Wexler Questions Condoleezza Rice

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Injustice at Guantanamo : Torture Evidence and the Military Commissions Act

The Bush administration has announced its intention to try six alleged al Qaeda members at Guantánamo under the Military Commissions Act. That Act forbids the admission of evidence extracted by torture, although it permits evidence obtained by cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment if it was secured before December 30, 2005. Thus, the administration would be forbidden from relying on evidence obtained by waterboarding, if waterboarding constitutes torture.

That’s one reason Attorney General Michael Mukasey refuses to admit waterboarding is torture. The other is that torture is considered a war crime under the U.S. War Crimes Act. Mukasey would be calling Dick Cheney a war criminal if the former admitted waterboarding is torture. Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, has said on National Public Radio that the policies that led to the torture and abuse of prisoners emanated from the Vice President’s office.

The federal government is working overtime to try and clean up the legal mess made by the use of illegal interrogation methods. In a thinly-veiled attempt to sanitize the Guantánamo trials, the Department of Justice and the Pentagon instituted an extensive program to re-interview the prisoners who have undergone abusive interrogations, this time with “clean teams.” For example, if a prisoner implicated one of the defendants during an interrogation using waterboarding, the government will now re-interrogate that prisoner without waterboarding and get the same information. Then they will say the information was secured humanely. This attempt to wipe the slate clean is a farce and a sham.

In Brady v. Maryland, the US Supreme Court held that a prosecutor has a duty to give criminal defendants all evidence that might tend to exonerate them. Yet the CIA admitted destroying several hundred hours of videotapes depicting interrogations of Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Ramin al-Nashiri, which likely included waterboarding. The administration claims Abu Zubaydah led them to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, one of the defendants facing trial in the military commissions. So the government has destroyed potentially exonerating evidence. Moreover, the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” are classified so they can be kept secret from the defendants, and CIA agents cannot be compelled to testify or produce evidence of torture.

A report just released by Seton Hall Law Center for Policy and Research reveals more than 24,000 interrogations have been conducted at Guantánamo since 2002 and every interrogation was videotaped. Many of these interrogations were abusive. “One Government document, for instance, reports detainee treatment so violent as to “shake the camera in the interrogation room” and “cause severe internal injury,” the report says.

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Bush Won’t Let Facts Stand in the Way of Regime Change in Iran

James Harris: This is Truthdig. James Harris sitting down with Scott Ritter, former chief weapons inspector in Iraq. And today we’re talking about the latest report from the National Intelligence Estimate. The report says that Iran is not, as of mid-July, in the nuclear weapons business. Scott Ritter — I think, wisely — told me to look at this report with caution and that this means nothing to the White House, that they [members of the Bush team] are about regime change. Please explain.

Scott Ritter: Well, I think it’s important to assess patterns of behavior. When we take a look at the Bush administration and how it has sought to implement its policies of regional transformation in the Middle East, inclusive, these policies include the notion of regime change, removing unpopular regimes, regimes that the United States unilaterally declares incompatible with its vision, removing them from power. This includes Saddam Hussein and the theocracy in Tehran. They have demonstrated a tendency to exaggerate threats in the form of weapons of mass destruction to exploit the ignorance of the American public and the fear that is derived from this ignorance. They did so with Iraq. They made a case for war based upon weapons of mass destruction that they fail to back up with anything other than rhetoric. I can say, as a former weapons inspector who ran the intelligence programs from ’91 to ’98, that we had fundamentally disarmed Iraq, so for the president to say that there’s this new weapons capability, he would have to demonstrate some new information, and he failed to do so. And that’s why I said, unless he provides this new data, that there isn’t the WMD threat that he said. The same thing can be said about Iran.

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Clinton Strategist Tied to Nuclear Power Company

Earlier this month, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s chief campaign strategist, Mark Penn, circulated a memo calling attention to a New York Times article about Senator Barack Obama’s dealings with Exelon Corporation, a nuclear power company.

