Category Archives: Guantanamo

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 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

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

Gitmolasses

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?

Pinochet Clement Defends Gitmo

Paul D Clement, Deputy Solicitor-General, is arguing the Administration’s case against applying standard judicial procedures to the Gitmo prisoners. In the process, he is proving beyond the shadow of a doubt that the BA is distinctly undemocratic in outlook and instinctively authoritarian in nature.

This conclusion doesn’t arise just because they’re defending a basically indefensible concept; what is far more damning are the arguments they’re using to do it. In a court of law–the highest court in the land, no less, Clement began by saying that it was “remarkable that we have to confront this question when our troops are still on the ground in Afghanistan,” an argument that pre-supposes the SCOTUS has no role during a war. But that was only the beginning.

A majority of the justices expressed some degree of concern over the breadth of the administration’s position. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor asked Mr. Clement why “a neutral decision maker of some kind” could not be provided to determine whether a detainee is being properly held. “Is that so extreme that it should not be required?” she asked.Mr. Clement said the potential detainees’ initial screening, sorting those to be held from those who need not be, met that requirement. “For all intents and purposes, that is a neutral decision maker,” he said.

Um, what initial screening would that be? Is Mr Clement talking about the confab on the battlefield where the detainees were picked up? Or the kangaroo court in Gitmo run by the military–oh, darn. THERE WASN’T ONE.

Wait, it gets better. When Justice Ginsberg didn’t see why the detainees shouldn’t have “a forum” during which they could “explain themselves”, Clement answered that they already had one: their interrogation. “The interrogation process itself provides an opportunity for an individual to explain that this has all been a mistake.”

Is that right? Doggone, we done been wastin’ a awful lot o’ money on lawyers an’ judges and courts iffen that’s true. Hell, why, we could just say a police interrogation gives a suspect every chance to state his case to the cops an’ iffen they don’t buy it, then he’s guilty, pure an’ simple. Wham! Off he goes to jail for the rest o’ his life, and we’re done. No damn dumb “appeals” or even a tee-rial to appeal about. We could save $Billions$. We don’t need all that junk. Screw it. We got our justice system–the police.

This argument has been the justification and rationalization of every dictator of the past 100 years; the Soviets even enshrined it in law. Pinochet, accused of executing prisoners without a trial, pointed to the secret police interrogation as the only “trial” that was needed. He even used the same excuse–that these people were dangerous “anti-social terrorists” (he was talking about journalists, students, labor leaders, playwrights, teachers, and priests, by the way) and that the State was in a war for its survival and couldn’t afford little luxuries, like, say, a judicial system that might decide that some of his political the State’s enemies were innocent. In the Soviet Union, Stalin argued that his pogroms were necessary for “the security of the people and the people’s state”, and used the fear of the late 30’s when Hitler and Europe were readying for war to dismantle what was left of the old Czarist legal system (not much) and embark on the greatest murder spree in history in 1938.

What’s going on here? The virulently anti-Communist Republican right takes control and turns out to be exactly like the Soviets they hated? Aping their policies, mimicking their rationalizations, copying their techniques? But Mr Clement doesn’t have any problem with that.

“Doesn’t the court have some business intervening at some point if it’s the Hundred Years’ War or something?” Justice Stephen G. Breyer asked.Mr. Clement replied, “I’m not quite sure what you have in mind that they would intervene on.”

Golly, Paul, I dunno. Maybe BEING RAILROADED BY AN ADMINISTRATION THAT WANTS TO MAINTAIN AN UNPOPULAR WAR BY SHOWING US HOW ENDANGERED WE ARE? How about the possibility that the Administration’s designation was just WRONG? How about that? Over 100 of the Gitmo prisoners were released after almost two years of confinement because of lack of evidence. The Gitmo authorities arrested Capt Jimmy Yee for sedition and espionage and then had to drop the charges when his lawyers proved there was NO evidence to back them up. How about that? I mean, a trial is asking too much?

