The Bush administration has lost its Holy Land Foundation case in Dallas, making a trifecta for high-profile terror cases where the government has failed to secure convictions from sceptical American juries.
Not a single guilty verdict was returned by the Texan jury on the 197 charges relating to the “financing of terrorism”.
Georgetown law prof David Cole has perhaps the best explanation for the government’s losses in such “terror” cases – it has no evidence.
For the Arab News, it was understandably an Israeli trial conducted on American soil.
The leading Egyptian weekly, Al-Ahram, was concerned that the US District Court judge, Joe Fish, had allowed the anonymous testimony (rejected by the jurors) of Israeli agents .
In fact, the US does seem to be prosecuting mainly charities operated by Palestinian-Americans or for the benefit of Palestinians on the West Bank and in Gaza.
The government’s tortured reasoning is that the Palestinian charities, to which the contributions of Americans flow, indirectly “aid” terror, even when providing purely humanitarian assistance, as they relieve pressure on Hamas to provide such services.
The jury in the Holy Land Foundation case evidently found this too big a stretch. Clearly the government needs to list the allegedly Hamas controlled charities themselves as terrorist groups if it wants to criminalise contributions to them, and it hasn’t done so.
Another long-standing case involving charitable contributions has been resolved in favour of the defendants.
Within days of the Holy Land verdict, a 20-year ordeal for a group of Palestinians in Los Angeles ended with the government admitting defeat in its efforts to deport legal residents on what proved spurious terror assistance grounds.
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Retired federal judge Michael Mukasey (pic), George Bush’s nominee for Attorney General, has fronted confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The judge couldn’t bring himself to say that waterboarding was torture, even after the senators wrote him a letter asking him to explain earlier testimony.
Mukasey’s answer was more of the same, apparently because he didn’t want to put CIA people in danger of war crimes prosecutions.
It was exactly what Columbia law prof and Harper’s blogger Scott Horton expected, in light of undertakings Mukasey had previously given to right-wing Republicans.
In the end, two Democrat senators rolled-over and crossed the aisle to vote for Mukasey. The Senate Judiciary Committee has endorsed his nomination and it now goes to the full Senate.
Meanwhile, the legal problems of the man Mukasey is likely to replace, Alberto Gonzales, may just be beginning, according to Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick – including possible prosecution for lying under oath.
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None of this seems to bother General Michael Hayden (pic), the head of the CIA.
He continues to claim that the “extraordinary rendition” and “enhanced interrogation”, made possible by Gonzales, work like a charm, with some 9,000 bits of intelligence extracted so far from a mere 100 or so victims of the troubling techniques, some of whom received the “water cure”.
The notion that waterboarding is only simulated drowning, however, is not accepted by one government adviser, Malcolm Nance, a former instructor in the US military’s “SERE” (Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape) training program, who speaks from first hand experience.
The Independent has the story, including what happens to a waterboarded victim.
How can waterboarding suddenly be OK? When George Bush became president it had been officially illegal for over 100 years, ever since another Republican president, Teddy Roosevelt, ordered a US general court-martialled for allowing that and other abuse in the Philippines occupation.
Curiously, it’s just emerged that an official from the Office of Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice was waterboarded, though not on the orders of Gen. Hayden.
You may recall that the infamous 2002 “torture memo” by OLC head Jay Bybee (now a Court of Appeals judge) was withdrawn by his successor Jack Goldsmith (pic) in 2004 after it became public.
Daniel Levin, Goldsmith’s successor, wrote a replacement memo calling waterboarding “abhorrent”, but before doing so had himself subjected to the treatment at a military base. It was enough to convince him, it seems.
Levin was writing another memo restricting the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” when Alberto Gonzales, then White House counsel, became Attorney General.
The result? He was forced out of the department.
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Unfortunately torture is becoming passé these days and accused torturers get only cursory mention in the press.
When torture charges were recently laid in Paris against Donald Rumsfeld (pic), in town to give a speech, only a few news agencies such as the Associated Press even noticed.
This was apparently the sixth time such charges have been brought against Rumsfeld. Deutsche Welle has more on the lawsuit and here is the press release from the Center for Constitutional Rights, one of the plaintiffs.
Luckily for the former US Defence Secretary, now a Stanford “Fellow”, the venue for the speech had a connecting door to the US embassy and the wily fugitive was whisked away by officials to Germany.
In any case, according to Jurist, Rumsfeld will have to watch his future travel arrangements.
