08 October, 2007

USA Government employs TORTURE professionals

... and arrests exploited workers. (see further below)

Bush defends torture
By Barry Grey 6 October 2007

President George Bush on Friday categorically defended his authorization
of interrogation methods defined by international and US law and viewed
the world over as torture.

At a previously unscheduled Oval Office meeting with the press, Bush
responded to an article published the previous day by the New York Times
revealing the existence of two secret Justice Department memos from 2005
explicitly sanctioning the use of such methods as head-slapping,
subjecting detainees to freezing cold, and applying the simulated drowning
technique known as water-boarding.

One of the memos declared that none of the torture techniques then being
used by the Central Intelligence Agency against alleged terrorists
constituted "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment." This legal opinion,
issued by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, was obtained
to give the administration legal cover to flout a pending congressional
bill banning torture and defining it as "cruel, inhuman and degrading
treatment." That bill was eventually passed in December of 2005.

The Times article, citing unnamed officials who were briefed on the memos,
also reported that the administration has resumed holding prisoners in
secret overseas prisons run by the CIA.

At his press appearance, Bush made his standard pro-forma disavowal: "This
government does not torture people." He added, "We stick to US law and our
international obligations."

Significantly, Bush chose to use the phrase "international obligations"
rather than "international law." This is not a small matter, since the
interrogation methods Bush has authorized and continues to defend are
flagrant violations of the Geneva Conventions and international
conventions against torture and cruel and degrading treatment.

Bush began his remarks by declaring, "When we find someone who may have
information about a potential attack, you bet we are going to detain them
and you bet that we are going to question them." He then sought to foist
responsibility for his use of torture onto the American people, saying,
"Because the American people expect us to find out information, actionable
intelligence, so we can defend them."

He continued, in chilling words worthy of a Gestapo commandant: "There are
highly trained professionals questioning these extremists and terrorists.
We have professionals who are trained in this kind of work..."

Bush went on say that "the techniques that we used have been fully
disclosed to appropriate members of the US Congress." He concluded by
declaring his intention to continue his torture program, saying, "The
American people expect their government to take action to protect them
from further attack. And that is exactly what this government is doing.
And that is exactly what we will continue to do."

Bush took no questions from the assembled reporters.

Other administration officials acknowledged the existence of the secret
memos revealed by the New York Times, but refused to disclose or discuss
their contents, under the pretext of their classified status and the
interests of "national security."

White House Press Secretary Dana Perino confirmed that the Justice
Department's Office of Legal Counsel wrote a previously undisclosed
February 5, 2005 memo, but claimed that the memo did not contradict or
reverse a public memo issued by the Justice Department in 2004 declaring
torture to be "abhorrent."

She refused to say whether the administration considered such methods as
water-boarding or head-slapping to constitute torture.

White House Homeland Security Adviser Fran Townsend provided, perhaps
unwittingly, some sense of the brutal procedures employed against alleged
terrorists imprisoned by the US. She told CNN television, "We start with
the least harsh measures first. It stops... if someone becomes

White House spokesman Tony Fratto reiterated the administration's refusal
to confirm or deny specific interrogation techniques, giving the standard
line that to do so would be a boon to "our enemies." In fact, the
government's blanket of secrecy over its torture methods is designed to
keep the American people in the dark.

Fratto went on to attack the New York Times for publishing the exposé,
saying that with the "publication of this kind of information" we have
"chipped away at the safety and security of America."

The memos disclosed by the Times are part of a series, going back to the
infamous "torture" memo secretly drafted in 2002 and exposed in 2004,
following the Abu Ghraib revelations, which narrowed the definition of
torture to techniques that cause organ failure. Ever since, the
administration has been providing pseudo-legal guidelines defining torture
and "cruel, inhuman and degrading" treatment in such a way as to evade
court rulings and congressional mandates and continue its sadistic abuse
of prisoners.

After the Supreme Court in June of 2006 struck down Bush's military
commissions and ruled that all prisoners held by the US, including alleged
Al Qaeda terrorists, fall under the Geneva Conventions' provisions banning
torture and abusive treatment, Bush issued a new executive order
authorizing "enhanced interrogation techniques."

This was followed by the passage of the Military Commissions Act in
October 2006, which gave congressional sanction for the administration's
policy of indefinite detention, drumhead military tribunals and
interrogation methods defined under US and international law as torture,
while shielding it from prosecution. It also gave the president authority
to "interpret" the Geneva Conventions.

Former prisoners held in secret CIA jails or in the US military prison at
Guantánamo Bay, Cuba have testified to being subjected to systematic
torture. They have complained of being denied sleep, being barred from
seeing daylight, being left naked in tiny, suffocating or freezing cells,
being forced to stand for hours in painful positions, or being subjected
to a mind-shattering barrage of loud music.

Earlier this year, the FBI released some emails from 2004 sent by agents
returning from deployments to Guantánamo in which they denounced the abuse
of prisoners they witnessed.

