Archive for April 2012

Bush still hounded for human rights violations

Monday, April 30, 2012 at 7:55 pm by

Who the hell let him into Canada?Two human rights groups have filed a report to the United Nations Committee Against Torture alleging that the Canadian government failed in its obligation to “investigate and prosecute former President George W. Bush for torture, during his visit to Canada in the fall of 2011.” Both the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the Canadian Centre for International Justice (CCIJ) are requesting that the committee “investigate the case and make specific recommendations to Canada regarding future compliance.”

We call upon the Committee Against Torture to take this opportunity to remind Canada—and other signatory States—of their obligation to investigate and prosecute torturers present in their territory, even when the alleged torturer is the former president of the United States,” said CCR senior staff attorney Katherine Gallagher. “Only when States comply with their obligations will the Convention Against Torture serve as an effective tool to end impunity and deter torture.

The request arises from George W. Bush’s visit to Canada in late 2011. According to Matt Eisenbrandt, legal director of CCIJ, the crux of the issue is that

the Canadian government violated its international obligations and forced these men to initiate their own legal proceedings. Those efforts were then thwarted by government officials, blocking all hopes for the survivors to get justice and allowing Mr. Bush to visit Canada with impunity.

What’s really great is that “more than 50 human rights organizations from around the world and prominent individuals signed on to a letter in support of the call for George W. Bush’s prosecution, including former UN Special Rapporteurs on Torture and Nobel Peace Prize winners.”

We know that the constant hounding does have an adverse affect on Bush’s current lifestyle.

In February 2011, the Center for Constitutional Rights and other human rights organizations attempted to initiate criminal proceedings against Bush during a private speaking engagement in Geneva, but he canceled reportedly after news of the planned prosecution came to light.

This intense pressure has to be kept up until Bush and his partners are finally held accountable for their egregious actions.

News Digest 04/30/12

Monday, April 30, 2012 at 5:00 pm by

Current News

4/30, Barry Eisler, Huffington Post, Interrogators Speak Out: Why Not a Torture Turing Test?

4/30, Tenth Amendment Center, Stop the NDAA in your State, County and Town

4/29, Jameel Jaffer and Nathan Freed Wessler, New York Times, The C.I.A.’s Misuse of Secrecy

4/29, David Dishneau, Times Union, Ruling coming on gravest charge in WikiLeaks case

4/29, Anna Palmer, Politico, Brennan: Congress complicates Gitmo shutdown

CISPA and likelihood of passage explained

Monday, April 30, 2012 at 2:21 pm by

262223-facebook-cispaOver at ProPublica, there is an article that explains the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA). Basically, it’s a “rundown on the debate and what CISPA could mean for Internet users.” It attempts to explain exactly what CISPA is, what it does, and why we should care.

An interesting chart displays corporate (and public) groups’ stances on both the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and CISPA.

At Truthdig, Alexander Reed Kelly proposes that without corporate opposition, CISPA is most likely to pass.

Why are other companies not banding together to fight CISPA as they did against SOPA? Probably because only the privacy of Internet users is at stake: The law would not directly interfere with any company’s ability to do business. Divided from the powerful corporations that once spoke for them, opposing CISPA seems to be in the urgent interest of American citizens alone. And without the resources and organization required to wage an aggressive public battle, it seems a certainty that lawmakers who back the legislation will prevail.

Ergo, if it doesn’t negatively affect the corporate structure there is no corporate interest in the legislation. If the bill does pass, the indication is that ordinary citizens lack the pull to oppose the powerful forces at work on our legislature.

Bob Woodward calls for journalistic due diligence to address “problem of secret government”

Monday, April 30, 2012 at 9:51 am by

Bob Woodward Journalist Bob Woodward (pictured) recently addressed an audience of 200 at Union College, emphasizing the constant need for journalistic due diligence by the press in their reporting, particularly when covering government agencies and activities. In his speech last Thursday, April 20, Woodward noted, “What we should worry about the most is secret government. All of the other problems—immense and giant and seemingly insurmountable as they are—pale in comparison to the problem of secret government.”

Bob Woodward is famous for his diligence in uncovering the Watergate scandal with Washington Post colleague Carl Bernstein. His statement reflects the significance of deep, investigative reporting that does not afford a government as large and powerful as the United States’ the option of sweeping everything under the rug. Instead, Woodard underscored the importance of speaking to different sources, over and over, “to peel back the layers of what is going on.” He explained, “You get inside information from human beings, quite frankly.”

