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29th December

Updated 31st December

  Letterman Temporarily Restrained for Causing Mental Cruelty ...

      It is the US legal system that should be restrained for causing mental cruelty.

From the BBC

'Absurd' ban on Letterman lifted

A judge in New Mexico has lifted a restraining order on the famed talk show host, David Letterman, sought by a woman who said he sent her coded messages by TV.

Colleen Nestler had obtained the order on the grounds that Mr Letterman had caused her mental cruelty for 11 years, forcing her to go bankrupt. In her request filed on 15 December, Nestler asked for Letterman to stay at least three metres (yards) away from her and not think of me, and release me from his mental harassment and hammering. One alleged message was for Ms Nestler to come east to New York to be trained as the Late Show's co-host.

She accused the host of using code words, gestures and "eye expressions" to send her messages since she began sending him "thoughts of love" after his Late Show programme began in 1993.

Lawyers for the TV host, who records his shows in New York, dismissed the claims as "absurd and frivolous". The same judge who granted the ban accepted their request to quash it. In court on Tuesday, a lawyer for the talk show host, Pat Rogers, argued that his client was entitled to a protection of his legal rights and a protection of his reputation . He also said that the New Mexico court had no jurisdiction over Letterman, a resident of Connecticut.

Questioned by Judge Daniel Sanchez, Nestler, who defended herself in court, said she had no proof of the alleged messages from Mr Letterman. She added that if Mr Letterman or any of his representatives came near her, she would "break their legs" but denied after the hearing that she was making a threat. She had, she said, achieved her purpose since the public knows that this man cannot come near me.

31st December

    Update : On the Subject of Coded Messages

Thanks to Alan

On the subject of perceived persecution through coded messages on the TV, see David Campbell's web site at


9th December

    The American Taliban

Thanks to Jak

I don't know whether to laugh or be afraid. Some of the people on this website have far too much power. Hopefully it's all just speech and not eventually action!

A collection of quotes eg, George Bush Senior: "I don't know that atheists should be considered citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God."


24th Nov

    Is there any crime the coalition forces have not committed in Iraq?

From The Guardian by George Monbiot

Bush pictured blocking 'o' in 'count'There is no hard evidence that white phosphorus was used against civilians. The claim was made in a documentary broadcast on the Italian network RAI, called Falluja: the Hidden Massacre. But there is hard evidence that white phosphorus was deployed as a weapon against combatants in Falluja. As this column revealed last Tuesday, US infantry officers confessed that they had used it to flush out insurgents. A Pentagon spokesman told the BBC that white phosphorus was used as an incendiary weapon against enemy combatants . He claimed it is not a chemical weapon. They are not outlawed or illegal . This denial has been accepted by most of the mainstream media. UN conventions, the Times said, ban its use on civilian but not military targets . But the word "civilian" does not occur in the chemical weapons convention. The use of the toxic properties of a chemical as a weapon is illegal, whoever the target is.

The Pentagon argues that white phosphorus burns people, rather than poisoning them, and is covered only by the protocol on incendiary weapons, which the US has not signed. But white phosphorus is both incendiary and toxic. The gas it produces attacks the mucous membranes, the eyes and the lungs. As Peter Kaiser of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons told the BBC last week: If ... the toxic properties of white phosphorus, the caustic properties, are specifically intended to be used as a weapon, that of course is prohibited, because ... any chemicals used against humans or animals that cause harm or death through the toxic properties of the chemical are considered chemical weapons.

The US army knows that its use as a weapon is illegal. In the Battle Book, published by the US Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, my correspondent David Traynier found the following sentence: It is against the law of land warfare to employ WP against personnel targets.

Insurgents, of course, would be just as dead today if they were killed by other means. So does it matter if chemical weapons were mixed with other munitions? It does. Anyone who has seen those photos of the lines of blind veterans at the remembrance services for the first world war will surely understand the point of international law, and the dangers of undermining it.

But we shouldn't forget that the use of chemical weapons was a war crime within a war crime within a war crime. Both the invasion of Iraq and the assault on Falluja were illegal acts of aggression. Before attacking the city, the marines stopped men "of fighting age" from leaving. Many women and children stayed: the Guardian's correspondent estimated that between 30,000 and 50,000 civilians were left. The marines treated Falluja as if its only inhabitants were fighters. They levelled thousands of buildings, illegally denied access to the Iraqi Red Crescent and, according to the UN's special rapporteur, used hunger and deprivation of water as a weapon of war against the civilian population.

I have been reading accounts of the assault published in the Marine Corps Gazette. The soldiers appear to have believed everything the US government told them. One article claims that the absence of civilians meant the marines could employ blast weapons prior to entering houses that had become pillboxes, not homes . Another said that there were less than 500 civilians remaining in the city . It continued: The heroics [of the marines] will be the subject of many articles and books ... The real key to this tactical victory rested in the spirit of the warriors who courageously fought the battle. They deserve all of the credit for liberating Falluja.

But buried in this hogwash is a grave revelation. An assault weapon the marines were using had been armed with warheads containing about 35% thermobaric novel explosive (NE) and 65% standard high explosive . They deployed it to cause the roof to collapse and crush the insurgents fortified inside interior rooms . It was used repeatedly: The expenditure of explosives clearing houses was enormous.

The marines can scarcely deny that they know what these weapons do. An article published in the Gazette in 2000 details the effects of their use by the Russians in Grozny. Thermobaric, or "fuel-air" weapons, it says, form a cloud of volatile gases or finely powdered explosives. This cloud is then ignited and the subsequent fireball sears the surrounding area while consuming the oxygen in this area. The lack of oxygen creates an enormous overpressure ... Personnel under the cloud are literally crushed to death. Outside the cloud area, the blast wave travels at some 3,000 metres per second ... As a result, a fuel-air explosive can have the effect of a tactical nuclear weapon without residual radiation ... Those personnel caught directly under the aerosol cloud will die from the flame or overpressure. For those on the periphery of the strike, the injuries can be severe. Burns, broken bones, contusions from flying debris and blindness may result. Further, the crushing injuries from the overpressure can create air embolism within blood vessels, concussions, multiple internal haemorrhages in the liver and spleen, collapsed lungs, rupture of the eardrums and displacement of the eyes from their sockets. It is hard to see how you could use these weapons in Falluja without killing civilians.

