‘No Acquittals’ at Gitmo

29bush_hitler The former chief prosecutor here took the witness stand on Monday on behalf of a detainee and testified that top Pentagon officials had pressured him in deciding which cases to prosecute and what evidence to use.

The prosecutor, Col. Morris D. Davis of the Air Force, testified that Pentagon officials had interfered with his work for political reasons and told him that charges against well-known detainees “could have real strategic political value” and that there could be no acquittals.

His testimony completed one of the more unusual transformations in the contentious history of Guantánamo. Colonel Davis, who is on active duty as a senior Air Force official and was one of the Pentagon’s most vocal advocates of the Guantánamo military commissions, has become one of the most visible critics of the system.

Testifying about his assertions for the first time, Colonel Davis said a senior Pentagon official who oversaw the military commissions, Brig. Gen. Thomas W. Hartmann of the Air Force Reserve, reversed a decision he had made and insisted that prosecutors proceed with evidence derived through waterboarding of detainees and other aggressive interrogation methods that critics call torture.

Called to the stand by a Navy defense lawyer and testifying before a military judge, Colonel Davis said General Hartmann directed him last year to push war crimes cases here quickly. He said the general was trying to give the system legitimacy before a new president took office. He testified that General Hartmann referred to the long difficulties the Pentagon had had in operating the military commissions and said, “If we don’t get some cases going before the election, this thing’s going to implode.”

Spokesmen for the Pentagon and General Hartmann declined to comment on Monday, saying that the questioning was continuing before the military judge…

Inserted from <NY Times>

I first posted about Col. Davis on February 21. The GOP Reich likes to compare these tribunals with the Nuremberg trials, but in Nuremberg we did not extract testimony under torture and we did not decide the verdicts before the trials took place. Some might argue that some of these terrorists do not deserve a fair trial. Whether or not this is true, what they do or do not deserve is not relevant. This is not about who that are. It’s about who we are. At Nuremberg, we tried and convicted German judges for running exactly the same kinds of courts that Bush and the GOP are running here. If we ignore our own standards of justice to combat terrorism, then the war on terror is already over and the terrorists have won.

All articles cross-posted from Politics Plus

It’s not Torture When We Do It

torture The Geneva Conventions’ ban on “outrages against personal dignity” does not automatically apply to terrorism suspects in the custody of U.S. intelligence agencies, the Justice Department has suggested to Congress in recent letters that lay out the Bush administration’s interpretation of the international treaty.

Lawyers for the department, offering insight into the legal basis for the CIA’s controversial interrogation program, reasserted in the letters the Bush administration’s long-held view that it has considerable leeway in deciding how the conventions’ rules apply to the harsh questioning of combatants in the war on terrorism.

While the United States is legally bound by the conventions’ Common Article 3 and its requirement to treat detainees humanely, the definition of humane treatment can vary, depending on the detainee’s identity and the importance of the information he possesses, a Justice Department official wrote last September and this March to a Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee.

“Some prohibitions . . . such as the prohibition on ‘outrages against personal dignity,’ do invite the consideration of the circumstances surrounding the action,” Brian A. Benczkowski, the principal deputy assistant attorney general, asserted in one of the letters.

Benczkowski’s letters were provided to The Washington Post by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who asked the Justice Department to explain the legal foundation for President Bush’s executive order last year authorizing the CIA’s continued interrogation of terrorism suspects. The existence of the letters was first reported last night by the New York Times.

A spokeswoman for Wyden said the administration’s suggestion that the Geneva Conventions could be selectively applied was “stunning.”

The Geneva Convention in most cases is the only shield that Americans have when they are captured overseas,” the spokeswoman, Jennifer Hoelzer, said in a phone interview. “And for the president to say that it is acceptable to interpret Geneva on a sliding scale means that he thinks that it is acceptable for other countries to do the same. Senator Wyden — and I believe any other reasonable individual — finds that argument appalling.“… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <Washington Post>

Like my Senator, I also find the notion that the ban on torture is selective appalling.  Bush, every administrator who facilitated torture, and every legislator who voted in favor of torture, including McConJob, are all criminals.

