Friday, April 24, 2009

Torture, Torture, Torture, Obama-Holder, Obama-Holder, Pelosi-Harmon, Pelosi-Harman! Things Beneath The Radar.

Torture, Torture, Torture, Obama-Holder, Obama-Holder, Pelosi-Harmon, Pelosi-Harman! Things Beneath The Radar.



The Investigate, Impeach And Indict Document And Memos Source Library

Why the Prisoner Interrogation Story Won’t Go Away

By Madison Powers, CQ Guest Columnist

For anyone who remembers Watergate, the unfolding story of U.S. involvement in torture and other unsavory information-gathering activities — sometimes referred to euphemistically as “enhanced interrogation techniques” — has taken a familiar turn. Once one bit of previously classified, or otherwise publicly unavailable, information comes into public view, a cascade of follow-up stories ensues.

The snowball effect is inevitable and no matter how many people — current and former administration officials, members of congress, and members of the military and various intelligence agencies — have a vested interest in letting this story go away, it just won’t die.

When one new set of details emerges, new questions arise. Who was involved? What was the extent of their involvement? What did they know and what should they have known, given their positions of authority? How far up the governmental ladder did involvement go? And, of course, who along the way tried to make sure that the story would not get out or only some highly misleading part of the story would see the light of day?

The last few weeks have been extraordinary in what we have learned and from so many angles. There is every reason to expect that the surprises will keep on coming. Consider just a small sample.

The first bombshell pertaining to CIA interrogation practices was contained in a report of the International Committee of the Red Cross (IRCR) printed last month in the New York Review of Books.

The previously confidential IRCR report was leaked, and for most of us, it was the most detailed, documented account thus far of the methods of interrogation the CIA had used on “high value detainees” held in the agency’s detention program and ultimately sent to the Guantánamo facility. The report, however, was not news to many in a position to act on the information it contained. It had been sent to the CIA’s general counsel in February 2007.

What the Red Cross report confirms is the growing body of evidence revealing the extent and precise nature of CIA interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, subjection to extreme cold, sleep deprivation, prolonged “stress standing,” and many other techniques that contravene both international standards for protection against human rights abuse and the consensus on best practices for obtaining credible and actionable intelligence.

Next came the release of the legal memoranda from the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) within the Justice Department. Here we find that lawyers in the Bush administration had crafted legal opinions well outside the elastic boundaries of reasonable legal debate.

Just this week, a third document was released, shining a fresh light on the connections between the IRCR report and the OLC memoranda. The Senate Armed Services released its 263-page report detailing the interrogation techniques used by the military. In addition, it provides much new information about the role of the Justice Department and other federal agency lawyers and officials who had some hand in crafting a justification for historically unprecedented prisoner interrogation techniques.

The executive summary of that Senate Committee report revealed two (among many) striking things.

First, the context for the legal justification suggests that the opinions appear to have been generated not with the aim of dispassionate, good faith legal analysis, but with an eye toward reaching a desired result that few, if any, lawyers with a modicum of knowledge of the relevant law would have reached. In the language of the committee report, there was a systematic effort by which officials “redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees.”

Moreover, the conclusions of the OLC opinions, as characterized and quoted in the Senate report by Jack Goldsmith, the former assistant attorney general of the OLC who succeeded Jay S. Bybee from the Bush era in that job, were described as follows: “Violent acts aren’t necessarily torture; if you do torture, you probably have a defense; and even if you don’t have a defense, the torture law doesn’t apply if you act under the color of presidential authority.”

In short, the opinions appear not only as the product of a bizarre legal imagination, but also potentially ones concocted to give cover for actions that reasonable and well-informed lawyers should have known to be outside the legitimate realm of legal disagreement. Page: 1 2 3 |  Next


Brutally Honest: This just in...
By Rick aka Mr. Brutally Honest 
Twenty-four hours later, President Obama reversed himself—what else is new?—and announced that prosecution is now a possibility. How much do you want to bet that George Soros and 
Moveon.orgplayed a major part in this infamous decision. ...
Brutally Honest -

Thousands of Pages of Evidence and a Quarter of a Million Signatures: What Will It Take For Attorney General to Prosecute Torture Crimes?
By Liliana Segura, AlterNet
Amid new revelations and citizen outrage the AG spoke before House members, but won't reveal whether he intends to prosecute. 
Read more »

Take Action Against Torture « Levellers
By Michael Westmoreland-White 
Torture techniques were approved not only by 
Cheney but by Condi Rice when she was Nat. Sec. Advisor. The Bush admin. began looking to create the torture program before we went to Afghanistan, i.e., before we even had anyone to torture. ... Yes, one of the torture memo authors, Bybee, was later appointed by Bush to a federal bench just one step below the Supreme Court of the United States! It's a lifetime appointment, but judges can be impeached (though they seldom are). ...
Levellers -

GOP Forgets Once Again - Their Belief in the Rule Of Law
TPMCafé - New York,NY,USA
Bush, VP Cheney and many other top officials from the Bush administration have now admitted they water boarded prisoners. ...
See all stories on this topic

Torture Debate Crowds Congressional Agenda

While Majority Leader Harry Reid wants the Senate Intelligence Committee to proceed with its ongoing classified investigation, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi supports the creation of an independent "truth commission." READ MORE

Spytalk: Repetitive Interrogations Reveal Lack of CIA Spies, Vets Say
In the continuing cacophony over what torture is and whether it "works," an important point has gone missing, say current and former counterterrorism operatives. 

In an interview with Countdown's David Schuster, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) made it so clear and simple. How can anyone disagree with a single word he says?

SHUSTER: You were the first Democrat to call for the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate torture abuses.  Are you satisfied with the president‘s comments earlier today and what do you think prompted this shift in his position?

NADLER:  Well, I think, I‘m very happy with the president‘s position today.  He left the door open for the attorney general to decide whether there should be a special counsel.  And that‘s exactly where the decision should be made, not in the White House but in the attorney general‘s office.

We held hearings on the judiciary committee a year ago and two years ago, on the politicization of the Justice Department during the Bush administration.  And frankly, the president deciding that there should or should not be a special prosecutor would be making a decision that belongs to an independent Justice Department.

And so, the president sort of indicated that today.  And I‘m very glad of that.  And I don‘t know that he shifted his position.  I think he clarified it.

SHUSTER:  You are calling for Judge Jay Bybee to be impeached.  If he does not resign on his own as Senator Leahy was urging him, is impeachment a real possibility and what‘s your next step towards that end?

NADLER:  Well, I think impeachment is a possibility a little down the road.  I mean, we are—we‘re waiting first and we expect not too long ago from now, the Office of Professional Responsibility to come out with a report on whether Judge Bybee and Mr. Yoo and mister—the third one, I forget his name—violated professional ethics by writing these handbooks on how to torture people, which is what those memos were.  They were not, in my judgment, honest legal memos.  They were handbooks on how to torture people and try to get it away with it under the law.

And once that report comes out, if it indicates, as I suspect it may, that they violated—that Judge Bybee violated professional ethics, then I think that, first of all, we have to see whether a special counsel is appointed and whether is a subject of prosecution, and then the impeachment issue will come up after that.

SHUSTER:  The Democratic leadership in Congress has been pretty quiet on all of this.  Are you expecting them to weigh in on this at some point and at what point should they?

NADLER:  Well, I don‘t know what their plans are, and I don‘t know that they should at this point.  The chairman of the judiciary committee on which I‘m subcommittee chairman, Mr. Conyers, announced that the judiciary committee is going to be holding hearings in the next few weeks, I gather, on the question of torture and the question of people in the administration who arranged and suborned torture.

Now, all of these are illegal acts.  But let me say one other thing—

I don‘t think the attorney general has much choice but to appoint a special counsel, a special prosecutor because everybody now knows from the international community, the Red Cross report, from admissions that waterboarding was done, that torture—these memos make it very clear that torture was committed.  The convention against torture which the United States helped draft and sign on which—the law of the land mandates that when there is evidence of torture, that there must be an investigation, and where warranted, a prosecution.

