Obama Administration Seeks To Keep Torture Victims From Having Day In Court

Obama Administration Seeks To Keep Torture Victims From Having Day In Court (6/12/2009)

Justice Department Asks Court For Rehearing In Extraordinary Rendition Lawsuit Against Boeing Subsidiary

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org

NEW YORK – The Justice Department today argued that the victims of the “extraordinary rendition” program should not have their day in court, asking a federal appeals court to block a landmark case the court had earlier ruled could go forward. In April, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit against Boeing subsidiary, Jeppesen DataPlan Inc., for its role in the Bush administration’s unlawful “extraordinary rendition” program could proceed, but today the government asked the appeals court’s full panel of judges to rehear that decision.

“The Obama administration has now fully embraced the Bush administration’s shameful effort to immunize torturers and their enablers from any legal consequences for their actions,” said Ben Wizner, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project, who argued the case for the plaintiffs. “The CIA’s rendition and torture program is not a ‘state secret;’ it’s an international scandal. If the Obama administration has its way, no torture victim will ever have his day in court, and future administrations will be free to pursue torture policies without any fear of liability.”

In April, the appeals court reversed a lower court dismissal of the lawsuit, brought on behalf of five men who were kidnapped, forcibly disappeared and secretly transferred to U.S.-run prisons or foreign intelligence agencies overseas where they were interrogated under torture. The Bush administration had intervened, improperly asserting the “state secrets” privilege to have the case thrown out. The appeals court ruled, as the ACLU has argued, that the government must invoke the “state secrets” privilege with respect to specific evidence, not to dismiss the entire suit.

“The extraordinary rendition program is well known throughout the world. The only place it hasn’t been discussed is where it most cries out for examination – in a U.S. court of law,” said Steven Watt, a staff attorney with the ACLU Human Rights Program. “Attempts to keep this case from moving forward fly in the face of Obama’s promise to reaffirm our commitment to domestic and international human rights law and restore an America we can be proud of. Victims of extraordinary rendition deserve their day in court.”

In recent years, the government has asserted the “state secrets” claim with increasing regularity in an attempt to throw out lawsuits and justify withholding information from the public not only about the rendition program, but also about illegal wiretapping, torture and other breaches of U.S. and international law.

Mohamed et al. v. Jeppesen was brought on behalf of Al-Rawi, Binyam Mohamed, Abou Elkassim Britel, Ahmed Agiza and Mohamed Farag Ahmad Bashmilah.

In addition to Wizner and Watt, attorneys in the lawsuit are Steven R. Shapiro and Jameel Jaffer of the national ACLU, Ann Brick of the ACLU of Northern California, Paul Hoffman of the law firm Schonbrun DeSimone Seplow Harris & Hoffman LLP and Hope Metcalf of the Yale Law School Lowenstein Clinic. In addition, Margaret L. Satterthwaite and Amna Akbar of the International Human Rights Clinic of New York University School of Law and Clive Stafford-Smith and Zachary Katznelson represent plaintiffs in this case.

More information about the case is available online at: www.aclu.org/jeppesen

Ex-detainees allege abuse at US Afghan base

torture was never just confined to abu ghraib or guantanamo. there has to be some accounting before we can move on.

KABUL (AFP) – Former detainees of the Bagram air base in Afghanistan have alleged a catalogue of abuse at the US military facility, the BBC reported Wednesday, after a two-month investigation.

Human Rights Watch meanwhile called on the United States to investigate the death, apparently at a US air base, and alleged torture of a member of an Afghan armed faction last year. Full article.

Pakistani Taliban chief dodged missile

the taliban chief we were trying to kill “dodged” us. 80 mourners at a funeral, however, got blown to pieces.

The head of Pakistan’s Taliban had joined a funeral procession targeted in a suspected U.S. missile strike, but left before the attack that killed 80 people mourning an earlier barrage on a militant training camp, intelligence officials said Wednesday. Full article.

“The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” by Gil Scott Heron

The revolution will no be televised
You will not be able to stay home, brother.
You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out.
You will not be able to lose yourself on skag and skip,
Skip out for beer during commercials,
Because the revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be televised.
The revolution will not be brought to you by Xerox
In 4 parts without commercial interruptions.
The revolution will not show you pictures of Nixon
blowing a bugle and leading a charge by John
Mitchell, General Abrams and Spiro Agnew to eat
hog maws confiscated from a Harlem sanctuary.

The revolution will not be televised.
The revolution will not be brought to you by the
Schaefer Award Theatre and will not star Natalie
Woods and Steve McQueen or Bullwinkle and Julia.
The revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal.
The revolution will not get rid of the nubs.
The revolution will not make you look five pounds
thinner, because the revolution will not be televised, Brother.

