#1 No Habeas Corpus for “Any Person”
Consortium, October 19, 2006
Title: “Who Is ‘Any Person’ in Tribunal Law?”
Author: Robert Parry
Consortium, February 3, 2007
Title: “Still No Habeas Rights for You”
Author: Robert Parry
Common Dreams, February 2, 2007
Title: “Repeal the Military Commissions Act and Restore the Most
American Human Right”
Author: Thom Hartmann
Student Researchers: Bryce Cook and Julie Bickel
Faculty Evaluator: Andrew Roth, Ph.D.
With the approval of Congress and no outcry from corporate media, the Military Commissions Act (MCA) signed by Bush on October 17, 2006, ushered in military commission law for US citizens and non-citizens alike. While media, including a lead editorial in the New York Times October 19, have given false comfort that we, as American citizens, will not be the victims of the draconian measures legalized by this Act—such as military roundups and life-long detention with no rights or constitutional protections—Robert Parry points to text in the MCA that allows for the institution of a military alternative to the constitutional justice system for “any person” regardless of American citizenship. The MCA effectively does away with habeas corpus rights for “any person” arbitrarily deemed to be an “enemy of the state.” The judgment on who is deemed an “enemy combatant” is solely at the discretion of President Bush.
The oldest human right defined in the history of English-speaking civilization is the right to challenge governmental power of arrest and detention through the use of habeas corpus laws, considered to be the most critical parts of the Magna Carta which was signed by King John in 1215.
Alexander Hamilton wrote in The Federalist #84 in August of 1788:
The establishment of the writ of habeas corpus are perhaps greater securities to liberty and republicanism than any it [the Constitution] contains. The practice of arbitrary imprisonments have been, in all ages, the favorite and most formidable instruments of tyranny. The observations of the judicious [British eighteenth-century legal scholar] Blackstone, in reference to the latter, are well worthy of recital:
“To bereave a man of life” says he, “or by violence to confiscate his estate, without accusation or trial, would be so gross and notorious an act of despotism, as must at once convey the alarm of tyranny throughout the whole nation; but confinement of the person, by secretly hurrying him to jail, where his sufferings are unknown or forgotten, is a less public, a less striking, and therefore a more dangerous engine of arbitrary government.”
While it is true that some parts of the MCA target non-citizens, other sections clearly apply to US citizens as well, putting citizens inside the same tribunal system with non-citizen residents and foreigners.
Section 950q of the MCA states that, “Any person is punishable as a principal under this chapter [of the MCA] who commits an offense punishable by this chapter, or aids, abets, counsels, commands, or procures its commission.”1
Section 950v. “Crimes Triable by Military Commissions” (26) of the MCA seems to specifically target American citizens by stating that, “Any person subject to this chapter who, in breach of an allegiance or duty to the United States, knowingly and intentionally aids an enemy of the United States, or one of the co-belligerents of the enemy, shall be punished as a military commission under this chapter may direct.”1
“Who,” warns Parry, “has ‘an allegiance or duty to the United States’ if not an American citizen?”
Besides allowing “any person” to be swallowed up by Bush’s system, the law prohibits detainees once inside from appealing to the traditional American courts until after prosecution and sentencing, which could translate into an indefinite imprisonment since there are no timetables for Bush’s tribunal process to play out.
Section 950j of the law further states that once a person is detained, “ not withstanding any other provision of law (including section 2241 of title 28 or any other habeas corpus provision) no court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider any claim or cause of action whatsoever relating to the prosecution, trial, or judgment of a military commission under this chapter, including challenges to the lawfulness of procedures of military commissions.”1
Other constitutional protections in the Bill of Rights, such as a speedy trial, the right to reasonable bail, and the ban on “cruel and unusual punishment,” would seem to be beyond a detainee’s reach as well.
Parry warns that, “In effect, what the new law appears to do is to create a parallel ‘star chamber’ system for the prosecution, imprisonment, and possible execution of enemies of the state, whether those enemies are foreign or domestic.
“Under the cloak of setting up military tribunals to try al-Qaeda suspects and other so-called unlawful enemy combatants, Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress effectively created a parallel legal system for ‘any person’—American citizen or otherwise—who crosses some ill-defined line.”
In one of the most chilling public statements ever made by a US Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales opined at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Jan. 18, 2007, “The Constitution doesn’t say every individual in the United States or citizen is hereby granted or assured the right of habeas corpus. It doesn’t say that. It simply says the right shall not be suspended.”
More important than its sophomoric nature, Parry warns, is that Gonzales’s statement suggests he is still searching for arguments to make habeas corpus optional, subordinate to the President’s executive powers that Bush’s neoconservative legal advisers claim are virtually unlimited during “time of war.”
1. “Military Commissions Act of 2006” Public Law 109-366, 109th Congress. See http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=109_cong_public_laws&docid=f :publ366.109.
