The Talking Dog

July 30, 2008, A Poem on the Underground Wall

Thomas Nephew writes in to note that we are up against something that is no laughing matter. Attorney General Michael "Good Fascist Soldier" Mukasey is quite literally asking Congress to declare a permanent war and an all time amnesty on Bush Administration law breaking. This is not out of the pages of The Onion.

It seems clear that just as Mukasey was serious in refusing to pronounce waterboarding as torture (hey, maybe Torquemada was just using "enhanced interrogation" on those heretics... you can't call it "torture," right?)... there is no reason not to believe he is deadly serious on this.

The ACLU is organizing a call to action on this one: I answered the call, and I urge you all to do the same, quite literally, while we still have the freedom to do something about it, lest an ever more feckless Congress yield our precious liberty for the illusion of a little more temporary security.

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July 29, 2008, Think Too Much

Candace sends along a note about this item, a mention from the opening remarks at Gitmo of the prosecutor on the trial of Hitler's chauffeur OBL's driver and auto mechanic, Salim Hamdan.

"If they hadn't shot down the fourth plane it would've hit the dome," Stone, a Navy officer, said in his opening remarks.

Draw your own conclusions; Candace asks "slip or mistake?" It's one or the other. I thought the "let's roll" explanation had to be preserved at all costs; apparently, securing a show-trial conviction of a bit player may be more important.

Stay tuned, and try not to "Think Too Much."

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July 28, 2008, Still Crazy After All These Years

While many of us marvel at the disaster that the Bush II Administration has been with respect to American foreign policy and with respect to our Constitutional values, we sometimes forget just what an unmitigated disaster the Bush II Administration has been with respect to the national economy and American fiscal integrity. Well, no more... because today it is announced that the President who inherited a budget surplus from his predecessor appears on track to break his own record for budget deficit with a staggering $482 billion deficit predicted for the coming fiscal year. Revenues would be expected to be down in a recession, of course, but (tax cuts for the rich) throw (uncontrolled Iraq war spending) in (tax cuts for the rich) other (tax cuts for the rich) factors (tax cuts for the rich)... and one isn't surprised at the ultimate result. Small wonder the President will be traveling to Beijing for the start of the Olympics: best keep our financiers happy! Crazy, no?

A Justice Department Inspector General report confirmed what we already knew: the Justice Department under the Bush Administration, under the helpful guidance of Onward-Christian-Soldierbot Monica Goodling, broke various laws pertaining to civil service hiring rules, and that sanctions (though I doubt well-deserved jail time, not just for Ms. Goodling herself, but for her White House master Mr. Rove and her look-the-other-way-enabler, Mr. Gonzales) may be meted out. Crazy, no?

And finally, Bob "Prince of Darkness" Novak disclosed that he has a brain tumor. This comes about a week after Novak mowed down a pedestrian in Washington and fled the scene only to be stopped by a bicyclist (the pedestrian appeared not to be too badly hurt, thank God, and it is unclear if Novak's medical condition contributed to perception problems). Despite a lengthy career in journalism as a noted right-wing voice and Republican go-to guy, Novak is best known for outing Valerie Plame as a covert CIA agent (thereby ending her career and possibly sending American operatives and their contacts to their deaths, all to advance Karl Rove's Republican talking points at the time.) Well, unlike, say, Jesse Helms, if pushed, I'm sure I can nonetheless find something nice to say about Novak. Hey... I always found amusing on The McLaughlin Group. There you go! I certainly don't wish him a terminal disease. Like Teddy Kennedy, who I believe is also 77 and also suffered a brain tumor, Novak was diagnosed while on a trip to Cape Cod and examined and treated in Boston... crazy, no?

This has been... "Still Crazy After All These Years."

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July 27, 2008, Keep the customer happy

It seems a classic case of synergy: the formerly sainted Sen. John McCain has changed his once (for a Republican) strong pro-environmental stance calling for American energy responsibility, and now joins the Bush Administration in suggesting that the ban on offshore oil drilling be lifted. As a result: oil industry campaign cash has gushed in to McCain. On this one, I'll accept McCain's campaign people's saying that this is about McCain trying to pander to the voters (a la the gas tax holiday he and Hillary touted), rather than about attempting to pander to the oil industry for campaign cash. The latter is just a welcome fringe benefit for the Arizona senator.

Look: polls on this are shifting with gasoline well over $4/gal. stateside. And so since politicians are seen by the voters as Santa Claus, anything that the voters are told will bring them relief at the gasoline pump is worth politicans talking about.

And so, Sen. McCain, despite very conservative overall credentials, had been one of the more responsible Republicans on environmental issues (this is not touting him as an environmentalist in an absolute way, btw... merely among his fellow Republicans.)

Well, that's gone now. McCain must do and say anything to win-- and he will (see, e.g., misrepresenting facts about "the surge").

Since, in the end, the presidential race is going to come down to plain old race... race and McCain's ability to reverse the early attacks on him from the Limbaugh right-wing-hate-talk-radio crowd, that is... one wonders why McCain even bothers with this particular pander. If he wants to play into Obama's line of running for G. W. Bush's third term, he couldn't have found a better way.

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July 22, 2008, TD Blog Interview with Steven Wax

Steven Wax, a graduate of Colgate University and Harvard University Law School, is a former assistant district attorney in Kings County (Brooklyn), New York, where, among other prosecutions, he worked on the "Son of Sam" case. Mr. Wax is currently in his seventh term as the Federal Defender for the District of Oregon. He is the author of "Kafka Comes to America: Fighting For Justice in the War on Terror, a Federal Defender's Inside Account" documenting his work on behalf of Oregon attorney Brandon Mayfield, accused of a connection to the 2004 Madrid bombings, and Adel Hamad, a Sudanese national formerly detained at Guantanamo Bay. On July 20, 2008, I had the privilege of interviewing Mr. Wax by e-mail exchange.

The Talking Dog: Where were you on September 11th?

Steven Wax: On September 11, 2001, I was home getting ready for work when a friend called to tell us about the attacks and to turn on the television. In setting the scene for some of the events and policy decisions that followed, I describe that morning in my book.

The Talking Dog: We, of course, are aware of your (now free) clients, Sudanese national Adel Hassan Hamad (of "Project Hamad" fame) and USA national Brandon Mayfield; can you identify the other clients, whether still at GTMO or repatriated, handled by you and/or your Oregon Federal Defender's office, by name, nationality and current location? Do any aspects of these clients stand out as worthy of mention-- such as their personality, or their cases, their family, or anything of that nature?

