900ftJesus has some important questions for the Privacy Commissioner re: the new Harpercon plan to randomly audit EI clients for *gasp* fraud, via taxpayer-subsidized bureaucratic fishing expeditions (House calls? REALLY?):
What information are federal employees told to gather through house visits?
How is this information gathered? (silent observation, questions, questioning and/or observing people other than the client at the home?
What information is included on any reports given to HRDC?
What is the format of this information?
To what use is this information put? How is the information applied?
What privacy rating is assigned to this information?
Who has access to this information?
Where, how, and for how long is this information stored?
What training have employees who gather the information, and employees who have access to it received in privacy issues and security issues?
What information is given to the clients prior to a visit and during a visit concerning information that will be gathered?
What privacy considerations are specifically given to non-EI claimants sharing the home being visited?
Make no mistake: the Harper government is trying to do to EI recipients what its ideological predecessors, the Harris Reformatories, did to welfare recipients in Ontario in the 90s: demonize based on demonstrative appeals to self-aggrandizing Ford Nation assumptions about freeloaders (who, btw, were not, in fact, committing fraud willy-nilly back in the day, unless one contorts meaning into Gordian knots). Of course, EI != welfare. As 900ftJesus notes, “EI recipients are clients [emph. mine]. They have paid their insurance premiums and are clients, making insurance claims.”
Which is of course the overall point of the egregious Harpercon house call exercise: to dramatically shift Canadian perceptions on how we frame and view EI, until the lines between client and recipient (ie, leech) have been sufficiently blurred.
According to Louise Arbour, Canada’s internationally renowned & universally lauded Charter of Rights & Freedoms (HBD, eh?) “has transformed a country obsessed with the federal-provincial division of powers and enabled it to address its diversity in a substantive, principled way.”
(Originally posted at Comments From Left Field)
At this past weekend’s G20 Summit, Toronto the Good was transformed into Toronto the Garrisoned.
Almost from the moment the summit began, 25,000 mostly-peaceful protesters faced a riot gear clad phalanx of security forces — 19,000 police officers in total, almost 20 times the number of Canadian troops currently serving in Kandahar. Yet it was a small group of agitators determined to make a statement through senseless violence who (in concert with officials eager to delegitimize peaceful assembly and popular dissent) got to drive the media narrative.
Then Sunday’s massive security overreach washed away talk of Saturday’s anarchic orgy in a digital wave of damning, as-it-happened social media coverage, culminating in a rainy, 5 hour “kettling” of over 300 people at Queen and Spadina after a peaceful march turned into a tense standoff. Many of the detained were bystanders who had either joined out of curiosity or just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. “It’s not Canadian”, said CP24 host Stephen Ledrew, after innumerable images of cold, drenched Torontonians penned in by riot police had been broadcast, not knowing why they were being held, nor when they would be released.
Some were so desperate for resolution they actually begged to be arrested.
And that’s not to mention numerous clashes between trigger-happy, heavy-handed security officials and members of the news media, many of whom ended up being asked to leave protest areas, detained and, in some particularly disturbing instances, brazenly assaulted in a disgusting circumvention of our grand tradition of a vibrant free press.
By now we’ve all seen now-ubiquitous footage of obsidian-adorned “anarchists” hurling bricks and torching cop cars. Light the flame and the moths will swarm (and, apparently, loot). So why the hell did the brain trust in the PMO decide that the best way to showcase the GTA on a global scale was to hold a big, capitalist photo-op in the downtown core of a major, world-class metropolis, an event almost certain to attract scores of provocateurs?
It was an inexplicable decision that was, to quote Toronto Star publisher John Cruickshank, “bewilderingly stupid”.
