May 242013
 

Salon
Justin Elliott

Amnesty International and other groups asked Swiss authorities to investigate the former president for torture

Will George W. Bush set foot in Europe again in his lifetime?

A planned trip by Bush to speak at the Switzerland-based United Israel Appeal later this week has been canceled after several human rights groups called for Swiss authorities to arrest Bush and investigate him for authorizing torture. Bush has traveled widely since leaving office, but not to Europe, where there is a strong tradition of international prosecutions.

The Swiss group and Bush’s spokesman claim that it was threats of protest, not of legal action, that prompted the cancellation. But facing protests is nothing new for Bush. What was different about this trip was that groups including Amnesty International and the Center for Constitutional Rights argued that Switzerland, as a party to the UN Convention against Torture, is obligated to investigate Bush for potential prosecution.

Amnesty’s memo to Swiss authorities cites, among other things, Bush’s admission in his own memoir that he approved the use of waterboarding. From Amnesty’s press release:

“To date, we’ve seen a handful of military investigations into detentions and interrogations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantánamo. But none of these has had the independence and reach necessary to investigate high-level officials such as President Bush,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

“Meanwhile, there has been virtually zero accountability for crimes committed in the CIA’s secret detention program, which was authorized by then-President Bush.”

Anywhere in the world that he travels, President Bush could face investigation and potential prosecution for his responsibility for torture and other crimes in international law, particularly in any of the 147 countries that are party to the UN Convention against Torture.

“As the US authorities have, so far, failed to bring President Bush to justice, the international community must step in,” said Salil Shetty.

The Center for Constitutional Rights, meanwhile, intended to file a 2,500-page complaint against Bush in Swiss court on behalf of two Guantanamo detainees. The group will release that complaint to the public today.

Here is the Amnesty memo:

 

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Apr 032013
 

Underground Documentaries
Warning, disturbing images!

Fallujah: the Hidden Massacre provides what it claims is clinching evidence that incendiary bombs known as Mark 77, a new, improved form of napalm, was used in the attack on Fallujah, in breach of the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons of 1980, which only allows its use against military targets.

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Jan 042013
 
World Socialist Web Site
Eric London

A federal district court judge in California last week denied a motion by Obama administration lawyers to dismiss a legal challenge to the “no-fly” list brought by a young Malaysian woman, Rahinah Ibrahim.

Ibrahim, at the time a Stanford University Ph.D. candidate, was detained at San Francisco International Airport on January 2, 2005 when she and her daughter attempted to board a flight to her home country. She was intending to fly home to present her doctoral research at a conference sponsored by Stanford. Ibrahim was subjected to harsh treatment by airport security officials. Although she was in a wheelchair due to complications from a recent hysterectomy operation, officials handcuffed her and held her in a jail cell for two hours.

Officials eventually allowed Ibrahim to depart from the United States, but refused to allow her to re-enter the country. The government revoked her visa and denied her application for another visa in 2009, citing possible terrorist activity. No evidence has ever been presented by the government to support allegations of links to terrorist organizations.

Ibrahim originally filed the suit in 2006. It will now proceed to discovery, during which court proceedings may force the Obama administration to relinquish state records pertaining to Ibrahim’s case. Ibrahim is seeking to return to the United States and be removed from the “no-fly” list.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco has heard the Ibrahim case on two previous occasions. Both times, as in the present case in US District Court, the Obama administration refused to release any evidence regarding Ibrahim’s alleged terrorist connections, claiming that such information involved sensitive security matters that neither the public, nor even the courts, were privileged to view.

The administration maintains that it has the right to block individuals from flying on commercial flights or entering the country without presenting any evidence either to the targeted person or a court of law.

US District Court Judge William Alsup issued the order denying the Justice Department’s motion to dismiss. In it, he lambasted the administration for the anti-democratic maneuvers it has used in its repeated attempts to quash the case.

“Here the government seeks to affirmatively use allegedly privileged information to dispose of the case entirely without ever revealing to the other side what its secret evidence might be,” wrote Alsup. “Here, the government has not justified its sweeping proposal. It has gone so far as even to redact from its table of authorities some of the reported case law on which it relies! This is too hard to swallow.

“The government’s latest motion based on lack of standing, being a complete mystery, is denied.”
The Obama administration’s attempt to keep Ibrahim in a legal limbo is part of its wider policy of continuing and expanding the domestic surveillance network and police state infrastructure established by the Bush administration.

The “no-fly” list, created in 2001 ostensibly in reaction to the September 11 attacks, today reportedly includes over 20,000 names. This is more than double the number in 2011. The Obama administration has placed more names on the “no-fly” list in the last 12 months than George W. Bush did during his eight years in office.

The “no-fly” list is merely one of many such lists compiled by the US government’s Terrorist Screening Center. The enormity of the government’s surveillance network is exemplified by the larger “terrorist watch list,” which includes the names of about 400,000 people.

There is no public oversight of the process by which the government determines whom to place on the “no-fly” or “terrorist watch” lists. Individual students, professors and workers have likely been placed on the list on account of their opposition to US foreign policy as expressed in phone, email, or social media communications. An unknown number of innocent individuals have been placed on the list merely because of their race, nationality or religion. Since the government is not required to make public the reasons for an individual’s placement on the list, or even inform an individual that he or she has been put on the list, there is no way to hold the government accountable.

Ibrahim, who was allowed to complete her Ph.D. in absentia, is still unable to return to the United States.

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Dec 302012
 

orwell3In the Western world truth no longer has any meaning. It its place stands agenda. 
Agenda is all important, because it is the way Washington achieves hegemony over the world and the American people. 9/11 was the “new Pearl Harbor” that the neoconservatives declared to be necessary for their planned wars against Muslim countries. For the neoconservatives to go forward with their agenda, it was necessary for Americans to be connected to the agenda.

President George W. Bush’s first Treasury Secretary, Paul O’Neil, said that prior to 9/11 the first cabinet meeting was about the need to invade Iraq.

