Later On

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Archive for January 8th, 2015

Police Gave Boy No Aid After Shooting in Cleveland

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They did, however, tackle the boy’s 14-year-old sister who ran to help him, then handcuffed her and put her in the back of the police car, then continued standing around, apparently waiting for the boy to die.

Richard Oppel, Jr. reports for the NY Times:

The two Cleveland police officers involved in the fatal shooting of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy who was carrying a pellet gun, stood by without rendering medical aid as the boy lay wounded next to their patrol car, a newly released extended surveillance video shows.

Then, about a minute and a half after one officer had shot Tamir, the other officer tackled the boy’s 14-year-old sister as she tried to reach her brother. Tamir was shot Nov. 22 after someone called 911 to report “a guy” who had been pointing a “probably fake” pistol outside a community recreation center on Cleveland’s west side.

The video, obtained by the Northeast Ohio Media Group, provided fresh detail about a shooting that roiled Cleveland and quickly became the latest shooting to be absorbed into a broader national narrative about police violence in African-American communities.

The surveillance tape also seemed to clarify an issue in the shooting investigation: that the officers provided no immediate medical assistance to Tamir, who was not pronounced dead until more than nine hours later at a Cleveland hospital. An autopsy by the Cuyahoga County medical examiner later found that Tamir died from a gunshot wound to the abdomen. In addition, it confirmed the account that Tamir’s mother, Samaria Rice, gave in the weeks after the shooting, that the police had tackled and detained her daughter as she rushed out of the recreation center, trying to reach her brother’s side.

After the second Cleveland officer, Frank Garmback, subdued Tamir’s sister — he pushed her to the ground back-first, tumbling on top of her in the process — the girl was handcuffed and put in the back of the police cruiser, a few feet from her brother.

The officers stood by without tending to Tamir, the extended video showed. . .

Continue reading.

You can watch the video at the link. The two officers involved suffered no sanctions.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 January 2015 at 6:16 pm

Posted in Law Enforcement

Obama & Counterterror: The Ignored Record

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Kenneth Roth has an excellent article in the NY Review of Books:

At his first inauguration, Barack Obama rejected “as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.” On his second day in office, he announced plans to close the Guantánamo detention facility within a year and to end immediately George W. Bush’s authorization of the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques,” a euphemism for torture.

Sadly, those steps in January 2009 turned out to be the high points of Obama’s determination to end Bush’s trampling of basic rights in the name of fighting terrorism. Whether the issue is torture, Guantánamo, military commissions, drone attacks, or electronic surveillance, Obama’s tenure has been one of disappointment for those who had hoped for a more consistently rights-respecting approach to combating terrorism.

Torture, paradoxically, has been the area where Obama’s policy has been both the firmest and the most qualified. By all available evidence, use of the “enhanced interrogation techniques” has stopped. Obama also prohibited further use of secret detention facilities where suspects had “disappeared” in CIA custody for torture. (To be fair, Bush by the end of his presidency seemed to have ended both too.)

However, the Convention against Torture, which the United States ratified in 1994, not only prohibits torture and other mistreatment but also requires that it be investigated and punished. On this latter obligation, Obama has utterly failed. The Obama Justice Department has not prosecuted anyone for Bush-era torture. It has conducted only a narrowly focused investigation into interrogation techniques that exceeded those authorized by Bush’s Justice Department, and that investigation yielded no prosecutions.

It was left to Congress, most notably the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence under the chairmanship of Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, to conduct a more comprehensive investigation. In December, it released a 528-page summary of a 6,700-page report on the CIA’s Bush-era torture.

A principal finding of the report is that the “CIA’s use of its enhanced interrogation techniques was not an effective means of acquiring intelligence or gaining cooperation from detainees.” It is sad that we must even debate the efficacy of torture, given that the legal and moral prohibition of torture is among the strongest we have. The Geneva Conventions, for example, forbid it even in time of war. But when facing a serious security threat, as the United States did after the September 11, 2001, attacks, it can be tempting to rationalize the illegal and immoral as necessary, so this finding that torture was ineffective matters.

The CIA challenges this conclusion. While acknowledging that mistakes were made, it insists that “enhanced interrogation techniques,” which the Senate report shows to have been far more brutal than previously thought, did produce actionable intelligence. Yet it should give us pause that Democratic and Republican senators who have studied the report conclude that torture was ineffective, while the greatest proponents of its utility are the torturers themselves. As described in more detail in this issue by Mark Danner, the detainee about whose interrogation we probably know the most—Abu Zubaydah—reportedly provided interrogators with a trove of useful information before the CIAwaterboarded him but then stopped once the waterboarding began. A contested argument of utility is a flimsy one on which to rest an exception to so fundamental a prohibition as the ban on torture.

