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Uzbekistan Hosted CIA Black Sites Post-9/11; It Is Not a Hotbed of Terror

Sayfullo Saipov, the alleged assailant in the Tuesday attack that killed at least eight people in New York City, is an immigrant from Uzbekistan,...

US administration backs away from plan to reopen CIA ‘black sites’ – media

The Trump administration will not proceed with plans to reopen the infamous CIA prisons to interrogate...

Draft executive order on CIA ‘black sites’ renews questions about Trump’s torture policy

President Donald Trump’s openness to waterboarding and torture of terrorist suspects could lead to the review and ultimate reopening of CIA interrogation programs used...

From Prisons to Black Sites, US Hand in Global Torture Exposed

Sarah Lazare  RINF Alternative News Amnesty International report on global torture exposes inhumane acts perpetrated by United States Thirty years after ratifying the UN Convention Against Torture,...

CIA sued over torture, black sites

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a lawsuit against the CIA over its rendition and torture program following the September 11, 2001...

Black Sites, Designer Babies, FDA Shutdown — New World Next Week

Welcome to http://NewWorldNextWeek.com — the video series from Corbett Report and Media Monarchy that covers some of the most important developments in open source intelligence news. This week: Story #1: Obama Swaps ‘Black Sites’ for ...

U.S. Black Sites: “Open Europe”, Shut Case — Lithuania Denies CIA Prison Evidence

At the end of September I spent a few days in the beautiful city of Vilnius, with colleagues from Amnesty International and other NGOs....

US swaps black sites for justice at sea

Abu Anas al-Libi was allegedly interrogated on this ship sailing off the Libyan coast following his abduction on October 6, 2013 by US forces...

US Globalized Torture Black Sites

US Globalized Torture Black Sites by Stephen Lendman On October 5, US Delta Force commandos, CIA operatives, and FBI agents abducted Abu Anas al-Liby. Doing so...

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. ”

Inside the CIA’s notorious ”black sites”

A Yemeni man never charged by the U.S. details 19 months of brutality and psychological torture - the first in-depth, first-person account from inside...

Media Complicity Is Key to Blacklisting Websites

We still don’t have any sort of apology or retraction from the Washington Post for promoting “The List” – the highly dangerous blacklist that got a...

Timberg’s Tale: Washington Post Reporter Spreads Blacklist of Independent Journalist Sites

Photo by thierry ehrmann | CC BY 2.0 Craig Timberg, a Washington Post reporter with an interesting history (which we’ll get to shortly), doubled down...

Did Obama swap ‘black’ detention sites for ships?

Boston.com Oct. 8, 2013 Instead of sending suspected terrorists to Guantanamo Bay or secret CIA ‘‘black'' sites for interrogation, the Obama administration is...

UK ‘Porn’ Filter Will Blacklist Non-Porn Websites

Rights group slams system as “sleepwalk into censorship” Paul Joseph WatsonInfowars.comJuly 26, 2013 The...

Police can request your DNA without your knowledge or consent via ancestry websites —...

Published time: 18 Nov, 2017 16:21 Sending a sample of your DNA through the post may...

‘Systemic Failure’: Study Details Black Americans’ Experiences of Discrimination

A new study reveals black Americans' views of the discrimination they experience in their daily lives, detailing some of the lengths people of color...

UK gambling sites must remove ads targeting children, regulators demand — RT UK

Published time: 22 Oct, 2017 23:44 The UK authorities have ordered the country’s gambling websites...

This Is How Bad the Wage Gap Is for Black Women

Monday marks Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, which shows how many days into 2017 a black woman needs to work to make as much...

100 Years Ago African-Americans Marched Down 5th Avenue to Declare That Black Lives Matter

The only sounds were those of muffled drums, the shuffling of feet and the gentle sobs of some of the estimated 20,000 onlookers. The...

Hackers deface Ohio govt & dozens of other websites with pro-ISIS & anti-Trump messages

A group of hackers have replaced several Ohio government websites’ homepages with pro-ISIS messages and a...

Black Man Stabbed to Death by White Supremacist–Then Smeared by Media

New York Post images of an alleged white supremacist murderer and his victim. Guess which one the tabloid described as a “career criminal”? According to...

Trump’s Spending Cuts Would Create the Black America He’s Been Talking About

On the campaign trail last summer, Donald Trump tried to appeal to African Americans by asking what we had to lose by voting him...

The Hunt for Black Family History

Maybe you’ve seen those Ancestry.com commercials pushing Americans to “discover their stories” by digging into their family histories. Millions of Americans find meaning from these...

Trump Issues Media Blackout at Multiple Federal Agencies

Though the majority of President Donald Trump's controversial cabinet nominations have not yet been confirmed, his so-called "beachhead" teams have arrived at their respective...

Royal Navy faces £500m budget black hole after buying ships it doesn’t need

The Royal Navy faces a £500 million ($616 million) shortfall in its annual budget after...

The Anonymous Blacklist Promoted by the Washington Post Has Apparent Ties to Ukrainian Fascism...

Last month, the Washington Post gave a glowing front-page boost to an anonymous online blacklist of hundreds of American websites, from marginal conspiracy sites to flagship...

The Ultimate List of Fake News Sites

By Paul Joseph Watson and Alex Jones InfoWars December 9, 2016 Isn’t it ironic how the mainstream media has the nerve to lecture everyone else about...

Why Are Media Outlets Still Citing Discredited ‘Fake News’ Blacklist?

Russians spread “fake news,” says “experts”—you don’t need to know who they are (Washington Post, 11/24/16). The Washington Post (11/24/16) last week published a front-page...

A Media Blacklist, Courtesy of WaPo: Now I’m Afraid for Our Democracy

In most third world societies, when people don’t like the results of an election, they take to the streets. In America, we take to...

‘Our Identity Is Often What’s Triggering Surveillance’ – CounterSpin interview with Brandi Collins on...

Janine Jackson interviewed Brandi Collins about surveillance of the Movement for Black Lives for the October 28, 2016, episode of CounterSpin. This is a...

Dakota Access Blackout Continues on ABC, NBC News

Neil Young’s song about the Dakota Access pipeline fight is 5 minutes, 39 seconds longer than the combined coverage of the controversy on the...

#BlackLivesMatter calls for slavery reparations, free education & justice reforms

A coalition of over 50 organizations affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement has issued a...

Former Atlanta cop charged with murder of unarmed black man after fatal shooting

A former Atlanta police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black man has been charged with...

CIA torture psychologists face court hearing over ‘war crimes’ by black site detainees

Former detainees tortured by the CIA at the agency’s notorious black sites are suing the psychologists hired to help design the controversial enhanced interrogation...

Victims of brutal CIA interrogation win landmark ruling to sue black site psychologists

A court ruling will allow CIA torture victims to sue two psychologists who designed and operated...

#BoycottThailand: Anonymous hacks Thai police websites over backpacker murder verdicts

Cyber hacktivist group Anonymous has hacked at least 14 Thai police websites in protest against the “scapegoating” of two Burmese men convicted of murdering...

40 Reasons Our Jails and Prisons Are Full of Black and Poor People

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) reports 2.2 million people are in our nation’s jails and prisons and another 4.5 million people are on...

Chicago residents speak on police torture at Homan Square "black site"

By George Marlowe (WSWS) - A string of revelations by the Guardian newspaper have exposed widespread police torture by the Chicago Police Department (CPD) at a...

Poland pays compensation to ex-inmates of CIA torture sites on its territory

Published time: May 15, 2015 19:36

Szymany airport in Poland, allegedly used for covert prisoner transportation by the CIA in 2003 Poland.(AFP Photo / Piotr Placzkowski )

Warsaw has paid €230,000 to two former inmates of CIA "black site" prisons, which used to be on Poland's territory - a move that has raised questions in the country.

"Poland has fulfilled the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights," Deputy Foreign Minister Rafał Trzaskowski said on Thursday, RIA Novosti reports. He said that money had been sent to one victim's bank account. The other's share had been transferred to his court deposit, as he is under international sanctions.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled in July 2014 that Poland must pay compensation to the two terror suspects: Palestinian Abu Zubaydah and Saudi Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who were held and tortured in CIA-run detention centers in Poland between 2002 and 2003. The court set this Saturday as the deadline for the payments.

The two men are now being held in America's Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba. They are to receive €100,000 each for psychological damage, plus Zubaydah is due an additional €30,000 in court expenses.

READ MORE: Renewed suspicions US was ‘lobbied’ to leave UK out of CIA torture report

Warsaw's decision to pay up raised questions in Poland. Opposition lawmaker Witold Waszczykowski, cited by AP, said: “I think we shouldn’t pay, we shouldn’t respect this judgment. This is a case not between us and them – it’s between them and the United States government.”

However, no US officials have been held accountable to date. The only other related ruling handed down by the European Court of Human Rights was to Macedonia. In 2012, it was ordered to pay €60,000 for the detention of a Lebanese-German, who was subjected to abuse by the CIA on trumped up terror suspicions.

Poland has been investigating allegations of secret CIA detention centers or "black sites" on its territory since 2008. In December 2014, Poland's former President Aleksander Kwaśniewski officially admitted that a secret CIA prison had existed at an airbase, where terror suspects were brought for torture and interrogation. He insisted, though, that Warsaw had no idea about the abuse happening at the site.

Kwaśniewski's statement came on the heels of a US Senate committee report on CIA activities. In August the same year, Barack Obama admitted for the first time that torture had indeed taken place in American custody after the 9/11 attacks.

READ MORE: 'Crimes and Impunity': Amnesty slams US failure to act on torture report

The authorities should have expected to be held accountable sooner or later, criminology professor Ben Davis told RT. "The only people who have been betrayed in all of this are the ordinary people in all of these countries," he said. "The ordinary citizens who count on their governments not to torture people, to comply with their obligations in international law or domestic law."

Secret Police Facility “Black Site” Discovered Inside America, Detaining & Torturing Americans

Chicago, Ill. — In a startling report from the Guardian, details have been revealed about Chicago police detaining American citizens at “black sites.” These...

Media Blackout as U.S. Sponsors Genocide in Southeastern Ukraine

Eric Zuesse Here’s a typical example of what’s being blacked-out: This is a photo of a Ukrainian soldier guiding a truck-full of prisoners toward a ditch,...

High-Level NSA Whistleblower Says Blackmail Is a Huge — Unreported — Part of Mass...

The Untold Story In the NSA Spying Scandal: Blackmail It is well-documented that governments use information to blackmail and control people. The Express reported last month: British security services...

Did the Other Shoe Just Drop? Black Rock and PIMCO Sue Banks for $250...

For years, homeowners have been battling Wall Street in an attempt to recover some portion of their massive losses from the housing Ponzi scheme. But progress has been slow, as they have been outgunned and out-spent by the banking titans.

In June, however, the banks may have met their match, as some equally powerful titans strode onto the stage.  Investors led by BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, and PIMCO, the world’s largest bond-fund manager, have sued some of the world’s largest banks for breach of fiduciary duty as trustees of their investment funds. The investors are seeking damages for losses surpassing $250 billion. That is the equivalent of one million homeowners with $250,000 in damages suing at one time.

The defendants are the so-called trust banks that oversee payments and enforce terms on more than $2 trillion in residential mortgage securities. They include units of Deutsche Bank AG, U.S. Bank, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, HSBC Holdings PLC, and Bank of New York Mellon Corp. Six nearly identical complaints charge the trust banks with breach of their duty to force lenders and sponsors of the mortgage-backed securities to repurchase defective loans.

Why the investors are only now suing is complicated, but it involves a recent court decision on the statute of limitations. Why the trust banks failed to sue the lenders evidently involves the cozy relationship between lenders and trustees. The trustees also securitized loans in pools where they were not trustees. If they had started filing suit demanding repurchases, they might wind up suedon other deals in retaliation. Better to ignore the repurchase provisions of the pooling and servicing agreements and let the investors take the losses—better, at least, until they sued.

Beyond the legal issues are the implications for the solvency of the banking system itself. Can even the largest banks withstand a $250 billion iceberg? The sum is more than 40 times the $6 billion “London Whale” that shook JPMorganChase to its foundations.

Who Will Pay – the Banks or the Depositors?

The world’s largest banks are considered “too big to fail” for a reason. The fractional reserve banking scheme is a form of shell game, which depends on “liquidity” borrowed at very low interest from other banks or the money market. When Lehman Brothers went bankrupt in 2008, triggering a run on the money market, the whole interconnected shadow banking system nearly went down with it.

Congress then came to the rescue with a taxpayer bailout, and the Federal Reserve followed with its quantitative easing fire hose. But in 2010, the Dodd Frank Act said there would be no more government bailouts. Instead, the banks were to save themselves with “bail ins,” meaning they were to recapitalize themselves by confiscating a portion of the funds of their creditors – including not only their shareholders and bondholders but the largest class of creditor of any bank, their depositors.

Theoretically, deposits under $250,000 are protected by FDIC deposit insurance. But the FDIC fund contains only about $47 billion – a mere 20% of the Black Rock/PIMCO damage claims. Before 2010, the FDIC could borrow from the Treasury if it ran short of money. But since the Dodd Frank Act eliminates government bailouts, the availability of Treasury funds for that purpose is now in doubt.

When depositors open their online accounts and see that their balances have shrunk or disappeared, a run on the banks is likely. And since banks rely on each other for liquidity, the banking system as we know it could collapse. The result could be drastic deleveraging, erasing trillions of dollars in national wealth.

Phoenix Rising

Some pundits say the global economy would then come crashing down. But in a thought-provoking March 2014 article called “American Delusionalism, or Why History Matters,” John Michael Greer disagrees. He notes that historically, governments have responded by modifying their financial systems:

Massive credit collapses that erase very large sums of notional wealth and impact the global economy are hardly a new phenomenon . . . but one thing that has never happened as a result of any of them is the sort of self-feeding, irrevocable plunge into the abyss that current fast-crash theories require.

The reason for this is that credit is merely one way by which a society manages the distribution of goods and services. . . . A credit collapse . . . doesn’t make the energy, raw materials, and labor vanish into some fiscal equivalent of a black hole; they’re all still there, in whatever quantities they were before the credit collapse, and all that’s needed is some new way to allocate them to the production of goods and services.

This, in turn, governments promptly provide. In 1933, for example, faced with the most severe credit collapse in American history, Franklin Roosevelt temporarily nationalized the entire US banking system, seized nearly all the privately held gold in the country, unilaterally changed the national debt from “payable in gold” to “payable in Federal Reserve notes” (which amounted to a technical default), and launched a  series of other emergency measures.  The credit collapse came to a screeching halt, famously, in less than a hundred days. Other nations facing the same crisis took equally drastic measures, with similar results. . . .

Faced with a severe crisis, governments can slap on wage and price controls, freeze currency exchanges, impose rationing, raise trade barriers, default on their debts, nationalize whole industries, issue new currencies, allocate goods and services by fiat, and impose martial law to make sure the new economic rules are followed to the letter, if necessary, at gunpoint. Again, these aren’t theoretical possibilities; every one of them has actually been used by more than one government faced by a major economic crisis in the last century and a half.

That historical review is grounds for optimism, but confiscation of assets and enforcement at gunpoint are still not the most desirable outcomes. Better would be to have an alternative system in place and ready to implement before the boom drops.

The Better Mousetrap

North Dakota has established an effective alternative model that other states might do well to emulate. In 1919, the state legislature pulled its funds out of Wall Street banks and put them into the state’s own publicly-owned bank, establishing financial sovereignty for the state. The Bank of North Dakota has not only protected the state’s financial interests but has been a moneymaker for it ever since.

On a national level, when the Wall Street credit system fails, the government can turn to the innovative model devised by our colonial forebears and start issuing its own currency and credit—a power now usurped by private banks but written into the US Constitution as belonging to Congress.

The chief problem with the paper scrip of the colonial governments was the tendency to print and spend too much. The Pennsylvania colonists corrected that systemic flaw by establishing a publicly-owned bank, which lent money to farmers and tradespeople at interest. To get the funds into circulation to cover the interest, some extra scrip was printed and spent on government services. The money supply thus expanded and contracted naturally, not at the whim of government officials but in response to seasonal demands for credit. The interest returned to public coffers, to be spent on the common weal.

The result was a system of money and credit that was sustainable without taxes, price inflation or government debt – not to mention without credit default swaps, interest rate swaps, central bank manipulation, slicing and dicing of mortgages, rehypothecation in the repo market, and the assorted other fraudulent schemes underpinning our “systemically risky” banking system today.

Relief for Homeowners?

 Will the BlackRock/PIMCO suit help homeowners?  Not directly.  But it will get some big guns on the scene, with the ability to do all sorts of discovery, and the staff to deal with the results.

Fraud is grounds for rescission, restitution and punitive damages.  The homeowners may not have been parties to the pooling and servicing agreements governing the investor trusts, but if the whole business model is proven to be fraudulent, they could still make a case for damages.

In the end, however, it may be the titans themselves who take each other down, clearing the way for a new phoenix to rise from the ashes.

___________________

Ellen Brown is an attorney, founder of the Public Banking Institute, and author of twelve books including the best-selling Web of Debt. In The Public Bank Solution, her latest book, she explores successful public banking models historically and globally. Her websites are http://EllenBrown.comhttp://PublicBankSolution.com, and http://PublicBankingInstitute.org.

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Racial Animus: Blacks in Chicago Turn on Obama: “Worst President Ever Elected”

Mac Slavo RINF Alternative News When your own voter base turns on you and lambastes you as “the worst President ever elected,”, it probably means you’ve...

Putin v. Obama: Geopolitical Opposites

Putin v. Obama: Geopolitical Opposites

by Stephen Lendman

It bears repeating what other articles stressed. Putin supports peace and stability. Obama wages one war after another.

Putin affirms UN Charter and other rule of law principles. Obama ignores them. He claims a divine right to achieve unchallenged hegemony. He does it belligerently.

Putin believes nation-state sovereignty is inviolable. Obama wants pro-Western puppet governments replacing independent ones.

The Russian Public Opinion Research Center (WCIOM) is the leading post-Soviet opinion research company.

It's late February poll showed Putin's approval rating at a two-year high. Nearly 68% of Russians approve his policies.

Successful Sochi Winter Olympics helped. So did how he's handling the Ukrainian crisis. Russians strongly support him. Claims otherwise ring hollow.

In contrast, Obama's approval rating hit an all-time low. For the first time, a new Fox News poll has him at 38%. In February, he scored 42%. Last November, his previous low was 40%.

Approval for Democrats is 71%. Among Republicans it's 5%. For independents it's 28%.

Overall: 

  • 59% said he failed to create jobs;

  • 56% said he failed to improve economic conditions;

  • 34% called the economy better than five years earlier;

  • 59% said he failed to run a transparent administration;

  • 57% said he failed to improve healthcare;

  • 56% reject his foreign policy;

  • nearly half those polled said he failed to make America safer.

Around 40% of US voters call themselves independent. A large majority believe his tenure reflects failure. 

Maybe a much larger one will going forward. Why anyone feels otherwise they'll have to explain.

His Ukrainian policy alone threatens humanity. He's out-of-control. He's surrounded by neocon advisors. 

His rage to dominate risks WW III. Stopping him matters most. Daily developments should scare everyone.

Turkey granted an unnamed US warship permission to pass through the Bosphorus en route to the Black Sea.

Itar Tass expects a US destroyer to enter the area sometime this week. The USS Taylor (FFG-50) guided missile frigate remains there.

It's deployed with the USS Mount Whitney amphibious command ship.

According to Montreux Convention provisions, warships of countries not bordering the Black Sea can't remain there longer than 21 days.

Washington spurns all laws and agreements conflicting with its interests. Area tensions remain high.

Stars and Stripes is a de facto Pentagon publication. On March 5, it headlined "Pentagon sends 6 warplanes to patrol skies over 3 Baltic nations."

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered them over Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania.

"The move more than doubles American warplanes' presence in the NATO mission to 'protect' " them, said Stars and Stripes. No external threat exists.

Beefing up America's regional presence reflects dangerous saber rattling. It's ongoing at the wrong time. Training flights with Poland's military were increased.

Stars and Stripes called what's happening a "signal of American resolve in the face of the recent Russian 'aggression.' " Further details of what's planned weren't disclosed. 

At the same time, Joint Chiefs Chairman General Martin Dempsey told Senate Armed Services Committee members of the need for "continued restraint in the days ahead in order to preserve room for a diplomatic solution."

On March 5, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen stoked tensions further, saying:

"The situation in Ukraine presents serious implications for the security and stability of the Euro-Atlantic area."

"And Russia continues to violate Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and its own international commitments."

"So NATO decided today to take a number of immediate steps.
We have suspended the planning for our first NATO-Russia joint mission." 

"The maritime escort for the US ship Cape Ray, which will neutralize Syria's chemical weapons. Let me stress, this will not affect the destruction of chemical weapons, but Russia will not be involved in the escort of the US vessel."

"We have also decided that no staff-level civilian or military meetings with Russia will take place for now."

"We have put the entire range of NATO-Russia cooperation under review. NATO Foreign Ministers will take decisions on this in early April."

At the same time, the door for political dialogue remains open, he added. In other words, heavy pressure will try to get Putin to reverse policy.

Washington determines NATO's agenda. Rasmussen lied claiming its "pledge to observe in good faith our obligations under international law. And our commitment to refrain from the threat or use of force against each other, or any other state."

NATO is a US-led killing machine. It's involved in Washington's imperial wars. Lawless aggression reflects them. 

One country after another is ravaged and destroyed. They're turned into dystopian wastelands. Their resources are plundered. Their people are ruthlessly exploited. Democracy is strictly verboten.

Alexander Grushko is Moscow's Permanent Representative at NATO. On Wednesday, he said:

"We are disappointed with the results of this meeting. Russia had expected it would feature a discussion where it we would be able to clarify our approaches to the settlement of the situation in Ukraine." 

"But at the very beginning of the meeting, the NATO secretary general announced that the NATO Council had preferred not to wait till our today's meeting and had passed a decision to suspend cooperation in certain areas."

Doing so runs counter to Russian-NATO Council agreed on principles, the NATO-Russia Council, and NATO Lisbon Summit Declaration.

"Today's meeting was (more) evidence that NATO operates double standards and uses the Cold War stereotypes in respect of Russia," Grushko added.

Instead of mutual cooperation, NATO policy reflects "one against twenty-eight (or) one plus twenty-eight," Grushko said.

Moscow complained about this for years. Doing so fell on deaf ears. Today more than ever.

Crisis conditions in Ukraine show no signs of easing. Washington bears full responsibility. EU partners share it. Russia wants things resolved diplomatically.

Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are going all-out to do so. US imperial lawlessness compromises good faith efforts.

Crimea complicates Obama's plan to co-opt Ukraine entirely. He wants it incorporated into NATO. 

He wants long-range nuclear-armed missiles targeting Russia's heartland. He wants them deployed along both countries' joint 1,400 kilometer border.

On March 6, Voice of Russia headlined "Crimean Parliament passes unanimous vote for joining Russia as autonomy."

First Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Temirgaliyev announced it. Thousands of Crimeans were assembled outside parliament when he did so.

They cheered what happened. They chanted "Russia!"

On March 16, Crimeans vote. A referendum is scheduled. It follows parliamentary unanimity. Expect popular sentiment to endorse it.

Doing so was originally set for May 25. It was moved up to March 30. It's now nine days away. Crimeans will decide on two issues:

(1) "Are you in favor of Crimea becoming a constituent territory of the Russian Federation?"

(2) "Are you in favor of restoring Crimea's 1992 constitution?"

Crimea is part of Ukraine, it says. It defines its relationship according to mutually agreed on terms.

Sevastopol residents will vote. The city hosts Russia's Black Sea Fleet. It holds special status. It's not officially part of Crimea.

According to Fair Russia party leader Sergey Mironov, Russia's lower house Duma will consider Crimea's parliamentary decision next week. They'll vote on whether Russia approves.

Ukraine's neo-Nazi illegitimate government called holding a referendum illegal. They began a criminal investigation against Crimean Prime Minister Sergei Askyonov.

What follows bears close watching. If Moscow agrees to incorporate Crimea into Russia, expect a likely hostile Western reaction.

Tensions will increase further. So will intense Russia bashing. Flashpoint conditions already exist. They're incendiary.

On March 5, EU foreign ministers imposed sanctions on 18 targeted Ukrainians. Legitimate President Viktor Yanukovych tops the list.

At issue is alleged "misappropriation" of Ukrainian state funds. International law prohibits nations from interfering in the internal affairs of others.

If wrongdoing was committed, country authorities alone may decide how to address it. Others doing so act lawlessly. It's longstanding Western policy.

Washington plans punitive economic sanctions. Congressional members are split on whether to do so. Those opposed want multilateral ones imposed.

Germany, Britain, France and Italy oppose them. They do so for good reason. Russia is Western Europe's third largest trading partner.

It's nearly half a trillion dollars annually. It's 10 times more than US/Russian trade.

Energy is a major issue. Europe is heavily dependent on Russian resources. Gazprom supplies Ukraine with over half its gas.

Europe gets 40% from Russia. Germany gets one-third of its oil and gas from a source too vital to lose.

EU economic sanctions talk may be more bluster than action. Germany, Britain, France and other European countries partnered with Washington.

They caused crisis in Ukraine. They allied with fascist putschists. They ousted a democratically elected government. They replaced it with illegitimate neo-Nazis. 

They unjustifiably blame Russia for their own wrongdoing. They gave Moscow until March 6 to deescalate things. 

Otherwise, talks on greater economic and political cooperation will be suspended, they warned.

Turning off the spigot in response to Western sanctions will cause enormous problems. EU nations won't precipitate what harms them.

On March 6, Obama acted unilaterally. He signed an Executive Order. It authorizes sanctions against "individuals and entities responsible for activities undermining democratic processes or institutions in Ukraine."

It includes what he calls "military intervention in Crimea." His action doesn't preclude further steps.

The State Department imposed a visa ban on targeted officials and individuals Washington blames for undermining Ukraine's territorial integrity.

Conflict resolution remains distant. Russia bashing takes precedence. Lies drown out truth. Incendiary conditions continue. A potential clash of civilizations looms.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has presidential aspirations. She's an unindicted war criminal.

On Tuesday, she spoke at a California fundraiser. Demagogic bluster was featured.

She lied saying Putin's agenda reflects "what Hitler did back in the '30s." His "mission is to restore Russian greatness," she claimed.

"When he looks to Ukraine, he sees a place that he believes is by its very nature part of Mother Russia."

Clinton represents the worst of imperial America. She's a monument to wrong over right. 

She disgraced the office she held. Imagine far worse if she's elected president. Imagine what hopefully won't happen.

A Final Comment

A previous article discussed Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet' explosive revelation. 

Kiev putschists bear full responsibility for Euromaidan sniper shootings.

Yanukovych had nothing to do with them. He was wrongfully blamed.

Asked about the revelation, a State Department spokesperson said:

"As I said around the last unfortunate case, this is just another example of the kind of Russian tradecraft that we have concerns about.

US media scoundrels buried the story. They reported nothing. Legitimate media would headline it. 

It should be a game-changer. It won't be. It's the fallen tree in the forest no one heard. Vital truth is suppressed. Business as usual continues.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected] 

His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.


http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

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DOJ Brings Fresh Manslaughter Charges Against Blackwater Mercenaries for Iraqi Massacre

The Justice Department on Thursday announced new manslaughter charges against four Blackwater mercenaries involved in the 2007 Nisour Square massacre in Iraq that left dozens of innocent civilians dead or severely wounded.

