Saturday 13 December 2014

Are U.S. Torturers Above the Law? The answer is YES

The publishing of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on torture practices by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has raised the issue of whether agency employees who participated in or ordered the mistreatment could wind up being prosecuted for their actions overseas.

President Barack Obama has made it clear that he wants no part of a criminal case that would haul CIA officials before a federal judge and jury to punish those responsible for the waterboarding and other gruesome activities documented in the Senate report.

But these individuals could, in theory at least, be brought to justice under international law if they traveled to Europe and were arrested. Such prosecution could be performed by the International Criminal CourtThe New York Times reported.

But that kind of case has political implications for European leaders, who would run the risk of straining relations with Washington, DC over bringing charges against CIA workers or contractors.

“If I am someone implicated in the torture report, I am thinking twice about traveling to Europe anytime soon,” Steve Vladeck, a law professor at American University in Washington, told the Times. “It puts those governments in a sticky position if someone who is accused of torture presents themselves on that country’s soil.”

The U.S. is obligated under the International Convention on Torture to investigate any U.S. citizen accused of torturing someone, and the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein, said he welcomes the prosecution of CIA personnel who either ordered or carried out the torture against detainees.

“The convention lets no one off the hook — neither the torturers themselves, nor the policy-makers, nor the public officials who define the policy or give the orders,” said the commissioner in a statement.
-Noel Brinkerhoff

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The United States of Torture

It’s who we are
by , December 10, 2014

Justin Raimondo is in the middle of a major storm, without power, so he will have no Friday column. His column will return Monday, rain or shine. His most recent column is below.

Dianne Feinstein was the canary in the coalmine. If even the senior Senator from California, as stalwart an ally of the CIA and the National Security State as one is likely to find, was upset enough to make such a fuss about the Senate torture report then it had to be pretty awful. The release of the 600-page report summary confirmed our worst suspicions.
After a very Feinstein-ish introduction, filled with self-exculpatory finger-wagging and written in first-person high-drama mode, we learn:

1) It didn’t work. Out of at least 119 detainees held at secret CIA dungeons 39 were tortured: 7 of these produced no intelligence. None produced any intelligence that couldn’t have been gotten by legal means. Alan Dershowitz is going to be very disappointed to learn that, as the report puts it,
“At no time did the CIA’s coercive interrogation techniques lead to the collection of imminent threat intelligence, such as the hypothetical ‘ticking time bomb’ information that many believe was the justification for the use of these techniques.” 

2) They tortured innocents. Much of the public support for the torture program comes from the false impression that all of these people were "bad guys" who were out to hurt Americans, but the Senate report reveals that’s just not the case. Twenty-six out of 119 prisoners were held "wrongfully." As the report puts it: "Detainees often remained in custody for months after the CIA determined that they did not meet the [legal] standard. CIA records provide insufficient information to justify the detention of many other detainees."

3) Interrogations were "brutal and far worse" than the CIA maintained.One interrogator played "Russian roulette" with a detainee – holding a gun with one bullet in the chamber to the prisoner’s head and periodically pulling the trigger. Sexual torture was employed, with special attention to the rectal area (it’s apparently a CIA thing). Threats to sexually torture and/or murder relatives were employed to get information out of detainees. Although there were probably torture techniques that were used without the knowledge of the Senate committee, among the ones they caught were: sleep deprivation (as long as a week), the "attention grasp", walling, (slamming detainees face first against a wall), "facial hold," facial slap, cramped confinement, wall standing (prisoner "stands about four or five feet from the wall, with his feet spread approximately to shoulder width. Arms are stretched out in front of him, with fingers resting on the wall. The fingers support all the body weight, and he is not allowed to move”) various other stress positions, waterboarding, use of diapers, use of insects, and mock burial.

4) The worst of the worst were key to the torture program. Although much is being said about the "incompetence" of the CIA in assigning highly problematic personnel to their deepest darkest covert operation, this assumes it wasn’t intentional – an unwarranted assumption in my view. After all, who would be better qualified to implement Dick Cheney’s sadistic fantasies than "a number of personnel whose backgrounds include notable derogatory information calling into question their eligibility for employment, their access to classified information, and their participation in CIA interrogation activities"? In short, it was a free-for-all at Torture Headquarters, with "untrained CIA officers at the facility" going all Marquis de Sade with their "frequent, unauthorized, and unsupervised interrogations of detainees using harsh physical interrogation techniques that were not—and never became—part of the CIA’s formal ‘enhanced’ interrogation program."

