Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Friday, March 6, 2015 8:11 pm

Odds and ends for March 6

America has a cop violence problem. And, as is so often the case with America, we have to admit we have a problem before we can fix it.

One of the reasons you don’t order people to commit war crimes is because of the damage it does to those who must carry out those orders … as Israel is now finding out.

The Republican National Committee is only allowing “conservative” news outlets and personalities to cover the 2012 GOP primary debates. Of course, with that clown car, “conservative” probably means “batshit.”

Arkansas State Rep. Justin Harris might just be the worst person you’ll read about all year.

When the UNC Board of Governors met in closed session to fire Tom Ross, they voted for a resolution that they wouldn’t talk about the firing and would refer all questions to board chair John Fennebresque, who appears to have gotten his P.R. degree from the Iraqi Ministry of Information. Only one board member voted against the resolution: Greensboro’s Marty Kotis. Thank you, Marty.

As the GOP Klown Kar of batshit presidential candidates barrels down the road, one of the Klowns, Ben Carson, is named to speak at the Pope-Civitas Institute’s Conservative Leadership Conference. You may know Carson from such hits as “People go into prison straight and come out gay” and, “No, really, fellow Republicans, I am NOT crazy.”

Not content with screwing with Greensboro’s City Council districts, state Senate Republicans are now mucking with the Wake County Commissioners’ districts in the wake of a throw-the-bums-out election in November in which a Democratic slate sent a bunch of GOP incumbents packing. Coincidence? Like Gibbs, I don’t believe in coincidence. (Full disclosure: One of those Dems, John Burns, is an online friend of mine and fellow Davidson grad to whom I have given campaign contributions, and I’ve got two sibs who live and pay taxes in Wake County.)

State Supreme Court Justice Mark Martin recently told the legislature that the state’s courts are in very bad shape and need $30 million to fix. (Hell, their computer system was antiquated back when I was still a reporter, and that was six years ago.) So Gov. Pat McCrory’s new budget? Provides only $6 million in new money.

Former UNC offensive lineman Ryan Hoffman is living on the street, plagued by problems that might well be the result of chronic traumatic encephalopathy — brain injuries — from playing football. Ironically, some of the most cutting-edge research on CTE and brain injuries is being carried out at UNC. Here’s hoping they can help the player they once exploited.

 

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014 8:13 pm

If only the public flaying were not metaphorical

So recently, Politico, not known for either journalistic ethics or simple human decency, sat down to have a chat with Dick Cheney, his harridan erstwhile-lesbian-porn-writing wife Lynne, and his inept erstwhile political-candidate daughter Liz.

To talk about foreign policy.

With “noted mortgage fraud concern” Bank of America as sponsor.

I’m sorry to report that fricassee of feces was not on the menu, but the “chat” was utterly full of it. So, boy, howdy, was I happy to see Charlie Pierce at Esquire give the unindicted war criminal, his vile relatives, and Politico the hiding they so richly deserved. I’m delighted to say that no one was spared, not even the children.

NoOneWasSpared

Just a few gems:

[Politico’s] puerilty has finally crossed over into indecency. Its triviality has finally crossed over into obscenity. The comical political starfcking that is its primary raison d’erp has finally crossed over into $10 meth-whoring on the Singapore docks.

… and …

It’s not just that TBOTP[“Tiger Beat on the Potomac” — Pierce’s epithet for Politico] invited the Manson Family of American geopolitics to come together for an exercise in ensemble prevarication. It’s not just that the account of said exercise is written in the kind of cacophonous cutesy-poo necessary to drown out the screams of the innocent dead, and to distract the assembled crowd from the blood that has dripped from the wallet of the celebrity war-criminal leading the public display. And it’s not as though this was a mere interview—a “get” that could help you “win the morning (!).” In that, it might have been marginally excusable. No, this was one of [Politico editor] Mike Allen’s little grift-o-rama special events—a “Playbook lunch,” sponsored by that noted mortgage fraud concern Bank Of America. There’s an upcoming TBOTP “event” in L.A. that is sponsored by J.P. Morgan. I know what Mike Allen is, but I am so goddamn tired of haggling about the price.

… and …

That’s the freaking problem? That Dad and Mom and Exemptionette got together, but The Gay One didn’t show up. The problem was not that your publication decided to publicize itself, and suck up some of that sweet sponsorship cash from Wall Street, by putting a coward and a torturer on display with the more unpleasant members of his family? The problem was not that the alleged journalists running your place decided to give a platform to a man whose only public appearances in the near future should be unsponsored events at the Hague?

It goes on like that, a righteous rant to rank with the best of Thompson and Taibbi. I didn’t even quote the best parts.

I have not had a lot of energy or attention for blogging of late. (I’m actually finally reading “The Count of Monte Cristo,” and I also just discovered “Breaking Bad.” Sue me.) But I’m glad that Pierce is on the job. And some of the commenters give as good as Pierce does; I particularly liked the notion that Cheney will outlive even Keith Richards for all the wrong reasons.

Anyway, go read and get mad all over again — at the war criminal, his family, and the whores who give him a platform. They’re all deserving targets of wrath. For as Liz Cheney says herownself, “You can’t be responsible about the future if you don’t understand what happened in the past.”

 

Saturday, May 10, 2014 10:46 pm

An even more special kind of stupid

SpecialKindOfStupid

It takes a very special kind of stupid to inherit peace, prosperity and a budget surplus and explode the deficit, allow a horrific terrorist attack, launch a war both illegal and unnecessary (killing hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians in the process), order Americans to carry out exactly the same kind of torture for which we hanged Germans and Japanese after World War II AND push policies that allowed the worst economic crisis in three-quarters of a century.

But it takes an even more special kind of stupid to say, on the subject of George W. Bush, to intelligent Americans, “Who ya gonna believe, me or your lyin’ eyes?” Naturally, these days we do not lack for that very special kind of stupid; we need only turn to Matt Bai, formerly of the Times Almighty and now with Yahoo, to find it:

A graphic this week on FiveThirtyEight.com showed how fewer and fewer Americans blame Bush for the country’s economic morass, even though his successor, Barack Obama, won two presidential campaigns based on precisely that premise.

Bush’s critics will argue that this is testament to how quickly we forget the past. But it has more to do, really, with how we distort the present.

The truth is that Bush was never anything close to the ogre or the imbecile his most fevered detractors insisted he was. Read “Days of Fire,” the excellent and exhaustive book on Bush’s presidency by Peter Baker, my former colleague at the New York Times. Bush comes off there as compassionate and well-intentioned — a man who came into office underprepared and overly reliant on his wily vice president and who found his footing only after making some tragically bad decisions. Baker’s Bush is a flawed character you find yourself rooting for, even as you wince at his judgment.

Not just no, Matt, but hell, no.

I don’t need to read your buddy’s slobbery hagiography: I know what I saw and heard, out of the man’s own mouth, for eight long, painful, and disastrous years. For sheer incompetence, only Buchanan comes close, and in terms of the consequences of his stupidity, he is without peer or even parallel. America is vastly poorer, dumber, less free and yet more vulnerable today than it was in 2000, and the blame for that can be laid squarely at the feet of Li’l Boots McDrydrunk and the monsters he hired. I heard the man talk, so I know for a fact that he is an imbecile. I heard him admit on ABC News that he ordered torture, so I know for a fact that he is an ogre. And you, sir, can go straight to hell with him.

The only thing I’m rooting for where Bush is concerned is a seat in the dock at The Hague. And while oral sex is no longer a crime, public oral sex still is, so, Matt, buddy, next time you sit down to write about Bush 43, I’d look around for cops first.