9/11 was initially blamed on Afghanistan, and the blame was later shifted to Iraq. Washington’s mobilization against Afghanistan was in place prior to 9/11. The George W. Bush regime’s invasion of Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom) occurred on October 7, 2001, less than a month after 9/11. Every military person knows that it is not possible to have mobilization for invading a country half way around the world ready in three weeks.

The Orwellian “PATRIOT Act” is another example of planning prior to the event.  This vast police state measure could not possibly have been written in the short time between 9/11 and its introduction in Congress. The bill was already written, sitting on the shelf waiting its opportunity. Why? Who wrote it? Why has there been no media investigation of the advanced preparation of this police state legislation?

Evidence that responses to an event were planned prior to what the government said was a surprise event does suggest that the event was engineered to drive an agenda that was already on the books.
Many on the left-wing are immune to evidence that is contrary to the official 9/11 story, because for them 9/11 is refreshing blowback from the oppressed. That the oppressed struck back is more important to the left-wing than the facts.

The right-wing can’t let go of the fantasy either. America in all its purity and wonderfulness was attacked because evil Muslims cannot stand our goodness. “They hate us for our freedom and democracy.” The right-wing vision of a great and good America wronged is essential to the right-wing’s sustaining ideology, an ideology that is prepared to commit violence in order to prove its righteousness.

Implausible stories can be useful to other agendas and thus be sustained by their use in other arguments. For example, the Obama regime’s story of the killing of Osama bin Laden is central to Charles Pierson’s story in the November 16-30, 2012, CounterPunch in which Pierson writes about the growing strains on the US-Pakistan alliance. Pierson writes that bin Laden resided next to Pakistan’s largest military academy and that bin Laden “did go next door every Wednesday to use the pool. If the Pakistani government was unaware of bin Laden’s presence this would mark an intelligence failure of heroic proportions.”


Is it plausible that Osama bin Laden, a hunted man (actually a man dead for a decade), visited the Pakistani army, a bought-and-paid-for entity used by Washington to launch attacks on Pakistan’s semi-autonomous tribal areas, to go swimming every Wednesday?

Or is this a fairy tale made possible by ignoring the live interviews of the neighbors of the alleged “bin Laden compound.” According to Pakistanis who knew the person living in “bin Laden’s compound,” the person Americans were told was bin Laden was a long-time friend who imported foreign delicacies. An eye witness to the “assault” on “bin Laden’s compound” reported that when the helicopter lifted off it exploded and there were no survivors.  If there were no survivors, there was no sea burial of bin Laden.

How is it that the US media can produce a story as fact that is contradicted by the news on the ground?  Is the answer that the bin Laden assassination story served an agenda by providing evidence that we were winning?

Consider the Sandy Hook school shooting. This shooting serves as an excuse for “progressives” to express their hatred of guns and the NRA and to advance their gun control agenda.  Few if any of those hyperventilating over the tragedy know any of the  parents of the murdered children. They have shown no similar response to the US government’s murder of countless thousands of Muslim children.  The Clinton regime alone killed 500,000 Iraqi children with illegal sanctions, and Clinton’s immoral secretary of state, a feminist hero, said that she thought the sanctions were worth the cost of one half million dead Iraqi children.

Suddenly, 20 US children become of massive importance to “progressives.”  Why?  Because the deaths foster their agenda–gun control in the US.

When I hear people talk about “gun violence,” I wonder what has happened to language. A gun is an inanimate object.  An inanimate object cannot cause violence.  Humans cause violence. The relevant question is: why do humans cause violence?  This obvious question seldom gets asked. Instead, inanimate objects are blamed for the actions of humans.

In one of its reports on the Sandy Hook shooting, Time noted that such events “inevitably reopen debates about gun control, or more tenuously lead people to complain about American culture itself. Yet on the very same day, a 36-year-old Chinese man attacked 22 children with a knife at a primary school in China, suggesting that there is a critical factor with mass homicides that gets far less attention.”  That factor, “the core of these events,” is mental health and “our failure to address it as a society.”

That factor remains unaddressed, because the agenda-driven media is determined to use the Sandy Hook shootings as a means of achieving gun control. One wonders if there is a “knife control” agenda in China. What follows is not an argument that the report of the Sandy Hook shootings is a hoax. What follows is an argument that suspicions are created when agenda takes precedence over reporting and discrepancies in reports are left unresolved.

Agenda-driven news is the reason that apparent inconsistencies in the Sandy Hook story were not  investigated or explained.  According to some reports, the medical examiner said the children were shot with a rifle, but other reports say the accused was found dead inside the school with two pistols and that a rifle was found outside in the car.  The police capture a man in the woods who says “I didn’t do it.”  How would a person in the woods know what has just happened?   Who was the man? Was he investigated and released? Will we ever know?

Some reports say the school was locked and admission is via security camera and being buzzed in.  Why would a heavily armed person be buzzed in?  Other reports say he shot his way in.  Why wouldn’t such a commotion have alerted the school?

Another puzzle is the video of a father whose child has supposedly been shot to pieces. Prior to the interview he is caught on camera laughing and joking, and then, like an actor, he pulls his face and voice into a presentation of grief for the interview.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=urrRcgB581w

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oMINqFGNr-w

The spokesman for the Connecticut State Police is anxious to control the story, warns social media against posting information contrary to official information, but provides little information, refusing to answer most questions. The usual “ongoing investigation” is invoked, but Lanza has already been declared to be the killer and the number of dead reported. About the only hard information that emerges is that the police are investigating where every component of the weapons was manufactured.  The relevance to the shooting of where the components of the weapons were manufactured is not explained.

The medical examiner’s press conference is weird. He is incoherent, unsure of what he is supposed to say, hasn’t answers to questions he should have, and defers to police.

Perhaps the best way to avoid fueling suspicion is for public officials not to hold press conferences until they are prepared to answer the relevant questions.

