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183 Times is the Charm: The Accusation (by Torture) of a Young Mother Named Aafia Siddiqui

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NOTE: The post, below, is from June 2009. To see our most recent post on Aafia Siddiqui, published 1/19/2010, see:  The New American Justice: Aafia Siddiqui’s Trial by Water

HAS IT BEEN ONLY 317 YEARS?

From June through September of 1692, nineteen men and women, all having been convicted of witchcraft, were carted to Gallows Hill, a barren slope near Salem Village, for hanging. Another man of over eighty years was pressed to death under heavy stones for refusing to submit to a trial on witchcraft charges. Hundreds of others faced accusations of witchcraft. Dozens languished in jail for months without trials. Then, almost as soon as it had begun, the hysteria that swept through Puritan Massachusetts ended. (“An Account of Events in Salem,” from the University of Missouri — Kansas City website)

The hunt was characterized by unrestrained torture and and an obsession with getting tortured witches to name other witches. (from Witch Hunts in Europe and America: An Encyclopedia, by William E. Burns)

"Water Torture" 16th century woodcut by Joos de Damhouder, illustrating how to interrogate witch suspects under torture

"The Water Torture" 16th century woodcut by Joos de Damhouder, illustrating how to interrogate witch suspects under torture

By now, most Americans — having heard the word “waterboarding” at least 183 times over the past month — seem to have grown immune to the visceral horrors attending to that particular techinque that the International Red Cross terms “suffocation by drowning.” We’ve surely grown immune to human suffering. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have reduced the topic of torture to a mere parlor game — an exercise in sophistry — as the left and the right mentally wrestle with questions whose answers have been known for centuries: Is waterboarding torture? Does torture ‘work’?

[Click here to read the rest of this introduction on U.S. policy and torture. Or just skip the intro entirely, and keep reading onward, into the stories of several individuals (with particular focus on Aafia Siddiqui) who have been falsely arrested, illegally imprisoned, “disappeared,” subjected to extraordinarily rendition and/or tortured over the past 8 years — and counting.]

An American Story

Imagine this: You are a 41 year-old man, a U.S. citizen, born in Kansas, an Army veteran, married with three children, practicing family law in the suburbs of Portland, Oregon; you pay your taxes on time, have never had a brush with the law. You are the quintessential “average American citizen.” Imagine, then, your surprise when the FBI descends on your home and fingers you as the mastermind of the 2004 Madrid train bombing that killed 191 people and injured over 2000. Your name is Brandon Mayfield, and it’s official: You have just been arrested as the mastermind in an international terrorist plot.

“But I haven’t left the country in over 10 years!” you protest. “And I’ve never even been to Spain! How could this happen?”

Turns out it was your fingerprint. The FBI’s Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) identified your fingerprint as a possible match to the one found on a plastic bag near the Madrid bombing. The match was then verified in quadruplicate by FBI fingerprint experts, which lent full credibility to the claim in their affidavit: “….the FBI lab stands by their conclusion of a 100 percent positive identification.” It was the fingerprint, see.

‘Lucky’ for you, your incarceration lasted only 2 weeks. The Spanish police identified the real mastermind (some guy from Algeria), prompting the FBI to dismiss the charges against you. In return, you file a a civil-rights lawsuit against the U.S. government. Herein, more facts emerge. Turns out, the Spanish police had already rejected the FBI’s identification of your fingerprint — twenty-three days before your arrest — as “conclusively negative.” Perhaps that would have been the end of that, if not for the smoking gun: you were also a Muslim convert.

Convinced of your guilt, the FBI spent those twenty-three days doggedly pursuing a case against you, with an intensity that the Spanish Police found perplexing. As one commissioner said, “It seemed as though they [the FBI] had something against him, and they wanted to involve us.” Lacking probable cause for search and seizure, the FBI turned to the nifty new provisions in the Patriot Act, which allowed them to entirely sidestep your Fourth Amendment rights, via “sneak and peak” warrants.

Turns out, you and your wife hadn’t been imagining things. Your door lock had been tampered; someone had been in your home. You were being watched. It was the FBI who, in your absence, snuck into your home, your office, and even the family farm in Kansas,“surreptitiously, photographing papers, downloading hard drives, and planting listening devices.”

But you were ‘lucky.’ You had, at your disposal, due process — stuff like habeas corpus, and an attorney to represent you in a U.S. court of law. Your case was fairly clear-cut, too. That is, once the facts were allowed to see the light of day. In the end, the FBI aplogized and you were awarded a $2 million settlement. And in 2007, a federal judge ruled that those nifty Patriot Act provisions used by the FBI to sneak into your home actually violated the U.S. Constitution.

2891436BG002_Ottawa_CitizenNow imagine that you are a 34-year old man — married, a father, a Canadian citizen for 17 years, Syrian-born. And, oh, a muslim. Imagine yourself going on vacation with your family to Tunisia in 2002 and, upon your return flight home to Canada, passing through the JFK airport in New York City. Here, you are detained in solitary confinement and interrogated for 12 days, then shackled and flown to Syria, where you are imprisoned inside a coffin-sized underground cell for 10 months + 10 days, being subjected throughout this time to beatings and torture sessions to extract information which the U.S. government is certain you own.

While you initially refuse to admit to something you didn’t do, the torture finally becomes so unbearable, that you will say anything to make it stop — up to and including making false confessions, admitting guilt to whatever terrorist acts your torturers accuse you. Your name is Maher Arar and — even as you are ultimately determined to be 100% innocent — your case is not as clear cut as Brandon Mayfield’s. You are, after all, a Canadian citizen. And, oh, a muslim of Arab descent.

Still, the facts of your case do eventually see the light of day. The Canadian government launches a Commission of Inquiry into your case and, in 2006 (three years after your release from your extraordinary rendition to Syria), you are cleared of all accusations. The Canadian government issues an official apology, and you are awarded a settlement of $10.5 million Canadian dollars. For their part, however, the U.S. government and the FBI refuse to extend an apology, official or otherwise (even as there were a few notable lawmakers of integrity on Capitol Hill who did issue personal apologies on behalf of the U.S. government).

[see also: Patrick Leahy’s interrogation of Gonzales on the Maher Arar case here, and the 1-1/2 hour video of the U.S. Congressional hearing on Maher Arar’s case here].

