Tortur: Obama, you can do better than that

Lad os endelig hindre sandheden om den amerikanske hærs tortur af sine fanger i at komme frem. Med Glenn Greenwalds ord:

The White House is actively supporting a new bill jointly sponsored by Sens. Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman — called The Detainee Photographic Records Protection Act of 2009 — that literally has no purpose other than to allow the government to suppress any “photograph taken between September 11, 2001 and January 22, 2009 relating to the treatment of individuals engaged, captured, or detained after September 11, 2001, by the Armed Forces of the United States in operations outside of the United States.”  As long as the Defense Secretary certifies — with no review possible — that disclosure would “endanger” American citizens or our troops, then the photographs can be suppressed even if FOIA requires disclosure.  The certification lasts 3 years and can be renewed indefinitely.  The Senate passed the bill as an amendment last week.

Just imagine if any other country did this.  Imagine if a foreign government were accused of systematically torturing and otherwise brutally abusing detainees in its custody for years, and there was ample photographic evidence proving the extent and brutality of the abuse.  Further imagine that the country’s judiciary — applying decades-old transparency laws — ruled that the government was legally required to make that evidence public.  But in response, that country’s President demanded that those transparency laws be retroactively changed for no reason other than to explicitly empower him to keep the photographic evidence suppressed, and a compliant Congress then immediately passed a new law empowering the President to suppress that evidence.  What kind of a country passes a law that has no purpose other than to empower its leader to suppress evidence of the torture it inflicted on people? Read the language of the bill; it doesn’t even hide the fact that its only objective is to empower the President to conceal evidence of war crimes.

Link: Obama’s support for the new Graham-Lieberman secrecy law

Tortur brugt til at ‘påvise’ forbindelse mellem Irak og al-Qaeda

Tortur virker ikke, men kan bruges til at få folk til at bevise ting, de ikke har gjort.

Når de terrormistænkte Khalid Sheikh Mohammed og Abu Zubaydah blev waterboarded henholdsvis 183 og 83 gange, var det for at tvinge dem til at “tilstå” en forbindelse mellem al-Qaeda og Saddam Hussein, skriver Marjorie Cohn, formand for det amerikanske Advokatråd og professor i jura ved Thomas Jefferson School of Law:

Why the relentless waterboarding of these two men? It turns out that high Bush officials put heavy pressure on Pentagon interrogators to get Mohammed and Zubaydah to reveal a link between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 hijackers, in order to justify Bush’s illegal and unnecessary invasion of Iraq in 2003, according to the newly released report of the Senate Armed Services Committee. That link was never established.

In startlingly clinical and dispassionate terms, the authors of the newly-released torture memos describe and then rationalize why the devastating techniques the CIA sought to employ on human beings do not violate the Torture Statute (18 U.S.C. sec. 2340).

The memos justify 10 techniques, including banging heads into walls 30 times in a row, prolonged nudity, repeated slapping, dietary manipulation, and dousing with cold water as low as 41 degrees. They allow shackling in a standing position for 180 hours, sleep deprivation for 11 days, confinement of people in small dark boxes with insects for hours, and waterboarding to create the perception they are drowning. Moreover, the memos permit many of these techniques to be used in combination for a 30-day period. They find that none of these techniques constitute torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

Waterboarding, admittedly the most serious of the methods, is designed, according to Jay Bybee, to induce the perception of “suffocation and incipient panic, i.e. the perception of drowning.” But although Bybee finds that “the use of the waterboard constitutes a threat of imminent death,” he accepts the CIA’s claim that it does “not anticipate that any prolonged mental harm would result from the use of the waterboard.” One of Bradbury’s memos requires that a physician be on duty during waterboarding to perform a tracheotomy in case the victim doesn’t recover after being returned to an upright position.

Obama ønsker som bekendt at “se fremad” og lade de skyldige i disse forbrydelser slippe for retsforfølgelse og straf. Marjorie Cohn is having none of that:

Obama has made a political calculation to seek amnesty for the CIA torturers. However, good faith reliance on superior orders was rejected as a defense at Nuremberg and in Lt. Calley’s Vietnam-era trial for the My Lai Massacre. The Torture Convention provides unequivocally, “An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification for torture.”

