Worldwide Campaign to stop the Abuse and Torture of Mind Control/DEWs

Here is message from UN human rights chief Navi Pillay.
"Torturers, and their superiors, need to hear the following message loud and clear: however powerful you are today, there is a strong chance that sooner or later you will be held to account for your inhumanity," Pillay said.
"Torture is an extremely serious crime, and in certain circumstances can amount to a war crime, a crime against humanity or genocide," she added in a statement to mark Saturday's International Day for the Victims of Torture.
  The High Commissioner for Human Rights urged governments, the United Nations and campaign groups "to ensure that this message is backed by firm action."

"No one suspected of committing torture can benefit from an amnesty. That is a basic principle of international justice and a vital one," Pillay added.
Tortured 9/11 suspect may never be prosecuted: Pentagon official
by Lucile Malandain
WASHINGTON (AFP) – The United States may never be able to prosecute an alleged plotter of the September 11, 2001 attacks because he was tortured, a top Pentagon official said in an interview.

Susan Crawford, who is charged with deciding whether to bring Guantanamo detainees to trial, told The Washington Post that US interrogators had tortured Saudi terror suspect Mohammed al-Qahtani.

"We tortured Qahtani," she said, thus becoming the first senior Bush administration official to publicly state that a detainee was tortured.

"His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that's why I did not refer the case" for prosecution said Crawford, who is the convening authority of military commissions, a system established by the administration of President George W. Bush to try unlawful enemy combatants.

Crawford said US military interrogators repeatedly subjected Qahtani, 30, to sustained isolation, sleep deprivation, nudity and prolonged exposure to cold, leaving him in a "life-threatening condition."

"The techniques they used were all authorized, but the manner in which they applied them was overly aggressive and too persistent," she said.

"This was just a combination of things that had a medical impact on him, that hurt his health. It was abusive and uncalled for. And coercive. Clearly coercive. It was that medical impact that pushed me over the edge" to call it torture.

Qahtani, alleged to be the 20th hijacker in the September 11 attacks, was denied entry to the United States one month before the attacks but was captured in Afghanistan and flown to Guantanamo in January 2002.

"There is credible evidence the FBI has had that Qahtani was calling (lead 9/11 hijacker) Mohammed Atta when he arrived in Miami," security analyst Sarah Mendelson told AFP, adding that he could still be brought to trial under such evidence.

"I think it is important to understand that evidence gathered completely separately from harsh interrogation, torture, is the base for bringing a trial against Qahtani," added Mendelson, who directs the human rights and national security project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Qahtani was interrogated over 50 days from November 2002 to January 2003, although he was held in isolation until April 2003, according to the Post.

A Pentagon spokesman said the interrogation techniques used on Qahtani were authorized by former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld and subsequent reviews found them to be lawful.

"However, the department did adopt a new and more restrictive policy, as well as improved oversight procedures for interrogations and detention operations," said Bryan Whitman.

"While some of the aggressive questioning techniques used on Qahtani were permissible at the time, they are no longer allowed in accordance with the updated army field manual."

Meanwhile, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino reiterated the Bush administration's position that "it has never been the policy of this president or this administration to torture."

The timing of the comments by Crawford, just days before president-elect Barack Obama will be sworn in on January 20, also raised some questions. Obama has vowed to close the controversial detention facility.

"Is she making an argument now because she's worried about a future prosecution of US officials? The timing of the article is hot. The timing of the admission is hot," Mendelson said.

Crawford, a retired judge who previously served as Pentagon inspector general, dismissed war crimes charges against Qahtani in May 2008.

She said she was unaware of whether the other five alleged 9/11 co-conspirators detained at Guantanamo were tortured. "I assume torture," she acknowledged.

Outgoing Vice President Dick Cheney has acknowledged that alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and two other Guantanamo detainees were subjected to waterboarding, or simulated drowning. But Cheney said he did not believe the interrogation techniques amounted to torture.

Despite Crawford having allowed capital murder charges to go forward against the five detainees, the torture allegations cast doubt over whether the United States will ever prosecute the alleged plotters.

Of the 250 inmates still held at the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, only about 20 have been charged, including the five men accused of helping organize the 9/11 attacks.


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Experts: Torture in war on terror eroded rights
Eminent jurists issue report, say U.S. policy 'inconsistent' with human rights
updated 4:27 p.m. ET Feb. 16, 2009
GENEVA - The United States and other countries that used torture in the so-called war on terror seriously damaged respect for basic human rights, an international panel of legal experts said Monday.

The eight-member panel, led by former Irish President Mary Robinson, said the three-year investigation found that the damage to human rights law was more severe than they had expected.

The U.S. Mission to United Nations offices in Geneva was unable to comment immediately.
'Shadow Government' Shackles Obama on Torture

The promise of "change" may come -- if Congress shows the courage and determination to provide Team Obama with sufficient cover.

As the Obama presidency reaches its one-month mark, the Democratic progressive left that gave candidate Barack Obama his core base of political support continues to ask impatiently, "where's the change?"
Some progressives scratched their heads as the new President selected veteran Bush administration hawks as military and intelligence advisers. But most Obamanauts held their tongues, figuring that in the end, Mr. Obama would make good on his campaign pledge to restore American values to a distressed American democracy, its ideals betrayed by eight years of anti-democratic Bush-Cheney rule.

