Posts Tagged ‘Eric Holder’

Human Rights Day & U.S. Hypocrisy

December 14, 2010

Defensive America’s Contempt for Full Court, Press

by Nima Shirazi, Foreign Policy Journal, December 14, 2010

“The true hypocrite is the one who ceases to perceive his deception, the one who lies with sincerity.” – André Gide

“WikiLeaks has shown there is an America in civics textbooks and an America that functions differently in the real world.” – James Moore

Sixty-two years ago, on December 10, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 19 of the Declaration, to which the United States is undoubtedly beholden, affirms:

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Well, except for WikiLeaks, of course.

Internet giant, which hosted the whistle-blowing website, dropped WikiLeaks last week, “only 24 hours after being contacted by the staff of Joe Lieberman, chairman of the Senate’s committee on homeland security.” Lieberman’s call for censorship was also heeded by the Seattle-based software company, Tableau, which was hosting some informational, interactive charts linked to by WikiLeaks. These graphics contained absolutely no confidential material whatsoever and merely provided data regarding where the leaked cables originated and in what years they had been written. Nevertheless, for fear of government retribution, Tableau removed the charts, explaining,

Our decision to remove the data from our servers came in response to a public request by Senator Joe Lieberman, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security Committee, when he called for organizations hosting WikiLeaks to terminate their relationship with the website.

Visa, Mastercard, and Paypal have all since followed suit.

Continues >>

P.C. Roberts: The Stench of American Hypocrisy

November 19, 2010

By Paul Criag Roberts, Foreign Policy Journal, Nov 18, 2010

Ten years of rule by the Bush and Obama regimes have seen the collapse of the rule of law in the United States. Is the American media covering this ominous and extraordinary story?  No, the American media is preoccupied with the rule of law in Burma (Myanmar).

The military regime that rules Burma just released from house arrest the pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. The American media used the occasion of her release to get on Burma’s case for the absence of the rule of law. I’m all for the brave lady, but if truth be known, “freedom and democracy” America needs her far worse than does Burma.

I’m not an expert on Burma, but the way I see it, the objection to a military government is that the government is not accountable to law.  Instead, such a regime behaves as it sees fit and issues edicts that advance its agenda.  Burma’s government can be criticized for not having a rule of law, but it cannot be criticized for ignoring its own laws. We might not like what the Burmese government does, but, precisely speaking, it is not behaving illegally.

In contrast, the United States government claims to be a government of laws, not of men, but when the executive branch violates the laws that constrain it, those responsible are not held accountable for their criminal actions.  As accountability is the essence of the rule of law, the absence of accountability means the absence of the rule of law.

Continues >>

Seven Former CIA Directors Want To Bury The Truth

September 24, 2009

By Melvin A. Goodman
The Public Record, Sep 23, 2009


Last week, seven former directors of the Central Intelligence Agency, who made their own contributions to the CIA’s low esteem over the past 35 years, asked President Barack Obama to make sure there is no criminal investigation of the crimes associated with the Agency’s detentions and interrogations policies over the past eight years.

Their letter to the president is particularly self-serving for three of the directors (Michael Hayden, Porter Goss, and George Tenet), who would presumably be the subject of any investigation, and simply self-aggrandizing for the others (John Deutch, James Woolsey, William Webster, and James Schlesinger), whose stewardship of the CIA since the early 1970s has contributed to the Agency’s loss of influence and credibility.

Continues >>

CIA ‘threatened September 11 suspect’s children’

August 25, 2009

Times Online/UK, Aug 25, 2009

Tim Reid in Washington

A camp guard at Guantanamo Bay carries a set of leg shackles into the detention centre

(Peter Nicholls/The Times)

The Obama Administration will launch criminal investigations into brutal Bush-era terror interrogations, after a report last night revealed that operatives threatened to kill the children of a key September 11 suspect and told another that his mother would be sexually assaulted in front of him.

The report, which also said that detainees suffered mock executions and death threats, convinced Eric Holder, President Obama’s Attorney-General, to appoint the veteran federal prosecutor John Durham to investigate CIA abuse of terror suspects.

The 2004 report, which has been suppressed for five years but was released after a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), lays out in detail the abuse of suspects between 2002 and 2004 at secret CIA “black site” prisons.

Its contents, and the decision by Mr Holder to explore prosecutions, will reignite the partisan debate on Capitol Hill over the issue of torture. Mr Obama has said repeatedly that he wants to look forward rather than get bogged down in investigations of Bush-era abuses.

