Dennis Loo

Sometimes asking for the impossible is the only realistic path

Dennis Loo

Dennis Loo
Los Angeles, California,
December 31
Professor of Sociology
Cal Poly Pomona
Author of Globalization and the Demolition of Society; Co-Editor/Author of Impeach the President: the Case Against Bush and Cheney, World Can't Wait Steering Committee Member, co-author of "Crimes Are Crimes, No Matter Who Does Them" statement, dog and fruit tree lover. Published poet. Winner of the Alfred R. Lindesmith Award, Project Censored Award and the Nation Magazine's Most Valuable Campaign Award. Punahou and Harvard Honor Graduate. Ph.D. in Sociology from UC Santa Cruz. An archive of close to 500 postings of mine can be found at my blogspot blog, Dennis Loo, link below. I publish regularly at, (link below) and also at OpEd News and sometimes at Counterpunch.

APRIL 26, 2009 11:54AM

Obama: Gitmo Prisoners Aren't "Persons"

Rate: 33 Flag

Update: I have posted much further documentation for the following post in a new post "Follow-up on Sources for Gitmo Prisoners Aren't 'Persons.'"

I recommend that you read "Tugging on the Torture Thread" also if you haven't already done so in addition to what follows:

If you ask most people what Obama has done about Guantanamo, most would say, "He shut it down."

Most don't know that Obama has said he might take as much as a year to shut it down.

If you ask most people what Obama has done about torture and rendition, most would say, "He's ended them."

Most don't know that Obama has declared that he will continue rendition, that he reserves the right to go beyond the Army Field Manual for interrogations, and that by not acting affirmatively to ensure otherwise, he has allowed conditions to worsen at Gitmo.

If you ask most people what Obama's done about restoring habeas corpus, most people would first say, "What's habeas corpus?"

Then, after you explain to them that habeas corpus is your right to challenge your detention, most people would say, "He's restored habeas corpus, hasn't he?"

Most people don't know that Obama has said that Bagram prisoners have no right to habeas corpus and that Gitmo detainees don't have a right to it prior to June 2008. 

The latest news about what Obama is up to on these fronts follows.

Obama's DOJ pressed the Court of Appeals to rule that Gitmo prisoners aren't "persons," aren't entitled to the rights of "persons," and that if the Court does find that they are indeed "persons," then US officials who ordered and carried out torture and abuse of prisoners should be immune from prosecution for that. 

The Court of Appeals found for Obama. 

From Raw Story, April 22, 2009:

A Court of Appeals for the Washington, D.C. Circuit ruled Friday that detainees at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are not "persons" according to it's [sic] interpretation of a statute involving religious freedom.

The ruling sprang from an appeal of Rasul v. Rumsfeld, which was thrown out in Jan. 2008. "The court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the constitutional and international law claims, and reversed the district court's decision that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) applied to Guantanamo detainees, dismissing those claims as well," the Center for Constitutional Rights said.

After the Supreme Court recognized, over objections from the Bush administration, that terror war prisoners have the right to habeas corpus petitions, it also directed the D.C. court of appeals to reexamine the case. 

The suit, Rasul v. Rumsfeld, charges numerous Bush administration officials with "violations of the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), the Fifth and Eighth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, the Geneva Conventions, and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)," CCR said.

"In its first filing on detention and torture under the Obama administration, the Department of Justice filed briefs in March urging the Court of Appeals to reject any constitutional or statutory rights for detainees," says a release.

"The Obama Justice Department further argued that even if such rights were recognized, the Court should rule that the previous administration’s officials who ordered and approved torture and abuse of the plaintiffs should be immune from liability for their actions."

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I´m trying to find some reasonable explanation for this (sometimes I engage myself in such a thing.... sigh): is Obama´s Justice Dept. acting out of total loyalty to their beliefs (it is monstrous is this is so), or are they acting under pressure from armed forces, extreme right-winged power still active (equally monstrous) and - or other lobbying groups? ...I don´t get it...
What? Are you sure this wasn't a leftover law-suit from the Bush Admin., I knew the rest of the stuff, but this one freaks me out. If Obama stars this shit I, and millions of liberals are going to be very pissed. We put him there, because of his talk of no torture, closing down Gitmo, and stopping these damn wars. Dennis I hope you got those links I sent. Peace
Scanner: Obama's DOJ has been filing briefs in courts like this ever since Obama took charge. This IS where they really stand. Marcela: the DOJ and Obama are doing this because they are now the political leadership of an imperialist superpower, the only true superpower to rival Rome in its day. They aren't doing it because they're trying to appease the extremists. They are acting as the political representatives of an Empire.

PS Scanner: I did get your links. Thanks!
Bureaucracies are so huge and continue doing what they're doing generally until they are told to stop. Maybe the message was that all continuing law suits would be handled with the same legal approach with which they were initiated. And, that later suits would be handled according to the principles of the current administration.


I don't know. But, I'd like to ask him (Obama). Do you write to him Dennis?

He is the Commander in Chief. That seems to come with a 'rule' book that most Americans haven't been able to get a look at. We don't need to look very far back to remember the Nisei.
Sometimes my comments just go ahead and post! At any rate, I do think this is a time of reflection...The Nisei camps are an excellent meditation. Think and feel this through, so that we can take swift meaningful action.
Of course, my swift meaningful action is immediate impeachment. That won't be popular! But I've never gone out to win those particular contests.
Dennis - thanks for continuing this discussion on OS.

@newblog - you write "Are the people being interrogated, tortured, and renditioned, trying to kill people or not?" Clearly, we don't know for certain. Without Habeus Corpus, a detainee doesn't have the right to know, and niether do we. Check out BBE's stuff - there are numerous accounts of innocent people being detained and renditioned and tortured.

As it stands, even as an American citizen, what would it take for ANY of us to be considered "Enemy Combatants" and be detained indefinitely?
New Blogger: by the US government's own admission when Bush was in office, 2/3 of the Gitmo detainees were guilty of nothing at all. The vast majority were taken there for bounty after being turned in by neighbors, warlords trying to divert attention to themselves, and jealous rivals.
My theory is that there's something monstrous hidden at Bagram. Something that would dominate the news for months (dwarfing Abu Ghraib) and ruin his presidency. So he's stalling. Reason I entertain this notion is not some belief in Obama's inherent goodness. Just seems incongruous that he's announce closing gitmo and release the memos and insist on this. The memos are far more justifiable to fight against revealing. Plus he's on record saying the exact opposite with all his constitutional scholarship as recently as 2006. So something is going on here.

newblog - point is we don't know the answer to your question. And without allowing them to mount any kind of defense against being held, we'll never know either.

These are not convicted criminals. Many of them have been proven innocent of anything. Others are not nice people, but were still far far from your criteria. A few really are bad, and we should prove it in court.
As I've written elsewhere:

Torture: Principal and Practicality

This court ruling has a long-standing and ugly precedent that goes back to the very founding of this nation. The notorious "three-fifths" rule written into US Constitution at the insistence of the slave industry (North and South) held that slaves were to be considered as three-fifths of a human being for purposes of providing slave states unwarranted representation in Congress.

That despicable formulation was adopted in spite of the fact that in those states the legal status of slaves was roughly equivalent to that of any other livestock. Non-persons, indeed.
Tom, thank youuuuu. This is the sort of thing that's hard on my heart. We did start, I still cling fervently to this belief, with a few sound ideas about a new kind of country. And we got down to mayhem FAST. Of course, this all stems from how we got here in the first place. But, we're here...and I am a patriot. A patriot of a country who is one of those livestock citizens. Sometimes, I wonder about myself and some of the things I won't let go of.
To be fair to the Courts, they defer in these matters, under the surface, on the grounds of the political doctrine, namely that the legal system is not necessarily the best place to hash out what it means to fight a war against terrorists of the form we are engaged with.
For example, one could argue that they should have been called POW's. That would mean that they could be held forever if al Qaeda does not call a truce. That would have of course also avoided many of the problems with interrogation etc... .
In the Bush people's defense, they were also in a relatively novel situation, because it is not your garden variety guerillla war.
They probably ought to be either charged under U.S. law, and the fact that they are not is why they are not getting access to U.S. Courts, or sent back to Afghanistan to be tried, or freed, but with a warning to the effect that
"If we see you again, watch out. Two strikes, and you are out."
New blog, I think this is a global problem! We have the chance to step up to the human rights plate right here. Sympathy is a half-measure.
Furthermore Major General Karpinski in charge of Abu Ghraib (and 16 other prisons) which at one time held 6,000 prisoners says:

"So, say, generally 90 percent of the security detainees being held at Abu Ghraib were just innocent, had no information at all."
Terrorists fit to be tortured? We don't know even whether many of these prisoners ever fought against us in the first place. But even if they were fighting against us in defense of their country -- or as we prefer to call it, the War on Terror or the Iraq War or the Liberation of Iraq, it's hard to view them was anything but POW's. But after six years, we still don't know how to classify these prisoners, let alone identify who or what they really are.

People can argue about whether an "insurgent" is the same thing as a terrorist, but it is well-known the US paid $25,000 (there was a $25 million dollar bounty on Saddam and his sons) to anyone who turned in a person stuck with either label. Yes, that resulted in the capture of insurgents and terrorists, but it was also a perfect way for an Iraqi to rid himself rid of that nasty brother-in-law or an Afghani to get even with guy who cheated him on his last crop of poppies -- and reap a handsome reward in the process.

Was every person captured under this program an enemy? We'll never know, but one thing's for damned sure -- they all are now.
Being entitled to the right of person has been stripped from slaves, African Americans, women and homosexuals just to name a few. We need not look only at Obama to place the blame. We need to look at ourselves.
What angers me is not that Obama started this (he didn't), but that he perpetuates the very thing(s) we are saying here on this post and others on OS. Converting it into ACTION and directing it not only at Obama but our government in general is what is required. It will all boil down to how mad we are versus how afraid we are for speaking the truth and *demanding* change. It will definitely take more than a village. I have nothing left to lose that I haven't already relinquished or given away. Except my desire for justice. Rated.
DIGG this, people!
@New Blog – do you really think these guys will return to their lands as better “sons, fathers, husbands, human beings” after being brutalized? Let’s say that 50% of the detainees did nothing to deserve incarceration except be in the wrong place at the wrong time. How does democracy look to those guys? Seriously – you’re standing on a street corner, minding your own business, thinking about your job, your family, your next meal, whatever. An IED goes off nearby. You’re as startled as anyone. Suddenly a bunch of soldiers swoop in and tackle you, throw a hood over your head, and tie you up. Eventually you end up in a prison, far from home, and no one necessarily knows where you are. You’re tortured for information you don’t have. Think that’s going to make you (or anyone else) a better anything?