But the honeymoon between Team Obama and his "base" appeared to come to an abrupt end at the beginning of week three, when his Justice Department, in full Bush-Cheney mode, invoked the State Secrets Act to withhold government information in a case involving a British subject who was allegedly "renditioned" by his American inquisitors, sent off to a secret foreign prison for torture. The American Civil
Liberties Union, representing the detainee, sought U.S. military records pertaining to what it termed an "extraordinary rendition."

You may recall that Candidate Obama harshly criticized the Bush administration for invoking secrecy to shield from public exposure so- called "enhanced interrogation techniques" such as waterboarding -- a barbaric methodology defined as torture by both Obama and his new attorney general, Eric Holder.

But now that he is commander-in-chief, Mr. Obama has done another one- eighty, allowing his Justice Department to continue to invoke the State Secrets Act to withhold information it believes would comprise national security.

Has President Obama betrayed candidate Obama and his base on this key foreign policy and human rights issue? Or is it an unspoken fact that a new president with barely a month on the job lacks the raw political power to alter what's been a bedrock principle of his inherited security/intel apparatus?

The assumption of the Obama's aggrieved progressive base is that the President of the United States really runs the country. There are those who insist that POTUS, while the commander in chief and chief executive chosen by "the people," is not unlike a corporate executive who ultimately is responsible to a "board of directors" -- a "shadow government" thought by Machiavellians to be comprised of the major domos of security, military, intel and finance, perhaps with some
quasi-government corporate types also invited into the cabal.

Even before he was elected, Obama had compromised -- some would say flip-flopped -- on key issues such as FISA/wiretapping, gun control and expansion of the death penalty (surprising, in that a disproportionate number of young black males receive death sentences).

Do these policy reversals unmask Mr. Obama as a typical "promise 'em anything" political operator? Or does he innately and wisely realize that too much change too fast could bring the bureaucratic hammer down on his presidency? There is, after all, something to be said for living to fight another day.

Obama's VP, Joe Biden, is close to this shadow seat of government. Do not let his gaffes lead anyone to underestimate his power and influence among the security/intel hierarchy, or Biden's appreciation of the Machiavellian nature of American governance.

Obama and Biden are good men, well-intentioned. There's little doubt that they'd like to make good on their campaign pledges. But it is also likely that Team Obama is simply in no position as yet to displace longstanding Bush-Cheney policy on such touchy issues as application of the State Secrets Act. On a more pragmatic level, a precipitous policy shift could prove to be a financial liability,
should it be cited by victims of American torture in efforts to seek financial compensation.

But it's probably no coincidence that Mr. Obama's seeming acquiescence to Bush policy was followed swiftly by the introduction in both houses of Congress of bills that would limit the circumstances under which the government can use the State Secrets Act to withhold information. The legislation supposedly would allow
the state secrets exemption only when officials can demonstrate that public disclosures "would be reasonably likely to cause significant harm" to national defense or diplomacy, to cite the language of the House bill. The legislation was introduced by the civil libertarians Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Rep. John Conyers (D-MI).

Such legalistic verbiage would appear to provide government operatives with plenty of weasel room. The symbolic act of "restricting" the invocation of the State Secrets Act probably will mollify those who GOP operatives deride as " lefty bloggers" -- while the security/intel wing of the shadow government knows full
well that the legislation gives them adequate cover (literally) to keep their secrets close to the sovereign's vest.

A covert shared system of executive power also could explain why there is no apparent movement as yet to dismantle the overriding structure that has allowed violations of human rights without benefit of constitutional guarantees of due process under the law: the ongoing, nationwide Bush-Cheney "extrajudicial punishment network."
Without public knowledge, or scrutiny from a compliant, easily distracted mainstream media, federal agents work hand-in-glove with local police nationwide to spy on, harass, and, allegedly, torture their "targets," including political "dissidents" slandered as enemies of the state -- with civilian vigilantes fronted by federally- funded volunteer groups such as Citizen Corps and Infragard as their
Gestapo-like "street muscle."

In exchange for the use of public vehicles and free gasoline, and with an ego-massaging sense of empowerment, this covert street army has usurped and misused powers traditionally reserved for uniformed, sworn officers.

Units of these neo-brownshirts are said to be equipped with high-tech radiation weapons and devices that inflict pain and injury and induce illness, cause mood changes, brain damage, even incapacitation -- what some security forces call a "slow kill". In essence, this is an an American genocide ("politicide" might be a more accurate term, since its targets often are those identified as "dissidents"
or "trouble-makers" or slandered as "deviates") -- committed by Americans on their fellow citizens.

According to victim accounts (including this writer's), a coordinated array of government "programs of personal destruction" works in tandem with the American Gestapo to decimate family finances and earning power -- a likely contributor to an economic crisis that was borne of a home mortgage meltdown.

Will Team Obama take down this horrific American Gestapo, which has permeated virtually every law enforcement agency in the land, a constitutional bypass that in the past eight years has made a mockery of the rule of law in communities coast to coast?

Obama's actions regarding this covert, ongoing reign of domestic terror may prove even more telling than his other refusals thus far to chart a new course on issues such as warrantless wiretapping, telecom immunity and handgun control.

