Watching the Shadows

Amnesty calls on UN to ban 'killer robots'

Amnesty International called upon countries to ban fully autonomous weapons systems on Aug. 27, the first day of the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) Group of Governmental Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems meeting in Geneva. Amnesty states that technology related to advanced weapons systems is outpacing international law. Future technologies may be able to replicate human responses, including "the ability to analyse the intentions behind people's actions, to assess and respond to often dynamic and unpredictable situations, or make complex decisions about the proportionality or necessity of an attack." A complete ban on fully autonomous weapons is necessary in order to avoid possible "dystopian" futures. Human interaction should be required by law to be involved in the identification, selection, and engagement of targets in advanced weapons.

Lithuania, Romania guilty in CIA torture case

The European Court of Human Rights on May 31 found that Lithuania and Romania violated articles of the European Convention on Human Rights (PDF)  by allowing secret CIA prisons to operate on their territory. Lithuania had allowed the CIA to open a "black site" on where agents subjected the applicant, Zayn al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn AKA Abu Zubaydah, to "ill-treatment and arbitrary detention." Lithuania must pay Husayn 130,000 euros (over $150,000). The applicant in the Romania case, Abd al-Rahim Husseyn Muhammad al-Nashiri, was transported to a "black site" on that country's territory, and faced capital charges in the US. The court censured Romania for transferring al-Nashiri to the US when it was likely he would face the death penalty. Romania must pay the applicant 100,000 euros (over $115,000). Both men remain interned at Guantánamo Bay.

Podcast: Against Red-Brown politics

In Episode Nine of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg rants against "Red-Brown Politics," the dangerous notion of an alliance between the left and fascist right against liberalism and the West—now evidenced in the growing support for the genocidal dictatorship of Bashar Assad on both the "anti-war" (sic) "left" (sic) and the "alt-right." Leading lights of the American "left" have joined pro-Assad delegations to Syria, as have figures on the fascist right. Emerging as the global representative for this sinister trend is Russo-nationalist ideologue Alexander Dugin, who is bringing together supposed peaceniks and neo-fascists around supporting despots like Putin and Assad in the name of a "multi-polar" world. Perversely,. representatives of "anti-war" groups in the US recently traveled to a Duginist confab in Moscow, where they met with various Euro-fascist leaders and a delegation of white nationalists from the neo-Confederate League of the South. Weinberg urges that leftists utterly reject overtures from the radical right, and adopt a single-standard anti-fascism—which must inlcude solidarity with the Syrian Revolution. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon.

SPLC capitulates to Red-Brown axis

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) last week issued a pressingly important report, "The multipolar spin: how fascists operationalize left-wing resentment." It refreshingly called out "red-brown populist collaboration"—documenting the growing convergence between figures on the supposed "left" and the radical, even fascist right, both in the US and in Europe. Playing a critical role is the Russo-nationalist ideologue Alexander Dugin, who is bringing together supposed peaceniks and neo-fascists around supporting despots like Putin and Assad in the name of a "multi-polar" world.  But, depressingly, at the first howls of protest from this very Red-Brown alliance, SPLC folded like punks, removing the report from their website and issuing a pusillanimous apology.

US misses transfer deadline for Gitmo detainee

The Trump administration has yet to repatriate Guantánamo detainee Ahmed Muhammed Haza al-Darbi to Saudi Arabia, effectively missing the Feb. 20 deadline established in his 2014 plea deal. Darbi pleaded guilty and admitted (PDF) to involvement in al-Qaeda operations including the 2002 attack on a French-flagged oil tanker near Yemen. In his pre-trial agreement (PDF), it was determined that, contingent on his cooperation, he would be sent back to Saudi Arabia to serve the duration of his sentence. Feb. 20 marked four years from the close of the deal and Darbi was not repatriated to Saudi Arabia.

Trump executive order to keep Gitmo prison open

US President Donald Trump signed an executive order Jan. 30 to continue operations at the Guantánamo Bay detention center. The order states that the facility is "legal, safe, humane, and conducted consistent with United States and international law." Trump's new executive order not only allows for those detained currently to remain detained, but also allows for the US to transport new persons to the facility when lawful and necessary. Trump's order revokes the 2009 order from then-president Barack Obama that was intended to close the facility at Guantánamo and transfer detainees to other detention facilities, their home countries or to a third country. There are currently 41 detainees in custody at Guantánamo.

Military judge approves destruction of 'black site'

Military judge James Pohl ruled Jan. 19 that no wrongdoing occurred when he authorized the destruction of a CIA secret prison, or "black site," despite the fact that a protection order was in effect on any remains from the CIA black sites. Prosecutors, citing national security powers, obtained permission from the judge to give defense attorneys photographs and a diagram of the site as a substitute for preservation the actual facility. According to Pohl, defense attorneys failed to show that "the physical evidence is of such central importance to an issue that is essential to a fair trial, or that there is no adequate substitute for the physical evidence." According to the Miami Herald, from 2002-2006, prisoners at the black site were subjected to waterboarding, sexual abuse, and other forms of torture.

Gitmo habeas claim charges Trump discrimination

Eleven Guantánamo inmates filed a writ of habeas corpus (PDF) in the US District Court for the District of Columbia on Jan. 11, claiming that their indefinite detention is due to President Donald Trump's anti-Muslim stance. The inmates argue they can only be legally kept at Guantánamo if their individual circumstances show that they would otherwise return to the battlefield. However, the suit claims that Trump's declaration that all Guantánamo inmates will remain in the prison camp does not take into account any of their individual circumstances, but instead is based on Trump's antipathy toward Muslims. Some of the petitioners have been at Guantánamo for the entirety of its 16 years in use as a prison. Two of the detainees were in the process of being cleared for release under the Obama administration, before the Trump administration put a stop to the release process for all inmates. The petition states that the indefinite detentions violate the due process clause of the Constitution.

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