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Wiretaps and Waterboarding: the ol’ bait and switch

Publié le 16 avril, 2009 | Pas de commentaires

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« What I have said is that my administration is going to operate in a way that leaves no doubt that we do not torture, and that we abide by the Geneva Conventions, and that we observe our traditions of rule of law and due process, as we are vigorously going after terrorists that can do us harm. » —President Obama, Feb 2009, First White House Press Conference

I don’t want to see Americans spied on, profiled, listed, sorted into McCarthy Era file numbers, nor do I want executive surveillance powers to increase. But I’ll be damned if I’ll settle for prosecution of the NSA “exceeding its authority” in exchange for letting Bush Administration torturers off the hook.

« …the Wall Street Journal is reporting today that ‘The Obama administration is leaning toward keeping secret some graphic details of tactics allowed in Central Intelligence Agency interrogations, despite a push by some top officials to make the information public.' »

By holding back facts that could lead to legitimate prosecutions for war crimes or human rights abuses, the United States will cede much of its credibility as a civilized power, as in addition to having the largest military force on the planet, it acts with other nations on matters of international justice and policy. If it does not prosecute those who have unscrupulously undermined its own laws, both domestic and in cooperation with world treaty partners, it is entirely possible that others will. Worse, by harboring those criminally responsible for violating human rights as well as the Geneva Conventions, who flouted the Constitution and deceived the nation into a war for profit, the Obama Administration is severely maiming what has been a brilliant initial effort to repair the reputation of the U.S. as a trustworthy and capable global leader.

“Saying that it is a ‘time for reflection, not retribution,’ Mr Obama reiterated his opposition to a extensive investigation of controversial counterterrorism programs. The interrogation methods were among the Bush administration’s most closely guarded secrets, and today’s release will be the most comprehensive public accounting to date of the interrogation program that some senior Obama administration officials have said used illegal torture.

“The documents are expected to include Justice Department memos from 2002 and 2005 authorizing the C.I.A. to employ a number of aggressive techniques- including sleep deprivation, exposure to extreme temperatures and ‘waterboarding’ the near-drowning technique.”

How can these things be ignored? And are we to believe it goes no further than these documents? Meanwhile on the Hill, the “Senate Intelligence Committee said Thursday that the panel would investigate reports that the National Security Agency improperly tapped into the domestic communications of American citizens.

“The Justice Department confirmed Wednesday that it had reined in the NSA’s wiretapping activities in the United States after learning that the agency had improperly accessed American phone calls and e-mails while eavesdropping on foreign communications.

“Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein, D-CA, said the committee will hold a hearing within a month to look at the NSA’s surveillance activities. ‘We will make sure we get the facts,’ she said.”

Yes, make sure you do. But we want ALL the facts, Ms Feinstein. Choosing not to release information that is proven to exist – otherwise known as evidence – is not an option for a new and changed America. As difficult as it may be to accept, “reflecting” on the fact that people (some of whom may be innocent of any terrorist connections) have been systematically tortured, is not an acceptable response. Retribution is urgently needed if we are to be able to demand guarantees of women’s rights in Afghanistan. Who will feel the need to honor their agreements, after accepting billions of dollars to train “good” Taliban? Must we have more of the same clandestine CIA interference in Afghanistan, like the kind that trained Osama bin Laden in the first place? The kind that always leaves dirty hands?

Mr Obama, did you say change, or didn’t you?



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