Archive for May, 2009|Monthly archive page

President Bush Defends His War on Terror Policies

In 9/11 News, Civil Liberties on May 29, 2009 at 2:53 pm

In a speech at the Economic Club of Southwestern Michigan, former president George W. Bush defended his War on Terror policies but vowed not to criticize Obama:

Bush told a southwestern Michigan audience of nearly 2,500 — the largest he has addressed in the United States since leaving the White House in January — that, after the September 11 attacks, “I vowed to take whatever steps that were necessary to protect you.”  In his speech, Bush did not specifically refer to the high-profile debate over President Obama’s decision to halt the use of harsh interrogation techniques. Bush also didn’t mention Cheney, his former vice president, by name.

Instead, he described how he proceeded after the capture of terrorism suspect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in March 2003. “The first thing you do is ask what’s legal?” Bush said. “What do the lawyers say is possible? I made the decision, within the law, to get information so I can say to myself, ‘I’ve done what it takes to do my duty to protect the American people.’ I can tell you that the information we got saved lives.”

“Nothing I am saying is meant to criticize my successor,” Bush said. “There are plenty of people who have weighed in. Trust me, having seen it first-hand. I didn’t like it when a former president criticized me, so therefore I am not going to criticize my successor. I wish him all the best.”

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How Old Was Mohammad Jawad?

In Guantanamo Bay on May 27, 2009 at 9:30 am

Afghan rights group alleges that Mohammad Jawad was 12 years old when detained by the U.S. at Guantanamo Bay:

KABUL, Afghanistan (Reuters) — An Afghan who has spent over six years at the American military prison at Guantánamo Bay was only about 12 when he was detained, not 16 or 17 as his official record says, an Afghan rights group said Tuesday.

Interviews with the family of Mohammed Jawad, who like many poor Afghans does not know his exact age or birthday, showed he was probably not even a teenager when he was arrested in 2002, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission said.

He was picked up by the Afghan police in connection with a grenade attack in Kabul in which two United States soldiers and their Afghan interpreter were wounded. He was transferred to American custody and flown to Guantánamo in early 2003.

Commissioner Nader Nadery said Mr. Jawad was tortured and abused by the Afghan police and at Guantánamo. The commission is seeking his release and repatriation.

Ex-Gitmo Detainee, Now in France, Describes What Happened

In Guantanamo Bay on May 27, 2009 at 9:27 am

The story of Lakhdar Boumediene:

A former Guantánamo detainee, an Algerian given a new home in France, is contending that he was interrogated at the Cuban detention center for 16 straight nights in 2003 — from midnight until 5 a.m., at least — and that he was force-fed through a nasal tube for more than two years when he went on a hunger strike.The Algerian, Lakhdar Boumediene, 43, is the only Guantánamo detainee that President Nicolas Sarkozy of France has agreed to accept so far to help the Obama administration close the detention center. Mr. Boumediene was captured in 2001 in Bosnia and handed over to American officials. He was kept at Guantánamo from January 2002 until May 15 of this year as terrorism suspect No. 10005, when he was released and put aboard a plane to France. He was kept under observation in a French military clinic until Monday, when he emerged and told some of the details of his story to The Washington Post and Le Monde, which published them on Tuesday. No. 10005 “was my name there,” he said. “That’s what they called me. Never Lakhdar or Boumediene,” he told Le Monde.

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Cheney and Obama Duel on Bush Legacy

In 9/11 News, Civil Liberties on May 22, 2009 at 8:23 am

Obama tries to dismantle some Bush-era policies, while Cheney rigorously defends them:

Acid flashback: the election isn’t over and presidential candidates are still battling each other in televised debates. That is what it looked like on television Thursday as President Obama delivered a long, considered description of his national security policy and former Vice President Dick Cheney fired back an equally dense rebuttal.  Mr. Obama tried to persuade Americans that he was seeking ways both legal and safe to clean up what he described as the “mess” left by the Bush administration. Mr. Cheney was determined to defend his tenure — even at the cost of publicly upbraiding the sitting commander in chief. Their dueling speeches, carried live and back-to-back by the cable news networks, looked oddly like a replay of the 2008 presidential campaign: a showdown between biography and experience.

“I’ve heard occasional speculation that I’m a different man after 9/11; I wouldn’t say that,” Mr. Cheney stated. “But I’ll freely admit that watching a coordinated, devastating attack on our country from an underground bunker at the White House can affect how you view your responsibilities.”

Mr. Obama gave a long, well-reasoned discourse on his policies on torture and terrorism detainees, addressing many of the criticisms lobbed at him by Mr. Cheney in recent weeks. His opponent fired back, mocking Mr. Obama for getting “applause in Europe” and deriding his pursuit of consensus. “In the fight against terrorism, there is no middle ground,” the former vice president said, “and half measures leave you half exposed.”

1 in 7

In Guantanamo Bay on May 21, 2009 at 8:05 am

Pentagon alleges that 1 in 7 transferred from Guantanamo Bay returned to terrorism:

An unreleased Pentagon report concludes that about one in seven of the 534 prisoners already transferred abroad from the detention center in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, has returned to terrorism or militant activity, according to administration officials. 

The conclusion could strengthen the arguments of critics who have warned against the transfer or release of any more detainees as part of President Obama’s plan to shut down the prison by January. Past Pentagon reports on Guantánamo recidivism have been met with skepticism from civil liberties groups and criticized for their lack of detail.

