01/30/2013 archive

We need to have a little meeting

Monitor Outside Gitmo Tribunal Has Power to Censor Proceedings Without Judge’s Knowledge

By: Kevin Gosztola, Firedog Lake

Tuesday January 29, 2013 12:32 pm

The Guantanamo war court was deciding whether to go into a closed session yesterday. David Nevin, who is representing 9/11 suspect, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, was speaking in court about the decision to argue some of a motion involving evidence of CIA black prison sites. The audio feed went off for three minutes and court was off-record for about three minutes.

Judge Col. James Pohl noted, “The 40-second delay was initiated, not by me. I’m curious as to why.” Nevin had simply been reading the caption to an unclassified motion. “If you don’t feel we can discuss this now, let me know, but I’m just trying to figure out.” The government wanted to explain what happened to the judge in a secret session.

Nevin addressed the court, “I would like to know who has the permission to turn that light on and off, who is listening to this, who is controlling these proceedings, or controlling that aspect of these proceedings.” He added, “I was under the impression that the [court security officer] was, commanded that light in this process.”

Cheryl Bormann, the defense counsel for Walid bin Attash (9/11 suspect), wished to state for the record that Nevin has been repeating the name of a defense motion but she decline to say it for fear of setting off the censor again. Navy Commander Walter Ruiz, who is representing Mustafa al-Hawsawi (9/11 suspect), told the judge, “The main concern is that moving forward from this point forward we know there is another body or party who is in control of this proceeding in turning that light on and off.”

“Before we proceed any further,” he added, “We can only assume that maybe they are monitoring additional communications, perhaps when we are at counsel table. We know we have green lights that have the ability to record. We think this is an answer and question we have to have precedent to proceeding with this commission.”

Military Claims to Have Released Portion of Gitmo Tribunal Proceedings That Was Censored

By: Kevin Gosztola, Firedog Lake

Wednesday January 30, 2013 10:36 am

What was said in the exchange should appear in the transcript, but it appears something was said in that minute before the feed was restored that the government does not want to add into the transcript.

The military now claims that the transcript was “restored,” but if it was recording discussion of the censorship, that should be in the public record and not merely summarized. The decision to censor was startling for not just the press but also the judge, as it showed that some outside body has a person who is able to interfere in proceedings whenever they choose without notifying the judge prior to censoring the proceedings.

This person-an original classification authority (OCA), as the government revealed-likely works in cooperation with the CIA and is tasked with ensuring that even the tiniest amount of information on the CIA’s Rendition, Detainee & Interrogation (RDI) program is not heard by the press. The episode shows the OCA may censor unclassified language. There are details on the RDI program in the public record.

If Mohammed or another 9/11 suspect describes their treatment in CIA custody and that happened to be in the CIA Inspector General report, will the OCA be interfering again? The whole entire episode raises serious questions about the military commission’s claimed commitment to transparency and fairness.

All That’s Wrong With the Guantanamo Trials

By Andrew Cohen, Esquire

at 4:11PM January 30th, 2013

(W)hat makes it such an important moment in the sorry history of the Guantanamo tribunals– was that even the presiding judge, Army Col. James Pohl, didn’t know who had blocked the feed on Monday– or why. He had lost control over his own courtroom. Later that day, in open court, he said: “If some external body is turning the commission off based on their own views of what things ought to be, with no reasonable explanation, then we are going to have a little meeting about who turns that light on or off.” That was on Monday. On Tuesday, after conducting an investigation into the episode, Judge Pohl declared that the feed should not have been turned off-the defense attorney had merely mentioned “the caption in a particular appellate exhibit that is unclassified”– but the judge did not disclose to the public who turned off the feed or why. Later, we learned that the feed was disrupted by the “original classification authority,” most likely the CIA.

The idea that a trial judge has control over his courtroom is about as sacrosanct a notion in American law as you can find. And even though military judges traditionally have had to serve conflicting masters (the law, their superior officers, etc.) the idea that a litigant would have the power to control the courtroom without the judge’s knowledge or consent goes to the heart of the problem with our current tribunals. A trial judge who does not have the authority to control his own courtroom, who is subject to the whims of the very officials whose charges against the detainees must be fairly weighed, cannot be the sort of independent judge which the Constitution requires and which justice demands. It’s not Judge Pohl’s fault. By Congress, by the Pentagon, by the Obama Administration, by the CIA, he’s been dealt a hand no truly independent judge could play. That’s just another big reason why these tribunals are doomed to fail, in the court of world opinion if not before the United States Supreme Court, no matter how many convictions they ultimately gin up.

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Katrina vanden Heuvel: Can the Rising Progressive Tide Lift All Ships?

The growing progressive coalition that helped elect President Obama has emerged at the end of a failed and exhausted conservative era. The media now chronicle the flailings of Republican leaders slowly awakening to the weaknesses of a stale, pale and predominantly male party in today’s America.

