July 2011 Archives


"Liu is no stranger to charged political issues. He was associate dean during the firestorm over John Yoo, the UC-Berkeley professor and author of some of the Bush administration's war-on-terror memos. When Yoo was under attack, colleagues said, Liu defended his academic freedom...

One thing that strikes me as I look at arial photos of the Pelican Bay complex, is the isolation... a prison camp placed in the northernmost corner of the state, surrounded by forest. 

Government forces and the media have done a good job at concealing what goes on within these walls... until now. And once the cat is out of the bag it's going to be tough for California prison administrators to return to "business as usual". Prisoners involved in the hunger strikes are counting on us to keep up the pressure to discontinue the hated "debriefing" system and the brutal practice of arbitrary solitary confinement. The U.S. Supreme Court has issued its own demands for humane treatment.

People of conscience everywhere across this country and beyond have been speaking out against the appalling conditions exposed by the courageous actions of prisoners themselves, united across racial and alleged gang affiliation. It is time for us, the public at large, to join those voices.

Diverse communities and organizations are looking for alternatives to the American incarceration system, including proposals for "restorative justice" (Deborah Dupre takes a well-researched look at that here). But the bottom line for me is that violence begets ever more violence, and the so-called "Corrections and Rehabilitation" institution accomplishes neither of their proclaimed goals. 

This issue will not go away, nor are we. Join with the Call for an International Day of Protest and Solidarity, August 1st.
Participants in Berkeley's Week Against Torture make the connection between the atrocities at Guantanamo Bay and America's domestic prisons:

devorah major:


six feet by ten feet

wider than a lead coffin

no natural light

sometimes only darkness

a punishment for surviving

so many shades of black


or weeks of  light bulb

days have no rhythm but howls

torture knows no clocks


twenty three hours

every day alone boxed

one hour to breathe wind


will a cloud drift by

a patch of summer blue sky

a black bird's feather


perhaps tomorrow

arc of sun will show itself

kiss your skin  golden

cell-block1.jpgTens of thousands of Americans are being held in super-maximum-security prisons where they are deprived of contact and psychologically destroyed. Undocumented workers are rounded up and vanish from their families for weeks or months. Militarized police units break down the doors of some 40,000 Americans a year and haul them away in the dead of night as if they were enemy combatants. Habeas corpus no longer exists. American citizens can "legally" be assassinated. Illegal abductions, known euphemistically as "extraordinary rendition," are a staple of the war on terror. Secret evidence makes it impossible for the accused and their lawyers to see the charges against them. All this was experienced by the Argentines. Domestic violence, whether in the form of social unrest, riots or another catastrophic terrorist attack on American soil, would, I fear, see the brutal tools of empire cemented into place in the homeland. At that point we would embark on our own version of the Dirty War...

drawing by Andrea Slocum (2010)


"I'm glad I didn't have to waste much time researching these experts!! Under the first category, "Law & Human Rights", John Yoo is their expert! Enough research for me!! --  Mike

For journalists covering the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, UC Berkeley has more than 20 available experts on the tragedy's impacts and implications...

Full list here; those wishing to disclaim association with views of the "Torture Professor" are invited to send emails to sf@worldcantwait.org .

(Photo montage: students at the 2008 Berkeley Law graduation raise a banner as an airplane circles overhead.)

bd12ff12be_tall_four_hundred.jpga radio commentary by Mumia Abu Jamal

The demands of the strikers seem relatively tame, which gives us some insight into the level of repression... 

A sub-demand is adequate natural sunlight - sunlight.  There are few things more torturous than dying by starvation. These men are killing themselves potentially for fresh air and sunlight, and about a third of California prisoners, 11 out of 33 prisons, have joined them. 

photo by Richard Ross: Isolation exercise yard, Security Housing Unit, Pelican Bay State Prison | Crescent City, California 2006

Where We At*

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CIMG1027.JPGIn just the past two months alone (all subsequent to the killing of Osama bin Laden), the U.S. Government has taken the following steps in the name of battling the Terrorist menace: extended the Patriot Act by four years without a single reform; begun a new CIA drone attack campaign in Yemen; launched drone attacks in Somalia; slaughtered more civilians in Pakistan; attempted to assassinate U.S. citizen Anwar Awlaki far from any battlefield and without a whiff of due process; invoked secrecy doctrines to conceal legal memos setting forth its views of its own domestic warrantless surveillance powers; announced a "withdrawal"plan for Afghanistan that entails double the number of troops in that country as were there when Obama was inaugurated; and invoked a very expansive view of its detention powers under the 2001 AUMF bydetaining an alleged member of al-Shabab on a floating prison, without charges, Miranda warnings, or access to a lawyer.  That's all independent of a whole slew of drastically expanded surveillance powers seized over the past two years in the name of the same threat. -- Glenn Greenwald

