Thursday, March 20, 2014

Which of these do not belong on this list? Torture, Spying on citizens, War crimes, United States. America, WTF?

"This Is Not Torture" by Guy Colwell. Pencil on Paper; 2008

How many thought the answer, to the title question, was "United States"?  How many realized it was a trick question? All 4 items belong together. 

I would love for the answer to have been "United States" but, sadly, the US belongs on the list of nations that abuse civil and human rights as well as nations committing some of the most obscene crimes against humanity.

Torture - "The US does not torture" said Barack Obama in 2008 and in 2009, issued Executive Order 13491 to "cease" any use of torture;  We are "the beacon of hope," said Ronald Reagan, 1986,  as he proclaimed "Human Rights Week"..

The US does torture - we have been using torture since our inception; We continued to use it as presidents claim us to be "the beacon of hope" and declare we "do not torture."

Except that isn't quite true.

According to "TORTURE IN THE UNITED STATESThe Status of Compliance by the U.S. Government with the International Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment," Prepared By The Coalition Against Torture and Racial Discrimination, A Joint Working Group of Non-Governmental Civil and Human Rights Groups in the U.S., For Submission to the United Nations' Committee Against Torture in Conjunction with the Initial Compliance Report of the United States Government with the Convention Against Torture; Compiled and Edited By Morton Sklar, Director, World Organization Against Torture USA; October, 1998 (note: this was compiled during the Clinton Administration)

"Torture, which is identified by CAT as including all forms of government sponsored (by affirmative action or by acquiescence) cruel and inhuman treatment and punishment, or other forms of severe pain and suffering, both physical and psychological, currently is taking place in the United States in a number of important areas."
1. The Death Penalty 
"While application of the death penalty as part of the lawful criminal justice process is not prohibited under the CAT and other international human rights instruments, certain important limitations on the use of capital punishment have been established which the U.S. government is not observing. Contrary to the vast majority of other nations, and to the requirements of international human rights treaties the U.S. has endorsed, the U.S. continues to execute juvenile offenders, with 12 executed in the past 20 years, and 69 more currently on death row. In recent years, both the U.S. government and a number of states also have substantially expanded the number and type of crimes that have been made subject to the death penalty, again despite prohibitions to this effect in international human rights treaties. The tendency to prosecute juveniles as adults for serious criminal violations that might involve the death penalty has been increasing. 
Serious questions also have been raised about the inherent cruelty involved in certain applications of the death penalty and the inordinate period of time that some prisoners awaiting execution are kept on death row as a result of governmental delays. The horrifying "burning" of Pedro Medina that took place during his execution in Florida on March 25, 1997 when an electric chair malfunctioned, served to dramatize the inherent brutality involved in the death penalty. 
The discriminatory impact of capital punishment on racial and ethnic minorities and low-income people, persuasively documented by the recent report of the Death Penalty Information Center, adds substantially to the inequity and inappropriateness of the practice. All these problems have been compounded by recently enacted laws that significantly reduce opportunities of prisoners facing execution to appeal their convictions and sentences to federal courts, and to obtain free legal assistance at the appeals level............"

2. Prison Conditions and the Treatment of Refugee Detainees
"Despite the U.S. government's claim that adequate legal protections exist under the Constitution and laws to prevent instances of "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" with respect to prisoners in detention, the fact remains that a substantial number of these types of abuses continue to take place in U.S. prisons. In fact, as part of the crackdown on crime that is taking place in our country, prison abuses and extra-legal punishments are becoming more frequent rather than less, as new forms of prisoner control and harassment are introduced, such as widespread use of long-term solitary confinement, arbitrary application of punitive violence and long-term restraints, increasing use of control unit and super-maximum prison facilities that isolate prisoners and impose other harsh treatments on a punitive basis, and the re-introduction of "chain gangs" for both men and women prisoners. The practice of indiscriminate use of largely untested chemical sprays and electronic stun equipment to control and punish prisoners has become widespread, often with harsh and painful results disproportionate to any potential threat. These devices frequently are being used on an arbitrary and unnecessary basis. 
The tendencies to "privatize" detention facilities and to house prisoners in facilities far from their homes make it more difficult to monitor and prevent these practices. Protections for prisoners also have been weakened by new laws reducing the ability of prisoners to bring their situations to the attention of the federal courts. 
Special problems related to abusive treatment of detainees are experienced by those seeking asylum status, many of whom are held in criminal facilities and mixed with the criminal population, while awaiting determination of their claims. The case of Fauziya Kasinga, a women seeking to escape female genital mutilation in Togo, only to find herself subjected to serious sexual and physical abuses while in detention in the U.S. for 16 months, epitomizes the problems that detained refugees face despite their legitimate fear of persecution or torture, and the fact that they have committed no crime...."