Seeking to clear your name, you file a lawsuit against the U.S. government for violating your civil rights. But the Bush Administration refuses to allow your case to come to trial, for reasons of “national security.” To this day, you are still on the U.S. terrorist watch list and are forbidden to enter the country.

The likelihood of your case going to trial in the U.S. is slim, as the Obama Administration has, so far, aligned itself with the Bush Administration, — having recently used the “state secrets” argument to deny trials to 5 other Bush Administration victims who were similarly flown to other countries to be tortured. According to Obama, the Bush Administration was right: allowing these innocent victims a trial could threaten national security.

Ibrahim JassamNow imagine this: You are a 31-year old man, an accredited freelance cameraman and photographer, working for Reuters in Iraq. On September 1, 2008,  U.S. forces, accompanied by dogs, storm your home in the middle of the night — breaking down your door, barking orders and terrifying the grandparents, children and grandchildren inside. You are taken into custody and thrown into jail, without charges. Three months pass. Still, no formal charges, no evidence, no due process.

In a stroke of democracy, the Iraqi central criminal court orders your release, for lack of evidence. The U.S. bars your release, however, saying you are a threat to Iraq security and stability. The protests of your family, of Reuters and international human rights and media rights groups fall on deaf ears. More months pass. To this day, you are still in jail, without charges. Your name is Ibrahim Jassam, and you are but one of  dozens of  journalists imprisoned — without charges — under the Bush Administration.

You are, so far, luckier than some. According to Reporters Without Borders,  hundreds of journalists have been killed in Iraq, with many more forced into exile, imprisoned or simply disappeared. Too, some have been imprisoned for much longer than you. Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, Bilal Hussein, for instance, was imprisoned for two years. Al Jazeera journalist, Sami al-Haj was imprisoned for over 7 years, with 6-1/2 of these years spent at Guantanamo, where America sends “the worst of the worst.”

A young boy hopes for the release of his father, Sami al-Haj -- a journalist and cameraman, better known to U.S. officials as Prisoner 345 at Guantanamo, where he spent 6-1/2 years without charges.

2007 photo: A young boy hoping for the release of his father, Sami al-Haj -- a journalist and cameraman, better known to U.S. officials as Prisoner 345 at Guantanamo, where he spent 6-1/2 years without charges.

[Here it must be said that Sami al-Haj’s story, alone, is evidence enough that our leaders and media should give pause to the Bush Administration’s “intelligence” that has effectively colored the entire population of 240 Guantanamo detainees — including those who have been long-pronounced innocent, but also those whose guilt was cemented under confessions extracted through torture — as a mix of terrorists and men so dangerous that they cannot safely be released anywhere on the planet Earth, much less allowed fair trials that would, in all likelihood, clear the names of some of these prisoners, the only “threat to national security” being that their trials would reveal the extent of the U.S. government’s tyranny.]

(video, above) Associated Press report (39 seconds long) on Bilal Hussein’s release in 2008, with footage of his reunion with his AP colleagues and his family

Both Bilal Hussein and Sami al-Haj were released  in 2008. Neither was ever charged with a crime, even as their incarcerations were justified by a series of shifting accusations, based on top secret evidence that, for national security reasons, could not be divulged: Bilal Hussein (see AP timeline of his case here) was accused, at one point, of being caught in possession of bomb-making materials, while Sami al-Haj was alternately accused of videotaping Osama bin Laden, sending money to suspicious Muslim charities, and arranging for the transport of a Stinger anti-aircraft system from Afghanistan to Chechnya. Despite these ludicrous accusations, in appears that these journalists were guilty of nothing more than practicing journalism.

Your name is Ibrahim Jassam, and you’ve been in jail for 9 months, without charges. Your misfortune is that you are being detained by the U.S. government. Had you been detained by, say, Iran you would have been afforded at least some semblance of due process — formal charges, an attorney, a trial, an appeals process. Had you been detained by, say, North Korea, your injustice would be given a voice in the U.S. media. Had you been arrested by anyone but the American government, you would be a poster child, of sorts, for media suppression under tyrannical regimes.

Your name is Ibrahim Jassam, and your story is almost, but not quite, unknown in America. According to your family, which has been allowed only a handful of visits, you used to be handsome. “But now he’s pale and he’s tired,” says your brother, describing one of these visits: “Every now and then while we were talking, he would start crying. He was begging me: ‘Please do something to get me out of here. I don’t know what is the charge against me.‘ I told him we already tried everything.”

Now imagine this: You are a 31-year old mother of three; you are also an MIT graduate with a PhD in cognitive neuroscience. [In hindsight, there is cruel irony to the topic of your dissertation, in which you explored how people learn — specifically, the interaction between visual memory and perception. In your abstract, you wrote, “Without a visible trail, it is difficult for the subject to form a picture or story.”] . It is late March of 2003. Just a few days earlier, the U.S. went to war in Iraq and — as is now known — the CIA, the FBI and the Bush Administration at large were working around the clock to put together the intelligence necessary to justifying this war.

Up until a year earlier, you’d spent 12 years living in America as a dual citizen of the U.S. and Pakistan. You’d originally moved to the U.S. in 1990 to attend college and be nearer your sister and brother — a Harvard-trained neurologist and a Houston architect, respectively. While living in the U.S., you married a medical student in Boston, who went on to work as an anesthesiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. You gave birth to 2 children. Neighbors and friends described you as a devoted mother, spending the bulk of your time in the everyday routines of raising your children, overseeing play groups with their friends. You were also a devout Muslim and donated both time and money to charitable causes and missionary work to help less fortunate Muslims.

Because contributing to Muslim charities constituted a red flag in post-9-11 American, the FBI was watching you and had been since the fall of 2001. According to U.S. intelligence sources, your husband purchased night goggles and body armor off the internet in 2001, which he claimed were intended for big game hunting. Because of these purchases, you, yourself, were brought in for questioning by U.S. officials.  Although you were released after questioning, this interrogation served as further evidence that the post-9-11 hostility toward Muslims was escalating. This factored into your decision to return to Pakistan — a debate that had already caused considerable strain in your marriage: you you wanted to raise your children in America, while your husband wanted to raise them in Pakistan. In 2002 — with your marriage now on the rocks — you and your husband returned to Pakistan.

