Brennan’s defense of CIA torture

Barry Grey

CIA Director John Brennan’s televised press conference Thursday at the agency’s headquarters, an unprecedented event, marked a new threshold in the collapse of American democracy and the erection of a police state.

The very fact that it was left to the head of the spy agency rather than President Obama to issue the government’s rebuttal to this week’s devastating Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture makes clear who is really in control of the American state.

In statements riddled with lies, and with little attempt to conceal his contempt for democratic procedures and the law, Brennan defended the agency’s use of horrific forms of torture during the Bush administration as a legitimate and “patriotic” response to the 9/11 terror attacks. He recycled all of the official myths associated with the “war on terror” to imply that the CIA and the military/intelligence apparatus as a whole had to remain outside of any congressional or legal restraints.

While declaring nominal support for Obama’s decision to end the Bush-era program of “enhanced interrogation techniques,” he fiercely defended the administration’s expanded program of drone assassinations, saying “the US military has done some wonderful things with these platforms.”

He also suggested that “EITs” [Enhanced Interrogation Technique] might have to be revived to deal with future security threats. In reply to a reporter’s question, he said, “I defer to the policy makers in future times when there is going to be the need to be able to ensure that this country stays safe if we face a similar type of crisis.”


CIA torture and the crimes of the state

Barry Grey

The unclassified executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on CIA torture, released Tuesday, describes, in extensive detail, horrific crimes that unquestionably violate domestic and international laws.

The review of the Bush administration’s “enhanced interrogation program” documents the systematic use of sadistic forms of torture, including waterboarding, sleep deprivation (for up to a week at a time), head-banging, sensory deprivation, exposure to extreme temperatures, holding detainees in stress positions, confinement in coffin-like boxes, “rectal hydration” and “rectal feeding.” See, “Senate report on CIA interrogation details brutal torture methods.”

The report condemns these practices as illegal, immoral and ineffective, and denounces the CIA for withholding information from Congress and falsely claiming that its brutal interrogation methods helped foil terror attacks, capture and kill Al Qaeda operatives and “save lives.”

However, the most pertinent and obvious questions that arise from the report are not even being raised in the political establishment or the media: Who will be held accountable? Who will be indicted? Who will be prosecuted?

The Intelligence Committee Democrats, led by Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein, do not name a single top Bush administration official, limiting their exposé to former high-ranking CIA officials. There are no formal proposals or calls for criminal prosecutions or other actions to hold those responsible for these heinous actions accountable. The report seeks to maintain the absurd fiction that the torture program was an isolated aberration, involving only a handful of operatives.

In fact, the program of CIA torture was planned, implemented and monitored at the highest levels of the state.


Human Rights Watch documents Ukrainian military’s use of cluster rockets

Barry Grey

Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a report Monday documenting the widespread use of banned cluster munitions rockets by the Ukrainian military against heavily populated civilian centers in eastern Ukraine, including central Donetsk city.

The detailed account, based on an on-the-spot investigation by the New York-based organization, working with a New York Times reporter, is a damning exposure of the brutal and illegal methods being used by the US- and European Union-backed regime in Kiev against Ukrainians in the pro-Russian east of the country.

The report includes video interviews with victims of the cluster rocket attacks. It charges the Kiev regime with firing the weapons into Donetsk city, the center of the separatist rebellion against the fascist-backed, pro-Western government that was installed last February in a putsch orchestrated by the CIA and German intelligence.


Deceit and delusion at the United Nations

Barry Grey

Having launched yet another illegal war, President Barack Obama came before the United Nations Wednesday to justify American actions around the world and demand that all nations fall into line behind the US drive for world hegemony.

The speech was a collection of declamations, threats and ultimatums linked together by hollow slogans and clichés. It was delivered in a halting, ritualistic manner, one pronouncement following another, separated by long pauses and a pursing of the lips, without any attempt to make a coherent argument.

But what above all distinguished the speech was the complete disconnect between its assertions and political reality. Obama’s lies were so extreme and brazen, they took on a delusional character. When the world political situation has reached a point where those in power cannot acknowledge a single truth, this in itself is an expression of an extraordinary level of crisis of the entire political and economic order.

All the lies and hypocrisy were summed up in Obama’s denunciation of “a vision of the world in which might makes right—a world in which one nation’s borders can be redrawn by another… America stands for something different,” he claimed:

We believe that right makes might—that bigger nations should not be able to bully smaller ones; that people should be able to choose their own future.

