warprompts

A Vast Torture Operation

North Carolina Outlaws Torture:

Anti-torture activists won in the General Assembly today when a House judiciary committee approved the legislation they’ve been working to enact for nearly two years.

House Bill 2417 would create two new criminal statutes in North Carolina specifically outlawing “torture” and “enforced disappearance” for the purpose of torture. Both would be added to the list of crimes for which a state investigative grand jury could be empaneled. That process can be initiated through a petition to the state Supreme Court by a local district attorney or the state attorney general.

State Rep. Paul Luebke, D-Durham, a primary sponsor of the bill, called the committee action, which came by a 4-3 vote, a “significant victory” and “an important statement in opposing torture in North Carolina.”

The vote was along party lines, with Democrats voting yes and Republicans voting no.

Luebke cautioned that the committee’s action is just the first in a six-step legislative process. The bill now moves to the House Appropriations Committee, which will consider its cost to enforce, if any. If approved there, the bill would go to the House floor. The same process would be repeated in the Senate. Gov. Mike Easley’s signature would also be required to enact the bill into law.

“A vast torture operation” — Juan Cole writes:

Recent reports, taken together, provide a chilling glimpse of a vast torture operation, deliberately planned out by serial torturers in Bush’s White House and possibly by the president himself. The program was designed to repeal the Geneva Conventions, which the US and Israel have long found inconvenient, even though they were legislated to prevent futher abuses such as those of the Nazis. AP interviews with former detainees show that they were systematically tortured and sometimes permanently injured.

The Senate hearings continue…East Bay Express reports:

William Haynes II is a senior lawyer in Chevron’s general counsel office. But up until a few months ago, he was the Pentagon lawyer who helped authorize and craft a policy of torturing people detained by the American military. Yesterday, members of the Senate Armed Services Committee called him in to testify about when and how he approved the use of dogs, nudity, and other techniques during interrogations. And wouldn’t you know it, one of the sharpest legal minds in the country suddenly can’t remember a thing! According to the WaPo’s Dana Milbank, Haynes gave the following answers to questions from the public’s elected representatives:

“I don’t recall seeing this memorandum before and I’m not even sure this is one I’ve seen before. . . . I don’t recall seeing this memorandum and I don’t recall specific objections of this nature. . . . Well, I don’t recall seeing this document, either. . . . I don’t recall specific concerns. . . . I don’t recall these and I don’t recall seeing these memoranda. . . . I can’t even read this document, but I don’t remember seeing it. . . . I don’t recall that specifically. . . . I don’t remember doing that. . . . I don’t recall seeing these things.”

“It was an impressive performance, to be sure,” Milbank marveled. “But let’s see him try to do that with a hood over his head, standing on a crate with wires attached to his arms.”

More coverage on the hearings:

Here

And here:

In a series of hearings, Congressional leaders are trying to get to the bottom of a few simple questions: Who initiated the use of torture techniques in the “war on terror”? What was the process by which it was done? On whose authority was it done? The use of torture techniques became a matter of public knowledge four years ago. In response to the initial disclosures, the Bush Administration first decided to spin the fable of a handful of “rotten apples” inside of a company of military police from Appalachia and scapegoated a handful of examples in carefully managed and staged show trials. When further disclosures out of Bagram and Guantánamo made this untenable, they spun a new myth, this time suggesting that the administration had responded to a plea from below for wider latitude.

In fact at this point the evidence is clear and convincing, and it points to a top-down process. Figures near the top of the administration decided that they wanted brutal techniques and they hammered them through, usually over strong opposition from the ranks of professionals.

Yesterday’s hearings in the Senate Armed Services Committee helped make that point, and brought a new focus on a figure who has been lurking in the shadows of the controversy for some time: William J. Haynes II, Rumsfeld’s lawyer and now a lawyer for Chevron. Two things emerge from the hearing. First, that Haynes was effectively a stationmaster when it came to introducing torture techniques in the “war on terror,” circumventing opposition from career military and pushing through a policy of brutality and cruelty, by stealth when necessary. And second, that Haynes lacks the courage of his convictions, a willingness to stand up and testify honesty about what he did.

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June 23, 2008 Posted by | Torture News | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Senate Armed Services Hearings, Learning how to torture

The Senate Armed Services Committee hearing this week — “on the origins of aggressive interrogation techniques: Part I of the Committee’s inquiry into the treatment of detainees in U.S. custody” — has revealed:

Pentagon officials drawing up methods to question suspects after the September 11 attacks consulted experts who taught U.S. troops how to resist harsh interrogation, a Senate committee was told on Tuesday.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin said a little-known unit that taught skills of Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) provided a list of interrogation techniques.

And the AP reported:

Military lawyers warned against the harsh detainee interrogation techniques approved by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in 2002, contending in separate memos weeks before Rumsfeld’s endorsement that they could be illegal, a Senate panel has found.

The investigation by the Senate Armed Services Committee also has confirmed that senior administration officials, including the Pentagon’s then-general counsel William “Jim” Haynes, sought the help of military psychologists early on to devise the more aggressive methods – which included the use of dogs, making a detainee stand for long periods of time and forced nudity, according to officials familiar with the findings.

Other coverage on the hearings:

Rumsfeld Aides Sought Torture How-To

McClatchey Newspapers reports that, “Torture wasn’t merely an option for military guards in Afghanistan in the first couple of years of the war on terror: It was routine.”

So it appears, anyway, from the extensive reporting by McClatchy Newspapers, which has been serialized this week in The Oregonian. The stories describe the casual and widespread use of inhuman techniques of “interrogation” and imprisonment, including hanging detainees by their wrists, beating their legs to pulp and kicking and punching prisoners until they collapsed.

At least two detainees died after being beaten. Few Americans were punished. And many Afghans were radicalized by the widespread harsh treatment.

A North Carolina House judiciary committee is scheduled to consider a ban on torture and forced disappearances:

The plan to be discussed Tuesday would make torture a felony punishable by up to more than six years in prison.

The proposed law defines torture as both the mental or physical suffering inflicted on a person to obtain information or coerce them.

It also would make the abduction or inappropriate detention of someone a felony.

The bill’s sponsors have said they introduced the measure after hearing allegations that a Smithfield-based company helped the CIA transport suspected terrorists to secret overseas prisons. They pushed for a similar law last year, but the plan never made it out of the House.

