Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Nation Is Restless On The Torture Issue And We Have To Be Relentless In Our Pressure For Justice.

The Nation Is Restless On The Torture Issue And We Have To Be Relentless In Our Pressure For Justice.



For Immediate Release | April 28, 2009-Contact: Jonathan Godfrey | Lillian German

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) and fifteen other Judiciary Democrats today called on Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special counsel to investigate possible violations of federal criminal law related to the interrogation of detainees.  The attorney general acknowledged in his confirmation hearings that waterboarding is torture.  Moreover, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the top Bush administration official in charge of military commissions have also concluded that the United States engaged in torture of detainees.  The Geneva Convention and the Convention Against Torture both require the United States to investigate, and if necessary prosecute, alleged violations.  Justice Department regulations provide for the appointment of a special counsel when a criminal investigation is both warranted and in the public interest, and when an investigation may pose a conflict of interest within the Department.  Since these conditions are present, the signatories below conclude that a special counsel should be appointed.

The signatories include:
Rep. John Conyers, Jr., Chairman
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, Chairman, Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties
Rep. Robert Scott, Chairman, Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security
Rep. Steve Cohen, Chairman, Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law
Rep. Hank Johnson, Chairman, Subcommittee on Courts and Competition Policy
Rep. Mel Watt
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee
Rep. Maxine Waters
Rep. Robert Wexler
Rep. Pedro Pierluisi
Rep. Luis Gutierrez
Rep. Tammy Baldwin
Rep. Anthony Weiner
Rep. Linda Sánchez
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Rep. Daniel Maffei

The text of the letter is here Holder Letter 042809

No Republicans on the Judiciary signed.  Let's focus on the Democrats who didn't sign.

Please contact them to support bringing justice to those who orchestrated torture of detainees, detainees that included the innocent, some tortured unto death, some outright murdered. Tell them: NOT IN OUR NAME! We must uphold the rule of law or we are nothing but a rogue nation. 

Hon. Howard L. Berman

Phone: 202-225-4695 Fax: 202-225-3196

on-line constituents email: 
(D) California, 28th Home Office Phone: 818-994-7200 Fax: 818-994-1050 

Hon. Zoe Lofgren

Phone: 202-225-3072 Fax: 202-225-3336

on-line constituents email:
(D) California, 16th Home Office Phone: (408) 271-8700

Hon. William D. Delahunt

Phone: 202-225-3111 Fax: 202-225-5658

(D) Massachusetts, 10th Home Office Phones:

617-770-3700, Toll-Free: 800-794-9911, Fax: 617-770-2984

or on the Cape:

508-771-0666, Toll-Free: 800-870-2626, Fax: 508-790-1959

Hon. Brad Sherman

Phone: 202-225-4695 Fax: 202-225-3196

on-line constituents email:
(D) California, 27th Home Office Phones:

(818) 501-9200 fax (818) 501-1554 

Hon. Charles A. Gonzalez

Phone: 202-225-3236 Fax: 202-225-1915

on-line constituents email:
(D) Texas, 20th
Home Office Phones: (210) 472-6195, Fax: (210) 472-4009 

Hon. Adam B. Schiff

Phone: 202-225-4176 Fax: 202-225-5828

on-line constituents email:
(D) California, 29th

Phone: (626) 304-2727, Fax: (626) 304-0572


Only Prosecution of War Crimes Will Bring Out the Facts?

The Nuremberg Truth and Reconciliation Commission?


Representatives John Conyers and Jerrold Nadler are officially asking Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint an independent Special Prosecutor “to investigate and, where appropriate, prosecute” participants in the Bush-era US torture system. “A Special Counsel is the most appropriate way to handle this matter,” Nadler said. “It would remove from the process any question that the investigation was subject to political pressure, and it would preempt any perceptions of conflict of interest within the Justice Department, which produced the torture memos.” But, as Politico reports, “Holder is likely to reject that request – his boss, the president, has indicated he doesn’t see the need for such a prosecutor.” The Democratic Leadership, particularly Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Sen. Diane Feinstein have pushed for secret, closed-door hearings in the Senate Intelligence Committee. Other Democrats, like Patrick Leahy, advocate establishing a Truth Commission, though that is not gaining any momentum. The fact remains that some powerful Democrats knew that the torture was happening and didn’t make a public peep in opposition.

This week, Lawrence Wilkerson, the former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell came out in favor of prosecutions of “the decision-makers and their closest advisors (particularly the ones among the latter who may, on their own, have twisted the dagger a little deeper in Caesar’s prostrate body — Rumsfeld and Feith for instance). Appoint a special prosecutor such as Fitzgerald, armed to the teeth, and give him or her carte blanche. Play the treatment of any intermediaries — that is, between the grunts on the ground and the Oval — as the law allows and the results demand.”

Wilkerson, though, understands Washington. “Is there the political will to carry either of these recommendations to meaningful consequences?” he wrote to the Huffington Post. “No, and there won’t be.”

As of now, Conyers and Nadler aren’t exactly looking for over-flow space for their meetings on how to get criminal prosecutions going.

Officially joining the anti-accountability camp this week was The Washington Post’s David Broder who wrote this gem in defense of the Bush administration: “The memos on torture represented a deliberate, and internally well-debated, policy decision, made in the proper places — the White House, the intelligence agencies and the Justice Department — by the proper officials.” (For a great response to this, check out Scott Horton). Broder is urging Obama to “stick to his guns” in standing up to pressure “to change his mind about closing the books on the ‘torture’ policies of the past.” Don’t you love how Broder puts torture in quotes? I really wonder how Broder would describe it if he was waterboarded (and survived). Can’t you just imagine him making the little quote motion with his hands? Broder’s Washington Post column was titled “Stop Scapegoating: Obama Should Stand Against Prosecutions:”

[Obama was] right to declare that there should be no prosecution of those who carried out what had been the policy of the United States government. And he was right when he sent out his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, to declare that the same amnesty should apply to the lawyers and bureaucrats who devised and justified the Bush administration practices.

But now Obama is being lobbied by politicians and voters who want something more — the humiliation and/or punishment of those responsible for the policies of the past. They are looking for individual scalps — or, at least, careers and reputations.

Their argument is that without identifying and punishing the perpetrators, there can be no accountability — and therefore no deterrent lesson for future administrations. It is a plausible-sounding rationale, but it cloaks an unworthy desire for vengeance.

Obama has opposed even the blandest form of investigation, a so-called truth commission, and has shown himself willing to confront this kind of populist anger.

Thank goodness we have a president who opposes “even the blandest form of investigation”—how uncouth such savagery would prove to be. While the elite Washington press corp works hard to make sure things don’t get too uncomfortable at the wine and cheese cocktail parties, some liberal journalists are also making the case against a special prosecutor (or at least the immediate appointment of one). Last week it was Elizabeth de la Vega, who made an interesting case for waiting to prosecute while evidence is gathered:

We must have a prosecution eventually, but we are not legally required to publicly initiate it now and we should not, as justifiable as it is. I’m not concerned about political fallout. What’s good or bad for either party has no legitimate place in this calculus. My sole consideration is litigation strategy: I want us to succeed.

This week it is Mother Jones Washington editor David Corn, who comes out in favor of a congressional investigation “that placed a premium on public disclosure” or “an independent commission.” Corn describes how he recently warned a Congressmember who supports the appointment of a Special Prosecutor, “That’s not necessarily a good idea.” Corn talks about how a coalition of groups from the Center for Constitutional Rights and the ACLU to and have all petitioned for a prosecutor:

These liberals all want to see alleged Bush administration wrongdoing exposed. But there’s one problem with a special prosecutor: it’s not his job to expose wrongdoing. A special prosecutor does dig up facts—but only in order to prosecute a possible crime. His mission is not to shine light on misdeeds, unless it is part of a prosecution. In many cases, a prosecutor’s investigation does not produce any prosecutions. Sometimes, it leads only to a limited prosecution.

That’s what happened with Patrick Fitzgerald. He could not share with the public all that he had discovered about the involvement of Bush, Cheney, Karl Rove, and other officials in the CIA leak case… A special prosecutor, it turns out, is a rather imperfect vehicle for revealing the full truth.

Prosecuting government officials for providing legal opinions that greenlighted waterboarding and the like would pose its own legal challenges. Could a government prosecutor indict the government lawyers who composed and signed the torture memos for aiding and abetting torture without indicting the government employees who actually committed the torture? (President Barack Obama has pledged that the interrogators will not be pursued.) And could a prosecutor win cases in which his targets would obviously argue that they were providing what they believed was good-faith legal advice, even if it turned out that their advice was wrong?… Several lawyers I’ve consulted have said that a criminal case against the authors of these memos would be no slam dunk. One possible scenario is that a special prosecutor would investigate, find out that sordid maneuvering occurred at the highest levels of the Bush-Cheney administration, and then conclude that he or she did not have a strong enough legal case to warrant criminal indictments and trials.

The bottom line: Anyone who wants the full truth to come out about the Bush-Cheney administration’s use of these interrogation practices cannot count on a special prosecutor.

Corn’s advice to that unnamed Democratic Congressmember wasn’t exactly well received by lawyers who have been pushing for prosecutions. Perhaps the most passionate advocate for the appointment of an independent Special Prosecutor right now is Michael Ratner, the president of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

“To argue that we should not have prosecutions because it won’t bring out all the facts when taken to its logical conclusion would mean never prosecuting any official no matter the seriousness of the crimes,” Ratner told me. “Right now is not the time to be backing off on prosecutions. Why are prosecutions of torturers ok for other non-western countries but not for the US? Prosecution is necessary to deter torture in the future and send a message to ourselves and the rest of the world that the seven or eight year torture program was unlawful and must not happen again. The purpose of prosecutions is to investigate and get convictions so that officials in the future will not again dispense with the prohibition on torture.”

Constitutional Law expert Scott Horton says that the problems with a Special Prosecutor Corn lays out are “correct, but he makes the latent assumption that it’s either/or. That’s absurd. Obviously it should be both a commission and one or more prosecutors as crimes are identified.”

Jameel Jaffer, one of the leading ACLU attorneys responsible for getting the torture memos released by the Obama administration, agrees with Horton. “I don’t think we should have to choose between a criminal investigation and a congressional inquiry,” Jaffer told me. “A congressional committee could examine the roots of the torture program and recommend legislative reform to prevent gross human rights abuses by future administrations. At the same time, a Justice Department investigation could investigate issues of criminal responsibility. One shouldn’t foreclose the other.”

Jaffer adds, “It might be a different story if we thought that Congress would need to offer immunity in exchange for testimony. But many of the key players – including John Yoo, George Tenet, and Dick Cheney – have made clear that they have no qualms about talking publicly about their actions (Yoo and Tenet have both written books, and Cheney is writing one now).”

