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U.S. Officials Privately Admit They Overstated Damage Inflicted By WikiLeaks

by on Tuesday, January 18, 2011 at 10:12 pm EDT in Politics, WikiLeaks

Reuters is reporting that Internal U.S. government reviews confirm what many of us had cynically assumed all along: that the US government was intentionally embellishing the damage done to US interests abroad by WikiLeaks documents:

A congressional official briefed on the reviews said the administration felt compelled to say publicly that the revelations had seriously damaged American interests in order to bolster legal efforts to shut down the WikiLeaks website and bring charges against the leakers.

“I think they just want to present the toughest front they can muster,” the official said.

But State Department officials have privately told Congress they expect overall damage to U.S. foreign policy to be containable, said the official, one of two congressional aides familiar with the briefings who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity.

We were told (the impact of WikiLeaks revelations) was embarrassing but not damaging,” said the official, who attended a briefing given in late 2010 by State Department officials.

Ironically, it is precisely attempts like these — by government officials to mislead the American public — that has made whistleblower groups like WikiLeaks all the more essential to the viability of our democracy.

I suspect this Administration is most concerned about the leaks exposing its own, or its predecessor’s, wrongdoings.  This Administration has gone to great lengths to cover-up and to squash any investigation — any judicial proceeding — against the Bush Administration for its alleged criminal activities.

They have got to be worried that the leaked documents could end up incriminating government officials in such a way as to push the entire topic of government accountability back into the public discourse.

For instance, it has been long reported that WikiLeaks is holding potentially incriminating military documents on Guantanamo Bay, where detainees were allegedly subjected to torture.  What if these documents were to provide an iron-clad case against the highest-levels of the Bush Administration?

The US is a signatory to the UN Convention Against Torture — a binding agreement ratified under President Ronald Reagan.  The Obama Administration therefore has very clear legal obligations that it has long been evading.  Whenever there are indications or allegations of torture, it is incumbent on the Administration to investigate.  It is NOT merely an option to mull over for its potential political ramifications.  It is the RULE-OF-LAW.

Here are those legal obligations:

A State Party’s Undertakings

Most of the provisions of the Torture Convention deal with the obligations of the States parties. These obligations may be summarized as follows:

(i) Each State party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture. The prohibition against torture shall be absolute and shall be upheld also in a state of war and in other exceptional circumstances (article 2);

(ii) No State party may expel or extradite a person to a State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture (article 3);

(iii) Each State party shall ensure that acts of torture are serious criminal offences within its legal system (article 4);

(iv) Each State party shall, on certain conditions, take a person suspected of the offence of torture into custody and make a preliminary inquiry into the facts (article 6);

(v) Each State party shall either extradite a person suspected of the offence of torture or submit the case to its own authorities for prosecution (article 7);

(vi) Each State party shall ensure that its authorities make investigations when there is reasonable ground to believe that an act of torture has been committed (article 12);

(vii) Each State party shall ensure that an individual who alleges that he has been subjected to torture will have his case examined by the competent authorities (article 13);

(viii) Each State party shall ensure to victims of torture an enforceable right to fair and adequate compensation (article 14).

By not only evading their required responsibility to investigate torture, but by aggressively threatening other nations to end their investigations and criminal proceedings, President Obama and his Attorney General are themselves violating international law.

After George W. Bush boasted, during his recent memoir tour, that he authorized water boarding, Amnesty International’s Senior Director Claudio Cordone issued a pointed statement saying:

“Under international law, the former President’s admission to having authorized acts that amount to torture are enough to trigger the USA’s obligations to investigate his admissions and if substantiated, to prosecute him,”

“His admissions also highlight once again the absence of accountability for the crimes under international law of torture and enforced disappearance committed by the USA.” […]

“Under international law, anyone involved in torture must be brought to justice, and that does not exclude former President George W Bush.  In the absence of a US investigation, other states must step in and carry out such an investigation themselves.”

The Obama Administration and the DOJ would obviously prefer to aid and abet the Bush Administration in evading justice in complete secrecy — hidden away from all public scrutiny.

The last thing they want is for WikiLeaks to publish documents that so undeniably incriminate upper level administration officials — either Bush’s, or Obama’s — that they in turn feel public pressure to actually do the unthinkable: to hold the political class accountable to the rule-of-law.

EU: France Is Engaging In Ethnic Cleansing

by on Wednesday, September 15, 2010 at 6:57 pm EDT in Europe, World

The European Union is considering taking legal action against France for violating EU’s discriminatory laws.  President Nicolas Sarkozy’s right-winged government has been engaged in a massive deportation of Roma — also commonly referred to as ‘Gypsies’.  This group has a long history of persecution in Europe.  Like Jews, Roma gypsies were targeted for annihilation by the Nazis during the Holocaust.

According to France24:

There are between 10 million and 12 million Gypsies in the EU, most living in dire circumstances, victims of poverty, discrimination, violence, unemployment, poverty and bad housing. An estimated 1.5 million of them live in Romania, a country of 22 million, which has the largest population of Gypsies in Europe.

