Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Five of the Liberty City Seven convicted
The end of the Bush era is proceeding slowly, and painfully. Five members of the "Liberty City Seven" -- seven strange black guys who practiced karate outdoors wearing black ski masks and believed in an offbeat religious philosophy, were put on trial not once, but three times (six of them were, anyway. One was acquitted outright during the last trial, and then promptly deported to Haiti by the Bush administration, while the jury hung on the others.) Now, a second member has been acquitted. His friends? Not so much. They're facing up to 30 years in prison for a made-up plot so silly, and so clearly dreamed up by the FBI informant who infiltrated their group, that it seemed assured that an intelligent jury would laugh the case out of court.

Well? That didn't happen.

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posted by JReid @ 5:16 PM  
Friday, April 17, 2009
The torture turf war
Stipulating that the various, clackety strains of "conservatives," including the folks over at the Wall Street Journal op-ed desk (who published a piece by Bush's CIA director and second round A.G., decrying the Obama administration's release of the torture memos, and of course, the chickenhawk neocons) are very much in for torture. Non-conservatives, including the Washington Post editorial board, are against it, calling it what it is: a disgrace. But on the question of whether torture is even worth the shame, I came across this post, from the NYT's The Lede blog, back in January:

In the days after Saddam Hussein’s capture, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld was tossing wisecracks on subjects serious and trivial. The cab that the former Iraqi leader hid inside? “He didn’t have the meter running.” Who’s going to be responsible for interrogation? “It was a three-minute decision, and the first two were for coffee.”

The job went to the Central Intelligence Agency, and Mr. Hussein was added to the network of secret detention facilities that stretched from Afghanistan to Guantánamo Bay.

But Mr. Hussein’s fate would be much different than Abu Zubaydeh and Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, two members of Al Qaeda who endured harsh interrogation techniques while in C.I.A. custody.

Mr. Rumsfeld and other senior officials quickly pledged that he would be treated as a prisoner of war, although it took a month to make it official. And the three-minute decision was reassessed within weeks as the Federal Bureau of Investigation took the interrogation reins for the reason described in a January 2004 article:

The F.B.I. involvement reflects C.I.A. reluctance to allow covert officers to take part in interrogations that could force them to appear as court witnesses. In contrast, F.B.I. agents are trained to interview suspects in preparation for prosecutions.

In 2008, the two themes expressed in those sentences — C.I.A. aversion to public spectacle and F.B.I. experience on interrogation matters — are still being reinforced as a long-running rivalry continues to play out.
What was the rivalry about? FBI agents were apparently shocked, and not happy, to discover that CIA agents were using torure, approved we now know, by the Justice Department and presumably the president and vice president/president's boss, on terrorism suspect Abu Zubayda, the low level jihadist we got all that false information from by illegal waterboarding. The then-FBI director, Robert Meuller, wound up pulling his agents, who were more skilled at interrogation, having been the ones to query Saddam Hussein himself, for example, out of the theater entirely, rather than allow them to continue to witness war crimes.
From The Washington Post:

A rift nonetheless swiftly developed between FBI agents, who were largely pleased with the progress of the questioning, and CIA officers, who felt Abu Zubaida was holding out on them and providing disinformation. Tensions came to a head after FBI agents witnessed the use of some harsh tactics on Abu Zubaida, including keeping him naked in his cell, subjecting him to extreme cold and bombarding him with loud rock music.

“They said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’ ” said [Retired FBI agent Daniel Coleman], recalling accounts from FBI employees who were there. ” ‘This guy’s a Muslim. That’s not going to win his confidence. Are you trying to get information out of him or just belittle him?’ “

F.B.I. Director Robert S. Mueller III pulled his personnel over the disagreement, and former officials in the agency continue to make the case that Mr. Zubaydeh gave up his most important information before, not after, the harsh techniques commenced.

As David Johnston of The New York Times reported earlier this month, both agencies say the rivalry is over. Still, some officials said privately that the F.B.I. was looking for a payback moment in its investigation into the C.I.A. tape destruction.
Clearly, we've been operating with some sadists in our midst, at the CIA, in the Justice Department, in the neocon think tanks, and in the Bush White House. So why not prosecute them? Probably because the current president has decided that, as a political matter, it can't be done without a circus-like spectacle (and it might not be done in Spain, either...)

But it seems to me that there are people who should be prosecuted, starting with the men who wrote, authorized and approved the memos.

Related: Experts debate whether prosecutions should commence. Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights sums it up succintly:
Torture is torture and all the legal window dressing in the world cannot hide its essence: the infliction of pain and suffering on human beings. If legal advice can protect torturers, no official anywhere can ever be prosecuted. Legal advice then becomes a get out-of-jail free card and will be employed by every petty dictatorship to protect its abusers.

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posted by JReid @ 8:30 AM  
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
For the prosecution: the torture interviews
From the New York Review of books comes a chilling account of U.S. torture of terror suspects, gleaned from interviews with the arbiter of whether or not war crimes have taken place in a given conflict: the International Committee of the Red Cross. A clip from their interviews with "high value detainee" Abu Zubaydah:
Two black wooden boxes were brought into the room outside my cell. One was tall, slightly higher than me and narrow. Measuring perhaps in area [3 1/2 by 2 1/2 feet by 6 1/2 feet high]. The other was shorter, perhaps only [3 1/2 feet] in height. I was taken out of my cell and one of the interrogators wrapped a towel around my neck, they then used it to swing me around and smash me repeatedly against the hard walls of the room. I was also repeatedly slapped in the face....
I was then put into the tall black box for what I think was about one and a half to two hours. The box was totally black on the inside as well as the outside.... They put a cloth or cover over the outside of the box to cut out the light and restrict my air supply. It was difficult to breathe. When I was let out of the box I saw that one of the walls of the room had been covered with plywood sheeting. From now on it was against this wall that I was then smashed with the towel around my neck. I think that the plywood was put there to provide some absorption of the impact of my body. The interrogators realized that smashing me against the hard wall would probably quickly result in physical injury.
Read the whole thing here. The major scoop of this leaked report was done not by a journalist, but by a journalism professor at Berkley:
Mark Danner has scooped the NY Times, the Washington Post and other papers by publishing in the current New York Review of Books an essay quoting long excerpts of a leaked International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) report on "high-value" prisoners held in CIA black site prisons. The interviews took prior to their release in late 2006, and the report itself is dated February 2007, and likely was sent originally to then CIA Acting General Counsel, John Rizzo.

The prisoners interviewed by ICRC personnel included Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah, Walid Bin Attash, and eleven others, all of whom, the ICRC concluded, were submitted to torture.

As the poster at Axis of Logic points out, this is no bedtime reading.

Related: a British author says Zubaydah might not be the terror mastermind the Bush administration made him out to be. Meanwhile, it turns out that Zubaydah's rendition (initially to Thailand) was timed tantalizingly close to the Justice Department torture memos written by Jay Bybee and John Yoo.

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posted by JReid @ 8:54 AM  
Monday, March 02, 2009
Bush-era torture tapes, memos released

It's official. After September 11, 2001, George W. Bush was crowned Julius Caesar by his Justice Department. Proof? The current J.D. released two memos issued by the Bush Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) and seven previously undisclosed opinions, all of which had been sought by civil libertarians including the ACLU. The subject? What John Yoo and company believed that the president could do, not on some foreign "battlefield" of the "war on terror," but here in America. From NBC:
WASHINGTON - The Justice Department on Monday released a long-secret legal document from 2001 in which the Bush administration claimed the military could search and seize terror suspects in the United States without warrants.

The legal memo was written about a month after the Sept. 11 terror attacks. It says constitutional protections against unlawful search and seizure would not apply to terror suspects in the U.S., as long as the president or another high official authorized the action.

The memos can be found and read online here. The titles alone are frightening:

A sample of the truly frightening contents, from a June 27, 2002 memo signed by Deputy Assistant Attorney General Yoo:

Section 4001 of Title 18 states:

(a) No citizen shall be improsoned or otherwise detained by the United States except pursuant to an Act of Congres.

However, according to the Bush Office of Legal Counsel,

"...the President's authority to detain enemy combatants, including U.S. citizens, is based on his constitutional authority as Commander in Chief. We conclude that Section 4001(a) does not, and constitutionally could not, interfere with that authority."

Get it? And per AfterDowningStreet:

Another memo showed that, within two weeks of Sept. 11, the administration was contemplating ways to use wiretaps without getting warrants.

The author of the search and seizure memo, John Yoo, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

In that memo, Yoo wrote that the president could treat terrorist suspects in the United States like an invading foreign army. For instance, he said, the military would not have to get a warrant to storm a building to prevent terrorists from detonating a bomb.

Yoo also suggested that the government could put new restrictions on the press and speech, without spelling out what those might be.

"First Amendment speech and press rights may also be subordinated to the overriding need to wage war successfully," Yoo wrote, adding later: "The current campaign against terrorism may require even broader exercises of federal power domestically."

On their way out the door, Alberto Gonzales' follow-ons in the Justice Department issued memos of their own, trying to disavow the earlier memos (two of the disavowals are included in today's release) saying they should not be relied on, and that they were a "product of an extraordinary -- indeed, we hope, a unique -- period in the history of the Nation: the immediate aftermath of the attacks of 9/11."

But some of the memos were written later -- much later. The memo on detaining U.S. citizens without trial or warrants was written in June of 2002. Interestingly enough, the later memos came during a time when the Bush administration was contemplating going to war against Iraq. And Michael Issikoff just reminded us on "the Rachel Maddow show" that Steve Bradbury, the OLC chief who spearheaded the disavowal memos, was himself under investigation for the issuance of the clearly un-American, unconstitutional legal opinions.

In other torture news, the CIA finally announced the actual number of interrogation tapes (read torture tapes) were destroyed by the agency to prevent investigations into torture at Gitmo. The answer? 92. Natch.

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posted by JReid @ 9:01 PM  
Thursday, February 05, 2009
The madness of Dick Cheney
He has been described as a comic book villain, a character out of a Kafka novel, and even Darth Vader, but who would have thought he was also Punxtatawney Dick, rearing his ugly head on a chilly day in February and seeing the shadow of fear ... yes, lovely, beautiful, marvelous fear...!!! Cheney, who many former colleagues say they don't even recognize as the guy they knew from the Ford administration, jumps straight off the deep end in an interview with Politico, accusing the Obama administration of caring more about the comfort of terrorists than the safety of the country, and warning of dire consequences (yes, he means terror attacks) if Team Obama stops renditioning, torturing and spying on people. Watch, listen, and DESPAIR!

And enjoy some prime Cheney quotes:
“When we get people who are more concerned about reading the rights to an Al Qaeda terrorist than they are with protecting the United States against people who are absolutely committed to do anything they can to kill Americans, then I worry,” Cheney said.

Protecting the country’s security is “a tough, mean, dirty, nasty business,” he said. “These are evil people. And we’re not going to win this fight by turning the other cheek.”

And who can forget this gem:
“The United States needs to be not so much loved as it needs to be respected. Sometimes, that requires us to take actions that generate controversy. I’m not at all sure that that’s what the Obama administration believes.”

Oh, and Politico's team, which apparently emerged from the interview surprisingly unscarred by primordial ooze, reports:
He expressed confidence that files will some day be publicly accessible offering specific evidence that waterboarding and other policies he promoted — over sharp internal dissent from colleagues and harsh public criticism — were directly responsible for averting new Sept. 11-style attacks.

Not content to wait for a historical verdict, Cheney said he is set to plunge into his own memoirs, feeling liberated to describe behind-the-scenes roles over several decades in government now that the “statute of limitations has expired” on many of the most sensitive episodes.

I think I have a title for the book: "Burn Before Reading..."

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posted by JReid @ 12:34 AM  
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
The other 'Gitmo'
With all the excitement on my side of the aisle over President Obama's order to close the Byzantine Guantanamo Bay prison camp, the American public, thanks to the media, has completely overlooked another American gulag operating at the behest of the former henchman of the Bush administration, which could be just as problematic.
ASHINGTON — For months, a national debate has raged over the fate of the 245 detainees at the United States military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

But what may be an equally difficult problem now confronts the Obama administration in the 600 prisoners packed into a cavernous, makeshift prison on the American air base at Bagram in Afghanistan.

Military personnel who know Bagram and Guantánamo describe the Afghan site as tougher and more spartan. The prisoners have fewer privileges and virtually no access to lawyers. The Bush administration never allowed journalists or human rights advocates inside.

Problems have also developed with efforts to rehabilitate former jihadists, some of whom had been imprisoned at Guantánamo. Nine graduates of a Saudi program have been arrested for rejoining terrorist groups, Saudi officials said Monday.

President Obama must now decide whether and how to continue holding the men at Bagram, most of them suspected of being Taliban fighters. Under the laws of war, they are being held indefinitely and without charge. He must also determine whether to go forward with the construction of a $60 million prison complex at Bagram that, while offering better conditions for the detainees, would also signal a longer-term commitment to the American detention mission.

Mr. Obama tried last week to buy some time in addressing the challenges Bagram poses even as he ordered Guantánamo closed. By a separate executive order, Mr. Obama directed a task force led by the attorney general and the defense secretary to study the government’s overall policy on detainees and to report to him in six months.

But human rights advocates and former government officials say that several factors — including expanding combat operations against the Taliban, the scheduled opening of the new prison at Bagram in the fall and a recent federal court order — will probably force the administration to deal with the vexing choices much sooner. ...
The truth of the matter is the Obama team are acting with as much "deliberate speed" as they probably can, but even the temptation to continue the most horrific policies of the Bush administration, given the difficult task of fighting an on-going 'war' with al-Qaida, which is based in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, must be something else.

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posted by JReid @ 3:52 PM  
Friday, October 10, 2008
Support spy on the troops!
It shouldn't come as a surprise that the U.S. eavesdropped on American citizens. You know that by now, I'm sure. It might, however, be surprising to you that we spied on our own troops, in their most private moments, and then our troop supporting intelligence services stored the ill-gotten recordings on their computers like iTunes. Brian Ross reports:
Despite pledges by President George W. Bush and American intelligence officials to the contrary, hundreds of US citizens overseas have been eavesdropped on as they called friends and family back home, according to two former military intercept operators who worked at the giant National Security Agency (NSA) center in Fort Gordon, Georgia.

... "These were just really everyday, average, ordinary Americans who happened to be in the Middle East, in our area of intercept and happened to be making these phone calls on satellite phones," said Adrienne Kinne, a 31-year old US Army Reserves Arab linguist assigned to a special military program at the NSA's Back Hall at Fort Gordon from November 2001 to 2003.

Kinne described the contents of the calls as "personal, private things with Americans who are not in any way, shape or form associated with anything to do with terrorism."

She said US military officers, American journalists and American aid workers were routinely intercepted and "collected on" as they called their offices or homes in the United States.

