Obama didn’t remove the Bush “national security” policies — now, he hands them over to Trump

❝ As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump vowed to refill the cells of the Guantánamo Bay prison and said U.S. terrorism suspects should be sent there for military prosecution. He called for targeting mosques for surveillance, escalating airstrikes aimed at terrorists and taking out their civilian family members, and bringing back waterboarding and a “hell of a lot worse” — not only because “torture works,” but because even “if it doesn’t work, they deserve it anyway.”

It is hard to know how much of this stark vision for throwing off constraints on the exercise of national security power was merely tough campaign talk. But if the Trump administration follows through on such ideas, it will find some assistance in a surprising source: President Barack Obama’s have-it-both-ways approach to curbing what he saw as overreaching in the war on terrorism.

❝ Over and over, Obama has imposed limits on his use of such powers but has not closed the door on them — a flexible approach premised on the idea that he and his successors could be trusted to use them prudently. Trump can now sweep away those limits and open the throttle on policies that Obama endorsed as lawful and legitimate for sparing use, like targeted killings in drone strikes and the use of indefinite detention and military tribunals for terrorism suspects.

And even in areas where Obama tried to terminate policies from the George W. Bush era — such as torture and the detention of Americans and other people arrested on domestic soil as “enemy combatants” — his administration fought in court to prevent any ruling that the defunct practices had been illegal. The absence of a definitive repudiation could make it easier for Trump administration lawyers to revive the policies by invoking the same sweeping theories of executive power that were the basis for them in the Bush years.

RTFA and reflect upon the range of backwards tools handy to any criminal onslaught against constitutional rights, crushing dissent, reviving sedition prosecutions unheard of since the turn of the 19th Century.

Detainee used as a lab rat for CIA torture experiments coming up for a hearing on release from Gitmo


The whole world is watching

A man the CIA used as a guinea pig for its post-9/11 torture program will plead his case for freedom from Guantanámo Bay later this month…in perhaps the hardest challenge to date for Barack Obama’s intentions to empty the infamous detention center.

Zayn al-Ibidin Muhammed Husayn, better known as Abu Zubaydah, is one of three men the CIA acknowledged that it waterboarded, a process simulating drowning, at an unacknowledged prison in Thailand. At some point during his 14-year captivity by the US, he lost the use of his left eye.

The 23 August hearing, Guantánamo’s equivalent of a parole board, will present the first time Abu Zubaydah will have an opportunity to speak about his captivity – an opportunity that contradicts the CIA’s preferences. The CIA, per a landmark 2014 Senate investigation, has contended that he ought to be held incommunicado until he dies.

Yup. Why allow someone we tortured to testify about that torture – when we deny torturing anyone?

❝ “We anticipate our client will make a statement” at the hearing, said Zubaydah’s attorney, Joseph Margulies.

Abu Zubaydah presents the hardest test thus far for the Obama administration’s last-ditch attempt at vacating the Guantánamo detention facility through the quasi-parole process. While the much-tortured Abu Zubaydah may or may not be too dangerous to release – the criterion that a multi-agency Guantánamo tribunal known as a Periodic Review Board (PRB) will evaluate later this month – he knows a vast amount about CIA torture, which makes his ultimate release doubtful…

RTFA if you care to learn what our government did in the name of freedom.

…The CIA represented [his torture] to the Bush administration and Congress as a success, and subsequently tortured at least 118 others…

Karen Greenberg, director of Fordham Law School’s Center on National Security, said the decision to permit Abu Zubaydah a hearing represented a boldness by the White House in its internal and congressional battles over closing Guantánamo.

“Abu Zubaydah is at the heart of everything that keeps Gitmo from closing: the issue of torture,” Greenberg said.

Most Congressional Republicans and many conservative Democrats have no problem with the United States torturing people. You know that. I know that. We share the same contempt for the excuses they lap up from CIA torturers and executioners.

The Senate finally voted to outlaw torture, last year.

Pentagon supports release of Gitmo detainee who wrote bestseller exposing prisoner abuse

A Guantánamo Bay detainee whose memoir recounting abuse by American interrogators became a best-seller last year has been recommended for transfer out of the wartime prison…

The detainee, Mohamedou Ould Slahi, 45, is a Mauritanian and the author of “Guantánamo Diary,” which he wrote by hand at the prison in 2005.

His lawyers fought for years with the government for permission to publish the book. It finally appeared in bookstores in January 2015 — with many redactions — sold briskly, and has since been optioned for a movie.