Sen. Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has called for the establishment of a "truth and reconciliation commission" to investigate abuses of power and constitutional rights violations that may have occurred during the Bush-Cheney administration. He has talked about granting immunity to those who come forward -- and that those who chose not to testify could be subject to prosecution for crimes exposed by the proceedings.

Thus far, President Obama has been noncommittal on the "truth panel" concept. He said at his first press conference that he would consider the proposal, but that "my general orientation is to say let's get it right moving forward."

However, he added this:
"...(M)y view is also that nobody is above the law. And if there are clear instances of wrongdoing, that people should be prosecuted just like any ordinary citizen."

That qualifier gives encouragement to those among us whose lives,livelihoods and families have been decimated by government-enabled human and civil rights violations.

If Obama does not move to dismantle the Stasi/Gestapo-like vigilante apparatus and its related government "programs of personal destruction," this deeply-entrenched mechanism of extrajudicial punishment will continue to persecute and torture "targeted" innocent citizens, subverting American democracy and the rule of law -- and, most likely, the meaningful "change" that Obama so ardently promised
to deliver.
Red Cross: Torture Committed At CIA Sites
Secret Report Accuses U.S. Of "Cruel, Inhuman And Degrading" Treatment Of High-Profile Detainees

(CBS) The United States engaged in acts of torture and ?cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment? upon prisoners held at secret detention sites operated by or in conjunction with the CIA, according to details from a secret report by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Such acts constitute violations of the United Nations' Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions, the Red Cross said.

The ICRC is the appointed legal guardian of the Geneva Conventions and oversees the treatment of prisoners of war.

The secret report was based on interviews conducted by representatives of the Red Cross with detainees at Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. military prison in Cuba where prisoners captured during the Bush administration's war on terror have been held, many for years without charge.

Prior to their arrival at Guantanamo, many have been shuttled between detention facilities in other countries, including "black sites" operated by the Central Intelligence Agency. Some sites are in countries, like Thailand, in which the use of torture has been documented by human rights organizations.

The report followed negotiations with the Bush administration over granting access to 14 "high-value" detainees, which the U.S. had previously deemed off-limits to the Red Cross, to monitor their treatment.

ICRC representatives conducted interviews with the prisoners at Guantanamo in the fall of 2006 to determine the circumstances of their detention and treatment, which for the detainees ranged from a period of 16 months to nearly four-and-a-half years. The interviews were conducted in private, with assurances that the details would not be made public. A few prisoners asked that their identities not be revealed.

The 43-page secret report dated February 2007 was provided to the CIA and passed on to higher U.S. officials, including President Bush, according to The Washington Post.

A copy of the report was obtained by journalist Mark Danner and excerpted in his article published Monday in the New York Review of Books, "U.S. Torture: Voices From The Black Sites."

It discusses elements of the CIA rendition and detention program, in which prisoners were transported - shackled and blindfolded - to secret "black sites" where they faced interrogation using what President Bush, in a September 6, 2006 speech publicly revealing the program, termed "an alternative set of procedures."

These techniques, the Red Cross states, included suffocation by water, beatings, confinement in a box, sleep deprivation, forced nudity, exposure to cold temperatures or cold water, starvation and prolonged stress positions.

According to the report's authors, ?in many cases, the ill-treatment to which they were subjected while held in the CIA program ... constituted torture.?

?In addition, many other elements of the ill-treatment, either singly or in combination, constituted cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.?

Claire Algar, executive director of the human rights group Reprieve UK, which has represented terror suspects, told CBS News that the Red Cross report is believable: "The ICRC is an extremely reputable source, and this accords very much with what Reprieve's clients have said."

The report notes that many of the prisoners interviewed related common stories, even though they had no contact with one another.

Among the high-profile prisoners interviewed was Abu Zubaydah, whom President Bush described as "a senior terrorist leader and a trusted associate of Osama bin Laden." He was captured after being wounded in a 2002 firefight in Faisalabad, Pakistan. After being treated in a Lahore military hospital, Zubaydah was reportedly moved to Thailand and then possibly Afghanistan.

Zubaydah said that initially his interrogations in Thailand consisted of being shackled naked to a bed and having solid foods withheld for two or three weeks. He was deprived of sleep and subjected to cold temperatures.

The report says that interrogators from the CIA alternated harsh and lenient treatment in order to obtain information. In summer of 2002 top administration lawyers gave the CIA permission to use "more aggressive" techniques.

Zubaydah recounted instances of being beaten, being placed in a coffin-like box with no light and little air, and being waterboarded:
"I collapsed and lost consciousness on several occasions. Eventually the torture was stopped by the intervention of the doctor.

"I was told during this period that I was one of the first to receive these interrogation techniques, so no rules applied."
"Forced standing" was another technique that was recounted by prisoners in their interviews.

Walid Bin Attash, a Yemeni captured in Karachi in April 2003, told the ICRC that upon his arrival at the detention facility in Afghanistan
"I was stripped naked. I remained naked for the next two weeks. I was put in a cell measuring approximately [3 1/2 by 6 1/2 feet]. I was kept in a standing position, feet flat on the floor, but with my arms above my head and fixed with handcuffs and a chain to a metal bar running across the width of the cell. The cell was dark with no light, artificial or natural.

