Monday, July 29, 2013

Obama works to “free” 2 Algerian prisoners at Guantanamo, sending them back home, but is it really “free”?

Last week, the Obama Administration began working to repatriate two prisoners to their home country,  Algeria, as part of his most recent promise to begin releasing some of the 86 innocent men, held prisoner, for nearly 12 years in Guantanamo.

As part of the all new campaign to close Guantanamo (after ignoring it for 4 years), Obama has finally appointed someone to oversee the closure and transfer of the men who had been declared innocent by two separate commissions.  Sounds all so great, right?  Obama finally keeping a campaign promise to close this blight? (oh, was "congress that stopped it".  right, sure.  Obama, easily and readily cowed by Congress choosing the easy way of inaction instead of taking a stand for humanity and justice...............but I digress).

"Over the past few months, a very senior interagency team conducted an intensive review of this matter. Based on their recommendations, and as mandated by Congress, Secretary Hagel signed off on the legal requirements to move forward with the transfer these detainees.  Secretary Hagel fully supports the President's goal of closing Guantanamo Bay and this upcoming transfer brings us closer towards reaching that goal."

Interesting that "interagency team"  was charged to act only after the current hunger strike resulted in a blow up  that the MSM could not completely ignore - misreport, outrageously spin, maybe, but not completely ignore;  And was charged to act only after repeated reports of abuse and the re-institution of  force feeding policies that have brought outrage from medical professionals, religious leaders and international press and calls for cessation by not only the AMA but also the British Medical Association.

Algeria, has its way of repatriating innocent men and this administration, the Pentagon and Congress  know exactly how they do it....just ask ex-Guantanamo detainee Abdul Aziz Naji........

Abdul Aziz Naji,
Algerian prisoner at Guantanamo, 2002-2010,
Internment Serial Number was 744.

Abdul Aziz Naji was in Pakistan in 2002, offering  humanitarian assistance to Muslims and Christians in Kashmir.  He was also in search of a wife that would match his devotion to Islam.  While there, he stepped on an unexploded land mine (landmines riddle the area on both sides of the  border with Kashmir).  He lost his leg and spent months in the hospital in order to heal.   One day, he was advised to visit another Algerian in the city of Peshawar who could introduce him to women who might be available for marriage...

Upon arriving at the home of the Algerian, he and the homeowner were promptly arrested.  There was never any charges or accusations made, he was never involved in anything beyond the missionary/humanitarian work but was arrested anyway.  He was told by the Pakistanis that he would be released, but. instead, was handed over to the US, sent to Bagram and subsequently Guantanamo.

In 2010, the Obama Administration declared that Abdul Aziz would be returned to Algeria, promised safe passage and repatriation.....The prisoner tried to argue against being returned to Algeria since he feared for both his life and freedom if he was returned - he was ignored; He was returned even after the State Department issued their own findings in a report on Algeria in 2010 that expressed serious concerns about “poor prison conditions, abuse of prisoners, and lack of judicial independence.”

Abdul Aziz Naji was proven justified in his fears.  He is being  held in the  El Harache prison in the capital, Algiers. According to Reprieve (founded by Clive Stafford Smith, the London based organization works to enforce human rights around the world) :

" January 2012 the Algerian Supreme Court sentenced him [Naji] to three years of prison after a brief “trial”, accusing him of the same crimes the US authorities had already cleared him of. No evidence was presented at the trial - the out-dated and discredited allegations alone were enough to get him convicted."

Naji 's brother, Okba, states Naji is now on hunger strike to protest human rights violations and treatment,  His brother states his health is failing but not just from the hunger strike.  Abdul Aziz is in pain and suffering from the injury sustained in Pakistan.  (While in Guantanamo, the US "fitted" him with a poorly made  prosthetic leg that is way too small for him and causes suffering and an inability to function).

Okba states:

“He was not allowed to speak in court; the judge did not allow him,” says Okba, who was unable to attend the hearing in what was believed to have been a closed court session."

More on the case of Abdul Aziz Najib can be found at Andy Worthington's  site and his book, "The Guantanamo Files." 

