August 26, 2007
US Court of Miitary Commission Appeals Hears First Case
From NPR.com: The new U.S. Court of Military Commission Appeals has heard arguments in its first case. Guantanamo detainee Omar Khadr was captured in Afghanistan in 2002 for allegedly killing a U.S. soldier. A semantic dispute over the term "unlawful" is at the heart of the debate.
Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]
August 20, 2007
Military Judge Dismisses Serious Charges Against Abu Ghraib Officer
From newsday.com: A military judge on Monday dismissed two of the most serious charges against the only officer charged with abusing detainees at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison after an investigator acknowledged he failed to read the defendant his rights.
Army Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan is the last of 12 Abu Ghraib defendants to be court-martialed. He still faces four counts, including cruelty and maltreatment of detainees.
His trial was set to begin Monday afternoon. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
July 25, 2007
Army Major Suspected of Taking Bribes
From NPR.com: An Army major is in jail, awaiting a hearing Wednesday in San Antonio on charges that he accepted up to $10 million in bribes from Defense Department contractors seeking to do business in Iraq and Kuwait. Maj. John Cockerham and his wife, Melissa, face up to 40 years in prison.
Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]
July 19, 2007
Federal Judge Rules that Enemy Combatatns Have A Right to Seek Freedom
From latimes.com: A federal judge in Washington on Wednesday upheld the right of a Yemeni man held as an enemy combatant at a U.S. military prison in Afghanistan to seek his freedom.
The ruling is the first issued in a case filed on behalf of a foreign detainee held by the U.S. outside the country or the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station. It comes less than a month after the Supreme Court said it would again consider the rights of detainees at Guantanamo in the fall.
U.S. District Judge John D. Bates cited the high court's June action as a key reason for his decision.
Wednesday's ruling stems from a case filed in September on behalf of Fadi Al Maqaleh, who is being held at the military prison in Bagram, Afghanistan. The International Justice Network, a legal advocacy group, filed a habeas corpus petition seeking Maqaleh's release, alleging that he had been illegally taken into custody by the U.S. and held without charges for more than five years.
Bates, appointed to the court by President Bush, said it was possible that when the Supreme Court considered the rights of detainees in the fall, it "could issue a broader decision in favor of the detainees, one whose reasoning applies not just to Guantanamo, but to Bagram and other locations as well."
He also acknowledged that the high court could go the other way. Whatever the justices decide, the ruling is likely to affect the outcome of Maqaleh's case and thus it should not be dismissed before the Supreme Court weighs in, Bates said.
Attorney Tina M. Foster said she filed the case after meeting Maqaleh's father, Ahmad Al Maqaleh, while she was in Yemen doing research for detainees at Guantanamo. "A lot of families came to me saying there were worse problems at Bagram than at Guantanamo," Foster said, referring to the military base about 40 miles north of Kabul where about 650 detainees are being held.
She said Maqaleh's family told her that they had not seen their son in nearly five years and that they only learned that he was being held at Bagram when they got a letter from him, via the International Committee of the Red Cross, "in or about 2003."
Foster said she believed that Maqaleh, who is now about 25, had never been part of forces hostile to the United States.
She asked Judge Bates to issue a writ of habeas corpus compelling the government to either release Maqaleh or establish in court a legal basis for detaining him.
"Both military personnel and former detainees have described the prison conditions at Bagram to be far worse than those at Guantanamo," Foster said. Among other sources, she quoted a Defense Department official who had toured the facility and a report by Human Rights Watch, which said "the detention system in Afghanistan, unlike the system in Iraq, is not operated even nominally in compliance with the Geneva conventions."Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
July 14, 2007
Many Detainees were Prohibited from Making One Phone Call
From NYTimes.com: The number of immigrants detained by the United States has grown from 90,000 to 283,000 over the past five years, and many were improperly barred from making even a single phone call to a lawyer, congressional investigators reported this week.
Detainees' calls were completed 35 to 74 percent of the time each month between November 2005 and November 2006, according to the Government Accountability Office, Congress's audit arm.