This looks to me like a convincing explanation of the damage done to Falluja, a city in which between 30,000 and 50,000 civilians might have been taking refuge. It could also explain the civilian casualties shown in the film. So the question has now widened: is there any crime the coalition forces have not committed in Iraq?


8th Nov

    Vegas has a Hat Rack for a Mayor

On this scale of vindictive justice, what would be the penalty for bombing an entire country without just cause?

From The Guardian

The Mayor of Las Vegas, Oscar Goodman, suggested that those who deface roads with graffiti should have their thumbs cut off on television. Goodman said on a local TV programme: In the old days in France, they had beheading of people who commit heinous crimes.You know, we have a beautiful highway landscaping redevelopment in our downtown [district]. We have desert tortoises and beautiful paintings of flora and fauna. These punks come along and deface it. I'm saying maybe you put them on TV and cut off a thumb. That may be the right thing to do.

Goodman also suggested that whipping or caning should be brought back for children who get into trouble. I also believe in a little bit of corporal punishment going back to the days of yore, where examples have to be shown, Goodman said. I'm dead serious, some of these [children] don't learn. You have got to teach them a lesson - and this is coming from a criminal defence lawyer. They would get a trial first.

Another panellist on the show, Howard Rosenberg, a state university system regent, responded by saying that cutting off the thumbs of taggers would not solve the problem and Mayor Goodman should use his head for something other than a hat rack.


12th Oct

    With All Due Respect

From The Telegraph

A woman told how she had been thrown off an American airliner for wearing a T-shirt deemed offensive by fellow passengers.

Lorrie Heasley boarded a Southwest Airlines flight in Los Angeles wearing a T-shirt with a design including the images of President George W Bush, Dick Cheney, the Vice President, and Condoleezza Rice, the Secretary of State, above an obscene variation on the title of the hit comedy film Meet the Fockers.

When the plane made a scheduled stop in Reno, Nevada, passengers joining the flight complained to cabin crew. Heasley, who was accompanied by her husband Ron, was asked to wear her top inside out, but she refused and was ejected. I just thought it was hilarious, said Heasley. I have cousins in Iraq and other relatives going to war . Here we are trying to free another country, and I have to get off an airplane. . . over a T-shirt. That's not freedom.

Heasley said she wore the top as a joke for her Democrat-voting parents who were waiting to collect her from the airport in Portland, Oregon. She said she planned to file a civil rights complaint against the airline.

Marilee McInnis, of Southwest Airlines, said rules allowed the airline to deny boarding to anyone whose clothing was "lewd, obscene or patently offensive".

The American Civil Liberties Union in Las Vegas said that under the constitution, the T-shirt was protected political speech. Heasley said she had been in touch with ACLU lawyers and wants Southwest to reimburse her for the last leg of the trip.

Heasley, who was flying home from Disneyland, ended up defending herself by phone to a combative television presenter from Fox News. He told me I was selfish, I didn't respect people, I was stupid and I didn't like children, Heasley said. [Sounds like Patrick O'Reilly]


9th Oct

    Republican Bastards

From Booman Tribune

Republican lawmakers are drafting new legislation that will make marriage a requirement for motherhood in the state of Indiana, including specific criminal penalties for unmarried women who do become pregnant "by means other than sexual intercourse."

According to a draft of the recommended change in state law, every woman in Indiana seeking to become a mother through assisted reproduction therapy such as in vitro fertilization, sperm donation, and egg donation, must first file for a "petition for parentage" in their local county probate court.

Only women who are married will be considered for the "gestational certificate" that must be presented to any doctor who facilitates the pregnancy. Further, the "gestational certificate" will only be given to married couples that successfully complete the same screening process currently required by law of adoptive parents.

As it the draft of the new law reads now, an intended parent "who knowingly or willingly participates in an artificial reproduction procedure" without court approval, "commits unauthorized reproduction, a Class B misdemeanor." The criminal charges will be the same for physicians who commit "unauthorized practice of artificial reproduction."

The change in Indiana law to require marriage as a condition for motherhood and criminalizing "unauthorized reproduction" was introduced at a summer meeting of the Indiana General Assembly's Health Finance Commission on September 29 and a final version of the bill will come up for a vote at the next meeting at the end of this month.

Republican Senator Patricia Miller is both the Health Finance Commission Chair and the sponsor of the bill. She believes the new law will protect children in the state of Indiana and make parenting laws more explicit.

According to Sen. Miller, the laws prohibiting surrogacy in the state of Indiana are currently too vague and unenforceable, and that is the purpose of the new legislation. But it's not just surrogacy, Miller told NUVO. The law is vague on all types of extraordinary types of infertility treatment, and we wanted to address that as well.

Ordinary treatment would be the mother's egg and the father's sperm. But now there are a lot of extraordinary thing s that raise issues of who has legal rights as parents, she explained when asked what she considers "extraordinary" infertility treatment.

Sen. Miller believes the requirement of marriage for parenting is for the benefit of the children that result from infertility treatments.

We did want to address the issue of whether or not the law should allow single people to be parents. Studies have shown that a child raised by both parents - a mother and a father - do better. So, we do want to have laws that protect the children, she explained.

When asked specifically if she believes marriage should be a requirement for motherhood, and if that is part of the bill's intention, Sen. Miller responded, "Yes. Yes, I do."

A draft of the legislation is available on the Health Finance Commission website:


7th Sept

    Friendly Fire at Journalists

From The Guardian by Edgar Forbes

We should be using the same mechanism as terrorists to get to the truth that lies beyond and behind the lenses of the cameramen

As the public and the press pour over the latest terrorist video to be aired on al-Jazeera, the question again arises whether it is right for us to see or be shown these words of war.

Is al-Jazeera a PR channel for terrorist propaganda? In reporting and further disseminating this video nasty, is our press just providing a further platform for airing these voices of hatred? At a time when parliament is legislating to ban subversive speech and banish those accused of engaging in it, is it right that our media are broadcasting the chilling message of Mohammed Sidique Khan that our words are dead until we give them life with our blood.

The answer has to be a resounding yes. To give his words life Khan and his accomplices drew their blood from hundreds of innocent victims. So why should we be allowed to listen to the words of Khan? Precisely because we need to know what and who we are dealing with. If we are targets we have a right to know why. We now know Khan's reasons, or some of them.

