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TBR News October 15, 2018

Oct 15 2018

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Isaiah 40:3-8 

Washington, D.C. October 15, 2018:” ” The mounting international condemnation of the actions of an obviously deranged Saudi Crown Prince is impacting on both the political and business worlds and to the detriment of the Saudi government.

A report now circulating concerning the private activities of the Crown Prince will, when it comes to his attention, cause more violence and atrocities and in the end, this vicious circle will only result in the increasingly violent Saudi government being deposed, either internally or externally.

The Crown Prince has been, justifiably indeed, likened to the Roman Emperor Caligula but his end is to be contemplated.”

The Table of Contents

  • Donald Trump has said 2291 false things as U.S. president: No. 51
  • The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations
  • The Saudi Collapse: It couldn’t have come at a better tim
  • Five things to watch for in deteriorating US-Saudi relation
  • US retailer Sears files for bankruptcy due to mounting debt
  • Justice Derailed

 

Donald Trump has said 2291 false things as U.S. president: No. 51

August 8, 2018

by Daniel Dale, Washington Bureau Chief

The Toronto Star, Canada

The Star is keeping track of every false claim U.S. President Donald Trump has made since his inauguration on Jan. 20, 2017. Why? Historians say there has never been such a constant liar in the Oval Office. We think dishonesty should be challenged. We think inaccurate information should be corrected

If Trump is a serial liar, why call this a list of “false claims,” not lies? You can read our detailed explanation here. The short answer is that we can’t be sure that each and every one was intentional. In some cases, he may have been confused or ignorant. What we know, objectively, is that he was not teling the truth.

Last updated: Aug 8, 2018

  • Jan 30, 2018

“Under the current broken system, a single immigrant can bring in virtually unlimited numbers of distant relatives.”

Source: State of the Union address

in fact: Distant relatives like cousins cannot be sponsored by citizens and permanent residents (“green card holders”) for family-reunification immigration, what Trump means when he refers to “chain migration.” In fact, not even grandparents or uncles can be sponsored. Opponents of the family reunification system note that individuals brought in through sponsorships can eventually sponsor their own parents, siblings and children. But this is not the same thing as the original sponsor bringing in distant relatives. Further, the total number of people who can enter the country through family unification is limited by annual caps that create extremely long wait times. As the Center for Immigration Studies, a think tank that seeks to reduce immigration, noted in 2015: “More than half of the waiting list (in family-based immigration categories) is comprised of about 2.5 million people who have been sponsored by a sibling who is a U.S. citizen. These applicants must wait at least 13 years for their application to be adjudicated. The largest number (30 per cent) are citizens of Mexico, and the wait for them is just over 18 years.”

Trump has repeated this claim 2 times

“The fourth and final pillar protects the nuclear family by ending chain migration.”

Source: State of the Union address

in fact: This is simple nonsense. There is no reasonable argument that the “nuclear family” would be protected if Trump no longer allowed people to sponsor family members, such as children and parents, to immigrate to the U.S.

“The third pillar (of my immigration plan) ends the visa lottery, a program that randomly hands out green cards without any regard for skill, merit, or the safety of American people.”

Source: State of the Union address

in fact: The lottery is indeed random, but Trump goes too far when he says green cards are handed out without any regard for safety. Each person who wins the lottery has to go through an application process that includes an interview and a background check. Also, there is at least a basic skill-related criteria: anyone accepted for a green card must be either a high school graduate or have two years of work experience, in an occupation that requires at least two years of training or experience and is on a list of occupations created by the U.S. government.

“Apple has just announced it plans to invest a total of $350 billion in America, and hire another 20,000 workers.”

Source: State of the Union address

in fact: Apple did announce a “$350 billion” figure — but the company, unlike Trump, made a point of separating its actual investment from its pre-existing spending. Its January press release made clear that the new investment is only a fraction of the total. It said: “Combining new investments and Apple’s current pace of spending with domestic suppliers and manufacturers — an estimated $55 billion for 2018 — Apple’s direct contribution to the US economy will be more than $350 billion over the next five years.” In other words, Apple’s pre-existing 2018 spending would have put it on track for $275 billion in spending over five years if maintained.

Trump has repeated this claim 20 times

“Very soon, auto plants and other plants will be opening up all over our country. This is all news Americans are totally unaccustomed to hearing. For many years, companies and jobs were only leaving us. But now they are roaring back.”

Source: State of the Union address

in fact: It is not true that “companies and jobs were only leaving us” prior to the Trump era. “Expenditures by foreign direct investors to acquire, establish, or expand U.S. businesses totaled $373.4 billion in 2016,” the last year of Obama’s tenure, the U.S. government’s Bureau of Economic Analysis reported. Nor is there evidence that companies and jobs are “roaring back.” Job growth in 2017, two million, was worse than in every year since 2010, and outsourcing continues. In November 2017, a labour group called Good Jobs Nation released a study that found “93,449 jobs have been certified by the Department of Labor as lost to trade competition or corporate outsourcing since Trump’s election,” a total “higher than the average job loss rate of 87,576 for the preceding five years.” The study also found: “Since Trump was elected, major federal contractors have been certified as shipping 10,269 American jobs abroad.”

“Chrysler is moving a major plant from Mexico to Michigan.”

Source: State of the Union address

in fact: Trump could have accurately said that Chrysler is “shifting some production from Mexico to Michigan,” or something of the sort. It is not accurate, though, to say that Chrysler is “moving a major plant from Mexico to Michigan.” The company announced that it is moving the production of its Ram truck from a plant in Mexico to a plant in Michigan — but it said there would be no layoffs at the Mexican plant, let alone a closure, and that the plant would be “repurposed” to production of other vehicles.

Trump has repeated this claim 11 times

“Many car companies are now building and expanding plants in the United States — something we haven’t seen for decades.”

Source: State of the Union address

in fact: Car companies also announced during the Obama era that they would build and expand plants in the United States. In 2015, for example, Volvo announced that it would open its first U.S. car plant, in South Carolina. “Construction has now begun on the factory site, which will be capable of producing up to 100,000 cars per year,” the company announced in 2015. GM announced in 2013 that it would invest $1.2 billion to upgrade an Indiana truck plant, while Ford announced in 2015 that it would invest $1.3 billion to upgrade a Kentucky truck plant.

Trump has repeated this claim 7 times  

“We are now very proudly an exporter of energy to the world.”

Source: State of the Union address

in fact: The U.S. has exported energy for years, so, taking Trump’s claim in the most literal way possible, it is false that the U.S. has just “now” become an exporter. What he was clearly suggesting, though, is that the U.S. has become a net exporter of energy — exporting more than it imports. But that is also untrue; the U.S. government’s Energy Information Administration estimated in 2017 that it could happen around 2026.