UPDATE BY ROBERT PARRY
The Consortium series on the Military Commissions Act of 2006 pointed out that the law’s broad language seems to apply to both US citizens and non-citizens, contrary to some reassuring comments in the major news media that the law only denies habeas corpus rights to non-citizens. The law’s application to “any person” who aids and abets a wide variety of crimes related to terrorism—and the law’s provisions stripping away the jurisdiction of civilian courts—could apparently thrust anyone into the legal limbo of the military commissions where their rights are tightly constrained and their cases could languish indefinitely.
Despite the widespread distribution of our articles on the Internet, the major US news media continues to ignore the troubling “any person” language tucked in toward the end of the statute. To my knowledge, for instance, no major news organization has explained why, if the law is supposed to apply only to non-citizens, one section specifically targets “any person [who] in breach of an allegiance or duty to the United States, knowingly and intentionally aids an enemy of the United States.” Indeed, the “any person” language in sections dealing with a wide array of crimes, including traditional offenses such as spying, suggests that a parallel legal system has been created outside the parameters of the US Constitution.
Since publication of the articles, the Democrats won control of both the House and Senate—and some prominent Democrats, such as Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy, have voiced their intent to revise the law with the goal of restoring habeas corpus and other rights. However, other Democrats appear hesitant, fearing that any attempt to change the law would open them to charges that they are “soft on terrorism” and that Republicans would torpedo the reform legislation anyway. Outside of Congress, pro-Constitution groups have made reform of the Military Commissions Act a high priority. For instance, the American Civil Liberties Union organized a national protest rally against the law. But the public’s lack of a clear understanding of the law’s scope has undercut efforts to build a popular movement for repeal or revision of the law.
To learn more about the movement to rewrite the Military Commissions Act, readers can contact the ACLU at https://secure.aclu.org/site/SPageServer?pagename=DOA_learn
On June 8, 2007 the Senate Judiciary Committee passed the Habeas Corpus Restoration Act on an 11-8 vote. If approved, the bipartisan bill, authored by Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, will restore habeas rights that were taken away last year by the Military Commissions Act. The bill will move to the full Senate for vote late June 2007.
#2 Bush Moves Toward Martial Law
Toward Freedom , October 25, 2006
Title: “Bush Moves Toward Martial Law”
Author: Frank Morales
Student Researchers: Phillip Parfitt and Julie Bickel
Faculty Evaluator: Andy Merrifield, Ph.D.
The John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007, which was quietly signed by Bush on October 17, 2006, the very same day that he signed the Military Commissions Act, allows the president to station military troops anywhere in the United States and take control of state-based National Guard units without the consent of the governor or local authorities, in order to “suppress public disorder.”
By revising the two-century-old Insurrection Act, the law in effect repeals the Posse Comitatus Act, which placed strict prohibitions on military involvement in domestic law enforcement. The 1878 Act reads, “Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.” As the only US criminal statute that outlaws military operations directed against the American people, it has been our best protection against tyranny enforced by martial law—the harsh system of rules that takes effect when the military takes control of the normal administration of justice. Historically martial law has been imposed by various governments during times of war or occupation to intensify control of populations in spite of heightened unrest. In modern times it is most commonly used by authoritarian governments to enforce unpopular rule.1
Section 333 of the Defense Authorization Act of 2007, entitled “Major public emergencies; interference with State and Federal law,” states that “the President may employ the armed forces, including the National Guard in Federal service—to restore public order and enforce the laws of the United States when, as a result of a natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident, or other condition in any State or possession of the United States, the President determines that domestic violence has occurred to such an extent that the constituted authorities of the State or possession are incapable of (or “refuse” or “fail” in) maintaining public order—in order to suppress, in any State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy.”
Thus an Act of Congress, superceding the Posse Comitatus Act, has paved the way toward a police state by granting the president unfettered legal authority to order federal troops onto the streets of America, directing military operations against the American people under the cover of “law enforcement.”
The massive Defense Authorization Act grants the Pentagon $532.8 billion to include implementation of the new law which furthermore facilitates militarized police round-ups of protesters, so-called illegal aliens, potential terrorists, and other undesirables for detention in facilities already contracted and under construction, (see Censored 2007, Story #14) and transferring from the Pentagon to local police units the latest technology and weaponry designed to suppress dissent.
Author Frank Morales notes that despite the unprecedented and shocking nature of this act, there has been no outcry in the American media, and little reaction from our elected officials in Congress. On September 19, a lone Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) noted that 2007’s Defense Authorization Act contained a “widely opposed provision to allow the President more control over the National Guard [adopting] changes to the Insurrection Act, which will make it easier for this or any future President to use the military to restore domestic order without the consent of the nation’s governors.”
A few weeks later, on September 29, Leahy entered into the Congressional Record that he had “grave reservations about certain provisions of the fiscal Year 2007 Defense Authorization Bill Conference Report,” the language of which, he said, “subverts solid, longstanding posse comitatus statutes that limit the military’s involvement in law enforcement, thereby making it easier for the President to declare martial law.” This had been “slipped in,” Leahy said, “as a rider with little study,” while “other congressional committees with jurisdiction over these matters had no chance to comment, let alone hold hearings on, these proposals.”
