May 2011 Archives

by asking Supreme Court not to hear case

By Kenneth J. Theisen

The Obama Administration has once again taken a stand in favor of covering up the crimes of the Bush regime. On May 27, 2011 in an amicus brief, Obama's Acting U.S. Solicitor General, Neal Katyal, advised the Supreme Court not to hear a 2004 lawsuit that claims employees of U.S. corporate military contractors CACI and Titan (now L-3 Services) participated in torture and other heinous and illegal acts committed against Iraqi detainees while they were employed to provide interrogation and interpretation services, respectively, at Abu Ghraib and other detention facilities in Iraq. The case is Haidar Muhsin Saleh, et al. v. Titan Corporation, et al.

Yesterday, President Obama signed into law a four-year extension of emergency powers allowing authorities to use roving wiretaps to track an individual on several telephones; track a non-US national suspected of being a "lone-wolf" terrorist not tied to an extremist group; and to seize personal or business records or "any tangible thing" seen as critical to an investigation.

Today, The Daily Californian features an article on the "activist past" of UC Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, and I think this provides an opportunity for us to recognize another of his "passions": sponsorship of the torture program embodied in the above legislation and facilitated by Law School professor John Yoo (who brags about his involvement in drafting key provisions of the Act here).


Noting that nothing about Berkeley is quite as straightforward as it seems..."We're actually a fairly broad church here," Birgeneau says, "we've got the law professor John Yoo, who has been a prime advocate of the US government's torture policy, and the biggest student club on campus is the Republican."

UC Chancellor Robert Birgeneau and 

Law School Dean Christopher Edley 

"OK" with Torture... are you?

Guantanamo man's child appeals to Barack Obama to release dadSaif Aamer.jpg.display.jpg

"I am nine-years-old and I never met my daddy. At school I get bullied a lot, they say bad things about my daddy, and I become very upset and cry. I am telling you my problem because you are the only one who can bring him back. I feel sorry for my dad because he gets tortured I have never seen him and I want to really see him and only you can let him free so please let him free I want to play with him so let him free."

- Faris Aamer, youngest child of Shaker Aamer, held at Guantanamo since Rebruary 2002 but never charged with any offence


Why the US government is reluctant to allow the release of Shaker Aamer

Last night about a dozen protesters assembled outside the Marines' Memorial Club to "greet" torture enthusiasts arriving for a Lincoln Day Dinner with Bay Area resident war criminal John Yoo. Navigating around reproductions of the infamous Abu Ghraib photographs and a large banner denouncing war policy enabled by Yoo's work for the Bush administration, attendees were offered brochures on The Truth About Torture to the tune of "Torture Is A War Crime, Arrest John Yoo."

more photos here
Rendition Under the Radar

"it's yet another example of a top Bush lawyer who, after abusing the rule of law while in government, is being rewarded with a job teaching the next generation of lawyers. -- emptywheel

with thanks to all who participated in protesting UC complicity in torture
giving a large platform to at least two people who should be in prison for war crimes, to continue to forward the torture apologists narrative that waterboarding led to bin Laden. To give you an idea of the tenor of the procedure, John Yoo acted as moderator. On the panel were Bush Attorney General Michael Mukasey, former general counsel to the CIA John Rizzo (who worked with both Jay Bybee and Steven Bradbury to pre-authorize torture), torture cheerleader Marc Thiessen, Benjamin Wittes from Brookings (a constitutional scholar who argues for the benefits of ignoring the constitution) and a lone voice of morality and sanity, Elisa Massimino from Human Rights First.

You can [watch] the whole thing here, if your stomach and blood pressure can handle it...

click on "YouTube" icon lower right corner of screen for latest count

A few days ago, I spoke, for the 27th time, to the irrepressible Scott Horton of Antiwar Radio, in response to the ongoing -- and false -- narrative propagated in the US by torture apologists including Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, which has arisen, like a malignant phoenix, in response to the death of Osama bin Laden. 

