Daily Archive: 12/11/2014

Dec 11 2014

CRomnibus

Over the last three elections, the Democrats have lost their majorities in the House and, now, the Senate. The most likely reason is that they think a “reasonable compromise is the screw the 99% of Americans they’re suppose to represent. Prime example is the last omnibus bill to fund the federal government through September 2015. The bill negotiated by Republicans and Democrats behind closed doors over the last week is a 1600 page travesty that hands a whole mess of goodies to banks and corporations. This has caused a cry of foul by House and Senate Democrats that now endangers the bills passage.

Susie Madrak at Crooks and Liars highlighted the worst of the bill from the Washington Post article

One of the most notable changes includes dramatically expanding the amount of money that wealthy political donors could give the national parties, drastically undercutting the 2002 landmark McCain-Feingold campaign finance overhaul. Top donors would be allowed to give three times the annual cap on national party donations to three additional party committees set up for the purposes of the presidential conventions, building expenses and election recounts. [..]

For the first time, Congress also would allow the benefits of current retirees to be severely cut, part of an effort to save some of the nation’s most distressed pension plans. [..]

At domestic agencies, the EPA’s budget would be cut by $60 million, and the IRS would lose $345.6 million. The nation’s tax agency also would be banned from targeting organizations seeking tax-exempt status based on their ideological beliefs. [..]

About those pensions:

   The measure, attached to a massive $1.01 trillion spending bill, would alter 40 years of federal law and could affect millions of workers, many of them part of a shrinking corps of middle-income employees in businesses such as trucking, construction and supermarkets. [..]

The idea is reluctantly supported by some unions and retirement fund managers who see it as the only way to salvage pensions in plans that are in imminent danger of running out of money. But it also has stirred strong opposition from retirees who could face deep pension cuts and from advocates eager to keep retiree pensions sacrosanct, even in cases when funds are in a deep financial hole. The advocates argue that allowing cuts to plans would open the door to trims for other retirees later.

Marcy Wheeler, emptywheel, also found this:

the powers that be (largely Barb Mikulski and AlabamaKentucky’s Harold Rogers) stripped out the Massie-Lofgren Amendment that would have prohibited back door searches of Section 702 information and required back doors on software [..]

First, it defunds only the NSA. The original might have defunded anything that involved DOD, including FBI and CIA. [..]

That is, this replaces real legislation, supported by a huge majority in the House, with the same word games NSA has been hiding behind for over 18 months.

But the crowning insult that may very well sink the bill is the clause that essentially guts Dodd-Frank allowing big banks to engage in the same risky trading that toppled the economy in 2008.

en. Elizabeth Warren on Wednesday sought to rally opposition to the $1.1 trillion government funding bill, spearheading a revolt on the left that has put her influence in the Democratic Party to the test.

The Massachusetts liberal pleaded for House Democrats to withhold support for a government funding package due to a provision she said would change the Dodd-Frank financial reform law to let “Wall Street gamble with taxpayer money.” [..]

The provision would no longer require that big banks separate trades in financial derivatives from traditional bank accounts, which are backed by the government through the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). The derivatives played a key role in the financial collapse.

Critics argue the change would leave taxpayers on the hook if trades explode. Former Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) called it a “stealth attack” on his namesake achievement.

It figures that this part of the bill was written by Citicorp.

Dec 11 2014

War Criminals

“These Are Crimes”: New Calls to Prosecute Bush Admin as Senate Report Reveals Brutal CIA Torture

Democracy Now

12/10/14

The report concludes that the intelligence agency failed to disrupt a single plot despite torturing al-Qaeda and other captives in secret prisons worldwide between 2002 and 2006, and details a list of torture methods used on prisoners, including waterboarding, sexual threats with broomsticks, and medically unnecessary “rectal feeding.” The report also confirms the CIA ran black sites in Afghanistan, Lithuania, Romania, Poland, Thailand, and a secret site on the Guant├ínamo Naval Base known as Strawberry Fields. So far no one involved in the CIA interrogation program has been charged with a crime except the whistleblower John Kiriakou. In 2007, he became the first person with direct knowledge of the program to publicly reveal its existence. He is now serving a 30-month sentence. We speak with Reed Brody, counsel and spokesperson for Human Rights Watch, who has written several reports on prisoner mistreatment in the war on terror, including a 2011 report which called for a criminal investigation of senior Bush administration officials.