Leahy noted “the implications of changing the [Posse Comitatus] Act are enormous.” “There is good reason,” he said, “for the constructive friction in existing law when it comes to martial law declarations. Using the military for law enforcement goes against one of the founding tenets of our democracy. We fail our Constitution, neglecting the rights of the States, when we make it easier for the President to declare martial law and trample on local and state sovereignty.”
Morales further asserts that “with the president’s polls at a historic low and Democrats taking back the Congress it is particularly worrisome that President Bush has seen fit, at this juncture to, in effect, declare himself dictator.”
1. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martial_law, “Martial Law,” May 2007
UPDATE BY FRANK MORALES
On April 24, 2007, Major General Timothy Lowenberg, the Adjutant General, Washington National Guard, and Director of the Washington Military Department, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on “The Insurrection Act Rider and State Control of the National Guard.” He was speaking in opposition to Section 1076 of the recently passed 2007 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which President Bush quietly signed into law this past October 17. The law clears the way for the President to execute martial law, commandeer National Guard units around the country and unilaterally authorize military operations against the American people in the event of an executive declaration of a “public emergency.”
This move toward martial law, which is intended to facilitate more effective counterinsurgency measures on the home front, took place, according to Lowenberg, “without any hearing or consultation with the governors and without any articulation or justification of need.” This, despite the fact that Section 1076 of the new law “changed more than one hundred years of well-established and carefully balanced state-federal and civil-military relationships.” In other words, with one swipe of the pen, says the General, “one hundred years of law and policy were changed without any publicly or privately acknowledged author or proponent of the change.”
Its “Federal Plans for Implementing Expanded Martial Law Authority” are to be executed via the recently created domestic military command, the Northern Command or NORTHCOM. “One key USNORTHCOM planning assumption,” says Lowenberg, “is that the President will invoke the new Martial Law powers if he concludes state and/or local authorities no longer possess either the capability or the will to maintain order.” In fact, this “highly subjective assumption,” as Lowenberg puts it, has been in the works for some time now. According to the General, the “US Northern Command has been engaged for some time in deliberative planning for implementation of Section 1076 of the 2007 National Defense Authorization. The formal NORTHCOM CONPLAN 2502-05 was approved by Secretary of Defense Gates on March 15, 2007,”
Further, according to the General, the 2007 NDAA provisions “could be used to compel National Guard forces to engage in civil disturbance operations under federal control.” In that case, NORTHCOM will effectuate its move to martial law, its “CONPLAN,” by way of its very own “civil disturbance plan,” Department of Defense Civil Disturbance Plan 55-2, code-named Garden Plot. Major Tom Herthel, of the United States Air Force Judge Advocate General School, recently laid out the Rules of Engagement & Rules for the Use of Force during the implementation of “GARDEN PLOT,” which according to Herthel, is ”the plan to provide the basis for all preparation, deployment, employment, and redeployment of all designated forces, including National Guard forces called to active federal service, for use in domestic civil disturbance operations as directed by the President.” Among other things, the “rules” allow for the use of lethal force during domestic “civil disturbance operations.”
That is why many are urging Congress to repeal Section 1076 of the 2007 NDAA through immediate enactment of Senate Bill 513. Introduced in February 2007, and sponsored by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the bill seeks to repeal, or as the Congress puts it, “revive previous authority on the use of the Armed Forces and the militia to address interference with State or Federal law, and for other purposes,” through the “Repeal of Amendments made by Public Law 109-364-Section 1076 of the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007.”
It is critical that Senate Bill 513 becomes law, and that our popular struggle succeeds in beating back the President’s attempt to further codify the immoral and criminal seizure of state control via woefully ill-advised and dictatorial moves toward martial law and military rule.
# 3 AFRICOM: US Military Control of Africa’s Resources
Title: “Understanding AFRICOM”
Author: Bryan Hunt
Student Researcher: Ioana Lupu
Faculty Evaluator: Marco Calavita, Ph.D
In February 2007 the White House announced the formation of the US African Command (AFRICOM), a new unified Pentagon command center in Africa, to be established by September 2008. This military penetration of Africa is being presented as a humanitarian guard in the Global War on Terror. The real objective is, however, the procurement and control of Africa’s oil and its global delivery systems.
The most significant and growing challenge to US dominance in Africa is China. An increase in Chinese trade and investment in Africa threatens to substantially reduce US political and economic leverage in that resource-rich continent. The political implication of an economically emerging Africa in close alliance with China is resulting in a new cold war in which AFRICOM will be tasked with achieving full-spectrum military dominance over Africa.
AFRICOM will replace US military command posts in Africa, which were formerly under control of US European Command (EUCOM) and US Central Command (CENTCOM), with a more centralized and intensified US military presence.
A context for the pending strategic role of AFRICOM can be gained from observing CENTCOM in the Middle East. CENTCOM grew out of the Carter Doctrine of 1980 which described the oil flow from the Persian Gulf as a “vital interest” of the US, and affirmed that the US would employ “any means necessary, including military force” to overcome an attempt by hostile interests to block that flow.
