Thursday, April 23, 2009

Good News for Omar Khadr

As the Globe and Mail reports, a federal court has ruled that the Canadian government must seek the repatriation of Omar Khadr from the hell of Gitmo immediately.

No more stonewalling.

No more excuses.

No more fearmongering.

No more pushing the idea that he's guilty before he's even had a fair trial.

No more abandoning a child soldier who has allegedly been tortured while in US custody.

It ends now. Today.


According to the ruling (.pdf file) the judge decided that Khadr's Charter rights under Section 7 had been infringed.

[8] In his affidavit, Mr. Khadr describes various forms of mistreatment both at Bagram and Guantánamo Bay. For purposes of these proceedings, it is unnecessary for me to make any definitive factual findings about the conditions of Mr. Khadr’s imprisonment. However, there are three significant facts that are relevant to this application and on which there is agreement between the parties.

[9] First, on detention, Mr. Khadr was “given no special status as a minor” even though he was only 15 when he was arrested and 16 at the time he was transferred to Guantánamo Bay.

[10] Second, Mr. Khadr had virtually no communication with anyone outside of Guantánamo Bay until November 2004, when he met with legal counsel for the first time.

[11] Third, at Guantánamo Bay, Mr. Khadr was subjected to the so-called “frequent flyer program”, which involved depriving him of rest and sleep by moving him to a new location every three hours over a period of weeks. Canadian officials became aware of this treatment in the spring of 2004 when Mr. Khadr was 17, and proceeded to interrogate him.

The judge then details the history of Khadr's detention including so-called interviews (i.e. interrogations) by CSIS:

[17] By the spring of 2004, then, Canadian officials were knowingly implicated in the imposition of sleep deprivation techniques on Mr. Khadr as a means of making him more willing to provide intelligence. Mr. Khadr was then a 17-year-old minor, who was being detained without legal representation, with no access to his family, and with no Canadian consular assistance.

Let's not forget that these actions happened under both Liberal and Conservative governments.

Khadr and his lawyers have been looking for justice from our government for years on end, constantly coming up against the political concerns of the parties in power.

[23] Mr. Khadr has launched a number of other proceedings in Federal Court. In 2004, he commenced an action for damages and a declaration that his Charter rights had been infringed.

Justice Konrad von Finckenstein granted him an injunction against further interrogations by Canadian officials, but no further action was taken in the proceedings (Khadr v. The Attorney General of Canada and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, 2005 FC 1076, T-536-04).

[24] Also in 2004, Mr. Khadr applied for judicial review of a decision of the Minister of Foreign Affairs not to seek further consular access to him. Again, there has been no recent action taken on this file (Khadr v. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, 2004 FC 1145, T-686-04).

It's quite obvious upon reading the ruling that CSIS has a lot to answer for - again - in this case. The judge notes that the sleep deprivation technique used against Khadr was torture, as specified in the CAT (Convention Against Torture) and that CSIS, knowing it had garnered so-called evidence as a result of that torture had no right to hand it over to then be used against him in whatever quasi-judicial proceedings would be invented for Gitmo prisoners.

Additionally, the judge found that the government violated the CRC (Convention on the Rights of the Child) on several fronts - including the right not to be tortured.

[63] The CRC imposes on Canada some specific duties in respect of Mr. Khadr. Canada was required to take steps to protect Mr. Khadr from all forms of physical and mental violence, injury, abuse or maltreatment. We know that Canada raised concerns about Mr. Khadr’s treatment, but it also implicitly condoned the imposition of sleep deprivation techniques on him, having carried out interviews knowing that he had been subjected to them.

Our government failed Omar Khadr on a number of levels for far too long.

This ruling is a huge victory for him, his lawyers, his family and Canadian justice.


Asked about the ruling during Question Period, Harper stated that his government had been following the same policy as the previous government for years. He also said that he would review the ruling to decide if the government would appeal.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Protecting Torturers: Pt 2 - Rahm Makes it (More) Official

Rahm Emanuel on ABC's This Week:

GEORGE: Does [President Obama] believe that the officials who devised the policies should be immune from prosecution?

