Archive Page 2

04
Nov
10

It’s Time to Get your Kicks – Where – The Airport

Only one question prevails: Is life imitating the movies or are the movies imitating what’s happening in our police state (country)?

Conducting a pad-down search on individuals simply on the grounds they won’t submit themselves to a peek-a-boo scanner test is foolishness.  What about prudish grandma coming to visit the grandchildren or perhaps the Queen of England, our President or maybe even the Pope?

Okay, these are extremes, never the less where’s the line drawn?  Aren’t we really becoming what we fought against in the Cold War, regarding the Police States in Eastern Europe – Yes we are!

TSA Meets “Resistance” with New Pat-Down Procedures

Source: (http://goo.gl/x949Efrom Blog of Rights: Official Blog of the American Civil Liberties Union

 

The Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) even-more-invasive pat-down searches for people who opt-out of the strip-search machines at airports have generated some striking stories of people’s encounters with TSA agents. Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlanticrecounts:

At BWI, I told the officer who directed me to the back-scatter that I preferred a pat-down. I did this in order to see how effective the manual search would be. When I made this request, a number of TSA officers, to my surprise, began laughing. I asked why. One of them — the one who would eventually conduct my pat-down — said that the rules were changing shortly, and that I would soon understand why the back-scatter was preferable to the manual search. I asked him if the new guidelines included a cavity search. “No way. You think Congress would allow that?”

I answered, “If you’re a terrorist, you’re going to hide your weapons in your anus or your vagina.” He blushed when I said “vagina.”

“Yes, but starting tomorrow, we’re going to start searching your crotchal area” — this is the word he used, “crotchal” — and you’re not going to like it.”

“What am I not going to like?” I asked.

“We have to search up your thighs and between your legs until we meet resistance,” he explained.

“Resistance?” I asked.

“Your testicles,” he explained.

The New York Times‘ Joe Sharkey was manhandled less delicately: “[I] was required to stand still while I received a rough pat-down by a man whose résumé, I suspected, included experience at a state prison.”

Another passenger gives an even more graphic description of his humiliating and invasive pat-down here:

He stood behind me and placed his arms around my neck, surprising me with how strong and firm his grip was — it felt like someone choking me from behind. He squeezed the area around my collar, his neoprene blue gloved hands tickling my ears. And he kneaded around my shoulders, pressing with his fingertips into my muscle, as if he were tenderizing a piece of meat. With my arms held out straight he grasped both his hands around each one and pulled all the way down to my wrist.

Unfortunately, the TSA’s escalation from a back-of-the-hands pat-down to a full-on grope is no laughing matter — in fact, they tried to make a more invasive grope the norm back in 2004, until travelers pushed back and the TSA quietly retreated back to lighter touch.

Travelers have the right to opt for a pat-down instead of exposing themselves to the radiation and prying eyes of an anonymous TSA agent in another room. But as ACLU Legislative Counsel Chris Calabrese told USA Today: “Are we giving people two intolerable actions at airports? They can be virtually strip-searched or endure a really aggressive grope?”

That’s exactly what the TSA is doing, in its latest bit of security theater designed to try to make us feel safer without actually increasing safety. And it’s really no choice at all. As Goldberg points out, “the effectiveness of pat-downs does not matter very much, because the obvious goal of the TSA is to make the pat-down embarrassing enough for the average passenger that the vast majority of people will choose high-tech humiliation over the low-tech ball check.” In fact, Goldberg reports that he was told directly by a screener, “That’s what we’re hoping for. We’re trying to get everyone into the machine.”

The TSA’s website reports that 317 strip-search machines (a.k.a. “advanced image technology” machines, or AITs) have been deployed at 65 airports across the country. Is your home airport one of them? Check this list, and if you’re of the male persuasion and not keen on the naked machine, we suggest you prepare The Resistance.

If you’ve been forced through an AIT or want to report abuse during airport passenger screening, contact us using this form. We’re collecting individuals’ stories in order to determine the scope of this problem and evaluate future action. The information you provide in this questionnaire will be kept confidential unless we contact you and obtain your permission to share it with others.

