Saturday, September 23, 2017
Search

Renditions - search results

If you're not happy with the results, please do another search

Police investigate whether security services snooped on renditions investigation

British police have confirmed that they are looking into whether UK security services have eavesdropped on their investigation into MI6 complicity in rendition and...

Intelligence Committee lacks powers to get to the truth on UK renditions, say boycotting...

Nine leading human rights NGOs have today warned that Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) is “not…adequate” to the task of investigating the UK’s...

Libyan renditions case: hearing today on secret spy policies

Two Libyan families who have sued the UK government over their rendition to Gaddafi’s torture chambers will today, in an Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT)...

UK Government changes story again on destruction of Diego Garcia renditions evidence

A British minister has today admitted that a number of records relating to flights passing through the island of Diego Garcia — which is...

New Court Documents Detail Abuse of Pregnant Woman in UK-US Libya Renditions

As a High Court hearing on UK involvement in torture and rendition enters its third day, documents released detail the ordeal faced by the...

CIA Global Renditions: Abductions and Extrajudicial Transfers from one Country to Another

Extraordinary renditions include arbitrary abductions and extrajudicial transfers from one country to another. Targeted individuals are called terrorists.

‘UK deeply involved in CIA renditions’

A new study has shed more lights on the UK government's involvement in the U.S. spying agency CIA's rendition flights. The study, entitled "the Rendition...

EU needs to tell the truth about renditions

It is welcome that EU governments have at last agreed to heed the call issued by the European parliament five months ago to take...

Feds ask court to reconsider CIA renditions suit

The U.S. Department of Justice is asking a federal appeals court to reconsider its decision to allow a Boeing Co. subsidiary to be sued...

A Call to End All Renditions

By Marjorie Cohn, Jurist  Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian residing in Britain, said he was tortured after being sent to Morocco and Afghanistan in 2002 by...

Renditions Victim to Sue German Government

Spiegel | A German-Lebanese victim of the CIA's extraordinary renditions program plans to sue the government in Berlin to force it to issue extradition...

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...

Worker says Boeing knew about CIA renditions

The Monterey County Herald A Boeing subsidiary accused of helping the CIA secretly fly terrorism suspects to be tortured in overseas prisons openly acknowledged its...

Wiretap-orama

It may happen that Barack Obama and members of his administration are dragged before a grand jury and questioned under oath about what they...

Return of the Torturers: Back to the Crime Scenes of the Past

The Trump administration has signaled that it is willing to return to the heinous crimes of the past two decades, including torture and abuse,...

The Ugly Specter of Torture and Lies

Exclusive: President Obama refused to hold “war on terror” torturers to account but punished truth-tellers severely, a bleak legacy not...

Requiem for the Obama Administration, Trump Edition

The problems many are now predicting under the Trump administration did not start on November 8. The near-unrestrained executive power claimed by the Obama...

Between Trump and a Hard Place: The Truth About "Rigged" Elections

Donald Trump speaks at a fly-in campaign event in Wilmington, Ohio, November 4, 2016. (Photo: Damon Winter / The New York Times) What...

How Washington Turned Ireland Into an International Scofflaw

Roger Cole of PANA, Sinn Féin’s Aengus Ó Snodaigh, and Edward Horgan of Shannonwatch, a group that monitors U.S. military flights in and out...

MI6 won’t be charged over kidnap, torture of Libyans

Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced Thursday that no charges will be brought against British...

Mutiny in the ranks? British Army morale damaged by ‘unfair’ 1% pay rise

(RT) - Soldiers from every part of the British Army believe their recent one percent...

The Most Complete Criminal Organization

Paul Craig Roberts (RINF) - Unique among the countries on earth, the US government insists that its laws and dictates take precedence over the sovereignty...

Murder, Inc.

Terror, intimidation and violence are the glue that holds empire together. Aerial bombardment, drone and missile attacks, artillery and mortar strikes, targeted assassinations, massacres,...

The American Empire: Murder Inc.

Terror, intimidation and violence are the glue that holds empire together. Aerial bombardment, drone and missile attacks, artillery and mortar strikes, targeted assassinations, massacres,...

Government attempts to avoid court hearing into UK complicity in rendition

By Mark Blackwood British government lawyers are seeking to suppress claims that former Labour Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and the then director of MI6 counterterrorism, Sir...

No Matter How Well Russian Media Expose Western Lies …

Eric Zuesse https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p54hHhlLjRk * Western ‘news’ media simply refuse to report the lying that’s done by Western ‘news’ media and their governments. Western media didn’t even report...
video

Video: Russian Army choir ‘detained’ signing 007 Spectre theme song

Courtesy: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCXAf9ZsuI6spbAFVtdrdxVQ The Russian Army choristers are used to rave reviews for their renditions of pop ... Via Youtube

UK complicit? US Senate report into CIA torture and rendition due

As the US administration prepares for the release of a long-awaited report examining the CIA’s use of torture post 9/11, Britain’s previously undisclosed role...

As US Officials Hint At More Troops to Iraq, Voices Warn Against Further Military...

Following execution of U.S. journalist, critics warn military escalation would play into hands of ISIS Sarah Lazar Following Tuesday's release of a video depicting the beheading...

8 Muslim countries have been bombed by Israel & the US this year

Chris Ernesto  RINF Alternative News There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world today, with 49 countries having a predominantly Muslim population. Of these countries, 4 have been bombed by...

Is Human Rights Watch Too Close to the U.S. Government?

Latifah Azlan In the realm of human rights advocacy, few organizations enjoy the influence commanded by Human Rights Watch (HRW). With outposts and contacts all over...

Obama’s Failure to Rein in CIA and NSA

Melvin A. Goodman The political embarrassments for President Barack Obama coming from the intelligence community, particularly the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency,...

German government demands departure of US spy chief

Peter Schwarz The exposure of a second US spy in Germany within five days has unleashed a major scandal. For a while, the topic even...

Bid to Prevent New Iraq War Crushed in House

Amendments championed by Rep. Barbara Lee overwhelmingly defeated as Obama positions for potential strikes Sarah Lazare An effort in the House of Representatives to prevent combat...

In America, It’s Always Torture Approval Month

I’ll bet you didn’t know that June is “torture awareness month” thanks to the fact that, on June 26, 1987, the Convention Against Torture...

Is Human Rights Watch Too Close to U.S. Gov’t to Criticize its Foreign Policy?

Human Rights Watch, one of the world’s largest and most influential human rights organizations, is facing an unusual amount of public criticism. Two Nobel...

No American citizen is safe from the psychotic Government

Felicity Arbuthnot After the attack on Iraq a frequently heard comment from those with no interest in foreign affairs or much, from activists, journalists and...

America’s “War on Terror”: No U.S. Citizen Is Safe “Throughout the World”

Felicity Arbuthnot After the attack on Iraq a frequently heard comment from those with no interest in foreign affairs or much, from activists, journalists and...

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,...

Too Big to Jail? Why Kidnapping, Torture, Assassination, and Perjury Are No Longer Crimes...

Tom Engelhardt How the mighty have fallen. Once known as “Obama’s favorite general,” James Cartwright will soon don a prison uniform and, thanks to a...

Reject the Lies of the Secret Police

Jack D. Douglas  RINF Alternative News It’s SOP for top secret agents working on “sensitive” blacks ops who are murdered to be officially listed for the...

Torture is Mainstream Now

As Rebecca Gordon notes in her new book, Mainstreaming Torture, polls find greater support in the United States for torture now than when Bush was president.  And it's not hard to see why that would be the case. Fifteen years ago, it was possible ...

UN Report Denounces US Human Rights Record

UN Report Denounces US Human Rights Recordby Stephen LendmanIt's deplorable. It's longstanding. It's by far the world's worst. It's a pariah state for good reason. Claims otherwise ring hollow.Ongoing genocidal crimes of war and against humanity contin...

The U.S.’s Terrorism Double Standard

Matt Peppe  RINF Alternative News During the last 50 years, the United States has suffered from a constant stream of vicious terrorist acts, first carried out...

Can We Really Blame Sociopaths?

I've been hearing increasingly from multiple quarters that the root of our problems is psychopaths and sociopaths and other loosely defined but definitely different beings from ourselves.  Rob Kall has produced a quite interesting series of articl...

Why CIA Director John Brennan Must Resign

Melvin A. Goodman  RINF Alternative News CIA director John Brennan has become an embarrassment to President Barack Obama and should resign immediately. Brennan has clearly worn out his...

Ed Snowden, the NSA and the American Fear Mime

Herbert Calhoun RINF Alternative News This, book, "The Ed Snowden Files," is a story about what one American saw atop the tip of an iceberg...

Presidential Restraint Is Alive and Well

... among people who are not the president.

On Presidents Day, RootsAction.org set up a petition in response to this news:

"An American citizen who is a member of al-Qaida is actively planning attacks against Americans overseas, U.S. officials say," the Associated Press reports -- "and the Obama administration is wrestling with whether to kill him with a drone strike and how to do so legally under its new stricter targeting policy issued last year."

The petition reads:

"Mr. President, Without making any exception for the president, the Constitution requires adherence to the Fifth Amendment. 'Due process' is mandatory, not optional. Legality is a question of law, not policy. You are not allowed to kill whoever you want on your own say-so."

Within the first several hours, over 10,000 people had signed. You can sign it too.

Here are some of the comments that people have posted:

"Has the CONSTITUTION become an - OPTION ???" —S. Schwenchy, CA

"And we thought Bush was a liar!" —Richard Wilkey, TN

"And you are also not allowed to pass judgement on someone before they are judged by a jury of their peers as you did in the case of Pvt. Manning. I thought you were better than that. My bad." —John Nettleton, OR

"Please, just stop murdering suspicious people. This is like what happened to Trayvon Martin, but there's no trial afterward." —Tim Ferguson, CA

"Expedience is not an excuse. We can't be the good guys just because we say so, we have to act on it too. Killing terrorists just creates more terrorists." —Boola Lomuscio, MA

"A country which can imprison indefinitely its citizens without due process, without ever charging them with any wrongdoing is not a democracy. Period. Let alone the country which can KILL citizens without due process, without ever charging them with any wrongdoing. Obey the law. Obey the Constitution." —Jamil Said, CA

"A President is nothing more than a servant, and if he commits a crime, it is ten times the crime and should have ten times the penalty." —Ronald Denner, MI

"According to the Nuremberg Principles if we remain silent while our government is engaged in illegal activities, then we are complicit, we are equally guilty of being in violation of international law and of going against our most dearly held values. It is our responsibility as citizens, as taxpayers, as voters, to speak out." —Robert Stevens

"All labels aside, ANY president who does not follow his oath needs to be impeached. It really is that simple." —Robert Horan, OH

"All presidents seem to think that the Constitution is for the people to obey, not them. The 5th Amendment provides due process for American citizens. If one suspects criminal activity against the USA, then the suspect must have his day in court. This is part of the democratic process, and NO ONE, NOT EVEN THE PRESIDENT, IS ABOVE THE LAW!" —Robert Glasner, CA

"Amendment IV -- 'The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures' -- Does that include the life of the person?" —David Bean, OR

"America is supposed to have the rule of law, not of men. I don't care how well-intentioned people are; if the precedent is set, then less well-intentioned people will take advantage of it." —Deborah Goldsmith, CA

"Among other reasons, drone strikes kill innocents without exception, and you know it, Mr. President, and that's not something to accept regardless of what your military advisers believe." —Marianne Kenady, WA

"Are we back in the dark ages where the king decides to behead anyone he wants? Seems that way. I don't think that is where we want to be, none of us." —Kenneth Walton, IA

"Are you still a constitutional lawyer? - - Then, why are you acting as you are? That is, choosing and selecting American citizens for annihilation." —William See, OR

"Believe it or not, murder is murder. Murdering a murderer is still murder." —Frank C Benjamin, NY

"Don't stray from the mandates, including the Constitution, you have been sworn to uphold. People accused of crimes are supposed to be tried by a jury of their peers, not one man on a power trip." —John Davis, ME

"Execution of citizens without any due process, especially a jury of peers, is one of the hallmarks of a totalitarian government -- no matter how much the tyrant pleads otherwise." —Robert Anderson, CA

"Execution without arrest and fair trial is unethical, immoral and goes against all American values." —Patricia Robinett, MO

"Extraordinary renditions and torture perpetrated by the Bush Administration was illegal and immoral. Killing without due process, especially an American citizen, is even worse." —Audrey Bomse, FL

"Following our example, I guess it is ok for foreign governments to send drones over our territory to murder dissidents from their country?" —Michael JamesLong, OR

"For a constitutional lawyer, our President does not honor, in any way, shape or form, the 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th & 8th amendments to the U.S. Constitution." —Lisbeth Caccese, CA

Read thousands more, pick your favorites, add your own:
http://act.rootsaction.org/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=9288

read more

Meet the American Empire’s Favorite NGO: Human Rights Watch

Keane Bhatt  RINF Alternative News The world's most respected human rights group has deep ties to U.S. corporate and state sectors. Over more than a decade, the...

Terrorism as an Instrument of Imperial Conquest. From Afghanistan to Syria, America Supports Al...

“At last the world knows America as the savior of the world!” — President Woodrow Wilson, Paris Peace Conference, 1919 The horrors reported each day...

The NSA: Here, There and Everywhere

“The idea is to build an antiterrorist global environment,” a senior American defense official said in 2003, “so that in 20 to 30 years,...

Secret Reports Reveal All. The “Efficacy” of CIA Torture, Saudi Involvment in 9/11

It is sometimes disorienting to note that a federal bureaucracy that we have grown to mistrust over the past decade occasionally can be a...

The Economic Lessons of Bethlehem

Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.lewrockwell.comDecember 25, 2013 At the heart of the Christmas story rests some...

Santa in Black-and-White

With the “white Santa vs. black Santa” faux controversy roiling the Internet this year, it is interesting to recall that Elvis Presley pledged allegiance...

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 ...

Will Dick Cheney be Arrested for War Crimes When He Comes to Toronto?

When Dick Cheney speaks in Toronto on October 31 he will be confronted by people from Canada and the United States demanding that the...

UK Court Case: Victims of Libya Torture and Rendition Sue Her Majesty’s Government, British...

As a High Court hearing on UK involvement in torture and rendition enters its third day, documents released detail the ordeal faced by the...

American Raids in Libya and Somalia Expose Military Lawlessness

Jessica Desvarieux, TRNN Producer: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore. And welcome to this edition of The Ratner Report.

Now joining us is Michael Ratner. He is president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights, and he's also a board member for The Real News Network.

It's always a pleasure having you on, Michael. Thanks for being with us.

Ratner: It's good to be with you, Jessica, and The Real News.

Desvarieux: Michael, what are you working on this week?

Ratner: You never know what's going to happen when you open the newspaper every day. Last week was October 5. I was actually shocked to read that the U.S. had kidnapped a man named Abu Anas al-Liby from Tripoli in Libya, a man who was under indictment in the United States for being involved in the Nairobi embassy bombing in some way. They kidnapped him out of Tripoli. And on the same day, apparently, they did a military attack on a town in Somalia to supposedly kill or capture a man that was with Shabaab known by the name of Ikrima.

