After an amazingly encouraging week or two, we head into the July 4th weekend with a whole bunch of stuff we've been trying to clear off our desk. Plus: Lots of breaking news and an encouraging ending for the weekend...
Remember, these are 'the worst of the worst,' right?
Mohammed El-Gharani, the youngest prisoner at Gitmo, just 14 when he was captured in 2001, is finally being "freed five months after a U.S. federal judge ordered him released having reviewed the evidence against him and ruled that there was nothing to suggest he was ever an 'enemy combatant.'" El-Gharani has never been charged.
Andy Worthington, the man who literally wrote the book on the Guantanamo travesties, offers the sad background on the breaking news of the release of “Guantánamo’s Forgotten Child,” including details of alleged abuse such as being hanged by his wrists, and scissors held to his penis with threats of cutting it off. But we're supposed to look forward, not back, right?...
"George Tiller’s clinic will close in the wake of the Wichita abortion provider’s shooting death, lawyers for the Tiller family said today," the Wichita Eagle is reporting. "Lee Thompson and Dan Monnat, the family’s lawyers, said in a statement that the clinic, Women’s Health Care Services, will be permanently closed, effective immediately."
Waytago anti-choice terrorists! You're winning!
Even Tiller's accused murderer, Scott Roeder is celebrating, telling CNN that closure is "a victory"!
On Sunday, the assassin of the man Bill O'Reilly repeatedly described as "Tiller the Baby Killer," told AP "there are many other similar events planned around the country," prompting Keith Olbermann to wonder, appropriately: "Why is the far right not calling for him to be waterboarded to tell us against whom the next gun or bomb will be directed?"
Good question, though Dick Cheney could not be reached for comment.
"In politics we presume that everyone who knows how to get votes knows how to administer a city or a state. When we are ill...we do not ask for the handsomest physician, or the most eloquent one." --- Plato
During the campaign, amid their state of elation, many disregarded Presidential Candidate Senator Barack Obama's past record and took any criticism of these past actions as partisan attacks deserving equally partisan counterattacks. Some continued their reluctant support after candidate Obama became grand finalist and prayed for the best. And a few still continue their rationalizing and defense, with illogical excuses such as 'He's been in office for only 20 days, give the man a break!' and 'He's had only 50 days in office, give him a chance!' and currently, 'be reasonable - how much can a man do in 120 days?!' I am going to give this logic, or lack of, a slight spicing of reason, then, turn it around, and present it as: If 'the man' can do this much astounding damage, whether to our civil liberties, or to our notion of democracy, or to government integrity, in 'only' 120 days, may God help us with the next [(4 X 365) - 120] days.
I know there are those who have been tackling President Obama's changes on change; they have been challenging his flipping, or rather flopping, on issues central to getting him elected. While some have been covering the changes comprehensively, others have been running right and left like headless chickens in the field - pick one hypocrisy, scream a bit, then move on to the next outrageous flop, the same, and then to the next, basically, looking and treating this entire mosaic one piece at a time.
Despite all the promises Mr. Obama made during his campaign, especially on those issues that were absolutely central to those whose support he garnered, so far the President of Change has followed in the footsteps of his predecessor. Not only that, his administration has made it clear that they intend to continue this trend. Some call it a major betrayal. Can we go so far as to call it a 'swindling of the voters'?
On the State Secrets Privilege
Yes, I am going to begin with the issue of State Secrets Privilege; because I was the first recipient of this 'privilege' during the now gone Administration;
"The widespread abuse of prisoners is a virtually foolproof indication that politicians are trying to impose a system --- whether political, religious or economic --- that is rejected by large numbers of people they are ruling. Just as ecologists define ecosystems by the presence of certain 'indicator species'..., torture is an indicator species of a regime that is engaged in a deeply anti-democratic project, even if that regime happens to have come to power through elections." - Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine (2007)
In Part I of this five-part series, I took care to distinguish the post-9/11 application of torture techniques by the U.S. military from the role played by the CIA and demonstrated how the Bush/Cheney decision to torture predated the quasi-legal Justice Department memos. In Part II, I covered the CIA's dark beginnings, including links not only to former Nazi war criminals but to those Americans who provided financial support to Hitler's Germany, including the late Senator Prescott Bush, George W's paternal grandfather. I also demonstrated how academic studies, performed as part of the CIA's maniacal quest to crack the code of human consciousness, culminated in KUBARK, the CIA's 1963 torture manual.
