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Obama keeps rendition policy?

Whilst Obama has signalled the closure of Guantanamo and CIA secret interrogation sites, according to this article he plans to keep what is arguably the most reprehensible policy of all – rendering prisoners to ‘allies’ for possible torture and worse.

Under executive orders issued by Obama last week, the CIA still has authority to carry out what are known as renditions, or the secret abductions and transfers of prisoners to countries that cooperate with the U.S.

Current and former U.S. intelligence officials said the rendition program is poised to play an expanded role because it is the main remaining mechanism—aside from Predator missile strikes—for taking suspected terrorists off the street.

The rendition program became a source of embarrassment for the CIA, and a target of international scorn, as details emerged in recent years of botched captures, mistaken identities and allegations that prisoners were turned over to countries where they were tortured.

The European Parliament condemned renditions as an “illegal instrument used by the United States.” Prisoners swept up in the program have sued the CIA as well as a subsidiary of Boeing Corp., which is accused of working with the agency on dozens of rendition flights.

But the Obama administration appears to have determined that the rendition program was one component of the Bush administration’s war on terrorism that it could not afford to discard.

The decision underscores the fact that the battle with Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups is far from over and that even if the U.S. is shutting down the prisons, it is not done taking prisoners.

“Obviously you need to preserve some tools, you still have to go after the bad guys,” said an Obama administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity when discussing legal reasoning behind the decision. “The legal advisers working on this looked at rendition. It is controversial in some circles and kicked up a big storm in Europe. But if done within certain parameters, it is an acceptable practice.”

One provision in one of Obama’s orders appears to preserve the CIA’s ability to detain and interrogate terrorism suspects as long as they are not held long-term. The little-noticed provision states that the instructions to close the CIA’s secret prison sites “do not refer to facilities used only to hold people on a short-term, transitory basis.”

Washington Monthly commentator Hilzoy makes some pertinent observations in regard to the above stories:

If the LA Times is right to claim that the Obama administration has left open the possibility of extraordinary renditions, that would be a huge problem. However, I don’t think it is. Here it helps to have spent some time reading the actual orders. The order called “Ensuring Lawful Interrogations” contains the following passage:

“Sec. 6. Construction with Other Laws. Nothing in this order shall be construed to affect the obligations of officers, employees, and other agents of the United States Government to comply with all pertinent laws and treaties of the United States governing detention and interrogation, including but not limited to: the Fifth and Eighth Amendments to the United States Constitution; the Federal torture statute, 18 U.S.C. 2340 2340A; the War Crimes Act, 18 U.S.C. 2441; the Federal assault statute, 18 U.S.C. 113; the Federal maiming statute, 18 U.S.C. 114; the Federal “stalking” statute, 18 U.S.C. 2261A; articles 93, 124, 128, and 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, 10 U.S.C. 893, 924, 928, and 934; section 1003 of the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, 42 U.S.C. 2000dd; section 6(c) of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, Public Law 109 366; the Geneva Conventions; and the Convention Against Torture. Nothing in this order shall be construed to diminish any rights that any individual may have under these or other laws and treaties.”

Part 1, Article 3 of the Convention Against Torture states:

“1. No State Party shall expel, return (“refouler”) or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.

2. For the purpose of determining whether there are such grounds, the competent authorities shall take into account all relevant considerations including, where applicable, the existence in the State concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights.”

Obama orders people to comply with the Convention Against Torture, and that Convention states that we cannot return people to states where there are substantial grounds to believe that they will be tortured. And nothing the Obama administration has done to date suggests to me that they would engage in the kinds of creative reading of legal documents that would allow them, say, to disregard Egypt’s long record of torture in making this determination.

Moreover, Obama’s Executive Order also establishes a commission one of whose goals is:

“to study and evaluate the practices of transferring individuals to other nations in order to ensure that such practices comply with the domestic laws, international obligations, and policies of the United States and do not result in the transfer of individuals to other nations to face torture or otherwise for the purpose, or with the effect, of undermining or circumventing the commitments or obligations of the United States to ensure the humane treatment of individuals in its custody or control.”

