"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Posts Tagged ‘Indefinite Detention’

The Obama Administrations Dick Cheney Moment

In Uncategorized on February 15, 2013 at 2:22 pm
Oldspeak: “”The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation… I reject the Bush Administration’s claim that the President has plenary authority under the Constitution to detain U.S. citizens without charges as unlawful enemy combatants.” -Senator Barack Obama, 2007 Yes. YET ANOTHER instance of candidate Obama, saying one thing and President Obama doing the EXACT OPPOSITE. Near universal silence or worse, cheerleading among far too many so-called progressives, democrats, and liberals. It is ingenious really, how effectively Obama silences dissent from all quarters, simply by being himself. Charming, brilliant,  likeable, thoughtful, well-spoken, self-confident. Most fail to criticize and oppose his corprocratic agenda pushing policies, by choosing to only to pay attention to his words, ignoring or apologizing for his inactions/actions. Conservatives and republicans criticism, is dismissed as crazy right-wing hate mongering (granted, much of it is.), or disgruntled and baseless complaints of a party out of power. The powers this president has claimed; to kill at will and detain indefinitely, with no verifiable reason, oversight or input from courts or congress is patently unconstitutional, anti-democratic, and immeasurably dangerous.  People need to understand that their right to dissent is under threat. We watch the news and it’s depictions of the horrible totalitarian/police state conditions in foreign lands and shake our heads in disdain, secure in the knowledge that “THAT” could never happen here, completely oblivious to the fact that IT IS HAPPENING HERE RIGHT NOW.  There is a “Constitution-Free Zone”, right now today in this “Land of The Free”, that the majority of Americans live in. Courts repeatedly uphold its lawfulness.  how long before that zone expands to include the rest of this “Greatest Nation On Earth”?  Apropos here is some wisdom from a wise man. “Conventional wisdom would have one believe that it is insane to resist this, the mightiest of empires, but what history really shows is that today’s empire is tomorrow’s ashes; that nothing lasts forever, and that to not resist is to acquiesce in your own oppression. The greatest form of sanity that anyone can exercise is to resist that force that is trying to repress, oppress, and fight down the human spirit.”  –Mumia Abu Jamal


By Dr. Wilmer J Leon @ Black Agenda Report:

In an interview in 2007 Senator Obama (D-IL) said, “The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation… I reject the Bush Administration’s claim that the President has plenary authority under the Constitution to detain U.S. citizens without charges as unlawful enemy combatants.” In 2013 Americans are facing a president with a different mindset.

A recently leaked White Paper is providing insight into the legal justifications for the Obama administration’s “targeted killing” program. The paper asserts that “high-level” government officials can “…use lethal force in a foreign country…against a U.S. citizen who is a senior operational leader of al-Qa’ida or an associated force…actively engaged in planning operations to kill Americans.” This legal framework also explains how lethal force can be used even if the “high-level” government officials do not have “…clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future.”

In September 2011 the administration used drone strikes to kill alleged al-Qaida operatives Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan. Al-Awlaki’s 16-year old son Abdulrahman al-Awlaki was also killed by a drone strike. All three were U.S. citizens and none of them had been indicted by the U.S. government for any crimes. According to The Guardian, “…the drone program now is run out of the White House, where (John) Brennan, the president’s most trusted counter-terror adviser, helps Obama pick the targets.” 

The rational behind the administration’s “assassination by drone” program sounds eerily reminiscent to former V.P. Dick Cheney’s “one-percent doctrine.” Cheney believed the so-called “war on terror” empowered the Bush administration to invade sovereign countries and violate American’s civil liberties without the need for evidence or extensive analysis. The facts did not matter. According to Cheney, “If there’s a 1% chance that Pakistani scientists are helping al-Qaeda build or develop a nuclear weapon, we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response. It’s not about our analysis … It’s about our response.”

The Obama administrations rational for targeted killings of American citizens contradict some of the basic framework of American democracy.Due process, habeas corpus, checks and balances, and bills of attainder are civil liberty protections guaranteed by the Constitution.

Due process is such an important protection that it is referenced in the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. The Due Process Clause acts as a safeguard from arbitrary denial of life, liberty, or property by the Government. For the President or other “high-level” government officials to act as judge, jury, and executioner irrespective of “…clear evidence…” of any immediate wrongdoing is the clearest example of arbitrarily denying life and liberty that one can imagine.

Habeas corpus requires a person under arrest to be brought before a judge in order to determine if an individual’s detention is warranted. Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution states, The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it.” The language refers to arrests, not assassination, but theoretically, summarily executing American citizens before they can even be detained is a contradiction of the highest order.

The concept of checks and balances is an important part of the Constitution. Each of the three branches of government can limit the powers of the others preventing any one branch from becoming too powerful. Under no circumstance should members of the executive branch be allowed to condemn American citizens to death, even in times of “war” without the review of an impartial judge. This also violates Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution, “No Bill of Attainder … shall be passed.” A Bill of Attainder is an act of a legislature or executive declaring a person or group of persons guilty of some crime and punishing them without privilege of a judicial trial.

The paper also concludes that the use of drone strikes for targeted killings would not be justified if it violated the fundamental law-of-war principles “…if anticipated civilian causalities (collateral damage) would be excessive in relation to the anticipated military advantage.” The administration has presented and defended drone strikes as an “antiseptic” use of technology. CIA nominee, John Brennan defended drone strikes as a more humane form of warfare. He said that “extraordinary care” is taken to ensure they conform to the “law of war principles” but stopped short of saying they are in compliance.

According to the Center for Research on Globalization, “At the end of January 2013, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism was able to identify by name 213 people killed by drones in Pakistan who were reported to be middle-or senior-ranking militants. A further 331 civilians have also now been named, 87 of them children. But this is a small proportion of the minimum 2,629 people who appear to have so far died in CIA drone strikes in Pakistan. The Bureau’s work suggests 475 of them were likely to have been civilians.” The administration has championed the use of drones as making Americans safer by killing terrorists. Killing innocent people in foreign countries creates more terrorists.

President Obama signed the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) containing sweeping worldwide indefinite detention provisions and signed into law a four-year extension of post-Sept. 11 powers (PATRIOT ACT) to search records and conduct roving wiretaps in pursuit of terrorists.  The rational behind the Obama administrations approach to civil liberties and warfare sounds eerily like a Dick Cheney moment.

Dr. Wilmer Leon is the Producer/ Host of the nationally broadcast call-in talk radio program “Inside the Issues With Leon,” and a Teaching Associate in the Department of Political Science at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Go to www.wilmerleon.com or email: wjl3us@yahoo.com. http://www.twitter.com/drwleon

Obama Wins Right To Indefinitely Detain Americans Under National Defense Authorization Act

In Uncategorized on September 20, 2012 at 1:35 pm
US President Barack Obama. (AFP photo/Robyn Beck)

Oldspeak:”It is my view that this is why the government wants to reopen the NDAA — so it has a tool to round up would-be Islamic protesters before they can launch any protest, violent or otherwise. Right now there are no legal tools to arrest would-be protesters. The NDAA would give the government such power. Since the request to vacate the injunction only comes about on the day of the riots, and following the DHS bulletin, it seems to me that the two are connected. The government wants to reopen the NDAA injunction so that they can use it to block protests.” Yet another example of the “War On Terror” being used as pretext to deprive Americans of their rights to dissent, protest, and petition their government for grievances. All this after Obama expressing ‘serious reservations’ about signing this law, he’s now aggressively litigating to retain the constitutional rights violating provisions in it.   Newspeak par excellence is on display here : “The fact that I support this bill as a whole does not mean I agree with everything in it. In particular, I have signed this bill despite having serious reservations with certain provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation, and prosecution of suspected terrorists.” –Barack Obama. Silence in corporate media on this assault on Constitutional Rights. Meanwhile, untold numbers of men, many of them without charges or cause are being detained indefinitely, tortured, rendered, interrogated, silenced in untold numbers of secret and no so secret locations around the globe. “Serious reservations” did not prevent this man from continuing the relentless expansion of a global U.S. led totalitarian police state.  Left unsaid is the profoudly slippery slop this ruling leads us down. How long will it be before “Islamic Protestors” is replaced with “Occupy Wall Street Protestors”? “Political Protestors”?  “Immigrant Protestors”? “Union Protestors”? “Education Protestors”? “Environmental Protestors”? “Veteran Protestors”? ” ‘What-you’re-protesting-here Protestors”?  ”Freedom Is Slavery”, “Ignorance Is Strength”

By RT:

A lone appeals judge bowed down to the Obama administration late Monday and reauthorized the White House’s ability to indefinitely detain American citizens without charge or due process.

