reboot the republic daily August 13, 2010

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The Omar Khadr Travesty

Posted: 13 Aug 2010 04:10 PM PDT

From Salon.com

By Glenn Greenwald

(updated below – Update II)

The only real reason I thought Robert Gibbs’ comments yesterday merited a response is not because of the ephemeral melodrama it created — the White House said Fox-copying, mean things about the Left – but because of the “substantive” claim he made that comparisons of Bush and Obama were so blatantly insane that they merited “drug testing.” That Obama has vigorously embraced and at times even exceeded some of Bush’s most controversial and radical policies is simply indisputable. I’d request that anyone doubting that just review the very partial list I compiled in Update II yesterday. In that list, I neglected to mention numerous other compelling examples (recall Tim Dickinson’s recent revelation that Interior employees call their Department under Ken Salazar’s corporate-serving rule “the third Bush term”). Among my most prominent omissions was the Obama administration’s Bush-copying use of military commissions rather than real courts to try “War on Terror” detainees.

Military commissions were one of those Bush/Cheney policies which provoked virtually universal outrage among progressives and Democrats back in the day when executive power abuses and rule of law transgressions were a concern. The Obama administration’s claim that the commissions are now improved to the point that they provide a forum of real justice is being put to the test — and blatantly failing — with the first such commission to be held under Obama: that of Omar Khadr, accused of throwing a grenade in 2002 which killed an American solider in Afghanistan, when Khadr was 15 years old. This is the first trial of a child soldier held since World War II, explained a U.N. official who condemned these proceedings. The commission has already ruled that confessions made by Khadr which were clearly obtained through coercion, abuse and torture will be admitted as evidence against him. Prior to the commencement of Khadr’s ”trial,” the commission ruled in another case that the sentence imposed on a Sudanese detainee Ibrahim al-Qosi — convicted as part of a plea bargain of the dastardly crime of being Osama bin Laden’s ”cook” — will be kept secret until he is released. What kind of country has secret sentences?

Jennifer Turner is with the ACLU’s Human Rights Project and is observing these proceedings at Guantanamo. Read what she wrote and decide for yourself if “drug testing” is needed more for those who draw comparisons between Bush and Obama, or for those who angrily insist such comparisons are outrageous:

Yesterday was a stark reminder that instead of closing the book on the Bush-era military commissions, President Obama is adding another sad chapter to that history. Although President Obama promised transparency and sharp limits on the use of tortured and coerced statements against the accused, at Guantánamo today one military judge ordered that a sentence be kept secret from the public and another military judge allowed statements obtained by abuse and coercion of a 15-year-old to be used at trial.

Monday was Day One of the sentencing hearing in the case of Sudanese detainee Ibrahim al-Qosi. Al-Qosi was the first detainee to be convicted under President Obama, in a plea deal entered this June in which he admitted to being an al Qaeda cook and occasional driver. . . . But in an unprecedented move, military judge Air Force Lt. Col. Nancy Paul ordered today that al-Qosi’s true sentence will be kept secret until he’s released. The judge said the government requested that the sentence be kept secret.

A fellow observer of the military commissions here, former Marine judge and law of war expert Gary Solis, here to monitor the commissions for the National Institute for Military Justice, says he has presided over 700 courts-martial and has never heard of a secret sentence. . . .

A final pretrial hearing also took place Monday in the case of Canadian Omar Khadr, who will start trial today as the first test trial of the military commissions under President Obama. In a summary decision of only a few words, and with no explanation, the military judge in Omar Khadr’s case, Col. Patrick Parrish, denied defense motions to exclude self-incriminating statements Khadr made to interrogators because of torture and other abuse. The judge will issue a written decision, certainly after the trial begins and possibly after it’s ended, but for now he’s offered no explanation.

It boggles the mind that the military judge could find that Khadr was not coerced and gave these statements to interrogators voluntarily. Khadr, then 15 years old, was taken to Bagram near death, after being shot twice in the back, blinded by shrapnel, and buried in rubble from a bomb blast. He was interrogated within hours, while sedated and handcuffed to a stretcher. He was threatened with gang rape and death if he didn’t cooperate with interrogators. He was hooded and chained with his arms suspended in a cage-like cell, and his primary interrogator was later court-martialed for detainee abuse leading to the death of a detainee. During his subsequent eight-year (so far) detention at Guantánamo, Khadr was subjected to the “frequent flyer” sleep deprivation program and he says he was used as a human mop after he was forced to urinate on himself.