 

Thursday, June 9, 2011 8:18 pm

Nuremberg? That’s so pre-9/11

Filed under: Evil,I want my country back. — Lex @ 8:18 pm
Tags: ,

Benjamin Ferencz, one of those old guys who fought in World War II and later helped prosecute genocidal Nazi maniacs during the Nuremberg war trials, was blabbing on the radio up in Canada the other day. This is part of what he said:

I’m afraid most of the lessons of Nuremberg have passed, unfortunately.  The world has accepted them, but the U.S. seems reluctant to do so.  The principal lesson we learned from Nuremberg is that a war of aggression — that means, a war in violation of international law, in violation of the UN charter, and not in self-defense — is the supreme international crime, because all the other crimes happen in war.  And every leader who is responsible for planning and perpetrating that crime should be held to account in a court of law, and the law applies equally to everyone.

These lessons were hailed throughout the world — I hailed them, I was involved in them — and it saddens me to no end when Americans are asked:  why don’t you support the Nuremberg principles on aggression?  And the response is:  Nuremberg?  That was then, this is now.  Forget it.

That’s right. No biggie. Besides, some congressman sent a picture of his junk to a woman.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011 9:15 pm

Well, it’s a start

Filed under: Evil — Lex @ 9:15 pm
Tags: , ,

Apparently George W. Bush isn’t going to get to spend quality face time with his money. A right-wing Swiss lawmaker wants him arrested.

Sleep well, war criminal.

Friday, October 1, 2010 7:27 pm

And the rock shall not hide them, nor the dead tree give them shelter … cuz we get to rat ’em out!

Filed under: Hold! Them! Accountable! — Lex @ 7:27 pm
Tags:

The U.S. government is going after war criminals:

When federal agents finally caught up with Gilberto Jordan, he had all the trappings of a solid American life: a house in a tidy South Florida neighborhood, steady work as a chef and a spotless record as a law-abiding citizen since emigrating from Guatemala in the early 1990s.

Nothing suggested he was hiding from a horrific past that the agents attributed to him when they knocked on his door that day in May. He still used the same name that appeared on a decade-old order for his arrest on murder charges in his native country.

When the agents confronted him with those charges — that he was in a Guatemalan military unit that killed more than 150 innocent civilians in the country’s notorious Dos Erres massacre of 1982 — he made no effort to conceal his role.

“Jordan readily admitted that he … participated in killing people at Dos Erres,” said a sworn affidavit by Jon Longo, an arresting agent with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “Jordan specifically admitted that the first person he killed was a baby, whom Jordan murdered by throwing into the village well.”

The prosecution of Jordan, 54, underscores a new push by federal law enforcement agencies to hunt down war criminals and human rights abusers who have found refuge in the United States.

The agents that tracked him are from a special center that Immigration and Customs created last year to bolster its work on such cases.

So the government, after not paying a helluva lot of attention to war crimes and human rights abuses in the past decade or so, is going to start. Good to know.

“I don’t think there’s any question that we’re going to have a greater number of these cases and that these cases are going to reach (suspects from) more parts of the world,” says Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, a child of Holocaust survivors who has pushed the more aggressive efforts to hold war criminals accountable. “It’s something we have to do. We owe it to our citizens and we owe it to the world.”

He’ll get no argument from me on that. But, tell me, does the Justice Department have a rationale for doing this?

Congress passed the laws amid a broader international push after the Cold War to hold war criminals and human rights abusers accountable, says Eli Rosenbaum, who ran the Office of Special Investigations and now is director of strategy and policy in the new Human Rights and Special Prosecutions unit.

“Interest burgeoned all over the world in bringing these people to justice,” Rosenbaum says. Among U.S. policymakers, “there was bipartisan support for doing this, and Congress gave us a lot of new tools.”

Now, it’s going full steam.

“We want to send a message to would-be human rights violators of the future,” Rosenbaum says. “Their odds of getting away with it are shrinking rapidly.”

And as you might expect in the era of crowdsourcing, there’s an opportunity for you to help:

The Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section actively seeks out information that may assist the U.S. Government in identifying human rights violators who may have entered the United States.

If you know of anyone in the United States or of any U.S. citizen anywhere in the world who may have been involved in perpetrating human rights violations abroad, please contact HRSP either by email at hrsptips@usdoj.gov or by postal mail at:

Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section (Tips)
Criminal Division
United States Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20530-0001

You do not have to identify yourself when providing information. Please provide as much detail as possible, such as:

  • the suspect’s name, place and date of birth,
  • physical description, and current location;
  • the suspect’s alleged human rights violations including the locations and dates of those activities;
  • how you learned of the suspect’s alleged activities and when and where you saw the suspect.

We are unable to reply to every submission; however, your information will be reviewed promptly by HRSP.

OK, the suspects’ names:

  • George Walker Bush, dob 6 July 1946, New Haven, CT
  • Richard Bruce “Dick” Cheney, dob 30 January 1941, Lincoln, NE
  • Donald Henry Rumsfeld, dob 9 July 1932, Evanston, IL
  • John Choon Yoo, dob 10 June 1967, Seoul, Republic of Korea
  • Jay Scott Bybee, dob 27 October 1953, Oakland, CA
  • William J. “Jim” Haynes II, dob 30 March 1958, Waco, TX

As for the rest, well, Googlers, start your engines. You also can find a ton of helpful resources here, here and here.

Good luck and good hunting.

(h/t: Glenzilla)

Friday, September 10, 2010 8:38 pm

Quote of the day, Afghan civilian fingers edition

Filed under: I want my country back. — Lex @ 8:38 pm
Tags:

John Cole at Balloon Juice:

… if the My Lai massacre happened today, no one would even react. Hell, as it is, we kill 90 people at a time with predator strikes (1/6th the death toll at My Lai), and no one even blinks.

Not to mention, Sarah Palin would probably go on Facebook and attack the people who uncovered any similar massacre as America hating troop bashers, and then David Gregory would ask his Sunday morning roundtable of Bill Kristol, Krauthammer, Haley Barbour, Newt Gingrich, and John McCain if Sarah Palin was right.

And John also links to a timely update:

Twelve American soldiers face charges over a secret “kill team” that allegedly blew up and shot Afghan civilians at random and collected their fingers as trophies.

Five of the soldiers are charged with murdering three Afghan men who were allegedly killed for sport in separate attacks this year. Seven others are accused of covering up the killings and assaulting a recruit who exposed the murders when he reported other abuses, including members of the unit smoking hashish stolen from civilians.

In one of the most serious accusations of war crimes to emerge from the Afghan conflict, the killings are alleged to have been carried out by members of a Stryker infantry brigade based in Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan.

According to investigators and legal documents, discussion of killing Afghan civilians began after the arrival of Staff Sergeant Calvin Gibbs at forward operating base Ramrod last November. Other soldiers told the army’s criminal investigation command that Gibbs boasted of the things he got away with while serving in Iraq and said how easy it would be to “toss a grenade at someone and kill them”.

One of the many, many reasons you don’t start a war without a good reason is that war inevitably does this to at least some of the people we ask to kill in our name.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010 10:03 pm

An open letter to my federal elected officials (new update 7/24/10)

Filed under: Evil,I want my country back. — Lex @ 10:03 pm
Tags: ,

(Updated June 13 at bottom of post)

Update, July 8: Response from Burr dated 6/21 and received via snail mail, and my response, submitted this evening through his website, are posted.

Update, July 24: Odd follow-up from Burr’s office, posted below.

SILENCE IS COMPLICITY

TO: President Barack Obama, U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, U.S. Rep. Howard Coble
FROM: Lex Alexander
DATE: 8 June 2010
RE: War crimes and crimes against humanity

Mr. President, Senators and Congressman:

It has been widely documented and reported that U.S. personnel have engaged in torture and other war crimes and crimes against humanity, and that U.S. medical and psychological personnel were complicit in these crimes.