Ali Kinani, only nine years old at the time, was among the victims in the 2007 killings in Nisoor Square. The deadly incident in many ways began the unraveling of Blackwater, founded by a wealthy, ex-Navy Seal named Eric Prince. Subsequent to Nisour Square, Blackwater changed its name twice—first to Xe and then to its current name, Academi—and Prince ultimately severed ties with his company following a stream of bad press.

Justice for the victims of the killings, however, remained illusive as earlier charges against the for-profit militants were dropped and coverage of the story dimmed as the U.S. media turned its attention away from the damage wrought by the bloody and extended damage caused by the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

As The Washington Post reports:

A federal grand jury in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia returned a fresh indictment charging the four guards with voluntary manslaughter and other crimes in the shooting in Nisour Square.

The guards were providing security under a State Department contract for diplomats in Iraq at the time of the shooting. On Sept. 16, 2007, they were part of a four-vehicle convoy that was securing an evacuation route for U.S. officials fleeing a bombing. The guards told U.S. investigators that they opened fire on the crowd in self-defense.

In a long investigation after the attack, the FBI and federal prosecutors concluded that the shooting was an “unprovoked illegal attack” on civilians.

“Today’s indictment charges four Blackwater guards with killing or wounding 32 defenseless Iraqi citizens, including women and children, in a Baghdad traffic circle in September 2007,” U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. said in a statement. “These defendants abused their power through a relentless attack on unarmed civilians that recklessly exceeded any possible justification.”

And Al-Jazeera adds:

The original US charges filed against the men in 2008 were thrown out in December 2009, about a month before a scheduled trial.

The dismissal outraged many Iraqis, who said it showed Americans considered themselves above the law. Vice President Joe Biden, speaking in Baghdad in 2010, expressed his "personal regret" for the shootings and declared that the US would appeal the court decision.

The case ran into trouble because the State Department promised the guards that their statements explaining what happened would not be used in a criminal case.

The guards told investigators that they fired their weapons, a crucial admission because forensic evidence could not determine who fired.

Because of a limited immunity deal, prosecutors had to build their case without those statements, a high legal hurdle.

The case was reinstated in 2011 and prosecutors began a lengthy review of what charges they could prove in court.

The new indictment returned by a grand jury in Washington charges 33 counts, including voluntary manslaughter, attempt to commit manslaughter and using a firearm in a crime of violence.

The men, Paul Slough, Nicholas Slatten, Evan Liberty, and Dustin Heard had pleaded not guilty to the nearly identical charges brought five years ago.

Writing in The Nation in 2010, journalist Jeremy Scahill recounted the story of the massacre's youngest victim, Ali Kinani, who was just nine years old when he was gunned down by the Blackwater soldiers. Scahill concludes his story about Kinani and the events of that day by quoting Ali's father, Mohammed, who said: "I wish the US Congress would ask [Erik Prince] why they killed my innocent son, who called himself Allawi. Do you think that this child was a threat to your company? This giant company that has the biggest weapons, the heaviest weapons, the planes, and this boy was a threat to them?"

"I want Americans to know that this was a child that died for nothing."

And Democracy Now! now hosted this exclusive report by Scahill and filmmaker and journalist Rick Rowly about Kinani and Nisour Square:

___________________________________

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

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In one of President Barack Obama first acts in the White House, he ordered the closure of the CIA’s so-called “black-site” prisons, where terror suspects had been held and, sometimes, tortured.  The CIA says it is “out of the detention business,” as John Brennan, Obama’s pick to head the agency, recently put it.

(PHILIPPE MERLE/AFP/Getty Images) But the CIA’s prisons left some unfinished business.  In 2009, ProPublica’s Dafna Linzer listed more than thirty people who had been held in CIA prisons and were still missing.

Some of those prisoners have since resurfaced, but at least twenty are still unaccounted for.

Last week the Open Society Foundations’ Justice Initiative released a report pulling together the most current information available on the fates of the prisoners. A few emerged from foreign prisons after the turmoil of the Arab Spring. One has died. (The report relied exclusively on media accounts and information previously gathered by human rights groups. The Open Society Foundations also donate to ProPublica.)

The report counts 136 prisoners who were either held in a CIA black site or subject to so-called extraordinary rendition, in which detainees were secretly shipped to other countries for interrogation.

Many of the prisoners were tortured, either under the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” program or by other countries after their transfer. The report also lists 54 countries that assisted in some way with detention and rendition. The U.S. has not disclosed the countries it worked with, and few have acknowledged their participation.

The CIA declined our request to comment.

Here are the fates of a few of the prisoners we listed as missing back in 2009:

  1. Ayoub al-Libi, also known as Mustafa Jawda al-Mahdi, is a Libyan who was allegedly interrogated and detained by US personnel in Pakistan and Afghanistan in 2004. The next year he was returned to Libya, where he was sentenced to death as member of LIFG, an Islamist anti-Gaddafi group (designated a terrorist organization by the U.S.) He was released when uprisings began against Gaddafi in February 2011. Human Rights Watch interviewed him in 2012.
  2. Hassan Rabai, also known as Mohamed Ahmad Mohamed Al Shoroieya, is a Libyan who was captured in Pakistan in 2003 and later transferred to Afghanistan – where he alleges that he was waterboarded by U.S. personnel. Bush administration officials have repeatedly said that only three terror suspects were ever subjected to waterboarding; Rabai would be the fourth.  He was eventually transferred to prison in Libya, where he remained until February 2011. Human Rights Watch interviewed him last year.
  3. Khaled al-Sharif, also known as Abu Hazam, was picked up with fellow Libyan and LIFG member Hassan Rabai and also held in Afghanistan. He remained in Libyan prison until March 2010, according to interviews he gave to Human Rights Watch.
  4. Mohammed Omar Abdel-Rahman is an Egyptian who was captured in Pakistan in 2003 and  considered a “senior Al-Qaeda operative.” He was transferred to prison in Egypt and was released in late 2010. He gave an interview in 2011 in which he admitted to running training camps in Afghanistan prior to 2001 but saying he had renounced violence.
  5. Mustafa Setmariam Nasar, also known as Abu Musab al-Suri, was tied to the bombings in Madrid and London in 2004 and 2005. Picked up by the CIA in 2005, he was transferred to prison in his native Syria. According to Syrian media, he was released by Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad in February 2012.
  6. Ali Abdul-Hamid al-Fakhiri, also known as Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi, was a Libyan detained shortly after the 9/11 attacks. He was reportedly held in CIA as well as Egyptian custody over the next several years. According to a Senate Intelligence Committee report, he provided information about links between Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction and Al Qaeda – information he later said he had fabricated. He was transferred to Libyan prison in 2005 or 2006, and was found dead in his cell in May 2009.

The whereabouts (and in some cases identities) of many more remain unknown or uncertain.

In 2007, then-CIA director Michael Hayden said that “fewer than 100 people had been detained at CIA’s facilities.” But only 16 have been officially identified by the U.S. government. President George W. Bush acknowledged the CIA’s detention program in September 2006 and announced the transfer of 14 “high-value” detainees to Guantanamo Bay prison. Two other high-value detainees were subsequently acknowledged.

Much else about the CIA program is still unknown. President Barack Obama closed the black-site prisons on entering office, but preserved the ability to render and to hold people for the “short-term.”

Obama banned torture, but announced that no one would be prosecuted for previously sanctioned harsh interrogations. A Justice Department investigation into deaths of detainees in CIA custody ended without charges.

The Senate Intelligence Committee recently completed a 6,000-page report on the CIA’s detention program. At Brenan’s confirmation hearings, Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.), said the report shows the interrogation program was run by people “ignorant of the topic, executed by personnel without relevant experience, managed incompetently by senior officials who did not pay attention to detail, and corrupted by personnel with pecuniary conflicts of interest.” Rockefeller is one of the few to have read the report, which remains classified.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License

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Timothy Alexander Guzman, Silent Crow News – The relationship between the U.S. and Israel in the last 6 years under the Obama administration has never been stronger.  In 2012, The National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) declared that President Obama’s aid package for Israel was the largest in U.S. history, a fact that is hard to ignore: 

President Barack Obama requested a record $3.1 billion in military assistance to Israel for the 2013 fiscal year. The requested amount is not just the largest assistance request for Israel ever; it is the largest foreign assistance request ever in U.S. history

President Barack H. Obama and Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s alleged tenuous relationship is not what it seems.  Sure they probably annoy each other, but Obama has provided U.S. foreign aid just as every U.S. President before him.  The invitation granted by the speaker of the house John Boehner to Netanyahu so that he can present his case against Iran to the U.S. congress to prove that Obama’s negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program was a “bad deal.”    According to Netanyahu, Iran threatens Israel’s existence and the world.  Netanyahu’s speech was political theater.  Several democrats did not attend Netanyahu’s show.  Those that did criticized Netanyahu for trying to undermine the Obama administration is once again, all political theater.  The democrats who skipped Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent speech to show solidarity with President Obama’s policy towards Iran were going to attend the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) event featuring an appearance by Netanyahu the following week as the Washington Examiner reported earlier this month:   

All of the members skipping Netanyahu’s congressional speech the Examiner interviewed were quick to say their anger toward the prime minister and his attempt to scuttle the Obama administration’s negotiations with Iran on its nuclear program did not extend to pro-Israel committee.

“Why would I not want to meet with my friends? They’re coming to see me next week and why wouldn’t I see them?” asked Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., referring to two American Israel Public Affairs Committee lobbyists he’s known and worked with for 25 years

Since 1948, U.S and Israeli actions taken in the Middle East has proven to be a tragic period for all people of the Middle East whether Arab, Christian, Jew, Kurdish, Sunni or Shiite.  Nothing but wars and Sectarian conflicts, poverty and Western-funded extremists has destroyed Arab countries and killed millions of Muslim men, women and children that are physically and emotionally scarred for the rest of their young and innocent lives. 

Can anyone think of the U.S. and its Democratic ideals as a success?  The U.S. has done everything it can to create “order out of chaos.”  In 1947 following the “creation of Israel” by Great Britain when the Foreign secretary Arthur James Balfour confirmed a “national home of the Jewish People” when he sent the Balfour Declaration to Walter Rothschild, head of the Rothschild banking dynasty, the Palestinian people have been living in hell.  Palestine became a prison enforced by Israel’s security apparatus that resembles what George Orwell described as a total police state in his classic book “1984.”  Palestine has been divided; 1.7 million Palestinians live in an open air prison in the Gaza strip while others live in the West Bank under a police state controlled by heavily armed Israeli soldiers and police.  The Palestinians have been losing lands in an unprecedented fashion and in recent decades only to be accelerated under Netanyahu’s watch with a 40% increase in 2014 alone, outpacing the prior year. 

Israel’s ambitions for nuclear weapons capability began after Israel became a Western sponsored state with the U.S, U.K. and France as its main allies.  Many conflicts in the Middle East soon followed.  The Israeli war of Independence against the Arab countries included Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria which led to the 1949 Armistice which outlined the borders of Israel.    The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soon began military operations against Egypt, Lebanon and Jordon to prevent terrorist attacks against its Jewish citizens.  In 1956, Great Britain and France joined Israel in attacking Egypt after its government decided to nationalize the Suez Canal after the U.S. and Great Britain declined to fund the Aswan Dam.  Israel was forced to retreat from the attack by the U.S. and the USSR.  Soon after, the Six-Day War in 1967 began when Israel fought againstEgypt, Syria and Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and others contributed weapons and troops to the Arab forces.  Israel defeated the Arab armies and expanded its territory in the West Bank which included East Jerusalem to Jordan, the Golan Heights in Syria, the Sinai and the Gaza strip.  Then the War of Attrition (1967-1970), the Yom Kippur War (1973) and the War in Lebanon (1982) which the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) invaded Southern Lebanon to eliminate Palestinian guerrilla fighters (the resistance) from the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) which led to the Israeli Security Zone in South Lebanon.  Then the South Lebanon conflict with Hezbollah that lasted for at least 20 years.  It still continues today.   The first and Second Intifadas began with the Palestinian uprising against a brutal Israeli occupation and the disappearance of their lands.  Several wars soon followed.  The last war called ‘Operation Protective Edge’ which Israel launched against the Gaza Strip.  According to the State of Palestine Ministry of Health who reported on August 17, 2014 that there were 2,300 deaths and over 19,000 injured in Gaza which was a devastating conflict that traumatized the Palestinian people especially the children.  It is a tragic consequence that will last a lifetime for many.    

During all of the conflicts, Israel was seeking weapons to defend their new “Jewish” nation.  Israel was eventually exposed as an undeclared nuclear power thanks to an Israeli man named Mordechai Vanunu who spent 18 years in the Shikma Prison in Ashkelon, with 10 of those years in solitary confinement.  Mordechai exposed Israel’s secrets nuclear program to the British press in 1986.

Israel is the aggressor.  It’s an illegal occupation which began under the British government and it is supported by other Western-powers, mainly the U.S. and France.  Israel’s history is filled with conflicts and terrorism against the Arab world.  Israel has committed political assassinations, supported extremists to topple governments including its current support to “moderate rebels” to oust Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.  It has control over the natural resources including vital water supplies that Palestinians solely depend on to survive.  So my question is why everyone is surprised by Netanyahu’s speech he recently gave in the U.S. House of congress?  Several members of congress were “appalled” or “upset” because he disrespected U.S. lawmakers, but the reality is that the majority of elected officials in congress and every administration even before Obama have approved military aid for Israel’s security since Israel was created in 1948.  Who are they fooling?  Netanyahu sounded like he was the U.S. president with constant standing ovations and thunderous applauds by the AIPAC controlled congress.  Those on both sides of the aisle whether democrat or republican always look forward to Jewish (Zionist) support for campaign funds.  There are several members of congress who have dual citizenships that seek to protect Israel at all costs (although the actual “costs” come at the expense of U.S. taxpayers). The U.S. has been involved in the Middle East for a long time.  Do not expect peace or stability.  War and conquest is the true nature of both the Americans and Israeli’s regarding Middle East policies.  ISIS is a perfect example of how the U.S. operates by bringing democracy to an already volatile region with its support of the Syrian rebels, al-Nusra and the decade old “al-Qaeda” with weapons to topple governments not in line with Washington only proves that war is on the agenda.  Not only does the U.S. and its allies support ISIS and other terrorist organizations to topple Arab governments they protect them according to an article by Michel Chossudovsky titled Obama’s “Fake War” against the Islamic State (ISIS). The Islamic State is protected by the US and its Alliesand made an important point when he said:

What would have been required from a military standpoint to wipe out an ISIS convoy with no effective anti-aircraft capabilities?  Without an understanding of military issues, common sense prevails.  If they had wanted to eliminate the Islamic State brigades, they could have “carpet” bombed their convoys of Toyota pickup trucks when they crossed the desert from Syria into Iraq in June

The U.S. and Israel clearly want chaos in the Middle East.  It is obvious.  However, Netanyahu did say that:

The remarkable alliance between Israel and the United States has always been above politics. It must always remain above politics.  Because America and Israel, we share a common destiny, the destiny of promised lands that cherish freedom and offer hope. Israel is grateful for the support of American — of America’s people and of America’s presidents, from Harry Truman to Barack Obama

Yes, the alliance between the U.S. and Israel is “above politics” and I agree it’s supposed to achieve “Full Spectrum Dominance” with the West and Israel controlling every aspect of Arab life including its lands, economy, and its natural resources in the Middle East.  This is the “destiny” which Netanyahu speaks of.  There is a vast amount of resources including the obvious oil, water and natural gas in the Middle East for which both the U.S. and Israel is solely interested in.  It also provides a market for the Military-Industrial Complex and corporate interests.  Netanyahu’s speech in Washington resembles what a genuine hypocrite that will claim it is he who is a victim of hatred, while committing heinous crimes against those he hates.  Netanyahu thanked President Obama for his support over the years which are no surprise:                  

We appreciate all that President Obama has done for Israel.

Now, some of that is widely known.  Some of that is widely known, like strengthening security cooperation and intelligence sharing, opposing anti-Israel resolutions at the U.N.  Some of what the president has done for Israel is less well- known.

I called him in 2010 when we had the Carmel forest fire, and he immediately agreed to respond to my request for urgent aid.  In 2011, we had our embassy in Cairo under siege, and again, he provided vital assistance at the crucial moment.  Or his support for more missile interceptors during our operation last summer when we took on Hamas terrorists

‘Operation Protective Edge’ was supported by the Obama administration.  They have collaborated on various programs including Israel security forces that provided training to U.S. Police forces.  I was not surprised by the recent revelations in Chicago, Illinois concerning its secret black sites used by the Chicago police department to detain and even torture suspects.  This happened under former White House Chief of Staff and also an IDF civilian volunteer and Israel supporter Rahm Emanuel whose father Benjamin M. Emanuel was once a member of the Irgun, a terrorist organization that operated in Mandate Palestine.  As Netanyahu continued:

But Iran’s regime is not merely a Jewish problem, any more than the Nazi regime was merely a Jewish problem. The 6 million Jews murdered by the Nazis were but a fraction of the 60 million people killed in World War II. So, too, Iran’s regime poses a grave threat, not only to Israel, but also the peace of the entire world. To understand just how dangerous Iran would be with nuclear weapons, we must fully understand the nature of the regime. 

The people of Iran are very talented people. They’re heirs to one of the world’s great civilizations. But in 1979, they were hijacked by religious zealots — religious zealots who imposed on them immediately a dark and brutal dictatorship

Netanyahu said that “religious Zealots” imposed a dark brutal dictatorship?  Well I guess the Western-backed Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi or the “Shah of Iran” and his secret police force the Savak who terrorized the Iranian people was their preference to keep Iran under their control.  Savak was trained and supported by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Israeli Mossad.  The most brutal dictatorship in the Gulf States such as Saudi Arabia is an ideal model for the U.S. and Israel.  If you look at the dictatorships the U.S. has supported to spread “American-Style Democracy” in the last 100 years.  The results of “American-style democracy” were disastrous causing human rights violations, countless deaths and disease.  Those same nations the U.S. either invaded or helped overthrow their respective governments (many of them democracies) still suffer from Washington’s “medicine.”  From Pinochet in Chile, to the Somoza dynasty in Nicaragua, Papa and Baby Doc Duvalier regime in Haiti to the Gulf Monarchies in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and the list goes on, U.S. policy is about dominating nations for geopolitical interests including for the control of their natural resources.  The U.S. and Israel have an interest in the Middle East and that is to dominate it under their so-called “World Order.”   If they remove Syria and then Iran, the Middle East would become a region that would look like Iraq or Libya.  It would be a cash bonanza for the Military-Industrial Complex if they keep the civil wars among different sects and tribes going, creating a market for weapons exports.  Netanyahu said Iran is a “grave threat” to World peace.  Can someone say “Samson Option”?  Seymour M. Hersh’s ‘The Samson Option’ noted a commentary by Norman Podhoretz that summarizes how Israel would respond if they were on the verge of defeat at the hands of Arab nations in the Middle East:    

For Israel’s nuclear advocates, the Samson Option became another way of saying “Never again.”  [In a 1976 essay in Commentary, Norman Podhoretz accurately summarized the pronuclear argument in describing what Israel would do if abandoned by the United States and overrun by Arabs: "The Israelis would fight . . . with conventional weapons for as long as they could, and if the tide were turning decisively against them, and if help in the form of resupply from the United States or any other guarantors were not forthcoming, it is safe to predict that they would fight with nuclear weapons in the end. ... It used to be said that the Israelis had a Masada complex . . .but if the Israelis are to be understood in terms of a 'complex' involving suicide rather than surrender and rooted in a relevant precedent of Jewish history, the example of Sarnson, whose suicide brought about the destruction of his enemies, would be more appropriate than Masada, where in committing suicide the Zealots killed only themselves and took no Romans with them." 

Podhoretz, asked years later about his essay, said that his conclusions about the Samson Option were just that—his conclusions, and not based on any specific information from Israelis or anyone else about Israel's nuclear capability 

What Mr. Podhoretz was describing was a “if we go down, everyone else is going down with us” scenario which is a dangerous policy for the world peace.  Netanyahu also says that Assad who is backed by Iran is slaughtering Syrians.  This serves the Obama Administration’s long-term goal to remove Assad from power: 

Iran's goons in Gaza, its lackeys in Lebanon, its revolutionary guards on the Golan Heights are clutching Israel with three tentacles of terror. Backed by Iran, Assad is slaughtering Syrians. Back by Iran, Shiite militias are rampaging through Iraq. Back by Iran, Houthis are seizing control of Yemen, threatening the strategic straits at the mouth of the Red Sea. Along with the Straits of Hormuz, that would give Iran a second choke-point on the world's oil supply

Netanyahu claim that the Jewish people can defend themselves which I agree especially when you have nuclear weapons that can destroy the entire Middle East:

We are no longer scattered among the nations, powerless to defend ourselves. We restored our sovereignty in our ancient home. And the soldiers who defend our home have boundless courage. For the first time in 100 generations, we, the Jewish people, can defend ourselves

Iran, Syria, Lebanon (Hezbollah) and Palestine (the West Bank and Gaza) are targets for the U.S. and Israel.  They want to destabilize Syria and Iran and turn it into an Iraq and Libya with tribal and sectarian infighting among the populations.  The U.S. destroyed Iraq with the intention of dividing the people.  They create the conflict, develop hatred along Sunni and Shiite sects, and enforce a government subservient to Western interests.  How does this benefits Israel?  They keep the wars going by destabilizing regimes through ISIS and other Western-funded terrorist groups while Israel expands its territories beyond its borders.  Once Syria and Iran are destroyed, the U.S. and Israel will have no use for ISIS.  No more weapons will be shipped to ISIS and other groups and the U.S. and Israel with its military capabilities can easily defeat ISIS as Chossudovsky mentioned in his article.  It sounds cynical but it’s the truth.  It is what I call “Mafia-Style” politics, something the U.S. and Israel are very good at.  The world is not fooled by the bickering between the democrats and republicans because as we all know, they are one, united with an “unbreakable bond “with Israel as Obama declared in 2013.  We all know that without U.S. support, Israeli occupation of Palestine would end tomorrow.  But that will not happen unless the U.S. Empire falls from power and only then, a lasting peace will ensue.     

Netanyahu concluded with “May God bless the state of Israel and may God bless the United States of America” And no one else, right Mr. Netanyahu?  What kind of God would bless two nations that have committed genocide against its indigenous populations?  Why would God bless a nation that lies to its people and declares war on nations that want their sovereignty respected?  If this is the God we as humans supposed to honor, then God is not who we think he is. 

In conclusion, Netanyahu should listen to an interview conducted by Press TV based in Tehran, Iran in 2014 with Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss, associate director of ‘Neturei Karta International: Jews United against Zionism’ (www.nkusa.org) and was asked about U.N. monitor Richard Falk who accused Israel of ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.  His response was as follows:

With the help of the almighty, I pray to the almighty to bestow upon me his truth, his wisdom. We are always confounded by this seeming ignorance of the issues and the ignoring of what is happening. The issues are clear from day one.  Well over one hundred years ago when this Zionist ideology came about of Jewish people creating their own sovereignty and then eventually deciding to make their sovereignty in the Holy Land, the biblical authorities in the Holy Land, the chief rabbi of Palestine, Rabbi Dushinsky..., of that time, and later in 1947 prior to the ratification of... Israel by the United Nations, the chief rabbi was Rabbi Dushinsky; he went to a meeting in Jerusalem [al-Quds] with the members of the United Nations and he pleaded with them in the name of Judaism and the religious community that we do not want, in any form, a state …, that it is illegal, it is illegitimate. Judaism does not permit us to have to have a Jewish sovereignty, Judaism does not permit us to oppress other people, steal the land, or in any manner being uncompassionate to the people.

On the contrary we were living together with the Muslim community, with the Arabs and Muslims for hundreds and hundreds of years in Palestine and every Muslim state in total harmony without any human rights group to protect us and since this creation of Zionism and then eventually … Israel, there is an endless river of bloodshed. It is impossible to subjugate people and expect that there will be peace. Now, we are condoning what is emanating from this fact that there is a state but the fact is that it defies logic; it flies in the face of …,  righteousness and everything that the humanity calls for, by occupying Palestine and so our rabbis universally opposed the existence of … Israel and that the world should totally confuse this issue.

Canada Targets Russia

Canada Targets Russia 

by Stephen Lendman

Right-wing Prime Minister Stephen Harper marches in lockstep with Washington. He's Obama's unctuous little sidekick. He dances to his tune. He partners in his dark side. No pun intended.

Canadian travel restrictions were imposed on senior Russian officials. Crimean ones were targeted. Economic sanctions followed. Last month, Harper announced them, saying:

"It's my strong belief we must keep the pressure on and we must continue to maintain sanctions and maintain putting in place strong steps to dissuade this behaviour."

"What the Putin regime has done cannot be tolerated and can never be accepted. The individuals targeted are responsible for undermining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and for facilitating Russian military action against Ukraine."

"Canada will not stand by while Russia violates Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity."

He condemned legitimate Crimean reunification. He twisted truth claiming otherwise. He supports Kiev putschists. His new friends are fascist extremists  He promised additional ways to help.

In mid-April, he announced more travel bans and sanctions. Foreign Minister John Baird said Canada "cannot sit by while Russia illegally occupies Ukraine."

"Russia's continued provocative actions in Crimea and elsewhere are completely unacceptable."

"Canada and its allies are prepared to take additional steps that will further isolate Russia economically and politically."

He lied claiming Russian "aggression." Russia attacked no one. No Moscow threats exist. Putin deplores war. 

He goes all-out for diplomatic solutions. Don't expect Harper or complicit Ottawa officials to explain.

Canadian lawlessness includes participation in US-led NATO's 1999 Yugoslavia raping. Ottawa is a US coalition of the willing partner. It was part of Washington's war on Afghanistan.

It helped America selectively against Iraq. It actively participated in Obama's Libyan aggression. 

Harper ignores rule of law principles. He's mindless of democratic rights. He supports Obama's war on Syria. 

He endorses lawless drone strikes. He's comfortable about Washington's globalized torture black sites. Police state laws don't trouble him.

He's in lockstep with the worst of Washington's imperial agenda. He's part of US-led NATO's anti-Russian alliance.

He supports illegitimate Kiev fascist putschists. He's in bed with some of the worst societal misfits. He calls them his new friends. 

They include neo-Nazi extremists. They're ideologically over-the-top. They threaten regional peace. They risk open conflict.

Harper matches Obama's belligerence. He supports hardline measures. He wants Russia marginalized, weakened and isolated.

Last month, he said Putin has "no desire to be a partner." He supports "rivalry" instead, he claimed. He twisted truth saying so. He's part of Obama's plan to plunder Ukraine for profit.

He supports making it another Western colony. He wants it geopolitically annexed. He wants it economically looted. 

He wants its people ruthlessly exploited. He wants Canadian business interests served. His predecessor Paul Martin supported Bush's Orange Revolution.

The Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) was involved. Paul Grod serves as president. He accompanied Harper on his March 22 Kiev visit.

Neo-Nazis infest Ukraine's Svoboda Party. UCC members support them. Their predecessors massacred Jews. They partnered in some of Hitler's worst crimes.

Harper partners in Washington's imperial rampaging. He hopes Canadian interests benefit hugely. He wants Canada's oil displacing Russia's European exports. 

He wants Keystone XL pipeline built. When completed, it'll run from Alberta to America's Gulf coast. It'll transport tar sands bitumen to US oil refineries.

