Saturday, June 18, 2011

Europe's only Muslim state gave Jews Refuge

A portrait of King Lekka, son of Albania’s King Zog, who helped rescue Jews including the family of Fritzi Weitzmann Owens is included in an exhibition by American photographer Norman Gershman called ‘Besa: Muslims Who Saved Jews In World War II.”Photo Courtesy of Norman Gershman
Thousands of Jews found refuge in Europe's only Muslim state, where an ancient honor code saw all as guests.

Albania's Untold Story By Heba Aly, Contributor / January 31, 2011 Christian Science Monitor (Often called "The Monitor" and published weekly)

Fritzi Weitzmann Owens came from a "cultured city." So in 1938, when Hitler's invasion of Austria forced her to flee her native Vienna, Albania – "a backwards country," as far as she was concerned – wasn't her family's first choice.Skip to next paragraph Fritzi Weitzmann Owens displays photo albums from her time in Albania at her New York home. Her family fled Vienna with the help of Albanian King Zog (shown in album, bottom right) to escape Nazi rule. The family became the official royal photographers. FIND full article here

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Pentagon Papers June 13, 1971

The Pentagon Papers June 13, 1971

June 13, 1971

The New York Times began publishing the “Pentagon Papers,” a series of excerpts from the Defense Department’s classified history of the Vietnam War, giving details of U.S. involvement in Vietnam from the end of World War II to 1968. Publication was interrupted after the Nixon administration went to court to block it, asserting its power to exercise prior restraint over its public release. The Washington Post then began publishing the papers. On June 30 the Supreme Court, 6-3, allowed publication to resume.

What started that day and how Nixon’s people dealt with it - GO here

Reflex Responses

June Updates - GO here

According to an article that appeared in the August 6, 2009, edition of the Economist ("Eric Prince and the Last Crusade"), in an affidavit lodged with a court in Virginia, a former Blackwater employee stated the following: "Prince views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe." He also noted that many Blackwater employees "used calls signs based on the Knights of Templar, the warriors who fought the crusades."

Jeremy Scahill on Blackwater Founder Erik Prince’s Private Army of “Christian Crusaders” in the UAE

The United Arab Emirates has confirmed hiring a company headed by Erik Prince, the billionaire founder of the military firm Blackwater. According to the New York Times, the UAE secretly signed a $529 million contract with Prince’s new company, Reflex Responses, to put together an 800-member battalion of foreign mercenaries.

The troops could be deployed if foreign guest workers stage revolts in labor camps, or if the UAE regime were challenged by pro-democracy protests like those sweeping the Arab world. Prince has one rule about the new force: no Muslims. We speak to investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill and Samer Muscati of Human Rights Watch. [includes rush transcript]

Interview with Jeremy Scahill May 18, 2011 here

from May 15, 2011 NYT GO here

No Justice in Kafka’s America

Posted on Jun 12, 2011
By Chris Hedges
Truth Dig

In Franz Kafka’s short story “Before the Law” a tireless supplicant spends his life praying for admittance into the courts of justice. He sits outside the law court for days, months and years. He makes many attempts to be admitted. He sacrifices everything he owns to sway or bribe the stern doorkeeper. He ages, grows feeble and finally childish. He is told as he nears death that the entrance was constructed solely for him and it will now be closed.

Justice has become as unattainable for Muslim activists in the United States as it was for Kafka’s frustrated petitioner. The draconian legal mechanisms that condemn Muslim Americans who speak out publicly about the outrages we commit in the Middle East have left many, including Syed Fahad Hashmi, wasting away in supermax prisons. These citizens posed no security threat. But they dared to speak a truth about the sordid conduct of our nation that the state found unpalatable. And in the bipartisan war on terror, waged by Republicans and Democrats, this ugly truth in America is branded seditious.

The best the U.S. government could offer as evidence of Fahad’s crimes was that an acquaintance who stayed in his apartment with him while he was a graduate student in London had raincoats, ponchos and waterproof socks in luggage at the apartment and that the acquaintance eventually delivered these to al-Qaida. But I doubt the government is overly concerned with a suitcase full of waterproof socks taken to Pakistan. The reason Fahad Hashmi was targeted was because, like the Palestinian activist Dr. Sami Al-Arian, he was fearless and zealous in his defense of those being bombed, shot, terrorized and killed throughout the Muslim world while he was a student at Brooklyn College. Fahad was deeply religious, and some of his views, including his praise of the Afghan resistance, were to me unpalatable, but he had a right to express these sentiments. More important, he had a right to expect freedom from persecution and imprisonment because of his opinions. Facing the possibility of a 70-year sentence in prison and having already spent four years in jail, much of it in solitary confinement, he accepted a plea bargain on one count of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorism.

It has been a year since his 15-year sentence was pronounced in a New York courtroom. He is now held in Guantanamo-like conditions in the supermax ADX [Administrative Maximum] facility in Florence, Colo. He is isolated in a small cell for 22 to 23 hours a day. He has only extremely limited contact with his mother, father and brother, often going weeks without any communication. Between his transfer to Florence last August and this March he was permitted only one phone call. The rule of law in America, especially if you are Muslim, fits Kafka’s grim parody. The tyranny we impose on those held in Guantanamo, Bagram and the secret CIA “black sites” we impose on ourselves. This is and always has been the disease of empire. Empire imports the crude and brutal tools of control and violence back to the homeland. It creates internal as well as external colonies.

We no longer have freedom; there is only the appearance of freedom. We are consumed by an endless and vague war on terror in which the perfidiousness of our enemy, whose number, location and nature are never clearly defined, justifies the shredding of constitutional rights, torture, kidnapping, detentions without charges or trials and an occult-like battle against an absolute evil. And if you think the state intends to limit itself to the persecution of Muslims, especially once there is an increase in domestic unrest and instability, you know little about human history.

I spoke Saturday night to Fahad Hashmi’s father, Syed Anwar Hashmi. The elder Hashmi came to the United States from Pakistan when Fahad was 3 and his other son, Faisal, was 4. He worked for more than two decades as an accountant for the city of New York. He came, as most immigrants have, for his children. He believed in America, in its fairness, its chances for opportunity, its freedoms. And then it all crumbled when the state proved as capricious and cruel as the Pakistani dictatorship he had left behind. On the day of his son’s arrest, he says, “my American dream became an American nightmare.”

Three law enforcement officials appeared at his home in Flushing, Queens, on June 6, 2006, to inform him that Fahad, who had been in London completing a master’s degree in international relations, had been arrested at Heathrow Airport on terrorism charges. Fahad, after fighting the order for 11 months, was the first American citizen extradited under the post-9/11 laws. He was taken in May 2007 to the Metropolitan Correctional Center in lower Manhattan and placed in solitary confinement.

“I came to this country from Pakistan nearly 30 years ago, in 1982 with my wife and two young boys,” Fahad’s father said. “Coming from a Third World country, we were full of hope and looked towards America for liberty and opportunity. I had an American dream to work hard and give my sons good educations. I worked as an assistant accountant for the city of New York, six days a week, nine hours a day, including overtime, to support my family and to send both my kids through college. We all became U.S. citizens, and my sons fulfilled my dreams by completing their undergraduate and postgraduate education. I was very proud of them.”

“In high school and then as a student at Brooklyn College, Fahad became a political activist, concerned about the plight of Muslims around the world and the civil liberties of Muslims in America,” he went on. “Growing up here in America, Fahad did not fear expressing his views. But I was scared for him and urged him not to speak out. He would remind me that everything he did was under the law. But having grown up in a Third World country, I had seen that it did not always work this way, and so I worried. He was monitored by law enforcement and quoted in Time magazine. But he kept speaking out. And then, with his arrest, my fears came true.”

Judge Loretta Preska denied Fahad bail partly on the grounds that he had no ties to family and community. His family and friends, who sat crowded together in the courtroom, listened in stunned silence. And then, after five months, Hashmi, already isolated in solitary confinement, was suddenly put under “special administrative measures,” known as SAMs. SAMs are the legal weapon of choice used by the state when it seeks to isolate and break prisoners. They were bequeathed to us by the Clinton administration, which justified SAMs as a way to prevent Mafia or other gang leaders from ordering hits from inside prison. The use of SAMs expanded widely after the attacks of 2001. They are frequently used to isolate terrorism case detainees before trial. SAMs, which were renewed by Barack Obama in October, severely restrict a prisoner’s communication with the outside world. They end calls, letters and visits with anyone except attorneys and sharply limit contact with family members. Fahad, once in this legal straitjacket, was not permitted to see much of the evidence against him under a legal provision called the Classified Information Procedures Act, or CIPA. CIPA, begun under the Reagan administration, allows evidence in a trial to be classified and withheld from those being prosecuted.

