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The Depressing State of Press Freedom Around the World


This image, courtesy of Reporters Without Borders, rates countries based on the state of freedom of the press. Many criteria are used, including violence against journalists to legislative measures to curb press freedoms. A zoomable map can be found here. You can read the full report here. (World Press freedom Index)

The Depressing State of Press Freedom Around the World | > 1,000 Words | Big Think.

GAP Files Supreme Court Amicus as Detained, Tortured Whistleblowers take on Rumsfeld – Government Accountability Project


On March 11, 2013, GAP filed an amicus brief in support of a petition for certiorari to the Supreme Court in the case of Vance v. Rumsfeld. Petitioners Donald Vance and Nathan Ertel are U.S. citizens who worked as private security contractors in Iraq. Beginning in 2005, they witnessed corruption by U.S. and Iraqi officials and, from October 2005 until April 2006, reported these abuses to the FBI. When U.S. officials learned in April 2006 that Vance and Ertel had blown the whistle, the two were arrested and held at a U.S. military prison in Iraq.

Vance was imprisoned for more than three months, and Ertel for six weeks. During that time, the U.S. military detained them incommunicado in solitary confinement and subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques (aka torture), which then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had approved for use against detainees. Specifically, Vance and Ertel were not permitted to sleep, kept in extremely cold cells, forced to listen to loud music, deprived of food and water, denied medical care, hooded, slammed into walls, and threatened. After their torture and detention for months at hands of our government, the military eventually released them without charge. Vance and Ertel brought a lawsuit for damages against the officials responsible for their torture.

In November 2012, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit dismissed the suit holding that U.S. citizens are not entitled to bring constitutional damages claims against military officials. On Feb. 5, 2013, Loevy & Loevy, a Chicago-based civil rights law firm representing Vance and Ertel, submitted a petition for certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court. GAP submitted an amicus brief – prepared in conjunction with the Emory Law School Supreme Court Advocacy Project and signed by seven other organizations – urging the high Court to grant the petition.

The brief points out the dangers in refusing to permit individual-capacity actions. Primarily, it argues that the Seventh Circuit decision leaves U.S. citizens – working abroad or at home – with no means of redress if the government tortures them, thereby granting the military absolute immunity. Given other federal statutes in place, the Seventh Circuit’s decision also means that U.S. citizens who are tortured would have less access to judicial review than non-citizens. The brief warns that if civilians are not afforded adequate judicial protections, they may choose not to serve their country abroad as military contractors. It notes that the United States relies heavily upon contractors and cannot afford to create such a disincentive. Finally, GAP’s brief argues that overturning the Seventh’s Circuit decision will reinforce the military’s adherence to the Constitution and ensure military discipline.

via GAP Files Supreme Court Amicus as Detained, Tortured Whistleblowers take on Rumsfeld – Government Accountability Project.

via GAP Files Supreme Court Amicus as Detained, Tortured Whistleblowers take on Rumsfeld – Government Accountability Project.

A tortured history, a reflection of utter failure


Could you or I be kidnapped and waterboarded and still have no right to sue?

NATO forces have refused to turn Afghan prisoners over to some local jails due to concerns about the torture committed in many of those detention centers. After a dozen years of U.S. efforts to export democracy to Afghanistan, that’s just one example of why this mission has proven to be an utter failure.

The Guantánamo prison also illustrates what’s gone wrong with our permanent battle formerly known as the Global War on Terror. President Barack Obama promised to shut it down when he was first sworn in four years ago, but the Caribbean detention center is still wrecking lives and standing as a gleaming symbol of so many things that are wrong with U.S. foreign policy.

The biggest obstacle to closing Gitmo is the dilemma of what to do with the detainees still held there. In any event, Congress has barred their transfer to American soil. People here have rights, or at least used to, and we surely can’t afford to let terror suspects claim any of those.

The farther they are from U.S. shores, and the murkier the justice systems of the receiving nations, the harder it’s going to be to trace any appalling abuse back to our “anti-terrorism” experts.

So hard, in fact, that Attorney General Eric Holder has ruled it can’t be done. No prosecutions await, therefore, for George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, David Petraeus, Barack Obama, Leon Panetta, or the hundreds — maybe thousands — of underlings who oversaw acts of torture committed in U.S. custody or later covered them up. We can’t be entirely sure whether such deeds still go on until some brave soul makes another movie or another whistleblower decides it’s worth life in jail to tell us.

That’s why I consider John Kiriakou, the former CIA officer who spilled the beans about waterboarding, a hero.

The FBI prosecuted him for divulging the name of another agent to a journalist. Even though the reporter didn’t publish the operative’s name, Kiriakou began serving a 30-month prison sentence on Feb. 28. This made the whistleblower the only CIA officer to do time for anything related to torture

As Kiriakou’s fate indicates, our justice system isn’t much help for thwarting government-sponsored abuse. A federal appeals court has ruled that even U.S. citizens who were tortured by our own military have no “right of action.” How’s that? Could you or I be kidnapped and waterboarded too and still have no right to sue? Attacked by one of our own government’s drones?

Historically, it’s no surprise that torture turns out to be an established weapon in America’s diplomatic arsenal.

After all, look at the history behind the School of the Americas, where some of the most vicious leaders in Latin America learned terror techniques at our behest. That training beefed up our ability to defend friendly dictators in the West, and to oust leftist leaders who somehow managed to get elected.

U.S. citizens understandably have trouble knowing what to believe. It just can’t be true that our own virtuous democracy has, now or ever, perpetuated torture. But then there is all the evidence. Guantánamo detainees have been subjected to everything from sensory deprivation to Chinese torture techniques.

Washington will have us believe that the victims are all terrorists. And the Republicans (John McCain aside) say it’s really OK since we must be getting some valuable information.

The rest of the world isn’t quite so sure. A war crimes tribunal in Malaysia has independently found the United States guilty of those crimes. So have the European Court of Human Rights and the Italian Supreme Court.

In his second term, President Barack Obama should shut Gitmo and put an end to these abuses that stain our nation’s integrity.

OtherWords columnist William A. Collins is a former state representative and a former mayor of Norwalk, Connecticut. OtherWords.org

via WILLIAM A. COLLINS: A tortured history, a reflection of utter failure- The Register Citizen.

via WILLIAM A. COLLINS: A tortured history, a reflection of utter failure- The Register Citizen.

‘Schools should decide on ethos v rights’


Schools should be allowed to decide on the right balance between their religious ethos and the rights of staff despite plans to give legal protection to gay or divorced teachers, a Catholic schools leader has said.

Changes were proposed this year to employment law that allow schools, hospitals, and other religious-owned employers discriminate on certain grounds to protect their ethos. Unions representing staff the organisations had been lobbying for such changes.

The Seanad rejected Fianna Fáil senator Averil Power’s bill in May after Justice Minister Alan Shatter said it posed constitutional issues over the rights of religions orders to protect their ethos.

A Department of Justice spokesperson told the Irish Examiner that arrangements are being made to set up the new Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission as soon as possible and they will be asked to undertake an examination of the issue as a priority task.

However, in an article for the Jesuit journal ‘Studies’, the head of the group representing religious orders and the bishops on education issues says much of the criticism of section 37 of the Employment Equality Act is caused by misinterpretation of its intentions.

via ‘Schools should decide on ethos v rights’ | Irish Examiner.

via ‘Schools should decide on ethos v rights’ | Irish Examiner.

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