Category Archives: Torture

A Second-Term Agenda

Vincent Warren, Executive Director at the Center for Constitutional Rights, has an agenda for President’s Obama’s second term:

Obama’s re-election means we need to hold the president accountable for the change we want to see. Here are the changes we will keep fighting for in Obama’s second term:

  • Close Guantanamo, and end torture through indefinite detention. Repatriate or resettle the men the government does not intend to prosecute, and provide fair trials for the rest
  • End the use of solitary confinement in prisons across the country
  • End unlawful “targeted killings” and the expansion of the Orwellian “disposition matrix.” Acknowledge, investigate and provide reparations for unlawful civilian killings
  • End the war in Afghanistan and pull all private military contractors out of Iraq and Afghanistan
  • Abandon the endless global war paradigm as the basis for abusive national security policies and end the use of war force outside of war zones
  • Investigate and prosecute former high-level U.S. officials who bear responsibility for torture and war crimes committed in Afghanistan, Iraq and the “black sites”
  • Provide medical treatment and compensation to people subjected to torture in U.S.-run detention facilities, including in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as Guantánamo, and provide war reparations to communities in Iraq and Afghanistan for harms done to the people and the environment
  • End the persecution of whistleblowers and journalists like Julian Assange, Wikileaks and Bradley Manning for protected First Amendment activity
  • Increase transparency, sunshine and freedom of information in federal law enforcement and prisons and end overclassification of unlawful or embarrassing government conduct
  • Stop the criminalization of dissent: end the stifling of activist expression under the anti-free-speech National Defense Authorization Act and the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act and end overbroad prosecutions for terrorism under material support laws
  • Stop the criminalization and profiling of communities based on race and religion: end the devastating Secure Communities program that destroys families and spreads fear in immigrant neighborhoods
  • End warrantless surveillance and stop the indiscriminate targeting and surveillance of Muslim, Middle Eastern, and South Asian communities under the guise of national security
  • Support human rights internationally: stop funding and training police and militaries abroad implicated in human rights abuses in places like Honduras
  • Center women’s equality in all policy and legislative initiatives concerning their bodily autonomy and right to health

Off the top of my head, I don’t think Obama is for any of these, is he?

I myself am not on board for some items on this list either. For example, I think it is entirely legal to prosecute Bradley Manning, as I don’t think he was engaged in a protected First Amendment activity; whether one believes he did a public service relates to moral culpability and hero/villain status, but not legal guilt. I don’t feel well informed about the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, but it certainly hasn’t reached my radar as s civil liberties issue. There’s probably more. Even so, I respect the ambition and energy that motivates this list; what I’m wondering is which if any of these items will be able to get traction?

Posted in Civil Liberties, Torture | Comments Off on A Second-Term Agenda

When Even Sen. Feinstein is Ready to Call You Out for Pro-Torture Falsehood

Joint statement from: Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Chairman, Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Chairman, Senate Armed Services Committee, April 27, 2012:

It begins:

We are deeply troubled by the claims of the CIA’s former Deputy Director of Operations Jose Rodriguez regarding the effectiveness of the CIA’s coercive interrogation techniques.

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence will soon complete a comprehensive review of the CIA’s former Detention and Interrogation Program. Committee staff has reviewed more than 6 million pages of records and the Committee’s final report, which we expect to exceed 5000 pages, will provide a detailed, factual description of how interrogation techniques were used, the conditions under which detainees were held, and the intelligence that was – or wasn’t – gained from the program.

Statements made by Mr. Rodriguez and other former senior government officials about the role of the CIA interrogation program in locating Usama bin Laden (UBL) are inconsistent with CIA records.

And there’s lots more…

This is an excellent and forceful reaction to ex-CIA chief Jose Rodriguez’s recent book and 60 Minutes appearance in which he defended waterboarding “to protect Americans” and claimed that “torture works.”

In addition to his fantasy-based defense of torture, Rodriguez defended his destruction of 92 videotapes of interrogations involving waterboarding, despite a law requiring the tapes’ recording and a judge’s order not to destroy the tapes.  In his book, Hard Decisions, Rodriguez justifies the tapes’ destruction because of their “bad visuals” — worse than Abu Ghraib. Those illegal actions did not lead to prosecution, see No Criminal Charges Sought Over C.I.A. Tapes, as Rodriguez claimed advice of CIA counsel. Not entirely unreasonably, the Justice Department wants US officials to feel they can rely on their government lawyers’ advice; less reasonably it was unwilling to make an exception for indubitable torture or war crimes. Not that the lawyers were prosecuted either.

Sen. Feinstein has not exactly been a progressive champion on most issues, but she seems energized over this issue — not that there should be anything partisan or progressive about condemning torture or lying, but there we are — and deserves credit for it.

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Good Luck With That

My brother posts 11 questions reporters should be asking Dick Cheney.

I doubt Cheney is going to go near any reporters with the guts to ask three of them.