 

 

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25
Oct
10

We Must Face Up to the Truth

It’s been overdue for some time now that we admit to the world we didn’t practice what we preached “Winning the hearts and minds” of the counties of Iraq and Afghanistan.  President Obama, a good leader, must have our Defense Department and Justice Department investigate these Human Rights abuses we inflected on the innocent people of these countries.

Iraq: Wikileaks Documents Describe Torture of Detainees

Source: (http://goo.gl/CPrg) – from United States

The Iraqi government should investigate credible reports that its forces engaged in torture and systematic abuse of detainees, Human Rights Watch said today. Hundreds of documents released on October 22, 2010, by Wikileaks reveal beatings, burnings, and lashings of detainees by their Iraqi captors. Iraq should prosecute those responsible for torture and other crimes, Human Rights Watch said.

The US government should also investigate whether its forces breached international law by transferring thousands of Iraqi detainees from US to Iraqi custody despite the clear risk of torture. Field reports and other documents released by Wikileaks reveal that US forces often failed to intervene to prevent torture and continued to transfer detainees to Iraqi custody despite the fact that they knew or should have known that torture was routine.

“These new disclosures show torture at the hands of Iraqi security forces is rampant and goes completely unpunished,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “It’s clear that US authorities knew of systematic abuse by Iraqi troops, but they handed thousands of detainees over anyway.”

The 391,831 documents released by Wikileaks, mostly authored by low-ranking US officers in the field between 2004 and 2009, refer to the deaths of at least six detainees in Iraqi custody. The reports also reveal many previously unreported instances in which US soldiers killed civilians, including at checkpoints on Iraq’s roads and during raids on people’s homes.

The documents indicate that US commanders frequently failed to follow up on credible evidence that Iraqi forces killed, tortured, and mistreated their captives. According to the documents, US authorities investigated some abuse cases, but much of the time they either ignored the abuse or asked Iraqis to investigate and closed the file. In one incident on January 2, 2007, Iraqi security forces took detainees to an abandoned house and beat them, resulting in a death. The report stated, “As Coalition Forces were not involved in the alleged abuse, no further investigation is necessary.”

Even when US officials reported abuse to Iraqi authorities, the Iraqis often did not act. In one report, an Iraqi police chief told US military inspectors that his officers engaged in abuse “and supported it as a method of conducting investigations.” Another report said that an Iraqi police chief refused to file charges “as long as the abuse produced no marks.”

The documents reveal extensive abuse of detainees by Iraqi security forces over the six-year period.

In a November 2005 document, US military personnel described Iraqi abuse at a Baghdad facility that held 95 blindfolded detainees in a single room: “Many of them bear marks of abuse to include cigarette burns, bruising consistent with beatings and open sores… according to one of the detainees questioned on site, 12 detainees have died of disease in recent weeks.”

On June 16, 2007, US soldiers reported that Iraqi forces interrogated and tortured a terrorism suspect by burning him with chemicals or acid and cutting off his fingers. According to the Wikileaks file, “Victim received extensive medical care at the Mosul General Hospital resulting in amputation of his right leg below the knee[,] several toes on his left foot, as well as amputation of several fingers on both hands. Extensive scars resulted from the chemical/acid burns, which were diagnosed as 3rd degree chemical burns along with skin decay.”

In a case reported on December 14, 2009, the US military received a video showing Iraqi Army officers executing a bound detainee in the northern town of Talafar: “The footage shows [Iraqi] soldiers moving the detainee into the street, pushing him to the ground, punching him, and shooting him.”

In at least two cases, postmortems revealed evidence of death by torture. On December 3, 2008, a sheikh who a police chief claimed had died from “bad kidneys” in fact was found to have “evidence of some type of unknown surgical procedure on [his] abdomen. The incision was closed by 3-4 stitches. There was also evidence of bruises on the face, chest, ankle, and back of the body.”

On August 27, 2009, a US medical officer found “bruises and burns as well as visible injuries to the head, arm, torso, legs and neck” on the body of another detainee. Police claimed the detainee had committed suicide while in custody.

