< HOME  Thursday, June 08, 2006

Bush, Blair thumb their noses at Council of Europe

Swiss Senator Dick Marty, the same guy who implied that the US engaged in “gangster tactics,” followed up his earlier findings with a report that accuses European countries of helping the CIA ship detainees to secret prisons to be tortured. But, in classic form, Bush and Blair among others dismissed the report as lacking solid evidence.

"While the states of the Old World have dealt with these threats primarily by means of existing institutions and legal systems, the United States appears to have made a fundamentally different choice: . . . it decided to develop new legal concepts.

"This legal approach is utterly alien to the European tradition and sensibility, and is clearly contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."

* * *

[The US] therefore built not only Guantanamo Bay, but a series of "black sites", or secret prisons around the world. In these black sites, senior al-Qaeda suspects were held and interrogated, sometimes by so-called "enhanced" methods.

For the Bush administration, authority for this came from a congressional resolution passed on 14 September 2001.

How on earth could they put together a resolution in three days flat UNLESS they had advanced notice?

Under this resolution "the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001... in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons."

Specific authority for the CIA to act as it saw best against al-Qaeda was then given by President Bush in a "presidential finding" on 17 September 2001.

* * *

The US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has stated that her country does not engage in torture or hand over prisoners to those who do.

* * *

[Nevertheless,] the British government among others [argues] that the phenomenon of Islamic terrorism is so grave that there has to be a reconsideration of the balance of liberties.

[According to this view,] the individual had to be protected against governments. But now the individual ability to wage war on societies is so great that individuals have to be restricted.

In his report, [Marty rejects this, stating: “compiling] so-called "black lists" of individuals and companies suspected of maintaining connections with organisations considered terrorist and the application of the associated sanctions clearly breach every principle of the fundamental right to a fair trial: no specific charges, no right to be heard, no right of appeal, no established procedure for removing one's name from the list."

[But] Dan Fried, the US Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs [insists otherwise]:

"We are attempting to keep our people safe; we are attempting to fight dangerous terrorist groups who are active and who mean what they say about destroying us. We are trying to do so in a way consistent with our values and our international legal obligations.

"Doing all of those things in practice is not easy, partly because - as we've discovered as we've gotten into it - the struggle we are in does not fit neatly either into the criminal legal framework, or neatly into the law of war framework."

You would think that its failure to “fit neatly” into either framework would signal to Mr. Fried that the practice is unprecedented and indeed unacceptable in civilized affairs. But, apparently he is unfamiliar with basic inductive reasoning. Instead, he throws common sense to the wind and relegates himself to the use of faulty logic as a means to his nefarious ends.

Meanwhile, the latest report has been dismissed not only as old news, but also as unsubstantiated and inconclusive.
The inquiry, by Europe’s human rights watchdog, offers a plausible account of the US programme of “extraordinary renditions”. But it lacks solid proof that the 14 governments it names actually helped the US in what it theatrically calls the global “spider’s web”.

Its main contribution — new details of flight logs — is suggestive but inconclusive.

* * *

Tony Blair told Parliament yesterday that “we have said all we have to say on this. The report adds nothing new.”

[BUT,] Andrew Tyrie, Conservative chairman of the parliamentary group on extraordinary rendition, said that there was now a “huge amount of circumstantial evidence” of a British role, adding: “We are a democracy. The truth is going to come out. For the Prime Minister just to say, ‘Oh, I’m not going to say any more,’ isn’t going to wash.”

So, rather than express indignation at the unpalatable nature of the accusations, Bush and Blair dismiss the report based on a smug awareness that the council lacks authority to demand discovery from countries suspected to have helped the CIA.
The BBC said evidence in the report is largely circumstantial, and proving many of the allegations, such as the existence of so-called "black sites", is beyond the council's powers.

"I don't see any new solid facts in it," spokesman Sean McCormack said. "There seem to be a lot of allegations but no real facts behind it."
A classic case of "catch me if you can."


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