Rapper/actor Yasiin Bey (Mos Def) released a video in conjunction with a human rights organization this morning via The Guardian that shows him undergoing what he says is the standard process for force-feeding Guantanamo detainees. Or attempting to, anyway — after an excruciating attempt to submit to a nasogastric tube (up the nostrils, down to the stomach) he convulses in tears and begs to stop the experiment.

More than half of the 166 prisoners at the U.S. Navy base in Guantanamo are participating in a hunger strike that has been going on for months, military officials have said. Lawyers for the prisoners have asked the federal courts to stop the force-feeding, saying it’s akin to torture and prevents them from observing the religious fasting of Ramadan, which begins tonight. Justice Department lawyers responded last week that the process is a humane way to keep detainees from starving to death.

Bey, 39, has a background in activism, railing against the government response to Hurricane Katrina and the conviction of Mumia Abu-Jamal. He made the film with the group Reprieve, which participated in the court filings.

Source

Students & faculty at the University of Johannesburg will NOT hand over an honorary degree to a war criminal
June 20, 2013

Obama will make his first official visit to South Africa, with his wife Michelle, this month.

The university plans to confer the honor on Obama for his achievements as the first black president of the US before he addresses students at its Soweto campus on Saturday next week.

But the UJ Students’ Representative Council - in coalition with some staff members, student organization Sasco, the Muslim Student Association and the Palestinian Solidarity Forum - has vowed to stage a boycott if the university goes through with the ceremony.

The Muslim Lawyers’ Association last week called for the arrest and prosecution of the US president when he arrives in this country, describing Obama as a “war criminal”.

SRC president Levy Masete yesterday said UJ had failed to consult students about its decision to honor Obama. “Obama’s decisions have caused human rights violations in the Middle East and Africa. He supported Nato while killing innocent people in Libya. The withdrawal of all US troops [from] Iraq and Afghanistan, [and the] closure of the prison at Guantanamo Bay never materialised,” Masete said.

Obama has committed “a lot blunders in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”, he said.

"Obama is guilty of human rights violations. He signed what is called [the] US-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012, which was to strengthen Israel’s military to fight against Palestine. So now, how [do] we honour someone [who] is perpetuating war?" Masete asked.

"The university must not support an imperialist Obama."

A senior staff member said students had been asked to vacate residences during Obama’s visit. “There is no one from management who sees fit to engage the staff and students about honoring Obama,” the staff member said.

Source

It takes discipline & courage to stand consistently against human rights injustice & acts of international terror. It’s always heart breaking to see some stand against it when it’s convenient for their political team and stay silent otherwise.

Middlebury students stage checkpoint, Call on college to divest from Israeli apartheid

Submitted by Jay Saper
May 19, 2013

On May 15, students at Middlebury College in Vermont staged a checkpoint outside their dining hall during the busiest meal of the year to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, which led to the establishment of the state of Israel.

As the Middlebury divestment campaign from arms and fossil fuels gains national attention, a coalition that included Palestinian, Israeli, and American Jewish students staged the act of political theater in solidarity with Nakba Day demonstrations around the globe as a call to add apartheid to the students’ divestment demands.

At a midnight breakfast event during finals week, students were greeted in the dark with barricades blocking the entrance to the dining hall and flashlights from full uniformed soldiers asking for identification cards.

Alex Jackman, a junior from New York City, described the checkpoint as “one of the coolest pieces of theater I have seen on Middlebury Campus. Performed during the time when all students are wrapped up in stress about exams and schoolwork, the piece served as a reminder that there are greater battles to fight beyond our campus.”

A gate was lifted for students who had received Israeli documentation. They could pass freely to prepare themselves a plate of pancakes. Those with Palestinian IDs were directed around the checkpoint.

Some students voiced their frustration with being held up, “This is not cool, I am trying to get to midnight breakfast.” One shouted, “I have to study for finals.”

Jackman contended it was important for students to confront the checkpoint. She explained, “Middlebury College students tend to abstract issues of social injustice, a method that allows us to remove ourselves from these issues. But by being confronted, quite literally, with this piece of theater, we were not able to remove ourselves from our privileges—even if only for a moment.

The performance, developed by students as part of a course on Theater and Social Change and members of the organization Justice for Palestine, was broken up by campus public safety.

“This is not theater, we can tell it is political,” one officer voiced. “Everything that is political has to be approved by the College.”

For Palestinians, checkpoints are not a momentary interruption, but one persistent piece of a dehumanizing system of apartheid. Between 2000 and 2005 there were 67 Palestinian mothers who were forced to give birth at Israeli military checkpoints and 36 of those babies died.

Apartheid is not enabled through merely subjecting a people to oppressive conditions, but rather through creating separate realities whereby a group of people is not forced to confront their implication in the domination of another group.

Middlebury College itself is a settlement on stolen Abenaki land. With its pristine limestone buildings and perfectly manicured grass, Middlebury manufactures an environment seemingly separate from the oppressions it perpetuates, which is itself a political act.

Students at Middlebury are stepping up and refusing to allow a separation of conscience that tolerates inaction in face of the school profiting from Israeli apartheid. Justice for Palestine has one message for administrators, particularly fitting of a midnight action, “We will not rest, until you divest.”   

Jay Saper is a student organizer with Justice for Palestine at Middlebury College.

TW: Suicide: Guantanamo attorney found dead in apparent suicide
May 1, 2013

An attorney who represented prisoners detained at Guantanamo Bay was found dead last week in what sources said was a suicide.

Andy P. Hart, 38, a federal public defender in Toledo, Ohio, apparently died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Hart left behind a suicide note and a thumb drive, believed to contain his case files. It is unknown where Hart died, what the suicide note said or whether an autopsy was performed.

