Posts from April 2009
Pressure Grows to Investigate Interrogations
By PETER BAKER and SCOTT SHANE
Published: April 20, 2009
WASHINGTON — Pressure mounted on President Obama on Monday for more thorough investigation into harsh interrogations of terrorism suspects under the Bush administration, even as he tried to reassure the Central Intelligence Agency that it would not be blamed for following legal advice.
Mr. Obama said it was time to admit “mistakes” and “move forward.” But there were signs that he might not be able to avoid a protracted inquiry into the use of interrogation techniques that the president’s top aides and many critics say crossed the line into torture.
And while Mr. Obama vowed not to prosecute C.I.A. officers for acting on legal advice, on Monday aides did not rule out legal sanctions for the Bush lawyers who developed the legal basis for the use of the techniques.
The president’s decision last week to release secret memorandums detailing the harsh tactics employed by the C.I.A. under his predecessor provoked a furor that continued to grow on Monday as critics on various fronts assailed his position. Among other things, the memos revealed that two captured Qaeda operatives were subjected to a form of near-drowning known as waterboarding a total of 266 times.
Some Bush administration officials, including former Vice President Dick Cheney, accused the administration of endangering the country by disclosing national secrets. Mr. Cheney went on the Fox News Channel to announce that he had asked the C.I.A. to declassify reports documenting the intelligence gained from the interrogations. Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the former C.I.A. director, has also condemned the release of the memorandums and said the harsh questioning had value.
On the other side of the spectrum, human rights activists, Congressional Democrats and international officials pressed for a fuller accounting of what happened. Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat and chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee, wrote Mr. Obama asking him not to rule out prosecutions until her panel completed an investigation over the next six to eight months.
Mr. Obama tried to calm the situation with his first visit to C.I.A. headquarters since taking office. Concerned about alienating the agency, Mr. Obama went out of his way to lavish praise on intelligence officers, using words like “indispensable,” “courage” and “remarkable” and promising his “support and appreciation.”
“Don’t be discouraged by what’s happened in the last few weeks,” he told employees. “Don’t be discouraged that we have to acknowledge potentially we’ve made some mistakes. That’s how we learn. But the fact that we are willing to acknowledge them and then move forward, that is precisely why I am proud to be president of the United States and that’s why you should be proud to be members of the C.I.A.”
Aides said Mr. Obama struggled for four weeks about whether to release the memos in response to a lawsuit filed under the Freedom of Information Act, consulting with advisers, experts and intelligence professionals. It was on his mind so much, they said, that he talked about it with aides late at night in his hotel room during stops on his recent European trip.
In meetings, they said, he served as “the interrogator,” as one put it, challenging people to defend their views. Advisers diverged, with some like Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. favoring the release of more information and others like Leon E. Panetta, the new C.I.A. director, urging that more be withheld. Aides said Mr. Obama worried about damaging morale at the C.I.A. and his own relationship with the agency.
In the end, aides said, Mr. Obama opted to disclose the memos because his lawyers worried that they had a weak case for withholding them and because much of the information had already been made public in The New York Review of Books, in a memoir by George J. Tenet, the former C.I.A. director, and even in a 2006 speech by President George W. Bush.
The decision to promise no prosecution of those who followed the legal advice of the Bush administration lawyers was easier, aides said, because it would be hard to charge someone for doing something the administration had determined was legal. The lawyers, however, are another story.
On Sunday, Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, said on the ABC News program “This Week” that “those who devised policy” also “should not be prosecuted.” But administration officials said Monday that Mr. Emanuel had meant the officials who ordered the policies carried out, not the lawyers who provided the legal rationale.
Three Bush administration lawyers who signed memos, John C. Yoo, Jay S. Bybee and Steven G. Bradbury, are the subjects of a coming report by the Justice Department’s ethics office that officials say is sharply critical of their work. The ethics office has the power to recommend disbarment or other professional penalties or, less likely, to refer cases for criminal prosecution.