Mohammed Khan was wrong on so many levels but our response to his video should be to also prove wrong his statement that: I'm sure by now the media's painted a suitable picture of me, this predictable propaganda machine will naturally try to put a spin on things to suit the government and to scare the masses into conforming to their power and wealth-obsessed agendas.

The Hutton Inquiry and the protracted attempts to elicit the basis for going to war should act as a wake-up call to the press and its public to take debate to a new level.

What is fundamentally troubling is that attempts to get information about what is actually happening in Iraq and other parts of the world for which terrorists are holding us responsible, are being prevented by western armed forces. Moving on from the critique surrounding the decision to go to war, our next focus should be on the results of that decision. We know the results we've witnessed in London but what do we really know about what's happening to the people our armed forces have supposedly liberated? Getting the truth and the news to deliver it is proving a real problem in Iraq. The raft of briefings given to the media at press centres on military bases such as al-Sayliyah are sanitised versions of events delivered behind the bloody scenes of war and the conflict that has waged ever since.

Getting the grass-roots news out of Baghdad and surrounding areas is a perilous process. According to Reporters Sans Frontieres, 66 journalists and media workers have been killed since the conflict began in 2003, more than in the entire Vietnam war. What makes matters worse are how many of these have been the victims of so-called "friendly fire" by coalition forces.

It is worrying to see how a ground-level affront on press freedom and reporting is being waged against many of those journalists brave enough to risk life and limb to bring us closer to the fuller picture of what's really happening. Having been responsible for the deaths of numerous journalists, US forces don't seem to like the idea of free-roaming journalists getting behind-the-scenes footage.

Reuters journalists have been a particular target of the US forces who took cameraman Ali Omar Abrahem al-Mashhadani captive three weeks ago and are holding him without stating what, if any, the charges are. He is being denied any form of trial or access to legal representation. Widespread demands for his release have been met with intransigent rebuffs from the military who say that it will be at least another 60 days before anyone get to see him. This cannot be right.

Ali al-Mashhadani has since been joined by another Reuters cameraman, Haider Kadhem who was detained over "inconsistencies" in his statements and because military personnel didn't like some of the images they found on his equipment. Eyewitness accounts suggest that his only misdemeanour was to identify US troops as being those who fired at the car containing his colleague soundman Walee Khaled who was killed.

So how far is the US military prepared to go to cover up the sights they don't want us to see or report on. Given the fact that Reuters is a global news organisation with a reputation for impartial newsgathering, why the suspicion of its staff? US forces are also behind the killing of two Reuters cameramen. Having worked for the news agency for over a decade Mazen Dana was gunned down while filming outside Abu Ghraib prison in 2003 amid various unsatisfactory explanations why he was targeted. Earlier that year a US tank gunner opened fire on the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad killing Reuters cameraman Tara Prostyuk who had been standing on his balcony. The hotel was known as a base for journalists covering the conflict but US forces claimed that Iraqi troops were also there. Another Spanish cameraman, Jose Couso also died in the incident.

To the extent terrorists are sending us their messages through the media, we should be using the same mechanism to get to the truth that lies beyond and behind the lenses of the cameramen US troops are so keen to suppress .


3rd August

    Taking a Scalpel to US Morality

From The Guardian

A former London schoolboy accused of being a dedicated al-Qaida terrorist has given the first full account of the interrogation and alleged torture endured by so-called ghost detainees held at secret prisons around the world.

For two and a half years US authorities moved Benyam Mohammed around a series of prisons in Pakistan, Morocco and Afghanistan, before he was sent to Guantánamo Bay in September last year.

Mohammed is alleged to be a key figure in terrorist plots intended to cause far greater loss of life than the suicide bombers of 7/7. One allegation, which he denies, is of planning to detonate a "dirty bomb" in a US city; another is that he and an accomplice planned to collapse a number of apartment blocks by renting ground-floor flats to seal, fill with gas from cooking appliances, and blow up with timed detonators.

In an statement given to his newly appointed lawyer, Mohammed has given an account of how he was tortured for more than two years after being questioned by US and British officials who he believes were from the FBI and MI6. As well as being beaten and subjected to loud music for long periods, he claims his genitals were sliced with scalpels.

Drawing on his notes, Mohammed's lawyer has compiled a 28-page diary of his torture. This has been declassified by the Pentagon, and extracts are published in the Guardian today.

Recruits to some groups connected to al-Qaida are thought to be instructed to make allegations of torture after capture, and most of Mohammed's claims cannot be independently verified. But his description of a prison near Rabat closely resembles the Temara torture centre identified in a report by the US-based Human Rights Watch last October.

Furthermore, this newspaper has obtained flight records showing executive jets operated by the CIA flew in and out of Morocco on July 22 2002 and January 22 2004, the dates he says he was taken to and from the country.

If true, his account adds weight to concerns that the US authorities are torturing by proxy. It also highlights the dilemma of British authorities when they seek information from detainees overseas who they know, or suspect, are tortured.

The lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, says: This is outsourcing of torture, plain and simple. America knows torture is wrong but gets others to do its unconscionable dirty work. It's clear from the evidence that UK officials knew about this rendition to Morocco before it happened. Our government's responsibility must be to actively prevent the torture of our residents.

Diary Extracts

They cut off my clothes with some kind of doctor's scalpel. I was naked. I tried to put on a brave face. But maybe I was going to be raped. Maybe they'd electrocute me. Maybe castrate me.

They took the scalpel to my right chest. It was only a small cut. Maybe an inch. At first I just screamed ... I was just shocked, I wasn't expecting ... Then they cut my left chest. This time I didn't want to scream because I knew it was coming.

One of them took my penis in his hand and began to make cuts. He did it once, and they stood still for maybe a minute, watching my reaction. I was in agony. They must have done this 20 to 30 times, in maybe two hours. There was blood all over. "I told you I was going to teach you who's the man," [one] eventually said.

They cut all over my private parts. One of them said it would be better just to cut it off, as I would only breed terrorists. I asked for a doctor.

Doctor No 1 carried a briefcase. "You're all right, aren't you? But I'm going to say a prayer for you." Doctor No 2 gave me an Alka-Seltzer for the pain. I told him about my penis. "I need to see it. How did this happen?" I told him. He looked like it was just another patient. "Put this cream on it two times a day. Morning and night." He gave me some kind of antibiotic.

