Lt. Col. Vandeveld Discusses Why He Resigned as a Guantanamo Prosecutor

31 January 2009

Lt. Col. Vandeveld also discusses his role at Guantanamo in this Washington Post op-ed, and in this sworn declaration in support of Mohammad Jawad's habeas petition.

60 Minutes: Time Running Out For A Two-State Solution?

28 January 2009

60 Minutes: Growing Number Of Israelis, Palestinians Say Two-State Solution Is No Longer Possible

Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) is a Liar

The title pretty much says it all. It's pretty despicable how Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) is telling outright lies about the stimulus bill. For instance, he lied when he said that it includes "$300,000 for a sculpture garden in Miami." The stimulus bill contains no such thing. He also lied when he said that, "For every dollar that is spent to help small businesses, $4 is being spent to help upkeep the grass on the lawns of Washington." Again, this is demonstrably false.

There's a difference between principled opposition, on the one hand, and disingenuous obstructionism, on the other. Eric Cantor is a liar and an obstructionist. It's really that simple.

"Fisting"? Really?

23 January 2009

Guantanamo Bay Prison Set to Close Within the Year

21 January 2009

President Obama has issued an Executive Order (pdf) ordering that "[t]he detention facilities at Guantánamo for individuals covered by this order shall be closed as soon as practicable, and no later than one year from the date of this order." Rather than holding people indefinitely, for years on end, without any available legal recourse to bring a challenge based on innocence, we will now be reviewing each individual detainee's case. On the one hand, I'm glad to see that some detainees "shall be evaluated to determine whether the Federal Government should seek to prosecute the detained individuals." This means that our system of justice will evaluate the evidence against the detainees, and sort out the guilty from the innocent.

On the other hand, however, the Executive Order leaves open the door for torture-obtained confessions to be used against other detainees when it says that for "any individuals currently detained at Guantánamo whose disposition is not achieved under [the subsections dealing with prosecution], the Review shall select lawful means, consistent with the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and the interests of justice, for the disposition of such individuals." This line seems to be hinting that they are leaving the door open to military commissions, similar to the awful system in place right now. Maybe I'm just being overly-cynical, due to the Justice Department's behavior over past eight years. Nonetheless, it seems suspicious that this Executive Order would leave room for an option other than (1) releasing/transferring the prisoners to another country, or (2) prosecuting them based on the evidence we have legally obtained.

In case you think that it's okay to create a third option, other than release/transfer or prosecution, I highly recommend reading up on Mohammad Jawad's case (pdf). It will give you a sense of the legal process the Guantánamo prisoners have been through so far. Even Jawad's former prosecutor (Lt. Col. Darrell Vandeveld) has been so disgusted with the man's treatment that he has resigned and written a sworn declaration in support of Jawad's Habeas petition.

UPDATE: Lt. Col. Darrell Vandeveld also wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post recently, titled "I Was Slow to Recognize the Stain of Guantanamo."

UPDATE II: It looks like I'm not the only one to see this. The Center For Constitutional Rights is similarly pleased with the Executive Order, but cautious about the provision I just highlighted:

The government has to charge the rest of the detainees in federal criminal court. There can be no third way, no new schemes for indefinite or preventive detention or alternative national security courts. Any move in that direction would discredit all of the new administration’s efforts in the eyes of the world.
They also provide copies of the recently-issued Executive Orders:
I'm pretty happy, on the whole.

UPDATE III: The Congressional Republicans who support torture and indefinite detention without charge are predictably raising the temperature of their fear-based demagoguery. According to Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), "Closing Guantanamo Bay presents a clear and present danger to all Americans"

Unsurprisingly, Rep. Smith voted to authorize the war in Iraq, voted for the USA PATRIOT Act, voted for the Military Commissions Act, and has received dismal ratings from pretty much every Civil Rights organization.

Rush Limbaugh has similarly argued that this was a "political" move, done at the expense of national security, and that "They're going to have to be held accountable in any future attacks as a result of this."

UPDATE IV: Here is video of the signing.

UPDATE V: In the last days of the Bush administration, you may have heard that the Pentagon informally declared that 61 former Guantanamo prisoners "returned to terrorism." Don't believe it. We've actually seen this song and dance before. The Pentagon had previously made the same claim, only to be embarrassed that their claim was faulty. This time around, unless you include "participating in an anti-Guantanamo documentary" and "having your lawyer write a critical op-ed" as "returning to terrorism," this is a pretty weak case to make.