The administration has also not ruled out prosecuting anyone who exceeded the legal guidelines, and officials have discussed appointing a special prosecutor. One option might be giving the job to John H. Durham, a federal prosecutor who has spent 15 months investigating the C.I.A.’s destruction of videotapes of harsh interrogations.
As the debate escalated, Mr. Cheney weighed in, saying that if the country is to judge the methods used in the interrogations, it should have information about what was obtained from the tough tactics.
“I find it a little bit disturbing” that “they didn’t put out the memos that showed the success of the effort,” Mr. Cheney said on Fox News. “There are reports that show specifically what we gained as a result of this activity.”
Other investigations promise to keep the issue alive. The Senate Armed Services Committee plans to release its own report after two years of looking at the military’s use of harsh interrogation methods. And the Democratic chairmen of the Senate and House Judiciary Committees are pushing for a commission to look into the matter. At the same time, the administration faces pressure from abroad. Manfred Nowak, the United Nations’ chief official on torture, told an Austrian newspaper that as a party to the international Convention against Torture, the United States was required to investigate credible accusations of torture.
Others pushing for more investigation included Philip D. Zelikow, the former State Department counselor in the Bush administration. On his blog for Foreign Policy magazine and in an interview, Mr. Zelikow said it was not up to a president to rule out an inquiry into possible criminal activity. “If a Republican president tried to do this, people would be apoplectic,” he said.
Frederick A. O. Schwarz Jr., who was chief counsel to the Church Committee, the Senate panel that investigated C.I.A. abuses in the 1970s, said Mr. Obama was “courageous” to rule out prosecutions for those who followed legal advice. But he said “it’s absolutely necessary” to investigate further, “not for the purpose of setting blame but to understand how it happened.”
CIA waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed 183 times
CIA interrogators waterboarded al-Qaeda's Khalid Sheikh Mohammed 183 times and another terrorist suspect, Abu Zubaydah, 83 times, according to reports.
Citing a 2005 Justice Department legal memorandum, the New York Times said the agency used the simulated drowning technique on the two al-Qaeda operatives far more than had been previously reported.
The report recalls that in 2007, former CIA officer John Kiriakou told media organizations that Abu Zubaydah had undergone waterboarding for only 35 seconds before agreeing to tell everything he knew.
Mohammed, the self-described mastermind of the Sept 11 terrorist attacks, was captured in Pakistan in March 2003. Zubaydah was caught in 2002.
Last year, Mohammed was charged with war crimes and murder by a US military commission and faces the death penalty if convicted.
The Times said the release of the numbers is likely to become part of the debate about the morality and efficacy of interrogation methods that the Justice Department under the administration of former president George W. Bush declared legal.
President Barack Obama plans to visit Central Intelligence Agency headquarters on Monday and talk to employees.
Last week, Mr Obama granted immunity to CIA officers involved in tough terror interrogations as he released graphic memos detailing harsh methods approved by ex-president George W. Bush.
In the documents, Bush-era legal officials argued that such tactics that Mr Obama has since disowned such as simulated drowning, facial slapping, the use of insects to scare prisoners and sleep deprivation did not amount to torture.
The following contains an interview I did with Mick Pearce in October 2007. Mick died on 17th April 2009. May he rest in peace.
Fear no more the heat o' the sun,
Nor the furious winter's rages;
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta'en thy wages;
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.
Fear no more the frown o' the great;
Thou art past the tyrant's stroke:
Care no more to clothe and eat;
To thee the reed is as the oak:
The sceptre, learning, physic, must
All follow this, and come to dust.
Fear no more the lightning-flash,
Nor the all-dreaded thunder-stone;
Fear not slander, censure rash;
Thou hast finished joy and moan;
All lovers young, all lovers must
Consign to thee, and come to dust.
No exorciser harm thee!
Nor no witchcraft charm thee!
Ghost unlaid forbear thee!
Nothing ill come near thee!
Quiet consummation have;
And renownéd be thy grave!
