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Archives for March, 2009


Law and Disorder March 30, 2009


Frances Golden: Jailhouse Lawyers, Prisoners Defending Prisoners Against the United States of America by Mumia Abu Jamal

Frances Golden joins us today to discuss a very well known political prisoner, as we continue our political prisoner series based on the book Let Freedom RingFrances is the literary agent for Mumia Abu Jamal. Mumia as many know, was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1981 murder of police officer Daniel Faulkner.  Mumia was a Black Panther Party activist, cab driver, and journalist.  Since his conviction, Mumia has become an international cultural icon for political prisoners.  A previous guest here on Law and Disorder, author/ journalist J. Patrick O’Connor who wrote The Framing of Mumia Abu Jamal, says the real shooter was Kenneth Freeman a business partner of Mumia’s brother. Freeman, was found dead in 1985, bound and cuffed in a Philadelphia parking lot.

We get a another perspective today from Mumia’s literary agent Frances Golden. Frances also visits six death row in a Pittsburgh maximum security prison.  Jailhouse Lawyers, Prisoners Defending Prisoners Against the United States of America by Mumia Abu Jamal.

Frances Golden:

  • Visiting death row inmates happened because I went to visit Mumia as a visitor.
  • I had to become a member of the Pennsylvania prison society.  40 bucks a year you can see any prisoner anywhere.
  • Now, because the PPS applications were flooded to see Mumia, they changed the policy that only Pennsylvania residents can become members of PPS.
  • You have to see more than one prisoner as a PPS member. So, Mumia gave me names of others including Robert Lark aka Sugar Bear.
  • I hope I don’t cry when I say this, out of the 6 death row inmates I see, 5 of them are innocent.
  • You’re behind very thick glass, there are quarter inch thick screens on each side of the cell where your voice can travel through. It’s awful, insulting but it’s what exists on death row.
  • I have a little book with their names in it, with 100 pages(of notes) between each name.
  • The prison system is illegal and inhuman. The person who speaks most clearly about that is Angela Davis.
  • One prisoner nicknamed Slim was on the streets of Philadelphia without a home at 10 years old. Never went to school, got in trouble ended up on death row. He learned to read in prison, he’s a phenomenal jail house lawyer.
  • Two of the five could get out, that’s Sugar Bear and Osiris.
  • I have a prisoner friend whose name is Russel Shoates. He will never be executed but he’s on death row because he escaped 3 times. Russell is shackled and tied to his waist. I dance with them and do yoga. I can’t do that with Russell. I asked the warden to unshackle him.  This man is gentle, he’s small, he’s wickedly intelligent.
  • Philadelphia, the most corrupt city in the United States, from beginning to end. -Judges lock up kids for kickbacks in Pennsylvania

Guest: Frances Golden, activist and literary agent for Mumia Abu-Jamal, Frances is a member of the Pennsylvania Prison Society and visits 6 death row inmates monthly.

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Laura Whitehorn and Susie Day – Let Freedom Ring, A Collection of Documents From the Movements to Free US Political Prisoners.

Among the many contributors to the book Let Freedom Ring is revolutionary ex-political prisoner and native New Yorker Laura Whitehorn. Since the 1960s Laura was active in supporting groups such as the Black Panther Party, the Black Liberation Movement and was active with Students for a Democratic Society and the Weather Underground. Laura also worked to expose the FBI’s Counter Intelligence Program. Laura was arrested in 1985, convicted of the 1983 US Capitol bombing and charged with… “conspiracy to oppose, protest and change the policies and practices of the United States government in domestic and international matters by violence and illegal means.” She was sentenced to 20 years in prison, and was released August 1999 after 14 years. Laura lives in New York City and is active in a wide range of progressive issues.

Laura’s partner Susie Day, activist, writer and contributer to Let Freedom Ring also joins Law and Disorder hosts in the studio.

