Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Torture and Madness at Guantánamo Bay

When the "trial" of Salim Ahmed Hamdan begins at the Guantánamo Bay detention facility, the prisoner may be incapable of working on his defense. Why? According to his lawyers, Hamdan

has essentially been driven insane by solitary confinement in a tiny cell where he spends at least 22 hours a day, goes to the bathroom and eats all his meals. His defense team says he is suicidal, hears voices, has flashbacks, talks to himself and says the restrictions of Guantánamo "boil his mind." (William Glaberson, "Guantánamo Drives Prisoners Insane, Lawyers Say," International Herald Tribune, April 26, 2008)

Facing life imprisonment on charges of "material support for terrorism," Hamdan is accused by Bushist military inquisitors of "aiding and abetting" terrorist attacks around the world by virtue of having once been employed as bin Laden's chauffeur and sometime bodyguard.

Hamdan's lawyers have asked a military judge to stop the "trial" from going forward until their client is placed in less restrictive conditions.

During a preliminary hearing Tuesday, Hamdan attacked the proceedings and asked to address the military's trial judge, Navy captain Keith Allred, The Washington Post reports.

Hamdan told the judge he would boycott the proceedings and bar his appointed defense team from representing him, on grounds that the military commission process is a sham concocted by Washington. He railed against the lack of humanitarian rights at Guantanamo Bay, the lack of access to the news media and to human rights groups.

"I would like the law, I would like justice. Nothing else. Just try me with the law and with justice," Hamdan said through an interpreter, a smile creeping onto his face. "I will tell you at the end, thank you." (Josh White, "Guantanamo Detainee Rejects Court Procedure," The Washington Post, April 30, 2008, Page A04)

Conditions at the Guantánamo gulag are more desolate and isolating than those on many death rows and maximum-security prisons in the U.S. Insanity-producing isolation however, is precisely the point. Part and parcel of their illegal detention by their Pentagon and CIA masters, Guantánamo detainees, when they are not subjected to "enhanced interrogations" (torture) are confined in 8' by 12' pens completely cut-off from the outside world.

As if to drive home the point, Hamdan's attorneys describe how the alleged "terrorist" has received but two phone calls from his family and no visits -- in six years.

Hamdan's case is significant in that the U.S. Supreme Court, hardly a bastion of weak-kneed liberals and al-Qaeda appeasers, used an earlier case to strike down the Bush regime's first military commission system in 2006.

According to attorneys for the detainees, under the regimen established by retired Major General Geoffrey Miller of Abu Ghraib "fame," the effects of intense isolation have transformed the prison camp into a "highly fortified mental ward," Glaberson writes.

But just for kicks, what do the "masters" of psychological torture, the CIA, have to say on the topic of isolation-induced regression in the "resistant source"?

There are a number of non-coercive techniques for inducing regression. All depend upon the interrogator's control of the environment and, as always, a proper matching of method to source. Some interrogatees can be repressed by persistent manipulation of time, by retarding and advancing clocks and serving meals at odd times -- ten minutes or ten hours after the last food was given. Day and night are jumbled. Interrogation sessions are similarly unpatterned the subject may be brought back for more questioning just a few minutes after being dismissed for the night. ... A subject who is cut off from the world he knows seeks to recreate it, in some measure, in the new and strange environment. He may try to keep track of time, to live in the familiar past, to cling to old concepts of loyalty, to establish -- with one or more interrogators -- interpersonal relations resembling those that he has had earlier with other people, and to build other bridges back to the known. Thwarting his attempts to do so is likely to drive him deeper and deeper into himself, until he is no longer able to control his responses in adult fashion. (KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogations, C. Techniques of Non-Coercive Interrogation of Resistant Sources, Regression, July 1963)

But what of the "resistant source" who has been subjected to years of a harsh regime of reverse-engineered SERE tactics, exploited by "skilled" interrogators and their sorcerers' apprentices, the mercenary or military psychologists who do Washington's bidding?

According to Glaberson, prosecutors have argued that the manner in which Hamdan is being held does not constitute solitary confinement in part because "'detainees can communicate through the walls'."

But psychoanalyst Stephen Soldz, a fierce critic of the Bush administration's torture regime and of the collaborative role played by psychologists in U.S.-sponsored war crimes, is harsh in his condemnation. Soldz writes,

The literary genre of prison memoirs from Stalinist concentration camps among others is full of accounts of people able to "communicate through walls." Never before have I heard a claim as brazen as that this flaw in the system of total isolation did not make being locked up alone for years on end in an 8' by 12' cell for 22 hours a day "solitary confinement."

This article does not even mention the existence of another "camp," the super-secret Camp 7 the existence of which was only admitted by the military to the Associated Press last February. While details about conditions at Camp 7 are unavailable, we can only assume that they are even more brutal than those at Camps 5 and 6 that are described in this [International Herald Tribune] article. (Stephen Soldz, "Isolation driving Guantánamo detainees insane? Will APA act?" Psyche, Science, and Society, April 26, 2008)

Let's be clear: extreme isolation, sensory deprivation and other horrors are not incidental to the Guantánamo "experience." On the contrary, such abominable methods are central to the America's torture program. This point was driven home last November when Wikileaks published the primary operating manual for running the U.S. detention facility at Guantánamo Bay. It reads, in part:

a. Phase One Behavior Management Plan (First thirty days or as directed by JIG [Joint Intelligence Group]). The purpose of the Behavior Management Plan is to enhance and exploit the disorientation and disorganization felt by a newly arrived detainee in the interrogation process. It concentrates on isolating the detainee and fostering dependence of the detainee on his interrogator. During the first two weeks at Camp Delta, classify the detainees as Level 5 and house in a Maximum Security Unit (MSU) Block. ...

b. Phase Two Behavior Management Plan. The two-week period following Phase 1 will continue the process of isolating the detainee and fostering dependence on the interrogator. Until the JIG Commander changes his classification, the detainee will remain a Level 5 with the following:
(1) Continued MSU
(2) Koran, prayer beads and prayer cap distributed by interrogator
(3) Contacts decided by interrogator
(4) Interrogator decides when to move the detainee to general population.

Forty-five years after the CIA's KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation manual was first disseminated throughout the U.S. intelligence "community" one can only conclude, as did Salim Ahmed Hamdan, when he addressed judge Allred Monday: "My question is, the animal has rights or not? But the human being doesn't have rights?"

Sunday, April 27, 2008

CIA Stonewall: Agency Won't Release 7,000 Documents Related to Torture Program

After identifying some 7,000 pages of classified memos, e-mails and other records relating to its forced disappearance, secret detention and torture program, the Central Intelligence Agency has refused to release the documents.

Responding to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed last June in federal district court in New York by Amnesty International USA (AIUSA), the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the International Human Rights Clinic at NYU School of Law (NYU IHRC), the CIA has filed a motion for summary judgement (dismissal) to avoid turning over the files.

Concluding that criminal, administrative or civil investigations resulting from its "black" programs were "virtually inevitable," the CIA sought legal advice from the Bush administration's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), a division of the Justice Department, according to documents filed by Agency lawyers in New York federal court Wednesday, The Washington Post reported.

The CIA claims that the materials cannot be released because they relate to communications between CIA and Justice Department attorneys, or discussions with the White House. Concluding the documents included guidance on the "legality of certain interrogation techniques," the Agency admitted that it requested, and received, legal advice from OLC attorney John Yoo's torture shop.

ABC News revealed earlier this month that the National Security Council's Principals Committee held high-level discussions at the White House on the use of torture at CIA and Special Operations Command "ghost prisons" in Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East and at Guantánamo Bay's Camp Delta detention facility. The meetings included choreographed demonstrations of waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques by CIA officers.

According to ABC News, one of the "principals," former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft said: "Why are we talking about this in the White House? History will not judge this kindly."

Curiously enough prior to 9/11, Ashcroft told acting FBI Director Thomas Pickard after multiple briefings related to "imminent terrorist attacks" on the United States by al-Qaeda, that "he did not want to hear this information anymore."

Seemingly protected behind an impenetrable wall of impunity built by the Bush administration in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the CIA is now attempting to shield its top officers from legal and congressional scrutiny by refusing to release these documents.

In response to requests from the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, the Justice Department informed Congress "that American intelligence operatives attempting to thwart terrorist attacks can legally use interrogation methods that might otherwise be prohibited under international law," The New York Times reported Sunday.

Times' journalist Mark Mazzetti avers,

The legal interpretation, outlined in recent letters, sheds new light on the still-secret rules for interrogations by the Central Intelligence Agency. It shows that the administration is arguing that the boundaries for interrogations should be subject to some latitude, even under an executive order issued last summer that President Bush said meant that the C.I.A. would comply with international strictures against harsh treatment of detainees. ...

"The fact that an act is undertaken to prevent a threatened terrorist attack, rather than for the purpose of humiliation or abuse, would be relevant to a reasonable observer in measuring the outrageousness of the act," said Brian A. Benczkowski, a deputy assistant attorney general, in the letter, which had not previously been made public. (Mark Mazzetti, "Letters Give C.I.A. Tactics a Legal Rationale," The New York Times, April 27, 2008)

Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), a committee member, said that the Bush administration's new rules put Geneva Convention restrictions against torture on a "sliding scale."