This statement was made by the representative of the world’s most violent and menacing country, one that has, in direct violation of the UN charter, made preventive war the foundation of its foreign policy, proclaiming an unlimited right to intervene militarily wherever its economic, political or geostrategic interests are at stake.


The war for regime-change in Syria

Barry Grey

It will become increasingly clear that the central aim of the new war launched by the Obama administration is the overthrow of the pro-Iranian, pro-Russian regime in Syria and installation of a US puppet government. The campaign against ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) is camouflage for a decision to implement the war against Damascus that was called off last September and, at the same time, consolidate American control of Iraq.

ISIS, a creation of US imperialist intervention in Iraq, Libya and Syria, has provided a new pretext for US aggression in the Middle East. The coalition of states being organized by Washington is directed against the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad and its ally Iran—a fact underscored by the declaration on Friday by Secretary of State John Kerry that the US would seek to exclude both Iran and Syria from diplomatic talks scheduled in Paris on Monday.


De facto martial law in Ferguson, Missouri

Barry Grey

The state of Missouri, with the full backing of the Obama administration, has responded to continuing protests against the police murder of Michael Brown, an unarmed African American teenager, by imposing de facto martial law on the largely working class city of Ferguson.

Residents have been stripped of the constitutionally guaranteed right to assemble, reporters have been arrested or banished in violation of freedom of the press, police checkpoints have been set up at major intersections. A massive force of military vehicles, helicopters, sound cannon, flash grenades, tear gas, SWAT teams wielding assault weapons and local cops backed by National Guard troops has been deployed to intimidate, terrorize and crush social protest.

On Monday night, the crackdown on overwhelmingly peaceful protesters demanding justice in the killing of Brown was stepped up. Seventy-eight people were arrested ostensibly for failing to obey a police order, for which there is no legal or constitutional basis, to disperse.

The scale of the repression is vastly disproportionate to the supposed threat from what the authorities are calling “criminal elements.” At a 2:20 am Tuesday press conference, Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson, who was put in charge of security operations last week by Democratic Governor Jay Nixon, could point only to two hand guns, one Molotov cocktail and some water bottles allegedly captured by the police to justify that night’s violent crackdown and mass arrests. He advised “peaceful protesters” to stay home Tuesday night so that the police could identify all those on the street as “outside agitators” and arrest them.


Kerry’s diplomacy aids Israeli bloodbath in Gaza

Barry Grey

As Israel escalated its murderous attack on Gaza on Tuesday, US Secretary of State John Kerry met with Egyptian dictator Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to promote an Egyptian ceasefire plan backed by Israel that amounts to a demand for abject surrender by Hamas.

The plan, already rejected last week by the Islamist movement, requires that the Palestinians in Gaza end all military resistance to Israel’s blockade of the impoverished territory. It does not address Hamas’ demands for a lifting of the blockade and release of hundreds of Hamas supporters arrested last month during Israel’s weeks-long rampage on the West Bank.

Despite the overwhelming military superiority of Israel and the isolation of Hamas, the Islamist movement has mounted a level of resistance that has taken the Zionist regime and its American backers by surprise. On Tuesday, after Hamas rockets landed near the Tel Aviv airport, the US Federal Aviation Administration suspended all US commercial flights into and out of Israel.

The ceasefire proposal was worked out between Washington and Cairo, with the support of the Arab League, the United Nations, the European Union and the US/Israeli puppet Palestinian Authority government of Mahmoud Abbas, to provide a cover for Israel to launch its ground invasion and dramatically expand its assault on the Palestinian population of Gaza. It was designed to provoke a rejection by Hamas in an attempt to foist responsibility for the mass killing in Gaza on the Palestinian leadership there. Egypt is directly aiding the Israeli military onslaught by keeping the Gaza/Egypt border crossing at Rafah sealed, preventing the Palestinians from seeking refuge in Egypt. The US-led “diplomatic offensive” gives Israel a green light to continue its mass killing. It serves as a political accompaniment to Tel Aviv’s military violence.


The assault on Gaza: A historic crime

Patrick Martin and Barry Grey

At least 100 Palestinians were killed Sunday as Israel escalated its savage land, sea and air attack on Gaza. In a single neighborhood on the east side of Gaza City, Shejaiya, Israeli bombs and artillery shells killed at least 62 people and wounded nearly 300 others. Among the dead were 17 women, 14 children and four elderly people. The corpses of women and children lined the streets of Shejaiya as people fled on foot and in overloaded vehicles.