pelicanbay.jpgAmerica's widespread torture of 100,000 people in solitary confinement is one of the nation's most pressing and ignored domestic human rights issues according to veteran human rights defenders, James Ridgeway, Jean Casella and Andy Worthington, referring to success of the historical Pelican Bay Prison hunger strike by 7,000 inmates that began July 1 and officially ended this weekend. The prisoners peacefully brought to attention of the world that the United States justice system includes torture in prisons...

Deborah Dupre reminds us of why American torture is the  "most pressing, ignored human rights issue"  today

as both were conceived and are maintained by administrations that have a horrendous disregard for the human rights of prisoners, and an apparent thirst for vengeance, In addition, the violence of successive administrations, and of lawmakers in Congress and also of the judiciary, is reflected in the opinions of the people who vote for hardline lawmakers and apparently support brutalizing, cruel and inhumane prisons, in which isolation has become a key element of a system that can, without exaggeration, be described as one that involves torture. -- Andy Worthington

Call for An End to Solitary Confinement as Official US Prison Policy


"Loose lips sink ships", and nobody likes a "tattletale", especially criminals. Inmates have good memories and generous amounts of time to plot revenge. Unless you have a death wish or enjoy high anxiety living, "Keep your mouth shut!" -- excerpt from JAIL 101

The moral queasiness that we must feel about this method of extracting information from those in our clutches has all but disappeared these days, thanks to the national shame of "enhanced interrogation techniques" at Guantánamo. Those in isolation can get out by naming names, but if they do so they will likely be killed when returned to a normal facility. To "debrief" is to be targeted for death by gang members, so the prisoners are moved to "protective custody".... 

Jason Leopold, Truthout | Report


David Hicks, author of "Guantanamo: My Journey." (Image: Random House Australia)

Last week, the Australian government announced that it would initiate legal proceedings to try and seize royalty payments David Hicks has received following the publication of his memoir, "Guantanamo: My Journey," about the five years he spent at the prison facility, charging that he has violated the country's laws by profiting from a crime.

While Hicks' supporters have deplored the decision by Australia's Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, the court proceedings scheduled to begin next month could end up being a blessing for the former Guantanamo detainee and his defense team in that it may afford them an opportunity to show how the Bush administration and the government of former Prime Minister John Howard politicized his case, a fact much of the Australian media continues to ignore...

David Hicks' War Crimes Charge Was a "Favor" for Australia

"The fact that...people around the world are most petrified of ending up in the American justice system speaks volumes about what the state of civil liberties has become. -- Glenn Greenwald

"From Pelican Bay to Guantanamo Bay, the practice of unnecessarily harsh prison conditions, amounting to torture, needs to end. The hunger strikers at Pelican Bay and elsewhere, whether criminals or not, are putting their lives on the line for the sake of basic human dignity. We need to take notice, and then take action... -- psychologist, blogger, and activist Jeffrey Kaye

Isolation, Indeterminate Sentences Used to Extract Confessions at 

What: The 2011 Aspen Security Forum will be live streaming a number of sessions throughout the forum, which runs July 27-30, 2011.

Where: The live-stream will take place at http://as.pn/asflive. The full agenda and a list of the sessions to be live-streamed can be found at http://as.pn/asfagenda.

STEPHEN HADLEY July 29, 9:00am: Reflections on 9/11 and the Decade Since

MICHAEL HAYDEN July 29, 1:15pm: Cyber Security

ALBERTO GONZALES & JOHN YOO July 30, 9:00am: The Rule of Law and the War on Terrorism

MICHAEL CHERTOFF: July 30, 6:00pm: The Department of Homeland Security at Year Eight

including Philadelphia, Las Vegas, New York City, Tucson, and Montreal!Prisonovercrowding3SM.jpg

"As human rights protests grow nationally in support of California prisoners who are hunger striking due to abuses including confined in cages without toilets, on Sunday, the San Francisco Bay View National Black News called for a California statewide prison work strike to support the historical prisoner hunger strike of 6,600 prisoners that began July 1st in which one inmate has reportedly died as he fasted... -- 

, Human Rights Examiner

photo: Salinas Valley State Prison July 29, 2008 Correctional Treatment Center (dry cages/holding cells for people waiting for mental health crisis bed)

...puts people in jail on the merest suspicion, refusing them lawyers, and either 
holding them indefinitely or deporting them in the dead of night. -- The Call to 
Drive Out the Bush Regime, July 2006

WE can't wait for other countries to prosecute US officials involved in war crimes 
(the Spanish cases appear stalled, and the UK recently scaled back inquiry 
into British complicity).