According to the Center for Constitutional Rights,

AIUSA, CCR, and NYU IHRC have filed FOIA requests with several U.S. government agencies, including the CIA. These FOIA requests sought information about individuals who are--or have been--held by the U.S. government or detained with U.S. involvement, and about whom there is no public record. The requests also sought information about the government's legal justifications for its secret detention and extraordinary rendition program. Comprehensive information about the identities and locations of prisoners in CIA custody--as well as the conditions of their detention and the specific interrogation methods used against them--has never been publicly revealed. This lack of transparency continues to prevent scrutiny by the public or the courts and leaves detainees vulnerable to abuse and torture. ("CIA Acknowledges It Has More than 7,000 Documents Relating to Secret Detention Program, Rendition, and Torture," Center for Constitutional Rights, Press Release, April 23, 2008)

Curt Goering, AIUSA senior deputy executive director told IPS,

"Given what we already know about documents written by Bush administration officials trying to justify torture and other human rights crimes, one does not need a fertile imagination to conclude that the real reason for refusing to disclose these documents has more to do with avoiding disclosure of criminal activity than national security." (William Fisher, "Groups Wrangle with CIA over 'Ghost Prisoners'," IPS, April 25, 2008)

The Agency acknowledged in its legal filings that its disappearance and torture program "will continue." Human rights reports "indicate that the fate and whereabouts of at least 30 people believed to have been held in secret U.S. custody remain unknown," according to CCR.

To this day, comprehensive information about the identities and location of "ghost prisoners," the conditions of their imprisonment and the specific interrogation techniques used against them to induce "compliance" have never been revealed.

The organizations involved in the FOIA lawsuit against the CIA will file their response brief next month in U.S. federal court.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Return of MKULTRA? Evidence Mounts that Drugs Were Used on CIA "Ghost Detainees" During Coercive Interrogations

In A Question of Torture, historian Alfred W. McCoy tracks the nightmarish world of the CIA's Project ARTICHOKE and its later metastasis, MKULTRA through two distinct, though overlapping phases:

First, esoteric, often bizarre experiments with hypnosis and hallucinogenic drugs, from 1950 to 1956; then, more conventional research into human psychology until 1963 when the agency compiled the fruits of this costly investigation in a definitive interrogation manual. (Alfred W. McCoy, A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation from the Cold War to the War on Terror, New York: Metropolitan Books, 2006, p. 26)

As revelations emerge that top Bush administration officials gave the intelligence "community" and Pentagon a "green light" to torture, evidence mounts that CIA and Special Operations Command interrogators used mind-altering drugs on prisoners subjected to coercive interrogations.

According to a report published in Tuesday's Washington Post,

At least two dozen...former and current detainees at Guantánamo Bay and elsewhere say they were given drugs against their will or witnessed other inmates being drugged, based on interviews and court documents.

Like [Adel al-] Nusairi, other detainees believed the injections were intended to coerce confessions. (Joby Warrick, "Detainees Alleged Being Drugged, Questioned, The Washington Post, Tuesday, April 22, 2008, Page A01)

The Pentagon and the CIA deny the charges, claiming that the stories are "either fabrications or mistaken interpretations of routine medical treatment," Warrick reports.

However, the allegations have returned with a vengeance after this month's release of a Justice Department memo that explicitly approved the use of drugs on prisoners.

The March 2003 memo, penned by Office of Legal Counsel attorney John Yoo, rejected a decades-old ban on the use of "mind-altering substances," on prisoners. Yoo argued that drugs could be used provided they did not inflict permanent and "profound" psychological damage. The memo claims that U.S. law, as interpreted by Bushist torture enablers, "does not preclude any and all use of drugs."

When coupled with "reverse-engineered" interrogation techniques derived from the military's Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) program, the forced drugging of detainees at Guantánamo Bay's Camp Delta detention facility and CIA "black sites," all but guarantee a regime of "profound" psychological torture.

In a report published earlier this month, Congressional Quarterly's Jeff Stein reports,

"The new Yoo memo, along with other White House legal memoranda, shows clearly that the policy foundation for the use of interrogational drugs was being laid," says Stephen Miles, a University of Minnesota bioethicist and author of Oath Betrayed: Torture, Medical Complicity, and the War on Terror. "The recent memo on mood-altering drugs does not extend previous work on this area," he said. "The use of these drugs was anticipated and discussed in the memos of January and February 2002 by DoD, DoJ, and White House counsel using the same language and rationale. The executive branch memos laid a comprehensive and reiterated policy foundation for the use of interrogational drugs." (Jeff Stein, "Evidence Grows of Drug Use on Detainees," Congressional Quarterly, April 4, 2008)

With a "green light" from the administration, Guantánamo Bay torturers' got what they wanted from Adel al-Nusairi: a forced "confession." A former Saudi policeman captured in 2002 by U.S. forces in Afghanistan, el-Nusairi told his attorney during an interview at America's premier gulag, that after hours of interrogation, always preceded by an injection of an unknown drug, his interrogators would rouse him from a fitful sleep--for more questions.

"I was completely gone," he remembered. "I said, 'Let me go. I want to go to sleep. If it takes saying I'm a member of al-Qaeda, I will," according to The Washington Post.

As documented by investigative reporter Stephen Grey in Ghost Plane, prisoners destined for CIA "black sites" or other notorious dungeons in Central Asia or the Middle East, were administered sedatives by "rendition teams" to "calm" their shackled and hooded victims.

These new reports suggest that upon arrival, suspected "terrorists"--real or imaginary--have been drugged as an integral element of their "enhanced interrogation" experience.

French national Mourad Benchellali, a Guantánamo prisoner for three years related how after being administered "medicine" or "vitamins" by his captors said that "these medicines gave us headaches, nausea, drowsiness," Benchellali wrote in an e-mail to The Washington Post. "But the effects were different for different detainees. Some fainted or threw up. Some had reactions such as pimples."

But then there were periods when things were demonstrably worse. Benchellali described that periodic injections, "often administered by force," left him by degrees, feeling nauseated and light-headed. "We were always tired and always felt groggy."

Benchellali related to Warrick how "a different type of injection seemed to be reserved for detainees who were particularly uncooperative." The former prisoner described episodes also related by four other detainees in interviews or court documents, of a particularly chilling quality. "The injection would make them crazy. They would have a crisis or dementia -- yelling, no longer sleeping, soiling themselves. Some of us suspected they were given LSD."

As did the attorney representing accused "dirty bomber" Jose Padilla during his three year stint as an "enemy combatant" in a naval brig.

Michael Caruso, the chief federal defender who represented Padilla asserted in a motion last year that his client "was given drugs against his will, believed to be some form of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) or phencyclidine (PCP), to act as a sort of truth serum during his interrogations," according to Congressional Quarterly's Jeff Stein.

Nor would it be the first time the U.S. government used drugs as a means to induce a "confession" from a "resistant subject." The CIA's KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation manual, has this to say:

Drugs can be effective in overcoming resistance not dissolved by other techniques. As has already been noted, the so-called silent drug (a pharmacologically potent substance given to a person unaware of its administration) can make possible the induction of hypnotic trance in a previously unwilling subject. ...

Particularly important is the reference to matching the drug to the personality of the interrogatee. The effect of most drugs depends more upon the personality of the subject than upon the physical characteristics of the drugs themselves. If the approval of Headquarters has been obtained and if a doctor is at hand for administration, one of the most important of the interrogator's functions is providing the doctor with a full and accurate description of the psychological make-up of the interrogatee, to facilitate the best possible choice of a drug.

Persons burdened with feelings of shame or guilt are likely to unburden themselves when drugged, especially if these feelings have been reinforced by the interrogator. And like the placebo, the drug provides an excellent rationalization of helplessness for the interrogatee who wants to yield but has hitherto been unable to violate his own values or loyalties.

Like other coercive media, drugs may affect the content of what an interrogatee divulges. Gottschalk notes that certain drugs "may give rise to psychotic manifestations such as hallucinations, illusions, delusions, or disorientation", so that "the verbal material obtained cannot always be considered valid." For this reason drugs (and the other aids discussed in this section) should not be used persistently to facilitate the interrogative debriefing that follows capitulation. Their function is to cause capitulation, to aid in the shift from resistance to cooperation. Once this shift has been accomplished, coercive techniques should be abandoned both for moral reasons and because they are unnecessary and even counter-productive. (KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation, J. Narcosis, July 1963) [emphasis added]

Note the emphasis above: if a doctor is at hand for administration. Which inevitably gives rise to the question: were physicians or other health care professionals present during torture sessions? The answer unfortunately, may be "yes."

