June 2011 Archives

Death by Torture

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Durham investigation folds
Charles Graner, posing over the body of one of the victims, Manadel al-Jamadi in November 2003.

Holder announces whitewash into torture and murder charges

By Kenneth J. Theisen

On Thursday, June 30, 2011 Attorney General Eric Holder announced another of the Obama administration's cover-ups of the crimes of the U.S. government in regard to torture and death conducted by the Bush regime and now continued by the current administration.  Holder stated that the Justice Department (DOJ) is launching a "full criminal investigation" into the deaths of two detainees in U.S. custody. This "investigation" announcement is the result of a "review" as to whether federal laws were violated in connection with the interrogation and murder of detainees in U.S. custody overseas. In August 2009 Holder, in order to quell the outrage at U.S. instituted torture, announced that he had appointed Assistant U.S. Attorney John Durham to review allegations of torture and other crimes.

But the "review" was really part of a wider cover-up effort to whitewash these massive crimes. Now after a nearly two year "review" Holder thinks we will believe that justice is being done because DOJ is "investigating" only two of these crimes?  Tens of thousands of prisoners have been held by the U.S. and its allies in the U.S. war of terror since 9/11/01. The vast majority was abused and many faced torture by various government agents such as those employed by the CIA or the war department. Many were actually murdered in custody.  And yet Obama and his legal minions have yet to hold any of the top criminal dogs in the Bush regime accountable for these crimes. In fact, the present administration continues many of these same policies and crimes and covers up the past crimes. Extraordinary rendition, torture and abuse, indefinite detention, denial of legal rights, etc, all continue and in many cases have been "legalized" under Obama. Obama's lawyers were successful this last week in convincing the Supreme Court not to hear a case of 250 civilians tortured and seriously harmed by corporate contractors  of the U.S. at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison. These prisoners are now left with out legal redress because of Obama's actions in their case.

Holder's actions are just part and parcel of this continued policy of the U.S. government to allow torture to continue and to avoid holding any top criminals in the government liable for their crimes.

Consider what's being permanently shielded from legal accountability.

The United States is outspoken about human rights violations happening across the globe, but what about the ones America itself is guilty of? Investigative journalist Jason Leopold talks to RT about the conditions at Gitmo that America isn't acknowledging.

click here for video

State Department legal advisor Harold Koh is turning out to be the Obama administration's John Yoo. He spoke at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Tuesday to explain his ridiculous interpretation of the War Power Resolution which Obama favored over the advice of his top military and administration legal advisers...

photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA
Stephen-F.-Rohde.gifStephen F. Rohde, Chair of the ACLU Foundation of Southern California, holds the distinction of having confronted John Yoo twice [link to article below].

In Los Angeles, on June 26th-UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, [Rohde moderated] the "Reckoning with Torture" presentation organized by the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, [where] the focus was on torture as evil, something that simply cannot and must not be allowed under any circumstances-even if in some as yet unknown universe it were to demonstrate actual utility...

see Diane Lefer's account of event here

Bay Area readers may remember this constitutional lawyer, lecturer, writer, and political activist from the 2008 Town Hall sponsored by the NO TO TORTURE - JOHN YOO MUST GO! Coalition. Archived video here.

The would-be CIA director told senators Thursday that the U.S. should consider a policy for using special interrogation techniques when a detainee is withholding information that is immediately needed to save lives.

Welcome to 2001

Gen. David H. Petraeus addresses the Senate Intelligence Committee during his confirmation hearing. (Alex Wong, Getty Images / June 23, 2011)

Rendition -- particularly extraordinary rendition -- turned out to be a public relations nightmare for the Bush administration, and despite the media's lack of attention to the Azar case, it doesn't seem to be gaining any fans during the Obama administration either. Thus to avoid negative publicity, the Obama administration has pursued a different strategy toward suspected terrorists (and whoever else happens to be in their vicinity): killing them...

