Later On

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Archive for the ‘Bush Administration’ Category

Are psychologists more open to learning that leads to behavioral change? Because they’re looking at their participation in torture.

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Interesting (if belated) step, reported in The Intercept by Cora Currier:

The top professional organization for psychologists is launching an independent investigation over how it may have sanctioned the brutal interrogation methods used against terror suspects by the Bush administration. The American Psychological Association announced this week that it has tapped an unaffiliated lawyer, David Hoffman, to lead the review. [Good: Not self-policing, which never, ever works. - LG]

In 2002, the American Psychological Association (APA) revised its code of ethics to allow practitioners to follow the “governing legal authority” in situations that seemed at odds with their duties as health professionals. Many argue that the revision, as well as a task force report in 2005 that affirmed that the code allowed psychologists to participate in national security interrogations, gave the Bush administration critical legal cover for torture.

The APA has since removed the just-following-orders excuse from their code, disavowed the 2005 report, and gone to lengths to distance themselves from the controversy.

But it reopened last month, when New York Times reporter James Risen’s book “Pay Any Price” revealed e-mails from the files of a deceased CIA contractor, Scott Gerwehr, showing close contact between the intelligence establishment and leadership at the APA. The emails centered particularly on the 2005 report and suggested that members of the Bush Administration were involved in its conception and drafting.

Nathaniel Raymond, a human rights researcher who also had access to Gerwehr’s emails, told The Intercept in October that he had submitted the emails to the FBI as evidence of criminal racketeering. A law enforcement official confirmed to The Intercept that the FBI in Washington had reviewed Raymond’s materials, but “did not find any criminal violations.” Raymond, who previously directed the Campaign Against Torture at Physicians for Human Rights, called the review a “positive first step” and said that he would share his complaint and any other information with Hoffman. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 November 2014 at 2:42 pm

Former CIA detainees claim US torture investigators never interviewed them

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I think it’s pretty obvious that any investigations that were done by the Executive Branch regarding the various US programs of torture were conducted to cover-up the truth, not reveal it. Obama signaled this at the start of his first term with his declaration that he would not investigate any allegations regarding the previous administration, and indeed he has done all he can to prevent the truth from coming out.

But this story in The Guardian from Spencer Ackerman is still of interest:

As the US government prepares to defend its record on torture before a United Nations panel, five Libyan men once held without charge by the CIA say the main criminal investigation into allegations of detainee abuse never even interviewed them.

The Libyans’ accusation reopens controversy over the 2012 pre-election decision by the prosecutor in the case not to bring charges against anyone involved in CIA abuse – an episode the US State Department has held up as an example of its diligence in complying with international torture obligations.

On Wednesday, a United Nations committee in Geneva is scheduled to hear a US delegation outline recent measures Washington has taken to combat torture. It will be the first update the US has provided to the committee since 2006, when the CIA still operated its off-the-books “black site” prisons. Human rights campaigners who have seen the Obama administration repeatedly decline to deliver justice for US torture victims consider it a belated chance at ending what they consider to be impunity.

Among the committee’s requested submissions, issued in 2010, is a description of steps the US has taken to ensure torture claims against it are “promptly, impartially and thoroughly investigated”. The committee specifically asked for a status update about the Justice Department’s since-concluded torture inquiry.

That high-profile inquiry, conducted by assistant US attorney John Durham, wrapped in 2012 without bringing criminal charges against anyone involved in the deaths of two detainees in CIA custody. That decision, heralding the end of federal investigations for post-9/11 detainee abuse, was preceded by Durham’s 2011 announcement that he would not proceed past a “preliminary review” for 99 out of 101 cases of suspected CIA torture.

The State Department, in a 2013 written submission to the UN committee, referred to Durham’s team as “experienced professionals” that found the “admissible evidence would not be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt.”

But the Libyans say that neither Durham nor his staff “ever sought or requested our testimony”.

The five – Mohammed Ahmed Mohammed al-Shoroeiya, Khalid al-Sharif, Majid Mokhtar Sasy al-Maghrebi, Saleh Hadiyah Abu Abdullah Di’iki and Mustafa Jawda al-Mehdi – wrote to committee secretary Patrice Gillibert in a 9 November letter urging Gillibert press the US delegation on the investigative omission.

