October 10, 2021

Biden Tells Supreme Court That Publicly Documented Torture Is a State Secret

When Abu Zubaydah was apprehended in Pakistan in 2002, the George W. Bush administration falsely characterized him as chief of operations for al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden’s number three man. For the next four years, the CIA sent Zubaydah to its “black sites” in Thailand and Poland where he was viciously tortured. In 2006, Zubaydah was taken to Guantánamo, where he remains to this day. He has never been charged with a crime.

The torture of Abu Zubaydah is thoroughly documented in the 2014 report of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. In fact, several of the justices at the October 6 Supreme Court oral argument in United States v. Zubaydah referred to his treatment as “torture.”

Zubaydah’s lawyers detailed the torture he suffered in their brief (which referenced the Senate torture report) as follows:

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October 6, 2021

Human Rights Attorney Sentenced to Prison After Winning Case Against Chevron

In a move calculated to shield Chevron and deter other lawyers from suing giant corporate polluters, U.S. human rights attorney Steven Donziger was sentenced on October 1 to the maximum of six months in prison for criminal contempt. Donziger, who had won a $9.5 billion judgement for his Indigenous clients against the oil giant for polluting the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador, refused to provide Chevron with his confidential client communications. Before his sentencing, Donziger spent two years on house arrest wearing an ankle bracelet and confined to his home.

“When the next book is written touting the American judicial system as one built on the rule of law, that shows the ways in which the rule of law prevailed over powerful and moneyed interests,” Donziger attorney Ron Kuby told Truthout after the sentencing, “I can assure you the Donziger case will not be included.”

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October 4, 2021

Biden’s Expulsion of Haitian Migrants Is Racist, Illegal — and Trumpian

Notwithstanding President Joe Biden’s promise to pursue a more humane immigration policy than his predecessor, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been illegally expelling Haitian migrants, with the Border Patrol cracking whips and herding them like cattle. When U.S. authorities put them on a plane to Haiti, “they chained us like animals — our hands, feet and waist — and once we arrived, they unchained us so journalists wouldn’t see us,” one Haitian migrant said, in footage shown by John Oliver on “Last Week Tonight.”

When confronted about his administration’s use of horse reins as whips to menace Black migrants at the southern U.S. border, Biden said it was “horrible … to see people treated like they did: horses nearly running them over and people being strapped. It’s outrageous.”

Biden declared, “I promise you, those people will pay,” and noted that a federal investigation is underway. “There will be consequences. It’s an embarrassment. But beyond an embarrassment, it’s dangerous; it’s wrong. It sends the wrong message around the world. It sends the wrong message at home. It’s simply not who we are.”

Biden’s denial is reminiscent of that of Barack Obama, who reacted to the 6,700-page report of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that documented a widespread program of U.S. torture by saying that torture “is contrary to who we are.”

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September 28, 2021

War in Afghanistan Isn’t Over — It’s Taking the Form of Illegal Drone Strikes

Three weeks after his administration launched a drone attack that killed 10 civilians in Kabul, Afghanistan, President Joe Biden addressed the United Nations General Assembly. He proudly declared, “I stand here today, for the first time in 20 years, with the United States not at war.” The day before, his administration had launched a drone strike in Syria, and three weeks earlier, the U.S. had conducted an air strike in Somalia. The commander-in-chief also apparently forgot that U.S. forces are still fighting in at least six different countries, including Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Libya, Somalia and Niger. And he promised to continue bombing Afghanistan from afar.

Unfortunately Biden’s withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan is substantially less meaningful when analyzed in light of his administration’s pledge to mount “over-the-horizon” attacks in that country from afar even though we won’t have troops on the ground.

“Our troops are not coming home. We need to be honest about that,” Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-New Jersey) said during congressional testimony by Secretary of State Antony Blinken earlier this month. “They are merely moving to other bases in the same region to conduct the same counterterrorism missions, including in Afghanistan.”

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September 21, 2021

Justice Department Fights Back Against Texas Anti-Abortion Law

The Supreme Court’s greenlighting of the most draconian anti-abortion law in the country has had the right wing’s “desired effect of deterring abortion providers from offering virtually any abortions” in Texas since September 1, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ).

S.B. 8 prohibits abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, before most people even know they’re pregnant. S.B. 8 is thus in direct conflict with Roe v. Wade, which is supposed to protect the right to abortion until the fetus is viable — about 22-24 weeks.

Outlawing abortion will not prevent abortions. It will prevent safe abortions from occurring within the state. Some pregnant people who can afford to travel out of Texas will get safe abortions elsewhere. Poor, rural, undocumented and non-white women in Texas will be those most directly harmed by S.B. 8.

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September 20, 2021

Samuel Moyn’s Unprincipled Attack on Human Rights Giant Michael Ratner Is Shameful

Samuel Moyn’s vicious and unprincipled attack on Michael Ratner, one of the finest human rights attorneys of our time, was published in the New York Review of Books (NYRB) on September 1. Moyn singles out Ratner as a whipping boy to support his own bizarre theory that punishing war crimes prolongs war by making it more palatable. He disingenuously claims that enforcing the Geneva Conventions and opposing illegal wars are mutually exclusive. As Dexter Filkins noted in the New Yorker, Moyn’s “logic would favor incinerating entire cities, Tokyo style, if the resulting spectacles of agony lead more people to oppose American power.”