The disclosures by Wikileaks come almost six months after Human Rights Watch interviewed 42 detainees who had been tortured over a period of months by security forces at a secret prison in the old Muthanna airport in West Baghdad. The facility held about 430 detainees who had no access to their families or lawyers. The prisoners said their torturers kicked, whipped, and beat them, tried to suffocate them, gave them electric shocks, burned them with cigarettes, and pulled out their fingernails and teeth. They said that interrogators sodomized some detainees with sticks and pistol barrels. Some young men said they were forced to perform oral sex on interrogators and guards and that interrogators forced detainees to molest one another. Iraqi authorities have still not prosecuted any officials responsible.

Between early 2009 and July 2010, US forces transferred thousands of Iraqi detainees to Iraqi custody. International law prohibits the transfer of detained individuals to the authorities of another state where they face a serious risk of torture and ill-treatment.

“US authorities have an obligation not to transfer any of the 200 or so detainees still in their custody to Iraqi forces or to anyone else who might mistreat them,” said Stork. “The US should also make sure those detainees already transferred are not in a dungeon somewhere currently facing torture.”

At a Pentagon news conference on November 29, 2005, Gen. Peter Pace, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, responded to a question about Pentagon guidance in situations where US commanders witness abuse by Iraqi forces, saying, “It is absolutely the responsibility of every US service member, if they see inhumane treatment being conducted, to intervene to stop it.” Then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who was also on the podium, intervened and said: “But I don’t think you mean they have an obligation to physically stop it; it’s to report it.” Pace responded, “If they are physically present when inhumane treatment is taking place, sir, they have an obligation to try to stop it.”

A reporter then asked Rumsfeld if it was his sense that alleged Iraqi abuses were not widespread. Rumsfeld responded that he did not know.

“It’s obviously something that the – General Casey and his troops are attentive to and have to be concerned about,” Rumsfeld told the reporter. “It – I’m not going to be judging it from 4,000 miles away – how many miles away?”

 

23
Oct
10

Texas: Execution Drugs Should Be “State Secret”

I think Justice Ismail Mahomed sums up Capitol Punishment very simply:

 

The burning of the house of the offender is not a permissible punishment for arson. The rape of the offender is not a permissible punishment of a rapist. Why should murder be a permissible punishment for murder?

– Justice Ismail Mahomed, S v Makwanyane, 6 June 1995

 

The article of Interest: Texas: Execution Drugs Should Be “State Secret”

Tired of taking a back seat to Arizona in death penalty zeal, Texas today upped the ante in the high stakes game of keeping secrets from the public in whose name they are enthusiastically killing prisoners.  According to the Austin American-Statesman, a lawyer for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has asked Texas’ Attorney General to declare information on lethal injection drugs to be a “state secret.”

A letter requesting this designation says in part:

“We submit that the release of any of the information would be akin to a local DPS office providing a requestor (a potential terrorist) with how much ammunition was stored in the office.”

That’s right, death penalty opponents are “akin” to terrorists.  And if they were to get information on the drugs Texas uses in executions, this could somehow lead to all sorts of unspecified mayhem.  Or something.

The TDCJ’s letter was in response to efforts by the Austin paper to get information on Texas’ current supply of sodium thiopental (there is a national shortage).  I don’t need to tell you how dire the consequences would be if the paper succeeded in its nefarious efforts to provide the public with information on the functioning of a state agency.  TDCJ’s explanation says it all:

“If the (American-Statesman) published how much sodium thiopental we currently have and when it expires, this would operate to inflame an already volatile situation. People could get seriously injured or killed.”

It is true that ten years ago, during the execution of Gary Graham, there were protesters carrying AK-47s outside the Huntsville death house. But of course, that’s perfectly legal in Texas – and there were death penalty supporting Ku Klux Klan members there too.  No one was seriously injured or killed then, and nothing remotely like that has happened in over a decade.

And how an increased knowledge ot sodium thiopental quantities would have inflamed that, or any other situation, is not exactly clear.