And when I say you never know it's going to happen, you like to think that after 9/11, some of these incredible departures from law and into lawlessness might have started to decline. Perhaps in some way somewhere they have. But these two kidnapping [incompr.] are not an indication that we've departed from the post-9/11 utter lawlessness of the U.S. military, the U.S. government, and the CIA.

And what's shocking about it is is of course the fact that there's so little reaction in the United States to it. Kidnapping, and now disappearances, seem to be just par for the course by the United States, despite the fact that the United States in both cases was going into sovereign countries with kidnappings and armed attacks. Broadly let's look first and probably [incompr.] look in most detail at the kidnapping of Abu Aanas al-Liby out of Tripoli. Broadly it says something about the war in Libya, because what the United States said and what was quoted widely is that Libya has become--Tripoli in particular, I think, maybe other parts as well--a center for jihadists and people, and it has broken down and no real government. It's lawless. And, of course, this is a war that I opposed and that many others progressive people opposed. And you see what happens. Whatever people thought of the government of Libya before the invasion, it's certainly turned out to be, seemingly, an utter disaster that's really--now the U.S. itself admits there's hardly anything left of the place in a certain way.

And that goes to the first issue, really, which is, when you go into a country and you kidnap someone out of it, you need the authority of the country to cross their border. The UN Charter, international law, customary law absolutely prohibits across-border kidnapping, cross-border invasion. It's Article 2.4. It's a crime, illegal. It's completely illegal without the consent of the country. And in this case there's not even a real claim by the U.S. that there was consent. They said somehow that, well, a few months ago we talked to some people in Libya or the government, whatever that was. Others have said, well, there's no point to talking to anybody because, going back to my earlier point, there's no real government in Libya. So the first thing that was illegal about kidnapping of Abu Anas, in my view, is crossing the border of Libya and taking him.

The second thing is: on what basis could they take him? Did they have the right, even assuming Libya consented, to go in and get him? Just remember, Abu Anas was indicted in an American federal court, one here in New York. Why didn't they ask for his extradition? Why didn't they ask for his arrest and take him out with legal channels? The U.S. has never come up with an explanation as to why an indicted person that wanted in the United States, why they didn't ask for that person's extradition or legal procedures to take him out of Libya.

The only other way the U.S. could actually go into a country and kidnap someone or stop them is if they were actually in a war zone as a combatant and they essentially had their finger on a button that was going to attack the United States or involved in a war against the United States. No one claims al-Liby was doing that at that point. He was living in Tripoli. He was living with his family. There's no justification that this was a war zone vis-à-vis the United States. So the U.S.v has no claim here. They weren't allowed to cross into the border and take him. He was indicted. They could have taken him by extradition. And they certainly couldn't justify it by a war.

Then you look at a second set of rights of al-Liby that were violated. You know, these pickups or kidnapping are not done in a peaceful way. We know how they're done. They're done with six or eight or ten--and in this case there were eyewitnesses--three trucks pulling up, guns pulled. And what they do in the normal case--I don't know all the details here--but they strip the person down, they put a suppository in them, and they get them out of the country somehow, put him in a coffin box, put him in an airplane, really conduct that amounts to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, if not torture, to just get him out of the country.

You would think that in this case, after they got him out of the country, maybe they'd bring him right to the United States because he actually is indicted in a federal court here in New York where I'm giving this interview from. But no, that's not what they did. They put him on a ship somewhere in the world, where he's going to be interrogated without a lawyer, without the warnings that anything he says can be used against him. So they're going to interrogate him rather than bring him to court for trial. Now, in my view the law is that as soon as he's taken by the United States, I don't care whether it's the Department of Justice, the CIA, the FBI, the military, whoever it is, he has a right to get a lawyer because he's been indicted. But that's not what the U.S. is doing any longer, if it ever did. It's violating the law. It's saying, we'll interrogate him first. After we interrogate him, then maybe then we'll decide what we'll do with him, even though he's indicted. And, of course, that interrogation on a boat is illegal altogether because under the Geneva Conventions, assuming the U.S. is even paying lip service, you're not allowed to be held on a boat wandering around the world. That's explicitly prohibited by Article 22 of the Geneva Conventions.

In this case, an interesting wrinkle happened. They put him on a boat and they expected to interrogate him about whatever they thought he might know. But apparently he wasn't talking, and apparently he went on a hunger strike and a liquid hunger strike and wasn't eating. And he, according to the news reports, has hepatitis C and was getting sicker and sicker. Therefore he couldn't really be interrogated. And a week or so later, they had to bring him into the United States, into federal court, where he was finally given a lawyer, presumably given Miranda warnings, and has pled not guilty to the various crimes for which he's been indicted.

But the point is this practice of kidnapping, kidnapping violently, putting into interrogation, and then finally taking him into a federal court, it's utterly lawless and utterly illegal. And sadly, it goes along, it goes along with what we've been learning since 9/11 about what our country has been doing. It goes along with renditions to torture, Guantanamo, torture, kidnappings, and the like. And it doesn't seem that under this new Obama--or relatively new five-year-old Obama administration that these practices are changing.

Really the point I think I'm making here is we are living in a different world. We're living in a place in which one of our goals as not just progressives but as human beings is to dismantle this system of illegal kidnappings, torture, interrogation without attorneys, utter lawlessness. It reminds me--and I'll end on this note--I remember how we all opposed what we called Operation Condor, which was run by Pinochet in Chile, in which he picked up people all over the world, took them to torture camps, or murdered them. Sad to say, Operation Condor, you know, you can rename it whatever we want to rename it, but it's certainly being carried out by the United States today.

Desvarieux: Michael Ratner, always a pleasure having you on. Thanks for being with us.

Ratner: Thanks for having me on The Real News.

Desvarieux: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

Americans Have Lost VIrtually All of Our Constitutional Rights

This article post explains the liberties guaranteed in the Bill of Rights – the first 10 amendments to the United States Constitution – and...

An Interview With Judith Butler

To what extent, in your view, do the ways in which mainstream media select and contextualise events determine the boundaries of public thinking? ...

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....

FBI Lawless Unaccountability

FBI Lawless Unaccountability by Stephen Lendman NSA and CIA aren't America's only rogue agencies. The FBI's been around since 1908. From 1924 - 1972, J. Edgar...

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...

In the Chambers of the Secret Courts

Perhaps even the Sun King himself appreciated the irony of his secret tribunals being conducted in a court where daylight was not permitted to...

Kerry, Kissinger and the Other Sept. 11

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/kerry_kissinger_and_the_other_sept_11_20130911/ Posted on Sep 11, 2013 ...

40 Years After Chilean Coup, Allende Aide Juan Garcés on How He Brought Pinochet...

Wednesday marks the 40th anniversary of the so-called "other 9/11": On September 11, 1973, a U.S.-backed coup led by General Augusto Pinochet ousted the...

10 Do’s and Don’ts for Progressives Discussing Syria

With Syria back in the news due to the horrific chemical weapons attack last week that killed hundreds and threats from the US to...

10 Do’s and Don’ts for Progressives Discussing Syria

With Syria back in the news due to the horrific chemical weapons attack last week that killed hundreds and threats from the US to...

10 Do’s and Don’ts for Progressives Discussing Syria

With Syria back in the news due to the horrific chemical weapons attack last week that killed hundreds and threats from the US to...

Manning goes to jail, higher-ups go free

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

Put Up or Shut Up

That America is in deep moral and legal trouble was pretty much obvious to everyone before Edward Snowden released official documents showing the extent...

Truth in the Crosshairs

The critical moment in the political trial of the century was on 28 February when Bradley Manning stood and explained why he had risked...

The Courage of Bradley Manning Will Inspire Others to Seize their Moment of Truth

The critical moment in the political trial of the century was on 28 February when Bradley Manning stood and explained why he had risked...

CIA agent slams Bush over rendition

A former CIA operative is speaking out for the first time about a snatch-and-grab operation in the streets of Milan nearly a decade ago...

CIA Agent: Bush Officials Threw Us 'Under Bus' over Rendition

"It's time to talk about this," says former CIA operative Sabrina De Sousa, who has been convicted in absentia in Italy of the kidnapping...

Panama Nails a CIA Torture Capo

You gotta love our erstwhile banana republics. While Uncle Sam has been busy the last dozen years trampling on the rights of everyone–and we...

Panama Nails a CIA Torture Capo

You gotta love our erstwhile banana republics. While Uncle Sam has been busy the last dozen years trampling on the rights of everyone–and we...

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...

The American Way of Torture

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

Obama Threatens Humanity

Obama Threatens Humanity by Stephen Lendman He represents the worst of rogue governance. He does so lawlessly. He serves monied interests. They own him. Whatever they...

Edward Snowden’s Long Flight

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

The US Supreme Court’s dismantling of the Voting Rights Act

  27 June 2013 ...

Iranian Elections and American Enemies

To the surprise of the Western media, Hassan Rouhani, considered a reformer by the West, and not one of the slate of apparently identical...

Another Israeli War Criminal of the Year Award

Another Israeli War Criminal of the Year Award by Stephen Lendman America represents the worst of rogue governance. So does Israel. They menace humanity. They persecute...

Obama, Kissinger, Bill Clinton, Another Israeli War Criminal of the Year Award

On March 21, Obama received Israel’s Medal of Distinction. It’s also called the President’s Medal. It’s Israel’s highest civil award. It’s for individuals “who have...

The National Security State and the Whistleblower

A major problem in the United States is not there are too many whistleblowers…there are too few. Where were the whistleblowers when the Central...

On Civil Liberties, Comparing Obama With Bush Is Easy–and Mostly Wrong

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/on_civil_liberties_comparing_obama_with_bush_is_easy_--_and_mostly_wrong_20/ Posted on Jun 14, 2013 ...

Responsibility to Inflict

You wouldn’t expect a comedian to deliver an insight into the American doctrinal system, but George Carlin once did. During a memorable stand-up performance,...

New FBI Head James Comey: Police State America is “In Good Hands”

He’s Obama’s FBI director choice. He’ll replace current rogue head Robert Mueller. In September, he’ll step down. He’s run the agency since September 4, 2001....

Stealing from the gods: Bilderberg and the new dawn of man

Alexander BeneschRecentr.comJune 2, 2013 “21st century: Biotech, nanotech, fusion and fission and m-theory. And that was...

‘US anti-terror policies violate HR’

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has described the US governmentâ„¢s anti-terror policies as a gross violation of human rights. Å“The United...

UN Human Rights Chief Slams US Over Gitmo, 'War on Terror'

Anti-terror policies implemented by the U.S. and governments around the world have grossly violated human rights, warned United Nations human rights chief Navi Pillay...

UN Human Rights Chief Slams US Over Gitmo, 'War on Terror'

Anti-terror policies implemented by the U.S. and governments around the world have grossly violated human rights, warned United Nations human rights chief Navi Pillay...

President’s Obama’s Promise: Global War on Terror to Continue, with Fresh Makeup. Assassinating People...

The United States uses Predator and Reaper drones to kill people at a distance, sometimes at random, sometimes Americans or children, and after a...

Rogue President Obama: Defending the Indefensible

Forked tongue rhetoric can’t disguise it. Throughout Obama’s tenure, he has governed lawlessly. He’s done so at home and abroad. He spurns rule of...

“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...

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...

Legalising Torture: Italy Pardons U.S. Colonel

A month before his seven-year term expires, Italian President Giorgio Napolitano has pardoned Colonel Joseph L. Romano, who was convicted by Italian courts for his role in the abduction and torture of an Egyptian terrorist suspect, Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr in Milan in 2003.

Towards the Globalization of CIA Torture and Rendition

cia

by Jeff Lincoln

A report released in early February by the Open Society Justice Initiative titled “Globalizing Torture: CIA Secret Detention and Extraordinary Rendition” establishes that the Central Intelligence Agency, acting under the direction of the highest levels of the US government, has utilized a global network of secret prisons, foreign intelligence agents, and interrogation and torture centers to send detainees to without any legal protections.

This arrangement is worldwide and includes the involvement of at least 54 different countries touching almost every continent.

There is enormous diversity among the countries involved. They include Middle Eastern countries such as Egypt, Pakistan, Syria and Jordan, which carried out the torture on suspects that the CIA rendered to them. Poland, Lithuania, Romania and Thailand hosted secret prisons operated by the CIA where detainees could be held clandestinely and have interrogations or torture conducted directly by American intelligence operatives.

European nations such as Macedonia, Georgia, and Sweden detained and delivered suspects to the CIA to be tortured. Larger countries such as Britain or Germany conducted some of the interrogations themselves while smaller countries such as Iceland, Denmark, Belgium, or Greece provided intelligence, logistical support, use of airspace, etc.

On the whole, the report stands as an indictment against all of Washington’s allies and client states in its self-proclaimed “war on terror.”

The Australian government stands implicated in the rendition of Mamdouh Habib, an Australian national, to Egypt where he was tortured and then later transferred to Guantanamo Bay where he was detained until he was released without charge in 2005.

Egypt stands as the country that has interrogated, tortured and abused the most people subject to extraordinary rendition. The relationship between the US and Egypt dates back to the Clinton administration that used the country almost exclusively for its rendition program, which was dramatically ramped up after September 11, 2001.

Italy’s secret services played a role in the abduction of Abu Omar, an Egyptian cleric who was previously given asylum in Italy but was abducted in Milan in 2003; he was then placed on a flight to Egypt. Italian authorities authorized some 46 stopovers by CIA operated aircraft at Italian airports.

The United Kingdom, the country that enjoys the closest relationship with US imperialism, has extensive involvement with America’s rendition program. In addition to providing airspace, MI6 and other British intelligence worked hand in glove with the CIA to abduct and interrogate suspects. Omar Deghayes, a Libyan national but a British resident was arrested in 2002 and transported by US and British intelligence agents to Bagram, where he was subjected to abuse. After interrogation by MI5 agents, he was sent to Guantanamo where he underwent further physical abuse, suffering a broken finger, a broken nose, and damage to his right eye.

In 2004, the British government arranged to have a former member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, Sami al-Saadi, rendered into Libyan custody by approaching him in China and convincing him to fly to the British embassy in Hong Kong where he would be allowed to return to the UK. Instead, his whole family was taken into custody in Hong Kong and flown over to Libya where Mr. al-Saadi remained for six years and was subjected to torture by physical beatings and electric shocks.

While the report sheds some light on what countries are involved, the numbers of individuals subjected to rendition remains unknown. By 2005, it is estimated that about 150 persons were rendered to foreign countries according to admissions made by then-president George W. Bush. The real number is likely much higher, as Egypt alone has had to acknowledge that it received sixty to seventy terror suspects since September 11, 2001. Human Rights Watch has attempted to compile a list of persons who have been held in CIA prisons, and they have identified almost forty people who have either gone missing or whose whereabouts are unknown.

There are dozens more countries detailed in the report than just the ones mentioned above. Still, the report is extremely limited in scope in that it does not document transfers or detentions by any agency other than the CIA. It does not include the detention practices of the Defense Department, for example, and its notorious facilities in Guantanamo Bay or Afghanistan. Moreover, what is known is only based on the experiences of 139 individuals who have been released from custody. Nevertheless, it is now clear that the US government has been running a detention and “enhanced interrogation” operation with tentacles that span the globe.