Steven Wax: My office and I are representing seven men who still are, or have been in Guantanamo. Three are home with their families, Adel and two Afghanis. The public records show that one, Nazar Gul, was taken into exile in Pakistan by his parents when he was three after he lost an eye to a Soviet bomb. He returned to Afghanistan only after Karzai came to power and got a job working for the Americans. He was arrested on a case of mistaken identity. The team of lawyers and investigators from my office that went to Afghanistan and Pakistan was able to track down all the witnesses who confirmed his path from Pakistan back to Afghanistan, his job, the medical problem that took him to the city where he was seized. The other Afghan who is home with his family was conscripted by the Taliban after they shot his brother in front of him. As soon as it was safe--after the Americans joined the fight--he crossed the battlefield and fought with the Northern Alliance.

We have one client who was sent back to Afghanistan but is still in the Polichaky prison outside Kabul that was built with American assistance. He is awaiting action by the Afghans, was a fighter in the civil wars but never against the Americans and was double crossed and given to the Americans in 2002.

Our three clients still in Guantanamo include two Syrians and a Yemeni. Men from those countries are among the most difficult to place since there is genuine danger if they go home. One's case is particularly disturbing--Al Ginco-because he was a Taliban torture victim who was liberated by our forces in December 2001 after 18 months of imprisonment by the Taliban who accused him of being a U.S. and Israeli spy. While under torture by the Taliban he made a tape that is anti-American, which he is not. When that tape surfaced, he was converted from a liberated prisoner of the Taliban to an American prisoner in Guantanamo.

The Talking Dog You have suggested that the aftermath of the Boumediene decision may well be a return to the immediate post-Rasul muddle in the District Court when one district court judge in D.C. (then IIRC it was Gladys Kessler) got assigned the habeas cases consolidated, but one judge (Richard Leon) opted out, and now I believe Judge Thomas Hogan has been assigned the cases for expedited handling, and it looks like Judge Leon will opt out again, with the D.C. Circuit deciding that prisoners still have no rights no matter how many times the Supreme Court says they do, forcing a return to the Supreme Court yet again... based on "facts on the ground" including how Judge Hogan is proceeding so far and the government's (obstructive) litigation posture, do you see what you feared as coming to pass? Also-- how likely do you think it will be that this government litigation posture would be continued by (1) an Obama Administration or (2) a McCain Administration?

Steven Wax: While the judges of the district court in D.C, met and agreed to have Senior Judge Hogan handle as much of the Guantanamo cases as could be consolidated, several judges have not transferred their cases. The government's position has been and likely will continue to be that the hearings the Supreme Court held the men are entitled to have in its Boumediene decision is quite limited. Consolidated pleadings on these issues are to be filed July 25. What we have seen so far suggests that there will be major disagreements over the scope of the hearings--who has the burden of proof, what is the standard of proof, what types of evidence are admissible--hearsay? double hearsay? triple hearsay?--etc. It is likely that not all the judges will agree. It is entirely possible that there will be another round of interlocutory appeals, i.e. appeals before hearings are held. Indeed, yesterday, Attorney General Mukasey told Congress that the Administration wants to propose legislation to define the procedures for the habeas hearings. This is likely to slow things down even more.

As for the Obama/McCain question, what we know so far is that the two men disagreed over the Boumediene decision, Obama being supportive of Justice Kennedy's majority opinion and McCain supportive of Justice Scalia's dissent. Both have spoken against Guantanamo in some respects and both have spoken against torture. It is likely that the Attorney General picked by each would approach the issues from somewhat different perspectives.

The Talking Dog: As you know, this week Sudanese President al-Bashir was indicted, or at least, an indictment was suggested, by the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (a court whose recognition the United States has not yet signed on to). You were involved in extensive direct negotiations with the Sudanese government over Hamad (parallel, I suppose, to Clive Stafford Smith's vis a vis his client Sami al-Hajj, the al Jazeera camera man), and noted how difficult Darfur related issues and sanctions made those. Would it be fair to say that had the Sudanese not already been repatriated, the current development might have made such negotiations harder if not impossible?

Steven Wax: All I can say in response to this question is that the Sudanese were open with my team and me before we went to Sudan, while we were there, and have continued to be since we came home. They have been far more forthcoming about the negotiations with the United States than has our government. I tell the story of my time in Sudan in the book in the chapter called "Tea with the Ministers in Sudan." In response to your question, I can only speculate that they have been motivated by their own geo-political concerns in stepping up to push the negotiations for the Sudanese who have gone home so far. Whether President Bashir's problems will stall the negotations or give the Sudanese even more of an incentive to express humanitarian concerns about their men in Sudan is a question only time will answer.

The Talking Dog: As hard as it is to believe that Sudanese might be carrying a "lucky passport", can you address that issue-- the Europeans are gone, by and large, and who remain at GTMO are mostly Middle Easterners and North Africans from countries with less diplomatic leverage over the USA (I think Yemen has the big number, probably a dozen and a half Chinese Uighurs, and so forth)... in other words, save perhaps the dozen or two dozen "high value detainees" and at most another dozen or two former fighters over that, we are pretty much holding over two hundred prisoners (and held close to 800) for political reasons, rather than any particular security need or to try them or punish them... is that pretty much accurate as far as you're concerned?

Steven Wax: Your question speaks to the reality of the releases from Guantanamo--the men who went home first were from our allies in Europe and countries with a lot of oil. It is more difficult to repatriate many of the men who remain for a number of reasons. One is the reality that some of them will face torture or execution if they go home. Our government has an obligation, however hypocritical it may seem, to ensure that we do not send men to countries where they will be tortured. Again, however hypocritical or ironic it may seem, the State Department takes that responsibility seriously. While, to their credit, our European friends have spoken loudly against the policies in Guantanamo, to their discredit, none have stepped up to take in any refugees, including men who had official United Nations refugee status when they were seized. (China's former client state, Albania, is the sole exception having taken in 5 Chinese UIghers, then stopped.) The Center for Constitutional Rights has been working on asylum issues for years and is continuing to do so.

The Talking Dog Brandon Mayfield is a classic case of "there but for the grace of God go I"... unlike Jose Padilila or Saleh Al-Marri (we'll get to him soon!), Mayfield is a White Anglo, who was a practicing lawyer at the time he was arrested as a "material witness" associated with the 2004 Madrid bombings (a fingerprint that was supposedly a match to his "with 100% certainty" according to the FBI was found on a bag containing explosives in Madrid). Now, Mayfield had, of course, a lot of arguably circumstantially incriminating evidence; he had represented a Muslim accused of terrorist; his wife was of Egyptian descent, and a Muslim, and he himself had converted to Islam; he had served in the Army on a Patriot missile battery. (Like James Yee, IIRC, he also had some connection to Ft. Lewis in Washington state). Can you comment on the fact that the FBI decided to let Mayfield's religion get in the way of its regular methods of checking the validity of its forensic evidence, and just decided to have its entire apparatus verify that Mayfield's print was the real article, when clearly, experts disagreed (and the Spanish authorities ultimately found another match)? Is this not endemic of our whole approach to detention in the war on terror... i.e., dead certitude when we should be having real agonizing doubt-- to be actually certain we have the real perps?