It is in Western and Sub-Saharan Africa that the US military force is most rapidly increasing, as this area is projected to become as important a source of energy as the Middle East within the next decade. In this region, challenge to US domination and exploitation is coming from the people of Africa—most specifically in Nigeria, where seventy percent of Africa’s oil is contained.
People native to the Niger Delta region have not benefited, but instead suffered, as a result of sitting on top of vast natural oil and natural gas deposits. Nigerian people’s movements are demanding self-determination and equitable sharing of oil-receipts. Environmental and human rights activists have, for years, documented atrocities on the part of oil companies and the military in this region. As the tactics of resistance groups have shifted from petition and protest to more proactive measures, attacks on pipelines and oil facilities have curtailed the flow of oil leaving the region. As a Convergent Interests report puts it, “Within the first six months of 2006, there were nineteen attacks on foreign oil operations and over $2.187 billion lost in oil revenues; the Department of Petroleum Resources claims this figure represents 32 percent of ‘the revenue the country [Nigeria] generated this year.’”
Oil companies and the Pentagon are attempting to link these resistance groups to international terror networks in order to legitimize the use of the US military to “stabilize” these areas and secure the energy flow. No evidence has been found however to link the Niger Delta resistance groups to international terror networks or jihadists. Instead the situation in the Niger Delta is that of ethnic-nationalist movements fighting, by any means necessary, toward the political objective of self-determination. The volatility surrounding oil installations in Nigeria and elsewhere in the continent is, however, used by the US security establishment to justify military “support” in African oil producing states, under the guise of helping Africans defend themselves against those who would hinder their engagement in “Free Trade.”
The December 2006 invasion of Somalia was coordinated using US bases throughout the region. The arrival of AFRICOM will effectively reinforce efforts to replace the popular Islamic Courts Union of Somalia with the oil industry–friendly Transitional Federal Government. Meanwhile, the persistent Western calls for “humanitarian intervention” into the Darfur region of Sudan sets up another possibility for military engagement to deliver regime change in another Islamic state rich in oil reserves.
Hunt warns that this sort of “support” is only bound to increase as rhetoric of stabilizing Africa makes the dailies, copied directly out of official AFRICOM press releases. Readers of the mainstream media can expect to encounter more frequent usage of terms like “genocide” and “misguided.” He notes that already corporate media decry China’s human rights record and support for Sudan and Zimbabwe while ignoring the ongoing violations of Western corporations engaged in the plunder of natural resources, the pollution other peoples’ homelands, and the “shoring up” of repressive regimes.
In FY 2005 the Trans-Sahara Counter Terrorism Initiative received $16 million; in FY 2006, nearly $31 million. A big increase is expected in 2008, with the administration pushing for $100 million each year for five years. With the passage of AFRICOM and continued promotion of the Global War on Terror, Congressional funding is likely to increase significantly.
In the end, regardless of whether it’s US or Chinese domination over Africa, the blood spilled will be African. Hunt concludes, “It does not require a crystal ball or great imagination to realize what the increased militarization of the continent through AFRICOM will bring to the peoples of Africa.”
Update by Bryan Hunt
By spring 2007, US Department of Energy data showed that the United States now imports more oil from the continent of Africa than from the country of Saudi Arabia. While this statistic may be of surprise to the majority, provided such information even crosses their radar, it’s certainly not the case for those figures who have been pushing for increased US military engagement on that continent for some time now, as my report documented. These import levels will rise.
In the first few months following the official announcement of AFRICOM, details are still few. It’s expected that the combatant command will be operational as a subunit of EUCOM by October 2007, transitioning to a full-fledged stand-alone command some twelve months later. This will most likely entail the re-locating of AFRICOM headquarters from Stuttgart, Germany, where EUCOM is headquartered, to an African host country.
In April, US officials were traversing the continent to present their sales pitch for AFRICOM and to gauge official and public reaction. Initial perceptions are, not surprisingly, negative and highly suspect, given the history of US military involvement throughout the world, and Africa’s long and bitter experience with colonizers.
Outside of a select audience, reaction in the United States has barely even registered. First of all, Africa is one of the least-covered continents in US media. And when African nations do draw media attention, coverage typically centers on catastrophe, conflict, or corruption, and generally features some form of benevolent foreign intervention, be it financial and humanitarian aid, or stern official posturing couched as paternal concerns over human rights. But US military activity on the continent largely goes unnoticed. This was recently evidenced by the sparse reporting on military support for the invasion of Somalia to rout the Islamic Courts Union and reinstall the unpopular warlords who had earlier divided up the country. The Pentagon went so far as to declare the operation a blueprint for future engagements.
The DOD states that a primary component of AFRICOM’s mission will be to professionalize indigenous militaries to ensure stability, security, and accountable governance throughout Africa’s various states and regions. Stability refers to establishing and maintaining order, and accountability, of course, refers to US interests. This year alone, 1,400 African military officers are anticipated to complete International Military Education and Training programs at US military schools.
Combine this tasking of militarization with an increased civilian component in AFRICOM emphasizing imported conceptions of “democracy promotion” and “capacity-building” and African autonomy and sovereignty are quick to suffer. Kenyans, for example, are currently finding themselves in this position.