In closing arguments before the judge’s ruling, Khadr’s sole defense lawyer, Lt. Col. Jon Jackson, told the judge, “Sir, be a voice today. Tell the world that we actually stand for what we say we stand for.”

Though President Obama promised that coerced evidence would not be used against detainees in the military commissions, today’s ruling suggests that as a country, we stand for abusing a 15-year-old teenager into confessing, and using those confessions against him in an illegitimate proceeding.

I hope that makes all of us very proud. And then there is the issue of the restrictions imposed on reporters covering these travesties. The Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg — probably the single most knowledgeable and relentless journalist covering Guantanamo — was banned in May, along with three Canadian journalists, from attending any further proceedings, a ban that was then reversed as arbitrarily as it was imposed. Last month, she gave a speech to the National Press Club about how arbitrary and oppressive these restrictions are, and adapted that speech into this superb article published by McClatchy. Last night, Rachel Maddow discussed those press restrictions with Newsweek’s Mike Isikoff, who is covering the Khadr trial from Guantanamo; it’s worth watching this 5-minute segment:

As I’ve written before about the Khadr case (as well as the very similar case of child soldier Mohamed Jawad), what is most striking to me about this case is this: how can it possibly be that the U.S. invades a foreign country, and then when people in that country — such as Khadr — fight back against the invading army, by attacking purely military targets via a purely military act (throwing a grenade at a solider, who was part of a unit ironically using an abandoned Soviet runway as its outpost), they become “war criminals,” or even Terrorists, who must be shipped halfway around the world, systematically abused, repeatedly declared to be one of “the worst of the worst,” and then held in a cage for almost a full decade (one third of his life and counting)? It’s hard to imagine anything which more compellingly underscores the completely elastic and manipulated “meaning” of “Terrorist” than this case: in essence, the U.S. is free to do whatever it wants, and anyone who fights back, even against our invading armies and soldiers (rather than civilians), is a war criminal and a Terrorist.

* * * * *

Regarding the Obama administration’s efforts to have the scope of National Security Letters expanded to include your email and Internet “transactional” records, Harper’s Scott Horton examines how abusive a power that is by looking at one case that recently became public (see an excellent Democracy Now interview from this morning with the true hero of that story, Nick Merrill). Relatedly, I have an essay in Cato Unbound on the ongoing explosion of the unaccountable Surveillance State. Really, though, it’d be best if you look over there at John Boehner, become sufficiently scared, express gratitude that Obama isn’t Sarah Palin, and then keep your mouth shut about all of these matters and just dutifully get to work to elect Democrats. That’s what any good citizen would do.

UPDATE: Yesterday, the always-smart Rep. Keith Ellison called on Gibbs to resign, and earlier today, Alan Grayson had some extremely harsh words for Gibbs, saying, among other things: ”I don’t want him to resign; he should be fired;” he ”belongs on Fox, not as the White House spokesman”; and “I’d like to see him show some anger over 15 million unemployed.”

I was on MSNBC earlier today, with Dylan Ratigan and Jane Hamsher, and tried to highlight what I think are the substantive issues (as opposed to the petty “hurt-feelings” reactions) which this episode raises. The video of that segment is below, and below that is Grayson’s appearance on MSNBC, where he echoes some of those points:

UPDATE II: Maher Arar — the Canadian citizen who was abducted by the Bush administration, sent to Syria for 9 months to be tortured, and then denied any justice in American courts even once it was clear that he was completely innocent — has a superb piece at Huffington Post, entitled: ”Why Is Canadian Child Soldier Omar Khadr Being Tried by a Military Court?” The whole thing should be read, but this is how it ends:

The final question is: Why is Omar Khadr being tried by a military court if the government is certain he was the one who threw the grenade? Don’t they have trust in civilian courts? I think we all know the answer: these military courts are made to convict. After all, the government, as is usually the case, is throwing multiple charges at him in the hope that one of them sticks.

This farce trial is already showing us its ugly face: his military judge has just ruled that Khadr’s confession can be used in trial.

If anyone can recognize the horror and tyranny of America’s “War on Terror” abuses, it’s Arar. And he clearly recognizes it here.