CIA Torture Report Incomplete as Key Documents Remain Withheld

The Real News

12/10/14

Marcy Wheeler is the author of Anatomy of Deceit , a short primer on the pre-war intelligence and the CIA Leak. She blogs under the name “emptywheel” at The Next Hurrah and live-blogged the Scooter Libby trial. She has a PhD from University of Michigan relating to politics and journalism. Marcy lives in Michigan, where she works as a business consultant.

Obama Would Not – Cannot – Deem Any Activities Authorized by Gloves Come Off Finding Illegal

By emptywheel

Published December 9, 2014

Romero’s proposal (if it is intended as anything beyond a modest proposal meant to call Obama’s bluff) fundamentally misunderstands the situation – a situation the ACLU has been at the forefront in exposing.

Obama would not – categorically cannot – admit that what Tenet and Bush and Cheney did on torture is illegal. That’s because he has authorized war crimes using the very same Presidential Finding as the Bush Administration used to authorized torture.

As I have laid out at length, the torture program started as a covert op authorized by the September 17, 2001 Gloves Come Off Memorandum of Notification. And along with torture, that Finding also authorized drone strikes. The drone strikes that Obama escalated.

Just 3 days after he assumed the Presidency, a drone strike Obama authorized killed as many as 11 civilians, including one child, and gravely injured a 14 year old boy, Farim Qureshi.  And several years into his Administration, Obama ordered the CIA to kill American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki with no due process. As far as we know, both of those things were done using that very same Finding, the Finding that Romero would like Obama to declare authorized war crimes.

When the 2nd Circuit ruled the President – President Obama, not President Bush – could keep a short phrase hidden making it clear torture had been authorized by that Finding in ACLU’s very own torture FOIA, it did so because the Finding still authorized intelligence activities. The Finding authorizing torture was still active – President Obama was still relying on it – at least as recently as 2012.

For Obama to pardon Bush, Cheney, and Tenet, he would have to admit that the same Finding that he used to authorize drone strikes that have killed hundreds of civilians authorized war crimes. There is absolutely zero chance Obama is going to do that.

Dec 11 2014

The Big Lie

The big lie is that CIA torture provided any information at all, because the truth proves that they were sadists (up to and including Cheney) AND utterly and completely incompetent.

For CIA, Truth about Torture Was an Existential Threat

By Dan Froomkin, The Intercept

12/10/14 at 11:31 AM

For the CIA officials involved in torture, one thing was clear from the very beginning: The only way they would be forgiven for what they did was if they could show it had saved lives.

It was the heart of their rationale. It was vital to public acceptance. It was how they would avoid prosecution.



And so, when the tragically predictable sequence of events began to unfold – and torture, as it always has, produced false confessions and little to no intelligence of value – admitting that it had failed was not even an option.

Instead, those involved made up stories of success.

They insisted that Abu Zubaydah was a top al Qaeda figure who, only after being waterboarded, provided information that foiled a major attack on the U.S. – even though Zubaydah wasn’t in al Qaeda, the plot was a farce, and the only related information he provided came before he was tortured.

They cast Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s false confessions as deadly threats, then announced they had been thwarted.

They viciously brutalized people, some of them entirely innocent, and described what they were doing as an art and a science.

Senate investigators, who had access to millions of pages of original CIA cables and other source material, used most of the 499 pages in Tuesday’s release documenting example after example of CIA officials doing gruesome things, then telling convenient falsehoods to each other, to their bosses, to the White House, to anyone who questioned them, and to Congress – all to prove to everyone that torture worked.

