Sunday, January 22, 2006

You say "interrogate", I say "insuffocate"

Chief Warrant Officer Lewis E. Welshofer Jr.Convicted killer Lewis Welshofer Jr.

Interrogator Convicted in Iraqi's Death
FT. CARSON, Colo. — A military jury late Saturday convicted an Army interrogator of negligent homicide in the death of an Iraqi general who had been stuffed face-first into a sleeping bag.

After seven hours of deliberations, the six-officer panel found Chief Warrant Officer Lewis E. Welshofer Jr. guilty of the charge, which carries a maximum sentence of three years in military prison. Had he been convicted of murder, he could have been given a life sentence...

The verdict in the court-martial came hours after Spinner contended that the interrogator had been heeding an August 2003 e-mail from the office of the U.S. commander in Iraq.

The e-mail cited by the defense, from Capt. William Ponce, said: "The gloves are coming off, gentlemen…. We want these individuals broken. Casualties are mounting."

In a reply to the e-mail, Welshofer wrote that the military needed to loosen its standards, which he said were more useful during World War II. "Today's enemies, especially in southwest Asia, understand force, not … mind games."

Welshofer was rebuked for suggesting violations of the Geneva Convention. But two weeks later, a Sept. 10 memo from the top commander in Iraq authorized several new interrogation techniques, including one that Welshofer says gave him permission to stuff Maj. Gen. Abed Hamed Mowhoush into the sleeping bag, bind him with an electrical cord, straddle his chest and occasionally cover his mouth...

Welshofer had interrogated the general several times, once slapping him in the chest, before the interviews turned markedly more violent, according to witnesses at the trial. Iraqi nationals apparently in the employ of the CIA entered the interrogation room Nov. 24 and beat Mowhoush for 30 minutes with rubber hoses and insulation...

Though court rules forbade anyone from naming the CIA during the trial, Spinner questioned why "civilian interrogators" who presided over a beating were not being prosecuted...
If you read the full article, it sounds more like first-degree murder than negligent homicide. Yes, his victim was tortured by the CIA as well. Yes, his superiors approved dangerous tactics and told interrogators "we want these individuals broken." But Welshofer is clearly a sadist who was pushing the limits. And he didn't help the anti-terror cause, either. Even with as valuable a detainee as Mowhoush, Welshofer was more interested in torturing prisoners than getting information.

So much for making America safer: this guy will be loose on the streets in less than three years.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Shoot the messenger

loosely-related graphicI read about this story first on News for Greens: a Swiss magazine is reporting that the Swiss intelligence service intercepted a fax from Egypt's Foreign Minisry to its London embassy that mentions the existence of U.S. terror prisons in Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Kosovo and Macedonia.
Swiss Investigate Leak to Paper on C.I.A. Prisons in Eastern Europe

Christoph Grenacher, the newspaper's editor in chief, said that before the article was published, newspaper officials met with high-ranking Swiss government officials, who urged the paper to withhold the information. "We concluded that the discussion about so-called secret prisons is much more important than the interests of the secret service in Switzerland," he said.

The Swiss Army's chief prosecutor opened an investigation of Mr. Grenacher and two of his reporters to determine whether military secrets were exposed and to find the source of the leaks. The Swiss attorney general's office is also investigating the issue, adding another layer to its existing investigation of whether there were C.I.A. flights in Swiss airspace. Germany and Denmark are also examining accusations that the agency used their airspace to transport terrorism suspects. The United States has acknowledged flights but not the existence of prisons. A C.I.A. spokeswoman declined to comment on the report in the newspaper.

Conceivably, the journalists could face five years in prison for revealing military secrets, although no one prosecuted under the law has ever served any prison time, the authorities said. Martin Immenhauser, a spokesman for the military prosecutor, said of the document: "Nobody has told us that it's not authentic. I think you can say that it's 99 percent certain that it's authentic."

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Momentum in California

San Quentin, California State PrisonThere may be some momentum building in California for a couple of good progressive initiatives. Most recently, a proposal for a two-year moratorium on California's death penalty won approval from a panel of Assembly members:
The moratorium bill — AB 1121 by Assemblyman Paul Koretz (D-West Hollywood) — would halt executions until the end of 2007, when the bipartisan California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice is scheduled to report its findings and make recommendations to the Legislature.

Formed by the state Senate last year, the 15-member commission includes representatives from law enforcement, victims rights groups and the criminal defense bar.

...California's death row holds 646 convicts, including more than 20 who are in the final stages of their appeals before an execution can occur.

Barring a last-minute legal reprieve, or clemency from Schwarzenegger, Clarence Ray Allen next week will become the 13th person killed at San Quentin since capital punishment resumed in California in 1992.

Allen, 75, was sentenced to death for masterminding a triple murder while behind bars.
Although it faces opposition from most Republicans and probably the Governor, the idea of a moratorium is endorsed by some former supporters of the death penalty:
A group of current and former prosecutors — including the author of the state's 1978 death penalty initiative and Ira Reiner, whose office sent dozens of
people to death row when he was Los Angeles County's district attorney — endorsed a moratorium Monday on executions in California.

...In New Jersey on Monday, lawmakers approved a suspension of executions, becoming the first state legislature in the country to do so since the death penalty was reinstated by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1976.

Another issue that is gaining momentum in Sacramento is a minimum wage hike. The Governor is proposing a $1 increase, so at least that much is almost guaranteed, especially since business interests are relaxing their opposition to the idea. But Democrats will likely push for more, and the Green Party is working with labor groups to get an initiative on the ballot to raise the minimum wage and include an annual cost of living ajustment.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Green candidates in '06

Peter ThottamAt the Green Party of Los Angeles County's meeting on Sunday, two new candidates decided to run for Assembly in Los Angeles:

53rd Assembly district: Peter Thottam (above), an anti-war activist with ANSWER
54th Assembly district: Rachel Bruhnke, a longtime Green who has spent a lot of time in Cuba working on environmental issues.

The list of Green Party candidates in California includes three candidates in a contested primary for U.S. Senate: Todd Chretien, Kent Mesplay, and Tian Harter.

California Green Wes Rolley has a list of Green candidates for statewide office (as well as commentary) on his new blog, California Greening.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Jose Padilla reclaims his birthright

Jose PadillaJose Padilla, U.S. citizen, whom the president arbitrarily stripped of his constitutional rights, was finally in court this week. Magistrate Judge Barry Garber "explained Padilla's rights as a criminal defendant, asking him: Do you understand me so far?".