiti and conducted him to the plane who took him to exile[11].

Trafficking in persons

In 2005, 105 Chileans were providing/or undergoing military training in the former army base of Lepaterique in Honduras. The instruction consisted in anti‐guerrilla tactics such as possible ambushes and deactivation of explosives and mortars how to avoid them. The Chileans had entered Honduras as tourists and were illegally in Honduras. They used high‐caliber weapons such as M‐16 rifles or light machine guns. They had been contracted by a subsidiary of Triple Canopy.

They were part of a group, which included also 189 Hondurans recruited and trained in Honduras. Triple Canopy had been awarded a contract by the United States Department of State. The strong contingent left the country by air from San Pedro Sula, Honduras, in several groups with a stopover in Iceland. Then reached the Middle East and were smuggled into Iraq[12].

The majority of the Chileans and Hondurans were engaged as security guards at fixed facilities in Iraq. They had been contracted by Your Solutions Honduras SRL, a local agent of Your Solutions Incorporated, registered in Illinois, United States of America, which in turn had been subcontracted by Triple Canopy, based in Chicago, United States of America. Some of the Chileans are presently working in Baghdad providing security to the Embassy of Australia under a contract by Unity Resources Group (URG).

Human rights violations committed by PMSC to their employees

PMSC often put the contracted private guards in situations of danger and vulnerability, such as the ‘private contractors’ of Blackwater, killed in Fallujah in 2004 allegedly due to the lack of the necessary safety means that Blackwater was supposed to provide in order to carry out the mission.

It should not be forgotten that this incident changed dramatically the course of the war and the occupation by the United States in Iraq. It may be considered as the turning point in the occupation of Iraq. This led to an abortive US operation to recapture control of the city and a successful recapture operation in the city in November 2004, called Operation Phantom Fury, which resulted in the death of over 1,350 insurgent fighters. Approximately 95 America troops were killed, and 560 wounded.

The U.S. military first denied that it has use white phosphorus as an anti-personnel weapon in Fallujah, but later retracted that denial, and admitted to using the incendiary in the city as an offensive weapon. Reports following the events of November 2004 have alleged war crimes, and a massacre by U.S. personnel, including indiscriminate violence against civilians and children.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fallujah – cite_note-17 This point of view is presented in the 2005 documentary film, “Fallujah, the Hidden Massacre”. In 2010, the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, a leading medical journal, published a study, which shows that the rates of cancer, infant mortality and leukemia exceed those reported in Hiroshima and Nagasaki[13].

The over 300 000 classified military documents made public by Wikileaks show that the “Use of Contractors Added to War’s Chaos in Iraq”, as has been widely reported by the international media recently.

The United States has relied and continues to rely heavily on private military and security contractors in conducting its military operations. The United States used private security contractors to conduct narcotics intervention operations in Colombia in the 1990s and recently signed a supplemental agreement that authorizes it to deploy troops and contractors in seven Colombian military bases. During the conflict in the Balkans, the United States used a private security contractor to train Croat troops to conduct operations against Serbian troops. Nowadays, it is in the context of its operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in particular that the State is massively contracting out security functions to private firms.

In 2009, the Department of Defense employed 218,000 private contractors (all types) while there were 195,000 uniformed personnel. According to the figures, about 8 per cent of these contractors are armed security contractors, i.e. about 20,000 armed guards. If one includes other theatres of operations, the figure rises to 242,657, with 54,387 United States citizens, 94,260 third country nationals and 94,010 host-country nationals.

The State Department relies on about 2,000 private security contractors to provide United States personnel and facilities with personal protective and guard services in Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel and Pakistan, and aviation services in Iraq. The contracts for protective services were awarded in 2005 to three PMSCs, namely, Triple Canopy, DynCorp International and the U.S. Training Center, part of the Xe (then Blackwater) group of companies. These three companies still hold the State Department protective services contracts today.

Lack of transparency

The information accessible to the public on the scope and type of contracts between the Government of the United States and PMSCs is scarce and opaque. The lack of transparency is particularly significant when companies subcontract to others. Often, the contracts with PMSCs are not disclosed to the public despite extensive freedom of information rules in the United States, either because they contain confidential commercial information or on the argument that non-disclosure is in the interest of national defense or foreign policy. The situation is particularly opaque when United States intelligence agencies contract PMSCs.

Lack of accountability

Despite the fact of their involvement in grave human rights violations, not a single PMSC or employee of these companies has been sanctioned.

In the course of litigation, several recurring legal arguments have been used in the defense of PMSCs and their personnel, including the Government contractor defense, the political question doctrine and derivative immunity arguments. PMSCs are using the Government contractor defense to argue that they were operating under the exclusive control of the Government of the United States when the alleged acts were committed and therefore cannot be held liable for their actions.

It looks as if when the acts are committed by agents of the government they are considered human rights violations but when these same acts are perpetrated by PMSC it is “business as usual”.

The human rights violation perpetrated by private military and security companies are indications of the threat posed to the foundations of democracy itself by the privatization of inherently public functions such as the monopoly of the legitimate use of force. In this connection I cannot help but to refer to the final speech of President Eisenhower.

In 1961, President Eisenhower warned the American public opinion against the growing danger of a military industrial complex stating: “(…) we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defence with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together”.

Fifty years later, on 8 September 2001, Donald Rumsfeld in his speech in the Department of Defence warned the militaries of the Pentagon against “an adversary that poses a threat, a serious threat, to the security of the United States of America (…) Let’s make no mistake: The modernization of the Department of Defense is (…) a matter of life and death, ultimately, every American’s. (…) The adversary. (…) It’s the Pentagon bureaucracy. (…)That’s why we’re here today challenging us all to wage an all-out campaign to shift Pentagon’s resources from bureaucracy to the battlefield, from tail to the tooth. We know the adversary. We know the threat. And with the same firmness of purpose that any effort against a determined adversary demands, we must get at it and stay at it. Some might ask, how in the world could the Secretary of Defense attack the Pentagon in front of its people? To them I reply, I have no desire to attack the Pentagon; I want to liberate it. We need to save it from itself.”

Rumsfeld should have said the shift from the Pentagon’s resources from bureaucracy to the private sector. Indeed, that shift had been accelerated by the Bush Administration: the number of persons employed by contract which had been outsourced (privatized) by the Pentagon was already four times more than at the Department of Defense.

It is not anymore a military industrial complex but as Noam Chomsky has indicated “it’s just the industrial system operating under one or another pretext”.

The articles of the Washington Post “Top Secret America: A hidden world, growing beyond control”, by Dana Priest and William M. Arkin (19 July 2010) show the extent that “The top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work”.

The investigation’s findings include that some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States; and that an estimated 854,000 people, nearly 1.5 times as many people as live in Washington, D.C., hold top-secret security clearances. A number of private military and security companies are among the security and intelligence agencies mentioned in the report of the Washington Post.

The Working Group received information from several sources that up to 70 per cent of the budget of United States intelligence is spent on contractors. These contracts are classified and very little information is available to the public on the nature of the activities carried out by these contractors.

The privatization of war has created a structural dynamic, which responds to a commercial logic of the industry.

A short look at the careers of the current managers of BAE Systems, as well as on their address-books, confirms we are not any longer dealing with a normal corporation, but with a cartel uniting high tech weaponry (BAE Systems, United Defence Industries, Lockheed Martin), with speculative financiers (Lazard Frères, Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank), together with raw material cartels (British Petroleum, Shell Oil) with on the ground, private military and security companies[14].

The majority of the private military and security companies has been created or are managed by former militaries or ex-policemen for whom it is big business. Just to give an example MPRI (Military Professional Resources Incorporation) was created by four former generals of the United States Army when they were due for retirement[15]. The same is true for Blackwater and its affiliate companies or subsidiaries, which employ former directors of the C.I.A.[16]. Social Scientists refer to this phenomenon as the Rotating Door Syndrome.

The use of security contractors is expected to grow as American forces shrink. A July report by the Commission on Wartime Contracting, a panel established by Congress, estimated that the State Department alone would need more than double the number of contractors it had protecting the American Embassy and consulates in Iraq.

“Without contractors: (1) the military engagement would have had to be smaller–a strategically problematic alternative; (2) the United States would have had to deploy its finite number of active personnel for even longer tours of duty -a politically dicey and short-sighted option; (3) the United States would have had to consider a civilian draft or boost retention and recruitment by raising military pay significantly–two politically untenable options; or (4) the need for greater commitments from other nations would have arisen and with it, the United States would have had to make more concessions to build and sustain a truly multinational effort. Thus, the tangible differences in the type of war waged, the effect on military personnel, and the need for coalition partners are greatly magnified when the government has the option to supplement its troops with contractors”[17].

The military cannot do without them. There are more contractors over all than actual members of the military serving in the worsening war in Afghanistan.

CONCLUSIONS OF THE SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE impact of Private Security Contracting on U.S. Goals in Afghanistan[18]

Conclusion I: The proliferation of private security personnel in Afghanistan is inconsistent with the counterinsurgency strategy. In May 2010 the U.S. Central Command’s Armed Contractor Oversight Directorate reported that there were more than 26,000 private security contractor personnel operating in Afghanistan. Many of those private security personnel are associated with armed groups that operate outside government control.

Conclusion 2: Afghan warlords and strongmen operating as force providers to private security contractors have acted against U.S. and Afghan government interests. Warlords and strongmen associated with U.S.-funded security contractors have been linked to anti Coalition activities, murder, bribery, and kidnapping. The Committee’s examination of the U.S. funded security contract with ArmorGroup at Shindand Airbase in Afghanistan revealed that ArmorGroup relied on a series of warlords to provide armed men to act as security, guards at the Airbase.

Open-ended intergovernmental working group established by the HR Council

Because of their impact in the enjoyment of human rights the Working Group on mercenaries in its 2010 reports to the UN Human Rights Council and General Assembly has recommended a legally binding instrument regulating and monitoring their activities at the national and international level.

The motion to create an open ended intergovernmental working group has been the object of lengthy negotiations, in the Human Rights Council, led by South Africa in order to accommodate the concerns of the Western Group, but primarily those of the United States and the United Kingdom and of a lot a pressure exerted in the capitals of African countries supporting the draft resolution. The text of the resolution was weakened in order to pass the resolution by consensus. But even so the position of the Western States has been a “fin de non recevoir”.

The resolution was adopted by a majority of 32 in favour, 12 against and 3 abstentions. Among the supporters of this initiative are four out of the five members of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa) in addition to the African Group, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Arab Group.

The adoption of this resolution opens an interesting process in the UN Human Rights Council where civil society can participate in the elaboration of an international framework on the regulation, monitoring and oversight of the activities of private military and security companies.  The new open ended intergovernmental working group will be the forum for all stakeholders to receive inputs, not only the draft text of a possible convention and the elements elaborated by the UN Working Group on mercenaries but also of other initiatives such as the proposal submitted to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the Montreux Document and the international code of conduct being elaborated under the Swiss Initiative.

However, the negative vote of the delegations of the Western Group indicates that the interests of the new staggering security industry – its annual market revenue is estimated to be over USD one hundred billion – have been quite well defended as was the case in a number of other occasions. It also shows that Western governments will be absent from the start in a full in-depth discussion of the issues raised by the activities of PMSC.

We urge all States to support the process initiated by the Council by designating their representatives to the new open-ended intergovernmental working group, which will hold its first session in 2011, and to continue a process of discussions regarding a legally binding instrument.

The participation of the UK and USA main exporters of these activities (it is estimated at 70% the industry of security in these two countries) as well as other Western countries where the new industry is expanding is of particular importance.

The Working Group also urges the United States Government to implement the recommendations we made, in particular, to:

support the Congress Stop Outsourcing Security (SOS) Act, which clearly defines the functions which are inherently governmental and that cannot be outsourced to the private sector;

rescind immunity to contractors carrying out activities in other countries under bilateral agreements;

carry out prompt and effective investigation of human rights violations committed by PMSCs and prosecute alleged perpetrators;

ensure that the oversight of private military and security contractors is not outsourced to PMSCs;
establish a specific system of federal licensing of PMSCs for their activities abroad;

set up a vetting procedure for awarding contracts to PMSCs;

ensure that United States criminal jurisdiction applies to private military and security companies contracted by the Government to carry out activities abroad; and

respond to pending communications from the Working Group.

The United Nations Human Rights Council, under the Universal Periodic Review, initiated a review in November 2010 in Geneva, focussing on the human rights record of the United States. The above article is an edited version of the presentation given by Jose L. Gomez del Prado in Geneva on 3 November 2010 at a parallel meeting at the UN Palais des Nations on that occasion.

Notes

[1] Blackwater Worldwide abandoned its tarnished brand name in order to shake its reputation battered by its criticized work in Iraq, renaming its family of two-dozen businesses under the name Xe’, see Mike Baker, ‘Blackwater dumps tarnished brand name’, AP News Break, 13 February 2009.

[2] URG, an Australian private military and security company, uses a number of ex military Chileans to provide security to the Australian Embassy in Baghdad. Recently one of those “private guards” shot himself, ABC News, reported by La Tercera, Chile, 16 September 2010.

[3]J.Mendes & S Mitchell, “Who is Unity Resources Group?”, ABC News Australia, 16 September 2010.

[4] Case 8:08-cv-01696-PJM, Document 103, Filed 07/29/10. Defendants have filed Motions to Dismiss on a number of grounds. They argue, among others, that the suit must be dismissed in its entirety because they are immune under the laws of war, because the suit raises non-justiciable political questions, and because they possess derivative sovereign immunity. They seek dismissal of the state law claims on the basis of government contractor immunity, premised on the notion that Plaintiffs cannot proceed on state law claims, which arise out of combatant activities of the military. The United States District Court for the district of Maryland Greenbelt Division has decided to proceed with the case against L-3 Services, Inc. It has not accepted the motions to dismiss allowing the case to go forward.

[5] Mission to the United States of America, Report of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries, United Nations document, A/HRC/15/25/Add.3, paragraphs 22.

[6] James Risen and Mark Mazzetti, “Blackwater guards tied to secret C.I.A. raids ”, New York Times, 10

December 2009.

[7] Adam Ciralsky, “Tycoon, contractor, soldier, spy”, Vanity Fair, January 2010. See also Claim No. HQ08X02800 in the High Court of Justice, Queen’s Bench Division, Binyam Mohamed v. Jeppesen UK Ltd, report of James Gavin Simpson, 26 May 2009.

[8]ACLU Press Release, UN Report Underscores Lack of Accountability and Oversight for Military and Security Contractors, New York, 14 September 2010.

[9] The reports also indicates that the Revenues of DynCorp for 2006 were of USD 1 966 993 and for 2009 USD 3 101 093

[10] Mission to Ecuador, Report of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries, United Nations document, A/HRC/4/42/Add.2

[11] A number of the persons involved in the attempted coup were arrested in Zimbabwe, other in Equatorial Guinea itself the place where the coup was intended to take place to overthrow the government and put another in its place in order to get the rich resources in oil. In 2004 and 2008 the trials took place in Equatorial Guinea of those arrested in connection with this coup attempt, including of the British citizen Simon Mann and the South African Nick du Toit. The President of Equatorial Guinea pardoned all foreigners linked to this coup attempt in November 2009 by. A number of reports indicated that trials failed to comply with international human rights standards and that some of the accused had been subjected to torture and ill-treatment. The government of Equatorial Guinea has three ongoing trials in the United Kingdom, Spain and Lebanon against the persons who were behind the attempted coup.
[12] Report of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries, Mission to Honduras, United Nations document A/HRC/4/42/Add.1.
[13] Wikipedia
[14] Mercenaries without borders by Karel Vereycken,  Friday Sep 21st, 2007
[15] Among which General Carl E. Vuono, Chief of the Army during the Gulf War and the invasion of Panama; General Crosbie E. Saint, former Commander in Chief of the  USA Army in Europe and General Ron Griffith. The President of MPRI is General Bantant J. Craddock.

[16] Such as Cofer Black, former Chief of the Counter Terrorism Center; Enrique Prado, former Chief of Operations and Rof Richter, second in command of the Clandestine Services of the Company
[17] Article published in the Spring 2010 issue of the University of Chicago Law Review, titled “Privatization’s Pretensions” by Jon D. Michaels, Acting Professor of Law at the UCLA School of Law
[18] INQUIRY INTO THE ROLE AND OVERSIGHT OF PRIVATE SECURITY CONTRACTORS IN AFGHANISTAN, R E P O R T TOGETHER WITH ADDITIONAL VIEWS OF THE COMMITTEE ON ARMED SERVICES UNITED STATES SENATE, 28 September 2010

For Iraqi Women, America’s Promise of Democracy is Anything But Liberation

A decade on from the US-led invasion of Iraq, the destruction caused by foreign occupation and the subsequent regime has had a massive impact on Iraqis' daily life – the most disturbing example of which is violence against women. At the same time, the sectarian regime's policy on religious garb is forcing women to retire their hard-earned rights across the spectrum: employment, freedom of movement, civil marriage, welfare benefits, and the right to education and health services.An Iraqi woman, in 2008, walks past a British soldier and military vehicle with a poster of a dollar bill inscribed, in Arabic: 'You can get some money, in exchange for some information.' (Photograph: Essam al-Sudani/AFP/Getty Images)

Instead, they are seeking survival and protection for themselves and their families. But for many, the violence they face comes from the very institution that should guarantee their safety: the government. Iraqi regime officials often echo the same denials of the US-UK occupation authorities, saying that there are few or no women detainees. An increasing number of international and Iraqi human rights organizations report otherwise.

The plight of women detainees was the starting point for the mass protests that have spread through many Iraqi provinces since 25 December 2012. Their treatment by the security forces has been a bleeding wound – and one shrouded in secrecy, especially since 2003. Women have been routinely detained as hostages – a tactic to force their male loved ones to surrender to security forces, or confess to crimes ascribed to them. Banners and placards carried by hundreds of thousands of protesters portray images of women behind bars pleading for justice.

According to Mohamed al-Dainy, an Iraqi MP, there was 1,053 cases of documented rape (pdf) cases by the occupying troops and Iraqi forces between 2003 and 2007. Lawyers acting on behalf of former detainees say that UK detention practices between 2003 and 2008 included unlawful killings, beatings, hooding, sleep deprivation, forced nudity and sexual humiliation, sometimes involving women and children. The abuses were endemic, allege the detainees' lawyers, arising from the of the British military.

These same occupation forces trained Iraqi forces. Abuses often occurred under the supervision of US commanders, who were unwilling to intervene, as the Washington Post reported:

"Of all the bloodshed in Iraq, none may be more disturbing than the campaign of torture and murder being conducted by US-trained government police forces."

In the aftermath of Abu Ghraib, detainees were handed over to Iraqi forces. This enabled them to be tortured, while occupation troops could disclaim responsibility.

Today, Iraq can boast one of the highest execution rates in the world. In a single day, 19 January 2012, 34 individuals, including two women, were executed – an act described by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay as shocking:

"Given the lack of transparency in court proceedings, major concerns about due process and fairness of trials, and the very wide range of offences for which the death penalty can be imposed in Iraq."

No wonder, ten years after the invasion, the Iraqi authorities are accused by US-based Human Rights Watch of . HRW's account is echoed by a report by the Iraqi parliament's own human rights and women, family and children's committees, which found that there are 1,030 women detainees suffering from widespread abuse, including threats of rape.

Responding to these findings, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki threatened to "arrest those members of parliament who had discussed the violence against women detainees". Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Hussain al-Shahristani has acknowledged that there are 13,000 prisoners in custody accused of terror offences, but he only mentioned women detainees in passing:

"We transferred all women prisoners to prisons in their home provinces."

Al-Shahristani's statement is one in a long list of contradictory and misleading statements by the regime's most senior officials – from al-Maliki speaking of "not more than a handful of women terrorists", to his contradictory promise that he will pardon all "women detainees who have been arrested without a judicial order or in lieu of a crime committed by some of their male relatives". That assurance was followed by parading nine women, cloaked in black from head to toe, on the official state TV channel, al-Iraqiya, as a gesture of the regime's "good will".

Protesters and Iraqi human rights organizations estimate that there are as many as 5,000 female detainees. The truth is leaking out, drip by drip. A few weeks ago, 168 women detainees were released and there were promises of another 32 waiting to be released. No one accused of torture, rape or abuse has yet been brought to justice.

And it was all supposed to be so different. That was what Iraqi women were promised.

A political quota system, established in post-invasion Iraq, was designed to ensure that at least 25% of the members of the parliament were women. That was applauded as a great achievement of the "New Iraq" – compared with 8% female representation under Ba'athist regime. But this token statistic has repeatedly been trotted out to cover up the regime's crimes against women.

In reality, the al-Maliki government has since dispensed with the quota for government posts: there is only one woman minister among 44 positions. But even this appointment contains a grim irony: the minister for women's affairs, Ibtihal al-Zaidi, didn't hesitate to announce:

"I am against the equality between men and woman. If women are equal to men, they are going to lose a lot."