It appears likely that the United States intentionally sought out the widespread involvement of so many countries to ensure that those who might later nominally reject these practices would themselves be so implicated that they would be unwilling to publicly expose the details of Washington’s dirty deeds.

Indeed, none of the countries mentioned in the report, save one, has even admitted any culpability for their participation in gross human rights violations. The lone exception is Canada, which assisted in the rendition of Canadian citizen Maher Arar in 2002 to Syria where he was tortured. A hastily conducted commission placed blame on the Royal Mounted Police but absolved those higher up in government of any responsibility. Other nations, such as Britain, Sweden and Australia have quietly settled lawsuits alleging their participation but have made no admission of liability.

As a matter of fact, far from acknowledging their complicity in abduction, rendition, and torture, many of the countries in the report were publicly denouncing these practices by the US government at the same time they were secretly abetting them.

A number of liberal and human rights organizations have reacted to the revelations in the Open Society Justice Initiative report by calling for and supporting the efforts of international tribunals to hear cases brought against officials of some of the countries complicit in assisting in the rendition of persons by the US Government.

While there are some actions pending in the European Court of Human Rights and other high courts against some of the countries named in the report for their role in assisting in rendition, the cases will have no impact on the operations of the CIA.

Setting aside the obvious fact that cases can only be brought by individuals whom the CIA has already decided to release, the outcome of these actions hinge on the narrow issue of the extent to which the participating countries knew or should have known torture was likely to occur. This glosses over the more fundamental issue that, unlike extradition, extraordinary rendition is, by definition, a transfer without legal process. In fact, the whole CIA program is designed to place detainee interrogations completely beyond the reach of law. Moreover, the US government has refused to recognize the jurisdiction of international courts of human rights.

President Barack Obama for his part, despite making claims of reversing the Bush-era CIA policies, has further escalated the crimes committed by his predecessor.

In January 2009, Obama issued a series of executive orders that purported to close down then existing CIA detention facilities and also created a task force to examine rendition practices and make recommendations to ensure humane treatment. These orders were nothing more than a sham to conceal the fact that, rather than restricting the ability of the CIA to conduct extraordinary renditions, the orders were purposely crafted to preserve it.

While Obama has ordered the CIA to shut down certain detention facilities, the directive specifically exempts facilities designed to hold people on a temporary or transitory basis. In other words, the executive order essentially codifies the CIA’s authority to detain suspects and then to render them to other countries to face interrogation, trial, or worse. Furthermore, if the CIA wanted the detainees to remain in the custody of the United States, they could be sent to a facility operated by the Department of Defense or kept offshore on a Navy vessel.

The task force created by Obama’s order functions merely as a fig leaf for the continuation of Bush-era policies. The report, which was completed in 2009, has not been made public and is not binding on any agency. However, as an example of its toothlessness, a Justice Department press release disclosed that one of the recommended safeguards was relying on assurances from the receiving country that the detainees would be treated humanely.

The Justice Department under Obama appointee Eric Holder has closed inquiries into the treatment of over 100 detainees who were in CIA custody overseas, including several who died while in custody, stating that no criminal charges would be pursued.

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).

Justices Turn Back Challenge to Broader US Eavesdropping

Members of the U.S. Supreme Court pose for their annual photo, Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2009. (Photo: Doug Mills / The New York Times)Members of the U.S. Supreme Court pose for their annual photo, Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2009. (Photo: Doug Mills / The New York Times)Truthout needs your support to produce grassroots journalism and disseminate conscientious visions for a brighter future. Contribute now by clicking here.

Washington - The Supreme Court on Tuesday turned back a challenge to a federal law that broadened the government’s power to eavesdrop on international phone calls and e-mails.

The decision, by a 5-to-4 vote that divided along ideological lines, probably means the Supreme Court will never rule on the constitutionality of that 2008 law.

More broadly, the ruling illustrated how hard it is to mount court challenges to a wide array of antiterrorism measures, including renditions of terrorism suspects to foreign countries and targeted killings using drones, in light of the combination of government secrecy and judicial doctrines limiting access to the courts.

“Absent a radical sea change from the courts, or more likely intervention from the Congress, the coffin is slamming shut on the ability of private citizens and civil liberties groups to challenge government counterterrorism policies, with the possible exception of Guantánamo,” said Stephen I. Vladeck, a law professor at American University.

Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said that the journalists, lawyers and human rights advocates who challenged the constitutionality of the law could not show they had been harmed by it and so lacked standing to sue. The plaintiffs’ fear that they would be subject to surveillance in the future was too speculative to establish standing, he wrote.

Justice Alito also rejected arguments based on the steps the plaintiffs had taken to escape surveillance, including traveling to meet sources and clients in person rather than talking to them over the phone or sending e-mails. “They cannot manufacture standing by incurring costs in anticipation of nonimminent harms,” he wrote of the plaintiffs.

It is of no moment, Justice Alito wrote, that only the government knows for sure whether the plaintiffs’ communications have been intercepted. It is the plaintiffs’ burden, he wrote, to prove they have standing “by pointing to specific facts, not the government’s burden to disprove standing by revealing details of its surveillance priorities.”

In dissent, Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote that the harm claimed by the plaintiffs was not speculative. “Indeed,” he wrote, “it is as likely to take place as are most future events that common-sense inference and ordinary knowledge of human nature tell us will happen.”

Under the system of warrantless surveillance that was put in place by the Bush administration shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, aspects of which remain secret, the National Security Agency was authorized to monitor Americans’ international phone calls and e-mails without a warrant.

After The New York Times disclosed the program in 2005 and questions were raised about its constitutionality, Congress in 2008 amended the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, granting broad power to the executive branch to conduct surveillance aimed at persons overseas without an individual warrant.

The Obama administration defended the law in court, and a Justice Department spokesman said the government was “obviously pleased with the ruling.”

The decision, Clapper v. Amnesty International, No. 11-1025, arose from a challenge to the 2008 law by Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups and individuals, including journalists and lawyers who represent prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The plaintiffs said the law violated their rights under the Fourth Amendment, which bars unreasonable searches, by allowing the government to intercept their international telephone calls and e-mails.

Justice Alito said the program was subject to significant safeguards, including supervision by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which meets in secret, and restrictions on what may be done with “nonpublic information about unconsenting U.S. persons.” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy and Clarence Thomas joined the majority opinion, and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined the dissent.

Jameel Jaffer, a lawyer with the A.C.L.U., said the decision “insulates the statute from meaningful judicial review and leaves Americans’ privacy rights to the mercy of the political branches.”

Justice Alito wrote that the prospect that no court may ever review the surveillance program was irrelevant to analyzing whether the plaintiffs had standing. But he added that the secret court does supervise the surveillance program.

It is also at least theoretically possible, he added, that the government will try to use information gathered from the program in an ordinary criminal prosecution and thus perhaps allow an argument “for a claim of standing on the part of the attorney” for the defendant.

Mr. Jaffer said the situations were far-fetched.

“Justice Alito’s opinion for the court seems to be based on the theory that the secret court may one day, in some as-yet unimagined case, subject the law to constitutional review, but that day may never come,” Mr. Jaffer said. In many national security cases, he added, the government has prevailed at the outset by citing lack of standing, the state secrets doctrine or officials’ immunity from suit.

“More than a decade after 9/11,” he said, “we still have no judicial ruling on the lawfulness of torture, of extraordinary rendition, of targeted killings or of the warrantless wiretapping program. These programs were all contested in the public sphere, but they have not been contested in the courts.”

James Risen and Charlie Savage contributed reporting.

British Jihadists In Syria Are ‘A Threat To The West’

Islamist extremists fighting the Assad regime in Syria could carry out terrorist attacks in the UK, William Hague has warned.

Syria has now become the "number one destination" for British jihadists seeking to hijack the Arab uprisings, according to the foreign secretary.

Speaking at the Royal United Services Institute, he said the longer the conflict went on, the greater the danger was that battle-hardened militants would pose a threat in the West.

hague

William Hague has warned that British jihadists fighting in Syria could pose a threat to the west

"This includes a number of individuals connected with the United Kingdom and other European countries," he said.

"They may not pose a threat to us when they first go to Syria, but if they survive some may return ideologically hardened and with experience of weapons and explosives."

A Dutch and British photojournalist who were kidnapped in Syria by Islamist militants said they heard British accents among those who were holding them captive after being freed by members of the Free Syrian Army last September.

Estimating that between 30 to 100 held them captive, Dutch photographer Jeroen Oerlemans said some of the gang that held them had "Birmingham accents".

At least one had a "heavy south London accent" reported the Sunday Telegraph, quoting a source close to the incident.

Oerlemans described the men as "foreign jihadists,” who captured the men "almost immediately" after they crossed the border from Turkey at Bab al-Hawa, on 19 July.

Hague also warned that a prolonged struggle in Syria increased the risk that the regime could resort to chemical or biological weapons, urging Russia and China to drop their opposition over UN negotiations for a transition to a new government.

He set out plans for an ambitious programme to build support for human rights in key allies in the fight against international terrorism.

He said the "justice and human rights partnerships" initiative was intended to enable the UK to share intelligence relating to terrorist activity in countries with suspect human rights records without it leading to the torture or abuse of suspects.

mokhtar belmokhtar

The kidnappers of the recent Algeria hostage crisis are linked to a terrorist splinter group led by jihadist Mokhtar Belmokhtar

They will include assistance to overseas investigators, enabling them to build cases based on evidence rather than confession and to improve their compliance with the law and human rights.

"In many cases, we are able to obtain credible assurances from our foreign partners such as detainee treatment and legal processes that give us the safeguards we need and the confidence that we can share information in this way.

"Where this is not the case, we face a stark choice.

"We could disengage or we can choose to share our intelligence in a carefully controlled way while developing a more comprehensive approach to human rights adherence.

"This approach brings risk, but I am clear that the risks of the first option, of stepping back are greater still, placing our citizens at greater risk of terrorist attack."

free syrian army

Hague has pledged to protect human rights in relationships with Britain's key allies

The initiative - which comes after six British nationals were killed last month when Islamist militants overran a BP-run gas plant in Algeria - was immediately criticised by civil rights activists.

Cori Crider, the legal director of Reprieve, said: "We've been here before - from Afghanistan to Libya, the UK has handed over detainees or colluded in renditions, knowing that the result will be that people face torture.

"The government has sought to spare its blushes by obtaining 'assurances', but these have not been worth the paper they were printed on.

"William Hague is trying to find a way to join hands with the torturer while keeping his own hands clean - it just won't work."

The government has previously had to pay out millions of pounds in compensation to suspects such as Binyam Mohamed over claims that the British intelligence and security services colluded in their torture while they were detained in countries like Pakistan and Morocco.

Ministers have also so far failed in their long-running battle to deport the radical cleric Abu Qatada to stand trial in Jordan on terrorist charges, despite assurances from the Jordanian authorities that they would not use evidence obtained by torture.

Mr Hague stressed that every aspect of the work would require ministerial approval, and would be halted immediately if there was "any credible evidence" that UK support was being misused.

"This is a framework of accountability and human rights to ensure that our counter-terrorism work supports justice and the rule of law as well as our security, with the goal of creating the long-term conditions for better observance of human rights in countries that have a poor record and where the threat from terrorism is strong." he said.

Italy’s Ex-Intelligence Chief Given 10-year Sentence for Role in CIA Kidnapping

A US State Department official on Monday "expressed concern" about what he called "a 'climate of impunity' over abuses by police and security forces" - in Egypt. The official, Michael Posner, warned that failure to investigate Egyptian state agents responsible for "cruel treatment of those in their custody" - including torture - creates "a lack of meaningful accountability for these actions". Last week, I wrote that "I've become somewhat of a connoisseur of US government statements that are so drowning in obvious, glaring irony that the officials uttering them simply must have been mischievously cackling to themselves when they created them," and this American denunciation of Egypt's "climate of impunity" almost certainly goes to the top of the list.Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, was kidnapped in 2003 by the CIA from the streets Milan and sent to Egypt. (Photograph: EPA)

After all, Michael Posner works for the very same administration that not only refused to prosecute or even investigate US officials who tortured, kidnapped and illegally eavesdropped, but actively shielded them all from all forms of accountability: criminal, civil or investigative. Indeed, Posner works for the very same State Department that actively impeded efforts by countries whose citizens were subjected to those abuses - such as Spain and Germany - to investigate them. Being lectured by the US State Department about a "culture of impunity" is like being lectured by David Cameron about supporting Arab dictators.

To see just how extreme the US "culture of impunity" is, consider the extraordinary 2003 kidnapping by the CIA of the Muslim cleric, Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr (Abu Omar), from the streets of Milan. Nasr, who in 2001 had been granted asylum by Italy from persecution in Egypt, was abducted by the CIA and then shipped back to Egypt where he was imprisoned for four years without charges and, he says, brutally tortured by America's long-standing ally, the Mubarak regime.

Der Spiegel described just what a standard kidnapping it was: Nasr "was seized in broad daylight on the open street, pushed into a white van, taken to the Aviano military airport and then flown to Egypt via the US Ramstein Air Base in Germany". Yesterday, an Italian appellate court sentenced the country's former intelligence chief, Niccolò Pollari, to ten years in prison "for complicity" in that kidnapping:

The appeals court, in Milan, sentenced the former chief, Niccolò Pollari, to 10 years and his former deputy Marco Mancini to nine years for their role in the kidnapping of the cleric, Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr . . . . Three Italian secret service officials were also sentenced to six years each.

Mr. Nasr was kidnapped under the practice of 'extraordinary rendition', in which people suspected of being Islamic militants were abducted in one country and then transferred to another, often one where torture was common.

While Mr. Nasr was initially charged with membership in an illegal organization, the charges were ultimately dropped. He has since been released.

In other words, not only did the CIA kidnap Nasr and deliberately send him to an allied regime notorious for torture - a serious crime no matter who he was - but, as it turns out, he was guilty of absolutely nothing. What made him a kidnapping target was that, according to the New York Times, his "anti-American speeches and calls to jihad were resonating with young Muslim men who were attending his Islamic center".

Despite being convicted of no crime (other than criticizing US aggression), he was imprisoned in Egypt without charges for four years until a Cairo court found his detention unfounded and ordered him released. Upon release, he said "he had been reduced to a 'human wreck' by torture he had undergone in a Cairo jail". Nasr detailed the truly horrific kidnapping and torture he endured in a 2008 interview with Peter Bergen for Mother Jones, who used Italian court documents to write a comprehensive report on the case:


"A little before noon on February 17, 2003, Abu Omar was headed to his mosque, incongruously located inside a garage. He strolled down Via Guerzoni, a quiet street mostly empty of businesses and lined with high, view-blocking walls. A red Fiat pulled up beside him and a man jumped out, shouting 'Polizia! Polizia!' Abu Omar produced his ID. 'Suddenly I was lifted in the air,' he recalled. He was dragged into a white van and beaten, he said, by wordless men wearing balaclavas. After trussing him with restraints and blindfolding him, they sped away.

