Saturday, April 02, 2005

The Military is at it again

What a surprise. The military is defying the Supreme Court. Laws? We don't need any laws that we don't like!

US Citizen Held in Iraq as Suspected Insurgent

Friday 01 April 2005

The US military said on Friday it has held since last year an American citizen without charges in Iraq as a suspected top aide to militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, drawing condemnation from civil rights activists.

The man, who US officials at the Pentagon and in Iraq refused to identify by name, possessed dual US-Jordanian citizenship, the military said.

The man was not born in the United States, but became a naturalized US citizen and lived in "a couple of different cities" during about 20 years in America, one official said.

Thought to be the first US citizen caught as a suspected participant in Iraq's two-year-old insurgency, he was seized in a raid "late last year" on a Baghdad home where weapons and bomb-making material was found, the military said.

Air Force Lt. Col. John Skinner, a Pentagon spokesman, said the man, deemed an enemy combatant, had personal ties to Zarqawi and was believed to have served as his personal emissary in several Iraqi cities. The man has not been allowed to have a lawyer, Skinner said.

"I think it's extremely high on the outrageous scale. This is a direct violation of a Supreme Court decision," said lawyer Rachel Meeropol of the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights.

The justices ruled last June that the government cannot hold an American citizen indefinitely in a US military jail without providing a chance to contest the case against him.

"The Supreme Court decided that an alleged enemy combatant who is an American citizen has the right to challenge the factual basis for his detention, and has the right to do that through counsel. This man has clearly been denied both opportunities," Meeropol said.

'Rule of Law'

"If they're going to hold him, he should be charged," Meeropol added. "This is an administration that simply does not seem concerned with following the rule of law."

Skinner said the man attended a three-officer military tribunal's hearing to review the facts surrounding his capture and interview witnesses, and had the opportunity to hear the basis on which he was detained and make a statement.

Skinner said the panel determined he did not merit for prisoner of war status and that he was an enemy combatant.

The man is being held at one of the three permanent US prisons in Iraq, believed to be the Camp Cropper facility for "high-value" detainees at Baghdad International Airport.

Skinner said International Committee of the Red Cross representatives have had access to him.

A US official said the Bush administration was weighing three main options: turning him over to the Iraqi government for trial; turning him over to the Justice Department for trial in the United States; or simply continuing his detention.

Skinner said information suggested the man provided aid to Zarqawi's network including: facilitating links to other terrorist groups; aiding in the movement of foreign fighters into Iraq; aiding in the transfer of funds to support Iraq-based terrorist operations; and aiding in the planning and execution of kidnappings in Iraq.

Zarqawi, al Qaeda's leader in Iraq, is the most-wanted man in the country. His group has claimed responsibility for many of the worst suicide attacks, as well as the beheading of several foreigners.

The Bush administration has declared a small number of US citizens enemy combatants eligible for indefinite detention without charges. For example, Yaser Esam Hamdi, whose case led to last year's ruling, was captured in 2001 in Afghanistan and accused of being a Taliban soldier. After the ruling, the government released Hamdi to Saudi Arabia on condition that he give up US citizenship.

Posted by crimnos @ 7:14 PM :: (0) comments

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Machiavelli Would Be Proud.

Okay, so Terry Schiavo's dead. What's the correct response? Respectful silence? Mournful gnashing of teeth? How about political opportunism to tear down the judicial structure? I think that's more appropriate.

From Slate:

Judge Dread
The judiciary may end up the big losers in the Schiavo mess.
By Bert Brandenburg
Posted Tuesday, March 29, 2005, at 2:21 PM PT

Was Terri Schiavo's piteous ordeal a victory for the rule of law? After all, interest groups and the politicians they pressured were trumped by the courts. The macabre circus that arose around Mrs. Schiavo's case counted for nothing: Pinellas County Judge George W. Greer issued a steady series of rulings despite being targeted for electoral defeat and impeachment, compared to Joseph Mengele and other Nazis, and even threatened with death. The public didn't buy legislation that sought to rig the case for Schiavo's parents. "If nothing else," wrote a New York Times analysis, "this series of decisions vindicated the one conception of American judicial power."

But that isn't quite right. In fact, the Schiavo episode spells trouble ahead for the courts that protect our rights. The judiciary is fast becoming enemy No. 1 in the culture wars—and the side wearing the black robes is losing. The anguish over Mrs. Schiavo's nightmare is boosting a rising common culture of attacks on the independence and legitimacy of our courts. In Washington and far beyond the Beltway, this new war on the courts is being waged through legislation and political intimidation, fueled by special interest campaigns of rage. "Federal courts have no army or navy," warned Rep. John Hostettler late last year. "At the end of the day, we're saying the court can't enforce its opinions."