And where are the bodies?  Like the alleged murder of Osama bin Laden by a SEAL,the crucial evidence is not provided. Paul Vance, the Connecticut State Police spokesman, said that the “victims’ bodies were removed from the school overnight” and that detectives “were able to positively identify all of the victims and make some formal notification to all of the families of the victims.” Ken5.com/news

Allegedly, no parent wanted to see the body of their dead child, but how do you know it is your child if you do not see the body? It is a strange kind of closure when it is provided to parents by impersonal detectives. Has anyone seen a body other than a state medical examiner and a few detectives? Where are the media’s films of body bags being carried out of the school? Why would Obama’s gun control agenda forego the propaganda of a procession of body bags being carried out of a school?

Perhaps the sensitivity issue prevailed, but with all the suspicion that already exists about the government and its claims, why fuel the suspicion by withholding visual evidence of the tragedy?

There are reports that when emergency medical help arrived at the school, the medical personnel were denied access to the children on the grounds that there were no survivors and the scene was too gruesome. Yet, there is a conflicting story that one six-year old girl had the presence of mind to play dead and walked out of her classroom unscathed.   If the story is true, how do we know that other survivors did not bleed to death from wounds because the emergency medical personnel were denied access? Did police exercise more control over the scene than was warranted?

It doesn’t seem to matter that questions are not answered and discrepancies are not resolved.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-sandy-hook-school-massacre-unanswered-questions-and-missing-information/5316776   The story is useful to the gun control agenda.  Progressives, in order to achieve their agenda, are willing adjuncts of the police state. The facts of the shooting are less important than the use of the incident to achieve their agenda.

Probably there are answers to the questions. Moreover, the news reports that are the basis for questions could be incorrect. But why aren’t the answers provided and confusions cleared up? Instead, people who ask obvious questions are dismissed as “insensitive to the tragedy” or as “conspiracy kooks.” This in itself deepens suspicion.

The Colorado movie theater shooting has its own unresolved discrepancies. One eyewitness claimed that there were two shooters. Apparently, the suspect was captured sitting in a car in the theater parking lot, which seems strange. There are claims that the accused, a graduate student in neuroscience, was involved with the Defense Advance Research Projects Agency in mind control research and that he doesn’t remember doing the shooting.

Do we actually know?  Apparently not. Wouldn’t it be preferable to investigate these claims rather than to leave them as unanswered sources of suspicion?  The loose ends of the Colorado movie shooting contribute to the suspicions caused by news reports of the Sandy Hook shootings.

A shooting incident occurs. The government puts out a story. Agendas form and take the place of the story. Unresolved issues disappear in heated dispute over agendas. Gun control advocates blame guns, and Second Amendment defenders blame other factors.

When the media permit agenda to take precedence over news, people lose confidence in the media and distrust spreads deeper into society. If the media and the government are opposed to conspiracy theories, they should not foster the theories by mishandling the news.

Neither the right-wing nor the left-wing has an interest in getting to the bottom of things. The right-wing is aligned with the police state in order to make us safe from “terrorism”– Muslim terrorism, not the terrorism of the unaccountable police state.
The American left is so feeble that it essentially doesn’t exist. Its issues are gun control, homosexual marriage, abortion, and taxing “the rich.” Such misfocus cannot slow the onrushing militarized police state.  American liberals have such an abiding faith in government that they are incapable of believing that beloved government would be culpable in crimes–unless, of course, it was Ronald Reagan’s government.

As tyranny envelops the land, the main goal of the “left-wing” is to disarm the population.
The American “left” is the enabler of the police state, and the American “right” is its progenitor.
Americans began their descent into deception and tyranny in the final years of the 20th century with the Clinton regime’s aggression against Serbia and murderous sanctions on Iraq.  These war crimes were portrayed by the US media and foreign policy community as great achievements of Western democracy and humanitarianism.

In the first decade of the 21st century Americans lost their constitutional protections and had their pocketbooks opened to indefinite wars. The latest report is that Washington is sending US troops into 35 African countries.

Worse is to come.

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Dec 202012
 

The Atlantic
Conor Friedersdorf

Meet the prominent legislators who think it’s okay to throw Americans in jail forever without charges or trial.

gitmo full r.jpg

Reuters

What everyone must understand is that American politics doesn’t work the way you’d think it would. Most people presume that government officials would never willfully withhold penicillin from men with syphilis just to see what would happen if the disease went untreated. It seems unlikely that officers would coerce enlisted men into exposing themselves to debilitating nerve gas. Few expected that President Obama would preside over the persecution of an NSA whistle-blower, or presume the guilt of all military-aged males killed by U.S. drone strikes. But it all happened.

Really thinking about all that may make it easier to believe what I’m about to tell you.

It may seem like imprisoning an American citizen without charges or trial transgresses against the United States Constitution and basic norms of Western justice dating back to the Magna Carta.

It may seem like reiterating the right to due process contained in the 5th Amendment would be uncontroversial.

It may seem like a United States senator would be widely ridiculed for suggesting that American citizens can be imprisoned indefinitely without chargers or trial, and that if numerous U.S. senators took that position, the press would treat the issue with at least as much urgency as “the fiscal cliff” or the possibility of a new assault weapons bill or likely nominees for Cabinet posts.

It may seem like the American citizens who vocally fret about the importance of adhering to the text of the Constitution would object as loudly as anyone to the prospect of indefinite detention.

But it isn’t so.

The casual news consumer cannot rely on those seemingly reasonable heuristics to signal that very old norms are giving way, that important protections are being undermined, perhaps decisively.

We’ve lost the courage of our convictions — we’re that scared of terrorism (or of seeming soft on it).

News junkies likely know that I’m alluding to a specific law that has passed both the Senate and the House, and is presently in a conference committee, where lawmakers reconcile the two versions. Observers once worried that the law would permit the indefinite detention of American citizens, or at least force them to rely on uncertain court challenges if unjustly imprisoned. In response, Senator Dianne Feinstein tried to allay these concerns with an amendment:

An authorization to use military force, a declaration of war, or any similar authority shall not authorize the detention without charge or trial of a citizen or lawful permanent resident of the United States apprehended in the United States, unless an Act of Congress expressly authorizes such detention.