Hart’s death comes amid escalating chaos that has engulfed Guantanamo over the past three months—from a mass hunger strike to military commissions and renewed pressure on the White House to shut down the prison facility. Hart was one of three-dozen Guantanamo attorneys who signed a letter in March urging Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to take immediate action and bring about an end to the hunger strike.

Because Hart was a federal employee working on sensitive legal issues the FBI was contacted about his death. It is unknown if the agency has been investigating the circumstances surrounding his death.

Neither the FBI nor local law enforcement officials in Toledo, Ohio returned calls for comment. A phone number listed for Hart was disconnected Wednesday.

Truthout learned about the details of Hart’s death Wednesday from an investigator who has been tapped by attorneys to work on a number of cases involving Guantanamo prisoners’ habeas corpus petitions. The investigator requested anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter.

Dennis Terez, the top federal public defender in the Northern District of Ohio, where Hart worked, declined to comment on his colleague’s death.

"At this time and out of respect for Mr. Hart’s family and friends, we have no comment," Terez said.

Hart’s name has since been removed from the federal public defender’s website.

Hart worked closely with attorney Carlos Warner, who was based out of the federal public defender’s Akron, Ohio office. Warner referred requests for comment about Hart to Terez.

With Warner, Hart was assigned by the government to defend Mohammed Rahim al-Afghani, who was detained by the CIA and allegedly subjected to torture methods until his transfer to Guantanamo in March 2008. The government maintained that al-Afghani was Osama bin Laden’s translator and a top al-Qaida official.

Hart also represented Saudi Khalid Saad Mohammed, who was transferred back to Saudi Arabia from Guantanamo in 2009. He was also the attorney for Adel Hakeemy, a Tunisian who has been detained at Guantanamo for 11 years.

The Guantanamo prisoners he represents have not yet been notified about Hart’s death, according to the investigator.

In addition to defending Guantanamo prisoners, Hart also was the defense attorney for Richard Schmidt, an alleged white supremacist and convicted felon who was under federal investigation over allegations he amassed high-powered weapons and ammunition.

In 2011, Hart was assigned to represent Jeff Boyd Levenderis, 54, who was indicted by a federal grand jury on suspicion of concealing a biological toxin, ricin, and making false statements to federal investigators. An 11-year-old daughter survives Hart.

Source

I was deprived of my comfort items, except for a thin iso-mat and a very thin, small, and worn-out blanket. I was deprived of my books, which I owned. I was deprived of my Quran. I was deprived of my soap. I was deprived of my toothpaste. I was deprived of the roll of toilet paper I had. The cell—better, the box—was cooled down so that I was shaking most of the time. I was forbidden from seeing the light of the day. Every once in a while they gave me a rec time in the night to keep me from seeing or interacting with any detainees. I was living literally in terror. I don’t remember having slept one night quietly; for the next 70 days to come I wouldn’t know the sweetness of sleeping. Interrogation for 24 hours, three and sometimes four shifts a day. I rarely got a day off.

“We know that you are a criminal.”

“What have I done?”

“You tell me, and we reduce your sentence to 30 years. Otherwise you will never see the light again. If you don’t cooperate we are going to put you in a hole and wipe your name out of our detainees database.” I was so terrified because I knew, even though he couldn’t make such decision on his own, he had the complete backup of the high government level. He didn’t speak from the air.

“I don’t care where you take me, just do it.”

an excerpt from Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s Guantanamo Memoirs, Part One: Endless Interrogations

Nathan Blanc: Israeli teenager & conscientious objector
April 7, 2013

Nathan Blanc is an Israeli conscientious objector. He’s getting ready to serve his 8th stint in jail for refusing to serve in the Israeli military. He believes in democracy. From the video:

The main reason for my refusal is the feeling our country is going towards a non democratic condition of civil inequality between us and the Palestinians. There are two people in the same land but only the Israelis can vote in the elections.

Blanc has internalized one state/ two peoples.

Israel is refusing to offer him civil service as an alternative to military service and he doesn’t want to get a mental health deferment; “I’m not going to put on an act,” he toldHaaretz last January. He thinks the army is trying to “wear him down with the repeated confinements until he gives in and enlists.”

That was after two months in prison, now he’s been in for over 100 days. Harriet Sherwood reports for The Guardian, Israel set to jail teenage conscientious objector for eighth time:

It is a routine Nathan Blanc knows well. At 9am on Tuesday morning, the 19-year-old will report, as instructed in his draft papers, to a military base near Tel Aviv. There he will state his objection to serving in the Israeli army. Following his refusal to enlist, Blanc expects to be arrested and sentenced to between 10 and 20 days in jail. He will then be taken to Military Prison Number 6 to serve his time. And then, following his release, the cycle will begin over again.

The reason why Blanc knows what to expect is that this will be the eighth time the teenage conscientious objector has been jailed in the past 19 weeks. Since the date of his original call-up for military service, Blanc has spent more than 100 days in prison; on one occasion, he was released on a Tuesday and re-imprisoned two days later on a Thursday.

Blanc began to consider the possibility of refusing the draft several years ago. “It was a very hard decision, it took me a long time to get to it,” he says.

The turning point was Operation Cast Lead, the war in Gaza that began at the end of 2008 and ended three weeks later with a Palestinian death toll of around 1,400. In a statement issued when he was first imprisoned, Blanc said: “The wave of aggressive militarism that swept the country then, the expressions of mutual hatred, and the vacuous talk about stamping out terror and creating a deterrent effect were the primary trigger for my refusal.”

The government, he said, was “not interested in finding a solution to the existing situation, but rather in preserving it … We will talk of deterrence, we will kill some terrorist, we will lose some civilians on both sides, and we will prepare the ground for a new generation full of hatred on both sides … We, as citizens and human beings, have a moral duty to refuse to participate in this cynical game.”

In an interview with the Guardian, he says: “The war going on in this country for more than 60 years could have ended a long time ago. But both sides are giving into extremists and fundamentalists. The occupation was supposed to be temporary, but now no one speaks of it ending.”

