Category Archives: Torture

A Merry Republican Xmas

That Jack Bauer. He’s a real man! (Via Avedon)

David Horsey Explains Cheney’s Torture Jones


Why didn’t we think of this? It’s so simple.

Dump the Dems (10): Obama Morphs Into Bush Over Presidential Power

Obama’s actions are, at best, a mixed blessing so far. He has surrounded himself with establishmentarian Blue Dogs and Democrat conservatives, from his powerful Chief-of-Staff, Rahm Emmanuel, to Treas Sec Timmy Geithner (a Wall Street Willie if ever there was one), Leon Panetta at the CIA, and Larry Summers as a Presidential Advisor. While he has talked eloquently about Wall Street’s responsibility for the mess, he insisted in $billions$ in bail-out money to moribund, clueless auto CEO’s and is about to hand over another $30B to AIG because, you know, it ran through the first $100B paying for parties and executive bonuses.

But all of that was prelude to the real danger. It puts in context a much more conservative agenda. In “Dump the Dems 6” I warned, “The Democrats aren’t pretending to be like the Pubs to get elected. They are like the Pubs.” Obama seems to be going out of his way to prove it. Glenn Greenwald again reports on the heels of Marcy Wheeler’s excellent summation of the recent moves by the Obama Admin to make exactly the same arguments of presidential power that Bush made.

[T]he Obama DOJ is now spouting the Cheney/Addington view of government in its purest and most radical expression. 


The brief filed by Obama on Friday afternoon (.pdf) has to be read to believed.  It is literally arguing that no court has the power to order that classified documents be used in a judicial proceeding; instead, it is the President — and the President alone — who possesses that decision-making power under Article II, and no court order is binding on the President to the extent it purports to direct that such information be made available for use in a judicial proceeding. 

(emphasis added)

What I’ve been afraid of is happening right now. Obama and the conservative Democrat leadership are fighting to preserve the very same power Obama criticized Bush for taking, using the same autocratic arguments that Bush used. Does it make them right just because a Democrat says them?

Of course not.

Continue reading

Why FISA Is Such a Bad Idea

 “Because I say so,” said the Red King.
For years I’ve been following and writing about the absurd paucity of evidence the Bush Administration considers sufficient to lock your ass up indefinitely. Ashcroft was forced to try two of his Gitmo defendants in Germany in front of a court not made up of Bush loyalists or conservative ideologues, andn the judge demanded access to the proof Ashcroft’s DoJ insisted was too sensitive to be made public. When the dossier was opened anyway, despite their protests, there was nothing in it but raw data – unsubstantiated romors, gossip, innuendo. What Ashcroft was protecting wasn’t sensitive information but his own butt, which has come to be known as a standard trait for Bushies.
Now the same damn thing has been repeated under Michael Mukasey.

In the first case to review the government’s secret evidence for holding a detainee at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, a federal appeals court found that accusations against a Muslim from western China held for more than six years were based on bare and unverifiable claims. The unclassified parts of the decision were released on Monday.

With some derision for the Bush administration’s arguments, a three-judge panel said the government contended that its accusations against the detainee should be accepted as true because they had been repeated in at least three secret documents.
The court compared that to the absurd declaration of a character in the Lewis Carroll poem “The Hunting of the Snark”: “I have said it thrice: What I tell you three times is true.”


This Administration appears to lie about everything, even the evidence – or lack of it – that it claims justifies holding men and even children in prisons withiout trial for 6 years. Like Ashcroft in Germany, the Bush Administration wasn’t refusing them their day in court because they were dangerous but because Bush didn'[t want us to know they weren’t, that the whole detainee thing had been a bust from the git-go. So why in heaven’s name should we believe them when they claim yet another detainee ought to be killed because he was behind the attack on the Cole?



A Pentagon official announced war crimes charges Monday against a detainee at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, suspected of helping to plan the attack on the Navy destroyer Cole in 2000 that killed 17 American sailors.


Military prosecutors said they were seeking the death penalty against the detainee, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi who has long been described by American officials as Al Qaeda’s operations chief in the Persian Gulf and the primary planner of the October 2000 attack on the Cole.

Mr. Nashiri is one of three detainees who the C.I.A. has acknowledged were subjected to waterboarding, the interrogation technique that simulates drowning. Mr. Nashiri was interrogated in the agency’s secret prisons before he was transferred to Guantánamo in 2006.

(emphasis added)

There hasn’t been a shred of evidence, ever, that Nashiri weas guilty of anything except by the Bush Administration’s unsupported word for it – a word that is worth less than nothing considering its total lack of credibility. Yet the Bush lawyers are demanding the death penalty. For war crimes. Talk about the pot and the kettle.

