Monday, July 28, 2008
Government Memo Says Even Brutal Actions OK if Done in 'Good Faith'
One of the most important building blocks in the Bush administration's apparatus of torture became public Thursday.
An Aug. 1, 2002 memorandum from the Justice Dept.'s Office of Legal Counsel to the Central Intelligence Agency instructed the agency's interrogators on specific interrogation techniques for use on Al Qaeda detainees in its custody. Most of the 17-page memo is blacked out and unreadable. But at least one of those techniques is waterboarding, the process of pouring water into the mouth and nostrils of a detainee under restraint until drowning occurs.
"This is a critical piece of the story," said Jameel Jaffer, head of the national security project at the American Civil Liberties Union, which obtained the memorandum under a Freedom of Information Act filing. "This is the most explicit statement out there that the CIA waterboarded prisoners becaused the Justice Dept. authorized them to do so."
Herman Schwartz, professor of law at American University, said the legal advice on display in the memorandum amounted to "out-and-out-fraud."
Today, Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, who has been adjudicating the ACLU's extensive declassification lawsuit against the U.S. government for the past four years, ordered the memorandum released. Signed by Jay Bybee, then the head of the Office of Legal Counsel, the memorandum is heavily influenced by the legal theories of Bybee's then-subordinate, John Yoo. Torture-watchers have long referred to the memo, which congressional inquiries identified years ago, as "Yoo-Bybee II."
That's because Yoo-Bybee I, written around the same time as this document, contended that it would only be illegal for interrogators to inflict pain upon detainees equivalent to "organ failure, impairment of bodily function or even death." Anything short of that standard, that memo argued, was legal under the Federal Torture Statute. This newly declassified memo was an attempt at practicality: given the legal standard laid out in the first memo, Yoo-Bybee II advised the CIA on specific interrogation techniques that were now permissible.
Say you're Al Franken. Your idol was Sen. Paul Wellstone, a man who exemplified what was right with America and with America's Democratic system of government. But Paul Wellstone died, and his alter-ego from hell took his seat: a man whose only ideas are those placed in his head by the Bush neocons, who voted with Bush on everything — especially everything Iraq-related — but the surge. And he probably only voted against that because he was looking at re-election and knew the subject of the ongoing occupation, which he facilitated at every turn, might come up.
Bad incumbents through the ages have used the same tactic when they have only a poor record of their own (except for bringing back hockey, but that's another subject) on which to run: ATTACK! It doesn't get much worse than this ad from Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman:
Coleman's going the old, "It doesn't have to be true, it just has to sound like it is," one better by keeping his smears so vague it's hard to even know what the ad is really saying, let alone how to refute it. But it gives people the impression that Al Franken has done some very bad things, especially if your preferred source of news is porky white guys in shirts from three different bowling leagues.
We all know Al Franken had a career before he ran for office. We also know, from listening to him on Air America, that he gets it, and that he could help Congress reclaim its place as a co-equal branch of government.
The funny thing is, until 1996, Norm Coleman was a Democrat. When he was 20, Coleman celebrated his birthday at Woodstock. His college roommate, lawyer Norman Kent, recently took Coleman to task for hypocrisy on his past pot-smoking after Coleman toed the Republican line about the war on drugs.
My friend Norman,
Years ago, in a lifetime far away, you did not oppose the legalization of marijuana…
Sure, we had to tape the doors shut, burn incense and open the windows…yet we grew up okay, without the help of the Office of National Drug Control Policy's advice.
We grew up to become lawyers. Our other friends, as you go down the list, are doctors, professors, parents, political consultants and professionals. No one ever got cancer from smoking pot or diabetes from using a joint.
You never said then that pot was dangerous. What was scary then, and is as frightening now, is when national leaders become voices of hypocrisy, harbingers of the status quo, and protect their own position instead of the public good…
How about standing up and saying: "I, Norm Coleman, smoked pot in 1969." That "I am not a gang member, a drug addict or a criminal." How about saying: "I was able to responsibly integrate my prior pot use into my life, and still succeed on my own merits."
How about standing up not only for who you are, but who you were?