The President must fulfill his constitutional duty to ensure that the laws are faithfully executed. Obama said that “nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past.” He is wrong. There is more to gain from upholding the rule of law. It will make future leaders think twice before they authorize the cruel, illegal treatment of other human beings.

Link: Torture Used to Try to Link Saddam with 9/11

Tortur: Hvorfor Obamas afvisning af at rejse sag ikke er i orden

Brugeren PaulR slår hovedet på sømmet i en kommentar på Boing Boing:

When you learn something, you learn in two ways. For example, you learn that the derivative of f(x)=3x is f(x) = 3. You also learn that you hate calculus.
(I don’t, but this way it’s funnier.)

So when, for example, your government says:
“Under no circumstance will we use the Death Penalty. EVEN IF the victim as a little girl who was raped. EVEN IF the victim was a policeman. EVEN IF the victim was the Prime Minister. EVEN IF the victim was home-invaded.”
“You will not be charged directly for medical care, and that care will be based on need, not on ability to pay.”

When the elite Canadian Airborne Regiment was found to have tortured a Somali teenager in 1993, the regiment was disbanded. See – warning graphic photo.

In these cases, the government also sends out a very strong message that human life has value. This message has a subtle but powerful effect on the population.

In Texas, the penal system denies any shred of humanity to prisoners on death row. Even the possibility of making/writing a final statement in the days just before their execution. Y’see, the prisoner’s life has no meaning. He’s just pond scum.
Likewise with torture:
When the American government doesn’t punish torture,
EVEN THOUGH it’s banned by international law,
EVEN THOUGH the Nuremburg trials established that “I was just following orders” isn’t a valid excuse,
EVEN THOUGH it’s illegal according to American law,
EVEN THOUGH it’s been proven, over and over that IT DOESN’T WORK!,
then you give the green light to anyone else who wants to torture.

Now, how can Americans be surprised when torture is performed in other places? How can the American government, the only one that might have influence on the leaders in the UAE, even express their concerns about this story without looking like hypocrites?

Det er nødvendigt, én gang for alle, at slå fast at tortur er strafbart og ulovligt uanset om man har fået lov til det af sine overordnede, eller ligefrem ordre til det. Der skal ikke være straffrihed for den slags, med mindre man vil have Guantanamoer og Abu Ghraib’er over det hele.

Læs også: Obama giver frit lejde til torturbødler

Obama giver frit lejde til torturbødler

Nürnberg-domstolene fastlagde det princip, at man ikke kan undskylde en åbenlyst ulovlig handling med, at den skete efter ordre.

I dag synes den amerikanske regering at have forladt dette princip – Barack Obama har frigivet dokumenter fra Bush-administrationen, der sort på hvidt autoriserer forskellige former for tortur, men præsidenten udelukker samtidig, at nogen kan retsforfølges for de forbrydelser, der er begået på den konto.

Og hvilke metoder er det så, der hermed er erklæret straffri? Udover waterboarding er det bl.a. søvnmangel og tortur med insekter:

Ten techniques are approved, listed as: attention grasp, walling (in which the suspect could be pushed into a wall), a facial hold, a facial slap, cramped confinement, wall standing, sleep deprivation, insects placed in a confinement box (the suspect had a fear of insects) and the waterboard. In the latter, “the individual is bound securely to an inclined bench, which is approximately four feet by seven feet. The individual’s feet are generally elevated. A cloth is placed over the forehead and eyes. Water is then applied to the cloth in a controlled manner……..produces the perception of ‘suffocation and incipient panic’.”

‘Walling’ involved use of a plastic neck collar to slam suspects into a specially-built wall that the CIA said made the impact sound worse than it actually was. Other methods include food deprivation.

civil rights organisations have been disappointed by a series of rulings by the Obama administration that have protected a lot of material relating to Guantánamo and the sites abroad. The release of the memos today reversed that trend, though there will be unhappiness over the immunity from prosecution.

Obama, in a statement from the White House, said: “In releasing these memos, it is our intention to assure those who carrying out their duties relying in good faith upon the legal advice from the department of justice that they will not be subject to prosecution.”

Anthony Romero, the ACLU executive director, said: “President Obama’s assertion that there should not be prosecutions of government officials who may have committed crimes before a thorough investigation has been carried out is simply untenable.”