For all the talk of “softening up” suspects, I think it’s very possible that it only enhances the chances of radicalizing people who wouldn’t have otherwise supported insurgency. Then, if released, they go home embittered and emboldened to commit whatever mayhem they can. What of those left behind with no information about the whereabouts/condition of their loved ones – how does that promote anything good.

When you have nothing to lose (which, as a non-person, there’s very little to lose), and your back is up against the wall, insurgency starts to look awfully attractive.
New Blog, I don't think Hotel Gitmo is a good classroom for love and compassion. It is an institution for the deep breeding of hatred and bloodshed. Fighting fire with fire just makes a bigger fire. As a fantasy, let's send them to an island. A we'll bring them fresh juice drinks with umbrellas. They will be told every day that they are loved. That they are human. They will get hugs, a massage. Swim in the ocean, dine on the best. What for us, sounds like being spoiled on vacation, to a 'non-person' could be radicalizing. Just a wild fantasy I like to enjoy from time to time.
Hey, newblog, your neighbor just committed a heinous terror attack. I don't care that you had no idea. I'm just gonna take out the whole block with a predator. Sorry, the world's sympathies are on the back burner...

Not analogous? Ok, no predator. We're gonna arrest everyone on the block and hold them with no trial, habeas corpus, lawyer, or anything really.

How you like them apples?
This all goes back, for me, to an old old idea...turned into a slogan. G-d doesn't make junk. We do. We turn human hearts to junk, then take some kind of perverse glee in treating the junk like junk. And I'm right back to the idea of the Internal Revolution for a start.
The movie A Clockwork Orange was a brilliant treatise on mysogyny. I mean...those women wanted to be raped, right? With their penis sculptures and short skirts, eating big stick popsicles. They were just asking for it. Stanley Kubrick was out of his mind.

Okay, so forget fantasy island. How about the reality of small children in school. How about some human treatment starting there? It was a policy of Head Start, when I worked there, still is actually, that where was no 'gun play.' Sorry, boys, I know you enjoyed playing with those Roy Rogers pistols, but it isn't working very well.
"Robin I'm saying if these guys want to be treated fairly and humanely they better reject what they subscribe to. "

What, Islam? Cause beyond that you have no clue what these people subscribe to when you pick them up. Again: You don't know that they are guilty. This is not "be sorry for Khalid Sheikh Muhammad who was waterboarded 183 times". Waterboarding's wrong, but couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.

That's not the kind of people we're talking about. I mean, do you figure everyone the police arrests is guilty too? Cause lemme tell ya, the justice system would be a lot cheaper without due process. And the criminals desoive it, eh?
How wonderful that there are so many geniuses here in OS.

If only we could do away with the government of the United States as it now exists…and install these folk in its stead. I am sure if we did, the country and the world would be a much, much better place.

You really gotta wonder why all these elected officials…why Barak Obama, for instance…cannot see the easy, definitive, absolutely-guaranteed-to-work solutions when so many Osers can see them with such ease.

Just so tough to figure!
For the most part I have appreciated Obama's presidency but I feel we on the left have given him a free pass and not held him accountable for the abuses still occurring at Gitmo and which will continue to occur at Bagram.

I have no doubt he is doing what he feels is politically expedient but not what is morally and ethically correct. We need to hold his feet to the fire and educate those around us that Obama has not done what he said he would do. I suspect that he is being coerced by the CIA and the armed forces, not that any of this is an excuse.
Frank, any new posts about how Jews just can't get along with their neighbors from you? I haven't heard anyone suggest we put ourselves in power. I imagine the discourse here is very difficult for you to figure-a group of people asking questions, and yes, giving strong opinions. Haven't heard anyone say any of this is easy, or guaranteed to work. What I am reading is that what is going on isn't working for us as citizens of this country, or humans on the planet.
I don't believe that in my heart of hearts for a second, New Blog,
Isolation has a lot to do with this in the first place.
Dennis, I apologize for arguing on your thread - this was a good post, very informative. But I wanted to address a couple of commenters.

Jane, unfortunately Obama isn't a fraud. He was up front about who and what he was. It's just that no one believed him. Liberal Democrats were desperate to believe that change was possible, and so they ignored many of Obama's clearly stated positions on the war and civil rights, saying, "He's just saying that to keep from alienating the Right until he gets elected." Then it was, "He's just saying that to be bipartisan." But it's becoming obvious he was saying all along what he really believed and intended.

New Blog - oh dear. Are you seriously so unfamiliar with human beings that you think being a victim makes people more compassionate? Do a little thinking and a little reading. This premise is so flawed that it won't stand even a cursory examination. Most criminals were victims of abuse as children. There has never been a single instance of your proposed "treatment" producing anything other than more determined criminals.

Do the research. Show me these cases where people have been tortured and come out better for it. If it works, you should be able to find some, right?
Part of the problem for those who maintain that torture and indefinite incarceration are justified is that the sources that they rely upon for their information are not telling the truth.

It also behooves people who are going to take the EXTRAORDINARY position that torture is OK to look carefully at the evidence because we’re not talking here about simply making a mistake about someone’s guilt, we’re talking about carrying out barbarisms upon people – illegal and immoral acts befitting monsters, akin to that of the Spanish Inquisition. Acts that the US in the past executed people for doing - at Nuremberg, for instance, and against the Japanese for waterboarding in WW II.

All of those who have taken the trouble to look with any care at the evidence come away from it no longer convinced that what is happening at Gitmo and Bagram and elsewhere in secret prisons is right. They come to the conclusion that what’s happening is wrong, deeply wrong, and they feel great shame about it.

They also conclude that it is thoroughly counter-productive, producing more hatred towards the US, not less.

Indeed, if you wanted to create a policy that was designed to promote anti-state terrorism, the policy of torture and indefinite detention without allowing people any recourse to challenge their detention and prove their innocence is exactly what you would create and it is exactly what this government has been and is now doing.

New Blog is convinced that these prisoners are guilty. He’s said he’s only talking about the guilty ones, but hasn’t addressed the question of what to do about the truly innocent who make up the majority by far. According to Lawrence Wilkerson, quoted in the story that follows immediately, out of the 800 who’ve been held at Gitmo, 24 are identifiable as terrorists. According to the third story following here, citing the Washington Post, only 8% of those detained at Gitmo are Al-Qaeda fighters.

From Fox News, March 9, 2009 ttp://

Many detainees locked up at Guantanamo were innocent men swept up by U.S. forces unable to distinguish enemies from noncombatants, a former Bush administration official said Thursday.

"There are still innocent people there," Lawrence B. Wilkerson, a Republican who was chief of staff to then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, told The Associated Press. "Some have been there six or seven years."

Wilkerson, who first made the assertions in an Internet posting on Tuesday, told the AP he learned from briefings and by communicating with military commanders that the U.S. soon realized many Guantanamo detainees were innocent but nevertheless held them in hopes they could provide information for a "mosaic" of intelligence.

"It did not matter if a detainee were innocent. Indeed, because he lived in Afghanistan and was captured on or near the battle area, he must know something of importance," Wilkerson wrote in the blog. He said intelligence analysts hoped to gather "sufficient information about a village, a region, or a group of individuals, that dots could be connected and terrorists or their plots could be identified."

Wilkerson, a retired Army colonel, said vetting on the battlefield during the early stages of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan was incompetent with no meaningful attempt to determine "who we were transporting to Cuba for detention and interrogation."

Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman, declined to comment on Wilkerson's specific allegations but noted that the military has consistently said that dealing with foreign fighters from a wide variety of countries in a wartime setting was a complex process. The military has insisted that those held at Guantanamo were enemy combatants and posed a threat to the United States.
In his posting for The Washington Note blog, Wilkerson wrote that "U.S. leadership became aware of this lack of proper vetting very early on and, thus, of the reality that many of the detainees were innocent of any substantial wrongdoing, had little intelligence value, and should be immediately released."

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney fought efforts to address the situation, Wilkerson said, because "to have admitted this reality would have been a black mark on their leadership."

Wilkerson told the AP in a telephone interview that many detainees "clearly had no connection to al-Qaida and the Taliban and were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Pakistanis turned many over for $5,000 a head."

Some 800 men have been held at Guantanamo since the prison opened in January 2002, and 240 remain. Wilkerson said two dozen are terrorists, including confessed Sept. 11 plotter Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was transferred to Guantanamo from CIA custody in September 2006.

And this, posted April 30, 2007 at UMBC Law blog

Military status tribunals have cleared eighty-two of the 385 inmates held at Guantanamo and yet despite their innocence they are still being held. According to a Washington Post article these detainees "face indefinite waits as U.S. officials struggle to figure out when and where to deport them, and under what conditions."

And here, posted on January 8, 2008, summarizing a Washington Post article

The Bush administration has claimed the prisoners at the camp represent the “worst of the worst” terrorist threats to the U.S. But when the Seton Hall law professor Mark Denbeaux and the defense attorney Joshua Denbeaux analyzed information supplied by the Defense Department, they found that less than half the inmates were determined to have committed a hostile act against the United States or its allies. Only 8 percent are suspected to be Al Qaeda fighters.
Newblog, is this a joke: "See the movie Clockwork Orange...and disregard the ending."

Is this what passes for logic with you? Disregard the ending? Sounds to me like you're disregarding the whole damn movie.

The point of the movie was not new, it was that violence begets violence. Did you miss that? Did you miss the connection between violence and disaffected, jobless young men who see their future as hopeless? Did you miss the point that imprisoning such men and further brutalizing them creates a whole new set of problems? Did you disregard all that and make up your own fantasy of what you thought the movie should have been about instead?