You’d think the part about American citizens being protected from indefinite detention would be uncontroversial. It wasn’t. But the amendment did manage to pass in the United States Senate.

Afterward everyone forgot about it pretty quickly. But not Charlie Savage. He’s a journalist at The New York Times. If every journalist were more like him the United States government would be far less able to radically expand the president’s unchecked authority without many people noticing.

Here is his scoop:

Lawmakers charged with merging the House and Senate versions of the National Defense Authorization Act decided on Tuesday to drop a provision that would have explicitly barred the military from holding American citizens and permanent residents in indefinite detention without trial as terrorism suspects, according to Congressional staff members familiar with the negotiations.  

Says Adam Serwer, another journalist who treats these issues with the urgency that they deserve:

Of the four main negotiators on the defense bill, only one of the Democrats, Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), opposes domestic indefinite detention of Americans. The Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.), believes detaining Americans without charge or trial is constitutional, and only voted for the Feinstein amendment because he and some of his Republican colleagues in the Senate convinced themselves through a convoluted legal rationale that Feinstein’s proposal didn’t actually ban the practice. Both of the main Republican negotiators, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif) and Senator John McCain (R-Ariz) believe it’s constitutional to lock up American citizens suspected of terrorism without ever proving they’re guilty.

There is a complication, as he notes: Civil liberties groups “aren’t shedding any tears over the demise of the Feinstein-Lee amendment,” because they objected to the fact that it protected only U.S. citizens and permanent residents, rather than all persons present in the United States. While I respect that principled stand, the more important thing is that this outcome puts us all at greater risk of having a core liberty violated, and that Senators McCain, Levin, and many other legislators suffer no consequences for failing to protect and defend the United States Constitution.
   
As Serwer puts it, “The demise of the Feinstein-Lee proposal doesn’t necessarily mean that Americans suspected of terrorism in the US can be locked up forever without a trial. But it ensures that the next time a president tries to lock up an American citizen without trial — as President George W. Bush previously tried — it will be left up to the courts to decide whether or not it’s legal.”

Don’t let the dearth of attention fool you — this is a scandal. Congress has turned its back on safeguarding a core Constitutional protection and a centuries old requirement of Western justice.

Rage, rage against the dying of the 5th.

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Dec 152012
 

Washington Post
Greg Miller

After a contentious closed-door vote, the Senate intelligence committee approved a long-awaited report Thursday concluding that harsh interrogation measures used by the CIA did not produce significant intelligence breakthroughs, officials said.

The 6,000-page document, which was not released to the public, was adopted by Democrats over the objections of most of the committee’s Republicans. The outcome reflects the level of partisan friction that continues to surround the CIA’s use of waterboarding and other severe interrogation techniques four years after they were banned.

The report is the most detailed independent examination to date of the agency’s efforts to “break” dozens of detainees through physical and psychological duress, a period of CIA history that has become a source of renewed controversy because of torture scenes in a forthcoming Hollywood film, “Zero Dark Thirty.”

Officials familiar with the report said it makes a detailed case that subjecting prisoners to ­“enhanced” interrogation techniques did not help the CIA find Osama bin Laden and often were counterproductive in the broader campaign against al-Qaeda.

The committee chairman, Sen. Dianne Feinstein ­(D-Calif.), declined to discuss specific findings but released a written statement describing decisions to allow the CIA to build a network of secret prisons and employ harsh interrogation measures as “terrible mistakes.”

“I also believe this report will settle the debate once and for all over whether our nation should ever employ coercive interrogation techniques,” Feinstein said.

That conclusion has been disputed by high-ranking officials from the George W. Bush administration, including former vice president Richard B. Cheney and former CIA director Michael V. Hayden. Both of them argued that the use of waterboarding, sleep deprivation and other measures provided critical clues that helped track down bin Laden, the al-Qaeda leader who was killed in a U.S. raid in Pakistan in May 2011.

Largely because of those political battle lines, Republicans on the Senate intelligence committee refused to participate in the panel’s three-year investigation of the CIA interrogation program, and most opposed Thursday’s decision.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, the committee’s ranking Republican, said in a statement that the report “contains a number of significant errors and omissions about the history and utility of CIA’s detention program.” He also noted that the review was done “without interviewing any of the people involved.”

The 9 to 6 vote indicates that at least one Republican backed the report, although committee officials declined to provide a breakdown.

Other GOP lawmakers voiced support for the report’s conclusions. Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam, issued a statement saying that the committee’s work shows that “cruel” treatment of prisoners “is not only wrong in principle and a stain on our country’s conscience, but also an ineffective and unreliable means of gathering intelligence.”

It could be months, if not years, before the public gets even a partial glimpse of the report or its 20 findings and conclusions. Feinstein said the committee will turn the voluminous document over to the Obama administration and the CIA to provide a chance for them to comment.

When that is completed, the committee will need to vote again on whether to release even a portion of the report, a move likely to face opposition from the CIA, which has fought to keep details of the interrogation program classified.

Even if it were released, the report would probably have little impact beyond providing new ammunition for a largely dormant interrogation debate.

The agency abandoned its harshest interrogation methods years before President Obama was elected, and the Justice Department began backing away from memos it had issued that had served as the legal basis for the program.

Earlier this year, the Justice Department closed investigations of alleged abuses, eliminating the prospect that CIA operatives who had gone beyond the approved methods would face criminal charges.

Civil liberties groups praised the report.