3. Physical and Sexual Abuse of Women in Prisons 
"Gender based physical and sexual abuse is too common an occurrence in prisons in the U.S. Recent on-site evaluations of conditions in women's prisons have found extensive gender-based mistreatment, physical abuse and outright sexual assault. A pattern and practice has been found to exist, throughout the prison system, but especially at state institutions, of male prison personnel engaging in rape, sexual assault, sexual taunting, and unwarranted visual surveillance of female prisoners in showers and bathrooms. Similar types of abuses against women have been attributed to law enforcement personnel policing the border between the U.S. and Mexico to prevent unlawful immigration. To make matters worse, most states are failing to address custodial sexual misconduct because they do not have adequate policies and criminal sanctions in place (or refuse to apply them), and do not provide proper training for custodial personnel. The strong tendency is to punish the prisoners who have been abused, rather than their abusers. In the report they submitted in 1995 to the U.N. Human Rights Committee, the U.S. Government, in the judgment of Human Rights Watch, "vastly underestimated the problem of sexual abuse in women's prisons in the U.S., and greatly overstated the degree to which it is being remedied." 
4. Return of Refugees to Situations of Torture and Persecution, and Their Long-Term Detention Under Abusive Conditions 
"3 of the Convention Against Torture establishes an unconditional right of an emigree who has experienced or faces torture to not be expelled (refouled) back to their country of origin where they are likely to face additional torture. Although the U.S. government makes frequent assurances that it recognizes and observes the right of victims of torture and persecution not to be refouled, in fact it has adopted many practices and policies that help to produce this unfortunate (and prohibited) result. This includes the practice of "interdicting" boat people at sea, and automatically returning them without analysis of potential refugee status. This approach recently was approved by the U.S. Supreme Court under the dubious principle of "extra-territoriality," which considers actions taken by the U.S. government outside the nation's territorial limits as not subject to the jurisdiction of U.S. law and international human rights treaty obligations. 
Increasing instances of refoulement of refugees and torture victims also are taking place as a result of the newly enacted Illegal Immigration Reform Act of 1996, which calls for "expedited return" of those seeking entry without proper papers, and significantly reduces opportunities for legitimate refugees to make effective asylum claims. Unless individuals are quickly identified as likely victims of torture or persecution during a very brief interview with an immigration officer immediately after their arrival, they are automatically returned to their countries of origin. Victims of persecution, especially torture and rape, often need time and medical or psychological treatment before they can tell their stories. These are not provided in expedited processing, nor is the opportunity to obtain legal or other representation that would help victims deal with the asylum process. 
Part of the reason for the problem is that the Government has been very slow and uncertain in recognizing the need to include torture as an alternative ground for preventing expedited return. It was not until the end of October, 1998, just days before this report was published, that the U.S. Congress adopted legislation implementing domestically the primary requirement, included in Article 3 of the Torture Convention, that victims of torture or those facing the prospect of torture not be sent back to the countries they are fleeing. INS, to its credit, has acknowledged that all government officials are bound by the Article 3 non-return requirement. But the agency, using the failure of the U.S. Congress to adopt implementing legislation for CAT as an excuse, for some period of time refused to issue formal regulations providing more specific guidance to its officials and to the public on what the standards mean and how they should be enforced. Instead INS had to rely on internal memoranda and ad hoc procedures for dealing with torture claims that, while helpful, did not provide sufficient long-term, clear-cut guidance on these important procedures, nor reliable information on the results of CAT cases that are decided. As a result of these deficiencies, applicants for CAT protection have not been given access to the documents related to the decisions being made in their cases. Under INS rules, they even would be denied the right to appeal rejections of their CAT claims to the courts. 
In addition, past history suggests that the policy of unlawful refoulement of victims of torture and persecution is applied on a highly discriminatory basis, with Black people and Hispanics from certain Latin American countries (such as Haiti and El Salvador) receiving distinctly unfair and biased treatment. For many years, during the horrific regimes of "Papa Doc" Duvalier and his son, "Baby Doc" Duvalier, Haitian refugees were routinely excluded from the U.S. primarily on the basis of their race, according to the findings of a federal judge. As recently as 1997, Congress, for a number of months (until a public outcry forced a change in policy) excluded Haitians already in the U.S. from special protections granted to resident aliens who arrived in the U.S. in past years as escapees from other repressive Latin American regimes. Until October, 1998, these protections still were being provided to Haitians on a different and more temporary basis than asylum seekers from other Latin American countries, perpetuating the pattern of discrimination that has been in effect for many years, primarily for racial reasons. This discrepancy in treatment may finally have been corrected in the Omnibus Budget Act passed by Congress at the end of October, 1998, which includes provisions finally granting Haitians the same ability to apply for legal status as has been granted for some time to other long-term resident aliens. 
In addition to the problem of refoulement of torture victims and those legitimately fearing torture, another common practice of the U.S. Government that violates CAT is the long-term, sometimes indefinite detention of large numbers of refugees and torture victims under conditions that frequently are abusive and inappropriate to their circumstances and needs. Often they are placed in state and county prisons and jails, mixed with criminal populations, and subjected to shackling and other forms of punishment geared to the criminal population, although they have committed no crimes. The facts that (with few exceptions) they do not represent a danger to the community, are not likely to flee (because they have legitimate grounds for seeking asylum), and that many asylum seekers are in serious need of medical or psychological assistance not available in detention, often are not taken into account. Neither is the fact that their detention and abusive treatment in prisons is likely to aggravate problems associated with traumatic stress syndrome that they suffer as victims of persecution or torture in the recent past. For women, especially those who have been victims of rape in the context of their persecution, conditions of detention also are conducive to forms of sexual abuse and harassment that reinforce the problems caused by the violations they have experienced. 
What makes these problems even more worrisome is that the INS currently lacks the means of even keeping track of the numbers of refugees and torture victims who are being detained, and the length of time of their detention. These statistics are kept by individual detention facilities, but are not compiled on a national basis by the INS."
5. Failure to Extradite or Prosecute Torturers 
