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Archives for October, 2012

Law and Disorder October 29, 2012


  • Supreme Court Decision on Qualified Immunity: Dick Cheney
  • NYPD Turned Young Man Into Informant: Mosque Crawler


Torture and Impunity:  The U.S. Doctrine of Coercive Interrogation

It’s an undisputed fact: both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations actively engaged in various methods of torture, and have done so with impunity. Despite initial public outrage at graphic images from the bowels of Abu Graib and Guantanamo prisons, government-sponsored torture has, on one level, come to be accepted as integral in the several perpetual wars waged by the United States. References to torture are now commonplace, sprinkled throughout the mainstream media and in popular culture references. Even discussion of different forms of torture has, in ways, become abstract.

We’ve reported, for example, that Cornell University Medical Center scientists have deemed so-called “forced standing” the most devastating mode of torture. Standing motionless for hours can shut down the kidneys, cause hallucinations and wreak much more damage.

And we’ve looked at numerous cases in which the perpetrators of US-sponsored terror have gone unpunished. In one case, while Italy’s high court upheld sentences of 23 CIA operatives convicted of kidnapping a Muslim cleric under the US program of “extraordinary rendition, more than 10 years later, the commanders who authorized the torture yet to face charges.  This country’s practice of torture have become virtually sanitized, and in the process, does lasting damage to America’s moral authority as a world leader.

Professor Al McCoy:

  • In the 1950s, the human mind was like the last continent to be discovered.
  • People in Washington, the CIA were concerned that Russia was capable of programming people to do things against their will.
  • Initially defensively and very quickly offensively the CIA led the US intelligence community, the British and Canadians on a massive search that lasted 12 years for sophisticated mind control techniques.
  • It went through an exotic phase where they explored hypnosis and very famously almost notoriously drugs, that led to dead ends.
  • They outsourced the mundane research to top ranking cognitive scientists. This produced two breakthroughs.
  • One is sensory deprivation, second is stress positions.
  • These two techniques self afflicted pain and sensory disorientation were combined in the CIA’s counter intelligence and interrogation manual in 1963.
  • It was disseminated withing the US intelligence community and then through a bunch of CIA blinds then to international police training to US allies worldwide  . . .leading to a global proliferation of torture on our side of the Iron Curtain.
  • The UN Convention barred with equal weight the physical and psychological torture.
  • We illegally took people and seized them, transferred them to allied nations where they would be likely to be subjected to torture.
  • One of the favorite blinds of the CIA was the office of Naval Research.
  • President Bush authorized the CIA to open up its own prisons, lease its own fleet of executive jets in order to move them around from prison to prison.
  • Torture became normalized for the American people. Torture became omnipresent on screens large and small across America.
  • The show 24 became enormously popular with 15-20 million views per episode. We’ve had torture normalized within the mass media. 
  • This process of impunity is really a transnational process.
  • Rewriting history so that the fabric of the past is radically reconstructed to justify the use of torture.

Guest – Al McCoy,  Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and author of  “Torture and Impunity: The U.S. Doctrine of Coercive Interrogation.” Al is also the author of “A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, From the Cold War to the War on Terror” and “The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade.  The first edition of his book, published in 1972 as The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia, sparked controversy, but is now regarded as the “classic work” about Asian drug trafficking.


ACLU: When Boston Police Spy on Free Speech, Democracy Suffers

The Massachusetts National Lawyers Guild, along with the ACLU, recently issued a report detailing how the Boston Police Department has worked with its local fusion center to spy on lawful activities. The Center was established in the wake of 9/11 to more effectively share “terrorism-related” information among federal, state and local law enforcement agencies as well as with private entities.

Public police records, including documents and videotapes, obtained with a court order reveal a pattern of police surveillance of peaceful demonstrations, coupled with the practice of interrogating activists and labeling peaceful groups as extremists. Local groups and activists have long suspected that spying was taking place.

Urszula Masny-Latos:

  • We know that various law enforcement agencies monitor peaceful activists.
  • Even though COINTELL PRO ended in the 70s, we know that law enforcement agencies have continued spying.
  • In 2009 when Israel attacked Gaza, there were many protests in Boston, one of those protests happened at the Israeli consulate.
  • Four activists were arrested and the NLG represented them and eventually charges were dropped.
  • While in jail the activists were interviewed by plain clothes officers.
  • One of the activists was threatened because she refused to answer questions.
  • Four BRIC officers interviewed those activists. BRIC (Boston Regional Intelligence Center) is one of two fusion centers we have in Massachussetts.
  • We know that BRIC is not supposed to gather information or evidence from activists or anyone else.
  • The Boston Police Department says BRIC officers only said they were available to talk with.
  • Not only in Boston, people have to be very aware of it, fusion centers have been put in all states.