Harper played Cold War geopolitics in Sochi. He skipped participation. He symbolically bashed Russia. He rained on Putin's parade. He acted during a disturbingly tense time.

He's in lockstep with Washington's war on humanity. He's a supportive junior partner. He opposes fundamental freedoms. He's geopolitically hardline.

He ludicrously calls America the "indispensable nation." He supports its "exceptionalism." Paul Craig Roberts is right saying its "corruption and mendacity" alone make it "exceptional."

It pressures, bullies and bribes other nations to go along. It eliminates independent foreign leader outliers. It wages one war after another. It does so worldwide.

"The Russians have a real leader," said Roberts. America has "two-bit punks." They masquerade as legitimate politicians. So does Stephen Harper. 

He's polar opposite what Canadians deserve. He mocks legitimate leadership. He supports wealth, power and privilege. 

He spurns social justice. He trashes rule of law principles. He's an unindicted war criminal. He belongs in prison, not high office.

He endorses "Fortress North America." He does so when Canada and America have no enemies except ones they invent. 

He partners in Washington's wars of choice. Lawless aggression defines them.

He targets US enemies. Russia is in the eye of the storm. Harper may have bit off more than he can chew. Obama has a tiger by the tail.

Ukrainian crisis conditions just started. The worst may lie ahead. Thousands, perhaps millions, of Eastern Ukrainians aren't going quietly into the good night. Maybe their Western counterparts will join them.

Activists on the front lines for freedom. They're going all-out to achieve it. Obama thought he had as easy imperial trophy. If he can keep it, an earlier article said.

It may be slip-sliding away. It may launch greater conflict in the process. It may do what no responsible leader would dare. 

It may cross the point of no return. The worst of all possible outcomes may follow. Allying with Washington against Russia makes Harper share responsibility for what happens.

He mocks legitimate leadership. He's deploying Canadian warplanes to Eastern Europe. Positioning more Canadian Armed Forces personnel at NATO headquarters is planned.

More sanctions may be imposed on Russian officials and business interests. He's in lockstep with potential global conflict. He hypes nonexistent Russian threats.

He claims Moscow "expansionism (and) militarism." He calls what doesn't exist "a longterm, serious threat to global peace and security."

He may partner with US-led NATO's Arctic presence. Doing so will involve him in Obama's new millennium resource wars.

They're ongoing. They're part of a modern-day great game. Resources are increasingly important. World supplies are finite.

Major powers scramble for as much as they can control. Oil is especially valued. No one's sure how much is left. 

America, China, Russia and other major nations want control over as much as possible. They're going all out to get it.

Energy is a strategic source of world power. America's "imperial grand strategy" prioritizes controlling as much of the world's supply as possible. 

The Arctic may become another global battleground. US wars have nothing to do with protecting national security. Claiming otherwise doesn't wash.

Harper boasts about supporting Kiev putschists. He turned truth on its head accusing Russia of "aggressive, militaristic and imperialistic" practices.

He ignores Canada's longstanding partnership in US imperial wars. He wants Canada's share of Ukrainian spoils. 

In mid-April, Canadian media said he's quietly preparing for possible military involvement in Syria. 

Censored documents allude to "the rapidly deteriorating conditions in Syria, its impact on neighbouring counties and…the importance of Middle East security."

Syria remains "defiant," they say. "(M)ost likely (and) worst case" outcomes are claimed. They include greater regional conflict.

A possible pretext for intervention assumes that Ottawa recognizes "a legitimate armed opposition group." Details aren't explained.

At the same time, separate documents show Canadian involvement in training anti-Assad elements.

Partnering in Obama's wars threatens world peace. Harper has much to answer for. 

Scoundrel media propaganda suppresses his crimes of war and against humanity. Expect more ahead if he, Obama and rogue EU partners aren't stopped.

Mass public opposition is needed. It's time enough ordinary people stepped up to the plate and acted.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected] 

His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 


http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

Healthcare Professionals Involvement in US Torture


Healthcare Professionals Involvement in US Torture

by Stephen Lendman

On November 4, an independent panel of military, ethics, medical, public health, and legal experts said Pentagon and CIA officials directed doctors and psychologist to ignore medical ethics, principles and standards.

Post-9/11, the Task Force on Preserving Medical Professionalism in National Security Detention Centers said they collaborate in securing intelligence.

"(D)esigning, participating in, and enabling torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment" substituted for do no harm. Established practices continue.

Dr. Gerald Thomson is Columbia University Professor of Medicine Emeritus. He's duly outraged.   
"The American public has a right to know that the covenant with its physicians to follow professional ethical expectations is firm regardless of where they serve," he said.
"It’s clear that in the name of national security the military trumped that covenant, and physicians were transformed into agents of the military and performed acts that were contrary to medical ethics and practice." 
"We have a responsibility to make sure this never happens again."
The Task Force's report is titled "Ethics Abandoned: Medical Professionalism and Detainee Abuse in the War on Terror. More on it below.
Ethics Abandoned isn't the first report on healthcare professionals abandoning their oath to do no harm.
In April 2009, a confidential February 2007 ICRC torture report was released. It's titled "ICRC Report on the Treatment of Fourteen 'High Value Detainees' in CIA Custody."

It discusses harsh and abusive treatment. It does so from time of arrest, detention, transfer, and incarceration at Guantanamo. 

It explains the involvement of healthcare professionals. It covers:

  • their monitoring of and direct participation in torture procedures;

  • instructing interrogators to continue, adjust, or stop certain ones;

  • informing detainees that medical treatment depended on their cooperation;

  • performing medical checks before and after each torture session; and

  • treating the effects of torture as well as ailments and injuries during incarceration.

Condoning or participating in torture grossly violates medical ethics. Doing so is strictly prohibited.

The World Medical Association (WMA) Declaration of Tokyo "Guidelines for Physicians Concerning Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in Relation to Detention and Imprisonment" states:

In all cases at all times, "physician(s) shall not countenance, condone or participate in" torture or any other form of abuse.

They "shall not use nor allow to be used (their) medical knowledge or skills, or health information" to aid abusive interrogations in any way.

They "shall not be present during any procedure during which torture or any other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment is used or threatened."

They "must have complete clinical independence" in treating persons entrusted to their care. 

WMA encourages the international community and practicing physicians to support medical professionals who face "threats or reprisals resulting from a refusal to condone" all forms of torture and abuse.

According to Protocol I of the 1949 Geneva Conventions:

"Persons engaged in medical activities shall neither be compelled to perform acts or to carry out work contrary to, nor be compelled to refrain from acts required by, the rules of medical ethics or other rules designed for the benefit of the wounded and sick, or this Protocol."

In July 2006, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) published a report titled, "Report on Torture and Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading Treatment of Prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba."

It included evidence of medical personnel involvement in torture. Eyewitness testimonies confirmed it. So did prisoners CCR lawyers interviewed.

International law is clear and unequivocal. The UN Convention Against Torture prohibits it at all times, under all circumstances, with no allowed exceptions.

Third Geneva bans "violence to life and person (as well as) humiliating and degrading treatment." It mandates proper medical care.

Fourth Geneva affords the same rights to civilians in times of war. The federal anti-torture statute (18 USC, 2340A) prohibits its use. 

It defines is as "an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering...upon another person within his custody or physical control."

Constitutional law prohibits cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment or punishment.  

The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) bans cruelty, oppression, actions intended to degrade or humiliate, and physical, menacing, and threatening assaults.

The US War Crimes Act prohibits grave Geneva breaches.

Geneva's Common Article III prohibits "violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture (as well as) outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment."

It doesn't matter. Torture remains official US policy. Medical professionals are criminally involved.

The Task Force report is based on two years research. Its 19 members reviewed public domain records. 

Department of Defense and CIA policies "institutionalized a variety of interventions by military and intelligence agency doctors and psychologists that breach ethical standards to promote well-being and avoid harm." They include:

  • "Involvement in abusive interrogation; consulting on conditions of confinement to increase the disorientation and anxiety of detainees; 

  • Using medical information for interrogation purposes; and 

  • Force-feeding of hunger strikers."

Vital medical care was denied. Healthcare professionals "substantially deviate from ethical standards traditionally applied to civilian medical personnel."

Grave breaches include:

  • "Excus(ing) violations of ethical standards by inappropriately characterizing health professionals engaged in interrogation as 'safety officers;' 

  • Implement(ing) rules that permitted medical and psychological information obtained by health professionals to be used in interrogations; 

  • Requir(ing) physicians and nurses to forgo their independent medical judgment and counseling roles, as well as to force-feed competent detainees engaged in hunger strikes even though this is forbidden by the World Medical Association and the American Medical Association; 

  • Improperly designat(ing) licensed health professionals to use their professional skills to interrogate detainees as military combatants, a status incompatible with licensing; and 

  • Fail(ing) to uphold recommendations by the Army Surgeon General to adopt international standards for medical reporting of abuse against detainees."

CIA Office of Medical Services personnel were criminally involved in approving so-called "enhanced interrogation" methods (aka torture and other forms of abuse).

The Institute on Medicine as a Profession (IMAP) endorsed the Task Force's report. IMAP promotes professionalism in medicine.

It conducts research on past, present and future professionalism roles. It wants it to be relevant to physicians, medical organization leaders, policy analysts, public officials and consumers.

Its president, David Rothman said:

"Putting on a uniform does not and should not abrogate the fundamental principles of medical professionalism."

" 'Do no harm' and 'put patient interest first' must apply to all physicians regardless of where they practice."

Task Force members say US agencies continue "follow(ing) policies that undermine standards of professional conduct."

They do so with regard to interrogations, hunger strikes, and reporting abuse. Ethical breaches include:

  • "issuing protocols requiring doctors and nurses to participate in the force-feeding of detainees, including forced extensive bodily restraints for up to two hours twice a day;

  • enabling interrogators access to medical and psychological information about detainees for exploitation by interrogators; and

  • permitting clinical care for detainees to suffer from the inability or failure of clinicians to address causes of detainee distress from torture."

Task Force member Leonard Rubenstein is a Johns Hopkins School of Public Health Center for Human Rights and Berman Institute of Bioethics legal scholar.

"Abuse of detainees, and health professional participation in this practice, is not behind us as a country," he said.

"Force-feeding by physicians in violation of ethical standards is illustrative of a much broader legacy in which medical professionalism has been undermined."

Task Force members urge current unethical practices be fully and independently investigated. 

They call for establishing codes of conduct complying fully with proper medical and psychological practices.

They want what they're not likely to get. It bears repeating. Torture is official US policy. 

Guantanamo is the tip of the iceberg. America maintains torture prison black sites. It does so globally. Abusive practices continue out of sight and mind.

Washington is by far the world's leading human rights abuser. It's unaccountable. Media scoundrels ignore it.

America gets away with the worst kinds of cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment. Obama exceeds the worst of George Bush. 

He bears full responsibility for unspeakable crimes against humanity. They continue out-of-control on his watch.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected] 

His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

8 Ways Obama Is As Bad — Or Worse — Than Bush On Civil...

Despite a rare court victory on Friday, Obama's legacy is dismal.

Photo Credit: WhiteHouse.gov

March 18, 2013  |  

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Civil libertarians won a rare court victory against the Obama Administration’s ‘War on Terror’ on Friday when a U.S. District Court blocked the FBI from ordering telecom companies to turn over their customer’s data, such as e-mails and other records, and blocked FBI gag orders on this domestic spying program.

“In today's ruling, the court held that the gag order provisions of the statute violate the First Amendment and that the review procedures violate separation of powers,” Electronic Frontier Foundation lawyers, who brought the suit, said. “Because those provisions were not separable from the rest of the statute, the court declared the entire statute unconstitutional.”

This is the second time in recent months that civil libertarians have won a court victory over the Obama administration, although it is all but certain that it will appeal and seek to suspend the ruling. Last fall, a federal court suspended a section of a major defense bill that gave the government permission to arrest people who were suspected of speaking with alleged terrorists, which included several journalists who sued. However, another federal court reinstated that provision pending appeal.

“What is appears to illustrate is there are probably duel U.S. Pakistani nationals or maybe U.S. Afghan nationals who are being detained in military facilities and denied due process,” said Chris Hedges, an ex-foreign correspondent who sued.

What these developments underscore is that the Obama Administration barely differs from the George W. Bush Administration when it comes to the ‘War on Terrorism.’ While the Obama Administration has not continued specific tactics used by his predecessor, such as CIA black sites and specific torture techniques known as “enhanced interrogation,” it has gone further than Bush in other areas, such as with targeted assassinations using drones, and expanding the domestic national security state.

“There are the two War on Terror presidents,” wrote Glenn Greenwald recently. “ George Bush seized on the 9/11 attack to usher in radical new surveillance and detention powers in the PATRIOT ACT, spied for years on the communications of US citizens without the warrants required by law, and claimed the power to indefinitely imprison even US citizens without charges in military brigs.

“His successor, Barack Obama, went further by claiming the power not merely to detain citizens without judicial review but to assassinate them (about which the New York Times said: ‘It is extremely rare, if not unprecedented, for an American to be approved for targeted killing’). He has waged an unprecedented war on whistleblowers, dusting off [Woodrew] Wilson’s Espionage Act of 1917 to prosecute more then double the number of whistleblowers than all prior presidents combined. And he has draped his actions with at least as much secrecy, if not more so, than any president in US history.”

Let’s go through these and other areas that, as the National Journal said, should result in an “F” for Obama when historians assess his civil liberties record.

This February, BillMoyers.com published a list of eight contrasting the Obama and Bush Administrations on civil liberties. On six of the eight areas, Obama expanded or codified his predecessor’s policies:

1. Patriot Act is renewed on May 27, 2011: “Obama signs a renewal of several of the Patriot Act’s most controversial segments, including the use of ‘ roving wiretaps,’ the government’s expanded access to business records, and the ‘lone wolf’ provision, which allows surveillance of individuals not affiliated with any known terrorist organization. 

2. Wiretaps and Data Collections: “On December 30, 2012, Obama signs a five-year extension of the FISA Amendments Act. Provisions for more oversight and public disclosure failed to pass Congress.” (This is the law that the Electronic Frontier Foundation challenged and won a U.S. District Court injunction against last week. The administration has 90 days to appeal.)

John Brennan’s Heavy Baggage

John Brennan brings heavy baggage to his new job as CIA Director – legal as well as moral – arguably making it risky for him to travel to more than 150 countries that are party to the United Nations Convention Against Torture.New CIA Director John Brennan addresses officials at the Agency’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia. (Photo credit: CIA)

It must be hard for Brennan to recognize that he cannot land in Europe, for example, without fear of being arrested and arraigned for kidnapping (also known as “extraordinary rendition”) and torture (now antiseptically called “EIT” for “enhanced interrogation techniques,” which, by the way, is a direct translation of verschaerfte Vernehmungright out of the Gestapo handbook).

For a freshly confirmed CIA Director it is de rigueur to pay an early call on European counterparts. I remember preparing a briefing book for that purpose just before a new CIA Director named George H. W. Bush took off for the UK, Germany and France in the early spring of 1976. Unfortunately for Brennan, there may be complications to enjoying April in Paris – like a possible knock on the door from a French prosecutor and the gendarmes.

Given Brennan’s role as a senior CIA official during President George W. Bush’s “dark side” days of waterboarding detainees, renditioning suspects to Mideast torture centers and making up intelligence to invade Iraq, Brennan’s advisers are sure to remind him that he may be in as much jeopardy of being arrested as former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

After leaving the Pentagon in late 2006, Rumsfeld had his own close call with Lady Justice. In October 2007, Rumsfeld was in an auditorium in Paris preparing to deliver a lecture when he learned that the Paris Prosecutor was mulling over what to do after being served a formal complaint against Rumsfeld for ordering and authorizing torture.

The charges against Rumsfeld were brought under the 1984 UN Convention Against Torture (CAT), ratified by both the United States and France. The complaint was brought in France under the concept of universal jurisdiction.

The criminal complaint stated that because the authorities in the United States and Iraq had failed to launch any independent investigation into the responsibility of Rumsfeld and other high-level U.S. officials for torture – despite a documented paper trail and government memos implicating them in direct as well as command responsibility for torture – it was the legal obligation of states such as France to take up the case. The complaint also noted that the U.S. had refused to join the International Criminal Court, which might have had more routine jurisdiction.

In an attempt to avoid a major diplomatic headache, U.S. embassy officers advised: “Run, Rummy, Run,” before the Paris authorities decided what to do. Rumsfeld went out a side door, slipped into the embassy, and then got out of Dodge tout suite.

Rumsfeld’s skedaddle from Paris thus spared him the possible humiliation that befell Gen. Augusto Pinochet, who had been head of Chile’s military dictatorship from 1973 to 1990. While on a trip to the United Kingdom in 1998, Pinochet was arrested on a Spanish judicial warrant and was held under house arrest until 2000. The Spanish judge cited the same principle of universal jurisdiction. Pinochet was freed only after the intervention of high-powered friends, including former President George H.W. Bush and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

That was only the first of several times when European judges applied that principle, declaring themselves competent to judge crimes committed by former heads of state, despite local amnesty laws. If former heads of state are vulnerable, it seemed to follow that former defense secretaries and other senior subordinates must be as well.

If the Rumsfeld precedent were not enough to make Brennan think twice about travel to Europe, he has surely been told of the criminal complaints lodged in Switzerland (also a CAT signatory) against George W. Bush in early 2011. When the former president learned of it, he decided not to take any chances and abruptly nixed longstanding plans to address a Jewish charity dinner in Geneva on Feb. 12, 2011.

The Goods on Brennan

Brennan’s checkered past has been an open secret. On Dec. 5, 2005, after finishing a stint as acting director of the National Counterterrorism Center, Brennan told Margaret Warner of the NewsHour that “rendition” (also known as kidnapping) is “an absolutely vital tool … producing intelligence that has saved lives.” (In his Feb. 7, 2013, testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee on his nomination to be CIA Director, Brennan backed off the “saved lives” claim, since the committee had just completed its own comprehensive study disproving it.)

On the NewsHour, Brennan described rendition as “the practice or the process of rendering somebody from one place to another place. It is moving them, and the U.S. Government will frequently facilitate that movement from one country to another.”

Brennan’s co-panelist, another former CIA operations officer, objected to turning prisoners over to foreign intelligence services, insisting that, “It would be far better if the United States retained control of that terror suspect and did the interrogation itself.”

This drew a sharp rejoinder from Brennan: “Quite frankly I think it’s rather arrogant to think that we are the best in every case in terms of eliciting information from terror suspects.” Right. In the decades since World War II, many “friendly” intelligence services have acquired a lot more experience with verschaerfte Vernehmungthan the CIA, though it often served as the tutor.

(The term verschaerfte Vernehmung was not only coined by the Nazis, but the techniques were indistinguishable from those used during the presidency of George W. Bush, according to a 2007 article in the Atlantic. The major difference, so far, is that after WWII the torturers were punished as war crimes, with the penalty often death by hanging.)

NewsHour’s Warner asked Brennan if the U.S. employs rendition “because we want another country to do the dirty work?” Brennan replied: “It’s rather arrogant to think that we’re the only country that respects human rights.”

A comprehensive study just published by the Open Society Justice Initiative reveals that, under President George W. Bush, Brennan and his counter-terrorist team suborned the officials of 54 other countries to cooperate in the rendition program, providing help of various kinds, including transiting their land, airports or airspace, or accepting secret prisons in their countries.

It is no secret that the purpose of “rendition” is to move detainees secretly to countries with experience/expertise in “enhanced interrogation techniques” or to the infamous CIA “black sites” abroad where waterboarding and other abuses took place. Such activities violate the Convention Against Torture and, often, national laws.

Some Accountability

What is new is that some governments in both “old” and “new” Europe – a distinction that Donald Rumsfeld would make derisively against France and other parts of “old” Europe – are now showing a common commitment to justice by prosecuting former heads of their own intelligence services.

Italy’s former chief of military intelligence, Nicolo Pollari, just got ten years in prison for helping the CIA abduct Egyptian cleric Osama Hassan Mustafa Nasr (aka Abu Omar) from the streets of Milan in early 2003 and send him to Egypt for more “enhanced” interrogation.

More than two dozen Americans have been tried and convicted in absentia for this case of truly extraordinary rendition, in which they exhibited notoriously adolescent tradecraft. If any of them travel to Europe, they risk arrest. John Brennan should remember that highly embarrassing flap quite well, since it came on the eve of his appointment to head a newly created Terrorist Threat Integration Center.

And in “new” Europe, in January 2013, Zbigniew Siemiatkowski, former head of Poland’s secret service and former minister of internal affairs, was indicted for his role in cooperating with the CIA renditioners and torturers. Siemiatkowski facilitated CIA renditions and the establishment of a CIA “black prison” in Poland, where the U.S. arranged interrogation and torture of terrorist suspects snatched from their home countries.

It is no overstatement that for the first time since World War II, many foreign intelligence chiefs are likely to have very mixed reactions to being seen, even in Washington, with a freshly minted CIA Director with the heavy baggage that Brennan carries.

So where might these intelligence counterparts get together without too many risks. What about the Bahamas?  It has signed CAT but has not yet ratified it. So, with adequate security forces deployed, there may be a measure of safety there. For the time being at least, Bahamas could offer one of the few feasible ways that Brennan would be able to schmooze with key foreign counterparts – perhaps by offering as a bonus a timeshare week there. A short flight for travelers from Washington, DC, Bahamas would have another cost-saving advantage in saving on jet fuel.

Things to Do at Home, Like Iran

Besides worries about arrest, Brennan has other compelling reasons to stay at home for a while. Iran’s nuclear program remains on the front burner as it has since early 2008 when the Director of National Intelligence revealed the National Intelligence Estimate completed in November 2007 concluding, unanimously and “with high confidence,” that Iran had stopped working on nuclear weaponization in 2003 and had not resumed that work – a judgment revalidated every year since by the DNI.

That assessment has not prevented neocons and their favorite media personalities from trying to make Iran’s nuclear program seem more menacing. On “Meet the Press” on Feb. 3, for example, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was the subject of attempted mousetrapping by NBC’s Chuck Todd, who clearly was hoping Panetta could be maneuvered into contradicting the NIE.

It was awkward for Panetta, but – to his credit – rather than apologize when Todd pointed his finger accusing him of believing “the Iranians were not pursuing nuclear weapons,” Panetta held firm under the goading. Finally, after conferring with co-panelist Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, Gen. Martin Dempsey, Panetta said, with some exasperation:  “I – no, I can’t tell you because – I can’t tell you they’re in fact pursuing a weapon because that’s not what intelligence says we – we – we’re – they’re doing right now. …” (emphasis added)

John Brennan, when appearing before his Senate Intelligence Committee confirmation hearing on Feb. 7, chose to deviate from the 2007 NIE by including the following in his prepared written testimony: “And regimes in Tehran and Pyongyang remain bent on pursuing nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missile delivery systems.” (emphasis added)

Never mind Brennan’s disingenuousness in conflating Iran with North Korea. The question is how could he diverge so markedly both from what Panetta said just four days before, as well as from the unanimous assessment of the entire U.S. intelligence community that Iran stopped working on a nuclear weapon in 2003 and has not resumed that work. In no way does that continuing assessment support his claim that Tehran remains “bent on pursuing nuclear weapons” and ICBMs to deliver them.

There are, of course, reasonable grounds to suspect that Iran might be seeking a capability that eventually would allow it to rapidly break out of Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) constraints on building a nuclear weapon. That, of course, is why U.S. intelligence is riveted on monitoring related activity in Iran, as are the UN inspectors in Iran.

But “bent on pursuing” ICBMs? Really? Iran has not flight-tested a ballistic missile with ranges in excess of its 2200-kilometer-range Sajjil MRBM. Nor has it launched a space rocket that might conceivably be a suitable model for an ICBM. Has Brennan found someone – perhaps an analyst left over from the notorious 2002 NIE on WMD in Iraq – to tell him the Iranians are testing ICBMs in their hardened underground sites?

I doubt that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who observed at close hand the concocting of fraudulent “intelligence” on Iraq, will cave in to the likes of Brennan “fixing” the intelligence on Iran. However, there is no word yet this year on when the DNI will present the annual worldwide threat briefing – traditionally given in sworn testimony to Congress in January or February.

So the battle is joined. Assuming Congress, in its wisdom, does not altogether cancel the worldwide threat briefing this year, and assuming I’m right about Clapper, Brennan has his work cut out for him in squaring that circle about how “bent” Iran seems to be on “pursuing nuclear weapons.”

A version of this article also appeared on 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).

Shadow Lives: How the War on Terror in England Became a War on Women...

Once, as a reporter, I covered wars, conflicts, civil wars, and even a genocide in places like Vietnam, Angola, Eritrea, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, keeping away from official briefings and listening to the people who were living the war.  In the years since the Bush administration launched its Global War on Terror, I’ve done the same thing without ever leaving home.

In the last decade, I didn’t travel to distant refugee camps in Pakistan or destroyed villages in Afghanistan, nor did I spend time in besieged cities like Iraq’s Fallujah or Libya’s Misrata.  I stayed in Great Britain.  There, my government, in close conjunction with Washington, was pursuing its own version of what, whether anyone cared to say it or not, was essentially a war against Islam.  Somehow, by a series of chance events, I found myself inside it, spending time with families transformed into enemies.

I hadn’t planned to write about the war on terror, but driven by curiosity about lives most of us never see and a few lucky coincidences, I stumbled into a world of Muslim women in London, Manchester, and Birmingham.  Some of them were British, others from Arab and African countries, but their husbands or sons had been swept up in Washington’s war. Some were in Guantanamo, some were among the dozen Muslim foreigners who did not know each other, and who were surprised to find themselves imprisoned together in Britain on suspicion of links to al-Qaeda. Later, some of these families would find themselves under house arrest.

In the process, I came to know women and children who were living in almost complete isolation and with the stigma of a supposed link to terrorism. They had few friends, and were cut off from the wider world. Those with a husband under house arrest were allowed no visitors who had not been vetted for “security,” nor could they have computers, even for their children to do their homework.  Other lonely women had husbands or sons who had sometimes spent a decade or more in prison without charges in the United Kingdom, and were fighting deportation or extradition.

Gradually, they came to accept me into their isolated lives and talked to me about their children, their mothers, their childhoods — but seldom, at first, about the grim situations of their husbands, which seemed too intimate, too raw, too frightening, too unknowable to be put into words.

In the early years, it was a steep learning curve for me, spending time in homes where faith was the primary reality, Allah was constantly invoked, English was a second language, and privacy and reticence were givens. Facebook culture had not come to most of these families. The reticence faded over the years, especially when the children were not there, or in the face of the kind of desolation that came from a failed court appeal to lift the restrictions on their lives, an unexpected police raid on the house, a husband’s suicide attempt, or the coming of a new torture report from Washington’s then-expanding global gulag of black sites and, of course, Guantanamo.

In these years, I met some of their husbands and sons as well.  The first was a British man from Birmingham, Moazzam Begg. He had been held for three years in Washington’s notorious offshore prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, only to be released without charges.  When he came home, through his lawyer, he asked me to help write his memoir, the first to come out of Guantanamo.  We worked long months on Enemy Combatant. It was hard for him to relive his nightmare days and nights in American custody in Kandahar and in the U.S. prison at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan and then those limbo years in Cuba. It was even harder for him to visit the women whose absent husbands he had known in prison and who, unlike him, were still there.

Was My Husband Tortured?