If you couldn't figure any of this out from watching the movie, try reading the book -- presuming that unlike Bush you actually read. Tragically, most of what Anthony Burgess described forty years ago has become reality, a reality splayed across the TV in 24-7 news coverage, manufactured violence passing itself off as reality programming, and sado-masochistic jingoism passing itself off as entertainment in shows like 24.
Dear Dennis, I have one more question (forgive my ignorance, but this topic is very relevant to me, because it has to do with the way American people see themselves and their country). You wrote in your answer to me: "They (Obama´s DOJ) are acting as the political representatives of an Empire. " I belong to a dominated country, clearly, not to a dominant one, so my question is: Is Obama representing the feelings of Americans as he and his government being the political representatives of an Empire? Do American people want to be the Empire they´ve been? Because empires DO torture and DO ignore habeas corpus... what kind of Empire do the American society want? Or maybe they´d like to become another kind of Empire (what kind of Empire it would be?)

I look forward to your answers, maybe the other commentors on your blog can throw some light here; it´s the first time I´ve had the chance to ask these questions to people who are involved in the political reality of US of A.
Once upon a time we were a Nation of laws. The laws were intended to be for equal protection. Inalienable rights were the types of ideals held by Americans.

"Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, can not long retain it", to quote Lincoln. Ben Franklin said, "Those who would trade freedom for security deserve neither"

Both Parties have lost sight of these high ideals. What do we have now? Bush with a tan!
New Blog - have you ever been to Afghanistan? Have you ever been to any other Asian country? Ever been abroad at all? Have you ever known anybody who is a believer of other religion than yours, for example Islam religion?

I can tell you that in average people in developing countries like in Afghanistan are about as friendly as Americans or Europeans. In principle they are very similar people as you are.

The thing is that many completely innocent people were put in jail. They had nothing to do with any kind of war with Americans. Those people were not only put in jail, but they were tortured, too. Do you think that those people started to like more foreigners, who came to their country to close them in a jail?
I think new blog has thought this through carefully, and if we institute his policies on the ~1.7 trillion Muslim world population, the manpower required could solve our economic crises.

Why not start a blog post, so I can rate it?

I'm sure dijon would love to co-administrate it with you?
the Islamicists just murdered a young couple in-love, in Afghanistan

That's immaterial to the question of whether the United States should be holding people without trial or recourse to courts. In fact, it is a racist statement meant to incite hatred against people who had nothing to do with that incident.
New Blog: There was a time when my heart was junk...some of the details of that are on my blog.This isn't us and them to me. I've been there, and now I'm not. Sterilization? There are those who do that to people like me: Gay. I had to stop thinking and acting in the way I was being treated. That was an inside job.
Marcela: You ask an excellent question.

Americans are at a crossroads.

The rulers of this country have been taking us in the direction of openly and unapologetically embracing the status of Empire. This is contrary to the past tradition in which the US has eschewed describing itself as an empire, preferring to claim that it is a benevolent, democracy-and-liberty-loving great power that does the right thing and is always on the side of the angels.

That has always been a fiction, but it was a fiction maintained by the country's rulers because it helped to cover up the reality. They are now departing from that tradition of self-representation in a significant way.

A good example of this is the case of one Michael Ignatieff, Director of Harvard's Carr Center for Human Rights, who wrote an essay in the New York Times Magazine on 1/5/03 entitled "American Empire (Get Used to It)." Here's a human rights advocate endorsing Empire. He also wrote the following on May 2, 2004:

"To defeat evil, we may have to traffic in evils: indefinite detention of suspects, coercive interrogations, targeted assassinations, even pre-emptive war. These are evils because each strays from national and international law and because they kill people or deprive them of freedom without due process. They can be justified only because they prevent the greater evil."

The greater evil, according to Ignatieff, was another 9/11. Thus, according to this American liberal human rights advocate, torture, assassination and illegal, pre-emptive wars are the lesser evil - even though the Iraqi people targeted by these "lesser evils" HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH 9/11!

The crossroads that the American people are at now is this: which do you want? An empire that in order to fend off its adversaries will do things like torture people, or do you refuse to see your country commit atrocities and will fight against this? Some Americans are ok with the first one. Other Americans, the majority, are not OK with the first and it is dawning on more and more of them that they might have to reassess their understanding of what this country really is about and based on that reassessment, might have to enter into political struggle against their government.

The difficulty here is, in part, the fact that precisely because the US has been in fact an imperialist empire for most of its history, there is a material basis for many Americans to ignore politics and to side with oppression and the oppressors. There are far more Americans who ignore politics and who are naive and believe that what their government is saying must be true than there are Americans who proudly embrace doing what you say all empires do - torture and deny due process etc. More people need to wake up, they need to be exposed to the truth, and they need to be struggled with to take the moral stand. It remains to be seen which side will win out in the end. The battle is engaged. The outcome of this battle will have repercussions to come for generations, not just for this country, but for the whole world.
Hoookay... then why is it you demonstrate no capacity for compassion, either in your comments here or elsewhere on OS? Can't say your example is proving your point!
New Blog writes:

"The detention and rehabilitation centers that I propose SHOULD not include torture. I think under an acute situation, where an attack is imminent, and actors are picked up that are credibly involved...water torture could be employed...but its use must be restricted to crisis...not long term...and many rules for application established."

Here's the problem with that. A lot of Americans have become convinced that if there's a "ticking time bomb" then torture will be acceptable. They've been convinced of this by shows like 24 and commentary by rightwing commentators. There's just one problem: the scenario is bogus. I've written about this elsewhere but because I can't just link to it all, I'm going to repost some of it here:

There are two that I'm reposting here:

I. I copied this from DJohns' post that someone alerted me to earlier today. (I was going to answer his challenge but by the time I visited he had closed all comments):

"You get a lead that there is a high level member of this organization that is in the United States who is attempting to leave this country. You have him picked up and detained when he gets to the airport. You now have him in custody. Your intelligence, from multiple reliable sources, tells you that the 'chatter' is increasing and the time of the attack is imminent. You don't know where it will happen or when but you are convinced that it will take place and soon."

One of the fallacies in DJ's scenario is that the "chatter" convinces you that there is an imminent attack. Any group that is planning an attack like the one he's positing would have provisions for what to do in case one of their people gets picked up.

Even if the person was being held in custody and incommunicado, the very fact that they are incommunicado for an extended period of time would be a contingency that such a terrorist group would anticipate: anyone of us who disappears for a few hours will be assumed to have been picked up and we cancel our plans and disperse to the winds.

So even if their "chatter" and their intelligence agents are convinced that something was up, the jig is now up and there is no attack imminently coming, making the need to hurry up and torture this person for information moot.

If, assuming his scenario again, they are convinced that something might in the future happen, then they would have someone in their custody who they could question and perhaps get info from.

How then should they proceed? The appropriate way would be to

a) torture this person until he tells you whatever he thinks you want to know so you'll stop torturing him?


b) try to win his confidence and apply the time tested methods that have shown themselves to have the best chance of getting reliable info?

II. Denese:

You write: "If there was an evil person that knew some secret information that could stop people from being killed, why wouldn't I torture him or her to find that out to save people's lives?"

There are a number of different ways of answering this question.

The most important one is in my April 22nd post: "The 'War on Terror' is Like Antibacterial Soap.”

That post puts the stress on the moral question which is the central one. I also address (albeit very briefly) all of the other major dimensions.

I would read that post first.

To add to that post, let's take your question.

The “ticking time bomb” scenario contains a number of fallacies. The first one is that the ones holding the suspect are CERTAIN that this suspect has knowledge about a soon to happen murderous act against many people.

Under what circumstances would anyone come upon such certain knowledge?

To my knowledge (I don't have complete knowledge, but I have familiarized myself with the issues in this matter), there has never been a case in history where such certain knowledge was possessed by someone.

It would be a different thing if you saw someone who had their hands on a triggering device that you saw was going to blow up a building or bridge where there were many people and you had a chance to stop this person, if necessary, by shooting them.

Torturing someone based on a SUPPOSITION (because that's all you would have) that they might be involved in a murderous plot is a wholly different matter. Torturing someone based on such a supposition would be morally and legally indefensible. It would also be a bad way to get information since torture doesn't produce honest answers. That is the consensus among intelligence people worldwide and the universal conclusion of those who have been tortured and survived.

The people who are justifying torture on the grounds that a "bomb" might be ticking somewhere are saying this not because they have such information - because they CAN'T have such information - they are saying it because they want to cover up what they're really doing and why they're doing it. (If someone wants to claim that an informant has told them that their suspect knows something, then you have to assume that this informant isn't lying. This is another supposition you'd have to be relying upon to justify torturing someone.)

Furthermore, if a group was actually planning a murderous terrorist attack and one of its members with critical knowledge of the plans were arrested, what would the rest of the group do? Would they still go ahead with their plans, knowing that one of theirs is in custody and could spill the beans? They would, of course, cancel the plans and disperse. This means that torturing the person in custody wouldn’t prevent an attack.

What those who torture are up to throughout history isn’t getting information. Torture is specifically designed to terrorize the individual and others. That is its purpose.

If one were to allow the exception that in some instances one may be permitted to torture someone, then what this opens the door to is anyone, anywhere, just has to SAY that they believe that the person they have in custody has info that will save many lives and that they can't find out the info without torturing them, and one would have NO WAY to determine whether or not this was simply an excuse and the torturers were using torture because they were sadistic or trying to terrorize the population and so on.

In other words, by allowing exceptions, what you have done is permit torture to become a regular, widespread practice. That would obviously produce a hellish world where any tyrants could torture without any consequences.
Dennis: your post should make all who don't understand the politics behind the denial of habeas corpus take notice. What has transpired at Gitmo can invade your own world... all you have to do is be flagged an enemy of the state -- history teaches; ignorance condemns.
There is such a long string here of comments that I'm afraid I'm not going to be able to individually address all of you who've posted. I've read them all. Thank you one and all!

New Blog, dialogue and debate is a good thing and so you're quite welcome for having the chance to state your views. Debate helps one to clarify one's own views and provides the opportunity not only to learn new things, but to change one's mind when it seems warranted.

