Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Tuesdays Top News from Information Clearing House

Information Clearing House Newsletter
News You Won't Find On CNN
April 01, 2009
Brahmanism: This is the sum of duty: Do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you.: Mahabharata 5:1517

Christianity: All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.: Matthew 7:12

Islam: No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself. Sunnah

Buddhism: Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.: Udana Varga 5:18

Judaism: What is hateful to you, do not to your fellowmen. That is the entire Law; all the rest is commentary.: Talmud, Shabbat 31:a

Confucianism: Surely it is the maxim of loving-kindness: Do not unto others that you would not have them do unto you.: Analects 15:23

Taoism: Regard your neighbor's gain as your own gain, and your neighbor's loss as your own loss.: T'ai Shag Kan Ying P'ien

Zoroastrianism: That nature alone is good which refrains from doing unto another whatsoever is not good: for itself. : Dadistan-i-dinik 94:5

Number Of Iraqis Slaughtered Since The U.S. Invaded Iraq "1,320,110"

Number of U.S. Military Personnel Sacrificed (Officially acknowledged) In America's War On Iraq 4,259

The War in Iraq Costs
See the cost in your community
Placing these on top -Torture USA:
Will a Spanish Judge Bring Bush-Era Figures to Justice?:

Chile's Pinochet. Argentina's Scilingo. Guatemala's Rios Montt. To the roster of international figures whom Spanish investigative judge Baltasar Garzón has sought to bring to justice, the name of Gonzales may soon be added.
The truth about Abu Zubaydah:

The Bush administration's false claim that my client was a top al-Qaida official has led to his imprisonment and torture

World Depression

Regional Wars and the Decline of the US Empire

By James Petras

We are living the end of an entire epoch: Experts everywhere witness the collapse of the US and world financial system, the absence of credit for trade and the lack of financing for investment. A world depression, in which upward of a quarter of the world's labor force will be unemployed, is looming.

Killing For George

Secret US Forces Carried Out Assassinations in a Dozen Counties

By Seymour Hersh

"They've been going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or to the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving,"

The Silence Surrounding Sri Lanka

By Arundhati Roy

The horror that is unfolding in Sri Lanka becomes possible because of the silence that surrounds it. There is almost no reporting in the international press - or in the mainstream media in India, where I live - about what is happening. From the little information that is filtering through, it looks as though the Sri Lankan government is using the propaganda of "the war on terror" as a fig leaf to dismantle any semblance of democracy in the country and commit unspeakable crimes against the Tamil people.

Obstruction of Justice

By Chris Hedges

The trial of Al-Arian is a cause célèbre in the Muslim world. A documentary film was made about the case in Europe. He has become the poster child for judicial abuse and persecution of Muslims in the United States by the Bush administration.

Seymour M. Hersh: Syria Calling:

"The return of the Golan Heights is part of a broader strategy for peace in the Middle East that includes countering Iran's influence

Jewish writer raises a storm in America with his report from a 'tolerant' Iran:

A row has broken out over allegations of antisemitism at the New York Times, America's most vaunted name in journalism and a newspaper with a large Jewish readership.


Why Arab leaders embrace Sudan's indicted president:

On Sunday Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir strode off his airplane and onto a red carpet at the airport in Doha, greeted with a kiss by the tiny kingdom's emir as he arrived for a two-day Arab League summit dedicated to strengthening Arab unity.

Pentagon war spending hits $685.7 billion: GAO:

The spending total equals about 85 percent of the $808 billion that Congress has appropriated for military operations in the global war on terrorism since the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, the GAO said.
Reuters dot com

$296 Billion in Overruns in U.S. Weapons Programs:

Nearly 70 percent of the Pentagon's 96 largest weapons programs were over budget last year, for a combined total of $296 billion more than the original estimates, a Congressional auditing agency reported Monday.
NYTimes March 31, 2009

Government website now offers 'suicide warning signs' for victims of recession:

When the government starts warning you not to commit suicide, you know things have gotten bad.


Judge Must Release Woman Sentenced to Jail for Being Poor, ACLU Says in Court Papers:

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan asked for an emergency hearing today on behalf of an Escanaba woman sentenced to 30 days in jail because she is too poor to reimburse the court for her son's stay in a juvenile detention facility.

Let Us Work Towards Peace And Joy

Tom Feeley

Current RIGHTS News from Bill of Rights Defense Committee

Find all of these below at here

3/31, Jamey Keaten, Associated Press, Paris appeals court acquits five former Guantanamo Bay detainees

3/31, Pascal Fletcher, Reuters, Miss Universe says had "lot of fun" in Guantanamo

3/31, PRNewsWire, TSA's Secure Flight Begins Vetting Passengers

3/31, Grant Gross, PC World, Legislation Would Curtail Warrantless Information Demands

3/31, Jason Leopold, Public Record, Doug Feith: 'I Was a Major Player' In Bush's Torture Policies

3/30, William Glaberson, New York Times, U.S. Decides to Release Detainee at Guantánamo

3/30, ACLU, Legislation Introduced to Curtail Patriot Act Abuse

Monday, March 30, 2009

RIGHTS NEWS related to US Detainees

Probe of Legal Experts on Torture Issue here

Democrats Duck Bush Torture Probe here

The following are at here

3/30, Matt Glenn, Jurist, Second US Army segreant convicted of killing Iraqi detainees

3/30, Daphne Eviatar, Washington Independent, Yemeni Detainees Pose Problem in Closing Gitmo

3/30, Matthew Allee, Common Dreams, Justice Department Finds DNA Collection From Arrestees Overloads Backlog In Crime Labs

3/29, Hilary Brown, ABC News, 'Torture' Could Haunt Bush Officials

3/29, Devin Montgomery, Jurist, US interrogation tactics were torture: former State Department lawyer

3/29, Lucas Tanglen, Jurist, US, Yemen should allow 'meaningful legal process' in Guantanamo repatriation: HRW

Today is Vietnam Veterans Day - Let's Prevent Many More Such Days!

On this somber day when we want Care, Safety & a Place called Home for ALL our veterans in/from ALL our wars, we must work hard so that war will be no more. We must do all we can to prevent more deaths in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere.

Congresswomen Linda Sanchez is the first Congressional Representative to write legislation to help make "Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day" a reality. She is here giving the first keynote address March 30, 2008.

For a view of war from Veterans themselves who want NO MORE: GO here

And Also: you tube VIDEO from Recent Event here

The March on the Pentagon and Commemoration this Month:
here and/or GO here (Note these may be very similar but sometimes it's nice to have two options. GREAT somber music and singing here!)


During August of last year, Chapter 39 mounted an effort to oppose the Virtual Army Experience after we learned that it was scheduled to appear at the annual Cleveland Air Show. While we were unsuccessful in having the exhibit removed from the show completely, we were able to catalyze sufficient public support to have the minimum age changed from 13 to 17. Last month we began meeting to discuss strategy for getting the exhibit removed from this year's Air Show. We were delighted to learn that on March 12, Representative Dennis Kucinich sent a letter to the House Committee on Armed Services in which he requested that funding for the VAE be terminated. (We had asked for his help last year but never actually heard back from his office - it appears now that he indeed heard our message). One of our members called the Air Show organizers and was told that the VAE was, in fact, NOT on this years roster of attractions, a statement which was subsequently confirmed by our local newspaper, the Plain Dealer. You can download a pdf file with a summary of Plain Dealer articles covering these events.

Please share this email and attachment with the other chapters of Veterans for Peace, along with our request to other chapters to investigate their local air shows, summer festivals, or other events where the VAE might be scheduled, and to continue the effort to have this "attraction" banned. Here's the link to the VAE website: http://vae.americasarmy.com/. At this time there does not appear to be a current VAE schedule, though our local reporter was told by Amy Lindstrom, VAE Public Affairs Manager, it visits 40 events a year and they already have more than 80 requests.

We would be happy to share our strategy and materials with any VFP chapters interested in challenging the VAE and we would like to acknowledge the efforts of the VFP chapter in Milwaukee. It was they who warned us it was coming this way. To learn more, contact Bob Bemer at bobbmr849@yahoo.com.

Since Chapter 39 took action against the Virtual Army Experience, several other VFP chapters have also done so, including in Philadelphia, PA.

For more on this article above and one on the way Laos, 1968, was covered Go here

AMNESTY: Focus Summit on Human Rights: A Matter of Life and Death

Blogger here Connie: Make clear that climate change is a human rights issue and human rights concerns climate change. Find ways to connect these two explicity with key scientists, documents, legislators, leaders and activists!
An Amnesty International delegation will participate in the fifth Summit of the Americas, to be held in Trinidad and Tobago between 16 and 18 of April 2009 and in the Summit of the People, between 14 and 16 April 2009.

The team will be made up of Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada (English); Ivahanna Larrosa, Director of Amnesty International Uruguay and Stacy Shapiro, Americas Campaign Coordinator.
Amnesty International Press release
30 March 2009

The draft declaration being negotiated by governments in advance of the Fifth Summit of the Americas falls short on human rights, warned Amnesty International today, as it issued a series of recommendations to improve the official declaration.

“The draft declaration being taken to the Americas Summit is disappointing when it comes to human rights,” said Susan Lee, Americas Director at Amnesty International. “It is only by making meaningful commitments to strengthen human rights protection that governments will truly improve the lives of their citizens. Failure to put human rights at the centre of the Summit will put the lives of millions at risk.”

In its briefing, Amnesty International highlights that while addressing many serious issues, the official declaration needs to strengthen its human rights component. In particular, the organization believes the Summit’s declaration must emphasize issues including:

-Poverty, by making a clear commitment to addressing the high levels of preventable maternal mortality and the deprivation suffered by millions living in slums across the Americas.

-Energy projects, by addressing the negative impact some projects can have on people’s enjoyment of their right to adequate healthcare, housing, food and livelihood and particularly on the land rights of the hemisphere’s Indigenous Peoples.

-The operations of companies, by acknowledging the need for strong legislation to hold corporations to account for their potentially negative impact on human rights.

-Climate change, by committing to the adoption of policies that put human rights considerations at the centre of both reversing and mitigating climate change.

-Public security, by committing to ensure that public security laws and practices, including those dealing with terrorism and organized crime, comply fully with human rights obligations, such as the right not to be arbitrarily detained, tortured or subjected to enforced disappearance.

