warprompts

Tasers, British gov’t sued, APA action

Check out this piece on the ethics of selling tasers to governments who torture:

Seldom are businesses in the developed world implicated directly in torture, but too often they avert their eyes as their products, purchases or independent contractors support abuses, according to Schulz, who is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank based in Washington, D.C. He cited the case of Taser International, the Scottsdale, Ariz., manufacturer of “stun guns.” Taser’s devices, sold domestically to police departments and private citizens, shoot electrified barbs that cause a flash of intense pain and momentary muscle failure. Police use them in place of pistols and clubs to protect themselves and subdue unruly people.

The U.S. Commerce Department has documented the sale of Tasers to countries, including Saudi Arabia, that are known for using electro-shock devices as tools of torture, Schulz said. He debated Taser’s chief executive, Rick Smith, three years ago at Claremont-McKenna College in California. At the time, he asked Smith to stop selling his company’s wares to countries that the U.S. State Department had classified as torturers. Taser’s president indicated that the company “would sell to any country it pleased,” Schulz stated.

I’m reminded of what Darius Rejali said on Democracy Now

You know, one of the very important points I want to make in my book is that I know we’re all focused on international torture, but there is no sharp line between domestic and international torture. Practices that start in our prisons go out into the field. Practices in the field come back to us.

We all know what waterboarding is. What we forget is that waterboarding was a technique that, although it was learned in the Philippines—we’ve all seen the New Yorker article, I’m sure, on how that happened—those soldiers, when they come back, what kind of jobs do they get? They get jobs as policemen. They get jobs as private security people. And very soon, in the 1920s, all those techniques from the Philippine war started appearing all across the United States. They were used on conscientious objectors during World War I. The techniques that appeared in Chicago in ’72 to ’92 were all techniques that we have already documented in Vietnam that MPs were quite familiar with, right? So, after every war, people come back.

Tasers moved from domestic policing here, they’ve been out there in Iraq. We have a number of cases where people allege that they were tortured with the use of tasers. And the problem with tasers—the problem with any kind of device that doesn’t leave marks is this: if we’re going to use violence in a democracy, there has to be third-party accountability. It just can’t be that you take the cops’ word for it, right? There’s got to be a way in which somebody can say, “Hmm, let me look at that tape again and see if you properly used mace or that baton or something.” And with electrical weapons that leave very few marks, it’s very hard to know.

I always ask people, during the Rodney King video, which everybody saw, “Does everyone remember it?” And everyone says, “Yeah.” And ehtn I say, “Well, how much electroshock did he get when that video was running?” And everyone goes, “I don’t remember anything. There was just beating.” I was like, “No, he had a taser in him. He had gotten two bolts of 50,000 volts, and they were emptying out the remains of that charge in him while he was struggling.” Now, everybody can get outraged by violence they can see. Violence they can’t see, we barely have the opportunity even to raise the question.

Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, Lawrence B. Wilkerson, writes about learning that Americans were torturing detainees, as per the White House orders:

Simply put, American fighting men and women were abusing detainees. I later learned that they were doing so on the basis of policies being set by senior members of the Bush administration. As someone who had spent thirty-one years in the Army, I was appalled…

The worst horrors of our war have yet to be revealed—but they will be. Secret prisons, renditions, homicides, torture, and innocents swept up in a vast network of detention—all will be revealed. It is the nature of our openness that it be so. We must start now to recognize our crimes and our complicity. We are all guilty, and we must all take action in whatever way we can. Torture and abuse are not American. They are foreign to us and always should be. We need to exorcise them from our souls and make amends.

Excerpts of 29-year old British resident Binyam Mohamed’s diary were published in The Guardian in 2005. The paper reported that he described being flown by a US government plane to a prison in Morocco. One agonizing excerpt:

They cut all over my private parts. One of them said it would be better just to cut it off, as I would only breed terrorists. I asked for a doctor.

Doctor No 1 carried a briefcase. “You’re all right, aren’t you? But I’m going to say a prayer for you.” Doctor No 2 gave me an Alka-Seltzer for the pain. I told him about my penis. “I need to see it. How did this happen?” I told him. He looked like it was just another patient. “Put this cream on it two times a day. Morning and night.” He gave me some kind of antibiotic.

I was in Morocco for 18 months. Once they began this, they would do it to me about once a month. One time I asked a guard: “What’s the point of this? I’ve got nothing I can say to them. I’ve told them everything I possibly could.”