That‘s why I have called for a special counsel to be appointed to do the investigation and to decide whether prosecution is warranted.  It must be a special prosecutor because the Justice Department itself, albeit in the prior administration, but nonetheless the Justice Department, which would normally do the investigating, was itself implicated in these crimes.  So, it has to be a special prosecutor.

SHUSTER:  If Congress, in addition to whatever the Justice Department does, if Congress has hearings and jumps into say, what these hearings that are coming up jumps into the torture memos—can these hearings be bipartisan?  And even if they can be bipartisan—in your view, can they be received that way by the public as being above partisanship?

NADLER:  Well, that‘s really up to the Republicans.  The Republicans have tended since this administration took power, to be totally partisan, to give zero votes to any proposal, to say no to everything.  And during the administration—during the Bush administration, they were totally protective of the Bush administration and of everything it did.  They didn‘t have real oversight hearings or anything else.

If they decide to be open and open-minded, they can be bipartisan.  If they decide they simply are going to be a cheering section for the now departed—thank God—Bush administration, then they won‘t be bipartisan.

Bush-era Lawyers Back On Hot Seat - Law Blog - WSJ

By Nathan Koppel 
We begin today with the legal square-off of the hour: Will 
Bush-era Justice Department lawyers, including John Yoo and Judge Jay Bybee, face sanctions for authorizing harsh interrogation techniques in service of the War on Terror. ... and by countries to whom we rendered prisoners harmed the u.s. and the so-called “war on terror” are those who myopically and cynically approved, ordered, and justified it. the lawyers responsible for the memos and cheney need to be ... Law Blog -

FBI Weren't the Only Ones Objecting to Torture ... So Did the Army, Marines & Air Force
By Jane Hamsher, Firedoglake
Donald Rumsfeld defied the recommendations of the Army, the Navy, and the Marines when he approved torture. 
Read more

Fox News' Shepard Smith Uncensored: 'We Are America, We Do Not F**king Torture!'
By Nico Pitney, Huffington Post
"They better not do it," he said. "If we are going to be Ronald Reagan's Shining City on the Hill, we don't get to torture. We don't do it." 
Read more 

A Quarter Million Americans Demand Torture Prosecutions
By Staff, The American Civil Liberties Union
Broad coalition of advocacy groups present Attorney General Holder with petition.
Read more   

NPR: Prosecute Bush Officials On Torture? Sen. Levin To NPR ...
Some Democrats are calling for his 
impeachment (for the record, Bybee's appointment to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a fellow Nevadan).... As the former vice president, Cheney has the right to ask the National Archives to declassify documents from his time in office that he wants made public. He did precisely that in seeking the declassification of memos he says show that valuable information was obtained ...
NPR Blogs: Political Junkie -

Robert Creamer: Does Torture Work?
By Robert Creamer 
... Back In '03, Suggests Impeachment Now. Criticism of Judge Jay Bybee and calls for hisimpeachment continue to grow, with two leading progressives airing serious concerns about the infamous torture memo. ..... Bush used the argument that Saddam used torture in his appeal to the American people to sanction his invasion of Iraq. He used this appeal once it was clear that WMD claim was Cheney's manipulation of intelligence. Reply Favorite Flag as abusive Posted ...
The Blog -

Howard Schweber: Torture and the Problem of Constitutional Evil ...

By Howard Schweber 
So congress didn't 
impeach Bush or Cheney for violating the war powers act, for laundering billions through the war profiteers, through using banned chemical weapons, for torture, kidnapping, illegal wiretapping and other high crimes. ...The Blog -                       

Trio Of Senators Ask Obama Not To Prosecute Bush Attorneys

By Brian Beutler - April 22, 2009, 2:02PM

Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Joe Lieberman have sent a letter to President  Obama urging him not to prosecute Bush Justice Department officials who wrote legal rationales for torture. "[T]he Department of Justice is currently conducting an internal ethics review of the OLC memos," the trio write, "but that is a quite a different matter from making legal advice with which we may disagree into a crime."

This has been a common refrain from these three for some time, but this letter belies the facts that the use of torture predated the memos that were written to retroactively justify it, and that the Attorney General has independent authority to investigate and, possibly, prosecute their authors. I've pasted the full text of the letter below the fold.

We write with concern about proposals to prosecute previous administration officials for their legal analysis related to the CIA interrogation program. Pursuing such prosecutions would, we believe, have serious negative effects on the candor with which officials in any administration provide their best advice, and would take our country in a backward-looking direction at a time when our detainee-related challenges demand that we look forward. "We agree with your position that CIA interrogators, carrying out operations that had been deemed lawful by the Attorney General, should not be the subject of prosecution. Indeed, we addressed such a possibility in the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act, which holds that "good faith reliance on advice of counsel should be an important factor, among others," when considering whether CIA interrogators had good reason to believe that their activities were legal. "We disagree, however, with Administration statements suggesting that the lawyers who provided such counsel may now be open to prosecution. Some of the legal analysis included in the OLC memos released last week was, we believe, deeply flawed. We have also strongly opposed the overly coercive interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, that these memos deemed legal. We do not believe, however, that legal analysis should be criminalized, as proposals to prosecute government lawyers suggest. Moving in such a direction would have a deeply chilling effect on the ability of lawyers in any administration to provide their client - the U.S. Government - with their best legal advice. Providing poor legal advice is always undesirable, and the Department of Justice is currently conducting an internal ethics review of the OLC memos, but that is a quite a different matter from making legal advice with which we may disagree into a crime. "Given the great challenges that face our country in dealing with detainees currently held at Guantanamo Bay, Bagram Airfield, and elsewhere, along with detainees that will undoubtedly fall into U.S. custody as the result of future operations, we have every interest in looking forward to solutions, not backward to recriminations. That is why we do not support the idea of a commission that would focus on the mistakes of the past. "As you have made clear, we are a nation at war. Appreciating that reality, we look forward to working with you on the panoply of detainee issues, ranging from interrogation standards to the disposition of detainee cases, which will engage our country going forward. In the interest of national security, it is the future, rather than the past, on which we believe America's gaze must be fixed.

Rice, Cheney Approved Waterboarding
By The Huffington Post News Editors 
Based on the evidence that is publicly ava
ilable, 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 to determine .... How about we have Obama, Panetta, Cheney, Rice, Bush (if only he were litereate), the CIA torturer who conducted waterboarding # 136, Yoo, Bybee (the list is disgustingly long) or anyone of the hundreds of other American torturers, ...
The Huffington Post | Full News Feed -

Murder, Sadism and Torture: The Bush Administration Was the Combo Deal
BuzzFlash - Chicago,IL,USA
That's why I wrote a BuzzFlash Editor's Blog yesterday, "The Legal Case Against
 Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Et Al., Is Murder One, Not Just War Crimes. ...

Are Members of Congress Being Blackmailed?
CounterPunch - Petrolia,CA,USA
It also seemed likely, given the 
Bush/Cheney administration’s public stance that ... His latest book is “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press, ...

All Over the Board: Bush, top cabinet officials monitored torture ...
By rjones2818 
Former President George W. 
Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell and other topBush administration officials had detailed knowledge of the Central ... And impeachment was off the table for the last two years. It's time for an investigation by the Senate and House, and it's time for the Justice Department to investigate. If the evidence is as clear as it seems, ...
All Over the Board -

Ten Terrible Truths About The CIA Torture Memos, Part 4
The Future of Freedom Foundation - Fairfax,VA,USA
A former 
Bush lawyer, speaking anonymously, added that he “was stunned to ... calls for hisimpeachment are completely justified, and both John Yoo and ..

Prosecuting 'torture memo' authors called 'a real stretch'
Los Angeles Times - CA,USA
Legal experts say prosecutors would have to show that the 
Bush ... She also would not rule out the possibility of impeachment proceedings against Bybee, ...