Perhaps unsurprisingly, many women's organisations have demanded the abolition of the ministry of women's affairs after the minister adopted a position against, rather than for, women's rights.

Human rights, including women's rights, are a litmus test for democracy. Statements by senior officials, including the prime minister himself, show that – contrary to what some Iraqis had hoped for – the "liberators" have actually set the conditions for the continuity of injustice. And that, in turn, gives rise to extremism.

‘America Doesn’t Torture’—It Kills

If the president can order the killing of 
American citizens abroad should he decide they are involved with Al Qaeda, can he assassinate suspected Al Qaeda–connected US citizens in London or Berlin? What about a suspect’s teenage son, a junior in a Canadian boarding school? If he can drop hellfire missiles on a house in northwestern Pakistan because he believes a terrorist cell is meeting inside, could he blow up a motel in Florida where supposed terrorists are staying and chalk up any dead vacationers as “collateral damage”? Of course not. Pakistan is completely different. Anwar al-Awlaki may have been a US citizen, but he was in Yemen, which is different too. As for his 16-year-old son, killed in Yemen in a drone attack some weeks later along with several other people, former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs put it well, if ungrammatically: “I would suggest that you should have a far more responsible father if they are truly concerned about the well-being of their children.” Unlike in the United States, in Yemen kids choose their parents.President Barack Obama walks to the Marine One helicopter, February 13, 2013. (Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

Whatever happened to arresting people, extraditing them, giving them lawyers, putting them on trial—all that? Even in the hottest days of the Cold War, when millions believed communism threatened our very existence as a nation, Americans accused of spying for the Soviets had their day in court. No one suggested that President Eisenhower should skip the tiresome procedural stuff and just bomb the Rosenbergs’ apartment. 

The president and his choice to head the CIA, John Brennan, assure us that they are extremely careful, and the kill list is “legal, ethical and wise” (although they won’t tell us anything more about it). Brennan asserted in 2011 that no civilians have been killed by drones. Maybe he even believes this, although the Bureau of Investigative Journalism documented more than 500 civilian casualties in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia, with a high estimate of many more. When President Obama appointed Harold Koh legal adviser to the State Department in 2009, it looked like he was sending a message: the bad old days are over. Koh, who once referred to President Bush as the “torturer in chief,” was an outspoken critic of that administration’s legal rationales for torture, Guantánamo and “targeted killings.” Fast-forward to today, and Koh provides legal rationales for those same “targeted killings” and gives critics the kind of snide brushoff the Bushites were famous for: justice for enemies “can be delivered through trials. Drones also deliver.” 

“The president is a thoughtful, analytical guy,” a national security adviser tells a group of CIA officers including Maya, the Osama-obsessed heroine of Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty. Before he orders the assault on Osama’s compound, “he needs proof.” In another scene, a TV in the background shows Obama telling Steve Croft, “America doesn’t torture.” Even giving Obama the benefit of every doubt, do we want the president to be a one-man death panel? And what about the next president, and the one after that? Precedents are being set that concentrate far too much power in the executive branch and rely far too much on the moral capabilities of one man. The buck not only stops with Obama; it starts with him, too. 

Polls suggest that most Americans are fine with drones—including most liberals: 78 percent of viewers of Ed Shultz’s MSNBC talk show. Apparently, we are not persuaded by what seems to me obvious: law and morality aside, dropping bombs is no way to win friends and influence people. Last year a Pew poll found that
74 percent of Pakistanis consider the United States an enemy. Sherry Rehman, Pakistan’s US ambassador, told reporters that the drone campaign “creates more potential terrorists on the ground and militants on the ground instead of taking them out.” September 11 enraged Americans so profoundly we started two wars, one against a nation that had nothing to do with it. Why do we assume that the people we attack are any different?

How did we end up here? Surely one fatal turning point was Obama’s decision not to prosecute anyone connected with the Bush administration’s brutal policies, especially torture. Not only did this breed cynicism and callousness; it tacitly allowed that maybe Abu Ghraib and black sites and Baghram and Guantánamo were justifiable, given the fiendish and shape-shifting nature of terrorism.

That’s certainly the message I took from Zero Dark Thirty, and, frankly, I don’t understand how anyone can see this much-praised movie as ambiguous on the torture question. The movie says torture works: “In the end, everybody breaks,” Dan (Jason Clarke) tells the prisoner he is beating, waterboarding, walking like a dog and forcing into a tiny box. “It’s biology.” And sure enough, the man gives up the clue that eventually leads to Osama’s front door. If, in real life, this information was actually obtained by other methods, as Senators Dianne Feinstein and Carl Levin attested in a public letter about the film, there’s no suggestion of it onscreen. But the movie does something even worse: it not only makes torture look necessary; it makes the torturers cool. Dan is handsome, smart, humorous and unconventional—his own person in a crowd of company men. When not stringing people from the ceiling, he’s caring—a good friend to Maya, an animal lover. He doesn’t let his job turn him into a brute or a sadist—he knows when he’s reached his emotional limits and gets out. As for Maya, the lonely avenger of 9/11, what can one say? She’s not only smart, dedicated, selfless, brave and tireless—she’s Jessica
Chastain! The most beautiful woman in the world, with flowing locks of red-gold hair that light up every scene she’s in, including the one where she fetches a pail of water for the waterboarding.

The only person in the CIA who will see a day in prison for anything that happened during all this is James Kiriakou, the anti-torture whistleblower recently sentenced to thirty months for revealing the name of a covert CIA officer to a reporter. Don’t hold your breath for a Hollywood movie about him.

© 2013 The Nation

­US used ‘Christian heavy metal’ to torture Iraqi militants

U.S. Army soldiers escort former Iraqi prisoners out of Abu Ghraib prison (Reuters / Ceerwan Aziz HH / JV)

U.S. Army soldiers escort former Iraqi prisoners out of Abu Ghraib prison (Reuters / Ceerwan Aziz HH / JV)

Torture doesn't necessarily have to deal with physical pain. The US military have used Christian heavy metal music by the band Demon Hunter after rockers Metallica asked they stop using their recordings on prisoners.

The US Navy SEAL involved in the killing of Osama bin Laden told Esquire magazine that prior to using Demon Hunter recordings, the commandoes used Metallica music to pull information out of Iraqi prisoners.

“When we first started the war in Iraq we were using Metallica music to soften people up before we interrogated them,” the spokesperson said. 

James Hetfield, lead singer and guitarist of US rock band Metallica (AFP Photo / Petras Malukas)
James Hetfield, lead singer and guitarist of US rock band Metallica (AFP Photo / Petras Malukas)

However after the band, who is totally opposed to violence, asked the US military to stop using their music at interrogations, the commanders chose Demon Hunter.

“Demon Hunter said, ‘We’re all about promoting what you do.’ They sent us CDs and patches. I wore my Demon Hunter patch on every mission – I wore it when I blasted Bin Laden,”
the Navy SEAL added.

“Part of me is proud they chose Metallica, and then part of me is bummed about it. We’ve got nothing to do with this and we’re trying to be apolitical as possible – I think politics and music, at least for us, don’t mix," Metallica front man James Hetfield said in 2008 commenting on the news that US military used the band’s music for the interrogation of Guantanamo prisoners.

The Hanging of Afzal Guru is a Stain on India’s Democracy

Spring announced itself in Delhi on Saturday. The sun was out, and the law took its course. Just before breakfast, the government of India secretly hanged Afzal Guru, prime accused in the attack on parliament in December 2001, and interred his body in Delhi's Tihar jail where he had been in solitary confinement for 12 years. Guru's wife and son were not informed. "The authorities intimated the family through speed post and registered post," the home secretary told the press, "the director general of the Jammu and Kashmir [J&K] police has been told to check whether they got it or not". No big deal, they're only the family of yet another Kashmiri terrorist.Indian police bring Afzal Guru to court in Delhi in 2002. (Photograph: Aman Sharma/AP)

In a moment of rare unity the Indian nation, or at least its major political parties – Congress, the Bharatiya Janata party and the Communist party of India (Marxist) – came together as one (barring a few squabbles about "delay" and "timing") to celebrate the triumph of the rule of law. Live broadcasts from TV studios, with their usual cocktail of papal passion and a delicate grip on facts, crowed about the "victory of democracy". Rightwing Hindu nationalists distributed sweets to celebrate the hanging, and beat up Kashmiris (paying special attention to the girls) who had gathered in Delhi to protest. Even though Guru was dead and gone, the commentators in the studios and the thugs on the streets seemed, like cowards who hunt in packs, to need each other to keep their courage up. Perhaps because, deep inside, themselves they knew they had colluded in doing something terribly wrong.

What are the facts? On 13 December 2001 five armed men drove through the gates of the Indian parliament in a car fitted out with a bomb. When challenged they jumped out of the car and opened fire, killing eight security personnel and a gardener. In the firefight that followed, all five attackers were killed. In one of the many versions of the confessions he was forced to make in police custody, Guru identified the men as Mohammed, Rana, Raja, Hamza and Haider. That's all we know about them. They don't even have second names. LK Advani, then home minister in the BJP government, said they "looked like Pakistanis". (He should know what Pakistanis look like right? Being a Sindhi himself.) Based only on Guru's custodial confession (which the supreme court subsequently set aside, citing "lapses" and "violations of procedural safeguards") the government recalled its ambassador from Pakistan and mobilised half a million soldiers on the Pakistan border. There was talk of nuclear war. Foreign embassies issued travel advisories and evacuated their staff from Delhi. The standoff lasted months and cost India thousands of crores – millions of pounds.

Within 24 hours, the Delhi Police Special Cell (notorious for its fake "encounter" killings, where suspected terrorists are targeted in extrajudicial attacks) claimed it had cracked the case. On 15 December it arrested the "mastermind", Professor SAR Geelani, in Delhi, and Showkat Guru and his cousin Afzal Guru in Srinagar, Kashmir. Subsequently, they arrested Afsan Guru, Showkat's wife. The Indian media enthusiastically disseminated the police version. These were some of the headlines: "Delhi university lecturer was terror plan hub", "Varsity don guided fidayeen", "Don lectured on terror in free time." Zee TV, a national network, broadcast a "docudrama" called December 13, a recreation that claimed to be the "truth based on the police charge sheet". (If the police version is the truth, why have courts?) The then prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and Advani publicly applauded the film. The supreme court refused to postpone the screening, saying that the media would not influence judges. It was broadcast only a few days before the fast-track court sentenced Geelani and Afzal and Showkat Guru to death. Subsequently the high court acquitted Geelani and Afsan Guru. The supreme court upheld the acquittal. But in its 5 August 2005 judgment it gave Afzal Guru three life sentences and a double death sentence.

The BJP called for an immediate execution. One of its election slogans was "Desh abhi sharminda hai, Afzal abhibhi zinda hai", which means (in stirring rhyme), "Our nation is ashamed because Afzal is still alive". In order to blunt the murmurs that had begun to surface, a fresh media campaign began. Chandan Mitra, now a BJP MP, then editor of the Pioneer newspaper, wrote: "Afzal Guru was one of the terrorists who stormed parliament house on 13 December 2001. He was the first to open fire on security personnel, apparently killing three of the six who died." Even the police charge sheet did not accuse Afzal of that. The supreme court judgment acknowledged the evidence was circumstantial: "As is the case with most conspiracies, there is and could be no evidence amounting to criminal conspiracy." But then, shockingly, it went on to say: "The incident, which resulted in heavy casualties, had shaken the entire nation, and the collective conscience of society will only be satisfied if capital punishment is awarded to the offender."

Who crafted our collective conscience on the parliament attack case? Could it have been the facts we gleaned in the papers? The films we saw on TV? Before celebrating the rule of law, let's take a look at what happened.

The people who are celebrating the victory of the rule of law argue that the very fact that the Indian courts acquitted Geelani and convicted Afzal proves that the trial was free and fair. Was it?

The trial in the fast-track court began in May 2002. The world was still convulsed by post 9/11 frenzy. The US government was gloating prematurely over its "victory" in Afghanistan. In the state of Gujarat, the massacre of Muslims by Hindu goon squads, helped along by the police and the state government machinery that had begun in late February, was still going on sporadically. The air was charged with communal hatred. And in the parliament attack case the law was taking its own course. At the most crucial stage of a criminal case, when evidence is presented, when witnesses are cross-examined, when the foundations of the argument are laid – in the high court and supreme court you can only argue points of law, you cannot introduce new evidence – Afzal Guru, locked in a high-security solitary cell, had no lawyer. The court-appointed junior lawyer did not visit his client even once in jail, he did not summon any witnesses in Guru's defence, and he did not cross-examine the prosecution witnesses. The judge expressed his inability to do anything about the situation.

Even so, from the word go the case fell apart. A few examples out of many: The two most incriminating pieces of evidence against Guru were a cellphone and a laptop confiscated at the time of arrest. They were not sealed, as evidence is required to be. During the trial it emerged that the hard disk of the laptop had been accessed after the arrest. It only contained the fake home ministry passes and the fake identity cards that the "terrorists" used to access parliament – and a Zee TV video clip of parliament house. So according to the police, Guru had deleted all the information except the most incriminating bits. The police witness said he sold the crucial sim card that connected all the accused in the case to one another to Guru on 4 December 2001. But the prosecution's own call records showed the sim was actually operational from 6 November 2001.

How did the police get to Afzal? They said that Geelani led them to him. But the court records show that the message to arrest Afzal went out before they picked up Geelani. The high court called this a "material contradiction" but left it at that.

The arrest memos were signed by Bismillah, Geelani's brother, in Delhi. The seizure memos were signed by two men from the J&K police, one of them an old tormentor from Afzal's past as a surrendered "militant".

It goes on and on, this pile up of lies and fabricated evidence. The courts note them, but for their pains the police get no more than a gentle rap on their knuckles. Nothing more.

Anyone who was really interested in solving the mystery of the parliament attack would have followed the dense trail of evidence on offer. No one did, thereby ensuring the real authors of the conspiracy will remain unidentified and uninvestigated.

The real story and the tragedy of what happened to Guru is too immense to be contained in a courtroom. The real story would lead us to the Kashmir valley, that potential nuclear flashpoint, and the most densely militarised zone in the world, where half a million Indian soldiers (one to every four civilians) and a maze of army camps and torture chambers that would put Abu Ghraib in the shade are bringing secularism and democracy to the Kashmiri people. Since 1990, when the struggle for self-determination became militant, 68,000 people have died, 10,000 have disappeared, and at least 100,000 have been tortured.

What sets Guru's killing apart is that, unlike those tens of thousands who died in prison cells, his life and death were played out in the blinding light of day in which all the institutions of Indian democracy played their part in putting him to death.

Now he has been hanged, I hope our collective conscience has been satisfied. Or is our cup of blood still only half full?

Iraqi parliament speaker survives blast

Iraqi Parliament Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi has escaped an apparent assassination attempt in an incident where his convoy was struck by a roadside bomb in the northern province of Nineveh.

A provincial police source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the bomb went off on Sunday in the al-Qayara district of Mosul, situated some 400 kilometers (250 miles) northwest of the capital, Baghdad, Iraqi media reported.

Security officials said the bomb exploded near the convoy transporting Nujaifi, but his car was not hit and the parliament speaker was safe.

On January 13, Iraq’s Finance Minister Rafa al-Essawi also escaped a similar explosion between the towns of Fallujah and Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad.


Meanwhile, gunmen killed four people in three separate attacks in Mosul on Sunday.

Police said unknown assailants fired at a police checkpoint in the center of Mosul, killing two policemen. Later in the day, gunmen killed an off-duty soldier at a car repair shop in the city. In the third attack, gunmen fired at a van carrying oil workers, killing one and wounding three others.