The United States uses a criminal-detention model to hold immigrants, although most are charged with administrative violations of immigration laws. The detainees are not guaranteed the protections routinely provided to U.S. citizens or criminal defendants, including access to public defenders. As a result, federal authorities have agreed to 38 nonbinding detention guidelines with the American Bar Association as a form of due process, including providing telephone access to legal counsel.
"Without sufficient internal control policies and procedures in place, ICE is unable to offer assurance that detainees can access legal services, file external grievances and obtain assistance from their consulates," the July 6 GAO report said, referring to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
July 11, 2007
Federal Court Questioning the Need for Secrecy Concerning Presidential Briefings
From nysun.com: A federal appeals court is expressing skepticism about the CIA's claim that its technique for briefing presidents is so sensitive that it must be protected from public scrutiny, even 40 years after the fact.
Two judges considering a lawsuit seeking access to so-called Presidential Daily Briefs provided to President Johnson during the Vietnam War era cast doubt yesterday on the spy agency's assertion that the way it updates the nation's chief executive is itself an intelligence method entitled to blanket secrecy under the law.
"It just doesn't compute to me," Judge Pamela Ann Rymer of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said as a three-judge panel heard oral arguments on the case.
"It's not as if PDBs have never been made public or they haven't been talked about," Judge Raymond Fisher said. He noted that some have been officially released and that a book, "Bush at War" by Bob Woodward, quotes from a CIA brief prepared on the day after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
A Justice Department attorney, Mark Stern, told the court that disclosing the amount of detail provided to presidents and "what sort of things they care about" could undermine national security. "This is the crystallization of intelligence," he said. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
July 05, 2007
Meet the Real Life Q
From USATODAY.com: The nameplate on his office door just says "Q."
His dreary, windowless workspace is no different from thousands of others here in the nation's capital.
But Rolf Dietrich is not your typical government bureaucrat.
He's the Homeland Security Department's gadget man, an MIT-trained engineer and onetime nuclear attack submarine commander who spends his days trying to come up with futuristic equipment that could be used to thwart terrorists for generations to come.
Unlike the clever James Bond movie character Q, who seemed to serve only 007, Dietrich serves tens of thousands of airport screeners, Border Patrol agents, Customs and Coast Guard officers and others tasked with preventing and responding to future attacks.
Most probably don't know Dietrich exists. Like the fictional Q, he works on some of the government's most cutting-edge safety and security projects — projects that could help the 180,000 men and women who work at Homeland Security. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
May 30, 2007
Brutal Interrogation Tactics Critcized By Experts
From NYTimes.com: As the Bush administration completes secret new rules governing interrogations, a group of experts advising the intelligence agencies are arguing that the harsh techniques used since the 2001 terrorist attacks are outmoded, amateurish and unreliable.
The psychologists and other specialists, commissioned by the Intelligence Science Board, make the case that more than five years after the Sept. 11 attacks, the Bush administration has yet to create an elite corps of interrogators trained to glean secrets from terrorism
Some of the study participants argue that interrogation should be restructured using lessons from many fields, including the tricks of veteran homicide detectives, the persuasive techniques of sophisticated marketing and models from American history. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
March 29, 2007
Guantanamo Confessions Scrutinized under the World's Microscope
Just how significant were the recent Guantanamo confessions? Jonathan Hafetz, an attorney with NYU Law's Brennan Center for Justice, who represents Guantanamo prisoners calls the confessions the result of "justice on the fly" while Berkeley LawProf John Yoo views the confessions as the result of a balance between protecting national security/gathering wartime intelligence and administering a fair trial with due process protections. Full story. . . [Michele Berry]
March 28, 2007
Kangaroo Skinner at Guantanamo
From NPR: All Things Considered, March 26, 2007 · Leigh Sales, Australian Broadcasting Corporation's national security correspondent and author of the book The Worst of the Worst: The Case of David Hicks. Sales talks about how a kangaroo-skinner found himself at Guantanamo Bay, on trial for providing material support for terrorism. Listen here.
