Posts filed under 'Prisoners'

Selectively Small Government

Funny how Republicans and conservatives are all about small government when it comes to guns, regulating or taxing rich people and corporations, or helping the poor, the sick, and the elderly, yet they can’t get enough government when it comes to voting and registration requirements, security theater, domestic spying, immigrants, drug laws, prisons, abortion, or anything to do with the military.

Why, it’s almost as if “small government” is just a convenient excuse for letting moneyed interests have whatever they want at the expense of everyone else, rather than a bedrock principle conservatives sincerely believe in.

September 5th, 2012 at 07:39am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Corruption/Cronyism,Politics,Prisoners,Republicans,Taxes,Terrorism,Unemployment,Wankers,War

The Real Problem With Socialism

Arizona has decided to let private companies bid on creating a new prison, despite the fact that privately run prisons are actually more expensive than state-run ones.  But that little fact is secondary to the most important problem with any state-run enterprise: No one gets rich off of it. (See also: Why we have healthcare “reform” that features an individual mandate and no public option, much less single payer)

August 28th, 2012 at 11:40am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Corruption/Cronyism,Prisoners,Wankers

The Joy Of Partisanship

One of my biggest disappointments since Obama’s election has been not just Obama’s despicable betrayal of Democratic ideals, but liberals and Democrats’ complete willingness to overlook those ideals simply because he’s nominally a member of the same team.  Conservatives did the exact same thing when Bush was president, but I had really hoped progressives were better than that.

When loyalty trumps principles, those principles become meaningless.  And right now neither party has any recognizable principles other than supreme executive power and blind loyalty to moneyed interests.

March 14th, 2012 at 07:22am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Constitution,Corruption/Cronyism,Democrats,Foreign Policy,Obama,Politics,Prisoners,Republicans,Terrorism,Wankers,War

Why I Can’t Support Obama

Glenn Greenwald and Taylor Marsh helpfully explain why it is impossible to view Obama as a Democrat in any meaningful way other than “less insane and slightly less awful than the Republican candidates”.

No, I’m not going to support Ron Paul or any of the other Republican candidates, but as Taylor Marsh puts it, “Pres. Obama has helped Democrats deliver a climate that this party has threatened since the ’70s would happen if I didn’t vote for them.”

January 3rd, 2012 at 07:11am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Choice,Constitution,Corruption/Cronyism,Elections,Foreign Policy,Obama,Politics,Prisoners,War

Bradley Manning Apparently A Terrorist Now

He’s being treated like one, anyway.  What’s next?  Maybe make him stand in place for a day or two?  Turn the heat off or all the way up?

And then there’s that malaria epidemic floating around Virginia – you can’t be too careful…

March 4th, 2011 at 07:37am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Constitution,Prisoners,Torture,Wankers

Now I Understand Why Berkeley Wants To Hang Onto Yoo

…Because he holds them in such high esteem:

“I think of myself as being West Berlin during the Cold War, a shining beacon of capitalism and democracy surrounded by a sea of Marxism,” Yoo observes, sipping iced tea in the faculty club lounge, a wan smile registering the discomfort of colleagues walking by en route to the bar.

He sees his neighbors as the human figures of “a natural history museum of the 1960s,” the Telegraph Avenue tableau of a graying, long-haired, pot-smoking counterculture stuck in the ideology’s half-century-old heyday.

“It’s like looking at the panoramic displays of troglodytes sitting around the campfire with their clubs. Here, it’s tie-dye and marijuana. It’s just like the 1960s, with the Vietnam War still to protest.”

(…)

Yoo seems at peace living in Berkeley, even though he disparages the community as an enclave of self-satisfied extremists intolerant of those who think outside the liberal mind-set.

“But that doesn’t mean I don’t like it here,” he says.

Don’t let him get away, Berkeley!  He’s quite a prize.  I particularly enjoy the idea of a loyal Bushie and professional torture apologist describing other people as intolerant self-satisfied extremists.

March 29th, 2010 at 07:18pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Constitution,Prisoners,Republicans,Torture,Wankers

Republican Witch Hunt Of The Day

Well, this is thoroughly inappropriate and disgusting:

A day after a conservative group released a video condemning the Justice Department for refusing to identify seven lawyers who previously represented or advocated for terror suspects, Fox News has uncovered the identities of the seven lawyers.

(…)

The video by the group Keep America Safe, which dubbed the seven lawyers “The Al Qaeda 7,” is the latest salvo in a lengthty political battle.

For several months, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has led an effort to uncover politically-appointed lawyers within the Justice Department who have advocated for Guantanamo Bay detainees or other terror suspects.

“The administration has made many highly questionable decisions when it comes to national security, ” Grassley said in a recent statement. “[Americans] have a right to know who advises the Attorney General and the President on these critical matters.”

(…)

Before joining the Justice Department, Jonathan Cedarbaum, now an official with the Office of Legal Counsel, was part of a “firm-wide effort” to represent six Bosnian-Algerian detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, according to the web site of the firm WilmerHale.

That effort brought the case Boumediene v. Bush to the Supreme Court, which reaffirmed the right of detainees to challenge their detention.

So as far as the right is concerned, detainees may have the right to counsel, but attorneys don’t have the right to provide it.  Awesome.

March 4th, 2010 at 11:40am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Politics,Prisoners,Republicans,Terrorism,Wankers

Can Doctors Be “Disbarred”?