Last week, a federal judge ruled that a temporary injunction on section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 must be made permanent, essentially barring the White House from ever enforcing a clause in the NDAA that can let them put any US citizen behind bars indefinitely over mere allegations of terrorist associations. On Monday, the US Justice Department asked for an emergency stay on that order, and hours later US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit Judge Raymond Lohier agreed to intervene and place a hold on the injunction.

The stay will remain in effect until at least September 28, when a three-judge appeals court panel is expected to begin addressing the issue.

On December 31, 2011, US President Barack Obama signed the NDAA into law, even though he insisted on accompanying that authorization with a statement explaining his hesitance to essentially eliminate habeas corpus for the American people.

“The fact that I support this bill as a whole does not mean I agree with everything in it,” President Obama wrote. “In particular, I have signed this bill despite having serious reservations with certain provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation, and prosecution of suspected terrorists.”

A lawsuit against the administration was filed shortly thereafter on behalf of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges and others, and Judge Forrest agreed with them in district court last week after months of debate. With the stay issued on Monday night, however, that justice’s decision has been destroyed.

With only Judge Lohier’s single ruling on Monday, the federal government has been once again granted the go ahead to imprison any person “who was part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners” until a poorly defined deadline described as merely “the end of the hostilities.” The ruling comes despite Judge Forrest’s earlier decision that the NDAA fails to “pass constitutional muster” and that the legislation contained elements that had a “chilling impact on First Amendment rights”

Because alleged terrorists are so broadly defined as to include anyone with simple associations with enemy forces, some members of the press have feared that simply speaking with adversaries of the state can land them behind bars.

“First Amendment rights are guaranteed by the Constitution and cannot be legislated away,” Judge Forrest wrote last week. “This Court rejects the Government’s suggestion that American citizens can be placed in military detention indefinitely, for acts they could not predict might subject them to detention.”

Bruce Afran, a co-counsel representing the plaintiffs in the case Hedges v Obama, said Monday that he suspects the White House has been relentless in this case because they are already employing the NDAA to imprison Americans, or plan to shortly.

“A Department of Homeland Security bulletin was issued Friday claiming that the riots [in the Middle East] are likely to come to the US and saying that DHS is looking for the Islamic leaders of these likely riots,” Afran told Hedges for a blogpost published this week. “It is my view that this is why the government wants to reopen the NDAA — so it has a tool to round up would-be Islamic protesters before they can launch any protest, violent or otherwise. Right now there are no legal tools to arrest would-be protesters. The NDAA would give the government such power. Since the request to vacate the injunction only comes about on the day of the riots, and following the DHS bulletin, it seems to me that the two are connected. The government wants to reopen the NDAA injunction so that they can use it to block protests.”

Within only hours of Afran’s statement being made public, demonstrators in New York City waged a day of protests in order to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Although it is not believed that the NDAA was used to justify any arrests, more than 180 political protesters were detained by the NYPD over the course of the day’s actions. One week earlier, the results of a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the American Civil Liberties Union confirmed that the FBI has been monitoring Occupy protests in at least one instance, but the bureau would not give further details, citing that decision is “in the interest of national defense or foreign policy.”

Josh Gerstein, a reporter with Politico, reported on the stay late Monday and acknowledged that both Forrest and Lohier were appointed to the court by President Obama.

U.S. Judge Stikes Down Indefinite Detention Provision In National Defense Authorization Act; Obama Administration Appeals Decision

In Uncategorized on September 14, 2012 at 1:00 pm

Oldspeak:The NDAA included a clause which afforded the military the power to detain civilians — even Americans — indefinitely, without charge or trial, if they are accused of certain ‘anti-state crimes’ or are accused of “substantially supporting” those accused of said crimes or forces associated therewith.    If that sounds tortuous and nebulous it’s because it is:” –David Segal. This is great victory for journalists, political activists, dissidents, and scholars. No longer will Americans and civilians around the world be allowed to be “disappeared” for speaking out against the woefully anti-democratic U.S. Government and its cohorts worldwide. “

 

 

 

Related Story:

Obama To Authorize Indefinite Detention Of U.S. Citizens For First Time Since McCarthy Era

By Alexander Reed Kelly @ Truthdig:

A temporary stop on the U.S. military’s power to imprison anyone deemed to have “substantially supported” terrorist groups was made permanent on Wednesday when U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest ruled that journalists could be snatched up under the law.

The ruling against a provision in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act frustrates the government’s attempts to grant itself the ability to indefinitely detain anyone it could associate with terrorist activity, including domestic protesters.

Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges had sued the Obama administration over the provision, along with journalists, scholars and political activists Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg and Naomi Wolf. Judge Forrest placed a temporary injunction on the provision in Section 1021 of the law in May.

“This court does not disagree with the principle that the president has primacy in foreign affairs,” Forrest said in Wednesday’s ruling. But government arguments in favor of the provision were not convincing, she said.

“The government has not stated that such conduct—which, by analogy, covers any writing, journalistic and associational activities that involve al Qaeda, the Taliban or whomever is deemed “associated forces”—does not fall within § 1021(b)(2).”

U.S. Judge’s Rule Protects Reporters, Activists In Their Middle East Work

By  Basil Katz @ Reuters:

A federal judge made permanent on Wednesday her order blocking enforcement of a U.S. law’s provision that authorizes military detention for people deemed to have “substantially supported” al Qaeda, the Taliban or “associated forces.”

U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest in Manhattan had ruled in May in favor of non-profit groups and reporters whose work relates to conflicts in the Middle East and who said they feared being detained under a section of the law, signed by President Barack Obama in December.

Wednesday’s 112-page opinion turns the temporary injunction of May into a permanent injunction. The United States appealed on August 6.

The permanent injunction prevents the U.S. government from enforcing a portion of Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act’s “Homeland Battlefield” provisions.

The opinion stems from a January lawsuit filed by former New York Times war correspondent and Pulitzer Prize winner Chris Hedges and others. The plaintiffs said they had no assurance that their writing and advocacy activities would not fall under the scope of the provision.

Government attorneys argued that the executive branch is entitled to latitude when it comes to cases of national security and that the law is neither too broad nor overly vague.

“This court does not disagree with the principle that the president has primacy in foreign affairs,” the judge said, but that she was not convinced by government arguments.

“The government has not stated that such conduct – which, by analogy, covers any writing, journalistic and associational activities that involve al Qaeda, the Taliban or whomever is deemed “associated forces” – does not fall within § 1021(b)(2).”

A spokeswoman for the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office, which represents the government in this case, declined to comment on the ruling.

The case is Hedges et al v. Obama et al, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, No. 12-cv-331.

Judge Strikes Down Indefinite Detention: Tell Obama To Stop Supporting This Wretched Law

By David Segal @ The Daily Kos:

We just won the lawsuit against Obama et al over the indefinite detention provisions of the fiscal 2012 National Defense Authorization Act. These provisions represented a blatant violation of due process and First Amendment rights, and plaintiffs argued that they were already having a chilling effect on journalists and activists.

The NDAA included a clause which afforded the military the power to detain civilians — even Americans — indefinitely, without charge or trial, if they are accused of certain anti-state crimes or are accused of “substantially supporting” those accused of said crimes or forces associated therewith.    If that sounds tortuous and nebulous it’s because it is: What the heck does “substantially support” or “associated force” even mean?

You can urge Obama not to appeal the ruling by clicking here.

In a sweeping 112-page ruling (which I’ve not yet read in full) Judge Katherine Forrest issued a permanent injunction against the use of such powers.  Here’s Reuters:

A federal judge made permanent on Wednesday her order blocking enforcement of a U.S. law’s provision that authorizes military detention for people deemed to have “substantially supported” al Qaeda, the Taliban or “associated forces.”

U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest in Manhattan had ruled in May in favor of non-profit groups and reporters whose work relates to conflicts in the Middle East and who said they feared being detained under a section of the law, signed by President Barack Obama in December.

Plaintiffs include Chris Hedges, Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg, Tangerine Bolen, and others; Demand Progress and RevolutionTruth members have raised more than $20,000 to support the lawsuit and used it to pressure lawmakers to revoke the provions in question.  We lost a relatively narrow vote in the House a few months ago, and the Senate will take up amendments to end indefinite detention in coming weeks.

We’re hoping the Senate will actually take this finding of unconstitutionality to heart and explicitly revoke the codification of the indefinite detention authority when the NDAA gets a vote in coming weeks.

This ruling required great fortitude on the part of Judge Forrest: She was appointed by Obama just last year.  After initially expressing concerns about the provisions in question — because they infringed on certain executive power, not because of all of the reasons above — Obama has consistently supported and defended them.  He signed them into law under cloak of darkness on New Year’s Eve and has aggressively defended them in court.

This’ll probably get appealed all the way up to the Supreme Court — but you can click here to urge Obama to stop protecting this awful law.

What If Kobe Bryant Were An Imprisoned Palestinian Football Player?