Steven Wax: The mistakes in Brandon's case were the subject of two government reports that are very important to read in order to understand what went wrong. I tell the stories of these reports in my book. First, an international team of experts convened by the F.B.I to examine the fingerprint mistake concluded that it was the result of abandonment of the scientific method, what they called confirmation bias, and the pressures that arose from the desire to solve a big case. The last point-big case pressures-is one I believe is applicable to many of the issues that have arisen in the war on terror. We need to keep in mind that our government officials have a weighty responsibility to keep us safe. What I take from the comment in the report is that people can have their judgment distored by that responsibility, they can start acting as if they have blinders on, see only what they want or expect to see, and in the process start to believe that we cannot achieve security without sacrificing our values.

The second report was by Glenn Fine, the Inspector General of the Justice Department. He asked the FBI, DOJ and US Attorney participants whether Brandon's religion played a role in the case. Most said no; some said yes, that at the least it gave them comfort that they were on the right track. In affidavits submitted in the civil suit Brandon pursued after he was freed, the FBI fingerprint examiners swore that they did not have any information about Brandon when they made the identification. Because the civil suit was settled, they have never been cross-examined about their statements.

The Talking Dog. Can you describe how the matierial witness system has been abused-- in the case of Mayfield, Padilla... and al-Marri-- and others in the war on terror? Have there been any welcome statutory changes-- or unwelcome ones-- since the first passage of the Patriot Act, and has the decision finding parts of the Patriot Act unconstitutional in Mayfield's case "stuck"?

Steven Wax: In the book I describe a report on the material witness statute that revealed its use against approximately 70 men of Middle Eastern origin or Muslim religion. The number is now undoubtedly higher. It appears that the statute has been abused, i.e. used to hold men to see if they could later be prosecuted. It also appears to have been used disproportionatly against Muslims in terrorism related cases.

The Patriot Act amendments and the most recent FISA amendment that gave immunity to the telephone companies have not, in my judgment, made anything better.

Judge Aiken's opinion in Brandon's case striking down parts of the Patriot Act is still on appeal.

The Talking Dog. Given the very conservative 4th Circuit's recent reversal of Al-Marri and directing a habeas corpus proceeding proceed, the also very conservative DC Circuit's recent holding in Parhat and the Supreme Court in Boumediene... relevant to my earlier question, is any of this actually going to change much for any of the actual detained men involved in these cases? (On Boumediene, I understand al-Odah himself may be back in Kuwait...)

Steven Wax: These are, in part heartening decisions. Boumediene was critical in upholding the importance of habeas corpus and the limits on executive power. It did not, however, as stated above, say what type of hearing is required. Keep in mind, it was a 5-4 decision. Al-Marri was a very split decision was some bad as well as some good but nothing that I see as fundamental. Parhat was a fact specific case, showing that the D.C. circuit will review the record and when there is no evidence, say so.

The Talking Dog. Let's talk a bit about media coverage-- first, how would you comment on media coverage of these issues and your work in your Oregon media market, and then overall in the national and international spheres? You credit the web site Project Hamad with helping to build interest in Hamad's case that in turn helped build leverage in dealing with the Sudanese government, and it was probably that Sudanese interest that got Hamad released... are you aware of similar "grass-roots" efforts succeeding in the GTMO or war on terror context? Why aren't there more of them? Is this, as one of my interviewees suggested, because your colleague produced pictures-- or Hamad's familly and so forth, that got some traction on Youtube? Are Americans that shallow a people that if we don't see it on t.v., we just can't conceive of it? (and whether or not that's the case-- can you comment on the video of Khadr's interrogation that's out there?)

Steven Wax: I see the media and attention issues with Guantanamo similar to what we experience across the board. I believe it is very difficult for Americans to accept that the Administration that is sworn to keep us safe is willing to manipulate the truth as blatantly as it has and is as inept as it has been in so many areas. To accept that is to recognize that we may not be as safe as we want to be. Underlying all this is fear. Many people have written about the fear that seeped into our national psyche after September 11 and the way in which the government has manipulated us with that fear. It is difficult to repond when people say--you are either with us or against us, if you speak out you are aiding the enemy, and I know the truth. As a result, I believe the mainstream media has been cowed. Of course, it does not help when the news bureaus of most major traditionial media are cut way back and consolidated in the name of corporate decision making.

The Talking Dog Do you see an overall exit strategy from what the Bush Administration has done "to protect us", or sadly, has Kafka come to America to stay?

Steven Wax: I believe that our democracy is only as strong as we make it. We all have the First Amendment right to speak out and to associate. I believe we also have an obligation to do so. If enough people exercise those rights--whether members of the Heritage Society and the Cato Institute or the ACLU and Amnesty International, we can reinvigorate our democracy. And, of course, it is only an educated populace that can run a strong democracy, we need to reinvest in our schools and not be afraid to teach old fashioned civics lessons in the schools. Every American child should be taught what the Bill of Rights means and why it was created and study the declaratoin of indepence and the preamble to the Constitution. That does not happen now. It is up to each one of us to speak and act in order to turn the great American ship back on course. I close every one of my talks about my work and book by reminding people that, while I wrote the book on my own time, my work for my clients is as a Federal Defender. Whatever warts and scars our country may have, there are not many places in the world that would fund lawyers such as me to fight the government on the most fundamental issues of our day and leave us alone to do our work for our clients.


The Talking Dog. On behalf of all my readers, I thank Mr. Wax for that thorough and informative interview, and commend those interested in these matters to take a look at Kafka Comes to America: Fighting For Justice in the War on Terror, a Federal Defender's Inside Account.