The Israeli state, he adds, keeps people “under our control” without democratic rights. Palestinians are subject to “collective punishment” for the actions of a few.

Will our msm write about this? Probably not. Here is a facebook page with updates about Blanc, including video messages for him from other Israeli Refusniks.

War Resistors International:

Repeated imprisonment is a violation of international legal standards. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in Opinion 24/2003 on Israel came to the conclusion that the repeated imprisonment of conscientious objectors in Israel is arbitrary, and therefore it constitutes a violation of 14 par 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, of which Israel is a signatory.

Natan Blanc refuses to enlist in the Israeli Army based on beliefs and conscience. He claims his human right to conscientious objection, as guaranteed by Article 18 of the ICCPR.

Source

Hundreds of people held a protest march in the Pakistani capital Islamabad to demand the release of Pakistani neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui, who is imprisoned in the United States, Press TV reports.
March 11, 2013

Sunday’s demonstration was organized by the country’s largest political-religious party Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), a Press TV correspondent said.

The protesters highlighted the plight of Siddiqui, who is currently detained at the Federal Medical Center Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas, which provides specialized medical and mental health services to female prisoners.

An activist said that the Unites States’ judiciary had proved that it was fully biased against Muslims and Islam, when it sentenced Siddiqui for 86 years in prison without due process of law.

The protesters were holding placards and banners bearing anti-US slogans. They also denounced the Pakistani government for taking a hands-off approach in dealing with the Siddiqui issue.

In September 2010, a court in New York sentenced Siddiqui to 86 years in prison after she was found guilty of opening fire on FBI agents and US military personnel in a police station in Ghazni, Afghanistan, where she was being interrogated, in 2008.

The mother of three vanished in Karachi with her three children on March 30, 2003. The following day, local newspapers reported that she had been abducted by US forces and charged with terrorism.

Human rights groups say that Siddiqui was secretly transferred to the US base in Bagram, north of Kabul, and tortured for five years prior to the alleged incident in 2008.

She was taken to the US in July 2008 and then convicted in the New York court in February 2010.

Source

John Owen Brennan is chief counterterrorism advisor to U.S. President Barack Obama; officially his title is Deputy National Security Advisor for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, and Assistant to the President. He supports drones and will not admit that water-boarding is torture. He was nominated to be the new CIA director and has supported water-boarding and drone-terror in his nomination hearing.

Lyrics to Torture Memos above, a song written & sung by Jonathan Mann in 2009 - lyrics were taken directly from official memos on torture. It was the 109th song in his song-a-day project, which is still on-going: 

the detainee is lying on a gurney
that’s inclined at an angle: 10 to 15 degrees
a cloth is placed over the detainee’s face
cold water is poured on the cloth

the wet cloth creates
a barrier through which
it is difficult or in some cases not possible
for the detainee to breathe

if the detainee 
makes an effort to defeat the technique 
by twisting his head to the side and breathing
out the corner of his mouth
the interrogator may cup his hands around 
the detainees nose and mouth
in which case it would not be posible for him to breathe!

As we explained 
in the Section 2340A Memorandum, 
"pain and suffering" 
(as used in Section 2340) 
is best understood as a single concept, 
not distinct concepts 
of “pain” as distinguished from “suffering”… 

The waterboard,
which inflicts no pain or actual harm whatsoever, 
does not, in our view inflict “severe pain or suffering”. 
Even if one were to parse the statute more finely 
to treat “suffering” as a distinct concept, 
the waterboard could not be said to inflict severe sufering. 

The waterboard is simply a controlled acute episode, lacking the connotation of a protracted period of time generally given to suffering.

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After a New York court charges a man kidnapped by British intelligence, he’s handed over to CIA to be tortured extra-judicially on the grounds of suspected terrorist links to Somalia.
January 27, 2013

A British man who was handed over to the CIA under the suspicion of being an Islamist terrorist was severely tortured by collaborators of the intelligence agency and forced to sign a confession.

Mahdi Hashi, a 23-year-old from London with a Somali background, was stripped of his British citizenship last year for being a suspected terrorist. After disappearing from England and spending months in a prison in the African country of Djibouti, he has turned up in a New York City courtroom, charged with terrorism offenses, the Daily Mail reports. 

The young man told his British lawyers that he was severely abused and tortured while imprisoned in Africa, where CIA interrogators questioned him between the months of August and November. Although secret police in Djibouti were responsible for much of the torture, he says they worked in collaboration with US interrogators from the CIA and FBI.

Hashi says that Djibouti interrogators stripped him down to his underwear and threatened him with rape and sexual abuse while he was blindfolded, threatened to beat and electrocute him, and forced him to watch the torture that other prisoners endured.

Prisoners endured “beatings, being sexually abused, being pinned down naked and their testicles beaten,” Hashi told his lawyers.

At one point during his detention, Hashi was forced to watch a Swedish detainee horrifically tortured, which interrogators said would happen to him if he didn’t comply.

“They beat the soles of his feet, poured cold water on him and said they would electrocute him. There was screaming all around me and it was pretty horrific,” Hashi said.

The young man says American interrogators treated him better, but still forced him to sign a confession and a disclaimer waiving his right to silence and ignored his pleas to relay information about his detention and torture to British authorities. Because of their refusal to let the UK know about his whereabouts, the man remained ‘missing’ for four months, leaving his family in the dark about what happened to him.

After spending four months in an African prison and being forced to confess, Hashi was flown to the US, where he must now stand trial on charges of terrorism. His family discovered his whereabouts just before Christmas.

The US claims Hashi was involved in weapons and explosive training with the terrorist group al-Shabaab and was“deployed in combat operations to support military action in Somalia”.  He currently faces a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Even though American interrogators were not directly involved in Hashi’s torture, they collaborated with the perpetrators and relied on information that was acquired via torture. If they did indeed force Hashi into confessing, then their actions raise further questions about the veracity of other claims they have made about suspected terrorists.

