Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Mark Davis: Outsourcing his belief system

Mark Davis is either uninformed, a completely inhumane jackass, or has permanently hung the "do not disturb" sign on the part of his brain which allows new information to enter.

Having said that, I thought I'd really kick this thing off with a little appetizer about our war “against” terror (as reported in the Washington Post, no less)...

(And you might want to make yourself comfortable because this post has been festering inside me for a while...)

Cleric Details CIA Abduction, Torture
by Craig Whitlock
The Washington Post
Friday 10 November 2006


I realize that most of the folks responsible for voting in the new majority House and Senate believe that an end to the fascism starter kit that the Bush clan has been implementing since 9/11 is in sight. Personally, I don’t think it means shit. Well, it is good news in that it at least took away (hopefully) the rubber stamp that our congress became with regard to all actions undertaken - and Orwellian legislation proposed - by the Bush administration. And that certainly is good.

However, more and more people are beginning to agree with the idea that Bush is merely a figurehead for a group of people who coordinate the whole show...some of whom are background figures while many are quite visible to the general public. And while people are rejoicing over the “resignation” of Donald Rumsfeld, I really don’t think that matters either. I think he’ll still be as active as ever. The resignation was a move to placate the new majority power, take some heat off the administration, and make everyone feel a little less threatened. But I think operations will continue as planned with a new sleazebag holding the Defense Secretary title. Just my hunch. (Turns out just after I wrote this section, Robert Gates was nominated as Rumsfeld's successor. My hunches are usually pretty good.)

But the subject at hand – for this post, anyway – is U.S. sanctioned torture. And the practice of torture itself, I guess. A few weeks ago, a local Rush Limbaugh wannabe named Mark Davis published a column in the Dallas Morning News about the subject of torture and our detainment of terrorism suspects. He wrote this column after a recent visit he paid to Guantanamo Bay. (Vacation or something? Maybe the beaches are nice? I don’t know either...)

His original column, published September 20, 2006, in the Dallas Morning News, will follow this paragraph. Followed, of course, by my soapboxing in response. I’m including the link to the column itself, but since the new Dallas Morning News website is so ungodly slow – and you may have to practically fill out a census report to be approved so you can read the damn thing – I’m also going to print the actual text of his column. (Please, Belo Corporation, do not sue me. I am trying to list all the appropriate credits. All hail the Belo Corp.)


Mark Davis: How should this country treat its terror suspects?
If we're committed to winning this war, we can't back down

11:19 AM CDT on Wednesday, September 20, 2006

I promised myself that I was not going to return from a visit to the Guantánamo Bay detention facility brandishing a know-it-all condescension.

I will keep to that promise, but the debate over detainee rights hits me in very pointed ways as politicians argue over how to treat people I stood a few yards from less than three weeks ago.

The debate over the Geneva Conventions seemed specious to me before I ever set foot in Cuba. Devised as a compact between nations seeking at least a base coat of civil wartime behavior, they are rules that apply in a specific set of circumstances, none of which pertain to our current war.

We are not engaged in battle with any particular nation that might claim signatory status to the Geneva Conventions. We are not fighting any uniformed entity that remotely aspires to the pleasantries enumerated within.

As such, it is tragically inane to hear United States senators whine about our obligations to afford terrorist combatants certain dignities out of fear of what enemy captors might do to us.

Think about that: What they might do to us? Do we need to review what they already do to us? These enemies are very fond of the videotaped beheading, for starters. They also have a penchant for hanging our charred bodies from bridges. Spare me the absurdly phony concerns about what our enemies "might" do if we fail to throw them the bone of Geneva Conventions protection.

This is sad to say, but I would expect Democrats to clumsily equate American standards of detainee treatment with those of our enemies. But when so-called Republicans join them, it is time to begin identifying, without regard to political party, who is serious about keeping this nation safe and who is not.

The GOP senators complaining about our inattention to detainee rights include Virginia's John Warner, somewhat of a surprise in this regard, and three more who are not: South Carolina's Lindsey Graham, an increasingly squishy moderate who calls for us to "take the moral high ground" as if it is immoral to do all we can to get vital information from terrorists; Susan Collins of Maine, long known as a RINO (Republican in Name Only); and John McCain, who brings his own credentials as a torture victim to the debate.

Those credentials are impossible to ignore. But they do not make him right. Texas Rep. Sam Johnson was no more favorably treated by his Vietnamese captors, yet he knows the ill wisdom of going soft on this enemy. He knew it when he disagreed with Mr. McCain on the national self-emasculation that is the Detainee Treatment Act, and he knows it now that we are engaged in a hand-wringing exercise that flogs the integrity of the people charged with securing information that could help us win the war.