The Pentagon promised in January that the latest report would be released soon, but Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said this week that the findings were still “under review.”

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Senate Blocks Funding for Gitmo Closure

In Guantanamo Bay on May 20, 2009 at 7:04 pm

The Democratic controlled senate votes to block funds for Obama to close Guantanamo Bay and relocate its detainees:

In a major rebuke to President Barack Obama, the Senate voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to block the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to the United States and denied the administration the millions it sought to close the prison.  The 90-6 Senate vote — paired with similar House action last week — was a clear sign to Obama that he faces a tough fight getting the Democratic-controlled Congress to agree with his plans to shut down the detention center and move the 240 detainees. The vote came as FBI Director Robert Mueller told Congress that bringing Guantanamo detainees to the United States could pose a number of risks, even if they were kept in maximum-security prisons. Mueller’s testimony to a House panel put him at odds with the president and undercut the administration’s arguments for shuttering the facility.”The concerns we have about individuals who may support terrorism being in the United States run from concerns about providing financing, radicalizing others,” Mueller said, as well as “the potential for individuals undertaking attacks in the United States.”

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Ground Zero Evacuation Drill

In 9/11 News on May 17, 2009 at 11:54 am

First responders will conduct a WTC site “ground zero” evacuation drill:

NEW YORK – Over 800 emergency responders are staging the largest disaster drill since Sept. 11 at the World Trade Center siteNew York City officials are staging a mock explosion on a PATH commuter rail train Sunday morning in the tunnel linking the site to northern New Jersey. Hundreds of police officers, firefighters and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey officials will participate.

Officials bought TV ads and plastered train stations with posters to warn downtown residents of the drill. A Defense Department-arranged flyover of a jet over downtown Manhattan last month panicked thousands of Wall Street workers and residents.

Officials say there haven’t been as many responders at ground zero since the Sept. 11 attacks.  PATH rail service will be suspended Sunday morning during the drill.


Obama: Publication of Detainee Abuse Photos Is Bad, Abuse Was Done by Small Number of Individuals

In Civil Liberties, Torture on May 14, 2009 at 9:02 am

Reversing the stance he took last month on allowing publication of detainee abuse photos, Obama will now actively pursue barring such photos from publication in the media.  He also contends that abuse was carried out by a small number of individuals, indicating that he does not believe detainee abuse was a widespread problem:

The administration said last month that it would not oppose the release of the pictures, but Mr. Obama changed his mind after seeing the photographs and getting warnings from top Pentagon officials that the images, taken from the early years of the wars, would “further inflame anti-American opinion” and endanger troops in two war zones. The decision in effect tossed aside an agreement the government had reached with the American Civil Liberties Union, which had fought to release photographs of incidents at Abu Ghraib and a half-dozen other prisons.

To explain his position, which was sharply criticized by the A.C.L.U., Mr. Obama spoke at the White House.  He suggested that the new mission in Iraq and Afghanistan could be imperiled by an old fight.  “The publication of these photos would not add any additional benefit to our understanding of what was carried out in the past by a small number of individuals,” Mr. Obama told reporters on the South Lawn. “In fact, the most direct consequence of releasing them, I believe, would be to further inflame anti-American opinion and to put our troops in greater danger.”

Officials who have seen the photos describe them as falling into two categories: Abu Ghraib-style personal snapshots taken by soldiers; and photos taken by military criminal investigators documenting allegations of abuse, including autopsy photos of prisoners who died in custody.

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White House Spokesman: “9/11 Is Not Comedy”

In 9/11 News on May 11, 2009 at 8:29 pm

Wanda Sykes made a 9/11 joke at the White House press corps dinner, and was criticized for it.  The question is, what about 9/11 is fodder for humor?

At the correspondents’ dinner, which Obama attended Saturday, Sykes blasted Limbaugh for saying he hoped Obama’s administration would fail, joking: “I think Rush Limbaugh was the 20th hijacker, but he was just so strung out on Oxycontin he missed his flight.”

In his daily briefing Monday, Robert Gibbs distanced the president from comedian Wanda Sykes’ joke comparing Rush Limbaugh to a 9/11 hijacker at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner. “I don’t know how the guests get booked,” Gibbs said, adding that he hadn’t “talked specifically” with Obama about Sykes’ crack. “I think there are a lot of topics that are better left for serious reflection rather than comedy. I think there’s no doubt 9/11 is part of that,” Gibbs continued.

Obama appeared to smile at the remark.


Island of Shame

In Rendition on May 11, 2009 at 8:49 am

A new book details the once-secret history of the U.S. base on Diego Garcia, turned into a hub for Bush administration-era CIA rendition flights:

Island of Shame: The Secret History of the US Military Base on Diego Garcia by David Vine. Princeton University Press

It is a story of an old empire passing the torch to the new, Britain handing over one of its furthest-flung territories to the United States and expelling the native inhabitants to make way for the construction of a military base that has since become central to US control of the Indian Ocean and domination of the Persian Gulf. It is the tale of how a remote island idyll was simply emptied of its people, allowing for the creation of a place so secret that no journalist has been allowed to visit, a key staging post in George W. Bush’s war on terror, both the launch pad for the B-1s, B-2 “stealth” bombers, and B-52s that pounded Afghanistan and Iraq and a crucial node in the CIA’s rendition system, a “black site” through which at least two high-value suspected terrorists were spirited, far from the prying eyes of international law.