Obama and Rendition

VIDEO of action outside


Witness Against Torture press release:

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Contacts: Matt Daloisio - 201-264-4424, daloisio@earthlink.net
Frida Berrigan - 347-683-4928, frida.berrigan@gmail.com

WASHINGTON, DC - While the US House of Representatives chamber filled for a vote today at 4:40pm, Representatives' eyes and ears turned toward the Chamber's gallery as a group of activists interrupted proceedings to call for the closure of Guantanamo Bay prison and denounce provisions in the Defense Appropriations Bill concerning detention policy.

Fifteen people from the group Witness Against Torture stood in the gallery to read the following statement:

Today the House of Representative is in the process of contemplating not the passage of a bill but 
the commission of a crime. Provisions in the proposed Defense Appropriations Bill grant the United 
States powers over the lives of detained men fitting of a totalitarian state that uses the law itself as 
an instrument of tyranny. The law would make the prison at Guantanamo permanent by denying 
funds for the transfer of men to the United States, even for prosecution in civilian courts. 

Abandoning the civilian courts, the bill would be the ultimate concession that the rule of law and 
cherished American values cannot survive the fear and hatred that have consumed this country. 
The proposed bill makes restrictions on the transfer of detainees even to foreign countries so severe 
that no one -- whether cleared for release by our own government or acquitted in trials -- could be 
expected to leave Guantanamo. It therefore mandates the indefinite detention even of innocent 
human beings, which is the very essence of tyranny. Congress has an obligation to uphold the US
Constitution. All Americans have the obligation to defend human rights. The proposed bill makes 
America a callous and reckless jailer, unworthy of the name of democracy. It must be defeated. 

Guantanamo must close. Those unjustly bound must be freed. Justice must rule.

The activists were removed from the gallery by the police and placed under arrest.  They will likely appear for arraignment in District of Columbia Superior Court on Friday.

c/o TIME magazine: 

In 2002, Bush's Justice Department lawyers came up with a novel definition of "torture," over the objections of several military attorneys, that green-lighted the president's plans for a harsh interrogation program. Obama's in-house and State Department attorneys have come up with a novel definition of "hostilities," over the objection of Pentagon and Justice Department attorneys, that allows U.S. forces to continue bombing Libya without seeking Congressional approval, as required by the 1973 War Powers Act...

Is "Hostility" Barack Obama's "Torture"?


The government's reliance on continued detention schemes as a panacea for resolving the difficult balance between national security or immigration policies and the rule of law is not only misguided, but it will yield new due process violations and violations of domestic and international rules prohibiting cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment...

see new Physicians for Human Rights report, 

Punishment Before Justice

photo: JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images

Obama's John Yoo(s)

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White House counsel Robert Bauer and State Department legal adviser Harold H. Koh would have you believe that U.S. military activities (like the use of drones to murder civilians) fall short of "hostilities":

Appeal for Justice*

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DOJ Tangles With Gitmo Lawyer Over WikiLeaks Documents

[Attorney David] Remes, the department said, cannot have unrestricted use of the documents that the government refuses to confirm or deny are authentic assessments of detainees. DOJ's submission (PDF) expands on the scope of the guidance the department issued this month to lawyers in Guantanamo habeas cases.

*Appeal for Justice is a Human Rights and Civil Liberties Litigation Firm

Smelling like Donald Rumsfeld or John Yoo under the Bush II regime, the Obama administration contest the bombing of Libya is not only somehow constitutional but not really subject to the War Powers Resolution...

The torture and inhumane treatment of this highly intelligent, gifted and good-humored man (even with one leg missing) needs our global attention. Absent from his family and homeland for a decade - his story and CURRENT dilemma cries out for all humanitarians world-wide to demand justice and healing...