By March of 2003, you’d been estranged from your husband for over 7 months, during which time you lived with your mother and gave birth to your third child, who was now 6 months old. Three months earlier, in December 2002, you’d returned to the United States to apply for jobs in the Baltimore area, where your sister was now working at Sinai Hospital. After making several applications — and interviewing with both Johns Hopkins and SUNY — you opened a post office box to receive replies from prospective employers, then returned to your children and your mother in Pakistan.

Now imagine that the FBI believes the only reason you opened that post office box was to receive communications as part of an al Qaeda plot to blow up gas stations and fuel tanks in the Baltimore area. Imagine, too, that during the course of the FBI’s 18-month surveillance of you and your husband, they discovered that, during the summer of 2001, one of your former Muslim acquaintances from Boston had been wired $20,000 from Saudi Arabia (a sum which, according to the explanation given by a Saudi official to the Boston Globe, was sent to pay for medical treatment for the man’s wife).  Lastly, imagine that, the FBI believes that this $20,000 is connected to a purported diamond smuggling trip, made by a mysterious woman in the summer of 2001, to fund al Qaeda operations. According to the FBI, that mystery woman is you.

To this story add water, then quickly spin

It is now March 28, 2003. Just a week earlier, on March 20th, the U.S. invaded Iraq. Several weeks earlier, on March 1st, the alleged architect of 9-11,  Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, was captured. It seems that — during one of his 183 waterboard interrogation sessions — your name came up.

(continued page 2 —–>)

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McCain, Palin, Media & Co. — The Death Knell of Democracy? Not If You Can Help It

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It’s hard to believe that in the greatest democracy in the world, we need legislation to prevent the government from writing and paying for the news. — Sen. John Kerry

It’s pretty pathetic that the Republican Party’s only campaign strategy is to make a mockery of democracy and the entire polical process by parading out caricatures like Sarah Palin and Joe the so-called-Plumber to slander their opponent with racism, xenophobia, McCarthism and a slew of outrageous lies. It’s also pretty pathetic that the Republican Party’s only real hope of winning this election is to systematically steal the votes from Democrats. It’s even more pathetic that our media aid and abet them by turning a blind eye. 

If you’re not outraged by the pathetic state of the U.S. media, you’re either a Republican or you never, ever, ever read, watch or listen to one iota of corporate-generated “news.” I’m not here to justify this statement. Either you get it, or you don’t. I’m here talk about what’s wrong and how we might hope to fix it. 

In this vein, I saw a glimmer of hope when I read on Huffington Post a piece titled, “Is America Still a Beacon for Press Freedom? ” Herein was mentioned the Reporters without Borders’ recently released “Press Freedom Index” for 2008, which is essentially a report card for 173 countries around the world. Iceland rated the highest, at #1, while the U.S. ranked at a disgraceful #36. Intrigued, I researched Reporters without Borders (hoping it’d be a worthy forum to protest the state of our media) but found instead that, despite their seemingly noble agenda, Reporters without Borders is, in fact, on the payroll of the U.S. State Department. According to SourceWatch, its budget is primarily funded by the Orwellian-named “National Endowment for Democracy,” which operates under the auspices of the CIA.

It is no coincidence, then, that Reporters without Borders’ ranking system coincides more closely with Washington’s black list, which explains the low ratings of Cuba & Venezuela that oddly bear no correlation to this organization’s stated criteria for ranking countries. (for more on this, see links at end of post).

One would naturally wonder, then, why Reporters without Borders gave the U.S. the somewhat unfavorable rating of #36? If you look closely, you’ll see that the U.S rating is actually much lower, but this truth has been cleverly disguised. If you look at the actual report, (available here at Wikipedia), you’ll see that the U.S. and Israel, alone, enjoy the priviledge of having two separate ratings: ‘national territory’ and ‘extra-territorial’. Look more closely, and you’ll see that the U.S. is actually ranked #36 (national territory) and #119 (extra-territorial), which not only waters-down the U.S.’s actual ranking on freedom of the press, but effectively exonerates the U.S. for violations committed in territories it occupies.

In Other Words, It’s Just Another Big Lie

Frustrated to scratch the surface of yet one more democratic cause, only to find a corrupt agenda, I researched other media watchdog organizations which claim to work toward the cause of fairness in the media and freedom of the press. Over and over, I found (with two notable exceptions) only a preponderance of navel-gazing. For instance, what is the value of an ‘analysis’ that divides news coverage into negative vs. neutral vs. positive reporting, when the same criteria used to evaluate the McCain-Palin ticket’s lies (categorized as ‘negative’) are used to evaluate the Obama-Biden ticket’s response (also categorized as ‘negative’) to said lies? It’s apples and oranges, folks: one is lies, one is truth. Since when is truth categorized as a negative? Ever since our media lost their bearings: ever since our media became deregulated and consolidated.  (see links below for more on this).

It’s funny, in an un-funny sort of way, that McCain & Palin spend so much time frothing at the mouth over socialism/communism, considering that — over the past 8 years — our media have fallen under the control of the government/corporate conglomerates (two heads, same monster), to the extent that our national media are essentially state-controlled, just a stone’s throw from the sort of media traditionally enjoyed by socialist/communist regimes. 

Democracy or Not: Your Choice 

It’s with some hope that I offer two worthy exceptions to the above-mentioned navel gazers: Free Press (see links, below) and FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting). If we hope to restore the integrity of our media, these organizations are deserving of our time, attention and money. I’m particularly impressed with FAIR, which, first of all, takes no corporate funding, government grants or advertising of any kind. Secondly, they have a firm understanding of what’s wrong with the media and what needs to be done. Here is their stated perspective:

Independent, aggressive and critical media are essential to an informed democracy. But mainstream media are increasingly cozy with the economic and political powers they should be watchdogging. Mergers in the news industry have accelerated, further limiting the spectrum of viewpoints that have access to mass media. With U.S. media outlets overwhelmingly owned by for-profit conglomerates and supported by corporate advertisers, independent journalism is compromised.

Ultimately, FAIR believes that structural reform is needed to break up the dominant media conglomerates, establish independent public broadcasting, and promote strong, non-profit alternative sources of information.