Guest – Urszula Masny-Latos, Executive Director of the Massachusetts National Lawyers Guild since 1996. She grew up in Poland, where she was active in the student movement. After moving to the U.S., she attended University of California at Santa Cruz where she majored in sociology and legal studies; her graduate work in arts management was done at the New School for Social Research in New York City. Prior to her Guild employment, Urszula organized arts festivals, managed a theater company, and worked as an organizer for a union in Boston.


Law and Disorder October 22, 2012


Russell Tribunal on Palestine Findings

We follow up on the findings of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine. As many listeners may know, the tribunal was created in response to the international community’s inaction regarding Israel’s recognized violations of international law.  Jury and speakers included Angela Davis, Noam Chomsky, Ilan Pappe, Peter Hansen, Diana Buttu, Phyllis Bennis, Katie Gallagher and Russell Means.

Attorney Noura Erakat:

  • Each of the sessions focuses on a different component of the problems that has led to a failure to achieve a solution to what some may describe as the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
  • More specifically to achieve Palestinian self-determination and equality with their Jewish-Israeli counterparts.
  • The first tribunal explored the EU complicity. A condition for Israel’s acceptance into the United Nations was its acceptance of returning refugees to their homes per UN Resolution 194.
  • Since the 1967 war they’ve been supported by unequivocal US financial, military and diplomatic support.
  • Corporate complicity:  The corporations that are involved in funding the Israeli military arsenal and its construction arsenal to expand its colonial settlements in the Occupied Territory as well as building a wall deemed illegal by the National Court of Justice.
  • This fourth and final session brought everything back to the U.S.
  • To New York specifically because the U.S. has proven to be the primary obstacle in resolving this conflict.
  • Consider first that Israel has received 115 billion dollars in aid since World War 2. Making it the highest recipient of US foreign aid.
  • In addition to that Israel receives approximately 3 billion dollars a year. It receives money without any review in US law, specifically the Arms Export Control Act which conditions that all US aid to foreign countries must be used to further human rights or in self defense.
  • The US is shielding Israeli responsibility in the UN Security Council
  • The resolution process is stonewalled internationally.
  • One of the things that we’d love to do is remove the veto power from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.
  • BDS Movement: 2011 – Dock Workers refused unload Israeli products from a boat.

Guest – Attorney Noura Erakat, human rights attorney and activist. She is currently a Abraham L. Freedman Teaching Fellow at Temple University, Beasley School of Law and the U.S. based Legal Advocacy Consultant for the Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Refugee and Residency Rights. She has taught international human rights law in the Middle East at Georgetown University since Spring 2009. Noura also has helped seed BDS campaigns as a national grassroots organizer with the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.


Russell Tribunal on Palestine: Ilan Pappé Speech

The final session of the Tribunal focused on the responsibility of the United States of America and the United Nations regarding the Israeli breaches of international law towards Palestine and Palestinians. There is now a situation in which Israel has achieved a status of immunity and impunity, facilitated by the US, despite its complete disregard for the norms and standards of international law.

Speaker – Ilan Pappé, an Israeli historian and activist. He is currently a professor with the College of Social Sciences and International Studies at the University of Exeter in the UK, director of the university’s European Centre for Palestine Studies, and co-director of the Exeter Centre for Ethno-Political Studies. He is the author of The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (2006), The Modern Middle East (2005), A History of Modern Palestine: One Land, Two Peoples (2003), and Britain and the Arab-Israeli Conflict (1988)


Law and Disorder October 15, 2012



Anti-Drone Action: Code Pink Delegation to Pakistan

Two weeks ago a delegation of 40 members from Code Pink traveled to Pakistan protesting US drone strikes. The group is also visiting families of those injured or killed by drones and to encourage relations amid the broader Muslim world. The delegation is made up of students, doctors, veterans, retirees and artists.  Recently the group set out on a massive anti-drone march in Waziristan where drones have killed many civilians. In one statistic, within two years more than 90 drone attacks have killed 5000 innocent Pakistanis. We get an update on the delegation from Code Pink member Rae Abileah.  Rae is the co-director of CODEPINK Women for Peace.  She is also a founding member of Young Jewish Proud, the youth wing of Jewish Voice for Peace. Rae has visited Israel and the West Bank several times, and has traveled to Gaza and Iran.