The nonprofit, Nobel Peace Prize-winning group Physicians for Human Rights, after investigation and review of documents, now also has concluded that U.S. medical and psychological personnel working with and/or as part of the CIA took part in medical research and experimentation on human subjects in U.S. custody in violation of international law (pdf):

Investigation and analysis of US government documents by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) provides evidence indicating that the Bush administration, in the period after Sept. 11 [2001], conducted human research and experimentation on prisoners in US custody as part of this monitoring role. Health
professionals working for and on behalf of the CIA monitored the interrogations of detainees, collected and analyzed the results of those interrogations, and sought to derive generalizable inferences to be applied to subsequent interrogations. Such acts may be seen as the conduct of research and experimentation by health professionals on prisoners, which could violate accepted standards of medical ethics, as well as domestic and international law. These practices could, in some cases, constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The knowledge obtained through this process appears to have been motivated by a need to justify and to shape future interrogation policy and procedure, as well as to justify and to shape the legal environment in which the interrogation program operated.

PHR analyzes three instances of apparent illegal and unethical human subject research for this report:

1. Medical personnel were required to monitor all waterboarding practices and collect detailed medical
information that was used to design, develop, and deploy subsequent waterboarding procedures;

2. Information on the effects of simultaneous versus sequential application of the interrogation techniques on detainees was collected and used to establish the policy for using tactics in combination. These data were gathered through an assessment of the presumed “susceptibility” of the subjects to severe pain;

3. Information collected by health professionals on the effects of sleep deprivation on detainees was used to establish the “enhanced” interrogation program’s (EIP) sleep deprivation policy.

The human subject research apparently served several purposes. It increased information on the physical and psychological impact of the CIA’s application of the “enhanced” interrogation techniques, which previously had been limited mostly to data from experiments using US military volunteers under very limited, simulated conditions of torture. It served to calibrate the level of pain experienced by detainees during interrogation, ostensibly to keep it from crossing the administration’s legal threshold of what it claimed constituted torture. It also served as an attempt to provide a basis for a legal defense against possible torture charges against those who carried out the interrogations, since medical monitoring would demonstrate, according to the Office of Legal Counsel memos, a lack of intent to cause harm to the subjects of interrogations.

Yet the Bush administration’s legal framework to protect CIA interrogators from violating US statutory and treaty obligations prohibiting torture effectively contravened well-established legal and ethical codes, that, had they been enforced, should have protected prisoners against human experimentation, and should have prevented the “enhanced” interrogation program from being initiated in the first place. There is no evidence that the Office of Legal Counsel ever assessed the lawfulness of the medical monitoring of torture, as it did with the use of the “enhanced” techniques themselves.

Accordingly, the group says that at 11 a.m. EDT tomorrow, it will announce the filing of a complaint with the U.S. Office of Human Research Protections, seeking a formal investigation into human experimentation on prisoners by the CIA.

Mr. President, Senators, Congressman: The evidence that U.S. personnel, up to and including the immediate past president of the United States, have committed or ordered war crimes and crimes against humanity is, I believe, incontrovertible. This report concludes that to that shameful list of crimes we also can add illegal experimentation on human beings, a crime we thought we put to rest more than 60 years ago in Nuremberg. Would to God that we had; the reasons why such policies, in addition to being crimes, are wrong are legion:

  • They increase the risk that our own personnel will be tortured if taken captive.
  • They place our personnel in other countries at increased legal risk: 22 CIA operatives and an Air Force colonel already have been convicted of kidnapping in an Italian court in connection with the “extraordinary rendition” of a terrorism suspect from Italy.
  • They provide little or no actionable intelligence. In particular, despite their use, the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against this country, Osama bin Laden, remains at large.
  • They provide no evidence admissible in a court of law. Indeed, they undermine respect for the rule of law and the rule of law itself.
  • They inevitably will be used in cases in which the victim’s guilt, or even knowledge of a crime, is at best questionable and at worst utterly absent.
  • They encourage others to take up arms against our country, or to assist those who do — a fact al-Qaeda has publicly celebrated. As Gen. David H. Petraeus recently remarked, such abusive techniques are “nonbiodegradable.  …  The enemy continues to beat you with them like a stick.” Marine Gen. Douglas Stone, who commanded Iraqi detention operations under Gen. Petraeus, follows this phenomenon to its logical conclusion: “What if exactly what we’re doing in detention is exactly what the enemy wants? Is that not aiding and abetting the enemy?” — that is, meeting one of the Constitution’s two definitions of treason?
  • They cause enormous damage not only to the victims but also to our personnel who carry them out. To so mistreat men and women who have sworn to die, if necessary, in defense of our country and Constitution is itself a moral crime of the highest order.
  • They fly in the face of what we historically have proclaimed ourselves to be to the world: a free people under the rule of law. The Founding Fathers considered torture and rejected it in the face of an enemy no less savage than that we face today. We should do no less.

Mr. President, you have argued that it is better to look to the future than to look to the past. In fact, some of the most important lessons we have ever learned from the past make clear that we must look to the past once again.

Mr. President, legally, you have no choice. U.S. law, and international law by which the U.S. is bound and which is recognized under Article VI of the Constitution as the “supreme Law of the Land,” require our government to investigate allegations of war crimes and/or crimes against humanity committed by U.S. personnel. The oath each of you has taken — in some cases, repeatedly — to uphold the Constitution requires you to act in furtherance of this imperative. So, I would argue, do common sense, morality and, in the words of the Second Continental Congress, “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind.”

Indeed, I would argue (and have argued) that willful refusal to order an investigation constitutes the type of “high Crime and Misdemeanor” for which the Framers prescribed impeachment and removal from office as the remedy.

But you shouldn’t order an investigation merely because it is required. You also must do so because it is the right thing to do — and because a thorough investigation, with appropriate criminal consequences for those responsible, will do two things: 1) reinforce the rule of law, and 2) serve as the only effective deterrent to future such acts.

I therefore call upon you, President Obama, as the head of the executive branch, to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed” by directing the Attorney General to open a criminal investigation into these most recent findings and to earlier allegations of torture and other war crimes and crimes against humanity, an investigation that will ask who did what when on what presumed authority, who authorized it, who claimed it was legal and on what basis, an investigation that will follow the evidence wherever it leads, even if it leads to a former — or current — occupant of the Oval Office.

I call upon you, Congressman Coble, as a member of the House Judiciary Committee, to seek the formation of a special joint House/Senate committee comprising representatives from permanent committees with jurisdiction — including Armed Services, Foreign Affairs, Homeland Security, Judiciary, Oversight & Government Reform, and Intelligence in the House, and Armed Services, Foreign Relations, Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs, Judiciary, and Intelligence in the Senate — to investigate possible commissions of war crimes and crimes against humanity by U.S. officials (military or civilian) and contractors in violation of U.S. statutes and international law, and to refer findings to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution.

I further call upon you, Congressman Coble, to review evidence already in the record, as well as any and all evidence that might be discovered by the special joint committee, to seek a basis for impeachment proceedings against current and former office holders, and to introduce the appropriate articles of impeachment based on those findings. As a former federal prosecutor, and as one of those who voted to impeach a different president on the basis of a far more personal failing than those I allege, you cannot fail to understand the obligation the law imposes upon you here.

I call upon you, Senators Hagan and Burr, to join with Congressman Coble to create the special joint House/Senate committee described above and to carry out your constitutionally prescribed duties as jurors in any resulting impeachment trials without fear or favor.

I can think of many arguments against embarking on the course of action I seek, ranging from the serious problems already on government’s plate to fear that voters will reject this course of action. I acknowledge the weightiness of some (but not all) of these arguments. Ultimately, however, I reject them all.

I reject them because the law is clear and the obligations it imposes upon you unambiguous.

I reject them because the morality of allowing these crimes to stand would render us as a nation morally distinguishable only in scale, not in type, from that which we spent blood and treasure to destroy 65 years ago.

I reject them because to do less will only encourage more, and more extreme, crimes against humanity. Indeed, it already has begun to do so.

I therefore call upon you four, my own elected representatives, to do your legal and Constitutional duty, without regard for the political consequences, without hesitation, without apology, without excuse, and without delay.