-Strengthening democratic governance, by promising to improve the low rate of ratification of most of the hemisphere’s human rights treaties.

Amnesty International’s recommendations also highlight the need for the US to lift its economic embargo on Cuba, which is preventing Cubans from enjoying human rights such as adequate healthcare, education and housing.

“Human rights cannot be considered an optional extra; they must be at the heart of all deliberations and commitments arising from this Summit,” said Susan Lee. “The rights of people living in slums, of Indigenous Peoples facing dislocation from their land, and of people caught-up in abusive public security laws must be unequivocally recognized and firmly protected. Human rights provide the blueprint for the “secure future” the Declaration envisions for citizens of the Americas.”

“Governments in the Americas have an unprecedented opportunity to make this a summit of meaningful commitments and problem-solving if they make sure it is a summit focused on human rights,” said Susan Lee. “For millions of the Americas’ poorest citizens, it is literally a matter of life and death.”

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Welcome to Afghanistan (& Pakistan) : the "graveyard of empires"

Pakistani mourners upon the death of Bhutto - placed here as a symbol & real need to STOP!

There is so much under-story and layers & layers of fact, politics and assumptions here from various points of view. Suffice it for now is that some things are NOT fixed by military interventions - in fact many of the shady "deals" made & alliances become kind of musical chairs - changing of loyalties & support given then withdrawn as US expects countries in their area of concern to make these rapid switches along with them without questions or receive threats. That's all I know to say on this today.

Bhutto is NOT the subject of this article yet, here's just a little which may be somewhat relevant: Writer, scholar, Stephen Coll claims that LIKE the US, Bhutto's government provided military and financial support for the Taliban, even sending a small unit of the Pakistani army into Afghanistan. More recently, she evidently took an anti-Taliban stance, and condemned terrorist acts allegedly committed by the Taliban and their supporters.
OBAMA Press Conference Part 2 - the "plan" laid out, in part on Afghanistan? here

MORE related items AFTER the following "nutshell" and full article...

The following Head Article here -"in a NUTSHELL":

In her classic book, The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam, historian Barbara Tuchman described “Wooden-headedness": "Wooden-headedness assesses a situation in terms of preconceived fixed notions, while ignoring or rejecting any contrary signs … acting according to the wish while not allowing oneself to be deflected by the facts.”

Tuchman pointed to 16th Century Philip II of Spain as a kind of Nobel laureate of wooden-headedness. Comparisons can be invidious, but the thing about Philip was that he drained state revenues by failed adventures overseas, leading to Spain’s decline.

It is wooden-headedness, in my view, that permeates the “comprehensive, new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan” that the President announced on Friday. Author Tuchman points succinctly to what flows from wooden-headedness:

“Once a policy has been adopted and implemented, all subsequent activity becomes an effort to justify it. … Adjustment is painful. For the ruler it is easier, once he has entered the policy box, to stay inside. For the lesser official it is better not to make waves, not to press evidence that the chief will find painful to accept. Psychologists call the process of screening out discordant information ‘cognitive dissonance,’ an academic disguise for ‘Don’t confuse me with the facts.’”

Barbara Tuchman’s daughter, Jessica Tuchman Mathews is the president of the Carnegie Foundation. A January 2009 Carnegie report on Afghanistan concluded, "The only meaningful way to halt the insurgency's momentum is to start withdrawing troops. The presence of foreign troops is the most important element driving the resurgence of the Taliban."

See following article....
By the way, the author of the following article. Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. In the Sixties he served as an infantry/intelligence officer and then became a CIA analyst for the next 27 years. He is on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).
consortiumnews dot com

Welcome to Vietnam, Mr. President

By Ray McGovern
March 28, 2009

I was wrong. I had been saying that it would be naïve to take too seriously presidential candidate Barack Obama’s rhetoric regarding the need to escalate the war in Afghanistan.

I kept thinking to myself that when he got briefed on the history of Afghanistan and the oft-proven ability of Afghan “militants” to drive out foreign invaders — from Alexander the Great, to the Persians, the Mongolians, Indians, British, Russians — he would be sure to understand why they call mountainous Afghanistan the “graveyard of empires.”

And surely he would be fully briefed on the stupidity and deceit that left 58,000 U.S. troops — not to mention 2 million to 3 million Vietnamese — dead in Vietnam.

John Kennedy became President the year Obama was born. One cannot expect toddler-to-teenager Barack to remember much about the war in Vietnam, and it was probably too early for that searing, controversial experience to have found its way into the history texts as he was growing up.

But he was certainly old enough to absorb the fecklessness and brutality of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. And his instincts at that time were good enough to see through the Bush administration’s duplicity.

And, with him now in the White House, surely some of his advisers would be able to brief him on both Vietnam and Iraq, and prevent him from making similar mistakes — this time in Afghanistan. Or so I thought.

Deflecting an off-the-topic question at his March 24 press conference, Obama said, “I think that the last 64 days has been dominated by me trying to figure out how we’re going to fix the economy. … Right now the American people are judging me exactly the way I should be judged, and that is, are we taking the steps to improve liquidity in the financial markets, create jobs, get businesses to reopen, keep America safe?”

Okay, it is understandable that President Obama has been totally absorbed with the financial crisis. But surely, unlike predecessors supposedly unable to do two things at the same time, our resourceful new President certainly could find enough time to solicit advice from a wide circle, get a better grip on the huge stakes in Afghanistan, and arrive at sensible decisions. Or so I thought.

Getting Railroaded?

It proved to be a bit awkward Friday morning waiting for the President to appear…. a half-hour late for his own presentation. Was he for some reason reluctant?

Perhaps he had a sense of being railroaded by his advisers. Perhaps he paused on learning that just a few hours earlier a soldier of the Afghan army shot dead two U.S. troops and wounded a third before killing himself, and that Taliban fighters had stormed an Afghan police post and killed 10 police earlier that morning.

Should he weave that somehow into his speech?

Or maybe it was learning of the Taliban ambush of a police convoy which wounded seven other policemen; or the suicide bomber in the Afghan border area of Pakistan who demolished a mosque packed with hundreds of worshippers attending Friday prayers, killing some 50 and injuring scores more, according to preliminary reports.

Or, more simply, perhaps Obama’s instincts told him he was about to do something he will regret. Maybe that’s why he was embarrassingly late in coming to the podium.

One look at the national security advisers arrayed behind the President was enough to see wooden-headedness.

In her classic book, The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam, historian Barbara Tuchman described this mindset: “Wooden-headedness assesses a situation in terms of preconceived fixed notions, while ignoring or rejecting any contrary signs … acting according to the wish while not allowing oneself to be deflected by the facts.”

Tuchman pointed to 16th Century Philip II of Spain as a kind of Nobel laureate of wooden-headedness. Comparisons can be invidious, but the thing about Philip was that he drained state revenues by failed adventures overseas, leading to Spain’s decline.

It is wooden-headedness, in my view, that permeates the “comprehensive, new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan” that the President announced on Friday. Author Tuchman points succinctly to what flows from wooden-headedness:

“Once a policy has been adopted and implemented, all subsequent activity becomes an effort to justify it. … Adjustment is painful. For the ruler it is easier, once he has entered the policy box, to stay inside. For the lesser official it is better not to make waves, not to press evidence that the chief will find painful to accept. Psychologists call the process of screening out discordant information ‘cognitive dissonance,’ an academic disguise for ‘Don’t confuse me with the facts.’”

It seems only right and fitting that Barbara Tuchman’s daughter, Jessica Tuchman Mathews, president of the Carnegie Foundation, has shown herself to be inoculated against “cognitive dissonance.”

A January 2009 Carnegie report on Afghanistan concluded, "The only meaningful way to halt the insurgency's momentum is to start withdrawing troops. The presence of foreign troops is the most important element driving the resurgence of the Taliban."

In any case, Obama explained his decision on more robust military intervention in Afghanistan as a result of a “careful policy review” by military commanders and diplomats, the Afghani and Pakistani governments, NATO allies, and international organizations.

No Estimate? No Problem

Know why he did not mention a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) assessing the likely effects of this slow surge in troops and trainers? Because there is none.

Guess why. The reason is the same one accounting for the lack of a completed NIE before the “surge” in troop strength in Iraq in early 2007.

Apparently, Obama’s advisers did not wish to take the risk that honest analysts — ones who had been around a while, and maybe even knew something of Vietnam and Iraq, as well as Afghanistan — might also be immune to “cognitive dissonance,” and ask hard questions regarding the basis of the new strategy.

Indeed, they might reach the same judgment they did in the April 2006 NIE on global terrorism. The authors of that estimate had few cognitive problems and simply declared their judgment that invasions and occupations (in 2006 the target then was Iraq) do not make us safer but lead instead to an upsurge in terrorism.

The prevailing attitude this time fits the modus operandi of Gen. David Petraeus, who late last year took the lead by default with the following approach: We know best, and can run our own policy review, thank you very much.

Which he did, without requesting the formal NIE that typically precedes and informs key policy decisions. It is highly regrettable that President Obama was deprived of the chance to benefit from a formal estimate. Recent NIEs have been relatively bereft of wooden-headedess. Obama might have made a more sensible decision on how to proceed in Afghanistan.

As one might imagine, NIEs can, and should, play a key role in such circumstances, with a premium on objectivity and courage in speaking truth to power. That is precisely why Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair appointed Chas Freeman to head the National Intelligence Council, the body that prepares NIEs — and why the Likud Lobby got him ousted.

Estimates on Vietnam

As one of the intelligence analysts watching Vietnam in the Sixties and Seventies, I worked on several of the NIEs produced before and during the war.

Sensitive ones bore this unclassified title: “Probable Reactions to Various Courses of Action With Respect to North Vietnam.”

Typical of the kinds of question the President and his advisers wanted addressed were: Can we seal off the Ho Chi Minh Trail by bombing? If the U.S. were to introduce X thousand additional troops into South Vietnam, will Hanoi quit? Okay, how about XX thousand?

Our answers regularly earned us brickbats from the White House for not being “good team players.” But in those days we labored under a strong ethos dictating that we give it to policymakers straight, without fear or favor. We had career protection for doing that.

