Paul Krugman expresses the sense of urgency many feel when addressing climate change comes up. In his column Krugman points out that the science increasingly predicts dire changes in our climate this century.
The fact is that the planet is changing faster than even pessimists expected: ice caps are shrinking, arid zones spreading, at a terrifying rate. And according to a number of recent studies, catastrophe — a rise in temperature so large as to be almost unthinkable — can no longer be considered a mere possibility. It is, instead, the most likely outcome if we continue along our present course.
Thus researchers at M.I.T., who were previously predicting a temperature rise of a little more than 4 degrees by the end of this century, are now predicting a rise of more than 9 degrees. Why? Global greenhouse gas emissions are rising faster than expected; some mitigating factors, like absorption of carbon dioxide by the oceans, are turning out to be weaker than hoped; and there’s growing evidence that climate change is self-reinforcing — that, for example, rising temperatures will cause some arctic tundra to defrost, releasing even more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Temperature increases on the scale predicted by the M.I.T. researchers and others would create huge disruptions in our lives and our economy. As a recent authoritative U.S. government report points out, by the end of this century New Hampshire may well have the climate of North Carolina today, Illinois may have the climate of East Texas, and across the country extreme, deadly heat waves — the kind that traditionally occur only once in a generation — may become annual or biannual events.
On point Krugman doesn’t make here is that these rapid changes will continue. Thus, not only will agriculture migrate up north, but it will continue migrating. Thus, millions of people will likely be on the move at any time, seeking an environment where they can live. Industry, involving fixed facilities, will have great difficulty in such circumstances. wars will dramatically increase as people flood borders toward livable areas.
Krugman points out the silliness of our political system to deal with this, with politicians turning climate science into a joke.
Well, sometimes even the most authoritative analyses get things wrong. And if dissenting opinion-makers and politicians based their dissent on hard work and hard thinking — if they had carefully studied the issue, consulted with experts and concluded that the overwhelming scientific consensus was misguided — they could at least claim to be acting responsibly.
But if you watched the debate on Friday, you didn’t see people who’ve thought hard about a crucial issue, and are trying to do the right thing. What you saw, instead, were people who show no sign of being interested in the truth. They don’t like the political and policy implications of climate change, so they’ve decided not to believe in it — and they’ll grab any argument, no matter how disreputable, that feeds their denial.
Indeed, if there was a defining moment in Friday’s debate, it was the declaration by Representative Paul Broun of Georgia that climate change is nothing but a “hoax” that has been “perpetrated out of the scientific community.” I’d call this a crazy conspiracy theory, but doing so would actually be unfair to crazy conspiracy theorists. After all, to believe that global warming is a hoax you have to believe in a vast cabal consisting of thousands of scientists — a cabal so powerful that it has managed to create false records on everything from global temperatures to Arctic sea ice.
Yet Mr. Broun’s declaration was met with applause.
Elsewhere in the article he states that:
[A]s I watched the deniers make their arguments, I couldn’t help thinking that I was watching a form of treason — treason against the planet.
The anti-science attitudes spawned by Christian fundamentalists funded by major corporate interests may destroy us all.
The complete article is here.
June 30th, 2009
New York Times columnist Bob Herbert writes of the horrible injustices done to Mohammed Jawad at US hands. He also reminds us that the Obama administration is so desperate to keep this person who was a child when captured in indefinite imprisonment that they are using torture-obtained evidence to do so.
To answer Herbert’s question, given the paucity of evidence and the youth of Jawad when captured, one day was too long. Seven years is a crime:
How Long Is Long Enough?
By Bob Herbert
No one seems to know how old Mohammed Jawad was when he was seized by Afghan forces in Kabul six and a half years ago and turned over to American custody. Some reports say he was 14. Some say 16. The Afghan government believes he was 12.
What is not in dispute is that he was no older than an adolescent, and that since his capture he has been tortured and otherwise put through hell. The evidence against him has been discredited. He has tried to commit suicide. But the U.S. won’t let him go.
The treatment of the young captive was so egregious that the decorated U.S. Army officer assigned to prosecute him — a man gung-ho to secure a conviction against a defendant he believed had committed a serious crime against the American military — ended up removing himself from the case and declaring that he could no longer “in good conscience” participate in the military commissions set up to try accused terrorists.
Jawad was accused of hurling a hand grenade into a vehicle occupied by two American soldiers and their Afghan interpreter in December 2002. All three occupants of the vehicle were seriously injured.
Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld of the U.S. Army Reserve, a recipient of the Bronze Star, among other commendations, was named the lead prosecutor on the case in 2007. By then, Jawad had already been held for nearly five years. Colonel Vandeveld assumed that the case would be uncomplicated and that a conviction could be easily secured.