In these homes he visited, there was always one great unspoken question: Was my husband or son tortured? It was the single question no one could bear to ask a survivor of that nightmare, even for reassurance. When working on his book, I deliberately left the chapter on his experiences in American hands in Bagram prison for last, as I sensed how difficult it would be for both of us to speak about the worst of the torture I knew he had experienced.

Through Moazzam, I met other men who had been swept up in the post-9/11 dragnet for Muslims in Great Britain, refugees who sought him out as an Arabic speaker and a British citizen to help them negotiate Britain’s newly hostile atmosphere in the post-9/11 years.  Soon, I began to visit some of their wives, too.

In time, I found myself deep inside a world of civilian women who were being warred upon (after a fashion) in my own country, which was how I came upon a locked-down hospital ward with a man determined to starve himself to death unless he was given refugee documents to leave Britain, children who cried in terror in response to a knock on the door, wives faced with a husband changed beyond words by prison.

I was halfway through working on Moazzam’s book when London was struck by our 9/11, which we call 7/7. The July 7, 2005, suicide bombings, in three parts of the London underground and a bus, killed 52 civilians and injured more than 700. The four bombers were all young British men between 18 and 30, two of them married with children, and one of them a mentor at a primary school. In video statements left behind they described themselves as “soldiers” whose aim was to force the British government to pull its troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Just three weeks later, there were four more coordinated bomb attacks on the London subway system.  (All failed to detonate.) The four men responsible, longterm British residents originally from the Horn of Africa, were captured, tried, and sentenced to life imprisonment. In this way, the whole country was traumatised in 2005, and that particularly includes the various strands of the Muslim community in Great Britain.

The British security services quickly returned to a post-9/11 stance on overdrive. The same MI5 intelligence agents who had interrogated Moazzam while he was in U.S. custody asked to meet him again to get his thoughts on who might be behind the attacks. However, three years in U.S. custody and five months at home occupied with his family and his book had not made him a likely source of information on current strains of thought in the British Muslim community.

At the same time, the dozen foreign Muslim refugees detained in the aftermath of 9/11 and held without trial for two years before being released on the orders of the House of Lords were rearrested. In the summer of 2005, the government prepared to deport them to countries they had originally fled as refugees.

All of them had been made anonymous by court order and in legal documents were referred to as Mr. G, Mr. U, and so on. This was no doubt intended to safeguard their privacy, but in a sense it also condemned them.  It made them faceless, inhuman, and their families experienced it just that way. “They even took my husband’s name away, why?” one wife asked me.

The women I was meeting in these years were mostly from this small group, as well as the relatives of a handful of British residents — Arabs — who were not initially returned from Guantanamo with the nine British citizens that the Americans finally released without charges in 2004 and 2005.

Perhaps no one in the country was, in the end, more terrorised than them, thanks to the various terror plots by British nationals that followed. And they were right to be fearful.  The pressure on them was overwhelming.  Some of them simply gave up and went home voluntarily because they could not bear house arrest, though they risked being sent to prison in their native lands; others went through years of house arrest and court appeals against deportation, all of which continues to this day.

Among the plots that unnerved them were one in 2006 against transatlantic aircraft, for which a total of 12 Britons were jailed for life in 2009, and the 2007 attempt to blow up a London nightclub and Glasgow International Airport, in which one bomber died and the second was jailed for 32 years. In the post-9/11 decade, 237 people were convicted of terror-related offences in Britain.

Though all of this was going on, much of it remained remote from the world of the refugee women I came to know who, in the larger world, were mainly preoccupied with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that, with Palestinian developments, filled their TV screens tuned only to Arabic stations.

These women did not tend to dwell on their own private nightmares, but for anyone in their company there was no mistaking them: a wife prevented from taking her baby into the hospital to visit her hunger-striking husband and get him to eat before he starved to death; another, with several small children, turned back from a prison visit, despite a long journey, because her husband was being punished that day; children whose toys were taken in a police raid and never given back; midnight visits from a private security company to check on a man already electronically tagged.

Here was the texture of a hidden war of continual harassment against a largely helpless population.  This was how some of the most vulnerable people in British society — often already traumatised refugees and torture survivors — were made permanent scapegoats for our post-9/11, and then post-7/7 fears.

So powerful is the stigma of “terrorism” today that, in the name of “our security,” whether in Great Britain or the United States, just about anything now goes, and ever fewer people ask questions about what that “anything” might actually be. Here in London, repeated attempts to get influential religious or political figures simply to visit one of these officially locked-down families and see these lives for themselves have failed. In the present political climate, such a personal, fact-finding visit proved to be anything but a priority for such people.

A Legal System of Secret Evidence, House Arrest, and Financial Sanctions

Against this captive population, in such an anything-goes atmosphere, all sorts of experimental perversions of the legal system were tried out.  As a result, the British system of post-9/11 justice contains many features which should frighten us all but are completely unfamiliar to the vast majority of people in the United Kingdom.

Key aspects for the families I have been concerned with include the use of secret evidence in cases involving deportation, bail conditions, and imprisonment without trial. In addition, most of their cases have been heard in a special court known as the Special Immigration Appeals Commission or SIAC, which is housed in an anonymous basement set of rooms in central London.

One of SIAC’s innovative features is the use of “special advocates,” senior barristers who have security clearance to see secret evidence on behalf of their clients, but without being allowed to disclose it or discuss it, even with the client or his or her own lawyer. The resignation on principle of a highly respected barrister, Ian Macdonald, as a special advocate in November 2004 exposed this process to the public for the first time — but almost no one took any interest.

And a sense of the injustice in this arcane system was never sufficiently sparked by such voices, which found little echo in the media. Nor was there a wide audience for reports from a team of top psychiatrists about the devastating psychological impact on the men and their families of indefinite detention without trial, and of a house-arrest system framed by “control orders” that allow the government to place restrictions of almost any sort on the lives of those it designates.

An even less noted aspect of the anti-terror legal system brought into existence after 9/11 was the financial sanctions that could freeze the assets of designated individuals.  First ordered by the United Nations, the financial-sanctions regime was consolidated here through a European Union list of designated people. The few lawyers who specialized in this area were scathing about the draconian measures involved and the utter lack of transparency when it came to which governments had put which names on which list.

The effect on the listed families was draconian.  Marriages collapsed under the strain. The listed men were barred from working and only allowed £10 a week for personal expenses. Their wives — often from conservative cultures where all dealings with the outside world had been left to husbands — suddenly were the families’ faces to the world, responsible for everything from shopping to accounting monthly to the government’s Home Office for every item the family purchased, right down to a bottle of milk or a pencil for a child. It was humiliating for the men, who lost their family role overnight, and exhausting and frustrating for the women, while in some cases the rest of their families shunned them because of the taint of alleged terrorism. Almost no one except specialist lawyers even knew that such financial sanctions existed in Britain.

In the country’s High Court, the first judicial challenge to the financial-sanctions regime was brought in 2008 by five British Muslim men known only as G, K, A, M, and Q. In response, Justice Andrew Collins said he found it “totally unacceptable” that, to take an especially absurd example, a man should have to get a license for legal advice about the sanctions from the very body that was imposing them. The man in question had waited three months for a “basic expense” license permitting funds for food and rent, and six months for a license to obtain legal advice about the situation he found himself in.

In a related case before the judicial committee of the House of Lords, Justice Leonard Hoffman expressed incredulity at the “meanness and squalor” of a regime that “monitored who had what for lunch.” More recently, the United Kingdom’s Supreme Court endorsed the comments of Lord Justice Stephen Sedley who described those subject to the regime as being akin to “prisoners of the state.”

Among senior lawyers concerned about this hidden world of punishment was Ben Emmerson, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms While Countering Terrorism. He devoted one of his official U.N. reports to the financial sanctions issue. His recommendations included significantly more transparency from governments who put people on such a list, the explicit exclusion of evidence obtained by torture, and the obligation of governments to give reasons when they refuse to remove individuals from the list.  Of course, no one who mattered was paying the slightest attention.

Against ideological governments obsessed by terrorism on both sides of the Atlantic and a culture numbed by violent anti-terrorist tales like “24” and Zero Dark Thirty, such complicated and technical initiatives on behalf of individuals who have been given the tag, implicitly if not explicitly, of “terrorist” stand little chance of getting attention.

“Each Time It’s Worse”

Nearly a decade ago, at the New York opening night of Guantanamo: Honour Bound to Defend Freedom, the play Gillian Slovo and I wrote using only the words of the relatives of prisoners in that jail, their lawyers, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, an elderly man approached Moazzam Begg’s father and me.  He introduced himself as a former foreign policy adviser to President John Kennedy. “It could never have happened in our time,” he said.

When the Global War on Terror was still relatively new, it was common for audiences to react similarly and with shock to a play in which fathers and brothers describe their bewilderment over the way their relation had disappeared into the legal black hole of Guantanamo Bay. In the years since, we have become numb to the destruction of lives, livelihoods, futures, childhoods, legal systems, and trust by Washington’s and London’s never-ending war on terror.

In that time, I have seen children grow from toddlers to teenagers locked inside this particular war machine.  What they say today should startle us out of such numbness. Here, for instance, are the words of two teenagers, a girl and a boy whose fathers had been imprisoned or under house arrest in Britain for 10 years and whose lives in those same years were filled with indignities and humiliations:

“People seem to think that we get used to things being how they are for us, so we don’t feel the injustices so much now. They are quite wrong: it was painful the first time, more painful the second, even more so the third. In fact, each time it’s worse, if you can believe that. There isn’t a limit on how much pain you can feel.”

The boy added this:

“There is never one day when I feel safe. It can be the authorities, it can be ordinary people, they can do something bad for us. Only like now when we are all in the house together can I stop worrying about my mum and my sisters, and even me, what might happen to us. On the tube [subway], in class at university, people look at my beard.  I see them looking and I know they are thinking bad things about me. I would like to be a normal guy who no one looks at. You know, other boys, some of my friends, they cut corners, things like driving without a current license, everyone does it. But I can’t, I can’t ever, ever, take even a small risk. I have to always be cautious, be responsible… for my family.”

These children have been brought up by women who, against all odds, have often preserved their dignity and kept at least a modicum of joy in their families’ lives, and so, however despised, however unnoticed, however locked away, made themselves an inspiration to others. They are not victims to be pitied, but women our societies should embrace.

South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s response to recent proposals that Washington establish a secret court to oversee the targeting of terrorist suspects for death-by-drone and President Obama’s expanding executive power to kill, speak for the world beyond the West.  They offer a different perspective on the war on terror that Washington and Great Britain continue to pursue with no end in sight:

“Do the United States and its people really want to tell those of us who live in the rest of the world that our lives are not of the same value as yours? That President Obama can sign off on a decision to kill us with less worry about judicial scrutiny than if the target is an American? Would your Supreme Court really want to tell humankind that we, like the slave Dred Scott in the nineteenth century, are not as human as you are? I cannot believe it.  I used to say of apartheid that it dehumanized its perpetrators as much as, if not more than, its victims. Your response as a society to Osama bin Laden and his followers threatens to undermine your moral standards and your humanity.”

Victoria Brittain, journalist and former editor at the Guardian, has authored or co-authored two plays and four books, including Enemy Combatant with Moazzam Begg. Her latest book, Shadow Lives: The Forgotten Women of the War on Terror (Palgrave/Macmillan, 2013) has just been published.

Shadow Lives: How the War on Terror in England Became a War on Women...

Once, as a reporter, I covered wars, conflicts, civil wars, and even a genocide in places like Vietnam, Angola, Eritrea, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, keeping away from official briefings and listening to the people who were living the war.  In the years since the Bush administration launched its Global War on Terror, I’ve done the same thing without ever leaving home.

In the last decade, I didn’t travel to distant refugee camps in Pakistan or destroyed villages in Afghanistan, nor did I spend time in besieged cities like Iraq’s Fallujah or Libya’s Misrata.  I stayed in Great Britain.  There, my government, in close conjunction with Washington, was pursuing its own version of what, whether anyone cared to say it or not, was essentially a war against Islam.  Somehow, by a series of chance events, I found myself inside it, spending time with families transformed into enemies.

I hadn’t planned to write about the war on terror, but driven by curiosity about lives most of us never see and a few lucky coincidences, I stumbled into a world of Muslim women in London, Manchester, and Birmingham.  Some of them were British, others from Arab and African countries, but their husbands or sons had been swept up in Washington’s war. Some were in Guantanamo, some were among the dozen Muslim foreigners who did not know each other, and who were surprised to find themselves imprisoned together in Britain on suspicion of links to al-Qaeda. Later, some of these families would find themselves under house arrest.

In the process, I came to know women and children who were living in almost complete isolation and with the stigma of a supposed link to terrorism. They had few friends, and were cut off from the wider world. Those with a husband under house arrest were allowed no visitors who had not been vetted for “security,” nor could they have computers, even for their children to do their homework.  Other lonely women had husbands or sons who had sometimes spent a decade or more in prison without charges in the United Kingdom, and were fighting deportation or extradition.

Gradually, they came to accept me into their isolated lives and talked to me about their children, their mothers, their childhoods -- but seldom, at first, about the grim situations of their husbands, which seemed too intimate, too raw, too frightening, too unknowable to be put into words.

In the early years, it was a steep learning curve for me, spending time in homes where faith was the primary reality, Allah was constantly invoked, English was a second language, and privacy and reticence were givens. Facebook culture had not come to most of these families. The reticence faded over the years, especially when the children were not there, or in the face of the kind of desolation that came from a failed court appeal to lift the restrictions on their lives, an unexpected police raid on the house, a husband’s suicide attempt, or the coming of a new torture report from Washington’s then-expanding global gulag of black sites and, of course, Guantanamo.

In these years, I met some of their husbands and sons as well.  The first was a British man from Birmingham, Moazzam Begg. He had been held for three years in Washington’s notorious offshore prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, only to be released without charges.  When he came home, through his lawyer, he asked me to help write his memoir, the first to come out of Guantanamo.  We worked long months on Enemy Combatant. It was hard for him to relive his nightmare days and nights in American custody in Kandahar and in the U.S. prison at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan and then those limbo years in Cuba. It was even harder for him to visit the women whose absent husbands he had known in prison and who, unlike him, were still there.

Was My Husband Tortured?

In these homes he visited, there was always one great unspoken question: Was my husband or son tortured? It was the single question no one could bear to ask a survivor of that nightmare, even for reassurance. When working on his book, I deliberately left the chapter on his experiences in American hands in Bagram prison for last, as I sensed how difficult it would be for both of us to speak about the worst of the torture I knew he had experienced.

Through Moazzam, I met other men who had been swept up in the post-9/11 dragnet for Muslims in Great Britain, refugees who sought him out as an Arabic speaker and a British citizen to help them negotiate Britain’s newly hostile atmosphere in the post-9/11 years.  Soon, I began to visit some of their wives, too.

In time, I found myself deep inside a world of civilian women who were being warred upon (after a fashion) in my own country, which was how I came upon a locked-down hospital ward with a man determined to starve himself to death unless he was given refugee documents to leave Britain, children who cried in terror in response to a knock on the door, wives faced with a husband changed beyond words by prison.

I found myself deep inside a world of civilian women who were being warred upon (after a fashion) in my own country, which was how I came upon a locked-down hospital ward with a man determined to starve himself to death, children who cried in terror in response to a knock on the door, wives faced with a husband changed beyond words by prison.

I was halfway through working on Moazzam’s book when London was struck by our 9/11, which we call 7/7. The July 7, 2005, suicide bombings, in three parts of the London underground and a bus, killed 52 civilians and injured more than 700. The four bombers were all young British men between 18 and 30, two of them married with children, and one of them a mentor at a primary school. In video statements left behind they described themselves as “soldiers” whose aim was to force the British government to pull its troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Just three weeks later, there were four more coordinated bomb attacks on the London subway system.  (All failed to detonate.) The four men responsible, longterm British residents originally from the Horn of Africa, were captured, tried, and sentenced to life imprisonment. In this way, the whole country was traumatised in 2005, and that particularly includes the various strands of the Muslim community in Great Britain.

The British security services quickly returned to a post-9/11 stance on overdrive. The same MI5 intelligence agents who had interrogated Moazzam while he was in U.S. custody asked to meet him again to get his thoughts on who might be behind the attacks. However, three years in U.S. custody and five months at home occupied with his family and his book had not made him a likely source of information on current strains of thought in the British Muslim community.

At the same time, the dozen foreign Muslim refugees detained in the aftermath of 9/11 and held without trial for two years before being released on the orders of the House of Lords were rearrested. In the summer of 2005, the government prepared to deport them to countries they had originally fled as refugees.

All of them had been made anonymous by court order and in legal documents were referred to as Mr. G, Mr. U, and so on. This was no doubt intended to safeguard their privacy, but in a sense it also condemned them.  It made them faceless, inhuman, and their families experienced it just that way. “They even took my husband’s name away, why?” one wife asked me.

The women I was meeting in these years were mostly from this small group, as well as the relatives of a handful of British residents -- Arabs -- who were not initially returned from Guantanamo with the nine British citizens that the Americans finally released without charges in 2004 and 2005.

Perhaps no one in the country was, in the end, more terrorised than them, thanks to the various terror plots by British nationals that followed. And they were right to be fearful.  The pressure on them was overwhelming.  Some of them simply gave up and went home voluntarily because they could not bear house arrest, though they risked being sent to prison in their native lands; others went through years of house arrest and court appeals against deportation, all of which continues to this day.

Among the plots that unnerved them were one in 2006 against transatlantic aircraft, for which a total of 12 Britons were jailed for life in 2009, and the 2007 attempt to blow up a London nightclub and Glasgow International Airport, in which one bomber died and the second was jailed for 32 years. In the post-9/11 decade, 237 people were convicted of terror-related offences in Britain.

Though all of this was going on, much of it remained remote from the world of the refugee women I came to know who, in the larger world, were mainly preoccupied with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that, with Palestinian developments, filled their TV screens tuned only to Arabic stations.

These women did not tend to dwell on their own private nightmares, but for anyone in their company there was no mistaking them: a wife prevented from taking her baby into the hospital to visit her hunger-striking husband and get him to eat before he starved to death; another, with several small children, turned back from a prison visit, despite a long journey, because her husband was being punished that day; children whose toys were taken in a police raid and never given back; midnight visits from a private security company to check on a man already electronically tagged.

These women did not tend to dwell on their own private nightmares: a wife prevented from taking her baby into the hospital to visit her hunger-striking husband and get him to eat before he starved to death; another turned back from a prison visit because her husband was being punished that day; children whose toys were taken in a police raid and never given back; midnight visits from a private security company to check on a man already electronically tagged.

Here was the texture of a hidden war of continual harassment against a largely helpless population.  This was how some of the most vulnerable people in British society -- often already traumatised refugees and torture survivors -- were made permanent scapegoats for our post-9/11, and then post-7/7 fears.

So powerful is the stigma of “terrorism” today that, in the name of “our security,” whether in Great Britain or the United States, just about anything now goes, and ever fewer people ask questions about what that “anything” might actually be. Here in London, repeated attempts to get influential religious or political figures simply to visit one of these officially locked-down families and see these lives for themselves have failed. In the present political climate, such a personal, fact-finding visit proved to be anything but a priority for such people.

A Legal System of Secret Evidence, House Arrest, and Financial Sanctions

Against this captive population, in such an anything-goes atmosphere, all sorts of experimental perversions of the legal system were tried out.  As a result, the British system of post-9/11 justice contains many features which should frighten us all but are completely unfamiliar to the vast majority of people in the United Kingdom.

Key aspects for the families I have been concerned with include the use of secret evidence in cases involving deportation, bail conditions, and imprisonment without trial. In addition, most of their cases have been heard in a special court known as the Special Immigration Appeals Commission or SIAC, which is housed in an anonymous basement set of rooms in central London.

One of SIAC’s innovative features is the use of “special advocates,” senior barristers who have security clearance to see secret evidence on behalf of their clients, but without being allowed to disclose it or discuss it, even with the client or his or her own lawyer. The resignation on principle of a highly respected barrister, Ian Macdonald, as a special advocate in November 2004 exposed this process to the public for the first time -- but almost no one took any interest.

And a sense of the injustice in this arcane system was never sufficiently sparked by such voices, which found little echo in the media. Nor was there a wide audience for reports from a team of top psychiatrists about the devastating psychological impact on the men and their families of indefinite detention without trial, and of a house-arrest system framed by “control orders” that allow the government to place restrictions of almost any sort on the lives of those it designates.

An even less noted aspect of the anti-terror legal system brought into existence after 9/11 was the financial sanctions that could freeze the assets of designated individuals.  First ordered by the United Nations, the financial-sanctions regime was consolidated here through a European Union list of designated people. The few lawyers who specialized in this area were scathing about the draconian measures involved and the utter lack of transparency when it came to which governments had put which names on which list.

The effect on the listed families was draconian.  Marriages collapsed under the strain. The listed men were barred from working and only allowed £10 a week for personal expenses. Their wives -- often from conservative cultures where all dealings with the outside world had been left to husbands -- suddenly were the families’ faces to the world, responsible for everything from shopping to accounting monthly to the government’s Home Office for every item the family purchased, right down to a bottle of milk or a pencil for a child. It was humiliating for the men, who lost their family role overnight, and exhausting and frustrating for the women, while in some cases the rest of their families shunned them because of the taint of alleged terrorism. Almost no one except specialist lawyers even knew that such financial sanctions existed in Britain.

In the country’s High Court, the first judicial challenge to the financial-sanctions regime was brought in 2008 by five British Muslim men known only as G, K, A, M, and Q. In response, Justice Andrew Collins said he found it "totally unacceptable" that, to take an especially absurd example, a man should have to get a license for legal advice about the sanctions from the very body that was imposing them. The man in question had waited three months for a "basic expense" license permitting funds for food and rent, and six months for a license to obtain legal advice about the situation he found himself in.

In a related case before the judicial committee of the House of Lords, Justice Leonard Hoffman expressed incredulity at the "meanness and squalor" of a regime that "monitored who had what for lunch." More recently, the United Kingdom’s Supreme Court endorsed the comments of Lord Justice Stephen Sedley who described those subject to the regime as being akin to “prisoners of the state.”

Among senior lawyers concerned about this hidden world of punishment was Ben Emmerson, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms While Countering Terrorism. He devoted one of his official U.N. reports to the financial sanctions issue. His recommendations included significantly more transparency from governments who put people on such a list, the explicit exclusion of evidence obtained by torture, and the obligation of governments to give reasons when they refuse to remove individuals from the list.  Of course, no one who mattered was paying the slightest attention.

Against ideological governments obsessed by terrorism on both sides of the Atlantic and a culture numbed by violent anti-terrorist tales like “24” and Zero Dark Thirty, such complicated and technical initiatives on behalf of individuals who have been given the tag, implicitly if not explicitly, of “terrorist” stand little chance of getting attention.

"Each Time It's Worse"

Nearly a decade ago, at the New York opening night of Guantanamo: Honour Bound to Defend Freedom, the play Gillian Slovo and I wrote using only the words of the relatives of prisoners in that jail, their lawyers, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, an elderly man approached Moazzam Begg’s father and me.  He introduced himself as a former foreign policy adviser to President John Kennedy. “It could never have happened in our time,” he said.

When the Global War on Terror was still relatively new, it was common for audiences to react similarly and with shock to a play in which fathers and brothers describe their bewilderment over the way their relation had disappeared into the legal black hole of Guantanamo Bay. In the years since, we have become numb to the destruction of lives, livelihoods, futures, childhoods, legal systems, and trust by Washington’s and London’s never-ending war on terror.

In that time, I have seen children grow from toddlers to teenagers locked inside this particular war machine.  What they say today should startle us out of such numbness. Here, for instance, are the words of two teenagers, a girl and a boy whose fathers had been imprisoned or under house arrest in Britain for 10 years and whose lives in those same years were filled with indignities and humiliations:

"People seem to think that we get used to things being how they are for us, so we don't feel the injustices so much now. They are quite wrong: it was painful the first time, more painful the second, even more so the third. In fact, each time it’s worse, if you can believe that. There isn’t a limit on how much pain you can feel."

The boy added this:

"There is never one day when I feel safe. It can be the authorities, it can be ordinary people, they can do something bad for us. Only like now when we are all in the house together can I stop worrying about my mum and my sisters, and even me, what might happen to us. On the tube [subway], in class at university, people look at my beard.  I see them looking and I know they are thinking bad things about me. I would like to be a normal guy who no one looks at. You know, other boys, some of my friends, they cut corners, things like driving without a current license, everyone does it. But I can’t, I can’t ever, ever, take even a small risk. I have to always be cautious, be responsible... for my family."

These children have been brought up by women who, against all odds, have often preserved their dignity and kept at least a modicum of joy in their families’ lives, and so, however despised, however unnoticed, however locked away, made themselves an inspiration to others. They are not victims to be pitied, but women our societies should embrace.

South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s response to recent proposals that Washington establish a secret court to oversee the targeting of terrorist suspects for death-by-drone and President Obama’s expanding executive power to kill, speak for the world beyond the West.  They offer a different perspective on the war on terror that Washington and Great Britain continue to pursue with no end in sight:

"Do the United States and its people really want to tell those of us who live in the rest of the world that our lives are not of the same value as yours? That President Obama can sign off on a decision to kill us with less worry about judicial scrutiny than if the target is an American? Would your Supreme Court really want to tell humankind that we, like the slave Dred Scott in the nineteenth century, are not as human as you are? I cannot believe it.  I used to say of apartheid that it dehumanized its perpetrators as much as, if not more than, its victims. Your response as a society to Osama bin Laden and his followers threatens to undermine your moral standards and your humanity."

© 2013 Victoria Brittain

Victoria Brittain

Victoria Brittain, journalist and former editor at the Guardian, has authored or co-authored two plays and four books, including Enemy Combatant with Moazzam Begg. Her latest book, Shadow Lives: The Forgotten Women of the War on Terror (Palgrave/Macmillan, 2013) has just been published.

UN Demands Prosecution of Bush-era CIA Crimes

bushcriminal

 A United Nations investigator has demanded that the US publish classified documents regarding the CIA’s human rights violations under former President George W. Bush, with hopes that the documents will lead to the prosecution of public officials.

Documents about the CIA’s program of rendition and secret detention of suspected terrorists have remained classified, even though President Obama’s administration has publicly condemned the use of these “enhanced interrogation techniques”. The US has not prosecuted any of its agents for human rights violations.

UN investigator Ben Emmerson, the UN special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism, said that the classified documents protect the names of individuals who are responsible for serious human rights violations.

“Despite this clear repudiation of the unlawful actions carried out by the Bush-era CIA, many of the facts remain classified, and no public official has so far been brought to justice in the United States,” Emmerson said in a report to the UN Human Rights Council, according to Reuters.

Kept in secret prisons around the world, the CIA’s detainees were subjected to torture including waterboarding, sleep deprivation and various other interrogation techniques that violate human rights. The detainees were often subjected to clandestine transfers to secret prisons known as CIA ‘black sites’.

“There is now credible evidence to show that CIA ‘black sites’ were located on the territory of Lithuania, Morocco, Poland, Romania and Thailand, and that the officials of at least 49 other states allowed their airspace or airports to be used for rendition flights,” Emmerson said, describing how suspected terrorists were often detained without being charged for any crimes, receiving extradition procedures or having access to lawyers.