It really is this simple: Even without making them full-fledged beneficiaries of Geneva Conventions rules, we are treating this enemy with a dignity unmatched in the history of warfare. From the dietary and religious favors we bestow to the perpetual reviews of their combatant status, it is specious to argue that we are somehow not generous enough with basic rights.

We have released detainees who have later been found back on the battlefield working to kill more Americans. Against this backdrop, any effort to place senseless roadblocks in the path of military or CIA interrogators is evidence that we truly may not be committed enough to winning.

If lawmakers can ever get around to clearing the way for them, the tribunals determining the disposition of hundreds of detainee cases will be conducted with the care and professionalism on display every day at Guantánamo. It is time for Congress to stop behaving as if the terrorists in our custody are modern concentration camp survivors in need of a rescue from the allies.

What we need a rescue from is the election-year posturing that undeservedly characterizes this phase of the U.S. war effort as sinister when it is arguably not tough enough.

The Mark Davis Show is heard weekdays on News/Talk WBAP-AM (820) and nationwide on the ABC Radio Network. WBAP airtime is 9 a.m. to noon. His e-mail address is mdavis@wbap.com.


First, let’s examine his secondary headline: “If we’re committed to winning this war, we can’t back down.”

My first thought is...back down from what, exactly? Our entitlement as the “world’s only superpower” to do whatever we want to whomever we want whenever we want? But that’s not the real issue. I’m just making fun of his macho jingoism.

I would yawn from the sheer boredom of hearing the stock Republican "stance" on terrorism puked out yet again if I didn’t find it so infuriating that there are people – grown up human beings – who actually believe we can “win” a “war” against a concept. Political parties and public relations writers live for this shit...that you can declare “war” on some abstract something that affects our society in a negative way, and, better still, actually “win” said war. We’ve done it for generations in this country. LBJ had the War On Poverty. Reagan had the War On Drugs. The Dubya Gang has their War On Terror. The beauty of such “wars” is that, a.) the enemy doesn’t exist in concrete terms (a war against Vietnam or a war against Granada...those are wars against bonafide, you-can-point-to-them-on-a-map enemies, though, interestingly, neither of those events was referred to as a “war” at the time - though the illegality of both endeavors might have had something to do with it); and, b.) there isn’t a human being alive – other than rich folks, corporations and governments who benefit financially from the perpetuation of said enemies – who could actually go on record as saying they support the “enemies” in question. (Yes, there are lots of people who love to get high, but not many are in favor of the crime associated with their drugs of choice being illegal, one would assume.) Poverty? Yeah, it sucks. Terror? Not a fan. I guess what’s most shocking is that we’ve yet to declare war on child molestation or sunburn or diarrhea. If there were gazillions of dollars to be made, I’ve no doubt we would, though.

But the purest, most dependable beauty of reason “a” is that you’re at war with the abstract. You can neither win nor lose. Ever. The world will never be free of poverty, we will never be free of the crime associated with illegal drug trafficking, and we will never be free of terrorism – never have been, never will be. Thus, it’s the best kind of war for the folks (indeed, the only folks) who benefit from such actions...arms manufacturers, the corporations who go in and rebuild the areas we destroyed (often the same groups who developed the weaponry used for the destruction), the companies who then swarm in like locusts to take control of the resources to be had, etc. The final, gratuitous kick in the nuts is that these corporations have financial ties to the high-ranking government officials who ordered this most recent war. It is the perfect form of war: the never-ending war. For profit, no less. Ain’t (unchecked) capitalism grand?

However, I’m digressing. The subject at the forefront of this post is not only the above column by the possibly-lobotomized Mark Davis, but the existance of state-sponsored torture and how the United States is using torture – along with developing a network of covert prison systems across the globe, unregulated corporate globalization, and overturning the most basic human rights laws that have been in the books for literally centuries – to create a new empire. This empire will answer to no one because it will have no peers financially, militarily, operationally, or morally, since the United Nations has been transformed into the utterly useless, powerless organization its creators always intended. (Yes, in can intercede in response to abuses of power and crimes against humanity…just so long as the accused parties don’t hold veto power on the Security Council.)