Trump has repeated this claim 9 times

“We have ended the war on American energy — and we have ended the war on beautiful clean coal.”

Source: State of the Union address

in fact: We’ll leave aside the debate about the existence of a “war on American energy,” and Trump has indeed taken steps to encourage the coal industry — but the phrase “clean coal” is dishonest in itself, a creation of industry spin. As the Washington Post reports: “There’s no such thing as ‘clean coal.’ Power plants can mitigate some of the effects of burning coal by capturing and burying carbon-dioxide emissions, but that doesn’t cleanse the coal itself.” The phrase “clean coal,” the New York Times reported last year, “is often understood to mean coal plants that capture the carbon dioxide emitted from smokestacks and bury it underground as a way of limiting global warming.” This technology, though, is not widely used — and Trump appears to extra-misleadingly use the phrase “clean coal” to describe coal extraction and use of any kind.

Trump has repeated this claim 7 times

“Last year, Congress also passed, and I signed, the landmark VA Accountability Act. Since its passage, my administration has already removed more than 1,500 VA employees who failed to give our veterans the care they deserve.”

Source: State of the Union address

in fact: Trump is over-counting the number of removals that can be attributed to the new law, which passed in June. The Associated Press reports: “… More than 500 of those firings occurred from Jan. 20, when Trump took office, to late June, when the new accountability law began to take effect. That means roughly one-third of the 1,500 firings cannot be attributed to the new law.”

“And I have to tell you, what the Border Patrol and ICE have done — we have sent thousands and thousands and thousands of MS-13 horrible people out of this country or into our prisons.”

Source: State of the Union address

in fact: This is an exaggeration. The acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Thomas Homan, said in December that “a renewed focus on ID’ing & dismantling the ultra-violent MS-13 gang led to nearly 800 arrests in (fiscal year) 2017, for an 83 per cent increase over last year.” That figure is disputed, as some of the people arrested may not be actual members of the gang. Even if they are, though, that is far from “thousands and thousands and thousands.” In November, Attorney General Jeff Sessions claimed the U.S. had “worked with our partners in Central America to arrest and charge some 4,000 MS-13 members.” But those additional arrests were made abroad; the people arrested were not deported from the U.S. or put in U.S. prisons.

Trump has repeated this claim 2 times

“After years and years of wage stagnation, we are finally seeing rising wages.”

Source: State of the Union address

in fact: Wages have been rising since 2014. As PolitiFact reported: “For much of the time between 2012 and 2014, median weekly earnings were lower than they were in 1979 — a frustrating disappearance of any wage growth for 35 years. But that began changing in 2014. After hitting a low of $330 a week in early 2014, wages have risen to $354 a week by early 2017. That’s an increase of 7.3 percent over a roughly three-year period.” The acceleration of wage growth in recent months, under Trump, has received extensive media coverage.

Trump has repeated this claim 25 times

  • Jan 31, 2018

“We also have massive investments coming in, like Apple — $350 billion.”

Source: Remarks at tax reform meeting with workers

in fact: There is not a $350 billion Apple investment “coming in.” The company’s January press release announced, rather, that its combination of new investments and spending it had previously planned would total $350 billion over five years — and it specified that it had previously planned $55 billion in spending for 2018. In other words, Apple was already on pace to spend approximately $275 billion of the $350 billion it described in the announcement. Here’s the direct quote from the press release: “Combining new investments and Apple’s current pace of spending with domestic suppliers and manufacturers — an estimated $55 billion for 2018 — Apple’s direct contribution to the US economy will be more than $350 billion over the next five years, not including Apple’s ongoing tax payments, the tax revenues generated from employees’ wages and the sale of Apple products.

Trump has repeated this claim 20 times

“And a lot of people don’t talk about it, and yet I think it’s going to be, maybe, most impactful of anything — including bringing, perhaps, $4 trillion back.”

Source: Remarks at tax reform meeting with workers

in fact: Trump’s “$4 trillion” estimate for the amount of corporate profits parked overseas is unsupported by any experts. The U.S. Joint Committee on Taxation released an estimate of $2.6 trillion in August 2016, and experts said they were not aware of a massive jump in the following 12 months. An October 2017 report from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) also pegged the number at $2.6 trillion, while Goldman Sachs pegged it at $3.1 trillion the same month. “There’s no world in which it’s $4 trillion,” ITEP senior policy analyst Richard Phillips said in November. “I do not know of anyone who increased the estimate so much recently,” Steven Rosenthal, a senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center, said in August. “Like many things, I assume he made this up on the fly,” said another expert on the subject, who requested anonymity, when Trump made an estimate of $5 trillion in August.

Trump has repeated this claim 32 times

  • Feb 1, 2018

“As I said the other night, we are a nation that built the Empire State Building in one year. Actually, to be exact, it was — we built it in less than a year. Would you believe it?”

Source: Speech to Republican member conference

in fact: We’d let Trump with getting away with saying the Empire State Building was built in “one year,” even though that ignores the pre-construction planning process. But ” less than one year,” Trump’s ad-libbed exaggeration, is objectively false: the construction took 13 months.

Trump has repeated this claim 4 times

“Because of our tax cuts, Apple is investing $350 billion in the United States…And this would have never happened without us and the work you’ve done.”

Source: Speech to Republican member conference

in fact: Apple is not investing $350 billion “because of” Trump’s tax cuts. The company’s January press release announced, rather, that its combination of new investments and spending it had already planned prior to the tax cuts would total $350 billion over five years — and it said that this pre-planned spending amounted to $55 billion for 2018. In other words, Apple was already on pace, prior to the tax cuts, to spend approximately $275 billion of the $350 billion it described in the announcement. Here’s the direct quote from the press release: “Combining new investments and Apple’s current pace of spending with domestic suppliers and manufacturers — an estimated $55 billion for 2018 — Apple’s direct contribution to the US economy will be more than $350 billion over the next five years, not including Apple’s ongoing tax payments, the tax revenues generated from employees’ wages and the sale of Apple products.”

Trump has repeated this claim 20 times

“Already, since the election, we’ve created 2.4 million jobs. That’s unthinkable.”

Source: Speech to Republican member conference

in fact: We’ll let Trump get away with saying “we’ve” created those jobs even though he is taking credit for jobs added during the final three months of Obama’s tenure. It is false, however, to claim that the addition of 2.4 million jobs between Nov. 2016 and Dec. 2017 is “unthinkable”: that is actually below the number of jobs created in the years prior. Over the 14-month period immediately previous to the 14-month period Trump was talking about, 2.9 million jobs were created — all under Obama, of course. Between Nov. 2014 and Dec. 2015, a 14-month period covering the same months as the ones Trump was talking about, 3.3 million jobs were created.