If one word of that so-called “evidence” came from Nashiri’s being tortured, then legally it has to be thrown out. A co-erced confession IS NOT ADMISSIBLE, not in a civilian court. Maybe in the Kangaroo tribunals the Bushies have dreamed up, but nowhere else in the civilized world. If that’s how they came by it, it’s hopelessly tainted and so is their whole case. Not that they seem to care. They’re going ahead with the trial despite the CIA’s admission, and after all, what do they really have to fear in the way of consequences? Not much, it seems.

A federal appeals court on Monday dismissed a lawsuit filed by a Syrian-born Canadian man who had accused the United States of violating the law and his civil rights after he was detained at Kennedy Airport and sent to Syria under what he claims was an act of “extraordinary rendition.”

The man, Maher Arar, tried to win civil damages from United States officials in his suit, but the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York ruled that because he was never technically inside the United States, his claims could not be heard in the federal courts.




While stating that “threats to the nation’s security do not allow us to jettison principles of ‘simple justice and fair dealing,’ ” the majority opinion ruled nonetheless that Mr. Arar, who had been seized as he tried to change planes at Kennedy Airport while flying back to Canada from Switzerland, had no federal standing in his case and that the government did not violate the Torture Victim Protection Act by sending him abroad.

I can hear Lil Dick and Dave Addington chuckling over it now. They got away with it again – on a technicality. They arranged to keep their bloody hands clean even though they arranged for an innocent man to be tortured because technically he wasn’t in the US at the time theyn had him picked up. Giggle giggle. What fun. Put it over on us again, didn’t you?

FISA should never be passed if for no other reason than because the govt can’t be trusted to look at any interests but its own or nopt use its power – whatever powers we give it – to get what it wants. Our experience with Bush proves it’s a HORRENDOUSLY BAD IDEA TO GIVE ANY PRESIDENT THAT KIND OF POWER.

So why is our Democratic Congress giving it to them? Hmm?

The Bush Library (7): The Legal Battle

With Bishop Jones fronting for the Bush family and scorning the wishes and feelings of his own church membership, the effort to stop the Bush Propaganda Center is moving toward the courtroom. Bush’s insistence on siting the Propaganda Center at SMU despite the vote of the UMC’s GC rejecting it has created a legal problem for the Methodist Church. Andrew Weaver explains (from an email).

Our legal team tells us that we need to go to court to give us the best chance to protect the property rights and voting rights of the 290 Jurisdictional Conference delegates who are the elected representatives of the property owners, i.e., the 1.83 million UMC members of the South Central Jurisdiction (SCJ).

Unfortunately, the legal effort needs a member of the SCJ to come forward and act as the plaintiff. That hasn’t happened. Why?

Many fear the consequences to their future ministry if they appear to challenge their bishop, while others fear being countersued by the Bush Foundation.

With the Mafia-like scare tactics and intimidation typical of the Bush family’s dealings since Grandaddy Prentiss played kissy-kiss with the Nazis, George W and Karl Rove have effectively squashed the threat that for once they might have to obey an inconvenient law. With a tame bishop in their pockets and an on-retainer legal team, each ready to punish any Methodist who dares listen to his/her conscience instead of George W Bush, it seems that the Bush family will get away with flouting the law – this time church law – yet again.

Jim Hightower reported last month that Bush has ex-campaign shyster and all-round political hardman Karl Rove setting up the Library/Propaganda Center.

The Bushites have cut a deal with SMU executives to locate his presidential library on this private campus in one of Dallas’s wealthiest neighborhoods. They’ve targeted some Arab oil kingdoms, corporate chieftains, and wealthy heiresses to be the “megadonors” they need to raise half-a-billion bucks to establish George’s ex-presidential palace.

This one is to be markedly different than the usual complex of library, museum, and policy institute that other presidents have built. First (and unsurprisingly), rather than placing the full archive of the administration’s papers in the SMU complex so historians and others have access, Bush is to have a heavily-censored, anti-academic library. None other that Karl Rove will help with the censoring, making sure that historians only peruse documents that cast the Bush-Cheney regime in a glowing light.

(emphasis added)

Rev Weaver notes:

The majority of the delegates feel they can live with the library, even with its current limitation — censorship by the president and his heirs in perpetuity through his Executive Order 13233, signed soon after 9/11.  What many delegates are disturbed by and will vote against is the partisan think-tank to honor George Bush, which is being organized by Karl Rove.  Neither SMU nor the United Methodist Church will have any control over the direction of the partisan institute, and that deeply troubles many. 

So Karl Rove, as we reported some time ago, is going to be the connecting link between the so-called “library” and the Propaganda Center, making sure, in effect, that the library ignores scholarship for Bush worship and the “institute/think tank” ignores thinking for mindlessly pimping W’s policies and ideology. Which includes, Weaver reminds us, his ceaseless support for torture. Weaver makes the argument, as guest blogger at Wallwritings, that “Torture Is Not a Methodist Family Value“. After a short history of Bush’s advocacy of torture and Methodist founder John Wesley’s condemnation of it, Weaver writes:

President Bush refers to himself a “proud Methodist”, but he has shown little sign of contrition, regret or repentance for his personal behavior which violates Methodist standards set long ago by John Wesley. Instead, Bush attempts to justify himself and place a shield of protection around government officials who use torture. 