So in addition to announcing that the administration will obey the Convention Against Torture, the administration will also study not whether to send detainees off to be tortured, but how to ensure that our policies are not intended to result in their torture, and will not result in their torture. This seems to me like a very clear renunciation of the policy of sending people to third countries to be tortured. His executive order also precludes any kind of secret detention of prisoners, and thus “secret abductions and transfers of prisoners”:

“All departments and agencies of the Federal Government shall provide the International Committee of the Red Cross with notification of, and timely access to, any individual detained in any armed conflict in the custody or under the effective control of an officer, employee, or other agent of the United States Government or detained within a facility owned, operated, or controlled by a department or agency of the United States Government, consistent with Department of Defense regulations and policies.”

Note that this has no exceptions for short-term detainees whom we quickly hand off to someone else.

The author of the Times article, however, defines “rendition” as “secret abductions and transfers of prisoners to countries that cooperate with the United States.” It’s not clear whether he knows that rendition includes perfectly normal things like extradition. It’s also not clear that he knows that extraordinary rendition includes not just cases in which we transfer a detainee to another country, but cases in which we capture someone abroad and take them to this country to be tried.

What is clear, however, is that Obama’s executive order prohibits sending people off to other countries where there are substantial grounds to think that they will be tortured, and commits his administration not just to hoping that this will not happen, but to trying to figure out how to keep it from happening. I will continue to watch what the Obama administration does. If they backtrack on their commitment not to engage in extraordinary rendition, I will call them on it. But I don’t think that this article provides evidence that they will.

Glenn Greenwalk picks up the ball and comments on why some parties might wish to make it appear that Obama is continuing in the footsteps of Bush, cursed be his name and praise the goddess he’s gone 😉

First, it is very important to keep in mind that there are numerous factions with a very compelling interest in claiming that the Obama administration is preserving and continuing the most extreme Bush “counter-terrorism” policies, regardless of whether or not it’s true:

(1) Bush followers eager to claim that their leader has been vindicated because Obama is replicating his policies;

(2) People who have long argued that there is no difference between the parties, that “the system” is irrevocably corrupted, and that Obama will change nothing, who are eager to claim that their “no-difference” worldview has already been vindicated by the 11-day old administration (“See! After 11 days, it’s proven that Obama is no different than Bush, just as we’ve been saying”);

(3) Members of the intelligence community who do not want any new limits imposed on their activities and thus, hiding behind anonymity, use these leaks to pressure Obama not to impose them (“intelligence officials say that Obama is just pretending to change these policies in order to fool/placate the Left, but he knows and believes we urgently need these powers to keep the U.S. safe and he will therefore keep them in place”); and,

(4) Establishment media figures, eager to depict Obama as supportive of, rather than hostile to, prevailing policies, because they spent the last eight years supporting and enabling those policies as integral servants of the political establishment and do not want Obama’s election to be perceived as a repudiation of that establishment and its various behaviors.

I want to be clear: none of this is to say that Obama won’t continue many of the worst Bush policies. He very well might (even in the case of rendition) and, in other cases, he probably will. Vigilance in this regard is absolutely required. The point here is that there are all sorts of groups eager to claim that Obama has already decided to embrace Bush policies before there is any actual evidence that he has done so, or — as here — even when there is evidence that he hasn’t. For that reason, these reports about what Obama “intends” to do ought to be taken with a huge dose of skepticism, especially where, as here, it is fed to uninformed, gullible reporters by anonymous intelligence operatives.

The culture of abuse in the United Stupids is far from over – at a black tie dinner, sociopathic Zionist Senator Joe Lieberman makes foul jokes about waterboarding.

‘We had hoped Vice President Cheney would be here tonight. I hope it’s not his back injury that’s keeping him away. Apparently, he hurt it moving some things out of his office. Personally, I had no idea that waterboards were so heavy.

Last year, Lieberman, who has voted against banning waterboarding, “reluctantly acknowledged” that he doesn’t believe that waterboarding is torture. “It is not like putting burning coals on people’s bodies. The person is in no real danger. The impact is psychological,” he said.

The Great Iraqi Oil Robbery

Iraq Oil Liberation

The Coalition of the Gobbling has now set the scene for massive exploitation by its vampirish associates of Iraq’s oil without so much as a murmur from the Iraqi puppet government.

The law is set to be approved in March.