Nothing less is at stake than protecting the very existence of America as a free nation under the rule of law.

With appreciation for the public service of each of you, I am,

Sincerely,

Lex Alexander

* * *


June 10, 2010

Mr. Lex Alexander
3308 Cascade Drive
Greensboro, North Carolina 27410

Dear Mr. Alexander:

Thank you for taking the time to contact our office regarding interrogation methods approved and implemented during the Bush Administration.  We appreciate hearing from you.

We oppose the use of torture for interrogation purposes.  While it is unclear exactly what interrogation techniques were approved and utilized by the Bush Administration, recent reports of egregious circumstances have cast a cloud over efforts in the Global War on Terror-despite claims that the interrogations produced valuable information.  Although there may have been political motives behind President Obama’s decision to release classified documents, which were cited in the reports, we are still very concerned this has undermined our ability to interrogate high value terror suspects.

That said, we support congressional review of our interrogation techniques but cannot support an open-ended investigation into those tasked with conducting interrogations, unless their conduct was illegal or exceeded the limitations of their authority.  Also, we oppose the using of torture techniques for interrogations.  Please feel free to contact our office if we may be of assistance in the future.

Sincerely,

HOWARD COBLE
Member of Congress

* * *

I wrote back to Howard last night, June 12:

12 June 2010

Hon. J. Howard Coble
Washington, DC
via e-mail

Dear Howard,

Thanks so much for your prompt response this week to my letter. Unfortunately, what it included in promptness, it lacked in satisfactory substance, let alone any sort of assurance that you are going to carry out your sworn duties under the Constitution and the law. So this is where I, to borrow one of your favorite phrases, have to rip your face off.

I guess I should point out that after 25 years in journalism, I’m not exactly used to writing my elected officials, so if there’s some kind of formal kabuki one is supposed to follow in these circumstances, I’m utterly unfamiliar with it. All I know is that this is not just the standard scenario in which constituent vents to representative, representative responds with mollifying quasi-form letter and all goes on as before. Don’t let the boyish good looks fool you: I’m old enough to have been around and paying attention during Watergate and Iran-Contra. Those were genuine constitutional crises. This is worse. And call me naive, but I expect my federal elected officials to treat it that way.

You wrote, “We oppose the use of torture for interrogation purposes.” I’m delighted to hear it, although I would hope you would oppose the use of torture, period, for any purpose whatsoever.

You wrote, “While it is unclear exactly what interrogation techniques were approved and utilized by the Bush Administration, recent reports of egregious circumstances have cast a cloud over efforts in the Global War on Terror-despite claims that the interrogations produced valuable information.” This sentence contains a couple of implied statements of fact that aren’t actually factual.

First, it is not at all unclear what interrogation techniques were approved and utilized by the Bush Administration, although we may not yet have the complete list. A wealth of documentation, including government documents brought to light under the Freedom of Information Act by the American Civil Liberties Union, military investigations, and the journalism of such investigators as Seymour Hersh, Jane Mayer and Scott Horton, have placed a good deal of information on this subject into the public domain. Moreover, President Bush has stated publicly on at least two occasions — an April 2008 interview with ABC News and again in a recent speech — that he directly ordered waterboarding, which is universally understood in legal circles to be torture, has been publicly condemned as such by the sitting attorney general, and for which America has prosecuted both its own soldiers and enemy soldiers in the past.

Second, “reports of egregious circumstances” are hardly “recent.” The torture and mistreatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib became public knowledge in early 2004, although, as I noted at the time on my blog, attorneys for some Guantanamo detainees were saying publicly as early as October 2003 that their clients were being tortured.

Third, there is no information in the public record to document any claim that violent interrogations produced “valuable information.” It simply hasn’t happened, or am I sure the government, particularly under the Bush administration, would have hustled the evidence out into the light of day to defend its actions.

You go on to say, “Although there may have been political motives behind President Obama’s decision to release classified documents …” There may have been. So what? This issue long predates the release of those documents. Besides, classifying records to conceal evidence of a crime is, itself, a crime, so the question of whether political motives were behind the release is irrelevant.

In the bigger picture, torture is not a partisan issue. It is a crime under both U.S. statutes and treaties by which the U.S. is bound and which, according to the Constitution, make up part of the Supreme Law of the Land. Ordering torture is certainly the kind of “high crime and misdemeanor” envisioned by the Framers of the Constitution as an impeachable offense — even more so than the crimes for which the House was preparing to impeach Richard Milhous Nixon when he resigned and certainly more so than the crimes for which you voted to impeach President Clinton.

I and other opponents of torture have been criticized for calling for criminal investigations on the grounds that such calls are “criminalizing politics.” That argument gets things exactly backward: Dismissing such calls as “partisan politics” is politicizing a straightforward, if horrendous, crime.

Put another way, torture and related crimes are not partisan issues for me. Not only have I called for President Bush to be prosecuted for ordering torture, I also have called on multiple occasions for President Obama to be impeached for approving efforts to assassinate U.S. citizens without trial and for attempting to deny the habeas corpus rights of prisoners. The president is the nation’s chief law-enforcement officer; he must be held to at least as high a standard as everyone else, if not a higher one. If the ordering and carrying out of torture and other war crimes and crimes against humanity are not punished, then the U.S. differs only in degree, not in kind, from the regimes we spent so much blood and treasure to vanquish 65 years ago.

You express concern that the release of some government documents related to torture “has undermined our ability to interrogate high value terror suspects.” With all due respect, Howard, prove it. There is zero evidence that such tactics have yielded any actionable information, from high-value terror suspects or anyone else. Moreover, the interrogation experts are almost unanimous in saying that the best way to get useful information from a prisoner is to build rapport with him. They say that torture victims will say whatever they think their interrogators want to hear, whether or not it is true, to make the pain stop.

You write, “That said, we support congressional review of our interrogation techniques but cannot support an open-ended investigation into those tasked with conducting interrogations, unless their conduct was illegal or exceeded the limitations of their authority.” Howard, again, with all due respect, we’ve known each other for 22 years, and your reputation for straight shooting long predates my meeting you, so it is way too late in the day for you to start channeling Lewis B. Carroll.

As a former federal prosecutor, you know better than most that an investigation of torture, or any other significant crime, must be open-ended. It must start with the service members and CIA operatives and contractors who actually carried out the illegal orders, and it must follow those illegal orders up the chain of command. If an investigation is not open-ended, how will we know for sure whether the actions of “those tasked with conducting interrogations” — and those who gave those interrogators their orders — were crimes or not so that we can punish the guilty and exonerate the innocent? Besides, we already know where this investigation ends: the Oval Office. We have President Bush’s public admissions. All that remains is to documents the steps between his words, and the torturers’ actions. This won’t be an open-ended investigation; it will be a fill-in-the-gaps investigation.

You conclude your letter by asking me to contact your office if you may be of assistance in the future. Well, here I am, Howard, and the future is now. Look, no one enlists in the military expecting a day like Dec. 7 or 9/11, but everybody who enlists does so in the knowledge that that day may come and trains accordingly. Similarly, I don’t expect you or anyone else to enter congressional service expecting a constitutional crisis. But that is what we find ourselves with, and it’s the biggest one of my lifetime — and yours.

U.S. and international law require this country to investigate credible allegations of torture and other war crimes. Those credible allegations we have by the boxload. Congress cannot order the attorney general to investigate, as I understand it, but it can order him to appear and testify as to why he hasn’t, and if the president is obstructing justice, Congress has a remedy spelled out right in the Constitution. Yes, you may be of assistance: You can work to ensure that the Congress exercises its oversight responsibility with respect to investigating and punishing these crimes, and you can impeach and remove from office those senior executive-branch officials who fail to do their jobs. That’s the assistance I need. And I’m not just asking, I’m begging.

If you’re genuinely ignorant of how much information about these crimes is already in the public record, I can point you to two starting points: this timeline of torture-related events, and this collection of documents obtained from the U.S. government under the Freedom of Information Act. I can also point you to other sources of information.

