Permalink "Guidebook to False Confessions": Key Document John Yoo Used to Draft Torture Memo Released

In May of 2002, one of several meetings was convened at the White House where the CIA sought permission from top Bush administration officials, including then National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, to torture the agency's first high-value detainee captured after 9/11: Abu Zubaydah.

One of the key documents handed out to Bush officials at this meeting, and at Principals Committee sessions chaired by Rice that took place between May and July 2002, was a 37-page instructional manual that contained detailed descriptions of seven of the ten techniques that ended up in the legal opinion widely referred to as the "torture memo," drafted by Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) attorney John Yoo and signed by his boss, Jay Bybee, three months later. According to Rice, Yoo had attended the Principals Committee meetings and participated in discussions about Zubaydah's torture.

That instructional manual, referred to as "Pre-Academic Laboratory (PREAL) Operating Instructions," has just been released by the Department of Defense under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The document sheds additional light on the origins of the Bush administration's torture policy and for the first time describes exactly what methods of torture Bush officials had discussed - and subsequently approved - for Zubaydah in May 2002.

Permalink Israeli-US Air, Naval Forces Train for Energy War

Israeli, Greek and U.S. forces are in the midst of a drill in preparation for a possible war over Israel’s huge off-shore gas discoveries, which also may contain commercializable oil. Lebanon and Hizbullah have claimed the fields are in Lebanese territory and that they will “defend” the area against drilling by Israel. - The week-long drill is simulating air-to-air combat and anti-submarine warfare and is taking place off the coast of Turkey, possibly signaling it not to interfere with Israeli energy operations in the Mediterranean Sea. The “enemy” forces will be similar to those of the Turkish air force, according to the Defencenet.gr website. Joint exercises also will take place off the coast of Cyprus and at the port in Haifa, with the participation of the famed U.S. Sixth Fleet. Russia is keeping a wary eye on the American-Israeli exercises and is staging its own war drill in a Syrian port, according to DEBKAfile. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned this week against a pre-emptive strike, which he said would violate international law.

Permalink Israel’s Ministry of Tourism endorses de facto annexation of West Bank

One of the main reasons why the “peace process” never panned out the way it was supposed to, according to Israel at least, is because many Palestinians simply do not recognize the State of Israel. Albeit Israel has yet to define its ever-shifting borders, one must question how Israel can demand recognition without even recognizing the existence of Palestinians. - In a map published and presented by Israel’s Ministry of Tourism, the West Bank ceases to exist. Instead, it shows highway routes weaving through a borderless Judea and Samaria — highway routes that Palestinians are typically prevented from using. The only territory marked as Palestinian is the Gaza Strip which looks to be less than 1% of the total mapped territory. Here is a government website that endorses the de facto annexation of Palestinian land. The next time Israel complains about recognition, ask why it doesn’t even bother recognizing Palestine.

Permalink ICC won't probe Gaza war because Palestine 'not a state'

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The International Criminal Court will not investigate Israel's conduct during its December 2008 offensive on Gaza because Palestine is not a state, the world prosecutor said Tuesday.

In a statement, the ICC prosecutor acknowledged that over 130 countries and some UN bodies recognize Palestine as a state. But, Palestine still holds observer status in the UN, and so the ICC cannot at this time investigate allegations of war crimes committed on Palestinian territory, the prosecutor said. President Mahmoud Abbas applied for full UN membership in September at the UN Security Council. The US vowed to use its veto to block the bid and the council has not yet made any recommendation to admit Palestine. The ICC said it could in the future consider allegations of crimes committed in Palestine if the Security Council determines that Palestine is a state.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Tuesday that diplomats had worked against the Palestinian request for an ICC investigation into Operation Cast Lead, Israel's 3-week offensive on the Gaza Strip that left nearly 1,400 Palestinians dead, including 300 children.

Permalink Britain’s Orwellian war against “tweetcrime”

If you thought it was only authoritarian states like China or Iran that imprisoned pesky bloggers and tweeters, think again. This week, Britain became a fully paid-up member of that clique of illiberal intolerant, tweeter-harassing states. On Tuesday, at Swansea Magistrates Court in Wales, Liam Stacey, a student, was imprisoned for 56 days for writing offensive tweets. Fifty-six days. Two months. In an actual jail. For tweeting. It needs to be spelt out like that in order to show how shocking it is that in the 21st century, in a nation that gave us such great warriors for freedom as The Levellers and John Stuart Mill, a young man has now been banged up for expressing his thoughts.

Daily Mail: Government bill to spy on websites, emails and texts will cost taxpayers £2bn

Permalink Pulitzer Winning Author Sues Obama Administration Over the NDAA

“It is a piece of legislation that was essentially supported by both political parties. Indeed the sponsors of the Bill are Carl Levin, a Democrat and John McCain, a Republican. There was no outcry within the systems of power itself, and that of course meant there was no outcry within the media, which allows those systems of power to set the parameters of debate.” Hedges [said]. The controversial legislation, signed into law by Obama on New Years Eve, allows American citizens to be abducted and held in a detention camp anywhere in the world without trial under section 1031. Although Obama indicated in a signing statement attached to the bill that he would not use it to indefinitely detain American citizens, it was the Obama administration itself that requested the provision be worded so it would apply to US citizens.

