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  • Robert Sterling
    Please send as far and wide as possible. Thanks, Robert Sterling Editor, The Konformist http://www.konformist.com Alternet.org Prisoners of Hypocrisy By
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 4, 2003
      Please send as far and wide as possible.

      Robert Sterling
      Editor, The Konformist


      Prisoners of Hypocrisy
      By Anthony Lappé, Guerrilla News Network
      March 25, 2003

      "American intelligence agents have been torturing terrorist suspects,
      or engaging in practices pretty close to torture. They have also been
      handing over suspects to countries, such as Egypt, whose intelligence
      agencies have a reputation for brutality."
      The Economist, London, January 11

      You probably haven't heard this said too many times on progressive
      sites like this one before, and you most likely won't hear it again
      soon, so enjoy: Donald Rumsfeld is right.

      When Iraqi television aired footage of five American POWs being
      interrogated by Iraqi officials they did in fact violate the Geneva
      Conventions, as the visibly pissed off Secretary of Defense charged
      Sunday in interviews with CNN and other networks.

      "It is absolutely clear that POWs have to be protected against insult
      and public curiosity under Article 13 of the [Third] Geneva
      Convention," Dina Dinah PoKempner, General Counsel for Human Rights
      Watch, told GNN. "Public humiliation isn't part of humane treatment."

      The footage, which also included grisly images of dead American
      soldiers, aired around the world on the Arab-language Al-Jazeera
      network. The footage showed a prisoner who identified herself as
      Shoshana, 30, from Texas. Her eyes darted back and forth as she was
      interviewed and she held her arms tightly in her lap as she was

      At one point, the camera panned back, showing a massive white bandage
      wrapped around her ankle. Her voice was very shaky.

      The prisoners looked scared. One captive, who said he was from
      Kansas, answered all his questions in a shaky voice, his eyes darting
      back and forth between an interviewer and another person who couldn't
      be seen on camera.

      Iraqi TV attempted to interview a wounded man lying down, at one
      point trying to cradle his head so it would hold steady for the

      Geneva Rules

      The first Geneva Convention was held in 1864 to adopt a universal
      code of conduct for nations at war. In 1949 the Third Geneva
      Convention was signed in an effort to address the many abuses of
      prisoners and civilians suffered during World War II. It included
      provisions to protect captured soldiers from being used as propaganda

      With images of thousands of surrendering Iraqi troops being treated
      decently by U.S. and British forces over the last couple of days, it
      seems the Americans have, at least for now, scored a grim PR victory.
      Despite claims they are not mistreating the prisoners, the Iraqis
      appear thuggish.

      However, the U.S. is in a precarious position to be complaining about
      Iraqi war crimes. In the already ignored Afghanistan campaign (which
      Dan Rather called the "forgotten war" this evening), the U.S. has a
      dismal human rights record.

      In November 2001, it's alleged that Northern Alliance warlord, heroin
      trafficker and U.S. top-ally Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum rounded up
      hundreds of Taliban fighters on behalf of U.S. forces and stuffed
      them into cargo containers.

      They were supposed to be headed for Sheberghan prison. But hundreds
      never made it. They were left to asphyxiate in the air-tight
      containers. Before dying, many licked each other's sweat, bit off
      their fingertips or tore into their own arms and legs - and those of
      others - in a desperate search for fluid.

      A confidential UN memo leaked to Newsweek magazine in Sept. 2002
      quoted a witness saying that 960 prisoners had died and were buried
      in mass graves near Dasht-i-Laili.

      Taliban Johnny's Magic Carpet Ride

      Then there's America's most famous "enemy combatant" Taliban Johnny,
      aka John Walker Lindh. Immediately after being captured following the
      the brutal prison rebellion at Mazar-e-Sharif, the frail, frightened
      American jihadist was interviewed by war zone aficionado Robert Young
      Pelton (who was staying at Dostum's compound at the time). According
      to an account in the New Yorker magazine, after asking his Special
      Forces buddies to wait to "shoot him" until he was done, Pelton
      interrogated the wounded Lindh under the gun of U.S. military
      personnel. Later the military stripped him naked, taped him to a
      gurney and threw him in the back of a transport plane back to the
      U.S. Pelton's interview ran on CNN and was used to convict Lindh for
      conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals and to provide material support to
      a terrorist organization. He is currently serving a 20-year sentence.

      Gloves Come Off

      Further complicating the United States' position on the top of the
      moral high ground are allegations of on-going mistreatment of Taliban
      and Al Qaeda prisoners at Camp X-Ray, in Afghanistan and
      other "undisclosed" locations.