The controversial move by Mr Holder will prove a significant distraction for Mr Obama as he continues his troubled push to reform the US healthcare system, in addition to setting up a politically uncomfortable clash with his own Attorney-General.

According to the report, written by the CIA’s former inspector general, John Helgerson, one CIA interrogator told Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks that “We’re going to kill your children” if there was another terror strike on US soil. Another interrogator allegedly tried to convince Abd al-Nashiri, who allegedly devised the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000, that his mother would be sexually assaulted in front of him, a claim that the operative has denied.

Mr Holder’s decision was bolstered by a recommendation from his Justice Department’s ethics office to reopen nearly a dozen alleged abuse cases. “I fully realise my decision … will be controversial,” Mr Holder said last night.

As Mr Holder reopens investigations into the actions of CIA interrogators, human rights groups and many Democrats are urging him also to focus on the Bush-era officials who, they claim, authorised the abusive methods. They are particularly focused on the Bush-era Justice Department lawyers who wrote legal guidelines for the CIA in 2002, redefining torture to allow techniques such as waterboarding, which simulates drowning, and severe physical abuse.

“The important thing now is that any action doesn’t focus solely on the people who carried out the torture, but on the people who gave the orders and who wrote the legal memos which facilitated torture,” said Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU.

US laws on torture forbid threatening a detainee with death. The report said that at least Mr al-Nashiri was hooded, handcuffed and threatened with a gun and a power drill. Another detainee was forced to listen to a gunshot in a nearby room, with the aim of making him think that a fellow detainee had just been executed.

The Justice Department also announced yesterday that Mr Obama has approved the creation of a special team of interrogators to question high-level terror suspects, a move aimed at ending the chances of further abuse.

The new team, known as the High-Value Detention Interrogation Group, will be based at the FBI but will be overseen by the National Security Council, taking oversight of interrogations away from the CIA and giving it instead to the Obama White House.

Democrats demand inquiry into Cheney ‘cover-up’

July 14, 2009

The Times/UK, July 14, 2009

Dick Cheney

(NganMandel/AFP/Getty Images)

Some believe the order Dick Cheney, the former Vice-President, made that one CIA programme begun after September 11, 2001, be kept secret from Congress, was illegal

Catherine Philp in Washington

President Obama is under pressure to start an investigation into the Bush Administration’s torture and antiterrorism programmes after fresh revelations about a cover-up.

Mr Obama has been reluctant to pursue any such inquiry and is concerned that it would open political divisions and endanger his urgent domestic agenda of economic rescue, healthcare reform and dealing with climate change.

A slew of revelations about previously unknown intelligence programmes and the involvement of the Bush Administration in concealing them has brought mounting calls from the Democratic Party for an inquiry.

On Saturday The New York Times reported that Dick Cheney, the former Vice-President, had ordered that one CIA programme begun after September 11, 2001, be kept secret from Congress. It was a decision that some believe was illegal.

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that the programme involved proposals to provide US intelligence agencies with the capability to capture or kill al-Qaeda operatives as authorised by a presidential pronouncement.

Several sources said that the programme was in the planning stages and never crossed the agency’s threshold for reporting to congressional overseers. The involvement of Mr Cheney has raised questions about the role of politics in such decision making.

The Democratic chairmen of the Senate’s judicial and intelligence committee called separately for investigations into the programme and its concealment. Others called for any inquiry that is held to include all Bush-era intelligence activities of questionable legality.

Eric Holder, the Attorney-General, is considering whether to appoint a prosecutor to carry out a criminal inquiry into brutal interrogation techniques and the issuing of legal justifications.

Dianne Feinstein, a senator and the chairman of the Senate judiciary committee, told Fox News Sunday that Mr Cheney’s concealment of the programme from her committee was “a big problem, because the law is very clear”.

She was not aware of the programme until last month when Leon Panetta, the incoming CIA chief, told the committee what he had discovered after taking up the job.

“I think if the intelligence committees had been briefed they could have watched the programme, they could have asked for reports on the programme, they could have made judgments about the programme as it went along,” Mrs Feinstein said.

Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that he would favour an investigation because of the level of mystery still surrounding the programmes.

President Obama has previously resisted Democratic pressure for an inquiry into Bush-era anti-terrorist programmes, saying that the nation should be “looking forward and not backwards”.

He is also wary of Republican accusations that he is soft on national security even from those opposed to the Bush-era’s harsh methods.

