3 June 2004
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
The world wide web has been abuzz with information on U.S. War Crimes,
Political Repression, and Resistance inside the United States. Below are
five selections which our research center in Grenoble has decided to share
with you --not because they are startlingly new, but because they are representative
of what many hundreds of millions of people around the world are reading
everyday, in both the Alternative Media and now in the mainstream press.
Item A. is from Maria Lagos at the Revolutionary Worker, in Chicago, discussing the significance of the Seymour Hersh reports on war crimes published in The New Yorker.
Item B. is a copy of the second Hersh article, published May 30 in The New Yorker and detailing the war-crimes charges against the President of the United States and his administration.
Item C. is a article from ZMagazine by Susan Chenelle & Ian Cook on the repressive measures taken by the U.S. Justice Department against human rights activist and lawyer Lynne Stewart in New York City.
Item D. is an article from the web site SLATE, sent to us by Professor Ronald Creagh, which provides testimony on the new U.S. government "protection" policies at the American borders.
Item E. is a "Blog" from the MoveOn
web site, sent to us by Professor James Stevenson, featuring Al Gore's
high tech call for immediate action against the Bush administration, before
the November elections.
Last week, quite by chance, I came across an old copy of the George
Orwell novel, Animal Farm. The reactionary takeover of the
American political system is not yet a fait accompli, but Orwell's political
allegory is close enough to serve as a warning of what may lie ahead for
all of us, unless deeply democratic structures are quickly introduced into
the institutions which now govern the lives of nearly 300 million people
living in the U.S. Such reforms are not easily implemented in crises situations,
such as we are now experiencing in the world capitalist system today --a
system which is heavily implicated in the deaths of nearly 10,000 children
each day in Africa alone, due to the practice of systematically withholding
food and medicine from the poor. [For more on this subject, readers are
invited to visit Noam Chomsky's "Blog" at : <http://blog.zmag.org/ttt/archives/000361.html>
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies/
Director of Research
from Maria Lagos
copyright Revolutionary Worker
May 23, 2004
Revelations Lead to Rumsfeld's Door
by Maria Lagos
copyright Revolutionary Worker
As we go to press, senior CIA officials, both past and present, have
reportedly leaked that
Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld approved the extreme interrogation methods used against
Iraqi detainees under U.S. control. Their accounts appear in a New Yorker article by
investigative journalist Seymour Hersh. . . .
These revelations have far-reaching implications--first because they
document that the
approval of torture was made at the very highest levels of the government, and second,
because an intensifying inner-ruling class struggle has now erupted with such ferocity that it
is breaking into the headlines.
If confirmed, Hersh's allegations would almost certainly undermine Rumsfeld
they will also affect the ability of the U.S. government to pursue its current course in Iraq
and could shake the very legitimacy of the whole current ruling clique.
The heads of the U.S. government have, all of them, denied that they
Iraq or anywhere else. They have blamed a few vicious low-level prison guards for all the
extreme abuse that has come to light. And now, it appears that they have been
exposed--standing at the very center of a monstrous web of lies and horrific brutality.
Seymour Hersh's article opens with the following words:
"The roots of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal lie not in the criminal inclinations of a few Army
reservists but in a decision, approved last year by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, to
expand a highly secret operation, which had been focussed on the hunt for Al Qaeda, to the
interrogation of prisoners in Iraq."
Hersh continues: "According to interviews with several past and present
officials, the Pentagon's operation, known inside the intelligence community by several code
words, including Copper Green, encouraged physical coercion and sexual humiliation of Iraqi
prisoners in an effort to generate more intelligence about the growing insurgency in Iraq."
Hersh claims that in the fall of 2001, Rumsfeld set up a special kind
of military covert "black
op" called a Special Access Program (SAP). For this SAP, the Pentagon, CIA and NSA gave
advance approval to quickly capture, assassinate, or brutally interrogate anyone targeted,
anywhere in the world. Hersh reports that President Bush was informed of the operation. A
former CIA official summed up, "The rules are `Grab whom you must. Do what you want.' "
This SAP was first focused on al-Qaida and Taliban forces in Afghanistan,
and then its reach
was extended far more widely, including to counterinsurgency operations in Iraq.
SAP torture and assassination methods were first applied in Iraq during
the push to capture
Saddam Hussein. Then, with the rapid growth of the Iraqi insurgency last fall, the Pentagon
was reportedly frustrated by the failure of U.S. military and CIA forces to penetrate the
resistance. Rumsfeld approved and his Deputy Stephen Cambone implemented SAP
operations targeted on the anti-occupation resistance forces among Iraq's people--including
specifically "getting tough" with Iraqis held in U.S.-controlled prisons. Military interrogators in
Iraqi prisons were brought under the control of SAP operations. Hersh reports that the
methods approved for Abu Ghraib included sexual humiliation--which were recommended
based on detailed scholarly study of "Arab culture and psychology." Photos were taken of
extreme sexual humiliation in order to blackmail prisoners into acting as informants.
This approval, these methods and the SAP itself have, up until now, been among the most
closely guarded state secrets. They were so super-covert that they had no budget, no office,
and were not even officially classified "top secret"--they simply didn't officially exist, except
for any information they extracted by torture, which was funneled to the military command.
One of Hersh's CIA sources sums up that the special operation developed
was now used against "cabdrivers, brothers-in-law and people pulled off the streets."
Rumsfeld, his Pentagon commanders and the whole Bush administration
torture--in Abu Ghraib or anywhere else--had official approval. This was repeated by Rumsfeld
in his appearances before Congress last week. Commenting on Rumsfeld's denials, a senior
CIA official said to Seymour Hersh, "Some people think you can bullshit anyone."
Before Hersh's article had even appeared in newsstands, Pentagon spokesman
Rita denounced it as "outlandish, conspiratorial, and filled with error and anonymous
However, even before Hersh's latest report, there has been clear evidence
that the torture,
murder and bizarre sexual abuse of prisoners were being carried out on a worldwide scale.
Every day new revelations have come out about how the U.S. military and CIA treated
prisoners--rape, forced public masturbation and anal penetration, biting dogs, violent
beatings, severe burning of prisoners, electric shock and telling prisoners their female
relatives would be hunted down and raped. Many cases are surfacing that document prisoners
being beaten and tortured to death.
And it was increasingly unmistakable that all this had been approved
(and even demanded)
at the very highest levels of the U.S. government--including in the Pentagon, the CIA, the
Justice Department, and ultimately the White House itself.
From Seymour Hersh :
copyright The New Yorker
30 May 2004
THE GRAY ZONE : How a secret Pentagon program came to Abu Ghraib
by SEYMOUR M. HERSH
copyright The New Yorker, 2004
The roots of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal lie not in the criminal inclinations of a few Army reservists but in a decision, approved last year by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, to expand a highly secret operation, which had been focussed on the hunt for Al Qaeda, to the interrogation of prisoners in Iraq. Rumsfeld s decision embittered the American intelligence community, damaged the effectiveness of élite combat units, and hurt America s prospects in the war on terror.
According to interviews with several past and present American intelligence officials, the Pentagon s operation, known inside the intelligence community by several code words, including Copper Green, encouraged physical coercion and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners in an effort to generate more intelligence about the growing insurgency in Iraq. A senior C.I.A. official, in confirming the details of this account last week, said that the operation stemmed from Rumsfeld s long-standing desire to wrest control of America s clandestine and paramilitary operations from the C.I.A.