By mid-2003, the CIA’s constant mantra was that “enhanced interrogation tactics” had “saved lives,” “thwarted plots,” and “captured terrorists.” Saying otherwise was like blasphemy.



The people who actually knew the facts certainly lied, obliging the requests from their superiors for examples of effective torture.

Maybe some of the people who heard the lies, and passed them on, let themselves believe they were true. For the CIA, that would be even worse, because a susceptibility to lies is a fatal flaw for an agency charged with providing fact-based intelligence to keep the nation safe.

What the Senate’s summary tells us is that the modern CIA is actuated by fantasy and faith. It’s a familiar charge; we saw the same pattern in the CIA when its political masters wanted a case for war in Iraq.



There are no indications the CIA is ready to turn things around, of course. CIA Director John Brennan went to extraordinary lengths to stymie and discredit the investigation. And now, he is rebuffing its conclusions.



And while they remain offstage by design, nothing in this report in any way exonerates the people who were running the show from the White House.

Other reports and works of journalism have clearly identified Vice President Dick Cheney as the prime mover in creating a torture regime that extended not just to the black sites, but to Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo and elsewhere. Cheney was no victim of misinformation; he was its architect.

And George W. Bush might have remained unfamiliar with the details until as late as 2006 – “According to CIA records, when briefed in April 2006, the president expressed discomfort with the ‘image of a detainee, chained to the ceiling, clothed in a diaper, and forced to go to the bathroom on himself’.” But he must have had some idea what Cheney and others were up to in the basement.



The report identifies 26 detainees, out of the CIA’s 119 in total, who the agency itself determined should never have been held at all. That unfortunate group includes “Abu Hudhaifa, who was subjected to ice water baths and 66 hours of standing sleep deprivation before being released because the CIA discovered he was likely not the person he was believed to be,” and “Nazir Ali, an ‘intellectually challenged’ individual whose taped crying was used as leverage against his family member.”



The authors don’t just document these new atrocities, they cite them to illustrate how baldly CIA officials deceived others about what was really going on.

A particular sore point is the inaccurate information the CIA fed to Congress. First CIA officials disavowed torture, and promised that the Senate Intelligence Committee would be notified about every individual detained by the CIA. Then came the misinformation and the outright subterfuge.

A 2005 proposal from Senator Carl Levin to establish an independent commission to investigate detainee abuse, for instance, “resulted in concern at the CIA that such a commission would lead to the discovery of videotapes documenting CIA interrogations.” As a result, the CIA destroyed them.

The summary devotes a 37-page appendix on “Inaccurate CIA Testimony” by former CIA Director Michael Hayden in one Senate Intelligence Committee hearing alone.



Although most of the misinformation documented in the report dates back to the Bush years, Senate investigators also debunked the narrative – spread by Obama-era CIA officials – that torture was responsible for the capture of bin Laden.



The report documents the ample information the CIA had from other sources about the courier who ultimately led them to bin Laden.



In fact, the information in the report supports the argument that torture may have slowed the hunt for bin Laden.



Attorney General Eric Holder has frequently stipulated “that the Department of Justice will not prosecute anyone who acted in good faith and within the scope of the legal guidance given by the Office of Legal Counsel regarding the interrogation of detainees.”

The Senate report makes clear that the DOJ memos giving legal cover to CIA officers were based on crucial misrepresentations by the CIA of its needs and its conduct. The DOJ memos “relied on the CIA’s claim that the techniques were necessary to save lives,” the investigators wrote.

And that continues to be the Big Lie about the government in D.C.  In order to not believe they are as evil as any of the great tyrants in history (Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin) you must believe that they are as breathtakingly stupid as turkeys who will stare at the sky mouths agape when it rains until they drown.