"Hours later, when the van stopped, Abu Omar heard airplane noise. His clothes were cut off and something was stuffed in his anus, likely a tranquilizing suppository. His head was entirely covered in tape with only small holes for his mouth and nose, and he was placed on a plane. Hours later he was hustled off the jet. He heard someone speaking Arabic in a familiar cadence; in the distance, a muezzin was calling the dawn prayer. After more than a decade in exile, he was back in Egypt. . . .

"Spreading his arms in a crucifixion position, he demonstrates how he was tied to a metal door as shocks were administered to his nipples and genitals. His legs tremble as he describes how he was twice raped. He mentions, almost casually, the hearing loss in his left ear from the beatings, and how he still wakes up at night screaming, takes tranquilizers, finds it hard to concentrate, and has unspecified 'problems with my wife at home.' He is, in short, a broken man."

Yesterday's 10-year sentence was based on a 2010 finding by an Italian judge that "the Italian secret service was most likely aware of, 'and perhaps complicit in,' the operation". In 2009, an Italian criminal court found 23 individual CIA agents (including the Milan station chief, Robert Lady) guilty of kidnapping and other crimes, but was forced to try them in abstentia because the US (first under Bush and then Obama) pressured the Italian government to suppress extradition requests issued by Italian courts to compel those CIA agents to travel to Italy to stand trial.

This entire case reveals vital facts about the culture of impunity for high-level officials that prevails in the US even when they commit the most egregious crimes:

First, it is completely inconceivable that anything like what just happened in Italy could happen in the US. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence that the highest-level US officials had systematically committed felonies under the War on Terror rubric, both political parties, bolstered by a virtual consensus of the DC press, united to block all forms of accountability. A sacred rule in US political culture is that high-level state officials are to be shielded from all accountability, let alone criminal punishment, for how they abuse power.

In sum, US officials are not subject to the rule of law but reside above it. Neither party's establishment nor their Adversarial Press Corps would ever tolerate the CIA Director being prosecuted for his crimes the way Italy's just was. The defense offered to the press by Lady, the CIA's Milan station chief - I was just following orders - is exactly what resonates in US elite circles as an excuse for all crimes: if the US government does it, then it is, by definition, shielded from legal punishment.

Second, both Bush and Obama officials continuously attempted to apply coercive pressure on Italian magistrates to obstruct this investigation, and when that failed, applied the same pressure to the Berlusconi and Prodi governments. Indeed, numerous diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks detail those efforts, and the Italian journalist Stefania Maurizi of L'Espresso described that campaign of obstruction in her book "Dossier WikiLeaks. Segreti Italiani."

One 2006 cable describes a meeting between US Ambassador Ronald Spogli and Italy's new Undersecretary to the Prime Minister Enrico Letta in which the US made not-so-subtle threats about the need of the Italian government to suppress extradition requests for the CIA agents:

In the context of keeping our excellent bilateral relationship on sound footing, the Ambassador explained to Letta that nothing would damage relations faster or more seriously than a decision by the GOI to forward warrants for arrests of the alleged CIA agents named in connection with the Abu Omar case. This was absolutely critical. Letta took note of this and suggested the Ambassador discuss the matter personally with Justice Minister Mastella, who Letta suggested should be invited to Washington for an early meeting with the Attorney General.

A 2007 cable describes plotting between the US and Italian governments to thwart the judicial investigation. They agreed that the US should "send something in writing to [the Italian justice official] explaining that the US would not act on extradition requests in the Abu Omar case if tendered", which "could be used pre-emptively by the GOI to fend off action by Italian magistrates to seek the extradition of the implicated Americans". In response, "the [US] Ambassador agreed that we should work to avoid having extradition requests forwarded."

A 2010 cable details a meeting between Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Berlusconi in which Gates "asked Berlusconi for his assistance in affirming US jurisdiction" over one of the high-level CIA defendants." A 2011 cable noted that "Justice Minister Mastella has so far kept the lid on recurring judicial demands to extradite presumed CIA officers allegedly involved in a rendition of Muslim cleric Abu Omar."

This US pressure campaign succeeded in quashing the efforts of the Italian judiciary to hold these CIA agents criminally accountable for their crimes in Italy. Indeed, as Maurizi told me yesterday, "five different Italian ministers of Justice refused to forward extradition requests for CIA agents." After Italy's highest court upheld the convictions of the CIA agents last September, the Guardian noted: "successive Italian governments denied all knowledge of the case and consistently ruled out extradition."

Under serious pressure from two successive US administrations, the Italian justice ministers simply refused to forward their own courts' extradition demands. The Italian courts were thus left to imprison their own officials for the ancillary role they played in the kidnapping because the US government, as usual, draped its own officials with a full-scale shield of immunity.

Third, what allowed this accountability in Italy is exactly what the US so tragically lacks: a brave and independent judiciary willing to perform its core ostensible function of applying the law equally to everyone, including those who wield the greatest power. Indeed, a 2005 US diplomatic cable complained that "Italian magistrates [prosecutors] are fiercely independent and are not answerable to any government authority/entity, including the Minister of Justice" and that "consequently, it is nearly impossible to prevent them from undertaking action in Italy that they wish to carry out."

This prosecution was possible in the first instance only because a single Italian magistrate, Armando Spataro, insisted on pursuing it despite all sorts of attacks against him. This 2009 Der Spiegel article reports that, as a result of his pursuit of the case, "his communications were monitored, the Italian intelligence service placed him under observation and there were even investigations into whether he had betrayed state secrets. The government tried again and again to silence him." But the magistrates ignored those repressive efforts, eventually even seizing Lady's retirement villa in Italy to cover court costs.

Numerous cables show Italian officials, especially Berlusconi himself, attacking the Italian magistrates and assuring the US that Italian courts would eventually stop them. One 2005 US cable celebrates that Minister of Justice Roberto Castelli "took the unusual step of publicly criticizing a member of Italy's highly independent magistracy" over this case, specifically that he "called Armando Spataro a "militant'. meaning a communist" (ironically, Spataro previously "faced accusations of right-wing bias when he led prosecutions of the Red Brigade terrorist organization in the late 1970's and 1980's".) That public denunciation of the magistrate happened, recounted the US cable, after he "presented Castelli with requests for the provisional arrest in contemplation of extradition for 22 Americans involved in the alleged rendition of Egyptian Imam Abu Omar from Milan."

Assuring Washington that the prosecution of the CIA agents was politically motivated and would be stopped, this US cable claimed:


"In the 1960s and 1970s Italian communists made a concerted effort to 'infiltrate' the judiciary; today, many Italian judges are considered to be sympathetic to the left and some have made decisions that undermine our shared security objectives. . . .

"Berlusconi's government certainly believes that judicial treatment of the Abu Omar case is an example of a politically motivated action directed, not at the US, but at Berlusconi in an further attempt to embarrass the Prime Minister. Castelli's very public criticism of Spataro is a sign he is willing to risk criticizing the judiciary in order to avoid precipitous action in this case."

The 2010 cable describing the meeting between Gates and Berlusconi describes how "Berlusconi gave an extended rant about the Italian judicial system - which frequently targets him since it is 'dominated
by leftists' as the public prosecutor level." Moreover, "Berlusconi predicted that the 'courts will come down in our favor' upon appeal, noting that higher-level appellate courts are significantly less politicized than local courts."

But that did not happen. Indeed, the opposite happened: Italian appellate courts were even more aggressive and steadfast in demanding accountability than the lower courts. Just two weeks ago, an Italian appellate court vacated the acquittals of three CIA agents whom a lower court had protected on the ground of diplomatic immunity and then sentenced one of them - former CIA Rome station chief Jeffrey Castelli - to seven years in prison. Last September, it was Italy's highest court that upheld the convictions of the 23 CIA agents. And yesterday's 10-year sentence for Italy's ex-intelligence chief was also imposed by an appeals court.

So what Berlucsoni predicted never happened. Italian courts exercised great independence and courage in applying the law to both the American and Italian kidnappers without regard to their power and position.

The contrast with the US federal judiciary is stark. American federal judges have proven themselves indescribably servile to the US government. It is impossible to imagine American federal judges - except in the most aberrational and quickly-overturned instances - defying the wishes of the US government when it comes to claims of national security and secrecy.

Indeed, not a single victim of the abuses of the US War on Terror - not one - has even been allowed by the US federal judiciary to have a day in court, let alone obtain accountability for what was done to them. Federal judges have obediently slammed the courthouse doors shut in the faces of War on Terror victims even when everyone recognizes that the victims were treated savagely and were guilty of nothing. Indeed, US courts have refused even to hear cases brought by rendition (kidnapping) victims. Instead, US federal judges, over and over, have meekly submitted to the decrees of US national security state officials that the mandates of secrecy and national security shield them from any form of judicial review even when they kidnap and torture innocent people.

An independent judiciary, willing to apply the law even to the most powerful political officials, is a prerequisite to a healthy political system that functions under the rule of law. As this case vividly demonstrates, Italy has that and the US does not. Of all the US institutions that have shamefully abdicated their duties in the post-9/11 era, the federal judiciary is at the top of that list. That is why even the former head of Italy's intelligence service faces criminal punishment for kidnapping an innocent person while such accountability is inconceivable in the US. It is why the "rule of law" is a ludicrous joke when it comes to US elites.

We also see here, yet again, how monumentally important leaks are. Almost everything we know about the conduct of the US government in this case comes from diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks and allegedly disclosed by Bradley Manning. It is remarkable how often major media outlets rely on WikiLeaks documents to report to their readers what is happening in the world. For exactly that reason, it is no mystery why the US government is so eager to punish so severely those responsible for leaks generally and these disclosures specifically: precisely because nothing sheds light on their bad acts the way whistleblowing does.

The State of the Union: Is Rule of Law in Peril or Is it...

WASHINGTON - February 11 - CHRIS HEDGES, [email]
Hedges just wrote the piece “The NDAA and the Death of the Democratic State,” which states: “On Wednesday a few hundred activists crowded into the courtroom of the Second Circuit, the spillover room with its faulty audio feed and dearth of chairs, and Foley Square outside the Thurgood Marshall U.S. Courthouse in Manhattan where many huddled in the cold. The fate of the nation, we understood, could be decided by the three judges who will rule on our lawsuit against President Barack Obama for signing into law Section 1021(b)(2) of the National Defense Authorization Act.

“The section permits the military to detain anyone, including U.S. citizens, who ‘substantially support’ — an undefined legal term — al-Qaida, the Taliban or ‘associated forces,’ again a term that is legally undefined. Those detained can be imprisoned indefinitely by the military and denied due process until ‘the end of hostilities.’ In an age of permanent war this is probably a lifetime. Anyone detained under the NDAA can be sent … to any ‘foreign country or entity.’ This is, in essence, extraordinary rendition of U.S. citizens. It empowers the government to ship detainees to the jails of some of the most repressive regimes on earth.

“Section 1021(b)(2) was declared invalid in September after our first trial, in the Southern District Court of New York. The Obama administration appealed the Southern District Court ruling.” Hedges is lead plaintiff in the NDAA lawsuit. His most recent book is The World As It Is: Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress and he was part of a team of New York Times reporters who won a Pulitzer Prize.

MICHAEL RATNER, mratner at ccrjustice.org, @justleft
Ratner is president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights. He said today: “The rule of law is not in peril; it is no more. The country under Obama is utterly lawless. There is nothing legal or moral about murdering with drones or assassinations, continuing indefinite detention, military commissions and renditions. There is nothing legal or moral about attacking other countries such as Yemen, Pakistan or Libya. There is nothing legal or moral about a massive surveillance state. And then just to make sure no one reveals our evil we persecute and jail our truth tellers: [Julian] Assange, [Bradley] Manning, [Jeremy] Hammond, [John] Kirakou, while the real criminals go free. What you are seeing here is the recognition by the U.S. that it is weakening as a world power and it is striking out in ways that aren’t always rational but that are certainly inhuman and lawless.”

Ratner notes in “The Ratner Report” on The Real News Network: “We’ve been litigating this issue for a number of years now. The Center for Constitutional Rights and the ACLU represent the family of Anwar al-Aulaqi, as well as [his 16-year-old son] Abdulrahman Al-Aulaqi, who were killed by drones in Yemen.”

SHAHID BUTTAR, [email], @Sheeyahshee
Buttar is executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee. He said today: “The civil liberties abuses of the Bush administration, and their continuing extension by the Obama administration, have reduced our Constitution to a shadow of itself. This week’s State of the Union address offers a disturbing reminder that, in 2013, America can not be plausibly described as ‘the land of the free.’

“Our supposedly ‘free’ country imprisons more people than any other on Earth, including China — which has a much larger population, and a longstanding reputation for abusing rights.

“Our supposedly ‘free’ country actively suppresses dissent. Instead of enjoying meaningful First Amendment rights to speech, assembly, and the right to petition our government, the peaceful Occupy movement was targeted by federal and state authorities for surveillance, infiltration, disruption, and violent suppression. Occupy activists in several states, like peace activists, environmental activists, and labor organizers, have been charged (and in many cases, convicted) of terror offenses.

“In our supposedly ‘free’ country, the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures has collapsed. Congress recently approved mass warrantless wiretapping by the NSA, which operates not only in secret, but under a secret budget at a time when politicians claim to face a budget crisis. Meanwhile, the FBI unapologetically infiltrates faith institutions and peaceful activist groups, creating a national biometric identity scheme under cover of facilitating immigration enforcement, and faking the results of its forensic investigations. Even local police routinely work as spies, using drones and other military technology to monitor Americans for activities as ‘suspicious’ as drawing and taking notes.

“Our supposedly ‘free’ country also abuses more fundamental rights. Anyone, including citizens, is subject to arbitrary military detention without trial or proof of crime, or outright assassination by the CIA, a secret civilian agency for which the White House has announced a nominee for Director whom the Senate should reject. Brennan refuses to acknowledge that torture (which the CIA recently conducted as a matter of policy before destroying much of the evidence) is a crime. Brennan has not, and can not, explain the national security justification for drone strikes given their profound strategic risks. And Brennan hasn’t even faced questions about the CIA training domestic police departments, like the NYPD, in violation of its statutory charter.

“Finally, our supposedly ‘free’ country practices unequal justice. While millions face prosecution for relatively minor offenses, the architects of U.S. human rights abuses include a federal appellate judge wielding a lifetime appointment and six figure government paycheck. Whistleblowers, like the NSA’s Thomas Drake and the CIA’s John Kiriakou, face prison sentences not for committing crimes, but for revealing them to the public.

“Neither the President nor his partisan critics are likely to note these issues this week, but Americans feel their impact every day. Under each of the past two presidents, executive fiat, enabling legislative statutes and judicial formalism have combined to shred our Constitution and transform America from a ‘land of the free’ into a land that loudly proclaims freedom while denying it to our own people.”

The State of the Union: Is Rule of Law in Peril or Is it...