A measure of the political degeneracy and complicity of the entire
American political establishment in such monstrous crimes is the lack of
any serious response to Bush's adamant defense of torture. On Friday's
evening news broadcasts, Bush's White House appearance was not even
reported by two networks, CBS and ABC, and NBC made it the third story.
All three devoted the bulk of their broadcasts to the admission by US
track star Marion Jones that she had used steroids.

The Democratic response has been muted and craven. As Bush and other
administration officials have emphasized, at least some leading
congressional Democrats were briefed on the 2005 memos and informed of the
interrogation program approved by the White House.

One of those is Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, the chairman of the Senate
Intelligence Committee. Following the publication of the New York Times
article, Rockefeller wrote to Peter Keisler, the acting attorney general,
asking for copies of all opinions on interrogation since 2004. He was
careful in his letter and his statements on the matter to gloss over the
fact that he was briefed on the torture program.

Similarly, Rep. John Conyers, the Democratic chairman of the House
Judiciary Committee, wrote to Keisler, calling the 2005 memos "troubling"
and demanding copies of the opinions. Conyers said his committee would
hold hearings on the matter.

Senator Patrick Leahy, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary
Committee, said he would question Bush's nominee for attorney general,
Michael Mukasey, on his views on interrogations when Mukasey comes before
his committee for confirmation hearings later this month. He did not,
however, say he would let Bush's defense of torture stand in the way of
Mukasey's confirmation.

Mukasey is an outspoken supporter of Bush's assertion of the right to hold
individuals, including US citizens, in indefinite military detention
simply by declaring them to be "unlawful enemy combatants." As a judge on
the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, Mukasey ruled
that Jose Padilla, a US citizen, could be held indefinitely by the
military. Padilla was subsequently tortured during his three-and-a-half
years in a military brig.

No Democrat has suggested that any serious measures be taken against Bush
and his co-conspirators. There have been no calls for impeachment,
criminal prosecutions—which are mandated by the Geneva Conventions against
government officials who authorize torture—or any other actions to hold
the Bush administration accountable for flouting court rulings and
breeching both international and domestic law.

The Democrats are, in fact, entirely complicit in the crimes of the Bush
administration. They knew of the illegal and barbaric methods being
employed, and tacitly approved them.

Any congressional probes of US torture will come to nothing. They will be
exercises in cover-up and damage control, just like the congressional
sideshows mounted by the Democrats since taking control of Congress into
the war in Iraq and the police-state measures of the administration at



Washington launches war on immigrants: thousands grabbed in nationwide

By Bill Van Auken 6 October 2007

In a brutal escalation of its vindictive policy towards immigrant workers,
the Bush administration has launched a series of raids on homes and
workplaces across the country, rounding up thousands for deportation.

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)—an arm of the Department of
Homeland Security—announced Wednesday that it had arrested 1,300
undocumented immigrants in southern California alone in a series of raids
that ended earlier this week. Of those, 600 have already been deported.

Hundreds of others in immigrant communities on Long Island, New York were
dragged out of their homes after agents forced their way in during two
days of pre-dawn raids last month.

In Reno, Nevada, ICE conducted workplace roundups at a series of McDonalds
restaurants, marching uniformed employees out in handcuffs.

In an interview on ABC television news Thursday night, Homeland Security
Secretary Michael Chertoff boasted of the scale of the current crackdown,
claiming that it was virtually unprecedented in the US.

"I think we're talking about something the American people have never seen
before, which is what do we do and what do we see when the government gets
serious about using all the legal tools available to make the law work and
to enforce the law," Chertoff said.

In fact, what Chertoff is talking about and what is being enacted on the
streets of Los Angeles, Long Island, and Reno has been seen all too many
times. The abuse and brutalization of immigrants was carried out on a
massive scale just six years ago in the round-up of thousands of Arab and
Muslim immigrants in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Also, historical precedence can be found in the Palmer Raids in which
thousands of immigrants were indiscriminately arrested as part of the Red
Scare of 1919-1920.

More recently, ICE agents last December carried out a series of lightening
raids at meatpacking plants throughout the Midwest, arresting 1,297
workers on their jobs.

As in those earlier shameful episodes, it is far from clear that the US
government is using "legal tools" in this latest crackdown, in which home
invasions, unlawful interrogations and incommunicado detentions are all
being utilized in violation of the basic constitutional rights that apply
to citizens and non-citizens alike.

According to figures provided by ICE, 2,357 undocumented workers were
rounded up last month for failing to obey previous deportation orders.
During the same period, at least 200 were detained in work-site raids. So
far this year, the agency reports, over 30,000 men, women and children
have been arrested for ignoring deportation orders. The number grabbed at
their jobs has risen to 3,651.

Chertoff claimed that the figures represented a "tenfold increase in the
number of absconders that we've rounded up and sent back." He added,
"We're really pulling out all the stops."

In all of the raids, members of the targeted communities reported tragic
situations in which families were broken up, with undocumented workers
dragged away from spouses and children who are either US citizens or have
legal residency. In the majority of cases, those being seized are accused
of no other crime than that of entering the country without a visa or
overstaying an expired visa.

