Thursday, April 23, 2009


CIA to close down secret prisons

Suspects were captured and flown to secret prisons overseas in the US "war on terror" [GALLO/GETTY]
The CIA is to close down its global network of secret prisons, where "war on terror" suspects were subjected to harsh interrogation techniques, Leon Panetta, the agency's director, has said.

Private contractors would also no longer be allowed to interrogate prisoners held by the CIA, Panetta said in a letter to CIA employees on Thursday.

"CIA no longer operates detention facilities or black sites and has proposed a plan to decommission the remaining sites," Panetta was quoted as saying in the letter by the Reuters news agency.

Panetta also said that the CIA had told the US congress that it had captured no new prisoners since he became director in February and the "black sites" were now all empty of prisoners.

"I have directed our agency personnel to take charge of the decommissioning process and have further directed that the contracts for site security be promptly terminated," he said.

Free Speech

Rice gave early 'waterboarding green light'

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The CIA first sought in May 2002 to use harsh interrogation techniques including waterboarding on terror suspects, and was given key early approval by then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, a US Senate intelligence document said.

The agency got the green light to use the near-drowning technique on July 26, 2002, when attorney general John Ashcroft concluded "that the use of waterboarding was lawful," the Senate Intelligence Committee said in a detailed timeline of the "war on terrorism" interrogations released Wednesday.

Nine days earlier, the panel said, citing Central Intelligence Agency records, Rice had met with then-director George Tenet and "advised that the CIA could proceed with its proposed interrogation of Abu Zubaydah," the agency's first high-value Al-Qaeda detainee, pending Justice Department approval.

Rice's nod is believed to be the earliest known approval by a senior official in the administration of George W. Bush of the intelligence technique which current Attorney General Eric Holder has decried as "torture."

The Senate panel narrative is the most comprehensive declassified chronology to date of the Bush administration's support for the highly controversial tactics.

According to the Senate narrative, Rice was among at least half a dozen top Bush officials, including vice president Dick Cheney, who were in 2002 or 2003 debating, approving or reaffirming the legality of the interrogation practices used on Zubaydah and two other terror suspects.

The Garden

Obama Stands Nuremberg on Its Head

By Mike Farrell

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

Justice Robert Jackson, chief United States prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials, declared in his opening statement to the tribunal that the men charged "represent sinister influence that will lurk in the world long after their bodies have returned to dust. They are living symbols of racial hatreds, of terrorism and violence, and of the arrogance and cruelty of power."

The arrogance and cruelty of CIA officers who torture and brutalize helpless prisoners are not expunged just because, as Obama said, they "carried out their duties relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice." Attorney General Eric Holder says it's "unfair to prosecute dedicated men and women working to protect America for conduct that was sanctioned in advance by the Justice Department," but he fails to note these very CIA agents requested said authority in order to engage in what all but the most insidious parsing of legal thought recognizes as torture.

As Justice Jackson said, " ... it was under the law of all civilized peoples a crime for one man with his bare knuckles to assault another." When awakened, he said, "Plain people, with their earthly common sense, revolted at such fictions and legalisms so contrary to ethical principles. ... " He declared to the world that "[c]ivilization can afford no compromise with the social forces which would gain renewed strength if we deal ambiguously or indecisively with the men in whom those forces now precariously survive."

How we cheapen ourselves today. "Enhanced interrogation," "coercive techniques" and "harsh treatment" pretend torture is not torture. By what moral or ethical standard does a rational person determine that smashing a shackled human being's head into a wall is legal, let alone acceptable? It has been clear from before Nuremberg that the duty of the individual is to refuse to commit an illegal act, even if so ordered by one's commanding authority.

Yet, "nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past," says our president, missing the point entirely. As a constitutional scholar, he above all should understand that impunity for torturers gnaws at the wound of injustice and denies healing.

