Human Rights First Reminds General Dempsey that Geneva Conventions Still in Place

I had meant to link to and comment on the Danger Room piece on the group of officers teaching “total war” against Islam at the Joint Staff War College.

For the better part of the last decade, a small cabal of self-anointed counterterrorism experts has been working its way through the U.S. military, intelligence and law enforcement communities, trying to convince whoever it could that America’s real terrorist enemy wasn’t al-Qaida — but the Islamic faith itself. In his course, Dooley brought in these anti-Muslim demagogues as guest lecturers. And he took their argument to its final, ugly conclusion.

“We have now come to understand that there is no such thing as ‘moderate Islam,’” Dooley noted in a July 2011 presentation (.pdf), which concluded with a suggested manifesto to America’s enemies. “It is therefore time for the United States to make our true intentions clear. This barbaric ideology will no longer be tolerated. Islam must change or we will facilitate its self-destruction.”

If I had, though, I would have said largely what Human Rights First wrote in a letter to General Martin Dempsey emphasizing that the disdain for the Geneva Convention must get as much attention as the Islamophobia exhibited in the training materials.

Publicity surrounding this incident has rightly centered on the discriminatory nature of the materials. But we are equally distressed by an aspect that has received less attention: the cavalier and ignorant dismissal of the principles and rules of distinction and proportionality reflected in the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols. In a nation committed to equality under the rule of law, this aspect of the materials is as disturbing as their anti-Islamic nature. Military personnel are supposed to be well trained in the applicability of the law of armed conflict, even if the military cannot train away their personal prejudices. The military must also reinforce the point that law trumps any personal religious beliefs of members of the military.

President Bush made clear his understanding that the United States was not at war with Islam, but rather with violent extremists. Unfortunately, we are still living with the toxic legacy of his determination that the Geneva Conventions are an irrelevant nuisance.

We are still trying to undo all the damage Bush’s decision to ignore the Geneva Conventions did. But up until a few months ago, top officers were still being taught the Geneva Conventions didn’t apply to our current wars against Muslims. (I really wonder whether any of these instructors was involved in Falluja?)

And until HRF sent this letter, I really hadn’t seen anyone talking about how problematic it was that the military was still teaching that Bush’s rules remained in effect.

Key Prosecution Witness Excluded Over Torture In New York Terror Trial

Last Friday, I reminded the clueless media, and thus mostly uninformed public, there was a critical terror trial going on right in their midst in New York City, and doing so quietly and competently as was claimed was impossible by howlers such as Liz and Dick Cheney, Guiliani, Lindsey Graham and the right wing noise machine. The case is US v. Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, and as I explained, although jury selection was well under way, there was a brief delay imposed by the trial judge, SDNY Judge Lewis Kaplan, until today so he could contemplate a motion to exclude a critical prosecution witness argued by the defense on the grounds the putative testimony was the product of torture and coercion.

The decision by Judge Kaplan was just issued and, in somewhat of a shock, he has ordered the witness, Hussein Abebe, excluded. From Bloomberg News:

A judge barred the U.S. from calling as a witness a Tanzanian miner who admits supplying explosives to Ahmed Ghailani, an alleged al-Qaeda terrorist charged with the 1998 bombing of the U.S. embassies in Africa.

U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan, in New York, denied a request by federal prosecutors to allow Hussein Abebe to testify that he sold five crates of dynamite to Ghailani before the blast. Abebe, whom prosecutors called a “giant” witness in their case, would provide a first-hand account of Ghailani’s role in the attacks, the government said.

Kaplan ruled that Abebe’s testimony is too closely tied to coerced statements made by Ghailani while he was in CIA custody and must be excluded from the trial. The ruling, made public today, will delay the trial’s start until Oct. 12 to give the government time to decide whether to appeal.

“The court has not reached this conclusion lightly,” Kaplan wrote. “It is acutely aware of the perilous nature of the world in which we live. But the Constitution is the rock upon which our nation rests. We must follow it not only when it is convenient, but when fear and danger beckon in a different direction.”

This is a critical ruling and, while it should not be this way, a refreshingly positive one for the health and sanctity of the Constitution and federal Article III courts. Hats off to Judge Kaplan, for while the legal basis seems quite clear on its face, the blowback pressure from the government and boogity boogity terrorism howlers described above (not to mention the Old Gluehorse McCain) will be intense. Here is the critical language from Kaplan’s order:

Abebe was identified and located as a close and direct result of statements made by Ghailani while he was held by the CIA. The government has Read more

Terror Trials In New York!!!