The weekly visits Hashmi’s family made to the jail in Manhattan were canceled. A single family member was permitted to visit only once every two weeks, and on a number of occasions the family member was inexplicably denied admittance. During the last five months of the trial Hashmi’s family was barred from visiting him. Anyone who has contact with a prisoner under SAMs is prohibited by law from disclosing any information learned from the detainee. This requirement, in a twist Kafka would have relished, makes it illegal for those who have contact with an inmate under SAMs—including attorneys—to speak about his or her physical and psychological condition.

Once the SAMs were imposed, “He wrote us occasionally—one letter on no more than three pages at a time—but he was allowed no correspondence or contact with anyone else,” his father said of his son. “In addition, because of Fahad’s SAMs, we were not allowed to discuss anything we heard from him, including his health or any details of his detention or what he was experiencing, with anyone else. It was like being suffocated.”

In a pretrial motion, Hashmi’s lawyer presented the extensive medical and scholarly research that demonstrates the severe impact solitary confinement has on human beings, often leaving them incapable of defending themselves during their trial. It did not sway the judge. Fahad lived in a universe, before ever being sentenced, where he had no fresh air and was subjected to 23-hour lockdown and constant electronic surveillance including when he showered or relieved himself. He was barred from group prayer. He exercised alone in a solitary cage. He was denied access to television or a radio. His newspapers were cut up by censors. And this was all before trial.

“These years have brought deep disillusionment for my family in the American justice system,” his father said. “Fahad was restricted in reviewing much of the evidence against him, and even his attorney could not discuss much of the evidence with him. Secret evidence is something we knew from back home. The judge accepted the prosecutor’s motion to introduce Fahad’s political activities and speeches into the trial to demonstrate his mind-set. Where was the First Amendment to protect Fahad’s speech? Two days before the trial was set to begin, Judge Preska agreed to the prosecutor’s motion to keep the jury anonymous and kept under extra security—even though this could have frightened the jury and affected how they viewed Fahad.”
“On the day before trial, nearly four years since he had been arrested, I had just returned from dropping off clothes for Fahad to wear to court when I received a call from my attorney,” Fahad’s father said. “The government had offered a deal to drop three of the four charges against Fahad, if he accepted one charge which carried a 15-year sentence and Fahad had agreed to this plea bargain. I was shocked by my son’s decision on the eve of his trial, but after I thought more, I wondered how anyone could have decided differently in his situation. Fahad had been in solitary confinement, under SAMs, for nearly three years. The judge had in every instance sided with the government in pretrial motions. If convicted, Fahad faced a possible 70-year sentence. Under those circumstances, Fahad’s decision to accept one charge was no longer surprising. He has been in for five years this June.”

“The U.S. government is concerned about human rights in China and Iran,” he went on. “I wonder about Fahad’s rights, and how they have been blatantly violated in this great land. It seems like ‘innocent until proven guilty’ is only a saying. My son was treated as guilty until proven innocent.”

“The Muslim community supported my son by offering prayers, particularly in the month of Ramadan,” he said. “But they were initially afraid to raise their voices against injustice. This reminds me of the fear the Chinese have under Communist rule, or Iranians under Ahmadinejad. As a citizen, I now have developed fear of my own government.”

“For one charge for luggage storing socks, ponchos and raincoats in his apartment, he is serving a 15-year sentence in the harshest federal prison in the country, still in solitary confinement, still under SAMs,” his father said. “The cooperating witness in the case, the one who brought and delivered the luggage, is now free and able to enjoy his life and family.”

The state, by making us afraid, is able to justify the disease of permanent war and the silencing of those who dare to dissent. The terrible suffering we have unleashed throughout the Middle East is rendered invisible if there is no one to decry it and document it. Communities and families, not only in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan but at home, have been plunged into needless grief and suffering because of the atrocities committed in our name. The despair and bewilderment of Fahad’s father are a reflection of the wider despair and bewilderment that have gripped the lives of hundreds of thousands of Muslims who have been forced to confront the dark heart of empire. In their pain we stand condemned.

“There are many things I’d like to be able to say about the visit and my son’s continuing detention, but because of Fahad’s SAMs, I am forbidden,” his father said. “Everything has changed for my family. Our first grandchild was born 19 days after Fahad’s arrest, our second two years later. But now everything has a cloud over it—graduations, birthdays, holidays, going to the store or the park or visiting family or running errands, and particularly the Eid day. In other words, we have lost our happiness.”

Chris Hedges is a weekly Truthdig columnist and a fellow at The Nation Institute. His newest book is “The World As It Is: Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress.”
Copyright © 2011 Truthdig, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

FIND here

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Call for Peaceful Revolution Against Absolutism of Papal Power: Peacemaker/Scholar Hans Kung

Hans Kung

Home > Hans Kung urges peaceful revolution against Roman absolutism

Jun. 11, 2011 Faith & Parish [1]

'few people realize how powerful the pope is,' Kung said hans_kung-acc.jpg [2]
Hans Küng (CNS)

DETROIT -- Famed theologian Fr. Hans Kung has called for a “peaceful” revolution by world Catholics against the absolutism of papal power.

He made the call in a video message June 10, the first evening of a conference in Detroit of the American Catholic Council.

“I think few people realize how powerful the pope is,” Kung said, likening papal power today to the absolute power of French monarchs that the French people revolted against in 1789.

“We have to change an absolutist system without the French Revolution,” he said. “We have to have peaceful change.”

Kung, who was perhaps the most famous of the theological experts at the Second Vatican Council nearly 50 years ago, was born in Switzerland but spent most of his life teaching at the University of Tubingen, Germany.

Now 83, Kung is ecumenical professor emeritus at Tubingen and rarely travels for health reasons, so his message to the ACC was delivered in the form of a half-hour videotaped interview with American theologian Anthony T. Padovano, conducted last year at Kung’s home.

John Hushon, co-chairman of the ACC, said the conference, being held June 10-12 at Detroit’s Cobo Hall had more than 1,800 registered participants, from at least 44 states and 13 foreign countries.

In the interview with Kung, played on two giant screens in one of the convention center’s main rooms, the theologian predicted change in the church despite resistance from Rome. Vatican II “was a great success, but only 50 percent, he said.

On the one hand, he said, many reforms were realized, including renewal in the liturgy, a new appreciation of Scripture, and other significant changes such as recognition of the importance of the laity and the local church and various changes in church discipline.

“Unfortunately the council was not allowed to speak about the question of celibacy, about the question of birth control and contraception. Of course, ordination of women was far away from all the discussions,” he said.

“Many documents of the council are ambivalent documents because the Rome machinery -- the Roman Curia -- was able to stop any movement of reform, to stop it not completely, but half way.”

“What also I did not expect,” he added, was “that we could have such a restoration movement as under the Polish pope, and the German pope now.”

When asked what reasons he had for hope of reform in the church today, he answered that hope today is “sometimes a little difficult” in the face of a restorationist hierarchy, but “the world is moving on, going ahead, with or without the church” and “I believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ is stronger than the hierarchy.”

Referring to current crises in the church -- clerical sexual abuse of minors, the shortage of priests, alienation of women and youth -- he said, “Humanity learns most by suffering” -- whether in the church or in the recent U.S. economic crisis. Even though many economists and others saw the economic meltdown coming, “it was not possible to have a law in Congress before the catastrophe,” he said.

He said he thinks at least some Vatican officials are similarly recognizing that change is needed in the church.

“If we do not learn now, we have to suffer more -- more priests will be leaving, more parishes will be without pastors, more churches will be empty” and more young people and women will leave the church or dissociate internally from it, he said. “All these are indications, I think, that we have to change now.”

Chief sponsors the American Catholic Council are three independent Catholic groups seeking changes in the church: Voice of the Faithful, CORPUS and FutureChurch.

Hushon said when the ACC was formed three years ago it sought to create a “big tent dialogue among all” sectors of the U.S. church, independent of partisan or ideological lines, but “group after group, bishop after archbishop, said no, or ignored us.”

The divide was highlighted last October when Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit warned his priests and people against participating in the ACC conference.

It was exacerbated further June 3 when Vigneron threatened to laicize any priest or deacon who participated in the ACC closing liturgy Pentecost Sunday, June 12, saying, “There are good reasons for believing forbidden concelebration will take place by the laity and with those not in full communion with the church.”

In a pre-meeting exchange with NCR Hushon denied the claim and documented it with correspondence in which the ACC told the archdiocese that “there will be only one presider, a priest in good standing.”

The ACC chose Cobo Hall as its venue because this year is the 35th anniversary of the bicentennial Call to Action conference, a national gathering of Catholic laity sponsored by the U.S. bishops, was held there, with Detroit’s Cardinal John Dearden as presider and host.

The 1976 conference, despite its flaws, has been credited with providing groundwork for and impetus to the bishops’ economic and peace pastorals in the 1980s as well as greater attention to racism, minorities, family life, people with disabilities, respect for human life and a wide range of other pastoral and social justice initiatives developed nationally or in dioceses in the ensuing years.