W may identify himself as a “proud Methodist”, but as investigative reporter Joe Esterhaz proved in his book American Rhapsody and others have confirmed, George W Bush doesn’t attend a Methodist Church and hasn’t since he became born-again under the tutelage of theatrical fundie Arthur Blessit.

Whenever Bush got into trouble, it wasn’t Billy Graham or Methodist preachers he ran to for solace and counsel, it was Pat Robertson and Bob Jones. I began to suspect that Bush’s Methodism was part of Karl Rove’s For Campaign Purposes Only “compassionate conservative” illusion and that he was really a fundamentalist in disguise, a far-right-winger playing to the center. Then, when Graham himself debunked Bush’s account after the publication of W’s campaign biography, ghost-written by a sports writer named Mickey Herskowitz, I knew it.

The idea that the Bush family itself is Methodist in any legitimate sense must of necessity be questioned when we consider, say, Poppy’s unusually close relationship with whacko fundie Rev Moon. A relationship so close that he hosted Moon at his presidential library in (where else?) Texas after Moonie “interests” donated $$1M$$ to said library.

The fiction that any member of the Bush family is actually and in reality Methodist has persisted right to the present day even though there isn’t an iota of evidence to support the proposition from any quarter. Poppy and Barb are Moonies, and W is a born-again fundie evangelist whose chief spiritual advisor is the guy who thinks hurricanes are caused by homosexuality.

Given that his Methodism is now a busted myth, why all the determination to make sure the library gets sited at a Methodist university? The answer is simple, especially if you’ve ever studied the way Bush and Rove do things: it’s cover.

Rove helped Bush to run the most secretive presidency in US history because he knew bloody well that if the public caught on to the real Bush agenda, we’d throw them out on their asses. So it was common for Rove to provide cover to distract or hide their real policies: Orwellian names (“Healthy Forest” for a bill opening public lands to commercial logging), foxes in charge of henhouses (a corporate lawyer who specialized in breaking unions appointed to head the Labor Dept), and the standard Bush bait-and-switch (promising to increase funding for Pell Grants days before he cut them out of his budget). This is simply another cover.

Rove and Bush both know that if the Methodists knew what was actually going to go on at the Propaganda Center, they’d revolt. But Bush needs the reputation of the Methodists as centrists and mainstream religious bi-partisans in order to provide his radically ideological “institute” with a patina of legitimacy. “We can’t be cranks, we’re part of a Methodist university.”

IOW, the Methodist Church is being used by the Bushes. It is to be the sheep’s-clothing under which the wolf hides so unsuspecting prey will think they’re safe and wander close enough to be eaten. Is that the role the UMC wants to play? Clearly not, but Bush is in an apparent position to force them to be his “beard” whether they like it or not.

Not that the opposition is giving up. They have an alternate plan.

Over the past several months we have systematically analyzed the 290 delegates of the SCJ with the help of delegates or clergy from each annual conference.  I have personally spoken with over 40 delegates.  We identified about 130 progressives, 100 conservatives and 60 moderates in the 11 annual conferences.   We need 146 votes to win.  If we can educate the delegates about the dangers of the Bush partisan think thank to the academic integrity of SMU and the good name of our church, we can win the vote.  Most United Methodists, including most bishops, are people who seek to do what is right and good.

I wish them luck.

Bush Uses Executive Order to Legalize Torture

Busy, busy, busy.

George Bush has been moving toward empire in the open with the occupation of Iraq and in secret with directives and signing statements enlarging his power at the expense of the Constitution for most of his 6-year reign, but in the last two busy days he has taken not one but two significant steps to openly declare his unchallengeable imperial authority.

The first you probably already know about. Everybody has been appalled by it and an awful lot of people have said so.

Bush administration officials unveiled a bold new assertion of executive authority yesterday in the dispute over the firing of nine U.S. attorneys, saying that the Justice Department will never be allowed to pursue contempt charges initiated by Congress against White House officials once the president has invoked executive privilege.

A lot of people have raked this brazen power grab over the coals. Constitutional lawyer Glenn Greenwald calls it a frontal assault on the judiciary.

What the Bush administration is doing here is not merely defying (another) Congressional statute, but — as usual — also denying the power of the judiciary to interpret the law and compel adherence to the mandates of law. The great unanswered question of the Bush administration has been, and continues to be, whether, upon losing a judicial battle, they would explicitly claim the right to defy the judicial order on the ground that the order exceeds proper judicial authority.

