warprompts

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

From Elmira to Fallujah

Sorry I’ve been remiss in my posting duties. I was at a work conference on wrongful convictions in the US last weekend. It was inspiring to see all of the men and women exonerated (through DNA and non-DNA) but I couldn’t help but think of all the people left behind in US prisons. (Some have tried to estimate the number of innocents.)

And now, thanks to the War on Terror, we’ve exported our prison system that dehumanizes, degrades and tortures the guilty, along with the innocent. Read about how Charles Graner abused inmates in Pennsylvania — including a man later exonerated — and then in the prison that needs no introduction, Abu Ghraib.

Wikileaks has released a classified military memo exposing inhumane conditions in Iraq’s Fallujah jail:

The document, written last month by the commander of U.S forces in western Iraq, Maj. Gen. John Kelly, describes “unbelievable overcrowding, total lack of anything approaching even minimal levels of hygiene for human beings, no food, little water, no ventilation… There is zero support from the (Iraqi) government for any of the jails in Anbar. No funds, food or medical support has been provided from any ministry.” and says “We need to go to general quarters on this issue right now… To state that the current system is broken would erroneously imply that there is a system in place to be broken.”

The jail is situated next to the U.S. Joint Communications Center in downtown Fallujah. It was built in 2005 by U.S. contractors to house 110 prisoners, but now reportedly holds around 900, mostly awaiting trial or transfer to Baghdad.

The British Army is accused of torturing and abusing a respected Shia elder, Jabbir Hmoud Kammash, aged 70, and his family:

“The interrogator accused me of using my house for terrorist activities and asked me to confess. I explained that I am an elderly man in a house full of women and children, and the thorough search of the house had revealed no weapons at all.

“They re-hooded me and dragged me back to the open ground, where they made me sit on rough gravel on my knees. Every time I felt sleepy or tired and my back bent forward, a soldier kicked my back with his boots or the rifle butt to keep me awake. They were absolutely merciless considering my age.”

During the raid Mr Kammash’s son Ammar, 25, claims he was badly beaten in front of his mother because he had tried to reassure her there was nothing to worry about.

“Soldiers started beating me to stop me talking,” he said. “They were very selective in choosing the areas where they beat me – I was hit on my ribs, stomach, thighs and shoulders. It seemed to me that their intention was not to cause lasting or apparent damage to my body. They used their boots, fists, rifle butts and helmets.”

He claims that during his interrogation a British officer threatened that if he did not confess “they would bring my wife and sisters and rape them in front of me.”

Under a resolution proposed in the California senate, health professionals would be warned of the professional perils of participating in torture:

Under a resolution that state Sen. Mark Ridley-Thomas plans to put to a vote Thursday, California regulators would notify physicians and other health professionals that they could lose their license and be prosecuted by the state if they are involved in the torture of suspected terrorists…

The senator said physicians have reportedly advised interrogators whether prisoners were fit enough to survive “physical maltreatment, informed interrogators about prisoners’ phobias and other psychological vulnerabilities that could be exploited.”

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