“As far as I know, it’s just to degrade you. So when you leave here, you’ll have these scars and you’ll never forget. So you’ll always fear doing anything but what the US wants.”

Later, when a US airplane picked me up the following January, a female MP took pictures. She was one of the few Americans who ever showed me any sympathy. When she saw the injuries I had she gasped. They treated me and took more photos when I was in Kabul. Someone told me this was “to show Washington it’s healing”.

Mohamed is now suing the British government. Andy Worthington reports,

On Tuesday, Binyam Mohamed, a 29-year old British resident in Guantánamo, sued the British government for refusing to produce evidence which, his lawyers contend, would demonstrate that he was tortured for 27 months by or on behalf of US forces in Morocco and Afghanistan, that any “evidence” against him was only obtained through torture, and that the British government and intelligence services knew about his torture and provided personal information about him — unrelated to terrorism — that was used by the Americans’ proxy torturers in Morocco…

Although he later reported to his lawyer — Clive Stafford Smith of the legal action charity Reprieve, which represents 35 prisoners in Guantánamo — that the British checked out his story, and confirmed that he was a “nobody,” the Americans were not convinced, and decided to send him to Morocco, where he could be interrogated by professional torturers who were not bothered about international treaties preventing the use of torture, and who were equally unconcerned about whether evidence of their activities would ever surface.

Speaking of his time in Morocco, where he was held for 18 months, Binyam told Stafford Smith that he was subjected to horrendous torture, which, included, but was not limited to having his penis cut with a razor on a regular basis. In spite of this, the regular beatings and other torture that he did not even want to talk about, Binyam said that his lowest moment of all came when his torturers produced evidence of his life in London, which could only have come from the British intelligence services, and he realized that he had been abandoned and betrayed by his adopted homeland.

After Morocco, Binyam was transferred to Afghanistan, where he endured further torture in the “Dark Prison,” a secret “black site” near Kabul, run by the CIA, which was a grim recreation of a medieval dungeon, but with the addition of non-stop music and noise, blasted into the pitch-dark cells at an ear-piercing volume.

Make it Matter. Psychologists Acting with Conscience Together is asking APA members to sign the resolution —

Be it resolved that psychologists may not work in settings where persons are held outside of, or in violation of, either International Law (e.g., the UN Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions) or the US Constitution (where appropriate), unless they are working directly for the persons being detained or for an independent third party working to protect human rights.

Psychologists Acting with Conscience Together reports that the resolution requires signatures from 1% of current APA members in order to be brought before the entire APA membership for a direct vote.

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May 14, 2008 Posted by | Torture News | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Lexis Hits on Sami al-Haj’s Release

Let’s play the Glenn Greenwald game and see how much the mainstream media covered al-Haj’s release:

Lexis hits, 05/01/08-05/05/08

Sami al-Haj:

US Newspapers and Wires — 20 hits

Transcripts of News programs — 8 hits, not one from a network or cable newscast

Federal News Service — 4

CQ Transcriptions — 2

Global Broadcast Database — 2

Jeremiah Wright

US Newspapers and Wires — 695

Transcripts of News Programs — 245

May 12, 2008 Posted by | Media Criticism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sami al-Haj’s Release from Guantanamo Bay

Al Jazeera cameraman Sami al-Haj was finally released from Guantanamo. He arrived in his native Sudan on the evening of May 1, 2008.

Alternet reported:

After four and a half months of inexplicable inertia, the U.S. administration has finally seen fit to release another group of prisoners from Guantánamo, including the Sudanese al-Jazeera cameraman and journalist Sami al-Haj. Despite claims from within the administration that it was hoping to scale down the operation at Guantánamo, no prisoners have been released since December 2007, when two other Sudanese prisoners, 13 Afghans, ten Saudis and three British residents were released…

The most celebrated Guantánamo prisoner — at least in the Middle East — Sami, whose story was reported at AlterNet just a few weeks ago, was seized by Pakistani forces on December 15, 2001, apparently at the behest of the U.S. authorities, who suspected that he had conducted an interview with Osama bin Laden. As with much of their supposed intelligence, this turned out to be false, but as his lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, the Director of the legal action charity Reprieve (which represents Sami and 34 other Guantánamo prisoners), explained last year, “name me a journalist who would turn down a bin Laden scoop.

