Arrested by the Taliban in Afghanistan in January 2000, Rahim says al-Qaida leaders burned him with cigarettes, smashed his right hand, deprived him of sleep, nearly drowned him and hanged him from the ceiling until he "confessed" to spying for the United States.
U.S. forces took the young Kurd from Syria into custody in January 2002 after the Taliban fled his prison. Accusing him of being an al-Qaida terrorist, U.S. interrogators deprived him of sleep, threatened him with police dogs and kept him in stress positions for hours, he says. He's been held ever since as an enemy combatant.
Rahim's story is one of several emerging from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay as defense lawyers make bids to free their clients while the Bush administration tries to use a new law to lock them out of federal courts.
Now it's quite possible that Rahim's story is not true, but how would we know? He's being held without charges, without trial, in the black hole that George W. Bush and the Republican Congress have created in American justice.
Once upon a time, the American justice system was hailed as an example of fairness. It's not perfect by any stretch, especially for the lower classes, but with the Constitutional rights established very clearly in the United States Constitution, the accused could expect a speedy trial with a fair and impartial jury, a right to confront the evidence, a right to cross-examine witnesses -- and (duh) a right to actually know the charges being filed and challenge their validity. The system is run by people, and therefore is fallible. Injustice has happened all too often.
However, the Bush Administration has managed to take away even those rights, on an arbitrary basis. And now we have prisoners being held in Guantanamo Bay and secret torture interrogation bases in foreign countries, following in the footsteps of the French Bastille and the Soviet Gulags. Is this the road to follow? As more and more Guantanamo prisoners are released, can we truly believe the claim that these people are guilty until proven innocent until the Bush Administration decides otherwise?
"In this new era of threats, where the stark and sober reality is that America must confront international terrorists committed to the destruction of our way of life, this bill is absolutely necessary," said Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.
The overall bill would prohibit war crimes and define such atrocities as rape and torture but otherwise would allow the president to interpret the Geneva Conventions, the treaty that sets standards for the treatment of war prisoners.
The bill on interrogations and trials also would eliminate some rights common in military and civilian courts.
So President Bush gets to decide (a) who's a terrorist, (b) who therefore has no Constitutional rights, (c) what does or doesn't consititute torture of this alleged terrorist ... and if lines are crossed, nobody can be prosecuted.
The measure would broaden the definition of enemy combatants beyond the traditional definition used in wartime, to include noncitizens living legally in the United States as well as those in foreign countries and anyone determined to be an enemy combatant under criteria defined by the president or secretary of defense.
It would strip at Guantánamo detainees of the habeas right to challenge their detention in court, relying instead on procedures known as combatant status review trials. Those trials have looser rules of evidence than the courts.
"It's time for terrorists such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who planned the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to face justice," Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Texas, said, projecting a tough-on-terrorism position and sounding very much like Republicans who are gunning for his House seat Nov. 7.
The Texan is among the Democrats in hard-fought races who sided with Bush and Republicans.
AP reporter Liz Sidoti seems to want to help advance the Republican spin.
"They are voting in line with what they perceive to be the views of a majority of their constituencies on this issue," said Alan Abramowitz, an Emory University political scientist.
He suggested that these Democrats cast their votes not because of this election year but because of the next few, saying: "They're just trying to avoid trouble in the future."
The several Senate Democrats considering running for president in 2008 may not be so lucky. All of them voted against the measure — and those votes could leave them vulnerable to Republican attacks beyond November.
Of course, endorsing torture in deed, if not in name, may not be a wise political move, either. There are still some people in this country who believe in American values, and not American might-makes-right.
On the key issue of detainee treatment that had caused the impasse between the White House and the dissident Republicans, the two sides agreed on a list of specified crimes that could provoke prosecution of CIA interrogators and others. They also agreed that past violations of the Geneva Conventions, an international treaty barring degrading and humiliating treatment of detainees, would not result in criminal or civil legal action.
The White House, for its part, yielded in its demand to adopt, with congressional approval, a restricted definition of its obligations under Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. That article requires humane treatment of detainees and bars "violence to life and person," such as death and mutilation, as well as cruel treatment and "outrages upon personal dignity."
The compromise language gives the president a dominant -- but not exclusive -- role in deciding which interrogation methods are permitted by that provision of the treaty. It also prohibits detainees from using the Geneva Conventions to challenge their imprisonment or seek civil damages for mistreatment, as the administration sought.
The torture provisions, which are staunchly defended by hawks who, for the most part, have not served in the military, are still a mystery.
What methods of torture were being employed by the CIA on terr’r suspects? 495 of the 535 members of Congress, including the Senate can’t tell you. With the recent redefinition of the Geneva Conventions between the President and those "maverick" politicking, stumping, fooling Republican Senators McCain and Frist, which methods were kept, and which ones were dumped? Again, only 40 of our 535 most important national leaders can answer that question. It’s “secret”, as are so many other actions this President and his Administration take behind closed doors.
What is even more disturbing about this whole thing is the fact that in just a couple of days, 495 of our members of the Halls of Congress will be asked to, and most likely will be participating in the vote to finalize this so-called “anti-torture” legislation; the brainchild of President Bush. And they don’t even know what they’re voting for or against, only that the President wants it quite badly; some on the left going as far as to speculate for the self-serving purpose of staying out of prison for war crimes.
