Thursday, June 12, 2008

News Compendium: Bushco War and Torture Troubles

Ill: Wizard of Whimsy

Bushworld Comes Crumbling down, Albeit in Bits and Pieces

Recent news has not been good for the warmongering Bushies, past and present, but none more so than today, when the Supreme Court handed down its THIRD wrist-slapping decision on the topic of indefinite detention without fair trials, and more specifically, the ersatz sytem of "justice" embodied in the misguided "Military Commissions Act" and related detainee legislation.
"The court declared unconstitutional a provision of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 which, at the administration’s behest, stripped the federal courts of jurisdiction to hear habeas corpus petitions from the detainees seeking to challenge their designation as enemy combatants.
"Congress and the administration had passed a shortened alternative to a habeas procedure for the prisoners in the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act. But Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority, said that procedure 'falls short of being a constitutionally adequate substitute' because it failed to offer 'the fundamental procedural protections of habeas corpus.'
Justice Kennedy declared: 'The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times.'
"The decision, which was joined by Justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Stephen G. Breyer, was categorical in its rejection of the administration’s basic arguments. Indeed, the court repudiated the fundamental legal basis for the administration’s strategy, adopted in the immediate aftermath of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, of housing prisoners captured in Afghanistan and elsewhere at the United States Naval base in Cuba, where Justice Department lawyers advised the White House that domestic law would never reach."
"Writing separately, Justice Souter said the dissenters did not sufficiently appreciate 'the length of the disputed imprisonments, some of the prisoners represented here today having been locked up for six years.'
The detainees whose fates are at issue in the case are Algerians who were legal residents of Bosnia when they were detained by Bosnian police on suspicion of planning an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo, arrested in the immediate wake of the post-911 frenzy. The New York Times calls them "not at all typical of the people confined at Guantanamo."
"The Supreme Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina ordered them released three months later for lack of evidence, whereupon the Bosnian police seized them and turned them over to the United States military, which sent them to Guantánamo."
Bush, speaking from the Roman leg of his "farewell tour" of Europe, strenuously objected to the Court's assertion of its final say over legislation a cowed and manipulated Congress pushed through on his say-so. What? Bush doesn't have the power to detain by executive fiat any random bodies it designates terrorists, lock them up indefinitely, render them extralegally, subject them to torture and the kangaroo courts set up by the Military Commissions Act?
The Detainee Treatment Act, for instance, provided that the "military [can] assign a 'personal representative' to each detainee, but defense lawyers may not take part. Nor are the tribunals required to disclose to the detainee details of the evidence or witnesses against him — rights that have long been enjoyed by defendants in American civilian and military courts.The Act also provided that "detainees may appeal decisions of the military tribunals to the District of Columbia Circuit, but only under circumscribed procedures, which include a presumption that the evidence before the military tribunal was accurate and complete."

No American in his or her right mind could call that a fair trial. But when has Bush or anyone else in his Administration, or his judicial appointees, been constrained by the rules of fair play, even in the most important decisions of life and death ~ or just lingering, indefinite detention in the legal no-man's land of U.S. prisons on foreign soil and/or prison ships or secret CIA flights?
Justice Scalia went predictably ballistic in his dissent and called on his inner Neocon Cassandra to predict very bad things for America if we aren't willing to rewrite centuries of common law on habeas corpus, later enshrined in our own law. "Reflecting how the case divided the court not only on legal but, perhaps, emotional lines, Justice Scalia said that the United States was 'at war with radical Islamists,' and that the ruling 'will almost certainly cause more Americans to get killed.' 'The nation will live to regret what the court has done today,' Justice Scalia said. "
Saying not much for the notion of "judicial temperament" when dealing what should have been a tempest in a teapot before Bushco (for many reasons only tangentially related to "terrorism") decided to make it the cause celebre of the Militant Right Wing of America.

How We Got There ~ A Short-Attention-Span Administration for a Short-Attention-Spanned Country
On the much-vaunted Senate Intelligence Committee report, suitably whitewashed for Republion consumption, Slate had some choice analysis the other day.
"On June 5, the Senate intelligence committee released its long-awaited report on whether President George W. Bush and his top officials knowingly exaggerated or falsified intelligence when making the case for invading Iraq.

