Contents: The Sir! No Sir! blog is an information clearing house, drawing on a wide variety of sources, to track the unfolding history of the new GI Movement, and the wars that brought the movement to life.
Where applicable, parallels will be drawn between the new movement and the Vietnam era movement which was the focus of the film Sir! No Sir!
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This article, by J. Taylor Rushing, was posted to Truthout.org, May 20, 2009
Senators on Wednesday followed through with their vow to deny the Obama administration the necessary money to close the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Voting 90-6, the Senate stripped $80 million from a supplemental military funding bill, $50 million of which was designated to close the controversial prison and $30 million for a Justice Department investigation into interrogation techniques used there.
The amendment by Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and Oklahoma Republican James Inhofe - both of whom have personally toured the prison - actually goes beyond the military supplemental to deny the administration any past money it could use to close the prison and transfer the prisoners into the United States.
The language reads, "None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act or any prior Act may be used to transfer, release or incarcerate any individual who was detained as of May 19, 2009 at Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to or within the United States."
Inouye was emphatic that Democrats still believe the prison should close, and that his amendment is only a "reality check" on the administration's intent to close it without a plan for the detainees being held there.
"This amendment is not a referendum on closing Guantanamo," Inouye said. "Instead, it should serve as a reality check since at this time the administration has not yet forwarded a coherent plan on foreclosing this prison."
Inouye explained that simply restricting the money in the supplemental, as he did last week in the Appropriations Committee, wasn't sending a clear enough message to the administration. After reading media reports over the weekend, he said, he began to worry that the entire supplemental could be threatened and began to consider yanking the funds totally.
"Rather than cooling the passions of those who are justifiably concerned with the ultimate disposition of the prisoners, the funding which remained in the bill became a lightning rod far outshadowing its impact and dwarfing the more important elements of this critically needed bill," he said. "The fact that the administration has not offered a workable plan at this point made that decision rather easy."
But leaving the prison open, Inouye said, would allow al Qaeda a "powerful recruiting tool," since the facility is a "symbol of the wrongdoing" of past abuses by the U.S. military such as at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
Inhofe said just the opposite: that the U.S. needs the prison because it is the best alternative for the detainees rather than sending them to other countries or into America.
"None of the options are good, but this is one resource we have," he said. "We need to keep it. We have to keep it. It is by far the best option."
The six votes against the amendment came from Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.).
This article, by Jason Leopold, was posted to Op-Ed News, April 1, 2009
Before leaving office, senior Bush administration lawyers secured changes in a Justice Department watchdog agency's report that reportedly was sharply critical of legal opinions granting President George W. Bush sweeping powers, including the right to abuse "war on terror"- captives.
In a letter to two U.S. senators, the Justice Department said the changes to the report by the Office of Professional Responsibility followed comments from then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey, then-Deputy Attorney General Mark Filip and the Office of Legal Counsel, which was still run by its acting chief, Steven Bradbury, one of three lawyers who had been singled out for criticism in OPR's initial draft.
"Attorney General Mukasey, Deputy Attorney General Filip and OLC provided comments [after the first draft was completed in December], and OPR revised the draft report to the extent it deemed appropriate based on those comments,"- said acting Assistant Attorney General Faith Burton in a March 25 letter to Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island, and Richard Durbin, D-Illinois, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Burton also said that the final OPR report may undergo more revisions based on responses from the former OLC lawyers who were criticized and that a final version may not be released for some time, if at all. "Due to the complexity and classification level of the draft report, the review process "- likely will require substantial time and effort,"- Burton said.
Legal sources familiar with the internal debate about the draft report say OPR is in the process of "watering"- down the criticism of legal opinions by OLC lawyers John Yoo and Jay Bybee in 2002 and 2003 and by Bradbury, who in 2005 reinstated some of the Yoo-Bybee opinions after they had been withdrawn by Assistant Attorney General Jack Goldsmith when he headed the OLC in 2003 and 2004.
That back-and-forth over the OLC's judgments regarding President Bush's powers rest at the heart of the Bush administration's defense of its "enhanced interrogation"- techniques that have been widely denounced as torture, such as waterboarding which subjects a person to the panicked gag reflex of drowning and which was used on at least three "high-value"- detainees.