Rummy has also been put in the frame by a new American Civil Liberties Union book, Administration of Torture, gleaned from responses to the ACLU’s FOI requests.
It discloses that Major General Michael Dunlavey, a lawyer and General Geoffrey Miller’s predecessor as intelligence officer at Guantanamo, reported straight to the top.
It was already known that Dunlavey had a hand in the dismissal of the first Gitmo prison commandant, General Rick Baccus (pic), for being too nice to detainees.
The ACLU book reveals more: Gen Dunlavey told Army officers investigating detainee abuse that he took his orders at Guantanamo from George W. Bush, as well as Donald Rumsfeld.
Dunlavey, who is now again a family court judge in Pennsylvania, is a defendant, with Rumsfeld, in a civil damages case for torture, filed in 2004 by David Hicks’ habeas co-petitioners, Rasul and Iqbal.
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The former Guantanamo Chief Prosecutor, Colonel “Moe” Davis is still talking, this time to the Wall Street Journal’s Jess Bravin, and it seems Defence general counsel William Haynes is being fingered for directly meddling in the military commissions.
This would not be surprising, as Haynes interfered in some of the interrogations which produced “evidence” that might be used in the MCs.
As I noted in my post of August 3, 2006, when Haynes (pic) previously testified to the Senate during his unsuccessful hearings for confirmation as a Court of Appeals judge, he openly admitted having taken a hands-on role (with Rumsfeld) in the interrogation of the only Gitmo detainee for whom we have a torture log, the so-called 20th 9/11 hijacker, Mohammed Al Qatani.
These orders show ultimate political control of the military commission proceedings lies with the Pentagon general counsel.
Col Davis told the WSJ that the Hicks case and two others were hastily brought forward against his wish even though the regulations and procedures (e.g. appeals) weren’t in place.
A member of the Guantanamo Bay Bar, Mark Falkoff, observes that politics rather than principle governs what goes on at prison.
Davis may also have spoken to blogger Scott Horton, who has been talking to disaffected military officers again.
This time the subject was David Hicks and the deal that the Australian Prime Minister cut with Vice President Cheney to get Hicks out of the Australian election spotlight.
Horton has also talked to other whistle-blowers from Gitmo about Defence general counsel Haynes:
“Haynes is generally considered one of the Rumsfeld Pentagon officials most likely to face indictment and prosecution for war crimes because of his direct role in the process leading to Rumsfeld’s approval of torture techniques. Haynes certainly will not be indicted by the Bush Administration, but he probably will run into troubles with one or more American allies in the near future, as soon as he has left his official position. Like his former boss, Haynes will probably have to avoid travel outside of the United States in the future if he wants to keep out of jail. All of this makes his heavy hand on the war crimes prosecution steering wheel more than a bit ironic.”
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As expected, the Bush administration is making various feints about closing or changing Guantanamo in the lead-up to the December 5 Supreme Court hearing of the Boumediene detainee case.
In fact, according to the Independent, the Bush administration is so worried about losing Boumediene that it is planning yet another system of military commissions.
Such an initiative would make more credible the extremely bleak view of the Bush administration set out by the Frenchman Jean-Claude Paye in the September issue of the US journal Monthly Review.
In a New York Times Op-Ed, another French writer, Francois Furstenberg, has dared to use the word “terror” in comparing the policies of Bush with those of Robespierre (pic) and the Jacobin Club in 1792.
As Furstenberg explains:
“Jacobins expanded the government’s police powers at the expense of civil liberties, endowing the state with the power to detain, interrogate and imprison suspects without due process. Policies like the mass warrantless searches undertaken in 1792 … were justified, according to Danton, the Jacobin leader, ‘when the homeland is in danger’.”
So, says Furstenberg, when George Bush says, “We must not let foreign enemies use the forums of liberty to destroy liberty itself”, he is only echoing Saint-Just, who said, “No liberty for the enemies of liberty”.
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With each unfolding scandal, the Cheney-Bush Gang and their lawyers become more brazen.
Laws continue to be broken. “Political” prosecutions keep happening. Shameful defences are put forward. Corruption and payoffs abound and cover-ups flourish, while whistle-blowers are ruthlessly silenced.
At this very moment, lists of loyal Bushies needing pardons are quite possibly being prepared for signature by il Capo late next year.
At the same time, the Associated Press reports that the more traditional US crime syndicates, the old mob families, are on the wane.
Maybe this could explain why the Bush administration remains so emboldened and arrogant.
They’ve seen off the competition.
Now they’re the only game in town.