On November 16 the Senate Armed Services Committee unanimously approved a controversial provision of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012 that sets forth procedures for processing and prosecuting individuals imprisoned on suspicion of being members of al-Qaeda. By a vote of 26-0, the committee granted power to the U.S. Armed Forces to exercise complete control over all custodial matters related to the treatment of those detained for suspected belligerent behavior in the War on Terror.
Another aspect of the clause in question makes Attorney General Eric Holder the final arbiter of whether suspects are tried in federal district courts or before military tribunals.
Rancorous debate over the various provisions contained in the bill have raged for months, but all argument was finally quelled by an accord reached by committee Chairman Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.)Levin and ranking GOP committee member John McCain (R-Ariz.).
Despite the bipartisan support for the measure, President Obama has promised to veto the bill over his disagreement with the delegation of power over the cases of detainees.
The White House has repeatedly affirmed its desire that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) should have plenary power over the disposition of issues related to the custody and prosecution of all terror suspects detained domestically.
Presidential candidates Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum said they'd wage war against Iran if it didn't prove it had given up any hope of obtaining nuclear weapons, while Rep. Ron Paul deferred, saying he'd follow Christian just war principles. The comments were made at a November 19 forum in Des Moines, Iowa.
"Nothing takes life more than the declaration of war," moderator and pollster Frank Luntz asked the six GOP presidential candidates who participated in the "Thanksgiving Family Forum," sponsored by a division of Focus on the Family. "Can you define the moral justification for war?"
Texas Congressman Ron Paul answered first, explaining: "Early on, the Church struggled with this and St. Augustine came up with the principles of the just war. I believe in them. I think we should follow them from a religious viewpoint. But we have a Constitution that is very clear to guide us to try to prevent these wars. And that is that we don't go to war without a declaration." Traditional Christian just war principles stress that wars must be declared by the lawful authority; under the U.S. Constitution wars require the declaration of war by Congress. But Paul noted that recent U.S. wars have not been declared by Congress. "It was tragic because we did it by failing the rule of law," Paul added.
Nashville-based mixed martial artist Ed Clay underwent waterboarding after last week's GOP presidential debate where Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain announced they favored waterboarding terror suspects. He emerged a critic of waterboarding and said that if the the pro-family values Bachmann agreed to be waterboarded "I bet you would get Bachmann to admit that she supports gay marriage." Bachmann told the press November 16 that submitting to waterboarding would be "absurd."
"Until I'd been waterboarded," Clay said in a YouTube video where he underwent the procedure. "I really didn't have an opinion whether it was torture or not. So I wanted to find out for myself." He emerged with a clear verdict: It is torture.
Waterboarding is the forcing of water down the nose and throat of prone prisoners involving the pouring of water, usually with a wet cloth over the nose or mouth of the immobile prisoner. The procedure is generally described as creating the sensation of drowning, but it is more than that since water seeps into the breathing passages and lungs. The gag reflex is induced immediately.
A report published in the New York Times suggests that the Syrian opposition forces are “buoyed” by increasing “international pressure” on the government of President Bashar al Assad to follow in the footsteps of other former middle eastern rulers and step down. As the story goes, the Arab League, Russia, and Turkey are all being wooed by forces seeking to oust Assad and end his “bloody crackdown” on political protestors.
For weeks, nations across the world have speculated over a potential Israeli attack on Iran. While there have been a number of indications that Israel could be considering a military strike on Iran, the conjecture has been exacerbated by Israel’s unwillingness to inform the United States of its intentions.
Early last week, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released a report that allegedly proves Iran is in fact pursuing a nuclear weapons program. The UPI writes:
A report by the International Atomic Energy Agency released Tuesday provided the strongest evidence yet that Iran is close to developing nuclear weapons, including clandestine procurement of equipment and design information needed to make nuclear arms, high explosives testing and detonator development to set off a nuclear charge, computer modeling of a core of a nuclear warhead, and preparatory work for a nuclear weapons test — powerful evidence that refutes the regime's specious claims that its nuclear program is peaceful.
In an opinion streaked with black marks of redaction, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit overturned the release order previously entered for Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif.
