Posted by greydogg, 99GetSmart
* HOW AMERICA BECAME A GLOBAL KIDNAPPER AND TORTURER
By Ian Cobain, Alternet
An excerpt from the new book, ‘Cruel Britannia: A Secret History of Torture.’
Two days after the 9/11 attacks, during a meeting of Bush’s closest advisers, Cofer Black declared the country’s enemies must be left with ‘flies walking across their eyeballs’. It was an image of death so striking that Black became known among the President’s inner circle as ‘the flies on the eyeballs guy’. Unlike its allies – the UK, France, Spain and Israel – the US had little experience of serious terrorist attacks on its own territory, nor any understanding of the need for a patient response. Bush was impressed by Black. Colin Powell, the Secretary of State, could see that the President wanted to kill somebody. The problem, as successive attorneys general had warned one president after another, was that they did not enjoy unfettered powers of life and death over the nation’s enemies. The CIA had been banned from carrying out assassinations since 1976.
The President turned to his Department of Defense and found that it had no cogent, off-the-shelf plan for responding to an attack of this nature on the United States. The CIA, on the other hand, did have something in its arsenal: it had the rendition program.
Since 1987, the CIA had been quietly apprehending terrorists and ‘rendering’ them to the US for prosecution, without any regard for lawful extradition processes. In 1995, President Bill Clinton – apparently with the full encouragement of his vice-president, Al Gore – agreed that a number of terrorists could be taken to a third country, including countries known to use torture, a process that would come to be known as extraordinary rendition.
Mike Scheuer, the CIA officer who started that programme, faced few objections from Clinton’s national security advisers when he began taking prisoners to Egypt, where they could be interrogated under torture. ‘They just didn’t want to know what we were doing,’ he says.
Before 9/11, however, there were limits. In 1998, for example, the CIA had drawn up a plan to kidnap Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and take him to Egypt. A shipping container was installed inside a Hercules aircraft and inside that was bolted a dentist’s chair fitted with restraints. The CIA were all ready to go when, at the last moment, the FBI persuaded Clinton’s attorney general, Janet Reno, that bin Laden’s inevitable death at the hands of the Egyptians would be an act of murder and that US officials would be responsible. Reno vetoed the plan.
By 13 September, with a still-unknown number of Americans dead and the President wanting action, all such legal squeamishness had vanished. President Bush and Dick Cheney both believed al-Qaida had succeeded because government lawyers had been expecting the CIA to do its job with one hand tied behind its back. Bush said as much to his attorney general, John Ashcroft, when he warned him: ‘Don’t ever let this happen again.’ So when the head of the FBI, Robert Mueller, went to brief the President a few days after 9/11 and began to talk of the need to gather evidence for future prosecutions, he was promptly silenced by Ashcroft. Prosecutions were beside the point, Ashcroft said. All that mattered was stopping another attack.[…]
[…] Exactly what was required of America’s allies in the fight against terror soon began to emerge. On the evening of 18 December, Paul Forell, a uniformed officer of the Swedish Border Police, watched as two cars pulled up outside his office at Bromma airport in Stockholm. A group of plain-clothes officers of the Säkerhetspolisen, the security service, walked into the office and informed him that a deportation operation was under way. Ten minutes later two more men arrived. They gave Forell their first names and said they were from the US embassy. As they were speaking, a US-registered Gulfstream V jet touched down and began to taxi towards Forell’s office. Some of the Säkerhetspolisen men went to greet it.
They returned with eight people: six Americans and two Egyptians. One of the Americans was a doctor. All of them were dressed in black and wearing black masks with small eye-holes. The visitors went to the parked cars and brought from them two handcuffed men: terrorism suspects Mohammed al-Zery and Ahmed Agiza.
