News Release Archive - 2014

Big Money and Voter Turnout in the 2014 Elections: It’s Worse Than You Think

Walter Dean Burnham and Thomas Ferguson have just written “Americans Are Sick to Death of Both Parties: Why Our Politics Is in Worse Shape Than We Thought,” on AlterNet.

WALTER DEAN BURNHAM
Burnham is professor emeritus, Frank C. Erwin, Jr. Centennial Chair in State Government at the University of Texas, Austin and the author of many books and articles on American voting behavior.

He commented: “Our cautious guess is that turnout in this year’s Congressional races will finally weigh in at around 36 percent of the potential electorate that had legal rights to cast a ballot. That’s a shocking statistic. Across the whole sweep of American history, the momentous dimensions of what has just happened stand out in bold relief. The drop off in voting turnout from the presidential election of 2012 to 2014 is the second largest of all time — 24 percentage points. And the turnout decline this year is broad and to levels that boggle the mind — rates of voting that recall the earliest days of the 19th century, before the Jacksonian Revolution swept away property suffrage and other devices that held down turnout. Turnout in Ohio, for example, fell to 34 percent — a level the state last touched in 1814, when political parties on a modern model did not exist and it had just recently entered the Union. ”

THOMAS FERGUSON, thomas.ferguson at umb.edu
Ferguson is professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, senior fellow of the Roosevelt Institute and the author of Golden Rule: The Investment Theory of Party Competition and the Logic of Money-Driven Politics (University of Chicago Press, 1995).

He observed: “New York trumped Ohio: turnout in the Empire State plunged to 30 percent, almost back to where it was in 1798, when property suffrage laws disenfranchised some 40 percent of the citizenry. New Jersey managed a little better: turnout fell to 31 percent, back to levels of the 1820s. Delaware turnout fell to 35 percent, well below some elections of the 1790s. In the west, by contrast, turnout declined to levels almost without precedent: California’s 33 percent turnout appears to be the lowest recorded since the state entered the union in 1850. Nevada also hit a record low (28 percent), as did Utah at 26 percent (for elections to the House).

“Turnout rose compared to that of 2010 in at least eight states… These were nearly all sites of high stakes, heavily contested elections either for the Senate, as in North Carolina, Louisiana, and Arkansas, or for the governor’s office — precisely the sort of places that big donors for sure concentrated their resources on. The tidal wave of money, we judge, supercharged campaigns in those states, if not electorates. (The turnout increases were quite modest, save in Louisiana.)

“Exit polls from the 2014 House races suggest that the old New Deal political formula has become like the grin of the Cheshire Cat. Traces of the ancient pattern are still there in the aggregate: In the lowest income bracket (under $30,000 in the 2014 exit polls) voters overwhelmingly prefer the Democrats by 59 percent to 39 percent. As income rises, that percentage falls off steeply, with the slightest of hiccups in the very highest bracket. But after six years of profound policy disappointment, not enough lower income voters bothered to go to the polls.

“Since 2006, when the Democratic landslide lamed George W. Bush’s administration, American politics has become a game of musical chairs. Both direct poll evidence and common sense confirm that huge numbers of Americans are now wary of both major political parties and increasingly upset about prospects in the long term. Many are convinced that a few big interests control policy. They crave effective action to reverse long term economic decline and runaway economic inequality, but nothing on the scale required will be offered to them by either of America’s money-driven major parties. This is likely only to accelerate the disintegration of the political system evident in the 2014 congressional elections and in the long run it is as threatening to Republicans as it is to Democrats.”

Truth Is Stranger than Fiction? “The Interview” and U.S. Regime-Change Policy Toward North Korea

CHRISTINE HONG, cjhong at ucsc.edu
Hong is a professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz. She said today: “There’s almost a total dearth of knowledge about North Korea in the United States. It has been called a ‘black hole’ by U.S. intelligence, and it’s against this backdrop of near-total ignorance not only about North Korea but also the brutal legacy of U.S. involvement and intervention on the Korean peninsula that Hollywood churns out films that walk in lockstep with a U.S. policy of regime change. North Korea as a ‘bad guy’ is not only the stuff of U.S. fantasies, but also serves as the cornerstone of Obama’s ‘Pivot’ policy toward Asia, in which intensified U.S. militarism in the region that is actually aimed at containing China is overtly justified by an ‘armed and dangerous North Korea.’