MP/HSN

Supervisor of Intelligence Estimate Hailed for Preventing War With Iran

Transcript

Hassan Ghani

An award for integrity and honesty, for work that essentially prevented a war.Thomas Fingar, now a Professor at Stanford University, oversaw the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran in 2007, during a period when the Bush administration was beating the drums of war. Its conclusion, that all 16 US intelligence agencies judged with high confidence that Iran had given up its nuclear weapons programme in 2003, placed an insurmountable obstacle on the path to conflict.Critics of the report's conclusions say it was politicised. But speaking to us in Oxford, where he's currently teaching as part of an overseas programme, Thomas Fingar told us that unlike the flawed WMD report on Iraq in 2002, his assessment has withstood scrutiny over the years.Professor Thomas Fingar, Chairman of National Intelligence Council (2005-2008)“The assessment of our estimate has been reviewed many times. Many times before we issued it, many times in the years since, in the years since with additional information. Judging by the public statements, the annual threat testimony and the other statements of the administration, which must be consistent with the classified report, they haven’t changed it. It stood up as good analytic tradecraft. There are people who characterise it as if it was written in order to prevent war – that’s not why it was written, it was written to describe the situation as best we understood it.Hassan GhaniWhen asked what went wrong in 2002, Fingar says those authoring the NIE on Iraq caved in to pressure to produce a rushed report.Professor Thomas Fingar, Chairman of National Intelligence Council (2005-2008)“They produced an estimate in 17 days. That was the congressionally imposed deadline agreed to by George Tenet. So they produced something in 17 days, which had two weekends in there. It’s a classic case of you want something real bad, you get something real bad. Stuff pulled off the shelf not really re-evaluated, no ability to go back and really tear into this stuff. And we were not going to make that mistake again with the Iran estimate. So we took the heat and said ‘you don’t get it until we’re ready’.”Hassan GhaniBut he that ultimately politicians can choose to ignore the intelligence agencies, if they don't get the results they want.Professor Thomas Fingar, Chairman of National Intelligence Council (2005-2008)“The decision to go to war had clearly been made before that estimate was undertaken. Troops were moving, you could not have been in Washington and not known there was going to be war. For I&R we said there’s not evidence of a reconstituted nuclear programme – that was the only one that really mattered – and we said no, evidence isn’t there, the evidences can all be explained in other ways. That’s the third sentence of the estimate. So if you cared about this enough to read to the third sentence, you’d know that there was a dissent on the major justification for the conflict.”Hassan GhaniThe Sam Adams associates present their award each year for integrity in intelligence. Many previous awardees have been intelligence professionals and whistleblowers.2010 Sam Adams awardee, Julian Assange of Wikileaks, was piped into the ceremony by video link. He used the opportunity to tackle an upcoming Hollywood movie, which he says is an attack on Wikileaks, and renews the push for war with Iran.Julian Assange, Wikileaks“We have something here, which is a recent acquisition of Wikileaks. The script to a tens of millions of dollar budget Dreamworks movie. What is it about? It is about us, nominally. It is about Wikileaks the organisation. It is a mass propaganda attack against Wikileaks the organisation and the character of my staff and our activities and so on. But it is not just an attack against us, it fans the flames to start a war with Iran. It’s coming out in November, it’s being filmed now. So that’s the reality of where we’re at. Not merely a war of intelligence agencies, but a war of corrupt media, corrupt culture.”Hassan GhaniSam Adams himself was a CIA analyst in the Vietnam-era, tasked with estimating enemy strength in numbers. His conclusion that the Viet-cong numbered at least half a million, twice the official figure, was swept under the rug at the time, seen as politically unacceptable. He later did go public, but too late to have an impact on the war.Raymond McGovern, Former CIA Analyst“He went to an early death at age 55, with great remorse that he had not gone outside the system, that he had not said what he knew back in 1967, half way through the war. The way he explained it to me is, that Vietnam memorial, made of granite in a V, that whole left section wouldn’t be there, because there would be no names to carve into that granite. If he had spoken out, if I had spoken out, if we had spoken around 1967, when we had that cable from General Abrahams saying ‘we can’t go with the honest figures, because we’ve been projecting a view of progress’.”Hassan GhaniAnd so just as interesting as this year's award winner, are those presenting it to him. Former US Army Colonel Ann Wright resigned as a State department official in protest over the Iraq War. She argues that too many within government are carried along with political tides, often at the expense of what's best for the nation.Ann Wright, Former US State Dep. Official“There were so many people, that were a part of the decision to go ahead and invade and occupy Iraq, that knew better. That knew that the rationale for it was wrong, but they went along with the senior leadership of our country, who for whatever reason it was, whether it was for oil or for whatever it was, wanted to take out the Saddam Hussein regime.”Hassan GhaniLike other Sam Adams associates, she sees whistleblowers as an essential check to keep the system in balance.Ann Wright, Former US State Dep. Official“So many whistleblowers find that the system doesn’t want to hear what they have to say. Because usually it’s something that the government system is doing wrong and whistleblowers are saying ‘wait wait, this is going wrong’ or ‘maybe there’s even criminal acts that are happening that the government’s involved in and we’ve got to stop that and change it’. And we find that many times the government and senior officials in the government don’t want to hear that.”Hassan GhaniPrevious Sam Adams award winner, Coleen Rowley, blew the whistle after 9/11 on major intelligence sharing failures within the FBI in the run up to the attacks. Her 9/11 commission testimony helped re-organise the agency and the way information is shared.Coleen Rowley, Former FBI Agent, Whistleblower“They realised that 9/11 occurred because the agencies blocked information from each other, they blocked it vertically, horizontally, and they blocked it from the public. So the people who are in those environments, when information is blocked and there is lack of sharing, what is their choice? They almost have to either become a whistleblower or then live forever with the consequences of knowing that they could have done something. That’s why Wikileaks, or a method of sharing information, and of course I talked about sharing information between agencies, but it’s also with the public. The 9/11 commission said if the information even had been shared of Moussawi’s arrest, that would have probably prevented 9/11. So it’s an incredible situation, most people think that secrecy is protecting them, and it’s the exact opposite.”Hassan GhaniRowley believes much more information should be made public, whether or not it's politically embarrassing.Coleen Rowley, Former FBI Agent, Whistleblower“We’ve had some good inspector general investigations, for instance of torture in the CIA, to this day though it remains secret. And you see the opposite is Abu Ghraib, that report was made public, and so at least the public learned about it, and there was at the time an outcry about the fact that it was discovered that abuses were occurring in Abu Ghraib. But the CIA torture report, I think it’s probably a good investigation, but the public still doesn’t know, and so what’s happened? There’s a movie out there that’s using a false narrative – the public doesn’t know that it’s false, because how would they know? Because they’ve never seen the truth. It’s a pretty incredible situation, the truth really matters.”Hassan GhaniThe US government says it’s necessary to prosecute whistleblowers to protect national security. And for whistleblowers who do choose to go public, the consequences are increasingly dangerous.Coleen Rowley, Former FBI Agent, Whistleblower“Especially under Obama, there have been prosecutions, I think it’s 7 now, twice as many as all Presidents of all time, under the official espionage act. If you go back to deepthroat, and the FBI who knew that the highest level of President’s men were actually engaging wrongdoing – would that repeat today? I really wonder, especially now with the surveillance and the monitoring.”Hassan GhaniThomas Drake is the only whistleblower so far who's managed to fight espionage charges under Obama and win - there are six other cases. A former senior executive at the NSA, he blew the whistle to the media on a failed billion dollar surveillance programme which he believed violated the constitution.Thomas Drake, Former NSA Executive, Whistleblower“I would I eyewitness to massive fraud, waste and abuse on a multi-billion dollar program, a boondoggle programme called trailblazer, when there was actually a superior alternative, and was also a program that would have completely honoured the fourth amendment and the exclusive statute by which the US government, NSA, was authorised to violate the fourth amendment rights fo Americans. That was under FISA, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. They wilfully broke the law, criminally. But what happened later, as all of this came out and I ended up going to a reporter, decriminalised the reporting of the government wrong doing. They criminalized the reporting of government criminal conduct.”Hassan GhaniDrake says he was careful not to reveal any classified information, and after reviewing laws on disclosure, thought that the worst that could happen is that he would lose his job. Instead, he faced espionage charges amounting to 35 years in prison.Thomas Drake, Former NSA Executive, Whistleblower“I was turned into enemy of the state, I mean I'm charged with the espionage act, I'm being put into the same category as historical spies in US history, the Alder Hiss’, the Robert Hanssens, the Alrdich Ames of the world. That the category of people you become associated with. So it's probably one of the worst things an american can be charged with, under the espionage act, because you are painted into a very dark corner, you have betrayed your country. I was put under investigation by the bush administration, but the Bush administration never actually indicted me, it took the Obama administration to actually indictment me. And when they indicted me, they threw everything they had at me.In 2008, his presidential campaign, he actually lauded whistleblowers, he called them out as patriots. Who better to call the government onto the carpet when they’re up to no good. And yet he’s presided over the most draconian crackdown on truth tellers and whistleblowers of any administration, actually all administrations combined. It truly is unprecedented.Hassan GhaniDespite immense pressure to plead out, Drake maintained his innocence, and on the eve of trial government prosecutors dropped the charges. But Thomas Drake has been left blacklisted, financially bankrupt, and disturbed at the path his country is following.Thomas Drake, Former NSA Executive, Whistleblower“I'm having great difficulty recognising my own country, in terms of the government, the form of government under which I took an oath to support and defend four times in my government career. Any yet I was criminalized, and was painted as an enemy of the state, for simply speaking truth to power, and it was clear they were going to make me an object lesson, and they threw everything they had at me.Hassan GhaniOf course, it's not just US administrations that face accusations of covering up fraud and criminal acts under the guise of national security. Annie Machon was an agent in the British spy agency MI5. She claims Britain is ahead of the US in terms of stifling whistleblowers from within the intelligence community.Annie Machon, Former MI5 Agent, Whistleblower“They a rethink about the official secrets act and launched a new in 1989, the 1989 official secrets act, which obviated, got rid of, the public interest defence. And the only reason that clause was put in was to stifle whistleblowing. There’s already that old law to stop treachery, so this is designed to stifle whistleblowers. And it has been used many times in the UK since, against David Shayler, Richard Tomlinson, Katherine Gun, and it has a very chilling effect on the idea that if you see crimes committed by the spy agencies, what do you do with that information? The only person that you can go to legally under the OSA of 1989 is the head of the agency you wish to make a complaint against. So you can imagine how many of those complaints are upheld.And I think it’s particularly pertinent at the moment, certainly in the last 10 years, where we’ve seen false information fed into the political process, where we’ve seen politicisation of intelligence in the run up to the Iraq war, with the Downing Street memo and the head of MI6 saying the intelligence facts had to be fitted around the policy. And also where we see torture and extraordinary rendition, where our British spies are being used to do that and they are protected under a lot of secrecy laws, and the government in fact wants to make greater protection for them by setting up secret courts, where the accused can’t even see what they’re accused of. It’s Kafkaesque.”Hassan GhaniAllegations against British intelligence services of complicity in torture do still make it through to the media when the alleged victims speak out. But with tight laws around disclosure in the UK, it's impossible to say whether or not what we hear is just a fraction of what's taking place.Annie Machon, Former MI5 Agent, Whistleblower“I worked in MI5 in the mid-1990s for six years. That I would say would be the only marginally ethical decade of its hundred year existence, because up until 1989 it did not officially exist - it could do whatever it wanted - and post 9/11 the gloves came off with the intelligence agencies. So in the 1990s peace was breaking out, they didn’t get involved in torture, they stopped looking at political activists, the whole shebang. So that was actually the more ethical era, and yet in those six years David Shayler and I saw so much going wrong that we felt compelled to blow the whistle. So how much worse is it now? That has to be the question. I think all we’re seeing now with extradition and torture cases is definitely very much the tip of the iceberg.Hassan GhaniIt’s clear that the act of whistleblowing, even in the public interest, is under serious threat. Some may consider this a positive development in terms of national security. Others see it as the end of public accountability for those in positions of power.Thomas Drake, Former NSA Executive, Whistleblower“If the government begins to exercise increasing influence, even if it’s self-censorship where people will not speak up because they’re afraid that they’re going to be noticed by the government, that means that critical information about government activities will never see the light of day. And especially the secret side of government, you would think that’s the part of government you want the most accountability with. Well, if they’re choking off the sources and they’re making it very clear, even though I was able to prevail and hold off the government and remained a free man, the message was still sent.”

Meet the Contractors Turning America’s Police Into a Paramilitary Force

The national security state has an annual budget of around $1 trillion. Of that huge pile of money, large amounts go to private companies the federal government awards contracts to. Some, like Lockheed Martin or Boeing, are household names, but many of the contractors fly just under the public's radar. What follows are three companies you should know about (because some of them can learn a lot about you with their spy technologies).

L3 Communications

L3 is everywhere. Those night-vision goggles the JSOC team in Zero Dark Thirty uses? That's L3. The new machines that are replacing the naked scanners at the airport? That's L3. Torture at Abu Ghraib? A former subsidiary of L3 was recently ordered to pay $5.28 million to 71 Iraqis who had been held in the awful prison.

Oh, and drones? L3 is on it. Reprieve, a UK-based human rights organization, earlier this month wrote on its Web site:

“L-3 Communications is one of the main subcontractors involved with production of the US’s lethal Predator since the inception of the programme. Predators are used by the CIA to kill ‘suspected militants’ and terrorise entire populations in Pakistan and Yemen. Drone strikes have escalated under the Obama administration and 2013 has already seen six strikes in the two countries.”

Unsurprisingly, L3 Communications is well connected beyond the national security community. Its chief financial officer recently spoke at Goldman Sachs, at what the financial titan hilariously refers to as a “fireside chat.”

L3 also supplies local law enforcement with its night-vision products and makes a license-plate recognition (LPR) device, a machine with disturbing implications. LPR can be mounted on cop cruisers or statically positioned at busy intersections and can run potentially thousands of license plates through law enforcement databases in a matter of hours. In some parts of the country LPR readers can track your location for miles. As the Wall Street Journal noted, surveillance of even “mundane” activities of people not accused of any crime is now “the default rather than the exception.”

L3 Communications embodies the totality of the national security and surveillance state. There is only minimal distinction between its military products and police products. Its night-vision line is sold to both military and law enforcement. Its participation in the drone program is now, as far as we know, limited to countries in the Middle East and North Africa. But in the words of the New York Times editorial board, “[i]t is not a question of whether drones will appear in the skies above the United States but how soon.” The NYT estimates the domestic drone market at $5 billion, likely a conservative estimate, and contractors will vie for that money in the public and private sphere. L3's venture into airports, the border of where domestic policy meets foreign policy in the name of national security, is therefore significant both symbolically and materially.

In many ways, that is the most important story of the post-9/11 United States: the complete evaporation of the separation of foreign and domestic polices. Whether we're talking about paramilitarized police, warrantless wiretapping, inhumane prison conditions, or drone surveillance, there exist few differences between a United States perpetually at war and a United States determined to police and imprison its people in unacceptable ways and at unacceptable rates.

Harris Corporation: Stingray “IMSI catcher”

Harris Corp. is a huge provider of national security and communications technology to federal and local law enforcement agencies. Though many people have never heard of it, Harris is a major player in the beltway National Security community. President and CEO William M. Brown was recently appointed to the National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee, and in 2009 the Secret Service offered Harris a contract to train its agents in the use of Harris' Stingray line. The Secret Service awarded the company additional contracts in 2012.

If you've heard of Harris at all, it's likely been because its controversial Stingray product has been getting attention as an information-gathering tool with major privacy implications. The Stingray allows law enforcement to cast a kilometers' wide digital net over an area to determine the location of a single cell phone signal – and in the process collect cell data on potentially hundreds of people who aren't suspected of any crimes. EFF claims the device is a modern version of British soldiers canvassing the pre-Revolutionary colonies, searching people's homes without probable cause – exactly what the Fourth Amendment was created to prevent. EFF describes the process this way:

“A Stingray works by masquerading as a cell phone tower—to which your mobile phone sends signals to every 7 to 15 seconds whether you are on a call or not— and tricks your phone into connecting to it. As a result, the government can figure out who, when and to where you are calling, the precise location of every device within the range, and with some devices, even capture the content of your conversations.”

According to the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC),the FBI has been using similar technology since 1995. But a recent federal case, United States v. Rigmaiden, has raised Fourth Amendment questions regarding whether law enforcement officials need to obtain a warrant before employing a Stingray. The judge in that case determined that the government hadn't provided enough information about how the devices work, and ordered that the information collected in Rigmaiden couldn't be used in court.

What's especially troubling about Stingrays is that the government either won't say, or doesn't understand, how the technology works. The WSJ reported that the US Attorney making the requests “seemed to have trouble explaining the technology.”

And it's not just the federal government that uses Stingrays. As Slate notes,referencing FOIA documents recently obtained by EPIC, “the feds have procedures in place for loaning electronic surveillance devices (like the Stingray) to state police. This suggests the technology may have been used in cases across the United States, in line with a stellar investigation by LA Weekly last year, which reported that state cops in California, Florida, Texas, and Arizona had obtained Stingrays.”

Harris has been tightlipped about the Rigmaiden case, but expect to be hearing a lot about Stingrays in the future.

BI2 Technologies

BI2 makes a fine pitch. Its iris-scanning technology can be made to sound very appealing. Iris scans are relatively non-invasive, there's no touching involved so the likelihood of spreading disease is reduced, and as B12 states on its Web site, "there are no lasers, strong lights or any kind of harmful beams.” It also claims that iris scanning is "strictly opt-in," and that a “user" (who in most cases would be better described as an “arrestee”) “must consciously elect to participate” in the scanning. (When I was arrested by the NYPD while covering a protest, the scan was voluntary -- though the NYPD didn't tell me that, a protester did. But if I refused to submit to it I could have been punished with an extra night in jail.)

Reuters reported that BI2's iPhone-based iris scanner -- called MORIS -- is capable of taking an accurate scan from four feet away, “potentially without the person being aware of it.” MORIS has drawn harsh condemnation from the ACLU. The primary concern from privacy advocates is that law enforcement will deploy this technology in an overly broad way. ACLU senior policy analyst Jay Stanley told Reuters that he didn't want the police “using them routinely on the general public, collecting biometric information on innocent people.”

MORIS isn't just for irises; it also scans faces. In 2011, the Wall Street Journal reported that the sheriff's office in Pinellas County, Florida, “uses digital cameras to take pictures of people, download the pictures to laptops, then use facial-recognition technologies to search for matching faces.” New database technology like Trapwire, a data mining system that analyzes “suspicious behavior” in purported attempts to predict terrorist behavior, makes face scanning potentially more worrisome. Trapwire uses at least “CCTV, license-plate readers, and open-source databases” as input sources, and although it doesn't employ facial-recognition software, the incentives to combine these types of technology is clear.

Beginning in 2014, BI2 will manage a national iris-scan database for the FBI, called Next-Generation Identification (NGI).Lockheed Martin is also involved in building the database.Much of BI2's iris data comes from inmates in 47 states, and despite BI2's claims that iris scanning can't be gamed, that is not the case. Experts showed last summer that the iris can be “reverse-engineered” to fool the scanners, which are generally thought to be more accurate than fingerprinting.

The usual suspects lamented in 2011 that iris scanning isn't used at airports or borders, but security creep is difficult to combat, especially once “national security” is invoked. Just days ago it was reported that the FBI is teaming with the Department of Homeland Security to ramp up iris scanning at US borders. AlterNet has previously reported that the Department of Defense scans the irises of people arriving at and departing from Afghanistan.

The story of BI2 is important because the initial technology is superficially appealing. The company's first projects were called the Child Project, designed to help locate missing children; and Senior Safety Net, developed to identify missing seniors suffering from Alzheimer's. According to B12's Web site, sheriffs' departments in 47 states use the BI2 iris-scanning device and database, which makes it easy to mobilize support to facilitate the safe return of children and seniors.

While the desire to find missing children and seniors is perfectly legitimate, the collection of biometric data is a pandora's box. Once it's opened, it's proven difficult if not impossible to limit.

Meet the Contractors Turning America’s Police Into a Paramilitary Force

You should know about them because they may already know about you.

January 30, 2013  |  

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The national security state has an annual budget of around $1 trillion. Of that huge pile of money, large amounts go to private companies the federal government awards contracts to. Some, like Lockheed Martin or Boeing, are household names, but many of the contractors fly just under the public's radar. What follows are three companies you should know about (because some of them can learn a lot about you with their spy technologies).

L3 Communications

L3 is everywhere. Those night-vision goggles the JSOC team in Zero Dark Thirty uses?  That's L3. The new machines that are replacing the naked scanners at the airport?  That's L3. Torture at Abu Ghraib? A former subsidiary of L3 was recently ordered to pay $ 5.28 million to 71 Iraqis who had been held in the awful prison. 

Oh, and drones? L3 is on it. Reprieve, a UK-based human rights organization, earlier this month  wrote on its Web site:

“L-3 Communications is one of the main subcontractors involved with production of the US’s lethal Predator since the inception of the programme. Predators are used by the CIA to kill ‘suspected militants’ and terrorise entire populations in Pakistan and Yemen. Drone strikes have escalated under the Obama administration and 2013 has already seen six strikes in the two countries.”

Unsurprisingly, L3 Communications is well connected beyond the national security community. Its chief financial officer recently spoke at  Goldman Sachs, at what the financial titan hilariously refers to as a “fireside chat.”

L3 also supplies local law enforcement with its night-vision products and makes a license-plate recognition  (LPR) device, a machine with disturbing implications. LPR can be mounted on cop cruisers or statically positioned at busy intersections and can run potentially thousands of license plates through law enforcement databases in a matter of hours. In some parts of the country LPR readers can track your location for miles. As the Wall Street Journal noted, surveillance of even “mundane” activities of people not accused of any crime is now “the default rather than the exception.”

L3 Communications embodies the totality of the national security and surveillance state. There is only minimal distinction between its military products and police products. Its night-vision line is sold to both military and law enforcement. Its participation in the drone program is now, as far as we know, limited to countries in the Middle East and North Africa. But in the words of the  New York Times editorial board, “[i]t is not a question of whether drones will appear in the skies above the United States but how soon.” The NYT estimates the domestic drone market at $5 billion, likely a conservative estimate, and contractors will vie for that money in the public and private sphere. L3's venture into airports, the border of where domestic policy meets foreign policy in the name of national security, is therefore significant both symbolically and materially.

In many ways, that is the most important story of the post-9/11 United States: the complete evaporation of the separation of foreign and domestic polices. Whether we're talking about paramilitarized police, warrantless wiretapping, inhumane prison conditions, or drone surveillance, there exist few differences between a United States perpetually at war and a United States determined to police and imprison its people in unacceptable ways and at unacceptable rates.

Harris Corporation: Stingray “IMSI catcher”

Harris Corp. is a huge provider of national security and communications technology to federal and local law enforcement agencies. Though many people have never heard of it, Harris is a major player in the beltway National Security community. President and CEO William M. Brown was recently appointed to the National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee, and in 2009 the Secret Service offered Harris a contract to train its agents in the use of Harris' Stingray line. The Secret Service awarded the company additional contracts in 2012.

9/11 suspects’ lawyers demand CIA ‘black sites’ to be preserved as evidence

AFP Photo / Michelle Shephard / Toronto Star / Pool

AFP Photo / Michelle Shephard / Toronto Star / Pool

Self-confessed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other defenders claim they were tortured in Guantanamo, prompting their lawyers to call for the preservation of the CIA secret prisons to use them as evidence.

The pretrial hearing for the suspected terrorist conspirators began Monday. Facing the death penalty for their involvement in the deadly attacks that killed 2,976 people on September 11, 2011, the five prisoners are making a last-ditch attempt to reduce sentence by describing their torture experiences at the Guantanamo Bay US Naval Base.

Mohammed previously accused the US government of killing millions of people and employing inhumane torture procedures “under the name of national security.” Attorneys representing the defendants are now calling for the judge to demand the preservation of the CIA “black sites” to use as evidence in the case against the US government. If the attorneys are able to prove that any of the evidence against the conspirators was obtained through torture, then this evidence may be excluded during the trial and lead to reduced sentences.

The defense team has also asked the judge to order the US government to give all White House and Justice Departments documents about the CIA’s handling of the prisoners to the defense. The agency moved its al-Qaeda prisoners across borders to the Guantanamo prison after the 9/11 attacks and questioned them without a judicial review. Documents regarding the actions of the intelligence agency have not yet been made available to the defense.

This week’s pretrial hearing is “the first step toward finding what happened in the torture of these men,” James Connell, an attorney for Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, an accused 9/11 conspirator and nephew of Mohammed, said in a press conference on Sunday.

Mohammed and the other defendants will argue that they were subjected to torture including waterboarding, sleep deprivation, and threats. The prisoners were allegedly also forced to endure painful positions while having their arms and legs tightly chained.

The preservation of the “black sites” could open the doors for investigation and analysis regarding the treatment of its inmates.

If a person is in isolation,” Connell argues, “how that isolation is enforced is a relevant legal factor as to whether they’ve been illegally punished, and the building design is relevant to that.”

The legality of torture is negated by the Geneva Convention and the UN Convention Against Torture, and its practice is illegal in the US. The CIA has not always been opposed to torturous interrogation techniques, but their implementation was allegedly reduced in 2004 and banned after President Obama took office.

The team of defense lawyers in the 9/11 case will attempt to have some of their defendants’ charges dismissed by bringing up the misconduct that the CIA may have committed in torturing the detainees.

"By its nature, torture affects the admissibility of evidence, the credibility of witnesses the appropriateness of punishment and the legitimacy of the prosecution itself," the defense lawyers wrote in court documents.

Ordering the preservation of a CIA “black site” is difficult, but not impossible: in 2004, the judge overlooking the 9/11 trial ordered the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq to be preserved as a crime scene – even though Iraq was still under US occupation.

It is unclear whether the black sites are at risk of destruction, and in an interview with Wired, Connell said he can “neither confirm nor deny that”, but that the defense should have access to the evidence.