The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, said more than 63,000 people had sought sanctuary in the 49 shelters it has set up in Gaza. “The number has tripled in the last three days,” UNRWA said, “reflecting the intensity of the conflict and the inordinate threats the fighting is posing to civilians.”

Hospitals in Gaza were overwhelmed by the wounded and other civilians seeking sanctuary from the relentless bombardment. Supplies of bandages and basic medicines were running out. In large parts of the besieged territory, water and electricity were cut off.

The Israeli military defended its use of flechette shells against the Palestinian population, saying it was permitted under the laws of war. [Using them agaist civilians is illegal. -Ed.] Flechette shells spray out thousands of tiny metal darts with sharpened tips, designed to shred human flesh.

Human Rights Watch, a US-based organization generally allied to the American political establishment, released a report indicting Israel for deliberately targeting civilian facilities. “Israeli air attacks in Gaza investigated by Human Rights Watch have been targeting apparent civilian structures and killing civilians in violation of the laws of war,” the report stated.

The Israeli state is carrying out mass murder in Gaza. It troops, tanks, war planes and gunboats are perpetrating a massacre of defenseless Palestinians trapped inside a tiny, impoverished and densely populated territory. No one really knows how many have been killed in the two weeks of Israeli bombing and shelling. But Palestinian hospital officials as of mid-day Sunday put the figure at 436, with more than 3,000 wounded. The dead include more than 100 children. — If this is not a war crime, then what is?


Chilean court rules US played key role in Pinochet murder of Americans

Barry Grey


Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi

A Chilean court issued a ruling Monday that the commander of US military forces in Chile played a pivotal role in the murder of two US citizens following the September 1973 coup that overthrew the elected government of Salvador Allende and installed General Augusto Pinochet as dictator.

“The military intelligence services of the United States had a fundamental role in the creation of the murders of the two American citizens in 1973, providing Chilean military officers with the information that led to their deaths,” the ruling by Judge Jorge Zepeda said.

The ruling went on to say that the murders were part of “a secret United States information-gathering operation carried out by the US Milgroup [Military Group] in Chile on the political activities of American citizens in the United States and Chile.”

Judge Zepeda found that US Navy Captain Ray E. Davis provided his Chilean liaison, Raúl Monsalve, with information casting the two Americans, 31-year-old journalist Charles Horman and 24-year-old student Frank Teruggi, as left-wing subversives. Monsalve passed on the information to the Intelligence Department of the Chilean Joint Chiefs of Staff, which ordered the men’s arrests.

Horman, whose abduction and murder were depicted in the award-winning 1982 film Missing, was seized from his home by soldiers on September 17 and taken to Santiago’s National Stadium, which had been turned by the US-backed junta into a detention, torture and execution center. An estimated 10,000 people were incarcerated at the stadium in the immediate aftermath of the coup. Horman was severely tortured and shot to death on September 18. His corpse was hidden in a wall in the stadium and only discovered a month later. Teruggi was arrested on September 20 and taken to the stadium. He was tortured and executed the following day.


The Obama drone murder memo

Barry Grey

The long-suppressed Justice Department memo released Monday establishes that the president of the United States, Barack Obama, in the most calculated and criminal manner, authorized the murder of an American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki.

Reading this document, with its crude arguments supporting the targeting and drone killing of a man far from any battlefield, who was never charged with a crime, is itself a chilling experience. The tortured pseudo-legalisms of its author only underscore the premeditated character of the act.

The drone attack that killed Awlaki and three others in Yemen on September 30, 2011, including a second US citizen, Samir Khan, was not carried out in the heat of battle. Neither was the drone attack one month later that obliterated Awlaki’s teenage son.

Obama’s secret decision to place Awlaki on his “kill list” was leaked to the press in April of 2010. The memo by the then-head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, David Barron, claiming that the Constitution and US laws gave the president the power to kill a US citizen, without charge or trial, was sent to Attorney General Eric Holder in July of 2010. Awlaki’s father filed a suit in federal court to remove his son from the kill list, but the case was thrown out in December of 2010. Thus the murder of Awlaki was organized over a protracted period of time. It was a cold-blooded extra-judicial killing by the state.


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