The same author also wrote a powerful piece on the other prisoners released with Sami al-Haj:

On the cargo plane containing Sami al-Haj that landed in Khartoum in the early hours of May 2 were Amir Yacoub al-Amir and Walid Ali, who, like Sami, were bound like beasts for their journey despite finally being transported to freedom. Both had also been held for over six years without charge or trial, but unlike Sami, whose plight was widely publicized by al-Jazeera, by his lawyers at the legal action charity Reprieve, and by groups campaigning for the rights of journalists, including the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Sans Frontières, both of these men had barely registered on the media’s radar.

And here’s some other coverage of his release:

The U.S. War on Journalists by Amy Goodman

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 10 journalists have been held for extended periods by the U.S. military and then released without charge. Just weeks ago in Iraq, the U.S. military released Pulitzer Prize-winning Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein after holding him without charge for two years. The military had once accused Hussein of being a “terrorist media operative who infiltrated the AP.”

Andy Worthington reported just weeks before al-Haj’s release

As the years wore on, however, the irrepressible spirit recalled by all those who had met Sami before his imprisonment, and which also impressed Stafford Smith, was ground down by a particular despair that is perhaps unknowable to those who are not imprisoned without charge, without trial, with no contact with family or friends, and with no way of knowing when, if ever, this regime of almost total isolation will come to an end.

On January 7, 2007, the fifth anniversary of his detention without trial by the US, Sami embarked on a hunger strike, which continues to this day. In common with the small number of other persistent hunger strikers, he is strapped into a restraint chair twice a day and force-fed against his will. Clive Stafford Smith explained the brutality of the procedure, the reason the authorities are doing it, and also why it is illegal to do so, in an article last October.

Listen/Read the 2007 Democracy Now! program on al-Haj and fellow imprisoned journalist, Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein.

The release of BBC reporter Alan Johnston earlier this month after 114 days in captivity in Gaza made headlines around the world and was hailed internationally as a victory for press freedom.

During Johnston’s nearly four months in captivity, calls for his release came from world leaders and human rights organizations alike. Over 200,000 people signed an online petition calling for him to be freed.

But perhaps the most poignant of Johnston’s supporters came from deep within the US prison camp at Guantanamo Bay. Sami al-Haj, an Al Jazeera cameraman who had been jailed without charge at Guantanamo for the past five-and-a-half years, sent a letter via his lawyer calling for Johnston’s release. He wrote, “While the United States has kidnapped me and held me for years on end, this is not a lesson that Muslims should copy.”

In comparison to journalist Alan Johnston, Sami al-Haj’s story of abduction has been largely ignored by the corporate media, kept out of the global spotlight.

May 12, 2008 Posted by | Torture News | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Torture Hearing in Congress, Witness List

The Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties held a hearing on the role that Bush administration lawyers played in, as Chair Jerrold Nadler’s press release said, “creating abusive interrogation policies [torture] that have resulted in the widespread abuse [torture] of detainees in U.S. custody and control.”

The witnesses debunked the “ticking time bomb” scenario so often used to justify torture:

“Radio silence was the response when today’s witnesses were asked to identify a single example of a true ‘ticking bomb’ scenario ever occurring, even though such scenarios are often invoked to justify torture,” Congressman John Conyers said. “These scholars, who have studied this issue extensively and have intimate knowledge of the legal authority the administration sought, could not identify a single example. I hope that the administration officials who have agreed to testify will shed some light on this and many other questions raised in today’s hearing.”


  • Professor Phillipe Sands described the impact of US interrogation policies and legal opinions on our standing around the world, recounting how a foreign president had pulled out a copy of a John Yoo legal opinion as evidence that US law permitted torture.
  • Georgetown Professor David Luban testified that the John Yoo interrogation opinions were so flawed – full of “hot air” in his words – that US agents were “misled” into believing their actions were lawful and people in US custody “may have suffered cruel and illegal treatment because of these memos.”
  • Professor Sands described an important visit by senior administration lawyers to Guantanamo Bay in 2002 – vice presidential aide David Addington was on this trip and Sands described him as the “leader of the pack.” Former Defense Department general counsel Jim Haynes was also on this trip, and Sands testified at length about how Mr. Haynes and the administration had improperly blamed junior personnel at Guantanamo for initiating and legally approving aggressive interrogation techniques when in fact, Professor Sands testified, those techniques were pushed from the top of the administration and based on legal approval from the John Yoo August 2002 memorandum.

Watch the hearing here.

