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Your International Human Rights Day review

Hey, it’s International Human Rights Day!

The date was set by the United Nations in 1950 “to bring to the attention ‘of the peoples of the world’ the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as the common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations.”

Nice! Let’s take a celebratory scan of some of today’s top stories!

“All senior U.S. officials and CIA agents who authorized and carried out torture like waterboarding as part of former President George W. Bush’s national security policy must be prosecuted, top U.N. human rights officials said Wednesday,” the Associated Press reports.

Ah. Well, at least we can be sure ordinary people’s voices are heard by lawmakers come election time.

“The $1.1 trillion spending agreement reached by House and Senate negotiators on Tuesday night would vastly expand the amount of money that donors can give political parties, bolstering party leaders’ ability to tap into the wallets of their largest contributors and reclaiming some clout from the outside groups that can accept unlimited dollars,” the New York Times reports.

OK, maybe we should look a little closer to home.

“For the third time in four nights, mayhem defined a protest march from Berkeley to Oakland, as demonstrators took over a freeway, looted businesses and threw objects at police, authorities said,” our own Bay Area News Group reports. “The demonstrations were part of an ongoing national movement against police violence, spurred by grand jury decisions not to indict police officers in Missouri and New York after the deaths of two unarmed black men.”

Yeeeesh. Well, at least there’s some progress elsewhere on protecting that most basic of human rights – life itself.

“The Ebola virus that has killed thousands in West Africa is still ‘running ahead’ of efforts to contain it, the head of the World Health Organization has said,” the BBC reports.

I give up.

I surrender

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Reactions to the CIA torture report

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., on Tuesday released the executive summary of the committee’s five-year review of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program.

The study’s 20 findings and conclusions can be grouped into four central themes, each of which is supported extensively in the executive summary:

  • The CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” were not effective.
  • The CIA provided extensive inaccurate information about the operation of the program and its effectiveness to policymakers and the public.
  • The CIA’s management of the program was inadequate and deeply flawed.
  • The CIA program was far more brutal than the CIA represented to policymakers and the American public.
  • From President Barack Obama:

    “Throughout our history, the United States of America has done more than any other nation to stand up for freedom, democracy, and the inherent dignity and human rights of people around the world. As Americans, we owe a profound debt of gratitude to our fellow citizens who serve to keep us safe, among them the dedicated men and women of our intelligence community, including the Central Intelligence Agency. Since the horrific attacks of 9/11, these public servants have worked tirelessly to devastate core al Qaeda, deliver justice to Osama bin Laden, disrupt terrorist operations and thwart terrorist attacks. Solemn rows of stars on the Memorial Wall at the CIA honor those who have given their lives to protect ours. Our intelligence professionals are patriots, and we are safer because of their heroic service and sacrifices.

    “In the years after 9/11, with legitimate fears of further attacks and with the responsibility to prevent more catastrophic loss of life, the previous administration faced agonizing choices about how to pursue al Qaeda and prevent additional terrorist attacks against our country. As I have said before, our nation did many things right in those difficult years. At the same time, some of the actions that were taken were contrary to our values. That is why I unequivocally banned torture when I took office, because one of our most effective tools in fighting terrorism and keeping Americans safe is staying true to our ideals at home and abroad.

    “Today’s report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence details one element of our nation’s response to 9/11—the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, which I formally ended on one of my first days in office. The report documents a troubling program involving enhanced interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects in secret facilities outside the United States, and it reinforces my long-held view that these harsh methods were not only inconsistent with our values as nation, they did not serve our broader counterterrorism efforts or our national security interests. Moreover, these techniques did significant damage to America’s standing in the world and made it harder to pursue our interests with allies and partners. That is why I will continue to use my authority as President to make sure we never resort to those methods again.

    “As Commander in Chief, I have no greater responsibility than the safety and security of the American people. We will therefore continue to be relentless in our fight against al Qaeda, its affiliates and other violent extremists. We will rely on all elements of our national power, including the power and example of our founding ideals. That is why I have consistently supported the declassification of today’s report. No nation is perfect. But one of the strengths that makes America exceptional is our willingness to openly confront our past, face our imperfections, make changes and do better. Rather than another reason to refight old arguments, I hope that today’s report can help us leave these techniques where they belong — in the past. Today is also a reminder that upholding the values we profess doesn’t make us weaker, it makes us stronger and that the United States of America will remain the greatest force for freedom and human dignity that the world has ever known.”

    From U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.:

    http://youtu.be/wR7qsQDWVPU

    “We have made our way in this often dangerous and cruel world, not by just strictly pursuing our geopolitical interests, but by exemplifying our political values, and influencing other nations to embrace them. When we fight to defend our security we fight also for an idea, not for a tribe or a twisted interpretation of an ancient religion or for a king, but for an idea that all men are endowed by the Creator with inalienable rights. How much safer the world would be if all nations believed the same. How much more dangerous it can become when we forget it ourselves even momentarily.

    “Our enemies act without conscience. We must not. This executive summary of the Committee’s report makes clear that acting without conscience isn’t necessary, it isn’t even helpful, in winning this strange and long war we’re fighting. We should be grateful to have that truth affirmed.”

    From Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland:

    “The report from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released this morning confirms what I’ve long believed: the CIA not only embraced the widespread use of enhanced interrogation techniques, but also repeatedly misled Congress and the American people about their activities. Furthermore, the report found that the CIA exaggerated the usefulness of these methods in gaining reliable intelligence.

    “The use of torture is unacceptable and morally wrong. These practices undermine our values, endanger our national security interests and exacerbate anti-American sentiment abroad.

