Monday, June 8, 2009

We Are Rapidly Approaching Doing Nothing About Anything Except Talk, Parade And Bitch…And Why?

We Are Rapidly Approaching Doing Nothing About Anything Except Talk, Parade And Bitch…And Why? 

Life Inside Gitmo: Former Detainee Speaks

U.S. Lawyers Agreed On Legality Of Brutal Tactic



Published: June 6, 2009

WASHINGTON — When Justice Department lawyers engaged in a sharp internal debate in 2005 over brutal interrogation techniques, even some who believed that using tough tactics was a serious mistake agreed on a basic point: the methods themselves were legal.

Previously undisclosed Justice Department e-mail messages, interviews and newly declassified documents show that some of the lawyers, including James B. Comey, the deputy attorney general who argued repeatedly that the United States would regret using harsh methods, went along with a 2005 legal opinion asserting that the techniques used by the Central Intelligence Agency were lawful.

That opinion, giving the green light for the C.I.A. to use all 13 methods in interrogating terrorism suspects, including waterboarding and up to 180 hours of sleep deprivation, “was ready to go out and I concurred,” Mr. Comey wrote to a colleague in an April 27, 2005, e-mail message obtained by The New York Times.

While signing off on the techniques, Mr. Comey in his e-mail provided a firsthand account of how he tried unsuccessfully to discourage use of the practices. He made a last-ditch effort to derail the interrogation program, urging Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales to argue at a White House meeting in May 2005 that it was “wrong.”

“In stark terms I explained to him what this would look like some day and what it would mean for the president and the government,” Mr. Comey wrote in a May 31, 2005, e-mail message to his chief of staff, Chuck Rosenberg. He feared that a case could be made “that some of this stuff was simply awful.”

The e-mail messages are now in the hands of investigators at the department’s Office of Professional Responsibility, which is preparing a report expected to be released this summer on the Bush administration lawyers who approved waterboarding and other harsh methods. The inquiry, under way for nearly five years, will be the Justice Department’s fullest public account of its role in the interrogation program, which President Obama has ended.

In years of bitter public debate, the department has sometimes seemed like a black-and-white moral battleground over torture. The main authors of memorandums authorizing the methods — John C. Yoo, Jay S. Bybee and Steven G. Bradbury — have been widely pilloried as facilitators of torture.

Others, including Mr. Comey, Jack Goldsmith and Daniel Levin, have largely escaped criticism because they raised questions about interrogation and the law.

But a closer examination shows a more subtle picture. None of the Justice Department lawyers who reviewed the interrogation question argued that the methods were clearly illegal.

For example:

Mr. Goldsmith, now a Harvard law professor, unnerved the C.I.A. in June 2004 by withdrawing a 2002 memorandum written by Mr. Yoo that said only pain equal to that produced by organ failure or death qualified as torture.

In addition, in a previously undisclosed letter to the agency, Mr. Goldsmith put a temporary halt to waterboarding. But he left intact a secret companion memorandum from 2002 that actually authorized the harsh methods, leaving the C.I.A. free to use all its methods except waterboarding, including wall-slamming, face-slapping, stress positions and more.

Mr. Levin, now in private practice, won public praise with a 2004 memorandum that opened by declaring “torture is abhorrent.” But he also wrote a letter to the C.I.A that specifically approved waterboarding in August 2004, and he drafted much of Mr. Bradbury’s lengthy May 2005 opinion authorizing the 13 methods.

Mr. Comey, who had forced a 2004 showdown with White House officials over the National Security Agency’s surveillance program, concurred in that Bradbury opinion. His objections focused on a second legal opinion that authorized combinations of the methods. He expressed “grave reservations” and asked for a week to revise the memorandum, warning Mr. Gonzales that “it would come back to haunt him and the department,” Mr. Comey said in a 2005 e-mail message to Mr. Rosenberg.

Justice Department lawyers involved in the opinions felt torn between what was legal and what was advisable, Mr. Levin said. “Obviously you can only do that which is legal,” he said in a recent interview. “But that does not mean you should automatically do something simply because it is legal.”

