August 2008 Archives

Posted per request, under the category State Torture, whereby torture is enacted by the state at the level of local police right on the street in full view of the community (much like the open torture and punishment of convicted criminals in the town square):

Excerpt from article:

According to Winn Parish coroner Dr. Randolph Williams, police officers delivered nine taser shocks to the handcuffed man over a 14-minute interval. Williams further noted that Pikes showed no response to the last two taser shocks, which were fired as police pulled him from a patrol car into the police station. Pikes was already unconscious and died soon after.

Williams consulted about the case with Dr. Michael Baden, a nationally prominent forensic pathologist. After that consultation, Williams ruled that Pikes¢ death was a homicide. The cause of death was listed as "cardiac arrest following nine 50,000-volt electroshock applications from a conductive electrical weapon."

Baden noted that what the police did to Pikes that afternoon "could be considered to be torture." (Italics mine, George C.)


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Experts Predict Slew of Torture Suits:
Courts Begin to Consider Whether Torture Victims
May Seek Legal Redress

Last week, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals announced that its full court would reconsider the disturbing case of Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian citizen arrested by U.S. authorities at JFK airport in 2002 and forcibly extradited to Syria for interrogation. As U.S. officials surely expected, Arar was questioned under torture for the next year in a Syrian prison. He was eventually released without charge.

One of the first known victims of the Bush administration's secret "extraordinary rendition" policy, Arar sued U.S. authorities in 2004 for conspiring in his torture. A three-judge panel dismissed the case in January, saying that as an alien deported by immigration authorities, he had no right to bring a claim. But as more such cases are being filed, it appears the courts are beginning to reconsider. The entire Second Circuit court -- all 22 judges -- last week announced sua sponte that it would take a second look at Arar's case. Meanwhile, similar cases filed by former detainees apparently tortured under the direction of U.S. officials could be headed to the Supreme Court.

On The Darker Figures

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"The one thing that is missing is an understanding of the lawyers on the other side: the darker figures of the story. Lawyers like Prof. John Yoo (who is given passing reference in the book) and Prof. Viet D. Dinh are viewed by many law professors and civil libertarians as grotesque and even monstrous in their work to excuse torture and to deny the basic rights of detainees. They remain cutout caricatures in books examining the tribunals."

from How a Jihadist Curtailed a President's Authority
by Jonathon Turley

Toward a Universal Declaration of Human Wrongs


U.S. government policy has established a new category of human--The Terrorist--who can be placed in a separate legal category from other humans, a category in which there are no rights at all. Suspected Terrorists can be assassinated using missiles fired from robot airplanes, they can be imprisoned without charges, they can be given trials where U.S. military officers are the judges, or they can be held for years without being tried at all. It is permitted to do such things not because of what these people did, but because of what they are: they are Terrorists.

read this article at  

Dehumanizing of inmates at Abu Ghraib

| 13 February 2008

[Major Gen. Antonio] Taguba cited one former administration official, Berkeley law professor John Yoo, for special mention. Yoo, who served in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel from 2001 to 2003, is widely credited with - or blamed for - a series of controversial memos he wrote arguing for vastly expanded presidential powers in time of war, including those that govern the treatment of captive suspects.

Those so-called "torture memos," Taguba charged, "paved the way for the ambiguity of rules of war" and "placed our country at greater risk in fighting terrorism." It is "truly disingenuous and irresponsible," he added, for the White House to promulgate policies that contradict both national and international law - including the Geneva Conventions - and then blame abuses on "aberrant behavior" by those on the lower rungs of the chain of command.

with no responsibility otherwise," said Boalt graduate Michael Anderson, who circulated the  [2004] petition calling on Yoo to resign only days after Anderson's graduation. "But that's immoral. Even if Yoo is right and terrorists aren't covered by the Geneva conventions, he induced the military to commit war crimes with his advice."