Here, we will explore how those KUBARK torture techniques became an essential component of the covert dimension of a US-led corporate Empire --- a means for exerting control over populations resistant to the injustice of a system that values the obscene wealth of a few over the needs of the many...
Today, VelvetRevolution.us announced our new campaign calling for the disbarment of 12 of the Bush-era torture lawyers in four states and the District of Columbia. The campaign, whose VR homepage is at DisbarTortureLawyers.com (where you can sign on yourself, read the complaints, etc.), calls for action to be taken by the state bar associations to revoke the law licenses of attorneys John Ashcroft, Alberto Gonzales, Michael Mukasey, Michael Chertoff, John Yoo, Jay Bybee, Stephen Bradbury, Douglas Feith, David Addington, William Hayens, and Timothy Flanigan in NY, CA, TX, PA and D.C., following their exceedingly irresponsible and inappropriately liberal interpretation of U.S. law.
My colleague Kevin Zeese, an attorney himself, as well as executive director of VotersForPeace.us and a board member at VR, signed the complaints delivered to the appropriate boards for all 12 Bush attorneys. He announced the launch of the initiative at a press conference in D.C. this morning. His published statement, released today with the press conference, is posted in full here.
So far, the coverage in the corporate mainstream media today has been surprisingly decent and fairly widespread. We've seen reports from NY Times, CNN, LA Times, WaPo, Bloomberg, AP and others.
AP's coverage has been interesting, and instructive, to watch. When they first reported on the initiative early today, the lede on their story was [emphasis mine]:
WASHINGTON (AP) — Two outside groups want Bush administration lawyers linked to memos on harsh interrogation techniques of detainees to lose their licenses to practice law.
Their updated version, which included a few more details, but the same headline, "Complaint seeks disbarment of Bush lawyers," had this as its lede [emphasis mine]:
WASHINGTON (AP) — A coalition of liberal groups filed petitions Monday seeking disbarment of Bush administration attorneys linked to memos on harsh interrogation techniques of detainees.
Not sure what makes calling for a strict, conservative interpretation of the Rule of Law, versus the wildly liberal interpretations of the Bush Administration (and that's putting it mildly), a "liberal" cause, but that's what I guess we must come to accept from the news organization --- sorry, let me update that --- rightwing house organ that AP has become.
UPDATE: As I've been asked by a number of media folks for a comment on today's initiative, as co-founder of VR, I've been happy to offer them this statement:
"The wildly liberal interpretations of the rule of law by the Bush administration attorneys, in order to justify their torture schemes, should be offensive to the core, to anyone who believes in a strict, conservative interpretation of decades of established U.S. law on the matter, including treaties signed, on behalf of the U.S., by such conservatives as Ronald Reagan."
UPDATE 5/19/09, 8:44pm PT: AP's short video coverage of Kevin Zeese at the presser yesterday is here. But a more complete version of his statement follows below. Also, a big congrats to our Kevin for being honored with the prestigious BuzzFlash "Wings of Justice" award today for his tremendous effort on this campaign!
Last night, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow did a bang-up job in detailing/summarizing "our story so far," as we know it, in regard to the use of torture by the Bush/Cheney Regime. Her report goes on to include interviews with Bush's Iraq WMD inspector, Charles Duelfer, and journalist Robert Windrem, who yesterday detailed the push by "the office of Vice President Cheney" to use torture on Saddam Hussein's security goon, who had been talking and cooperating just fine after being captured in the fall of Baghdad. But he had not been saying the things the OVP wanted him to, so waterboarding was recommended.
We've now officially moved from the imaginary bad Hollywood movie realm of the use of illegal torture to stop 'ticking time-bomb' attacks against Americans, to its use in a desperate attempt to stop 'ticking political-bombs' --- such as no Iraqi WMD and no connection between Iraq and al-Qaeda --- against the Bush/Cheney Regime itself.
This video should bring you largely up to date with the latest known-knowns in the torture time line, and the cynical, realpolitik motives thereof...