RAHM: Yeah. What he believes is, look, as you saw in that statement he wrote, and I’m just gonna take a step back, we came up with this and worked on this for about four weeks, wrote that statement Wednesday night after he had made his decision and dictated what he wanted to see, and Thursday morning I saw him in the office and he was still editing it. What he believes it that people in good faith were operating with the guidance they were provided, they shouldn’t be prosecuted.

GEORGE: But what about those who devised the policy?

RAHM: Yeah, but those who devised the policy, he believes that they were uh should not be prosecuted either. And it’s not the place that we go — as he said in that letter, and I really recommend that people look at the full statement — not the letter, the statement — in that second [to last] paragraph. This is not a time for retribution. It’s a time for reflection. It is not the time to use our energy and our time in looking back and in a sense of anger and retribution. We have a lot to do to protect America, but what people need to know: This practice and technique, we don’t use anymore. He banned it.

This doesn't surprise me at all but it has come as quite the sideswipe to Obama supporters who believed that he would eventually...sometime...when he wasn't busy...later...get around to actually holding somebody responsible for these horrendous acts.

There's no denying now that Obama's not interested in doing so at all.

The latest reasoning from those starry-eyed supporters (as spied over at Daily Kos? Maybe Obama doesn't want prosecutions but (somehow miraculously) AG Holder will defy him and go ahead with prosecutions anyway.

Obamafiles, meet reality. Justice means never having to say you're guilty.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Protecting Torturers

Along with the release of partially redacted Bush administration torture memos in response to a lawsuit filed by the ACLU on Thursday, Obama made the following statement (in part):

In releasing these memos, it is our intention to assure those who carried out their duties relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice that they will not be subject to prosecution. The men and women of our intelligence community serve courageously on the front lines of a dangerous world. Their accomplishments are unsung and their names unknown, but because of their sacrifices, every single American is safer. We must protect their identities as vigilantly as they protect our security, and we must provide them with the confidence that they can do their jobs.

Going forward, it is my strong belief that the United States has a solemn duty to vigorously maintain the classified nature of certain activities and information related to national security. This is an extraordinarily important responsibility of the presidency, and it is one that I will carry out assertively irrespective of any political concern. Consequently, the exceptional circumstances surrounding these memos should not be viewed as an erosion of the strong legal basis for maintaining the classified nature of secret activities. I will always do whatever is necessary to protect the national security of the United States.

This is a time for reflection, not retribution. I respect the strong views and emotions that these issues evoke. We have been through a dark and painful chapter in our history. But at a time of great challenges and disturbing disunity, nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past. Our national greatness is embedded in America's ability to right its course in concert with our core values, and to move forward with confidence. That is why we must resist the forces that divide us, and instead come together on behalf of our common future.

The United States is a nation of laws. My administration will always act in accordance with those laws, and with an unshakeable commitment to our ideals. That is why we have released these memos, and that is why we have taken steps to ensure that the actions described within them never take place again.

The United States has been and continues to be a nation that skirts the laws. And if letting torturers get away with war crimes is one of that nation's "ideals", I expect to see pardons of those who were convicted of the Abu Ghraib torture atrocities from the Obama administration sometime soon.

Outrage mixed with many simply failed attempts to rationalize Obama's decision not to prosecute CIA perpetrators have been sprinkled through the so-called 'progressive' American blogosphere since Thursday in response to this "news". Well it's not news, for one thing.

Leon Panetta was quite clear during his confirmation hearing that his opinion matched that of Obama's when it came to this matter ie. no prosecutions. And what could possibly justify this position?

(Panetta) Having said that, I also believe as the president has indicated that those individuals who operated pursuant to a legal opinion that indicated that that was proper and legal ought not be prosecuted or investigated and that they acted pursuant to the law as it was presented to them by the attorney general.

Not only that, Obama's DOJ will be more than happy to defend you from prosecution too. So, the bottom line is that if some government lawyer writes a rationale that flies in the face of the law, the US constitution and international treaties, your mission (should you choose to accept it) is to act like an imbecile, pretend that you're not breaking any laws and just follow orders because, when push comes to shove, the US government has your ass covered.