There will be no pictures of you and Willie May
pushing that shopping cart down the block on the dead run,
or trying to slide that color television into a stolen ambulance.
NBC will not be able predict the winner at 8:32
or report from 29 districts.
The revolution will not be televised.

There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down
brothers in the instant replay.
There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down
brothers in the instant replay.
There will be no pictures of Whitney Young being
run out of Harlem on a rail with a brand new process.
There will be no slow motion or still life of Roy
Wilkens strolling through Watts in a Red, Black and
Green liberation jumpsuit that he had been saving
For just the proper occasion.

Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies, and Hooterville
Junction will no longer be so damned relevant, and
women will not care if Dick finally gets down with
Jane on Search for Tomorrow because Black people
will be in the street looking for a brighter day.
The revolution will not be televised.

There will be no highlights on the eleven o’clock
news and no pictures of hairy armed women
liberationists and Jackie Onassis blowing her nose.
The theme song will not be written by Jim Webb,
Francis Scott Key, nor sung by Glen Campbell, Tom
Jones, Johnny Cash, Englebert Humperdink, or the Rare Earth.
The revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be right back
after a message about a white tornado, white lightning, or white people.
You will not have to worry about a dove in your
bedroom, a tiger in your tank, or the giant in your toilet bowl.
The revolution will not go better with Coke.
The revolution will not fight the germs that may cause bad breath.
The revolution will put you in the driver’s seat.

The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised,
will not be televised, will not be televised.
The revolution will be no re-run brothers;
The revolution will be live.

(watch the video).

IRAQI REFUGEE STORIES: First person accounts of war and exile

what war does to those who are lucky enough to survive.

Refugee crisis in Iraq: 1-1.2 million Iraqis have fled across the border into Syria; about 750,000 have crossed into Jordan (increasing its modest population of 5.5 million by 14%); at least another 150,000 have made it to Lebanon; over 150,000 have emigrated to Egypt; and over 1.9 million are now estimated to have been internally displaced.

THE IRAQI REFUGEE CRISIS

The crisis began with the displacement of one million Iraqis fleeing war-related violence in the first three years following the 2003 invasion and escalated dramatically after the bombing of a mosque in Samarra in February 2006. Subsequent sectarian killings, facilitated by the collapse of governing and civil structures, led to a mass exodus from the country. Many of the refugees were at one time middle-class professionals: doctors, engineers, teachers, artists, filmmakers, administrators.

Jordan hosts between 500,000 and 750,000 Iraqis; Syria between 1.5 and 2 million. Several hundred thousand have made their way to Egypt, the Gulf States, Iran, Turkey, and Yemen. By the summer of 2007, some 60,000 Iraqis were fleeing Iraq each month, mainly to Syria—the last open border.

In October 2007, when Syria closed the last legal exit from the country, the flood of refugees subsided temporarily only to increase again in early 2008. Despite the perception, that fall, that Iraqis were choosing to return home, the Iraqi Red Crescent reported that less than 50,000 actually returned to Iraq from Syria in the last three months of 2007, when the Iraqi government began offering free bus transit and a payment of $800 to each returning family.

The vast majority of Iraqis who returned did so because their residency permits had expired or because they had run out of money to sustain their lives in exile. Many found their homes had been destroyed or occupied by other families in their absence.

The majority of refugees do not believe they can return to Iraq. Yet few nations have been willing to accept them. Many are now seeking any route of escape, no matter the cost and risk, often through human smuggling networks.

Since the most vulnerable refugees reside in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, we have decided to focus on those countries, as well as on Internally Displaced People (IDPs) inside Iraq, who have become refugees in their own country.

listen to interviews with iraqi refugees.

art must indict

“My deep feeling is that today art must indict, or at the very least, play the role of the jester who unmasks the unspeakable lies of the powerful. Americans have been deceived and victimized by our government’s propaganda, and if art cannot rebuff and contest this grave situation by fueling the political will and imagination of resistance, I wonder why we need it at all.”
Joseph Nechvatal

Obama’s Undeclared War Against Pakistan Continues, Despite His Attempt to Downplay It

It is clear—and has been for a long time— that the Obama administration is radically expanding the US war in Afghanistan deeply into Pakistan. Whether it is through US military trainers (that’s what they were called in Vietnam too), drone attacks or commando raids inside the country, the US is militarily entrenched in Pakistan. It makes Obama’s comment that “[W]e have no intention of sending US troops into Pakistan” simply unbelievable. Full article.

Patience is a Dirty and Nasty Word

At age 23, John Lewis, chairman of SNCC, was a veteran of many civil rights battles. On August 28, 1963, at the March on Washington, he gave one of the major speeches.

Though not as well known as Reverend Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, delivered the same day, Lewis’ fiery words cut deep, accusing the federal government of conspiring to ignore inequality. The text of Lewis’ speech was itself a battleground; some of the most controversial words and phrases were removed, and the ending was reworked, at the insistence of other march leaders. The text here is the version Lewis delivered.

