Friday, June 20, 2008
I called John Yarmuth's Office to Let Him Know He Lost My Vote.
Supporting the new FISA law granting telecom companies immunity is unforgiveable.
I'm extremely disappointed.
Roll call on the bill is here
Betrayed by Democrats.....
Yesterday House Democrats and Republicans effectively struck a deal to "provide what amounts to legal immunity to the phone companies that took part in President Bush's program of eavesdropping." Today the parties will vote on the compromise bill. The New York Times has details below on the compromise. The AP will have updates of the voting here.
After months of wrangling, Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress struck a deal on Thursday to overhaul the rules on the government's wiretapping powers and provide what amounts to legal immunity to the phone companies that took part in President Bush's program of eavesdropping without warrants after the Sept. 11 attacks.
The deal, expanding the government's powers to spy on terrorism suspects in some major respects, would strengthen the ability of intelligence officials to eavesdrop on foreign targets. It would also allow them to conduct emergency wiretaps without court orders on American targets for a week if it is determined that important national security information would otherwise be lost. If approved, as appears likely, the agreement would be the most significant revision of surveillance law in 30 years.
How telecoms are attempting to buy amnesty from CongressLobbyist disclosure forms and campaign contribution records illuminate the sleazy process by which our key laws are written.
May. 24, 2008 | (updated below - Update II)
One of the benefits from the protracted battle over telecom amnesty is that it is a perfect microcosm for how our government institutions work. And a casual review of the available evidence regarding how telecom amnesty is being pursued demonstrates what absurd, irrelevant distractions are the pro-amnesty justifications offered by the pundit class and the Bush administration.
Just in the first three months of 2008, recent lobbyist disclosure statements reveal that AT&T spent $5.2 million in lobbyist fees (putting it well ahead of its 2007 pace, when it spent just over $17 million). In the first quarter of 2008, Verizon spent $4.8 million on lobbyist fees, while Comcast spent $2.6 million. So in the first three months of this year, those three telecoms -- which would be among the biggest beneficiaries of telecom amnesty (right after the White House) -- spent a combined total of almost $13 million on lobbyists. They're on pace to spend more than $50 million on lobbying this year -- just those three companies.
Let's pause for a brief minute to reflect on how ludicrous and deceptive -- laughably so -- are some of the main FISA/telecom claims that are being advanced. We continuously hear, for instance, that these poor, beleaguered telecoms need protection from the big, money-hungry plaintiffs' lawyers driving these "costly" surveillance lawsuits. One of the two organizations leading the litigation against the telecoms (along with the ACLU) is the non-profit group Electronic Frontiers Foundation. Here is what EFF's Kurt Opsahl wrote this week:
To put this into perspective, AT&T's spending for three months on lobbying alone is significantly more than the entire EFF budget for a whole year, from attorneys to sys admins, pencils to bandwidth.And then there's the claim -- advanced by the likes of The Washington Post's Fred Hiatt, among others -- that it's a grave injustice to force these telecoms to incur attorneys fees in order to defend themselves against allegations that they broke the law because the litigation is so "costly." Yet here these telecoms are spending $1 million per month or more in order to send former government officials to pressure members of Congress to write our laws the way they want them to be written.
* * * * *
Then there are the specific lobbying arrangements these telecoms have regarding FISA. AT&T, for instance, paid $120,000 in the first three months of 2008 to the lobbying firm of BSKH & Associates -- the firm of which Charlie Black, top campaign adviser to John McCain, is a founding partner. According to BSKH's lobbyist disclosure form (.pdf), Charlie Black himself, at the same time he was advising McCain, was one of the individuals paid by AT&T to lobby Congress on FISA. From that disclosure form:
Last year, AT&T paid $400,000 to Black's firm. Black was taking money from AT&T to lobby on FISA and simultaneously advising McCain. McCain, needless to say, voted in favor of granting amnesty to AT&T and the other telecoms at exactly the time that his close adviser, Black, was taking money from AT&T to influence Congress on its behalf. And, of course, AT&T and Verizon are among McCain's top donors.
While we're subjected to all sorts of prattle from our pundit class and political leaders about how telecom amnesty is so urgent if we want to be Safe from the Terrorists, this is the sleaze that fuels how the process works. And the sleaze is spread around in a nice bipartisan way.
In addition to Charlie Black's firm, AT&T -- from January to March -- paid $150,000 to the new lobbying firm (.pdf) formed by former Democratic Sen. John Breaux and GOP Sen. Trent Lott, to lobby on only two issues: FISA and net neutrality. Those fees were for only three individuals -- Breaux, Lott and Lott's former Chief of Staff, Bret Boyles. Newsweek reported last September that the telecoms had hired numerous top officials from both the Bush 41 and Clinton administrations to lobby for amnesty. And, as previously reported, contributions from telecom executives to Jay Rockefeller skyrocketed right before he became the key Senator leading the charge for telecom amnesty.