Torture as U.S. policy

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"The use of torture as a function of terror, or its equivalent in sadistic behavior, has been historic de facto U.S. policy... Our European ancestors' shameful, sadistic treatment of the indigenous inhabitants based on an ethos of arrogance and violence has become ingrained in our values. 'Manifest destiny' has rationalized as a religion the elimination or assimilation of those perceived to be blocking American progress--at home or abroad--a belief that expansion of the nation, including subjugation of natives and others, is divinely ordained, that our 'superior race' is obligated to 'civilize' those who stand in the way...

see American Value: Reality vs. the Rhetoric

Is the Libyan war legal? Was Bin Laden's killing legal? Is it legal for the president 
of the United States to target an American citizen for assassination? Were those 
"enhanced interrogation techniques" legal? These are all questions raised in recent 
weeks. Each seems to call out for debate, for answers. Or does it?

It's time to stop wondering whether its acts are illegal and start asking: Do you 
really want to be this "safe"?

Arrest of government officials outside their home countries became a reality in 1998 when the onetime Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet was indicted for human rights violations in Chile by Spanish magistrate Baltasar Garzon... it appears that former Bush officials are aware of the danger.

"That arrest changed everything. It was a moment when international law seemed to plunge forward rather than advance at its more usual lumbering pace. Indeed, the [Pinochet] case transformed the landscape of international law and practice... -- Diane F. Orentlicher, professor of international law and director of the War Crimes Research Office at Washington College of Law

Factsheet: Universal Jurisdiction

torture at sea

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"At the Special Rapporteur's request and after several meetings, the US Department of Defense has allowed Mendez to visit Pfc. Manning but warned him that the conversation would be monitored," a prepared statement from the U.N. Human Rights Commission explained.

"Such a condition violates long-standing rules that the UN applies for prison visits and for interviews with inmates everywhere in the world. On humanitarian grounds and under protest, Mendez offered to Manning, through his counsel, to visit him under these restrictive conditions, an offer that Manning has declined."

"The United States, as a world leader, is a strong supporter of the international human rights system," Mendez is quoted as saying. "Therefore, its actions must seek to set the pace in good practices that enhance the role of human rights mechanisms, ensuring and maintaining unfettered access to detainees during enquiries."

Despite repeated petitions from Mendez, the U.S. has continued to refuse an unmonitored visit for Manning and insists his detention at Ft. Leavenworth is consistent with human rights standards...

Torture in Mogadishu

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"In the eighteen years since the infamous 'Black Hawk Down' incident in Mogadishu," The Nation's Jeremy Scahill writes in an exclusive report in this week's issue of The Nation, "US policy on Somalia has been marked by neglect, miscalculation and failed attempts to use warlords to build indigenous counterterrorism capacity, many of which have backfired dramatically." But now the US is intensifying its military and intelligence efforts in the country. According to Scahill's on-the-ground investigation in Mogadishu, conducted with filmmaker Richard Rowley, the CIA has not only opened a new base in the capital city, but also uses a secret prison in the basement of Somalia's National Security Agency. (Credit: Richard Rowley, Big Noise Films)

According to the former fellow prisoner, Hassan told him that his captors took him to Wilson Airport: "'They put a bag on my head, Guantánamo style. They tied my hands behind my back and put me on a plane. In the early hours we landed in Mogadishu. The way I realized I was in Mogadishu was because of the smell of the sea--the runway is just next to the seashore. The plane lands and touches the sea. They took me to this prison, where I have been up to now. I have been here for one year, seven months. I have been interrogated so many times. Interrogated by Somali men and white men. Every day. New faces show up. They have nothing on me. I have never seen a lawyer, never seen an outsider. Only other prisoners, interrogators, guards. Here there is no court or tribunal'"....

see CIA's Secret Sites in Somalia

plus, video interview with Edward Corrigan, an international lawyer in London


"From President Barack Obama's inauguration to now, he has treated the issue of torture and the legalization of this supreme violation of human rights as an inconvenience... 

Human rights groups have been very patient with the administration. Not only has the Obama Administration failed to uphold its duty to investigate and prosecute Bush officials under signed treaties like the Convention against Torture but it has let Bush officials tour around with their memoirs--books which contain prideful admissions of torture...