In Uncategorized on May 11, 2012 at 5:47 pm

Oldspeak:”The newest heroes of the Palestinian cause are not burly young men hurling stones or wielding automatic weapons. They are gaunt adults, wrists in chains, starving themselves inside Israeli prisons.”-Jodi Rudoren

By Dave Zirin @ The Nation Magazine:

Imagine if a member of Team USA Basketball—let’s say Kobe Bryant—had been traveling to an international tournament only to be seized by a foreign government and held in prison for three years without trial or even hearing the charges for which he was imprisoned. Imagine if Kobe was allowed no visitation from family or friends. Imagine if he was left no recourse but to effectively end any future prospects as a player by terminating his own physical health by going on a hunger strike. Chances are we’d notice, yes? Chances are the story would lead SportsCenter and make newspaper covers across the world. Chances are all the powerful international sports organizations—the IOC, FIFA—would treat the jailing nation as a pariah until Kobe was free. And chances are that even Laker-haters would wear buttons that read, “Free Kobe.”

This is what has happened to Palestinian national soccer team member Mahmoud Sarsak. Sarsak, who hails from Rafah in the Gaza Strip, was seized at a checkpoint on his way to a national team contest in the West Bank. This was July 2009. Since that date, the 25-year-old has been held without trial and without charges. His family and friends haven’t been permitted to see him. In the eyes of the Israeli government, Sarsak can be imprisoned indefinitely because they deem him to be an “illegal combatant” although no one—neither family, nor friends, nor coaches—has the foggiest idea why. Now Sarsak is one of more than 1,500 Palestinian prisoners on a hunger strike to protest their conditions and lack of civil liberties. As the New York Times wrote last week, “The newest heroes of the Palestinian cause are not burly young men hurling stones or wielding automatic weapons. They are gaunt adults, wrists in chains, starving themselves inside Israeli prisons.”

But no organization has claimed Sarsak as a member or issued fiery calls for his freedom. All we have is a family and a team that are both bewildered and devastated by his indefinite detention. His brother Iman said, “My family never imagined that Mahmoud would have been imprisoned by Israel. Why, really why?”

His family doesn’t understand how someone, whose obsession was soccer, not politics, could be targeted and held in such a manner. But in today’s Israel/Palestine, soccer is politics. Sarsak is only the latest Palestinian player to be singled out for harassment or even death by the Israeli government. In 2009, three national team players, Ayman Alkurd, Shadi Sbakhe and Wajeh Moshtahe, were killed during the bombing of Gaza. The National Stadium as well as the offices of the Palestinian Football Association were also targeted and destroyed in the Gaza bombing. In addition, their goalie, Omar Abu Rwayyis, was arrested by Israeli police in 2012 on “terrorism charges.” If you degrade the national team, you degrade the idea that there could ever be a nation.

More than police violence is a part of this process of athletic degradation. Currently the Palestinian soccer team is ranked 164th in the world and they’ve have never been higher than 115th. As one sports writer put it delicately, “Given the passion for football that burns among Palestinians, such lowly status hints at problems on the ground.”

These problems on the ground include curfews and checkpoints in the West Bank and Gaza that often mean the forfeiting of matches. If Palestinians living in Israel’s borders want to play for the team, they have to give up any benefits of Israeli citizenship. The end result is that the Palestinian national team becomes dependent on the Diaspora, relying heavily on Palestinians who have lived for two and three generations in South America and Europe. This is why many of the key players on Palestine’s national team are named Roberto or Pablo.

In 2010, Michel Platini, president of European football’s ruling body—Israel plays in the European qualifiers—threatened Israel with expulsion from FIFA if it continues to undermine football in Palestine. Platini said, “Israel must choose between allowing Palestinian sport to continue and prosper or be forced to face the consequences for their behaviour.” Yet Platini never followed through on threats and quite the opposite, awarded Israel the 2013 Under-21 European Championships.

On Wednesday, the British organization Soccer Without Borders, said that they would be calling for a boycott of the tournament, writing:

Football Beyond Borders, a student-led organisation which uses the universal power of football to tackle political, social and cultural issues, stands in solidarity with Mahmoud Sarsak and all of the Palestinian political prisoners currently being detained by Israel on hunger strike, as together we protest the injustices being inflicted upon Palestinian prisoners in Israel, and draw attention to their plight. [We] take this opportunity to announce our official boycott of the UEFA 2013 Under-21 European Championships, which Israel has been awarded the honour of hosting.

Soccer Without Borders joined forty-two football clubs and dozens of team captains, managers and sports commentators in Gaza who submitted a letter to Platini in 2011 demanding that European football’s governing body reverse its decision to allow Israel to host the under-21 tournament.

Amidst all this tumult is Mahmoud Sarsak, a threat for reasons no one can comprehend and Israel will not reveal. As long as Sarsak remains indefinitely detained and as long as Israel targets sport and athletes as legitimate targets of war, they have no business being rewarded by FIFA or the UEFA, let alone even being a part of the community of international sports. If Sarsak is to see the inside of a courtroom and if Israel is to, as Platini said, “face the consequences for their behaviour,” silence is not an option. After all, even a Celtic fan would surely agree, we’d do it for Kobe.

 

Obama Rings In The New Year By Signing “National Defense Authorization Act” In To Law, Allowing Indefinite Detention Of Americans

In Uncategorized on January 3, 2012 at 11:36 am

Oldspeak:Any hope that the Obama administration would roll back the constitutional excesses of George Bush in the “war on terror” was extinguished today. Thankfully, we have three branches of government, and the final word belongs to the Supreme Court, which has yet to rule on the scope of detention authority. But Congress and the president also have a role to play in cleaning up the mess they have created because no American citizen or anyone else should live in fear of this or any future president misusing the NDAA’s detention authority”-Anthony D. Romero, ACLU Executive Director Meanwhile, this brazen violation of the bill of rights, passes, much like the USA PATRIOT Act with little or no comment in corporate media. Probably because as you I’m sure are aware, corporate news media goes offline on the weekend. Hour upon hours of crime and infidelity and money and infotainment doccudramas. So with little more than a pause between holiday drinks, more of you civil liberties have been taken from you. Away we go down this slippery slope! It will be interesting to see as more and more freedoms are eliminated, and more and more people are viewed as “domestic terrorists” for protesting unconstitutional laws, who will be labeled “terrorists” or “enemy combatants” in the future. Intellectutals? Journalists? Activists? Bloggers?  Happy New Year!”

By Washington’s Blog :

Obama signed the NDAA – including a provision allowing the indefinite detention of Americans – on New Year’s eve.

Obama issued a “signing statement” with the bill, which – at first blush – appears to say he won’t indefinitely detain Americans. Specifically, Obama wrote:

My administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens … Indeed, I believe that doing so would break with our most important traditions and values as a nation.

But a closer reading shows that the signing statement is just smoke and mirrors.

Specifically, it was Obama – not Congress – who originally requested that an exception for American citizens be removed from the bill. As such, his professed reluctance is wholly disingenuous.

Moreover, Obama signed a bill which would allow future presidents to indefinitely detain U.S. citizens, and his signing statement in no way limits their power to run roughshod over our rights.

As the ACLU notes:

The statute contains a sweeping worldwide indefinite detention provision. While President Obama issued a signing statement saying he had “serious reservations” about the provisions, the statement only applies to how his administration would use the authorities granted by the NDAA, and would not affect how the law is interpreted by subsequent administrations. The White House had threatened to veto an earlier version of the NDAA, but reversed course shortly before Congress voted on the final bill.

“President Obama’s action today is a blight on his legacy because he will forever be known as the president who signed indefinite detention without charge or trial into law,” said Anthony D. Romero, ACLU executive director. “The statute is particularly dangerous because it has no temporal or geographic limitations, and can be used by this and future presidents to militarily detain people captured far from any battlefield. The ACLU will fight worldwide detention authority wherever we can, be it in court, in Congress, or internationally.”

Under the Bush administration, similar claims of worldwide detention authority were used to hold even a U.S. citizen detained on U.S. soil in military custody, and many in Congress now assert that the NDAA should be used in the same way again. The ACLU believes that any military detention of American citizens or others within the United States is unconstitutional and illegal, including under the NDAA. In addition, the breadth of the NDAA’s detention authority violates international law because it is not limited to people captured in the context of an actual armed conflict as required by the laws of war.

“We are incredibly disappointed that President Obama signed this new law even though his administration had already claimed overly broad detention authority in court,” said Romero. “Any hope that the Obama administration would roll back the constitutional excesses of George Bush in the war on terror was extinguished today. Thankfully, we have three branches of government, and the final word belongs to the Supreme Court, which has yet to rule on the scope of detention authority. But Congress and the president also have a role to play in cleaning up the mess they have created because no American citizen or anyone else should live in fear of this or any future president misusing the NDAA’s detention authority.”