Laura Whitehorn:

  • I’m in my sixties now, I was moved by the Black Liberation struggle and the struggle of the Vietnamese people against the United States.
  • But I ended up spending years in prison later, in a case called the conspiracy case and our indictment was a thing of beauty -  using the words violent and illegal means. It was a series of bombings of buildings. No one was ever hurt, great care was taken. One of the buildings was the U.S. Capitol.
  • But in that period in 1988, we were in the DC jail for 3 years and it was the beginning of the huge epidemic of AIDS in Washington DC.  It was a time of absolute fear, stigma, no drugs to treat HIV, and so we started to learn about HIV and did counseling, almost all the political prisoners had done that.  This is because AIDS is huge in prison. A quarter of the people with AIDS in this country go through the prison system at some point.
  • The fact that the government says there are no political prisoners, it’s a denigration of everything that you stand for. So, it was important that we had a lot of support.
  • There’s a great interest in the sixties movements, the movies and books etc, but that doesn’t translate into the willingness to say enough is enough. People have been in jail since the late sixties and early seventies. How much time do you have to serve in this country, what kind of country do we have?
  • In Europe the maxium is 20 years, sometimes they go farther. That’s a life sentence in Europe, but here, you could have saved the warden’s life but if you were a black panther and go to the parole board, they say you can’t get out.
  • We have Obama, but the same justice system. We have to fight for a new justice system. What happens to political prisoners will happen to everyone else. We were held in preventive detention now everyone knows what it is.
  • The book is a guide in how to raise these cases, who these people are, what kinds of organizations are out there. What can people do?  The Jericho Movement

Susie Day:

  • Before I met Laura Whitehorn, I was sort of intrigued by all the compromises most of us make everyday, for decades.  We cut corners everyday to go to our jobs, to raise kids, to pay the rent, and we support involuntarily things that we abhor. So, I was interested in people who did not compromise. Who lived underground, who would go to extremes of giving up their lives of basic middle class educated comfort. . .and give up their identities to fight an establishment that made it so easy for everyone else to just get along.

Guest: Laura Whitehorn – revolutionary ex-political prisoner and native New Yorker Laura Whitehorn. Since the 1960s Laura was active in supporting groups such as the Black Panther Party, the Black Liberation Movement and was active with Students for a Democratic Society and the Weather Underground. Laura also worked to expose the FBI’s Counter Intelligence.

Guest: Susie Day lives in New York City where she writes a humor column for feminist and gay publications. She has also written on U.S. political prisoners and labor issues and thinks her girlfriend, Laura Whitehorn, is hot stuff.  Can’t get enough of Susie?  Read other pieces by Susie Day in MRZine: Susie Day, “Fugitive Offers Reward for Rumsfeld’s Capture” (22 July 2005); “Street Life of a Mad Activist” (28 July 2005);

Matt Meyer - Let Freedom Ring, A Collection of Documents From the Movements to Free US Political Prisoners.

New York based educator and activist Matt Meyer. Matt is the editor of several books including the recently published Let Freedom Ring, A Collection of Documents From the Movements to Free US Political Prisoners. – The book nicely pulls together two decades of essays, interviews and resolutions of US political prisoners. These are the voices and intimate writings of those who have challenged the US empire from within, Black Panthers, Puerto Rican independentistas, white anti-imperialists, environmental and animal rights militants and Arab and Muslim activists. Meyer is a former public draft registration resister and chair of the War Resisters League.

Matt Meyer:

  • We wanted to bring awareness to that yes, there are political prisoners in the US.
  • There’s been a history to support those movements and free them.
  • This book focuses on the last 25 years as a key era that took us through the late sixties and seventies of social change.
  • The majority of peoples that have been in prison come from the black civil rights liberation movement, come from the American Indian Movement, come from the Puerto Rican and Chicano movements and come from some white allies and supporters.
  • Political prisoners are in jail because of the ideas they’ve had as much as the acts they’ve committed. They’re political actions and beliefs and who are in jail 20, 30 years, incredibly long sentences and harsh conditions.
  • It is also a collection of documents from the movement to free them. For example from the Puerto Rican movement. We have a collection of documents that began to help free 12 Puerto Rican political prisoners – this shows how this came through by a combination of grassroots support and international pressure.
  • This book says to activists and all readers that we can build upon the strategies that have been used in the last 20 years. We can look at some of the documents and get a sense of how to use these strategies today to help not only political prisoners but prisoners in the ever increasing US prison system. There is a growing sense that we should all pay more attention to these folks who are languishing in jail.
  • The fact that the information in this book was not readily available, it was scattered here and there. This volume was designed as a tool with the hope to spark new movements.
  • What can people do?  The Jericho Movement

Guest: Matt Meyer -  Founding PJSA Co-Chair along with USF Dean Jennifer Turpin, Meyer has long worked to bring together academics and activists for lasting social change. A former public draft registration resister and chair of the War Resisters League, he continues to serve as convener of the War Resisters International Africa Working Group. With Bill Sutherland, Meyer authored Guns and Gandhi in Africa: Pan-African Insights on Nonviolence, Armed Struggle and Liberation, of which Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote, “Sutherland and Meyer have looked beyond the short-term strategies and tactics which too often divide progressive people.

