Obama attorneys step up defense of torture memo author

Yeah, that Obama guy is just SOOOOOooo totally different from that Bush guy. Aren’t you glad you voted for “Change(TM)?”

From Raw Story:

Citing an argument that hallmarked the Bush years, Obama administration attorneys have asked a San Francisco court to drop all charges against Berkeley law professor John Yoo, who authored legal opinions that permitted the torture of prisoners.

An amicus curiae brief [PDF link] filed by the Department of Justice with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday essentially argues that because he was giving advice to the president on a national security matter, Yoo should not be held accountable for his actions as it would have a chilling effect on advice provided to future presidents.

In other words, the DoJ explained, accusations of torture in this case present “special factors” that the court should not address “in the absence of congressional action.”

“Yoo’s new attorney, Miguel Estrada, argued for dismissal in a filing last month, saying the case interfered with presidential war-making authority and threatened to “open the floodgates to politically motivated lawsuits” against government officials,” noted Bob Egelko, writing for The San Francisco Chronicle.

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Italian court convicts 23 Americans of kidnapping in CIA rendition case

From Raw Story:

Twenty three Americans have been convicted in absentia, after an Italian court found them guilty of kidnapping in the CIA rendition of a Muslim cleric, the Associated Press reports. Three other Americans were acquitted.

The New York Times reported earlier today, “Italian prosecutors have charged the American officials, all but one of them alleged to be agents of the Central Intelligence Agency, and seven members of the Italian military intelligence agency, in the abduction of Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, known as Abu Omar, on Feb. 17, 2003. Prosecutors say the cleric was snatched in broad daylight, flown from an American air base in Italy to a base in Germany and then on to Egypt, where he claims he was tortured.”

According to the Times, “The Italian counterterrorism prosecutor Armando Spataro is seeking 13-year jail terms for Jeff Castelli, a former C.I.A. station chief in Rome, and Nicolò Pollari, a former head of Italian military intelligence, for their suspected roles in the abduction. He is seeking 12-year terms for Robert Seldon Lady, who as C.I.A. station chief in Milan is accused of having coordinated the operation, and Sabrina De Souza, who worked in the United States Embassy in Rome and is accused of having worked closely with Mr. Lady.”

Charges against Pollari and his deputy, as well as three other Italian defendants, were dropped “because Italy withheld evidence, contending it was classified information.” Pollari is also known as the Italian official who first brought to the attention of the White House claims that Saddam Hussein had attempted to purchase uranium from Niger.

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Obama signs law blocking release of torture photos

I’m confused. Obama can sign a “hate-crimes” law that in effect says that a special select group of people have more rights than the general population. Then, the very next day, he can sign a law blocking the release of torture photos. In my mind, these torture photos are direct evidence of hate crimes commited against another group of people. How is it that one day Obama can sign a law that essentially gives a select group of people rights that others don’t have (if you’re a “victim” of a “hate crime” you have more rights than other victims of the same type of crime), and the next day, he can sign another law that effectively *protects* people who commit hate crimes (torture) against a different group of people?  Hypocricy anyone?

From Raw Story:

President Barack Obama received a great deal of media attention on Wednesday for signing a historic hate-crimes bill into law. But, on the same day, the US president also signed a Homeland Security spending bill that received far less attention, even though it effectively blocks efforts by activists to reveal photos of detainee abuse in US custody.

“We are disappointed that the president has signed a law giving the Defense Department the authority to hide evidence of its own misconduct, and we hope the defense secretary will not take advantage of that authority by suppressing photos related to the abuse of prisoners,” Jameel Jaffer, national security director for the ACLU, said in a statement.

Earlier this month, the House and Senate inserted language into the Homeland Security appropriations bill that would shield photos of detainees in the US’s war on terror from the Freedom of Information Act. The language, which was added at the prodding of Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), effectively blocks an ACLU lawsuit currently before the courts that would have forced the government to release the photos under Freedom of Information statutes.

As Daphne Eviatar noted at the Washington Independent, “President Obama initially agreed to release the photos, but changed his mind after consulting with Defense Secretary Robert Gates and others at the Pentagon, who warned the photos would endanger US servicemen in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

At issue are 21 photos of detainees in US custody that the Department of Defense has been fighting tooth and nail from releasing. As Raw Story reported earlier this year, those photos may show acts of sexual abuse being carried out against detainees.