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Bike Agenda Spins Cities Toward U.N. Control, Maes Warns

Posted: 13 Aug 2010 03:09 PM PDT

This is a pillar of Agenda 21.

From The Denver Post

Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes is warning voters that Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper’s policies, particularly his efforts to boost bike riding, are “converting Denver into a United Nations community.”

“This is all very well-disguised, but it will be exposed,” Maes told about 50 supporters who showed up at a campaign rally last week in Centennial.

Maes said in a later interview that he once thought the mayor’s efforts to promote cycling and other environmental initiatives were harmless and well-meaning. Now he realizes “that’s exactly the attitude they want you to have.”

“This is bigger than it looks like on the surface, and it could threaten our personal freedoms,” Maes said.

He added: “These aren’t just warm, fuzzy ideas from the mayor. These are very specific strategies that are dictated to us by this United Nations program that mayors have signed on to.”Maes said in a later interview that he was referring to Denver’s membership in the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, an international association that promotes sustainable development and has attracted the membership of more than 1,200 communities, 600 of which are in the United States.

Denver became a member of the group in 1992, more than a decade before Hickenlooper became mayor. Eric Brown, the mayor’s spokesman, said the city’s contact with ICLEI “is limited.”

George Merritt, a spokesman for the Hickenlooper gubernatorial campaign, said the group’s goal is “to bring cities from all over the world together to share best practices and help create the kinds of communities people want to live and do business in. John Hickenlooper believes collaboration leads to smart decisions.”

Hickenlooper has often touted bicycling as an environmentally friendly and healthy way for people to commute to work and has said he hopes more people will do so.

Last week, Hickenlooper upset some auto dealers on the eve of a fundraiser when he lauded the city’s B-Cycle bike- sharing program at an event and asked: “How do we wean ourselves off automobiles?”Maes, at the rally July 26, took aim at Denver’s bike-sharing program, which he said was promoted by a group that puts the environment above citizens’ rights.

The B-Cycle program places a network of about 400 red bikes for rent at stations around the city. It is funded by private donors and grants.

Maes said ICLEI is affiliated with the United Nations and is “signing up mayors across the country, and these mayors are signing on to this U.N. agreement to have their cities abide by this dream philosophy.”

The program includes encouraging employers to install showers so more people will ride bikes to work and also creating parking spaces for fuel-efficient vehicles, he said.

Polls show that Maes, a Tea Party favorite, has pulled ahead of former Congressman Scott McInnis, the early frontrunner in the Aug. 10 primary for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. Maes acknowledged that some might find his theories “kooky,” but he said there are valid reasons to be worried.

“At first, I thought, ‘Gosh, public transportation, what’s wrong with that, and what’s wrong with people parking their cars and riding their bikes? And what’s wrong with incentives for green cars?’ But if you do your homework and research, you realize ICLEI is part of a greater strategy to rein in American cities under a United Nations treaty,” Maes said.

He said he’s worried for Denver because “Mayor Hickenlooper is one of the greatest fans of this program.”

“Some would argue this document that mayors have signed is contradictory to our own Constitution,” Maes said.

Staff writer Jennifer Brown contributed to this story.

Christopher N. Osher: 303-954-1747 or cosher@denverpost.com

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Video: Iran Nuclear Propaganda Debunked in Under Seven Minutes

Posted: 13 Aug 2010 11:18 AM PDT

Featured on a panel at the University of California, Riverside, Scott Horton of Antiwar Radio calmly and confidently debunks the accusations against Iran. This video gives excerpts of his comments. You want to watch this video, I promise.

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Congressional Research Service: “It’s Impossible” to Count the Number of Agencies Created Under ObamaCare

Posted: 13 Aug 2010 08:05 AM PDT

From Politico

Don’t bother trying to count up the number of agencies, boards and commissions created under the new health care law. Estimating the number is “impossible,” a recent Congressional Research Service report says, and a true count “unknowable.”

The reasons for the uncertainty are many, according to CRS’s Curtis W. Copeland, the author of the report “New Entities Created Pursuant to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.”

The provisions of the law that create the new entities vary dramatically in specificity.

The law says a lot about some of them and a little about many, and merely mentions a few. Some have been authorized without any instructions on who is to appoint whom, when that might happen and who will pay.

Those agencies created without specific appointment or appropriations procedures will have to wait indefinitely for staff and funding before they can function, according to Copeland’s report.