Rumsfeld, during appearances last week before Congress to testify about
Abu Ghraib, was precluded by law from explicitly
mentioning highly secret matters in an unclassified session. But he conveyed the message that he was telling the public all that he
knew about the story. He said, Any suggestion that there is not a full, deep awareness of what has happened, and the damage it
has done, I think, would be a misunderstanding. The senior C.I.A. official, asked about Rumsfeld s testimony and that of Stephen Cambone, his Under-Secretary for Intelligence, said, Some people think you can bullshit anyone.
The Abu Ghraib story began, in a sense, just weeks after the September
11, 2001, attacks, with the American bombing of
Afghanistan. Almost from the start, the Administration s search for Al Qaeda members in the war zone, and its worldwide search for terrorists, came up against major command-and-control problems. For example, combat forces that had Al Qaeda targets in sight had to obtain legal clearance before firing on them. On October 7th, the night the bombing began, an unmanned Predator aircraft tracked an automobile convoy that, American intelligence believed, contained Mullah Muhammad Omar, the Taliban leader. A lawyer on duty at the United States Central Command headquarters, in Tampa, Florida, refused to authorize a strike.
By the time an attack was approved, the target was out of reach. Rumsfeld was apoplectic over what he saw as a self-defeating hesitation to attack that was due to political correctness. One officer described him to me that fall as kicking a lot of glass and breaking doors. In November, the Washington Post reported that, as many as ten times since early October, Air Force pilots believed they d had senior Al Qaeda and Taliban members in their sights but had been unable to act in time because of legalistic hurdles. There were similar problems throughout the world, as American Special Forces units seeking to move quickly against suspected terrorist cells were compelled to get prior approval from local American ambassadors and brief their superiors in the chain of command.
Rumsfeld reacted in his usual direct fashion: he authorized the establishment
of a highly secret program that was given blanket
advance approval to kill or capture and, if possible, interrogate high value targets in the Bush Administration s war on terror. A
special-access program, or sap subject to the Defense Department s most stringent level of security was set up, with an office in a secure area of the Pentagon. The program would recruit operatives and acquire the necessary equipment, including aircraft, and would keep its activities under wraps. America s most successful intelligence operations during the Cold War had been saps, including the Navy s submarine penetration of underwater cables used by the Soviet high command and construction of the Air Force s stealth bomber. All the so-called black programs had one element in common: the Secretary of Defense, or his deputy, had to conclude that the normal military classification restraints did not provide enough security.
Rumsfeld s goal was to get a capability in place to take on a high-value
target a standup group to hit quickly, a former high-level
intelligence official told me. He got all the agencies together the C.I.A. and the N.S.A. to get pre-approval in place. Just say the
code word and go. The operation had across-the-board approval from Rumsfeld and from Condoleezza Rice, the
national-security adviser. President Bush was informed of the existence of the program, the former intelligence official said.
The people assigned to the program worked by the book, the former intelligence official told me. They created code words, and recruited, after careful screening, highly trained commandos and operatives from America s élite forces Navy seals, the Army s Delta Force, and the C.I.A. s paramilitary experts. They also asked some basic questions: Do the people working the problem have to use aliases? Yes. Do we need dead drops for the mail? Yes. No traceability and no budget. And some special-access programs are never fully briefed to Congress.
In theory, the operation enabled the Bush Administration to respond
immediately to time-sensitive intelligence: commandos
crossed borders without visas and could interrogate terrorism suspects deemed too important for transfer to the military s facilities at Guantánamo, Cuba. They carried out instant interrogations using force if necessary at secret C.I.A. detention centers scattered around the world. The intelligence would be relayed to the sap command center in the Pentagon in real time, and sifted for those pieces of information critical to the white, or overt, world.
Fewer than two hundred operatives and officials, including Rumsfeld and General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were completely read into the program, the former intelligence official said. The goal was to keep the operation protected. We re not going to read more people than necessary into our heart of darkness, he said. The rules are Grab whom you must. Do what you want.
One Pentagon official who was deeply involved in the program was Stephen
Cambone, who was named Under-Secretary of
Defense for Intelligence in March, 2003. The office was new; it was created as part of Rumsfeld s reorganization of the Pentagon. Cambone was unpopular among military and civilian intelligence bureaucrats in the Pentagon, essentially because he had little experience in running intelligence programs, though in 1998 he had served as staff director for a committee, headed by Rumsfeld, that warned of an emerging ballistic-missile threat to the United States. He was known instead for his closeness to Rumsfeld. Remember Henry II Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest? the senior C.I.A. official said to me, with a laugh, last week. Whatever Rumsfeld whimsically says, Cambone will do ten times that much.
Cambone was a strong advocate for war against Iraq. He shared Rumsfeld
s disdain for the analysis and assessments proffered
by the C.I.A., viewing them as too cautious, and chafed, as did Rumsfeld, at the C.I.A. s inability, before the Iraq war, to state
conclusively that Saddam Hussein harbored weapons of mass destruction. Cambone s military assistant, Army Lieutenant General William G. (Jerry) Boykin, was also controversial. Last fall, he generated unwanted headlines after it was reported that, in a speech at an Oregon church, he equated the Muslim world with Satan.
Early in his tenure, Cambone provoked a bureaucratic battle within the
Pentagon by insisting that he be given control of all
special-access programs that were relevant to the war on terror. Those programs, which had been viewed by many in the
Pentagon as sacrosanct, were monitored by Kenneth deGraffenreid, who had experience in counter-intelligence programs.
Cambone got control, and deGraffenreid subsequently left the Pentagon. Asked for comment on this story, a Pentagon
spokesman said, I will not discuss any covert programs; however, Dr. Cambone did not assume his position as the
Under-Secretary of Defense for Intelligence until March 7, 2003, and had no involvement in the decision-making process
regarding interrogation procedures in Iraq or anywhere else.
In mid-2003, the special-access program was regarded in the Pentagon
as one of the success stories of the war on terror. It was an active program,
the former intelligence official told me. It s been the most important
capability we have for dealing with an imminent threat. If we discover
where Osama bin Laden is, we can get him. And we can remove an existing
threat with a real capability to hit the United States and do so without
visibility. Some of its methods were troubling and could not bear close
By then, the war in Iraq had begun. The sap was involved in some assignments
in Iraq, the former official said. C.I.A. and other
American Special Forces operatives secretly teamed up to hunt for Saddam Hussein and without success for Iraqi weapons of
mass destruction. But they weren t able to stop the evolving insurgency.
In the first months after the fall of Baghdad, Rumsfeld and his aides still had a limited view of the insurgency, seeing it as little more than the work of Baathist dead-enders, criminal gangs, and foreign terrorists who were Al Qaeda followers. The Administration measured its success in the war by how many of those on its list of the fifty-five most wanted members of the old regime reproduced on playing cards had been captured. Then, in August, 2003, terror bombings in Baghdad hit the Jordanian Embassy, killing nineteen people, and the United Nations headquarters, killing twenty-three people, including Sergio Vieira de Mello, the head of the U.N. mission. On August 25th, less than a week after the U.N. bombing, Rumsfeld acknowledged, in a talk before the Veterans of Foreign Wars, that the dead-enders are still with us. He went on, There are some today who are surprised that there are still pockets of resistance in Iraq, and they suggest that this represents some sort of failure on the part of the Coalition. But this is not the case. Rumsfeld compared the insurgents with those true believers who fought on during and after the defeat of the Nazi regime in Germany. A few weeks later and five months after the fall of Baghdad the Defense Secretary declared, It is, in my view, better to be dealing with terrorists in Iraq than in the United States.