The temptation to cave into fear and descend to the level of the terror criminals out there seems to be irresistible to these conservatives.
We fought the Nazis and did not descend to their level. What enemy we have faced since has been more horrible in goals and tactics? The instances of our past, where Americans let fear short-cut American values -- such as the Japanese internment camps and the witch-hunt against American citizens under McCarthy -- have been shameful episodes. Have we learned nothing as a nation?
America is at a crossroads here. George W. Bush took our mandate -- which was largely the world's mandate -- to deal with the Taliban and al-Qaeda, and twisted it into a horrific war of choice in Iraq. That's bad enough. We're in a fucking mess there.
But he's not only taking us into imperialist adventurism, but also into the darker depths of base and inhumane behavior. Torture? Do we really need to shred our Constitution in order to be safe, as the Republicans claim?
If they cannot perform their jobs within the framework of the law and the U.S. Constitution, then they should have a chance to resign, then be impeached if they don’t. A lack of creative ideas and the ability to perform critical thinking does not give anybody the right to hover above the law. And that is exactly what these people are trying to do.
It's time America responded with integrity and intelligence, and not easily-goaded rage and stupidity.
How would you feel if your bank refused to issue a bank statement detailing all transactions? How would you feel if your bank's ATMs did not issue receipts? How would you feel if your bank, doing all these things, just said, "Trust us!"
How would you feel if your bank's president was on the record saying that taking away all your money was his personal goal?
Diebold insists that their machines are secure, and that they don't need voter-verified paper audit-tapes that keep a real-time log of the votes cast -- but this latest attack, which requires only a few minutes to execute, shows that America's votes should not be run on Diebold hardware.
--Er, make that "less than a minute to execute...."
Already this year, glitches have occurred in Arkansas, California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and West Virginia. Maryland became the latest on Tuesday, when technical problems, human errors and staff shortages led officials to keep some polls open an extra hour.
The fall elections shape up as the most technologically perilous since 2000, election officials say, because 30% of the nation’s voting jurisdictions will be using new equipment. They include large parts of Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia, scenes of key Senate races. “If you’re ever going to have a problem, it’s going to be that first election,” says Kimball Brace, president of Election Data Services.
Diebold, Inc., manufacturer of electronic voting machines, has been sending out many cease-and-desist letters to Internet Service Providers (ISPs), after internal documents indicating flaws in their systems were published on the Internet. The company cited copyright violations under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and demanded that the documents be taken down.
Now EFF and the Center for Internet and Society Cyberlaw Clinic at Stanford Law School are fighting back, seeking a court order on behalf of nonprofit ISP Online Policy Group (OPG) and two Swarthmore College students to prevent Diebold’s abusive copyright claims from silencing public debate about voting, the very foundation of our democratic process.
Nothing like a technology company addressing security flaws in its products by deploying lawyers instead of engineers.
Diebold spokesman David Bear did not return Salon's calls for comment on the Princeton study. In the past, he has denied that such security concerns are notable.
"[Our critics are] throwing out a 'what if' that's premised on a basis of an evil, nefarious person breaking the law," Bear told Newsweek after the March Emery County study. "For there to be a problem here," he further explained to the New York Times, "you're basically assuming a premise where you have some evil and nefarious election officials who would sneak in and introduce a piece of software … I don't believe these evil elections people exist."
Yes, of course. Noooooobody would ever want to change election results! Right. I suppose all the security on ATMs is pointless, too. Let's just leave people's money in pidgeon-hole boxes. People will take only what's theirs, right?
About 80 percent of American voters are expected to use some form of electronic voting in the upcoming election, in which the makeup of the U.S. House will be decided, as well as 33 Senate seats and 36 governorships.
"We had clear legal advice that publication in the U.K. might run afoul of their law," Times spokeswoman Diane McNulty said Tuesday. "It's a country that doesn't have the First Amendment, but it does have the free press. We felt we should respect their country's law."
Visitors who click on a link to the article, published Monday, instead got a notice explaining that British law "prohibits publication of prejudicial information about the defendants prior to trial." The blocked article reveals evidence authorities have in the alleged plot to use liquid explosives to down U.S. airliners over the Atlantic.
The Associated Press' spin on this is that it's all about advertising technology.
The BBC and other organizations also have blocked audio and video of Olympics competition because they bought licenses only for specific geographic regions. Likewise, to protect broadcast contracts, Major League Baseball has used similar technology to prevent live online access to games involving hometown teams.
The underlying blocking technology, known as geotargeting or geolocation, checks the numeric Internet address of a visitor's computer against databases showing the company or service provider to which that address was assigned.
The technique is not foolproof.
No kidding, for look at the fools implementing these policies.
It's not clear whether the Times' decision would make it more likely for news organizations to engage in country-specific self-censorship in the future, particularly in areas involving libel, where protections aren't as strong outside the United States.
After all, courts already have applied country-specific laws to the borderless Internet.
It appears that freedom of speech and information is not all that treasured by even the purported champions of their cause.