Allison Kilkenny: Unreported

The Law is Not a Fringe Issue

Posted in Barack Obama, Bush, law, politics, torture, war crimes by allisonkilkenny on April 30, 2009

abu-ghraib-torture-715244Barbara Herbert, a course director at Tufts University School of Medicine, made a short, but compelling plea in today’s New York Times. Herbert argued that the United States government should convene a truth and reconciliation commission, using the one in South Africa as a model, to investigate into possible crimes committed by the Bush administration. 

Such a commission would allow a nation to (a) find the truth of what happened from multiple perspectives, (b) develop an understanding of how it happened and (c) heal.

A commission isn’t some kind of partisan booby trap thrown together in a frenzied quest for retribution as Harry Reid suggested last week. The formation of a nonpartisan commission also wouldn’t  act as a nefarious tool to dismantle the foundation of The American Way (corrupting the sweet “mysteries” of life,) as Bush apologists like Peggy Noonan claim

A truth commission would use the law as a compass, and its only goal would be to restore order in America. As Herbert wrote, “We need a chance for secular redemption and healing.”

On Tuesday, Jeremy Scahill reported that Rep. John Conyers, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Jerrold Nadler wrote to Attorney General Eric Holder officially requesting  the appointment of an independent Special Prosecutor to “to investigate and, where appropriate, prosecute torture committed against detainees during the Bush administration.” In order to restore credibility to the Justice Department, Holder must adhere to the rule of law, and not partisan demands. He must investigate into possible crimes committed under the Bush administration.

The law is not a fringe issue. Progressives may be the ones demanding an investigative commission, but the issue at stake here is the law itself. That’s not a partisan issue. The law should be sacred to all Americans: Republicans and Democrats. And if Democrats are proven to have been complicit in torture, then they too must be punished according to the law. 

Otherwise, Americans will learn only one lesson: the law does not apply to our leaders. What a terrible lesson to teach young Americans.

Bush Administration Memos Claimed Vast War Powers

Posted in Barack Obama, law, police state, politics by allisonkilkenny on March 3, 2009

International Herald Tribune

confidential-photo4The secret legal opinions issued by Bush administration lawyers after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks included assertions that the president could use the nation’s military within the United States to combat people deemed as terrorists and to conduct raids without obtaining a search warrant.

That opinion was among nine that were disclosed publicly for the first time Monday by the Justice Department, in what the Obama administration portrayed as a step toward greater transparency. The opinions showed a broad interpretation of presidential authority, asserting as well that the president could unilaterally abrogate foreign treaties, deal with detainees suspected of terrorism while rejecting input from Congress and conduct a warrantless eavesdropping program.

Some of the legal positions had previously become known from statements made by Bush administration officials in response to court challenges and congressional inquiries. But the opinions provided the clearest illustration to date of the broad definition of presidential power that was approved by government lawyers, including John Yoo and Jay Bybee, in the months following the Sept. 11 attacks.

In a memorandum dated Jan. 15, 2009, just before President George W. Bush left office, a top Justice Department official wrote that the earlier memorandums had not been relied on since 2003. But the official, Stephen Bradbury, who headed the Office of Legal Counsel, said it was important to acknowledge in writing “the doubtful nature of these propositions,” and he used the memo to formally repudiate the opinions.

Bradbury said that the earlier memorandums were the product of lawyers confronting “novel and complex questions in a time of great danger and under extraordinary time pressure.”

The opinion authorizing the military to operate on domestic territory was dated Oct. 23, 2001, and written by Yoo, at the time a deputy assistant attorney general, and Robert Delahunty, a special counsel. It was directed to Alberto Gonzales, then the White House counsel, who had asked whether Bush could use the military to combat terrorist activities inside the United States.

The law has recognized that force (including deadly force) may be legitimately used in self-defense,” Yoo and Delahunty wrote to Gonzales. Any objections based on the prohibition against unreasonable searches in the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution would vanish, he said, because any privacy offense that comes with such a search would be less than any injury from deadly force.