[Jerry Filteau, NCR Washington correspondent, is covering the Detroit meeting. Watch for updates.]

Related Stories

Hans Kung urges peaceful revolution against Roman absolutism [3], June 11
Detroit archbishop warns clergy not to attend Catholic gathering [4],June 7
American Catholic Council to convene in Detroit in June [5], May 2

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Friday, June 10, 2011

Supreme Court: Is this the going trend? Immunity for folk like Ashcroft?

at the expense of whomsoever these "big shots" decide to pull of street or out of airport?

Former Attorney General John Ashcroft, left, and Abdullah Kidd. (Cliff Owen, Damian Dovarganes / AP Photo)

Supreme Court: The Ashcroft Immunity

LA Times - June 10, 2011


A U.S. citizen argued his detention was a deliberate misuse by former Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft of a statute intended to compel witness testimony. But the high court ruled Ashcroft couldn't be liable.

Not for the first time, the Supreme Court has refused to hold high government officials responsible for outrageous abuses of human rights. Late last month, the court rejected a lawsuit against former Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft by a U.S. citizen who was unfairly imprisoned and mistreated under the pretense of securing his appearance as a witness.

Abdullah Kidd, a convert to Islam who was known as Lavoni Kidd when he played football for the University of Idaho, claimed that Ashcroft had authorized a policy of using the material witness statute — designed to ensure the presence of witnesses at trial — as a way of holding suspected terrorists when there was no probable cause to do so...

Kidd was detained at Dulles International Airport in 2003 as he prepared to fly to Saudi Arabia to study. Supposedly the FBI feared that he wouldn't appear at the trial of an acquaintance suspected of visa fraud and terrorism. But in seeking the material witness warrant, FBI agents falsely said that Kidd had purchased a one-way ticket and omitted the fact that he was a U.S. citizen who had cooperated with the bureau in the past.

Kidd was handcuffed and shackled and held for two weeks before being released on the condition that he live with his wife and in-laws and report to a probation officer. Even then, he was deprived of his passport and subjected to limitations on his travel. The restrictions were lifted in 2004, but he was never called to testify at his acquaintance's trial.

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Ashcroft couldn't be held personally liable for Kidd's mistreatment. In the majority opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia emphasized that the warrant to arrest Kidd was "objectively reasonable" and had been properly obtained from a magistrate. The warrant couldn't be challenged, he said, "on the basis of allegations that the arresting authority had an improper motive." Scalia also found that Ashcroft didn't disregard clearly established law, another requirement for stripping a public official of immunity.

Providing some consolation for Kidd, four justices noted that the court didn't say the treatment of Kidd was legal, merely that Ashcroft couldn't be sued as an individual. In a separate suit against the United States, Kidd might still be able to claim that FBI agents misrepresented the facts in obtaining the warrant. But a judgment against Ashcroft would have sent the message that senior officials will be held accountable for abuses of power. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said in her opinion, Kidd's ordeal "is a grim reminder of the need to install safeguards against disrespect for human dignity, constraints that will control officialdom even in perilous times."

NY bill bans health professionals’ involvement in torture

No more Crusades...just Just Bills and Campaigns...

The kind of bill we need Nation-Wide and across the professional spectrum.

A bill in New York would ban health professionals involvement in torture. It is a sad comment that such a bill is needed. The state medical association is opposed. In contrast, the state psychological association supports it. We are pushing a similar bill in Massachusetts, as are psychologists in other states. Here is an article from the AMA newsletter:

Medical board could discipline physicians for torture under N.Y. bill
The unique proposal would give the state board the authority to punish doctors and others who take part in, or conceal evidence of, torture

By Kevin O’Reilly

A New York bill that is the first of its kind in the nation would make participation in torture or interrogation of prisoners grounds for board discipline of physicians and other health professionals.

Dozens of medical students and other health professionals in training lobbied in favor of the legislation in late May, meeting with nearly 40 New York state legislators, said Allen Keller, MD. He helped organize the lobbying trip and directs the Bellevue Hospital Center/New York University Program for Survivors of Torture in New York City.

The bill, which was introduced in March by Democratic Assemblyman Richard N. Gottfried and has 39 co-sponsors, would give the state medical board and other health professional licensing boards the explicit authority to suspend or revoke practice rights based on evidence presented in accordance with the state’s usual due-process procedures ( or GO here

Under the bill, physicians and other health professionals would be barred from directly participating in torture, treating patients with the intent of determining when torture could continue, concealing medical evidence of torture or taking part in individual interrogations. Health professionals could generally advise interrogators on rapport building or other nonabusive techniques.

The bill is needed to give medical licensing boards clear authority to discipline doctors and others for participating in torture, supporters say. In 2007, a complaint was brought against one psychologist alleged to have participated in abusive interrogations at Guantanamo Bay, but the New York state body that licenses psychologists said it did not have jurisdiction to investigate the matter.

“We want to clarify that this is, indeed, grounds for discipline and also to achieve a preventive effect,” said Dr. Keller, associate professor of medicine at NYU School of Medicine. “It’s easier for individuals to torture than we’d like to think, because of hierarchies and environments that allow it. We believe this legislation would help physicians who are put in an untenable position to say, ‘I can’t do this; I’d lose my license.’ ”
A state matter?

The American Medical Association and the Medical Society of the State of New York have policy opposing physician participation in torture or direct participation in interrogations. But the MSSNY said the matter is best handled at the federal level, noting that torture is already criminal under federal law. In a June 2 letter to the New York State Assembly, MSSNY Senior Vice President and Chief Legislative Counsel Gerard Conway noted other concerns.

“The bill provides no practical recourse for physicians who are intimidated by military superiors into withholding reports of torture,” Conway wrote. “There are inherent challenges and barriers to evidentiary discovery for accusations of torture in the military and prisons. Physicians may be poorly positioned to defend themselves since, ostensibly, many of these incidents would occur overseas. Physicians would have to overcome claims of national security and national defense and would have to operate in domains in which civil authority will be limited.”

In response, Dr. Keller said that, with regard to accessing classified documentary evidence, physicians would be on a level playing field with anyone bringing a complaint. If the evidence were classified, then neither the medical board nor the physician would have it to use in a proceeding. On the other hand, if national-security documents were brought into evidence, then both the physician and the board would have equal access to them.

And, he said, it is appropriate for state medical boards to act because they are the bodies charged with regulating physician practice.

“Health professionals — whether they practice in their state or in the Army or wherever — they do so because they have a license that is issued not by the federal government or the Army but by a state,” Dr. Keller said.

The New York legislative session is scheduled to end June 20. Advocates are pushing to have similar legislation proposed in other states.

Supreme Court: The Ashcroft Community

Former Attorney General John Ashcroft, left, and Abdullah Kidd. (Cliff Owen, Damian Dovarganes / AP Photo)

LA Times June 10, 2011


A U.S. citizen argued his detention was a deliberate misuse by former Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft of a statute intended to compel witness testimony. But the high court ruled Ashcroft couldn't be liable.

Not for the first time, the Supreme Court has refused to hold high government officials responsible for outrageous abuses of human rights. Late last month, the court rejected a lawsuit against former Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft by a U.S. citizen who was unfairly imprisoned and mistreated under the pretense of securing his appearance as a witness.

Abdullah Kidd, a convert to Islam who was known as Lavoni Kidd when he played football for the University of Idaho, claimed that Ashcroft had authorized a policy of using the material witness statute — designed to ensure the presence of witnesses at trial — as a way of holding suspected terrorists when there was no probable cause to do so.

* Related
* When fear trumps liberty When fear trumps liberty
* The U.S. and the International Criminal Court: An unfinished debate The U.S. and the International Criminal Court: An unfinished debate
* Supreme Court ethics Supreme Court ethics
* Creating a 4th Amendment loophole Creating a 4th Amendment loophole
* Carving out class-action exceptions Carving out class-action exceptions
* Supreme Court: Class (action) dismissed Supreme Court: Class (action) dismissed
* See more stories »
Prop. 8: Who's fit to judge?Let sun shine on dependency courtFor Alejandra Tapia, prison as punishmentScrutinizing Wal-Mart

Kidd was detained at Dulles International Airport in 2003 as he prepared to fly to Saudi Arabia to study. Supposedly the FBI feared that he wouldn't appear at the trial of an acquaintance suspected of visa fraud and terrorism. But in seeking the material witness warrant, FBI agents falsely said that Kidd had purchased a one-way ticket and omitted the fact that he was a U.S. citizen who had cooperated with the bureau in the past.

Kidd was handcuffed and shackled and held for two weeks before being released on the condition that he live with his wife and in-laws and report to a probation officer. Even then, he was deprived of his passport and subjected to limitations on his travel. The restrictions were lifted in 2004, but he was never called to testify at his acquaintance's trial.