Inside the Pentagon, there was a growing realization that the war was going badly. The increasingly beleaguered and baffled Army leadership was telling reporters that the insurgents consisted of five thousand Baathists loyal to Saddam Hussein. When you understand that they re organized in a cellular structure, General John Abizaid, the head of the Central Command, declared, that . . . they have access to a lot of money and a lot of ammunition, you ll understand how dangerous they are.
The American military and intelligence communities were having little
success in penetrating the insurgency. One internal report
prepared for the U.S. military, made available to me, concluded that the insurgents strategic and operational intelligence has
proven to be quite good. According to the study:
Their ability to attack convoys, other vulnerable targets and particular
individuals has been the result of painstaking surveillance
and reconnaissance. Inside information has been passed on to insurgent cells about convoy/troop movements and daily habits of Iraqis working with coalition from within the Iraqi security services, primarily the Iraqi Police force which is rife with sympathy for the insurgents, Iraqi ministries and from within pro-insurgent individuals working with the CPA s so-called Green Zone.
The study concluded, Politically, the U.S. has failed to date. Insurgencies can be fixed or ameliorated by dealing with what caused them in the first place. The disaster that is the reconstruction of Iraq has been the key cause of the insurgency. There is no legitimate government, and it behooves the Coalition Provisional Authority to absorb the sad but unvarnished fact that most Iraqis do not see the Governing Council the Iraqi body appointed by the C.P.A. as the legitimate authority. Indeed, they know that the true power is the CPA.
By the fall, a military analyst told me, the extent of the Pentagon s political and military misjudgments was clear. Donald Rumsfelds dead-enders now included not only Baathists but many marginal figures as well thugs and criminals who were among the tens of thousands of prisoners freed the previous fall by Saddam as part of a prewar general amnesty. Their desperation was not driving the insurgency; it simply made them easy recruits for those who were. The analyst said, We d killed and captured guys who had been given two or three hundred dollars to pray and spray that is, shoot randomly and hope for the best. They weren t really insurgents but down-and-outers who were paid by wealthy individuals sympathetic to the insurgency. In many cases, the paymasters were Sunnis who had been members of the Baath Party. The analyst said that the insurgents spent three or four months figuring out how we operated and developing their own countermeasures. If that meant putting up a hapless guy to go and attack a convoy and see how the American troops responded, they d do it. Then, the analyst said, the clever ones began to get in on the action.
By contrast, according to the military report, the American and Coalition
forces knew little about the insurgency: Human
intelligence is poor or lacking . . . due to the dearth of competence and expertise. . . . The intelligence effort is not coördinated
since either too many groups are involved in gathering intelligence or the final product does not get to the troops in the field in a
timely manner. The success of the war was at risk; something had to be done to change the dynamic.
The solution, endorsed by Rumsfeld and carried out by Stephen Cambone,
was to get tough with those Iraqis in the Army prison system who were suspected
of being insurgents. A key player was Major General Geoffrey Miller, the
commander of the detention and interrogation center at Guantánamo,
who had been summoned to Baghdad in late August to review prison
interrogation procedures. The internal Army report on the abuse charges, written by Major General Antonio Taguba in February, revealed that Miller urged that the commanders in Baghdad change policy and place military intelligence in charge of the prison. The report quoted Miller as recommending that detention operations must act as an enabler for interrogation.
Miller s concept, as it emerged in recent Senate hearings, was to Gitmoize the prison system in Iraq to make it more focussed on interrogation. He also briefed military commanders in Iraq on the interrogation methods used in Cuba methods that could, with special approval, include sleep deprivation, exposure to extremes of cold and heat, and placing prisoners in stress positions for agonizing lengths of time. (The Bush Administration had unilaterally declared Al Qaeda and other captured members of international terrorist networks to be illegal combatants, and not eligible for the protection of the Geneva Conventions.)
Rumsfeld and Cambone went a step further, however: they expanded the scope of the sap, bringing its unconventional methods to Abu Ghraib. The commandos were to operate in Iraq as they had in Afghanistan. The male prisoners could be treated roughly, and exposed to sexual humiliation.
They weren t getting anything substantive from the detainees in Iraq,
the former intelligence official told me. No names. Nothing
that they could hang their hat on. Cambone says, I ve got to crack this thing and I m tired of working through the normal chain of command. I ve got this apparatus set up the black special-access program and I m going in hot. So he pulls the switch, and the electricity begins flowing last summer. And it s working. We re getting a picture of the insurgency in Iraq and the intelligence is flowing into the white world. We re getting good stuff. But we ve got more targets prisoners in Iraqi jails than people who can
Cambone then made another crucial decision, the former intelligence
official told me: not only would he bring the sap s rules into
the prisons; he would bring some of the Army military-intelligence officers working inside the Iraqi prisons under the sap s
auspices. So here are fundamentally good soldiers military-intelligence guys being told that no rules apply, the former official, who has extensive knowledge of the special-access programs, added. And, as far as they re concerned, this is a covert operation, and it s to be kept within Defense Department channels.
The military-police prison guards, the former official said, included
recycled hillbillies from Cumberland, Maryland. He was
referring to members of the 372nd Military Police Company. Seven members of the company are now facing charges for their
role in the abuse at Abu Ghraib. How are these guys from Cumberland going to know anything? The Army Reserve doesn t
know what it s doing.
Who was in charge of Abu Ghraib whether military police or military
intelligence was no longer the only question that mattered.
Hard-core special operatives, some of them with aliases, were working in the prison. The military police assigned to guard the
prisoners wore uniforms, but many others military intelligence officers, contract interpreters, C.I.A. officers, and the men from the special-access program wore civilian clothes. It was not clear who was who, even to Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, then the commander of the 800th Military Police Brigade, and the officer ostensibly in charge. I thought most of the civilians there were interpreters, but there were some civilians that I didn t know, Karpinski told me. I called them the disappearing ghosts. I d seen them once in a while at Abu Ghraib and then I d see them months later. They were nice they d always call out to me and say, Hey, remember me? How are you doing? The mysterious civilians, she said, were always bringing in somebody for interrogation or waiting to collect somebody going out. Karpinski added that she had no idea who was operating in her prison system. (General Taguba found that Karpinski s leadership failures contributed to the abuses.)
By fall, according to the former intelligence official, the senior leadership
of the C.I.A. had had enough. They said, No way. We
signed up for the core program in Afghanistan pre-approved for operations against high-value terrorist targets and now you want to use it for cabdrivers, brothers-in-law, and people pulled off the streets the sort of prisoners who populate the Iraqi jails. The C.I.A. s legal people objected, and the agency ended its sap involvement in Abu Ghraib, the former official said.
The C.I.A. s complaints were echoed throughout the intelligence community.
There was fear that the situation at Abu Ghraib
would lead to the exposure of the secret sap, and thereby bring an end to what had been, before Iraq, a valuable cover operation. This was stupidity, a government consultant told me. You re taking a program that was operating in the chaos of Afghanistan against Al Qaeda, a stateless terror group, and bringing it into a structured, traditional war zone. Sooner or later, the commandos would bump into the legal and moral procedures of a conventional war with an Army of a hundred and thirty-five thousand soldiers.
The former senior intelligence official blamed hubris for the Abu Ghraib
disaster. There s nothing more exhilarating for a pissant
Pentagon civilian than dealing with an important national security issue without dealing with military planners, who are always
worried about risk, he told me. What could be more boring than needing the coöperation of logistical planners? The only
difficulty, the former official added, is that, as soon as you enlarge the secret program beyond the oversight capability of
experienced people, you lose control. We ve never had a case where a special-access program went sour and this goes back to the Cold War.