Looks like yesterday was Professional Misconduct Day on the NYT op-ed pages.

First, the torture doctors:

According to Justice Department memos released last year, the medical service opined that sleep deprivation up to 180 hours didn’t qualify as torture. It determined that confinement in a dark, small space for 18 hours a day was acceptable. It said detainees could be exposed to cold air or hosed down with cold water for up to two-thirds of the time it takes for hypothermia to set in. And it advised that placing a detainee in handcuffs attached by a chain to a ceiling, then forcing him to stand with his feet shackled to a bolt in the floor, “does not result in significant pain for the subject.”

(…)

The medical basis for these opinions was nonexistent. The Office of Medical Services cited no studies of individuals who had been subjected to these techniques. Its sources included a wilderness medical manual, the National Institute of Mental Health Web site and guidelines from the World Health Organization.

(…)

The shabbiness of the medical judgments, though, pales in comparison to the ethical breaches by the doctors and psychologists involved. Health professionals have a responsibility extending well beyond nonparticipation in torture; the historic maxim is, after all, “First do no harm.” These health professionals did the polar opposite.

Nevertheless, no agency — not the Pentagon, the C.I.A., state licensing boards or professional medical societies — has initiated any action to investigate, much less discipline, these individuals. They have ignored the gross and appalling violations by medical personnel. This is an unconscionable disservice to the thousands of ethical doctors and psychologists in the country’s service. It is not too late to begin investigations. They should start now.

And then the legal profession:

The Supreme Court has a chance to reinforce that fundamental protection in the case of Albert Holland. A Florida prisoner, he did everything he could to ensure that his lawyer filed his habeas corpus petition, which would allow the federal courts to review his state-court conviction for first-degree murder and other crimes.

He continually asked about it, and emphasized the importance of meeting the deadlines. The lawyer repeatedly assured Mr. Holland that he would take care of it, and then missed the habeas deadline. Mr. Holland was given a new lawyer, who argued that due to the first lawyer’s extreme negligence, the failure should be excused under “equitable tolling,” which allows for deadlines to be excused in the broader interests of justice.

The United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit rejected the argument, ruling that even gross negligence by a lawyer does not provide a basis for equitable tolling. Unless there was “bad faith, dishonesty, divided loyalty, mental impairment,” or something of that magnitude, the court said, the deadline would stand.

Disgraceful behavior by Holland’s lawyer, and disgraceful behavior by the appeals court.  I don’t have high hopes for the Supreme Court, but I hope the criminally incompetent lawyer got disbarred (not holding my breath).  And any doctor who facilitated torture should be shunned and shamed, and never allowed to practice medicine ever again.

5 comments March 2nd, 2010 at 07:01am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Judiciary,Media,Prisoners,Terrorism,Torture,Wankers

Jerry Nadler Also Speaks For Me

Jerry Nadler

…By stating the bloody obvious:

Former Vice President Cheney is essentially saying that any acts performed by members of the CIA – no matter how illegal or abhorrent – are ok, and must never be the subject of a criminal investigation. No matter what anyone in the CIA may do, it need not be subject to the law. This is outrageous, and violates just about every traditional American concept of liberty and justice.

It is remarkable that this even needed to be said. And depressing that it is seen as some kind of leftist fringe position.

August 31st, 2009 at 11:05pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Cheney,Constitution,Democrats,Prisoners,Torture

When America Does It, It’s Not Illegal

Shorter Cheney: Laws are for the weak.

A CIA inspector general’s report released Monday documented how interrogators menaced “high-value” detainees with a gun and a power drill, threatened their families and used other methods that went beyond even the permissive interrogation rules set by the Bush administration Justice Department.

Cheney, who strongly opposes the Obama administration’s new probe into alleged detainee abuse, was asked in the Fox News interview whether he was “OK” with interrogations that went beyond Justice’s specific legal authorization.

“I am,” the former vice president replied.

“My sort of overwhelming view is that the enhanced interrogation techniques were absolutely essential in saving thousands of American lives and preventing further attacks,” he said. “It was good policy. It was properly carried out. It worked very, very well.”

In other words, the ends justify the means, even when the means have nothing to do with achieving them.

August 29th, 2009 at 12:55pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Cheney,Constitution,Prisoners,Terrorism,Torture,Wankers

Not The Ethical Reprimand!

YouTube Preview Image

Liz Cheney helpfully explains that it’s not torture that’s the real crime, it’s calling torture torture that’s the real crime:

I hear an awful lot of people out there throwing words around like “torture” and “lines being crossed,” and i think it’s a really, you know, it’s…  it’s irresponsible and frankly it’s libelous because you have got brave Americans, men and women, who were involved in this program at the C.I.A who were involved in making sure that the program didn’t cross any lines at the Justice Department.  Those people were responsible for saving American lives and keeping us safe.  And I think it is offensive for all Americans for this White House to suggest that somehow those actions deserve prosecution or… or… ya-know some sort of ya-know ethical reprimand.

An ethical reprimand?  Good heavens, what kind of inhuman monster does she think Obama is?  First it’s ethical reprimands, and then the next thing you know it’ll be sternly worded letters.  The very fabric of this country could unravel in the face of such extreme sanctions!

May 29th, 2009 at 11:24am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Cheney,Constitution,Media,Prisoners,Republicans,Torture,Wankers

WTF Are They Thinking?

What will it take to get the Democrats to stop sucking?