~ William Shakespeare
Police killed protestors in London
A flood of disturbing reports of police violence is emerging in the aftermath of London's G20 protests, with at least two confirmed deaths and nearly 150 official complaints made about police behaviour during two days of protests.
The video below shows an unprovoked attack on Ian Tomlinson, who later died of internal bleeding.
The initial reports which stated that Tomlinson died of a heart attack were revised after a post mortem examination showed internal bleeding. As you can see from the video, he has his hands in his pockets and is walking away from the police as he is struck with a baton and then pushed from behind. A policeman has been interviewed under caution on suspicion of the manslaughter.
According to an AFP report today the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is investigating the death of another man, although there are no details at this point.
In yet another incident, a woman was filmed being struck by a police sergeant. Video footage shows an officer hitting Nicola Fisher, 35, from Brighton, across the face with his hand and on her leg with a baton.
These are all cases where the police have acted in an unprovoked manner, using extreme force against unarmed protestors. In the case of Mr. Tomlinson this led to his death. This is happening in the heart of the modern "free world". I hope that we all realise that this is not excusable, and it demands reform, not just prosecution of the perpetrators.
There is a culture of brutality and total disregard for humanity which is becoming normalised in our western "democracies". The same underlying culture with incidents of extreme violence could be seen in Sydney during the APEC protests in 2007.
This is now a global phenomenon which must be resisted if we are not to fall into even deeper tyranny.
Wired reviews New World Order documentary
SXSW: New World Order Illuminates Conspiracy Theorists
By Lewis Wallace | March 14, 2009 | 2:18:38 AM
You've probably heard the conspiracy theories -- the Bilderberg Group secretly runs the world, 9/11 was an inside job, a group of elites is working to establish a "new world order."
The documentary New World Order, which had its world premiere Friday at the South by Southwest film festival, offers an inside look at the people who dedicate their lives to investigating and spreading the word about such conspiracy theories.
The 83-minute movie, by directors Luke Meyer and Andrew Neel, who worked together on 2006's Darkon, focuses chiefly on Alex Jones (pictured), a documentary filmmaker and talk-radio host with a loud voice, an urgent message and, many times, a bullhorn in hand.
Jones, whose movies include such dire polemics as Endgame: Blueprint for Global Enslavement and Dark Secrets: Inside Bohemian Grove, certainly seems sincere enough as he tries to shine a light on the annual Bilderberg meeting, where world leaders meet in secret to talk about ... something.
As New World Order follows Jones and some of his fellow conspiracy mongers, it delivers a fascinating look at true believers who are desperate to expose the supposed sins of politicians and business chieftains. Without delving deeply into the conspiracy theories themselves, the movie introduces the real people whose lives are in some instances consumed by these exotic ideas.
The grim scenarios outlined by the conspiracy theorists are familiar to anybody with a yen for exploring the information rat holes so prevalent on the internet. One of Jones' cohorts calls the web the conspiracy theorist's best friend -- the cheapest and easiest way to disseminate information that's ever existed.
Jones has turned his Infowars concept into a cottage industry. But the truly telling part of New World Order is its revealing depiction of the individuals who spend their spare time establishing alternative communities or burning DVDs to hand out at the World Trade Center site.
Alternately amusing and poignant, New World Order peels back a layer of mystery to show the conspiracy theorists' strange world. Meyer and Neel set out to make an even-handed documentary that lets Jones and his people speak for themselves, and they've succeeded. It's an interesting and compelling portrait of a thriving subculture.
I just watched the Tom Cruise film on the failed coup against Hitler in 1944.
It made me think of how the most morally insane and corrupted individuals who seize power are able to continue with only a tiny few ever rising to resist them.
It takes more than guts to stand up to that kind of evil. Von Stauffenberg was one of those unique individuals in history who could look tyrant in the eye and spit in his face. He failed because of the weak people who surrounded him, memerised by their retarded fuhrer worship.
Even though the bomb failed to kill Hitler the coup could have succeeded were it not for the sheeple mentality which was so deeply programmed into people at that time.
And what is the difference now? None. In fact it is worse. The people of today are blinded and hypnotised and mind controlled.