The e-mail messages and documents provide new details about a critical year in the interrogation saga, beginning in mid-2004. The C.I.A. inspector general had questioned the legality and effectiveness of the harsh methods, prompting a review of the program. Under intense White House pressure, the Justice Department lawyers in May 2005 approved a series of opinions that reauthorized the harshest practices.

The lawyers had to interpret a 1994 antitorture law written largely with despotic foreign regimes in mind, but used starting in 2002, in effect, as a set of guidelines for American interrogators. The law defined torture as treatment “specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering.” By that standard, a succession of Justice Department lawyers concluded that the C.I.A.’s methods did not constitute torture.

The only issues that provoked debate were waterboarding, which Mr. Goldsmith questioned, and some combinations of multiple techniques, which Mr. Comey resisted.

Some outside experts agree that the language of the 1994 law is strikingly narrow. “There’s no doubt whatsoever that a great deal of coercive treatment that most people would call torture is not prohibited by the federal antitorture statute,” said Benjamin Wittes, a Brookings Institution scholar who has studied interrogation policy.

But many believe that even under that law, the Justice Department should have recognized that waterboarding, at least, was torture. To argue otherwise, said Brian Z. Tamanaha, a St. John’s University law professor who has studied the interrogation memorandums, required “extraordinary contortions in language and legal analysis.”

Waterboarding, the near-drowning method that Mr. Obama has described as torture, was used on three operatives for Al Qaeda in 2002 and 2003. The C.I.A. never used the technique after it was reauthorized in 2005.

Bush/Cheney Pushed Torture on DOJ
E-mails show President Bush and Vice President Cheney leaning on the Justice Department to permit torture, reports Jason Leopold. June 8, 2009

Source: Possible House deal on "torture pics"

Politico - 2 hours ago

In a reversal, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will "likely" block attempts by Senate Republicans to impose a three-year ban on the release of classified photos ...

Lieb, Graham threaten scorched earth on pics

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The Senate and House may be on a major collision course over the possible release of those photographs of detainee interrogations. ...

Senators: prisoner photos a 'death sentence' for US troops

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Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Lindsey Graham (RS.C.), who appear to be on the verge of losing a battle for quick passage of legislation that would keep ...

Fight Deepening Between Graham, Dems on Torture Pics - 2 hours ago

WASHINGTON (Gannett) - Sen. Lindsey Graham clashed with some powerful House Democrats on Monday over whether to release new photographs that show US ...

Ban on releasing abuse photos attached to war funds

AlterNet - 5 hours ago

Two US senators threatened Monday to block funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan unless Congress approves a measure that would keep from public view ...

Lieberman, Graham Seek To Block Torture Photos At All Costs

AlterNet - 6 hours ago

By The Huffington Post News Team, Huffington Post With the war supplemental under fire from some unlikely allies in the House, Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn. ...

Lieberman and Graham Promise a Fight

The Weekly Standard - 7 hours ago

As we reported here late last week, the Democratic leadership is moving to strip the Detainee Photographic Records Protection Act, which passed the Senate ...

Detainee Photos Offer Yet Another Sticking Point for War Spending Bill - 8 hours ago

As House leaders struggle to line up enough Democratic support to pass a war spending measure, two senators are fighting to keep in the final version a ...

Liberal Democrats Opposing Anti-FOIA Legislation

The Moderate Voice - Jun 6, 2009

Democratic leaders in Congress, among them Nancy Pelosi and Barney Frank, may vote against the supplemental war funding bill unless the FOIA (Freedom of ...

Dem Leadership Moves to Kill Photo Amendment (Bumped)

The Weekly Standard - Jun 5, 2009

THE WEEKLY STANDARD has learned that Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic leadership is moving to strip the Lieberman-Graham amendment blocking the release of ...

ACTION ITEM: Tell Congressional Dems to Vote No on Lieberman ...

Daily Kos - Jun 5, 2009

by GreenSooner As Glenn Greenwald and Jane Hamsher have reported, progressive Congressional Democrats are pushing back against the efforts of the Senate and ...

Are House Democrats about to block Obama's new secrecy law?

