Remembering Jim Lehrer

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The October 20 [2009] edition of PBS's News Hour with Jim Lehrer featured a report on the battle at the University of California, Berkeley, (UCB) to fire war criminal John Yoo, an architect of the torture begun during the years of the Bush Regime and currently a law professor at UCB. The report features a short interview with World Can't Wait activist Stephanie Tang, and video of protests against Yoo, including right in his class room. 

Andy Worthington, British journalist and co-founder of Close Guantanamo, spoke at Revolution Books NYC on January 16, 2020, together with Shelby Sullivan-Bennis, attorney for current and former Guantanamo prisoners.

Peter Jan Honigsberg, a professor at the University of San Francisco School of Law and the founder and director of the Witness to Guantanamo Project, offers the most comprehensive picture to date of the lives that were deeply and often traumatically transformed by Guantanamo. From how alleged terrorists were captured in Afghanistan and Pakistan and sold to the US to the Bush administration's use of the term "enemy combatant" to bypass the Geneva Conventions, Honigsberg details how the law was broken in the name of protecting Americans-and how that lawlessness was experienced by everyone who came into contact with Guantanamo. 

The fate of the 9/11 attack defendants may be determined in part on the testimony of the very same people who tortured them. 

Dr. James E. Mitchell and fellow psychologist John Bruce Jessen devised the program of violence, sleep deprivation and humiliation that the C.I.A. would employ on detainees, some at Mitchell's own hands. His team waterboarded Khalid Shaikh Mohammed 183 times over a two week period in 2003.

"Dr. Mitchell and Dr. Jessen started off as contract consultants to the C.I.A. and went on to waterboard three other prisoners now at Guantánamo in addition to Mr. Mohammed, starting with a Palestinian man called Abu Zubaydah. By 2005, they set up a business, Mitchell Jessen and Associates, that grew to provide all of the contract guards at the black sites and 80 percent of the agency's interrogators. The United States government paid the business $81 million for their services." -- Carol Rosenberg, The New York Times

"It is unclear how much of the testimony the public or the defendants will get to see," notes Rosenberg. Air Force judge Col. W. Shane Cohen must decide how much evidence to allow about the men's torture. Considering the government's extensive use of national security privilege over the years, and how much information has been shielded from defense lawyers to date, the chances of a fair trial appear slim.

Jury selection is scheduled for January 22, 2021.

This January 11th, 2020 will mark the 18th year anniversary of Guantanamo's opening in the War on Terror in 2002. Witness Against Torture will join other human rights organization in once again calling attention to the brutality of the prison, including indefinite detention and for an end to any and all uses of torture.

Freed at Last

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Three Afghans sent to Guantanamo in 2002 and 2003 are finally home

Hamidullah, who has been freed after 16 years in detention in Afghanistan, Guantanamo and the UAE, is finally home in Kabul. Two other Afghans sent to the UAE, Obaidullah and Mohammed Kamin, both from Khost, have also been released and allowed to return to their families. (Photo: The New York Times'

Hamidullah, who has been freed after 16 years in detention in Afghanistan, Guantanamo and the UAE, is finally home in Kabul. Two other Afghans sent to the UAE, Obaidullah and Mohammed Kamin, both from Khost, have also been released and allowed to return to their families. (Photo: The New York Times' "Guantanamo Docket")

Drawings done in captivity by the first prisoner known to undergo "enhanced interrogation" portray his account of what happened to him in vivid and disturbing ways.

Abu Zubaydah suffers indefinite detention -- in itself a form of torture -- while the architect of American torture techniques, the subject of drawings published by the New York Times, enjoys University of California protection from prosecution for his crimes. The most protested professor in the legal academy also finds refuge at Stanford's Hoover Institution.  

Everyone else can catch the movie.

Ahmed Rabbani is from Karachi, Pakistan. He has been detained in Guantanamo Bay for more than 15 years.

"Trump has, time and again, called the handful of American soldiers convicted by military courts of war crimes 'heroes'," notes Sasha Abramsky at Truthout. "These include Navy SEAL Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, who is standing trial for thrill-killing civilians in Iraq; Nicholas Slatten, a Blackwater contractor found guilty in 2007 of killing numerous Iraqi civilians; Green Beret Mathew Golsteyn, who stands accused of killing an unarmed Afghan man; and several Marine Corps snipers accused of urinating on the corpses of Taliban fighters."