June 18, 2008 Posted by | Torture News | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Convicted Criminal Considers the Cause, the Crime, and the Court

Last week, as prisoners continued to languish in the infamous and illegally-run US concentration camp of Guantanamo, I was fortunate to join 34 fellow criminals in Washington DC at the District of Columbia Superior Court as our case, for an act of peaceful civil resistance, was heard by a judge and prosecuted by one of America‘s officers of the court. Our court experience was far more than our unfortunate brothers in Guantanamo have received after 6 years in their open-ended confinement. Approximately 270 Guantanamo prisoners are held in captivity without charges, Habeas Corpus rights denied, access to civil courts denied, living in conditions of abuse, torture, and with little hope for life or liberty. Some have committed suicide because of their desperate situation.

On January 11, 2008 hundreds of people solemnly processed from The National Mall to The United States Supreme Court marking the 6th year of the prison camp to redress our grievances against the US Government and its use of abusive treatment, torture, and the ending of Habeas Corpus rights for the Guantanamo prisoners. Out of the hundreds who were a part of this assembly, outside and inside the US Supreme Court, I was one of 80 people who ended up being arrested for our nonviolent witness, kneeling and praying, calling for the closing of the Guantanamo detention camp. Those of us who were arrested for our peaceful justice-advocacy for the prisoners were charged with “unlawful free speech” and a second charge, for those inside, of “causing a harangue”. The “harangue” charge was eventually dropped.

After our arrest we were held for over 30 hours in a chain of custody from the US Supreme Court Police to the DC Metropolitan Police, and finally in holding cells below the courtroom by the US Marshals. We chose not to have any identification such as drivers’ licenses and instead told the police that we were there in the name of a specific Guantanamo prisoner. The Guantanamo prisoner I represented is Sahr Fawaz Ahmad. Many of us had been held on January 11 in handcuffs for over 8 hours and some not given any food or water until the next day. The day after our arrest, while still in custody, the US Marshals refused to give us water. Our lawyer had to get the arraignment judge to order the marshals to give us water. On January 12 we were all arraigned late in the day and early evening. We were then free to go until we would be in court to defend ourselves against the charges. Again, this is more than those in Guantanamo have received even after 6 long years of imprisonment without charge or conviction.

On May 27, 2008 we gathered for our trial in the DC Superior Court. As we went to trial our numbers had decreased from 80 initially arrested to 34 prepared for trial. Several of the 80 had made agreements with the government not to get arrested for 6 months and having their records cleared if they maintained this agreement. Others had their charges dropped for no apparent reason just before our trial. Our judge was Wendell P. Gardner Jr. and our US Government prosecutor was Magdelena Acevado. We would defend ourselves Pro Se meaning we would represent ourselves with the assistance of attorney-advisers Mark Goldstone and Anne Wilcox. By going Pro Se we have the chance to introduce our message about the Guantanamo prisoners and what motivated us to take such a dramatic action at The US Supreme Court.

The trial lasted three days ending late on Thursday May 29. During our trial almost half of my fellow co-defendants wore orange jumpsuits and remained silent and would not take an active role in their defense. They did this to be in solidarity with the prisoners of Guantanamo and to illustrate the lack of justice the prisoners have experienced while being held in the US occupied portion of Cuba. The rest of us took on the various roles such as giving opening statements, cross examination of government witnesses, examination of defense witnesses, motion for judgment of acquittal, and closing statements in our defense. We all identified ourselves in court with our own names in addition to naming the Guantanamo prisoner we represented. In naming a Guantanamo prisoner we were in some small symbolic way getting these illegally held captives into the court record, again this is much more than what they have received so far.

During the trial several of my codefendants made deeply moving and passionate statements concerning the rights of the prisoners, about the abuse and torture we know is inflicted upon them, the importance of Habeas Corpus, human rights, and international law. They spoke eloquently about why we were called by conscience and the need to follow a higher law that is above statutes that govern behavior in and around a federal building. We all acted peacefully at the US Supreme Court on January 11, 2008 and firmly believe that we were there to uphold the law.

During the trial the government failed to provide any evidence of our individual guilt. We were identified in court with post-arrest photos by police witnesses. A video depicting some of what happened outside The US Supreme Court was presented without a single police officer identifying any one of us as an individual who committed a crime. Not one person who was inside on that day was ever identified by a police witness as committing any crime. One officer testified that the first time he saw me was on an elevator handcuffed being escorted by another officer after my arrest. Nevertheless we were all found guilty by the judge. We were found guilty by the use of post-arrest photos and guilt by association and not as individuals who each committed a crime. This is significant but not the most important thing for us.

We did what we did and went to trial because of the prisoners of Guantanamo. We were there for them. We were there to speak out for those who cannot. We were there to uphold international law, our constitution, our Bill of Rights, The Geneva Conventions, for justice and humanity. Our government refuses to allow the Guantanamo prisoners into our civil courts to be fairly tried. Instead our government has set up military tribunals where hearsay evidence is permitted, information obtained from those tortured is admitted as evidence, and the military judge picks the defense, prosecution, and jury. This is not justice. We took the names of the prisoners into court with us written on our hearts and minds and we spoke their names. We were subsequently sentenced by Judge Gardiner on May 30.

We now all face one year of probation and a one year order to stay away from the US Supreme Court building, grounds, and the surrounding sidewalk. Some of us have fines of $50 and a few have, including myself, a $100 fine. Some refused to accept probation knowing they may be called by conscience, to witness for justice and peace, to risk arrest again. These people, five of them, received immediate jail time of 10 days and an additional one to 15 days. Another defendant, a retired school teacher in her 70’s, received 5 days, and I was one of three who received 1 day in jail in addition 29 days in jail if we get arrested within the year. Again, this is nothing compared to what our brothers in Guantanamo face every day.

Our judge gave us these punishments because he said he wants us to learn a lesson. But, in reality the government is clamping down on peaceful dissent by jailing us and threatening us with more jail if we continue our nonviolent resistance to injustice. This is the lesson the government wants nonviolent dissenters to learn. The lesson the government needs to learn, however, is that this won’t work with us. We will be back for our brothers in Guantanamo and the estimated 27,000 other prisoners in secret black sites around the world where torture is practiced.