(And remember, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, the CIA detainee who is reported to have just "committed suicide" in a Libyan prison is known to have been tortured into "confessing" a connection between Iraq and al-Qaeda, the precise thing that the OVP reportedly sought from Hussein's captured goon. Al-Libi's forced "confession" was subsequently used over and over again by Bush/Cheney/Powell in the march to war, and thereafter found to have been completely made up by al-Libi to help put an end to his torture. When al-Libi recently turned up dead, he was in the process of being reportedly sought by prosecutors in regard to torture allegations against the Bush/Cheney Regime. Dots connecting yet?)
Andy Worthington, who largely broke the story of the reported 'suicide' of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi in a Libyan prison, into the English-language press on Sunday (as we helped that night), picked up last night on our followup to the original story, decrying the paucity of coverage of the disturbing report in the U.S. corporate mainstream media.
Al-Libi was, after all, the 'ghost detainee' who had offered a false link between Iraq and al-Qaeda, used loudly by the Bush Administration before the war as a key justification for it, after being tortured by the CIA and Egypt, where he'd been secretly renditioned from U.S. custody at Guantanamo. He would later recant his false 'confession,' explaining that it had come about only after 17 hours of 'mock burial,' and a session of brutal beatings by his captors which followed it.
Newsweek describes the al-Libi affair today as "one of the biggest intelligence fiascos of the run up to the Iraq War" and "a major embarrassment for the Bush administration."
Worthington asked why the initial "media silence," before noting that while U.S. outlets have finally begun to cover the story, one of the better initial reports, from Peter Finn at Washington Post fails to follow up on the paper's own previous coverage of 'ghost detainees,' which included al-Libi, who had disappeared, at some point, from the Bush Administration's long list of suspected 'terrorists' captured following 9/11.
Al-Libi was one of those captives previously reported on by WaPo. His re-emergence in Libya --- where he was spotted by Human Rights Watch at the Abu Salim prison in late April, in apparent good health, but refused to be interviewed, reportedly saying only "Where were you when I was being tortured in American prisons?" --- was punctuated, just two weeks later, by the surprising news of his reported 'suicide.'
But where WaPo covered some of the points mentioned in a press release on al-Libi's death from HRW, they failed to mention any of the other 'ghost detainees' mentioned in the very same press release, whose whereabouts had been a mystery up until now. That, even though WaPo had previously reported the 'missing' status of those same detainees!
Given the disturbing fate of al-Libi --- who, HRW's Tom Malinowski charges, "was missing because he was such an embarrassment to the Bush administration. He was Exhibit A in the narrative that tortured confessions contributed to the massive intelligence failure that preceded the Iraq war" --- it's disappointing that the paper has so far failed to connect dots that could, in this case, help shine a spotlight on growing concerns about some of those other detainees: A spotlight which may help keep them alive, at this point.
There is certainly good reason to question both the timing, and reported means, of al-Libi's death, not the least of which is the point made in several media reports, including AP's, where some have "expressed doubts that al-Libi killed himself, saying al-Libi was a 'true Muslim and Islam prohibits committing suicides.'"
Yet, as Worthington notes, the Post failed to even mention the current status of the other detainees HRW discovered in the Libyan prison, even as they had similarly been sent there by the CIA following claims of abuse and torture at the hands of the U.S....
"Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities." -Voltaire
I don’t want to give the wrong impression. All nations possess a legitimate need to gather intelligence. There have been large numbers of extraordinarily dedicated CIA employees, like Ray McGovern and Valerie Plame Wilson, who have sought to protect this nation from harm. But there is the dark side of the agency, a covert branch which has engaged in deception, intrigue, torture and assassinations, all designed to destabilize democratic governments in order to advance and consolidate the power and influence of a US-based, multi-national corporate empire.
In Part I of this five-part series, I described how the George W. Bush administration did not wait for legal "permission" from its Department of Justice before embarking on its plan to use torture as means of forcing confessions and other information from detainees. In "Prosecute or Perish" I stressed that the current torture scandal is the product of a half-century of CIA torture; that by failing to prosecute those who tortured in our name in the same manner that we prosecuted the Japanese officers who waterboarded my father during World War II, we not only will expose our nation to the charge of hypocrisy but will endanger the very survival of our constitutional democracy and the rule of law.
As I noted in Part I, we cannot move forward unless we honestly examine our past --- which, in this instance, mandates a careful look at the origins of the CIA...