Obama Rejects Truth Panel
Washington Post - United States
House Speaker
 Nancy Pelosi said at a news briefing that she has "always been for a truth commission." (By Melina Mara -- The Washington Post) Comments that ...
See all stories on this topic

Commentary: Obama waffled on torture -- and looks weak
If his fellow Democrats in Congress want to try to 
impeach a federal appeals court judge who oversaw the memos and interrogate or prosecute former Justice ...See all stories on this topic

Most silent on Bybee, for now :: Various Things & Stuff :: Las ...
By Steve Sebelius 
Now, if Ensign were smart (work with us here) he could have said that it would be inappropriate and legally questionable to 
impeach Bybee the judge — who the constitution says may hold his office “…during good behavior… ...CityLife Blogs -

The truth about torture comes out And if punishment is next, so be it
Philadelphia Daily News - Philadelphia,PA,USA
It may be too late to 
impeach Bush and Cheney, but they should be stripped of their titles and pensions for allowing the law breaking to happen. did the ...
See all stories on this topic

Impeach Jay Bybee | The Ruth Group
By Will Kirkland 
Think Progress has a campaign going. Crack your knuckles and take a minute. TAKE ACTION: Tell Congress To Hold
 Impeachment Hearings Against Judge Jay.
The Ruth Group -

The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan
By Andrew Sullivan 
It did, for awhile, at least until the tables had been turned and Democrats had to face the prospect of a Democratic president being 
impeached. Suddenly, the left had an epiphany on Mr. Ford's act of conscience. The coup de grace came in 2001, shortly after the end of .... It is Bush's and Cheney'sfault - to have both claimed unprecedented powers to break all laws and treaties and to have suspend all requirements to follow the laws on torture and abuse of prisoners. ...
The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan -

The Democratic Party
If his fellow Democrats in Congress want to try to 
impeach a federal appeals court judge who oversaw the memos and interrogate or prosecute former Justice Department lawyers, an attorney general or two and maybe a former vice president, ..... mind think that Bush and Cheney would not have Taken out TV time over and over again, to brag about this??? It would have been broadcast from one end of this earth to the other, how Big Cowboy bush and boyz had stopped some very bad ...
Democratic National Committee: Blog -

Docudharma:: It Is Here We Must Begin
By Rusty1776 
We spoke out against the criminal administration of 
Bush and Cheney when no one else would, because we've known all along how important one voice can be. That's why we started blogging. We knew an entire nation had lost its way, .... Otherwise click cancel. You must enter a subject for your comment. Pelosi and Conyers refusing to Impeach was a kick in the teeth. (4.00 / 2). After 6 years of low points, that was an even lower low point. I love you too, Alma. ...
Docudharma - Recommended Diaries -

Accountability for Torture
The Nation. - New York,NY,USA
The point, again, is not merely to address
 Bush/Cheney-era crimes but also to dial down the imperial presidency that has evolved under the unwatchful eye of ...
See all stories on this topic

Ron Suskind: Torture Employed To Alleviate White House ...
By The Huffington Post News Team
Can we
 impeach Bush and Cheney, now? Reply Favorite Flag as abusive Posted 03:58 PM on 04/23/2009. - + New LiberalForever See Profile I'm a Fan of LiberalForever I'm a fan of this user permalink · photo. Wonderful article and interview, ...
Huffpolitics on The Huffington Post -

Accountability for Torture
This recognition must be joined with Congressional action to remove those who sanctioned and promoted torture from positions of public trust and, if inquiries so conclude, to hold
 Bush, Cheney and their top aides to account. ... Impeaching Bybee, as recommended by Nadler and Common Cause, would send the right signal. But it cannot be the only one. The House Judiciary Committee should examine all available avenues for achieving accountability--including the prospect of ...
The Nation: Top Stories -

Morning Skim: Torture Foiled Nothing - The Opinionator Blog ...
By By Eric Etheridge
We should clearly only
 impeach SITTING presidents for things like lying about sexual dalliance, not prosecute PAST presidents and their minions for okaying torture. Let's keep a proper sense of relative ethical impropriety when we decide on whom we skewer. ... I think the United States Department of Justice should handle the matters from here on, and turn over all the rocks till they find all the players from Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld on down. This was all about trying ...
The Opinionator -

Do we procecute these peopel for allowing torture - The Political ...
By HankRearden
 Obama Now!! Join Date: Dec 2008. Location: Out in the sticks. Posts: 156. Casino cash: $250. WTG will be running for President any day now! ... Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and company did the right thing by torturing terrorism detainees. They got information that saved lives, and they made it known that the United States would not be made a fool of by maniacs who insisted we follow rules they would laugh at if anyone tried to apply said rules to them. ...
The Political Asylum - Forums... -

Glenn Thrush's Blog: Pelosi briefed on waterboarding in '02 ...
By Glenn Thrush
 the lying bimbo. Posted By: Duke N | April 23, 2009 at 09:17 PM, abuse icon REPORT ABUSE ... I want to know who approved what and when, and who knew about what and when, and I want to know now, because I want those s.o.b.s Bush and Cheney in jail before I choke on all this phlegm and keel over dead. Posted By: P. Leahy | April 23, 2009 at 09:08 PM, abuse icon REPORT ABUSE ...
POLITICO Top Stories -

Bush's dirty laundry still being aired
OSU - The Lantern - Columbus,OH,USA
They could face felony charges and Bybee could be
 impeached as a judge. A US Senate inquiry points to senior level Bush aides, specifically former Defense ...
See all stories on this topic

Today a former F.B.I. interrogator who questioned Abu Zubaydah writes in a Times op-ed “there was no actionable intelligence gained from using enhanced interrogation techniques on Abu Zubaydah that wasn’t, or couldn’t have been, gained from regular tactics.” ...just this morning linked to a December 2008 interview of F.B.I. director Robert Mueller in Vanity Fair, in which Mueller said “he believed” no terror incidents had been prevented by information from enhanced interrogations. 

Bookmark this and use this talking point over and over. It is all falling apart for Bush.  NYT reporter even called to confirm this incredible remark.  Mueller’s office said yes that is what the man said. 


Interrogations’ Effectiveness May Prove Elusive


Published: April 22, 2009

WASHINGTON — Even the most exacting truth commission may have a hard time determining for certain whether brutal interrogations conducted by the Central Intelligence Agency helped keep the country safe.

Last week’s release of long-secret Justice Department interrogation memorandums has given rise to starkly opposing narratives about what, if anything, was gained by the C.I.A.’s use of waterboarding, wall-slamming and other physical pressure to shock and intimidate Qaeda operatives.

Senior Bush administration officials, led by Vice President Dick Cheney and cheered by many Congressional Republicans, are fighting a rear-guard action in defense of their record. Only by using the harshest methods, they insist, did the intelligence agency get the information it needed to round up Qaeda killers and save thousands of American lives.

Even President Obama’s new director of national intelligence, Dennis C. Blair, wrote in a memorandum to his staff last week that “high value information came from interrogations in which these methods were used,” an assertion left out when the memorandum was edited for public release. By contrast, Mr. Obama and most of his top aides have argued that the use of those methods betrayed American values — and anyway, produced unreliable information. Those are a convenient pair of opinions, of course: the moral balancing would be far trickier if the C.I.A. methods were demonstrated to have been crucial in disrupting major plots.

For both sides, the political stakes are high, as proposals for a national commission to unravel the interrogation story appear to be gaining momentum. Mr. Obama and his allies need to discredit the techniques he has banned. Otherwise, in the event of a future terrorist attack, critics may blame his decision to rein in C.I.A. interrogators.

But if a strong case emerges that the Bush administration authorized torture and got nothing but prisoners’ desperate fabrications in return, that will tarnish what Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney have claimed as their greatest achievement: preventing new attacks after Sept. 11, 2001.