Now, I know better than to read anything by Mark Davis or by any other narrow-minded partisan blowhard from either wing, but I couldn’t ignore the headline. (Keep in mind, this column was printed over a month ago, though I know full well Davis’s assertions haven’t changed, nor have those of the sheep he speaks for.) And since this column crawled up my ass (and is still causing much discomfort), all kinds of fun new details have emerged regarding our treatment of suspects abroad and the accompanying suspension of so many truly fundamental basic civil liberties. It’s taken me a while, obviously, to gather my links and focus my thoughts. Mostly just because it’s too much to comprehend...that the supposed model for democracy across the globe has taken such a sharp turn toward, well, fascism. We’re rapidly becoming one of the least democratic societies in existence. All the more bothersome is the fact that we have the rest of the world by the balls thanks to our insurmountable advantages in military strength, strategic territories, weaponry, technological resources and corporate support. Simply put, we’re Hitler’s wet dream. (Minus the racial objectives. Though the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina might suggest otherwise.)

Since Mark Davis didn’t go into details about why he was at the Cuban base or how he got there, and since the media as a rule isn’t allowed in, one would assume he was probably given some sort of PR tour by U.S. officials. Given our government’s control of the media during “wartime”, it’s probably also safe to assume Davis was allowed/encouraged to see exactly what he was supposed to see. At which point, he would return home and tell his loyal audience how nice the situation in Guantanamo Bay is.

Mark Davis isn’t so much a member of the media as he is a cheerleader for the Republicans. But since his commentaries are aired on a talk-radio station and printed in the only daily newspaper in the city, he is viewed as being part of “the media” as a whole. Whether folks like him or Fox News happened by design or by accident...I have no idea. But the increasing concentration of right-wing commentary over the past couple decades certainly works in tandem with those who formulate the administration’s PR plans...the combined practice which can be described in broad terms as “advocacy journalism.” (Which is a terrific oxymoron, by the way. It really just amounts to government public relations.)

But, all that aside...it’s Mark Davis the private citizen that really, really disturbs me because he represents far too many people in this country today. People like him worry and frustrate me so much because he so blindly follows anything that is said by anyone whose name is followed in the media with “(-R)” that he just flat refuses to think for himself anymore. He’s entrusted his common sense and morality with a group of people – the Republican Party - who are concerned more with maintaining their own existence as an entity, by any means necessary, than they are with the people they’re supposed to represent. (And the same can be said for the “(-D)” lemmings as well.) Either that or he truly has no concern for the humanity that lay beyond our borders. I haven’t decided which should scare me more.

So this is my open letter to Mark Davis. I doubt he’ll read it, but it makes me feel better to imagine him doing so.


(Greetings and salutations, etc...)

First off, you’re assuming that all the people currently making up the “they” in Guantanamo Bay are guilty. Since the vast majority of those folks haven’t been charged with anything yet, we don’t know who’s guilty, who’s innocent, or who was in the wrong place or with the wrong people at the wrong time. That’s a dangerous assumption to make. But since you’re already referring to them as “the terrorists in our custody,” I guess that ship has sailed.

So let’s assume instead that everyone in U.S. government custody is, in fact, guilty. Of something really heinous and nasty, just to make your message more thematically consistent (“they” = presumably bad; “us” = unquestionably good). Aside from the fact that information obtained through methods considered “torture” is most often unreliable and almost always inadmissible in court, are you seriously arguing that, because other groups or nations have tortured American citizens in the past or might be doing so now, the United States should respond (or address “preemptively” as we prefer to do these days) in kind? Have you really gotten to the point where you feel we should no longer lead by example? That the ideals and principles that suggest all human beings have inherent value no longer apply? That we should now be working from the bottom up to achieve some sort of collective moral compass rather than continuing, in theory at the very least, to work toward the betterment of ourselves as individuals and as a whole? And that you, as an individual, or we, as a society, have no responsibility toward the dignity and welfare of other people?

Shouldn’t we be trying to get away from barbaric behavior in any form? Isn’t that just part of our human evolution on the whole? (Don’t get your boxers in a bunch, I don’t mean that kind of “evolution”...I’m referring to the kind of overall growth and collective enlightenment that’s brought us from things like, say, slavery, public executions, branding people as witches...that sort of thing.) How can we possibly sanction torture in a political prison (which, until these people are charged with crimes, is what Guantanamo Bay amounts to) on one hand while saying we’re trying to protect freedom from oppression and the value of human life on the other? That is what we’re trying to do across the globe right now, right? Or am I misunderstanding the motives behind the mission?

The politicians who are currently opposed to our sanctioning of torture as an official (or at least accepted) policy of the United States, may, indeed, be “posturing”…that’s what politicians tend to do. So let’s put that aside. What about those of us who are opposed to our government conducting itself in this manner based on our own personal sense of morality or conviction? How does that make us “soft on terrorism” (or whatever jingoistic bullshit with which you label our principles)? At what point does taking the high road – admittedly, a nebulous concept – not remain at the forefront of our collective humanitarian concerns? Or is humanitarianism wimpy, too?