Our judgments (the unwelcome ones, anyway) were often pooh-poohed as negativism. Policymakers, of course, were in no way obliged to take them into account, and often didn’t.

The point is that they continued to be sought. Not even Lyndon Johnson or Richard Nixon would decide on a significant escalation without seeking our best estimate as to how U.S. adversaries would likely react to this or that escalatory step.

So, hats off, I suppose, to you, Gen. Petraeus and those who helped you elbow the substantive intelligence analysts off to the sidelines.

What might intelligence analysts have said on the key point of training the Afghan army and police? We will never know, but it is a safe bet those analysts who know something about Afghanistan (or about Vietnam) would roll their eyes and wish Petraeus luck.

As for Iraq, what remains to be seen is against whom the various sectarian factions target their weapons and put their training into practice.

The Training Mirage

In his Afghanistan policy speech on Friday, Obama mentioned training 11 times. To those of us with some gray in our hair, this was all too reminiscent of the prevailing rhetoric at the start of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.

In February 1964, with John Kennedy dead and President Lyndon Johnson improvising on Vietnam, then-Defense Secretary Robert McNamara prepared a major policy speech on defense, leaving out Vietnam, and sent it to the President to review. The Johnson tapes show the President finding fault:

LBJ: “I wonder if you shouldn’t find two minutes to devote to Vietnam.”

McN: “The problem is what to say about it.”

LBJ: “I would say that we have a commitment to Vietnamese freedom. … Our purpose is to train the [South Vietnamese] people, and our training’s going good.”

But our training was not going good then. And specialists who know Afghanistan, its various tribes and demographics tell me that training is not likely to go good there either. Ditto for training in Pakistan.

Obama’s alliterative rhetoric aside, it is going to be no easier to “disrupt, dismantle, and defeat” al-Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan with more combat forces and training than it was to defeat the Viet Cong with these same tools in Vietnam.

Obama seemed to be protesting a bit too much: “Going forward, we will not blindly stay the course.” No sir.

There will be “metrics to measure progress and hold ourselves accountable!” Yes, sir!

And he will enlist wide international support from countries like Russia, India and China that, according to President Obama, “should have a stake in the security of the region.” Right.

“The road ahead will be long,” said Obama in conclusion. He has that right. The strategy adopted virtually guarantees that.

That is why Gen. David McKiernan, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan publicly contradicted his boss, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, late last year when Gates, protesting the widespread pessimism on Afghanistan, started talking up the prospect of a “surge” of troops in Afghanistan.

McKiernan insisted publicly that no Iraqi-style “surge” of forces would end the conflict in Afghanistan. “The word I don’t use for Afghanistan is ‘surge,’” McKiernan stated, adding that what is required is a “sustained commitment” that could last many years and would ultimately require a political, not military, solution.

McKiernan has that right. But his boss Mr. Gates did not seem to get it.

Bob Gates at the Gate

Late last year, as he maneuvered to stay on as Defense Secretary in the new administration, Gates hotly disputed the notion that things were getting out of control in Afghanistan.

The argument that Gates used to support his professed optimism, however, made us veteran intelligence officers gag — at least those who remember the U.S. in Vietnam in the 1960s, the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s and other failed counterinsurgencies.

“The Taliban holds no land in Afghanistan, and loses every time it comes into contact with coalition forces,” Gates explained.

Our Secretary of Defense seemed to be insisting that U.S. troops have not lost one pitched battle with the Taliban or al-Qaeda. (Engagements like the one on July 13, 2008, in which “insurgents” attacked an outpost in Konar province, killing nine U.S. soldiers and wounding 15 others, apparently do not qualify as “contact.”)

Gates ought to read up on Vietnam, for his words evoke a similarly benighted comment by U.S. Army Col. Harry Summers after that war had been lost.

In 1974, Summers was sent to Hanoi to try to resolve the status of Americans still listed as missing. To his North Vietnamese counterpart, Col. Tu, Summers made the mistake of bragging, “You know, you never beat us on the battlefield.”

Colonel Tu responded, “That may be so, but it is also irrelevant.”

I don't fault the senior military. Cancel that, I DO fault them. They resemble all too closely the gutless general officers who never looked down at what was really happening in Vietnam. The Joint Chiefs of Staff of the time have been called, not without reason, “a sewer of deceit."

The current crew is in better odor. And one may be tempted to make excuses for them, noting for example that if admirals/generals are the hammer, small wonder that to them everything looks like a nail. No, that does not excuse them.

The ones standing in back of Obama on Friday have smarts enough to have said, NO; IT’S A BAD IDEA, Mr. President. That should not be too much to expect.

Gallons of blood are likely to be poured unnecessarily in the mountains and valleys of Afghanistan — probably over the next decade or longer. But not their blood.

Sound Military Advice

General officers seldom rise to the occasion. Exceptions are so few that they immediately spring to mind: French war hero Gen. Philippe LeClerc, for example, was sent to Indochina right after World War II with orders to report back on how many troops it would take to recapture Indochina. His report: "It would require 500,000 men; and even with 500,000 France could not win."

Equally relevant to Obama’s fateful decision, Gen. Douglas MacArthur told another young President in April 1961: "Anyone wanting to commit American ground forces to the mainland of Asia should have his head examined."

When JFK's top military advisers, critical of the President’s reluctance to go against that advice, virtually called him a traitor — for pursuing a negotiated solution to the fighting in Laos, for example — Kennedy would tell them to convince Gen. MacArthur first, and then come back to him. (Alas, there seems to be no comparable Gen. MacArthur today.)

Kennedy recognized Vietnam as a potential quagmire, and was determined not to get sucked in — despite the misguided, ideologically-salted advice given him by Ivy League patricians like McGeorge Bundy.

Kennedy's military adviser, Gen. Maxwell Taylor said later that MacArthur's statement made a "hell of an impression on the President."

MacArthur made another comment about the situation that President Kennedy had inherited in Indochina. This one struck the young President so much that he dictated it into a memorandum of conversation: Kennedy quoted MacArthur as saying to him, "The chickens are coming home to roost from the Eisenhower years, and you live in the chicken coop."

Well, the chickens are coming home to roost after eight years of Cheney and Bush, but there is no sign that President Obama is listening to anyone capable of fresh thinking on Afghanistan. Obama has apparently decided to stay in the chicken coop. And that can be called, well, chicken.

Can't say I actually KNEW Jack Kennedy, but it was he who got so many of us down here to Washington to explore what we might do for our country.

Kennedy resisted the kind of pressures to which President Obama has now succumbed. (There are even some, like Jim Douglass in his book "JFK and the Unspeakable," who conclude that this is what got President Kennedy killed.)

Mr. Obama, you need to find some advisers who are not still wet behind the ears and who are not brown noses — preferably some who have lived Vietnam and Iraq and have an established record of responsible, fact-based analysis.

You would also do well to read Douglass's book, and to page through the "Pentagon Papers," instead of trying to emulate the Lincoln portrayed in Team of Rivals.

I, too, am a big fan of Doris Kearns Goodwin, but Daniel Ellsberg is an author far more relevant and nourishing for this point in time. Read his Secrets, and recognize the signs of the times.

There is still time to put the brakes on this disastrous policy. One key lesson of Vietnam is that an army trained and supplied by foreign occupiers can almost always be readily outmatched and out-waited in a guerrilla war, no matter how many billions of dollars are pumped in.

Professor Martin van Creveld of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the only non-American military historian on the U.S. Army’s list of required reading for officers, has accused former President George W. Bush of “launching the most foolish war since Emperor Augustus in 9 BC sent his legions into Germany and lost them.”

Please do not feel you have to compete with your predecessor for such laurels.

END article

URL: here

Possible blurring/adaption/willingness to change emphasis of "The Afghanistan/Pakistan Plan" here Interesting site to watch on the new administration!

ACTION Suggested: All here who see the truth in this cautionary OpEd by Ray McGovern, let's each and all - every good chance we see - do our very best to help halt and prevent the following from being the hellish scenario it doesn't need to be. What shall be our best strategy? Suggestions? newlease7@yahoo.com put "Comment to Connie on oneheartforpeace" in your subject title &/or place your response in the COMMENT section below for this post. Perhaps one means of creating caution and pressure on the Obama administration concerning the movement for more warring in Afghanistan and Pakistan is to encourage two-way facilitation of international press both larger as well as smaller groups. Perhaps, considering Obama's desire to listen to and address the smaller more independent press based in the US - let's work toward the goal that he will apply this same independence to his dialogue with International newspapers and news services particularly int the middle east and including at the top Pakistan/Afghanistan reporters.

MORE references to this topic (check back for more here and/or in COMMENTS

Fierce debate over escalation in Afghanistan. Biden warns of quagmire. Does Obama instead follows military advisers including Cheney? (VLaszlo) here LOOK how skewed this online MSNBC vote is toward WAR one way or the other!!! Please DON'T vote! here

Thursday, March 26, 2009

JOHN HOPE FRANKLIN Dies yet leaves guiding light

John Hope Franklin as a young boy: A Boyscout's Good Deed ends in Ugly Racism


John Hope Franklin, Scholar Who Transformed African American History, Dies at Age 94 - January 22, 1915 - March 25, 2009

From this historian:

“We must go beyond textbooks, go out into the bypaths and untrodden depths of the wilderness and travel and explore and tell the world the glories of our journey.”

““We know all too little about the factors that affect the attitudes of the peoples of the world toward one another. It is clear, however, that color and race are at once the most important and the most enigmatic.””

Perhaps there will be some responses to these two famous JH Franklin quotes or more favorites from this hero in the Comments below?

NPR dot org Special (Listen and Read) : here

Washington Post: Historian Helped Blaze a Civil Rights Path - John Hope Franklin, one of the most prolific and well-respected chroniclers of America's torturous racial odyssey, died of congestive heart failure yesterday at the age of 94 in a Durham, N.C., hospital.

The following obituary commemoration is to be found at the Duke website: here

From Wednesday, March 25, 2009

DURHAM, N.C. - John Hope Franklin, the scholar who
helped create the field of African-American history and
dominated it for nearly six decades, has died at the
age of 94.