We have to hope that our leaders are nice and care about us, in the same way an African slave had to hope that his owner would be decent and not sadistic and brutal.
We hope for mercy because we have no other means of protection and because they own us.
That's no way to live folks.
We have to be prepared to fight tyranny with every means available, and be prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice like von Stauffenberg. It is a big ask, but we have no choice.
There is no other way to protect freedom.
Rick Renzi, indicted for conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering, extortion and insurance fraud - a
Corrupt congressman Rick Renzi was interviewed on the scene on the day of 9/11 and also for this propaganda piece a month later. Soon afterwards he would be elected as a republican congressman for Arizona and reelected twice only to be indicted for conspiracy and extortion on February 22nd 2008. He is clearly lying about being a witness to the Pentagon attack as his "dive bombing" description is irreconcilable with the physical damage , FDR, and security video.
For more information on Renzi see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rick_Renzi
Annie Machon speaks to 911blogger of David Shayler’s breakdown and messiah complex
David Shayler is a British journalist and former MI5 (British Security Service) officer. Shayler earned notoriety after being prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act for his passing secret documents to the Mail on Sunday in August 1997 that alleged that MI5 was paranoid about socialists, and that it had previously investigated Labour Party ministers Peter Mandelson, Jack Straw and Harriet Harman.
Shayler has since become controversial for his opinions regarding the September 11, 2001 attacks but has been rejected in the 9/11 Truth Movement following public claims of being a messiah and that real aeroplanes did not impact the World Trade Center towers.
911blogger: Ms. Machon, what is your current relationship with David Shayler? Do you still believe that Shayler had a genuine breakdown, or was his breakdown perhaps premediated, with the intent of making 9/11 Truth advocates look batty?
Machon: David and I separated almost three years ago, and I'm now living in Germany with my partner and Molly the cat.
I have very little contact with David now, which is strange after the intensity of our years together, when we blew the whistle, had to go on the run around Europe, watch as our friends, family, supporters and journalists were arrested, live in France for 3 years and survive two high-profile court cases.
It's a shame it all happened just before the internet, electronic media archives, and youtube were endemic - otherwise people would be able to see, at the click of a mouse, just how big a scandal it was, what we went through, and how vicious the response was from the government and intelligence agencies. The story has been largely forgotten and spun by the media, and my book (which described the full case) was buried.
Our involvement with the 9/11 movement started in 2005 at a journalism conference where we were trying to publicise the book, when a leading UK 9/11 activist approached us. We were actively "head hunted" by the nascent UK movement, and for the first year Shayler's name and profile really helped build it - media interviews, speaking tours etc.
Then he started to get more and more erratic, and increasingly intractable in his views, until he started talking about speculative fringe theories such as "no planes" in public, and the whole campaign was ridiculed by the media in the UK.
During 2006 I was working flat out on building the movement with interviews and speaking tours. David and I argued about his approach constantly towards the end of our relationship and it was a factor in our split, as I felt angry that he was jeopardising all this work from so many people with his views.
That said, in my view it was a genuine breakdown - I think the hero-worship for the whistleblowing from certain sectors of society and the vilification by others, plus the constant isolation and struggle to survive, led inevitably to this victim (sacrificial/Messiah) mentality. I think it was just a traumatised mind's survival mechanism.
I feel desperately sad about that a man who acted with the bravest and best of intentions should have been treated this way and brought to this state. And angry that the supine mainstream media did not hold the spies and government to account, but colluded in destroying a good man's reputation.
That said, it's difficult enough to get the general public to even ask the basic questions about 9/11. I think that going in at the deep end with subjects like NPT/space beams, let alone announcing that you're the Messiah, is inevitably going to damage the movement.