“The discussion of ‘freedom of expression’ when it comes to the film, ‘The Interview,’ is a total red herring. Culture when it comes to U.S. enemies has always been a terrain of manipulation and war. During the Korean War, which has never ended, 2.5 billion propaganda leaflets were dropped by the United States on North Korea, and the National Endowment for Democracy, which is completely Congressionally funded, sponsors defector narratives about North Korea as the truth about North Korea. For those who profess to be so concerned about democracy when it comes to the release of ‘The Interview’ as ‘freedom of expression,’ it’s important to consider the profoundly undemocratic implications of Obama’s militarized ‘Pivot” toward Asia and the Pacific.”

“In this case, consider the collusion between Sony executives, the State Department, and Bruce Bennett, a North Korea watcher at the military-funded RAND corporation in the endorsement of ‘The Interview’ as a regime-change narrative.” See: “Sony Emails Say State Department Blessed Kim Jong-Un Assassination in ‘The Interview’.” Hong appeared this morning on “Democracy Now!” with journalist Tim Shorrock (@TimothyS).

CHRISTINE AHN, christineahn at mac.com, @christineahn
Ahn is co-founder of the National Campaign to End the Korean War. She said: “Despite the entire cyber security community discounting North Korea’s role in the Sony hack, Washington is spreading lies to justify its pivot to Asia.

“The connection between Sony and U.S. military and intelligence officials should make us all wary of how much the U.S. needs Hollywood to sell its greatest export: weapons.

“For those who understand the modern history of Korea, ‘The Interview’ is beyond offensive. The film’s plot of assassination of the North Korean leader — and with input from Obama administration officials — is so twisted — not just because of its CIA coups that forced anti-imperial guerrilla fighters such as Castro and Kim Il Sung to pursue closed non-democratic systems — but the tremendous destruction the U.S. wreaked on the northern half of Korea during the Korean War and continues to do through war games and sanctions. It’s beyond words for those of us who are offended by the film and then now see how Washington is exploiting the hack to further isolate North Korea.”

Background: In 2006, Pentagon head designate Ashton Carter outflanked the Bush administration, advocating a strike on North Korea if they did a ballistic missile test in a Washington Post op-ed titled “If Necessary, Strike and Destroy.”

GMO Chestnuts Draw Scrutiny this Holiday

Syracuse.com recently reported in “Breakthrough at SUNY-ESF” that researchers at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry are growing 10,000 genetically engineered (GE) American chestnut trees to be distributed widely when approved. During the holidays, a time of the iconic roasting of chestnuts, scientists and activists are raising alarms about these efforts to genetically engineer and widely release GE American chestnuts into U.S. forests. See response by Martha Crouch: “Wild, Free, and Genetically Engineered? Not so fast.”

Anne Petermann (see below) writes: ” A look at the partners and funders of this program at SUNY ESF over the years reveals some very disturbing bedfellows… Monsanto and ArborGen among them. ArborGen is a GE tree research and development company based in South Carolina that has requested permission from the USDA to sell GE eucalyptus trees by the billions for planting across the Southern U.S. from South Carolina to Texas. Oh yes, and ArborGen is jointly owned by International Paper and MeadWestvaco — timber multinationals.”

The GMO chestnuts produced by these trees would be a new GMO food when concerns about those are mounting — see: U.S. News and World Report reported from October: “Herbicide-Resistant ‘Super Weeds’ Increasingly Plaguing Farmers.”

