“A month after making public once-classified Justice Department memos detailing the Bush administration’s coercive methods of interrogation, President Obama yesterday chose secrecy over disclosure, saying he will seek to block the court-ordered release of photographs depicting the abuse of detainees held by U.S. authorities abroad.
Obama agreed less than three weeks ago not to oppose the photos’ release, but he changed his mind after viewing some of the images and hearing warnings from his generals in Iraq and in Afghanistan that such a move would endanger U.S. troops deployed there.
“The publication of these photos would not add any additional benefit to our understanding of what was carried out in the past by a small number of individuals,” Obama said yesterday.”
Oh yeah, right. The torturers were operating entirely on their own. Dick Cheney had nothing to do with it. The fact that he fully approves is just a co-inky-dink.
“In fact, the most direct consequence of releasing them, I believe, would be to further inflame anti-American opinion and to put our troops in danger.”
You mean anti-American sentiment isn’t already inflamed and U.S. troops aren’t in danger?
Civil liberties and human rights advocates said the reversal would serve to maintain the Bush administration’s legacy of secrecy. Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said Obama’s shift was “deeply disappointing.”
“Even given that the photos will undoubtedly generate outrage in the region, the best way to dampen that outrage is to hold those responsible accountable,” Roth said.
Yeah, like that’s ever gonna happen.
The photos were assembled as part of about 200 criminal investigations conducted before and after the disclosure in 2004 of widespread prisoner abuse by U.S. troops at Abu Ghraib, the former Iraqi prison that the U.S. military turned into a detention and intelligence-gathering center.
Previously released pictures taken at Abu Ghraib — depicting Iraqis stacked naked in piles and pyramids, tormented by dogs, chained to beds and placed in other painful or humiliating positions — enraged many in the Middle East and became symbols of the deeply unpopular U.S. invasion and military occupation of Iraq.
“But no commanding officers or Defense Department officials were jailed or fired in connection with the abuse, which the Bush administration dismissed as the misbehavior of low-ranking soldiers.”
“Misbehavior” — doncha love it?
“The American Civil Liberties Union filed a Freedom of Information Act request in October 2003 for all photographs pertaining to U.S. military detention operations. It filed a lawsuit the following year after that request was denied.
Last September, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit ordered the photographs released. The Bush administration challenged the ruling, but the court denied that petition in March.
Amrit Singh, the ACLU lawyer who argued the case, said the court ordered the release of 21 photos taken in Afghanistan and in Iraq outside of Abu Ghraib. She said 23 other photos taken in undetermined locations are part of the lawsuit. Civil liberties advocates say that as many as 2,000 other photos could be subject to release.
“There’s a substantial number of photographs about which we know nothing,” Singh said. “All we know is that some of them depict prisoner abuse.”
In an April 23 letter to Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, the Obama administration stated that “the parties have reached an agreement that the Defense Department will produce all the responsive images by May 28, 2009.” Press secretary Robert Gibbs said yesterday that Obama had not viewed the photos at that time.
Last week, Obama gathered White House lawyers and informed them that he did not “feel comfortable” releasing the photos because doing so could provoke a backlash against U.S. troops, administration officials said. Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s chief of staff, said the administration had been informed that the time to challenge the release had passed. He said Obama had also been informed that the Bush administration had challenged the photos’ release only on law enforcement and privacy grounds, and had never invoked a national security exemption to the Freedom of Information Act.
“That’s a big fact when you are commander in chief,” Emanuel said. “When you have a window that you were told had been shut that is still open, an argument that’s never been made and a secretary of defense who is telling you that your commanders on the ground are concerned, you make this decision.”
At the end of the meeting, Obama directed the lawyers to prepare a challenge to the photos’ release. He informed Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, of his decision at the end of a Tuesday meeting at the White House.
“Odierno was really the one who persuaded” Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates “that this was one that had to be fought,” said Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell, who said Gen. David D. McKiernan, the outgoing commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, also expressed concern about the administration’s position.
“With 20,000 additional forces coming into Afghanistan, an election in August and the fighting season in full swing right now, the timing is particularly bad,” Morrell said.
Gibbs said Obama has seen a representative sample of the photos, which the president described yesterday as “not particularly sensational, especially when compared to the painful images that we remember from Abu Ghraib.”
Oh, so he DID see them, and they weren’t really that bad.
I’m so relieved.
“But one congressional staff member, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the photos, said the pictures are more graphic than those that have been made public from Abu Ghraib. “When they are released, there will be a major outcry for an investigation by a commission or some other vehicle,” the staff member said.
WHAT’S YOUR FUCKING NAME, ASSHOLE?!!!!!!
Human rights officials said Obama’s decision to oppose the release of the photos is less consequential than his pending decisions on restoring modified Bush-era military commissions to try detainees and on whether to allow a wide-ranging investigation — followed by possible prosecutions — into interrogation methods.”
“This essentially renders meaningless President Obama’s pledge of transparency and accountability that he made in the early days after taking office,” said Singh, the ACLU lawyer. The Obama administration “has essentially become complicit with the torture that was rampant during the Bush years by being complicit in its coverup.”
Can we say “Unindicted Co-Conspirator” boys and girls?
So what does the future hold? Don’t ask! (And of course, don’t tell either.)
“Ten minutes into arrant mayhem in this town near the Mexican border, and the gunman, a disgruntled Iraq war veteran, has already taken out two people, one slumped in his desk, the other covered in blood on the floor.
The responding officers — eight teenage boys and girls, the youngest 14 — face tripwire, a thin cloud of poisonous gas and loud shots — BAM! BAM! — fired from behind a flimsy wall. They move quickly, pellet guns drawn and masks affixed.
