Archive for February, 2007

No, We Don’t Torture Here…

28 February 2007

That’s what Pakistan is for. According to SFGate, an accused jihadist named Marwan Jabour says that he was beaten and tortured while he was held in Pakistan for over two years. Last summer he was taken to Jordan, then handed over to Israelis in September, and released in the Gaza Strip six weeks after that.

US officials say that they will not confirm his account, but that he is one of the most dangerous al-Qaeda members, which is probably why he was released.

Human Rights Watch is currently pressing for Bush to say where 38 detainees are.

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EFF Sues for Court Order Documents

27 February 2007

The Electronic Frontier Foundation sued the Department of Justice for records regarding secret court orders that DoJ says allow it to continue its wiretapping program, according to the EFF’s website. Last month Alberto Gonzales said that FISC (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court) had authorized some surveillance and that the wiretapping would continue under this approval.

The Department of Justice did not respond to the EFF’s FOIA request for information on changes in the program, so the EFF is now suing for the FISC orders.

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Evidence Against Charity Apparently Fabricated

26 February 2007

Five years ago the government shut down the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, the nation’s largest Muslim charity, on the basis that it was linked to terrorism, according to the Los Angeles Times. Thousands of hours of FBI wiretapping transcripts were classified, and the defense lawyers have been working with government summaries.

When they compared one transcript they had of a conversation to its government summary though, it was found that a number of comments never actually in the conversation were in the summary. Defense attorneys say that “not only are the summaries so inaccurate and misleading as to be useless,” but that the “author of the attached summary has cynically and maliciously attributed to the defendants racist invective and inculpatory remarks the defendants never uttered.”

Though the attorneys have the clearance to view the original documents, they cannot show it to their clients.

There were also apparently issues with translation, and some of the material was translated from Arabic to Hebrew, then to English.

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Obama on Security

25 February 2007

The Obama page on “Protecting Our Homeland” is not what you’d expect from someone who will inevitably face criticism for being “soft on terror,” and it centers to issues that’s “Safety and Security” does not even mention. For instance, security at nuclear plants and keeping track of nuclear fuel.

The page notes that:

From improving security for our transit systems and chemical plants, to increasing cargo screening in our airports and seaports, the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission have been underfunded and ignored. The 9/11 Commission gave the government five F’s and 12 D’s on the implementation of its recommendations.

According to the site, security at chemical plants is voluntary, three states have reported missing spent nuclear fuel (which remains radioactive), and Illinois failed to notify residents that tritium (a byproduct of nuclear generation) had leaked into the groundwater., on the other hand, says that “victory in Iraq is vital is central to the Global War on Terror to ensure that those who would harm the United States suffer total defeat,” even though none of the 9/11 hijackers were from Iraq and many “Iraqi insurgents” are not actually Iraqi.

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White House Vs. Limiting War Powers

24 February 2007

In a surprising and unexpected move Friday, the White House said that it would oppose attempts to curb executive war powers, according to MSNBC. Despite the fact that Saddam is no longer in power and Bush has failed to discover the weapons of mass destruction, he says that there is no need to change the 2002 resolution that let him go to war.

An attempt by the Democratic Party to limit Bush’s powers would obviously be strongly opposed by the Republicans, as well as possibly face a veto.

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Bin Brother Apparently Brits’ Last Straw

23 February 2007

The English, who are captured on camera an average of 300 times a day (there is a camera for every 14 Brits), are in an uproar over the surveillance of their trash bins, according to the Kansas City Star. Roughly 500,000 British trash bins are equipped with RFID chips, something some towns failed to mention.

Some cities say that they only want to be able to return lost bins to owners, to increase the recycling rate, or to be able to eventually charge residents for what they throw away by the pound.

Surveillance of part of their homes seems to have struck a nerve among the British. Some say that surveillance of themselves outside their home makes them feel safer, but surveillance of their property is different.