Before the hearing the Subcommittee considered, and approved by voice vote, a resolution to authorize the Committee Chair to issue subpoenas to compel Dick Cheney’s (another invited witness) Chief of Staff David Addington. Other witnesses — former Attorney General John Ashcroft and the torture memo author John Yoo — have agreed to testify. According to Nadler’s press release, former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith, former CIA Director George Tenet, and former Assistant Attorney General Daniel Levin “remain in dialougue about their availability.” Hmmm…. Maybe we should send Feith, Tenet, Levin, Cheney and Addington “save the date” cards to discuss torture so they don’t over-book their schedules. I’m sure their dance cards are quite full!

May 11, 2008 Posted by | Torture News, Yoo Torture Memo | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Psychologists, Redacted Documents and Torture

Uncensored documents from the Church Report, obtained as a result of the ACLU’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit, include new details exposing the role of psychologists in military interrogations. The documents also uncover new information about the failure of military medical personnel to report abuses at Abu Ghraib, the military’s use of unlawful interrogation methods subsequent to a directive that was ostensibly meant to end such practices, and detainee deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq.The newly unredacted documents and the full Church Report are available online here.

Here is one excerpt:

Analogous to the BSCT in Guantanamo Bay, the Army has a number of psychologists in operational positions (in both Afghanistan and Iraq), mostly within Special Operations, where they provide direct support to military operations. They do not function as mental health providers, and one of their core missions
is to support interrogations.

And here are some previous posts on psychologists and torture:

Psychologists’ Torture Policy

Torture at the Highest Level (scroll down)

May 6, 2008 Posted by | Torture News | , , , , | Leave a comment

Torture to American Voices

Another British citizen accuses British officials “outsourcing” his torture. He also describes hearing the sounds of American and British voices while being tortured:

The fourth man to claim that he was tortured after being detained in Pakistan during a British-led counter-terrorism investigation is an alleged al-Qaida terrorist from the West Midlands. He says that for several months the ISI [Pakistan’s intelligence agency] kept him in a pitch-black cell not much bigger than a coffin, and that he was brought out to be beaten, whipped and subjected to electric shocks. On one occasion, he alleges, he was kept hooded and interrogated by people speaking English, with both British and American accents…

[H]is claims follow similar allegations made by three other British citizens of Pakistani origin. These men all say they suffered severe torture at secret ISI interrogation centres shortly before receiving questioning by British counter-terrorism officials.

The latest man to allege British collusion in his torture had been living in Pakistan for almost four years when he was picked up by the ISI two years ago, during a British-led counter-terrorism operation.

“He said he had been interrogated by westerners, but didn’t specify whether they were British or American,” said his lawyer. “He was not well treated during interrogation.”

The 27-year-old’s family say he gave a detailed account of mistreatment after being brought to court on a number of occasions. His brother said: “He described being dragged off a bus and having the living daylights beaten out of him. At first he was held in what he called a ‘grave cell’. It was like a coffin: there was so little room that when he was lying down if he brought up his knees they touched the roof.

“He told me that one time, when he was being beaten, he could hear English and American accents in the room with him. He had a hood over his head but he knows what an English accent sounds like.”

A court in Pakistan eventually ruled that there was insufficient evidence to convict the man on terrorism charges.

It’s never a good sign when John Ashcroft is the conscience of the group. Ted Rall writes in his piece, Arrest Bush

“Why are we talking about this in the White House?” John Ashcroft nervously asked his fellow members of the National Security Council’s Principals Committee. (The Principals were Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell, CIA Director George Tenet and Attorney General Ashcroft.)

“History will not judge this kindly,” Ashcroft predicted.

“This” is torture. Against innocent people. Conducted by CIA agents and American soldiers and marines. Sanctioned by legal opinions issued by Ashcroft’s Justice Department. Directly ordered by George W. Bush.

An Iraqi man sued two U.S. military contractors Monday, claiming he was repeatedly tortured while being held at the Abu Ghraib prison for more than 10 months. The AP reports:

Emad al-Janabi’s federal lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles, claims that employees of CACI International Inc. and L-3 Communications Holdings Inc. punched him, slammed him into walls, hung him from a bed frame and kept him naked and handcuffed in his cell beginning in September 2003…

Al-Janabi, 43, said he was detained by U.S. troops during a late-night raid in which he and his family were beaten by their captors. He said he was taken to a military base where he was stripped naked, a hood was placed on his head and his hands and legs were chained.