Within the agency, the necessity, effectiveness and legality of the interrogation methods have been repeatedly subject to review. The agency’s inspector general, John L. Helgerson, studied the program in 2004 and raised serious questions. According to former intelligence officials, that led to separate reviews by an internal panel headed by Henry A. Crumpton, a veteran counterterrorism officer, and by two outsiders, Gardner Peckham, who had served as national security adviser to Newt Gingrich, and John J. Hamre, a former deputy defense secretary.

Their conclusions remain classified, but that could change now that the intelligence agency’s techniques have been made public. In a twist this week, Mr. Cheney, a fierce defender of secrecy as vice president, called for the release of more classified memorandums that he asserted prove the effectiveness of the coercive techniques.

The second-guessing of the C.I.A.’s methods inside the government began long before Mr. Obama’s election. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the government agency with the greatest knowledge of Al Qaeda in 2001, chose not to participate in the C.I.A. interrogation program after agents became uneasy about the earliest use of harsh methods in 2002 on Abu Zubaydah, a long-sought terrorist facilitator.

In an interview with Vanity Fair last year, the F.B.I. director since 2001, Robert S. Mueller III, was asked whether any attacks had been disrupted because of intelligence obtained through the coercive methods. “I don’t believe that has been the case,” Mr. Mueller said. (A spokesman for Mr. Mueller, John Miller, said on Tuesday, “The quote is accurate.”)

That assessment stands in sharp contrast to many assertions by Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, who on Fox News on Sunday said of the methods: “They did work. They kept us safe for seven years.”

Four successive C.I.A. directors have made similar claims, and the most recent, Michael V. Hayden, said in January that he believed the methods “got the maximum amount of information” from prisoners, citing specifically Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the chief 9/11 plotter.

Many intelligence officials, including some opposed to the brutal methods, confirm that the program produced information of great value, including tips on early-stage schemes to attack tall buildings on the West Coast and buildings in New York’s financial district and Washington. Interrogation of one Qaeda operative led to tips on finding others, until the leadership of the organization was decimated. Removing from the scene such dedicated and skilled plotters as Mr. Mohammed, or the Indonesian terrorist known as Hambali, almost certainly prevented future attacks.

But which information came from which methods, and whether the same result might have been achieved without the political, legal and moral cost of the torture controversy, is hotly disputed, even inside the intelligence agency.

The Justice Department memorandums released last week illustrate how difficult it can be to assess claims of effectiveness. One 2005 memorandum, for example, asserts that “enhanced techniques” used on Abu Zubaydah and Mr. Mohammed “yielded critical information.”

But the memorandum then lists among Abu Zubaydah’s revelations the identification of Mr. Mohammed and of an alleged radiological bomb plot by Jose Padilla, the American Qaeda associate. Both those disclosures were made long before Abu Zubaydah was subjected to harsh treatment, according to multiple accounts.

On Mr. Mohammed, the record is murkier. The memorandum says that “before the C.I.A. used enhanced techniques,” Mr. Mohammed “resisted giving any answers to questions about future attacks, ‘Simply noting, ‘Soon, you will know.’ ”

But the same memorandum reveals in a footnote that Mr. Mohammed, captured on March 1, 2003, was waterboarded 183 times that month. That striking number, which would average out to six waterboardings a day, suggests that interrogators did not try a traditional, rapport-building approach for long before escalating to their most extreme tool.

Mr. Obama paid his first visit to the agency this week, and his reference to the interrogation issue made for an awkward moment in which he sounded like a teacher gently correcting his pupils.

“Don’t be discouraged that we have to acknowledge potentially we’ve made some mistakes,” he said. “That’s how we learn.”

Conservative media claim prosecution of Bush administration officials will turn U.S. into "banana republic"

In the aftermath of the release of Bush Department of Justice memos authorizing the CIA to use enhanced interrogation techniques with detainees, conservatives are comparing possible prosecutions of Bush administration officials with, in the words of radio host Mark Steyn, "the sort of thing that happens in banana republics."

Examples include:

  • On the April 21 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, radio host Bill Cunningham said of possible prosecutions of Bush administration officials, "Well, we shouldn't criminalize legal advice," later adding, "It makes us look ... like a banana republic, where each succeeding administration looks backwards."
  • On the April 21 edition of Fox News' Hannity, Fox News contributor Karl Rove stated: "[W]hat the Obama administration has done in the last several days is very dangerous. What they've essentially said is, if we have policy disagreements with our predecessors, what we're going to do is we're going to turn ourselves into the moral equivalent of a Latin American country run by colonels in mirrored sunglasses, and what we're gonna do is prosecute systematically the previous administration or threaten prosecutions against the previous administration based on policy differences." Moments later, Rove added, "Now, that might be fine in some little Latin American country that's run by, you know, the latest junta -- it may be the way that they do things in Chicago -- but that's not the way we do things here in America."
  • On the April 22 broadcast of his radio show, Sean Hannity stated of Republican responses to the potential prosecutions, "[A]ll I hear is a bunch of mealy-mouthed complaining about how this prosecution threat is unprecedented and we don't need to investigate past administrations like they do in, you know, these Third World, you know, dictatorships, which by the way, is a great point."
  • On the April 23 broadcast of The Rush Limbaugh Show, guest host Steyn said of prosecuting former Bush officials, "That is the sort of thing that happens in banana republics." He continued: "[I]n banana republics, this week's president for life takes over, and he decides that all the fellows that supported last week's president for life are now criminals, and he prosecutes them. And that's what -- that's what the Obama administration has done."
  • On the April 23 edition of his nationally syndicated radio show, Glenn Beck stated: "[Y]our principles as the president of the United States needs to be, we don't make ourselves into a banana republic." He later added, "We also don't want to set the precedent that the next president can come in and turn a political issue into a legal issue and put those people in jail. This is what's happening with [Venezuelan President Hugo] Chavez now. The guy who's running against him just left the country because they -- this is what banana republics do, OK?"

Additionally, in his April 23 New York Post column, Ralph Peters wrote, "Show trials have long been popular with leftists. Those who don't conform to each jot of doctrine become 'enemies of the people.' From Stalin down to Putin, and from Mao to Castro, vengeance disguised as law has been a mega-hit."

From the April 23 broadcast of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:

 Fox News Greets Alleged Torture With Antics

Many on Fox News have greeted the release of several previously classified Department of Justice memos authorizing the CIA's use of "enhanced interrogation" techniques with antics that mock the notion that these practices constitute torture. Glenn Beck faked tears to ridicule the notion of waterboarding as torture; host Bill O'Reilly told columnist Ellis Henican that "I would have dunked that guy in the water a thousand times to save your life"; and host Sean Hannity slammed a football down on the desk in front of him while saying, "[I]magine this is Khalid Shaikh Mohammed's head. Dunk it in water so we can save American lives."

As Media Matters for America has previously noted, Allen S. Keller, M.D., director of the Bellevue Hospital Center/New York University Program for Survivors of Torture, submitted written testimony to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that stated that waterboarding can cause "[l]ong term effects includ[ing] panic attacks, depression and PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder]," and said it poses a "real risk of death."

