December 2009 Archives

Taking stock: Obama.nation

| | TrackBacks (0)
In many respects, a year of President Barack Obama feels much the same as...a year of George Bush. Wars metastasize, prisons migrate from Cuba to Illinois, bankers get richer - 2009 has many elements of deja vu. "Barack Obama has firmly established the continuation of Bush regime domestic, foreign and economic policy." - Margaret Kimberley

click on the button below,

Make a Gift 

and tell Berkeley Law why your contribution will be to FireJohnYoo this year. 

Then, mail your check to


2940 16th Street, Room 200-6

San Francisco, CA 94103

Write "FJY" on the Memo line.

If this interview is any indication, Yoo's self-defense is as incompetent as the opinions he wrote 
for George W: 

Published: December 29, 2009

What led you to take a job as a professor of constitutional law at Berkeley, of all places, where you've taught since 1993? 
It was the best school that I was able to get a job at...

Doesn't speak very well for the university, does it?

The Obama administration should not be surprised. After all, as my colleague Spencer Ackerman points out, if it were just bringing Guantanamo detainees to the United States for trial, it wouldn't have this problem. But once the president announced that the Thomson facility might also be used to continue to hold terror suspects indefinitely without charge or trial, what's the Democrats' incentive for supporting it? Isn't that just moving the liability of Guantanamo, which the administration and its supporters have long said acts as a recruiting tool for terrorists, to U.S. soil? It's hard to see why any lawmakers from either party want to move that much-hated site to the continental United States, where their constituents already fear another terrorist attack. - DAPHNE EVIATAR

The best spokespeople may very well be survivors of the practice. One of these is a journalist by trade, Prisoner 345: Sami al-Hajj, founder of The Guantanamo Justice Center.

Lithuania denies report it hosted secret CIA prisons
CNN International
Opponents of the practice say the interrogations amounted totorture. Former CIA agent Bob Ayers explained Tuesday how it worked. "There were flights coming ...
See all stories on this topic
VivirLatino (blog)
Patricia Isasa: Bringing Torturers to Justice in Argentina
VivirLatino (blog)
Recently, memos were released proving the Bush administration approved of the use of torture by theCIA in the so-called war on terror. ...
See all stories on this topic
Set Guatemalan record straight
Casper Star-Tribune Online
... whom a US Intelligence Oversight Board later revealed was on the CIA payroll, was also implicated in other crimes including thetorture and murder of a ...
Mohamed Saleban Bare said he was innocent ...
"They use a kind of psychological torture that kills you mentally."

and read other prisoner stories at

The vast majority [of prisoners] have been released after years of abuse. The 100 who are slated to be removed to Illinois have apparently been so badly abused that the US government is afraid to release them because of the testimony the prisoners could give to human rights organizations and foreign media about their mistreatment. - Paul Craig Roberts 
Not everyone is OK with this. While Berkeley Law dean Christopher Edley goes out of his way to protect the Torture Professor, there are faculty members who speak out in favor of justice and accountability. The following post is second in a series (part I here):

Robert Cole, a professor emeritus at Berkeley's law school, said he believes the university should conduct its own investigation to determine if Yoo's work for the Bush administration violated the campus' faculty code of conduct.

"The university has got to protect its integrity," Cole said. "Every professor we put in the classroom has to have professional competence and ethical integrity."

100 days head
(Berkeley Law is helping to realize this by continuing support for John Yoo, bragging that "Boalt's faculty... is committed to integrating theory with practice.  Boalt faculty hold or have held significant governmental positions involving international law...") 

With stunning insouciance, Americans have given up the rule of law that protected their liberty. The silence of law schools and bar associations indicates that the age of liberty has passed. In short, the American people support tyranny. And that's where they are headed. - Paul Craig Roberts

The reason why it was so important to close Guantánamo in the first place was to bring to an end the ruinous and unjust policy of indefinite detention without charge or trial, and it amazes me that President Obama has, apparently, fooled himself into thinking that a sleight of hand that perpetuates the same policy as that established by George W. Bush will be any more acceptable when he is its architect, or that a change of scenery -- from Guantánamo Bay to Thomson, Illinois -- can help to accomplish such a brazen betrayal of the fundamental values on which the United States was founded. - Andy Worthington

for following "a strategy that is turning toward, rather than away from, the course of the previous eight years."
link to excerpt from John Yoo's latest column


