Locking people up indefinitely, possibly forever, just on the President’s say-so. With no right to appeal to a court. Please explain again why that isn’t the behavior of an autocrat. Or is thinking that way so last administration? If a Democrat does it, is it just fine, like when Lyndon Johnson sen t the FBI to infiltrate and neutralize protest groups in Cointelpro, murdering dozens of Black Panthers in the process?
Obama said all kinds of things we wanted to hear about Guantanamo. He even said he’ll close it. He sent an Admiral to talk to the military officials in charge there and, based on their word, certify that there are none of those Geneva-violating “outrages upon personal dignity” occurred when they lock people up in tiny cells for 22 hours a day, for months and years on end. For some reason, those hard-to-please human rights advocates were not satisfied with the Admiral’s word.
Months into the new administration, the Guantanamo detainees, innocent and guilty alike, still languish in their tiny cells. For some, at least, the conditions are perhaps marginally improved. Aafter all, American values really are important. And, consistent with those “values,” the Obama administration regularly stonewalls the detainees’ cases, fighting every inch of way against any expanded rights, or even common decency. For, you see, some fool court said they had “rights,” but that certainly didn’t mean the President had to do anything different. And hiding evidence from the courts, as the US is continuing to do in the Guantanamo habeas cases, well, real Presidents do it all the time.
And just forget about releasing people simply because they’re innocent. That’s such a quaint idea, fit only for Bush critics. Under the Obama administrtion the known innocent must wait withh the guilty must wait till a complete “review” is finished. What’s a few more months of hell, after seven years?
Now we learn that the Obama administration plans to appeal the Federal court decision that those arrested elsewhere and shipped half-way around the world to Bagram in Afghanistan have rights the President is bound to respect. Evidently the centuries-old right of habeas corpus is one of those rights only candidates talk about. Real men lock people up forever, no evidence needed.
The right to be free from warrantless wiretapping is another of those rights that seemed to matter when Obama was a candidate. He was even going to vote for it before he voted against it. Now such rights are things that we citizens shouldn’t bother our pretty little heads about. After all, they’re “state secrets.” The President said so, you see.
Meanwhile, we found out this week who really has rights in this administration. It’s the CIA’s torturers, you fools. Obama’s CIA director told us peons who are supposed to follow the law that the CIA’s torturers are not bound by such quaint ideas. They “should not be investigated, let alone punished.” Without any investigation, he knows that none have committed any offenses justifying punishment. For murder is all in a CIA torturer’s day’s work. And, going forward, there will be no more of those pesky allegations of abuse that cause so much mischief. “CIA officers do not tolerate, and will continue to promptly report, any … allegations of abuse,” the director assured us.
Evidently, for Obama, as for all too many Presidents in the last fifty years, rights only matter when on the campaign trail, not when one is in office and able to do something to protect them.
I really, really, wanted to believe that this time, just once, we weren’t being played for fools. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
I am truly ashamed.
[UPDATED 4-12-2009 to remove incorerct double negative in fifth paragraph.]
April 11th, 2009
Human rights investigator John Sifton discusses the Obama administration coverup of CIA torture on Countdown. Several top CIA officials, including its #2 official, are directly implicated in the CIA’s torture and other abuses, Sifton explains:
I posted Sifton’s The CIA Torture Cover Up the other day. Also take at look at his Obama’s Torture Bind:
As the CIA digs in against criminal prosecutions, Obama must decide: Does he alienate the agency or push for justice?
April 11th, 2009
Raw Story reports on one of the Guantanamo habeas attorney complaining that the Obama administration’s approach to detainee rights is indistinguishable from that of Bush. I’ve heard similar things from other Guantanamo attorneys who started out excited on January 20th and are now disillusioned and depressed at the Obama administration’s stonewalling and foot dragging on these cases.
The habeas cases are now officially [Detainee X] vs. Barack H. Obama.” At this point, Obama bears responsibility for the abuses. The time when the Bush administration can be blamed is past.
Meanwhile, there are some reports of slight improvements in the conditions of detention for at least some detainees. More of them are now allowed outside their cells to socialize for at least a few hours a day. But this is hardly sufficient after seven years of unfair and often brutal imprisonment. Justice must be done. This administration is not doing it. That’s the bottom line.
Not Just State Secrets: Obama Continuing Bush’s Stonewalling On Gitmo Cases, Lawyer Claims
By Zachary Roth
Yesterday we told you about the Obama Justice Department’s invocation of a sweeping state secrets privilege in a warrantless wiretapping case. But that may not be the only area in which the new administration’s war on terror tactics recall the worst excesses of the Bush years.
Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that detainees at Guantanamo had the right to appeal their detentions in federal courts. But since then, only a few cases have been completed. And in an interview with TPMmuckraker, David Cynamon — a lawyer for four Kuwaiti Gitmo detainees who are bringing habeas corpus claims against the government — said that the Justice Department has been consistently dragging its heels in the case, denying detainees their basic due process rights and furthering what he called the “abandonment of the rule of law.”
“The Department of Justice has been doing everything in its power to delay and obstruct these cases,” said Cynamon, whose clients were picked up in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region in the period after the 2001 U.S invasion of Afghanistan. “They’re not doing anything to move the case along, and doing everything to avoid it.”
Asked whether he had observed a shift of any kind in the government’s approach since the Obama administration came into office, Cynamon flatly replied: “None whatsoever.”
That has been, to me, the biggest disappointment and mystery. It did not surprise me in the slightest that the Bush administration would do everything in its power to subvert the Supreme Court’s ruling. I expected that. What I did not expect is that there would be absolutely zero change in the stonewall strategy when the [new] administration came in.