Dick Cheney ‘silenced CIA over spy plan’

July 12, 2009
Al Jazeera, July 12, 2009

Cheney has advocated the use of interrogation techniques such as waterboarding [EPA]

Dick Cheney, the former US vice-president, deliberately withheld details of a secret CIA spy programme from the US congress for eight years, a US senator has said.

Cheney, who was vice-president to George Bush until January this year, ordered the CIA not to tell congress of a new “counter-terrorism” programme in 2001.

Cheney’s role in stifling the information was revealed by Leon Panetta, who now heads the CIA and who ordered the programme to be stopped in June.

Senator Diane Feinstein, the chairman of the senate intelligence committee, speaking on a US television show on Sunday, said: “Director Panetta did brief us two weeks ago … and tell us that he was told that the vice-president had ordered that the programme not be briefed to the congress.”

Amid calls for an investigation, senator Dick Durbin said Cheney’s actions had been “inappropriate”.

“To have a massive programme that is concealed from the leaders in congress is not only inappropriate; it could be illegal,” he said.

The details of the intelligence programme, launched after the attacks on the US in September 2001, remain secret.

Covert operations

A spokesman for the CIA said it was not policy to discuss classified briefings, but added: “When a CIA unit brought this matter to Director Panetta’s attention, it was with the recommendation that it be shared appropriately with congress.

“That was also his view, and he took swift, decisive action to put it into effect.”

Under US law, the president is required to make sure intelligence committees are fully informed about covert operations.

The newspaper did not name its sources and said it had been unsuccessful in reaching Cheney for comment.

Cheney has been criticised in the past for supporting controversial interrogation techniques such as waterboarding (where a detainee is made to feel as if he is drowning), sleep deprivation, long periods of standing and exposure to cold.

Many critics have described the methods as being torture.

Controversial move

Eric Holder, the US attorney general is reported to be considering assigning a prosecutor to investigate interrogation techniques used on terrorism suspects by the government of George Bush, the former US president.

Such an appointment could lead to a criminal inquiry into the treatment of prisoners by the CIA following the 2001 attacks in New York.

The move is seen as being controversial as Barack Obama, the US president, had previously said he wanted to leave the issue “in the past”.

An official from the US justice department said Holder planned to “follow the fact and the law”.

Holder’s decision is expected to be made in the next few weeks.

War Criminals, Including Their Lawyers, Must Be Prosecuted

February 21, 2009

Marjorie Cohn, Feb 19, 2009

Since he took office, President Obama has instituted many changes that break with the policies of the Bush administration. The new president has ordered that no government agency will be allowed to torture, that the U.S. prison at Guantánamo will be shuttered, and that the CIA’s secret black sites will be closed down. But Obama is non-committal when asked whether he will seek investigation and prosecution of Bush officials who broke the law. “My view is also that nobody’s above the law and, if there are clear instances of wrongdoing, that people should be prosecuted just like any ordinary citizen,” Obama said. “But,” he added, “generally speaking, I’m more interested in looking forward than I am in looking backwards.” Obama fears that holding Team Bush to account will risk alienating Republicans whom he still seeks to win over.

Obama may be off the hook, at least with respect to investigating the lawyers who advised the White House on how to torture and get away with it. The Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) has written a draft report that apparently excoriates former Justice Department lawyers John Yoo and Jay Bybee, authors of the infamous torture memos, according to Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff. OPR can report these lawyers to their state bar associations for possible discipline, or even refer them for criminal investigation. Obama doesn’t have to initiate investigations; the OPR has already launched them, on Bush’s watch.

The smoking gun that may incriminate George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, et al., is the email traffic that passed between the lawyers and the White House. Isikoff revealed the existence of these emails on The Rachel Maddow Show. Some maintain that Bush officials are innocent because they relied in good faith on legal advice from their lawyers. But if the president and vice president told the lawyers to manipulate the law to allow them to commit torture, then that defense won’t fly.

A bipartisan report of the Senate Armed Services Committee found that “senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees.”

Cheney recently admitted to authorizing waterboarding, which has long been considered torture under U.S. law. Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, George Tenet, Colin Powell, and John Ashcroft met with Cheney in the White House basement and authorized harsh interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, according to an ABC News report. When asked, Bush said he knew about it and approved.

John Yoo wrote in a Wall Street Journal oped that Bush “could even authorize waterboarding, which he did three times in the years after 9/11.”

A representative of the Justice Department promised that OPR’s report would be released sometime last November. But Bush’s attorney general Michael Mukasey objected to the draft. A final version will be presented to Attorney General Eric Holder. The administration will then have to decide whether to make it, and the emails, public and then how to proceed.