Just this morning
(at the time I wrote this part right after his column was published) I read a quote from Winston Churchill: “The power of the Executive to cast a man into prison without formulating any charge known to the law is in the highest degree odious and is the foundation of all totalitarian government whether Nazi or Communist.” He said this in 1943 to express his growing dismay over the mass detainments in the U.K. of anyone suspected of having “sympathies” toward the Germans, the Italians, the IRA...anybody who could be perceived of as a threat to the English way of life at that time. (He was consistently overridden by his own party to continue the detainment program. Interestingly, President Roosevelt, who most folks on the left look back on with great – and deserved, mostly – admiration, had no such qualms about the detainment of thousands of Asian-Americans on the west coast of the U.S.)

It amazes me that a quote from more than sixty years ago is so relevant today. Or has become so relevant again, perhaps I should say. Consider all the other areas of society in which we’ve progressed since the 1940s...attitudes toward race, gender and even, for the most part, religion. Yet we have seemingly regressed by over half a century to the idea that any government (so long as they call themselves a democracy) can detain a person simply based on suspicion alone, and that, as long as that person is in federal custody, he or she does not actually have to be charged with anything. And if that weren’t enough, we now want to be able to legally torture that suspect under the notion that torture will expose some sort of evidence we’re unable to otherwise gather.

Mark, can you or anyone else please bring my attention to one society –
any society – in the whole of human history that used torture and political prisons and is remembered as being anything other than barbaric? Those concepts are the absolute antithesis of everything a free society is supposed to be founded upon.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not suggesting everyone detained as a result of our “war on terror” is innocent. Nobody can suggest that. Just as nobody can suggest they’re all guilty. If they are guilty, charge them with a crime. But to hold anyone indefinitely and subject them to legalized torture is, to my mind, the real crime. They are the actions of a government with deceitful and dishonorable intentions. And to defend those intentions blindly and without humanity is the most un-American notion of which I can conceive. Patriotism is not blind faith – it is holding ourselves as a whole to the same standards to which we hold ourselves as individuals.

I feel sad for you, Mark. And if you truly are reflective of any significant portion of American citizens, I feel ashamed for us.


It should come as little surprise to learn that I’m not quite done with this. Like I mentioned, all kinds of information has come to light since Davis’s column was published. For example, that very same day, Newsweek published the following article:

Does Torture Really Work? Most Intelligence Experts Say No
by Evan Thomas
Wednesday 20 September 2006


U.S. officials do not use the word torture to describe their own methods. Instead, American intelligence officials speak of ‘aggressive interrogation measures,’ sometimes euphemistically known as ‘torture lite.’ According to human-rights activists who have consulted with Senate staffers involved in the negotiations, Bush administration officials are trying to redefine the Geneva Conventions, which bans ‘cruel practices,’ to allow seven different procedures: 1) induced hypothermia, 2) long periods of forced standing, 3) sleep deprivation, 4) the ‘attention grab’ (forcefully seizing the suspect's shirt), 5) the ‘attention slap,’ 6) the ‘belly slap’ and 7) sound and light manipulation. As NEWSWEEK reported this week in its story The Politics of Terror, a harsh technique called ‘waterboarding,’ which induces the sensation of drowning, would be specifically banned.

These procedures, apparently including waterboarding, have been used on several so-called High Value Targets - alleged top Al Qaeda operatives in captivity. Without getting into specifics, President Bush has stated that his administration's interrogation and detention program has been necessary to foil plots and save lives.

But is that true? In recent interviews with NEWSWEEK reporters, U.S. intelligence officers say they have little - if any - evidence that useful intelligence has been obtained using techniques generally understood to be torture. It is clear, for instance, that Al Qaeda operations chief Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) was subjected to harsh interrogation techniques, including waterboarding. His interrogators even threatened...to go after his family. (KSM reportedly shrugged off the threat to his family - he would meet them in heaven, he said.) KSM did reveal some names and plots. But they haven't panned out as all that threatening: one such plot was a plan by an Al Qaeda operative to cut down the Brooklyn Bridge - with a blow torch. Intelligence officials could never be sure if KSM was holding back on more serious threats, or just didn't know of any.