I hope and trust that you will carry out your duties, and put pressure on the president and the attorney general to carry out theirs, with respect to these crimes. On the other hand, if you’re not serious about it, just say so rather than insulting my intelligence by suggesting that 1) these crimes haven’t happened and 2) you have no role to play even if they have. I’ve read the treaties, statutes and documents. In the contest between elected officials and my lyin’ eyes, my eyes win every time.

Please, Howard. Do the right thing.

With gratitude for your many years of public service, I remain,

Sincerely,

Lex Alexander

* * *

June 21, 2010

Dear Mr. Alexander:

Thank you for contacting me to express your concerns about the use of harsh interrogation techniques. I appreciate hearing from you on this important issue.

Our nation’s government works best when its activities adhere to the principles of transparency and accountability. I am troubled whenever any of these principles are questioned, because it is essential that Americans have confidence in those who lead our country.

On January 22, 2009, President Obama issued an Executive Order instituting new requirements for interrogations. The Executive Order prohibits any individual in U.S. custody while in an armed conflict from being subjected to any interrogation technique not authorized by the U.S. Army Field Manual for Human Intelligence Collector Operation. The U.S. Army Field Manual gives instructions on a range of issues, such as the structure, planning and management of human intelligence operations, the debriefing of soldiers, and other battlefield intelligence analysis.

Regarding your concerns about torture, you may be interested to know about a bill that I have cosponsored called the Limitations on Interrogation Techniques Act of 20009 (S. 248). This legislation would prohibit the use of harsh interrogation techniques on detainees held in U.S. custody. S. 248 is currently awaiting further action by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

I appreciate the thoughts you have raised with me. Please know that I take Congress’s oversight responsibilities very seriously. I believe we in Congress should be held accountable for our actions and continue to work towards making our government more transparent and open.

Again, thank you for contacting me. Should you have any additional questions or comments, please do not hesitate to let me know or visit my website at http://burr.senate.gov.

Sincerely,

Richard Burr
United States Senator

* * *

And I responded:

8 July 2010

Dear Sen. Burr:

Thank you for your response. Unfortunately, lacking as it was in any sign that you intend to abide by your sworn constitutional duty, I must reject it as unsatisfactory, a dereliction of duty and an abrogation of your oath of office.

First, stop insulting my intelligence by relying on the Orwellian construction “harsh interrogation techniques.” Waterboarding is torture, period. It has been so recognized by U.S. law and practice — and, indeed, in common American discourse —  for at least a century. And a lot of other things to which we have admitted are torture, too. If you doubt me, I suggest you undergo them. Moreover, Article I of the U.N. Convention Against Torture, to name just one law that governs U.S. treatment of prisoners, defines torture as

any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.

Second, stop insulting my intelligence by claiming in Orwellian fashion a devotion to “the principles of transparency and accountability.” Between early 2005, when you took office, and January 20, 2009, when President Bush left office, you didn’t lift a finger to seek transparency and accountability from the Bush administration, on the issue of torture or anything else.

Third, stop insulting my intelligence by suggesting that President Obama’s executive order of January 22, 2009, requiring certain prisoners to be interrogated only under procedures authorized by the U.S. Army Field Manual, is in any way relevant to the issues I raised in my earlier letter. Dude, I can read my own writing. The order applies only tangentially to the larger question of how we interrogate prisoners of any description, whether or not in an armed conflict.

Fourth, you can stop insulting my intelligence by ignoring the questions raised by that very order — namely, what in pluperfect hell were we doing to prisoners before January 22, 2009, that made such an order necessary?

Fifth, you can stop insulting my intelligence by suggesting that S. 248, now before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, in any way addresses the issue I raised: the war crimes and crimes against humanity already committed, and possibly ongoing, that have yet to be investigated, prosecuted and punished.

Sixth, you can stop insulting my intelligence by suggesting that S. 248 is ever going to see the light of day. You and I both know that SSCI Chair Dianne Feinstein is as much of a pimp for torture as you are and that she has been at it even longer than you have.

Seventh, you can stop insulting my intelligence by ignoring the thoughts I have raised with you while saying you appreciate them.

Eighth, you can stop insulting my intelligence by claiming you believe members of Congress should be held accountable for your actions, because true accountability for your actions would require your immediate resignation from office on the grounds of dereliction of duty and violation of the oath of office to protect the Constitution.

You’ll notice I’ve referred many times in this letter to my intelligence. The sad part is that my intelligence isn’t especially formidable. I just want you to do your job. The really smart people are going to want you imprisoned as an accessory to war crimes.

Please, Senator, do the right thing, don’t just pretend like you’re doing it.

Sincerely,

Lex Alexander
United States Citizen

* * *

UPDATE, 7/24/10: I had pretty much given up any hope of hearing anything else from any of the four. Then, late Friday afternoon, having finished work and errand running, having no particular need to go home right away and wanting to escape 100-degree heat, I repaired to the bar of a dining establishment near my house for a nice, cold Red Oak and copious amounts of ice water.

I’m sitting there at the bar midway through my second beer, playing with my phone, keeping an eye on Tropical Storm Bonnie on the overhead TV and generally minding my own business, when my phone rings. The calling number is in the 202 area code, but the prefix starts with “1,” which, in my limited experience, is an internal government line.

The caller was a woman purporting to be an aide in Richard Burr’s office. I did not take notes on the conversation because doing so would have required removing a hand from my beverage, but she said she was calling to ascertain that I existed and that I was the Lex Alexander who e-mailed the above e-mails to their office.

Yes, ma’am, I confirmed, I am he. I do exist. And I meant every word I wrote.

She said that the office “appreciates my position” — I think that was the phrase she used. I said something to the effect of, “Ma’am, thank you, but this is not a ‘position.’ This is not a matter of opinion. I’m talking about cold, hard facts and the resulting legal obligations Sen. Burr has incurred that I want and expect him to carry out in accordance with his sworn constitutional duty.”

I could just feel the “Oh, God, a live one” vibes coming back through the phone, although that may have been just microwave radiation. Out of the corner of my eye, I also saw one of the bartenders pull up short, even though I was trying to keep my voice down.

She asked whether I had anything to add. I said no, that I thought my e-mail had been self-explanatory, and I thanked her for getting in touch.

So, if I disappear anytime soon, that’s where I went.

And we’ll see what happens next.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010 10:48 pm

Memo to all your Obama supporters

Your hero is running his own black site, ordering his own torture:

Hilary Anderson at BBC has been following the Bagram prison story closely. Today, she reports that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has confirmed the existence of a second prison site at Bagram. The presence of a second site has long been suspected, a prison the Afghans call Tor Prison, or the “Black” Prison. …

Last month, BBC reported on conditions at the main Parwan facility. The scenes as described were right out of the iconography of Guantanamo. Prisoners in handcuffs and leg shackles, “moved around in wheelchairs” with blackout goggles and headphones “to block out all sound.” This was the treatment for a prison population that even the U.S. military admits is far and away not made up of serious terrorists. Meanwhile, the number held at Bagram has swelled to approximately 800 prisoners.

But we don’t know how many are in the other, “the Black Hole.” We don’t know because the U.S. still insists that no second prison exists. Prisoners held at Tor, according to investigations by BBC, are tossed into cold concrete cells, where the light is kept on 24 hours. Noise machines fill their cells with constant sound, and prisoners are sleep deprived as a matter of policy, with each cell monitored by a camera, so the authorities will know when someone is falling asleep and come to wake them.

Prisoners are beaten and abused. According to BBC’s article last month, one prisoner was “made to dance to music by American soldiers every time he wanted to use the toilet.”

Both the Washington Post and the New York Times reported late last year on conditions at the black-site prison, believed to be run by U.S. Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). Each of these reports noted that prisoners were subjected to abuse. One prisoner, a 42-year-old farmer named Hamidullah told the New York Times about his stay in the Tor prison, June through October 2009:

I can’t remember the number of days I spent there because it’s hard to tell days from nights in the black jail, but I think every day they came twice to ask questions.