BJ MCMANAMA, bjmcmanama at gmail.com
McManama is the GE trees campaigner for the Indigenous Environmental Network. She is based in the mountains of North Carolina, a central location for potential release of GE American chestnuts. In October she organized an Indigenous Peoples’ Action Camp against GE trees in Cherokee, NC. She said today, “As Indigenous Peoples we know that GE trees will threaten our cultural heritage, tradition, sovereignty and health. Even today, many of our people survive through subsistence methods — hunting, gathering, fishing and even our shelters are obtained from our forests. Trees are sacred. They are the children of our mother and our nurturer. We cannot stand idly by as the American chestnut, on which our people depend, is engineered into something that could wind up poisoning the land, air, water and the people. Forests are the source of our spiritual life and knowledge, and we wholly reject any attempts to change the sacred ancient blueprint of these trees — to destroy their spirit.”

ANNE PETERMANN, globalecology at gmavt.net
Petermann is the executive director of Buffalo, NY-based Global Justice Ecology Project and the coordinator of the International Campaign to STOP Genetically Engineered Trees, which includes organizations, scientists, Indigenous Peoples and activists from around the world and is dedicated to preventing the commercial release of all genetically engineered trees. The majority of the research into GE American chestnuts and most of the outdoor test plots are located in New York State. Petermann said today, “GE trees pose unique and potentially disastrous risks to forests due to their longevity, the vast distances over which they spread pollen and seeds and their intricate relationship with complex forest ecosystems, but these GE American chestnut trees are even more dangerous. They are also completely unnecessary. They will supposedly be resistant to the blight that wiped out American chestnut trees in the last century, but the truth is blight resistant chestnuts are being developed through non-GE traditional breeding. But if fertile GE chestnuts are released into Eastern U.S. forests, which is the plan, they will contaminate both wild chestnuts and hybrid chestnuts. The impacts are unknown, but it will certainly ruin decades of work done by American chestnut breeding programs. This GE American chestnut tree is a Pandora’s box of potential disasters best left closed.”

RACHEL SMOLKER, rsmolker at gmail.com
Smolker is an evolutionary biologist and a steering committee member of the Campaign to STOP Genetically Engineered Trees. She is based in Vermont, one of the first states to mandate the labeling of GMO food. She said today, “These GE American chestnut trees are nothing more than a Trojan horse intended to smooth the way for commercial release of a host of other dangerous engineered trees, including GE eucalyptus and GE poplars. The tree biotechnology industry­ — companies like ArborGen — are faced with severe public opposition, so now they are trying to use chestnut tree ‘restoration’ as a cover to gain broader public acceptance of GE trees. GE chestnuts and other trees are an unnecessary, undesirable, and hazardous product of the techno-obsessed mindset that assumes genetic codes are like Lego sets that can be engineered to our specifications. But nature just doesn’t work that way. The impacts of these engineered chestnuts will be completely unpredictable. I certainly do not want to be roasting GE chestnuts over an open fire this holiday season.”

“Going Down to Cuba”

AP reports: “The United States and Cuba will start talks on normalizing full diplomatic relations, marking the most significant shift in U.S. policy toward the communist island in decades, American officials said Wednesday.”

REESE ERLICH, rerlich at pacbell.net, @ReeseErlich
Erlich is an award winning foreign correspondent. His books include “Dateline Havana: The Real Story of U.S. Policy and the Future of Cuba.”

LARRY BIRNS, coha at coha.org, @cohastaff
Birns is the director of Council on Hemispheric Affairs, which today released a statement: “Alan Gross was working in Cuba as a sub­contractor of the United States Agency for International Developments (USAID) in 2009, when Cuban authorities arrested him. A Cuban court convicted Gross for smuggling illegal satellite equipment into the island, which in Cuba is considered a crime against the state.

“Given decades of U.S. deployment of psy­ops and other subversive activity against the Cuban regime, it is not implausible to believe that Gross was likely a player in (intentional or not) a CIA­-USAID plot to weaken Castro’s rule under cover of a human rights project. At the time, Havana was undergoing a transition to normal relations with Washington after decades of a ‘special period’ of economic hardship in Cuba caused by the U.S. economic embargo and exacerbated by the fall of the Soviet Union.