* * * * *
And then there's the whole sleazy, rapidly growing "Blue Dog lobbying network." The C2 Group is a lobbying firm that includes Jeff Murray, former chief of staff to Blue Dog Rep. Bud Cramer of Alabama, and Robert Van Heuvelen, former chief of staff to Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad (who happens to be the Chair of the Senate Budget Committee and who voted in favor of telecom amnesty). Comcast has paid the C2 Group $90,000 in the first three months of this year and more than $300,000 last year. C2 has extraordinary access to and influence over the Blue Dog coalition, influence which it proudly touts as a key part of its business:
When lobbyist Jeff Murray and his firm, the C2 Group, held a reception earlier this month to honor Members of the conservative Democratic Blue Dog Coalition on the occasion of their swearing-in for the new Congress, the event drew a crowd of 300.Murray's former boss, Rep. Cramer, was one of 21 Blue Dogs who wrote to Nancy Pelosi earlier this year demanding amnesty for Murray's client, Comcast, and the other telecoms.
That's six times the number it was two years ago, Murray said.
The increase is a clear sign of the business community's redoubled affection for the Blue Dogs, a group that lobbyists for corporate America view as a natural ally in the Democratic-controlled Congress.
"On every issue that comes up, I am having clients ask, 'Where are the Blue Dogs on this?'" said Quinn Gillespie & Associates lobbyist Bruce Andrews, a former aide to Blue Dog Rep. Tim Holden (D-Pa.).
Former Rep. Jim Turner (D-Texas), a one-time Blue Dog who's now a lobbyist at the law firm Arnold & Porter, said clients are telling him that they've "been dealing with Republicans' in recent years but now want to get acquainted with the Blue Dogs."
Blue Dogs meet every Tuesday at 5 p.m. when Congress is in session. Former Members who are now lobbyists are still welcome to attend -- potentially a crucial perk for clients.
"'Once a Blue Dog, always a Blue Dog' is the motto," said former Rep. Charles Stenholm (D-Texas), who is now a senior policy adviser at the firm Olsson Frank and Weeda. "Once you get in the kennel, they don't tend to kick you out."
Beyond C2, the Quinn Gillespie firm -- referenced in that passage as the firm of the aide to Blue Dog Rep. Tim Holden -- received $60,000 from AT&T in the first quarter this year and more than $300,000 last year. Holden was also one of the 21 Blue Dogs writing to Pelosi to demand amnesty for the client of his former top aide.
Worse, the former Blue Dog members themselves, being paid by AT&T and other telecoms, then go and attend the regular weekly meetings of current Blue Dog members of Congress. And then the Blue Dogs -- while spouting paeans to National Security and the like -- lead the way in working for amnesty to benefit their former colleague's key clients. It all works out so well for everyone involved.
And it just goes on and on like that. In the first three months of this year alone, AT&T paid $200,000 to Roberti Associates, a small lobbying firm of which the Chairman is Vincent Roberti, a former Democratic Congressman and current member of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee's Finance group. The firm's Managing Partner is Harmony Knutson, who was "Northeast Finance Director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) for the 2005-2006 election cycle" and Finance Director for Democratic Sen. Conrad, among many others. One could spend all day documenting the large sums paid by amnesty-seeking telecoms to lobbying firms stuffed with former executive officials and key Congressional staffers from both political parties.
This, of course, is what all leads to having these corporations literally write our nation's laws and be able to get so close to having such an extraordinary and transparently corrupt gift -- retroactive immunity for lawbreaking -- granted to them. From a Politico report last week:
Telecom companies have presented congressional Democrats with a set of proposals on how to provide immunity to the businesses that participated in a controversial government electronic surveillance program, a House Democratic aide said Wednesday. . . .The "two sides" referenced there means the House Democratic leadership and the telecoms. Congressional leaders are "negotiating" with the telecoms -- the defendants in pending lawsuits -- regarding the best way for immunizing them from liability for their lawbreaking, no doubt with the help of the former Democratic members and staffers now being paid by the telecoms to speak to their former bosses and colleagues about what they should do. To describe the process is to illustrate its oozing, banana-republic-like corruption, but that's generally how our laws are written.
House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said Wednesday a FISA deal is "still in flux" but he described the latest developments as "promising" and said he hoped to have a solution soon.
House officials declined to discuss the specifics of the proposed immunity language by the telecoms.
Although it remains to be seen if congressional Democrats will accept the telecom companies' proposal, the communication between the two sides signifies that progress is being made.
None of this is particularly new, but it's still remarkable to be able to document it in such grotesque detail and see how transparent it all is. In one sense, it's just extraordinary how seamlessly and relentlessly the wheels of this dirty process churn. But in another sense, it's perhaps even more remarkable -- given the forces lined up behind telecom amnesty -- that those who have been working against it, with far fewer resources and relying largely on a series of disruptive tactics and ongoing efforts to mobilize citizen anger, have been able to stop it so far.
* * * * *
There are two brief updates to note with regard to telecom amnesty:
(1) Wired's Ryan Singel reported this week that a representative of the McCain campaign said that McCain would oppose telecom amnesty in the absence of (a) hearings to find out what they did and (b) an expression of contrition. This would be a major reversal by McCain, who -- as noted -- just voted in February for telecom amnesty without those conditions. An email I sent to the McCain campaign yesterday asking if this is really McCain's position now has not yet been answered.
(2) As Joan McCarter at Kos reports, efforts to negotiate a compromise with Rep. Chris Carney over his leading support for telecom amnesty have failed, and the ad campaign against him will therefore proceed full-speed ahead. The ads will begin running this week, and as many ads as funding permits will run against Carney (who, of course, receives substantial contributions from telecoms). Those who want to contribute to the campaign against him can do so here. Another campaign against a different, politically vulnerable enabler of telecom amnesty and warrantless eavesdropping will begin soon after this one.