Another intercept operator, former Navy Arab linguist, David Murfee Faulk, 39, said he and his fellow intercept operators listened into hundreds of Americans picked up using phones in Baghdad's Green Zone from late 2003 to November 2007.

"Calling home to the United States, talking to their spouses, sometimes their girlfriends, sometimes one phone call following another," said Faulk.

So ... what'd they hear?

Faulk says he and others in his section of the NSA facility at Fort Gordon routinely shared salacious or tantalizing phone calls that had been intercepted, alerting office mates to certain time codes of "cuts" that were available on each operator's computer.

"Hey, check this out," Faulk says he would be told, "there's good phone sex or there's some pillow talk, pull up this call, it's really funny, go check it out. It would be some colonel making pillow talk and we would say, 'Wow, this was crazy'," Faulk told ABC News.

Faulk said he joined in to listen, and talk about it during breaks in Back Hall's "smoke pit," but ended up feeling badly about his actions.

"I feel that it was something that the people should not have done. Including me," he said.

Feel any safer yet?

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posted by JReid @ 12:17 AM  
Saturday, August 30, 2008
Why we fight
While you were hunting wolf pups from an airplane ... Sarah Palin ... the Bush administration was seeking to recertify the "unitary executive"...
WASHINGTON — Tucked deep into a recent proposal from the Bush administration is a provision that has received almost no public attention, yet in many ways captures one of President Bush’s defining legacies: an affirmation that the United States is still at war with Al Qaeda.

Seven years after the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Bush’s advisers assert that many Americans may have forgotten that. So they want Congress to say so and “acknowledge again and explicitly that this nation remains engaged in an armed conflict with Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated organizations, who have already proclaimed themselves at war with us and who are dedicated to the slaughter of Americans.”

The language, part of a proposal for hearing legal appeals from detainees at the United States naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, goes beyond political symbolism. Echoing a measure that Congress passed just days after the Sept. 11 attacks, it carries significant legal and public policy implications for Mr. Bush, and potentially his successor, to claim the imprimatur of Congress to use the tools of war, including detention, interrogation and surveillance, against the enemy, legal and political analysts say.

Some lawmakers are concerned that the administration’s effort to declare anew a war footing is an 11th-hour maneuver to re-establish its broad interpretation of the president’s wartime powers, even in the face of challenges from the Supreme Court and Congress.

The proposal is also the latest step that the administration, in its waning months, has taken to make permanent important aspects of its “long war” against terrorism. From a new wiretapping law approved by Congress to a rewriting of intelligence procedures and F.B.I. investigative techniques, the administration is moving to institutionalize by law, regulation or order a wide variety of antiterrorism tactics.

“This seems like a final push by the administration before they go out the door,” said Suzanne Spaulding, a former lawyer for the Central Intelligence Agency and an expert on national security law. The cumulative effect of the actions, Ms. Spaulding said, is to “put the onus on the next administration” — particularly a Barack Obama administration — to justify undoing what Mr. Bush has done. ..
So what would the new language mean, precisely?
Mr. Mukasey laid out the administration’s thinking in a July 21 speech to a conservative Washington policy institute in response to yet another rebuke on presidential powers by the Supreme Court: its ruling that prisoners at Guantánamo Bay , were entitled to habeas corpus rights to contest their detentions in court.

The administration wants Congress to set out a narrow framework for those prisoner appeals. But the administration’s six-point proposal goes further. It includes not only the broad proclamation of a continued “armed conflict with Al Qaeda,” but also the desire for Congress to “reaffirm that for the duration of the conflict the United States may detain as enemy combatants those who have engaged in hostilities or purposefully supported Al Qaeda, the Taliban and associated organizations.”

That broad language hints at why Democrats, and some Republicans, worry about the consequences. It could, they say, provide the legal framework for Mr. Bush and his successor to assert once again the president’s broad interpretation of the commander in chief’s wartime powers, powers that Justice Department lawyers secretly used to justify the indefinite detention of terrorist suspects and the National Security Agency’s wiretapping of Americans without court orders. ...

Hopefully, even Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid's accommodating Congress won't fall for it. Fool me once ...

And by the way, in case you missed this in the Times on June 8th:
WASHINGTON — A top adviser to Senator John McCain says Mr. McCain believes that President Bush’s program of wiretapping without warrants was lawful, a position that appears to bring him into closer alignment with the sweeping theories of executive authority pushed by the Bush administration legal team.

In a letter posted online by National Review this week, the adviser, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, said Mr. McCain believed that the Constitution gave Mr. Bush the power to authorize the National Security Agency to monitor Americans’ international phone calls and e-mail without warrants, despite a 1978 federal statute that required court oversight of surveillance.

Mr. McCain believes that “neither the administration nor the telecoms need apologize for actions that most people, except for the A.C.L.U. and trial lawyers, understand were constitutional and appropriate in the wake of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001,” Mr. Holtz-Eakin wrote.

And if Mr. McCain is elected president, Mr. Holtz-Eakin added, he would do everything he could to prevent terrorist attacks, “including asking the telecoms for appropriate assistance to collect intelligence against foreign threats to the United States as authorized by Article II of the Constitution.”

Although a spokesman for Mr. McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, denied that the senator’s views on surveillance and executive power had shifted, legal specialists said the letter contrasted with statements Mr. McCain previously made about the limits of presidential power. ...
A question that should be put to McCain in the debates: do you believe the president of the United States has the authority to supersede the law and wiretap Americans on U.S. soil? I'd love to hear his answer to that.


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posted by JReid @ 8:33 AM  
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Operation Ignore Mukasey
Michael Mukasey has proved to be only slightly less detrimental to the Constitution than his idiotic predecessor, Alberto Gonzales. Mukasey's refusal to do his job, when that job would have anything to do with enforcing laws broken by the Bush administration, has so frustrated Congress, that even the Bushwhacked, spineless, impeachment-wary Democrats are ignoring him. I guess they figure that insulating the telcoms and the president from prosecution and impeachment are enough dirty work to keep the anonymous Bush staffers from mailing the contents of the wiretaps on their homes and offices to pre-jail Robert Novak and Matt Drudge...

So what is Mukasey asking for that he ain't getting? Try a declaration of war ... perpetual war ... against al-Qaida ... forever:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Congress should explicitly declare a state of armed conflict with al Qaeda to make clear the United States can detain suspected members as long as the war on terrorism lasts, U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey said on Monday.

Mukasey urged Congress to make the declaration in a package of legislative proposals to establish a legal process for terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo, in response to a Supreme Court ruling last month that detainees had a constitutional right to challenge their detention.

"Any legislation should acknowledge again and explicitly that this nation remains engaged in an armed conflict with al Qaeda, the Taliban and associated organizations, who have already proclaimed themselves at war with us," Mukasey said in a speech to the American Enterprise Institute.

"Congress should reaffirm that for the duration of the conflict the United States may detain as enemy combatants those who have engaged in hostilities or purposefully supported al Qaeda, the Taliban and associated organizations," he said.

Mukasey was not asking for a formal declaration of war, which would trigger certain emergency powers under the Constitution and international law, a Justice Department spokesman said. U.S. President George W. Bush has on numerous occasions said the United States was "at war" against terrorists and cited that as a basis for his powers.

New legislation should also prohibit courts from ordering a detainee to be released within the United States. It should protect secrets in court hearings, ensure that soldiers are not taken from the battlefield to testify and prevent challenges from delaying detainee trials, he said.
In other words, anyone the president decided was a terrorist could be held by the U.S. in secret detention forever. With no legal recourse. Forever. To Newsweek's Michael Isikoff and Mark "The Mustache" Hosenball:
Mukasey's plea for quick passage of a significant new counterterrorism measure essentially fell on deaf ears—at least from the Democrats who control Congress. "Zero," snapped one key lawmaker, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, when asked the likelihood that Congress will rush to pass the kind of law Mukasey and the Bush administration are seeking. "We don't have to pass anything," said Nadler, who chairs the House subcommittee that has primary jurisdiction over the issue, in a brief hallway interview with NEWSWEEK. "Let the courts deal with it."

The derisive comments from the feisty New York liberal—just moments after Mukasey issued his strong appeal in testimony before the House Judiciary Committee—underscores the huge and poisonous gulf that now exists between the White House and Congress on virtually every issue related to the War on Terror. No Democrats on the judiciary panel endorsed Mukasey's call Wednesday for new counterterrorism legislation. None of them even bothered to ask him any questions about it. Instead, they essentially ignored what the attorney general portrayed as the Justice Department's top priority for his final six months in office.
Not that the Democrats really intend to stand up to Bush ... that's simply not done in the House that Nancy built. In fact, fellow House Diva Jane Harman proposed a law, H.R. 1955, the "Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007," which would open up all of our Internet communications to administration scrutiny, and it sailed through the House, bringing Traitor Joe Lieberman closer to his dream of excising all Muslim traffic from Youtube. It's just that the Dems have finally figured out that it's summer: they don't have to do the White House's bidding until AFTER the Democratic convention, when the RNC ads about them being "soft on terror" start running.


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posted by JReid @ 12:18 AM  
Monday, June 16, 2008
Right wing hysterics overlook the obvious
Newt Gingrich, the gang at Fox News and the neoconservative wack-jobs who brought us the Iraq war are still going bat-crap crazy over the Supreme Courts "welcome back, habeas corpus" ruling. They're spewing irrationalities every where you turn, and even suggesting that Bush simply ignore the ruling. Yeah. That's not unconstitutional... Even poor old John McCain is doing his part, railing against the Court as only a man who must cast a bewitching spell over the hard right of his own party in order to secure their cooperation in November can. Of course, there's always more to the story, which CBS News' Andrew Cohen spells out nicely:
Following the last Supreme Court ruling on this topic, which also struck down stubborn Administration detainee policies, the Senator (a Vietnam torture victim himself) invested no small amount of his own treasured (and well-earned) historical capital to try to broker a deal on the detainees.

And, in late 2006, he did.

It’s called the Military Commissions Act. It was a terrible idea from the very beginning, and it was one of two federal statutes undercut by the Justices last Thursday. It’s no wonder the nominee is taking the defeat personally.

After first insisting that federal law clearly and unambiguously outlaw “torture,” McCain suddenly caved to White House pressure on the MCA, allowing the Administration to insert into the law a clause that effectively allows (and, indeed, legally buttresses the efforts of) the executive branch to implement torture as a means of interrogation.

Without McCain’s pander, there would have been no bad law for the Court to strike down last week. Without McCain’s grandiloquent appeal to Democrats and moderates during that lame-duck session, there quite possibly might have been a better law that just might have passed its constitutional test this term.

McCain’s sell-out on the torture language is not the reason the Justices declared the MCA unconstitutional. It is not the reason why the detainees now have more access to federal courts than they did before. But it is emblematic of the larger and much more destructive, seven-year-long sell-out of the legislative branch in the legal fight against terrorism.

And that emblem, thanks to the Supreme Court, now has John McCain’s face on it just in time for the run-up to the general election.
Nice work, John.

I suppose it wouldn't move this crowd to find out that some of the people being detained indefinitely by the U.S. aren't actually terrorists...
GARDEZ, Afghanistan — The militants crept up behind Mohammed Akhtiar as he squatted at the spigot to wash his hands before evening prayers at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

They shouted "Allahu Akbar" — God is great — as one of them hefted a metal mop squeezer into the air, slammed it into Akhtiar's head and sent thick streams of blood running down his face.

Akhtiar was among the more than 770 terrorism suspects imprisoned at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. They are the men the Bush administration described as "the worst of the worst."

But Akhtiar was no terrorist. American troops had dragged him out of his Afghanistan home in 2003 and held him in Guantanamo for three years in the belief that he was an insurgent involved in rocket attacks on U.S. forces. The Islamic radicals in Guantanamo's Camp Four who hissed "infidel" and spat at Akhtiar, however, knew something his captors didn't: The U.S. government had the wrong guy.

"He was not an enemy of the government, he was a friend of the government," a senior Afghan intelligence officer told McClatchy. Akhtiar was imprisoned at Guantanamo on the basis of false information that local anti-government insurgents fed to U.S. troops, he said.

An eight-month McClatchy investigation in 11 countries on three continents has found that Akhtiar was one of dozens of men — and, according to several officials, perhaps hundreds — whom the U.S. has wrongfully imprisoned in Afghanistan, Cuba and elsewhere on the basis of flimsy or fabricated evidence, old personal scores or bounty payments.

McClatchy interviewed 66 released detainees, more than a dozen local officials — primarily in Afghanistan — and U.S. officials with intimate knowledge of the detention program. The investigation also reviewed thousands of pages of U.S. military tribunal documents and other records.

This unprecedented compilation shows that most of the 66 were low-level Taliban grunts, innocent Afghan villagers or ordinary criminals. At least seven had been working for the U.S.-backed Afghan government and had no ties to militants, according to Afghan local officials. In effect, many of the detainees posed no danger to the United States or its allies.

The investigation also found that despite the uncertainty about whom they were holding, U.S. soldiers beat and abused many prisoners.

Prisoner mistreatment became a regular feature in cellblocks and interrogation rooms at Bagram and Kandahar air bases, the two main way stations in Afghanistan en route to Guantanamo.

While he was held at Afghanistan's Bagram Air Base, Akhtiar said, "When I had a dispute with the interrogator, when I asked, 'What is my crime?' the soldiers who took me back to my cell would throw me down the stairs."

The McClatchy reporting also documented how U.S. detention policies fueled support for extremist Islamist groups. For some detainees who went home far more militant than when they arrived, Guantanamo became a school for jihad, or Islamic holy war.
Hm. ... and as for these frightening "terrorists" who are now going to take out an American city (from behind those cage bars in Cuba):

The McClatchy investigation found that top Bush administration officials knew within months of opening the Guantanamo detention center that many of the prisoners there weren't "the worst of the worst." From the moment that Guantanamo opened in early 2002, former Secretary of the Army Thomas White said, it was obvious that at least a third of the population didn't belong there.

Of the 66 detainees whom McClatchy interviewed, the evidence indicates that 34 of them, about 52 percent, had connections with militant groups or activities. At least 23 of those 34, however, were Taliban foot soldiers, conscripts, low-level volunteers or adventure-seekers who knew nothing about global terrorism.

Only seven of the 66 were in positions to have had any ties to al Qaida's leadership, and it isn't clear that any of them knew any terrorists of consequence.

If the former detainees whom McClatchy interviewed are any indication — and several former high-ranking U.S. administration and defense officials said in interviews that they are — most of the prisoners at Guantanamo weren't terrorist masterminds but men who were of no intelligence value in the war on terrorism.

Feeling safe yet? The truly sad thing about this whole sorry business is that few wingers are likely to care whether the people we're holding at Gitmo, including the children, are terrorists or not. For many on the right, it's enough that they are Muslims, and their president (so long as he is a Republican) should, in the estimation of many of the craziest right wingers (and their talk radio listening robots) be able to grab any Muslim, anywhere, anytime, and hold them forever, "as long as the war on terror goes on." And by the way, it will always "go on."