Mr. Slahi appeared June 2 before a parole-board-like six-agency panel, the Periodic Review Board, that interviews prisoners and reviews their files. It decides whether they are enough of a threat to national security to continue to be detained. In a July 14 decision memo that was recently made public the board determined that Mr. Slahi should be transferred…

Of the 76 detainees remaining at the prison, 31 are recommended for transfer if security conditions can be met in the receiving country.

In a short statement on its “consensus” decision, the board cited Mr. Slahi’s “highly compliant behavior in detention.”

“The board also noted the detainee’s candid responses to the board’s questions, to include recognition of his past activities, clear indications of a change in the detainee’s mind-set,” it said. “Furthermore, the board considered the extensive support network available to the detainee from multiple sources, including strong family connections, and the detainee’s robust and realistic plan for the future.”…

Mr. Slahi studied electrical engineering in Germany and then joined Al Qaeda to help the Afghan anti-Communist resistance in the early 1990s, a time when Osama bin Laden’s mujahedeen fighters were backed by the United States.

He returned to Germany and later crossed paths with one of the accused plotters of the 9/11 attacks. Mr. Slahi was back in Mauritania by the time of those attacks, and he was arrested and sent to Jordan, which later transferred him to the United States.

Mr. Slahi was taken to Guantánamo and in 2003 was subjected to a special interrogation torture approved by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. Mr. Slahi wrote of extensive sleep deprivation, beatings, dousings with ice water, and of being shackled for days in a freezing cell. He denied involvement with terrorism and was never charged with a crime.

One more lesson in American hypocrisy the whole world is learning from our self-assigned role as cops of the world. Liberal or conservative in the White House, some things never change.

Only takes Uncle Sam 14 years to notice they stuck the wrong guy in Gitmo

A Guantanamo detainee whom the U.S. says it “probably misidentified” 14 years ago finally got a hearing Thursday on his bid for a transfer.

Abdul Zahir, 44, arrived at Guantanamo in October 2002 after the United States captured him during an Afghanistan raid…U.S. forces were actually targeting another individual named Abdul Bari, which happens to be an alias Zahir used. The U.S. says it believed Bari was involved in chemical and biological weapons production and distribution for al-Qaida.

The supposed chemical or biological agents that U.S. forces seized during the raid turned out to be salt, sugar and petroleum jelly…

Calling Zahir by his internment serial number, an anonymous female voice said he has offered “no actionable information relative to al-Qaida’s weapons network, and we assess that AF-753 was probably misidentified as the individual who had ties to al-Qaida weapons facilitation activities.”…

This only took the meatheads in charge of Gitmo – with Pentagon and Congressional approval – fourteen years to figure out. Wonder how long it will take for the American people to realize we’re being lied to by the real criminals in this reality TV script?

Since Zahir’s October 2002 arrival at Guantanamo, the detainee has sought a hearing “to determine the validity of the claims that the government has made about him,” attorney David Sleigh told the review board…

Had he been given that hearing, it would have become obvious that he does not pose a threat, significant or otherwise, to the security of the United States,” Sleigh told the board…

The Periodic Review Board should issue a final ruling on Zahir within the next few months.

No hurry, eh? It’s just some furriner’s life our government is screwing over.

Omar Khadr in his own words

Omar Khadr is standing in his bedroom looking out at the backyard.

It is his second morning of freedom after nearly 13 years behind bars, and he’s embarrassed because he doesn’t know how to open the window…

Open a window. Open a bank account. Get a driver’s license. Get a library card. There are so many small skills to be learned by a man who has loomed large since he was shot and captured in Afghanistan at the age of 15 – a man who has never been allowed to speak publicly.

For the first time since being granted bail earlier this month, Khadr spoke over two days in exclusive interviews for the Toronto Star and a documentary that will air…on the CBC.

Until now, Khadr has existed in caricature drawn and defined by others: victim, killer, child, detainee, political pawn, terrorist, pacifist; he has been compared both to South African freedom fighter Nelson Mandela and serial murderer Paul Bernardo.

Michelle Shephard and the Toronto STAR knocked it out of the park. Real journalism, a challenging interview and story. Not because of the difficulty in the subject learning again how to communicate in a free society. Difficulty in accessing print, video, the means of communication in modern society that still hasn’t agreed to free speech.

And maybe more.

There is a great body of growing discussion here in the United States – and around the world – about what must be a revised Western policy in the cradle of the Fertile Crescent, the seat of civilization. Do we continue choosing sides in wars between Sunni and Shia? How do we compensate families for the hundreds of thousands of innocents killed by a war founded on base political lies? How can we rebuild what we have crushed – and prevent the ongoing descent into civil war from resuming?

Educated journalists and politicians take the questions back to World War 1 when the Brits and French decided to remake history and national borders, creating new nations, relegating others to poverty, turning a region into a political desert to be mined for minerals and oil.