According to psychoanalyst Stephen Soldz, a fierce critic of the American Psychological Association's (APA) cozy relationship with the CIA and Pentagon throughout Washington's "war on terror," some APA members advised interrogators on the most "effective" techniques to psychologically "break" detainees. Soldz writes,

At this point it is unknown if psychologists are involved as among those "health" professionals who involuntarily administered drugs. But we should remember that, thanks partly to military support, a number of psychologists can now legally prescribe drugs. And some of those prescribing psychologists were with the Behavioral Science Consultation Teams [BSCTs] at Guantánamo. It also should be remembered that in 2003 the American Psychological Association co-sponsored with the CIA an invitation-only Science of Deception Workshop that discussed, among other topics, "What pharmacological agents are known to affect apparent truth-telling behavior?" CIA consultant torturers James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen were among those invited to attend, as were several of their superiors. (Stephen Soldz, "A Crisis for the Health Professions: The Involuntary Drugging of U.S. Detainees," CounterPunch, April 23, 2008)

As Washington's "bad apples"--wide swathes of the national security apparatus--"took the gloves off" and went to "work the dark side" as vice president Dick Cheney recommended shortly after the September 11 attacks, those with "boots on the ground," CIA officers, Special Forces operators and mercenary contractors, inevitably complied.

Just as inevitably, new documents--and ever-more revelatory horrors--will emerge, a steady drip, drip, drip from the suppurating wound that is the "post-Constitutional" order created by the rogue Bush regime.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Documents Reveal "Reverse-Engineered" SERE Tactics Used in Afghan Torture

Documents released last week by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) reveal that U.S. Special Forces interrogation teams operating in Paktia province illegally tortured Afghan prisoners. As a result of brutal treatment at the hands of his interrogators, one of the detainees subsequently died.

Debriefing files from the military's Criminal Investigation Division (CID), obtained as a result of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Department of Defense, confirmed that Special Operations officers in Gardez admitted to using "reverse-engineered" Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) techniques on detainees.

According to the ACLU,

Today's documents reveal charges that Special Forces beat, burned, and doused eight prisoners with cold water before sending them into freezing weather conditions. One of the eight prisoners, Jamal Naseer, died in U.S. custody in March 2003. In late 2004, the military opened a criminal investigation into charges of torture at Gardez. Despite numerous witness statements describing the evidence of torture, the military's investigation concluded that the charges of torture were unsupported. It also concluded that Naseer's death was the result of a "stomach ailment," even though no autopsy had been conducted in his case. Documents uncovered today also refer to sodomy committed by prison guards; the victims' identities are redacted. ("Documents Obtained by ACLU Describe Charges of Murder and Torture of Prisoners in U.S. Custody," American Civil Liberties Union, Press Release, April 16, 2008)

SERE, a program designed to train American service members for possible brutal treatment should they be captured in combat, was reverse-engineered by CIA and Special Operations Command psychologists as a means to break alleged "enemy combatants" in U.S. custody.

As was first revealed by Salon's Mark Benjamin in 2006, the former chief of the Interrogation Control Element at Guantánamo Bay's Camp Delta detention facility, in a March 2005 sworn statement, said that SERE instructors from Ft. Bragg, N.C., taught their methods to interrogators in Cuba.

According to Benjamin, the affidavit read in part: "When I arrived at GTMO, my predecessor arranged for SERE instructors to teach their techniques to the interrogators at GTMO ... The instructors did give some briefings to the Joint Interrogation Group interrogators."

As with this month's revelations, earlier reports suggest that Fort Bragg's SERE program, run by the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, was the hothouse where brutal interrogation techniques were cultivated before migrating to Guantánamo and then to Afghanistan and Iraq's notorious Abu Ghraib prison, "Gitmoized" under U.S. Major General Geoffrey D. Miller's command.

A close associate of Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Stephen Cambone, Miller's brief was to impose a virtual regime of terror upon detainees at Saddam Hussein's former prison. Many of SERE's techniques, including hooding, drugging, isolation, random assaults and forced nudity were applied with appalling results at Abu Ghraib. Miller retired in 2006.

Since leaving the Pentagon, Cambone has become a top executive with the British-owned defense and security contractor QinetiQ, based in McClean, Virginia.

According to CorpWatch investigative reporter Tim Shorrock, QinetiQ signed a five-year, $30 million contract with the Pentagon's now-defunct Counterintelligence Field Activity unit (CIFA). One of CIFA's directorates, Behavioral Sciences, had provided a "team of renowned forensic psychologists [who] are engaged in risk assessments of the Guantánamo Bay detainees."

Writing in the July 11, 2005 issue of The New Yorker, investigative reporter Jane Mayer revealed that Behavioral Science Consultation Teams (BSCTS) under General Miller's watch at Guantánamo Bay, became "essential in developing integrated interrogation strategies and assessing interrogation intelligence production," Miller explained in an internal report in September, 2003. According to Mayer's sources,

[A]fter September 11th several psychologists versed in SERE techniques began advising interrogators at Guantánamo Bay and elsewhere. Some of these psychologists essentially "tried to reverse-engineer" the SERE program, as the affiliate put it. "They took good knowledge and used it in a bad way," another of the sources said. Interrogators and BSCT members at Guantánamo adopted coercive techniques similar to those employed in the SERE program. Ideas intended to help Americans resist abuse spread to Americans who used them to perpetrate abuse. Jonathan Moreno, a bioethicist at the University of Virginia, is a scholar of state-sponsored experiments on humans. He says, "If you know how to help people who are stressed, then you also know how to stress people, in order to get them to talk." (Jane Mayer, "The Experiment," The New Yorker, July 11, 2005)

Since Mayer's initial reporting in 2005, Salon's Mark Benjamin identified two of the SERE-linked psychologists, CIA contractors James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen. Present during the interrogation of a "high-value" prisoner, presumably at a CIA "black site" in 2002, "Mitchell urged harsh techniques that would break down the prisoner's psychological defenses, creating a feeling of "'helplessness'."

As Afghan prisoner Jamal Naseer was burned, doused with cold water and then beaten to a pulp by U.S. Special Forces' interrogators well-versed in SERE techniques, one is left to wonder at Naseer's feelings of "helplessness" as his tormentors watched him die.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Torture Agenda

On April 9, ABC News correspondent Jan Crawford Greenburgh broke an exclusive story on World News Tonight that provided new details surrounding how top Bush administration officials signed off on the use of harsh interrogation tactics in the "war on terror."

Indeed, vice president Dick Cheney, secretary of state Colin Powell, attorney general John Ashcroft, CIA director George Tenet, and national security advisor Condoleezza Rice, grouped in the National Security Council's Principals Committee, gave the U.S. military and the CIA a green light to torture suspected al-Qaeda operatives and other "enemy combatants."

According to Greenburgh,

The high-level discussions about these "enhanced interrogation techniques" were so detailed, these sources said, some of the interrogation sessions were almost choreographed -- down to the number of times CIA agents could use a specific tactic.

These top advisers signed off on how the CIA would interrogate top al Qaeda suspects -- whether they would be slapped, pushed, deprived of sleep or subjected to simulated drowning, called waterboarding, sources told ABC news. (Jan Crawford Greenburgh, Howard L. Rosenberg and Ariane de Vogue, "Bush Aware of Advisors' Interrogation Talks," ABC News, April 11, 2008)

It has since emerged that the Department of Justice's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) is investigating whether agency lawyers, including University of California law professor John Yoo and U.S. federal appeals court judge Jay Bybee "improperly advised the military it could use harsh interrogation methods and concluded that President Bush's wartime authority could not be limited by domestic law or international bans on torture," according to the Associated Press.

The "legal" basis that established Bush regime policies on "enhanced interrogations" were provided by Yoo and Bybee's March 2003 memo from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). The 81-page brief stated that the chief executive's power as "commander-in-chief" during a "time of war" were virtually limitless. Yoo alleged that presidential wartime powers could not be restricted, even by binding international treaties ratified by the U.S.

Writing in The Nation, New York University law professor Stephen Gillers avers:

The memos are an abysmal piece of work, but they had great value to the President. Dismissing the Geneva Conventions and other law, they used the veneer of serious legal scholarship (abundant footnotes, many citations, long dense paragraphs) to create an aura of legitimacy for near-death interrogation tactics and unrestrained executive power. The memos had high credibility because they came from the OLC, the legal brain trust for the executive branch and (until then) the gold standard for legal acumen. ...

When lawyers in private practice mess up, they face serious jeopardy. They can be fired, sued for malpractice, disbarred or prosecuted. Yoo and Bybee face no such risks. The President won't protest. He got what he wanted. And while a state disciplinary body can investigate, that is unlikely without Justice Department help. (Stephen Gillers, "The Torture Memo," The Nation, April 28, 2008)

According to Philippe Sands' investigative piece on Bush regime torture programs,

The fingerprints of the most senior lawyers in the administration were all over the design and implementation of the abusive interrogation policies. [David] Addington, [Jay] Bybee, [Alberto] Gonzales, [Jim] Haynes, and [John] Yoo became, in effect, a torture team of lawyers, freeing the administration from the constraints of all international rules prohibiting abuse. (Philippe Sands, "The Green Light," Vanity Fair, May 2008)

With the Geneva Convention's Common Article 3 declared "quaint" and "obsolete" by torture enablers such as Gonzales, Bybee and Yoo, the gates of hell opened for individuals branded "enemy combatants," who could be held indefinitely in CIA and Pentagon global gulags.

The infamous March 2003 memo alleged that physical torture occurred "only" when the pain was "equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death," and that mental torture required "suffering not just at the moment of infliction but ... lasting psychological harm."

While the memo may have been formally rescinded in December 2003, torture of hapless prisoners continue, often at the hands of corporate mercenaries hired by the Pentagon.