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, whose position appeared most in doubt, pressed Mr. Clement at one point for some sign of a concession. “I’m taking away from the argument the impression, and please correct me if I’m wrong, that you think there is a continuing role for the courts to examine the reasonableness of the period of detention,” he said in a hopeful tone.Mr. Clement was quick to correct him. “Well, I wouldn’t take that away, Justice Kennedy,” he said.

Translation: The Bush Admin does think that there is NO “continuing role for the courts”. As fas as they’re concerned, the Commissar-in-Chief is the one and only authority and everybody else ought to just shut up and go home like good little comrades.

Put this insane argument against the re-writing of history Seattle called our attention to, and this Admin isn’t just Orwell-like, it is Orwell brought to life. 1984 has Officially Arrived in the US, courtesy of George W Bush, First Emperor of America. Rove admires Imperial Rome? Well, Karl, your dreams have just come true. Enjoy it while you can because in November–pffffft!

Gitmo Commander Taking Over Iraq Prisons

Gitmo is a legal travesty. Prisoners have been badly mistreated (torture is routine), lawyer-client conversations are bugged by authorities (when prisoners are allowed to see lawyers at all), most of the 600 inmates are being held without charge and without opportunity for bail, and not one conviction for any “crime” has been obtained. The only inmate charged with wrong-doing, Jimmy Yee, was recently released for lack of evidence after almost two years’ incarceration, and nobody even apologized. The whole operation is disgraceful, an exercise in extrajudicial revenge that is in direct violation of the Geneva Convention.

So what do the Bushies do? Why, promote the man in charge, of course.

MIAMI — The Army general in charge of the prisoner operation at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has been reassigned to oversee prisoner detention operations in Iraq, U.S. military officials said Wednesday.For the last 18 months, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller has commanded the joint task force at Guantanamo that holds 600 foreign terrorism suspects, most of them captured during the war in Afghanistan. He will become deputy commander for detainee operations for the U.S.-led forces in Iraq, officials said.

Tom Engelhardt makes a case that this “temporary” prison system is about to become permanent, creating what he calls a “career ladder” in the military.

In Guantanamo, Cuba, and in occupied Iraq, in other words, we now have two black holes of injustice; and once you have two of anything that needs to be managed, you can always imagine one of them as more important than the other and you immediately have a career ladder.******************************

With remarkably little attention from our media, and deep in the shadows, the Bush administration is creating what Neal Katyal, chief counsel to the military defense lawyers in the Guantanamo case pending at the U.S. Supreme Court, calls a “legal Frankenstein.” Or maybe it’s just a Frankenstein.

In other words, the Bush Administration is about to replicate Gitmo in Iraq, presumably with its contempt for justice and legal procedures intact. Way to win their hearts and minds, guys.

One of the outstanding characteristics of all radcons is that they just loooooove enemies. Enemies justify their whole world-view; enemies excuse their greed, their nascent fascistic impulses, and their irritation with democratic principles. Enemies are, in fact, a requirement of radcons: without a passle of enemies, their policies have no reason to exist and their goals are meaningless. So if no enemies happen to be around, they create them.

This is, of course, in the finest Bush Family tradition. No sooner had the wall fallen in ’89 than Poppy was casting around for a new bad-guy. He found what he was looking for in Saddam. Randi pointed out in her show yesterday that before Hussein invaded Kuwait, he called us and, bassically, asked if it was OK? He was told that “the US government takes no position in Arab-to-Arab conflicts.” In other words, “Don’t worry about it, we won’t stop you.”

That wasn’t just a lie, it was a trick to justify announcing a new enemy to replace the one we’d just lost. And so the First Gulf War was born amid fanciful tales of Iraqi soldiers murdering incubator babies and eating them that was cooked up by an ambitious Publican PR flack who, like most Publicans these sad days, wasn’t overly concerned with facts, let alone truth, and the seeds of the Second Gulf War were sown to set up the second Imperial round.

One of the biggest necessities of all imperial govts is a prison system to house all its enemies and keep the satellite states in line. So we’re making one. The fact that prison systems are fertile ground for private companies like Blackwater is just a bonus.