Mr. Mustard: you've got the mustard!
Anything Dennis Loo says is suspect. Dennis Loo is on the steering commitee of World Can't Wait (WCW). World Can't Wait was formed in January 2005. Its headquarters is in New York City. It was initiated by supporters of the Revolutionary Communist Party, including Sunsara Taylor and Travis Morales. World Can't Wait's steering committee includes a broader array of political affiliations, though members who have criticized the Revolutionary Communist Party were forbidden from attending World Can't Wait's 2008 national conference. McCarthy was right. This will be deleted so read it on my post.
Allie Griffith raised the point that Obama was saying before he took office that he would do what he's been doing. This is largely, though not wholly, correct. Some of the items on which it isn't correct:

1) Obama said before the election that habeas corpus "is a foundation of Anglo-American law."

2) He also criticized the Bush White House for using "state secrets" as a device to block lawsuits.

3) He said that the US doesn't torture.

He is now claiming that many - in fact most - of the prisoners being held by the US in this "war of terror" don't in fact have a right to habeas corpus. He has adopted every single one of the Bush Regime's arguments on state secrets and is expanding beyond those arguments. He is permitting torture to continue to date.

It's true as Allie says that his basic nature was detectable before the election.
Oh my.

Philos777 has a breaking story. Like many other McCarthyites, sometimes SOME of what they say is true.

It is true, and one need not go any further than to look at my bio on my home page here, that I am on the Steering Committee of the World Can't Wait. I'm proud that I am. Great find Philos777! What a detective you are!

It's also true that WCW is HQ'd in NYC.

And he's partially right about how WCW got started, that some members of the RCP were key in initiating WCW. There were also other non-RCP people involved in forming WCW since the basis of unity for WCW was that anyone who wanted to oppose what Bush and Cheney were doing were welcome. I wasn't one of the founding members and joined with WCW sometime in I believe it was 2007.

He does say that members of the SC of WCW have different political stances, and that IS true. For example, I am not a member of the RCP. I respect the RCP and agree with them on many things, although they and I have some differences.

The RCP does extremely important and valuable work and they are always willing to speak the truth, no matter how unpopular or inconvenient it may be at any given point in time. One of the things that I most respect about them is that they stand on principle. Something you cannot say about Philos777.

What Philo777 says about his expecting that I will delete his comment is, of course, not true, as one can see.

Lastly, regarding his claims that anyone who disagreed with the RCP was banned from the last national meeting of the WCW: this is false. It is an assertion being made by some former members of the RCP who split from the RCP over issues such as over religion. Those who split held that it is wrong for communists to talk about religion and that you should not ever challenge the ideas of those who are religious. I have not direct knowledge of the split but have read some of the documents that were made public by the RCP in their newspaper, Revolution, about the split.

Regarding the nat'l meeting that Philos777 brings up, certain individuals who used to be in WCW were trying to turn WCW activities into a forum to attack the RCP. They were bogging the work down by their splitting activities and wouldn't carry out the work of WCW. That is why those particular individuals were asked not to continue to do that and not attend the nat'l meeting because they had been engaging in this disruptive behavior for a while and indicated that they were going to do the same at the nat'l meeting. I signed the letter sent to these people as did the rest of the SC of WCW.

The national meeting of the WCW and other meetings of the WCW are devoted to the work of the WCW. In attendance were people who don't agree with the RCP. So this allegation by Philos777 is also misleading and false.

Some members of WCW are supporters of the RCP and this is no secret. But the work of WCW isn't equivalent to the RCP. The two groups have their own identities.

I haven't looked at what Philos777 may have to say at his own blog about me, but I suppose I will go to check it out at some point.
Am I just not seeing something?

Your link to "torture is worse since Obama elected" takes me to an article about penis cutting, but I don't see anything about torture at Guantanamo in 2009. Am I missing something in plain sight?
Dennis, thanks SO MUCH for your extensive answer; wow, some crosswards you are at as a nation... my guess is that it will take more than one government to generate both such substantial change in your perception of your own nation and to face the consequences that will bring about .
I do hope that, if there is change, it will be for the well-being of all, over there and in the rest of the world.
Thanks again!
This is totally appalling. But I did know that Obama is more centrist than I would like. It concerns me that we cannot seem to elect a person who actually embodies our honest American values to every human being. I guess we need to take him to court, too. Thanks so much for bringing this to our attention!
Tanya M: Thanks for pointing that out. I thought that the segment of the essay that covers this was in that particular article. It was actually included in a different essay of mine: "The 'War on Terror' is Like Antibacterial Soap." I have added the relevant segment to the linked article. It reads this way:

“Binyam Mohamed, the first detainee to be transferred out of Guantanamo Bay since Obama took office, also said British agents ‘sold me out’ by cooperating with his alleged torturers, in his first interview since release which was published Sunday.

“Mohamed, a 30-year-old Ethiopian-born former British resident, gave further details of what he has called the ‘medieval’ torture he faced in Pakistan and Morocco, as well as in a secret CIA prison in Kabul and at Guantanamo.

"’The result of my experience is that I feel emotionally dead,’ he told the Mail on Sunday newspaper. ‘It seems like a miracle my brain is still intact.’

“Far from improving, Mohamed said conditions at Guantanamo have worsened since Obama was elected in November.”
I'm just here for a moment. I hope the thread keeps informing. Gimme the truth. DC's politico's remind me of rats fighting over the trash pile of composting potato scraps. I'm too Sleepy to add any substantial comment.
Thank, Dennis Loo.
You don't seek mushy.
Folk crave cotton candy?
I do shun a kisser-uppers.
Yea for some simple caring.

Two rats on Capital Hill chew
They chew the opposite end.
Opposite end of a French fry.
The Washington Post had some interesting opinions in the Opinion section today. I'm grumpy that the mid-week comic ~ the illustrator, Zippy the pinhead, has been dismissed? He was the 'only' one in the funny-paper section who made any common sense? Good. I'm glad that you ... etc., Mr. Dennis Loo, read Chris Floyd!
I dont get it? If they are not people then what does that make Ex-Dictator Bush himself?

Dennis, since we are on the same side for the most part, this is hard for me to write, but I must say I find your series of anti-Obama screeds quite objectionable.

First, the “most people” straw man is too obvious as a rhetorical device and dubious as a statistical one, unless you append some recent polls.

Second, your citations – mostly self-references, occasionally other axe-grinding secondary sources, rarely primary sources – hardly adds weight to your arguments.

Thirdly, your incorrect and misleading use of locutions such as “Obama has declared…”. To wit: “Obama has declared that he will continue rendition.” When? Where’s your source material? The closest you can probably come is Leon Panetta during his confirmation hearings, and even that was a far more nuanced stance. And the implications of your use of the declarative future tense in “will continue” is just plain scurrilous.

Or “he (Obama) reserves the right to go beyond the Army Field manual…”. Once again, when? Where? The last word on this from President Obama has been the Executive Order of January 22, 2009 – signed on his second day in office. Show me something different.

Fourth, your absurd and once again misleading assertion about “torture’s gotten worse” since Obama’s election. This appears to be based on a Daily Mail interview with Binyam Mohamed in which he says “conditions got harsher” – NOT “torture’s gotten worse.” And your attempt to impugn the Obama administration with this would be laughable, were it not part of your broader effort to besmirch. The election was Nov. 4. The President took office Jan. 20. This guy was released to British authorities on February 21. So how do you or he make the case against this administration?

Finally, your depiction of the law, the specific cases and the administration’s positions is simple, incomplete and muddled. The Bagram reference is to a case about “battlefield law” – whether prisoners taken during military operations can sue for their release. The answer everywhere in the world and throughout history is: Duh? Or NO.

The Rasul ruling is even narrower (despite the eye-catching headline): the Court of Appeals held that the Supreme Court’s Boumediene decision applied only to the right of habeas corpus, and that no additional constitutional rights could be extended to detainees unless the Supreme Court specifically authorized and approved such rights.

I could go on and on, but it seems almost pointless. I don’t know what the purpose behind your posts are – I have seen this holier-than-thou, purity of purpose in the loony left before, and it doesn’t seem that different in tone or tactics than the rabid right.

In no particular order:
1. I'm disappointed this thread got derailed by an argument about the merit of torture as an acceptable tool against terrorists. I thought we were beyond that; I am in lockstep with you (Dennis) about the logical and ethical faults in that kind of thinking, and I thought most OSers were as well.
2. I am far more interested in why Obama is not presenting a stronger front against torture, although I'm not entirely convinced he is as complicit in the torture culture as you suggest, and I would like a better explanation than that he has transformed into the new Emperor who must now violate civil liberties in order to maintain his Empire. One can not be naive and still not entirely buy that simplistic, cynical explanation. But then again, I looked for deeper elucidations regarding the violence-laden anti-American sentiment of terrorists beyond the old saw, "They hate our freedom;" and regarding Saddam Hussein's bellicose behavior during the run-up to the Iraq war beyond the conventionally accepted and ultimately disproved notion of his hiding WMD; and regarding Bush and Company's invasion into Iraq beyond the widely accepted suppositions that they "did it for oil" or "he wanted to avenge his father," instead finding a more complex picture of a desire to obtain a foothold within unfriendly territory in order to secure international stability for prosperous trade relations and the advancement of American cultural ideals. Something like that empire notion, yes, but not so simple as a personal gain for Cheney from Haliburton profits. My point being: If I looked for something beyond the simple for the likes of Hussein and Bush, I will most certainly not leap prematurely to painting Obama the villain in this recent situation.
3. The Empire thing, though, is interesting in this way: I have always understood that what's best for a group is not necessarily best for any given individual. My field is education, and I can tell you that homeschooling individual children offers myriad opportunities for optimizing the development of both general knowledge and independent thinking. But whatever those particular opportunities are, they arise out of strategies that will not work with a group of 20 or more students. If we take that analogy to the national level, what's best for the world is not necessarily best for the United States (and vice versa). I have always thought that I couldn't run for President because I tend to think of myself as a citizen of the world more than I think of myself as an American. Well, not on a daily basis but in terms of the philosophical. So if I were to accept a job that had as its major goal to to maximize America's hegemony, I would not be able to institute the policies that I might think were best for the global citizenry. I wonder if Obama finds himself in this dilemma. He is, after all, charged with leading the United States, not the world. He may just be discovering that in order to promote or advance (economically, say, or in terms of capacity for influence) this country, he has to compromise on what he feels philosophically is best for humanity at large. All that having been said, I don't think torture fits into this rationale, despite your "pulling the thread" analogy, mainly because I believe that torture doesn't work, that he and those closest to him won't be incriminated by such an investigation at this point (but certainly will the longer he waits, if only because time will be against him), and because this is an issue that is difficult to be spun by detractors and where there is plenty of evidence. In other words, I don't see the torture issue as one in which what's best for the US is different than what's best for the world.
4. I continue to harbor suspicions that people on the left are much more willing to attack Obama if they did not support him initially. I find a weird "bedfellows" mentality between the right and the HRC (or other candidate)-supporting left. I don't mean to suggest that Obama should not be criticized; au contraire. I just want to be sure all agendas are on the table.
5. Like CCC, I found your evidence for your strong language against Obama much wanting. I'm hoping you address CCC point by point.
Caveat Canem Croceum, you wrote:

"The Bagram reference is to a case about “battlefield law” – whether prisoners taken during military operations can sue for their release. The answer everywhere in the world and throughout history is: Duh? Or NO. "


The thing is that the whole Afghanistan was turned into a battlefield. The war as started by the previous administration is not 'a normal war' (if such a thing exists). Anybody out there could be suspected to be 'a terrorist' and 'an enemy'. During 'a more normal war' there is a difference between soldiers and civilians, now such a difference doesn't exist.

