Homeland Security

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  U.S. Settles Anthrax Lawsuit With ScientistJune 27, 2008 22:32 The U.S. Justice Department said on Friday it would pay former Army scientist Steven Hatfill over $2.8 million (1.4 million pounds) to settle his lawsuit accusing officials of violating his privacy rights by talking to the media and unfairly implicating him in anthrax attacks in 2001.

Hatfill, a bioterrorism expert who formerly worked at the Army Medical Institute of Infectious Disease at Fort Detrick in Maryland, has denied any involvement in the mailings of the anthrax-laced letters that killed five people weeks after the September 11 hijacked plane attacks.

In 2002, federal law enforcement officials, including Attorney General John Ashcroft, called Hatfill a "person of interest" in connection with the investigation into the anthrax attacks. Hatfill then sued various Justice Department officials, including Ashcroft.

"The government has determined that settlement is in the best interests of the United States and has agreed to pay Dr. Hatfill and his attorneys $2.825 million dollars and purchase for Dr. Hatfill an annual annuity of $150,000," said Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse.

"By entering into this agreement, the United States does not admit to any violation of the Privacy Act and continues to deny all liability in connection with Dr. Hatfill's claims," he said.

The anthrax attacks remain unsolved and the FBI's investigation continues. "This investigation remains among the department's highest law enforcement priorities," Roehrkasse said.
  Report Questions Pentagon Accounts on GuantanamoJune 17, 2008 08:18 A Senate investigation has concluded that top Pentagon officials began assembling lists of harsh interrogation techniques in the summer of 2002 for use on detainees at Guantanamo Bay and that those officials later cited memos from field commanders to suggest that the proposals originated far down the chain of command, according to congressional sources briefed on the findings.

The sources said that memos and other evidence obtained during the inquiry show that officials in the office of then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld started to research the use of waterboarding, stress positions, sensory deprivation and other practices in July 2002, months before memos from commanders at the detention facility in Cuba requested permission to use those measures on suspected terrorists.

The reported evidence -- some of which is expected to be made public at a Senate hearing today -- also shows that military lawyers raised strong concerns about the legality of the practices as early as November 2002, a month before Rumsfeld approved them. The findings contradict previous accounts by top Bush administration appointees, setting the stage for new clashes between the White House and Congress over the origins of interrogation methods that many lawmakers regard as torture and possibly illegal.

"Some have suggested that detainee abuses committed by U.S. personnel at Abu Ghraib in Iraq and at Guantanamo were the result of a 'few bad apples' acting on their own. It would be a lot easier to accept if that were true," Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, wrote in a statement for delivery at a committee hearing this morning. "Senior officials in the United States government sought out information on aggressive techniques, twisted the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees."

The new evidence challenges previous statements by William J. "Jim" Haynes II, who served as Defense Department general counsel under Rumsfeld and is among the witnesses scheduled to testify at today's hearing. Haynes, who resigned in February, suggested to a Senate panel in 2006 that the request for tougher interrogation methods originated in October 2002, when Guantanamo Bay commanders began asking for help in ratcheting up the pressure on suspected terrorists who had stopped cooperating. A memo from the prison's top military lawyer that same month had suggested specific techniques and declared them legal.

Haynes suggested that the requests had created a dilemma for the Pentagon's top civilian leaders. "Many people struggled over that question," he told the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2006. "I struggled over that question."

But memos and e-mails obtained by investigators reveal that in July 2002, Haynes and other Pentagon officials were soliciting ideas for harsh interrogations from military experts in survival training, according to two congressional officials familiar with the committee's investigation. By late July, a list was compiled that included many of the techniques that would later be formally approved for use at Guantanamo Bay, including stress positions, sleep deprivation and the hooding of detainees during questioning. The techniques were later used at the Abu Ghraib detention facility in Iraq.
  Mccain: Guantanamo Ruling One Of The ‘Worst Decisions’ In HistoryJune 13, 2008 13:03 It's too bad that a former POW and presidential nominee thinks that constitutionality is a bad thing. Is McCain perpetuating the "army as an extraconstitutional entity" myth of the Bush administration???

John McCain said Friday that the Supreme Court ruling on Guantanamo Bay detainees is “one of the worst decisions in the history of this country.”

The presumptive GOP nominee said the decision, a 5-4 ruling Thursday that determined Guantanamo detainees have the right to seek release in civilian courts, would lead to a wave of frivolous challenges.

“We are now going to have the courts flooded with so-called … habeas corpus suits against the government, whether it be about the diet, whether it be about the reading material. And we are going to be bollixed up in a way that is terribly unfortunate because we need to go ahead and adjudicate these cases,” he said at a town hall meeting in New Jersey.

McCain said he has worked hard to ensure the U.S. military does not torture prisoners but that the detainees at Guantanamo are still “enemy combatants.”

“These are people who are not citizens. They do not and never have been given the rights that citizens in this country have,” he said. “Now, my friends, there are some bad people down there. There are some bad people.”

Barack Obama released a statement Thursday saying the Supreme Court decision “ensures that we can protect our nation and bring terrorists to justice while also protecting our core values.”