Trump has repeated this claim 16 times

“Unemployment claims are at a 45-year low, which is something.”

Source: Speech to Republican member conference

in fact: We let Trump get away with saying, in his State of the Union address, that “unemployment claims have hit a 45-year low.” Unemployment claims did “hit” a 45-year low, 216,000, two weeks prior to the speech. But then they rose — to 231,000 in the week for which data was released on Jan. 25 and 230,000 in the week for which data was released on Feb. 1, the day Trump gave this speech to a Republican conference. Neither of those figures was any kind of record. So it was false for Trump to say, in present tense, that unemployment claims “are at” a 45-year low.

Trump has repeated this claim 2 times

“After years of wage stagnation, we are finally seeing rising wages.”

Source: Speech to Republican member conference

in fact: Wages have been rising since 2014. As PolitiFact reported: “For much of the time between 2012 and 2014, median weekly earnings were lower than they were in 1979 — a frustrating disappearance of any wage growth for 35 years. But that began changing in 2014. After hitting a low of $330 a week in early 2014, wages have risen to $354 a week by early 2017. That’s an increase of 7.3 percent over a roughly three-year period.” The recent acceleration of wage growth under Trump has received extensive media coverage.

Trump has repeated this claim 25 times

“We can reduce the price of prescription drugs and ensure that terminally ill patients have a right to try. So important — right to try. You know, those drugs, they sit in there for 12, 13, 14 years. And a person is terminally ill, they have two months left, and under the old system they don’t want to give them even an experimental medicine because they’re afraid they’re going to be hurt. Well, they’re not going to be around for two months. So they’ll sign a waiver, and we’re going to give them the hope of finding something.”

Source: Speech to Republican member conference

in fact: The Trump-appointed head of the Food and Drug Administration, Scott Gottlieb, testified to Congress in October 2017 that the FDA has granted 99 per cent of the requests it has received to get access to unapproved drugs. This figure was confirmed by the Government Accountability Office earlier in the year: “Of the nearly 5,800 expanded access requests that were submitted to FDA from fiscal year 2012 through 2015, FDA allowed 99 per cent to proceed,” the GAO wrote in a July 2017 report. “FDA typically responded to emergency single-patient requests within hours and other types of requests within the allotted 30 days.” Critics have argued that the process can still be cumbersome and should be made smoother, and there is opposition from various quarters to the “right to try” legislation Trump was touting — but Trump was exaggerating when he said “they don’t want to give them” the medication.

Trump has repeated this claim 5 times

“Thank you for all of the nice compliments and reviews on the State of the Union speech. 45.6 million people watched, the highest number in history.”

Source: Twitter

in fact: That is not the highest number in history. As PolitiFact reported: “Trump came in sixth in total State of the Union viewers since Nielsen began collecting the data in 1993. George W. Bush garnered 62 million viewers in 2003; Bill Clinton 53 million in 1998; W. Bush 51.8 million in 2002; Obama 48 million in 2010; and Clinton 45.8 million in 1994. The ranking is even lower when we also count first addresses to the Joint Sessions of Congress…Including those addresses, Trump’s State of the Union ranks ninth, outdone by his own first address to the Joint Sessions of Congress, which had 47.7 million viewers. Clinton ranks first with 66.9 viewers in 1993, and Obama’s 2009 address had 53.2 million viewers.”

 

The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations

October 15, 2018

by Dr. Peter Janney

On October 8th, 2000, Robert Trumbull Crowley, once a leader of the CIA’s Clandestine Operations Division, died in a Washington hospital of heart failure and the end effects of Alzheimer’s Disease. Before the late Assistant Director Crowley was cold, Joseph Trento, a writer of light-weight books on the CIA, descended on Crowley’s widow at her town house on Cathedral Hill Drive in Washington and hauled away over fifty boxes of Crowley’s CIA files.

Once Trento had his new find secure in his house in Front Royal, Virginia, he called a well-known Washington fix lawyer with the news of his success in securing what the CIA had always considered to be a potential major embarrassment.

Three months before, on July 20th of that year, retired Marine Corps colonel William R. Corson, and an associate of Crowley, died of emphysema and lung cancer at a hospital in Bethesda, Md.

After Corson’s death, Trento and the well-known Washington fix-lawyer went to Corson’s bank, got into his safe deposit box and removed a manuscript entitled ‘Zipper.’ This manuscript, which dealt with Crowley’s involvement in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, vanished into a CIA burn-bag and the matter was considered to be closed forever.

The small group of CIA officials gathered at Trento’s house to search through the Crowley papers, looking for documents that must not become public. A few were found but, to their consternation, a significant number of files Crowley was known to have had in his possession had simply vanished.

When published material concerning the CIA’s actions against Kennedy became public in 2002, it was discovered to the CIA’s horror, that the missing documents had been sent by an increasingly erratic Crowley to another person and these missing papers included devastating material on the CIA’s activities in South East Asia to include drug running, money laundering and the maintenance of the notorious ‘Regional Interrogation Centers’ in Viet Nam and, worse still, the Zipper files proving the CIA’s active organization of the assassination of President John Kennedy..

A massive, preemptive disinformation campaign was readied, using government-friendly bloggers, CIA-paid “historians” and others, in the event that anything from this file ever surfaced. The best-laid plans often go astray and in this case, one of the compliant historians, a former government librarian who fancied himself a serious writer, began to tell his friends about the CIA plan to kill Kennedy and eventually, word of this began to leak out into the outside world.

The originals had vanished and an extensive search was conducted by the FBI and CIA operatives but without success. Crowley’s survivors, his aged wife and son, were interviewed extensively by the FBI and instructed to minimize any discussion of highly damaging CIA files that Crowley had, illegally, removed from Langley when he retired. Crowley had been a close friend of James Jesus Angleton, the CIA’s notorious head of Counterintelligence. When Angleton was sacked by DCI William Colby in December of 1974, Crowley and Angleton conspired to secretly remove Angleton’s most sensitive secret files out of the agency. Crowley did the same thing right before his own retirement, secretly removing thousands of pages of classified information that covered his entire agency career.

Known as “The Crow” within the agency, Robert T. Crowley joined the CIA at its inception and spent his entire career in the Directorate of Plans, also know as the “Department of Dirty Tricks,”: Crowley was one of the tallest man ever to work at the CIA. Born in 1924 and raised in Chicago, Crowley grew to six and a half feet when he entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in N.Y. as a cadet in 1943 in the class of 1946. He never graduated, having enlisted in the Army, serving in the Pacific during World War II. He retired from the Army Reserve in 1986 as a lieutenant colonel. According to a book he authored with his friend and colleague, William Corson, Crowley’s career included service in Military Intelligence and Naval Intelligence, before joining the CIA at its inception in 1947. His entire career at the agency was spent within the Directorate of Plans in covert operations. Before his retirement, Bob Crowley became assistant deputy director for operations, the second-in-command in the Clandestine Directorate of Operations.