In the typical Bush signing statement, the President emphasizes that he will execute laws not only consistent with his claimed executive power (meaning he will ignore the parts of the law which he thinks unduly restrains him), but will also execute the law “consistent with the constitutional limitations on the judicial power.” Always lurking at the core of these radical assertions of executive power is the belief that they can defy court orders due to the claimed “constitutional limitations on the judicial power.”

Limitations, he points out, that Ted Olson, working with Dick Cheney, simply made up out of whole cloth. Scott Horton, another Constitutional lawyer, is looking a little further ahead, arguing that it isn’t simply that the judiciary under attack, Bush – like the Monarchs of old – is arguing that he is the law because he controls the law.

Continue reading

The CIA’s Secret Prison System Uses NATO as Cover

I haven’t read his book but I’m going to take a wild guess here that George Tenet didn’t mention anywhere in it that he had his agency, the CIA, use NATO cover to set up the secret prison system in Europe that Cheney wanted in order to circumvent US laws against torture.

The CIA exploited NATO military agreements to help it run secret prisons in Poland and Romania where alleged terrorists were held in solitary confinement for months, shackled and subjected to other mental and physical torture, according to a European investigative report released here Friday.

Some of the United States’ highest-profile terrorism suspects, including Khalid Sheik Mohammed, considered the prime organizer of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, were detained and interrogated at the facility in Poland, according to the 72-page report completed for the Council of Europe, the continent’s human rights agency.

Dick Marty, a Swiss lawyer hired by the council, said the CIA conducted “clandestine operations under the NATO framework,” providing military intelligence agencies in member countries — including Poland and Romania — the cover to assist the agency in disguising the use of secret flights, operations and detention facilities from the days immediately following the Sept. 11 attacks until the fall of last year.

The report was released yesterday and within hours the Denial Machine was in full swing.

Officials speaking on behalf of the CIA, NATO, Poland and Romania on Friday criticized the report’s findings. Both Poland and Romania have denied that the CIA established secret prisons on their soil.

“The CIA’s counter-terror operations have been lawful, effective, closely reviewed, and of benefit to many people — including Europeans — by disrupting plots and saving lives,” CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano said. “Our counter-terror partnerships in Europe are very strong.” He described the report as “biased and distorted.”

Of course it is. Whenever Bush Administration spokesmen use words like that, it’s practically a guarantee that whatever it is they’re attacking is not only accurate, it’s the tip of a much larger iceberg. The only truthful statement in Gimigliano’s response is “Our counter-terror partnerships in Europe are very strong.” Everything else he said is a demonstrable lie. Continue reading

The Week in Bush: Gitmo, Warrantless Wiretaps, and Inspecting Inspectors (Updated)

This has been a week in which the Bushies have pulled out all the stops. Under siege from every direction, it seems, up to and including their own party, and in the face of scandals, investigations, and tumbling approval numbers, the White House has significantly stepped up its war against – us.

Continue reading

SCOTUS Score: One and One

The Roberts Court yesterday handed the Bush Administration one victory and one defeat, and the victory may turn out to be Pyrrhic.

1. Detainee Suit Rejected

The SCOTUS won’t be hearing a suit filed by almost 400 Gitmo prisoners trying to restore the legal rights taken away from them by Bush and the Republican Congress.

The court decision was a significant victory for President Bush, who has asserted for nearly six years that the fate of hundreds of detainees, held without charges as alleged terrorists at the U.S. naval base in Cuba, should be determined by secret military tribunals. The decision leaves intact, at least for now, a measure passed at the administration’s urging last year when Congress still was in Republican hands that denies Guantanamo Bay detainees the right to such habeas corpus petitions.

This despite the fact that the Court has ruled not once but twice in the last three years that the detainees have the right to petition the courts to “contest their detention”. Continue reading

Clintonite Appeals Court Judge Upholds Reaganite Judge in CIA Kidnapping Case

US District Court Judge TS Ellis III, who recently dismissed the corruption suit against Custer Battles on the fairly specious grounds that the CPA was not a “US govt entity” without explaining how it could rationally be considered anything else, last year dismissed Khaled Al-Masri’s lawsuit against the CIA for kidnapping and torture on the dubious grounds that “state secrets” might be “exposed” by a public trial. Al-Masri appealed that decision and yesterday the Fourth Circuit, led by Clinton appointee Robert B King, upheld Ellis’ ruling.

In May 2006, Judge T. S. Ellis III, of the Federal District Court in Alexandria, Va., dismissed the suit under the so-called state secrets privilege. The privilege can require courts to limit or dismiss suits that might disclose information harmful to national security. The decision yesterday, by the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, affirmed that ruling.

“We recognize the gravity of our conclusions that el-Masri must be denied a judicial forum for his complaint,” Judge Robert B. King wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel of the court. “The inquiry is a difficult one, for its pits the judiciary’s search for truth against the executive’s duty to maintain the nation’s security.”

Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union, which represents Mr. Masri, said there was enough public information about his ordeal to allow his suit to be adjudicated without endangering national security. The appeals court disagreed, saying that Mr. Masri could not win his case without exposing “how the C.I.A. organizes, staffs and supervises its most sensitive intelligence operations.”

Furthermore, the court continued, the defendants “could not properly defend themselves without using privileged evidence.”

King’s argument is tantamount to giving the CIA carte-blanche to do anything it wants to do anywhere in the world without either oversight or accountability and – as the Church Committee proved thirty years ago – there is no such immunity from prosecution enshrined in either US law or international law, nor was it ever the intent of Congress to give the Company such blanket immunity. Continue reading

Guantanamo Detainees Lose Appeal

Just last week, a Reaganite judge dismissed the case for corruption against Scott Custer and Mike Battles on very dubious but Bush Administration-approved grounds. Today, the DC Court of Appeals rejected a petition by lawyers representing the Gitmo detainees to “challenge their imprisonment”, a ruling that basically gives Bush the power to continue with his de facto suspension of habeus corpus rights.

In its 2 to 1 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld one of the central components of the Military Commissions Act, the law enacted last year by a then-Republican-controlled Congress that stripped Guantanamo detainees of their right to such habeas corpus petitions. Lawyers have filed the petitions on behalf of virtually all of the nearly 400 detainees still at Guantanamo, challenging President Bush’s right to hold them indefinitely without charges. Yesterday’s ruling effectively dismisses the cases.

The lawyers are going to appeal to the SCOTUS, and Dem Senators Patrick Leahy (along with Repub Arlen Specter) and Chris Dodd are already moving to overturn the suspension (Dodd introduced his bill last week), but until all that happens, the Gitmo defendants remain in a legal limbo where they have no rights of any kind except those granted by the military courts – which don’t seem inclined to grant very many.

The two appellate judges who upheld the administration’s position are – no surprise here – conservative Republicans. Another non-surprise: their lockstep parroting of Bush Administration arguments. Continue reading

Abu Ghraib: Another Timid Step

Yet another committee investigating Abu Ghraib has taken yet another timid step in assigning responsibility for the torture to the top of the Administration. Months after the initial revelations about the Admin’s cold and calculating search for legal loopholes in the Geneva Convention that would allow the US to torture prisoners for information (White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales called the Convention ‘quaint’ and ‘irrelevant’) and its in-house support for torture as a tactic, the Schlesinger panel concludes that responsibility lies with Rumsfeld and the DoD.

WASHINGTON, Aug. 24 – For Donald H. Rumsfeld to resign over the prison abuses at Abu Ghraib would be a mistake, the four-member panel headed by James M. Schlesinger asserted Tuesday. But in tracing responsibility for what went wrong at Abu Ghraib, it drew a line that extended to the defense secretary’s office.The panel cited what it called major failures on the part of Mr. Rumsfeld and his aides in not anticipating and responding swiftly to the post-invasion insurgency in Iraq. On the eve of the Republican convention, that verdict could not have been welcome at the White House, where postwar problems in Iraq represent perhaps President Bush’s greatest political liability.

The report rarely mentions Mr. Rumsfeld by name, referring most often instead to the “office of the secretary of defense.” But as a sharp criticism of postwar planning for Iraq, it represents the most explicit official indictment to date of an operation that was very much the province of Mr. Rumsfeld and his top deputies.

A ‘failure’ is not the same thing as a ‘decision’. The panel is saying what the evidence compels it to say but putting it in a context that ignores some key decisions that suggest very strongly that Abu Ghaib was planned all along. A few of those questions:

***Why was Boykin not fired after his anti-Muslim/pro-fundamentalist Xtian comments?
***Why was Boykin put in charge of the Army’s prison system?
***Why did Rumsfeld allow Boykin to appoint MajGen Geoffrey Miller as head of the prison system in Iraq even though Miller’s use of torture techniques while he was in charge of Gitmo was an open secret and potential scandal?
***Why was Army Intelligence put in charge of the ‘interrogations’?
***Why was Gen Karpinski–and others in the theater–told not to interfere with them even though she was supposed to be in command at AG?
***Where–and who–did that order come from?

The Schlesinger panel’s criticism of Rumsfeld’s ‘failure to respond’ doesn’t connect any of these dots or answer any of those questions; it ducks altogether the thorny possibility that Rumsfeld didn’t ‘respond’ because it was a policy he knew all about and had in fact deliberately implemented. Instead it pretends that leaving Boykin and Miller in charge was somehow an accidental oversight. That’s quite an assumption given the intensity with which the DoD, DoJ, and BA hunted for legal rationalizations for the US to justify precisely what US interrogators later did at AG. It’s an incredible assumption given that Rumsfeld not only knew what had been going on at Gitmo under Miller but had publicly defended it.