Those who wish to read further about legal issues and related matters associated with the "war on terror" may also find talking dog blog interviews with attorneys Wells Dixon, Rebecca Dick, Wesley Powell, Martha Rayner, Angela Campbell, Stephen Truitt and Charles Carpenter, Gaillard Hunt, Robert Rachlin, Tina Foster, Brent Mickum, Marc Falkoff H. Candace Gorman, Eric Freedman, Michael Ratner, Thomas Wilner, Jonathan Hafetz, Joshua Denbeaux, Rick Wilson,
Neal Katyal, Joshua Colangelo Bryan, Baher Azmy, and Joshua Dratel (representing Guantanamo detainees and others held in "the war on terror"), with attorneys Donna Newman and Andrew Patel (representing "unlawful combatant" Jose Padilila), with Dr. David Nicholl, who spearheaded an effort among international physicians protesting force-feeding of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, with physician and bioethicist Dr. Steven Miles on medical complicity in torture, with law professor and former Clinton Administration Ambassador-at-large for war crimes matters David Scheffer, with former Guantanamo detainees Moazzam Begg and Shafiq Rasul , with former Guantanamo Bay Chaplain James Yee, with former Guantanamo Army Arabic linguist Erik Saar, with law professor and former Army J.A.G. officer Jeffrey Addicott, with law professor and Coast Guard officer Glenn Sulmasy, with author and geographer Trevor Paglen and with author and journalist Stephen Grey on the subject of the CIA's extraordinary rendition program, with journalist and author David Rose on Guantanamo, with journalist Michael Otterman on the subject of American torture and related issues, with author and historian Andy Worthington detailing the capture and provenance of all of the Guantanamo detainees, and with Joanne Mariner of Human Rights Watch to be of interest.


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July 21, 2008, Baby Driver

And so, having been established to have committed the heinous crime of embarrassing the Bush Administration before the Supreme Court, it seems that the show-trial must go on, and Salim "OBL's driver and auto-mechanic" Hamdan's military commission trial has commenced at Guantanamo Bay, with a selection of military jurors. Hamdan has a fourth grade education, and basically claims he was doing a menial job for a better paycheck than he could get in Yemen.

Although the rules are being made up as they go along, it seems that the current military judge, Capt. Keith Allred of the Navy, isn't totally with the program, and he has already excluded "evidence" obtained by torture coercive interrogation in Afghanistan, and may well make further rulings of that nature. The prosecution, not wanting to appear fair, dumped a large number of documents on the defense the night before jury selection, including long-requested documents pertaining to torture coercive interrogation in Cuba, and the defense was permitted the opportunity to interview "high value detainees" for possible exculpatory evidence... right before the trial.

Remember how, at Nuremberg, we tried Hitler's valet, and butler, and chauffeur? YOU DON'T? Why do you hate our troops?

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July 19, 2008, Gumboots

After making resisting the calls of the then newly elected Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress the signature play of the second half of his second term in office, it now seems the President is willing to accept some kind of timetable for withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, as long as the timetables are vague and are called "a general time horizon".

Call it "The Surge(TM)" has been successful, call it our efforts at belaying civil war by arming the (formerly and in the future bothersome) Baathist dead-enders cooperative Sunnis has, thus far been successful, or call it macaroni... but now, it seems, the President has a face-saving opportunity to hand off the Charlie Foxtrot to President Obama in a position to blame the inevitable disaster following our inevitable departure on the Democrats... and by God, that's what he seems to be hinting at.

So... even as Iraqi PM al-Maliki seems to be mirroring Sen. Obama's calls for a 16-month timetable for withdrawal, so it seems, the President may be signaling something similar, or perhaps he's simply dog-whistling something that my own not-quite-attuned-doggy-ears aren't yet picking up. I have no idea, really.

There are those who say that "the jury is still out"on Iraq. Maybe. I personally would always and immediately come back to "at what cost?" Because, just looking at "the benefits" misses the boat on the full merits of the decision tree (btw, please understand that one of those "benefits" is gasoline averaging well over $4/gal. stateside... causing prolonged instability in the heart of the world's oil-patch will do that sort of thing, and no, a few years of containing Saddam in his box would not likely have had the same result)... I'm at a loss to see what over 4,000 dead Americans, hundreds of thousands of dead and millions of injured and/or displaced Iraqis, and an estimated $3 trillion total-monetary-consequence-cost-and-counting has gotten us, nor what continuing the expenditure ad infinitum will achieve. But that's just me.

For the moment, whatever the President's motives are, like everything else he does in the 10-11 hours a day that he is not asleep, we can assume that they are "short-term political" in nature. We will see how this all works out, of course. When all sides start talking in terms of a Baghdad bug-out, one begins to think that maybe it might be possible. But then, though I'm admittedly not from Missouri, at some point, I'd still like someone to "show me"before I believe it.

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July 18, 2008, You can call me Al

Al Gore gave his "energy speech" in Philadelphia yesterday, duly annotated (to account for various forms of skepticism) here. The sainted former Vice-President acknowledged the potential "exaggeration" in some of his goals... but then, if he's right, and the survival of our nation is at stake... perhaps he has a bit of a point?

Given that the sole raison d'etre of so many these days is sucking short term profit out of the system as if The Rapture really were going to come later this year... maybe someone who actually looks more than two quarters ahead is just too maddening to consider?

Just saying...

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July 18, 2008, Go Tell it on the Mountain

Certainly, don't tell it to me, sayeth U.S. District Court Judge James Robertson, who denied the motion of GTMO detainee and alleged "OBL driver" Salim Hamdan for a stay of his show-trial military commission hearing. Hamdan, you recall, had won a Supreme Court case challenging the earlier version of commissions, only to have Congress pass a law calling for comparably vague and arbitrary commissions... the theme remains the same, really... any procedural unfairness is o.k. as long as it leads to a finding of guilt, be it hearsay, evidence obtained by torture, or "secret" evidence not provided to the prisoner. [Our interview with Neal Katyal, one of Hamdan's attorneys, is here.]

Hamdan's lawyers knew this was a long-shot; meanwhile, the rest of the GTMO detainee habeas corpus cases are proceeding apace before District Judge Hogan, before whom they are consolidated for procedural expediting (except for some cases retained by Judge Leon); our friend Candace is kind enough to keep me in the loop on that, and at least, so far, it looks like the judges intend to hold the government to the Supreme Court's imperative of "expeditious".

We'll all just have to stay tuned...

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July 16, 2008, The Sounds of Silence

By a pair of 5-4 rulings, the extraordinarily conservative (for example, the late Sen. Jesse Helms singlehandedly kept most Bill Clinton appointments off it for years) 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, in the ongoing saga of Saleh al-Marri (his counsel Jonathan Hafetz is interviewed here) ruled that the Bush Adminstration (1) has the power to hold any of us-- ANY. OF. US.-- indefinitely, solely at the President's whim, if he invokes the magic word "terrorist", but (in this case, a very small but) (2) Mr. al-Marri (or whatever poor hapless bastard is involved be he named Padilla, or Mayfield, or Smith or Jones) may petition a civilian court "to test the evidence" against him, paying the most minor of lip service to the Supreme Court's Boumediene decision from last month and nearly 800 years of Anglo-American law.