Moyn takes Ratner—the long-time president of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) who died in 2016—to task for filing Rasul v. Bush to give people indefinitely detained at Guantánamo the constitutional right to habeas corpus to challenge their detention. Moyn would have us turn our backs on people who are tortured, massacred and locked up indefinitely. He apparently agrees with the preposterous claim of George W. Bush’s first attorney general Alberto Gonzales (who facilitated the US torture program) that the Geneva Conventions—which classify torture as a war crime—were “quaint” and “obsolete.”

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September 4, 2021

SCOTUS Ruling Allows Texas to Deputize Citizens as Anti-Abortion Police

Donald Trump’s installation of three radical right-wing “justices” on the Supreme Court is paying off for the forces trying to overturn Roe v. WadeOn September 1, in a 5-4 vote, the high court allowed the most restrictive anti-abortion law in the country to go into effect, in Whole Woman’s Health v. JacksonSB 8, known as the “Texas Heartbeat Act,” bans all abortions after physicians detect, or should have detected, a fetal heartbeat. That generally occurs at six weeks of pregnancy, when most women don’t even know they’re pregnant.

The split vote on the Court signals the likelihood that the “justices” — who were so quick to allow Texas’s Machiavellian law to take effect — will seize the opportunity next term to overturn Roe v. Wade when it considers the constitutionality of a Mississippi law banning abortion after 15 weeks. That would open the floodgates to similar legislation in other states preventing women from having abortions.

About 85 percent to 90 percent of Texas women who have abortions are at least six weeks into their pregnancy, which means the law will prohibit nearly all abortions in the state. There is no exception for rape or incest. Women in Texas will now have to travel to another state to secure an abortion or resort to life-threatening back alley coat-hanger abortions.

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September 1, 2021

As Biden Threatens More War, Don’t Forget the Afghanistan Invasion Was Illegal

President Joe Biden’s decision to end the Afghan war – one that should never have been fought in the first place — was correct. Missing from the national discourse, however, is analysis of the illegality of the 2001 U.S.-led NATO invasion of Afghanistan (dubbed “Operation Enduring Freedom”) and resulting war crimes committed by four U.S. presidents and their top officials and lawyers. Once again, the United States has lost a war it started illegally. But as U.S. troops leave Afghanistan, the Biden administration continues to kill — and promises to persist in killing — Afghan people.

Twenty years of the U.S. war and occupation in Afghanistan cost at least $2.26 trillion and resulted in the deaths of more than 2,300 Americans and tens of thousands of Afghan civilians. The “war on terror” George W. Bush launched with his “Operation Enduring Freedom” has included the torture and abuse of untold numbers people in Afghanistan, Iraq, Guantánamo and the CIA black sites. It has exacerbated right-wing terrorism in the United States and provided the pretext for the ubiquitous surveillance of Muslims and those who dissent against government policy. And whistleblowers who expose U.S. war crimes have been rewarded with prosecutions under the Espionage Act and lengthy prison sentences. We must not forget the illegality, death and destruction that the war in Afghanistan has caused over the decades, lest we repeat our lethal mistakes.

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August 24, 2021

If California Governor Is Replaced With Republican, Senate Could Swing to GOP

There’s a good chance that California — a solidly blue state — will get a right-wing Republican governor as a result of the September 14 recall election. If Gov. Gavin Newsom is recalled, the health, civil rights and future of Californians — and people across the country — will be profoundly threatened. It is also possible that Newsom’s defeat could change the balance of power in the U.S. Senate, since the next California governor may be in a position to appoint a senator.

In defending his governorship, Newsom emphasizes that a GOP leader would likely roll back progressive reforms.

“The recall is an attempt by national Republican and Trump supporters to force an election and grab power in California,” Newsom’s ballot statement in the Official Voter Information Guide says. “The leaders of the Republican recall seek to repeal California’s clean air protections, roll back gun safety laws and take away health care from those who need it.”

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August 17, 2021

Threat of Extradition for Assange Grows Following British High Court Ruling

On August 11, in a rare occurrence, the U.K. High Court’s Lord Justice Timothy Holroyde and Justice Dame Judith Farbey overruled the July 5 decision of Justice Jonathan Swift and allowed the Biden administration to add two additional grounds for its appeal against Julian Assange, who is being held on charges filed by the Trump administration under the Espionage Act. Assange was indicted for revealing evidence of U.S. war crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo that Chelsea Manning furnished him and WikiLeaks. He faces 175 years in prison if he is extradited from the U.K., tried and convicted in the United States.

Justice Swift had ruled that the United States could base its appeal on three of the five grounds it requested. The August 11 ruling allows the U.S. to argue two additional grounds as well. The expansion of the U.S. appeal is a worrying sign for Assange — and for the future of investigative journalism.

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