“It was not the first time, nor presumably the last, that the CIA and USAID have been caught in a plot to overthrow Cuba’s government through cultural or human rights projects on the island. For example, the CIA­-USAID partners promoted a ‘Cuba Twitter’ program aiming at overthrowing the government. The latest one to date was a story exposed by The Nation, which reported a USAID-financed cultural project, aimed at promoting certain political behavior among the dynamic Cuban hip ­hop scene. These projects, if not futile, routinely prove to be at the very least completely ‘reckless’ and ‘stupid’ endeavors, as stated by Sen. Patrick Leahy. One can only agree with his reasonable statements.”

NEFTA FREEMAN, netfa at ips-dc.org
The Institute for Policy Studies released a statement today “applauding the just-announced dramatic shifts in U.S.-Cuba policy — shifts that IPS public scholars have been advocating for many years.

“Key to the policy shift, which includes full normalization of U.S.-Cuba relations, was a prisoner swap. U.S. contractor Alan Gross, who was jailed in Cuba for espionage, was released in exchange for the release of three members of the Cuban 5. IPS Fellow Saul Landau had suggested just such a swap in a 2010 commentary.

“Landau devoted his last film ‘Will the Real Terrorist Please Stand Up?’ to raising awareness of the plight of the Cuban Five, a group of Cuban men sent to Miami to infiltrate right-wing terrorist organizations. When they turned over evidence of U.S.-based terrorism to the FBI, they themselves were arrested and convicted while the anti-Castro terrorists continued to live freely in Florida. Landau, who died in September 2013, made six films about Cuba and wrote countless articles and books criticizing U.S. policies towards the island nation and calling for full normalization of relations.

“For the past three years, IPS has also been an active supporter of the annual advocacy events called ‘Five Days for the Cuban Five,’ led by the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5. These events included rallies at the White House, visits to members of U.S. Congress and Senate, and public and cultural events with well-known personalities from the United States and abroad.”

“The release of the remaining imprisoned Cuban 5 is a long overdue act and we’re hopeful about the possibility of a new relationship between the United States and Cuba,” said Netfa Freeman, IPS Events Coordinator, as well as an organizer in the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5. “We will continue to work in solidarity with the people of Cuba to change over 50 years of unjust U.S. policy toward Cuba.”

The group also noted: “Several times in the last years of his life, Saul Landau joined actor Danny Glover in driving hours across the California desert to visit Gerardo Hernández Nordelo, one of the Cuban 5 prisoners involved in the prisoner swap announced by President Obama today as part of a major shift in U.S. policy towards Cuba.”

Note: Producers might want to use Jackson Browne’s “Going Down to Cuba” as intro music. [Video]

DOJ’s Risen Plot Thickens

James Risen (left) and Jeffrey Sterling (right)

James Risen (left) and Jeffrey Sterling (right)

While the Department of Justice has formally backed off from its longtime insistence that journalist James Risen identify a confidential source for his reporting on a CIA operation, the DOJ is still pushing for Risen to testify at the trial of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling.

After a federal court hearing yesterday, ExposeFacts investigative journalist Marcy Wheeler wrote that the government appears to be maneuvering to be able to ask Risen some slippery-slope questions in order to open up the subject of his sources for cross-examination.

Meanwhile, International Business Times reported last night, “Thousands of journalists, press advocates and free-speech supporters are urging the U.S. Department of Justice to abandon its prosecution of Jeffrey Alexander Sterling, the former CIA officer accused of leaking classified information about the government’s embarrassingly ill-conceived effort to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program.

“On Monday, the group RootsAction.org launched a petition calling for Sterling’s release. The group says blowing the whistle on reckless government activities is not a crime but a ‘public service,’ and supporters apparently agree. Within 24 hours, the petition had attracted more than 15,000 signatures, according to Norman Solomon, a coordinator for the group. By Tuesday afternoon, almost 20,000 people had signed on to the cause.”

MARCY WHEELER, emptywheel at gmail.com
Wheeler writes widely about the legal aspects of the “war on terror” and its effects on civil liberties. After the federal court hearing yesterday, she wrote the piece “In Plan for Risen Subpoena, Government Raises Sixth Amendment Interests of Jeffrey Sterling.”

Wheeler is the “Right to Know” journalist for ExposeFacts and blogs at emptywheel.net.