The bottom line, Ratner argues, is that “prosecutions will bring out facts.” He cites the example of the Nuremberg Tribunals:

What if we had had a truth commission and no prosecutions? Right now we have many means of getting the facts: FOIA, congressional investigations such as the Senate Armed Services Report, former interrogators, document releases by the Executive. There are plenty of ways to get information even if it does not all come out in prosecutions. Many of the calls to not prosecute are by those, particularly inside the beltway, who cannot imagine Bush, Cheney et al. in the dock or by those who accept the argument that the torture conspirators were trying their best. This is not a time to hold back on the demand that is required by law and fact: appoint a special prosecutor.

David Swanson, who for years has pushed for prosecutions of Bush administration officials, was one of the organizers of the petitions calling for the appointment of a Special Prosecutor. “My top priority is not ‘truth,’” he said. “My top priority is changing the current truth, which is that we don’t have the nerve and decency to enforce our laws against powerful people.”

Jeremy Scahill, an independent journalist who reports frequently for the national radio and TV program Democracy Now, has spent extensive time reporting from Iraq and Yugoslavia. He is currently a Puffin Writing Fellow at The Nation Institute. Scahill is the author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army.His new website


Obama 100 Days Press Conference: FULL TRANSCRIPT


Jake? Where's Jake? There he is.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. You've said in the past that waterboarding, in your opinion, is torture. Torture is a violation of international law and the Geneva Conventions. Do you believe that the previous administration sanctioned torture?

OBAMA: What I've said -- and I will repeat -- is that waterboarding violates our ideals and our values. I do believe that it is torture. I don't think that's just my opinion; that's the opinion of many who've examined the topic. And that's why I put an end to these practices.

I am absolutely convinced it was the right thing to do, not because there might not have been information that was yielded by these various detainees who were subjected to this treatment, but because we could have gotten this information in other ways, in ways that were consistent with our values, in ways that were consistent with who we are.

I was struck by an article that I was reading the other day talking about the fact that the British during World War II, when London was being bombed to smithereens, had 200 or so detainees. And Churchill said, "We don't torture," when the entire British -- all of the British people were being subjected to unimaginable risk and threat.

And then the reason was that Churchill understood, you start taking short-cuts, over time, that corrodes what's -- what's best in a people. It corrodes the character of a country.

And -- and so I strongly believed that the steps that we've taken to prevent these kinds of enhanced interrogation techniques will make us stronger over the long term and make us safer over the long term because it will put us in a -- in a position where we can still get information.

In some cases, it may be harder, but part of what makes us, I think, still a beacon to the world is that we are willing to hold true to our ideals even when it's hard, not just when it's easy.

At the same time, it takes away a critical recruitment tool that Al Qaida and other terrorist organizations have used to try to demonize the United States and justify the killing of civilians.

And it makes us -- it puts us in a much stronger position to work with our allies in the kind of international, coordinated intelligence activity that can shut down these networks.

So this is a decision that I'm very comfortable with. And I think the American people over time will recognize that it is better for us to stick to who we are, even when we're taking on an unscrupulous enemy.



OBAMA: I'm sorry?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) sanctioned torture?

OBAMA: I believe that waterboarding was torture. And I think that the -- whatever legal rationales were used, it was a mistake.

OBAMA: Mark Knoller?

QUESTION: Thank you, sir. Let me follow up, if I may, on Jake's question. Did you read the documents recently referred to by former Vice President Cheney and others saying that the use of so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" not only protected the nation but saved lives?

And if part of the United States were under imminent threat, could you envision yourself ever authorizing the use of those enhanced interrogation techniques?

OBAMA: I have read the documents. Now they have not been officially declassified and released. And so I don't want to go to the details of them. But here's what I can tell you, that the public reports and the public justifications for these techniques, which is that we got information from these individuals that were subjected to these techniques, doesn't answer the core question.

Which is, could we have gotten that same information without resorting to these techniques? And it doesn't answer the broader question, are we safer as a consequence of having used these techniques?

So when I made the decision to release these memos and when I made the decision to bar these practices, this was based on consultation with my entire national security team, and based on my understanding that ultimately I will be judged as commander-in-chief on how safe I'm keeping the American people.

That's the responsibility I wake up with and it's the responsibility I go to sleep with. And so I will do whatever is required to keep the American people safe. But I am absolutely convinced that the best way I can do that is to make sure that we are not taking short cuts that undermine who we are.

And there have been no circumstances during the course of this first 100 days in which I have seen information that would make me second guess the decision that I have made. OK?

Freedom Rider: Tortured Justice | Black Agenda Report
By Margaret Kimberley 
Their complicity not only ensured that 
Bush and Cheney would get away with committing war crimes, but that the Democratic Party would became complicit – and neuter itself, in the process. When Congressman Dennis Kucinich introduced an impeachment resolution on the House floor it was squelched by Democratic leadership. It would have been hard for Nancy Pelosi to supportimpeachment based in part on the commission of war crimes she was aware of yet did nothing to stop. ...
Black Agenda Report -

Quid Probe Quo: Question of the Day » Are You Being Tortured?
By Patricia Smith 
From what I have seen since Obama entered the White House, a lot of people have taken the position regarding 
BushCheney and torture that it is better to “leave the past behind” or simply “turn the page”..... Use Progressive Democrat of America's web page to generate and send a letter to your Congressional Representative calling for the impeachment of Jay Bybee. Bybee is the former DOJ lawyer who authored a torture memo and now has a life appointment to sit as a federal ...
Quid Probe Quo: Question of the Day -

Waterboarding the Rule of Law « roger hollander
By rogerhollander 
Should a special prosecutor hold 
BushCheney, Rice and Rumsfeld accountable for violating the law against torture when they specifically authorized waterboarding, sleep deprivation, stress positions and sexual humiliation of detainees? ... Should Congress impeach former Deputy Attorney General Jay Bybee, now a federal appeals court judge, for giving his superiors the legal arguments they wanted to justify the torture they had already decided upon? ...
roger hollander -

Hot Air » Blog Archive » Bybee says “no regrets”
By (Hot Air Network, LLC) 
Impeachment is a political process and the law has very little to do with it (Clinton taught us that). If the Dem's can muster the votes, he'll be gone. tommylotto on April 29, 2009 at 10:06 AM. When this program was trotted out in 2002 .... Bush and Cheney are evil. Long live Dear Leader, our compassionate savior. Unfit for the bench. To the editor: With reference to your coverage of Jay S. Bybee (Saturday Review-Journal), I would state that I am in no way convinced that ...
Hot Air » Top Picks -

Matthew Alexander: An Officer's Obligation -- Say No to Torture
By Matthew Alexander 
I have no hesitation in asserting that Judge Bybee should be subjected to
 impeachment proceedings, and that Bybee, Yoo, Addington et al. should face disbarment proceedings. .... I agree that officers need to exercise restraint in following unlawful orders, but in the end, I blame no one but those in command, namely, Bush, Cheney and Rice. And their lawyers, who actually sought to legitimize torture, whatever that means. Human nature is a strange thing, ...
The Huffington Post Full Blog Feed -

Leahy invites Bybee to testify on Hill - Josh Gerstein -
By Josh Gerstein 
Liberal activists are pressing for Jay Bybee's 
impeachment as a judge because as a top Justice Department official in 2002 he approved memos that limited the definition of torture and ruled that interrogation tactics such as waterboarding or ... another of bush's boys.... no morals, no ethics, no sense on conscience, no sense of humanity, no value of human life... yep, sounds like a true bu****e. he probably watched the torture with cheney while cheney drooled all over ...
TOP 10 Blogs -

The Bush memos: What do they reveal?
Los Angeles Times - CA,USA
And despite recent suggestions from Dick 
Cheney that the program "worked," we don't know what benchmarks, if any, the administration set for itself to judge ...See all stories on this topic

Spanish Court To Investigate Bush's 'Torture Team'
Fresh Air from WHYY, April 29, 2009 · In his book, Torture Team, British attorney Philippe Sands makes a case that high-ranking members of the 
Bush ...See all stories on this topic

Questions for Obama on his 100th day
Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone - Los Angeles,CA,USA
Would you support 
impeachment proceedings, or any investigation to learn more about Bush-era war-on-terror policies? This is tricky one for Obama, ...See all stories on this topic

t r u t h o u t | The Need to Roll Back Presidential Power Grabs
As chairman of the Senate 
Judiciary Committee from 2005 to 2007, I led the effort to reauthorize and improve the 2001 USA PATRIOT Act, which was originally set to expire at the end of 2005. Indeed, after intensive bipartisan ..... And Democrats scream bloody murder when they're not in charge, but move quickly to silence the opposition when they are...but I suppose you think we're all as stupid as your colleague Chuckie Schumer does when he said "we don't care". ...
Truthout - All Articles -

FiveThirtyEight: Politics Done Right: But Now He's *Our* No-Good ...
By (Nate Silver) 
But also, isn't it moreso in the interest of Dems to just field an actual Dem in an 
election against Toomey rather than hope that Specter will drift ideologically? This just smacks so hard of Joe Lieberman it kills me. ..... in general than the shrieking extremist types say it is; when the Dem presidential primaries were getting under way, Dennis Kucinich said (and I'm paraphrasing) "I'm not really that far left, it's just that all these others are to the right of me. ...
FiveThirtyEight: Politics Done Right -

Spain's crusading prosecutor, Judge Baltasar Garzon, was not put in charge of prosecuting the Torture Lawyers - Judge Eloy Velasco is reviewing that case. But Garzon has opened a brand new case, according to AFP:

Judge Baltasar Garzon will probe the "perpetrators, the instigators, the necessary collaborators and accomplices" to crimes of torture...

Garzon said that documents declassified by the US administration and carried by US media "have revealed what was previously a suspicion: the existence of an authorised and systematic programme of torture and mistreatment of persons deprived of their freedom" that flouts international conventions.

This points to "the possible existence of concerted actions by the US administration for the execution of a multitude of crimes of torture against persons deprived of their freedom in Guantanamo and other prisons including that of Bagram" in Afghanistan.

Very interesting! And who exactly does he have in mind? GOTV got the scoop from human rights lawyer Philippe Sands on Fresh Air:

According to his sources the targets of this investigation include Condoleeza Rice and Richard B. Cheney. What is likely to happen next is for the investigation to proceed; if unappealed, a court date will be set, and the targets will be advised to appear. Garzón may then issue an arrest warrant that will be valid, at least in Spain, but possibly other countries. 

Today Eric Holder told reporters in Berlin he "did not rule out cooperating with such an investigation," and said he would provide evidence sought by Garzon if the request was legitimate:

"Obviously, we would look at any request that would come from a court in any country and see how and whether we should comply with it," Holder said.

