Archive for the ‘Torture’ category

Why does John Rizzo still have a job in the Obama administration?

May 18, 2009

One of my favorite bloggers is Marcy Wheeler, who writes as Emptywheel at  Marcy and her team did outstanding work covering the Scooter Libby trial, among other things.  She is the author of  “Anatomy of Deceit” and recently won the 2009 Hillman Award for blogging.

So when Marcy turns her attention to  the “Dirty Thirteen” of torture I pay close attention.  Most of the names on the list are the usual suspects like Alberto Gonzales, Jay Bybee, Dick Cheney and GWB.  And most of them are no longer employed by the U.S. government.

The exceptions are Jay Bybee and John Rizzo.  (more…)


A mother speaks out about SERE

May 18, 2009

The defense of torture at Gitmo and other US facilities has included several fronts — it works, it’s not so bad, we didn’t do it anyway, the Democrats knew and didn’t object.  The latest line of defense seems to be that its OK because did it to our own troops through the SERE program.

That makes it sound innocuous, doesn’t it?

If our troops routinely undergo waterboarding with their consent then we can do it to detainees without their consent.  Not particularly sound logic because there is a world of difference between having consent and not having consent. (more…)

Nancy Pelosi is a red herring

May 17, 2009

Not literally, of course — she’s not a rotting fish.  But the fingerpointing at the Speaker of the House is designed to acomplish two things, both detrimental to the Democratic agenda.

First, there misdirection play of claiming that Nancy is somehow responsible for not stopping the Bush torture program.  This is designed to turn the media’s attention away from the real culprits, the ones who designed, implemented, pushed and justified the torture program.  Dick Cheney, anyone?  What about Alberto Gonzales, Karl Rove, David Addington, or Jay Bybee?  Or let’s point at the very top of the chain of command — the CIC himself! (more…)

Donna Brazile rules

June 18, 2008

At the recent meeting of the DNC Rules Committee one of my favorite moments was when committee member Donna Brazile laid down the law to a representative of the Clinton campaign from Michigan.  She was speaking to the issue of whether the Michigan delegation should be seated at the national convention in Denver even though the state Democratic party had broken the rules by holding their primary too early.  You can find discussion of this moment at the DNC meeting on Daily Kos at the following link — there originally was a YouTube video but that no longer works.

She began by wishing the Clintonite’s mother a happy birthday and then went on to comment about what her own mother had taught her:

“My Momma always taught me to play by the rules.  And if you try to change the rules, it’s called cheatin'” (more…)

June 15 is Magna Carta Day

June 14, 2008

Happy birthday, Magna Carta!

On Sunday June 15, the Magna Carta will be 793 years old. This great historical document was signed by English King John on the field of Runnymede in 1215 under pressure from rebellious barons. The rights enshrined in the Magna Carta have been the most significant early influence on the extensive historical process that led to the rule of constitutional law today.

One of these constitutional protections which has its roots in the Magna Carta is the right to habeas corpus.

Habeas corpus was so important to the Founding Fathers that it was incorporated into the body of Article 1 of the Constitution itself, prior to addition of the Bill of Rights. The Founders did so because they understood that habeas corpus was essential to liberty and that liberty was the core value of the new nation. This consensus of the Founding Fathers of the necessity of having recourse to a writ of habeas corpus was based on their experience in dealing with an out-of-control monarch in the person of George III. (more…)

The APA reiterates their swiss cheese prohibition on torture

November 6, 2007

In August the American Psychological Association adopted an official position that allowed professional psychologists to work at detention facilities like Guantanamo — but not participate in torture. The policy was rife with swiss cheese loopholes. As a result there were protests from psychologists across the country that the APA should have the same absolute prohibitions on participation in torture that American medical doctors and psychoanalysts have. [See earlier posts on the resolution passed by the faculty at Earlham college]

But now, the APA confronts this situation by simply sending a letter to President Bush that says they really, really, really are opposed to torture (insert metaphorical foot stomp here) — and refers in circular fashion to their earlier swiss cheese statement prohibiting torture as if anything had really changed.

Furthermore the letter from APA President Sharon Stephens Brehm contains a troubling offer

to work with your Administration and the Congress to develop policies on interrogation that provide ethical and effective means to elicit information to prevent acts of violence.

Sounds like swiss cheese still. A loophole that would allow APA members even more opportunities to be co-opted into participation in torture — purely for research, of course. Lest we forget, there were those who used that excuse in Hitler’s Germany — and Stalin’s Russia — and perhaps today’s CIA.

An extended discussion of this matter and a copy of the entire letter from Sharon Brehm can be found at

Drip, drip, drip …

November 1, 2007

Since 1901 we have prosecuted enemy soldiers who employed waterboarding against our troops during the Spanish-American War. Part of the work at Nuremburg tribunals was to prosecute those who engaged in waterboarding and find them guilty of war crimes. It is a well-accepted principle of International Law that waterboarding is torture and that perpetrators should be tried for war crimes. Waterboarding is against the Geneva Convention. Waterboarding has been around since at least the Spanish Inquisition (which gave us the Iron Maiden and other grisly torture techniques).
But now we have a problem. We have a nominee for Attorney General who cannot be brought to equate waterboarding and torture. Mukasey says that torture is certainly illegal. But he’s not so sure about waterboarding — that is simply “repugnant”. I watched Mukasey play dodgeball with Patrick Leahy when Leahy tried to pin him down on waterboarding at recent Senate Judiciary Committee hearings. Leahy said:

“I remain very concerned that Judge Mukasey finds himself unable to state unequivocally that waterboarding is illegal and below the standards and values of the United States,”

I wondered what kind of person would put tricky legalisms and fine distinctions between himself and simple human decency.

What kind of a country have we become that we even have to have this discussion? There was a time not so long ago when we as a nation didn’t have to hide behind a tissue of legalisms. We as a nation did not torture. Period.

This confirmation process is a kind of water torture for those of us who believe that every human being should be secure from cruel and inhumane treatment.

The eighth amendment prohibits “cruel and unusual punishment” for those who have been guilty of  crime. There is a bedrock expectation embedded in the Constitution that there will be due process and a trial before any punishment is meted out.

Now we confront a nominee to the position of chief law enforcement officer who refuses to disavow waterboarding and other cruel and inhuman treatment being visited on those who have not even had a trial and have not been found guilty of any crime.

Mukasey has strayed so far from the tenets of the Constitution that there is no way he should become U.S. Attorney General. Surely the American people and the Constitution deserve better.