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Law and Disorder March 23, 2009


Updates:

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Steve Downs: The Yassin Aref Story and Muslim Database, Project Salam

Imam Yassin Aref is among numerous Muslim men in the United States who were targeted by the FBI framed and wrongly convicted. Aref is Iraqi Kurd who came to Albany, New York in 1999 as refugee from Kurdistan. He later became the leader at a local mosque. After 9/11 the FBI began to illegally wiretap and eavesdrop on the mosque and Yassin. It was later reported in the New York Times that these wiretaps were conducted without court approval.  As retired attorney Stephen Downs explains, Yassin is one of 400 in a database site, Project Salam that keeps track of Muslim men in United States prison.

Stephen Downs:

  • Whatever it was that triggered suspicion, the FBI decided they wanted to convict Yassir
  • So, they set up sting operation, it was run by a guy who was convicted of a number of felonies.
  • Yassin was convicted and sentence to 15 years in communication management units at Terra Haute Prison, Indiana,
  • They’re trying to seal them off from the prison population and society at large.
  • They’re being treated like they have some horrible disease and would infect anyone that they’d come in contact with.
  • I have a suspicion that the Bush Administration was thinking of closing Guantanamo and  I can’t help thinking that because the size of this place is about right, that they’d consider transferring prisoners there, but that didn’t happen.
  • There is room for 400 prisoners, there are 50 or 60.
  • We began to realize that all over the country there were groups that were forming around certain people in their communities that had been simply, locked away.
  • So, we got together at Albany Law School and decided to set up a database of all the Muslims in the country who had been improperly gone after. They were under suspicion from the government for some reason.
  • We just wrote to President Obama and Attorney General Holder regarding what has happened under the Bush Administration in that we change the paradigm in how we prosecute people.
  • Now we’re going to be writing letters about specific cases.  We got 900 people to sign the first letter.
  • We are asking people to adopt a defendant.
  • We have about 400 Muslims in the database. We can’t say that all 400 are innocent. Some people are overcharged.
  • We appealed and lost. There was a secret appeal and a top secret brief that even the prosecutor wasn’t allowed to see.
  • The appellate decision was harsh, it either mischaracterized what we had to say or brushed them aside immediately.
  • We thought it was a victory because the standard is a 30 year prison sentence, based on the all the “enhancements” that they added.

Guest – Stephen Downs, a retired New York State attorney and a volunteer attorney for the Yassin Aref case.

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George W. Bush, War Criminal ? by Michael Haas

In the book titled George W. Bush, War Criminal? author Michael Haas counts 269 war crimes that the Bush Administration are liable to be prosecuted for. He itemizes each war crime into a specific category of four classes, such 36 war crimes committed in the conduct of war, 175 war crimes committed in the treatment of prisoners and so on. This book carefully documents the war crime  evidence, making it quick work to investigate how George W. Bush, the military officers under his command and the staff in his administration can be brought to justice.

Michael Haas:

  • Types Of War Crimes:
  1. The illegality of the war.
  2. The misconduct during war, militarily, the mistreatment of prisoner.
  3. The misgovernment of the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • The decision to indiscriminately bomb without giving proper notice to the civilian population and then the use of illegal weapons such as Daisy Cutters, White Phosphorous and Depleted Uranium Weapons which not only affected the civilian population in Iraq, but the American soldiers who came in to occupy.
  • I have a table in the book indicating 40 international agreements that are war crimes treaties.
  • The most prominent to begin with is the Red Cross Convention of 1864 and then going on to the Hague Conventions, the Geneva Conventions before and after WWII and then the subsequent conventions against torture and forced disappearances.
  • Any kind of torture is illegal involving prisoners of war.
  • When they couldn’t get information out of Guantanamo prisoners, the Geneva Convention orders to not torture prisoners was countermanded to try other techniques by then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld – by executive order through George Bush.
  • Most of the war crimes are from the mistreatment of prisoners, because the Geneva Convention is very detailed and specific about what cannot be done.
  • The Bush executive order details what had happened and in fact is an admission of abuse.
  • Extraordinary renditions, to send someone to another country to be tortured is itself a war crime.
  • War crimes are ongoing now, they’re happening under the Obama Administration.
  • If we can’t focus on now, which apparently isn’t happening, then we can’t learn lessons from the past.
  • At Guantanamo, the following war crimes are taking place: Failure to transmit legal documents to prisoners, secret judicial proceedings, refusal to cooperate in investigations and prosecution of torturers. The wreckless endangerment of health in prison, the violation of medical ethics, that is the force feeding. Indefinite imprisonment of children, cruel treatment, that is the beatings after force feedings.
  • These are what I’ve counted to be 22 war crimes since the inauguration of President Obama.
  • The thesis of the book is to have a truth commission on the war crimes published in this book so that people know, the public what is a war crime, what is not a war crime.
  • Some of the war crimes are only heresay right now, so we need sworn testimony, though some of the war crimes are signed by George W Bush.  www.uswarcrimes.com
  • I was writing a textbook on human rights, I’m a scholar, political scientist, while I was reading the Geneva Conventions to summarize them for the purpose of a chapter, I was also reading the newspaper, I realized that the violations of the Geneva Conventions, and reading them item by item – its very dry reading, but I can make it much more interesting.
  • I quit my job as a professor, and relentlessly began getting up at 5 AM and going to bed at 1AM day after day to finish this book, so it would be coming out just a few days before the inauguration of the new president.