"This is an administration that is determined to conduct itself by the rule of law and to the extent that we receive lawful requests from an appropriately-created court, we would obviously respond to it," he said.

Asked if that meant the U.S. would cooperate with a foreign court prosecuting Bush administration officials, Holder said he was talking about evidentiary requests, and would review any such request to see if the United States would comply.

It's not clear why Garzon needs any secret evidence, when Cheney confessed to Jonathan Karl on TV:

KARL: Did you authorize the tactics that were used against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed?

CHENEY: I was aware of the program, certainly, and involved in helping get the process cleared, as the agency [CIA] in effect came in and wanted to know what they could and couldn't do. And they talked to me, as well as others, to explain what they wanted to do. And I supported it.

Book 'em, Dano!

Update 1: CNN has a less comprehensible translation:

The declassified U.S. documents, he wrote, revealed "an authorized and systematic plan for torture and harsh treatment of people deprived of their freedom without any charges and without the most basic elemental rights for detainees, set forth and demanded by international treaties."

The alleged plan at Guantanamo and other prisons, including a detention facility at the Bagram air base in Afghanistan, "acquire almost an official and therefore generate penal responsibility in the different structures of execution — command, design and authorization of this systematic plan of torture," the judge wrote.

Update 2: CCR is cheering:

The case could lead to arrest warrants in Europe and, according to CCR attorneys, places new pressure on the Obama administration to appoint its own special prosecutor to investigate the crimes committed by former officials...

CCR attorneys hailed the decision as an important step in holding these officials and others accountable for their crimes. The new case could also include the lawyers and may well lead to investigations of top officials, including Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney.

Spanish judge opens probe into Guantanamo torture

Submitted by davidswanson on Wed, 2009-04-29 17:34. By AFP

MADRID (AFP) — A Spanish judge on Wednesday opened an investigation into an alleged "systematic programme" of torture at the US Guantanamo Bay detention camp, following accusations by four former prisoners.

Judge Baltasar Garzon will probe the "perpetrators, the instigators, the necessary collaborators and accomplices" to crimes of torture at the prison at the US naval base in southern Cuba, he said in his ruling, a copy of which was seen by AFP.

The judge based his decision on statements by Hamed Abderrahman Ahmed, known as the "Spanish Taliban" and three other former Guantanamo detainees -- a Moroccan, a Palestinian and a Libyan.

Garzon said that documents declassified by the US administration and carried by US media "have revealed what was previously a suspicion: the existence of an authorised and systematic programme of torture and mistreatment of persons deprived of their freedom" that flouts international conventions.

This points to "the possible existence of concerted actions by the US administration for the execution of a multitude of crimes of torture against persons deprived of their freedom in Guantanamo and other prisons including that of Bagram" in Afghanistan.

The four former Guantanamo detainees alleged they were held in cramped cells and suffered beatings and other physical and mental mistreatment.

The Palestinian, Jamiel Abdelatif al Banna, said he suffered "blows to the head that caused him to lose consciousness, was detained in an underground place without light for three weeks and deprived of food and sleep."

The decision by Garzon, known around the world for ordering the arrest of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in London in 1998, was unrelated to another investigation by the judge into six officials of the former US administration of George W. Bush over alleged torture at Guantanamo Bay.

Prosecutors this month issued an official request to the judge to drop that probe, arguing that the complaint targets officials who did not have the power to make decisions but who simply "drafted non-binding judicial reports."

Spain since 2005 has assumed the principle of universal jurisdiction in alleged cases of crimes against humanity, genocide, and terrorism. But it can only proceed when any such cases of the alleged crimes are not already subject to a legal procedure in the country involved.

Several human rights groups have asked judges in different countries to indict Bush administration officials over the camp, which US President Barack Obama has vowed to close by January 2010.

More than 800 detainees have been held at the US military prison since 2002.

Some 240 people are still there. About 60 of them have been deemed eligible for release, but the Obama administration is struggling to arrange their transfer to a third country.

The Bush administration had charged about 20 of the detainees on terror-related charges, including two prisoners arrested when they were still teenagers.

From DailyKos:


Philippe Sands, an attorney specializing in international law, and author of The Torture Team is currently on Fresh Air explaining this investigation. According to his sources the targets of this investigation include Condoleeza Rice and Richard B. Cheney, What is likely to happen net is for the investigation to proceed, if unappealed, a court date will be set, and the targets will be advised to appear. Garzón may then issue an arrest warrant that will be valid, at least in Spain, but possibly other countries.

Bob Fertik's got an update from the Washington Post:

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, speaking with reporters in Berlin before the investigation was announced, did not rule out cooperating with such an investigation.

"Obviously, we would look at any request that would come from a court in any country and see how and whether we should comply with it," Holder said.

"This is an administration that is determined to conduct itself by the rule of law and to the extent that we receive lawful requests from an appropriately-created court, we would obviously respond to it," he said.

Asked if that meant the U.S. would cooperate with a foreign court prosecuting Bush administration officials, Holder said he was talking about evidentiary requests, and would review any such request to see if the United States would comply.

House Democrats urge AG to name special counsel to probe Bush ...
Members of the US House Judiciary Committee [official website] on Tuesday sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile] urging ...
See all stories on this topic

House Speaker 
Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) may be facing heated questions from the Washington press pack over what she knew about the Bush administration's use of torture on terrorist suspects, but she faced a far more friendlier ...
AEGiS WebBoard Home -

Torture Issues Likely To Linger
Some Democrats have demanded that he be 
impeached. Bybee told The New York Times that he still believes that the memorandums represented "a good faith ...
See all stories on this topic

Torture In US Goes Unprosecuted Beyond Gitmo (VIDEO)
By The Huffington Post News Editors 
For starters, accountability could mean the 
impeachment of Judge Jay Bybee of the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, or the disbarment of John Yoo. At the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, the pair co-authored a serious of now- infamous memos that argued an .... If the US does not prosecuteBushCheney et al for torture, I fear we will see it become commonplace in our country, and will be used at police stations and prisons to interrogate any American citizen. ...
The Full Feed from -

MoveOn Ad Calls For Bybee's Impeachment
By The Huffington Post News Editors 
Last week, MoveOn put out a similar ad, though with the focus aimed at launching an investigation into the authorization of torture and with former vice president Dick
 Cheney included among the targets. The issue of investigations has clearly not ... If this is still America, it is the only way to begin repairing the damage done by the Bush Administration. Impeach Judge Bybee. Petition Signed. Thanks, MoveON. Reply Favorite Flag as abusive Posted 04:35 PM on 04/30/2009 ...
The Full Feed from -

t r u t h o u t | Obama Confronts Torture Policy in Prime Time
Cheney has been pushing for the release of classified documents, which he says will show that the highly controversial interrogation program employed by the Bush administration resulted in useful intelligence. Obama's response was a deflection, .... (That was VERY different from the impeachmentof Clinton, which was NOT supported by the public.) To NYCartist: yes, it's law, but it's also morality and ethics. If the law had not forbidden torture, would it have been OK? ...
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Bybee and Peterson: Two Mormons and Two Different Ethics on ...
By Chip 
Impeach the President: The Case Against Bush and Cheney," edited by Dennis Loo and Peter Phillips, with an introduction by Howard Zinn, a wonderfully well written collection of essays organized around a list of 12 grounds for ... - Bush-Cheney... -

Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL-19) Asks AG Holder to Appoint a Special ...
By Chip 
... proud that our new President is returning us to an open democracy that is committed to the rule of law and human rights. Now is the time to find answers and deliver accountability. More very soon. Regards,. Congressman Robert Wexler ... - Bush-Cheney... -

“The Only Approach I Stand Against Is Doing Nothing.”

Skip to comments by Andrew Mendes, Thu, 30 Apr 2009. 1

I received an email update this morning from my Representative, Congressman Robert Wexler from Floirda’s 19th congressional district. The subject line: Wexler Calls for Special Prosecutor on Torture. I wanted to share it with you to prove that some people on the Hill are trying to bring these offenses to light and attempt to begin repairing the many criminal and heinous acts form what history will remember as one of the darkest times in America’s history. Or perhaps I just want to prove it to myself.

I hope this catches on like a house on fire. If this initiative is blocked, it will happen at the Executive level, in which case I’ll have all faith in “change.” Still, this is a step in the right direction. The email begins below.

Dear Friends,

Yesterday, I signed a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder urging the appointment of a Special Prosecutor to investigate the Bush Administration and Justice Department’s role in authorizing torture. With the release of the so-called “Torture Memos” last week, and the instrumental role that Bush Administration Justice Department and Executive Branch officials had in orchestrating and approving these techniques, it is evident to me that we need an independent investigation into this troubling series of events that have damaged our national security and diminished our nation before the eyes of the world.

Click Here To View The Text Of The Letter I Sent To Attorney General Holder.

If I Don’t See You, You Don’t Exist: America The Torturous

I came across an article this week entitled “Obama Stands Nuremberg on Its Head,” by Mike Farrell, a contributor for the progressive web magazine Truthdig. His opening paragraph:

“President Obama’s decision to spare CIA torturers from prosecution stands the Nuremberg principles on their head. ‘Good Germans who were only following orders’ are not exempt from the bar of justice. Individuals must be held responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

Signs of the Times News for Wed, 29 Apr 2009
By Signs of the Times 
She said nothing and when she rose to the House Speakership, she declared that 
impeachment and investigations were "off the table." She had knowledge of crimes and impeachable offenses, and allowed these crimes to continue. ... Finding the scapegoats and letting the big ones go is possible, but because the paper trail is so clear and extensive, with the orders coming from the very top, and with both Bush and Cheney on record as approving of torture, it strains the ...
Signs of the Times -

Tugging on the Torture Thread

Dennis Loo | Open Salon | Thu, 30 Apr 2009 00:21 UTC


Chris Floyd writes at Empire Burlesque "The Fatal Thread: Torture, War and the Imperial Project:" 

"You cannot disentangle the torture program from the war of aggression in Iraq - nor from the illegal wiretapping program, the corrupt war profiteering, and all the other degradations of liberty and law that have been so accelerated in the past eight years. They are all of a piece, part and parcel of a plan to expand and entrench America's 'unipolar domination' of world affairs with a thoroughly militarized state led by an unaccountable, authoritarian 'Unitary Executive.' 

"This is one reason why Barack Obama is so obviously reluctant to tug on the torture thread too hard. If you tear it out, with full-scale prosecutions and top officials locked up behind bars, the whole rotten skein would fall apart. Once you start genuinely subjecting government officials - including security apparatchiks and military brass - to the full extent of the law, there would be no end to the unraveling: senators, contractors, representatives, bureaucrats, generals, lobbyists, judges, corporate chiefs - the whole edifice of Establishment power would be shaken to the core as its leading lights went down, one after the other." 