On Monday, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s cabinet in Baghdad approved the draft of the new Iraqi oil law. The government regards it as “a major national project”. The key point of the law is that Iraq’s immense oil wealth (115 billion barrels of proven reserves, third in the world after Saudi Arabia and Iran) will be under the iron rule of a fuzzy “Federal Oil and Gas Council” boasting “a panel of oil experts from inside and outside Iraq”. That is, nothing less than predominantly US Big Oil executives.

The law represents no less than institutionalized raping and pillaging of Iraq’s oil wealth. It represents the death knell of nationalized (from 1972 to 1975) Iraqi resources, now replaced by production sharing agreements (PSAs) – which translate into savage privatization and monster profit rates of up to 75% for (basically US) Big Oil. Sixty-five of Iraq’s roughly 80 oilfields already known will be offered for Big Oil to exploit. As if this were not enough, the law reduces in practice the role of Baghdad to a minimum. Oil wealth, in theory, will be distributed directly to Kurds in the north, Shi’ites in the south and Sunnis in the center. For all practical purposes, Iraq will be partitioned into three statelets. Most of the country’s reserves are in the Shi’ite-dominated south, while the Kurdish north holds the best prospects for future drilling.

Iraq Freedom

The approval of the draft law by the fractious 275-member Iraqi Parliament, in March, will be a mere formality. Hussain al-Shahristani, Iraq’s oil minister, is beaming. So is dodgy Barnham Salih: a Kurd, committed cheerleader of the US invasion and occupation, then deputy prime minister, big PSA fan, and head of a committee that was debating the law.

But there was not much to be debated. The law was in essence drafted, behind locked doors, by a US consulting firm hired by the Bush administration and then carefully retouched by Big Oil, the International Monetary Fund, former US deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz’ World Bank, and the United States Agency for International Development. It’s virtually a US law (its original language is English, not Arabic).

Scandalously, Iraqi public opinion had absolute no knowledge of it – not to mention the overwhelming majority of Parliament members. Were this to be a truly representative Iraqi government, any change to the legislation concerning the highly sensitive question of oil wealth would have to be approved by a popular referendum.

In real life, Iraq’s vital national interests are in the hands of a small bunch of highly impressionable (or downright corrupt) technocrats. Ministries are no more than political party feuds; the national interest is never considered, only private, ethnic and sectarian interests. Corruption and theft are endemic. Big Oil will profit handsomely – and long-term, 30 years minimum, with fabulous rates of return – from a former developing-world stalwart methodically devastated into failed-state status.

Once the insurgents, guerillas and Iraqi public become aware of the impending oil rape by the Coalition of the Gobbling, it is quite possible that there will be a strategic unification and uprising against the common colonialist enemy which no Doodoo surge will be able to suppress.

Islamic Feminism

IslamofemsSince the creation of Islam and until the feminist victories of the 20th century in western society, Islamic women enjoyed more expansive personal privileges than their Christian sisters. Not only were they able to seek divorce, they could inherit property, albeit a lesser proportion than their brothers, and pursue professions. Restrictive Shariah law and culture-specific traditions, invented and administered by males for the primary benefit of males, were a later addition to the teachings of the Koran. In parallel with cultural mores and interference with women’s rights and bodies entrenched in some Christian sects, well illustrated for example by those engendered by the male-dominated Catholic Church, these arbitrary additions have hindered the ability of many Muslim women to achieve their full and desired potentials within the framework of their faith.

“Islam is not a patriarchal religion, and we cannot accept that patriarchy continues to govern social relations in the framework of Islam.”

The Conclusions of the Second International Conference of Islamic Feminism held in November 06 in Spain defined areas where positive change within patriarchal Islamic cultures can be initiated for the benefit of women:

“We denounce the discriminatory family laws that are enforced in many countries with a Muslim majority.

We voice our commitment to continue the gender jihad for the recovery of the equalitarian message of Islam, the freedom of interpretation and conscience.

Islamic Feminism is an integral part of the Global Feminist Movement. We denounce all forms of violence against women that are justified in the name of Islam, such as honor crimes, domestic violence, mutilation of female genitalia, stoning and other forms of corporal punishment.