Jonathan Hafetz called what we used to think of as the "right" to be punished by confinement by the government only after proper charge and trial... to be the most fundamental "right" of all. Because after all, if we can be locked up forever at the whim or our ruler, then we cannot profess to be a free country. Period. End of story. Everything else-- EVERYTHING ELSE-- in the litany of Bush Administration abuses pales in comparison to this one. While our treatment of foreign nationals at Guantanamo, Bagram, Diego Garcia, Iraq, CIA ghost prisons, affiliated foreign torture chambers, assorted floating and non-floating naval brigs, etc. is appalling, at least that is not all that unprecedented: the understanding is that all wars are chaotic, and "military necessity" covers a multitude of sins, from killing the wrong people to detaining the wrong people, at least for a while (though not even war justifies torture... and we've gone there too).

Picking up people who are, however, lawfully in the United States (al-Marri happened to be a legal immigrant, studying at Bradley University in Peoria, IL, with his wife and five children), is iniquitous. It is unAmerican. It is as fundamentally wrong as our government can be. I fully understand that he is accused of being part of a terrorist sleeper cell. If so, he should be charged, prosecuted at a fair trial and, if convicted jailed, or if the death penalty is appropriate, executed, but all in accordance with an established and fair judicial proceeding. David Addington and Dick Cheney would rather that we lived in a dictatorship, particularly where they are part of the Central Committee. And so, it seems, would their ideological neocon brethren on the Fourth Circuit.

Where is the outrage? I'm listening... the sounds of silence... are deafening.

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July 15, 2008, America

Well, the U.S. of A. has hit another great milestone... our terrorist watch list has hit one million names, and counting, according to the ACLU, which monitors government reports. This 1,000,000 number-- which is actually used for the express purpose of hassling people for having the audacity to appear at airports with paid tickets expecting to go anywhere-- is a far "harder" number than, say the 8,000,000 of "Main Core"-- and will have much more immediate real world impact for the lucky duckies poor bastards whose names are on it... which might include you and me, for all we know (seeing as the whole thing is a bloody secret... until you're mysteriously presented from boarding; "the program" might actually be effective at fighting actual terrorism, on "the stopped clock is right twice a day" theory... or more likely, like everything else this Administration does, is completely ineffective at it... but one never knows when things are a complete secret; and with this government, if it had anything good to say, you know it would tell us.)

The good news, at least, is that Ben Bernanke and Hank Paulson appear to be good at their jobs, amidst some really challenging economic and financial times. The bad news is that they only run the Fed and Treasury respectively... every other instrument of government is in the hands more typical Bush II Administration apparatchiks. You know: morons. Which explains the whole terrorist watch list, now at around 3/10 of one per cent of the population, and growing every day.

Like I said: morons.


July 14, 2008, Slip slidin' away

We're having quite a celebration of the 75th anniversary of some of the New Deal reforms that have finally, finally been dismantled after decades of fierce ideological battling (and money-grubbing... I speak of the Glass-Steagall Act's "wall" between investment banking and commercial banking and a separate package of savings & loans intended to engage in home loans...)... all of which have been effectively dismembered by denizens of both ideologically supportive Republicans and Democrats (yes, Joe Biden, I mean you) willing to sell out to the highest bidding banks and plutocrats as long as it meant campaign money and propped up local usurious business interests in places like Delaware... and so systemic redundancies meant to prevent repeat of the 1930's financial meltdowns have been dismantled in the interest of obscene profits of a few, resulting in... a possible repeat of 1930's style financial meltdowns...

Where was I going with this? Oh yes. It's 2008, and here in the United States of America, we are having bank runs. While I was thinking of writing a post I'm inclined to title "Mrs. Robinson" (you see, Michelle Obama's maiden name is Robinson, and Barack and she are all upset about that New Yorker cover), I kind of think Barack, slip slidin' away himself if the latest polling is believed, ought to be a little less concerned with trying to game things to preserve his own image (you see Barack f*cked up on the FISA thing... and the Iraq thing... and the gun thing... voters in a country with bank runs want someone who stands for decisive action, and not another triangulator... we could have picked Hillary for that...) and a hell of a lot more concerned with the handbasket that our country is rapid-fire going to hell in.

So get back on track, man, and show some God damned backbone: stand for something. Screw the New Yorker and their jack-jive cover... you've got to expect fifth columnists trying to subvert you from "our side"... as well as the other side... laugh it off. This seems to be how the game is played in 2008. You're no naif. You know this. Go back and re-read FDR's playbook from the early '30's if necessary, and stop trying to game this... those of us who desperately want to believe in you believe you are not only smart and ruthless enough to win, but decent enough to pay attention to the plight of the nation, and start showing us NOT that you are exactly the same as John McCain (only younger and cooler)... but that you are completely different from McCain, on the choices for the judiciary, on civil liberties (!), on the conduct of the war on terror (especially Iraq), on the economy, on taxes, on social programs, on the environment, etc., etc., etc.

Because if you don't... see that post title again, man.

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July 13, 2008, Bookends Theme

I know, I know. The latest excuse for a Simon & Garfunkel title is the announcement by Treas. Sec. Paulson on the machinations of the government bailouts of the twin pillars of our housing finance system, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

The details aren't in yet, but these two private companies that everyone knows are part of the government (sort of) are going to be part of the government (really) in the form of a taxpayer-sponsored bailout, which, we are well beyond the point of arguing with, as our entire financial structure had been based on people borrowing from the ever increasing equity in their homes to continue to prop up other forms of financial ventures, from home improvements to vehicles to just plain buying stuff or keeping up with credit cards and utilities, etc.

More and more bailouts of this variety will be required. Will they be enough to stave off financial meltdown and the resultant catastrophe? We can hope...

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July 13, 2008, Dangling Conversation

In this op-ed called "The Real-Life "24" of Summer 2008," the Grey Lady's Frank Rich does a nice synthesis of what (the few remaining!) regular readers here will vaguely recognize as one of the sort of the themes of this blog (as if there were any!), to wit, the unConstitutional and unAmerican abuses and outright war crimes committed by the Bush Administration have probably not made us any safer from the threat of Islamist terrorism, as well as being unacceptable to any people who call themselves bound to the rule of law.

This is not to say, of course, that if such measures as torture and trashing the Bill of Rights were effective, that we should engage in them; the fact is, moral authority had always been this nation's most effective ally in conducting its affairs. And of course, the goodwill of our allies had been another key ally. But by flushing both down the sewer-pipe of expedience (and of course for that vaunted "flexibility"), we have undermined our own security. Also, there is the factor of "how are we better than them if we behave no better than them." Ah, details, details.

