Human Rights Watch has revealed that U.S. officials, under President George W. Bush, tortured a number of Libyan prisoners before sending them back to Libya for further abuse under the regime of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. In a new report, Human Rights Watch cites documents recovered after Gaddafi’s ouster and collects interviews with 14 Libyans who were rendered to Libya after Gaddafi attempted to improve ties with the West in 2004. The CIA had held at least five of the prisoners in Afghanistan. The report’s author, Laura Pitter, said the Libyans suffered worse torture by U.S. officials than they did under Gaddafi.
Laura Pitter: "The U.S. and the U.K. had assisted and actually took part in their renditions. These were individuals who were head of an opposition group who had been opposed to Gaddafi for many years and had been trying to overthrow him from abroad, from various bases abroad. The treatment in Libya was very bad. They were subjected to more isolated incidents of abuse and beatings, and some received electric shocks and summary trials and solitary confinement. But it was, ironically, not as bad as what they received in U.S. custody."
In a new report, Human Rights Watch also reveals a previously unknown instance of waterboarding by the U.S. government. Mohammed Shoroeiya, a Libyan national, describes being waterboarded in Afghanistan by U.S. jailers, contradicting the Bush administration’s claim that the torture technique was just used on three high-profile prisoners. The revelation is expected to fuel speculation that waterboarding was far more widespread than the United States has disclosed. The news comes days after the Justice Department announced it will not prosecute anyone involved in the killing and torturing of prisoners in CIA custody after a three-year investigation.
The United States has confirmed plans to continue the indefinite detention of foreign nationals at a military prison in Afghanistan. Despite promoting an upcoming transfer of control to the Afghan government, the United States says it will retain authority over a section of the Parwan prison that holds some 50 foreigners. According to the New York Times, the United States is also continuing to jail and vet hundreds of Afghan prisoners detained in recent operations.
Controversy erupted at the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday when party leaders forced through a platform change to reinstate references to God and the view that Jerusalem is Israel’s undivided capital. The language in question was included in 2008, but was left out when delegates approved their 2012 platform earlier this week. Following criticism from Republicans, DNC chair and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa presided over a voice vote to reinstate the references through a two-thirds majority. Villaraigosa appeared prepared to automatically accept the change, but those voting "no" were so loud that he ended up holding the vote three times. The recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital stands in contrast to longstanding U.S. government policy, which calls for the city’s status to be resolved through negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Israel has occupied East Jerusalem since 1967.
President Obama is set to close the Democratic National Convention tonight with an address making his bid for re-election. Convention organizers have cancelled plans to hold the speech at the outdoor Bank of America Stadium due to forecasts of rain. On Wednesday, former President Bill Clinton delivered a speech in support of Obama’s campaign.
Bill Clinton: "He inherited a deeply damaged economy. He put a floor under the crash. He began the long, hard road to recovery and laid the foundation for a modern, more well-balanced economy that will produce millions of good new jobs, vibrant new businesses and lots of new wealth for innovators. Now, are we where we want to be today? No. Is the president satisfied? Of course not. But are we better off than when he took office?"
Also speaking during the prime-time convention hour Wednesday was consumer advocate and Massachusetts Senate hopeful Elizabeth Warren. Warren is seeking to unseat Republican incumbent Scott Brown in a tight race. She is known for launching the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under President Obama. In her remarks, Warren said the U.S. economic system is rigged in favor of bailed-out corporations.
Elizabeth Warren: "People feel like the system is rigged against them. And here’s the painful part: They’re right. The system is rigged. Look around. Oil companies guzzle down billions in profits. Billionaires pay lower tax rates than their secretaries. And Wall Street CEOs, the same ones who wrecked our economy and destroyed millions of jobs, still strut around Congress, no shame, demanding favors and acting like we should thank them. Does anyone here have a problem with that? Yeah, well, I do, too. I do, too."
Warren also criticized Republican hopeful Mitt Romney for his remark that "corporations are people."