Emmerson has urged the US to prosecute any public official who was involved in setting up the CIA “black sites” at which human rights or legal violations occurred. Even though the Obama administration has condemned those who promoted the use of such facilities for inhumane procedures, the administration has taken no steps to punish any of its public officials. Attorney General Eric Holder has said that the Justice Department would not take legal actions against those who “acted in good faith” and followed the guidelines provided by the Office of Legal Counsel during the Bush era.

But without names and details about the involvement of US officials at CIA black sites, the government is maintaining a level of secrecy and “perpetuating impunity for the public officials implicated in these crimes,” Emmerson said.  A Senate committee led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) previously investigated the CIA’s interrogation program and may have had complete access to classified information about it.

Emmerson has called for this information to be published “without delay, and to the fullest extent possible.”

While the UN special rapporteur lacks the power to force the Obama administration to release this information, his report puts further pressure on the US government to expose a practice it publicly condemns, but continues to keep secret.

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

Why Latin America Didn’t Join Washington’s Counterterrorism Posse

John Brennan.(Photo: Center for Strategic & International Studies / Flickr)There was a scarcely noted but classic moment in the Senate hearings on the nomination of John Brennan, the president’s counterterrorism “tsar,” to become the next CIA director.  When Senator Carl Levin pressed him repeatedly on whether waterboarding was torture, he ended his reply this way: “I have a personal opinion that waterboarding is reprehensible and should not be done.  And again, I am not a lawyer, senator, and I can't address that question.”

How modern, how twenty-first-century American!  How we’ve evolved since the dark days of Medieval Europe when waterboarding fell into a category known to all as “the water torture”!  Brennan even cited Attorney General Eric Holder as one lawyer who had described waterboarding as “torture,” but he himself begged off.  According to the man who was deputy executive director of the CIA and director of the Terrorist Threat Integration Center in the years of “enhanced interrogation techniques” and knew much about them, the only people equipped to recognize torture definitively as “torture” are lawyers.  This might be more worrisome, if we weren’t a “nation of lawyers” (though it also means that plummeting law school application rates could, in the future, create a torture-definition crisis).

To look on the positive side, Brennan’s position should be seen as a distinct step forward from that of the Justice Department officials under the Bush administration who wrote the infamous “torture memos” and essentially left the definition of “torture” to the future testimony of the torturer. (“[I]f a defendant [interrogator] has a good faith belief that his actions will not result in prolonged mental harm, he lacks the mental state necessary for his actions to constitute torture.”)

And keep in mind that Brennan has good company for his position.  Recently, the Open Society Institute published the most comprehensive investigation yet of the offshore system of injustice that George W. Bush and his top officials set up to kidnap “terror suspects,” imprison them without charges or end, and torture and abuse them, or “render” them to other countries willing to do the same.  It turns out that 54 nations (other than the U.S.) took part in setting up, aiding, and maintaining this American global gulag.  It’s a roster of dishonor worth noting: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Finland, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Iceland, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, Libya, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malawi, Malaysia, Mauritania, Morocco, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Syria, Thailand, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, Uzbekistan, Yemen, and Zimbabwe.

Remarkably, according to the Open Society report, just one of those states evidently had a lawyer on hand who could actually recognize torture, even if well after the fact.  “Canada,” its authors write, “is the only country to issue an apology to an extraordinary rendition victim, Maher Arar, who was extraordinarily rendered to, and tortured in, Syria.”

Given this, Greg Grandin, TomDispatch regular and author of Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Lost Jungle City, explores a geographical miracle: of those 54 countries, only two, the U.S. and Canada, came from the Western Hemisphere! Tom

The Latin American Exception: How a Washington Global Torture Gulag Was Turned Into the Only Gulag-Free Zone on Earth
By Greg Grandin

The map tells the story.  To illustrate a damning new report, “Globalizing Torture: CIA Secret Detentions and Extraordinary Rendition,” recently published by the Open Society Institute, the Washington Post put together an equally damning graphic: it’s soaked in red, as if with blood, showing that in the years after 9/11, the CIA turned just about the whole world into a gulag archipelago.

Back in the early twentieth century, a similar red-hued map was used to indicate the global reach of the British Empire, on which, it was said, the sun never set.  It seems that, between 9/11 and the day George W. Bush left the White House, CIA-brokered torture never saw a sunset either.

All told, of the 190-odd countries on this planet, a staggering 54 participated in various ways in this American torture system, hosting CIA “black site” prisons, allowing their airspace and airports to be used for secret flights, providing intelligence, kidnapping foreign nationals or their own citizens and handing them over to U.S. agents to be “rendered” to third-party countries like Egypt and Syria.  The hallmark of this network, Open Society writes, has been torture.  Its report documents the names of 136 individuals swept up in what it says is an ongoing operation, though its authors make clear that the total number, implicitly far higher, “will remain unknown” because of the “extraordinary level of government secrecy associated with secret detention and extraordinary rendition.”

No region escapes the stain.  Not North America, home to the global gulag’s command center.  Not Europe, the Middle East, Africa, or Asia.  Not even social-democratic Scandinavia.  Sweden turned over at least two people to the CIA, who were then rendered to Egypt, where they were subject to electric shocks, among other abuses.  No region, that is, except Latin America.

What’s most striking about the Post’s map is that no part of its wine-dark horror touches Latin America; that is, not one country in what used to be called Washington’s “backyard” participated in rendition or Washington-directed or supported torture and abuse of “terror suspects.”  Not even Colombia, which throughout the last two decades was as close to a U.S.-client state as existed in the area.  It’s true that a fleck of red should show up on Cuba, but that would only underscore the point: Teddy Roosevelt took Guantánamo Bay Naval Base for the U.S. in 1903 “in perpetuity.”

Two, Three, Many CIAs 

How did Latin America come to be territorio libre in this new dystopian world of black sites and midnight flights, the Zion of this militarist matrix (as fans of the Wachowskis' movies might put it)?  After all, it was in Latin America that an earlier generation of U.S. and U.S.-backed counterinsurgents put into place a prototype of Washington’s twenty-first century Global War on Terror.

Even before the 1959 Cuban Revolution, before Che Guevara urged revolutionaries to create “two, three, many Vietnams,” Washington had already set about establishing two, three, many centralized intelligence agencies in Latin America.  As Michael McClintock shows in his indispensable book Instruments of Statecraft, in late 1954, a few months after the CIA’s infamous coup in Guatemala that overthrew a democratically elected government, the National Security Council first recommended strengthening “the internal security forces of friendly foreign countries."

In the region, this meant three things.  First, CIA agents and other U.S. officials set to work “professionalizing” the security forces of individual countries like Guatemala, Colombia, and Uruguay; that is, turning brutal but often clumsy and corrupt local intelligence apparatuses into efficient, “centralized,” still brutal agencies, capable of gathering information, analyzing it, and storing it.  Most importantly, they were to coordinate different branches of each country’s security forces -- the police, military, and paramilitary squads -- to act on that information, often lethally and always ruthlessly.

Second, the U.S. greatly expanded the writ of these far more efficient and effective agencies, making it clear that their portfolio included not just national defense but international offense.  They were to be the vanguard of a global war for “freedom” and of an anticommunist reign of terror in the hemisphere.  Third, our men in Montevideo, Santiago, Buenos Aires, Asunción, La Paz, Lima, Quito, San Salvador, Guatemala City, and Managua were to help synchronize the workings of individual national security forces.

The result was state terror on a nearly continent-wide scale.  In the 1970s and 1980s, Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet’s Operation Condor, which linked together the intelligence services of Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Chile, was the most infamous of Latin America’s transnational terror consortiums, reaching out to commit mayhem as far away as Washington D.C., Paris, and Rome.  The U.S. had earlier helped put in place similar operations elsewhere in the Southern hemisphere, especially in Central America in the 1960s.

By the time the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans had been tortured, killed, disappeared, or imprisoned without trial, thanks in significant part to U.S. organizational skills and support.  Latin America was, by then, Washington’s backyard gulag.  Three of the region’s current presidents -- Uruguay’s José Mujica, Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff, and Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega -- were victims of this reign of terror.

When the Cold War ended, human rights groups began the herculean task of dismantling the deeply embedded, continent-wide network of intelligence operatives, secret prisons, and torture techniques -- and of pushing militaries throughout the region out of governments and back into their barracks.  In the 1990s, Washington not only didn’t stand in the way of this process, but actually lent a hand in depoliticizing Latin America’s armed forces.  Many believed that, with the Soviet Union dispatched, Washington could now project its power in its own “backyard” through softer means like international trade agreements and other forms of economic leverage.  Then 9/11 happened.

“Oh My Goodness”

In late November 2002, just as the basic outlines of the CIA’s secret detention and extraordinary rendition programs were coming into shape elsewhere in the world, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld flew 5,000 miles to Santiago, Chile, to attend a hemispheric meeting of defense ministers.  "Needless to say,” Rumsfeld nonetheless said, “I would not be going all this distance if I did not think this was extremely important." Indeed.

This was after the invasion of Afghanistan but before the invasion of Iraq and Rumsfeld was riding high, as well as dropping the phrase “September 11th” every chance he got.  Maybe he didn’t know of the special significance that date had in Latin America, but 29 years earlier on the first 9/11, a CIA-backed coup by General Pinochet and his military led to the death of Chile’s democratically elected president Salvador Allende.  Or did he, in fact, know just what it meant and was that the point?  After all, a new global fight for freedom, a proclaimed Global War on Terror, was underway and Rumsfeld had arrived to round up recruits.

There, in Santiago, the city out of which Pinochet had run Operation Condor, Rumsfeld and other Pentagon officials tried to sell what they were now terming the “integration” of “various specialized capabilities into larger regional capabilities” -- an insipid way of describing the kidnapping, torturing, and death-dealing already underway elsewhere. “Events around the world before and after September 11th suggest the advantages,” Rumsfeld said, of nations working together to confront the terror threat.

“Oh my goodness,” Rumsfeld told a Chilean reporter, “the kinds of threats we face are global.”  Latin America was at peace, he admitted, but he had a warning for its leaders: they shouldn’t lull themselves into believing that the continent was safe from the clouds gathering elsewhere.  Dangers exist, “old threats, such as drugs, organized crime, illegal arms trafficking, hostage taking, piracy, and money laundering; new threats, such as cyber-crime; and unknown threats, which can emerge without warning.”

“These new threats,” he added ominously, “must be countered with new capabilities.” Thanks to the Open Society report, we can see exactly what Rumsfeld meant by those “new capabilities.”

A few weeks prior to Rumsfeld’s arrival in Santiago, for example, the U.S., acting on false information supplied by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, detained Maher Arar, who holds dual Syrian and Canadian citizenship, at New York’s John F. Kennedy airport and then handed him over to a “Special Removal Unit.” He was flown first to Jordan, where he was beaten, and then to Syria, a country in a time zone five hours ahead of Chile, where he was turned over to local torturers.  On November 18th, when Rumsfeld was giving his noon speech in Santiago, it was five in the afternoon in Arar’s “grave-like” cell in a Syrian prison, where he would spend the next year being abused. 

Ghairat Baheer was captured in Pakistan about three weeks before Rumsfeld’s Chile trip, and thrown into a CIA-run prison in Afghanistan called the Salt Pit.  As the secretary of defense praised Latin America’s return to the rule of law after the dark days of the Cold War, Baheer may well have been in the middle of one of his torture sessions, “hung naked for hours on end.”

Taken a month before Rumsfeld’s visit to Santiago, the Saudi national Abd al Rahim al Nashiri was transported to the Salt Pit, after which he was transferred “to another black site in Bangkok, Thailand, where he was waterboarded.” After that, he was passed on to Poland, Morocco, Guantánamo, Romania, and back to Guantánamo, where he remains.  Along the way, he was subjected to a “mock execution with a power drill as he stood naked and hooded,” had U.S. interrogators rack a “semi-automatic handgun close to his head as he sat shackled before them.”  His interrogators also “threatened to bring in his mother and sexually abuse her in front of him.”

Likewise a month before the Santiago meeting, the Yemini Bashi Nasir Ali Al Marwalah was flown to Camp X-Ray in Cuba, where he remains to this day.   

Less than two weeks after Rumsfeld swore that the U.S. and Latin America shared “common values,” Mullah Habibullah, an Afghan national, died “after severe mistreatment” in CIA custody at something called the “Bagram Collection Point.” A U.S. military investigation “concluded that the use of stress positions and sleep deprivation combined with other mistreatment... caused, or were direct contributing factors in, his death.”

Two days after the secretary’s Santiago speech, a CIA case officer in the Salt Pit had Gul Rahma stripped naked and chained to a concrete floor without blankets.  Rahma froze to death.     

And so the Open Society report goes... on and on and on.

Territorio Libre 

Rumsfeld left Santiago without firm commitments.  Some of the region’s militaries were tempted by the supposed opportunities offered by the secretary’s vision of fusing crime fighting into an ideological campaign against radical Islam, a unified war in which all was to be subordinated to U.S. command.  As political scientist Brian Loveman has noted, around the time of Rumsfeld’s Santiago visit, the head of the Argentine army picked up Washington’s latest set of themes, insisting that “defense must be treated as an integral matter,” without a false divide separating internal and external security.

But history was not on Rumsfeld’s side.  His trip to Santiago coincided with Argentina’s epic financial meltdown, among the worst in recorded history.  It signaled a broader collapse of the economic model -- think of it as Reaganism on steroids -- that Washington had been promoting in Latin America since the late Cold War years.  Soon, a new generation of leftists would be in power across much of the continent, committed to the idea of national sovereignty and limiting Washington’s influence in the region in a way that their predecessors hadn’t been. 

Hugo Chávez was already president of Venezuela.  Just a month before Rumsfeld’s Santiago trip, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva won the presidency of Brazil. A few months later, in early 2003, Argentines elected Néstor Kirchner, who shortly thereafter ended his country’s joint military exercises with the U.S.  In the years that followed, the U.S. experienced one setback after another.  In 2008, for instance, Ecuador evicted the U.S. military from Manta Air Base.  

In that same period, the Bush administration’s rush to invade Iraq, an act most Latin American countries opposed, helped squander whatever was left of the post-9/11 goodwill the U.S. had in the region.  Iraq seemed to confirm the worst suspicions of the continent’s new leaders: that what Rumsfeld was trying to peddle as an international “peacekeeping” force would be little more than a bid to use Latin American soldiers as Gurkhas in a revived unilateral imperial war. 

Brazil’s “Smokescreen”

Diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks show the degree to which Brazil rebuffed efforts to paint the region red on Washington’s new global gulag map.

A May 2005 U.S. State Department cable, for instance, reveals that Lula’s government refused “multiple requests” by Washington to take in released Guantánamo prisoners, particularly a group of about 15 Uighurs the U.S. had been holding since 2002, who could not be sent back to China.

“[Brazil’s] position regarding this issue has not changed since 2003 and will likely not change in the foreseeable future,” the cable said.  It went on to report that Lula’s government considered the whole system Washington had set up at Guantánamo (and around the world) to be a mockery of international law.  “All attempts to discuss this issue” with Brazilian officials, the cable concluded, “were flatly refused or accepted begrudgingly.”

In addition, Brazil refused to cooperate with the Bush administration’s efforts to create a Western Hemisphere-wide version of the Patriot Act.  It stonewalled, for example, about agreeing to revise its legal code in a way that would lower the standard of evidence needed to prove conspiracy, while widening the definition of what criminal conspiracy entailed.

Lula stalled for years on the initiative, but it seems that the State Department didn’t realize he was doing so until April 2008, when one of its diplomats wrote a memo calling Brazil’s supposed interest in reforming its legal code to suit Washington a “smokescreen.”  The Brazilian government, another Wikileaked cable complained, was afraid that a more expansive definition of terrorism would be used to target “members of what they consider to be legitimate social movements fighting for a more just society.” Apparently, there was no way to “write an anti-terrorism legislation that excludes the actions” of Lula’s left-wing social base.

One U.S. diplomat complained that this “mindset” -- that is, a mindset that actually valued civil liberties  -- “presents serious challenges to our efforts to enhance counterterrorism cooperation or promote passage of anti-terrorism legislation.”  In addition, the Brazilian government worried that the legislation would be used to go after Arab-Brazilians, of which there are many.  One can imagine that if Brazil and the rest of Latin America had signed up to participate in Washington’s rendition program, Open Society would have a lot more Middle Eastern-sounding names to add to its list. 

Finally, cable after Wikileaked cable revealed that Brazil repeatedly brushed off efforts by Washington to isolate Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, which would have been a necessary step if the U.S. was going to marshal South America into its counterterrorism posse. 

In February 2008, for example, U.S. ambassador to Brazil Clifford Sobell met with Lula’s Minister of Defense Nelson Jobin to complain about Chávez.  Jobim told Sobell that Brazil shared his “concern about the possibility of Venezuela exporting instability.”  But instead of “isolating Venezuela,” which might only “lead to further posturing,” Jobim instead indicated that his government “supports [the] creation of a ‘South American Defense Council’ to bring Chavez into the mainstream.”

There was only one catch here: that South American Defense Council was Chávez’s idea in the first place!  It was part of his effort, in partnership with Lula, to create independent institutions parallel to those controlled by Washington.  The memo concluded with the U.S. ambassador noting how curious it was that Brazil would use Chavez’s “idea for defense cooperation” as part of a “supposed containment strategy” of Chávez. 

Monkey-Wrenching the Perfect Machine of Perpetual War

Unable to put in place its post-9/11 counterterrorism framework in all of Latin America, the Bush administration retrenched.  It attempted instead to build a “perfect machine of perpetual war” in a corridor running from Colombia through Central America to Mexico.  The process of militarizing that more limited region, often under the guise of fighting “the drug wars,” has, if anything, escalated in the Obama years.  Central America has, in fact, become the only place Southcom -- the Pentagon command that covers Central and South America -- can operate more or less at will.  A look at this other map, put together by the Fellowship of Reconciliation, makes the region look like one big landing strip for U.S. drones and drug-interdiction flights. 

Washington does continue to push and probe further south, trying yet again to establish a firmer military foothold in the region and rope it into what is now a less ideological and more technocratic crusade, but one still global in its aspirations.  U.S. military strategists, for instance, would very much like to have an airstrip in French Guyana or the part of Brazil that bulges out into the Atlantic.  The Pentagon would use it as a stepping stone to its increasing presence in Africa, coordinating the work of Southcom with the newest global command, Africom.   

But for now, South America has thrown a monkey wrench into the machine.  Returning to that Washington Post map, it’s worth memorializing the simple fact that, in one part of the world, in this century at least, the sun never rose on US-choreographed torture.

Guantánamo Trials Plunged into Deeper Discord as Confidence in Court Wanes

The battered credibility of the Guantánamo trials has been further dented by revelations of hidden microphones, intelligence service interference with court proceedings and protests from lawyers who say the US military is preventing a proper defence of the alleged organisers of the 9/11 attacks.

A sketch from a pre-trial hearing. The commander of the Guantánamo prison was forced to admit secret listening devices had been installed there. (Photograph: Reuters) The increasingly chaotic pre-trial hearings for the alleged mastermind of the attacks on the World Trade Center, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and four co-accused have slowed progress toward the full trial, to the point where it will now not start until at least 2014. But the latest developments also further undermine confidence in a military court whose legitimacy has long been questioned.

In recent days, the commander of the Guantánamo prison, Colonel John Bogdan, was forced to admit on the witness stand that secret listening devices disguised as smoke detectors were installed in the cell where lawyers met their clients, and that he knew nothing about them.

The eavesdropping was revealed in court by one of the defence lawyers, Cheryl Bormann, who said she became suspicious about the supposed smoke detectors during a meeting with her client, Walid bin Atash, who is accused of training some of the 9/11 hijackers.

"I said, Mr Guard, is that a listening device, and he said, 'Of course not'," she said. "Well, guess what, judge? It's a listening device".

The prison's lawyer, Captain Thomas Welsh, told the court he discovered the room was fitted with hidden microphones early last year and reported it to the then warden, Colonel Donnie Thomas, to seek assurances that meetings between the accused and their lawyers were not being spied on.

Bogdan said he was not informed when he took over. He told the court that the FBI was in control of the room until 2008 and that he has since discovered that the bugs were accidentally disconnected in October during renovations but then secretly reconnected by an unnamed intelligence service two months later, suggesting they were still in use.

Bogdan denied that the microphones were eavesdropping on lawyers. "We understood that any listening to an attorney-client meeting is prohibited," he said.

But Daphne Eviatar, senior counsel at Human Rights First who was an observer at the recent pre-trial hearings, questioned whether Bogdan could give that assurance when he claimed not to know about the bugs until recently.

"The commander of the base himself didn't even know that the cells where the attorneys are allowed to interview their clients are all bugged. They all have audio surveillance equipment. That equipment is controlled by the intelligence agencies not the commander of the base. It's not clear who knows what about how it was being used," she said.

Defence lawyers also discovered that the courtroom microphones have an unusual level of sensitivity, raising the prospect that privileged conversations with their clients were also covertly listened to during proceedings.

That followed a strange incident at a hearing last month when the audio feed from the courtroom to the public and reporters was suddenly cut when a defence lawyer made a reference to torture in an unclassified motion arguing that CIA "black sites" in Poland, Afghanistan and Romania, used to interrogate and torture abducted suspects, be preserved.

The judge, Colonel James Pohl, was caught unawares and demanded to know who had cut the feed. It transpired that an unnamed intelligence agency was monitoring proceedings from an unspecified location and decided to censor the hearing, a privilege Pohl said was reserved exclusively for him.

The Pentagon refused to publicly identify who had cut the feed, and whether they were even in the Guantánamo complex.

"What happened in the courtroom was shocking," said one of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's lawyers, Captain Jason Wright. "There was a wizard behind the curtain who had the power to completely cut off the audio feed to the proceedings, to censor what was being said in court. It would be foolish for us to not consider that capability in other areas where we interact with the accused."

When defence lawyers examined microphones in the courtroom they found them to be unusually sensitive – so much so that they could pick up the conversations of guards chatting at the far reaches of the court.

Bormann described the situation as extraordinary.

"I've been practising law for 25 years and never have I been put in the position where I have to ask the following: 'Am I being listened in as I talk to my client?' My concern is I can't have a communication with my client in this court without it going on the record," she told the court.

Defence lawyers also accused the prison authorities of using cell searches to seize confidential legal documents. Attorneys for three of the accused – Mohammed, Bin Atash and Ramzi Binalshibh – said that the men returned to their cells on Tuesday to discover that the bins they use to store documents had been searched and confidential papers removed.

"We need to stop this now," Bormann said. "This affects our ability to do our jobs."

James Harrington, who represents Binalshibh, said: "It causes an enormous emotional problem which makes our job close to impossible."

The prison lawyer, Lieutenant Commander George Massucco, confirmed that the documents had been removed and said they would be returned shortly. Massucco said the situation was created by a change in the guards, with the navy taking over from the army, resulting in a fresh inspection which led the new guards to remove documents they found "disturbing".

The guards also seized books including a copy of the 9/11 Commission report and a memoir by a former FBI agent, Black Banners, which is critical of torture such as waterboarding, which was used on some of the alleged terrorists.

Bin Atash made an unusual outburst in court over the confiscation from his cell of a picture of the Grand Mosque at Mecca.

"In the name of God there is an important thing for you …" he shouted. The judge cut him off and threatened to remove Bin Atash from the court.

A former military lawyer at the camp testified that he believes he was removed from his post at Guantánamo after raising ethical questions about reading protected communications between the defendants and their lawyers.

The past week's revelations have fed into attempts by defence lawyers to claim they are being prevented from giving a proper defence of their clients and to paint the entire legal proceedings as illegitimate.

Eviatar said some defence lawyers have begun to question whether the constraints on fulfilling their duties – from what they regard as the illegal snooping to constraints on meetings with their clients, curbs on the evidence they can use and the treatment of the accused – means they cannot fulfil their duties.

"What they're saying is they're not able to meet those basic legal and ethical obligations, and that undermines the legitimacy of the entire trial. They're not able to form a relationship with their clients because the client no longer trusts them because they're eavesdropping on them and reading their communications," she said.

"It's a legitimate concern. It really disrupts the ability for the attorney to be able to develop any kind of relationship with the client. If they don't trust their own lawyer it's very difficult for them to participate in their own defence. That's important, especially in a death penalty case."

The former vice admiral in charge of the 9/11 trials, Bruce MacDonald, was forced onto the stand over the dispute.

He got into a spat with one of the defence lawyers who was his junior in rank, Commander Walter Ruiz. Ruiz challenged MacDonald's independence and commitment to a just trial, and suggested he had rushed to pursue the death penalty.

MacDonald said that he and other lawyers in the US navy had been "disgusted" by the military tribunals set up by the Bush administration and they pressed hard to make the system more just, including a bar on evidence obtained through torture.

Defence lawyers say that the use of waterboarding and other abuses should require that the state does not pursue the death penalty.

Eviatar said the military tribunal's track record is already damaged by the use of torture and CIA black sites in interrogations, and the original Bush plans for the conduct of the trials which were struck down by the supreme court as unconstitutional.

"I think what's happening really seriously undermines the credibility of the process," she said. "These are new courts to begin with. The first version of these courts was struck down by the US supreme court so you're already starting with a lot of scepticism. And this current version hasn't been tested in the US supreme court yet. But there's so many problems every step of the way that it's going to be very hard for anyone to look back and say this was a fair trial."

‘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

Obama and the Vanishing Point of Democracy

Obama and the Vanishing Point of Democracy

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Posted on Feb 13, 2013
Jill Clardy (CC BY-SA 2.0)

By Henry A. Giroux, Truthout

This piece first appeared at Truthout.

We live at a time in the United States when the notion of political enemies has become a euphemism for dismantling prohibitions against targeted assassinations, torture, abductions and indefinite detention. Under the elastic notion of permanent war and the use of Orwellian labels like terrorists, enemy combatants, enemies of the state or the all-encompassing “evil-doers,” the United States has tortured prisoners in Iraq and Guantanamo for more than a decade. It also kidnapped suspected terrorists, held them in CIA “black sites,” and subjected them to extraordinary rendition - “the practice [of] taking detainees to and from US custody without a legal process ... and often ... handing [them] over to countries that practiced torture.”[1] As a new report from the Open Society Foundation, “Globalizing Torture,” points out, since 9/11 the CIA has illegally kidnaped and tortured more than 136 people and was aided in its abhorrent endeavors by 54 countries.[2] All of this was done in secrecy and when it was eventually exposed, the Obama administration refused to press criminal charges against those government officials who committed atrocious human rights abuses, signalling to the military and various intelligence agencies that they would not be held accountable for engaging in such egregious and illegal behavior. The notion that torture, kidnapping and the killing of Americans without due process is an illegitimate function of any state, including the United States, has overtly suffered the fate of the Geneva Conventions, apparently too quaint and antiquated to be operative.