Jawad had confessed to the attack and, according to the charges against him, had acted as a member of an insurgent group called Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin.
As Colonel Vandeveld began a diligent effort to assemble what he assumed would be the evidence that would convict Jawad, he became increasingly distressed and ultimately dismayed. It turned out, as a military judge would later rule, that Jawad’s Afghan captors had obtained his confession by torturing him. Then the boy was taken by U.S. authorities to Bagram Air Field, the main U.S. military installation in Afghanistan, where he was held before eventually being transferred to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
Colonel Vandeveld — “by sheer happenstance,” as he put it — came across a written summary of an interview of Jawad by a special agent of the Army Criminal Investigation Division. The summary, which was part of the official record of an entirely different case at Bagram, detailed extensive abuse that Jawad said had been inflicted on him at Bagram.
In a sworn affidavit, Colonel Vandeveld said, “This abuse included the slapping of Mr. Jawad across the face while Mr. Jawad’s head was covered with a hood, as well as Mr. Jawad’s having been shoved down a stairwell while both hooded and shackled.”
Jawad’s account had the ring of truth. As Colonel Vandeveld said in the affidavit, the interviewer “later testified as a defense witness … that Mr. Jawad’s statement was completely consistent with the statements of other prisoners held at Bagram at the time and, more importantly, that dozens of the guards had admitted to abusing the prisoners in exactly the way described by Jawad.”
Jawad also complained about being mistreated at Guantánamo, saying he had been moved with absurd frequency from cell to cell — the idea being to deprive him of sleep. A check of the official prison logs showed that Jawad had in fact been moved 112 times, without explanation, from one cell to another in a two-week period — an average of eight moves a day for 14 days.
As Colonel Vandeveld said in his affidavit: “Upon further investigation, we were able to determine that Mr. Jawad had been subjected to a sleep deprivation program popularly referred to as the ‘frequent flyer’ program.” The colonel said he lacked the words “to express the heartsickness” he felt as he came to fully understand the way Jawad had been treated by American soldiers.
On Dec. 25, 2003, Jawad tried to kill himself by repeatedly banging his head against a wall of his cell.
There is no credible evidence against Jawad, and his torture-induced confession has rightly been ruled inadmissible by a military judge. But the Obama administration does not feel that he has suffered enough. Not only have administration lawyers opposed defense efforts to secure Jawad’s freedom, but they are using, as the primary basis for their opposition, the fruits of the confession that was obtained through torture and has already been deemed inadmissible — without merit, of no value.
Colonel Vandeveld is no longer on active duty and has joined the effort by military defense lawyers and the American Civil Liberties Union to secure Jawad’s freedom. Six years of virtual solitary confinement, he said, is enough for someone who was not much older than a child when he was taken into custody.
June 30th, 2009
Today a number of psychological, health, and human rights organizations released the following statement criticizing the American Psychological Association (APA) Board of Directors failure to accept responsibility for the APA’s role in facilitating psychologists’ participation in abusive national security interrogations. The coalition statement responds to a June 18 open letter from the APA Board acknowledging for the first time that psychologists have engaged in torture, but making no reference to the APA Board’s own apparently unanimous support extending over several years for psychologists’ right to participate in detainee interrogations.
The APA letter follows years of reports that psychologists designed, helped conduct, disseminated, and legitimated the use of abusive interrogation techniques carried out under the Bush administration. While other health professional organizations adopted policies prohibiting their members participation in interrogations at Guantanamo, CIA “black sites,” and elsewhere, the APA stood alone in claiming, against evidence, that psychologists’ presence at the detention sites was necessary “to protect” detainees. In fact, the APA went further, allowing psychologists involved in these very interrogations to design APA ethical policy on interrogations.
Although recent revelations, including a Senate Armed Services Report, have debunked the claim that psychologists were preventing torture, the APA leadership still refuses to acknowledge the extent of the harm psychologists have done. Nor does it propose adequate steps to address past abuses by psychologists or to prevent psychologists from contributing to future abuse. The organization’s statement calls for the APA to take five immediate steps to begin this process of corrective action. Among these steps are a call for an independent body to pursue accountability for psychologists found to be involved in torture or abusive interrogation practices, and further, for an independent investigation of possible collusion between the APA and the military/intelligence establishment that may have contributed to the APA’s polices in this area.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 29. 2009
Open Letter in Response to
the American Psychological Association Board
On June 18, 2009, the American Psychological Association [APA] Board issued an Open Letter on the subject of psychologists’ involvement in abusive national security interrogations. The letter is among the first formal acknowledgements from APA leadership that psychologists were involved in torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. We welcome this progress.