Og ja, Romero har ret – det er intet mindre end en skandale. Kan jeg nu også bortføre min nabo og underkaste ham eller hende alle de behandlinger, der fremgår af Bush-administrationens liste af “anerkendte teknikker” og slippe for straf efter lex Obama?

Hvis vi skal stole på, at det vitterlig er slut med Bush-regeringens forbrydelser, med tortur og kidnapninger og bombetogter mod civile, kan intet mindre end et retsopgør gøre det – fromme erklæringer om, at det skal man nok lade være med at gøre i fremtiden, er ikke nok. Som det er, er Obamas erklæringer jo slet og ret en garanti til gerningsmændene om, at de bare kan tage ekstra hårdt fat i de Forenede Staters tjeneste – de kan alligevel ikke straffes. Det er simpelt hen ikke godt nok.

Link: Barack Obama releases Bush administration torture memos

Krigen mod terror er afblæst

Redifinition accomplished? Men faktisk er det jo mere end blot leg med ord. Vi kan gøre os lystige over folks skiftende meninger om vore allierede i “krigen mod terror”, som Citizen gør, men det understreger faktisk, at det er en vigtig omdefinering.

Vi har ingen allierede i krigen mod terror, for der er ikke længere nogen “krig mod terror”. Amerikanerne kalder nu deres operationer udenfor landets grænser for “overseas contingency operations”. Der har aldrig været andre end den amerikanske regering til for alvor at drive retorikken om en krig mod terror, så hvis de er holdt op med at bruge den, er den lagt helt død.

Krigen mod “terror” er aflyst, og godt for det. Man kan, som det endeløst er påpeget af klogere mennesker end mig, ikke føre krig mod et begreb.

Obama: Change or cosmetics?

Obama lagde efter sin indsættelse ud med at erklære, at man ville lukke Guantánamo, og man har rullet en række specielle beføjelser, præsidenten havde tilranet sig efter 11. september, tilbage. Man har nu også erklæret, at man ikke længere vil tilbageholde “enemy combattants” på ubestemt tid.

Men hvor dybt stikker ændringerne? Ikke særligt dybt, skriver Glenn Greenwald på

Bush’s asserted power to detain as “enemy combatants” even those people who were detained outside of a traditional “battlefield” — rather than charge them with crimes — was one of the most controversial of the last eight years.  Yet the Obama administration, when called upon to state their position, makes only the most cosmetic and inconsequential changes — designed to generate headlines misleadingly depicting a significant reversal (“Obama drops ‘enemy combatant’ label”) — while, in fact, retaining the crux of Bush’s extremist detention theory.

Or consider the new policies of transparency that Obama announced during his first week in office, ones that prompted lavish praise from most civil libertarians (including me).  When it comes to a civil liberties restoration, few things are more important than drastically scaling back the Bush adminstration’s endless reliance on frivolous national-security-based “secrecy” claims as a weapon for hiding virtually everything the Government does.  Excessive secrecy was the linchpin of most of the Bush abuses.

Last year, several privacy groups, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, became alarmed at what appeared to be an emerging, new Draconian international treaty governing intellectual property, the so-called Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.  As Wired‘s Dave Kravets reported, the treaty as negotiated by the Bush administration — government summaries of which were leaked to and posted on Wikileaks — “would criminalize peer-to-peer file sharing, subject iPods to border searches and allow internet service providers to monitor their customers’ communications.”

Despite the fact that drafts of the treaty have been leaked; that the terms have nothing to do with national security; and that the agreement was being circulated among 27 different nations, the Bush administration — typically enough — rejected FOIA requests for documents pertaining to the treaty (.pdf) last January on multiple grounds, including “national security.”  Based on Obama’s new pledges of transparency and new FOIA policies, EFF and others re-submitted the FOIA request last month.  But in a March 10 letter (.pdf), they received a virtually identical response, this time from Obama’s Chief FOIA Officer in the Office of the Trade Representative …

Finally, consider Obama’s headline-generating announcement earlier this week that he would “limit” the use of presidential signing statements, one of Bush’s principal instruments for literally ignoring the law.  That announcement generated much celebration among Obama supporters, such as this poetic pronouncement by a front-page writer at Daily Kos:

All hail the U.S. Constitution. It seems to be coming back to life through some vigorous resuscitation.