"The 171-page document is neither quite as damning as the committee's press release suggests nor remotely as exonerating as a Washington Post editorial would have you believe.But more significant are the report's implications (buried between its lines) for how the next president should change the way that National Intelligence Estimates are written—and, even more, the way that they are read. "
The piece concludes that if one reads the NIE selectively (i.e., without being distracted by dissenting footnotes), some of the claims made that whipped Americans into a glassy-eyed wartime frenzy were ~ I'll be charitable ~ "true, or once were."
"The committee examined dozens of public statements about Iraq made by Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and so forth—then compared their claims with what classified intelligence analyses were reporting at the time. All the statements turned out to be wrong. But were the officials simply, and perhaps unwittingly, reciting mistaken intelligence reports? Or were they exaggerating, twisting, or even falsifying what those reports were really saying?"
"Some of the officials' claims, the committee concludes, were 'substantiated by available intelligence information.' [...] "In several instances, the claims were backed by the intelligence estimate's majority view but were disputed by some of the agencies. (An NIE is a consensus product, put together by the nation's 16 intelligence agencies; if some of the agencies disagree on some point, they often file a dissenting footnote.) This was the case for the claims that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear-weapons program and that it was building unmanned aerial vehicles for the purpose of dropping biological weapons on Americans and our allies. The Senate report chides the officials for failing, at times willfully, to take these dissents into account."
"On a few other issues, officials made claims with great confidence, whereas the intelligence reports expressed considerable uncertainty. This was the case for claims about chemical-weapons production and the prospects of postwar stability.
"Finally, several claims had no basis in, or were even contradicted by, the official intelligence reports. These include the claim that Saddam Hussein intended to give weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups, that he had a partnership with al-Qaida, that he had WMD facilities in deep underground bunkers, and that 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta met with Iraqi intelligence officers in Prague in 2001.
"It is worth noting that the claims that reflected U.S. intelligence—on biological weapons, ballistic missiles, and support for non-al-Qaida terrorist groups—were, while serious, not the sorts of threats that would rally a nation to war. Meanwhile, the claims that did galvanize support for the invasion—on nuclear weapons and alliances with al-Qaida—either exaggerated or falsified the intelligence of the day.
"Another intriguing point, made fleetingly in the Senate report's preface, is that the committee reviewed 'only finished analytic intelligence documents'—not 'less formal communications between intelligence agencies and other parts of the executive branch.' In other words (though the authors don't put it in these terms), the committee once again evaded the key question of whether the White House pressured the Central Intelligence Agency into hardening its October 2002 NIE on Iraq.
"Unless this question is addressed, the report is beside the point.[...] " If...government officials politicized the intelligence information, then the report only perpetuates the sham."

House Democrats Call for Special Counsel on Genesis of Torture Instructions
Your Demon is glad to see House Democrats catching on, and calling for a Special Counsel from outside the DOJ, which is captive itself to the Executive and highly unlikely to investigate closely while Bushco remains in office.
"In a letter to Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey, the lawmakers cited what they said is 'mounting evidence' that senior officials personally sanctioned the use of waterboarding and other aggressive tactics against detainees in U.S.-run prisons overseas. An independent investigation is needed to determine whether such actions violated U.S or international law, the letter stated.
"This information indicates that the Bush administration may have systematically implemented, from the top down, detainee interrogation policies that constitute torture or otherwise violate the law," it said. The letter was signed by 56 House Democrats, including House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) and House Intelligence Committee members Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y)."

While They're At It, Investigate This
File under obstruction of justice: report that detailed notes on interrogations were destroyed at the Pentagon's behest in anticipation of investigation into illegality.

More Kangaroo Courts: Judge Who Insisted on Evidence in Detainee Case Abruptly Dismissed
"A judge hearing a war crimes case at Guantanamo Bay who publicly expressed frustration with military prosecutors' refusal to give evidence to the defense has been dismissed, tribunal officials confirmed Friday."
NYT Editorial: Interrogations Carried Out By Private Contractors (You guess why).
"Operating free of the restraints of military rule and ethics, some of these corporate thugs turned up in the torture scandal at the Abu Ghraib prison and walked away with impunity. Others are now believed to be in the employ of the Central Intelligence Agency at secret prisons that remain outside the rule of law, exempted even from the weak 2006 rules on interrogating prisoners."

In conclusion: do we detect a trend whereby a privileged boy President and his evil shadow have NEVER been forced to play by the well-established rules, and wonder what all the hub-bub and censure are about? Absolutely outragous, in'it?



Post a Comment

<< Home