March 2012 Archives

Hands off the heavens

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Not content with the extent of US global empire, John Yoo has raised his sights, opining in the New York Times:


 "Outer space has become the next frontier for American national security and business. From space, we follow terrorists and intercept their communications, detect foreign military deployments, and monitor a proliferation of unconventional weapons. Our Global Positioning System gives us targeting and tactical advantages, spacecraft create image-rich maps, and satellites beam data around the world."

 In a Time magazine piece rebutting the Berkeley professor's opposition to a draft European Union "code of conduct" to regulate outer space, Jeffrey Kluger identifies the true nature of Yoo's vision: militarization of space.

Detained men must be afforded fair trials or released. It is long past the time for impunity at Guantanamo to end, and for the closure of Guantanamo to be addressed. Today's IACHR [Inter-American Commission on Human Rights] decision [to hear the case of Guantanamo detainee and Algerian national Djamel Ameziane] is a step in that direction. 

- J Wells Dixon, Senior Staff Attorney at Center for Constitutional Rights

who killed Al Hanashi?

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"Whether or not Al Hanashi died a suicide, the question remains why he was driven to such a desperate measure, or why those in charge of his care failed so miserably to keep him alive. While his death may have been due to the stresses of torture and imprisonment, bringing the prisoner to despair and suicide, there may have been other, more distal causes affecting his situation. - Jeffrey Kaye, Truthout

U.N. Official Presses Query into Gitmo Deaths

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."

Birgeneau is too much of a diplomat to admit to any disappointment at this; rather he mentions it in the spirit of live and let live. For whatever anyone might say about Berkeley, most people rub along fairly well together... 

'Torture Chancellor' Robert Birgeneau to leave office December 31st 

Don't let the screen door hit you where the dog should have bit you.

new Guantanamo play

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"In Our Name" will be performed at the Boston Playwrights Theatre on March 27 and in New York City in May. After the Boston performance, a group of Boston lawyers who represented Guantanamo detainees will talk with the audience about their experiences.
Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey's financial transactions with Mujaheddin e Khalq terrorists (linked to the recent assassinations of Iranian scientists) look an awful lot like the arrangements made with Ahmed Chalabi to conjure up false evidence of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction...

Lisa Hajjar narrates how the "legalization" of targeted killing has evolved over the course of the last twenty years...

Training photo of Israeli special forces; Image from Zvi Koren/Polaris Images.
the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission and the New York-based Open Society Institute suggest that Afghanistan's international allies are still failing to ensure that people captured on the battlefield are treated humanely despite a massive reform program in recent months... 

Botero, Abu Ghraib 4, 2004, 40 x 30 cm, sanguine on paper-535p.jpg

Yesterday's massacre of civilians in Afghanistan reminded me of Fernando Botero's message to the Berkeley community on the eve of "Berkeley Says NO To Torture" week. 

The artist's Abu Ghraib paintings, which he donated to UC Berkeley in 2007, will be shown at Santiago's Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos from March 15 to June 24, 2012.

In a demonstration of almost incomprehensible hypocrisy, Berkeley Law dean and torture apologist Christopher Edley participated in an introductory panel to the exhibit.

War Criminals Watch:

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Cheney cancels visit to Canada

Fearing a repeat of demonstrations like last September (when he chose to hide in the Vancouver Club for seven hours), Dick and his daughter have begged off an April 24th speaking event in Toronto. The former vice president was scheduled to talk about his experiences in office and the current American political situation.

slide_637_12913_large.jpgObama's embrace of the former president's program -- lying to Congress about the grounds for war, wiretapping Americans, and conspiring to torture -- might explain his reluctance to allow the enforcement of laws against his predecessor.

In her new book, "Cheating Justice: How Bush and Cheney Attacked the Rule of Law and Plotted to Avoid Prosecution -- and What We Can Do About It," Elizabeth Holtzman identifies charges that would stick in holding these war criminals accountable and concludes that charges of torture have no expiration. But she chooses to overlook the current administration's duty to investigate and prosecute past crimes and turns a blind eye to the continuation, even expansion, of the illegal policies of the Bush regime. 

David Swanson calls the author to task, noting: it is the Democratic switch to defending all presidential wrongdoing since 2008 that has put the largest nails into the coffin of legitimate rule by law in this country.  Bush's crimes have been legitimized.  Obama has claimed the power to torture as he deems necessary, the power to imprison and rendition as he sees fit, the power to murder any human being including U.S. citizens and children as he and he alone declares necessary, and powers of state secrecy that Nixon and Cheney never dreamed of...

In defending Obama's assassination policy, Attorney General Eric Holder uses the "greater-than-lesser" argument, that the power to do something substantial includes the power to do something less so, that 

once Congress has given the president a broad grant to use military force against a particular enemy, the president [need not] go back to Congress to get new authorization to take actions that fit within the scope of that grant...

Ian Millhiser notes that any Post-Bush evaluation of the president's wartime powers must take account of the problem of John Yoo, [who's] theory that the power to kill an enemy combatant must also 

include the power to do what you wish with him. Yoo posits:

The United States Code proscribes torture. Likewise, one of the most well established principles in American law -- stretching at least as far back as the Supreme Court's 1804 decision in Little v. Barreme -- is that Congress has the power to forbid the president from waging war in certain ways.

Ultimately, this may be the only answer for Americans who do not want their president to have the power to target other Americans.
special rapporteur on torture Juan Ernest Mendez condemns the "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment" of whistleblower Bradley Manning, specifically "the excessive and prolonged isolation he was put in during the eight months he was in Quantico," and rejects official defense of the abuses.

