Ghosts: Documenting Unseen Stories

Canadian documentarian Morvary Samare’s brave new film, Ghosts, premiered last month at the Human Rights Film Festival in Montreal. The film reveals the stories of three Canadian-Arab men who were detained and tortured in Syria and Egypt for months and years only to later be released without  charges. The film raises a number of important questions concerning the use of torture and the role of the Canadian government in these cases. As Samare notes, while the case of another Canadian citizen detained and tortured in Syria, Maher Arar, received enormous attention in the media, the cases of the three men featured in Ghost – Abdullah Almalki, Muayyed Nureddin and Ahmad Abou El-Maati – received none at all. Recent reports have revealed that although the Canadian government was aware that these men were detained and possibly being tortured, officials did little or nothing to question the validity of their detention. Instead, the government maintained that all of information pertaining to their cases concerned national security and as such, were state secrets.  

Here’s a link to a recent CTV interview with Morvary Samare, the producer and director of the film (as well as one of the founders of RamzMedia)

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Heading in the ‘Right’ Direction?

With speculation growing over who President Obama will nominate to replace the retiring Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, three top contenders have emerged: Solicitor General Elena Kagan, US Appeals Court Judge Merrick Garland and US Appeals Court Judge Diane Wood. In an interview with Democracy Now! legal analyst and contributor for, Glenn Greenwald discusses the nominees, focusing in particular on why the nomination of Elena Kagan threatens to shift an already conservative judiciary further to the right. 

Particularly alarming about Kagan’s track record is that when Bush-Cheney were abusing inherent executive power, Kagan was a robust defendant of the admnistration’s claim that the entire world was a battlefield and that executive had the right to indefinitely detain….well…anyone! 

Biden Announces U.S. Decision to Appeal Blackwater Dismissal

In a press conference from Baghdad earlier today, Vice President Joe Biden has announced that the U.S. will appeal a district court’s decision to dismiss manslaughter charges against five Blackwater guards involved in a 2007 Baghdad shooting that killed 17 people including children.

When the court’s opinion in the case involving Blackwater was issued on December 31, 2009, Judge Ricardo Urbina premised his dismissal upon the following ‘facts’: 1) that the prosecution’s case was built upon sworn statements that had been given under a promise of immunity, and 2) that this action violated the guards’ constitutional rights. Based on this argument, he concluded that the prosecution’s explanations were “contradictory, unbelievable and lacking in credibility.”

What Judge Urbina’s decision confirms for us, is that contracting companies like Blackwater (now Xe) have historically been granted a ‘get out of jail free’ card due to government assurances of immunity. The devastating result of this: companies like Blackwater have been ‘allowed’ to kill, indeed to the extent that they may even confess to killing, without fear of recourse. Consequently, we see the implications of the abuse of power that Jeremy Scahill’s longstanding critique  – of the administration’s failure to exercise greater government oversight over private contractors like Blackwater –  is based upon.

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Ten days into the New Year: Not-so-Happy Updates from Gitmo and Bagram

self-deceptionThe Obama administration and Judiciary have been providing a pretty grim preview of 2010 in relation to Guantanamo Bay and Bagram policies.  Here’s a three-part update on some of the devastating ‘developments’ that have taken place in recent days:

1) In the final days of 2009, a federal appeals court in New York ruled that U.S. government agencies may refuse to confirm or deny the existence of records when faced with a Freedom of Information Act request that might disclose sensitive intelligence activities, sources, or methods.

The ruling came on the heels of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request submitted in 2006 by 23 lawyers representing detainees at Guantánamo Bay. In the aforementioned case, lawyers were seeking access to records from the National Security Agency (NSA) and Justice Department that were obtained or related to “ongoing or completed warrantless electronic surveillance or physical searches regarding, referencing, or concerning”any of the 23 lawyers.  

During the ruling, one of the three presiding appeals court judges, Jose Cabranes, uses logic that strikes the ear as painfully predictable in stating that “as long as the disclosure of such data puts national security at risk, intelligence agencies can withhold secret information.” Cabranes further writes, ” The fact that the public is aware of the program’s existence does not mean that the public is entitled to have information regarding the operation of the program, its targets, the information it has yielded, or other highly sensitive national security information that the government has continued to classify.”

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Oh, the Irony!

According to the UK Telegraph, lawyers in the United States are not too pleased about the verdict in the Amanda Knox trial. Amongst the unhappy is Harvard Professor of Law, Alan Dershowitz, a well-known advocate of unlawful-preventive-indefinite- administrative  (it’s all the same anyhow) detention in the U.S and in Israel. Here’s an excerpt, with a few of the responses from bummed out lawyers in the United States:

Within minutes of the verdict on Friday, the cable news network CNN had given over its coverage to two American correspondents, both roundly condemning the trial and what they saw as a lack of evidence.

As they regularly did during the trial, the American media has been quick to wheel out domestic legal experts to rail against the iniquities of the Italian justice system.

Under the headline “An American in the Italian Wheels of Justice”, the New York Times quizzed senior academics but found none who approved of the verdict.

Continue reading “Oh, the Irony!”

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