Floyd is right. The
 magnitude of the crimes and precedents set by the Bush regime is so immense, so deep, and so foul that, like Hercules, you'd need the Alpheus and Peneus Rivers to clean these Augean stables. Obama dare not tug on the threads of it too much or the whole cloth will unravel. 

The curtain has been pulled back for a moment and behind it is revealed Torquemada, the infamous Spanish Inquisitor and inventor of waterboarding. 

This scandal potentially threatens the Empire's legitimacy to the core. The torture memos' release has sparked a public revulsion powerful, widespread, and determined enough that public officials who have been intransigent like Obama and Sen. Diane Feinstein are at last calling for investigations and possible prosecutions. The public demands have not even approached their potential or the level that is necessary. But so far they have been enough to force Obama to back off from his original plan to "look forwards" and thereby allow the 
freaks and monsters to lumber off into the sunset. 

From "
What the US Does to Prisoners," No Right Turn: 

"This is a woodcut from Joost De Damhoudere's 
Praxis Rerum Criminalium, a guide to criminal law as it stood in the 16th century. The woodcut illustrates 'the water cure," a method of interrogation. The victim is tied down, their face covered with a cloth, and water is poured into their mouth. It produces a sensation of drowning and asphyxiation, and so encourages the victim to talk. Hence the scribe, ready to take down the confession. 

"According to numerous sources within the CIA, this is exactly what the US does to 
'high-value' detainees:

"'According to the sources, CIA officers who subjected themselves to the water boarding technique lasted an average of 14 seconds before caving in. They said al Qaeda's toughest prisoner, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, won the admiration of interrogators when he was able to last between two and two-and-a-half minutes before begging to confess. 

"'The person believes they are being killed, and as such, it really amounts to a mock execution, which is illegal under international law,' said John Sifton of Human Rights Watch.'

"The technique is one of six 'enhanced interrogation techniques' used by the CIA when questioning "high-value" detainees. For the historically-minded, it was also used by the Spanish Inquisition under Torquemada - though unlike the Americans he at least admitted that what he was doing was torture (for the good of people's souls, of course)." 

The wave of enthusiasm and hope that Obama rode into office is a double-edged sword for him and this system. To retain his credibility Obama must appear to be doing the right thing; his legitimacy within his social base and that of the Democratic Party depend upon this. Obama's wildly popular, but this popularity also ironically constricts his choices. 

In contrast, Bush and Cheney's social base doesn't expect anything but xenophobic Realpolitik, might makes right, "who gives a damn about the rest of the world, facts, truth, science, morality, foreigners, or international law? We're Americans, goddamn it, screw the rest of you." 

Obama, it seems, miscalculated around the memos. But then, he had little choice. The ACLU lawsuit was 
forcing his hand and he could release the memos when he did, or he could have fought the suit longer, but eventually he'd have had to cough up the memos and would have tarnished his reputation in the process. His image has already been eroded badly among growing numbers over his war policies, his stance on civil liberties, rendition, his reserving the right to go beyond the Army Field Manual in interrogations, and his outrageous assertions of "sovereign immunity." That erosion can only continue. 

The reaction to these memos has been much sharper than he anticipated. But this is how scandals and legitimacy crises (if this does become a full-blown legitimacy crisis) often develop: through twists and turns, the unexpected and unanticipated, the perps finding that they have no good choices, only bad ones from which they must choose. 

This scandal, if it proceeds - at this point it is difficult to see how it can be stemmed - will be far more devastating and dangerous than Teapot Dome, Watergate, and Iran-Contra put together. The more that comes out, the harder it will be to contain it and staunch the hemorrhaging. 

Obama was
 recruited by the powers that be as their ace in the hole, an articulate, skillful, charismatic, black man with very little baggage who could persuade millions that he would rescue them from the horrid, disastrous, profoundly compromised, corrupt to the bone, illegitimate Bush regime. This gambit worked like a charm, until, that is, Obama had to start implementing policy and his rhetoric about hope and change had to give way to actually doing something. Then his real colors started to show. 

Obama's mission for the powerbrokers was to 
rescue an imperialist superpower in crisis, financially on the brink of collapse, increasingly isolated internationally, a pariah to most of the world, and enmeshed in two costly, losing wars. Obama's task was to restore confidence and belief in the system, keep people in the fold, annihilate and/or intimidate foreign adversaries, prosecute these wars and occupations successfully, and retool the Empire in a way that would allow it to carry out its goal of unrivaled dominance. 

The Stakes and the Tangled Fabric 

Obama was chosen as the continuator of that which Bush and Cheney were so notorious for carrying out: a 
rupture from past practices, overturning sacrosanct legal principles such as habeas corpus, the Fourth Amendment against illegal search and seizure, prohibitions against torture and pre-emptive wars (by explicitly adopting torture and pre-emptive wars as public doctrine), FISA, separation of powers, and so on, all under the rubric of the "war on terror." These measures were and are necessary to this superpower because their goal is world domination and as such, past rules - as Alberto Gonzalez famously put it, referring to the Geneva Convention, "quaint" rules - present insuperable barriers to their grand scheme. 

Out, damn'd spot! out, I say! - One; two: why, then 

' tis time to do't. - Hell is murky. - Fie, my lord, fie, a soldier, and 

afeard? What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our 

pow'r to accompt? - Yet who would have thought the old man to 

have had so much blood in him? 

- Lady Macbeth from Shakespeare's Macbeth, Act V, Scene I. 

The trouble for the government is that with the exception of a handful of them such as Kucinich, 
both parties and their leaders especially are neck deep in felonies and crimes against humanity. The White House briefed Nancy Pelosi, for instance, in 2002 about the illegal surveillance over all of us and their waterboarding of detainees such as Zubaydah. She said nothing and when she rose to the House Speakership, she declared that impeachment and investigations were "off the table." She had knowledge of crimes and impeachable offenses, and allowed these crimes to continue. That makes her a co-conspirator. Rep. Jane Harman, by comparison, is a smaller fish, a piranha it's true, but not the school leader. 

None of the Democrats, including Obama, did what they should have done and were obligated to do, filibuster the Military Commissions Act of 2006 that legalized torture and stripped anyone of habeas corpus rights that Bush or his henchmen dubbed "enemy combatants." Sen. Patrick Leahy's the only one to have objected to the other bill that Bush signed in a secret ceremony on the same day as he signed the MCA: the John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007 that gave the president emergency powers based on his say-so alone. In other words, it gave the president the power to suspend the Constitution, declare martial law, and the power to do so on the president's say so alone by, if he or she wanted to, fabricating or even alleging an incident with no one to stop the president. How many people in the country have even heard of this bill, let alone know what it means? 

By letting these two bills pass when they could have and should have stopped them, 
Congress conspired to commit and perpetuate crimes against humanity. Their ongoing funding of these illegal, unjust and immoral wars are also part of their depraved complicity. 

To put it simply, the Democrats one and all have known what went on under Bush and Cheney, and what is 
still going on. 

Redrum. Redrum. Redrum. - The Shining, by Stephen King 

John Yoo and Jay Bybee will be, it would appear likely at this point, prosecuted. Unlike Watergate where the White House officials all either went to jail or were disgraced and forced out of office, this torture scandal has a far larger cast of characters. Finding the scapegoats and letting the big ones go is possible, but because the paper trail is so clear and extensive, with the orders coming from the very top, and with both Bush and Cheney 
on record as approving of torture, it strains the imagination how they will escape ultimately. This is also true of Rumsfeld and Rice, Gonzalez and Tenet. And so on. Not a cast of thousands, as in Hollywood, but a cast of dozens at least. 

Obama and Holder can try to bury the Nuremberg Verdicts, the Geneva Conventions, and the UN Convention Against Torture and try to
 finesse holding these towering crimes and criminals to account. But if you consider what impact these four torture memos have had so far and compare them to the even worse material that lies just beneath the surface (some of it already in the public domain, but not yet widely known) and the ongoing, explosive contradictions that this economy and this Empire face, you get an idea of the minefield that no amount of fancy dancing by Obama can entirely avoid once this process starts. 

Let us begin. 

Let Rome in Tiber melt, and the wide arch 

Of the rang'd empire fall! Here is my space, 

Kingdoms are clay; our dungy earth alike 

Feeds beast as man. . . . 

Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra
, Act I, Scene I

The left does rule
Tampa Tribune - Tampa,FL,USA
Why not 
impeach her too? We are now back to the criminalization of politics, which explained the Scooter Libby grand jury indictment and trial in the CIA ...
See all stories on this topic

The Rothenberg Political Report: For Obama, Deference Is Starting ...
By The Rothenberg Political Report 
It certainly looks as if President Barack Obama can't quite make up his mind on how to deal with calls within his party for a full-scale public investigation — with possible legal action — of
 Bushadministration officials who approved of ... Finally, ABC News polling director Gary Langer's April 23 column, “Obama, Cheney and the Politics of Torture,” points out that the public's reaction to what Langer calls “types of coercion” and even to “torture” under certain ...
The Rothenberg Political Report -

How much has really changed?
Socialist Worker Online - Chicago,IL,USA
I just interviewed Bruce Fein, one of the most outspoken conservatives calling for the 
impeachment ofBush and Cheney, and he said as far as we know, ...
See all stories on this topic

Is Obama Reading Andrew Sullivan? References Similar Torture Post ...
By The Huffington Post News Editors 
I predict that he will, by simply acting correctly within the law, see that 
BushCheney and that whole crowd are made to sweat in an extremely rigorous, high quality legal process (just like the NixonImpeachment). You watch. ...
The Full Feed from -


We Are All Torturers in America | Naomi Wolf | Guardian

Poll: Bush Getting Even More Unpopular Out Of Office
By The Huffington Post News Team 
A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found that former President
 Bush's popularity has dropped since he left office.
President Obama on The Huffington Post -

CQ Politics | Most Democrats Who Strayed on Budget Vote Hold ...
Kucinich is an outlier on this list because he is a staunch liberal who represents a Democratic-leaning, Cleveland-based district. When Kucinich defies his party's leadership, it is usually because he believes legislation does not go far enough in promoting his populist agenda on economic and ... His longstanding position in the ranks of conservative-leaning House Democrats has enabled him to win at least two-thirds of the vote in each of his six re-election campaigns. ...
Top Stories from CQ -

GOP's Big Names Try to Forge New Agenda

By Perry Bacon Jr. 
Looking to rebrand a struggling Republican Party, a group of party heavyweights including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) are launching a new group that will hold town halls around the country and look to produce GOP ideas on issues like education and health care.