When the United States ratified the Convention Against Torture, we promised to extradite or prosecute those who commit, or are complicit in the commission, of torture. We have two federal criminal statutes for torture prosecutions – the Torture Statute and the War Crimes Act (torture is considered a war crime under U.S. law). The Torture Convention is unequivocal: nothing, including a state of war, can be invoked as a justification for torture.

Yoo redefined torture much more narrowly than U.S. law provides, and counseled the White House that it could evade prosecution under the War Crimes Act by claiming self-defense or necessity. Yoo knew or should have known of the Torture Convention’s absolute prohibition of torture.

There is precedent for holding lawyers criminally liable for giving legally erroneous advice that resulted in great physical or mental harm or death. In U.S. v. Altstoetter, Nazi lawyers were convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity for advising Hitler on how to “legally” disappear political suspects to special detention camps.

Almost two-thirds of respondents to a USA Today/Gallup Poll favor investigations of the Bush team for torture and warrantless wiretapping. Nearly four in 10 favor criminal investigations. Cong. John Conyers has introduced legislation to establish a National Commission on Presidential War Powers and Civil Liberties. Sen. Patrick Leahy advocates for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission; but this is insufficient. TRC’s are used for nascent democracies in transition. By giving immunity to those who testify before them, it would ensure that those responsible for torture, abuse and illegal spying will never be brought to justice.

Attorney General Eric Holder should appoint a Special Prosecutor to investigate and prosecute high Bush officials including lawyers like John Yoo who gave them “legal” cover. Obama is correct when he said that no one is above the law. Accountability is critical to ensuring that our leaders never again torture and abuse people.

Marjorie Cohn is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and President of the National Lawyers Guild.  She is the author of Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law and co-author of Rules of Disengagement: The Politics and Honor of Military Dissent (with Kathleen Gilberd), which will be published this winter by PoliPointPress.  Her articles are archived at (The views expressed in this article are solely those of the writer; she is not acting on behalf of the National Lawyers Guild or Thomas Jefferson School of Law)

Guantanamo trial suspension hailed cy of Bush

January 22, 2009

The Morning Star

(Wednesday 21 January 2009)
President Barack Obama has vowed to close Guantanamo Bay, which holds about 245 men.

PLEDGE: President Barack Obama has vowed to close Guantanamo Bay, which holds about 245 men.

HUMAN rights activists hailed US President Barack Obama’s decision to suspend military trials at Guantanamo Bay as a “first step” towards closing the detention camp on Wednesday.

The White House has filed motions to suspend proceedings at the infamous camp for 120 days until Mr Obama’s administration completes a review of the system for prosecuting suspected terrorists.

Military lawyer William Kuebler said that the White House motions have “the practical effect of stopping the process, probably forever.”

Only about 20 have been charged.

Mr Obama’s nominee for attorney general Eric Holder has said that the so-called military commissions, which were created by former president George W Bush and congress in 2006, lack sufficient legal protections for defendants.

Mr Holder has argued that they could be tried in US federal courts.

British human rights group Reprieve, which represents 30 detainees at the camp, called on Mr Obama to “help to drain the poisoned chalice left to him by his predecessor.”

Reprieve director Clive Stafford Smith said: “This is a wonderful and historic first step, but it is much too early to cry: ‘Mission accomplished’.”

American Civil Liberties Union human rights programme director Jamil Dakwar agreed, noting that “the president’s order leaves open the option of this discredited system remaining in existence.”

According to Reprieve, British resident Binyam Mohamed has endured “medieval torture” at the camp and is currently on hunger strike.

Mr Mohamed is in solitary confinement, desperate for an idea of when he will be released.

Another prisoner represented by Reprieve, Mohamed el Gharani, has been held for seven years based largely on allegations that he was a member of the “London cell of al-Qaida” when he would have been 11 years old.

He was recently cleared for release by a federal judge, who noted that he had never been to London.

Pointing to CIA secret prisons in the Middle East, Africa and beyond, Reprieve observed that Guantanamo “is just the tip of the iceberg.”

“Many thousands of prisoners continue to be held by the US beyond the rule of law in sites across the world,” the group emphasised, describing every prisoner that languishes in a secret prison as “a corrosive legacy of the Bush era.”

Reprieve called on Mr Obama to “urgently close Guantanamo Bay and shine a light on the thousands of prisoners still held beyond the reach of our lawyers.”

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