As long as the Guantanamo concentration camp is open and in operation none of us is truly free. As long as the likes of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Gonzalez, and Yoo remain at large ordering, advocating, and approving of torture none of us is safe. As long as the bipartisan US Congress fails to restore Habeas Corpus and close Guantanamo we have lost our republic and tyranny will rule us. We all must work to close this place and bring justice to those held captive. If this means risking arrest for nonviolent symbolic actions of peaceful civil resistance and then enduring a time of incarceration then this must be done for the sake of the higher laws of justice and the leadings of our individual consciences. I urge all people of goodwill to join us in this struggle for justice.

For more information on the campaign to close Guantanamo, our trial, and the work to end torture go to: www.witnesstorture.org

— Malachy Kilbride malachykilbride@yahoo.com

June 18, 2008 Posted by | Non-Fiction, Torture News | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Life at Guantanamo: “I look alive, but actually I’m dead”

Solitary confinement at Guantanamo Bay: “I look alive, but actually I’m dead…”

The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) released two reports on the conditions and treatment of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay. One report highlights numerous instances of threats and abuse of prisoners at Guantánamo by interrogators from brutal human rights abusing regimes who are given full access by the U.S. The second report demonstrates the deteriorating mental health of the overwhelming majority of Guantánamo prisoners relegated to solitary confinement at the prison.

***

[In] Solitary Confinement at Guantánamo Bay, CCR details the deteriorating mental health of the approximately 70 percent of Guantánamo’s prisoners who are currently in solitary confinement – virtually all without charge or trial. Three of Guantánamo’s camps – Camps 5, 6, and Echo – house detainees in extreme conditions of solitary confinement, which the government speaks about as “single-occupancy cells” providing greater “privacy.”

CCR Executive Director Vincent Warren
said, “The government is not keeping these men in a Holiday Inn-type room—in reality, they live in brutal isolation with no chance of seeing the light of day, much less a fair trial.”


According to the report released today, one prisoner in Camp 6 recounted to his lawyer, “I’ve started talking to the ceiling. I know it’s crazy, but I can’t stand it anymore.” Another Camp 6 prisoner with deteriorating mental health, stated, “I look alive, but actually I’m dead.”

The Center for Constitutional Rights reports on House of Representative subcommittee hearings on the torture of Canadian citizen Maher Arar:

Two House of Representatives Subcommittees will be hearing testimony from the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General on the rendition of Maher Arar, the Canadian citizen sent by the United States to be tortured in Syria more than five years ago. The hearing will focus on the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) report on the processes used to send Mr. Arar to Syria, which the office has so far refused to release to the public – instead, in March of this year, it released an unclassified one-page summary with no new information. Some portion of the Report is now supposed to be released at the conclusion of tomorrow’s hearing. According to an article in Harper’s magazine, the release of the Report has been delayed by the efforts of senior government officials because it exposes “serious misconduct.” The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), which represents Maher in a case against high-level U.S. officials calls again for the release of the entire unredacted OIG report. “More than five years have passed since our government sent Maher to Syria to be tortured, and almost two years since the Canadian government issued its 1,200-page report on the role of Canadian officials in what was done to Maher,” said CCR Senior Attorney Maria LaHood. “It is high time the Inspector General reveal his full findings on the actions of U.S. government officials so they may begin to be held accountable.”

Democracy Now! reported that in October 2002, Arar was detained at JFK airport while on a stopover in New York. He was then jailed and secretly deported to Syria. He was held for almost a year without charge in an underground cell not much larger than a grave. Charges were never filed against him. In a 2006 interview he told Democracy Now!:

Well, you know, they [the Americans] sent me to a country where it is common knowledge that they torture detainees. I was—I spent there a year, ten months of which I was placed in an underground cell. Of course, this is not to mention the beatings, the physical beatings I endured at the beginning when I arrived in Syria. But I can tell you that the psychological torture that I endured during this ten-month period in the underground cell is really beyond human imagination. It is beyond human imagination.

Making it Matter:

Actions continue for June’s National Religious Campaign Against Torture. Check out these inspiring Atlanta actions:

Druid Hills United Methodist Church and the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta will fly banners in their sanctuaries in June decrying the U.S. use of torture.

“Each banner highlights [the fact that] we still have a policy of torture,” said Suzanne O’Hatrick, who is helping coordinate the national campaign.

Churches in all 50 states and Puerto Rico are participating, and the sponsors expect many more to sign on, she said.

David Gushee, a professor of Christian ethics at Mercer University, has been a leading religious voice against the use of torture and is organizing a conference on the topic Sept. 11-12 in Atlanta.

“Disturbingly, that debate [over torturing prisoners in the war on terror] remains unresolved, with significant percentages of the American people approving torture, and American law and policy continuing to reflect our national inability to renounce it,” Gushee wrote.

And the Episcopal News Service reports that:

More than 275 congregations of a wide variety of faiths in all 50 United States and the District of Columbia will display an anti-torture banner on the exterior of their buildings during June, which religious and human-rights organizations have designated as Torture Awareness Month.

Make it Matter. Check out the campaign website here, tell the presidential candidates to oppose torture and sign the statement against torture.

June 8, 2008 Posted by | Torture News | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Google It — We’re #1!

When you google “torture,” the US occupies two of the top three positions:

Torture – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Torture, according to the United Nations Convention Against Torture, is “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental,
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torture – 190k – CachedSimilar pagesNote this

Human Rights Watch – Torture – Abuse of Detainees – Iraq – Afghanistan

Human Rights Watch research and advocacy on the torture and mistreatment of US detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanmo Bay.
http://www.hrw.org/campaigns/torture.htm – 24k – CachedSimilar pagesNote this

Annals of National Security: Torture at Abu Ghraib: The New Yorker

In the era of Saddam Hussein, Abu Ghraib, twenty miles west of Baghdad, was one of the world’s most notorious prisons, with torture, weekly executions,

Google It!

If you google:

US + torture, you get 3,430,000 hits.

China + torture gets 349,000 hits

Iran + torture gets 652,000

England + torture gets 573,000

France + torture gets 714,000

June 3, 2008 Posted by | Non-Fiction | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Floating in Limbo, literally

Makes you proud to be an American, huh? One Guantanamo detainee victim describes the “kinder, gentler” torture imposed by the Americans he thought he would be safe with:

While staying at his in-law’s village in Afghanistan in December 2001, Abdul Hamid Al-Ghizzawi, my client at Guantánamo, knew little of Bush and Cheney.