I’ll sign this into law, but I promise I won’t use it. That’s how stupid your President thinks you are.

Permalink Even worse than SOPA: New CISPA cybersecurity bill will censor the Web

An onrush of condemnation and criticism kept the SOPA and PIPA acts from passing earlier this year, but US lawmakers have already authored another authoritarian bill that could give them free reign to creep the Web in the name of cybersecurity. As congressmen in Washington consider how to handle the ongoing issue of cyberattacks, some legislators have lent their support to a new act that, if passed, would let the government pry into the personal correspondence of anyone of their choosing.

H.R. 3523, a piece of legislation dubbed the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (or CISPA for short), has been created under the guise of being a necessary implement in America’s war against cyberattacks. But the vague verbiage contained within the pages of the paper could allow Congress to circumvent existing exemptions to online privacy laws and essentially monitor, censor and stop any online communication that it considers disruptive to the government or private parties. Critics have already come after CISPA for the capabilities that it will give to seemingly any federal entity that claims it is threatened by online interactions, but unlike the Stop Online Privacy Act and the Protect IP Acts that were discarded on the Capitol Building floor after incredibly successful online campaigns to crush them, widespread recognition of what the latest would-be law will do has yet to surface to the same degree.

Kendall Burman of the Center for Democracy and Technology tells RT that Congress is currently considering a number of cybersecurity bills that could eventually be voted into law, but for the group that largely advocates an open Internet, she warns that provisions within CISPA are reason to worry over what the realities could be if it ends up on the desk of President Barack Obama. So far CISPA has been introduced, referred and reported by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and expects to go before a vote in the first half of Congress within the coming weeks. In a press release penned last month by the CDT, the group warned then that CISPA allows Internet Service Providers to “funnel private communications and related information back to the government without adequate privacy protections and controls."

Green Pirate/Kickass Torrents: CISPA – HR 3523 The New SOPA - Due process? Probable Cause? Screw that. Some US legislators are intent on being able to monitor all of your online activity, lurking in your internets like pedobear at a playground. The bill H.R. 3523, or Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), appears to be the next brewing threat to internet privacy and freedom.

Permalink Damascus: Syrian troops start withdrawal - Video

Syrian troops have begun withdrawing from some cities and returning to their bases, Damascus says. This comes as a part of the UN-Arab League plan to stop the bloodshed in the country and get the government and opposition to the negotiation table. - The government’s forces have only retreated from the calmer cities, reports the Associated Press quoting a government official, while hotspots have only seen redeployment as soldiers took positions on the outskirts. The news comes several days after Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad accepted a peace plan requiring forces loyal to him to cease fire and withdraw from cities by April 10. If this is implemented, rebel fighters will have 48 hours to halt military operations. The aim is to bring all hostilities to an end by April 12. The plan, brought to Syria by UN and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, also calls for an immediate daily two-hour halt to fighting so that aid groups can reach suffering civilians. It remains unclear whether the Free Syrian Army, one of the major opposition groups battling Assad’s forces in Syria, will abide by the ceasefire.

Permalink End 40 Years of Solitary Confinement: Justice for the Angola 3

For nearly 40 years, Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace have been held in solitary confinement, mostly in the Louisiana State Penitentiary (known as Angola prison).

The men, originally jailed in unrelated cases of armed robbery, were convicted of the murder of a prison guard in 1972, despite a lack of physical evidence. Robert King, another inmate and the third member of the so-called "Angola 3," was released from 29 years of isolation after his conviction was overturned in 2001. Throughout their prolonged incarceration in Closed Cell Restriction (CCR) Woodfox and Wallace have endured very restrictive conditions, including periods of 23 hour cell confinement. Louisiana prison authorities have failed to meaningfully review the men’s continued isolation, simply rubberstamping the original decision to confine the men in CCR. Decades of solitary confinement have had a clear psychological effect on the men, and they both suffer from serious health problems caused or made worse by their years of close confinement. Ask Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal to end this human rights abuse that has cast a shadow on the international reputation of the state of Louisiana. End 40 years of solitary confinement for Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace! Read More

angola3.org: Who are the Angola 3? - The Angola 3 are Herman Wallace & Albert Woodfox, who have spent nearly 40 years each in solitary serving life sentences in Angola for the alleged murder of Brent Miller, a white correctional officer, and Robert Hillary King, who like Herman and Albert, was targeted for his activism, and then freed in 2001 after 29 years in solitary.

Permalink Europeans Shame US on Secret Prisons

Last week was a good week for accountability — in Europe. The government of Poland and the European Parliament both took major steps towards holding European officials responsible for supporting the CIA’s illegal rendition to torture program. - In Poland the former Head of Polish Intelligence, Zbigniew Siemiatkowski, revealed that he had been charged with “unlawfully depriving prisoners of the their liberty” because of the alleged role he played in helping to establish a CIA secret prison in Stare Klejkuty, north-eastern Poland, in 2002-2003. Meanwhile across the continent in Brussels the European Parliament announced that two parliamentary committees would come together to issue a new report on EU complicity in the US-led secret detentions and renditions program. The European Parliament last reported on this issue in 2007 and in the intervening period there has been a cascade of new information regarding covert CIA operations in Italy, Lithuania, Macedonia, Poland and Romania, amongst many other states.

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