  • On the April 22 edition of his Fox News program, Glenn Beck gave mock sobs after noting that "[c]ritics of the Bush-approved [interrogation] methods have called them torture." Later in the program, Beck played a clip from the current season of 24, in which Jack Bauer defends his use of torture in a congressional hearing, to support his argument that "the people who actually fight the wars need to be left alone to do their job and supported to do their job, and then stand by what they've done, no matter what the consequences are." As Media Matters has noted, Beck, as well as Fox & Friendshosts Kilmeade and Steve Doocy, have previously cited the same 24 scene to defend torture.
  • While discussing potential torture prosecutions on the April 22 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly told Fox News contributor and Newsday columnist Ellis Henican: "I would have dunked that guy in the water a thousand times to save your life." He later repeated: "To save your life, I would have dunked the guy in the water." After Henican asked O'Reilly, "You're coming out for torture now?" O'Reilly responded: "All right, Ellis, calm down."
  • On the April 22 edition of Hannity, during a discussion of torture with guest Charles Grodin, Hannity said: "I don't believe that waterboarding is torture." Grodin subsequently asked Hannity: "[W]ould you consent to be waterboarded?" Hannity replied: "Yes." When Grodin asked the question again, Hannity repeatedly reaffirmed that he would do so, telling Grodin: "I'll do it for charity. I'll let you do it. I'll do it for the troops' families." As Media Matters has noted, in 2006, Fox News correspondent Steve Harrigan was waterboarded on-air, and concluded that the technique was "a pretty efficient mechanism to get someone to talk and then still have them alive and healthy within minutes."
  • During the "Great American Panel" discussion on the April 22 edition of Hannity, Hannity held up a football and then slammed it down on the desk in front of him, saying: "You know what? I'm -- this is -- imagine this is Khalid Shaikh Mohammed's head. Dunk it in water so we can save American lives. You bet."
  • On the April 20 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade said of reports that Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times: "Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, I understand, was waterboarded 183 times. Did anyone care about that? Does anyone in America walk around going, 'I'm really upset that the mastermind of 9-11 was waterboarded 183 times?' " Kilmeade added: "That makes me feel better." After co-host Gretchen Carlson, playing "devil's advocate," stated that some might consider the treatment of Mohammed to be torture, Kilmeade said: "It's unbelievable that people care more about Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, his health, than they would about future attacks that are being hatched on our country."

From the April 22 edition of Fox News' Glenn Beck:

Gavel Grab » Calls for Impeachment of Judge Bybee Get More Media ...

By Jason Barrett 
impeachment threats growing against Judge Jay Bybee, media outlets are publishing story after story on the issue. As Gavel Grab has previously covered, Judge Bybee is under attack for memos authorizing harsh treatment of detainees, ...
Gavel Grab -

Jeremy Scahill: Jay Bybee's Rules at Home: "Be Nice. Don't Hit ...
By Jeremy Scahill 
Criticism of Judge Jay Bybee and calls for his 
impeachment continue to grow, with two leading progressives airing serious concerns about the infamous torture memo... Leahy: If Bybee Is "Decent And Honorable" He'll Resign ...
The Huffington Post Full Blog Feed -

Over the Cut: Time for accountability for those behind US 'torture ...
Gloucester Daily Times - MA, USA
And the day may even come when hard questions will be asked, in Congress if not in court, of their superiors, President 
Bush and Vice President Cheney...
See all stories on this topic

Republicans Claim Top Lawmakers Were in the Loop on Interrogations
House Speaker 
Nancy Pelosi was at the first one, and raised no objections to the interrogation techniques discussed. Republicans are looking to turn the ..

The Next Big Thing (For Hearings)
Washington Post - United States
Nancy Pelosi has also come out in favor of some sort of commission, although her exact position is unclear and there are obviously important ...See all stories on this topic

‘Genocide' recognition long overdue in US, says Pelosi
Today's Zaman - Istanbul,Turkey
US House Speaker 
Nancy Pelosi has backed Armenian efforts to get the US administration to recognize Armenian genocide claims, saying the recognition was ...
See all stories on this topic

What Did Nancy Pelosi Know, And When Did She Know It?
The New Ledger - Washington,DC,USA
Despite the Speaker's claims that she knew nothing about the practice of waterboarding, it is clear that she was briefed and that apparently,
 ...See all stories on this topic

Does Nancy Pelosi Support Torture or Not?
Opposing Views - Los Angeles,CA,USA
By Competitive Enterprise Institute , From Economy to Ecology - 2 Hours Ago House Speaker
 Nancy Pelosi wants Bush Administration officials prosecuted for ...See all stories on this topic

Mike's America: Put Nancy Pelosi Under Oath in Waterboarding ...
By Mike's America 
House Speaker
 Nancy Pelosi is trying to have it both ways on waterboarding. While she would like to tar and feather Republicans who worked in the Bush Administration and authorized enhanced interrogation techniques of a handful of Al ...Mike's America -

Pelosi Denies Knowing Interrogation Techniques Were Used
Washington Post - United States
By Paul Kane House Speaker
 Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) today said congressional leaders were never briefed about the use of an enhanced interrogation practice, ...See all stories on this topic

Nancy Pelosi Insults Our Intelligence By Claiming She knew Nothing ...
By pogger 
After seeing the News I feel like I am watching an old Episode of “Hogan's Heroes” and Nancy Pelosi is the Democratic version of Sgt Schultz. I SEE NOTHING. I WAS NOT HERE. I DID NOT EVEN GET UP THIS MORNING! ...
CTD Weblog -

The Baltimore Reporter
By Robert Farrow 
Nancy Pelosi denies knowing U.S. officials used waterboarding. But when confronted with the evidence that she did indeed know…evidence including a 2007 WaPo article referencing a hourlong briefing in 2002 where she and three others were ...
Baltimore Reporter -

Hoekstra: 'Lame' excuse by Pelosi on interrogations
Washington Times - Washington,DC,USA
By Kara Rowland (Contact) | Friday, April 24, 2009 House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday said she had no recourse to stop the use of enhanced interrogation ...
See all stories on this topic

BBCW: Nancy Pelosi Knew and Approved of GITMO Torture Techniques
By Bungalow Bill 
I love it when the Democrats holier than thou attitude places them six feet deep. Today, Speaker
 Nancy Pelosi decided to pressure the Obama administration to examine the treatment of GITMO detainees. Fine! Go for it. ...

What did Nancy Pelosi know and when did she know it?
By bobsikes 
What did
 Nancy Pelosi know and when did she know it? Its quite clear that Speaker Pelosi's story is conveniently changing over the release of the enhanced interrogation memos. Its so obvious. Those among her own party have to be ...
...gettingpaidtowatch -

The Whig: Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) vs. John Boehner (R-OH)
By Romulus 
Instead, a full-blown battle has opened between House Speaker
 Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and her GOP counterpart, Ohio's John Boehner about how much top Congressional leaders knew about water boarding in 2002. ...
The Whig -

Nancy Pelosi: Lips Moving, Still Lying | Right Soup
By Erin 
San Fran Nan
 Pelosi is in a wee bit of a crack. Seems she and other Congressional leaders were briefed over 30 TIMES about CIA terrorist-interrogation.
Right Soup -

Nancy Pelosi Did Not Object to Questionable Interrogation ...
By Dan Decker 
Republicans Claim Top Lawmakers Were in the Loop on Interrogations - First 100 Days of Presidency - Politics -- Members of Congress were briefed.

Also here:

Nancy Pelosi Now Says Maybe 'Truth Commission' for Torture ...
It seems like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi now thinks a "truth commission" may be needed to probe the torture allegations of the Bush administration.
wowOwow | The Women on the Web -

Pelosi, Harman Have Long History
Washington Post - United States
Nancy Pelosi was one of the first people to encourage Harman to come back to Congress. And why wouldn't she? The two women had worked together for years, ...
See all stories on this topic 


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Why did the Harman case break now?

The Jane Harman case is confusing to newcomers. The most important question that arises is why now? Why four years after the phone call? It is the most important question because it speaks to the fact that the central fight here, between the Israel lobby and the critics of the Israel lobby, is a fight that has been going on for more than 60 years in the underground of the Washington establishment. It never dies because it involves principled conflicts that are never resolved. They are never resolved because the press and our politicians can’t deal with these questions due to Harman-style orthodoxy/corruption, and the battle is suppressed. Though now and then it breaks the surface.

The specific reason the story is coming out now is that my side, the critics of the Israel lobby, are about to lose a battle: it looks like the case against Steven Rosen and Ken Weissman, the Israel lobbyists charged with sharing secrets with the Israelis five years ago, a case postponed forever, is going to get dropped by the Justice Department. The lawyers who believe in that case are surely upset about this and have managed to leak one of the big truffles of their investigation to the press so as to goose the public outrage over the central issue at stake: corruption of policymaking due to the Israel interest. I don’t know that they’re the source. But that’s my supposition.
We may lose this fight, but we are winning the larger battle. Remember that We lost the Chas Freeman fight, the nomination of an Arabist/realist to the National Intelligence Council, but we won that one too because he freely exposed the Israel-first gang that had gone after him. Suddenly the Israel lobby was on the front pages. It’s on them again, a month later, with the Times coverage of Harman. This is unprecedented. At last the Israel lobby, which people denied as a fact of our political life when Steve Walt and John Mearsheimer had the Emperor’s-new-clothes temerity to say it existed three years ago, is being openly mentioned. Andrea Mitchell said frankly on MSNBC the other day that it is a well-known and powerful lobby.