"During the first two weeks I did not receive any food. I was only given Ensure and water to drink. A guard would come and hold the bottle for me while I drank.... The toilet consisted of a bucket in the cell.... I was not allowed to clean myself after using the bucket. Loud music was playing twenty-four hours each day throughout the three weeks I was there."
The forced standing position was particularly grueling for Bin Attash, as he had only one leg.
"After some time being held in this position my stump began to hurt so I removed my artificial leg to relieve the pain. Of course my good leg then began to ache and soon started to give way so that I was left hanging with all my weight on my wrists. I shouted for help but at first nobody came. Finally, after about one hour a guard came and my artificial leg was given back to me and I was again placed in the standing position with my hands above my head. After that the interrogators sometimes deliberately removed my artificial leg in order to add extra stress to the position."
Khaled Shaik Mohammed, one of the prisoners interviewed, told the Red Cross that after being forced into stress positions, beaten, immersed in cold water and given enemas, he was informed by his interrogators that
"[T]hey had received the 'green light from Washington' to give him 'a hard time.' They never used the word 'torture' and never referred to 'physical pressure,' only to ' a hard time.' I was never threatened with death, in fact I was told that they would not allow me to die, but that I would be brought to the 'verge of death and back again.'"
Those treatments entailed beating, cold water immersions and waterboarding. He told the ICRC that he gave "a lot of false information in order to satisfy what I believed the interrogators wished to hear in order to make the ill-treatment stop. ... I'm sure that the false information I was forced to invent ... wasted a lot of their time and led to several false red-alerts being placed in the U.S."

"This is clear evidence of torture, torture ordered by the most senior officials of government," Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, told CBS News.

"Even if you could say that some of these people might have an interest in exaggerating the mistreatment that they endured, when you hear the same thing over and over and over again, you begin to realize that this is exactly what happened, and they're describing quite accurately what occurred to them."

Roth said that a thorough investigation into what happened - both at these sites and in the highest offices of government - is required. "Some future presidents faced with a future security threat may resort to this kind of torture again, unless some kind of respected commission definitively repudiates it, and ideally the authors of this torture are brought to justice."

The report follows an earlier ICRC report dated February 2004 about the treatment of prisoners by U.S. coalition forces in Iraq. It alleged "serious violations of International Humanitarian Law," including brutality, physical or psychological coercion during interrogation, prolonged solitary confinement, and excessive and disproportionate use of force "resulting in death or injury."
By producer David Morgan
CSIS defies orders on torture
Spy agency says it uses intelligence extracted that way 'if lives are at stake,' despite federal ban

Apr 01, 2009 04:30 AM
Tonda MacCharles

OTTAWA – In stunning testimony that flatly contradicts stated Conservative government policy, a senior CSIS official admitted the spy agency still uses information that might have been obtained by torture in national security investigations "if lives are at stake."

Geoffrey O'Brian, a lawyer and CSIS adviser on operations and legislation, told the Commons public safety committee there is no absolute ban on using intelligence that may have been obtained from countries with sketchy human rights records on torture.

"Do we use information that comes from torture? The answer is we only do so if lives are at stake," O'Brian said.

The admission appeared to fly in the face of clear recommendations from Justice Dennis O'Connor in the Maher Arar inquiry against receiving or distributing information when there is "a credible risk" it stemmed from torture.

It also contradicted assertions by the Conservative government, which has long argued the practices that led to the detention and torture of four Canadian citizens – which were condemned in two public inquiries – happened under the previous Liberal government. The Conservatives insist policies under its watch have changed.

The office of Peter Van Loan, minister of public safety, moved to clarify the Conservative government's policy late in the day by email: "The Government of Canada does not condone torture. Period."

O'Brian said there are "unusual" and "almost once-in-a-lifetime situations" where information obtained through torture "can be of value to the national security of the country."

He argued the executive branch is "bound" to protect the security of its citizens, even if such information can "never" be used in a court proceeding.

"The simple truth is, if we get information which can prevent something like the Air India bombing, the Twin Towers – whatever, frankly – that is the time when we will use it despite the provenance of that information," he said.

In contrast, the RCMP told MPs it considers intelligence extracted through torture to be automatically "unreliable."

"I would like to be clear there is no absolute ban on the use of any information received by the RCMP," said Gilles Michaud, director general of the RCMP's national security and criminal operations. "However, we do not use information whose reliability, accuracy and relevance is suspect. Information knowingly extracted under torture would, by definition, be unreliable."

Incredulous Liberal and Bloc Québécois MPs said the CSIS approach "creates a market for torture."

Liberal Mark Holland said it shows the findings of the public inquiries "have fallen on deaf ears."

He did not accept the CSIS explanation that information stemming from torture would be used only to prevent an imminent catastrophic attack.

"This is not an episode of 24, okay?"

The admission came as officials from CSIS, the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency testified they have responded to recommendations and findings by the two judge-led inquiries into the Mideast torture ordeals of Maher Arar, Ahmad El-Maati, Abdullah Almalki and Muayyed Nureddin.

All said their agencies have improved the information-sharing practices that were criticized.

But the RCMP and CSIS stopped well short of apologizing to the other three Canadian men who were tortured, even though they apologized to Arar at the same committee long before his civil lawsuit was settled out of court.

O'Brian said they were instructed not to say anything to jeopardize the government's position in civil lawsuits filed by the other three.