Rae Abileah:

  • I’m the co-director of Code Pink nationally. Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Code Pink has been doing work on drones for the past year and a half. She recently wrote a book Drone Warfare: Killing By Remote Control
  • She partnered with PTI, the Pakistani Political Party and their leader and a well known lawyer for drone victims.
  • They got this delegation rolling and ended up with 35 Americans in Islamabad setting out on this caravan to march to a place where really in the past decade no Americans have gone to.
  • They put their bodies on the line and joined these Pakistanis going on this march.
  • People in Waziristan are living with drones overhead, they don’t know when the next attack is going to come.
  • It started out as a car caravan with more than 100 vehicles, they drove for hours.
  • The goal was to get to south Waziristan the epicenter of the US drone attacks.
  • President Obama has declared all young men in Pakistan to be potential militants. It gives the green light to shooting civilians.
  • These soldiers are sitting there all day looking at the screen as if its a video game.
  • These military pilots are going to work all day, pressing buttons that kill people thousands of miles away and going home to their dinner table in Vegas at night.
  • It’s a primary tool for attracting militants to join the Taliban.
  • We’re continuing to build grassroots support to oppose Obama’s drone program.
  • During the delegation we were actually able to deliver thousands of signatures collected on a stop drones petition directly to Obama at one of his fundraisers in San Francisco.
  • In Congress there’s also a Drones Caucaus, the leaders such as Bill Buck McKeon are taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from drone manufacturers.
  • Soda Stream is manufactured in an illegal settlement in the occupied territories.

Guest – Rae Abileahco-director of CODEPINK Women for Peace and is a co-organizer of Occupy AIPAC, Stolen Beauty boycott of Ahava cosmetics, and Women Occupy. Rae is a contributing author to 10 Excellent Reasons Not to Join the Military; Sisters Singing: Incantations, Blessings, Chants, Prayers, Art and Sacred Stories by Women; Beyond Tribal Loyalties: Stories of Jewish Peace Activists; and Beautiful Trouble: A Toolbox for Revolution.  She lives in San Francisco, CA.


11 Years of War In Afghanistan

This month marks 11 years since the colonial war in Afghanistan was launched. Operation Enduring Freedom armed forces include the United States, the UK, Australia and the Afghan United Front.  We’ve talked with past guests about how multi-national corporations are involved to integrate Afghanistan into the global system by building schools and infrastructure. We’ve also talked about the strategic energy alliances forming between Russia and China on one side and how three Caspian Sea oil companies continue to lock the US in to the war.

Phyllis Bennis:

  • This already the longest war in history.
  • We hear from President Obama that within the year 2014 combat troops will be withdrawn.
  • We’re hearing new calls from different forces including most recently the Secretary General of NATO indicating there was a possibility that NATO may pull out its troops earlier then the end of 2014 because of the insider killings.
  • The only figures we have began in 2007, they began counting some confirmed deaths. About 13 thousand Afghan civilians only since 2007.
  • The US is there in two ways, the US has a commander happens to be the NATO commander. Other US troops are there separately. The US has almost 70 thousand troops there now, NATO has 40 thousand other troops and there are about 90 thousand US paid contractors.
  • US troop casualties: Even that now is unclear.
  • Last week a number of press outlets reported the 2000th US military casualty.
  • Young people in Afghanistan join the military for the same reasons young people in the United States join the military, because they’re desperate for a job.
  • Remember a couple of weeks ago 9 Afghan women and little girls were killed gathering wood before dawn to build a fire, to make breakfast.
  • The Pentagon said, oh sorry, and somehow think that its going to make it ok.
  • Add to that the lack of cultural sensitivity, the lack of language training so there’s no sense from soldiers on the ground that they have any idea what this culture is about, who these people are.
  • Afghanistan is about 25 million people, the vast majority don’t live in the cities. They live in tiny hamlets and small towns, small villages, very scattered.
  • What we’re seeing is an expansion of the global war on terror.
  • There is an anti-war movement it’s just not as visible as we’ve seen in earlier times.
  • That’s the hardest part of our work, its not building an anti-war movement, its making our government take into account the opinions of not only a movement but the American people.
  • Understanding the Palestinian Israeli Conflict.

