November 9, 2007
by Project Censored
(edited by eKC online, for complete version or to purchase Censored 2008, go to www.projectcensored.org)
#1 No Habeas Corpus for “Any Person”
Consortium, Feb. 3, 2007
Common Dreams, Feb. 2, 2007
With the approval of Congress and no outcry from corporate media, the Military Commissions Act (MCA) signed by Bush on October 17, 2006, ushered in military commission law for US citizens and non-citizens alike. While media, including a lead editorial in the New York Times October 19, have given false comfort that we, as American citizens, will not be the victims of the draconian measures legalized by this Act—such as military roundups and life-long detention with no rights or constitutional protections—Robert Parry points to text in the MCA that allows for the institution of a military alternative to the constitutional justice system for “any person” regardless of American citizenship. The MCA effectively does away with habeas corpus rights for “any person” arbitrarily deemed to be an “enemy of the state.” The judgment on who is deemed an “enemy combatant” is solely at the discretion of President Bush.
The oldest human right defined in the history of English-speaking civilization is the right to challenge governmental power of arrest and detention through the use of habeas corpus laws, considered to be the most critical parts of the Magna Carta which was signed by King John in 1215.
Alexander Hamilton wrote in The Federalist #84 in August of 1788:
“The establishment of the writ of habeas corpus are perhaps greater securities to liberty and republicanism than any it [the Constitution] contains. The practice of arbitrary imprisonments have been, in all ages, the favorite and most formidable instruments of tyranny.”
While it is true that some parts of the MCA target non-citizens, other sections clearly apply to US citizens as well, putting citizens inside the same tribunal system with non-citizen residents and foreigners.
Besides allowing “any person” to be swallowed up by Bush’s system, the law prohibits detainees once inside from appealing to the traditional American courts until after prosecution and sentencing, which could translate into an indefinite imprisonment since there are no timetables for Bush’s tribunal process to play out.
Section 950j of the law further states that once a person is detained, “ not withstanding any other provision of law (including section 2241 of title 28 or any other habeas corpus provision) no court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider any claim or cause of action whatsoever relating to the prosecution, trial, or judgment of a military commission under this chapter, including challenges to the lawfulness of procedures of military commissions.”
Other constitutional protections in the Bill of Rights, such
as a speedy trial, the right to reasonable bail, and the ban on “cruel
and unusual punishment,” would seem to be beyond a detainee’s
reach as well.
“Under the cloak of setting up military tribunals to try al-Qaeda suspects and other so-called unlawful enemy combatants, Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress effectively created a parallel legal system for ‘any person’ — American citizen or otherwise — who crosses some ill-defined line.”
In one of the most chilling public statements ever made by a US Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales opined at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Jan. 18, 2007, “The Constitution doesn’t say every individual in the United States or citizen is hereby granted or assured the right of habeas corpus. It doesn’t say that. It simply says the right shall not be suspended.”
Update by Robert Parry
Despite the widespread distribution of our articles on the Internet, the major US news media continues to ignore the troubling “any person” language tucked in toward the end of the statute. To my knowledge, for instance, no major news organization has explained why, if the law is supposed to apply only to non-citizens, one section specifically targets “any person [who] in breach of an allegiance or duty to the United States, knowingly and intentionally aids an enemy of the United States.” Indeed, the “any person” language in sections dealing with a wide array of crimes, including traditional offenses such as spying, suggests that a parallel legal system has been created outside the parameters of the US Constitution.
Since publication of the articles, the Democrats won control of both the House and Senate—and some prominent Democrats, such as Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy, have voiced their intent to revise the law with the goal of restoring habeas corpus and other rights. However, other Democrats appear hesitant, fearing that any attempt to change the law would open them to charges that they are “soft on terrorism” and that Republicans would torpedo the reform legislation anyway.