TVO’s Steve Paikin and Sun Media columnist Greg Weston have said Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty’s secret late-night legislation that granted G20 security forces sweeping detention powers is as bad or worse than the infamous War Measures Act — and resulted in more arrests than the October Crisis (at least 900 at last report). Clearly, a public inquiry (or inquiries) is only way to resolve still-lingering questions about the G20: why Toronto was picked as host site, how the estimated $1B in costs was actually spent and, most ominously, just what exactly was contained in provincial legislation granting extra-judicial powers to smirking security officials (that so-called ‘five metre rule’? Bunk.) Reports from detainees of misogynistic, homophobic and racist treatment by law enforcement officials should also be thoroughly addressed and charges laid if allegations of police misconduct can be corroborated.
If our elected leaders can waste almost one and a half billion bucks of taxpayer coin on an international photo-op and a fake lake they can pony up some quid to determine why their precious G20 summit resulted in a monumental clusterfuck.
(Photo: Jonas Naimark, Flickr)
Toronto Star national security reporter Michelle Shephard, who, over the course of her career, has visited the detention facility at sunny Guantanamo Bay, Cuba fifteen times, gives an essential summation today of what she calls “a place of jarring juxtapositions”:
Suicides of the detainees became “asymmetric warfare” and force-feeding prisoners on hunger strikes was “assisted feeding.” Captives did not have “interrogations” but had “reservations.” And signs posted on the road to the camps listed the “Value of the Week” as “Pride” or “Respect” even as Washington debated the definition of torture.
[...]Journalists have been the public’s eyes and ears at the base for the last seven years and the ever-changing rules have at times hampered our efforts to tell the whole story.
Security regulations surrounding photos and videos were perhaps the most confounding.
Last week, censors erased a photographer’s shots of the tents at “Camp Justice” where journalists reside because there were more than three tents in the frame. A television reporter’s clip was deleted because the shot showed her talking with an orange barricade in the background. No one could explain why that was a problem.
Tight shots of razor wire were okay, except if it surrounded the courthouse, even if the courthouse wasn’t shown. I tried to point out that I didn’t think Al Qaeda would be surprised that razor wire was being used as security.
Detainees couldn’t be interviewed or identified in photographs because of the Geneva Conventions, Pentagon spokespeople and military commanders told us.
The international treaties state that prisoners of war must “at all times be protected … against insult and public curiosity.” The PoWs should be afforded “respect for their persons and their honour.”
But the Bush administration created this offshore prison in an effort to sidestep those same Geneva Conventions. U.S. President George W. Bush, who left office last week, famously stated that only the “spirit of” the Geneva Conventions would be respected at Guantanamo.
Our military escorts would correct us if we referred to captives as prisoners because these were not “prisoners of war” but “detainees.”
And if the reason for censoring photos was to protect a captive’s right to privacy and honour, then the Pentagon violated its own rules when it released Guantanamo’s most famous picture. The photo, taken in 2002, showing shackled prisoners in orange jumpsuits kneeling in the hot Cuban sun while dogs and soldiers bark at them, was actually taken by a U.S. sailor.
When international furor erupted, the Pentagon quickly labelled the photos “For Official Use Only” in an attempt to prevent further distribution. But it was too late.
The entire article is a must-read, if only to counter revisionist attempts to distort the legacy of Guantanamo, such as this unfortunately (if tellingly) titled op-ed from Sunday’s Washington Post, ‘When Gitmo Was (Relatively) Good,’ in which writer Karen J. Greenberg tries to construct a ‘One Good German’ counternarrative lauding “small initial efforts at decency” on the part of detention officials.
Purported good intentions aside, Guantanamo was an immediately tainted effort once the decision was made to, according to Greenberg, “act in a manner “consistent with” the conventions (as the mantra went) but not to feel bound by them [emphasis added].” As soon as the US untied itself from binding international law, specifically and deliberately design a detention facility in order to sidestep regulation and oversight, the entire enterprise was doomed to debasement, no mater how hard officials initially tried to voluntarily (key word) “go with the Geneva Conventions,” as Staff Sgt. Anthony Gallegos, quoted by Greenberg, put it.
Keep that statement–”not to feel bound by them“–in mind as the new administration ties itself in knots trying to untangle the legal and moral mess left behind by the previous–and, as GOP leaders like John Boehner continue to peddle the Club Gitmo myth, also remember Shephard’s stark recounting of Guantanamo’s true legacy.
