Posts Tagged ‘George W. Bush’

Senator Udall’s fight to amend our past

Saturday, May 4, 2013 at 12:35 pm by

The George W. Bush Presidential Library  and Museum opened to the public this week, a great unveiling that has  reignited the debate about the Bush-era “enhanced interrogation techniques” (read: torture).  One of the most controversial elements of the new museum is a video narrated by former Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice.  The video explains that President Bush asked two “very important” questions in his decision to use torture in the post-9/11 “War on Terror”: was it legal?  And was it necessary?  When allegedly answered “yes” to both of these questions, President Bush proceeded in making detention and torture an instrumental part of his administration’s work.

The real surprise of the video, though, is in Rice’s suggestion that the United States was spared further terrorist attacks because of Bush’s detention and torture policies.  Rice argues that, “The fact that we have not had a successful attack on our territory traces directly to those difficult decisions in a new kind of war after September 11th.”  This is a dangerous allegation to make, and it underscores the need for our government to reconsider the effectiveness of detention and torture, a fight of which Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) has been at the forefront.

Udall correctly commented that the video in the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum “could potentially leave thousands of visitors to the library with the false impression that this wrongheaded program prevented terrorist attacks here in the United States.”  Udall seeks to correct the record on the Bush administration’s detention and interrogation program and to declassify the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence more than 6,000 page report on that program.

Understanding the effectiveness of Bush’s detention and interrogation programs is particularly crucial as the U.S. now faces a new moral dilemma posed by the Obama administration’s drone programs and the new executive power to legally authorize the targeted killing of American citizens.  To move forward without rectifying past misuses of executive power would likely make any hope of future executive accountability unattainable.  In order to hold the Obama administration to a higher humanitarian standard and reject the executive power to assassinate American citizens, we must demand truth and accountability from past administrations as well.  It is for this reason that Udall’s push to correct the record on the post-9/11 detention and interrogation programs and declassify the 6,000 plus page report is so crucial.  You can support Senator Udall’s fight by signing BORDC’s petition to declassify the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report.

News Digest 04/26/13

Friday, April 26, 2013 at 5:00 pm by

Obama administration advances the fight against Whistleblowers

Sunday, April 14, 2013 at 11:14 am by

President Obama came to office promising government transparency and accountability, but throughout his presidency, has acted more aggressively than any other president to silence government whistleblowers who might expose corruption, fraud and general wrongdoing.  Since 2009, Obama has used the World War I-era Espionage Act six times to prosecute government officials suspected of leaking classified information.  A Bloomberg report on this intimidation campaign summarized the objections this way: “the president’s crackdown chills dissent, curtails a free press and betrays Obama’s initial promise to ‘usher in a new era of open government.’”

The logic behind the prosecution of whistleblowers is that a government has the right to protect itself and its own best interests, and as a result, should be allowed to punish treasonous citizens.  Woodrow Wilson argued that the Espionage Act allowed the government to protect itself against “insidious methods of internal hostil activities” and  declared it unlawful in a time of war to publish information that the president may determine to be “of such character that it is or might be useful to the enemy.”  Following this logic, it seems reasonable that Obama would  crackdown on whistleblowers.  The problem, though, Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian wrote, is that:

…This Obama whistleblower war has nothing to do with national security. It has nothing to do with punishing those who harm the country with espionage or treason.  It has everything to do with destroying those who expose high-level government wrongdoing. It is particularly devoted to preserving the government’s ability to abuse its power in secret by intimidating and deterring future acts of whistleblowing and impeding investigative journalism.

Greenwald makes an important point here; the common thread between the cases of  every whistleblower that has been prosecuted since 2009 is the growing strain of witnessing acts of fraud, corruption and flagrant unconstitutionality.

The four whistleblowers from the National Security Agency (“The NSA Four”) all echo the struggle of being asked to hold classified information that is clearly in violation of the law.  Thomas Drake, William Binney, J. Kirk Weibe and Edward Loomis make up the NSA Four, who were falsely accused of leaking confidential information in 2007.  According to The Nation, the NSA Four have now endured years of harassment for “exposing the waste and fraud behind a multibillion-dollar contract for a system called Trailblazer, which was supposed to “revolutionize” the way the NSA produced signals intelligence (SIGINT) in the digital age.”


News Digest 04/03/2013

Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 5:00 pm by

News Digest 03/15/13

Friday, March 15, 2013 at 5:00 pm by

Chicago really a torture-free zone?