Consider the bill that sailed through Congress on Palm Sunday, hustling Mrs. Schiavo's case into federal courts. Legal purists cringed at the politics of crafting jurisdiction to reach a desired result. But the For the Relief of the Parents of Theresa Marie Schiavo Act was just another day at the office for legislators working to manipulate the jurisdiction of our courts to achieve political ends. Hostile members of Congress increasingly seek to reverse or forestall decisions they don't like by eliminating jurisdiction over important constitutional cases, shuffling selected lawsuits between state and federal courts, and choking off the discretion of judges to weigh evidence and law.

These efforts often come straight off the talk-radio dial. Last year, for example, even as the federal courts mulled litigation involving the Pledge of Allegiance, the House of Representatives was passing a measure to forbid courts from ever hearing such a case in the first place. As the debate raged over a courthouse display of the Ten Commandments, a measure was written to deny federal courts the power to hear any suit involving a governmental official's "acknowledgment of God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government." And the recent California marriage decision reignited efforts to amend the U.S. Constitution in order to deny state courts the ability to interpret their own state constitutions.

These efforts at court-stripping don't just represent just good wedge-issue politics; increasingly, they have become the law of the land. The USA Patriot Act reduced judicial discretion to review law-enforcement efforts to detain suspects, monitor private Internet communications, obtain certain personal records and share wiretaps with intelligence agencies. The 2003 "Feeney Amendment"—protested strongly by Chief Justice William Rehnquist—sharply limited the ability of federal judges to issue sentences below federal guidelines in order to set punishments that fit the crime.

As they grow more confident, enemies of the courts are growing more extreme. Buried within the Real ID Act recently passed by the House is a provision that would swap martial law for the rule of law. If enacted, the bill would give the secretary of homeland security unilateral power to waive any law on the books that might interfere with the building of border fences—including civil-rights and minimum-wage protections, and even criminal laws. Courts would be barred from ever reviewing the secretary's stroke of the pen.

Measures like these flow from a view of our courts as little more than enemy combatants. After the Supreme Court ruled that certain antiterrorism tactics violated the Bill of Rights, Attorney General Ashcroft accused it of endangering national security. During the Schiavo case, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay warned that "no little judge sitting in a state district court in Florida is going to usurp the authority of Congress." And the latest best-selling screed against the judiciary—Men in Black: How the Supreme Court Is Destroying America—repeatedly accuses the courts of "tyranny" that make it "difficult to maintain a republic." Congressional leaders brag that they will "take no prisoners" in dealing with the courts and that "judges need to be intimidated."

This intimidation campaign is now well under way. A Reagan-appointed judge was recently hauled before a congressional committee to explain comments that weren't properly supportive of sentencing guidelines. There's a new effort to make impeachment into a respectable punishment for federal judges who make controversial decisions, exceed their jurisdiction, or consult foreign law in their deliberations. State judges have also seen a spike in impeachment threats: 39 from 2002 to 2004, almost double the previous three years.

Posted by crimnos @ 10:23 PM :: (0) comments

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

US Memo Proves that Iraq Orders Came From Above

Odds that this'll affect anything, or that General Sanchez will be held accountable? Shit, you'd have a better shot at getting hit by a comet.

From the BBC:

US memo shows Iraq jail methods
The top US general in Iraq authorised interrogation techniques including the use of dogs, stress positions and disorientation, a memo has shown.

The document was obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union through the US Freedom of Information Act.

The September 2003 document is signed by the then commander of US forces in Iraq, Gen Ricardo Sanchez.

The ACLU says the measures go beyond generally accepted practice and says Gen Sanchez should be made accountable.

The memo authorised techniques including putting prisoners in stressful positions, using loud music and light control, and changing sleeping patterns.

It also authorised the presence of muzzled military working dogs to, as the memo puts it, "exploit Arab fear of dogs while maintaining security during interrogations".

The presence of dogs and other measures, all of which required approval by Gen Sanchez, were rescinded a month later because of opposition from military lawyers.

Gen Sanchez says advance permission was required every time one of these techniques was requested, adding that he never gave such permission.

'Beyond army limits'

The Pentagon originally refused to release the memo on national security grounds, but passed it to the ACLU on Friday after the union challenged it in court under the Freedom of Information Act.