In addition, Obama has claimed the power to assassinate American citizens without any trial or charge. Obama’s signing statement doesn’t even pretend to limit that power.

Tarek Mehanna Convicted For Words, Not Deeds, After 3 Years Surveillance, Failed Inducement To Commit Terrorist Acts & Turn Informant For FBI

In Uncategorized on December 23, 2011 at 12:02 pm

Oldspeak:“Ripped from the pages of “1984” we see the use of the “material support for terrorism clause”  to suppress unpopular ideas, dissent, free speech and in effect ‘disappear’ people.  This man has been in solitary confinement for 793 days. This man could be you. You can by law be detained, tried, convicted, and sent to jail for the rest of your life for what you say, the media you consume, and who you associate with if it is deemed ‘terrorist’ in nature. Let that sink in. First think about the fact that Department of Defense now defines exercising First Amendment rights via protest and political activism as “low-level terrorism”, and let it sink in some more. Second, think about the fact that American citizens are subject to ‘rendition’, essentially being disappeared to any number of the vast network of black site prisons around the world indefinitely. And let it sink in that much more. It’s pretty profound isn’t it. You’re 1st amendment right are being criminalized. Your ability to resist tyranny is being neutralized. And the wild thing about this case is the FBI tried to recruit this man as an informant, he refused. The FBI tried to provide him with the means to carry out a terrorist plot, he refused. In essence, this man, Tarek Mehanna was convicted for refusing to cooperate with the government, spy on his people, and become a terrorist. This is all part of a disturbing pattern of behavior  by American law enforcement.  Manufacturing terrorism to coerce the  populace into relinquishing more and more of their civil and privacy rights. “Ignorance Is Strength”

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Free Tarek Mehanna

By Patrick Tracey @ Salon:

Call it “the week that was” when it comes to shredding the Constitution. First the Senate passes a rider to the defense bill that would make it legal for the military to arrest American citizens anywhere in the world, including U.S. soil, at the whim of the executive branch — this or any future executive branch.

Then comes the conviction yesterday of a Massachusetts man for viewing and translating jihadi videos online. The eight-week trial featured starkly contrasting portrayals of the bearded Muslim, Tarek Mehanna, a Sudbury, Mass., fundamentalist who traveled to Yemen and has made no secret of his contempt for U.S. foreign policy.

His Boston legal team haloed him as a kind and loving man, if an angry and opinionated intellectual type. They argued he was being persecuted for his disapproval of  U.S. foreign policy. The government countered with the belief that Mehanna was just the sort of hater who’d take glee in seeing Americans getting gunned down in bloody shopping malls.

American Muslims took it on the chin big-time this week, between the Mehanna case, the more troubling rider to the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act now waiting for the president’s signature, to say nothing of home improvement chain Lowe’s yanking sponsorship of the “All American Muslim” show on TLC.  If the president signs the defense bill unamended, it will represent the single biggest civil liberties betrayal of his presidency.

The implications are profound and simple.

“They both came out the same week, but they are part of a pattern of putting to one side the fundamental freedoms we’ve taken for granted. We’re into a whole new legal terrain,” said Nancy Murray of the Massachusetts chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. ”As the Senate gutted the Bill of Rights, just as it gutted the right to due process and the right to trial by jury, the whole notion of presumption of innocence goes out the window. And the scary thing is that it could be applied to all U.S. citizens.”

When not watching Lowe’s ads on the popular reality show, Muslim parents are sure to hit the pause button for a quiet word with their children about expressing strident opinions online. And they won’t mean maybe, either, because sentencing for Mehanna is set for as soon as April 12, and he may never see the light of day again — he could be sentenced to life in prison.  The message is unequivocal: You’d better watch your Muslim mouth. 

Mehanna made no bones about watching jihadi videos and translating them for friends; no bones about lending CDs to people in the Boston area in order, as the prosecution asserted, to create like­-minded youth; no bones about  discussing with friends his views of suicide bombings, the killing of civilians, and dying on the battlefield in the name of Allah. He translated texts that were freely available online and looked for information there about the 19 9/11 hijackers too. He even inquired into how to transfer files from one computer to another, and how to keep those files from being hacked.

However unpopular those acts may be, civil libertarians say they fall well within the margins of First Amendment protection. They are bracing themselves for repeal, but their immediate concern is the ending of posse comitatus, a far more serious matter. If the president, a constitutional scholar, signs the Senate-passed defense bill as is, then in the stroke of a pen he’ll have re-answered the age-old joke: “Is this a free country, or what?” The answer will be a resounding “or what,” but it’s no joke. Coming on the same week that the Bill of Rights had its 220th anniversary, you have to ask what’s more depleted these days: America’s outrage or its unkeen sense of irony?

The ACLU of Massachusetts submitted a brief in the Mehanna case, but it was refused by Judge O’Toole, who felt it was not suitable for this trial. The amicus curiae urged the court to proceed with the utmost care to prevent protected speech from constituting the sole basis for charges of conspiring to provide material support to terrorist groups. The brief said Mehanna had “engaged in discussions and watched and translated readily available media on the topics of global politics, wars, and religion, all of which are topics of public concern. That his views may be offensive or disagreeable, or that they may ‘create like-minded youth,’ is of no consequence to the heightened protection to which his expression is entitled as a result of the First Amendment.”

Through such acts Mehanna was convicted yesterday of conspiracy to provide material support to al-Qaida. If such speech is not protected as a free expression under the First Amendment, “then the government’s implicit view that such speech could alone support conviction threatens to render the material support statute a vehicle for the suppression of unpopular ideas, contrary to the dictates of the First Amendment and fundamental American values.”

Civil liberties advocates make the “slippery slope” argument. In the 2010 case Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, which decided whether providing nonviolent aid like legal advice to terrorist groups constitutes material support for terrorism, the Supreme Court ruled that you can advocate as an individual, but if your advocacy is coordinated with an outfit on a terrorist list, then it’s criminal conspiracy and you can be convicted of giving terrorist support.

The ACLU believes that Mehanna’s activities were not shown to meet that test, “so the real reason for convicting him seems to be missing,” Murray said. “The trial featured all sorts of allegations of traveling but there was no hard proof that his advocacy was coordinated with a group.”

Grounds for appeal appear to be more than ample. “For one thing,” said Murray, “the courts should be very worried that it criminalizes unpopular speech. The First Amendment should’ve protected his translating material that he read on the internet. Unless they could’ve said he was doing that at the behest of a terrorist group, they’ve never actually made that direct connection.”

Obama To Authorize Indefinite Detention Of U.S. Citizens For First Time Since McCarthy Era

In Uncategorized on December 21, 2011 at 12:56 pm

Oldspeak: “‘President Obama will go down in history as the president who enshrined indefinite detention without trial in US law’ –Human Rights Watch. President Obama has just stated a policy that he can have any American citizen killed without any charge, without any review, except his own. If he’s satisfied that you are a terrorist, he says that he can kill you anywhere in the world including in the United States. Two of his aides just reaffirmed they believe that American citizens can be killed on the order of the President anywhere including the United States. You’ve now got a president who says that he can kill you on his own discretion. He can jail you indefinitely on his own discretion.” –Jonathan Turley, Law Professor, George Washington University The Police State has been officially codified. You can be indefinitely detained or even killed at the whim of the President.  We are living in the age of the Unitary Executive. Not surprising given President Obama’s consistent support for indefinite detention. Never mind that Candidate Obama vehemently opposed it and condemned it as a “black hole” of injustice.  ” The treatment of Bradley Manning provides a glimpse into the future of how citizens who dare reveal truth and disrupt the status quo will be treated. More change I can’t believe in. “Freedom Is Slavery”

Related stories

By Glen Greenwald @ Salon:

In one of the least surprising developments imaginable, President Obama – after spending months threatening to veto the Levin/McCain detention bill – yesterday announced that he would instead sign it into law (this is the same individual, of course, who unequivocally vowed when seeking the Democratic nomination to support a filibuster of “any bill that includes retroactive immunity for telecom[s],” only to turn around – once he had the nomination secure — and not only vote against such a filibuster, but to vote in favor of the underlying bill itself, so this is perfectly consistent with his past conduct). As a result, the final version of the Levin/McCain bill will be enshrined as law this week as part of the the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). I wrote about the primary provisions and implications of this bill last week, and won’t repeat those points here.

The ACLU said last night that the bill contains “harmful provisions that some legislators have said could authorize the U.S. military to pick up and imprison without charge or trial civilians, including American citizens, anywhere in the world”and added: “if President Obama signs this bill, it will damage his legacy.” Human Rights Watch said that Obama’s decision “does enormous damage to the rule of law both in the US and abroad” and that “President Obama will go down in history as the president who enshrined indefinite detention without trial in US law.”