Later, when vigilante thugs turned him over to the Northern Alliance for an American bounty, Al-Ghizzawi knew nothing of Donald Rumsfeld, Alberto Gonzales, Jay Bybee, John Yoo or Matthew Waxman — the man who would become Al-Ghizzawi’s personal war criminal and who is now a professor at Columbia Law School.

So, it was understandable that when Al-Ghizzawi heard American troops were coming, he tried to get himself turned over to them. As Al-Ghizzawi later told me, he thought he would be safe with the Americans “and have rights” and be treated “with respect.” Al-Ghizzawi convinced the Americans to take him when they learned he spoke English. That was all the troops knew about him. Ignorance of who he was or why he was there, however, proved no impediment to torture.

In the early years, “the Americans treated me very brutally and disrespectfully, worse than the Northern Alliance … and the Northern Alliance was very bad,” Al-Ghizzawi recounted to me. “But now the torture is much different. Now the torture is my life every day in this prison, alone without my family, dying, with no rights and no charges.”

His American jailers spared Al-Ghizzawi the very worst of the worst in the long list of torture techniques now in use. He was not murdered or waterboarded. He did not have a razor blade taken to his penis, nor was he hung from the ceiling by his arms. One might describe Al-Ghizzawi’s torture as a kinder, gentler torture.

In American custody, Al-Ghizzawi was only beaten with chains; bound to chairs in excruciating positions for endless hours; threatened with death and with rape; stripped and subjected to body-cavity searches by non-medical personnel while men — and women — laughed and took pictures.

Among many other brutalities and indignities, Al-Ghizzawi was also posed naked with other prisoners; terrorized with dogs; forced to kneel on stones in the searing heat; left to stand or crouch for extended periods; deprived of sleep; subjected to extreme cold without clothes or covering; denied medical attention; and kept in isolation for years.

Again, as I said: a kinder, gentler torture.

Torture planes, and now, Torture ships. The anti-torture group, Reprieve, reported on June 2nd that:

In June 2005 the UN’s special rapporteur on terrorism spoke of “very, very serious” allegations that the United States was secretly detaining terrorism suspects in various locations around the world, notably aboard prison ships in the Indian Ocean region.


Reprieve, the legal action charity, believes that the US has operated a number of ships as floating prisons (possibly as many as 17), where prisoners have been interrogated under torturous conditions before being rendered to other, often undisclosed locations. Details regarding the operation of prison ships have emerged through a number of sources, including the US military and other administration officials, the Council of Europe, various parliamentary bodies and journalists, as well as the testimonies of prisoners themselves…

Following his capture by Northern Alliance forces in November 2001, John Walker Lindh, the so called ‘American Taliban’, was transferred first to the USS Peleliu and then to USS Bataan. On board, he received medical treatment for dehydration, hypothermia and frostbite. In addition, the bullet wound he received two weeks previously was removed from his leg…

A former Guantánamo prisoner told Reprieve about conditions aboard the USS Bataan:

There were about 50 other people on the ship. They were all closed off in the bottom of the ship. The prisoner commented to me that it was like something you see on television. The people detained on the ship were beaten even more severely than in Guantánamo.

The USS Bataan is also known to have been operating in the Indian Ocean region.


Reprieve believes that prisoners held aboard the USS Bataan were routinely photographed and examined by medical personnel in between interrogations, and that such records are held by the US administration…

Reprieve will be issuing a full report on the use of prison ships later this year.

Clive Stafford Smith, Reprieve’s Director, said: “The US administration chooses ships to try to keep their misconduct as far as possible from the prying eyes of the media and lawyers. We will eventually reunite these ghost prisoners with their human rights.”

He added: “By its own admission, the US government is currently detaining at least 26,000 people without trial in secret prisons, and information suggests up to 80,000 have been ‘through the system’ since 2001. The US government must show a commitment to rights and basic humanity by immediately revealing who these people are, where they are, and what has been done to them.”

David Swanson writes an excellent commentary on McCain and the torture ships:

When asked about other known crimes of Bush and Cheney, Senator Barack Obama has said that he can’t see any crimes now, but he’ll be glad to look into it after we elect him. So, it’s a safe bet that if he becomes president Obama will create a task force to advise him on whether it’s illegal or abusive in any way to secretly kidnap random innocent people, allow their families to think they’re dead, hide them in the hull of what can technically only be called a pirate ship, beat them, hang them by their wrists, starve them, electroshock them, hold their heads underwater, and keep them chained hands-and-feet like something worse than wild animals. Depending on what conclusions Obama’s subordinates draw, it seems an even bet he’ll launch a more in-depth study to fully investigate the question in a discrete and respectful manner.

McCain is a different story, at least in terms of rhetoric. When asked how he came to switch from being an opponent and supposed victim of torture denouncing it as both evil and useless, to a cheerleader for its blatantly illegal use and its justification by dictatorial “signing statement”, Senator John McCain . . . Actually, we would have to have a public communications system for McCain to ever have been asked such an impolite question, but I feel safe in asserting that HAD he been asked that question, he would have replied by threatening to torture the questioner, with a wink and a nervous grin, followed by a slurred and semi-coherent refusal ever to surrender to “extremists.” If I were a betting man, my money would be on McCain’s presidential campaign quite soon offering to name torture ships in honor of major campaign donors. A pirate-themed ball at the Republican National Convention is not unlikely.

Additional coverage on the torture ships:

The Personal is Political

The Guardian

Reuters

AFP

I was lucky enough to interview A.C. Thompson in 2006, co-author of Torture Taxi: On the Trail of the CIA’s Rendition Flights:

Can you tell me a little bit about how this book came about?

Back in December 2005, my co-author Trevor Paglen gave me a call and said, “Hey, I’ve been checking out these planes. Can I come over to your office and talk about it?” And he came over and basically said, “I believe these planes are involved with the CIA in some way. Can you help me figure out who owns them and where they’re based, and find any clues about the corporations who allegedly own these planes?”

So right on the spot we started doing document searches at my desk, and looking up the ownership records for some of these planes. Very quickly it became clear that the planes that he was interested in were not normal.