“They (U.S. troops) did not tell me what was the reason behind my arrest … during the interrogation, the American soldier told me I was a terrorist … and I was preparing for an attack against the U.S. forces,” said al-Janabi, who denied the accusation and claims he was forced to give confessions under “savage” intimidation.

The lawsuit also claims the contractors conspired in a cover-up by destroying documents and other information, hid prisoners during periodic checks by the International Red Cross and misled military and government officials about what was happening at Abu Ghraib.

Al-Janabi was released in July 2004 and wasn’t charged with any crime, according to the lawsuit. He also was forced to form a human pyramid in the nude with other prisoners, according to the lawsuit, but his Philadelphia-based attorney Susan Burke said it wasn’t known if he was in the infamous photo that became public.

The Jurist reports that last year a US District Judge refused to dismiss a class action suit against CACI alleging torture.

The National Law Journal reports that the Senate on April 23 approved, by unanimous consent, S. 2324, the Inspector General Reform Act of 2008. But the bill passed only after the lawmakers agreed to an amendment by Senator Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., which, among other items, deleted a provision giving the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) jurisdiction to investigate misconduct allegations against department attorneys, including its most senior officials.

So what does this mean? TPMMuckraker explains that:

OPR, which reports to the attorney general, is currently conducting a variety of very sensitive investigations for the administration. The office is probing the Department’s approval of the administration’s warrantless wiretapping program. And recently it announced that it is investigating the Department’s legal memos authorizing the use of waterboarding and other forms of torture by CIA and military interrogators.

It is conducting those probes because Inspector General Glenn Fine cannot. The bill which passed the House would have changed that, as Fine himself pointed out in a letter (pdf) to Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) back in February, when he told them that he could not investigate the Department’s authorization of torture because “under current law, the OIG does not have jurisdiction to review the actions of DOJ attorneys acting in their capacity to provide legal advice.” Fine added: “Legislation that would remove this limitation has passed the House and is pending in the Senate, but at this point the OIG does not have jurisdiction to undertake the review you request.”

And with Kyl’s amendment, it appears that Fine won’t be getting that jurisdiction any time soon.

Made it Matter: Canadian teacher fasts to protest torture.

May 6, 2008 Posted by | Torture News | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

50 Bullets

So as we all know the cops who fired 50 shots at Sean Bell and his friends were acquitted of all charges last Friday morning. I went to the protest at the Queens DA after work at 5. Unlike pre-9/11 police brutality protests in New York (the one for Diallo comes to mind) it felt small and defeated. I don’t know if it was the disenfranchisement of the George Bush years, the verdict that there’s no such thing as too many shots or some combination. I don’t think, as the New York Times claimed, that it was that “Black New Yorkers See Nuances That Temper Rage.” Oy. The story went on to infuriatingly claim from those oh-so-scientific person on the street interviews (or probably more accurately the persons on the street interviewed who would substantiate the writer/editor’s thesis) that, “Some also said that after a seven-week trial, the picture of what happened the night Mr. Bell, a black man, was killed was still murky, and so they left the public outcry to a relatively small group of black activists who had been closely monitoring the case.” Oy, oy, oy.

We have a criminal justice system that over-charges, over-convicts and over-punishes defendants. We have a system that locks up people for life without the possibility of freedom for firing a lot less than 50 shots and sometimes for crimes that aren’t homicides. We lock people up for decades for non-violent offenses, for drunken brawls that turned tragic, for violating the baseball rule of 3 strikes, for mental illnesses that resulted in violence… But when three cops kill a Black man in 50 bullets — no time at all.

I found one part of the Judge’s rancid opinion interesting — where he noted that he didn’t trust the State witnesses, with their inconsistencies and criminal records:

We instruct juries that it is expected that multiple witnesses to the same event may vary in their recounting of minor aspects of what had been observed. However, where there are significant inconsistencies related to important facts, they should be considered.

Reference was made earlier to the credibility of witnesses. The court has found that the people’s ability to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt was affected by a combination of the following factors: the prosecution witnesses’ prior inconsistent statements, inconsistencies in testimony among prosecution witnesses, the renunciation of prior statements, criminal convictions, the interest of some witnesses in the outcome of the case, the demeanor on the witness stand of other witnesses and the motive witnesses may have had to lie and the effect it had on the truthfulness of a witness’s testimony. These factors played a significant part in the people’s ability to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt and had the effect of eviscerating the credibility of those prosecution witnesses. And, at times, the testimony just didn’t make sense.