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posted by JReid @ 4:48 PM  
Friday, June 13, 2008
A blow against tyranny
The WaPo's Dan Froomkin quotes from Justice Kennedy's opinion to declare the SUPCO ruling "a blow against tyranny":
In yesterday's landmark Supreme Court decision that President Bush cannot deny prisoners at Guantanamo Bay the right to challenge their detentions in federal court, there's a key passage about protecting people from despotism.

The passage comes as Justice Anthony M. Kennedy is relating the history and origins of the great writ of habeas corpus. Kennedy quotes from Alexander Hamilton's Federalist No. 84, which in turn quotes English jurist William Blackstone: "[T]he practice of arbitrary imprisonments, have been, in all ages, the favorite and most formidable instruments of tyranny. The observations of the judicious Blackstone . . . are well worthy of recital: 'To bereave a man of life. . . or by violence to confiscate his estate, without accusation or trial, would be so gross and notorious an act of despotism as must at once convey the alarm of tyranny throughout the whole nation; but confinement of the person, by secretly hurrying him to jail, where his sufferings are unknown or forgotten, is a less public, a less striking, and therefore a more dangerous engine of arbitrary government.'"

The majority took aim at the Bushies' argument that the Constitution stops at the water's edge:
The Government's sovereignty-based test raises troubling separation-of-powers concerns, which are illustrated by Guantanamo's political history. Although the United States has maintained complete and uninterrupted control of Guantanamo for over 100 years, the Government's view is that the Constitution has no effect there, at least as to noncitizens, because the United States disclaimed formal sovereignty in its 1903 lease with Cuba. The Nation's basic charter cannot be contracted away like this. The Constitution grants Congress and the President the power to acquire, dispose of, and govern territory, not the power to decide when and where its terms apply. To hold that the political branches may switch the Constitution on or off at will would lead to a regime in which they, not this Court, say "what the law is." Marbury v. Madison, 1 Cranch 137, 177. These concerns have particular bearing upon the Suspension Clause question here, for the habeas writ is itself an indispensable mechanism for monitoring the separation of powers
Double amen.

One more clip from the ruling, in which Kennedy and the other four members of the majority lay out the glaring deficiencies in the flimsy rules Congress set up to supposedly give the detainees some semblance of judicial review:
It is uncontroversial, however, that the habeas privilege entitles the prisoner to a meaningful opportunity to demonstrate that he is being held pursuant to "the erroneous application or interpretation" of relevant law, INS v. St. Cyr, 533 U. S. 289, 302, and the habeas court must have the power to order the conditional release of an individual unlawfully detained. But more may be required depending on the circumstances. Petitioners identify what they see as myriad deficiencies in the CSRTs, the most relevant being the constraints upon the detainee's ability to rebut the factual basis for the Government's assertion that he is an enemy combatant. At the CSRT stage the detainee has limited means to find or present evidence to challenge the Government's case, does not have the assistance of counsel, and may not be aware of the most critical allegations that the Government relied upon to order his detention. His opportunity to confront witnesses is likely to be more theoretical than real, given that there are no limits on the admission of hearsay. The Court therefore agrees with petitioners that there is considerable risk of error in the tribunal's findings of fact. And given that the consequence of error may be detention for the duration of hostilities that may last a generation or more, the risk is too significant to ignore. Accordingly, for the habeas writ, or its substitute, to function as an effective and meaningful remedy in this context, the court conducting the collateral proceeding must have some ability to correct any errors, to assess the sufficiency of the Government's evidence, and to admit and consider relevant exculpatory evidence that was not introduced during the earlier proceeding.
Amen squared. So what's so controversial about the ruling? For the right, it's the fact that finally, someone, in this case, five justices, have stood up and said that the president of the United States should not have godlike power. His actions must be subject to review. He cannot, like George III, simply spirit people off into the night and hold them indefinitely, giving the detained no recourse, no chance to ask "why are you holding me?" and to say "I'm not guilty." And, equally important, the court has said that the Congress cannot grant the president godlike power, even if in its political cowardice, it is determined to do so.



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posted by JReid @ 3:46 PM  
Habeas hysteria
"The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times." -- Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority in Boumediene v. Bush

The authoritarian right has joined Crazy Tony Scalia in going absolutely ape-crap crazy over the Supreme Court's ruling yesterday granting the right of habeas corpus, which had been stripped from the constitution by our current presidential administration and his lackeys in the 109th Congress, to detainees held on the de facto U.S. soil called Guantanamo Bay. Scotusblog publishes one rollicking dissent today from a guy from a right-wing ... er ... "free market"... outfit called the Washington Legal Foundation.

Scalia got the ball rolling in his shrieky dissent yesterday, adopting almost word for word, the Fox News/right wing talk show formulation that "Americans will die" if our eternal detainees are allowed to challenge their endless detention in court.

The Wall Street Journal editorial board weighs in with its hysterical reaction today, directing their ire at Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Ronald Reagan appointee wrote the decision in the case of Boumediene v. Bush:
Justice Kennedy's opinion is remarkable in its sweeping disregard for the decisions of both political branches. In a pair of 2006 laws – the Detainee Treatment Act and the Military Commissions Act – Congress and the President had worked out painstaking and good-faith rules for handling enemy combatants during wartime. These rules came in response to previous Supreme Court decisions demanding such procedural care, and they are the most extensive ever granted to prisoners of war.

Yet as Justice Antonin Scalia notes in dissent, "Turns out" the same Justices "were just kidding." Mr. Kennedy now deems those efforts inadequate, based on only the most cursory analysis. As Chief Justice John Roberts makes clear in his dissent, the majority seems to dislike these procedures merely because a judge did not sanctify them. In their place, Justice Kennedy decrees that district court judges should derive their own ad hoc standards for judging habeas petitions. Make it up as you go!

Justice Kennedy declines even to consider what those standards should be, or how they would protect national security over classified information or the sources and methods that led to the detentions. Eventually, as the lower courts work their will amid endless litigation, perhaps President Kennedy will vouchsafe more details in some future case. In the meantime, the likelihood grows that our soldiers will prematurely release combatants who will kill more Americans.
I'm quivering just thinking about it.

To arrive at their predictions of doom, the Journal board cites the cases of German soldiers tried (and executed) by military commissions shortly after World War II, and, wait for it, the detention of 400,000 Japanese Americans who were interred in their own country, by their own country, during that conflict. Correct me if I'm wrong, but citing one of this country's most shameful moments as justification for deleting habeas from the Constitution -- a right that goes back to the freaking Magna Carta, and giving one man -- the president -- the power to detain at will, anyone, anywhere, for as long as he sees fit (and to torture them, at that,) doesn't strike me as very persuasive.

The Boumediene case itself is troubling, involving Lakhdar Boumediene, a man detained by U.S. troops in Bosnia way back in 2002. He has been held in Gitmo ever since -- not charged with a crime, just held in extralegal limbo at the president's discretion. His case was filed along with those of 11 other men, also in limbo in America's gulag by the sea. In December, the BBC reported of Boumediene:
Lakhdar Boumediene, now 41, travelled to Bosnia with five other Algerian men during the civil war in the 1990s, and may have fought with Bosnian forces against the Serbs.

The six stayed in Bosnia, married Bosnian women, were granted citizenship and took jobs working with orphans for various Muslim charities.

In October 2001, the US embassy in Sarajevo asked the Bosnian government to arrest them because of a suspicion they had been involved in a plot to bomb the embassy.

The six men were duly arrested. But after a three-month investigation, in which the Bosnian police searched their apartments, their computers and their documents, there was - according to a report by the New-York-based Center for Constitutional Rights - still no evidence to justify the arrests.

Bosnia's Supreme Court ordered their release, and the Bosnian Human Rights Chamber ruled they had the right to remain in the country and were not to be deported.

However, on the night of 17 January 2002, after they were freed from Bosnian custody, they were seized and rendered to Guantanamo.

Since arriving in Guantanamo, the men have faced repeated allegations of links to al-Qaeda - but the embassy plot has never been mentioned.

It was alleged in a tribunal hearing that an unidentified source had said Mr Boumediene "was known to be one of the closest associates of an al-Qaeda member in Europe".

The men have persistently denied the allegations.

Their lawyers say the source of the bomb-plot allegations was the embittered former brother-in-law of one of the men, who ran a smear campaign against him.

The UN special rapporteur on torture, Manfred Novak, has said: "It's implausible to say that they are enemy combatants.

"They were fighters during the Bosnian war, but that ended in 1995.

"They may be radical Islamists, but they have definitely not committed any crime."

Families of the Algerians seized in Bosnia protest in Sarajevo
Families of the Algerians seized in Bosnia have protested in Sarajevo
According to the Washington Post, they were formally exonerated by Bosnian prosecutors in 2004.

The Journal's hysteria board fails to mention any of this, including the exoneration, and the absolute lack of evidence that Mr. Boumediene is an al-Qaida terrorist. And yet:
In March 2005, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice responded to a request for their release from the Bosnian prime minister by saying it was not possible because "they still possess important intelligence data".

All six men have said they have been treated brutally in Guantanamo, subjected to "enhanced interrogation techniques" involving prolonged isolation, forced nudity and sleep deprivation.
To what purpose? Are we now to believe that anyone who is Muslim, who has participated in any armed conflict, even the Bosnian conflict in which we fought essentially ON HIS SIDE, is an al-Qaida terrorist or associate? And on that basis, we can detain that person indefinitely, without charges, and torture him?

This, apparently, is the America that the right -- more pointedly, the authoritarian right -- desires. It's an America that is remarkably similar to the Iraq of Saddam Hussein, or the old Soviet Union.

The Journal goes on to warn that the SUPCO ruling could lead to the release of people like Mr. Boumediene, who will then turn around and kill Americans. Well let's see ... rendered thousands of miles from home and locked in a cage ... tortured ... interrogated repeatedly about things he says he knows nothing about ... tortured ... held incommunicado without so much as a hearing to explain WHY he's being held ... tortured ... yep. He probably IS likely to want to kill Americans now.

Does the ruling make life complicated for the Bushies? You bet it does:

The court rejected Bush administration arguments that Guantánamo's location put it outside U.S. constitutional protections.

"The United States, by virtue of its complete jurisdiction and control over the base, maintains de facto sovereignty over this territory," Kennedy noted.

Kennedy and the four other justices further concluded that the detainees deserved full habeas corpus access to federal courts, despite congressional efforts to curtail it.

In a sense, the court told the administration that its time had run out. For more than four years, government lawyers have struggled to satisfy the court that some sort of process was in place in Guantánamo to separate those detainees who may pose a threat to the United States from those who were innocently caught up in the dragnet cast after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Thursday marked the third time the justices have rejected those efforts as being insufficient. And this time, there won't be a chance for another shot. It was clear from the tenor of the decision that the justices' patience had been exhausted. "Some of these petitioners have been in custody for six years with no definitive judicial determination as to the legality of their detention," Kennedy wrote.

The bulk of the detainees remaining at Guantánamo — about 260 — will have their cases heard individually by U.S. District Court judges in Washington in what's known as a habeas corpus proceeding. In these cases, the government will have the burden of showing why a prisoner should continue to be held without charges. "We think it's unlikely in most of the cases the government will be able to do that," Ratner said.

Compounding the problem will be that any evidence obtained through torture or coercion at Guantánamo is likely to be inadmissible in federal court. The inmate will also have the opportunity to offer exculpatory evidence.

The judge can then order his continued detention without a charge being filed against him; that the government charge the detainee or release him; or that he be released and transferred to another country.

The judge will also have the authority to block a transfer of a prisoner by the Pentagon on the grounds that he may be re-incarcerated or tortured if shipped to his home country, and perhaps order him transferred to a different country.

One of the next big questions — or embarrassments — could focus on what happens to detainees who win their freedom at habeas corpus hearings but have no place to go.

"The brutally frank answer is that we're stuck," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said recently. "And we're stuck in several ways: Either their home government won't accept them or we are concerned that the home government will let them loose once we return them home."

And yet, the United States, at least the America that existed before 9/11 gave the neocons a green light to build a fascist paradise for themselves and their corporate friends where we used to have a constitutional government, doesn't render, indefinitely hold, and torture people. What the Journal, right wing talk hosts and bloggers, and the rest of the right wing nut-jobs, who are driven by fear, and plied by greed, want, is so profoundly un-American, that these people should not, to coin a phrase, be heard in polite company. The ruling doesn't mean that anyone will be released immediately, but if any are, whatever happens next is squarely the fault of the Bush administration, and the Congress that let them run wild for so long.

Kudos to Anthony Kennedy and the other four members of the sane wing of the Court -- which should from now on be known as the American wing.


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posted by JReid @ 2:38 PM  
Thursday, June 12, 2008
SUPCO upholds pre-Bush American values
Score one for 232 years of pre-Bush American values. By a 5-4 margin, the Supreme Court rules that George Bush's black site detainees can challenge their indefinite detention in U.S. courts:
In its third rebuke of the Bush administration's treatment of prisoners, the court ruled 5-4 that the government is violating the rights of prisoners being held indefinitely and without charges at the U.S. naval base in Cuba. The court's liberal justices were in the majority.
This is the third straight court loss for the Bushies, and their Soviet detention tactics.
It was not immediately clear whether this ruling, unlike the first two, would lead to prompt hearings for the detainees, some of whom have been held more than 6 years. Roughly 270 men remain at the island prison, classified as enemy combatants and held on suspicion of terrorism or links to al-Qaida and the Taliban. ...

...The court said not only that the detainees have rights under the Constitution, but that the system the administration has put in place to classify them as enemy combatants and review those decisions is inadequate.

The administration had argued first that the detainees have no rights. But it also contended that the classification and review process was a sufficient substitute for the civilian court hearings that the detainees seek.
Just try and guess what sides the justices were on. Go on, I double dare ya...
In dissent, Chief Justice John Roberts criticized his colleagues for striking down what he called "the most generous set of procedural protections ever afforded aliens detained by this country as enemy combatants."

Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas also dissented.

Scalia said the nation is "at war with radical Islamists" and that the court's decision "will make the war harder on us. It will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed."

Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Souter and John Paul Stevens joined Kennedy to form the majority.

Meanwhile, among the justices who don't sound like fill-in hosts for Sean Hannity:

Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said, “The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times.” I
Keep in mind, John McCain has promised to replicate Scalia, Alito and Roberts, perhaps four times over, if he becomes president... If that happens, we will have left George Bush's post-constitutional age, and entered the Soviet Union full stop, circa 1973.