“United States Border Patrol! Put your hands up!” screams one in a voice cracking with adolescent determination as the suspect is subdued.
It is all quite a step up from the square knot.
The Explorers program, a coeducational affiliate of the Boy Scouts of America that began 60 years ago, is training thousands of young people in skills used to confront terrorism, illegal immigration and escalating border violence — an intense ratcheting up of one of the group’s longtime missions to prepare youths for more traditional jobs as police officers and firefighters.”
Wanna know where the Lyndie England’s of the future are coming from. Look no further thant the pic atop this post.
“This is about being a true-blooded American guy and girl,” said A. J. Lowenthal, a sheriff’s deputy here in Imperial County, whose life clock, he says, is set around the Explorers events he helps run. “It fits right in with the honor and bravery of the Boy Scouts.”
Which has of course banned gays — even thought the Scouts was invented by one.
The training, which leaders say is not intended to be applied outside the simulated Explorer setting, can involve chasing down illegal border crossers as well as more dangerous situations that include facing down terrorists and taking out “active shooters,” like those who bring gunfire and death to college campuses. In a simulation here of a raid on a marijuana field, several Explorers were instructed on how to quiet an obstreperous lookout.
“Put him on his face and put a knee in his back,” a Border Patrol agent explained. “I guarantee that he’ll shut up.”
And if not, then kick him in the head!
One participant, Felix Arce, 16, said he liked “the discipline of the program,” which was something he said his life was lacking. “I want to be a lawyer, and this teaches you about how crimes are committed,” he said.
You mean they’ev got an “O.J. 101″ course? That woudl be ideal for lawyers.
Cathy Noriego, also 16, said she was attracted by the guns. The group uses compressed-air guns — known as airsoft guns, which fire tiny plastic pellets — in the training exercises, and sometimes they shoot real guns on a closed range.
“I like shooting them,” Cathy said. “I like the sound they make. It gets me excited.”
And we know what happens when you get excited, sweetcheeks.
“If there are critics of the content or purpose of the law enforcement training, they have not made themselves known to the Explorers’ national organization in Irving, Tex., or to the volunteers here on the ground, national officials and local leaders said. That said, the Explorers have faced problems over the years. There have been numerous cases over the last three decades in which police officers supervising Explorers have been charged, in civil and criminal cases, with sexually abusing them.”
Several years ago, two University of Nebraska criminal justice professors published a study that found at least a dozen cases of sexual abuse involving police officers over the last decade. Adult Explorer leaders are now required to take an online training program on sexual misconduct.
Many law enforcement officials, particularly those who work for the rapidly growing Border Patrol, part of the Homeland Security Department, have helped shape the program’s focus and see it as preparing the Explorers as potential employees. The Explorer posts are attached to various agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation and local police and fire departments, that sponsor them much the way churches sponsor Boy Scout troops.
“Our end goal is to create more agents,” said April McKee, a senior Border Patrol agent and mentor at the session here.
And better torturers.
Membership in the Explorers has been overseen since 1998 by an affiliate of the Boy Scouts called Learning for Life, which offers 12 career-related programs, including those focused on aviation, medicine and the sciences.
But the more than 2,000 law enforcement posts across the country are the Explorers’ most popular, accounting for 35,000 of the group’s 145,000 members, said John Anthony, national director of Learning for Life. Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, many posts have taken on an emphasis of fighting terrorism and other less conventional threats.
“Before it was more about the basics,” said Johnny Longoria, a Border Patrol agent here. “But now our emphasis is on terrorism, illegal entry, drugs and human smuggling.”
The Fun Stuff!
The law enforcement posts are restricted to those ages 14 to 21 who have a C average, but there seems to be some wiggle room. “I will take them at 13 and a half,” Deputy Lowenthal said. “I would rather take a kid than possibly lose a kid.”
The law enforcement programs are highly decentralized, and each post is run in a way that reflects the culture of its sponsoring agency and region. Most have weekly meetings in which the children work on their law-enforcement techniques in preparing for competitions. Weekends are often spent on service projects.
Just as there are soccer moms, there are Explorers dads, who attend the competitions, man the hamburger grill and donate their land for the simulated marijuana field raids. In their training, the would-be law-enforcement officers do not mess around, as revealed at a recent competition on the state fairgrounds here, where a Ferris wheel sat next to the police cars set up for a felony investigation.
Their hearts pounding, Explorers moved down alleys where there were hidden paper targets of people pointing guns, and made split-second decisions about when to shoot. In rescuing hostages from a bus taken over by terrorists, a baby-faced young girl screamed, “Separate your feet!” as she moved to handcuff her suspect.
In a competition in Arizona that he did not oversee, Deputy Lowenthal said, one role-player wore traditional Arab dress. “If we’re looking at 9/11 and what a Middle Eastern terrorist would be like,” he said, “then maybe your role-player would look like that. I don’t know, would you call that politically incorrect?”
Authenticity seems to be the goal. Imperial County, in Southern California, is the poorest in the state, and the local economy revolves largely around the criminal justice system. In addition to the sheriff and local police departments, there are two state prisons and a large Border Patrol and immigration enforcement presence.
“My uncle was a sheriff’s deputy,” said Alexandra Sanchez, 17, who joined the Explorers when she was 13. Alexandra’s police uniform was baggy on her lithe frame, her airsoft gun slung carefully to the side. She wants to be a coroner.
“I like the idea of having law enforcement work with medicine,” she said. “This is a great program for me.”
And then she was off to another bus hijacking.
So much better than “Home Economics” or “Plant Skills” doncha think?
Sing us out, Irene.