And others could be just the opposite: One entity might not be enough and could spawn others, resulting in an “indeterminate number of new organizations.”

The CRS report cites as an example a minority health provision that “requires the heads of six separate agencies within Health and Human Services to each establish their own offices of minority health.”

Another section, by contrast, says that the Patient-Centered Research Institute “‘may appoint permanent or ad hoc expert advisory panels as determined appropriate.’ How many such panels will be ‘determined appropriate’ by the institute is currently unclear.”

Implicit in the report is a message not to take too seriously the elaborate charts and seemingly precise numbers peddled by Republican critics that are designed to show the law’s many bureaucratic tentacles.

The Center for Health Transformation, founded by Newt Gingrich, recently estimated that the new law created as many as 159 new offices, agencies and programs. Republican staffers on the Joint Economic Committee determined that there were 47 bureaucratic entities.

“Although some observers have asserted that PPACA will result in a precise number of new boards and commissions,” the CRS document reads, “the exact number of new organizations and advisory bodies that will ultimately be created … is currently unknowable.”

Even in the few cases in which the PPACA set explicit creation dates for organizations, the consequences of missing these deadlines remain unknown.

The legislation, for instance, mandated HHS to establish an Interagency Task Force to Assess and Improve Access to Health in Alaska by May 7, as well as an Advisory Committee on Breast Cancer in Young Women by May 22.

HHS has yet to appoint members to the breast cancer committee and is currently reviewing nominations, according to HHS spokeswoman Jessica Santillo. The Alaska task force didn’t hold its first meeting until July 16.

The CRS author based his conclusions on a search of the law for any of the following formulations: “there is established,” “there is created,” “there is hereby created,” “shall establish,” “shall create,” “shall convene,” “shall appoint,” “purpose of this section to establish,” “there is hereby established” and “there is authorized to be established.”

Beyond the problem of enumeration, the CRS paper expresses concern that the lack of specificity in the bill could complicate congressional oversight. Copeland also raises questions about the number of appointments to boards delegated to the comptroller general of the United States, who heads the Government Accountability Office.

“Under the new law, the Government Accountability Office must appoint at least 83 new members to six new boards,” he notes. “It is unclear how GAO will be able to independently audit these entities when the CG has appointed their members.”

Some of these new “entities” have been politically controversial.

For instance, prominent Senate Republicans introduced legislation last week to repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board, which must submit Medicare cost-cutting proposals to Congress and will consist of 15 members, appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate.

“America’s seniors deserve the ability to hold elected officials accountable for the decisions that affect their Medicare,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said in a statement, “but IPAB and many of these other new boards would take that away from seniors and put power in the hands of politically appointed Washington bureaucrats.”

Cornyn, one of five senators calling for the IPAB repeal, further denounced the number of new boards created by the PPACA. “This avalanche of new boards is arrogantly premised on the idea that Washington has all the answers,” he wrote in an e-mail to POLITICO. “In true fashion of Obama-Reid-Pelosi hubris, this is an outrageous growth in government.”

The political battle over IPAB is especially consequential because its proposals will not be merely advisory. PPACA mandates the secretary of HHS to implement IPAB’s proposals unless Congress adopts alternative measures to cut at least as much Medicare spending as the original IPAB recommendations.

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WikiLeaks Plans to Release New Afghan War Docs

Posted: 13 Aug 2010 07:53 AM PDT

From AntiWar.com

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell was quick to condemn an announcement today from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, in which Assange said the group was preparing to release the 15,000 remaining Afghan War documents.

We’re about 7,000 reports in,” Assange reported. The group has been combing through the documents and removing names of Afghans. He gave no timetable for the final release of the documents.

But a furious Geoff Morrell declared that the “only responsible” course of action was for WikiLeaks to delete all of its classified documents, including those that had already been released. Needless to say, the whistleblower group does not plan do this.

Though WikiLeaks has yet to identify the new documents, the Pentagon says it believes it knows what they are, and that they are “potentially explosive.” The previous document leaks have caused no small level of embarrassment to the military, but they have had to concede that they have no evidence to back up their claims that WikiLeaks has “blood on its hands.”

Assange, fearing US retribution, has gone into even deeper hiding, and is reported to have dyed his white hair brown. His last known location was London, but when he “attended” a London conference via Skype he declined to comment on where he is now.

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