McCain: “It’s Psychological”

20recession The Corporate Media spent a week attacking Obama for saying some rural voters might be “bitter” over the loss of economic opportunities.

By that measure, it certainly is worth a month of TV time to analyze John McCain’s claim that the recession is “psychological,” and the cure is a summer holiday from the $.18 federal gasoline tax.

I’m very concerned about it, Neil. And obviously the way it’s been going up is just terrible. But I think psychologically — and a lot of our problems today, as you know, are psychological — the confidence, trust, the uncertainty about our economic future, ability to keep our own home. This might give them a little psychological boost. Let’s have some straight talk, it’s not a huge amount of money.

According to the latest ABC/WaPo poll, 90% of Americans think the economy is going south. Did 90% of Americans suddenly lose their minds, or did the economy … turn south?… [emphasis original]

Inserted from <Democrats.com>

mccain3 OK, McConJob!  Lets have some straight talk.

That the distribution of income in the US is the most inequitable it has been since 1928, and the distribution of wealth, the most inequitable it has ever been is NOT psychological.  That more Americans are homeless, unemployed, without health care and/or without enough to eat than ever before is NOT psychological.  That we cringe every time we see huge price increases for our food, fuel and medicine is NOT psychological.  That our currency is falling to record lows is NOT psychological.

In contrast, that you have placed yourself on both sides of virtually every issue IS psychological.  That you cannot learn basic facts IS psychological.  That you voted for torture IS psychological. That you gleefully sang “Bomb Bomb Iran” in a public meeting IS psychological.  That you cannot hold your temper IS psychological.

That’s straight talk, McNutCase!

Should US Ratify the ICC?

16icc Congress should re-examine its stance towards the International Criminal Court—the first permanent international court created to try those responsible for the most egregious international crimes—in the lead-up to the ICC Review Conference in 2009, when parties to the ICC can propose amendments to the Court’s statute.

The United States played an active role in conceptualizing the ICC, but since the statute came into force in July 2002 (without the United States as a participant) the Bush administration’s approach toward the institution has varied from uncooperative to downright hostile. As of today, 104 states have become parties to the statute,with the United States joining countries such as China, Cuba, North Korea, Iraq, Libya, and Burma in opposing the Court.

The ICC is an essential building block in the evolution of international and criminal law that the United States should be helping to lead, not tear down. A strong ICC could help deter genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes through the threat of accountability. It could also foster reconciliation in war-torn countries and encourage states to hold their own citizens accountable for serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights.

The ICC is still developing a track record, but the Court has made significant progress so far. In its first few years, it has opened investigations into grave alleged crimes in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan (Darfur), and the Central African Republic. U.S. critics of the ICC have consistently stated that the Court will bring politically motivated cases against U.S. soldiers and other citizens. Yet precisely because the United States was deeply involved in the creation of the ICC statute, the Court is designed to be a fair and independent judicial body, with one of the most expansive lists of due process guarantees ever created.

The ICC contains numerous safeguards to prevent politically motivated or frivolous cases from being brought against Americans. As Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations stated, “The ICC has refuted its critics, who confidently and wrongly predicted that it would be politicized and manipulated by our enemies to prosecute U.S. soldiers.”… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <Center for American Progress>

This reminds me of the League of Nations, set up by Democrats in the interest of world peace, and shunned by Repuglicans.

Bush, McConJob and the GOP condemn the court for one reason only. When the time came to ratify the treaty in 2002, they were already guilty of war crimes, namely torture.

To finally ratify the treaty would be an excellent first step for a Democratic President and Congress to affirm our intention to rejoin the community of nations. An even better second step would be to extradite Bush, Cheney and toilet-full of others to stand trial there.

Cross-posted from Politics Plus

Constitution: Can We Keep It?