That OLC legal analysts gave CIA and military interrogators carte blanche to commit war crimes without risk to themselves was driven home by Yoo's inept rationale, Yoo wrote:

"If a government defendant were to harm an enemy combatant during an interrogation in a manner that might arguably violate a criminal prohibition, he would be doing so in order to prevent further attacks on the United States by the al Qaeda terrorist network," Yoo wrote. "In that case, we believe that he could argue that the executive branch's constitutional authority to protect the nation from attack justified his actions." (Dan Eggen and Josh White, "Memo: Laws Didn't Apply to Interrogators," The Washington Post, April 2, 2008; Page A01)

In a follow-up to the April 2 piece, Dan Eggen writes:

Thirty pages into a memorandum discussing the legal boundaries of military interrogations in 2003, senior Justice Department lawyer John C. Yoo tackled a question not often asked by American policymakers: Could the president, if he desired, have a prisoner's eyes poked out?

Or, for that matter, could he have "scalding water, corrosive acid or caustic substance" thrown on a prisoner? How about slitting an ear, nose or lip, or disabling a tongue or limb? What about biting? (Dan Eggen, "Permissible Assaults Cited in Graphic Detail," The Washington Post, April 6, 2008; Page A03)

The conclusion? None of this matters in a time of war according to Professor Yoo, because federal laws--indeed any law--prohibiting assault, maiming or other crimes perpetrated by U.S. military or mercenary interrogators are trumped by the president's unlimited power as "commander-in-chief."

"Self-inflicted pain" and other CIA atrocities

When the Abu Ghraib torture scandal broke in 2004, administration officials dismissed the grave abuses suffered by Iraqi prisoners as the work of a "few bad apples" on the "night shift."

While no doubt debauched actors in a sordid drama whose script was edited in Washington, the underlings convicted for their crimes at Abu Ghraib were acting out scenes from a CIA "masterwork" composed decades earlier: KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation.

Written in July 1963, the CIA's torture manual describes a fear-laced shadow world of hooding, isolation, drugging and other unseemly interrogation techniques described by historian Alfred W. McCoy in his landmark study, A Question of Torture.

According to McCoy, "the CIA's perfection of psychological torture was a major scientific turning point, albeit unnoticed and unheralded in the world beyond its secret safe houses." In contradistinction to physical torture, McCoy writes,

For more than two thousand years, interrogators had found that mere physical pain, no matter how extreme, often produced heightened resistance. By contrast, the CIA's psychological paradigm fused two new methods, "sensory deprivation" and "self-inflicted pain," whose combination causes victims to feel responsible for their own suffering and thus capitulate more readily to their torturers. ... Refined through years of practice, the method relies on simple, even banal procedures--isolation, standing, heat and cold, light and dark, noise and silence--for a systematic attack on all human senses. (Alfred W. McCoy, A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, From the Cold War to the War on Terror, New York: Metropolitan Books, 2006, p. 8)

Tracing the methodology employed at Guantánamo Bay's Camp Delta, CIA "black sites" in Europe and Afghanistan, and Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, McCoy tracks-back the CIA-Pentagon program to coercive techniques first explored by the CIA's MKULTRA "mind-control" experiments during the 1950s and 1960s.

While sensationalized in popular lore, primarily focused on the secret doping of unsuspected "subjects" with LSD and other hallucinogenic drugs, CIA-financed researchers concluded this line of inquiry, the elusive search for a "Manchurian candidate," was a dead end. At that point other, more subtle, yet intensely destructive means for breaking down prisoners during the interrogation "process" were explored.

Rooted in the Nazi-like experiments conducted at McGill University's psychiatric "treatment" facility, the Allan Memorial Institute, Dr. Ewen Cameron carried out research into what he termed "psychic driving" and "depatterning." Cameron and his staff subjected "patients" to a harsh regime of drugging and electroshock "therapy" in combination with a monstrous sensory deprivation regimen that built on the "research" of another CIA grantee, Dr. Donald O. Hebb.

Describing Hebb's "sensory deprivation" experiments that employed a modified iron lung, McCoy writes:

Among the seventeen subjects, half had hallucinations and all suffered "degrees of anxiety." Apparently addressing their covert patrons, the Harvard psychiatrists concluded that "sensory deprivation can produce major mental and behavioral changes in man," and recommended its capacity to induce psychosis as "more 'natural' than the pharmacological and physical methods currently used"--not of course, in polio treatment but, if we can finish their sentence, in CIA torture. (McCoy, p. 40)

Hebb and Cameron's "findings" found their echo in the CIA's KUBARK interrogation manual:

1. The more completely the place of confinement eliminates sensory stimuli, the more rapidly and deeply will the interrogatee be affected. Results produced only after weeks or months of imprisonment in an ordinary cell can be duplicated in hours or days in a cell which has no light (or weak artificial light which never varies), which is sound-proofed, in which odors are eliminated, etc. An environment still more subject to control, such as water-tank or iron lung, is even more effective.

2. An early effect of such an environment is anxiety. How soon it appears and how strong it is depends upon the psychological characteristics of the individual.

3. The interrogator can benefit from the subject's anxiety. As the interrogator becomes linked in the subject's mind with the reward of lessened anxiety, human contact, and meaningful activity, and thus with providing relief for growing discomfort, the questioner assumes a benevolent role.

4. The deprivation of stimuli induces regression by depriving the subject's mind of contact with an outer world and thus forcing it in upon itself. At the same time, the calculated provision of stimuli during interrogation tends to make the regressed subject view the interrogator as a father-figure. The result, normally, is a strengthening of the subject's tendencies toward compliance. (KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation, IX. "The Coercive Counterintelligence Interrogation of Resistant Sources. E. Deprivation of Sensory Stimuli," July 1963, no author)

Across the decades, CIA and Pentagon studies, particular in the wake of America's disastrous invasion and occupation of Iraq, have focused on the use of sensory deprivation as one method of breaking down what they term "resistant sources." Since KUBARK's dissemination, these methodologies have been refined by the Pentagon's Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape (SERE) program taught to U.S. Special Forces and pilots who may be captured as the result of armed conflict.

But as Salon's investigative reporter, Mark Benjamin has documented, the SERE program was "reverse-engineered" by CIA contract psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen as a tool for torture. Benjamin wrote,

There are striking similarities between descriptions of SERE training and the interrogation techniques employed by the military and CIA since 9/11. Soldiers undergoing SERE training are subject to forced nudity, stress positions, lengthy isolation, sleep deprivation, sexual humiliation, exhaustion from exercise, and the use of water to create a sensation of suffocation. "If you have ever had a bag on your head and somebody pours water on it," one graduate of that training program told Salon last year "it is real hard to breathe."

Many of those techniques show up in interrogation logs, human rights reports and news articles about detainee abuse that has taken place in Guantánamo, Afghanistan and Iraq. (The military late last year unveiled a new interrogation manual designed to put a stop to prisoner abuse.) An investigation released this month by the Council of Europe, a multinational human rights agency, added extreme sensory deprivation to the list of techniques that have been used by the CIA. The report said that extended isolation contributed to "enduring psychiatric and mental problems" of prisoners.

Isolation in cramped cells is also a key tenet of SERE training, according to soldiers who have completed the training and described it in detail to Salon. The effects of isolation are a specialty of Jessen's, who taught a class on "coping with isolation in a hostage environment" at a Maui seminar in late 2003, according to a Washington Times article published then. (Defense Department documents from the late 1990s describe Jessen as the "lead psychologist" for the SERE program.) Mitchell also spoke at that conference, according to the article. It described both men as "contracted to Uncle Sam to fight terrorism." (Mark Benjamin, "The CIA's Torture Teachers," Salon, June 21, 2007)

The End of Impunity?

It is precisely these highly-destructive, illegal techniques of "self-inflicted pain" that Judge Bybee and U.C. law professor Yoo claimed as the president's "right" to employ as commander-in-chief.

As should be apparent in this brief summary, the misnamed "war on terror" is, in theory and in practice, a war of terror waged against resistant individuals and populations who have risen up against U.S. imperialist depredations. As the Empire's hegemony is challenged across the planet, the control of other nations' resources deemed "vital" by U.S. multinational corporate looters, not the safety or security of the American people, is the primary motivator of America's destructive wars of conquest.

Since 9/11, the Bush administration and their legal sycophants in the Justice Department and right-wing think tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute and the Federalist Society, have claimed that the criminal regime in Washington has the legal right to employ any tactic to pursue its sordid agenda.

But as Philippe Sands writes, U.S. immunity to prosecution for Addington, Bybee, Yoo and other torture enablers under the Military Commissions Act may have very unintended consequences indeed.

Speaking with a judge and a prosecutor in a European city, the prosecutor concluded that immunity "is very stupid." He explained that

"it would make it much easier for investigators outside the United States to argue that possible war crimes would never be addressed by the justice system in the home country--one of the trip wires enabling foreign courts to intervene. For some of those involved in the Guantánamo decisions, prudence may well dictate a more cautious approach to international travel. And for some the future may hold a tap on the shoulder."

"It's a matter of time," the judge observed. "These things take time." As I gathered my papers, he looked up and said, "And then something unexpected happens, when one of these lawyers travels to the wrong place."