NORMAN SOLOMON, solomonprogressive at gmail.com
Solomon is the executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. He said today: “While making a strategic retreat from its insistence that Risen identify a confidential source, the Justice Department is now aiming for a more insidious attack on freedom of the press. Risen is directly in the line of fire, but the long-range target is investigative journalism in the United States.”

Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org, which coordinated the petition campaign “We Support James Risen Because We Support a Free Press.” The petition gained more than 100,000 signers this year.

He is the author of many books including “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.”

Background:
* Marcy Wheeler, ExposeFacts: “The Leaky CIA’s Case Against Alleged Leaker”
* Norman Solomon, Marcy Wheeler, The Nation: “The Government War Against Reporter James Risen”
* Marcy Wheeler, ExposeFacts: “The Government’s Single-Source Theory of Journalism”
* Matt Apuzzo, The New York Times: “CIA Leaked Classified Information to Support Program”
* Marcy Wheeler, ExposeFacts: “A Tale of Two Alleged Iran Nuke Leakers”

Drone Killings and Torture: Peace Activists to be “Rehabilitated” in Jail

Students gather at the site of a suspected U.S. drone strike on an Islamic seminary in Hangu districtMarcy Wheeler writes in “From Bush to Obama, Eyes Wide Shut: The same memo Bush used to wall himself off from the details of CIA torture is keeping Obama’s drone war alive” that: “On the second day of Barack Obama’s presidency, he prohibited most forms of physical torture. On the third, a CIA drone strike he authorized killed up to 11 civilians.”

Also, see: “U.S. drone strikes kill 28 unknown people for every intended target, new Reprieve report reveals.”

KATHY KELLY, kathy at vcnv.org, @voiceinwild
Co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, Kelly was just sentenced to three months in prison for protesting against drone killings. Recently in Afghanistan, Kelly is currently in Chicago. She will be in New York City around Christmas and in Washington, D.C. just after New Years. She has been told to “self-report” by the court on Jan. 23.

She recently wrote the piece “Drones and Discrimination: Kick the Habit,” which states: “On December 10, International Human Rights Day, federal Magistrate Matt Whitworth sentenced me to three months in prison for having crossed the line at a military base that wages drone warfare. The punishment for our attempt to speak on behalf of trapped and desperate people, abroad, will be an opportunity to speak with people trapped by prisons and impoverishment here in the U.S.

“Our trial was based on a trespass charge incurred on June 1, 2014. Georgia Walker and I were immediately arrested when we stepped onto Missouri’s Whiteman Air Force where pilots fly weaponized drones over Afghanistan and other countries. We carried a loaf of bread and a letter for Brig Gen. Glen D. Van Herck. In court, we testified that we hadn’t acted with criminal intent but had, rather, exercised our First Amendment right (and responsibility) to assemble peaceably for redress of grievance.

“A group of Afghan friends had entrusted me with a simple message, their grievance, which they couldn’t personally deliver: please stop killing us.

“I knew that people I’ve lived with, striving to end wars even as their communities were bombed by drone aircraft, would understand the symbolism of asking to break bread with the base commander. Judge Whitworth said he understood that we oppose war, but he could recommend over 100 better ways to make our point that wouldn’t be breaking the law.

“The prosecution recommended the maximum six month sentence. ‘Ms. Kelly needs to be rehabilitated,’ said an earnest young military lawyer. The judge paged through a four page summary of past convictions and agreed that I hadn’t yet learned not to break the law.”

JACK GILROY, jgilroy1 at stny.rr.com
Gilroy recently completed a two month sentence for protesting drone killings at the Hancock Air base in upstate New York. See from Syracuse.com: “Grandfather of eight/drone protester says he was not ‘corrected’ at Jamesville Correctional Facility.” Gilroy wrote the play “The Predator” about drone killing.

MARK COLVILLE, amistadcwh at yahoo.com
Colville is a member of the Amistad Catholic Worker in New Haven, Conn. and is, like Gilroy, one of about 100 activists who have been charged following protests at the Hancock Air base organized by the Upstate New York Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars.