Furor Over UC Prof's Brief on War

Published on Monday, June 7, 2004 by the San Francisco Chronicle,   

From regretting that his secret machinations were exposed[,] to a bald defense of arbitrary presidential powers that are not subject to legal review or control, Yoo's defense is in reality a bold confirmation of every criticism that has been leveled at him in Berkeley and nationwide. He is baldly refusing to admit any error, and continues to maintain that his role in helping our president violate the spirit, if not the letter, of the U.S. Constitution, is beyond reproach.

In essence, Yoo is challenging the Berkeley community and the American public to confront the basics of his deeply immoral stance. It is my belief that we should take up that challenge.

The Constitution, and our republican democracy, are not Yoo's, nor Bush's, nor anyone's plaything to alter or ignore at their pleasure. And there is no reason for UC to be a party to such dangerous nonsense.

Robert Cruickshank, UC Berkeley alumnus, June 21, 2004                                                                                              

By BENEDICT CAREY, NYTimes, August 15, 2008

"It's really a fight for the soul of the profession."
BRAD OLSON, a psychologist at Northwestern University, on efforts to prohibit military psychologists from taking part in interrogations of enemy combatants detained by the military and C.I.A.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Aug. 14) - California won't stand for torture.

American Friends Service Committee, 

stoptortureThe state Legislature adopted a resolution today aimed at preventing doctors, psychologists, and other health professionals from taking part in coercive interrogations at any U.S. military prisons.  It's the first such resolution in the United States.

The American Friends Service Committee, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and Program for Torture Victims coordinated the two-year campaign.

Download Press Release (PDF)

Friday, May 30, 2008

Haven't We Seen This Film Before?

Marty Lederman

There's a UC Berkeley alum in my household, and so we're frequently inundated with promotional materials from the University.

Last week we received the latest issue of The Promise of Berkeley, a big glossy production designed to tout the accomplishments of members of the University community. The Spring issue includes a piece promoting the close connections between Cal Berkeley and the U.S. government here in D.C. "A number of Berkeley's faculty have held positions in past presidential administrations or worked closely with presidential candidates," it boasts. And so the Promise of Berkeley asked six faculty members -- "three from each side of the aisle" -- to "reflect on their time in Washington, what's at stake in the 2008 presidential election, and what Berkeley means to them."

The Dems profiled are, not surprisingly, Chris Edley, Bob Reich and Janet Yellen. The editors apparently had a more difficult time finding prominent Republican officials on their faculty: The chose Dan Schnur (a Poli Sci lecturer who worked on McCain's 2000 primary campaign), Sandy Muir (a speechwriter for Bush 41), and, you guessed it . . . John Yoo.

Now, it's one thing to decide not to challenge a tenured professor's job security, notwithstanding substantial evidence that he facilitated war crimes (a decision of Chris Edley's that I supported here). But it's quite another to give that faculty member pride of place -- because of his government service -- in a publication intended to encourage alumni contributions by stressing the laudable public service of one's faculty members. Did the editors of The Promise of Berkeley really think that including John Yoo in their brochure would result in more robust alumni donations? My sense is that this is tone-deafness of a very high order -- but what do I know?
by Chip 

The American Psychological Association has a resolution pending disavowing employment where torture is used. The text of the resolution is below. Pro and con arguments can be read here.


We the undersigned APA members in good standing, pursuant to article IV.5 of the APA bylaws, do hereby petition that the following motion be submitted to APA members for their approval or disapproval, by referendum, with all urgency:

Whereas torture is an abhorrent practice in every way contrary to the APA's stated mission of advancing psychology as a science, as a profession, and as a means of promoting human welfare.

The Truth Is In There

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Barbara OlshanskyProfessor Barbara Olshansky is interviewed by Christine Lagorio of the Village Voice about her work involving Guantanamo and its prisoners.

I've watched a visit to Guantánamo change even the most staunchly conservative person to, well, somewhere even to the left of me. Maybe that's tipping off the edge of the earth. But over the span of a past few years, I've really watched it change people. I'd say 30 or so have gone down there, but that's out of about 70 law firms and more than 400 lawyers involved. It's an amazing powerhouse group.