All members of the now-defunct Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, an anti-Gaddafi terrorist group with murky ties to al-Qaida, the five spent between eight months and two years in CIA custody before being rendered back to Muammar Gaddafi’s prisons. One of them, Shoroeiya, alleges that the CIA waterboarded him in Afghanistan, although he is not one of the three people on whom the CIA has acknowledged using the controversial mock-drowning technique. . .

Continue reading.

Later in the story:

Durham’s apparent lack of interest in interviewing them “raises serious questions about the thoroughness and adequacy of the Durham investigation, whether other important witnesses were also not interviewed for that inquiry, and whether the US has complied with obligations under article 12” of the UN convention against torture, they wrote.

Through a representative at the US attorney’s office for Connecticut, Durham declined to comment to the Guardian. It is unknown if Durham interviewed any victims of CIA torture at all, but a lawyer for one of the alleged 9/11 co-conspirators held at Guantanamo Bay said Durham never interviewed his client.

“It’s an omission from their point of view,” said James Connell, attorney for Ammar al-Baluchi, who added that he was unaware of Dunham interviewing any of al-Baluchi’s co-defendants.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 November 2014 at 12:23 pm

Read the first four pages of the introduction to National Security and Double Government

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You can use the “Read Inside” feature to read the first part of the introduction, and I have to say it is stunning. Take a look. (Link fixed.)

Written by LeisureGuy

12 November 2014 at 8:50 am

An Innocent Man, Tortured By The U.S., Asks The U.N.: Where’s The Accountability?

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Good question, eh? Well, the security state answers to no one. Dan Froomkin writes at The Intercept:

U.S. officials are in for a serious grilling on Wednesday as they get hauled before the U.N. Committee against Torture and questioned about about a multitude of ways in which the U.S. appears to be failing to comply with the anti-torture treaty it ratified 20 years ago.

As Jamil Dakwar, director of the ACLU Human Rights Program noted on Monday:

This marks the first U.N. review of the United States’ torture record since President Obama took office in 2009, and much is at stake. The review will test the pledges President Obama made to reverse disastrous Bush-era policies that led to gross violations of human rights, like torture, secret and incommunicado detention, “extraordinary renditions,” unfair trials, and more. It is also likely to examine practices that emerged or became entrenched during Obama’s time in office, such as indefinite detention at Guantánamo, immigration detention and deportations, and the militarization of the police, as witnessed by the world during this summer’s events in Ferguson.

The ACLU’s “shadow report” to the committee is a profoundly grim indictment of the nation’s failure to live up to its principles.

And although Obama claims to oppose torture, the New York Times recently reported that he could well fail another key test of his sincerity by reaffirming the Bush administration’s position that the international Convention Against Torture imposes no legal obligation on the U.S. to bar cruelty outside its borders.

Obama has already flouted the convention’s requirement that member states hold torturers accountable. I have long argued that his failure there has been particularly profound.

U.S. non-governmental agencies were allowed to address the U.N. committee today, and Murat Kurnaz (pictured above), who was tortured and detained by the U.S. at Kandahar and then Guantanamo over a period of five years, traveled to Geneva with his attorney, Center for Constitutional Rights Legal Director Baher Azmy. He made the following statement:

Good afternoon. My name is Murat Kurnaz. I am a Turkish citizen who was born and raised in Bremen, Germany, where I currently live. I spent five years of my life in detention in Kandahar and Guantanamo Bay from 2001-2006.My story is like many others. In 2001, while traveling in Pakistan, I was arrested by Pakistani police and sold to the U.S. military for a $3,000 bounty. In Kandahar, the U.S. military subjected me to electric shocks, stress positions, simulated drowning, and endless beatings. In Guantanamo, there was also psychological torture—I was stripped of my humanity, treated like an animal, isolated from the rest of the world, and did not know if I would ever be released.

Even though my lawyers proved that the U.S. knew of my innocence by 2002, I was not released until 2006. I lost five years of my life in Guantanamo.