Third, they have a powerful network of activist tools that encourage the public to become critically engaged with media. See something unfair in the media? A particular instance of media inaccuracy or bias? Their toolkit includes everything from tips for detecting bias in the media, to resources for contacting media outlets and journalists to demand more responsible reporting. Their activism gets results. They’ve forced rewrites of stories, propelled undercovered stories from the sidelines to the mainstream and succeeded in getting different perspectives into the news.

All the Kings Horses and All the Kings Men

Should our country survive this election (meaning, should Barack Obama be rightfully elected, despite the media’s 24-7 infomercial coverage of the McCain-Palin-Joe-the-so-called-Plumber ticket, and despite the epidemic of  voter fraud being committed by the Republican Party, aided and abettted by the media’s deplorable indifference toward their criminal engagement in these practices) then I would urge all Americans of good conscience to cast your energies toward restoring the integrity of our media.

Yes, I realize that there are myriad pressing issues in need of our attention — in between wars, a disintegrating planet, recessions, depressions, and attacking voter fraud. But until we have a truthful voice in the media, all other efforts toward restoring our democracy and healing the myriad wounds inflicted over the past 8 years will be rendered impotent. To repeat what has already been said: Independent, aggressive and critical media are essential to an informed democracy. And we’ve not seen hide nor hair of that for at least 8 years. And if we don’t do something about this — beginning now — you can be sure that, 4 years from now, there will be enough swiftboats, Joe the Plumbers, McCarthyism, evangelicals and vitriolic Sarah Palins to incite those rabidly ignorant mobs to finally put democracy out if its misery, once and for all. 

The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses. — Malcolm X

 

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by Mantis Katz for the canarypapers

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For more reading (this is not a comprehensive list, just a starter):

Global Research: The Deceit of Reporters Without Borders

Counterpunch: Reporters Without Borders Unmasked

ZNet: The Reporters Without Borders Fraud

Links to Media Watchers & Activists (a mixed bag)

For background on MEDIA DEREGULATION/CONSOLIDATION:

New York Times (Oct. 2007) Plan Would Ease Limits on Media Owners

 Op-Ed News: Robert McChesney’s The Political Economy of Media – Part I

Op-Ed News: Robert McChesney’s The Political Economy of Media – Part II

FreePress: Media Consolidation (while this site is guilty of navel-gazing, they also have the right idea)

FreePress: Who Owns the Media? (The Big Six)

Salon: Justice: Propaganda is A-OK

canarypapers: The White house Propaganda Machine: When the Truth Just Won’t Do

Wynken, Blynken & Nod: A Lullaby for Palin, McCain & Bush

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Wynken, Blynken and Nod
(with deepest apologies to Eugene Field) 

Wynken and Blynken are four beady eyes,
And Nod is a wooden head.
Their crooked smiles feed such sweet lies, 
We’re left drowsy and overfed.    
So shut your eyes and hear their prayers
For wonderful things-to-be,
Of wars and wells and polar bears  
That sink in a melting sea.
Or open your eyes and boot these three: 
Wynken,
Blynken,
And Nod.

 

I play to win. I do whatever it takes to win. If I have to fuck my opponent to win I’ll do it. If I have to destroy my opponent I won’t give it a second thought.John McCain, spoken before a gathering of GOP operatives at the National Republican Senatorial Committee where McCain outlined his campaign strategy in his Senate race

Senator Obama has always believed that the best antidote to smears and lies is the truth.Jen Psaki, Obama campaign spokeswoman

______________________________

The Truth vs. “Whatever it Takes”

Joe Biden was right when he said, “past is prologue.” Anyone who liked Bush’s campaign tactics in 2000 has surely liked the integrity with which the Bush-Cheney Administration has run our country over the past 8 years. Similarly, anyone who likes John McCain’s 2008 campaign tactics, and likes a governor who thumbs her nose at court orders during an ethics investigation, and likes a VP candidate with a deplorable First Amendment record, who forbids media access, also surely liked the past 8 years, and would surely like the the style of a McCain-Palin Administration.  By the same token, anyone who has appreciated the integrity with which Obama and Biden have run their campaign would surely like the integrity of an Obama-Biden Administration. Past is prologue. The challenge for Americans over the next 31 days will be to not fall for the bullshit, the lies and the fearmongering that got us into this predicament in the first place. Because, make no mistake: it’s about to get real ugly, real fast.

We could as easily hear that Obama bites the heads off kittens for breakfast, as we might hear that Obama runs with terrorists [EDITOR’S NOTE: believe it or not, I wrote this before hearing about Sarah Palin’s “Obama-palling-around-with-terrorist” smear, linked to below] , he is a terrorist, or that his children are terrorists. They’re gonna “ramp up” (to use Sarah’s idiom) the fearmongering and try to scare the hell out of us, the same way Bush-Cheney have been doing for the past 7 years. They’re gonna accuse Obama of things I can’t even guess or imagine, but you can be sure the smears will be peppered with words like Muslim, Islamic extremists, weakness, naiveté, appeasement, un-American, unpatriotic, socialism, terrorists, 9-11, jihad, black militant, mushroom clouds and WMDs, not to mention William Ayers, Tony Rezko and Rev. Wright. The McCain team is gonna say horrible, reprehensible things. 

And they’ll do reprehensible things, too, like trying to trick voters into screwing up their votes. The GOP and the McCain campaign are already doing this in some places (see links, below), targeting their efforts toward blacks, Hispanics and other other ethnicities, as well as the victims of home foreclosure. The ultimate irony is that they are now trying to paint Obama with the same brush, accusing him of their very tactics. Like McCain said: Whatever it takes. It’s only gonna get worse. And if world events go to hell someplace on the map, that’s gravy for McCain, because he can pull out his tough-on-terror persona. It’s gonna be a rough ride, folks. If you have any extra money, fight the smears by donating to the Obama campaign or the Democratic Party. If you hear a new smear, you can either report it or get the straight poop at Obama’s “Fight the Smears” page.  

Above all, remember: No matter how convincing the package, a hoodwink is still a hoodwink is a hoodwink….

 

 

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by Mantis Katz for the canarypapers

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Huffington Post: Why the Debates Won’t Matter (Hint: It’s a Felony)

Huffington Post: Can Obama’s Ground Game Beat GOP Vote Robbing?