“If the government wants to go forward with a case seeking the death penalty against these men, it has to make the evidence which may still exist available to them,” Connell says. “If they will not make relevant evidence available, the law suggests the prosecution cannot go forward with the case. ”

Kiriakou and Stuxnet: The Danger of the Still-Escalating Obama Whistleblower War

The permanent US national security state has used extreme secrecy to shield its actions from democratic accountability ever since its creation after World War II. But those secrecy powers were dramatically escalated in the name of 9/11 and the War on Terror, such that most of what the US government now does of any significance is completely hidden from public knowledge. Two recent events - the sentencing last week of CIA torture whistleblower John Kirikaou to 30 months in prison and the invasive investigation to find the New York Times' source for its reporting on the US role in launching cyberwarfare at Iran - demonstrate how devoted the Obama administration is not only to maintaining, but increasing, these secrecy powers.Former CIA officer John Kiriakou becomes the only government official convicted in connection with the US torture program: not for having done it, but for having talked about it. Photograph: Jacquelyn Martin/AP

When WikiLeaks published hundreds of thousands of classified diplomatic cables in 2010, government defenders were quick to insist that most of those documents were banal and uninteresting. And that's true: most (though by no means all) of those cables contained nothing of significance. That, by itself, should have been a scandal. All of those documents were designated as "secret", making it a crime for government officials to reveal their contents - despite how insignificant most of it was. That revealed how the US government reflexively - really automatically - hides anything and everything it does behind this wall of secrecy: they have made it a felony to reveal even the most inconsequential and pedestrian information about its actions.

This is why whistleblowing - or, if you prefer, unauthorized leaks of classified information - has become so vital to preserving any residual amounts of transparency. Given how subservient the federal judiciary is to government secrecy claims, it is not hyperbole to describe unauthorized leaks as the only real avenue remaining for learning about what the US government does - particularly for discovering the bad acts it commits. That is why the Obama administration is waging an unprecedented war against it - a war that continually escalates - and it is why it is so threatening.

To understand the Obama White House's obsession with punishing leaks - as evidenced by its historically unprecedented war on whistleblowers - just consider how virtually every significant revelation of the bad acts of the US government over the last decade came from this process. Unauthorized leaks are how we learned about the Bush administration's use of torture, the NSA's illegal eavesdropping on Americans without the warrants required by the criminal law, the abuses at Abu Ghraib, the secret network of CIA "black sites" beyond the reach of law or human rights monitoring, the targeting by Obama of a US citizen for assassination without due process, the re-definition of "militant" to mean "any military age male in a strike zone", the video of a US Apache helicopter gunning down journalists and rescuers in Baghdad, the vastly under-counted civilians deaths caused by the war in Iraq, and the Obama administration's campaign to pressure Germany and Spain to cease criminal investigations of the US torture regime.

In light of this, it should not be difficult to understand why the Obama administration is so fixated on intimidating whistleblowers and going far beyond any prior administration - including those of the secrecy-obsessed Richard Nixon and George W Bush - to plug all leaks. It's because those methods are the only ones preventing the US government from doing whatever it wants in complete secrecy and without any accountability of any kind.

Silencing government sources is the key to disabling investigative journalism and a free press. That is why the New Yorker's Jane Mayer told whistleblowing advocate Jesselyn Radack last April: "when our sources are prosecuted, the news-gathering process is criminalized, so it's incumbent upon all journalists to speak up."

Indeed, if you talk to leading investigative journalists they will tell you that the Obama war on whistleblowers has succeeded in intimidating not only journalists' sources but also investigative journalists themselves. Just look at the way the DOJ has pursued and threatened with prison one of the most accomplished and institutionally protected investigative journalists in the country - James Risen - and it's easy to see why the small amount of real journalism done in the US, most driven by unauthorized leaks, is being severely impeded. This morning's Washington Post article on the DOJ's email snooping to find the NYT's Stuxnet source included this anonymous quote: "People are feeling less open to talking to reporters given this uptick. There is a definite chilling effect in government due to these investigations."

For authoritarians who view assertions of government power as inherently valid and government claims as inherently true, none of this will be bothersome. Under that mentality, if the government decrees that something shall be secret, then it should be secret, and anyone who defies that dictate should be punished as a felon - or even a traitor. That view is typically accompanied by the belief that we can and should trust our leaders to be good and do good even if they exercise power in the dark, so that transparency is not only unnecessary but undesirable.

But the most basic precepts of human nature, political science, and the American founding teach that power exercised in the dark will be inevitably abused. Secrecy is the linchpin of abuse of power. That's why those who wield political power are always driven to destroy methods of transparency. About this fact, Thomas Jefferson wrote in an 1804 letter to John Tyler [emphasis added]:

"Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues of truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is freedom of the press. It is therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions."

About all that, Yale law professor David A Schultz observed: "For Jefferson, a free press was the tool of public criticism. It held public officials accountable, opening them up to the judgment of people who could decide whether the government was doing good or whether it had anything to hide. . . . A democratic and free society is dependent upon the media to inform."

There should be no doubt that destroying this method of transparency - not protection of legitimate national security secrets- is the primary effect, and almost certainly the intent, of this unprecedented war on whistleblowers. Just consider the revelations that have prompted the Obama DOJ's war on whistleblowers, whereby those who leak are not merely being prosecuted, but threatened with decades or even life in prison for "espionage" or "aiding the enemy".

Does anyone believe it would be better if we remained ignorant about the massive waste, corruption and illegality plaguing the NSA's secret domestic eavesdropping program (Thomas Drake); or the dangerously inept CIA effort to infiltrate the Iranian nuclear program but which ended up assisting that program (Jeffrey Sterling); or the overlooking of torture squads in Iraq, the gunning down of journalists and rescuers in Baghdad, or the pressure campaign to stop torture investigations in Spain and Germany (Bradley Manning); or the decision by Obama to wage cyberwar on Iran, which the Pentagon itself considers an act of war (current DOJ investigation)?

Like all of the Obama leak prosecutions - see here - none of those revelations resulted in any tangible harm, yet all revealed vital information about what our government was doing in secret. As long-time DC lawyer Abbe Lowell, who represents indicted whistleblower Stephen Kim, put it: what makes the Obama DOJ's prosecutions historically unique is that they "don't distinguish between bad people - people who spy for other governments, people who sell secrets for money - and people who are accused of having conversations and discussions". Not only doesn't it draw this distinction, but it is focused almost entirely on those who leak in order to expose wrongdoing and bring about transparency and accountability.

That is the primary impact of all of this. A Bloomberg report last October on this intimidation campaign summarized the objections this way: "the president's crackdown chills dissent, curtails a free press and betrays Obama's initial promise to 'usher in a new era of open government.'"

The Obama administration does not dislike leaks of classified information. To the contrary, it is a prolific exploiter of exactly those types of leaks - when they can be used to propagandize the citizenry to glorify the president's image as a tough guy, advance his political goals or produce a multi-million-dollar Hollywood film about his greatest conquest. Leaks are only objectionable when they undercut that propaganda by exposing government deceit, corruption and illegality.

Few events have vividly illustrated this actual goal as much as the lengthy prison sentence this week meted out to former CIA officer John Kiriakou. It's true that Kiriakou is not a pure anti-torture hero given that, in his first public disclosures, he made inaccurate claims about the efficacy of waterboarding. But he did also unequivocally condemn waterboarding and other methods as torture. And, as FAIR put it this week, whatever else is true: "The only person to do time for the CIA's torture policies appears to be a guy who spoke publicly about them, not any of the people who did the actual torturing."

Despite zero evidence of any harm from his disclosures, the federal judge presiding over his case - the reliably government-subservient US District Judge Leonie Brinkema - said she "would have given Kiriakou much more time if she could." As usual, the only real criminals in the government are those who expose or condemn its wrongdoing.

Exactly the same happened with revelations by the New York Times of the illegal Bush NSA warrantless eavesdropping program. None of the officials who eavesdropped on Americans without the warrants required by law were prosecuted. The telecoms that illegally cooperated were retroactively immunized from all legal accountability by the US Congress. The only person to suffer recriminations from that scandal was Thomas Tamm, the mid-level DOJ official who discovered the program and told the New York Times about it, and then had his life ruined with vindictive investigations.

This Obama whistleblower war has nothing to do with national security. It has nothing to do with punishing those who harm the country with espionage or treason.

It has everything to do with destroying those who expose high-level government wrongdoing. It is particularly devoted to preserving the government's ability to abuse its power in secret by intimidating and deterring future acts of whistleblowing and impeding investigative journalism. This Obama whistleblower war continues to escalate because it triggers no objections from Republicans (who always adore government secrecy) or Democrats (who always adore what Obama does), but most of all because it triggers so few objections from media outlets, which - at least in theory - suffer the most from what is being done.

© 2012 The Guardian

Glenn Greenwald

Kiriakou and Stuxnet: The Danger of the Still-Escalating Obama Whistleblower War

The permanent US national security state has used extreme secrecy to shield its actions from democratic accountability ever since its creation after World War II. But those secrecy powers were dramatically escalated in the name of 9/11 and the War on Terror, such that most of what the US government now does of any significance is completely hidden from public knowledge. Two recent events - the sentencing last week of CIA torture whistleblower John Kirikaou to 30 months in prison and the invasive investigation to find the New York Times' source for its reporting on the US role in launching cyberwarfare at Iran - demonstrate how devoted the Obama administration is not only to maintaining, but increasing, these secrecy powers.Former CIA officer John Kiriakou becomes the only government official convicted in connection with the US torture program: not for having done it, but for having talked about it. Photograph: Jacquelyn Martin/AP

When WikiLeaks published hundreds of thousands of classified diplomatic cables in 2010, government defenders were quick to insist that most of those documents were banal and uninteresting. And that's true: most (though by no means all) of those cables contained nothing of significance. That, by itself, should have been a scandal. All of those documents were designated as "secret", making it a crime for government officials to reveal their contents - despite how insignificant most of it was. That revealed how the US government reflexively - really automatically - hides anything and everything it does behind this wall of secrecy: they have made it a felony to reveal even the most inconsequential and pedestrian information about its actions.

This is why whistleblowing - or, if you prefer, unauthorized leaks of classified information - has become so vital to preserving any residual amounts of transparency. Given how subservient the federal judiciary is to government secrecy claims, it is not hyperbole to describe unauthorized leaks as the only real avenue remaining for learning about what the US government does - particularly for discovering the bad acts it commits. That is why the Obama administration is waging an unprecedented war against it - a war that continually escalates - and it is why it is so threatening.

To understand the Obama White House's obsession with punishing leaks - as evidenced by its historically unprecedented war on whistleblowers - just consider how virtually every significant revelation of the bad acts of the US government over the last decade came from this process. Unauthorized leaks are how we learned about the Bush administration's use of torture, the NSA's illegal eavesdropping on Americans without the warrants required by the criminal law, the abuses at Abu Ghraib, the secret network of CIA "black sites" beyond the reach of law or human rights monitoring, the targeting by Obama of a US citizen for assassination without due process, the re-definition of "militant" to mean "any military age male in a strike zone", the video of a US Apache helicopter gunning down journalists and rescuers in Baghdad, the vastly under-counted civilians deaths caused by the war in Iraq, and the Obama administration's campaign to pressure Germany and Spain to cease criminal investigations of the US torture regime.

In light of this, it should not be difficult to understand why the Obama administration is so fixated on intimidating whistleblowers and going far beyond any prior administration - including those of the secrecy-obsessed Richard Nixon and George W Bush - to plug all leaks. It's because those methods are the only ones preventing the US government from doing whatever it wants in complete secrecy and without any accountability of any kind.

Silencing government sources is the key to disabling investigative journalism and a free press. That is why the New Yorker's Jane Mayer told whistleblowing advocate Jesselyn Radack last April: "when our sources are prosecuted, the news-gathering process is criminalized, so it's incumbent upon all journalists to speak up."

Indeed, if you talk to leading investigative journalists they will tell you that the Obama war on whistleblowers has succeeded in intimidating not only journalists' sources but also investigative journalists themselves. Just look at the way the DOJ has pursued and threatened with prison one of the most accomplished and institutionally protected investigative journalists in the country - James Risen - and it's easy to see why the small amount of real journalism done in the US, most driven by unauthorized leaks, is being severely impeded. This morning's Washington Post article on the DOJ's email snooping to find the NYT's Stuxnet source included this anonymous quote: "People are feeling less open to talking to reporters given this uptick. There is a definite chilling effect in government due to these investigations."

For authoritarians who view assertions of government power as inherently valid and government claims as inherently true, none of this will be bothersome. Under that mentality, if the government decrees that something shall be secret, then it should be secret, and anyone who defies that dictate should be punished as a felon - or even a traitor. That view is typically accompanied by the belief that we can and should trust our leaders to be good and do good even if they exercise power in the dark, so that transparency is not only unnecessary but undesirable.

But the most basic precepts of human nature, political science, and the American founding teach that power exercised in the dark will be inevitably abused. Secrecy is the linchpin of abuse of power. That's why those who wield political power are always driven to destroy methods of transparency. About this fact, Thomas Jefferson wrote in an 1804 letter to John Tyler [emphasis added]:

"Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues of truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is freedom of the press. It is therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions."

About all that, Yale law professor David A Schultz observed: "For Jefferson, a free press was the tool of public criticism. It held public officials accountable, opening them up to the judgment of people who could decide whether the government was doing good or whether it had anything to hide. . . . A democratic and free society is dependent upon the media to inform."

There should be no doubt that destroying this method of transparency - not protection of legitimate national security secrets- is the primary effect, and almost certainly the intent, of this unprecedented war on whistleblowers. Just consider the revelations that have prompted the Obama DOJ's war on whistleblowers, whereby those who leak are not merely being prosecuted, but threatened with decades or even life in prison for "espionage" or "aiding the enemy".

Does anyone believe it would be better if we remained ignorant about the massive waste, corruption and illegality plaguing the NSA's secret domestic eavesdropping program (Thomas Drake); or the dangerously inept CIA effort to infiltrate the Iranian nuclear program but which ended up assisting that program (Jeffrey Sterling); or the overlooking of torture squads in Iraq, the gunning down of journalists and rescuers in Baghdad, or the pressure campaign to stop torture investigations in Spain and Germany (Bradley Manning); or the decision by Obama to wage cyberwar on Iran, which the Pentagon itself considers an act of war (current DOJ investigation)?

Like all of the Obama leak prosecutions - see here - none of those revelations resulted in any tangible harm, yet all revealed vital information about what our government was doing in secret. As long-time DC lawyer Abbe Lowell, who represents indicted whistleblower Stephen Kim, put it: what makes the Obama DOJ's prosecutions historically unique is that they "don't distinguish between bad people - people who spy for other governments, people who sell secrets for money - and people who are accused of having conversations and discussions". Not only doesn't it draw this distinction, but it is focused almost entirely on those who leak in order to expose wrongdoing and bring about transparency and accountability.

That is the primary impact of all of this. A Bloomberg report last October on this intimidation campaign summarized the objections this way: "the president's crackdown chills dissent, curtails a free press and betrays Obama's initial promise to 'usher in a new era of open government.'"

The Obama administration does not dislike leaks of classified information. To the contrary, it is a prolific exploiter of exactly those types of leaks - when they can be used to propagandize the citizenry to glorify the president's image as a tough guy, advance his political goals or produce a multi-million-dollar Hollywood film about his greatest conquest. Leaks are only objectionable when they undercut that propaganda by exposing government deceit, corruption and illegality.

Few events have vividly illustrated this actual goal as much as the lengthy prison sentence this week meted out to former CIA officer John Kiriakou. It's true that Kiriakou is not a pure anti-torture hero given that, in his first public disclosures, he made inaccurate claims about the efficacy of waterboarding. But he did also unequivocally condemn waterboarding and other methods as torture. And, as FAIR put it this week, whatever else is true: "The only person to do time for the CIA's torture policies appears to be a guy who spoke publicly about them, not any of the people who did the actual torturing."

Despite zero evidence of any harm from his disclosures, the federal judge presiding over his case - the reliably government-subservient US District Judge Leonie Brinkema - said she "would have given Kiriakou much more time if she could." As usual, the only real criminals in the government are those who expose or condemn its wrongdoing.

Exactly the same happened with revelations by the New York Times of the illegal Bush NSA warrantless eavesdropping program. None of the officials who eavesdropped on Americans without the warrants required by law were prosecuted. The telecoms that illegally cooperated were retroactively immunized from all legal accountability by the US Congress. The only person to suffer recriminations from that scandal was Thomas Tamm, the mid-level DOJ official who discovered the program and told the New York Times about it, and then had his life ruined with vindictive investigations.

This Obama whistleblower war has nothing to do with national security. It has nothing to do with punishing those who harm the country with espionage or treason.

It has everything to do with destroying those who expose high-level government wrongdoing. It is particularly devoted to preserving the government's ability to abuse its power in secret by intimidating and deterring future acts of whistleblowing and impeding investigative journalism. This Obama whistleblower war continues to escalate because it triggers no objections from Republicans (who always adore government secrecy) or Democrats (who always adore what Obama does), but most of all because it triggers so few objections from media outlets, which - at least in theory - suffer the most from what is being done.

© 2012 The Guardian

Glenn Greenwald

Military Contracting: Our New Era of Corporate Mercenaries

Private military contracting has ballooned into an industry worth more than $100bn a year. (Photograph: Goran Tomasevic/Reuters)In early 1995, Sierra Leone was on the brink of collapse. A violent civil war had ravaged the country, leaving thousands dead and countless others wounded. The insurgent rebels, infamous for recruiting child soldiers, were just weeks from the beleaguered capital, Freetown, and appeared unassailable.

Several months later, however, the tide had turned: the government's authority was strengthened, rebel forces were repelled, and control over the country's major economic assets was restored. Executive Outcomes, a private military contractor armed with helicopters and state of the art artillery, helped change the course of the war.

Nearly every tool necessary to wage war can now be purchased: combat support, including the ability to conduct large-scale operations and surgical strikes; operational support, like training and intelligence gathering; and general support, like transportation services and paramedical assistance. The demand for these services, in turn, has ballooned: the gross revenue for the private military contractor industry is now in excess of $100bn a year.

The privatization of conflict is no longer a trend. It's the norm.

The United States relied so heavily on contractors during the recent Iraq war that no one knows with certainty how many were on the ground. In late 2010, the United Arab Emirates, fearful that the Arab uprisings might spread to the Gulf, paid Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater Worldwide, $529m to create an elite force to safeguard the emirate. And today, Russia is openly considering forming a cadre of private military contractors to further its interests abroad.

Yet, the laws that govern this industry tell a different story. Instead of a transnational system with meaningful collaboration, we have a patchwork of state laws that allow companies to forum-shop and circumvent regulations. Contractors can likewise relocate, as they typically rent the equipment necessary to complete their contracts; their primary source of capital is human, not physical.

In addition to closing loopholes, states must monitor contractors, and prosecute them when they commit crimes. To this day, not a single contractor has been successfully prosecuted for its role in the Abu Ghraib prison atrocities or the Nisour Square massacre, in which 17 Iraqi civilians were killed.

Contractors claim that their services are market- and self-regulated. They contend that wanton violence would stop governments from seeking their assistance. Yet, the theatre of war often obscures their activities.

In its final report to the US Congress, the Commission on Wartime Contracting found that the US government lost more than $30bn to contractor waste and fraud in Afghanistan and Iraq. Also, corporations can rename and rebrand, thereby mitigating reputational harm. Consider Blackwater USA, which changed its name to Xe Services LLC, and then to Academi – all in the last four years.

The UN working group on the use of mercenaries has suggested that certain military functions, like combat services and interrogation, not be outsourced to private contractors. Its guidelines should be followed. Outsourcing foreign policy goals undermines democratic oversight because contractor activities, including casualties, typically escape public scrutiny. It can also allow states to evade legislative oversight.

The greatest check against war is the horror of war itself. Yet, as the physical distance between warring states grows, so does the temptation to loosen our moral compass. Violence that lacks immediacy is easier to ignore. Permitting third parties to wage war for profit risks a world in which war is not the last resort but an economic transaction in which the victims are faceless and nameless.

And so, we return to Sierra Leone. Although the intervention by Executive Outcomes is sometimes touted as illustrating the viability of military contractors, history suggests otherwise. The contractor was later accused of interfering in domestic politics to pursue financial gain, and an associated firm received payment through diamond mine concessions, which compromised the country's economic future.

Moreover, violence resumed after Executive Outcomes left Sierra Leone. It became clear that the government had over-relied on the contractor and undercut its own institutions.

The fog of war is hazy enough. We don't need additional, unregulated cloud cover.

© 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited

Arjun Sethi

Arjun Sethi is a lawyer in Washington, DC, and a frequent commentator on civil rights and social justice-related issues. He has written for the Washington Post, USA Today, and CNN, among other publications

Post-Iraq-War US Intel Chief Praised

Thomas Fingar, former Director of the National Intelligence Council, will receive the annual award from Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence in recognition of Fingar’s work from 2005 to 2008 restoring respect for the battered discipline of U.S. intelligence analysis after the fraudulent assessments on Iraq’s non-existent WMD.Thomas Fingar, who served as U.S. Director of the National Intelligence Council in the wake of the Iraq War intelligence fiasco.