The above if valid, means that anybody in Afghanistan (and in practice anywhere in the world) could be put into a prison according to "battlefield law" to be interrogated as 'a terrorist'. If the people as arrested according to that kind of "battlefield law" don't have any habeas corpus (dispute their enemy status), all the people in the world including me and you are in serious problems?

I've already written that I don't believe in 'the official ghost stories about 9/11'. My disbelief started at once, when I heard stories about 'Arab hijackers flying the planes, Osama Bin Laden, ' etc. It was much more realistic to assume that it was some kind of insiders' job. It became obvious that something is seriously wrong when they started speaking about attacking the whole country of Afghanistan to find and to fight against 'Osama Bin Laden'. I haven't seen any evidence that anybody from Afghanistan was behind 9/11, all the realistic reasoning in the opposite is telling that some kind of insiders' work was needed. When Iraq was turned into another battlefield it became soon clear that the whole war there was started by fake reasons.

Even if you still believe that Osama Bin Laden was responsible for 9/11 and still hiding somewhere in Afghanistan, do you think that it is right for Americans to be there with a big army capable of and really arresting completely innocent civilians according to "battlefield law", so that they have got no right to ask for justice about their detention?

Dennis: I'm not sure if it is right to start arguing with other commentators in your blog. But my feeling is that it would be best to concentrate this discussion somewhere, so that people don't need surf around the whole OS to be able to follow the discussion. If you think that it better, I can put this comment as further extended in my own blog.
CCC: I will pen a detailed response to your criticisms. It will take me a little time and I can't do it immediately, but I WILL do it asap.

Regarding the citations that you think should be more extensive, those I will provide. What you're asking for is in a sense perfectly legitimate; I would point out, however, as a kind of overall statement, is that when I wrote the essay in question I frankly didn't intend for it to be understood as an academic piece in which each and every assertion was backed up by primary reference material.

I referenced other articles of mine on this subject not because I was trying to cite myself as the source, but for two reasons: 1) those other pieces have the primary references within them, and 2) it was so that I wouldn't have to recap everything that I've already written about on some of these topics.

The essay above is quite short as you know and was intended by me to be primarily an introduction and overview to the Raw Story article. I sometimes write short essays like that which are really principally quick commentaries on news items. I write them mainly to introduce people to that news and provide in a rapid fashion some orientation around them.

Obviously I do write pieces like you are requesting as an academic; this wasn't intended to be such a piece. That doesn't mean that each and every assertion can't be backed up with citations and that I will do so since you've asked, but it goes to my intent when I wrote it.

When I said "most people" as a repeated device in the beginning of the piece, it was not supposed to be presented as something that I felt the need to back up with polls. It was partly a rhetorical device and it is partly also, in fact, true that if you ask most people, for example, about what Obama has done, that they would most of them say that he's shut down Gitmo and/or that he's radically changed how prisoners are being treated.

The overall point I was making, which is really quite transparent I think - or hope - you'd agree with - is that there is a very large gap between what people think Obama's been doing on these matters and what he in fact has been doing. Do you disagree with that? Would you also agree that a lot of people don't know what's really going on?

If you don't think these representations of mine are true, then you can argue about it, but you should really tailor your complaints to the nature of the piece and its intent. You could say, for example, why you think that it's ok for Bagram to be treated in the context of the entire country of Afghanistan (as Hannu correctly points out) as a war zone and that Obama is acting appropriately in saying that he has a right to deny each and every person being held at Bagram (there are some 600 there now and he recently signed papers to fund a doubling of its size) habeas corpus. I, for one, and many others such as Glenn Greenwald agree with me about this, think that Obama's stand on this is deceitful and illegal, especially when presents himself to all of us as the champion of habeas corpus.

I didn't, honestly, intend to write the piece that you want it to be. But since you ask for it, and since your feelings about this are probably representative of at least some other peoples' desires in this regard, then I will respond in the manner that you request.

As for your assertion that you think my work more generally is an "anti-Obama screed" - I think perhaps your being as distressed about this as you appear to be may be because you don't like my being as critical of Obama as I have been. You think he's doing a better job than I do.

I don't make the stuff up that I'm criticizing him for. If you read the body of my work on Obama you can see that I don't fabricate what I'm criticizing him for. I based what I say on the actual quotes, taking them apart and analyzing them. That is my general MO. To call it a screed is insulting and wrong.
Great discussion. I have hopes that Obama will sort this out. They used to be high hopes; now they're just modest hopes. Nothing more to add that hasn't be said very well by you and the comments here.
Follow up question Dennis,

I see you've fixed the link for , "torture's gotten worse since Obama elected" and added the quotation from the prisoner, that "conditions at Guantanamo have worsened since Obama's election" (which may or may not be the same thing) I feel this is such an important allegation, we need more detail. When did this former prisoner say that? Did he elaborate? Obama was elected in November, took office in January. If torture is continuing there now, and there is more detail available, I'd like to know it.

At the very least, I'd like the citations to be very clear. I realize you have a day job, so where else can I go for detailed information about continuing cases of torture?
There seems to be some confusion among commenters here about the question of habeas corpus for prisoners held at Bagram in Afghanistan. If you assume that those prisoners were taken during fighting in that country, the argument for habeas corpus may seem strange. But the fact is, not all prisoners were taken in Afghanistan. Some of them have been seized in other countries and renditioned to Bagram. So when you hear about the Obama administration denying people at Bagram habeas corpus, we are actually talking about people who were not involved in the fighting in Afghanistan at all.

There's a sleight of hand here, and it's not pretty. The Obama administration has in effect said that they will close Guantanamo. But rather than aknowledging that prisoners should have habeas corpus, they simply declare Bagram outside of US jurisdiction and start using that base as the same type of legal black hole that Gitmo used to be. They claim that they have the right to send agents to Norway to grab me, based only on rumours, and put me on a plane to Bagram. And once I get there, they insist that they could treat me as if I had just been captured on the battlefield, fighting for the Taliban.

Does that sound right to you?

I know you have a life outside OS (although it must be getting increasingly cramped by your commitments here) but I am with CCC. I'd like primary sources that show complicity by our new president.

I understand passionate writing but I need more substance that is not a link to WCW. We already know where they're coming from, it's like a treatise by the raging right and there's a link to Fox news or the Heritage Foundation.

Thank you for your time with this.

What you say makes sense to me Norwonk.

Like Tanya, I'd like more information about this notion that torture has gotten worse since Obama. It seems to be based on a single prisoner's account. Is that right?

What did we do before? In history, I mean. Why are we in this unique situation about having to do something with these prisoners? Is it b/c the war in Iraq was officially declared over and therefore these are not POWs? Again, what did we do in other wars, like Vietnam and WWII? When the war was over, was everyone just released? That makes sense for WWII, but what about Vietnam? Did we just kill everyone and forget about capturing prisoners? My knowledge on this topic is shamefully slight.

I was distressed to learn when Obama took office that he was b/t a rock and a hard place when it came to the Gitmo thing. I "heard" immediately when he gave his Gitmo speech that he wasn't closing that place down right away but would within the year. It was at that point that all the talking heads came out and began to say, "But what will he do with them?" and "Individual states won't want them in their prisons!" which turned out to be both true and absurd--as if these prisoners are somehow worse than whichever murderers or rapists are already in maximum security, as if their status as "detainees" makes them any more likely to cause trouble or escape. Jeez, people are idiots sometimes, but I digress. Anyway, what I'm asking is: Why didn't anyone bring up this problem during the campaign when Obama was promising to "close Gitmo." Why was it such a surprise to me that there is this terrible dilemma as to what to do with these people? And Dennis--or anyone else--what do you think, specifically, should be done with them? Where should they go?
You'd think a lot of this would be instructive to Bush-haters who have been unable to see the logical reasoning behind his actions such as suspending habeas corpus.

It's also amusing to me that some here seem to assume that the "give a terrorist a pina colada" trick of niceness wasn't at first tried. Why do you assume intelligence agents school in enhanced interrogation are complete idiots who don’t know what they are doing? What makes you think they aren't capable of telling if someone has information they are withholding that could be valuable, and if it's possible to get it out of them?

It seems to me the people believing in the fiction of a “24” scenario are some of the posters here. People schooled in intelligence know that information is gathered in bits and pieces. So even if an operation might have been suspended because one of its members was captured doesn’t mean that valuable information can not be obtained from them.
Why do you assume intelligence agents school in enhanced interrogation are complete idiots who don’t know what they are doing? What makes you think they aren't capable of telling if someone has information they are withholding that could be valuable, and if it's possible to get it out of them

Just look the pictures, phm. I mean, those pyramids and the girl laughing at the prisoners and the chaos when the story first broke about who was to blame, where it was clear there was no coherent strategy but just a bunch of impulsive young adults run amok? I mean, there appeared to be no professional explanation that suggested the intelligence people were on top of the situation, using the proven best practices.
Keep at it, folks.

Maybe if you are can get rid of trash like Obama and get back to fine, moral, reasonable, honest people like George W. Bush and Dick Cheney!