Similarly, the letter acknowledges APA’s member-initiated referendum prohibiting psychologist participation in detention centers that are in violation of international law and overturning APA Council’s repeated refusals to do so. This is an improvement over very recent messages from APA officials that characterized press descriptions of APA policy as supporting psychologist participation in such interrogations as “fair and balanced.”
Nevertheless, the letter is profoundly disappointing. It continues the long tradition of APA leaders minimizing the extent of psychologists’ involvement in state-sanctioned abuse as well as APA’s own defense of such involvement. The authors speak as though the information about psychologist’s involvement in torture is fresh news even though it has been available for a long time. Even now, the Board relies on the Bush Administration tactic, employed in the Abu Ghraib debacle, of blaming the abuse on a “few bad apples.” This minimization of the greatest ethical crisis in our profession’s history by those who claim to lead the profession is unacceptable. Similarly the APA Board continues to take no responsibility for its own grievous mismanagement of this issue. Instead, the tone of the letter suggests we should all come together and “reflect and learn,” because this has been difficult for all of us, collectively. The Board also presumes the authority to continue to speak for psychologists in the future with neither redress nor evidence of remediation for what they have done:
This has been a painful time for the association and one that offers an opportunity to reflect and learn from our experiences over the last five years. APA will continue to speak forcefully in further communicating our policies against torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment to our members, the Obama administration, Congress, and the general public. [Board letter, June 18, 2009.]
Any meaningful approach to this issue must start by acknowledging the fact that psychologists were absolutely integral to our government’s systematic program of torture. When the Bush administration decided to engage in torture, they turned to psychologists from the military’s SERE [Survival, Evasion, resistance, and Escape] program for help in designing and implementing the torture tactics. This fact was first reported in 2005, within days of the release of the APA’s PENS [Psychological Ethics and National Security] report and was officially acknowledged by the Defense Department in its Inspector General’s Report, declassified in May 2007. Other psychologists monitored torture to calibrate how much abuse a detainee could tolerate without dying. Nonetheless, APA leaders continued, and still continue, to pretend that psychologists’ participation in abuse was the behavior of rogue members of the profession.
Similarly, the APA Board still refuses to acknowledge the evidence of apparent collusion between APA officials and the national security apparatus in providing ethical cover for psychologists’ participation in detainee abuse. This collusion was most notable in the creation of the military-dominated PENS task force. Only a policy that comes to terms with this APA collusion can begin to reduce the furor among APA members, psychologists, and the general public.
APA leadership has much work ahead to begin to repair the harm they have caused to the profession, the country, former and current detainees and their families. At a minimum the APA leadership should do the following:
1. Fully implement the 2008 referendum as an enforceable section of the APA Code of Ethics. This entails a public announcement that APA policy and ethical standards oppose the service of psychologists in detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp, Bagram Air Base, CIA secret prisons, or in the rendition program.
2. Annul the June 2005 PENS Report due to the severe and multiple conflicts of interest involved in its production.
3. Bring in an independent body of investigative attorneys to pursue accountability for psychologists who participated in or otherwise contributed to torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. APA should also: (a) clarify the status of open ethics cases and (b) remove the statute of limitations for violations involving torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, so as to allow time for information on classified activities to become public.
4. Develop a clear and rapid timetable to remove Sections 1.02 and 1.03 [the "Nuremberg defense" of following orders] from the APA Code of Ethics. [We note that the APA Ethics Committee has stated that they will not accept a defense of following orders to complaints regarding torture; this statement is a welcome improvement but it is clearly inadequate as it is not necessarily binding on future committees nor does it cover abuses falling under the category of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.] Revoke the equally problematic Section 8.05 of the Code, which dispenses with informed consent “where otherwise permitted by law or federal or institutional regulations,” and Section 8.07, which sets an unacceptably high threshold of “severe emotional distress” for not using deception in the ethics of research design.
5. Retain an independent investigatory organization to study organizational behavior at APA. Due to potential conflicts of interest, independent human rights organizations should be enlisted to select this investigatory entity. The study should address, among other things, possible collusion in the PENS process and the 2003 APA-CIA-Rand conference on the Science of Deception, attended by the CIA’s apparent designers of their torture program [James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen] during which “enhanced interrogation” techniques were discussed. The study should explore how the APA governance system permits the accumulation of power in the hands of a very small number of individuals who are unresponsive to the general membership. It should also propose measures to return the APA to democratic principles, scientific integrity, and beneficence, including restructuring for greater transparency and the assimilation of diverse viewpoints.
