December 2008 Archives

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Still jobless Gonzales says he's 'casualty' of the war on terror 

GonzalesThe onetime Bush Attorney General admitted Tuesday that "skittish" law firms won't hire him after his departure under fire from the Justice Department surrounding his role in the political firings of nine US Attorneys. He says he considers himself a victim of the "war on terror," though his firing actually came after what seemed to be a war on US Attorneys who didn't cleave to Administration policies.

Sounding dumbfounded, the 53-year-old former judge and corporate lawyer told the Wall Street Journal, "What is it that I did that is so fundamentally wrong, that deserves this kind of response to my service?"

He says he's delivered a few paid speeches, done mediation work and arbitration.

In the interview, he also said he's writing a book but hasn't yet found a publisher. He also sounded flummoxed by the amount of rancor leveled at his stewardship of the Justice Department, saying he wasn't the one to blame.

"For some reason, I am portrayed as the one who is evil in formulating policies that people disagree with," Gonzales said. "I consider myself a casualty, one of the many casualties of the war on terror."

Gonzales took flak for the apparent political firing of US Attorneys who didn't toe the Bush administration line. It later emerged that his lieutenants had chosen Republicans and spurned Democrats when hiring professional staff.

On paper, many of the decisions surrounding US Attorney firings, as well as hirings, had been made by subordinates, which lent weight to arguments that Gonzales wasn't providing ample leadership.

The first Hispanic attorney general also kindled critics ire by repeatedly telling Congress "I don't recall" when questioned about his role in the US Attorney firings.

He said he's writing his memoir "for my sons, so at least they know the story," and bemoaned testimony by former Deputy Attorney General James Comey, who refused to authorize President Bush's warrantless wiretapping program while acting as temporary Attorney General. Gonzales is said to have traveled to then-AG John Ashcroft's beside to pressure him to reauthorize the taps.

Asked why he denied he was going to resign after he'd already told President Bush of his intent to quit, Gonzales said, "At that point, I didn't care."

Gonzales' full interview is available here.

Are US Officials Guilty of War Crimes?
by Andy Worthington

Will the Bush administration be held accountable for war crimes? The answer ought to be yes, if the verdict of the Senate Armed Services Committee Inquiry into the Treatment of Detainees in US Custody is to mean anything. The bipartisan report, released on December 11 by senators Carl Levin and John McCain, concluded that the torture and abuse of prisoners was the direct result of policies authorized or implemented by senior officials within the current administration, including President George W. Bush, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and Vice President Dick Cheney's former legal counsel (and now chief of staff) David Addington.

Since the scandal of the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq broke in April 2004, over a dozen investigations have identified problems concerning the treatment of prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo, but until now no official report has looked up the chain of command to blame senior officials for authorizing torture and instigating abusive policies. The Bush administration has been able to maintain, as it did in the wake of the Abu Ghraib scandal, that any abuse was the result of the rogue activities of "a few bad apples."

This is now untenable. As the report states: "The abuse of detainees in US custody cannot simply be attributed to the actions of 'a few bad apples' acting on their own. The fact is that senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees. Those efforts damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives, strengthened the hand of our enemies, and compromised our moral authority."

Though containing little new information, the report is damning in its revelation of how senior officials sought out and approved the reverse engineering of techniques taught in the US military's SERE schools (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape) for use on prisoners captured in the "war on terror." These include "stripping detainees of their clothing, placing them in stress positions, putting hoods over their heads, disrupting their sleep, treating them like animals, subjecting them to loud music and flashing lights, and exposing them to extreme temperatures." In some circumstances, the measures also included waterboarding, a notorious torture technique which involves controlled drowning.

After noting that these techniques were taught to train personnel "to withstand interrogation techniques considered illegal under the Geneva Conventions," and that they are "based, in part, on Chinese Communist techniques used during the Korean war to elicit false confessions," the authors laid out a compelling timeline for the introduction of the techniques, beginning with a crucial memorandum issued by Bush on February 7, 2002. This stated that the protections of the Geneva Conventions, which the authors noted "would have afforded minimum standards for humane treatment," did not apply to prisoners seized in the "war on terror."

Having established Bush's role as the initial facilitator of abuse, the report then implicated those directly responsible for implementing torture, explaining how Pentagon general counsel William J. Haynes II began soliciting advice from the agency responsible for SERE techniques in December 2001, and how Addington, Justice Department legal adviser John Yoo, and White House counsel Alberto Gonzales attempted to redefine torture in the notorious "Torture Memo" of August 2002. The memo claimed that the pain endured "must be equivalent to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death."

The authors also noted how Rumsfeld approved the use of SERE techniques at Guantanamo in December 2002 (after Haynes had consulted with other senior officials), and explained how the techniques migrated to Afghanistan in January 2003, and were implemented by Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, the commander of coalition forces in Iraq, in September 2003.

Even so, the report is not without its faults. The authors carefully refrained from ever using the words "torture" or "war crimes," which is a considerable semantic achievement, but one that does little to foster a belief that the officials involved will one day be held accountable for their crimes. They also, curiously, omitted all mention of Vice President Dick Cheney, and ignored the importance of the presidential order of November 2001, which authorized the capture and indefinite detention of "enemy combatants," even though Barton Gellman of The Washington Post has established that Cheney played a significant role in this and all the other crucial documents that led to the torture and abuse of detainees.

Responses in the US media have been mixed. Oddly, most major media outlets chose to focus solely on Rumsfeld's responsibility for implementing abusive techniques. More thoughtful commentators have questioned whether Barack Obama would pursue those responsible, noting that he will be unwilling to antagonize Republicans, whose support he needs to tackle the economic crisis, and that many Democrats in Congress knew about the administration's policies, and in some cases were involved in approving them. A recent article in The Nation noted that such complicity made "an unfettered review seem unlikely," but the article also noted, more hopefully: "A growing body of legal opinion holds that Obama will have a duty to investigate war crimes allegations and, if they are found to have merit, to prosecute the perpetrators."

As of December 17, those concerned with pursuing Bush administration officials for war crimes can at least be assured that the perpetrators now include Cheney. In an interview with ABC News, the vice president stuck to a now-discredited script, declaring "we don't do torture, we never have," but admitted for the first time that he knew about the use of waterboarding on a handful of "high-value detainees," and that he considered its use in their cases "appropriate."

Only time will tell if Cheney's admission will be regarded as a stalwart defense of national security, or as the last defiant gesture of a war criminal.