Bob Crowley first contacted Gregory Douglas  in 1993  when he found out from John Costello that Douglas was about to publish his first book on Heinrich Mueller, the former head of the Gestapo who had become a secret, long-time asset to the CIA. Crowley contacted Douglas and they began a series of long and often very informative telephone conversations that lasted for four years. In 1996, Crowley told Douglas that he believed him to be the person that should ultimately tell Crowley’s story but only after Crowley’s death. Douglas, for his part, became so entranced with some of the material that Crowley began to share with him that he secretly began to record their conversations, later transcribing them word for word, planning to incorporate some, or all, of the material in later publications.

Conversation No. 119

Date: Saturday, December 20, 1997

Commenced: 10:29 AM CST

Concluded: 10:50 AM CST

GD: Good morning, Robert.

RTC: And to you.  Getting ready for Christmas?

GD: Just another day, Robert. Christmas used to be something I looked forward to and enjoyed but like childhood, those days have long passed. Another day. My one son is not interested in giving but he loves to get. The true Christmas season. By the way, did you know what the Jewish Santa said to the children at the local mall?

RTC: A Jewish Santa?

GD: Anything for money, Robert, anything. He said, ‘Ho, ho, ho children. Want to buy some toys?’

RTC: (Laughter) Not tolerant. A pedophilic Santa would say, ‘Come and sit on Santa’s lap.’

GD: (Laughter) Kill them all, Robert and let God punish the bad ones by making them listen to Wayne Newton records for all eternity. I wonder when we will have a new war? These seem to come in cycles, don’t they? If the politicians had to put on oversized uniforms and get shot at, we would have eternal peace, wouldn’t we?

RTC: No doubt about that. The Vietnam war was a disaster.

GD: Oh yes, a real disaster. The public was getting worked up and we started on the first steps of revolution here. You know that.

RTC: Probably so. Johnson was lousy.

GD: So was MacNamera and all the rest of them.

RTC: We were only there to appease the French.

GD: Yes, and your people killed Diem and made things worse. But I did my bit.

RTC: You were in then?

GD: You might say so, Robert. I did my bit. No I was not in military service but I did terrible damage to it.

RTC: How so?

GD: I ran a group that smuggled young Americans into Canada and security from the draft.

RTC: How many?

GD: Me personally? A little over three thousand.

RTC: My God, how ever did you do it?

GD: I organized some of the more competent ones into small cells and used the services of a commercial truck company to smuggle them into Canada, mostly Vancouver. And to make a bit of money for the cause, we smuggled immigrant Chinese workers back into the States from Canada to labor in the sweatshops of Chinatown in Frisco. Fifteen hundred a head coming back balanced nothing charged for going up.

RTC: Surely the Bureau must have gotten wind of all this movement.

GD: Of course they did. You see, I worked for a fancy hotel in Santa Monica and always dressed very well. One day, an FBI team hidden in the usual television repair truck, saw me chatting with a know trouble-maker down on the beach and the next day, two of them came into the hotel to visit me. Polite enough. Showed me a picture of this fellow with a ratty beard and I at once said I had met him in Venice. That’s how it got started. I looked respectable and even acted respectable so they asked me to spy for them. They were more than considerate and the money was good. They were looking for someone known as ‘The Doctor’ who was smuggling live bait out of the country. I could have made their day by telling them that I was the Doctor but why upset people unnecessarily? In essence, they were paying me to find myself. Because I am not schizophrenic, I never met myself but I was well-paid for my efforts. Actually this was a wonderful cover for my activities because now I could mingle with civil resistance people without fear of detection. They were so happy with my reports, Robert. Clandestine meetings in distant parking lots and envelopes stuffed full of money vanishing into my pocket. And I got rid of rivals and if I spotted a stool pigeon, I got them onto the official shit list. Actually, it was an interesting and rewarding time in my life.

RTC: It was in Vancouver where you did the funny money caper, wasn’t it?

GD: Of course it was. They evicted me when I went there after the Vietham war was over and they threw me out of the country and stole my money. I only went to get it back.

RTC: Kimmel was telling me about this in horror. You cost them millions, didn’t you?

GD: Yes, but I got my money back, every cent of it.

RTC: How much?

GD: Four dollars and ten cents, Robert. Yes, I have two Canadian two dollar bills and a dime in a shadow box over my desk even as I am speaking to you. I told Tom about this and he had a fit.

RTC: I would imagine. He did not think that was amusing.

GD: No, but I did and after all, that’s what really matters, isn’t it?

RTC: In the end, I suppose so. I read a report on your activities once. Corson gave it to me. Actually we both thought it was highly entertaining. Are you really a doctor of something?

GD: No, I lie sometimes. But they lie all the time.

RTC: I won’t ask you who you are talking about.

GD: I could go on for hours.

RTC: Jesus, over three thousand? I heard about this doctor person once as I recall but I have forgotten most of it. Well, now I can say I know a famous outlaw.

GD: I’ll accept that, Robert, in the Christmas spirit of kind giving. Oh and taking as well. You can’t do one without the other. After all, our loss was Canada’s gain. When Carter pardoned all of the escapees, most of them stayed in Canada. Doesn’t speak well of the atmosphere here, does it?

RTC: I suppose not. Having a tree this year?

GD: No, I am not. And I am not buying any toys from the Jewish Santa either. I don’t fancy reindeer shit on my roof.

(Concluded at 10:50 AM CST)

The Saudi Collapse: It couldn’t have come at a better time

October 15, 2018

by Justin Raimondo

AntiWar

The Saudis are doubling down on their denial that they had anything to do with the disappearance of Washington Post journalist and sometime Saudi insider Jamal Khashoggi: “enemies of the Kingdom,” they say are responsible. Nowadays that includes an awful lot of people, as the Washington cognoscenti rush to distance themselves from a regime once hailed as an exemplar of “reform.” It’s a stampede for the door, and soon there will be no on left standing: one rarely sees a collapse like this, at least when it comes to entire countries. One minute they’re on top of the world with Donald Trump, playing with swords and getting away with murder: the next minute they’re international pariahs.

Threatening “major consequences” if it turns out the Turks are right and the Saudis interrogated, tortured, and murdered Khashoggi, Trump may do far more than merely cut off Riyadh’s arms supply. He may decide to stop backing the Saudis entirely, abandoning their role as the anchor of US policy in the region, and subsequently downplaying and eventually abandoning the anti-Iranian obsession that has so far overshadowed our regional policy.