In a separate interview, a Pentagon consultant, who spent much of his
career directly involved with special-access programs,
spread the blame. The White House subcontracted this to the Pentagon, and the Pentagon subcontracted it to Cambone, he said. This is Cambone s deal, but Rumsfeld and Myers approved the program. When it came to the interrogation operation at Abu Ghraib, he said, Rumsfeld left the details to Cambone. Rumsfeld may not be personally culpable, the consultant added, but he is responsible for the checks and balances. The issue is that, since 9/11, we ve changed the rules on how we deal with terrorism, and created conditions where the ends justify the means.
Last week, statements made by one of the seven accused M.P.s, Specialist Jeremy Sivits, who is expected to plead guilty, were released. In them, he claimed that senior commanders in his unit would have stopped the abuse had they witnessed it. One of the questions that will be explored at any trial, however, is why a group of Army Reserve military policemen, most of them from small towns, tormented their prisoners as they did, in a manner that was especially humiliating for Iraqi men.
The notion that Arabs are particularly vulnerable to sexual humiliation
became a talking point among pro-war Washington
conservatives in the months before the March, 2003, invasion of Iraq. One book that was frequently cited was The Arab Mind, a
study of Arab culture and psychology, first published in 1973, by Raphael Patai, a cultural anthropologist who taught at, among
other universities, Columbia and Princeton, and who died in 1996. The book includes a twenty-five-page chapter on Arabs and
sex, depicting sex as a taboo vested with shame and repression. The segregation of the sexes, the veiling of the women . . . and all
the other minute rules that govern and restrict contact between men and women, have the effect of making sex a prime mental
preoccupation in the Arab world, Patai wrote. Homosexual activity, or any indication of homosexual leanings, as with all other
expressions of sexuality, is never given any publicity. These are private affairs and remain in private. The Patai book, an academic told me, was the bible of the neocons on Arab behavior. In their discussions, he said, two themes emerged one, that Arabs only understand force and, two, that the biggest weakness of Arabs is shame and humiliation.
The government consultant said that there may have been a serious goal,
in the beginning, behind the sexual humiliation and the
posed photographs. It was thought that some prisoners would do anything including spying on their associates to avoid
dissemination of the shameful photos to family and friends. The government consultant said, I was told that the purpose of the
photographs was to create an army of informants, people you could insert back in the population. The idea was that they would
be motivated by fear of exposure, and gather information about pending insurgency action, the consultant said. If so, it wasn t
effective; the insurgency continued to grow.
This shit has been brewing for months, the Pentagon consultant who has dealt with saps told me. You don t keep prisoners naked in their cell and then let them get bitten by dogs. This is sick. The consultant explained that he and his colleagues, all of whom had served for years on active duty in the military, had been appalled by the misuse of Army guard dogs inside Abu Ghraib. We don t raise kids to do things like that. When you go after Mullah Omar, that s one thing. But when you give the authority to kids who don t know the rules, that s another.
In 2003, Rumsfeld s apparent disregard for the requirements of the Geneva Conventions while carrying out the war on terror had led a group of senior military legal officers from the Judge Advocate General s (jag) Corps to pay two surprise visits within five months to Scott Horton, who was then chairman of the New York City Bar Association s Committee on International Human Rights. They wanted us to challenge the Bush Administration about its standards for detentions and interrogation, Horton told me. They were urging us to get involved and speak in a very loud voice. It came pretty much out of the blue. The message was that conditions are ripe for abuse, and it s going to occur. The military officials were most alarmed about the growing use of civilian contractors in the interrogation process, Horton recalled. They said there was an atmosphere of legal ambiguity being created as a result of a policy decision at the highest levels in the Pentagon. The jag officers were being cut out of the policy formulation process. They told him that, with the war on terror, a fifty-year history of exemplary application of the Geneva Conventions had come to an end.
The abuses at Abu Ghraib were exposed on January 13th, when Joseph Darby,
a young military policeman assigned to Abu
Ghraib, reported the wrongdoing to the Army s Criminal Investigations Division. He also turned over a CD full of photographs.
Within three days, a report made its way to Donald Rumsfeld, who informed President Bush.
The inquiry presented a dilemma for the Pentagon. The C.I.D. had to be allowed to continue, the former intelligence official said. You can t cover it up. You have to prosecute these guys for being off the reservation. But how do you prosecute them when they were covered by the special-access program? So you hope that maybe it ll go away. The Pentagon s attitude last January, he said, was Somebody got caught with some photos. What s the big deal? Take care of it. Rumsfeld s explanation to the White House, the official added, was reassuring: We ve got a glitch in the program. We ll prosecute it. The cover story was that some kids got out of control.
In their testimony before Congress last week, Rumsfeld and Cambone struggled
to convince the legislators that Miller s visit to
Baghdad in late August had nothing to do with the subsequent abuse. Cambone sought to assure the Senate Armed Services
Committee that the interplay between Miller and Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, had only a casual connection to his office. Miller s recommendations, Cambone said, were made to Sanchez. His own role, he said, was mainly to insure that the flow of intelligence back to the commands was efficient and effective. He added that Miller s goal was to provide a safe, secure and humane environment that supports the expeditious collection of intelligence.
It was a hard sell. Senator Hillary Clinton, Democrat of New York, posed the essential question facing the senators:
If, indeed, General Miller was sent from Guantánamo to Iraq for
the purpose of acquiring more actionable intelligence from
detainees, then it is fair to conclude that the actions that are at point here in your report [on abuses at Abu Ghraib] are in some
way connected to General Miller s arrival and his specific orders, however they were interpreted, by those MPs and the military intelligence that were involved.. . .Therefore, I for one don t believe I yet have adequate information from Mr. Cambone and the Defense Department as to exactly what General Miller s orders were . . . how he carried out those orders, and the connection between his arrival in the fall of 03 and the intensity of the abuses that occurred afterward.
Sometime before the Abu Ghraib abuses became public, the former intelligence official told me, Miller was read in that is, briefed on the special-access operation. In April, Miller returned to Baghdad to assume control of the Iraqi prisons; once the scandal hit, with its glaring headlines, General Sanchez presented him to the American and international media as the general who would clean up the Iraqi prison system and instill respect for the Geneva Conventions. His job is to save what he can, the former official said. He s there to protect the program while limiting any loss of core capability. As for Antonio Taguba, the former intelligence official added, He goes into it not knowing shit. And then: Holy cow! What s going on?
If General Miller had been summoned by Congress to testify, he, like
Rumsfeld and Cambone, would not have been able to
mention the special-access program. If you give away the fact that a special-access program exists, the former intelligence official told me, you blow the whole quick-reaction program.
One puzzling aspect of Rumsfeld s account of his initial reaction to
news of the Abu Ghraib investigation was his lack of alarm and lack of
curiosity. One factor may have been recent history: there had been many
previous complaints of prisoner abuse from organization like Human Rights
Watch and the International Red Cross, and the Pentagon had weathered them
Rumsfeld told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he had not been provided with details of alleged abuses until late
March, when he read the specific charges. You read it, as I say, it s one thing. You see these photographs and it s just
unbelievable. . . . It wasn t three-dimensional. It wasn t video. It wasn t color. It was quite a different thing. The former intelligence official said that, in his view, Rumsfeld and other senior Pentagon officials had not studied the photographs because they thought what was in there was permitted under the rules of engagement, as applied to the sap. The photos, he added, turned out to be the result of the program run amok.