Asked about why she chose "this professional, and life, path," she says:

This sounds cheesy, but I saw the movie To Kill a Mockingbird. I wanted to be Atticus Finch and see that people are treated justly. But I never thought I could tell a bunch of lawyers to, say, simultaneously file for injunctions to stop transportation of detainees abroad for questioning and torture, and that they would, and we'd win a dozen cases at once. It's great to be able to poke Uncle Sam in the eye once in a while. What a horrifying time we live in.

Full Story

by Scott Horton

Remarks to the ASIL Centennial Conference on The Nuremberg War Crimes Trial         Bowling Green, Ohio                                                                                               October 7, 2006

"In France, innumerable summary executions occur, even as I sit here writing. Each day certainly more than a thousand people are killed, and thousands of German men experience murder as a matter of routine. And yet all of that is child's play compared to what's going on in Poland and Russia. Can I learn about this and just sit at the table in my heated apartment and drink tea? Don't I establish my complicity simply by doing nothing? What will I say in the future, when someone asks me: and what did you do during this time?"               - Helmuth von Moltke, in a letter to his wife, Oct. 19, 1941 

...death is worse than torture, but everyone except pacifists thinks there are circumstances in which war is justified. War means killing people. If we are entitled to kill people, we must be entitled to injure them. I don't see how it can be reasonable to have an absolute prohibition on torture when you don't have an absolute prohibition on killing. Reasonable people will disagree about when torture is justified. But that, in some circumstances, it is justified seems to me to be just moral common sense.

interview with ALASDAIR PALMER, The Spectator, published in The Gazette (Montreal) 2007

The great innovation of the Framers of our Constitution was to create a government that is not our master but our servant. We the people are the ultimate sovereign. The government acts for us; what it does, it does in our name and with the power we have given it. And its acts, as hornbook agency law will tell you, are attributable to us, for good or for ill. If it spreads liberty and relieves suffering, we can take pride in those acts as our own. If it tortures, we are torturers.  

Detention and Interrogation in the Post-9/11 World
Kermit Roosevelt III, University of Pennsylvania Law School 

Read an Op-Ed piece by Louise Specht describing why it is important to continue to take action to stop the use of torture even as we wait to see how the national political situation will unfold.

Read more about FCCB's TEARS Ministry Team which works on anti-torture issues.

A bold new banner outside the church proclaims "First Congregational Church of Berkeley Says Torture is a Moral Issue." during the month of June. We are marking Anti-Torture Month by participating in the NRCAT (National Religious Campaign Against Torture} Banners Across America project. Congregations in Berkeley and all over the US are flying these banners this June, a powerful nationwide witness against torture.

Take a look at other banners that have been put up across the country by various faith communities as part of NRCAT's banner project.

Read and listen to an interview with The Rev. Richard Killmer, Executive Director of NRCAT, by the Christian Science Monitor.

Read the text of Louise Specht's "Moment for Mission" about Torture Awareness Month, which she shared in the June 8 worship service.

Nuts & Boalts , Monday, July 28, 2008

My thought is that Boalt dropped the ball. Think about it:  John Yoo, a tenured professor at Berkeley Law, took a political bullet for the President because he was the President's lawyer.  Talk about  a teachable moment in legal professionalism! Academic freedom; service to country; legal ethics; politics; war; tenure -- all these issues were floating around our hallowed halls last spring, yet if you asked most of our professors whether Yoo made the correct ethical or moral decision, you would have had better luck listening for a pin drop than an answer. In substance, it matters little to me what Boalt professors and faculty think about Yoo or Bush or torture.  But the fact that they bit their lips and held their tongues in front of 800 soon-to-be lawyers seems disappointing. What could have motivated that silence? Political nonchalance? Adademic courtesy?  Decorum?  What kind of message did Boalt send to a rising generation of America's attorneys? That niceties are more important in the law than frankness or moral compass?

read full commentary at .