Republicans will announce today the creation of the "National Council for a New America," a group led by congressional party leaders that includes Bush, McCain, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal as its "national panel of experts."

A letter announcing the group's creation does not specifically say that it is separate from the Republican National Committee, but controversial RNC chair Michael Steele is not involved in the effort.

"The NCNA will bring together citizens from across the country to begin a dialogue with the American people through a series of forums, town halls, and an online effort that will engage people in a discussion to meet our common challenges and build a stronger country through common-sense ideas," the letter says. "The NCNA will be a dynamic, forward-looking organization that will amplify the common-sense and wisdom of our fellow citizens through a grassroots dialogue with Republican leaders."

The letter says the group is not "a Republican-only forum." But GOP sources said House Minority Whip Eric Cantor played a top role in crating it. The group seems aimed at offering a conservative alternative at time when Democrats are lambasting the Republicans as the "Party of No" that simply attacks President Obama without offering policy ideas of its own. Its leadership does not include any Democrats.

"We do this not just to offer an alternative point of view or to be
disagreeable," the group's letter says. "Instead, we want to ask the American people what their hopes and dreams are. Since January, the President and the Democratic Majority in Congress have - rightfully so - put forward their plan for the future, now we must listen, learn and lead through an honest, open conversation with the American people that will result in building policy proposals that will yield the best results for our nation's long-term success."

The new initiative comes in the wake of a difficult 100 days for Republicans, who have watched Obama's poll ratings remain high while their own dip. Democrats moved toward a 60-seat majority in the Senate this week after Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter left the GOP.

The new group says it will focus on developing Republican ideas on energy, education, health care, national security and the economy. Its first town hall session will be Saturday at a restaurant in Northern Virginia. Cantor, Romney, Bush and other congressional leaders will attend. 


Fox News Continues to Hallucinate About a Socialist/Fascist Menace -- And It's Causing Real Damage

(Recall The Salem Witch Trials?)

By Timothy KarrHuffington Post. Posted April 30, 2009.

Fox news' insane rants about the impending onset of socialism/fascism has trickled into mainstream media. This is extremely dangerous. 

Last week, conservative factions within the Republican National Committee circulated an e-mail urging party leadership to brand as a "socialist" anyone who advocates even moderate changes to the government's role in society.

It's clear that the overlords at Fox News Channel already got that memo and decided to ratchet the volume up a notch -- to 11.

According to Politico, RNC member James Bopp Jr. proposed a resolution that would acknowledge that President Obama wants "to restructure American society along socialist ideals" and call upon the Democratic Party to rename itself the "Democrat Socialist Party."

"Just as President Reagan's identification of the Soviet Union as the 'evil empire' galvanized opposition to communism," Bopp wrote, "we hope that the accurate depiction of the Democrats as a Socialist Party will galvanize opposition to their march to socialism."

Red-Baiting Redux

And indeed, this has been a season of red-baiting the likes of which we haven't seen since the reign of a certain senator from Wisconsin. The week before Bopp's memo, Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) insisted that "some of the men and women I work with in Congress are socialists." Bachus says he has already counted 17of them but that there may be more.

Also keeping a list is Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who in the final days of the 2008 election season questioned then-candidate Obama's patriotism and called for an investigation of Democratic members of Congress for "anti-American views."

Bachmann didn't rest there. During an appearance late last month with Fox News Channel's Sean Hannity, she reiterated her call for a revolution against the tyranny of President Obama and congressional leadership.

"This is economic Marxism," Bachmann said of their economic stimulus plan. "[Obama] is moving the United States away from free-market capitalism and instead he's imprinting socialism deep into our centralized economic planning."

Like most of Bachmann's ranting in the media and on the Hill, these allegations make zero sense. But reality hasn't stopped her from assembling a political career out of comments that fan theflames of fear among the most militantly conservative.

When Socialism Isn't Bad Enough

Bachmann is by no means America's sole demagogue. That she's been given a national stage to insult our collective intelligence, though, is cause for notice.

Bopp, Bachus and Bachmann's rhetoric has been taken up by the tele-pundits of the right -- especially those prophets of doom who have made Fox News Channel their base of operations. But these knuckle-draggers aren't satisfied with fighting mere socialism.

"We're into socialism now. That's not our final destination," Fox News Channel's Glenn Beck said during his radio broadcast. "Our final destination is happy-faced fascism." In another segment on his cable program, Beck repeated this charge over a video backdrop of marching Nazis.

The 'Fox Effect'

This Beck-Hannity obsession has triggered the "Fox Effect," a media phenomenon whereby the repetitive news framing of one 24-hour cable network seeps into the coverage of other outlets -- and, frighteningly, into the political discourse of society as a whole.

Before long, the cable talent at CNN, CNBC and MSNBC had fallen into step, booking right-wing guests intent on pressing the Marxist fear button.

On MSNBC's "Morning Joe," host Joe Scarborough has suggested that the Obama administration favors "European-styled socialism." CNBC's Larry Kudlow has made our "march to socialism" a centerpiece of several interviews on his evening program.

For its part, CNN dedicated several news shows to sage analysis of America's political shift, including a segment in which Quinn Hillyer, the editor and columnist of the conservative Washington Examiner and American Spectator, compared Obama's actions in his first hundred days to those of Mussolini in fascist Italy.

Missing from all the crowing is any meaningful reporting that provides context for our current economic situation, or analysis of changing public attitudes about increased government oversight of businesses like the banking sector.

Journalism: the Cause or the Cure?

All of this cable news hyperventilating comes at a moment whenjournalism is in deep crisis. The migration of news audiences to a free-flowing Internet has led to declines in circulation, subscription and advertising revenues for traditional media.

Falling revenues translate directly into budget cuts, which in turn mean more layoffs. More layoffs mean fewer journalists, and a lower-quality product as evidenced by the torrent of fear-mongering above.

Newsgathering institutions may die off or evolve over time, but one thing must endure: We need to sustain a corps of qualified working reporters who can earn a living delivering the real news and information that is the lifeblood of a healthy American democracy.

That's right, I said "American democracy."

If the so-called journalists of cable news really want to protect us against totalitarianism, real or imagined, they'd do well to follow the examples of better reporting that are a part of our long history of newsgathering -- instead of simply aping the latest scare tactics at Fox News Channel.

The Only Way To Prevent Genocide


April 2009


Have you ever found yourself in the position of asking, on your own behalf or on behalf of others, how many or precisely which people it would be useful to kill in order to secure a benefit for yourself or your cause? And just how to do it? No? Others have. Their answers have ranged from Cain’s original “Abel, with my bare hands” to Hitler’s “all the Jews, mainly by gas,” and the widespread Hutu view in the Rwanda of 1994, “the Tutsis, with machetes.” The question burns today for the government of Sudan and in the Congo.

Humanity will never be able to solve the problem of Cain, of fratricidal rage born of jealousy or some equivalent passion, nor of the more calculating retail impulse to profit in some way from doing someone in. Thus, for individuals, we maintain a system of laws, police forces, courts, prisons, mental hospitals, and, for extreme cases, the apparatus of the death penalty to punish those whom an impulse or cold calculation has led to murder—thereby deterring (so we hope) at least some others from embarking on a similar course of action. But we understand that our system is no solution to the problem of murder.

It is not obvious, however, or should not be, that because the human condition gives us no prospect of ridding the world of murder, we must be similarly pessimistic about our ability to rid the world of murder on the scale of populations. Mass atrocities, up to the point of genocide, are not simply collective acts of individual murder. Though genocides are not uniform in character, they are all political. Genocide constitutes the most extreme possible terms for settling differences: a stronger party’s decision to annihilate or extirpate the weaker. Genocide is organized. It entails a project, which in turn requires leaders with a purpose in mind and their acquisition of the means of death, including followers to do the dirty work.

We simply do not have to put up with this. By “we,” let me be clear. I do not mean “humanity,” although I would welcome the collective conclusion of mankind that genocide is unacceptable. I do not mean the “international community,” although a decision on the part of all national governments to refrain from engaging in mass atrocities at home or abroad would be most welcome, as would a collective intention to stop and punish leaders or would-be leaders seeking to deviate from the norm. What I really mean by “we” is “we who are strong enough to stop the murderous bastards before they can get away with it.”

This “we” is an inclusive group; everyone with a will and a way is welcome. But its purpose must go far beyond declaratory well-wishing. It is not a bad thing but a grossly insufficient thing to join in choruses of “never again,” the familiar refrain after something really bad has happened—say, 6 million dead Jews, 2 million dead Cambodians, or 800,000 dead Tutsis. No, we must act to stop the malefactors.

And by “we,” in the last analysis, I mean the United States.


We have the privilege to live at a time of unprecedented prosperity, and we know how to generate more of it. Anybody who thinks the present financial crisis has changed these fundamental facts is engaged in the time-honored human propensity for self-dramatization Our prosperity is accompanied by a likewise unprecedented confluence of power and moral sensibility—or at least it seems to be. With regard to atrocities on a mass scale, we have the means at our disposal to stop what we and all right-thinking people know is wrong. It comes down to the choice of whether to act or not.

If we are unable to muster the political will to prevent or halt genocide and mass atrocities, the long-term consequences are truly chilling to contemplate. This is of course especially true with regard to future victims: the terror of being rounded up and held at gunpoint, especially in the final few seconds, as the shooting starts; of feeling the first slash of a swinging machete, knowing that more are coming. But it is also true for us. Future generations more committed to the principles we espouse but fail to act on may look back with disdain or disgust on our failure. Or, more horrifying still, future generations will conclude that all moral reasoning in political matters is sentimental superstructure that should be jettisoned in the interest of clarity about the first and only true principle of politics: the strong take care of themselves and the weak are on their own.

The progress of politics and civilization itself is nothing other than the long, difficult, incomplete struggle to overcome the original political principle of self-regard by instilling in the strong an empathetic regard for others. The first successes came in the mists of prehistory in the form of small groups ceasing to fight among themselves—clan, tribe, city. With the spread in terms of territory and clout of rights-regarding nation-states in recent centuries, it became possible to imagine cooperative efforts among such states to extend a principle of regard for others across international boundaries, indeed globally. In 1998, the NATO alliance—led, of course, by the United States—went to war against Serbia to stop ethnic cleansing and atrocities in Kosovo, averting a potential genocide in close proximity to NATO territory. But in 2004, after the U.S. Secretary of State, Colin Powell, declared that atrocities in the Darfur region of Sudan amounted to genocide, the response of the United States and others was uncertain and halting at best. Hundreds of thousands of lives were lost and millions evacuated their homes for refugee and displaced-persons camps. There they remain.