It’s hard to imagine anything more ridiculous than the suggestion that bringing some of the terror suspects currently incarcerated in Guantanamo to high-security prisons in America will pose a threat to local communities.

It is nothing more than a bogeyman argument, easily refuted with a little common sense. (Isn’t that what prisons are for?) But that’s assuming you don’t spend your every moment living in fear of Republican attack ads questioning your devotion to the security of the country. Or that you have a modicum of respect for the intelligence of the American public.

Ah well. Old habits die hard, I guess. And Senate Democrats apparently remain an easily frightened bunch, after eight years of faint-hearted submission.

(…)

Shailagh Murray writes in The Washington Post: “Under pressure from Republicans and concerned about the politics of relocating terrorism suspects to U.S. soil, Senate Democrats rejected President Obama’s request for funding to close the Guantanamo Bay prison and vowed to withhold federal dollars until the president decides the fate of the facility’s 240 detainees…

“As recently as last week, Senate Democrats had hoped to preserve a portion of Obama’s Guantanamo funding request. But their resolve crumbled in the face of a concerted Republican campaign warning of dire consequences if some detainees ended up in prisons or other facilities in the United States, a possibility that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has acknowledged.”

Specifically, as the Associated Press is now reporting, the Senate voted 90 to 6 today for an amendment that would keep any detainee held in the Guantanamo prison from being transferred to the United States.

But here is the biggest WTF of all. What on earth is Harry Reid talking about here?

Reid: “I think there’s a general feeling… that the American people, and certainly the Senate, overwhelmingly doesn’t want terrorists to be released in the United States. And I think we’re going to stick with that….”

Q. “No one’s talking about releasing them. We’re talking about putting them in prison somewhere in the United States.”

Reid: “Can’t put them in prison unless you release them.”

Q. “Sir, are you going to clarify that a little bit? I mean — ”

Reid: “I can’t — I can’t — I can’t make it any more clear than the statement I have given to you. We will never allow terrorists to be released in the United States. I think the majority — I speak for the majority of the Senate….

Q. “[I]f a detainee is adjudicated not to be a terrorist, could that detainee then enter the United States?”

Reid: “Why don’t we wait for a plan from the president? All we’re doing now is nitpicking on language that I have given you. I’ve been as clear as I can. I think I’ve been pretty clear….”

Q. “But Senator, Senator, it’s not that you’re not being clear when you say you don’t want them released. But could you say — would you be all right with them being transferred to an American prison?”

Reid: “Not in the United States.”

Q. (OFF-MIKE)

Reid: “I think I’ve had about enough of this.”

So… what?  The detainees would just be set free in the U.S. and then rounded and put in prisons?  Huh?  Harry can’t get voted out soon enough. Although if the Republicans were smart they’d leave their secret weapon alone.

Too bad the rest of the Democratic caucus is a bunch of spineless idiots too.

1 comment May 21st, 2009 at 08:52am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Democrats,Politics,Prisoners,Republicans,Wankers

How to Win Votes And Influence People

Torture and unlawful detentions yes, healthcare no.

Ladies and gentlemen, your Republican Party.  How could anyone resist such an attractive, Culture-Of-Life-y package?

May 7th, 2009 at 07:03am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Healthcare,Politics,Prisoners,Torture

The Law And The Government Are Supposed To Be On The Same Side

Yet another example of why the Bush administration was morally and ethically repulsive:

Karen Greenberg’s book, Least Worst Place, gives us a very compelling answer. It’s found in a passage in which Will Taft (who emerges from all of this as a minor hero who genuinely believes the values that he articulates) relays a discussion he had with John Yoo. He didn’t understand why there was such ferocious pushback against the Geneva Conventions–why not just accept and live with these standards? America had done so for fifty years. The room got quiet, and Yoo said, “We have an Article 17 problem.”

That was a key point. Article 17 says, “No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war,” and John Yoo and the others did not want to have to agree to that. Taft understood what was going on, and he fought back. The State Department team wrote a memo calling Yoo’s opinion “seriously flawed” and “fundamentally inaccurate.” They were saying that John Yoo’s lawyering was incompetent.

But we learn from Greenberg’s book that there was a point to all of this. Yoo’s analysis of the law was dishonest. It was driven by a need to get a certain result–to introduce a system of torture of the prisoners. He was intent on twisting the law to get all the restrictions out of the way.

Good-faith opinion writing? I think not.

The whole purpose of the OLC is to tell the administration what it legally can and cannot do, not act like a mob lawyer finding loopholes or concocting bogus rationales for whatever sordid things the boss wants to do.  If (I repeat, IF) we still had functioning mechanisms for accountability, Yoo and Bybee’s legal malpractice would have exposed Bush and his inner circle to the risk of some serious jailtime.

The OLC is supposed to rein in the administration’s criminal impulses, not enable them.

April 30th, 2009 at 05:53pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Constitution,Corruption/Cronyism,Prisoners,Republicans,Torture

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Accountability

Cory Doctorow is talking about something completely different (police brutality in the UK), but his central argument is eerily applicable to the situation here in the US:

Transparency means nothing unless it is accompanied by the rule of law. It means nothing unless it is set in a system of good and responsible government, of oversight of authority that expeditiously and effectively handles citizen complaints. Transparency means nothing without justice.

(…)

Transparency on its own is nothing more than spectacle: it’s just another season of Big Brother in which all the contestants are revealed, over and over again, as thugs. Transparency on its own robs as much hope as it delivers, because transparency without justice is a perennial reminder that the game is rigged and that those in power govern for power’s sake, not for justice.