Cheney Admits to Approving Torture
by Carol Jensen

While President Bush and his little band of accomplices have hit the television circuit in a futile attempt at a last-minute revamping of his disastrous presidency, the other half of this destructive-duo, Dick Cheney, has taken a totally different approach that might be labeled the in-your-face confession exit interviews.

Cheney, on ABC News, confessed openly that he took part in ordering aggressive interrogation techniques including waterboarding. It appears that the vice president, in his personal quest to transform his office as outlined by the Constitution, has gone over the edge when it comes to America's tradition that no one is above the law and has placed himself in a position that he certainly should not be bragging about on national television.

During the ABC News interview, Cheney was asked directly about the torture technique known as waterboarding. He replied that, "I was aware of the program, certainly, and involved in helping get the process cleared." He was adamant in his belief that waterboarding was a valid method of interrogation that was appropriate to use on terrorism suspects. This indeed presents a strange twist for the Bush Administration in that they have repeatedly stated that they have not tortured anyone.

But of course Vice President Cheney refuses to acknowledge that courts in the United States of America, where the rest of us live, have long held that waterboarding is in fact defined as torture. Waterboarding is an outlawed interrogation technique where water is poured into someone's nose and mouth until he or she nearly drowns. The federal War Crimes Act does in fact define torture of this sort as a war crime punishable by life imprisonment or even the death penalty if the victim happens to die during a torture session.

Under U.S. law, anyone can and should be held accountable, even the vice president, if he knew that any one of his subordinates did or might commit a war crime and he failed to act to prevent or stop that act from taking place.

Cheney's recent comments are the first in which he has directly acknowledged that he personally played a pivotal role in approving the CIA's use of numerous and controversial interrogation techniques after Sept. 11. Cheney almost seemed proud of his participation with CIA operatives when he said that the CIA officials "in effect came in and wanted to know what they could and couldn't do. They talked to me, as well as others, to explain what they wanted to do. And I supported it," as was reported by the Associated Press.

The vice president needs to be reminded that torture has been banned by both international treaties, which the United States signed on to (the Geneva Conventions), as well as by the aforementioned United States law, which has with good foresight included torture bans in the United States Criminal Code.

Is Dick Cheney now vocalizing in public the fact that orders to torture in the ongoing "war on terror" came from the top down, and were not merely perpetrated by a small group of rogue underlings as the public was initially led to believe? Is the vice president making it imperative that President Bush should include his name on the list of those to be preemptively pardoned before he leaves office on Jan. 20? The American public does not have long to wait before we find out. The fact that Cheney has contradicted the president so openly makes one wonder what else he could possibly have on his mind.

Attorney General Michael Mukasey insists that there is no need for Bush to pardon anyone because there is no evidence that anyone developed the policies "for any reason other than to protect the security in the country and in the belief that he or she was doing something lawful." But as Lt. Gen. Antonio Taguba, who investigated the Abu Ghraib scandal, said, "There is no longer doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account," as was reported by Marjorie Cohn at Common Dreams.

The actions taken during the Bush-Cheney Administration have not, in fact, as the vice president claimed in his ABC News interview, destroyed al Qaeda and saved American lives, but rather have had quite the opposite effect. Al Qaeda numbers have grown and attacks on U.S. troops increased. And the intelligence community has for decades known that information obtained during torture sessions is unreliable at best. Never mind that torture is a war crime.

David Dayen posts to, Fri Dec 26, 2008:

Boxer Calls For Independent Commission On Bush Torture

It's expected for a lawmaker in the beginning of a new election cycle to get a little more active, with high-profile articulations of positions on key issues.  So it is for Sen. Barbara Boxer.  In the past week, she has released a report on the statewide recession, featuring interviews with local officials from all 58 counties; demanding that Attorney General Mukasey intervene to reverse a "blatantly illegal" memo by EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson claiming that carbon dioxide is not a pollutant (the Supreme Court has already ruled that it is); and most interesting to me, wrote a letter to incoming Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair John Kerry calling for hearings on the Bush Administration's use of torture, as well as an outside commission to investigate it:

I write today to raise an issue of the utmost significance -- the Administration's use of torture against detainees held in U.S. custody. Despite widespread condemnation from Members of Congress, policy experts, and human rights advocates, Vice President Richard Cheney stated in a recent interview with ABC News that the torture policies used against detainees were appropriate and admitted that he played a role in their authorization. In fact, when asked if any of the tactics -- including waterboarding -- went too far, he responded with a curt "I don't."

I find Vice President Cheney's response deplorable, particularly in light of a recent report released by the Senate Armed Services Committee following an eighteen-month investigation. In sum, the bipartisan report found that "senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees." The report, led by Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, concluded that "those efforts damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives, strengthened the hand of our enemies, and compromised our moral authority." I fully support Chairman Levin's proposal for an outside Commission with subpoena power to investigate this matter further.

The whole letter is here.  This is one step away from the needed call for an independent prosecutor to investigate Bush's war crimes, but it's as close as any Senator has been willing to go.  This suggests that Boxer considers an investigation of this nature to not only be the right thing to do in a democracy, but not electorally damaging whatsoever.  She should be supported in this belief and encouraged to go even further.  I know that Senator Boxer has begun asking for contributions to her re-election campaign.  Maybe a series of contributions of $9.12, signaling support for a "9/12" torture commission and an independent prosecutor, along with emails and letters explaining this, would relay the message? 

by Jonathan Shaw, Harvard Magazine, January-February 2009

Huzaifa Parhat, a fruit peddler, has been imprisoned at Guantánamo Bay Detention Center for the last seven years. He is not a terrorist. He's a mistake, a victim of the war against al Qaeda. An interrogator first told him that the military knew he was not a threat to the United States in 2002. Parhat hoped he would soon be free, reunited with his wife and son in China. Again, in 2003, his captors told him he was innocent. Parhat and 16 other Uighurs, a Muslim ethnic minority group, were living in a camp west of the Chinese border in Afghanistan when the U.S. bombing campaign against the Taliban destroyed the village where they were staying. They fled to Pakistan, but were picked up by bounty hunters to whom the U.S. government had offered $5,000 a head for al Qaeda fighters.

The Uighurs were officially cleared for release in 2004, but they remain at Guantánamo. They cannot be repatriated to China, because they might be tortured, and no other country will take them. The U.S. government does not want to allow them into the United States for fear of setting a precedent that might open the door for detainees it still considers dangerous. In 2006, after again being told that they were innocent, and becoming desperate, some of the Uighurs began mouthing off to their captors. They were sent for a time to Camp Six, a $30-million "supermax" prison for holding al Qaeda suspects in isolated cells.