I was in Morocco for 18 months. Once they began this, they would do it to me about once a month. One time I asked a guard: "What's the point of this? I've got nothing I can say to them. I've told them everything I possibly could."

"As far as I know, it's just to degrade you. So when you leave here, you'll have these scars and you'll never forget. So you'll always fear doing anything but what the US wants."

Later, when a US airplane picked me up the following January, a female MP took pictures. She was one of the few Americans who ever showed me any sympathy. When she saw the injuries I had she gasped. They treated me and took more photos when I was in Kabul. Someone told me this was "to show Washington it's healing".

But in Morocco, there were even worse things. Too horrible to remember, let alone talk about. About once a week or even once every two weeks I would be taken for interrogation, where they would tell me what to say. They said if you say this story as we read it, you will just go to court as a witness and all this torture will stop. I eventually repeated what was read out to me.

When I got to Morocco they said some big people in al-Qaida were talking about me. They talked about Jose Padilla and they said I was going to testify against him and big people. They named Khalid Sheikh Mohamed, Abu Zubaidah and Ibn Sheikh al-Libi [all senior al-Qaida leaders who are now in US custody]. It was hard to pin down the exact story because what they wanted changed from Morocco to when later I was in the Dark Prison [a detention centre in Kabul with windowless cells and American staff], to Bagram and again in Guantánamo Bay.

They told me that I must plead guilty. I'd have to say I was an al-Qaida operations man, an ideas man. I kept insisting that I had only been in Afghanistan a short while. "We don't care," was all they'd say.

I was also questioned about my links with Britain. The interrogator told me: "We have photos of people given to us by MI5. Do you know these?" I realised that the British were sending questions to the Moroccans. I was at first surprised that the Brits were siding with the Americans.

On August 6, I thought I was going to be transferred out of there [the prison]. They came in and cuffed my hands behind my back.

But then three men came in with black masks. It seemed to go on for hours. I was in so much pain I'd fall to my knees. They'd pull me back up and hit me again. They'd kick me in my thighs as I got up. I vomited within the first few punches. I really didn't speak at all though. I didn't have the energy or will to say anything. I just wanted for it to end. After that, there was to be no more first-class treatment. No bathroom. No food for a while.

During September-October 2002, I was taken in a car to another place. The room was bigger, it had its own toilet, and a window which was opaque.

They gave me a toothbrush and Colgate toothpaste. I was allowed to recover from the scalpel for about two weeks, and the guards said nothing about it.

Then they cuffed me and put earphones on my head. They played hip-hop and rock music, very loud. I remember they played Meat Loaf and Aerosmith over and over. A couple of days later they did the same thing. Same music.

For 18 months, there was not one night when I could sleep well. Sometimes I would go 48 hours without sleep. At night, they would bang the metal doors, bang the flap on the door, or just come right in.

They continued with two or three interrogations a month. They weren't really interrogations, more like training me what to say. The interrogator told me what was going on. "We're going to change your brain," he said.

I suffered the razor treatment about once a month for the remaining time I was in Morocco, even after I'd agreed to confess to whatever they wanted to hear. It became like a routine. They'd come in, tie me up, spend maybe an hour doing it. They never spoke to me. Then they'd tip some kind of liquid on me - the burning was like grasping a hot coal. The cutting, that was one kind of pain. The burning, that was another.

In all the 18 months I was there, I never went outside. I never saw the sun, not even once. I never saw any human being except the guards and my tormentors, unless you count the pictures they showed me.


15th July

    Travel Alert to the US

From Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)

Foreign visitors to the United States are experiencing a new kind of jet lag: delays and secondary security screenings prompted by technological glitches in the border security program known as the United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (US-VISIT). Documents obtained by EPIC under the Freedom of Information Act from the Department of Homeland Security show that US-VISIT has resulted in many cases of mistaken identity. Commercial aircrew members, vacationers, and businesspersons have all been delayed by the gaffes. The problems caused unnecessary delays in the visitors' travels and resulted in the improper flagging of crewmembers by government watch lists.

US-VISIT was launched at 115 airports and 14 seaports in January 2004. By the end of 2005, the program will be operational at all of the nations more than 400 ports of entry. US-VISIT requires foreign nationals entering or exiting the country to submit biometric and biographical information. This data collection often begins before a visitor buys her plane ticket, as U.S. consular offices abroad may, before issuing a U.S. visa, collect fingerscans from potential visitors and compare them against those in a criminal database. Fingerscans are again collected upon the visitor's arrival in the U.S. for verification and then stored in a government database, as are travelers' arrival and departure records. Failure to be processed through this departure confirmation system could jeopardize a visitor's re-admittance to the U.S., as the government compares the manifest information provided by air and cruise lines to ascertain that visitors have not overstayed their visas.

Last September, US-VISIT expanded to include visitors from the 27 nations who are members of the Visa Waiver Program, thus requiring the screening of an additional 33,000 persons per day. Except for visiting diplomats and officials and persons under 14 or over 79 years old, US-VISIT now applies to virtually all foreign nationals holding nonimmigrant visas, regardless of country of origin.

The documents obtained by EPIC show that some travelers are aware that the US-VISIT database contains erroneous information well before DHS realizes its own mistake and fear that their next visit to the U.S. will result in misidentification. Visitors reported missing their connecting flights due to errors in the database system, and airline crewmembers reported being delayed up to ninety minutes after a long international flight. Some travelers reported that the operator collecting fingerscans at a port had erroneously reversed their left and right index fingerprints, labeled a husband's fingerprints as his wife's, failed to collect the data required under US-VISIT, or collected data from travelers exempt from the program, such as holders of a G-4 visa.

Passengers' numerous requests to the DHS for correction of erroneous personal information suggest that the rush to implement US-VISIT has come at the expense of data accuracy and passenger privacy. IDENT, the government database containing US-VISIT fingerscans, is based on technology that even the DHS considers outdated, even though the government has already invested about $1 billion in the program. The current fingerscan technology does not meet the government's biometric standard, which mandates imaging of all ten fingerprints. Last fall, Stanford University professor Lawrence M. Wein testified before Congress that the chance of identifying a terrorist by matching two index fingerscans poorly imaged by IDENT against the government's biometric watch list is no more than 53%. Privacy concerns are increasing as the government turns to the private sector for full implementation of US-VISIT; global consultant Accenture received a $10 billion contract last year for full-scale implementation over the next decade.