Guest -  Michael Haas,  has written more than 30 books on human rights, he is currently Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Hawaii and the Chairman of the International Academic Advisory Board of the University of Cambodia. He played a role in stopping the secret funding of the Khmer Rouge by the administration of President George H. W. Bush. He has taught political science at the University of London, Northwestern University, Purdue University, and the University of California, Riverside.The argument is that all 4 types of war crimes were violated with great impunity by George W Bush and members of his administration.

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Law and Disorder March 16, 2009


Updates:

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13 Million Dollar Payout in May Day LAPD Police Abuse Cases

In a landmark class action lawsuit settlement, the Los Angeles city council agreed to pay nearly 13 million dollars to those injured or mistreated in the 2007 May Day demonstration in MacArthur Park. As the march ended, LAPD riot police were filmed by camera crews using excessive force, firing rubber bullets and striking people with batons. Dozens were injured in the melee and the footage was seen around the world. The 13 million dollar settlement was part of a larger portion of nearly 300 May Day claims.

Carol Sobel:

  • There was an immigrants rights march in MacArthur Park in Los Angeles on May 1st 2007, there has been for the last 7 years. The police didn’t want to give the group a permit to march in the streets.
  • There are about 20 lawyers on this case, the National Lawyers Guild, the Guild’s Police Accountability Project and MALDEF, the Mexican American Legal Defense Education Fund.
  • As around 10 thousand people approached the park, police “forgot” to direct people into the park.
  • The rally was at the Northwest corner of park, so marchers had to cross an 8 lane highway that divides the park. This created chaos of which the problems arose.
  • There was no instruction, people didn’t know where they were supposed to go.
  • Then people got near police on motorcycles, they used their motorcycles to hit protesters. This was happening as an Aztec circle dance performance closed the march and opened the rally.
  • Some protesters through trash, plastic water bottles at police. It was heard that the police said “We need to get rid of these people now.” Police were not giving orders to disperse, they simply said “move”.. to the 10 thousand people in the park.
  • The officers were speaking only English, the crowd spoke almost all Spanish.
  • Families had no idea why the police were coming with riot gear. While police were saying to move, people were thinking, “well I didn’t do anything wrong, they could’nt be talking to me.”
  • So officers began knocking people down and hitting people, firing pellets, it was total chaos.
  • 140 rounds of less lethal munitions were randomly fired into the crowds.
  • The police report also stated there was no probable cause, no reason to go after the marchers.
  • Lesson: It’s very difficult to change the culture of a police department. The police department can’t engage in this behavior, because we can’t afford it as a city.

Guest – California civil rights attorney Carol Sobel, who represented some of the injured. In 2000 Carol was struck by police pellets while serving as a legal observer during the Democratic National Convention.

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Nora Eisenberg: When You Come Home

We’re pleased to have with us Nora Eisenberg, she’s the author of the recent book When You Come Home. It is a powerful novel that acknowledges the physical and psychological effects of veterans returning from Operation Desert Storm-The Persian Gulf War (2 August 1990 – 28 February 1991). In this beautifully written ant-war fiction, Nora delves into the corrosive effects post war combat has on the families and communities that are called on to nurture veterans returning home. Mimi is the main character who’s husband was killed in Vietnam, her 20 year old son Tony, a marine reservist, has returned from the Gulf War and there’s Tony’s childhood sweetheart, Lily who was raised by Mimi after her parents disappeared.