Yoo and Delahunty also said in the Oct. 23 memorandum that “First Amendment speech and press rights may also be subordinated to the overriding need to wage war successfully.” They added that the “current campaign against terrorism may require even broader exercises of federal power domestically.”

Yoo said the Posse Comitatus Act, a statute first enacted in 1878 and since renewed, would also not present an obstacle to the use of the armed forces. The Posse Comitatus Act generally forbids the use of military forces in domestic law enforcement.

Yoo and Delahunty asserted that the act’s prohibition against use of the military was only for law enforcement functions and that using soldiers against terrorist suspects would be a national security function.

Yoo, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, is widely known as the principal author of a 2002 memorandum that critics said authorized torture. The memorandum, signed by Bybee, was repudiated in 2004.

The memorandum issued by Bradbury in January appears to have been the Bush lawyers’ last effort to reconcile their views with the wide-scale rejection by legal scholars and some Supreme Court opinions of the sweeping assertions of presidential authority made earlier by the Justice Department.

Walter Dellinger, a former head of the Office of Legal Counsel during the Clinton administration who was also a law professor at Duke University, said that Bradbury’s memo “disclaiming the opinions of earlier Bush lawyers sets out in blunt detail how irresponsible those earlier opinions were.” He said it was important that it was now widely recognized that the earlier assertions “that Congress had absolutely no role in these national security issues was contrary to constitutional text, historical practice and judicial precedent.”

Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. said Monday morning before the release of the documents: “Too often over the past decade, the fight against terrorism has been viewed as a zero-sum battle with our civil liberties. Not only is that thought misguided, I fear that in actuality it does more harm than good.”

Holder said that the memorandums were being released in light of the legitimate and substantial public interest.

One of the opinions, issued in March 2002, suggests that Congress lacks any power to limit a president’s authority to transfer detainees to other countries. Other memorandums say that Congress has no authority to intervene in the president’s determination of the treatment of detainees, a proposition that has since been invalidated by the Supreme Court.

Bradbury’s memo repudiating these views said that it was “not sustainable” to argue that the president’s power as commander in chief “precludes Congress from enacting any legislation concerning the detention, interrogation, prosecution and transfer of enemy combatants.”

Court Rejects Obama Bid to Stop Wiretapping Suit

Posted in Barack Obama, law, politics by allisonkilkenny on February 27, 2009

Yahoo

wiretaps3WASHINGTON – The Obama administration has lost its argument that a potential threat to national security is a good enough reason to stop a lawsuit challenging the government’s warrantless wiretapping program.

A federal appeals court in San Francisco on Friday rejected the Justice Department’s request for an emergency stay. The Obama administration, like the Bush administration before it, cited the so-called state secrets privilege as its defense. The government claimed national security would be compromised if a lawsuit brought by the U.S. chapter of an Islamic charity was allowed to proceed.

The case was brought by the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, a defunct charity with a chapter in Oregon.

The decision by the three-judge appeals panel is a setback for the new Obama administration as it adopts some of the same positions on national security and secrecy as the Bush administration.

Earlier this month, Attorney General Eric Holder ordered a review of all state secrets claims that have been used to protect Bush administration anti-terrorism programs from lawsuits.

Yet even as that review continues, the administration has invoked the privilege in several different cases, including Al-Haramain.
The case began when the Bush administration accidentally turned over documents to Al-Haramain attorneys. Lawyers for the defunct charity said the papers showed illegal wiretapping by the National Security Agency.

The documents were returned to the government, which quickly locked them away, claiming they were state secrets that could threaten national security if released.

Lawyers for Al-Haramain argued that they needed the documents to prove the wiretapping.

The U.S. Treasury Department in 2004 designated the charity as an organization that supports terrorism before the Saudi government closed it. The Bush administration redesignated it in 2008, citing attempts to keep it operating.

The 9th Circuit eventually agreed that the disputed documents were protected as state secrets. But the court ruled that the Oregon chapter of Al-Haramain could try to find another way to show it had standing to sue the government over domestic wiretapping.