Still, the crushing blow that smashed all hope for millions was delivered by a red-white-and-blue blitzkrieg worthy of any army of Panzer Divisions. The “reasonable” among us say we have acquired full responsibility for the United States to care for the region like another territorial property. Bring a halt to civil wars. Rebuild.

Perhaps that is best for the people there. But, send the tab to those politicians who voted for Bush’s War in the first place. Pass a special tax on Americans who re-elected George the Little – and, so far, haven’t charged him and Dick Cheney for their war crimes.

Hard to fool a detainee with a fake letter from mom – when he knows she can’t write


Mohamedou Ould Slahi

Guantánamo prison camp authorities tried to trick inmate Mohamedou Ould Slahi by forging a letter purportedly from his mother whom he had been unable to see for years, his brother Yahdih has said.

The ploy, which was intended to persuade him to cooperate with his interrogators, failed not only because they misspelt Slahi’s name but also because his mother could not write.

This week Slahi became the first inmate to publish a memoir while still incarcerated when Guantánamo Diary was published in 20 countries and serialised in the Guardian.

Speaking on Tuesday at an event organised by the Guardian in partnership with Canongate, the publisher of Guantánamo Diary, and PEN, the writers’ association, Yahdih Ould Slahi said his brother had not been able to see his mother before she died at their home in Mauritania in 2013…

The 44-year-old engineer was first detained in 2001 in Mauritania at the request of the US government, then rendered to Jordan and Afghanistan and tortured, and then flown to Guantánamo.

He is one of two inmates whose “additional interrogation techniques” were personally approved by Donald Rumsfeld, then US defence secretary, according to a US Senate inquiry. Slahi was dressed in a burqa, deprived of sleep, subjected to strobe lights, doused in water, threatened with dogs, sexually assaulted by female interrogators and forced to bark and perform dog tricks.

He wrote his memoir by hand after learning English, his fourth language, from his Guantánamo guards and interrogators, and it was published this week after his lawyer, Nancy Hollander, battled for six years to have the document declassified.

Hollander told the event that Slahi’s descriptions of the abuse that he had suffered at Guantánamo had already been confirmed by both the Senate inquiry and a separate investigation by the FBI…

Hollander said her client had been in a form of legal limbo since the US government lodged an appeal after a US district court judge ordered his release…

The American Civil Liberties Union has launched an online petition demanding Slahi’s release.

One more case where Obama’s Administration matches the incompetence of his neo-con predecessor. Incompetence, that is, at differentiating liberal foreign policy from the conservative flavor. There may be some small difference in the total number of civilians killed. But, the destruction of civil liberties, civil rights, human rights guaranteed by international treaty seem to be consistent between both flavors of imperial arrogance.

Ironic lawsuit of the week

Lawyers for two Guantanamo Bay detainees have filed motions asking a U.S. court to block officials from preventing the inmates from taking part in communal prayers during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. The lawyers argue that – in light of the Supreme Court’s recent Hobby Lobby decision – the detainees’ rights are protected under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act…

During Ramadan, a month of prayer and reflection that began last weekend, Muslims are required to fast every day from sunrise to sunset. But what is at issue in this case is the ability to perform extra prayers, called tarawih, “in which they recite one-thirtieth of the Quran in consecutive segments throughout the month…”

The detainees’ lawyers said courts have previously concluded that Guantanamo detainees do not have “religious free exercise rights” because they are not “persons within the scope of the RFRA.”

But the detainees’ lawyers say the Hobby Lobby decision changes that

“Hobby Lobby makes clear that all persons – human and corporate, citizen and foreigner, resident and alien – enjoy the special religious free exercise protections of the RFRA,” the lawyers argued in court papers…

As much as I disrespect the conservative members of the Supreme Court for their allegiance to ideology over the Constitution of the United States – you have to enlarge and expand the definition of stupid for their inability to foresee the results of their reactionary pimping for churches.

It ain’t news. They no doubt knew the tidal wave of Republican governors would roll out everything but the kitchen sink to revive racist practices designed to stop Black folks from voting after they gutted the Civil Rights Act. I have to assume they counted on fundamentalist nutballs erupting into a feeding frenzy with the Hobby Lobby decision. It fits nice and tidy into the War on Women. Like most reactionaries, though, they can’t see any further than the flies sitting on end of their nose.

Thanks, Mike

General who setup Gitmo prison says – “Shut it down!”

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The U.S. general who opened the Guantanamo detention camp said Thursday it was a mistake and should be shut down because “it validates every negative perception of the United States.”

“In retrospect, the entire detention and interrogation strategy was wrong,” Marine Major General Michael Lehnert wrote in a column published in the Detroit Free Press.