UPDATE: The McCain campaign issues a statement repudiating its own representative's statements from this week about McCain's position on amnesty, and instead re-affirms that, as Wired puts it: "John McCain still supports amnesty for telephone and internet companies that helped the Bush Administration target Americans for wiretapping for five years, without getting any court orders" (h/t Paul Dirks). I'm sure that Charlie Black and his "former" firm's telecom clients are quite pleased to hear that.
Note, too, that the McCain statement bizarrely says that McCain "continue[s] to support renewal of the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act" even though FISA hasn't expired and isn't up for "renewal." Whoever wrote that statement is obviously quite confused about the basic facts governing the current dispute.
UPDATE II: Matt Stoller emailed to remind me of this invitation to a fund-raiser sponsored by the leading telecoms last January for soon to be ex-Rep. Al Wynn:
What's so notable about it -- to the point of being almost creepy -- is that it's framed so transparently, as though the telecoms are showcasing to the public their control over their own personal Congressmen. Revealingly, once Wynn lost the primary to netroots candidate Donna Edwards, he followed in Trent Lott's footsteps by refusing to serve out his term in Congress, instead resigning in order to become a partner in the Washington lobbying law firm Dickstein Shapiro (though in Wynn's case, he announced he would actually stay in Congress for a few months before joining his new lobbying firm). They no longer even feel a need to dress up or hide the way the whole thing works.
-- Glenn Greenwald
Thursday, June 19, 2008
When we started this "netroots" thing, we worked to get "more and better Democrats" elected. At first, we focused on the "more" part. This year, we're focusing a bit more on the "better" part. And in 2010, we'll have enough Democrats in the House to exclusively focus on the "better" part.
That means primary challenges. And as we decide who to take on, let it be known that this FISA vote will loom large.
Voting to give telecommunication companies retroactive immunity may not guarantee a primary challenge, but it will loom quite large.
We kicked Joe Lieberman out of the caucus. We got rid of Al Wynn this year. Those were test runs, so to speak. We've got a lot more of that ready to unleash in 2010.
"The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account."
Warren P. Strobel | McClatchy Newspapers
last updated: June 18, 2008 08:34:09 PM
WASHINGTON — The Army general who led the investigation into prisoner abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison accused the Bush administration Wednesday of committing "war crimes" and called for those responsible to be held to account.
The remarks by Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, who's now retired, came in a new report that found that U.S. personnel tortured and abused detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, using beatings, electrical shocks, sexual humiliation and other cruel practices.
"After years of disclosures by government investigations, media accounts and reports from human rights organizations, there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes," Taguba wrote. "The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account."
Taguba, whose 2004 investigation documented chilling abuses at Abu Ghraib, is thought to be the most senior official to have accused the administration of war crimes. "The commander in chief and those under him authorized a systematic regime of torture," he wrote.
A White House spokeswoman, Kate Starr, had no comment.
Taguba didn't respond to a request for further comment relayed via a spokesman.
The group Physicians for Human Rights, which compiled the new report, described it as the most in-depth medical and psychological examination of former detainees to date.
Doctors and mental health experts examined 11 detainees held for long periods in the prison system that President Bush established after the 9-11 terrorist attacks. All of them eventually were released without charges.
The doctors and experts determined that the men had been subject to cruelties that ranged from isolation, sleep deprivation and hooding to electric shocks, beating and, in one case, being forced to drink urine.
Bush has said repeatedly that the United States doesn't condone torture.
"All credible allegations of abuse are thoroughly investigated and, if substantiated, those responsible are held accountable," said Navy Cmdr. J.D. Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman. The Defense Department responds to concerns raised by the International Committee for the Red Cross, he said, which has access to detainees under military control.
"It adds little to the public discourse to draw sweeping conclusions based upon dubious allegations regarding remote medical assessments of former detainees, now far removed from detention," Gordon said.
The physicians' group said that its experts, who had experience studying torture's effects, spent two days with each former captive and conducted intensive exams and interviews. They administered tests to detect exaggeration. In two of the 11 cases, the group was able to review medical records.
The report, "Broken Laws, Broken Lives," concurs with a five-part McClatchy investigation of Guantanamo published this week. Among its findings were that abuses occurred — primarily at prisons in Afghanistan where detainees were held en route to Guantanamo — and that many of the prisoners were wrongly detained.
Also this week, a probe by the Senate Armed Services Committee revealed how senior Pentagon officials pushed for harsher interrogation methods over the objections of top military lawyers. Those methods later surfaced in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld didn't specifically approve of the worst abuses, but neither he nor the White House enforced strict limits on how detainees would be treated.
There was no "bright line of abuse which could not be transgressed," former Navy general counsel Alberto Mora told the Senate committee.
Leonard Rubenstein, the president of Physicians for Human Rights, said there was a direct connection between the Pentagon decisions and the abuses his group uncovered. "The result was a horrific stew of pain, degradation and ... suffering," he said.
Detainee abuse has been documented previously, in photos from Abu Ghraib, accounts by former detainees and their lawyers and a confidential report by the International Committee for the Red Cross that was leaked to the U.S. news media.
Of the 11 men evaluated in the Physicians for Human Rights report, four were detained in Afghanistan between late 2001 and early 2003, and later sent to Guantanamo. The remaining seven were detained in Iraq in 2003.