In other cases, they are undocumented workers who committed minor offenses
many years earlier, having worked and raised families in the US in the
intervening years. Yet they are being hunted down by ICE snatch squads as
if they were dealing with armed terrorists.

The Los Angeles Times cited the case of Ramon Yac Mahik, a 35-year-old
garment worker who was ordered deported over a minor criminal record from
more a decade ago. He has three children, ages 16, 10 and 5—all US
citizens—and his wife, injured in a recent car accident, is unable to work.

"I don't consider myself a criminal," he told the newspaper. "I would like
to fight to see if they let me stay here with my children. To leave them
abandoned would be horrible for me...And I don't want them to suffer."

While the raids in the Los Angeles area were cast by US authorities as a
crackdown on criminal immigrants, over one-third of those rounded up had
no criminal records and were wanted only for immigration violations. Of
those arrested, some 800 were already in custody in county jails. The
other 500, however, were detained in raids carried out in the
neighborhoods. Out of these, 450 were charged only with failing to comply
with a deportation order and had committed no criminal acts.

The Spanish-language newspaper La Opinión cited the case of one of these
detainees named Maria. She was brought to the US by her parents as an
11-year-old child, entering on a tourist visa. While the family had
attempted to regularize its status over the years, its efforts proved
unsuccessful, largely because of the incompetence of an immigration
lawyer. In the meantime, she married a US citizen and gave birth to a
child. She was released with an order to appear in court only because she
is still nursing the baby.

"They grabbed me, they put me in handcuffs in front of my family as if I
were a criminal," the young woman told the paper.

"We have hopes and dreams"

In the Nevada raids, 54 people were arrested at 11 different restaurants
in Reno and nearby Fernley. None of them were charged with any crime. The
raids sparked a demonstration by over 1,000 people in Reno. Hundreds of
students at the local Sparks High School walked out in protest. Some
carried signs reading, "Don't forget the children, they are voiceless" and
"We have hopes and dreams."

Similar and even worse scenes were played out in various Long Island, New
York communities, where ICE squads carried out a series of pre-dawn raids
on September 24 and 26.

The raids were so violent and indiscriminate that they provoked a formal
protest from Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi and his Police
Commissioner Lawrence Mulvey, who said that county cops would no longer
cooperate with ICE until the incident is clarified.

County officials reported that the federal agency had presented the raids
as an anti-gang operation aimed at serving warrants against known gang
members who are also facing immigration charges.

The ICE agents, accompanied by members of the Border Patrol, conducted the
raids as if they were a military assault. They stormed houses armed with
shotguns and submachine guns and, in some cases, wearing cowboy hats.
Nassau police claimed that on at least two occasions they turned their
guns on the local cops who were providing them with backup.

In the end, according to the Nassau County authorities, all but six of the
96 warrants produced by ICE turned out to be invalid, containing multiple
errors giving wrong names or addresses. Of the 186 people rounded up in
the raids, not a single one was named in any of the warrants.

Nassau County cops reported that, in one case, the ICE agents were
searching for 28-year-old man using a photograph taken when he was seven
years old.

The county officials concluded that the claim of a gang crackdown was
merely a pretext for conducting an indiscriminate fishing expedition.
Those detained were labeled gang "collaborators." In one case this
included both parents of a 17-year-old youth who was supposedly in a gang.

Nadia Marin, the director of the Center for Labor Rights, a Long Island
immigrant advocacy group, said that in a number of cases, ICE agents had
broken down doors, smashed windows and dragged people out of their homes
by their hair in front of terrified children and family members.

"The children have come and said that they saw the agents grabbing their
parents, and many of these children are US citizens or legal residents,"
she said.

She described other cases in which the agents forced their way into homes
where everyone in the family had documents proving their legal status.
"They left," she said. "But they broke down the doors and interrogated
everyone inside the house. This is not only affecting the undocumented."

The raids in New York have prompted a federal lawsuit seeking a
restraining order against ICE, barring it from conducting further home
invasions without court-issued search warrants.

The suit, brought by the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund and
the law firm of Dewey & LeBoeuf, describes one instance in which a
homeowner answered a knock on his door only to confront heavily armed ICE
agents "who immediately put a gun to his chest and then proceeded to
search the victim's home."

Others reported that teams of six to ten agents raided their homes in the
pre-dawn hours, without showing a warrant or obtaining consent. Families
were unlawfully detained in their own homes and interrogated by the agents
who did not allow them to even get dressed.

The suit charges that the raids constitute a gross violation of the Fourth
Amendment guarantee against unreasonable searches and seizures.

The Bush administration has undoubtedly unleashed this wave of repression
against immigrants at least in part as an attempt to curry favor with its
right-wing base following the political debacle it suffered with the
defeat of its immigration legislation last summer.

But more fundamentally, the unlawful police-state methods used in rounding
up undocumented workers—as well as in detaining citizens and legal
residents, described by ICE as "collateral damage"—in the US are of a
piece with the armed violence and lawlessness that characterizes
Washington's military and intelligence operations around the globe. They
also serve as a warning of the kind of measures being prepared against the
American working class as a whole.


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posted by u2r2h at Monday, October 08, 2007


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