Here the lesson is basic libertarianism, 101: government attracts the worst of the worst. Yes, there were some at the CIA who disputed the legality and morality of what was being done, and the report makes this clear, but in any statist society these people in government are a distinct – and usually powerless – minority. The sadistic punks and sociopathic perverts who inflicted torture on helpless prisoners merely reflected the mindset of their superiors, who ordered the torture and tried to distance themselves from their own handiwork as much as possible. In short, the torturers represented "the dysfunction, disorganization, incompetence, greed and deception" of the American political class in the latter days of the empire: these words were used byNew York Times reporter Scott Shane to describe the Senate report’s depiction of the CIA program, but they fit our rulers to a tee (and not just the Bush gang).

As the Senate committee report states:

"In nearly all cases, the derogatory information was known to the CIA prior to the assignment of the CIA officers to the Detention and Interrogation Program. This group of officers included individuals who, among other issues, had engaged in inappropriate detainee interrogations, had workplace anger management issues, and had reportedly admitted to sexual assault." 

Imagine the staff meetings!:

First Spook: "Hey, I can’t find a dildo big enough – do you think we have some bigger ones somewhere in stock?"

Second Spook: "I’ll send Smith to go see – I think he gets a charge outta that kinda thing." [Snicker] "So are you getting the hang of it now?"

First Spook: "Oh yeah. That Raphael Patai book has been waaahelpfulThe Arab Mind sure is a dirty mind. Turns out these guys are all faggots, they just won’t admit it. Speaking of which, could you send over a couple of rapists with those dildos?"

5) The CIA lied to everyone about everything. The report says the CIA engaged in "numerous factual inaccuracies" when dealing with the public, Congress, and even the White House. They lied about the effectiveness of torture: the report examines 20 instances in which the CIA claimed to have gotten valuable intelligence from "high value" detainees that "saved lives." The Senate committee found that in exactly noneof these instances was this the case: indeed, many of these alleged "plots" were never operational – or else completely imaginary to begin with. The secrecy surrounding the torture chambers was so thick that they didn’t even tell the White House – never mind US ambassadors in relevant countries – where the overseas "black sites" were located. They lied about what they were doing, to whom they were doing it, and indeed about every single aspect of this program, including to the FBI and the CIA’s own Inspector General.

6) The CIA carried out a "coordinated" leakage of "classified information to the media." Their purpose was to cover up their lies and "spin" the effectiveness of the torture program – just like they’re doing at this very moment to tamp down the outrage that accompanied the release of the report summary. I guess we’ll just have to wait until the entire Senate report is released – i.e. never – to get all the names of the guilty parties in the media, but it seems to me – based on their history as essentially stenographers for the government – that all of the "mainstream" media is guilty until proven innocent.

Our spooks used the President to mouth their talking points, inserting their lies into a2006 speech by Bush that claimed the CIA’s torture tactics had "saved lives" and facilitated the capture of important terrorist leaders – a contention directly contradicted by the CIA’s own records. Speaking of President Bush: the claim is that he was out of the loop until the autumn of 2006, but one wonders how that’s possible. And the Senate report doesn’t say who else in the White House was (or wasn’t) briefed early on, although I’ve yet to comb through all 600 pages of the report to absolutely confirm that.

Evidences of institutional insanity exposed in the Senate report range from physical atrocities to the purely intellectual variety. An example of the latter: utilitarians will be less than thrilled to learn that the CIA’s legal eagles invented a "novel" application of the "necessity defense" in order to justify the torture program, calculating that the harm to the few would be ameliorated by benefits to the many whose lives would be "saved."

Looking for a model, the CIA’s aspiring professional sadists looked to methods utilized by countries that never recognized the Geneva conventions, such as North Korea: atraining program designed to prepare US military personnel for enduring prison conditions in these countries was simply turned on its head.

The sickness gets sicker as we wade into the tall weeds: there’s the story of "Grayson Swigert" and "Hammond Dunbar," pseudonyms for the psychologists put in charge of the torture orgy. Neither had any experience interrogating anyone. They didn’t know Al Qaeda from Al Jolson. However, these two did have experience with the program, mentioned above, that trained US soldiers to withstand torture: it was they who designed the specific torture techniques that would be used against detainees. They also "carried out inherently governmental functions," according to the Senate report, "such as acting as liaison between the CIA and foreign intelligence services, assessing the effectiveness of the interrogation program, and participating in the interrogation of detainees held in foreign government custody." Yet they weren’t just fulfilling a governmental function but also an entrepreneurial one on their own behalf: this duo established a private company to which the CIA contracted out its torture chambers. The contract was quite profitable, according to the Senate committee:

"In 2006, the value of the CIA’s base contract with the company formed by the psychologists with all options exercised was in excess of $180 million; the contractors received $81 million prior to the contract’s termination in 2009. In 2007, the CIA provided a multi-year indemnification agreement to protect the company and its employees from legal liability arising out of the program. The CIA has since paid out more than $1 million pursuant to the agreement."

