A newly disclosed memo shows Bush administration lawyers told CIA interrogators they could use a series of harsh measures including waterboarding, so long as they believed they were acting “in good faith.” The August 2002 memo was apparently written to address CIA concerns its officers could once face torture charges for carrying out White House-approved techniques. The Bush administration’s instructions said officers needed only to believe they weren’t deliberately inflicting severe pain to cause harm. The memo says, “Although an honest belief need not be reasonable, such a belief is easier to establish where there is a reasonable basis for it.” It continues, “The absence of specific intent negates the charge of torture.” The administration ultimately rescinded the directive three years later. The memo was released under a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU National Security Project, said, “These documents supply further evidence, if any were needed, that the Justice Department authorized the CIA to torture prisoners in its custody. The Justice Department twisted the law, and in some cases ignored it altogether, in order to permit interrogators to use barbaric methods that the US once prosecuted as war crimes.”
On the campaign trail, Democratic candidate Barack Obama continued an overseas trip Thursday with a speech in Germany. Speaking before an estimated 200,000 people, Obama called for increased international cooperation and defended his call for escalating the US-led occupation of Afghanistan.
Sen. Barack Obama: “No one welcomes war. I recognize the enormous difficulties in Afghanistan. But my country and yours have a stake in seeing that NATO’s first mission beyond Europe’s borders is a success. For the people of Afghanistan and for our shared security, the work must be done. America cannot do this alone.”
Obama was speaking at the Victory Column in Berlin. His talk drew criticism from Republican candidate John McCain.
Sen. John McCain: “I would rather speak at a rally or a gathering any place outside the United States after I am president of the United States. But that’s a judgment that Senator Obama and the American people will make.”
In Afghanistan, the US military says it’s investigating three separate air strikes that have killed an estimated seventy-eight civilians this month. More than half of the dead were women and children, including forty-seven killed at a wedding party in the eastern province of Nangarhar. UN figures show killings of civilians are up 40 percent over the same period last year. According to Human Rights Watch, US-led air strikes have killed 119 civilians this year.
In Israel and the Occupied Territories, the Israeli government has announced plans to build a new settlement in the Occupied West Bank. Critics call the move a new escalation in Israel’s repeated violations of US-backed agreements. Israel had previously vowed to stop settlement activity but then claimed its pledge only applied to building new settlements, not expanding existing ones. The latest plan violates even that claim. Twenty homes are slated to be built at the site, known as Maskiot, near the West Bank’s eastern border with Jordan. In a statement, the State Department refused to condemn the Israeli move, calling it “not helpful.”
In Argentina, a former army commander has been sentenced to life in prison. Luciano Benjamin Menendez was convicted on charges of kidnapping, torturing and killing left-wing dissidents during Argentina’s seven-year dictatorship beginning in 1976. Activists and relatives of victims celebrated outside the courtroom.
Demonstrator: “I feel like justice has been served. And in all truth, this war criminal, the oppressor known as Luciano Benjamin Menendez, is going to rot in jail, which is exactly what he deserves.”
Some 30,000 people are believed to have died under the Argentine dictatorship.
The Bush administration is proposing to shift more than $200 million in foreign aid to Pakistan in order to upgrade Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter jets. The US says the jets would help target militants in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Critics fear the move could escalate Pakistani tensions with India. State Department spokesperson Gonzalo Gallegos defended the plan.
State Department spokesperson Gonzalo Gallegos: “The bottom line here is that we’ve shifted money to help the democratically elected government of Pakistan to fight a common foe, a common enemy that we have. We believe that these upgrades that had already been approved will help the Pakistanis, us — it will help the Pakistanis help us fight this common foe, and that we believe that this is a positive way to help a friend.”
The International Olympic Committee has banned Iraq’s seven-member team from next month’s Summer Games in Beijing. Olympic officials say the Iraqi government broke the rules when it disbanded its Olympic Committee earlier this year. Iraq’s Hussein al-Amidi criticized the Olympic decision.
Hussein al-Amidi: “We consider this day as a black day in the history of Iraqi sport. It is a black day, as it terminates all the aspirations of the Iraqi athletes and their hopes to achieve personal records, Iraqi records and records for their national unions. All these hopes have come to an end this day, because of this decision, which is done, not by Iraqi hands, but by foreign hands.”
Back in the United States, the House Judiciary Committee is slated to hold a hearing today on Congress member Dennis Kucinich’s measure to impeach President Bush. The single article of impeachment accuses Bush of deceiving Congress to authorize the invasion of Iraq. The witness list includes Kucinich, New York Congress member Maurice Hinchey, former Utah Mayor Rocky Anderson, former Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Fein, along with several other constitutional experts and current and former lawmakers.
Meanwhile, an online movement for the imprisonment of former White House deputy Karl Rove is gathering steam. Organizers of SendRovetoJail.com say they’ve collected more than 100,000 signatures backing Rove’s jailing for contempt of Congress. Rove has ignored a Judiciary Committee subpoena for his testimony on the prosecution of former Alabama Democratic Governor Don Siegelman.
A Republican lawmaker has introduced a measure to ban several Iranian television channels, including the news network Press TV. House Resolution 1308 would label each channel a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist.” Co-sponsor Gus Bilirakis says the networks broadcast “incitement to violence” against the United States.
And the South African judge Navanethem Pillay has been named the new UN Commissioner for Human Rights. Pillay spent years defending opponents of the apartheid regime. She went on help to establish the UN war crimes court in Rwanda before becoming a World Court judge in 2003. Pillay replaces the departing Canadian Supreme Court justice Louise Arbour.