In the tomb-like confines of this concrete prison, some of them began to crack up, says P. Sabin Willett '79, J.D. '83, a Boston-based attorney with Bingham McCutchen, the firm that has represented the Uighurs pro bono since 2005. "The Department of Defense has studied what happens to human beings when they are left alone in spaces like this for a long time and it is grim," Willett notes. "The North Koreans did this to our airmen in the 1950s. The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations went to the floor of the General Assembly and denounced the practice as a step back to the jungle."

Continue reading The War and the Writ: Habeus Corpus and Security in an Age of Terrorism.

"The Bush Administration is the most dangerous force that has ever
existed. It is more dangerous than Nazi Germany because of the range and
depth of its activities and intentions worldwide. I give my full support
to The Call to Drive out the Bush Regime." -
Harold Pinter's endorsement of the mission of World Can't Wait, 

"Is Our Conscience Dead?"

by: Ann Wright, t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter. (Photo: Reuters)

     On the news today of the death of Harold Pinter, the winner of the 2005 Nobel Prize for Literature, I remembered hearing his Nobel Laureate lecture/acceptance speech. I was in London in December, 2005 speaking at the annual Stop the War conference when Pinter delivered his speech - not in Oslo, as Pinter was very sick and could not travel, but in London via TV link.

     I was amazed and thrilled that he chose to use the Nobel Prize platform and devote a huge portion of his speech to shining an international spotlight on the tragic effects of the past decades of US foreign policy and particularly, on George Bush and Tony Blair's decisions to invade and occupy Iraq, on Guantanamo and on torture.

     Pinter's Laureate speech question, "Is Our Conscience Dead?" is most relevant today when three years after his acceptance speech, "Art, Truth and Politics," Bush, Cheney, Rice and other administration officials are either trying to rewrite history or, as in Cheney's case - purposefully revealing his role in specific criminal acts of torture and daring the American legal system and people to hold him accountable.

excerpt from Mike Fermer, "Why we must prosecute Bush and his administration for war crimes":
We are complicit in the horrors of this administration. We can claim neither ignorance nor innocence. We are complicit by the very fact that we are citizens of the United States, more so because we paid for the war, and even more so for this reason. Listen to a village sheik I met in Iraq describe it better than I ever could.

I met this man in a small farming village one afternoon in early 2004. He described how he and a dozen others were swept up in a raid by the U.S. Army and detained on a bare patch of ground surrounded by concertina wire. They had no shelter and but six blankets. They dug a hole with their hands for a toilet. They had to beg for water until one time it rained for three days straight and they remained on that open ground. He somehow found the graciousness to say he understood there was a difference between the American people and our government. Then through his tears he added, "But you say you live in a democracy. How can this be happening to us?"

Do we? Whether or not we bring our own government officials to justice for their crimes will determine the answer.

The Movement to Try George W. Bush et al for War Crimes

Monday, December 22, 2008

Members of the Bush administration and George W. Bush personally conspired to violate the Geneva Convention, the Nuremberg Principles and US obligations to both. Bush and key members of his administration deliberately violated US criminal codes and tried to make their crimes legal after they had already committed them. Bush and his minions embarked upon this subversive action when it was made clear to them that they could be put to death for violations of US Codes which bind the US to Geneva and other treaties that were almost insisted upon by the United States.

These are not abstract principles, politics, spin or PR. These are legal principles upon which a distinguished American --Justice Robert Jackson --help codify at the Nuremberg trials of major Nazi war criminals.

It is encouraging that, of late, there is a growing chorus demanding that George W. Bush and members of his criminal regime be held to account for the crimes of aggressive war, mass murder, and torture.

Report rips ex-Defense counsel, now at Chevron

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A little over a week ago, the Senate Armed Services Committee released a report,"Inquiry into the Treatment of Detainees in U.S. Custody." The product of an 18-month investigation, the report concluded that "former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other senior U.S. officials share much of the blame for detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba."

One of the "senior U.S. officials" prominently featured in the report is William J. Haynes II, currently the chief corporate counsel for San Ramon's Chevron Corp.

From 2001 until February, Haynes was general counsel for the Department of Defense. The general counsel "provides oversight, guidance, and direction regarding legal advice on all matters arising within the Department of Defense, including the Office of the Secretary of Defense," according to the Pentagon's job description. In Haynes' case, that included advising on interrogation techniques used on U.S.-held detainees in the U.S. war on terror, and in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The bipartisan report - signed by Democrats and Republicans, including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. - found that Haynes' opinions on the legality of various interrogation techniques were a key contributor to their being given the go-ahead. For example, then-Defense Secretary Rumsfeld authorized the techniques only after Haynes recommended their approval, according to the report. It also states that Haynes' office sought information on harsh interrogation techniques even before a list of such techniques was drawn up by military officials for possible use at Guantanamo Bay. In the report's conclusions, the senators said they found some of Haynes' actions "deeply troubling."

"Torture Defense Tour '08"

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Is Vice President Cheney's public admission of guilt a plea for presidential pardon? Watch Michael Ratner video interview . 


Cheney: 33 detainees suffered 'enhanced interrogation'

Nick Juliano
RawStory, Monday December 22, 2008

Continuing what some might call his his Torture Defense Tour '08, Dick Cheney on Monday revealed for the first time the number of US captives who were subjected to so-called "enhanced interrogation," and he insisted the US had a moral imperative to engage in such techniques. 

The outgoing vice president said CIA interrogators subjected 33 detainees to the harsh techniques, which critics say constitute torture, and he vigorously defended the practice. After a weekend interview with Fox News Sunday, Cheney spoke to the conservative Washington Times on Monday. 

"I think there were a total of about 33 who were subjected to enhanced interrogation; only three of those who were subjected to waterboarding," Cheney told the paper, according to a transcript released by the Vice President's office Monday. "Was it torture?  I don't believe it was torture.  We spent a great deal of time and effort getting legal advice, legal opinion out of the Office of Legal Counsel, which is where you go for those kinds of opinions, from the Department of Justice as to where the red lines were out there in terms of this you can do, this you can't do.  The CIA handled itself, I think, very appropriately."


On ABC's This Week, Biden was asked whether high-level Bush administration officials should be prosecuted for torture. Biden responded with the following:

"The questions of whether or not a criminal act has been something the Justice Department decides," Biden responded. "That's a decision I'd look to the Justice Department to make." While stating he was "not ruling it in and not ruling it out," Biden underscored that he and Obama are are "focusing on the future." "I think we should be looking forward, not backwards."