Yes, we bail out torturers as well as bankers, big insurance companies, and the auto industry.
It’s a measure of just how ridiculously unaware of their own absurdity people like Dianne Feinstein and her fellow Senators are that the names of these two torture profiteers – James E. Mitchell and Bruce Jessen – were revealed years ago and are well known, and yet the Senate report insists on referring to them by two silly-sounding pseudonyms.

That’s because our lawmakers live on another planet from the rest of us. Or, rather, they inhabit another dimension, otherwise known as Bizarro World – where up is down, black is white, crimes aren’t punished but those who expose crimes are relentlessly pursued, and the leader of the "Free World" condemns in others practices it routinely engages in.

The idea that "this isn’t who we are," as President Obama has said, and that we have to expose this so that it "never happens again," as Sen. Feinstein put it, is pure nonsense. This is indeed who we are: it is what we became once we acquired a global empire. Waterboarding is nothing new for Americans: we did it to the Philippine rebels when we decided to "liberate" them from the Spaniards. We did worse in Vietnam. What’s more, our proxy armies – the Nicaraguan contras, the Afghan mujahideen during the 1980s, the Syrian rebels today – have engaged in torture worldwide. And don’t forget the many authoritarian regimes we’ve propped up with aid, arms, and diplomatic support, while they torture their own people.
You can’t hold the whole world in subjection without a little torture: and given the arrogance and blatant immorality of our political class, you can bet it will be more than just a little.

Want to abolish torture by US government agents? Then abolish the American empire.

There’s no shortcut, no way to ensure that "national security" won’t trump elementary ethics in the future – not unless we permanently ditch our imperial ambitions and restore our old republic. Until then we’ll remain the United States of Torture.

An added note: With all that’s been happening lately I’ve been so busy that I’ve neglected to thank our readers and supporters for making our Winter fundraising drive such a roaring success. So please allow me to rectify that oversight, however tardily and inadequately.
Without your support we just wouldn’t be here: it’s as simple as that. And yet you’ve come through once again, just as you’ve been doing for the past 18 years or so, and that for me is just so gratifying – such a validation of what we’re doing here at – that I can hardly express my gratitude. An odd confession for a writer to make, but that should give you some idea of the sheer scale of my gratitude. Thank you one and all – we are working every day (yes, including Sundays!) to live up to the vote of confidence you’ve just given us.

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Obama Administration Fights to Keep Details of Justice Department Torture Report Secret


John H. Durham led Justice Dept’s CIA torture probe and advised against filing charges (AP photo)
While the media parsed the details of the Senate committee’s report on Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) torturing of detainees last decade, the Obama administration was fighting in court to prevent documents from another investigation into the spy agency’s program from being examined by a leading national newspaper.
The New York Times has sued in federal court to obtain thousands of pages from a U.S. Department of Justice probe into the torture of detainees by the CIA during the George W. Bush administration. The materials that the newspaper wants to see include “10 reports and memorandums totaling 1,719 pages — more than three times the number of pages in the Senate report,” wrote the Times’ Charlie Savage, who is a party to the lawsuit. The documents in question include transcripts of interviews by a special prosecutor with about 100 witnesses as well as documents explaining why no charges were ever filed.
The Justice probe into the CIA program was conducted by prosecutor John H. Durham, who spent four years delving into the controversy but ultimately recommended to Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. to not file charges against the agency or any of its employees or contractors. Holder followed Durham’s suggestion and refrained from going after the CIA.
The Justice Department filed court documents on the same day that the Senate Intelligence Committee released its 524-page report on the CIA’s rendition and torture program. It argued in its filing with the New York federal court that all of the pages requested by the Times should remain locked away “because disclosing them could affect the candor of law enforcement deliberations about whether to bring criminal charges,” according to Savage.
-Noel Brinkerhoff

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Israeli Logics

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Israel to Boycott Geneva Conference


Israel decided, this Thursday, to boycott the international Geneva conference scheduled for December 17th, and will also reconsider its relationship with Switzerland, according to Israeli sources.

The decision comes following Switzerland's call, on Thursday, for a special meeting of the high contracting parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention next week, which is expected to severely censure Israel for its actions in the West Bank and Gaza.