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Oct 312012
 

Global Research
Harvey Wasserman

vote

CICJ Books has just released “Grassroots, Geeks, Pros, and Pols: The Election Integrity Movement’s Rise and Nonstop Battle to Win Back the People’s Vote, 2000-2008″ by Marta Steele.
Marta Steele has done yeoman work for the election integrity movement. She has plowed through more websites and blogs than one can even imagine. She set out with the nearly impossible task of writing the definitive historical narrative of the folly of electronic voting in the United States between 1988 and 2008. More shockingly, she accomplished that task.
Electronic voting machines are perfectly designed to steal elections. That’s their principle purpose. Ireland has just gotten rid of them altogether. Germany, Japan, Canada, Switzerland all use paper ballots. Why? Because you can actually count them in public, and then count them again.
But here in the US, elections are corporate-owned and operated. Anyone who experienced pushing the e-spot for John Kerry and having the name George W. Bush light up—as happened so often in Ohio 2004—knows all too well that what Marta Steele documents in this remarkable book has become the defining reality in American election theft.
What she has done by way of documentation is truly impressive. Never again will those who question the validity of electronic voting be called “conspiracy theorists.” Through sheer tenacity, the author has scoured the vast morass of cyberspace and brought back all the essential data and assembled it in an understandable and analytical fashion. Readers can only draw one conclusion from her work – those who deny the death of democracy are foolish “coincidence theorists.”
She accumulated mountains of incidences that show the so-called “red shift” in favor of the Republican Party is not an anomaly or computer “glitch,” but evidence that there is systematic tampering of computerized voting machines by private companies connected to the Republican Party. Although our newspaper, the Columbus Free Press, and our website freepress.org published plenty on the flaws of electronic voting and election irregularities, we were nonetheless overwhelmed by the research documented in this volume. Those who read this book will no longer fall for the easy propaganda lines and talking points put forth by Karl Rove and his cohorts in explaining away impossible election results.
This book is important because its research is so detailed, its history so clear, and its analysis so convincing. The book destroys the mythology that “it can’t happen here” – that our system is an old and infallible democracy that can’t be corrupted. This powerful work will force all who read it to take a side, but more importantly, to take action, perhaps even direct action.
A key breakthrough that the book allows is to shatter the absurd notion that the empire of the United States may very well meddle in and steal elections abroad, but would never use these tactics at home. The fact that the Bush family, with their patriarch George Herbert Walker Bush being the CIA director, is so inextricably linked to the rise of electronic voting and improbably election results, should be no surprise. That’s why it is no coincidence that she starts her history of election voting irregularities in the year that George H.W. Bush wins the New Hampshire and becomes president.
The Bush family ascendancy corresponds to black box, nontransparent voting in America. The more we’ve privatized our software and hardware and called it “trade secrets,” the better the Bush family candidates have done, against all odds. Their presidential victories, with the official exit polls falling well outside the margin of errors and predicting victories for their opponents, would easily be denounced by election observers in a Third World country.
Small wonder that when push came to shove, Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell refused to allow United Nations observers into the Buckeye State polling places to check the veracity of the 2004 balloting.
We believe this book does more than any other to expose the evils of electronic voting. The endnotes alone amount to a giant step forward in revealing the crimes of privatized e-voting in our nation.
As Al Gore and John Kerry refused to do, we must now face the reality that as long as our balloting process is dominated by electronic machines, the outcome of any election can be flipped by a governor or secretary of state with a few late-night key strokes. Considering the hundreds of millions the rich and super-rich are willing to spend to control the government, would you ever doubt they would hesitate to buy an election?
What Marta Steele has done is to confirm far beyond any reasonable doubt that as long as electronic machines are at the core of our vote count, there is no such thing as democracy in the USA. What we have instead is an electronic corporatocracy….proprietary, secretive, anti-democratic and for sale (or lease) to the highest bidder. The real question is: now that Marta had made this all perfectly clear, what are we going to do about it?

~ with Harvey Wasserman


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Oct 252012
 

Empire Burlesque
Chris Floyd

Drone victim in North Waziristan

“…for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument?” — Shakespeare, Henry V

Even as the presidential candidates meet in ersatz agon to spew their self-serving lies and scripted zingers in a “debate” on foreign policy, the real campaign — the campaign of blood and bone, of death and terror, being waged in Pakistan by the American government — goes on it all its horror.

This week, the Mail on Sunday — one of Britain’s most conservative newspapers — published a story outlining, in horrific detail, the true nature of the drone killing campaign begun by George W. Bush and vastly expanded by Barack Obama. Coming on the heels of a recent report (“Living Under Drones”) by teams at Stanford and New York universities on this ongoing war crime, the Mail on Sunday story brings the humanity of the victims — and the inhumanity of perpetrators — to the fore. The story concerns legal action being taken in Pakistan on behalf of families of drone-murder victims by Pakistani lawyer and activist Shahzad Akbar and the UK-based human rights group, Reprieve. As the MoS reports, two court cases have been filed that could “trigger a formal murder investigation into the roles of two US officials said to have ordered the strikes.”

The MoS quotes the Living With Drones report to set the context:

…Between 2,562 and 3,325 people have been killed since the strikes in Pakistan began in 2004. The report said of those, up to 881 were civilians, including 176 children. Only 41 people who had died had been confirmed as ‘high-value’ terrorist targets.

As the paper notes, full figures on the killings are hard to come by, due to the convenient fact that “the tribal regions along the frontier are closed to journalists.” The true death count of civilians is almost certainly far higher.

So who are the thousands of people being slain by brave American warriors sitting at computer consoles on a military bases on the other side of the world? From the MoS:

The plaintiff in the Islamabad case is Karim Khan, 45, a journalist and translator with two masters’ degrees, whose family comes from the village of Machi Khel in the tribal region of North Waziristan. His eldest son, Zahinullah, 18, and his brother, Asif Iqbal, 35, were killed by a Hellfire missile fired from a Predator drone that struck the family’s guest dining room at about 9.30pm on New Year’s Eve, 2009.

Mr Khan said: ‘We are an educated family. My uncle is a hospital doctor in Islamabad, and we all work in professions such as teaching. We have never had anything to do with militants or terrorists, and for that reason I always assumed we would be safe. Zahinullah, who had been studying in Islamabad, had returned to the village to work his way through college, taking a part-time job as a school caretaker. ‘He was a quiet boy and studious – always in the top group of his class.’ Zahinullah also liked football, cricket and hunting partridges. Asif, he added, was an English teacher and had spent several years taking further courses to improve his qualifications while already in work. Asif had changed his surname because he loved to recite Iqbal, Pakistan’s national poet.