The Michigan Messenger: Lose your house, lose your vote

Huffington Post: Dems Sue GOP for Voter Suppression; Republicans Answer with Claims of Lies and Fraud

Wisconsin State Journal: Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, “…eligible voters could be disenfranchised and the state could face a post-election ballot-counting frenzy similar to Florida’s after the 2000 presidential race.”

The Michigan Messenger: Wisconsin Hotly Contested — Allegations of Voter Fraud Surface

Progressive Future: Stop Voter Disenfranchisement Before it Starts

Huffington Post: Fox News, GOP Tag Team Obama with Voter Fraud Smear

Huffington Post: Goo-Goo America

Booman Tribune: McCain Campaign Enticing Voter Fraud?

ABOVE: This 90-minute video from 2006, titled, “American Blackout” chronicles recurring patterns of voter disenfranchisement witnessed in the 2000 and 2004 elections, while following the story of Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, who not only took an active role in investigating these election debacles but also found herself in the middle of one after publicly questioning the Bush Administration about the 9-11 terrorist attacks. This history of voter disenfranchisement takes us back to the passage of the Voters Rights Act of 1965, which gives some perspective on how hard-fought are these rights that have been painfully robbed during the last two elections. An excellent, eye-opening film — pertinent to October 2008 — and well-worth the time spent watching it. Here, again, Joe Biden’s warning bears repeating: Past is prologue.

Note: If the above video malfunctions, it is available in 9 parts here on YouTube

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FOOTNOTE: 

A Brief History of the McCain-Palin Campaign:

Nothing from nothing leaves nothing

First, McCain tried to run on a thinly-disguised clone of the Bush-Cheney platform, which went largely unnoticed during the fracas of the Obama-Clinton primary season. By late summer, with the Republican Convention looming, the poll numbers showed that Americans were taking real notice of the Bush-Cheney McCain platform. The success of the Democratic Convention, plus Obama’s sage choice of a running mate only compounded McCain’s sinking numbers. In a desperate move to fill his platform with something/anything new, the McCain team hijacked Obama’s platform of hope, change and service. Simultaneously, and in a similar spirit of desperation, McCain threw Palin on the ticket, thinking beauty might trump brains. His choice of a running mate proved to be an utter failure in every possible regard, except one: she is, like McCain, a consummate liar. This was a good thing because, having lost the coattails of the Bush-Cheney legacy on which to ride, their platform was empty, save a few old war stories and tall fisherman’s tales about maverick feats. Between the two of them, there were enough lies to give the appearance of having legitimate records on which to pontificate during their speeches. But this, too, failed, as “the google” gave the public ready access to the facts. Having finally used every possible resource (except for the truth) the McCain-Palin campaign decided to abandon all pretense of running a presidential campaign and to, instead, spend the next 31 days destroying their opponent, in the hope (a funny word, in this context) of scaring the voters back into their camp.

More on this:

Washington Post and Huffington Post (October 4th) McCain Planning “Fiercely Negative” Campaign in Final Days

Huffington Post: (October 4th) Palin says Obama “palling around” with terrorists

Jewish Exponent: Don’t Fall for the Extremist, Anti-Obama Smear Campaign

The Emperor’s Old Clothes: The 3 Fatal Flaws of the McCain Doctrine

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Rather than undertake too ambitious of a project (e.g. laying out the evidence that McCain, an adherent to the Yosemite Sam school of diplomacy, suffers from ‘angry little man’ complex, his worldview shaped by the perpetual chip he carries around on his shoulder, or making a case for the similarities between being a role player of violent video games vs. being a fighter pilot dropping bombs on women and children, en masse, from the relative detachment of a cockpit), we’ve narrowed our focus to 3 real-life examples of what John McCain brings to the foreign policy table, all of which share a common thread: a sore lack of objectivity in the man who would be president. That is, to the extent that the world exists and functions independently of John’s McCain’s narrow field of vision, the man is oblivious. The emperor is naked. 

 

“I didn’t expect the Spanish Inquisition!” 

 

FATAL FLAW #1: Much ado has been made over McCain’s recent interview, in which he juxtaposed his confusion over Spain’s geography with an odd, pre-emptive refusal to meet, under a McCain presidency, with Prime Minister Zapatero of Spain. The key ingredient of this exchange has been overlooked — namely, the reason for John McCain’s appearance of confusion. Go ahead and try: Listen to the exchange as many times as you like, you’ll never make sense of it, because it makes no sense. Only by listening between the lines can you hear what was really being said. 

John McCain wasn’t confused. Even if he mistook Zapatero for Zapatista, he wasn’t confused. He simply wasn’t listening. He already knew the answer, his mind was made up. This is why, no matter how many times the interviewer re-phrased the question, his answer remained the same. In this seemingly innocuous scenario lies the first of John McCain’s 3 fatal flaws: he doesn’t listen, and he rarely does, because he already owns the answers. And should reality corner him like a rat, he’ll charge back, teeth bared, attacking those who would disparage his wrongness. He’s just as likely to simply change his answer — without apology, and sans introspection — even if it means telling a straight-faced lie. Just like that.    

We’ve seen this same tack replay in recent days during the Wall Street crisis. No need to puzzle over McCain’s fist-flailing and wild contradictions from one day to the next. This is simply what he does. He’s not so concerned about the facts and inner workings of the situation at hand, as he is about preserving the appearance of being right. The question then becomes: on what does John McCain base his pre-conceived answers? Like anyone else, he likely bases his original answers on information. Problems arise when (1) the information changes, as is wont to happen in real life, or (2) his original conclusion proves to be wrong. This is the real McCain. The only reason we’re seeing him so clearly, is because he’s standing under a bigger microscope. It’s historically in keeping with his character to attack those who challenge him, to erratically say and do things that make absolutely no sense, and to lie. Quit calling McCain’s Spanish Inquisition a “gaffe,” folks. It’s a character flaw. And it doesn’t take much imagination to see how this flaw could play out in various foreign policy exchanges. 

Repeat after me, Professor Higgins: “The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain, and in Hertford, Hereford and Hampshire, hurricanes hardly ever happen”

 
John McCain: Principled Opponent of Torture, or Complicitous Monkey Flunkie?