They took me to their own room to ask the questions. They beat up other people in the black jail, but not me. But the problem was that they didn’t let me sleep. There was shouting noise so you couldn’t sleep….

The black jail was the most dangerous and fearful place. It is a place where everybody is afraid. In the black jail, they can do anything to detainees.

Together with the BBC investigation and the ICRC confirmation, we can see that the military is lying through their teeth when they claim there is no second Bagram facility, or that no abuse takes place at Bagram. (For more on Bagram and the issue of indefinite detention, see this recent diary by Jim White.)

The presence of sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, brutality, isolation and the like at the U.S. prison complex has not been a matter of protest among U.S. progressives, many of whom still support the administration of President Barack Obama. Many liberals have been in denial over the poor record of President Obama on the issue of torture and detention policies. The President began his administration with a big series of presidential orders that supposedly ended the Bush administration’s policy of torturing prisoners, and shut down the CIA’s black site prisons.

But as we know now, not all the black site prisons were shut down. Nor was the torture ended. Whether it’s beatings and forced-feedings at Guantanamo, or the kinds of torture described at Bagram, it’s obvious that torture has not been rooted out of U.S. military-intelligence operations. In fact, by way of the Obama administration’s recent approval of the Bush-era Army Field Manual on interrogations, with its infamous Appendix M, which allows for much of the kind of torture practiced at Bagram, the White House has institutionalized a level of torture that was introduced by the previous administration, but which has been studied and devised over the last fifty or sixty years.

OK, all you Obama supporters: Were you against torture, or were you just against Bush?

Sunday, April 11, 2010 11:35 pm

Gasping for breath

The deluge is not over, but the worst of it has passed, and I now have a wee bit of breathing space. So, let’s see, what has happened while I’m gone? Nothing good, it seems:

I have no idea when I’ll be back, so this’ll have to do ya for a while.

Sunday, February 21, 2010 12:38 am

Bad judgment and then some: Protecting the war criminals makes the lawyers criminals, too.

With all due respect to my friend and neighbor Fred’s high opinion of Justice Department official David Margolis, Margolis’ conclusion that legal memocraft by Bush officials John Yoo and Jay Bybee in 2002 constituted poor judgment but not professional misconduct basically means that there’s no longer any way any American can commit a war crime:

The chief author of the Bush administration’s “torture memo” told Justice Department investigators that the president’s war-making authority was so broad that he had the constitutional power to order a village to be “massacred,” according to a report by released Friday night by the Office of Professional Responsibility.

The views of former Justice lawyer John Yoo were deemed to be so extreme and out of step with legal precedents that they prompted the Justice Department’s internal watchdog office to conclude last year that he committed “intentional professional misconduct” when he advised the CIA it could proceed with waterboarding and other aggressive interrogation techniques against Al Qaeda suspects.

The report by OPR concludes that Yoo, now a Berkeley law professor, and his boss at the time, Jay Bybee, now a federal judge, should be referred to their state bar associations for possible disciplinary proceedings. But, as first reported by NEWSWEEK, another senior department lawyer, David Margolis, reviewed the report and last month overruled its findings on the grounds that there was no clear and “unambiguous” standard by which OPR was judging the lawyers. Instead, Margolis, who was the final decision-maker in the inquiry, found that they were guilty of only “poor judgment.”

The report, more than four years in the making, is filled with new details into how a small group of lawyers at the Justice Department, the CIA, and the White House crafted the legal arguments that gave the green light to some of the most controversial tactics in the Bush administration’s war on terror. They also describe how Bush administration officials were so worried about the prospect that CIA officers might be criminally prosecuted for torture that one senior official – Attorney General John Ashcroft – even suggested that President Bush issue “advance pardons” for those engaging in waterboarding, a proposal that he was quickly told was not possible.

At the core of the legal arguments were the views of Yoo, strongly backed by David Addington, Vice President Dick Cheney’s legal counsel, that the president’s wartime powers were essentially unlimited and included the authority to override laws passed by Congress, such as a statute banning the use of torture. Pressed on his views in an interview with OPR investigators, Yoo was asked:

“What about ordering a village of resistants to be massacred? … Is that a power that the president could legally -”

“Yeah,” Yoo replied, according to a partial transcript included in the report. “Although, let me say this: So, certainly, that would fall within the commander-in-chief’s power over tactical decisions.”

“To order a village of civilians to be [exterminated]?” the OPR investigator asked again.

“Sure,” said Yoo.

Yoo is depicted as the driving force behind an Aug. 1, 2002, Justice Department memo that narrowly defined torture and then added sections concluding that, in the end, it essentially didn’t matter what the fine print of the congressionally passed law said:The president’s authority superseded the law and CIA officers who might later be accused of torture could also argue that were acting in “self defense” in order to save American lives.

This is the “I’m-putting-my-fingers-in-my-ears-and-chanting-nyah-nyah-nyah-I-can’t-hear-you” school of jurisprudence. John Yoo was arguing that the UN Convention Against Torture, the Geneva Conventions and related U.S. criminal statutes either didn’t exist or existed but don’t apply. (Moreover, he was doing it to cover for crimes that, by May 2002, had already happened, in particular the torture of Abu Zubaydah — a fact of which Yoo and Bybee were aware at the time and of which Margolis had to be aware by the time he began his review.)

Yoo’s legal thinking was so fundamentally flawed that career staffers in the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility had concluded that Yoo and Bybee’s actions constituted “intentional professional misconduct.” (Do you realize how bad their conduct had to be for other government lawyers to turn on them like that?) That designation could lead to disbarment proceedings; in the case of Bybee, who is now a federal judge, it also could be grounds for impeachment. Not only that, but John Ashcroft — John Ashcroft! — was so certain that what Justice was being asked to bless was wrong that he actually tried to get people pardoned in advance. If he thought there was any way to defend a legal opinion blessing the torture, why do you suppose he thought the torturers would need pardons?

But Margolis, apparently having concluded that “Don’t pretend you can commit crimes against humanity with impunity” is somehow less a self-evident standard than, say, “Don’t intentionally run over pedestrians,” is now overturning the sober consideration of career staff and claiming no harm, no foul. And we’re all just supposed to nod and say “OK” and move on to other things.

Well, hell, no.

As the New York Times observes, Margolis “said the ethics lawyers, in condemning the lawyers’ actions, had given short shrift to the national climate of urgency in which Mr. Bybee and Mr. Yoo acted after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.” Sorry, but that makes it even worse: It is precisely at the times of utmost stress that the nation’s most senior enforcers of laws must be most vigilant to see that the government follows the law. There’s no “But our buildings just got bombed!” or “But — but — but — we were all SKEEEEERED then!” exception to the U.N. Convention Against Torture. Part 1, Articles 2 and 3, specifically state:

2. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political in stability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.

3. An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.

Mr. Margolis, Fred doesn’t bestow praise lightly, and I don’t take his regard for you lightly. But from where I sit, you’ve just made yourself an accessory to torture and murder as well as another candidate for disbarment. Sanctioning an argument that the president has the legal right to order another Lidice isn’t just poor judgment, it isn’t just intentional professional misconduct, it’s also criminal lunacy and its perpetrator is a menace to humanity.

And if all I can do about it is scream in outrage in the middle of the night, well, at least I’m going to do that.