A number of organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, tried to sue the government over warrantless wiretapping but were denied standing because they could not show they were targeted.

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…

Obama Backs Bush On Bagram Detainees

Posted in Afghanistan, Barack Obama, human rights, law, politics, torture by allisonkilkenny on February 21, 2009

Reuters

20080222-bush-obamaWASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Obama administration on Friday told a federal judge it would not deviate from the Bush administration’s position that detainees held at a U.S. air base in Afghanistan have no right to sue in U.S. courts.

In one of his first acts in office, President Barack Obama ordered the closure within one year of the Guantanamo Bay detention centre, which has been widely criticized by rights groups and foreign governments. About 245 people are currently held at Guantanamo, according to the Pentagon.

However, Obama has not yet decided what to do about the makeshift prison at the U.S. military base in Bagram, where the U.S. government is holding more than 600 prisoners, or whether to continue work on a $60 million prison complex there.

In late January, Obama directed a task force to study the government’s overall detainee policy and report back to him in six months.

But the new administration faced a February 20 deadline to tell U.S. District Court Judge John Bates whether it would “refine” the Bush administration’s position on four men being held at Bagram who have filed suit against their detention.

In a brief filing with the court on Friday, the Justice Department said it would stick to the previous government’s position, which argued the four men — who have been detained at Bagram for over six years — had no right to challenge their detention in a U.S. court.

Barbara Olshansky, lead counsel for three of the four detainees and a visiting professor at Stanford Law School, said she was deeply disappointed that the Obama administration had decided to “adhere to a position that has contributed to making our country a pariah around the world for its flagrant disregard of people’s human rights.”

She said she hoped that the Obama administration was merely signalling it was still working on its position regarding the detainee issue.

The U.S. District Court held a hearing in early January on four separate challenges filed on behalf of four detainees taken to Bagram from outside Afghanistan.

At the hearing, Bush administration lawyers argued that Bagram detainees were different from those held at Guantanamo, and could pose a security threat if released.

After Obama’s executive order indicating changes to the government’s detention policy for Guantanamo, the district court asked the new administration if it wished to change its position on the prisoners at Bagram.

Now that the government has responded, the federal judge is expected to rule in coming weeks on whether his court has jurisdiction to hear the cases.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal-Esa; editing by Todd Eastham)

###

AP

 

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration, siding with the Bush White House, contended Friday that detainees in Afghanistan have no constitutional rights.

In a two-sentence court filing, the Justice Department said it agreed that detainees at Bagram Airfield cannot use U.S. courts to challenge their detention. The filing shocked human rights attorneys.

“The hope we all had in President Obama to lead us on a different path has not turned out as we’d hoped,” said Tina Monshipour Foster, a human rights attorney representing a detainee at the Bagram Airfield. “We all expected better.”

The Supreme Court last summer gave al-Qaida and Taliban suspects held at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the right to challenge their detention. With about 600 detainees at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan and thousands more held in Iraq, courts are grappling with whether they, too, can sue to be released.

Three months after the Supreme Court’s ruling on Guantanamo Bay, four Afghan citizens being detained at Bagram tried to challenge their detentions in U.S. District Court in Washington. Court filings alleged that the U.S. military had held them without charges, repeatedly interrogating them without any means to contact an attorney. Their petition was filed by relatives on their behalf since they had no way of getting access to the legal system.

The military has determined that all the detainees at Bagram are “enemy combatants.” The Bush administration said in a response to the petition last year that the enemy combatant status of the Bagram detainees is reviewed every six months, taking into consideration classified intelligence and testimony from those involved in their capture and interrogation.

After Barack Obama took office, a federal judge in Washington gave the new administration a month to decide whether it wanted to stand by Bush’s legal argument. Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd says the filing speaks for itself.

“They’ve now embraced the Bush policy that you can create prisons outside the law,” said Jonathan Hafetz, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union who has represented several detainees.