It is hoped that, by drawing attention to the growing US footprint on Africa now, a contextual awareness of these issues can be useful to, at the very least, help mitigate some of the damages that will surely follow. At the moment, there is little public consciousness of AFRICOM and very few sources of information outside of official narratives. Widening the public dialogue on this topic is the first step toward addressing meaningful responses.
# 4 Frenzy of Increasingly Destructive Trade Agreements
Oxfam International, March 2007
Title: “Singing Away The Future”
IPS coverage of Oxfam Report March 20, 2007
Title: “Free Trade Enslaving Poor Countries”
Author: Sanjay Suri
Student Researcher: Ann Marie O’Toole
Faculty Evaluator: Peter Phillips, Ph.D.
The Oxfam report, “Signing Away the Future,” reveals that the US and European Union (EU) are vigorously pursuing increasingly destructive regional and bilateral trade and investment agreements outside the auspices of the WTO. These agreements are requiring enormous irreversible concessions from developing countries, while offering almost nothing in return. Faster and deeper, the US and EU are demanding unprecedented tariff reductions, sometimes to nothing, as the US and EU dump subsidized agricultural goods on undeveloped countries (see story #21), plunging local farmers into desperate poverty. Meanwhile the US and EU provide themselves with high tariffs and stringent import quotas to protect their own producers. Unprecedented loss of livelihood, displacement, slave labor, along with spiraling degradation of human rights and environments are resulting as economic governance is forced from governments of developing countries, and taken over by unaccountable multinational firms.
During 2006, more than one hundred developing countries were involved in FTA or Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) negotiations. “An average of two treaties are signed every week,” the report says, “Virtually no country, however poor, has been left out.”
Much of the recent debate and controversy over trade negotiations has revolved around the increasingly devastating trade-distorting practices of rich countries versus the developing countries’ needs for food security and industrial development. The new generation of agreements, however, extends far beyond this traditional area of trade policy—imposing a damaging set of binding rules in intellectual property, services, and investment with much deeper consequences for development and impacts on the poor.
Double standards in the intellectual-property rights chapters of most trade agreements are glaring. As new agreements limit developing countries’ access to patented technology and medicines—while failing to protect traditional knowledge—the public-health consequences are staggering. The US-Colombia FTA is expected to reduce access to medicines by 40 percent and the US-Peru FTA is expected to leave 700,000 to 900,000 Peruvians without access to affordable medicines.
US and EU FTAs also require the adoption of plant-breeder rights that remove the right to share seeds among indigenous farmers. The livelihood of the world’s poorest farmers is thus made even more vulnerable, while profit margins of the world’s largest agribusinesses continue to climb. US FTAs are now pushing for patents on plants, which will not only limit the rights of farmers to exchange or sell seeds, but also forbid them to save and reuse seed they have grown themselves for generations. Under US FTAs including DR-CAFTA, US–Peru and US–Colombia FTAs, developing-country governments will no longer be able to reject a patent application because a firm fails to indicate the origin of a plant or show proof of consent for its use from a local community. As a result, communities could find themselves forced to pay for patented plant varieties based on genetic resources from their own soil.
New rules also pose a threat to essential services as FTAs allow foreign investors to take ownership of healthcare, education, water, and public utilities.
Investment chapters of new FTAs and BITs allow foreign investors to sue for lost profits, including anticipated future profits, if governments change regulations, even when such reforms are in the public interest. These rules undermine the sovereignty of developing nations, transferring power from governments to largely unaccountable multinational firms. A growing number of investment chapters and treaties further tip the scales of justice by preventing governments from screening or regulating foreign investment—banning the use of all ‘performance requirements’ in all sectors including mining, manufacturing, and services.
More than 170 countries have signed international investment agreements that provide foreign investors with the right to turn immediately to international investor-state arbitration to settle disputes, without first trying to resolve the matter in national courts. Such arbitration fails to consider public interest, basing decisions exclusively on commercial law.
Not only is the legal basis for investment arbitration loaded against public interest, so are the proceedings. Despite the fact that many arbitration panels are hosted at the World Bank and the United Nations, the investment arbitration system is shrouded in secrecy. It is virtually impossible to find out what cases are being heard, let alone the outcome or rationale for decisions. As a result, there is no body of case decisions to inform governments of developing countries when drafting investments agreements.
Oxfam notes that the only group privy to this information is an increasingly powerful select group of commercial lawyers, whose fees often place them out of reach of developing-country governments. These lawyers, according to the Oxfam report, are eager to advise foreign investors regarding opportunities to claim compensation from developing countries under international investment agreements.
Strong opposition is growing to the political asymmetry inherent in these bilateral trade and investment agreements (see stories #8, #19, and #21). As Oxfam notes, “It is in nobody’s long-term interest to have a global economy that perpetuates social, economic, and environmental injustice.”
UPDATE BY LAURA RUSU OF OXFAM INTERNATIONAL
While real progress toward achieving a development-friendly outcome in the World Trade Organization’s Doha Round is still quite elusive, the negotiation of bilateral and regional free trade agreements (FTAs) that would undermine development continues at an unabated pace.