Shaker Aamer: UK Government Drops Opposition To Release Of Torture Evidence

Andy Worthington, December 19

Shaker AamerLast week, as I explained in a recent article, Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, who was seized in Afghanistan in 2001 after traveling to Afghanistan with his friend Moazzam Begg (and their families) to establish a girls' school in Kabul, won a significant victory in the British High Court. Lord Justice Jeremy Sullivan ruled that evidence in the possession of the British government, regarding his torture in US custody in Kandahar, Afghanistan, before his transfer to Guantánamo, must be made available to lawyers working on his behalf in the United States...

"The torture memos"

| | TrackBacks (0)
this article by Dahlia Lithwick is part of The Washington Post
Worst Ideas of the Decade series:

This decade's so-called war on terrorism included many legal missteps: the designation of prisoners as "enemy combatants" and the determination that the Geneva Conventions didn't apply to them; the creation of a legal black hole at Guantanamo and the military commissions slapped together to try prisoners there.

But the worst were the "torture memos," written by Bush administration lawyers at the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel to fudge the rules for prisoner interrogations. The memos represent the lowest low point in post-9/11 legal thought. They were proof that in wartime, the law is as malleable as the most cynical lawyer.

Dahlia Lithwick, senior editor at Slate Magazine and Reihan Salam, fellow at the New American Foundation, will be online Monday, Dec. 21 at 11 a.m. ET to discuss the worst ideas of the decade... go here.

and where international law is headed right now

Earlier this week, the public learned that a U.K. court had issued an arrest warrant for former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni for alleged war crimes in Gaza earlier this year...

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni
Former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni. Photograph: Gali Tibbon / AFP 

Under the doctrine of universal jurisdiction, national courts can prosecute serious human rights violations committed anywhere in the world, provided an arrest warrant has been issued...

The principle of universal justice is not just something that's applied to leaders of Third World countries accused of domestic and/or international human rights abuses. Last summer, I interviewed a renowned human rights attorney who discussed another pending case of universal jurisdiction: the one in the Spanish courts against the so-called "Bush Six" (former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and five other former officials, including Under-Secretary of Defense Douglas Feith and the Justice Department's John Yoo). They are being investigated for various alleged violations of international laws governing torture.

Torture controversy ensnares state lawyer

(12-16) 17:18 PST BERKELEY -- Critics of John Yoo, the author of the Bush administration's so-called torture memos, want a lawyer in state Attorney General Jerry Brown's office to drop his plans to teach a constitutional law class with the UC Berkeley professor next semester.

David Carrillo

"By instructing a class with Mr. Yoo, you are helping to legitimize his illegal and unethical actions," organizations led by the National Lawyers Guild said Tuesday in an open letter to Deputy Attorney General David Carrillo, a doctoral candidate and instructor at the university's Boalt Hall law school.

They asked Carrillo either to teach the course by himself, if the school will allow it, or to leave it to Yoo. Signers included the law school's chapter of La Raza Law Students Association and the Boalt Alliance to Abolish Torture.

Carrillo did not return phone calls about the letter. Brown's office issued a statement Wednesday saying Carrillo was teaching on his own time as part of his study for an advanced legal degree.

"Mr. Carrillo's activities at Berkeley Law are unrelated to his work at the (state) Department of Justice, and we are told that they have nothing whatsoever to do with torture memos that John Yoo may have authored," Brown's office said...

Read more:

Mohamed v. Jeppesen Dataplan: Obama administration continues to bar the door 
to accountability for government-sanctioned torture:

San Francisco Chronicle Staff Writer Bob Egelko covers today's proceedings 

The full Oral Argument can be listened to or downloaded here.

"It is an awful day for the rule of law and common decency when the Supreme Court lets stand such an inhuman decision," said Eric Lewis, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, in a statement from the Center for Constitutional Rights. "The final word on whether these men had a right not to be tortured or a right to practice their religion free from abuse is that they did not. Future prospective torturers can now draw comfort from this decision."