The Bush administration has tried another approach to end-run critics: farming out torture. For years, American intelligence handed over prisoners to be interrogated by other security services less squeamish about squeezing information out of suspects. These so-called renditions picked up after 9/11. The very first high-ranking Al Qaeda operative captured - Abu Faraj al-Libbi - was first interrogated by the FBI. But when the FBI wanted to use its normal, go-slow methods, the prisoner was turned over to the CIA - who promptly turned him over to the Egyptians. (NEWSWEEK has reported that as al-Libbi was led to a plane routed for Egypt, a CIA operative whispered in his ear that he planned to ‘f-- your mother’.) Under the no-doubt rough care of the Egyptians, al-Libbi talked of plots and agents. The information was used to make the case for war against Iraq. As recounted in ‘Hubris,’ a new book by NEWSWEEK's Michael Isikoff and David Corn, there was only one problem: al-Libbi later recanted, saying that he had lied to stop the torture.

Next came this gem, which I know most folks probably heard something about. Judging from the casual tone of the conversation, it almost sounds like Dick Cheney’s pacemaker was on sleep mode or something and he wound up revealing a bit more than he’d planned to...

Cheney Confirms That Detainees Were Subjected to Water-Boarding
by Jonathan S. Landay
McClatchy Newspapers
Wednesday 25 October 2006


Vice President Dick Cheney has confirmed that U.S. interrogators subjected captured senior al Qaida suspects to a controversial interrogation technique called ‘water-boarding,’ which creates a sensation of drowning. Cheney indicated that the Bush administration doesn't regard water-boarding as torture and allows the CIA to use it.

Cheney's comments, in a White House interview on Tuesday with a conservative radio talk show host, appeared to reflect the Bush administration's view that the president has the constitutional power to do whatever he deems necessary to fight terrorism.

The U.S. Army, senior Republican lawmakers, human rights experts and many experts on the laws of war, however, consider water-boarding cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment that's banned by U.S. law and by international treaties that prohibit torture. Some intelligence professionals argue that it often provides false or misleading information because many subjects will tell their interrogators what they think they want to hear to make the water-boarding stop.

Republican Sens. John Warner of Virginia, John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina have said that a law Bush signed last month prohibits water-boarding. The three are the sponsors of the Military Commissions Act, which authorized the administration to continue its interrogations of enemy combatants.

Graham, a military lawyer who serves in the Air Force Reserve, reaffirmed that view in an interview last week with McClatchy Newspapers. “Water-boarding, in my opinion, would cause extreme physical and psychological pain and suffering, and it very much could run afoul of the War Crimes Act,” he said, referring to a 1996 law. “It could very much open people up to prosecution under the War Crimes Act, as well as be a violation of the Detainees Treatment Act.”

A revised U.S. Army Field Manual published last month bans water-boarding as ‘cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.’

The radio interview Tuesday was the first time that a senior Bush administration official has confirmed that U.S. interrogators used water-boarding against important al Qaida suspects, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged chief architect of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Mohammad was captured in Pakistan on March 1, 2003, and turned over to the CIA. (Water-boarding means holding a person's head under water or pouring water on cloth or cellophane placed over the nose and mouth to simulate drowning until the subject agrees to talk or confess.)

In an interview on Tuesday, Scott Hennen of WDAY Radio in Fargo, N.D., told Cheney that listeners had asked him to “let the vice president know that if it takes dunking a terrorist in water, we're all for it, if it saves American lives.”

“Again, this debate seems a little silly given the threat we face, would you agree?” Hennen said.

“I do agree,” Cheney replied, according to a transcript of the interview released Wednesday. “And I think the terrorist threat, for example, with respect to our ability to interrogate high-value detainees like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, that's been a very important tool that we've had to be able to secure the nation.”

Cheney added that Mohammed had provided “enormously valuable information about how many (al Qaida members) there are, about how they plan, what their training processes are and so forth. We've learned a lot. We need to be able to continue that.”

“Would you agree that a dunk in water is a no-brainer if it can save lives?” asked Hennen.

“It's a no-brainer for me, but for a while there, I was criticized as being the vice president ‘for torture.’ We don't torture. That's not what we're involved in,” Cheney replied. “We live up to our obligations in international treaties that we're party to and so forth. But the fact is, you can have a fairly robust interrogation program without torture, and we need to be able to do that.”

Lee Ann McBride, a spokeswoman for Cheney, denied that Cheney had confirmed that U.S. interrogators used water-boarding or endorsed the technique.

“What the vice president was referring to was an interrogation program without torture,” she said. “The vice president never goes into what may or may not be techniques or methods of questioning.”

(Huh? Uh, yeah, he did say exactly that, actually. Thank goodness his spokesperson isn't his proofreader...)

(The interview transcript was posted on the White House Web site {whitehouse.gov/vicepresident/}.)

Of course, the fun doesn’t stop there. After all, you can’t torture prisoners and hold them indefinitely unless you start reshaping your own laws to allow you to do so. For example, Let’s get do away with that annoying habeas corpus. Most folks probably think it’s just a blessing from the pope anyway, right…?