Anyone not sickened by the short-sighted, unreasonable garbage being sold here doesn't deserve better than that!
phm: Your arguments would apply equally well to the police. Don't you think they know a criminal if they see one? Can't we trust them to interrogate in a proper way, and only use questionable methods against the really bad guys? Do we even need trials, when police officers can pick out the guilty anyway?

Well, no. They can't. That's why we need things like Miranda rights and proper trials.

There is a legitimate argument that can be made concerning the question of the people your administration calls "enemy combatants". Traditionally, you fall into one of two categories: Either you are a prisoner of war, or you are a criminal. But it is obviously impractical to treat thousands of guerillas as criminals, and you can't expect their capture to be in accordance with the normal rules guiding arrests by the police. So what do you do?

The obvious answer, it seems to me, would be to create a legal framework that place these people in a category somewhere inbetween prisoners of war and criminals. They would presumably not get Miranda rights, but they must be entitled to challenge their detention. They cannot be held indefinitely without some sort of trial, and it should go without saying that they cannot be tortured. Their treatment should be such that it does not make it impossible to put them on trial in the criminal justice system later if that is merited. No waterboarding for evidence, in other words.

If the Bush administration had created (preferably in cooperation with their NATO allies) a legal framework that adressed these points, I think they would have had a good chance of meeting with approval from the rest of the world. But it's been more than 7 years, and your government still has not put together a serious proposal for such rules.

So what took you so long? The simple fact is that the Bushies never cared about rules. They think they are above the law. And so, apparently, do you.

You make very good points with your post most of which I would agree with. But when you say this: "The simple fact is that the Bushies never cared about rules. They think they are above the law. And so, apparently, do you." You demonstrate how difficult it is to discuss this issue when the assumption has already been made that Bush and his administration are evil. So I'm not sure how anyone really expects a reasonable debate/discussion to transpire from that.

I've tried to point out that there's a least some evidence for those of you that hold that kind of opinion of the Bush administration that they had reasonable justifications/rationales for a lot of what they did -- because Obama has seen the very same need to continue some of those policies, which this article by Mr. Loo is right in pointing out.
I have just posted a detailed response to the questions about sources raised by CCC, Lainey and Denese as a new post. It's very long, so that's why I didn't put it into comments.
As some one who has been actively involved in supporting the efforts to end the US reign of terror at Bagram and Guantánamo (see my January posts on Aafiya Siddiqui and Gitmo), I must say I find your post overstates the case against and distorts the actions of the present administration. I guess that puts me in line behind CCC's critique of your post.

(For those interested, is IMO the best resource on the web to follow events in this area of human rights.)

"T0rture's gotten worse at Gitmo since the election": So far, no new allegations of torture (let's not debase this word lest real victims of torture like Aafiya are devalued) have emerged.

Ahmed Ghappour, Binyam Mohamed's lawyer, in a February 25 interview, said he had complained about 2 new cases of abuse since December 22. He also noted that these were the actions of individual jailers and "do not seem directed from above."

On April 15, a Gitmo prisoner called Al Jazeera on his cell phone to report that he had been beaten recently.

Lawyers have been allowed access to their clients fairly freely since January 20, except in one case, and even he was subsequently reinstated.

No prisoner transfers have been noted. No new cases of rendition have been brought to light, though Bagram remains cloaked in secrecy.

In this regard, what must be considered encouraging are the increase of permitted family visits to Bagram. Also, in his April 14 press conference, Robert Gibbs detailed an ongoing review of the status of every prisoner in Bagram and said:

"I think a review is going to determine their status....while that review is pending, the Justice Department concluded that it was necessary to appeal the ruling because it might arguably permit access to U.S. courts by a detainee in Bagram who claims he's not an Afghan citizen and was captured outside of Afghanistan. So the ruling is -- the judgment that was made is consistent with that as part of the detainee review process."

To those of us working for individual prisoners held at Bagram, to secure their release or get them redress, this seems like a reasonable position and significant, material progress compared to the real torturers of the Bush regime. To tar the present administration with the same brush with ad hominem attacks is not doing the prisoners any favours. Do we want them released as of yesterday? Yes. But we also know that that is not practicable, and the current administration appears to be acting in good faith.

What we can reasonably hope for is a high-level visit (like Holder to
Guantánamo) to Bagram and that the reviews be completed speedily. In the meanwhile, we can continue to document and keep on bringing the plights of individual prisoners to the attention of the authorities and the world. That to me seems much better in the service of the cause than unfounded, alienating attacks on the administration.

I am very glad that you are one of the attorneys representing the prisoners and seeking their release. More people should do similarly. It is very important work and I thank you for it.

You say that I am leveling "ad hominem" attacks on the Obama administration. I am puzzled as to why you say this: I am criticizing him without cause and simply because of who he is? Where, if you would like to sustain this assertion, do you see this? If I have done so, then please show me.

You state that Ahmed Ghappour did not attribute these actions by Gitmo guards to the Obama administration. I never said that these actions were at the direction of the Obama administration.

What I said was that things had gotten worse since his election in November. What Obama would have to affirmatively do once he took office is to make sure, at the very minimum, that things didn't get worse at Gitmo since he's not closing it immediately. If you leave essentially the same people there as guards and administrators as were there under Bush and you don't make it damn clear that things must change, then you have, by sin of omission, allowed things to potentially get worse.

"If one was to use one's imagination, (one) could say that these traumatized, and for lack of a better word barbaric, guards were just basically trying to get their kicks in right now for fear that they won't be able to later," Ghappour said.

One of the acts that Ahmed Ghappour cites is dislocated limbs and pepper spray on toilet paper and into the cells. Depending upon how these limbs were dislocated, I suppose one could argue that this might constitute abuse as opposed to torture.

He also alleges over-force feedings. Again, this is a debatable question whether force feeding = abuse or rises to the level of torture. The descriptions of it that I have heard from Michael Rapkin who represents detainees at Gitmo I believe rise to the level of torture.

You state that my assertions are "unfounded, alienating attacks on the administration" and that you believe the Obama administration is proceeding in good faith.

I do differ with you about this. It is not uncommon for people who disagree with each other for one or both sides to claim that the other side is making unfounded statements. I do think that you might find it useful to read the material that I link to in this article and also the additional source material that I provide in my latest post.

I shall let you and others decide whether those issues of fact are "unfounded."
For those of you who lean to the political left…and who engage in the horseshit going on here and in so many similar posts…I have nothing but scorn.

The right KNEW that Bush and Cheney and all the rest of that trash were doing things that pissed on the fabric of our nation…and they backed ‘em. They did so that you people would not be able to exert influence on the direction of the country. They backed stuff that would make any reasonable, truly patriotic vomit. Just so that you people would be held in check.

And here you are playing into their hands at a time like this.

If I thought any of you had any true brains…and true values…and true perspective…I’d probably loathe you for being so intellectually lazy. But I suspect you folks have none of those things.

Keep finding fault with Obama!

I often mentioned during the Bush reign that we Americans were getting what we deserve. I say now:


The conservatives are gonna eat you fools up alive!
Frank: Do you think that retaining rendition, as Obama is doing, retaining the spy state and going even further than Bush did in claiming "sovereign immunity," continuing and in fact escalating the unjust wars on Afghanistan, Pakistan, and leaving up to (eventually) 50,000 troops in Iraq, and expanding Bagram prison, are things that we should support?

Do you think that we should allow Obama to get away with what he has been trying to do, avoid holding torturers to account through prosecutions?

Does that sound like something better?
Dennis, your precise words were "torture's gotten worse" in your post, not "things have gotten worse", as in your last comment.

There are two elements to my "unfounded" characterization:
(1) Devaluing the term "torture" based on two instances cited by Ghappour, which he himself labeled "abuse" and which, in any case, have not been corroborated by visiting US lawyers or the ICRC.
(2) "Gotten worse": If two allegations of abuse in the last four months constitutes "torture's gotten worse" compared to six years of continuing, unabated, state-sanctioned torture and abuse over the previous six years, I wonder where you've been. Your entire judgment in this matter is called into question, unless you are an apologist for the Bush administration or have some other, undisclosed agenda.

In any case, your antagonistic over-statements vis-a-vis the present administration is totally unhelpful to the cause of ending state-sponsored prisoner abuse, specifically in the Gitmo and Bagram prisons, and I believe would not be countenanced by any of the groups I work with (I speak only for myself).
Dennis wrote:

“Frank: Do you think that retaining rendition, as Obama is doing, retaining the spy state and going even further than Bush did in claiming "sovereign immunity," continuing and in fact escalating the unjust wars on Afghanistan, Pakistan, and leaving up to (eventually) 50,000 troops in Iraq, and expanding Bagram prison, are things that we should support?

Do you think that we should allow Obama to get away with what he has been trying to do, avoid holding torturers to account through prosecutions?

Does that sound like something better?”

I’ll tell you what “sounds better” to me, Dennis…and that is giving Obama some time and space to do what he has to do. This nonsense of castigating him as often as you do without allowing that space and time is playing into the hands of American conservatism.

I suspect you will simply choose not to see that…that you will continue being a dupe for the people who tried to freeze out reasonable America by signing onto some of the most disgusting horseshit ever perpetrated in the name of governing this great country.

I voted for Obama because I thought he would do a good job of getting us back on track. I am NOT going to question his means this early in the game…and I can think of plenty of reasons why doing things the way he is doing them…gives the train the best chance of recapturing the tracks.

Stop it, Dennis. Knock the bullshit off. Stop enabling the scum who have defiled our country to regain control.

Stop it!
Obama came into office bearing the hopes of millions of people. Bush and Cheney were and are moral monsters so the desire to see an end to this is what we would expect from people with a conscience and at least a reasonable level of awareness.

These high expectations were not founded in fact but in hope.

I believe, as a social scientist, that you have to go where the evidence takes you, wherever that leads, even if it goes against your most precious beliefs.

I did not expect Obama to be a savior, but I also did not anticipate that he would go as far in the wrong direction as he has. But there it is. The facts are there: his statements on the record and his actions.

One can deny the facts because you don't like the facts, but the facts have a stubborn tendency to not want to go away just because we wish them away.

In the course of trying to uncover and call attention to what's actually going on, some folks have become very angry with me (and not just me, but anyone who is doing likewise) because I have dared to criticize the guy they want so desperately to believe in.