The only way to avoid pointing the finger directly at the Bush Admin is by compartmentalizing all these separate findings and then making believe they’re totally unconnected to each other. Put them together and the inevitable conclusion is that Rumsfeld and the BA planned, developed, and implemented a specific policy; the pieces can’t be explained rationally any other way.

It is becoming, bit by bit, clearer and more inescapable that responsibility for the torture at Abu Ghraib belongs on the desk where Harry Truman said the buck stopped.


A LAT editorial notes that the process of beginning–not doing it, just starting to do it–of obeying the Supreme Court’s order to let the Gitmo detainees have access to lawyers and courts has been moving at the speed of light. A stop light.

Yagman’s efforts to force Justice Department lawyers to justify Gherebi’s continued imprisonment have provoked a blizzard of paperwork, court motions and foot-dragging. But there’s been little progress toward a face-to-face lawyer-client meeting, let alone a hearing on the merits of his case.Gherebi’s case is hardly unique. Lawyers across the country trying to represent Guantanamo clients report that the government is, as one put it, “trying to neutralize the Supreme Court decision.”

The Pentagon has let a few detainees meet with a lawyer as a goodwill gesture, providing the lawyer agrees to let officials listen in and promises not to ask about conditions of the client’s confinement or if he has been abused. However, the government is contesting almost every motion and writ, tying up the cases as it continues to claim, incredibly, that the Guantanamo detainees have no constitutional right of access. At the same time, detainees are pressured to plead their cases before a military panel without the due process guarantees available in federal court, a move some are resisting. (emphasis added)

Gee, I wonder why. Does the term ‘railroaded’ come to mind?

It has been a full two months since the SCOTUS decision and the military authorities at Gitmo haven’t even begun to comply. What’s happening there takes foot-dragging to a whole new level–the level of paying no attention to it whatever. They are simply going on as before while making a few token gestures here and there. After two months it’s fair to ask: ‘Are the Gitmo authorities ignoring the court order? And do they intend to go on ignoring it until they bully the detainees into accepting military tribunals rather than civilian trials?’

Given that we now know that what’s been going on at Gitmo is even worse than the most cynical and pessimistic among us thought, can it be that the military is trying to drag this out until after the election in order to spare Junior yet another scandal? And since the military is, in essence, the final enforcement arm of the govt, who’s going to make them obey the SCOTUS order if they continue to flaunt it? The Florida State Police? (Not that they have jurisdiction, mind you, but they’re the closest.) The National Guard? Are we willing to make the services discipline each other? If the Army continues to pretend the SCOTUS decision is unimportant and doesn’t apply to them, are we going to send in the Navy to bombard Gitmo from the sea and order the Marines to land in full battle gear to take Gitmo by force? I hardly think so.

The Gitmo authorities clearly believe that by being off-shore they are above the law and can do what they like–or not–and there’s nothing anybody can do about it. Well, isn’t that the reason Bush established Gitmo in the first place? So it would be outside the realm of any possible domestic oversight or intervention? Still, it’s hard to believe, even in BushAmerica, that the military would be so contemptuous of civilian control unless they had orders to do so from civilian authorities like, for example, Dick Cheney or Don Rumsfeld.

The restrictions on the lawyers are telling: maybe they can see their clients but only if they agree not to ask them about ill-treatment and torture? Almost makes you think the military is afraid of the answers, doesn’t it? Only the naive think that the previous scandal caused the Army to abandon what it euphemistically calls its ‘softening-up’ techniques; scaled them back, possibly, but no more. Army officials continue to defend the techniques by asserting that they’re working, providing reams of ‘intelligence’ we wouldn’t otherwise have. Of course the quality of that intelligence is something they rarely address and only when forced to–it seems it’s been pretty useless overall.

So what we have here is a military that has been engaging in at best dubious and at worst illegal interrogation techniques in an off-shore facility patently untouchable by civilian authority–not even the Supreme Court cuts any ice here–that is protecting its own ass and that of the president by thumbing its nose at a legal order from the Highest Court in the Land and practically daring them to do anything about it.

This is getting uglier by the day and nobody is covering it. So what else is new?

Abu Ghraib: The Big Lie Is Working–Part 1

The Rolling Stone article detailing the abuses at Abu Ghraib ended the drought of news stories about the torture inflicted by American soldiers, intelligence agents, and civilian contractors since CBS’ 60 Minutes‘ pictures and Seymour Hersh’s original charges ignited the firestorm in May, and the obvious questions are being raised: Where have all the reporters gone? Why did it take a rock magazine to break this story–again? The trials of the AG6 are under way, revelations are coming out daily that clearly describe a pattern of abuse and suggest that the pattern had been ordered from above, and yet our media has gone off the story. Why?