Well, that’s what they claim, right? No doubt the button-pushing drone “pilot” parked safely in his cushy padded chair back in Nevada could ascertain through the computer screen that the quiet student and the poetry-loving teacher were actually “active terrorists, who are trying to go in and harm America,” to quote the Nobel Peace Laureate in the White House, in his only public acknowledgement of the drone campaign. Such miscreants, said the Laureate, are the only people ever killed by this “targeted, focused effort.”

Mr Khan, who had been working in Islamabad at the time, hurried back to the village when he got the news. This is what he found:

He got home soon after dawn and describes his return ‘like entering a village of the dead – it was so quiet. There was a crowd gathered outside the compound but nowhere for them to sit because the guest rooms had been destroyed’.

Zahinullah, Mr Khan discovered, had been killed instantly, but despite his horrific injuries, Asif had survived long enough to be taken to a nearby hospital. However, he died during the night.

‘We always bury people quickly in our culture. The funeral was at three o’clock that afternoon, and more than 1,000 people came,’ Mr Khan said. ‘Zahinullah had a wound on the side of his face and his body was crushed and charred. I am told the people who push the buttons to fire the missiles call these strikes “bug-splats”.

‘It is beyond my imagination how they can lack all mercy and compassion, and carry on doing this for years. They are not human beings.’

In this, however, Mr Khan is wrong, and therein lies the tragedy: the people who killed his brother and thousands of other innocents, and have carried on doing it for years, are indeed human beings — all too human. The lack of mercy and compassion they exhibit is one of our endemic human traits — and one that has been assiduously, relentlessly, deliberately — and profitably — cultivated for years by our bipartisan elites, who sow fear and hatred and dehumanization to advance their agenda of domination, playing upon — and rewarding — what is worst in our common human nature, while mocking, denigrating and punishing what is best.

One of the officials targeted in the lawsuit is former CIA general counsel John Rizzo. As the paper notes:

Mr Rizzo is named because of an interview he gave to a US reporter after he retired as CIA General Counsel last year. In it, he boasted that he had personally authorised every drone strike in which America’s enemies were ‘hunted down and blown to bits’.

He added: ‘It’s basically a hit-list. The Predator is the weapon of choice, but it could also be someone putting a bullet in your head.’

That’s nice, isn’t it? Noble, worthy, honorable, isn’t it? Again, these are the mafia thug values being embraced, lauded, supported and reinforced at every turn by the most respectable figures throughout American politics and media, including of course the popular media, where TV shows and movies abound with tough guys “doing whatever it takes” to kill the dehumanized “enemy” and “keep us safe.”

The second case now before the Pakistani courts involves “signature strikes,” the policy of killing unknown people simply because you don’t like how they look or how they act. No evidence — not even false evidence, not even the thin scraps of rumor and innuendo and ignorance that constitute the overwhelming majority of “intelligence reports” — is required before the well-wadded Cheeto-chewer in Nevada crooks his finger and fires a drone. The MoS quotes a Pakistani official describing the signature strikes:

‘It could be a vehicle containing armed men heading towards the border, and the operator thinks, “Let’s get them before they get there,” without any idea of who they are. It could also just be people sitting together. In the frontier region, every male is armed but it doesn’t mean they are militants.’

One such signature strike killed more than 40 people in Datta Khel in North Waziristan on March 17 last year. The victims, Mr Akbar’s dossier makes clear, had gathered for a jirga – a tribal meeting – in order to discuss a dispute between two clans over the division of royalties from a chromite mine.

Some of the most horrifying testimony comes from Khalil Khan, the son of Malik Haji Babat, a tribal leader and police officer. ‘My father was not a terrorist. He was not an enemy of the United States,’ Khalil’s legal statement says. ‘He was a hard-working and upstanding citizen, the type of person others looked up to and aspired to be like.

“What I saw when I got off the bus at Datta Khel was horrible,’ he said. ‘I immediately saw flames and women and children were saying there had been a drone strike. The fires spread after the strike. The tribal elders who had been killed could not be identified because there were body parts strewn about. The smell was awful. I just collected the pieces that I believed belonged to my father and placed them in a small coffin.’

…He added that schools in the area were empty because ‘parents are afraid their children will be hit by a missile’.

This is another aspect of the drone campaign that I noted in a recent post here about the drone campaign: it is not just an illegal military operation, it is — and is designed to be — a terrorist campaign. It is meant to terrorize the population of the targeted regions, to keep the people there enslaved to fear and uncertainty, never knowing if the buzzing drone flying high and unreachable above their heads will suddenly spew out a Hellfire missile on their house, their school, their farm, their hospital, and blow them or their loved ones into unidentifiable shreds. It is a terrorist campaign — not a random attack here and there, not an isolated spasm of violence — but a continual, relentless, death-dealing campaign of terror designed to poison the daily lives of innocent people and force their cowed acquiescence to the dictates of domination.

II. It goes without saying that this story, or the Living Under Drones report, or the abominable implications of the terrorist campaign were not discussed during the “debate” Monday night between the two clowns who are fighting for the chance to drench themselves in human blood for the next four years. (For the most thorough — and harrowing — consideration of these implications, including the electoral implications, see this powerful piece by Arthur Silber.) The fact that the drone campaign is actually one of the greatest threats to the national security of the American people will not impinge upon the “debate.” Why should it? Neither candidate is the least bit interested in the security of the American people. In fact, both are firmly committed to imposing the drone terror campaign on the American people themselves (as Silber, again, notes here).

