Last week, Abu Zubaydah, who has been imprisoned at Guantanamo for 14 years without being charged with a crime, appeared for the first time before the U.S. military Periodic Review Board, which determines whether Guantanamo detainees will continue to be held as “enemy combatants.”
Zubaydah argued he should be released because he has “no desire or intent to harm the United States or any other country.” During his hearing, Zubaydah also said he had been tortured by the CIA, an allegation confirmed by the Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture report. The U.S. government maintains he is an enemy combatant.
When Zubaydah was apprehended in Pakistan in 2002, the Bush administration characterized him as “chief of operations” for Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden’s “number three” man. This was untrue, according to John Kiriakou, who led the joint CIA-FBI team that caught Zubaydah. Kiriakou confirmed that Zubaydah did not help plan the September 11, 2001 attacks.Read more
On Election Day, California voters will make a monumental moral and financial decision. Proposition 62—the Justice That Works Act—is on the Nov. 8 ballot, and if the initiative passes, it will replace the death penalty with life in prison without parole. It will also require convicted murderers to work and pay restitution to their victims’ families. And it will save taxpayers $150 million a year, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office.
Among the states still part of the U.S. death penalty system, California has the most people on death row—746. Florida is next, with 388 according to the Yes on 62 campaign. Overall, 2,943 people are on death row in the United States (as of Jan. 1)—meaning almost one in four people waiting to be executed are in the California penal system. The elderly make up 11 percent, and the oldest condemned inmate is 86. The average stay on death row is 18 years.
Although California has spent about $5 billion administering the death penalty, it has executed just 13 people since 1978. This means taxpayers have spent about $384 million per execution.Read more
In January 2013, President Barack Obama promised to make the rules for the United States’ targeted killing program “more transparent to the American people and the world” because “in our democracy, no one should just take my word for it that we’re doing things the right way.”
Three and a half years later, a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by the ACLU and resulting court order finally forced the administration to make public the Presidential Policy Guidance regarding the program. But much of it is redacted, or blacked out. That is the opposite of transparent.Read more
In his acceptance speech for the Republican presidential nomination, Donald Trump declared, “My Dad, Fred Trump, was the smartest and hardest working man I ever knew. . . . It’s because of him that I learned, from my youngest age, to respect the dignity of work and the dignity of working people.”
Donald apparently forgot what his father taught him. The GOP nominee refuses to pay the people who work for him. “Among them: a dishwasher in Florida. A glass company in New Jersey. A carpet company. A plumber. Painters. Forty-eight waiters. Dozens of bartenders and other hourly workers at his resorts and clubs, coast to coast. Real estate brokers who sold his properties. And, ironically, several law firms that once represented him in these suits and others,” wrote Steve Reilly in USA Today.
Moreover, Fred Trump, “the smartest” man his son ever knew, did not respect the dignity of black people. The legendary folk singer Woody Guthrie rented an apartment in the elder Trump’s Brooklyn complex in 1950. It turned out blacks were not welcome there.Read more
If Justice Antonin Scalia had survived to participate in the remainder of the 2015-2016 Supreme Court term, his vote would have made a significant difference in the resolution of several cases. Moreover, if the Senate had confirmed Merrick Garland to fill Scalia’s seat, some of those cases might well have turned out differently. From unions’ rights to tribal jurisdiction, immigration and birth control, Scalia’s absence has already impacted a number of important decisions, foreshadowing how the country might be shaped by substantial changes to the court’s makeup over the next president’s term.Read more
More than three years after President Barack Obama pledged to be transparent about the United States’ lethal drone program, his administration has finally come forward with an accounting of the numbers of civilian deaths that resulted from drone strikes between Jan. 20, 2009, and Dec. 31, 2015. But they only cover airstrikes “outside areas of active hostilities,” which encompasses Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya. Civilian deaths in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria are not included in the report.
As expected, the administration’s numbers are significantly lower than tallies documented by leading nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), including the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, New America and The Long War Journal. Obama’s Office of the Director of National Intelligence(DNI) sets the figure of “noncombatant deaths” at between 64 and 116. The NGOs , however, estimate between 200 and 1,000 civilian deaths occurred as a result of U.S. drone strikes in the areas, and during the time periods, covered by the DNI report.Read more
Over the past year, several attempts in the New York legislature to pass laws protecting Israel against the boycotts, divestment and sanctions collectively known as “BDS” have failed. BDS punishes Israel for its illegal occupation of Palestinian lands. In an unprecedented end run around the legislative process, Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order this month that would accomplish just what the legislature has refused to do.
Cuomo’s order directs all agencies under his jurisdiction to discontinue all dealings with companies and organizations that support BDS. It also mandates that Cuomo’s commissioner compile a list of institutions and companies that support a boycott of Israel. The blacklist will be publicly posted. The burden of proving that these entities do not support the boycott is on the companies and institutions themselves.Read more
As I sat in the San Diego sunshine yesterday listening to Bernie Sanders outside of Qualcomm Stadium, I was struck by the stunning contrast between the senator and Donald Trump, particularly on the issue of race.
Sanders emphasized racial justice, citing the courage of African Americans and their allies who fought against racism and bigotry during Jim Crow. He talked of the thousands of undocumented workers who are ruthlessly exploited, overworked and underpaid, vowing to end the current deportation policies. Sanders seeks to “unite, not divide families.” And he wants to “fundamentally change” the federal government’s oppressive relationship with the Native American community.Read more