Both groups pointed out that this is the first time indefinite detention has been enshrined in law since the McCarthy era of the 1950s, when — as the ACLU put it — “President Truman had the courage to veto” the Internal Security Act of 1950 on the ground that it “would make a mockery of our Bill of Rights” and then watched Congress override the veto. That Act authorized the imprisonment of Communists and other “subversives” without the necessity of full trials or due process (many of the most egregious provisions of that bill were repealed by the 1971 Non-Detention Act, and are now being rejuvenated by these War on Terror policies of indefinite detention). President Obama, needless to say, is not Harry Truman. He’s not even the Candidate Obama of 2008 who repeatedly insisted that due process and security were not mutually exclusive and who condemned indefinite detention as “black hole” injustice.

There have been several persistent myths circulating about this bill and President Obama’s position on it that need to be clarified once and for all:

First, while the powers this bill enshrines are indeed radical and dangerous, most of them already exist. That’s because first the Bush administration and now the Obama administration have aggressively argued that the original 2001 AUMF already empowers them to imprison people without charges, use force against even U.S. citizens without due process (Anwar Awlaki), and target not only members of Al Qaeda and the Taliban (as the law states) but also anyone who “substantially supports” those groups and/or “associated forces” (whatever those terms mean). That’s why this bill states that it does not intend to change the 2001 AUMF (even as it codifies far broader language defining the scope of the war) or the detention powers of the President, and it’s why they purposely made the bill vague on whether it expressly authorizes military detention of U.S. citizens on U.S. soil: it’s because the bill’s proponents and the White House both believe that the President already possesses these broadened powers with or without this bill. With a couple of exceptions, this bill just “clarifies” — and codifies — the powers President Obama has already claimed, seized and exercised.

I’m embedding the video below of the segment I did last night on Cenk Uygur’s TV program where I elaborated on this point: this is not to mitigate how heinous this bill is, as there are real dangers to codifying these powers in law with bipartisan Congressional support as opposed to having the President unilaterally seize them and have some lower courts recognize them. Instead, it’s a reflection of how horrible the civil liberties status quo has become under the Bush and Obama administrations. This is the reason why civil libertarians have been so harshly critical of this President. It’s the reason civil liberties groups have been saying things like this even when saying them was so unpopular: it’s because Obama has, for three years now, been defending and entrenching exactly the detention powers this law vests, but doing it through radical legal theories, warped interpretations of the 2001 AUMF, continuities with the Bush/Cheney template, and devotion to Endless War and the civil liberties assaults it entails. See the newspaper excerpts below for more proof of this.

Second, as I documented at length last week, Obama’s veto threat was never about substantive objections to the detention powers vested by this bill; put another way, he was never objecting to the bill on civil liberties grounds. Obama, as I documented last week and again below, is not an opponent of indefinite detention; he’s a vigorous proponent of it, as evidenced by his continuous, multi-faceted embrace of that policy.

Obama’s objections to this bill had nothing to do with civil liberties, due process or the Constitution. It had everything to do with Executive powerThe White House’s complaint was that Congress had no business tying the hands of the President when deciding who should go into military detention, who should be denied a trial, which agencies should interrogate suspects (the FBI or the CIA). Such decisions, insisted the White Houseare for the President, not Congress, to makeIn other words, his veto threat was not grounded in the premise that indefinite military detention is wrong; it was grounded in the premise that it should be the President who decides who goes into military detention and why, not Congress.

Even the one substantive objection the White House expressed to the bill — mandatory military detention for accused American Terrorists captured on U.S. soil — was about Executive power, not due process or core liberties. The proof of that — the definitive, conclusive proof — is that Sen. Carl Levin has several times disclosed that it was the White House which demanded removal of a provision in his original draft that would have exempted U.S. citizens from military detention (see the clip of Levin explaining this in the video below). In other words, this was an example of the White Housedemanding greater detention powers in the bill by insisting on the removal of one of its few constraints (the prohibition on military detention for Americans captured on U.S. soil). That’s because the White House’s North Star on this bill —  as they repeatedly made clear — was Presidential discretion: they were going to veto the bill if it contained any limits on the President’s detention powers, regardless of whether those limits forced him to put people in military prison or barred him from doing so.

Any doubt that this was the White House’s only concern with the bill is now dispelled by virtue of the President’s willingness to sign it after certain changes were made in Conference between the House and Senate. Those changes were almost entirely about removing the parts of the bill that constrained his power, and had nothing to do with improving the bill from a civil liberties perspective. Once the sole concern of the White House was addressed — eliminating limits on the President’s power — they were happy to sign the bill even though (rather: because) none of the civil liberties assaults were fixed. As Mother Jones‘ Adam Serwer explained:

This morning I wrote that by making the mandatory military detention provisions mandatory in name only, the Senate had offered the administration an opportunity tosee how seriously it takes its own rhetoric on civil liberties. The administration had said that the military detention provisions of an earlier version of the NDAA were “inconsistent with the fundamental American principle that our military does not patrol our streets.”

The revised NDAA is still inconsistent with that fundamental American principle. But the administration has decided that fundamental American principles aren’t actually worth vetoing the bill over. 

That’s because, as Serwer explained in a separate post, Congress — in response to the veto threat — made changes “addressing the security concerns, but not the ones related to civil liberties and the rule of law” (by “security concerns,” the White House means: don’t restrict what the President can do). That the White House cared only about the former (presidential discretion), and not at all about the letter (civil liberties), is proven by its willingness to sign the bill when only objections to the former have been addressed. For more proof on this point — and the perfect encapsulation of it — see this comment here.

Third, the most persistent and propagandistic set of myths about President Obama on detention issues is that he tried to end indefinite detention by closing Guantanamo, but was blocked by Congress from doing so. It is true that Congress blocked the closing of Guantanamo, and again in this bill, Congress is imposing virtually insurmountable restrictions on the transfer of detainees out of that camp, including for detainees who have long ago been cleared for release (restrictions that Obama is now going to sign into law). But — and this is not a hard point to understand — while Obama intended to close Guantanamo, he always planned — long before Congress acted — to preserve Guantanamo’s core injustice: indefinite detention.

I need to say that again: long before, and fully independent of, anything Congress did, President Obama made clear that he was going to preserve the indefinite detention system at Guantanamo even once he closed the camp. That’s what makes the apologias over Obama and GITMO so misleading: the controversy over Guantanamo was not that about its locale — that it was based in the Caribbean Sea — so that simply closing it and then  re-locating it to a different venue would address the problem. The controversy over Guantanamo was that it was a prison camp where people were put in cages indefinitely, for decades or life, without being charged with any crime. And that policy is one that President Obama whole-heartedly embraced from the start.

Totally prior to and independent of anything Congress did, President Obama fully embraced indefinite detention as his own policy. He is a proponent — not an opponent — of indefinite detention. Just review the facts — the indisputable facts — if you have any doubt about that or if you know anyone who does:

New York Times, May 23, 2009:

New York Times, January 22, 2010:

New York Times, February 21, 2009:

ACLU, December 15, 2009:

This is why even some progressive Senators such as Russ Feingold and Bernie Sanders ultimately voted to deny funding to the closing of Guantanamo: not because they favored GITMO, but because they wanted first to see Obama’s plan for what would replace it, because they did not want to allocate funds to a plan that would simply re-locate GITMO and its defining injustice — indefinite detention — onto U.S. soil.

Can any rational person review these events and try to claim that Obama is some sort of opponent of indefinite detention? He is one of American history’s most aggressive defenders of that power. As Human Rights Watch put it: “President Obama will go down in history as the president who enshrined indefinite detention without trial in US law.” There is no partisan loyalty or leader-reverent propaganda strong enough to obscure that fact.

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Thank you very much to everyone who participated in last week’s blog fund-raiser. As much as the donations themselves, the expressions of reader support are truly gratifying, and galvanizing. It is much appreciated. I will be sending out thank you emails over the next few weeks but wanted to thank everyone here who contributed.

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I have an Op-Ed in the print edition of The Guardian today on Bradley Manning, who — after 17 months of harsh imprisonment — will finally see the inside of a courtroom when the preliminary stage of his military trial commences tomorrow; that Op-Ed can be read here.

* * * * *

Here is the segment I did last night with Cenk Uygur on his new Current TV program; he started off the segment with quite a rant (understandably so), so our discussion begins at roughly the 7:00 mark, though the video of Sen. Levin explaining the White House’s demands for domestic detention power is at roughly the 2:30 mark.

UPDATE: On the three myths being spread about this bill by defenders of the bill and/or the President: see here.