These five steps will not remove the terrible stain on the reputation of American psychology. However, by taking these steps the APA leadership would make both symbolic and substantive progress toward accountability for psychologists’ contributions to detainee abuse and the APA’s failure to adequately respond to the public record. These actions would constitute an important step toward rehabilitating the Association and restoring the good name of the profession itself.
Coalition for an Ethical Psychology
Physicians for Human Rights
Psychologists for Social Responsibility
Center for Constitutional Rights
Bill of Rights Defense Committee
Network of Spiritual Progressives
National Lawyers Guild
Amnesty International USA
Program for Torture Victims, Los Angeles
American Friends Service Committee, Pacific Southwest Region
Physicians for Social Responsibility, Los Angeles
Massachusetts Campaign Against Torture (MACAT)
New York Campaign Against Torture (NYCAT)
June 29th, 2009
It seems like every day the Obama administration sinks to new lows in its bid to keep the essence of Bush’s torture regime intact. I just read this article from a few days ago which again has me enraged. In the government’s never-ending willingness to abuse anyone or anything in an attempt to avoid political embarrassment, the Obama Justice Department is now relying on evidence obtained by torture to keep Mohammed Jawad, imprisoned as a child, in detention indefinitely.
The evidence was the result of a gun being put to his head and his being told that he either confess or he and his family would be killed. To make the situation even stranger, this evidence has already been deemed inadmissible by a military judge in Jawad’s military commission trial when a judge ruled last year that, even by the standards of the Bush administration, threatening death to get a confession was torture. Evidently, the Obama Justice Department believes that evidence that is inadmissible in a kangaroo court is more likely to be acceptable in Federal court. Or is the administration just cynically keeping Jawad locked up for months or years beyond the almost seven he has already been imprisoned just to avoid the political embarrassment of releasing an obviously innocent adolescent or young adult? Are they waiting for the court, perhaps many months from now, to rule that there never were any grounds to imprison Jawad?
Jawad, you may remember, was the child who was abused following advice from a BSCT psychologist that he be subjected to linguistic isolation and pressured to “break him” and make him confess. Break him they did, resulting in a suicide attempt in December 2003. He also was tortured at Bagram air base during his stay there. But, the Obama administration is evidently willing to compound the wrongs already committed by the Bush administration.
So it has come to this. The administration that came to power pledging to end torture uses the fruits of torture to imprison an innocent young man. An administration that refuses to prosecute, or even investigate, those who tortured uses evidence obtained from torture to keep a teenager in perpetual hell. The cynicism of this administration evidently knows no bounds.
Here is the complete article:
U.S. Relies on Tortured Evidence in Habeas Case
Government Submits Evidence Tossed in 2008 War Crimes Case
By Daphne Eviatar
Washington Independent, 6/23/09
The United States is relying on evidence obtained by torture to prove that it can continue to imprison indefinitely a young man arrested as an adolescent in Afghanistan six and a half years ago, according to documents filed with a federal district court.
Mohammed Jawad may have been as young as 12 years old when he was seized by Afghan police and turned over to U.S. authorities in December 2002, according to a recent letter from the Afghan attorney general, who is requesting his return. Jawad is accused of throwing a hand grenade into a U.S. military vehicle and injuring two servicemen and their translator. But the primary evidence against him — his own confessions — were obtained by torture. Although the U.S. military commission created by President George W. Bush eventually charged him with war crimes for the attack in October 2007 — almost six years after the crime — a judge ruled in October 2008 that because they were tortured, his confessions were unreliable and inadmissible.
By all accounts, Jawad’s military commission case has been a fiasco. In September 2008, military prosecutor Lt. Col. Darryl Vandeveld resigned from the case and from the military commissions altogether, saying he could not in good conscience prosecute someone for an act allegedly committed as a child and where virtually the only evidence against him is his tortured confessions. (Vandeveld was unable to convince the commission to drop the charges or let Jawad enter a plea agreement with a sentence to time served.) In October, a U.S. military judge at Guantanamo Bay agreed that Jawad had only confessed after armed Afghan police threatened to kill him and his entire family if he didn’t. Statements made to U.S. authorities just hours later, the judge subsequently ruled in November, were still tainted by the Afghan authorities’ torture, because U.S. authorities “used techniques to maintain the shock and fearful state associated with the Accused’s initial apprehension by the Afghan police.” Both confessions therefore were inadmissible.