WASHINGTON - February 11 - CHRIS HEDGES, [email]
Hedges just wrote the piece “The NDAA and the Death of the Democratic State,” which states: “On Wednesday a few hundred activists crowded into the courtroom of the Second Circuit, the spillover room with its faulty audio feed and dearth of chairs, and Foley Square outside the Thurgood Marshall U.S. Courthouse in Manhattan where many huddled in the cold. The fate of the nation, we understood, could be decided by the three judges who will rule on our lawsuit against President Barack Obama for signing into law Section 1021(b)(2) of the National Defense Authorization Act.

“The section permits the military to detain anyone, including U.S. citizens, who ‘substantially support’ — an undefined legal term — al-Qaida, the Taliban or ‘associated forces,’ again a term that is legally undefined. Those detained can be imprisoned indefinitely by the military and denied due process until ‘the end of hostilities.’ In an age of permanent war this is probably a lifetime. Anyone detained under the NDAA can be sent … to any ‘foreign country or entity.’ This is, in essence, extraordinary rendition of U.S. citizens. It empowers the government to ship detainees to the jails of some of the most repressive regimes on earth.

“Section 1021(b)(2) was declared invalid in September after our first trial, in the Southern District Court of New York. The Obama administration appealed the Southern District Court ruling.” Hedges is lead plaintiff in the NDAA lawsuit. His most recent book is The World As It Is: Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress and he was part of a team of New York Times reporters who won a Pulitzer Prize.

MICHAEL RATNER, mratner at ccrjustice.org, @justleft
Ratner is president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights. He said today: “The rule of law is not in peril; it is no more. The country under Obama is utterly lawless. There is nothing legal or moral about murdering with drones or assassinations, continuing indefinite detention, military commissions and renditions. There is nothing legal or moral about attacking other countries such as Yemen, Pakistan or Libya. There is nothing legal or moral about a massive surveillance state. And then just to make sure no one reveals our evil we persecute and jail our truth tellers: [Julian] Assange, [Bradley] Manning, [Jeremy] Hammond, [John] Kirakou, while the real criminals go free. What you are seeing here is the recognition by the U.S. that it is weakening as a world power and it is striking out in ways that aren’t always rational but that are certainly inhuman and lawless.”

Ratner notes in “The Ratner Report” on The Real News Network: “We’ve been litigating this issue for a number of years now. The Center for Constitutional Rights and the ACLU represent the family of Anwar al-Aulaqi, as well as [his 16-year-old son] Abdulrahman Al-Aulaqi, who were killed by drones in Yemen.”

SHAHID BUTTAR, [email], @Sheeyahshee
Buttar is executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee. He said today: “The civil liberties abuses of the Bush administration, and their continuing extension by the Obama administration, have reduced our Constitution to a shadow of itself. This week’s State of the Union address offers a disturbing reminder that, in 2013, America can not be plausibly described as ‘the land of the free.’

“Our supposedly ‘free’ country imprisons more people than any other on Earth, including China — which has a much larger population, and a longstanding reputation for abusing rights.

“Our supposedly ‘free’ country actively suppresses dissent. Instead of enjoying meaningful First Amendment rights to speech, assembly, and the right to petition our government, the peaceful Occupy movement was targeted by federal and state authorities for surveillance, infiltration, disruption, and violent suppression. Occupy activists in several states, like peace activists, environmental activists, and labor organizers, have been charged (and in many cases, convicted) of terror offenses.

“In our supposedly ‘free’ country, the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures has collapsed. Congress recently approved mass warrantless wiretapping by the NSA, which operates not only in secret, but under a secret budget at a time when politicians claim to face a budget crisis. Meanwhile, the FBI unapologetically infiltrates faith institutions and peaceful activist groups, creating a national biometric identity scheme under cover of facilitating immigration enforcement, and faking the results of its forensic investigations. Even local police routinely work as spies, using drones and other military technology to monitor Americans for activities as ‘suspicious’ as drawing and taking notes.

“Our supposedly ‘free’ country also abuses more fundamental rights. Anyone, including citizens, is subject to arbitrary military detention without trial or proof of crime, or outright assassination by the CIA, a secret civilian agency for which the White House has announced a nominee for Director whom the Senate should reject. Brennan refuses to acknowledge that torture (which the CIA recently conducted as a matter of policy before destroying much of the evidence) is a crime. Brennan has not, and can not, explain the national security justification for drone strikes given their profound strategic risks. And Brennan hasn’t even faced questions about the CIA training domestic police departments, like the NYPD, in violation of its statutory charter.

“Finally, our supposedly ‘free’ country practices unequal justice. While millions face prosecution for relatively minor offenses, the architects of U.S. human rights abuses include a federal appellate judge wielding a lifetime appointment and six figure government paycheck. Whistleblowers, like the NSA’s Thomas Drake and the CIA’s John Kiriakou, face prison sentences not for committing crimes, but for revealing them to the public.

“Neither the President nor his partisan critics are likely to note these issues this week, but Americans feel their impact every day. Under each of the past two presidents, executive fiat, enabling legislative statutes and judicial formalism have combined to shred our Constitution and transform America from a ‘land of the free’ into a land that loudly proclaims freedom while denying it to our own people.”

DOJ Kill List Memo Forces Many Dems Out of the Closet as Overtly Unprincipled...

This past week has been a strangely clarifying political moment. It was caused by two related events: the leak of the Justice Department's "white paper" justifying Obama's claimed power to execute Americans without charges, followed by John Brennan's alarming confirmation hearing (as Charles Pierce wrote: "the man whom the administration has put up to head the CIA would not say whether or not the president of the United States has the power to order the extrajudicial killing of a United States citizen within the borders of the United States"). I describe last week's process as "strange" because, for some reason, those events caused large numbers of people for the first time to recognize, accept and begin to confront truths that have long been readily apparent.Hosts Krystal Ball and Touré Neblett, part of the purported 'liberal' team of anchors on the afternoon MSNBC show The Cycle, have both been slammed for their defense of Obama's drone assassination program. (Image: MSNBC promo)

Illustrating this odd phenomenon was a much-discussed New York Times article on Sunday by Peter Baker which explained that these events "underscored the degree to which Mr. Obama has embraced some of Mr. Bush's approach to counterterrorism, right down to a secret legal memo authorizing presidential action unfettered by outside forces." It began this way:

"If President Obama tuned in to the past week's bracing debate on Capitol Hill about terrorism, executive power, secrecy and due process, he might have recognized the arguments his critics were making: He once made some of them himself.

"Four years into his tenure, the onetime critic of President George W. Bush finds himself cast as a present-day Mr. Bush, justifying the muscular application of force in the defense of the nation while detractors complain that he has sacrificed the country's core values in the name of security."

Baker also noticed this: "Some liberals acknowledged in recent days that they were willing to accept policies they once would have deplored as long as they were in Mr. Obama's hands, not Mr. Bush's." As but one example, the article quoted Jennifer Granholm, the former Michigan governor and fervent Obama supporter, as admitting without any apparent shame that "if this was Bush, I think that we would all be more up in arms" because, she said "we trust the president". Thus did we have - while some media liberals objected - scores of progressives and conservatives uniting to overtly embrace the once-controversial Bush/Cheney premises of the War on Terror (it's a global war! the whole world is a battlefield! the president has authority to do whatever he wants to The Terrorists without interference from courts!) in order to defend the war's most radical power yet (the president's power to assassinate even his own citizens in secret, without charges, and without checks).

Last week's "revelations" long known

Although you wouldn't know it from the shock and outrage expressed over the last few days, that Barack Obama claims the power to order US citizens assassinated without charges has been known for three full years. It was first reported more or less in passing in January, 2010 by the Washington Post's Dana Priest, and then confirmed and elaborated on by both the New York Times and the Washington Post in April, 2010. Obama first tried to kill US citizen Anwar Awlaki in December 2009 (apparently before these justifying legal memoranda were concocted) using cruise missiles and cluster bombs; they missed Awlaki but killed 52 people, more than half of whom were women and children. Obama finally succeeded in killing Awlaki and another American, Samir Khan, in October 2011, and then killed his 16-year-old son Abdulrahman in a drone strike two weeks later.

That Obama is systematically embracing the same premises that shaped the once-controversial Bush/Cheney terrorism approach has been known for even longer. All the way back in February, 2009 - one month after Obama's inauguration - the New York Times' Charlie Savage reported that "the Obama administration is quietly signaling continued support for other major elements of its predecessor's approach to fighting Al Qaeda" and that this continuity is "prompting growing worry among civil liberties groups and a sense of vindication among supporters of Bush-era policies" (I actually wrote at the time that Savage's alarmist conclusions were premature and overly pessimistic, but subsequently told him how right, even prescient, he turned out to be). In April, 2009, the Obama-friendly TPM site announced that "Obama mimics Bush" when it comes to assertions of extremist secrecy powers. In June, 2010, Obama's embrace - and expansion - of many of Bush's most radical policies had become so glaring that ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero gave a speech to a progressive conference and began by proclaiming himself to be "disgusted with this president", while Bush's most hawkish officials began praising Obama for his "continuity" with Bush/Cheney policy.

That many Democratic partisans and fervent Obama admirers are vapid, unprincipled hacks willing to justify anything and everything when embraced by Obama - including exactly that which they pretended to oppose under George W Bush - has also been clear for many years. Back in February, 2008, Paul Krugman warned that Obama supporters are "dangerously close to becoming a cult of personality." In May, 2009, a once-fervent Obama supporter, New York Times columnist Bob Herbert, wrote a column warning that Obama was embracing many of the worst Bush/Cheney abuses and felt compelled - in the very first sentence - to explain what should be self-evident: "Policies that were wrong under George W. Bush are no less wrong because Barack Obama is in the White House." The same month, former Bush DOJ official Jack Goldsmith - who provided the legal authorization for the illegal Bush NSA warrantless eavesdropping program - went to the New Republic to celebrate that Obama was not only continuing the core Bush/Cheney approach to terrorism, but even better (from his perspective), was strengthening those policies far beyond what Bush could achieve by transforming Democrats from opponents of those policies into supporters.

And exactly as Goldsmith happily predicted, polls now show that Democrats and even self-identified progressives support policies that they once pretended to loathe now that it is Obama rather than Bush embracing them. On MSNBC, Obama aides and pundit-supporters now do their best Sarah Palin impression by mocking as weaklings and losers those who think the President should be constrained in his militarism and demonizing as anti-American anyone who questions the military (in between debating whether Obama should be elevated onto Mount Rushmore or given his own monument). A whole slew of policies that would have triggered the shrillest of progressive condemnations under Bush - waging war after Congress votes against authorizing it, the unprecedented persecution and even torturing of whistleblowers, literally re-writing FOIA to conceal evidence of torture, codifying indefinite detention on US soil - are justified or, at best, ignored.

So none of this - Obama's assassination program, his general embrace of Bush/Cheney radicalism, the grotesque eagerness of many Democrats to justify whatever he does - is at all new. But for some reasons, the events of last week made all of this so glaring that it could no longer be denied, and it's worth thinking about why that is.

What made last week's revelations so powerful?

What this DOJ "white paper" did was to force people to confront Obama's assassination program without emotionally manipulative appeal to some cartoon Bad Guy Terrorist (Awlaki). That document never once mentioned Awlaki. Instead - using the same creepily clinical, sanitized, legalistic language used by the Bush DOJ to justify torture, renditions and warrantless eavesdropping - it set forth the theoretical framework for empowering not just Obama, but any and all presidents, to assassinate not just Anwar Awlaki, but any citizens declared in secret by the president to be worthy of execution. Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee wrote that the DOJ memo "should shake the American people to the core", while Harvard Law Professor Noah Feldman explained "the revolutionary and shocking transformation of the meaning of due process" ushered in by this memo and said it constituted a repudiation of the Magna Carta.

In doing so, this document helpfully underscored the critical point that is otherwise difficult to convey: when you endorse the application of a radical state power because the specific target happens to be someone you dislike and think deserves it, you're necessarily institutionalizing that power in general. That's why political leaders, when they want to seize extremist powers or abridge core liberties, always choose in the first instance to target the most marginalized figures: because they know many people will acquiesce not because they support that power in theory but because they hate the person targeted. But if you cheer when that power is first invoked based on that mentality - I'm glad Obama assassinated Awlaki without charges because he was a Bad Man! - then you lose the ability to object when the power is used in the future in ways you dislike (or by leaders you distrust), because you've let it become institutionalized.

This DOJ document underscored that Obama's claimed due-process-free and secretly exercised assassinations powers aren't confined to cartoon super-villain Anwar Awlaki but are now an embedded, institutionalized part of the American political system going forward. That's why it provided such a wake-up call for many even though these dangers have long been obvious.

What also made this last week unique was the reaction of the American Right. Progressives love to recite the conceit that Republicans will never praise Obama no matter what he does. This is a complete sham: conservatives, including even Cheney himself, have repeatedly lavished praise on Obama for his embrace of Bush/Cheney policies in these areas. But this past week, they did so with such effusive enthusiasm that the cognitive dissonance could not be ignored.

Supreme GOP warmonger Lindsey Graham announced his intention to introduce a Senate resolution praising Obama for his assassination program. RedState's Erick Erickson wrote a Fox News column denouncing civil libertarians and defending Obama: "we must trust that the president and his advisers, when they see a gathering of al-Qaida from the watchful eye of a drone, are going to make the right call and use appropriate restraint and appropriate force to keep us safe." Michelle Malkin criticized her own staff for attacking Obama and wrote: "On this, I will come to Obama's defense." Others vocally defending Obama included John Bolton, Peter King, Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann.

These are not just Republicans. They are the most extreme, far-right, warmongering conservatives in the country. And they are all offering unqualified and enthusiastic praise for Obama and his assassination program. In our political culture, where everything is viewed through the lens of partisan conflict and left-right dichotomies, this lineup of right-wing supporters is powerful evidence of how far Obama has gone in pursuit of this worldview. That, too, made the significance of last week's events impossible to ignore.

But the most significant factor was the behavior of many Democratic pundits and self-proclaimed progressives. Given how glaring all the assembled evidence was of Obama's dangerous radicalism, they faced a serious dilemma: how to fulfill their core purpose - defending Obama no matter what he does - while maintaining a modicum of dignity and intellectual coherence?

Some of them, like MSNBC host Touré Neblett, invoked the language of John Yoo to outright defend Obama's assassination powers on the ground of presidential omnipotence: "he's the Commander in Chief", he intoned. But the explicit submission to presidential authority necessary to justify this was so uncomfortably similar to Bush-era theories, and the very suggestion that MSNBC commentators would be saying any of that if it had been Bush's program rather than Obama's was so laughable, that this approach provoked little beyond widespread ridicule.

A slightly different approach was chosen by the Daily Beast's Michael Tomasky, a supremely loyal Obama acolyte. He wrote a whole column devoted to pronouncing himself "suspicious of high-horse denunciations" because the question here is such "a complicated one". It's so "complicated", he says, because he's "always written about politics with part of [his] brain focused on the question of what [he] would do if [he] were in Politician X's position".

As Reason quickly documented, Tomasky's tone on such matters was radically different during the Bush years. But the most important point is that the excuse Tomasky offers for his leader - it must be very difficult to be in the Oval Office and get these reports about Terror threats and not take action - is exactly what Bush followers said for years would happen once Obama or any other Democratic president got into power. Indeed, every debate in which I ever participated on Bush/Cheney terrorism policies involved their supporters making exactly the same argument Tomasky makes in defense of Obama: if you knew what Bush knew, and faced the hard choices he faced, you would do the same thing to protect the country: it's easy to condemn these things when you're not in power.