In a recent article, Daniel Ellsberg — a courageous and worthy dissident for many decades — shocked many by cataloging the many war crimes and moral atrocities of the Obama Administration, then ending with a fervent rallying cry for us all to …. support Obama. (Vast Left has more on this.) Here, Ellsberg echoes a familiar argument during this election cycle, voiced more vehemently not long ago by another honorable campaigner, Robert Parry. My response to Parry then applies equally to Ellsberg now, and to all those good progressives who advocate a ‘reluctant’ but ‘realistic’ vote for Obama:

Parry believes he is preaching a tough, gritty doctrine of “moral ambiguity.” What he is in fact advocating is the bleakest moral nihilism. To Parry, the structure of American power — the corrupt, corporatized, militarized system built and sustained by both major parties — cannot be challenged. Not even passively, not even internally, for Parry scorns those who simply refuse to vote almost as harshly as those who commit the unpardonable sin: voting for a third party. No, if you do not take an active role in supporting this brutal engine of war and injustice by voting for a Democrat, then it is you who are immoral.

You must support this system. It is the only moral choice. What’s more, to be truly moral, to acquit yourself of the charge of vanity and frivolity, to escape complicity in government crimes, you must support the Democrat. If the Democratic president orders the “extrajudicial” murder of American citizens, you must support him. If he chairs death squad meetings in the White House every week, checking off names of men to be murdered without charge or trial, you must support him. If he commits mass murder with robot drones on defenseless villages around the world, you must support him. If he imprisons and prosecutes whistleblowers and investigative journalists more than any other president in history, you must support him. If he cages and abuses and tortures a young soldier who sought only to stop atrocities and save the nation’s honor, you must support him. If he “surges” a pointless war of aggression and occupation in a ravaged land and expands that war into the territory of a supposed ally, you must support him. If he sends troops and special ops and drones and assassins into country after country, fomenting wars, bankrolling militias, and engineering coups, you must support him. If he throws open the nation’s coastal waters to rampant drilling by the profiteers who are devouring and despoiling the earth, you must support him. If he declares his eagerness to do what no Republican president has ever dared to do — slash Social Security and Medicare — you must support him.

For Robert Parry, blinded by the red mist of partisanship, there is literally nothing — nothing — that a Democratic candidate can do to forfeit the support of “the left.” He can even kill a 16-year-old American boy — kill him, rip him to shreds with a missile fired by a coddled coward thousands of miles away — and you must support him. And, again, if you do not support him, if you do not support all this, then you are the problem. You are enabling evil.

I confess I cannot follow such logic. But in his article, Ellsberg compounds the puzzlement when he tries to clinch his case by citing Henry David Thoreau, of all people. Ellsberg writes:

I often quote a line by Thoreau that had great impact for me: “Cast your whole vote: not a strip of paper merely, but your whole influence.” He was referring, in that essay, to civil disobedience, or as he titled it himself, “Resistance to Civil Authority.”

In other words, Ellsberg is using a call for resistance to civil authority to justify supporting a civil authority which he himself acknowledges is committing war crimes and destroying American democracy. Again, I find this “reasoning” unfathomable.

But I too often quote a line by Thoreau that has had a great impact for me. In fact, I would say that it encapsulates my entire political philosophy in this dirty, degraded Age of Empire:

“How does it become a man to behave toward this American government today? I answer that he cannot without disgrace be associated with it.”

If only more of our compatriots would say the same.

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Oct 242012
 

Russia Today

The logo of the National Security Agency.(AFP Photo / Paul J. Richards)

The US National Security Agency isn’t outright rejecting claims that they’ve been conducting surveillance on everyone in the country, but they want Americans to at least give them the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their intensions.

The NSA was in court again this week to challenge a potential class action lawsuit that aims to end the governmental agency’s electronic surveillance program begun by President George W. Bush in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks; but while the plaintiffs in the case want to abolish the warrantless wiretapping and spying on innocent civilians started under that administration’s Terrorist Surveillance Program, the government’s argument is now one that requires Americans to accept the agency’s insistence they’re really not up to anything worth worrying about, Courthouse News reports.

In Federal Court this week, the NSA said that the public should simply trust the government when they say they aren’t abusing any powers legally or illegally in place to engage in clandestine surveillance of each and every citizen.

A San Francisco courthouse was the venue for the latest episode in the matter of Jewel v. NSA, a 4-year-old case that charges the spy agency with once and still operating an “illegal and unconstitutional program of dragnet communications surveillance.”Lead plaintiff Carolyn Jewel brought on the suit back in 2008 with the assistance of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and on behalf of current and former customers of AT&T who say they were affected when the telecom giant allowed the NSA unfettered access to their systems to spy on the communications of any customers they wish.
The plaintiffs say that the NSA ordered the attachment of surveillance devices to AT&T’s master network in order to have the ability to divert any communication routed through their service to secure facilities to allow for “an unprecedented suspicionless general search.” When former NSA senior executive Thomas Drake condemned the agency’s overly broad and costly surveillance of innocent Americans in 2007, the government attempted to silence him by filing an indictment under the Espionage Act of 1917.

When Jewel v NSA ended up in federal court in 2010, US District Court Chief Judge Vaughn Walker originally dismissed the case, only for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals deciding to reinstate it last year.

“Since September 11 and now, through two administrations, the executive has engaged in unprecedented assertions of power without regard to the constitutional and statutory limits of its authority,” attorney Richard Wiebe wrote in the case’s initial filings. “It has correspondingly sought to exclude the judiciary from adjudicating whether these exercises of executive power have stayed within the limits set by the Constitution and by Congress.”

Currently, the government alleges that they do not have to respond to charges of unwarranted eavesdropping because they have immunity in instances where disclosure could disrupt national security. As Courthouse News previously reported, the federal government “claims to have invoked state secrets privileges that protects it from any litigation consequentially stemming from supposed violations of those acts.”

Plaintiffs, however, say that the government waived its right to sovereign immunity when it put itself in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) as well as the US Constitution’s Fourth Amendment that protects Americans from unlawful searches and seizures.

Dozens of similar lawsuits against Verizon and other telecommunication companies were initially filed during the George W. Bush administration, but amendments added to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) in 2008 granted those companies immunity to civil actions “providing assistance to an element of the intelligence community.” Now, however, plaintiffs say the government must be held accountable for their own violations of FISA and the Constitution.