One book review describes When You Come Home this way: “In 1991, troops sent to Iraq for the first Gulf War returned home with a litany of physical, neurological, and psychological symptoms that collectively became known as Gulf War syndrome, a subject seldom dealt with in works of fiction. Eisenberg poignantly demonstrates that casualties of war occur both on and off the battlefield and ironically illustrates the vivid consequences when those in charge of veterans’ postwar care fail to meaningfully “support our troops.”

Nora Eisenberg:

  • The First Gulf War – “The Good War”, 5 weeks of censorship and fabrication. Fabricated by a Washington based PR firm – Hill and Nolton. The campaign was headed by Craig Fuller. Fuller was also Chief of Staff for George H.W. Bush. Fuller took charge of the campaign to impress the public of what villians the Iraqis were.
  • The firm brought this young girl to testify in front of a Congressional Committee – She claimed to work at a maternity ward in Kuwait. “The mean Iraqi soldiers” came in and hurled nearly 300 babies from their incubators and were left to die on the floor.
  • This young girl was part of the Kuwaiti Royal Family, her father was Washington / Kuwait ambassador.
  • All part of a 10 million dollar PR campaign with Hill and Nolton.
  • Aside from the no-fly zones and sanctions, the deaths of Iraqis were massive and continuing.
  • I’ve been following the deteriorating health system in Iraq and the rise of disease leading to the deaths of 2 million Iraqi children.
  • I started writing this book with the “bad” war looming and with a sense that the ’91 war wasn’t over at all.
  • I thought, are we going to kill millions again and get off scott-free, does it really work that way?
  • Gulf War Illness, even among progressive people, there remains very little awareness of what this disease is. It attacks the respiratory system, the nervous system, it’s a neuro-toxic event.
  • These soldiers got sick, immediately. Some say they got sick after swallowing an anti-nerve gas pill.
  • When they were around the insecticides that were soaking the tents, they felt sick immediately, vertigo, stomach cramps.
  • The soldiers loved ones, pets and wives coming down with similar symptoms, by proximity.
  • It’s taken almost 20 years for Congress to say what the veterans already knew, that they were poisoned.
  • A report delivered by high profile doctors at Roberta White say the soldiers were exposed to neuro-toxins. These were not neuro-toxins from Saddam Hussein.
  • Those are main culprits, there are other terrible exposures that came out in a report last November.
  • Such as the exposure to sarin in a weapons depository that affected 2-3 hundred thousand US soldiers.
  • Nearly 15 thousand have died from Gulf War Illness. We have nearly 400 thousand US soldiers coming back as patients / nearly 40 percent are psychiatric patients.

Guest – Nora Eisenberg, New York City novelist and professor of English at the City University of New York (LaGuardia) and directs CUNY’s Faculty Publications Program. The War at Home ws a Washington Post Rave Book of the Year for 2002 and Just the Way You Want Me was awarded the 2004 Gold Prize in General Fiction from Foreword, the weekly of independent publishing. Her short stories, essays, and reviews have appeared in The Village Voice, Partisan Review, the LA Times, Tikkun., and numerous anthologies.

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Law and Disorder March 9, 2009


Updates:

Zionist Critic Joel Kovel: Terminated From Teaching Position At Bard College

Since author and professor Joel Kovel, published, Overcoming Zionism, Creating a Single Democratic State in Israel and Palestine, he has endured accusations of anti-semitism, Michigan Press temporarily suspended distribution of the book – calling it “hate speech” and recently Kovel was terminated from his teaching position as a professor of 21 years at Bard College. Joel Kovel is back with us on Law and Disorder to give us a brief chronology of these controversies and deliberate set backs.

Joel Kovel:

  • I was terminated from an endowed chair (at Bard College) 3 weeks after I published an article critical of Israel and Zionism. Then asked to resign 3 weeks after I published another article critical of Zionism.
  • This is a good example of the kinds of repression that the Zionist lobbies impose upon the people who dissent on the unholy relationship between Israel and the United States.
  • Most campuses in this country are highly Zionist in organization, but Bard is exceptionally so. The president is the conductor of the Jerusalem symphony orchestra. He says he makes 10 trips a year to Israel. He brought the symphony around and played the Israel national anthem and the audience all stood, which I thought was just outrageous.
  • I tried to give a lecture to call attention to that and was shunned.
  • My book Overcoming Zionism did not only focus in on the occupation of Palestine or Israeli abuses but the fundamental structure of the Israeli state which is animated by Zionism which leads to all of the woes and abuses of human rights.
  • Unless you deal at that level and point towards an overcoming and not just Zionism, but the special status and you treat Israel as we treated South Africa for equivalent crimes of Apartheid; namely a systematic racism against an indigenous people.
  • So I started catching hell from the Zionist lobbies. “I’m anti-semitic, full of hate.” They panicked the University of Michigan Press, and they pulled the book.
  • It’s remarkable that Bard College which is very proud of its image of being a bastion of defense of freedom of speech. Not a single peep. So I knew we were in serious straights at that point.
  • I put up an anti-Zionist course last fall, which was evaluated. The evaluation was dripping with innuendo, and references to me losing my grip as a teacher, and was basically the preliminary to my termination at Bard College after 21 years.
  • The alumni has supported me, the faculty not so. This is important because it is now a place that has instilled timidity and even terror amongst the faculty.
  • They’re intimidated and its distressing that you can take people who are sophisticated and ostensibly good values and they will not bring themselves to utter basic criticism of an event that has shocked the world and caused millions to change their view of Israel.
  • Bard is creating a new class of bourgeois who would get the jobs, auto dealerships, burger kings, whatever they’re planning.
  • It’s typical of a liberal institution to use generous impulses and they want to make something good happen, but we also know how many pitfalls there are. Just think of all the universities that were founded by the British and the French to secure their empires. I think it has a lot to do with that.

Guest- Joel Kovel, scholar and an activist. In the former capacity he has published nine books and over a hundred articles and reviews. His books include White Racism, which was nominated for a National Book Award in 1972; A Complete Guide to Therapy; The Age of Desire (in which his work in the psychiatric-psychoanalytic system is detailed); Against the State of Nuclear Terror; In Nicaragua; The Radical Spirit; History and Spirit(1991) – Committee for Open Discussion of Zionism

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Office of Legal Counsel Release Secret Memos: First Batch

Last week the Justice Department released internal Bush documents that revealed more legal memos authorizing torture and interrogation outside of the United States. These “police state” memos include the military’s search, detention or trial of civilians in the U.S. without congressional input and a newly disclosed opinion by torture memo author John Yoo who argued that constitutional provisions ensuring free speech and barring warrantless searches could be disregarded by the president in wartime.

Scott Horton:

  • The Bush Administration kept them secret to the very end. The Obama transition team went in to get the memos and were told you can’t have them, you can’t see them.
  • These memos were published because they were sought in litigation. Specifically in the lawsuit – Padilla v Yoo
  • Memorandum Oct 25, 2001 - talks about the ability of the Bush Administration to drop a bomb on my house? Unreasonable search and seizure doesn’t apply if the president engages in domestic military operations. Neither does the First Amendment.
  • It says the Posse Comitatus Act is essentially a dead letter.
  • What they’ve said in this memo is that 200 years of Constitutional history is gone.
  • These memos have an instrumental role. They set the legal policy, that’s in accordance with the Judiciary Act of 1789.
  • There seems to be a vague presumption that all these memorandum are invalid. The OLC will be repudiating these memos and put a priority on publishing them because they welcome public participation in this process.
  • Michael Ratner: Can you really prosecute John Yoo for these torture memos?
  • You look at his public statements of which there are hundreds, he seems to understand that he has an acceptable legal defense, because everything is geared to “that’s my honest opinion and nothing has changed” Is that argument correct? No, it’s not.
  • He says he was asked his opinion, he gave his opinion. I think what we will see is that he was told in meetings in the White House, before he wrote opinions, that a torture program was put in place, pushback was coming from career lawyers saying this is unlawful conduct .. and he was told we need you to protect us from this and write legal memos.
  • Implying, that these memos had an instrumental role to silence critical lawyers and push the torture program, already in motion, forward.
  • If that’s the case, he’s beyond the role of advisor. Mis-stating advice and corrupting the law.. .that is the precedent to be liable for war crimes. The most likely outcome from all of this is a lot of disbarmments

Guest – New York attorney Scott Horton, known for his work in human rights law and the law of armed conflict. Scott is also the contributing editor to Harper’s Magazine
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Ali Saleh Kahlah al Marri Indicted on Terrorism Charges

Last week, a federal court charged the only enemy combatant with two counts of providing material support to Al Qaeda. This will allow his release from six years of military custody and into the criminal justice system. The ACLU says this is exactly where the case should be to determine whether al-Marri is guilty. Jonathan Hafetz, working as al-Marri’s lead defense counsel says despite the news, he will not drop the habeas corpus challenge in the case.