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Ashcroft couldn't be held personally liable for Kidd's mistreatment. In the majority opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia emphasized that the warrant to arrest Kidd was "objectively reasonable" and had been properly obtained from a magistrate. The warrant couldn't be challenged, he said, "on the basis of allegations that the arresting authority had an improper motive." Scalia also found that Ashcroft didn't disregard clearly established law, another requirement for stripping a public official of immunity.

Providing some consolation for Kidd, four justices noted that the court didn't say the treatment of Kidd was legal, merely that Ashcroft couldn't be sued as an individual. In a separate suit against the United States, Kidd might still be able to claim that FBI agents misrepresented the facts in obtaining the warrant. But a judgment against Ashcroft would have sent the message that senior officials will be held accountable for abuses of power. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said in her opinion, Kidd's ordeal "is a grim reminder of the need to install safeguards against disrespect for human dignity, constraints that will control officialdom even in perilous times."

Thursday, June 9, 2011

"If the law does not protect Jose Padilla - it protects no one."

Detention, Torture

"If the Law Does Not Protect Jose Padilla . . . It Protects No One"

In February, a federal district court in South Carolina dismissed our lawsuit on behalf of American citizen Jose Padilla against Donald Rumsfeld and other current and former officials, saying the former Secretary of Defense was entitled to "qualified immunity" for his role in the arbitrary detention and torture of Padilla. Today we appealed that dismissal to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.

As you might recall, Padilla was arrested in March 2002, held without charge for four years in a South Carolina military brig and without access to a lawyer for two years, and was tortured to the point that brig authorities described his behavior (or lack thereof) as "like a piece of furniture." The Bush administration first claimed that Padilla was plotting with al-Qaeda to detonate a radiological “dirty bomb” in a U.S. city, but no evidence of such a plot has ever been presented. A maze of several legal proceedings, including one trip to the Supreme Court and back again to lower courts, landed Padilla where he is today.

In a statement today, Ben Wizner, litigation director of our National Security Project, said: "If the law does not protect Jose Padilla — an American citizen arrested on American soil and tortured in an American prison — it protects no one."

US - ACLU national website blog

Also see the following video and statements on solitary confinement as torture

Noted South African judge Albie Sachs on the horrors of solitary confinement

May 18th, 2011

Albie Sachs, a former judge on the Constitutional Court of South Africa, recalls being placed in solitary confinement without trial while living under South African apartheid. Sachs describes the experience as worse than the car bomb that took his right arm and left him blind in one eye.


Bitter Lemons Intl. Middle East Roundtable for June 09
Middle East Roundtable

Edition 16 Volume 9 - June 09, 2011

US policy toward Arab revolution
• Out of Arabia - Issandr El Amrani
President Obama's latest speech on the Middle East generated a shrug from the region.

• The voice is Obama's; the hands are Bush's - Joel Beinin
Obama's support for democracy in the Arab world sounded like Bush-era rhetoric.

• Much ado about very little - Chuck Freilich
The US will support reform where it serves its interests and as long as the price is minimal.

• Obama's emerging philosophy of self-determination - Daniel Kurtzer
Obama articulated a kind of political "liberation theology" that he says will guide US policy.

For all the above Op Ed GO here

Yemen and Syria

Syrians Flee into Turkey (video) Thursday June 09 midday ET GO here


US ups strikes in Yemen: English on US in Yemin GO here

US ups Strikes in Yemen AfP
GO here


Yemeni Photographer Turns Her Lens On The West Earlier this year, Amira Al-Sharif came to New York City to document the lives of young American women. The 24-year-old was born in Saudi Arabia, grew up in Yemen and was the first person from her family to graduate from university. And while Western journalists often document Arab women, Al-Sharif wanted to flip the script.

LISTEN to this delightful Yemini photographer here

Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane
The crises in Yemen and Syria
Thursday, June 9th, 2011

Hour 1

Yemeni children and female anti-government protestors celebrate President Ali Abdullah Saleh's departure to Saudi Arabia, Monday, June 6, 2011. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammedi)

The government crackdown in Syria has resulted in the killing hundreds of protesters amid reports of extreme human rights violations . Pressure on President Bashar al-Assad is mounting as the U.N. considers an official condemnation on his authoritarian regime. Meanwhile tensions on the Israel-Syrian border remain high. In Yemen, where peaceful protests have also turned violent, the political opposition is pushing for an immediate transition in government, but the situation has been complicated by the evacuation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh to Saudi Arabia where he is recovering from massive injuries incurred in an attack on his compound. We talk about the roots of the uprisings that have swept Syria and Yemen and the complications that challenge the situation in these countries and the broader Arab world. Our guests are CHRISTOPHER BOUCEK of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and MONA YACOUBIAN of the United States institute of Peace.

Listen here


Commentary about endless war on Social Justice (Christian) blog: GO to Could the US be Moving to a State of perpetual war?

Also see at this blogsite Yemen - the Difference Between a Peaceful Revolution and Violent Clashes here and a blog called Women of Yemen here

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Camp Sol: Spain's "Indignant" Give Lessons in True Democracy

by María Carrión From Common Dreams Posted originally 3 through 7th June 2011

María Carrión is an independent journalist living in Madrid, Spain. She is also the former senior producer of Democracy Now!

( Note inserted here by blogger, Connie: although history may be repeating itself again, the forms certainly do vary. Even the word Crusades given to many campaigns make me shudder. Interesting to watch Spain today in it's nonviolent work toward real change and to remember the enormous loss of blood that was sanctioned by Rome and waged by kings and nobles up in Spain until the 15th century although to little avail.

The Crusades were fought mainly by Roman Catholics against Muslims and EVEN against Greek Orthodox Christians in Byzantium, with smaller campaigns waged against pagan Slavs, pagan Balts, Mongols, and Christian heretics. How we forget that such proud "Christian?" knights marched as if towards forgiveness of their sins could be filled with greed, hate and bloodthirsty obsession certainly reminds today of other extremists.

YET TODAY in Spain...)

MADRID, Spain -- The crowd of three thousand sat patiently on the hard pavement of the plaza as the fourth hour of the popular assembly came and went. The issue was whether Camp Sol, a protest that had persevered for two weeks in Madrid's main square known as Puerta del Sol, would dismantle or stay on. Protesters were exhausted from living on the streets; there had been a few cases of harassment and tensions between groups; the infrastructure of the camp was fragile; electricity was scarce. The camp's legal team had kept police at bay but there were no guarantees that it would remain that way (a similar camp in Barcelona had been attacked by police the day before). And even if those problems were resolved, how much longer did it make sense to occupy this enormous public space? Had the movement consolidated enough to dismantle its most visible and symbolic gathering?

Camp Sol, Madrid:
A slight, young woman addressed the crowd. Trembling from nerves but with fire in her voice, she said other camps were springing up like wildflowers all over the country. She had come from the western region of Extremadura, where protesters in different cities were sleeping under the night sky, prevented by authorities from pitching tents. "Our survival depends on Camp Sol," she begged. "If Sol disappears, the police will dissolve our camp and all the others in Spain." As the moderator was about to take another comment his telephone rang: after a few seconds, he told the gathering that thousands of students in Paris who had gathered at the Bastille in solidarity with the Madrid protest were being gassed by police. Many in the crowd vowed to head for the French embassy after the assembly (protesters in Barcelona remained at the French consulate all night blocking the entrance and it was forced to stay closed for most of the following day).

As the towering clock over Puerta del Sol struck midnight and consensus remained elusive, the moderator reminded the crowd that organizers had agreed to wrap up the assembly so neighbors could get some rest. Racing against time, the issue was simplified -- the assembly would only decide on whether to remain for the short term or leave the next morning, postponing a final decision on how long Camp Sol should exist. A few dissenting voices were heard, and then at last, thousands of hands waved towards the night sky as the crowd agreed to keep Camp Sol going --at least for the time being.

Thus ended one of the many assemblies that have become the life force behind Spain's blossoming popular uprising. The decision-making mechanism is far from new: older folks here nod their heads remembering the hours spent in their youth trying to reach consensus. But Spain's young people have managed to transfix society and confound an out-of-touch political élite with their level of organization and ability to rapidly spread to other neighborhoods, cities and even countries. They do not speak the language of politicians and reject vertical models of organization. They reach decisions through consensus. They listen. They are inclusive. And what they seek is a profound transformation, one that transcends political parties and traditional methods of government; they envision a system that brings grassroots democracy rooted in the communities. Their weapons are their words and the social media networks.

Camp Sol, which began spontaneously on May 15th with a few pitched tents to protest against corruption and the lack of opportunities and to ask for democratic changes, is now a small city, a maze of plastic carps held together with chicken wire and makeshift poles, complete with its own radio station, daycare center, dining areas, first aid posts, legal aid clinics, libraries (including one for children) and information centers, which conduct meetings and workshops on issues ranging from the environment to immigration rights. At any one time, a walk through this "micropolis" might yield a live poetry reading, a political debate, a cello concert, a yoga class, a kids' theater performance, or a film screening on a king-sized bed-sheet. Sandwiches and drinks are handed out for free all day; in return, many people visit the camp with armloads of food, building materials and other donated supplies. Protesters keep the camp clean, recycle garbage and have created orderly corridors and a large perimeter for passersby. Tahrir Square is their model.