I am going to make this shorter than I originally planned on when I started it earlier today, because I have some Trash to take out. But, as Bob Schacht pointed out, not that anybody would know it, but there has been a terror trial going on all week in a real live Article III courtroom in the heart of Manhattan. Exactly like all the Republicans with vapors and trembling Democrats said could not be safely done.

Jury selection started Wednesday September 29th and today the trial in chief, expected to start Monday, was tentatively postponed until next Wednesday pending determination of admissibility of evidence and testimony from an important prosecution witness, Hussein Abebe. From Bloomberg:

The federal judge presiding over the trial of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a Tanzanian charged with taking part in the bombing of two American embassies in Africa, delayed the case by two days until Oct. 6.

U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in New York today granted a prosecution request to postpone the trial, for which jury selection started Sept. 29. Kaplan said he may grant a delay if he rules a key prosecution witness, Hussein Abebe, can’t testify. The adjournment would give the government time to appeal that ruling before the trial.


Prosecutors want to call Abebe, 46, a Tanzanian who is former miner, to testify that he sold five crates of dynamite to Ghailani before the blast. He would provide a first-hand account of Ghailani’s role in the attacks, the government says.

Abebe, who hasn’t been charged, is a “giant” witness, according to prosecutors. The judge said earlier he may not decide until after opening arguments whether the jury should hear Abebe’s testimony.


Ghailani’s lawyers argue that Abebe’s testimony should be excluded because the government learned of his involvement through a coercive interrogation of Ghailani by the CIA. Abebe also was coerced into cooperating with authorities, according to the defense attorneys, led by Peter Quijano and Steve Zissou.

Motions in limine and other evidentiary motions are always at issue in big criminal trials and brief delays and provision for interlocutory appeals are certainly common. So, what you see here is another criminal trial. Ho hum and yawn. Certainly not the unholy hell Baby Dick Cheney, Rudy 9/11 and the other cowering fearmongers predicted is it? The attached video from Human Rights First sums it up perfectly. Here is Human Rights First’s press release on the issue:

Despite repeated warnings that trying Guantanamo detainees in New York would result in chaos, mayhem, kidnappings, astronomical security costs, a police take-over of Lower Manhattan, snarled traffic, street closures, and “utter, unmitigated disaster,” New Yorkers interviewed by Human Rights First are going about their daily business within blocks of the federal terrorism trial of a former Guantanamo detainee.

In an exclusive video released today, the group reveals that many New Yorkers are not only failing to fear, they do not even realize that accused terrorist Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani’s trial is underway. Some, despite the urgent warnings from those trying to “Keep America Safe,” even expressed pride that the prosecution was happening in New York City.

“We have trials like that here all of the time,” one woman observed as Human Rights First correspondent Reagan Kuhn interviewed her near the federal courthouse in Foley Square.

Despite the best efforts of Liz Cheney, Deborah Burlingame, Rudy Guiliani, and Karl Rove to spread panic, many naïve New Yorkers seemed completely uninformed about the chaos that was supposed to reign. Some even observed that “everything seems pretty normal,” “I haven’t noticed anything,” and “I’m sure everybody knows what they are doing.”

As the Ghailani trial proceeds this week and in the weeks ahead, Human Rights First will continue to monitor New Yorkers’ failure to fear federal prosecution of this case. It will also continue to send representatives to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where military commission proceedings are set to commence next month. For those keeping score, U.S. federal courts have convicted more than 400 terrorists. Military commissions have secured only four convictions.

They have been holding terrorism trials of the highest order for years in New York City. SDNY is where the Blind Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman was tried for the first World Trade Center Attack. There is not a better secured and more appropriate place in america to try the 9/11 terrorism suspects. That is what we do in America, and what we do as Americans. Giving in to the fear and bed wetting of the Cheneys, Rudy Guiliani, Lindsey Graham, Lieberman and others of their ilk is giving up on our principles and giving in to the terrorists themselves. Besides, NYC is always a target of terrorists and would be even if Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the other four 9/11 suspects were tried in Gitmo.

Put the trials where the crimes happened and deal with it.