Those efforts damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives, strengthened the hand of our enemies, and compromised our moral authority

For the full report, see here.

SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE INQUIRY INTO THE TREATMENT OF DETAINEES IN U.S. CUSTODY

Executive Summary

What sets us apart from our enemies in this fight… is how we behave. In everything we do, we must observe the standards and values that dictate that we treat noncombatants and detainees with dignity and respect. While we are warriors, we are also all human beings
— General David Petraeus
May 10, 2007

  • The collection of timely and accurate intelligence is critical to the safety of U.S. personnel deployed abroad and to the security of the American people here at home. The methods by which we elicit intelligence information from detainees in our custody affect not only the reliability of that information, but our broader efforts to win hearts and minds and attract allies to our side.
  • Al Qaeda and Taliban terrorists are taught to expect Americans to abuse them. They are recruited based on false propaganda that says the United States is out to destroy Islam. Treating detainees harshly only reinforces that distorted view, increases resistance to cooperation, and creates new enemies. In fact, the April 2006 National Intelligence Estimate “Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States” cited “pervasive anti U.S. sentiment among most Muslims” as an underlying factor fueling the spread of the global jihadistmovement. Former Navy General Counsel Alberto Mora testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee in June 2008 that “there are serving U.S. flag-rank officers who maintain that the first and second identifiable causes of U.S. combat deaths in Iraq – as judged by their effectiveness in recruiting insurgent fighters into combat – are, respectively the symbols of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.”
  • The abuse of detainees in U.S. custody cannot simply be attributed to the actions of “a few bad apples” acting on their own. The fact is that senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees. Those efforts damaged our ability to collect accurate  intelligence that could save lives, strengthened the hand of our enemies, and compromised our moral authority. This report is a product of the Committee’s inquiry into how those unfortunate results came about.

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Loving on loving: Government has no business imposing some people’s religious beliefs over others

Since the recent changes in the status of same-sex marriage in the states of Iowa and Vermont, and with other states such as Maine and New Hampshire also considering a change, perhaps it’s time to remember that this isn’t the first time America has faced the question of who can marry whom. In the 1920s, the Commonwealth of Virginia was one of several US states that adopted strict eugenics laws. One of those laws in Virginia was the Miscegenation Act, under which all people were registered by race at birth and it was against the law to have sex with or to marry someone of a different race. This wasn’t repealed until 1967, by the US Supreme Court, in the case Loving v. Virginia.

Mildred Delores Jeter Loving, whose Washington DC marriage to Richard Loving resulted in her and her husband being convicted of a felony under the Virginia law, had this to say about marriage in 2007, on the 40th anniversary of the decision that overturned the law:

My generation was bitterly divided over something that should have been so clear and right. The majority believed that what the judge said, that it was God’s plan to keep people apart, and that government should discriminate against people in love. But I have lived long enough now to see big changes. The older generation’s fears and prejudices have given way, and today’s young people realize that if someone loves someone, they have a right to marry.

Surrounded as I am now by wonderful children and grandchildren, not a day goes by that I don’t think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the “wrong kind of person” for me to marry. I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people’s religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people’s civil rights.

I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard’s and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight, seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That’s what Loving, and loving, are all about.

“The system is inherently defective”

Statement by Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico on signing into law an Act repealing the death penalty and substituting life imprisonment without parole for capital offenses:

“Regardless of my personal opinion about the death penalty, I do not have confidence in the criminal justice system as it currently operates to be the final arbiter when it comes to who lives and who dies for their crime. If the State is going to undertake this awesome responsibility, the system to impose this ultimate penalty must be perfect and can never be wrong. But the reality is the system is not perfect — far from it. The system is inherently defective. DNA testing has proved that. Innocent people have been put on death row all across the country. Even with advances in DNA and other forensic evidence technologies, we can’t be 100-per cent sure that only the truly guilty are convicted of capital crimes. Evidence, including DNA evidence, can be manipulated. Prosecutors can still abuse their powers. We cannot ensure competent defense counsel for all defendants”

Bill Richardson, a former advocate of capital punishment, was later interviewed at length by Rachel Maddow, and you can see the interview here. New Mexico is the first state to repeal the death penalty since New Jersey in 2007.

These are great days..

Jean Charles de Menezes shooting coroner asks the jury to answer pertinent questions

The questionnaire

The transcripts of the inquest into the death of Jean Charles de Menezes are here:

http://stockwellinquest.org.uk/hearing_transcripts/

From the summing up, December 4, 2008, page 26 at line 20. In addition to returning either a “lawful killing” or “open” verdict, the coroner asks the jury to decide on three factual questions, to be answered with a “yes” or “no” answer.

  • 1: (page 27 at line 5): ‘did officer Charlie 12 shout “armed police” at Mr de Menezes before firing?’
  • 2: (page 30 at line 22) “did Mr de Menezes stand up from his seat before he was grabbed in a bear hug by officer Ivor?”
  • 3: (page 31 at line 21) “did Mr de Menezes move towards officer Charlie before he was grabbed in a bear hug by officer Ivor?”

A fourth question concerns nine possible contributory factors. Factors quoted directly from the text following the above cited factual questions.

  • 4a: (page 33 at line 12) “the suicide attacks and attempted attacks of July 2005 and the pressure placed on the Metropolitan Police in responding to this threat.”
  • 4b: (page 35 at line 1) “a failure to obtain and provide better photographic images of the suspect Hussain Osman for the surveillance team.”
  • 4c: (page 37 at line 17) “a failure by the police to ensure that Mr de Menezes was stopped before he reached public transport.”
  • 4d: (page 41 at line 15) “the general difficulty in providing an identification for the man under surveillance, Mr de Menezes, in the time available and in the circumstances after he had left the block at Scotia Road.”
  • 4e: (page 42 at line 20) “the innocent behaviour of Mr de Menezes which increased the suspicion of some officers.”

(This refers to misinterpretation of behavior by de Menezes which, while innocent, increased suspicion).

  • 4f: (page 43 at line 23) “the fact that the views of the surveillance officers regarding identification were not accurately communicated to the command team and the firearms officers.”
  • 4g: (page 44 at line 25) “The fact that the position of the cars containing the firearms officers was not accurately known to the command team as the firearms officers were approaching Stockwell station.”
  • 4h: (page 46 at line 10) “any significant shortcomings in the communications system as it was operating on the day between the various police teams on the ground and New Scotland Yard.”
  • 4i: (page 47 at line 14) “a failure to conclude at the time that surveillance officers should still be used to carry out the stop of Mr de Menezes at Stockwell station, even after it was reported that specialist firearms officers could perform the stop.”

Officer Charlie 12 was the first of two firearms officers, members of the Scotland Yard unit known as CO19, who shot de Menezes. Officer Ivor was a surveillance officer, a member of the Special Branch SO12 unit, who had followed de Menezes onto the tube train, identified de Menezes as the suspect to Charlie 12, and subsequently grabbed de Menezes in an apparent effort to immobilize him.

The jury is still deliberating. On Tuesday they asked if they could return a majority verdict, and were given leave to do so although the coroner urged them to strive for unanimity.