Deterring Torture Through the Law

By Coleen Rowley and Ray McGovern
December 20, 2008

"A widespread lack of understanding regarding the purposes served by the criminal justice system -- and the penal system -- is a major obstacle to even entertaining the thought of prosecuting administration officials for torture.

"All too many pundits are claiming that the country should simply move on and just close the book on this painful chapter -- and that to do otherwise would simply be to try to extract vengeance.

"But it is not about vengeance. The key goal here is deterrence -- the final and most important goal of our criminal justice and penal systems in such circumstances.

Beyond the Law

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s HeyiAn eight-month McClatchy investigation of the detention system created after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks has found that the U.S. imprisoned innocent men, subjected them to abuse, stripped them of their legal rights and allowed Islamic militants to turn the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba into a school for jihad.

the following video is part of a 5 part series, 
UC Berkeley continues to tolerate torture and massive covert domestic-spying as John Yoo remains employed as a Professor of Law at Boalt Hall. UC Berkeley legitimizes John Yoo's Torture Memos and rationalization of secret surveillance with polite academic discourse and arguments of academic freedom, the First Amendment, and Due Process. UC Berkeley continues to do nothing to repudiate John Yoo's deliberate thwarting of professional responsibility. Berkeley Law and Chapman University School of Law provide safe harbor for John Yoo to be shielded from investigation, dismissal, and prosecution for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

John Yoo did not take orders from the top to legalize and implement a domestic spying program and state torture--John Yoo is the principal. The secret collection and data-mining program and secret surveillance were instigated and implemented by John Yoo, who argued that the president's constitutional powers as commander in chief trumped the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.

As the legal profession and academia accept John Yoo as providing "the other side of the debate," they neglect confronting reality and the dire consequences for the future of legality. The 'Ivory Tower' and the American Bar Association send the message that illegality can be sanctioned and protected no matter how gruesome and long-lasting the consequences. UC Berkeley has sent the message that tenure outlasts rampant illegal, immoral, and illegitimate decisions to be carried out in creating new standards in which surveillance and torture are viewed as normative. UC Berkeley stands for strengthening draconian laws for empire and shielding John Yoo from accountability and repudiation.

Torture Testimony Muted

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Barack Obama storms the Guantanamo Bay torture chamber

By Tim Shipman

The 'terrorism trial of the decade' begins on Monday in Guantánamo Bay - so why is the US President-Elect planning to derail it?

On Monday morning, a heavy-set man in thick spectacles will be led from a concrete cell, whose narrow-slit window overlooks the Caribbean, by soldiers whose name tags have been removed from their uniforms and replaced with a Velcro strip reading: "I don't know".

He will be taken to a maximum-security courtroom to sit with four co-defendants 30 ft from a glass wall -- all that will separate him from 10 families who lost loved ones in the terrorist atrocities for which he has claimed credit.

The moment marks the start of five days of trial hearings against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-styled architect of the September 11 attacks and one-time number three in the al-Qaeda hierarchy. The guards at the Guantánamo Bay detention camp, scene of the military tribunal, will be anonymous, to prevent reprisal attacks on their families.

The KSM trial -- as its primary defendant is known in security circles -- ought to be a moment of catharsis for America. It will be pregnant with meaning for the Bush administration, which will have just 43 days left in power; for President-Elect Barack Obama, who has vowed to close the detention camp; and for Alice Hoagland, who will sit behind the glass screen looking at the man responsible for the death of her son, Mark Bingham. He died on United Airlines Flight 93, which plunged into the Pennsylvania countryside after passengers tried to take back the hijacked aircraft.

But what is being dubbed "the terrorism trial of the decade" could be in vain if Mr Obama tears up the laws under which it is being conducted.

The US Supreme Court ruled in June that the detainees have a right to go before federal judges, but officials in the Bush administration pushed to have Guantánamo's most notorious captives tried before the President leaves the White House next month.

Lt-Col Darrel Vandeveld, a former Guantánamo prosecutor who resigned over what he calls a culture of secrecy and mismanagement at the base, said: "It's clear that civilians running the commissions wanted to charge the 9/11 defendants to meet an arbitrary deadline.They wanted to rush what they viewed as the 'worst of the worst' through the system, regardless of the evidence or whether it had been obtained by waterboarding or other forms of torture."

KSM is one of three detainees the CIA admits to waterboarding, an "enhanced interrogation" technique that simulates drowning.

Clive Stafford Smith, the lawyer representing the former British resident Binyam Mohamed, awaiting trial in Guantánamo, is dismissive of the KSM trial: "This is just a PR exercise. Nothing will come of it. It will all be shut down before the trial is completed." Everything said in the courtroom will be broadcast to the watching press and families on a 20-second delay, so that classified material on their treatment can be muted. 

Continue reading here.

Why is Cheney so sanguine about admitting he is a war criminal? Because he's confident that either President Bush will preemptively pardon him or President-elect Obama won't prosecute him.

    Both of those courses of action would be illegal. - Marjorie Cohn

Cheney Throws Down Gauntlet, Defies Prosecution for War Crimes Friday 19 December 2008

 Vice President Dick Cheney.

(Photo: Getty Images)

...the Constitution will require President Obama to faithfully execute the laws. That means prosecuting lawbreakers. When the United States ratified the Geneva Conventions and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, thereby making them part of US law, we agreed to prosecute those who violate their prohibitions.

    The bipartisan December 11 report of the Senate Armed Services Committee concluded that "senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees."

    Lawyers who wrote the memos that purported to immunize government officials from war crimes liability include John Yoo, Jay Bybee, William Haynes, David Addington and Alberto Gonzales. There is precedent in our law for holding lawyers criminally liable for participating in a common plan to violate the law.

Constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley believes that not only did Vice President Dick Cheney "unambiguously" confess to a war crime during an ABC interview on Monday, but the US' future as a nation may depend on taking action...

"What occurred in the last eight years was an assault on who we are," Turley said. "I think that President-elect Obama's going to have to decide whether he wants power without principle or whether he wants to start with a true change, to say that no matter where an investigation will take us, if there are crimes to be found they will be prosecuted."

This video is from MSNBC's Countdown, broadcast Dec. 16, 2008.