14supreme_court Though little discussed on the campaign trail, a crucial issue to be decided in November is whether the United States will return to its traditions as a constitutional Republic respecting “unalienable” human rights or whether it will finish a transformation into a frightened nation governed by an all-powerful President who can do whatever he wants during the open-ended “war on terror.”

That reality was underscored on April 1 with the release of a five-year-old legal opinion from former Justice Department official John Yoo asserting that President George W. Bush possessed nearly unlimited authority as Commander in Chief, including the power to have military interrogators abuse terror suspects.

While most news coverage of Yoo’s March 14, 2003, memo has focused on the legal gymnastics justifying harsh treatment of detainees — including possible use of mind-altering drugs — the centerpiece of Yoo’s argument is that at a time of war the President’s powers are essentially unfettered.

Yoo’s memo fits with views expressed by Bush (“The Decider”) and many of his top legal advisers. Yoo’s opinion also appears to be shared by four conservative Republicans on the U.S. Supreme Court — John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito — just one vote shy of a majority.

Yoo’s military interrogation memo — and a similar one he penned for the CIA on torture — were withdrawn by Assistant Attorney General Jack Goldsmith after he succeeded Yoo as the top official at the Justice Department’s powerful Office of Legal Counsel later in 2003. Goldsmith considered Yoo’s legal reasoning flawed.

But Goldsmith subsequently was pushed out of the job, and Bush is seeking to fill the vacancy with Steven Bradbury, who signed off on Yoo’s “torture memos” while holding a lower position in the Office of Legal Counsel.

In other words, Bush has not given up on his vision of grandiose presidential powers that let him act more like an English monarch before the Magna Carta, who could pick out anyone under his domain and throw the person into prison with no due process and no protection against torture or other abuse.

Under the Bush-Yoo theories, all Bush has to do is pronounce a detainee “an unlawful enemy combatant” — whether a U.S. citizen or not, whether there is any credible evidence or not — and the person loses all human rights.

As radical — and as shocking — as these theories may seem to many Americans, Bush is within one vote on the U.S. Supreme Court of having his vision enshrined as “constitutional.”

One More Vote

bush_burns_constitution If one more vacancy occurs among the five “non-imperial” justices — and the replacement is in line with Roberts-Scalia-Thomas-and-Alito — the U.S. Constitution could be effectively altered to eliminate key individual liberties — from habeas corpus and other fair-trial rights to bans on “cruel and unusual” punishment to protections against self-incrimination and “unreasonable searches and seizures.”

Though civics books tell us that the Constitution can only be amended by two-thirds votes of the House and Senate and approval by three-quarters of the states, the reality is that five ideologues on the U.S. Supreme Court can alter the nation’s founding document by simply voting as a bloc.

And since the “war on terror” is unlike other wars — in that the enemy is vaguely defined, the duration could be forever and the war’s location can be anywhere — the Bush-Yoo logic suggests that the de facto suspension of the American constitutional Republic is not just a short-term emergency measure.

Instead, the shift from a Republic, with legal protections of individual rights, to an Empire, led by an Executive who can operate without any constraints, would be permanent. As long as the President says some danger lurks out there, he or she could assert “plenary” — or total — powers as commander in chief.

In his memo, Yoo argued that the 9/11 attacks “triggered” America’s “right to self-defense.” Therefore, he wrote: “If a government defendant were to harm an enemy combatant during an interrogation in a manner that might arguably violate a criminal prohibition, he would be doing so in order to prevent further attacks on the United States by the al-Qaeda terrorist network.

“In that case, we believe that he could argue that the Executive Branch’s constitutional authority to protect the nation from attack justified his actions.”

Yoo further argued that even abuses that would “shock the conscience” — one of Bush’s standards for what might be considered torture — could be mitigated by a subjective evaluation of the circumstances.

In other words, if the President or a subordinate judged the detainee to represent some imminent threat or to be particularly odious, they would have an even freer hand to act as they saw fit. Those judgments about shocking the conscience would be left, again, to the Executive to decide unilaterally.