By Judith Scherr

The Berkeley Daily Planet, Friday August 01, 2008
Peace activists have taken a page from the book of Budweiser and--in addition to using the web and other modern means--are spreading their message by old fashioned billboard advertising.

"Silence + torture = complicity," says the billboard above Round Table Pizza on University Avenue near Milvia Street, its orange background evocative of the Abu Graib prisoner jumpsuits.

That billboard is not exactly what activists had envisioned. They wanted an image of a torture victim and the words: "Fire John Yoo," with a link to, said Giovanni Jackson, of the Fire John Yoo Coalition.

The coalition is made up of the World Can't Wait, the Coalition for an Ethical American Psychological Association, Act Against Torture, the Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute and individuals such as Elliot Cohen from the Peace and Justice Commission and Gray Brechin, noted author and UC Berkeley geography professor

They thought that at the $500 per month billboard rent, they could craft the message as they saw fit.

However, billboard companies, it appears, get to control the message. CBS Outdoor, who owns the billboard, turned down the originally proposed "Fire John Yoo" billboard, but accepted the other, Jackson said.

CBS Outdoor did not return Planet calls or e-mails for an explanation.

John Yoo is the UC Berkeley law professor who, when working for the Bush administration, wrote documents that many people--the National Lawyers Guild among them--say lay the foundation for rationalization of torture of prisoners that has taken place in Iraq.

On Thursday evening, a group of young people stood on the University Avenue median displaying a large "fire John Yoo" banner. They got positive "honks" from cars going by, though it's not clear if the drivers linked the banner to the billboard above.

Elliot Cohen of the Peace and Justice Commission came out to support those holding the banner. He told the Planet that his commission had passed a resolution on July 7 calling on the university to investigate Yoo and to demand that classes required for graduation taught by Yoo would also be taught by another professor, so that students would not be forced to study with Yoo..

The resolution will go to the City Council in September.

In a phone interview Friday, Brechin told the Planet he has worked to fire John Yoo for several years, demonstrating outside Yoo's classroom and at Sproul Plaza. He said he was disappointed that the university faculty and students don't seem bothered by Yoo's presence on campus.

The university's silence on the question of Yoo makes it complicit with torture, Brechin said.

The dean of Boalt Hall has refused to take up the issue of firing Yoo. "He said his hands are tied," Brechin said. [See Dean Christopher Edley, Jr.'s letter at in which he points to academic freedom among the reasons for not firing Yoo.]

Brechin said Edley argued that Yoo would have to be convicted of a criminal act to be fired, but, said Brechin: "The federal courts are so corrupted, so politicized, that won't happen."

For more information see
Recently, The Daily Californian published a piece titled "Bear Naked: Getting to Know John Yoo."

The following is a critical response to the above article, written to challenge the author's complicity in defending John Yoo's presence at Boalt Hall and to call on students and community members to take action against torture and against abetting war criminals.


Torture practices continue due to the purposeful misrepresentation of anti-torture policies and disregard for law that preserves fundamental human rights and needs. Evidence of abuse and torture practices, including but not limited to beatings, electric shocks, sexual humiliation, waterboarding, and harming the children of detainees cause lasting physical, psychological, and mental suffering, anguish, and discomfort. These methods are illegal and unwarranted, and the U.S. employing torturous interrogation practices has become an issue of global concern. At the core of these torture violations is John Yoo, who is invested in emphasizing bureaucratic rule, expanding presidential power, and funding the militarization of capitalist hegemony. John Yoo's authorizations of torture and interrogation abuses have directly resulted in the most egregious assaults on human lives during our time.

Andrew Kim not only explicitly professes that there was no prior legal precedent to torture, but also negligently and recklessly advocates that a fictitious "war on terror" that employs the propaganda of fear and hysteria as it's primary mechanism should not be challenged even when individual liberties, due process, habeas corpus, and human lives are being extinguished in violations of the law. These assertions are unconscionable and have no basis in reality. Is Kim aware that John Yoo developed the definition for torture pursuant to a health statute, violating the rule of law established in the Youngstown and Hamdan v. Rumsfeld cases and international treaties against torture, to which the U.S. is a signatory? Is Kim aware that millions are being detained interminably with no recourse; no legal right to representation, and without having been charged and knowing why they are being unlawfully confined? How many more lives being lost as a direct result of the torture interrogation techniques John Yoo has implemented are acceptable to Kim to justify the Bush Administration's advocacy of an empire torture state?