Hashi’s lawyers, Faisal Saifee and Saghir Hussain, believe that despite CIA claims that torture is no longer a method to procure information, interrogators continue to exploit such techniques by relying on others to do the dirty work – in this case, the secret police in Djibouti.

“These revelations will cast serious doubts on the credibility of the evidence that is being used against Mahdi,”Hussain said. “The prosecuting authorities in the US should be compelled by the trial judge to explain the exact circumstances in which this evidence was gathered.”

Source

5 ways Obama is just like George W. BushJanuary 15, 2013
On President Barack Obama’s second full day in the Oval Office in 2009, he signed important executive orders that signaled a clear break with the excesses of George W. Bush’s “war on terror.” Obama decreed that the Guantanamo Bay prison camp would be closed in a year and that the United States would no longer perpetrate torture. No longer would men, some of them innocent, languish without charges in what has been described as an American gulag by Amnesty International. No longer would men be subjected to brutal interrogation tactics that clearly amounted to torture, like water boarding.
The orders would “restore the standards of due process and the core constitutional values that have made this country great even in the midst of war, even in dealing with terrorism,” said Obama.
Fast-forward to today. Guantanamo remains open, warrantless wiretapping continues, and drone strikes have accelerated, leading to the deaths of innocent civilians and a burst in support for anti-American forces in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia. Instead of breaking with the Bush era, Obama has codified and permanently institutionalized the “war on terror” framework that has characterized American foreign policy since the September 11, 2001 attacks. And they have done all of this largely in secret, refusing to open up about how drone strikes are decided on. So while torture has been thrown out of the American playbook, other black marks remain. Obama has done everything but restore “core constitutional values” to how the U.S. conducts itself around the world.
Perhaps the most potent symbol of Obama’s willingness to institutionalize Bush-era frameworks for dealing with terrorism is his January 2013 appointment of John Brennan as new Central Intelligence Agency director. Brennan was a key supporter of many Bush-favored tactics used by the CIA, including torture and extraordinary rendition. When Obama first contemplated appointing Brennan in his first term to the post he’s been appointed to now, the outcry was swift and Brennan pulled out from consideration. Now, the reaction has been meek—a symbol of how Bush-era military and intelligence tactics have become normalized to the extent that nobody bats an eye when a man with a sordid record at the CIA is appointed to head up the entire agency.