      In December, the Washington Post ("U.S. Decries Abuse but Defends
      Interrogations," 12/26/02) exposed how U.S. interrogators at Bagram
      Air Force Base in Afghanistan, on the Indian Ocean island of Diego
      Garcia, and at other overseas sites, have been systematically abusing
      al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners in a "brass-knuckled quest for
      information" to uncover future terrorist plots. "Take-down teams,"
      consisting of U.S. Army Special Forces troops, FBI and CIA agents and
      Northern Alliance troops, blindfold and beat prisoners, throwing them
      into walls, binding them for long periods in contorted positions and
      depriving them of sleep for days at a time.

      The teams then allegedly "package" some prisoners by hooding them,
      duct-taping them to stretchers and then flying them to friendly
      states less picky about the norms of human decency. According to the
      Post article, approximately 100 prisoners have been sent to basements
      in Jordan, Egypt, Morocco and Saudi Arabia for interrogations.

      There has been little outcry over these charges because torture as an
      interrogation technique has largely been embraced by the American

      When Cofer Black, then head of the CIA's Counterterrorist Center,
      told House and Senate intelligence committees in Sept. 2002
      that "there was a before 9/11, and there was an after 9/11. After
      9/11 the gloves come off" - few politicians complained.

      Influential Newsweek columnist Jonathan Alter wrote in a Nov. 2002
      article that while he didn't support legalizing physical torture in
      the U.S., he did suggest we consider using "legal" forms of
      psychological torture at home, while "transferring some suspects to
      our less squeamish allies."

      Even prominent liberals like celebrity civil rights attorney and
      death penalty opponent Alan Dershowitz have implicitly recognized a
      gray area between torture and humane treatment.

      But human rights advocates have been clear. In a letter to President
      Bush, Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch,
      wrote: "Torture is always prohibited under any circumstances. U.S.
      officials who take part in torture, authorize it, or even close their
      eyes to it, can be prosecuted by courts anywhere in the world."

      Rumsfeld has insisted that Taliban and Al Qaeda prisoners have been
      handled humanely. He will not, however, grant them "prisoner of war"
      status. The U.S. position is they are not part of a "regular" army,
      and are thus not protected by the Geneva Conventions - a distinction
      that allows the Pentagon convenient wiggle-room.

      Rumsfeld stated in Jan. 2002, "They will be handled not as prisoners
      of war, because they're not, but as unlawful combatants. Technically
      unlawful combatants do not have any rights under the Geneva
      Convention. We have indicated that we do plan to, for the most part,
      treat them in a manner that is reasonably consistent with the Geneva
      conventions, to the extent they are appropriate."

      In other words, the law applies to us, only when we feel like it.

      Let's hope, for Shoshana's sake, the Iraqis don't share such a
      flexible interpretation.

      Anthony Lappé is Excutive Editor of GNN.tv. He has written for The
      New York Times, New York, Details, and Salon, among many others.


      Get Ready for PATRIOT II

      By Matt Welch, AlterNet
      April 2, 2003

      The "fog of war" obscures more than just news from the battlefield.
      It also provides cover for radical domestic legislation, especially
      ill-considered liberty-for-security swaps, which have been
      historically popular at the onset of major conflicts.

      The last time allied bombs fell over a foreign capital, the Bush
      Administration rammed through the USA PATRIOT Act, a clever acronym
      for maximum with-us-or-against-us leverage (the full name is "Uniting
      and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to
      Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism").

      Remarkably, this 342-page law was written, passed (by a 98-1 vote in
      the U.S. Senate) and signed into law within seven weeks of the Sept.
      11 terrorist attack. As a result, the government gained new power to
      wiretap phones, confiscate property of suspected terrorists, spy on
      its own citizens without judicial review, conduct secret searches,
      snoop on the reading habits of library users, and so General John
      Ashcroft wants to finish the job. On Jan. 10, 2003, he sent around a
      draft of PATRIOT II; this time, called "The Domestic Security
      Enhancement Act of 2003." The more than 100 new provisions, Justice
      Department spokesperson Mark Corallo told the Village Voice
      recently, "will be filling in the holes" of PATRIOT I, "refining
      things that will enable us to do our job."

      Though Ashcroft and his mouthpieces have issued repeated denials that
      the draft represents anything like a finished proposal, the Voice
      reported that: "Corallo confirmed ... that such measures were coming

      You can read the entire 87-page draft here. Constitutional watchdog
      Nat Hentoff has called it "the most radical government plan in our
      history to remove from Americans their liberties under the Bill of
      Rights." Some of DSEA's more draconian provisions:

      Americans could have their citizenship revoked, if found to have
      contributed "material support" to organizations deemed by the
      government, even retroactively, to be "terrorist." As Hentoff wrote
      in the Feb. 28 Village Voice: "Until now, in our law, an American
      could only lose his or her citizenship by declaring a clear intent to
      abandon it. But - and read this carefully from the new bill - 'the
      intent to relinquish nationality need not be manifested in words, but
      can be inferred from conduct.'" (Italics Hentoff's.)