Dec 11 2014

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”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Robert Creamer: Stop Congress From Eliminating Dodd-Frank Provision That Prevents Bail Outs of Too-Big-To-Fail Banks

The audacity is breathtaking. It is just six years after their orgy of speculation in so called “credit default swaps” caused the collapse of the World economy and precipitated the Great Recession.

Undaunted, the big banks have told Republican leaders to include a provision in the “must pass” bill to fund the government that eliminates provisions of the Dodd-Frank law that prevent them from doing exactly the same thing all over again. [..]

But the big banks think that limits their ability to make zillions in huge speculative plays. In their view nothing should stand in the way of their ability to make money – certainly not something as trivial as the well being of the World economy. So they want Congress to eliminate these “onerous” restrictions.

This is the kind of measure that could never pass on its own in the light of day. After all, what Member of Congress wants to explain to the voters why they supported a law that opens the door to another Great Recession or taxpayer bank bail out?

Dan Froomkin: For CIA, Truth About Torture Was an Existential Threat

For the CIA officials involved in torture, one thing was clear from the very beginning: The only way they would be forgiven for what they did was if they could show it had saved lives.

It was the heart of their rationale. It was vital to public acceptance. It was how they would avoid prosecution. [..]

Specifically, they pointed out: “states may be very unwilling to call the U.S. to task for torture when it resulted in saving thousands of lives.”

And so, when the tragically predictable sequence of events began to unfold — and torture, as it always has, produced false confessions and little to no intelligence of value — admitting that it had failed was not even an option.

Instead, those involved made up stories of success.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: Wall Street Moves In for the Kill

It’s been six years since Wall Street’s recklessness and criminal fraud caused trillions of dollars in economic damage and nearly shattered the global economy. The 2008 financial crisis opened millions of Americans’ eyes to the widespread corruption and mismanagement in the financial industry, and built public support for stronger bank oversight. Initial steps were taken in that direction, primarily in the Dodd/Frank financial reform bill, and more remains to be done.

But today Wall Street is on the offensive. Banks are expanding their political influence, fighting to roll back the measures already in place and working to block further reforms. In our money-driven political system, they have plenty of ammunition with which to wage their battle. [..]

This week its allies were trying to kill a Dodd/Frank provision designed to reduce the need for future big-bank bailouts. Negotiators seeking to avert a government shutdown had inserted a provision into the compromise agreement that would once again allow the country’s too-big-to-fail banks to gamble on derivatives — the exotic financial instruments that helped precipitate the last crisis — with funds that are insured by taxpayers.

Bill Boyarsky: We Have to Change the Way We Report on Rape

One of the important questions raised by Rolling Stone’s University of Virginia rape story is how journalists write about the victims. [..]

One day, we may know more about what happened at the University of Virginia. Investigations, lawsuits and persistent journalists will probably make sure of that.

But what won’t be settled is how journalists should approach rape victims and write about them as we enter a time when their stories are no longer automatically dismissed.

These are ordinary people who normally are not in the news and who may never have encountered a reporter. A practiced reporter knows how to get them to talk, how to use the tricks of the journalism trade.

Smile. Look understanding. Be friendly. Or, if you sense weakness, be intimidating. Explain to them that they’ll help others by telling their stories. Or that it’s their chance to get their side out to a skeptical world, to clear their name. Appeal to their vanity, to their desire for even a brief whirl at celebrity.

But what we don’t do is warn these innocents of how dangerous it can be to talk to us.

Sandeep Jauhar: Don’t Homogenize Health Care

IN American medicine today, “variation” has become a dirty word. Variation in the treatment of a medical condition is associated with wastefulness, lack of evidence and even capricious care. To minimize variation, insurers and medical specialty societies have banded together to produce a dizzying array of treatment guidelines for everything from asthma to diabetes, from urinary incontinence to gout. [..]

But the effort to homogenize health care presumes that we always know which treatments are best and should be applied uniformly. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The evidence for most treatments in medicine remains weak. In the absence of good evidence recommending one treatment over another, trying to stamp out variation in care is irrational.