I've managed to also incur the wrath of rightwing folks, which makes for an interesting phenomenon - people who hate Obama but who hate anyone who criticizes the policies they like Obama for (e.g., retaining rendition and refusing to prosecute the torturers) even more. It is an interesting paradox for these folks that I'm sure they are not even conscious of.

So it goes. The truth will come out. The sooner people recognize this the better because we can, therefore, avoid more unnecessary deaths and damage that way.

If those of you who were critical of my documentation of my statements are not satisfied with that documentation, please point these things out. I can be wrong. We all can and all are at least some of the time. If, on the other hand, you are satisfied with the evidence presented, then it would polite (and intellectually honest) to acknowledge this.
Dr. Loo, you have my respect and gratitude for carrying yourslf so nobley in the face of rude, reactionary name-calling in this post.

I also appreciate the fact that there are others here who disagree or question your assertions, yet they express their questions with composure and intelligent probing. Response vs. reaction.

Those who yell and speak out of emotive bittterness only strengthens my perception of the dangerous messianic complex gripping this country.

Keep digging, Professor! Well done.
Thank you, NewBlog. That, of course, is my concern.

As for Dennis, apparently he doesn’t get it. He reminds me very much of some American conservatives…who point out the fact that there are serious problems with American society…and who then suppose that because they see those problem, we have to accept that their “solutions” are the “correct solutions” for them.

DENNIS…I understand that Obama is not doing all the things I would like to see done…not making all the corrections I want very much to be made.

But that does not make his plan of attack “wrong” and yours “right.”

I want us out of Iraq…but that does not mean the only way to proceed is to get all our people out tomorrow. It is possible to recognize that getting out of Iraq is a worthy thing…and still allow for troops to remain there while the effects of withdrawal gets further consideration.

So too in all the things you mention.

You are playing into the hands of people pissing on our country and its ideals.

No problem. That is your right.

But it is my right to point out that you are being a dupe for these miscreants.

should we value your opinions more because you go golfing with conservatives?

The real trick is to go quail hunting with them.
Joshua Michael - thank you so much.

Smith Barney: You obviously have a personal investment in defending Obama against any accusations. You did not address the question that I raised to you about your original claim that I was engaging in ad hominem attacks upon Obama. I think you should either provide substantiation for that criticism or you should admit that you were wrong. No harm done. I have to admit when I'm wrong.

We can differ as to whether or not what has been going on under Obama's watch constitutes abuse or torture. If you think it constitutes abuse but not torture, that is a defensible position and I can respect that. I don't agree with it, however.

You haven't responded to my point either that Obama bears a responsibility as the new president to ensure that abuses (to use your preferred designation) are halted. If he truly wants to end torture and wants to end the "barbarities," to use attorney Ahmed Ghappour's term, then he has a responsibility to pro-actively ensure this. He has not done so. Do you think that he has? If so, I'd like to hear it. Or is it your contention that things will be fine in the long run, but we must just be patient?

I WILL say to you that if I had originally stated it as "things have gotten worse" at Gitmo rather than "torture has gotten worse," then it would be nice to think that you and I wouldn't be having an argument here and you would have agreed with my assertions.

I suspect, however, that that is not the case. The reason I so suspect it is because you have leveled a few accusations at me, this being only one of them, amounting to a general criticism of the rightness of my daring to criticize Obama strongly at all.

I do not have an interest, however, in a very antagonistic exchange with you since I feel that you as an attorney who is representing detainees that we are on the same side.
I note your change and your apparent desire to play nice after being caught in a blatant overreach. But you should also plainly mark your emendation for the record e.g. “I had previously said: torture’s gotten worse,” or else many of the critical comments are without reference.

However, the problems with your piece run far deeper than that and are pervasive.

Take even the emendation: “he has allowed conditions to worsen at Gitmo.” You state this as if it were fact, omitting that this is based on the say-so ONE released prisoner. If you qualified your statement with “It is alleged that conditions have worsened…” (relying on Ghappour, who had not personally visited Gitmo during the referenced time frame) or even “It is reported…” (relying on Mohamed), AND not elided the time line – Mohamed was released February 21, so he could be complaining about at most a month of conditions post-inauguration – AND clearly stated that only ONE such charge had been made – then that particular piece of reportage could stand.

As it is, it is of one piece with the rest of your “journalism.” And you still seemingly don’t get it.

Let’s start with the headline -- Obama: Gitmo Prisoners Aren't "Persons."

Even your parent organization has a more accurate headline: Appeals Court Rules Gitmo Detainees are not 'Persons'.

But that apparently wasn’t sexy enough for your purposes. Your headline implies that Obama personally (not even his administration or spokesperson) has stated this. Which is just plain false.

You could try to wriggle out of it by saying you did not use quotes, and Obama is merely shorthand (synecdoche?) for his administration. But even this won’t fly. If you had bothered to look at primary sources (and I must agree with CCC that you don’t seem to be able to tell the difference between different types of sources) i.e. the actual brief submitted by the government which can be found in the docket here, you would have known that:

(a) the only reference in the brief to “persons” is as follows: “This Court’s decision that plaintiff’s RFRA claim must be dismissed is also unaffected by Boumedienne. The Court (emphasis mine) held that plaintiffs are not “persons” within the meaning of the statute .”

(b) The government’s supplemental brief, filed on March 12, 2009 less than two months into the new administration in a case that had been running for some four years prior, is essentially a short (14 pages) stare decisis plea, asking that precedent not be overturned, not an unreasonable request for a temporizing filing.

(c) And finally, the Court in its ruling says: “Congress (emphasis mine)legislated against the background of precedent establishing that nonresident aliens were not among the “person[s]” protected by the Fifth Amendment … and were not among “the people” protected by the Fourth Amendment.”

So, not only did neither Obama nor his lawyers not say “Gitmo prisoners aren’t persons”, it was the Court in this instance and Congress in the first instance that are the sources of that ruling. And thus the whole basis for your article goes up in a puff of smoke.

Others have commented on similar excesses in the rest of the piece. It is not journalism. It is not scholarship. And it is too full of inaccuracies, overdrawn conclusions, transparently twisty rhetorical tricks to be deemed much more than an attempted smear. Neither the anti-war movement nor the human rights movement, especially in the cause of prisoners of state-sponsored terror, needs help of this sort.

I’ll end with a quote from Richard Neustadt (you might have taken his junior seminar): “Deep distrust does serve the purposes of some participants in public policy, limiting action, diverting attention, feeding the permanent campaign. But the result is less capacity for reliable consensus building and coalition maintenance…..”

(Richard E. Neustadt “The Politics of Mistrust” from “Why people don’t trust government” edited by Joseph S. Nye et al (1997, HUP):
What is so impressive about your tone and argument Smith Barney is your overt hostility towards me, given your representations that you are representing clients at Gitmo.

Your distinctions here do not let Obama off the hook. I have to run to class now, but very quickly let me say this - I will have more to say later about your charges against me when I have some time.

"Circuit Judge Karen Lecraft Henderson found that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a statute that applies by its terms to all 'persons' did not apply to detainees at Guantánamo, effectively ruling that the detainees are not persons at all for purposes of U.S. law."

Obama's DOJ (yes, the headline summarizing it as "Obama" is a synecdoche) filed briefs asking that the Court of Appeals uphold that earlier opinion and further that if the Court did find that they were "persons" under US law, that the US officials engaging in torture should not be held liable because they DIDN'T KNOW that torture was against the law.

The headline and article, therefore, are accurate in that Obama's DOJ fought for upholding the earlier decision that the tortured detainees aren't persons under US law and the protections thereto.

Your attempt to claim that this was the Court's and Congress' actions and not Obama is at best silly.
I have two minutes and have to run, but I just have time to add this rejoinder to Smith Barney at this time - with more later:

Your attempts to pass off the Obama DOJ's briefs upholding the torture and violations of these detainees' rights as human beings (and presumed innocent under American jurisprudence) and calling for the exoneration of the US officials and guards for their torture if the Court of Appeals did find against the lower court that these detainees WERE entitled to being treated as "persons" under US law, as merely stare decisis (i.e., following precedent), is simply disgusting. It is an effort to pass off your legalese background as authoritative and to exonerate inexcusable actions through deception.

How dare you sir! How dare you try to pull such a fast one on the people that lets Obama's DOJ's actions and Obama himself off as MERELY FOLLOWING the lead of what the Bush White House did in their monstrous behavior.

Obama and his DOJ could have and should have refused to defend the crimes against humanity committed by their predecessors.

And you claim to uphold the rights of the detained!
It took me a bit of bouncing around the web to find the original source material but click here for what I believe is the ruling itself, rather than reporting on it.

The wording of the case, like the wording of the law, is not what the media is saying. The law itself does not attempt to define persons. But the usage in the law sets up protections for persons, but it leaves it open whether these protections apply to "all persons" or "just persons over whom the legislature has jurisdiction". It seems kind of self-obvious that the latter is intended. A law that says "all persons shall be freed from prison" won't get people out of prison in other countries. So there is a jurisdiction question, and it sounds to me like people are trying to say that because this is so, the court has ruled that people are not people. I think instead the court has said that "the particular people given a right by this particular law are not all people but only certain people". That doesn't sound nearly as far-fetched as what people are saying. I think this is the law in question; I got there from Wikipedia.

It's quite often the case that legal wording is at odds with other wording, so I don't think it's that unusual.

I'm very concerned about torture, don't get me wrong. I just think we have to fairly analyze each story, and so far a fair analysis to me looks like this court case just did something that is confusing people and/or falling into the hands of people who want to make it look worse than it is. (The ruling I mean, not the torture.)

I might be wrong, and I'll see what others say after I've ended here. But I wanted to put up a comment based on a clean reading first before reading things that might sway me one way or another through argument.
"They claim that they have the right to send agents to Norway to grab me, based only on rumours, and put me on a plane to Bagram. And once I get there, they insist that they could treat me as if I had just been captured on the battlefield, fighting for the Taliban."

This is essentially telling the same I've got in my mind. 'The war' as declared by the Bush' administration means that. They have turned not only the whole Afghanistan but in practice the whole world into a battlefield. And Obama is following the course, even making it worse.

In fact Obama has already sent more troops to Afghanistan and he has already told not only that 'the war' started by the previous president is his top agenda with another agenda to build a more effective spying system, but he has as well defended the torturers doing the dirty work in the prisons such a way that they would not be guilty of anything.