Torturetaxicover_1 Normally, if you look at any company, you’ll find that it has an office somewhere, it has a CEO or president who can be easily located, it has a Web site — it has all the basic sort of stuff that you’d expect. And the companies that putatively owned these planes had none of that. You couldn’t find an office, you couldn’t find any real estate that they owned, you couldn’t find a phone number for the executives, you couldn’t find an address, and you couldn’t find any homes that executives of these companies owned. Now, you’d expect that the president of even a small aviation company probably owns a home somewhere – you know, you wouldn’t see any of this stuff. And so, very quickly, we realized that there was something weird about this.

Once you saw that something wasn’t really right, what was the next step?

Our whole thing was that we were researching this as people who didn’t have intelligence sources, as people who didn’t have sources deep in the aviation business. We were trying to reverse engineer the program. That was our goal.

So we gathered up all the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records and corporate paperwork that we could. Then we also networked with the plane spotters – the sort of nerdy hobbyists who spend their time obsessing over the minutia and esoterica of aviation — Where does one plane go? Where does it land? What kind of plane is it? Who owns it? Who flies it?

In a lot of ways, they were the ones who actually cracked the CIA’s code, because these geeky types have Web sites and listservs where they’re sharing information with one another. And a lot of them are very interested in suspicious aircraft, and they had obtained flight logs and documented these planes — with photos — in very interesting places.

We could build on that information and start understanding better where these planes were going, and that, in fact, they were very likely CIA planes. That same tactic was employed by Stephen Grey, the author of Ghost Plane, and John Sifton at Human Rights Watch. And really, that sort of became the cutting edge of human rights research and reporting at the moment — to understand how aviation flight patterns work. It was kind of a weird thing.


June 3, 2008 Posted by | Torture News | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What’s Worth 72 Words in the Washington Post?

Listen to Andy Worthington on Counterspin discuss press coverage of the people released with Sami-al-Haj:

Sami al-Haj, the Al Jazeera cameraman recently released after six years in the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo, is back in his native Sudan. As the only journalist believed held in Guantamo, Al Haj’s story has become well known around the world. It is less well-known in the US-al-Haj’s May 1st release merited just a 72 word squib in the Washington Post, and a short report on page 14 of the New York Times.

Still less attention has been paid to the other Guantanamo detainees who were released with Al Haj. Journalist Andy Worthington will join us to tell their stories. He is the author of “The Guantanamo Files: The Stories of 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison.”

Read the fascinating piece, Why the Police Wouldn’t Tase Me, by a journalist who asked to be tasered:

At lunch break, Cpl. Gillis shows up and says the lawyers got cold feet about the plan to zap me. “As you learned this morning, there’s risk of injury,” says the 43-year-old RCMP expert in taser training who has been exposed more than 20 times during training and compares its effects to the muscle burn of a gym workout. “You could potentially tear a muscle and we would be on the hook for your medical expenses and loss of income. You could come after us for pain and discomfort.”

I had been questioning my sanity for days, particularly after seeing a video of La Toya Jackson voluntarily zapped (in the back). But now I feel like a dinner guest promised a full meal that never materializes. Why can’t I sign my life away with a waiver? Gillis says he’ll make another call during lunch. “My school of thought is that if we’re saying this is safe for use on the public, why not?” offers Gillis.

Back in the classroom, Tarasoff hands us each a loaded X-26 Taser and then goes over recent policy and protocol changes. Example: even if they draw a Taser on a subject, they will have to file a report by the end of shift, not within 15 days, “because people haven’t been completing the forms.” Officers are now also allowed to remove the barbed darts from the subject instead of waiting for a medical officer, unless they’ve hit “sensitive areas” like eyes and genitals.

‘Excited delirium’ situations

“Remember that if the situation dictates, you can use multiple applications,” Tarasoff says once again. “If the subject is in the grips of a mental health crisis or has excited delirium (ED), they’ll need medical assistance ASAP. In order for EHS to intervene, they first have to be restrained and under control. It falls on us to do that. With ED, the use of a taser in probe deployment mode may be the most effective response to establish control.”

This is another surprising recommendation. The American Civil Liberties Union says Taser International uses the diagnosis to “whitewash” in-custody deaths and the Canadian government report specifically called for restricting use with ED subjects. “Right now [the report author] is putting out off-the-cuff comments if you will,” Gillis responds. “Where’s the meat and potatoes? We have to go on science and the leading medical expert in this country Christine Hall [a BC ER physician] is still saying, ‘Look this is better than fighting with these people and traditional methods.’ So as a result we’re going to continue to use it in ED cases.”

Background — another post on tasers:

The Ethics of Selling Tasers to Governments Who Torture

June 1, 2008 Posted by | Media Criticism, Torture News | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Torture in the House: Marjorie Cohn’s Testimony

Read an excerpt from Marjorie Cohn’s testimony before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.

She speaks of the law and torture…

What does torture have in common with genocide, slavery, and wars of aggression? They are all jus cogens. That’s Latin for “higher law” or “compelling law.” This means that no country can ever pass a law that allows torture. There can be no immunity from criminal liability for violation of a jus cogens prohibition.

The United States has always prohibited torture in our Constitution, laws, executive statements, judicial decisions, and treaties. When the U.S. ratifies a treaty, it becomes part of American law under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution.

The Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, says, “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification for torture.”

Whether someone is a POW or not, he must always be treated humanely; there are no gaps in the Geneva Conventions.

The U.S. War Crimes Act, and 18 USC sections 818 and 3231, punish torture, willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, and inhuman, humiliating or degrading treatment.

The Torture Statute criminalizes the commission, attempt, or conspiracy to commit torture outside the United States.

John Yoo’s criminal role…

The Constitution gives Congress the power to make laws and the President the duty to enforce them. Yet Bush, relying on memos by lawyers including John Yoo, announced the Geneva Conventions did not apply to alleged Taliban and Al Qaeda members. But torture and inhumane treatment are never allowed under our laws.

Justice Department lawyers wrote memos at the request of Bush officials to insulate them from prosecution for torture. In memos dated August 1, 2002 and March 14, 2003, John Yoo wrote the DOJ would not enforce U.S. laws against torture, assault, maiming and stalking, in the detention and interrogation of enemy combatants.

The maiming statute makes it a crime for someone “with the intent to torture, maim, or disfigure” to “cut, bite, or slit the nose, ear or lip, or cut out or disable the tongue, or put out or destroy an eye, or cut off or disable a limb, or any member of another person” or throw or pour upon another person any scalding water, corrosive acid, or caustic substance.

