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!
For those who have wondered (particularly when looking at the incredible miscarriages of prosecutorial injustices and improprieties in cases like Gov. Siegelman's), no, Obama has yet to replace Bush's partisan U.S. Attorneys, incredibly enough. But he will, says AG Holder, according to Politico...
President Barack Obama plans to replace a "batch" of U.S. Attorneys in the next few weeks and more prosecutors thereafter, according to Attorney General Eric Holder.
"I expect that we'll have an announcement in the next couple of weeks with regard to our first batch of U.S attorneys," Holder said Thursday during a House Judiciary Committee hearing which stretched out over most of the day due to breaks for members' votes. "One of the things that we didn't want to do was to disrupt the continuity of the offices and pull people out of positions where we thought there might be a danger that that might have on the continuity--the effectiveness of the offices. But...elections matter--it is our intention to have the U.S. Attorneys that are selected by President Obama in place as quickly as they can."
Holder's comments Thursday came in response to a question from Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) "Many jurisdictions are waiting desperately to see what is going to be done. As we understand it, the protocol has been that U.S. Attorneys would hand in their resignations and would give the new administration an opportunity to make new appointments, we don't see that happening quite fast enough," she said, pointing to complaints about prosecutors in Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama.
Gosh. Take your time, kids. Although, in fairness (where any may be due here), the following bears keeping in mind...
If the first U.S. Attorney selections from Obama do come in the next few weeks, he will still be ahead of Bush's timetable. He proposed his first U.S. Attorneys on August 1, 2001.
U.S. Attorneys require confirmation by the Senate and are usually proposed with the concurrence of the senators from that state.
These are said to be among the photos of prisoner abuse/torture whose release Obama has determined to block. Some of them were obtained, and posted several years ago, by The Sydney Morning Herald (who have more here).
Remember, these prisoners were captured in the war on Iraq, so even the disingenuous claims of Geneva Conventions not applying cannot be used here.
As Drudge and Rush have (predictably) taken to ridiculing these latest noticed photos of abuse/torture of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. captors, I thought it worth running some of them here, so you could similarly see how "ridiculous" it is to be concerned about this sort of treatment of prisoners on our watch. I'm certain that no U.S. military family would ever object, in the slightest way, were their son or daughter treated this way after being captured by an enemy country.
'Security via obscurity' didn't work as a concept during the Bush Administration. It's difficult to fathom how the Obama Administration would believe it'll work any better for them.
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?)
In case you missed it, former Navy SEAL and Gov. Jesse Ventura (I-MN) absolutely obliterated 'Worst President' Bush, 'Coward, Chicken Hawk' Cheney, 'Hanoi Hilton' Guantanamo, and the entire torture regime, on Monday's Larry King (via Crooks & Liars)...
VENTURA: In my opinion, George Bush is the worst President in my lifetime. ... So Barack Obama, President Obama inherited something I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.
I'm bothered over Guantanamo because it seems we have created our own Hanoi Hilton. We can live with that? I have a problem. I will criticize President Obama on this level; it's a good thing I'm not president because I would prosecute every person that was involved in that torture. I would prosecute the people that did it. I would prosecute the people that ordered it. Because torture is against the law. ... I was waterboarded, so I know ... It is torture. ... It's drowning. It gives you the complete sensation you are drowning...You give me a waterboard, Dick Cheney and one hour, and I'll have him confess to the Sharon Tate murders.
Former top White House official Karl Rove will be interviewed tomorrow as part of an ongoing criminal investigation into the firing of U.S. attorneys during the Bush administration, according to two sources familiar with the appointment.
He will be questioned tomorrow by Connecticut prosecutor Nora R. Dannehy, who was named last year to examine whether any former senior Justice Department and White House officials lied or obstructed justice in connection with the dismissal of federal prosecutors in 2006.
The firings were the subject of a lengthy report released last fall by the Justice Department's inspector general and the department's Office of Professional Responsibility. Investigators there uncovered improper political motivations in the firings of several of the nine dismissed federal prosecutors.
But the department's own probe was thwarted in part because the inspector general's agents did not have the authority to compel testimony from Bush White House advisers and lawmakers.
They also add, for those keeping track...
Rove and [former Bush WH Counsel Harriet] Miers are tentatively scheduled to provide closed-door testimony to House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) and other members of the panel sometime next month.
UPDATE 5/15/09: RAW STORY's Larisa Alexandrovna has a number of questions she'd like to see asked of Rove, in regard to the Siegelman case.
At right is the video from Rove's appearance at his attorney's office this morning to meet federal prosecutors for his questioning (via RAW).
Incredibly, the Bush-appointed prosecutors in the Siegelman case (who are, inexplicably, still on the job!) have now requested an even longer sentence for the former Democratic Gov. of Alabama who was railroaded as part of a Rove-led political prosecution.
RAW STORY offers the amazing details on the twenty-year sentence now being sought by the federal prosecutors to replace the seven years he was originally screwed with. The entire prosecution needs to be entirely thrown out, just as the case against Republican Sen. Ted Stevens was.
And where is AG Eric Holder in all of this? I'd sure as hell love to know, as I asked in my April 13th letter to him on behalf of VR's Restore Justice at Justice campaign requesting an investigation of all illegal, Bush-era political prosecutions. (If you haven't yet, please sign on to that letter, to add your voice!)
My brief interview with Siegelman at last Summer's Democratic National Convention in Denver (originally posted here), is re-posted at left, wherein he warned, if action wasn't taken "Karl Rove is simply going to get in his get-away car and thumb his nose at the Constitution, the Congress and the American People."
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?
Recently, TPM asked their readers for casting suggestions for the upcoming biopic on Jack Abramoff, where Kevin Spacey is reportedly already booked to play the disgraced GOP uber-lobbyist:
They sought casting suggestions for 11 of the key players in the Abramoff scandals, sure to show up in the film. The resultant "Dream Team" of excellent choices for each were revealed last week.
But, amazingly, the TPM casting call overlooked one of the key players in the Abramoff scandal, our old friend, the disgraced now-former Republican Congressman from Florida, Tom Feeney, aka "Representative #3" in one of the key filings in the Abramoff affair. In 2003, Feeney accompanied Jack on the third lobbyist-funded junket to play golf in Scotland following trips with the disgraced now-former Rep. Tom Delay (R-TX) in 2000 and the disgraced now-former Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) in 2002.
The TPM oversight must be corrected immediately. And, of course, I can think of just one person who'd be perfect --- for so many reasons --- to play the role of Feeney in the upcoming Abramoff film...
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...