The Church at Ocean Park,
Santa Monica

Social Public Arts Resource Center (SPARC)
a non-profit art gallery and community space - located in Venice, CA


OK, L.A. - It's our ( ) turn now.  War criminal John Yoo, architect of the infamous torture memos, will begin teaching at Chapman University School of Law in Orange County next month.  Contact us if you'd like to join in planning creative protests when he comes to our area.  Let's carry forward the work done in Berkeley to demand that he be fired and disbarred.  Can we be silent while these war criminals leave the Bush administration and enter civil society?  Read more at 

Senate Report Links Bush to Detainee Homicides; Media Yawns

By Glenn Greenwald
December 15, 2008 "

The bipartisan Senate Armed Services Committee report issued on Thursday -- which documents that "former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other senior U.S. officials share much of the blame for detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba" and "that Rumsfeld's actions were 'a direct cause of detainee abuse' at Guantanamo and 'influenced and contributed to the use of abusive techniques ... in Afghanistan and Iraq'" -- raises an obvious and glaring question:  how can it possibly be justified that the low-level Army personnel carrying out these policies at Abu Ghraib have been charged, convicted and imprisoned, while the high-level political officials and lawyers who directed and authorized these same policies remain free of any risk of prosecution?   The culpability which the Report assigns for these war crimes is vast in scope and unambiguous:

The executive summary also traces the erosion of detainee treatment standards to a Feb,. 7, 2002, memorandum signed by President George W. Bush stating that the Geneva Convention did not apply to the U.S. war with al Qaeda and that Taliban detainees were not entitled to prisoner of war status or legal protections.

"The president's order closed off application of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which would have afforded minimum standards for humane treatment," the summary said.

Members of Bush's Cabinet and other senior officials participated in meetings inside the White House in 2002 and 2003 where specific interrogation techniques were discussed, according to the report.

The policies which the Senate Armed Services Committee unanimously concludes were authorized by Bush, Rumsfeld and several other top Bush officials did not merely lead to "abuse" and humiliating treatment, but are directly -- and unquestionably -- responsible for numerous detainee murders.  Many of those deaths caused by abusive treatment have been formally characterized as "homicides" by autopsies performed in Iraq and Afghanistan (see these chilling compilations of autopsy findings on detainees in U.S. custody, obtained by the ACLU, which reads like a classic and compelling exhibit in a war crimes trial). 


"The (U.S. military) detention is the worst possible example for a criminal justice system" - Human Rights Watch researcher Joe Logan
Dec 15, 2008 

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq is failing to give criminal suspects fair trials and abuse of prisoners appears common ahead of the transfer of thousands of detainees from U.S. prison camps to Iraqi control, a human rights group said on Monday.

Human Rights Watch said prisoners had to wait months and in some cases years before being brought before a judge.

They also received ineffectual legal counsel and judges frequently relied on testimony from secret informants or confessions likely to have been extracted under torture or duress, the New York-based group said in a report.

Impartial administration of justice for all Iraqis was supposed to be a hallmark of the country's break with the abuses of the Saddam Hussein era and help heal sectarian divides after years of horrific violence, it said.

"Regrettably, some of the failings in the court's proceedings show disturbing continuity with that period."

The report was on Iraq's Central Criminal Court, the main criminal justice institute established by the U.S.-run Coalition Provisional Authority after the 2003 invasion and the ousting of Saddam.

When the Abu Ghraib scandal initially broke in April 2004, attention focused on a small group of players, composed of the soldiers depicted in the abuse photos and the senior officers directly in charge of them. In the myriad investigations, trials, and news reports that have followed, the scope of the abuse allegations has widened to include locations in Afghanistan, Cuba, and secretive detention facilities at unknown locations.

It would be impossible to catalog every private, sergeant, captain, and colonel involved with the abuses, let alone the long list of CIA officials, government lawyers, contractors, and others involved with the scandal. Instead, Slate has compiled this chain of command, from President Bush down to the soldiers who served at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo:



Photograph courtesy AP

What he did then: Assistant Attorney General; Chief, Office of Legal Counsel, 2001-2003

What he does now: Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9 th Circuit

Reported involvement: Bybee served as the assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department's Office Legal Counsel from 2001 until his confirmation to the 9 th Circuit in 2003. OLC acts as a sort of in-house counsel for the executive branch, providing legal opinions to cabinet agencies. UC Berkeley law professor John Yoo worked as a deputy in Bybee's office and played a central role in developing many of OLC's most controversial memos on detention and interrogation. Bybee and Yoo's Aug. 1, 2002, "torture memo" created a legal framework for the authorization of abusive interrogation techniques by the president. Critics charge that this memo and its progeny amounted to a cookbook for unlawful conduct by the executive branch.


...and let's not forget the other war criminal in our backyard, William J. Haynes II, who resigned from his position as the Defense Department's general counsel.[13] He started his new job as the Chief Corporate Counsel at the Chevron Corporate Office in San Ramon, CA on April 28, 2008.


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Enduring exile: The plight of long-term refugees
10 Dec 2008
Written by: Antonio Guterres

...a concerted effort is required to halt the armed conflicts and human rights violations that force people to flee from their country and oblige them to live as refugees. In this respect, the UN has a particularly important role to play, whether by means of mediation, negotiation, the establishment of peacekeeping missions or the punishment of those who are found guilty of war crimes...


While the authors of the following article fall short of calling for prosecution of those persons found culpable, there is good information to be found here:

Closing Gitmo is not enough 

Published: November 21, 2008


President-elect Barack Obama has pledged to close the notorious Guantánamo prison camp. This will be a first step toward restoring America's reputation abroad, but it must not end there. To ensure that our fight against terrorism is consistent with U.S. laws and values, the new Administration must launch a full investigation into the treatment of detainees held in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba and other U.S. detention centers since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

We recently published the findings of our study of 62 released Guantánamo detainees from nine different countries. What we found was alarming. Most of the men we interviewed had been arrested or kidnapped and sold to the United States for bounties as small as $5,000 - simply because their captors said that they were members of Al Qaeda or the Taliban. Our research found that U.S. authorities failed to verify whether these men were really "enemy combatants" and a serious threat to the security of the United States.

Guantánamo is nothing more than an interrogation center where guards and interrogators work together to "break" detainees. Half of the respondents in our study (31 of the 55) willing to discuss their interrogation sessions called them abusive.

They described being subjected to short shackling, stress positions, solitary confinement and exposure to extreme temperatures, loud music and strobe lights - often simultaneously and over long periods of time.

The cumulative effect of these methods constitutes cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment that, in some cases, could amount to torture as defined by the UN Convention Against Torture, which the U.S. ratified in 1994.