Hopeyness is dying on the vine as Naomi Klein skillfully observes. Even Obama's new dog, whatever Michelle is wearing today and/or Obama's visit to Latin America aren't providing the much-needed escapism in the face of this pesky torture stuff.

It's been quite an interesting exercise to watch those who railed against torture while Bush was in office suddenly do an about face and support Obama's refusal to carry out his treaty obligations to prosecute the offenders.

Ironically, back in 2005, Bush said this:

"The only thing I issued was, don't torture. That's the policy of the government," he told a Knight Ridder reporter. "And we don't torture. And if there is torture, we will bring people to account."

And they did. At least as it applied to Abu Ghraib. (Stunning contrast, I know. But somebody had to point it out.)

The new Democratic president, on the other hand, has absolutely no interest in prosecuting anyone for torture and his people may have had something to do with Spain's AG refusing to prosecute the Bush 6.

Obama said he had not had direct contact with the Spanish government about the case but "my team has been in communications with them."

What do you suppose his team had to say about those prosecutions? Go right ahead?

And if you think you'll just hang onto that hopeyness because Obama might actually go after the Bush 6 himself some day, think again. The Bush administration, enabled by numerous Democrats and now sanctioned by this president, ensured that those in command remain untouchable.

The strikes against Obama keep piling up and it ought to be very clear that he will not be the champion of human and civil rights some made him out to be. He is not the second coming of Lincoln or MLK, after all. (Surprise!) Au contraire, political viability is at the top of his priority list.

For someone who touted himself as a Washington outsider who was going to bust in and change the place, (so he said, anyway), his actions to this point have shown that he's just decided to pull up the most politically comfortable chair in town while holding court just like every other politician there. He will not sacrifice his political career for something as apparently inconsequential as the rule of law or human rights. That is not going to change.

Mr "post-racial" and "post-partisan" is now also Mr "post-torture prosecutions". For someone who's already written not one, but two autobiographies in his short life, isn't it kind of odd that he excuses away his unpopular political actions by insisting it's better to look forward all of the time? Just how long does he think that attitude is going to keep him propped up?

And just like those of us who screamed for impeachment were pushed to the back of the so-called 'progressive' bus by the likes of Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama, and Dem party online faithful (and operatives), we might as well get used to sitting in the crappy seats for a whole while longer. Because, just as Paul Krugman, Nouriel Roubini, Joseph Stiglitz and others have been excommunicated by those Democrats who have complete faith in the financial gospel according to Obama, Geithner, Summers and the rest of the Goldman Sachs hacks now in government, you can expect to be keeping company with those radical, fringe lefty groups like the ACLU, Amnesty International, the Center for Constitutional Rights and Human Rights Watch if you believe all torturers and those who gave the orders and legal justifications should be prosecuted.

I know who I'd rather be sitting with. How about you?


You can read the actual memos here.

The Red Cross Torture Report: What It Means

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Bailing out an alleged SA apartheid enabler?

Talk of a possible bankruptcy filing by General Motors has been rampant in the US and Canada lately. And this news seems to provide a huge nudge in that direction as GM will now face increasing legal fees and settlement payouts if these South African apartheid victims win their case.

US court allows apartheid claims

A United States judge has ruled that lawsuits can go ahead against several companies accused of helping South Africa's apartheid-era government.

IBM, Ford and General Motors are among those corporations now expected to face demands for damages from thousands of apartheid's victims.

They argue that the firms supplied equipment used by the South African security forces to suppress dissent.

The companies affected have not yet responded to the judge's ruling.

'Wilful blindness'

US District Judge Shira Scheindlin in New York dismissed complaints against several companies but said plaintiffs could proceed with lawsuits against IBM, Daimler, Ford, General Motors and Rheinmetall Group, the Swiss parent of an armaments maker.

"Corporate defendants accused of merely doing business with the apartheid government of South Africa have been dismissed," she said.