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Earlier this week, I noted that the Senate had passed -- with Obama's support -- a pernicious amendment to the spending supplemental bill, jointly sponsored ...

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Daily Kos - Jun 7, 2009

by andrewj54 President Obama is advocating the passage of the war supplemental bill [HR 2346] with an amendment from our friend Joe Lieberman and Lindsey ...

Privatizing 'Obama's War'
Mercenaries and other security contractors are expanding their role in Afghanistan, "Obama's War," writes Michael Winship. June 5, 2009

Homeland Security Nominee Withdraws Amid Questions About Torture

June 06, 2009 7:24 AM

President Obama's nominee to be U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis withdrew his name from consideration Friday after it became clear lawmakers would question his involvement in interrogation and detainee policies under President George W. Bush.

Philip Mudd, currently a top official at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, said he was bowing out because he knew "this position will require the full cooperation with Congress and I believe that if I continue to move forward I will become a distraction to the President and his vital agenda."

Democrats on Capitol Hill had signaled their intention to probe Mudd's knowledge of and role in approving brutal interrogation techniques -- some of which qualify under international law as torture -- used by CIA officials against detainees.

From 2003 through 2005, Mudd was Deputy Director of the Director of Central Intelligence National Counterterrorism Center. He joined the agency in 1985.

Mudd is the second potential Obama administration official to opt out of what was looking to be a grueling confirmatiom process because of ties to Bush-era interrogation policies. President Obama was considering the nomination of intelligence official John Brennan as CIA director when, in November, Brennan withdrew his name from consideration after liberal commentators assailed him as a defender of the Bush administration's counterterrorism programs. Brennan serves as the White House homeland security czar, a position not needing Senate confirmation.

“The President believes that Phil Mudd would have been an excellent Undersecretary for Intelligence and Analysis but understands his personal decision and the choice he has made," said White House spokesman Nick Shapiro in a statement:  "It is with sadness and regret that the President accepted Phil’s withdrawal from consideration as Phil once again demonstrated his duty to country above all things.”

The Office of Intelligence and Analysis continues to be led by Bart Johnson, President Obama's nominee to serve as the DHS Principal Deputy Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis

The apparent suicide Monday of thirty-one-year-old Muhammad Ahmad Abdallah Salih, who had been protesting his long imprisonment at Guantánamo Bay by refusing to eat, has brought U.S. force-feed policy back into the news. Many human rights organizations have called for an end to force-feeding, which as practiced at Guantánamo amounts to torture. In May, for an article to be published in the July Harper’s Magazine, I attempted to query Dr. Ward Casscells, the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, about how he might modify that policy since Barack Obama had become president. Cynthia Smith, a Pentagon spokesperson, responded to my written queries (which I have edited here for length) under the requirement that I attribute the answers to her and not Casscells. At the time of the interview, at least thirty prisoners at Guantánamo were being restrained and fed via enteral tube.

1. U.S. Circuit Judge Gladys Kessler found in February that her court lacked jurisdiction to determine the legality of force-feeding procedures at Guantánamo. She wrote, “Resolution of this issue requires the exercise of penal and medical discretion by staff with the appropriate expertise, and is precisely the type of question that federal courts, lacking that expertise, leave to the discretion of those who do possess such expertise.” This decision would seem to give Dr. Casscells, who sets the policy at Guantanamo, considerable authority. Is it his personal determination that force-feeding, including the use of restraint chairs, is within the bounds of U.S. and international law?


I hope you brought your towel… 
Posted by James Lamond

… because today is World Ocean’s Day.

 And this means it's a great opportunity to discuss the Law of the Seas Treaty. 

United Nation Law of the Seas Convention is one of rare no-brainers in the policy world where basically everyone agrees.  It is supported by just about every interest group there is, which has created the most unthinkable alliance. As Spencer  Boyer and Don Kraus write, “Fortunately, there are benefits in this treaty for just about everyone -- including environmentalists, business associations, oil, shipping, and fishing companies, and the military - who all support ratification. Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers are largely in favor.”