Supreme Court Rejects Guantanamo Detainees' Torture Case



WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court has refused to take up an appeal from former Guantanamo Bay detainees who say they were tortured and denied religious rights.

The justices rejected the appeal without comment Monday. Four British men say they were beaten, shackled in painful stress positions and threatened by dogs during their time at the U.S. naval base in Cuba from 2002 to 2004.

They also say they were harassed while practicing their religion, including forced shaving of their beards, banning or interrupting their prayers, denying them copies of the Quran and prayer mats and throwing a copy of the Quran in a toilet.

The Obama administration opposed high court review of the case, adhering to its practice of defending Bush administration officials against allegations from one-time suspected terrorists or Taliban allies...

In 2007, the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit against Jeppesen DataPlan, Inc., a subsidiary of Boeing Company, on behalf of five victims of the United States government's unlawful "extraordinary rendition" program. The suit charges that Jeppesen knowingly participated by providing critical flight planning and logistical support services to aircraft and crews used by the CIA to forcibly disappear these five men to detention and interrogation. Shortly after the suit was filed, the government intervened and inappropriately asserted the "state secrets privilege," claiming further litigation would undermine national security interests, even though much of the evidence needed to try the case was already available to the public. In April 2009, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court dismissal of the case, ruling that the government must invoke the state secrets privilege with respect to specific evidence, not to dismiss the entire suit. The case is remanded back to district court, providing the first opportunity for Bush-era torture victims to have their day in court.

read their biographies here
SAN FRANCISCO - December 11 - The American Civil Liberties Union will be in federal appeals court in San Francisco on Tuesday, December 15 at 10:00 a.m. PST to argue that a lawsuit against Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen DataPlan Inc. for its role in the Bush administration's unlawful "extraordinary rendition" program should go forward. The government has repeatedly misused the state secrets privilege in an attempt to have the case thrown out. To this day, not a single victim of the Bush administration's torture policies has had his day in court.

ACLU video explains more about the case:

Please note that by playing this clip You Tube and Google will place a long-term cookie on your computer. Please see You Tube's privacy statement on their website and Google's privacy statement on theirs to learn more. To view the ACLU's privacy statement, click here.

The ACLU and the ACLU of Northern California brought the lawsuit in May 2007 on behalf of five men who the CIA kidnapped, forcibly disappeared and secretly transferred to U.S.-run prisons or foreign intelligence agencies overseas, where they were interrogated under torture. The lawsuit charges that Jeppesen knowingly participated in the forcible disappearance and torture of the men by providing critical flight planning and logistical support services to the aircraft and crews used by the CIA to carry out their "extraordinary rendition." The Bush administration intervened in the case, improperly asserting the state secrets privilege to have the lawsuit thrown out, but in April a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the government can only invoke the state secrets privilege with respect to specific evidence - not to dismiss an entire suit. The Obama administration's appeal of that decision will be now be heard by an en banc panel of 11 judges.

Torture's friend

| | TrackBacks (0)
Obama's amicus curiae brief amounts to an obstruction of justice.

Blistering Indictment Leveled Against Obama Over His Handling of Bush-Era War Crimes

by: Jason Leopold, t r u t h o u t | Report

Image: Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t Adapted From: buhsnarf,mokblog, yaniecks / flickr)

During his 36-minute speech upon accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway Thursday, President Barack Obama explained to an audience of 1,000 how the United States has a "moral and strategic interest" in abiding by a code of conduct when waging war - even one that pits the US against a "vicious adversary that abides by no rules."

"That is what makes us different from those whom we fight," Obama said. "That is a source of our strength. That is why I prohibited torture. That is why I ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed. And that is why I have reaffirmed America's commitment to abide by the Geneva Conventions. We lose ourselves when we compromise the very ideals that we fight to defend. And we honor those ideals by upholding them not just when it is easy, but when it is hard."

Obama's high-minded declaration, made on the 61st anniversary of Human Rights Day, rings hollow in light of fresh reports that his administration continues to operate secret prisons in Afghanistan where detainees have been tortured and where human rights organizations such as the International Committee for the Red Cross are refused access to the prisoners...