While Donald Rumsfeld is highlighted in the following article, John Yoo is referrenced repeatedly throughout the Senate Armed Services Committee report, a summary of which can be found at . Conclusion 14 is particularly damning:

Department of Defense General Counsel William J. Haynes II's direction to the Department of Defense's Detainee Working Group in early 2003 to consider a legal memo from John Yoo of the Department of Justice's OLC as authoritative, blocked the Working Group from conducting a fair and complete legal analysis and resulted in a report that, in the words of then- Department of the Navy General Counsel Alberto Mora contained "profound mistakes in its legal analysis." Reliance on the OLC memo resulted in a final Working Group report that recommended approval of several aggressive techniques, including removal of clothing, sleep deprivation, and slapping, similar to those used in SERE training to teach U.S. personnel to resist abusive interrogations.

 Leading lawyer calls for Rumsfeld prosecution

John Byrne
Published: Friday December 12, 2008

The President of the legal nonprofit Center for Constitutional Rights, Michael Ratner, has resumed calls for a formal prosecution of ex-Bush Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld following revelations by a Congressional report that Rumsfeld was to blame for the Pentagon's policy allowing torture.

In a statement, he said that the report reaffirms findings he spelled out in his book published this September, The Trial of Donald Rumsfeld: A Prosecution. Ratner's group was the first to volunteer an attorney to meet with one of the CIA's "ghost detainees."

"The Committee's report reaffirms that high-ranking administration officials, including Donald Rumsfeld, were directly responsible for the abuse and torture of detainees in Guantanamo, Iraq and Afghanistan," Ratner said in a statement to RAW STORY. "The brutal interrogation techniques used on our clients and many others were carried out despite well-documented opposition from military lawyers and others concerned by the illegality and ineffectiveness of the techniques."

"There is no question that Rumsfeld and the others must be held individually accountable, and it must be before a court of law. There must be consequences for their illegal activities," he said. "A special prosecutor should be appointed. To do otherwise is to send a message of impunity that will only embolden future administrations to again engage in serious violations of the law."

PAMELA HESS | December 11, 2008 AP

WASHINGTON -- A new Senate report says the physical and mental abuse of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay Naval Base was the direct result of Bush administration policies and should not be blamed on guards and interrogators.

The report from the Senate Armed Services Committee is the result of a two-year investigation. It directly links President Bush's policies after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, legal memos on torture and interrogation rule changes with the abuse that was photographed at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq four years ago.

The report says administration officials publicly blamed the abuses on low-level soldiers but called that "both unconscionable and false."

The audio below was reported on the Pacifica radio affiliate KPFA in Berkeley on the 12-9-08 evening news report on the 12-8-08 Berkeley City Council discussion and resolution on War Crimes prosecution against John Yoo initiated by the Berkeley City Council's Peace and Justice Commission. There are some clips of Councilman Max Anderson's passionate and eloquent speech.  click here to listen 3.8meg, 4min10 sec

a shameful maneuver

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photo: Hiromi Yasui for The New York Times

This week, the Pentagon brought 9/11 victims' families for the first time as observers. The half-dozen family members who spoke to reporters gave the Pentagon the counterpoint it had been lacking.

John Yoo wrote the legal rationale that became the basis for state sanctioned torture.

The immediate source of deliberate mis-governance began with John Yoo's radical, and doubtfully constitutional, interpretation of the "unitary executive," propounded when he served in the Department of Justice Office of Special Counsel-the office that prepares legal opinions for the White House, in this case for the disposition of suspected terrorists captured after 9/11. Yoo's interpretation of an all-powerful executive was carried over the course of two presidential terms to its illogical, baseless unconstitutional extremes.

Having successfully completed that task, he returned to UC Berkeley to teach students about the law, its place in a global society, and the role of the lawyer in constitutional structure. Is John Yoo teaching future lawyers to act as he has acted? To put the needs of their client above the demands of the law? To do whatever is necessary to make sure that their client gets their way? And is that what Berkeley Law wants its faculty to teach the future power elite? Are those the values that people in power for the future of legality should be taught? To usurp professional responsibility and legal obligations? Are there no limits according to UC Berkeley, no legal methods which are out of bounds? Is Ethics no part of the curriculum taught at Berkeley Law?

See Mis-governance: Cleaning Up After the Bush Administration and Berkeley Defends John Yoo With Nonsense.

Carolyn Jones, Chronicle Staff Writer

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

(12-09) 11:19 PST Berkeley -- After an emotional, fiery debate over academic freedom and torture, Berkeley's city council passed a measure late Monday night imploring the U.S. to prosecute Berkeley resident and former White House official John Yoo for war crimes.


Yoo, a tenured professor at UC Berkeley's Boalt Hall School of Law, wrote the legal memos justifying torture while interrogating terrorism suspects while he served as Deputy Assistant Attorney general for the Bush administration in 2001-03.

"John Yoo took a material involvement in the deaths and torture of untold numbers of people," said city councilman Max Anderson, choking back tears during the council's debate. "The broken bodies, the broken spirits, the broken trust he wrought with his actions - that's why they call these crimes against humanity."

listen to Max's impassioned speech here: 

(scroll about 15 minutes into the program)


Yoo was not available for comment Tuesday.

The council stopped short of passing the full original measure, put forth by the Peace and Justice Commission, which called for the city to urge UC Berkeley to re-arrange its class schedule so no student would be required to take a course from Yoo.

"I don't think we should be dictating course policy to the University," said city councilman Laurie Capitelli.

Yoo teaches constitutional and international law at Boalt, but he won't be in Berkeley much longer. He was appointed in September to be a visiting professor at Chapman University in Orange County, serving from January to May 2009.

E-mail Carolyn Jones at

John Yoo Sees Orange, Again

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John Yoo awarded Fletcher Jones Distinguished Visiting Professorship

Thumbnail image for Yoo9-19-08d.jpg

John Yoo
2008-9 Fletcher Jones Distinguished Visiting Professor of Law

Chapman University School of Law
One University Drive, Orange, California  92866

Think of all that orange: Orange, the color of the jumpsuits donned by anti-torture activists demonstrating within and around John Yoo's Boalt Hall campus refuge, the attire of the victims Yoo's "legal" memos condemned to lives of torture and despair. Orange, the color of the ribbons pinned to the everyday attire of concerned Berkeley residents and students, signifying their condemnation of the horrible crimes of illegal detention and torture being committed in their names, while the author of those crimes strolls freely among them on their streets and within their UC campus. Orange, the color of the billboard prominently displayed in downtown Berkeley with the words, "Torture + Silence = Complicity," that invited residents and visitors alike to reflect on their responsibility in these matters and act [1]. And now, Orange, CA, the location of John Yoo's latest professional venture -- distinguished visiting Professor of Law, Chapman University.