Even in my field, cardiology, a paragon of evidence-based medicine, most treatment recommendations are based on expert opinions, not randomized controlled trials. Rarely is there one best option.

Dec 11 2014

On This Day In History December 11

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

December 11 is the 345th day of the year (346th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 20 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1946, In the aftermath of World War II, the General Assembly of the United Nations votes to establish the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), an organization to help provide relief and support to children living in countries devastated by the war.

After the food and medical crisis of the late 1940s passed, UNICEF continued its role as a relief organization for the children of troubled nations and during the 1970s grew into a vocal advocate of children’s rights. During the 1980s, UNICEF assisted the U.N. Commission on Human Rights in the drafting of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. After its introduction to the U.N. General Assembly in 1989, the Convention on the Rights of the Child became the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history, and UNICEF played a key role in ensuring its enforcement.

Of the 184 member states of the United Nations, only two countries have failed to ratify the treaty–Somalia and the United States. Somalia does not currently have an internationally recognized government, so ratification is impossible, and the United States, which was one of the original signatories of the convention, has failed to ratify the treaty because of concerns about its potential impact on national sovereignty and the parent-child relationship.

In 1953, UNICEF became a permanent part of the United Nations System and its name was shortened from the original United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund but it has continued to be known by the popular acronym based on this old name. Headquartered in New York City, UNICEF provides long-term humanitarian and developmental assistance to children and mothers in developing countries.

UNICEF relies on contributions from governments and private donors and UNICEF’s total income for 2006 was $2,781,000,000. Governments contribute two thirds of the organization’s resources; private groups and some 6 million individuals contribute the rest through the National Committees. UNICEF’s programs emphasize developing community-level services to promote the health and well-being of children. UNICEF was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1965 and the Prince of Asturias Award of Concord in 2006.

Most of UNICEF’s work is in the field, with staff in over 190 countries and territories. More than 200 country offices carry out UNICEF’s mission through a program developed with host governments. Seven regional offices provide technical assistance to country offices as needed.

Overall management and administration of the organization takes place at its headquarters in New York. UNICEF’s Supply Division is based in Copenhagen and serves as the primary point of distribution for such essential items as vaccines, antiretroviral medicines for children and mothers with HIV, nutritional supplements, emergency shelters, educational supplies, among others. A 36-member Executive Board establishes policies, approves programs and oversees administrative and financial plans. The Executive Board is made up of government representatives who are elected by the United Nations Economic and Social Council, usually for three-year terms.

Following the reaching of term limits by Executive Director of UNICEF Carol Bellamy, former United States Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman became executive director of the organization in May 2005 with an agenda to increase the organization’s focus on the Millennium Development Goals. She was succeeded in May 2010 by Anthony Lake.

UNICEF is an inter-governmental organization and thus is accountable to governments.

Dec 11 2014

The Breakfast Club (Schiaparelli Was Right?)

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgWell, not exactly.

Giovanni Schiaparelli, an Italian Astronomer, was the first to describe canals on Mars in 1877 and they soon fired the popular imagination.  Could they be a sign of life on Mars?  Now there were a lot of scientists who thought this was a load of hooey.  In the first place not all observers saw canals and in the second place no independent observer came up with exactly the same map of canals (at the time photography was not yet very advanced and Astronomers relied on hand drawn sketches).

Perhaps then the canals were seasonal, or indicated remaining damp sports where vegetation of some sort grew.

They saw some lighter or darker albedo features (for instance Syrtis Major) and believed that they were seeing oceans and continents. They also believed that Mars had a relatively substantial atmosphere. They knew that the rotation period of Mars (the length of its day) was almost the same as Earth’s, and they knew that Mars’ axial tilt was also almost the same as Earth’s, which meant it had seasons in the astronomical and meteorological sense. They could also see Mars’ polar ice caps shrinking and growing with these changing seasons. It was only when they interpreted changes in surface features as being due to the seasonal growth of plants that life was hypothesized by them.