SPEECH:

We march today for jobs and freedom, but we have nothing to be proud of, for hundreds and thousands of our brothers are not here. They have no money for their transportation, for they are receiving starvation wages, or no wages at all. In good conscience, we cannot support wholeheartedly the administration’s civil rights bill. There’s not one thing in the bill that will protect our people from police brutality.

This bill will not protect young children and old women from police dogs and fire hoses, for engaging in peaceful demonstrations: This bill will not protect the citizens in Danville, Virginia, who must live in constant fear in a police state. This bill will not protect the hundreds of people who have been arrested on trumped-up charges. What about the three young men in Americus, Georgia, who face the death penalty for engaging in peaceful protest? The voting section of this bill will not help thousands of black citizens who want to vote. It will not help the citizens of Mississippi, of Alabama and Georgia, who are qualified to vote but lack a sixth-grade education. “ONE MAN, ONE VOTE” is the African cry. It is ours, too. It must be ours.

People have been forced to leave their homes because they dared to exercise their right to register to vote. What is there in this bill to ensure the equality of a maid who earns $5 a week in the home of a family whose income is $100,000 a year?

For the first time in one hundred years this nation is being awakened to the fact that segregation is evil and that it must be destroyed in all forms. Your presence today proves that you have been aroused to the point of action. We are now involved in a serious revolution. This nation is still a place of political leaders who build their careers on immoral compromises and ally themselves with open forms of political, economic and social exploitation. What political leader here can stand up and say, “My party is the party of principles?” The party of Kennedy is also the party of Eastland. The party of Javits is also the party of Goldwater. Where is our party?

In some parts of the South we work in the fields from sunup to sundown for $12 a week. In Albany, Georgia, nine of our leaders have been indicted not by Dixiecrats but by the federal government for peaceful protest. But what did the federal government do when Albany’s deputy sheriff beat attorney C. B. King and left him half dead? What did the federal government do when local police officials kicked and assaulted the pregnant wife of Slater King, and she lost her baby?

It seems to me that the Albany indictment is part of a conspiracy on the part of the federal government and local politicians in the interest of expediency.

The revolution is at hand, and we must free ourselves of the chains of political and economic slavery. The nonviolent revolution is saying, “We will not wait for the courts to act, for we have been waiting for hundreds of years. We will not wait for the President, the Justice Department, nor Congress, but we will take matters into our own hands and create a source of power, outside of any national structure, that could and would assure us a victory.”

To those who have said, “Be patient and wait,” we must say that “patience” is a dirty and nasty word. We cannot be patient, we do not want to be free gradually. We want our freedom, and we want it now. We cannot depend on any political party, for both the Democrats and the Republicans have betrayed the basic principles of the Declaration of Independence.

We all recognize the fact that if any radical social, political and economic changes are to take place in our society, the people, the masses, must bring them about. In the struggle, we must seek more than civil rights; we must work for the community of love, peace and true brotherhood. Our minds, souls and hearts cannot rest until freedom and justice exist for all people.

The revolution is a serious one. Mr. Kennedy is trying to take the revolution out of the streets and put it into the courts. Listen, Mr. Kennedy. Listen, Mr. Congressman. Listen, fellow citizens. The black masses are on the march for jobs and freedom, and we must say to the politicians that there won’t be a “cooling-off” period.

We will not stop. If we do not get meaningful legislation out of this Congress, the time will come when we will not confine our marching to Washington. We will march through the South, through the streets of Jackson, through the streets of Danville, through the streets of Cambridge, through the streets of Birmingham. But we will march with the spirit of love and with the spirit of dignity that we have shown here today.

By the force of our demands, our determination and our numbers, we shall splinter the desegregated South into a thousand pieces and put them back together in the image of God and democracy.

We must say, “Wake up, America. Wake up! For we cannot stop, and we will not be patient.”

Source: Lewis, John, with Michael D’Orso. Walking With the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998.

Howard Zinn: “I Wish Obama Would Listen to MLK”

brilliant, brilliant interview with howard zinn!

we won’t disillusion young people by bringing down conventional american heroes (like columbus and theodore roosevelt). we can introduce them to the real heroes of our history by bringing them out of obscurity – people who resisted and brought about change.

watch interview on democracy now!

Destroying Indigenous Populations

The Fort Laramie Treaty once guaranteed the Sioux Nation the right to a large area of their original land, which spanned several states and included their sacred Black Hills, where they were to have “the absolute and undisturbed use and occupation” of the land.

However, when gold was discovered in the Black Hills, President Ulysses S. Grant told the army to look the other way in order to allow gold miners to enter the territory. After repeated violations of the exclusive rights to the land by gold prospectors and by migrant workers crossing the reservation borders, the US government seized the Black Hills land in 1877. Full article.