The authorities continued to restrict freedoms of expression, association and assembly, dispersing demonstrations and harassing human rights defenders. Women faced discrimination in law and practice. Perpetrators of gross human rights abuses during the 1990s, and torture and other ill-treatment against detainees in subsequent years, continued to benefit from impunity. Armed groups carried out lethal attacks. At least 153 death sentences were reported; there were no executions....
Algeria’s human rights record was assessed under the UN Universal Periodic Review in May. The government failed to address recommendations to abolish laws originating under the state of emergency, in force from 1992 until 2011, to ease restrictions on freedoms of expression, association and assembly, and to recognize the right to truth of families of victims of enforced disappearances during the 1990s.

As  reports come in about Algeria, Algeria looks a lot like more "Guantanamo" to me....

So, why would Barack Obama send innocent men back to a place where he knows those innocent men will only receive the same mistreatment and abuse?

I believe I may have said something about choosing the easy way ...... instead of taking a stand for humanity and justice.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Spying on American citizens makes for strange bedfellows - Guess who the White House found in their bed?

The Queen of Psycho-Babbling may not be running again but she certainly isn't being any less of a clown............As proven in her rant to the House in order to try and kill the Amash/Conyers/Mulvaney/Polis/Massie Amendment (Salon's "Bachmann defends NSA spying on Americans") - the bill attempting to restrict the over-reach and attacks on private communications put in place by the Patriot Act as it relates to the NSA collection of not just meta-data, but, entire email, telephone and any communication on social media.

As the WH channeled the spirit of Dick Cheney,, issued statements about trying to protect us from "terrorists", Michele stood on the floor of the House trying to teach about "false narratives".  The woman who screamed about how retardation is caused by Gardasil; The woman who ranted about the take-over by Sharia Law and sent Frank Gaffney ghost written letters to Obama about his installation of  the Muslim Brotherhood in the US government; the woman who claims to creationism tries to school on "False Narratves"?

Michele Bachmann, joined in the bizarre orgy of  the most strange bedfellows to include John Boehner and Eric Cantor as they mated with Nancy Pelosi to whip up fear and loathing of that evil bill - after all, who ever gave us the impression we had a right to privacy - just act Dick Cheney...

Peter King  (King of new age McCarthyism) joined in a romp with Michele and Steny Hoyer to  increase the attacks on supporters of the Amendment - Yep, resorting to Bush Administration tactics seems to be the best defense of the most offensive Congressional actions against us.

Read more at "The Guardian" - Glenn Greenwald's,  "Democratic establishment unmasked: prime defenders of NSA bulk spying"

(Glenn Greenwald, who may be the most hated writer, by the somewhat left of center in America. but who actually does know his stuff on NSA, attacks on privacy and the Surveillance State..Go ahead, read it, I won't tell anyone...Be our little secret)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Under the radar: Stories that are not getting much play this week

With all the valid outrage over the verdict in Florida and the need for a national dialogue on issues that have plagued this nation since its inception,  (and some churned outrage by those who love to manipulate it), there are a few very important stories that may be getting missed or under-played.  The stories aren't quite sensationally sexy enough,  aren't sleazy bedroom "who-is-doing-whom" scandalous, or, more likely, are too embarrassing for some in power to want out in  the open. this making them easy to quietly bury.

A few of the "well worth mentioning":

Fabrice Tourre was a banker  for one of the most powerful banks in the industry, Goldman Sachs.  The Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) has accused him of defrauding investors by hawking a "subprime mortgage product".

In other words, three years ago, he took  subprime mortgage loans that had been chopped and churned then bundled into a product called "Abacus 2007-AC1"...