The two prisoners were stripped and searched carefully. Their clothes were cut into pieces and placed in bags. Their hair, mouths and ears were carefully examined. Sedatives were administered by anal suppositories and they were put into nappies. They were then dressed in overalls, handcuffed again and leg irons were locked around their ankles. Then they were photographed and hoods without eye-holes were placed over their heads. Throughout this process the men in masks talked rapidly to each other in low voices. The two prisoners were walked to the Gulfstream and strapped onto mattresses at the rear of the aircraft, which immediately took off for Cairo.
Forell had witnessed one of the first of Cofer Black’s extraordinary rendition operations. Two men had been abducted from a European capital and taken to the Middle East to be interrogated.
Over the next few years, scenes like this would be repeated hundreds of times across the world. Men were rendered not only from the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq but from Kenya, Pakistan, Indonesia, Somalia, Bosnia, Croatia, Albania, Gambia, Zambia, Thailand and the United States itself. The US was running a global kidnapping programme on the basis of Cofer Black’s plan and the agreements reached at October’s NATO meeting.
Some prisoners were dispatched to Middle Eastern countries, including Jordan and Syria, or to Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. An unknown number were sent to secret prisons that the CIA operated in Thailand, Poland, Lithuania and Romania. Wherever the prisoners ended up, however, they had one thing in common: they were going to be tortured. […]
* SECRET NEGOTIATIONS HIDE THE TPP’s MOST DAMAGING PROVISIONS
By John Olen, EconomyInCrisis
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a multilateral trade deal proposed with countries such as Vietnam and Singapore, has largely been negotiated in secret. This has angered many who are concerned about what damaging details may be included in the deal, and the little bit we know for sure confirms these suspicions. Despite promises from President Obama during his campaign, documents leaked from the secret negotiations show that foreign corporations will gain the right to challenge U.S. laws in secret tribunals. This is an affront to American sovereignty and the laws we choose to abide by as citizens. These negotiations need to be brought into the light of day so that Americans can see how damaging this free trade deal is before it is too late.
Under the proposed agreement, American laws regarding labor, environmental or financial issues would apply to companies based in America, but foreign companies operating in the U.S. could challenge these laws in a secret international tribunal if they felt these laws affected their ability to do business. If the tribunal rules in favor of the corporations, the U.S. could be forced to overturn the law or face sanctions or penalties from member countries.
However damaging this may be, it is not a new idea. Chapter 11 of NAFTA provides for similar powers for corporations, and the new trade agreement with South Korea (KORUS FTA) contains a similar provision. With these provisions in place, a foreign company can sue because an American restriction on lead in toys has cut into their profits. Damages may be awarded, or the law may be overturned and American taxpayers would be on the hook for the expense, no matter how justified the law was to begin with.
President Obama specifically stated that he would not pass free trade agreements with these kind of provisions while campaigning in 2008.
“We will not negotiate bilateral trade agreements that stop the government from protecting the environment, food safety, or the health of its citizens; give greater rights to foreign investors than to U.S. investors; require the privatization of our vital public services; or prevent developing country governments from adopting humanitarian licensing policies to improve access to life-saving medications,” stated an Obama campaign document. […]
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON TPP: The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement @ http://99getsmart.com/?p=3715
* CORNEL WEST EXPLAINS WHY IT BOTHERS HIM THAT OBAMA WILL BE TAKING THE OATH WITH MLK’s BIBLE
* CARMEN ORTIZ’S SORID RAP SHEET
By Christian Stork, HowWhatWhy
The suicide last Friday of information activist, computer hacker and technical wunderkind Aaron Swartz has focused attention on Carmen Ortiz, the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts, whose overzealous prosecution may have led to his death. Swartz, co-founder of a website later acquired by Reddit as well as a prime developer of the online publishing infrastructure known as Rich Site Summary (RSS), was under federal indictment for logging into JSTOR—a database of scholarly articles accessible from universities across the country—and downloading its content with the intent to distribute the articles online free of charge.
Despite JSTOR’s subsequent securing of the “stolen” content and refusal to press charges, Swartz was arrested by the feds and charged originally with four felony counts under the 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. On those charges alone, Swartz was facing a possible 35-year sentence and over $1,000,000 in fines. Just three months ago, a “Superseding Indictment” filed in the case by the U.S. attorney’s office upped the felony count from four to 13. If convicted, Swartz was looking at possibly over 50 years in prison: a conceivable life sentence.