A long essay in The American Journalism Review by senior writer Sherri Ricchiardi attempts to get to the bottom of this puzzling (to her) widespread abrogation of journalistic duty. ‘Missed Signals’ catalogs a series of reasons, excuses, and rationalizations given by media reps that makes for depressing reading, particularly when they’re trying to explain away the lack of coverage after the initial blizzard of articles came under attack from the Mighty Wurlitzer of the right wing. To some extent, one can credit their slowness in picking up on the story in the first place.

After chronicling the sequence of ‘red flags’ that barely raised an eyebrow (‘ In November, the Associated Press was among the first to raise alarms about abuse at Abu Ghraib – but few of the AP’s clients showcased the story, if they ran it at all.’), Ricchiardi asks, ‘Why did it take so long for the news media to uncover the scandal? What went wrong?’ The answers are instructive.

#WaPo Exec Editor Leonard Downie: On Jan 16, Baghdad command issued a one paragraph press release that said, ‘An investigation has been initiated into reported incidents of detainee abuse’–no details. Downie gives Excuse #1: ‘They Didn’t Dump It In Our Laps.’

“Have you ever read that paragraph? They made it as innocent-sounding as possible, and it just wasn’t noticed the way it should have been.”

Excuse me but didn’t it used to be a reporter’s job to read between the lines? What was Downie expecting, a press release that said, ‘American soldiers are systematically torturing, raping, and occasionally killing Iraqi prisoners in an effort to obtain information from them’? There is a rather bizarre tendency abroad in the land these days that extends to police depts as much as to would-be journalists: if it doesn’t walk through the door and fall in your lap it a) doesn’t exist, or b) isn’t important. This is called ‘laziness’ but they see it as ‘efficiency’: it takes a lot less time to print what’s handed to you than it does to chase something down.

# NPR foreign editor Loren Jenkins, talking about the administration’s approach to news-handling, gives us Excuse #2: ‘They Manipulated Us.’

‘”I have never seen greater news management in 30-plus years in this business. They are very skilled at it.”

Again, isn’t it a journalist’s job to see through that? Or at least question it? Hasn’t Jenkins had enough experience to know when news is being manipulated? You’d think 30+ years would be sufficient training. Jenkins admits as much:

“But that’s what the Fourth Estate is all about – poking holes in news management,” says Jenkins, who covered the Vietnam War. “Our job is to find out whether we’re being told the truth or not.”Yet, when it comes to Abu Ghraib, “basically we couldn’t get at the story,” he admits. “We all had people telling us about mistreatment, but it was hard to verify on our own. It took the pictures to say, ‘This is undeniable.’

Jenkins is actually onto something there: One of the biggest reasons reporters and editors ignored this story was that they just flat couldn’t believe it–couldn’t believe that American soldiers would be ordered to torture prisoners to obtain information, couldn’t believe that they would so easily and comfortably obey those orders. The American press ignored the signals in large part because their view of what America was and how it treated those in its charge was a fantasy that didn’t allow for such things as turture and cruelty. ‘That’s not who we are,’ as Kerry said recently. This is called ‘naivete’ and is a dangerous indulgence for a reporter, but they think of it as ‘patriotism’: waving the flag gets you a lot more positive feedback than pointing out that it has a hole in it.

# LAT Washington bureau chief Doyle McManus, and Excuse #3: ‘We Were Busy Covering Other Stories.’

“We can’t fault our reporters in Iraq for not dropping everything else they were doing to get this story. If one of those reporters had said, ‘This is the tip of the iceberg,’ which we now know it was, it’s possible we would have put some more resources into it and done more digging. But I don’t think they realized there was an iceberg underneath.”

How could they? They didn’t look. And even when somebody did look, everyone ignored what they saw.

Asked [by Ricchiardi–MA] if the L.A. Times had run a story after the January 16 press release about the abuse probe, McManus turned to his computer. He quickly found a 15-inch piece by a Times reporter that had run on page A6 titled “Coalition investigating prison abuse.” “It was another red flag we didn’t pick up on” in Washington, McManus said of the story. “I’m not happy about that.”

McManus hadn’t thought to do that before he was asked to? Isn’t that the Editor’s job? As most of you know, the Left Blogosphere was all over this almost from the beginning, using European papers and magazines as source-material. They knew enough to be suspicious, to wonder immediately if the soldiers were following orders from higher up, but the Wash b-c of one of the biggest papers in the country ‘didn’t pick up on’ it? This is called ‘willful blindness’, wherein stories that would lead to the reporting of uncomfortable realities that readers don’t want to hear about are conveniently shoved ‘under the radar’ where they can’t damage a paper’s ad revenues. But they call it ‘prioritizing’: reporters can’t cover everything (the news outlets don’t have the budgets for that) and choices have to be made.