Sure, it’s great that Obama’s DOJ released all those torture memos, but it’s terribly demoralizing when he continues to show pretty much zero interest in pursuing investigations and prosecutions even after the depth of BushCo’s depravity has been exposed.

Sure, he may yet bow to pressure, or Holder may choose to do the right thing, but enforcing the law and protecting the Constitution is not something that our government should have to be forced into kicking and screaming.  I mean, it’s kind of their job, after all.

April 29th, 2009 at 08:54pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Books,Constitution,Corruption/Cronyism,Democrats,Obama,Politics,Prisoners,Republicans,Torture,Wankers

Quote Of The Day

From John Yoo’s Dickipedia entry:

Having devoted his life to the common dick practice of redefining words to mean something different and more convenient, Yoo, during the course of one business day, redefined “acceptable behavior for a civilized nation” to “pretty much anything up to the reenactment of an Eli Roth movie.”

That. Is. Perfect.

(h/t watertiger)

April 27th, 2009 at 09:20pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Constitution,Prisoners,Quotes,Republicans,Torture,Wankers

Catch Of The Day

Turns out even Ronald Reagan’s DOJ thought waterboarding was illegal.

During the Reagan Administration, the Department of Justice prosecuted a Texas sheriff and three deputies for waterboarding suspects to obtain confessions, and won convictions. The sheriff was sentenced to 10 years in prison, and the deputies to 4 years.

So, conservatives… if Ronald Reagan is infallible… and he was anti-waterboarding…

You can’t even argue that waterboarding is okay for obtaining intel but not confessions.

April 27th, 2009 at 08:18pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Constitution,Prisoners,Republicans,Torture

So What?

So Gallup is doing another poll on whether or not the American public supports criminal investigations of the Bush administration’s justification and use of torture.

But should it really matter?  I mean, since when should public opinion determine whether the rule of law gets upheld, whether criminals get held accountable?

And conversely, how dare conservatives and concern trolls like Broder proclaim that any investigations or prosecutions would be politically motivated?  If they’re so confident that the Bush administration did nothing illegal, shouldn’t they welcome the chance to clear their names?  And if they’re not so confident, are they once again admitting that they place partisan loyalty above respect for the law?

April 26th, 2009 at 02:26pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Constitution,Corruption/Cronyism,Media,Politics,Polls,Prisoners,Torture,Wankers

They Write Letters

Some gems from the NYT letters page:

And don’t tell me it’s not torture because the military does it to train our forces. A willingness to impose harsh conditions on ourselves voluntarily cannot justify imposing those conditions on an another involuntarily.

Further, the reason the military uses the techniques on our soldiers is to prepare them for torture by an enemy. Would we say use of those techniques on our own forces by the enemy is not torture?

And:

The debate about aggressive interrogation techniques like waterboarding now centers on their effectiveness.

It is frightening to think that we, a nation that has long believed that principle mattered and that human rights applied to all, would now be open to assuming that such values need not apply when we are frightened or at risk.

Has it all been a fiction? Are there no lines that we, as a nation, will not cross no matter the cost to us? If every value is negotiable depending upon circumstance, we have no true values.

And:

You quote the letter [by McCain, Lieberman, and Lindsey Graham] as saying, “Moving in such a direction would have a deeply chilling effect on the ability of lawyers in any administration to provide their client — the U.S. government — with their best legal advice.”

That seems counterintuitive. Would not such prosecutions ensure that in the future lawyers did give their best advice, not legal fictions that served the whims and wishes of their client, the United States government?

A-fricking-men.

1 comment April 24th, 2009 at 07:36pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Prisoners,Quotes,Republicans,Torture

Wanker Of The Day

Shorter David Frum: Prosecuting criminal politicians = criminalizing politics.

Apparently it is inconceivable to conservatives that:

A) The Bush administration’s activities were illegal, and

B) That illegal (Republican) activities should ever be investigated or prosecuted.

I especially liked the part where he warned about the possibility of reprisals by Republicans.  Because Republicans never indulge in trumped-up politically-motivated prosecutions.

(h/t Phoenix Woman)

April 24th, 2009 at 07:21am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Constitution,Corruption/Cronyism,Media,Obama,Politics,Prisoners,Republicans,Torture,Wankers

Democracy 101

Accountability = Democracy.  Impunity = Not Democracy.

So, stories over the last few years, all coming together over the last few days, unambiguously tell us that the highest officials of the US Government ordered the commission of war crimes, in order to obtain false information to justify an even more egregious crime of waging an unnecessary, aggressive war in which innocent people are still being killed. But when the opposition party takes over, the official response is that the US government cannot hold a single person legally accountable.

At the same time, Wall Street banksters have just devastated the US economy and world economy, causing billions of people untold economic suffering that will last (even worsen) for years, and not a single bankster has been held legally accountable. Most are still in their enriched executive positions, demanding the terms under which the government will continue to prop them up, as they successfully lobby Congress to weaken every piece of consumer protection or meaningful oversight.

You stand back and look at this, and it’s hard not to see it as a massive “systemic” failure of the US governance system. The principle of accountability, notions of fairness and justice, and the simple concept that no one is about the law — sorry, but these are all in freefall, and almost none of our “democratic” leaders seem to give a damn.

If laws are not enforced, or are only enforced for the little people, then they have no value, and the people who control our government have no incentive to obey the law or look out for anyone’s interests but their own.