Eight years later, I cannot believe that Guantanamo is still open and that there are almost 150 men detained there indefinitely. My time in Guantanamo was a nightmare, but I sometimes consider myself lucky. I know that part of the reason I am free today is because I am from Germany.

Most of the current prisoners remain in Guantanamo because they are from Yemen and the U.S. refuses to send them home. Many are as innocent as I was. But they are enduring the torture of Guantanamo for over 12 years because of their nationality, not because of anything they have done.

I understand that international human rights laws like the Convention Against Torture were created so that the people who commit torture are punished. Isn’t that how we can end torture in the world? So why has no U.S. official been held responsible for brutal practices and torture at Guantanamo or other U.S. prisons?

I will never get five years of my life back, but for me and others, it is important that the Committee confronts the United States about its actions in Guantanamo and other prisons.

Thank you.

The committee’s proceedings are being livestreamed here. The questioning of the U.S. delegation begins as 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Geneva time — 4 a.m. ET.

This story reflects the actuality of the US to much of the world—and it is a story that, apparently, our government, our Congress, and our citizens are mostly comfortable with.

I have blamed President Obama for not observing the legal requirements of the Convention Against Torture, which in fact is now US law. But now I can see that the second government—the security apparatus—probably did not allow him to act. They clearly have kept him on a short leash so far as the security apparatus is concerned, and I imagine he was not given a choice. OTOH, Obama clearly did have a choice in voting for or against telecom immunity for illegal warrantless wiretaps, and he did promise to vote against it—then he voted for it. So he simply cannot be trusted, as shown by his own words and deeds.

In any event, it is a mark of how low we as a nation have sunk.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 November 2014 at 7:18 pm

Russ Baker on the US Double Government

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Yesterday I posted a review of Glennon’s new book laying out the double government we have—the government we see, whose representatives we elect and which argues bills in Congress, with judgments rendered by the courts, and so on—and the secret government of the security state, with secret laws, secret courts writing secret opinions, and secret operations that are revealed on accidentally or through whistleblowers—e.g., we had no idea of the sheer extent of NSA’s surveillance on the world (including the US citizenry) until Edward Snowden revealed it.

And Glennon was an insider in government, which makes his revelations even stronger since he knows more about what’s going on that outsiders.

Russ Baker comments on the book and on the double government at

ou know something is going on when the cautious Boston Globe publishes not one, but two, pieces dealing with the “double government.”

This cryptic phrase encapsulates a serious claim about the American body politic: That a permanent and largely unaccountable bureaucracy keeps on doing what it wants to do, no matter who the voters elect to the White House.

Both of the Globe articles refer to “National Security and Double Government,” a book by Michael J. Glennon, professor of international law at Tufts University. From the descriptions of its contents (we haven’t read the book yet, but we will—and perhaps excerpt), the author is talking, with due academic caution, about an out-of-control security/military apparatus.

The fact that the Globe thinks this book is important enough to warrant not one but two analytical pieces is significant, because Boston was the scene of the mysterious Boston Marathon Bombing.

In the aftermath of that tragedy, the national security apparatus and its allies in the media, academia and corporate America (including, significantly, the Globe itself) rushed to discourage us from looking deeper at what happened—while at the same time the nat-sec folks used the event to further expand their influence at the expense of civil liberties.

The Secret Government

One of the Globe’s pieces was a highly favorable review of Dr. Glennon’s book by former Republican Congressman Mickey Edwards. Edwards, a co-founder of the staunchly conservative Heritage Foundation, has over the years become more and more of a maverick—and more outspokenly alarmed by the path America has taken.

The other piece, which appeared in the Globe the same day,was a Q&A with Glennon. The astonishing headline was:

Vote all you want. The secret government won’t change.

The sub-headline wasn’t much tamer:

The people we elect aren’t the ones calling the shots, says Tufts University’s Michael Glennon

The genesis of the book was a question that confounded Glennon about President Obama: How did a man who won election pledging to change the national security policies of his predecessor effect so little of that? Here’s what Edwards wrote in his review:

The answer Glennon places before us is not reassuring: “a bifurcated system — a structure of double government—in which even the President now exercises little substantive control over the overall direction of U.S. national security policy.” The result, he writes, is a system of dual institutions that have evolved “toward greater centralization, less accountability, and emergent autocracy.”