Freedom of Information Act documents obtained by EPIC on US-VISIT:


More information on the US-VISIT technology and cost is available at:


20th June

    Eliminating Body Counts

From Khaleej Times

At a time when Donald Rumsfeld admits that Iraq is no safer now than it was at the end of the war, American opinion polls show that Americans think the Iraq war is turning into another Vietnam and that troops should come home, it‘s fascinating to examine how the American administration has tried to keep secret what has been happening in Iraq.

A British writer Naomi Klein wrote late last year: In Iraq, US forces and their Iraqi surrogates are no longer bothering to conceal attacks on civilian targets and are openly eliminating anyone — doctors, clerics, journalists who dares to count the bodies.

The American embassy in London complained to Naomi Klein and to the Guardian newspaper about her article, taking particular exception to her use of the word "eliminating", a euphemism, of course, for "killing". The embassy suggested that this was a baseless charge and pressed Naomi Klein to present the evidence to back her case. She has now done so.

She says that the first American attack on Fallujah last year caused uprisings across Iraq because of reports that the Americans had killed hundreds of civilians. This information was gathered from three main sources — Fallujah General Hospital, Arab TV journalists and clerics. The American forces withdrew from Fallujah and Donald Rumsfeld accused the Arab TV networks of vicious, inaccurate and inexcusable reporting. The Defence Department said Fallujah General Hospital was a centre of anti-American propaganda.

When in November last year US troops once again laid siege to Fallujah, according to Naomi Klein, they included a new tactic: eliminating doctors, journalists and clerics who had drawn public attention to the civilian casualties the first time around . According to The New York Times the Fallujah General Hospital was selected as an early target. It was placed under American military control to prevent its staff reporting on civilian dead and wounded.

The Los Angeles Times quoted a doctor as saying that the Americans stole the medics‘ mobile phones to prevent them from communicating with the outside world. And when fighting moved to Mosul, US forces immediately seized control of the hospital there.

Meanwhile the Arab TV network Al-Jazeera had no cameras on the ground because the Americans had banned it from reporting in Iraq indefinitely. Al-Arabiya had a reporter in Fallujah but US troops quickly arrested him and held him for the length of the siege. Likewise those clerics who spoke out against the killing in Fallujah were arrested. US forces stormed a prominent Sunni mosque killing three people and arresting 40, including the chief cleric, another opponent to the Falluja siege.

The image of the second siege of Fallujah came almost exclusively from American reporters imbedded by American troops and, as Klein says, independent journalists who had covered the first siege from the civilian perspective had been effectively emasculated. At stake here are several important issues.

First is that the Americans are determined that the public should not judge the progress of the war, as it did in Vietnam, by how many of the enemy the Americans killed. As General Tommy Franks of US Central Command has emphasised: We don‘t do body counts . As Klein says: The question is; what happens to the people who insist on counting the bodies — the doctors who must pronounce their patients dead, the journalists who document these losses, the clerics who denounce them?

She makes a convincing case that these voices are being systematically silenced by a variety of means from mass arrests to raids on hospitals, media censorship, bans, and even overt physical attacks. In her reply to the US embassy she accuses the American administration of waging two wars in Iraq: a war against the Iraqi people which has claimed an estimated 100,000 lives, and a war on witnesses. In my view she makes her case.


21st May

    The United States of Shame

From The Guardian

Even as the young Afghan man was dying before them, his American jailers continued to torment him. The prisoner, a slight, 22-year-old taxi driver known only as Dilawar, was hauled from his cell at the detention centre in Bagram, Afghanistan, at around 2am to answer questions about a rocket attack on an American base.
When he arrived in the interrogation room, an interpreter who was present said, his legs were bouncing uncontrollably in the plastic chair and his hands were numb. He had been chained by the wrists to the top of his cell for much of the previous four days.

At the interrogators' behest, a guard tried to force the young man to his knees. But his legs, which had been pummelled by guards for several days, could no longer bend. An interrogator told Dilawar that he could see a doctor after they had finished with him. When he was finally sent back to his cell, though, the guards were instructed to chain the prisoner back to the ceiling.

Several hours later an emergency room doctor saw Dilawar. By then he was dead. It would be months before army investigators learned a final horrific detail: most of the interrogators had believed Dilawar was an innocent man who drove his taxi past the American base at the wrong time.

The story of Dilawar's death - and that of another detainee, Habibullah, who died there six days earlier in December 2002 - emerge from a 2,000-page confidential file of the army's criminal investigation into the case, a copy of which has been obtained by the New York Times.

The Bagram file depicts young, poorly trained soldiers in repeated incidents of abuse. The harsh treatment, which has resulted in criminal charges against seven soldiers, went well beyond the two deaths.

In some instances, testimony shows, it was directed or carried out by interrogators to extract information. In others, it was punishment meted out by military police guards.

Sometimes, the torment seems to have been driven by little more than boredom or cruelty, or both.

In sworn statements to army investigators, soldiers describe one female interrogator stepping on the neck of one prostrate detainee and kicking another in the genitals. They tell of a shackled prisoner being forced to roll back and forth on the floor of a cell, kissing the boots of his two interrogators as he went. Yet another prisoner is made to pick plastic bottle caps out of a drum mixed with excrement and water as part of a strategy to soften him up for questioning.

Some of the mistreatment was quite obvious, the file suggests. Senior officers frequently toured the detention centre, and several of them acknowledged seeing prisoners chained up for punishment or to deprive them of sleep.

In late August of 2002, the Bagram interrogators were joined by a new military police unit. The soldiers, mostly reservists from the 377th Military Police Company based in Cincinnati and Bloomington, Indiana, were unprepared for their mission, members of the unit said.

Once in Afghanistan, members of the 377th found the usual rules did not seem to apply. The peroneal strike - a potentially disabling blow to the side of the leg, just above the knee - quickly became a basic weapon of their arsenal. They said they were never told it was not part of army doctrine.

The detainee known as Person Under Control No. 412 was a portly, well-groomed Afghan named Habibullah. Some American officials identified him as "Mullah" Habibullah, a brother of a former Taliban commander from the southern Afghan province of Oruzgan.