In a sense, it may be said that the CIA was a stepchild of Nazi Germany. As noted by Joseph Trento in Prelude to Terror (2006), its founder, Allen Dulles, had done business with the Nazis before World War II. Dulles served in the O.S.S. in Bern, Switzerland. From 1945 to 1947, preceding the creation of the CIA, Dulles ran his own private and entirely illegal intelligence service in which he “began a massive ex-Nazi recruitment* campaign, using a State Department refugee office as a front.” The recruitment campaign, Prof. Alfred McCoy observed, in A Question of Torture (2006), entailed more than the use of war criminals as spies. It included German scientists “who had directed Nazi experiments into human physiology and psychology” and whose early research would lay the ground work for CIA torture techniques…
[Ed Note: See bottom of article for several late updates.]
So, it's been about 16 hours since we covered indie journalist/historian/blogger Andy Worthington's detailed report on the the reported suicide of the man who falsely "confessed," during torture, to a false tie between Iraq and al-Qaeda. The forced confession was subsequently used by the Bush Administration (Bush himself, as well as Powell and others) as justification for the war on Iraq. That, despite the fact that Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi recanted his story not long thereafter, as long and widely reported.
As of this moment, not a single mainstream U.S. newspaper or broadcast outlet has reported on the story. Is it not notable? Or are our newspapers just dead set on ensuring their irrelevance by continuing to not report on news that actually matters, no matter how widely it's being reported in other parts of the world?
British journalist and historian Andy Worthington, an expert and author on Guantanamo, reports that the man who had supplied a key false tie between Iraq and al-Qaeda --- after being tortured in Egypt, where he had been rendered by the U.S. --- has died in a Libyan prison. "Dead of suicide in his cell," according to a Libyan newspaper.
"This news resolves, in the grimmest way possible," Worthington writes, "questions that have long been asked about the whereabouts of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, perhaps the most famous of 'America's Disappeared' - prisoners seized in the 'War on Terror,' who were rendered not to Guantánamo but to secret prisons run by the CIA or to the custody of governments in third countries - often their own - where, it was presumed, they would never be seen or heard from again."
The "emir" of a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan, al-Libi "was one of hundreds of prisoners seized by Pakistani forces in December 2001, crossing from Afghanistan into Pakistan. Most of these men ended up in Guantánamo after being handed over (or sold) to US forces by their Pakistani allies, but al-Libi was, notoriously, rendered to Egypt by the CIA to be tortured on behalf of the US government."
In Egypt, he came up with the false allegation about connections between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein that was used by President Bush in a speech in Cincinnati on October 7, 2002, just days before Congress voted on a resolution authorizing the President to go to war against Iraq, in which, referring to the supposed threat posed by Saddam Hussein's regime, Bush said, "We've learned that Iraq has trained al-Qaeda members in bomb making and poisons and deadly gases."
Four months later, on February 5, 2003, Secretary of State Colin Powell made the same claim in his notorious speech to the UN Security Council, in an attempt to drum up support for the invasion. "I can trace the story of a senior terrorist operative telling how Iraq provided training in these [chemical and biological] weapons to al-Qaeda," Powell said, adding, "Fortunately, this operative is now detained, and he has told his story." As a Newsweek report in 2007 explained, Powell did not identify al-Libi by name, but CIA officials - and a Senate Intelligence Committee report - later confirmed that he was referring to al-Libi.
Al-Libi recanted his story in February 2004, when he was returned to the CIA's custody, and explained, as Newsweek described it, that he told his debriefers that "he initially told his interrogators that he 'knew nothing' about ties between Baghdad and Osama bin Laden and he 'had difficulty even coming up with a story' about a relationship between the two." The Newsweek report explained that "his answers displeased his interrogators - who then apparently subjected him to the mock burial. As al-Libi recounted, he was stuffed into a box less than 20 inches high. When the box was opened 17 hours later, al-Libi said he was given one final opportunity to 'tell the truth.' He was knocked to the floor and 'punched for 15 minutes.' It was only then that, al-Libi said, he made up the story about Iraqi weapons training."
Worthington concludes: "The most important question that needs asking just now, of course, is whether it was possible for al-Libi to commit suicide in a Libyan jail, or whether he was murdered. I doubt that we will ever find out the truth...Whatever al-Libi’s actual crimes, his use as a tool in a program of 'extraordinary rendition' and torture, exploited shamelessly not to foil future terrorist plots but to yield false information about al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, remains a low point in a 'War on Terror' that has few redeeming features."