The anti-Trump left that bothers to pay attention to foreign policy has been bloviating for months that the President is on a “march to war” against Tehran. With the Saudis in the doghouse, the principal lobbyists on behalf of the drive to war – outside of the Israel lobby – that’s one march that’s increasingly unlikely to happen.

Also increasingly unlikely: continued US support for the Saudis’ murderous war on the Houthis of Yemen. As revulsion against what probably happened to Khashoggi spreads – they cut up his body and transported it back to the Kingdom! – the entirely correct idea that the Saudi rulers are barbarians who cannot be dealt with by civilized people will rapidly spread. This will leave only their Israeli allies – hardly in a better public relations space themselves – to defend what remains of Riyadh’s prestige.

The collapse of Saudi influence in Washington will block the war plans of the neocons in Washington who think they have a chance to turn Trump into George W. Bush. Absent the Saudis’ relentless pressure, the America Firsters in the administration who remember why Trump was elected will have the political weight to prevent another Mideast war.

Perhaps even the hardliner Iranians, who have vowed never to negotiate with Trump, will seize the moment and realize that now is the time to get Washington off their backs, although for domestic political reasons public negotiations do seem out of the question for the moderates.

One very worrisome aspect of the Saudi spectacle is the degree to which it may represent the last days of a system that is de facto terminal. Mohammed bin Salman, the 38-year-old ruthless despot who’s killed dozens of rivals and even kidnapped the Prime Minister of neighboring Lebanon, was initially seen as a harbinger of reform: it now seems that, more accurately, this Caligula-like figure represents the Saudi Kingdom at the end of its tether. In which case the question arises: what comes after the Saudi royal family? I don’t think I want to find out.

 

Five things to watch for in deteriorating US-Saudi relations

October 13, 2018

by Rebecca Kheel

The Hill

U.S.-Saudi relations are weakening following the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post journalist and critic of the Saudi government.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill were already losing patience with Saudi Arabia over its military conduct in the Yemen civil war, which has resulted in thousands of civilian deaths, widespread famine and other devastation.

The alleged killing of Khashoggi at the hands of Saudi operatives in Istanbul appears to be the last straw for many lawmakers, who have threatened a variety of punitive measures, including ending U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia, cutting off support for the Yemen campaign and imposing sanctions.

But President Trump and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who’s considered the country’s day-to-day leader, have fostered a close relationship since Trump took office. Though the president warned this week that there would be “severe punishment” if Saudi Arabia is shown to be behind Khashoggi’s disappearance.

Here are five things to watch as U.S.-Saudi relations are tested.

What action will Trump take?

Many on Capitol Hill have been frustrated with Trump’s response to the incident.

The president characterized Khashoggi’s disappearance as “no good” and pledged to get to the bottom of it. But he also said this week that the U.S.-Saudi relationship remains “excellent” and talked down the idea of sanctions or halting arms sales, saying those steps would hurt U.S. business.

The Saudis courted Trump immediately after his election, a decision that appeared to pay off when Trump’s first trip abroad as president was to Saudi Arabia, where he participated in lavish ceremonies and announced plans for the U.S. to sell the Saudis $110 billion in arms.

Jared Kushner, a senior White House adviser and the president’s son-in-law, has also gotten close with Salman, banking on him to be an integral part of his Mideast peace plan.

National security adviser John Bolton said the Saudis are being damaged by leaks of the investigation taking place in Turkey.

“We need to find out what the facts are, and we need to get this resolved quickly, because if it is another operation, people need to understand that,” Bolton said in an interview with radio host Hugh Hewitt that aired Friday. “I think the Saudis themselves are being damaged, because we don’t have the facts out.”

Will the U.S. impose sanctions?

Sanctions appear to be Capitol Hill’s preferred mechanism for reprimanding Saudi Arabia.

Twenty members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee sent a letter to Trump this week requesting an investigation under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act. Sen. Rand Paul(R-Ky.), who’s pushing for an end to U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia, was the only member who didn’t sign the letter.

Under the Magnitsky Act, the president has to conduct an investigation if the Foreign Relation Committee requests it. The White House then has 120 days to report back to the committee on whether it will levy sanctions against the country in question.

Sanctioning an ally — one that has had considerable clout and lobbying power on Capitol Hill — would be an extraordinary move, and some Democrats are skeptical that the administration will take the investigation seriously and then levy sanctions. Under the Magnitsky law, the administration is allowed to waive sanctions for national security purposes.

The State Department on Thursday said lawmakers are “getting ahead of themselves.”

“I understand that Congress may be interested in that, in a global Magnitsky investigation, but we don’t know the facts of this case just yet,” spokeswoman Heather Nauert said during a press briefing. “So I think they’re getting ahead of themselves at this point. We will watch the situation very carefully, very closely, wait for the facts to come out, and then we’ll get there.”

Still, lawmakers are hopeful the Magnitsky letter will force Trump to take a tougher line, since he would be hard-pressed to explain his position if he doesn’t act on the statutory request.

Will this affect the military-to-military relationship?

Arms sales and U.S. support for the Saudi campaign in Yemen have been integral to the broader Washington-Riyadh relationship. But both were under increasing pressure before the Khashoggi incident.

Lawmakers are frustrated that the Saudi-led coalition continues to bomb civilians in Yemen. Additionally, since U.S.-made bombs have been found at the scene of some of those attacks, lawmakers say the U.S. should stop selling them to Saudi Arabia.

While the Senate rejected an effort in March to end all U.S. military support for the war in Yemen, 44 senators senators voted to cut off support, exceeding expectations at the time.

Similarly, the Senate rejected a resolution to block part of the $110 billion arms deal, but it also had a narrower-than-expected vote margin.

With lawmakers furious at Khashoggi’s disappearance, those who have been pushing for years to cut off support for the Yemen war and to end arms sales say the tide has turned in their direction.

“I don’t think that a military sale could pass the Senate today,” Sen. Chris Murphy(D-Conn.) said this week. “I don’t think it could pass the House.”

If the administration notifies Congress of a new arms sale to Saudi Arabia, lawmakers would have 30 days to block it if they decide to take that aggressive step.

Will Saudi Arabia say it was involved with Khashoggi’s disappearance?

U.S. intelligence intercepts indicate Khashoggi’s disappearance involved the highest levels of the Saudi government, including Salman.

The Washington Post reported this week that those intercepted discussions included Saudi officials talking about a plan ordered by Salman to lure Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia and detain him there.

