Allison Kilkenny: Unreported

Scores of Legal Experts Demand Bush Prosecution

Posted in Barack Obama, politics by allisonkilkenny on February 26, 2009

Brad Blog

Sign on to demand non-partisan special counsel, immediate prosecution of Bush, Cheney and other former senior administration officials…

Guest Blogged by David Swanson of After Downing Street

Only in America can elected officials go on TV and confess to felonies (including torture and warrantless spying, not to mention aggressive war) and the resulting debate focus around the question of whether investigating the “possibility” of wrong-doing would be too radical. This week a coalition of dozens of human rights groups including the Center for Constitutional Rights, the National Lawyers Guild, and the Society of American Law Teachers released a statement, as drafted by The Robert Jackson Steering Committee, cutting to the chase.

It reads in its entirety:

We urge Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a non-partisan independent Special Counsel to immediately commence a prosecutorial investigation into the most serious alleged crimes of former President George W. Bush, former Vice President Richard B. Cheney, the attorneys formerly employed by the Department of Justice whose memos sought to justify torture, and other former top officials of the Bush Administration.  Our laws, and treaties that under Article VI of our Constitution are the supreme law of the land, require the prosecution of crimes that strong evidence suggests these individuals have committed. Both the former president and the former vice president have confessed to authorizing a torture procedure that is illegal under our law and treaty obligations. The former president has confessed to violating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

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

I wrote this statement with some helpful tweaks from colleagues and have been screaming the same basic message for about three years, but I sense more than ever right now that more ears are open to it.

While actually enforcing laws and “getting tough on crime” is now considered the radical leftist position and a “truth” commission the reasonable compromise, it is clear that a bipartisan commission would create the bipartisan bickering our elected officials are so eager to avoid. It would also, in Senator Patrick Leahy’s view, investigate the complicity of Democrats as well as Republicans in the crimes of the past 8 years, thus guaranteeing that neither Democrats nor Republicans will support it.

If Congress can’t take the heat and won’t even enforce its own subpoenas, it should leave well enough alone. Statutes of limitations are running out fast, and we don’t have time for another commission. If President Obama wants to distance himself from enforcing the law, he can do what he is supposed to do and leave the matter in the hands of Eric Holder. And if Attorney General Holder wants distance he can do what is required and appoint a truly independent prosecutor. Doing so would please the following organizations. More are signing on every hour, and both organizations and individuals can sign on at ProsecuteBushCheney.org.

Signatorees, as of 2/25/09, include…

Choosing Between Our Safety and Ideals

Posted in Barack Obama, media, politics, torture by allisonkilkenny on January 23, 2009

guantanamoDuring his inauguration, Barack Obama defiantly rejected the notion that America must choose between its safety and its ideals. However, immediately following the signing of an executive order to close Guantanamo Bay within the year, the media began a campaign to choose between those non-exclusive essentials. They depicted the closing of Gitmo as an epic struggle between our safety and our ideals, the very battle Obama labeled false. The negated variable in this debate appears to be proportionality. If there is a conflict between our safety and our ideals, the weight of morality surely favors the side of our Constitution and human rights legislation. Additionally, the media suggests that every Gitmo prisoner is guilty, and if released, will surely scamper off to do terroristy things.

In today’s New York Times, a front page story entitled Freed by U.S., Saudi Becomes a Qaeda Chief portrays the possibility of a released Guantanmo prisoners returning to the battlefield as an inevitability rather than a minimal risk. If, for every one hundred innocent men released from the detention island, one returns to fight with the enemy, is this really an epic battle between our safety and our ideals? The mainstream press never considers the danger that imprisoning innocents in fact creates new terrorists out of men that would have otherwise gladly lived out their days as farmers, or politicians, or police officers in Iraq’s rebuilding society.  

The real risk exists in keeping a terrorist factory like Guantanamo open. There is no way to legally or morally convict prisoners using evidence gained through “coercion” i.e. torture. Therefore, America would either have to illegally convict men with evidence gained through torture, or detain possibly innocent men indefinitely, which also violates international law and a basic pillar of our own Constitution. 

It’s also essential that we examine the concept of “risk” and “safety.” America can never be 100% safe — ever. No matter how many phones we tap, no matter how many “bad guys” we torture, we can’t secure our boarders everywhere. There will always be the remote possibility that one looney will slip through the cracks and throw anthrax in the faces of schoolchildren. We must choose between if we value our freedom more, or some elusive concept of security. Personally, I would rather build bridges with our international brothers and sisters than burn a million bridges by locking up young men based on shoddy rumors. Making friends is a pretty good way to secure our future. Bombing villages and indefinitely detaining 15-year-old farmer boys is a good way to make a lot of enemies that may grow up and try to destroy the country that robbed them of their freedom and dignity.

As I write this, I just popped over to the maddeningly articulate Glenn Greenwald’s site, and see he has posted yet another beautifully polished summation of the same article. Glenn describes this assertion that every released Gitmo prisoner will become a Lex Luthor-like master villain as a fantasy. The fear-mongering hypotheticals do appear to be largely speculative, and numbers of these released super villians fluctuate greatly depending on who you ask.

America has the ability to gather intelligence and convict terrorists in a court of law. America has done this for hundreds of years, so there’s no need for a sudden exception to the rule, even when Condoleezza Rice tries to scare the crap out of us with talk about mushroom clouds. The Executive branch will always tried to expand its power, and it’s up to the Congress to tell them to back off, and that our system of justice works just fine with the tools of Habeas Corpus and public courts. Otherwise, we get a lawless mess like Guantanamo, which will act as a catalyst for future conflict, domestic and abroad. 

Blowback with a capital “B.”