Bush's Brave New World of Torture
by Jennifer Van Bergen
Wednesday 01 November 2006

Highlights, anyone...?

The MCA (Military Commissions Act) is an unprecedented power grab by the executive branch. Among the Act's worst features, it authorizes the president to detain, without charges, anyone whom he deems an unlawful enemy combatant. This includes U.S. citizens. It eliminates habeas corpus review for aliens. It also makes providing "material support" to terrorists punishable by military commission. And the military commissions' procedures allow for coerced testimony, the use of "sanitized classified information" - where the source is not disclosed - and trial for offenses not historically subject to trial by military commissions. (Terrorism is not historically a military offense; it's a crime.) Finally, by amending the War Crimes Act, it allows the president to authorize interrogation techniques that may nonetheless violate the Geneva Conventions and provides future and retroactive "defenses" for those who engage in or authorize those acts.

The Bush...administration's belief that Guantanamo was not subject to U.S. court jurisdiction was the main reason it chose that as its detention site.

Habeas corpus is the right to have a court determine the legality of one's imprisonment before trial. The U.S. Constitution states that "the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion, the public safety may require it."

Advocates of the MCA claim that habeas has never applied to foreign combatants captured on the battlefield. This claim begs the question: In the "war on terror," how do you know where the battlefield is and how do you know who foreign combatants are?
(Hint: that’s why it’s the “perfect war.” The White House is taking upon itself the crusade to redefine terms like “war” and “enemy combatants” so that internationally {and domestically} recognized laws relating to “war” as the courts have known it for over half a century no longer apply.) Habeas exists exactly for the purpose of challenging wrongful detentions…

The MCA contains two provisions that strip detainees of their right to habeas corpus. One provides that: ...no court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider any claim or cause of action whatsoever, including any action pending on or filed after the date of the enactment of the Military Commissions Act of 2006…including challenges to the lawfulness of procedures of military commissions…
The second provision, amending the habeas statute, adds the following: No court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider an application for a writ of habeas corpus filed by or on behalf of an alien detained by the United States who has been determined by the United States to have been properly detained as an enemy combatant or is awaiting such determination.

(Very democratic, wouldn’t you say? With more than a hint of totalitarianism. And how ironic that the White House keeps stating publicly that their real intent is to rid the existing laws of their ambiguity, while doing so with the vaguest language possible.)

Finally, the MCA helps to shield U.S. personnel from being held responsible for abuses committed during detentions or interrogations. This is widely considered to be the Bush administration's primary motive in pushing this legislation: To keep Bush administration officials and others from being held accountable for war crimes or other grave violations of the laws of war.

What kind of law provides imprisonment without the right of habeas or punishment without legitimate appeal? Without those standards, the law is just "victor's justice" - which is no justice at all. The Second World War is often understood to have come about at least in part as a result of the humiliation exacted upon Germans by the victors at the end of WWI. Victor's justice breeds resentment. It breeds more war.

Next up – two days later – we have the following report. And it comes right on schedule as you can only suspend habeas corpus with maximum success if you also institute a system for worldwide – and legalized – absolute secrecy with regard to the actions being carried out by the U.S. agencies overseeing this “brave new world.” And, of course, it’s all in the name of “national security”...

US Seeks Silence on CIA Prisons
Court is asked to bar detainees from talking about interrogations
by Carol D. Leonnig and Eric Rich
The Washington Post
Saturday 04 November 2006


The Bush administration has told a federal judge that terrorism suspects held in secret CIA prisons should not be allowed to reveal details of the "alternative interrogation methods" that their captors used to get them to talk.

The government says in new court filings that those interrogation methods are now among the nation's most sensitive national security secrets and that their release - even to the detainees' own attorneys - "could reasonably be expected to cause extremely grave damage." Terrorists could use the information to train in counter-interrogation techniques and foil government efforts to elicit information about their methods and plots...

Government lawyers…argue in court papers that detainees…have no automatic right to speak to lawyers because the new Military Commissions Act, signed by President Bush last month, stripped them of access to US courts. That law established separate military trials for terrorism suspects.

Captives who have spent time in the secret prisons, and their advocates, have said the detainees were sometimes treated harshly with techniques that included "waterboarding," which simulates drowning. Bush has declared that the administration will not tolerate the use of torture but has pressed to retain the use of unspecified "alternative" interrogation methods.

The government argues that once rules are set for the new military commissions, the high-value detainees will have military lawyers and "unprecedented" rights to challenge charges against them in that venue.