As is the case with all such “state secret” requests, the demands go beyond what could even dubiously be justified on security grounds.  TDCJ is also asking that information on the cost of execution drugs be concealed from the public (aka taxpayers).

Meanwhile, in Arizona, a Federal court has ordered the state to reveal its source for sodium thiopental, or to at least explain why its source should remain a secret.

Source: (http://goo.gl/Thxofrom Human Rights Now – Amnesty International USA Blog

 

23
Oct
10

Our President can’t look forward on this issue any longer

I support the President fully, but this is an issue he should have attended to months ago and one Attorney General Holder had better be prepared to investigate without screwing-up or forever delaying in the court system.

Iraq war logs: UN calls on Obama to investigate human rights abuses

 

The UN has called on Barack Obama to order a full investigation of US forces’ involvement in human rights abuses in Iraq after a massive leak of military documents that detail torture, summary executions and war crimes.

The call by the UN’s chief investigator on torture, Manfred Nowak, came as Phil Shiner, human rights specialist at Public Interest Lawyers in the UK, warned some of the deaths documented in the Iraq war logs could have involved British forces and would be pursued through the UK courts. He demanded a public inquiry into allegations that British troops were responsible for civilian deaths during the conflict.

The Guardian has analysed the 400,000 documents, the biggest leak inUS military history, and found 15,000 previously unreported civilian deaths. The logs show how US authorities failed to investigate hundreds of reports of abuse, torture, rape and murder by Iraqi police and soldiers whose conduct appears to be systematic and generally unpunished.

Nowak said that if the files released through WikiLeaks pointed to clear violations of the UN Convention Against Torture the Obama administration had a clear obligation to investigate them.

The logs paint a disturbing picture of the relationship between US and Iraqi forces. Nowak said that UN human rights agreements obliged states to criminalise every form of torture, whether directly or indirectly, and to investigate any allegations of abuse.

Speaking on the BBC’s Today programme, Nowak, who has spent years investigating allegations of US participation in extraordinary rendition and the abuse of detainees held by coalition forces, said the Obama administration had a legal and moral obligation to fully investigate credible claims of US forces’ complicity in torture.

A failure to investigate, Nowak suggested, would be a failure of the Obama government to recognise its obligations under international law. He said the principle of “non-refoulement” prohibited states from transferring detainees to other countries that could pose a risk to their personal safety.

The documents, which cover the period in Iraq from 2004 onwards, have prompted claims that this principle has not been observed. The files contain evidence that US forces were ordered to turn a blind eye to abuses committed by the Iraqi authorities.

Numerous reports of detainee abuse, often supported by medical evidence, describe prisoners shackled, blindfolded and hung by wrists or ankles and subjected to whipping, punching, kicking or electric shocks. Six reports end with a detainee’s apparent death.

Nowak said the US had an obligation “whenever they expel, extradite or hand over any detainees to the authorities of another state to assess whether or not these individuals are under specific risk of torture. If this assessment is not done, or authorities hand over detainees knowing there is a serious risk of them being subjected to torture, they violate article 3 of the UN convention that precludes torture.”

Nowak said it would be up to the Obama administration to launch an “independent and objective” investigation with a view not only to “bring the perpetrators to justice but also to provide the victims with adequate remedy and reparation”.

He noted that neither the US nor Iraq had ratified the international criminal convention that would see officials from either country brought before the international courts for war crimes. It would be up to the US courts to determine whether US officials or soldiers had breached human rights laws. “If it is established that a particular individual is responsible for torture directly or by complicity, this person should be brought to justice in the domestic courts,” Nowak said.

As recently as December the Americans were passed a video apparently showing Iraqi army officers executing a prisoner in Tal Afar, northern Iraq. The log states: “The footage shows approximately 12 Iraqi army soldiers. Ten IA soldiers were talking to one another while two soldiers held the detainee. The detainee had his hands bound … The footage shows the IA soldiers moving the detainee into the street, pushing him to the ground, punching him and shooting him.”