In addition to his torture by the Afghans, military records indicate that at Bagram and later at Guantanamo, Jawad faced more abuse. Jawad arrived at Bagram just days after two prisoners there were murdered during interrogations. Jawad says he was hooded, strip-searched, shackled and shoved down stairs, slapped and screamed at. Guards there later admitted to abusing prisoners in exactly those ways. And at Guantanamo, Jawad was subjected to the sleep deprivation technique known as the “frequent flyer” program — he was moved from cell to cell 112 times in 14 days to keep him from sleeping. He was also kicked, beaten, pepper-sprayed and at one point suffered a broken nose. In December 2003, Jawad tried to kill himself by banging his head repeatedly against one of his cell walls.
The Department of Justice on Monday refused to discuss the case, saying it does not comment on ongoing litigation. However, the government’s documents submitted to the court, partly blacked out for security reasons, set forth the government’s claims and evidence.
The bulk of the government’s claim that Jawad can be held indefinitely (although he was deemed an “enemy combatant” by the Bush administration, the Obama administration no longer uses that term) appears to be that Jawad, an Afghan citizen born in a refugee camp in Pakistan and functionally illiterate, learned how to throw a grenade at a Madrassa in Afghanistan and was at the time of his capture as an adolescent associated with a group called Hezb-i-Islami Gulbuddin, or HIG, “an extremist organization long associated with [Osama bin Laden], with a 30-year history of supporting jihad in Afghanistan.” Its founder has been named a “specially designated global terrorist” by the U.S. government. The evidence supporting this charge is that Jawad was able to provide directions to and describe the appearance of the HIG camp. The government also originally claimed Jawad was a member of HIG based on a document it said indicated sworn loyalty to the group that was “signed” with Jawad’s thumbprint. A later forensic exam by the US Army laboratory concluded that the thumbprint was not Jawad’s.
Vandeveld, the former military prosecutor who is a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve Judge Advocate General’s Corps and a senior deputy attorney general for Pennsylvania, has submitted a 14-page sworn statement in support of Jawad’s petition for release. “I personally do not believe there is any lawful basis for continuing to detain Mr. Jawad,” he writes, describing the year he spent trying to collect reliable evidence against him. “[T]here is no reliable evidence of any voluntary involvement on Jawad’s part with any terrorist groups,” he concludes. The most credible evidence suggests “that Mr. Jawad was lured to Afghanistan under false pretenses — the promise of well paid work clearing landmines promised to him by unscrupulous recruiters for HIG.” To the extent that Jawad was affiliated with HIG at all, Vandeveld says, it was likely brief and involuntary. “[H]e was certainly not involved with the organization long enough to have any actionable intelligence, or even unique or otherwise unknown information about the group,” adding that his youth, lack of education and “manifest gullibility” marked him, at best, as “a low level foot soldier.”
Moreover, according to military records and news reports, at least three other Afghans have since been arrested and subsequently confessed to responsibility for the grenade attack. The only supposed eyewitness accounts implicating Jawad were “two paragraph summaries of interviews conducted through an interpreter of these witnesses several months after the attack.” Despite his efforts, Vandeveld was never able to find the witnesses.
After Vandeveled resigned, he was replaced by a new prosecutor, who appealed the military commission ruling that the tortured confession to U.S. authorities should be suppressed. There has never been a ruling on that appeal, however, because when President Obama took office he suspended the military commission proceedings until his administration could review them. Although the government also attempted to stall the habeas corpus proceedings pending the outcome of the military commission review, Judge Ellen Huvelle of the federal district court in Washington, D.C. refused. So on June 1, the government submitted its statement of facts it is relying on in the case.
“They’re relying on everything they relied on in the military commissions, including statements that are the product of torture, including tortured statements they didn’t even appeal that were made to Afghan authorities,” said Jonathan Hafetz, an attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project who represents Jawad in his habeas case. The United States did not appeal the ruling that the tortured confession to Afghan authorities was inadmissible, but relies upon it in its statement of facts to the federal court. Hafetz says the Justice Department’s lawyers are also relying on a written confession drafted by an Afghan police officer in Farsi that has Jawad’s thumbprint on it, although Jawad does not speak or read Farsi. (His native language is Pashto, though in any event he is illiterate.)
“Setting aside the hearsay statements, our position is that a statement that’s involuntary and coerced is not admissible in a federal court,” said Hafetz. “It’s against our basic values and principles. And it’s notoriously unreliable.” That Jawad was a child at the time suggests the statements were even more likely coerced and therefore even less reliable.
On May 31, the government of Afghanistan sent a letter to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul protesting the continued imprisonment of Jawad by U.S. authorities. Jawad’s uncle, the attorney general writes, says Jawad was only 12 years old when he was captured.
“The Independent Commission for Human Rights has expressed its serious concern over the non-observance of national and international laws in regard to the detention of children, particularly the investigation and fair trial of Jawad.”