Elizabeth Warren: "Mitt Romney is the guy who said 'corporations are people.' No, Governor Romney, corporations are not people. People have hearts. They have kids. They get jobs. They get sick. They cry. They dance. They live, they love, and they die. And that matters. That matters. That matters because we don’t run this country for corporations, we run it for people. And that’s why we need Barack Obama."
A federal judge has ruled Arizona police can enforce a key component of the state’s controversial anti-immigrant law following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling earlier this year. The "show me your papers" measure requires police to check the immigration status of people they stop before releasing them. The Supreme Court upheld the provision in June. In a statement, the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona said: "Once this ‘show me your papers’ provision goes into effect, racial profiling will become rampant statewide ... We intend to ramp up our reporting and litigation efforts to seek justice on behalf of the victims of police abuse."
A federal appeals court has blocked a Minnesota law that requires corporations to disclose the money they spend on political campaigns. The measure forces companies to set up and keep track of a political fund if they spend more than $100 a year on political speech. But on Wednesday, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis ruled in a 6-to-5 decision that the law likely violates the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling allowing unlimited spending to influence elections.
A delegation of visiting U.S. senators has warned Iraq over allowing Iran to send weapons to the Syrian government through Iraqi airspace. Iraq has called on the United States to cite evidence of the Iranian flights, saying none has been provided so far. Speaking on Wednesday in Jordan, USAID administrator Rajiv Shah announced a new donation of aid to assist Syrian refugees.
Rajiv Shah: "We’ve already provided more than $82 million of support for humanitarian priorities inside of Syria, reaching more than 700,000 Syrians with food, water and medical support. And that’s why today I’m quite pleased to announce an additional $21 million commitment, in this case to our colleagues at the World Food Program."
Medical experts are warning U.S. sanctions on Iran are threatening the health of Iranian patients reliant on imported medicines. The Financial Times reports U.S. restrictions have led to shortages of vital supplies and medications for cancer patients as well as those being treated for disorders including hemophilia, multiple sclerosis and thalassemia, as well as others awaiting transplants and kidney dialysis. The parents of an eight-year-old boy suffering from severe hemophilia say their son is at risk of losing his right leg because the U.S.-made treatment is no longer available in sufficient quantities. The Iranian Hemophilia Society says one young man has already died because his treatment was no longer available. The group’s president, Ahmad Ghavidel, said: "This is a blatant hostage-taking of the most vulnerable people by countries which claim they care about human rights." At the Democratic National Convention, former Congressmember Robert Wexler bragged of the "crippling" U.S. sanctions on Iran under President Obama.
Robert Wexler: "Due to the president’s strong leadership, Iran is more isolated than ever. He has marshaled the international community to impose the most crippling sanctions in history. Iran’s oil exports have plummeted, and its currency value has been slashed in half."
The Justice Department has blasted the oil giant BP for its handling of the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, accusing the company of "gross negligence and willful misconduct." The charge was made in a court filing amidst ongoing talks over settling BP’s liabilities. U.S. government lawyers write: "The behavior, words and actions of these BP executives would not be tolerated in a middling size company manufacturing dry goods for sale in a suburban mall." The government’s language suggests that officials have taken the side of scientists and local residents who say the oil spill has caused major environmental damage.
New figures show the number of low-income Americans who consistently lack enough food increased by 800,000 last year. The Department of Agriculture says 5.5 percent of the U.S. population — nearly 17 million people — suffered "very low food security," meaning they had to skip meals or go without food for an entire day.
The pipeline giant TransCanada has offered to alter its Keystone XL oil pipeline to avoid environmentally sensitive areas on the route between the Alberta tar sands and Texas. President Obama had rejected initial plans for the Keystone XL pipeline earlier this year, but later pledged to fast-track approval of the southern portion stretching from Oklahoma to the Gulf Coast. TransCanada says its new proposed route takes into account public concerns and feedback from environmental officials in Nebraska. Opponents say the Keystone XL pipeline will poison local communities and further harm the environment through the increased greenhouse gases of extracting tar sands oil. On Wednesday, activists with the Tar Sands Blockade in Texas held their third action against the pipeline’s construction by locking themselves to TransCanada equipment near Sulphur Springs.