The camp is in the heart of Madrid's commercial and tourist district, a cross between Times Square and Piccadilly Circus. Known as Kilometer Zero because of its central location, the area receives thousands of visitors and shoppers on a daily basis. On a recent afternoon, a group of French sightseers toured the camp as part of their itinerary. "I knew about Spain's art and food, but I am now discovering the enormous potential that its young people have," remarked Patrick Joseph, a middle-aged writer from Toulouse. And indeed, Camp Sol is also a massive shop window into Spain's social movements, a chance for thousands of social justice groups and activists to converge and to get their message across to a wider audience.

But the camp is also under fierce pressure from the conservative local government, local business leaders and police to disband as quickly as possible. Some businesses complain that the occupation has diminished their sales (others, especially the cafés and grocery stores, are doing healthy business thanks to the protesters). The camp has so far avoided police intervention, despite Spain's main electoral governing body declaring the site illegal on May 21st, the eve of local elections, commonly referred to as the "day of reflection." Over 25.000 people turned out in the plaza to protest the prohibition. The final decision on whether to send in police to break up the camp rests with the Socialist government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, who so far has been reluctant to intervene. But pressure to disband the protesters continues to mount.

The seeds sown by Camp Sol are the assemblies and open mike sessions that have spread to hundreds of neighborhoods, towns and villages across Spain. Although there is a prevalence of young people, the movement is increasingly attracting older folks ranging from families with children to middle-aged professionals and retirees -- all deeply affected by the deep economic crisis and the government's austerity measures. Young "Indignants" in other cities such as Paris, Athens, Buenos Aires, Bogotá and Brussels have supported the movement with protests of their own. Organizers hope these assemblies will take over once the main camp is dismantled. Unemployment, social injustice, lack of true democracy, declining social services, rising costs of education and corruption are just some of the topics they debate.

"I am here to say that if the police takes my son away I will take his place, and so will many other mothers," said Gloria Agulló, a 63 year-old woman at a recent open mike session. "He has graduated from university and obtained a Masters degree but has not been able to find work in two years. Where else should he be, but here in Sol reclaiming his future?"

So what drove Spain's young people to create a parallel society in the heart of the capital? Or perhaps the question should be: what took them so long? After all, almost half of Spaniards under the age of 24 are unemployed, twice the European rate, and of those who have work, more than half are underemployed or earn close to minimum wage (614 Euros or $887 per month). The lack of affordable housing prevents most young people from leaving their parents' home and many young couples cannot afford to have children, resulting in a steep drop in Spain's birth rate. Spain's Socialist government has not been able to address these needs: panicked at the possibility of a Greece-style bailout, it has heeded the International Monetary Fund's instructions to cut social spending, slashing pensions, public payrolls and educational programs. At the same time as schoolteachers are being laid off, the government has bailed out Spanish banks to the tune of 50 billion Euros (about 14 percent of its GNP).

In addition, many point to a bankrupt political system. On May 22, municipal and regional elections gave the conservative party, known as the PP (Partido Popular), an enormous victory over the Socialist Party, which suffered a stinging defeat. Many of those elected have been accused of political corruption and some, such as the reelected President of the Valencia autonomous region, Francisco Camps, are even facing trial for involvement in a widespread corruption scandal known as Gürtel uncovered by judge Baltasar Garzón. Refusing to endorse what they see as a corrupt system, most Camp Sol protesters decided to stay away from the polls. "They do not represent us" is one of the rallying cries in the plaza.

"Just two months ago I had been asking young people why they had not taken to the streets like their peers in France or in Portugal," said Elena García Quevedo, a journalist working on a documentary about Spain's youth. "They told me it was a matter of time; they were sure that it would happen. As soon as the protests began, I called all my contacts and none of them picked up their cell phones. It turns out they were at the heart of the movement."

On a global scale, today's young people were written off in early 2010 by former IMF director Dominique Strauss-Khann, who referred to them as the "lost generation". In Spain, the mainstream media refers to Spanish youth as the "Neither-Nor" or "Ni-Ni" generation: neither studying nor working. Massive youth gatherings, at least those covered by the media, have usually involved the consumption of large amounts of alcohol, a practice known as botellón (one of the largest signs hung by protesters in Sol says "Revolución no es botellón" or "Revolution is not boozing," and the camp rejects the sale or distribution of alcohol on its premises). Spanish society, suffocated by a structural economic crisis that has almost left five million unemployed, has practically given up on its young people. Many university graduates have been leaving Spain for German jobs or for emerging employment markets in Brazil and Mexico.

These young people have re-named their generation: they are now "the Indignant." They are tired of a system that condemns them to unemployment and underemployment. They feel that asking for change is not sufficient; they need to force it. "Spain's democracy does not seem real to them," says García. "They are more prepared than the generation that preceded theirs: they are better educated, speak more languages, are more well-rounded. They have so much to offer, but their country has nothing to offer them. Meanwhile, the political parties are mired in corruption and infighting, and unions have negotiated rights away. They are not models for them."

"The movement is still working on a blueprint, but so far we have been able to agree on four main demands," says Iván Martinoz, a young publicist who is one of the movement's spokespeople. "We want to change Spain´s electoral law, which favors a two-party system, so that we can move towards a representative democracy. We want a real separation between government and the judiciary, because in Spain judges are often tied to political parties and act accordingly. We want politicians accused of corruption to be banned from running for office. And we are asking for the creation of control mechanisms on government so that citizens have more access to information. This will allow greater transparency and political accountability."

Where will this movement lead? Some young people who originally occupied Puerta del Sol under the name 15-M have already left the camp and are organizing through social networks; they believe that Camp Sol has served its purpose and that work must continue in neighborhood squares. Others who remain in the square and call themselves "Real Democracy Now" want to make sure that neighborhood assemblies, hundreds of which convened for the first time on May 28, take root before Sol is dismantled. All agree that Sol will continue to be a reference for the movement, and are looking for ways to leave a sign of permanence in the square. As the moderator said on the night when the assembly decided to remain in Sol, "no matter what happens to Camp Sol we now exist as a force to be reckoned with, and if Spanish society does not pay attention, we will be back."

María Carrión

Ireland -US- Other Nations? Time for Government Action

Although this mentions US and Ireland, why not add Pakistan and other places as well which have allowed US to aggressively use others nations' airports for kidnapping and torture flights. We don't know where these are still taking place and so the world needs people concerned about human rights holding watch in these places and more.

EXCERPT from the post below:

Since it is now likely that no more prisoners are being taken through Shannon Airport for torture purposes it is already too late to close that stable door. But it not too late to ensure that the same thing never happens again. Nor is it too late to close the door on U.S. troops and munitions transiting to Shannon. The present government have said they will "enforce the prohibition on the use of Irish airspace, airports and related facilities for purposes not in line with the dictates of international law". It is time they showed this is not another meaningless public statement by a government engaging in more cover-up and lies.

Wikileaks Ireland Cables: Time for Government Action
Mon, 06/06/2011 - 15:41 by shannonwatch
Recent wikileaks revelations show that successive Irish governments were more worried about being caught lying over renditions and Shannon than they were in stopping kidnapping and torture. International law and human rights were never even mentioned as Irish politicians looked after their own careers and provided unwavering support for U.S. foreign policy and wars.

The present government now has a responsibility to immediately end the use of Shannon Airport for purposes not in line with international law, as they promised in their programme for government. This should not only cover renditions; it should also deal with breaches of humanitarian and neutrality law. And the only way to do this is to end the U.S. military use of Shannon.

The Irish Independent's coverage of wikileaks cables from Ireland has put the spotlight once again on Fianna Fail and Green Party willingness to accept whatever the Americans wanted to take through Shannon - so long as the Irish public didn't find out. We know from the cables that they took Apache helicopters to Israel and that these were not listed as munitions of war. They may also have taken prisoners through in innocent looking white executive jets or the military's Hercules C-130 aircraft.

One of the cables (04DUBLIN1770) says that in a 2004 meeting at the U.S. embassy, former Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Bertie Ahern “said that while there are no plans to alter arrangements with the U.S. at Shannon, the subject is ‘beginning to worry people.’ He noted the Irish government's repeated defense of the U.S. military's use of Shannon to parliament, in which he and other ministers referred to U.S. assurances that enemy combatants have not transited Shannon enroute to Guantanamo or elsewhere. And he then asked the ambassador ‘Am I all right on this?’.