The Justice Department argues that Bagram is different from Guantanamo Bay because it is in an overseas war zone and the prisoners there are being held as part of a military action. The government argues that releasing enemy combatants into the Afghan war zone, or even diverting U.S. personnel there to consider their legal cases, could threaten security.

The government also said if the Bagram detainees got access to the courts, it would allow all foreigners captured by the United States in conflicts worldwide to do the same.

It’s not the first time that the Obama administration has used a Bush administration legal argument after promising to review it. Last week, Attorney General Eric Holder announced a review of every court case in which the Bush administration invoked the state secrets privilege, a separate legal tool it used to have lawsuits thrown out rather than reveal secrets.

The same day, however, Justice Department attorney Douglas Letter cited that privilege in asking an appeals court to uphold dismissal of a suit accusing a Boeing Co. subsidiary of illegally helping the CIA fly suspected terrorists to allied foreign nations that tortured them.

Letter said that Obama officials approved his argument.

Obama’s War on Terror May Resemble Bush’s in Some Areas

Posted in Afghanistan, Barack Obama, CIA, politics, torture, War on Terror by allisonkilkenny on February 18, 2009

Update: Greenwald has written an excellent companion post to this article. Highly recommended.

Charlie Savage, New York Times

Even as it pulls back from harsh interrogations and other sharply debated aspects of George W. Bush’s “war on terrorism,” the Obama administration is quietly signaling continued support for other major elements of its predecessor’s approach to fighting Al Qaeda.

Leon F. Panetta opened a loophole in the Obama administration’s interrogation restrictions while testifying before a Senate panel this month. (Michael Temchine for The New York Times)

Leon F. Panetta opened a loophole in the Obama administration’s interrogation restrictions while testifying before a Senate panel this month. (Michael Temchine for The New York Times)

In little-noticed confirmation testimony recently, Obama nominees endorsed continuing the C.I.A.’s program of transferring prisoners to other countries without legal rights, and indefinitely detaining terrorism suspects without trials even if they were arrested far from a war zone.

The administration has also embraced the Bush legal team’s arguments that a lawsuit by former C.I.A. detainees should be shut down based on the “state secrets” doctrine. It has also left the door open to resuming military commission trials.

And earlier this month, after a British court cited pressure by the United States in declining to release information about the alleged torture of a detainee in American custody, the Obama administration issued a statement thanking the British government “for its continued commitment to protect sensitive national security information.”

These and other signs suggest that the administration’s changes may turn out to be less sweeping than many had hoped or feared — prompting growing worry among civil liberties groups and a sense of vindication among supporters of Bush-era policies.

In an interview, the White House counsel, Gregory B. Craig, asserted that the administration was not embracing Mr. Bush’s approach to the world. But Mr. Craig also said President Obama intended to avoid any “shoot from the hip” and “bumper sticker slogans” approaches to deciding what to do with the counterterrorism policies he inherited.

“We are charting a new way forward, taking into account both the security of the American people and the need to obey the rule of law,” Mr. Craig said. “That is a message we would give to the civil liberties people as well as to the Bush people.”

Within days of his inauguration, Mr. Obama thrilled civil liberties groups when he issued executive orders promising less secrecy, restricting C.I.A. interrogators to Army Field Manual techniques, shuttering the agency’s secret prisons, ordering the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, closed within a year and halting military commission trials.

But in more recent weeks, things have become murkier.

During her confirmation hearing last week, Elena Kagan, the nominee for solicitor general, said that someone suspected of helping finance Al Qaeda should be subject to battlefield law — indefinite detention without a trial — even if he were captured in a place like the Philippines rather than in a physical battle zone.

Ms. Kagan’s support for an elastic interpretation of the “battlefield” amplified remarks that Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. made at his own confirmation hearing. And it dovetailed with a core Bush position. Civil liberties groups argue that people captured away from combat zones should go to prison only after trials.