So, in recent memory, “we” have acted effectively, showing that we can, and “we” have failed to act effectively, revealing a gap between our professed moral sense and what we are prepared to do to vindicate it. The test of progress for this generation is whether we will be able to extend the principle of regard for others by acting when necessary to prevent or halt genocide.


Words are not enough; however, words matter. All things considered, when it comes to the importance of preventing genocide and mass atrocities, we talk a pretty good game. First there are American words. It is (or should be) a point of pride for believer and atheist alike that our founding national document, the Declaration of Independence, affirms that people are endowed by their Creator with, first of all, a right to life. The right to live can be especially difficult to vindicate. There is no one to whom a drowning man can appeal; it is not wrong for the water to drown him. But it surely is wrong if governments, wholly the creations of people, deny or violate this basic right. The Declaration sets forth the correct aspiration. True, certain historical conduct—the treatment of Native Americans in particular—miserably fails to measure up to the stated aspiration. But should we therefore abandon the aspiration? Of course not. We discredit only ourselves when we fail to live up to our ideals. The ideals themselves are not discredited.

Then there are words inspired by America’s founding that, in their drafting, sought to extend those ideals to the rest of the world, words in the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These documents affirm the rights of the individual against states or other actors that violate those rights. But the affirmation is more theoretical than actual, since the UN Charter also embraces a doctrine of sovereign right according to which states may not interfere in the internal affairs of others.

This aspect of the Charter gives states so inclined a ready cloak behind which to repress their people—including by commission of mass atrocities. This is what I mean when I say that words matter but are not enough. The UN’s universalist human-rights creed is honored far more in the breach than in the observance. At the same time, the UN Security Council is also charged to act in the interest of peace and security, which can create an opening in response to extreme situations in which large numbers of lives are at risk.

In 1946, with the dimensions of the horror of the Holocaust still unfolding, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution declaring genocide a crime under international law. Genocide “shocks the conscience of mankind,” the resolution memorably declared. This effort to “internationalize” the crime of genocide might have been the world body’s finest hour. The ensuing Genocide Convention of 1948 provides for “the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide” whether “committed in time of peace or time of war” and elaborates a definition, which includes “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”

The Convention isn’t self-executing, in that it doesn’t compel its signatories to take any particular action if the terms of the treaty are violated. But it does provide an international legal and, more important, moral framework for preventive action in response to the risk of genocide.

Breakthrough though it was, one unintended consequence of the Genocide Convention has been a serious problem. The definition of genocide is good as far as it goes, and the prevention mandate seems to allow latitude for timely action against would-be perpetrators. But whether “genocide” as defined in the treaty is actually occurring or about to occur is a complicated question both epistemologically and legally. For if you act to prevent genocide and succeed, there is no genocide—and so you cannot prove you have prevented one. Moreover, those you act against can claim you have violated their sovereign rights, and the argument will carry weight.

If, on the other hand, there is a legal finding of genocide, then it is too late for prevention. All that is left is mitigation. Moreover, if “genocide” is the trigger for action, then the bar is rather high: Atrocities short of genocide may somehow end up as tolerable, or at least tolerated. In 2005, a year after Colin Powell announced the U.S. finding of a genocide in Darfur, a UN special inquiry issued a report saying that while criminal atrocities had taken place in Sudan for which perpetrators needed to be held accountable, it lacked the basis for a conclusion that those crimes amounted to genocide. The bloodstained rulers in Khartoum were delighted to characterize the report as a vindication.

A further attempt to “internationalize” the Declaration’s “right to life” came in 2005, when the World Summit at the United Nations embraced in its “Outcome Document” the principle of the “responsibility to protect.” The doctrine of “responsibility to protect,” known colloquially as “R2P,” holds that a state has an obligation to protect those living on its territory from atrocities (specified in the Outcome Document as “genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity”). If a state is unable or unwilling to fulfill this requirement, the protection function falls to the international community, which can take measures up to and including the use of force in order to protect populations. With sovereign right comes sovereign responsibility. The principle of noninterference gives way in circumstances of mass atrocities.

I had a small role in the adoption of R2P. Congress (principally in the person of Frank Wolf, a Republican member of the House of Representatives from Virginia) chartered a bipartisan task force on UN reform run by the U.S. Institute of Peace and co-chaired by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell. I ran the Task Force’s expert group on human rights. Not without difficulty, we were able to include in the June 2005 consensus report a strong endorsement of the “responsibility to protect.” This was the first major bipartisan statement on behalf of R2P, which before had mainly been the province of liberal internationalists and human-rights groups on the Left.

The Task Force recommendation in turn influenced the Bush State Department to back the concept at the World Summit. In the absence of the Gingrich-Mitchell recommendation, the State Department’s traditional institutional wariness as well as ideological conservative skepticism would likely have led to U.S. opposition, which would have doomed the project.

As for the objections, the main concern has been (and remains) that the United States, by embracing R2P, will subject itself to the whims of the “international community” on whether and when to intervene in fulfillment of the protection function. Thus Steven Groves of the Heritage Foundation has expressed alarm that “the United States would cede control—any control—of its armed forces to the caprice of the world community without the consent of the American people.” In the extreme case, in this view, the U.S. might incur a legal obligation to go to war whether it wants to or not. The latter concern is so far down a trail of speculation piled on intemperate inference on top of worst-case hypothesizing that it hardly bears consideration. In its less extreme form, this is the question of how much the U.S. should engage with others to find common ends or interests and pursue them jointly.

Power is power, and the United States has more of it than any other state. But international political support is of value, and the U.S. does benefit from seeking it in fora that others regard as legitimate. We will never give the UN Security Council the last word. Other countries don’t like that, but then a Kosovo comes along, Russia blocks Security Council action, and people of good will realize that the price of calling off war because the Security Council hasn’t authorized it will be several hundred thousand dead Kosovars.

In other words, one should try one’s best at the UN for the simple reason that one might succeed. But failure at the UN does not end the discussion, as the U.S. determination in the months leading up to the war in Iraq demonstrated, and certainly should not when a genocide is brewing.

A more practical concern is that R2P would simply be used against Israel. This is true, but no more of R2P than of everything else, alas. Given bad will, any principle can be distorted almost into its opposite in the application. Vladimir Putin’s Russia cleverly cited the responsibility to protect as a reason for its invasion of Georgia in 2008—it was just acting to protect Russians in the breakaway Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, don’t you see! It fell to the Swedish foreign ministry to inform the Russians that the “responsibility to protect” here was Georgia’s, since it was on Georgian territory that the supposed offense against Russian ethnics was taking place—and that in case Georgia failed, the responsibility would fall to the “international community.”

All of these documents, from the Declaration to the UN Charter to the R2P language in the Outcome Document, are subject to the criticism that, again, they are mere words on paper. Whom have these words actually protected? The answer is that these words are tools of moral suasion. The principles they espouse represent some of our best conclusions about how the world should be and what we should do in pursuit of such a world. They are, of course, works in progress and remain subject to refinement. But we can’t say we haven’t really thought about genocide and mass atrocities, whether they matter to us or what we should do when confronted with them. By now, we know.


Institutions cannot respond effectively to the threat of genocide and mass atrocities in the absence of political will on the part of their members. Nevertheless, institutions can be more or less adroit, responsive, and effective. Here, we have a long way to go, though a range of promising steps has been taken.

Let me offer two snapshots of the problem and the response. The first comes from 2005, during work on the Gingrich-Mitchell report. The second comes from work I did last year on the Genocide Prevention Task Force,1 which issued a report in December 2008 with recommendations to the U.S. government on forestalling the threat of atrocities. The institutional change over the course of three years has been staggering.

In 2005, all was confusion, and the Darfur situation in particular was a frustrating daisy chain of inaction: Everybody who was potentially in a position to do something useful—from the Secretary General’s office at the United Nations to the UN Security Council to the European Union to NATO to the African Union mission on the ground in Darfur to the United States government itself—was full of explanations about why somebody else had to do something first.

In 2004, the African Union (AU) deployed a small number of troops to Sudan to protect outside monitors of a cease-fire agreement. They were able to do little to contain the depredations Sudanese government forces were inflicting on Darfur in conjunction with the Janjaweed militia, irregular forces of nomadic Arabic-speaking tribes at odds with the sedentary population of Western Sudan. As was well known to everyone involved in early 2005, the AU force was too small and woefully underequipped and unprepared. To be even minimally effective, the African Union needed a package of assistance that would include communications and intelligence assets, lift, planning and headquarters help, and training. Where to get it?

Well, maybe a military alliance with serious capabilities along those lines, like NATO. Or maybe NATO acting in conjunction with the European Union, which was already providing the main funding for the AU mission. Or maybe the European Union itself, if it could get its act together on its desire for a “common foreign and security policy.” Or maybe just the United States, leading a coalition of the willing or even acting on its own, if necessary.

It turned out that in the previous year, in the summer of 2004, the NATO military command under General James Jones (now Barack Obama’s national- security adviser) had begun a “prudent planning” exercise on Darfur—essentially, an inquiry into what might be done to help out the AU. It was undertaken without the authorization of the North Atlantic Council, NATO’s political decision-making body.

That exercise was interrupted when several allies, notably France, objected to NATO assigning itself a role in Africa. Some saw in the objection an effort to protect the EU’s turf. The planning didn’t cease, but it moved out of NATO auspices to the U.S. European Command, our military’s headquarters on the continent. As matters stood, there was no prospect of a NATO mission—but it seemed to us that matters need not have stood there.

We knew that UN Secretary General Kofi Annan had given a couple of speeches urging NATO to assist the African Union’s Darfur efforts. One ambassador at NATO told us he thought this represented an opening. The Europeans who were reluctant to involve NATO would not change their minds based merely on a speech by Annan, but if the Secretary General actually sent a formal letter to NATO asking for alliance help, that might change the debate. It would be one thing to say NATO shouldn’t insert itself into Africa, quite another to decline a UN request for help.

Does this sound ridiculous? Hundreds of thousands of lives potentially at stake over whether the contents of a speech are transferred to a letter? It does, and this is an indication of just how ill-equipped the “international community” as a whole was to deal with an emergency on the scale of Darfur.

Skeptics at the European Union’s headquarters in Brussels, meanwhile, informed us that the African Union would be reluctant to accept assistance from the West’s military alliance, since doing so would smack of neo-imperialism and colonialism. A better avenue would be through the European Union, according to the European Union—not that the EU actually had a plan.

So why not have Annan send a letter? We asked that question at a meeting with senior UN officials on the top floor of the organization’s building in New York. The answer was that Annan’s representatives had sounded out NATO and determined that there was simply no support for the alliance’s involvement in Africa. Annan couldn’t possibly ask for help only to be rebuked, explained Mark Malloch Brown, Annan’s top adviser (now an intimate of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown).

