December 2013 Archives

New Years Eve, 2013

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The perverse experiment in lawlessness at Guantanamo has gone on so long we find ourselves talking to a new generation where practices of indefinite incarceration and assassination have become the norm. The critical response of youth to exposure of government abuse gives me cause to anticipate renewed resistance to the crimes of our government.

For those of us watching the history of that hated prison camp unfold, willful blindness is no excuse. "If you want to remain ignorant of what is going on, of what has happened at Guantanamo, it's quite possible. But it shouldn't be," says UC Davis professor Almerindo Ojeda.

Ojeda is director of the university's Center for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas. Since 2005, the center has been documenting the testimonials of prisoners held at the U.S. Navy base. It's the hope of the scholars involved with the center -- a group that includes professors in a variety of disciplines -- that the Guantanamo Testimonials Project will make continued ignorance of human-rights abuses that occurred at the U.S. military base in Cuba inexcusable...

The project is important as a record of history; "it's also a moral tale about what can happen when the executive goes rogue, a cautionary tale about what can happen. Eventually, we hope that knowledge will free us of torture and crimes against humanity."

The Bagram Prisoner Campaign

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Asim Rafiqui, Aftermath Project Grant winner and the writer behind The Spinning Head, has spent much of the last year photographing in Pakistan for his Justice in Pakistan project. Rafiqui was named an Open Society Fellow by the Open Society Foundation last year to embark on this major new work. Last week he debuted the first chapter of this project "Bagram: The Other Guantanamo" with an exhibition in Islamabad, Pakistan. He will also be presenting this work in Washington DC on September 12, 2013 at The Fridge Gallery. The project features portraits and interviews with family members of the nearly 40 Pakistani men still detained at the Bagram base in Afghanistan and is presented in a highly organized and internally referenced website that links the families, prisoners and their stories...

dvafoto interview here
That John Yoo is a full professor at one of the country's most prestigious law schools, and a welcomed expert on our newspaper's Op-Ed pages and television news programs, speaks volumes about what our country has become. 

It would be a huge mistake to think Yoo is alone in his arguments. He is not some lone wolf with wacky ideas but enjoys the support of a constellation of colleagues who find accommodation for transgression of international law. 

"regrettable mistakes"

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photo: Obama visits Nelson Mandela's apartheid prison cell 

terrorism watch lists... currently contain almost 900,000 names scattered among as many as a dozen lists. The no-fly list, which consisted of 16 names before Sept. 11, 2001, had approximately 21,000 names as of early 2012. (Nelson Mandela remained on one terrorist watch list until 2008, when Congress removed him through special legislation.)
If one really wishes to know how justice is administered in a country, one does not question the policemen, the lawyers, the judges, or the protected members of the middle class. One goes to the unprotected -- those, precisely, who need the law's protection most -- and listens to their testimony.

James Baldwin from "No Name In The Street"

Why did the US need to send prisoners to prisons located outside the borders and 'jurisdiction' of the United States? The answer is quite simple: the Bush administration was determined to avoid any and all court review for the many prisoners it was capturing in Afghanistan. The fact remains that the creators of America's detention policies were suspicious if not outright dismissive of the judicial review process, and saw it as a weakness and an obstacle against combating 'terrorist' threats...  

Asim Rafiqui explores the disconnect and lack of trust in [legal] institutions and its practitioners:
6376886.standalone.prod_affiliate.56.JPGFor 20 years he has fled violence and instability in Algeria only to be forcibly returned there by the U.S. government despite his well-documented fear of persecution." -- Attorney Wells Dixon

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Djamel Ameziane [left], and Belkacem Bensayah were brought to Guantanamo in early 2002 and held at Camp X-Ray... neither man was ever charged with a crime during a decade of detention. Bensayah and Ameziane had, separately, fled turmoil in Algeria in the 1990s and their lawyers had been asking Western nations to offer them safe haven...

it was not known if either of the two men were long-term hunger strikers protesting their continuing confinement at Guantánamo.

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President Obama's nomination of federal prosecutor John Carlin to run the Justice Department's National Security Division has occasioned "strenuous" objections from law enforcement officials on institutional separations of power.   

Former [law enforcement] officials said they are concerned that Carlin, who has been acting in the position since March, doesn't speak as an independent voice for the department, but rather is aligning his positions first with the White House, and particularly with [homeland security and counterterrorism adviser] Lisa Monaco, thus undermining [Attorney General] Eric Holder's authority. Two individuals drew comparisons to John Yoo, the controversial Justice Department attorney in the George W. Bush administration, who was known to have his own relationships with White House officials and was seen as operating outside channels meant to guard against political influence...

Obama officials have insisted -- following John Yoo's vision of executive omnipotence -- that these are decisions for the President, and him alone, to make.

"the major problem with the U.S. drone campaign is not the technologies utilized but the underlying ethos that the United States can do anything it wants in the name of national security, wherever, whenever and to whomever it pleases, without any accountability. This is a problem that transcends the use of drones...

Changing the debate


Total strikers


Tube fed



The Guantánamo prison, whose motto is "safe, humane, legal, transparent detention," announced Tuesday that it will no longer disclose daily hunger-strike figures -- abandoning a practice that allowed the public to see the rise and fall of the captives' nearly year-long protest...

It bottomed out at 11 prisoners counted as hunger-strikers on Nov. 15 but had risen as of Monday -- the last day the prison disclosed the hunger-strike figure -- to 15 captives so thin they were eligible for forced-feeding through nasogastric tubes if they didn't voluntarily chug a dose of Ensure...

But [Navy Commander John] Filostrat alternately described the daily disclosure as a disruption of prison-camp operations and as a new public-relations strategy by the Joint Task Force, or JTF, of 2,100 
troops and contractors assigned to the prison-camp complex now housing 164 detainees.

Marine General John Kelly orders silence from prison staff


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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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