Abu Ghraib Aftershocks

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c/o TIME magazine:


It has been nearly a decade since Manadel al-Jamadi, an Iraqi prisoner known as "the Iceman" -- for the bungled attempt to cool his body and make him look less dead -- perished in CIA custody at Abu Ghraib. But now there are rumbles in Washington that the notorious case, as well as other alleged CIA abuses, could be returning to haunt the agency. TIME has learned that a prosecutor tasked with probing the CIA -- John Durham, a respected, Republican-appointed U.S. Attorney from Connecticut -- has begun calling witnesses before a secret federal grand jury in Alexandria, Va., looking into, among other things, the lurid Nov. 4, 2003, homicide, which was documented by TIME in 2005...

see report on latest Federal Grand Jury action here

"There was a reason why Deep Throat, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post did what they did. Nixon did wrongful acts, and there were whistleblowers and brave journalists who brought his presidency down. Can you imagine if that happened now? What we're seeing is a reaction to what happened. Dick Cheney and others said we have got to restore all the powers to the war presidency and Prof. John Yoo was there to help him. What we need is transparency because otherwise the President isn't held accountable. Prof. John Yoo has got to be held accountable or we'll go back to Nixon-era politics...

Steven Wax defends men whom the Bush administration called 
"the worst of the worst," the shackled men of the "war on terror" 

John Yoo's Terror

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"If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy. -- James Madison

Department of Justice lawyer John Yoo suggested in 2005 that the US should go on the offensive against al-Qaeda, having "our intelligence agencies create a false terrorist organization. It could have its own websites, recruitment centers, training camps, and fundraising operations. It could launch fake terrorist operations and claim credit for real terrorist strikes, helping to sow confusion within al-Qaeda's ranks, causing operatives to doubt others' identities and to question the validity of communications."

in international and domestic law the world over, however, is not because it is ineffective 
or counterproductive (though it is). Torture has been universally prohibited because in 
the aftermath of the second world war, the nations of the world agreed, under the 
leadership of the United States, that respect for basic human dignity required the 
absolute prohibition of torture under any circumstance. 

-- Vincent Iacopino's Memo to John Yoo
Those who bias the torture debate by pandering to fear and casting it as 
'you're either with us or you're with the terrorists' are as disingenuous
as those who try to justify terrorism by perverting Islam. It is not a choice 
of one or the other. There is nothing inconsistent in holding torturers and 
terrorists accountable for acts that break the law.

md_horiz-1.jpgThe situation at Bagram, especially the legal process that determines whether detainees are released, is the subject of a new report by Human Rights First. It finds that the current system of hearings for detainees "falls short of the requirements of international law" because they are not given "an adequate opportunity to defend themselves against charges that they are collaborating with insurgents and present a threat to U.S. forces."

AP photo/Dar Yasin
Military documents in the public domain now acknowledge that at least fifteen children were imprisoned, at some time or another, at Guantánamo, and there's probably more... Andy Worthington places the number at 22.


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This courtroom drama is based on the actual transcripts of the Guantanamo Bay military tribunals [officially known as Combatant Status Review Tribunals, or CSRTs]. In the film, three military officers must decide the fate of a suspected enemy combatant. Is he guilty of providing material support to Al Qaeda and responsible for the deaths of several American soldiers? Or is he an innocent victim of circumstances as he claims?

Supreme Court rejects suit against John Ashcroft

"The abuses and crimes of the Bush regime and their continuance under Obama will not be stopped by any official action of the U.S. government. Only a massive movement of millions of people can halt these crimes and hold those responsible for them accountable. This latest court decision is just one more example of the system continuing to "legalize" these crimes and abuses.

-- Kenneth J. Theisen


November 2007, c/o Michael Siegel: 

At Cornell University  over 150 people expressed their resistance to the policies of John Ashcroft and the War on Terror through creative, silent protest. Over 70 placed hoods on their heads, stood and turned their backs to Ashcroft when he tried to justify his repressive actions post-9/11. 


UC Berkeley Billboard

press conference, protest, photos, video, reports

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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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