I found myself, to my surprise, shouting at Malloch Brown from the staff seats in the second row: Their information was simply wrong, there was substantial will at NATO to do just that. What was needed was a letter—Annan had already given speeches saying the same thing, all he needed to do was send a letter, just a letter. My importuning, though impolitic, got Malloch Brown’s attention and drew an invitation for follow-up on the matter. On the train on the way back to Washington, we drafted an e-mail explaining the situation as we had found it, why everything was so horribly stuck, and how it might at last get unstuck.

We quickly heard through intermediaries that though Annan was favorably disposed to the idea of a formal request, he didn’t think he had the authority to write such a letter—he didn’t want to get out too far in front of the Security Council on a matter that was subject to difficult ongoing negotiations there.

So now what? Another avenue to change the debate in NATO would be a letter directly from the African Union asking for assistance in Darfur—notwithstanding the patronizing assurance we had received that the African Union could not conceivably accept the neocolonialist assistance of monstrous Americans who had invaded poor Iraq.

Success. For what Annan could not write personally, he evidently could get written. After days of back-channel exchanges with Annan’s office, a letter arrived at NATO headquarters on April 26, 2005 from African Union chairman Alpha Konare specifically requesting NATO’s help in Darfur. Hard upon it, NATO’s North Atlantic Council—the same body that had insisted on an end to the previous year’s “prudent planning” exercise on how the genocide might be interrupted—formally approved the assistance.

I make no claim about the efficacy or adequacy of that NATO assistance. The best one can say about it is that things could have been worse. More than a million people in displaced-person and refugee camps are better than more than a million dead. The presence of peacekeepers, though woefully inadequate, seems nevertheless to have had some deterrent effect on the monstrous Janjaweed militia and the government.

The chief fact we found as we tried to manage the rules of the international system in 2005 was a high level of dysfunctionality. Nobody really knew what was on the minds of the key players in the African Union. The United Nations Secretary General didn’t know what was possible at NATO. NATO itself was uncertain about getting involved in Africa. Some Europeans seemed more interested in protecting their African turf than in action that might help those at risk. Meanwhile, the only organization that seemed genuinely interested in taking action, the African Union, was hobbled by a grievous lack of resources and capacity, and didn’t know how or whom to ask for help.

So what do you need to deal with a situation like Darfur? You need soldiers, and they had better be well trained and well led, otherwise you can end up (as the UN unfortunately has on more than one occasion) with peacekeepers who also dabble as sexual predators on the populations they are supposed to be protecting. You need equipment, like armored personnel carriers, and better still, helicopters. You need a mandate that enables your soldiers to take effective action, so they’re actually able to protect the locals in danger (not just to protect, as was notoriously the case in Darfur, the cease-fire monitors). Above all, you need the political will to take action.

And you really need to have figured out how to put together all of the above before a crisis spirals out of control. That means you’ve got to do the tedious work of getting people, governments, and institutions to think about what they need and plan in advance on how to get it. It means a hundred different letters and memorandums of understanding. The machinery of international politics was not developed to address problems such as Darfur. If we want to address them, and we must, then we have to retool and refine what we’ve got. To that end, the Gingrich-Mitchell report included a number of recommendations on things like “capacity-building,” an unlovely bit of foreign policy jargon, but one that nonetheless captures the imperative to close the gap between what you have and what you need.


Fast forward a few years later: Making the fact-finding rounds again, this time with the Genocide Prevention Task Force, I was astounded to see that all of the things we recommended in Gingrich-Mitchell were starting to happen. I don’t say these changes occurred because Gingrich-Mitchell recommended them. But we had clearly been onto something in terms of identifying the gaps and roadblocks in the international system.

Far from resisting American or European assistance on neocolonial or any other grounds, the African Union and other organizations on the continent welcome help. They are increasingly finding the political will to confront the continent’s malefactors. They have been working to develop “early warning” systems. They have the troops, but they need training and equipment before they will be fully prepared to act swiftly in response to trouble, and that’s where the developed world can be useful.

NATO, meanwhile, is in the process of figuring out how to do more in partnership with others and is favorably disposed to helping out with peace building and peacekeeping missions conducted under UN or other auspices. A deputy secretary general at NATO now has the responsibility to serve as the focal point for engagement with other organizations and institutions. A document outlining how NATO will work with the UN has been approved. And there is now a NATO liaison officer to the African Union.

The emphasis on Africa is obvious, but mass atrocities are not, of course, a problem unique to Africa. For the first time, the charter of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations now includes a provision on human rights. The UN Secretary General now has a special adviser on the “responsibility to protect” as well as a special adviser on the prevention of genocide. These offices are small, and they necessarily view their subjects from a UN perspective, which is too limiting for U.S. policymakers. But again, the more constructive the UN can be, the better.

One could go on. The point is that governments and international and regional organizations have made a beginning of taking the problem of preventing genocide and mass atrocities with the level of seriousness the subject demands. On the home front, the Genocide Prevention Task Force offered a large dose of specific guidance on internal government reform that holds out the promise of more effective and timely policymaking. This is no place for a discussion of the specifics of the interagency process and military planning procedures. Suffice it to say that better internal organization is within reach.

The missing institutional piece on the international scene now, it seems to me, flows from the absence of coordination and mutual awareness among the various parties that are now taking the issue seriously. The Task Force recommended that the U.S. government undertake a “major diplomatic initiative” whose purpose would be to put together a formal network linking all the parties that engage on the issue—governments, non-governmental organizations, and regional and international institutions. The idea would be to share information and strategize responses to emerging threats.

The report does not quite say so, but it would be prudent to have someplace to go where people with a record of taking the issue seriously and with genuine moral authority gather, in the all-too-likely event that the UN Security Council finds itself paralyzed once again in the face of mass atrocities. Such a network would have no legal authority, but it might well have moral authority of the sort that contributes to the generation of political will.

In the end, unsurprisingly, effective action may come down to U.S. power and will. Those of us who see an imperative for action in these cases should welcome encouragement to that end from wherever it may come. And realistically, it would most likely be due only to very poor diplomacy if the United States found itself without supporters and allies in preventing or stopping genocide.


The response to Darfur has to be judged a failure. But it has perhaps been a constructive failure that has galvanized people to think about how to make the system more nimble in response to gathering dangers. Those with a profound distaste for “nonconsensual military intervention”—that would be an “invasion” to the plain speakers among us—should be all the more concerned about timely action to identify the gathering danger of mass atrocities and nip the problem in the bud. Those with a will to argue for whatever is necessary to halt a slide into mass slaughter must realize that they will be most effective in galvanizing a response if they amass a chorus of the like-minded to speak as one on the moral imperative.

But we cannot assure ourselves that our best planning will always enable us to act early, nor can we count on having a phalanx of the like-minded alongside us. In the extreme case, halting or failing to halt genocide has come down to whether the political will exists within the United States to act. We will not be spared from such decisions in the future. If we are serious, we have to be willing to take upon ourselves the burden of providing the leadership, the arms, the troops, and the resources, and of bearing the casualties, the reversals of fortune, and the inevitable complaints and second-guessing.

Because the would-be genocidaires are out there, thinking about it: whom to kill; how many; how to do it. Whether they can get away with it.

Dear ed.,

President Obama just released secret memos detailing the Bush administration's use of torture. The memos make it clear that members of our Government committed serious crimes, and then tried to cover it up. But how can one Administration investigate another without descending into a partisan mudfight?

Key members of Congress have an answer - an independent special prosecutor who can demand the truth, and deliver justice
1. That's how we handled Watergate; that's how we discovered who leaked the name of CIA agent Valerie Plame. Obama has left it up to Attorney General Eric Holder to decide whether to investigate further, or bury the past2. Ask Holder appoint a special prosecutor to investigate torture and other crimes committed by the Bush administration.

The torture issue is serious. It calls into question what we stand for, and whether we are a nation of laws, even in times of war. Obama released the memos because he believes Americans deserve to know the truth about what has been done in our name. 

But to investigate further and bring those responsible to justice, we need a special prosecutor. The memos Obama released only hint at the range of crimes committed. And the people responsible are not going to come quietly3.

Tell Eric Holder to restore the rule of law, and keep politics out of it, by appointing a special prosecutor to investigate crimes committed under the Bush administration.


Drew Hudson
TrueMajority / USAction;_ylt=AvW252FSAkxg2.mE_IoUZAhI2ocA

The US tries to get to the bottom of it; will the rest of the ...
SAHRDC - New Delhi,India
3] Whether the administration will deliver on the promise of accountability remains to be seen. Indeed, the US has much explaining to do on a vast range of ...See all stories on this topic

t r u t h o u t | Dick Cheney's Torture Hypocrisy
Cheney has called for declassifying memos he claims will vindicate the Bush administration's torture policy. Now former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV urges the former vice president to extend his demand for transparency to his still- secret .... The worst thing they did to The People was to deny us the necessary cure of impeachment. At this point in time I would settle for exposure of this entire cover-up, along with trials and proper punishments for war crimes. ...
Truthout - All Articles -

Cenk Uygur: Condi Rice Pulls A Nixon: When the President Does It ...
By Cenk Uygur 
David Bromwich: Follow the Evidence. The truth about what
 Bush and Cheney and Addington and Yoo and Cambone and Feith and a handful of others did must be known before it can be judged, and all that can be judged is the content of their actions. ... the Problem of Constitutional Evil: The Way Forward. I have no hesitation in asserting that Judge Bybee should be subjected to impeachment proceedings, and that Bybee, Yoo, Addington et al. should face disbarment proceedings. ...
The Blog -

Judge Invited to Testify About Role in Interrogation Memos
Washington Post - United States
In recent days, left-leaning activists including John Podesta, who led President Obama's transition team, have called for Bybee's 
See all stories on this topic

Commentary: Torture must be investigated
And so the only claim left is the one made by former Vice President Dick 
Cheney and former CIA Director Michael Hayden -- that waterboarding and similar ...
See all stories on this topic

Karl Rove Case Witness Killed In Plane Crash, Sisters Want Answers
Web Guru Was Potential Witness In Ohio Voting Fraud Case

Mike Connell Had Been Deposed And Was Seen As A Key Witness In A Lawsuit Alleging Voter Fraud.
Credit: Shannon Connell

Shannon Connell of Madison says her brother Michael rarely talked about work. She knew he ran an Ohio company called New Media Communications that set up websites for Republicans including former President George H.W. Bush and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. But it wasn't until after he died last December, when the small plane he was piloting crashed, that she learned via the Internet of his tie to a voter fraud case and to allegations that presidential adviser Karl Rove had made threats against him.