The CIA also maintains that its “enhanced interrogation techniques” did not constitute torture. Even Obama says that torture was used: he famously commented that “we tortured some folks” and that “I believe waterboarding was torture.” But the CIA says it was entitled to rely on contrary legal opinions issued by the Bush Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. Yet the Senate report shows that the CIA knew from the beginning that the techniques it planned to use were torture. An internal CIA draft letter to the attorney general seeking a formal declaration that the CIA’s use of enhanced interrogation techniques would not be prosecuted acknowledges that the techniques violated the US torture statute. When the Justice Department’s Criminal Division refused to provide this immunity, the CIA went shopping for more malleable lawyers in the Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, and found them. Later, when seeking further authorization, the CIA lied to the Justice Department. That history hardly suggests a reliance in good faith on the advice of counsel.

Moreover, anyone reading the OLC opinions—the notorious “torture memos”—can readily see their strained, intellectually dishonest attempts to justify the unjustifiable. They were transparent efforts to lay the foundation for precisely the defense of torture that the CIA is now advancing—that it relied on official legal advice, so it is unfair to second-guess it now.

Obama’s refusal to investigate, let alone prosecute, Bush-era torture means that, practically speaking, torture remains an option for policymakers rather than a criminal offense. CIA director John Brennan has explicitly refused to rule out the CIA’s use of enhanced interrogation techniques under a future administration. The message to future presidents facing a serious security threat is that the prohibition of torture can be ignored without consequence. Abusive security forces from around the world are likely to take heart from that precedent as well.

Obama has done little better when it comes to his vow to . . .

Continue reading.

Regarding the efficacy of the US program of torturing suspects, it was indeed efficacious in its apparent purpose: eliciting false confessions to link Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda and thus justify the US invasion of Iraq—which, to be honest, has been a monumental failure and catastrophe.

So far as getting actual intel, the FBI did pretty well, but the CIA were more interested in torturing people than in getting intel. Elias Isquith interviews former FBI Special Agent Ali Soufan in Salon:

Before the Senate Intelligence Committee’s so-called torture report (really an executive summary of a much larger, still-classified document) was even released, many of the people most responsible for the U.S. embrace of “enhanced interrogation techniques” were already mounting an all-out media campaign to discredit its findings and protect themselves from public rebuke. And if a recent Washington Post poll that found Americans support torture and believe it “works” is anything to go by, they’ve had great success. (Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, at the very least, seems thoroughly convinced.)

According to former FBI Special Agent Ali Soufan, however, almost none of what the public has come to believe about the torture program is true. As he argued in his 2011 book “The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against al-Qaeda” and again in a recent Op-Ed he wrote for the Guardian, responding to the release of the report, Soufan was having great success interrogating a key al-Qaida operative before the CIA — and those in D.C. who wanted to “enhance” the nation’s anti-terror interrogations — stepped in. Salon recently spoke with Soufan over the phone about his experience, the torture report, and why the relationship between the CIA and “enhanced interrogation” is more complicated than you might think. Our conversation is below and has been edited for clarity and length.

Can you tell me a bit about your background as an investigator and interrogator?

I was involved in targeting al-Qaida early on. I worked on multiple terrorism investigations and other tough investigations. I worked on the east Africa embassy bombings, and I got the highest award in the FBI — the Director’s Award for Excellence in investigation. I was also the lead investigator for the USS Cole case. Then I worked on investigations that surrounded 9/11 …

As an FBI agent, you do investigations, you put plots together, dismantle [them] — but also, at the same time, you interview and interrogate subjects. And that’s where my experience as an investigator/interrogator came from.

As you know, one of the arguments defenders of the torture program make is that Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded (and underwent many other “techniques”) because he was refusing to cooperate and because there was fear that another attack could be imminent. But you were interrogating Zubaydah before the CIA stepped in, and that’s not how you remember it.

First of all, it’s not really me who’s saying, you can take my word for it — now there is the largest, most comprehensive oversight investigation in the Senate’s history (which included 6,700 pages supported by 38,000 footnotes) that’s come to the same conclusion. It’s the same conclusion I testified [with] in 2009.