Bush officials insist that they were acting under the guidance of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, which advises Presidents on the scope of their constitutional powers. For the OPR report to conclude that Yoo, Bybee and Bradbury violated their professional duties as lawyers and, in effect, gave Bush pre-cooked legal opinions to do what he already wanted to do would shatter that line of defense. Conflict Question
In a response to Burton's letter, Durbin and Whitehouse questioned whether Bradbury's dual role as the acting head of the OLC and one of the criticized lawyers created a "conflict of interest"- regarding revisions made to the draft in the last days of the Bush administration.
Bradbury "is reportedly a subject of the OPR investigation,"- the senators wrote. "As such, it would appear to be a conflict of interest for Mr. Bradbury to review and comment on the OPR report on OLC's behalf."-
Durbin and Whitehouse also noted that Bradbury wrote two memos in the final months of the Bush administration distancing himself from some of the Yoo-Bybee opinions while insisting that they had acted in good faith as lawyers.
Three months before Bush exited the White House, Bradbury wrote that some of those controversial opinions were "the product of an extraordinary period in the history of the Nation: the immediate aftermath of the attacks of 9/11."-
In another memo dated Jan. 15, five days before Bush left office, Bradbury repudiated some Yoo-Bybee legal opinions, but said the flawed theories did not mean Justice Department lawyers failed to "satisfy" professional standards.
Rather, Bradbury cited "the wake of the atrocities of 9/11, when policy makers, fearing that additional catastrophic terrorist attacks were imminent, strived to employ all lawful means to protect the Nation."
Bradbury's Jan. 15 memo appeared to be in response to the draft OPR report, raising other concerns from Durbin and Whitehouse.
"If Mr. Bradbury did review the OPR report, this could have improperly influenced the opinions he expressed on OLC's behalf,"- the senators wrote. "Particularly his decision to emphasize that the authors of discredited OLC opinions on detainee issues had not necessarily violated their professional responsibilities."-
Durbin and Whitehouse added that they are "concerned"- that the final OPR report "" when it is delivered to Attorney General Eric Holder and to Congress "" will have "undergone significant revisions at the behest of the subjects of the investigation without the benefit of reviewing OPR's initial draft report."- [For more on the Yoo-Bybee opinions, see Consortiumnews.com's "How Close the Bush Bullet.] Investigating Legal Theories
The OPR probe was launched in mid-2004 after a meeting in which Jack Goldsmith, then head of the OLC, got into a tense debate with White House lawyers, including Vice President Dick Cheney's legal counsel David Addington. Goldsmith had withdrawn some of the Yoo-Bybee opinions because he felt they were "legally flawed"- and "sloppily written."
After the meeting, Goldsmith resigned and was subsequently replaced on an acting basis by Bradbury, who restored some of the controversial Yoo-Bybee opinions in May 2005, again granting Bush broad powers to inflict painful interrogations on detainees.
Sources familiar with the OPR draft report said it reached "damning"- conclusions about numerous cases of "misconduct"- in the advice from Yoo, Bybee and Bradbury that was provided to the White House about interrogations and domestic surveillance.
OPR investigators determined that all three blurred the lines between an attorney charged with providing independent legal advice to the White House and a policy advocate who was working to advance the administration's goals, said the sources who spoke on condition of anonymity because the contents of the report are still classified.
One part of the OPR report criticized Yoo's use of an obscure 2000 health benefits statute to narrow the definition of torture in a way that permitted waterboarding and other acts that have historically been regarded as torture under U.S. law, the sources said.
In public comments responding to the criticism of his legal opinions, Yoo said his government work gave him "very little time to make very important decisions. "- You don't have the luxury to research every single thing and that's accelerated in war time."-
Last weekend, it was disclosed that Spanish investigative judge Baltasar Garzon had taken initial steps for launching a criminal probe of torture that was allegedly made possible by the work of six former Bush administration officials, including Yoo, Bybee and Addington as well as former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
Garzon, whose court is famous for dealing with high-profile terrorism and torture cases, asserts standing in the investigation because international anti-torture laws have provisions for universal jurisdiction, meaning that if the implicated country (in this case the United States) doesn't act against alleged torturers, other countries may.