"Under international treaties all governments are equally responsible for the effective criminal prosecution of violators of the most significant international standards of conduct, such as war crimes, terrorism or torture. This principle of "universal enforcement" means that a government finding this type of offender within its borders must either extradite them for prosecution by the country where the offense occurred, or initiate prosecution themselves. The U.S. government has strongly supported this approach, as is the case, for example, with the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, the truck bombing of the U.S. barracks in Dharhran, Saudi Arabia, and other similar terrorist and war crime activities. However, the U.S. government recently declined to extradite or prosecute Emmanuel Constant, an alleged Haitian torturer, purportedly to keep from focusing public attention on the fact that Mr. Constant may have been receiving payments from the Central Intelligence Agency during the time when he was engaged in torture related activity. Instead, the government entered into an agreement with Mr. Constant to find him a safe haven in neutral territory, over the strenuous objections of the Haitian government." 
6. Failure to Provide for Adequate Domestic Implementation 
"Despite the obligation under CAT to take necessary action to assure domestic implementation and to provide effective remedies to victims of violations, the U.S. government has not taken sufficient steps to enforce CAT's provisions in domestic law. Although a general law affirming the basic principles of the treaty was adopted, specific legislation implementing the critical Article 3 non-return prohibition of CAT, and making this standard legally enforceable at the domestic level, was not made part of U.S. law until October, 1998. As important, the provision that was adopted contained restrictions on coverage that were not consistent with the unequivocal prohibitions of CAT. It incorporates restrictions on judicial review of rejections of Article 3 non-return petitions, and denies Article 3 protection to certain categories of asylum seekers, such as criminals and terrorists, which is not in accord with the language and intent of CAT. 
A related problem is that a reservation was added by the U.S. Senate to the instrument ratifying CAT suggesting that its provisions were not "self-executing," and therefore could not be enforced domestically by victims of violations. The Human Rights Committee of the United Nations, in General Comment 24, has suggested that a "non-self executing" reservation runs directly counter to the underlying necessity for international human rights treaties to be enforceable domestically, and renders "ineffective ... rights which would require [a] change in national law to ensure compliance." The U.S. government's non-self executing claim makes the need for specific implementing legislation even greater. This problem is further compounded by the fact that the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA -- the appellate body for asylum cases) has erroneously applied the non-self-executing reservation to prohibit the use of CAT's provisions in regular asylum proceedings. 
As noted above (section 4), one of the most notable deficiencies in terms of domestic implementation is the failure of the newly enacted Illegal Immigration and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, and its implementing regulations, which seek to establish one unified, comprehensive system for processing all immigration and asylum claims, to acknowledge that torture provides an entirely separate and additional ground, along with fear of persecution, for not returning someone to their country of origin. This is a significant omission, since in order to establish fear of persecution as a basis for asylum it is necessary to link the persecution that has occurred or is feared to one of five specifically enumerated reasons -- race, religion, nationality, political opinion or social group. Under the Convention Against Torture no such linkage is required, and the reason for the torture need not be considered, making it easier for a torture victim to prove eligibility for non-refoulement. INS has issued an internal guideline to its personnel acknowledging that they are bound by CAT's non-return prohibition, and administrative procedures have been set up on an ad hoc basis to review CAT Article 3 petitions. But the INS and the BIA refuse to accept CAT's applicability to regular asylum cases, and have rejected efforts by asylum seekers to invoke Article 3 as an additional basis for preventing deportation, in large part because of the long delay in Congress' adoption of implementing legislation for Article 3. 
Consistent with the requirement of Article 14 of CAT, additional implementing action also is required to provide for adequate compensation and treatment of torture victims. Although the U.S. government has adopted legislation affirming the right of victims to be compensated by their abusers through tort claims, this is limited to torture taking place abroad, and does not address the equally important needs of assuring compensation for torture experienced in the U.S., and providing adequate medical treatment and psychological counseling to victims from foreign countries." 
7. Arms Sales and Other Assistance by the U.S. Government that Support Torture in Foreign Countries
"While CAT does not specifically address the problem of governments providing arms or other assistance that is used to promote torture in other countries, it is reasonable to interpret the prohibition against torture as preventing these forms of "indirect" support for acts of torture committed abroad. Two forms of assistance along these lines by the U.S. government have recently begun to receive public attention and condemnation. First, the government transferred or authorized the sale of military equipment to several governments that have used these armaments in acts of torture. Human Rights Watch has documented that U.S. weaponry sent to Turkey, notably small arms and helicopters, has played a major role in a wide range of abusive practices committed against the Kurdish minority civilian population. Along similar lines, Amnesty International in its April, 1998 review of human rights violations by the U.S., has reported several cases involving the transfer of electronic stun equipment to governments likely to use them to engage in human rights violations, such as the shipment of 10,000 shock batons to Turkey. Similar problems have been raised in connection with proposed arms shipments to Peru and Indonesia. 
Another form of support for torture relates to training foreign police and military personnel in torture techniques. Reports have surfaced recently about U.S. supplied training manuals and courses given in the School for the Americas that advocated or encouraged torture as an instrument for dealing with insurgents. There also have been reports of U.S. military trainers being sent to Sri Lanka and other countries, in situations that suggest that their work may be related to operations to control the civilian populations through techniques that involve torture and other forms of abusive treatment and punishment....."
8. Abuse in Treatment of Those Considered Mentally Ill
"Practices used in the care of mentally disabled persons in government operated facilities, such as extended and indefinite use of restraints, long-term isolation, and the involuntary administration of dangerous chemical treatments, frequently involve prohibited elements of punishment, intimidation, coercion and discrimination that cannot be justified by medical or safety considerations...."
9. Involuntary Human Scientific Experimentation
"Considerable evidence recently has surfaced that the U.S. government, in past years, has conducted a number of what have been classified as "scientific" experiments on human subjects without their knowledge or consent. This includes large-scale exposures to radiation emissions, and purposeful denial of available medical treatment to African-American syphilis victims, allegedly for medical testing. Recent media disclosures and admissions by government officials suggest that the scope of these "experiments" has been far wider than previously acknowledged. As was true for the human experimentation conducted by the Nazis in prison camps during World War II, the "so-called" scientific aspects of these tests do not eliminate the cruel and abusive elements that were involved. Nor do they justify the severe pain and suffering imposed on individual test victims. Although the tests that have been publicly acknowledged took place some time ago, sufficient action has not been taken to compensate victims, and to assure that similar forms of abusive experimentation would be prevented in the future, especially in newly emerging areas of technology and weapons development."