Unfortunately, this type of extensive, investigative reporting and journalism has little place in the Internet media age, where quick and current headlines reign—better still if you can fit it in 140 characters.

Woodward also discussed the difficulties of diligent reporting when, for example, conditions surrounding presidential campaigns favor money and entertainment over a truer representation of the candidates. With the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case, authorizing unlimited corporate contributions, Super PACs end up controlling and dictating the media portrayal of candidates. Woodward asked, “Can we collectively sort through and present authentic pictures of who these candidates are?”

CBS rehabilitates CIA torture chief Jose Rodriguez

Sunday, April 29, 2012 at 2:36 pm by

This evening, CBS’s 60 Minutes will air an interview with the former head of the CIA’s Clandestine Service, Jose Rodriguez.  Unapologetic for his crimes including human rights violations, defying court orders, and obstructing justice, he claims that his decision to destroy over 90 videotapes of torture sessions was necessary to protect national security.  Unspoken is his personal interest in his own job security, or remaining free from criminal prosecution that the tapes could have compelled if ever released.

Rodriguez is one among several Bush-era torturers disturbingly capitalizing on their violations of human rights.  His book, Hard Measures, will likely see a spark in sales after its 60 Minutes exposure, and like John Yoo, Rodriguez will likely remain a public proponent of a regime of impunity that places powerful officials above the law—while forcing vulnerable communities to endure incarceration en masse.

Just last week, reports emerged that the Senate Intelligence Committee is nearing the end of an investigation revealing that torture never helped national security, while doing a lot to undermine it (and the international legal regime our nation once fought a world war to establish). According to Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the committee chair, “I happen to know a good deal about how those interrogations were conducted, and, in my view, nothing justifies the kind of procedures that were used.” Yet the report may be withheld from the public, despite the efforts of groups including BORDC in calling for long overdue transparency.

Lost in that discussion is the fact that torture is—and has long been—a crime. While our federal institutions in DC have turned a blind eye to torture, however, other voices have continued to call for transparency and accountability. Chicago recently enacted the country’s first “torture-free zone” resolution, driven by a community of grassroots human rights activists. Grassroots actions around the country, including a mass demonstration in DC this January and Ft. Benning, GA, last November, have kept the discussion alive.

You can raise your voice by supporting Human Rights First’s campaign to publicly release the “real book on torture,” the forthcoming Senate report that will otherwise be buried.

News Digest 4/27/12

Friday, April 27, 2012 at 5:00 pm by

News Digest 4/26/12

Thursday, April 26, 2012 at 5:00 pm by

Democracy Now! special on surveillance

Thursday, April 26, 2012 at 3:29 pm by

Last Friday, April 20, Democracy Now! aired a special on the growing domestic surveillance state, continuing this Monday, April 23. Watch these riveting pieces below:

News Digest 04/25/12

Wednesday, April 25, 2012 at 5:00 pm by

CISPA amendments are still lacking

Wednesday, April 25, 2012 at 1:55 pm by

CISPA CatIn response to the public outcry against the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), the House Intelligence Committee has added 44 amendments to the proposed bill. The new amendments will be discussed during a House floor debate on CISPA beginning tomorrow, and a final vote will be held on Friday. While the new amendments are a step in the right direction, opponents of the bill believe that there are still issues that need to be addressed. CISPA seeks to give businesses and the federal government the right to share information related to cybersecurity with one another, which is currently prohibited because the information is classified and companies fear violating anti-trust law. However, as it stands, the bill does not provide adequate guidelines about what information can be shared and with whom. According to the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), there are still two crucial issues with CISPA:

1. In terms of who the information can be shared with, the amendment allows information to flow from ISPs and other service providers directly to the NSA. This is a fundamental remaining concern, since the bill could result in the NSA having a wider window into traffic on private sector networks.

2. The bill allows the information that the private sector shares with the government to be used for national security purposes unrelated to cybersecurity. This, too, is a remaining fundamental concern for us.

The CDT released the following  statement in response to the changes:

In sum, good progress has been made. The Committee listened to our concerns and has made important privacy improvements and we applaud the Committee for doing so. However, the bill falls short because of the remaining concerns—the flow of internet data directly to the NSA and the use of information for purposes unrelated to cybersecurity. We support amendments to address these concerns. Recognizing the importance of the cybersecurity issue, in deference to the good faith efforts made by Chairman Rogers and Ranking Member Ruppersberger, and on the understanding that amendments will be considered by the House to address our concerns, we will not oppose the process moving forward in the House. We will focus on the amendments and subsequently on the Senate.