I wonder how many jailhouse snitches he’s trusted and used to convict — people who have an incentive to lie and have been a proven factor in wrongful convictions. And inconsistent statements? Well, I have no doubt that the DA threw the case and didn’t properly prepare the witnesses, but we all know, as the judge himself admitted, that three witnesses to the same event will have three different accounts. In fact, a victim after a crime may, and often does, change his or her story over time because it’s a traumatic, bombarding event that can’t be recorded verbatim.

I plan on looking at the now retiring judge‘s Westlaw opinions just to see who he’s convicted on a whole lot less than 50 bullets.

Here is Judge Cooperman’s verdict:

“Before dealing with the business at hand, I would like to remind everyone how important it is to honor the decorum of the court and remain quiet after the verdicts are rendered.

A trial is defined as a formal examination of the facts of a case by a court of law to decide the validity of a charge. It is also defined in the dictionary as a hardship. And, in many ways, this trial was a hardship.

But, it was not a competition. To overreact to the outcome while you are in this courtroom, whether you are satisfied or dissatisfied with the result, would detract from the great effort that was expended to assure a fair trial – by the court personnel and the attorneys who handled their responsibilities with the highest level of professionalism and skill.

Because establishments known as “strip clubs” often generate criminal activity including prostitution and narcotics, the police department Club Enforcement Unit was given the task of infiltrating such places and pursuing violations of law that would lead toward shutting them down.

So it was that the detectives charged in this case found themselves in the vicinity of Club Kalua in the early morning of November 25, 2006.

And as a result of the events of that morning, they are accused of the crimes alleged in the indictment.

Now, after eight weeks of trial, this court has the responsibility of making a determination of guilt or lack of guilt as to each of the charges set forth against each of the defendants.

As the trier of fact, this court must determine what the facts are, apply those facts to the applicable law, and render a verdict.

The court will do so. But before announcing a decision, a brief statement is in order.

In weighing the evidence, the court examined the testimony of the witnesses and the factors to be considered in determining credibility.

An objective consideration of the proof ruled out sympathy and prejudice and any other emotional response to the issues presented. The court did not view the victims or the NYPD as being on trial here.

The burden of proof was on the people to prove each defendant guilty of the crimes of which he was charged, beyond a reasonable doubt. And as with all criminal cases, each defendant was presumed to be innocent.

Because justification was raised as an issue, the people had the burden of proving as an element of each charged crime that each defendant was not justified.

It is important to note that in analyzing what happened here, it was necessary to consider the mind-set of each defendant at the time and place of occurrence, and not the mind-set of the victims. What the victims did was more pertinent to resolving the issues of fact than what may have been in their minds.

Also, carelessness and incompetence are not standards to be applied here, unless the conduct rises to the level of criminal acts, as defined by the law relating to each count charged.

What happened outside the Club Kalua on November 25, 2006, and the ensuing incident that occurred around the corner on Liverpool Street are the two significant events about which proof was elicited.

We instruct juries that it is expected that multiple witnesses to the same event may vary in their recounting of minor aspects of what had been observed. However, where there are significant inconsistencies related to important facts, they should be considered.

Reference was made earlier to the credibility of witnesses. The court has found that the people’s ability to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt was affected by a combination of the following factors: the prosecution witnesses’ prior inconsistent statements, inconsistencies in testimony among prosecution witnesses, the renunciation of prior statements, criminal convictions, the interest of some witnesses in the outcome of the case, the demeanor on the witness stand of other witnesses and the motive witnesses may have had to lie and the effect it had on the truthfulness of a witness’s testimony. These factors played a significant part in the people’s ability to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt and had the effect of eviscerating the credibility of those prosecution witnesses. And, at times, the testimony just didn’t make sense.

Yet, it was apparent from the testimony of the participants that the confrontation that took place in front of the club was heated. The SUV owner, Fabio Coicou, gave the impression that he had a gun, causing at least one of the group to threaten to take it away from him.

And, the court finds, another threat was made by Joseph Guzman to retrieve a gun. At that point, nothing of a criminal nature had taken place. But, having witnessed that provocative confrontation between Mr. Coicou and the group, the undercover officers became concerned and followed the group around the corner to Liverpool Street.

Defendant Isnora approached the Nissan Altima into which Mr. Guzman and Sean Bell, two of the more active participants in the heated exchange, entered.