The group originates from Romania and Bulgaria — both members of the EU — and are therefore entitled by law to live in any member state of the EU, including France.  But President Sarkozy contends that they are responsible for much of the country’s crime.  France24 reports that he has called “the camps in which some of them live, sources of trafficking, exploitation of children and prostitution.”   His Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux recently claimed that “over the past 18 months crime committed by Roma people has increased by 259 percent in Paris alone.”

It was reported that over 1,000 Roma had been deported in the month of June this year, alone.  European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso responded, at the time, with a veiled threat directed to the French President:

“Everyone in Europe must respect the law, and the governments must respect human rights, including those of minorities,” Barroso said in a speech to the European Parliament.

“Racism and xenophobia have no place in Europe. On such sensitive issues, when a problem arises, we must all act with responsibility,” he said.

But the call had little effect on the French government, which continued unabated with thousands of more Roma expulsions.  In August, President Sarkozy announced “a raft of new draconian security measures, including plans to dismantle 300 unauthorised campsites within three months.”  Opinon polls in August “showed that 79 percent of [French] voters approved of measures to dismantle the camps, and similar majorities backing other aspects of his law and order policy.”

Yesterday, Canadian TV disclosed that in the most “recent weeks, French authorities have dismantled more than 100 illegal camps and deported more than 1,000 Gypsies.”  In response, the EU finally decided to escalate its efforts in forcing France into complying with EU laws:

EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said she was appalled by the expulsions, “which gave that impression that people are being removed from a member state of the European Union just because they belong to an ethnic minority.”

This “is a situation that I had thought that Europe would not have to witness again after the second World War,” she told a news conference, adding “the commission will have no choice but to initiate infringement procedures against France.”

France could ultimately be slapped with a fine by the European Court of Justice if its expulsions are found to have breached EU law. […]

After 11 years of experience on the commission, I even go further: This is a disgrace,” she said. “Discrimination on the basis or ethnic origin or race has no place in Europe.

She also harshly criticized French authorities for telling the EU commission that it was not discriminating against Roma — a claim apparently contradicted by news reports of a government letter ordering regional officials to speed up a crackdown on illegal Roma camps.

“It is my deepest regret that political assurances given by two French ministers is now openly contradicted,” Reding said.

She was speaking about France’s immigration minister, Eric Besson, and its European affairs minister, Pierre Lellouche.  Besson on Monday denied any knowledge of the reported Interior Ministry letter and did not speak to reporters Tuesday at a Brussels meeting on asylum issues. […]

Amnesty International had recently accused the EU of “turning a blind eye” to France’s ethnic cleansing:

Amnesty said the EU should penalize countries that have persistently failed to uphold the human rights of Roma. Among the harshest measures applicable under the charter of fundamental rights that came into force with the Lisbon treaty last year is the withdrawal of voting rights, or even expulsion from the union.

“The EU under the Lisbon Treaty…has the responsibility to address human rights within the 27 member states,” said Amnesty’s executive officer for legal affairs in the European Union, Susanna Mehtonen.

The Guardian reports recent Roma expulsions have been occurring in other parts of the EU, including Denmark, Belgium, Italy, and Germany.  Acts of discrimination and physical violence against the Roma have been reported in Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria.

Here’s Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! discussing these recent developments with András Biró:


Video: Norman Finkelstein Exposes Benny Morris As Propagandist

by on Sunday, May 23, 2010 at 3:04 pm EDT in Middle East, World

Here’s a heated debate on Russian Television (h/t Mondoweiss) between Norman Finkelstein and Israel’s ‘famed historian’, Benny Morris.

Finkelstein, as always, displays an impressive command of the facts, leaving Morris looking frazzled for much of the debate.  On Gaza, for instance, Finkelstein cites the details of the Goldstone Report (details which had been cross-corroborated by all the major Human Rights groups) to make his case while Morris conversely interjects with filibusters and flimsy, unsubstantiated claims:

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Amnesty International Condemns U.S. For Soaring Maternal Death Rates

by on Friday, March 12, 2010 at 4:00 pm EDT in Healthcare, Politics

In a scathing new report released today, Amnesty International calls on U.S. President Barack Obama to address its spiraling maternal mortality rates and soaring pregnancy related complications (which disproportionately affects minorities and those living in poverty): More than two women die every day in the USA from complications of pregnancy and childbirth. Approximately half of […]

Israel’s Dahiya Doctrine Undermines Its ‘Collateral Damage’ Claims In Gaza

by on Wednesday, December 30, 2009 at 9:55 am EDT in Middle East, World

It’s been a full year since Israel unleashed ‘Operation Cast Lead’ against the people of Gaza, leaving 1,400 dead (mostly civilians).  Israel and Egypt continue to blockade the 1.5 million inhabitants confined within the war-torn ghetto, restricting the flow of food, fuel, and other essential items, and thus making reconstruction and recovery virtually impossible. The […]