The report named at least one perpetrator and was passed to coalition forces. But the logs reveal that the coalition has a formal policy of ignoring such allegations. They record “no investigation is necessary” and simply pass reports to the same Iraqi units implicated in the violence. By contrast all allegations involving coalition forces are subject to formal inquiries. Some cases of alleged abuse by UK and US troops are detailed in the logs.

In two Iraqi cases postmortems revealed evidence of death by torture. On 27 August 2009 a US medical officer found “bruises and burns as well as visible injuries to the head, arm, torso, legs and neck” on the body of one man claimed by police to have killed himself. On 3 December 2008 another detainee, said by police to have died of “bad kidneys”, was found to have “evidence of some type of unknown surgical procedure on [his] abdomen”.

A Pentagon spokesman told the New York Times this week that under its procedure, when reports of Iraqi abuse were received the US military “notifies the responsible government of Iraq agency or ministry for investigation and follow-up”.

Shiner has told a press conference organised by WikiLeaks in London today that he plans to use material from the logs in court to try to force the UK to hold a public inquiry into the unlawful killing of Iraqi civilians.

Shiner warned that it would be wrong to assume the US military files “had nothing to do with the UK”. He said: “Some have been killed by indiscriminate attacks on civilians or the unjustified use of lethal force. Others have been killed in custody by UK forces and no one knows how many Iraqis lost their lives while held in British detention facilities.

“If unjustified or unlawful force has been used, prosecutions for those responsible must follow, so we are bringing forward a new case seeking accountability for all unlawful deaths and we argue that there must be a judicial inquiry to fully investigate UK responsibility for civilian deaths in Iraq.”

He cited one case in which he claimed a British rifleman had shot dead an eight-year-old girl who was playing in the street in Basra. “For some reason the tank stopped at the end of the street, she’s there in her yellow dress, a rifleman pops up and blows her away,” he said.

The WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, told the press conference that the disclosure of the secret files was about getting to the truth of the Iraq conflict.

“We hope to correct some of that attack on the truth that occurred before the war, during the war, and which has continued since the war officially concluded. While I am not sure we have achieved the maximum possible [political impact], I think we are getting pretty close.”

Assange highlighted how the reports documented 109,000 deaths – including 66,000 civilians, of which 15,000 were previously undocumented. “That tremendous scale should not make us blind to the small human scale in this material. It is the deaths of one and two people per event that killed the overwhelming number of people in Iraq.”

The electronic archive is believed to emanate from the same dissident US army intelligence analyst who earlier this year is alleged to have leaked a smaller tranche of 90,000 logs chronicling bloody encounters and civilian killings in the Afghan war.

Source: (http://goo.gl/wI4sDavid Batty and Jamie Doward guardian.co.uk, Saturday 23 October 2010 13.41 BST

 

22
Oct
10

Just a simple letter could lead to someone’s Freedom

Make your words count by providing Freedom for someone who spoke out against injustices!

When was the last time you wrote a letter?  Not emailed…butreally wrote a letter.

What if I told you that writing a letter could help save a life?  We’ve got nearly 50 years of history that proves this fact.
It was a letter of passion written in 1961 by Amnesty’s founder, Peter Benenson, that ignited a movement that’s now more than 2.8 million strong.

 

It was a letter of solidarity sent by many, but for the cause of one, that just weeks ago helped lead to the release of Ethiopian prisoner of conscience and 2009 Write-a-thon case Birtukan Mideksa from life imprisonment.

It is a letter of thanks signed by a person who has experienced unthinkable human rights abuses that both warms our hearts and fuels our fire.

So it should be no surprise that it’s a letter of hope that I’m asking you to pledge to write now.

Join Write for Rights – the world’s largest letter writing event.

In the days surrounding Human Rights Day – December 10 – people from more than 50 countries will unite to write letters on behalf of those in danger of severe human rights abuses.

Our global network of activists, acting independently and in groups of various sizes, will then go to work sending truckloads-worth of letters and postcards to repressive governments and other officials responsible for neglecting human rights.