And, don't miss Marjorie Cohn's piece on Targeted Assassination, here.

Now we know why Obama has gone to such outrageous lengths to keep Bush's lawyers out of prison, claiming powers of secrecy and immunity beyond Cheney's wildest dreams and pressuring foreign nations to clamp down on any outbreaks of law enforcement:


The Supreme Court on Monday refused to revive a lawsuit challenging a controversial post-Sept. 11 CIA program that flew terrorism suspects to secret prisons.

The appeal asked the court to examine two controversial aspects of the U.S. response to the 9/11 attacks, "the extraordinary rendition" program that sent the suspects to secret prisons and the "state secrets privilege."

The high court has refused several other appeals based on the government's invocation of state secrets to derail lawsuits...

Justice Elena Kagan took no part in the case because she worked on it when she served in the Justice Department.

Image: Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: katmere, Beth Rankin

Dean Edley
Essentially worthless legal concepts are being packaged and sold as if they represented valid jurisprudence. Take enemy combatant as an example of a junk concept. The point of this neologism is clear - it's an end run around the Constitution to allow things that are wildly impermissible. An enemy combatant is neither a criminal nor a soldier, and hasn't the rights of either. Where did we get "enemy combatants" from? Junk peddlers like John Yoo and Michael Mukasey...

Last year, Christopher Edley (photo left) assessed Obama's performance: "I wouldn't give as high a grade as President as I gave him when he was my student. I know he can do better." Hmmm... harsh words from a mentor. Just what kind of example does the law school dean offer?
Obama is the new bush Sticker.jpg
Torture is the new state religion. The arguments between those who find torture effective and those who find it ineffective are like the arguments between Catholics and Protestants in the seventeenth century, articulated with great passion and earnestness, but totally besides the point. Underlying the actual conflicts and debates is nothing more than a raw grab for power, as the U.S. seeks greater instruments of repression at home and abroad in the name of securing the world for U.S. plunder for the greater good of a small clique of corporations and a coterie of military men, academics, and spies that keep the wheels of the machine well-oiled and ready to strike...

After reading John Yoo's attack on the president for not taking Osama alive and bringing him to Gitmo, I thought I might take a minute to explain something I sometimes say. Once in a while I mention, in passing, that the Bush administration saw torturing people as a plus, not a cost. And whenever I do, some readers clutch their breasts and reach for the smelling salts: how dare I say such a thing?

But it's true -- not because they're sadists, but because it suited their self-image...

see Shadow of the Torturers

are you?

Take Friday morning off work or school May 13, to protest outside the UC Berkeley Law graduation ceremony, because Torture Professor John Yoo STILL teaches there. 


No war criminal should be harbored by the university, and every year graduation is an opportunity for the community at large to bring that message out!  With Yoo all over the news right now, crowing that now it's been proven that "torture works" - it is especially important for a determined and DIVERSE presence to be seen, refusing to allow UC to condone torture in silence. 

Meet up at 8:30 AM Friday May 13 in front of UC's Greek Theater. Help end Boalt Hall's legacy of torture.

Obama and Torture

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radio interviews with Ted Rall, Jason Leopold and Will Durst

UPDATE: Lawyers walk out 

The president of the Alaska Bar Association has an interest in hearing about torture... 
how about ending it?

"Yoo comes to Fairbanks ready to debate and defend his opinions. To all lawyers asked to render opinions on legal issues, it is a lesson of just how important every opinion lawyers give can be, no matter what our position. It also is a symbol of the power of every young voice. -- Jason Weiner

He continues,

"I am glad I was not put in the position of having to render an opinion regarding the legality of 'enhanced interrogation techniques'.