The Post also reported that Turkish officials say they have audio and video recordings to support their assertion that Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Many observers say it’s unlikely Saudi Arabia would ever admit to any foul play, even if there’s evidence showing it was involved, and that the Saudis instead might attempt to pin the blame on rogue actors.

In an apparent effort to pre-empt that, Turkish officials leaked to a Turkish newspaper the names and photos of the 15 Saudi men they say were involved in Khashoggi’s apparent murder, including a member of Saudi Arabia’s internal security agency and a lieutenant in the Royal Saudi Air Force.

Turkey and Saudi Arabia, at the kingdom’s request, have now formed a “joint action team” to investigate Khashoggi’s disappearance.

Will business ties be affected?

A business conference scheduled for later this month in Riyadh is already getting hit by the furor over Khashoggi’s disappearance.

Bloomberg, CNN, CNBC, the Financial Times and The New York Times have all pulled out as sponsors of the Future Investment Initiative conference.

Media personalities who were scheduled to participate have also withdrawn, including New York Times columnist and CNBC host Andrew Ross Sorkin, Economist Editor-in-Chief Zanny Minton Beddoes and Los Angeles Times owner Patrick Soon-Shiong.

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who was scheduled to speak about the future of transportation, also withdrew.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is still scheduled to attend the event, prompting at least one Republican lawmaker to call him out.

“Secretary Mnuchin should cancel his travel to Saudi Arabia later this month until the world receives answers about what happened to journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul,” Rep. Jim Banks (Ind.) tweeted Friday.

Further down the line, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) is scheduled to hold its “Crown Jewel” event in Riyadh next month, part of a 10-year deal to host events in the kingdom.

WWE told media outlets late Thursday that it is “currently monitoring the situation.”

That deal was under criticism before Khashoggi went missing because, among other things, female wrestlers are not allowed to participate because of Saudi Arabia’s strict religious laws. Brief video clips in which female wrestlers were shown during May’s “Greatest Royal Rumble” prompted an apology from Saudi Arabia’s General Sports Authority for “scenes of indecent women.”

Some senators said this week it is the prerogative of a private business like WWE to do what it wants. But the situation is somewhat murkier since the CEO, Vince McMahon, is married to Small Business Administrator Linda McMahon,who holds a Cabinet-level position in the Trump administration.

“A private enterprise is a private enterprise, different than a governmental entity,” Sen. Bob Menendez

(N.J.), the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee said Thursday. “But because she is part of the president’s Cabinet, it falls into a gray area where the administration should really give it some thought to maybe prevail on them not to do it.”

US retailer Sears files for bankruptcy due to mounting debt

Its headquarters was once the tallest building in the world, but Sears’ heyday is now far in the rearview mirror as it files for bankruptcy. The rise of e-commerce has hastened its demise and its future is uncertain.

October 15, 2018

DW

The US department store chain Sears has filed for bankruptcy and will close 142 stores, it announced on Monday.

Crippling debts have dogged the famous institution of American retail for several years now. Sears has suffered losses of more than $10 billion (€8.64 billion) over the last decade alone, as it struggled to come to terms with low-cost competitors and particularly e-commerce giants such as Amazon.

A new revival plan put in place by billionaire chairman and CEO Eddie Lampert has not convinced investors and the store’s many creditors, and as a result, the retailer made a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing in New York on the same day a loan for $134 million was due and apparently unable to be repaid.

Chapter 11 bankruptcy is the route often taken by businesses that intend on reorganizing and ultimately surviving, as it gives companies the opportunity to find new ways of becoming profitable and to reduce debt.

“The Chapter 11 process will give [Sears] Holdings the flexibility to strengthen its balance sheet, enabling the company to accelerate its strategic transformation, continue right sizing its operating model, and return to profitability,” Lampert said in a statement.

Lenders such as Bank of America, Citigroup and Wells Fargo will provide at least $300 million of what is known as ‘debtor-in-possession’ funding to help keep as many Sears stores as possible open during the bankruptcy process. Lampert, who himself is Sears’ biggest creditor, may also provide additional funds through his ESL hedge fund although that will require legal approval.

The threat of liquidation

While a successful reorganization under Chapter 11 may yet save Sears, several lenders and investors still believe the most likely fate of the 126-year-old company is outright liquidation.

“We think creditors are likely to recover more from a liquidation than if the company continues as a going concern,” said Monica Aggarwal, analyst at Fitch Ratings, last week. “The underlying value of the assets is more valuable, given the ongoing losses in the business.”

Sears confirmed it would close 142 unprofitable stores near the end of this year, having already announced the closure of an additional 46 stores back in August. The company currently has 506 stores in operation.

Workers at the company now face an uncertain future although given the travails of recent years, that is nothing new — having employed more than 300,000 people a decade ago, the company’s workforce is now down to 68,000.

A retail icon

Sears’ roots can be traced back to the 1880s, with the company first incorporated in 1892. It grew to become the biggest retailer in the world and was once an iconic symbol of American consumerism, particularly in its post WWII heyday.

The growth of low-cost rivals such as Costco and Walmart ended Sears’ dominance in the 1970s and 1980s but it is the growth of Amazon and e-commerce in general that has ultimately sealed Sears’ fate. In the last few years, the decline of its share price has increased markedly.

It is far from the only former American retail giant to fall on hard times in the face of the e-commerce revolution. The famous Toys “R” Us retailer filed for bankruptcy last year while stores such as Macy’s have also been forced to lay off workers.

Lampert, who had led the Illinois-based company since 2004, will step down as CEO as part of the reorganization but will stay on as chairman of the board.

 

Justice Derailed

Brett Kavanaugh and the Echoes of Gitmo

October 15, 2018

by Karen J. Greenberg

TomDispatch

Amid the emotional hubbub over the predictable confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh, there has been a largely overlooked casualty: the American judiciary. It’s not the end result alone — his addition to the highest bench in the land where he will sit for life — that promises to damage the country, but the unprofessional, procedurally irresponsible way his circus-like hearings were held that dealt a blow to the possibilities for justice in America, a blow from which it may prove hard to recover.

Senator Susan Collins acknowledged the damage the hearings wrought, even if she misunderstood the cause. Delivering her massively disappointing decision to vote yes on Kavanaugh, Collins reflected on what she saw as the passion that overrode the presumption of innocence and expressed “worry” that such behavior would lead to “a lack of public faith in the judiciary.” Though wrong in blaming the Democrats for those passions, her conclusion was otherwise spot on. This confirmation has underscored and enhanced the fragility of justice in America, at least as a reflection of law, decency, honesty, transparency, and fairness.