We are not told the ambassador's reply. But we are informed that Senator John McCain told the ambassador he planned to raise Shannon with the Washington Administration "to underscore how very important it is that the U.S. not ever be caught in a lie to a close friend and ally.” As Harry Browne notes in an article published last Thursday, McCain’s words appear to indicate that he was less trusting of US assurances on Shannon than the Irish government was.

This issue was covered in an RTE Primetime programme in which Shannonwatch's Ed Horgan highlighted that fact that Ireland has failed to uphold the UN Convention Against Torture by simply relying on diplomatic assurances that Shannon has not been used for renditions. These assurances are worthless - after years of denials that U.S. rendition flights had passed through British territory it was discovered that two flights had stopped on Diego Garcia in 2002. There is no reason to believe the same was not true of Shannon.

Ireland has ratified the Convention Against Torture through the Criminal Justice (United Nations Convention against Torture) Act 2000. It therefore has an obligation to arrest and charge anyone reasonably suspected of having committed torture.

Ireland must now live up to its responsibilities to comply with international law. A former Minister for Foreign Affairs and Justice was quite sure that rendition planes had come through Shannon (see wikileaks cable 04DUBLIN1739), so that alone should be enough for a full and transparent investigation of the matter. But much more is required of the current Irish government. By continuing to make Shannon Airport available to the U.S. military, Ireland is already complicit in war crimes and is violating international humanitarian law. We are also breaking neutrality law (the Hague Convention), despite the pretense of successive governments that we are a neutral state.

Since it is now likely that no more prisoners are being taken through Shannon Airport for torture purposes it is already too late to close that stable door. But it not too late to ensure that the same thing never happens again. Nor is it too late to close the door on U.S. troops and munitions transiting to Shannon. The present government have said they will "enforce the prohibition on the use of Irish airspace, airports and related facilities for purposes not in line with the dictates of international law". It is time they showed this is not another meaningless public statement by a government engaging in more cover-up and lies.

Find this post with this URL : or GO here

KEY Debate Video on Torture & It's Role in Hunt of OBL

The following discussion concerns a Debate offered by AEI and now available by Vido to general public. See the AEI home page description of the group here

June 6, 2011 at 11:59 pm as of this recent sending while this video was broadcast May 16th Some of the Comments were posted, evidently, after Human Rights First re-sent the video...

I hold the Bronze Star, two Purple Hearts, and the Combat Infantryman’s Badge from Vietnam. I risked my life repeatedly for the values that the Bush administration tossed aside as soon as the going got rough: The search for the dignity of every individual, the spirit of shared sacrifice, the realization that torture can be as much physical as mental, refusing rationalization [where you do what you please and think up a reason for it afterward!!]. Torture is an act of despair, not of patriotism. It joins the practice of slavery as a black mark on the honor that makes and keeps our country great.–Tom Reilly (One of the Comments following this debate posted in June. )

Watch Human Rights Watch - Elisa Massimino - Debate Torture’s Role in the Death of Osama bin Laden

In a panel moderated by John Yoo at the American Enterprise Institute, Human Rights First President and CEO Elisa Massimino debates with Judge and former U.S. Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey and former Acting General Counsel of the CIA John Rizzo, amongst others, on torture. This panel was organized in response to the re-ignition of the torture debate coming out of the operation that killed Osama bin Laden.

How important were CIA interrogations in the killing of bin Laden? Are critics right that enhanced interrogations do not produce reliable intelligence? In light of recent events, should the Obama administration continue its current policy of killing rather than capturing and interrogating terrorists? And if not, should the United States bring captured terrorists to Guantanamo again? Participants will discuss these and other questions.

Watch the panel:

here June 7, 2011 at 6:14 am

ELISA MASSIMINO, Human Rights First
JUDGE MICHAEL B. MUKASEY, Former US Attorney General
JOHN RIZZO, Former Acting General Counsel of the CIA
BENJAMIN WITTES, Brookings Institution

Read Speakers' Bios GO here


Following this Debate there have been Six Comments supplied so far:

John Perry says:
May 16, 2011 at 6:21 pm
Let’s see… We’ve got Elisa against Bush yes man AG Mukasey, Bush torture architect John Rizzo, Bush legal lackey Yoo, who wrote the memos that said it was all legal, and Marc Thiessen sophomorically trying to justify torture by reading quotes from people who have undergone worse torture tactics than waterboarding. What a joke. These “men” are just pushing the same old lies to cover up obvious war crimes. The UN Convention Against Torture is clear and unequivocal. And we’re talking about a lot more than just waterboarding.

John says:
May 16, 2011 at 6:32 pm
If enhanced interrogations worked we would have had this guy years ago – IMHO they had solid leads given to them and they followed those leads – and bingo – bobs your uncle – Torture can make a person say anything and lead the interrogators around in circles- chasing their tales (pun)- It defies logic and common sense that torture years ago had anything to do with this outcome. Torture may have a negative impact on those that could and would help in coming forward with information – even the slightest bit of info can be useful – but if people think they might disappear; they won’t risk it (most wont anyway – would you) and who gets the reward monies for OBL? Someone out there helped and helped big time at great risk to themselves and family. As for killing OBL and others like him– armed or not, it makes no difference – his ideology, voice and the willingness of people to follow; made him deadly.

Erik Wood says:
June 6, 2011 at 8:20 pm
Let’s all be clear, torture or “Enhanced Interrogation” was never an instrument for the extraction of information. It is a weapon of intimidation used to scare the living hell out of an entire population. It has a very chilling effect on those who would speak out against or oppose the activities and policies of an authority. Especially when the precedent has been set forth that in spite of any established legal freedom of speech, one may be singled out as an enemy combatant and subjected to the same incarceration and treatment for exercising that right in a manner inconvenient to the establishment. Torture doesn’t achieve it’s desired effect if it remains undiscovered. Leaks about the practice of torture are fully intentional. The thinly veiled nomenclature which “attempts” to distinguish the practices from one another (torture vs. not torture) is intended to be transparent and unconvincing. It only strengthens it’s impact when the media discuss the matter endlessly, and the population is polarized in conflict over it’s morality.

Mark Seifert says:
June 6, 2011 at 9:11 pm
Torture was used to extract confessions, so that the real terrorist perpetrators of 9/11, Cheney, Bush, Silverstein, Giuliani, Rummy, et al. could point the finger at someone else, so they could get away with both mass murder (Iraq) and the murder of US citizens (9/11). An “ignoranus” is a dummy who is also an asshole. This title should be applied to anyone in the AEI and to Mukasey, Yoo, Thiessen, and Rizzo.
Since these bums are not in jail, where they belong, they should at least have their Medicare benefits taken away.

Gladys says:
June 7, 2011 at 6:14 am
Elisa handles this beautifully. She makes her points without getting caught up in the other panelists defensive points.

The 6th Comment was placed above on this post...

How Torture Hindered Hunt for OBL & more RIGHTS concerns - USA & International

Originally posted June 6, 2011

From the President and CEO

Our New Report below (also) Details Due Process Failures at Afghanistan Prison>

News of the Osama bin Laden operation wasn't even a day old when torture apologists began claiming vindication. To hear former vice president Dick Cheney and his allies tell it, without the CIA's water-boarding program, the United States would never have found OBL. Cheney and company want Americans to believe that torture makes us safe, and they don't seem to care about the dangers it poses-to our national security, our national character, and our men and women in uniform.

But their propaganda push has run into a few hurdles, otherwise known as facts. The truth is that torture hindered the hunt for bin Laden. It failed to get critical information, and two detainees lied under torture, setting back the investigation. In fact, just like the operation that led to Saddam Hussein, it was legal, humane interrogation that produced the key intelligence-not torture. This was no surprise to the many veteran interrogators who for years have argued that torture is inefficient and counterproductive.

Armed with these facts, opponents of torture are setting the record straight. After getting the inside story from CIA director Leon Panetta, Senator John McCain took to the Senate floor to reveal that the bin Laden operation had nothing to do with torture, and Americans shouldn't either. I went to the American Enterprise Institute to debate the issue with prominent torture supporters, former Attorney General Michael Mukasey and former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen, on a panel moderated by John Yoo. Watch the debate


But the renewed debate has made clear that we can't sit back and let the torture apologists speak unopposed. We're doing everything we can to strengthen the consensus against torture. As the hunt for Bin Laden shows,torture isn't just wrong; it's also wrongheaded.


Elisa Massimino
President and CEO
Human Rights First


Our New Report Details Due Process Failures at Afghanistan Prison

Question: Which prisoners held by the United States would have more due
process protections if they were at Gitmo? Answer: The ones being held at
Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. Sometimes referred to as "Gitmo East," in
many ways that moniker is too generous for Bagram. The 1700 prisoners there
don't have the right to an attorney and can't see the evidence against them,
conditions that violate minimum due process standards. Some have been locked
up for eight years, without charge or trial, while the evidence, if it
exists, remains secret.