The paradox, Glennon says, is that this barely accountable government machinery actually arose from President Harry S. Truman’s attempts to reduce the military’s growing and unchecked power. The unforeseen outcome was the growth of an unaccountable civilian power center.

No Secret Conspiracy (Or Theory)

Glennon’s was hardly the first well-reviewed book to deal with this topic. In 2009 Janine Wedel, an anthropology professor at George Mason University, published Shadow Elite, which received lavish praise from Arianna Huffington and the endorsement of her “book club,” despite the fact that the Huffington Post itself has a strong aversion  to  publishing “conspiracy” stories.

Perhaps Wedel avoided being tarred with the hackneyed “conspiracy theorist” because she argues that the shadowy networks she describes are not necessarily criminal or in cahoots with multinational corporations, but merely the outgrowth of powerful and self-replenishing (if often incompetent) elites. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 November 2014 at 12:05 pm

ISIL Grew out of Bush’s Destruction of Iraq’s Economy

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An extremely interesting column by Noah Bassil at The Conversation. This column goes a long way to showing how we got to where we are now, and it seems based quite solidly on actual events. I highly recommend reading this one. And it’s worth remembering that the war in Iraq was a war that we never needed to enter: it was completely discretionary, and indeed the Bush Administration had to lie repeatedly to the American public to push us into the war—and now we are seeing the results. In the meantime, the perpetrators of the war have face zero accountability, despite the loss of thousands of American lives, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives, the waste of $2 trillion of US money (entire skids of hundred-dollar bills went missing), and the on-going suffering of veterans ill-served by the nation for which they fought.

To explain the disaster befalling Iraq, as well as the rise of Islamic State (IS), you have to go back a century – before modern Iraq even existed.

That’s not to discount the shared culpability of Iraq’s numerous leaders, from King Faisal I to Saddam Hussein and Nuri al-Maliki, or the role of Saudi Arabia in promoting Wahhabism in the region, as well as decades of mutually destructive in-fightingbetween Arab states.

The prevailing opinion reported in the news media focuses mostly on the weaknesses of the Iraqi government’s military capacity and the security vacuum in which IS has been able to grow. This view results in a predictable military response.

But we shouldn’t ignore the lasting legacies of colonialism, as well as the US intervention. And if we accept that those have also been crucial to the rise of IS, then quite clearly the current predominantly military response to IS will not resolve the underlying grievances motivating many IS fighters.

Making a new state

The original architects of Iraq were the British and the French.

In 1916, the Sykes-Picot agreement carved colonial states out of the Ottoman Empire. The local peoples resented this and rebelled. The rebels in Iraq were gunned down from the sky; their new colonial overlords razed entire villages.

British rule in Iraq was unpopular and – like colonialism everywhere – relied on force. It also relied on a tried and tested strategy of divide and rule, which promoted sectarian and ethnic differences. Successive Iraqi governments also employed this strategy as a means of controlling the diverse groups contained within an artificial state.

That these colonial legacies continue to haunt modern Iraq is partly due to the adoption of the colonial forms of government by successive Iraqi leaders.

In the IS promotional video above, a Norwegian IS fighter, Bastián Vásquez (also known as Abu Safiyya), walks around a former Iraq-Syria border checkpoint and inside a crowded prison cell. He declares:

This is not the first border we will break, we will break other borders.

Firing an entire government

The disaster befalling Iraq also has more recent causes, including the Cold War and Saddam’s brutal legacy. But Iraq’s current story can be traced back to another moment in recent history. At his inaugural address after being sworn in as US president in 1981, Ronald Reagan famously declared:

Government is not the solution; government is the problem.

This mantra of neoliberalism has justified policies that have undermined the rationale of the state. Many core social responsibilities have been placed in the hands of the private sector. This can be described as the vertical expansion of capitalism.

The results have been disastrous in many places around the world. Neoliberal policies have eroded what little legitimacy states had managed to gain from developments in education, health care, welfare and other areas.