Obama has kept the U.S. on a permanent war footing with no end in sight through a variety of methods. Here are five ways the Obama administration has institutionalized the never-ending war on terror.
1. Drones
The image of the gray, pilotless aircraft flying through the sky to eventually rain hellfire down will be indelibly tied to Obama. His administration has made drone strikes in countries like Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan the weapon of choice when it comes to dealing with suspected militants. You have to look at the numbers of drone strikes under the Bush and Obama administrations to truly appreciate how Obama has taken this Bush tool and increased its use exponentially.
The first drone strike in U.S. history occurred in 2002, when a CIA-operated drone fired on three men in Afghanistan. The drone strikes have since migrated over to battlefields away from U.S.-declared wars. In Pakistan, the Bush administration carried out a total of 52 strikes, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which closely tracks drone strikes. That led to the deaths of an estimated 438 people, including 182 civilians and 112 children. But the Obama administration has ordered at least 300 drone strikes in Pakistan—and Obama’s second term has yet to begun. Those strikes have killed about 2,152 people, including 290 civilians, of whom 64 were children.
The drone strikes also have a devastating impact beyond the deaths reported. As a New York University/Stanford University study on drone strikes stated, the constant buzzing of drones in the sky “terrorizes men, women, and children, giving rise to anxiety and psychological trauma among civilian communities. Those living under drones have to face the constant worry that a deadly strike may be fired at any moment, and the knowledge that they are powerless to protect themselves.”
Instead of looking forward to how this permanent drone war might end, the Obama administration has decided to institutionalize the process. In October 2012, the Washington Post revealed that the administration had undertaken a two-year long strategy to institutionalize what has become known as the “kill list,” or the list of suspected terrorists the Obama administration unilaterally decides to kill by drone strikes. The administration calls it the “disposition matrix,” which refers to the different plans the administration has to “dispose” of suspected militants. The Post described the “matrix” as part of “the highly classified practice of targeted killing, transforming ad-hoc elements into a counterterrorism infrastructure capable of sustaining a seemingly permanent war.”
2. Warrantless Wiretapping
One of the enduring scandals of the George W. Bush years was that administration’s practice of wiretapping American citizens with no warrant in order to spy on suspected terrorists. TheNew York Times, which broke the story in 2005, reported that “months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying.” The move raised concerns that the Bush administration was crossing constitutional limits on wiretapping Americans.
But the outcry from those concerned with civil liberties has largely been muted in the Obama era. In late December 2012, President Obama signed an extension of a law that allows the U.S. to “eavesdrop on communications and review email without following an open and public warrant process,” as NPR summed it up. The law was an extension of the 2008 law that legalized the Bush administration’s wiretapping of American citizens.
As national security blogger Marcy Wheeler notes in a recent piece for the Nation, the president’s signature on the new bill on wiretapping means that the U.S. “has nearly unrestrained authority to eavesdrop on those who communicate with people outside the country. The government doesn’t even need to show that these foreign targets are terrorists or that the conversations center around a plot. This means any international communication may be subject to wiretapping.”
3. Proxy Detentions
Under the Bush administration, the process of “extraordinary rendition” involved abducting people accused of terrorism and shipping them off to another country where they were interrogated and tortured. The Obama administration has continued to use foreign countries to detain and interrogate suspects, but the details of how they do it are changed from the Bush era. Still, the overall practice of using other security forces to do your dirty work remains in place.
The Washington Postreported on January 1 that “the Obama administration has embraced rendition — the practice of holding and interrogating terrorism suspects in other countries without due process — despite widespread condemnation of the tactic in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.” While the Post used the term “rendition,” the more accurate term would be “proxy detention,” as Mother Jones pointed out.
The most recent iterations of the practice of using other countries to detain suspects the U.S. wants to interrogate have been in countries like Dijibouti and Nigeria. The Post reported on one December 2011 case in which an man from Eritrea “revealed that he had been questioned in a Ni­ger­ian jail by what a U.S. interrogator described as a ‘dirty’ team of American agents who ignored the suspect’s right to remain silent or have a lawyer, according to court proceedings.”
Other cases have been publicized by Mother Jones. The magazine reported on the case of Yonas Fikre, a Muslim-American from Oregon who was detained in the United Arab Emirates. There, Fikre and his lawyers claim, he was beaten and held in stress positions. He claims there was cooperation between the FBI and UAE security forces. So the FBI was using the UAE forces to detain people the U.S. wanted to interrogate.
4. Guantanamo
Although the continued operation of the Guantanamo Bay camp is hardly the sole fault of President Obama, it does symbolize the abject failure to reject the Bush administration’s approach to terrorism.
While it’s important to note that the Republican Party has blocked Obama’s desire to close Guantanamo, he has not expended political capital on closing the prison and has signed bills that restrict his ability to do so. The most recent bill concerning Guantanamo Bay crossed his desk at the beginning of the year.
Despite threatening to veto the bill because it restricted the executive branch’s authority, Obama signed it, and curtailed his own ability to move ahead on closing the infamous camp, where people have languished without charge for years on end. The National Defense Authorization Act of 2013, where the Guantanamo provisions are included, restricts “the transfer of detainees into the United States for any purpose, including trials in federal court. It also requires the defense secretary to meet rigorous conditions before any detainee can be returned to his own country or resettled in a third country,” according to theWashington Post.
Human rights activists blasted the move. “Indefinite detention without trial at Guantanamo is illegal, unsustainable and against U.S. national security interests, and it needs to end,” Human Rights Watch’s Andrea Prasow told the Post. “The administration should not continue to just blame Congress. President Obama should follow through on his earlier commitments and make the effort to overcome the transfer restrictions.”
5. Indefinite Detention
This issue, over all the others, says loud and clear that the Obama administration is preparing for an endless war on terror.
Domestically, indefinite detention reared its ugly head back in December 2011, when President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, a defense funding bill. Included in the bill was a provision allowing for indefinite military detention without charge or trial. Despite concerns raised by civil liberties activists, Obama signed the bill into law, although an executive signing statement vowed that the president would “not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens.”
That has not allayed the concerns of civil liberties groups. The American Civil Liberties Union states: “The NDAA’s dangerous detention provisions would authorize the president — and all future presidents — to order the military to pick up and indefinitely imprison people captured anywhere in the world, far from any battlefield….Under the Bush administration, similar claims of worldwide detention authority were used to hold even a U.S. citizen detained on U.S. soil in military custody, and many in Congress now assert that the NDAA should be used in the same way again.”
While no American citizens have been detained under the law yet, indefinite detention has been a hallmark of the war in Afghanistan. Thousands of detainees have remained in Bagram Air Field, including non-Afghan detainees. Picked up on the battlefield in Afghanistan, they have been held for years without charge or trial.
“Since 2002, the U.S. government has detained indefinitely thousands of people there in harsh conditions and without charge, without access to lawyers, without access to courts, and without a meaningful opportunity to challenge their detention,” the ACLU notes.
So as the Obama administration fills out its cabinet posts and prepares for another four years, the permanent war on terror will stay with us. From drones to proxy detentions to indefinite detention, the constitutional lawyer in the Oval Office has institutionalized and expanded some of the worst hallmarks of the lawless Bush era.
Source
This is (partly) why I never understood the “lesser of two evils” argument in voting for Obama. 

5 ways Obama is just like George W. Bush
January 15, 2013

On President Barack Obama’s second full day in the Oval Office in 2009, he signed important executive orders that signaled a clear break with the excesses of George W. Bush’s “war on terror.” Obama decreed that the Guantanamo Bay prison camp would be closed in a year and that the United States would no longer perpetrate torture. No longer would men, some of them innocent, languish without charges in what has been described as an American gulag by Amnesty International. No longer would men be subjected to brutal interrogation tactics that clearly amounted to torture, like water boarding.

The orders would “restore the standards of due process and the core constitutional values that have made this country great even in the midst of war, even in dealing with terrorism,” said Obama.

Fast-forward to today. Guantanamo remains open, warrantless wiretapping continues, and drone strikes have accelerated, leading to the deaths of innocent civilians and a burst in support for anti-American forces in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia. Instead of breaking with the Bush era, Obama has codified and permanently institutionalized the “war on terror” framework that has characterized American foreign policy since the September 11, 2001 attacks. And they have done all of this largely in secret, refusing to open up about how drone strikes are decided on. So while torture has been thrown out of the American playbook, other black marks remain. Obama has done everything but restore “core constitutional values” to how the U.S. conducts itself around the world.

Perhaps the most potent symbol of Obama’s willingness to institutionalize Bush-era frameworks for dealing with terrorism is his January 2013 appointment of John Brennan as new Central Intelligence Agency director. Brennan was a key supporter of many Bush-favored tactics used by the CIA, including torture and extraordinary rendition. When Obama first contemplated appointing Brennan in his first term to the post he’s been appointed to now, the outcry was swift and Brennan pulled out from consideration. Now, the reaction has been meek—a symbol of how Bush-era military and intelligence tactics have become normalized to the extent that nobody bats an eye when a man with a sordid record at the CIA is appointed to head up the entire agency.

Obama has kept the U.S. on a permanent war footing with no end in sight through a variety of methods. Here are five ways the Obama administration has institutionalized the never-ending war on terror.