That is why, as I have written many times before, Democratic partisans owe a public, sincere, and abject apology to George Bush and Dick Cheney. It's certainly true that Obama has not continued many of the policies progressives found so heinous: he hasn't invaded Iraq or legally authorized waterboarding. But Obama has completely reversed himself on so many of the core criticisms he and other Democrats made about Bush and Cheney regarding the need for due process for accused Terrorists, the dangers of radical secrecy, the treatment of Terrorism as a war on a global battlefield rather than a crime to be prosecuted. And if Tomasky's excuse is correct - empathy with the leader's need to Keep Us Safe shows that these are much more complicated issues than civil libertarians claim - then he and his fellow partisan soldiers should apologize, since that's exactly what Bush/Cheney defenders said for years would happen once a Democratic president was empowered.

The most honest approach to this quandary has come from those, like Granholm, who simply admit that they would vehemently object to all of this if it were done by Bush (or some other GOP President), but don't do so because it's Barack Obama doing it. This same astonishing confession was heard from MSNBC host Krystal Ball: "So yeah, I feel a whole lot better about the program when the decider, so to speak, is President Obama"; as Digby wrote about Ball's confession:

"Glenn Greenwald's been calling this out for years, but I defy him to find a better example of the hypocrisy that drives him so crazy. Obviously, this is a fairly common belief among those who believe the President they voted for is 'good' and the one they don't like is 'bad' but it's rare that you see anyone boldly say that they think the standard should be different for their own because well . . . he's a better person. It takes a certain courage (or blindness) to come right out and admit it."

Indeed. MSNBC's Chris Matthews decided the program was justifiable because Leon Panetta goes to church often and thus can be trusted.

On Sunday morning, MSNBC host Chris Hayes devoted a full hour to Obama's assassination program, and before doing so, he delivered an excellent monologue addressing the many progressives who complain any time he critically covers Obama's actions in this area. He cited an amazing post by an Obama supporter who wrote: "I support President Obama's drone attacks. And I admit that I'm a hypocrite. If a republican administration were executing these practices, I'd probably join the chorus to condemn them as unconstitutional, authoritarian or worse". About that, Hayes said:


"I think this is probably the most honest defense of the program you'll hear from liberals. They trust President Obama to wield broad, lethal executive authority with care and prudence. And besides: it's war; would you rather, I am often asked by supporters of the kill list, that we have boots on the ground, big expensive, destructive deadly disastrous land invasions of countries like the Iraq war? . . . .

"This narrow choice between big violence and smaller violence shows, I think, just how fully we have all implicitly adopted the conceptual framework of the War on Terror, how much George W. Bush's advisers continue to set the terms of our thinking years after they'd been dispatched from office. Because that argument presupposes that we are at war and must continue to be at war until an ill-defined enemy is vanquished. . . .

"The Obama administration quite ostentatiously jettisoned the phrase war on terror from its rhetoric, but it's preserved and further expanded its fundamental logic and legal architecture."

In other words, Obama has embraced and expanded the core premises of the Bush/Cheney global war on terror that Democrats so vehemently claimed to find offensive, radical, a "shredding of the Constitution". And they are now supportive for one reason and one reason only: it's a Democratic president whom they trust - Barack Obama specifically doing it - rather than a Republican president they distrust. That is the very definition of vapid, unprincipled partisan hackdom, and it matters for several reasons.

Why progressive partisan hackdom matters so much

The behavior and mindset of Democrats (and self-identified "progressives") is significant in its own right because they are now the most powerful political faction in the US. By the time Obama leaves office, they will have controlled the White House for 16 out of 24 years. When the current term of Congress ends, they will have controlled the Senate for the last eight years and the House for the last four out of eight. They exercise far more power and influence than the GOP and conservatives, and their attributes are therefore worthy of discussion in their own right.

During the right-wing dominance of the Bush era, progressives had little trouble understanding why right-wing hypocrisy and leader worship were so dangerous. In early 2006, just a few months after I began writing about politics, I wrote about pervasive blind trust and leader-worship among Bush followers and it was widely cited and cheered by progressives. Just marvel at how perfectly applicable it is to many Obama-era progressives:

"'Conservatism' is now a term used to describe personal loyalty to the leader (just as 'liberal' is used to describe disloyalty to that leader), and no longer refers to a set of beliefs about government. . . .

"Indeed, as many Bush followers themselves admit, the central belief of the Bush follower's 'conservatism' is no longer one that [subscribes] to a limited federal government - but is precisely that there ought to be no limits on the powers claimed by Bush precisely because we trust him, and we trust in him absolutely. He wants to protect us and do good. He is not our enemy but our protector. And there is no reason to entertain suspicions or distrust of him or his motives because he is Good.

"We need no oversight of the Federal Government's eavesdropping powers because we trust Bush to eavesdrop in secret for the Good. We need no judicial review of Bush's decrees regarding who is an 'enemy combatant' and who can be detained indefinitely with no due process because we trust Bush to know who is bad and who deserves this. We need no restraints from Congress on Bush's ability to exercise war powers, even against American citizens on US soil, because we trust Bush to exercise these powers for our own good . . . .

"And in that regard, [Bush followers] are not conservatives. They are authoritarian cultists. Their allegiance is not to any principles of government but to strong authority through a single leader."

To many conservatives, Bush could and should be trusted to exercise extreme powers in the dark because he was a Good evangelical Christian family man with heartland cowboy values. To many progressives, Obama can and should be trusted because he's a Good sophisticated East Coast progressive and family man with urbane constitutional scholar values. It's lowly reality TV viewing and rank cultural tribalism masquerading as political ideology.

Beyond the inherent dangers of fealty to political leaders for partisan gain, this behavior has a substantial effect on the ability to fight radical government policies. Progressives often excuse Obama's embrace of these extremist Bush/Cheney terror policies on the ground that Americans support these policies and therefore he's constrained. But that claim reverses causation: it is true that politicians sometimes follow public opinion, but it's also true that public opinion often follows politicians.

In particular, whenever the two political parties agree on a policy, it is almost certain that public opinion will overwhelmingly support it. When Obama was first inaugurated in 2009, numerous polls showed pluralities or even majorities in support of investigations into Bush-era criminal policies of torture and warrantless eavesdropping.That was because many Democrats believed Obama would pursue such investigations (because he led them to believe he would), but once he made clear he opposed those investigations, huge numbers of loyal Democrats followed their leader and joined Republicans in opposing them, thus creating majorities against them.

Obama didn't refrain from investigating Bush-era crimes because public opinion opposed that. The reverse was true: public opinion supported those investigations, and turned against them only once Obama announced he opposed them. We see this over and over: when Obama was in favor of closing Guantanamo and ending Bush-era terrorism policies, large percentages supported him (and even elected him as he advocated that), but then once he embraced those policies as his own, large majorities switched and began supporting them.

Progressive willingness to acquiesce to or even outright support Obama's radical policies - in the name of partisan loyalty - is precisely what ensures the continuation of those policies. Obama gets away with all of this because so many progressives venerate leader loyalty and partisan gain above all else.

What's most remarkable about this willingness to endorse extremist policies because you "trust" the current leader exercising them is how painfully illogical it is, and how violently contrary it is to everything Americans are taught from childhood about their country. It should not be difficult to comprehend that there is no such thing as vesting a Democratic President with Power X but not vesting a GOP President with the same power. To endorse a power in the hands of a leader you like is, necessarily, to endorse the power in the hands of a leader you dislike.

Like Bob Herbert's statement - "policies that were wrong under George W. Bush are no less wrong because Barack Obama is in the White House" - this is so obvious it should not need to be argued. As former Bush and Obama aide Douglas Ollivant told the NYT yesterday about the "trust" argument coming from some progressives: "That's not how we make policy. We make policy assuming that people in power might abuse it. To do otherwise is foolish."

It is not hyperbole to say that the overarching principle of the American founding was that no political leaders - no matter how kind and magnanimous they seem - could or should be trusted to exercise power in the dark, without checks. Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1798: "In questions of power . . . let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution." Six years earlier, John Adams warned: "There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty." James Madison, in Federalist 51, explained: "If men were angels, no government would be necessary."

This is not just basic American political history. It's basic human nature. And the greater the power is - and there is no greater power than targeting citizens for execution - the more urgent those principles are. Watching progressive media figures outright admit that trust in Barack Obama as Leader guides their unprincipled political arguments is only slightly more jarring than watching them embrace that mentality while pretending they're not. Whatever else is true, watching the political movement that spent years marching behind the banner of "due process" and "restraints on presidential power" and "our Constitutional values" now explicitly defend the most radical policy yet justified by the "war on terror" - all because it's their leader doing it - is as nauseating as it is dangerous.

© 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited

Glenn Greenwald

Access Of Evil?

As US President George W Bush made his famous speech about the "axis of evil", and his administration named countries including Iran, Iraq, Syria and Libya as enemies of the US, his security forces were co-operating, directly and indirectly, with those same countries to kidnap, imprison and torture citizens.

A groundbreaking report published on Tuesday shows that more than 50 countries, a quarter of the world's nations, cooperated with the CIA's extraordinary rendition programme - many of them nations publicly hostile to the US.

Canadian citizen Maher Arar, who was tortured in Syria after his rendition, told HuffPost UK the report, by the Open Society Foundation, was further proof that the US government "cooperated with dictatorial regimes that they condemned publicly but cooperated with clandestinely."

iran

An Iranian cleric walks past a mural on the wall of the former US embassy


The Open Society Foundation found that Iran, Syria and Libya all directly or indirectly transferred individuals into American hands.

In March 2002, in his State of the Union address, Bush accused three governments of supporting terrorism and seeking weapons of mass destruction, the so-called Axis of Evil: Iran, Iraq and North Korea, which "threaten the peace of the world".

In May of that year, the list was expanded by Undersecretary of State John Bolton, who named Syria, Libya and Cuba as "beyond the Axis of Evil", an expansion of Bush's original claims.

But the report found that in the same month Bush named Iran as one-third of the Axis of Evil, Tehran, then under President Mohammad Khatami, was involved in capturing 15 individuals and transferring them to the Afghan government, 10 of which were later handed over the Americans.

At least six were later held in secret CIA detention.

The report's author Amrit Singh said: "Because the hand-over happened soon after the US invasion of Afghanistan, Iran was aware that the United States would have effective control over any detainees handed over to Afghan authorities."

Extraordinary Rendition Report Finds More Than 50 Nations Involved In Global Torture Scheme

Labour MP Yasmin Qureshi, a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Extraordinary Rendition, told The Huffington Post UK it was indicative of a "two-pronged approach" to fighting terror.

"Beneath the surface, the countries are all carrying out their own agendas.

"Iran may have been happy to help hand over members of the Taliban or al-Qaeda to the US, behind the scenes or indirectly. Iran is predominantly Shia and they are Sunnis.

"The attitude is 'my enemy's enemy is my friend.' If it's in the country's interest, they will deal with their enemies in private, while decrying them in public."

Reprieve investigator Dr Crofton Black told HuffPost UK: "We don't understand nearly enough about the collaboration of all of the countries surrounding Afghanistan, with what went on in the early days.

"The power politics in the region is something we do not talk about enough."

Syria, named as part of the axis of evil in May 2002 by Bolton, was one of the “most common destinations for rendered suspects," according to the report.

But the CIA extraordinarily rendered at least nine individuals to Syria, whose government was headed by the current beleaguered leader Bashar al-Assad, between December 2001 and October 2002.

maher arar

Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian who was tortured in Syria


One of the most well-known cases is Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian who was transferred to Damascus from New York by the CIA in 2002.

He received £7.3m in compensation from Canada, who issued an apology “inaccurate and unfairly prejudicial” intelligence provided by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to the US.

Arar told HuffPost UK: "The US government has for long had double standards in matters related to foreign policy.

"There is no better example than that of the practice of extraordinary rendition where the current and previous administrations cooperated with dictatorial regimes that they condemned publicly but cooperated with clandestinely.

"The OSF report is not a surprise to me, as I have experienced the fruits of this cooperation first hand, but this revelation may be a surprise to people who still believe the US government still adheres to the rule of law in matters related to national security."

george bush

Many of the extraordinary renditions coincided with George Bush's Axis Of Evil speech


Arar was detained for more than 10 months in a tiny grave-like cell seven feet high, six feet long, and three feet wide, beaten with cables, and threatened with electric shocks, among other forms of torture.

Libya, which was also named as part of the axis of evil by Bolton, "detained, interrogated, and tortured extraordinarily rendered individuals, and also permitted use of its airspace and airports for the CIA’s extraordinary rendition operations."

Human Rights Watch found in 2012, after the fall of Colonel Gaddafi, that Western governments cooperated with a "forcible return and subsequent interrogation of Gaddafi opponents in Libya.”

Several of the cases appear to have intimately involved the UK government.

A leading Libyan opponent of Colonel Gaddafi, Sami al Saadi, was forcibly returned to the north African country in a joint operation with the UK and US, where he was tortured. In December 2012, he won a £2.23m settlement with the UK government.

Saadi was forced on board a plane in Hong Kong – having sought for years to avoid the agents of the Libyan dictator –with his wife and four young children, in an alleged joint UK-US-Libyan operation.

THE 54 COUNTRIES WHICH PARTICIPATED IN EXTRAORDINARY RENDITION

1. Afghanistan
2. Albania
3. Algeria,
4. Australia,
5. Austria,
6. Azerbaijan,
7. Belgium,
8. Bosnia-Herzegovina,
9. Canada,
10. Croatia,
11. Cyprus,
12. Czech Republic,
13. Denmark,
14. Djibouti,
15. Egypt,
16. Ethiopia,
17. Finland,
18. Gambia,
19. Georgia,
20. Germany,
21. Greece,
22. Hong Kong,
23. Iceland,
24. Indonesia,
25. Iran,
26. Ireland,
27. Italy,
28. Jordan,
29. Kenya,
30. Libya,
31. Lithuania,
32. Macedonia,
33. Malawi,
34. Malaysia,
35. Mauritania,
36. Morocco,
37. Pakistan,
38. Poland,
39. Portugal,
40. Romania,
41. Saudi Arabia,
42. Somalia,
43. South Africa,
44. Spain,
45. Sri Lanka,
46. Sweden,
47. Syria,
48. Thailand,
49. Turkey,
50. United Arab Emirates,
51. United Kingdom,
52. Uzbekistan,
53. Yemen,
54. Zimbabwe

Access Of Evil?

As US President George W Bush made his famous speech about the "axis of evil", and his administration named countries including Iran, Iraq, Syria and Libya as enemies of the US, his security forces were co-operating, directly and indirectly, with those same countries to kidnap, imprison and torture citizens.

A groundbreaking report published on Tuesday shows that more than 50 countries, a quarter of the world's nations, cooperated with the CIA's extraordinary rendition programme - many of them nations publicly hostile to the US.