He was blunt: CSIS shares information with agencies in 147 countries, and the "vast majority of those countries have human rights records that are not as glowing as ours." CSIS tries to assess the reliability of "every bit of information it gets," but O'Brian conceded the agency "normally" doesn't know how information was obtained.

CSIS has developed a new "caveat" or caution on information to be shared when there is a risk someone may be detained abroad, and developed a new agreement under which it shares information with the RCMP, which shouldered most of the blame for the Arar scandal.

But O'Brian revealed CSIS has not ceased using inflammatory terms such as "jihadist" and "Islamic extremist" that both public inquiries had condemned.

"It depends on the status of the investigation. If it's early in the investigation, we may be simply seeking information.

"Later in an investigation, we may be able to come up with an assessment."

O'Brian assured Canadians CSIS is subject to ministerial control, and to review by the Inspector General and the civilian watchdog agency, Security Intelligence Review Committee, and that "mistakes" can be addressed.

The Liberals argued there should be an outright prohibition against accepting information from countries known to practise torture.

Anything less risks sending the message to other countries and shadowy agencies that Canada will use "worthwhile" information "if you torture them well enough," said Holland.

"It creates a market for torture," he said. "We're essentially condoning that torture ... That's a dangerous message to be sending out there."

Holland said although CSIS is subject to oversight, it shares information with other agencies like the RCMP or the CBSA that do not have similar watchdogs.

"It's quite disturbing," said NDP MP Jack Harris. But he added: "If someone says we have information that someone is about to blow up a building, to say that you wouldn't check it out would be silly. But I don't know if that's what he's talking about."
Please sign the petition "No Amnesty for Torturers"

On April 16, President Obama said he would not prosecute CIA agents who engaged in torture, because George Bush's lawyers told them it was "legal." President Obama also said Attorney General Eric Holder would use taxpayer dollars to defend torturers against lawsuits by torture victims, and to pay all judgments if they lost.

These decisions are intolerable and unacceptable. Torture is utterly immoral and un-American. It produced absolutely no useful intelligence. It recruited terrorists responsible for at least half the U.S. deaths in Iraq. And it endangered every U.S. soldier who may be captured in the future.

And torture is absolutely illegal. The U.S. ratified the United Nations Convention Against Torture, which prohibits torture and requires prosecution of torturers. In 1947, the U.S. prosecuted a Japanese officer for waterboarding. No lawyer can "legalize" what is illegal.

Congress must take the following actions:

1. Demand the appointment of a Special Prosecutor by Attorney General Eric Holder for torture, warrantless wiretapping, and other heinous crimes of the Bush Administration. (Thanks to Rep. Jerrold Nadler for leading the way!)

2. Prohibit the use of any taxpayer dollars to defend government officials who committed such crimes against lawsuits, or to pay for judgments against them.

3. Impeach Judge Jay Bybee, the torture memo author who serves on the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in California.

4. Protect human rights by restoring Habeas Corpus and the Fourth Amendment (search and seizure), including repeal of the Orwellian-named Protect America Act, U.S.A. Patriot Act, the FISA Amendments, and Military Commissions Act.

5. End secret government by prohibiting use of "State Secrets," "Sovereign Immunity" and "Signing Statements."
Time to Come Clean
Published: April 25, 2009
If, God forbid, terrorists release nerve gas in movie theaters from Los Angeles to Washington tomorrow, the debate about torture will change 180 degrees. The public will turn on President Obama for having “coddled” terrorists.

In short, today’s revulsion at waterboarding is broad but fragile. And that makes it essential that the United States proceed with an independent commission to investigate harsh treatment and tally its costs and benefits.

President Obama worries that the commission will be a distraction, but the truth is the opposite. Revelations will continue to trickle out — including a new hoard of photos of abuses scheduled to be released by May 28 — creating a constant roar of charges and counter-charges. Liberals will jab Mr. Obama from the left, and Dick Cheney from the right, until the president resembles St. Sebastian (the human pincushion). Mr. Obama won’t be able to escape torture.

“He’s trying to get it off the news cycle, and that’s not going to happen,” said Elisa Massimino, chief executive of Human Rights First. “You can’t say you’re going to follow the evidence and then not look for any.”

Morton Halperin of the Open Society Institute, a leader in the coalition supporting a commission, said: “He’s better off saying, ‘there’ll be a commission report, and I’ll deal with it when it’s over.’ It’s a much more credible way to get it off the table.”

There are three solid reasons for a national commission:

First, it could help forge a consensus against torture, for almost everyone in the national security world believes that the result would be a ringing affirmation that we should not torture.

It’s in Mr. Obama’s interest to reach such a consensus, because otherwise the next major terror attack — and there will be one — will be followed by Republican claims that the president’s wimpishness left America vulnerable. His agenda on health care, climate change and education will then risk a collapse into dream dust. The way to inoculate his agenda is to seek common ground through a nonpartisan commission.

Second, a commission could help restore America’s standing by distancing ourselves from past abuses. Alberto Mora, a former general counsel for the Navy, has said that some flag-rank officers believe that Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo constitute “the first and second identifiable causes of U.S. combat deaths in Iraq,” because they galvanized jihadis. An Air Force major and interrogator of prisoners who goes by the pseudonym Matthew Alexander told Harper’s Magazine that “hundreds but more likely thousands of American lives” were lost because of “the policy decision to introduce the torture and abuse of prisoners.”