One of the Iraqis, identified by the pseudonym Laith, was arrested with his family at his Baghdad home in the early morning of Oct. 19, 2003. He was taken to a location where he was beaten, stripped to his underwear and threatened with execution, the report says.
"Laith" told the examiners he was then taken to a second site, where he was photographed in humiliating positions and given electric shocks to his genitals.
Finally, he was taken to Abu Ghraib, where he spent the first 35 to 40 days in isolation in a small cage, enduring being suspended in the cage and other "stress positions."
He was released on June 24, 2004, without charge.
ON THE WEB
The Physicians for Human Rights report.
McClatchy's investigation of Guantanamo Bay detainees.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
It was largely the work of five White House, Pentagon and Justice Department lawyers who, following the orders of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, reinterpreted or tossed out the U.S. and international laws that govern the treatment of prisoners in wartime, according to former U.S. defense and Bush administration officials. The Supreme Court now has struck down many of their legal interpretations.
The lawyers drafted legal opinions that circumvented the military's code of justice, the federal court system and America's international treaties in order to prevent anyone — from soldiers on the ground to the president — from being held accountable for activities that at other times have been considered war crimes.
And there you are.
Labels: War Criminals
"If the detainee dies, you're doing it wrong." I call CIA Attorney Jonathan Fredman a War Criminal.
A senior CIA lawyer advised Pentagon officials about the use of harsh interrogation techniques on detainees at Guantanamo Bay in a meeting in late 2002, defending waterboarding and other methods as permissible despite U.S. and international laws banning torture, according to documents released yesterday by congressional investigators.
Torture "is basically subject to perception," CIA counterterrorism lawyer Jonathan Fredman told a group of military and intelligence officials gathered at the U.S.-run detention camp in Cuba on Oct. 2, 2002, according to minutes of the meeting. "If the detainee dies, you're doing it wrong."
The document, one of two dozen released by a Senate panel investigating how Pentagon officials developed the controversial interrogation program introduced at Guantanamo Bay in late 2002, suggests a larger CIA role in advising Defense Department interrogators than was previously known. By the time of the meeting, the CIA already had used waterboarding, which simulates drowning, on at least one terrorism suspect and was holding high-level al-Qaeda detainees in secret prisons overseas -- actions that Bush administration lawyers had approved.
The new evidence, along with hours of questioning of former Pentagon officials at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday, shed light on efforts by top aides to then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to research and reverse-engineer techniques used by military survival schools to prepare U.S. service members for possible capture by hostile forces. The techniques -- sensory deprivation, forced nudity, stress positions and exploitation of phobias, such as fear of dogs -- would eventually be approved for use at Guantanamo Bay and would spread to U.S. detention facilities in Afghanistan and Iraq, including the Abu Ghraib prison. Nearly all were later rescinded.
The newly released documents show that in the summer of 2002, Pentagon officials compiled lists of aggressive techniques, soliciting opinions from the CIA and others, and ultimately implementing the practices over opposition from military lawyers who argued that the proposed tactics were probably illegal and could harm U.S. troops.
The memos and other evidence evoked intense bipartisan condemnation from members of the Armed Services Committee who spent nearly eight hours grilling some of the former and current officials involved with the decisions.
"The guidance that was provided during this period of time, I think, will go down in history as some of the most irresponsible and shortsighted legal analysis ever provided to our nation's military and intelligence communities," said Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.).
Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), the committee chairman, asked: "How on Earth did we get to the point where a United States government lawyer would say that . . . torture is subject to perception?"
Strong defense of waterboarding
One of the most explosive memos was the account of the October 2002 Guantanamo Bay meeting in which the CIA's Fredman joined 10 Defense Department officials and lawyers to discuss how to extract better intelligence from detainees there. Fredman, whose agency had been granted broad latitude by Justice Department lawyers to conduct harsh interrogations of suspected terrorists, listed key considerations for setting a similar program at the Cuban prison. He discussed the pros and cons of videotaping, talked about how to avoid interference by the International Committee of the Red Cross and offered a strong defense of waterboarding.
"If a well-trained individual is used to perform this technique, it can feel like you're drowning," he said, according to the meeting's minutes, which do not provide a verbatim transcript.
Fredman said medical experts should monitor detainees. "If someone dies while aggressive techniques are being used, regardless of the cause of death, the backlash of attention would be severely detrimental," he was quoted as saying.
CIA spokesman George Little declined to comment on the remarks attributed to Fredman. "The far more important point is the fact that CIA's terrorist interrogation program has operated on the basis of measured, detailed legal guidance from the Department of Justice," he said. "The agency program, which has been carefully reviewed within our government, has disrupted terrorist plots and saved innocent lives."
White House spokesman Tony Fratto said the administration's consistent policy has been to treat detainees humanely and within the law. "Abuse of detainees has never been, is not, and will never be the policy of this government," he said at a news briefing yesterday.
But some of Fredman's advice was apparently persuasive for top Pentagon officials, who in the following weeks approved the first formal program for harsh interrogations at the facility in Cuba. While the outlines of the Guantanamo Bay program are widely known, the new documents suggest a common interest by the CIA and Pentagon in the use of tactics from a program known as Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape. In testimony, officials involved in SERE training acknowledged being asked to write memos for senior Pentagon officials about which techniques had the greatest psychological effect.