Michael Ratner Update: Since this interview, Al-Marri’s enemy combatant status was wiped off the books. The Obama Administration in it’s brief, essentially insisted they might well have the right to hold people as enemy combatants. As it now stands, the president has the power to hold a person in the United States as an enemy combatant.

Attorney Jonathan Hafetz:

  • On Feb 27, the US government unsealed an indictment that had just been filed, in the central district of Ilinois, charging Mr. Al-Marri with 2 counts of material support for terrorism.
  • At the same time the government filed a motion in the Supreme Court asking to dismiss Mr. Al-Marri’s appeal claiming it was moot.
  • Michael Ratner: Now this was an appeal that was going to test the power of the president to detain as unlawful enemy combatants, people in the United States?
  • This sweeping power, that the president could seize and militarily detain potentially with life without trial, any individual including a US legal resident and a US citizen, based on the assertion that they were involved in terrorist activities.
  • Since 9/11, this policy is finally being called into account in the Supreme Court. The Obama Administration effectively refused to defend the policy.
  • In their motion paper in the Supreme Court, when they were seeking to have the case thrown out of the Supreme Court, the Obama Administration did not renounce the policy as they are trying to shield this policy of military detention from review but at the same time they’re not renouncing it.
  • We filed an opposition a motion saying that the case is not moot because while the government has charged Mr Al-Marri, it has not renounced its policy or properly detaining US residents or American citizens within the United States.
  • So, the Obama Administration is trying to keep all it’s options open avoiding review of this repugnent and unlawful policy that’s been in place since 9/11.
  • We hope in our opposition that even if the court dismisses the case as moot, it must take one measure which is to effectively overturn the lower court’s decision in upholding the president’s power so that decision (Executive power to detain US enemy combatants) is not on the books.

Guest – ACLU attorney Jonathan Hafetz with the National Security Project.

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Law and Disorder March 2, 2009


Updates:

CCR Releases Independent Report on Current Conditions at Guantánamo, Calls for Closure of Camps 5, 6, and Echo

The conditions at Guantanamo Bay Prison still violate the law according to an independent report released by the Center for Constitutional Rights. The report partially compiled from attorney eyewitness accounts and detainees,  has found that the conditions of confinement violate Geneva Conventions and International human rights law. Among the violations are the severe isolation of solitary confinement, psychological abuse, abusive force_feeding of hunger strikers, religious abuse, and physical abuse or threats of violence from guards and from the  Immediate Reaction Force (IRF) team.

Pardiss Kebriaei:

  • The executive order that President Obama issued on Jan 22 tasked the Sec. Of Defense with conducting a review of Guantanamo.
  • Basically, asking the person who was in charge of Guantanamo for years to investigate operations there.
  • It’s more on of an internal review than an outside independent one and its not surprising that they think all is fine and well in GTMO
  • We have the impression that they’ve only spoken with about a dozen detainees out of the 240 plus.
  • Detainees in Camp 6 are held in cells that are 6 X 8 feet. there are no windows. They are in them for 20-22 hours a day.
  • There are no openings except a metal food slot, and a window into the interior of the prison that allows guards to look in.
  • Their compliant behavior within Camp 6 determines whether they can go to an open air cell for two hours and pace.
  • In Camp 5, it is similar, no natural air or light, the lights are on 24 hours a day,
  • One detainee who is 17 is smearing feces around the cell and banging his head on concrete.
  • As a consequence he is subject to physical abuse by the Immediate Reaction Force IRF team, (riot squad style guards) who beat him up, and spray tear gas in the cell.
  • This is the response to someone who needs, competent caring psychological help.
  • In January, there were about 70 detainees on hunger strikes. They use force feeding chairs. The chairs are made by a company in Iowa who calls them “padded cells on wheels”
  • The person is fully strapped to this chair while a 12 inch tube is forcibly inserted up their nose and down into their stomachs to allow about a 1.5 liter of formula to be pumped into their stomachs.
  • Often during this force feeding process, there are guards around them humiliating them, making jokes.

Guest – Pardiss Kebriaei, Staff Attorney with the Guantanamo Global Justice Initiative, at the Center For Constitutional Rights.

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Amnesty International-Fuelling conflict: Foreign arms supplies to Israel/Gaza

Last month Amnesty International released an in depth report detailing fresh evidence that the weapons used during the Israel Gaza conflict earlier this year were supplied abroad. The report tracked countries supplied arms to both Israel and Hamas. Weapons such as white phosphorus, anti-tank mines, air delivered munitions and flechettes which are 4 centimeter darts packed by the thousands into artillery shells.