The United States’ treatment of Jawad would seem to violate a United Nations Protocol that the U.S. signed and ratified in January 2003. According ot the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, children who were recruited or used in armed conflicts should be considered primarily as victims and provided with rehabilitation services. Jawad’s lawyers say he’s never received any such services.
In January, five human rights groups sent President-elect Barack Obama a letter urging him to stop the prosecutions of child detainees.
The U.S. government is scheduled to appear before Judge Huvelle to defend its continued imprisonment Jawad at Guantanamo and its reliance on tortured evidence on August 5.
June 28th, 2009
For black humor, here is a statement of the man who claims that laws do not apply to government officials who torture, as long as they do it for the US government. He states:
Torture violates United States and international law as well as human dignity.
My administration is committed to taking concrete actions against torture….
But, of course, one of those “concrete actions” is not enforcing the laws that were violated by so many government officials. He also wants to solicit information from the State Department on ways to prevent torture. He might start by firing the torture supporters and enablers who play such a prominent role in his administration.
The President ought to be ashamed.
Statement by President Barack Obama on United Nations International Day in Support of Torture Victims
June 26, 2009
Twenty-five years ago, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention Against Torture, and twenty-two years ago this very day, the Convention entered into force. The United States’ leading role in the negotiation of the Convention and its subsequent ratification and implementation enjoyed strong bipartisan support. Today, we join the international community in reaffirming unequivocally the principles behind that Convention, including the core principle that torture is never justified.
Torture violates United States and international law as well as human dignity. Torture is contrary to the founding documents of our country, and the fundamental values of our people. It diminishes the security of those who carry it out, and surrenders the moral authority that must form the basis for just leadership. That is why the United States must never engage in torture, and must stand against torture wherever it takes place.
My administration is committed to taking concrete actions against torture and to address the needs of its victims. On my third day in office, I issued an executive order that prohibits torture by the United States. My budget request for fiscal year 2010 includes continued support for international and domestic groups working to rehabilitate torture victims.
The United States will continue to cooperate with governments and civil society organizations throughout the international community in the fight to end torture. To this end, I have requested today that the Department of State solicit information from all of our diplomatic missions around the world about effective policies and programs for stopping torture and assisting its victims so that we and our civil society partners can learn from what others have done. I applaud the courage, compassion and commitment of the many people and organizations doing this vitally important work.
June 28th, 2009
It has been known for years that the Bagram air base in Afghanistan had been the site of terrible abuses, including at least two murders, in 2002 and succeeding years. According to a BBC report this week, Bagram remained a US torture center at least into 2008. This report puts the lie to claims that the US military abandoned torture with the advent of Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense after the 2006 elections. This report indicates the vital necessity of obtaining legal rights for the prisoners held at Bagram.Of course the Bush Obama administration is working furiously to deny any rights to those imprisoned at Bagram. Due to the absence of independent human rights monitors who can speak publicly, we will only find out later if the Bush torture policies remain in effect there.
The report also has direct implications for the controversy within the American Psychological Association over the participation of psychologists in US detention facilities. In September 2008 the APA membership passed [with a 59% vote] a referendum banning psychologist participation in detention facilities operating outside of or in violation of international law or the Constitution. This report makes clear that Bagram is one of those facilities and that any psychologist serving there [other than to treat US service members] is violating APA policy:
Ex-detainees allege Bagram abuse
By Ian Pannell
BBC News, Kabul
Allegations of abuse and neglect at a US detention facility in Afghanistan have been uncovered by the BBC.
A number of former detainees have alleged they were beaten, deprived of sleep and threatened with dogs at the Bagram military base.
The BBC spoke to 27 ex-inmates around the country over two months. Just two said they had been treated well.
The Pentagon has denied the charges and insisted that all inmates in the facility are treated humanely.
All the men were asked the same questions and they were all interviewed in isolation.
They were held at various times between 2002 and 2008. They were all accused of belonging to or helping al-Qaeda or the Taliban.
None was charged with any offence or put on trial – some even received apologies when they were released.
Many allegations of ill-treatment appear repeatedly in the interviews: physical abuse, the use of stress positions, excessive heat or cold, unbearably loud noise, being forced to remove clothes in front of female soldiers.
In four cases detainees were threatened with death at gunpoint.
“They did things that you would not do against animals let alone to humans,” said one inmate known as Dr Khandan.
“They poured cold water on you in winter and hot water in summer. They used dogs against us. They put a pistol or a gun to your head and threatened you with death,” he said.
“They put some kind of medicine in the juice or water to make you sleepless and then they would interrogate you.”