In 2007, as chief of intelligence analysis, Fingar managed a thoroughly professional – and unsparingly honest – National Intelligence Estimate on the live-wire issue of Iran’s nuclear program. That NIE was instrumental in thwarting plans by President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney to attack Iran before they left office.

At the time, it was widely believed in the Official Washington that Tehran was developing a nuclear weapon but, as a seasoned intelligence professional, Fingar was allergic to “group think.” He recruited the best experts and ordered an empirical, bottom-up approach to the evidence. And, as luck would have it, some critical new intelligence became available in 2007 during the drafting.

Thus, in the Iran NIE of early November 2007, all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies judged “with high confidence” that Iran had halted its nuclear weapon design and weaponization work in 2003. That key judgment has been revalidated in testimony to Congress every year since.

Fingar, now a professor at Stanford, is teaching in its overseas program at Oxford in the United Kingdom. The award – named for the late CIA analyst Sam Adams who challenged the U.S. military’s overly optimistic claims about Vietcong and North Vietnamese troop strength during the Vietnam War – will be presented to Fingar at the historic Oxford Union.

Discussing his upcoming award with Sam Adams Associates, Fingar showed little patience with the nonsensical charges that he and his analysts had to endure after the NIE on Iran hit the streets. He reminded us:

“The whole purpose was to provide as accurate and objective a picture of what we knew at the time. To have done otherwise would have been unprofessional and inconsistent with the reason we have an intelligence establishment.

“Every other characterization of security-related affairs provided to decision makers has, or is assumed to have, a policy agenda. The Intelligence Community exists not just to provide analyses based on ‘all’ the information available to others – plus, when it can get it, information not available to others – but also, and more importantly, to assemble and assess the information as objectively as possible.

“The job of the Intelligence Community is to help decision makers to make better-informed decisions. It most emphatically is not to lead or pressure them to decide issues in a particular way. … It is also the reason we spend billions of dollars on intelligence analysis. … In a fundamental way, we were simply ‘doing our jobs’ when we produced the Iran NIE.

“Those who did not like the conclusions knew or soon realized that they could not challenge our findings by disputing the existence or meaning of our evidence, so they pursued a different course. The ploy was completely transparent: allege that those who wrote the NIE were intelligence amateurs who had a political agenda, and claim that the alleged principal authors had been career-long opponents of President Bush.

“There are many ‘problems’ with this line of attack – problems that were overlooked by a remarkable number of journalists. … I didn’t write the NIE but, at the time, I had 37 years of intelligence experience – probably no longer an amateur.

“Neocon critics never explained why, if I had been a career-long opponent of George W. Bush, he had nominated me to be an assistant secretary of state, endorsed my selection as the first Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Analysis, and approved my selection to supervise preparation of materials for his daily briefing.”

Blocking a Dash to War

Without doubt, the NIE on Iran’s nuclear program made another rash decision to go to war in the Middle East untenable.

I myself have been involved in intelligence analysis for 50 years – 27 at the CIA; two as an Army infantry/intelligence officer, and the rest as a close observer. Yet, the November 2007 NIE is the only one I know of that deserves unambiguous credit for stopping an unnecessary war, one that could have been even more disastrous than the Bush administration’s excellent adventure in Iraq.

Don’t take my word for it. In his memoir Decision Points, President George W. Bush acknowledged that the “eye-popping” findings of the 2007 NIE “tied my hands on the military side. … After the NIE, how could I possibly explain using the military to destroy the nuclear facilities of a country the intelligence community said had no active nuclear weapons program?

“I don’t know why the NIE was written the way it was … I certainly hoped intelligence analysts weren’t trying to influence policy. Whatever the explanation, the NIE had a big impact – and not a good one.”

As Bush’s comment made clear, intelligence analysts do not operate in a political vacuum. The real professionals, however, construct a protective shield against political influence, bias and an understandable-but-anathema eagerness to please superiors in the White House.

When I tell Washington cognoscenti that this shielding can actually work, and that the debacle with “intelligence” on Iraq was the “Cheney/Bush exemption to the rule,” their eyes roll in disbelief. Everyone in Washington is perceived to have a political agenda. It takes guts for senior intelligence officials to avoid playing into that perception.

Perhaps President Bush and Vice President Cheney can be forgiven for assuming that all senior intelligence officials are as eager to politicize their work as were former CIA Director George Tenet, his deputy John McLaughlin, and the senior managers who had bubbled to the top – with disastrous consequences for Iraq.

More than two decades had gone by since Director William Casey and his protégé, Robert Gates, began politicizing intelligence big-time. That is usually enough time to corrupt thoroughly any institution – and that proved to be true for the CIA. However, after the Iraq WMD catastrophe, professionals like Fingar stepped in to begin righting the intelligence ship.

The November 2007 NIE landed like a dead fish on the White House doorstep, causing the neocons and other war hawks to challenge the unanimous judgment of all 16 intelligence agencies as naïve. The drafters were pilloried with charges that they were soft on Iran and just trying to stop a war! But the deed was done; and we were spared another unnecessary bloodletting.

Oxford Site for Award

The Oxford Union will be hosting the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence award ceremony on Jan. 23. The ceremony will feature several individuals well known in the field of intelligence and related topics, including an exclusive address via videolink from Julian Assange, who won the award in 2010.

The award is one of the few accolades for high-level whistleblowers who have taken risks to honor the public’s need to know. Also at the Oxford ceremony will be several previous Sam Adams awardees, including Coleen Rowley, Katharine Gun, Craig Murray, and Thomas Drake. The acceptance speech by Dr. Fingar will be followed by briefer remarks from a few previous Sam Adams awardees.

Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence was established in 2002 by colleagues and admirers of the late CIA intelligence analyst Sam Adams to recognize those who uphold his example as a model for those in intelligence who would aspire to the courage to speak truth to power. In honoring Adams’s memory, SAAII confers an award each year to someone in intelligence or related work who exemplifies Sam Adam’s courage, persistence, and devotion to truth — no matter the consequences.

It was Adams who discovered in 1967 that there were more than a half-million Vietnamese Communists under arms. This was roughly twice the number that the U.S. command in Saigon would admit to, lest Americans learn that claims of “progress” were bogus. As proven later in court, Gen. William Westmoreland had simply limited the number Army intelligence was allowed to carry on its books. His deputy, Gen. Creighton Abrams revealed the deception in a cable from Saigon:

A SECRET/EYES ONLY cable from Abrams on Aug. 20, 1967 stated: “We have been projecting an image of success over recent months,” and cautioned that if the higher figures became public, “all available caveats and explanations will not prevent the press from drawing an erroneous and gloomy conclusion.”

The Communist countrywide offensive during Tet (January/February 1968) made it clear that the generals had been lying and that Sam Adams’ higher figures were correct. Senior officials of the Washington Establishment were aware of the deception, but lacked the courage to stand up to Westmoreland. Sam Adams himself was too much a creature of the system to go “outside channels.”

A few weeks after Tet, however, Daniel Ellsberg rose to the occasion. Ellsberg learned that Westmoreland was asking for 206,000 more troops to widen the war into Cambodia, Laos, and North Vietnam — right up to the border with China, and perhaps beyond. Someone (we still don’t know who) promptly leaked to the New York Times Westmoreland’s troop request, emboldening Ellsberg to do likewise with Sam Adams’ figures.

It was Ellsberg’s first unauthorized disclosure. He had come to the view that leaking truth about a deceitful war would be “a patriotic and constructive act.” On March 19, 1968, the Times published a stinging story based on Adams’s figures.

On March 25, President Johnson complained to a small group, “The leaks to the New York Times hurt us. … We have no support for the war. This is caused by the 206,000 troop request and the leaks. … I would have given Westy the 206,000 men.”  On March 31, 1968, Johnson ordered a bombing pause, opted for negotiations, and announced that he would not run for another term in November.

Sam Adams continued to press for honesty but stayed “inside channels” — and failed. He died at 55 of a heart attack in 1988, nagged by the thought that, had he gone to the media, thousands of lives might have been saved. His story is told in War of Numbers, published posthumously.

The annual Sam Adams Award has been given in previous years to truth tellers Coleen Rowley of the FBI; Katharine Gun of British Intelligence; Sibel Edmonds of the FBI; Craig Murray, former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan; Sam Provance; former US Army Sgt at Abu Ghraib; Maj. Frank Grevil of Danish Army Intelligence; Larry Wilkerson, Col., U.S. Army (ret.), former chief of staff to Colin Powell at State; Julian Assange of WikiLeaks; and (ex aequo) to Thomas Drake, former senior official of NSA and Jesselyn Radack, Director of National Security and Human Rights, Government Accountability Project.

© 2012 Consortium News

Ray McGovern

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC. During his career as a CIA analyst, he prepared and briefed the President's Daily Brief and chaired National Intelligence Estimates. He is a member of the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

Post-Iraq-War US Intel Chief Praised

Thomas Fingar, former Director of the National Intelligence Council, will receive the annual award from Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence in recognition of Fingar’s work from 2005 to 2008 restoring respect for the battered discipline of U.S. intelligence analysis after the fraudulent assessments on Iraq’s non-existent WMD.Thomas Fingar, who served as U.S. Director of the National Intelligence Council in the wake of the Iraq War intelligence fiasco.

In 2007, as chief of intelligence analysis, Fingar managed a thoroughly professional – and unsparingly honest – National Intelligence Estimate on the live-wire issue of Iran’s nuclear program. That NIE was instrumental in thwarting plans by President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney to attack Iran before they left office.

At the time, it was widely believed in the Official Washington that Tehran was developing a nuclear weapon but, as a seasoned intelligence professional, Fingar was allergic to “group think.” He recruited the best experts and ordered an empirical, bottom-up approach to the evidence. And, as luck would have it, some critical new intelligence became available in 2007 during the drafting.

Thus, in the Iran NIE of early November 2007, all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies judged “with high confidence” that Iran had halted its nuclear weapon design and weaponization work in 2003. That key judgment has been revalidated in testimony to Congress every year since.

Fingar, now a professor at Stanford, is teaching in its overseas program at Oxford in the United Kingdom. The award – named for the late CIA analyst Sam Adams who challenged the U.S. military’s overly optimistic claims about Vietcong and North Vietnamese troop strength during the Vietnam War – will be presented to Fingar at the historic Oxford Union.

Discussing his upcoming award with Sam Adams Associates, Fingar showed little patience with the nonsensical charges that he and his analysts had to endure after the NIE on Iran hit the streets. He reminded us:

“The whole purpose was to provide as accurate and objective a picture of what we knew at the time. To have done otherwise would have been unprofessional and inconsistent with the reason we have an intelligence establishment.

“Every other characterization of security-related affairs provided to decision makers has, or is assumed to have, a policy agenda. The Intelligence Community exists not just to provide analyses based on ‘all’ the information available to others – plus, when it can get it, information not available to others – but also, and more importantly, to assemble and assess the information as objectively as possible.

“The job of the Intelligence Community is to help decision makers to make better-informed decisions. It most emphatically is not to lead or pressure them to decide issues in a particular way. … It is also the reason we spend billions of dollars on intelligence analysis. … In a fundamental way, we were simply ‘doing our jobs’ when we produced the Iran NIE.

“Those who did not like the conclusions knew or soon realized that they could not challenge our findings by disputing the existence or meaning of our evidence, so they pursued a different course. The ploy was completely transparent: allege that those who wrote the NIE were intelligence amateurs who had a political agenda, and claim that the alleged principal authors had been career-long opponents of President Bush.

“There are many ‘problems’ with this line of attack – problems that were overlooked by a remarkable number of journalists. … I didn’t write the NIE but, at the time, I had 37 years of intelligence experience – probably no longer an amateur.

“Neocon critics never explained why, if I had been a career-long opponent of George W. Bush, he had nominated me to be an assistant secretary of state, endorsed my selection as the first Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Analysis, and approved my selection to supervise preparation of materials for his daily briefing.”

Blocking a Dash to War

Without doubt, the NIE on Iran’s nuclear program made another rash decision to go to war in the Middle East untenable.

I myself have been involved in intelligence analysis for 50 years – 27 at the CIA; two as an Army infantry/intelligence officer, and the rest as a close observer. Yet, the November 2007 NIE is the only one I know of that deserves unambiguous credit for stopping an unnecessary war, one that could have been even more disastrous than the Bush administration’s excellent adventure in Iraq.

Don’t take my word for it. In his memoir Decision Points, President George W. Bush acknowledged that the “eye-popping” findings of the 2007 NIE “tied my hands on the military side. … After the NIE, how could I possibly explain using the military to destroy the nuclear facilities of a country the intelligence community said had no active nuclear weapons program?

“I don’t know why the NIE was written the way it was … I certainly hoped intelligence analysts weren’t trying to influence policy. Whatever the explanation, the NIE had a big impact – and not a good one.”

As Bush’s comment made clear, intelligence analysts do not operate in a political vacuum. The real professionals, however, construct a protective shield against political influence, bias and an understandable-but-anathema eagerness to please superiors in the White House.

When I tell Washington cognoscenti that this shielding can actually work, and that the debacle with “intelligence” on Iraq was the “Cheney/Bush exemption to the rule,” their eyes roll in disbelief. Everyone in Washington is perceived to have a political agenda. It takes guts for senior intelligence officials to avoid playing into that perception.

Perhaps President Bush and Vice President Cheney can be forgiven for assuming that all senior intelligence officials are as eager to politicize their work as were former CIA Director George Tenet, his deputy John McLaughlin, and the senior managers who had bubbled to the top – with disastrous consequences for Iraq.

More than two decades had gone by since Director William Casey and his protégé, Robert Gates, began politicizing intelligence big-time. That is usually enough time to corrupt thoroughly any institution – and that proved to be true for the CIA. However, after the Iraq WMD catastrophe, professionals like Fingar stepped in to begin righting the intelligence ship.

The November 2007 NIE landed like a dead fish on the White House doorstep, causing the neocons and other war hawks to challenge the unanimous judgment of all 16 intelligence agencies as naïve. The drafters were pilloried with charges that they were soft on Iran and just trying to stop a war! But the deed was done; and we were spared another unnecessary bloodletting.

Oxford Site for Award

The Oxford Union will be hosting the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence award ceremony on Jan. 23. The ceremony will feature several individuals well known in the field of intelligence and related topics, including an exclusive address via videolink from Julian Assange, who won the award in 2010.

The award is one of the few accolades for high-level whistleblowers who have taken risks to honor the public’s need to know. Also at the Oxford ceremony will be several previous Sam Adams awardees, including Coleen Rowley, Katharine Gun, Craig Murray, and Thomas Drake. The acceptance speech by Dr. Fingar will be followed by briefer remarks from a few previous Sam Adams awardees.

Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence was established in 2002 by colleagues and admirers of the late CIA intelligence analyst Sam Adams to recognize those who uphold his example as a model for those in intelligence who would aspire to the courage to speak truth to power. In honoring Adams’s memory, SAAII confers an award each year to someone in intelligence or related work who exemplifies Sam Adam’s courage, persistence, and devotion to truth — no matter the consequences.

It was Adams who discovered in 1967 that there were more than a half-million Vietnamese Communists under arms. This was roughly twice the number that the U.S. command in Saigon would admit to, lest Americans learn that claims of “progress” were bogus. As proven later in court, Gen. William Westmoreland had simply limited the number Army intelligence was allowed to carry on its books. His deputy, Gen. Creighton Abrams revealed the deception in a cable from Saigon:

A SECRET/EYES ONLY cable from Abrams on Aug. 20, 1967 stated: “We have been projecting an image of success over recent months,” and cautioned that if the higher figures became public, “all available caveats and explanations will not prevent the press from drawing an erroneous and gloomy conclusion.”

The Communist countrywide offensive during Tet (January/February 1968) made it clear that the generals had been lying and that Sam Adams’ higher figures were correct. Senior officials of the Washington Establishment were aware of the deception, but lacked the courage to stand up to Westmoreland. Sam Adams himself was too much a creature of the system to go “outside channels.”

A few weeks after Tet, however, Daniel Ellsberg rose to the occasion. Ellsberg learned that Westmoreland was asking for 206,000 more troops to widen the war into Cambodia, Laos, and North Vietnam — right up to the border with China, and perhaps beyond. Someone (we still don’t know who) promptly leaked to the New York Times Westmoreland’s troop request, emboldening Ellsberg to do likewise with Sam Adams’ figures.

It was Ellsberg’s first unauthorized disclosure. He had come to the view that leaking truth about a deceitful war would be “a patriotic and constructive act.” On March 19, 1968, the Times published a stinging story based on Adams’s figures.

On March 25, President Johnson complained to a small group, “The leaks to the New York Times hurt us. … We have no support for the war. This is caused by the 206,000 troop request and the leaks. … I would have given Westy the 206,000 men.”  On March 31, 1968, Johnson ordered a bombing pause, opted for negotiations, and announced that he would not run for another term in November.

Sam Adams continued to press for honesty but stayed “inside channels” — and failed. He died at 55 of a heart attack in 1988, nagged by the thought that, had he gone to the media, thousands of lives might have been saved. His story is told in War of Numbers, published posthumously.

The annual Sam Adams Award has been given in previous years to truth tellers Coleen Rowley of the FBI; Katharine Gun of British Intelligence; Sibel Edmonds of the FBI; Craig Murray, former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan; Sam Provance; former US Army Sgt at Abu Ghraib; Maj. Frank Grevil of Danish Army Intelligence; Larry Wilkerson, Col., U.S. Army (ret.), former chief of staff to Colin Powell at State; Julian Assange of WikiLeaks; and (ex aequo) to Thomas Drake, former senior official of NSA and Jesselyn Radack, Director of National Security and Human Rights, Government Accountability Project.

© 2012 Consortium News

Ray McGovern

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC. During his career as a CIA analyst, he prepared and briefed the President's Daily Brief and chaired National Intelligence Estimates. He is a member of the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

Post Iraq War US Intel Chief Praised

Thomas Fingar, former Director of the National Intelligence Council, will receive the annual award from Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence in recognition of Fingar’s work from 2005 to 2008 restoring respect for the battered discipline of U.S. intelligence analysis after the fraudulent assessments on Iraq’s non-existent WMD.

In 2007, as chief of intelligence analysis, Fingar managed a thoroughly professional – and unsparingly honest – National Intelligence Estimate on the live-wire issue of Iran’s nuclear program. That NIE was instrumental in thwarting plans by President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney to attack Iran before they left office.

At the time, it was widely believed in the Official Washington that Tehran was developing a nuclear weapon but, as a seasoned intelligence professional, Fingar was allergic to “group think.” He recruited the best experts and ordered an empirical, bottom-up approach to the evidence. And, as luck would have it, some critical new intelligence became available in 2007 during the drafting.

Thus, in the Iran NIE of early November 2007, all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies judged “with high confidence” that Iran had halted its nuclear weapon design and weaponization work in 2003. That key judgment has been revalidated in testimony to Congress every year since.

Fingar, now a professor at Stanford, is teaching in its overseas program at Oxford in the United Kingdom. The award – named for the late CIA analyst Sam Adams who challenged the U.S. military’s overly optimistic claims about Vietcong and North Vietnamese troop strength during the Vietnam War – will be presented to Fingar at the historic Oxford Union.

Discussing his upcoming award with Sam Adams Associates, Fingar showed little patience with the nonsensical charges that he and his analysts had to endure after the NIE on Iran hit the streets. He reminded us:

“The whole purpose was to provide as accurate and objective a picture of what we knew at the time. To have done otherwise would have been unprofessional and inconsistent with the reason we have an intelligence establishment.

“Every other characterization of security-related affairs provided to decision makers has, or is assumed to have, a policy agenda. The Intelligence Community exists not just to provide analyses based on ‘all’ the information available to others – plus, when it can get it, information not available to others – but also, and more importantly, to assemble and assess the information as objectively as possible.

“The job of the Intelligence Community is to help decision makers to make better-informed decisions. It most emphatically is not to lead or pressure them to decide issues in a particular way. … It is also the reason we spend billions of dollars on intelligence analysis. … In a fundamental way, we were simply ‘doing our jobs’ when we produced the Iran NIE.

“Those who did not like the conclusions knew or soon realized that they could not challenge our findings by disputing the existence or meaning of our evidence, so they pursued a different course. The ploy was completely transparent: allege that those who wrote the NIE were intelligence amateurs who had a political agenda, and claim that the alleged principal authors had been career-long opponents of President Bush.

“There are many ‘problems’ with this line of attack – problems that were overlooked by a remarkable number of journalists. … I didn’t write the NIE but, at the time, I had 37 years of intelligence experience – probably no longer an amateur.

“Neocon critics never explained why, if I had been a career-long opponent of George W. Bush, he had nominated me to be an assistant secretary of state, endorsed my selection as the first Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Analysis, and approved my selection to supervise preparation of materials for his daily briefing.”

Blocking a Dash to War

Without doubt, the NIE on Iran’s nuclear program made another rash decision to go to war in the Middle East untenable.