Cynamon said he didn’t expect to see a change “on January 21st.” But, “there’s been enough time now that you can’t simply say ‘it’s still operating on auto pilot from the previous administration’. So I have been disappointed and frustrated not to see a change.”
And he added that, based on conversations with other lawyers defending Gitmo clients, the government’s stonewalling strategy was being applied not just to his case, but more broadly.
Cynamon detailed three specific areas in which the government is stonewalling. First, he said, it has taken an unduly long time to produce declassified evidence. Indeed, in February, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ordered one government lawyer removed from the case for failing to comply with repeated orders to make the evidence available. In a court document, the judge wrote that the lawyer’s “compliance was not optional,” and added that the court “has serious concern about counsel’s ability to read and comprehend its orders.”
Second, Cynamon said the government is resisting requests for discovery, slowing things down by forcing defense lawyers to go to court at each stage. “Across the board they basically say no,” he said. “It’s whatever bullshit excuse – ‘it’s too burdensome, its not relevant, its beyond the narrow….”
But the government’s “most egregious” stonewalling tactic, said Cynamon, parallels the misconduct famously displayed by the prosecutors in the Ted Stevens case: It has consistently failed to produce exculpatory evidence in its possession, as it is legally required to do. “They have completely, in my view, ignored that obligation,” said Cynamon. “We have come across a number of items of exculpatory evidence that the government should have given us and didn’t.”
For instance, said Cynamon, one his clients had military commission charges issued against him, and as a result was appointed a military defense counsel, who has access to a secure government database. The defense counsel, Cynamon explained, “fairly quickly and fairly easily found some documents on that secure database that were very helpful and exculpatory and helpful to our clients…that should have been produced to us in our case.”
Cynamon said that Obama should be given credit for his pledge to close Guantanamo within a year. But he said that doesn’t address the core issue.
“The fundamental problem is that there has been a complete abandonment of the rule of law and a denial of the most basic due process, which is: ‘If you get thrown in jail, you ought to have the right to have an independent judge look at the basis on which you’re in jail to decide whether you should be there,’” he said. “And closing Guantanamo doesn’t address that, if they just end up getting transferred to prisons in other places.”
Cynamon continued: “What I have been hoping for, and am getting increasingly frustrated about, is to see that closing Guantanamo be matched with a change in policy at the Justice Department to actually try to get these cases heard to test the evidence and then to determine, if there’s no evidence, to release these people. That part I haven’t seen at all.”
April 11th, 2009
The VA is so deeply concerned about bad publicity, they sent the goons to intimidate a reporter and confiscate his recorder memory card. I sure hope VA Secretary Gen. Shinseki takes action against this thuggish behavior. Many have high hopes that Shinseki will fix a damaged system.
Reporter working on story critical of VA has his equipment confiscated
By Rachel Oswald
A public radio reporter visiting a VA hospital earlier this week to work on a story about veterans’ healthcare was stopped by government officials mid-interview, ordered to leave the hospital and had some of his recording equipment confiscated.
David Schultz, a reporter with a local NPR affliate, WAMU 88.5, was at the Veteran Affairs Hospital in Washington, DC on Tuesday night, covering a townhall meeting on the quality of minority healthcare. In the middle of an interview with one of the veterans at the meeting on the below quality healthcare he was receiving at the hospital, Schultz was told by hospital officials to halt the interview and to turn over his recording equipment.
DC radio station WTOP reports that Gloria Hairston, an internal communications specialist with the VA, was the one to order a stop to the interview.
Hairston was joined by two other VA employees and four armed guards, who stood between Schultz and the exit, in ordering the 26-year-old reporter to hand over his equipment, which included a recorder, microphone and headphones.
“She said I wouldn’t be allowed to leave,” Schultz told WTOP. “I became worried that I was going to get arrested.
Katie Roberts, a spokeswoman for the Department of Veterans Affairs, told the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press that Schultz refused to listen to the VA officials’ request for a signed waiver by the veteran he was interview.
Schultz was able to persuade Hairston to just confiscate the memory card of his recorder, instead of all of his equipment.
When one of the veterans who had drifted over to watch the spectacle asked Schultz for his phone number, he was stopped from handing it out by Hairston.
“I started to give it to him and then [Hairston] became irate,” Schultz said. “She said, ‘You can’t give him your phone number. You have to give me all of your equipment or I’m going to get ugly.’”
After conferring with his boss, WAMU news director Jim Asendio, by phone, Schultz handed over his memory card and left the hospital.
“I told him to give them the flash card and get out of there,” Asendio said to WTOP. “I didn’t want this to get out of hand.”
Thus far, attempts by WAMU to retrieve the flash card from the VA have been unsuccessful.
Roberts, the VA spokeswoman, is claiming that Schultz “took advantage of the patient” he was interviewing by not correctly identifying himself as a reporter, an assertion that Schultz disagrees with. She said the VA would return the flash card if the veteran Schultz was interviewing signs a consent form.
Tuesday’s incident has, unsurprisingly, not gone down well with journalists.
“When he was in the Army, the current secretary of Veterans Affairs, Gen. Eric Shinseki (USA ret.), no doubt had occasion to read the riot act to subordinate officers,” writes Art Brodsky of The Huffington Post. “It’s time for him to get into command mode again, and the subjects this time are his incompetent public relations staff, which created an embarrassing nightmare for an Administration dedicated to transparency and openness.”
April 11th, 2009