These are the findings of our new report,

Detained and Denied in Afghanistan: How to Make U.S.Detention Comply with the Law.

Daphne Eviatar, who wrote the report after a
fact-finding mission to Afghanistan, points out that the system at Bagram not only violates the rights of detainees, it also "flies in the face of the well-founded wisdom of our top military leaders who have warned repeatedly of the dangers of denying Afghan detainees due process."

The report-which received coverage in the New York Times and numerous other media outlets-urges the U.S. to provide Bagram prisoners with attorneys and to stop relying so heavily on secret evidence. It also recommends that even as the United States begins to withdraw from Afghanistan, it should continue to provide civilian assistance to the country's fledgling justice system.

Faith Shared - June 26th

Tensions around Islam in America have erupted throughout the country in the past year, leading to misconceptions, distrust and in some cases violence. Media coverage has focused on extremists-bigots and Qur'an burners-which stokes fear and masks the shared commitment to tolerance and freedom that unites most Americans.

That's why Human Rights First is partnering with the Faith Shared movement and faith groups across the country will host events involving clergy reading from each
other's sacred texts. For example, a Christian Minister, Jewish Rabbi and Muslim Imam would participate in a worship service or other event. 60 houses of worship in 30 states have already agreed to participate.

For more information and to find out how to plan an event in your community,

Bahraini Regime Continues to Brutalize Activists

In his recent speech on the Middle East and North Africa, President Obama directed criticism at not only adversaries of the United States but also one of its allies: Bahrain. This was a welcome change, after many weeks in which U.S. officials remained mostly silent as the regime, with the assistance of Saudi troops, violently cracked down on democratic protestors.

Prior to President Obama's speech, Human Rights First published a report based on the firsthand testimonies of Bahraini activists. HRF's Brian Dooley traveled to Bahrain and interviewed activists who were critical of the U.S. for failing to condemn widespread illegal detention, sham trials, and torture.

President Obama's words were welcome, but alone they will do little to stop the abuses. Indeed, following his speech, the home of prominent human right activist Nabeel Rajab was attacked, and the regime confirmed death sentences for two young Shiite men, Ali Al Singace and Abudul Aziz Abdul Redha. Both were convicted of murdering police officers in trials that fell far short of international standards.

It's time for the United States to take action to back up the President's


Working to Defeat a Dangerous Anti-Terrorism Bill

Congress is considering sweeping new war powers for the president, while at the same time tying his hands on how to deal with terrorism suspects. For months, we've been working against this dangerous bill, rounding up opposition in Congress, and pressing the White House to oppose it.

The new bill would give the President virtually unfettered authority to wage war anywhere in the name of fighting terrorism. The bill would also prevent federal trials for terrorism suspects and make closing Gitmo impossible by prohibiting the transfer of prisoners to the United States.

The good news is that the White House has now threatened to veto the bill if it contains either the Gitmo transfer restrictions or the new Authorization for the Use of Military Force. We will continue to fight to strip out the most dangerous parts of the bill.

Human Rights First,
333 Seventh Avenue, 13th Floor, New York, NY 10001-5004
From Another Rights Group - always ahead of most: No More Gitmos... See News Digest from for June 7, 2011

06/06 / Vincent Iacopino / Guardian (U.K.) / Comment is free Cif America A memo on torture to John Yoo

06/06 / Chase Madar / CounterPunch / Torture's Comeback

06/06 / James Russell / TruthOut / Activists Converge on Kansas Base, Demand Fair Trial for Manning

06/06 / Andy Worthington / Quarterly Fundraiser: Help Me Raise $2000 for My Work on Guantánamo and Torture

06/06 / Mike Scarcella / BLT (Blog of the Legal Times) / Judge Gives DOJ Reprieve In WikiLeaks Document Dispute

More news at

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Storyteller's Daughter: One Woman's Return to Her Lost Homeland

By Sarai Shah

"Deep in the sea are riches beyond compare. But if you seek safety, it is on th eshore." from The Rose Garden via Gulistan, Sheikh Sa'adi of Shiraz

"I am the slave of whoever will not at each stage imagine his journey is ended. Many a caravan serai must be left behind before the traveller reaches his destination." from Masnavi, by JALALUDDIN RUMI

" soon as I'm eighteen I'm going to go to see for myself," I said...then perhaps I'll have fresh experiences that will help me grow up." Saira

"If you would only grow up a little in the first place," he snapped, "then you would realize that you don't need to go at all." The daughter's story-telling father

IDRIES SHAH (See the description of his whimsical yet practical book "Learning How to Learn" on the Shah family album)

Here is a tale of contradictions and the colorful solace of maps connecting these ironies. I love the way quotes from Rumi and other literary geniuses in and out of the "Storyteller's Daughter" embellish the front of each chapter while little large stories and homespun bits of wisdom run through every page or two...

Saira Shah is an award-winning journalist, war reporter and documentary film-maker whose work includes the films ‘Beneath the Veil’ and ‘Unholy War’. Her documentary, ‘Death in Gaza’, is a tribute to James Miller and so is this translucent, blockbuster memoir by the way - along with her family story-telling heroes and heroines. James was her long-term cameraman and collaborator who was shot dead without explanation by Israeli forces in 2003 while filming with Saira. Shah is a freelance journalist born in Britain of an Afghan family, the daughter of Idries Shah, a writer of Sufi fables and many other legendary relatives which she has herewithin made eternal celebrities for her readers. She first visited Afghanistan at age twenty-one and worked there for three years as a freelance journalist, covering the guerilla war against the Soviet occupiers. ALAS, there is way more to this rich, thick, golden story of stories.

In the next weeks and months web sites devoted to Saira Shaw's family and their work will go online, with links to specific pages...To see a fascinating quick mini-album of the author's literary and adventuresome family GO here For many years - over three generations - and perhaps even earlier through the global connections and myths of great stories - the Shah family has worked to explain the East to the West, and the West to the East. This tightly-knit yet inclusive family have published scores of books on Eastern traditions and folklore, philosophy, travel, lettres from the past and kept their story-telling fully alive - riches they value much more than land or physical wealth.

Note from blogger here, Connie:

I'm rapidly wanting to spend every second to finish Saira's embroidered yet visceral book - alas writing deadlines of my own and other responsibilities are forcing me to ration out this book of beyond genius writing into small dollaps of a rich - albiet sometimes bitter dessert of reality and dreams seamlessly intertwined. So, I felt that I would deprive blog readers if I waited another second to let you in - DO find it somewhere anywhere you can. We will all learn something to live by within these pages. If you are a would-be world traveler and are also hungry to read a gamut of the best writers on earth today, like me you'll take a long time with this one as well because on every page is a line or paragraph or two you'll want to read two or three times to fully grasp the depth,beauty and wisdom.

More personal comments from me once I finish the book.

Here's just a longer passage to show how easily Shah skips from a story to her present reality:

"Mullah," he exclaimed, "whatever happened to your fishing net?"

"Ah," replied the mullah, "what need is there of the net now that the fish has been caught?"

We passed a checkpoint maned by unfriendly mujahidin. Instead of the usual warm greetings, were hostile questions. There was something else differnt about them, but for a while I could't put my finger on it. Then I got it: there was no laughter, and none of the disrespectful banter that usually accompanies any group of Afghans. These cold-eyed men didn't relax until they had watched us leave.

It struck me that a sense of humour may be the opposite of fanaticism, or at least its antidote. It is difficult to dream of martyrdom if you can see the funny side of life. Of course, the great Afghan poet Jalaluddin Rumi got there centuried before me, and said it better: "If you have no sense of humour, then you have an incompleteness in your soul."

Sarai's infamous story-telling and tradition-bearer Grandfather

Two reviews:

5.0 out of 5 stars A must read and buy!!, January 8, 2010
By Nyx

This review is from: The Storyteller's Daughter: One Woman's Return to Her Lost Homeland (Paperback)- A beautiful book. Well presented, well written and moving. One of the very few books I actually want to thank an author for taking the time to write.

[taken from Nyx' blog]

This book is intense, its fabulous, its emotional, it is well thought out, well written, it is one that I have had to add to my to buy list because checking it out is just not good enough.
This book struck a chord with me.

Some extra bonuses with the hard cover are thicker paper, and its not insanely bright white. When you have issues with colour and sight that is a god send.

I converted to Muslim a few months ago, when i found this book, it was one of two with similar titles and I skimmed what this was about before adding it to my list not really thinking anything about it one way or the other.

Saira Shah has blown me away.
She takes you on her journey literally with her, there is no sitting by the sidelines and reading about it.
You are filled with stories of a personal nature, combined with historical fact and legends.. Which is what (living)life is, or rather, what it should be.

The book is filled with tibits that you will find yourself stopping to record for your own reflection later.
It's definitely added to my to buy list. I am amazed my library had it and saddened I appear to be one of the few whose checked it out.