It looks like we’re officially there.

April 23rd, 2009 at 09:03pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Constitution,Corruption/Cronyism,Democrats,Obama,Politics,Prisoners,Republicans,Torture

It’s Not A Bug, It’s A Feature

As I’ve said before, the fact that torture does not provide actionable intelligence was never a deterrent for the Bush administration, since they were a lot more interested in propagandizable intelligence.  False confessions are what torture gets you, and that’s just exactly what BushCo. wanted:

“There were two reasons why these interrogations were so persistent, and why extreme methods were used,” the former senior intelligence official said on condition of anonymity because of the issue’s sensitivity.

“The main one is that everyone was worried about some kind of follow-up attack (after 9/11). But for most of 2002 and into 2003, Cheney and Rumsfeld, especially, were also demanding proof of the links between al Qaida and Iraq that (former Iraqi exile leader Ahmed) Chalabi and others had told them were there.”

It was during this period that CIA interrogators waterboarded two alleged top al Qaida detainees repeatedly — Abu Zubeida at least 83 times in August 2002 and Khalid Sheik Mohammed 183 times in March 2003 — according to a newly released Justice Department document.

Jim White actually speculated about this on Sunday, and now it’s confirmed.

Amazingly enough, Zubeida and KSM were able to resist – possibly because they had no idea what their torturers were talking about.  And in the end, it didn’t really matter, since we ended up invading Iraq anyway.

April 22nd, 2009 at 06:12am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Iraq,Prisoners,Republicans,Terrorism,Torture,War

Co-Wanker Of The Day, Part I

Shorter John McCain: Torture is wrong and only helps our enemies… so we must never admit we use it.

April 20th, 2009 at 05:20pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,McCain,Prisoners,Republicans,Torture,Wankers

Same As The Old Boss, Continued

This is not encouraging:

Five years ago, Dawn [Johnsen] co-authored a document entitled “Principles to Guide the Office of Legal Counsel,” in which she argued that “OLC should publicly disclose its written legal opinions in a timely manner, absent strong reasons for delay or nondisclosure.”  Dawn’s statement of principles is nuanced, but it begins with the presumption that disclosure should be the rule, never the exception:

OLC should follow a presumption in favor of timely publication of its written legal opinions. Such disclosure helps to ensure executive branch adherence to the rule of law and guard against excessive  claims of executive authority. . . . There nonetheless will exist some legal advice that properly should remain confidential, most notably, some advice regarding classified and some other national security matters. . . .  In all events, OLC should in each administration consider the  circumstances in which advice should be kept confidential, with a presumption in favor of publication, and publication policy and practice should not vary substantially from administration to administration. The values of transparency and accountability remain constant, as do any existing legitimate rationales for secret executive branch law.

So Dawn would apply “a presumption in favor of publication” in all cases.  Though she also recognizes that some OLC advice regarding “national security matters” may overcome this presumption, the presumption itself is applied in all cases.

Compare Dawn’s statement with President Obama’s statement announcing the release of the torture memos, which applies the opposite presumption:

While I believe strongly in transparency and accountability, I also believe that in a dangerous world, the United States must sometimes carry out intelligence operations and protect information that is classified for purposes of national security. I have already fought for that principle in court and will do so again in the future. However, after consulting with the Attorney General, the Director of National Intelligence, and others, I believe that exceptional circumstances surround these memos and require their release.

Rather than starting with a presumption of disclosure, President Obama’s analysis begins with the presumption that, because these memos concern national security matters, they should presumptively be treated as secret.  Although he ultimately concludes that the memos should be disclosed, he does so because “exceptional circumstances . . . require their release.”  In other words, while Dawn requires exceptional circumstances to keep any OLC advice secret, the President will only release advice related to national security when such exceptional circumstances demand it.

(…)

So while the distinction between Dawn’s presumption favoring disclosure and President Obama’s presumption favoring secrecy is subtle, it is very significant.  Once Dawn is confirmed, I hope she is sucessful in restoring her views on transparency to OLC.

I disagree.  It’s not that subtle.

April 17th, 2009 at 11:28am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Constitution,Obama,Prisoners,Torture,Wankers

Rush Discovers Compassion For Evildoers

Hey, remember when Rush was mocking concerns about prisoner treatment at Gitmo and claiming that we were treating them too well?  Looks like he has a totally different outlook towards bad guys that Obama acts against:

You know what we have learned about the Somali pirates, the merchant marine organizers that were wiped out at the order of Barack Obama, you know what we learned about them?  They were teenagers.  The Somali pirates, the merchant marine organizers who took a US merchant captain hostage for five days were inexperienced youths, the defense secretary, Roberts Gates, said yesterday, adding that the hijackers were between 17 and 19 years old.  Now, just imagine the hue and cry had a Republican president ordered the shooting of black teenagers on the high seas.  Greetings and welcome back, Rush Limbaugh, the Excellence in Broadcasting Network and the Limbaugh Institute for Advanced Conservative Studies.

They were kids.  The story is out, I don’t know if it’s true or not, but apparently the hijackers, these kids, the merchant marine organizers, Muslim kids, were upset, they wanted to just give the captain back and head home because they were running out of food, they were running out of fuel, they were surrounded by all these US Navy ships, big ships, and they just wanted out of there.  That’s the story, but then when one of them put a gun to the back of the captain, Mr. Phillips, then bam, bam, bam.  There you have it, and three teenagers shot on the high seas at the order of President Obama.