 

FATAL FLAW #2:John McCain — himself a former victim of torture — drafted and endorsed legislation to legalize torture. You may hear words to the contrary, but scratch below the surface, and you’ll find only impassioned rhetoric. The truth resides in McCain’s actual record, whereby he extended and approved Bush’s existing liberties with justice — the sort of liberties that allowed the U.S. to send an innocent man to a prison in Syria, where he would spend the next year being tortured to extract confessions. Sound implausible? Just ask Maher Arar. (Never heard of Maher Arar? Check out the videos below, plus the links at the end of this post, which tell his story, including the Congressional hearings in the wake of his release from that Syrian prison). Here, it should be stressed that, while torture has proven a useful tool in extracting confessions, it has proven useless in extracting the truth. John McCain should know this. He sung like a canary when he reached his own breaking point during torture sessions, saying he’d have confessed to anything, just to make them stop. 

Regarding McCain’s role in torture legislation, there is an excellent April 2008 piece in Salon, by Glen Greenwald, titled “John McCain and Bush’s Torture Policies” which gives a brief, factual history on McCain’s role in legislating torture and granting the Bush Administration discretionary powers to by-pass the Geneva Convention. I suggest reading Greenwald’s article in entirety, bearing in mind, as you read, that John McCain’s role in this legislation literally changed the laws of our country, so that Bush “could” (as opposed to “would” or “will” in legal terms**) legally extract information from terrorists by any means necessary, including torturing their children, burying suspects alive, or by subcontracting their torture to other countries (most often Egypt, Syria or Afghanistan). In Maher Arar’s case, he was flown to Syria, where he spent the following year living in a grave-like 3′ x 6′ cell, being tortured into making false confessions, a fate eerily similar to the one John McCain, himself, suffered at the hands of his North Vietnamese captors. 

Sending Maher Arar “to be confined in a gravelike cell and tortured did nothing to make America safer.” —Senator Patrick Leahy, 2007 

That our policies toward torture define our moral compass, as a nation, goes without saying. It also goes without saying, that our flagrant disregard of international law in our treatment of suspects, detainees and prisoners-of-war is an open invatation for others to revisit the same onto American troops. But what John McCain needs to hear, if only he’d listen, is that lawlessness begets lawlessness. We’ve seen this over the past decade or so, with America’s “chickens coming home to roost” in one way or another. An ugly truth — no one wants to believe it — but someone had to say it. John McCain suffers from the delusion that America owns the right to make exceptions to the established tenets of constitutional and international law, the ends always somehow justifying the means. Those other countries or individuals who behave in kind are simply evil: they’re terrorists, they’re rogue nations. By endorsing torture and lawlessness, John McCain has shown that, not only does he lack the ability to learn from history’s painful lessons, but that his approach to the law operates independently of a moral compass.  

 

Next up: Baghdad! — John McCain, January 2, 2002

I am very certain that this military engagement will not be very difficult. It may entail the risk of American lives and treasure, but Saddaam Hussein is vastly weaker than he was in 1991. — John McCain, September 12, 2002

 

About that surge….

 

FATAL FLAW #3: The feather in the emperor’s cap is, of course, the surge. The surge, the surge, the surge…. How many times has the phrase, “The success of the surge” been bandied about on the news, withnary a word of truth breathed on the topic? How many times has McCain berated Obama for not supporting the surge? How many times has he ridiculed Obama for not sharing McCain’s prescient vision on the surge? The canarypapers ranted a bit on this topic in our July 24th post, “The Surge: Ethnic Cleansing with Perks,” wherein we offered a corrected version of history.

In a nutshell, for those interested in such things, the surge “worked” only if you consider it a success to purchase 90,000 Sunni soldiers in an effort to “awaken” them to stop killing U.S. soldiers. You’ll never hear this on the evening news, because it’s contrary to the fairy tale we’ve been fed by the Bush Administration. The truth is simply this: the reason the death toll in Iraq dropped is NOT because of, but is merely incidental tothe additional 30,000 U.S. troops sent to Iraq. This is but one of four truths about the surge, which you’ll never hear on the evening news: (1) we bought the oppositions’ armies (90,000 Sunnis added to the 450,000 Shiites already in our employ) and made them into our “friends,” and (2) we sent an additionalU.S. 30,000 troops over to train our new Sunni “friends” and, (3) we armed both armies of “friends” to engage in civil war to kill and maim one another, with Sunnis slaughtering and ethnically cleansed Shiites and vice-versa — which created and intensified divisions where none existed before, ultimately undermining and killing the possibility of reconciliation or compromise between the two (tho the good news is, U.S. deaths went down!) and, lastly, (4) Muqtada alSadr — the guy we really, really, really hate in Iraq (because he’s a bloodthirsty crazy Shitte with zero scruples, and may be a terrorist, to boot) — called a ceasefire in the summer of 2007, which he has since honored. 

It’s really no more complicated than that, unless you’re the sort who wants to know about the nuts and bolts of the U.S. strategy to keep the Iraqi citizens under our control, by the above-mentioned ethnic cleansing, plus torture, illegal detainment and myriad other war crimes, richly studded with no-bid U.S. contracts for oil. This is, in great part, how and why the U.S. maintains the lie that the Iraqis stubbornly refuse to “take control of their government.” We don’t want them to take control. We want them to surrender their oil right to us. Capisce? Using the word “success” in the same sentence with “surge” is a vulgar contradiction of terms. But fear not, it’ll probably be another 30 years before the history books catch up with the truth.

For his part, John McCain has gotten a free ride, clinging to the coattails of the Bush’s fairy tale of the surge. But this is not the point. The point is that John McCain is no maverick. And if there’s one thing this country has needed over the past 8 years, while suffering under the rule of a broken and corrupt war machine, it’s been a maverick. What we got, instead, was John McCain — a yes-man to the Bush Administration whose worldview is shaped by a persistent neglect of the facts — even as these facts are freely available to anyone with access to “the Google” and C-SPAN. 

Now that it’s clear that the surge has succeeded and brought victory in Iraq within sight, Senator Obama can’t quite bring himself to admit his own failure in judgment.Instead, he commits the even greater error of insisting that, even in hindsight, he would still oppose the surge.— John McCain, July 27, 2008 (Editor’s note: Could it be that Obama knows something about the surge that McCain has overlooked — namely, the facts?)