About four hours after the announcement that his controversial, politically charged ninth album was number one in the country, Nas was on a small podium in front of Fox News headquarters in New York City protesting what he sees as racist attacks against Black Americans and presidential candidate Barack Obama. In a brief prepared statement, the multi-platinum rapper pointed out examples of what he and ColorOfChange see as a long racist smear campaign against the Obama family: The onscreen graphic that referred to Michelle Obama as the Senator's "baby mama"; Bill O'Reilly casually using the phrase "lynching party" to refer to attacks on the Senator's wife; referencing to the couple's infamous fist thump as a "terrorist fist jab." Said Nas, "Fox poisons this country every time they air racist propaganda and try to call it news. This should outrage every American that Fox uses hateful language to talk about the person that may be the first black president."
The rapper stood next to 19 neatly stacked cardboard boxes, with the number 620,127 taped to the side of each one — over 600,000 signatures gathered by ColorOfChange demanding that network president Roger Ailes "find a solution to address racial stereotyping and hate-mongering before it hits the airwaves." Fox rejected the petitions, but Brave New Films says that Comedy Central's The Colbert Report will accept them instead.
By TOM DANEHY
Now Pickens has launched a media campaign in which he starts off by saying, "Ah've bin an oalman all mah lahf." He then says that we're facing an oil crisis "that we can't drill our way out of." (I'll bet him a million dollars that he doesn't know that you're not supposed to end a sentence with a preposition.)
He says that he has a plan to help make America energy-independent, and he wants you to check it out at pickensplan.com. What it amounts to is that he wants us to use wind energy to generate electricity, and use the natural gas that we'd save to power automobiles.
One's first reaction is that, wow, politics does make strange bedfellows. Somebody had better warn Al Gore, because cheap people like Pickens tend to hog the covers on cold nights.
Hamdan's lawyer said in opening statements that the Yemeni, held for nearly seven years before his trial, was just a paid employee of the fugitive al Qaeda leader, a driver in the motor pool who never joined the militant group or plotted attacks on America.
But prosecutor Timothy Stone told the six-member jury of U.S. military officers who will decide Hamdan's guilt or innocence that Hamdan had inside knowledge of the 2001 attacks on the United States because he overheard a conversation between bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri.
"If they hadn't shot down the fourth plane it would've hit the dome," Stone, a Navy officer, said in his opening remarks, repeating Bin Laden's deputy's claim.
Posted by Aaron Keyak
Posted by Aaron Keyak
In their continuing attempts to distort Senator Barack Obama's strong pro-Israel record, the Republican National Committee (RNC) insisted that Obama has an anti-Israel approach to Jerusalem. They could not be further from the truth. Not only is the RNC attack inaccurate, but it is the height of hypocrisy. In reality, Obama's position on Jerusalem is in line with the bipartisan consensus among United States leaders and consistent with the position of Senator John McCain.
According to McCain's top foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann, McCain says that we should not "second-guess" the Israeli government when it comes to Israel and, "Senator McCain has said that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel…if a democratic government of Israel chooses to accept an alteration of that status, he's certainly not going to second-guess a democratic government of Israel," (NPR, July 15, 2008.)
A careful reading of Obama's remarks as quoted in the July 23, 2008 RNC release entitled, "RNC: Obama's Jewish Divide" reveals there was "no shift in policy or backtracking in policy."
If you look at what happened, there was no shift in policy or backtracking in policy. We just had phrased it poorly in the speech. That has happened and will happen to every politician. You're not always gonna hit your mark in terms of how you phrase your policies. But my policy hasn't changed, and it's been very consistent. It's the same policy that Bill Clinton has put forward, and that says that Jerusalem will be the capital of Israel, that we shouldn't divide it by barbed wire, but that, ultimately that is a final status issue that has to be resolved between the Palestinians and the Israelis." (Obama, CBS News, 7/22/08)
Republicans should be embarrassed to make such blatantly misleading and hypocritical statements. Yet, when it comes to Obama, Israel, and the Jewish community, it is clear that McCain's allies have reaffirmed they are completely shameless in their smearing of Obama.