Reasonable people cannot uphold Kim's uncritical representations that ineffectively attempt to mitigate John Yoo's role as a pedagogical instrument of power at UC Berkeley. In trying to gain readership, Kim has gone beyond being silent in speaking out against torture; Kim seeks to protect John Yoo's presence at UC Berkeley, as "a man." As a sports writer, Kim admits to being incompetent to commenting on a political story. What then was Kim's motivation in offering a political opinion that is complicit to allowing and upholding torture and abuse? What does Kim think about aiding and abetting a war criminal? Is Kim willing to defend John Yoo further?

Past times have shown us that abusive interrogation tactics have been used as weapons against human lives. John Yoo has committed war crimes against humanity and should be held responsible for his deplorable violations of law and professional ethics. We will not back down; we will not compromise until NO TO TORTURE is on the world agenda.

Linda Rigas
No To Torture--John Yoo Must Go!

podcast of The Angie Coiro Show: 08/ 01/2008 

Guests Susan Gluss, Robert Gammon, and Debra Sweet talk with Angie and you to get at the heart of the matter. 

Coco Fusco, a multimedia artist who uses performance, writing, and video, pushes the boundaries of what is accepted in the cultural realm through her most current work titled A Field Guide for Female Interrogators (2008), a book that offers a mirror image of America's current use of torture.

In order to not only expose the realities of torture via interrogation abuses, but to also provide a critical commentary that reveals political truth, Coco Fusco underwent instruction and training in interrogation techniques at the Prisoner of War Interrogation Resistance Program run by a private entity Team Delta, which consists of former intelligence interrogators in the United States military who seek to provide "authentic military experiences" by allowing trainees to play prisoners of war and instructors to take on the role of interrogators. By the end of the simulation program, each trainee has been interrogated several times to experience what these interrogation tactics feel like.

Immediately after this simulation course, Fusco made the video "Operation Atropos," (2006) which emphasizes through repetition the image of women prisoners being forced to their knees, yelled at, pushed, prodded, and insulted by all-male interrogators. By the end of the film, the detainee women are shown to have been psychologically abused as a direct ramification of threats of death and violence. The film exposes the inevitable results of interrogation that confine prisoners within strict boundaries as they are strainfully forced to give confessions.

coco.span.jpg"Americans need to grow up and admit that as adults we are responsible for what we do, and so are soldiers in uniform. That does not mean that I fail to recognize that orders to engage in abuse came from above -- I believe they did, and I would argue that all those involved in authorizing abuse at Abu Ghraib should also be held responsible." --Coco Fusco: A Field Guide for Female Interrogators

Fusco expanded on this video work further by augmenting the role of women in interrogation abuses and how female-bodied interrogators use their sexuality on male-bodied detainees. In her book, Fusco underscores the abusive torture tactics currently being used by drawing on actual accounts of detainee treatment in US military prisons. By constructing images based on verbal and psychological abuse, Fusco provides a complex analysis beyond the exposure of images from Abu Ghraib. Fusco explores the "psychology of capture" through interrogation abuses that subject prisoners to believing via threats and insinuations that physical violence will be used. Furthermore, detainees are led to believe that nearby screams of trauma and pain are coming from fellow prisoners, a tactic that Fusco learned is particularly useful against women.

This critical exposure of abuse addresses how interrogation tactics are being used as weapons against human lives. We must continue to expose torture as a method to fight against a prison torture state. We cannot back down; we cannot compromise until NO TORTURE is on the world agenda!

UC Berkeley Billboard

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Broken Laws, Broken Lives

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The President's Executioner

Detention and torture in Guantanamo

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