Through the Bush Administration’s unholy war on terror, we’ve seen up-close John McCain’s tack on foreign policy, which could only be called maverick in the sense that it’s erratic: he carries a perpetual chip on his shoulder; he is morally detached from the on-the-ground reality of war; he doesn’t listen; his belief-system operates independently of the facts; he maintains a bull-headed insistence that he’s right, no matter what the facts, but will freely change his answers to suit reality; he ruthlessly attacks anyone who disagrees with him; his approach to law & order lacks a moral compass; he’s not above lying. 

In the case of the Iraq war, all of the above are true. But the tragedy lies in the fact that John McCain has had before him the same intelligence we’ve all owned: America was taken to war in Iraq — and has been duped into staying the course — on the basis of false pretense and cooked intelligence. A real maverick would have demanded that the broken war machine be set right. A real maverick would not cling to the principles of wrong, and boastfully call it right. John McCain has had 7-years of opportunities to do the right thing, and has consistently failed to act on them.

In the coming days, this country will likely be tested (A stupendously devious Rovesque lie or series of lies about Obama? A September surprise? October attack? Here? Elsewhere? Who knows? ) to see how well we’ve learned our lessons over the past 8 years. One thing is for certain: John McCain is continuing, unabated, down the very path laid by George Bush. The emperor is naked. Shall we follow? Or shall we take Obama’s lead and take this country in a better direction? 

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by Mantis Katz, for the canarypapers

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** re: paragraph 2 from fatal flaw #2, above
 “Could” the Bush Administration Order the Torture of Children and Burying Alive of Prisoners? 

 

A simple yes or no would have sufficed. In this House Judiciary Hearing, White House attorneys John Yoo and David Addington are asked this very question, to determine the administration’s torture policies regarding children and burying prisoners alive.  Yoo and Addington are the two leading architects of the Bush administration’s policies on torture. Their testimony revealed few answers (none, actually), as even the simplest questions yielded evasive sleights-of-hand maneuvers, such as the sort of ‘legal speak’ lawyers are known to employ when evading answering a question. Here, with a 5-minute time limit on the testimony, we see the Judiciary committee members grow increasingly frustrated and, at turns, outraged (accusing Yoo, at one point, of playing “Beat the Clock”) as each attempt to get a straight answer is stonewalled by Yoo and Addington.  Longer versions of this testimony are available on YouTube.  

 

 

Pertinent articles & videos for more info: 

ABOVE: Former POW speaks: “John McCain is not the perso I’d like to see with his finger near the red button….John McCain’s temprement makes it clear that he’s not cut out to be president of the United States.”

ABOVE: John McCain’s heroism as a POW in the Vietnam conflict; this is making some waves in the news due to McCain’s presidential candidacy. The documentary “Missing, Presumed Dead the Search for America’s POWs” however focuses more on Senator John McCain successfully blocking the release of classified POW/MIA documents. Here is a DVD extra from that documentary. A DVD of the documentary may be purchased at www.MissingPresumedDead.com

Vietnam too far back? Here are some more recent veterans — our brave soldiers who served in Iraq — speaking on McCain in a short film, “Why Won’t McCain Sign the GI Bill?”. Here, we can see that McCain is at least consistent when it comes to supporing (NOT) veterans.  

ABOVE (2) : Greenwald Films: The Real McCain, Parts 1 & 2:  In reality, McCain seems as clueless on foreign policy as he is on the economy, on domestic policy, on the lives of ordinary Americans, and on what he, himself, states with utter conviction from one day to the next. 

The McCain Doctrine = The Bush Doctrine, in case you were wondering

Huffington Post: Not a Gaffe? McCain campaign willing to destroy relationship with Spain, Europe to conceal confusion

canarypapers: Monkeys with Molotovs: The gutter politics of McCain, Palin, Rove & Co.

canarypapers: On the occasion of the 7th anniversary of September 11th, a call for truth.

canarypapers: The Surge in Iraq: Ethnic Cleansing with Perks (This post contains many, many, many links to back up these two facts: (1) the war in Iraq is an illegal war, waged on false pretense and cooked intelligence, and (2) the surge is a farce, from start to finish. Many Americans already own these truths. McCain ignores these truths in favor of the fairy tale version of the Iraq war, spun by the Bush-Cheney Administration. McCain’s motives for this are myriad, not the least of which is his perpetual refusal to listen to the facts, or to admit when he’s wrong, or to change his mind, unless the truth corners him like a rat. His mind is made up, and, as the Spain interview showed, McCain doesn’t listen to anyone, once his mind is made up. Too, the fact is — and despite his protests to the contrary — the man rather likes a good war, the same way some people are drawn toward toward the tenets of peace, love, dipomacy and understanding.) 

The New Yorker: Outsourcing Torture: The secret history of America’s ‘extraordinary rendition’ program

Harper’s Magazine: The Missing IG Report on Maher Arar

Harper’s Magazine: More on Maher Arar

CBC News: Maher Arar: Statement

CBS News: His Year in Hell: Maher Arar’s story, told to Vicki Mabrey

World Socialist Website: McCain-Bush “anti-torture” measure gives legal coverage for continued abuse

TalkLeft: the politics of crime: McCain torture policy undercut by amendment

ThinkProgress: McCain says he is ‘obviously’ against torture, forgets his vote to allow waterboarding

New York Times: Veto of Bill on CIA Tactics Affirms Bush’s Legacy

ProjectVote: McCain’s vote on the Military Commissions Act of 2006

Washington Post: McCain on Torture – Vote Against Waterboarding Bill Called Consistent

These two are filed under the “and the lies keep on coming” category. Read them in tandem, for context.

Washington Post: McCain Suggests Bush Has Approved Torture

ThinkProgress: McCain Sides with Bush on Torture Again — Supports Veto of Anti-Waterboarding Bill

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The tragic case of Aafia Siddiqui: How each of us can help

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NOTE: The post, below, is from October 2008. To see our most recent post on Aafia Siddiqui, published 1/19/2010, see:  The New American Justice: Aafia Siddiqui’s Trial by Water

There are pitifully few answers to the flood of questions surrounding the case of Aafia Siddiqui and her three children. We know this much: their five-year disappearance began in April 2003, at precisely the same time the FBI announced (then quickly denied) arresting her.