“President Obama’s plans to expeditiously determine the fates of about 245 terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and quickly close the military prison there were set back last week when incoming legal and national security officials — barred until the inauguration from examining classified material on the detainees — discovered that there were no comprehensive case files on many of them.
Let’s pause for a moment to let that sink in: “there were no comprehensive case files on many of them.”
Ok, moving on:
Instead, they found that information on individual prisoners is “scattered throughout the executive branch,” a senior administration official said. The executive order Obama signed Thursday orders the prison closed within one year, and a Cabinet-level panel named to review each case separately will have to spend its initial weeks and perhaps months scouring the corners of the federal government in search of relevant material.
Several former Bush administration officials agreed that the files are incomplete and that no single government entity was charged with pulling together all the facts and the range of options for each prisoner. They said that the CIA and other intelligence agencies were reluctant to share information, and that the Bush administration’s focus on detention and interrogation made preparation of viable prosecutions a far lower priority.
Rewind my selekta: “[T]he Bush administration’s focus on detention and interrogation made preparation of viable prosectutions a far lower priorty“
A far lower priorty.
Of course, DeYoung and Finn wouldn’t be “objective” if they didn’t (falsely) balance things out with the requisite mealy-mouthed partisan broadsides from–wait for it, kiddies–some unnamed former Bush administration assbaskets who nostalgically break out their by-now-rusty bullshit shovels:
But other former officials took issue with the criticism and suggested that the new team has begun to appreciate the complexity and dangers of the issue and is looking for excuses.
After promising quick solutions, one former senior official said, the Obama administration is now “backpedaling and trying to buy time” by blaming its predecessor. Unless political appointees decide to overrule the recommendations of the career bureaucrats handling the issue under both administrations, he predicted, the new review will reach the same conclusion as the last: that most of the detainees can be neither released nor easily tried in this country.
“All but about 60 who have been approved for release,” assuming countries can be found to accept them, “are either high-level al-Qaeda people responsible for 9/11 or bombings, or were high-level Taliban or al-Qaeda facilitators or money people,” said the former official who, like others, insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters about such matters. He acknowledged that he relied on Pentagon assurances that the files were comprehensive and in order rather than reading them himself.”
Well, isn’t that cute! He never read the (um, non-existent files) that the Pentagon claimed are comprehensive (and are, um, non-existent), yet somehow still remains completely confident that all Gitmo detainees (apart from the 60 designated for release–oopsie!) are lawfully detained and cannot ever be released, because, um, well, because — hey, look! A Wookie from the planet Kashyyyk!
It does not. make. sense.
Ok, say what you want about the Nazis, but at least they had the *ahem* decency to keep oh-so-impeccable records on their detainees; would that the former administration have shown similar consideration.
Hilzoy (h/t) lays it out on the table:
It takes, well, a special kind of administration to detain people for years on end without bothering to assemble case files on them. I’m just glad they’re finally gone.
Yes, gone, but their tainted legacy, unfortunately, festers, like black mold spreading contamination throughout the structure of US and international law.
Steve Benen puts these latest revelations in context:
The previous administration a) tortured detainees, making it harder to prosecute dangerous terrorists; b) released bad guys while detaining good guys; and c) neglected to keep comprehensive files on possible terrorists who’ve been in U.S. custody for several years. As if the fiasco at Gitmo weren’t hard enough to clean up.
And in order to completely mitigate the rot that, over the past 8 years, has almost completely eaten away at the rule of law in the US, Sylvia/M believes that the Obama administration must subcontract the restoration of justice to the Hague:
If Obama really wants to restore our standing in the international community and to reinstate the rule of law here in the United States, now is the time to bind ourselves to the Rome Statute, submit to international justice, and start cleaning up the deeply entrenched messes our previous partisan warhawk regime has wrought. The damage is growing too deep and too great for our national court systems to fix alone.
At the very least, this latest postscript from The Dark Side further underscores how vital it is for the Obama administration to hold accountable those who, whether deliberately or by virture of willful indifference, chose–chose–to napalm all progress Western Civilization has made since the Magna Carta was signed.
Torching our value system, in order to save it.
Making every Democrat and progressive who gives a shit about effective Congressional leadership wince, Harry Reid has informed The Politico that he isn’t going anywhere, and dares Republicans to bring it on (so to speak) in 2010. Yes, because nothing says “heckuva job” like once again guiding Congress to historically low approval ratings in 2008–shit, if Reid were the CEO of a Fortune 500 company he’d…er, well, he’d likely be handed a hefty multi-million dollar bonus and a contract extension. Anyway, despite all that pesky dissatisfaction being expressed by the ungrateful masses, Reid confidently likens his role over the past 8 years to “a point on a spear going against George Bush,” claiming “[t]hat’s what I had to do to protect the United States Senate and the country.”
Right, well, if that’s the case, the Dems better think about sharpening that mofo, because apparently it can’t pierce tissue paper, as Glenn Greenwald tartly notes:
Not even the most cynical political observer would have believed that it was the ascension of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi that would be the necessary catalyst for satisfying Bush’s most audacious demands, concerning his most brazenly illegal actions. If anything, hopes were high that Democratic control of Congress would entail a legislative halt to warrantless eavesdropping or, at the very least, some meaningful investigation and disclosure — what we once charmingly called “oversight” — regarding what Bush’s domestic spying had really entailed. After all, the NSA program was the purified embodiment of the most radical attributes of a radical regime — pure lawlessness, absolute secrecy, a Stasi-like fixation on domestic surveillance. It was widely assumed, even among embittered cynics, that the new Democratic leadership in Congress would not use their newfound control to protect and endorse these abuses.
Yet in July 2008, there stood Pelosi and Reid, leading their caucuses as they stamped their imprimatur of approval on Bush’s spying programs. The so-called FISA Amendments Act of 2008 passed with virtually unanimous GOP and substantial Democratic support, including the entire top level of the House Democratic leadership. It legalized vast new categories of warrantless eavesdropping and endowed telecoms with full immunity for prior surveillance lawbreaking. Most important, it ensured a permanent and harmless end to what appeared to be the devastating scandal that exploded in 2005 when the New York Times revealed to the country that the Bush administration was spying on Americans illegally, without warrants of any kind.
With passage of the Act, Democrats delivered to the Bush administration everything it wanted — and more. GOP Sen. Kit Bond actually taunted the Democrats in the Times for giving away the store: “I think the White House got a better deal than they even had hoped to get.”
The FISA fight was the destructive template that drove virtually every other civil liberties battle of the last year. Time and again, Democrats failed to deliver on a single promise. They failed to overcome a GOP filibuster in the Senate to restore habeas corpus, which had been partially abolished in 2006 as a result of the Military Commissions Act that passed with substantial Democratic support and wholesale Democratic passivity. Notably, while Senate Democrats, when in the minority, never even considered a filibuster to block the Military Commissions Act, it was simply assumed that the GOP, when it was in the minority, would filibuster in order to prevent passage of the Habeas Restoration Act. And filibuster they did.
Apparently Reid and his fellow travellers in the legislative branch never paid much heed to the old adage re: bringing knives to gun fights. The principle also holds true for spears, I’m sure. Especially dull spears, with roses and sweet, sweet candy tied to the tip (sour overtures to lame ducks aside).
Dude, c’mon. Citing National Review propagandist Andrew C. McCarthy as an ‘expert’ in an article on the future of US terror detention policy under Obama? That Andrew C. McCarthy–the one who infamously labelled Obama’s political philosophy as being “more Maoist than Stalinist”?
Maybe it’s my deep-seated liberal bias, but, to me, saying that someone who gamely tried to peddle the not-quite-as-batshit-as-Obama-spawn-of-Malcolm-X rumour that Ayers ghostwrote Obama’s memoir is merely “a former federal prosecutor who has generally supported the Bush administration’s approach to fighting terrorism” is rather misleading, to say the least.