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posted by JReid @ 11:05 AM  
Monday, June 02, 2008
Ghost ships of the 'war on terror'
Even as the U.S. military struggles to make improvements in the way we treat detainees in Iraq, the Bush administration continues to stain America's honor with its brutal, ugly so-called "war on terror." First, the military effort:
BAGHDAD — Once a byword for torture and disgrace, the American-run detention system in Iraq has improved, even its critics say, as the military has incorporated it into a larger counterinsurgency strategy that seeks to avoid mistreatment that could create new enemies.

But these gains may soon be at risk. Thousands of detainees are to be turned over to the Iraqi government, some perhaps as early as the end of the year, a further step toward Iraqi sovereignty. Yet however tarnished America’s reputation may be for its treatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay, the reputation of many Iraqi prisons is worse.

“The Americans are better than Ministry of Interior prisons,” said Mahmoud Abu Dumour, a former detainee from Falluja, the Sunni stronghold west of Baghdad. “They will torture you. Maybe you will die. With the Americans, if you enter Abu Ghraib, they will only wage psychological war on you.”

Already, Human Rights Watch has criticized the military for transferring some convicted juveniles to Iraqi custody, where they are kept in what the group said are abusive conditions.

Criticism also remains high that the American military detains too many people, deprives them of due process and holds them too long, even if innocent. Many are taken in only because they were near an insurgent attack.

While nearly all of the more than 21,000 detainees in Iraq are in American custody, Maj. Gen. Douglas M. Stone, who runs detainee operations countrywide, is proceeding with a broad experiment to restructure it. His goal is to use the system of detention centers as another front in the counterinsurgency war, trying to reduce the likelihood that they become a recruiting ground for militants.

“The extremists owned the battlefield of the mind,” said General Stone, a Marine Reserve counterinsurgency expert who took responsibility for the detention system last spring. Before he arrived, moderate and extremist detainees were usually mixed, turning the American-run detention facilities into what he called a “jihadi university.”

General Stone’s goal now is to isolate those he believes are extremists, who are a minority of detainees, and persuade the other detainees that they will have better lives if they keep away from those who preach jihad. It is part of the effort to bring detention policy here in line with American military strategy that seeks to separate insurgents from civilians, mentally and physically.

General Stone’s goal is to move detainees, particularly more moderate ones, through the system faster by instituting review boards to hear each detainee’s case. So far, these boards have released at least 8,400 people. He has also pushed to expand paid work programs, like carpentry shops, brick factories and laundries, as well as educational programs, especially for juvenile detainees and the many illiterate adults.

It is difficult to assess this drive toward improvement. Outsiders are forbidden to interview detainees. The International Committee of the Red Cross has regular access to the facilities, but the United Nations and human rights groups say they have not been permitted to enter. ...
And then there's this, not-so-minor issue, that has to do with the wind-down of the Bush administration's stewardship, if you can call it that, of Iraq:
Looming on the horizon is the end of the United Nations authorization of the American involvement in Iraq, including the detention system. The authorization expires Dec. 31 and the United Nations is not expected to take up the issue again, leaving it to negotiations between the United States and Iraq. But the outlook for such a deal, which involves sweeping issues of troop withdrawal, as well as detention and other aspects of an American presence in Iraq, is in doubt.

On Sunday, for instance, the Iraqi government said it would not accept an American draft proposal on the issues.

The detention issues at play cover difficult legal and ethical ground, so much so that no American official interviewed for this article was willing to speak on the record about the discussions.

At the heart of the problem are all the so-called security detainees, who make up an overwhelming majority of the 21,000 people in American custody. They are the people who have been arrested because, in the judgment of the United States military, they could present some threat, even if they are not accused of extremist activity.

It is expected that Iraqi officials, who are now completing new prisons, will seek to take more control of detention operations, including taking custody of at least some of the current Iraqi detainees. That prompts the question characterized by one American military lawyer as “What do we do with the red population?” or those detainees the Americans consider to be extremists — the 8,000 detainees that General Stone referred to as a continuing threat.

Even as the Americans try to overcome their reputation for past mistreatment, serious allegations of torture and substandard conditions in some Iraqi prisons persist. Iraq’s Interior Ministry detention centers, which hold the largest numbers of pretrial detainees, have been run primarily by Shiites and have a record of overcrowding and abuse against the predominantly Sunni detainee population.

There have also been many allegations of torture. In cases in 2005 and 2006, it was American and British soldiers who rescued beaten and starved prisoners.

“If the coalition is going to turn over detainees, there are real Convention Against Torture issues,” said Kevin Lanigan, a former Army Reserve judge advocate in Iraq who is director of the law and security program at Human Rights First, a rights organization.

He was referring to the international Convention Against Torture, which among other things prohibits nations that have signed it from turning detainees over to countries where there are “substantial grounds” to believe that they would be tortured. Iraq has also signed the convention.

And speaking of "Convention Against Torture issues," the Guardian reports on "ghost ships" rendering detainees to ports unknown, where they may indeed, pose those issues.
The United States is operating "floating prisons" to house those arrested in its war on terror, according to human rights lawyers, who claim there has been an attempt to conceal the numbers and whereabouts of detainees.

Details of ships where detainees have been held and sites allegedly being used in countries across the world have been compiled as the debate over detention without trial intensifies on both sides of the Atlantic. The US government was yesterday urged to list the names and whereabouts of all those detained.

Information about the operation of prison ships has emerged through a number of sources, including statements from the US military, the Council of Europe and related parliamentary bodies, and the testimonies of prisoners.

The analysis, due to be published this year by the human rights organisation Reprieve, also claims there have been more than 200 new cases of rendition since 2006, when President George Bush declared that the practice had stopped.

It is the use of ships to detain prisoners, however, that is raising fresh concern and demands for inquiries in Britain and the US.

According to research carried out by Reprieve, the US may have used as many as 17 ships as "floating prisons" since 2001. Detainees are interrogated aboard the vessels and then rendered to other, often undisclosed, locations, it is claimed.

Ships that are understood to have held prisoners include the USS Bataan and USS Peleliu. A further 15 ships are suspected of having operated around the British territory of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, which has been used as a military base by the UK and the Americans.

Reprieve will raise particular concerns over the activities of the USS Ashland and the time it spent off Somalia in early 2007 conducting maritime security operations in an effort to capture al-Qaida terrorists.

At this time many people were abducted by Somali, Kenyan and Ethiopian forces in a systematic operation involving regular interrogations by individuals believed to be members of the FBI and CIA. Ultimately more than 100 individuals were "disappeared" to prisons in locations including Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Guantánamo Bay.

Reprieve believes prisoners may have also been held for interrogation on the USS Ashland and other ships in the Gulf of Aden during this time. ...

So let's get this straight. The Bush administration is concerned about turning over Iraqi prisoners to the Iraqi government because of concerns they might be tortured, but we continue to ferry prisoners secretly on American military vessels, where we might be torturing them ... I mean "interrogating" them ... and where we very well might be rendering them to rogue governments so that THEY can torture them?

And right wingers want to keep this outrage going with four years of John McCain?


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posted by JReid @ 11:01 AM  
Sunday, May 04, 2008
Our gulag
The shame and scourge that is Guantanamo Bay continues to eat away at America's standing, and its soul. Nick Kristoff writes in today's NYTimes:
A Prison of Shame, and It’s Ours

My Times colleague Barry Bearak was imprisoned by the brutal regime in Zimbabwe last month. Barry was not beaten, but he was infected with scabies while in a bug-infested jail. He was finally brought before a court after four nights in jail and then released.

Alas, we don’t treat our own inmates in Guantánamo with even that much respect for law. On Thursday, America released Sami al-Hajj, a cameraman for Al Jazeera who had been held without charges for more than six years. Mr. Hajj has credibly alleged that he was beaten, and that he was punished for a hunger strike by having feeding tubes forcibly inserted in his nose and throat without lubricant, so as to rub tissue raw.

“Conditions in Guantánamo are very, very bad,” Mr. Hajj said in a televised interview from his hospital bed in Sudan, adding, “In Guantánamo, you have animals that are called iguanas ... that are treated with more humanity.”

Al Jazeera’s director general, Wadah Khanfar, said by telephone from the hospital that Mr. Hajj was so frail when he arrived that he had to be carried off the plane and into an ambulance. Guantánamo inmates are not allowed to see their families, so that evening Mr. Hajj met his 7-year-old son, whom he had last seen as a baby.

Reliable information is still scarce about Guantánamo, but increasingly we’re gaining glimpses of life there — and they are painful to read.

Murat Kurnaz, a German citizen of Turkish descent, has just published a memoir of his nearly five years in Guantánamo. He describes prolonged torture that included interruptions by a doctor to ensure that he was well enough for the torture to continue.

Mahvish Rukhsana Khan, an American woman of Afghan descent who worked as an interpreter, has written a book to be published next month, “My Guantánamo Diary,” that is wrenching to read. She describes a pediatrician who returned to Afghanistan in 2003 to help rebuild his country — and was then arrested by Americans, beaten, doused with icy water and paraded around naked. Finally, after three years, officials apparently decided he was innocent and sent him home.

A third powerful new book about Guantánamo, by an American lawyer named Steven Wax, is summed up by its title: “Kafka Comes to America.”

The new material suggests two essential truths about Guantánamo:

First, most of the inmates were probably innocent all along, but Pakistanis or Afghans turned them over to America in exchange for large cash rewards. The moment we offered $25,000 rewards for Al Qaeda supporters, any Arab in the region risked being kidnapped and turned over as a terrorism suspect.

Second, torture was routine, especially early on. That’s why more than 100 prisoners have died in American custody in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantánamo. ...

It gets even bleaker after that, and Kristoff ultimately concludes that "Granted, it can be hard to figure out what version to believe. When I started writing about Guantánamo several years ago, I thought the inmates might be lying and the Pentagon telling the truth. No doubt some inmates lie, and some surely are terrorists. But over time — and it’s painful to write this — I’ve found the inmates to be more credible than American officials.
The comments on his column are unsurprising, including this one:
I am a Canadian living in Vancouver. As a state that practices, condones and justifies torture, the U.S. has departed the family of civilized nations.

The Bush administration has conclusively lost its “war on terror” by embracing the barbaric practices of the presumed enemy and attacking fundamental human rights.

The initial Bush policy of unilateralism undermined American leadership of the liberal democracies. Americans should realize that the subsequent descent into bestiality has caused widespread revulsion amongst your closest friends and allies. The entire Guantanamo security command structure are not brothers and sisters of other Western security services, they are the brothers of the SS and NKVD.

But there are a few comments like this one, too:
who is surprised that the nytimes writers believe terrorists who killed our people on 9/11 over the men and women who risk their lives protecting us from the savage barbaric killers down in gitmo?
— Posted by jimmy lee williams

To those recalcitrant Dittoheads like Jimmy Lee, who probably get most of their news from right wing talk radio and Fox News, rather than the New York Times, I refer you to the story of Specialist Sean Baker, also from Mr. Kristof:
The prison abuse scandal refuses to die because soothing White House explanations keep colliding with revelations about dead prisoners and further connivance by senior military officers -- and newly discovered victims, like Sean Baker.

If Sean Baker doesn't sound like an Iraqi name, it isn't. Specialist Baker, 37, is an American, and he was a proud U.S. soldier. An Air Force veteran and member of the Kentucky National Guard, he served in the first gulf war and more recently was a military policeman in Guantánamo Bay.

Then in January 2003, an officer in Guantánamo asked him to pretend to be a prisoner in a training drill. As instructed, Mr. Baker put on an orange prison jumpsuit over his uniform, and then crawled under a bunk in a cell so an ''internal reaction force'' could practice extracting an uncooperative inmate. The five U.S. soldiers in the reaction force were told that he was a genuine detainee who had already assaulted a sergeant.

Despite more than a week of coaxing, I haven't been able to get Mr. Baker to give an interview. But he earlier told a Kentucky television station what happened next:

''They grabbed my arms, my legs, twisted me up and unfortunately one of the individuals got up on my back from behind and put pressure down on me while I was face down. Then he -- the same individual -- reached around and began to choke me and press my head down against the steel floor. After several seconds, 20 to 30 seconds, it seemed like an eternity because I couldn't breathe. When I couldn't breathe, I began to panic and I gave the code word I was supposed to give to stop the exercise, which was 'red.' . . . That individual slammed my head against the floor and continued to choke me. Somehow I got enough air. I muttered out: 'I'm a U.S. soldier. I'm a U.S. soldier.' ''

Then the soldiers noticed that he was wearing a U.S. battle dress uniform under the jumpsuit. Mr. Baker was taken to a military hospital for treatment of his head injuries, then flown to a Navy hospital in Portsmouth, Va. After a six-day hospitalization there, he was given a two-week discharge to rest.

But Mr. Baker began suffering seizures, so the military sent him to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center for treatment of a traumatic brain injury. He stayed at the hospital for 48 days, was transferred to light duty in an honor burial detail at Fort Dix, N.J., and was finally given a medical discharge two months ago.

Meanwhile, a military investigation concluded that there had been no misconduct involved in Mr. Baker's injury. Hmm. The military also says it can't find a videotape that is believed to have been made of the incident.
Baker's probably disability payment: about $2,100 a month.

Meanwhile, while the U.S. media is obsessing over Jeremiah Wright, journalist Sami al-Haj's story is reverberating around the world:
KHARTOUM, May 2 (Reuters) - Al Jazeera journalist Sami al-Haj returned home to Sudan on Friday after more than six years in the U.S.-run Guantanamo Bay prison, urging Washington to respect human rights and branding torture as terrorism.

Haj said he and the other Guantanamo detainees had been subjected to all kinds of torture, but the worst had been when his jailers insulted Islam or desecrated the Koran in front of prisoners.

"Security and human rights are inseparable issues -- you cannot have one without the other," he told Reuters in an interview.

"Human rights are not only for times of peace -- you need to hold onto them always even during difficult times and times of war," he added.

"My last message to the U.S. administration is that torture will not stop terrorism -- torture is terrorism."

Haj looked frail but visibly stronger than 12 hours earlier, when he arrived in chains aboard a U.S. military plane from the U.S. prison in Cuba, where he spent the last 16 months on hunger strike in protest at his illegal detention. ...

And yet, what could ultimately push the Bush administration to close America's gulag, won't be conscience or a decent respect for the opinions of mankind. It could be the Supreme Court:
The government is under international and domestic pressure to close the prison camp, which opened at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay on Cuba in January 2002 to house terrorism suspects caught after the invasion of Afghanistan.

"A decision could be made in this administration to announce the closure of Guantanamo," said a senior U.S. official, who spoke on condition he was not identified because of the sensitivity of the issue.

"It is unlikely in the next nine months that Guantanamo could be physically (closed) but it is possible the policy decision could be taken to close it."

Officials say planning and debate has intensified in recent months over how to deal with Guantanamo, which President George W. Bush acknowledges has tarnished America's image and human rights advocates say has damaged U.S. credibility.