Documents from the investigation suggest that Habibullah was captured by an Afghan warlord on November 28 2002, and delivered to Bagram by CIA operatives two days later

Habibullah was identified as an important prisoner and an unusually sharp-tongued and insubordinate one. He was shackled by the wrists to the wire ceiling over his cell, soldiers said.

On his second day, December 1, the prisoner was "uncooperative" again, this time with Specialist Willie V Brand. The guard, who has since been charged with assault and other crimes, told investigators he had delivered three peroneal strikes in response. The next day, Specialist Brand said, he had to knee the prisoner again. Other blows followed.

By December 3, Habibullah's reputation for defiance seemed to make him an open target. One MP said he had given him five peroneal strikes for being "noncompliant and combative." Another gave him three or four more for being "combative and noncompliant." Some guards later asserted that he had been hurt trying to escape.

When Sgt. James P Boland saw Habibullah on December 3, he was in one of the isolation cells, tethered to the ceiling by two sets of handcuffs and a chain around his waist. His body was slumped forward, held up by the chains.

His death was attributed to a blood clot, probably caused by the severe injuries to his legs, which travelled to his heart and blocked the blood flow to his lungs.


13th May

    Foreigners Unwelcome in the US

From the Bangkok Post

A teenage Asian girl with a valid student visa was handcuffed and deported for entering the United States five days earlier than stipulated, highlighting strict American immigration policy.

A 79-year-old British historian, who came to work at the US Library of Congress was herded on arrival in a wheelchair at Washington's Dulles airport to a small room facing a superintendent with a revolver on his hip for no apparent mistake. Although all his travel papers were in order, I was stopped and treated rather disgracefully , lamented Sir Alistair Horne at a conference in Washington Tuesday.

Stringent enforcement of US visa policy and seemingly overzealous immigration officers following the Sept 11, 2001 terror attacks are not only scaring away foreign students and tourists but dampening the investment climate of the world's richest nation and taking a toll on its economy, experts told the conference organised by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

Among the other cases cited to highlight the economic, security, scientific and diplomatic implications of changes in US visa policy were:

  • An international business conference in Hawaii had to be shifted to Hong Kong at the last minute because the organisers could not obtain travel papers for most of its participants, who were from China.
  • Some of US aviation giant Lockheed Martin Corporation's testing of its civil space activities have been delayed because visas could not be obtained on time for Russian scientists.
  • A company in northern Illinois waited in vain for seven months for its prospective buyers from China to get a visa to inspect its products and close a multi-million-dollar sale. Eventually the company became bankrupt and was auctioned off.

According to one private sector study, US businesses lost nearly US$31 billion (1,240 billion baht) in sales between 2002 and 2004 because foreign executives could not get into the United States to purchase American goods and services or attend trade shows.

From 2003 to 2004, there was a roughly 30% decline in the number of applicants for US graduate programmes and correspondingly 20% decline in admissions, university figures showed.

The situation is critical and requires the personal intervention of President George W Bush, former defence secretary Frank Carlucci told the conference. He said Bush should act to stop further erosion of US popularity overseas: It is part and parcel of the anti-Americanism around the world and if the president is serious about addressing that, he has to address visa policy.

Lockheed Martin's corporate international business development vice president Richard Kirkland said what is important is predictability and process of getting approval for visas. Nearly 100% of aerospace programmes in the United States involve some form of foreign participation or content, he said.

America's post-9/11 visa policy is threatening our country's economic security, and reforms are needed to boost US exports, maintain our technological leadership and create jobs , said Don Manzalo, head of the small business committee at the House of Representatives. Multinationals are setting up shop overseas to avoid our arbitrary visa process , said Monzalo, who is campaigning for a fast-track visa programme for companies.

William Webster, former CIA and FBI head, said by scaring away foreign students, we are losing an opportunity for public diplomacy because the best ambassadors we can possibly have are these students .
Jordan's ambassador to Washington, Karim Tawfiq Kawar, said there had been a drop of more than 30% of students from the Arab world coming to the United States to study.


28th April

    No Flies on Us

The way to deal with this is for all countries to reciprocate.

From the BBC

The US is considering forcing foreign airlines crossing its soil to provide passenger lists as part of tougher guards against terrorist attacks. Presently this measure only applies to planes actually landing at US airports.

Regardless of destination every flight entering US airspace would have to provide full passenger details, to be checked against US terror watch-lists. The move has angered airlines flying to Canada and Mexico who say they may have to re-route flights at great expense.

The proposal comes two weeks after US authorities forced a Dutch KLM plane bound for Mexico to return to Amsterdam, after they objected to the presence of two of its passengers. The two men were Saudi nationals whose names appeared on a no-fly list compiled by the US Department of Homeland Security. The pair had allegedly attended the same Arizona flight school as Hani Hanjour, one of the hijackers involved in the terror attacks on 11 September 2001.

Following a tip-off from the Mexican authorities, the US government refused to allow the plane into American air space.

European, Canadian and Mexican airlines operate most of the 500 foreign flights which cross US airspace daily. If the measures come into force and airlines fail to comply they could be forced to re-route their flights. At least one of the airlines potentially affected, Aeromexico claims that the new rule would violate international aviation agreements.

The US government is currently negotiating the terms of the new restrictions with the countries concerned.


7th April

    No...But Europeans Do

Trailer for a US TV programme on the Discovery Channel:

With the European Union on the threshold of redefining the global balance of power for the 21st Century, the continuing confrontation between the U.S. and Europe has profound implications for the future. Thomas Friedman explores the hatred toward America.

Does Europe Hate Us programme advert


26th February

    Taking the Piss

I had a good laugh at Fox News who were suitably outraged. They ludicrously linked the campaign to the welcome accorded by the French president. I am happy though, to let the Belgian piss takers speak for my welcome of Bush to Europe.

The Belgians’ surely gained a few brownie points during President Bush’s visit this week. A sticker campaign was organised for urinals in public buildings, bars and restaurants which were decorated with stickers of the Stars and Stripes with George Warmonger Bush’s visage and the caption: Go ahead. Make my day. Piss on me.