PNN further reports that Switzerland, the Depository of the Fourth Geneva Convention, under the request of Palestinian Authority who joined the convention in April, summoned the meeting following the breakdown of the US-backed Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
According to Israeli daily news outlet, Haaretz, Israel is still hoping to lobby EU states "to get as many as possible to boycott the conference".

Furthermore, the gathering is likely to "intensify international criticism of Israeli policy in the territories, particularly with regard to the settlements".

The Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits harming those uninvolved in a conflict, be they civilians, wounded soldiers or POWs, as well as obliging the occupying side to maintain human rights and decent living conditions of an occupied civilian population.

The US and Australia boycotted the meeting in 2001, in support of Israel, and they are expected to boycott it this year, as well. Canada is expected to do the same.

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U.S. Congress Passes Venezuela Sanctions, Obama Expected to Sign

Mérida, 12th December 2014 ( – Late on Wednesday the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to introduce sanctions against Venezuela.

The bill was also passed by the Senate on Monday, and White House officials have indicated that President Barack Obama will sign the bill into law, although it was not specified when.

The Venezuelan Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act seeks to sanction high ranking Venezuelan officials accused of being responsible for human rights abuses during the opposition unrest movement earlier this year. Primarily, it will sanction such officials with a visa ban and a freeze on any U.S. assets they possess.

Democrat senator Robert Menendez, the Act’s main sponsor, said of the bill’s passage that, “The absence of justice and the denial of human rights in Venezuela must end, and the U.S. Congress is playing a powerful part in righting this wrong”.

The Act also calls for a U.S. government strategy to increase funding for and availability of anti-government media in Venezuela, including utilizing the Voice of America for this end. The bill states that U.S. foreign policy should aim to “continue to support the development of democratic political processes and independent civil society in Venezuela”.

Investigative journalist Eva Golinger has documented how over the last twelve years U.S. government agencies have provided well over $100 million to opposition groups in Venezuela for their activities.

The Venezuelan government rejects the Act’s narrative of the opposition’s unrest movement from February to May this year, which led to 43 deaths, including members of security forces and supporters of both sides. It states that the opposition was responsible for violence against civilians and public infrastructure, and that the unrest was aimed at provoking a state coup.

Officials also argue that members of security forces accused of abuses against opposition activists were investigated and detained.

Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro slammed the proposed sanctions yesterday, stating, "If the crazy path of sanctions is imposed, President Obama, I think you're going to come out looking very bad…Who is the U.S. Senate to sanction the homeland of (independence leader Simon) Bolivar?"

The U.S. bill comes on top of other sanctions imposed by the U.S. on Venezuela this year, namely a tightened restriction on “military end use” exports to the South American country in November, and the application of a visa ban on a group of unnamed Venezuelan officials by presidential order in July.

The sanctions policy stands at odds with the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, which have either backed Nicolas Maduro’s administration or have supported efforts to establish fresh dialogue between the government and opposition.

The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), which counts Venezuela, Cuba, Ecuador and Nicaragua among its members, issued a statement on Thursday opposing the proposed U.S. sanctions.

“The countries of the ALBA wish to emphasise that they won’t allow the utilisation of old practices already applied in the region which are directed at fomenting a change in political regime. In this sense, we express our deepest support and solidarity with the people and government of Venezuela,” read the strongly worded statement.

The Venezuelan officials who would be sanctioned by the bill have not been named, however Republican senator Marco Rubio recently issued a list of 27 names he suggested should be included.

One of those on Rubio’s list is Jose Vielma Mora, the socialist party governor of Tachira state, which was one of the epicenters of the opposition’s militant street barricades during the unrest earlier this year.

“In some ways I’m happy to be on that list, because it means that I will become a Venezuelan patriot that defended peace and true democracy,” he said to local media in response to the news of the proposed sanctions.

The diplomatic pressure by the U.S. comes at a difficult economic moment for Venezuela, as a 38% fall in oil prices squeezes the country’s finances and compounds problems of product shortages and high inflation.

According to Bloomberg, Venezuelan bond prices have fallen to levels not seen in 16 years, while Wall Street estimates the probability of default at 93%.

In response to the high interest rates on borrowing this entails for Venezuela, Maduro said on Monday, “There is a financial blockade against Venezuela meant to impede our access to the financing we need to overcome the decrease in petroleum revenue”. He also denounced the “psychological and political” manipulation of Venezuela’s position in the global market.