Yoo said, “just because the statute says — that doesn’t mean you have to do it.” In a debate with Notre Dame Professor Doug Cassell, Yoo said there is no treaty that prohibits the President from torturing someone by crushing the testicles of the person’s child. It depends on the President’s motive, Yoo said, notwithstanding the absolute prohibition on torture.

Yoo twisted the law and redefined torture much more narrowly than the Torture Convention and the Torture Statute. Under Yoo’s definition, you have to nearly kill the person to constitute torture.

Yoo wrote that self-defense or necessity could be defenses to war crimes prosecutions, notwithstanding the Torture Convention’s absolute prohibition against torture in all circumstances.

DOJ Memos…

After the August 1, 2002 memo was made public, the DOJ knew it was indefensible. It was withdrawn as of June 1, 2004, and a new opinion, dated December 30, 2004, specifically rejected Yoo’s definition of torture, and admitted that a defendant’s motives to protect national security won’t shield him from prosecution. The rescission of the prior memo is an admission by the DOJ that the legal reasoning was wrong. But for the 22 months it was in effect, it sanctioned and caused the torture of myriad prisoners.

Yoo and other DOJ lawyers were part of a common plan to violate U.S. and international laws outlawing torture. It was reasonably foreseeable their advice would result in great physical or mental harm or death to many detainees. Indeed, more than 100 have died, many from torture. Yoo admitted recently he knew interrogators would take action based on what he advised.

The torture architects and their liability…

Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, George Tenet, and John Ashcroft met in the White House and micromanaged the torture by approving specific torture techniques such as waterboarding. Bush admitted he knew and approved of their actions.

They are all liable under the War Crimes Act and the Torture Statute. Under the doctrine of command responsibility, commanders, all the way up the chain of command to the commander in chief, are liable for war crimes if they knew or should have known their subordinates would commit them, and they did nothing to stop or prevent it. The Bush officials ordered the torture after seeking legal cover from their lawyers.

The President can no more order the commission of torture than he can order the commission of genocide, or establish a system of slavery, or wage a war of aggression.

A Select Committee of Congress should launch an immediate and thorough investigation of the circumstances under which torture was authorized and rationalized. The high officials of our government, and the lawyers who advised them, should be investigated and prosecuted by a Special Prosecutor, independent of the Justice Department, for their roles in misusing the rule of law and legal analysis to justify torture and other crimes in flagrant violation of our laws.



June 1, 2008 Posted by | Torture News, Yoo Torture Memo | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Anti-Torture Activism and Arrests; Ted Rall; Making it Matter

Anti-torture activists convicted on May 29, 2008… They were charged with “unlawful free speech” or “causing a harangue,” or in some cases, both. The counts each carry a maximum of 60 days in jail:

Thirty-four Americans arrested at the Supreme Court on January 11, 2008 were found guilty after a three-day trial which began on Tuesday, May 27th in D.C. Superior Court. The defendants represented themselves, mounting a spirited defense of their First Amendment rights to protest the gross injustice of abuse and indefinite detention of men at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay.

Charged with “unlawful free speech,” the defendants were part of a larger group that appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court on January 11—the day marking six years of indefinite detention and torture at Guantanamo. “I knelt and prayed on the steps of the Supreme Court wearing an orange jumpsuit and black hood to be present for Fnu Fazaldad,” said Tim Nolan, a nurse practitioner from Asheville, NC who provides health care for people with HIV.

***

In a new twist on traditional protest, the 35 activists [entered] their names as those of actual Guantánamo inmates. On January 11th, they were arrested without their own identification and were taken into custody under the name of a Guantánamo prisoner. This act symbolically grants the Guantánamo prisoners their day in court– which the Pentagon has denied them for years.

Father Bill Pickard, a Catholic priest from Scranton, PA, is one of the defendants. But he will be tried “as” Faruq Ali Ahmed, a Guantánamo detainee. “I went to the Supreme Court to make a simple plea that the inhumane treatment and actual torture of inmates at Guantánamo Bay stop,” says Fr. Pickard. “I went to bring the name and the humanity of Faruq Ali Ahmed — who claims he traveled to Afghanistan in 2001 simply to teach the Koran to children and that he has no affiliation with the Taliban or Al Qaeda — before the law. He cannot do it himself, so I am called by my faith, my respect for the rule of law and my conscience to do it for him.” Among the defendants is a hog farmer from Grinnell, Iowa, a social worker from Saratoga Springs, New York, and a legal secretary from Baltimore.

Representing themselves, the defendants plan on justifying their acts as upholding U.S. law and international human rights and will call witnesses to document the abuses at Guantánamo.

(Source: Guantanamo Detainees to Get Their Day in Court, Witness Against Torture Press Release)

***

[Historian Michael S. Foley, a professor at the City University of New York, teaches the U.S. Constitution to undergraduates testified for the defense on the third day of trial.]

Mike Foley had entered the Supreme Court, as had Ms. Schaeffer-Duffy, earlier in the day, and had had time to tour the building and see a film. As a historian and a history professor he appreciated there being an exhibit on the 1944 Korematsu decision upholding the constitutionality of the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, but noted the absence of other exhibits related to curtailment of rights during time of war.

Foley described approaching the Great Hall close to 1:00. As he got close to the front door at the top of the steps, near the security checkpoint, he saw a few people begin to unfurl a banner. “In moments police snatched the banner. Behind them, other people had begun to take their jackets off, showing orange T-shirts, and one woman was starting to put on an orange jump suit. In a matter of moments, though, there was bedlam. Police were running, and I heard others being called on a police radio. A number of people were lined on either side of the hall, but there was mayhem. People began to kneel. It looked like some were praying and some were trying to get out of the way to keep from getting knocked over. I saw two people start to read, but immediately police swiped their papers out of their hands. At that point people started singing.” He went on to say, “I saw my friend Nancy Gowan being slammed to the ground. She took a hard fall. Then she was dragged away.”

Foley said the police gave no warnings before beginning to arrest people. “It would have been easy for them. It was perfectly quiet. The hall had the hushed, reverential tone appropriate for that space. But the police yelled, ‘Get the banner!’” He said police did not tell the first people apprehended that they were about to be arrested or that they were being arrested. Later, when many people had already been taken into custody, he said the police began saying, “You realize you’re about to be arrested.”