As former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft said at one of the administration's strategy sessions on torture: "Why are we talking about this in the White House? History will not judge this kindly."

Do you think current Hague "resident," former Liberian president Charles Taylor, might enjoy a spirited game of chess with one of the NSC Principals?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

FBI Abuse of "National Security Letters" -- New Revelations

When biochemist Magdy Mahmoud Mustafa el-Nashar was released from custody in Cairo in 2005, no one could have be more relieved than the vacationing former student and his family.

Falsely accused by British authorities for alleged links to the July 7, 2005 London transport bombings that killed 52 and maimed 700, el-Nashar was taken into custody in Egypt because he had casually known two of the suicide bombers. He had met them while obtaining a Ph.D. in biochemistry at the University of Leeds. When freed, el-Nashar told the International Herald Tribune,

"The reason for suspecting me was because I specialize in chemistry. I am completely innocent," he said, adding that he planned legal action against British media that he said had defamed him. He did not identify the media. ("Egyptians Free Biochemist Who Knew 2 of the London Bombers," International Herald Tribune, August 10, 2005)

Released unharmed by Egypt's notoriously torture-prone Interior Ministry police, el-Nashar lived to tell the tale. But unbeknownst to the former North Carolina State University student there was a disturbing backstory to his arrest.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) released a damning report Tuesday documenting the FBI's abuse of the process for obtaining a National Security Letter (NSL) in connection with its probe of el-Nashar.

Incredibly, the Bureau delayed its own investigation in North Carolina "by forcing a field agent to return documents acquired from a U.S. university," Ryan Singel reports.

Why? Because the agent received the documents through a lawful subpoena, while headquarters wanted him to demand the records under the USA Patriot Act, using a power the FBI did not have, but desperately wanted.

When a North Carolina State University lawyer correctly rejected the second records demand, the FBI obtained another subpoena. Two weeks later, the delay was cited by FBI director Robert Mueller in congressional testimony as proof that the USA Patriot Act needed to be expanded. (Ryan Singel, "FBI Caused Delay in Terror Case Ahead of Senate Testimony," Wired News, April 15, 2008)

That's right.

The investigation into a suspected accomplice to mass murder was sidetracked because FBI bureaucrats sought additional powers they "desperately wanted," in order to escape judicial oversight and expand their brief to shower the public with flimsy National Security Letters. During 2004-2005 for example, the Bureau issued some 100,000 NSLs, often on no more than a hunch.

Under provisions of the oppressive USA Patriot Act, Bureau gumshoes can issue NSLs without probable cause to obtain phone records, e-mails, credit reports and bank statements so long as the request is relevant to a "terrorism" or "espionage" investigation. Unlike grand jury subpoenas however, NSLs have no expiration date and recipients of these baneful warrants are bound by draconian gag orders forever forbidding disclosure of their content. Violations can result in stiff fines and even a stint in federal prison.

According to an EFF Press Release,

In the report, EFF used documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request coupled with public information to detail the bizarre turns in the FBI's investigation of a former North Carolina State University student. Over the span of three days in July of 2005, FBI documents show that the bureau first obtained the educational records of the suspect with a grand jury subpoena. However, at the direction of FBI headquarters, agents returned the records and then requested them again through an improper NSL. ("EFF Report: FBI Slowed Terror Investigation with Improper NSL Request," Electronic Frontier Foundation, April 15, 2008)

EFF's Senior Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl denounced this egregious flim-flam by FBI Director Robert F. Mueller when he testified before Congress in 2005:

"The FBI consistently asks for more power and less outside supervision. Yet here the NSL power was misused at the direction of FBI headquarters, and only after review by FBI lawyers. Oversight and legislative reforms are necessary to ensure that these powerful tools are not abused."

However, in testimony before the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday, FBI General Counsel Valerie Caproni claimed that the FBI's misuse of the NSL in the el-Nashar case may have been the result of "miscommunication."

According to EFF, citing a 2007 report by Caproni's Office of the General Counsel,

the FBI's Charlotte Division, "acted upon the advice and direction of FBIHQ [and] Charlotte personnel sought legal advice prior to the service of the NSL." FBI documents show that the NSL at issue was reviewed by the Senior Supervisory Special Agent for the Raleigh office, and then reviewed by the Special Agent in Charge of the Atlanta Division before being signed. (Kurt Opsahl, "EFF General Counsel Questioned on EFF NSL Report," Electronic Frontier Foundation, April 15, 2008)

Attentive readers may recall that Caproni had earlier rejected a ruling by the secretive FISA court that had rebuffed Bureau requests to obtain sensitive records because "the 'facts' were too thin" and the "request implicated the target's First Amendment rights." The FBI used an NSL as a "work around" and proceeded anyway. Why? Because the Bureau's General Counsel believed "it was appropriate to issue the letters in such cases because she disagreed with the court's conclusions." [emphasis added]

Meanwhile, the ACLU and the New York Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday "to uncover the extent of the FBI's misuse of National Security Letter powers." According to the ACLU:

Specifically, the lawsuit seeks the release of records pertaining to the FBI's use of NSLs at the behest of other agencies including the Department of Defense (DoD) as well as documents concerning the FBI's use of its gag power. Newly un-redacted documents released to the ACLU last month in a separate Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit revealed that the Defense Department is using the FBI to circumvent legal limits on its own NSL power and may be obtaining sensitive records of people within the U.S. to which the military is not otherwise entitled, simply by asking the FBI to issue the record demands. While the FBI has broad NSL powers and compliance with FBI-issued NSLs is mandatory, the Defense Department's NSL power is more limited in scope. ("ACLU Challenges National Security Letters in Congress and Court," Press Release, American Civil Liberties Union, April 15, 2008)

To make matters worse in the el-Nashar case, the Bureau tried to cover up the incident by failing to report it for nearly two years to the Intelligence Oversight Board (IOB). That is, until shortly before Department of Justice Inspector General Glenn Fine's report on FBI NSL abuse was due before Congress. Statutory requirements demand that potential violations be reported to the IOB within 14 days.

Not that we can expect any earth-shattering "oversight" from a de-fanged IOB. As I wrote last month, the Bush administration quietly stripped the "independent" IOB of much of its authority to root out illegal spying activities by the intelligence "community."

As I noted then, a little noticed February 29 executive order signed by Bush gutted the board's mandate to refer illegal activities by the national security state to the Justice Department. "Self-policing" at its finest in the Bushist panopticon!

What little "oversight" remains are in the hands of a compliant Congress, more attuned to the needs of their real "constituents," the horde of well-heeled corporate lobbyists and their paymasters who rule over an ever-expanding private "security" empire.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Mukasey Defends Bush Regime Spying, Domestic Military Operations

During an emotional speech at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco on March 27, U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey asserted that the September 11 attacks could have been prevented "if the government had been able to wiretap a phone call from Afghanistan," the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

As I wrote March 30, we know that Mukasey's declaration was factually false, yet the USAG continues to claim that the government should be able to monitor communications from "terrorists," without seeking permission from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) whose brief from Congress, under the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), does precisely that.

In other words, Mukasey is either substantially ignorant of the law or is playing a mendacious game at the behest of his political masters, one that strips Americans of their constitutionally-guaranteed Fourth Amendment rights.

During a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing Thursday, Mukasey told sceptical senators "the one thing I got wrong was the geography, but other than that, it was spot on."

The Bush administration continues to press Congress to expand the so-called Terrorist Surveillance Program by passing a new "Protect America Act" which expired February 16.

The administration would grant various arms of the intelligence bureaucracy carte blanche to spy on Americans while limiting court review of the process. The proposed new law, overwhelmingly supported by Senate Democrats and Republicans in both houses of Congress, would bar pending lawsuits against giant telecommunications companies accused of providing access to their networks and company records to Bushist spymasters.

Challenging the veracity of Mukasey's assertions at the Commonwealth Club, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI), pointedly inquired:

This statement is very disturbing for several reasons. Initially, despite extensive inquiries after 9/11, I am aware of no previous reference, in the 9/11 Commission report or elsewhere, to a call from a know terrorist safehouse in Afghanistan to the United States which, if it had been intercepted, could have helped prevent the 9/11 attacks. In addition, if the Administration had know of such communications from suspected terrorists, they could and should have been intercepted based on existing FISA law. For example, even assuming that a FISA warrant was required to intercept such calls, as of 9/11 FISA specifically authorized such surveillance on an emergency basis without a warrant for a 48 hour period. If such calls were known about and not intercepted, serious additional concerns would be raised about the government's failure to take appropriate action before 9/11. (Congress of the United States, House of Representatives, Committee on the Judiciary, "The Honorable Michael Mukasey, Attorney General of the United States," April 3, 2008)

Claiming that many threats "do not appear to be emergencies until it is too late," Justice Department official Brian Benczkowski, challenged Conyers' assertion and said that it's "easy to say, after the fact," a particular call could have been intercepted under the law. Chronicle reporter Bob Egelko writes that Benczkowski said "it makes more sense to eliminate legal obstacles to effective intelligence-gathering overseas." In other words, give the administration what it wants: unlimited power to spy on Americans.