The ACLU says at least 12 of the 29 techniques listed in the document went far beyond limits established by the army's field manual.

"Gen Sanchez authorised interrogation techniques that were in clear violation of the Geneva Conventions and the army's own standards," ACLU lawyer Amrit Singh said in the union's statement.

"He and other high ranking officials who bear responsibility for the widespread abuse of detainees must be held accountable."

The techniques included "environmental manipulation" such as making a room hot or cold or using an "unpleasant smell", isolating a prisoner, and disrupting normal sleep patterns.

The memo also allowed the "false flag" technique of "convincing the detainee that individuals from a country other than the United States are interrogating him."

It was during Gen Sanchez's time as commander that Iraqi prisoners were abused by US troops at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison.

The cases - highlighted in photographs of hooded and naked inmates - sparked international outrage.

Army investigations have generally found that, where proven, abuses were not the result of policy set by senior leaders.

The ACLU is currently taking part in a lawsuit against Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld accusing him of responsibility for torture and abuse of detainees in US military custody in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Posted by crimnos @ 8:29 AM :: (1) comments

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Digging Out of the Hole

If I have any regular readers, you must have noticed that I’ve been somewhat absent for the past few days; at least since Friday. I could offer a few excuses – life has been hectic, one of our pets damaged his eye, I’ve been busy with other projects – and all of those would be true, but those aren’t the real reasons I’ve been remiss in posting. The real reason is that I’ve hit a bit of a stumbling block, or a turning point, depending on how you look at it. The Schiavo case, while the media sells it as a human interest story, has revealed a lot to me about the truth of the American media, government, and people. If the election was a punch in the gut, this one….well, I don’t exactly know what you’d call it. I lost my moral compass for awhile, wandered in the wilderness; okay, not really. I resumed work on my novel and started a Nationals Blog (plug plug) while taking a few days off from politics to get my head straight and gather the wool.

The following are the items that have jumped out at me since I’ve gained some perspective:

So all this leads one to wonder, what the hell can you do? The truth is being buried by the news media, spun by the pundits, twisted and broken by politicians for their own gain, outright ignored by those that think their faith can overrule reality, and

The answer? Just try to annoy the fuck out of them. That’s my new goal. I’m going to keep on screaming the truth, louder and more strident than ever. The chances are nil that I’ll break through, but maybe with thousands of us trying, we can get through. It’s the only option we have left.

Consider Matthew 6:5, you attention whoring lunatics:

And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

Seriously, even the Bible wants you to shut the fuck up.

Finally, a little moment of Zen, if you wonder why I feel so ambivalent about this country these days.

Posted by crimnos @ 9:12 AM :: (0) comments

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Army Admits it Violated Geneva Convention

From the New York Times:

Army Probe Finds Abuse at Jail Near Mosul
The Associated Press

Saturday 26 March 2005

Washington -- Newly released government documents say the abuse of prisoners in Iraq by US forces was more widespread than previously reported.

An officer found that detainees "were being systematically and intentionally mistreated" at a holding facility near Mosul in December 2003. The 311th Military Intelligence Battalion of the Army's 101st Airborne Division ran the lockup.

Records previously released by the Army have detailed abuses at Abu Ghraib and other sites in Iraq as well as at sites in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The documents released Friday were the first to reveal abuses at the jail in Mosul and are among the few to allege torture directly.

"There is evidence that suggests the 311th MI personnel and/or translators engaged in physical torture of the detainees," a memo from the investigator said. The January 2004 report said the prisoners' rights under the Geneva Conventions were violated.

Top military officials first became aware of the Abu Ghraib abuses in January 2004, when pictures such as those showing soldiers piling naked prisoners in a pyramid were turned over to investigators. The resulting scandal after the pictures became public tarnished the military's image in Arab countries and worldwide and sparked investigations of detainee abuses.

The records about the Mosul jail were part of more than 1,200 pages of documents referring to allegations of prisoner abuse. The Army released the records to reporters and to the American Civil Liberties Union, which had filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

"They show the torture and abuse of detainees was routine and such treatment was considered an acceptable practice by US forces," ACLU lawyer Amrit Singh said.

Guards at the detention facility near Mosul came from at least three infantry units of the 101st Airborne, including an air-defense artillery unit. The investigating officer, whose name was blacked out of the documents, said the troops were poorly trained and encouraged to abuse prisoners.

Posted by crimnos @ 4:25 PM :: (0) comments