March 23, 2007
The CIA and Psychological Torture at SIU
CARBONDALE, Ill. — An historian who specializes in CIA covert operations, the global drug trade, colonial empires in Southeast Asia and the modern-day Philippines will visit Southern Illinois University Carbondale to talk about how the CIA developed and has used psychological torture.
Alfred W. McCoy, J.R.W. Smail Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, will begin his free, public lecture at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 3, in the auditorium of SIUC's Hiram Lesar Law Building. A reception will follow.
McCoy's talk draws on material from his most recent book, "A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, From the Cold War to the War on Terror," published last year by Metropolitan Books.
He will be available from 4:30 to 6 p.m. the day of the lecture at Rosetta Stone Bookstore in the Campus Shopping Center, 214 W. Freeman St., to sign copies of that book.
The CIA tried to block publication of McCoy's first book, "The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia," which explored links between opium and "The Company." Translated into nine foreign languages and now in its third edition, it has become a standard in studies of worldwide drug trafficking.
A later work, "Closer Than Brothers," published in 1999, focused on CIA torture training within the Philippine military, a book which led directly to his exploration of what 50 years of spreading and practicing psychological torture have done to America. McCoy maintains that so-called "no-touch" torture harms not just the victims but the perpetrators, too.
In an article for the political newsletter "Counterpunch," McCoy notes that Congressional hearings on the CIA's use of torture took place four times between 1970 and 1988, with no noticeable results. He hopes the photographs from Abu Ghraib and the widespread revulsion they engendered will at last force a change.
"Through these photographs from Abu Ghraib, we can see the reality of these interrogation techniques," he writes. We have a chance to join fully with the international community in repudiating a practice that, more than any other, represents a denial of democracy."
Sponsors of McCoy's lecture include the SIUC departments of anthropology, cinema and photography, history, psychology, sociology and women's studies, the University's Global Media Research Center and School of Law, the Peace Coalition of Southern Illinois, the Shawnee Green Party, the Unitarian Fellowship program committee and the Carbondale Friends Meeting.
March 20, 2007
Chiquita Pleads Guilty to Paying Terrorists
From NPR.com: Chiquita Brands International pleads guilty to making protection payments to a terrorism group in Colombia.
As The Los Angeles Times reporter Josh Meyer tells Robert Siegel, the money went to the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, which the U.S. government classified as a terrorist group in 2001.
Lawyers at Chiquita had warned the company about making the payments, which flowed through its Banadex subsidiary. The group had threatened Chiquita's workers in the region.
Chiquita sold Bananex in June 2004, but it continues to purchase Colombian bananas through the company today. Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]
February 26, 2007
Padilla May Be Incompetent to Stand Trial
From NPR.com: A federal judge in Miami is holding a hearing to determine if Jose Padilla is competent to stand trial. Padilla is a U.S. citizen arrested nearly 5 years ago and accused of being an Al Qaeda operative.
His attorneys say that Padilla, who was held in almost total isolation in a Navy brig, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.
They say that as a result, Padilla is incompetent to participate in his own defense. The government says he is competent. Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]
January 19, 2007
Federal Defender Publishes YouTube Video to Aide Guantanamo Detainee
William Teesdale, an attorney with the Federal Public Defender's Office in Portland, Oregon has been seeking the release of a Guantanamo Bay detainee and has turned to YouTube to get the message out about his client. Here's the description of Teesdale's Guantanamo Unclassified video, from Legal Pad:
Teesdale has released a short documentary video in which, on a beach in Guantanamo bay, he explains that hospital worker and teacher Adel Hamad has been held for years in detention and denied release even after a member of the military tribunal reviewing his case called his incarceration “unconscionable.” The video includes interviews with Hamad’s coworkers from Afghanistan, where he’d worked for a hospital supported by a charity that the CIA seems to think might have counter-American ideals. Watch the video here. . . [Michele Berry]
December 30, 2006
Consolidating Screening Programs Lead to Privacy Problems
From NPR.com: The Department of Homeland Security is trying to coordinate all the identification and screening programs it runs. Business interests want them consolidated so they don't have to go through so multiple bureaucracies just to cross the border.