Interestingly the stickers seem to have originated from the office of the deputy prime minister, Vande Lanotte, where they were designed by Laurent Winnockone, a member of his press office. Laurent is also president of the Young Socialists.

When Robert Stevaert, the Socialist party leader, was asked what he thought of the stickers, he stressed that it had not been his idea, but refused to distance himself from it. He hardly could, as they can be ordered free through the party’s official website.


13th February

    Torturing the Recruiters

Based on an article from Boston Indy Media

Torturing the RecruitersJoe Previtera, a twenty one year old student at Boston College, was arrested Wednesday and charged with felonies after dressing as a hooded Iraqi torture victim in front of a military recruitment center in downtown Boston. In his arraignment today a Suffolk County District Attorney suggested that Previtera's bail be set at $10,000. However, a National Lawyers Guild attorney and Previtera's mother, also an attorney, persuaded the judge to free Previtera on personal recognizance.

Previtera faces trumped up misdemeanor charges of disturbing the peace and felony charges of making a false bomb threat and using a hoax device. The charges apparently reflect the District Attorney's concern that Previtera might have been mistaken for a terrorist. Witnesses say that passersby seemed unconcerned by Previtera's actions.

After his release today, Previtera said his arrest took him completely by surprise. I did this hoping that the image of an abused Iraqi prisoner might make people think twice about joining the military ... both for their own safety and because of the abuses they might be asked to commit. Is it reasonable that I face greater punishment for my free speech than do the soldiers who actually commit abuses? Well, this is post-911 America, isn't it?


10th February


From The Telegraph

The fashion for wearing low trousers that reveal underwear could be made illegal in Virginia despite claims that such a law is unconstitutional and even racist. Virginians who display their below-waist underwear in a "lewd or indecent manner" could now be fined £28.

Algie Howell, a Democrat who sponsored the bill in Virginia's House of Delegates, said his proposal had met with widespread support. However, his bill has attracted controversy with civil rights groups and fellow politicians saying it constitutes an attack on young blacks who tend to be the biggest fans of the low-slung look.

Howell, who is black, said he was just trying to legislate some common sense . It bothers me that my grandchildren have to see people walking around holding their pants up with one hand. The look, known as "bustin' a sag" is assumed to have its roots in prison culture, where inmates are not allowed to wear belts.

Rap artists have made wearing baggy trousers at half mast fashionable for men, who usually sport boxer shorts underneath. Alexander McQueen's "bumsters" made the look a "must" for young women, who partner it with a thong.

The proposed law sparked a heated debate in the House of Delegates on Tuesday. Lionell Spruill, a black delegate, pleaded with his colleagues to remember their own youthful fashion follies. He said it was an unconstitutional attack on blacks.

The measure was approved by 60 votes to 34 by the House of Delegates and now goes to the state's Senate.


3rd January

    The United States of Nutters

Perhaps we could do the world a favour and convince the Americans that the only truly safe way... is abstinence for life.

Based on an article from The Observer

Joanna Walters reports on the $170m Bush-backed abstinence drive that teaches condoms are useless. There is a sexual revolution in US schools called Abstinence-Only Until Marriage, a programme being cascaded with funding from the Bush administration.

Give me an example of risky behaviour, said Koehler, sex education teacher at Shoemaker High School, Killeen, about an hour north of the state capital Austin. Something to do with sexuality. What about girls in short skirts? Silence from the class of 25 pupils. If you wear provocative clothing it makes people think things about you. Guys, what does that say to you - she is loose? She is easy?  asked the teacher.

The boys tittered. Koehler ignored them: Girls, how far are you going to take the first date? From this educational foreplay, the lesson progressed to the dangers of sexually transmitted infections and an insistence that condoms do not prevent disease or pregnancy.

The climax came with the message now being taught in schools across the US: abstaining from sex until marriage is the only form of protection. The federal government will put around $170 million into abstinence-only sex education programmes in schools in 2005, a $30m increase over last year.

Bush was pushing for the total to go up to $270m - similar to the money spent on the nation's family planning services, which are experiencing cuts as conservative forces crack down on contraception and abortion.

The abstinence funds go to educational, medical or religious groups at local level who devise sex curricula for schools. There is no federal control of the material, just the edict to teach abstinence and limit discussion of contraception to failure rates. At Shoemaker High School they use an abstinence-only course popular across Texas called Worth the Wait - a trademarked brand.

Koehler continued her lesson by listing the sexual activity that fell in the 'danger' category. Regular intercourse; anal intercourse; oral intercourse; skin-to-skin under clothes; genital contact; and there are some problems with deep passionate kissing - these are risky behaviours.

Holding hands, hugging with clothes on and 'light kissing' were OK, the teens were told. Koehler then ran through the gamut of sexual diseases. How are you going to keep yourself safe? she asked the class. 'Abstinence,' they chorused.

What do you also hear will keep you safe? she asked. Condoms, they answered. Do they keep you safe? she asked. No , they chorused. Koehler believes young people are unreliable in their use of contraception. She is banned by law from promoting the benefits of correctly used condoms.

According to the Centres for Disease Control, the Sexuality Information and Education Council and most medical and sexual health associations worldwide, condoms give up to 97 per cent protection against pregnancy and help prevent gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia. In Texas textbooks are being rewritten to remove any mention of the advantages of contraception.

It is all part of the radical conservative backlash, much of it evangelical-inspired, against the lurid diet of sexual imagery in American music, movies, media, and now the internet.

Bush's home state of Texas, and Florida, where brother Jeb is governor, are two of the largest recipients of federal abstinence-only funding - around $7m annually. Only California and Maine have no abstinence teaching in their state schools. Many schools are backed up by youth groups and churches promoting abstinence as cool. Girls can buy 'purity beads' and 'true love waits' bracelets and chastity T-shirts. According to Mike Goss, president of Abstinence America, a government-funded campaign in Houston, a bestseller has the slogan: 'Virgins make the best lovers in marriage - I'm prepared to wait', while boys go for: 'Abstinence - the new sexual revolution.'

The US National Survey of Family Growth just reported the latest figures, from 2002, showing that 30 per cent of American girls aged 15 to 17 have had sex compared with 38 per cent in 1995 and 31 per cent of boys, compared with 43 per cent in 1995. Teenage pregnancy rates show the US birth rate for 15- to 19-year-olds fell from 62 per 1,000 in 1991 to 43 per 1,000 in 2002. The top five states for teen pregnancy are in the south, with Texas fifth highest at 59 per 1,000.