U.S. Congress To Vote On Bill Drafted In Secret, Defining America As A “Battlefield”, Authorizing Indefinite Detention Of ANYONE Without Charge Or Trial By U.S. Military

In Uncategorized on November 28, 2011 at 11:29 am

Oldspeak:The Senate is gearing up for a vote on Monday or Tuesday that goes to the very heart of who we are as Americans. The Senate will be voting on a bill that will direct American military resources not at an enemy shooting at our military in a war zone, but at American citizens and other civilians far from any battlefield — even people in the United States itself.” –Chris Anders I gotta say this 21st century version of “1984” is pretty frickin awesome. All you can eat, drink, see and fuck, your own personal telescreen that you don’t loath but ADORE, no curfew (unless you choose to dissent in public spaces), The Ministry of Plenty (Wall Street) is firmly in control of the economy assisted by Big Brother (Political Class/Surveillance/National Security State), the Ministry of Truth is wildly successful and entertaining (Corporate TV, Print, Film & Radio Media), The Ministry of Peace (U.S. Military) has awesome commercials, and is busying itself prosecuting perpetual war in Eastasia and the Ministry Of Love has been outsourced to a vast network of black sites and secret prisons across the globe that you’ll never hear of (unless you’re designated a “domestic terrorist”, or some other threat to the state). Sure representative democracy has been replaced by corprocratic oligarchy. Sure your constitutional rights to speech, assembly and free press have been abridged. Sure you are subject to surveillance and spying. Sure you’re subject to search and seizure and indefinite detention without cause. Sure you can be assassinated at the whim of the president. But keep shopping, keep partying, keep watching TV, keep self-medicating, they’ll all make you feel GREAT. The timing of this legislation is curious at best. Coinciding with the birth of an ever expanding populist protest movement, the political class is moving to imprison indefinitely, any American who dares dissent. Did you know that the Department of Defense and FBI consider protest  as “low-level terrorism”? Read it and weep. “War Is Peace”

By Washington’s Blog

If You Thought Police Brutality Was Bad … Wait Until You See What Congress Wants to Do Next Week

The police brutality against peaceful protesters in BerkeleyDavisOakland and elsewhere is bad enough.

But next week, Congress will vote on explicitly creating a police state.

The ACLU’s Washington legislative office explains:

The Senate is gearing up for a vote on Monday or Tuesday that goes to the very heart of who we are as Americans. The Senate will be voting on a bill that will direct American military resources not at an enemy shooting at our military in a war zone, but at American citizens and other civilians far from any battlefield — even people in the United States itself.

***

The Senate is going to vote on whether Congress will give this president—and every future president — the power to order the military to pick up and imprison without charge or trial civilians anywhere in the world.

***

The power is so broad that even U.S. citizens could be swept up by the military and the military could be used far from any battlefield, even within the United States itself. The worldwide indefinite detention without charge or trial provision is in S. 1867, the National Defense Authorization Act bill, which will be on the Senate floor on Monday.

***

I know it sounds incredible. New powers to use the military worldwide, even within the United States? Hasn’t anyone told the Senate that Osama bin Laden is dead, that the president is pulling all of the combat troops out of Iraq and trying to figure out how to get combat troops out of Afghanistan too? And American citizens and people picked up on American or Canadian or British streets being sent to military prisons indefinitely without even being charged with a crime. Really? Does anyone think this is a good idea? And why now?

***

In support of this harmful bill, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) explained that the bill will “basically say in law for the first time that the homeland is part of the battlefield” and people can be imprisoned without charge or trial “American citizen or not.” Another supporter, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) also declared that the bill is needed because “America is part of the battlefield.”

***

The senators pushing the indefinite detention proposal have made their goals very clear that they want an okay for a worldwide military battlefield, that even extends to your hometown.

Part of an Ongoing Trend

While this is shocking, it is not occurring in a vacuum. Indeed, it is part of a 30 year-long process of militarization inside our borders and a destruction of the American concepts of limited government and separation of powers.

As I pointed out in May:

The ACLU noted yesterday [that] Congress is proposing handing permanent, world-wide war-making powers to the president – including the ability to make war within the United States:

***

As I noted in 2008:

An article in the Army Times reveals that the 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team will be redeployed from Iraq to domestic operationswithin the United States.

The unit will soon be under the day-to-day control of US Army North, the Army service component of Northern Command. The Army Times reports this new mission marks the first time an active unit has been given a dedicated assignment to Northern Command. The paper says the Army unit may be called upon to help with “civil unrest” and “crowd control”.

The soldiers are learning to use so-called “nonlethal weapons” designed to subdue unruly or dangerous individuals and crowds.

This violates posse comitatus and the Constitution. But, hey, we’re in a “national emergency”, so who cares, right?

(We’re still in a declared state of national emergency).

noted a couple of months later:

Everyone knows that deploying 20,000 troops on U.S. soil violates Posse Comitatus and the Constitution.

And everyone understands that staging troops within the U.S. to “help out with civil unrest and crowd control” increases the danger of overt martial law.

But no one is asking an obvious question: Does the government’s own excuse for deploying the troops make any sense?

Other Encroachments On Civil Rights Under Obama

As bad as Bush was, the truth is that, in many ways, freedom and constitutional rights are under attack even more than during the Bush years.

For example:

Obama has presided over the most draconian crackdown on leaks in our history — even more so than Nixon.

As Marjorie Cohen – professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and past president of the National Lawyers Guild – writes at the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy:

Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, who is facing court-martial for leaking military reports and diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks, is being held in solitary confinement in Quantico brig in Virginia. Each night, he is forced to strip naked and sleep in a gown made of coarse material. He has been made to stand naked in the morning as other inmates walked by and looked. As journalist Lance Tapley documents in his chapter on torture in the supermax prisons in The United States and Torture, solitary confinement can lead to hallucinations and suicide; it is considered to be torture. Manning’s forced nudity amounts to humiliating and degrading treatment, in violation of U.S. and international law.

Nevertheless, President Barack Obama defended Manning’s treatment, saying, “I’ve actually asked the Pentagon whether or not the procedures . . . are appropriate. They assured me they are.” Obama’s deference is reminiscent of President George W. Bush, who asked “the most senior legal officers in the U.S. government” to review the interrogation techniques. “They assured me they did not constitute torture,” Bush said.

***

After State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley criticized Manning’s conditions of confinement, the White House forced him to resign. Crowley had said the restrictions were “ridiculous, counterproductive and stupid.” It appears that Washington is more intent on sending a message to would-be whistleblowers than on upholding the laws that prohibit torture and abuse.

***

Torture is commonplace in countries strongly allied with the United States. Vice President Omar Suleiman, Egypt’s intelligence chief, was the lynchpin for Egyptian torture when the CIA sent prisoners to Egypt in its extraordinary rendition program. A former CIA agent observed, “If you want a serious interrogation, you send a prisoner to Jordan. If you want them to be tortured, you send them to Syria. If you want someone to disappear – never to see them again – you send them to Egypt.” In her chapter in The United States and TortureNew Yorker journalist Jane Mayer cites Egypt as the most common destination for suspects rendered by the United States.

As I pointed out in March:

Former constitutional law teacher Glenn Greenwald says that – in his defense of state secrecy, illegal spying, preventative detention, harassment of whistleblowers and other issues of civil liberties – Obama is even worse than Bush.

Indeed, Obama has authorized “targeted assassinations” against U.S. citizens. Even Bush didn’t openly do something so abhorrent to the rule of law.

Obama is trying to expand spying well beyond the Bush administration’s programs. Indeed, the Obama administration is arguing that citizens should never be able to sue the government for illegal spying.

Obama’s indefinite detention policy is an Orwellian nightmare, which will create more terrorists.

Furthermore – as hard as it is for Democrats to believe – the disinformation and propaganda campaigns launched by Bush have only increased under Obama. See this and this.

And as I pointed out last year:

According to Department of Defense training manuals, protest is considered “low-level terrorism”. And see thisthis and this.

An FBI memo also labels peace protesters as “terrorists”.

***

A 2003 FBI memo describes protesters’ use of videotaping as an “intimidation” technique, even though – as the ACLU points out – “Most mainstream demonstrators often use videotape during protests to document law enforcement activity and, more importantly, deter police from acting outside the law.” The FBI appears to be objecting to the use of cameras to document unlawful behavior by law enforcement itself.

The Internet has been labeled as a breeding ground for terrorists, with anyone who questions the government’s versions of history being especially equated with terrorists.

Government agencies such as FEMA are allegedly teaching that the Founding Fathers should be considered terrorists.

The government is also using anti-terrorism laws to keep people from learning what pollutants are in their own community. See thisthisthis and this.

Claims of “national security” are also used to keep basic financial information – such as who got bailout money – secret. That might not bode for particularly warm and friendly treatment for someone persistently demanding the release of such information.

The state of Missouri tried to label as terrorists current Congressman Ron Paul and his supporters, former Congressman Bob Barr, libertarians in general, anyone who holds gold, and a host of other people.