Franklin died of congestive heart failure at Duke
Hospital this morning. He is survived by his son, John
Whittington Franklin, daughter-in-law Karen Roberts
Franklin, sister-in-law Bertha W. Gibbs, cousin Grant
Franklin Sr., a host of nieces, nephews, great-nieces
and great-nephews, other family members, many
generations of students and friends. There will be a
celebration of his life and of his late wife Aurelia
Franklin at 11 a.m. June 11 in Duke Chapel in honor of
their 69th wedding anniversary.

"John Hope Franklin lived for nearly a century and
helped define that century," said Duke President
Richard H. Brodhead. "A towering historian, he led the
recognition that African-American history and American
history are one. With his grasp of the past, he spent a
lifetime building a future of inclusiveness, fairness
and equality. Duke has lost a great citizen and a great

Franklin, James B. Duke Professor Emeritus of History,
was a scholar who brought intellectual rigor as well an
engaged passion to his work. He wrote about history -
one of his books is considered a core text on the
African-American experience, more than 60 years after
its publication - and he lived it. Franklin worked on
the Brown v. Board of Education (1954) case, joined
protestors in a 1965 march led by Martin Luther King,
Jr. in Montgomery, Ala. and headed President Clinton's
1997 national advisory board on race.

He is perhaps best known to the public for his work on
President Clinton's 1997 task force on race. But his
reputation as a scholar was made in 1947 with the
publication of his book, "From Slavery to Freedom: A
History of African-Americans," which is still
considered the definitive account of the black
experience in America.

"My challenge was to weave into the fabric of American
history enough of the presence of blacks so that the
story of the United States could be told adequately and
fairly," he said when the 50th anniversary of the book
was celebrated in 1997. "That was terribly important."

In January 2005, he spoke at Duke at the celebration of
his 90th birthday, displaying the fire that motivated
him throughout his long life. While others at the event
talked about the past and reminisced about his
accomplishments, Franklin focused squarely on the
future. He described the event, held the same day as
President George W. Bush's second inauguration, as a
"counter-inaugural," and gave a talk in the form of a
letter to a fictional white man he called "Jonathan

He recounted some of the historical inequalities in the
United States and recalled some of his own experiences
with racism. He said, for example, that the evening
before he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom
from President Bill Clinton, a woman at his club in
Washington, D.C., asked him to get her coat. Around the
same time, a man at a hotel handed Franklin his car
keys and told him to get his car.

"I patiently explained to him that I was a guest in the
hotel, as I presumed he was, and I had no idea where
his automobile was. And, in any case, I was retired,"
Franklin said. Both of these incidents occurred when he
was in his 80s.

"What these experiences will do to me in the long run,
I do not know. My cardiologist says that they are not
good," he said, continuing with the letter.

"I very much doubt, Mr. Doe, that you have had such
experiences. Your race and your consequent position of
power and privilege have doubtless immunized you from
the experiences that a black person confronts daily,
regardless of his age, education, position or station
in life."

At the time From Slavery to Freedom was published,
there were few scholars working in African-American
history and the books that had been published were not
highly regarded by academics. To write it, he first had
to give himself a course in African-American history,
then spend months struggling to complete the research
in segregated libraries and archives - including
Duke's, where he could not use the bathroom.

Franklin accumulated many honors during his long
career, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom,
the nation's highest civilian honor. He shared the John
W. Kluge Award for lifetime achievement in the
humanities and a similar honor from the American
Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American
Philosophical Society, the nation's two oldest learned

But he also was revered as a "moral leader" of the
historical profession for his engagement in the
pressing issues of the day, his unflagging advocacy of
civil rights, and his gracious and courtly demeanor.

Virtually all of the many articles written about "John
Hope," as he was called by friends and colleagues,
include the words "distinguished" or "elegant." His
devotion to his wife, Aurelia, who died in 1999, was
legendary, as was his love of orchids, which he raised
in his Durham home. He even had one named after him:
Phalaenopsis John Hope Franklin.

Franklin recounted the events of his long life in his
autobiography "Mirror to America: The Autobiography of
John Hope Franklin," which was published in 2005. To
read and hear an interview with Franklin about his
book, go to

The grandson of a slave, Franklin's work was informed
by his first-hand experience with injustices of racism
-- not just in Rentiesville, Okla., the small black
community where he was born on Jan. 2, 1915, but
throughout his life.

Named after John Hope, the former president of Atlanta
University, Franklin was the son of Buck Colbert
Franklin, one of the first black lawyers in the
Oklahoma Indian territory, and Mollie Parker Franklin,
a schoolteacher and community leader

The realities of racism hit Franklin at an early age.
He has said he vividly remembers the humiliating
experience of being put off the train with his mother
because she refused to move to a segregated compartment
for a six-mile trip to the next town. He was 6. Later,
although an academic star at Booker T. Washington High
School and valedictorian of his class, the state would
not allow him to study at the state university because
he was black.

So instead of the University of Oklahoma, in 1931
Franklin enrolled at Fisk University, a historically
black college in Nashville, Tenn., intending to study

However, a white history professor, Theodore Currier,
caused him to change his mind and he received his
bachelor's degree in history in 1935. Currier became a
close friend and mentor and when Franklin's money ran
out, Currier loaned the young student $500 to attend
graduate school at Harvard University, where he
received his master's in 1936 and doctorate five years

He began his career as an instructor at Fisk in 1936
and taught at St. Augustine's and North Carolina
College for Negroes (now North Carolina Central
University), both historically black colleges.

In 1945, Alfred A. Knopf approached him about writing a
book on African-American history - originally titled
>From Slavery to Freedom: A History of American Negroes
-- and he spent 13 months writing it.

Then in 1947, he took a post as professor at Howard
University, where, in the early 1950s, he traveled from
Washington to Thurgood Marshall's law office to help
prepare the brief that led to the historic Brown v.
Board of Education decision.

In 1956 he became chairman of the all-white history
department at Brooklyn College. Despite his position,
he had to visit 35 real estate agents before he was
able to buy a house for his young family and no New
York bank would loan him the money.

Later, while at the University of Chicago, he
accompanied the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on the
march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala. in 1965.

He spent 16 years at the University of Chicago, coming
to Duke in 1982. He retired from the history department
in 1985, then spent seven years as professor of legal
history at the Duke Law School.

Franklin was a prolific writer, with books including
The Emancipation Proclamation, The Militant South, The
Free Negro in North Carolina, George Washington
Williams: A Biography and A Southern Odyssey: Travelers
in the Antebellum North. He also has edited many works,
including a book about his father called My Life and an
Era: The Autobiography of Buck Colbert Franklin, with
his son, John Whittington Franklin. Franklin completed
his autobiography in 2005, which was reviewed favorably
in many media outlets across the country.

He received more than 130 honorary degrees, and served
as president of the Phi Beta Kappa Society, the
American Studies Association, the Southern Historical
Association, the Organization of American Historians
and the American Historical Association.

Franklin's best-known accomplishment in his later years
was in 1997, when he was appointed chairman of the
advisory board for President Clinton's One America: The
President's Initiative on Race. The seven-member panel
was charged with directing a national conversation on
race relations.

When he was named to the post, Franklin remarked, "I am
not sure this is an honor. It may be a burden."

The panel did provoke criticism, both from
conservatives who pressured the panel to hear from
opponents of racial preference and others who said it
did not make enough progress. Franklin himself
acknowledged in an interview with USA Today in 1997
that the group could not solve the nation's racial

But Franklin said the effort was still worth it.

In 2007, lent his formidable effort to the issue of
reparations for African Americans. Franklin returned to
Oklahoma to testify in a hearing urging Congress to
pass legislation that would clear the way for survivors
of the Tulsa Race Riots of 1921, one of the nation's
worst race riots, to sue for reparations.

At Duke, Franklin's legacy has been honored in many
ways. In 2006 he delivered Duke's commencement address.
After celebrating his 90th birthday in January 2005,
Duke held a symposium celebrating the 10th anniversary
of the John Hope Franklin Collection of African &
African American Documentation in the Rare Book,
Manuscript, and Special Collections Library at Duke
University. The event also marked the publication of
his autobiography. A portrait of Franklin was hung in
Perkins Library in 1997.

And, in 2001, Duke opened the John Hope Franklin Center
for Interdisciplinary and International Studies,
(jhfc.duke.edu) where scholars, artists and members of
the community have the opportunity to engage in public
discourse on a variety of issues, including race,
social equity and globalization. At the heart of its
mission is the Franklin Humanities Institute, which
sponsors public events and hosts the Franklin Seminar,
a residential fellowship program for Duke faculty and
graduate students.

For Franklin, who continued his scholarly work and
public appearances full-bore into his 90s, the work he
began in the 1940s still was not finished.

In a statement to the American Academy of Arts and
Letters in 2002, Franklin summed up his own career:
"More than 60 years ago, I began the task of trying to
write a new kind of Southern History. It would be broad
in its reach, tolerant in its judgments of Southerners,
and comprehensive in its inclusion of everyone who
lived in the region. ... the long, tragic history of
the continuing black-white conflict compelled me to
focus on the struggle that has affected the lives of
the vast majority of people in the United States. ...
Looking back, I can plead guilty of having provided
only a sketch of the work I laid out for myself."

In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that
contributions be made to the Aurelia W. and John Hope
Franklin Endowed Scholarship Fund at Fisk University,
c/o Office of Institutional Advancement, 1000 17th
Street North, Nashville, TN 37208. For more
information on John Hope Franklin, please visit the
Franklin Center web site at here
This hero's famous book was/is featured on NPR dot org today. Evidently there's a way to help out more than just Amazon if you order on their site soon...
Purchase Featured Book:

* From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African Americans
* Author: John Hope Franklin and Alfred Moss, Jr.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

CALL to ACTIONS: Legal Challenges By and To Civil RIghts Organizations

Below the following article, see other related items

Legal Challenges By Civil Rights Organizations a Headache for Obama Aministration

Written by William Fisher
Thursday, 26 March 2009

Human rights lawyers are proving to be a major headache for the new administration of President Barack Obama by stepping up their court challenges on issues of prisoner abuse to test the reality of the president’s pledge to create a “an unprecedented level of openness” in government.

A series of current court challenges illustrates the point.

Five years ago, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a Freedom of Information Act request that the Department of Defense release photos showing prisoner abuse by the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan that the public had never seen. The government refused.