If people in the world don't understand the above meaning that the policy of the previous administration is going to continue and even to get worse, somebody must have made those people blind.

I've been very busy during the last days (traveling by the car more than 1000 km to attend meetings there and there) so that I couldn't comment earlier.
Thank you Kent and Hannu.

This is my further reply to Smith Barney’s and CCC’s attacks upon my article herein.

Let me start with what is most important here, which is not his and CCC’s personal attacks upon me.

What’s most important was the posting of mine that sparked their ire: the news that the Court of Appeals had fulfilled Obama’s DOJ’s wishes that Gitmo detainees do not qualify as “persons” entitled to due process under US laws in Rasul et al v. Myers et al.

This decision means, in plain language, that people who have been tortured by US personnel at Gitmo are not being given the rights that any individual should be entitled to and that the American personnel responsible for the torture and detention are not being prosecuted for those crimes.

Obama’s DOJ’s briefs asked for the Court to uphold the Bush White House’s treating these prisoners as less than “persons” and the DOJ also asked that if the Court of Appeals DID find the prisoners WERE entitled to being treated as persons, then the Court should NOT hold the US officials and soldiers as liable for torture on the grounds that the US personnel could not have known (!) that when they were torturing people that they were violating the law and the rights of these prisoners.

The Obama DOJ brief reads in part:

“Boumediene – decided four years after plaintiffs’ detention ended – cannot support a finding that the law was so clearly established that a reasonable official would have known that his or her conduct violated the Constitution or the RFRA statute.”

“[A]liens held at Guantanamo do not have due process rights…”

This filing directly contradicts Obama’s and Eric Holder’s very public statements. Obama said during the campaign, as I cited in my supporting materials to my original posting, that habeas corpus “is a foundation of Anglo-American law.” Holder in his testimony before Congress declared that waterboarding is torture.

Because of the peculiar status of Guantanamo, territorially part of Cuba, but on long-term lease to the US, the Bush White House shipped detainees to Gitmo so that it could attempt to dodge the jurisdictional reach of American laws. The Court of Appeals found on jurisdictional grounds that the defendants, who were captured and turned in by Afghan warlords for bounty, and who were doing humanitarian work when captured, were not entitled to the full measure of American law.

Obama had a choice. He could have asked through his DOJ for the court to REVERSE the Bush White House’s position. He and his DOJ chose instead to fight to uphold the prior policies of Bush et al and acted affirmatively to try to protect torturers from being prosecuted for their crimes.

Next, a comment about method and manners:

There is a relationship between one’s manners, methods, and world outlook. People who are genuinely interested in the truth do not cherry pick the points that they want to debate and those they try to ignore because it doesn’t suit them. If someone you are debating or dialoguing with makes a point or points that are true, even if it doesn’t suit your position at the time, you acknowledge this because you’re interested in getting at the truth, even if that means that you end up having to admit that you were wrong, in some particulars or in the whole.

You also don’t engage in heaping calumny on those who you have some differences with, especially when these are people that you claim to be on the same side with, as CCC hypocritically did in his post attacking my sources and my work.

This is not the manner, nor the method, of Smith Barney or CCC.

This leads me to my next point.

Smith claims that he is an attorney representing Gitmo detainees. I have no way of disproving or proving this since he writes under a pseudonym. What I find peculiar here, however, is that someone who is representing detainees who have been indefinitely incarcerated and tortured should CELEBRATE the fact that the Court of Appeals has just UPHELD these measures that he is allegedly representing his clients to fight AGAINST.

This is the equivalent of a slave abolitionist greeting the Dred Scot decision and saying what a wonderful ruling this is!

If he is, indeed, representing detainee(s), if I had a chance to say something to those detainees, I would recommend that they find another attorney!

Smith wants us to believe that Obama isn’t responsible for this Court of Appeals decision by claiming that the Court and Congress made these policies and that Obama’s DOJ merely followed stare decisis, that is, judicial precedent.

“The doctrine of stare decisis is not always to be relied upon, for the courts find it necessary to overrule cases which have been hastily decided, or contrary to principle. Many hundreds of such overruled cases may be found in the American and English books of reports.” From ‘Lectric Law Library.

Obama’s claim to legitimacy as a candidate for president was that he was NOT going to follow Bush’s ugly precedents.

Moreover, the Bush White House’s actions were a radical departure from existing laws, so they could hardly be considered stare decisis.

It is furthermore an obligation of public officials under international and national law, if they know of crimes such as torture, war crimes and crimes against humanity to have been committed, to prosecute those responsible. If one fails to do this, then you are considered complicit in these crimes. That makes Obama complicit in war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The underlying logic of Smith’s argument here is very revealing: he upholds Obama for following the Bush precedent and exonerates him from any responsibility for Obama’s protecting Bush and his people from any war crimes prosecutions. This is the equivalent of the Nazis’ defense at Nuremberg: “I was only following orders.” In this instance, it is Obama and his DOJ saying: we are only following (previous Court) orders. (As it happens, they are cherry picking which Court orders they wish to abide by. They could have cited Boumediene and sought to remedy the wrongs done to the plaintiffs.)

Obama isn’t and wasn’t obligated to follow what Bush et al did.

Next item: CCC and Smith raise the claim that my sources and evidence aren’t primary sources and therefore not believable. Primary sources can include different things (such as someone’s diary that you’re analyzing) but in general they mean that you collect the data by talking to the participants YOURSELF or that you experienced the events directly YOURSELF. That means that for me to have primary sources on these matters that I would have to have gone to Gitmo and interviewed the detainees myself or been tortured as a detainee myself or to know what Obama’s policies are with respect to, for example, rendition, that I could not rely on his public statements made via such things as press conferences and reported through the newspapers or on TV but would have to interview Obama directly myself.
Lacking that, I have to resort to primarily secondary sources, the kind that I provide in my article and the follow-up article, drawn from newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal and Reuters and the interview with human rights attorney Ahmed Ghappour. (The court briefs that I reviewed herein could be considered primary sources.)
As reported by Reuters:
“Abuse of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay has worsened sharply since President Barack Obama took office as prison guards ‘get their kicks in’ before the camp is closed, according to a lawyer who represents detainees.
“Abuses began to pick up in December after Obama was elected, human rights lawyer Ahmed Ghappour told Reuters. He cited beatings, the dislocation of limbs, spraying of pepper spray into closed cells, applying pepper spray to toilet paper and over-forcefeeding detainees who are on hunger strike.”

Their red herring about my not providing primary sources is either evidence that they don’t know what primary sources are and when they are necessary, or it is evidence of their intellectual dishonesty.

CCC and Smith have also complained that some of the material that I sourced was contained within other essays of mine. This is a silly complaint since if you actually read those essays, you would see that the sources are linked to or cited within those essays. I am not sourcing myself. I referred people to those essays because they provide some analysis and context for the evidence, but the evidence and their origins are there in plain sight.

For someone who claims to be an attorney to complain that I have only cited ONE person, Binyam Mohamed, former tortured detainee, to support the assertion that conditions got worse at Gitmo after Obama’s election, is wrong on two counts.

First, I site Binyam AND Ahmed Ghappour. This is two people, the second one citing his THIRTY-ONE clients. This is what Ghappour said in part:

"According to my clients, there has been a ramping up in abuse since President Obama was inaugurated," said Ghappour, a British-American lawyer with Reprieve, a legal charity that represents 31 detainees at Guantanamo.
"If one was to use one's imagination, (one) could say that these traumatized, and for lack of a better word barbaric, guards were just basically trying to get their kicks in right now for fear that they won't be able to later," he said.
"Certainly in my experience there have been many, many more reported incidents of abuse since the inauguration," added Ghappour, who has visited Guantanamo six times since late September and based his comments on his own observations and conversations with both prisoners and guards.

Second, even IF it were only ONE witness, to prosecute a case in court, an attorney ONLY NEEDS ONE CREDIBLE WITNESS. Given that Binyam was subjected, among other things to 20-30 razor cuts to his penis under torture in one of the places he was tortured, I cannot think of a more credible witness.

Third, I know, have shared podiums with, and have spoken to attorneys who represent detainees at Gitmo. They are heroes and not small-minded, mean-spirited individuals. One of them (at least) is strip searched every single time she flies, a form of government harassment against her. Another one had to give up her non-detainee practice because the NSA was tapping her phones and because of this she couldn’t provide confidentiality to her other clients.

You do not take up this kind of work unless you are a person strongly committed to justice and fairness. Smith’s actions online here belie that kind of mindset and bravery. He instead has resorted to dishonest and petty tricks. I’m not saying that he isn’t an attorney representing detainees, but if he is, he is the first one I know of who behaves in such a manner.

Finally, and critically, CCC and Smith Barney have nothing to say about all of the rest of my essay where I show that Obama is also carrying forward rendition, denying habeas corpus rights to the 600 detainees at Bagram (and Obama’s plans to double Bagram in size), and that he has reserved the right to go beyond the Army Field Manual in interrogations. The AFM, as I detail in the Sources post, contains within it Appendix M which, if followed, would itself allow torture.

CCC and Smith Barney don’t want to talk about these things. They COULD say that they think these things are wrong. They COULD say they oppose them. They haven’t. An attorney representing detainees who have been subjected to rendition and tortured you would think would oppose the continuation of rendition and the suspension of habeas corpus. His silence on these matters implies consent for what Obama is doing. That is a peculiar position for someone who says he represents detainees to take.

They can’t contest the fundamental facts and so instead they have resorted to attacking the messenger and blowing a lot of smoke into the air in an attempt to confuse the issue. It’s a tried and untrue technique, but anyone with a mind and a willingness to confront the truth, no matter how inconvenient, can read these essays and these comments for themselves and draw their own conclusions.

Whose side are CCC and Smith Barney on? What side is Obama on? What side do you want to be on?

Obama ran on a platform of change. How is this change? CCC and Smith Barney are big fans of Obama, such big fans that they are willing to engage in deceitful and obnoxious behavior to protect their hero against criticism, including CCC sending me a PM the other day stating:

“If you were ever in SDS, you'd have been immediately suspect as a plant, a narc, an agent provocateur.”

I leave it to you the readers to judge this.
Thank you Padraig.