UPDATE: Law prof Jonathan Turley rips Margolis a new one:

I mean, “bad judgment” is when you make unfortunate choices in dinner guests; it’s not when you support a torture program. And what we’re seeing right now is the dismantling of precedent that we created at Nuremberg, when we said that you can’t facilitate war crimes as lawyers and say that it was simply bad judgment. Everyone who commits war crimes often thinks about their own accountability. They often go to lawyers to facilitate them. That’s why they were so critical [of German lawyers] at Nuremberg. And what we’re seeing now is that we’re just treating it like just a bad day, and it’s more than that. What we’re losing in all of this is one of the core principles of Nuremberg. …

If you can’t be held accountable for facilitating war crimes, something that they don’t really discuss in this report, then when can you be held accountable? I mean, this is it. I mean, this is the worst-case scenario. And so what the Justice Department has done is carved out for itself a standard that it can never fail, that even supporting torture is just bad judgment. In this report, it’s astonishing what you read. With Bybee — who is a judge, who’s sitting in judgment on others right now — is accused in this report of leaving out critical cases, of — of leaving out weaknesses. In one case he said he just assumed that Gonzalez would know about the limitations of this type of executive claim, or the limitations on a good-faith defense. He just assumed he’d know that, and instead they produce this report, which was a roaring endorsement of torture. That’s being treated as, in the report, as, quote, incomplete legal analysis. It’s not incomplete. It’s, it’s willful blindness. It’s an attempt to defend a flawed legal theory to support a torture program. …

A lot of it will be particularly interesting to law professors and legal experts in the extent to which people like Bybee, who really comes off badly in this report, left out critical pieces of precedent, where he was aware of Supreme Court cases that go the other way and he just leaves them out of the memo. In one case they rely on language in the United Nations Convention Against Torture that was never ratified, and yet they treat it as if it were. I mean, that’s the degree of misrepresentation that is in this memo [that Yoo and Bybee wrote]. The Justice Department doesn’t really deal with that and it does certainly not deal with what they’re doing with the Nuremberg standards. Instead they just say that, you know, they’re wrong, they’re incomplete, they’re showing bad judgement, uh, but that’s not something that they should necessarily be punished for, even though people were tortured as a result of their advice. …

If this report [had] existed back in Nuremberg, it would have resulted in acquittals for all of the people that we sentenced. But this is a bloody nightmare for civil libertarians. We have an ex-vice president who’s proudly proclaiming how he’s supported torture. We have a current president who is preventing any serious investigation of torture. If torture is so bad, imagine what it’s like to try to protect alleged torturers, war criminals, and that’s the really dark period we’re finding, where we’re all wondering, “Where did our principles go?”

Former federal prosecutor Marcy Wheeler is doing a line-by-line analysis on the OPR report and Margolis’ work here.

(Revised and updated multiple times after initial posting)

Saturday, January 30, 2010 12:29 am

Odds and ends for 1/29

I’ve already called for impeaching Obama. Looks like we can now add Holder to the mix: A draft report from the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility that originally found that Bush officials Jay Bybee (now a federal judge) and John Yoo (now a “law” “professor” at Berkeley) committed professional misconduct (which would constitute grounds for impeaching Bybee), the final version was cleaned up to say they showed “poor judgment” only. Granted, fabricating a legal justification for torture out of whole cloth does show “poor judgment,” but it shows criminal intent as well.

Well, OK, it’s a first step: Pravda, of all places, reports that Francis A. Boyle, a professor at the University of Illinois College of Law in Champlain, Ill., has requested arrest warrants from the International Criminal Court in The Hague for the arrests of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Tenet, Rice and Gonzalez for “crimes against humanity” under the Rome Statute, which established the court. For all I know this is an Eastern Hemisphere version of an Onion article, but, hey, a citizen can dream.

Well, this bites: More than 30% of Triad mortgages will be under water by 1Q2011, Deutsche Bank estimates.

Historians finally weigh in Jonah Goldberg’s “Liberal Fascism.” Only two years after the fat, lying putz laughed his way to the bank. Thanks a ton, guys.

Banksters organize protest of their treatment … indoors, because it was too cold to go outside. Power to the people!

Bloomberg’s David Reilly asks a good question about this week’s bankster-related developments: Where’s the anger? (Besides Chez Blog on the Run, of course.)

Major-league media?: The Los Angeles Times’ Andrew Malcolm keeps using the phrase “discretionary spending.” I do not think that phrase means what he thinks it means.

Every little bit helps: Somali “pirates” pledge aid to Haiti. (Somali pirates’ est. 2008 income: $150MM+).

Possibly the most entertaining appeals court ruling of the year, and it’s still only January: Gender discrimination in the workplace as manifested by rude language (Oh, so NSFW, by the ruling’s own standards).

What’s stopping the Senate from ramming through a public option in reconciliation? I’m just askin’, on account of 51 breathing senators are on records as supporting one. Seriously, Joe Lieberman can go to hell.

Party of fiscal responsibility, my butt: Every single Republican senator voted Thursday against a new pay-as-you-go rule. Every single Democratic senator voted for it. Remind me again, please, who the grownups are. Quoth commenter Chad N. Freude at Balloon Juice: “They are opposed to pay-as-you-go because they are opposed to go.”

Whoux Dat?; or, There’s a reason they call it the No Fun League: Because you can’t abbreviate No Brains League as NFL. No Frontal Lobe, maybe. (h/t: DivaGeek)

The U.S. economy shrank 2.4% in 2009, the worst calendar-year performance since 1946.

California Senate approves single-payer health-care system; the Governator vetoes it on the laughable grounds that the state “can’t afford it.” Dude, you pay either way, and with single payer, there’s an excellent chance you’d pay less.

Terrorist convicted: The jury deliberated only 37 minutes before finding Scott Roeder guilty of first-degree murder for shooting abortion provider Dr. George Tiller in the head at point-blank range. Roeder admitted the shooting and also testified that he considered only chopping off Tiller’s hands instead of killing him. What a great humanitarian. Memo to New York: If Wichita can try a terrorist, so can you. Memo to the Republicans: Americans are beyond tired of government by incontinence.

I’m probably the last person to find this out, but the free audio-editing program Audacity can record streaming audio from, apparently, any Web site. This makes me insanely happy.

So Obama got together with some Congressional Republicans today. And it’s John Cole of Balloon Juice, who, despite humerus- and-clavicle- and scapula-scraping surgery a couple of days ago, is flying without painkillers, For The Win: “If Mike Pence really is regarded as one of the deep thinkers for the GOP, I’m beginning to understand why they refused to admit Terri Schiavo was brain-dead.” Although the prez himself does nicely with the runner-up: “I would have implemented those ideas had I found a credible economist who agreed with them …”

Tuesday, January 12, 2010 8:49 pm

Odds and ends for 1/12

War crime: An independent Dutch commission finds that the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and therefore the Netherlands’ support of same, “had no sound mandate in international law.” Somewhere, Dick Cheney’s shriveled testicles shrivel a little more.

The SEC mans up. Oops, no, wait, not really: The Securities & Exchange Commission asks the court for permission to file additional charges against Bank of America for failing to disclose Merrill Lynch losses to BofA shareholders before a takeover vote. And yet it also says no individual(s) can be held legally responsible for the royal hosing those shareholders received. All the deceit and fraud somehow just … happened, I guess. Yet one more reason why corporations, legally speaking, shouldn’t be people.

Pecora for the new millennium: A list of questions the banksters should be asked tomorrow by the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (also called the “New Pecora Commission,” after the panel that looked into the causes of the Depression), but almost certainly won’t be.

New Jersey legislature approves medical marijuana, and the gov says he’ll sign the bill within the week. The effects on “Jersey Shore” remain to be seen.

And speaking of “Jersey Shore,” watch out, “Jersey Shore,” there’s a new drinking game in town: Fox News hires Sarah Palin.

Anything that annoys the Financial Services Roundtable is probably a good idea: Obama considers taxing banks that got TARP money. It should happen … which means I’ll believe it when I see it.

“I am not a hero.”: The hell she says. Miep Gies, the Dutch woman who helped hide Anne Frank’s family and other Jews from the Nazis and later preserved Anne’s diary, is dead at 100.