In the United States, the new Democratic leadership in Congress recently negotiated changes in the areas of labor, environment, and intellectual property in regard to access to medicines that are to be incorporated into the completed FTAs awaiting Congressional ratification. If implemented as agreed, these changes would mean important progress in enforcing core International Labor Organization standards and multilateral environmental agreements, and in promoting public health over private profits by reducing onerous protections for pharmaceutical monopolies. Still, more must be done in these areas, and harmful provisions remain in several other areas that will adversely affect developing countries, particularly the poor.
Without further changes, the FTAs create a profoundly unfair situation in which the US provides massive domestic agricultural supports and subsidies that allow products to be exported below their cost of production, while developing country trading partners are left with no means of protection. With large portions of their populations dependent upon agriculture for their livelihoods, the FTAs provide no effective safeguard to protect poor farmers from unfair competition. In addition, investment rules in the FTAs will hinder local and national governments from directing foreign investment so that it contributes to sustainable development. The investment chapter will give foreign companies leeway to challenge investment regulations, such as laws to protect the environment and public health. These and other provisions would deny developing countries the policy space needed to further their own development.
The US Administration hopes to bring FTAs with Peru, Panama, Colombia and Korea to a vote this year, although it remains doubtful whether there would be sufficient Congressional support to move the latter two. Congressional leadership is insisting that Colombia must also address its serious problems of violence and impunity, particularly as suffered by trade unionists, and has raised market-access concerns with regard to South Korea.
In a similar vein, the European Union has proceeded with FTA negotiations with African, Caribbean, and Pacific countries by pushing forward negotiating texts that will undermine the ability of poor countries to effectively govern their economies, protect their poorest people, improve livelihoods, and create new jobs. Going beyond the provisions negotiated at a multilateral level, the EU is making requests that would impose far-reaching, hard-to-reverse rules in the areas of market access, agriculture, services and intellectual property. At the same time, the EU is proceeding to open formal negotiations with Central American countries for an FTA that would impose similar rules that undermine development. A similar agreement with Andean countries is expected to follow, and plans have been announced to open negotiations with ASEAN, India, and South Korea. In all of these negotiations, the EU, like the US, is failing to put development first.
For more information, please see http://www.oxfamamerica.org.
#5 Human Traffic Builds US Embassy in Iraq
CorpWatch, October 17, 2007
Title: “A US Fortress Rises in Baghdad: Asian Workers Trafficked to Build World’s Largest Embassy”
Author: David Phinney
Student Researcher: Kristen Kebler and Angela Purcaro
Faculty Evaluator: Andrew Roth, Ph.D.
The enduring monument to US liberation and democracy in Iraq will be the most expensive and heavily fortified embassy in the world—and is being built by a Kuwait contractor repeatedly accused of using forced labor trafficked from South Asia under US contracts. The $592 million, 104-acre fortress equal in size to the Vatican City is scheduled to open in September 2007. With a highly secretive contract awarded by the US State Department, First Kuwaiti Trading & Contracting has joined the ranks of Halliburton/KBR in Iraq by using bait-and-switch recruiting practices. Thousands of citizens from countries that have banned travel or work in Iraq are being tricked, smuggled into brutal and inhumane labor camps, and subjected to months of forced servitude—all in the middle of the US-controlled Green Zone, “right under the nose of the US State Department.”
Though Associated Press reports that, “The 5,500 Americans and Iraqis working at the embassy are far more numerous than at any other US mission worldwide,”1 there is no mention in corporate media of the 3,000 South Asian laborers working for contractors in dangerous and abysmal living and working conditions.
One such contractor is First Kuwaiti Trading and Contracting. FKTC has procured several billion dollars in US construction contracts since the war began in March 2003. Much of its work is performed by cheap labor hired from South Asia. The company currently employs an estimated 7,500 foreign laborers in theaters of war.
American FKTC employees report having witnessed the issuance of false boarding passes to Dubai, and passport seizure from planeloads of South Asian workers, who were instead routed to war-torn Baghdad. Former US Embassy construction manager for FKTC, John Owen, disclosed to author David Phinney that the deception had all the appearance of smuggling workers into Iraq.
On April 4, 2006, the Pentagon issued a contracting directive following an investigation that officially confirmed that contractors in Iraq, many working as subcontractors to Halliburton/KBR, were illegally confiscating worker passports, using deceptive bait-and-switch hiring practices, and charging recruiting fees that indebted low-paid migrant workers for many months or even years to their employers.
Section 1. (U) of the Pentagon directive states, “An inspection of contracting activities supporting DoD in Iraq revealed evidence of illegal confiscation of worker (Third Country National) passports by contractors/subcontractors; deceptive hiring practices and excessive recruiting fees, substandard worker living conditions at some sites, circumvention of Iraqi immigration procedures by contractors/subcontractors and lack of mandatory trafficking in persons awareness training. This FRAGO [fragmentary order] establishes responsibilities within MNF-1 for combating trafficking in persons.”