In addition, since 1983, by President Reagan’s order, the United States has been voluntarily operating under the regulations of the treaty. So ratification would not alter American foreign or domestic policy.  

So if everyone loves the treaty, and it would not force any change in policy for the U.S why hasn’t it been ratified?

CFR explains:

On July 29, 1994, President Bill Clinton signed the Agreement on the Implementation of Part XI of the convention on the Law of the Sea. He sent the agreement, along with the 1982 convention, to the Senate on October 7, 1994 (Appendix II). The following month, Republicans won control of the Senate, and in January 1995, Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC) became chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Worried that the convention had not been fixed and that it sacrificed U.S. sovereignty, Senator Helms refused to hold committee hearings. 

In 2003, Senator Richard Lugar succeeded Helms as chairman and, with the encouragement of the Bush administration, put the convention on the SFRC agenda. Senator Lugar held hearings, beginning with public witnesses and followed by government and industry witnesses a week later. In 2004, additional public hearings were held by the Armed Services Committee and the Committee on Environment and Public Works. A closed hearing was held by the Select Committee on Intelligence, which determined that joining the convention would not adversely affect U.S. intelligence activities. The SFRC prepared a draft resolution of advice and consent, and recommended Senate approval by a unanimous recommendation. The convention was sent to the full Senate, only to be delayed when then Senate majority leader William Frist (R-TN) did not bring it to the floor for a vote. 

Senator Frist declined to run for reelection in 2006, and the Democrats won a majority in the midterm elections. With Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) as majority leader and Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE) taking over as chair of the SFRC, prospects for approval of the convention brightened. Letters of support from National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and President Bush gave further impetus (see Appendix II). However, Chairman Biden and the next ranking committee member, Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT), were actively campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination, and little progress was made during the early 2007 session of Congress. Eventually, testimony was taken during fall hearings, and the SFRC received letters from the chair and ranking member of the Armed Services Committee and the Select Committee on Intelligence, reaffirming their prior support of the convention. On October 31, 2007, the SFRC again approved the convention by a vote of 17–4, and the official report and recommendation for approval were submitted to the full Senate in December. 

By the late autumn of 2007, the convention had become a small but notable issue in the Republican presidential campaign. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), who had a decadelong history of supporting the treaty, changed his position and opposed the convention. By early 2008, the heat of the presidential campaign brought progress on the convention to a halt. Then, following the election, the Senate’s attention was taken by the growing economic crisis, precluding consideration of the convention during the lame-duck session.

So, basically the treaty, which has been supported by environmentalists, business interests, the military,  Democrats and (most) Republicans, has been hijacked several times by ideologically driven conservatives. 

Today, as certain challenges emerge- such as a growing Chinese navy, the rise in maritime piracy off the coast of Somalia, increasing environmental problems, and the opening of the Arctic shelf for mineral extraction and shipping- internaitonal agreements to govern truly international territory, which the oceans are, becomes more pragmatic and important than ever.  Hopefully, if the treaty comes before the Senate again sometime soon, a select few right wing ideologues will not hold the entire country back.

America's 'Emerging Church'
The dominant right-wing voice of Evangelicalism is softening with the rise of an "emerging church," writes the Rev. Howard Bess. May 26, 2009

Key figures in global battle against illegal arms trade lost in Air France crash 08 Jun 2009 Two of the world's most prominent figures in the war on the illegal arms trade and international drug trafficking Air France's ill-fated Flight 447 were lost. Pablo Dreyfus, an Argentine who was travelling with his wife Ana Carolina Rodrigues aboard the doomed flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, had worked tirelessly with the Brazilian authorities to stem the flow of arms and ammunition... Also travelling with Dreyfus on the doomed flight was his friend and colleague Ronald Dreyer, a Swiss diplomat and co-ordinator of the Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence. Both men were consultants at the Small Arms Survey, an independent think tank based at Geneva's Graduate Institute of International Studies. [See: French official: Finding black boxes top priority of crash investigation --Paul-Louis Arslanian, the director of the agency, said he was "not optimistic" about the prospect of finding the black boxes. 07 Jun 2009.]

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