So, to sum up: Guilty, possibly teenage Muslims killed at Obama’s order is heartless and bad.  Innocent, definitely teenage Muslims illegally imprisoned and tortured at Bush’s order is Teh Awesome.

Is it that the pirates so perfectly embody the modern conservative might-makes-right/take-what-you-want ethos, or is it that Rush so desperately wants Obama to fail that he’s rooting for pirates now?

I predict that if American troops find and kill bin Laden during Obama’s term, Rush will suddenly become the world’s biggest advocate for due process.

UPDATE: Ah. I am informed that Rush was apparently deploying “irony”. I was wondering about that.

He still can’t stand the fact that Obama was able to pull the trigger and do something tough, even if it was kind of a no-brainer.

April 15th, 2009 at 07:10am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Media,Obama,Prisoners,Republicans,Terrorism,Torture,Wankers

Right-Wing Spin Of The Week

Gary Bauer (no relation to Jack, to his eternal regret) agrees that Gitmo is turning prisoners into terrorists… but not through mistreatment:

[W]hile many liberal commentators believe inhumane treatment and religious persecution transforms detainees into suicide bombers and high-level terrorists, I believe the opposite is true: that the unprecedented and extreme religious accommodation granted to Gitmo prisoners has created a culture of Islamic radicalization.

(…)

Media reports of life at Gitmo highlight the extreme accommodation of religious practice. Prison guards go through special sensitivity training. Each Muslim detainee is provided with a Koran, which, in accordance with Muslim teaching, is never touched by non-Muslims (i.e. the prison guards). Each prisoner receives prayer beads, culturally appropriate halal meals, prayer rugs, daily calls to prayer, and each cell contains a stenciled arrow pointing the way to Mecca.

(…)

Harsh treatment regularly comes from the prisoners themselves. Muslim detainees who decline to submit to radicalization are ostracized. As one Afghan detainee told the Miami Herald, “There were detainees who did not pray or who spoke with female soldiers. We stopped speaking with these men. Sometimes we beat them.” The culture of radicalization is so pervasive at Gitmo that some former U.S. officials have called it the “American madrassa.”

Yes, that’s right, Gitmo is breeding terrorists by being too nice. Amazingly, Bauer makes no mention of the two types of fruit.

March 23rd, 2009 at 09:44pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Prisoners,Republicans,Terrorism,Wankers

NY Daily News Is Trying To Cheer Me Up

Bernie Madoff suffering inhumane incarceration?

Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff is being held in a super-max wing of the Manhattan federal lockup – a unit so tough it drives hardened criminals mad, the Daily News has learned.

It’s known as 10 South.

Located on the 10th floor of the Metropolitan Correctional Center, the high-security wing has housed the city’s toughest mobsters and most bloodthirsty terrorists.

(…)

On 10 South, the 70-year-old Madoff is treated more like a lab rat than a vaunted Wall Street financier once entrusted with billions of investment dollars.

The lights burn 24 hours a day, and an inmate’s every move is caught on video. Madoff gets just 60 minutes a day outside his 8-by-8-foot cell – in wrist shackles.

Windows are blacked out so disoriented inmates can’t catch even a glimpse of the world outside.

What passes for food is slipped through a narrow slit in a stainless steel door that fronts a spartan cell – cold in winter, scorching hot in summer.

No interaction is permitted between inmates or guards. Only a ranking officer is allowed to remove a prisoner from his tiny cell.

Lawyer visits are few and far between. Reading material is almost nonexistent.

(…)

The squalid conditions are enough to make blood-stained tough guys cry – never mind a pampered ex-billionaire.

Bonanno crime family capo Vincent (Vinny Gorgeous) Basciano was moved off 10 South in 2005 after his lawyer complained of “subhuman” conditions.

Junior Gotti said his hard time in the MCC’s most infamous section was brutal.

“I was in 10 South, and it almost broke me,” Gotti famously roared.

Imagine its impact on a first-time offender used to a $7 million East Side penthouse with a bedroom drawer filled with cuff links and a $39,000 Steinway piano in the living room.

“I had a guy in there who went bonkers,” said one veteran defense lawyer. “They had to take him out of there and give him sedatives.”

Hey, what do you call a filthy rich corrupt financier imprisoned under hellish conditions?

A good start.

UPDATE: Since my lack of sympathy for this piece of shit (which I cannot find it myself to retract) or lack of outrage that prisons like this exist (I’d rather they didn’t, but if we’re going to put people in them, it might as well be Madoff and his ilk) appears to be a problem, let me just add two things:

1) Perhaps I got a bit overexcited by the fact that one of these assholes is actually paying some kind of criminal consequences instead of walking away scot-free or getting a massive bonus.

2) The fact remains that none of the people responsible for the financial meltdown, nor anyone from the Bush administration, is in any kind of prison, hellhole or otherwise, and probably never will be.  We might get a few more Ponzi schemers like Stanford, but that’s it.

23 comments March 19th, 2009 at 07:23am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Corruption/Cronyism,Economy,Prisoners

Musical Torture

NYT’s Robert Mackey focuses on the use of rap and heavy metal music to torture detainees.  It’s about as awful as you’d expect, but it gets downright weird at the end:

But since the idea that being forced to listen to a certain song or record can be described as “torture” often strikes people hearing about it as funny, reports of the tactic are often cast in a comic light.