Andy Shaw, business manager of Cambridge Auto-ID lab, jokingly noted that people need not worry, since their things can already be tracked just fine with credit cards and stores’ frequent-buyer cards.

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Marriage Fraud is Terrorism?

22 February 2007

A Justice Department audit has revealed that federal prosecutors counted a number of clearly non-terrorism cases as terrorism, according to SFGate, among them a case of marriage fraud a Mexican citizen who falsely identified himself on his passport application.

Of the 26 sets of data from 2001-2005 investigated, only two were accurate. The numbers are used to measure the Justice Department’s success in the “War on Terror,” and help determine its budget.

“If the Department of Justice can’t even get their own books in order, how are we supposed to have any confidence they are doing the job they should be?” asked Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

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Egypt Jails Blogger

22 February 2007

Egypt has sentenced blogger Abdel Kareem Soliman to four years in prison, according to BBC News, three years for insulting Islam and inciting sedition, and one year for insulting President Hosni Mubarak. Apparently the court session lasted a mere five minutes.

Others say that it will not prevent Egyptians from blogging, since it is nearly impossible to control.

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Man Behind the Hood

21 February 2007

The Heathlander published an excerpt from this yesterday. It is the testimony of Ali Shalal, known as the “man behind the hood,” who was tortured at Abu Ghraib and whose picture became more or less the face of the Abu Ghraib prison abuse. He was arrested on October 13th, 2003 and transferred two days later to Abu Ghraib. The below is part of his testimony to the War Crimes Commission.

In the morning, an Israeli stood in front of me and took the bag from my head and told me in Arabic that he was an Israeli had interrogated and tortured detainees in Palestine. He told me that when detainees would not cooperate, they would be killed. He asked me repeatedly for names of resistance fighters. I told him that I do not know any resistance fighters but he would not believe me, and continued to beat me.

This Israeli dressed in civilian clothes tortured me by inserting in turn first with a jagged wooden stick into my rectum and then with the barrel of a rifle. I was cut inside and bled profusely. During this time, when any guard walked past me, they would beat me. I had no food for 36 hours.

I was electrocuted on three separate sessions. On the first two sessions, I was electrocuted twice, each time lasting few minutes. On the last session, as I was being electrocuted, I accidentally bit my tongue and was bleeding from the mouth. They stop the electrocution and a doctor was called to attend to me. I was lying down on the floor. The doctor poured some water into my mouth and used his feet to force open my mouth. He then remarked, “There is nothing serious, continue!” Then he left the room. However, the guard stopped the electrocution as I was bleeding profusely from my mouth and blood was all over my blanket and body. But they continued to beat me. After some time, they stopped beating me and took me back to my cell.

Throughout the time of my torture, the interrogators would take photographs.

Shalal was released March 2004, when it was finally decided he had been wrongly arrested.

Donald Rumsfeld’s testimony to the Senate after the torture had been revealed included the following:

We’re functioning in a — with peacetime restraints, with legal requirements in a wartime situation, in the information age, where people are running around with digital cameras and taking these unbelievable photographs and then passing them off, against the law, to the media, to our surprise, when they had not even arrived in the Pentagon.

One wonders what would have happened, or continued to happen, if the media had not learned of what was happening.

In, hopefully, but not necessarily, completely unrelated news, swissinfo reports that the US will not be allowing Swiss senator Dick Marty (who is investigating possible abuse of prisoners on behalf of the Council of Europe) to ask Gitmo detainees if they had been held in secret prisons in Europe.

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Gitmo Detainees Lose Right to Appeal

20 February 2007

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has ruled 2-1 that civilian courts cannot consider whether or not the military’s detainment of foreigners is illegal, according to MSNBC, meaning that Gitmo detainees cannot challenge their detention in a US court. Attorneys for the detainees say that they will challenge the decision in the Supreme Court.

One of the major parts of the Military Commissions Act was that prisoners cannot challenge their detention in civilian US courts, and the government is allowed to indefinitely detain foreigners as “enemy combatants.”

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