Again, talk is cheap; but I’m the only person who was able to raise his right hand in the Senate and testify under oath about what happened. Now the Senate investigation confirms the story [I told]: Abu Zubaydah was cooperating from the first hour [of interrogation]. He was providing information from the first hour. And when they claim that he stopped cooperating, that is … when they put him in isolation for 47 days. With no one talking to him for 47 days, they went to confer with headquarters …

They came back and said that Zubaydah wasn’t talking and that was why they had to apply enhanced interrogation techniques and apply torture, because of issues having to do with a ticking time-bomb, yada-yada-yada … And when [former] President Bush said that Zubaydah had stopped cooperating — yeah, he stopped cooperating because nobody spoke with him for 47 days … I think the timeline provided in the Senate’s report, which is based on CIA documents, is 100 percent accurate and it’s exactly what I recall and what I witnessed firsthand.

I’ll give you an example: They say, Padilla! Padilla! Padilla; they always talk about the dirty-bomb and [Jose] Padilla [being thwarted due to torture]. Well, the enhanced interrogation program did not start until the summer of 2002; Padilla was in custody in May of 2002; so how could he end up in custody in May of 2002, after an international manhunt, if he was [caught due to information procured with] a technique — i.e., waterboarding — that was not applied until late-July 2002? These are the things that don’t make sense …

As we know now from the Senate report, we see that there was a campaign of deception that surrounded that [torture] program — a campaign of deception that aimed specifically at exaggerating the alleged successes of the program.

When the CIA stepped in and pushed you aside in terms of handling Zubaydah, did you or any other people in the FBI have any sense that these torture techniques were going to be used, potentially?

No, it was more of an evolution; it was kind of “make it as you go.” That was my sense. And it wasn’t the CIA at the time; yes, the CIA provided cover for the contractors but there was a sense of shock [within the CIA] — and you see that in some of the contents of the many CIA cables that have been declassified as part of the Senate report. And that’s something I testified about in the Senate [in] my statements in ’09. There was a sense of shock among CIA officers and CIA personnel … people could not believe that we were doing these kind of things, and that these contractors were allowed to even entertain these ideas.

I mean, the CIA, the FBI, we’re all the same; we’re trained in the same school — it’s Uncle Sam’s school on how to do things. And as I testified in the Senate, at least one CIA individual wept in front of me and basically was appalled by what he was seeing … So I’m glad the Senate’s report focused on all the CIA who did the right thing. Remember, it’s because of all these CIA people at the black sites who took a stand [against torture], that’s why the program was shelved in the first place. Because [these agents] came back to headquarters, they complained to their inspector ieneral (IG), and the CIA IG conducted a thorough investigation into the program, and the results of that investigation basically shelved the program back in ’05.

Some of the program’s defenders have said that the Senate report is just partisanship, or that the criticism of the CIA is just the usual bureaucratic squabbling between it and the FBI. But it sounds like the role played by contractors made things more complicated than that. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 January 2015 at 5:57 pm

Dunning-Kruger effect at work: Most of America’s rich think the poor have it easy

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Amazing. And yet, you notice, so few of the wealthy are willing to trade places with the poor, despite the comfortable life they imagine the poor to have. The article by Roberto Ferdman begins:

There is little empathy at the top.

Most of America’s richest think poor people have it easy in this country,according to a new report released by the Pew Research Center. The center surveyed a nationally representative group of people this past fall, and found that the majority of the country’s most financially secure citizens (54 percent at the very top, and 57 percent just below) believe the “poor have it easy because they can get government benefits without doing anything in return.” America’s least financially secure, meanwhile, vehemently disagree — nearly 70 percent say the poor have hard lives because the benefits “don’t go far enough.” Nationally, the population is almost evenly split. . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

8 January 2015 at 2:12 pm

Posted in Daily life, Government

Obama is big on dismissing accountability: No justice for Aaron Schwartz

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One of Obama’s first statements on coming into office was to assure everyone that the people who tortured and killed suspects, including innocents, and committed war crimes would definitely not be held accountable. (This was, I think, supposed to reassure us somehow.) “Look forward, not back.”

And obviously if Obama has no problem relieving torturers and war criminals from any accountability, he doesn’t hesitate to dismiss accountability for over-zealous and vindictive prosecutions. And the man’s got a point: certainly he wouldn’t want to hold accountable his own people who viciously persecuted whistleblowers and journalists. Over-zealous and vindictive prosecution is something the President likes and employs, so he’s not about to hold anyone accountable for doing it, lest he himself become accountable.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 January 2015 at 1:21 pm

Extremely interesting column on the US and the global economy

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Henry Farrell interviews Jonathan Kirchner for the Washington Post:

Jonathan Kirshner is Stephen and Barbara Friedman Professor of International Political Economy in the Department of Government at Cornell. I interviewed him about his new book, American Power after the Financial Crisis.