This book has changed the way I think about a lot of things and identified some things I have been wrestling with lately. Things I have been trying to find on my own spiritual journey to Allah and know I know now more about what it is that I am seeking along the way.

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful:

5.0 out of 5 stars A Multifaceted Jewel of a Book, January 16, 2004
By A Customer

This review is from: Storyteller's Daughter (Hardcover)
Saira Shah's stunning new memoir is one of those rare and wonderful books that's hard to classify because it touches the reader in so many different ways. A jewel of many facets -- from high adventure to geopolitics to the wisdom of the ages -- it takes us on a journey of the human spirit as compelling as it is rewarding. The setting of the book is Afghanistan, a country that, despite its recent prominence on the world stage, remains for most of us little known and much misunderstood. Shah opens up Afghanistan for the reader, revealing it to be far more complex and culturally rich than the evening news would lead us to believe; and in so doing, she opens up much, much more. An acclaimed London-based journalist whose powerful television documentary "Beneath the Veil" exposed the horrors of the Taliban to the world just prior to Sept. 11, Shah comes from an accomplished Afghan family of ancient pedigree. Her brother, Tahir Shah, is a celebrated travel writer, and her father, Idries Shah, who died in 1996, was a well-known Sufi philosopher whose 30-plus books have been translated into a dozen languages. But growing up in England, where her family had settled, Saira Shah's main contact with her Afghan heritage was through the stories her father told her and her siblings -- timeless stories of fairytale mountain landscapes peopled by proud and fearless warriors upholding a centuries-old code of honor. THE STORYTELLER'S DAUGHTER is built around her search for her own identity as she attempts to reconcile the romantic Afghanistan of her father's tales with the country's reality after years of devastating civil war. In gripping fashion tempered with gentle humor, it recounts her clandestine forays into Afghanistan with the mujahidin as a fledgling reporter in the mid-1980s, as well as her equally risky trips there in 2001 to film "Beneath the Veil" and its follow-up documentary, "Unholy War." In the process, it sheds considerable light on the conflict that has ravaged that country for decades, as well as on the upsurge of Islamic fundamentalism -- quite alien to Afghanistan's moderate, Sufi-influenced tradition -- that has given rise to al Qaeda. But the book goes far beyond those things in scope and appeal and, like the very best literature, serves as a lens through which the reader can gain a greater self-understanding. Thought-provoking, moving and beautifully written, THE STORYTELLER'S DAUGHTER is, among many other things, a timely reminder that we can rarely fit the world's complexities into the narrow confines of our own preconceived notions and oversimplifications.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Children of Gitmo

Abdul Salam Ghetan

The UC Davis Center for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas released today a study of the Guantanamo files recently made public by Wikileaks. The report can be found here:

In a nutshell, the report finds that military documents now in the public domain acknowledge that fifteen children were imprisoned, at some time or another, at Guantánamo. This is three more than the twelve the State Department acknowledged to the public after our earlier report on the subject, and seven more than the eight the State Department reported to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

In short, military documents recently wikileaked indicate that the number of children that have been imprisoned at Guantanamo is one-and-a-quarter times what the State Department has admitted to the public and almost twice as many as it reported to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

For the Documents - The Wikileaked Testimonies here

"Journey of Death" Rendition Logs here and other Reports here

Sent to those concerned and following the abuses of Gitmo prisoners

With best wishes,


Almerindo E. Ojeda, Director
Center for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas
University of California at Davis or GO here
UNRELATED Tip: for a balance from our usual sad barage of human rights travesties:

See the following for an upbeat in your day:

"Music of a Nation as a Weapon of Peace"

posted during Sunday to Monday night on: oneheartforpeace dot

June 6, 1949

George Orwell's dystopian novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four,
was published. It described a world in which totalitarian government controls the behavior of all, including the way one thinks. This was summed up in the government’s slogans: War Is Peace, Freedom Is Slavery, Ignorance Is Strength.

For a exceptional documentary in every way which demonstrates an even rarer
non-violent and finally utterly successful ousting of the Soviet totalitarian occupation of Estonia, see the following:

I can't find the words and emotions to express the exhilaration I had watching such a film ...

Thursday, June 2, 2011

God Is Not a Christian - By Archbishop Desmond Tutu

02 June 11

The following is excerpted from the Archbishop Desmond Tutu's new book, "God Is Not A Christian: And Other Provocations." This talk also comes from a forum in Britain, where Tutu addressed leaders of different faiths during a mission to the city of Birmingham in 1989.

They tell the story of a drunk who crossed the street and accosted a pedestrian, asking him, "I shay, which ish the other shide of the shtreet?" The pedestrian, somewhat nonplussed, replied, "That side, of course!" The drunk said, "Shtrange. When I wash on that shide, they shaid it wash thish shide." Where the other side of the street is depends on where we are. Our perspective differs with our context, the things that have helped to form us; and religion is one of the most potent of these formative influences, helping to determine how and what we apprehend of reality and how we operate in our own specific context.

My first point seems overwhelmingly simple: that the accidents of birth and geography determine to a very large extent to what faith we belong. The chances are very great that if you were born in Pakistan you are a Muslim, or a Hindu if you happened to be born in India, or a Shintoist if it is Japan, and a Christian if you were born in Italy. I don't know what significant fact can be drawn from this - perhaps that we should not succumb too easily to the temptation to exclusiveness and dogmatic claims to a monopoly of the truth of our particular faith. You could so easily have been an adherent of the faith that you are now denigrating, but for the fact that you were born here rather than there.

My second point is this: not to insult the adherents of other faiths by suggesting, as sometimes has happened, that for instance when you are a Christian the adherents of other faiths are really Christians without knowing it. We must acknowledge them for who they are in all their integrity, with their conscientiously held beliefs; we must welcome them and respect them as who they are and walk reverently on what is their holy ground, taking off our shoes, metaphorically and literally. We must hold to our particular and peculiar beliefs tenaciously, not pretending that all religions are the same, for they are patently not the same. We must be ready to learn from one another, not claiming that we alone possess all truth and that somehow we have a corner on God.

We should in humility and joyfulness acknowledge that the supernatural and divine reality we all worship in some form or other transcends all our particular categories of thought and imagining, and that because the divine - however named, however apprehended or conceived - is infinite and we are forever finite, we shall never comprehend the divine completely. So we should seek to share all insights we can and be ready to learn, for instance, from the techniques of the spiritual life that are available in religions other than our own. It is interesting that most religions have a transcendent reference point, a mysterium tremendum, that comes to be known by deigning to reveal itself, himself, herself, to humanity; that the transcendent reality is compassionate and concerned; that human beings are creatures of this supreme, supra mundane reality in some way, with a high destiny that hopes for an everlasting life lived in close association with the divine, either as absorbed without distinction between creature and creator, between the divine and human, or in a wonderful intimacy which still retains the distinctions between these two orders of reality.

When we read the classics of the various religions in matters of prayer, meditation, and mysticism, we find substantial convergence, and that is something to rejoice at. We have enough that conspires to separate us; let us celebrate that which unites us, that which we share in common.

Surely it is good to know that God (in the Christian tradition) created us all (not just Christians) in his image, thus investing us all with infinite worth, and that it was with all humankind that God entered into a covenant relationship, depicted in the covenant with Noah when God promised he would not destroy his creation again with water. Surely we can rejoice that the eternal word, the Logos of God, enlightens everyone - not just Christians, but everyone who comes into the world; that what we call the Spirit of God is not a Christian preserve, for the Spirit of God existed long before there were Christians, inspiring and nurturing women and men in the ways of holiness, bringing them to fruition, bringing to fruition what was best in all. We do scant justice and honor to our God if we want, for instance, to deny that Mahatma Gandhi was a truly great soul, a holy man who walked closely with God.

Our God would be too small if he was not also the God of Gandhi: if God is one, as we believe, then he is the only God of all his people, whether they acknowledge him as such or not. God does not need us to protect him. Many of us perhaps need to have our notion of God deepened and expanded. It is often said, half in jest, that God created man in his own image and man has returned the compliment, saddling God with his own narrow prejudices and exclusivity, foibles and temperamental quirks. God remains God, whether God has worshippers or not.

This mission in Birmingham to which I have been invited is a Christian celebration, and we will make our claims for Christ as unique and as the Savior of the world, hoping that we will live out our beliefs in such a way that they help to commend our faith effectively. Our conduct far too often contradicts our profession, however. We are supposed to proclaim the God of love, but we have been guilty as Christians of sowing hatred and suspicion; we commend the one whom we call the Prince of Peace, and yet as Christians we have fought more wars than we care to remember. We have claimed to be a fellowship of compassion and caring and sharing, but as Christians we often sanctify sociopolitical systems that belie this, where the rich grow ever richer and the poor grow ever poorer, where we seem to sanctify a furious competitiveness, ruthless as can only be appropriate to the jungle.

You may find comments on Reader Supported News on this piece posted there today.