Driven by fear
Among those questioned yesterday about decisions was William J. "Jim" Haynes II, a former Defense Department general counsel who acknowledged pressing for more aggressive techniques but said the decisions were driven by the administration's fear of more terrorist strikes.
"What I remember about the summer of 2002 was a government-wide concern about the possibility of another terrorist attack as the anniversary of September 11" approached, Haynes said. He also cited "widespread frustration" among Pentagon officials that summer about the slow progress on obtaining information from Guantanamo Bay detainees.
But Haynes and other Pentagon officials acknowledged that the proposed methods faced opposition at the time from experts in military and international law. Among them was Mark Fallon, deputy commander of the Defense Department's Criminal Investigation Task Force. He warned in an October 2002 e-mail to Pentagon colleagues that the techniques under discussion would "shock the conscience of any legal body" that might review how the interrogations were conducted.
"This looks like the kind of stuff Congressional hearings are made of," Fallon wrote. He added: "Someone needs to be considering how history will look back at this."
Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.
War Criminals: Abu Ghraib was no Accident. Bush Administration Engaged in War Crimes.
WASHINGTON - Medical examinations of former terrorism suspects held by the U.S. military at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, found evidence of torture and other abuse that resulted in serious injuries and mental disorders, according to a human rights group.
For the most extensive medical study of former U.S. detainees published so far, Physicians for Human Rights had doctors and mental health professionals examine 11 former prisoners. The group alleges that it found evidence of U.S. torture and war crimes and accuses U.S. military health professionals of allowing the abuse of detainees, denying them medical care and providing confidential medical information to interrogators that they then exploited.
One Iraqi prisoner, identified only as Yasser, reported being subjected to electric shocks three times and being sodomized with a stick. His thumbs bore round scars consistent with shocking, according to the report obtained by The Associated Press. He would not allow a full rectal exam.
Another Iraqi, identified only as Rahman, reported he was humiliated by being forced to wear women's underwear, stripped naked and paraded in front of female guards, and was shown pictures of other naked detainees. The psychological exam found that Rahman suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and had sexual problems related to his humiliation, the report said.
Report comes amid Senate probe
The report came as the Senate Armed Services Committee revealed documents showing military lawyers warned the Pentagon that methods it was using post-9/11 violated military, U.S. and international law. Those objections were overruled by the top Pentagon lawyer.
President Bush said in 2004, when the prison abuse was revealed, that it was the work of "a few American troops who dishonored our country and disregarded our values." Bush and other U.S. officials have consistently denied that the U.S. tortures its detainees.
Physicians for Human Rights, a Mass.-based health advocacy group, did not identify the 11 former prisoners to protect their privacy. Seven were held in Abu Ghraib between late 2003 and summer of 2004, a period that coincides with the known abuse of prisoners at the hands of some of their American jailers. Four of the prisoners were held at Guantanamo beginning in 2002 for one to almost five years. All 11 were released without criminal charges.
Those examined alleged that they were tortured or abused, including sexually, and described being shocked with electrodes, beaten, shackled, stripped of their clothes, deprived of food and sleep, and spit and urinated on.
The abuse of some prisoners by their American captors is well documented by the government's own reports. Once-secret documents show that the Pentagon and Justice Department allowed, at least for a time, forced nakedness, isolation, sleep deprivation and humiliation at both Guantanamo Bay Naval Base and at Abu Ghraib.
Because the medical examiners did not have access to the 11 patients' medical histories prior to their imprisonment, it was not possible to know whether any of the prisoners' ailments, disabilities and scars pre-dated their confinement. The U.S. military says an al-Qaida training manual instructs members, if captured, to assert they were tortured during interrogation.
Injuries documented by exams
However, doctors and mental health professionals stated they could link the prisoners' claims of abuse while in U.S. detention to injuries documented by X-rays, medical exams and psychological tests.
"The level of the time, thoroughness and rigor of the exams left me personally without question about the credibility of the individuals," said Dr. Allen Keller, one of the doctors who conducted the exams, in an interview with the AP. "The findings on the physical and psychological exams were consistent with what they reported."
All 11 former detainees reported being subjected to:
Ten said they were forced to be naked, some for days or weeks. Nine said they were subjected to prolonged sleep deprivation. At least six said they were threatened with military working dogs, often while naked. Four reported being sodomized, subjected to anal probing, or threatened with rape.
The patients underwent intensive, two-day long exams following standards and methods used worldwide to document torture.
"We found clear physical and psychological evidence of torture and abuse, often causing lasting suffering," he said.
Keller, who directs the Bellevue/New York University Program for Survivors of Torture, said the treatment the detainees reported were "eerily familiar" to stories from other torture survivors around the world. He said the sexual humiliation of the prisoners was often the most traumatic experience.
Most former detainees are out of reach of Western doctors because they are either in Iraq or have been returned to their home countries from Guantanamo.
Ouch! John McCain Argues With Himself Over Wether Or Not He's Running For A Bush Third Term. This Should be a national commercial.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
By Sherwood Ross
A conference to plan the prosecution of President Bush and other high administration officials for war crimes will be held September 13-14 at the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover .
"This is not intended to be a mere discussion of violations of law that have occurred," said convener Lawrence Velvel, dean and cofounder of the school. "It is, rather, intended to be a planning conference at which plans will be laid and necessary organizational structures set up, to pursue the guilty as long as necessary and, if need be, to the ends of the Earth."