The findings were shown to the Pentagon.
Lt Col Mark Wright, a spokesman for the US Secretary of Defence, insisted that conditions at Bagram “meet international standards for care and custody”.
Col Wright said the US defence department has a policy of treating detainees humanely.
“There have been well-documented instances where that policy was not followed, and service members have been held accountable for their actions in those cases,” he said.
‘Legal black hole’
Bagram has held thousands of people over the last eight years and a new detention centre is currently under construction at the camp.
Some of the inmates are forcibly taken there from abroad, especially Pakistanis and at least two Britons.
Since coming to office US President Barack Obama has banned the use of torture and ordered a review of policy on detainees, which is expected to report next month.
But unlike its detainees at the US naval facility at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, the prisoners at Bagram have no access to lawyers and they cannot challenge their detention.
The inmates at Bagram are being kept in “a legal black-hole, without access to lawyers or courts”, according to Tina Foster, executive director of the International Justice Network, a legal support group representing four detainees.
She is pursuing legal action that, if successful, would grant detainees at Bagram the same rights as those still being held at Guantanamo Bay.
But the Obama administration is trying to block the move.
Last year, the US Supreme Court ruled that detainees at Guantanamo should be given legal rights.
Speaking on the presidential campaign trail, Barack Obama applauded the ruling: “The court’s decision is a rejection of the Bush administration’s attempt to create a legal black hole at Guantanamo.
“This is an important step toward re-establishing our credibility as a nation committed to the rule of law, and rejecting a false choice between fighting terrorism and respecting habeas corpus.”
Ms Foster accuses the new administration of abandoning that position and “using the same arguments as the Bush White House”.
In its legal submissions, the US justice department argues that because Afghanistan is an active combat zone it is not possible to conduct rigorous inquiries into individual cases and that it would divert precious military resources at a crucial time.
They also argue that granting legal rights to detainees could harm Mr Obama’s “ability to succeed in armed conflict and to protect United States’ forces” by limiting his powers to conduct military operations.
A US federal appeals court judge is expected to rule soon.
These revelations come at a time when Mr Obama is trying to re-set Washington’s relationship with the Muslim world and trying harder than ever to win the war in Afghanistan.
It is a controversy that threatens to damage the image of the new administration in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
June 28th, 2009
Parallel to efforts to bring accountability to those psychologists who aided the US torture program, the National Lawyers Guild has filed ethics complaints against former De fence Department General Counsel William Haynes, reportedly one of the key participants in the implementation of the torture program at Guantanamo:
Over 100 State Bar Complaints Filed This Week Against Torture Lawyer William Haynes
Hundreds More Expected Demanding Accountability From Cal Bar
CONTACT: National Lawyer’s Guild
Sharon Adams at 510.649.1331
or Carlos Villarreal at 415.377.6961
SAN FRANCISCO – June 26 – The National Lawyers Guild San Francisco Bay Area Chapter (NLGSF) delivered over 100 complaints against former Department of Defense General Counsel William Haynes to the California State Bar offices Thursday in San Francisco. The complaints came from ordinary Americans demanding that the state bar “conduct a thorough investigation of Mr. Haynes’ actions and omissions while General Counsel at the Department of Defense. The complaints further demand a written formal decision on the outcome of the investigation.
The complaints were a response to a campaign launched by the NLGSF empowering people to petition the state bar for disciplinary action against Haynes who, while with the Department of Defense during the Bush administration, legally advocated for and even championed policies of torture at Guantanamo Bay and beyond. Complaints came mostly from California residents but also from as far away as Maine and Washington D.C. They continue to arrive by mail to NLGSF offices in San Francisco, all to eventually be forwarded to the state bar.
“This campaign is appropriate because William Haynes was one of the lawyers shaping policy that harmed so many prisoners and put all of us in greater danger,” said Carlos Villarreal, Executive Director of the NLGSF. “Anyone can file a complaint against a California lawyer, and while the process should never be abused, the process ought to be available to anyone and everyone when a lawyer commits wrongdoing from a position of power in our government resulting in such a devastating and widespread effect.”
The State Bar closed without prejudice a more detailed complaint filed by the NLGSF in March of this year. The NLGSF will request a formal review of that decision next week.
“The state bar investigates and disciplines far less powerful attorneys who have committed far less egregious acts,” said Sharon Adams, NLGSF Executive Board Member. “It was surprising that they would close our complaint without even initiating an investigation. It seems to contradict one of the most important functions of the state bar – to protect the public.”
