Appeals Court Reinstates Torture Case Against Infamous Military Contractor

by Nadia Prupis – Ruling rejects CACI’s argument that its conduct was outside the court’s bounds, stating, “It is beyond the power of even the president to declare lawful.” An appellate court on Friday reinstated a lawsuit against a private military contractor accused of torturing detainees at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, reversing a lower court decision that dismissed the case and rejecting the defendant’s claim that the issue of torture was beyond the court’s jurisdiction. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia ruled against the Arlington-based contractor CACI Premier Technology, Inc., sending the case back to the district court in Alexandria for additional review. CACI had argued that its conduct was outside the court’s bounds, but the panel disagreed, stating, “It is beyond the power of even the president to declare lawful…. The determination of specific violations of law is constitutionally committed to the...

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Michael Ratner, Champion of Human Rights and the Oppressed, Dies at 72

by Nika Knight – ‘All of us who treasure freedom and oppose oppressive state violence owe a debt of gratitude to Michael Ratner’ Michael Ratner—the renowned civil rights lawyer who sued Donald Rumsfeld over the United States’ use of torture, defended whistleblower Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, and oversaw a lawsuit that successfully eradicated the NYPD’s controversial “stop and frisk” practice—died from complications of cancer in Manhattan on Wednesday. Ratner was remembered by activists, journalists, and lawyers worldwide as an indefatigable and dogged pursuer of justice, filing lawsuits on principle even when the odds were such that it seemed absolutely impossible his cases would succeed. Author and activist Naomi Klein described Ratner’s death as a “body blow” in a tweet: “He was a moral giant, a fearless fighter, a lifelong learner. So many grieving this loss today.” “To understand Michael Ratner’s courage and bone-deep belief in human rights, all you need to know...

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Inmates Credited for ‘Effectively Ending’ Solitary in California

by Deirdre Fulton – Center for Constitutional Rights says settlement will ‘fundamentally alter all aspects of this cruel and unconstitutional regime’ Marking a significant victory in the struggle to end solitary confinement in the United States, a landmark legal settlement filed in federal court on Tuesday effectively ends the practice of indeterminate, long-term isolation of inmates in the state of California. The settlement comes in Ashker v. Governor of California, a federal class action lawsuit brought on behalf of prisoners held in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) at California’s Pelican Bay State Prison who have spent a decade or more in solitary confinement. Many were sent into isolation without any violent conduct or serious rule infractions, purely based on gang affiliation, and all without any meaningful process for transfer out of isolation and back to the general prison population. “This settlement represents a monumental victory for prisoners and an important step...

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CIA Officials Knew Rendition Victim Was ‘The Wrong Guy,’ Kiriakou Reveals

In an interview at his Virginia home, torture whistleblower says agency insiders objected to the arrest and torture of Syrian-born Canadian Maher Arar by Deirdre Fulton – CIA insiders objected to the arrest, rendition, and torture of Syrian-born Canadian Maher Arar, but high-ranking officials ignored concerns that they were punishing an innocent man, according to former spy and whistleblower John Kiriakou in an interview with the Canadian Press. After serving two years behind bars, Kiriakou—the only government official to be punished in connection with the U.S. torture program—was released from Loretto Prison in Pennsylvania in February, under orders to finish the remainder of his 30-month sentence at home. The interview with journalist Alexander Panetta took place in the former CIA official’s house in Virginia. Kiriakou talked specifically about Maher Arar’s case (pdf), which galvanized international human rights groups and highlighted the disturbing practice of rendition. Arar was detained during a layover at New...

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Over Decade Later, Survivors of Torture at Abu Ghraib Demanding ‘Measure of Justice’

Four Iraqi men argued in federal district court on Friday that mercenary company CACI should be held accountable for role in their torture by Sarah Lazare – More than a decade later, Iraqi survivors of torture at the U.S.-run Abu Ghraib prison are still fighting for “a measure of justice” in U.S. civil courts. The four plaintiffs, all of whom were held captive at the prison then released without charges, argued in a federal district court in Virginia on Friday that private mercenary company CACI Premier Technology, Inc. (CACI)—which was operating in the prison—should have to stand trial for its confirmed role in their torture. The hearing was the latest development in a suit, backed by the Center for Constitutional Rights, which was first filed in 2008. The contractor has argued vigorously that it should not face any liability, despite the fact that military investigators found (pdf) that, in 2004, CACI...

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In Torture Report Face-Off, ACLU Fights GOP Repo Man

If the White House gives in to Sen. Richard Burr’s demands, civil rights group says it ‘faces the real threat of never securing the release of a document to which it is entitled by law’ by Deirdre Fulton – The ACLU filed an emergency motion with a federal judge to stop the new GOP chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee from repossessing the full-length version of a revealing inquiry into CIA torture. Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) has requested the White House and various executive agencies “immediately” return copies of the 6,700-page report, which Burr says was inappropriately transmitted by his predecessor, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). Feinstein disputes that characterization. The ACLU and other human rights groups charge that Burr’s request is an attempt to keep the findings of the report under wraps permanently. As Politico points out: “Who maintains legal control of the report could be critical to whether and when...

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The Cancer of Violent Extremism

by Robert C. Koehler – “As we look to the future, one issue risks a cycle of conflict that could derail so much progress. And that is the cancer of violent extremism that has ravaged so many parts of the Muslim world.” The cancer of violent extremism . . . I listen to the president’s words and stare into the void. All I can think about is white phosphorous and burn pits and the horrific, DNA-wrecking genotoxins of war. All I can think about is depleted uranium — DU — the dense, super-hard metal used in some U.S. missiles and shells that explodes on impact into an extraordinarily fine, radioactive dust. Turns out “cancer” isn’t merely a stern, nation-rallying metaphor for our enemy of the moment. The stew of toxins we’ve inflicted on Iraq over the last couple decades have caused a horrifying upward spiral of actual cancer, birth defects...

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US Forced to Release Memo on Extrajudicial Drone Killing

DOJ ‘drone memo‘ reveals legal arguments for targeting of US citizens By Sarah Lazare, Common Dreams – The U.S. government on Monday partially released the formerly-classified Department of Justice “drone memo,” dated 2010, in which Obama administration lawyers argue they have the right to extra-judicially kill U.S. citizen Anwar al-Aulaqi in Yemen. Anwar Al Aulaqi, who had been placed on a “kill list,” died by U.S. drone strikes in September 2011, along with Samir Khan, as well as three other people. Just weeks later, another U.S. drone attack on a restaurant in Yemen killed Anwar Al-Aulaqi’s son, Abdulrahman, also a U.S. citizen, and six other civilians. In the memo, which is addressed to Attorney General Eric Holder, David Barron — then head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel—argues that the targeted killing is legal “where, as here, the target’s activities pose a ‘continued and imminent threat of violence or death’...

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Abu Ghraib 10 Years Later: Challenging Corporate Impunity for Torture

Ten years ago, the world got its first glimpse of images that would forever tarnish the United States’ reputation for how it conducts its wars.  On April 28, 2004, a “60 Minutes” broadcast leaked photos of US soldiers humiliating, tormenting, beating and sexually assaulting detainees at the US-run Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.  A decade later, survivors of these acts of torture are still waiting for justice. Private corporate contractors, hired by the US government to interrogate detainees, played a key role in directing and encouraging the acts of the low-level soldiers in those photos. Tasked with collecting intelligence, civilian interrogators exploited a vacuum of military leadership at the prison to direct soldiers to “soften up” detainees and “set the conditions” for interrogation – euphemisms for instructions to torture.  Yet, despite universal outrage and demands for justice when the photos were released, 10 years after the scandal came to...

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