Yet two days later — literally —  Obama signed a $410 billion spending bill and appended to it a signing statement claiming that he had the Constitutional authority to ignore several of its oversight provisions.

Meet the new guy, same as the old guy? Obama skal selvfølgelig have en chance, men specielt hemmelighedskræmmeriet omkring ACTA-traktaten (hvad er det, offentligheden ikke må få at vide, som de store lobbyister fra medicinal- og underholdningsindustrien gerne må få at vide?) og tvetydigheden omkring retten til at smide “terrormistænkte” ned i et sort hul og smide nøgleb væk er stærkt bekymrende.

Det er snart tid for Obamas berømte græsrødder at begynde at lægge pres på ham, hvis der skal til at ske noget.

Link: Obama’s “enemy combatant” policy: following a familiar pattern

Obamas afghanske stuvning

Nogle mennesker har større tillid til Obamas evner som fornyer end andre. Den arabisk-amerikanske vittighedstegner Khalil Bendib hører ikke til de mest imponerede, som det vil fremgå.

Og Obamas planer om en større optrapning i Afghanistan lader da også en del tilbage at ønske. En tilbagetrækning, for eksempel. Det bedste, USA og Vesten i det hele taget på nuværende tidspunkt kan gøre for en fredelig udvikling i Afghanistan er at trække sig ud på en ordentlig måde, men så hurtigt som muligt.

Alt andet dækker over i bedste fald misforståede, gode intentioner, i værste over gusten neokolonialisme. USA bragte Taleban til fald i 2001 og har nu, næsten ni år efter, intet fornuftigt at bidrage med. Ikke militært, i hvert fald. Hvis Obama var klog, ville han lave en exit plan i stedet.

Obama lægger hårdt ud

“Krigen mod terror” rulles næsten hele vejen tilbage på Obamas andendag som præsident. Bush-regeringens krig mod terror og de mange menneskerettighedskrænkelser i Guantánamo og diverse hemmelige fængsler kan snart være fortid.

Mere i The Guardian:

Barack Obama embarked on the wholesale deconstruction of George Bush’s war on terror, shutting down the CIA’s secret prison network, banning torture and rendition, and calling for a new set of rules for detainees. The repudiation of Bush’s thinking on national security yesterday also saw the appointment of a high-powered envoy to the Middle East.

Obama’s decision to permanently shut down the CIA’s clandestine interrogation centres went far beyond the widely anticipated move to wind down the Guantánamo Bay detention centre within a year.

He cast his scrapping of the legal apparatus set up by Bush as a way for America to reclaim the moral high ground in the fight against al-Qaida.

“We are not, as I said during the inauguration, going to continue with the false choice between our safety and our ideals,” Obama said at the signing ceremony. “We intend to win this fight. We are going to win it on our own terms.”

In a sign of the sweeping rejection of the legal standards set by Bush, officials briefing reporters at the White House yesterday said the new administration would not be guided by any of the opinions on torture and detainees issued by the justice department after 11 September 2001.

Instead, Obama, in three executive orders, renewed the US commitment to the Geneva convention on the treatment of detainees.

Der er endnu et stykke tilbage at gå, således er den berygtede Patriot Act stadig  i kraft.

Obama træder nu også ind i Mellemøst-konflikten og opfordrer Israel til at åbne Gazas grænser til omverdenen. Således Politiken:

»Nu må vi vise en udstrakt hånd til de, som søger fred, og som led i en varig våbenhvile bør Gazas grænser være åbne for at tillade, at nødhjælp og varer kan strømme«, sagde Obama, da han udpegede to veteraner til særlige udsendinge i Mellemøsten, Afghanistan og Pakistan.

Udtalelserne er dog foreløbig vage, og her er der endnu længere tilbage at gå. Mellemøstkonflikten er i det hele taget et meget farligt område for Obama at bevæge sig ind på. På trods af disse “men’er” er det svært at sige sig fri for en vis tilfredshed med, at Obama så hurtigt begynder at lægge afstand til Bush-æraen.

Det er i hvert fald meget, meget vigtigt, at man tager et opgør med den udbredte brug af tortur og drab på civile i “krigen mod terror”. Nu venter vi bare på retssagerne.