ACLU: Obama creating 'a sweeping immunity doctrine for torturers'

By Sahil Kapur
Thursday, December 10th, 2009 RAW STORY

torturegitmociaharsh ACLU: Obama creating a sweeping immunity doctrine for torturersWASHINGTON -- The nation's pre-eminent civil rights organization ACLU on Thursday slammed President Obama for shielding the Bush administration from accountability for its "dangerous torture policy," and insisted that this "lack of transparency" severely threatens the future of constitutional liberty in the United States.

"The Bush administration constructed a legal framework for torture," Jameel Jaffer, Director of ACLU's National Security Project, said in a conference call with reporters. "Now the Obama administration is constructing a legal framework for impunity."

While he credited Obama for having disavowed torture under his watch, Jaffer said that "on every front, the administration is actively obstructing accountability by shielding Bush officials from civil liability, criminal investigation and even public scrutiny for their role in authorizing torture."

Gitmo Detainee Is Returned to Kuwait


The United States today released Fouad Mahmoud Al Rabiah to his native Kuwait after holding him for nearly eight years at Guantanamo Bay.

According to the Department of Justice, Al Rabiah had been cleared for transfer by the government's Guantanamo Review Task Force. On Sept. 17, a federal courtalso ruled he can no longer be legally detained, and ordered the government to release him.

When the government still did not release him, Al Rabiah's lawyers asked the judge to hold U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Rear Admiral Tom Copeman in contempt for failing to comply with the court order.

In her order granting Al Rabiah's petition for habeas corpus, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly called the government's evidence against Al Rabiah "surprisingly bare."

see also Andy Worthington's post at Truthout

dismissing justice

| | TrackBacks (0)
"The Holder Justice Department has filed a sweeping amicus brief in the Padilla v. Yoo case before the Ninth Circuit, seeking to make absolute the immunity granted Justice Department lawyers who counsel torture, disappearings, and other crimes against humanity." - Scott Horton

If successful in this case, the Obama Administration will succeed in returning the world to the rules leading to the war crimes at Nuremberg. Quite a legacy for the world's newest Nobel Peace Prize winner...

see Nuremberg Revisited

will Canada's Defense Minister resign? 

See full size image

The dark saga of the Department of Justice "torture memos" took a disturbing turn for the worse last week. For five years, we've waited for the report from the Department of Justice's internal ethics investigation of the government lawyers, John Yoo, Jay Bybee, and Steven Bradbury, who authored the infamous memos providing legal cover for abusive interrogation techniques that violated the absolute ban on torture under U.S. and international law. Just a few weeks ago, Attorney General Eric Holder said the report would be released by the end of November. Instead of releasing the report, the Department of Justice filed an amicus brief in support of John Yoo in the case Padilla v. Yoo currently before the Ninth Circuit, arguing that any DOJ lawyer who counsels and sanctions torture or other crimes against humanity is absolutely immune from suit. This is not what a restoration of the rule of law looks like.

By Scott Horton, special to the Huffington Post


On the night of June 9-10 in 2006, three prisoners held at the Guantánamo prison's Camp Delta died under mysterious circumstances. Military authorities responded by quickly ordering media representatives off the island and blocking lawyers from meeting with their clients. The first official military statements declared the deaths not just suicides -- but actually went so far as to describe them as acts of "asymmetrical warfare" against the United States.

Now a 58-page study prepared by law faculty and students at Seton Hall University in New Jersey starkly challenges the Pentagon's claims. It notes serious and unresolved contradictions within a Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) report -- which was publicly released only in fragmentary form, two years after the fact -- and declares the military's internal investigation an obvious cover-up. The only question is: of what?

'What I would have said about Gitmo'

Marc D. Falkoff

Marc Falkoff, c/o NORTHWEST HERALD

Several months ago, I was invited to speak at McHenry County College about my experience representing Guantánamo detainees.

The event was scheduled to take place last week, but after I received a slew of threats of violence to myself and my family, it's not going to happen.

In blog postings and expletive-filled messages left on my personal cell phone, I was called a traitor, asked how I slept at night, and told that I would burn in hell. My clients were called murderers, and my family was threatened. After consultation with the Crystal Lake Police Department, the college understandably chose to cancel my talk.

It's a shame. A handful of people, purporting to be patriots, have silenced the community's right to hear a different perspective on our national detention policy. So I'd like to tell you some of what I would have said about Guantánamo at MCC last week...