"Everyone is agreed that we need to find a way that eventually leads to the closure of Guantanamo, which is the president's policy decision. It is a very complicated matter," said National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule within weeks whether Guantanamo prisoners have rights under the U.S. Constitution even though they are held on the base in Cuba, where the United States has had a presence for about 100 years.

The court decision could influence whether the government announces plans to close the prison before Bush leaves office in January 2009, several officials said. ...

I wouldn't bet against the Roberts court ruling on the side of the Bush administration. After all, that's what Mssrs. Roberts and Alito are there for. But on the slight chance that the court might eke out a 5-4 ruling against the Bush torture policy, the sources in the Reuters story say it could push the administration to make a move, if for no other reason, than to deprive Bush's successors of the opportunity to make him look even worse in history:
There is also a drive to announce the closure before Bush leaves office rather than have his successor claim credit.

And there you go.


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posted by JReid @ 10:09 AM  
Thursday, May 01, 2008
News from the Global War on Terror
Guess who's on the Bush administration's Terrorism Watch List? Nelson Mandela! See, Dick Cheney told you he and his brand of racial do-gooders are a bunch of terr'rists...


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posted by JReid @ 10:21 AM  
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
How do you keep the music playing...
When al-Qaida keeps undermining the fundamental argument of your campaign ...
Bin Laden's deputy says Iran trying to undermine al-Qaida

By LEE KEATH, Associated Press Writer

CAIRO, Egypt - Al-Qaida's No. 2 leader issued a new audiotape Tuesday accusing Shiite Iran of spreading a conspiracy theory about who carried out the Sept. 11 attacks to discredit the power of the Sunni terrorist network.

Ayman al-Zawahri, Osama bin Laden's deputy, has stepped up his denunciations of Iran in recent messages in part to depict al-Qaida as the Arabs' top defense against the Persian nation's rising power in the Middle East.

The increasing enmity toward Iran is a notable change of rhetoric from al-Zawahri, who in the past rarely mentioned the country — apparently in a hopes he would be able to forge some sort of understanding with Tehran based on their common rivalry with the United States. Iran has long sought to distance itself from al-Qaida.

How could they do it to ya, John???
"Al-Zawahri wanted to work with Iran, but he's deeply disappointed that Iran has not cooperated with al-Qaida," said Rohan Gunaratna, a terrorism expert and author of "Inside al-Qaida: The Global Network of Terror."

So now, al-Zawahri "wants to appeal to the anti-Shiite, anti-Iran sentiments in the Arab and Muslim world," said Gunaratna, head of the International Center for Political Violence and Terrorism Research in Singapore.

Al-Zawahri appeared intent on exploiting widespread worry in the Arab world over Iran's influence, particularly in Iraq, to garner support for al-Qaida. At the same time, he sought to denigrate Iran's ally Hezbollah, which has gained some popularity even among Sunnis in the region for its fight against Israel.

Al-Zawahri's comments came in a two-hour audio posted on an Islamic militant Web site, the second message in weeks in which he answered hundreds of questions sent to the site by al-Qaida sympathizers and others. ...
So wait ... al-Qaida hates Hezbollah, too??? Oh, dear, that's gonna upset Lieberman...

("Psst!... John ... can we start bombing Iran yet?" "Patience Joe ... Patience...)

Oh wait, there's more...
... in many of his answers, al-Zawahri went out of his way to criticize Iran. He said the Iraqi insurgent umbrella group led by al-Qaida, called the Islamic State of Iraq, is "the primary force opposing the Crusaders (the United States) and challenging Iranian ambitions" in Iraq.

One questioner asked about the theory that has circulated in the Middle East and elsewhere that Israel was behind the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Al-Zawahri accused Hezbollah's Al-Manar television of starting the rumor. "The purpose of this lie is clear — (to suggest) that there are no heroes among the Sunnis who can hurt America as no else did in history. Iranian media snapped up this lie and repeated it," he said.

"Iran's aim here is also clear — to cover up its involvement with America in invading the homes of Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq," he added. Iran cooperated with the United States in the 2001 U.S. assault on Afghanistan that toppled al-Qaida's allies, the Taliban.

And now for the big finish:
... the change in tone could be because of al-Qaida's failure to win the release of al-Qaida figures detained by Iran since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, including al-Qaida security chief Saif al-Adel and two of bin Laden's sons.

Gunaratna said that up to 200 al-Qaida figures and their families are under house arrest in Iran and that Tehran has rejected al-Qaida attempts to negotiate their release.

Al-Qaida doesn't have the strength to launch attacks in Iran, but it intends to do so "in the future," he said. "If al-Qaida becomes strong in Iraq ... Iran believes al-Qaida in Iraq could become a major threat."
Al-Qaida has previously claimed responsibility for the Sept. 11 attacks.

In an audiotape last week, al-Zawahri denounced what he called Iran's expansionist plans, saying Tehran aims to annex southern Iraq and Shiite areas of the eastern Arabian Peninsula as well as strengthen ties to its followers in southern Lebanon. He warned that if Iran achieves its goals, it will "explode the situation in an already exploding region."
So al-Qaida is not only NOT cooperating with Iran, it intends to "strike it in the near future..." and Iran is not only NOT arming, training or helping al-Qaida (a ridiculous notion repeatedly put forward ... accidentally...??? ... by John McCain and his neocon friends) ... they are detaining al-Qaida prisoners?

Recall that in his testimony, General Petraeus declared that the biggest threat to the U.S. inside Iraq is Iran. But John McCain and the neocons claim the biggest threat to the U.S. inside Iraq is al-Qaida (all 1,000 of them...) so which is it, and if they're not working together, as John McCain would have the American people believe, is one of them more or less working in line with our interests? And if al-Qaida, wherever they are, including the franchises like al-Qaida in Iraq, constitute our single worst enemy, then isn't the enemy of our enemy ... Iran ... kind of on our side?

Does your head hurt, too?

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posted by JReid @ 3:56 PM  
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Twilight of the torturers (or, the rehabilitation of John Ashcroft, part II)
I think I've said before that when John Ashcroft is the voice of reason, you know that you've gone over the cliff. But Ashcroft, the one-term Bush attorney general, is slowly emerging as one of the few occasional voices of reason inside an administration bent on lawbreaking.

First, there was his really rather heroic refusal to supercede the authority of his equally heroic deputy, James Comey, who was acting attorney general at the time the administration sent errand boy Al Gonzales to Ashcroft's hospital bed to get him to sign off on domestic eavesdropping. Now, comes a report from ABC News that Ashcroft sounded the alarm as the highest possible level members of the Bush administration torture of detainees, one at a time. They did so at the insistence of the CIA, which wasn't going to allow its agents to become the fall guys for the Bush team's illegal torture policies. So, Tenet and Co. sought legal and political cover from the White House and its "legal team." And yes, I use the term lightly. From ABC today:

In dozens of top-secret talks and meetings in the White House, the most senior Bush administration officials discussed and approved specific details of how high-value al Qaeda suspects would be interrogated by the Central Intelligence Agency, sources tell ABC News.

The so-called Principals who participated in the meetings also approved the use of "combined" interrogation techniques -- using different techniques during interrogations, instead of using one method at a time -- on terrorist suspects who proved difficult to break, sources said.

Highly placed sources said a handful of top advisers signed off on how the CIA would interrogate top al Qaeda suspects -- whether they would be slapped, pushed, deprived of sleep or subjected to simulated drowning, called waterboarding.

The high-level discussions about these "enhanced interrogation techniques" were so detailed, these sources said, some of the interrogation sessions were almost choreographed -- down to the number of times CIA agents could use a specific tactic.

The advisers were members of the National Security Council's Principals Committee, a select group of senior officials who met frequently to advise President Bush on issues of national security policy.

At the time, the Principals Committee included Vice President Cheney, former National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell, as well as CIA Director George Tenet and Attorney General John Ashcroft.

As the national security adviser, Rice chaired the meetings, which took place in the White House Situation Room and were typically attended by most of the principals or their deputies.
So much for vice president Rice. So what did Ashcroft ultimately do this time? Well, I wish I could say he repeated the heroism he displayed in the later spying situation by declaring the torture of detainees in U.S. custory unlawful, unconostitutional and un-American. He did not. However, Ashcroft did make a prophetic statement, according to ABC's sources, that rings truer than true. A bit more from the exhaustive ABC report:

Then-Attorney General Ashcroft was troubled by the discussions. He agreed with the general policy decision to allow aggressive tactics and had repeatedly advised that they were legal. But he argued that senior White House advisers should not be involved in the grim details of interrogations, sources said.

According to a top official, Ashcroft asked aloud after one meeting: "Why are we talking about this in the White House? History will not judge this kindly."

And indeed it won't. War crimes have been committed by agents acting under the color of authority of the president of the United States. His own cabinet signed off, not just on the notion of torture, but on the specific techniques and use of torture on individual detainees. Each "enhanced interrogation" constitutes an explicit war crime. And the people in those meetings -- all of them, Ashcroft included -- should be held liable for those crimes, up to and including the man they worked for, the president of the United States.

If we had a real Congress, rather than a cowering hall of shameful derelicts on Capitol Hill, someone might even do something about it.

P.S.: Right wingers will likely cheer the ABC report, along with the Vanity Fair story by Philppe Sands that says interrogators, strapped for torture ideas, began getting their techniques from the show "24," the Bible for right wing warmongers and torture afficionados. They represent an ideology that is infected, in a very real sense, with Saddamism. They wish to see the president of the United States become more like Saddam Hussein, in order to defeat those about whom they are paranoid: Muslims. They, too, are acting in a manner that absolutely flies in the face of everything America is supposed to stand for. At the end of the day, we are being governed by a bunch of criminals in the White House, who will likely go unprosecuted for the rest of their miserable lives, at least in this country.

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posted by JReid @ 9:06 PM  
Thursday, April 03, 2008
Yoo 2
The first torture memo was bad enough. The new one is a doozy. John Yoo, the Justice Department lawyer who essentially gave the president and anyone he designates, a pass on the Geneva conventions, allowing the Bush administration to order the torture of detainees with what they thought was legal impunity, apparently wrote a second memo, this on in 2003. The New York Times picks it up from there:
A newly disclosed Justice Department legal memorandum, written in March 2003 and authorizing the military’s use of extremely harsh interrogation techniques, offers what could be a revealing clue in an unsolved mystery: What responsibility did top Pentagon and Bush administration officials have for abuses committed by American troops at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and in Afghanistan; Guantánamo Bay, Cuba; and elsewhere?

Some legal experts and advocates said Wednesday that the document, written the month that the United States invaded Iraq, adds to evidence that the abuse of prisoners in military custody may have involved signals from higher officials and not just irresponsible actions by low-level personnel.

Ya think?
The opinion was written by John C. Yoo of the Office of Legal Counsel, the executive branch’s highest authority on the interpretation of the law. It told the Pentagon’s senior leadership that inflicting pain would not be considered torture unless it caused “death, organ failure or permanent damage,” and it is the most fully developed legal justification that has yet come to light for inflicting physical and mental pressure on suspects.

While resembling an August 2002 memorandum drafted largely by Mr. Yoo, the March 2003 opinion went further, arguing more explicitly that the president’s war powers could trump the law against torture, which it said could not constitutionally be enforced if it interfered with the commander in chief’s orders.

Scott L. Silliman, head of the Center on Law, Ethics and National Security at Duke University and a former Air Force lawyer, said he did not believe that the 2003 memorandum directly caused mistreatment. But Mr. Silliman added, “The memo helped to build a culture that, in the absence of leadership from the highest ranks of the Pentagon, allowed the abuses at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere.”

Because opinions issued by the Office of Legal Counsel are “binding on the Defense Department,” Mr. Silliman said, Mr. Yoo’s opinion effectively sidelined military lawyers who strongly opposed harsh interrogation methods.

And it essentially assigned dictatorial powers to the president, stating that he may, in wartime, set aside the laws passed by Congress, as well as treaties to which the United States is a signatory. A bit more:
The document was made public on Tuesday after it was declassified in response to a request by the American Civil Liberties Union under the Freedom of Information Act.

Both the August 2002 and March 2003 memorandums were formally withdrawn by the Justice Department in 2004, after Mr. Yoo’s successors at the Office of Legal Counsel concluded that they went too far.

Jonathan Hafetz, a lawyer representing Ali al-Marri, a Qatar citizen arrested in the United States after the Sept. 11 attacks, said he believed that the March 2003 opinion explained why his client was removed from the criminal justice system and placed in a military jail in Charleston, S.C., in June 2003.

“I think they moved him to the military system to be able to use the harsh techniques blessed in the Yoo memo,” said Mr. Hafetz, of the Brennan Center for Justice.

Mr. Marri said he was subjected to cold, shackled in uncomfortable positions, deprived of sleep and otherwise mistreated.

An even earlier Yoo's "legal" opinion, written on September 25, 2001, when he held the title of Deputy Counsel, had already set the administration on a course of dictatorial power. Note its preamble:
The President has broad constitutional power to take military action in response to the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001. Congress has acknowledged this inherent executive power in both the War Powers Resolution and the Joint Resolution passed by Congress on September 14, 2001.

The President has constitutional power not only to retaliate against any person, organization, or State suspected of involvement in terrorist attacks on the United States, but also against foreign States suspected of harboring or supporting such organizations.

The President may deploy military force preemptively against terrorist organizations or the States that harbor or support them, whether or not they can be linked to the specific terrorist incidents of September 11.

But does he get an actual crown? That was followed by the infamous August 2002 memo dubbed "the torture memo," but which was considerably less vague than the newly discovered writ about what Yoo perceives to be the almost unlimited power of a wartime president.

And lets not forget the October 23, 2001 Yoo memo that essentially junks the Fourth Amendment, stating, incredibly, that it has "no application to domestic military operations," such operations themselves being unlawful under the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878.

Taken together, the Yoo memoranda constitute a straight-up push, likely driven by the Chenyites inside the administration, for total presidential power, irrespective of law, irrespective of Congress, so long as the administration could act under the color of war.

Kind of makes you wonder why they're so eager to keep us at war, essentially forever.

And it should make you want to ask some very serious questions of Bush's new steward, John McCain.

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posted by JReid @ 8:50 PM  
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Another blow to Bush's war on terror
A Miami judge let reason be her guide in the case of supposed "dirty bomber" ... oh no, wait, the government never actually charged him with that ... terrorist conspirator ... um, okay, not quite ... terrorist sympathiser-type ... guy ... Jose Padilla, sentencing the former Chicago gang member to 17 years in prison for his "material support" conviction. The Bush administration had wanted a life sentence for Padilla, although they never could quite articulate what for. The key points, courtesy of the Miami Herald:
U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke gave Padilla, a man inextricably linked to the Bush administration's war on terror, a prison term of 17 years and four months for participating in a South Florida-based conspiracy to aid Muslims in ``violent jihad.''