Now one of the great proponents of the concept of Martian canals was Percival Lowell who, while a great designer and builder of observatories, was also a certifiable crackpot.  He wrote 3 books on Mars, Mars, Mars and Its Canals, and Mars As the Abode of Life, that last of which in particular posited that the vast network of canals were created and maintained by intelligent life forms.

Then again he also saw a great mountain on Venus which we now suspect was due to the optical limitations of his telescope and the near horizon position in which he made his observations.

About the only prediction he made that did pan out was his inference of Pluto from the orbits of Neptune and Uranus and while the observatory named after him was able to confirm the existence of an object in about the position he thought it was, modern scientists doubt that it has enough mass to have the effects he described and have observed several similar objects in the outer Solar System and so have demoted it to a mere dwarf planet.

The Martian canal theory was pretty thoroughly debunked by the early 1900s.  Experiments with amateur observers had shown the tendency to collect a series of point features into a line and as larger telescopes with better optics starting observing these features distinctly and recording them in photographs with long exposures and high quality it fell more out of favor among serious Astronomers.  An important nail in the coffin was the development of spectography which Alfred Russel Wallace used to prove that the surface of Mars was too cold for liquid water and there was no evidence of water vapor in its atmosphere.

Still, the notion of water on Mars had by that time a firm hold on the public through authors like H.G. Wells and Edgar Rice Burroughs.  Indeed it was used as a plot element as late as 1950 in the work of C.S. Lewis, Robert Heinlein, and Ray Bradbury, all of whom should have really known better.

So, does the discovery of the fact that Mount Sharp is composed of distinct layers of sediment which could only have been laid down by a large body of water prove Schiaparelli was right?

Alas the last vestige of liquid water vanished from the surface of Mars before the genus homo was even sapiens and while the diversity of life on this planet does present several organisms that could survive Mars’ harsh climate they are mostly microbial.

NASA’s Curiosity rover finds evidence of 3.5B year old Water Lake in Gale Crater

By Alexander, Inferverse

On December 9, 2014

Mars may have once had a massive lake, according to recent data revealed by the Curiosity Mars rover. It has led scientists to believe that at one time Mars was much wetter than originally thought. Gale Crater is the location at which scientists believe a 96-mile-wide crater existed.



Dr. Michael Meyer, of NASA noted that “The size of the lake in Gale Crater and the length of time and series that water was showing up implies that there may have been sufficient time for life to get going and thrive.” The scientists noted sandstone deposits were pointed in the direction of Mount Sharp, which would indicate that at one time water flowed toward the center of the crater.



The deposits are the first solid sign that scientists have had in some time that Mars very likely could have had a large body of water. This will give scientists new evidence and new leads to look at moving forward beyond this mission.

Nasa’s Mars Curiosity rover finds that 96-mile-wide crater once held lake

Reuters

Monday 8 December 2014 15.22 EST

Billions of years ago, a lake once filled the 96-mile-wide crater being explored by Nasa’s Mars rover Curiosity, bolstering evidence that the planet most like Earth in the solar system was once suitable for microbial life, scientists said on Monday.



Scientists discovered stacks of rocks containing water-deposited sediments inclined toward the crater’s centre, which now sports a three-mile (5km) mound called Mount Sharp. That would mean that Mount Sharp did not exist during a period of time roughly 3.5 billion years ago when the crater was filled with water, Curiosity researchers told reporters during a conference call.

“Finding the inclined strata was … a complete surprise,” said lead scientist John Grotzinger, with the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

“Sedimentary geology … is the cutting edge for trying to understand the Earth. When oil companies collect seismic surveys across places, they are looking for inclined strata because then you get geometry that tells you where the rocks are that you’re looking for,” he added.



The new studies, which have not yet been published, point to a series of wet and dry times at Gale Crater, challenging a previously held notion that Mars’s period of warm climate was early and relatively short-lived, scientists said.