Attorney Mark Denbeaux picks apart the claim here:

UPDATE VI: Michelle Malkin is a classic example of a torture apologist. She has gone so far as to write a horrible book in defense of the mass internment of Japanese citizens we sadly conducted earlier this century (for which, we have since apologized). She has been rightly criticized by historians, civil liberties advocates, and the Japanese American Citizens League for her "desperate attempt to impugn the loyalty of Japanese Americans during World War II to justify harsher governmental policies today in the treatment of Arab and Muslim Americans." Therefore, it's no surprise that she is still an awful human being.

UPDATE VII: According to conservative host Laura Ingraham, "our country is less safe today" because we have decided to actually charge the people we have imprisoned for years on end.

How is it that people like Laura Ingraham have so much faith that we have detained the right people, yet so little faith that we can put together a compelling case in court to that effect?

UPDATE VIII: Once again, that "61" number is flat-out wrong.

UPDATE IX: I have to agree with Steve Benen on this one. I really didn't expect to see this bizarre "NIMBY" talking point to become so prominent.
There was bound to be some pushback against Barack Obama's decision to close the military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, but this isn't the one I was expecting.

Fox News personalities argued last week that the Obama would bring dangerous terrorists "to our soil, right here." Karl Rove argued over the weekend that Obama will change his mind about Gitmo because "there will be an uproar in the U.S." about detaining suspects on American soil. John McCain told Fox News yesterday, "I don't know of a state in America that wants them in their state. You think Yucca Mountain is a NIMBY problem? Wait till you see this one."

Elana Schor reports that the most likely facility is the military's maximum-security prison in Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas -- which, by the way, is where Candidate McCain wanted to send the detainees when he endorsed closing Gitmo -- but that's facing resistance, too. Sen. Sam Brownback (R) and three House Republicans are pushing a measure that would prohibit the transfer of any suspects from Cuba to Kansas. (We're seeing a similar response from Republicans in South Carolina over the Charleston Naval Brig and Republicans in California over Camp Pendleton.)

I can appreciate the discomfort one might feel in the proximity of a psychotic religious fanatic, but as the Not-In-My-Backyard phenomenon goes, this is pretty silly.

As Glenn Greenwald explained the other day, there are already all kinds of suspected terrorists, including those associated with the 9/11 attacks, in federal detention right here on U.S. soil. As far as I can tell, no one much cares, and there have been no protests from conservative commentators, lawmakers, or activists about moving them out of the country.

I'm not even sure what the complaining is about, exactly. That the Gitmo detainees might break out of incarceration? If conservatives trust federal officials to administer a system of indefinite detention in Cuba, they should probably trust federal officials to keep the bad guys locked up effectively.

Some, meanwhile, have gone so far as to suggest that terrorists could be freed if their allies "crashed a plane into the prison to faciliate [sic] an escape."

Highlights From the Eric Holder Hearings

18 January 2009

Part 1: Senator Patrick Leahy's Opening Remarks (Did you know that Leahy was a voice actor in the animated Batman series, and had a cameo in The Dark Knight?)

Part 2: Sen. Arlen Specter Complains About Time Constraints, and Sen. Patrick Leahy Sets Him Straight (Specter has been trying - and failing - to turn these hearings into a spectacle)

Part 3: "Waterboarding is Torture" (This is pretty obvious, but it's good to see that we will finally have an Attorney General who is not delusional/dishonest on the topic)

Part 4: The Right to Bear Arms

Part 5: Federal Media Shield Law (I don't know much about this one)

Part 6: Pledge to Review Extremist OLC Opinions on Executive Power (I'm glad to see that Dawn Johnsen has been chosen to head the Office of Legal Counsel under Obama)

Part 7: Mark Rich Pardons Under Pres. Clinton

Saying Goodbye...

17 January 2009

On Tuesday, we'll finally be rid of President George W. Bush. On his way out, Human Rights Watch looks back on the past eight years and "places the major responsibility for the decline in human rights squarely on the Bush administration which opted to renege on the Geneva Conventions and use torture, rendition, and illegal detention in the War on Terrorism." The Center for American Progress similarly looks back and compiles a list of the 43 worst political appointments made over the same time period. The list includes Monica Goodling, the woman who graduated from Pat Robertson's dismally-ranked law school and was somehow given awesome powers over the Justice Department, as well as George Deutsch, the college dropout and Bush-campaigner who was somehow put in charge of NASA's press relations (where he promptly downplayed the Big Bang and tried to muzzle climate scientists from talking to the press).