As Jackson said, "Crimes always are committed only by persons. … The Charter [of the tribunal] recognizes that one who has committed criminal acts may not take refuge in superior orders nor in the doctrine that his crimes were acts of states." "International Law," he went on, "is more than a scholarly collection of abstract and immutable principles. It is an outgrowth of treaties and agreements between nations and of accepted customs. The law, so far as International Law can be decreed, had been clearly pronounced when these acts took place."

The pressures on a new president are intense, of course, but for the Obama administration to demean justice based on what can only be understood as political calculus is deeply disheartening. At a minimum, one would hope that the price exacted from the "intelligence professionals" involved in this dehumanizing exercise would be immediate dismissal.

Big Entertainment Wants to Party Like It's 1996


Written by Cory Doctorow

The entertainment industry wants to retreat to the comfort of 1996. It was a good year for them. CDs were selling briskly, but no one had figured out how to rip them and turn them into MP3s yet. Music fans were still spending money to buy CD versions of music they owned on LP. DVDs had just been released, and movie fans were spending money to buy DVDs for movies they already owned on VHS.

And most importantly, the laws regulating copyright and technology were almost entirely designed by the entertainment industry. They could write anydamnfoolthing and get it passed in Congress, by the UN, in the EU.

Private agreements with electronics companies guaranteed that all new devices were crippled: Remember the Sony Minidisc players that could record sound digitally, but could only output it on the headphone jack, meaning that you couldn't just record your kid's first words and digitally transfer them to your computer for safe keeping?

1996 is gone, and good riddance.

In 2009, the world is populated by people who no longer believe that "Thou shalt sell media on plastic discs forever" came down off the mountain on two stone tablets. It's populated by people who find the spectacle of companies suing their own customers by the thousands indefensible. It's populated by activists who've figured out that the Internet is worth saving and that the entertainment industry is prepared to destroy it.

And the entertainment industry hasn't figured that out, and that's why they're doomed.

I recently found myself debating the head of the British Phonographic Institute, our local equivalent of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). He's Britain's top lobbyist for the collapsing record industry, and he said a remarkable thing.

An audience member had just stood up and asked one of those rambling non-questions that are really just polemics, words to the effect of, "You people are so evil -- just look at the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, it's full of bad things and it's all being negotiated in secret, away from public input. It's more corporate influence on government!"

And then Britain's top record industry lobbyist said the remarkable thing: "It's perfectly normal for this kind of treaty to be negotiated in private. There's nothing sinister going on at all." That's when I realized that the all-powerful entertainment lobby has developed advanced lobbyist's senility. Lost its tactical marbles. Lost its spine.

And I had to suppress a grin.

Here's some background for you: The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is a draft treaty among a bunch of rich countries that is supposed to combat "increase in global trade of counterfeit goods and pirated copyright protected works." It's a private, multilateral negotiation that's taking place without the benefit of the United Nations' World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the UN agency where copyright treaties are normally negotiated.

WIPO is open to all the world's nations and to lots of non-governmental agencies (activists and corporate lobbyists alike), and it publishes public minutes.

ACTA is taking place in the proverbial smoke-filled room, and its provisions are nominally secret.

Still, though ACTA is nominally private -- the actual treaty language has been classified by the Obama White House as secret due to "national security" (!) -- we actually know rather a lot about its provisions.

Partly, that's because trade agreements like this are visible to "cleared advisors" -- members of the U.S. Trade Representative's advisory boards -- a list of hundreds of people, including many corporate lobbyists. For example:

  • Sandra M. Aistars, Esq., Senior Counsel, Intellectual Property, Time Warner Inc.
  • Francis (Frank) Z. Hellwig, Esq. Senior Associate, General Counsel, Anheuser-Busch Companies Inc.
  • Douglas T. Nelson, Esq., Executive Vice President, General Counsel, and Secretary, CropLife America
  • Shirley Zebroski, PhD, Director, Legislative Affairs, General Motors Corp.
  • Robert E. Branand, Esq., Representative, National Paint & Coatings Association
  • Ms. Laura J. Lane, Senior Vice President, International Government Affairs, Citigroup Inc.