The Altima, which was driven by Mr. Bell, sped away from its parked position, struck defendant Isnora and collided head on with the police van that had entered Liverpool Street. The Altima then went into reverse, backed up onto the sidewalk, struck a gate and then went forward and to the right, striking the police van again. As this was happening, defendant Isnora — who testified in the grand jury –observed Mr. Guzman, the front passenger, move his body as if he were reaching for a weapon.

Defendant Isnora yelled, “gun” and fired.

Other officers, indicted and unindicted, joined in from different locations on the street.

The court has found that the incident lasted just seconds. The officers responded to perceived criminal conduct; the unfortunate consequences of their conduct were tragic.

The police response with respect to each defendant was not proved to be criminal, i.e. beyond a reasonable doubt. Questions of carelessness and incompetence must be left to other forums.

Although there were aspects of defense testimony that were not necessarily credible, the focus must be on the people’s proof to determine whether they have satisfied their burden of proving the defendants guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

To the extent that the defense of justification was applicable to the charged crimes, counts 1, 2, 3, 4 in part, 5 in part, 6, 7, and 8, the people have not proved, beyond a reasonable doubt, that each defendant was not justified in the actions that each took.

With respect to counts 4 and 5, Trent Benefield, whose credibility was seriously impeached, testified that he was shot while running down liverpool street. Forensic evidence demonstrated otherwise. Thus, although the justification defense would not have applied to that aspect of counts 4 and 5, it was not proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

Accordingly, the court finds each defendant not guilty of each of the respective counts in the indictment of which they were charged.

April 29, 2008 Posted by | Non-Fiction | , , , | Leave a comment

Thank you, Helen Thomas

Reporter Helen Thomas confronts Bush spokeswoman on torture:

Q The President has said publicly several times, in two consecutive news conferences a few months ago, and you have said over and over again, we do not torture. Now he has admitted that he did sign off on torture, he did know about it. So how do you reconcile this credibility gap?

MS. PERINO: Helen, you’re taking liberties with the what the President said. The United States has not, is not torturing any detainees in the global war on terror. And General Hayden, amongst others, have spoken on Capitol Hill fully in this regard, and it is — I’ll leave it where it is. The President is accurate in saying what he said.

Q That’s not my question. My question is, why did he state publicly, we do not torture —

MS. PERINO: Because we do not.

Q — when he really did know that we do?

MS. PERINO: No, that’s what I mean, Helen. We’ve talked about the legal authorities —

Q Are you saying that we did not?

MS. PERINO: I am saying we did not, yes.

Q How can you when you have photographs and everything else? I mean, how can you say that when he admits that he knew about it?

MS. PERINO: Helen, I think that you’re — again, I think you’re conflating some issues and you’re misconstruing what the President said.

Q I’m asking for the credibility of this country, not just this administration.

MS. PERINO: And what I’m telling you is we have — torture has not occurred. And you can go back through all the public record. Just make sure — I would just respectfully ask you not to misconstrue what the President said.

Q You’re denying, in this room, that we torture and we have tortured?

MS. PERINO: Yes, I am denying that.

Elaine, did you have one?

Q I have one on Zimbabwe, actually.

Q Where is everybody?

According to Raw Story, the “Where is everybody?” was said by Thomas who turned in her seat, looked at her colleagues, shook her head in disgust, and asked sadly: “Where is everybody? For God’s sakes!”

What purpose did the Yoo memos really serve? Scott Horton looks into this in his LA Times editorial — Which came first: memos or torture?

It increasingly appears that the Bush interrogation program was already being used before Yoo was asked to write an opinion. He may therefore have provided after-the-fact legal cover. That would help explain why Yoo strained to take so many implausible positions in the memos.

It also appears that government lawyers had told Bush administration officials that some of the techniques already in use were illegal, even criminal. In fact, a senior Pentagon lawyer described to me exchanges he had with Yoo in which he stressed that those using the techniques could face prosecution. Yoo notes in his Pentagon memo that he communicated with the Criminal Division of the Justice Department and got assurances that prosecutions would not be brought. The question becomes, was Yoo giving his best effort at legal analysis, or was he attempting to protect the authors of the program from criminal investigation and prosecution?

In any case, Yoo kept the program running.