"We must try to hold Bush administration leaders accountable in courts of justice," Velvel said. "And we must insist on appropriate punishments, including, if guilt is found, the hangings visited upon top German and Japanese war-criminals in the 1940s."
Velvel said past practice has been to allow U.S. officials responsible for war crimes in Viet Nam and elsewhere to enjoy immunity from prosecution upon leaving office. "President Johnson retired to his Texas ranch and his Defense Secretary Robert McNamara was named to head the World Bank; Richard Nixon retired to San Clemente and his Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was allowed to grow richer and richer," Velvel said.
He noted in the years since the prosecution and punishment of German and Japanese leaders after World War Two those nation's leaders changed their countries' aggressor cultures. One cannot discount contributory cause and effect here, he said.
"For Bush, Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and John Yoo to spend years in jail or go to the gallows for their crimes would be a powerful lesson to future American leaders," Velvel said.
The conference will take up such issues as the nature of domestic and international crimes committed; which high-level Bush officials, including Federal judges and Members of Congress, are chargeable with war crimes; which foreign and domestic tribunals can be used to prosecute them; and the setting up of an umbrella coordinating committee with representatives of legal groups concerned about the war crimes such as the Center for Constitutional Rights, ACLU, National Lawyers Guild, among others.
The Massachusetts School of Law at Andover was established in 1988 to provide an affordable, quality legal education to minorities, immigrants and students from low-income households that might otherwise be denied the opportunity to obtain a legal education and practice law. Its founder, Dean Velvel, has been honored by the National Law Journal and cited in various publications for his contributions to the reform of legal education. #
Sherwood Ross has worked as a publicist for the City of Chicago and public relations consultant to New York City. He served as news director for the National Urban League; and worked as a reporter for the Chicago Daily News and workplace columnist for Reuters. He has also been a media consultant to colleges, universities, law schools and more than 100 national magazines including The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Business Week, and Foreign Policy; as a speechwriter for mayors, governors and presidential candidates, and as a radio news reporter and talk show host at WOL, Washington, D.C. He holds an award for "best spot news coverage" for Chicago radio stations in 1963. His degree from the University of Miami was in race relations and he has written a book, "Gruening of Alaska," a number of national magazine articles and several plays, including "Baron Jiro," produced at Live Arts Theatre, Charlottesville, Va., and "Yamamoto's Decision," read at the National Press Club, where he is a member. His favorite quotations are from the Sermon on The Mount.
John McCain Hides His Medical Records... John McCain Hides His Military Records... When is John "Staight Talk" McCain gonna play it Straight?
by Jeffrey Klein
"At a meeting in his Pentagon office in early 1981, Secretary of the Navy John F. Lehman told Capt. John S. McCain III that he was about to attain his life ambition: becoming an admiral.... Mr. McCain declined the prospect of his first admiral's star to make a run for Congress, saying that he could 'do more good there,' Mr. Lehman recalled." So claimed the New York Times in a front-page article on May 29 this year.
This story is highly improbable for several reasons, not least of all because John McCain himself has always told a very different story about his stalled naval career. For example, on page 9 of his memoir Worth The Fighting For, McCain writes:
"Several months before my father died, I informed him that I was leaving the navy. I am sure he had gotten word of my decision from friends in the Pentagon. I had been summoned to see the CNO, Admiral Heyward, who told me I was making a mistake.... His attempt to dissuade me encouraged me to believe that I might have made admiral had I remained in the navy, a prospect that remained an open question in my mind.... Some of my navy friends believed I could earn my star; others doubted it.... When I told my father of my intention, he did not remonstrate me.... But I knew him well enough to know that he was disappointed. For when I left him that day, alone in his study, I took with me his hope that I might someday become the first son and grandson of four-star admirals to achieve the same distinction. That aspiration was well beyond my reach by the time I made my decision...."
McCain's father died on March 22, 1981. McCain retired from the Navy within a week. He wrote about his retirement soon thereafter. McCain never mentioned the alleged offer of an admiralship by Lehman in any of his books, nor in the numerous interviews McCain gave during his first run for the presidency in 1999-2000.
Furthermore, articles written during the current presidential campaign quote McCain's closest friends about McCain's failure to be promoted to admiral before he retired from the Navy. For example, in an April 26, 2008, National Journal cover story, William Cohen (then a Senator, subsequently Secretary of Defense and the best man at McCain's second wedding) recounts that McCain "knew his career in the Navy was limited." Former Senator Gary Hart, who served as a groomsman at McCain's 1980 wedding, says in the National Journal story that he had been told "that [McCain] was not going to receive a star and not going to become an admiral. I think that was the deciding point for him to retire from the Navy."
John Lehman doesn't figure in any accounts of McCain's naval career, probably because Lehman was appointed Secretary of the Navy less than two months before McCain retired. The New York Times didn't note this, or the pertinent fact that John Lehman is currently serving as National Security Adviser to McCain's 2008 presidential campaign. Two admirals in the Times story confirmed Lehman's claim, but for unknown reasons the Times, in violation of its own guidelines, accorded them off-the-record status that makes it impossible to assess their motives and credibility.
The New York Times' front-page story about McCain declining promotion to admiral lacks credibility for other reasons as well. For example, McCain had been promoted to captain on August 1, 1979, so he wouldn't have been due for another promotion by March of 1981.