Mr. Piore later told the British writer Jon Ronson that when he called his editor at Newsweek from Iraq to describe the use of loud music on detainees, “I was told to write it as a humorous thing.” After Mr. Piore filed his report, Newsweek stressed the fact that one of the songs blared at detainees in Iraq was the theme from the children’s television show “Barney” and added a comic kicker to his the story:

The sledgehammer riffs of Metallica, that’s understandable. But can children’s songs really break a strong mind? (Two current favorites are the “Sesame Street” theme song and the crooning purple dinosaur Barney — for 24 hours straight.) In search of comment from Barney’s people, Hit Entertainment, Newsweek endured five minutes of Barney while on hold. Yes, it broke us, too.

In Jon Ronson’s book on the American military’s development and use of psychological operations, “The Men Who Stare at Goats” (soon to be a major motion picture, starring George Clooney, Kevin Spacey and Ewan McGregor), he writes that while loud music was used on detainees in Guantánamo, other sorts or sounds were deployed as well, often in puzzling ways.

Jamal al-Harith, another British man who was released from Guantánamo, told Mr. Ronson that recordings of loud screeches and bangs, “jumbled noises,” were played by his interrogators — and also that at one stage during his interrogation, he was asked to listen to songs played at normal volume for no apparent reason. According to Mr. Harith, an interrogator baffled him by playing CDs including one by a Fleetwood Mac cover band, another with a selection of Kris Kristofferson’s greatest hits, and an album by Matchbox Twenty. As Mr. Ronson notes in his book, Matchbox Twenty was one of the bands Mr. Piore found listed on the PsyOps playlist in Iraq.

The editor’s urging to trivialize psychological torture is pretty despicable, but… Matchbox Twenty?  Of all the potential weapons in thePsyOps toolkit, they chose Matchbox Twenty???

4 comments March 9th, 2009 at 07:41pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Prisoners,Terrorism,Torture

An Early Victory In BushCo’s War On Humanity

Shorter Rummy: What part of “don’t feel bound by the Geneva Conventions” didn’t you understand?

The story begins in the first week of January 2002, when Joint Task Force 160, led by Marine Brig. Gen. Michael Lehnert, dutifully landed at Guantanamo Bay….

…[I]t wasn’t the logistics that most worried Lehnert. It was the policy vacuum into which he and his troops had been thrown. “We are writing the book as we go,” one officer said at the time. Lehnert said he had been told by the Joint Chiefs of Staff that the Geneva Conventions would not technically apply to his mission: He was to act in a manner “consistent with” the conventions (as the mantra went) but not to feel bound by them….

In the absence of new policy guidance about how to treat the detainees, Lehnert told me that he felt he had no choice but to rely on the regulations already in place, ones in which the military was well schooled: the Uniform Code of Military Justice, other U.S. laws and, above all, the Geneva Conventions. The detainees, no matter what their official status, were essentially to be considered enemy prisoners of war, a status that mandated basic standards of humane treatment….

(…)

But there were early signs of trouble. Lehnert told me that his request to bring representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to Guantanamo — something international law requires for all prisoners being held in war-related situations — was, as he heard it, shunted aside somewhere up the chain of command. “The initial request,” he recalled, “was turned down.” He persisted….  [H]e wanted advice from ICRC professionals to help him ensure the prisoners’ safety and dignity.

Exasperated by repeated attempts to find out which guidelines to apply to the detainees, Col. Manuel Supervielle, the head JAG at Southern Command, picked up the phone and called the ICRC’s headquarters in Geneva. As one member of the Southern Command staff remembers the episode, the Joint Chiefs of Staff had warned the Gitmo task force that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld’s office opposed getting involved with the ICRC. But now, according to Supervielle, a U.S. officer was asking the ICRC to help out at Guantanamo. The ICRC answered with an immediate “Yes.”

(…)

Brig. Gen. Lehnert had built his own Guantanamo, one with ICRC oversight, a Muslim chaplain and an overriding ethos that stressed codified law and the unwritten rules of human decency. Lehnert’s team let the detainees talk among themselves; it provided halal food, an additional washing bucket inside cells that lacked toilet facilities, a Koran for each detainee, skullcaps and prayer beads for those who wanted them, and undergarments for the prisoners to wear at shower time, in accordance with Islamic laws that proscribe public nakedness.

Perhaps Lehnert’s Guantanamo could have been sustained. But Rumsfeld wanted something else: He expected to get valuable, actionable intelligence from the detainees. By late January 2002, according to Brig. Gen. Galen B. Jackman, Lehnert’s chief contact at Southern Command, the defense secretary told officers on a video conference call with Southern Command that he was frustrated by the absence of such information.

A displeased Rumsfeld seems to have decided to create a second command, one that would exist side by side with Lehnert’s. It would be devoted solely to gathering intelligence and would be headed by a reservist major general, a former U.S. Army interrogator during the Vietnam War named Michael Dunlavey. Jackman told me that he considered the idea of two parallel commands a “recipe for disaster.”….

As Dunlavey’s command took shape in late February and early March, the fabric of prisoner’s rights that Lehnert had woven was beginning to unravel. By the end of February, nearly 200 detainees had mounted a hunger strike to protest their treatment….

(…)

Thanks in large part to Lehnert’s efforts, the hunger strike dwindled to a couple of dozen fasters by the first week of March. But as much as he might have championed the need to respect the detainees as individuals — albeit allegedly dangerous terrorists — Guantanamo’s future had been decided. As the hunger strike wound down, Lehnert said, he and his unit were given notice that they would soon be leaving.

