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A Final Act for the Guantánamo Theater of the Absurd? ( Harper's Scott Horton )

A new report from Seton Hall University exposes government surveillance of attorney–client conversations

By Scott Horton

The military commissions at Guantánamo have been on hold for roughly two months now, stalled by a pressing question: Were the proceedings inside the state-of-the-art courtroom in fact being manipulated by the CIA? Back in 2009, the Obama Administration inherited a process that verged on being an international laughingstock. Political appointees had manipulated almost every step of the process, pressing to remove any doubt from the outcome. Ultimately, the thin veneer of legitimacy that remained was stripped away when military lawyers — both prosecutors and defense counsel — joined together to expose the political circus.

Team Obama promised to right this system. An interagency review process led to agreement on a significant number of reforms, and Brigadier General Mark Martins, the new chief prosecutor, made the rounds of law schools and bar associations, talking about the government’s intention to restore basic norms of justice to the process. He was persuasive, and even skeptics began to acknowledge that the proceedings had been set back on the path to respectability.

Today, however, that effort is a shambles. The military-commissions process teeters for the third time on the brink of collapse, thanks to the ham-handed snooping and manipulations of the intelligence community. The problems this time were first exposed by a moment of comic ineptitude. During a hearing in the prosecution of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, journalists and other observers behind the Plexiglas barrier noted that the sound had suddenly gone dead as defense counsel David Nevin recited the name of a motion that referred to CIA black sites. “Who,” queried Judge James Pohl, “turns that light on or off?” He was referring to a flashing red light that indicated when the audio feed was being disrupted. Not the court, it turned out. In the best Wizard of Oz tradition, the man behind the curtain appeared to be in the employ of “another government agency.” Judge Pohl at first seemed indignant over this instance of external control over his courtroom, but later resumed the proceedings, apparently accepting the arrangement as beyond the purview of his pay grade.

While that affair soon dissolved into embarrassed jokes, it paved the way for far more serious charges. Defense counsel began to make noise about the severe limitations imposed on their confidential communications with clients, reporting that their messages were being intercepted, noting that government agents routinely seized approved communications during security sweeps of prisoners’ rooms, and, most seriously, expressing suspicion that their conversations were being monitored. These suspicions appeared to be confirmed when attorneys meeting their clients for conferences discovered that the “smoke detectors” installed in the ceilings above them were in fact supersensitive surveillance devices. Bar associations across the United States denounced all of these machinations as efforts by the U.S. government to undermine the most fundamental of fair-trial rights: the ability of a client to communicate in complete confidence with his counsel.

in full: http://harpers.org/blog/2013/04/a-final-act-for-the-guantanamo-theater-of-the-absurd/

The Islamic Emirate of Syriastan

By Pepe Escobar

PARIS - And now some breaking news coming from the Islamic Emirate of Syriastan. This program is brought to you by the NATOGCC corporation. Please also tune in for a word from our individual sponsors, the United States government, Britain, France, Turkey, the House of Saud and the Emir of Qatar.

It all started early this week, with a proclamation by the elusive leader of al-Qaeda Central, Ayman "The Doctor" al-Zawahiri, hidden somewhere in the Pakistani tribal areas; how come Double O Bama with his license to kill (list) and prime drone fleet cannot find him?

Al-Zawahiri called for all the Islamist brigades in the Jihad Inc business fighting the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to found an Islamic emirate, the passport du jour leading to an Islamic caliphate.

Two days later, the Islamic State of Iraq - for all practical purposes al-Qaeda in Iraq - announced, via a video starring its leader Abu Bakr al-Husseini al-Qurashi al-Baghdadi, a mergers and acquisition spectacular; from now on, it would be united with the Syrian jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra, and be referred to as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

in full: http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/MID-01-120413.html

New York's Yeshiva University engulfed in controversy over Jimmy Carter peace award

America’s preeminent Modern Orthodox academic institution distances itself from 'student-initiated' award as critics call for financial pressure to cancel ceremony.

By Chemi Shalev | Apr.09, 2013 | 2:50 AM

Tensions are flaring at New York’s prestigious Yeshiva University and its Cardozo School of Law in the wake of growing protests against a decision to bestow an “International Advocate for Peace Award” on former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.

The award, handed out by Cardozo’s student-run Journal of Conflict Resolution, is to be given to Carter on Wednesday at a ceremony at Cardozo’s Greenwich Village campus in Manhattan. Some Cardozo alumni have threatened to physically block Carter’s way when he arrives, while others have launched a public campaign to have both the ceremony and the award cancelled altogether.

Although the decision to salute Carter was announced only a few days ago, it still has the potential to develop into a major confrontation in light of Yeshiva University’s preeminent position in American Modern Orthodoxy, in which right-wing views on Israel, the Palestinians – and Jimmy Carter – are prevalent.

A so-called “Coalition of Concerned Cardozo Alumni” has set up a website calling on Cardozo graduates to “condition any continued support of Cardozo, be it financial or otherwise, on the cancellation of this event.” Protests against the decision to honor Carter have also spread in the right wing and pro-settler blogosphere, and these have now been reinforced by Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz, a long time critic of Carter and his attitude toward Israel.

in full: http://www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/jewish-world-news/new-york-s-yeshiva-university-engulfed-in-controversy-over-jimmy-carter-peace-award-1.514424

Singapore’s Lessons for an Unequal America ( Joseph Stiglitz )


Inequality has been rising in most countries around the world, but it has played out in different ways across countries and regions. The United States, it is increasingly recognized, has the sad distinction of being the most unequal advanced country, though the income gap has also widened to a lesser extent, in Britain, Japan, Canada and Germany. Of course, the situation is even worse in Russia, and some developing countries in Latin America and Africa. But this is a club of which we should not be proud to be a member.

Some big countries — Brazil, Indonesia and Argentina — have become more equal in recent years, and other countries, like Spain, were on that trajectory until the economic crisis of 2007-8.

Singapore has had the distinction of having prioritized social and economic equity while achieving very high rates of growth over the past 30 years — an example par excellence that inequality is not just a matter of social justice but of economic performance. Societies with fewer economic disparities perform better — not just for those at the bottom or the middle, but over all.

It’s hard to believe how far this city-state has come in the half-century since it attained independence from Britain, in 1963. (A short-lived merger with Malaysia ended in 1965.) Around the time of independence, a quarter of Singapore’s work force was unemployed or underemployed. Its per-capita income (adjusted for inflation) was less than a tenth of what it is today.

in full: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/18/singapores-lessons-for-an-unequal-america/
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