NEWS, OPINION & EDITOR’S COMMENT: America has abandoned the rule of law

Jordan’s spy agency: holding cell for the CIA

Over the past seven years, an imposing building on the outskirts of this city has served as a secret holding cell for the CIA.

The building is the headquarters of the General Intelligence Department, Jordan’s powerful spy and security agency. Since 2000, at the CIA’s behest, at least 12 non-Jordanian terrorism suspects have been detained and interrogated here, according to documents and former prisoners, human rights advocates, defense lawyers and former U.S. officials.
Bush administration officials have said they do not hand over terrorism suspects to countries that are likely to abuse them. For several years, however, the State Department has cited widespread allegations of torture by Jordan’s security agencies in its annual report cards on human rights.

Independent monitors have become increasingly critical of Jordan’s record. Since 2006, the United Nations, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have issued reports on abuses in Jordan, often singling out the General Intelligence Department.

Former prisoners have reported that their captors were expert in two practices in particular: falaqa, or beating suspects on the soles of their feet with a truncheon and then, often, forcing them to walk barefoot and bloodied across a salt-covered floor; and farruj, or the “grilled chicken,” in which prisoners are handcuffed behind their legs, hung upside down by a rod placed behind their knees, and beaten. [complete article]

Editor’s Comment — The White House has a page on its web site devoted to “Tales of Saddam’s Brutality.” There it refers to falaqa as Uday Hussein’s “favourite punishment.”

U.S. says it has right to kidnap British citizens

America has told Britain that it can “kidnap” British citizens if they are wanted for crimes in the United States.

A senior lawyer for the American government has told the Court of Appeal in London that kidnapping foreign citizens is permissible under American law because the US Supreme Court has sanctioned it.

The admission will alarm the British business community after the case of the so-called NatWest Three, bankers who were extradited to America on fraud charges. More than a dozen other British executives, including senior managers at British Airways and BAE Systems, are under investigation by the US authorities and could face criminal charges in America. [complete article]

The torture compromise of 2007

A friend at a dinner party on the East coast found herself in an argument in which she was the only person opposed to torture. The other invitees, all graduates of favored preparatory schools and Ivy League colleges, worked in the law, investment banking, urban planning and the arts. They agreed that President Bush was incompetent and untrustworthy; but his fundamental mistake about torture had been to go after the law. Torture, they said, cannot be a policy, and a law that permits torture cannot be on the books. What is wanted is a leader who will break the law selectively, in a way we can trust. Torture should be allowable, but only by the right people and for the right reason. To a man and woman, the guests who held this view were supporters of Hillary Clinton. [complete article]

The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act

There has been a long tradition of fear-mongering legislation in the United States directed against groups and individuals believed to threaten the established order. The first such measures were the Alien and Sedition Acts passed by Congress in 1798 during the administration of the second president of the United States John Adams. The Acts, consisting of four separate laws, made it more difficult to become a citizen, sought to control real or imagined foreign agents operating in the United States, and also gave the government broad powers to control “sedition.” Sedition was defined as “resisting any law of the United States or any act of the President” punishable by a prison sentence of up to two years. It also made illegal “false, scandalous or malicious writing” directed against either the government or government officials. The next President, Thomas Jefferson declared that three out of the four laws were unconstitutional and pardoned everyone who had been convicted under them. [complete article]

Witness names to be withheld from detainee

Defense lawyers preparing for the war crimes trial of a 21-year-old Guantánamo detainee have been ordered by a military judge not to tell their client — or anyone else — the identity of witnesses against him, newly released documents show.

The case of the detainee, Omar Ahmed Khadr, is being closely watched because it may be the first Guantánamo prosecution to go to trial, perhaps as soon as May.

Defense lawyers say military prosecutors have sought similar orders to keep the names of witnesses secret in other military commission cases, which have been a centerpiece of the Bush administration’s policies for detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

Some legal experts and defense lawyers said the judge’s order, issued on Oct. 15 without public disclosure, underscored the gap between military commission procedures and traditional American rules that the accused has a right to a public trial and to confront the witnesses against him. [complete article]

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