America purports to have moral authority in the world to push for prosecutions for crimes in Third World countries. It condemns Middle Eastern and African countries (excluding Israel), which do not allow access to their countries for investigations of human rights violations. But, it does not investigate and prosecute its own officials, who are responsible for committing and legalizing torture. -- Kevin Gosztola

Torture: Do Americans Care?

Obama's deliberate suppression of this shameful past is wrong. It reflects bad policy, a dereliction of presidential responsibilities and a continuing disregard for international law... The U.N. Convention Against Torture, ratified by the United States and 146 other countries, as well as the Geneva Conventions, do more than prohibit torture at all times, even in war. They also require that torture be investigated and prosecuted. The duty to prosecute is no more optional than the duty not to torture.

The books aren't closed.

Supporting prisoner-led resistance throughout the state of CA or in any prison across the country is about supporting those who are living and fighting through the most expansive and sophisticated prison system in world history. The fact that people can resist at all from inside US prisons is a testament to the struggle of life against the forces of death and disappearance. This deserves our solidarity, dedication and support.Political Prisoner and organizer George Jackson, just before he was murdered by prison guards at San Quentin State Prison talked about the goal of prisoner resistance and solidarity, saying:

The point is...in the face of what we confront, to fight and win. That's the real objective: not just to make statements, no matter how noble but to destroy the system that oppresses us. By any means available to us. And to do this, we must be connected, in contact and communication with those in struggle on the outside. We must be mutually supporting because we're all in this together. It's all one struggle at base.

Despite Attorney General Eric Holder's attempt to grant impunity to those who authorized or provided legal cover for over 100 deaths at Guantanamo and other prison camps, the book is not closed on accountability for facilitation or concealment of these atrocities.

There is no statute of limitations on murder by torture. And yes, we have the bodies to prove crimes have been committed.

Attorneys Marjorie Cohn and Glenn Greenwald, and others, have raised the question of whether we are witnessing A Free Pass for Torturers

I think not, if we refuse to accept the crimes of this government. Lisa Hajjar, associate 
professor of sociology at UC Santa Barbara, evaluates the legal campaign against 
american torture (where we're at now) and challenges the bleak conclusions that our 
decade-long anti-torture campaign has been a failure, acknowledging that the 
prospect of returning the U.S. to a state of law is no sure thing. But,

"to make it a possibility, there is work to be done in the court of public opinion. This involves challenging the specious lies that torture 'works', and attacking interpretations of law that would create rights-free zones and rightless individuals. When national leaders of the world's lone superpower endorse or excuse torture, and courts provide impunity, the adverse consequences are international and global. By the same measure, every fight against torture anywhere in the world is an expression of respect for the rule of law and a defense of the most important human right. In the US, the fight against torture has been hard, often frustrating, and has produced few victories. But it is the good fight, and those who have made this history have done a service for us all."
video: Recently uncovered documents reveal link to Iraq's notorious prison
And neither should CAL, no matter how lucrative this venture is for administrators. 
We're talking hundreds of thousands of dollars here folks. Money that could be spent 
on a basic refresher course in Ethics for needy Boalt faculty, for starters. Especially 
those reporting to John Yoo; they'd find it useful in confronting that abomination.

"Lock yourself in your bathroom for the next 10 years and tell me how it will affect your mind. -- Charles (in Tamms Supermax Prison for 12 years, from 1998 to 2010)

CIMG1024.JPGOn Friday July 1 more than 70 people gathered at the California State Building in San Francisco to stand in solidarity with the hunger strike in Pelican Bay Prison.

Saturday July 9th come out again to show your solidarity with the strikers! It'll be a week into the hunger strike, and we'll really need to show our support to help re-energize the work inside and keep the strike going! 
Rally  from 11am-1pm 
UN Plaza, San Francisco (Civic Center Bart). 

Contact prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity@gmail.com for more info.

James Ridgeway and Jean Casella, co-founders of Solitary Watch, discuss the prisoner hunger strike at Pelican Bay State Prison and the inhumane practice of solitary confinement. 


"We're not a nation you can rely on not to torture. We're not as much of an outlaw nation as we used to be, but we are wiling to be an outlaw nation when it suits our ends. It makes us a hypocritical nation. It makes us a potential outlaw nation. -- Karen Greenberg, executive director of the New York University Center on Law and Security

see Torture In America's Future?

"one of the most significant, enduring and consequential legacies of the Obama 

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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