But privacy rights groups worry that the more consolidated these programs and databases are, the more threatening they are to individual rights. Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]
November 28, 2006
Justice Dept Will Inspect Warrantless Surveillance Program
From WashingtonPost.com: The Justice Department's inspector general yesterday announced an investigation into the department's connections to the government's controversial warrantless surveillance program, but officials said the probe will not examine whether the National Security Agency is violating the Constitution or federal statutes.
In a letter to House lawmakers, Inspector General Glenn A. Fine said his office decided to open the probe after conducting "initial inquiries" into the program. Under the initiative, the NSA monitors phone calls and e-mails between people in the United States and others overseas without court oversight if one of the targets is suspected of ties to terrorism.
The "program review" will examine how the Justice Department has used information obtained from the NSA program, as well as whether Justice lawyers complied with the "legal requirements" that govern it, according to Fine's letter. Officials said the review will not examine whether the program itself is legal. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
October 24, 2006
Convicted Smuggler Finally Proves Connection to CIA
From NPR.com: Edwin Wilson always insisted the CIA framed him. In the 1980s he was convicted of smuggling explosives and weapons to Libya. Wilson always maintained that he was doing it at the behest of the CIA. Officials denied it. After two decades in federal prison Wilson finally managed to obtain a document that proved he had been working for the government. Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]
October 11, 2006
"What Would Warren Do?"
From NPR.org: Commentator Jim Newton says that for the Supreme Court this session, the most urgent issue it will face this session is freedom during wartime. Jim Newton is the author of the book Justice for All: Earl Warren and the Nation He Made. Listen to commentary here on the topic. . . Find a collection of other articles on homeland security, detentions, search & seizure, and confessions & interrogation here and here. [Michele Berry]
September 11, 2006
How the 9/11 Attacks Changed America's Legal Landscape
Here's a look from Bloomberg.com at how the 9/11 attacks changed America's legal landscape over the past five years--particularly, in the areas of criminal and constitutional law. The article discusses specific shifts in executive power, international law, and privacy issues that normally would have taken decades to occur. The article concludes that the changes in criminal law and the balance of power among the governement's branches have ultimately reduced or eliminated many of the external fact-checking measures typically in place to balance power and check the government. For example, documents that once were available to the public have been reclassified as secret, and that which used to be available online has been removed from public view altogether. As a result, accountability and public confidence in the system may wane and take decades to restore.
An excerpt: "As a measure of how far things have gone in the law, consider a single amendment to an anti-torture bill passed last year....Congress curtailed one of the most elemental rights, that of habeas corpus, when it said the men held at Guantanamo Bay could no longer go to the U.S. Supreme Court to challenge any aspect of their imprisonment.
That's 'just about the most stupendously significant act that the Congress of the United States can take,' Justice David Souter remarked at an oral argument this spring. And then there was the revelation that the president had authorized domestic-wiretapping without court orders, even though a law specifically requires them...
'What I was seeing in the months after 9/11 was definitely a presidential exercise of power in what was perceived to be a moment of importance,' says Edwin Smith, constitutional law professor at the University of Southern California. 'I also saw a Congress going along with absolutely everything.'...And yet, in his conduct of the war on terrorism, President Bush has acted without the constitutionally required authority of Congress, the Supreme Court has ruled." More from Bloomberg.com. . . [Michele Berry]
March 22, 2006
Courts, Congress, DOJ Scrutinize Witness Detention Law
After reports that it has been abused in terrorism investigations, a 22-year-old federal law that allows people to be held without charges if they have information about others' crimes is coming under fresh scrutiny in the courts, in Congress, and within the Justice Department. The law allows so-called material witnesses to be held long enough to secure their testimony if there is reason to think they will flee. But lawyers for material-witness-detainees say the law has been used to hold people who the government fears will commit terrorist acts in the future, but whom it lacks probable cause to charge with a crime.
Concerns about how the law has been used have prompted calls from across the political spectrum for a reassessment. That debate has also ignited a broader one: whether the United States should join the several Western nations that have straightforward preventive detention laws. More from NYTimes. . . [Mark Godsey]