Watching the Shadows
The Joint Task Force at Guantánamo Bay said Sept. 23 that they would no longer issue daily updates on detainee hunger strikes. This announcement sought to effectively declared the end of the unprecedentedly broad, six-month long, prisoner protest. There are now 164 prisoners in Guantanamo, and as many as 106 were on strike at the peak of the protest in July. Only 19 detainees are still classified as on hunger strike. For those 19 prisoners, force-feeding continues. The hunger strike has brought attention to the prison, and caused US President Barack Obama to renew his pledge to close the facility.
A judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled (PDF) Sept. 13 that the US government does not have to release photographs and videotapes taken during the investigation of Mohammed al-Qahtani's connection to the September 11 attacks. Al-Qahtani was held in Guantánamo Bay until his charges were eventually dropped. The videotapes depict al-Qahtani's interrogations, something the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) claims should be public record. However, Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald stated:
We always say there's no vindication like getting it from both sides, but this is about as vindicating as it gets. Your trusty blogger has long taken pride that my name appears on the Jewish Self-Hating and/or Israel-Threatening (SHIT) List, compiled by some proverbial Zionist hoodlums who wish to intimidate critics of the settler state. I assume I won this honor through my bloggery, my anti-Zionist website New Jewish Resistance, and my interviews with Palestinian activists on WBAI over the years. It has certinaly been very handy for me—I can trot out this impeccable credential every time some anti-Semite accuses me of being "pro-Zionist" for calling out Jew-hatred. So now I was just pleased to find that I have my own hateful little entry in Metapedia, a sort of Wikipedia for neo-Nazis. (See their flattering entry for Adolf Hitler.) So the next time some Zionist hoodlum accuses me of being "self-hating," I'll know just what to do...
Ron Paul's connections to the neo-fascist right are already well established, for those who are paying attention. Now it seems his longtime connection to the John Birch Society has led him deeper into the radical right nexus. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center's Hatewatch blog, Paul is scheduled to speak at a confab sponsored by a wing of the "Traditionalist" schism that literally claims to be more Catholic than the Pope and has long been a magnet for sinister reactionaries. In this case, one of the fellow luminaries on the bill is the Italian neo-fascist leader Roberto Fiore.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Aug. 13 insisted that US drone strikes must operate within international law. The secretary-general hailed the country's lead role in UN peacekeeping operations and addressed the controversial weapons in a speech at the National University of Science and Technology in Islamabad, stating, "[a]s I have often and consistently said, the use of armed drones, like any other weapon, should be subject to long-standing rules of international law, including international humanitarian law. This is the very clear position of the United Nations. Every effort should be made to avoid mistakes and civilian casualties."
Military Judge Denise Lind on July 30 found Army Pfc. Bradley Manning guilty of violations of the Espionage Act for his disclosure of classified information to anti-secrecy organization Wikileaks. The judge, however, acquitted Manning of the more serious charge of "aiding the enemy." In 2010 Manning leaked more than 700,000 government documents, diplomatic cables and a controversial classified video of a 2007 US helicopter strike in Iraq that resulted in the deaths of numerous civilians and two Reuters journalists. The US Army formally charged Manning in July 2010, but his bench trial did not begin until last month at Fort Meade, Md., nearly three years after his initial arrest. Manning faces 136 months to life in prison. The court is expected to sentence Manning on later this week. Several advocacy groups have decried the verdict, with Wikileaks terming it "extremist," while members of the US government have praised it as evenhanded.
After being detained for a day or two by Panamanian authorities on a request from Interpol, retired US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) station chief Robert Seldon Lady was released on July 19 and placed on a plane bound for the US. In 2009 an Italian court sentenced Lady in absentia to nine years in prison for the Feb. 17, 2003 kidnapping of Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, an Egyptian-born Muslim cleric and suspected terrorist also known as Abu Omar, on a street in Milan. Although 22 other US citizens were convicted in the kidnapping case, Italy has only been seeking Lady, who headed the CIA's Milan station; the others received lighter sentences that don't warrant extradition requests under Italian law.
A judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia on July 16 denied (PDF) a motion by Guantánamo Bay detainees to end forced feeding of hunger-striking prisoners. The petitioners maintained that the practice was cruel and that it would interfere with their religious practices during the month of Ramadan, which began on July 8 and requires fasting during daylight hours. In her opinion, Judge Rosemary Collyer found that the court does not have jurisdiction to decide the case. She also noted that even if the court had jurisdiction, she would not have granted the order, saying: "there is nothing so shocking or inhumane in the treatment of Petitioners—which they can avoid at will—to raise a constitutional concern that might otherwise necessitate review." Collyer also pointed out that the Guantanamo staff had plans to accommodate the petitioners' religious needs during Ramadan.