The plaintiffs argue that the car manufacturers knew their vehicles would be used by South African forces to suppress dissent. They also say that computer companies knew their products were being used to help strip black South Africans of their rights.

Can we as citizens actually be comfortable knowing that part of the GM bailout money is going to defend these allegations?


The US and South African governments supported the companies' efforts to get the complaints dismissed.

They argue that the legal action is damaging to international relations and may threaten South Africa's economic development.

Weak, weak excuses in defense of horrendous human rights violations. And can you imagine how many heads will explode when/if the Obama administration publicly stands behind these companies? How will his supporters possibly defend that?

Scheinlin dismissed a number of claims against several of the companies and made the following rulings on the Ntsebeza and Khulumani cases. The judge:

• found the plaintiffs in Ntsebeza adequately pleaded that Daimler, Ford and General Motors aided and abetted apartheid, torture, extrajudicial killing and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment -- in part because their security personnel were "intimately involved" with the torture and inhuman treatment of several plaintiffs and also because the companies provided the military equipment and trucks used by the South African Defense Forces and the special branch for attacks on protesting citizens and activists;

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Obama: Failing To Deal With Torture

While I was watching Black Money on Frontline Tuesday nite, one particular part of the Saudi/British government relationship around the BAE scandal stuck out for me. To get the Blair government to drop the investigation into BAE, the Saudis threatened to withdraw their support in the GWOT. It worked.

That tactic sounded very familiar...

The US has threatened to withhold intelligence from the UK if evidence of the alleged torture of a British resident [Binyam Mohamed] held at Guantánamo Bay is made public.

Details of how the “terrorist” detainee was allegedly tortured — and what UK intelligence services knew about it — must remain secret because of the American threats, the High Court ruled yesterday.

Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Lloyd Jones said lawyers for the Foreign Secretary had told them that the threat by the US still applied under President Obama. Oppostion [sic] MPs accused the Government of giving in to blackmail.

Plus ca change... These politicians play with peoples' lives every single day. What's a few dead Brits when there are major scandals to cover up?

The US government had previously [under Bush] tried to buy Mohamed's silence with a sham plea bargain that would have forced him to stay silent about his torture. He refused.

Whatever happened to Mr Mohamed is something no US administration - Republican or Democrat - wants revealed to the public. In fact, the latest attempt to quash justice in this matter is even more bold:

Guantanamo Attorneys Face Possible Prison Time for Letter to Obama Detailing Client’s Allegations of Torture

Attorneys Clive Stafford Smith and Ahmad Ghappour could face six months in a US prison because of a letter they sent to President Obama explaining their client’s allegations of torture by US agents. Smith and Ghappour represent Binyam Mohamed, the British resident recently released after seven years in US custody, where he claims he was repeatedly tortured, first in a secret CIA prison and later at Guantanamo

Tell me if this makes sense to any of you:

AMY GOODMAN: Officials from the Department of Defense who monitor and censor communication between Guantanamo prisoners and their lawyers filed a complaint against Mohamed’s lawyers for “unprofessional conduct” and for revealing classified evidence to the President.

Excuse me? As the president, is he not allowed to view classified evidence? Anyone?

AMY GOODMAN: The memo the lawyers sent to Obama was completely redacted except for the title. It had urged the President to release evidence of Mohamed’s alleged torture into the public domain. Clive Stafford Smith and Ahmad Ghappour have been summoned before a D.C. court on May 11th.

Did his virgin eyes burn when he read the memo title? Is a redacted memo some sort of national security threat? Am I missing something?

And while all of you Obama maniacs are slapping each other on the back since he announced he was going to close down Gitmo (while you weren't busy checking out the latest dress Michelle was wearing), perhaps you can explain to me what right Obama's Pentagon had to fire Canadian Gitmo prisoner Omar Khadr's lawyer last week? That decision was reversed by a military judge on Tuesday but:

Omar Khadr's U.S. military defence lawyer is stuck in limbo after his superiors attempted to remove him from the Canadian's case, an attempt a military judge subsequently shot down.