Under Reagan, it was Central America (From "Ronald Reagan's Torture" by Robert Parry, September 8, 2009):

Lost amid the attention given George W. Bush’s “war on terror” torture policies was the CIA’s cryptic admission that it also engaged in interrogation abuses during Ronald Reagan’s anti-leftist wars in Central America, another era of torture and extra-judicial killings. 
The 2004 CIA Inspector General’s report, released last month, referenced as “background” to the Bush-era abuses the spy agency’s “intermittent involvement in the interrogation of individuals whose interests are opposed to those of the United States.” The report noted “a resurgence in interest” in teaching those techniques in the early 1980s “to foster foreign liaison relationships.” 
The report said, “because of political sensitivities,” the CIA’s top brass in the 1980s “forbade Agency officers from using the word ‘interrogation” and substituted the phrase “human resources exploitation” [HRE] in training programs for allied intelligence agencies. 
The euphemism aside,  the reality of these interrogation techniques remained brutal, with the CIA Inspector General conducting a 1984 investigation of alleged “misconduct on the part of two Agency officers who were involved in interrogations and the death of one individual,” the report said (although the details were redacted in the version released last month). 
In 1984, the CIA also was hit with a scandal over what became known as an “assassination manual” prepared by agency personnel for the Nicaraguan contras, a rebel group sponsored by the Reagan administration with the goal of ousting Nicaragua’s leftist Sandinista government. 
Despite those two problems, the questionable training programs apparently continued for another two years. The 2004 IG report states that “in 1986, the Agency ended the HRE training program because of allegations of human rights abuses in Latin America.” 
While the report’s references to this earlier era of torture are brief – and the abuses are little-remembered features of Ronald Reagan’s glorified presidency – there have been other glimpses into how Reagan unleashed this earlier “dark side” on the peasants, workers and students of Central America.