Scientist Niels H. Harrit presents evidence of nano-thermite found in WTC dust on Danish television
"Active Thermitic Material Discovered in Dust from the 9/11 World Trade Center Catastrophe"
The Open Chemical Physics Journal
Volume 2 | ISSN: 1874-4125
pp.7-31 (25) Authors: Niels H. Harrit, Jeffrey Farrer, Steven E. Jones, Kevin R. Ryan, Frank M. Legge, Daniel Farnsworth, Gregg Roberts, James R. Gourley, Bradley R. Larsen
We have discovered distinctive red/gray chips in all the samples we have studied of the dust produced by the destruction of the World Trade Center. Examination of four of these samples, collected from separate sites, is reported in this paper. These red/gray chips show marked similarities in all four samples. One sample was collected by a Manhattan resident about ten minutes after the collapse of the second WTC Tower, two the next day, and a fourth about a week later. The properties of these chips were analyzed using optical microscopy, scanning electron microscopy (SEM), X-ray energy dispersive spectroscopy (XEDS), and differential scanning calorimetry (DSC). The red material contains grains approximately 100 nm across which are largely iron oxide, while aluminum is contained in tiny plate-like structures. Separation of components using methyl ethyl ketone demonstrated that elemental aluminum is present. The iron oxide and aluminum are intimately mixed in the red material. When ignited in a DSC device the chips exhibit large but narrow exotherms occurring at approximately 430 °C, far below the normal ignition temperature for conventional thermite. Numerous iron-rich spheres are clearly observed in the residue following the ignition of these peculiar red/gray chips. The red portion of these chips is found to be an unreacted thermitic material and highly energetic.
Simplified Essay by Jim Hoffman:
Pentagon budget envisions a series of Iraq-style wars
by Patrick Martin
9 April 2009
At a formal press announcement Monday and in media appearances over the next day, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates unveiled the biggest military budget in world history, in anticipation of an endless series of Iraq and Afghanistan-style wars by American imperialism.
Both the military budget itself and the official who drafted it—Gates held the same position in the last two years of the Bush administration and is the first Pentagon chief to be retained by a new president—underscore the fundamental continuity between Obama and Bush.
For all its pretensions of "change" and all the popular illusions attached to Obama’s supposed "anti-war" stance, the new administration is as committed to the ruthless pursuit of the interests of American imperialism as its discredited predecessor.
At the onset of his official announcement, Gates declared that President Obama had given him full authority to make decisions on all military programs, with the White House providing input only on the total size of the military budget and the political decisions about where the military will be used.
"I have also consulted closely with the president," he said. "But, I received no direction or guidance from outside this department on individual program decisions. The chairman and vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are in complete accord with these recommendations."
This statement underscores the growing and quasi-independent role of the military brass in the Obama administration’s decision-making. It is a remarkable fact of political life that the military plays an even greater role in determining national policy in the Obama administration than it did under George W. Bush.
Obama has given the Pentagon a free hand, effectively saying, "Here’s $640 billion, you decide what to do with it." He allowed Gates to make his budget draft public before the White House Office of Management and Budget had signed off on it, a privilege accorded to no other government department.
In addition, there are three former top military officials ensconced in top policy-making roles: retired General James Jones as national security adviser, retired Admiral Dennis Blair as director of national intelligence, and retired General Eric Shinseki heading the Veterans Administration.
Gates emphasized that the enormous sums being proposed for the fiscal 2010 military budget are distributed based primarily on lessons learned in fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and with the perspective that more such wars—against largely irregular, guerrilla forces, rather than conventional armies—will be the primary task of the Pentagon for the foreseeable future.
"We must rebalance this department’s programs in order to institutionalize and enhance our capabilities to fight the wars we are in today and the scenarios we are most likely to face in the years ahead," he said, in an effort to justify the cancellation of some high-cost, high-tech weapons systems in order to provide more funding for troops, special operations forces, helicopters and drones.
The major purchasing decisions involved such trade-offs as these:
Aircraft — The Pentagon will more than double purchases of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter from 14 in FY09 to 30 in FY10, as part of an overall increase of 513 in five years, and a colossal 2,443 during the life of the production run. Partly offsetting this, the Pentagon will end production of the F-22, a more advanced and more costly fighter.