Unlike most countries, Iraq’s journey down this path was enforced by the US takeover of the country. You can read more about this from Naomi Klein, Toby Dodge and Roger Looney.

One of Paul Bremer’s first acts as head of the Coalition Provisional Authority was to fire 500,000 state employeesincluding doctors, nurses and teachers. The Iraqi army was abolished. While this story has often been told as one of “de-Ba’athification” – the process of stripping the ruling Ba’ath Party of its power and influence – this is but one side of it.

Another driver behind the de-Ba’athification policy was a deep antagonism within the Bush administration to the public sector. Bremer passed a raft of laws restructuring the economy. Order 39 was one such law. It allowed for the privatisation of 200 state-owned enterprises, 100% foreign ownership of all Iraqi businesses and unrestricted tax-free remittances for all foreign company profits.

The Coalition Provisional Authority under Bremer also imposed a tax and banking regime, and economic regulations which the Iraqis could not dissolve. So much for the much-touted return of Iraqi sovereignty. This was further eroded by the Iraqi government agreeing to a pretty typical International Monetary Fund package in December 2005.

Bremer’s strategy entrusted Iraq’s future to the private – meaning foreign – corporate sector. Rather than public investment in social programs, infrastructure and employment opportunities, private companies were assigned the provision of these responsibilities so that “little of the US$38 billion in American reconstruction money has gone to local companies”.

Reconstructing Iraq

As a result of the sell-offs and mass retrenchments, estimates are that unemployment reached 45% in 2006. These rates have since decreased but remain around 15%, according to the International Labour Organisation. However, this figure obscures regional differences including much higher estimates of unemployment for the Sunni regions and for youth unemployment.

Poverty levels are also high.

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 November 2014 at 11:17 am

The Guantánamo Tapes

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The US is continuing to blacken its name at Guantánamo. Joe Nocera writes in the NY Times:

Jihad Ahmed Mujstafa Diyab is a Syrian man who has been a detainee at the prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, since 2002. In 2009, the Guantánamo Review Task Force ruled that he was not a threat to national security and could be released. Yet here we are five years later, and Diyab is still imprisoned at Guantánamo, having never been tried, or even accused of a crime, and with no idea when — or if — he’ll ever get out. Last year, to protest their continued confinement, he and many other detainees began a hunger strike. Most of the detainees have since given up their hunger strikes. Diyab, however, has never completely stopped his.

One reason many detainees abandoned their hunger strikes is because, twice a day, the government used what is called “enteral feeding” to ensure that they were getting nutrients. A more common term is force-feeding. The ordeal begins with something called “forced cell extraction,” which one of Diyab’s lawyers, Jon Eisenberg, described to me as “a highly orchestrated procedure.”

“A five-man riot squad in complete armor pins the guy to the floor, shackles him, and carries him out,” Eisenberg says. Then the detainee is strapped into a restraint chair — which the prisoners have dubbed the “torture chair.” One soldier holds the detainee’s head, while another feeds a tube into his nose and down to his stomach. It is very painful to endure.

Last year, I wrote several columns about force-feeding, asking whether it could be classified as torture. At the time, I didn’t think there would ever be a way to test that premise in an American court. The federal judge who seemed most sympathetic to the detainees’ plight, Gladys Kessler, had concluded that she simply lacked the authority to rule on the conditions of their confinement, based on a 2006 law intended to prevent the prisoners from petitioning the judiciary and challenging their detention.

Lo and behold, Judge Kessler turned out to be wrong. Earlier this year, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled, 2 to 1, that she did have jurisdiction. There are strict medical protocols for force-feeding hospital patients or prisoners. If the military violated those protocols — especially if detainees were force-fed in an abusive, punitive manner — then she could order them to stop.

Thus began eight months of legal wrangling between Diyab’s lawyers and the government that culminated in a three-day hearing that took place earlier this month. Though no one put it like this, its purpose, at least in part, was . . .

Continue reading.

See also this article by Charlie Savage in the NY Times: Judge Orders Disclosure of Guantánamo Videos

I believe those videos will (or should) shock the conscience, particularly since some of the prisoners were just swept up in a general action and in fact are guilty of nothing.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 November 2014 at 11:23 am


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