Five years later, in September 2008, a unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the George W. Bush administration to release the photos. But, as of today, the government has not complied with the court’s order. The only record the government has released to date is a set of media talking points used by the State Department.

In early March, the DOD asked for a hearing by the full appeals court. That request was denied. The government then asked for a 30-day stay of the court’s mandate.

That prompted ACLU lawyers to write to the Defense Department, asking the government to reconsider its position and release the photos in light of President Barack Obama’s executive order. The Defense Department has not yet replied.

Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU’s National Security Project, told Inter Press Service, "The Obama administration's commitment to transparency is commendable. "We want to make sure that this rhetoric becomes reality."

ACLU attorney Amrit Singh, who argued the case in court, added, "The American public has the right to view these images to know what was done in its name.”

“Release of the photos would send a powerful message that the new administration truly intends to break from the unaccountability of the Bush years," she said.

The government refusal to disclose these images is based on its attempt to radically expand the exemptions allowed under the FOIA for withholding records. The government also claimed that the public disclosure of such evidence would generate outrage and would violate U.S. obligations towards detainees under the Geneva Conventions.

However, the appeals court panel rejected the government's attempt to use exemptions to the FOIA as "an all-purpose damper on global controversy" and recognized the "significant public interest in the disclosure of these photographs" in light of government misconduct. The court also recognized that releasing the photographs is likely to prevent "further abuse of prisoners."

Much of what the public knows about U.S. treatment of prisoners has been learned from the more than 100,000 pages of government documents obtained in response to the ACLU's FOIA lawsuit.

Attorney General Eric Holder recently issued comprehensive new FOIA guidelines that direct all executive branch departments and agencies to apply a presumption of openness when administering the FOIA.

In another case, in 2003, lawyers from the Center for Constitutional Rights, the ACLU, Physicians for Human Rights, Veterans for Common Sense, and Veterans for Peace, filed a FOIA request to the Departments of Defense, State, Homeland Security, and Justice, as well as the CIA, to immediately process and release all records relating to treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody.

When the government failed to respond, the organizations filed a lawsuit charging that these government agencies illegally withheld records concerning the abuse of detainees in American military custody.

Their complaint noted, "Photographs and videos leaked to the press have established beyond any doubt that detainees held in Iraq have been subjected to humiliating and degrading treatment. The government has conceded that numerous detainees have died in custody; at least sixteen of these deaths have been classified as homicides. There is growing evidence that the abuse of detainees was not aberrational but systemic, that in some cases the abuse amounted to torture and resulted in death, and that senior officials either approved of the abuse or were deliberately indifferent to it."

In 2005, a federal district court judge ordered the government to release 74 photos and three videos. The DOD and the Army appealed the district court’s decision. A year later, the Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s decision, dismissing the government’s appeal. But the government still has not released the photos and videos.

In other cases, human rights lawyers have filed two court challenges against the Obama administration's treatment of Guantanamo detainees and its future plans for the men, most of whom have been held for years without trial.

One motion was filed on behalf of Chinese Uighur, Huzaifat Parhat. He was among 17 Uighurs ordered released by a U.S. court last June, seven years after their arrest, but who remain in detention at Guantanamo Bay.

Lawyers filed a motion of contempt against Secretary of Defense Robert Gates denouncing his "continued refusal to comply with a final order" by the appeals court to release Parhat, the document said.

The lawyers also demanded that a new court ruling should include "a threat of sanctions" in order to ensure Gates complies with the order to release Parhat.

Yet another lawsuit filed by about 15 Guantanamo inmates took issue with new rules laid down by the administration of President Obama earlier this month justifying the state's right to hold terror suspects.

On March 13, the Justice Department said it was dropping the "enemy combatant" designation for terror suspects and vowed to apply international law to its detention policies. It said only those who "substantially supported" the Al-Qaeda network, Taliban Islamic militants or "associated forces" would be held under such laws.

But the detainees' lawyers minimized the new policy as only a "partial retreat" from the positions held under the previous administration of former president Bush.

"The conceptual approach they now advance has not greatly changed," they argued in the court filing.

They also lashed out at the government for justifying detaining suspects without charge or trial solely on the basis of a congressional decision authorizing the U.S.-led "war on terror" after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The political decision to hold suspects indefinitely without charge because they are deemed too dangerous to be free is a policy choice that under the US Constitution "must be resolved by Congress, not by the executive branch," they wrote.

In a fourth case, lawyers for 30 Guantanamo detainees filed a motion accusing the Obama administration of violating the Geneva Conventions in its treatment of the estimated 240 prisoners remaining at the controversial prison camp.

Obama has vowed to close the camp within the next 12 months, and has ordered individual reviews of the cases against each of the remaining prisoners.

Civil libertarians are perplexed by some of the early actions the Obama administration has taken in court. In two recent cases, lawyers for the Obama Justice Department have invoked the same “state secrets” defense used by President Bush’s administration.

They are also disappointed by the lack of media interest in issues of prisoner detention and treatment. Based on questions asked of President Obama during many interviews and during his two recent press conferences, the mainstream press appears to have little interest in these issues. So these questions are likely to be resolved in the courtroom.

Since the terrorist attacks of 9/111, the judicial branch has rebuffed many of the policies and practices of the Bush Administration. But with a large proportion of Bush appointees now sitting as federal judges, how their future decisions will impact the Obama Administration remains unclear.

Last Updated on Thursday, 26 March 2009
The following from Bill of Rights Defense Committee (this form is easy to copy, paste and send to others - minus hyper-links)

Dissent Is Patriotic

The Bill of Rights Defense Committee's e-mail newsletter
Month 2009, Vol. 8, No. 3

If you receive emails in plain text, note that the online version of our newsletter contains live links. To view the newsletter on BORDC's website please go to www.bordc.org/newsletter/bordcnews8-3.php.

In this issue:
Legislators Propose PATRIOT Act Extensions--Start Organizing Now!
People's Campaign for the Constitution News: Hold the Department of Homeland Security Accountable
Law & Policy: Uncovering Constitutional Violations: Opinions on a Truth Commission; Leaked Red Cross Report Calls Detainee Treatment Torture
Grassroots News: Silver Springs, MD -- National Organizations Call on MD Legislature to Stop Police Spying; Tacoma, WA -- Innovative Tactics Help BORDC-Tacoma Expose Detention Center Abuses
New Resources: Congress in the Classroom - An Opportunity for Educators
BORDC News: Summer Internship with BORDC


Please support BORDC's work to defend the Bill of Rights! Contribute funds or stock online or mail a check or money order to:

Bill of Rights Defense Committee
8 Bridge Street, Suite A
Northampton, MA 01060

Legislators Propose PATRIOT Act Extensions--Start Organizing Now!
On March 12, 2009, Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) introduced the Safe and Secure America Act of 2009. The bill, which already has 17 cosponsors, would extend several USA PATRIOT Act provisions set to expire on December 31, 2009, for another ten years-until December 31, 2019. The American Civil Liberties Union summarizes here the applicable provisions as follows [emphasis added]:

Section 215 known as the "library records" provision, but which actually applies to "any tangible thing") which does not require any individualized suspicion to get a court order for any record wanted in intelligence investigations;
Section 206 (known as "John Doe" roving wiretaps in intelligence investigations, which allow multiple phones to be tapped) which does not require law enforcement to ascertain that a suspected foreign terrorist is using the phones being listened to by government agents;
The lone wolf provision (added by the 2004 intelligence bill) which applies the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act's secret surveillance powers to non-US citizens in this country but without requiring that they be acting for a foreign power and without sufficient safeguards.
Just this week, FBI Director Robert Mueller, who served under Bush as well as Obama, told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he supports the reauthorization of Sections 215 and 206.

Although the sunsets of these PATRIOT Act provisions are still more than eight months away, the fight over whether they will be extended or allowed to expire has already begun. In our last sunset fight over PATRIOT Act in 2006, despite the coordinated efforts of BORDC and other national and local organizations, many of the PATRIOT Act's most egregious violations of civil liberties-including those that would be extended by the Safe and Secure America Act-were reauthorized. We can't let it happen again.

If we are to prevent the renewal or extension of PATRIOT Act provisions that undermine our civil liberties and deny us our constitutionally guaranteed protections, we must start organizing now. Our opposition has already begun to fight, and so must we.

Join the People's Campaign for the Constitution today and start working with a coalition in your community. If a coalition hasn't already started in your community, help build one. Meet with your senators and representatives-their district work period April 6-17 is a great opportunity-and tell them that you, their constituents, will hold them accountable for protecting and defending the Constitution, as they swore to do in their oaths of office. Use local media, letters to the editor, and public forums to call on your members of Congress to block any effort to extend PATRIOT Act provisions that harm civil liberties. Get started now.

We at BORDC are here to support your local efforts in any way we can. Read about upcoming conference calls and other organizing opportunities, or contact Emma Roderick, our grassroots campaign coordinator, for additional information, assistance, and advice.

People's Campaign for the Constitution News
Hold the Department of Homeland Security Accountable

Since its inception, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been characterized by disrespect for human rights and a lack of due process for detainees. We've seen some progress since Obama took office, but not enough. BORDC and the People's Campaign for the Constitution are joining with the Detention Watch Network and the Rights Working Group in their National Week of Action to Hold DHS Accountable this April 8-15. Working together, we can restore the constitutional values of due process and human rights. Read our latest PCC blog post for more information about how to organize an event in your community for the National Week of Action.

Get Involved in the People's Campaign for the Constitution!

Join PCC Members for a Conference Call - Interested in organizing a local coalition but don't know where to start? Want to host a house party in support of the People's Campaign for the Constitution? Have local organizing experience that you'd like to share? PCC Members are invited to take part in a conference call Monday, April 6, at 9 p.m. EST. Connect with other activists and plan your next moves. To RSVP/get information about the call, email Emma.

Help Start an Affinity Group - The PCC isn't just for local coalitions-we're forming affinity groups for students, educators, clergy, attorneys, librarians, doctors, and people fluent in languages other than English. These groups will use their commonality to rally supporters and call for change. To be involved in an affinity group, email Emma and put the group you're interested in joining in the subject. Want to start an affinity group other than the ones listed above? Just email Emma and she'll help you get started.

Share Your News - We want to publish your PCC experiences-successes, challenges, new ideas-in our newsletter and on our PCC blog. If you have something to share, email Emma!