Posted in Politics: US: GW Bush Scandals, Torture | 2 Comments

Swiss Lawsuit Charges George W. Bush With Torture

I’ve been saying for a long time now that former President Bush and his accomplices are subject to prosecution abroad for violation of the internationally accepted rule against torture. If memory serves, there have been abortive attempts by state authorities to bring such cases in Belgium, Germany and France, and there is a stop-and-start effort still going on in Spain. Now the shoe drops in Switzerland, in the form of a a criminal complaint, as reported by the Center for Constitutional Rights:

Today, two torture victims were to have filed criminal complaints, with more than 2,500-pages of supporting material, in Geneva against former U.S. President George W. Bush, who was due to speak at an event there on 12 February. Swiss law requires the presence of the torturer on Swiss soil before a preliminary investigation can be opened. When Bush cancelled his trip to avoid prosecution, the human rights groups who prepared the complaints made it public and announced that the Bush Torture Indictment would be waiting wherever he travels next. The Indictment serves as the basis on which to prepare country-specific, plaintiff-specific indictments, with additional evidence and updated information. According to international law experts at the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), former presidents do not enjoy special immunity under the Convention Against Torture (CAT).

“Waterboarding is torture, and Bush has admitted, without any sign of remorse, that he approved its use,” said Katherine Gallagher, Senior Staff Attorney at CCR and Vice President of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH). “The reach of the Convention Against Torture is wide – this case is prepared and will be waiting for him wherever he travels next. Torturers – even if they are former presidents of the United States – must be held to account and prosecuted. Impunity for Bush must end.”

While the U.S. has thus far failed to comply with its obligations under the Convention Against Torture to prosecute and punish those who commit torture, all other signatories, too, are obligated to prosecute or extradite for prosecution anyone present in their territory they have a reasonable basis for believing has committed torture. If the evidence warrants, as the Bush Torture Indictment contends it does, and the U.S. fails to request the extradition of Bush and others to face charges of torture there, CAT signatories must, under law, prosecute them for torture.

In a statement this weekend, the groups who organized the complaints said, “Whatever Bush or his hosts say, we have no doubt he cancelled his trip to avoid our case. The message from civil society is clear – If you’re a torturer, be careful in your travel plans.”

The complaints that had been scheduled to be filed on Monday asked that the General Prosecutor of the Canton of Geneva investigate allegations that men were tortured as part of the Bush administration’s well-documented torture program. Bush proudly recounted in his recently published memoir that when asked in 2002 to if it was permissible to waterboard a detainee – a recognized act of torture – he replied “damn right.”

Monday, February 7, is the ninth anniversary of the day Bush decided the Geneva Conventions did not apply to ‘enemy combatants.’

According to the Bush Indictment, which was written on behalf of torture victims by CCR and ECCHR, former President Bush bears individual and command responsibility for the acts of his subordinates which he ordered, authorized, condoned or otherwise aided and abetted, as well as for the violations committed by his subordinates which he failed to prevent or punish.

“Bush is a torturer and deserves to be remembered as such,” said Gavin Sullivan, Solicitor and Counterterrorism Program Manager, ECCHR. “He bears ultimate responsibility for authorizing the torture of thousands of individuals at places like Guantánamo and secret CIA ‘black sites’ around the world. As all states are obliged to prosecute such torturers, Bush has good reason to be very worried.”

Bush recently canceled a planned trip to Switzerland this week, claiming it was due to fear that demonstrations would get out of control.

I do not know anything about Swiss criminal procedure, and in particular what options the state prosecutor may have to choose not to investigate, or to quash, a complaint. It would be good to know.

[headline corrected]

Posted in Torture | 7 Comments

When Manners Get You Nowhere

Worth reading in full: Justin Norman, t r u t h o u t, When Manners Get You Nowhere: 30 Weeks of Protesting Torture in 2010.  It begins:

Two years ago, if someone had suggested to me that I don an orange jumpsuit and a black hood and haul a cross down the street in opposition to torture, I would have laughed at them. Yet here I am at the end of 2010 having pulled that stunt, or something akin to it, more than 30 times in the past year.

Street protests in America today are far less common than they have been in years past, but they are particularly out of place in the relatively upscale business districts of West Des Moines, Iowa. There, week after week, a small, rotating group of ordinary people carry out the old tradition of holding signs inscribed with simple messages. These range in tone from straightforward pleas – “Shut down Guantanamo,” “No More Torture: Not Here, Not There, Nowhere” and “Free Shaker Aamer” – to sarcastic slogans – “USA: Torturing Our Way to World Peace” and “Don’t Worry, We’ll Tell You What to Confess!”

Note from the marketing department: if you are looking to convert strangers to your ideas, waving signs on a street corner is not your best bet.

Read the whole thing.

Earlier related post: When Bad Taste Is Acceptable (April 11, 2004)

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Brad DeLong Seeks Your Advice About What to Do About John Yoo

Brad DeLong is looking for advice as to whether it makes sense to attempt to open formal proceedings at Berkeley charging John Yoo with sanctionable professional misconduct. See in Re John Yoo: In Which Brad DeLong Demonstrates That He Is an Ineffectual Procedural Liberal…

Posted in Torture | 9 Comments