1. Drones

The image of the gray, pilotless aircraft flying through the sky to eventually rain hellfire down will be indelibly tied to Obama. His administration has made drone strikes in countries like Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan the weapon of choice when it comes to dealing with suspected militants. You have to look at the numbers of drone strikes under the Bush and Obama administrations to truly appreciate how Obama has taken this Bush tool and increased its use exponentially.

The first drone strike in U.S. history occurred in 2002, when a CIA-operated drone fired on three men in Afghanistan. The drone strikes have since migrated over to battlefields away from U.S.-declared wars. In Pakistan, the Bush administration carried out a total of 52 strikes, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which closely tracks drone strikes. That led to the deaths of an estimated 438 people, including 182 civilians and 112 children. But the Obama administration has ordered at least 300 drone strikes in Pakistan—and Obama’s second term has yet to begun. Those strikes have killed about 2,152 people, including 290 civilians, of whom 64 were children.

The drone strikes also have a devastating impact beyond the deaths reported. As a New York University/Stanford University study on drone strikes stated, the constant buzzing of drones in the sky “terrorizes men, women, and children, giving rise to anxiety and psychological trauma among civilian communities. Those living under drones have to face the constant worry that a deadly strike may be fired at any moment, and the knowledge that they are powerless to protect themselves.”

Instead of looking forward to how this permanent drone war might end, the Obama administration has decided to institutionalize the process. In October 2012, the Washington Post revealed that the administration had undertaken a two-year long strategy to institutionalize what has become known as the “kill list,” or the list of suspected terrorists the Obama administration unilaterally decides to kill by drone strikes. The administration calls it the “disposition matrix,” which refers to the different plans the administration has to “dispose” of suspected militants. The Post described the “matrix” as part of “the highly classified practice of targeted killing, transforming ad-hoc elements into a counterterrorism infrastructure capable of sustaining a seemingly permanent war.”

2. Warrantless Wiretapping

One of the enduring scandals of the George W. Bush years was that administration’s practice of wiretapping American citizens with no warrant in order to spy on suspected terrorists. TheNew York Times, which broke the story in 2005, reported that “months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying.” The move raised concerns that the Bush administration was crossing constitutional limits on wiretapping Americans.

But the outcry from those concerned with civil liberties has largely been muted in the Obama era. In late December 2012, President Obama signed an extension of a law that allows the U.S. to “eavesdrop on communications and review email without following an open and public warrant process,” as NPR summed it up. The law was an extension of the 2008 law that legalized the Bush administration’s wiretapping of American citizens.

As national security blogger Marcy Wheeler notes in a recent piece for the Nation, the president’s signature on the new bill on wiretapping means that the U.S. “has nearly unrestrained authority to eavesdrop on those who communicate with people outside the country. The government doesn’t even need to show that these foreign targets are terrorists or that the conversations center around a plot. This means any international communication may be subject to wiretapping.”

3. Proxy Detentions

Under the Bush administration, the process of “extraordinary rendition” involved abducting people accused of terrorism and shipping them off to another country where they were interrogated and tortured. The Obama administration has continued to use foreign countries to detain and interrogate suspects, but the details of how they do it are changed from the Bush era. Still, the overall practice of using other security forces to do your dirty work remains in place.

The Washington Postreported on January 1 that “the Obama administration has embraced rendition — the practice of holding and interrogating terrorism suspects in other countries without due process — despite widespread condemnation of the tactic in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.” While the Post used the term “rendition,” the more accurate term would be “proxy detention,” as Mother Jones pointed out.

The most recent iterations of the practice of using other countries to detain suspects the U.S. wants to interrogate have been in countries like Dijibouti and Nigeria. The Post reported on one December 2011 case in which an man from Eritrea “revealed that he had been questioned in a Ni­ger­ian jail by what a U.S. interrogator described as a ‘dirty’ team of American agents who ignored the suspect’s right to remain silent or have a lawyer, according to court proceedings.”

Other cases have been publicized by Mother Jones. The magazine reported on the case of Yonas Fikre, a Muslim-American from Oregon who was detained in the United Arab Emirates. There, Fikre and his lawyers claim, he was beaten and held in stress positions. He claims there was cooperation between the FBI and UAE security forces. So the FBI was using the UAE forces to detain people the U.S. wanted to interrogate.

4. Guantanamo

Although the continued operation of the Guantanamo Bay camp is hardly the sole fault of President Obama, it does symbolize the abject failure to reject the Bush administration’s approach to terrorism.

While it’s important to note that the Republican Party has blocked Obama’s desire to close Guantanamo, he has not expended political capital on closing the prison and has signed bills that restrict his ability to do so. The most recent bill concerning Guantanamo Bay crossed his desk at the beginning of the year.

Despite threatening to veto the bill because it restricted the executive branch’s authority, Obama signed it, and curtailed his own ability to move ahead on closing the infamous camp, where people have languished without charge for years on end. The National Defense Authorization Act of 2013, where the Guantanamo provisions are included, restricts “the transfer of detainees into the United States for any purpose, including trials in federal court. It also requires the defense secretary to meet rigorous conditions before any detainee can be returned to his own country or resettled in a third country,” according to theWashington Post.

Human rights activists blasted the move. “Indefinite detention without trial at Guantanamo is illegal, unsustainable and against U.S. national security interests, and it needs to end,” Human Rights Watch’s Andrea Prasow told the Post. “The administration should not continue to just blame Congress. President Obama should follow through on his earlier commitments and make the effort to overcome the transfer restrictions.”

5. Indefinite Detention

This issue, over all the others, says loud and clear that the Obama administration is preparing for an endless war on terror.

Domestically, indefinite detention reared its ugly head back in December 2011, when President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, a defense funding bill. Included in the bill was a provision allowing for indefinite military detention without charge or trial. Despite concerns raised by civil liberties activists, Obama signed the bill into law, although an executive signing statement vowed that the president would “not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens.”