Excessive torture, cruel and unusual punishment, secret detention and the violation of civil liberties are not only deeply ingrained in American history; they also have become normalized in both popular culture and in government policy. For example, popular representations of and support for torture extend from the infamous former television series 24 to the more recent highly acclaimed Hollywood film, Zero Dark Thirty.[3] Whereas popular representations of torture and other legal illegalities prior to 2001 were viewed largely as the acts of desperate and psychologically unbalanced individuals or rogue governments, the post- September 11, 2001 climate has accommodated such representations, as torture has become common fare in mainstream culture - from action films and TV dramas to comedies. As torture moves from state policy to screen culture it contains “an echo of the pornographic in maximizing the pleasure of violence.”[4] In this instance, the spectacle of violence mimics a new kind of mad violence that has engulfed American society. Torture is now a mainstay of what might be called the state-sanctioned carnival of cruelty, designed to delight and titillate while in real life torture has been shamelessly sanctioned as a military necessity and state policy. At the same time, torture, violence and the culture of cruelty have been removed from the discourse of ethics, jurisprudence, accountability and human rights.[5]

This retreat from moral responsibility reveals more than political failure, more than a perverse victory for those who argue for the acceptability of what was once considered unthinkable in a democracy. It signals the emergence of a kind of anti-politics, the dismantling of a politics in which matters of power, justice, governance and social responsibility are inextricably connected to democratic institutions, laws, values and education. This is an anti-politics in which the obligations of justice and responsibility to others has been overtaken by a rhetoric of fear, national security and war that has made Americans accomplices of a tyrannical and terrorist state apparatus. Under such circumstances, the critical project of democracy, if not politics itself, is replaced by the shared experience of fear, the instrumentalization of culture and society and a state of emergency that “eradicates political freedom, democratic processes and legality as such.”[6]

The move toward an authoritarian and dystopian state - one marked by its flight from moral and political responsibility - has been made more acceptable by the widespread popular willingness to overlook, if not legitimate, the ongoing violation of civil liberties as a central theme of government policy, military conduct, mainstream news media and popular culture in general. Mainstream culture is flooded with endless representations of individuals, government officials, and the police operating outside of the law as a legitimate way to seek revenge, implement vigilante justice and rewrite the rationales for violating human rights and domestic law. TV programs like Dexter and Person of Interest, as well as a spate of Hollywood films like as Gangster Squad and Django Unchained have provided a spectacle of legal lawlessness and violence unchecked by ethical considerations and allegedly justified by the pursuit of noble ends.

The culture of violence, fear and sometimes manufactured terror takes a toll politically and ethically on any democratic society, especially when it becomes the most popular spectacle in town. Unfortunately, the line between fiction and material reality, along with the more hallowed spheres of politics and governance, has collapsed and it has become more difficult to determine one from the other. Forms of violence and violations of civil rights that should be unthinkable in a democracy are now lauded as necessary and effective tactics in the war on terrorism, and so rarely subject to critical interrogation. Some of the more notable transgressions are evident in former Vice-President Dick Cheney’s infamous statement to Tim Russert on NBC’s Meet the Press in which he stated that the Bush administration would have to “work ... the dark side” and the 2006 comment by John Brennan in which he claimed that we have “to take off the gloves” in some areas in order to wage a war against terrorism. And while torture has been denounced by President Obama, the administration has in actuality created a new foundation for violating civil rights and promoting human abuses.
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Your Newspaper Works for the State

Your Newspaper Works for the State

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Posted on Feb 8, 2013
EleArt (CC BY 2.0)

Major papers such as The New York Times and The Washington Post have complied with requests from the Bush and Obama administrations to conceal sometimes-illegal acts performed by the government in the name of national security, writes Glenn Greenwald at The Guardian.

Since those deeds include The New York Times’ withholding during the 2004 campaign season of knowledge of the Bush administration’s illegal warrantless eavesdropping program—a concealment that helped Bush get re-elected—we should not assume that such acts and their subsequent cover-ups are in the public interest.

On Wednesday, The Washington Post revealed that two years ago, the Obama administration established a drone base in Saudi Arabia from which it has targeted and killed people in Yemen, including U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16-year-old son Abdulrahman. But the Post admitted that it and a number of other U.S. media outlets had long known about the base but had cooperated to keep it secret from the U.S. public:

“The Washington Post had refrained from disclosing the specific location at the request of the administration, which cited concern that exposing the facility would undermine operations against an al-Qaeda affiliate regarded as the network’s most potent threat to the United States, as well as potentially damage counterterrorism collaboration with Saudi Arabia,” the paper wrote.

“The Post learned Tuesday night that another news organization was planning to reveal the location of the base, effectively ending an informal arrangement among several news organizations that had been aware of the location for more than a year.”

That “other news organization” was The New York Times.

“[N]one of these facts—once they were finally reported—ultimately resulted in any harm,” Greenwald writes. “Instead, it has everything to do with obeying government dictates; shielding high-level government officials from embarrassing revelations; protecting even the most extreme government deceit and illegality; and keeping the domestic population of the US (their readers) ignorant of the vital acts in which their own government is engaged.”

Dr. Jack Lule, a professor of journalism and communication at Lehigh University, suggested in an article on the censorship that “the real reason [the government wanted to hide the existence of the base was] that the administration did not want to embarrass the Saudis—and for the US news media to be complicit in that is craven.”

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

Glenn Greenwaled at The Guardian:

There are, of course, instances where newspapers can validly opt to conceal facts that they learn. That’s when the harm that comes from disclosure plainly outweighs the public interest in learning of them (the classic case is when, in a war, a newspaper learns of imminent troop movements: there is no value in reporting that but ample harm from doing so). But none of these instances comes close to meeting that test. Instead, media outlets overwhelmingly abide by government dictates as to what they should conceal. As Greensdale wrote: “most often, they oblige governments by acceding to requests not to publish sensitive information that might jeopardise operations.”

As all of these examples demonstrate, extreme levels of subservience to US government authority is embedded in the ethos of the establishment American media. They see themselves not as watchdogs over the state but as loyal agents of it.

… The entity that is designed to be, and endlessly praises itself for being, a check on US government power is, in fact, its most loyal servant. There are significant exceptions: Dana Priest did disclose the CIA black sites network over the agency’s vehement objections, while the NYT is now suing the government to compel the release of classified documents relating to Obama’s assassination program. But time and again, one finds the US media acting to help suppress the newsworthy secrets of the US government rather than report on them. Its collaborative “informal” agreement to hide the US drone base in Saudi Arabia is just the latest in a long line of such behavior.

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US Media Yet Again Conceals Newsworthy Government Secrets

The US media, over the last decade (at least), has repeatedly acted to conceal newsworthy information it obtains about the actions of the US government. In each instance, the self-proclaimed adversarial press corps conceals these facts at the behest of the US government, based on patently absurd claims that reporting them will harm US national security. In each instance, what this media concealment actually accomplishes is enabling the dissemination of significant government falsehoods without challenge, and permitting the continuation of government deceit and even illegality.The Washington Post this week admitted it was part of an "informal arrangement" to conceal from its readers a US drone base in Saudi Arabia. Photograph: Alamy

One of the most notorious examples was in mid-2004 when the New York Times discovered - thanks to a courageous DOJ whistleblower - that the Bush administration was eavesdropping on the electronic communications of Americans without the warrants required by the criminal law. But after George Bush summoned to the Oval Office the paper's publisher (Arthur Sulzberger) and executive editor (Bill Keller) and directed them to conceal what they had learned, the NYT complied by sitting on the story for a-year-and-a-half: until late December, 2005, long after Bush had been safely re-elected. The "national security" excuse for this concealment was patently ludicrous from the start: everyone knew the US government was trying to eavesdrop on al-Qaida communications and this story merely revealed that they were doing so illegally (without warrants) rather than legally (with warrants). By concealing the story for so long, the New York Times helped the Bush administration illegally spy on Americans.

The Washington Post's Dana Priest, in a superb act of journalism, reported in 2005 that the CIA was maintaining a network of secret "black sites" where detainees were interrogated and abused beyond the monitoring scrutiny of human rights groups and even Congress. But the Post purposely concealed the identity of the countries serving as the locale of those secret prisons in order to enable the plainly illegal program to continue without bothersome disruptions: "the Washington Post is not publishing the names of the Eastern European countries involved in the covert program, at the request of senior US officials."

In 2011, the New York Times along with numerous other US media outlets learned that the American arrested in Pakistan for having shot and killed two Pakistanis, Raymond Davis, was not - as President Obama falsely claimed - "our diplomat", but was a CIA agent and former Blackwater contractor. Not only did the NYT conceal this fact, but it repeatedly and uncritically printed claims from Obama and other officials about Davis' status which it knew to be false. It was only once the Guardian published the facts about Davis - that he was a CIA agent - did the Times tell the truth to its readers, admitting that the disclosure "pulled back the curtain on a web of covert American operations inside Pakistan, part of a secret war run by the CIA".

The NYT, as usual, justified its concealment of this obviously newsworthy information as coming "at the request of the Obama administration, which argued that disclosure of his specific job would put his life at risk". But as the Guardian's Deputy Editor Ian Katz noted, "Davis [was] already widely assumed in Pakistan to have links to US intelligence" and "disclosing his CIA role would [therefore not] expose him to increased risk".

And now, yet again, the US media has been caught working together to conceal obviously newsworthy government secrets. On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that two years ago, the Obama administration established a base in Saudi Arabia from which it deploys drones to kill numerous people in Yemen. including US citizen Anwar Awlaki and, two weeks, later his 16-year-old American son Abdulrahman. The US base was built after the US launched a December, 2009 cruise missile/cluster-bomb attack that slaughtered dozens of Yemeni women and children.

But the Post admitted that it - along with multiple other US media outlets - had long known about the Saudi Arabia drone base but had acted in unison to conceal it from the US public:

"The Washington Post had refrained from disclosing the specific location at the request of the administration, which cited concern that exposing the facility would undermine operations against an al-Qaeda affiliate regarded as the network's most potent threat to the United States, as well as potentially damage counterterrorism collaboration with Saudi Arabia.

"The Post learned Tuesday night that another news organization was planning to reveal the location of the base, effectively ending an informal arrangement among several news organizations that had been aware of the location for more than a year."

The "other news organization" which the Post references is the New York Times. The NYT - in a very good article yesterday on the role played by CIA nominee John Brennan in US drones strikes in Yemen - reported that Brennan "work[ed] closely with neighboring Saudi Arabia to gain approval for a secret CIA drone base there that is used for American strikes". As the paper's Public Editor, Margaret Sullivan, explained, the NYT was one of the papers which "had withheld the location of that base at the request of the CIA", but had decided now to report it. That was why the Post did so.

The existence of this drone base in Saudi Arabia is significantly newsworthy in multiple ways. The US drone program is drenched with extreme secrecy. The assassination of Awlaki is one of the most radical acts the US government has undertaken in the last decade at least. The intense cooperation between the US and the incomparably despotic Saudi regime is of vital significance. As Sullivan, the NYT's Public Editor, put it in defending the NYT's disclosure (and implicitly questioning the prior media conspiracy of silence):

"Given the government's undue secrecy about the drone program, which it has never officially acknowledged the existence of, and that program's great significance to America's foreign policy, its national security, and its influence on the tumultuous Middle East, The Times ought to be reporting as much and as aggressively as possible on it."

As usual, the excuses for concealing this information are frivolous. Indeed, as the Guardian's Roy Greenslade noted, "the location of several drone bases was published as long ago as September last year on at least one news website, as this item on the North America Inter Press Service illustrates." Gawker's Adrian Chen documents numerous other instances where the base had been publicly disclosed and writes:


"In the case of the Saudi drone base, the Times and the Post weren't protecting a state secret: They were helping the CIA bury an inconvenient story. . . . The fact that the drone base was already reported renders the rationale behind the months-long blackout a farce."

In an article on the controversy over this self-censorship, the Guardian this morning quotes Dr Jack Lule, a professor of journalism and communication at Lehigh University:


"The decision not to publish is a shameful one. The national security standard has to be very high, perhaps imminent danger. The fact that we are even having a conversation about whether it was a national security issue should have sent alarm bells off to the editors. I think the real reason was that the administration did not want to embarrass the Saudis – and for the US news media to be complicit in that is craven."

The same dynamic drives most of these acts of US media self-censorship. It has nothing to do with legitimate claims of national security. Indeed, none of these facts - once they were finally reported - ultimately resulted in any harm. Instead, it has everything to do with obeying government dictates; shielding high-level government officials from embarrassing revelations; protecting even the most extreme government deceit and illegality; and keeping the domestic population of the US (their readers) ignorant of the vital acts in which their own government is engaged.

There are, of course, instances where newspapers can validly opt to conceal facts that they learn. That's when the harm that comes from disclosure plainly outweighs the public interest in learning of them (the classic case is when, in a war, a newspaper learns of imminent troop movements: there is no value in reporting that but ample harm from doing so). But none of these instances comes close to meeting that test. Instead, media outlets overwhelmingly abide by government dictates as to what they should conceal. As Greensdale wrote: "most often, they oblige governments by acceding to requests not to publish sensitive information that might jeopardise operations."

As all of these examples demonstrate, extreme levels of subservience to US government authority is embedded in the ethos of the establishment American media. They see themselves not as watchdogs over the state but as loyal agents of it.

Recall the extraordinary 2009 BBC debate over WikiLeaks in which former NYT executive editor Bill Keller proudly praised himself for concealing information the Obama administration told him to conceal, prompting this incredulous reply from the BBC host: "Just to be clear, Bill Keller, are you saying that you sort of go to the government in advance and say: 'What about this, that and the other, is it all right to do this and all right to do that,' and you get clearance, then?" Keller's admission also prompted this response from former British diplomat Carne Ross, who was also on the program: "It's extraordinary that the New York Times is clearing what it says about this with the US Government."

After the Guardian published the truth about Raymond Davis, former Bush DOJ laywer Jack Goldsmith, in 2011, defended the New York Times' concealment of it by hailing what he called "the patriotism of the American press". He quoted former Bush CIA and NSA chief Gen. Michael Hayden as saying that "American journalists display 'a willingness to work with us' . . . but with the foreign press 'it's very, very difficult'". Goldsmith said that while foreign media outlets will more readily report on secret US government acts (he named The Guardian, Al Jazeera and WikiLeaks), US national security journalists with whom he spoke justified their eagerness to cooperate with the US government by "expressly ascrib[ing] this attitude to 'patriotism' or 'jingoism' or to being American citizens or working for American publications."

That is the key truth. The entity that is designed to be, and endlessly praises itself for being, a check on US government power is, in fact, its most loyal servant. There are significant exceptions: Dana Priest did disclose the CIA black sites network over the agency's vehement objections, while the NYT is now suing the government to compel the release of classified documents relating to Obama's assassination program. But time and again, one finds the US media acting to help suppress the newsworthy secrets of the US government rather than report on them. Its collaborative "informal" agreement to hide the US drone base in Saudi Arabia is just the latest in a long line of such behavior.

© 2013 the Guardian

Glenn Greenwald

Report Finds Global Collaboration in Torture Scheme

Report Finds Global Collaboration in Torture Scheme

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Posted on Feb 6, 2013
Open Society Foundations

The U.S. counterterrorism practice known as extraordinary rendition, in which officials quietly transport suspects to secret prisons around the globe for detention that can lead to torture, involved the participation of more than 50 national governments—or more than one-quarter of all countries in the world—an Open Society Foundations report released Tuesday says.

The report, which constitutes the most comprehensive accounting of the top-secret program to date, says 54 nations did the United States’ dirty work, either hosting CIA “black sites,” questioning or torturing prisoners, or otherwise collaborating in the effort. The document also identifies by name 136 prisoners who were subject to extraordinary rendition.

Officials in the George W. Bush administration claimed they never intended for terrorism suspects to be tortured abroad, but some of the countries where prisoners were sent—Egypt, Libya and Syria among them—were known practitioners of violent interrogation methods.

When he arrived in office, President Obama pledged to end the U.S. government’s use of torture and ordered the closing of the CIA’s secret prisons around the world. But Obama retained the practice of rendition, which allows U.S. officials to circumvent due process requirements for suspects.

The Obama administration claimed it was relying on “diplomatic assurances” that host nations would not torture suspects in their custody who were awaiting trial or other action.

Absent the benefit of government records, the OSF’s top legal analyst for national security and counterterrorism and the report’s author, Amrit Singh, surveyed news reports, the investigations of human rights groups worldwide and notes on a handful of proceedings by foreign courts that have investigated their own countries’ involvement.

“What Singh saw was a hasty global effort, spearheaded by the United States in the months after 9/11, to bypass longstanding legal structures in order to confront the emerging threat of international terrorism,” Joshua Hersh reports at The Huffington Post.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

Joshua Hersh at The Huffington Post:

Singh condemned the consequences of that effort in the report’s introduction. “By enlisting the participation of dozens of foreign governments in these violations, the United States further undermined longstanding human rights protections enshrined in international law—including, in particular, the norm against torture,” she wrote.

“Responsibility for this damage does not lie solely with the United States,” Singh added, “but also with the numerous foreign governments without whose participation secret detention and extraordinary rendition operations could not have been carried out.”

The list of those nations includes a range of American allies (Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany) and familiar Middle Eastern partners in the messy fight against radical Islam (Jordan, Yemen, the United Arab Emirates). Their alleged levels of participation vary widely, from countries like Poland, which agreed to host CIA black-site prisons, to nations like Portugal and Finland, which merely allowed their airspace and airports to be used for rendition flights.

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Mehdi’s Morning Memo: Gay Wedding Day

The ten things you need to know on Tuesday 5 February 2013...

1) WEDDING DAY

Tory MPs opposed to gay marriage, speak now or forever hold your peace. Although what is more likely to happen is: Speak later on today, probably lose the vote, and then carry on chatting about how awful it is for a bit longer.

MPs will vote on gay marriage later today. The coalition will get its Bill passed second reading given it has the support of Labour. But David Cameron will be keen to convince at least half of his 303 MPs to follow him through the ‘aye’ lobby. Winning a vote despite, rather than because, of your own party is never a good look for a prime minister.

Maria Miller sat down with HuffPost UK yesterday ahead of today’s vote and denied reports pressure was being put on MPs to vote in favour of her Bill. The culture secretary also insisted she would not be backing down in the face of fierce opposition from within her own party. Miller, who pointed to the abolition of the slave trade as proof of her party’s progressive tradition, said it was not good enough to deny people the right to marry simply because they are gay. "Marriage is an important part of our society, it’s a vital way that people can publically state their relationships and I don’t think it’s for the state to stand in the way of that happening simply based on someone’s sexuality,” she said.

The Daily Mail reports this morning that Iain Duncan Smith, who famously backed Section 28 while Tory leader in 2003, will vote with Cameron in favour of gay marriage.

And William Hague, Theresa May and George Osborne have written a joint letter to the Daily Telegraph urging their colleagues to support same-sex marriage. The “big guns”, as the paper describes them, argue, “attitudes to gay people have changed”.

During the vote eyes will be on their cabinet colleagues, including environment secretary Owen Paterson and Welsh secretary David Jones, who are known to have concerns about gay marriage.

Speaking of Paterson. He does appear to have a habit of appointing ministerial aides who then shortly afterwards resign the post after rebelling against the government. His current PPS, David Burrowes, has told the Spectator that he intends to vote against the timetable of the bill, which is whipped, as well as the substantive intent of the legislation, which is not. This could lead to the leading anti-gay marriage MP losing his job.

Today’s Memo is edited by Ned Simons as Mehdi Hasan can’t be dragged away from YouTube clips of Beyonce’s Sunday night Super Bowel performance.

2) ‘GO FOR THE KILL’

A failed marriage is at the centre of today’s other big story. Yesterday former Lib Dem cabinet minister Chris Huhne shocked Westminster by pleading guilty to perverting the course of justice after asking his wife to accept speeding points on his behalf.

Tragically the evidence revealed as series of text messages between Huhne and his son, revealing the teenager’s anger at his father: "We all know that you were driving and you put pressure on mum. Accept it or face the consequences. You've told me that was the case. Or will this be another lie?"

Huhne will resign his seat in the Commons, trigging a by-election in his Eastleigh seat. The south coast constituency is a Lib Dem-Tory marginal and will be the first proper electoral fight between the coalition partners since 2010. The Daily Mail reports Cameron has told Tory campaign headquarters to “go for the kill” in the battle for the seat.

3) SUING THE SUN

If Huhne’s son is annoyed at him, then the former energy secretary’s one time cabinet colleague, Andrew Mitchell, is equally angry with The Sun.

In an interview with Channel 4’s Despatches last night, Mitchell revealed he intended to sue the paper for libel over its report that claimed he called police officers outside No.10 “plebs” during the now infamous argument at the gates.

Mitchell is also clearly a bit miffed at the prime minster for wanting to make the scandal go away. "I think Downing Street wanted this to go away. They really wanted me to lie low and let them get on with running the country but I couldn't do that - I couldn't wake up every morning for the rest of my life knowing that I had been stitched up," he Mitchell.

4) BIDEN BACK IN TOWN

Joe Biden is in town today to meet Cameron and Nick Clegg. He flew into Stanstead, lucky him, last night and will attend a meeting of the National Security Council later today. He is also likely to raise the issue of the European Union and Britain's place in it.

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR: Here is a gallery of photos showing Biden looking cool in aviators and fist bumping people.

5) DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER'S LIAISON

At 4pm the Liaison committee will grill, or rather gently warm, Nick Clegg on various areas of government policy. Usually the committee, made up of the select committee chairs, only convenes to question the prime minister. So parliamentary geeks, including your editor, are super excited and naturally assume this will be carried live on BBC and Sky. Although it does clash on TV with Antique’s Road Show – so you watch that, we’ll watch Clegg for you.

6) PLANE CRAZY

Let’s have jump jets. Wait, no lets have carrier jets. OK. No let’s have jump jets.

The Ministry of Defence was strongly criticised by MPs today over the "flawed" decision to switch fighter aircraft for the Royal Navy's new carriers - costing an extra £100m.

It was announced in the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review that the Government would adopt the carrier variant of the US-built F35 Joint Strike Fighter rather than the "jump jet" version chosen by the previous Labour government.

Ministers argued that the carrier variant was a more capable aircraft and that it would increase "interoperability" with other navies - even though it meant mothballing one of the two carriers on grounds of affordability.

However last May, defence secretary Philip Hammond announced the MoD was reverting to the jump jet version amid fears the costs of fitting the necessary catapults and arrestor gear - "cats and traps" - were spiralling out of control.

7) INDEPENDENCE DAY

From the BBC: The Scottish government has drawn up a detailed paper outlining the possible transition to independence.

Under the plans, based on a "yes" vote in a 2014 referendum, independence day for Scotland would be in March 2016. The first elections to an independent parliament would follow in May.

8) ‘GLOBAL KIDNAP’

The U.S. counterterrorism practice known as extraordinary rendition, in which suspects were quietly moved to secret prisons abroad and often tortured, involved the participation of more than 50 nations, according to a new report to be released Tuesday by the Open Society Foundations.

The OSF report, which offers the first wholesale public accounting of the top-secret program, puts the number of governments that either hosted CIA "black sites," interrogated or tortured prisoners sent by the U.S., or otherwise collaborated in the program at 54. The report also identifies by name 136 prisoners who were at some point subjected to extraordinary rendition.

The number of nations and the names of those detained provide a stark tally of a program that was expanded widely -- critics say recklessly -- by the George W. Bush administration after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and has been heavily condemned in the years since.

9) DRONE WARS

A report Monday night on the nature of the administration's drone program has the potential to dramatically revamp the debate over President Barack Obama's foreign policy and the confirmation process for his incoming cabinet.

The report, by Michael Isikoff of NBC News, reveals that the Obama administration believes that high-level administration officials -- not just the president -- may order the killing of “senior operational leaders” of al-Qaida or an associated force even without evidence they are actively plotting against the U.S.

“A lawful killing in self-defense is not an assassination,” states the Justice Department white paper quoted by Isikoff.

10) YES MINISTER

Cabinet ministers should be given the power formally to appoint their most senior civil servants to help end a culture of amateurism in Whitehall, according to an independent think tank.

Insiders, including ministers and key officials, have painted a bleak picture of the inner workings of government telling of a system that lacks expertise and deals with "appalling" members of staff by promoting them out.

They told Reform that the two biggest issues hampering success were the "relentless" rotation of officials and an unwillingness to challenge bad performance or reward the good.

140 CHARACTERS OR LESS

@ChrisBryantMP Changing the law changes attitudes. Even MPs who voted against civil partnerships will vote for Same Sex Marriage today.

@janemerrick23 Today is a very good day to bury bad views #gaymarriage #equalmarriage

@jameschappers Angela Eagle just owned Charles Moore. Good courteous debate, though - don't expect it'll be same in Commons later #today

900 WORDS OR MORE

Rachel Sylvester in The Times: "Chris Huhne’s fall was personal, not political. But in today’s Westminster pressure cooker that counts for nothing."

Peter Oborne in the Daily Telegraph: "Could Chris Huhne take Nick Clegg or David Cameron with him?"

Steve Richards in the Independent: "Gay marriage: no one can stop this social revolution now."

Got something you want to share? Please send any stories/tips/quotes/pix/plugs/gossip to Mehdi Hasan ([email protected]) or Ned Simons ([email protected]). You can also follow us on Twitter: @mehdirhasan, @nedsimons and @huffpostukpol

Mehdi’s Morning Memo: Gay Wedding Day

The ten things you need to know on Tuesday 5 February 2013...

1) WEDDING DAY

Tory MPs opposed to gay marriage, speak now or forever hold your peace. Although what is more likely to happen is: Speak later on today, probably lose the vote, and then carry on chatting about how awful it is for a bit longer.

MPs will vote on gay marriage later today. The coalition will get its Bill passed second reading given it has the support of Labour. But David Cameron will be keen to convince at least half of his 303 MPs to follow him through the ‘aye’ lobby. Winning a vote despite, rather than because, of your own party is never a good look for a prime minister.

Maria Miller sat down with HuffPost UK yesterday ahead of today’s vote and denied reports pressure was being put on MPs to vote in favour of her Bill. The culture secretary also insisted she would not be backing down in the face of fierce opposition from within her own party. Miller, who pointed to the abolition of the slave trade as proof of her party’s progressive tradition, said it was not good enough to deny people the right to marry simply because they are gay. "Marriage is an important part of our society, it’s a vital way that people can publically state their relationships and I don’t think it’s for the state to stand in the way of that happening simply based on someone’s sexuality,” she said.

The Daily Mail reports this morning that Iain Duncan Smith, who famously backed Section 28 while Tory leader in 2003, will vote with Cameron in favour of gay marriage.

And William Hague, Theresa May and George Osborne have written a joint letter to the Daily Telegraph urging their colleagues to support same-sex marriage. The “big guns”, as the paper describes them, argue, “attitudes to gay people have changed”.

During the vote eyes will be on their cabinet colleagues, including environment secretary Owen Paterson and Welsh secretary David Jones, who are known to have concerns about gay marriage.

Speaking of Paterson. He does appear to have a habit of appointing ministerial aides who then shortly afterwards resign the post after rebelling against the government. His current PPS, David Burrowes, has told the Spectator that he intends to vote against the timetable of the bill, which is whipped, as well as the substantive intent of the legislation, which is not. This could lead to the leading anti-gay marriage MP losing his job.

Today’s Memo is edited by Ned Simons as Mehdi Hasan can’t be dragged away from YouTube clips of Beyonce’s Sunday night Super Bowel performance.

2) ‘GO FOR THE KILL’

A failed marriage is at the centre of today’s other big story. Yesterday former Lib Dem cabinet minister Chris Huhne shocked Westminster by pleading guilty to perverting the course of justice after asking his wife to accept speeding points on his behalf.

Tragically the evidence revealed as series of text messages between Huhne and his son, revealing the teenager’s anger at his father: "We all know that you were driving and you put pressure on mum. Accept it or face the consequences. You've told me that was the case. Or will this be another lie?"

Huhne will resign his seat in the Commons, trigging a by-election in his Eastleigh seat. The south coast constituency is a Lib Dem-Tory marginal and will be the first proper electoral fight between the coalition partners since 2010. The Daily Mail reports Cameron has told Tory campaign headquarters to “go for the kill” in the battle for the seat.

