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    It's like asking people when they've had food poisoning from fish whether they'd eat fish again. They always say 'no'. But within a month or so you're sitting down having barramundi with them." 

    Deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce explaining why he thinks the story about his affair with a younger member of his staff and associated job preferment is a passing event that will fade from public attention. Fairfax Media, February 20, 2018 ... Read more ... 

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    Atanaskovic wins over-wrought billings battle ... Chang, Pistilli and Simmons – former partners of Antagonistic Heartless – go down in fight about their share of late recorded billings … Too much distrust, too little courtesy ... From our archive, March 12, 2010  ... Read more ... 


    « Conduct unbecoming | Main | Corruption busting »

    Torture and the American way of doing business

    Torture-Lite was a by-word of the Bush era ... It turned out to be Torture-Gruesome ... CIA spinning frantically after getting bad marks from the Senate ... Slow trickle of Guantánamo releases ... Latest federal election saw woeful voter turnout ... The FBI can decode your DNA at warp speed ... From Our Man in Washington, Roger Fitch 

    AS noted in the most recent Fitch, the US has been facing awkward questions from the UN on its position vis-à-vis the Convention Against Torture. Mr Obama considered adopting the Bush position - that the CAT doesn't apply to the US outside the US - despite the advice of his former State Department Legal Adviser, Harold Koh.  

    The Obama administration ultimately stuck to much of the discredited Bush human rights formula while mildly tweaking it.

    Firedoglake's Kevin Gosztola has more on the US appearance before the UN Committee Against Torture.

    The UN report just came out, more here.

    Shortly thereafter, the Senate Intelligence Committee released the executive summary of its long-awaited CIA torture report.

    Early news reports are here and here.

    The Guardian has the key findings and the grisliest bits.

    A newly-disclosed, gratuitously sadistic torture explains why one of the "9/11" defendants brings a seat cushion to court.

    This CIA outrage and medical malpractice should, in a just world, make Guantánamo prosecutions more difficult for the Pentagon.

    ProPublica has the timeline, including - to use a gridiron metaphor - Mr Obama's broken-field running in the game of government torture.  

    The existence of numerous additional secret Bush administration memos purporting to justify torture has been revealed, and the ACLU wants to see them

    George Bush and CIA officials are organising to contest the Senate's report.

    It's hard to see how, for as law prof Jordan Paust notes, "in his memoir, Bush ... admitted that he had authorized waterboarding. At the time [2010], twenty-nine US federal and state court cases, three cases from the European Court of Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and seven US Department of State Country Reports on Human Rights Practices of other countries had already recognised that waterboarding and related inducement of suffocation are forms of torture." 

    More here on the push-back by the Bush Gang as well as reports of (a few) good men and women at the CIA. 

    In a strange twist, Anthony Romero, the head of the ACLU, proposed pardons to George Bush et al as a way to establish that torture is illegal, a shocking idea.

    Juan Cole and Steve Vladeck have more on the "Feinstein Report".

    Dianne Feinstein: chair of the senate intelligence committee

    American punishment of the offenders remains elusive: the latest example is the appeal against Allaithi v Rumsfeld, where a DC Circuit panel infamously gave former Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld a free pass on the basis that prisoner abuse was foreseeable and thus within the scope of military detention.

    All Guantánamo appeals are now considered toxic by courts of review, and the case was denied an en banc rehearing, notwithstanding four new Obama appointees.

    Overseas, however, the International Criminal Court is looking into the behaviour of the US in Afghanistan, and the "Bush Six" case is proceeding in Spain

    Yunus Rahmatullah, denied a remedy in the US for his Bagram mistreatment, will get a shot at one in the UK.  

    Lawfare has more.

    No such remedy seems possible in the US while the US government continues to flout both international and domestic law.

    The Senate report didn't cover military mistreatment of prisoners, but there has been slight progress at the War Department.  

    After only six years, Mr Obama's Pentagon has issued a revised Detainee Operations manual, in which the imaginary "enemy combatant" used by George Bush and implanted in military law by the Bush Six circle has finally been replaced with "unprivileged enemy combatant," and the minimum detention standards of Article 75 of the First Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions.

    That didn't stop the Pentagon from recently issuing a "detainee directive" that appears to dispense with lawyers at Guantánamo.

    In any case, the DC Court of Appeals remains remarkably ignorant of Geneva.  

    Kevin Jon Heller wonders why US judges can't understand the laws of war (some states have attempted to abrogate international law altogether). 

    *   *   *

    EVEN without judicial intervention, many long-term Guantánamo prisoners have recently been released.

    Fawzi al-Odah - the last but one of David Hicks' Kuwaiti co-petitioners in the Supreme Court case of Rasul - has been released.

    Nevertheless, one of the most famous detainees from the Class of 2002, Shaker Aamer, remains stuck in the Gitmo mire. 

    The continued detention of UK resident Aamer, "the last Brit", is again the centre of a storm of protest in Britain, especially as both the UK and the US say they have no objection to his release.  Some suggest MI6 is preventing the Foreign Office from acting.

    Another person who got a Get-Out-Of-Jail card was the long-suffering Abu Wa'el Dhiab, who just lost his case to have the DC district court stop the force-feeding he called punitive and unnecessary.  

    Dhiab is among the lucky six sent to Uruguay, a country said to have 300 Muslims and no mosque.

    Dhiab's attack on force-feeding continues, and has produced an order for the release of videos, with the government predictably appealing.

    *   *   *

    Where are the voters?

    THE latest federal election produced a 36 percent turnout, the lowest since World War II, meaning that some candidates may have won with the votes of 18.01 percent of the eligible electorate.

    This lowest turnout in 72 years was a combination of Republican vote-suppression laws and voter boycotts, as  negative advertising drove many voters away.

    "Dark money" dominated every US Senate race in 2014.  

    There's more here on dark money, which also assured re-election last month of "America's craziest governor".

    *   *   *

    IN other news, tradition-loving lawyers at the Justice Department are using the 1789 All Writs Act to get around constitutional limits on NSA spying.

    The FBI has meanwhile been busy trying out terrific new scanners that can decode the DNA of anyone in 90 minutes flat and impersonating journalists

    The Bureau also wants to change the bedrock Federal Rules of Procedure to make (government) hacking easier.

    In the federal courts, the blood-thirsty Manhattan judge Lewis Kaplan wants a terrorist trial brought forward - because the defendant is dying of liver cancer – there's no time to waste!.

    It's all part of the rich tapestry of American justice in the Age of Terror. 

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