Which I think accurately defines the real problem 
"There is no debate to be had on torture. Torture is illegal, it's immoral and it's counterproductive. We're not allowed [legally] to have a debate on it, and it's rather underhand for media outlets in the United States to claim that there are any circumstances in which this should be happening. -- Andy Worthington

I personally think it's a mistake to imply legitimacy to arguments in favor of torture by providing a forum for the same, but the Fairbanks Daily New-Miner recaps the exchange between war criminal John Yoo and detainee defense attorney Steve Wax yesterday: 

c/o Justice Watch:

The architects of the Bush Justice Department's "Torture Memos" have wasted little time in claiming that their endorsement of torture helped pave the way for the successful assault on Osama bin Laden's final hiding place in Pakistan...

It's hardly surprising that Yoo would take this opportunity to rush to his own defense.

He and other torture apologists saw this instance [Bin Laden's death] 
as their last, best hope for justifying the ethically and morally repulsive policies of torture, but their arguments fall flat on basic facts and basic morality.

"Criminal, morally depraved acts don't become retroactively justified by pointing to the bounty they [claim to have] produced...

see The illogic of the torture debate

more on "the battle for America's conscience" here, 

plus a statement from the National Religious Campaign Against Torture

With the reported assassination of Osama bin Laden, one of the most alarming responses has been a kind of casual and widespread acceptance that the death of  America's number one bogeyman would not have been achieved without the use of torture...

Torture remains illegal, as well as counter-productive, and attempts to revive it as a topic for "debate" are as vile and unprincipled as attempts to claim that the death of Osama bin Laden somehow justifies the ongoing existence of Guantánamo.

UPDATE: Most recent, May 6 protest video here

On April 9, Condoleezza Rice delivered a talk in San Francisco. Or tried to. The former Secretary of State was interrupted repeatedly by cries from the audience of "war criminal" and "torturer". (For which we can thank our comrades in Code Pink and World Can't Wait.) As one of the protesters was being taken away by security guards, Rice made the kind of statement that has now become standard for high American officials under such circumstances: "Aren't you glad this lady lives in a democracy where she can express her opinion?" She also threw in another line that's become de rigueur since the US overthrew Saddam Hussein, an argument that's used when all other arguments fail: "The children of Iraq are actually not living under Saddam Hussein, thank God..."

-- William Blum, The Anti-Empire Report

"will UC Berkeley finally do anything about a professor 
who essentially abandons his legal opinions, and effectively 
refutes his own work? 

-- Robert Gammon, author of "The Torture Professor"

Friday May 13: Help end Boalt Hall's legacy of torture

Since 2008, the commencement ceremonies at UC Berkeley Law (Boalt Hall) have been the site of large-scale protest actions. World Can't Wait, human rights and civil liberties groups working against torture, and others have called on graduates to protest John Yoo and torture. 

John Yoo did his most notorious damage as deputy assistant attorney general for the Bush administration's Office of Legal Counsel, where his legal opinions were used to justify torture. But he is still a professor at UC Berkeley's Boalt Law School. We'll be at the graduation on the morning of May 13 to continue the demand he be fired, disbarred, and prosecuted for his criminal lawyering as a Bush administration official. We plan to have orange jump suits in tableau, lots of orange ribbons, and excellent signs for the many expected to come out for this action. 

The ceremony itself starts at ten, but our protest will happen BEFOREHAND, beginning at 9 am when the gates at the Greek Theatre open to guests (only folks with tickets will be allowed inside, but we'll have plenty of opportunity to make our point as students, faculty, and families arrive). 

A note to Boalt graduates and their families: Please be assured that the graduates and their families and friends are not the targets of our protest. We have no intention of heckling attendees or disrupting the graduation. However, we do believe that it is an appropriate time and place to express our outrage that someone who is clearly guilty of war crimes under all internationally recognized standards is teaching constitutional law at Berkeley. We hope that attendees will agree with this position and choose to express that by wearing an orange ribbon during the ceremony (note ribbons in photograph from last year, below). Rather than diminishing their pride in their accomplishment, taking a stand against injustice should increase it. 

UC Berkeley Billboard

press conference, protest, photos, video, reports

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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

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