Canadian citizen Maher Arar, who was tortured in Syria after his rendition, told HuffPost UK the report, by the Open Society Foundation, was further proof that the US government "cooperated with dictatorial regimes that they condemned publicly but cooperated with clandestinely."

iran

An Iranian cleric walks past a mural on the wall of the former US embassy


The Open Society Foundation found that Iran, Syria and Libya all directly or indirectly transferred individuals into American hands.

In March 2002, in his State of the Union address, Bush accused three governments of supporting terrorism and seeking weapons of mass destruction, the so-called Axis of Evil: Iran, Iraq and North Korea, which "threaten the peace of the world".

In May of that year, the list was expanded by Undersecretary of State John Bolton, who named Syria, Libya and Cuba as "beyond the Axis of Evil", an expansion of Bush's original claims.

But the report found that in the same month Bush named Iran as one-third of the Axis of Evil, Tehran, then under President Mohammad Khatami, was involved in capturing 15 individuals and transferring them to the Afghan government, 10 of which were later handed over the Americans.

At least six were later held in secret CIA detention.

The report's author Amrit Singh said: "Because the hand-over happened soon after the US invasion of Afghanistan, Iran was aware that the United States would have effective control over any detainees handed over to Afghan authorities."

Extraordinary Rendition Report Finds More Than 50 Nations Involved In Global Torture Scheme

Labour MP Yasmin Qureshi, a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Extraordinary Rendition, told The Huffington Post UK it was indicative of a "two-pronged approach" to fighting terror.

"Beneath the surface, the countries are all carrying out their own agendas.

"Iran may have been happy to help hand over members of the Taliban or al-Qaeda to the US, behind the scenes or indirectly. Iran is predominantly Shia and they are Sunnis.

"The attitude is 'my enemy's enemy is my friend.' If it's in the country's interest, they will deal with their enemies in private, while decrying them in public."

Reprieve investigator Dr Crofton Black told HuffPost UK: "We don't understand nearly enough about the collaboration of all of the countries surrounding Afghanistan, with what went on in the early days.

"The power politics in the region is something we do not talk about enough."

Syria, named as part of the axis of evil in May 2002 by Bolton, was one of the “most common destinations for rendered suspects," according to the report.

But the CIA extraordinarily rendered at least nine individuals to Syria, whose government was headed by the current beleaguered leader Bashar al-Assad, between December 2001 and October 2002.

maher arar

Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian who was tortured in Syria


One of the most well-known cases is Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian who was transferred to Damascus from New York by the CIA in 2002.

He received £7.3m in compensation from Canada, who issued an apology “inaccurate and unfairly prejudicial” intelligence provided by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to the US.

Arar told HuffPost UK: "The US government has for long had double standards in matters related to foreign policy.

"There is no better example than that of the practice of extraordinary rendition where the current and previous administrations cooperated with dictatorial regimes that they condemned publicly but cooperated with clandestinely.

"The OSF report is not a surprise to me, as I have experienced the fruits of this cooperation first hand, but this revelation may be a surprise to people who still believe the US government still adheres to the rule of law in matters related to national security."

george bush

Many of the extraordinary renditions coincided with George Bush's Axis Of Evil speech


Arar was detained for more than 10 months in a tiny grave-like cell seven feet high, six feet long, and three feet wide, beaten with cables, and threatened with electric shocks, among other forms of torture.

Libya, which was also named as part of the axis of evil by Bolton, "detained, interrogated, and tortured extraordinarily rendered individuals, and also permitted use of its airspace and airports for the CIA’s extraordinary rendition operations."

Human Rights Watch found in 2012, after the fall of Colonel Gaddafi, that Western governments cooperated with a "forcible return and subsequent interrogation of Gaddafi opponents in Libya.”

Several of the cases appear to have intimately involved the UK government.

A leading Libyan opponent of Colonel Gaddafi, Sami al Saadi, was forcibly returned to the north African country in a joint operation with the UK and US, where he was tortured. In December 2012, he won a £2.23m settlement with the UK government.

Saadi was forced on board a plane in Hong Kong – having sought for years to avoid the agents of the Libyan dictator –with his wife and four young children, in an alleged joint UK-US-Libyan operation.

THE 54 COUNTRIES WHICH PARTICIPATED IN EXTRAORDINARY RENDITION

1. Afghanistan
2. Albania
3. Algeria,
4. Australia,
5. Austria,
6. Azerbaijan,
7. Belgium,
8. Bosnia-Herzegovina,
9. Canada,
10. Croatia,
11. Cyprus,
12. Czech Republic,
13. Denmark,
14. Djibouti,
15. Egypt,
16. Ethiopia,
17. Finland,
18. Gambia,
19. Georgia,
20. Germany,
21. Greece,
22. Hong Kong,
23. Iceland,
24. Indonesia,
25. Iran,
26. Ireland,
27. Italy,
28. Jordan,
29. Kenya,
30. Libya,
31. Lithuania,
32. Macedonia,
33. Malawi,
34. Malaysia,
35. Mauritania,
36. Morocco,
37. Pakistan,
38. Poland,
39. Portugal,
40. Romania,
41. Saudi Arabia,
42. Somalia,
43. South Africa,
44. Spain,
45. Sri Lanka,
46. Sweden,
47. Syria,
48. Thailand,
49. Turkey,
50. United Arab Emirates,
51. United Kingdom,
52. Uzbekistan,
53. Yemen,
54. Zimbabwe

Ex-Gitmo Prosecutor: Obama’s Drone Surge as Damaging as Bush Torture Program

Retired Air Force Col. Morris "Moe" Davis, once the lead government prosecutor for terrorism suspects at the US detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, says that the US torture regime under Bush and now the drone assassination program run by the Obama administration have combined to make the world less safe and called both programs—whether they could be legally justified or not—"immoral."

US Air Force Col. Morris Davis (Ret.), who says: "If we're the country we claim to be, we've got to get back to the values we claim to represent." (Photo: US Air Force) "We are not the shining city on the hill," Davis told the small crowd gathered at Johnston Community College in North Carolina on Thursday night. "If we're the country we claim to be, we've got to get back to the values we claim to represent. Regardless of whether it's illegal, it's immoral."

"War is hell. But the rule of law makes it a little less hellish," Davis added.

The talk was part of a series given by Davis this week in which he lectured at several North Carolina colleges with the message that the United States' use of torture, secret detention and extraordinary rendition imperils the reputation of the country while also putting its own soldiers at increased risk of mistreatment in the future.

Not only have the practices harmed us abroad, Davis argues, but more than a decade of war has left a generation of Americans vulnerable to the idea that such policies are moral and correct.

As the local Fayetteville Observer reports:

Morris lamented that the majority of Americans accept torture. He attributes the statistics to young adults who have grown up in a post-9/11 world.

He argued that torture does not elicit information that can be used in the court of law and said the practice has damaged the nation's image.

The group that sponsored the evening's lecture, North Carolina Stop Torture Now, noted that Col. Davis' appearances come on the heels of reports by the Washington Post and European human rights advocates that the Obama administration continues to secretly detain suspected terrorists captured abroad.

Comparing Bush's torture regime to Obama's escalated use of drones to carry out attacks in Pakistan, Yemen, and elsewhere Davis said it was "six of one and half a dozen of another."

Davis retired from active duty in 2008 and subsequently took a job at the Library of Congress. He was fired from that position, however, after writing this op-ed in the Wall Street Journal which took a mild, but critical, stance against the Obama administration's approach to the ongoing Military Commission trials at Guantanamo Bay.

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 ...

The Portrait of a Whistleblower: Torture Cannot Be Tolerated

On January 25th, 2013 in Washington, D.C., former CIA agent John Kiriakou will be sentenced to 2 ½ years in prison for revealing the name of an undercover CIA agent. On the eve of that sentencing, Americans Who Tell the Truth and the Government Accountability Project are unveiling his portrait as the newest in the AWTT portrait series. Why are AWTT & GAP celebrating and honoring a man whom our president, Justice Department, intelligence agencies, and military are prosecuting as a criminal?  

The first and most important answer to that question is that in Mr. Kiriakou’s indictment and conviction there is no mention about what he really did nor his intent.  As a CIA agent he refused to go along with the Bush administration’s claim that “enhanced interrogation” techniques, such as waterboarding, were not torture. And he pointed out that the decision to use torture was not being made by low level “bad apples” in the military & intelligence communities. Mr Kiriakou wrote in his book The Reluctant Spy ( Bantam Books, 2009)  that the decision to use torture was being made at the very top of our government, by the bad apples at the top of the tree. People in positions of great power decided to employ “enhanced interrogation “ techniques and “extraordinary renditions” and to deny these programs while they were simultaneously re-writing the law to legalize them. John Kiriakou refused to go along and blew the whistle.

He is being prosecuted not by the Bush administration but by Obama´s. President Obama has prosecuted more whistleblowers than all other presidents combined. When the  president ran for office the first time he pledged to protect whistleblowers, saying how important they are to maintain integrity in government. He has offered to explanation for his change of heart.

When I was asked to write a statement for the press release about the portrait unveiling event, I wrote, “A state that consistently uses law to subvert justice and to violate human rights has become an enemy of its own defining spirit. It takes great courage to defy the power of such a state and to demand that it adhere to its moral imperatives. John Kiriakou has shown that courage in opposing this country’s flagrant use of torture and its attempt to justify that use. It is my great honor to add his portrait to the Americans Who Tell the Truth project.”

In saying, “A state that consistently uses law to subvert justice…,” I was thinking of Martin Luther King, Jr., writing in 1963  his Letter from the Birmingham Jail condemning the praise that the racist southern sheriff of Birmingham, Bull Connor, was receiving from white ministers for using “nonviolent” techniques to arrest the people protesting for civil rights. King said, “Maybe Mr. Connor and his policemen have been rather publicly nonviolent … but they have used the moral means of nonviolence to maintain the immoral end of flagrant racial injustice.”  And Dr. King continued addressing those ministers, “I wish you had commended the Negro sit-inners and demonstrators of Birmingham for their sublime courage, their willingness to suffer and their amazing discipline in the midst of the most inhuman provocation. One day the South will recognize its real heroes.” In other words, it was the courageous nonviolence of the protesters that prevented violence.

This portrait is an attempt to recognize a real hero. It is a terrible irony that the people who ordered the use of torture are free and continue to be rewarded for their “service” to this country, while the man who tried to stop torture is going to prison.

I was telling a friend recently about my choice to paint Mr. Kiriakou, and she said she was disappointed that I had chosen to do it. Why, I asked. Well, she said, Code of Honor. She was referring to the notion that an honorable member of an intelligence agency or the military would never speak negatively about another member publicly, never desert a comrade. Her attitude is understandable but fails to see how dangerous this code can be when it is used to hide the breaking of a more serious code. Just as a soldier is required by law to report a war crime, an intelligence officer who tries to stop the use of torture is staying true to the oath he or she took to defend the Constitution. The people who ordered torture, who lied about the fact of its use, who carried it out have made a mockery of any idea of the Code of Honor. For a person to invoke the Code of Honor as a reason for not reporting a crime makes one complicit in the crime. And for a person in a position of power to expect those under his/her jurisdiction to remain silent about a crime because they are respecting a Code of Honor is tantamount to moral bribery. A higher Code of Honor was broken by those political, military, and intelligence leaders who lied to create an unnecessary, illegal war and then denied and justified the use of torture.

Some people defending and supporting John Kiriakou have said that he has been destroyed by this ordeal. Originally he was charged under the Espionage Act and faced 35 years in prison. As a young man ( 48 ) with five children rather than risk conviction, he plea bargained to one count of revealing an agent’s name (even though that name was never revealed publicly and did nothing to expose classified information). Mr. Kiriakou has had his freedom taken away from him. He has lost his job, his house, his income. He has a debt of half a million dollars in lawyers fees. But destroyed? I’d say created. He has discovered a moral fiber that he may not have known that he had. He can, without denial, rationalization or hypocrisy, look at himself in the mirror. It’s hard to say you are on the right side of history when most of your former colleagues are on the other. But he has a new community now -- a community of whistleblowers, truth tellers, and activists for justice and human rights who support his courage. His former colleagues fear him because they know his courage to tell the truth complicates their  Code of Honor and, perhaps, indicts their cowardice.

John Kiriakou’s quote on his portrait says:

“Even if torture works, it cannot be tolerated -- not in one case or a thousand or a million. If their efficacy becomes the measure of abhorrent acts, all sorts of unspeakable crimes somehow become acceptable. I may have found myself on the wrong side of government on torture. But I’m on the right side of history. … There are things we should not do, even in the name of national security. One of them, I now firmly believe, is torture.”

Robert Shetterly

Robert Shetterly [send him mail] is a writer and artist who lives in Brooksville, Maine. He is the author of Americans Who Tell the Truth. See his website.

The Portrait of a Whistleblower: Torture Cannot Be Tolerated

On January 25th, 2013 in Washington, D.C., former CIA agent John Kiriakou will be sentenced to 2 ½ years in prison for revealing the name of an undercover CIA agent. On the eve of that sentencing, Americans Who Tell the Truth and the Government Accountability Project are unveiling his portrait as the newest in the AWTT portrait series. Why are AWTT & GAP celebrating and honoring a man whom our president, Justice Department, intelligence agencies, and military are prosecuting as a criminal?  

The first and most important answer to that question is that in Mr. Kiriakou’s indictment and conviction there is no mention about what he really did nor his intent.  As a CIA agent he refused to go along with the Bush administration’s claim that “enhanced interrogation” techniques, such as waterboarding, were not torture. And he pointed out that the decision to use torture was not being made by low level “bad apples” in the military & intelligence communities. Mr Kiriakou wrote in his book The Reluctant Spy ( Bantam Books, 2009)  that the decision to use torture was being made at the very top of our government, by the bad apples at the top of the tree. People in positions of great power decided to employ “enhanced interrogation “ techniques and “extraordinary renditions” and to deny these programs while they were simultaneously re-writing the law to legalize them. John Kiriakou refused to go along and blew the whistle.

He is being prosecuted not by the Bush administration but by Obama´s. President Obama has prosecuted more whistleblowers than all other presidents combined. When the  president ran for office the first time he pledged to protect whistleblowers, saying how important they are to maintain integrity in government. He has offered to explanation for his change of heart.

When I was asked to write a statement for the press release about the portrait unveiling event, I wrote, “A state that consistently uses law to subvert justice and to violate human rights has become an enemy of its own defining spirit. It takes great courage to defy the power of such a state and to demand that it adhere to its moral imperatives. John Kiriakou has shown that courage in opposing this country’s flagrant use of torture and its attempt to justify that use. It is my great honor to add his portrait to the Americans Who Tell the Truth project.”

In saying, “A state that consistently uses law to subvert justice…,” I was thinking of Martin Luther King, Jr., writing in 1963  his Letter from the Birmingham Jail condemning the praise that the racist southern sheriff of Birmingham, Bull Connor, was receiving from white ministers for using “nonviolent” techniques to arrest the people protesting for civil rights. King said, “Maybe Mr. Connor and his policemen have been rather publicly nonviolent … but they have used the moral means of nonviolence to maintain the immoral end of flagrant racial injustice.”  And Dr. King continued addressing those ministers, “I wish you had commended the Negro sit-inners and demonstrators of Birmingham for their sublime courage, their willingness to suffer and their amazing discipline in the midst of the most inhuman provocation. One day the South will recognize its real heroes.” In other words, it was the courageous nonviolence of the protesters that prevented violence.