He was recently on the program “Democracy Now!,” where he stated: “The United States government, through its drone program, is claiming the legal right to targeted assassinations, extrajudicial killings, indiscriminate killing and the targeting, deliberate targeting, of civilians. For example, even the military admits that one of its modes of operation in drone strikes is something that they have called ‘double tapping,’ which is that after striking a target, the drone is directed back to that same target 20 minutes or a half an hour later in order to strike again after first responders have come to help the wounded. And so, it’s on a foundation of criminality. And as we’ve experienced in the numerous public actions and arrests at Hancock Air Field, this program operates beyond the reach of courts and law. And what we’re trying to do is to get courts to [address] the criminality in which the United States government is engaged through the drone program.”

See IPA news release: “31 Protesters Arrested at Drone Base in Syracuse.”

“Big Victory” — Government Ends Threat to Jail James Risen

NORMAN SOLOMON, solomonprogressive at gmail.com
Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org, which coordinated the petition campaign “We Support James Risen Because We Support a Free Press.” Addressed to Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama, the petition — which gained more than 100,000 signers this year — told Holder and Obama: “We urge you in the strongest terms to halt all legal action against Mr. Risen and to safeguard the freedom of journalists to maintain the confidentiality of their sources.”

Solomon said tonight: “This is a big victory for defying illegitimate authority. The Bush and Obama administrations have tried to coerce and intimidate James Risen with a series of subpoenas beginning in early 2008. Nearly seven years later, a crucial lesson from his refusal to back down is that journalists — and the rest of us — must not give an inch to government officials who are trying to undermine the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments.”

He added: “Freedom of the press, confidential communications and due process remain under fierce attack. The only solution is to fight back.”

Solomon is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy.

“The Complicity of Psychologists in CIA Torture”

Dr. James Mitchell (left) and Dr. Bruce Jessen (right)

ROY EIDELSON, reidelson at eidelsonconsulting.com
TRUDY BOND, drtrudybond at gmail.com
Eidelson is a clinical psychologist and the president of Eidelson Consulting, where he studies, writes about, and consults on the role of psychological issues in political, organizational, and group conflict settings. He is a past president of Psychologists for Social Responsibility, associate director of the Solomon Asch Center for Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict at Bryn Mawr College, and a member of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology.

Bond is a counseling psychologist in independent practice in Toledo, Ohio. She is a member of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology and on the steering committee of Psychologists for Social Responsibility.

They just wrote the piece “The Complicity of Psychologists in CIA Torture,” which states: “Earlier this week the Senate Intelligence Committee released the long-awaited executive summary of its 6,000-page classified report on the CIA’s brutal post-9/11 detention and interrogation program. The report provides gruesome details of the abuse that took place in several ‘black site’ prisons — waterboarding, confinement in a coffin-sized box, threatened harm to family members, forced nudity, freezing temperatures, ‘rectal feeding’ without medical need, stress positions, diapering, days of sleep deprivation, and more.

“Two names appear dozens of times in the committee’s summary: Grayson Swigert and Hammond Dunbar. These are the pseudonyms that were given to James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen. It has been known for several years that these two contract psychologists played central roles in designing and implementing the CIA’s torture program. Now we also know how lucrative that work was for Mitchell and Jessen: their company was paid over $80 million by the CIA. …

“Responding to the new Senate report, the American Psychological Association (APA) was quick to issue a press release distancing itself from Mitchell and Jessen. The statement emphasized that the two psychologists are not APA members – although Mitchell was a member until 2006 — and that they are therefore ‘outside the reach of the association’s ethics adjudication process.’ But there is much more to this story. After years of stonewalling and denials, last month the APA Board appointed an investigator to examine allegations that the APA colluded with the CIA and Pentagon in supporting the Bush Administration’s abusive ‘war on terror’ detention and interrogation practices.

“The latest evidence of that collusion comes from the publication earlier this fall of James Risen’s Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War. With access to hundreds of previously undisclosed emails involving senior APA staff, the Pulitzer-prize winning reporter concludes that the APA ‘worked assiduously to protect the psychologists…involved in the torture program.’ The book also provides several new details pointing to the likelihood that Mitchell and Jessen were not so far removed from the APA after all.

“Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, APA member and CIA head of behavioral research Kirk Hubbard first introduced Mitchell and Jessen to the CIA as ‘potential assets.’ A few months later, in mid-2002, Hubbard arranged for former APA president Martin Seligman to present a lecture on his theories of ‘learned helplessness’ to a group that included Mitchell and Jessen at the Navy SERE School in San Diego. And in 2003 Hubbard worked closely with APA senior staff in developing an invitation-only workshop – co-sponsored by the APA and the CIA – on the science of deception and other interrogation-related topics. Mitchell and Jessen were both participants (having returned from overseas where they were involved in the waterboarding of detainees Abu Zabaydah and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed). …”

Prosecuting Torture

AP reports: “UN Officials Demand Prosecutions for U.S. Torture.”

MICHAEL RATNER, mratner at ccrjustice.org, @justleft
Available for a limited number of interviews, Ratner is president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights, author of the book The Trial of Donald Rumsfeld, and co-counsel in European cases to hold former president George W. Bush and other officials accountable.

He said today: “Since the inception of the CIA’s program, the Bush administration setting up Guantanamo, its rendition program etc., CCR has made efforts both in the United States and around the world to hold government officials and private contractors accountable. The Senate Intelligence Committee report again, and with great force, tells us why officials must be held accountable. The United States government is required to do so under the convention against torture. The pressure on it must be maximized to do so. As the government seems to have clay feet, including Obama, international prosecutions in Europe and around the world are necessary. CCR has brought such efforts in Spain, where the case is still pending, Switzerland and Germany. Our efforts in this area now have an even greater chance to succeed. I don’t think the courts of the world will stand by while the country that claims it is a human rights protector becomes a major example of a human rights violator. Bush and company shouldn’t plan on visiting the Prado soon unless they want to end up in Spanish jail.”

FRANCIS BOYLE, fboyle at illinois.edu
Boyle is a professor at the University of Illinois College of Law and author of Tackling America’s Toughest Questions. International Business Times reports: “Some human rights advocates have called for former President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and others in Bush’s administration to be tried for the abuses. Bush, Cheney, Rice and others were referred to the ICC [International Criminal Court] in 2010 by a team of prosecutors that later successfully levied war crimes charges against them in the independent and semi-symbolic Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission.

“Francis Boyle, a prosecutor in the Kuala Lumpur case and a professor at the University of Illinois College of Law, filed that complaint, but it remains pending. He said it’s a good sign it wasn’t immediately dismissed and that the Senate Intelligence Committee report could be what convinces an ICC prosecutor to open an investigation.

“’This is important because now we have an official branch of the U.S. government adopting and making these findings of fact,’ he said. ‘In addition to ICC prosecution, this now will help us pursue these individuals around the world [through the UN Convention Against Torture and Geneva Conventions]. All states signed to that convention, of which the U.S. is one of them, is required to have domestic legislature in place to prosecute torture. It does seem that if any of these individuals go outside of the U.S., we can go after them.’

“Boyle helped lobby the Swiss government to arrest Bush during a visit in 2011, which he, Human Rights Watch, and other rights groups said prompted Bush to cancel that trip. Bush’s spokesman said the group Bush was scheduled to speak but canceled because of security concerns.

“Donald Rumsfeld, former defense secretary under Bush, nearly cancelled a trip to Germany in 2005 after prosecutors there initially threatened him with war crimes case, but later backed down. In addition, the U.S. has pursued over 100 ‘Bilateral Immunity Agreements’ with foreign states that essentially bar that state from referring U.S. officials — current or former — to the ICC.

“Boyle believes that bringing a case against Bush and his officials is crucial to rebuilding the ICC as a legitimate international court that doesn’t just go after ‘tin pot dictators’ in Africa. He said he will submit follow-up appeals to the ICC after reading through the entirety of the [declassified sections of the] Senate report.”