I myself have been involved in intelligence analysis for 50 years – 27 at the CIA; two as an Army infantry/intelligence officer, and the rest as a close observer. Yet, the November 2007 NIE is the only one I know of that deserves unambiguous credit for stopping an unnecessary war, one that could have been even more disastrous than the Bush administration’s excellent adventure in Iraq.

Don’t take my word for it. In his memoir Decision Points, President George W. Bush acknowledged that the “eye-popping” findings of the 2007 NIE “tied my hands on the military side. … After the NIE, how could I possibly explain using the military to destroy the nuclear facilities of a country the intelligence community said had no active nuclear weapons program?

“I don’t know why the NIE was written the way it was … I certainly hoped intelligence analysts weren’t trying to influence policy. Whatever the explanation, the NIE had a big impact – and not a good one.”

As Bush’s comment made clear, intelligence analysts do not operate in a political vacuum. The real professionals, however, construct a protective shield against political influence, bias and an understandable-but-anathema eagerness to please superiors in the White House.

When I tell Washington cognoscenti that this shielding can actually work, and that the debacle with “intelligence” on Iraq was the “Cheney/Bush exemption to the rule,” their eyes roll in disbelief. Everyone in Washington is perceived to have a political agenda. It takes guts for senior intelligence officials to avoid playing into that perception.

Perhaps President Bush and Vice President Cheney can be forgiven for assuming that all senior intelligence officials are as eager to politicize their work as were former CIA Director George Tenet, his deputy John McLaughlin, and the senior managers who had bubbled to the top – with disastrous consequences for Iraq.

More than two decades had gone by since Director William Casey and his protégé, Robert Gates, began politicizing intelligence big-time. That is usually enough time to corrupt thoroughly any institution – and that proved to be true for the CIA. However, after the Iraq WMD catastrophe, professionals like Fingar stepped in to begin righting the intelligence ship.

The November 2007 NIE landed like a dead fish on the White House doorstep, causing the neocons and other war hawks to challenge the unanimous judgment of all 16 intelligence agencies as naïve. The drafters were pilloried with charges that they were soft on Iran and just trying to stop a war! But the deed was done; and we were spared another unnecessary bloodletting.

Oxford Site for Award

The Oxford Union will be hosting the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence award ceremony on Jan. 23. The ceremony will feature several individuals well known in the field of intelligence and related topics, including an exclusive address via videolink from Julian Assange, who won the award in 2010.

The award is one of the few accolades for high-level whistleblowers who have taken risks to honor the public’s need to know. Also at the Oxford ceremony will be several previous Sam Adams awardees, including Coleen Rowley, Katharine Gun, Craig Murray, and Thomas Drake. The acceptance speech by Dr. Fingar will be followed by briefer remarks from a few previous Sam Adams awardees.

Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence was established in 2002 by colleagues and admirers of the late CIA intelligence analyst Sam Adams to recognize those who uphold his example as a model for those in intelligence who would aspire to the courage to speak truth to power. In honoring Adams’s memory, SAAII confers an award each year to someone in intelligence or related work who exemplifies Sam Adam’s courage, persistence, and devotion to truth — no matter the consequences.

It was Adams who discovered in 1967 that there were more than a half-million Vietnamese Communists under arms. This was roughly twice the number that the U.S. command in Saigon would admit to, lest Americans learn that claims of “progress” were bogus. As proven later in court, Gen. William Westmoreland had simply limited the number Army intelligence was allowed to carry on its books. His deputy, Gen. Creighton Abrams revealed the deception in a cable from Saigon:

A SECRET/EYES ONLY cable from Abrams on Aug. 20, 1967 stated: “We have been projecting an image of success over recent months,” and cautioned that if the higher figures became public, “all available caveats and explanations will not prevent the press from drawing an erroneous and gloomy conclusion.”

The Communist countrywide offensive during Tet (January/February 1968) made it clear that the generals had been lying and that Sam Adams’ higher figures were correct. Senior officials of the Washington Establishment were aware of the deception, but lacked the courage to stand up to Westmoreland. Sam Adams himself was too much a creature of the system to go “outside channels.”

A few weeks after Tet, however, Daniel Ellsberg rose to the occasion. Ellsberg learned that Westmoreland was asking for 206,000 more troops to widen the war into Cambodia, Laos, and North Vietnam — right up to the border with China, and perhaps beyond. Someone (we still don’t know who) promptly leaked to the New York TimesWestmoreland’s troop request, emboldening Ellsberg to do likewise with Sam Adams’ figures.

It was Ellsberg’s first unauthorized disclosure. He had come to the view that leaking truth about a deceitful war would be “a patriotic and constructive act.” On March 19, 1968, the Times published a stinging story based on Adams’s figures.

On March 25, President Johnson complained to a small group, “The leaks to the New York Times hurt us. … We have no support for the war. This is caused by the 206,000 troop request and the leaks. … I would have given Westy the 206,000 men.”  On March 31, 1968, Johnson ordered a bombing pause, opted for negotiations, and announced that he would not run for another term in November.

Sam Adams continued to press for honesty but stayed “inside channels” — and failed. He died at 55 of a heart attack in 1988, nagged by the thought that, had he gone to the media, thousands of lives might have been saved. His story is told in War of Numbers, published posthumously.

The annual Sam Adams Award has been given in previous years to truth tellers Coleen Rowley of the FBI;Katharine Gun of British Intelligence; Sibel Edmonds of the FBI; Craig Murray, former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan; Sam Provance; former US Army Sgt at Abu Ghraib; Maj. Frank Grevil of Danish Army Intelligence;Larry Wilkerson, Col., U.S. Army (ret.), former chief of staff to Colin Powell at State; Julian Assange of WikiLeaks; and (ex aequo) to Thomas Drake, former senior official of NSA and Jesselyn Radack, Director of National Security and Human Rights, Government Accountability Project.

Syrian Terrorists Establish “Intelligence Agency” (Mukharbarat), Undercover “Secret Security Force”

syriafree army

“The people who lived here were killed by democracy.” Writing on the wall of a house in Haditha, Iraq, after the massacre of twenty four people by US Marines, November 2005.

Having reduced Iraq to a state of terror, shambles, years of near pogrom, and, as the tenth anniversary of possibly modern history’s most illegal invasion, with car bombs and resultant body parts still a near routine nightmare, it seems the democracy bringing US-EU-NATO axis is about to score another own goal in Syria.

Their pet insurgents – in the nation where capital city Damascus is believed the longest continuay inhabited city on earth, is mentioned sixty seven times in the bible and where the language of Jesus, Aramaic, is still spoken in some areas – are torturing, killing, beheading and destroying history itself.

Now, it seems, the Western liberty bringers, plus alleged factory plundering pal Turkey (i) are party to establishing their very own Mukharbarat.

This secret security force in Middle East countries is a name usually spoken in whispers with a furtive glance over the shoulder, by people of fortitude for whom fear is mostly a foreign language.

Now reports state (ii) that the murderous “mutineers” (pictured being paid in US $s) have set up their very own Mukharbarat to: “protect the revolution.” and to gather information to plan attacks on forces of a sovereign government.

Underlining further the chaotic, blind folly (as Iraq, Libya) of their Western backers, the Report states of the Mukharbarat backers: “The organization  appears to operate independently from the main opposition Syrian National Coalition and the Free Syrian Army, effectively answering to itself.”

The Arab world’s secret services are undisputedly a bi-word for ruthlessness (however given Abu Ghraib, Bagram, Guantanamo, rendition flights, secret trials, torture, waterboarding etc., there is no high moral ground.) But the words of “Haj”, one self styled rebel might yet make the Arab world’s worst excesses look mild, as the US and UK did Saddam’s:

“We are watching everybody. We have gathered information about every violation that happened in the revolt”, he said.

“Those we cannot punish now will be punished after toppling Assad. Nothing will be ignored. We have our members among all the working brigades. They are not known to be intelligence and they operate quietly.”

His agents, Haji said, worked undercover as activists, citizen journalists or fighters. “Nothing will be ignored” he warned darkly.

Notes

Finding Excuses to Torture

Canada Supports Torture: An Instrument of "Terrorism Propaganda"

Despite evidence over the centuries that torture fails to elicit reliable information – and is criminal as well – apologists for George W. Bush and movies like Zero Dark Thirty continue to perpetuate the myth that torture is a necessary evil, at least when Americans are doing the torturing, as Lawrence Davidson writes.

In 2005, I wrote an essay, published in the journal Logos, entitled “Torture in our Time.” In it I laid out the historical evidence for the conclusion that torture rarely works. This position goes back at least to the Enlightenment when Cesare Beccaria wrote a famous pamphlet, “ On Crimes and Punishments” (1764) in which he observed the obvious:
“The impression of pain, then, may increase to such a degree that, occupying the mind entirely, it will compel the sufferer to use the shortest method of freeing himself from torment. … He will accuse himself of crimes of which he is innocent so that the very means employed to distinguish the innocent from the guilty will most effectually destroy all difference between them.”

Along with false admissions of guilt, those under torture will tell their tormenter just about anything, regardless of truth and accuracy. Modern researchers, and even modern practitioners of interrogation, know this to be so. They have come to the same conclusion as Beccaria. Torture produces more false and fictional information than not.

For instance, Darius Rejali in his book Torture and Democracy (2009), tells us that “the available evidence [against the efficacy of torture] is conclusive” and alludes to the fact that, for 250 years, criminologists, and psychologists have been pointing this out.

Image: Depiction of torture methods in the 16th Century. 

The ex-intelligence officer, Colonel John Rothrock, who headed a combat interrogation team in Vietnam, told the Washington Post in 2005 that, given the Vietnam experience, “he doesn’t know any professional intelligence officers of my generation who would think this [torture] is a good idea’” even in a so-called “ticking bomb” scenario.

The inclusion of “my generation” in Rothrock’s statement implies that each generation has to learn the truth about torture anew, over the wreckage of newly broken bodies.

More recently, in December 2012, the Senate Intelligence committee approved a report which, in some 6,000 pages, concludes that “the harsh interrogation measures used by the CIA [that is the torture techniques allowed by the administration of George W. Bush] did not produce significant intelligence breakthroughs.”

This specifically includes the production of intelligence leading to the discovery of Osama bin Laden. Indeed, the report says that torture actually became “counterproductive in the broader campaign against al-Qaeda.” All this led Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, to call Bush Jr.’s secret CIA prisons and use of torture “terrible mistakes.”

The Eternal Skeptics

For a certain subset of the population (and not just in the U.S.) these truths do not matter. This subset constitutes a modern warrior caste and their followers. The American sampling includes many (but not all) neoconservatives, classic tough-guys turned politicians, faux-realists, military professionals, and an ever-present small number of people who just like to hurt and humiliate others and find their way into professions that allow them to do so (often the actual torturers).

For all these folks the evidence against torture appears counter-intuitive and just does not “feel right.” Therefore, intuitively, these skeptics feel more comfortable with another statement, that might be juxtaposed with Beccaria’s above. This one was written by White House Counsel Alberto R. Gonzales, in a memorandum for President Bush on Jan. 25, 2002:

“The nature of the new war places a high premium on … the ability to quickly obtain information from captured terrorists in order to avoid further atrocities against American civilians.  In my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva’s [the Geneva Convention Against Torture] strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners.”

Currently, it is the Republican Party that harbors many of the skeptics who share this opinion about the efficacy of torture and the “obsolete” nature of the treaties (ratified by the United States) forbidding it.

Some Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee that issued the latest report proving torture’s uselessness, even refused to participate in the report’s investigatory process. For them this might have been the result of obeying their party’s dictate to remain loyal to the discredited Bush administration.

For others though, it was loyalty plus their belief (in the face of all the evidence to the contrary) that Bush was correct to send the CIA out into the world to cause unbearable pain and suffering. They believe such behavior materially contributed to “making America safe.”

Making Torture’s Case at the Movies

Unfortunately, there is a general tendency on the part of Americans to agree with the skeptics. And, this trend is about to be strengthened. There is now a movie, Zero Dark Thirty (the work of the Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow) in U.S. theaters that will reinforce the erroneous view that torture works.

Zero Dark Thirty purports to tell the story, based on “first-hand accounts,” of the hunt for and killing of Osama Bin Laden. According to this film, torture formed a “critical aspect of intelligence gathering” process. There is good evidence that the U.S. government assisted in making the movie, if not the actual writing of the script.

It would be nice if some talented director could make a movie, based on “first-hand accounts” of the making of the Senate report on Bush era torture. But that sort of movie will not be made because Washington has no desire to tie its hands in this regard. Nor will the truly accurate documentaries (see below) that do exist on the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, or the now defunct hell-hole that was Abu Ghraib, get national distribution.

However, we can expect many more films like Zero Dark Thirty. This is because the recent 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) signed by President Barack Obama makes legal direct government funding of propaganda aimed at the American population. Perhaps the U.S. government is about to buy its own back-lot in Hollywood.

There is a story about Abraham Lincoln that claims that every time he was confronted by someone extolling the benefits of slavery, he had a desire to see it (slavery) tried out on the one defending it. Torture can be approached the same way.

Does President Bush Jr. and ex-counsel Alberto Gonzales think it is a vital part of America’s defense? Do those Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee have such faith in torture that they can dismiss out of hand 6,000 pages of contrary evidence?

OK. Let’s see torture tried out on these fellows and note whether they will confess to false reports about, say, their sex lives.

Just wishful thinking. The torturers we are talking about are all past or present powerful government officials and their henchmen. Most of them will die in bed and maybe, someday, have their face put on a postage stamp. Their horrid deeds, already excused, will soon be forgotten.

For what are crimes when committed by the average person, are but vices when committed by the powerful (so said Benjamin Disraeli). Finally, it has been known for ages that, as the old Latin saying goes, “in times of war the laws go silent.”

Note: Here are three good documentaries touching on the U.S. practice of torture: Alex Gibney, “Taxi to the Dark Side;” Rory Kennedy, “Ghosts of Abu Ghraib;” Annie Sunberg and Ricki Stern, “The End of America.”

Lawrence Davidson is a history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He is the author of Foreign Policy Inc.: Privatizing America’s National InterestAmerica’s Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood; and Islamic Fundamentalism.

Learning to Love Torture, Zero Dark Thirty-Style

Seven easy, onscreen steps to making US torture and detention policies once again palatable.

On January 11th, 11 years to the day after the Bush administration opened its notorious prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow’s deeply flawed movie about the hunt for Osama bin Laden, opens nationwide. The filmmakers and distributors are evidently ignorant of the significance of the date -- a perfect indication of the carelessness and thoughtlessness of the film, which will unfortunately substitute for actual history in the minds of many Americans.

The sad fact is that Zero Dark Thirty could have been written by the tight circle of national security advisors who counseled President George W. Bush to create the post-9/11 policies that led to Guantanamo, the global network of borrowed “black sites” that added up to an offshore universe of injustice, and the grim torture practices -- euphemistically known as “enhanced interrogation techniques” -- that went with them.  It’s also a film that those in the Obama administration who have championed non-accountability for such shameful policies could and (evidently did) get behind. It might as well be called Back to the Future, Part IV, for the film, like the country it speaks to, seems stuck forever in that time warp moment of revenge and hubris that swept the country just after 9/11.

As its core, Bigelow’s film makes the bald-faced assertion that torture did help the United States track down the perpetrator of 9/11. Zero Dark Thirty -- for anyone who doesn’t know by now -- is the story of Maya (Jessica Chastain), a young CIA agent who believes that information from a detainee named Ammar will lead to bin Laden. After weeks, maybe months of torture, he does indeed provide a key bit of information that leads to another piece of information that leads… well, you get the idea. Eventually, the name of bin Laden’s courier is revealed. From the first mention of his name, Maya dedicates herself to finding him, and he finally leads the CIA to the compound where bin Laden is hiding.  Of course, you know how it all ends.

However compelling the heroine’s determination to find bin Laden may be, the fact is that Bigelow has bought in, hook, line, and sinker, to the ethos of the Bush administration and its apologists. It’s as if she had followed an old government memo and decided to offer in fictional form step-by-step instructions for the creation, implementation, and selling of Bush-era torture and detention policies.

Here, then, are the seven steps that bring back the Bush administration and should help Americans learn how to love torture, Bigelow-style.

First, Rouse Fear. From its opening scene, Zero Dark Thirty equates our post-9/11 fears with the need for torture. The movie begins in darkness with the actual heartbreaking cries and screams for help of people trapped inside the towers of the World Trade Center: “I’m going to die, aren’t I?... It’s so hot. I’m burning up...” a female voice cries out. As those voices fade, the black screen yields to a full view of Ammar being roughed up by men in black ski masks and then strung up, arms wide apart.

The sounds of torture replace the desperate pleas of the victims. “Is he ever getting out?” Maya asks. “Never,” her close CIA associate Dan (Jason Clarke) answers.  These are meant to be words of reassurance in response to the horrors of 9/11. Bigelow’s first step, then, is to echo former Vice-President Dick Cheney’s mantra from that now-distant moment in which he claimed the nation needed to go to “the dark side.”  That was part of his impassioned demand that, given the immense threat posed by al-Qaeda, going beyond the law was the only way to seek retribution and security.

Bigelow also follows Cheney’s lead into a world of fear.  The Bush administration understood that, for their global dreams, including a future invasion of Iraq, to become reality, fear was their best ally. From Terre Haute to El Paso, Portland, Oregon, to Portland, Maine, Americans were to be regularly reminded that they were deeply and eternally endangered by terrorists.

Bigelow similarly keeps the fear monitor bleeping whenever she can. Interspersed with the narrative of the bin Laden chase, she provides often blood-filled footage from terrorist attacks around the globe in the decade after 9/11: the 2004 bombings of oil installations in Khobar, Saudi Arabia, that killed 22; the 2005 suicide bombings in London that killed 56; the 2008 Marriott Hotel bombing in Islamabad that killed 54 people; and the thwarted Times Square bombing of May, 2010. We are in constant jeopardy, she wants us to remember, and uses Maya to remind us of this throughout.

Second, Undermine the Law. Torture is illegal under both American and international law.  It was only pronounced “legal” in a series of secret memorandums produced by the Bush Justice Department and approved at the highest levels of the administration. (Top officials, including Cheney and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, evidently even had torture techniques demonstrated for them in the White House before green-lighting them.)  Maintaining that there was no way Americans could be kept safe via purely legal methods, they asked for and were given secret legal authority to make torture the go-to option in their Global War on Terror. Yet Bigelow never even nods toward this striking rethinking of the law. She assumes the legality of the acts she portrays up close and personal, only hedging her bets toward the movie’s end when she indicates in passing that the legal system was a potential impediment to getting bin Laden. “Who the hell am I supposed to ask [for confirmation about the courier], some guy at Gitmo who’s all lawyered up?” asks Obama’s national security advisor in the filmic run-up to the raid.

Just as new policies were put in place to legalize torture, so the detention of terror suspects without charges or trials (including people who, we now know, were treated horrifically despite being innocent of anything) became a foundational act of the administration. Specifically, government lawyers were employed to create particularly tortured (if you’ll excuse the word) legal documents exempting detainees from the Geneva Conventions, thus enabling their interrogation under conditions that blatantly violated domestic and international laws.

Zero Dark Thirty accepts without hesitation or question the importance of this unconstitutional detention policy as crucial to the torture program. From the very first days of the war on terror, the U.S. government rounded up individuals globally and began to question them brutally. Whether they actually had information to reveal, whether the government had any concrete evidence against them, they held hundreds -- in the end, thousands -- of detainees in U.S. custody at secret CIA black sites worldwide, in the prisons of allied states known for their own torture policies, at Bagram Detention Center in Afghanistan, and of course at Guantanamo, which was the crown jewel of the Bush administration’s offshore detention system.

Dan and Maya themselves not only travel to secret black sites to obtain valuable information from detainees, but to the cages and interrogation booths at Bagram where men in those now-familiar orange jumpsuits are shown awaiting a nightmare experience.  Bigelow's film repeatedly suggests that it was crucially important for national security to keep a pool of potential information sources -- those detainees -- available just in case they might one day turn out to have information.

Third, Indulge in the Horror: Torture is displayed onscreen in what can only be called pornographic detail for nearly the film’s first hour. In this way, Zero Dark Thirty eerily mimics the obsessive, essentially fetishistic approach of Bush’s top officials to the subject.  Cheney, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Cheney's former Chief of Staff David Addington, and John Yoo from the Office of Legal Counsel, among others, plunged into the minutiae of “enhanced interrogation” tactics, micro-managing just what levels of abuse should and should not apply, would and would not constitute torture after 9/11.

In black site after black site, on victim after victim, the movie shows acts of torture in exquisite detail, Bigelow’s camera seeming to relish its gruesomeness: waterboarding, stress positions, beatings, sleep deprivation resulting in memory loss and severe disorientation, sexual humiliation, containment in a small box, and more. Whenever she gets the chance, Bigelow seems to take the opportunity to suggest that this mangling of human flesh and immersion in brutality on the part of Americans is at least understandable and probably worthwhile.  The film’s almost subliminal message on the subject of torture should remind us of the way in which a form of sadism-as-patriotic-duty filtered down to the troops on the ground, as evidenced by the now infamous 2004 photos from Abu Ghraib of smiling American soldiers offering thumbs-up responses to their ability to humiliate and hurt captives in dog collars.