The article showed how legislation sponsored by Mr. Obama regulating radioactive leaks at power plants was changed to reflect the views of its opponents, including Exelon, “the company whose plants created the issue and whose key executives are big contributors and bundlers to his campaign,” Mr. Penn wrote. The article also pointed out that Mr. Obama’s chief campaign strategist, David Axelrod, was a consultant to Exelon.

Now it turns out that Mr. Penn’s company, Burson Marsteller, has also been an Exelon consultant. An Exelon spokesman confirmed a report today on the Huffington Post that Mr. Penn’s firm was recently paid $230,000 for public relations work last year in New Jersey, where Exelon was seeking to renew a license for one of its nuclear plants.

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Bush wants limits on access to evidence

The Bush administration asked the Supreme Court on Thursday to limit judges’ authority to scrutinize evidence against detainees at Guantanamo Bay.The administration said the court could still add the issue to its calendar this year and hear arguments in a rare May session, then render a decision by late June.

The case is linked to another dispute already at the high court in which detainees are asking the justices to rule that they can use the U.S. civilian courts to challenge their indefinite imprisonment.

Another option for the court is to take no action on the new case until it decides on the extent of the detainees’ legal rights.

In the new case, the administration is asking the court to undo a federal appeals court ruling that broadens its authority to look at evidence about whether detainees have been properly characterized as enemy combatants.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit initially ruled on the case in July. The full court refused in early February, in a 5-5 split, to reconsider that ruling. It takes a majority of the court to reconsider a panel decision.

The ruling held that, when Guantanamo Bay detainees challenge their status as “enemy combatants,” judges must review all the evidence, not just the evidence the military chooses.

The administration said the decision jeopardizes national security.

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A Pakistani view of U.S. nuclear weapons

“The [U.S.] Air Force has made substantial changes in its handling of nuclear weapons in the wake of a B-52 flight last August during which the pilots and crew were unaware they were carrying six air-launched cruise missiles with nuclear warheads.”

“Air Force Alters Rules for Handling of Nuclear Arms,” Washington Post January 25, 2008.

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN, JANUARY 25–At a press conference in Islamabad today, Pakistani Brig. Gen. Atta M. Iqhman expressed concern about U.S. procedures for handling nuclear weapons. Iqhman, who oversees the safety and security of the Pakistani nuclear force, said that U.S. protocols for storing and handling nuclear weapons are inadequate. “In Pakistan, we store nuclear warheads separately from their delivery systems, and a nuclear warhead can only be activated if three separate officers agree,” Iqhman said. “In the United States, almost 20 years after the end of the Cold War, nuclear weapons still sit atop missiles, on hair-trigger alert, and it only takes two launch-control officers to activate a nuclear weapon. The U.S. government has persistently ignored arms control experts around the world who have said they should at least de-alert their weapons.”

Iqhman also questioned the adequacy of U.S. procedures for handling nuclear weapons. He expressed particular concern about the August 29, 2007, incident in which six nuclear weapons were accidentally loaded under the wing of a B-52 by workers who did not observe routine inspection procedures and thought they were attaching conventional weapons to the B-52. The flight navigator should have caught their mistake, but he neglected to inspect the weapons as required. For several hours the nuclear weapons were in the air without anyone’s knowledge. “The United States needs to develop new protocols for storing and loading nuclear weapons, and it needs to do a better job of recruiting and training the personnel who handle them,” Iqhman said.

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BAE: secret papers reveal threats from Saudi prince

Prince Bandar bin sultan bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud

Prince Bandar, head of Saudi Arabia’s national security council, leaving Downing Street last October. Photograph: Martin Argles

Saudi Arabia’s rulers threatened to make it easier for terrorists to attack London unless corruption investigations into their arms deals were halted, according to court documents revealed yesterday.

Previously secret files describe how investigators were told they faced “another 7/7” and the loss of “British lives on British streets” if they pressed on with their inquiries and the Saudis carried out their threat to cut off intelligence.

Prince Bandar, the head of the Saudi national security council, and son of the crown prince, was alleged in court to be the man behind the threats to hold back information about suicide bombers and terrorists. He faces accusations that he himself took more than £1bn in secret payments from the arms company BAE.

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