Missile defense — The Pentagon will add nearly $1 billion for short-range theater missile defense systems (THAAD) and Aegis anti-missile naval cruisers, which are already battle-tested, while cutting back on funding for the completely unproven strategic missile defense system on which the Republican administrations have lavished funding since Reagan, albeit with no results.
Naval vessels — The construction of new aircraft carriers, the single most expensive US weapons systems, will be slowed, and new cruiser and advanced destroyer construction will be suspended along with landing ships to be used for seaborne assaults on conventional military forces. The funding will be diverted into a revived construction program of more conventional destroyers, which can be built more rapidly, as well as smaller vessels more suitable for warfare in constricted seas like the Persian Gulf.
Military personnel — The biggest increases will go for building up the volunteer Army and Marine Corps, depleted by the loss of personnel due to strains of waging war continuously for more than seven years, and two wars simultaneously for six years. Tens of thousands of military contractors will be replaced by direct employees of the Pentagon, in part in reaction to the non-stop scandals and abuses under the Bush administration in Iraq (Blackwater, Halliburton, etc.)
Technology — The Army’s Future Combat Systems (FCS) program, aimed at producing an automated battlefield equipped with sensors and robots, will be effectively halted, and the most expensive component, the design and building of a new Army combat vehicle to replace the conventional tank and armored personnel carrier, is to be canceled outright. The emphasis instead will be on drones and other remote-controlled devices and on coordinating them in real time with ground operations, while training the crews required to operate the existing technology.
The reaction from Congress to the budget announcement was predictable. Howls were heard from senators and congressmen from districts where corporations will lose contracts. Those from districts with corporations that will gain contracts praised the wisdom of secretary Gates.
Gates anticipated the objections, telling his press audience that 50 percent of the budget was still devoted entirely to preparations for fighting a conventional war, although no one asked him who the antagonist in such a contest could be. Nor did any reporter ask him which countries were the likeliest potential battlefields for the greatly increased unconventional and counterinsurgency capabilities the Pentagon envisions.
One can make a list, however, of countries where the Pentagon is displaying more than usual interest in acquainting itself with the landscape, both political and geographic, and the local military forces. These include South and Southeast Asia, much of Africa, the entire Middle East, Mexico and the Caribbean basin.
Not one prominent Democrat raised any objection to the United States continuing to squander more money on building weapons of war than all other countries on the planet combined. Not one prominent Democrat balked at the prospect of more and more wars on the model of Iraq and Afghanistan, in which soldiers equipped with overwhelming firepower incinerate the peoples of impoverished countries who represent an obstacle to the strategic calculations of American imperialism.
In an interview Monday on the Public Broadcasting System, Gates spelled out the continuity between the Obama administration and its Republican predecessor. "The reality is," he said, "this is nothing new. I’ve been talking about this for 18 months; it is the heart of the national defense strategy that was issued last fall in the Bush administration, that I issued and it’s really more about simply recognizing the enduring requirement for the capabilities to fight these irregular or hybrid conflicts than it is a major strategic shift."
Afghanistan is the major short-term driver of Pentagon spending, he explained. "We’re increasing our capacity for helicopters, which are in huge demand in Afghanistan," he said. "We are doing a lot to build up the special operations forces, more people, more special operations-oriented lift and mobility. So there are a number of aspects of this that are going into the base budget as long-term capabilities for the United States that obviously will pay dividends in Afghanistan as well."
At a press roundtable the following day, Gates emphasized the remaking of the Pentagon hierarchy through the promotion of generals with experience in the current wars. "General Casey, General Chiarelli, General Dempsey, General Petraeus, General Odierno, General Austin," he said, naming a series of top appointees, "the places where these people have been assigned provide, I believe, the opportunity to institutionalize in the Army the lessons learned in Iraq and Afghanistan. These are all war fighters, and their appointments were not accidents or just happenstance."
In other words, the American military is being rebuilt along the line of the force required to suppress the popular opposition of masses of oppressed people who live in countries targeted by US imperialism for their natural resources and strategic importance.