Moreover, the nominee for C.I.A. director, Leon E. Panetta, opened a loophole in Mr. Obama’s interrogation restrictions. At his hearing, Mr. Panetta said that if the approved techniques were “not sufficient” to get a detainee to divulge details he was suspected of knowing about an imminent attack, he would ask for “additional authority.”

To be sure, Mr. Panetta emphasized that the president could not bypass antitorture statutes, as Bush lawyers claimed. And he said that waterboarding — a technique that induces the sensation of drowning, and that the Bush administration said was lawful — is torture.

But Mr. Panetta also said the C.I.A. might continue its “extraordinary rendition” program, under which agents seize terrorism suspects and take them to other countries without extradition proceedings, in a more sweeping form than anticipated.

Before the Bush administration, the program primarily involved taking indicted suspects to their native countries for legal proceedings. While some detainees in the 1990s were allegedly abused after transfer, under Mr. Bush the program expanded and included transfers to third countries — some of which allegedly used torture — for interrogation, not trials.

Mr. Panetta said the agency is likely to continue to transfer detainees to third countries and would rely on diplomatic assurances of good treatment — the same safeguard the Bush administration used, and that critics say is ineffective.

Mr. Craig noted that while Mr. Obama decided “not to change the status quo immediately,” he created a task force to study “rendition policy and what makes sense consistent with our obligation to protect the country.”

He urged patience as the administration reviewed the programs it inherited from Mr. Bush. That process began after the election, Mr. Craig said, when military and C.I.A. leaders flew to Chicago for a lengthy briefing of Mr. Obama and his national security advisers. Mr. Obama then sent his advisers to C.I.A. headquarters to “find out the best case for continuing the practices that had been employed during the Bush administration.”

Civil liberties groups praise Mr. Obama’s early executive orders on national security, but say other signs are discouraging.

 

For example, Mr. Obama’s Justice Department last week told an appeals court that the Bush administration was right to invoke “state secrets” to shut down a lawsuit by former C.I.A. detainees who say a Boeing subsidiary helped fly them to places where they were tortured.

Margaret Satterthwaite, a faculty director at the human rights center at the New York University law school, said, “It was literally just Bush redux — exactly the same legal arguments that we saw the Bush administration present to the court.”

Mr. Craig said Mr. Holder and others reviewed the case and “came to the conclusion that it was justified and necessary for national security” to maintain their predecessor’s stance. Mr. Holder has also begun a review of every open Bush-era case involving state secrets, Mr. Craig said, so people should not read too much into one case.

“Every president in my lifetime has invoked the state-secrets privilege,” Mr. Craig said. “The notion that invoking it in that case somehow means we are signing onto the Bush approach to the world is just an erroneous assumption.”

Still, the decision caught the attention of a bipartisan group of lawmakers. Two days after the appeals court hearing, they filed legislation to bar using the state-secrets doctrine to shut down an entire case — as opposed to withholding particular evidence.

The administration has also put off taking a stand in several cases that present opportunities to embrace or renounce Bush-era policies, including the imprisonment without trial of an “enemy combatant” on domestic soil, Freedom of Information Act lawsuits seeking legal opinions about interrogation and surveillance, and an executive-privilege dispute over Congressional subpoenas of former White House aides to Mr. Bush over the firing of United States attorneys.

Addressing the executive-privilege dispute, Mr. Craig said: “The president is very sympathetic to those who want to find out what happened. But he is also mindful as president of the United States not to do anything that would undermine or weaken the institution of the presidency. So for that reason, he is urging both sides of this to settle.”

The administration’s recent policy moves have attracted praise from outspoken defenders of the Bush administration. Last Friday, The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page argued that “it seems that the Bush administration’s antiterror architecture is gaining new legitimacy” as Mr. Obama’s team embraces aspects of Mr. Bush’s counterterrorism approach.

Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the sequence of “disappointing” recent events had heightened concerns that Mr. Obama might end up carrying forward “some of the most problematic policies of the Bush presidency.”