An April 19, 2006 memorandum from Joint Contracting Command in Baghdad to All Contractors again states that, “Evidence indicates a widespread practice of withholding employee passports to, among other things, prevent employees ‘jumping’ to other employers. All contractors engaging in the above mentioned practice are directed to cease and desist in this practice immediately.”
The Pentagon has yet to announce, however, any penalty for those found to be in violation of US labor trafficking laws or contract requirements.
In a resignation letter dated June 2006, Owen told FKTC and US State Department officials that his managers at the US Embassy site regularly beat migrant workers, demonstrated little regard for worker safety, and routinely breached security. He also complained of poor sanitation, squalid living conditions and medical malpractice in labor camps where several thousand low-paid migrant workers, recruited from the Philippines, India, and Pakistan lived. Those workers, Owen noted, earned as little as $10 to $30 for a twelve-hour workday.
Rory Mayberry, a medic subcontracted to FKTC to attend construction crews at the Embassy, shares similar complaints about treatment of migrant laborers. In reports made available to the US State Department, the US Army, and FKTC, Mayberry called for the closure of the onsite medical clinic, listing dozens of serious safety hazards, unsanitary conditions, as well as routine negligence and malpractice. He furthermore called for an investigation into deaths that he suspected resulted from medical malpractice. Mayberry is not aware of any follow-up on his allegations.
Owen says that State Department officials supervising the US Embassy project are aware of abuse, but apparently do nothing. He recalls, “Once when seventeen workers climbed the wall of the construction site to escape, a State Department official helped round them up and put them in virtual lockdown.”
Phinney says that more FKTC employees are stepping forward to say that Owen’s and Mayberry’s testimonies “only begin to scratch the surface” of the conditions workers are forced to endure in building this monument to US liberation and democracy in Iraq.
1. Associated Press, “New US Embassy in Iraq Cloaked in Mystery,” MSNBC, April 14, 2006.
UPDATE BY DAVID PHINNEY
When I first heard that Project Censored would recognize this story on the low-wage migrant laborers from South Asia building the US embassy in Baghdad, I admit I felt the story was a failure. Allegations of forced labor, lousy treatment of workers and beatings struck me as something that should rise to the level of torture at Abu Ghraib. Despite what appears to be a whitewash review of the embassy project by the State Department Inspector General that exonerated the contractor—even though more than a dozen sources on the site say conditions were abysmal—I am now encouraged by a recent effort at the US Justice Department to investigate allegations of labor trafficking and other matters. But the problem of labor abuse has been found to be “widespread” among contractors in the theater of war in Iraq. Unfortunately, not one contractor has been penalized—in fact, many are being rewarded with new US-funded contracts. That is a crime to humanity that may haunt the United States for years to come.
#6 Operation FALCON Raids
SourceWatch, November 18, 2006
Title: “Operation Falcon”
Author: Brenda J. Elliot
Ukernet, February 26, 2007
Title: “Operation Falcon and the Looming Police State”
Author: Mike Whitney
Student Researcher: Erica Haikara and Celeste Winders
Faculty Evaluator: Ron Lopez, Ph.D.
Under the code name Operation FALCON (Federal and Local Cops Organized Nationally) three federally coordinated mass arrests occurred between April 2005 and October 2006. In an unprecedented move, more than 30,000 “fugitives” were arrested in the largest dragnets in the nation’s history. The operations directly involved over 960 agencies (state, local, and federal) and were the brainchild of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and US Marshal’s Director Ben Reyna. The DoJ supplied television networks government-shot action videotape of Marshals and local cops raiding homes and breaking down doors, “targeting the worst of the worst criminals on the run,” emphasizing suspected sex offenders. Yet less than ten percent of the total 30,150 were suspected sex offenders and less than two percent owned firearms. The press has not asked, “Who were the others?” And to date, the US Marshal’s office has issued no public statement as to whether the people arrested in Operation Falcon have been processed or released. Author Mike Whitney cautions that Attorney General Gonzales has little interest in the petty offenders who were netted in this extraordinary crackdown. This action is instead, he warns, a practice roundup in the move toward martial law.
Altogether, there were three FALCON Operations, each netting roughly 10,000 criminal suspects. Between April 4–10, 2005, FALCON I swept up 10,340 fugitives in the largest nationwide mass arrest (to that date) in American history. Alberto Gonzalez proudly announced on April 15 through corporate media, “Operation FALCON is an excellent example of President Bush’s direction and the Justice Department’s dedication to deal both with the terrorist threat and traditional violent crime. This joint effort shows the commitment of our federal, state, and local partners to make our neighborhoods safer, and it has led to the highest number of arrests ever recorded for a single initiative of its kind. We will use all of our Nation’s law enforcement resources to serve the people, to pursue justice, and to make our streets and Nation safer.”
Operation FALCON II, carried out the week of April 17–23, 2006, arrested another 9,037 individuals from twenty-seven states mostly west of the Mississippi River. Operation FALCON III, conducted during the week of October 22–28, 2006, netted another 10,733 fugitives in twenty-four states east of the Mississippi River.