He was not necessarily a hero, but he was one bad dude: Old-time Coney Island strongman Joe Rollino, who celebrated his 103rd birthday by bending a quarter with his teeth, is dead at 104. But only because he got hit by a minivan.

To see, or not to see: The Supreme Court supposedly will decide tomorrow whether to allow 1) closed-circuit broadcasting of the trial of Perry v. Schwarzenegger (the gay-marriage lawsuit) in other courthouses in California and/or 2) allow video to be posted to YouTube. Here’s some factual and legal background (more here); both writers think the Supremes, who don’t want their own proceedings broadcast, see this as a slippery slope. I bet they’re right.

Quote of the day, from commenter mjvpi at Firedoglake: “Health care reform is giving me Tourette’s syndrome.”

Another quote of the day, from washunate at The Seminal: “… the past three decades have witnessed the slow and steady transfer of the wealth generated by labor’s productivity into the hands of a few select families of already great wealth. If anything can capture an image of the consequences of the Reagan-Bush era, it’s gotta be 225 million Americans in 1979 buying more vehicles than 308 million Americans in 2009.” Yup. In absolute numbers, almost 33% more. Heckuva job, Georgie.

Sunday, November 29, 2009 10:05 pm

Making it two in a row

War criminals in the Oval Office, that is.

NYTimes:

KABUL, Afghanistan — An American military detention camp in Afghanistan is still holding inmates, sometimes for weeks at a time, without access to the International Committee of the Red Cross, according to human rights researchers and former detainees held at the site on the Bagram Air Base.

The site, known to detainees as the black jail, consists of individual windowless concrete cells, each illuminated by a single light bulb glowing 24 hours a day. In interviews, former detainees said that their only human contact was at twice-daily interrogation sessions.

“The black jail was the most dangerous and fearful place,” said Hamidullah, a spare-parts dealer in Kandahar who said he was detained there in June. “They don’t let the I.C.R.C. officials or any other civilians see or communicate with the people they keep there. Because I did not know what time it was, I did not know when to pray.”

The jail’s operation highlights a tension between President Obama’s goal to improve detention conditions that had drawn condemnation under the Bush administration and his stated desire to give military commanders leeway to operate. While Mr. Obama signed an order to eliminate so-called black sites run by the Central Intelligence Agency in January, it did not also close this jail, which is run by military Special Operations forces.

Military officials said as recently as this summer that the Afghanistan jail and another like it at the Balad Air Base in Iraq were being used to interrogate high-value detainees. And officials said recently that there were no plans to close the jails.

WashPost:

KABUL — Two Afghan teenagers held in U.S. detention north of Kabul this year said they were beaten by American guards, photographed naked, deprived of sleep and held in solitary confinement in concrete cells for at least two weeks while undergoing daily interrogation about their alleged links to the Taliban.

The accounts could not be independently substantiated. But in successive, on-the-record interviews, the teenagers presented a detailed, consistent portrait suggesting that the abusive treatment of suspected insurgents has in some cases continued under the Obama administration, despite steps that President Obama has said would put an end to the harsh interrogation practices authorized by the Bush administration after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The two teenagers — Issa Mohammad, 17, and Abdul Rashid, who said he is younger than 16 — said in interviews this week that they were punched and slapped in the face by their captors during their time at Bagram air base, where they were held in individual cells. Rashid said his interrogator forced him to look at pornography alongside a photograph of his mother.

The holding center described by the teenagers appeared to have been a facility run by U.S. Special Operations forces that is separate from the Bagram Theater Internment Facility, the main American-run prison, which holds about 700 detainees. The teenagers’ descriptions of a holding area on a different part of the Bagram base are consistent with the accounts of two other former detainees, who say they endured similar mistreatment, but not beatings, while being held last year at what Afghans call Bagram’s “black” prison.

Mr. President, it was a crime when George W. Bush did it and it’s a crime now.

Monday, May 4, 2009 7:00 am

Word

Filed under: I want my country back. — Lex @ 7:00 am
Tags: ,

What “oleeb” said:

This is serious business. It isn’t an academic discussion. It isn’t a discussion about policy. This is a discussion about whether or not the law means anything in the United States and whether war crimes committed by the United States will be allowed to go unpunished.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009 8:40 pm

Not only truth, but also justice

Filed under: Hold! Them! Accountable! — Lex @ 8:40 pm
Tags: ,

If you love America and love the rule of law, you’re gonna want a cigarette after this:

We urge Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a non-partisan independent Special Counsel to immediately commence a prosecutorial investigation into the most serious alleged crimes of former President George W. Bush, former Vice President Richard B. Cheney, the attorneys formerly employed by the Department of Justice whose memos sought to justify torture, and other former top officials of the Bush Administration.

Our laws, and treaties that under Article VI of our Constitution are the supreme law of the land, require the prosecution of crimes that strong evidence suggests these individuals have committed. Both the former president and the former vice president have confessed to authorizing a torture procedure that is illegal under our law and treaty obligations. [waterboarding — Lex] The former president has confessed to violating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

We see no need for these prosecutions to be extraordinarily lengthy or costly, and no need to wait for the recommendations of a panel or “truth” commission when substantial evidence of the crimes is already in the public domain. We believe the most effective investigation can be conducted by a prosecutor, and we believe such an investigation should begin immediately.

Signed By:

Center for Constitutional Rights
http://ccrjustice.org

The National Lawyers Guild
http://nlg.org

American Freedom Campaign Action Fund
http://americanfreedomcampaign.org

High Road for Human Rights Advocacy Project
http://www.highroadforhumanrights.org

After Downing Street
http://afterdowningstreet.org

Democrats.com
http://democrats.com

Gold Star Families for Peace
http://cindysheehansoapbox.com

Ann Wright, retired US Army Reserve Colonel and US diplomat
http://voicesofconscience.com

Delaware Valley Veterans for America
http://delvalvets4america.org

Voters for Peace
http://votersforpeace.us

Wisconsin Impeachment / Bring Our Troops Home Coalition
http://impeachwi.com

Backbone Campaign
http://backbonecampaign.org

CODE PINK: Women for Peace
http://codepink4peace.org

Velvet Revolution
http://velvetrevolution.us

Justice Through Music
http://jtmp.org

Progressive Democrats of America
http://pdamerica.org

Brad Blog
http://bradblog.com

Cities for Peace
http://citiesforpeace.org

National Accountability Network

Northeast Impeachment Coalition
http://neimpeach.org

Republicans for Impeachment
http://republicansforimpeachment.com

Op Ed News
http://opednews.com

Marcus Raskin, cofounder of Institute for Policy Studies, member of editorial board of The Nation, member of the special staff of the National Security Council in Kennedy Administration

The Progressive
http://progressive.org

Peace Team
http://peaceteam.net

Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)
http://afterdowningstreet.org/vips

Defending Dissent Foundation
http://defendingdissent.org

Grassroots America
http://grassrootsamerica4us.org

Media Freedom Foundation/Project Censored
http://projectcensored.org

Peace Action
http://peace-action.org

Grandmothers Against the War
http://grandmothersagainstthewar.org

World Can’t Wait
http://worldcantwait.net

United for Peace and Justice
http://unitedforpeace.org

Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space
http://space4peace.org

War Crimes Times
http://warcrimestimes.org

Veterans for Peace 099
http://veteransforpeace.org

Veterans for Peace 26
http://veteransforpeace.org

Veterans for Peace
http://veteransforpeace.org

Naomi Wolf, author of “End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot,” and “Give Me Liberty: A Handbook for American Revolutionaries”

Iraq Veterans Against the War
http://ivaw.org

Daniel Ellsberg, Truth-Telling Project
http://ellsberg.net

More like this, please. Why? Because we don’t need a truth-and-reconciliation commission when we have a criminal-justice system perfectly capable of handling investigations and prosecutions a lot more complicated than this one would be.

The constitution makes clear that Congress and the executive branch have an affirmative duty to uphold the law. That means you don’t let criminals walk free just because they happened to hold office for a few years.

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