As a result, Lieutenant-Commander Bill Kuebler is still Mr. Khadr's assigned counsel, but has been shut out of his Washington office while his boss, chief defence counsel Air Force Colonel Peter Masciola, asks a judge to reconsider his decision.

LCdr. Kuebler was fired last Friday following a long-standing feud with Col. Masciola.

LCdr. Kuebler argued that his boss did not have the authority to dismiss him. On Tuesday, Colonel Patrick Parrish, the judge in the Khadr Guantanamo Bay case, agreed, overruling the dismissal.

Kuebler has been a tireless advocate for Khadr and has had to fight the Pentagon every step of the way - a Pentagon that is terrified that evidence of alleged torture in this case as well will come to light.

Can you see a pattern here? So early in the Obama administration? Is there any indication that anything beyond lip service will be paid to these torture allegations? Let's not forget that all through his 2 year campaign while Bush was still in office doing who knows what with suspects' human and civil rights around the world, Obama repeated the zombie-patriot mantra "The US does not torture".

If that was true then and if it's true now, then what is he trying to hide?


Glenn Greenwald - There are no excuses for ongoing concealment of torture memos

Red Cross says doctors helped CIA "torture"

Ray McGovern - After Torture, Resurrection

CCR - D.C. Circuit Court Decision Refuses to Allow Advance Notice Before a Guantanamo Detainee is Transferred; "The Court held that it could not test the Executive’s promise not to transfer someone to a country where he could be tortured."

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Alberta's Deficit Budget

It's official. After 16 years of surpluses, Alberta's government will run a $4.7 billion deficit.

It seems whoever's in charge of updating the Alberta Finance site was having a bit of a nap since it took them almost half an hour to actually post Budget 2009 information after the 3 pm embargo was lifted.

Be that as it may, here are some of the so-called highlights:

* $23.2 billion over three years to build health facilities, schools, and roads – includes funding for carbon capture and storage, and GreenTRIP.
* 3.7-per-cent increase in operating spending to address population growth and inflation.
* Priority areas of health, education, advanced education, seniors and children services account for 75 per cent of the operating increase.
* Taxes remain lowest in Canada; tobacco tax increases and liquor markup is raised.
* Forecast $36.4 billion in spending in 2009-10; $31.7 billion in revenue.
* $4.7 billion deficit forecast for 2009-10; surplus forecast in 2012-13.
* $2 billion in fiscal corrective actions to be taken in 2010 if situation does not improve beyond forecast.
* New fiscal framework allows for transfers from Sustainability Fund to offset deficits.

( the fine print.)

Tories will hate all of the spending but they'll still keep voting these jokers in decade after decade anyway because they're too scared to try something new. Some of them are even talking up a new Ralph Klein revolution. If you survived the last one here, you'll know just how insane that was. I don't know why, considering the absolute global failure of Father Knows Best conservative economic philosophy, the majority of Albertans support the status quo. Riches rot the brain. That must be it.

And liberals? Well, nobody listens to us anyway and the Alberta Liberal Party is busy begging for donations for office rent and staff while the NDP has no response to the budget on its site either. When will these parties wake up and smell the immediacy of the internets? Their members do perform well in the leg - holding the over-bloated egos of the tories to the fire - but they're truly lacking in stoking up some much-needed left-wing populism in this province. Where's our revolution?

As for me, as an AISH recipient, I have to breath a huge sigh of relief for the $100/month increase I'm getting. Now if only I wasn't spending 60% of my income on rent.


Budget 2009 site

The Calgary Herald has extensive analysis.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Runaway Canuck Cessna Scares the Yanks

Oh please let this be Stephen Harper trying to flee to claim refugee status in the US. Please?

(I'm sure the Heritage Foundation would sponsor him.)

A federal law enforcement official told CNN the pilot is a naturalized Canadian citizen, but declined to give his name or country of origin. The source said the pilot was a flight school student for a "brief" period and only clocked a few hours of flight time.

Canadian officials have received some information that the pilot is "not a happy individual," the official said.

That sounds a lot like Steve, I'd say.

Update: They got the guy. It wasn't Steve. Damn.