That's right -- it's not just Time Warner Inc. (NYSE: TWX), the RIAA, and the Motion Picture Association who are in on this deal. It's also beer execs, execs from sinking banks and car-companies, fertilizer salesmen, and the people who make aluminum siding. They all get a seat at the table and get to know what's being said out of the public's earshot.

Well, once you tell hundreds of executives from random industry associations and corporations a secret, it's not going to remain secret for very long.

The difference between Somalian piracy and American piracy

Political Poll: Which Pundit Would Become Emergency Survival Meat First?

by Apoliticus Editors i go for the meatiest or the most talkative first? I go for the meatiest or the most talkative first?

In our last poll, 80% of you said that what you missed the most about George W. was his incident-prone press conferences. You simply never knew when there might be an Inshoegency.

Now the Apoliticus editors have another serious question for you: If you were in a plane crash in the mountains of Argentina with every major political pundit, which one would you choose to be eat first?

If your plane crashed in the mountains of Argentina with every major American political pundit/talking head on board, who would you eat first to survive?

Island DIY: Kauai residents don't wait for state to repair road

By Mallory Simon

(CNN) -- Their livelihood was being threatened, and they were tired of waiting for government help, so business owners and residents on Hawaii's Kauai island pulled together and completed a $4 million repair job to a state park -- for free.

Volunteers bring in a heavy crane for work on a bridge to polihale state park on kauai last month.
Polihale State Park has been closed since severe flooding destroyed an access road to the park and damaged facilities in December.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources had estimated that the damage would cost $4 million to fix, money the agency doesn't have, according to a news release from department Chairwoman Laura Thielen.

"It would not have been open this summer, and it probably wouldn't be open next summer," said Bruce Pleas, a local surfer who helped organize the volunteers. "They said it would probably take two years. And with the way they are cutting funds, we felt like they'd never get the money to fix it."

And if the repairs weren't made, some business owners faced the possibility of having to shut down.

Ivan Slack, co-owner of Napali Kayak, said his company relies solely on revenue from kayak tours and needs the state park to be open to operate. The company jumped in and donated resources because it knew that without the repairs, Napali Kayak would be in financial trouble.

"If the park is not open, it would be extreme for us, to say the least," he said. "Bankruptcy would be imminent. How many years can you be expected to continue operating, owning 15-passenger vans, $2 million in insurance and a staff? For us, it was crucial, and our survival was dependent on it. That park is the key to the sheer survival of the business."

So Slack, other business owners and residents made the decision not to sit on their hands and wait for state money that many expected would never come. Instead, they pulled together machinery and manpower and hit the ground running March 23. Video Watch the volunteers repairing the road »

And after only eight days, all of the repairs were done, Pleas said. It was a shockingly quick fix to a problem that may have taken much longer if they waited for state money to funnel in.

Which lie was deemed worthy of impeachment?

Impeach Bybee

We're building a coalition.

Help the California Democratic Party pass a resolution asking for Bybee's impeachment.

The New York Times finally wants somebody impeached and it's Jay Bybee.

Congressman Jerrold Nadler finally wants somebody impeached and it's Jay Bybee.

Senator Russ Feingold finally wants somebody impeached and it's Jay Bybee.

A Spanish judge is seeking an indictment of Jay Bybee.

Jay Bybee's "legal" memos were thrown out by the Bush administration.

Jay Bybee signed memos authorizing torture.

Jay Bybee is a federal judge with a lifetime appointment who was not straight with us at his confirmation.

Lawyers have been held accountable for the crime of pretending to legalize crimes before, see: US v. Joseph Altstoetter.

Any act complicit in torture is a felony under US law.

Every single crime is in the past. "Looking forward" means looking forward to a world in which abuse and criminality cannot be deterred.

CLICK HERE to ask Congress to impeach Jay Bybee.

"I was following orders" is a Nazi excuse. CIA employees are civilians and don't get orders.