Third, a commission could help counterterrorism efforts. Foreign governments have been wary of cooperating with us for fear of being tarnished by scandal. At home, Arab-American and Somali-American communities have been leery of reporting tips because they see the authorities as unjust and hostile to Muslims.

“Oftentimes, the communities from which we need the most help are those who trust us the least,” Robert Mueller, the F.B.I. director, told the Council on Foreign Relations recently. Last fall, a Somali-American was among a group of suicide bombers who killed more than 20 people in the northern Somalia; he may have been the first American citizen to commit such a suicide attack.

There’s no magic bullet to prevent that from happening in Minneapolis next time, but a truth commission would perhaps be one way to clear the air, build trust among American Muslims and improve counterterrorism.

The truth commission shouldn’t be bipartisan. Rather, it should be nonpartisan, led by prominent legal figures and national security experts who are not strongly associated with a political party. Among those often mentioned are Sandra Day O’Connor, Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, along with retired generals and intelligence experts. Such a panel could not be accused of a witch hunt.

It could explore whether there should be criminal responsibility, and whether health professionals should lose licenses for participating in torture.

Conversely, I hope the commission would also recognize some of the most heroic figures since 9/11: those brave military officers, especially military lawyers, who defied the Pentagon to stand up for terrorism suspects — or, more accurately, for principles of justice.

At a time when we in the news media became lapdogs rather than watchdogs, when Congress and the courts dozed, those military lawyers sacrificed their careers to defend American values. They deserve medals.

Mr. Obama is right that we have to focus on the economy and move ahead. But one of our most precious possessions is our moral core, our value system, and when you’ve lost your way it’s important to retrace your steps to understand where you went astray. Come on, Mr. Obama, let’s not delay that process.
Democrats urge torture probe by special counsel
By LARRY MARGASAK, Associated Press Writer 28 Apr 2009
WASHINGTON – Congressional Democrats turned up the pressure on the Obama administration Tuesday to start a criminal investigation by a special counsel into harsh interrogations of terrorism suspects.

It would be a conflict of interest for President Barack Obama's Justice Department to investigate lawyers from the Bush administration, even though they no longer work for the government, Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee said.

In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, the Democrats wrote, "It is impossible to determine at this stage, and before conclusion of the necessary investigation, whether additional conflicts of interest might exist or arise."

The letter said a special counsel's investigation would insulate the department from accusations that the investigation was politically inspired.

Most of the 16 signers were Democratic liberals. Seven committee Democrats did not sign the letter, nor did any of the 16 Republicans.

Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd said the letter will be reviewed, but he pointed out the department's Office of Professional Responsibility is investigating whether the memos are consistent with professional standards required of department lawyers.

"As with any issue, we will follow the facts where they lead," Boyd said. "As the attorney general has said, it would be unfair to prosecute dedicated men and women working to protect America for conduct that was sanctioned in advance by the Justice Department."

Obama has said it would be up to Holder to determine whether "those who formulated those legal decisions" should be prosecuted. The methods, described in the Bush-era memos, included slamming detainees against walls and subjecting them to simulated drowning known as waterboarding.

The president said he would not seek to punish CIA officers and others who carried out interrogations.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, also has proposed that independent investigators determine whether Bush administration officials ought to face charges.

Conservative Republican senators have characterized the Democratic effort as counterproductive and politically motivated at the least and, at worst, damaging to national security.

Levin recommended that the Justice Department select up to three people outside the department, such as retired federal judges, to recommend any charges or other actions against lawyers and others who developed the policies.

In addition to lawmakers, a coalition of liberal groups delivered petitions to Holder demanding that he name an independent counsel. The groups included the American Civil Liberties Union,, and the Center or Constitutional Rights.

The ACLU obtained four of the Justice Department memos that provided the legal framework for the interrogation policies.
U.N. rights chief urges Obama to prosecute torturers
Thu May 14, 2009 6:00am EDT

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA, May 14 (Reuters) - The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights on Thursday welcomed the election of the United States to the top United Nations rights forum and urged it to prosecute those accused of torture and other abuses.

Navi Pillay said Washington should investigate all U.S. renditions of terrorism suspects and ensure any interrogators who mistreated them are brought to justice for violating an international ban on torture.

Her appeal, in an opinion piece in the International Herald Tribune, came a day after President Barack Obama said he would fight the release of dozens of photographs showing the abuse of terrorism suspects over concern the images could ignite a backlash against U.S. troops deployed abroad.

The United States' election on Tuesday to the United Nations Human Rights Council could help the cause of human rights and America's standing in the international community, Pillay said.

She described Washington's decision to seek a seat for the first time at the 47-member forum as a "welcome step in restoring international trust in U.S. support for human rights".

"Although much more needs to be done, President Obama's determination to resolve the untenable situation of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, ban CIA prisons and implement the prohibition on torture in compliance with international standards is highly welcome," the former U.N. war crimes judge said.

She was referring to executive orders signed by Obama in his first days in office in January to close the Guantanamo military prison in Cuba and overseas CIA jails.