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10 Most Harrowing Excerpts from CIA Torture Report

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Libya Faces Heightened Threats of Renewed Western Intervention

Aerial bombardments prompt the closure of the border with Tunisia

صورة ارشيفية
Recent reports related to Libya claim that Islamic State (IS) camps have been set up in the North African state, a country in chaos since the United States-NATO led bombing and ground war of regime in 2011 resulting in the ousting of the Gaddafi government and the destruction of Africa’s once most prosperous and stable state.
At present there are two identifiable centers of neo-colonial power in Libya with the Islamic oriented government based in Tripoli and the other more secular regime headed by Prime Minister Abdullah Al-Thani which has been driven out of the capital and is meeting in a hotel in the eastern city of Tobruk. The ongoing divisions and internecine conflict in Libya has impacted the production and export of oil, the country’s largest foreign exchange earner.
In a recent statement by U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) leader Gen. David Rodriguez, IS has established training camps which house approximately 200 fighters. He indicated at present that the alleged bases have not engaged in military operations.
“It’s mainly about people coming for training and logistics support right now,” Gen. Rodriguez emphasized. “As far as a huge command and control network, we have not seen that yet.”
Over the last six years the presence of U.S. military and intelligence personnel has substantially increased. The military destruction of Libya was the first full-scale offensive operation on the continent coordinated by AFRICOM and it was conducted under the current administration of President Barack Obama.
Now with the mention of such an allegation related to IS on an official Pentagon level could very well be signaling a renewed aggressive military posture towards developments in Libya by the White House. Obama announced nearly two years ago after his re-election for a second term that 3,500 additional Pentagon troops would be deployed in 35 African states.
Another report published by the Australian on Dec. 6 said of the situation involving U.S. policy towards Libya that “The U.S. is plotting to expand its military campaign to Libya after fighters loyal to Islamic State were seen training in the east of the country. A U.S. commander has acknowledged that discussions are under way in Washington about broadening the anti-Islamic State campaign to Libya.” (
This same article continued saying that Gen. Rodriguez when “Asked whether consideration was being given to targeting the militants there, he replied ‘That policy discussion is ongoing and we’ll see how that goes.’”
IS Being Used to Escalate Imperialist War in Middle East and North Africa
The United States, its NATO allies and their surrogates in the Persian Gulf have escalated tensions in Syria and Iraq through bombing operations against the Islamic State (IS). Even though the U.S., Britain, France, Turkey and other allied regimes have been supporting armed opposition groups in efforts to overthrow the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad, these rebel organizations have remained divided and incapable of achieving their strategic objectives in Syria and Lebanon.
Earlier in 2014, the IS seized large swaths of territory in northern Iraq taking control of some oil fields and other key assets of the Iraqi government which was largely set up by the U.S. With the resumption of Pentagon and NATO led air strikes against alleged IS bases in Iraq and the Pentagon operations against purported IS bases in Syria on the border with Turkey, hundreds of thousands of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) have sought assistance from the United Nations and other relief agencies.
Libya is facing the worse crisis since it gained independence from Italy in 1951. Since the overthrow of the Jamahiriya under Col. Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, the country has been a major source of IDP and refugee problems in the region. Such an atmosphere is not conducive to economic development and social reconstruction.
Aerial bombardments by the US-allied regimes in Egypt and UAE supplemented by its local surrogates will not serve to stabilize Libya and the region of North Africa. If the U.S. administration decides to resume air strikes inside the country the anti-Washington sentiment will accelerate among the population.
A recent bombing during early Dec. on the border with Tunisia allegedly coordinated by longtime Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operative and renegade general under Gaddafi, Khalifa Heftar, prompted the closure of the border between the two neighbors.
Tunisian Foreign Minister Mongi Hamdi told Asharq al-Awsat news agency that “Tunisian military and security forces have been placed on high alert along our borders with Libya. The Tunisian government is closely monitoring what is happening in Libya and does not want to become a party to the internal conflict [in Libya].” (Dec. 6)
The actual history of imperialist intervention in Libya since 2011 has brought only disaster to the country and other people throughout the region. Any solution to the crisis in Libya and the North Africa region must be found within these states absent of western interference which is at the root of the current crisis of underdevelopment and destabilization.

Abayomi Azikiwe 
is the editor of Pan-African News Wire , an international electronic press service designed to foster intelligent discussion on the affairs of African people throughout the continent and the world. The press agency was founded in January of 1998 and has published thousands of articles and dispatches in newspapers, magazines, journals, research reports, blogs and websites throughout the world. The PANW represents the only daily international news source on pan-african and global affairs. To contact him, click on this link >> Email
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