Not a PCC Member? What Are You Waiting For? - Visit the People's Campaign for the Constitution website and join today! Emma will contact you shortly after you sign up to help you get started.

Law & Policy
Uncovering Constitutional Violations: Opinions on a Truth Commission

Last month, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) announced that, as the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he wanted to convene a "truth commission" to investigate the national security policies and executive powers of the Bush administration. Specifically, Leahy wants to establish such a commission to investigate allegations of torture and policies on interrogation and surveillance, but the commission would not seek to prosecute government officials.

After more than seven years of constitutional violations and civil liberties abuses in the name of national security and the so-called "war on terror," America needs to know the truth about its government's actions. In fact, a February poll "found that 62 percent of Americans favor a criminal investigation or an independent panel to look into the use of torture, illegal wiretapping, and other alleged abuses of power by the Bush administration." However, people across the political spectrum disagree about whether and how to go about uncovering abuses and no single opinion prevails as to the best way to move forward.

Leahy's truth commission proposal has many backers. BORDC Advisory Board member, Georgetown University law professor, and author David Cole wrote, in a blog post for The New York Times,

As a legal matter, we are compelled to investigate by the Convention Against Torture, a binding treaty, that requires its signatories to investigate and refer for possible prosecution credible evidence of torture under their jurisdiction.…

Some complain that a truth commission is not enough-and that crimes require criminal prosecutions.… At this point, it is too early to conclude that prosecution is either required or ruled out. But it is too late to deny that a serious independent investigation is necessary.

In that same New York Times post, American University law professor Kenneth Anderson argued that "evoking the idea of a 'truth commission' is needlessly inflammatory," and that Congress's calling for such a commission "underrates the authority already in the Constitution to investigate and prohibit illegal actions by any branch of government."

Others have made their own suggestions. House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers has called for a bipartisan Blue Ribbon Commission on war powers and civil liberties that would have subpoena powers and a broader mandate than Leahy's proposed "truth commission." The American Civil Liberties Union, on the other hand, has called for the establishment of a Select Committee to work alongside Senator Leahy's truth commission, "believing that the combination of both committees would be an effective format for congressional review of Bush administration policies."

Some, including Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, have advocated for a special prosecutor to be assigned to investigate torture allegations: "A criminal investigation and prosecution of the torture conspirators is a necessity, not a choice.… Unless government officials know that consequences follow from such abuses, they will break the law again."

Still others have said that investigating allegations against the Bush administration is a bad idea. A USA Today editorial argued that any investigation would be polarizing and take focus away from more important national issues such as the economy and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In response to questions about how he wishes to address allegations against the Bush administration, President Obama has said that he is "more interested in looking forward than I am in looking backwards."

Deciding whether and how to go about investigating torture, warrantless surveillance, and other constitutional and human rights violations perpetrated under claims of national security cannot wait. To know the truth, we must investigate while documents exist and memories are clear. Opinions abound, and there are many reasonable positions. However, one thing is certain: America has the right to know the truth about acts done in its name. Now, it is time for America to decide just how to go about finding that truth.

Leaked Red Cross Report Calls Detainee Treatment Torture

In the April 9 edition of the New York Review of Books, journalism professor and author Mark Danner published excerpts of a confidential report, issued by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), on U.S. interrogation practices. The documents, which were leaked to Danner, contain interviews with detainees regarding their treatment at CIA "black sites" and describe the behavior of the interrogators as "torture." Though accounts of detainee mistreatment have been previously reported, Danner explained the significance of this particular report to the Washington Post: "It could not be more important that the ICRC explicitly uses the words 'torture' and 'cruel and degrading.'…The ICRC is the guardian of the Geneva Conventions, and when it uses those words, they have the force of law."

The testimony of the 14 detainees held first at CIA black sites and then at Guantánamo is highly credible because, as each prisoner was held in isolation, none had the chance to corroborate his story with another. Danner does not make clear exactly why he chose to publish the report, which was intended to remain confidential, but more on his point of view, as well as small excerpts from the report, can be found in his recent New York Times op-ed.

Grassroots News
National Organizations Call on MD Legislature to Stop Police Spying

Silver Spring, MD--All eyes are on Maryland as this month, BORDC joins more than twenty national organizations (including the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, DownsizeDC.org, the National Organization for Women, and United for Peace and Justice) in signing the Defending Dissent Foundation's Open Letter to the Maryland General Assembly, urging them to pass the Freedom of Association and Assembly Protection Act (HB182/SB256). The letter stresses the importance this legislation has on our entire country: if Maryland can pass strong anti-spying legislation, it will set a precedent for change at the federal level.

The legislation is largely a response to unconstitutional actions of the Maryland Police Department, who spent more than a year infiltrating activist groups and spying on hundreds of activists in "preparation" for an event at which protests were expected. See the January and February 2009 issues of this newsletter for previous stories on police spying in Maryland

Innovative Tactics Help BORDC-Tacoma Expose Detention Center Abuses

Tacoma, WA--BORDC-Tacoma will have to wait at least until a June 26 hearing to find out whether city officials may release Northwest Detention Center (NDC) building plans and related documents promised last month. This document dispute is the latest chapter in BORDC-Tacoma's five-year watchdog relationship with the federal immigration prison owned and operated by The GEO Group, Inc., a Florida-based, for-profit corporation that manages prisons throughout the United States and the world. The Tacoma facility was built on a former toxic waste dump near coastal wetlands, and BORDC-Tacoma has tirelessly investigated and made public not only environmental concerns with the site, but also the toxic and inhumane treatment of those incarcerated there.

See the January and February 2009 issues of this newsletter for previous stories on BORDC-Tacoma's work to prevent expansion of the facility, and on surveillance of the activists by local police.

CorpWatch reports that, in spite of persistent allegations of prisoner abuse at NDC and other prisons operated by GEO Group across the county, as well as riots by the prisoners themselves, "[d]etaining immigrants has become a profitable business" with "no signs of slowing down." Writing for CorpWatch, Erin Rosa notes further that "GEO reported impressive quarterly earnings of $20 million on February 12, 2009, along with an annual income of $61 million for 2008-up from $38 million the year before."

BORDC-Tacoma keeps tabs on GEO and the NDC through creative use of the Tacoma "Adopt-a-Spot" program: they have adopted the street on which the detention facility is located and relentlessly collect litter along the site, some of which has proved extremely informative and revealing. Watch this KING5 News video for an overview of these quintessential grassroots tactics.

Want your group's actions included in our next newsletter?
Send information about your actions and events to Emma, our grassroots campaign coordinator!

New Resources
Congress in the Classroom: An Opportunity for Educators

BORDC strongly encourages educators to make current constitutional issues a part of their curriculum, from grade school through university. We are pleased to pass along the following opportunity for educators interested in expanding and improving the way they teach about Congress and the Constitution.

Congress in the Classroom is a national, award-winning education program now in its 17th year. Developed and sponsored by The Dirksen Congressional Center, the workshop is dedicated to the exchange of ideas and information on teaching about Congress.

…Congress in the Classroom [is designed] for high school or middle school teachers who teach U.S. history, government, civics, political science, or social studies. Forty teachers will be selected in 2009 to take part in the program. All online applications must be received by no later than April 15, 2009. We will notify individuals of our decisions by April 30, 2009.
along the following opportunity for educators interested in expanding and improving the way they teach about Congress and the Constitution.

…[T]he 2009 program will focus on two themes: (1) developments in the 111th Congress, and (2) new resources for teaching about Congress. The workshop consists of two types of sessions: those that focus on recent research and scholarship about Congress (and don't always have an immediate application in the classroom) and those geared to specific ways to teach students about the federal legislature.

For more information and the online application, visit the Congress in the Classroom website. Also check out BORDC's resources for educators. And if you're interested in connecting with a network of educators working on these issues, contact Emma to join the educators affinity group.

Summer Internship with BORDC

The Bill of Rights Defense Committee is currently seeking applicants for our 2009 summer internship. The intern selected will work in our Northampton, MA, office to assist and advance the Bill of Rights defense movement. See the internship job description for information on how to apply.

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Binyam Mohamed's Courage - But what is there to say about US/Britain?


Be sure to note that there may yet be a 54-55 page or so document at Reprieve & there may be other items put out by now via Mohamed's lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith.

The following were posted by Candace Gorman at GTMO documents dot blogspot dot com A link was origianally from Reprieve:

Binyam Mohamed

Analysis of the main points of the case

Queen on the Application of Binyam Mohamed


Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

(August 21, 2008)

Open Judgment at: http://www.judiciary.gov.uk/docs/judgments_guidance/mohamed_full210808.pdf

Summary of Open Judgment at:


* * *

Note: This analysis is provided by Reprieve, and should not be considered an official report. However, the following are the main points made in the judgment:

The Foreign Secretary (David Miliband) is being given time to reconsider his position.

The ultimate effect of the judgment is to give David Miliband a week (until the next hearing, set for Wednesday, August 27, 2008) to consider what evidence he is going to provide to Binyam Mohamed’s defence. Previously the UK government took the following position in letters to us:

“the UK is under no obligation under international law to assist foreign courts and tribunals in assuring that torture evidence is not admitted” and
“it is HM Government’s position that … evidence held by the UK Government that US and Moroccan authorities engaged in torture or rendition cannot be obtained” by his British lawyers.