What does this new appointment mean? For John Yoo, perhaps it means another feather in his professional cap, peer recognition, and salary enhancement. It helps further legitimize the myth of him as a successful and worthwhile member of the community. For Chapman University School of Law, it means added prestige, enhanced school ranking, and a ballooning student applicant pool [2]. For UC Berkeley, we might venture to say they gain from the added "prestige" this appointment affords their tenured law professor.

But what does John Yoo's visiting professorship mean for the students at Chapman University School of Law? The answer is the same as that for the students of Boalt Law: the legitimacy of exposing students of law to the instruction of a professor whose legal and scholarly advice has resulted in such disastrous national policy and the suffering and death of untold torture victims has to be seriously challenged [3].

There's no word that Yoo's position as Professor of Law at Boalt Hall has changed with his appointment as visiting professor at Chapman University School of Law. So what does this mean for the City of Berkeley? Might Yoo's appointment at Chapman be considered an "outside matter," much as his guilt or innocence for his acknowledged war crimes and crimes against humanity might be considered an "outside" national matter [4]? Most certainly not.

On December 8th the Berkeley City Council will have the opportunity to take up the matter of John Yoo during a public hearing on a resolution submitted by the Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission recommending the firing and disbarment of John Yoo and his prosecution for war crimes [5]. It should be very clear by now that if the City of Berkeley does not act decisively to hold John Yoo to account for his crimes, not only will it allow Yoo continued use of his "privileged" position in Berkeley to move into other venues within academia, but it will open the door for other criminal elements within the Bush administration to follow suit.

[1]  Peace Activists Use Billboard to Call for Firing of UC Law Professor, Judith Scherr, August 07, 2008,

[2]  Chapman Ups The Reputation Ante With Some Big Name Faculty, Petra Pasternak, October 07, 2008,

[3]  Blame Berkeley, Phillip Carter, April 14, 2008,

[4]  White Paper On The Law Of Torture And Holding Accountable Those Who Are Complicit In Approving Torture Of Persons In U.S. Custody, National Lawyers Guild, 

[5]  Berkeley City Council to Consider Resolution Urging Prosecution of John Yoo, Linda Rigas, December 4, 2008,


CVillarreal's Blog, DECEMBER 5, 2008

The National Lawyers Guild San Francisco Bay Area Chapter, the organization I work for, has asked the University of California to "initiate an investigation into whether Professor Yoo's 'outside professional conduct,' as an attorney of the U.S. Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, violated the Faculty Code of Conduct as set out in the University of California Academic Personnel Manual (Section 015)." The University, through a statement written by Law School Dean Edley, a letter written by Chancellor Birgeneau, and a statement by a University spokesperson, has refused to do so misstating University regulations and the need for a criminal conviction (and possibly even jail time) before they can move forward with any sort of disciplinary action. Such a policy would be illogical; which is probably why it really is not the policy at all.

As our letter to the University points out, the UC Academic Personnel Manual's Faculty Code of Conduct "specifically identifies outside professional conduct that can lead to formal investigation. While it includes violations of the law resulting in convictions, the list of unacceptable faculty conduct it enumerates is specifically noted as 'not exhaustive.'" So there is no need to wait for a criminal conviction before the University takes action. 

Seems like a yes or no question, but John Yoo visibly struggled on an answer.

House Judiciary Subcommittee Hearing on Detainee Interrogation, June 26, 2008 

"The Bill of Rights Defense Committee joins with the Berkeley Peace and Justice Coalition, as well as many concerned citizens and other activist organizations, in condemning the use or authorization of torture (or "enhanced interrogation techniques") by any U.S. official.  Torture, degradation, and inhumane treatment of prisoners are unconstitutional, violate international treaties which the U.S. has signed, and betray the values and ideals that define this country.


We now know that John Yoo, Professor of Law at Boalt Hall School of Law in Berkeley, California and former legal advisor to the White House, along with other legal advisors, counseled the Bush administration on how to use torture and other unconstitutional and inhumane interrogation techniques without legal consequences.  BORDC supports the resolution introduced to the Berkeley City Council by the Berkeley Peace and Justice Coalition, which calls on the City Council to hold John Yoo accountable for his actions.  The passage of this resolution would be an important step toward rebuilding the international reputation of the U.S. and restoring Americans' faith in their government."

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Berkeley City Council to Consider Urging Prosecution of John Yoo


Requesting the prosecution of a known criminal ought not to be an action that requires any particular consideration or debate. If we are a society based on the rule of law, then this is simply what must be done. John Yoo, Professor of Law at Boalt Hall School of Law in Berkeley, California, (but a lawyer with the Pennsylvania bar from which he should be debarred and would be if enough people demanded it) counseled the White House on how to get away with war crimes, wrote this memo promoting presidential power to launch aggressive war, and claimed the power to decree that the federal statutes against torture, assault, maiming, and stalking do not apply to the military in the conduct of the war, and to announce a new definition of torture limiting it to acts causing intense pain or suffering equivalent to pain associated with serious physical injury so severe that death, organ failure or permanent damage resulting in loss of significant body functions will likely result. Yoo claimed in 2005 that a president has the right to enhance an interrogation by crushing the testicles of someone's child. Let's not talk about academic freedom in relation to a man who has lost the right to freedom of any sort and should be behind bars. Are we on the side of justice or the side of crushing children's testicles?

Ask the City Council to vote yes!

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Support the Peace and Justice Commission Recommendation that the Berkeley City Council adopt the following resolution:

 1) Contact Carlos Villareal, Executive Director of the San Francisco Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild at and communicate that the City of Berkeley wishes to be listed amongst the signers of the Call to Investigate Professor John Yoo, which is a letter to University of California Chancellor Robert Birgeneau; and

2) The City should state that no student of U.C. Berkeley should be required to choose between taking a course with Professor John Yoo or waiting another semester to take and complete a required course. If the Law School is to permit Professor Yoo to teach non-elective courses, the school should make available to students the opportunity to take these non-elective courses with another professor during the same semester so as to assure students are not sanctioned or delayed in their fulfillment of non-elective courses due to their distaste for taking a class with someone who wrote memoranda that authorized the use of pain, violence and degrading treatment as a method of treatment of persons held in U.S. custody; and

3) Ask the U.S. Attorney for Northern California to bring charges of war crimes against John Yoo, now teaching in the City of Berkeley at U.C. Berkeley School of Law; and

4) Send another letter in February, 2009 to the then-Attorney General of the United States asking him/her to bring charges of war crimes against John Yoo, if such charges have not yet been brought; and

5) That a letter be sent to the President of the University of California, the Chancellor of U.C. Berkeley and the Dean of U.C. Berkeley School of Law incorporating the language of the above recommendations and advising them of the City's position.