Haynes is currently registered in house counsel with the Chevron Corporation in San Ramon. “Haynes is still in a position to do great harm, undoubtedly shaping the actions of a major corporation that has committed human rights abuses around the world and had a major impact on our environment,” said Adams. “There is no doubt that the public needs to be proactive when a lawyer like Haynes is still granted the privilege of practicing law and crafting policies that will continue to have an enormous impact on people.”
The campaign is overseen by the NLGSF Committee Against Torture. Links to a complaint the public can use and the complaint already filed by the NLGSF can be found at http://www.nlgsf.org/committees/againsttorture.php.
June 28th, 2009
From psychologist Ken Pope comes this comment regarding possible revisions of the American Psychological Association’s section 1.02 which wrote the “Nuremberg Defense” [just following orders] into the ethics code in 2002:
I thought I’d pass along a news report of a new court decision — which I would otherwise not circulate — for its potential relevance to Section 1.02 of the APA ethics code.
In 2002, the American Psychological Association adopted a new enforceable standard allowing members to set aside their ethical responsibilities that were in irreconcilable conflict with governmental authority:
“If the conflict is unresolvable via such means, psychologists may adhere to the requirements of the law, regulations, or other governing legal authority.”
APA endorsed and taught this enforceable standard during the last 7 years but recently issued a formal invitation for comments on it.
Council may vote at one of its future meetings to change 1.02 so that it no longer opposes the Nuremberg ethic that individuals cannot avoid personal accountability by just following orders, laws, or other forms of state authority
The new court decision is relevant to one of the suggested “fixes” for 1.02 that was suggested early but discarded when serious problems became apparent.
(Fortunately other suggested changes would reverse 1.02′s stance of contradicting the Nuremberg ethic but would make needed adjustments for the diverse areas of psychological practice such as forensic psychology, military psychology, civilian government service, etc.)
The suggested “fix” that turned out not to solve the Nuremberg issue though it created new problems was to change the enforceable standard so that it did not apply when “just following the law, “just following orders,” etc., would lead to a violation of human rights.
One of the problems with qualifying 1.02 only with a vague and unclear “human rights” proviso in the enforceable standards — where standards must be clearly understood — is that that the term is undefined and there is considerable disagreement about what it means, what is and is not included.
An example of the sharp disagreements about what the term “human rights” means is the array of what came to be called harsh interrogation methods used in settings like the Abu Ghraib prison and Guantanamo Bay detainment camp.
The U.S. president, vice president, secretary of defense, secretary of state, and attorney general of one administration stated that these methods were consistent with human rights; there have also been some prominent public figures who disagreed with this view.
The recent court decision that illustrates how what constitutes “human rights” differs significantly depending on time, culture, context, who is making the assessment, and many other factors is the supreme court of France’s decision that internet access is a “basic human right.”
Here’s how the *Times* of London begins its news report (“Top French court rips heart out of Sarkozy internet law” by Charles Bremner):
France’s highest court has inflicted an embarrassing blow to President Sarkozy by cutting the heart out of a law that was supposed to put France in the forefront of the fight against piracy on the internet.
The Constitutional Council declared access to the internet to be a basic human right, directly opposing the key points of Mr Sarkozy’s law, passed in April, which created the first internet police agency in the democratic world.
As the headline in another newspaper (U.K. *Daily Mail*) put it:
“Internet Access Is A Fundamental Human Right, Rules French Court.”
The U.N. backs the French court’s view (as do some other countries).
When an abstract term like “human rights” is fluid and flexible enough to include internet access as a basic or fundamental human right, it raises as many questions as it seems to answer (such as whether domestic jails and prisons routinely violate prisoners’ basic or fundamental human rights).
A profession’s ethics code must set forth enforceable standards that provide clear guidance, avoid vagueness and ambiguity, and take adequate account of the profession’s different roles ( such as forensic psychology, military psychology, etc.) and settings (such as courts, prisons, etc.).
In our *British Medical Journal* article addressing these issues, Tom Gutheil and I emphasized the diversity of psychologists’ work and work settings:
“The 54 divisions of the APA, for example, represent such divergent fields as consumer psychology, population and environmental psychology, industrial and organisational psychology, experimental psychology, the psychology of aesthetics, creativity, and the arts, and military psychology.”
Ethics codes must provide a “good fit” for these diverse fields — and fortunately various approaches have been suggested that would accomplish this in a way consistent with the Nuremberg ethic.
Codes can and should
“reflect major differences of roles, but no one should be able to escape personal ethical accountability merely through following orders, laws, and other forms of state authority. History has shown what can result when professionals follow this kind of fallacious ethical reasoning.”
PLEASE FORWARD THIS MESSAGE to any lists or individuals who are interested in these issues.
June 27th, 2009