"The choice of a law school was a curious place for discussion of authoritarian powers." - Jonathan Turley

Thumbnail image for holder-body.jpg
Attorney General Eric Holder addressed the Northwestern University law school Monday with an absurd excuse for executive overreach: 

"'Due process' and 'judicial process' are 
not one and the same, particularly 
when it comes to national security.  
The Constitution guarantees due process, 
not judicial process."

Glenn Greenwald responds: As always, the most important point to note for this entire debate is how perverse and warped it is that we're even having this "debate" at all. It should be self-negating -- self-marginalizing -- to assert that the President, acting with no checks or transparency, can order American citizens executed far from any battlefield and without any opportunity even to know about, let alone rebut, the accusations. That this policy is being implemented and defended by the very same political party that spent the last decade so vocally and opportunistically objecting to far less extreme powers makes it all the more repellent... 

Impeach Bybee

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The quest for accountability continues.

A small knot of protesters staked out a patch of sidewalk in front of Portland's Pioneer Courthouse this morning to protest the appearance of 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Jay Bybee, who is hearing cases there this week. 

Bybee was one of two Bush administration lawyers behind memos that ultimately authorized the use of a wide array of painful mental and physical measures -- including waterboarding -- to extract information from suspected terrorists. John C. Yoo, University of California at Berkeley professor, authored the memos...       Bryan Denson/The Oregonian View full size

32867a-thumb-275x168-thumb-500x305.jpgThe preaching platform that the University of California provides John Yoo enables the professor's continued assault on civil liberties and human rights. Protection of the "torture professor" illustrates the extent to which political calculation supplants ethical deliberation by the university to provide principled leadership. 

photo by Lisa Bernheim

the willingness to defend persistent and deeply rooted forms of racial, economic and social inequality is often driven by a fear of those deemed 'other', whose presence, voices and ideas defy the crippling registers of intellectual conformity and forms of knowledge that merely reinforce 'common sense', the status quo and right-wing populism...

Tolerance, indeed promotion, of Yoo works to constrain challenge to official narratives and policies of the torture state, and suppresses redress of the injustice, even death, suffered by its victims.
"The kind of legal culture and legal problem solving that all of humanity needs" must include accountability for war crimes and the institutions which harbor the perpetrators.

The University of California's advocacy for the current U.S. Torture State began with a rather banal defense of its employee John Yoo, whose conduct and work at the Bush/Cheney Justice Department fell far outside established ethical standards. Berkeley Law Dean Christopher Edley sticks with his misapplication of the principle of "academic freedom" to provide safe harbor to his subordinate, despite repeated rebuttals from those, including numerous constitutional lawyers, who correctly understand that ethical, criminal and immoral action in the service of government are not protected.

Dean Edley taught Barack Obama at Yale and provided consultation services for his presidential campaign, and has upheld the President's decision to avoid investigation of criminal actions of the Bush administration. But political calculation must not be the basis for decisions involving the most basic principles of universal human rights. World Can't Wait urges people of conscience to reject the pretext of Fear being sold to the American public and to repudiate the illegal practices being used in the global "war" on terror.

It is time for Berkeley Law to come clean and fess up to what it actually represents, its "face" to the world, before the nickname "UC Law School for the Legal Justification of Torture" takes permanent hold. Join us today in our campaign to "Fire, Disbar, and Prosecute John Yoo."

Hiding torture

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JURIST Special Guest Columnist Andrea Prasow of Human Rights Watch says that one of the reasons Majid Khan was not tried in civilian court and was offered a plea deal by Guantanamo prosecutors was to prevent him from testifying on his mistreatment while in CIA custody...

At noon on Friday March 2, San Francisco progressive activists gathered at San Francisco City Hall to urge the Board of Supervisors to join in resistance to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a new federal law that critics say will change the fabric of American democracy in unprecedented ways. The NDAA goes into effect on Saturday, March 3. Press release for event here.

Earlier in the morning, a delegation of SF 99% Coalition members met with SF Board of Supervisors staff to urge support for a resolution encouraging local non-compliance with the law, which would add San Francisco to the growing list of communities nationwide who are saying 'NO' to indefinite detention of US and non-US citizens alike.
It never occurred to the framers of our Constitution that "free speech" could be transformed into the scourge of our current democracy, and an excuse for every form of oppression possible, from torture to fraudulent elections...

By suggesting that waterboarding, sleep deprivation, and tearing out fingernails were merely tactics amounting to "enhanced interrogation," [Yoo and Bybee] gave the green light to the monsters running our government to endorse renditions, tortures and every other war crime the Pentagon can envision. Unmanned drones, Special Operations assassinations, nuclear missiles and war crimes are now our country's leading exports.

0518_03_1-thumb-350x336.jpgAt a crucial point when UC students were demanding that Yoo be thrown off the staff at UC, the students at Berkeley and the law school fell victim to Dean Christopher Edley, Jr.'s argument that to deny Yoo a chair on the faculty at the law school would deny the man free speech... that his free speech rights trumped the impact of his analysis. Likewise, free speech was the explanation given by our fearless leaders to guarantee Bybee a seat on the Court of Appeal. So, instead of spending their lives in prison, where they belong, these war criminals have been rewarded by those who thrive on slaughter and hatred...

"the more you're exposed to this horror [war crime atrocities], frankly, in the human experience, at least in my case, the more you become determined to persevere. In other words, there's no way you can walk way from it after a while. You have to keep walking right into it because you know it's there and you feel guilty if you're not addressing it. I think this is a feeling that so many humanitarian workers and doctors in the field have in their lives. It's not a question of getting hooked, but more that you're compelled not to ignore it any more - International Criminal Court ambassador David Scheffer

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Broken Laws, Broken Lives

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The President's Executioner

Detention and torture in Guantanamo

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