On June 8, 2007 the Senate Judiciary Committee passed the Habeas Corpus Restoration Act on an 11-8 vote. If approved, the bipartisan bill, authored by Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, will restore habeas rights that were taken away last year by the Military Commissions Act. The bill will move to the full Senate for vote late June 2007.
#2 Bush Moves Toward Martial Law
The John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007, which was quietly signed by Bush on Oct. 17, 2006, the very same day that he signed the Military Commissions Act, allows the president to station military troops anywhere in the United States and take control of state-based National Guard units without the consent of the governor or local authorities, in order to “suppress public disorder.”
By revising the two-century-old Insurrection Act, the law in effect repeals the Posse Comitatus Act, which placed strict prohibitions on military involvement in domestic law enforcement. The 1878 Act reads, “Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.”
As the only US criminal statute that outlaws military operations directed against the American people, it has been our best protection against tyranny enforced by martial law—the harsh system of rules that takes effect when the military takes control of the normal administration of justice. Historically martial law has been imposed by various governments during times of war or occupation to intensify control of populations in spite of heightened unrest. In modern times, it is most commonly used by authoritarian governments to enforce unpopular rule.
Section 333 of the Defense Authorization Act of 2007, entitled “Major public emergencies; interference with State and Federal law,” states that “the President may employ the armed forces, including the National Guard in Federal service—to restore public order and enforce the laws of the United States when, as a result of a natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident, or other condition in any State or possession of the United States, the President determines that domestic violence has occurred to such an extent that the constituted authorities of the State or possession are incapable of (or “refuse” or “fail” in) maintaining public order—in order to suppress, in any State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy.”
Thus an Act of Congress, superceding the Posse Comitatus Act, has paved the way toward a police state by granting the president unfettered legal authority to order federal troops onto the streets of America, directing military operations against the American people under the cover of “law enforcement.”
Author Frank Morales notes that despite the unprecedented and shocking nature of this act, there has been no outcry in the American media, and little reaction from our elected officials in Congress. On Sept. 19, a lone Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) noted that 2007’s Defense Authorization Act contained a “widely opposed provision to allow the President more control over the National Guard [adopting] changes to the Insurrection Act, which will make it easier for this or any future President to use the military to restore domestic order without the consent of the nation’s governors.”
A few weeks later, on Sept. 29, Leahy entered into the Congressional Record that he had “grave reservations about certain provisions of the fiscal Year 2007 Defense Authorization Bill Conference Report,” the language of which, he said, “subverts solid, longstanding posse comitatus statutes that limit the military’s involvement in law enforcement, thereby making it easier for the President to declare martial law.” This had been “slipped in,” Leahy said, “as a rider with little study,” while “other congressional committees with jurisdiction over these matters had no chance to comment, let alone hold hearings on, these proposals.”
Leahy noted, “The implications of changing the [Posse Comitatus] Act are enormous. There is good reason for the constructive friction in existing law when it comes to martial law declarations.
“Using the military for law enforcement goes against one of the founding tenets of our democracy. We fail our Constitution, neglecting the rights of the States, when we make it easier for the President to declare martial law and trample on local and state sovereignty.”
Update by Frank Morales
This move toward martial law, which is intended to facilitate more effective counterinsurgency measures on the home front, took place, according to Major General Timothy Lowenberg, the Adjutant General, Washington National Guard, and Director of the Washington Military Department, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 24, 2007, “Without any hearing or consultation with the governors and without any articulation or justification of need.” This, despite the fact that Section 1076 of the new law “changed more than one hundred years of well-established and carefully balanced state-federal and civil-military relationships.”
In other words, with one swipe of the pen, says the General, “one hundred years of law and policy were changed without any publicly or privately acknowledged author or proponent of the change.”
Its “Federal Plans for Implementing Expanded Martial Law Authority” are to be executed via the recently created domestic military command, the Northern Command or NORTHCOM. “One key USNORTHCOM planning assumption,” says Lowenberg, “is that the President will invoke the new Martial Law powers if he concludes state and/or local authorities no longer possess either the capability or the will to maintain order.”