The report also unearthed multiple violations of humanitarian law and in some cases,  war crimes. Flechettes, for example are not specifically banned under international humanitarian law. but they contributed to unlawful killings of and injuries to civilians.

Colby Goodman:

  • There were fragments from the US made Hellfire missile where 3 paramedics were killed.
  • International military law is clear about attacks on medical personnel.
  • White phosphorus burns at a temperture of 1500 degrees.
  • Using white phosphorus indiscriminately as a smoke screen creates a situation where it injures and kills civilians.
  • Israel had not used white phosphorus in Gaza before. Watch video
  • White phosphorus burns right through the skin to the bone, very difficult to stop.
  • Palestinians doctors did not know how to treat white phosphorus burns, so civilians were dying from minor burns. Some WP munitions are US made and some are not.
  • Potential violations of the Arms Control Act

Guest -  Colby Goodman, Policy Director for Military, Security, and Police Transfers at Amnesty International USA (AIUSA). Colby he leads AIUSA’s research and analysis on issues related to conventional arms control and child soldiers in support of AIUSA’s major campaigns and issue or country advocacy.
—–

EPIC RECESSION AND GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS

There are other economic solutions and proposals that are critical of the 787 billion dollar Economic Stimulus Plan. Dr. Jack Rasmus’s recent article in Z magazine titled Obama’s Economic Plan vs. An Alternative lays out a different recovery program in 20 measures that could stimulate job growth, run an alternative tax plan and a push through single payer health plan.  His Z magazine article is a snapshot from his newly published book titled Epic Recession and Global Financial Crisis.

Dr. Jack Rasmus: – “We are in an Epic Recession phase now, not a normal recession.”

  • Banks come first, trickle down. Maybe they’ll give something to the rest of us which they don’t.
  • We’ve see a virtual bankers strike for the last six months, we’ve thrown somewhere between 2 and 3 trillion dollars at the banks with the hope they’ll loan a bit out with a lower interest rate. Of course, we know they’re not doing that, they’re paying each other big bonuses, dividends and acquiring each other.
  • The commercial money center banks are broke.  Zombie banks, banks by name only.
  • It’s a solvency crisis, the banks are in default and are not going to loan.

I) Stimulus Bill – 789 Billion of Tax Cuts and Spending

  1. Designed to slow the accelerating collapse of consumption.
  2. Not designed to reverse massive unemployment which is gaining momentum. Since 2007 – 13 million unemployed. 20 million unemployed by 2009.
  3. We’re losing 400 billion dollars just from the now 10 million unemployed. Add in 401k collapse, stocks collapsing, credit cards cut off, long term rates rising, reduction in hours worked occuring, state and local tax and fee increases, state and local funds decreasing.
  4. Obama is changing rhetoric from creating 3 million new jobs to saving and creating 3 million jobs.

II) Big Bank Bailout

  1. What to do about the bad assets of commercial banks.
  2. Securitize Markets – Auto / Credit Cards/ Student Loans
  3. Insurance Scheme Proposal – Instead of giving banks money they’ll insure them. Taking the Citigroup Bailout Plan Model – 300 Billion back up.

III) Housing Industry – Mortgage modification

  1. Give the mortgage lenders money – 600 Billion – and hopefully they’ll stop going on strike and they’ll lower the interest rates.

Solutions:

  • No way out of housing crisis without nationalizing housing market.
  • Create a new government agency and properly fund it, – 900 billion dollars – it would create a small residential and business loan agency.
  • Go in there and reduce long term principle and interest to long term averages that existed before 2002′s run up of huge speculation.
  • That would be for all loans, not just the ones in foreclosure. Which would stimulate consumption not just shore up housing industry.
  • Similar to the Homeowners Loan Corporation of the 1930s
  • Auto Companies – You can’t just have 3 US Auto Companies surviving. They have to be nationalized if they’re going to put that much government money into them.
  • We don’t give them a penny unless they stop their investment and expansions overseas.
  • Ford is building big plants in Petersburg Russia. GM is building big plants in Shang Hai, China. Immediately they should be required to build cars with proper mileage.
  • Bring back 2 trillion of the 6 trillion that’s been stuff away in offshore tax havens in the last 20 years.

Guest – Author and Professor, Jack Rasmus teaches in the Department of Economics and Politics at St. Mary’s College, Moraga, California.

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