The judge's decision to grant far below a life sentence was a blow to the government. Cooke reasoned that Padilla's crime was not tantamount to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks or the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

''There was never a plot to harm individuals in the United States,'' Cooke said. ``There was never a plot to overthrow the U.S. government.''

Padilla, 37, a U.S. citizen accused of training with the global terrorist group al Qaeda, stared blankly as Cooke condemned his ''harsh'' treatment as an ''enemy combatant'' in a Naval brig before his transfer to Miami to face terrorism charges. Cooke deducted the time Padilla spent in military custody -- 3 ½ years -- from his total sentence.

''I do find that the conditions were so harsh that they warrant consideration,'' Cooke told a crowded courtroom of lawyers, media and family members.

Padilla's mentor, Adham Amin Hassoun, a Palestinian who had met him at a Fort Lauderdale mosque in the 1990s, and Hassoun's colleague, Kifah Wael Jayyousi, a U.S. citizen of Jordanian descent, were sentenced to 15 years and eight months, and 12 years and 8 months, respectively.
Cooke essentially made the decision that Padilla was not involved in a specific enough plot to warrant life:
On Tuesday, she called the crimes committed by the three men ''very serious.'' Still, she stressed they caused no harm to anyone or anything in the United States.

Cooke further said that while they conspired to help Islamic extremists abroad, they also sent food, medicine and clothing to embattled Muslims. She also said that Hassoun, 45, and Jayyousi, 46, were educated men -- one was a computer programmer, the other an engineer -- who had no criminal history. On the other hand, she noted that Padilla had a violent criminal record as a Chicago gang member before moving to South Florida.

She said the government's proposed life terms were out of sync with past punishment for more serious domestic terrorists. She cited the prosecution of Zacarias Moussaoui, the ''20th hijacker'' in the Sept. 11 assaults, who was sentenced last year to life imprisonment. She also noted the case of Terry Nichols, who also received life for his role in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. By comparison, Cooke cited the case of Yahya Goba, a Yemeni American who trained with al Qaeda and received 10 years after pleading guilty to providing ''material support'' for the terrorist group.

She also mentioned the case of David Hicks, who was released from an Australian prison in December after completing a U.S. sentence handed down at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. He was caught fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan in December 2001 and spent more than five years at the U.S. prison camp in Cuba, before agreeing to be transferred to Australia to serve out a nine-month sentence.
A good story overall, but you've got to love this little bit of stenography by the reporter, Jay Weaver:
That allegation, among other accusations, was not pursued by prosecutors at trial because of national security reasons.
Riiiight... that, or they didn't have any actual evidence...

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posted by JReid @ 9:20 AM  
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Wars, and rumors of war
While you were choking on that $190 BILLION supplemental war request by the Pentagon, several chess pieces moved in the endless global war today. Here are three:

The Knight: An amendment (#3017) to the 2008 Defense Authorization Bill, authored by uber-neocon Joe Lieberman and Arizona Republican John Kyl, passed the Senate with 76 votes to 22 against (Biden and Dodd voted against it, as did military vets Chuck Hagel and Jim Web; Hillary "Margaret Thatcher" Clinton voted in favor, and Barack failed to show...) The admendment is tantamount to a soft declaration of war, even with the more egregious portions stripped out, and the technically non-binding nature of the measure. Recall that this is the same Joe Lieberman who was the AUTHOR of the legislation that gave George W. Bush the authority to invade Iraq. The resolution designates Iran's Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization and decrees:

(3) that it should be the policy of the United States to combat, contain, and roll back the violent activities and destabilizing influence inside Iraq of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, its foreign facilitators such as Lebanese Hezbollah, and its indigenous Iraqi proxies;

(4) to support the prudent and calibrated use of all instruments of United States national power in Iraq, including diplomatic, economic, intelligence, and military instruments, in support of the policy described in paragraph (3) with respect to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its proxies;

(5) that the United States should designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a foreign terrorist organization under section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act and place the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps on the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists, as established under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and initiated under Executive Order 13224; and

(6) that the Department of the Treasury should act with all possible expediency to complete the listing of those entities targeted under United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1737 and 1747 adopted unanimously on December 23, 2006 and March 24, 2007, respectively.
Read the full text here (do a search on the page for 3017 to jump right to it). One wonders if a major branch of the military establishment of a sovereign country has ever been designated as a terrorist organization by the United States.

The Bishop: An amendment (#2997) authored by Joe Biden passed the Senate, also by a wide margin (75 to 23,) advocating a plan of "soft partition" -- something Biden has been pushing for some time -- which would turn Iraq into a loose republic. Clearly, the idea of the United States Congress voting to change the form of government in a supposedly sovereign country is bordering on scary, but then again, this is America. We tend to do that sort of thing. (full text here, again, search for 2997). In fact, the Biden amendment is largely an exercise in wishful thinking. It reads in part:

(1) the United States should actively support a political settlement among Iraq's major factions based upon the provisions of the Constitution of Iraq that create a federal system of government and allow for the creation of federal regions;

(2) the active support referred to in paragraph (1) should include--

(A) calling on the international community, including countries with troops in Iraq, the permanent 5 members of the United Nations Security Council, members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, and Iraq's neighbors--

(i) to support an Iraqi political settlement based on federalism;

(ii) to acknowledge the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq; and

(iii) to fulfill commitments for the urgent delivery of significant assistance and debt relief to Iraq, especially those made by the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council;

(B) further calling on Iraq's neighbors to pledge not to intervene in or destabilize Iraq and to agree to related verification mechanisms; and

(C) convening a conference for Iraqis to reach an agreement on a comprehensive political settlement based on the creation of federal regions within a united Iraq;

(3) the United States should urge the Government of Iraq to quickly agree upon and implement a law providing for the equitable distribution of oil revenues, which is a critical component of a comprehensive political settlement based upon federalism; and

(4) the steps described in paragraphs (1), (2), and (3) could lead to an Iraq that is stable, not a haven for terrorists, and not a threat to its neighbors.

The Rook: On the domestic front, a federal judge has struck down two the many egregious portions of the Patriot Act, in a case stemming from a chilling incident for anyone who believes in the basic civil liberties and freedoms promised by the Constitution:
Federal district court judge Ann Aiken struck down the government's ability to get orders from the secret spy court for anything other than acquiring foreign intelligence activities, saying that using that court and its lowered standards -- instead of getting a traditional criminal wiretap order -- violates the Fourth Amendment's ban on unreasonable searches and seizures. The ruling applies to Patriot Act changes to wiretapping laws and to so-called sneak-and-peak searches, where the government can search someone's home secretly and never have to disclose the search to the individual.

The ruling comes out of a lawsuit brought by Portland attorney Brandon Mayfield, who was arrested by the FBI shortly after train bombings in Madrid, Spain. The FBI publicly said Mayfield's prints matched the bomb, though Mayfield had no passport and the Spanish police told the FBI they did not believe the print was a match. The government approached the secret spying court, saying that Mayfield was an "agent of a foreign power" which allowed the government to get warrants to secretly search his home and office, as well as bug his house and eavesdrop on him, for use in a criminal court. Prior to the Patriot Act, searches authorized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act had to have a primary purpose of gathering foreign intelligence, rather than prosecuting a person.

Mayfield, a practicing Muslim who argues he was targeted by the FBI because of his religion, was later exonerated of all charges.

Mayfield and the government settled his lawsuit, with the exception of his challenge to the changes to the Patriot Act that allowed the government to use secret spying orders, rather than traditional wiretaps, for criminal cases.
It's a chilling incident, but a heart warming result.

The score for today: one down, one neutral, one up.

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posted by JReid @ 9:24 PM  
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Quick take headlines: the war on terra
Let's start with Iraq. The government there has moved to expel the mercenary contrator firm Blackwater USA from their country, following a shooting incident that killed eight Iraqis. Now, the scoop is that such an expulsion could complicate any plan to pull U.S. troops out of that country.

Closer to home, the Liberty City Seven trial is under way, with jury selection having started yesterday. We spoke with the attorney for one of the men on the show this morning, and I'll be watching this one. In my opinion, this is as clear cut a case of government railroading in order to prove that there really is a war on terror (requiring us all to be surveilled) as I've ever seen.

What's hot on the blogs? Taser Guy (of course, it all happened in FLORIDA!) He's out of jail now, but some people -- myself included -- are asking: why the hell didn't John Kerry stop talking and do something??? Meanwhile, the wingers, including Drudge and Breitbart, are on the war path against Andrew Meyer. The hot phrase of the day: "Don't tase me bro!"

Why won't the major GOP presidential candidates debate in front of a Black audience at Morgan State? The debate will be broadcast live on PBS and hosted by Tavis Smiley, and now Republicans are starting to worry that their party appears not to be interested in pursuing the Black vote. Cornel West? Please advise.

And finally ... it's one thing not to believe in evolution ... that's retrograde enough. But to not be sure whether the world is flat or round? Damn!

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posted by JReid @ 9:43 AM  
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Quick take headlines: the GWOT, between Iraq and a hard place
Just back from his trip to Iraq, VA Sen. John Warner offers a bleak assessment, and a recommendation...

Warner is backed up by a new National Intelligence Estimate that finds that Iraq is ... surprise! ... in sorry shape. Sayeth the WaPo:
Iraq remains "unable to govern" itself effectively and hobbled by the absence of strong leadership, and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's inability to broker political accord continues to make him vulnerable, according to a new U.S. intelligence report released today.

Seven months after President Bush ordered more U.S. troops to the country, "there have been measurable but uneven improvements in Iraq's security situation," the report concludes. . If U.S. forces continue their current strategy, security "will continue to improve modestly" over the next six to 12 months but violence will remain high and political reconciliation will remain elusive.

The report , determined that while some Iraqi security forces "have performed adequately," overall they "have not improved enough to conduct major operations independent" of U.S. forces in multiple locations on a sustained basis.

If U.S. troops were to downscale their mission to supporting Iraqi security forces and hunting terrorists affiliated with al-Qaeda, the report contends that move "would erode security gains achieved thus far."

Meanwhile, a lobbying firm with close ties to GWB is helping former interim Iraqi P.M. (and once, or present...? ... CIA asset) Ayad Allawi to try and oust Bush's good buddy Nouri al-Maliki. IraqSlogger has more. Perhaps old Ayad could fall back on some of his past methodologies ... like bombings, sabotage of infrastructure and such-like...

A new Air Force document outlines how to aid insurgencies...

The British have a new "super weapon" to use to fight the "war on terror" in Afghanistan: an "enhance blast weapon" that kills the enemy by sucking the air out of his lungs and rupturing internal organs.

On the domestic "war on terror" front -- National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell admits what we already knew: that AT&T and other phone companies helped the government to spy on us. Why the admission? Because McConnell would like Congress to exempt the telcos from their customers' lawsuits. Nice.

It looks all bad. Bud don't worry, Dubya! Maybe some silly neocon can get Bushie to launch us another war?

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posted by JReid @ 7:36 PM  
Friday, June 08, 2007
The men who stole 9/11

Radar Online drops the science on Rudy Giuliani's shameful pimping of the 9/11 terror attacks:

GOP frontrunner Rudy Giuliani is hoping to ride his 9/11 experience straight into the White House. But while "America's Mayor" is playing well in New Hampshire, New Yorkers directly impacted by the World Trade Center tragedy are less convinced.

In a recent New York Daily News poll, New Yorkers said they favor current mayor Michael Bloomberg, who hasn't declared his candidacy, over "America's Mayor" by almost 2 to 1.

Howard Lutnick, the CEO of money management firm Cantor Fitzgerald who lost 658 of his employees on 9/11 and whose brother died in the attack, has given Sen. Hillary Clinton's (D-NY) presidential campaign $4,600 of his own money over the last two months and has not given the Giuliani campaign a dime. Diny Ajamian, who as Cantor's human resources director worked with families of deceased employees and helped rebuild the company's staff, says she's disgusted by Giuliani's use of 9/11 as a political prop, adding that while Giuliani made plenty of public overtures to Cantor families in the immediate aftermath, he was virtually invisible two weeks later when she went to work for the firm. "It's absolutely disgraceful. He's just a sleazebag," Ajamian says. "I think now the families feel like he left them high and dry."

A rep for a group that aids families of those injured or killed in the WTC seconds that. "Rudy thinks our grief and the hurt we experienced somehow makes us stupid," says Monica Gabrielle, co-chair of the Skyscraper Safety Campaign, an organization which assists families affected by 9/11. "Rudy just can't control himself.... He can't acknowledge his failures.... He just can't stop creating his own myth about himself and about that day. The man is in love with his own legend."

But Giuliani's most potent critics are those who became a symbol of bravery after the 9/11 attacks—America's fire fighters. The 280,000 member International Association of Fire Fighter's fund has been at odds with the former mayor since shortly after 9/11, claiming the man now worth as much as $70 million "gave up" on dead firefighters and devoted Ground Zero cleanup efforts to, of all things, recovering gold and silver. Removal of victims' remains amounted, they say, to a "scoop and dump." Tensions heated up again in March, when a draft of a letter explaining the union's decision to snub Giuliani from their 2008 presidential forum was leaked to the press. The union eventually decided to invite him, but the candidate turned down the half-hearted invitation. That was the last straw for the group's president, Harold Schaitberger, who says Giuliani's actions since 9/11 show "disgraceful lack of respect for the fallen."

Most poll tracking shows Giuliani still ahead of his pitiful GOP competition, but with his support headed in exactly the wrong direction. Still, it's not exactly difficult to put one over on the American people, so the Democrats should prepare for the possibility of facing a Giuliani campaign in 2008, and be prepared to counter his fear mongering, 9/11 pimping self-agrandizement head-on. This guy is as big a sleazebag as they come, and clearly, he will do anything to win for himself the ultimate cash-plumper -- four years in the Oval Office.

But wait, there's more. Radar also uncovers the other Bush cronies who are making a killing -- pun intended -- off the so-called 'war on terror," starting with George Tenet...

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posted by JReid @ 10:44 PM  
Quick take headlines: hello, George Orwell
An E.U. report sheds new light on the CIA's secret prison system, which apparently had tentacles in the former Soviet bloc -- how appropriate is that -- including secret gulags in Poland and Romania, formerly home not only to Soviet detention facilities, but Nazi ones as well. The ironies are just too rich.

The Bush administration prepares to ask for a do-over on the military tribunals ruling, hoping to push the military judges to reverse their decision to throw out cases against Gitmo detainees who were misclassified as "enemy combatants," rather than "unlawful enemy combatants," making them ineligible for trial by Bushian kangaroo court. To whit:
WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration won't dismantle the controversial war-crimes tribunals at Guantanamo Bay for alleged terrorists, including Canada's Omar Khadr, despite rulings by two military judges tossing out all charges, a senior U.S. official said yesterday.