Retired Admiral Peter Booth, who was promoted to rear admiral in 1981, flatly disputes Lehman's claim about McCain. "No, John McCain was not selected for flag rank, for admiral. With all due respect, I think I was selected that same year, and I have never heard anything even remotely like that. To begin with, John Lehman did not select Navy flag officers. That was done with a very august selection board headed by a four-star admiral. The Secretary of the Navy does not appoint. He is in the approval chain, but he is not on the committee.
"I have never heard a story, even remotely, that John McCain was going to be a flag officer. I was early selected for captain, in 1976, and I was regular selected for admiral in 1981. So it's probably five or six years, I guess. I've never heard of anybody being selected for flag rank within three or four years of making captain, ever."
Retired Admiral John R. Batzler, former commanding officer of the U.S.S. Nimitz, also promoted to rear admiral in 1981, agrees with Retired Admiral Booth.
"I made rear admiral in about five years. I wasn't selected early, and I wasn't selected late. I find it incredible that someone made that statement that John Lehman told John McCain he was going to be promoted to admiral two years after he made captain. First of all, telling him at all is not kosher, but we all know the Secretary of the Navy does what he damn well pleases, in particular John Lehman. This whole idea that John Lehman told John McCain he was going to be promoted to flag two years after he made captain sounds preposterous to me."
All of the evidence, indications and comments that the New York Times published a flattering lie about McCain's career on its front page are easy for John McCain to refute. All he needs to do is sign Standard Form 180, which authorizes the Navy to send an undeleted copy of McCain's naval file to news organizations. A long paper trail about McCain's pending promotion to admiral would be prominent in his file. To date, McCain's advisers have released snippets from his file, but under constrained viewing circumstances. There's no reason McCain's full file shouldn't be released immediately. There's also a recent precedent for McCain signing the simple form that leads to full disclosure: Senator John Kerry signed the 180 waiver, which made his entire naval file public.
The Navy may claim that it already released McCain's record to the Associated Press on May 7, 2008 in response to the AP's Freedom of Information Act request. But the McCain file the Navy released contained 19 pages -- a two-page overview and 17 pages detailing Awards and Decorations. Each of these 17 pages is stamped with a number. These numbers range from 0069 to 0636. When arranged in ascending order, they precisely track the chronology of McCain's career. It seems reasonable to ask the Navy whether there are at least 636 pages in McCain's file, of which 617 weren't released to the Associated Press.
Some of the unreleased pages in McCain's Navy file may not reflect well upon his qualifications for the presidency. From day one in the Navy, McCain screwed-up again and again, only to be forgiven because his father and grandfather were four-star admirals. McCain's sense of entitlement to privileged treatment bears an eerie resemblance to George W. Bush's.
Despite graduating in the bottom 1 percent of his Annapolis class, McCain was offered the most sought-after Navy assignment -- to become an aircraft carrier pilot. According to military historian John Karaagac, "'the Airdales,' the air wing of the Navy, acted and still do, as if unrivaled atop the naval pyramid. They acted as if they owned, not only the Navy, but the entire swath of blue water on the earth's surface." The most accomplished midshipmen compete furiously for the few carrier pilot openings. After four abysmal academic years at Annapolis distinguished only by his misdeeds and malfeasance, no one with a record resembling McCain's would have been offered such a prized career path. The justification for this and subsequent plum assignments should be documented in McCain's naval file.
McCain's file should also include records and analytic reviews of McCain's subsequent sub-par performances. Here are a few cited in two highly favorable biographies, both titled John McCain, one by Robert Timberg and the other by John Karaagac.
"[A]fter a European fling with the tobacco heiress, John McCain reported to flight school at Pensacola in August 1958.... [H]is performance was below par, at best good enough to get by. He liked flying, but didn't love it. What he loved was the kick-the-tire, start-the-fire, scarf-in-the-wind life of a naval aviator. ...One Saturday morning, as McCain was practicing landings, his engine quit and his plane plunged into Corpus Christi. Knocked unconscious by the impact, he came to as the plane settled to the bottom....McCain was an adequate pilot, but he had no patience for studying dry aviation manuals.... His professional growth, though reasonably steady, had its troubled moments. Flying too low over the Iberian Peninsula, he took out some power lines, which led to a spate of newspaper stories in which he was predictably identified as the son of an admiral.... [In 1965] he flew a trainer solo to Philadelphia for the Army-Navy game. Flying by way of Norfolk, he had just begun his descent over unpopulated tidal terrain when the engine died. 'I've got a flameout,' he radioed. He went through the standard relight procedures three times. At one thousand feet he ejected, landing on the deserted beach moments before the plane slammed into a clump of trees."
"In his memoir, everything becomes a kind of game of adolescent brinksmanship, how much can one press the limits of the acceptable and elude the powers that be....The [fighter jocks'] ethos of exaggerated, almost aggressive sociability becomes an end in itself and an excuse for license. There is a tendency for people, not simply to believe their own mythology but, indeed, to exaggerate it.... Fighter jocks, like politicians around their campaign contributions, often press the limits of the acceptable. It is a type of mild corruption that takes place in a highly privileged atmosphere, where restraints are loosened and excuses made....McCain gives some hint in his memoirs about where he stood in the hierarchy among carrier flyers. Instead of the sleek and newer Phantoms and Crusaders, McCain flew the dependable Douglas A-4 Skyhawk in an attack, not a fighter squadron. He was thus on the lower end of the flying totem pole."