This position is untenable. The judgment gives him time now to reconsider his position, and hopefully agree with counsel as to what should be made available to the defence, before the second hearing. Indeed, “we were told that the Foreign Secretary would in any event wish to reconsider the position in the light of any findings we made….” (UK Judgment at 104)

If the Foreign Secretary cannot agree with the Special Advocates as to what should be revealed, the various factors militating towards disclosure “will have to be considered at the next hearing before any final [disclosure] order is made.” (UK Judgment at 89)

With respect to the materials that have been kept secret to date, “the Foreign Secretary would need to make a decision on each piece of information or each document or redacted document if the court thought it should be disclosed under the Norwich Pharmacal principles. The Special Advocates contended that no claim of Public Interest Immunity could like in respect of information which pointed to the commission of serious criminal offences, particularly those contrary to the rules of jus cogens in international law. We formed the view that the better courts was to hear that argument in the context of all the issues on public interest immunity.” (UK Judgment at 89)

If it comes to this, “we will, in the unique circumstances of this case, order the provision of the specific information broadly described as Type A in a form to be agreed or decided by us.” (UK Judgment at 99) This refers to the discussion on pages 86-87 and would include any evidence at all relating to Binyam Mohamed’s renditions, as well as to the personnel on board the flights; any evidence relating to Binyam Mohamed’s treatment, including the denial of UK access to him, all evidence related to the SyS visit to interview him, information provided to the US that would tend to prove that Binyam Mohamed was “a nobody, only a cleaner from London”, any other information about him, and any evidence that the UK has failed to provide Binyam Mohamed with the assistance that he should have been provided. (UK Judgment at 86-87) At this point, the judges will not order disclosure of broader information about what the UK knew generally about US renditions, or the treatment of other prisoners in the locations where Binyam Mohamed was held. (UK Judgment at 87-88)

Binyam Mohamed clearly was tortured, and the UK materials are crucial to prove this.

Importantly, the Court concludes that the US rejection of Binyam Mohamed’s torture as “not credible” is, itself, “untenable”:

“The unreasoned dismissal by the United States Government of [Binyam Mohamed]’s allegations [that he was rendered and tortured] as ‘not credible’ as recorded in the letter of 22 July 2008 is untenable, as it was made after consideration of almost all the material provided to us.”

(UK Judgment at 97)

The scope of Binyam’s torture across two continents

The Court canvasses the allegations of torture that are at stake here. It should be noted that all of this evidence is effectively unrebutted, and the US has only even sought to respond to the allegation that a razor blade was taken to his genitalia.[1]

Torture in Pakistan:

It is “common ground that BM was detained unlawfully and incommunicado in Pakistan, he was denied access to a lawyer and his detention was not reviewed by a court or tribunal.” (UK Judgment at 42)

The judgment relates, “he was hung by a leather strap around his wrists so he could only just stand” (UK Judgment at 20) – this was a torture known as strappado by the Spanish Inquisition.

He was only allowed to the toilet twice a day, and given food every second day. (UK Judgment at 20)

He was told he would be rendered for torture in Jordan. (UK Judgment at 20)

The Pakistanis beat him and held a gun to his head (UK Judgment at 21) and he thought he was going to die.

Torture in Morocco

It is unrebutted that he was taken to Morocco by a CIA rendition plane on 22 July 2002. (UK Judgment at 28)

The court does not go into all the details of his torture, but mentions the following facts--

He was “severely beaten” (UK Judgment at 28)

He was “subjected to sleep deprivation” (UK Judgment at 28)

“[H]is penis and private parts were cut with a scalpel.” (UK Judgment at 29)

The Court holds as follows:

“It was accepted on behalf of the Foreign Secretary that BM had established an arguable case that:

After being subject to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment in Pakistan, he was unlawfully rendered from Pakistan to Morocco by the United States authorities.

Whilst in Morocco he was subject to unlawful incommunicado detention and torture during his interrogation there by or on behalf of the United States authorities.

He was unlawfully rendered by the United States authorities from Morocco to Afghanistan on 21 or 22 January 2004.

He was detained unlawfully and incommunicado at the ‘Dark Prison’ near Kabul and thereafter at the United States Air Force base at Bagram.

He was tortured or subject to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment by or on behalf of the United States authorities in the ‘Dark Prison’.”

(UK Judgment at 43)

As for why this was done, Binyam Mohamed: “was told that the United States wanted a story from him and he was to testify against others in relation to matters such as the dirty bomb.” (UK Judgment at 28)

He was questioned about material that apparently came from the UK. (UK Judgment at 29)

Torture in Afghanistan

He was rendered to Afghanistan on 21 or 22 January 2004. (UK Judgment at 29)

In the “Prison of Darkness” he “was deprived of sleep, blasted with sound, starved and then beaten and hung up. During this period he alleges that he was interrogated by the CIA and threatened with further torture if he did not provide the story that the United States wanted.” (UK Judgment at 29)

He was then “subjected to further mistreatment” in Bagram. (UK Judgment at 30)

The UK was clearly complicit in wrongdoing

The court concludes that the UK was legally complicit in the wrongdoing, sufficient to create a legal obligation to help right the wrong. The essential facts are as follows:

Nobody disputes that Mr. Mohamed was illegally held in Pakistan by the US, and that the UK nonetheless benefited from the illegality by interrogating him there. (UK Judgment at 19) The UK knew about Pakistan’s “poor human rights record.” (UK Judgment at 19) Yet the UK exploited this, apparently lodged no complaint, and did nothing to bring it to anyone’s attention to do anything about it.

Indeed, the UK told Binyam Mohamed they would help him only if he did what the US wanted (“cooperating” with them). Witness B asked what he could do to help Mr. Mohamed. (UK Judgment at 21) “It is clear that what [Witness B] said to [Binyam Mohamed] was, in effect, that the United Kingdom would not attempt to assist him unless BM persuaded him that he was cooperating fully.” (UK Judgment at 56)

Then the UK realized that he had been rendered somewhere else and did nothing to prevent it – indeed, continued to exploit it by sending questions to be asked of him. “It is clear that they [the UK authorities] must have appreciated that he was not in a regular United States facility, that the facility in which he was being detained and questioned was that of a foreign government (other than Afghanistan) and that the United States had direct access to information being obtained from him.” (UK Judgment at 56)

“The SyS was supplying information as well as questions which they knew were to be used in interviews of BM from the time of his arrest whilst he was being held incommunicado and without access to a lawyer or review by a court or tribunal.” (UK Judgment at 56)

“The conduct of the SyS facilitated interviews by or on behalf of the United States when BM was being detained by the United States” including when he had been rendered to another country. (UK Judgment at 57)

The UK then received information from the US that was clearly the fruit of his abuse. The UK received a report from the US in September 2002 (UK Judgment at 26) that apparently came from the torture chambers of Morocco.

The UK received another report in February 2003 (UK Judgment at 27) that must have been derived from Morocco, as he had been there for 7 months by then.

Thus, the Court concludes, the action of the UK “in connection with BM was far beyond that of a bystander or witness to the alleged wrongdoing.” (UK Judgment at 58)

Witness B initially wanted to assert his right to remain silent. There were “questions [that] would touch on commission of offences under the criminal law given the very wide scope of the International Criminal Courts Act 2001.” (UK Judgment at 49) These involved accessory to war crimes, and “assisting an offender or concealing the commission of an offence.” (UK Judgment at 49-50) War crimes includes “torture or inhuman treatment” as well as “wilfully causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or health.” (UK Judgment at 50) The Court would not hold this against him, but it does appear clear from the judgment that UK officials are exposed to criminal liability under the ICC Act.

What the UK knew and when

The UK tried to downplay what it knew and when. However, they clearly knew about rendition by the time Bisher al Rawi and Jamil el Banna were picked up in the Gambia and rendered to the Dark prison in Kabul. (UK Judgment at 22)

They realized that their “intelligence was coming from a detention facility which was outside and away from Guantánamo.” (UK Judgment at 23)

Here, Reprieve will shortly issue a report on what was public knowledge at what date, to demonstrate that the UK had to have known much more than they are saying.

Helpful materials in UK hands

There is elaborate reference in the judgment to the various things in UK hands that could help Binyam Mohamed. It must be remembered that the US authorities will not even agree that they rendered Mr. Mohamed, so the defence must expect to have to prove everything short of the sun rising in the East each day.

“It is in effect an acceptance by the Foreign Secretary that he has in his possession material that is potentially exculpatory or otherwise relevant to the proceedings before the United States Military Commission.” (UK Judgment at 34)

Indeed, the British materials assist Binyam Mohamed in proving his case in various ways, identified by the Court as “not only necessary but essential if [Binyam Mohamed] is to be able to put forward a defence to the very serious charges he faces, given the confessions made by him at Bagram…” (UK Judgment at 65) “Our reasons are set out in the closed judgment, but as can be seen from the summary of our findings … the information also provides the only support independent of [Binyam Mohamed] in some material particulars for his general account of events which led to the confessions.” (UK Judgment at 66) Some of these important materials are as follows:

One fact that Mr. Mohamed’s defense must prove is the very fact that he was rendered to torture – which might seem incontrovertible, but the US Administration cannot admit it, as they have stated publicly so many times that they do not render to torture.[2] So this will be strongly contested in any US process. The fact “that he could not be located by the United Kingdom authorities and that access to him was denied to the United Kingdom authorities … support[] his account of rendition.” (UK Judgment at 65) In other words, since the US hid a British resident even from the UK government for two years when all other UK residents in places like Bagram and Guantánamo Bay were accessible to the UK, this is strong evidence that the US was acting illegally.

“The information disclosing the provision of information to the United States authorities in October 2002 supported his account of what was put to him whilst being tortured in Morocco.” (UK Judgment at 65) What this means is that the statements Binyam Mohamed made in 2005 about UK materials being used to interrogate him in Morocco matches what the UK now admits it gave to the US, that was then used by the Moroccans to make Mr. Mohamed understand that everyone was against him, and his position was hopeless, so he might as well say what they wanted him to say.

The main allegation against Mr. Mohamed is that he plotted with Jose Padilla to make a “dirty bomb” attack on the US. While this allegation was dismissed against Padilla in 2005, and has been dismissed as incredible by many commentators, the US still seeks to charge Mr. Mohamed with it in a military commissions. The UK information shows “that [Binyam Mohamed] at the outset said there was no dirty bomb plot (as position he has consistently maintained to his defense lawyers).” (UK Judgment at 65) Of course, this changed when he was tortured, but the fact that he told the UK this is strong evidence that his later ‘confessions’ were false, and were tortured out of him.