That "product" made  John Paulson, Hedge Fund manager, a cool $1 billion (more on the "who" of John Paulson here ); Fabulous Fab  -  Before "Abacus", Vice-president on the structured-product-correlation trading desk in New York; post "Abacus," Executive director of Goldman Sachs International in London -made $2 million; and Goldman Sachs says they lost $90 million but charged $15 million in fees
The SEC came snooping, including the emails...
Fabrice, not so fabulously, got cocky and sent all the dirt in emails to impress his girlfriend.
For more on the background of the story, "The Fabulous Life of Fabrice Tourre"

The trial probably won't have too many ramifications for the industry and Goldman Sachs but it does bring the story of how "too big to fail" got so big and how investors (to include many nations from Europe to Asia to Canada and to South America) lost big as Goldman Sachs made billions betting against their own product's performance.
Yesterday was the first day of the trial in Manhattan.  From the appearance, we have the ,makings of a very long trial and short attention span of the selected jury .  Even the judge has asked that the attorneys  be "gentle" since the "jury of his peers" may not comprehend the ins and outs and hard to track manipulations that were used to push the banking scam .  A "jury of his peers" chosen out of the general populace with little comprehension of the complex cons pulled on the people.

Ramadan is upon us as the hunger strike at Guantanamo continues.  The strike, starting  February, 2013, has been flying under the radar of mainstream media for nearly 5 months except when it is forced onto them by a court action or political speech.

Over 100 detainees,  out of the 155 remaining at Guantanamo, chose this extreme form of protest and suicide in response to their continued imprisonment without charge, the lack of discussion about their plight and the escalation of abuse by the camp's guards under orders of the camp commander who was put in place June 2012.

Over the course of the past 5 months, attention finally came when the camp commander imposed strict isolation (a policy that had been stopped years before) on nearly all of the prisoners and did so violently. The commander also ordered confiscation of anything and everything from personal family photos, legal documents, and the prisoner's personal Qurans .  The prisoners reacted to the attacks by returning some of the same, grabbing what they could to fight back.

Spun by the MSM as a "riot "by detainees with little mention of the events that led to the blow up, the story finally brought attention to the strike and a  response by the president.

The media from the UK to Qatar has been covering Guantanamo for years on a regular basis, as has Russia Today, India Times, and other major outlets around the world.  The US media generally only mentions Guantanamo when Congress or the President makes a statement, renews the Patriot Act or if an action so deplorable is committed - the latest is the worldwide outrage to the Force-Feeding of the hunger strikers.

152 physicians joined with the Lancet to call for the end of the force-feeding policy.  The AMA has also called for the end of the policy.  In letters to The Secretary of State, op-eds, articles and petitions, the medical community, that decided years ago that the practice was unethical and dangerous, has called for medical personnel of Guantanamo, the President and the Secretary of State to cease the policy.

This past week, a US Federal Court judge refused to stop the force-feeding of detainees during Ramadan.  She did, however, state  that only President Barack Obama had the power to intervene.  A call that is being made by Islamic leaders around the world.

Ramadan is a month of  fasting, charitable works  and prayer.  The force-feeding of detainees, besides being unethicalbesides being torturous,  is a violation of the detainees' religious observance .  One more right removed and about the only one they had left.

Also, last week, attorneys for the prisoners received a ruling by Judge Royce Lamberth orderimg a ban to the practice of groin searches of prisoners done by the guards if the prisoner was to meet with his attorney or even accept a phone call from his attorney .  These searches could take place as many  as 4 times for one visit with the attorney.  The practice was reinstated last May after the so-called riot referenced earlier. It is a practice that is both "“religiously and culturally abhorrent” which is the main reason it is used; a practice that had been instituted by the Bush Administration but stopped years ago.

The reason for the order to halt the searches, according to the judge, was that the use of this practice proved to be little more than an attempt to restrict the prisoners from having access to their attorneys. Another right gone.  The prisoners found the practice so abhorrent and insulting, they refused to meet with their counsel in order to avoid the degradation.

Today, in an emergency motion by the Obama Administration, the US Court of Appeals put a temporary halt on the ban.  The government argued that the ban would "weaken security" allowing for contraband (to include "weapons") to be passed.  Keeping  in mind these searches are being conducted when the prisoner accepts a phone call from his attorney or meets with his attorney and that there has never been an instance of contraband  or weapons being traced to an attorney (how is contraband getting passed through a telephone?) or traced to a meeting in which attorney had been present, the judge stated
“that no attacks with these weapons have occurred at Guantánamo or that the source of these weapons has yet to be traced to attorney meetings does not alter this conclusion. Prison officials are entitled to take preemptive measures to ensure the security of their facilities.”