Guest –  Phyllis Bennis, director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute For Policy Studies.  She is also a fellow of the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam. She has been a writer, analyst, and activist on Middle East and UN issues for many years. In 2001 she helped found and remains on the steering committee of the U.S. Campaign to End Israeli Occupation. She works closely with the United for Peace and Justice anti-war coalition, co-chairs the UN-based International Coordinating Network on Palestine, and since 2002 has played an active role in the growing global peace movement. She continues to serve as an adviser to several top UN officials on Middle East and UN democratization issues.

Law and Disorder October 8, 2012



Universal Jurisdiction: Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Shell / Bush 6 Case In Spain

This week the US Supreme Court will decide if corporations could be held liable in U.S. courts for violations of international human rights law in the land mark case Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum.  The case was brought by families of seven Nigerians who were executed by a former military government for protesting Shell’s exploration and development and is pushing to hold corporations accountable for human rights violations. The Supreme Court will also consider how the Alien Tort Statute Claim can be used the Kiobel case.  A one sentence law that goes back to 1789 when the first judiciary act was brought in the United States. We’ve discussed this statute with several past guests including attorneys Peter Weiss and Rhonda Copeland who were instrumental in beginning the first cases in which human rights violations, taking place in other countries could actually be litigated in the United States.

We also discuss the recent amicus filing by a group of international human rights organizations and experts before the Spanish Supreme Court. The brief asks the Spanish Supreme Court to overturn a decision not to pursue a criminal case against six former officials from the Bush administration for their role in directing and implementing a systematic torture program.  Past shows with Katherine Gallagher.

Attorney Katherine Gallagher:

  • The Kiobel case has been in US courts since 2004.
  • The claims were brought in the Southern District of New York, under a law from 1789, known as the Alien Tort Statute.
  • This law allows non-US citizens to come into a US federal court and assert violations of the Laws of Nations or International Law.
  • A recent precedence for this is Citizens United, what happened was that the Second Circuit ruled that corporations could not be held liable for these egregious human rights violations under the Alien Tort Statute.
  • The question of corporate liability went up to the Supreme Court first.
  • We had 2 judges from a 3 bunch panel in the Second Circuit suddenly come out in the fall of 2009 and say there is no corporate liability. That is the question that went up to the Supreme Court.
  • Four other circuits had look at this question and they said of course corporations can be held as liable as an individual, a natural person.
  • The Alien Tort Statute allows for a civil suit and civil liability rather than criminal liability.
  • The key case from 1980 that CCR brought, the case of Filartiga, this case which the Supreme Court affirmed in 2004 as being on solid legal basis, claims by a Paraguayan, against a Paraguayan for actions that occurred in Paraguay.
  • So its very strange that the Supreme Court was asking in a very broad fashion whether the ATS could apply to actions that occurred in another country. That is what the bulk of the cases brought under the ATS have been about.
  • Some of the cases where the ATS is used are for some of the most serious violations. Cases of war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture, not your run of the mill case.
  • What the justices seem to coalesce around was the issue of whether there’s an alternate forum. If the claims against Shell could have been brought in the UK or in the Netherlands, maybe they don’t need to be brought in the US.
  • We’ve seen a trend in the last 20 years of other countries adopting stronger laws that allow for redress, and accountability, so we don’t have to be the world’s policeman.
  • There have been 2 cases that percolated up in the last 4 years in Spain.
  • The first is a widespread investigation of the torture program then Judge Balthazar Garzon. This is a case looking at torture in Guantanamo, and potentially in Iraq and Afghanistan, looking at the whole U.S. torture program. That case was brought on by 4 named plaintiffs.
  • That case is very wide ranging, and willing to go up the chain of command as far as the evidence leads.
  • There is a second case that was brought against specific U.S. individuals. They’re known as the Bush 6, including, Jay Bybee, John Yu, David Addington, Alberto Gonzalez. Six men who served as lawyers and argued to have essentially created both the legal structure that enabled the torture program,  providing arguements for immunity and protecting participants of the torture program from accountability.
  • Spain has a long and proud history of upholding International Law. Spain is where we had the case against Augusto Pinochet in the late 90s.
  • We’ll be doing this as long as we need. We need to have accountability, its really critical.

Guest – Katherine Gallagher, Senior Staff Attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), where she focuses on holding individuals, including US and foreign government officials, and corporations, including private military contractors, accountable for serious human rights violations. Among the cases she has worked, or is working, on are international accountability efforts for U.S. officials involved in torture (Spain, Switzerland, Canada); ICC Vatican Officials ProsecutionArar v. Ashcroft, Corrie v. Caterpillar, Matar v. Dichter, Saleh v. TitanAl-Quraishi v. Nakhla and L-3, Estate of Atban v. Blackwater.

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