“All that driving we did … just didn’t get us to Mount Sharp. It gave us the context to appreciate Mount Sharp,” Grotzinger said of the rover, which has travelled about five miles (8km) since landing on Mars in 2012.

The law that entropy always increases holds, I think, the supreme position among the laws of Nature. If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell’s equations – then so much the worse for Maxwell’s equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observation – well, these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.

Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World (1927)

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Dec 11 2014

TDS/TCR (Raaaain!)

TDS TCR

18 Months

Whoring The Hobbit

The real news and this week’s guests below.

Dec 11 2014

Spare Me the Lecture About the Law

If upholding the law is too hard for Barack Obama and Eric Holder, then they are among the ranks of the accused torturers and should just resign.

UN Expert Calls For Prosecution Over U.S. Torture

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

It’s not clear, however, how human rights officials think these prosecutions will take place, since the Justice Department has declined to prosecute and the U.S. is not a member of the International Criminal Court.

Zeid Raad al-Hussein, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, said it’s “crystal clear” under international law that the United States, which ratified the U.N. Convention Against Torture in 1994, now has an obligation to ensure accountability. [..]

However, a Justice Department official said Wednesday the department did not intend to revisit its decision to not prosecute anyone for the interrogation methods. The official said the department had reviewed the committee’s report and did not find any new information that would cause the investigation to be reopened.

UN Official: Prosecute “Systematic Crimes and Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law”

Jim White, emptywheel

Ben Emmerson is the UN’s Special Rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights. His statement released yesterday in response to the SSCI torture report points out the clear responsibilities that the US has under the Convention Against Torture and other international human rights laws to prosecute not only those who carried out torture, but those who designed the torture program and gave orders for its implementation. [..]

Emmerson doesn’t say that those responsible for the crimes should be brought to justice. He says outright that they MUST be brought to justice. Emmerson further points out that being authorized at a high level in the government gives no protection. Further, he notes a “conspiracy” to carry out the crimes.

Emmerson then goes on to destroy Barack Obama’s “look forward” bullshit and John Durham’s coverup disguised as an investigation:

   International law prohibits the granting of immunities to public officials who have engaged in acts of torture. This applies not only to the actual perpetrators but also to those senior officials within the US Government who devised, planned and authorised these crimes.

   As a matter of international law, the US is legally obliged to bring those responsible to justice. The UN Convention Against Torture and the UN Convention on Enforced Disappearances require States to prosecute acts of torture and enforced disappearance where there is sufficient evidence to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction. States are not free to maintain or permit impunity for these grave crimes.

Obama, Holder and Durham simply cannot grant immunity for these crimes. International law forbids it. More specifically, the Convention Against Torture, to which the US is a signatory, prohibits it. Similarly, the Convention on Enforced Disappearances also comes into play in the crimes committed by the US and also prevents the granting of immunity that Obama has tried to orchestrate.

(emphasis mine)

Mark Udall Says The CIA Is Still Lying

By Matt Sledge, Huffington Post

The CIA is still lying about its post-9/11 torture program, even in the face of a devastating Senate report, Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) said Wednesday.

In a dramatic floor speech during his final month in the Senate, Udall said the CIA’s lies have been aided and abetted by President Barack Obama’s White House and called on the president to “purge” his administration of CIA officials who were involved in the interrogation program detailed in the report.

“It’s bad enough to not prosecute these officials, but to reward and promote them is incomprehensible,” Udall said. “The president needs to purge his administration.”

Udall said the lies are “not a problem of the past,” citing the CIA’s response to the 6,000-page torture report. He said the agency took seven months to write a formal comment after the Senate Intelligence Committee approved the report in December 2012 — and when it did, it was full of lies and half-truths meant to justify the agency’s actions.

MSNBC’s “All In” host Chris Hayes questions Pres. Obama’s premise that we are a “nation of laws”