Fourth, Dehumanize the Victims. Like the national security establishment that promoted torture policies, Bigelow dehumanizes her victims. Despite repeated beatings, humiliations, and aggressive torture techniques of various sorts, Ammar never becomes even a faintly sympathetic character to anyone in the film. As a result, there is never anyone for the audience to identify with who becomes emotionally distraught over the abuses. Dehumanization was a necessary tool in promoting torture; now, it is a necessary tool in promotingZero Dark Thirty, which desensitizes its audience in ways that should be frightening to us and make us wonder who exactly we have become in the years since 9/11.

Fifth, Never Doubt That Torture Works.  Given all this, it’s a small step to touting the effectiveness of torture in eliciting the truth. “In the end, everybody breaks, bro’: it’s biology,” Dan says to his victim.  He also repeats over and over, “If you lie to me, I hurt you” -- meaning, “If I hurt you, you won’t lie to me.” Maya concurs, telling Ammar, bruised, bloodied, and begging for her help, that he can stop his pain by telling the truth.

How many times does the American public need to be told that torture did notyield the results the government promised? How many times does it need to be said that waterboarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11, 183 times obviously didn’t work? How many times does it need to be pointed out that torture can -- and did -- produce misleading or false information, notably in the torture of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, the Libyan who ran an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan and who confessed under torture that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?    

Sixth, Hold No One Accountable. The Obama administration made the determination that holding Bush administration figures, CIA officials, or the actual torturers responsible for what they did in a court of law was far more trouble than it might ever be worth. Instead, the president chose to move onand officially never look back. Bigelow takes advantage of this passivity to suggest to her audience that the only downside of torture is the fear of accountability. As he prepares to leave Pakistan, Dan tells Maya, “You gotta be real careful with the detainees now. Politics are changing and you don’t want to be the last one holding the dog collar when the oversight committee comes…”

The sad truth is that Zero Dark Thirty could not have been produced in its present form if any of the officials who created and implemented U.S. torture policy had been held accountable for what happened, or any genuine sunshine had been thrown upon it. With scant public debate and no public record of accountability, Bigelow feels free to leave out even a scintilla of criticism of that torture program. Her film is thus one more example of the fact that without accountability, the pernicious narrative continues, possibly gaining traction as it does.

Seventh, Employ the Media. While the Bush administration had the Fox television series 24 as a weekly reminder that torture keeps us safe, the current administration, bent on its no-accountability policy, has Bigelow’s film on its side. It’s the perfect piece of propaganda, with all the appeal that naked brutality, fear, and revenge can bring.

Hollywood and most of its critics have embraced the film. It has already been named among the best films of the year, and is considered a shoe-in for Oscar nominations. Hollywood, that one-time bastion of liberalism, has provided the final piece in the perfect blueprint for the whitewashing of torture policy.  If that isn’t a happily-ever-after ending, what is?

2nd US firm faces suit for Iraq torture

An Iraqi soldier closes the door of a cell in Abu Ghraib prison after the Iraqi government took over control of the facility near Baghdad in 2006.

Another US military contractor faces legal action for involvement in torture and beating of detainees in Iraq’s notorious Abu Ghraib prison during American invasion of the country and over seven years after the torture scandal in the US-run prison became public.

The legal case against Virginia-based CACI International comes as another defense contractor, Engiligy, also based in the state of Virginia where the Pentagon is located, recently paid USD5.28 million to settle a legal complaint filed on behalf of dozens of former Iraqi torture victims while in custody of US military contractors in Abu Ghraib and other American-run detention sites throughout Iraq during the invasion, The Washington Post reports Thursday.

CACI employees are alleged to have been part of a group that tortured Iraqis detained by American troops, depriving them of food and water, according to federal court documents.


The major company and military contractor, however, has vowed to challenge the legal complaint, which is due to go to trial later this year, the report says.

According to the report, CACI has claimed in court document that the company and its personnel “should have immunity,” arguing that the plaintiffs have failed to detail “specific instances of interactions with company employees.”

The legal suit against CACI in Eastern Virginia’s US District Court has four plaintiffs, “all Iraqis who spent time at Abu Ghraib,” according to court documents quoted by the daily.

The complaint contends that the detainees were “brutally tortured” by US-led forces, including CACI employees, adding that all four torture victims continue to suffer from physical and mental injuries related to the abuse, the report states.


The report further adds that Engility, “a new government-services business spun off by L-3 Communications,” paid USD5.28 million to former tortured detainees to settle their legal complaint.

Meanwhile, the daily notes, “for these sizable contractors, a settlement of several million dollars generally isn’t damaging to stock prices, but analysts said the companies are focused on defending their record.”

MFB/MFB

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Sy Hersh Bombshell: Obama “Cherry-Picked” Intel on Syrian Chemical Attack

The New Yorker and Washington Post...

Guantanamo: Twelve Years of Torture, Illegality, and Shame

A litany of physical injuries, psychological deterioration, and illnesses caused by the conditions of the last 12 years are fully documented and are...

Women, War, and the Working Class

In the previous installment in the Political Poetry series, Afaa Weaver described his urge, as an African American poet, “to touch the proletarian vernacular...

Teaching Torture the World Over

The US Army School of the Americas in Ft. Benning, Georgia is a notorious training operation for Latin American officers and soldiers. It's associated...

The Slacker Torturer

A report released last Monday indicating that U.S. military doctors designed, enabled and engaged in the torture of detainees during both the Bush and...

The Imperial Roots of Iraq’s Sectarian Violence

As Iraqi I Prime Minster Nuri al-Maliki arrived in Washington, D.C., for a summit meeting with Barack Obama on November 1, his country teetered...

Lawsuit: Police And Doctors Conduct Illegal Cavity Search, Colonoscopy On Innocent Man

A Southern New Mexico man has filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Deming and several Deming Police Officers after a January police...

Lawsuit: Police Accuse Man Of Drug Possession, Force Doctors To Conduct Enemas, Colonoscopy

A Southern New Mexico man has filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Deming and several Deming Police Officers after a January police...

New report condemns US medical professionals’ role in torture

By James Brewer5 November 2013 Since September 11, 2001 medical professionals under the direction of the CIA and the US Department of Defense were...

From Tiger Cages to Control Units

1970 TRIP to VIETNAM As a 26 year old co-founder of the Yippies (the Youth International Party) I traveled to North Vietnam in 1970...

RINFORMATION

USA Topics 9/11 Agenda 21 Assassinations Banks Bush, George Jr Boston Bombings Bohemian Grove CIA Cointelpro Corruption DARPA Democrats Disinformation Congress Drones Eugenics FBI Federal Reserve Guantanamo HAARP ...

Lawyers Advise Toronto Police Chief to Arrest Dick Cheney “as a Person Suspected of...

Arrest, investigation and prosecution of torture suspect Richard Cheney Sunday, October 27, 2013Toronto Chief of PoliceWilliam (Bill) BlairAttorney General of Ontario John Gerretsen, Ministry of...

Dick Cheney: Bar Him From Canada or Arrest Him on Entry for Prosection in...

LAW letter 30 Sept/13 13 http://www.lawyersagainstthewar.org/letters/barcheney300913.pdf Press Release 16 Oct/13 http://www.lawyersagainstthewar.org/ArrestCheney.pdf Excerpt: Harper Government Ignores Torture Opponents' Call to Ban Dick Cheney from Canada or Prosecute Him Protest...

The Real Reason U.S. Targets Whistleblowers

Hypocrisy as a Weapon U.S. leaders have long: Labeled indiscriminate killing of civilians as terrorism. Yet the American military indiscriminately kills innocent civilians (and...

The Real Reason U.S. Targets Whistleblowers

Hypocrisy as a Weapon U.S. leaders have long: Labeled indiscriminate killing of civilians as terrorism. Yet the American military indiscriminately kills innocent civilians (and...

Al Qaeda’s Corridor Through Syria

On Tuesday night, suicide bombers and gunmen attacked Iraqi checkpoints along Highway 11, which runs from Baghdad to Syria via Ramadi. They bombed the...

Al Qaeda’s Corridor Through Syria

On Tuesday night, suicide bombers and gunmen attacked Iraqi checkpoints along Highway 11, which runs from Baghdad to Syria via Ramadi. They bombed the...

The Neutering of the NSA Archives

1. Clancy Lives! Take heart, you fans of slam-bang super-spy adventure stories! Tom Clancy is not dead; he lives on in the pages of the...

Snowden accepts whistleblower award

National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, from his asylum in Russia, accepted an award on Wednesday from a group of former U.S. intelligence officials...

“We Used Chemical Weapons in Vietnam”: Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick Explain How Telling...

Joint Interview by The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus and Shukan Kinyobi, Tokyo, August 11, 2013 The Japanese weekly Shukan Kinyobi and The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan...

America: The Republic of Lying

America: The Republic of Lying by Stephen Lendman Longtime investigative journalist Seymour Hersh addressed it. More on what he said below. Others like him did years earlier....

Iraqis Accuse US Defense Contractor CACI of War Crimes and Torture

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (CN) – CACI agents committed war crimes, torturing and humiliating detainees, as part of a defense contract to provide linguistic services, dozens...

Seymour Hersh says the killing of bin Laden is one big lie

Seymour Hersh, America's premier investigative journalist on the Death of Osama bin Laden: “It's One Big Lie, Not One Word Of It Is True.”http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/09/27/seymour-hersh-on-death-of-osama-bin-laden-its-one-big-lie-not-one-word-of-it-is-true/ By...

Journalist Seymour Hersh on Obama, NSA and the ‘Pathetic’ American Media

Seymour Hersh has got some extreme ideas on how to fix journalism — close down the news bureaus of NBC and ABC, sack 90%...

US attorney sentenced to life for murder

Paul Bergrin, a once-prominent defense attorney in New Jersey, received an indefinite prison sentence on Monday for murder and racketeering. During his tenure, the former...

‘Bullet-ridden bodies found in Baghdad’

A picture taken on July 29, 2013 shows Iraqis inspecting the site of a car bomb explosion in the impoverished district of Sadr City...

Murky Clues from UN’s Syria Report

The focus of the Syrian crisis has shifted to diplomatic moves for eliminating the government's chemical weapons stockpile, but the whodunit over the Aug....

The “Indispensable Nation” Threatens Another War Against Children

“I wonder now how the foreign policies of the United States would look if we wiped out the national boundaries of the world,...

Bombings rock Iraq again, 59 more die

A series of car bombings and other attacks in Iraq, mostly targeting Shia majority-cities, has killed at least 59 people and injured scores more,...

Blasts hit Iraqi cities, kill 9

An Iraqi man inspects the site of an explosion on September 11, 2013 that went off near a Shiite mosque in Baghdad's northern neighborhood...

“More Lies for War”: Barack Obama, President and “Liar-in-Chief”

Barack Obama's September 10 speech on Syria was packaged, and is being “debated,” as a defense of his policies and his latest diplomatic moves. But...

Giving New Meaning to the Day After 9/11: Why Saying No to Syria...

Once again, we find ourselves at the day after 9/11, and this time America stands alone. Alone not only in our abandonment even by...

What If Congress Says No on Syria?

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/what_if_congress_says_no_on_syria_20130912/ Posted on Sep 12, 2013 ...

40 Years On: Remembering the First 9/11

Wednesday 11th September 2013 marks the fortieth anniversary of what in Latin America is referred to as ‘El primer 11 de septiembre'(the first 11th...

‘Syria certain to hit Israel if attacked’

A file photo of the amphibious transport USS San Antonio, currently deployed in the Mediterranean ready to strike SyriaA senior Iranian lawmaker has underscored...

Remembering the First 9/11

Wednesday 11th September 2013 marks the fortieth anniversary of what in Latin America is referred to as ‘El primer 11 de septiembre'(the first 11th...

US Marine urinating charges dropped

Capt. James V. ClementCriminal charges have been dropped against a US Marine Corps officer implicated in a video which showed US Marines urinating on...

What We (Don’t) Talk About When We Talk About War Crimes

“When you sign a security clearance and swear oaths, you actually have to abide by that. It is not optional.” — Steven Bucci, of the...

Found at Last! After searching for 10 years, the Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction...

Secretary of State John Kerry: “There is no doubt that Saddam al-Assad has crossed the red line. … Sorry, did I just say ‘Saddam’?” A...

Obama and media manufacture pretext for attack on Syria

  30 August 2013 ...

‘Bomb blasts kill 24, injures 47 in Iraq’

At least 24 people have been killed and 47 others injured in two bomb explosions in and around the Iraqi capital Baghdad, police officials...

‘Arab state behind al-Qaeda jailbreaks’

The intelligence agency of a regional state is behind the recent escapes of al-Qaeda agents from prisons in Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia...

DoJ: Iraq War trial without Bush

Former US President George W. BushThe US Department of Justice has asked for the exemption of former President George W. Bush and some senior...

DoJ: Iraq War trial without Bush

Former US President George W. BushThe US Department of Justice has asked for the exemption of former President George W. Bush and some senior...

Manning goes to jail, higher-ups go free

Former secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld shares a laugh with former president George W. Bush and former vice president Dick Cheney during his farewell...

The California Prisoners Hunger Strike. The Truth

Four weeks ago, 30,000 people in prisons in California and surrounding states went on a hunger strike to protest their conditions, in particular in...

‘2 bombings kill five Iraqi soldiers’

The remains of a vehicle at the scene of a car bomb explosion in Nasiriyah, south of Baghdad, August 10, 2013. At least five...

Suggested Vacation Reading for President Obama: ‘Catch-22’

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/suggested_vacation_reading_for_president_obama_catch-22_20130810/ Posted on Aug 10, 2013 ...

Mr Obama, read Catch-22 on vacation

As the Obama family heads to their annual summer vacation on Martha's Vineyard, perhaps the president should take along a copy of Catch-22 for...

The New Al-Qaida Menace

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_new_al-qaida_menace_20130806/ Posted on Aug 6, 2013 ...

Obama and torture

  By ...

France to close embassy in Yemen

Yemeni police stand guard outside the French Embassy in Sanaâ„¢a on September 20, 2012.French President Francois Hollande has announced plans to close the French...

Hezbollah and Washington’s Middle East Terrorist Blacklisting Ritual

Arab liberals and GCC-sponsored ‘intellectuals’ and media pundits could not contain their delight this past week as they all went into jubilant throes of...

Sectarian conflict worsens in Iraq

  By ...

Manning verdict: Slow death for democracy

Though he was acquitted of aiding the enemy on Tuesday, Bradley Manning was found guilty of five counts of violating the Espionage Act. It...

The conviction of Bradley Manning: A travesty of justice

  31 July 2013 ...

'Iraq faces open war from militants’

Security forces inspect the scene of a car bomb attack in Basra, southeast of Baghdad, on July 14, 2013.Militants have launched an open war...

Senator proposes National Whistleblower Day on same date as Manning verdict

The idea might not win approval with the rest of the Senate, but Republican lawmaker Chuck Grassley has put in a resolution for a...

Dramatic Prison Breaks Trending as 250 Escape from Pakistan Jail

A Pakistan jail cell left bombed and burnt after a late-night attack by the Taliban freed hundreds of prisoners. (Photo: Stringer/ Reuters)Indicating a clear...

Prison break: Taliban gunmen free 300 inmates from Pakistan jail

RTJuly 30, 2013 Heavily armed Taliban fighters freed some 300 inmates from a large...

‘Iraq’s neighbors support violence’

An Iraqi affairs expert says Iraqâ„¢s neighboring countries are supporting deadly violence in the Arab country, Press TV reports. Å“You have mass killings going...

The Logical (and Coming) End to the US Empire

There are numerous legal and ethical arguments that can and have been made in opposition to U.S. foreign policy of raw aggression. For an example of the illegalities of U.S. Empire, examine the Geneva Conventions, all four of which directly proscribe what they each call “outrages” to human dignity, “in particular humiliating and degrading treatment” (I, 1, 3).

Car bombings kill more across Iraq

Dozens of people have been killed and over 200 others wounded in a series of bomb attacks across Iraq, security and medical sources say. On...

Brandon Toy's Act of Conscience

Truthout doesn’t take corporate funding - that’s how we’re able to confront the forces of greed and regression, with no strings attached. Instead, we...

A House divided over NSA spying

Last weekâ„¢s House debate on the Defense Appropriations bill for 2014 produced a bit more drama than usual. After hearing that House leadership would...

Obama violates torture convention

The holy month of Ramadan began on July 8. At Guantanamo Bayâ„¢s Camp Delta, Muslim detainees on hunger strike, many of which have been...

The Face of Jahar

“Why?” It is the most important question a journalist can ask. The “who, what, when and where” set the stage, but any actor will tell you...

Under America’s Surveillance Dome

The greatest threat to America’s “national security” is the American people, not an endless array of Al-Qaeda-type “terrorists” hyped by our own government. “National...

Occupy Fallujah

Hope can be a powerful drive. It can eventually change the world, one little step at a time. Somewhere far away from their capital...

Al-Qaeda behind Iraq prison attacks

An Iraqi soldier closes the door of a cell in Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad.Al-Qaeda in Iraq has claimed responsibility for deadly attacks on...

Assault on Iraq Prisons Allows Escape of Hundreds of Prisoners

Al-Qaeda affiliated groups in Iraq have claimed responsibility for coordinated attacks on two prisons in Iraq on Monday that allowed hundreds of prisoners to...

Total Failure Of Foreign Intelligence As Spy Agencies Miss Massive Al Qaeda Prison Break

Mac SlavoSHTFPlan.comJuly 23, 2013 They’ve spent hundreds of billions of dollars to monitor the activities of every...

Epic Fail: Total Breakdown In Foreign Intelligence As Spy Agencies Miss Massive Al Qaeda...

They’ve spent hundreds of billions of dollars to monitor the activities of every single American by turning their listening...

The Violence of Organized Forgetting

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_violence_of_organized_forgetting_20130722/ Posted on Jul 22, 2013 By Henry...

Al-Qaida militants flee Iraq jail in violent mass break-out

jpost.comJuly 22, 2013 Hundreds of convicts, including senior members of al-Qaida, broke out of Iraq’s Abu...

100s escape in deadly Iraq prison raids

Guards stand at a cell block at the Abu Ghraib prison, renamed Baghdad Central Prison. (File photo)A fresh round of violence leaves scores of...

Bombs, bullets kill nearly 50 in Iraq

An Iraqi policeman stands at the site of a car bomb attack in Baghdad. (File photo)Nearly 50 people have been killed in another day...

Iraq foils attempted attacks on prisons

An Iraqi soldier closes the door of a cell in Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad.Iraq says its security forces foiled attempts by armed men...

The American Way of Torture

Torture is now solidly installed in America’s repressive arsenal, not in the shadows where it has always lurked, but up front and central, vigorously...

Snowden Honored by Ex-Intel Officials

Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence, an organization of former national security officials, has honored NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, praising his decision to reveal the extent...

Presidents, Plots, Broken Promises, Coups, Torture, Two Gulags and the “American Dream”

“Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practise to deceive.”  (Sir Walter Scott, 1771-1832.) It has been a bit of a foot-in-mouth week...

The Battle Against Control Unit Prisons

In 1985 some colleagues and I in Chicago registered, with shock, the brutality of the US Penitentiary at Marion in southern Illinois and organized...

56 die: Iraq’s days of carnage drag on

An Iraqi policeman inspects the damage outside a supermarket following a bombing in central Baghdad on June 25, 2013.A wave of attacks in Iraq,...

Brain Death, Live on MSNBC

Dear Melissa Harris-Perry, I watched your twelve-minute segment this morning concerning Edward Snowden. You were smiling throughout, confident, flippant, warmly communicative as always, as though...

Edward Snowden’s Long Flight

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/edward_snowdens_long_flight_20130702/ Posted on Jul 2, 2013 By Peter Van...

Bomb blast, gunfire kill 7 in Iraq

An Iraqi policeman inspects the scene of a bomb blast in central Baghdad's commercial Karrada neighborhood on June 25, 2013.At least seven people have...

US Marine’s murder conviction overturned in Iraq killing

By Naomi Spencer 28 June 2013 A Marine sergeant found guilty of killing an unarmed civilian in Hamdania, Iraq in 2006 is set to be freed from...

Henry A. Giroux | Challenging Casino Capitalism and Authoritarian Politics in the Age of...

(Photo: Monthly Review Press)Henry A. Giroux exposes the apostles of education "reform" who mistake corporatizing the classroom for preparing young people for a robust,...

Iraq Vet Kills Himself After Being Ordered to Commit “War Crimes”

“These things go far beyond what most are even aware of” Paul Joseph WatsonInfowars.comJune 24, 2013 Daniel...

Iraq Vet Kills Himself After Being Ordered to Commit “War Crimes”

“These things go far beyond what most are even aware of” Paul Joseph WatsonInfowars.comJune 24, 2013 Daniel...