But the central challenge to this progressive coalition is not dispatching the old but rather defining what comes next. Will it be able to address the central challenge facing America at this time and reclaim the American Dream from an extreme and corrosive economic inequality?

Renee Parsons: Failed Filibuster Reform Threatens Legislative Agenda

Despite Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (Nev) repeated pronouncements that the Republican stranglehold on the Senate’s filibuster could no longer be tolerated, that is exactly the final outcome of recent reform efforts. With the success of important Obama legislative initiatives like depending on a Democratic Senate for enactment, what was Harry Reid thinking? Reid’s stunning flip in favor of retaining the most egregious elements of the Republican filibuster clearly jeopardizes the President’s legislative agenda. [..]

Even as Republicans remain mired in a disconnect from political reality and despite reports of a bi-partisan agreement on an immigration reform ‘blueprint’, there is little reason to expect that the party of Lincoln will not continue to effectively stonewall every reasonable legislative initiative addressing the country’s most critical problems. And as Senate Democrats continue to stumble into an era of lost principles, there will be no one to blame but themselves.

Amy Dean: Immigration Reform Must Include Workers’ Rights

At this moment, various plans to reform America’s broken immigration system are working their way through Congressional debate. On Monday, a bipartisan group of eight lawmakers unveiled a plan that includes what they call a “tough but fair” path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Last Friday, members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus met with President Obama to discuss the issue, and this caucus’ input will be influential in shaping any final legislation. [..]

For the Democrats, the challenge will be to avoid simply jumping at the first deal offered by newly converted conservatives. Instead, for the first time in decades, promoters of reform have the opportunity to hold America to its promise of being a land of liberty and justice for all.

Jessica Valenti: Why Ending the Ban on Women in Combat Is Good for All Women

Responding to the news that the Pentagon will lift the ban on women in combat, lawyer and former Marine Ryan Smith made an impassioned argument in The Wall Street Journal for why this new policy is such a bad idea: “It is humiliating enough to relieve yourself in front of your male comrades; one can only imagine the humiliation of being forced to relieve yourself in front of the opposite sex.” And here I thought those in combat would have bigger concerns than who will see you go number two.

However silly, Smith’s argument epitomizes why lifting the ban on women in combat is so important-and about so much more than military policy. The arguments against women on the frontlines have always been more about about reinforcing traditional gender norms and holding onto an outdated and sexist model of what a woman should be like, rather than military protocol.

Jody Williams: Keep Dirty Oil Out of New England

From north to south and east to west, people across the United States and Canada are increasingly coming together to fight against the expansion of the Alberta tar sands and efforts to move the highly toxic bitumen – tar sands “oil” – through pipelines to the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf of Mexico. From US ports the bitumen would be shipped primarily to China. [..]

Global warming and the obvious changes to our weather patterns cannot sustain more exploitation of fossil fuels. And tar sands expansion is among the worst threats. After the oil fields of Saudia Arabia, the full development of Alberta tar sands will create the world’s second largest potential source of global warming gases. I saw for myself the impact of the tar sands on the environment and people of Western Canada.

Mairead Maguire: Stand Up for Julian Assange

Last month, on December 13th, 2012, I visited Julian Assange, Australian founder and editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, in the Ecuadorian embassy, in Knightsbridge, London.

It’s been seven months now since Julian Assange entered the Ecuadorian embassy and was given political asylum. He entered the embassy after the British Courts shamefully refused his appeal against extradition to Sweden where he is wanted for questioning about sexual molestation (no criminal charges have been made against him). Julian Assange has said he is willing to answer questions in the U.K. relating to accusations against him, or alternatively, to go to Sweden, provided that the Swedish government guarantee he will not be extradited to the U.S. where plans are being made to try him for conspiracy to commit espionage. The Swedish Government refuses to give such assurances. [..]

Unlike most political prisoners, he has no idea how long his virtual imprisonment in the embassy will last–6 more months or 6 years. The diplomatic standoff continues. This is indeed cruel, inhumane and mental torture. His only crime was to tell the truth and bring transparency to the illegal acts of the U.S. Government and its allies around the world.

On This Day In History January 30

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

January 30 is the 30th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 335 days remaining until the end of the year (336 in leap years).

On this day in 1969, The Beatles’ last public performance, on the roof of Apple Records in London. The impromptu concert is broken up by the police.

A din erupted in the sky above London’s staid garment district. Gray-suited businessmen, their expressions ranging from amused curiosity to disgust, gathered alongside miniskirted teenagers to stare up at the roof of the Georgian building at 3 Savile Row. As camera crews swirled around, whispered conjecture solidified into confirmed fact: The Beatles, who hadn’t performed live since August 1966, were playing an unannounced concert on their office roof. Crowds gathered on scaffolding, behind windows, and on neighboring rooftops to watch the four men who had revolutionized pop culture play again. But what only the pessimistic among them could have guessed-what the Beatles themselves could not yet even decide for sure-was that this was to be their last public performance ever. . . . . .