Responding to the case earlier this month, the government insisted, “The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act does not authorize a claim against the Government defendants sued in their official capacities, the state secrets privilege bars the litigation of plaintiffs’ remaining claims and the state secrets privilege is not displaced by the FISA.”

“[T]he disclosure of sensitive intelligence sources and methods . . . reasonably could be expected to cause exceptionally grave harm to national security,” the government wrote in one of three motions filed so far to put Jewel v. NSA to rest. “The very purpose of these cases is to put at issue whether the NSA undertook certain alleged activities under presidential authorization after 9/11, and whether those activities continue today. At every stage, from standing to the merits, highly classified and properly privileged intelligence sources and methods are at risk of disclosure. The law is clear, however, that where litigation risks or requires the disclosure of information that reasonably could be expected to harm national security, dismissal is required.”

Wiebe and the plaintiffs see things another way, though, and wrote earlier that “The government here seeks to transform the state secrets privilege from a powerful but targeted evidentiary shield into a justiciability sword, preventing the Judiciary from engaging in its constitutional duty.”
The government’s goal, Wiebe continued, “is to convince this court to close its eyes to a program that impacts every American who uses a phone, email or the Internet. The judiciary must recognize the dangers of allowing the executive to distort narrow exceptions like the state secrets privilege into broad unfettered power to ‘turn the Constitution on or off at will.’ Even in the case involving war powers, the Supreme Court has confirmed that the ‘war power does not remove constitutional limitations safeguarding essential liberties.'”

This week the government did not fight back as hard to defend any surveillance practices engaged by either the George W. Bush or Obama administrations, but said innocent Americans should trust that they aren’t in danger of being watched.

“This lawsuit puts at issue alleged intelligence activities of the National Security Agency (‘NSA’) purportedly undertaken pursuant to presidential authorization since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001,” the NSA says in their latest response. “For the past six years, the nation’s most senior intelligence officials, in succeedingadministrations, have consistently advised this court that litigation of plaintiffs’ allegations would risk exceptional damage to national security, setting forth in detail the matters at issue. Renewed invocation of the state secrets privilege in this action by the Director of National Intelligence has undergone rigorous review within the Executive Branch under a process providing that privilege will only be asserted where necessary to protect against significant harm to national security. Contrary to plaintiffs’ suggestion, in these circumstances dismissal would not constitute an abdication of judicial authority, but the exercise of judicial scrutiny of the privileged information at issue and the application of established law to protect compelling national security interests.”

US District Judge Jeffery White will consider the latest motion on November 2 and could decide to let the arguments be brought to trial. If the case is allowed and elevated to class action status as the plaintiffs hope, attorneys fear that a victory for the NSA would mean the continuation of warrantless dragnet surveillance would continue — this time on-the-books.

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Oct 192012
 

Why is President Obama’s attorney general handing out prizes for sweeping torture under the rug?

Foreign Policy
David Cole

On Oct. 17, Eric Holder handed out the Justice Department’s annual awards for distinguished service to a slew of department employees. Featured at the top of the awards announcement were the men and women who successfully prosecuted 10 New Orleans police officers for killing innocent civilians in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and a U.S. marshal who risked his life to protect a victim from a violent fugitive during the fugitive’s capture. But buried at the bottom of the list — the 13th of 14 “distinguished service awards” — was a more unusual awardee: Assistant U.S. Attorney John Durham. Durham and his team received the award not for bringing anyone to justice, but for declining to hold accountable anyone in the CIA for its brutal interrogations of detainees at secret prisons, or “black sites,” in connection with President George W. Bush’s “war on terror.”

“In order to conduct the investigations,” the citation reads, “the team had to review significant amounts of information, much of which was classified, and conduct many interviews in the United States and at overseas locations.”
There’s no question that Durham worked hard for a long time, and that the investigation was complex and substantial. After all, more than 100 men were “disappeared” into the CIA’s black sites for extended incommunicado detention and interrogation. Because the CIA prisons were a secret, everything that happened there is classified, complicating investigation still further. And because the investigation itself is secret, we can’t know precisely what evidence Durham considered, what roadblocks he faced, what judgment calls he made.
But here’s what we do know. Many of those “disappeared” into the CIA’s black sites were tortured and/or illegally subjected to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, for example, were waterboarded 83 and 183 times, respectively. They and other detainees were stripped naked, doused with water, beaten about the face and stomach, slammed into walls, deprived of sleep for days on end, forced into painful stress positions, and confined in small dark boxes for hours at a time. And these were just the “authorized” torture tactics, given a green light by a secret memo written in August 2002 by John Yoo and Jay Bybee from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, and specifically okayed by President Bush, Vice-President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Attorney General John Ashcroft, and White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, among others.
We also know, thanks to the CIA’s own Inspector General, that CIA interrogators in the black sites went beyond even the illegal brutality authorized by high-level officials. One detainee was threatened with a handgun and a power drill. A mock execution was staged next to a detainee’s cell. Interrogators threatened to kill the children of another detainee if he didn’t tell them what they wanted to know.
We also know that in 2005, CIA higher-up Jose Rodriguez ordered the destruction of videotapes of two of those interrogations, shortly after the Washington Post revealed the existence of the CIA secret prisons where the interrogations took place, and while the tapes were under request from several courts and a Senate committee looking into charges of abuse.
Durham cleared everyone in the CIA of accusations of wrongdoing. Does he deserves a medal for that? Maybe so, but then there are a few other recipients the attorney general left out. Surely John Yoo and Jay Bybee deserve medals for making the interrogations possible in the first place, by issuing a memo that Jack Goldsmith, director of the Office of Legal Counsel after Bybee, has called a “get out of jail free card.” Goldsmith himself, along with his successors as OLC heads under Bush — Daniel Levin and Steven Bradbury — also deserve medals for secretly allowing the torture tactics to continue even after the administration rescinded the initial memo when the Post published it. Tellingly, the Bush administration could not publicly defend, even for a moment, what everyone had signed off on in secret; but Goldsmith, Levin, and Bradbury ensured, in subsequent secret memos and authorizations, that the CIA’s illegal program could go on.

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