I mean, really — imbuing this hacktacular right-wing conspiracy-theorist with anything resembling mainstream legitimacy would be akin to granting someone like, oh, say, William Kristol a prominent spot on the Times’ opinion page.
Well, at least this proves once and for all that there’s next-t0-nothing that one can be spectacularly, brilliantly so-wrong-that-it-fucking-stings about that will automatically disqualify them from ever being taken seriously by the puddle-deep gliberati of the MSM–just as long as one continues mingling at the right social events and dutifully paying his or her publicist.
Carol Rosenberg of The Miami Herald reports from beautiful, sunny Guantanamo Bay:
In a stunning rebuke, a six-member U.S. military jury Thursday ignored a Pentagon prosecutor’s plea for a 30 years-plus term and ordered Osama bin Laden’s driver to 66 months in prison.
With credit for time served given by the judge, that means Salim Hamdan, 40, of Yemen will be sent back to the general detainee population of Camp Delta by January, and eligible to return home.
In court, Hamdan’s longest-serving defense attorney, retired Navy Lt. Cmdr. Charlie Swift, clasped the more diminutive Yemeni in a bearhug and both men openly wept.
Afterwards, Swift vowed that lawyers would work to send Hamdan home to his wife and two daughters by January. Lawyers were prepared to go straight to federal court with a habeas corpus petition, he said, were the U.S. to seek to continue to hold the driver after the sentence were done.
”What happened — despite the system — is justice,” said Swift.
After the jury’s verdict, the judge turned to the convicted terrorist and said:
“I wish you godspeed, Mr. Hamdan. I hope the day comes when you return to your wife and your daughters and your country.”
”God willing,” the man in traditional Yemeni robe and head scarf replied in Arabic, interrupting.
The judge continued: “And I hope that you are able to be a father, and a provider, and a husband in the best sense of the word.”
Then the detainee said it again: “Inshallah.”
Allred replied in Arabic. “Inshallah.”
Touching. I’m sure the LGF set is already calling for the head of ‘Judge Dhimmi.’ But, despite the Spielberg-esque conclusion to the first U.S. military tribunal since WWII, happy endings aren’t necessarily in the script, as noted by the Washington Post:
It is unclear what will happen to Hamdan after he finishes serving his remaining time, because military prosecutors and military commissions officials have argued they have the ability to hold enemy combatants indefinitely, until the end of hostilities in the so-called war on terror.
Warren Richey of the CS Monitor quotes Linda Malone, director of the Human Rights and National Security Law Program at William and Mary Law School:
“The overriding problem is that the Bush administration has said that [Hamdan] will be held until the war on terror is over, regardless of what sentence he gets,” Professor Malone says. “It is almost Kafkaesque that regardless of what the sentence might be and whatever credit he is given [for his prior detention], they are saying they are going to hold him until the war ends – and everyone knows that is virtually limitless.“
I truly hope any future habeas corpus petition proves successful. But to call this outcome “justice”? With all due respect, Lt. Cmdr. Swift, that word doesn’t mean what it used to mean.
Updated: Next on the ‘worst of the worst’ list: Bin Laden’s personal stylist *cough*.
Hey, it only took seven years, but justice has finally been perverted served:
Salim Hamdan was found guilty of providing material support for terrorism at a Guantanamo military commission today, but acquitted of the more serious charge of conspiracy to commit terrorist attacks and murder American soldiers. So let me get this straight: After seven years and numerous court challenges including two Supreme Court rulings, the Bush administration finally stumbled its way to its first conviction in a military commission for a crime that is routinely handled in federal courts. Is this is the best they can do?
Hamdan was Osama bin Laden’s driver, not Osama bin Laden. He never denied that he was bin Laden’s driver. It would have been an open and shut case of material support for terrorism in federal court. Hamdan could have been securely locked away years ago, but the Bush administration chose to pursue the risky path of an untested military commissions system.