Mr. Obama has clashed with civil libertarians before. Last July, he voted to authorize eavesdropping on some phone calls and e-mail messages without a warrant. While the A.C.L.U. says the program is still unconstitutional, the legislation reduced legal concerns about one of the most controversial aspects of Mr. Bush’s antiterror strategy.

“We have been some of the most articulate and vociferous critics of the way the Bush administration handled things,” Mr. Craig said. “There has been a dramatic change of direction.”

Obama Screws Up So Badly Even the Times Takes Notice

Posted in Barack Obama, CIA, politics, torture by allisonkilkenny on February 11, 2009

New York Times

obama_tiredThe Obama administration failed — miserably — the first test of its commitment to ditching the extravagant legal claims used by the Bush administration to try to impose blanket secrecy on anti-terrorism policies and avoid accountability for serial abuses of the law.

On Monday, a Justice Department lawyer dispatched by the new attorney general, Eric Holder, appeared before a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco. The case before them involves serious allegations of torture by five victims of President Bush’s extraordinary rendition program. The five were seized and transported to American facilities abroad or to countries known for torturing prisoners.

Incredibly, the federal lawyer advanced the same expansive state-secrets argument that was pressed by Mr. Bush’s lawyers to get a trial court to dismiss the case without any evidence being presented. It was as if last month’s inauguration had never occurred.

Voters have good reason to feel betrayed if they took Mr. Obama seriously on the campaign trail when he criticized the Bush administration’s tactic of stretching the state-secrets privilege to get lawsuits tossed out of court. Even judges on the panel seemed surprised by the administration’s decision to go forward instead of requesting a delay to reconsider the government’s position and, perhaps, file new briefs.

The argument is that the very subject matter of the suit is a state secret so sensitive that it cannot be discussed in court, and it is no more persuasive now than it was when the Bush team pioneered it. For one thing, there is ample public information available about the C.I.A.’s rendition, detention and coercive interrogation programs. The fact that some of the evidence might be legitimately excluded on national security grounds need not preclude the case from being tried, and allowing the judge to make that determination. More fundamentally, the Obama administration should not be invoking state secrets to cover up charges of rendition and torture.

President Obama has taken some important steps to repair Mr. Bush’s damaging legacy — issuing executive orders to prohibit torture, shut secret prisons overseas and direct closure of the detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. It would have been good if he and Mr. Holder had shown the same determination in that federal court, rather than defending the indefensible.

Dennis Blair Refuses to Say Waterboarding is Torture

Posted in Barack Obama, civil rights, politics, torture by allisonkilkenny on January 22, 2009

Note from Allison: Add this to Blair’s connection with the East Timor massacre and the question becomes glaringly obvious: is this really the best person we can find for the Director of National Intelligence? Blair disobeyed his orders from Washington and informed top Indonesian general Wiranto that he had unwavering U.S. support. The ruthless attacks in East Timor resulted in hundreds dead and thousands displaced. 

At the very least, Blair is an accessory to war crimes if his complacency in this massacre doesn’t directly link him to war crimes. Now, he refuses to call waterboarding torture, which is a pretty huge prerequisite for someone who will serve as the head of the intelligence community.

Think Progress

blairwebDuring his confirmation hearings, Attorney General Eric Holder clearly expressed that “waterboading is torture.” But President Obama’s nominee to be Director of National Intelligence, ret. Adm. Dennis Blair, refused to call waterboarding torture in his confirmation hearing today. “There will be no waterboarding on my watch. There will be no torture on my watch,” Blair said, “refusing to go further,” according to Reuters. Sen Carl Levin (D-MI) told Blair, “If the attorney general designee can answer it, you can too.”

In Final Legal Act, Bush Appeals Spy Ruling

Posted in Barack Obama, politics by allisonkilkenny on January 21, 2009

Wired

spyWith a mere 64 minutes left in its last full day in office, the Bush administration asked a federal judge to stay enforcement of a  ruling that would keep alive a lawsuit which tests whether the president can bypass the Congress and eavesdrop on Americans without warrants.