Foley was able to observe the arrests because he was one of the last ones to be arrested, and he said the people were not disorderly or threatening. “It was the police who reacted, who were disorderly. It was like they were prepared and waiting, but didn’t have a plan. The orderly, dignified program plan of the people who came to the Great Hall never happened. They tried to improvise a program after the arrests.”

When asked if he thought he was at risk of being arrested when he went to the Great Hall, he said, “No more than I thought I might be arrested anywhere for reading a statement. We went to file petitions to the U.S. Justices. When I saw the charge of unlawful free speech, I was shocked. I teach the Bill of Rights to my students. If anyone had told me I would be arrested for unlawful free speech I would have said they were crazy, but of all places, I would never have thought it could happen in the Great Hall of the Supreme Court!”

(Source: Witness Against Torture press release)

Lawyers for Guantanamo detainees were barred from testifying on behalf of the protestors:

Judge Wendell Gardner refused to hear testimony from Guantanamo attorney, Thomas Wilner, in the trial of 34 Americans arrested while acting on behalf of Guantanamo detainees at the U.S. Supreme Court on January 11, 2008. Judge Gardner ruled that Wilner’s testimony was unnecessary” and “not relevant” to make a determination.

The defense argued that Wilner, who represents 12 Kuwaiti detainees and who speaks frequently in public about his trips to Guantanamo, helped shape the intent of the defendants in making their protest to shut down the American prison camp in Cuba.

The 34 defendants, acting as their own attorneys, took the names of Guantanamo detainees at the time of arrest and have carried those names through the trial. Some, acting in solidarity with the detainees, have refused to speak during the trial as a way of highlighting the rights withheld from the detainees thus far.

Others have mounted a defense arguing that on January 11, the sixth anniversary of the interrogation camps’ opening, they appealed to the justices of the Supreme Court to rule against the Bush administration in the cases of Boumediene v. U.S. and Al Odah v. Bush. They contend that they acted on January 11th after all other remedies had been exhausted and only after hearing lawyers like Thomas Wilner describe the predicaments of their clients, expressing horror and astonishment that more Americans were not protesting the detainees’ indefinite detention and torture.

Let’s see how much the national, mainstream media covered the protest and subsequent trial:

The Washington Post ran a 452 word story in the Metro section on January 13, 2008 and a 553 story on May 28, 2008.

The AP ran a 645 word story on June 2, 2008.

The CNN wire ran a 127 word story on May 27, 2008.

Local press faired better. Check out their extensive coverage here.

Speaking of the media, Ted Rall writes on American torture camps and journalists “who love the government too much”:

In last week’s column I cited New York Times reporter Eric Lichtblau as a prime example of what ails us: reporters who don’t report, a.k.a. journalists who love the government too much.

When Lichtblau found out that the Bush Administration was listening to Americans’ phone calls and reading their e-mail, he decided to hold the story. Instead of fulfilling his duty to the Times’ readers and running with it, he asked the White House for permission. By the time the NSA domestic surveillance story finally ran, 14 months had passed–and Bush had won the 2004 election.

Again, in a May 17th piece bearing the headline “FBI Gets Mixed Review in Interrogation Report,” Lichtblau is running interference for the government. “A new Justice Department report praises the refusal of FBI agents to take part in the military’s abusive questioning of prisoners in Guantánamo Bay, Iraq and Afghanistan,” begins the article, “but it also finds fault with the bureau’s slow response to complaints about the tactics from its own agents.”

“Abusive questioning.” “Harsh interrogation tactics.”

According to the Justice Department report, “routine” treatment of Guantánamo prisoners–witnessed by the FBI–includes “bending the detainee’s thumbs back and grabbing his genitals.” Military and CIA torturers chained detainees’ hands and feet together for as long as a full day, “left to defecate on themselves.” They terrorized them with dogs, stripped them and made them wear women’s underwear and subjected them to blaring music, freezing cold and searing heat.

Torture. Such a simple word. Why not use it?

Lichtblau’s “mixed review” appellation notwithstanding, the report by the Justice Department paints a shocking, uniformly negative portrait of a federal law enforcement agency whose officers react to appalling conduct with the Nuremberg defense–“I was just following orders.”

“Indeed,” reported U.S. News & World Report, “time after time, the report concludes that FBI agents saw or heard about numerous interrogation methods–from sleep deprivation to duct-taping detainees’ mouths to scaring them with dogs–that plainly violated their own agency’s code of conduct.” (Not to mention the Geneva Conventions.) Rather than report their scruples to someone who might raise hell and put a stop to the systemic torture at Gitmo and other U.S. concentration camps–i.e., the public–FBI agents turned to the criminals. Just like Lichtblau did with domestic spying.

Making it Matter:

June is Torture Awareness Month. Read about one CA church’s actions here.

A letter to the editor shows the power of language in torture:

Every day we read and hear how waterboarding “simulates” drowning. Victims “perceive” and “believe” that they are being drowned, we’re told, as if they were falling for some clever parlor trick. You can’t find a story which does not use one of those qualifiers every time “waterboarding is mentioned.”

I think this must be some kind of record in the application of mass propaganda; since a five-minute Web search reveals that waterboarding, in fact, is drowning. The victim perceives and believes that water is going into his lungs because water is going into his lungs, any time he breathes.

There is only one real qualifier that applies, and it’s the same one that applied to the process of dunking witches in colonial Salem. That is, it is controlled, intentional drowning, which can be interrupted, or not, by those perpetrating it. Malcolm Nance, who is now a terrorism advisor to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, states in The Independent Dec. 22 that he personally witnessed and supervised hundreds of waterboardings, at the U.S. Navy’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape School in San Diego, as part of training Navy SEALs…

And read another letter to the editor here.


June 1, 2008 Posted by | Media Criticism, Torture News | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Torture Comes Home, McCain and Torture

How is the torture mandate in the so-called War on Terror affecting domestic policing? Well, if the following story is any indication, it’s bleeding through:

A man alleges that police entered his home illegally and ripped a catheter from his body during a child pornography investigation that led to the arrest of two neighbors.

[Name redacted by warprompts], 60, of New Britain filed a notice with the city Thursday that he intends to pursue a federal civil rights lawsuit. He accused the officers of inflicting severe injuries as he was recovering from intestinal surgery in February.

[Name redacted’s] lawyer, Paul Spinella, said police entered [the] apartment Jan. 30 and Feb. 28. Glover wasn’t involved in child pornography, has not been charged and has no criminal record, Spinella said.