We are winning in this overall struggle because the central question, the justice of U.S. foreign policy to the Palestinians, has never been discussed and is never going away. It demands to be discussed. The Forward has a smart but slightly panicky piece today saying that the Harman case reflects a longheld belief in the federal government, among the professionals, that Jews have dual loyalty to Israel, going back almost to the foundation of the state. This is true. At least since the Truman overruled his State Department when it wanted to try and reverse partition in the spring of 1948, because bloody riots and ethnic cleansing had begun in Palestine, which partition was supposed to end, the lobby has won through White House access of the sort Harman allegedly boasted of in the wiretapped call; and those who are critical of a Jewish state or its policies have been excluded and smeared, as antisemites. The Forward piece carried that implication tday. The issue has never gone away and many presidents have bitched about it. Kennedy was upset abut Jewish influence-peddling on the matter even as Israel was acquiring nuclear weapons in defiance of his policy (Sy Hersh reported in the Samson Option). Nixon bridled at the lobbying. Jimmy Carter threw himself against the Israel lobby and didn’t get reelected. George Bush I also took on the Israel lobby, the evil settlements policy that has now all but destroyed the two-state solution, and didn’t get a second term. Bill Clinton and George Bush II embraced the expansion and the lobby, and had two terms. Chuck Percy and Paul Findlay sacrificed their political futures over trying to get the issue discussed.

The tragedy of our politics is that Barack Obama ran last year in some large measure against the neoconservative policy on the Middle East and the issue was never openly debated. Obama toed the line--and secretly believed that Palestinians are suffering the most. The neocons wanted to have that fight, and so did I. We both thought we would win if we could have it out; or they thought that McCain had a better chance of winning. But that question was ruled out of the presidential campaign, a time when people would get a chance to choose over the issue--just as Al Franken and Norm Coleman refused to differ on the question in the midst of their battle--and now the unresolved struggle has been imported into the Obama administraiotn. He knows that resolving the issue is essential to the American interest in the Middle East, and to peace. It’s the core issues, As King Abdullah and every other leader has told him. But because we could not have it out last year, a silent struggle is now taking place inside his administration, as Bruce wolman has put it, between the realists and the Israel-firsters. Obama can throw a signal to one side and the other, but he can’t take a firm stand against the Israel firsters without political cover. A few critical congressmen, Brian Baird and Kucinich and Donna Edwards, aren’t going to give him that political cover. He needs his progressive base to take a stand on the question and openly, and allow the influential elites to divide on the issue on talk shows and at dinner parties. He can’t drive the wedge without a sledgehammer-- public opinion, the press.

I'm optimistic because the Harman case came up three years ago, in Time Magazine, and died, and now it has come up again and gotten legs. It could not have become such a big story without political ground, created by the horrors of Gaza, and the Netanyahu/Lieberman election, and before that by the horrors of Iraq. Americans know that our Middle East policy is skewed toward permanent war, one that Rahm Emanuel and Jane Hamran supported. Progressive Democrats are beginning to rally around the issue at last.

What the Harman leak suggests is that the establishment press and the disgruntled Israel critics within government have found each other at last. The story took 4 years, or 60 years to get out, but it is out, and there is a suggestion in the coverage that the intelligence of the American political process may at last be brought to bear on this question—instead of the intelligence of the back room dealers. When that happens, expect fairness.


 How Do You Ask a Man to Be the Last Man to Die for a Mistake in Afghanistan?

By ZP Heller, Brave New Films

Brave Afghan vet demands answers from Congress. Read more  



Published: April 22, 2009

FOR seven years I have remained silent about the false claims magnifying the effectiveness of the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques like waterboarding. I have spoken only in closed government hearings, as these matters were classified. But the release last week of four Justice Department memos on interrogations allows me to shed light on the story, and on some of the lessons to be learned….

“My C.I.A. colleagues who balked at the techniques, on the other hand, were instructed to continue.”

(It’s worth noting that when reading between the lines of the newly released memos, it seems clear that it was contractors, not C.I.A. officers, who requested the use of these techniques.)



"People Shouldn't Have to Live Like This": The Real Story Behind "Tent City" -- and How the Media Get It Wrong

By Rose AguilarAlterNet. Posted April 20, 2009.




Over the past few months, reporters from around the world have flocked to the now-famous tent city in Sacramento, Calif. When they find out that 55-year-old John Kraintz has been living in a tent for almost seven years, they turn around and walk away.

"They don't want to talk to me," he says. "They're searching for people who just lost their homes. It's kinda tough to lose a home when you've never owned one. Sorry, but most of the people here have been homeless for a long time."  

A tall and lanky man with a long beard tied in a ponytail, Kraintz is one of 100-200 people who have been told to leave the homeless camp between Sacramento's Blue Diamond Almond factory and the American River.

Kraintz and so many other homeless people like him have been living in scattered Sacramento encampments for years, but they've been largely ignored and hidden from public view. That is, until Lisa Ling, a reporter with the Oprah show, came to town in late February to focus on what Oprah Winfrey called the "new faces" of homelessness.  

The show reported -- inaccurately -- that an estimated 1,200 people in Sacramento are living in tent cities after losing their jobs and homes. According to Loaves & Fishes, a privately funded group that has been feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless in Sacramento for 25 years, 1,226 people live on the streets of the city. Between 100 and 200 temporarily call tent city home.  

Like Oprah, several national and international articles and TV pieces have falsely portrayed everyone in tent city as once-middle-class people driven to homelessness because of the economic meltdown.

"The credit crunch tent city which has returned to haunt America" is the headline of a March 6 piece in the London-based Mail Online. On March 20, the Los Angeles Times ran a piece called "In Sacramento's tent city, a torn economic fabric."   

Joan Burke, Loaves & Fishes' advocacy director, says those headlines are misleading. The majority of Sacramento's homeless population suffer from physical disabilities, mental illness and drug and alcohol addictions.

"The media are trying to capture a very complex situation in a sound bite," she says. "We've had homelessness in this country for decades. Each person has his or her own circumstance, and you have to tease that out if you're going to address this problem. Why do we care so much for people who suffer for a short time versus those who suffer for a long time? What is that about?" 

Over the past few months, Burke has been bombarded with media requests from as far away as Colombia, Hungary, Australia and the Philippines.

On one of the days I was there, I saw a German radio team, reporters from a French magazine and several local TV trucks. The majority of the people I met at tent city say reporters aren't asking the right questions. 

"The other day, I heard a German reporter ask if this is happening because of the recent economic collapse," says Kraintz. "This has been happening for 30 years, but the powers that be have been able to pretend it doesn't exist. Why aren't reporters asking about flat wages, jobs being shipped overseas and the lack of affordable housing?" 

Burke agrees, saying one of the many issues ignored in most articles about tent city and homelessness is the fact that poor people cannot afford housing, especially in an expensive state like California.

"People who are poor end up homeless through no fault of their own, but because people higher up on the food chain have made affordable housing a very scarce commodity," she says. "If we had sound housing policies and programs that helped people when they have a run of bad luck, we would not have a tent city." 

Kraintz says he knew the system would finally blow up. It was just a matter of time. The question, according to him, is this: Do the powers that be have the political will to create a fairer, more just economic system?

"I listen to NPR all day. I know what's going on at AIG," he says. "If you're working class, you can't achieve the American Dream. I tried, and look where I am."  

Seven years ago, Kraintz had a hard time finding enough construction work to make ends meet. He lost his apartment and has been living in encampments ever since.