Obviously, the biggest problem is not understanding the motivations of our enemies. The fact is, OBL's biggest and most cherished personal demand-- that we (meaning the US of A and our females, Jews, etc.) get out of "the Holy Peninsula" of Saudi, seems to have been complied with.

Obviously, as of 11 Sept. 2001, it had not. And so, we have to do a little more digging to see what exactly is sticking in the craw of our attackers these days.
While it may feel good to addled, overworked Americans to hear comic book terms like "evil-doers," it does not really serve us to forget that our opponents are human beings with their own motives and agendas... Certainly, as Frank Rich's op-ed points out, the signs-- a reconstructed A.Q. operating in Pakistan-- a state with nuclear weapons that will be somewhat harder to deal with than lawless Afghanistan should it be necessary to deal with re: harboring A.Q. after a significant attack on an American target-- but our own military has been weakened, both in real, material terms, and in moral terms, as a result of political expedience after political expedience.

Well, six months and a week left in the Bush Administration. Will it fly by... or will it be an eternity... this has been... "Dangling Conversation."

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July 13, 2008, Bridge Over Troubled Water

Yes, yes... having at various times, gone for a series of Beatles titles, then the Stones, Dylan... could I resist going for S & G...? Apparently not, as we get this story, that of negotiations over a "bridge agreement" vis a vis continuation of American forces in Iraq past the deadline for the expiration of the UN mandate for our presence later this year, meaning that the President's imperial plans for permanently sticking the next Administration with a permanent colonial-maintenance force seem to have gone awry.

Such is the nature of golum monsters, in this case, the golum created by insisting that we were in Iraq because of WMDs Saddam's connection to al Qaeda the need to bring Iraqis democracy... which led to those wonderful (in the Lani Riefenstahl sense, of course, the only sense that matters to the Bush II Administration) moments of fat-cat Republican assholes waving purple stained fingers in the air. The thing is, that "democracy" also led to a class of Iraqi politicians whose continuation in power is now more dependent on forces (as it were) actually in Iraq as opposed to in imperial Washington. (Indeed, so assertive seems al-Maliki of late that he may even evict the Americans from the sacred Green Zone by the end of the year; admittedly, this may be more aspirational than real, as one is tempted to say, "oh yeah, al-Maliki... you and what army?").

One begins to wonder if the sort of developments there recently (like big oil deals) are the real action; otoh, how would we allow our precious bodily fluids oil companies to be at the mercy of a chaotic, mercurial Iraqi security apparatus, rather than the tried and true, if a bit shaky these days, mighty American military?

Stay tuned... our Iraqi colony may be asserting itself... or it might be playing according to a script. Time will tell... this has been... "Bridge Over Troubled Water." Now, I will lay me down.

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July 10, 2008, Mother and Child Reunion

That, of course, would be the reunion of Ma Bell and Big Brother in the form of the 'telecom immunity" portion of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act ("FISA") repeal reform that, anticlimactically, passed the Senate yesterday 68-29. For the record, Obama voted yea, Clinton voted nay, and McCain, a big supporter ofthe measure, was campaigning in Ohio and did not vote, as if it mattered.

Many will (rightly) note Obama's weaselly position on this (trying to tepidly support a tepid amendment to strip telecom immunity, while lending support to the law as a whole) as reminiscent of his support of Scam Alito's Supreme Court nomination. The perfect is the enemy of the good, I suppose; so Barack will keep telling us anyway.

In the end, had Hillary Clinton been the nominee, she would have voted "yea" as well: no Democrat running for President can afford to be portrayed as "soft on terror" even if it meant officially opening concentration camps on U.S. soil. Once it came up for a vote, there was only one vote available. And that's just it: what, in God's name, are Pelosi and Reid (and Hoyer, and Jane Harmon and Jay Rockefeller) hiding? Because that's what this is about, boys and girls. They were briefed on whatever the f*ck this is.

The "telecom immunity" has nothing to do with telecoms: they would ultimately (or not so ultimately) be indemnified by Big Brother, and further, they have been paid for their "cooperation." The impetus for this is to kill lawsuits, where civil discovery would have revealed the full scope of the massive invasions of all our privacy. And these privacy invasions-- Big Brother reading your e-mail and faxes and listening into your phone conversations and who knows what else (reading our mail? bugging our homes?)-- could only be dealt with if we even knew what they were.
And the private phone companies couldn't just incant the words "state secrets" and declare the game over.

Well, it seems, now they can. What difference "taking back Congress" made regarding the preservation of our liberties made... remains a huge question. Given Obama's disappointing stance on this, one fears we might ask the same thing about the White House.

Deep sigh.

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July 7, 2008, Another class act...

That would actually be referring to my own college class, Columbia's (thankfully) final all-male class, C'83, which I share with, inter alia, Democratic Presidential nominee, Sen. Barack Obama, Libertarian Vice-Presidential nominee Wayne Allyn Root, not-a-federal-judge Miguel Estrada, and now... Washington Post Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli. Brauchli was just named to that position after recently serving in a similar capacity with The Wall Street Journal, and he will assume his duties in September.

I, of course, will continue to provide you with my observations of the universe from my perch here somewhere inside Stately Dog Manor, in absolute obscurity and relative anonymity, totally untainted by any schadenfreude at all. Really, I'm just delighted with the continued good fortune of my classmates, and, one hopes, one of them might just recognize the extraordinary talent of one of their old friends from the alma mater... [I'm not picky... Ambassador to the Bahamas, Undersecretary of Defense, Management and Budget Director, or something like that would be just fine. Just saying.]

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July 6, 2008, Saving Private Ryan Lynch Senator McCain?

So, is there anyone out there who still thinks that it was a complete coincidence that during the daring hostage rescue down Colombia way in which three Americans and former Colombian Presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt were rescued, that John McCain just happened to be in that country? If so, Al Giordano strongly suggests that you think again, and also suggests that Uncle Sam's sticky fingers are all over this one and that the timing of Sen. McCain's visit to Colombia is all part of the staging.

While this sort of thing does bespeak some level of competence on the part of the Bush Administration, the fact is, had it gone down as a complete flop, we simply wouldn't have heard about it. The only thing that the Bushmen have shown competence at is image and public spectacle, and once they pull something off (such as, famously, the Private Lynch rescue kabuki or the fall of the Saddam statue, or the bullhorn... ooops... the bullhorn shot), they never let us forget about it.

Even as they manage not to show us... other images.

Sen. McCain holding a birthday cake for Pres.  Bush, circa Hurricane Katrina.