“The poor guy,” Spinella said. “They ripped the catheter off his person. They assaulted the guy. He’s got major problems as a result of this. He’s a mess now.”

Lt. James Wardwell, a police spokesman, said Friday that the department had not received the intent-to-sue notice and would not comment. A message was left for the city’s corporation counsel

[Name redacted] has two years to file a lawsuit in U.S. District Court.

Read this for a good commentary on the Connecticut man’s assault.

Andrew Sullivan argues that John McCain “single-handedly wrested the GOP from its pro-torture position, which is a huge, by no means inevitable, advance over Bush-Cheney.” Sullivan writes:

Yes, he has made a few compromises that were disappointing – and more disappointing for those of us who admire him. But he took on the issue when it could have hurt him badly – against demagogues like Giuliani and say-anything opportunists like Romney – and stood up for American and Western values. Because of McCain, we now know that the next president, unlike the current one, will not be a war criminal.

Oh, has he?

[T]he Senate brought the Intelligence Authorization Bill — which contained a provision banning waterboarding — to the floor for a vote. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), an outspoken waterboarding critic, voted against the bill.

At the time, ThinkProgress questioned whether McCain would stand with Bush’s threatened veto of the legislation. Today, the AP reports that McCain has come out saying Bush should veto the measure, which would make the Army Field Manual the standard for CIA interrogations.

(Source: Think Progress)

Glenn Greenwald reports that the Military Commissions Act, another bill that McCain voted for, actually gives the Bush administration power to torture:

An article by The New York Times’s Mark Mazzetti this morning discloses a letter (.pdf) from the Justice Department to Congress which asserts “that American intelligence operatives attempting to thwart terrorist attacks can legally use interrogation methods that might otherwise be prohibited under international law.” In other words, even after all of the dramatic anti-torture laws and other decrees, the Bush administration insists that American interrogators have the right to use methods that are widely considered violations of the Geneva Conventions if we decide that doing so might help “thwart terrorist attacks.”

There are two reasons, and two reasons only, that the Bush administration is able to claim this power: John McCain and the Military Commissions Act. In September, 2006, McCain made a melodramatic display — with great media fanfare — of insisting that the MCA require compliance with the Geneva Conventions for all detainees. But while the MCA purports to require that, it also vested sole and unchallenged discretion in the President to determine what does and does not constitute a violation of the Conventions

As Columbia Law Professor Michael Dorf wrote at the time:

Americans following the news coverage of the debate about how to treat captives in the ongoing military conflicts could be forgiven for believing that the bill recently passed by Congress, the Military Commissions Act (“MCA”), was a compromise between a White House seeking far-reaching powers, and Senators seeking to restrain the Executive. After all, prior to reaching an agreement with the President, four prominent Republican Senators — Susan Collins, Lindsey Graham, John McCain, and John Warner — had drawn a line in the sand, refusing to go along with a measure that would have redefined the Geneva Conventions’ references to “outrages upon personal dignity” and “humiliating and degrading treatment.” No doubt many Americans believe that because these four courageous Senators stood on moral principle, the bill that emerged, and which President Bush will certainly sign, reflects a careful balance between liberty and security. Yet if that is what Americans believe, they are sorely mistaken. On nearly every issue, the MCA gives the White House everything it sought. It immunizes government officials for past war crimes; it cuts the United States off from its obligations under the Geneva Conventions; and it all but eliminates access to civilian courts for non-citizens — including permanent residents whose children are citizens — that the government, in its nearly unreviewable discretion, determines to be unlawful enemy combatants.

The blog Bootstrapping Andrew Sullivan points out that:

McCain has voted for legislation with enough ambiguity for the CIA to conduct … enhanced interrogation.

At the end of the day, all that is unique to McCain is that he is visibly opposed to waterboarding, while his “friends” are not or won’t say (cf. Mukasey).

Still, McCain, so far as I know, has not said anything about how his administration would pursue a Truth Commission on what occurred under the GOP’s Bush-Cheney regime …

Even if he promised anything, we couldn’t take it seriously. If he was distancing himself from “torture”, then why did he go to see George Bush, immediately after having secured the nomination?

Sullivan articulates a McCain myth (one of the many propagated by the media) that gets frequent play in the mainstream media. Again, the brilliant Glenn Greenwald

That’s John McCain — and his Principled Maverickism and alleged torture opposition — in a nutshell. He continuously preens as some sort of independent moralizer only to use that status to endorse and enable that which he claims to oppose. In Great American Hypocrites, I wrote about his numerous deceitful maneuvers to legalize torture as follows:The mirage-like nature of McCain’s alleged convictions can be seen most clearly, and most depressingly, with his public posturing over the issue of torture. Time and again, McCain has made a dramatic showing of standing firm against the use of torture by the United States only to reveal that his so-called principles are confined to the realm of rhetoric and theater, but never action that follows through on that rhetoric.

In 2005, McCain led the effort in the Senate to pass the Detainee Treatment Act (DTA), which made the use of torture illegal. While claiming that he had succeeded in passing a categorical ban on torture, however, McCain meekly accepted two White House maneuvers that diluted his legislation to the point of meaningless: (1) the torture ban expressly applied only to the U.S. military, but not to the intelligence community, which was exempt, thus ensuring that the C.I.A.—the principal torture agent for the United States—could continue to torture legally; and (2) after signing the DTA into law, which passed the Senate by a vote of 90–9, President Bush issued one of his first controversial “signing statements” in which he, in essence, declared that, as President, he had the power to disregard even the limited prohibitions on torture imposed by McCain’s law.

McCain never once objected to Bush’s open, explicit defiance of his cherished anti-torture legislation, preferring to bask in the media’s glory while choosing to ignore the fact that his legislative accomplishment would amount to nothing. Put another way, McCain opted for the political rewards of grandstanding on the issue while knowing that he had accomplished little, if anything, in the way of actually promoting his “principles.”

The myth that McCain is anti-torture persists. In today’s Washington Post Dick Morris writes,

McCain needs to not run as a traditional Republican, which is easy, since he’s not one. After all, how did an anti-torture, anti-tobacco, pro-campaign finance reform, anti-pork, pro-alternative-energy Republican ever emerge from the primaries alive?

May 18, 2008 Posted by | Media Criticism, Torture News | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment