Saturday, February 12, 2005

A Civilian Torture Trial

A civilian CIA contract employee, charged with abusing Iraqi prisoners, is on trial in Federal Court. This is the first trial stemming from the torture scandals to appear in civilian courts. So far, all the trials have been in military courts where defendants have fewer defense options.

In the courts martial trials, defendants were not allowed to call testimony from the officers who gave them their orders. Neat, eh?

This however is a civilian court and the defendant David A. Passaro, 38, will be able to site statements made by top White House officials, in his defense.

The article is by Scott Shane and was originally printed in the N Y Times. It is reposted in an easy to read, printer friendly format at .

A quote from the article:
" Mr. Passaro, a former Army Special Forces soldier from North Carolina was hired by the C.I.A. in 2003 to capture fighters from the Taliban and Al Qaeda and question them at a base at Asadabad, in northeast Afghanistan.
He was charged in June with four counts of assault, accused of using his hands and feet and a large flashlight to beat a prisoner named Abdul Wali over two days. Mr. Wali, who had turned himself in to the American military after learning he was under suspicion of firing rockets at the base, died in his cell on June 21, 2003. Mr. Passaro is not charged in his death.
In court papers, Mr. Passaro's lawyers say the interrogation was considered urgent because Mr. Wali might have had information that could protect the American military from further rocket attacks. "

It is impossible for me to say anything in this man's defense. He does not deny his actions, so, some level of guilt is presumed, even at this point. He does not argue that he did not do what he is accused of, he is arguing that he had reason to believe he was following orders as expressed by government officials and the president. One assumes that Mr. Gonzalez' senate testimony is involved.

The story from which the charges emerge, in itself is, rather strange. A man learns that he is wanted for questions regarding recent attacks. Trusting fool, he turned himself in to the police to answer their questions. However, the poor sap didn't know anything that the Americans wanted to know and on the off chance that the man who brought himself forward might know something else, they beat him without mercy for two days. That's two days ladies and gents. On the third day, he died. Supposedly from a heart attack.

By the new Gonzalez definition, it's only torture if you intend to kill the person. After systematically beating the man for two days, the victim dies in his cell. The CIA interrogator cum torture master, is not responsible for the death because we wasn't trying to give the man a heart attack, if in deed, that is what the man died of. We will never really know, will we?

Of course, it remains to be seen if the court will even allow the defense. Civilians charged with crimes still have more rights than a citizen in the military. At the same time, if convicted the CIA contractor could face a much stiffer sentence, under the Patriot Act.

It is difficult for many to see right now but I do believe that in a few years these charges are going to end up in international courts where executive privilege and such barriers to justice and information, will have no power.

I don't expect to see this happen very soon. America is still too powerful, but that power is, in the long term, waning. This neocon push for power and complete control of America and the worlds oil supply is doomed. The cost is going to break America. In the long run, the personal fortunes amassed by these political criminals will not protect them from the world. Their corporate masters will happily sacrifice everyone of them if that is the small cost of maintaining business with the rest of the world.

George Bush is a great puppet leader figure for now, but he will make an equally great scapegoat if things continue to go so badly.

Another telling and interesting tid-bit from the article:

" In court papers filed in December, Mr. McNamara, a federal public defender, objected to the use of the USA Patriot Act of 2001 in prosecuting his client. Among its provisions was an expansion of the government's power to prosecute crimes committed at United States facilities overseas.
"To subject Mr. Passaro to prosecution for actions taken in battle and in furtherance of this wartime mission under a criminal statute not intended for battlefield application violates the United State Constitution, contravenes Congressional intent, and turns the Patriot Act on its head," Mr. McNamara wrote."

The argument being, it would appear, that the Patriot Act was not intended to be used against agents of the government. For those of you steeped in hubris, who believe that the Patriot Act was never intended for 'good' people like yourselves, take note.

The Patriot Act is a political weapon that the government will use in anyway convenient to the purposes of those in power. It is the proverbial two edged sword that cuts either direction it is swung in.

When you who still support this power grab by Bush and his neo-conservative handlers, realize the mistake you made, remember when you weren't worried about all the extra powers the state has given itself.

The only bright spot in this present case is that for the first time, the master 'minds' of this decent into barbarism, may be mentioned in federal court in connection with their crimes. We can hope.

Links to more stories regarding this case.

Go here to read the actual charges against David Passaro


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