That has not allayed the concerns of civil liberties groups. The American Civil Liberties Union states: “The NDAA’s dangerous detention provisions would authorize the president — and all future presidents — to order the military to pick up and indefinitely imprison people captured anywhere in the world, far from any battlefield….Under the Bush administration, similar claims of worldwide detention authority were used to hold even a U.S. citizen detained on U.S. soil in military custody, and many in Congress now assert that the NDAA should be used in the same way again.”

While no American citizens have been detained under the law yet, indefinite detention has been a hallmark of the war in Afghanistan. Thousands of detainees have remained in Bagram Air Field, including non-Afghan detainees. Picked up on the battlefield in Afghanistan, they have been held for years without charge or trial.

“Since 2002, the U.S. government has detained indefinitely thousands of people there in harsh conditions and without charge, without access to lawyers, without access to courts, and without a meaningful opportunity to challenge their detention,” the ACLU notes.

So as the Obama administration fills out its cabinet posts and prepares for another four years, the permanent war on terror will stay with us. From drones to proxy detentions to indefinite detention, the constitutional lawyer in the Oval Office has institutionalized and expanded some of the worst hallmarks of the lawless Bush era.

Source

This is (partly) why I never understood the “lesser of two evils” argument in voting for Obama. 

Beaten and sodomized: European human rights court finds CIA guilty of tortureDecember 18, 2012
The European Court of Human Rights found the CIA guilty of torturing a terror suspect for the first time ever. A German citizen was illegally detained, tortured and sodomized by a CIA “rendition team’ after being mistaken for an al-Qaeda member.
The Strasbourg-based court has unanimously ruled that German citizen Khalid el-Masri was tortured by a CIA ‘rendition team’.
The court also found the state of Macedonia guilty of secretly imprisoning, abusing and torturing Khalid el-Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese origin, and ordered €60,000 in compensation to be paid to the former detainee. The Macedonian government denied any involvement in the kidnapping.
James Goldston, executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative, told the Guardian that the ruling of the Grand Chamber of ECtHR should become a wake-up call for the Obama administration and US courts. For the US Congress to continue avoiding serious scrutiny of CIA activities is going to be “simply unacceptable”, Goldston said.
Ben Emmerson, the UN special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, believes the ECtHR ruling is “a key milestone in the long struggle to secure accountability of public officials implicated in human rights violations committed by the Bush adminsitration CIA in its policy of secret detention, rendition and torture”.
Emmerson suggested that the US government must issue an apology for its “central role in a web of systematic crimes and human rights violations by the Bush-era CIA” and pay voluntary compensation to Khalid el-Masri. In turn, Germany should seek the US officials involved in this case to be brought to trial.
The milestone decision of the European court has come into spotlight together with the final approval on Thursday of a behemoth 6,000 page report on harsh interrogation techniques prepared by the US Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence.
Source +finish the article

Beaten and sodomized: European human rights court finds CIA guilty of torture
December 18, 2012

The European Court of Human Rights found the CIA guilty of torturing a terror suspect for the first time ever. A German citizen was illegally detained, tortured and sodomized by a CIA “rendition team’ after being mistaken for an al-Qaeda member.

The Strasbourg-based court has unanimously ruled that German citizen Khalid el-Masri was tortured by a CIA ‘rendition team’.

The court also found the state of Macedonia guilty of secretly imprisoning, abusing and torturing Khalid el-Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese origin, and ordered €60,000 in compensation to be paid to the former detainee. The Macedonian government denied any involvement in the kidnapping.

James Goldston, executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative, told the Guardian that the ruling of the Grand Chamber of ECtHR should become a wake-up call for the Obama administration and US courts. For the US Congress to continue avoiding serious scrutiny of CIA activities is going to be “simply unacceptable”, Goldston said.

Ben Emmerson, the UN special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, believes the ECtHR ruling is “a key milestone in the long struggle to secure accountability of public officials implicated in human rights violations committed by the Bush adminsitration CIA in its policy of secret detention, rendition and torture”.

Emmerson suggested that the US government must issue an apology for its “central role in a web of systematic crimes and human rights violations by the Bush-era CIA” and pay voluntary compensation to Khalid el-Masri. In turn, Germany should seek the US officials involved in this case to be brought to trial.

The milestone decision of the European court has come into spotlight together with the final approval on Thursday of a behemoth 6,000 page report on harsh interrogation techniques prepared by the US Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence.