In a separate court document filed last night, (one suspect’s) attorneys offered declarations from Khaled al-Masri, a released detainee who said he was held with Khan in a dingy CIA prison called "the salt pit" in Afghanistan. There, prisoners slept on the floor, wore diapers and were given tainted water that made them vomit, Masri said. American interrogators treated him roughly, he said, and told him he "was in a land where there were no laws.” (The suspect’s) family did not learn of his whereabouts until Bush announced his transfer in September, more than three years after he was seized in Pakistan.

And, finally, we have what would appear to be the beginnings of the final piece to this new operational puzzle. The terms “global” and “empire” appear in this article, and for good reason. You have to have accomplices for such plans, of course, and the U.S. has been quietly building these alliances for years. Though we don’t yet know the payoffs for the cooperating parties, one would be safe to assume it is the standard prizes awarded to goons by their bullies: money and protection.

American Prison Planet
The Bush administration as global jailor
by Nick Turse
Thursday 02 November 2006

Some of the more “noteworthy” sections...

Today, the United States presides over a burgeoning empire...a far-flung new network of maximum security penitentiaries, detention centers, jail cells, cages, and razor wire-topped pens. From supermax-type isolation prisons in 40 of the 50 states to shadowy ghost jails at remote sites across the globe, this new network of detention facilities is quite unlike the gulags, concentration-camps, or prison nations of the past.
Even with a couple million prisoners under its control, the U.S. prison network lacks the infrastructure or manpower of the Soviet gulag or the orderly planning of the Nazi concentration-camp system. However, where it bests both, and breaks new incarceration ground, is in its planet-ranging scope...Right now, it has only four major centers - the "homeland," Afghanistan, Iraq, and a postage-stamp-sized parcel of Cuba. As such, it already hovers at the edge of its own imperial existence, bringing to mind the unprecedented possibility of a prison planet. In a remarkably few years, the Bush administration has been able to construct a global detention system, already of near epic proportions, both on the fly and on the cheap.

Soon after the attacks of September 11th, 2001, the U.S. began the process of creating what has been termed "an offshore archipelago of injustice.”...The Bush administration detained people from around the world in sweeps, imprisoned them without charges and kept them incommunicado at U.S. detention facilities at a CIA prison outside Kabul, Afghanistan (code-named the "Salt Pit"), at Bagram military airbase in Afghanistan, and at Guantanamo Bay Naval Station, Cuba, among other sites.

Since it was set up in 2002, the detainment complex at Guantanamo Bay has been the public face of the Bush administration's semi-secret foreign prison network…But "Gitmo" has always been the tiny showpiece, the jewel in a very dark crown, for a much larger, less visible foreign network of military detention facilities, CIA "black" sites, and outsourced foreign prisons. It is a prison camp that rightly attracts opprobrium, but it also serves to focus attention away from shadowy ghost jails, borrowed third-nation facilities, much larger prisons holding thousands in Iraq, and a full-scale network of detention centers and prisons in Afghanistan.

...According to the Washington Post, some locations for these black sites include itinerant CIA detention centers "on ships at sea," a site in Thailand, and another on "Britain's Diego Garcia island in the Indian Ocean." Uzbekistan has been reported as one possible location, Algeria another. Denials were issued about ghost jails being located in Russia and Bulgaria. The British Guardian named "a US airbase in the Gulf state of Qatar" as another suspected site. And while proposed prisons on "virtually unvisited islands in Lake Kariba in Zambia" were evidently nixed, various black sites located in "several democracies in Eastern Europe" apparently did come into being.

ABC News reported that the "CIA established secret prisons in Romania and Poland in 2002-2003" before shutting them down in early 2006 and moving the disappeared prisoners on to "a facility in North Africa."
...The "archipelago of injustice" has grown to world-spanning proportions. For example…a network of over 20 U.S. prisons was believed to exist in Afghanistan, including "an official US detention centre in Kandahar, where the tough regime has been nicknamed 'Camp Slappy' by former prisoners,”...and that "the U.S. military has erected some 20 detention centers [in Afghanistan}…which all operate in near total secrecy. These are facilities that the U.N., the Afghan government, journalists, and human rights groups can't get into."

We know as well that suspects, swept up around the world, have been outsourced to the prisons and torture chambers of third countries in "extraordinary rendition" operations. The number of prisons operated by other countries is shadowy, but certainly geographically wide-ranging...(among them)Morocco...Jordan...Saudi Arabia...Syria...Egypt...Azerbaijan…and Thailand.