The legal theories which vest the President with literally unlimited power remain largely in place -- including pardoning U.S. military personnel convicted of, or standing trial for, war crimes -- with no small thanks to the legitimacy afforded torture advocate John Yoo by media institutions and UC Berkeley Law. 

In a 2006 memoir of his government service, entitled War by Other Means, the professor promulgated that a president could take a number of steps so that people criminally charged with allegedly torturing prisoners would go free:

"There are ways that the legal system could develop effective approaches toward coercive interrogation. A president could decline to prosecute an officer whom he believed properly acted in self-defense or in an emergency, or out of necessity.  A President could pardon those involved.  Even if a prosecution occurs, a jury must find that that the defense is not met, and convict the agents and his superiors of violating the law.  It would require the only juror to agree that it was reasonable for the defendants to believe the coercive interrogation would yield information that would save lives, and that it would be necessary under the circumstances, to prevent the conviction."

The general framework on which John Yoo's infamous "torture memo" rests is one under which we continue to live under the fascist regime of Trump/Pence; the "twisted" notion that the president's DOJ has the authority to immunize government officials or private actors from the reach of the law is a recipe for inevitable lawlessness, wrote former Salon columnist Glenn Greenwald on release of the document.

While prospective pardons failed to materialize on Memorial Day (facing a barrage of criticism from military top brass, he pulled back), Trump's pardons are expected to be resurrected and "dangled as red meat" before the MAGA crowd. Abramsky concludes that "Trump's glorification of violence and knee-jerk defense of people such as Gallagher are part of a much bigger pattern. Over the past four years Trump has stated that he believes American soldiers ought to be able to torture terrorism suspects, kill the families of terrorists and use such methods as dipping bullets in pigs' blood before firing them at Muslim fighters as a way of humiliating them. In other words, Trump has repeatedly advocated the carrying out of war crimes by American military personnel. 

"Have we learned nothing from the past?"

As chief lawyer, U.S. state department adviser Jennifer Newstead will be able to approve or deny extrajudicial "national security letters," thousands of which are fielded by Facebook every year. 

"Jennifer is a seasoned leader whose global perspective and experience will help us fulfill our mission," said Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg.


5c800b6ceb3ce844505c0512-1920-960.jpg"It's Kirstjen Nielsen's last day as the secretary of Homeland Security," observes Paul Blest at Splinter News, "and already, she, along with her best buds in D.C., are reportedly desperate to do some PR surgery on her so she isn't known for the rest of her life as 'the woman who threw children in cages at the request of Donald Fucking Trump and then lied to Congress about it.'

"Given what we know about accountability for powerful people in America, though, it's a good bet that she'll have little trouble finding a job once she's ready... such as Torture Memos writer and current UC Berkeley law professor John Yoo. Or Henry Kissinger. Or on and on and on."

'Til it Stops

"Because if elite institutions and corporate America simply welcomes her back," adds MSNBC's Chris Hayes (Video), "then, in the same way I'm not sure we won't torture again, I'm not so sure we won't rip children from their mother's arms again."  

Here's one for the Duh files, writes Ed Brayton for

John Yoo, principal author of the infamous torture memos that authorized waterboarding and worse in the Bush administration, says that if Trump declared a state of emergency over Mexican border immigration, that would be perfectly constitutional.

..this is the man who says the president has the legal authority to order a child's testicles crushed in order to get information from their father (yes, that's actually his position)... but that can't just mean that anything he says is an emergency actually is one. 


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White-House-shut-down-banner-1.jpgRule of Law, Not Rule of Trump

January 11, 2019, marks the 17th anniversary of the opening of the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, which was established in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. It also marks the start of the prison's third year under the direction of the Trump administration. At the beginning of the Trump administration 41 people remained imprisoned at Guantanamo. Over the last two years, the Trump administration has released just one individual, leaving 40 people in detention while, at times, signaling interest in expanding Guantanamo. What will happen to the prison and its detainees in the remaining years of the Trump administration? Will anyone else be released? Will the prison ever close?

Join New America's International Security Program as they welcome Laura Pitter, Thomas B. Wilner and Andy Worthington for a discussion about what is next for the prison.

New America Foundation
740 15th St NW #900
Washington, DC

Moderator: David Sterman, Senior Policy Analyst, New America International Security program

Follow the conversation online using #GTMO17th and following@NewAmericaISP.


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