Friday, November 16, 2012 at 11:35 am by

rumsfieldDonald Vance and Nathan Ertel, both US citizens that worked for a private company in Iraq in 2006, were denied access to justice by the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago. They had alleged that, after trying to blow a whistle on illegal weapons trafficking by their employer and military personnel, they endured torture by the US military for over two months.

The Seventh Circuit, however, ruled that they cannot sue former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld over their allegations. The court’s decision was an 8-3 ruling that overturned a three-judge panel’s decision that allowed the suit to proceed, against the wishes of both the Bush and Obama administrations.

The trial court ruled that Rumsfeld could be held personally responsible because the decision to use torture was made by senior government officials.  Judge Frank Easterbrook, writing for the appeals court that reversed that decision, stated:

“A court cannot say that, if there are too few prosecutions (or other enforcement), and thus too much crime, then the Attorney General or the Secretary of Defense is personally liable to victims of (preventable) crime.”

Three judges, however, did disagree with Judge Easterbrook. They based their dissenting opinion on the observation that the majority’s opinion creates immunity for the military, which is a violation of prior Supreme Court precedent.

The Seventh Circuit’s ruling essentially establishes that civilians may not assert their rights if a member of the military violates them. Exceptions such as these undermine access to justice, fundamental rights and universal human rights. The ruling is especially ironic because it was announced in the one city in America that has proactively declared itself a torture-free zone.

It is unacceptable for Rumsfeld and other leaders to not take responsibility for actions taken under their direct command. The result is yet another case against whistleblowers and the Constitution.

Supreme Court hears arguments on FISA, warrantless wiretapping

Wednesday, November 7, 2012 at 10:44 am by

Surveillance CamerasLast week, the Untied States Supreme Court heard arguments in Clapper v. Amnesty International, in which the court will determine if those challenging the  Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act  have the ability to do so in US federal courts. FISA allows for the electronic surveillance of international communications including both phone calls and e-mails. Unfortunately, this decision is not going to augment or get rid of FISA. It is the initial step to see if the law can be challenged at all.  FISA was passed in 1978 as a law that required the government to obtain a warrant from a specially assigned court to partake in the electronic surveillance of communicating from or to the Untied States.

In a recent article, “House votes to extend FISA for five years, inviting more unconstitutional surveillance“, BORDC communications specialist Samantha A. Peetros explains how FISA began and how it has transformed since Congress’ re-authorization of the 2008 FISA amendments:

“When originally passed, FISA was meant to curtail the federal government’s surveillance practices. Over the years, provisions for dragnet surveillance have been expanded, particularly since 2002. During the Bush administration, the National Security Agency began a warrantless wiretapping scheme hatched in secret, and in such clear violation of FISA that Attorney General John Ashcroft refused to authorize it and Justice Department officials threatened to resign en masse.”

In their decision, the Court will only address whether challengers have the right to oppose the law, not the constitutionality of the law itself since this was the issue presented on appeal in Clapper. Professor Sudha Setty of the Western New England University School of Law who specializes in comparative national security recently addressed the issue, saying:

“In the Clapper case, the Obama administration won’t disclose whether the plaintiffs were actually under surveillance, but will paradoxically argue before the Court that the plaintiffs don’t deserve a day in court because they can’t prove (due to government secrecy) that they, in particular, were actually monitored.”

This notion is certainly  most concerning: there is no way to know if you are being monitored. Supporters of FISA claim that in an age of terrorism, the government needs this excessive power. However, the real problem is the fact that the law has not functioning checks and balances. Shahid Buttar, Executive Director of  BORDC explained that this Congressional failure spans across party lines, saying:

“We know that congressional Democrats–including then Senator Obama–joined their Republican colleagues in 2008 to approve FISA, even while both parties paid lip service about defending constitutional values in Washington. Despite the partisan rancor apparent on many issues, Congress marches in lockstep on national security, elevating government power well beyond constitutional limits.”

With the House re-authorization this fall, and no Senate vote in sight, it seems that it is left to the Supreme Court to utilize the necessary checks and balances to allow Americans the ability to challenge overbroad and unconstitutional surveillance policies in the US.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center, along with partnered organizations including BORDC, filed a “friend of the court” brief, or amicus curaie, for consideration in the Clapper case, which can be viewed online for more information on how FISA threatens your security and infringes on civil liberties.

Whistleblower sentenced for exposing torture during Bush administration

Monday, October 29, 2012 at 11:52 am by

cia-logoOn Tuesday, ex-Central Intelligence Agency counterterrorism operative, John Kiriakou, pleaded guilty for violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act for disclosing information about a former associate to Matthew Cole, who then was a reporter for ABC News. This news comes just two months after the Justice department stated that it would not charge any C.I.A. officials who were involved with the interrogation of detainees during the Bush administration.