The former intelligence official made it clear that he was not alleging
that Rumsfeld or General Myers knew that atrocities were
committed. But, he said, it was their permission granted to do the sap, generically, and there was enough ambiguity, which
permitted the abuses.
This official went on, The black guys those in the Pentagon s secret
program say we ve got to accept the prosecution. They re
vaccinated from the reality. The sap is still active, and the United States is picking up guys for interrogation. The question is, how do they protect the quick-reaction force without blowing its cover? The program was protected by the fact that no one on the outside was allowed to know of its existence. If you even give a hint that you re aware of a black program that you re not read into, you lose your clearances, the former official said. Nobody will talk. So the only people left to prosecute are those who are undefended the poor kids at the end of the food chain.
The most vulnerable senior official is Cambone. The Pentagon is trying now to protect Cambone, and doesn t know how to do it, the former intelligence official said.
Last week, the government consultant, who has close ties to many conservatives,
defended the Administration s continued
secrecy about the special-access program in Abu Ghraib. Why keep it black? the consultant asked. Because the process is
unpleasant. It s like making sausage you like the result but you don t want to know how it was made. Also, you don t want the
Iraqi public, and the Arab world, to know. Remember, we went to Iraq to democratize the Middle East. The last thing you want to do is let the Arab world know how you treat Arab males in prison.
The former intelligence official told me he feared that one of the disastrous
effects of the prison-abuse scandal would be the
undermining of legitimate operations in the war on terror, which had already suffered from the draining of resources into Iraq. He portrayed Abu Ghraib as a tumor on the war on terror. He said, As long as it s benign and contained, the Pentagon can deal with the photo crisis without jeopardizing the secret program. As soon as it begins to grow, with nobody to diagnose it it becomes a malignant tumor.
The Pentagon consultant made a similar point. Cambone and his superiors, the consultant said, created the conditions that allowed transgressions to take place. And now we re going to end up with another Church Commission the 1975 Senate committee on intelligence, headed by Senator Frank Church, of Idaho, which investigated C.I.A. abuses during the previous two decades. Abu Ghraib had sent the message that the Pentagon leadership was unable to handle its discretionary power. When the shit hits the fan, as it did on 9/11, how do you push the pedal? the consultant asked. You do it selectively and with intelligence.
Congress is going to get to the bottom of this, the Pentagon consultant
said. You have to demonstrate that there are checks and
balances in the system. He added, When you live in a world of gray zones, you have to have very clear red lines.
Senator John McCain, of Arizona, said, If this is true, it certainly
increases the dimension of this issue and deserves significant
scrutiny. I will do all possible to get to the bottom of this, and all other allegations.
In an odd way, Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights
Watch, said, the sexual abuses at Abu Ghraib have
become a diversion for the prisoner abuse and the violation of the Geneva Conventions that is authorized. Since September 11th, Roth added, the military has systematically used third-degree techniques around the world on detainees. Some jags hate this and are horrified that the tolerance of mistreatment will come back and haunt us in the next war, Roth told me. We re giving the world a ready-made excuse to ignore the Geneva Conventions. Rumsfeld has lowered the bar.
from Susan Chenelle & Ian Cook :
copyright Z Magazine Online
Defending the Defense, An interview with Lynne Stewart
by Susan Chenelle & Ian Cook
On May 17 radical defense attorney Lynne Stewart and her lawyer Michael
Tigar will return to the Foley Square courthouse in
lower Manhattan to answer to the second round of terrorism charges brought against Stewart by John Ashcroft’s Department of Justice. No appeal was filed by the DOJ after the first round of terrorism charges against Stewart was dismissed by a federal
judge in July 2003. Instead, a “superseding indictment” based on a “new theory” was handed down in November and the
62-year-old Stewart once again faced up to 40 years in prison. The language had changed a bit—“providing material support” to a terrorist organization had been replaced with “providing personnel”—but the theory and arguably the entire basis for the
proceedings were hardly new or any less far-flung than the original charges Judge John Koeltl had thrown out for “revealing a lack of prosecutorial standards” and for being “unconstitutionally vague.”
Both indictments rest on Special Administrative Measures (SAMs), which restrict communications between incarcerated persons and the outside world and forbid attorney-client conversations on any topic not directly related to their case. The prosecution charges that Stewart violated the SAM she was forced to sign before being allowed to meet with her client, Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman—currently serving a life sentence in connection with the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center—by issuing a press release on his behalf and by making extraneous noise to conceal from prison guards and the government’s wiretaps communications about non-legal matters between the interpreter and the Sheik in Arabic.
The trial is schedule to be held in the same courtroom where Julius
and Ethel Rosenberg were convicted and where Stewart has
defended many clients, including the Black Panthers, the Weather Underground, and the Sheik in 1995,. Rather than feeling
uneasy about such connections, Stewart says she “embraces that history.”
CHENELLE/COOK: Why is Ashcroft so determined to stop you and lawyers
like you from defending clients like Sheik Omar
STEWART: It’s very clear they don’t like lawyers. No lawyers at Guantanamo. No lawyers for Padilla. It gets in the way of the smooth running of the state to have these pesky lawyers. I was just a natural because the Sheik is probably the highest profile “terrorist” that they ever convicted in this country and I have also done some important work that is probably not in keeping with their outlook on the world—defending Black Panthers and the Weather Underground. On a personal level, I think it’s payback for 40 years of activism. On a bigger level, I think it’s a warning shot to all defense lawyers: Don’t go too far; don’t be too vigorous. Do it our way or we can come and get you.
How does the new round of charges brought against you differ from the
two terrorism-related charges that were thrown out last
When Judge Koeltl dismissed the first set of terrorism charges—materially
aiding a terrorist organization and conspiracy to
materially aid—he threw them out for being void for vagueness. He said [to the federal prosecutors], how can you tell when a
lawyer is just doing her job and when she is aiding a terrorist organization? So they consulted. Finally, Chris Morvillo, whose
father has been trying the case of that other Stewart, said, “Well, Judge, we know it when we see it.” He actually hammered the
nail in his own coffin—in more ways than one. He was admitting that it was completely within their discretion. That’s not what the law requires; the law requires me to know it when I saw it or anybody else confronted with a similar situation. But what he didn’t know, and this is why we should all study history, is that opinion—where the Supreme Court justices said, we can’t define pornography, but we know it when we see it—was written by yet another Stewart, Potter Stewart. At the time of that opinion John Koeltl was his law clerk. Sure enough, when he wrote his opinion in July, he included that part and went on to say that this law cannot stand. This is void for vagueness because it gives no notice to the people who are bound to obey it. No lawyer could be expected to know what part of her work was lawful or unlawful; it would be impossible to tell.
So he threw it out. We thought, “They’re gone forever now.” In late November, we got a letter from the government to the judge. They said, “We’re bringing a new indictment with new charges under a new theory.” Michael Tigar called up and asked, “What’s the new theory?”
“We can’t tell you,” they said. We waited. We got a copy of the indictment and the new theory was the old theory. The first one had said that by providing the means for [the Sheik] to make a press release, we became an information conduit similar to utilizing or providing telephonic communications to a terrorist organization. The new one was the same law, different section—that by virtue of this press release, I was providing personnel to the group in Egypt. So we all said, “Personnel? Who is this personnel? Herself? She’s giving herself?” No. My client is the personnel. It’s really convoluted. I think they want a way to put in front of a jury all of the terrorist acts, according to them, that Gama’a Islamiyya (the Sheik’s group in Egypt) has committed since its inception in the late 1970s. Of course, they neglected to say that since 1997 there has been no violence whatsoever committed by them. Or that none of this has anything to do with me or the interpreter or the paralegal, who is an activist. It’s like saying to the jury, “This is what we’re talking about. Do you get it? These people have an association; therefore, convict them. Don’t ask any questions, don’t look behind it.”