Despite Conyers' correctly calling out Mukasey on his unequivocal falsehoods on the issue of monitoring al-Qaeda prior to the 9/11 attacks, Conyers too, substantially misrepresents the facts. To wit, the National Security Agency (NSA) maintained close electronic surveillance of al-Qaeda's communications hub in Sana'a, Yemen for years before 9/11. Such monitoring included not one call, but probably dozens of communications amongst operatives of Osama bin Laden's "Martyrdom Battalion."

According to Paul Thompson at the History Commons, NSA, CIA and FBI monitoring included the interception of communications among al-Qaeda assets prior to the bombing of the USS Cole in October 2000:

Mid-August 1998-October 2000: Al-Qaeda Operatives Use Monitored Yemen Communications Hub to Coordinate Cole Bombing
Al-Qaeda operatives use a communications hub in Sana'a, Yemen, to "put everything together" before the bombing of the USS Cole. The communications hub is run by Ahmed al-Hada, who US officials will later describe as "a prominent al-Qaeda member who is believed to have been involved in the Cole bombing." The hub is monitored by US intelligence from 1998, at least, (see Late August 1998) and information gleaned from it is used to thwart a number of plots (see Late 1998-Early 2002). The US monitors the house through bugs planted inside and through spy satellites to monitor people leaving and entering it. The hub was also used before the 1998 embassy bombings and will be used to communicate with the 9/11 hijackers before 9/11 (see Early 2000-Summer 2001). [MSNBC, 2/14/2002; MIRROR, 6/9/2002; MSNBC, 5/2005] When the FBI arrives in Yemen to investigate the bombing, it finds that "telephone records show[...] that suspects in the Cole bombing had been in touch with suspects from the 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya." [MILLER, STONE, AND MITCHELL, 2002, PP. 238] Calls between the hub and an al-Qaeda cell in Ireland that seems to have a connection to the Cole bombing are also intercepted during part of this period (see Late December 1999-October 12, 2000). It is unclear why the information does not allow the NSA to thwart the plot. Despite the scope of the monitoring, NSA Director Michael Hayden will later say there were no intercepts the NSA could have exploited to stop the bombing: "When the Cole disaster took place I had brought to my desk in, in this office, every stitch of NSA reporting on the--that could in any way be related to this. And I went thought it report by report and I sent a letter out to our entire work force, which was essentially, you performed well. Keep up the good work." [CBS NEWS, 6/19/2002]

As I have written before, the 9/11 attacks, were neither a "failure of the imagination" as the 9/11 Commission asserted, nor the result of "flawed communications" between various security arms of the state to "connect the dots." The murder of some 3,000 individuals on U.S. soil were the result of actions undertaken by successive U.S. administrations' to protect on-going intelligence operations by the United States in the Balkans, Central Asia and the Middle East.

While al-Qaeda is certainly a far-right terrorist organization responsible for politically-motivated acts of murder, and have sought to obtain and deploy chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, this did not preclude their utilization as intelligence assets by the Bush I, Clinton, and Bush II administrations. The United States and their NATO allies, freely employed al-Qaeda and other Islamist forces as a cats-paw as they conducted multiple destabilization campaigns in the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia as well as within the former Soviet Union itself, notably in Azerbaijan, Georgia and the Russian province of Chechnya, as Michel Chossudovsky has documented. Nor has it prevented the Bush administration from using such reactionary forces as disposable assets as it currently wages a covert war against Iran, as Seymour Hersh reported last year in The New Yorker.

As with his fictitious claims regarding the 9/11 attacks, Mukasey has essentially condoned moves by the administration to deploy the U.S. military domestically for "counterterrorist" operations.

Despite Bush administration assertions to the contrary, there is no evidence that domestic operations by the U.S. military are legal under the U.S. Constitution, despite Mukasey's testimony Thursday, when he attempted to distance himself from a classified October 2001 Department of Justice memorandum.

Responding to a question put to him by the Senate Appropriations Committee, Mukasey said that "the Fourth Amendment applies across the board, whether we're in wartime or peacetime," according to The New York Times.

Times' reporter Philip Shenon wrote,

Still, the attorney general did not repudiate the entire document. He also did not say if its findings had been formally withdrawn or when it might be turned over to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has requested a copy.

The memorandum's existence was revealed last week when the Bush administration released a copy of a separate Justice Department document from 2003 that referred to the October 2001 memorandum in a footnote.

The footnote said the 2001 memorandum, which has not been shared outside the administration, concluded that the Fourth Amendment, which bars unreasonable searches and seizures, did not apply to "domestic military operations" against terrorist threats. ("Mukasey Distances Himself from a Memo on Searches," The New York Times, April 11, 2008)

Meanwhile, The Washington Post reported Saturday that the Department of Homeland Security "plans to start using the nation's most advanced spy technology for domestic purposes soon, rebuffing challenges by House Democrats over the idea's legal authority."

DHS will "activate" the National Applications Office's satellite surveillance program for (unspecified) domestic purposes. First proposed last August by DHS, the NAO's overhead sensor data will be used by law enforcement "once privacy and civil rights concerns are resolved." DHS has previously averred that the program "will not intercept communications."

This however, is a meaningless parsing of intelligence terminology by DHS, more reflective of its desire to conceal than to reveal the nature of NAO's domestic "mission." Data "captured" by satellites are referred to in the "trade" as GEOINT or Geospatial Intelligence, gathered by satellite, aerial photography, mapping/terrain data, or IMINT, imagery intelligence, gathered from satellite or aerial photography. Strictly speaking, communications monitoring such as that conducted by NSA is referred to as SIGINT, or signals intelligence. The question is: what or whom will be "mapped" by space-based satellites and/or high-altitude spy planes such as Lockheed's U2 or its SR-71 Blackbird? DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff claimed,

"There is no basis to suggest that this process is in any way insufficient to protect the privacy and civil liberties of Americans," Chertoff wrote to Reps. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) and Jane Harman (D-Calif.), chairmen of the House Homeland Security Committee and its intelligence subcommittee, respectively, in letters released yesterday.

"I think we've fully addressed anybody's concerns," Chertoff added in remarks last week to bloggers. "I think the way is now clear to stand it up and go warm on it."

His statements marked a fresh determination to operate the department's new National Applications Office as part of its counterterrorism efforts. The administration in May 2007 gave DHS authority to coordinate requests for satellite imagery, radar, electronic-signal information, chemical detection and other monitoring capabilities that have been used for decades within U.S. borders for mapping and disaster response.

But Congress delayed launch of the new office last October. Critics cited its potential to expand the role of military assets in domestic law enforcement, to turn new or as-yet-undeveloped technologies against Americans without adequate public debate, and to divert the existing civilian and scientific focus of some satellite work to security uses. (Spencer S. Hsu, "Administration Set to Use New Spy Program in U.S.." The Washington Post, April 12, 2008, Page A3)

We should not be deceived either by Mukasey, Chertoff or by half-hearted gestures from Congress to reign in the "post-Constitutional" Bush regime. Since the 2001 terrorist attacks, the Democratic Party has been complicit with Bush administration claims of unlimited executive power to fight its alleged "war against terror."

From the torture of detainees, the launching of "preemptive" wars of conquest, the circumvention of binding international treaties, to the subversion of Americans' democratic rights under the U.S. Constitution, the Democrats have rubber-stamped and provided Bush and his minions a rationale--"protecting the Homeland"--for overturning all Constitutional restrictions on presidential and military power.

Illegal domestic spying by the FBI, NSA and "security" corporations operating beyond the reach of any meaningful oversight by elected, democratic institutions will continue long after the Bush administration ignobly sails off into the proverbial sunset.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

FBI's "Quantico Circuit" -- Still Spying, Still Lying

Tuesday's Washington Post reports that FBI investigators "with the click of a mouse, [can] instantly transfer key data along a computer circuit to an FBI technology office in Quantico."

Last month I wrote that evidence of the Bureau's massive spying operations on Americans had been uncovered and "that a new FISA whistleblower has stepped forward with information about a major wireless provider apparently granting the state unrestricted access to all of their customers' voice communications and electronic data via a so-called 'Quantico Circuit'."

According to whistleblower Babak Pasdar, a telecom carrier he worked for as a security consultant, subsequently named as Verizon by the Post, said the company maintained a high-speed DS-3 digital line that allowed the Bureau and other security agencies "unfettered" access to the carrier's wireless network, including billing records and customer data "transmitted wirelessly."

Verizon denied the report that the FBI has open access to its network; a denial belied by documents obtained by the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation describing the Bureau's Digital Collection System.

When these allegations first surfaced they were stonewalled by major media. Nevertheless, the reports continued and we now have learned that electronic connections between major telecom firms and FBI personnel scattered across the country provide the Bureau with real-time access to who is speaking to whom, the time and duration of each call as well as the locations of those so targeted.

Despite half-hearted protests by Congress, the FBI's budget for these operations have increased significantly. According to Post reporter Ellen Nakashima,

The bureau says its budget for the collection system increased from $30 million in 2007 to $40 million in 2008. Information lawfully collected by the FBI from telecom firms can be shared with law enforcement and intelligence-gathering partners, including the National Security Agency and the CIA. Likewise, under guidelines approved by the attorney general or a court, some intercept data gathered by intelligence agencies can be shared with law enforcement agencies. (Ellen Nakashima, "FBI Transfers via Telecoms Questioned," The Washington Post, Tuesday, April 8, 2008; A03)

But who's "watching the watchers," or in this case, the listeners?