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July 4, 2008, The Empire Republic Strikes Back?

American flag as seen from Camp Delta, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Andy had written to suggest I write a pithy July 4th post, this year. While I don't want to disappoint him, OTOH, the best we can say is that "recent events" are mildly encouraging. The two remaining major presidential candidates are, at least rhetorically, committed to restoring the prevalence of the rule of law in the conduct of our military affairs (and in particular, stopping the practice of torture). Still and all, one of them, alas (Sen. McCain, you know who you are) seemed to express "disagreement" with the Supreme Court's Boumediene decision, which simply recognized that a right heretofore recognized since 1215 was not arbitrarily circumscribed by 911.

In any event, here we are on 4 July 2008. Were I to write these words in 1998, it would be assumed I was either writing sci fi fantasy, or perhaps describing some other country. But the United States government now asserts the divine right to read our mail (including especially e-mail), listen in to our telephone conversations, monitor our financial transactions, and when politically expedient in certain cases, detain us without counsel or charge, forever. And that's just for citizens and legal resident aliens. For non-citizens and "illegals", all of the above, plus, of course, "enhanced interrogation methods," or, as the United States government called it before 911 changed everything, "torture".

Maybe I should list some of the grievances of the American colonists as expressed in July 1776 in some Declaration they wrote:

The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good. He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them. He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only. [signing statements anyone?]

******

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

******

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

*******

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.


Just saying. Happy 4th, everyone.

Update: While President King George III may not be listening to us, perhaps someone is. Today, former Sen. Jesse Helms died, at 86. [Propriety dictates that if one has nothing good to say about someone, one should say nothing.]

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July 2, 2008, TD Blog Interview with Wells Dixon

Wells Dixon is a staff attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, and in that capacity represents a number of current and former prisoners of the United States military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. On July 1, 2008, I had the privilege of interviewing Mr. Dixon by telephone. What follows are my interview notes, corrected as appropriate by Mr. Dixon.

The Talking Dog: You have recently commented that the government's answer to the depression it is causing by subjecting its GTMO guests to near-total isolation is to involuntarily medicate them. Can you comment on this, and on allegations of other medication administration such as possibly intended to aid in interrogation (i.e. if there are contentions of administration of "truth serum"), or other uses (hallucinogenic experimentation). How did you come to learn about the involuntary drug administration, and has the government ever confirmed (or officially denied) it?

Wells Dixon: At the outset, I should make a disclaimer so it is clear: anything I tell you during this interview does not include or involve any classified information of which I am aware, but is based entirely on information that is publicly available, and based on the public record only. That said, we had heard for quite some time, from a number of sources including several prisoners who had been released, that medications were administered, and that these prisoners were required to take these medications. The military, of course, does not confirm or deny any of this. Some of the prisoners who have been released have discussed these issues publicly, others have not. This implicates a number of privacy and other issues, and is therefore not something we can discuss in great detail.

The Talking Dog: With respect to the Chinese national/Uighur prisoners you represent, can you tell me (1) how many the government has determined are "not-enemy-combatants" or "cleared for release" or whatever the current Orwellianism for "we're holding them wrongfully" is, now; (2) the status of efforts to resettle them, and I'm specifically asking about Canada, and what has happened with that since Chinese/Canadian Huseyin Celil appears to have been sentenced to life in prison in China despite Canada's not taking in any Uighurs, and (3) anything else you'd like to comment on with respect to the Uighurs? Also, can you comment on the recent Parhat decision?

Wells Dixon: CCR is indeed involved in a joint representation of most of the GTMO detainees. I represent with my former law firm 4 of the Uighurs still held there (their names are Ahmad Turson, Adel Noori, Abdur Razakah and Abdulghappar Abdulrahman), and three who have been transferred to Albania. There are 17 Uighurs still at GTMO, all were designated enemy combatants, but all have been cleared for release! As Parhat is now no longer an enemy combatant after the D.C. Circuit ruling, there are now 16 who are designated enemy combatants!

The status of efforts at resettlement is that we had been hopeful that Canada, or perhaps Germany or a Scandinavian country, where there are Uighur communities, would step up and accept some of the Uighurs as refugees. Everyone agrees that the Uighurs were captured by mistake, but at this point, there is nowhere to send them. Canada had a number of diplomatic discussions with the U.S. about this, and it was looking like Canada was going to be a place for resettlement. But then Huseyin Celil, a Canadian national, was arrested in Uzbekistan, turned over to the Chinese, the Chinese have thrown him in prison and sentenced him to life imprisonment, and it has all caused a diplomatic row between Canada and China. In my view, the Chinese got the better of Canada diplomatically; the Canadians were not successful either on Celil, or with respect to Uighurs from Guantanamo... on Celil, Canada just got outmaneuvered by China.

After the Parhat decision, and other decisions that should follow, there will be a renewed effort to resettle the Uighurs, especially with Canada and Germany. We have asserted that if no other country takes them, then the United States should take them... there is no question that none of these men represent a threat or are otherwise hostile to us. Indeed, the Uighurs are a preferred group regarding seeking asylum in the United States, as they are a pro-Western persecuted minority in China.

The Talking Dog: I understand that you were down at Guantanamo Bay recently, when Boumediene came down. Assuming you can even talk about this until your notes are cleared, did you have an opportunity to convey news of the Boumediene decision to them, and if so, what was their reaction? Do you anticipate any kind of immediate response by the courts now hearing habeas cases, i.e., will any GTMO prisoners be released as a result of judicial process before George W. Bush leaves office?

Wells Dixon: I can only tell you three things. (1) On the date of the decision's release, I was meeting with Majid Khan (2) On that date, the military provided me with a complete copy of the Boumediene decision, during lunch, and (3) the military authorized me to provide it to my client and to state so publicly.

At this time, that is all I can say.

The Talking Dog: Can you briefly tell me which of the current round of "military commission" defendants that CCR is involved in representing? Do you anticipate any of these commission trials even getting to the point of taking evidence (let alone concluding) prior to the next President taking office (if ever)?

Wells Dixon: We need to clarify that Majid Khan has not been charged by the commissions. If he is charged, we would represent him, but it has not yet happened. As to someone who was charged, but is no longer, CCR represents Mohamed Al-Qahtani, who was alleged to have been involved in the 9-11 plot and was horribly tortured at the direction of Donald Rumsfeld. Those charges, however, were rejected by the Defense Department, and he is no longer charged by the military.