We all felt this was like throwing down to the judge saying, “You kicked it out once; you’re going to do it again? You’re going to stand up to us twice?” This is basically saying, “We’re calling her a terrorist, don’t you understand? It has nothing to do with her being a lawyer. She could have been a bodega owner.” It’s very clearly saying to the judge, “You better figure this out.”
One might think, “This is a trial and it’s about law and procedure; it’s impartial.” But you talk about the importance of packing the courtroom with supporters. Does that really have an impact?
Oh, yes. I’ve been a trial lawyer for 30 years. I know the difference between an empty, echoing courtroom, with maybe a mother or girlfriend or wife in the front row, watching the outcome, and having the place full of supporters, where it actually changes the tone of the place. It’s not becoming “People’s Court” by any stretch. It’s just a sense of disapproval of the entire proceedings. These young U.S. attorneys haven’t known much disapproval; they’ve glided through the Ivy League world and ended up with one of the best jobs you can have coming out of law school. The stepping-stone to Wall Street and the corporate world is to work as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York. So they feel these waves of disapproval, if not worse, coming at them for what they’re doing. Also, the judge sees a constituency; it’s not like he’s working within the marble chambers only. These are the people, they have feelings. This is what a public trial is supposed to be about. It really is a tremendous boost for the defense to feel the people with you. We’ve told people to take their vacations, to come to New York. If you have no place to stay, come to my office. We’ll find someone who can hook you up with a couch at least. Because I think it’s so important to keep that courtroom very full.
So that they know what they’re doing is not going unnoticed.
Exactly. And for the jury to have some kind of support. The hardest
thing for a juror is to go back to wherever they are from,
whether it’s the Bronx or New Rochelle, and say to their neighbors, “I acquitted the woman. I think they had no case against
her.” But if they see that there are 200 people in a courtroom that would agree with that verdict, it makes them feel like they’re
not completely alone.
With the Bush administration facing more criticism and getting closer to the 2004 election, do you think it’s interested in making an example of you?
We want the trial now because we feel that this is the right time to do it. Whatever embarrassment it causes Bush, we’re happy to cause that. We’re also here to enlighten people. The issues are clear. They know I’m no terrorist. They know that my work on behalf of the Sheik was entirely legal. They also know that whatever I’m accused of, Ramsey Clark did as much if not more and is ready to admit it. But they wouldn’t go after him. His father was a Supreme Court justice, he was an attorney general, and he’s a boy.
How has the PATRIOT Act empowered the Justice Department in terms of surveillance?
I think that the massive amount of wire-tapping that took place here
was done under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act
[FISA]. It’s an act that was originally supposed to be some bug placed in the basement of the Soviet Union’s embassy to see
what they were up to. It was so easy and so nice that they expanded it. The FBI began getting it for anything they wanted
because they would just walk into the court and the court never turned them down, ever. This is an old law, before the PATRIOT Act.
The PATRIOT Act is sort of their wish list. It short-circuits all the
things that came before. They used to have to go to some
kangaroo court and say, “We need a wiretap” or to a judge they knew would give it to them. They had to go through the paces
so that sometime thereafter somebody could look at what they did. The PATRIOT Act erases that. Now they can just get a
wiretap order [without a warrant]. Ashcroft can issue them in a national security [situation]. It takes away even the facade of
going through some process. FISA was always a problem in terms of civil liberties because it basically short-cut the whole notion that a warrant can be looked at afterwards and legally decided whether it was sufficient or not; and if it’s insufficient, all the evidence is suppressed. With FISA, basically, they get it from a secret judge and the secret stuff goes to the new judge that’s hearing your case. That judge gives you a one-line written decision: “The warrant was sufficient.” You never even get a chance to look at the warrant.
And there are “sneak and peak” searches.
We now call them “sneak and peak,” which is kind of a benign name. We used to call them “black bag jobs” in earlier days. They don’t leave a mess; they leave it just like they found it. They can download your hard drive. They can take so much material that you’d never know it’s missing. They can leave something on your computer that defeats any encryption you might be doing. It’s a violation. We should not have to worry that [the government might find out that] Prozac was prescribed for us when our mother died four years ago.
It eviscerates not only the notion of privacy, but the principle of
attorney-client privilege, supposedly a cornerstone of our legal
From the point of view of the lawyer, this privilege is the basis for
building the attorney-client relationship. Without the
relationship, there is no way you can go into court and fight someone’s case. You’ll be blindsided every time. Now they’re saying, we’re going to eliminate it; we’re going to listen in because of national security. It’s going to go further. I had a call from a lawyer in Sacramento who went to visit her client and when she came out, the sheriff said to her, “You know, he’s going to be indicted on new charges now.” She said, “What?” He said, “We listened to your conversation and now we know about B and C.”
She asked me, “What am I going to do?” I said, “You’re going to go into
the judge and demand to know why they’re listening
in.” I think more lawyers are trying to do that now, when they are assigned to a terrorist case. They immediately will demand to
know whether or not they are being listened to.
In my case, we have not had any co-defendant meetings of substance because
they will not tell us whether they’re listening to us or not and we feel
that we can’t sit down and openly discuss the case with our co-defendants—two
of us are out, one is in
[prison]— because we don’t want the government to know. Even if you write, even if you whisper in each others’ ears, we feel
that then they’ll say at some future date, “Well, they had a meeting and weren’t you writings things? Weren’t you whispering
things?” That’s tantamount to guilt.
What kinds of protections did the Handschu agreement offer and how has
the removal of those protections empowered the
NYPD? Have you had a chance to observe the law enforcement apparatus that’s deployed at protest events post-9/11?
The history of Handschu is interesting because the movement was furious. They felt that they’d compromised it. Instead of making the police agree not to ever [infiltrate and monitor political groups], the agreement was that they would keep records. Every time they did it they had to create a paper trail, [which] of course is a deterrent because the last thing the police want people to know is who they infiltrated, when they did it, and who it was. Now, of course, that has been completely eliminated. It was a very sad day because the judge was a very good judge. He’s a judge we’ve relied on to do the right thing, but he said, “This is a different era and we can’t do those things anymore,” instead of saying, “This is a different era and we need to do more of this because this is what our real protection is.” Now that the way is clear for the black desk, the red desk, whatever color they want to call it, to go back into operation, I think we’re going to see a lot more of that. It’s COINTELPRO on a national level. Here in New York, it’s the New York Police Department. We know about the interviews they were trying to conduct during the arrests last February . Thank goodness people are savvy enough now that they understand where that’s coming from, what it’s going to be used for. So that was gone almost as soon as it started.
I represent people who were arrested at the Carlyle [Group] demonstration
[on April 7, 2003] where the police took
pre-emptive action. People were standing on the sidewalk with signs and the police said, You’re all under arrest. This is a
pre-emptive action. We know what you’re here for and we’re not going to let this happen. They now have a very large lawsuit.
But that’s not really the answer. The government doesn’t care about lawsuits. I think it’s the right thing to do. The government
should be forced to cough up money so we can keep doing what we do. It’s not going to stop them from doing it. They have
money to burn. We’re going to see more of that kind of thing.
I’ve also had cases where certain persons are identified by the police
as leadership and those people are arrested on serious
charges. They pick the person they know to be leadership or who they decide to be a troublemaker and go after them.