Surprising as this derailment of justice might have seemed, it echoed (and may, in fact, have reflected) another long-unspooling twenty-first-century American degradation of justice. The proceedings created to try those terrorism suspects locked away in the offshore detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, pivoted away from many of the country’s legal and moral principles (a subject to which I’ll return).

But as a prelude to understanding the harm that the Kavanaugh confirmation process caused, think for a moment about the fundamental premises underlying the Supreme Court and so the American judiciary. The Founding Fathers envisioned it as a body chaired by judges whose professional responsibility was, as Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist No. 78, to be “faithful guardians of the Constitution.” Toward that end, the Court was to stand independent from politics and the other two branches of government. That idea of judicial independence was, in the oft-quoted words of Chief Justice William Rehnquist, “one of the crown jewels of our system of government.”

It’s apparent that both Kavanaugh and the committee before which he testified betrayed the goals of justice laid out in that foundational period by violating several major elements of judicial reasoning and procedure. In the process, they helped introduce Gitmo-style justice to the American legal system. Below are four ways in which the committee compromised longstanding aspects of American jurisprudence and justice.

A Quasi-Courtroom

Through it all, both supporters and opponents of Kavanaugh claimed that his congressional hearings did not constitute the equivalent of a courthouse. Not true. Throughout those proceedings, the Senate was, in fact, turned into a quasi-courthouse in which legislators could pick and choose just which kinds of procedures they cared to use, while conveniently banishing or ignoring others.

Think of those hearings as a conveniently watered-down version of a trial in which court procedures were invoked if they aided Kavanaugh, even as — for anything that might have harmed him — exceptions were made and regular procedures ignored. For example, Rachel Mitchell, the Arizona prosecutor appointed to question the judge and his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, by the all-male Republicans on the commission eager to duck questioning a woman, would be a prosecutor in name only. Her time was curtailed to five minutes for each senator whose place she took and when it was Kavanaugh’s turn, she was simply shoved aside by the same male senators eager to rant in his favor. Nor, of course, was there anything faintly resembling an impartial judge to oversee Mitchell’s behavior (or anyone else’s for that matter) or protect the witnesses, as there is in every courtroom in the United States. Such a mock courtroom both raised and violated not only the very idea of a fair trial but a fair process of any sort.

The Evidence, Missing in Action

One hoped-for result of a trial is the bringing of facts into the open so that justice can prevail. At no point in the Kavanaugh hearings was there even the semblance of an agreed upon set of facts, no less a coherent way to present them. Quite the opposite, they started and ended with a headlong dash away from the facts. Their undermining began in classic fashion when committee Republicans (in conjunction with the White House) agreed to withhold millions of documents relating to the judge and his work as a government lawyer in the White House during George W. Bush’s presidency. In July 2001, he had been hired as an associate by White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales and, in 2003, he became assistant to the president and White House staff secretary where he may, among other things, have had a hand in the development of the Bush administration’s war on terror policies.

And that was just how those hearings began. In addition, of course, when it came to Kavanaugh’s seemingly grim record with women, the accusations of Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick, publicly alleging inappropriate sexual behavior on his part, were ignored by the committee. Not a witness was called on the subject. Similarly, the bevy of statements that might have corroborated his exploits as a binge drinker in high school and college (as well as whether he ever blacked out from drunkenness) were tossed into the garbage pile of unexamined information.

A long overdue FBI investigation of charges against him, finally carried out at the request of Senator Jeff Flake (but under the watchful eye of the White House), proved a distinctly truncated affair that failed to seriously address the idea of establishing facts as a basis for decision-making. The FBI took the single week allotted to it, reportedly interviewed only nine witnesses, and issued a 46-page report. Compare this to a New Yorker magazine investigation of just the claims of Deborah Ramirez for which its journalists interviewed “between 50 and 100” people. As its co-author, award-winning investigative journalist Jane Mayer, commented, “The one thing I know from investigative reporting… the one thing that makes a difference is time. It takes a while to find the right people to talk to and to talk to them enough that you feel that you’ve gotten the truth from them and to find any kind of documentary evidence that you can. It just takes time.” But time is precisely what the Judiciary and the White House did not allow.

And don’t forget the importance of a perception of thoroughness and fairness. As former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara put it, “[A]t the end of the day, if there is no further corroboration found with respect to these allegations, then Brett Kavanaugh gets confirmed to the bench. It will be better for him, it will be better for people’s respect for the court, it will be better for people’s respect of the process if they had done more rather than less…”

But a thorough investigation was obviously not what the powers-that-be wanted. As White House Counsel Don McGahn reportedly told the President, “a wide-ranging inquiry” into allegations about the judge’s sexual misconduct would be “potentially disastrous.”

Lack of Transparency

Consider the matter of transparency (or the lack of it) as a grim partner to the withholding, burying, or ignoring of evidence. Given a president who has himself dismissed transparency out of hand — whether in terms of tax returns, election interference, or other subjects — it should have been no surprise that the FBI’s thoroughly inadequate report was not even made public. It was the equivalent of secret testimony. Nor are there evidently any plans to reveal its contents. That final act of secrecy only underscored the White House’s defiance when it came to withholding the vast trove of documentation on Kavanaugh’s time in the Bush White House. Senator Lindsey Graham caught the mood of the moment perfectly when he stated that he had no plans to read the FBI’s report. It was obvious to him that the contents would be a foregone conclusion and that he could rely on others to tell him about it. Apparently, he already knew what he thought.

Lack of Accountability

How many times did we have to hear that the nominee should not be held accountable for what he did as a young man? But what about Kavanaugh’s endless — to put it politely — misstatements of fact? As numerous media sites and tweets pointed out, he seemed to lie repeatedly during the hearings. “Senators on the Judiciary Committee had to know they were being lied to,” wrote Eric Alterman of the Nation, “since the lies were continuously highlighted on Twitter.” New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait called the hearings a “farrago of evasions and outright lies.” And Kavanaugh refused to give his stamp of approval to the FBI investigation, even as he was reportedly pursuing classmates behind the scenes to silence them about the allegations against him.

Had the committee cared to do anything about them, examples of his dissembling were abundantly obvious. He insisted, for instance, that he had not been an excessive drinker. Who cared that the New York Times published excerpts from a 1983 letter of his suggesting that the guests at a beach house where he and his friends were planning to party should “warn the neighbors that we’re loud, obnoxious drunks with prolific pukers among us.” So, too, Kavanaugh’s college roommate, James Roche, attested to Kavanaugh’s heavy drinking in those years. Yet another report mentioned Kavanaugh’s involvement in passing around a girl for sex. He also insisted that he and Christine Blasey Ford, who accused him of sexually assaulting her, had not hung out in the same circles in high school, even though one of the friends he referred to on his list of “[brew]skis,” dated her. And, of course, his on-the-spot definitions of the phrases “Devil’s Triangle” and “boofed” in his high school yearbook as not relating to sex, seemingly obvious falsehoods, were never explored by the committee.