And under Barack Obama (From Jeffrey Kaye, for The Guardian, "Contrary to Obama's promises, the US military still permits torture." January, 2014):
The Obama administration has replaced the use of brutal torture techniques with those that emphasize psychological torture.... 
.....On 22 January 2009, President Obama released an executive order stating that any individual held by any US government agency "shall not be subjected to any interrogation technique or approach, or any treatment related to interrogation, that is not authorized by and listed in Army Field Manual 2 22.3."
 But a close reading of Department of Defense documents and investigations by numerous human rights agencies have shown that the current Army Field Manual itself uses techniques that are abusive and can even amount to torture.
 Disturbingly, the latest version of the AFM mimicked the Bush administration in separating out "war on terror" prisoners as not subject to the same protections and rights as regular prisoners of war. Military authorities then added an appendix to the AFM that included techniques that could only be used on such "detainees", ie, prisoners without POW status.
 Labeled Appendix M, and propounding an additional, special "technique" called "Separation", human rights and legal group have recognized that Appendix M includes numerous abusive techniques, including use of solitary confinement, sleep deprivation and sensory deprivation.
 According to Appendix M, sleep can be limited to four hours per day for up to 30 days, and even more with approval. The same is true for use of isolation. Theoretically, sleep deprivation and solitary confinement could be extended indefinitely.

Released, by my favorite bloodhound on the hunt for truth, Jason Leopold, an interview ...

(From 3/18/2014, Nicole Sandler Show)

... and his article for Al Jazeera, "Revealed: Inside the Senate report on CIA interrogations," on March 18, 2014, comes the background story behind the battle between Dianne Feinstein, Head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and John Brennan, the newly appointed Director of the CIA.  A battle that came into the public view with revelations that the CIA had spied on and tried to gain access to documents from computers used by the Senate Intelligence Committee as they related to the Senate Committee's investigation of  the CIA and its interrogation program:
A still-classified report on the CIA's interrogation program established in the wake of 9/11 sparked a furious row last week between the agency and Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein. Al Jazeera has learned from sources familiar with its contents that the committee's report alleges that at least one high-value detainee was subjected to torture techniques that went beyond those authorized by George W. Bush's Justice Department. 
Two Senate staffers and a U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the information they disclosed remains classified, told Al Jazeera that the committee's analysis of 6 million pages of classified records also found that some of the harsh measures authorized by the Department of Justice had been applied to at least one detainee before such legal authorization was received. They said the report suggests that the CIA knowingly misled the White House, Congress and the Justice Department about the intelligence value of detainee Zain Abidin Mohammed Husain Abu Zubaydah when using his case to argue in favor of harsher interrogation techniques
Jason's revelations may shock some (I certainly hope so) but, to those of us who have actually paid attention to the story of Guantanamo Bay Detention Center and other Black Sites, it is verification of testimonies, interviews and statements given during Winter Soldier; interviews with former translators; interviews and statements from former guards, attorneys, physicians, CIA interrogators, medics, etc.; The  ICRC (Report on torture and treatment of detainees at Guantanamo, Bagram and other black sites); and CagePrisoners (organization based in the UK started by former detainees and human rights activists).  Testimonies interviews and statements that no one wanted to hear.

We, the US (us), are not exceptional - We are no different than those nations that we describe through their on-going human rights abuses.

My hope is that one day, the "people" will finally wake up, take responsibility, and move out of the darkness of inhumanity, bringing the nation into the light of civilization and peace. 

We can be so much better than this...
We can actually BE the America that too many, here, actually buy that we are as they refuse to look at the truth.  Until we look at our own disease, we will never treat it. Until we treat it, we will continue to let the disease control us (US)....

Until then, I will continue to ask..America, WTF?

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