Today, he serves on Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson's homelessness task force. At emergency city meetings, he urges officials to make this area a permanent tent city for people who are tired of being forced to move from place to place: "It may look like anarchy out here, but it's peaceful and organic," he says. 

The people living in tent city have created what they call self-governed communities.

"Everybody shares the same problems. We are homeless," says 50-year old Frederick Williams. "We live in a field together, so you build camaraderie. As you can see, we've built clusters. Everybody out here knows everyone else. They know a stranger right off the bat."  

When I met Williams, he was throwing trash in a dumpster donated by Atlas Dumpster. He stopped what he was doing to show me the GPS bracelet around his ankle. After serving 84 days in jail for drug possession, he says his parole officer dropped him off at tent city because he had nowhere to go.

After an hour of discussing everything from the prison industrial complex and poverty to U.S. foreign policy in Iraq and Haiti, I asked him why he doesn't spend more time fighting for the issues he's clearly so passionate about. He's had construction and welding jobs over the years, but says he makes bad choices.

"Believe me. I would raise hell, but addiction is a motherfucker."  

While we were chatting, his girlfriend walked over with a plate of hot potatoes, rice, bread and a can of nuts donated by local volunteers. Local groups and individuals stop by throughout the day to donate meals, clothing, basic camping gear, firewood and toiletries.  

In the afternoon, Tracy, a 33-year-old who was just laid off from her job as a gourmet food product designer, pulled up in a white Saturn SUV with her 18-month-old baby in the back seat. She got out of the car to hand out two bags of aloe vera gel, sunscreen, lotion, shampoo and conditioner.

"This is disgusting," she says. "People shouldn't have to live like this." 

Tracy makes frequent trips to foreclosed homes to pick up items families no longer want. She finds them through Craig's List. She sells what she picks up and uses the money for toiletries. She also picks up donated toothbrushes and toothpaste from dental offices.

"So little goes so far," she says. "I just lost my job. If I can do it, anyone can." 

As Tracy drives off, Williams says: "We live in one of the most charitable countries in the world and one of the coldest." 

He says tent city would be fully operational if it had a water truck and Porta Potties: "I'd feel a whole lot better and a whole lot more human if I didn't have to go shit in the trees," he says.

Because tent city has no running water or portable toilets, most people walk a mile or so to Loaves & Fishes for a hot shower, a bathroom and a sit-down meal. Along the way, they pass people sleeping on the streets and in abandoned parking lots. 

Two volunteers from a local ministry who regularly hand out donated clothing and basic necessities to the area's homeless population say the city should turn this area into a KOA-like campground with running water, toilets and a centralized kitchen. They didn't want to give their names because they don't trust the media.

"The media treat these people like they're packs of wolves. They're people. Just like you and me. If you want to take photos, please ask first. We've seen reporters shove their cameras in tents without asking. I know Oprah had good in her heart, but she's created a problem. Because of the exposure, the city will shut this down. These people have no home. Look at this guy. He's building a community."   

They were referring to Baldy, a 38-year-old wearing blue-and-white plaid flannel pajama bottoms and a blue sweatshirt. His medium-sized tent sits behind a thin metal fence he built shortly after arriving six months ago. Since then, he's compiled everything from a welcome rug to a new spice rack.

"We share everything and look out for each other," he says. A recovering drug addict, Baldy says he's trying to find a job, but without a phone number or an address, it's close to impossible. "They [potential employers] say, 'Don't contact us. We'll contact you.' How are they going to contact me? After trying and trying and getting shot down, you just want to lay in bed. Then you get depressed. Then you turn to drugs. I try to keep myself motivated. My plan is to get out, but I need a job first." 

The majority of the people I met say they're trying to find work. Brian, a fortysomething with a baby on the way, says when he and his wife set up their tent last year, they had three neighbors. Now they have about 30.

"We need jobs. I like to work. I can't get a job because I have a record. I want to get out of this. It's hard. They just turn me down. I'm always riding on that bike like I got a job." 

Jan Hair, who served in the Air Force from 1981 to 1984, says if she could make tent city her temporary home, she's certain she would find a job and save enough for an apartment.

"I'm tired of being forced to move from place to place," she says. "When you're forced to move, you lose all of your possessions and your identification. You can't get a job without an ID card."  

This week, Hair has no choice but to move again. If she and the others refuse, they could face arrest.

Last month, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Mayor Johnson approved an $880,000 plan to provide both immediate and longer-term shelter. They're adding beds to Sacramento's shelters, which are currently filled to capacity and have lengthy waiting lists. City officials say over the next few months they will also offer rental apartments to approximately 40 people.

"I give Mayor Johnson great credit for being willing to tackle a situation that is difficult," says Joan Burke. "They have come up with some partial solutions, but most of them are short term. We need solutions not just for the 200 or so in tent city, but for everyone." 

Once tent city is cleared out, Burke fears that the media will move on. Hoping to keep the story on the radar screen, Loaves & Fishes is holding a Safe Ground Rally on the Capitol Steps on April 21 to call for a self-governed location where the homeless can camp legally with access to basic needs such as running water, toilets, and trash cans.

Advocates say Portland, Ore.'s Dignity Village proves the plan would work. Dignity Village is a nonprofit city-sanctioned homeless encampment in Northeast Portland. Most of the 60 or so residents live in small homes built on decks. 

"Everybody deserves a simple, safe home of their own," says Burke. "That's what we really need." 

Middle East Report

In The Forgotten War:
The Reawakened Specter of Iraqi Civil War
Michael Wahid Hanna | April 17, 2009

April has already been a cruel month in Iraq. A spate of bombings aimed at Shi‘i civilians in Baghdad has raised fears that the grim sectarian logic that led the capital to civil war in 2005-2007 will reassert itself. On April 6, a string of six car bombs killed at least 37 people; the next day, shortly after President Barack Obama landed in Baghdad, another car bomb killed eight; and on the morrow, still another bomb blew up close to the historic Shi‘i shrine in Kadhimiyya just northwest of the capital’s central districts, taking an additional seven civilian lives. Continue Reading.


The Summit of the Americas = Nations Condemn Capitalism

by amun ra ~ April 23rd, 2009. Filed under: Brother Manifest BlogsNewsletter


Americas Summit: ALBA Nations Condemn Capitalism


The following statement was issued on April 17 by six of the seven governments of the ALBA economic and social alliance in Latin America. (The seventh member, Ecuador, was unable to attend the meeting.) Speaking in Australia, Luis Bilbao, editor of the monthly magazine América XXI (published in Venezuela, Argentina and Uruguay), described the statement as “profound” and “historic.”

“We have seven governments of the world speaking in language that used to be the reserve of left parties only,” Bilbao said. “Gone is diplomatic language to discuss the political and economic situation facing Latin America and the Caribbean and their relation with the United States. Instead, we read that the draft statement of the Summit of the Americas is considered ‘inadequate and unacceptable.’ The ALBA countries declare that an entirely different approach to the world’s problems is required.

“In opposition to the Summit statement is a radical and far-reaching declaration of anti-capitalism and socialism. This is something which the world’s left wing parties must make known to the peoples of the world.”

Document of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Peoples of Our Americas (ALBA) countries for the 5th Summit of the Americas

Cumaná, April 17, 2009

The heads of state and governments of Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Honduras, Nicaragua and Venezuela, member countries of ALBA, consider that the proposed Declaration of the 5th Summit of the Americas is insufficient and unacceptable for the following reasons:

It offers no answers to the issue of the Global Economic Crisis, despite the fact that this constitutes the largest challenge faced by humanity in decades and the most serious threat in the current epoch to the wellbeing of our peoples.
It unjustifiably excludes Cuba in a criminal manner, without reference to the general consensus that exists in the region in favour of condemning the blockade and the isolation attempts, which its people and government have incessantly objected to.
For these reasons, the member countries of ALBA consider that consensus does not exist in favour of adopting this proposed declaration and in light of the above; we propose to have a thoroughgoing debate over the following issues:

1) Capitalism is destroying humanity and the planet. What we are living through is a global economic crisis of a systemic and structural character and not just one more cyclical crisis. Those who think that this crisis will be resolved with an injection of fiscal money and with some regulatory measures are very mistaken.