Kiriakou could have faced a sentence of multiple decades, but the recommendation of the prosecutor has been thirty months in prison. This sentencing is due to dropping multiple other charges, including helping New York Times reporter, Scott Shane, identify a colleague and lying to the C.I.A. publications board review of his 2010 memoir, “Reluctant Spy: My Secret Life in the C.I.A.’s War on Terror.”

In 2002 Kiriakou was in charge of the team that found Abu Zubaydah in Pakistan, but really came into the public eye in 2007 when he was interviewed by ABC News where he expressed that waterboarding was torture, but necessary for C.I.A. business. For the Obama administration the guilty verdict was following the intense pressure put on the unauthorized release of government secrets. Presently, six former and current officials have been charged with disclosing government secrets during the Obama Administration. This statistic is twice the number of cases presented by all former presidents combined.

The sentence hearing will be held on January 25, 2013, and the criminal investigation began in 2009 when lawyers for suspects at Guantanamo Bay were identifying witnesses to their client’s torture during the interrogations. The identification of the witnesses were linked back to the knowledge that Kiriakou passed onto Cole.  Director of the C.I.A., David Petraeus, claimed that the guilty plea was the first successful use of the Intelligence Identities Act in the past three decades and “an important victory for the intelligence community.” This case truly shows the backlash for whistleblowers like Kiriakou. Kiriakou’s exposing the Bush administration’s illegal torture of suspected terrorists has been made into a crime, in which he will spend two and a half years in prison. Unfortunately, telling the truth has its consequences in the Untied States, and this is an indicator of the way in which the government respects the rights of detainees, but also the right of the American public to government accountability.


It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a…Drone? Model planes increasingly being used for terror attacks

Friday, August 24, 2012 at 10:06 am by

Earlier this month, Spanish authorities recovered a video illustrating a man guiding a large remote-controlled aircraft over southern Spain.  At the pilots direction, the plane then slowly descended and dropped two small packages from both wings.  Spanish authorities believe the video was recorded by an al Qaeda terrorist attempting to convert a toy plane into a deadly explosive.  Three men were arrested, including Cengiz Yalkin, a Turkish National living in Spain as an al Qaeda cell facilitator, and two Chechen associates specializing in explosives.

Unfortunately, converting model air-crafts–originally intended for hobby purposes–into bombers is not unprecedented.  In 2011, Rezwan Ferdaus, a Korean War veteran purchased miniature versions of the F-86 Sabre fighter jet, to build attack planes and destroy the Penatagon and U.S. Capitol with C-4 plastic explosives.  He pleaded guilty last month.  Before finding inspiration by al Qaeda’s ideology, Ferdaus was a Northeastern University graduate with a degree in physics.

In 2008, Christopher Paul, a Columbus Ohio resident, pleaded guilty to planning terrorist plots in both the United States and Europe.  Paul, who allegedly joined al Qaeda in the early 1990s, conducted extensive research from 2006, on numerous remote-controlled miniatures, including a boat and helicopter.

While the federal government, through the the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) fail to regulate the purchases of certain models, both Senator Charles Schumer (D- New York) and Congressman John Mica (R-Florida) have called for further regulations as a result of these models getting into the wrong hands, and creating catastrophic results, whether through deploying explosives or chemical materials.  Since the September 11th attacks, federal agents have asked organizations and hobby shops, such as the Academy of Model Aeronautics, to report any suspicious purchasers of model planes with questionable intentions.  However, the FAA has yet to implement any new regulations regarding the suspicious purchases of models for criminal use.

In an ironic twist, the Obama Administration is under scrutiny for continuing President George W. Bush’s foreign policies in using drones for surveillance and missile strikes against terrorists.  According to CNN, drones, which are similar to remote controlled air-crafts, have made “a dramatic impact in the campaign against al Qaeda and other terror groups in Pakistan — and is now being expanded to the Horn of Africa.”  Drone strikes have increased from 52 during the Bush presidency, to an estimated 278 during the Obama administration.

The FAA should begin implementing regulations that will detect suspicious purchases of models.  Hopefully, the FAA, organizations and hobby shop business owners are working with both federal and local law enforcement agencies in detecting such purchases.  The government, without hindering miniature hobby enthusiasts, needs to continue developing protective measures to prevent potential attacks, as they did in 2008, 2011 and most recently in Spain.

News Digest 08/20/12

Monday, August 20, 2012 at 5:00 pm by