The treatment given in 2002 to Canadian Maher Arar, recently the recipient of the Letelier-Moffitt International Human Rights Award, offers a glimpse into the American prison planet in action in its early stages of formation. Arar has described how he was detained and then held incommunicado - shackled and chained - in a terminal in New York's JFK Airport before being transported to Brooklyn's Metropolitan Detention Center. At that Federal prison, Arar recalls an Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) agent telling him, "The INS is not the body or the agency that signed the Geneva Convention...against torture."

"For me," said Arar, a Canadian citizen born in Syria, "what that really meant is we will send you to torture and we don't care." He was, in fact, soon flown to Jordan, where he was beaten, and then driven to Syria. There, he was locked in a filthy, dark cell "about three feet wide, six feet deep and about seven feet high" where he was kept in isolation for 10 months and 10 days when not being physically assaulted. Despite being tortured into a false confession, Arar was found to have no links to terrorism and was never charged with crimes of any sort by the United States, Canada, Jordan, or Syria.

The offshore archipelago of injustice garners the headlines, but it's the homeland prison network that locks up far more people and provides at least one possible model for what the foreign network could morph into given the time and funds to expand and harden into a permanent supermax system. Comprised of federal and state prisons, territorial prisons, local jails, "facilities operated by or exclusively for the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement," military prisons, "jails in Indian country," and juvenile detention facilities, the homeland prison system is a truly massive apparatus.

...In the immediate wake of 9/11, the government conducted sweeps of Muslim immigrants (and Muslim-Americans) reminiscent of the detentions of Japanese and Japanese-Americans during World War II, "locking up large numbers of Middle Eastern men, using whatever legal tools they can." There was never any full accounting of these mass roundups, codenamed PENTTBOM, or what happened to all the people who were rousted from beds or yanked out of places of work by federal agents. What little is known suggests that "762 of the 1,200 PENTTBOM arrestees were charged with immigration violations at the behest of the FBI because agents thought they might be associated with terrorism...[but] almost every one was either deported or released within a few months." Only a small percentage of the 1,200 are thought to have even been processed through the federal criminal justice system.

On the American prison planet, not only has the principle of habeas corpus been formally abolished and torture proudly added to the mix, but that crucial tenet of the legal system, the presumption of innocence, has been cast aside. Whether at home or abroad, the solution for U.S. security forces is a simple one, identify the likely suspects, conduct sweeps, and preemptively lock them up.

According to recent statements by the Department Homeland Security 's Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau, some time in the future undocumented economic migrants may be imprisoned on "old cruise ships." Other illegals may even find themselves in a KBR concentration camp. Earlier this year, news broke that Halliburton subsidiary, KBR- received a $385 million contract from the Department of Homeland Security to build detention centers, according to the New York Times, "for an unexpected influx of immigrants" or "new programs that require additional detention space." For anyone who remembers the First World War-era proposal by four state governors to imprison members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) for the duration of the conflict, or the 1939 Hobbs ("Concentration Camp") Bill that sought the detention of aliens, or the forcible relocation and imprisonment of Japanese and Japanese-Americans during World War II, or the 1950 McCarran Act's provisions for setting up concentration camps for subversives, or the Vietnam-era plans to round up and jail radicals in the event of a national emergency and conduct mass detentions in the face of possible urban insurrections, the announcement may have seemed less than startling. But thought of in the context of prison-planet planning, it nonetheless strikes an ominous note indeed.

In 2005, Irene Khan, Amnesty International's general secretary, described Guantanamo Bay as "the gulag of our time." But the American gulag is so much more than Guantanamo and so much worse. The combination of U.S. "homeland" prisons, where "one in 140 Americans..." are locked away, the offshore imperial detention facilities, the shadowy CIA black sites, and the ever-shifting outsourced detention facilities operated by other nations adds up to something new in history - the makings of a veritable American prison planet.

So...back to Mark Davis.

Mark - Do you still stand by your column? By your convictions that the U.S. government is beyond reproach? (Unless someone other than a Republican is president, of course.) Is this the America of which you're proud? As I recall, what we're doing now is pretty similar to the shit Stalin was doing back in the 1940s and '50s...rounding up people to herd them into political prisons without charges, sending folks off for torture, and simply making them "disappear" forever without any legal consequences.

Please find the time to read over this post at least a couple more times. If you disagree with my statements or question the media reports I reference, I beg you to challenge this blog entry. Prove me wrong...because I don't think you can.

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Anonymous wendy said...

It took me a little while, but I made it through. Excellent post, Danny. You've done a great job of collecting stories/articles that describe the situation very clearly. It is all so ominous and frightening, I think. It makes me feel powerless.

I know Bush uses fear to manipulate the public, but it is him that I am afraid of, not the terrorists.

9:50 PM  

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