Source +finish the article

Pfc. Manning offers to plead guilty to partial charges, including leaking to WikileaksNovember 8, 2012
In a surprising turn of events, accused WikiLeaks leaker Pfc. Bradley (Breanna) Manning offered on Wednesday to plead guilty to parts of the charges he is facing, in exchange for the government pursuing lesser charges.
Manning did not plead guilty but indicated in a plea notice submitted by his attorney, David Coombs, that he is willing to accept responsibility for some of the lesser included charges, but not the charges as they stand in whole.
The move is known as “pleading by exceptions and substitutions” and is a strategy for negotiating the charges against him, which his attorney has tried repeatedly to do, unsuccessfully, via other means during pre-trial hearings.
Defense attorney Coombs wrote on his blog that Manning “is not pleading guilty to the specifications as charged” by prosecutors, but rather “is attempting to accept responsibility for offenses that are encapsulated within, or are a subset of, the charged offenses.”
This includes pleading guilty to providing hundreds of thousands of documents to WikiLeaks, according to blogger Kevin Gosztola who was at a hearing for Manning on Wednesday and broke the news. But it might not include pleading guilty to the espionage charge that Manning is facing or to aiding the enemy or exceeding authorized access on government networks.
“Coombs told the court Manning had submitted a plea notice indicating he would would accept general responsibility for providing all charged information to WikiLeaks,” Gosztola noted.
The move would help his attorney focus his defense on fewer points of contention, since it would take parts of the charges off the table, though not eliminate charges in their entirety, which is what he has previously tried to do.
It could also help reduce the sentence Manning faces. Manning currently faces life in prison if convicted of all the charges. The most serious charge he currently faces — aiding the enemy — carries a possible death penalty. Prosecutors have said they will not seek the death penalty, however.
Manning did not approach the defense about a plea deal, but instead simply asked the court to decide whether what he’s suggesting is a permissible plea. If the court determines that his plea is legally permissible, prosecutors can still decide to prove the charges against him.
“Pleading by exceptions and substitutions, in other words, does not change the offenses with which PFC Manning has been charged and for which he is scheduled to stand trial,” Coombs wrote.
Coombs has tried unsuccessfully both to have the number of charges against his client reduced — they currently stand at 22 charges — and to have the most serious charges of espionage and aiding the enemy dropped.
Manning also told the court on Wednesday that he was electing to have a trial by military judge, instead of a trial by jury. His trial is currently set for February.
Manning, a former Army intelligence analyst, is accused of leaking hundreds of thousands of classified and sensitive U.S. government documents to the secret-spilling site WikiLeaks, including the headline-making “Collateral Murder” video showing a deadly 2007 U.S. helicopter air strike in Baghdad that claimed the lives of several innocent civilians including two employees of the Reuters news agency.
In online chats with former hacker Adrian Lamo, Manning boasted of leaking a separate video related to the notorious 2009 Garani air strike in Afghanistan that Wikileaks has previously acknowledged is in its possession, as well as the large databases that later formed WikiLeaks’ most high-profile releases. Those include over 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables, more than 400,000 U.S. Army reports from the Iraq War and some 90,000 reports from the Afghanistan War.
Source
For those who haven’t followed this story, the information Manning leaked to Wikileaks includes the Collateral Murder video, which exposes indiscriminate killing of civilians & journalists in Iraq by the US military, files on Guantanamo Bay, the Afghan War Logs & the Iraq War Logs, which all exposed corruption, torture & war crimes committed by the US. 
Blowing the whistle on war crimes is not a crime. Manning has been in prison without charge for 900 days. 
Those who actually committed the war crimes have not been charged or imprisoned. 

Pfc. Manning offers to plead guilty to partial charges, including leaking to Wikileaks
November 8, 2012

In a surprising turn of events, accused WikiLeaks leaker Pfc. Bradley (Breanna) Manning offered on Wednesday to plead guilty to parts of the charges he is facing, in exchange for the government pursuing lesser charges.

Manning did not plead guilty but indicated in a plea notice submitted by his attorney, David Coombs, that he is willing to accept responsibility for some of the lesser included charges, but not the charges as they stand in whole.

The move is known as “pleading by exceptions and substitutions” and is a strategy for negotiating the charges against him, which his attorney has tried repeatedly to do, unsuccessfully, via other means during pre-trial hearings.

Defense attorney Coombs wrote on his blog that Manning “is not pleading guilty to the specifications as charged” by prosecutors, but rather “is attempting to accept responsibility for offenses that are encapsulated within, or are a subset of, the charged offenses.”

This includes pleading guilty to providing hundreds of thousands of documents to WikiLeaks, according to blogger Kevin Gosztola who was at a hearing for Manning on Wednesday and broke the news. But it might not include pleading guilty to the espionage charge that Manning is facing or to aiding the enemy or exceeding authorized access on government networks.

“Coombs told the court Manning had submitted a plea notice indicating he would would accept general responsibility for providing all charged information to WikiLeaks,” Gosztola noted.

The move would help his attorney focus his defense on fewer points of contention, since it would take parts of the charges off the table, though not eliminate charges in their entirety, which is what he has previously tried to do.

It could also help reduce the sentence Manning faces. Manning currently faces life in prison if convicted of all the charges. The most serious charge he currently faces — aiding the enemy — carries a possible death penalty. Prosecutors have said they will not seek the death penalty, however.

Manning did not approach the defense about a plea deal, but instead simply asked the court to decide whether what he’s suggesting is a permissible plea. If the court determines that his plea is legally permissible, prosecutors can still decide to prove the charges against him.

“Pleading by exceptions and substitutions, in other words, does not change the offenses with which PFC Manning has been charged and for which he is scheduled to stand trial,” Coombs wrote.

Coombs has tried unsuccessfully both to have the number of charges against his client reduced — they currently stand at 22 charges — and to have the most serious charges of espionage and aiding the enemy dropped.

Manning also told the court on Wednesday that he was electing to have a trial by military judge, instead of a trial by jury. His trial is currently set for February.

Manning, a former Army intelligence analyst, is accused of leaking hundreds of thousands of classified and sensitive U.S. government documents to the secret-spilling site WikiLeaks, including the headline-making “Collateral Murder” video showing a deadly 2007 U.S. helicopter air strike in Baghdad that claimed the lives of several innocent civilians including two employees of the Reuters news agency.

In online chats with former hacker Adrian Lamo, Manning boasted of leaking a separate video related to the notorious 2009 Garani air strike in Afghanistan that Wikileaks has previously acknowledged is in its possession, as well as the large databases that later formed WikiLeaks’ most high-profile releases. Those include over 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables, more than 400,000 U.S. Army reports from the Iraq War and some 90,000 reports from the Afghanistan War.

Source

For those who haven’t followed this story, the information Manning leaked to Wikileaks includes the Collateral Murder video, which exposes indiscriminate killing of civilians & journalists in Iraq by the US military, files on Guantanamo Bay, the Afghan War Logs & the Iraq War Logs, which all exposed corruption, torture & war crimes committed by the US. 

Blowing the whistle on war crimes is not a crime. Manning has been in prison without charge for 900 days. 

Those who actually committed the war crimes have not been charged or imprisoned.