You spoke recently at a panel on “The Emergence of the Police State.” The far right has done a good job of calling anyone who uses that term an alarmist or a fanatic or both. Even members of the academic and radical left tend to regard the term as part of the same 1960’s cant as calling someone a “fascist.” What are we talking about when we say “police state?”
The first time I spoke [at the Socialist Scholars Conference] was two
years ago and I had to point out, because so much of my
work has been done in the black and Latino communities, that the police state has been there for many decades. They live in a
virtual police state. The police call the shots and people accede to them. It’s new to white America, so we say now it’s the
coming of the police state. And it is. The idea that you had to have identification to do anything is very new. You say, “What is
this, South Africa? Do we have pass laws here?” And we do now; there’s no question about that.
Any legal advice you can offer those of us who plan on attending future demonstrations?
There is none. In a certain sense, we’re almost captives of what the
police want to do with us at this point. We all have our own
things that we do politically. Even during the Vietnam protests, there were different things going on. There were people who
marched down Fifth Avenue, for which there were permits. Then there were people who put on motorcycle helmets, carryied the flag of the National Liberation Front of Vietnam, and went up Seventh Avenue just to be contrary, saying, “You’re not going to tell us where we can march. We can march anywhere we want.” But the reaction was a lot different. They would have arrested us if they thought they could do so and still look good. Now they don’t care. So there are different contingents; get to a contingent they don’t want to mess around with.
Last year when there was all the talk about whether or not to issue
a march permit, Judge Jones said she didn’t want to
“second-guess” the NYPD’s authority to interpret the Constitution.
I commented on that last year. I said, “Hello, judge? That’s your job. To second-guess the police. That’s what the job is about.” It’s not to say, “Oh, I’m going along with them.” It was so outrageous.
Susan Chenelle is a writer and editor. Ian Cook is a filmmaker and freelance journalist. Despite their best efforts,
neither of them was arrested on March 20.
from Professor Ronald Creagh :
Why is U.S. immigration terrorizing British reporters?
by Dahlia Lithwick
copyright May 12, 2004
Last week a British reporter was detained by immigration officials and then expelled from the United States for traveling here without knowing that the visa rules had changed. More precisely, she didn't know that a decades-old unenforced rule was suddenly being enforced against friendly tourists long accustomed to entering the country without a visa at all. Elena Lappin, a freelance journalist from the United Kingdom (who has written for Slate), was stopped at Los Angeles International Airport, subjected to a body search, handcuffed, frog-marched through the airport, and then held in a cell at a detention center overnight—all because she dared travel to the United States without a special journalist visa. There has been a rule on the books since 1952 requiring foreign journalists to obtain special "I visas," but foreign journalists say it was invariably ignored by Immigration and Naturalization Service officials who required only that citizens of friendly countries apply for a visa waiver, an exemption allowing most residents of 27 enumerated countries to visit the United States for business or pleasure for up to 90 days without jumping through any INS hoops.
No more. When the INS was folded into the Department of Homeland Security in March 2003, the I-visa rule began to be enforced in earnest, sometimes, resulting in at least 15 journalists from friendly countries being forcibly detained, interrogated, fingerprinted, and held in cells overnight—with most denied access to phones, pens, lawyers, or their consular officials. Their friendly welcome at the detention center included lights that shone all night long and video surveillance of the entire cell, often including toilets. David James Smith of the Times of London described being denied a blanket, coffee, or a pen during his overnight detention last March. When he first learned he was being denied entry on an immigration technicality, he madly assumed he'd be put up in an airport hotel.
These reporters are not enemy combatants. They are not chroniclers of scathing injustices of the Bush administration. One Australian reporter was here to interview Olivia Newton-John. (God knows, someone has to.) She reported being "body searched and groped" by immigration and customs officials. Ten French and British journalists were here to report on last summer's Electronic Entertainment Expo, the video-game industry's annual trade show. Unless Super Mario Brothers are secretly accumulating weapons of mass destruction, this mistreatment of journalists from allied countries serves as yet another example of overzealous, unbridled discretionary excesses by government officials who still can't figure out who we're fighting in the War on Terror.
The INS (now known as Citizenship and Immigration Services) has a long, proud tradition of marrying limitless government discretion to obscure Byzantine rules that cannot be understood through ordinary inquiry. Virtually anyone in this country on a visa is in violation of some regulation, although any attempt to understand or clarify one's status is systematically thwarted by an agency that cannot be reached by telephone and cannot be visited in under seven hours. The INS has for years contributed to widespread ignorance and punished it after the fact.
What's wrong with requiring foreign journalists to have a special press visa, you ask? Why shouldn't they have to show that they are here for good and benign reasons? Well, for one thing, we don't require most tourists from these friendly nations to obtain visas. Indeed, some of the reporters locked up and deported from LAX had already been allowed through immigration as tourists and were only nabbed later when they or their colleagues copped to being journalists. Singling out reporters for greater scrutiny than ordinary sightseers suggests there is something uniquely dangerous about journalism. As Lappin points out in her piece on her ordeal, only countries like Cuba, Syria, Iran, and North Korea demand that reporters have special visas. As James Michie, the public affairs officer at the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, told me this afternoon, this happens in other countries, too; another journalist reported to him that she was frequently treated this way in Yugoslavia. America: Striving to be more like Yugoslavia each day.
Far worse than the fact that we're singling out reporters for abuses: Since when is the U.S. government in the business of accrediting journalists—foreign or domestic? What possible journalistic standards must be met in order to prove to the INS that one is enough of a journalist to merit a press visa? The list of enumerated requirements would make it impossible for a reporter from an allied country to cover a breaking story in a timely way. Reporters must now provide a letter from their employer detailing their assignment and place their hope in the broad discretion afforded immigration authorities. Of course, freelancers just looking for a story without a contract in their pocket are presumably out of luck, too. Unless, of course, they elect to lie and call themselves tourists with super-big cameras. The state cannot be in the business of acting as arbiter of who's allowed to come and write about America.
Predictably, Homeland Security officials insist that the rule-tightening is all vitally important to fighting terror and that it's the journalists' own fault if they don't know the new rules. "It's not about the occupation of a passenger that's coming into the United States," Ana Hinojosa, director for U.S. Customs and Border Protection at LAX, told the Los Angeles Times this week. "We are concerned that every foreigner has the proper visa to enter the country," ignoring the fact that non-journalist foreigners from these 27 countries need not have a visa to enter. Similarly, Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, told the paper that these reporters must be cuffed and searched "for their safety, for the safety of our officers and the safety of any other individuals who might be in the vehicle." The theory being that they must be terrorists since we treat them that way.
By way of full disclosure, I add that I am in this country on a green card. You should also know that over my almost 20-year residence in this country, I have been told by more than one INS official that I have absolutely no rights here and that, visa or no visa, my residence here can be terminated at their discretion.
In the past, I have been given 10 days to pack up and leave the country, despite the fact that I expressly qualified for a visa that could be obtained only by crossing a border and asking a customs officer to give it to me. (The INS worker I had waited for hours to speak to earlier that week assured me that I qualified but would put nothing in writing, promising it would be a mere formality at the border.) I have learned to transport the text of the immigration statute in my carry-on bag after an immigration officer tried to tell me that "JD" as written in the law did not apply to my particular graduate degree. I have lined up at 5 a.m. outside INS offices. (If you get there at 6, you'll never be served.) I have sat on hold with automated voice systems for over an hour. (I have only once, in two decades, reached an actual human life form at the INS.) And I was told by one very courteous INS officer at the Vancouver airport (no name, no badge, not even upon request), as he grudgingly handed me a visa, "What the hell would the United States do without all you Canadians coming in on [this particular visa] to do our work?" Rush Limbaugh's job having already been taken, he had clearly found a home for himself at the INS. When I called his supervisor from the gate to report this exchange, she told me she'd witnessed the entire conversation and he'd done nothing improper.
