“Teaching employees that dissent on issues of public concern is something to be feared, rather than encouraged, is a dangerously counterproductive use of scarce security resources, making us less safe as a democracy,” Northern California ACLU Staff Attorney Ann Brick and ACLU Washington National Security Policy Council Michael German wrote in the letter to Gail McGinn, Acting Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness.
“DoD employees cannot accomplish their mission of protecting our nation and its values unless they understand that those values encompass the right to criticize our government through protest activities,” they wrote. “It is imperative that they are taught the difference between political, religious or social activism and terrorism.”
Among the multiple-choice questions included in its Level 1 Antiterrorism Awareness training course – an annual training requirement for all DoD personnel that is fulfilled through web-based instruction – the DoD asks the following: “Which of the following is an example of low-level terrorist activity?” To answer correctly, the examinee must select “protests.” The ACLU wants that changed immediately, and wants corrective information sent to all DoD employees who received the training.
I guess I’m surprised not only that government hasn’t yet learned its lesson about equating the exercise of our cherished constitutional rights with terrorism, but also that it’s so incredibly obvious in doing so.
The U.S. Justice Department today announced that Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a Tanzanian national held at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility since September 2006, arrived early this morning in the Southern District of New York to face criminal charges stemming from his alleged role in the Aug. 7, 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya.
Bringing anyone from Guantanamo Bay to the lower 48 has become a topic of great debate over issues of safety, constitutional rights and so forth, so of course there’s a lot of cross-talk today.
The Justice Department notes four terrorism cases involving Islamic fundamentalism, dating back to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, already have been successfully prosecuted in New York City alone; others terrorism case already are pending there, and others have occurred or are in progress in other domestic courts.
“With his appearance in federal court today, Ahmed Ghailani is being held accountable for his alleged role in the bombing of U.S. Embassies in Tanzania and Kenya and the murder of 224 people,” U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said. “The Justice Department has a long history of securely detaining and successfully prosecuting terror suspects through the criminal justice system, and we will bring that experience to bear in seeking justice in this case.”
Former National Security Advisor and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, now back at Stanford University, was given a hard time earlier this week by students asking about her role in what many see as the Bush Administration’s human-rights abuses:
California’s netroots are ramping up an effort to urge the House of Representatives to impeach Circuit Judge Jay Bybee of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals because he helped set the framework for the Bush Administration’s detention, extradition and interrogation — which many have deemed torture — of terrorism detainees.
Bybee, 55, an Oakland native, was the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel in the U.S. Justice Department from November 2001 to March 2003; he was nominated to the San Francisco-based circuit court by President George W. Bush in May 2002, confirmed by the U.S. Senate in March 2003 and now maintains his chambers in Las Vegas.
“In one of the more nauseating passages, Jay Bybee, then an assistant attorney general and now a federal judge, wrote admiringly about a contraption for waterboarding that would lurch a prisoner upright if he stopped breathing while water was poured over his face. He praised the Central Intelligence Agency for having doctors ready to perform an emergency tracheotomy if necessary.”
“These memos make it clear that Mr. Bybee is unfit for a job that requires legal judgment and a respect for the Constitution. Congress should impeach him.”
Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco; Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; and other House members met today with President Barack Obama to discuss recent developments in Afghanistan and nearby nations.
Miller has been to Afghanistan three times including twice in the last month, most recently with Pelosi and Eshoo as part of a congressional delegation that met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, U.S. military commanders and troops.
“Seven years ago, President Bush had Osama Bin Laden and al Qaeda cornered in Afghanistan, only to take his eye off the ball and pursue an unjustified and costly war in Iraq,” Miller said in a statement issued today. “Since then, violence in Afghanistan has risen, the Taliban has reemerged, opium production has skyrocketed, corruption and incompetence have reigned supreme in the Afghan government, and all of this is threatening to spill over the border and destabilize a nuclear-armed Pakistan.”
“I’ve recently returned from my third trip to Afghanistan and was pleased to have the opportunity to share my impressions and experiences with the President today as he seeks to chart a new course for US policy in the region. I discussed with President Obama my belief that before an already unstable situation in Afghanistan becomes worse, we’ve got to change course now. It is very clear that to be successful, America needs the help of neighbors in the region – India, Pakistan, China, and Russia. That’s why I applaud President Obama’s decision to conduct a top to bottom review of our strategy in Afghanistan and his appointment of Ambassador Richard Holbrooke as special envoy to the region.”
Click here for Pelosi’s rundown of the most recent trip to Afghanistan, from a Feb. 23 news conference.
Continuing the “it’s-a-whole-new-ballgame-with-Obama-in-the-White-House” waltz, Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, this Thursday will announce she’s introducing legislation to provide more “dwell time” for troops deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, to help them recover mentally and physically and give military units time to repair and upgrade equipment.
The House in August 2007 passed Tauscher’s like-minded H.R. 3159. It would’ve required that any regular Armed Forces member or unit deployed to Iraq must then have an equal period of time at home before being redeployed, and that no unit or member of a Reserve component including the National Guard be redeployed to Iraq within three years of their previous deployment.
Why am I reliving all this history? Well, partly because Gates is still our Secretary of Defense; it’ll be interesting to see what he recommends now, given he’s serving a new President with a new agenda for Iraq and Afghanistan.
Inanity erupted in both chambers of Congress yesterday. (Big surprise.)
In the House, it was Rep. C.W. Bill Young, R-Fla., the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee’s ranking Republican.
“Alcatraz would be a good place to put these people,’’ he said yesterday of the detainees who will have to be moved out of their prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba within the next year under an executive order signed Thursday by President Barack Obama. “There’s a lot of discomfort about the idea of bringing the detainees in to the United States. That’s why I’ve suggested Alcatraz.”
“I can’t think of any city or town across this country that will be thrilled to have Khalid Shaikh Mohammed or Abu Zubaydah living down the street,” said the Senate Intelligence Committee’ ranking Republican. “If you really want to bring them back to the United States, people in Missouri and Kansas believe Gitmo is just fine. Folks in San Francisco want it closed. I’d suggest you put them in Alcatraz.”
“Not speaking out and acting against torture allows torture practices to continue uncontested in violation of treaties against torture, to which the United States is a signatory,” said the news release. “The billboard expresses a call to action to stop gross misrepresentations of the law to continue in our names.”
You might notice the billboard doesn’t actually name Yoo; coalition coordinator Curt Wechsler said a proposed design with Yoo’s name and an iconic Abu Ghraib figure was rejected by the billboard company:
Don’t expect anyone at this event to take Yoo’s side, however. The coalition says it has been founded “to demand that John Yoo be fired, disbarred, and prosecuted for war crimes;” it aims to rally the campus community, the legal community and the East Bay at large to demand Yoo’s ousting. It’s planning a “war crimes tribunal” for this fall and a public advertising campaign, among other things.