Since 1994, under rules mandated by the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), passed by the "liberal" Clinton administration, federal rules are in place "to make clear a telecommunications carrier's duty to cooperate in the interception of communications for Law Enforcement purposes, and for other purposes." [emphasis added]

These rules specify that telecom carriers and manufacturers design their equipment, facilities and services so as to guarantee they have the necessary surveillance capabilities. This onerous piece of legislative flotsam specifies that common carriers, broadband internet access providers and providers of Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) service are designated "telecommunications carriers" under federal law and thus, are capable of interception by the state's "security" bureaucracies. (For an historical analysis of CALEA's civil liberties implications see: "Big Brother in the Wires: Wiretapping in the Digital Age," ACLU, March 1, 1998)

The FBI has since created a network of links and electronic hubs for collection purposes amongst the nation's largest telecom carriers and internet providers "and about 40 FBI offices and Quantico, according to interviews and documents describing the agency's Digital Collection System," according to the Washington Post.

These revelations mirror those of AT&T whistleblower Mark Klein, who revealed that the super secretive National Security Agency had been given access by AT&T management to install "splitters" for the Agency hard-wired to an NSA "secure" room in the company's central office in San Francisco. According to Klein,

In short, an exact copy of all internet traffic that flowed through critical AT&T cables--emails, documents, pictures, web browsing, Voice over-internet phone conservations, everything--was being diverted to equipment inside the secret room. In addition the documents reveal the technological gear used in their secret project, including a highly sophisticated search component capable of quickly sifting through huge amounts of digital data (including text, voice and images) in real time according to pre-programmed criteria.

It's important to understand that the internet links which were connected to the splitter contained not just foreign communications but vast amounts of domestic traffic, all mixed together. Furthermore, the splitter has no selective abilities--it's just a dumb device which copies everything to the secret room. And the links going through the splitter are AT&T's physical connections to many other internet providers (e.g., Sprint, Qwest, Global Crossing, Cable & Wireless, and the critical West Coast Internet Exchange Point known as Mae West). Since these networks are interconnected, the government surveillance affects not only AT&T customers but everyone else--millions of Americans.

I also discovered in my conversations with other technicians that other "secret rooms" were established in Seattle, San Jose, Los Angeles and San Diego. One of the documents I obtained also mentions Atlanta, and the clear inference in the logic of this setup, and the language of the documents, is that there are other such rooms across the country to complete the coverage--possibly 15 to 20 or more. (Mark Klein, "Reject Amnesty for Telecoms," Electronic Frontier Foundation)

As a key networking hub of the national security state's electronic driftnet, the "Quantico circuit" enables the FBI and their CIA and NSA partners in crime to literally target any one or any group with highly-intrusive and silent monitoring of all electronic communications. Under the Bush administration's repressive "public-private" police state architecture, privacy rights join Geneva Convention prohibitions against torture as yet another "quaint" notion, a "phantom of lost liberty," in the memorable phrase uttered by former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft in 2001.

While the Bureau claims that the content of a phone call or e-mail must be authorized by a court order showing "probable cause," as with other abusive FBI practices such as the issuance of so-called "national security letters" to obtain financial or other private records, the legal bar undoubtedly is set very low. 

These latest revelations of FBI abuse of Fourth Amendment protections, follow on the heels of new initiatives undertaken by the Department of Homeland Security to utilize U.S. spy satellites for domestic "law enforcement and counterterrorism" investigations.

According to Nick Juliano,

DHS plans to create a new office that would expand law enforcement and other civilian agencies' access to data gathered by powerful intelligence and military satellites orbiting the earth. The National Applications Office [NAO] will oversee who can access such satellite data, which is typically used to monitor climate change and track hurricane damage, among other uses.

DHS still has not laid out legal frameworks or standard operating procedures for the office, according to a letter from three members of the House Homeland Security Committee. (Nick Juliano, "DHS Ignores Civil Liberties in Domestic Spy Satellite Plan, Lawmakers Say," The Raw Story, Monday, April 7, 2008)

First floated last August, then delayed over civil liberties concerns, DHS is now moving full speed ahead with the project. In a letter to DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff, Reps. Bennie G. Thompson, Jane Harman and Christopher P. Carney wrote, "merely mentioning Posse Comitatus and other laws in the NAO Charter does not provide needed assurances that the Department will not transform NAO into a domestic spying platform."

Tepid protests by congressional Democrats who have systematically enabled these repressive measures by granting unlimited budgetary increases to Bushist spymasters, will have virtually no effect on an administration hell-bent on turning the entire country into a "free spy zone."

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Continuity of Government & The "ENDGAME" Scenario

Back in 1987 during joint congressional hearings into the Iran-Contra affair, Rep. Jack Brooks (D-TX) asked Lt. Col. Oliver North, Reagan's point-man on the National Security Council:

Brooks: Colonel North, in your work at the N.S.C. were you not assigned, at one time, to work on plans for the continuity of government in the event of a major disaster?

Brendan Sullivan [North's counsel]: Mr. Chairman?

Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI), immediately squelched Brooks' inquiry:

Inouye: I believe that question touches upon a highly sensitive and classified area so may I request that you not touch upon that?

Brooks: I was particularly concerned, Mr. Chairman, because I read in Miami papers, and several others, that there had been a plan developed, by that same agency, a contingency plan in the event of emergency, that would suspend the American constitution. And I was deeply concerned about it and wondered if that was an area in which he had worked. I believe that it was and I wanted to get his confirmation.

Inouye: May I most respectfully request that that matter not be touched upon at this stage. If we wish to get into this, I'm certain arrangements can be made for an executive session.

Since those 1987 hearings, the "arrangements" alluded to by Sen. Inouye about this prickly topic, Continuity of Government (COG), have yet to result in an open hearing before relevant congressional committees.


On March 31, Peter Dale Scott posted an informative piece on CounterPunch asking that very question. Why is Congress being sandbagged by the Bush administration on the thorniest of issues: the suspension of the U.S. Constitution and the potential declaration of martial law in the event of a "catastrophic national emergency." Scott writes,

In August 2007, Congressman Peter DeFazio, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, told the House that he and the rest of his Committee had been barred from reviewing parts of National Security Presidential Directive 51, the White House supersecret plans to implement so-called "Continuity of Government" in the event of a mass terror attack or natural disaster. (Peter Dale Scott, "Congress, the Bush Administration and Continuity of Government Planning: The Showdown," CounterPunch, Monday, March 31, 2008)

While it is certainly a reasonable proposition to most citizens that the federal government should be prepared for disasters, man-made or otherwise, throughout its history COG has been tainted by its proximity to repressive police measures directed against the population (viewed as a hostile force to be "contained"), up to, and including the use of the bluntest of instruments: martial law.

Yet the Bush administration, driven by its desire to maximize power within the Executive branch, has used COG as a cover for creating a "post-Constitutional" police state.

After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the White House moved quickly. John C. Yoo, a Bush appointee in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) , wrote a 20-page response to an inquiry sent to the office by White House Counsel Timothy E. Flanigan. A Federalist Society veteran of the 2000 Florida recount battle that ended when the Supreme Court handed the presidency to Bush, Flanigan sought the OLC's advice on "the legality of the use of military force to prevent or deter terrorist activity inside the United States," according to the New York Times.

Yoo responded how the Constitution's Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure might apply if the military used "deadly force in a manner that endangered the lives of United States citizens." Times reporter Tim Golden wrote:

Mr. Yoo listed an inventory of possible operations: shooting down a civilian airliner hijacked by terrorists; setting up military checkpoints inside an American city; employing surveillance methods more sophisticated than those available to law enforcement; or using military forces "to raid or attack dwellings where terrorists were thought to be, despite risks that third parties could be killed or injured by exchanges of fire."

It was all the ammunition the administration needed. Yoo's memorandum handed the Executive branch virtual carte blanche for its "Terrorist Surveillance Program," the Bush regime's odious "public-private partnership" amongst telecom corporations and the National Security Agency's (NSA) illegal monitoring of Americans' electronic communications.

Golden went on to report,

Mr. Yoo noted that those actions could raise constitutional issues, but said that in the face of devastating terrorist attacks, "the government may be justified in taking measures which in less troubled conditions could be seen as infringements of individual liberties." If the president decided the threat justified deploying the military inside the country, he wrote, then "we think that the Fourth Amendment should be no more relevant than it would be in cases of invasion or insurrection." (Tim Golden, "After Terror, a Secret Rewriting of Military Law," The New York Times, October 24, 2004)

Could such "infringements of individual liberties" include the preventative detention of "illegal immigrants," political enemies, or others deemed "suspect" by a "Unitary Executive Theory" that alleges the president possesses virtually unlimited power as "commander-in-chief" during a "time of war"?

According to Bush regime acolytes, the answer apparently is "yes." Subsequent reporting last week by The Washington Post, after reviewing the declassified version of Yoo's memo confirm this analysis.