In the U.S., we will shine our light on 12 specific cases from around the world who are in need your support and solidarity, including:

·    Aung San Suu Kyi – democracy icon imprisoned in Myanmar for most of the past 21 years after winning elections by a landslide
·    Majid Tavakkoli – a student leader imprisoned in Iran for speaking at a peaceful demonstration marking Student Day.
·    Women of Atenco – beaten and raped by police and left without justice in Mexico.

Your words have power.  They can bring freedom.  They can deliver justice.  But most importantly, they can offer hope and let human rights defenders around the world know that they are not alone.

Thank you for standing up to Write for Rights!

Source: (http://goo.gl/zofl) By Michael O’Reilly, Senior Campaign Director Individuals at Risk

 

 

21
Oct
10

The Last Line – Says it All

Rumsfeld’s Defense Department Invited Anwar al-Awlaki into Pentagon After 9/11

I’m surprised this didn’t get more attention today. Anwar al-Awlaki, the US-born cleric thought to be involved in the Foot Hood shooting and the failed Christmas Day bombing, was brought into the Pentagon for a luncheon several months after the 9/11 attacks. Interestingly, this was part of a Defense Department program to convince Muslims that the Afghanistan war was focused on Al Qaeda and not Muslims.

A few things on this, which I find fascinating. First, there’s the issue of how Awlaki may have been receptive to this before the US attacked Iraq, tortured Afghans and Iraqis, bullied Iran and started launching covert operations in practically every Muslim country on Earth. Second, there’s the issue of how George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld’s Defense Department made the effort to do this, even if it was merely a spin operation, in a way that no President, Republican or Democrat, would be allowed to do now. Think about how the right is going apeshit over Juan Williams’ comments justifying bigotry. Do you think they would remain silent if President Romney invited Muslims (MOOSLIMS) into the Defense Department? Or President Obama, himself a scary Muslim? No, Obama has an assassination order out on Awlaki, an American citizen, not a lunch invite. And the right still thinks he’s a wimp on these issues.

Third, if you read the story you do see that Awlaki’s invitation came on a bit of a whim. An employee saw Awlaki speak and then invited him. It turns out the FBI investigated Awlaki for ties to some of the Saudis who attacked the Pentagon on 9/11. You’d think that would have come up.

Never mind, Bush “kept us safe.”

Source: FDL (http://goo.gl/sIbZBy: David Dayen Thursday October 21, 2010 12:21 pm

 

21
Oct
10

Court Allows Arizona to Kill Prisoner with Secret Drugs

The old saying “And Justice for All”, again holds true!

Secretly trafficking and then openly using unapproved drugs is now A-OK.  That’s the message sent out yesterday by the Arizona Supreme Court, which allowed state officials to conceal their source for sodium thiopental (we know only that it’s NOTHospira, the one FDA-approved supplier), and to continue with plans to execute Jeffrey Landrigan on October 26.

It is already well known that the death penalty compromises the integrity of the medical profession.  Doctors, nurses, and EMTs are all bound by an oath to “do no harm” but all are involved, in a variety of ways, in the deliberate killing of prisoners.  Now, it appears that our zeal for capital punishment is undermining the integrity of efforts to control and regulate powerful drugs.

Normally, if you acquired a controlled substance from a non-FDA approved source and announced your intention to use it for a non-FDA approved purpose, you would expect some sort of legal trouble.  But, apparently, as long as that non-FDA approved purpose is putting someone to death, the normal rules don’t apply.  Instead, you get to keep the source of your drug supply a secret, and you get to use those drugs however you want.

As for Jeffrey Landrigan, some DNA testing litigation in his case continues, and there is a clemency hearing on Friday.  Landrigan’s case is sadly typical, in that his trial lawyer failed miserably to present mitigating evidence, and in that no federal appeals court has cared enough to hold a hearing on that issue.  It is a bit unusual in that the judge who sentenced him to death now says she would not have done so, had she been aware of information that lawyer failed to present.

So while it appears the Arizona officials can kill Jeffrey Landrigan with a drug it got from God knows where, there is still a chance to convince them that they shouldn’t.

Source: (http://goo.gl/eijE) – Death PenaltyUnited States | Posted by: Brian Evans, October 21, 2010 at 1:49 PM

 




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