This portrait is an attempt to recognize a real hero. It is a terrible irony that the people who ordered the use of torture are free and continue to be rewarded for their “service” to this country, while the man who tried to stop torture is going to prison.

I was telling a friend recently about my choice to paint Mr. Kiriakou, and she said she was disappointed that I had chosen to do it. Why, I asked. Well, she said, Code of Honor. She was referring to the notion that an honorable member of an intelligence agency or the military would never speak negatively about another member publicly, never desert a comrade. Her attitude is understandable but fails to see how dangerous this code can be when it is used to hide the breaking of a more serious code. Just as a soldier is required by law to report a war crime, an intelligence officer who tries to stop the use of torture is staying true to the oath he or she took to defend the Constitution. The people who ordered torture, who lied about the fact of its use, who carried it out have made a mockery of any idea of the Code of Honor. For a person to invoke the Code of Honor as a reason for not reporting a crime makes one complicit in the crime. And for a person in a position of power to expect those under his/her jurisdiction to remain silent about a crime because they are respecting a Code of Honor is tantamount to moral bribery. A higher Code of Honor was broken by those political, military, and intelligence leaders who lied to create an unnecessary, illegal war and then denied and justified the use of torture.

Some people defending and supporting John Kiriakou have said that he has been destroyed by this ordeal. Originally he was charged under the Espionage Act and faced 35 years in prison. As a young man ( 48 ) with five children rather than risk conviction, he plea bargained to one count of revealing an agent’s name (even though that name was never revealed publicly and did nothing to expose classified information). Mr. Kiriakou has had his freedom taken away from him. He has lost his job, his house, his income. He has a debt of half a million dollars in lawyers fees. But destroyed? I’d say created. He has discovered a moral fiber that he may not have known that he had. He can, without denial, rationalization or hypocrisy, look at himself in the mirror. It’s hard to say you are on the right side of history when most of your former colleagues are on the other. But he has a new community now -- a community of whistleblowers, truth tellers, and activists for justice and human rights who support his courage. His former colleagues fear him because they know his courage to tell the truth complicates their  Code of Honor and, perhaps, indicts their cowardice.

John Kiriakou’s quote on his portrait says:

“Even if torture works, it cannot be tolerated -- not in one case or a thousand or a million. If their efficacy becomes the measure of abhorrent acts, all sorts of unspeakable crimes somehow become acceptable. I may have found myself on the wrong side of government on torture. But I’m on the right side of history. … There are things we should not do, even in the name of national security. One of them, I now firmly believe, is torture.”

Robert Shetterly

Robert Shetterly [send him mail] is a writer and artist who lives in Brooksville, Maine. He is the author of Americans Who Tell the Truth. See his website.

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.


Comments

Our automatic spam filter blocks comments with multiple links and multiple users using the same IP address. Please make thoughtful comments with minimal links using only one user name. If you think your comment has been mistakenly removed please email us at [email protected]

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.

Gitmo-go-round: No solution in sight on 11th Guantanamo anniversary

January 11 marks the 11th anniversary since the first inmates were airlifted into the US detention facility in Guantanamo Bay. With an almost blanket ban on transferring prisoners out of Camp Delta in operation, it is unlikely to be the last one.

­The date has been met with outright condemnation by human rights groups – with accusations that have been aired repeatedly over the past decade, to no avail.

“The USA’s claim that it is a champion of human rights cannot survive the Guantánamo detentions, the military commission trials, or the absence of accountability and remedy for past abuses by US personnel, including the crimes under international law of torture and enforced disappearance,” stated Rob Freer of Amnesty International.

Since George W. Bush established the detention camp that would operate outside normal standards of justice on a secluded base in Cuba, Guantanamo has – perhaps more visibly than anything else – eaten away at any moral high ground the US had in its War on Terror.

"The United States has an operation that can only be described as a medieval torture chamber.  It’s in violation of Geneva Convention, and in violation of the US constitution. It violates legal principles such as trial by jury that goes back thousands of years," anthropologist Dr. Mark Mason said to RT.

But while extraordinary renditions, military tribunals and “enhanced interrogation techniques” are largely a part of Camp Delta’s history (the last inmate was brought here in 2008) its continuing existence is perhaps even less justifiable.

It is one thing to capture and hold (potentially) genuine terrorists no-holds-barred, but it is another to be keep innocent people in jail. Shockingly, out of the 166 prisoners who are reported by outside sources to remain in Guantanamo, more than half have been cleared and are actually due for release. But they won’t be allowed to leave.

Just how confident Barack Obama sounded of closing Guantanamo during his initial campaign (repeatedly calling it the terrorists’ top “recruitment tool”) seems implausible in the light of what has happened since.

Obama ordered Guantanamo Bay shut within a year early in 2009, and still promised he would do so during his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech later this year.

What has happened since has been repeated obstruction by Congress, and a consistent display of weak political will from the President. Initial plans to transfer the prisoners to a newly-constructed facility in Illinois, dubbed “Gitmo North”, were struck down by lawmakers.

Further, they used the financial oversight committee to rule that no federal funds could be used to move any Guantanamo inmate to the US mainland.

Attempts to try suspects in US courts were also resisted by local politicians.

But at least acquitted suspects or enemies who have served their term could be repatriated to their own countries (providing they wanted them and could guarantee them safety – hardly a given).

This is no longer easily possible either. In 2011 Congress imposed a rule where the US Defense Secretary would have to sign a waiver promising that any released Guantanamo inmate would not harm America in the future.

As a result, only two people have been released from the facility since 2010. The only other way for people to leave has been to die of illness or to commit suicide.

Congress has overpowered the president by bundling the measures in with the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the overall defense budget of the country. Obama has the power to veto the entire piece of legislation, but not to challenge it.

Obama has threatened to do so several times as Congress has imposed more and more stringent measures on Guantanamo, yet has backed down every time.

The latest NDAA, which further lessens the chance of Guantanamo closing, was signed only earlier this week. Obama reiterated that he wished to shut down Camp Delta, but rationalized his decision by saying “the need to renew critical defense authorities and funding was too great to ignore.”

To many of his supporters in the media and politics, Obama has been handed a problem of someone else’s making, for which there is no solution. But human rights experts have been roundly unimpressed.

“Under international law, domestic law and politics may not be invoked to justify failure to comply with treaty obligations. It is an inadequate response for one branch of government to blame another for a country’s human rights failure. International law demands that solutions be found, not excuses,” said Rob Freer.

“The burden is on Obama to show he is serious about closing the prison,” echoes Andrea Prasow from Human Rights Watch.

With extraordinary legal barriers to anyone leaving now in place, it is likely that Obama will not be able to shut Guantanamo even in his second term. It is not clear his successor will even want to.

In the meantime, this is what will remain:

A $150 million-a-year facility (which, as pointed out by the Obama administration, works out at $800,000 per inmate) that has produced only seven convictions, and holds more than 40 “indefinite detainees” – people who have been told they will face no charges due to lack of evidence, but will not be released, as the US has reason to believe they are dangerous, together with nearly 90 people who should not be there at all.

Whatever danger these people pose to the US (and no one argues that some of them are extremists), it is not likely to be greater than the damage Guantanamo is doing to its reputation.

“After 11 years, Guantanamo has immense symbolic power. To all those who believe in justice, truth and the rule of law it represents a continuing injustice,” Aisha Maniar, from the London Guantanamo Campaign, told RT.

Protestors wear orange prison jump suits and black hoods on their heads during protests against holding detainees at the military prison in Guantanamo Bay during a demonstration in front of the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on January 8, 2013 (AFP Photo / Saul Loeb)
Protestors wear orange prison jump suits and black hoods on their heads during protests against holding detainees at the military prison in Guantanamo Bay during a demonstration in front of the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on January 8, 2013 (AFP Photo / Saul Loeb)

US rights group slams Brennan’s choice

A prominent US civil rights group has censured President Barack Obama’s nomination of John Brennan as the next CIA director, citing his past role in instituting torture tactics by the spy agency and his current role leading the Obama administration’s targeted killing program, Press TV reports.

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) called on the US Senate in a Tuesday press release not to confirm Brennan until assessing the “legality” of his actions in previous leadership posts in the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) during George W. Bush administration as well as his current role in heading the ongoing assassination drone program, also referred to as targeted killing.

“The Senate should not move forward with his nomination until all senators can assess the role of the CIA - and any role by Brennan himself - in torture, abuse, secret prisons, and extraordinary rendition during his past tenure at the CIA, as well as can review the legal authorities for the targeted killing program that he has overseen in his current position,” said Director of ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office Laura Murphy.

“This nomination is too important to proceed without the Senate first knowing what happened during Brennan's tenures at the CIA and the White House, and whether all of his conduct was within the law,” she added.


Obama originally intended to nominate Brennan, a 25-year CIA veteran, as director of the notorious spy agency back in 2009, but wide criticism and controversies over his active involvement during Bush administration in endorsing torture tactics such as waterboarding as well as the establishment of secret prisons overseas, extra-ordinary renditions and eavesdropping programs led the US president against the move at the time.

Instead, Obama appointed Brennan as his chief “counterterrorism” advisor.

In April 2012, Brennan became the first US official to officially confirm the use of assassination drone strikes against presumed American enemies.

“Yes, in full accordance of the law and in order to prevent terrorist attacks on the United States and to save American lives, the United States government conducts targeted strikes against specific al-Qaeda terrorists, sometimes using remotely piloted aircraft often referred to publicly as drones,” he proclaimed.

Despite worldwide condemnation of the huge civilian casualties caused by American terror drones, Brennan further claimed last year that such aerial strikes never led to civilian deaths in Pakistan over the previous year, leading to tense relations between the two allied countries.


Furthermore, former top CIA analyst David MacMichael has described Brennan’s denial of civilian fatalities inflicted by US assassination drones as “absolutely false.”

Even mainstream US dailies, including the New York Times and the Washington Post have published editorials in recent months, blasting Obama administration’s arbitrary institution of targeted killing program in Muslim countries overseas as illegal and in violation of international human rights conventions, pointing to thousands of widely reported civilian casualties attributed to such attacks in several countries, including Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

MFB/MFB

“Disposition Matrix” Sketched Out on How U.S. Decides to Kill Citizens

Ed Krayewski, Reason | As noted on Reason 24/7, a federal judge has summarily dismissed FOIA requests by the New York Times and the ACLU for the legal justification used...

Bolton calls for use of torture on Benghazi suspects

David Edwards, RAW Story | Neoconservative former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nation John Bolton is suggesting that the U.S. should restart its practices of...

US – Beyond double standards and hypocrisy

Double standards have always been with us, but I wonder if they haven’t reached new heights, along with hypocrisy, in the age of the...

America on the Cusp of Fascism

NORMAN POLLACK | I use “fascism” here not as a cliché, but as an historical-structural formation principally rooted in the mature stage of capitalism, in...

MI6 accused of lying about illegal rendition

Steve Swann, BBC | Two men who claim they were illegally sent to Libya with the help of UK intelligence have accused ex-MI6 chief Sir...

Secret courts bill hides government cover-ups

Liberties and freedoms enshrined in Magna Carta more than 800 years ago are under threat from the British government’s plans to deliver a bill...

The Blackwater Targeted Killing Program

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

Spain’s Socialist Party government suppresses torture probe of Bush officials

The Obama administration and Spain’s Socialist Party (PSOE) government are working in tandem to prevent the prosecution of top Bush officials. President Barack Obama and...

Release The Torture Memos

Newsweek: "As reported by NEWSWEEK, the White House last month had accepted a recommendation from Attorney General Eric Holder to declassify and publicly release...

The Global Impact of U.S. “War on Terror” Abuses

By JOANNE MARINER | My last column began to sketch out the global human rights impact of the U.S. "war on terror." It...

UN Launches Probe of Secret Detention Sites

By Lisa Schlein | U.N. human rights investigators are launching a year-long global investigation into secret places of detention. They note the use of...

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...

More accuse Britain in torture of Guantanamo detainee

By Julie Sell LONDON – Despite years of denials, new questions are being raised about Britain's possible involvement in the torture of a detainee now...

Meet the New Criminals: Obama Keeps Rendition

Obama lets CIA keep controversial renditions tool By Greg Miller, Chicago Tribune  WASHINGTON – The CIA's secret prisons are being shuttered. Harsh interrogation techniques are off-limits....

Amnesty: Closing Guantanamo Isn’t Enough

Amnesty International, in a just-released proposal, wants to go further than just closing the facility. By Spencer Ackerman The international human-rights organization put out a four-stage...

Investigating ‘Africa’s Guantanamo’

Salim Awadh is talking to me from inside a cell somewhere in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. By Robert Walker | There are seven other...

Pilger: How Britain wages war

By John Pilger | The military has created a wall of silence around its frequent resort to barbaric practices, including torture, and goes out...

Guantanamo trials fall short, says Arbour

By Stephanie Nebehay | UN HIGH Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour said yesterday that planned Guantanamo war crimes trials fell short of international...

Fourth Briton accuses MI5 of torture

Ian Cobain - The Guardian | Human rights groups and MPs are calling for an investigation into claims that MI5 officers colluded in the torture...

The Bush team’s Geneva hypocrisy

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

Rights Groups Wrangle with CIA over “Ghost Prisoners”

IPS | The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency has refused to release more than 7,000 documents related to its programmes of secret detentions, renditions, and...

Is Australia helping with CIA rendition flights?

Is Australia unwittingly helping the US Central Intelligence Agency with the notorious secret flights known as renditions? Australian politicians and defense officials are refusing to...

The western war of terror against its own citizens

W.J.C. Rhys-Burgess In an address to the UN Human Rights Council on 13 December 2007, the International Commission of Jurists expressed particular concern as to...

Blackwater Mercenaries on the USA-Mexico Border

By Nancy Conroy   In San Diego County, California, a firestorm has erupted over plans to build a Blackwater mercenary training camp in the hills behind...

House deals blow to CIA rendition

House votes to end CIA rendition program, ACLU says RAW STORY A little noticed prohibition in the Democrats' $50 billion Iraq funding bill that passed the...

Ukraine link to CIA secret prisons probed

EU says airstrip, base used in extraordinary renditions By JAN SLIVA ASSOCIATED PRESS An EU investigator said Wednesday he has evidence to suggest that a Ukrainian airstrip...

Claims of secret CIA jail for terror suspects on British island to be investigated

· Legal charity urges action on Diego Garcia claims · Prisoners may have been held in ships off coast Ian Cobain and Richard Norton-Taylor The Guardian Diego...

The Bush administration’s ties to Blackwater

Blamed in the deaths of Iraqi civilians, the private security firm has long ties to the White House and prominent Republicans, including Ken Starr. By...

Report claims proof of secret CIA jails in Europe

A Council of Europe report made public June 9 said that investigators have found proof that the CIA ran clandestine prisons for terrorist suspects...