#3 AFRICOM: US Military Control of Africa’s Resources
In February 2007, the White House announced the formation of the US African Command (AFRICOM), a new unified Pentagon command center in Africa, to be established by September 2008. This military penetration of Africa is being presented as a humanitarian guard in the Global War on Terror. The real objective is, however, the procurement and control of Africa’s oil and its global delivery systems.
The most significant and growing challenge to US dominance in Africa is China. An increase in Chinese trade and investment in Africa threatens to substantially reduce US political and economic leverage in that resource-rich continent. The political implication of an economically emerging Africa in close alliance with China is resulting in a new cold war in which AFRICOM will be tasked with achieving full-spectrum military dominance over Africa.
A context for the pending strategic role of AFRICOM can be gained from observing CENTCOM in the Middle East. CENTCOM grew out of the Carter Doctrine of 1980 which described the oil flow from the Persian Gulf as a “vital interest” of the US, and affirmed that the US would employ “any means necessary, including military force” to overcome an attempt by hostile interests to block that flow.
It is in Western and Sub-Saharan Africa that the US military force is most rapidly increasing, as this area is projected to become as important a source of energy as the Middle East within the next decade. In this region, challenge to US domination and exploitation is coming from the people of Africa — most specifically in Nigeria, where seventy percent of Africa’s oil is contained.
Environmental and human rights activists have, for years, documented atrocities on the part of oil companies and the military in this region. As the tactics of resistance groups have shifted from petition and protest to more proactive measures, attacks on pipelines and oil facilities have curtailed the flow of oil leaving the region.
Oil companies and the Pentagon are attempting to link these resistance groups to international terror networks in order to legitimize the use of the US military to “stabilize” these areas and secure the energy flow. No evidence has been found however to link the Niger Delta resistance groups to international terror networks or jihadists. Instead, the situation in the Niger Delta is that of ethnic-nationalist movements fighting, by any means necessary, toward the political objective of self-determination.
Update by Bryan Hunt
By spring 2007, US Department of Energy data showed that the United States now imports more oil from the continent of Africa than from the country of Saudi Arabia. While this statistic may be of surprise to the majority, provided such information even crosses their radar, it’s certainly not the case for those figures who have been pushing for increased US military engagement on that continent for some time now, as my report documented. These import levels will rise.
#4 Frenzy of Increasingly Destructive Trade Agreements
IPS coverage of Oxfam Report March 20, 2007
The Oxfam report, “Signing Away the Future,” reveals that the US and European Union (EU) are vigorously pursuing increasingly destructive regional and bilateral trade and investment agreements outside the auspices of the WTO. These agreements are requiring enormous irreversible concessions from developing countries, while offering almost nothing in return.
Faster and deeper, the US and EU are demanding unprecedented tariff reductions, sometimes to nothing, as the US and EU dump subsidized agricultural goods on undeveloped countries, plunging local farmers into desperate poverty. Meanwhile the US and EU provide themselves with high tariffs and stringent import quotas to protect their own producers. Unprecedented loss of livelihood, displacement, slave labor, along with spiraling degradation of human rights and environments are resulting as economic governance is forced from governments of developing countries, and taken over by unaccountable multinational firms.
More than 170 countries have signed international investment agreements that provide foreign investors with the right to turn immediately to international investor-state arbitration to settle disputes, without first trying to resolve the matter in national courts. Such arbitration fails to consider public interest, basing decisions exclusively on commercial law.
Not only is the legal basis for investment arbitration loaded against public interest, so are the proceedings. Despite the fact that many arbitration panels are hosted at the World Bank and the United Nations, the investment arbitration system is shrouded in secrecy. It is virtually impossible to find out what cases are being heard, let alone the outcome or rationale for decisions. As a result, there is no body of case decisions to inform governments of developing countries when drafting investments agreements.