In early 2006, Peter Dale Scott uncovered a $385 million open-ended government contract awarded a Halliburton subsidiary, KBR, from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to provide "temporary detention and processing capabilities." Scott wrote,

The contract -- announced Jan. 24 by the engineering and construction firm KBR -- calls for preparing for "an emergency influx of immigrants, or to support the rapid development of new programs" in the event of other emergencies, such as "a natural disaster." The release offered no details about where Halliburton was to build these facilities, or when. ...

After 9/11, new martial law plans began to surface similar to those of FEMA in the 1980s. In January 2002 the Pentagon submitted a proposal for deploying troops on American streets. One month later John Brinkerhoff, the author of the 1982 FEMA memo, published an article arguing for the legality of using U.S. troops for purposes of domestic security. (Peter Dale Scott, "Homeland Security Contracts for Vast New Detention Camps," Pacific News Service, February 8, 2006)

The DHS contract to KBR followed the April 2002 creation of the Pentagon's Northern Command (NORTHCOM), specifically empowered for domestic U.S. military operations. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld called this "the most sweeping set of changes since the unified command system was set up in 1946."

Scott, citing Rumsfeld's announcement, said that NORTHCOM is responsible for "homeland defense and also serves as head of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).... He will command U.S. forces that operate within the United States in support of civil authorities. The command will provide civil support not only in response to attacks, but for natural disasters."

But state moves to entangle the American people in a seemingly inextricable web of repressive measures don't stop there. In a follow-up article on KBR detention camp contracts, Scott described how the construction of these facilities are part of a long-term DHS plan titled ENDGAME, whose goal is the "removal" of "all removable aliens" and "potential terrorists." 

According to the Department of Homeland Security,

Endgame is the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Office of Detention and Removal (DRO) multi-year strategic enforcement plan. It stresses the effective and efficient execution of the critical service DRO provides its partners and stakeholders to enforce the nation’s immigration and naturalization laws. The DRO strategic plan sets in motion a cohesive enforcement program with a ten-year time horizon that will build the capacity to "remove all removable aliens," eliminate the backlog of unexecuted final order removal cases, and realize its vision. ...

Detention can be affected by unforeseen events occurring in other countries, such as natural disasters (i.e., earthquakes, hurricanes, etc.), war, and economic/political crises. These events can produce a “shock” to DRO detention. Such shocks can produce large numbers of illegal aliens, additional detention needs, and the inability to remove aliens from the U.S. back to countries in crisis. Though these immigration emergencies are relatively short-term in nature, they can have a drastic and enduring impact on available detention space. (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, "ENDGAME, Office of Detention and Removal Strategic Plan, 2002-2012," June 27, 2003)

Commenting on ENDGAME, Scott wrote,

Significantly, both the KBR contract and the ENDGAME plan are open-ended. The contract calls for a response to "an emergency influx of immigrants, or to support the rapid development of new programs" in the event of other emergencies, such as "a natural disaster." "New programs" is of course a term with no precise limitation. So, in the current administration, is ENDGAME's goal of removing "potential terrorists."

It is relevant that in 2002, Attorney General John Ashcroft announced his desire to see camps for U.S. citizens deemed to be "enemy combatants." On Feb. 17 of this year, in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld spoke of the harm being done to the country's security, not just by the enemy, but also by what he called "news informers" who needed to be combated in "a contest of wills." Two days earlier, citing speeches critical of Bush by Al Gore, John Kerry, and Howard Dean, conservative columnist Ben Shapiro called for "legislation to prosecute such sedition." (Peter Dale Scott, "10-Year U.S. Strategic Plan for Detention Camps Revives Proposals from Oliver North," Pacific News Service, February 21, 2006)

But is the DHS' ENDGAME "only" a program for "removing all removable aliens"? Writing in the San Francisco Chronicle, environmental activist Lewis Seiler and former congressman Dan Hamburg ponder the real questions posed by such antidemocratic initiatives:

What kind of "new programs" require the construction and refurbishment of detention facilities in nearly every state of the union with the capacity to house perhaps millions of people?

Sect. 1042 of the 2007 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), "Use of the Armed Forces in Major Public Emergencies," gives the executive the power to invoke martial law. For the first time in more than a century, the president is now authorized to use the military in response to "a natural disaster, a disease outbreak, a terrorist attack or any other condition in which the President determines that domestic violence has occurred to the extent that state officials cannot maintain public order."

The Military Commissions Act of 2006, rammed through Congress just before the 2006 midterm elections, allows for the indefinite imprisonment of anyone who donates money to a charity that turns up on a list of "terrorist" organizations, or who speaks out against the government's policies. The law calls for secret trials for citizens and noncitizens alike. (Lewis Seiler and Dan Hamburg, "Rule by Fear or Rule by Law?" San Francisco Chronicle, February 4, 2008; Page B-7)

While the deployment of NORTHCOM and ENDGAME scenarios are singular features of the Bush administration's power-grab following the 9/11 attacks, its repressive architecture was built upon already-existing plans for suspending the Constitution and implementing a martial law regime.

During the urban rebellions of the 1960s and 1970s, the Pentagon drew up a series of blueprints for precisely those contingencies. Variously code-named "Cable Splicer" and "Garden Plot," the U.S. military and local police who served as Pentagon auxiliaries (falling under the purview of the military's chain of command) performed a series of exercises that envisioned the suspension of civil liberties, the rounding up of dissidents and their incarceration in detention camps for the duration of an (unspecified) "crisis."

During the 1980s, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was designated the lead agency that would implement Ronald Reagan's 1988 Executive Order 12656, stating that COG procedures come into play in the event of "any occurrence, including natural disaster, military attack, technological emergency, or other emergency, that seriously degrades or seriously threatens the national security of the United States."

Some aspects of Reagan's Rex-84 "emergency preparedness" operations advocated rounding up and detaining some 400,000 "refugees," in the context, as Peter Dale Scott reported, of "'uncontrolled population movements' over the Mexican border into the United States."

Since then, but especially in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the Pentagon has continuously updated--and trained for--their implementation. Indeed, one can view the creation of NORTHCOM as perhaps the single most important "mission critical" link driving current COG planning.

According to researcher Frank Morales,

Training under [U.S. Army Field Manual] FM 19-15/Garden Plot must be "continuous" and "must develop personnel who are able to perform distasteful and dangerous duties with discipline and objectivity." Dangerous to the local citizenry given that "every member of the control force must be trained to use his weapon and special equipment (including) riot batons, riot control agent dispersers and CS grenades, grenade launchers, shotguns, sniper rifles, cameras, portable videotape recorders, portable public address systems, night illumination devices, fire fighting apparatus, grappling hooks, ladders, ropes, bulldozers, Army aircraft, armored personnel carriers, and roadblock and barricade materials." (Frank Morales, "U.S. Military Civil Disturbance Planning: The War at Home," in Police State America, ed. Tom Burghardt, ATS/Solidarity, Toronto, Montreal, 2002, p. 73)

COG is predicated on the assumption that the military will act as a "force-multiplier" for local law enforcement, which in this age of militarized policing are already highly-repressive organizations replete with military-grade firepower, but also "less than lethal" weaponry, equipment and "special operations" units better-suited for the battlefield than an urban setting in a typical American city.

While September 11 may have been the "catastrophic and catalyzing event," referenced by the now-defunct Project for a New American Century, COG planning has been in the works for decades, as were Pentagon blueprints for the invasion and occupation of Central Asia and the Middle East.

Predating 9/11, COG is viewed by elite policy planners as an instrument for the continuity of a repressive national security state, one targeting first and foremost, the American people. COG, as an instrumentality for containing the internal threat, is predicated on defending the capitalist mode of production and the political/social relations of class society as it enters a period of profound crisis.

In terms of a repressive discourse, NORTHCOM, under Public Law 109-364, or the "John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007" (H.R. 5122)(2), signed into law by president Bush on October 17, 2006, allows the chief executive to declare a "public emergency" and station troops anywhere in the U.S. The law also permits the president to usurp control of state-based national guard units, even without the consent of the governor or local authorities in the affected region, to "suppress public disorder." Frank Morales, exposing the onerous nature of the law writes,

President Bush seized this unprecedented power on the very same day that he signed the equally odious Military Commissions Act of 2006. In a sense, the two laws complement one another. One allows for torture and detention abroad, while the other seeks to enforce acquiescence at home, preparing to order the military onto the streets of America. Remember, the term for putting an area under military law enforcement control is precise; the term is "martial law." ...

The law also facilitates militarized police round-ups and detention of protesters, so called "illegal aliens," "potential terrorists" and other "undesirables" for detention in facilities already contracted for and under construction by Halliburton. That's right. Under the cover of a trumped-up "immigration emergency" and the frenzied militarization of the southern border, detention camps are being constructed right under our noses, camps designed for anyone who resists the foreign and domestic agenda of the Bush administration. ...

The historic and ominous re-writing of the Insurrection Act, accomplished in the dead of night, which gives Bush the legal authority to declare martial law, is now an accomplished fact. (Frank Morales, "Bush Moves Toward Martial Law," Toward Freedom, October 26, 2006)

In the absence of massive public opposition to existing martial law plans by the Bush regime or future U.S. administrations--Democratic as well as Republican--the prospect of America continuing as a free and open society is a mirage at best.