The financial system is in crisis because it is quoting the value of financial paper at six times the real value of goods and services being produced in the world. This is not a “failure of the regulation of the system” but rather a fundamental part of the capitalist system that speculates with all goods and values in the pursuit of obtaining the maximum amount of profit possible. Until now, the economic crisis has created 100 million more starving people and more than 50 million new unemployed people, and these figures are tending to increasing.

2) Capitalism has provoked an ecological crisis by subordinating the necessary conditions for life on this planet to the domination of the market and profit. Each year, the world consumes a third more than what the planet is capable of regenerating. At this rate of wastage by the capitalist system, we are going to need two planets by the year 2030.

3) The global economic, climate change, food and energy crises are products of the decadence of capitalism that threatens to put an end to the existence of life and the planet. To avoid this outcome it is necessary to develop an alternative model to that of the capitalist system. A system based on:

Solidarity and complementarity and not competition;
•  A system in harmony with our Mother Earth rather than the looting of our natural resources;
•  A system based on cultural diversity and not the crushing of cultures and impositions of cultural values and lifestyles alien to the realities of our countries:
•  A system of peace based on social justice and not on imperialist wars and policies;

In synthesis, a system that restores the human condition of our societies and peoples rather than reducing them to simple consumers or commodities.

4) As a concrete expression of the new reality on the continent, Latin American and Caribbean countries have begun to construct their own institutions, whose roots lie in the common history that goes back to our independence revolution, and which constitutes a concrete instrument for deepening the processes of social, economic and cultural transformation that will consolidate our sovereignty. The ALBA-TCP [TCP - Peoples Trade Agreement], Petrocaribe and UNASUR [Union of South American Nations], to only cite the most recently created one, are mechanisms for solidarity-based union forged in the heat of these transformations, with the manifest intention of strengthening the efforts of our peoples to reach their own liberation.

In order to confront the grave effects of the global economic crisis, the ALBA-TCP countries have taken innovative and transformational measures that seek real alternatives to the deficient international economic order, rather than strengthening these failed institutions. That is why we have set in motion a Single System of Regional Compensation, the SUCRE, that includes a Common Accounting Unit, a Payments Clearing House and a Single System of Reserves.

At the same time, we have promoted the establishment of grand national companies in order to satisfy the fundamental necessities of our peoples, implementing mechanisms of just and complementary trade, that leave to one side the absurd logic of unrestrained competition.

5) We question the G20’s decision to triple the amount of resources going to the International Monetary Fund, when what is really necessary is the establishment of a new world economic order that includes the total transformation of the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO [World Trade Organisation], who with their neoliberal condition have contributed to this global economic crisis.

6) The solutions to the global economic crisis and the definition of a new international financial architecture should be adopted with the participation of the 192 countries that between June 1 and 3 will meet at a United Nations conference about the international financial crisis, in order to propose the creation of a new international economic order.

7) In regards to the climate change crisis, the developed countries have an ecological debt to the world, because they are responsible for 70% of historic emissions of carbon accumulated in the atmosphere since 1750.

The developed countries, in debt to humanity and the planet, should contribute significant resources towards a fund so that the countries on the path towards development can undertake a model of growth that does not repeat the grave impacts of capitalist industrialisation.

The solutions to the energy, food and climate change crises have to be integral and interdependent. We cannot resolve a problem creating others in the areas fundamental to life. For example, generalising the use of agrofuels can only impact negatively on the price of food and in the utilisation of essential resources such as water, land and forests.

9) We condemn discrimination against migrants in all its forms. Migration is a human right, not a crime. Therefore, we demand an urgent reform to the migration policies of the United States government, with the objective of halting deportations and mass raids, allowing the reunification of families, and we demand the elimination of the wall that divides and separates us, rather than uniting us.

In this sense, we demand the repeal of the Cuban Adjustment Act and the elimination of the policies of Wetbacks-Drybacks, which has a discriminatory and selective character, and is the cause of loss of human lives.

Those that are truly to blame for the financial crisis are the bankers that steal money and the resources of our countries, not migrant workers. Human rights come first, particularly the human rights of the most unprotected and marginalised sectors of our society, as undocumented workers are.

For there to be integration there must be free circulation of people, and equal human rights for all regardless of migratory status. Brain drain constitutes a form of looting of qualified human resources by the rich countries.

10) Basic services such as education, health, water, energy and telecommunications have to be declared human rights and cannot be the objects of private business nor be commodified by the World Trade Organisation. These services are and should be essential, universally accessible public services.

11) We want a world where all countries, big and small, have the same rights and empires do not exist. We oppose intervention. Strengthen, as the only legitimate channel for discussion and analysis of bilateral and multilateral agendas of the continent, the base of mutual respect between states and governments, under the principal of non-interference of one state over another and the inviolability of the sovereignty and self-determination of the peoples.

We demand that the new government of the United States, whose inauguration has generated some expectations in the region and the world, put an end to the long and nefarious tradition of interventionism and aggression that has characterised the actions of the governments of this country throughout its history, especially brutal during the government of George W. Bush.

In the same way, we demand that it eliminate interventionist practices such as covert operations, parallel diplomacy, media wars aimed at destabilising states and governments, and the financing of destabilising groups. It is fundamental that we construct a world in which a diversity of economic, political, social and cultural approaches are recognised and respected.

12) Regarding the United States blockade against Cuba and the exclusion of this country from the Summit of the Americas, the countries of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Peoples of Our Americas (ALBA) reiterates the position that all the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean adopted last December 16, 2008, regarding the necessity of putting an end to the economic, trade and financial blockade imposed by the government of the United States of America against Cuba, including the application of the denominated Helms-Burton law and that among its paragraphs notes:

“CONSIDERING the resolutions approved by the United Nations General Assembly on the need to put an end to the economic, commercial, and financial embargo imposed by the United States on Cuba and the decisions on the latter approved at several international meetings,

“DECLARE that in defence of free trade and the transparent practice of international trade, it is unacceptable to apply unilateral coercive measures that will affect the well-being of nations and obstruct the processes of integration.

“WE REJECT the implementation of laws and measures that contradict International Law such as the Helms-Burton law and urge the U.S. Government to put an end to its implementation.

WE ASK the U.S. Government to comply with the 17 successive resolutions approved at the United Nations General Assembly and put an end to the economic, commercial and financial embargo it has imposed on Cuba.”

Moreover, we believe that the attempt to impose isolation on Cuba, which today is an integral part of the Latin American and Caribbean region, is a member of the Rio Group and other organisations and regional mechanisms, that carries out a policy of cooperation and solidarity with the people of the region, that promotes the full integration of the Latin American and Caribbean peoples, has failed, and that, therefore, no reason exists to justify its exclusion from the Summit of the Americas.

13) The developed countries have allocated no less than $8 trillion towards rescuing the financial structure that has collapsed. They are the same ones that do not comply with spending a small sum to reach the Millennium Goals or 0.7% of GDP for Official Development Aid. Never before have we seen so nakedly the hypocrisy of the discourse of the rich countries. Cooperation has to be established without conditions and adjusted to the agendas of the receiving countries, simplifying the procedures, making resources accessible and privileging issues of social inclusion.

14) The legitimate struggle against narco-trafficking and organised crime, and any other manifestation of the denominated “new threats,” should not be utilised as excuses for carrying out acts of interference or intervention against our countries.

15) We are firmly convinced that change, which all the world is hoping for, can only come about through the organisation, mobilisation and unity of our peoples.

As the Liberator well stated: “The unity of our peoples is not simply the chimera of men, but an inexorable fate”Simón Bolívar.

Translation by Socialist Voice, based on a translation by Federico Fuentes, Bolivia Rising1


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