When I'm Calling Yoo-oo-oo-oo-oo-oo-oooo

c/o Riggsveda, It's My Country Too blog
Matt Y. posts a piece on a Pew poll showing the differences in policy outlook between ordinary citizens and members of the Council on Foreign Relations. But for me this was the eye-opener:
The proportion of the public saying torture is at least sometimes justified against suspected terrorists has increased modestly over the past year. Currently, 54% say torture is at least sometimes justified to gain important information from suspected terrorists, compared with 49% in April and 44% in February.
But another 16% believe torture is "rarely" justified, meaning that even they can visualize some rare scenario in which it could be used. So what this actually tells us is that 70% of respondents believe that torture can be justified in some cases. Thank you, John Yoo.

Obama administration has surprisingly endorsed the same legal positions as its predecessor, insisting that there is no constitutional right to humane treatment by U.S. authorities outside the United States, and that victims of torture and abuse and their survivors have no right to compensation or even an acknowledgment of what occurred.

Government says Supreme Court's Gitmo ruling doesn't apply to detainees who committed suicide

AP News, c/o Antiwar Newswire

Dec 05, 2009 14:52 EST

A 2008 Supreme Court ruling giving Guantanamo Bay prisoners the right to challenge their indefinite detention does not apply in the case of two detainees who committed suicide, the Obama administration says in newly filed court papers.

The Justice Department made the argument in a lawsuit brought by the families of two Saudi detainees who, according to the U.S. government, hanged themselves at the island prison on the same day in June 2006 after more than four years in captivity.

A year and a half ago, the Supreme Court overturned part of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 that had stripped federal courts from hearing challenges to the indefinite detention of hundreds of Guantanamo Bay prisoners.

The decision "had no effect" on another provision of that act that says no court has jurisdiction to hear a challenge "relating to any aspect" of a Guantanamo Bay prisoner's detention, the department said in court papers filed Friday..

DOJ Doubles Down in Its Defense of John Yoo


Talk about getting a second bite of the apple. I've written before about the problem with the Department of Justice jumping in to defend a lawsuit charging that John Yoo was responsible for torture and abuse of "enemy combatant" Jose Padilla. Given that Yoo is the subject of an ethics investigation by DOJ -- the results of which have still not been released despite repeated promises to do so by Attorney General Eric Holder -- many legal experts thought it was odd that the Justice Department would continue to defend Yoo in the pending lawsuit.

Eventually, the Justice Department did step away from Yoo's defense -- although Yoo's personal lawyer, former GOP judicial nominee Miguel Estrada, is still being paid by U.S. taxpayers.

Now, despite having already filed briefs on Yoo's behalf in the district court arguing that as a former DOJ lawyer he should not be held liable for the consequences of his legal advice sanctioning torture, the Justice Department has filed yet another brief in the case, making essentially the same argument, this time on the government's own behalf...

see also Scott Horton's piece in HARPER'S magazine

"the standard of justice for each detainee will depend in large part upon the government's assessment of how high the prosecution's evidence can jump and which evidentiary bar it can clear" - Morris Davis
As Andy Worthington noted, propagating knowledge of this "evidence of widespread torture and abuse prior to the August 2002 torture memo... may well have to be the focus of our pressure as writers and activists if, as anticipated, the OPR [Office of Public Responsibility] report on the OLC [Office of Legal Counsel] lawyers ends up having had its teeth removed."

'Obama's Gitmo'

| | TrackBacks (0)

Troop Announcement Renews Focus on Bagram


One of many consequences of President Obama's decision to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan is that those troops are likely to capture many more prisoners that end up at the U.S.-run prison at Bagram air base.  That's raising concerns among human rights groups that the recently revealed secret prison run by special operations forces will be used to continue past abuses of detainees captured in the ongoing war...

UC Berkeley Billboard

press conference, protest, photos, video, reports

Donations via PayPal
are not tax deductible.

Events & Calendars

War Criminals Watch Events

Important Reading

Physicians for Human Rights
Broken Laws, Broken Lives

NLG White Paper

The President's Executioner

Detention and torture in Guantanamo

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from December 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

November 2009 is the previous archive.

January 2010 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.