"I was following lawyers' advice" could permit absolutely anything because there is nothing a lawyer cannot be paid to say is legal.

The advice came after the torture began and the torture was never limited to the approved techniques.

The memo in which Bybee claims to legalize the torture of Abu Zubaydah itself claims only to be valid if certain facts and circumstances are true, which were not.

Secret laws produced as royal decrees are not laws at all, but their drafting can be a crime, and in the case of Bybee's memos violated the Convention Against Torture.

CLICK HERE to ask Congress to impeach Jay Bybee.

We can restore power to Congress AND begin to deter future abuses through one absolutely necessary action.

Bruce Ackerman made the case very well in a Slate article called "Impeach Jay Bybee: Why should a suspected war criminal serve as a federal judge?" Ackerman wrote:

"Jay Bybee is currently sitting on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. As assistant attorney general in President George W. Bush's Justice Department, he was responsible for the notorious torture memos that enabled the excesses at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and other places. While John Yoo did most of the staff work for Bybee, Yoo was barely 35 years old -- and his memos showed it. They not only took extreme positions; they were legally incompetent, failing to consider many of the most obvious counterarguments. Bybee was 49. He was the grown-up, the seasoned jurist. He had been a law professor and had served as associate counsel to President Bush. When he was promoted to head the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, he became the final judge of legal matters within the executive branch. Yet his opinion on torture was so poorly reasoned that it was repudiated by his very conservative successor, Jack Goldsmith."

Ackerman points out that when Bybee was confirmed by the Senate, his role in promoting the use of torture and other criminal acts was not known (well, was still denied by some people), and he absurdly claimed the right to keep his work secret. When torture teammate William Haynes was later considered for a similar appointment, the widespread use of torture had become known, and the Senate rejected him. That's the same Senate, although slightly improved by recent elections, that would have to convict Bybee in an impeachment trial.

CLICK HERE to ask Congress to impeach Jay Bybee.

End of Scandinavian Neutrality: NATO's Militarization Of Europe

informazione dall'iraq occupato
information from occupied iraq

by Rick Rozoff

There was a noble if naive expectation that with the effective dissolution of the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact in 1989 and even more so with its formal dismantling and the breakup of the Soviet Union itself into fifteen new countries two years later that an era of peace in the world and demilitarization of the European continent was dawning.

The peace might not be a just one, leaving the major Western military and economic powers in charge of the planet, but peace of a sort - any sort - seemed preferable to a continued state of armed, which meant nuclear, confrontation, some thought.

Hopes and talk abounded of a global peace dividend, with hundreds of billions of dollars and pounds, marks and francs and rubles hitherto expended on the production of weapons, the maintenance of armies and the prosecution of wars to be allotted to civilian production and to basic human needs in Europe, North America and throughout the world, especially its most underdeveloped and desperately needy nations.

The past twenty years, even the very first year of that double decade, 1989, proved that perspective wrong, tragically wrong, wrong in every particular.

With a diminished and all-but-dead Warsaw Pact and an internally weakened and infinitely compliant Soviet Union in 1989, the US felt free to invade Panama in late December of that year; the German Democratic Republic was incorporated into the Federal Republic of Germany - and NATO - the following year; and in January of 1991 the United States, acting on the so-called Carter Doctrine, launched Operation Desert Storm, a series of devastating and deadly attacks on Iraqi forces in Kuwait and on Iraq itself, with the assistance of local client states and NATO allies Britain, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Turkey, Portugal, Canada, Belgium, Denmark, Greece, the Netherlands and Norway. The only NATO nations not participating were diminutive Iceland and Luxembourg.

In March of 1991, six days after the war ended, then US President Bush H.W. Bush described the results of Operation Desert Storm and of the soon-to-be post-Cold War period: "Now, we can see a new world coming into view. A world in which there is the very real prospect of a new world order."

The new global order had no room for either peace or disarmament. It never intended that either should ever prevail.

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