Update by Laura Rusu of Oxfam International
While real progress toward achieving a development-friendly outcome in the World Trade Organization’s Doha Round is still quite elusive, the negotiation of bilateral and regional free trade agreements (FTAs) that would undermine development continues at an unabated pace.
In the United States, the Democratic leadership in Congress recently negotiated changes in the areas of labor, environment, and intellectual property in regard to access to medicines that are to be incorporated into the completed FTAs awaiting Congressional ratification. If implemented as agreed, these changes would mean important progress in enforcing core International Labor Organization standards and multilateral environmental agreements, and in promoting public health over private profits by reducing onerous protections for pharmaceutical monopolies. Still, more must be done in these areas, and harmful provisions remain in several other areas that will adversely affect developing countries, particularly the poor.
Without further changes, the FTAs create a profoundly unfair situation in which the US provides massive domestic agricultural supports and subsidies that allow products to be exported below their cost of production, while developing country trading partners are left with no means of protection.
For more information, please see http://www.oxfamamerica.org.
#5 Human Traffic Builds US Embassy in Iraq
The enduring monument to US liberation and democracy in Iraq will be the most expensive and heavily fortified embassy in the world — and is being built by a Kuwait contractor repeatedly accused of using forced labor trafficked from South Asia under US contracts. The $592 million, 104-acre fortress equal in size to the Vatican City is scheduled to open in 2007.
With a highly secretive contract awarded by the US State Department, First Kuwaiti Trading & Contracting has joined the ranks of Halliburton/KBR in Iraq by using bait-and-switch recruiting practices. Thousands of citizens from countries that have banned travel or work in Iraq are being tricked, smuggled into brutal and inhumane labor camps, and subjected to months of forced servitude — all in the middle of the US-controlled Green Zone, “right under the nose of the US State Department.”
Though Associated Press reports that, “The 5,500 Americans and Iraqis working at the embassy are far more numerous than at any other US mission worldwide,” there is no mention in corporate media of the 3,000 South Asian laborers working for contractors in dangerous and abysmal living and working conditions.
One such contractor is First Kuwaiti Trading and Contracting.
FKTC has procured several billion dollars in US construction contracts
since the war began in March 2003. Much of its work is performed by
cheap labor hired from South Asia. The company currently employs an
estimated 7,500 foreign laborers in theaters of war.
Former US Embassy construction manager for FKTC, John Owen, disclosed to author David Phinney that the deception had all the appearance of smuggling workers into Iraq.
In a resignation letter dated June 2006, Owen told FKTC and US State Department officials that his managers at the US Embassy site regularly beat migrant workers, demonstrated little regard for worker safety, and routinely breached security. He also complained of poor sanitation, squalid living conditions and medical malpractice in labor camps where several thousand low-paid migrant workers, recruited from the Philippines, India, and Pakistan lived. Those workers, Owen noted, earned as little as $10 to $30 for a twelve-hour workday.
Rory Mayberry, a medic subcontracted to FKTC to attend construction crews at the Embassy, shares similar complaints about treatment of migrant laborers. In reports made available to the US State Department, the US Army, and FKTC, Mayberry called for the closure of the onsite medical clinic, listing dozens of serious safety hazards, unsanitary conditions, as well as routine negligence and malpractice. He furthermore called for an investigation into deaths that he suspected resulted from medical malpractice.
Update by David Phinney
Despite what appears to be a whitewash review of the embassy project by the State Department Inspector General that exonerated the contractor — even though more than a dozen sources on the site say conditions were abysmal — I am now encouraged by a recent effort at the US Justice Department to investigate allegations of labor trafficking and other matters.
But the problem of labor abuse has been found to be “widespread” among contractors in the theater of war in Iraq. Unfortunately, not one contractor has been penalized — in fact, many are being rewarded with new US-funded contracts. That is a crime to humanity that may haunt the United States for years to come.
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