Yoo’s two memos were the underpinnings of the Bush administration’s treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib and the CIA’s secret detention facilities.

The memos gave legal protection to U.S. interrogators and guards who stripped detainees naked, hooded them, put ladies underpants on their heads, paraded them in the nude, beat them, subjected them to extremes of hot and cold, put them into painful stress positions, deprived them of sleep, threatened them with death and — in three acknowledged cases — flooded their covered faces with water in a simulated drowning known as waterboarding.

[For more details, see Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush.]

Shielding Abuses

bush-gop-goosestep Yoo’s memos shielded interrogators from U.S. military intelligence and the CIA, but did not spare the night guards at Abu Ghraib, who got stiff prison terms after they made the cardinal mistake of photographing the humiliation they inflicted on Iraqi detainees and letting the pictures reach the public.

In a comment to the Washington Post, Thomas J. Romig, who was the Army’s judge advocate general in 2003, said Yoo’s military interrogation memo appears to argue that there are no rules in a time of war, a concept that Romig said he found “downright offensive.” [Washington Post, April 2, 2008]

But the greater legacy from Yoo — who is now a professor of law at the University of California in Berkeley — and his imperial legal theories is that they have been embraced by many Bush supporters and four right-wing Supreme Court justices.

Though Bush may not get another chance to further shape the Supreme Court with the appointment of another Roberts or Alito, his successor likely will. For some Americans angered by Bush’s assault on the Constitution, John McCain’s past support for Bush’s judicial appointments may represent one of the strongest reasons to vote against him.

The future of the American Republic may be at stake… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <AlterNet>

mccain From what I understand 30% of Clinton supporters have polled that they would vote for McFuhrer rather than Obama, and 25% of Obama supporters would vote for McFuhrer rather than Clinton. Personally, I think these numbers are highly exaggerated, because heightened emotions, and I believe that once the fury of the contest is over, folks will calm down and think rationally again.

McFuhrer has promised that, if elected, he will appoint Justices like Roberts, Alito, Scalia and Thomas to the Court. This is the one more vote in question. I don’t care how angry you are at Clinton. I don’t care how much you dislike Obama. Given the certainty that a McFuhrer victory will transform our nation into a fascist police state, a vote in November for anyone other that the winner between Clinton and Obama is an act of political suicide.

Cross-posted from Politics Plus

Worse Than Watergate

Keith Olbermann and John Dean explore the civil contempt of Congress suit against Harriet Miers and Josh Bolton and comment Bush’s crimes.

Cross-posted from Politics Plus

Bush Admits to Approving Torture

impeach-bush-poster President Bush says he knew his top national security advisers discussed and approved specific details about how high-value al Qaeda suspects would be interrogated by the Central Intelligence Agency, according to an exclusive interview with ABC News Friday.

“Well, we started to connect the dots in order to protect the American people.” Bush told ABC News White House correspondent Martha Raddatz. “And yes, I’m aware our national security team met on this issue. And I approved.”

As first reported by ABC News Wednesday, the most senior Bush administration officials repeatedly discussed and approved specific details of exactly how high-value al Qaeda suspects would be interrogated by the CIA.

The high-level discussions about these “enhanced interrogation techniques” were so detailed, these sources said, some of the interrogation sessions were almost choreographed — down to the number of times CIA agents could use a specific tactic.

These top advisers signed off on how the CIA would interrogate top al Qaeda suspects — whether they would be slapped, pushed, deprived of sleep or subjected to simulated drowning, called waterboarding, sources told ABC news… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <ABC>

The GOP spin on this is that Bush is not responsible, because he was insulated from the details of what was being discussed. From there, they will fall back on their flawed position that anything the President does is legal by definition, changing their tune considerably from when they impeached Clinton for lying about a BJ. This is a direct admission that he committed a high crime, and failure to impeach on this basis is congressional dereliction.

Cross-posted from Politics Plus