International Activists Demanding Climate Justice

The Hill is reporting: “Secretary of State John Kerry will go to Lima, Peru” on Thursday for climate talks. Union leaders and climate justice activists are in Lima, Peru outside the COP20 (Conference of the Parties) at the People’s Summit on Climate Change. A major march is scheduled for today. (see: “People’s Summit in Lima Envisions Bottom-Up Movement for Global Climate.”)

FERNANDO LOSADA, flosada at nationalnursesunited.org, skype: fernandoricardolosada
Losada is director of environmental health and climate justice for National Nurses United. He is in Lima with a delegation of NNU members. He said today: “Just as the profit motive is driving the the fossil fuel industry to expand extraction and production in the face of devastating consequences to life and society, corporate healthcare in the U.S. profits from illness and puts healthy profits over healthy lives. Nurses who struggle everyday at the bedside to provide safe and humane patient care readily understand how corporate interests go against both human and environmental health. That’s why NNU believes both the healthcare and energy industries should be within the public domain, free from the profit motive and under democratic control.”

LUIS ISARRA DELGADO, isarradefensa at gmail.com, skype: Isarra.Delgado
Isarra is General Secretary of the Peruvian water workers union FENTAP, and director of press and communications of Peru’s main trade union federation the Confederación General de Trabajadores del Perú (CGTP). The CGTP, along with other unions and social movements in Peru, has organized the People’s Summit on Climate Change. He said today, “The People’s Summit is about developing solutions to climate change that are effective and not exploitative of people and the planet’s precious resources – including water. We are against privatization and extreme extractionism. We don’t accept a world that will be six degrees Celsius warmer – which is what we face if present trends in fossil fuel expansion are not impeded. Unions will come together with other social movements in Lima to develop organizing strategies on numerous levels. The people are uniting for a real alternative.” An article in the Peruvian newspaper Diario la Primera published yesterday quoted Isarra announcing that Peruvian workers will take to the streets today to protest the $90 million spent by the Peruvian government on the COP20. He stated, “The workers will peacefully protest to demand that the Ministry of the Environment explain to the country why so much money has been spent. … It is shameful that the government is squandering the Peruvian people’s money. No one is against the fight against global warming, but that is one issue, and the government spending $90 million is something completely different.”

MAITE LLANOS, maitellanos at ctanacional.org, Skype ID: maitesinha
Llanos is international officer for the trade union federation, Central de Trabajadores de Argentina. She states, “At both COP 20 and the People’s Summit, we will be urging unions and social movements to embrace democratic control of energy. This may sound like ‘mission impossible’ but there really is no way of addressing the climate crisis without managing energy generation, transmission, distribution and use in a democratic way, under municipal, community and worker control. Faith in private markets is misguided. Today fossil fuel use is expanding dramatically — this is a planetary emergency.”

LIDY NACPIL, lnacpil at gmail.com, skype: Lidynapcil
Nacpil is the Convener of the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice, and Regional Coordinator of Jubilee South Asia/Pacific Movement on Debt and Development.

CNN is reporting: “Tropical Storm Hagupit batters Philippines, killing at least 25.”

Nacpil also serves on the board of 350.org and is the coordinator of the Global Campaign to Demand Climate Justice. Nacpil states: “A year ago I wrote these words, and today I say them with even greater urgency: ‘We are urging international Governments to increase climate pollution controls and ban new dirty energy projects – and to deliver clean energy through people-controlled, democratic systems. And sadly, because it is now necessary, calling for an international system to deal with the loss and damage caused by the climate change we can no longer avoid.’” On Monday, Nacpil was featured on “Democracy Now!” — which is broadcasting from Lima this week.

MAXIME COMBES, maxime.combes at gmail.com, @MaximCombes
Currently in Lima, Combes is with the French group Attac. The COP will take place next year in Paris. He has recently written the piece “Is the U.S.-China Announcement Historic? Not Really” and the group has put out “Climate or TTIP,” [PDF] which states: “The ongoing negotiations between the European Union and the United States (TTIP) and between the EU and Canada (CETA) promote an energy model which is not sustainable, is heavily depending on mining, fossil fuels processing and transportation infrastructure. It destroys any ambition to control climate change.”