HF: Some people argue that international institutions dealt quite successfully with the crisis. You evidently disagree. What do you see as the fundamental problems that manifested in the crisis, and why have they not been addressed?

JK: First, let me ask: What institutions? The IMF did not see the crisis coming, favored the ideas and policies that made the crisis more likely, and was not a key player in containing it. The G20 and the Financial Stability Board? I don’t see the crucial role they performed. It was probably a good thing that the WTO existed – its presence was probably one of the many reasons we saw much less self-defeating protectionism during this crisis then we did during the Great Depression. But that’s about it.

The only “institution” that really mattered in dealing with the crisis was the U.S. Federal Reserve System, which not only flooded the American economy with liquidity, but also provided emergency currency swaps to European partners. But this latter contribution, although crucial, was an ad-hoc improvisation by the agency of a great power, not the functioning of international institutions. As for the core problem: the crisis was caused by too-large, too-interconnected financial institutions engaging in reckless behavior that generated “systemic risk.”

Systemic risk is a crucial part of this story, because even if individual actors are engaging in behaviors that are not reckless (which was not the case here), in finance, individually rational behaviors can produce extremely dangerous risks to the system as a whole. Finance is different, and requires public oversight, regulation, and supervision to a much greater extent than any other sector of the economy. But, in the United States at least, Washington and Wall Street, buttressed by academic economists, fell in love with ideologies such as the “efficient market hypothesis” which suggested that unfettered financial markets would lead to optimal outcomes and could best govern themselves. This is wrong. And these fundamental problems have not been addressed. The American economy is still characterized by a financial system that is too large, too concentrated, too interconnected, and dysfunctionally regulated. These problems persist because of the enormous political power of the financial services sector. Additionally, because adequate public policy stopped the financial crisis from causing a second Great Depression, opponents of fundamental reform were able to argue that real changes to the financial system were not necessary.

HF: Your argument suggests that the global economic order that the United States made rests on monetary hegemony, ideological homogeneity, and shared security concerns and that all three are being eroded. Are the twin threats of Putin’s Russia and a more assertive China helping to some extent to bring U.S. allies back on board, or are they secondary to the forces that you identify?

JK: These behaviors matter, but yes, at the moment, they are secondary. The foundations of any economic order – especially with regard to international money and finance, areas where cooperation is especially difficult to establish and maintain – rest on the distribution of power, common ideological commitments and beliefs about how to best organize international economic affairs, and shared, salient security concerns. This latter factor can be crucial, because if countries agree that they face a common, serious, security threat – such as the Soviet threat to western Europe during the cold war – they can be motivated to overcome even bitter disagreements over economic policies. So to the extent that Russia or China look more threatening, economic cooperation between the United States and those countries who view themselves as urgently dependent on an American security guarantee becomes more likely. Will this hold together a U.S.-led international economic order? My view is that what I call the “second postwar American economic order,” which was forged in the early 1990s, came to an end with the Global Financial Crisis, and what we are seeing now is the emergence of a less coherent, more heterogeneous, more contested international economic order.

HF: You suggest that the United States is in for a tough time, as it is forced to recognize international economic constraints on its domestic policy for many decades. Why has the United States gotten away with internationalizing its problems for so long, and what has changed now? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 January 2015 at 1:13 pm

Posted in Business, Government

Barrister & Mann my way…

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SOTD 8 Jan 2015

Another brush, as you see, this one a silvertip.

This time I made lather using the method I worked out: Wet brush thoroughly, give it a medium shake to remove excess water, and begin brushing the surface of the soap vigorously, briskly, and firmly. As the lather begins forming and the brush starts to be loaded, I add a driblet of water to the center of the brush (about 1 tsp) and work that into the mix. Today the one addition seemed ample.

I then move brush to beard and work up the lather. I can add a little more water if I want, and I did add a very small amount. The result was a very good lather indeed and lots less mess than yesterday—plus it was quicker. The sopping wet brush simply dumped too much water into the tub, though that may just be me.

Three passes with the Feather AS-D2 holding a Feather blade. Than a splash of Fine’s l’Orange Noir. A great start to the day.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 January 2015 at 9:50 am

Posted in Shaving

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