UPDATE: 16 hours later, and virtually zero coverage of this story in the U.S. corporate mainstream MSM. Amazing. Details now here... [That report has now also been updated to include a few U.S. outlets finally jumping in to the story, 24 hours later.]
"When any modern state tortures even a few victims, the stigma compromises its majesty and corrupts its integrity. Its officials must spin an ever more complex web of lies that, in the end, weakens the bonds of trust and the rule of law that are the sine qua non of a democracy. And, beyond its borders, allies and enemies turn away in collective revulsion." - Prof. Alfred W. McCoy, A Question of Torture (2006).
Truth and justice are essential components of democracy and the rule of law. We cannot move forward unless we honestly examine our past. Accuracy is vital to every decision we make, be it impeachment, prosecution or a restoration of our nation’s honor and integrity.
This is the first in a five-part series of articles which will strive to correct misperceptions arising from the erroneous blending of military and CIA torture. This task has become especially relevant now that the Justice Department's the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), the very section which had issued the torture memos, tasked by former Attorney General Michael Mukasey with investigating itself, has now released a recommendation that none of the authors of the torture memos be prosecuted. This recommendation stands in stark contrast to our nation's post-World War II decision to prosecute German judges for war crimes at Nuremberg.
Part I addresses the relatively public involvement of the U.S. military and private contractors at Guantanamo, Afghanistan and Iraq. It will dispel the notion that the Bush White House sought out independent legal opinions from the OLC before deciding to torture.
Part II will discuss the CIA's dark beginnings, including its recruitment of former Nazis, its devotion to covert "psychological operations" as a founding principle, the experiments on unwitting subjects that were part of a maniacal quest to crack the code of human consciousness, and the scientific studies that led to KUBARK, the CIA's torture manual.
Part III provides a vital historical account of CIA torture applied by surrogates in developing nations as a component of empire, an account that belies the suggestion made by the The New York Times that CIA torture first arose as an aftermath of 9/11.
Part's IV and V will address the CIA's involvement in extraordinary rendition and an ultra-secret system of “black-sites” into which “ghost detainees” would disappear. It will show how the techniques used on "ghost detainees" are the culmination of a half-century of CIA research and practices...
Despite the new wealth of evidence that the Bush administration’s desire to torture suspects was driven by a desire to gin up phony links between Iraq and al Qaeda, not by concerns about another terrorist attack, former Vice President Cheney is sticking to his story that it was all about terrorism. In part II of his interview with Fixed News, the Dark Lord accusing the Obama administration of not believing that the U.S. is threatened by terrorism.
The Fox "News" interview was vintage Cheney. He referred to torture as “a robust interrogation program on detainees” that was vital “to the very existence of the nation.”
CHENEY: What the Obama administration is doing, in effect, is saying that we don’t need those tough policies that we had. That says, either they didn’t work, which we know is not the case—they did work, they kept us safe for seven years...
You have to see a Cheney performance in order to appreciate the effectiveness of Cheney propaganda. Unlike George W. Bush, who was inclined to trip over his own tongue, Cheney has perfected the quiet lie. His words may be false but he delivers them as facts so uncontroversial you’d think he was a local network anchor reporting on traffic conditions...
Shepard Smith's days at Fox "News" may have to be numbered at this point. Even the filthy Judith Miller, for Chrissakes, is joining him in being appalled by the torture memos.
"If there was torture, there was a crime. If there was a crime, there were criminals who ordered the torture," he says to the reprehensible apologist Clifford May before he and Miller both concur that these "horrendous techniques are illegal"...
But later, Smith completely blows his stack on Fox's online-only show The Strategy Room, pounding on the table and SHOUTING: "We are America! I don't give a rat's ass if it helps! We are America! We do not fucking torture!!!":
We're on the road and off the grid most of today/tonight for duties in Phoenix, so without the time to offer proper context for the above. But suffice to say the latest report, as linked above, in concert with The BRAD BLOG's detailed series of coverage from last year --- linked below for your convenience --- suggests, the perpetrator or perpetrators of the most deadly biological attack ever carried out on American soil, still likely walks free.
And no, as we've also argued previously, George W. Bush didn't "keep America safe following 9/11".
Links to some of our noteworthy, and at times "Exclusive," coverage last year of the Anthrax case and the FBI's supposed "Anthrax Killer" follow below...