Government Policies Under Scrutiny

  • Psychologist James Mitchell admits he waterboarded al Qaeda suspects

    Source: A. Vice News. “I would like the American people to look at this from my perspective,” Mitchell said. “At a time when America was under attack, I was asked to take on a task that could potentially save thousands of lives.” Mitchell said he wants to prove that he acted within Justice Department legal guidelines during interrogations, and that when there were instances of “abuse,” he and Jessen immediately reported it. Several former CIA officials have corroborated Mitchell’s story.

  • Torture fight set back by U.S. failure to prosecute, U.N. official says

    Source: The New York Times. The C.I.A.’s use of torture and the United States’ reluctance to punish those responsible have set back efforts to fight torture worldwide, the United Nations expert investigating such abuses said Thursday, reinforcing a United Nations human rights official’s call for those involved to be prosecuted. Mr. Méndez said that during his travels, many governments had cited the American use of torture as justification for their own abuses. Mr. Méndez, who has been reporting on torture for the United Nations since 2010, commended the United States for publishing the Senate Intelligence Committee report on C.I.A. torture and “fulfilling the obligations of the United States with respect to the truth.” The Bush administration, he said, “aggressively and repeatedly rejected the principles of transparency and accountability and maintains the pattern of denial and defense.”

  • Highest-value terror detainees excluded from Senate investigation of CIA torture

    Source: The Guardian. A widely anticipated report by the Senate intelligence committee into torture committed by the Central Intelligence Agency has a hole at the center of its story: the men the CIA tortured. Lawyers for four of the highest-value detainees ever held by the CIA, all of whom have made credible allegations of torture and all of whom remain in US government custody, say the Senate committee never spoke with their clients. In some cases the Senate’s investigators never attempted to speak with the men whose abuse is at the heart of what the committee spent over four years investigating. The absence of the torture victims’ accounts calls the thoroughness of the Senate committee inquiry “directly into question”, said David Nevin, who represents accused 9/11 architect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

  • More judges question use of fake drugs in sting cases

    Source: The New York Times. The three men gathered in a Los Angeles warehouse, bringing a 12-gauge shotgun, a .38 revolver, zip ties for handcuffs and a duffel bag to carry the 20 to 25 kilograms of cocaine, worth more than $500,000 wholesale, they expected to steal. The men had criminal records, were broke and dazzled by their imminent wealth. They met with a drug courier who had offered to help them rip off his suppliers. Those guarding the cocaine shipment would be armed, he had warned, so come ready for gunplay. As the crew made final preparations, federal agents pounced. The stash house and the cocaine were imaginary, and the “courier” an undercover agent of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Though the drugs were fictitious, the three were charged with conspiracy to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine — which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years — and faced an additional mandatory five years for bringing guns. Similar prosecutions have nearly always held up in court, and the agency strongly defends its methods and choice of targets. But over the last year a growing number of federal judges have questioned the tactic.

  • Hackers claim attack on Justice Department website

    Source: Reuters. Hackers sympathetic to the late computer prodigy Aaron Swartz claimed on Saturday to have infiltrated the website of the U.S. Justice Department’s Sentencing Commission, and said they planned to release government data.

  • U.N. Panel to Investigate Rise in Drone Strikes

    Source: New York Times. A prominent British human rights lawyer said on Thursday that a United Nations panel he leads would investigate what he called the “exponential rise” in drone strikes used in counterterrorist operations, “with a view to determining whether there is a plausible allegation of unlawful killing.” The lawyer, Ben Emmerson, special investigator for the United Nations Human Rights Council, said that the nine-month study would look at “drone strikes and other forms of remotely targeted killing.”

  • UN to examine UK and US drone strikes

    Source: The Guardian. A United Nations investigation into targeted killings will examine drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, according to the British lawyer heading the inquiry.

  • No classified FISA court rulings made public as a result of review

    Source: Washington Post. When FISA provisions came up for reauthorization in the Senate last month, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) raised concerns that court rulings allow the FBI to obtain records and other information about Americans caught up unwittingly in a foreign terrorism investigation.

  • Four years after Obama’s signature promise, Gitmo is still open

    Source: The Washington Times. It was one of Barack Obama’s marquee campaign promises in 2008: Close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which would erase a terrorist recruiting tool and a black spot on America’s human rights record. But as he took the oath of office 166 detainees remain at the prison — officially named Camp Delta — and his failure to close it has become emblematic of a first term in which his major successes were matched by some of his failures, particularly where he ran into bipartisan opposition in Congress.

  • Naked-Image Scanners to Be Removed from U.S. Airports

    Source: Bloomberg. The U.S. Transportation Security Administration will remove airport body scanners that privacy advocates likened to strip searches after OSI Systems Inc. (OSIS) couldn’t write software to make passenger images less revealing.