"At first, it was really hard for me to believe Mike was dead because somebody wanted him dead," says Shannon, a buyer for a local children's resale shop. "But as time goes on, it's hard for me not to believe there was something deliberate about it."

A native of Illinois, Shannon moved to Madison in 2002, the same year as her sister, Mary Jo Walker. Walker, a former Dane County Humane Society employee, has similar concerns about their brother's death: "It doesn't seem right to me at all."

Michael Connell — who died at age 45, leaving a wife and four kids — was a computer networking expert who lived near Akron. Last July 17, an attorney who's filed a federal civil rights lawsuit alleging a conspiracy to rig elections in Ohio held a press conference at which he identified Connell as a principal witness.

The attorney, Cliff Arnebeck of Columbus, Ohio, tells Isthmus he doesn't believe Connell was engaged in criminal activity but may have been a "data-processing implementer" for those who were. "I was told he was at the table when some criminal things were discussed."

A week after the press conference, on July 24, Arnebeck wrote U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey seeking protection for Connell, whom he said had been "threatened" by Rove, a key player in the campaigns of George W. Bush. Arenebeck says Connell was told through an intermediary that unless he agreed to "take the fall" for election fraud in Ohio, his wife [and New Media partner] faced prosecution for lobby law violations. There was no claim of a threat on Connell's person.

Arnebeck was permitted to depose Connell last Nov. 3. The portion of this deposition that dealt with the alleged threats was sealed, but Arnebeck is preparing a motion to make it all public. He affirms that Connell denied any involvement in voter fraud, but thinks Rove still had reason to regard him as a threat.

"The problem that Mike Connell represented is [he was] a guy of conscience," says Arnebeck. "If it came right down to it, he would not commit perjury." Arnebeck "absolutely" would have called Connell as a witness in his lawsuit.

Shannon and Mary Jo both say their brother, a devout Catholic, seemed upset in the weeks before his death. Mary Jo feels he was "stressed out and depressed" on his birthday last November; Shannon says he atypically did not respond to an email she'd sent.

On Dec. 19, Connell flew alone in his single-engine Piper Supercub from a small airport near Washington, D.C. The plane crashed on its final approach to his hometown Akron-Canton Airport, between two houses. The cause is still under investigation but is presumed accidental.

The blogosphere refuses to accept this. "Mike was getting ready to talk," writes one online journalistwho labels Connell a source. "He was frightened."

Connell's widow has rejected such speculation. "He wasn't about to talk, because there was nothing to talk about," Heather Connell told the Huffington Post. "Nobody did anything wrong."

Shannon Connell, for her part, dismisses reports that her brother was warned not to fly, but still considers the crash that killed him "very suspicious." Michael was an experienced pilot, and his plane had recently been serviced. Plus there's the timing — "after the deposition and before the trial. It just seems very convenient."

Arnebeck goes further in suggesting foul play. "I have been told by multiple sources," he says, "that this plane crash was not an accident, and by multiple sources that the technology is available to bring down a plane in this way."

What's his evidence? Arnebeck repeatedly cites a recent online article by Minnesota emeritus professor Jim Fetzer. The article, datelined Madison and headlined "Has Cheney Been Murdering Americans?", mentions Connell along with other possible victims, including Sen. Paul Wellstone and Pat Tillman, the former NFL player killed in Afghanistan.

Michael Connell's sisters don't know what to believe. Says Shannon, "I really just want the truth to come out." So does Mary Jo, who doubts this will happen: "With so many things that people in power get away with in this country, I don't expect anyone to ever be named, much less prosecuted, in the death of my brother."

Links to referenced articles:

"One of My Sources Died in a Plane Crash Last Night..." by Larisa Alexandrovna, 12/20/08

Election Attorney Arnebeck Sent E-mail to Mukasey in July Warning of Threat Against Connell by Oregon Voter Rights Coalition, 12/22/08.

"Mike Connell Was Warned Not to Fly Before Crash" by Wayne Madsen, Online Journal, 12/22/2008

"The Intriguing Death of Top GOP Consultant Michael Connell" by Thomas B. Edsall, Huffington Post, 1/25/09

"Has Cheney Been Murdering Americans?" by Jim Fetzer, OpEdNews, April 12, 2009

Wikipedia entry on Michael Connell


  • From the President's Desk
  • Constitution Project Co-Sponsors ABA Program "From Gideon to Gitmo: Due Process and Right to Counsel Challenges for the Obama Administration"
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit Rejects Obama Administration's Overbroad Claim of the State Secrets Privilege
  • Constitution Project Renews Call for Commission of Inquiry
  • News in Brief 

From the President's Desk 

During the past two weeks, the debate over whether there should be an investigation into the treatment of suspected terrorists in United States custody has reached a fever pitch in Washington and consumed the news media. The release of four Office of Legal Counsel memoranda, followed by the Senate Armed Services Committee report on detainee treatment, fueled much of this debate. Signals from both the executive and legislative branches on an investigation have been mixed, leaving the talking heads to speculate non-stop.
These recent developments further justify the need for an independent, nonpartisan commission of inquiry into the detention, transfer, interrogation, and treatment of suspected terrorists. In February, the Constitution Project, along with 22 other individuals and organizations, released a statement calling on President Obama to appoint such a commission. For our nation to truly move forward, we must examine the policies of the past to ensure we are headed in the right direction. To ignore what has been done in our names in recent years would betray our nation's commitment to justice and the rule of law. A commission is needed to make America a better place for all. 

Upcoming Events 

Constitution Project Co-Sponsors ABA Program "From Gideon to Gitmo: Due Process and Right to Counsel Challenges for the Obama Administration"
The Constitution Project is co-sponsoring the American Bar Association Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities' program entitled, "From Gideon to Gitmo: Due Process and Right to Counsel Challenges for the Obama Administration." The program will be presented on May 1st as part of the IR&R's 2009 Spring Meeting in Miami, Florida.
Constitution Project President 
Virginia Sloan will moderate the first panel, "The Crisis in Indigent Defense and the Right to Counsel: Have We Failed to Deliver on the Promise of Gideon?" The panel also includes National Right to Counsel Committee member Shawn Armbrust and will address many of the issues raised in the Committee's recent report, "Justice Denied: America's Continuing Neglect of our Constitutional Right to Counsel." The second panel, "Guantanamo, Habeas, Interrogation, and Surveillance: A 100 Day Report Card," will discuss many of the issues that have been the focus of the Liberty and Security Committee's recent work.  


U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit Rejects Obama Administration's Overbroad Claim of the State Secrets Privilege 
On Tuesday of this week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit 
rejected the federal government's argument inMohamed v. Jeppesen Dataplan that the "very subject matter" of a case alleging torture is a state secret and the case should therefore be dismissed. The court held that the state secrets privilege is an evidentiary doctrine, and that the question for the court "is only which evidence is secret and may not be disclosed in the course of a public trial." Constitution Project Senior Policy Counsel Sharon Bradford Franklin was quoted in a Los Angeles Timesarticle welcoming the court's decision.

Constitution Project Joins 18 Other Organizations in Calling for Independent Commission of Inquiry

The Constitution Project joined a coalition of 18 other advocacy organizations Tuesday in a campaign to urge President Obama to appoint an independent commission to investigate the treatment of people detained since September 11, 2001 by the United States or at the direction of the United States as part of antiterrorism or counterterrorism activities. The Constitution Project first pressed for such an investigation back in February, when it joined a bipartisan group of advocacy organizations and leaders from across the political spectrum to call on President Obama to appoint a nonpartisan commission.
The Constitution Project is also working with the Davis Group, a 15-member organization that includes scholars, retired military officers, human rights specialists, practicing attorneys who have represented detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Bagram, and other locations, individuals with experience in conducting previous government commissions, intelligence specialists, and constitutional rights experts, to provide detailed proposals and recommendations for the creation of a commission. Members of the Group include retired U.S. Army Reserves
Lt. Col. Stephen Abraham and Eugene R. Fidell, president of National Institute of Military Justice, both members of the Constitution Project's Liberty and Security Committee. 

News in Brief 

  • On Tuesday, former Rep. Mickey Edwards (R-OK), a member of the Constitution Project's Board of Directors and Liberty and Security Committee, published an OpEd in Politico claiming that if in fact the U.S. is a nation based on the rule of law, Congress has no choice but to exercise its constitutional obligation to investigate possible abuses by American officials. The OpEd inspired a spirited debate in the Arena, Politico's on-line discussion forum.
  • The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers has just released a report concluding that, "nationwide, state, and local governments are wasting millions of tax dollars to prosecute petty offenses, creating huge deficits in their budgets and violating the constitutional rights of citizens haled into court." The report, "Minor Crimes, Massive Waste: The Terrible Toll of America's Broken Misdemeanor Courts," provides a comprehensive examination of misdemeanor courts across the country. It urges states to divert non-violent misdemeanor cases that do not affect public safety to programs that are less costly to taxpayers, create fewer burdens on public defenders, probation officers, and other court-related programs, and more effectively protect the constitutional right of defendants to legal representation. The report recommends that offenders repay society through community service or civil fines. The Constitution Project recently released "Justice Denied: America's Continuing Neglect of Our Constitutional Right to Counsel," which similarly recommends ways to address the crisis in indigent defense around the country.
  • The Brennan Center for Justice on Monday released a report card on President Obama's efforts towards transparency during his first 100 days in office. During this period, there have already been several tests of Obama's campaign pledge for openness. Thus far, his administration's performance has ranged from "excellent" - for the executive orders and statements issued on day one, to "poor" - for the adoption of the previous administration's claims regarding the scope of the state secrets privilege.
  • The Obama administration decided to release four of the previously undisclosed Office of Legal Counsel memoranda justifying harsh interrogation techniques on detainees, such as waterboarding and wall slamming, on April 16. This was followed up by the release of the Senate Armed Services Committee'sreport on its 18 month investigation into the treatment of detainees in U.S. custody the following Wednesday. The Constitution Project released astatement saying that these two events further justify the need for an independent, nonpartisan commission of inquiry into the detention and interrogation policies of suspected terrorists. Constitution Project Policy Counsel Becky Monroewas quoted in an article in Politico saying that our nation needs this investigation to truly move forward.  
  • The request by Georgia death-row inmate Troy Davis for a new hearing was denied in a 2-1decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit on April 16.  Mr. Davis, who was convicted of killing a Savannah, Georgia police office in 1989, has repeatedly said that he is innocent of the crime. His conviction nearly 20 years ago relied heavily on prosecution witnesses who have since altered their testimony. New statements of individuals implicate another man, who claims to have killed the police officer. The Court did keep in place its stay of execution for an additional 30 days for Mr. Davis to make a final appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.



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