# AP reporter Charles J Hanley, offers Excuse #4: ‘I Didn’t Have Time.’

“We were all in a very pressure-filled, difficult situation, trying to cover a very sprawling story. Something like this was not readily available,” says Hanley, who wrote an early but largely ignored story on prisoner mistreatment. “It took me weeks, on and off, to find the released detainees.”

In other words, the huge wire service was understaffed and couldn’t assign him or another reporter full-time to the story. This is called ‘the tyranny of the bottom line’ and news divisions have been suffering from it for years. Even though news shows have far lower production costs than your average sit-com and have been, historically, network cash cows, modern corporate media moguls always want MORE, and cutting salaries and positions is their preferred way of getting it–yet another service provided by Jack ‘The Axe’ Welch and Rupert ‘Why Do We Need Three Reporters Covering the Environment? Fire One and Put the Other One on the Vince Foster Story’ Murdoch to American corporate journalism. They, however, consider it ‘being lean and mean’: corporate investors don’t like to see profits wasted on investigative reporters uncovering stories they’d rather not read–or hear, or see, or know anything about–and they are, after all, The Boss.

# Finally, Marvin Kalb, old-school journalist and presently a senior fellow at Harvard University’s Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, cuts through the crap and lays out a reason that is close to the truth: ‘It Wasn’t Patriotic.’

[T]he government has played on the patriotism of journalists, raising the terrorism banner to deflect press criticism. That could make a difference in how reporters pursue a story that might embarrass the U.S., particularly when soldiers are dying in a foreign land.”There is an awareness on the part of the White House that this tendency exists, so they go for it, exploit it,” says Kalb. “It isn’t that [the government] beats somebody over the head. They don’t have to. That’s what makes it so much more painful.

“Maybe the rush of patriotism we saw in spades after 9/11 has continued,” he adds. “Maybe editors fell asleep and didn’t ask reporters to pursue obvious lines of inquiry [about Abu Ghraib]. The news industry itself has not been glowingly successful in coverage of the war on terror.”

Possibly the Understatement of the Week. The press has been criminally negligent in WOT coverage if we’re going by Kalb’s ancient ethics, and yet every one of their Excuses are also legitimate realities that today’s reporters and editors will face as long as they’re working in the corporate media. The days when Edward R Murrow’s legacy of courage and integrity dominated the news business are gone, possibly forever. In the corporate media, ‘business’ is the dominant force now; ‘news’ is just another product for sale. The whole concept of ‘news’ as first a public service and a protector of democracy, and second a profit-making enterprise, has been stood on its head. Now the second is considered the sole reason for its existence, and the first has been put out to pasture–integrity is passe in the corporate culture, and public values mean nothing.

There are several Big Lies at work here: News doesn’t matter; the public doesn’t need to know anything it doesn’t want to know; reporters are just employees, not professionals you hire to do a specific job; there’s no conflict between corporate goals and public needs. But perhaps the most important BL is this: Corporations as a whole have no responsibility to contribute anything to the common good, and corporate media in particular have no responsibility as democratic watchdogs; that they exist for one purpose and one purpose only: to make money.

Murrow’s generation understood that this was a Lie; Murdoch’s generation doesn’t.

Resource Papers

Kathy at Random Thoughts has resource section she calls ‘Torture Inc.’ with links to a lot of the basic documents and pivotal reporting on Abu Ghraib, including photos and videos, the chain of command, Seymour Hersh articles, the Gonzales memo, and a bunch more.

She has just added a raft of new documents.

2002 02/02 State Dept Memo to White House: This is a memo from the State Department’s legal advisor, William Taft, to the White House counsel, Alberto Gonzalez. Taft warns that rejecting the applicability of the Geneva Conventions creates several problems, including the elimination of protection for our troops in the event that they are captures….2002 02/07 Directive from Bush on Detainee Treatment: Memo stating that new war on terrorism requires new thinking in the law of war, but thinking that should be consistent with the principles of the Geneva Conventions. The directive states that Bush accepts the DOJ conclusion that the Geneva Conventions don’t apply to al Qaeda, that he has the constitutional authority to suspend the Conventions in reference to the Taliban but declines to do so at this time, and that nevertheless the Conventions don’t apply to the Taliban because per the DOJ and DOD they are illegal combatants….

2002 12/02 DOD Memo on Afghanistan Detainees: In reference to Gitmo Bay detainees. A memo from DOD general counsel William Haynes to Rumsfeld on “counter-resistance techniques”….

What she’s done is provide a major ‘repository’ where critical information on the torture at AG and the investigations that followed can live in the same place so you don’t have to go chasing all over the net to find stuff. As the trials get closer and the trails lead further up the chain of command, this is going to be the place to go to keep it all straight.

Check it out, then bookmark it–you’re going to need it.