We call for the participation of women in all areas of society. Therefore, we are against all those cultural practices which are not truly Islamic and which inhibit this participation.

We announce the creation of the “Observatory of Islam and Gender” in Spain to be headquartered in Barcelona. This Observatory attempts to consolidate the work of the two International Conferences of Islamic Feminism, to serve as a common ground between intellectuals and Feminist organizations in the Islamic world, and to promote Islamic Feminism in Spain. The Observatory will serve the task of giving continuity to the International Conference of Islamic Feminism.”

Whilst we do not adher to any religious faith, we support all women in their peaceful quest for enlightenment and equality of opportunity and express our solidarity with feminists of all nations and creeds against that most oppressive and pervasive phenomenon affecting women – rightwing fundamentalism.

Fundamentalist movements are political movements with religious, ethnic, and/or nationalist imperatives. They construct a single version of a collective identity as the only true, authentic and valid one, and use it to impose their power and authority. They usually claim to be the representatives of authentic tradition, and they speak against the corrupting influence of modernity and ‘the West’. However, fundamentalists are far from pre-modern. To promote their project, they use all modern technological means available, from the media to weaponry. Furthermore, the vision they conjure up is a constructed and selective vision, rather than a revival of something in the past. Since 2000 the popular appeal of fundamentalisms has been growing across the world and different communities.

Feminists have particular concerns when it comes to fundamentalist movements. Although many women take part in fundamentalist movements, overall fundamentalist politics tend to constitute a threat to women’s freedom and autonomy and often their lives. Gender relations in general, and women in particular, are often used to symbolize the collectivity, its ‘culture and tradition’, its boundaries and its future reproduction.

Ziocon Feith Nailed

Although no charges against Feith and his co-conspirators are forthcoming at this stage at least, the truth behind the ziocon push to illegal war against Iraq is being exposed unequivocally for public view at last.

“A leading figure in the Bush administration’s march to war in Iraq helped justify the 2003 invasion by undercutting the CIA with questionable intelligence about Saddam Hussein’s links to al Qaeda, a Pentagon watchdog agency said in a report on Friday.

Former U.S. defense policy chief Douglas Feith presented the White House with claims of a “mature symbiotic relationship” between Iraq and al Qaeda as if they were facts, while ignoring contradictory views from the intelligence community, the report by the Pentagon inspector general said.

“They did not show the other, dissenting side,” Defense Department acting inspector general Thomas Gimble told the Senate Armed Services Committee at a hearing.

A claim by Feith’s office that September 11 hijacking ringleader Mohamed Atta met with an Iraqi official months before the 2001 attacks could not be verified by intelligence, he said.

Gimble, who produced the classified report after a one-year review, concluded that Feith was authorized by former deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz to pursue alternative intelligence conclusions and that the action was lawful.

But Feith’s actions were sometimes “inappropriate” because they “did not clearly show the variance with the consensus of the intelligence community,” said an unclassified two-page executive summary of the report released by the inspector general’s office.

As a result, Feith’s office “did not provide ‘the most accurate analysis of intelligence’ to senior decision-makers,” it said.”

The New York Times presentation on the Inspector General’s report goes into more depth and quotes Gimble more extensively:

“Mr. Gimble told the committee today that, while the Pentagon’s in-house intelligence-gathering was not illegal or unauthorized, ‘the actions, in our opinion, were inappropriate, given that all the products did not clearly show the variance with the consensus of the intel community, and in some cases were shown as intel products.'”

Feith starts covering himself and dragging in his co-conspirators:

“On Thursday, as details of Mr. Gimble’s report were beginning to come out, Mr. Feith issued a statement saying his office’s activities had been authorized by former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and former Deputy Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, and that his office properly shared its findings.”

Further questions remain to be answered:

“However, Senator Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island, drew from Mr. Gimble a statement that Mr. Feith had not been entirely consistent in his intelligence briefings, in ways Mr. Gimble said he could not go into for security reasons.’He changed the briefing for his audience?’ Mr. Reed asked.

‘There were adjustments made depending on the audience,’ Mr. Gimble replied.

‘Well, why would he do that?’ the senator asked. ‘Why would he make changes based on the audience?’

‘I don’t think I’m in a position to make a comment on why he would do what he did,’ Mr. Gimble said.”