I can detail these incidents only because I wrote a lot of letters to the INS that were never sent, precisely because, as was so often pointed out to me, I am here at their sufferance.
Not every agent who works at the INS is a power-mad maniac. In fact, I'd wager that most are good people doing good jobs. But as recent events in Iraq have shown, if you are a born bully and the state gives you virtually limitless discretion to bully, you will likely rise to the challenge. All the more so if you're employed by an arm of the government in which the working presumption is that abusive behavior achieves better results than accommodation. And no one wants to make it easy to work or study or stay in the United States.
Long before 9/11, the INS was a Third World agency operating in a First World nation. Making it virtually impossible to access the services, information, and assistance for precisely those constituents it purports to serve is the way it keeps us sweaty foreigners out in the first place. And since we have no meaningful rights anyhow, and we are all here at its mercy, there is no way to report abuses of that power. I write this wondering if tomorrow I'll be filing the first in a series of hilarious "Dispatches From Immigration Jail."
In the trial of Sami Omar Al-Hussayen, the University of Idaho graduate student now being prosecuted for supporting terrorism, the indictment charges him with visa fraud for, among other things, failing to list "all professional, social and charitable institutions to which you belong." Students on F-1 and J-1 visas are similarly obliged to inform authorities of every change of address (including summer addresses) while in the country. No foreign student I have met even knew of these requirements (I didn't), and if they did know, nobody could have figured out whom to report to and how.
Immigration law cannot serve as a pretext for treating people badly. It's inefficient and it achieves nothing but international ill will. The Department of Homeland Security has far greater worries than Australian writers and French tech-nerds. The INS sent Mohammed Atta's student-visa approval six months after he crashed a plane into the World Trade Center. We need to start differentiating between targeting real terrorists and terrorizing random targets. This is no way to win a war.
Dahlia Lithwick is a Slate senior editor.
from Professor James A. Stevenson :
Yesterday, former Vice President Al Gore called for accountability for the Bush team in light of the fiasco in Iraq
Dear MoveOn member,
Yesterday, we sponsored a powerful speech by former Vice President
Al Gore on the fallout from the war in Iraq. In the speech, Mr. Gore
took on the Bush administration, arguing that the "abuse of the
prisoners at Abu Ghraib flowed directly from the abuse of the truth
that characterized the Administration's march to war and the abuse
of the trust that had been placed in President Bush by the American
people in the aftermath of September 11th." To sustained applause,
he then called for the architects of the Bush foreign policy –
Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, George Tenet, Paul Wolfowitz, and
others -- to resign, arguing that "the current team is making things
worse with each passing day."
You can read a full transcript of the speech and watch a great
five-minute video of the highlights at:
Mr. Gore began the speech by focusing on the policy of domination
which pervades the Bush Administration:
"An American policy of dominance is as repugnant to the rest of the
world as the ugly dominance of the helpless, naked Iraqi prisoners
has been to the American people. Dominance is as dominance does."
"Dominance is not really a strategic policy or political philosophy
at all. It is a seductive illusion that tempts the powerful to
satiate their hunger for more power still by striking a Faustian
bargain. And as always happens -- sooner or later -- to those who
shake hands with the devil, they find out too late that what they
have given up in the bargain is their soul."
This policy, he explained, is making us less safe as a country:
"The unpleasant truth is that President Bush's utter incompetence
has made the world a far more dangerous place and dramatically
increased the threat of terrorism against the United States. Just
yesterday, the International Institute of Strategic Studies reported
that the Iraq conflict " has arguable focused the energies and
resources of Al Qaeda and its followers while diluting those of the
global counterterrorism coalition." The ISS said that in the wake of
the war in Iraq Al Qaeda now has more than 18,000 potential
terrorists scattered around the world and the war in Iraq is
swelling its ranks."
To sustained applause, he then called for the resignation of the
Bush foreign policy team:
"One of the strengths of democracy is the ability of the people to
regularly demand changes in leadership and to fire a failing leader
and hire a new one with the promise of hopeful change. That is the
real solution to America's quagmire in Iraq. But, I am keenly aware
that we have seven months and twenty five days remaining in this
president's current term of office and that represents a time of
dangerous vulnerability for our country because of the demonstrated
incompetence and recklessness of the current administration."
"It is therefore essential that even as we focus on the fateful
choice, the voters must make this November that we simultaneously
search for ways to sharply reduce the extraordinary danger that we
face with the current leadership team in place. It is for that
reason that I am calling today for Republicans as well as Democrats
to join me in asking for the immediate resignations of those
immediately below George Bush and Dick Cheney who are most
responsible for creating the catastrophe that we are facing in
"We desperately need a national security team with at least minimal
competence because the current team is making things worse with each
passing day. They are endangering the lives of our soldiers, and
sharply increasing the danger faced by American citizens everywhere
in the world, including here at home. They are enraging hundreds of
millions of people and embittering an entire generation of
anti-Americans whose rage is already near the boiling point."
"We simply cannot afford to further increase the risk to our country
with more blunders by this team. Donald Rumsfeld, as the chief
architect of the war plan, should resign today. His deputies Paul
Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith and his intelligence chief Stephen Cambone
should also resign. The nation is especially at risk every single
day that Rumsfeld remains as Secretary of Defense. Condoleezza Rice,
who has badly mishandled the coordination of national security
policy, should also resign immediately."
And, at the end, he called for us to hold Bush accountable in
"I want to speak on behalf of those Americans who feel that
President Bush has betrayed our nation's trust, those who are
horrified at what has been done in our name, and all those who want
the rest of the world to know that we Americans see the abuses that
occurred in the prisons of Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo and secret
locations as yet undisclosed as completely out of keeping with the
character and basic nature of the American people and at odds with
the principles on which America stands."
"I believe we have a duty to hold President Bush accountable -- and
I believe we will. As Lincoln said at our time of greatest trial,
'We -- even we here -- hold the power, and bear the
To read the whole speech and watch video highlights of the best
moments, go to:
May 27th, 2004
P.S. The speech has also been getting terrific press from around the
country. Here are the first few paragraphs of a good write-up in the
GORE CALLS FOR TOP OFFICIALS TO RESIGN DEMOCRAT ASSAILS BUSH'S WAR
By Mike Allen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 27, 2004; Page A03
Former vice president Al Gore accused President Bush's war cabinet
of reckless incompetence yesterday and called for the resignations
of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, national security adviser
Condoleezza Rice and CIA Director George J. Tenet.
"George W. Bush promised us a foreign policy with humility. Instead,
he has brought us humiliation in the eyes of the world," Gore said
at a speech in New York sponsored by the liberal MoveOn PAC. "We
simply cannot afford to further increase the risk to our country
with more blunders by this team."
Gore, jabbing his fingers and raising his voice to a shout, called
the horrors of the Abu Ghraib prison "the predictable consequence of
policy choices that flowed directly from this administration's
contempt for the rule of law." His broad critique of that policy
ranged from its aims to its vocabulary, and he complained about Bush
aides' "frequent use of the word 'dominance' to describe their
PAID FOR BY MOVEON PAC, WWW.MOVEONPAC.ORG
This communication is not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies/
Director of Research at CEIMSA
Université de Grenoble-3