The genius of McCain's mythmaking is his perceived humility amid perpetual defiance. Having been a rebel without cause, and often a rebel without consequences, McCain apparently was not surprised when his Vietnamese captors went relatively easy on him compared to his fellow POWs. The Vietnamese military secretly and frequently filmed the American POWs to learn their propensities. Col. Pham Van Hoa of the Vietnamese People's Army Film Department was in charge of the filming. Asked recently for his dominant impression of McCain, the now-retired Van Hoa said that McCain "seemed superior to other prisoners." How so? "Superior in attitude towards them."
But when Mark Salter, McCain's closest aide and co-author, was asked by the Arizona New Times about the first McCain memoir, Faith of My Fathers, that he was then working on, Salter said "the book will showcase a humble McCain. When I worked on this book with him, he just kept saying, 'Other guys had it a lot worse. I think they took it easier on me because of who my dad was. . . . When they tied me in ropes, they'd roll my sleeve up to give it a little padding between the rope and my bicep, you know, little things I noticed. The only really hard time I had was when I didn't go home, and then it only lasted a week, and sometimes I felt braver, I felt I could get away with more.'"
Is McCain now getting away with more by hiding his official history and by having his national security adviser inflate McCain's resume with a bogus promotion to admiral humbly declined? If so, McCain may be attempting to hide why the Navy was in fact slow to promote him upwards despite his suffering as a POW and his distinguished naval heritage.
One possible reason: After McCain had returned from Vietnam as a war hero and was physically rehabilitated, he was urged by his medical caretakers and military colleagues never to fly again. But McCain insisted on going up. As Carl Bernstein reported in Vanity Fair, he piloted an ultra-light, single propeller plane -- and crashed another time. His fifth loss of a plane has vanished from public records, but should be a subject of discussion in his Navy file. It wouldn't be surprising if his naval superiors worried that McCain was just too defiant, too reckless and too crash prone.
Regardless, McCain owes it to the country to release his complete naval records so that American voters can see his documented history and make an informed decision.
Jeffrey Klein is an investigative journalist who co-founded Mother Jones; directed exposes of Newt Gingrich, Big Tobacco and the introduction of offensive weapons into space; co-produced for The News Hour with Jim Lehrer a series on China's economy that won a Gerald Loeb Award; and taught journalism at Stanford, San Francisco State and Cal. He is currently reporting on assignment for the Investigative Fund of the Nation Institute, which provided research support for this article. Research assistance was provided by Peter Jackson.
Damn that Cindy McCain... Stealing Drugs from her own Charity wasn't enough... Now she's STILL stealing Recipes.
Re-Heat Offender: Cindy Bakes Another Whopper
by David Weiner at HuffPo
Here we go again. Just two months after we broke Recipegate comes news that Cindy McCain is up to her old tricks. The July 2008 issue of Family Circle featured an article in which each (it went to press before Hillary conceded) of the presidential candidates' significant others submitted a cookie recipe. A tipster caught a whiff of something besides sugar after reviewing Cindy McCain's Oatmeal-Butterscotch cookies, and quickly found the original recipe at Hersheys.com (see image below). While McCain, or that same low-level staffer, managed to take the time to switch a few minor details in her version of the recipe this time around, there is no doubt that the recipes are the same.
While Bill Clinton gives credit to the family cook, and Michelle Obama to the godmother of her daughters, Cindy McCain attributes her cookie recipe to "a good friend."
Unless John McCain was a childhood friend of Milton S. Hershey or her beer baron family worked with him on a chocolate beer bar back in the day, it seems Cindy is a plagiarist of the most delicious kind. Again.
Let's hope I don't get another unpaid intern fired this time around...
See for yourself:
Monday, June 16, 2008
Does Nancy Pelosi have any idea how bad this sounds?
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she wants the matter settled before Congress breaks for Independence Day at the end of next week, suggesting she is ready to bring the issue to a head.
"We want to pass a bill that will be signed by the president," she said. "And that will happen before we leave for the Fourth of July. So the timing is sometime between now and then. I feel confident that that will happen."
By all means, celebrate the birth of the nation by throwing aside the Fourth Amendment and passing the Protect AT&T Act. There's nothing like optics like that, in an election year, to show a Democratic Party embracing the politics of change. Here's a clue, any bill that will be signed by the president will suck for the American people and for the Constitution. Any bill that will be signed by the president should be unacceptable to every Member of the first branch of government--the one that created the law that Bush broke--and might possibly be struck down by the third branch.
There's this part that I particularly liked, too.
Republicans were previously able to force Democrats into concessions on the legislation, raising the threat of terrorists falling off the surveillance grid as they plotted attacks on the United States. But the tactic seemed to lose some of its punch this year given the unpopularity of the Bush administration. Democrats were comfortable letting the law lapse, forcing the negotiations that seem to be on the verge of a bipartisan compromise.
Hey Nancy and Steny, Bush is still unpopular. AT&T is unpopular. Bill Foster ran on opposition to telco amnesty and WON DENNY HASTERT'S SEAT.
But what the hell, give the most unpopular lame duck president in the history this parting gift. In fact, let's all call Hoyer [Phone: (202) 225-4131, Fax: (202) 225-4300] and Pelosi [Phone: (202) 225-4965 Fax: (202) 225-8259] and tell them what a brilliant idea this is.