This article, by Mark Benjamin, was posted to Salon, Februuary 24, 2009
WASHINGTON -- The Senate Judiciary Committee plans to move forward with a commission to investigate torture during the Bush administration. Committee Chairman Pat Leahy, D-Vt., told Salon Tuesday that his panel would soon announce a hearing to study various commission plans. His staff said the announcement could come as early as Wednesday.
While Michigan Democrat Rep. John Conyers and North Carolina Republican Rep. Walter Jones drafted a bill to create a commission to review abuse of war powers during the Bush administration, Leahy's Senate commission would represent the first concrete steps forward toward a broad review of U.S. torture since 9/11.
Spearheading Senate efforts to establish a torture commission is Rhode Island Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse. As a member of both the Judiciary Committee and the Intelligence Committee, Whitehouse is privy to information about interrogations he can't yet share. Still, regarding a potential torture commission, he told Salon, "I am convinced it is going to happen." In fact, his fervor on the issue was palpable. When asked if there is a lot the public still does not know about these issues during the Bush administration, his eyes grew large and he nodded slowly. "Stay on this," he said. "This is going to be big."
Whitehouse admitted he had not discussed the plan yet with President Obama, who has been notably wishy-washy on the notion since taking office. On the one hand, Obama has consistently said that "my administration is going to operate in a way that leaves no doubt that we do not torture." Yet on the other hand, he has insisted that "nobody is above the law, and if there are clear instances of wrongdoing, that people should be prosecuted just like any ordinary citizen; but that generally speaking, I'm more interested in looking forward than I am in looking backwards."
According to Whitehouse, current politics dictate that Congress should take the lead on establishing a torture commission. "When you look at the economic meltdown that [Obama] was left by the Bush administration, you can see why he would want to reassure the American public that he is out there looking at these problems and trying to solve them and not focusing on the sins of the past," he said.
Whitehouse, however, predicted that Obama would not object to a torture commission moving forward in Congress. Besides, he said, "When push comes to shove, we are the legislative branch of government. We have oversight responsibilities. And we don't need the executive branch's approval to look into these things just as a constitutional matter."
Plans to establish the commission still remain in their infancy, as senators and staff look at previous panels, such as the 9-11 Commission, and investigations following Watergate. Whitehouse, a former U.S. attorney, noted that a torture commission might need the power to immunize witnesses on a case-by-case basis. The prospect of future prosecutions, he said, are beside the point. Most important was putting a spotlight on abuses committed by the Bush administration.
"We have this American government, which has an architecture and a shape and a system that drives it and constrains it and that keeps it honest," he said. "And what happened is that the Bush administration figured out a lot of ways to tunnel through the walls and sneak over the fences. So now we need to go back and say, 'We have got to plant those walls deeper so you can not tunnel under them.' We've got to spotlight how they did it," Whitehouse explained. "The ultimate goal in this is to protect and enhance American democracy."
Last week, retired Maj. Gen. Tony Taguba, known for conducting an honest investigation of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, discussed his support for such a commission in an exclusive interview with Salon. Taguba joined a group of former high-level diplomats and law enforcement officials who also announced their support for a torture commission late last week, along with 18 rights groups.
During that interview, Taguba stated that any review must include close analysis of claims from Bush administration officials that abusive interrogations worked. "Some of those activities were actually not effective and those who thought so were in the academic or pristine settings of their offices," Taguba said. "What would they know?"
Whitehouse agreed, and depicted as ironic the fact that some members of the intelligence community saw themselves as "the Lance Armstrongs of interrogation," while some members of the military objected to abuse as ineffective. "In fact, the exact opposite was true," Whitehouse said about such claims from the CIA."It was amateur hour with them, and the career, tough, serious military interrogators said that this just was not effective," he said. "But it is important to prove the point, because they keep saying, 'We saved lives. We interrupted plans. We did this, that and the other.'" Whitehouse added, "Well, when you drill down, there is never a fact there. It turns into fog and evasion."