And according to a law school professor and former president of the National Lawyers Guild, pursuant to the Military Commissions Act:

Anyone who … speaks out against the government’s policies could be declared an “unlawful enemy combatant” and imprisoned indefinitely. That includes American citizens.

Obama has refused to reverse these practices.

There Is Still a Chance to Stop It

The ACLU notes that there is some hope:

But there is a way to stop this dangerous legislation. Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) is offering the Udall Amendment that will delete the harmful provisions and replace them with a requirement for an orderly Congressional review of detention power. The Udall Amendment will make sure that the bill matches up with American values.

***

The solution is the Udall Amendment; a way for the Senate to say no to indefinite detention without charge or trial anywhere in the world where any president decides to use the military. Instead of simply going along with a bill that was drafted in secret and is being jammed through the Senate, the Udall Amendment deletes the provisions and sets up an orderly review of detention power. It tries to take the politics out and put American values back in.

***

America’s Disappeared

In Uncategorized on July 20, 2011 at 4:01 pm

Oldspeak:’With liberty and justice for all”? Not. Never has been. We Americans have rewritten our laws…to make criminal behavior legal….the national drive against ‘terror’ in the United States became an excuse to subvert the legal system, instill fear and passivity in the populace, and form a vast underground prison system populated with torturers and interrogators, as well as government officials and lawyers who operate beyond the rule of law. Torture, prolonged detention without trial, sexual humiliation, rape, disappearance, extortion, looting, random murder and abuse have become…part of our own subterranean world of detention sites and torture centers…Obama has no intention of restoring the rule of law. He not only refuses to prosecute flagrant war crimes, but has immunized those who orchestrated, led and carried out the torture. At the same time he has dramatically increased war crimes, including drone strikes in Pakistan. He continues to preside over hundreds of the offshore penal colonies, where abuse and torture remain common. He is complicit with the killers and the torturers.”-Chirs Hedges

By Chris Hedges @ Truthdig:

Dr. Silvia Quintela was “disappeared” by the death squads in Argentina in 1977 when she was four months pregnant with her first child. She reportedly was kept alive at a military base until she gave birth to her son and then, like other victims of the military junta, most probably was drugged, stripped naked, chained to other unconscious victims and piled onto a cargo plane that was part of the “death flights” that disposed of the estimated 20,000 disappeared. The military planes with their inert human cargo would fly over the Atlantic at night and the chained bodies would be pushed out the door into the ocean. Quintela, who had worked as a doctor in the city’s slums, was 28 when she was murdered.

A military doctor, Maj. Norberto Atilio Bianco, who was extradited Friday from Paraguay to Argentina for baby trafficking, is alleged to have seized Quintela’s infant son along with dozens, perhaps hundreds, of other babies. The children were handed to military families for adoption. Bianco, who was the head of the clandestine maternity unit that functioned during the Dirty War in the military hospital of Campo de Mayo, was reported by eyewitnesses to have personally carried the babies out of the military hospital. He also kept one of the infants. Argentina on Thursday convicted retired Gen. Hector Gamen and former Col. Hugo Pascarelli of committing crimes against humanity at the “El Vesubio” prison, where 2,500 people were tortured in 1976-1978. They were sentenced to life in prison. Since revoking an amnesty law in 2005 designed to protect the military, Argentina has prosecuted 807 for crimes against humanity, although only 212 people have been sentenced. It has been, for those of us who lived in Argentina during the military dictatorship, a painfully slow march toward justice.

Most of the disappeared in Argentina were not armed radicals but labor leaders, community organizers, leftist intellectuals, student activists and those who happened to be in the wrong spot at the wrong time. Few had any connection with armed campaigns of resistance. Indeed, by the time of the 1976 Argentine coup, the armed guerrilla groups, such as the Montoneros, had largely been wiped out. These radical groups, like al-Qaida in its campaign against the United States, never posed an existential threat to the regime, but the national drive against terror in both Argentina and the United States became an excuse to subvert the legal system, instill fear and passivity in the populace, and form a vast underground prison system populated with torturers and interrogators, as well as government officials and lawyers who operated beyond the rule of law. Torture, prolonged detention without trial, sexual humiliation, rape, disappearance, extortion, looting, random murder and abuse have become, as in Argentina during the Dirty War, part of our own subterranean world of detention sites and torture centers.

We Americans have rewritten our laws, as the Argentines did, to make criminal behavior legal. John Rizzo, the former acting general counsel for the CIA, approved drone attacks that have killed hundreds of people, many of them civilians in Pakistan, although we are not at war with Pakistan. Rizzo has admitted that he signed off on so-called enhanced interrogation techniques. He told Newsweekthat the CIA operated “a hit list.” He asked in the interview: “How many law professors have signed off on a death warrant?” Rizzo, in moral terms, is no different from the deported Argentine doctor Bianco, and this is why lawyers in Britain and Pakistan are calling for his extradition to Pakistan to face charges of murder. Let us hope they succeed.

We know of at least 100 detainees who died during interrogations at our “black sites,” many of them succumbing to the blows and mistreatment of our interrogators. There are probably many, many more whose fate has never been made public. Tens of thousands of Muslim men have passed through our clandestine detention centers without due process. “We tortured people unmercifully,” admittedretired Gen. Barry McCaffrey. “We probably murdered dozens of them …, both the armed forces and the C.I.A.”

The bodies of many of these victims have never been returned to their families. They disappeared. Anonymous death is the cruelest form of death. There is no closure for the living. There is no way for survivors to fix the end of a life with a time, a ritual and a place. The atrocity is compounded by the atrocity committed against memory. This sacrilege gnaws at survivors. Regimes use clandestine torture centers, murder and anonymous death to keep subject populations off balance, agitated and disturbed. It fuels the collective insanity. The ability of the state to “disappear” people into black sites, hold them for years without charges and carry out torture ensures that soon these techniques will become a routine part of domestic control.

Tens of thousands of Americans are being held in super-maximum-security prisons where they are deprived of contact and psychologically destroyed. Undocumented workers are rounded up and vanish from their families for weeks or months. Militarized police units break down the doors of some 40,000 Americans a year and haul them awayin the dead of night as if they were enemy combatants. Habeas corpus no longer exists. American citizens can “legally” be assassinated. Illegal abductions, known euphemistically as “extraordinary rendition,” are a staple of the war on terror. Secret evidence makes it impossible for the accused and their lawyers to see the charges against them. All this was experienced by the Argentines. Domestic violence, whether in the form of social unrest, riots or another catastrophic terrorist attack on American soil, would, I fear, see the brutal tools of empire cemented into place in the homeland. At that point we would embark on our own version of the Dirty War.

Marguerite Feitlowitz writes in “The Lexicon of Terror”of the experiences of one Argentine prisoner, a physicist named Mario Villani. The collapse of the moral universe of the torturers is displayed when, between torture sessions, the guards take Villani and a few pregnant women prisoners to an amusement park. They make them ride the kiddie train and then take them to a cafe for a beer. A guard, whose nom de guerre is Blood, brings his 6- or 7-year-old daughter into the detention facility to meet Villani and other prisoners. A few years later, Villani runs into one of his principal torturers, a sadist known in the camps as Julian the Turk. Julian recommends that Villani go see another of his former prisoners to ask for a job. The way torture became routine, part of daily work, numbed the torturers to their own crimes. They saw it as a job. Years later they expected their victims to view it with the same twisted logic.

Human Rights Watch, in a new report, “Getting Away With Torture: The Bush Administration and Mistreatment of Detainees,” declared there is “overwhelming evidence of torture by the Bush administration.” President Barack Obama, the report went on, is obliged “to order a criminal investigation into allegations of detainee abuse authorized by former President George W. Bush and other senior officials.”

But Obama has no intention of restoring the rule of law. He not only refuses to prosecute flagrant war crimes, but has immunized those who orchestrated, led and carried out the torture. At the same time he has dramatically increased war crimes, including drone strikes in Pakistan. He continues to preside over hundreds of the offshore penal colonies, where abuse and torture remain common. He is complicit with the killers and the torturers.

The only way the rule of law will be restored, if it is restored, is piece by piece, extradition by extradition, trial by trial. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, former CIA Director George Tenet, Condoleezza Rice and John Ashcroft will, if we return to the rule of law, face trial. The lawyers who made legal what under international and domestic law is illegal, including not only Rizzo but Alberto Gonzales, Jay Bybee, David Addington, William J. Haynes and John Yoo, will, if we are to dig our way out of this morass, be disbarred and prosecuted. Our senior military leaders, including Gen. David Petraeus, who oversaw death squads in Iraq and widespread torture in clandestine prisons, will be lined up in a courtroom, as were the generals in Argentina, and made to answer for these crimes. This is the only route back. If it happens it will happen because a few courageous souls such as the attorney and president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, Michael Ratner, are trying to make it happen. It will take time—a lot of time; the crimes committed by Bianco and the two former officers sent to prison this month are nearly four decades old. If it does not happen, then we will continue to descend into a terrifying, dystopian police state where our guards will, on a whim, haul us out of our cells to an amusement park and make us ride, numb and bewildered, on the kiddie train, before the next round of torture.