Public Hearing Monday, December 8

2134 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way

City Council Meetings begin at 7:00 PM

Before that date, write and call Berkeley City Council Members to show your support for recommended actions against John Yoo, Legal Advisor to the Bush administration and author of memos giving the green light for torture:


Tom Bates

(510) 981-7100


District 1

Linda Maio

(510) 981-7110

District 2

Darryl Moore

(510) 981-7120

District 3

Max Anderson

(510) 981-7130


District 4

Jesse Arreguin

District 5

Laurie Capitelli

(510) 981-7150


District 6

Susan Wengraf


District 7

Kriss Worthington

(510) 981-7170


District 8

Gordon Wozniak

(510) 981-7180



The Mayor and Council Members may be reached by mail at: 2180 Milvia Street, Berkeley, 94704.

"Sixty years ago, Eleanor Roosevelt and the U.S. government worked doggedly to create the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Mrs. Roosevelt knew many successes in her long years of public service, yet she regarded the writing and passage of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as her greatest accomplishment. She envisioned it as an international Magna Carta and Bill of Rights for people everywhere. She worked so hard (and drove others hard as well) that one delegate charged that the length of the drafting committee meetings violated his own human rights.

Like all other human organizations, the United States has a less than pure record on human rights. The same U.S. founding documents that set some souls soaring with language of universal rights also enslaved other human beings and defined them as property, while also excluding the female majority of the population entirely. We the people have spent the last 232 years working to live up to the best and undo the worst of those founding documents.

Whatever one thinks of Barack Obama, Sarah Palin or Hillary Clinton, the 2008 presidential election campaign was a historic move to open up our political life and leadership to all. Eleanor Roosevelt was no starry-eyed idealist. As a woman, an advocate for the poor and the wife of a man with a disability, she knew that U.S. rhetoric on human rights often did not match reality. Lest she forget it, the Soviet and other Communist delegates to the United Nations continually reminded her. As she recounted it, they would point out some failure of human rights in the United States and ask, "'Is that what you consider democracy, Mrs. Roosevelt?' And I am sorry to say that quite often I have to say, 'No, that isn't what I consider democracy." [...]

Continue reading Maryann Cusimano Love's "An End To Torture: Can the United States recommit itself to legal interrogation techniques?"

No Immunity For Yoo

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On October 2nd, 2008 at Columbia Law School, Attorney General Mukasey argued in favor of the government's lawyers and the decisions that were enacted and furthered by the Office of Legal Counsel after September 11th, 2001. Mukasey heeded the audience with caution-- "caution against questioning the lawyers' good faith" and "caution against second guessing the Justice Department's decisions in hindsight, beyond the heat of crisis." (Steven G. Calabresi also makes a good faith argument here.)

According to Mukasey and Calabresi, people of consciousness should ignore the illegitimate use of torture, and the legal profession should pass on any form of accountability as, "Questions national security lawyers confront are "as complex and consequential as they come. Lives and the way we live them may hang in the balance," he said. "Political leaders and the public must not forget what was asked of those lawyers seven years ago."

What we asked of lawyers seven years ago and what we ask of lawyers today is adherence to and compliance with domestic and international law. The declaration of a state of national emergency does not warrant anything less than this basic standard. John Yoo's actions cannot be overlooked merely  they dealing with particularly potent questions. The issue of torture does not rise from the sticky political process or how prosecution might destroy any morale in government by the "average" person.

The gravamen of torture is to end torture, to end the mass murder, abuse, and cruel and unusual punishment of individuals who have not been charged, whose livelihoods are in jeopardy as legal limbo lounge persists.

The legalization of torture 'shocks the conscience' of the world. The Office of Legal Counsel does not immunize John Yoo from taking responsibility for legalizing torture pursuant only to the policies that needed to be enacted by the Bush Regime to legitimate the illegitimate occupation of Iraq. John Yoo cites no legal authority to reflect domestic and international laws against torture. John Yoo's authorizations of torture were made in violation of these laws, yet the legal profession stands aside with the line that John Yoo has not acted with a culpable state of mind.

Mukasey went on to question, "where are the legal lines that will be drawn in this new and very different conflict, and as a matter of policy how close to those legal lines we should go, and whether the lines can and should be redrawn."

The legal line against torture has already been crossed and shattered in our names. There is no reason to give the Office of Legal Counsel a "golden shield" on legalizing torture. There is no evidence that points to John Yoo's good faith reasoning. In fact, as Scott Horton points out in "Golden Shield or Achilles Heel?": the evidence points to "a joint criminal enterprise, the object of which was to enable torture--the memos actually were intended to and did further the scheme. They are evidence of a crime and of criminal intent. The core of that criminal enterprise was formed and much of it was carried out inside the Justice Department."

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photo: Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times
After Seven Years, Guantánamo Prisoners Need to be Tried or Released

By Marjorie Cohn, Jurist Legal News and Research. Posted November 29, 2008.

Since the Bush administration began transporting men and boys to Guantánamo Bay in January 2002, it has tried to prevent them from presenting their cases before a neutral federal judge. Indeed, the naval base was turned into a prison camp precisely to keep the detainees away from impartial courts. The government argued that federal courts had no jurisdiction over men detained on Cuban soil. Twice, the Supreme Court rejected that argument, finding that the United States exercises complete jurisdiction and control over the Guantánamo Bay base.

Finally, on November 20, in a stunning development, U.S. District Court Judge Richard J. Leon ordered the government to release five Guantánamo Bay detainees "forthwith." Finding that the government failed to prove the men were "enemy combatants," the judge, in a rare comment, urged senior government leaders not to appeal his ruling. 

"Seven years of waiting for a legal system to give them an answer ... in my judgment is more than enough," he said.

The five detainees the judge ordered released are Lakhdar Boumediene, Mustafa Ait Idir, Hadj Boudella, Saber Lahmar and Mohammed Nechla. Judge Leon did, however, find that a sixth detainee, Belkacem Bensayah, was properly classified an enemy combatant... 

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