Aafia Siddiqui’s family, attorneys, human rights groups and others charge that she spent at least some of these years imprisoned at Bagram, the U.S. detention prison in Afghanistan, notorious for its brutal treatment of prisoners. It is also alleged that Aafia Siddiqui was Prisoner 650, known as the Grey Lady of Bagram. If this is true, the fate of her children is, for some, too haunting to contemplate. At the time of their disappearance in 2003, her children were aged 7 years (son, Ahmed), 5 years (daughter, Miriam), and 6 months of age (son, Suleman). Her two younger children have not been seen since their disappearance in 2003. Her eldest child — Ahmed, now aged either 11 or 12 — was with Aafia at the time of her arrest last month.

The Story of Ahmed

Ahmed is a U.S. citizen, born in this country. According to the FBI, he is currently in the custody of the Afghan National Security Directorate (NDS), an agency that is, according to Human Rights Watch, “notorious for its brutal treatment of detainees.” The NDS is Afghanistan’s equivalent of the CIA, and is alleged to work in collaboration with the U.S. intelligence agencies in a system of secret detainee prisons and torture in Afghanistan. The FBI recently performed DNA testing to confirm Ahmed’s identity. They have also interrogated Ahmed several times. Ahmed is said to be confused about his identity and about his own whereabouts since 2003. Aafia’s attorneys, along with human rights groups throughout the world, are protesting the illegal detention of 12 year-old Ahmed, decrying his treatment as a criminal suspect, and demanding that Ahmed be freed and released to the custody of relatives. While the FBI has obviously had contact with Ahmed in recent weeks, they claim he is under the control of Afghan authorities, his whereabouts unknown.

“Something is really dirty here. Everything about the government’s story smells…. Whatever happened to this woman is terrible, and it’s incumbent on us to find out what it was.”  — Elizabeth Fink, U.S. attorneys for Aafia Siddiqui

The reports on the arrests of Aafia and Ahmed Siddiqui by U.S. and Afghanistan officials are contradictory, except in the fact that Aafia Siddiqui was shot twice during her arrest. The Bush administration alleges that she was involved in a terrorist plot, and that she was arrested on July 17, 2008 outside Ghazni governor’s compound in Afghanistan with manuals on explosives, maps to NY landmarks, and ‘dangerous substances in sealed jars’ on her person. She is alleged to have grabbed a gun and shot at U.S. officials during the interrogation, a scenario that contradicts the Afghan reports on her arrest. She is now charged with attempting to murder U.S. officials, and is currently being held at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, NY.

Aafia Siddiqui’s Medical Condition

According to her attorney, Elizabeth Fink, Aafia’s condition has grown critical, as she has not received proper medical care for her gunshot wounds. Fink is demanding hospitalization for Affia’s physical and psychological injuries. Fink also charges that Aafia continues to be subjected to invasive strip searches in violation of international law, the U.S. Constitution, international human rights norms and standards of decency. The Pakistan National Assembly has issued a resolution demanding that the U.S. authorities provide urgent medical care, including hospitalization, and to provide a female doctor, in consideration of Affia’s religious beliefs.

Those of us following this case feel helpless. Where to direct our voices?  The following needs are vital:  (1) that Aafia Siddiqui receive proper medical attention for her wounds, and (2) due process that reflects the values of our pre-Bush system of justice in America, that conforms to international laws for the treatment of prisoners, and (3) a full investigation into the events surrounding her disappearance in April 2003, when the FBI announced (then denied) her arrest, and (4) a full investigation to determine where Aafia Siddiqui and her three children spent the past five years, (5) a full investigation into the current whereabouts of her 3 children.

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Here’s how each of us can help Aafia Siddiqui and her children:

(1) Demand an independent investigation into this case by calling your Capitol Hill representatives via the Capitol Hill switchboard at 800-828-0498. Ask for your representative, by name. You will be transferred to either voice mail or an aide. Leave a message that you, as a concerned American, want an independent Congressional investigation into the case of Aafia Siddiqui (pronounced AUF-ia    Sa-DEEK-ia) and her three children, and that you request that her current medical and legal needs be met according to U.S. and International law regarding prisoners.

(2) Sign and send the letters of protest at the Asian Human Rights Commission site. These letters are forwarded to President Bush, to NATO headquarters, and to various authorities in Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is important that these officials know the world’s eyes are focused on this case.

(3) Attend her court hearing in Manhattan on September 3rd, 2008. Protests are scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. Her hearing is scheduled to begin at 10:00 a.m. at the United States District Court (U.S.D.C.) for the Southern District of New York (S.D.N.Y), located at 500 Pearl Street, Manhattan. It will be held in the Magistrates Court, 5th floor.

(4) Send mail, publications or money to Aafia Siddiqui. There are specific regulations regarding these, which can be found, along with contact information and addresses, at the muslimmatters.org website. There is also contact information for her attorney at this site.

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From the Asian Human Rights Commission statement on Aafia Siddiqui:
“We uphold supremacy of law, an independent judiciary and condemn in unequivocal terms all transgressions of law, abduction, illegal incarceration, and transfer of prisoners from one territory to another without due process. We demand a thorough investigation by independent UN- mandated agencies into the whole affair and that all the agents of injustice and law- breakers be brought to the International court of Justice at The Hague.”

ADDITIONAL LINKS ON THIS CASE:

cageprisoners.com page with updates on protests/campaigns to help with this case

dictatorshipwatch.com article containing the text of a Human Rights Watch letter to President Bush, regarding the illegal detention of Aafia Siddiqui and others in secret CIA prisons.

Human Rights Watch article on demands to free Aafia Siddiqui’s 11-year old son, too young to be treated as a criminal suspect.

Christian Science Monitor article, “The case against Aafia Siddiqui, who has been missing since 2003, raises questions about illegal detention centers across Pakistan”

muslimmatters.org article: The Grey Lady of Bagram: Dr. Aafia Siddiqui

muslimmatters.org info from August 26, 2008 press conference on Aafia Siddiqui

AP news report: NY charges for womann in Afghan military shooting (Please note that Aafia Siddiqui is a neuroscientist, not a microbiologist, as often suggested in U.S. media reports. Also, note the discrepancy, in this story, between the Afghan and U.S. accounts of her arrest).

canarypapers post, August 25, 2008: What did the Bush Administration do with Aafia Siddiqui and her three children?