Obama, Cheney and Snowden’s revelations

  19 June 2013 ...

How Credible Are the Claims that Mass Surveillance Stops Terror Attacks?

Washington’s BlogJune 14, 2013 We documented yesterday that top national security experts say that the government’s...

US and Israeli Intelligence

Uncovering documented instances of torture is a challenge. That challenge grows even greater when the torture one is investigating is undertaken by agencies whose...

The Secret War: Infiltration, Sabotage, Devastating Cyber Attacks

He may be a four-star Army general, but Alexander more closely resembles a head librarian than George Patton. His face is anemic, his lips...

Defend Edward Snowden!

  13 June 2013 ...

Edward Snowden: Profile in Courage

Edward Snowden may go down inhistory as one of this nation’s most important whistleblowers. He is certainly one of the bravest.  The 29-year-old former...

Whatever Happened to the CIA? Dirty Wars and the Cinema of Self-Indulgence

Let me begin with some background not covered in the film.  Dirty War derives from “La Sale Guerre”, the term the French applied to their...

Dirty Wars and the Cinema of Self-Indulgence

Let me begin with some background not covered in the film. Dirty War derives from “La Salle Guerre”, the term the French applied to...

Bradley Manning Is Guilty of “Aiding the Enemy” – If the Enemy Is Democracy

Of all the charges against Bradley Manning, the most pernicious – and revealing – is “aiding the enemy.” A blogger at The New Yorker, Amy Davidson,...

Bomb attacks leave 16 dead across Iraq

Iraqi policemen inspect a damaged police pickup truck on the scene of a car bomb attack in the al-Karradah neighborhood of Baghdad on May...

Bombings kill six in Iraqi capital

Six people have been killed and several others wounded in recent bomb attacks in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad. On Thursday, a car bomb blast hit...

String of attacks leave 28 dead in Iraq

Iraqi firemen try to extinguish a fire at the scene of a car bomb explosion in Baghdad on May 27, 2013.At least 28 people...

Media Gets Targeted by Obama Administration, Discovers No One Cares Except the Media

I was watching the local network news one recent evening because apparently I like to torture myself. And what were they reporting on? Michael...

Argentina’s General Videla and the “War on Terror”

Gen. Jorge Rafael Videla died May 17 at the age of 87 as the result of injuries suffered from a fall in a prison...

Argentina’s General Videla and the “war on terror”

  22 May 2013 ...

42 die in another day of carnage in Iraq

An Iraqi woman passes by the scene of a car bomb attack in the Kamaliyah neighborhood, a predominantly Shia area of eastern Baghdad, on...

Bomb kills three worshippers in Iraq

Policemen and residents gather at the site of a bomb attack in Iraq. (file photo)Security officials say three worshippers have been killed and seven...

Today is the 10th Anniversary of Powell’s Infamous UN Presentation

(15 key slides from the infamous 2003 UN presentation making the case for war with Iraq, with anotations. Click the pause button on lower left if slides change too fast for you.) Ten years ago today (February 5, 2003) then Secretary of State Colin Pow...

Torturer Lawsuits: Some Good News

Stephen Lendman, rinf.com | A previous article titled Good News and Bad said when something good surfaces, reporting it should follow. There's so precious little...

Anti-fascist protesters tortured by police

Christoph Dreier, WSWS | Demonstrators protesting against the fascist Chrysi Avgi (Golden Dawn) party were beaten and tortured after their arrest by Greek police at a demonstration...

AUNG SAN SUU KYI, OMAR KHADR, AND BARACK OBAMA: A DREADFUL TALE OF WHAT...

November 16, 2009 AUNG SAN SUU KYI, OMAR KHADR, AND BARACK OBAMA: A DREADFUL TALE OF WHAT AMERICA HAS BECOME John Chuckman During his trip to Asia, President Obama called for the government of Burma to release Aung San Suu Kyi, a noted dissident who has spent years under house arrest. It made headlines, a […]

The Blackwater Targeted Killing Program

A U.S. district court will decide this week whether one of the darkest chapters of the Bush era, the relationship between the administration and...

Lawyers: Ban Bush from Canada for war crimes

Canwest News Service A lawyers’ group has asked the RCMP to bar former U.S. president George W. Bush from entering Canada, citing torture and war...

Top CIA lawyers to face legal complaints over roles in interrogation program

A grassroots coalition will file complaints today with the Washington, D.C. bar against two Central Intelligence Agency lawyers for their involvement in authorizing the...

Letter reveals Tony Blair knew of secret policy on terror interrogations

Tony Blair was aware of the ­existence of a secret interrogation policy which ­effectively led to British citizens, and others, being ­tortured during ­counter-terrorism...

Torture Photos “Will Not See The Light Of Day”

RINF NEWS Republican Senator, Lindsey Graham, today revealed that a top ranking White House official has stated photographs showing US troops torturing and abusing detainees in Iraq and...

John Yoo, Donald Rumsfeld and the Systematic Torture of Prisoners

On Jan. 17, 2003, Mary Walker, the Air Force general counsel, received an urgent memo from the Pentagon's top attorney. Attached to the classified...

CIA Director’s claims reinforce torture reality

It's no secret that during the Bush administration, the Central Intelligence Agency "rendered" suspected terrorists to overseas facilities where they were subjected to "enhanced...

Senate Hears Testimony On Torture Policy

A key Senate subcommittee is set to hear testimony today on the torture policies of the Bush administration. The hearing, to be held by...

How Americans Came to Support Torture, in Five Steps

By Roy Eidelson | In recent weeks, new revelations about the harsh interrogation and torture of detainees during the Bush administration years have made...

Psychologists’ E-Mails Stir Interrogation Issue

By Farah Stockman | WASHINGTON - Newly public e-mails between psychologists involved in the Bush administration's controversial detention program have fueled a fierce debate...

Are Universities Turning into Corporate Drone Factories?

Unless we take hold of the reigns we will be cursed with a more ruthless form of corporate power wielded through naked repression. In decaying...

Would You Go to Jail to Protest Torture?

By Sherwood Ross Are you ready to go to jail for what you believe? Would you stand up to the Pentagon by engaging in non-violent...

Prisoners tortured to death

By Stephen C. Webster The American Civil Liberties Union has released previously classified excerpts of a government report on harsh interrogation techniques used in...

Are We Civilized Enough to Hold Our Leaders Accountable for War Crimes?

The World Is Watching By John W. Dean  Remarkably, the confirmation of President Obama's Attorney General nominee, Eric Holder, is...

In farewell speech, Bush insists “war on terror” must continue

By Bill Van Auken  In his final speech from the White House Thursday night, President George W. Bush defended his legacy of war, torture and...

Cheney hints at pardon for President Bush

BNN | With the Bush administration in its final days questions are being asked whether the president will be investigated over a number of concerns. Thoseconcerns...

Asked about WMDs, Bush grins: ‘Things didn’t go according to plan’

By John Byrne | Abu Ghraib a 'disappointment' A confident George W. Bush took the podium Monday for what is likely the last press conference...

Should the Torturers Go on Trial?

By William Pfaff | The impending end of the Bush administration and the inauguration of Barack Obama, expected to repudiate the illegalities and human-rights abuses...

The Dying Days of the Guantánamo Trials

With less than two weeks until the Bush administration leaves office, Andy Worthington, author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees...

Cheney Throws Down Gauntlet, Defies Prosecution for War Crimes

Commondreams  Dick Cheney has publicly confessed to ordering war crimes. Asked about waterboarding in an ABC News interview, Cheney replied, "I was aware of the...

Bush Regime Declares Itself Above the Law

By Paul Craig Roberts The US government does not have a monopoly on hypocrisy, but no other government can match the hypocrisy of the US...

Bush Bailout for Rumsfeld, Torturers Might Be Next

By Ann Woolner The season of forgiveness is here, and federal felons everywhere are hoping some of it will alight on them. The period from about...

How Many Americans Died Because of Bush’s Torture Program?

Harpers -- According to a special operations intelligence officer, the answer is a number north of three thousand—not counting the tens of thousands maimed...

Kristol Calls On Bush To Pardon Torturers And Wiretappers, Reward Them With Medal Of...

Think Progress | In his new Weekly Standard column, right-wing pundit Bill Kristol lays out a to-do list for President Bush before he leaves...

Former interrogator slams torture: Torture has cost nearly as many lives as 9/11

By Ali Frick | In a Washington Post op-ed today, a former Special Operations interrogator who worked in Iraq in 2006 sharply criticizes American...

The Legal Advice to Wage War on Iraq was not just “sexed-up”, it was...

By C Stephen Frost | Mary Bedworth, Christopher Burns-Cox, Lou Coatney and David Halpin co-signed this article, which appeared as a commentary in The Guardian following...

Obama, Bush & The War Crimes

By Ari Melber | Many Washington Republicans and Democrats agree on one maxim for President-elect Barack Obama: This is no time to look back at...

Bush pleased with Iraq war outcome

US President George W Bush believes the Iraq war has been successful and is "very pleased" with what is happening there, he said in...

US, Allies, Torture Kids in Iraqi Prisons

By Sherwood Ross Since it invaded Iraq in 2003, the U.S. has detained thousands of juveniles---some of whom were tortured and sexually abused, according to...

Democracy Now Follows Up on NSA’s Illegal Spying and War Crimes

By David Swanson | Democracy Now! today not only admitted that I had broken the story but followed up on the story of illegal NSA spying,...

US Accused of War Crimes Over Torture Methods

The use of torture by the US Government in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in New York on September 11, 2001 has come...

Is Perpetual War Our Future? Learning the Wrong Lessons from the Bush Era

TomDispatch | To the problem of an overstretched, over-toured military, there is but one answer in Washington. Both presidential candidates (along with just...

Next president should order investigation of Bush-Cheney use of torture

By Rosa Brooks, Los Angeles Times | Even war criminals have fan clubs. On Tuesday, 15,000 people in Belgrade, Serbia, protested the transfer of indicted...

More Than 10,000 Detainees Released in Iraq

US military: More than 10,000 detainees freed in Iraq this year, 21,000 still in detention By SELCAN HACAOGLU | ABCNews.com  The U.S. military said Saturday it...

Justice report faults illegal use of politics in hiring federal prosecutors, judges

RAW STORY | A new Justice Department report concludes that politics illegally influenced the hiring of career prosecutors and immigration judges, and largely lays the...

GUIDE TO SOME OF BUSH REGIME CRIMES

Coercive interrogation Can any Bush officials be prosecuted for the policies that paved the way for secret imprisonment, rendition to other countries that torture, or...

CACI Denies Use of Torture in Iraq

CACI International, an Arlington-based provider of interrogators to the U.S. military in Iraq, said it "rejects and denies" allegations from four Iraqi men who...

The ‘W.’ Stands for ‘War Criminal’

By Nat Hentoff | In a June 6 letter to Attorney General Michael Mukasey–largely ignored by a press immersed in the future of Hillary...

Welcome Home, Soldier: Now Shut Up

By Paul Rockwell | There are two kinds of courage in war - physical courage and moral courage. Physical courage is very common on...

How the Pentagon Turned an Interrogation Resistance Program into a Blueprint for Torture

By Spencer Ackerman | In August 2004, a Defense Dept. panel convened to investigate detainee abuse after the Abu Ghraib scandal issued its much-anticipated...

CIA Played Larger Role In Advising Pentagon

By Joby Warrick | A senior CIA lawyer advised Pentagon officials about the use of harsh interrogation techniques on detainees at Guantanamo Bay in a...

General Accuses White House of War Crimes

By Dan Froomkin | The two-star general who led an Army investigation into the horrific detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib has accused the Bush administration...

Doctors’ Report Finds Evidence of U.S. Torture and ‘War Crimes’

AP | Medical examinations of former terrorism suspects held by the U.S. military at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, found...

Ex-Pentagon Lawyers Face Inquiry on Interrogation Role

By MARK MAZZETTI | Senior Pentagon lawyers played a more active role than previously known in developing the aggressive interrogation techniques approved for use in...

Washington ordered destruction of Guantánamo interrogation records

By Bill Van Auken | In another confirmation of the criminal character of Washington’s handling of so-called “enemy combatants,” a “Standard Operating Procedure” manual...

House Democrats Want Bush Admin Investigated for War Crimes

By Jason Leopold | House Democrats sent a letter to Attorney General Michael Mukasey Friday requesting that he appoint a special prosecutor to investigate...

The Genealogy of Torture and Democracy

By Shannon Jones | The horrifying scenes of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and the mistreatment of detainees at the US...

American Psychological Association Supports Torture

By Stephen Soldz | Since 2005, the American Psychological Association (APA) has steadfastly asserted that psychologists participating in detainee interrogations protects detainees by helping...

The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder

By Vincent Bugliosi | With respect to the position I take about the crimes of George Bush, I want to state at the outset...

FBI files indict Bush, Cheney and Co. as war criminals

By Bill Van Auken | The most stunning revelation in a 370-page Justice US Department Inspector General’s report released this week was that agents...

CIA death squads killing with “impunity” in Afghanistan

By Joe Kay | A United Nations investigator released a preliminary report last week citing widespread civilian deaths in Afghanistan, often at the hands...

Under U.S. Law Torture is Always Illegal

By Marjorie Cohn | What does torture have in common with genocide, slavery, and wars of aggression? They are all jus cogens. Jus cogens...

Pentagon Documents Highlight Torture Methods

By Adam Goldman | New York - The military continued to use abusive interrogation methods on detainees after a 2003 directive meant to end...

The Bush team’s Geneva hypocrisy

Newly released U.S. government documents, detailing how Bush administration officials punched legalistic holes in the Geneva Conventions' protections of war captives, stand in stark...

Gitmo Torture Orders Came From The Top

By Scott Horton | British writer and international lawyer Philippe Sands is the author of The Torture Team , in stores May 5, which...

Top Bush aides pushed for Guantánamo torture

By Brad DeLong | OGMB sends us to: Top Bush aides pushed for Guantánamo torture: Senior officials bypassed army chief to introduce interrogation methods by...

Bush’s Torture Quote Undercuts Denial

By Jason Leopold President George W. Bush’s comment to ABC News — that he approved discussions that his top aides held about harsh interrogation techniques...

Top Bush Advisors Approved Torture

In dozens of top-secret talks and meetings in the White House, the most senior Bush administration officials discussed and approved specific details of how...

’03 U.S. Memo Approved Torture

WASHINGTON – The Justice Department in 2003 gave military interrogators broad authority to use extreme methods in questioning detainees and argued that wartime powers...

In Iraq, Was I a Torturer? Asks Soldier

When 27-year-old Ben Allbright returned from Iraq, he was treated like a hero. But he is haunted by the "harsh interrogations" he oversaw. The prisons...

Reviving Vietnam War Tactics

The top counterinsurgency adviser to Gen. David Petraeus in Iraq advocates practicing a "global Phoenix Program," alluding to the notorious Vietnam-era CIA operation that...

Yemeni man accuses CIA of torture

A Yemeni national accused American secret agents of subjecting him to various forms of torture during nearly three years of CIA detention, in a...

British ‘link’ in torture case

British special forces troops were involved in the investigation of a man who alleges he was tortured by US agents while held in secret...

Gov gags “extraordinary renditions” whistleblower

Marcus Morgan Last Friday, the Labour government took out a high court injunction to prevent a former member of the British Special Air Services, Ben...

Horrifying and unnecessary mistreatment of prisoners

Herald Tribune  In the next few days, President George W. Bush is expected to again claim the right to order mistreatment of prisoners that any...

Vets Break Silence on War Crimes

U.S. veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are planning to descend on Washington from Mar. 13-16 to testify about war crimes they...

Station Chief Made Appeal To Destroy CIA Tapes

 By Joby Warrick and Walter Pincus In late 2005, the retiring CIA station chief in Bangkok sent a classified cable to his superiors in Langley...

New probe aims to cover up CIA tortures

By John Catalinotto In an attempt to limit political damage and protect the highest officials, the new U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey has...

CIA tapes: What do we still not know?

By Jane Harman In February 2003, just weeks after becoming ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, I learned at a briefing that the CIA...

President Bush Torturer-in-Chief

US constitutional expert Jonathan Turley says only the United States president could have ordered the torture of al-Qaeda suspects. Following a report that the...

Motion Picture Association censors out US torture

Motion Picture Association censors out US torture Denial of US torture is everywhere, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) had decided that the US...

U.S. Government Checking Amazon Customer Records

Big Brother U.S. Government Subpoenaed Amazon.com to Obtain Book Purchasing Records of Customers Mike Adams Newly unsealed court records have revealed that the U.S. government issued...

Greens, Democrats And Impeachment

http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2007/12/369504.shtml "Now the gloves are off." Let me explain that statement. First, on the issue of Impeachment, either you get it or you don't. Sadly, the Democratic Parties...

Who are the doctors of torture? Why the torture?

Larisa Alexandrovna I cannot stop thinking about the so called "medical doctors" and "psychiatrists" who are helping to torture prisoners in US custody at camps...

Thanksgiving Reflections of an Anti-Capitalist

Institutionalized Glorification of our Greed and Gluttony: Thanksgiving Reflections of an Anti-Capitalist Gluttony and greed kill more than the sword. –Italian proverb Gluttony and surfeiting are no...

House Panel Gets Earful On Waterboarding

In Spite Of Bickering In D.C., Experts Say Interrogation Method Is Torture, Must Never Be Used (CBS/AP) A hearing on torture opened today on Capitol...

Guantanamo Torture Sanctioned by Bush & Rumsfeld

LISA THOMPSON When military investigators questioned Erie County Judge Michael E. Dunlavey about reported prisoner abuse during his tenure at the Guantanamo Bay camp for...

Rumsfeld flees France fearing arrest

Former US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld fled France today fearing arrest over charges of "ordering and authorizing" torture of detainees at both the American-run...

The War on Afghanistan Was Wrong, Too

By Jacob G. Hornberger While most Americans have turned against the Iraq War, many of them still think that the war on Afghanistan was morally...

Open Letter to the Government from an AWOL Soldier

By James Circello, Iraq Veterans Against The War To those Businessmen and women holding seats in Congress, To the Highest Court of America, To every Department within...

Top 25 Censored Stories of 2008

#1 No Habeas Corpus for “Any Person” Sources: Consortium, October 19, 2006 Title: “Who Is ‘Any Person’ in Tribunal Law?” Author: Robert Parry http://consortiumnews.com/2006/101906.html Consortium, February 3, 2007 Title: “Still No...

Jimmy Carter: U.S. Tortures Prisoners

AP The U.S. tortures prisoners in violation of international law, former President Jimmy Carter said Wednesday, adding that President Bush makes up his own definition...

Bush aide has denial down pat

Allegations of torture dismissed Sheldon Alberts Say this much for Dana Perino, the White House press secretary -- she faced the braying media hounds yesterday with...

Iran’s parliament votes to call CIA, U.S. Army ‘terrorist’ groups

Report from Xinhua: Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Sunday that he supported the recent Majlis (parliament) statement to brand the U.S. army and the...

Hundreds held in US anti-war march

Nearly 200 protesters have been arrested during a march in Washington DC held to demand the return of troops from Iraq and the impeachment...

Marines Ordered To Execute Civilians In Nazi-Like Slaughter

Steve Watson Infowars.net Editorial With evidence having emerged that marines were ordered by superiors to massacre women and children in Haditha in Iraq two years...

Psychologists group weighs ban on military interrogations

SUDHIN THANAWALA The nation's largest group of psychologists is set to decide what role, if any, its members can play in interrogating terror suspects at...

A scary assault on civil liberties

By Lance Dickie As historians tally the incompetence, profligacy and lawless opacity of the Bush administration, a shorthand is already emerging: Katrina, Iraq, Guantanamo, Abu...

Red Cross confirms Bush administration, CIA used torture in interrogations

By Patrick Martin A confidential report by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) suggests that Bush administration officials may have committed war crimes...

Judge dismisses lawsuit against Rumsfeld

Former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld cannot be tried on allegations of torture in overseas military prisons, a federal judge said Tuesday in a...

Trump’s Impeachable Offense

For anyone who cares deeply about being informed, watching Republican presidential debates can feel like a form of torture. But the program becomes more...

U.S. SecDef Ashton Carter Implies Russia & China Are Enemies of U.S.

Eric Zuesse INTRODUCTION On Saturday November 7th, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, who had started his career at the Defense Department during the Reagan Administration...

How the Pentagon Covers Up the Truth About Its War Atrocities

Nick Turse  RINF Alternative News The Pentagon's 3-year program to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War is filled with distortions. It’s 2053 – 20 years...

The Pentagon Makes History the First Casualty

Nick Turse  RINF Alternative News Call me human. It turns out that I’m no better at predicting the future than the rest of humanity. If as...

U.S. Admits It Has No Idea WHO Carried Out Syrian Chemical Weapons Attack

Washington’s BlogAugust 29, 2013 Even though the U.S. government claims that the Syrian government is the...

Double Standards in the Global War on Terror

TomDispatch | Oh, the spectacle of it all – and don’t think I’m referring to those opening ceremonies in Beijing, where North Korean-style synchronization seemed...