Saturday, February 25, 2006

Political links of the week, take 2

[See also: political links of the week take 1.]

Bush and Blair have brilliantly done Bin Laden's work for him: An editorial in The Times arguing that Bush and Blair have done nearly as much damage as Bin Laden himself.
... The 9/11 “changes everything” mantra began as an explanation of a national trauma and a plea for sympathy. It was hijacked to validate the latent authoritarianism of democratic leaders.

America asks the world to believe itself so threatened as to require the kidnappings of foreign citizens in foreign parts, detention without legal process, the curbing of free speech and derogation from all international law. It asks the world to believe that it must disregard the Geneva conventions and employ foreign dictators to help it to torture at random. It uses the same justification for occupying Iraq and Afghanistan. The world simply refuses to agree. Only cringeing Britain appeases such actions and calls them merely “anomalous”. There are madmen aplenty, but they do not constitute a war.

Even America’s most robust champions plead that this is all grotesquely counter-productive. What is frightening is not the evil of much American foreign policy at present but its stupidity; the damage it does to its own objectives.
New Documents Provide Further Evidence That Senior Officials Approved Abuse of Prisoners at Guantánamo: An ACLU press release reporting on documents they recently obtained.
The May 2003 memo specifically names Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, who was then Commander of Joint Task Force-Guantánamo, as having favored interrogation methods that FBI agents believed "could easily result in the elicitation of unreliable and legally inadmissible information." The memo states that FBI personnel brought their concerns to the attention of senior Defense Department personnel but that their concerns were brushed aside.

Other documents released by the ACLU today provide more evidence that abusive interrogation methods used at Guantánamo were endorsed by senior officials. One FBI e-mail, dated May 5, 2004, states that "hooding prisoners, threats of violence, and techniques meant to humiliate detainees" were "approved at high levels w/in DoD." Another FBI e-mail states that certain techniques alleged to be abusive by some FBI agents were "approved by the Deputy Secretary of Defense."
Privacy Guardian Is Still a Paper Tiger: An article in the LA Times reporting on a government board created to protect civil liberties.
For Americans troubled by the prospect of federal agents eavesdropping on their phone conversations or combing through their Internet records, there is good news: A little-known board exists in the White House whose purpose is to ensure that privacy and civil liberties are protected in the fight against terrorism.

Someday, it might actually meet.


Foot-dragging, debate over its budget and powers, and concern over the qualifications of some of its members — one was treasurer of Bush's first campaign for Texas governor — has kept the board from doing a single day of work.
U.S. Reclassifies Many Documents in Secret Review: A New York Times article discussing a secret program to reclassify thousands of previously declassified historical government documents.
... because the reclassification program is itself shrouded in secrecy — governed by a still-classified memorandum that prohibits the National Archives even from saying which agencies are involved — it continued virtually without outside notice until December. That was when an intelligence historian, Matthew M. Aid, noticed that dozens of documents he had copied years ago had been withdrawn from the archives' open shelves.

Mr. Aid was struck by what seemed to him the innocuous contents of the documents — mostly decades-old State Department reports from the Korean War and the early cold war. He found that eight reclassified documents had been previously published in the State Department's history series, "Foreign Relations of the United States."


National Archives officials said the program had revoked access to 9,500 documents, more than 8,000 of them since President Bush took office. About 30 reviewers — employees and contractors of the intelligence and defense agencies — are at work each weekday at the archives complex in College Park, Md., the officials said.
Declassification in Reverse - The Pentagon and the U.S. Intelligence Community's Secret Historical Document Reclassification Program: A detailed report by The National Security Archive ("the world's largest non governmental library of declassified documents") discussing some of the documents that have been removed from the National Archives by the secret reclassification program discussed in the New York Times article (above). The National Security Archive article also includes scans of some of the documents that have now been reclassified.

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