And so it went in those hearings, when it came to even a semblance of classic legal proceedings involving evidence, transparency, or accountability. Take, for instance, Kavanaugh’s answers about his time in the Bush White House. He told the Judiciary Committee that he had not been part of any discussions about the detention policies of that administration, a category that included both Guantánamo and the administration’s notorious “enhanced interrogation techniques.” It’s hard, however, to imagine him closing his eyes as memos that we know existed on detention, surveillance, and torture came across his desk on their way to his boss, White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales. In fact, as New Yorker correspondent Amy Davidson Sorkin has written, individuals then at the White House claim that Kavanaugh was in at least one heated debate over the way in which the Supreme Court would assess the administration’s unprecedented detention policies.

As it happened, however, whenever they could, the committee’s Republican majority chose never to hold him accountable for more or less anything and if, by chance, facts did come to light, despite multiple attempts to hide or suppress them, they were simply dismissed, often flippantly.

The Gitmo Template

For some of us, at least, this kind of denial of justice in America is nothing new. If you were following the war on terror all these years, such a wholesale willingness to compromise the very essence of justice has long seemed like a dangerous trend in clear view. Under the circumstances, it should have been no surprise that Brett Kavanaugh came out of the Bush White House and that the former president supported him vocally throughout the entire confirmation process.

In fact, Guantánamo could be said to have created the template for that quasi-courtroom in Washington and the various deviations from normal investigation, law, and procedure that it followed. For observers of that island prison, the Kavanaugh hearings ring an all-too-familiar bell. For nearly a decade and a half now, such quasi-courtrooms have been the essence of “justice” at that prison camp, as one sham hearing after another has been held. Periodic “reviews” of the very legitimacy of holding detainees in an offshore prison beyond the reach of American justice that had no analog in the American legal system — Combatant Status Review Tribunals under George Bush and Periodic Review Boards under Barack Obama — were introduced simply to justify the continued incarceration of prisoners there. The only goal of such hearings, it appeared, was to avoid the requirements of established protections on the U.S. mainland like due process.

Meanwhile, in Gitmo’s military commissions, as in the Kavanaugh hearings, a central, impartial, independent authority was missing. They are overseen by judges without the power and command of those in the federal court system. Instead, as was true with the White House during the Kavanaugh hearings, the command influence of the Pentagon — and at times the CIA — has hovered over Gitmo’s hearings from day one.

The credentials of the latest judge there, Marine Colonel Keith Parrella, named to the position in August, have only underscored a perpetual lack of regard for professional standards. Parrella, who has had no experience in capital cases, will be overseeing future hearings for the still-untried alleged co-conspirators of the September 11th attacks, who, 17 years later, face the death penalty. Nor has time been allotted, as the Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg has pointed out, for the new judge to digest six years’ worth of motions or 20,000 pages of transcripts. No matter. It’s no more of a problem than not absorbing or dealing with the Kavanaugh evidence was to the White House or the Senate Judiciary Committee. Compromised professional standards and procedures, the calling card of Guantánamo’s attempts to adjudicate justice, are now clearly making the move to the mainland.

Inside Gitmo’s quasi-courtrooms, violations of longstanding procedure occur on a regular basis. For example, attorney-client privilege has been upended on numerous occasions over many years. Hidden government surveillance devices have been used to spy on detainee lawyers and their conversations with their clients, as in the case of Abd Al-Rahim al-Nashiri. So, too, the government urge to withhold witness testimony, apparent in the Kavanaugh hearings, echoes Guantánamo where the very idea of a fair trial has long seemed inconceivable to experts. As at the Judiciary Committee in recent weeks, excluded evidence has been a commonplace feature of Gitmo’s military commissions. Lawyers for the detainees are regularly ignored in their attempts to present potentially crucial material, as in the case of Ammar al-Baluchi, especially when it relates to the torture and mistreatment of detainees while in custody.

Since President Trump took office, the military commissions system has only strengthened prohibitions that block the defendants’ lawyers from access to witnesses and documents. This year, lawyers for the five detainees accused of conspiring in the attacks of 9/11 were informed that they had been prohibited from investigating the role that CIA officials and associates played in the brutal interrogation of their clients, testimony that is, they maintain, crucial to their defense strategies, particularly for the death penalty phase of the trial. In fact, at Gitmo, burying the facts has meant, in essence, burying prisoners alive. As defense attorney Joseph Margulies recently wrote about his client, Abu Zubaydah, who was waterboarded 83 times, the government has continually bypassed legal process, preferring to detain Zubaydah forever in silence rather than afford him a trial and the presentation of evidence.

As with all that repressed documentation on Kavanaugh’s White House years, at Gitmo the government has regularly insisted on keeping facts secret.  In this spirit, to keep the record clear of hard information about its torture practices, the CIA ordered the destruction of 92 tapes showing some of its grim interrogation sessions. (Even the 6,000-page Senate report on those interrogations has been classified and so largely kept from the public, while the Trump administration has tried to bury it further by rounding up existing copies from the agencies that had them in their possession.)

Without a proper judge, and minus valuable evidence, without any appetite for transparency or accountability, the Gitmo proceedings and the issues that haunt them have been reduced to a kind of invisibility. They are now sham events (just as the Kavanaugh hearings and investigation proved to be). Most of those paying attention have long since concluded that, as criminal defense attorney Joshua Dratel put it, “The reliability and legitimacy of verdicts is completely undermined by secret proceedings.” So, too, may history judge Brett Kavanaugh’s ascension to the bench in proceedings in which secrecy, as well as withheld or intentionally ignored evidence, prevailed.

The Constitution put a condition on the granting of lifetime positions to justices: “The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour.” While the good behavior of now Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh will forever be in question, more important may be the wound that his confirmation hearings inflicted on an American belief in the possibility of justice in this country.

Guantánamo’s tainting of justice should, from early on, have served as a warning. Instead, it seems to have become a template for “justice” in the nation’s capital. The 2007 Manual for Military Commissions ominously included in its preamble the prediction that “this Manual will have an historic impact for our military and our country.”

And so, as the Kavanaugh confirmation process suggests, it did. It’s hard to imagine a more telling event than the rise to the Supreme Court of a White House lawyer present at the creation of many of those Gitmo policies. Under the circumstances, it should hardly surprise anyone that the road to his confirmation displayed many of the legal aberrations launched during the Bush era.  As the Gitmo story illustrates, Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation was not the first nail in the coffin of justice in America — and sadly, it’s unlikely to be the last.

 

 

 

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