"The government is looking at a number of different options," said John Bellinger, legal adviser to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. But scrapping the tribunals and putting the terrorist suspects on trial, either in federal court in the United States or in military courts martial, isn't among them.

Instead, the government has quickly assembled a court to hear an appeal of the dismissal of charges against Mr. Khadr, accused of killing for al-Qaeda, and Salim Ahmed Hamdan, alleged to have been a driver for Osama bin Laden.

"Judges have been appointed and the court is prepared to receive appeals," said Navy Commander Jeffrey Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman. But Cdr. Gordon said he couldn't provide the names of those named to the Court of Military Commission Review. It was created by Congress last year, but had no judges or staff until the government scrambled in the wake of Monday's surprise rulings by the military judges.
The story goes on to say that prosecutors may have actually missed the deadline to refile the charges, but that isn't stopping the Bushies, either.

Is it just me, or are our detentionos of prisoners in Gitmo somewhat analagous to the detention of Iranian-Americans in Tehran? In both cases, suspects are held incommunicado with no clear charges against them. And if so, on what basis to we demand our citizens back, let alone any U.S. G.I.s who may be captured on a battlefield? Now you're getting to the fundamental damage the Bush administration has done...

Meanwhile, on the homefront, the military is charging a National Guard soldier with desertion ... because she refuses to leave her 7-year-old daughter with her abusive ex-husband so she can go back to Iraq.

Here's a creepy one for you: welcome to the Bush/neocon factory...

Oh, wait, finally! Some good news! Here come the subpoenas!!!
The Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee strongly criticized the Justice Department for obstructing an investigation of the Bush administration's warrantless spying program. The statement came after the committee scheduled a hearing next week to authorize subpoenas related to the shadowy government program.

"The warrantless wiretapping program has operated for over five years outside of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and without the approval of the FISA Court. The Committee has continued to ask for the legal justification for this sweeping and secret program, and has continually been rebuffed by inadequate and at times, misleading, responses from this Justice Department," said Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, in a statement sent to RAW STORY. "The information we have requested has been specific to the legal justification for this program and is firmly within the Committee’s oversight jurisdiction."

Leahy's statement came after his committee had announced earlier in the day that it planned to "authorize subpoenas in connection with investigation of legal basis for warrantless wiretap program," according to the committee's website. The meeting will occur on Thursday, June 14. ...

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posted by JReid @ 10:15 PM  
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
While you were being bored into a coma by the Republican debate...
I blogged about this in an earliier post, but it can't be reiterated enough: the tossing by military judges of the Pentagon cases against a 20 year old Gitmo detainee who was captured at 15 on the battlefield in Afghanistan and Salim Hamdan, who was, not a lieutenant, but a driver for Osama bin Laden, but who was charged with conspiracy to commit terrorist acts by the Bush administration and prepped to be tried before one of their Germanic military commissions, is as big as news gets. The two cannot be tried, the court ruled, because both were mislabeled by the Bush administration as "enemy combatants," sans "unlawful," which contravenes the Military Commissions Act signed by President Bush last year. That law was meant to replace a previous military commissions scheme that was itself ruled unlawful by the U.S. Supreme Court.

This is the same Hamdan whose case, Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, established the important, but seemingly self-evident fact, that the Bush administration cannot try suspects picked up on the battlefield in contravention to the Geneva Conventions and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

The dismissal of the two cases leaves only one successful military tribunal under the Bushies' belt: that of Aussie David Hicks, who was tried, convicted, and then promptly shipped back to Australia, where he is planning to appeal.

At issue is whether the Bush administration can grant to itself the power to bypass the courts, including the military courts, to hold or try anyone they like, citizen or non-citizen alike, and try them in any way they see fit, including imposing the death penalty, with no court review. Oh, and if someone happens to be found not guilty in one of their kangaroo courts? The administration wants the ability to hold them indefinitely in Guantanamo anyway. For an even more chilling example, see Jose Padilla.


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posted by JReid @ 10:09 PM  
Terrorism 101
You can't pull off a major terror attack if:

1. You don't have any money to buy explosives
2. You don't have access to explosives (or to the facility you're trying to target)
3. And even if you had both 1 and 2 above, your plot is physically impossible:

US authorities said Saturday they had averted an attack that could have resulted in "unfathomable damage, deaths, and destruction," and charged four alleged Islamic radicals with conspiracy to cause an explosion at the airport.

But according to the experts, it would have been next to impossible to cause an explosion in the jet fuel tanks and pipeline. Furthermore, the plotters seem to have lacked the explosives and financial backing to carry out the attack.

John Goglia, a former member of National Transportation Safety Board, said that if the plot had ever been carried out, it would likely have sparked a fire but little else, and certainly not the mass carnage authorities described.

"You could definitely reach the tank, definitely start the fire, but to get the kind of explosion that they were thinking that they were going to get... this is virtually impossible to do," he told AFP.

The fuel pipelines around the airport would similarly burn, rather than explode, because they are a full of fuel and unable to mix with enough oxygen.

"We had a number of fires in the US. All that happens is a big fire," he said. "It won't blow up, it will only burn."

Even if the attackers had managed to blow up a fuel tank, the impact would be limited, he said, citing the example of North Vietnamese forces attacking US fuel dumps during the Vietnam war.

"They hit the fuel tanks with pretty big rockets. You would get a big fire but not a big explosion other than the rocket." ...
Stay tuned for more major terror arrests of poor, decrepit, elderly, non-al Qaida wannabes who pose a grave non-existent threat to the "honmeland" as we get closer to the 2008 election, or any time the Democrats are set to debate or otherwise get news coverage.


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posted by JReid @ 7:13 AM  
Monday, June 04, 2007
It's not just me
First off, Countdown's writers are stealing my headlines again... theirs (June 04, 2007 11:30 AM) ... mine (Saturday, June 02, 2007 8:46 p.m.) ... can I get an on-air credit, guys??? Jeez... second, Keith Olbermann is just as cynical as I am about the latest terr'rist plot. He points out on Countdown tonight the strange juxtaposition of the scary blow-up JFK somehow (without current knowledge of the airport and against the laws of physics, which would prevent even a successful fuel line explosion from causing the reported conflagration ... even if the rather sad, geriatric plotters could have gotten their hands on any explosives ... which they ... couldn't... but I digress:

Since last August, there had been a period of calm. The screaming hair-on-fire pronouncements about terror plots that may have had real plotters but no real conceivable chance of actually happening... ceased. That the period, spanned the time between the 2006 mid-term elections, and the week we reached exactly 18 months until the 2008 presidential election -- just a coincidence. Our third story on the Countdown...from the mind-bending idea that four guys dressed as Pizza Delivery men were going to out-gun all the soldiers at Fort the not-too-thought-out plan to blow-up J-F-K Airport... here we go again.
Check the Countdown blog later tonight or tomorrow for the complete rundown.


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posted by JReid @ 9:24 PM  
The terrorist nobody knows
The head of Jamaat al Muslimeen in Trinidad, who led the only Islamic coup attempt in the Western hemisphere's history back in 1990, denies knowledge of the JFK plot, though he's a bit squirly on whether he knows the plotters (though try and tell it to Newsweek). Meanwhile, two of the alleged plotters are fighting extradition to the United States ... the better to stay out of Gitmo, I suppose... And the LA Times profiles 63-year-old Russell Defreitas -- a pretty sad character for a terror mastermind, the story goes:
U.S. law enforcement officials said Defreitas was nowhere near being capable of mounting an attack. He didn't have explosives, money or an executable plan. But one of the most alarming aspects of the case is that a man of such meager means made as much progress as he did, authorities said.

"It is a bit worrisome when someone like this, who is a bit washed up, is able to go out and solicit funding and the blessing of others who are more organized and experienced," said a Justice Department official familiar with the case, speaking on condition of anonymity. "It is a bit frightening."
A bit more:
Defreitas was portrayed in news accounts Sunday as a lonely figure, a man who made money selling books on street corners and shipping broken air-conditioning parts to Guyana. He is divorced and estranged from his two children, according to the reports.

"People around here never see that man," said a Trinidadian woman who runs a 99-cent store next to his apartment building on Rockaway Avenue in Brooklyn. "I'm right here 15 years…. The people in the building never see the man, so where did he come from?"

Her shop caters to people in the neighborhood who stop by for toothpaste, toy water guns and hair gel. The woman, who did not want to be named, said the local Caribbean community was close-knit so it was strange that no one she knew remembered Defreitas, not even residents in his building.

The neighborhood is largely populated by African Americans, Latinos and immigrants from the West Indies.

On Rockaway Avenue, employees at four grocery stores, a check-cashing business and Jay's West Indian Restaurant, which serves oxtail and curried goat dishes, said they had no idea who he was. One screamed at a reporter: "This is harassment. I tell everyone, I did not know that man!"

Defreitas' building is a faded four-story row house with a broken intercom that buzzes incessantly. Neighbors said the building was known to house drug addicts. Knocks on his door and others in the building went unanswered Sunday.
These guys are the worst thing for Trinidad and Guyana since . Adnan Shukrijuma, and yet it's hard to take them entirely seriously, given their lack of means and capability to carry out such an ambitious plot as exploding the fuel lines under an entire airport, plus parts of the borough of Queens...

These appear to be rather sad old men who turned to this plot as a way to feel important. Hardly the crack terrorist cell Rudy Giuliani would have you believe so that you'll be terrified enough to vote for him.

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posted by JReid @ 6:41 PM  
Sunday, June 03, 2007
The Global Law Enforcement Action on Terror
Neocon wackos frequently invoke the anti-Democrat cudgel that "Democrats fail to understand the war on terror because they don't get that it's a war." or, in the words of the less-than-great Daniel Pipes back in January 2004:

Nearly all the Democratic presidential contenders as well as other heavyweight Democrats have spoken out against the war on terror, preferring it to be a police action against terror.
And further:

Since 2001, the U.S. has engaged in the neocons' long-desired "war" to end the threat of terror, fighting militarily on two major fronts: Afghanistan and Iraq, and on several smaller ones, with military actions in Colombia, Somalia, and by proxy, in Lebanon. The results? Terror attacks around the world haven't declined, they've increased:

On a global scale: terrorist activity and violence has grown worse, not better since 11 September 2001. Average levels of terrorist violence that would have been considered extreme in the period prior to 9/11 have become the norm in the years since. And there is no sign that this trend is abating. This much is evident from a review of the terrorism incident database maintained by the Rand Corporation for the National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism (MIPT), which is funded by the US Department of Homeland Security. Surveying incidents for the period January 1998 through 11 August 2006 shows that:

- The rate of terrorism fatalities for the 59 month period following 11 September 2001 is 250 percent that of the 44.5 month period preceding and including the 9/11 attacks. This figure has been adjusted to account for the different length of the two periods and it implies an increase in average monthly fatalities of 150 percent. (Only in January 1998 did the database begin to include both national and international terrorism incidents.)

- The rate of terrorist incidents for the post-9/11 period is 268 percent that of the period prior to and including 11 September 2001. This implies a 167 percent increase in what might be called the average monthly rate of incidents.

- A fair portion of the increased activity is related to the war in Iraq -- but not all. Removing Iraq from the picture shows an increase in the average monthly rate of terrorism fatalities of more than 10 percent for the post-9/11 period. The increase in the rate of incidents not counting Iraq is 75 percent.

In other words, if the aim of Pipes' "war" is to make the world safe from terrorism, like World War I "made the world safe for democracy," it has utterly failed. And then there are Iraq and Afghanistan, which have become, respectively, a killing field and a violent narco-state, thanks again to the neocons' anti-terror war machine.

Meanwhile, as terrorism and Islamic militantcy have metastasized into Western Europe and the Western Hemisphere, including the U.S., what has been the most effective at stopping what are mostly amateurish or unrealizable terror plots, by Tim McVeigh types who heppen to derive their militantcy from anti-U.S. sentiments based on "jihadism" rather than from anger over Waco or Ruby Ridge? Not illegal NSA wiretapping or illegal Pentagon spying on American citizens ... not the constitutional outrages of the Patriot Act and "breaking down the wall between law enforcement and the intelligence agencies" as Pipes and others have called for ... nope.

It's been good old fashioned law enforcement -- starting with the lowly criminal informant.

Exhibit A: the recent plot against JFK airport by Caribbean nationals and U.S. citizens of West Indian descent. WNBC reports:

The question was simple: "Would you like to die as a martyr?" The putative terrorist unhesitatingly replied yes -- there was no greater way to die in Islam.

The right answer put the man in the midst of a terrorist plot conceived as more devastating than the 9/11 attacks. He was soon making surveillance trips around John F. Kennedy International Airport -- the "chicken farm," as the planners dubbed their target -- and visiting the Trinidad compound of a radical Muslim group.

On Saturday, the insider -- a twice-convicted drug dealer -- was revealed as a government informant whose surreptitious work undermined a plot to destroy the Queens airport by exploding a jet fuel pipeline. The case demonstrated the growing importance of informants in the war on terrorism, particularly as smaller radical groups become more aggressive ...

...The four Muslim men accused in the JFK plot didn't turn to Pakistan, Iran or Afghanistan for support after targeting the airport, home to an average 1,000 daily flights and 45 million passengers annually.

Instead, according to a federal complaint, the informant and defendants Kareem Ibrahim and Defreitas visited a compound belonging to the Jamaat al Muslimeen, a radical Muslim group based in Trinidad. When Defreitas discussed his radical "brothers" with the informant, he made it clear they were not Arabs, but from Trinidad and Guyana.

The complaint also made clear how deeply the informant had infiltrated the small band of would-be terrorists. While Defreitas, a retired JFK airport cargo worker, made four reconnaissance missions to the airport with the informant, federal authorities captured each one on audio and video equipment.
Sounds more like an episode of "The Shield" than of "Band of Brothers."

What's more:

Last year, informants played a major role in two other terror cases. In June 2006, an informant posing as an al-Qaida operative helped bring down a plot to blow up the Sears Tower. Five of the seven men arrested in that alleged terrorist group were U.S. citizens.

And in May 2006, an NYPD informant's testimony led to the conviction of a man plotting to blow up the busy Herald Square subway station in midtown Manhattan.
Stipulating that the Liberty City Seven -- the Sears Tower plotters -- didn't even have shoes, let alone explosives -- these cases do point out that in our society, as in any, there are disgruntled, criminally minded people, whose outlet for anger ultimately turns destructive and violent. In the present age, many of them turn to jihadism to find meaning for themselves and to feel important, and their criminal intent is best broken up by good old fashioned law enforcement.

Ditto in Britain, where the 7/7 plotters were sussed out by security videos and beat police.

The war on terror, as John Edwards has said, is a bumper sticker -- and a convenient one at that, as it's allowed the military industry and private contract firms to make a killing off the blood of our military personnel, and at the expense of the infrastructure and people of Iraq. But beyond their naked profits, the "war on terror" has gotten us nothing.