      Legal permanent residents (like, say, my French wife), could be
      deported instantaneously, without a criminal charge or even evidence,
      if the Attorney General considers them a threat to national security.
      If they commit minor, non-terrorist offenses, they can still be
      booted out, without so much as a day in court, because the law would
      exempt habeas corpus review in some cases. As the American Civil
      Liberties Union stated in its long brief against the DSEA, "Congress
      has not exempted any person from habeas corpus - a protection
      guaranteed by the Constitution - since the Civil War."

      The government would be instructed to build a mammoth database of
      citizen DNA information, aimed at "detecting, investigating,
      prosecuting, preventing or responding to terrorist activities."
      Samples could be collected without a court order; one need only be
      suspected of wrongdoing by a law enforcement officer. Those refusing
      the cheek-swab could be fined $200,000 and jailed for a
      year. "Because no federal genetic privacy law regulates DNA
      databases, privacy advocates fear that the data they contain could be
      misused," Wired News reported March 31. "People with 'flawed' DNA
      have already suffered genetic discrimination at the hands of
      employers, insurance companies and the government."

      Authorities could wiretap anybody for 15 days, and snoop on anyone's
      Internet usage (including chat and email), all without obtaining a

      The government would be specifically instructed not to release any
      information about detainees held on suspicion of terrorist
      activities, until they are actually charged with a crime. Or, as
      Hentoff put it, "for the first time in U.S. history, secret arrests
      will be specifically permitted."

      Businesses that rat on their customers to the Feds - even if the
      information violates privacy agreements, or is, in fact, dead wrong -
      would be granted immunity. "Such immunity," the ACLU
      contended, "could provide an incentive for neighbor to spy on
      neighbor and pose problems similar to those inherent in Attorney
      General Ashcroft's Operation TIPS."

      Police officers carrying out illegal searches would also be granted
      legal immunity if they were just carrying out orders.

      Federal "consent decrees" limiting local law enforcement agencies'
      abilities to spy on citizens in their jurisdiction would be rolled
      back. As Howard Simon, executive director of Florida's ACLU, noted in
      a March 19 column in the Sarasota Herald Tribune: "The restrictions
      on political surveillance were hard-fought victories for civil
      liberties during the 1970s."

      American citizens could be subject to secret surveillance by their
      own government on behalf of foreign countries, including

      The death penalty would be expanded to cover 15 new offenses.

      And many of PATRIOT I's "sunset provisions" - stipulating that the
      expanded new enforcement powers would be rescinded in 2005 - would be
      erased from the books, cementing Ashcroft's rushed legislation in the
      law books. As UPI noted March 10, "These sunset provisions were a
      concession to critics of the bill in Congress."

      I wouldn't be writing this article today had an alarmed Justice
      Department staffer not leaked the draft to the Center for Public
      Integrity in early February. Ashcroft, up to that point, had
      repeatedly refused to even discuss what his lawyers might be cooking
      up. But if 10,000 residents of Los Angeles had been vaporized by
      a "suitcase nuke" in late January, it is reasonable to assume that
      the then-secret proposal would have been speed-delivered for a
      congressional vote, even though Congress has not so far participated
      in drafting the legislation (which is, after all, its Constitutional

      As a result of the leak, and the ensuing bad press, opposition to the
      measure has had time to gather momentum before the first bomb was
      dropped on Saddam's bunker. Some of the criticism has originated from
      the right side of the political spectrum - a March 17 open letter to
      Congress was signed not only by the ACLU and People for the American
      Way, but the cultural-conservative think tank Free Congress
      Foundation, the Gun Owners of America, the American Conservative
      Union, and more.

      One does not have to believe that Ashcroft is a Constitution-
      shredding ghoul to find these measures alarming, improper and
      possibly illegal. Glancing over the list above, and at the other DSEA
      literature, I can see multiple ways in which a Fed with a grudge
      could legally ruin my life. Removing checks and balances on law
      enforcement assumes perfect behavior on the part of the police.

      Safeguarding civil liberties is an unpopular project in the most
      placid of times. Since Sept. 11, the Bush Administration has shown
      that it will push the envelope on nearly every restriction it
      considers to be impeding its prosecution of the war on terrorism.
      This single-minded drive requires extreme vigilance, before the fog
      of war becomes toxic.

      Detailed critiques of the Patriot II draft have been prepared by the
      ACLU and the Center for Public Integrity. The Lawyers Committee for
      Human Rights also has a useful 98-page report on post-Sept. 11 civil
      liberties, and the Electronic Privacy Information Center maintains an
      outstanding PATRIOT-related site.

      Matt Welch is the Los Angeles correspondent for the National Post,
      and an editor of the L.A. Examiner. He also maintains a weblog about
      current events.
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