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Lawyer: CIA kept detainees alive to keep torturing them

From Raw Story:

According to human rights lawyer John Sifton, the CIA tortured some of its detainees in the War on Terror so severely that it had to take measures to keep them alive so they could continue being tortured.

Sifton, who the executive director of One World Research, told an interviewer for Russia Today that there was both a CIA detention program and a military detention program and that “The CIA program was by far the most secretive. … That’s the one that only had a few dozen detainees at any given time — but it’s the one that saw the biggest abuses, the most serious forms of torture.”

“In the military, there was actually a larger number of deaths than with the CIA,” Sifton continued. “The CIA engaged in some horrendous abuses, but they appear to have taken precautions to have actually prevented people from dying — which might sound humanitarian, but in fact was kind of sickening.”

“The military wasn’t so careful,” Sifton added. “The military subjected a lot of people to the same techniques, but without the precautions, and as a result a large number of detainees in military custody died. … While they didn’t use the worst forms of torture, like waterboarding, they often used sleep deprivation, forced standing, stress positions. … When you combine these techniques … they cause excruciating pain … and the military used them on thousands and thousands of detainees.”

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Bands ‘rage against the machine’ for torture info

From Raw Story:

At least two rock stars whose songs have been reportedly used to torture Guantanamo Bay detainees are demanding the federal government release details of the use of music by the U.S. government during interrogations of prisoners.

The National Campaign to Close Guantanamo is working with musicians in their latest effort to drum up public support for Congress to close U.S. detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay. Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails and Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine are both putting their names to Freedom of Information Act requests to be submitted Thursday that demand the government come clean about how music was used to potentially torture suspected terrorists. The music of both Reznor’s and Morello’s bands have been linked to alleged detainee torture in the past, and both musicians are now hoping their effort to declassify the information will push Congress to close U.S. detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay.

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Teacher’s aides accused of waterboarding special-needs student

We used to have one of the best education systems in the world. Then we got the deliberate dumbing down of Americans, starting in the education system. Now, we have this. Way to go.

From Raw Story:

Political observers like The Atlantic’s Andrew Sullivan have argued that one of the most dangerous elements of the Bush administration’s torture policies was the risk that a “torture mentality” would take hold in American society.

Those who seek evidence for that theory need look no further than Great Falls, Montana, where two teacher’s aides have been charged with using water torture on a middle school student.

Julie Ann Parrish and Kristina Marie Kallies face one count each of felony abuse after allegations that they forced a 13-year-old autistic boy’s head under water after he fell asleep in class. They also stand accused of “forcing him to sit in his soiled pants for hours and making him eat his own vomit when he got sick,” reports KTLA in Los Angeles.

“If the teachers thought Garrett was being lazy or falling asleep at his desk, they forcibly took my son to the kitchen sink in the room and forced his head under the water while he was screaming for his mother,” Tifonie Schilling, mother of the alleged victim, told ABC News. “And if he had an accident in his pants he was made to sit in it all day. They would taunt him and say, ‘You stink like a baby.'”

“They were waterboarding my son,” Schilling said.

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U.S. Says Rendition to Continue, but With More Oversight

The whole point of rendition is to move prisoners to countries where torture is more acceptable (although, of course, it can be and is done almost anywhere). Why people expected Obama to be any different than Bush in matters such as these still amazes me. Meanwhile they keep us fighting among ourselves over things like health care.

From The New York Times:

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration will continue the Bush administration’s practice of sending terrorism suspects to third countries for detention and interrogation, but pledges to closely monitor their treatment to ensure that they are not tortured, administration officials said Monday.

Human rights advocates condemned the decision, saying that continuing the practice, known as rendition, would still allow the transfer of prisoners to countries with a history of torture. They said that promises from other countries of humane treatment, called “diplomatic assurances,” were no protection against abuse.

“It is extremely disappointing that the Obama administration is continuing the Bush administration practice of relying on diplomatic assurances, which have been proven completely ineffective in preventing torture,” said Amrit Singh, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, who tracked rendition cases under President George W. Bush.

Ms. Singh cited the case of Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian sent in 2002 by the United States to Syria, where he was beaten with electrical cable despite assurances against torture.

Read the rest:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/25/us/politics/25rendition.html