The past eight years have carried scandals over the use of torture, domestic surveillance in violation of federal statutes, war based on lies, a politicized Justice Department, political appointments made in vioaltion of civil service laws, etc. I haven't used this blog to talk about George W. Bush personally over the past few years, but I just wanted to take this opportunity to say "Goodbye."

UPDATE: I'm not a Keith Olberman fan. At all. Also, I'm not 100% on-board for everything in the video below. However, I highly recommend watching this eight-minute segment for some highlights (lowlights?) of the past Presidency.

Department of Justice Report on Bradley Schlozman and Improper Actions at DoJ

13 January 2009

You might have heard something about Bradley Schlozman and the improper politicization of the Department of Justice over the past few years. However, this recently-released inspector-general report (pdf) titled "An Investigation of Allegations of Politicized Hiring and Other Improper Personnel Actions in the Civil Rights Division" is pretty incredible. Election law attorney Richard Hasen has some highlights here, including Schlozman's bizarre rants about "libs" and "commies," as well as his sociopathic "need to scream with a blood-curdling cry at some commie, partisan subordinate," and forwarded e-mails about "black and bitter" colleagues.

According to the Department of Justice, Schlozman "violated federal law - the Civil Service Reform Act - and Department policy."

All you can say is "wow." What moron thought it would be a good idea to make Bradley Schlozman the Head of the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division?

UPDATE: McClatchy has an article on this issue here, titled "Internal probe slams Bush Justice official for illegal hiring."

This Week's Links: Advice to a Future President

12 January 2009

  • Jameel Jaffer and Ben Wizner counsel Obama: "Don't replace the old Guantánamo with a new one." [Salon]
  • Paul Krugman offers some economic advice. [The New York Times]
  • Glenn Greenwald suggests that Obama re-read the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran. [Salon]

Eric Holder Speaks at American Constitution Society

10 January 2009

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

This is Barack Obama's pick for Attorney General.

Dawn Johnsen on the role of the Office of Legal Counsel

09 January 2009

This is Barack Obama's choice to head the Office of Legal Counsel.

This Week's Links: Intelligence Appointments, Minnesota Recounts and the New Deal

08 January 2009

  • The Wall Street Journal wrote yet another hyperventilating op-ed about the Minnesota Senate recount. Once again, they have filled it with baseless innuendo and allegations of voter fraud. In this link, Nate Silver goes through the editorial "paragraph by paragraph" and tears it to pieces. [FiveThirtyEight]
  • Recount Judge Edward Cleary calls out the Wall Street Journal on its "groundless attack," and highlights the recount board's bipartisan, unanimous votes. A highly entertaining read. [Minnesota Post]
  • Scott Horton and others discuss legal accountability and oversight for the United States torture program. I highly recommend giving it a listen, if you're interested in what happens next. [NPR]
  • Glenn Greenwald discusses Obama's selection of Dawn Johnsen to head the Office of Legal Counsel. This link has plenty of extended quotes from Johnsen herself, and plenty of comparisons to former OLC member John Yoo (the guy who wrote the infamous torture memo). [Salon]
  • Hilzoy points out that "despite all the brouhaha after the election, it turns out that African-Americans' level of support for Prop 8 was not as high as reported, and is moreover almost entirely explained by their levels of church attendance." [The Washington Monthly]
  • Paul Krugman debunks some conservative myths about F.D.R. and the New Deal (as you may have noticed, "there’s a whole intellectual industry, mainly operating out of right-wing think tanks, devoted to propagating the idea that F.D.R. actually made the Depression worse."). [The New York Times]
  • David Sirota piles on, and also debunks some of the conservative myths about Roosevelt and the New Deal. [The Seattle Times] [The Huffington Post I] [The Huffington Post II]
  • Not surprising anyone, FOX News and Neil Cavuto present some bizarre rants about how "everybody agrees ... that the New Deal failed" because Roosevelt "waged ... a jihad against private enterprise." You can't make this stuff up. [Media Matters for America]

Watch David Shuster Make an Ass of Himself

It's not like there's no news left in the world to cover.

Elizabeth Holtzman Discusses Her Bid For the New York Senate Seat

07 January 2009

From the description:

Elizabeth Holtzman, former Congresswoman (D-NY 16th), and the author of The Impeachment of George W. Bush: A Practical Guide for Concerned Citizens, discusses her bid to fill Hillary Clinton's Senate seat.
She's also a former Brooklyn D.A., and was in Congress during Nixon's impeachment. It's way past time that some other names were floated out there in the media.


UPDATE II: Here is the transcript and video of a 2005 interview with Amy Goodman.