Ortiz, the politically ambitious U.S. attorney for Massachusetts, spearheaded the prosecution against Swartz. “Stealing is stealing whether you use a computer command or a crowbar,” Ortiz proclaimed in a 2011 press release. Her point man in the case was Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Heymann, a specialist in computer crime and son of Philip Heymann, the United States Deputy Attorney General during the Clinton administration. Stephen Heymann led the 2010 investigation into Albert Gonzalez, the TJX hacker, in the largest identity fraud case in history. Heymann’s office suspected that one of the unindicted co-conspirators named in that criminal complaint—“JJ”—was Jonathan James, a juvenile hacker who also killed himself two weeks after his house was raided.
The details of the Swartz case are so suggestive of prosecutorial abuse that they have already led to widespread condemnation of Carmen Ortiz and Stephen Heymann. However, what’s missing from much of the expressed outrage is recognition that the “bullying” tactics employed by Ms. Ortiz are standard operating procedure for federal prosecutors when pursuing criminal cases. […]
* TO THE CRUCIBLE: AN IRISH ENGAGEMENT WITH THE GREEK CRISIS AND THE GREEK LEFT
By Helena Sheehan, IrishLeftReview
A Greek tragedy
A monumental drama is playing out before our eyes. It is a true Greek tragedy. The plot: A society is being pushed to its limits. The denouement is not yet determined, but survival is at stake and prospects are precarious. Greece is at the sharp end of a radical and risky experiment in how far accumulation by dispossession can go, how much expropriation can be endured, how far the state can be subordinated to the market. It is a global narrative, but the story is a few episodes ahead here.
Greece is the crucible.1 It is a caldron where concentrated forces are colliding in a process that will bring forth either a reconfiguration of capitalism or the dawn of its demise.
Salaries, pensions, public services are falling, while prices and taxes are rising. Massive asset stripping is underway. Water, power, ports, islands, public buildings are for sale. Unemployment, emigration and evictions have brought a sense of a society unraveling. Homeless people wander the streets and scavenge for food in bins or beg it from the plates of those eating in tavernas. If they are immigrants, they are terrorised. Those looking into a horizon without hope either drift into desolation or perform the ultimate decisive act of suicide. Some have done so in private spaces, while others have chosen public places to underline the political nature of their fate, as they jump from heights, set themselves on fire or shoot themselves. In April 2012, Dimitris Christoulas, a retired pharmacist, who felt he could no longer live a dignified life after his pension had been slashed, shot himself in front of parliament. His last words were: “I am not committing suicide. They are killing me.” He urged younger people to fight.
Speaking to Greeks, it is hard to find any without a far reaching systemic critique. They tell you so many details of the deceits of the troika, the corruption of government, the decline in their own standards of living, the pervasive sense of social disintegration. When asked if they see any hope, few answer in the affirmative.
Nevertheless, some do. It is a precarious hope. For some, it is hesitant and weak, full of doubt, but a faint sense of some possible breakthrough from the morass. They protest, they march, they strike, even if they sometimes feel as if they are just going through the motions, because they do it so often now. They are not sure what it will take to break this cycle and move it on to another level, but they know it cannot go on as it is. For others, hope is clearer and stronger, although not without doubt and not without a sense of nearly overwhelming forces that could swamp all their best efforts. These are the ones who are not only critiquing and resisting, but also strategising and organising for a social transformation that would chart a path out of the crisis, ultimately a new path out of capitalism and to socialism. Conscious of all previous attempts that have crashed and burned or have betrayed the hopes they engendered, they are sober about their chances, but determined in their work. […]
* WHAT ARE THE GERMAN BANKERS THINKING?
Michael Ash: German bankers can be ruthless bill collectors, wild speculators, social planners and austerity hawks but they seem to ignore the damage they are doing to Europe.