“The Court’s decision is a rejection of the Bush administration’s attempt to create a legal black hole at Guantanamo - yet another failed policy supported by John McCain,” he said. “This is an important step toward re-establishing our credibility as a nation committed to the rule of law and rejecting a false choice between fighting terrorism and respecting habeas corpus.”
  Administration Strategy For Detention Now In DisarrayJune 12, 2008 22:36 In the days following the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush and his advisers sought to create an unprecedented parallel system to detain suspected terrorists far from the normal scrutiny of the U.S. judiciary. The naval base at Guantanamo Bay offered a way to indefinitely hold those individuals the administration considered among the most dangerous in the world.

But the Supreme Court's decision yesterday to grant habeas corpus rights to the detainees struck at the very core of the administration's approach, as a narrow majority ruled that even hardened suspects are due the basic right to challenge their custody in federal court. The ruling throws into disarray the administration's detention strategy, almost certainly leaving to Bush's successor and the next Congress the dilemma of what to do with the Guantanamo Bay detainees.

More than six years after the administration began flying suspected al-Qaeda and Taliban members to Cuba, confusion and uncertainty now cloud the operations at Guantanamo Bay: Only one detainee has received a verdict, hundreds have had no opportunity to challenge their detention and the government is facing a flood of new litigation invited by the court.

Even administration officials are uncertain about their next steps, and their surrogates were bitterly blaming the Supreme Court for seizing policy that they say the White House and Congress should set. They noted that the White House had done as the court previously demanded, working with Congress to put lawmakers' imprimatur on detainee policy.

"It leaves the government and the next administration with a serious problem," said Bradford A. Berenson, a former Bush White House lawyer. "Every detainee now at Guantanamo, and maybe detainees held elsewhere, are now going to come into court and demand a trial-type proceeding where they can force our military to justify their detentions under standards normally applicable only under the routine civilian context. This is undoubtedly going to produce an avalanche of burdensome litigation and, more seriously, erroneous releases of very dangerous people."
  Gitmo Detainees Can Challenge Detention In U.S. CourtsJune 12, 2008 09:53 Suspected terrorists and foreign fighters held by the U.S. military at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have the right to challenge their detention in federal court, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

The decision marks another legal blow to the Bush administration's war on terrorism policies.

The 5-4 vote reflects the partisan divide over how much legal autonomy the U.S. military should have to prosecute about 270 prisoners, some of whom have been held for more than six years without charges. Fourteen of them are alleged to be top al Qaeda figures.

Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said, "The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times. Liberty and security can be reconciled; and in our system reconciled within the framework of the law."

Kennedy, the court's swing vote, was supported by Justices John Paul Stevens, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer -- generally considered the liberal contingent.

At issue was the rights of detainees to contest their imprisonment and challenge the rules set up to try them. Watch how the 5-4 ruling is a major blow for the Bush administration »

A congressional law passed in 2006 would limit court jurisdiction to hear so-called habeas corpus challenges to detention. It is a legal question the justices have tackled three times since 2004, including Thursday's ruling.

Each time, the justices have ruled against the government's claim that it has the authority to hold people it considers "enemy combatants."
  Gates Gets Chilly Reception On Air Force TourJune 10, 2008 14:05 U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates stood alone on an empty stage in an Air Force auditorium, two spotlights throwing odd diminutive shadows of the Pentagon chief on the curtain draped behind him.

Looking tired and worn out, he faced another cold crowd of officers whose force has fallen from grace and whose leaders Gates swept aside last week in a stinging rebuke of their management of nuclear weapons.

He glanced over the gathering of uniformed personnel at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado, took a breath and plodded slowly into a speech explaining his actions and reiterating the Air Force's nuclear standards had eroded.

"I assume that some of you, maybe most of you, disagree with my decision," he conceded.

Indeed, it seemed many of the airmen did.

They respectfully sat through his speech, some nodding as he cited all of the force's contributions to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. But others squirmed in their seats and, at some stops on Gates' tour of bases, offered icy looks and shook their heads as he outlined the force's failure to adequately perform its most sensitive mission of securing America's nuclear arsenal.
  Us 'Using Prison Ships In War On Terror'June 03, 2008 11:32 Human rights lawyers claim the United States is operating "floating prisons" to house those arrested in its war on terror.

The lawyers also claim there's been an effort to conceal the number and whereabouts of detainees, a report in Britain's Guardian newspaper says.

Information about the operation of prison ships had emerged through a number of sources, including statements from the US military, the Council of Europe and related parliamentary bodies, and the testimonies of prisoners, the report said.

The analysis - to be published later this year by the human rights group Reprieve - also claims there have been more than 200 new cases of rendition since 2006, when US President George W Bush declared that the practice had stopped.

Research carried out by Reprieve said the US may have used as many as 17 ships as "floating prisons" since 2001.

Detainees are interrogated aboard the vessels and then rendered to other, often undisclosed, locations, it is claimed.

Ships that are understood to have held prisoners include the USS Bataan and USS Peleliu, The Guardian report said.

A further 15 ships are suspected of having operated around the British territory of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, which has been used as a military base by the United Kingdom and the Americans.

Reprieve intends to raise specific concerns involving the USS Ashland when it was situated off Somalia early last year, conducting maritime security operations in an effort to capture al-Qaeda terrorists.

At this time, many people were abducted by Somali, Kenyan and Ethiopian forces in a systematic operation involving regular interrogations by individuals believed to be members of the FBI and CIA, The Guardian report said.

Ultimately more than 100 individuals were "disappeared" to prisons in locations including Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Guantanamo Bay, it said.

The Reprieve study includes the account of a prisoner released from Guantanamo Bay, who described a fellow inmate's story of detention on an amphibious assault ship.