3) SUING THE SUN

If Huhne’s son is annoyed at him, then the former energy secretary’s one time cabinet colleague, Andrew Mitchell, is equally angry with The Sun.

In an interview with Channel 4’s Despatches last night, Mitchell revealed he intended to sue the paper for libel over its report that claimed he called police officers outside No.10 “plebs” during the now infamous argument at the gates.

Mitchell is also clearly a bit miffed at the prime minster for wanting to make the scandal go away. "I think Downing Street wanted this to go away. They really wanted me to lie low and let them get on with running the country but I couldn't do that - I couldn't wake up every morning for the rest of my life knowing that I had been stitched up," he Mitchell.

4) BIDEN BACK IN TOWN

Joe Biden is in town today to meet Cameron and Nick Clegg. He flew into Stanstead, lucky him, last night and will attend a meeting of the National Security Council later today. He is also likely to raise the issue of the European Union and Britain's place in it.

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR: Here is a gallery of photos showing Biden looking cool in aviators and fist bumping people.

5) DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER'S LIAISON

At 4pm the Liaison committee will grill, or rather gently warm, Nick Clegg on various areas of government policy. Usually the committee, made up of the select committee chairs, only convenes to question the prime minister. So parliamentary geeks, including your editor, are super excited and naturally assume this will be carried live on BBC and Sky. Although it does clash on TV with Antique’s Road Show – so you watch that, we’ll watch Clegg for you.

6) PLANE CRAZY

Let’s have jump jets. Wait, no lets have carrier jets. OK. No let’s have jump jets.

The Ministry of Defence was strongly criticised by MPs today over the "flawed" decision to switch fighter aircraft for the Royal Navy's new carriers - costing an extra £100m.

It was announced in the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review that the Government would adopt the carrier variant of the US-built F35 Joint Strike Fighter rather than the "jump jet" version chosen by the previous Labour government.

Ministers argued that the carrier variant was a more capable aircraft and that it would increase "interoperability" with other navies - even though it meant mothballing one of the two carriers on grounds of affordability.

However last May, defence secretary Philip Hammond announced the MoD was reverting to the jump jet version amid fears the costs of fitting the necessary catapults and arrestor gear - "cats and traps" - were spiralling out of control.

7) INDEPENDENCE DAY

From the BBC: The Scottish government has drawn up a detailed paper outlining the possible transition to independence.

Under the plans, based on a "yes" vote in a 2014 referendum, independence day for Scotland would be in March 2016. The first elections to an independent parliament would follow in May.

8) ‘GLOBAL KIDNAP’

The U.S. counterterrorism practice known as extraordinary rendition, in which suspects were quietly moved to secret prisons abroad and often tortured, involved the participation of more than 50 nations, according to a new report to be released Tuesday by the Open Society Foundations.

The OSF report, which offers the first wholesale public accounting of the top-secret program, puts the number of governments that either hosted CIA "black sites," interrogated or tortured prisoners sent by the U.S., or otherwise collaborated in the program at 54. The report also identifies by name 136 prisoners who were at some point subjected to extraordinary rendition.

The number of nations and the names of those detained provide a stark tally of a program that was expanded widely -- critics say recklessly -- by the George W. Bush administration after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and has been heavily condemned in the years since.

9) DRONE WARS

A report Monday night on the nature of the administration's drone program has the potential to dramatically revamp the debate over President Barack Obama's foreign policy and the confirmation process for his incoming cabinet.

The report, by Michael Isikoff of NBC News, reveals that the Obama administration believes that high-level administration officials -- not just the president -- may order the killing of “senior operational leaders” of al-Qaida or an associated force even without evidence they are actively plotting against the U.S.

“A lawful killing in self-defense is not an assassination,” states the Justice Department white paper quoted by Isikoff.

10) YES MINISTER

Cabinet ministers should be given the power formally to appoint their most senior civil servants to help end a culture of amateurism in Whitehall, according to an independent think tank.

Insiders, including ministers and key officials, have painted a bleak picture of the inner workings of government telling of a system that lacks expertise and deals with "appalling" members of staff by promoting them out.

They told Reform that the two biggest issues hampering success were the "relentless" rotation of officials and an unwillingness to challenge bad performance or reward the good.

140 CHARACTERS OR LESS

@ChrisBryantMP Changing the law changes attitudes. Even MPs who voted against civil partnerships will vote for Same Sex Marriage today.

@janemerrick23 Today is a very good day to bury bad views #gaymarriage #equalmarriage

@jameschappers Angela Eagle just owned Charles Moore. Good courteous debate, though - don't expect it'll be same in Commons later #today

900 WORDS OR MORE

Rachel Sylvester in The Times: "Chris Huhne’s fall was personal, not political. But in today’s Westminster pressure cooker that counts for nothing."

Peter Oborne in the Daily Telegraph: "Could Chris Huhne take Nick Clegg or David Cameron with him?"

Steve Richards in the Independent: "Gay marriage: no one can stop this social revolution now."

Got something you want to share? Please send any stories/tips/quotes/pix/plugs/gossip to Mehdi Hasan ([email protected]) or Ned Simons ([email protected]). You can also follow us on Twitter: @mehdirhasan, @nedsimons and @huffpostukpol

Obama’s Vendetta against Whistleblowers: Former CIA Agent Who Revealed US Agents Involved in Torture,...

cia

The Obama administration’s vendetta against whistleblowers continues with the sentence of 30 months jail time handed down on Friday for former CIA agent John C. Kiriakou, who in 2007 acknowledged that US agents were involved in torture.

On December 10, 2007, Kiriakou was interviewed on ABC News about the capture of Abu Zubaydah, who the Bush administration claimed was an Al Qaeda “mastermind” and aide to Osama Bin Laden. In the course of the interview, Kiriakou acknowledged that CIA agents waterboarded Zubaydah.

Kiriakou’s statements about torture in the 2007 interview were ambivalent. On the one hand, Kiriakou stated that the torture of Zubaydah was effective in obtaining information. On the other hand, Kiriakou was apparently troubled by the political, legal, and moral implications of torture.

Whatever Kiriakou’s intentions in his initial ABC News interview, his statements represented the first public confirmation by a government agent that Zubaydah had been waterboarded. The interview was widely reported and lauded internationally, but it also made Kiriakou a number of enemies in high places.

Kiriakou’s 2007 interview represented a step forward in efforts to bring to light the criminal abduction, torture, and murder apparatus erected by the US government in the course of the so-called “war on terror.” The revelation that Zubaydah was tortured certainly implicated top personnel in the US government, as well as the torturers themselves, in war crimes and other serious violations of US and international law.

In the upside-down world of the US justice system, the orchestrators of torture remain at large, and Kiriakou is going to prison.

According to his 2010 memoir entitled, The Reluctant Spy: My Secret Life in the CIA’s War on Terror (which the CIA prevented him from publishing for two years), Kiriakou did not participate in the torture of Zubaydah. Kiriakou instead relied in the 2007 interview on one internal agency cable, according to which Zubaydah had been waterboarded only once and had provided “actionable intelligence.” In fact, the cable was false. Two years later it emerged that Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times.

In the course of his capture, Zubaydah was shot and seriously injured as he attempted to flee. In secret CIA “black sites,” Zubaydah endured brutal beatings, sexual humiliation, sleep deprivation, extreme temperatures, stress positions, being locked in a crouching position in a tiny box for long periods of time, and loud music at debilitating volumes. At one point, CIA agents removed Zubaydah’s left eye.

The Bush administration claimed that Zubaydah was Al Qaeda’s “number three” leader and the “hub of the wheel.” However, in subsequent legal proceedings, the US government admitted that Zubaydah had not been a “member” of Al Qaeda or even “formally” identified with the organization, and he had no advance knowledge of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

According to his attorneys, Zubaydah currently suffers from permanent brain damage and can no longer remember his father’s name or his mother’s face.

The torture of Zubaydah and others was carried out at the behest of top figures in the US political establishment. The August 2002 “torture memos” drafted by Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo, which recommend waterboarding, include the following description of the procedure:

“In this procedure, the individual is bound securely to an inclined bench, which is approximately four feet by seven feet. The individual’s feet are generally elevated. A cloth is placed over the forehead and eyes. Water is then applied to the cloth in a controlled manner. As this is done, the cloth is lowered until it covers both the nose and mouth. Once the cloth is saturated and completely covers the mouth and nose, airflow is slightly restricted for 20 to 40 seconds due to the presence of the cloth… During those 20 to 40 seconds, water is continuously applied from a height of twelve to twenty-four inches. After this period, the cloth is lifted, and the individual is allowed to breathe unimpeded for three or four full breaths… The procedure may then be repeated. The water is usually applied from a canteen cup or small watering can with a spout…”

While Kiriakou is chiefly known for his role in exposing torture, his memoir also contains several damning revelations concerning the Bush administration’s criminal preparations for the invasion of Iraq in 2003, which were the subject of a Truthout investigative report.

According to Kiriakou, he and another CIA official were approached in August 2002 by the CIA’s unnamed director of Iraq operations. “Okay, here’s the deal,” the director said. “We’re going to invade Iraq next spring…It’s a done deal…The decision’s already been made…the planning’s completed, everything’s in place.”

Kiriakou said he was told to ignore the public “debate” as to whether the US should invade Iraq. “We were going to war regardless of what the legislative branch or what the federal government chose to do,” Kiriakou wrote. Kiriakou identified the office of Vice President Dick Cheney as one of the principal moving forces behind the war.

The pretext for the Obama administration’s prosecution of Kiriakou was his alleged leak of the names of covert CIA agents involved in torture to journalists in 2008. Kiriakou, for his part, claims the leak was inadvertent. “If I’d known the guy was still under cover,” Kiriakou said, according to the New York Times, “I would never have mentioned him.”

The prosecution of Kiriakou marks the sixth in a string of prosecutions by the Obama administration of individuals who have leaked “classified” information. Before these six prosecutions, there were only three such prosecutions in US history, including the Nixon administration’s prosecution of Daniel Ellsburg, who famously leaked the Pentagon Papers.

The New York Times reported on January 5 that the “leak prosecutions,” including of Kiriakou, “have been lauded on Capitol Hill as a long-overdue response to a rash of dangerous disclosures and have been defended by both Mr. Obama and his attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr. ”

“We know the government wants to send a signal…that the U.S. is intent on protecting its secrets from disclosure in cases relating to torture, and wants to chill further disclosures by anyone,” read a statement by the Friends of John Kiriakou, soliciting donations for his legal defense fund.

“But this is a case that should never have been brought anywhere—let alone in a country that values free speech and the protections of the First Amendment. Journalists covering national security issues understand the stakes here, and what this case represents.”

The Obama administration’s trademark political prosecution method is to seek gratuitously excessive prison time for the targeted individual in order to bully that person into making a guilty plea to a lesser charge. In this case, Kiriakou was threatened with up to 45 years in prison, with violations of the World-War-I-era Espionage Act included among the charges in the indictment.

Kiriakou has stated that he accepted the plea deal for 30 months prison time out of concern for his family and young children, who at one point were reduced to living on food stamps following his indictment. In addition to prison time, Kiriakou has accrued approximately $500,000 in legal fees associated with his defense, according to one account.

Kiriakou’s prosecution for allegedly leaking the names of undercover intelligence agents cannot help but recall the Valerie Plame affair. In June 2007, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, was convicted in connection with the leak of the name of CIA agent Valerie Plame. Plame’s name was leaked in apparent retaliation for revelations by former ambassador Joseph Wilson, Plame’s husband, concerning the falsity of the Bush administration’s “weapons of mass destruction” claims in the period leading up to the invasion of Iraq. In 2007, the Bush administration commuted Libby’s prison sentence.

To date, Kiriakou is the only CIA agent to be prosecuted by the Obama administration in connection with torture.

The CIA’s Secret Prisons in Poland

A Polish investigation into secret CIA jails is being suppressed because it will embarrass the top echelon of the country’s government, lawyers of two men held illegally in one of the CIA’s ‘black sites’ in Poland tell media.

Reportedly, the results of this investigation could link some of Poland’s most senior politicians with illegal detention and torture, as well as impact negatively on the relationship between Poland and its key ally, the US, according to Reuters.

The news agency’s sources, including lawyers and human rights activists, reveal that the investigation was halted after the original investigators were taken off the case early last year.

The probe began in 2008 with prosecutors from the capital Warsaw, but in early 2012 the prosecutor-general transferred the investigation to the southern city of Krakow.

“The image is of a complete lack of action,” Mikolaj Pietrzak, lawyer for Saudi national Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri who says he was detained in a CIA jail on Polish soil, told Reuters. “The case is obviously, in my opinion, under political control … The most convenient thing politically is for the case to drag on,” Pietrzak added.

Bartlomiej Jankowski, a lawyer for the second alleged ex-detainee, Abu Zubaydah, has confirmed this.

“I am not receiving any information [from prosecutors] about new documents, nor am I informed about any new hearings. This is something that worries me,” Jankowski said.

CIA-run prison was discovered in a small remote village Stare Kiejkuty and was operational from December 2002 to the fall of 2003. It was used to transport suspected Al-Qaeda members outside the US territory to interrogate without having to adhere to US law.

Polish officials say the investigators are still in the midst of collecting evidence and the investigation is taking so long because US officials have not been responding to information requests.

In 2006, then-President George W. Bush revealed the US had CIA detention facilities overseas, but no details came out as to their exact locations.However, human rights groups named Afghanistan, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Thailand as the most likely hosts.

The CIA’s black sites in Europe are rumored to have detained and tortured suspected terrorists, and to hold them in custody before being transported to the prison at Guantanamo Bay. The sites and the prisoners existed in legal limbo, with no oversight from citizens of the host countries. The CIA is believed to have operated with the knowledge and cooperation of the governments of those countries.

Poland is the second country to have opened a criminal investigation into the matter, after Lithuania (though that case has been closed).

Polish investigation is entering its fifth year, scheduled to end this month, but there are reports that the prosecutors may apply for an extension.

‘Investigation implicated senior levels of Polish government’

One of the main problems with the investigation is the fact that it affects top levels of Polish government, argues Polish Senator Jozef Pinior, who has pushed for a full investigation.

” [The government] are in a sandwich between opening this issue up and the pressure from the hard core of the Polish state, the secret service, the prosecutor’s office, who say: ‘Let’s keep this secret’,” Pinior told Reuters.

In response, Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s office stated that the investigators are independent from external influence. “No executive body can influence the prosecutor’s actions,” it said in a statement.

Rumors about Poland hosting a CIA-run prison had circulated for years, though the country’s authorities dismissed them as absurd.However, the UN and the Council of Europe had long claimed they had evidence of the site’s existence.

Also aware of the CIA program was Marek Dukaczewski, who was head of military intelligence when the alleged jail was in operation. He was the only one to acknowledge the CIA prison publicly in 2010.

Two prisoners from Guantanamo Bay, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri and Abu Zubaydah, claimed they were prisoners at this black site. Polish prosecutors have already given the two ‘victim status’.

Among other possible detainees are self-proclaimed 9/11 terrorist mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, perpetrator of the 2000 USS Cole bombing Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, and Palestinian terror suspect Abu Zubaydah.

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

CIA’s secret prison: ‘Poland dragging out investigation’

AFP Photo/Anne-Christine Poujoulat

AFP Photo/Anne-Christine Poujoulat

A Polish investigation into secret CIA jails is being suppressed because it will embarrass the top echelon of the country’s government, lawyers of two men held illegally in one of the CIA’s ‘black sites’ in Poland tell media.

Reportedly, the results of this investigation could link some of Poland’s most senior politicians with illegal detention and torture, as well as impact negatively on the relationship between Poland and its key ally, the US, according to Reuters.

The news agency’s sources, including lawyers and human rights activists, reveal that the investigation was halted after the original investigators were taken off the case early last year.

The probe began in 2008 with prosecutors from the capital Warsaw, but in early 2012 the prosecutor-general transferred the investigation to the southern city of Krakow.

"The image is of a complete lack of action," Mikolaj Pietrzak, lawyer for Saudi national Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri who says he was detained in a CIA jail on Polish soil, told Reuters. "The case is obviously, in my opinion, under political control … The most convenient thing politically is for the case to drag on," Pietrzak added.

Bartlomiej Jankowski, a lawyer for the second alleged ex-detainee, Abu Zubaydah, has confirmed this.

"I am not receiving any information [from prosecutors] about new documents, nor am I informed about any new hearings. This is something that worries me," Jankowski said.

CIA-run prison was discovered in a small remote village Stare Kiejkuty and was operational from December 2002 to the fall of 2003. It was used to transport suspected Al-Qaeda members outside the US territory to interrogate without having to adhere to US law.

Polish officials say the investigators are still in the midst of collecting evidence and the investigation is taking so long because US officials have not been responding to information requests.

In 2006, then-President George W. Bush revealed the US had CIA detention facilities overseas, but no details came out as to their exact locations.However, human rights groups named Afghanistan, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Thailand as the most likely hosts.

The CIA’s black sites in Europe are rumored to have detained and tortured suspected terrorists, and to hold them in custody before being transported to the prison at Guantanamo Bay. The sites and the prisoners existed in legal limbo, with no oversight from citizens of the host countries. The CIA is believed to have operated with the knowledge and cooperation of the governments of those countries.

Poland is the second country to have opened a criminal investigation into the matter, after Lithuania (though that case has been closed).

Polish investigation is entering its fifth year, scheduled to end this month, but there are reports that the prosecutors may apply for an extension.

‘Investigation implicated senior levels of Polish government’

One of the main problems with the investigation is the fact that it affects top levels of Polish government, argues Polish Senator Jozef Pinior, who has pushed for a full investigation.

" [The government] are in a sandwich between opening this issue up and the pressure from the hard core of the Polish state, the secret service, the prosecutor's office, who say: 'Let's keep this secret'," Pinior told Reuters.

In response, Prime Minister Donald Tusk's office stated that the investigators are independent from external influence. "No executive body can influence the prosecutor's actions," it said in a statement.

Rumors about Poland hosting a CIA-run prison had circulated for years, though the country's authorities dismissed them as absurd.However, the UN and the Council of Europe had long claimed they had evidence of the site’s existence.

Also aware of the CIA program was Marek Dukaczewski, who was head of military intelligence when the alleged jail was in operation. He was the only one to acknowledge the CIA prison publicly in 2010.

Two prisoners from Guantanamo Bay, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri and Abu Zubaydah, claimed they were prisoners at this black site. Polish prosecutors have already given the two ‘victim status’.

Among other possible detainees are self-proclaimed 9/11 terrorist mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, perpetrator of the 2000 USS Cole bombing Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, and Palestinian terror suspect Abu Zubaydah.

If I Were Attorney General

Context: As yet there are no context links for this item.

Bio

Michael Ratner is President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) in New York and Chair of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights in Berlin. He is currently a legal adviser to Wikileaks and Julian Assange. He and CCR brought the first case challenging the Guantanamo detentions and continue in their efforts to close Guantanamo. He taught at Yale Law School, and Columbia Law School, and was President of the National Lawyers Guild. His current books include "Hell No: Your Right to Dissent in the Twenty-First Century America," and “ Who Killed Che? How the CIA Got Away With Murder.” NOTE: Mr. Ratner speaks on his own behalf and not for any organization with which he is affiliated.

Transcript

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay in Baltimore. And welcome to this week's edition of The Ratner Report with Michael Ratner, who now joins us from New York City.

Michael is the president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York. He's chair of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights in Berlin. He's a board member of The Real News. Thanks for joining us again, Michael.MICHAEL RATNER, PRESIDENT EMERITUS, CENTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS: Good to be with you, Paul.JAY: So I'm—let's kick this one off with a question. So President Obama gets inaugurated, and all of a sudden he has this brilliant flash: oh, no, I need Michael Ratner as attorney general. Now, that's as likely to happen as—well, okay, I'm not going to crack any joke, but let's say it happened. What would you do as attorney general?RATNER: Well, you know, it's an interesting question. And I was asked the question by a progressive newspaper called The Indepedent as well, along similar lines. And, of course, you could decide, you could have a different government, a socialist government. But, of course, that's not going to be decided by the attorney general. So what does the attorney general do? Attorney general heads the Department of Justice. In, like, 200 and some years there's been one woman heading the Department of Justice. So you have to assume it's probably going to be a man this time, which is going to be me. And I came up with some ideas, perhaps eight, nine, ten ideas of what I could actually do. So the first one is a nice—for all of us activists out there, 'cause you get social change through activism. And what I said was, handcuff the FBI, not activists. So the first thing that they could do is get the FBI off the backs of political activists, Muslim activists, people who are out in the streets, Occupy Wall Street people, and just get rid of government, political FBI spying, put handcuffs on the FBI, not on all of us, because that's how social change is made.And right now we're in a situation where Obama and the FBI are still operating under the FBI guidelines that were suggested by President Bush's last attorney general, Mukasey. And they're terrible, because they allow spying and surveillance and wiretapping on people who they have never been even accused or even implicated in a crime without reasonable doubt. They can spy on anybody.So number one, handcuff the FBI and not activists.Number two—and this is the power of attorney general. Even if there's laws on the books saying it's illegal for me to smoke marijuana or take cocaine, the attorney general doesn't have to enforce those federal laws. And so the second thing I would do as attorney general, I would just stop all drug prosecutions. That's not the same as passing laws that says they're legal. But as attorney general, the chief law enforcement officer, stop all drug prosecutions. Already you're going to see our jails getting empty, less people going, huge budget cuts that will make a big difference in, of course, people's personal lives.The third is: what do we do about jails, and what can I do as attorney general? Well, I could ask that every single juvenile, every single person convicted as a juvenile in prison, under 18 years old, should be immediately paroled. They had no place in prison to begin with. They should have been treated. They should have been rehabilitated. Get rid of that right away.Then I would ask that all the political prisoners be released—Leonard Peltier, Mumia Abu-Jamal, etc., anybody—. Mumia, I wouldn't have the authority. He's in a state prison. But all the federal prisoners, such as the Indian activist Leonard Peltier. Get them out. And then, out of federal prisons, ask for parole of anybody who's served over 20 years. Europe really has a maximum of 20 years. Let's get rid of those. They're just being in there for punitive reasons.So I have FBI, drugs, prisons. Then I would end the prosecution of any undocumented workers in the United States. No longer would we use a criminal system, such as operation streamline to jail tens and tens of thousands of people. End the prosecution of undocumented.Fifth, I would stop the prosecution of my own client, Julian Assange, the investigation of him as well as WikiLeaks. I would have stopped the prosecution of Aaron Swartz, the young internet activist who committed suicide really in part as a result, if not even in big part, as a result of the government's persecution of Aaron Swartz, the internet activist. I would stop the prosecution of Bradley Manning. I would stop the one of Jeremy Hammond. Those are two people who allegedly uploaded documents to WikiLeaks. So I would just stop with prosecuting whistleblowers, just get rid of that, because they're exposing secrets that we really have to know. That's the sixth thing.The seventh thing—and this is a hard one to get into for the attorney general, because you think, how do I make this country more equal from an economic point of view. So I've thought long and hard about that. I can't change the tax code. But what could I do? I could decide that anyone making under a certain amount will not be prosecuted if they don't pay taxes.So let's set the figure at, let's say, $40,000. Anyone making under $40,000, if they decide not to pay taxes, I will not prosecute them as the Department of Justice, nor will I use civil jurisdiction or civil courts to try and collect those taxes. That would automatically raise the salary levels, raise the levels of income of, you know, probably the majority of the United States. That's the sixth thing.The seventh thing. I don't want to let the bad guys off the hook here. I have two sets of bad guys. The first thing I would do is begin an investigation and hope to get an indictment of President Obama for operating the drone strikes throughout the world. I would particularly go after them for the killing of al-Aulaqi in Yemen or al-Aulaqi's son in Yemen, a 16-year-old boy, and for another U.S. citizen in Yemen. There's a U.S. law—and a federal judge actually just cited it in a recent decision on drones. It says the president is not exempt from a law that prohibits people from killing Americans overseas. So I'd begin an investigation of President Obama because he has killed American citizens with drones.JAY: Now, not only will you never get appointed, but if in the wildest chance you did, you wouldn't hold the job for very long. Go on.RATNER: Well, once I get him indicted, you know, he can't get rid of me. Anyway, anything I would do is I would go after, obviously, the Bush–Cheney torture kill teams—implemented not only indefinite detention at Guantanamo and Bagram, but who actually tortured people all over the world—Guantanamo, Bagram—who rendered people to torture, and I would investigate and prosecute those people. That seems like a no-brainer. It should have been a no-brainer to Obama. It should have been a no-brainer to Eric Holder, the current person who I'm replacing. But apparently even that has been difficult.JAY: Now, you're talking Bush–Cheney themselves?RATNER: Yes, of course. Bush and Cheney have both admitted that they ordered waterboarding, a form of torture, and they would do it again. That's—you don't need much more. They've openly admitted to ordering people to be tortured. And we know that people have been tortured as a result. Materials were released. Various people at black sites, one person 83 times waterboarded, another person well over 100. Torture's completely illegal. We have an obligation to prosecute torturers under the Convention Against Torture. It hasn't been done by Obama. I as attorney general would actually—of the ones I mentioned, I think a number of them are actually realistic. That one certainly should be carried out.Then, you know, how else do we get at the financial crisis? I gave us one way [unintel.] stop people having to pay taxes. I just won't prosecute them. The other way, and what I made up for this, is: too big to fail, too big not to be in jail. So rather than just give all of these big banks civil penalties, or these investment houses, even if they're $10 billion or $5 billion or $500 million, let's actually have investigations where we jail the crooked bankers, jail the crooked investment houses, because that's the way, at least, we can avert not crisis—'cause we're going to have crisis in capitalism for a long time, economic crisis, but maybe we can take some of the really deep edge off the next economic crisis by trying to get our banks, our mortgage fraud people, etc., to operate in a better way. That's number nine. Number ten. This was an interesting one. This was actually suggested by my daughter, modeled after a law in Bolivia called the Rights of Mother Earth, Ley de Derechos de la Madre Tierra. And what it does is rather than just talk about rights for human beings, talks about rights for the ecosystem and the cultural system that you're in, so that when you do something, you have to not just think about what's going to happen, you know, to me or when you build a dam, but what's going to happen to the whole ecosystem. Bolivia has such a law. And as attorney general, of course, I can't pass that law, but at least I could try and put that law forward. So these are ten real positions that the next attorney general could take. And were I the attorney general, despite the political pushback I could get, these are things that I would actually like to carry out. And while they wouldn't be revolutionary in the sense of overturning this society, what they represent to me are transitional actions, transitional demands and actions that ultimately can lead to a much more equal society.JAY: Well, that's great. I mean, I think if this was an elected position, you could probably get elected to this. Unfortunately, it's not.RATNER: I love you, Paul.JAY: Thanks very much for joining us, Michael.RATNER: Thank you, Paul.JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

End

DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


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Protestors and Former Detainees Mark Guantanamo Anniversary in London

Context: As yet there are no context links for this item.