It is highly unlikely that the Commissions will take any evidence during the remainder of the Bush Administration. Yesterday, charges against Al-Nashiri for involvement in the Cole bombing were announced, but al-Nashiri is one of three prisoners whom the government admits were subjected to waterboarding. Until the issues of "is waterboarding torture" and similar ones are resolved, the commissions cannot realistically take evidence, and I do not believe that these issues are going to be resolved in that time frame.

The Talking Dog: On that note, particularly with respect to your client, allegedly "high value" detainee Majid Khan, or for anyone else, can you tell me the status of efforts (both before the federal courts and the commissions) to preserve evidence such as videotapes of "harsh interrogations" (and things that some of us used to call torture)? To the extent you can publicly discuss it, what are your clients' allegations with respect to coerced statements (or worse)?

Wells Dixon: Since you mentioned the issue, I cannot confirm or deny anything concerning videotapes. There are only two things I can tell you. The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has entered an interim order requiring the Government to preserve any and all evidence of torture, and (2) we have no reason to question whether the government is complying with that order. Beyond that, I cannot discuss individual allegations of torture.

The Talking Dog: What if anything can you tell us about "Camp 7" and "Task Force Platinum" with respect to the so-called "high value" detainees?

Wells Dixon: That is something I cannot discuss.

The Talking Dog: Is there anything else I shoulud have asked you, or anything else my readers should know about Guantanamo and American detention policy in the war on terror?

Wells Dixon: The litigation will continue, even after the Supreme Court's ruling in Boumediene said that the costs of delay can no longer be borne by the detainees, and the detainees can petition the federal courts for habeas corpus relief. We are, unfortunately, already seeing an effort by the government to delay proceedings still further, and to avoid any actual hearing on the merits. Parhat was an exception to this insofar as it reached an appellate court which actually made a decision that he is not properly held as an enemy combatant, but by and large it appears that the government fully intends to leave this current human rights disaster for the next President, and certainly, this will lead to litigation continuing at least into 2009. Until then, hopefully, Boumediene, Parhat and other decisions will lead to an increase in pressure to take Parhat and the other Uighurs and some of the other detainees (who the government has admitted have done nothing wrong!) out of Guantanamo in the interim.

The Talking Dog: I join all of my readers in thanking Mr. Dixon for taking the time to speak to us and for that informative interview.


Readers interested in legal issues and related matters associated with the "war on terror" may also find talking dog blog interviews with attorneys Rebecca Dick, Wesley Powell, Martha Rayner, Angela Campbell, Stephen Truitt and Charles Carpenter, Gaillard Hunt, Robert Rachlin, Tina Foster, Brent Mickum, Marc Falkoff H. Candace Gorman, Eric Freedman, Michael Ratner, Thomas Wilner, Jonathan Hafetz, Joshua Denbeaux, Rick Wilson,
Neal Katyal, Joshua Colangelo Bryan, Baher Azmy, and Joshua Dratel (representing Guantanamo detainees and others held in "the war on terror"), with attorneys Donna Newman and Andrew Patel (representing "unlawful combatant" Jose Padilila), with Dr. David Nicholl, who spearheaded an effort among international physicians protesting force-feeding of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, with physician and bioethicist Dr. Steven Miles on medical complicity in torture, with law professor and former Clinton Administration Ambassador-at-large for war crimes matters David Scheffer, with former Guantanamo detainees Moazzam Begg and Shafiq Rasul , with former Guantanamo Bay Chaplain James Yee, with former Guantanamo Army Arabic linguist Erik Saar, with law professor and former Army J.A.G. officer Jeffrey Addicott, with law professor and Coast Guard officer Glenn Sulmasy, with author and geographer Trevor Paglen and with author and journalist Stephen Grey on the subject of the CIA's extraordinary rendition program, with journalist and author David Rose on Guantanamo, with journalist Michael Otterman on the subject of American torture and related issues, with author and historian Andy Worthington detailing the capture and provenance of all of the Guantanamo detainees, and with Joanne Mariner of Human Rights Watch to be of interest.

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July 2, 2008, Chinese imports (or yesterday's news... today!)

No, not any of the usual myriad goods, often inexpensive, imported from China, but Communist China's interrogation methods were evidently imported for use at Guantanamo Bay, according to the Grey Lady. Specifically, a chart shown to interrogators at GTMO was derived from a report by Alfred D.Biderman, a sociologist then working for the U.S. Air Force, which discussed how the Communist Chinese would obtain false confessions from American military personnel.

Of course, this is...yesterday's news... today! We give you this snippet, from my July, 2007 interview with Michael Otterman:

The Talking Dog: Can you comment on the recently disclosed to the public revelations that, in direct contravention of international (and American) law, so-called "SERE" techniques from the military have been "reverse engineered" on prisoners of the American military at Guantanamo, Afghanistan and elsewhere?

Michael Otterman: SERE, or Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape, is key to the American use of torture today. The aim of SERE, a military program started soon after the Korean War, is to prepare US soldiers for the torture they may face if captured by an enemy that does not abide by
the Geneva Conventions. Given the USSR and Communist China were our
main Cold War enemies at the time, Soviet and Chinese tortures like sensory deprivation, forced standing, waterboarding, and hypothermia were adopted into the program. Again, the idea was that soldiers would be better prepared to resist such tortures if they were first exposed to them in controlled settings.

After "the gloves came off" post 9/11, the CIA, then US military, turned to SERE for expertise on torture. In late May 2007, the Pentagon declassified an Inspector General report titled: Review of DoD-Related Investigations of Detainee Abuse. This report reveals that SERE psychologists and trainers worked with military interrogators in the US, at Guantanamo, and even Iraq to train them to use Soviet tortures. The irony, of course, is that SERE was created to prepare soldiers to deal with an enemy that didn't abide by Geneva. It was the US now that was violating Geneva, and using the very techniques of our Cold War enemies in the GWOT.

Now, mind you, the latest report I cited comes from The New York Times, which despite the many criticisms I often lay at its feet, has been responsible for some of the best reporting on the abuses perpetrated by the Bush Administration. So... if The Times is... evidently this late to the game on these critical issues, you can see where most of the rest of the American so-called media is on this (i.e. still repeating the "worst of the worst" canard, even as our government has let around 2/3 of "the worst of the worst" out, and keeps holding a fair number of those remaining that it admits are guilty of nothing... which explains just how insanely uninformed (and of course misinformed) the American people are about the whole bloody thing... not to mention everything else.)

Well, what else is new. We'll keep trying to bring you whatever details of "truth" can be brought to you within the various limitations imposed by the Bush Administration's unAmerican obsession with secrecy (and the fact that at the end of the day, I'm one guy with a day-job, a family and occasional other interests, etc.) Until then, this has been... "Chinese imports (or yesterday's news... today)."

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