In 2002, the equivalent rate in France was 10 per 1,000 females, in Canada 25 and in Britain, which has the highest rate in western Europe but also has comprehensive sex education, it was 28.

Joint research by Columbia and Yale Universities found that 88 per cent of Americans between the ages of 12 and 18 who pledge abstinence do not wait until they get married to have sex, compared with 99 per cent of 'non-pledgers'.

Teens who 'pledge' wait around 18 months longer than their peers to have sex and have fewer partners, but once the pledge is broken only 40 per cent of males use condoms compared with 60 per cent of 'non-pledgers'.

'By 18 to 24 they catch up with their non-pledging peers in sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy rates,' said Professor Peter Bearman of Columbia University.

There are more radical curriculums out there than Sulak's. A recent report led by Californian Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman revealed some federally funded programmes taught pupils that Aids could be spread through sweat and tears, abortion led to sterility and suicide, pregnancy could result from touching someone's genitals and oral sex could give you cancer.

A national report on the efficacy of abstinence-only programmes has been postponed.


2nd January

    The United States of Torture

From The Telegraph

American troops in Iraq will no longer be allowed to inflict "severe pain" while interrogating suspects after US justice officials broadened their controversial definition of torture in the wake of the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal.

The Justice Department has quietly revised a previous legal memorandum which held that mistreatment amounted to torture only if it produced severe pain equivalent to that associated with organ failure or death.

The memorandum signalling the U-turn was posted unannounced on the Justice Department's website on Thursday night. Human rights groups say the change amounts to a tacit admission that the previous definition was too loose and paved the way for the abuses of Iraqi prisoners by American troops at Abu Ghraib last year.

Trent Duffy, a spokesman for George W Bush, said that the Justice Department sought comments from the president's office of legal counsel before pressing ahead with the changes. He said it was to reiterate the president's determination that the United States never engage in torture.

The change was made a week before a Senate judiciary committee is due to question Alberto Gonzales, counsel to the White House, about his role in formulating the legal policies covering what US forces were permitted to do during interrogations.

Gonzales, who is the nominee to become attorney general, co-ordinated lawyers who drafted new approaches on the limits of coercive techniques following the September 11 attacks. He is expected to tell the hearing that neither he nor President Bush ever intended to draw up any rules condoning torture. However, it was claimed that the decision by officials in the Justice Department to alter the legislation suggests an acceptance that it had been wrong.

Michael Ratner, the president of the US-based Centre for Constitutional Rights, which has sued the Bush administration over its interrogation policies, said that the redefinition makes it clear that the earlier one was not just some intellectual theorising by some lawyers about what was possible. It means it must have been implemented in some way . It puts the burden on the administration to say what practices were actually put in place under those auspices. "

Officials from the International Committee of the Red Cross who inspected the regimes at Abu Ghraib, near Baghdad, and Guantanamo Bay in Cuba told the US government that interrogators had engaged in torture of detainees at both prisons.

In the original memorandum, which is devoted to a US convention against torture, officials from the Justice Department say that torture should cover only "extreme acts and severe pain".

It adds: When the pain is physical, it must be of an intensity akin to that which accompanies serious physical injury such as death or organ failure. Severe mental pain requires suffering not just at the moment of infliction but it also requires lasting psychological harm.

The new memo revises the definition to say that torture could include "severe physical pain" and "severe physical suffering". It notes that physical suffering is difficult to define.

It also rejects an assertion in the original memo that torture could be said to occur only if the interrogator intended to cause the harm that resulted.

David Scheffer, a senior human rights official in the State Department during the Clinton administration, said that while the Justice Department's revision exercise was commendable, it still left too many judgments in the hands of interrogators.


2nd January

    Strapping Torture Techniques

From The Observer

A British detainee at Guantanamo Bay has told his lawyer he was tortured using the 'strappado', a technique common in Latin American dictatorships in which a prisoner is left suspended from a bar with handcuffs until they cut deeply into his wrists. The reason, the prisoner says, was that he was caught reciting the Koran at a time when talking was banned.

He says he has also been repeatedly shaved against his will. In one such incident, a guard told him: 'This is the part that really gets to you Muslims, isn't it?'

The strappado allegation was one among many made about treatment at both Guantanamo and the US base at Bagram in Afghanistan made to the British lawyer Clive Stafford Smith when he visited his clients Moazzam Begg and Richard Belmar at the Cuban prison six weeks ago, having tried for the previous 14 months to obtain the necessary security clearance.

But it is clear the disturbing claim is only the tip of the iceberg. Under the rules the United States military has imposed for defence lawyers who visit Guantanamo, Stafford Smith has not been allowed to keep his notes of meetings with prisoners, and will not be able to read them again until they have been examined and de-classified by a government censor.

He cannot disclose in public anything the men have told him until it too has been been de-classified, on pain of likely imprisonment in the US.

Stafford Smith has drawn up a 30-page report on the tortures which Begg and Belmar say they have endured, and sent it as an annexe with a letter to the Prime Minister which Downing Street received shortly before Christmas. For the time being - possibly forever - the report cannot be published, because the Americans claim that the torture allegations amount to descriptions of classified interrogation methods.

However, Stafford Smith's letter to Tony Blair - which has been declassified - says that on his visit to the Guantanamo prisoners, he heard 'credible and consistent evidence that both men have been savagely tortured at the hands of the United States' with Begg having suffered not only physical but 'sexual abuse' which has had 'mental health consequences'.

Thousands of documents obtained last month under the US Freedom of Information Act by the American Civil Liberties Union support the claims of torture at Guantanamo, which has apparently continued long after the publication last April of photographs of detainees being abused at the US-run Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. They include memos and emails to superiors by FBI and Defense Intelligence Agency officers, who say they were appalled by the methods being used by the young military interrogators at Guantanamo.

According to the memos, the abuse was 'systematic', with frequent beatings, chokings, and sleep deprivation for days on end. Religious humiliation was also routine, with one agent reporting a case in which a prisoner was wrapped in an Israeli flag.

'On a couple of occasions I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a foetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water,' an anonymous FBI agent wrote on 2 August. 'Most times they had urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18 to 24 hours or more.'


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