The request was lodged with U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker of San Francisco at 10:56 p.m. EST on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday — about 13 hours before the inauguration of President Barack Obama. The filing was among now former President George W. Bush’s final legal acts in office.

The Bush administration asked Walker’s permission to appeal his Jan. 5 decision to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. Walker had ruled that “sufficient facts” exist that two U.S.-based lawyers for an Islamic charity might have been spied upon for the case to proceed to the next stage.

The case seeks the courts to rule on the constitutionality of the Bush administration’s warrantless eavesdropping program the president approved in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.

Congress authorized the spy program last year as part of legislation immunizing participating telecommunication companies from lawsuits accusing them of violating their customers’ civil liberties, but the spying in this case allegedly happened in 2004. Eric Holder, the incoming U.S. attorney, said the Obama administration supported the spy legislation and would defend it in a separate challenge.

On Monday, the Bush administration sought to prevent the disclosure of a Top Secret document at the center of a closely watched spy case, a document Walker ruled could be admitted.

The suit involves two American lawyers who the Treasury Department accidentally gave a Top Secret document in 2004 showing they were illegally eavesdropped on by the government when working for a now-defunct Islamic charity that year.

Their suit looked all but dead in July when they were initially blocked from using the document to prove they were spied on. They were forced to return it to the government.

But two weeks ago, Walker said the document could be used in the case because there was sufficient, anecdotal evidence unrelated to the document that suggests the lawyers for the Al-Haramain charity were spied upon. Without the document, the lawyers — Wendell Belew and Asim Ghafoo — don’t likely have a case.

In its Monday filling, (.pdf) the government repeated its assertion that the use of the document in the case would jeopardize national security. The administration said the document was protected by the so-called state secrets privilege and objected to even Walker reviewing it — yet alone the lawyers for Belew and Ghafoo — who Walker said could see it in private.

“If the court were to find … that none of the plaintiffs are aggrieved parties, the case obviously could not proceed, but such a holding would reveal to plaintiffs and the public at large information that is protected by the state secrets privilege — namely, that certain individuals were not subject to alleged surveillance,” the administration wrote.

By the same token, the administration argued, if Walker allowed the case to proceed after reviewing the document, it “would confirm that a plaintiff was subject to surveillance.”

The government continued: “Indeed, if the actual facts were that just one of the plaintiffs had been subject to alleged surveillance, any such differentiation likewise could not be disclosed because it would inherently reveal intelligence information as to who was and was not a subject of interest, which communications were and were not of intelligence interest, and which modes of communication were and were not of intelligence interest, and which modes of communication may or may not have been subject to surveillance.”

A hearing is scheduled in Walker’s courtroom on Friday.

“We filed this lawsuit to establish a judicial precedent that the president cannot disregard Congress in the name of national security,” said Jon Eisenberg, the lawyer for Belew and Ghafoo. “Plaintiffs have a right to litigate the legality of the surveillance.”

Human Rights Contradictions Evident With Obama’s Attorney General Pick

Posted in Barack Obama by allisonkilkenny on November 19, 2008
Eric Holder, Jr.

Eric Holder, Jr.

From MAMA Radio in Colombia:

Holder’s Links to Chiquita Brands International Not a Good Sign for Justice For the Victims of Paramilitary Terror
By Mario A. Murillo

(Bogotá, Colombia)

First the good news: We’re two months away from President George W. Bush’s last full day in the White House. The countdown for the end of the nightmare has begun in earnest.

Now the bad news: As Barack Obama puts together his cabinet and eyes a slew of former Clinton officials for key staff positions, it is becoming ever more apparent that all those calls for change coming from progressive circles in the U.S. – and abroad – have fallen on deaf ears.

Most striking, at least for the time being, is the soon to be named position of the top law enforcement official of the country. It looks like the first African-American President will appoint the first African-American attorney general in the coming days, something that on the surface looks like an advance, but should actually sound alarm bells for anybody seeking true change in the way things are done in Washington, especially when it comes to bringing corporate criminals to justice.

(more…)