"The U.S. should also shed light into the still opaque areas that surround capture, interrogation methods, rendition and detention conditions of those alleged to have been involved in terrorism, and ensure that perpetrators of torture and abuse are held to account," Pillay said.

Under President George W. Bush, the United States confirmed it had used "rendition" to apprehend terrorism suspects around the world and deliver them for interrogation in third countries.

It also acknowledged that the CIA had run secret interrogation centres abroad, but denied employing torture.

The system was put in place after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, which killed nearly 3,000 people.

U.N. human rights investigators launched a global inquiry into secret detentions last March and said they would not relax scrutiny of U.S. counter-terrorism policies under Obama.

The investigation will look at CIA "rendition" flights that secretly transferred suspects for interrogation, mainly in North Africa and the Middle East, but will also investigate countries' use of torture in secret prisons anywhere in the world.

Martin Scheinin, U.N. special rapporteur on protecting human rights while countering terrorism, and Manfred Nowak, the U.N. investigator on torture worldwide, are conducting the investigation. The independent experts report to the U.N. Human Rights Council. (Editing by Janet Lawrence)
PsychRights Law Project for Psychiatric Rights, Inc.
406 G Street, Suite 206, Anchorage, AK 99501 ~
May 22 2009
Jim Gottstein
Alaska Supreme Court Grants Mental Patients Constitutional Rights
In an important decision issued today, William S. Bigley v. Alaska Psychiatric Institute, the Alaska Supreme Court significantly advanced psychiatric patients' constitutional due process rights when the state seeks to force them to take psychiatric drugs against their will.
"One of the things they held," said Jim Gottstein, President and CEO of the Law Project for Psychiatric Rights (PsychRights) and the attorney who handled the case, "is that if the State is holding someone in a psychiatric facility, they must provide a feasible alternative to the forced drugging if the alternative satisfies the State's asserted justification. The State's only other option is to let the person go."
The Court also held that in order to allow the person a realistic opportunity to prepare a defense, when filing a forced drugging petition, the State must provide a written statement of the facts underlying the petition, including the reasons for the forced drugging, information about the patient’s symptoms and diagnosis; the medication to be used; the method of administration; the likely dosage; possible side effects, risks and expected benefits; and the risks and benefits of alternative treatments and nontreatment. "This is very important," Mr. Gottstein said, "because up until now, they just checked a box that said the person was incompetent to decline and the facility wants to drug the person. Then the State comes in with a witness who testifies untruthfully and there is no way to have been prepared to rebut it."
Equally important, the Court ruled the person's lawyer must be given access to the person's medical and psychiatric records in advance of the hearing and adequate preparation time. "The problem is judges have been misled for years that these drugs increase safety and are beneficial to patients," according to Mr. Gottstein, "The truth is they decrease safety, are ineffective for most, are physically very harmful, and prevent many people from recovering. The evidence on this is clear, but the way these cases have been rushed through without allowing adequate time for a defense, these facts have not normally been revealed to the judges."
The Law Project for Psychiatric Rights is a public interest law firm devoted to the defense of people facing the horrors of forced psychiatric drugging and electroshock. PsychRights is further dedicated to exposing the truth about psychiatric interventions and the courts being misled into ordering people subjected to these brain and body damaging drugs against their will. Extensive information about these dangers, and about the tragic damage caused by electroshock, is available on the PsychRights web site:
AP source: Holder considering torture probe
By NEDRA PICKLER, Associated Press Writer Nedra Pickler, Associated Press Writer – Sun Jul 12, 9:35 am ET

WASHINGTON – Contrary to White House wishes, Attorney General Eric Holder may push forward with a criminal investigation into the Bush administration's harsh interrogation practices used on suspected terrorists.

Holder is considering whether to appoint a prosecutor and will make a final decision within the next few weeks, a Justice Department official told The Associated Press. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on a pending matter.

A move to appoint a criminal prosecutor is certain to stir partisan bickering that could create a distraction to President Barack Obama's efforts to push ambitious health care and energy reform.

Obama has repeatedly expressed reluctance to having a probe into alleged Bush-era abuses and resisted an effort by congressional Democrats to establish a "truth commission," saying the nation should be "looking forward and not backwards."

Justice Department spokesman Matt Miller said Holder planned to "follow the facts and the law."

"We have made no decisions on investigations or prosecutions, including whether to appoint a prosecutor to conduct further inquiry," he told the AP on Saturday. "As the attorney general has made clear, it would be unfair to prosecute any official who acted in good faith based on legal guidance from the Justice Department."

Newsweek magazine, which first reported the development, said Holder was aware of the political implications of having a probe and preferred not to create unnecessary trouble for the White House. Still, the attorney general was troubled by what he learned in reports about the treatment of prisoners at the CIA's "black sites."

The probe would focus in part on whether CIA personnel tortured terrorism suspects after Sept. 11, 2001. Holder has said those who acted within the government's legal guidance will not be prosecuted, but has left open the possibility of pursuing those who went beyond the guidance and broke the law.

Holder has discussed with his staff the possibility of a prosecutor, saying he needed someone with "gravitas and grit," the magazine reported. In the end, the attorney general asked for a list of 10 candidates, five from within the Justice Department and five from outside.

