Thursday, April 23, 2009

Being Anti-Torture is now mainstream


Myself and some of my dearest friends in the peace and justice movement have been working very hard on our government to acknowledge that it has engaged in torture, and that it will not tolerate it any longer. As we near the conclusion of Witness Against Torture's 100 Days Campaign, we want to acknowledge that while there have been some success there's still a lot going on in places like Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan that we don't know about.

Anyhow, this recent report is promising:

Senate report on prisoner abuse connects dots all the way to the top
Ewen MacAskill in Washington
April 24, 2009 - 12:00AM

AdvertisementA HIGH-LEVEL US Senate report published yesterday directly implicates senior members of the Bush administration in the extensive use of harsh interrogation methods against al-Qaeda suspects and other prisoners around the world.

The 232-page report, the most detailed investigation yet into torture by US military and intelligence personnel, undercuts the claim of Paul Wolfowitz, a former deputy defence secretary, that the abuse of prisoners in Iraq was the work of "a few bad apples".

The report adds to the debate in the US since President Barack Obama, who regards the techniques as torture, opened the way for possible prosecution of members of Bush's government.

Carl Levin, the Democratic chairman of the Senate armed services committee, which ordered the inquiry, said: "The paper trail on abuse leads to top civilian leaders, and our report connects the dots."

The report says the paper trail goes from Donald Rumsfeld, who was defence secretary at the time, to Guantanamo and to Afghanistan and Iraq. "The abuse of detainees in US custody cannot simply be attributed to the actions of 'a few bad apples' acting on their own," the report says. "The fact is that senior officials in the US government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorised their use against detainees."

Pressure to adopt more aggressive interrogation came from the uppermost reaches of the Bush administration, the report says. Mr Rumsfeld authorised the use of 15 interrogation techniques. A handwritten note from him, attached to a memo of December 2002, says: "I stand for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to 4 hours?"

The report condemns the techniques adopted: "Those efforts damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives, strengthened the hand of our enemies, and compromised our moral authority." It says the methods were lifted from a military program called Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape (Sere).

The report says Sere instructors trained CIA and other military personnel early in 2002 in the use of harsher interrogation techniques but warned that information obtained that way might be unreliable.

The internal debate suggests the definition of what was "acceptable" was flexible.

The Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, said yesterday that the former vice-president Dick Cheney, who claimed valuable information was obtained through harsher interrogation techniques, should not be viewed as a "reliable source" on torture.

Guardian News & Media

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Friday, April 10, 2009

My housemate is held over night after dramatic protest at White House

Catholic peace activist, Paul Magno, arrested at
White House while dramatizing the crucifixion

WASHINGTON -- Dramatizing a contemporary 'crucifixion,' a local peace and justice activist was arrested during a Good Friday nonviolent protest at the White House.

After two colleagues helped chain Paul Magno to the fence of the president's home, an assembled group of protesters, many with Witness Against Torture's 100 Day Campaign (http://www.100dayscampaign.org/), began to sing "Were You There When They Crucified My Lord." The action occured shortly after 12 noon, amid a crowd of tourists.

The activists are calling for the immediate closure of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and the end of all torture. The group has also begun calling for the closure of Bagram, Afghanistan, despite U.S. military plans to double the size of the military prison.

"Just as our Lord Jesus of Nazareth was torture and crucified, men in places such as Guantanamo and Bagram are being tortured and crucified today," Magno said. "Our president must act justly and immediately release those who have never been charged with a crime, but have been held for years."

Magno is being held overnight, and will likely be arraigned Saturday morning in DC Superior Court. It was not clear late Friday afternoon what crime he was being charged.

"We are here today to remember that men are being imprisoned, tortured and run through a sham of a judicial system, just as was Jesus Christ," said Carmen Trotta with Witness Against Torture.

Magno has been associated with the Catholic Worker movement for nearly three decades, and spent 20 months in federal prison for nonviolent resistance to the nuclear arms race following a Plowshares action in Florida in 1984. By comitting the action Friday, he will also be violating an unsupervised probation ordered 10 months ago by Judge Wendell P. Gardner of DC Superior Court, stemming from an earlier protest calling for the closure of the controversial Guantanamo prison camp.

Magno has been actively involved in the Washington Peace Center since 2004 as a former coordinator and currently a board member. He is currently on staff of Witness for Peace, an organization of people of faith and conscience engaged in supporting peace, justice and sustainable economies in the Americas.

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Thursday, April 09, 2009

My housemate risks arrest on Good Friday

Local activist, Paul Magno, to mark Good Friday with a dramatic nonviolent direct action at the White House

WASHINGTON -- On a day holy to all Christians, a local peace and justice activist will risk arrest during a dramatic protest against the indefinite detention of prisoners at places such as Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan. The planned action will attempt to nonviolently recreate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ at the White House.

The action will happen at about 12 noon at the White House during Witness Against Torture's daily vigil (http://www.100dayscampaign.org/) calling for the immediate closure of Guantanamo and the end of all torture. The group has also begun calling for the closure of Bagram, despite U.S. military plans to double the size of the military prison.

"I want to call on the president to do the morally correct and just thing, and release all the prisoners who have never been charged with anything, and to shine an even brighter light on these unlawful places of injustice," said Paul Magno, a Washington activist.

Magno explained that his Good Friday protest is important, because it highlights that Jesus of Nazareth was a victim of torture and a prisoner of an empire.

According to local peace and justice activists, the action will be purely nonviolent and done in a manner of respect, with the aim of calling on President Obama to end the use of abusive tactics which amount to torture and to immediately close "legal black holes" such as Bagram and Guantanamo.

"It is not acceptable to simply close Guantanamo while leaving Bagram open, a place with even less oversight," the Washington activist added.

Magno has been associated with the Catholic Worker movement for nearly three decades, and spent 20 months in federal prison for nonviolent resistance to the nuclear arms race following a Plowshares action in Florida in 1984. By comitting the action Friday, he will also be violating an unsupervised probation ordered 10 months ago by Judge Wendell P. Gardner of DC Superior Court, stemming from an earlier protest calling for the closure of the controversial prison at Guantanamo Bay.

Magno has been actively involved in the Washington Peace Center since 2004 as a former coordinator and currently a board member. He is currently on staff of Witness for Peace, an organization of people of faith and conscience engaged in supporting peace, justice and sustainable economies in the Americas.

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