    “The release of this report is an important step towards providing the American people with the transparency they deserve. These atrocities are a national disgrace and Congress must work to ensure this never happens again.”

    More, after the jump…
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    John Yoo defends Obama’s war powers in Libya

    Cal law professor John Yoo – who as a Justice Department attorney helped build a legal framework for the “enhanced interrogation” techniques many consider to be torture and for other perceived Bush Administration transgressions – has found a new way to make Bay Area liberals mad: supporting President Barack Obama’s stance on his power to attack Libya.

    In an op-ed piece that appeared in Friday’s Wall Street Journal, Yoo argues House Republicans are sacrificing constitutional principle for partisan advantage in battling the President on Libya.

    John Yoo “By accusing President Barack Obama of violating the War Powers Resolution, House Republicans are abandoning their party’s longstanding position that the Constitution allows the executive to use force abroad, subject to Congress’s control over funding,” Yoo wrote. “Sadly, they’ve fallen victim to the siren song of short-term political gain against a president who continues to stumble in national-security matters.”

    OK, so he’s not an Obama fan by any stretch of the imagination. But Yoo wrote that “Mr. Obama’s constitutional position today on war powers is little different from that of President George W. Bush, whom Democrats portrayed as a warmongering dictator.”

    “If the Constitution gives the president the executive authority to use force abroad, Congress cannot take it away,” Yoo wrote. “Surely Mr. Boehner agreed with this proposition before the current president took office. He, for instance, never claimed that President George W. Bush’s exercise of broad executive powers in the war on terror violated the Constitution. Nor does he appear to have thought that legislative authorization of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars was constitutionally necessary in 2001 and 2002.”

    If Republicans want to end U.S. involvement in Libya, Yoo concludes, they should cut the operation’s purse strings; refuse to lift the debt ceiling until they get what they want; or even start impeachment proceedings. “But holding hands with isolationist Democrats out of political convenience is no way to defend the Constitution.”

    So, Yoo’s tally is: House Republicans are wrong; antiwar Democrats are wrong; and the President is wrong but constitutionally protected.

    UPDATE @ 9:50 A.M.: Liz Cheney and Karl Rove agree.

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    Toilet-paper prank targets Cal’s John Yoo

    One of the many activists protesting University of California, Berkeley law professor John Yoo – who as a Justice Department lawyer helped build a legal framework for the “enhanced interrogation” techniques many now consider to be torture and for other perceived Bush Administration transgressions – has found a, well, creative new way to voice displeasure with him.

    Students using the restrooms at Cal’s Boalt Hall Law School today reportedly found “Yoo Toilet Paper,” printed with text from the United Nations Convention Against Torture.

    Los Angeles-based activist/artist Matt Cornell said the prank was meant to remind law students that “Yoo helped turned human rights laws into toilet paper.” At the bottom of each roll is a reminder that “this toilet paper was made by possible by John Yoo, Professor of Law.” He also said his toilet paper is both softer and better than that provided by the budget-crunched university, and that it contains “valuable reading material” for students.

    (I’ll assume that the “Josh Wolf” listed in the video’s production credits is the very same UC journalism student who keeps getting in trouble with various authorities as he blurs the line between journalism and activism.)

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    John Yoo to tout book at SF appearance

    John YooIf those activists who’ve dogged Cal law professor John Yoo – who as a Justice Department lawyer helped build a legal framework for the “enhanced interrogation” techniques many now consider to be torture and for other perceived Bush Administration transgressions – still can’t find where he’s teaching his current class, at least they’ll know where he is for a few hours next week.

    Yoo will speak to the Commonwealth Club of California about his new book, “Crisis and Command: A History of Executive Power from George Washington to George W. Bush,” at 6 p.m. next Wednesday, Jan. 27 at the club’s offices on the second floor of 595 Market St. in San Francisco. Tickets are available online and cost $12 for club members, $18 for nonmembers and $7 for students with valid ID; I predict the tickets will sell out and – no, really, I’m a little bit psychic – that the club’s security will be expecting protestors to try to disrupt the event.

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    Protestors can’t find Yoo, but Jon Stewart did

    Protestors’ targeting of Cal law professor and former Bush administration lawyer and torture-memo author John Yoo has taken an almost comical turn into cat-and-mouse territory: They want to keep disrupting his classes, but they can’t find him.

    Yoo is teaching a Tuesday-evening class this semester on “Constitutional Design and the California Constitution,” but Boalt Hall’s schedule lists the class’ location as “to be announced.” Activists from World Can’t Wait and FireJohnYoo.org say their calls to the Cal Registrar’s office and the law school seeking the class’ location have been rebuffed – gee, I wonder why?

    “We continue to call for Yoo to be fired, disbarred, and prosecuted for war crimes, along with his entire cohort from the Bush-Cheney Torture Team,” World Can’t Wait organizer Stephanie Tang said in a news release. “Torture is a war crime. Thousands have been tortured thanks to John Yoo’s work for the White House, long after Yoo himself returned to teaching. The faculty and students right here at UC – and all people of conscience everywhere — need to denounce these crimes, not turn away in silent complicity.”

    They’ll hold a news conference outside the office of Boalt Hall Dean Christopher Edley Jr. at 3 p.m. today to demand information about Yoo’s class. If I were them, I wouldn’t hold my breath for an answer. They certainly have a right to protest Yoo, but expecting the university to provide them the information they need to disrupt his classes seems foolhardy.

    Meanwhile, Yoo was on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” last night. See the complete, unedited interview in three parts, after the jump…
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