Given the choice, I'm with the police action. It comes with all sorts of goodies, like warrants and oversight, it doesn't infringe on my Constitutional right to privacy, and most important, it doesn't have to be run by George W. Bush and his incompetent friends. The closest we get to trouble is those tainted, Alberto Gonzales U.S. attorneys, who I'm sure will be prosecuting suspicious looking hobos by the time we get to the election, in order to help Alberto's party stay in the White House...


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posted by JReid @ 6:06 PM  
Saturday, June 02, 2007
The plot thins
After the initial, alarming reports about West Indian terrrorist plotting to pull of a horror worse than 9/11, which would have sent a blazing fireball from JFK airport, underneath the city, possibly sinking the entire boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens ... okay, Team Bush et Gonzales hadn't quite gotten there yet:

The devastation that would be caused had this plot succeeded is just unthinkable," U.S. Attorney Roslynn R. Mauskopf said at a news conference, calling it "one of the most chilling plots imaginable."

In an indictment charging the four men, one of them is quoted as saying the foiled plot would "cause greater destruction than in the Sept. 11 attacks," destroying the airport, killing several thousand people and destroying parts of New York's borough of Queens, where the line runs underground.
Yes, well a mere few hours later, after all that bluster, we have this:

Despite their efforts, the men never obtained any explosives, authorities said.

"Pulling off any bombing of this magnitude would not be easy in today's environment," former U.S. State Department counterterrorism expert Fred Burton said, but added it was difficult to determine without knowing all the facts of the case.

Richard Kuprewicz, a pipeline expert and president of Accufacts Inc., an energy consulting firm that focuses on pipelines and tank farms, said the force of explosion would depend on the amount of fuel under pressure, but it would not travel up and down the line.

"That doesn't mean wackos out there can't do damage and cause a fire, but those explosions and fires are going to be fairly restricted," he said.

Since Defreitas retired from his job at the airport, security has significantly tightened and his knowledge of the operation was severely outdated.
Damnit, and I was all prepared to lock myself in Rudy Giuliani's broom closet for safety from the Islamofascists! ... sigh... anyway, at least we can still look upon the faces of EVIL, starting with that Mayor of Guyanese horror: Adul Kadir:

(shudder) and next, 63-year-old do-baddy, Russell Defreitas:

Makes you want to run out and vote Republican, doesn't it?


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posted by JReid @ 8:46 PM  
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Adam the wierdo
Adam Gadahn, the first American in generations to be charged with treason, is back on the TV. I don't know, but somehow I just don't believe this guy. He strikes me as a put up job. But then again, maybe I'm just getting way too cynical for my own good...

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posted by JReid @ 10:30 AM  
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
How can you be the chief military officer in the country and not know how many Americans have died in Iraq?
Peter Pace. chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the nation's highest ranking Marine, on the sacrifices being made by American troops in Iraq:
"When you take a look at the life of a nation and all that's required to keep us free, we had more than 3,000 Americans murdered on 11 September, 2001. The number who have died, sacrificed themselves since that time is approaching that number," General Pace told CBS Early Show's Harry Smith. "And we should pay great respect and thanks to them for allowing us to live free."
Huh? Approaching??? How many ways can this guy be off base? Let RawStory count them:
First, the website Iraq Coalition Casualty Count puts the number of US service-members killed since the beginning of the Iraq War in 2003 at 3,455. The Pentagon only lists it as 3,441, with 14 deaths not yet being confirmed by the Pentagon. With either number, the total number of fatalities long passed the count of victims who died on 9/11.

Second, the General overestimated the number of deaths on 9/11. The website September 11, 2001 Victims states that 2,996 died in the attacks, rather than "more than 3,000 murdered" that Pace cites.

Finally, many of the victims who died on 9/11 were not American citizens. The aforementioned website lists 209 of the victims as foreign nationals.
Is this guy on mind-altering drugs? I liked Pace better when he was telling Americans the truth about the Bushies' bogus stories of Iranian arms smuggling to Iran.

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posted by JReid @ 8:18 AM  
Friday, April 27, 2007
No surprise, Barack Obama wins the South Carolina stream of consciousness poll, which is heavily weighted toward Black Carolnians. But Hilary still wins the day, having come off the most prepared and presidential in last night's debate. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

Meanwhile, surprise! The day after the debates, the Bush administration announces a major terror arrest! ... and there are big, nasty terror plots afoot in Saudi Arabia!!! See the media pant like a trained puppy over this one, but sorry guys, I've seen this movie before.

And Senator Dick Durbin says he knew we were being lied into the Iraq war, but couldn't say anything about it because he was sworn to secrecy as a member of the intelligence committee...

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posted by JReid @ 4:29 PM  
Friday, March 30, 2007
If David Hicks is such a pernicious terrorist...
...then why is he set to serve just nine months in prison back in his home country of Australia? Perhaps this is a clue:
As part of the plea bargain, Hicks also withdrew claims he was abused in US detention.

The Australian had previously alleged he was beaten by US forces after his capture in Afghanistan and that he had been sedated before learning of the charges against him.

Addressing the tribunal, he affirmed he had "never been illegally treated by any persons in the control or custody of the United States" before or after his transfer to Guantanamo in 2002.
But wait, there's more:
As part of his plea deal, Hicks has agreed not to speak to the media for a year, not to receive any money for his story and not to sue the US government.

At Friday's hearing, he had to convince the military judge that his guilty plea was genuine and not just a tactic to return home to Adelaide.

However his father, Terry, said that was the only reason he had agreed to make the plea.
And this:
The Australian government will be relieved that the David Hicks saga is coming to an end, says the BBC's Phil Mercer in Sydney.

While the conservative government is a supporter of the US military justice system, it has come under a great deal of pressure from Australians disturbed by Hicks' treatment, and will be glad to put the issue behind it with elections due later in the year, our correspondent says.
Two governments, one giant cover-up, but at the end of the day, at least David Hicks is out of Gitmo. Who can blame him for pleading out?

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posted by JReid @ 10:01 PM  
Thursday, March 15, 2007
Natalie Hollway mystery solved!
The sinking of the Lucitania ... the attacks on Pearl Harbor ... the Lindbergh baby kidnapping ... the JFK assassination ... the attacks of 9/11 ... 3/11 ... Bali ... the deadly Western wildfires ... the bird flu ... simple, chronic hallitosis ... what do all of these evils have in common? They were the evil brainchildren of the true terror mastermind of all time ... the universally guilty ... the human confessional ... Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Through the crack efforts of the Bush administration's war on terror, al-Qaida's umpteenth "number two" has confessed to all ... and I do mean ALL:
WASHINGTON - Suspected 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed confessed to the beheading of American journalist Daniel Pearl and a central role in 30 other attacks and plots in the U.S. and worldwide that killed thousands of victims, said a revised transcript released Thursday by the U.S. military.

"I decapitated with my blessed right hand the head of the American Jew, Daniel Pearl, in the city of Karachi, Pakistan," Mohammed is quoted as saying in a transcript of a military hearing at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, released by the Pentagon.

"For those who would like to confirm, there are pictures of me on the Internet holding his head," he added.

Mohammed's claimed involvement in the 2002 slaying of the Wall Street Journal reporter was among 31 attacks and plots — some of which never occurred — he took responsibility for in a hearing Saturday at the U.S. naval prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the Pentagon said.
... leading to the obvious question: what hasn't the evil sheikh confessed to???

Where to begin... The Times of London elucidates:
1. The 1993 bombing of the World Trade Centre in New York City.

2. The September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon in Washington.

3. A shoe bomber operation to bring down two US commercial airplanes.

4. The Filka Island operation in Kuwait that killed two American soldiers.

5. The deadly bombing of a nightclub in Bali, Indonesia.

6. Planning a “second wave” of attacks on major US landmarks in the wake of the September 11, with targets including the Library Tower in California, the Sears Tower in Chicago, the Plaza Bank building in Washington state and the Empire State Building in New York.

7. Planning and financing operations to destroy US military vessels and oil tankers in the Straits of Hormuz, the Straits of Gibraltar, and in Singapore.

8. A plan to blow up the Panama Canal.

9. An assassination attempt against former US President Jimmy Carter, as well as other former presidents.

10. A plot to blow up suspension bridges in New York.

11. A plan to burn fuel trucks beneath or around the Sears Tower in Chicago in order to destroy it.

12. Plotting to destroy targets in London, including Heathrow Airport, Canary Wharf and Big Ben.

13. Attacks on night clubs in Thailand frequented by Americans and Britons.

14. A plot targeting the New York Stock Exchange and other US finance industry targets post 9/11.

15. A plan to use airplanes flying from Saudi Arabia to attack and destroy buildings in Elat, Israel.

16. Planned attacks to destroy American embassies in Indonesia, Australia and Japan.

17. Attacks on Israel’s embassies in India, Azerbaijan, the Philippines and Australia.

18. An attack on an Israeli El-Al Airlines flight from Bangkok.

19. Sending several Mujahidin into Israel to survey “strategic targets" deep in the country.

20. The deadly suicide bombing of a hotel in Mombasa, Kenya, frequented by Jewish travellers in November 2002.

21. The failed attempt to down an Israeli jet taking off from an airport in Mombasa with an SA-7 surface-to-air missile.

22. A plot to attack American military bases and nightclubs frequented by US soldiers in South Korea.

23. Providing the financial support to attack US, British and Jewish targets in Turkey.

24. Surveillance undertaken for a plan to hit nuclear power plants that generate electricity in several US states.

25. A plot to attack Nato headquarters in Europe.

26. The 1995 Bojinka Operation to down 12 American planes full of passengers flying between mostly Pacific Rim airports. Personally monitored a round-trip from Manila to Seoul on Pan Am Airlines.

27. An assassination attempt planned against the former US President Bill Clinton during his visit to the Philippines in the mid-1990s.

28. A separate assassination plot to kill Pope John Paul II while he visited the Philippines.

29. Plans to assassinate Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf.

30. An attempt to destroy an American oil company that operates on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, owned by the former US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger.
(Sigh) ... so many terror plots, so little torture time...

Mr. Mohammed, now that you have gotten so much off your chest, kindly tell us where Jimmy Hoffa is buried, and maybe ... just maybe ... we'll ask our real life Jack Bauers to stop torturing you... maybe...

Meanwhile, the Counterterrorism blog has details of the tribunal transcripts.

And the "24" crowd went wild! Isn't it just the thing to distract from that nasty Al Gonzales scandal?

Update: Surpsie! There's doubt brewing about the Sheikh's big confession.

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posted by JReid @ 4:24 PM  
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Why is the Bush administration lying about the attempt on Cheney?
Dick Cheney came within earshot of a suicide bomber, who got through the first of three checkpoints protecting him at Kabul's Bagram Air Base during his visit to the "Mayor of Kabul," Hamid karzai. So why is the U.S. military lying about Cheney being the target of the assassination attempt? (Maj. William Mitchell said it did not appear the explosion was intended as a threat to Cheney. "He wasn't near the site of the explosion," Mitchell said. "He was safely within the base at the time of the explosion.") The resurgent Taliban says its bomber did in fact target the vice president:
A purported Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousef Ahmadi, said Cheney was the target of the attack carried out by an Afghan named Mullah Abdul Rahim.

"We knew that Dick Cheney would be staying inside the base," Ahmadi told The Associated Press by telephone from an undisclosed location. "The attacker was trying to reach Cheney."
... The bad guys clearly knew where he would be. So why the obfuscation? Could it be that the Bush administration is continuing to try and hide the fact of just how badly things are going in our original theater of the war on terror? Signs point to yes:
BAGRAM, Afghanistan — In what the Taliban claimed was an assassination attempt, a suicide bomber attacked the main gate of a U.S. military base Tuesday within earshot of Vice President Dick Cheney. The explosion killed 23 people, including two Americans, and delivered a propaganda blow that undercut the U.S. military and the weak Afghan government it supports.

The bomber struck about 10 a.m., and U.S. military officials declared a "red alert" at the sprawling Bagram Air Base while Cheney was rushed to a bomb shelter. Cheney, who had been stranded at the base overnight by a snowstorm, met with President Hamid Karzai in the capital before heading back to the United States via the Gulf state of Oman.

"I heard a loud boom," Cheney told reporters aboard Air Force Two en route to Oman. "The Secret Service came in and told me there had been an attack on the main gate."

Many of the victims were said to be Afghan truck drivers waiting to get inside the base. A dozen men — many of them sobbing heavily — left the base holding a stretcher bearing their loved ones wrapped in black body bags. Tears streamed down the face of one man sitting in the passenger seat of an SUV that carried another victim away.

Although the bomber did not get closer than roughly a mile to the vice president, the attack highlighted an increasingly precarious security situation posed by the resurgent Taliban. Five years after U.S.-led forces toppled their regime, Taliban-led militants have stepped up attacks. There were 139 suicide bombings last year, a fivefold increase over 2005, and a fresh wave of violence is expected this spring.
And this:
The guerrillas, according to NATO officials, have the flexibility to organize an attack quickly and may have been able to plan a bombing at the base while Cheney was there after hearing news reports on Monday that he was delayed by bad weather. The Taliban have attacked in the area north of the capital in the past even though people living in the Bagram area have not been supportive of the guerrillas. Col. Tom Collins, the top spokesman for the NATO force, said the Taliban had a cell in Kabul that could have traveled the 30 miles north to Bagram.
But perhaps the most interesting note in the AP account was the rather casual reaction of the Bush faction at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue:
President Bush was not awakened to be told about the attack, but received an update early Tuesday morning. White House press secretary Tony Snow said Bush's first reaction was to ask if Cheney was OK.
I'm tempted to ask whether his reaction to the news that in fact Cheney was fine, was "damn..."

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posted by JReid @ 6:18 PM  
Thursday, February 01, 2007
Menace to society

"When I saw those talking french fries under the bridge there in Boston, the first thing I thought was, thank God George Bush is the one in the White House..."
-- Presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani, speaking from his dust covered bunker under neath the Boston common, where he survived the Aqua Teen Hunger Force attack, becoming America's Mayor Once Over, in the process...

They came, they saw, they freaked out the feds and the Boston police. Now, the human weapons of mass destruction behind the Aqua Teen Hunger Force will face justice ... Dubya-style. Watch, as these menaces mock the global war on terror!

Burn, Hollywood ... buuuuurrrrnnnn......

And now, see for yourself as the terrorists create their evil master plan to terrorize the citizens of Boston with their insurgent talking fries, Shakesama bin Laden, and the axis of spicy meatball. Watch if you dare...

Damn you, Aqua Teen Hunger Force ... damn you all to hell...

Update: ABC News is on the apparent cover-up, and allegations of possible collusion by an American company in the ATHF terror plot ...

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posted by JReid @ 8:06 PM  
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