The most important material discussed in the open UK Judgment is that “BM said the report of a dirty bomb was ‘the FBI perception’. The real story was that he had seen a file on a computer in Lahore and decided it was a joke – part of the instruction included adding bleach to uranium 238 in a bucket and rotating it around one’s head for 45 minutes.” (UK Judgment at 17-18)

This is corroborated by a website that says exactly what Binyam related in 2002. See the website discussed at length at How (Not) to Build a Thermonuclear Bomb, http://port80.blogsome.com/2005/03/13/how-not-to-build-a-thermonuclear-bomb/ (“This morning, a piece has been making the rounds of the blogosphere claiming that a member on a terrorist forum has posted instructions for how to make a hydrogen bomb. *** This forum post is priceless. *** Perhaps the high point of this instructions is the author’s advice on enrichment of uranium hexaflouride: ‘First transform the gas into a liquid by subjecting it to pressure. You can use a bicycle pump for this. Then make a simple home centrifuge. Fill a standard-size bucket one-quarter full of liquid uranium hexafluoride. Attach a six-foot rope to the bucket handle. Now swing the rope (and attached bucket) around your head as fast as possible. Keep this up for about 45 minutes. Slow down gradually, and very gently put the bucket on the floor. The U-235, which is lighter, will have risen to the top, where it can be skimmed off like cream. Repeat this step until you have the required 10 pounds of uranium. (Safety note: Don’t put all your enriched uranium hexafluoride in one bucket. Use at least two or three buckets and keep them in separate corners of the room. This will prevent the premature build-up of a critical mass.)’ There are two primary problems with these instructions: The difference in mass between an molecule of uranium hexaflouride with U-235 and a molecule of uranium hexaflouride with U-238 is precisely 3 neutrons. Since these substances are chemically identical, they will tend to mix with currents in the bucket, and not separate “like cream.” Thus, the force exerted by a spinning bucket will not even begin to produce enriched U-235. Real centrifuge enrichment processes use thousands of extremely high speed centrifuges, one feeding the next, to create highly enriched uranium. *** At room temperature and pressure, uranium hexaflouride is a solid.

Binyam Mohamed has been forced to confess that he got a passport from KSM, which is one of the allegations that has been made against him, and the UK materials prove that this is false, as Mr. Mohamed has reported to his lawyers. “The information had, for example, shown that he had one fake passport and not two (as is charged…” (UK Judgment at 65)

The fact that Witness B assessed him as being non-compliant with the US, and ready to maintain what he was saying to the Americans (UK Judgment at 65; see also 18) is crucial. This shows why the US lost patience with him, thinking that the dirty bomb plot was real, and decided in July 2002 to render him for torture in a country willing to do things to him that the US could not. The US thought (erronesously) he knew more than he was saying, and why ultimately he was rendered for torture – even though what he was really doing was refusing to talk to the US (he did talk to the UK) because he knew his rights, and he had nothing related to them that he had to say.

The UK questioned Mr. Mohamed about US reports (made to the UK) that he was saying that there would be future attacks by al Qaida. “He thought another major attack could happen – this was his assessment, but he did not know [one would] although the FBI thought he did.” (UK Judgment at 18) Again, this shows why the US rendered him. They thought he knew about an impending attack. Actually, what he had said was all he knew – that it seemed likely to him (as it did to most people) that al Qaida would not give up after 9/11 but would try other attacks.

These are only some of the factual proofs that can be made by the defence with access to the UK materials. There are others no doubt in the materials being held as secret. However, this shows how important these materials are.

The Disturbing US failure to investigate

The Court identifies a very disturbing failure on the part of the US to show any interest at all in the investigation of the allegations that Mr. Mohamed has been tortured.

The US has taken the position to the UK that “‘based on a review of records and consultations’ the allegations made by counsel to [Mr. Mohamed] that are reflected in [the Foreign Secretary’s] letter [to the US] were ‘not credible.’” (UK Judgment at 36) As noted above, the Court finds this decision by the US itself to be “untenable”.

The UK has a strong “positive obligation to ensure that torture was to be discouraged and its fruit not used in legal proceedings…. There were therefore the strongest public policy reasons for providing the information. The United States authorities had said there was no credible evidence in respect of the allegations. They refused to examine the allegations. They had failed to disclosure any material as to BM’s whereabouts or his treatment before his arrival at Bagram or even say where he was.” (UK Judgment at 103)

The Disturbing US failure to exculpatory materials

Ultimately, the UK obligation to help Binyam Mohamed with facts that could prove his innocence is grounded, in part, on the fact that the US is not fulfilling its own obligation to provide this information.

“[T]he Foreign Secretary no longer contends that the United States military prosecutors will disclose the [exculpatory] material.” (UK Judgment at 35; see also id. at 36, 62) “The explanation for this is set out in the closed UK Judgment.” (UK Judgment at 62) We do not know what this explanation is, but it is fascinating to consider how the UK came to the conclusion that the US could not be trusted to fulfil its obligation to provide Mr. Mohamed with the discovery that is his right. Presumably, since this is being kept secret, they know something about the process that we do not.

Even if forced to turn material over, the Court concludes that the US authorities will delay as much as possible: “there are grounds, given what has happened since information was discovered in the United Kingdom, which would lend support to the view that the United States Government will seek to delay as long as possible the disclosure of not only … the information and documentation provided by the United Kingdom Government, but other information and documentation which it undoubtedly also has or had in its possession.” (UK Judgment at 82)

Thus “despite the possibility of provision of the information in the processes under the United State Military Commissions Act at some point in the future, the Foreign Secretary should nonetheless now provide the information to [Binyam Mohamed]’s lawyers.” (UK Judgment at 80)

The Court appears offended by the extent to which the US government has been resisting disclosure, even to the extent of admitting where they held Mr. Mohamed for two years: “the United States Government has also, so far, refused to provide [Binyam Mohamed’s] lawyers with any information as to where he was or indeed what they contend happened to him in the period of 2 years between May 2002 and May 2004.” (UK Judgment at 28; see also id. at 64)

There can be no credible argument made that the US does not have this information: “it is inconceivable that there are no documents in the possession of the United States Government that relate to what happened to BM in the two year period from April 2002 to May 2004. There must be documents that record or evidence his movements, his custody and his treatment when interviewed. We have been given no reason why such documents cannot now be produced by United States military prosecutors and can think of none.” (UK Judgment at 81)

“We can think of no good reason why the materials have not now been made available by the United States Government to BM’s lawyers in confidence and subject to the strict conditions of secrecy in which part of the proceedings before the Military Commissions operate….” (UK Judgment at 97)

The Court goes into a lengthy discussion of just how wrong this is:

“It is of particular significance that the United States Government has refused to provide any information as to BM’s location during the period between May 2002 and May 2004. The fact that no explanation has been provide to date (despite the disclosure in the earlier proceedings) is a matter of serious concern in relation to the practical operation of the disclosure procedures before the United States Military Commission and a point towards the very real difficulties that BM’s lawyers may face in obtaining information under the United States Military Commissions proceedings. It might have been thought self evident that the provision of information as to the whereabouts of a person in custody would cause no particular difficulty, given that it is a basic and long established value in any democracy that the location of those in custody is made known to the detainee’s family and those representing him.

“To deny him this [discovery] at this time would be to deny him the opportunity of timely justice in respect to the charges against him, a principle dating back to at least the time of the Magna Carta and which is so basic a part of our common law and of democratic values.” (UK Judgment at 98)

In the closed sessions in court, it is apparent that the UK government has expressed its frustration and strong disapproval of the failure to disclose such basic information. “It is clear that the United Kingdom Government considers that such material should be made available. All its strenuous actions have been directed to that end. It is its view that the material should be made available by the United States Government which has so far declined to do so. It has therefore been compelled to resist this claim. We set out reasons for so concluding in the closed part of the judgment.” (UK Judgment at 98-99) It is reasonable to conclude that in the closed part of the hearing, the UK expressed its frustrations at the US inactions, and explained that the US insisted that it resist disclosure of materials that would embarrass the US.

Urgency of the action

This is related partly to the need to convince the Convening Authority not to proceed, and partly because “there is a continuing deterioration in BM’s mental health.” (UK Judgment at 81)

The Court is also rather offended that the Convening Authority has not seen fit even to respond to its request that she consider delaying the process in order to obtain the facts that may become available: “It is a matter of considerable regret that no response was received [from the Convening Authority], despite our request in the course of the hearing.” (UK Judgment at 40)

Quotes on torture

There are plenty of powerful quotes on torture:

“It does not seem to me that one can condemn torture while making use of the mute confession resulting from torture, because the effect is to encourage torture.” UK Judgment at 9, quoting A (No. 2) [2006] 2 AC 22 (Lord Bingham).

“the use of torture by a state is dishonourable, corrupting and degrading the [to] State which uses it and the legal system which accepts it.” (UK Judgment at 90)

“As the United States court put it in Filartiga v. Pena-Irala, (1980) 630 F.2d 876, ‘the torturer has become like the pirate and the slave trader before him, hostis humani generis, an enemy of all mankind.’” (UK Judgment at 91)

“it is a principle at the heart of our systems of justice that evidence of involuntary confessions obtained by such means are inadmissible at trial. The principle in relation to involuntary confessions dates back at least to the decision in 1783 in R v. Warickshall 1 Leach 263 at 263-4, where the court stated: ‘a confession forced from the mind by the flattery of hope, or by the torture of fear comes in so questionable a shape when it is to be considered as the evidence of guilt, that no credit out to be given to is; and therefore it is rejected.’” (UK Judgment at 95)

“It is therefore self evident that for many centuries the common law has excluded evidence obtained by torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment which can never be used to secure a conviction of the victim.” (UK Judgment at 96)

“To hold that the court may turn a blind eye to executive lawlessness beyond the frontiers of its own jurisdiction is, to my mind, an insular and unacceptable view.” (UK Judgment at 96), quoting R v. Horseferry Road Magistrates Court ex parte Bennett [1994] 1 AC 42 at 67F-H (Lord Bridge).

“No statement that is verified as having been obtained through the use of torture shall be admissible as evidence in a legal proceeding…” (UK Judgment at 120), quoting Article 10, Inter-American Convention to ...

The US makes nothing more than a flat denial even there, saying that there were no signed of razorblading on his penis – which ignores the fact that torturers use razors for the very reason that, as all shavers know, cuts do not leave obvious scars, and more sophisticated methods must be used to assess the damage.

For example, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stated categorically as follows: “The United States does not transport, and has not transported, detainees from one country to another for the purpose of interrogation using torture.” Secretary of State Rice, Remarks upon her Departure for Europe, US Dept. of State Website (Dec. 5, 2005), http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2005/57602.htm.

Posted by H. Candace Gorman at 3:57 PM