Latif is a Yemeni national currently imprisoned in the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. In a Summary of Evidence memo prepared by the government, Latif is accused of first, being “an al Qaida fighter; and second, having engaged in hostilities against Americans in Afghanistan."
The ruling by a divided D.C. Court of Appeals reversed an order entered in July 2010 by Judge Henry H. Kennedy, Jr. wherein the Obama Administration was ordered to “take all necessary and appropriate diplomatic steps to facilitate Latif's release forthwith." In his decision, Judge Kennedy wrote that the government of the United States failed to present sufficient evidence that Latif was a member of al-Qaeda or any affiliated group.
Upon successfully achieving the release of his client via a writ of habeas corpus, Latif's attorney, David Remes, said, "This is a mentally disturbed man who has said from the beginning that he went to Afghanistan seeking medical care because he was too poor to pay for it. Finally, a court has recognized that he's been telling the truth, and ordered his release."
Except for dissent from Representative Ron Paul of Texas and (to a lesser extent) former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, the Republican presidential candidates blazed their way in a November 12 debate toward foreign policies where the United States would engage in two new Middle Eastern wars against Syria and Iran, re-institute the Bush Administration torture policy, abolish trials for terror suspects, and allow unlimited presidential assassinations.
New Wars Against Iran and Syria
Mitt Romney came out for war against Iran at the beginning of the debate. "If all else fails," Romney told debate moderator and CBS News Anchor Scott Pelley in the South Carolina debate at Wofford College, "then of course you take military action. It is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon." Likewise, Romney sought war against Syria, suggesting "Of course it's time for the Assad dictatorship to end. And we should use covert activity."
Herman Cain told CBS moderator Scott Pelley that he wouldn't invade Syria, but would wage war against the country by funding a bloody insurgency instead: "I would not entertain military opposition. I'm talking about to help the opposition movement within the country."
A court martial sitting in Joint Base Lewis-McChord found an Army sergeant guilty of the premeditated murder of three Afghan nationals while serving as squad leader of a unit in the Second Infantry Division. In a series of gruesome attacks, Staff Sergeant Calvin Gibbs of Billings, Montana, led his “kill team” into conflict with unarmed Afghan civilians, admittedly chopping off fingers and pulling teeth of the dead victims to save as trophies.
Sergeant Gibbs, 26, faced life imprisonment without the possibility of parole following Thursday's verdict handed down by a five-member panel of jurors who deliberated for about five hours, according to the account of the proceeding published by Reuters. The same story relates that the jury of military men then decided that Gibbs could be eligible for parole after eight and one-half years of imprisonment.
Three other soldiers previously entered pleas on charges stemming from the killings and subsequent mutilations committed while serving under Gibbs. These three of the five members of the American armed forces accused of participating in these murders testified against their former leader, describing him as the instigator of raids on civilians in which the troops would construct fake combat scenarios that would justify the killings. A news article describing the court martial reported that Gibbs would bring “drop weapons” to the crime scenes so that it would appear to superiors that the squad was under attack and that the killings were made in self-defense.
“High-profile detainee” and alleged al-Qaeda operative Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri was arraigned Wednesday before a military tribunal in Guantanamo Bay Naval Station in Cuba. The U.S. government has charged al-Nashiri with war crimes related to his alleged role in the suicide bombing of the USS Cole in 2000, an attack that killed 17 sailors. The defendant is additionally charged with the bombing of a French merchant vessel in 2002, and a planned attack on the American naval warship the USS The Sullivans, also in 2000.
Guarded by an escort of American servicemen, al-Nashiri entered the courtroom dressed in his white prison jumpsuit. He was clean-shaven and wearing his hair very short.
Sitting at a table flanked by his cohort of defense attorneys, al-Nashiri appeared confident, smiling occasionally and at one point waving to the media and other observers sitting behind a glass barrier.
The arraignment of al-Nashiri is historic in that it is the first of such tribunals to be held since the system was created during the George W. Bush administration in response to the attacks of September 11, 2001. The proceeding is especially noteworthy in that not only is it the first military tribunal of a Guantanamo prisoner, but, if convicted, al-Nashiri faces the death penalty.