Now, come on. I was under the impression Hamdan was a bloodthirsty terrorist (the worst of the worst!!1one) hell-bent on destroying the pillars of Western civilization. His conviction means the world is now a safer place, right?
The worst aspect of this whole episode is that the Bush administration has completely devalued the concept of a war criminal. War crimes should be reserved for the most serious offenses and war crimes trials are extraordinary. Charles Taylor is a war criminal. Radovan Karazdic is a war criminal. Salim Hamdan is a chauffer. He is clearly guilty of the crime of material support for terrorism. But now he has been elevated to the status of warrior, legitimizing al Qaeda terrorists’ belief that they are waging a holy war against the United States and our allies.
Well. I’m comfortable declaring this little long term experiment in post-9/11 homeland insecurity an unqualified success. Heck of a motherfucking job.
Related: Statement on the Hamdan decision from the Center for Constitutional Rights:
In response to the hand-picked military jury’s decision in the Military Commission against Salim Ahmed Hamdan, Shayana Kadidal, Senior Managing Attorney of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) Guantánamo Global Justice Initiative, issued the following statement:
“Hamdan’s trial violated two of the most fundamental criminal justice principles accepted by all developed nations: the prohibition on the use of coerced evidence and the prohibition on retroactive criminal laws.
The trial will not create finality – the decision to keep these cases out of the ordinary criminal courts will produce years of appeals over novel legal issues raised by the untested military commissions system. Even after those appeals are finished, the process will never be seen as legitimate by the world. This case was the first trial run of the commissions system, and the decision proves nothing except that the system itself should be scrapped. Terrorism-related crimes should be tried in the time-tested domestic criminal justice system, a system whose rules have been designed over the centuries with one goal: to seek out the truth.”
CCR has led the legal battle over Guantanamo for the last six years – sending the first ever habeas attorney to the base and sending the first attorney to meet with a former CIA “ghost detainee” there. CCR has been responsible for organizing and coordinating more than 500 pro bono lawyers across the country in order to represent the men at Guantanamo, ensuring that nearly all have the option of legal representation. CCR represented the detainees with co-counsel in the most recent argument before the Supreme Court. For more information or to read the amicus brief filed by CCR in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, click here.
and the ACLU:
After a trial filled with overwhelming constitutional and procedural flaws, a jury of military officers today found Salim Hamdan guilty of providing material support for terrorism. The American Civil Liberties Union has been at Guantánamo Bay observing the Hamdan proceedings, which lacked the fundamental legal safeguards found in traditional U.S. courts or military courts governed by the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
The following can be attributed to ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero:
“Any verdict resulting from such a flawed system is a betrayal of American values. The rules for the Guantánamo military commissions are so flawed that justice could never be served. From start to finish, this has been a monumental debacle of American justice. The judgment against Hamdan undoubtedly will be challenged in legitimate courts, but there is no appeal from the judgment of future generations. This system was devised to permit the prosecution of alleged wrongdoing by detainees, while continuing to cover up the wrongdoing by government interrogators. Trials that are shrouded in secrecy and tainted by coercion are the very antithesis of American justice.”
The following can be attributed to ACLU National Security Project staff attorney Ben Wizner, who observed the trial:
“In the strange world of Guantánamo justice, even if Hamdan had been acquitted on all charges, he would have been detained indefinitely. Nowhere else in the U.S. justice system can someone be held for life regardless of whether he is convicted or acquitted of a crime. Today’s outcome represents nothing more than an illusion of justice. It is time to shut down these commissions and put an end to this shameful chapter in American history.”
As part of its John Adams Project, a partnership with the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the ACLU is sponsoring expert civilian counsel to assist the under-resourced military defense counsel of some Guantánamo detainees.
More information on the John Adams Project is available online at: www.aclu.org/johnadams
(both statements h/t FDL).
Also see this trip down memory lane from Think Progress: “[t]oday marks seven years since the day President Bush received a President’s Daily Brief entitled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” (See the memo here.)”