When the world beyond London’s garment district finally got to see the Beatles’ last concert, it was with the knowledge, unshared by the original, live audience, that it was the band’s swan song. On Abbey Road Paul had sung grandly about “the end,” but it was John’s closing words on the roof that made the more fitting epitaph for the group that had struggled out of working-class Liverpool to rewrite pop history: “I’d like to say thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves, and I hope we passed the audition.”

Grover Norquist is Winning Thanks to a Debt Ceiling Crisis Every Few Months

That’s right. I don’t know in what world some people are living in, but they should pay attention. Yes they should actually pay attention to what Grover Norquist is saying and how much these stupid debt ceiling crisis I predicted are playing into his hands. (h/t Addison)

Norquist: Republicans Should Hold Federal Government Hostage Every Month

And so this constant state of crisis and delayed/short term appropriations are going to be official soon.

House passes short-term debt limit deal

The Republican-led House today passed a bill to “suspend” the nation’s debt limit until May, which if passed by the Senate and signed into law, would stave off for a few months the risk of letting the U.S. government default on its loans.


House Democrats, meanwhile, grumbled that the short-term bill amounts to political gimmickry that keeps Washington in crisis mode.


“The premise here is pretty simple,” House Speaker John Boehner said on the House floor. “It says there should be no long-term increase in the debt limit until there’s a long term plan to deal with the fiscal crisis that faces our country. Every hardworking taxpayer in America knows that they have to do a budget. Every hardworking taxpayer understands that you can’t continue to spend money that you don’t have.”


House Democrats also complained that the bill prolonged the debate over the debt limit rather than solving it.

“The good news is that our Republican colleagues finally realized that America should pay its bills and dropped their condition that that be matched by cuts,” Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., said in a news conference. “The bad news is they’ve decided that America only needs to pay its bills for three more months.”

Yes, even when that 3 month suspension becomes a raise only every few months more down the line it won’t be close to normal standard procedure as some have tried to claim. This is true for a number of reasons; past raises of debt ceilings were never crisis showdowns and always were routine until Obama put them on the table as something to be negotiated. So given the completely different context comparing past debt ceiling raises to now I needn’t go any further, but I will.  What happened in 2011 was unprecedented and we are still dealing with the fallout right here and right now. It almost happened to former President Bill Clinton in the 90s but even Jonathan Chait admits Clinton was much more politically savvy in dealing with it than Obama so it was averted.  

How’s That Filibuster Agreement Going, Harry?

The Senate apparently will carry on as usual with threats of holds and filibuster from the minority to obstruct anything that appears to interfere with their extremist code of values and quest for something scandalous to hang on Pres. Obama or someone in his administration. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) refusal to curb filibuster abuse is already starting to have its consequences , lead by none other than one of filibuster’s chief abusers, Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC).

Sen. Graham: Either Panetta testifies on Libya or I put hold on Hagel nomination

Graham said in an interview with Fox News’s “On the Record” Monday night that he would “absolutely” block Hagel unless Panetta testifies – making him the first Republican threatening to filibuster or hold Hagel’s nomination as Defense secretary.

“The one thing I’m not going to do is vote on a new secretary of Defense until the old secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, who I like very much, testifies about what happened in Benghazi,” Graham said.

“Hillary Clinton got away with murder, in my view,” he said, referring to the secretary of State’s testimony before Congress last week. “She said they had a clear-eyed view of the threats. How could you have a clear-eyed view of the threats in Benghazi when you didn’t know about the ambassador’s cable coming back from Libya?”

Graham made a similar threat against President Obama’s nominee for CIA Director, John Brennan, when Brennan was nominated earlier this month, but this was the first time he’d suggested he’d also block Hagel over the Sept. 11 attack. While Brennan was part of the Obama administration during last year’s attack, which left four Americans dead, Hagel was not.

That was just a warm up for Lindsay.

Lindsey Graham Warns Immigration Reform Including Same-Sex Couples Will Fail

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told reporters on Tuesday that it’s a mistake for the president to push for same-sex couples to be included in immigration reform, if he wants Republicans to support the bill. [..]

White House spokesman Jay Carney confirmed the news, first reported by Buzzfeed, that the president would mention his support for such a provision. [..]

There is support for such a concept from many Democrats, some of whom have signed on to bills such as the Uniting American Families Act that would specifically address the issue of same-sex couples. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) is the sole Republican co-sponsor of that bill in the Senate, and told HuffPost in December that she would support its inclusion in broader immigration reform.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), another member of the “gang of eight,” is a co-sponsor of that legislation, but aides say it’s too soon to say whether it could be included in a bipartisan immigration bill.

Sen John McCain (R-Ariz.), another member of the group, made the same point.

Never mind that the Immigration Reform Bill is still in the “wish list” stage. Lindsay has his knickers in a knot because President Barack Obama said he would support  immigration for the spouses of same sex couples. Just wait until the Senate gets to the Violence Against Women Act next week, Lindsay’s gonna blow a gasket over that.

So, Harry, how’s that gentleman’s agreement with Mitch going?