Lehnert, now retired from the military and living in Michigan, was the first commander of the task force that opened the detention camp in January 2002 at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base in Cuba.

He said the United States opened it “because we were legitimately angry and frightened” by the September 11 hijacked plane attacks in 2001 and thought the captives sent there would provide “a treasure trove of information and intelligence.”

He quickly became convinced that most of them never should have been sent there because they had little intelligence value and there was insufficient evidence linking them to war crimes, he wrote.

“We squandered the goodwill of the world after we were attacked by our actions in Guantanamo, both in terms of detention and torture,” Lehnert wrote. “Our decision to keep Guantanamo open has helped our enemies because it validates every negative perception of the United States…”

He added, “It is time to close Guantanamo. Our departure from Afghanistan is a perfect point in history to close the facility.”

But, that’s OK – because any attempt to redress legitimate grievances, to make things right by battlefield prisoners and kidnap victims held in violation of international law – will be met with disdain and denial by our Congress. The one body in US government which stinks worse than the Guantanamo prison camp.

Doctors aid torture at US military prisons

Doctors and nurses working under US military orders have been complicit in the abuse of terrorism suspects, a new independent US report says.

The study says medical professionals helped design, enable and participated in “torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment” of detainees.

The report was compiled by an independent panel of military, health, ethics and legal experts.

Both the CIA and the Pentagon have rejected the report’s findings…

That last sentence ain’t exactly a surprise. I doubt if they care one way or the other.

The report says the collusion began at US prisons in Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and at CIA secret detention sites after the 11 September 2001 attacks in the US.

Co-author Leonard Rubenstein told the BBC’s Newsday programme that the report revealed “the legacy of torture and detainee abuse at Guantanamo and elsewhere on the medical community”.

“What we found was that the department of defence and the CIA actually changed core ethical standards to facilitate participation by health professionals in the abuse of detainees. And those distortions still exist,” he said…

The report calls on the US Senate Intelligence Committee to fully investigate medical practices at the detention sites.

Pentagon spokesman Todd Breasseale said that none of the critics of prisoner care had access to the detainees, their medical records, or the procedures at Guantanamo.

He described the doctors and nurses working at Guantanamo as “consummate professionals“.

And Mussolini got the trains in Italy to run on time.

As for access to prisoners? That’s a function of the isolation imposed by the screws in charge of US prisons holding detainees illegally to begin with. What meager judicial processes the prisoners have been allowed violate all core international treaties on war crimes. And even though a significant number of prisoners have been judged free of crime they haven’t been allowed repatriation.

Nope. The whole process stinks on ice – just like Obama’s so-called legalising of Bush’s crimes. Same shit, different day is all. The doctors who worked for Himmler and Hitler in Nazi death camps were consummate professionals, too.

You can download the full report [.pdf] over here – hosted by the Institute for Medicine as a Profession.

Whose network is more secure? Starbucks vs. Pentagon

Using the Wi-Fi connection at Starbucks was a better bet than risking putting confidential defense documents on a glitch-prone Pentagon computer network, a senior Defense Department official testified on Thursday at the Guantanamo trial of five prisoners charged with plotting the September 11 hijacked plane attacks.

The Internet link at the local Starbucks was “the best bad option that we had,” Air Force Colonel Karen Mayberry, the chief defense counsel for the war crimes tribunal, told the judge.

Defense lawyers have asked the judge to halt pretrial hearings in the death penalty case of the alleged plotters at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base in Cuba until the computer system can be fixed to ensure that outsiders cannot access confidential defense documents.

Mayberry ordered her team of lawyers to stop putting sensitive documents on that system in April, citing their ethical obligation to protect confidentiality.

The lawyers have since been using personal computers to email documents from coffee shops and hotel lobbies. Mayberry said it was possible these networks were not secure, but she was certain that the Pentagon network had been compromised…

Some of the Internet problems were blamed on a switch in email systems. Others were blamed on an attempt to replicate lawyers’ work on two separate networks, one in the Washington area and one at the remote Guantanamo base.

Internet technology supervisor Paul Scott Parr tried to explain in laymen’s terms what went wrong. A “dirty shutdown” occurred when the server shut down while the replication program was still running, he said.

Backups that were supposed to occur daily had not been done for more than three months, Parr said. Seven gigabytes of data previously described as “lost” had merely been “misplaced” and had mostly been restored, he said.

Given the ideology stated in either of these locations, I’d have more faith in a decision based on democracy, care and concern for working people rolling out of Starbucks than the Pentagon, any day.

Yes, that’s another question; but, the song remains the same: Military justice is to justice as military music is to music!