"I hope that whatever decision I make would not have a negative impact on the president's agenda," Holder told Newsweek. "But that can't be a part of my decision."
Report Provides New Details on C.I.A. Prisoner Abuse
Published: August 22, 2009
WASHINGTON — A Central Intelligence Agency inspector general’s report set to be released Monday provides new details about abuses that took place inside the agency’s secret prisons, including details of how C.I.A. officers carried out mock executions and threatened at least one prisoner with a gun and a power drill.

C.I.A. jailers at different times held the handgun and the drill close to the detainee, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, threatening to harm him if he did not cooperate with his interrogators, a government official familiar with the contents of the report said.

Mr. Nashiri, who was implicated in the bombing of the Navy destroyer Cole in 2000, was one of two C.I.A. detainees whose interrogation sessions were videotaped — tapes that were destroyed by C.I.A. officers in 2005. It is unclear whether the threats with the gun and the power drill were documented on the tapes.

In a separate episode detailed in the report — completed in 2004 by the inspector general, John L. Helgerson, but emerging now after a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union forced its release — C.I.A. officers fired a gunshot in a room next to a detainee, leading the prisoner to believe that a second detainee had been killed.

It is a violation of the federal torture statute to threaten a detainee with imminent death.

The C.I.A. declined to comment on specifics of the report, which were first reported Friday evening by Newsweek.

Paul Gimigliano, a C.I.A. spokesman, said: “The C.I.A. in no way endorsed behavior — no matter how infrequent — that went beyond the formal guidance. This has all been looked at; professionals in the Department of Justice decided if and when to pursue prosecution.”

A federal prosecutor is now investigating the destruction of the C.I.A. tapes, but the Justice Department has thus far declined to open a formal investigation into the abuses in C.I.A. prisons.

That may be about to change, as Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. is considering whether to appoint a prosecutor to examine the allegations in Mr. Helgerson’s report, and to investigate a number of cases where detainees died in C.I.A. custody.

President Obama has insisted that C.I.A. officers who adhered to Justice Department interrogation guidelines should escape prosecution, and Mr. Holder is not expected to single out Justice Department lawyers who approved the brutal interrogation techniques.

This would give any future investigation a somewhat narrow mandate: aiming only at C.I.A. officers who carried out abuses that exceed the interrogation guidelines.

Mr. Helgerson’s report is said to document in grim detail a number of abuse cases, and its release on Monday is likely to reinvigorate a partisan debate on Capitol Hill.
Even as White House officials say that they are hesitant to dwell on the detainee abuse during the Bush administration, the A.C.L.U. lawsuit has forced officials to make public a number of classified documents from that era.

Besides the inspector general’s report, other documents expected to be released Monday are a 2007 Justice Department memo reauthorizing the C.I.A.’s “enhanced” interrogation techniques, documents that former Vice President Dick Cheney has said provide evidence that the interrogation methods produced valuable information about Al Qaeda; and Justice Department memos from 2006 concerning conditions of confinement in C.I.A. jails.

In Mr. Nashiri’s case, military prosecutors announced in July 2008 that they would seek the death penalty as they brought war crimes charges against him. He has been held at the prison camp in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and is suspected of helping to plan the bombing of the Cole, an attack that killed 17 sailors.

Mr. Nashiri is a Saudi who has long been described by American officials as Al Qaeda’s operations chief in the Persian Gulf and the primary planner of the October 2000 attack on the Cole.

Mr. Nashiri is one of three detainees who the C.I.A. has acknowledged were subjected to waterboarding. Mr. Nashiri was interrogated in the agency’s secret prisons before he was transferred to Guantánamo in 2006.

In announcing the charges, which will be heard by the Bush administration’s military commission tribunals at Guantánamo, the Pentagon official, Brig. Gen. Thomas W. Hartmann, appeared to back away from years of assertions by American officials about Mr. Nashiri when he was asked at a news conference if Mr. Nashiri was suspected of being the primary planner or mastermind of the Cole attack.

“I’m not going to say either of those,” General Hartmann said. “I’m going to say he helped to plan and organize and direct the attacks.”
Intelligence Committee Launches Full CIA Investigation
Schakowsky Subcommittee Tapped to Investigate CIA Program & Congressional Notification

WASHINGTON, DC (July 17, 2009) – Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-IL, chairwoman of the House Intelligence Subcommittee on Investigations & Oversight, issued the following statement to announce a full investigation into certain CIA programs and the Congressional notification process.

“The House Intelligence Committee will move forward with a full investigation that will explore certain CIA programs and the core issue of how the committee is kept informed. My subcommittee will take the lead on significant portions of the investigation; we will explore instances where the Congress was not informed in a timely way and situations in which laws may have been broken.

“This investigation will seek to review the process for notifying Congress and the Committee’s role to oversee the intelligence community. It is very important for us to set the record straight going forward that the Congress wants to be, and needs to be, able to conduct its oversight function.

“We want to look very closely at every aspect of the notification process and various programs. If it is determined by this investigation that the Vice President of the United States ordered Congress not to be told there is reason to believe that is a significant violation of the National Security Act, we’ll follow that thread where it takes us and determine if there’s reason to refer to the issue to the Justice Department or clarify the laws regarding notification.

“Currently, we’re collecting necessary documents from the appropriate agencies to proceed with our investigation. In the near future I hope to develop a timetable and soon after we’re going to begin our investigation with hearings.”

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