Chris Hedges is a weekly Truthdig columnist and a fellow at The Nation Institute. His newest book is “The World As It Is: Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress.”


WikiLeaks: Secret Guantanamo Files Show U.S. Disarray, Most Guantanamo Bay Prisoners Pose No Threat To U.S.

In Uncategorized on April 25, 2011 at 5:10 pm

Captive audience: Detainees are watched by military police in Guantanamo Bay

Oldspeak:” Prisoners were sexually humiliated, leashed like dogs and forced to urinate on themselvesThis prison is still open. (Thanks to U.S. Congress squabbling and Obama Administration impotence) And now we learn most of the prisoners held in Guantanamo Bay were either innocent or posed little threat, according to official US documents leaked by the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks. One has to wonder, why were they there? This is why they hate us, it’s not because of our freedom. It’s because we’re detaining innocents from teenagers to old men in this, and a worldwide network of secret prisons indefinitely in many cases without charge and treating them like animals.”

By Carol Rosenberg and Tom Lasseter @ McClatchy Newpapers:

Faced with the worst-ever single attack by foreigners on American soil, the U.S. military set up a human intelligence laboratory at Guantanamo that used interrogation and detention practices that they largely made up as they went along.

The world may have thought the U.S. was detaining a band of international terrorists whose questioning would help the hunt for Osama Bin Laden or foil the next 9/11.

But a collection of secret Bush-era intelligence documents not meant to surface for another 20 years shows that the military’s efforts at Guantanamo often were much less effective than the government has acknowledged.

Viewed as a whole, the secret intelligence summaries help explain why in May 2009 President Barack Obama, after ordering his own review of wartime intelligence, called America’s experiment at Guantanamo “quite simply a mess.”

The documents, more than 750 individual assessments of former and current Guantanamo detainees, show an intelligence operation that was tremendously dependant on informants — both prison camp snitches repeating what they’d heard from fellow captives and self-described, at times self-aggrandizing, alleged al Qaida insiders turned government witnesses who Pentagon records show have since been released.

Intelligence analysts are at odds with each other over which informants to trust, at times drawing inferences from prisoners’ exercise habits. They order DNA tests, tether Taliban suspects to polygraphs, string together tidbits in ways that seemed to defy common sense.

Guantanamo analysts at times questioned the reliability of some information gleaned from other detainees’ interrogations.

Allegations and information from one Yemeni, no longer at Guantanamo, appears in at least 135 detainees’ files, prompting Navy Rear Adm. Dave Thomas, the prison camps commander in August 2008, to include this warning:

“Any information provided should be adequately verified through other sources before being utilized.”

The same report goes on to praise the captive as an “invaluable intelligence source” for information about al Qaida and Taliban training, operations, personnel and facilities,” and warns that he’d be at risk of retaliation if he were released into Yemeni society. He was resettled in Europe by the Obama administration.

In fact, information from just eight men showed up in forms for at least 235 Guantanamo detainees — some 30 percent of those known to have been held there.

In many cases, the detainees made direct allegations of others’ involvement in militant activities; in others, they gave contextual information used to help build the edges of a case.

While many other intelligence sources were referred to in those detainee assessment forms, including in some cases confessions by the detainees themselves, the inclusion of information from such a highly questionable group of men would seem to raise serious issues about a key piece of the “mosaic” process at Guantanamo and the decisions that followed.

The documents also show that in the earliest years of the prison camps operation, the Pentagon permitted Chinese and Russian interrogators into the camps — information from those sessions are included in some captives’ assessments — something American defense lawyers working free-of-charge for the foreign prisoners have alleged and protested for years.

There’s not a whiff in the documents that any of the work is leading the U.S. closer to capturing Bin Laden. In fact, the documents suggest a sort of mission creep beyond the post-9/11 goal of hunting down the al Qaida inner circle and sleeper cells.

The file of one captive, now living in Ireland, shows he was sent to Guantanamo so that U.S. military intelligence could gather information on the secret service of Uzbekistan. A man from Bahrain is shipped to Guantanamo in June 2002, in part, for interrogation on “personalities in the Bahraini court.”

That same month, U.S. troops in Bagram airlifted to Guantanamo a 30-something sharecropper whom Pakistani security forces scooped up along the Afghan border as he returned home from his uncle’s funeral.

The idea was that, once at Guantanamo, 8,000 miles from his home, he might be able to tell interrogators about covert travel routes through the Afghan-Pakistan mountain region. Seven months later, the Guantanamo intelligence analysts concluded that he wasn’t a risk to anyone — and had no worthwhile information. Pentagon records show they shipped him home in March 2003, after more than two years in either American or Pakistani custody.

McClatchy Newspapers obtained the documents last month from WikiLeaks on an embargoed basis to give reporters from seven news organizations — including McClatchy, The Washington Post, the Spanish newspaper El Pais, and the German magazine Der Spiegel — time to catalogue, evaluate and report on them. WikiLeaks abruptly lifted the embargo Sunday night, after the organization became aware that the documents had been leaked to other news organizations, which were about to publish stories about them.

Marked “SECRET // NOFORN,” the documents consist of more than 750 intelligence summaries, each consisting on average of between 2 to 12 pages, of the more than 500 detainees who’ve been transferred from the prison and for the 172 who still remain there. The summaries were written between 2002 and 2008. Many include photographs of the men, information about each man’s physical and mental health as well as recommendations on whether to keep them in U.S. custody, hand them over to a foreign government for imprisonment, or set them free.

They make little mention of the abuse and torture scandals that surrounded intelligence gathering — both at secret CIA detention centers abroad and at the Guantanamo camps.

Of an Australian man who came to Guantanamo in May 2002, Army Brig. Gen. Jay Hood noted two years later that the captive confessed while “under extreme duress” and “in the custody of the Egyptian government” to training six of the 9/11 hijackers in martial arts. He had denied the ties by August 2004 and was repatriated five months later.

The documents make clear that intelligence agents elsewhere showed photos of Guantanamo prisoners to prized war-on-terror catches held at secret so-called CIA black-sites, out of reach of the International Red Cross. Notably the reports reflect that at times some captives faces were familiar to Abu Zubayda — whom the CIA waterboarded scores of times.

At times the efforts seem comedic. Guards plucked off ships at sea to walk the cellblocks note who has hoarded food as contraband, who makes noise during the Star Spangled Banner, who sings creepy songs like “La, La, La, La Taliban” and who is re-enacting the 9/11 attacks with origami art.

But they also hint at frightening plots.

If you believe the intelligence profiles, the alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed schooled four men now at Guantanamo in the summer before 9/11 in English and American style-behavior for an ancillary 9/11 attack — on U.S. military sites in Asia.

The documents also show military intelligence offering what appears to be little more than prurient gossip about the detainees.

Saudi Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, 45, who made headlines just week as the first Obama administration candidate for a death penalty tribunal at Guantanamo, is cast in his risk assessment as a high-risk captive. The assessment makes no mention of that the CIA waterboarded him in a secret black-site interrogation before his transfer to military custody but includes his supposed strategy to not be distracted by women:

“Detainee is so dedicated to jihad that he reportedly received injections to promote impotence,” an analyst writes, without explanation of the source.

Elsewhere in the files, U.S. military intelligence analysts discussing the dangerousness of two Iraqi men captured in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan, include this observation: One Iraqi boasted that he had an affair with the other Iraqi’s wife, in the husband’s house. Both have since been repatriated to Iraq.

And they show how they got it wrong right from the very start. On Day One, the camps commander declared the first airlift of 20 men “the worst of the worst,” handpicked hardened terrorists plucked from the battlefield and shown shackled on their knees to their world in mute, blinded submission.

Not so, according to the military’s own analysis, which has so far set free eight of the first 20 men — the first of that batch just nine months later as a nobody swept up in the war on terror.

They also show the arc of American understanding of the men who were first locked up at the crude prison camp called X-Ray. Early on in the enterprise, the U.S. military at Guantanamo profiled “The Dirty 30” _that number of men captured along the Afghan-Pakistan border near Parachinar — as Bin Laden bodyguards who had traveled in a pack from Tora Bora to escape the American forces.

But by the time Bush left office, his interagency process had freed 10 of the men. Mostt were sent to Saudi Arabia, some after concluding they were probably not part of the al Qaeda founder’s security detail.

Among those men is a convicted war criminal — Guantanamo’s lone lifer, Ali Hamza al Bahlul of Yemen — convicted not as a “Dirty 30,” but for serving as Bin Laden’s media secretary and an al Qaida filmmaker who fed the terror group’s propaganda machine.