Once Lehnert’s troops departed, a new Guantanamo took shape — the Guantanamo that an appalled world has come to know over the past seven years. Inmates were kept in isolation, interrogation became the core mission, hunger strikers were regularly force-fed, and above all, the promise of a legal resolution to the detainees’ cases has eluded hundreds of prisoners.

It’s a little hard to believe that “actionable intelligence” was really a goal when Gitmo’s recordkeeping was such a mess – more likely that torture was an end in itself, or valued only as collective punishment, or a tool for extracting propaganda in the form of fake terror plots.

It’s not like we needed any further proof that concepts like human decency and the rule of law are completely anathema to Bush and his creatures, but it just keeps coming.  Even now, they’re still fighting a desperate rearguard action against them, trying to block Obama from closing Gitmo and giving the detainees proper trials.

2 comments January 25th, 2009 at 01:55pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Prisoners,Republicans,Terrorism,Torture

Tell Me Again About How Torture Keeps Us Safe

I mean, it’s not like it’s particularly effective at providing useful intelligence:

Interrogators are lauding President Obama for signing an executive order that will shut down secret CIA prisons and place the use of coercive interrogation techniques completely off limits.

“[The order] closes an unconscionable period in our history, in which those who knew least, professed to know most about interrogations,” said Joe Navarro, a former special agent and supervisor with the FBI.

“Some die-hards on the right – who have never interrogated anyone — are already arguing that forcing interrogations to be conducted within army field manual guidelines is a step backward and will result in ‘coddling’ dangerous terrorists,” retired Colonel Stuart Herrington, who served for more than 30 years as a military intelligence officer, said soon after the order was signed. “This is a common, but uninformed view. Experienced, well-trained, professional interrogators know that interrogation is an art. It is a battle of wits, not muscle. It is a challenge that can be accomplished within the military guidelines without resorting to brutality.

(…)

Getting a suspected terrorist to talk is much more subtle than what one typically sees in the movies or on TV. A new book, “How to Break A Terrorist” by Matthew Alexander (a pseudonym), provides an inside look at how interrogation can yield more information if it is done humanely.

Alexander developed the intelligence that led U.S. forces to Al Zarqawi, the former chief of Al Qaeda in Iraq. While some were using abusive techniques to try to crack detainees, Alexander used a smarter, more sophisticated approach. He learned what the detainees cared about and then used that information to get what he wanted.

(…)

To illustrate how torture can lead to poor intelligence, Nelson cites the case of Al Libi, a detainee who was tortured and, under duress, gave misinformation about a connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda. (Secretary Colin Powell quoted intelligence gained from Al Libi as justification to go to war with Iraq.)….

The challenge we face does not have to do with so-called ‘enhanced interrogation techniques,’ ” said Nelson. “We don’t want those. What we do need is to build a world-class interrogation corps. To do that, we need to pay more attention to recruiting, training, and managing interrogators. President Obama’s executive order is an important first step but there is still more to do.”

Better interrogation, yes.  “Enhanced” interrogation, no.  They are not the same thing.  Torture is certainly easier - any sadist orsociopath off the street can do it.

But that’s not the only way that torture fails to make us safer:

One hesitates to say this will amount to anything, but Marc Lynch notes that Mohammed Essam Derbala, a leader of Ayman Zawahiri’s Egyptian terrorist group that merged with Al Qaeda in 1998, today urged his former confederates to declare a unilateral ceasefire to “test Barack Obama’s pledges to establish a new relationship with the Islamic world and to close Guantanamo.”…..

(…)

Let’s be clear about a few things. Derbala has no power to call for or enforce any Al Qaeda ceasefire. But consider how overwhelmingly significant it is that a former terrorist of such obvious credibility would say something like this. And why’d he say it? Because Barack Obama just renounced torture. He put the United States on a clear path to repudiating the detentions, interrogations and, as important, humiliations that Muslims consider the U.S. to have inflicted not just on terrorists, but the entire Muslim world. Part of Al Qaeda’s entire propagandistic message is that the U.S. is an unchanging brutish entity determined to subjugate the Muslim world. What Obama did today severely complicates that narrative. But it’s not enough for us to consider the narrative to be complicated — it takes Muslim figures of credibility to say so. That’s what Derbala just did.

This is what Carl Levin was getting at earlier today when he said that renouncing torture would have security benefits for the United States. It’s, of course, unclear what Al Qaeda would do. But in an important sense, Al Qaeda isn’t the target audience here. It’s the pool of potential Al Qaeda recruits. In March, an Air Force colonel in Iraq briefed reporters on what motivated foreign fighters to come to Iraq instead of remaining in their home countries living a normal life. The answer was often “an image from Abu Ghraib.” That’s what Obama’s actions today have taken off the table for the U.S.’s adversaries. Its importance shouldn’t be underestimated.

Torture is not just ineffective and morally wrong; it makes the Muslim world hate us, and makes al Qaeda’s recruiting easier.  It may have been very satisfying to Dubya and Cheney’s thuggish mentality to know that Bad Things were happening to people they don’t like, but it compromised both our intelligence-gathering capabilities and our moral standing.  And forwhat?

January 23rd, 2009 at 07:24am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Foreign Policy,Obama,Prisoners,Terrorism,Torture

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