Congressman Robert Wexler (D-FL) questioned FBI Director Robert Mueller on torture at a House Judiciary hearing on 04/23/08. Florida should be proud. Here’s one snippet of the exchange:

RW: My question Mr. Director, I congratulate you for pulling the FBI agents back, but why did you not take more substantial steps to stop the interrogation techniques that your own FBI agents were telling you were illegal? Why did you not initiate criminal investigations when your agents told you the CIA and the Department of Defense were engaging in illegal interrogation techniques, and rather than simply pulling your agents out, shouldn’t you have directed them to prevent any illegal interrogations from taking place?

RM: I can go so far sir as to tell you that a protocol in the FBI is not to use coercion in any of our interrogations or our questioning and we have abided by our protocol.

RW: I appreciate that. What is the protocol say when the FBI knows that the CIA is engaging or the Department of Defense is engaging in an illegal technique? What does the protocol say in that circumstance?

RM: We would bring it up to appropriate authorities and determine whether the techniques were legal or illegal.

RW: Did you bring it up to appropriate authorities?

RM: All I can tell you is that we followed our own protocols.

RW: So you can’t tell us whether you brought it; when your own FBI agents came to you and said the CIA is doing something illegal which caused you to say don’t you get involved; you can’t tell us whether you then went to whatever authority?

RM: I’ll tell you we followed our own protocols.

RW: And what was the result?

RM: We followed our own protocols. We followed our protocols. We did not use coercion. We did not participate in any instance where coercion was used to my knowledge.

RW: Did the CIA use techniques that were illegal?

RM: I can’t comment on what has been done by another agency and under what authorities the other agency may have taken actions.

RW: Why can’t you comment on the actions of another agency?

RM: I leave that up to the other agency to answer questions with regard to the actions taken by that agency and the legal authorities that may apply to them.

RW: Are you the chief legal law enforcement agency in the United States?

RM: I am the Director of the FBI.

RW: And you do not have authority with respect to any other governmental agency in the United States? Is that what you’re saying?

RM: My authority is given to me to investigate. Yes we do.

RW: Did somebody take away that authority with respect to the CIA?

RM: Nobody has taken away the authority. I can tell you what our protocol was, and how we followed that protocol.

RW: Did anybody take away the authority with respect to the Department of Defense?

RM: I’m not certain what you mean.

RW: Your authority to investigate an illegal torture technique

The New Republic interviews Philippe Sands, author of the forthcoming The Torture Team:

TNR: The administration’s narrative has been that a harsh set of interrogation techniques, including waterboarding and stress positions, was introduced in response to demands from interrogators in the field who concluded that what they had didn’t work. How did you reach the conclusion that, in fact, the pressure for the new techniques came from high up in the administration and worked its way down?

PS: I have no doubt about the early, close, and active involvement of the upper echelons of the administration in the decision to request, approve and then use harsh techniques of interrogation on “Detainee 063,” Mohammed Al Qahtani. The story that emerged from the interviews was clear and it was consistent (plus, I had the opportunity to put my findings to Jim Haynes, who was the final piece of the jigsaw). The administration’s ‘bottom-up’ narrative–as spun by Mr. Haynes and others–is false, inaccurate, and misleading, and I believe it was knowingly intended to be so. The administration has scapegoated individuals who were on the ground at Guantánamo in order to protect itself.

The ACLU and Human Rights First have filed a motion in federal court to overturn the dismissal of a lawsuit against Donald Rumsfeld. The March 2005 lawsuit was filed on behalf of nine Iraqi and Afghan detainees who were tortured in US custody and eventually released without being charged with a crime. Read about the case against Rumsfeld here.

Make it Matter. Sign the Human Rights First petition to tell the presidential candidates to end torture.

April 29, 2008 Posted by | Torture News, Yoo Torture Memo | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

George Bush OKs Torture

George Bush admits he approved of torture meetings:

Make it matter. Demand that congress hold US torturers responsible. Click here for the ACLU’s action alert.

So how’s the media responding to the whole our-government-tortures-thing? Uh, not so good.

The Washington Post’s White House Watch reports:

The mainstream media by and large seem to agree with Bush that the ABC News Report wasn’t so startling, and they have given Bush’s remarks almost no coverage. There was no mention of Bush’s admission in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal or the Los Angeles Times. There was nothing on the major wire services. And nothing on CNN, CBS or NBC.

April 29, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Thank you for your patience. Your concerns are important to us.

Things got busy but I’ll be posting fresh content again this week.

April 27, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment