Watching the Shadows
The American Civil Liberties Union has called for creation of an independent special counsel to investigate "torture policies" following the Senate's confirmation Feb. 15 of Michael Chertoff as Homeland Security Secretary. (ACLU, Feb. 15) Chertoff headed the Justice Department's criminal division during the post-9-11 sweeps, in which many detainees were physically abused—as documented in a 2003 report by the DoJ's own Inspector General. See WW4 REPORT #89
More horrific claims of rights violations in Uncle Sam's military prison camps in Iraq and Afghanistan—including threatening detainees who dared to complain of beatings and torture. One Iraqi detainee who was apparently beaten and injured was forced to drop his claim before being released, the American Civil Liberties Union says in a new report.
John Negroponte has been named by Bush to be the first Director of National Intelligence, a post created by the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Act, recommended by the 9-11 Commission and signed into law in December. If confirmed by the Senate, Negroponte will oversee some 15 agencies, including the CIA, FBI, NSA, Homeland Security Dept., etc. (LAT, Feb. 17)
Madrid's landmark Windsor office tower was gutted by fire the night of Feb. 12, and much of downtown Madrid remains closed off by authorities. The fire (apparently caused by a short-circuit) resulted in only seven injuries, none serious--but several of the building's top floors have collapsed, and it is feared the entire 30-story tower could implode unless it is quickly demolished. (EITB24, Spain, Feb. 14)
A newly declassified report from the 9-11 Commission--released five months late and heavily censored, with several passges blotted out by thick black ink lines--reviews Federal Aviation Administration daily intelligence briefings to airport administrators in the months leading up to the attacks.
Tom Wilner, attorney for 11 Kuwaiti men arrested by US forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan and now held at Guantanamo Bay, told the press his clients say they were beaten, tortured and subjected to electro-shock and sodomy to extract confessions. According to Wilner's notes, one detainee said: "The American soldiers kept saying, 'Are you Taliban or are you al-Qaeda?'... They kept hitting me, so eventually I said I was a member of the Taliban." He says the 11 are all innocent.
Newly-confirmed US Atttorney General Alberto Gonzales may begin his term as an indicted war criminal. The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights filed new documents January 31 with the German Federal Prosecutor looking into war crimes charges against high-ranking US officials, including Donald Rumsfeld. One includes new evidence that the Fay report on Abu Ghraib protected Administration officials--a comprehensive and shocking opinion by Scott Horton, an expert on international law and chair of the International Law Committee of the New York City Bar Association. The second is a letter detailing how Attorney General nominee Alberto Gonzales’ testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee confirms his role as complicit in the torture and abuse of detainees in Abu Ghraib and elsewhere in Iraq.
I generally like Hobsbawm, but there has always been a contradiction in his
works between his enthusiasm for the ultra-democratic movements of the
English Civil War (Diggers, Levellers, etc.) and his allegiance to the
British Marxist soft-on-Russia crowd. This piece reflects that ambivalence,
and CAN be interpreted as a defense of the nasty dictatorships the US has
used as an excuse to go to war (Saddam, Milosevic, etc.). Better to point
out that Bush's purported championing of "democracy"--as he erodes voting
rights, suspends habeas corpus, unleashes sweeping police powers--is an
Orwellian abuse of the English language. (But then those British Marxist
types never did like Orwell.)