Transcript

Hassan Ghani

Another year, and another sombre vigil outside the US embassy in London. A somewhat eclectic gathering in near freezing temperatures ensured that 11 years of Guantanamo did not go unmarked.Aisha Maniar, London Guantanamo Campaign“It’s down to the public now. President Obama broke his promise four years ago to close Guantanamo Bay. The argument with so-called terrorists, is that terrorists act outside of the law; but what we actually see is governments acting like mafia, like terrorists themselves, and they too are acting outside the known confines of the law. There’s no exceptions for the use of torture, there’s no reason for arbritrary detention – if people have committed crimes then try them, in a normal court of law. Try them and then lock them up. Don’t lock them up and then hold them for eleven years and say ‘oh these people are bad because we say so’.”Alice, Student Activist“It’s just unintelligible that it would still be open. And especially the inhumane treatment to people that have been proven innocent.”Hassan GhaniOf the nearly 800 men and children held in Guantanamo over the years, today 166 still remain. More than half of them have also cleared for release, some many years ago. But despite having come out clean after years of detention without trial, interrogations, and torture - or what the US department of defence called ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’, they remain trapped in this legal blackhole.Staff at ‘Reprieve’, the legal action charity, have been working on some of the cases.Hilary Stauffer, Deputy Director of Reprieve“The US Congress in 2010 passed a law called the National Defence Authorisation Act – that is the defence bill for the year, that’s just the spending bill that manages the budget for the army. But they also tacked on a provision in there that had a lot to do with Guantanamo.It said that no US funds could be used to transfer detainees. It said that detainees could never be transferred or resettled in the United States, even the ones that are completely innocent. And it said that if they were going to be released, the Secretary of Defence, the Secretary of State, and the Director of National Intelligence all had to agree. And that the country he went to had to certify that he would never commit an act of terrorism again, certify that he would never pose a threat to the United States ever again, and had to certify that they would watch him in perpetuity. And it’s very difficult to meet those, no one’s been released since the NDAA came into effect, except through political deals behind the scenes.”Hassan GhaniAmong those cleared for release several years ago is the last remaining British resident in Guantanamo, Shaker Aamer. His family have been campaigning on his behalf. But, for the moment, there doesn’t seem to be any light at the end of the tunnel.Hilary Stauffer, Deputy Director of Reprieve“In many cases these men don’t want to go back to where they are from. Shaker is a British resident, he’s married to a British citizen, has children who are British citizens, but he’s originally from Saudi Arabia. If he went back to Saudi Arabia he’d probably be very very mistreated or tortured, because that happens in a lot of places, these guys go back to countries that are less democratic than others, and it’s guilt by suspicion. So they don’t want to go back to their country of origin, they want to be resettled to a third country. But in many cases these countries say ‘if the US wont take them, why should we?’”Hassan GhaniFor those who’ve survived rendition, torture and detention without trial, and have begun rebuilding their lives, the mental scars are enduring. And the anniversary brings with it a reminder of those left behind.Bisher al-Rawi, Guantanamo Detainee 2002-2007“We write them letters, we keep in touch with their families, we try to send them news. And although it’s extremely important to work, it’s extremely painful. Every day is a reminder. I look in the faces of my children and I think of the brothers who have left their children behind, the brothers who have not had families – people who got married and never had kids.”Hassan GhaniOmar Deghayez was held in Guantanamo for five years. At one point he was beaten so badly, that he lost the use of one of his eyes.Omar Deghayes, Guantanamo Detainee 2002-2007“They were holding my head back and holding me down, and then he pushed his fingers into my eyes. I didn’t understand what he was doing so I had my eyes clearly open, until I felt the pain of his fingers coming wholly inside the eyes, and he was pushing harder. So I closed my eyes but it was too late when his fingers were already inside. And the officer kept saying to him ‘more more’, and the guard was screaming, because he was I think frightened himself, saying ‘I am I am’.I think they wanted to make an example of us, we were in a ‘Oscar’ block where they thought we were rebellious, because they did that to me and then they went to the next cell and the next cell, and they did it to all of them. It was one night they did that. Several people lost their eyes.The mistreatment in Guantanamo will last with you, I think, forever. It’s a grave wound, probably it will stay in the heart, in the psyche, of the person.”Hassan GhaniLike other former detainees, he too feels a sense of guilt at being free when others remain inside.Omar Deghayes, Guantanamo Detainee 2002-2007“There are still people who were with us, comrades, people who are inmates, friends of ours, people who we lived with and we promised that when we go out.. they had expectations that we would be able to speak about them – especially us in the United Kingdom, because many who are released to Saudi Arabia, Yemen and others are gagged, imprisoned, sometimes silenced by force.When they heard the announcement in Guantanamo that I was going to be released, people were celebrating as if they were going to be released. Because they know my background, I’m a lawyer, a human rights lawyer, and on top of that I speak English, on top of that I’m in the UK.”Hassan GhaniBut while media attention is generally drawn to Guantanamo, the US administration and the CIA hold prisoners in even more controversial facilities in other countries around the world, known as black sites, where few know what really goes on. And now, with drone strikes, human rights organisations say the Obama administration has completely bypassed the whole legal process.Hilary Stauffer, Deputy Director of Reprieve“It’s a controversial policy, but instead of capturing terrorism suspects he’s often just killing them abroad through drone strikes, so that you negate the need for a prison if you’re not even bringing people to any kind of trial, or you’re just killing them on the ground. Generally, the vast majority of them are just unnamed alleged terrorists abroad, but nobody has any idea what they’re being charged with. And drone strikes are particularly problematic because Obama has said that his justification is basically anybody in military age, between 18 and 65, is a target, a potential militant, and it’s up to them to prove after the fact that they weren’t a militant. But if they’re dead, it’s very difficult to prove that.”Hassan GhaniFor protestors outside the US embassy in London, Guantanamo remains a powerful symbol of a wider unjust system, and they say they know their work isn’t over if the prison closes tomorrow.“It’s likely that opponents of the US government’s network of renditions, black sites, and drone killings will be meeting here for many more years to come. The US administration says that some of the detainees it currently holds can be held indefinitely, without charge or trial, pending an end to hostilities, as prisoners of war. The seemingly never-ending, ever-expanding, war on terror. Hassan Ghani, for the Real News, London.


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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?

7 Ways “Zero Dark Thirty” Excuses Torture

Zero Dark Thirty could not have been produced if the officials involved in U.S. torture policy had been held accountable.

January 10, 2013  |  

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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.

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David Cole  RINF Alternative News The old Washington adage that the cover-up is worse than the crime may not apply when it comes to the revelations...

CIA Intimidation, Obstruction and Spying on US Congress: Obama’s “High Crimes and Misdemeanors”

Joseph Kishore and Barry Grey  RINF Alternative News The speech delivered Tuesday on the Senate floor by Senator Dianne Feinstein provides clear and direct evidence of...

CIA Spies and Tortured Lies

Amy Goodman  RINF Alternative News “What keeps me up at night, candidly, is another attack against the United States,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein said last month in...

Documenting Darkness: How a Thug State Operates

Tom Engelhardt RINF Alternative News Here, at least, is a place to start: intelligence officials have weighed in with an estimate of just how many...

In Poland, CIA Paid $15 Million in Cash for Torture Site

New details about infamous "black site" may lead to new prosecutions in Poland Jon Queall  RINF Alternative News A new investigative piece by the Washington Post published on Thursday reveals more...

UK War Crimes Exposed

UK War Crimes Exposedby Stephen LendmanBritain is complicit in most US wars of aggression. It's no surprise when new information surfaces. More on it below.The July 2002 "Downing Street memo" was leaked to The Sunday Times. In May 2005, it was revealed...

Are We Witnessing the Last Gasp of American Democracy?

Any state that has the capacity...

US Appeals Court Upholds Suppression of Secret Legal Memo approving Collection and Handover of...

Patrick Martin The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the second most powerful federal court, ruled Friday that the Obama...

Poland Faces Charges for Complicity in CIA Torture

The Szczytno-Szymany airport in Szymany, Poland where investigators say seven CIA planes, five of them carrying prisoners, arrived between 2002 and 2003 before bringing...

European Govt Faces Charges for Role in CIA Torture

The Szczytno-Szymany airport in Szymany, Poland where investigators say seven CIA planes, five of them carrying prisoners, arrived between 2002 and 2003 before bringing...

America is a Cabaret, Old Chum

Ladies und gentlemen, willkommen to the Kit Kat Klub in beautiful Los Angeles, California where even za hood has palm trees! As you know,...

The CIA’s Memory Prison

The memory hole is deep at Guantánamo Bay. Its gaping maw has swallowed international law, the lives of hundreds of detainees and the moral consequences...

US spying on Europe to damage ties

The US government's mass surveillance of European leaders will cause “lasting damage” to the transatlantic alliance unless Washington "reins in" its controversial spying operations,...

Eisenhower’s Drones

President Dwight Eisenhower is often admired for having avoided huge wars, having declared that every dollar wasted on militarism was food taken out of the mouths of children, and having warned -- albeit on his way out the door -- of the toxic influenc...

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 ...

Obama creating ‘communistic society’

J. Bruce Campbell of Extremism Online believes President Barack Obama's polices are creating a “communistic society” in which American citizens live under the government‘s...

Canada should investigate Dick Cheney for war crimes. When he comes to Toronto will...

On Halloween this year, Toronto will host the man who operated from the “dark side” of U.S. policy. As vice-president of the United States,...

NSA Does the Grand Tour

NSA returned to center stage last week thanks to revelations that it has tapped the phones of European leaders. The resulting ruckus raises...

Eavesdropped on Amtrak: Ex-NSA Chief Gets Taste of Own Medicine

(Updated below) Former head of the National Security Agency Michael Hayden is making headlines for an interview he gave on Thursday, but not at...

Guantanamo Hunger Striking Continues

Guantanamo Hunger Striking Continuesby Stephen LendmanIn early February, detainees began hunger striking for justice. Dozens joined others. Numbers rose to about 130. Some were force-fed. Doing so constitutes torture.Most detainees continued courageous...

ASEAN Union, Petition Shutdown, Monsanto’s Nobel — New World Next Week

Welcome to http://NewWorldNextWeek.com — the video series from Corbett Report and Media Monarchy that covers some of the most important developments in open source intelligence news. This week: Story #1: ASEAN Countries Could Become Ground Zero F...

Interview 764 — New World Next Week with James Evan Pilato

This week on the New World Next Week: ASEAN is shaping up to be another regional government; the shutdown effects the White House petition website; and Monsanto wins the World Food Prize

Interview 764 — New World Next Week with James Evan Pilato

This week on the New World Next Week: ASEAN is shaping up to be another regional government; the shutdown effects the White House petition website; and Monsanto wins the World Food Prize

Week in Review: Libyan Chaos and Nuclear Disaster

Obscuring the Details: A Panoramic Look at America's Case Against Syria, Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, October 13, 2013 The US is Losing Control of the Internet…Oh,...

The Etiquette of War and Surveillance: Letters to Colonel Manners (Ret.)

In the sequester and government-shutdown era, the classic military newspaper Stars and Stripes is facing some of the problems of its civilian brethren and...

US kidnapping of al-Libi act of terrorism

The recent abduction of a man in Libya by American military forces without notifying the Libyan government is an act of œterrorism,” an analyst...

Bragging Rights, Eight Exceptional(ly dumb) American Achievements of the Twenty-First Century

“But when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death, and thereby make our own children safer over...

Bragging Rights, Eight Exceptional(ly dumb) American Achievements of the Twenty-First Century

“But when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death, and thereby make our own children safer over...

Ending One War, Ending All Wars

Remarks on September 21, 2013, at the Nashville Festival for Peace, Prosperity, and Planet. Thank you to Elizabeth Barger and the Nashville Peace and Justice...

Wisdom from Mumia Abu-Jamal: Bombs Over Damascus? “Obama has Morphed into Bush III”

President Barack Obama, long seen as an anti-war foil to the lunacy of the belligerent George W. Bush administration, has now almost completed his...

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 ...

The Last Chance to Stop the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA): “Permits Military to...

 I and my fellow plaintiffs have begun the third and final round of our battle to get the courts to strike down a section...

The Last Chance to Stop the NDAA

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_last_chance_to_stop_the_ndaa_20130902/ Posted on Sep 2, 2013 ...

Bradley Manning, Crimes Against Humanity and the Values of International Law

During his June-July 2013 court martial, Private First Class Bradley Manning sat impassive. He had been in custody from May 2010, which included harsh...

Top ten reasons US continues Egypt aid

Members of the military police outside the presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt on December 11, 2012Another 80 people died in violence in Egypt on...

Bradley Manning’s Revelations Saved Lives

This is a historic verdict. Judge Denise Lind correctly found Bradley Manning not guilty of aiding the enemy because the evidence failed to establish...

Welcome to Post-Constitution America

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/welcome_to_post-constitution_america_20130805/ Posted on Aug 5, 2013 By Peter van...

Puttin' the Pressure on Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin during an interview with journalists in Moscow, June 11, 2013. (Photo: James Hill / The New York Times) The Obama...

Lies, Damn Lies and US Promises

Lies, Damn Lies and US Promises by Stephen Lendman US promises aren't worth the paper they're written on. They never were. They're not now. They're made...

Dear Royal Baby: We Americans Apologize for Our Revolution; Please Be Our Absolute Monarch

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/dear_royal_baby_we_americans_apologize_for_our_revolution_please_be_our_abs/ Posted on Jul 23, 2013 ...

The CIA's Imported Torture Operation Haunts Poland

Poland has been identified as having hosted a secret CIA prison. Cuba is host to the notorious Guantanamo Bay. Pictured here are protestors during...

Money Laundering and the Global Drug Trade are Fueled by the Capitalist Elites

This article was first published July 21, 2010.  When investigative journalist Daniel Hopsicker broke the story four years ago that a DC-9 (N900SA) “registered to a company...

Britain to use secret evidence in court

  By ...

“Planning 9/11″: The Five “High-Value” Guantanamo Detainees Improperly Presumed Guilty

It is a bedrock principle of our system of justice that everyone who is charged with a crime is presumed innocent unless and until...

Five "High-Value" Guantanamo Detainees Improperly Presumed Guilty

An Army spokesman in one of the detainee areas in Camp Delta at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. (Photo: Richard Perry / The New York Times) Truthout...

Edward Snowden’s Long Flight

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

Insider Threat: Government Employees Urged to Tattle On Coworkers in Effort to Stop Classified...

As the media focuses almost exclusively on Edward Snowden's possible whereabouts, more details on the Obama administration's crackdown on whistleblowers have come to light....

Guantanamo Prisoner’s Case Demonstrates Unfairness of Military Commissions

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/guantanamo_prisoners_case_demonstrates_unfairness_of_military_commissions_2/ Posted on Jun 19, 2013 ...

Obama, Cheney and Snowden’s revelations

  19 June 2013 ...

New website reveals extent of secret CIA flight network

rt.comMay 29, 2013 A team of academics have launched the world’s largest interactive database...

“The Global Rendition System”: Major Study Sheds New Light on CIA Secret Prisons

Today sees the launch of the “Global Rendition System” database and interactive map — the most comprehensive resource so far created illustrating the...

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 ...

Europe’s “Little Guantanamo”: Why The U.S. Wants Serbia To Give Up Kosovo

The U.S. military base in Kosovo was constructed in 1999 without consulting with the government of Serbia and is the largest U.S. military...

5 Worst Obama Assaults on Civil Liberties Besides the AP scandal

Is anyone really surprised that Attorney General Eric Holder said that the Justice Department followed the rules in seizing two months of telephone records from...

The False God of ‘Narrative’

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_false_god_of_narrative_20130516/ Posted on May 16, 2013 ...

New Revelations of Torture and Murder of Afghan Civilians by US Special Forces

Zakaria Kandahari, a member of a US Special Forces “A Team,” has been accused by Afghan officials of carrying out and directing the torture...

Close Guantanamo Now!

As president and commander-in-chief, Obama has legal authority to do so. On May 3, New York City Bar president Carey R. Dunne wrote him....

The Criminalization of Political Dissent in America

In a series of prosecutions, precedents are being established for the criminalization of political dissent in America. Last week, Massachusetts high school student Cameron D’Ambrosio...

New Calls For Bush War Criminals To Face Justice

A UN investigator has requested that the United States reveal its findings on the CIA’s Bush-era programme of the rendition and secret detention of terrorism suspects, which has the potential to lead to high level officials being prosecuted for crimes against humanity.

CIA Nominee John Brennan’s Worry Over Torture Ended with Who Might Get Blamed

As John Brennan readies for confirmation hearings as CIA director, re-surfaced episodes of how the spy operative and national security adviser dealt with knowledge about the torture program under the Bush administration shows that his reticence about ...

Ending Obama’s Illegal Torture Policy

What will it really take to dismantle the Bush administration’s legacy of torture when there is the same leadership at the Pentagon, the same rhetoric about protecting “state secrets”.

Civil liberties are still the victim in the War on Terror

Source | “No nation could reserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.” – James Madison, 1795 The 9/11 tragedy marked a sea change in...

Torture: America’s other national pastime

Don't let "Zero Dark Thirty" fool you. The suffering we inflict is psychological -- and has lasting consequences This piece originally appeared on TomDispatch. If you look...

What’s the Point of Having Laws Against Torture if They Don’t Apply to the...

Katherine Gallagher, Counterpunch | One thing brings these four men together. Hassan bin Attash, Sami el-Hajj, Muhammed Khan Tumani and Murat Kurnaz–they are all survivors...

Torture: Impunity at Home, Rendition Abroad

After a decade of fiery public debate and bare-knuckle partisan brawling, the United States has stumbled toward an ad hoc bipartisan compromise over the issue of...

700 doctors demand the removal of WMA president for involvement in torture

700 doctors from 43 countries sent a letter of protest to the Word Medical Association (WMA), which is considered the WMA’s governing body, demanding...

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...

U.N. report says U.S. rendition policy broke international law

By Julie Sell | LONDON - A U.N. expert is accusing the United States and some of its allies of breaching international law for the so-called...

Lendman: Obama’s ‘War on Terror’

By Stephen Lendman  The language is softened and deceptive. The strategy and tactics are not. The "war on terror" continues. Promised change is talk, not...

Loophole allows terrorist detentions

By Eli Lake  President Obama's executive order closing CIA "black sites" contains a little-noticed exception that allows the spy agency to continue to operate temporary...

Torture, Secret Detention, Abduction and Repeated Raping

By Stephen Lendman Post-9/11, the "war on terror" has been a jihad against Islam, the colonizers v. the colonized, or what Edward Said called "the...

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...

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...

Who Is Bush to Lecture China?

By Matthew Rothschild Who is Bush to lecture the Chinese–or anyone, for that matter–on human rights? There he was in Thailand, pressing China to uphold human...

How many innocent people are going out of their minds today?

By George Monbiot | We shouldn’t be surprised to hear that George Bush dined with a group of historians on Sunday night. The president has...

US Congressman Moves to Impeach Bush

Belfast Telegraph | Former Democratic presidential contender, Dennis Kucinich, has called for the impeachment of George W Bush claiming that the president set out to...

Labour is stealing our civil liberties

By Cath Elliott | It seems incredible now, but on the May 3 1997 I actually celebrated Labour's election victory. After 18 years of...

US accused of holding terror suspects on prison ships

By Duncan Campbell and Richard Norton-Taylor | The United States is operating "floating prisons" to house those arrested in its war on terror, according...

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...

Rice’s Lies About Torture

By Dave Lindorff | Is anyone surprised that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says that the Bush/Cheney administration’s authorization of torture of captives has...

Renditions Ruin the EU Case

By David Cronin | Collusion between European Union governments and a secret U.S. torture and kidnapping programme has damaged the EU's efforts to promote...

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...

UN rejects British denial on rendition

Indian Ocean atoll Diego Garcia was used to hold US suspects, human rights investigator claims Jamie Doward Britain's denials that its territories have been used for...

First-person account of CIA torture survivor

Cory Doctorow Today's Salon features a long first-person account of Mohamed Farag Ahmad Bashmilah, who was kidnapped to a CIA "black site" torture camp. It's...

America is Going Fascist

Michael Nenonen Republic of East Vancouver The signs are all there for anyone to see, and time is getting short for action Reading Naomi Wolf’s The End...

‘Ghost prisoners’ not accounted for after held by CIA

Rights groups wonder where the roughly 30 are being kept By CRAIG WHITLOCK On Sept. 6, 2006, President Bush announced that the CIA's overseas secret prisons...

Psychologists in denial about torture

By Amy Goodman This weekend, the American Psychological Association rejected a moratorium that would have prevented its member psychologists from participating in interrogations at U.S....

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...

New Yorker: CIA Tactics Amount To Torture

The Central Intelligence Agency used "enhanced interrogation techniques" synonymous with torture while interrogating September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, according to a New Yorker...

Psychologists and CIA torture

By Stephen Soldz Last month Vanity Fair online published Katherine Eban’s account of the psychologist-designed torture of Abu Zubaydah, designed and conducted by CIA consultants...

Cops Can Get Your DNA

State Dept authorizes sale of $10.5bn missile defense system to Poland — RT US...

Poland is poised to buy four Patriot air and missile defense systems from the US, worth...

Erectile dysfunction pills are now the top party drug for British millennials — RT...

Coke, MDMA, speed… Viagra? This is now the standard pitch of UK drug dealers as...

How the U.S. Aristocracy Deceive the U.S. Public

Eric Zuesse, originally posted at strategic-culture.org The progressive former Democratic U.S. Senator Ted Kaufman wrote at Forbes, on 22 July 2014: Another year has passed with...

‘We Need a Fundamental Shift in the Way We Frame Drug Issues’

Janine Jackson interviewed Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance for the November 3, 2017, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly...

NBC News’ Breezy Whitewash of White Supremacist Group

by Adam Johnson Screengrab from NBC profile (11/2/17) of the racist, misogynist Proud Boys organization. As FAIR noted last year, the rise of Trump has lead...

What the World Should Look Like | Further Column

  Winston in the thick of it. Photo by Jeff Siner/Charlotte Observer. It's been so long - through oh this dark slog of a year -...

Why a Special Counsel Should Be Appointed to Investigate Robert Mueller

Eric Zuesse, originally posted at strategic-culture.org Some of the finest investigative journalists have recently documented different parts of what constitutes, in its totality, a single...

‘None of This Is Inevitable’: Sen. Murphy Applauded for Texas Church Massacre Response

While President Donald Trump was ripped by critics for predictably announcing that the mass shooting in Sutherland, Texas on Sunday that left 26 people...

Japan to deploy elite, all-female police force to protect Melania & Ivanka during visit...

Published time: 2 Nov, 2017 23:07 Edited time: 3 Nov, 2017 09:01 The Tokyo Metropolitan Police...

Fossil fuels will help… prevent sex crimes in Africa — RT US News

Published time: 3 Nov, 2017 00:11 Edited time: 3 Nov, 2017 09:01 Energy Secretary Rick Perry...

‘We’ve Got to Break This Mindset That Policing Is the Only Tool’

Janine Jackson intreviewed Alex Vitale about The End of Policing for the October 27, 2017, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript. ...

Does Russia Produce ‘Fake News’? Or Does America? Or Both?

Eric Zuesse The biggest difference between American and Russian news-reporting has been a simple factual issue between the two sides, on what incident started the...

Fats Domino, RIP – LewRockwell

Yale sidelines English poets after complaints of ‘colonialism’ — RT US News

Students at Yale University can now enroll in two revised English literature courses after a petition...

‘The Winner of the Amazon Headquarters Might End Up Being the Biggest Loser’

Janine Jackson interviewed Neil deMause about the Amazon bidding war for the October 20, 2017, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript. ...

My Guantánamo Diary, Uncensored | By

If I wanted to, I could put my pen down right now, close my office door behind me, and go for a long walk...

History repeats 70yrs after Hollywood witch hunts — RT America

Russia’s malign influence is everywhere and the US government has convened committees to assess the threat,...

Secret Service catches ‘Pikachu’ trying to jump White House fence — RT America

Published time: 19 Oct, 2017 19:04 A man dressed as the Pokemon character Pikachu was arrested...

‘The People of Puerto Rico Are Dying’: Action Is Needed Now | By

Crowd funding. A Costco Card. The water in a nurse’s own backpack. These are the resources to which volunteer nurses on the ground in...

Should Mike Pence Become the President?

Eric Zuesse, originally posted at strategic-culture.org On August 26th, Morning Consult headlined “More Voters Want Pence as President Than Trump, Poll Shows” and reported that...

Profiting from America’s Longest War: Trump Seeks to Exploit Mineral Wealth of Afghanistan |...

October 7th marked sixteen years since the start of the US War in Afghanistan – America’s longest war. In an effort to justify the...

The Rest of America Stand Up: Eminem Rips Trump

  For those who missed it - as in, most of us, who are generally too old for this sort of thing - son of...

Urban Noise Pollution Is Worst in Poor and Minority Neighborhoods and Segregated Cities

Most Americans think of cities as noisy places -- but some parts of US cities are much louder than others. Nationwide, neighborhoods with higher...

Mississippi Textbooks Are Keeping Students Ignorant of the Civil Rights Movement

Mississippi's outdated textbooks teach an abbreviated version of civil rights, undermining the state's new "innovative" standards. (Photo: Pixabay) The Civil Rights Movement was once a...

Rev. Barber: Systematic Racialized Voter Suppression is the "Election Hacking" the U.S. Must Address

Transcript JUAN GONZÁLEZ: This weekend, hundreds will gather in Raleigh for the North Carolina NAACP State Convention, the last one that will be presided over...

Trump Is in Your Head: Women and The Donald in Everyday Life

Back in 1992, a certain New York real estate mogul told a reporter from New York magazine that you have to treat women "like shit." That was a...

Media ‘Extremes’ on Healthcare: Universal Coverage or Taking Healthcare From Millions

For many years, corporate media have largely ignored a single-payer system as a possible solution to the United States healthcare crises (FAIR.org, 3/6/09). This...

We All Did It: The Birmingham Church Bombing

  Family members at the funerals Friday marked the 54th anniversary of the infamous 1963 Ku Klux Klan bombing of Birmingham's 16th Street Baptist Church, which...

Nature Isn't On a Rampage. That Would Be Us.

In 1927, as the muddy waters of the Mississippi River began to recede from what was then the deadliest storm-related flood in American history,...

More fires, explosions expected at flooded chemical plant near Houston

Eight more containers at a chemical plant northeast of Houston, Texas are expected to explode after...

Fire Erupts Again at Houston-Area Chemical Plant as Public Remains in Dark

Fire and smoke erupted for a second time Friday evening at the Houston-area Arkema chemical plant, but what exactly is going up in flames...

Hell Hath No Fury Like Mother Earth Scorned

Hurricane-turned-Tropical Storm Harvey unleashed the fury of a warming planet on the Gulf Coast of Texas this week, leaving hundreds of thousands displaced and...

Should Mike Pence Become America’s President?

Eric Zuesse, originally posted at strategic-culture.org On August 26th, Morning Consult headlined “More Voters Want Pence as President Than Trump, Poll Shows” and reported that...

The Chemical Plant Explosion in Texas Is Not an Accident. It's the Result of...

So, conservative ideas have triumphed in Texas. A business-friendly environment has been created, based on free-market principles, deregulation, and a return to 10th amendment...

Harvey Should Be The Turning Point in Fighting Climate Change

I’ve covered the news in Houston for 3½ years and have already seen two devastating floods and now what is being described as a...

Amid Texas flood relief & rescue, potshots at Trump

As the death toll from Hurricane Harvey rises and Americans live through the devastation, some are...

Trump's New Venezuela Sanctions Will Do More Harm Than Good

The Trump administration announced new, unprecedented sanctions against Venezuela on Friday that are designed to cut off financing to Venezuela. The Trump team pretends...