The US Marshals Service has not yet disclosed the names of the people arrested in these massive sweeps nor of what crimes they were accused. We have no way of knowing whether they were provided with due process of law, where they are now, or whether they have been abused while in custody.
SourceWatch contributors further ask for clarification, “Although Attorney General Gonzales stated on April 15, 2005 that Operation FALCON was ‘an excellent example of President Bush‘s direction and the Justice Department’s dedication to deal both with the terrorist threat and traditional violent crime,’ where is the connection between the Operation FALCON roundups and catching terrorists? Why did police wait for federally orchestrated raids to arrest known sex offenders and suspected murders? Why were state and federal agencies integrated with local law enforcement to simply carry out routine police work?”
The media played an essential role in concealing the important details of the Operation. In fact, the non-critical “cookie cutter” articles which appeared in newspapers across the country suggest that the media may have collaborated directly with the Justice Department. (see Chapter 9, Fake News) Whitney notes that nearly identical “news” segments and articles put the best possible spin on a story that most Americans might find deeply disturbing, and perhaps frightening.
While mass militarized police roundups make little sense as a method of apprehending fugitives, the FALCON program does make sense as a means of effectively setting up a chain-of-command structure that radiates from the Justice Department and relocates the levers of control to Washington where they can be manned by members of the administration. Whitney warns that the plan behind the FALCON program appears to have been devised to enhance the powers of the “unitary” executive by putting state and local law enforcement under federal supervision, ready for the institution of martial law (see story #2.)
Update by Mike Whitney
Operation FALCON presents the first time in US history that all of the domestic police agencies have been put under the direct control of the federal government. The implications for American democracy are quite profound.
Operation FALCON serves no purpose except to centralize power and establish the basic contours of an American police state. It is not an effective way of apprehending criminals.
For the most part, the media completely ignored FALCON. In fact, these extraordinary police-state sweeps did not elicit even one editorial or one column-inch of commentary from any journalist in the country. Following the government’s version of events, the story was simply brushed aside as trivial. For those who care to explore the media’s true role in undermining the fundamental rights of Americans; FALCON is probably a good place to begin. It illustrates how the media deliberately obscures facts that do not serve the overall interests of the state.
The last FALCON operation was carried out on October 28, 2006. Since then, the project has been put on “hold,” presumably until some time in the future when it will be reactivated by presidential decree. The precedents have now been established for law enforcement agencies across the nation to be taken over by the chief executive at a moment’s notice. If there is another terrorist attack within the United States, or the outbreak of an epidemic, or a natural disaster on the scale of Hurricane Katrina; we can expect that President Bush will consolidate his power by asserting direct control over all of the various federal, state, and local police agencies. Eventually, we will see that FALCON was organized with that very purpose in mind.
Recent changes to the Insurrection Act of 1807 as well as to the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 allow President Bush to declare martial law at his own discretion and to take control of the National Guard from the state governors. That means that Bush now has a complete monopoly on all the means of organized violence in the country.
With the aid of the corporate media and an alliance of far-right organizations, Bush has successfully removed all the traditional obstacles to absolute power. The groundwork has been laid for an American dictatorship. FALCON is just one small part of that much larger plan.
UPDATE BY ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
A more recent and less publicized sweep was made March 7, 2007, in Baltimore, with the arrest of about two hundred fugitives. The rationale for this sweep is more puzzling, perhaps, as it was the only city involved. This sweep received only local media attention.
Numerous questions, as stated in the Operation FALCON article, remain unanswered. The mainstream press does not appear to be interested in exploring beyond the initial sweep events.
Both House and Senate committees on the judiciary and government oversight are digging into DoJ operations due to the US attorney firings and politicization of the Department, with all roads leading to the White House. It is not unreasonable to expect that these sweeps may eventually come under investigation as well.
The mainstream press, to my knowledge, has not responded at all to my SourceWatch coverage of this story. The press coverage that Operation FALCON received appears to be limited to DoJ and USMS news releases with the addition of an occasional local interest story. Information on the fate of the 30,000 plus who were arrested is conspicuous by its absence.
Additional information on this story should be available from both the DoJ and USMS. In reality, it most likely will not be, as neither has provided any updates. The SourceWatch article will continue to be updated when or if additional information becomes available.
#7 Behind Blackwater Inc.
Source: Democracy Now! January 26, 2007
Title: “Our Mercenaries in Iraq: Blackwater Inc and Bush’s Undeclared Surge”
Author: Jeremy Scahill
Student Researcher: Sverre Tysl
Faculty Evaluator: Noel Byrne, Ph.D.
The company that most embodies the privatization of the military industrial complex—a primary part of the Project for a New American Century and the neoconservative revolution is the private security firm Blackwater. Blackwater is the most powerful mercenary firm in the world, with 20,000 soldiers, the world’s largest private military base, a fleet of twenty aircraft, including helicopter gunships, and a private intelligence division. The firm is also manufacturing its own surveillance blimps and target systems.
Blackwater is headed by a very right-wing Christian-supremist and ex-Navy Seal named Erik Prince, whose family has had deep neo-conservative connections. Bush’s latest call for voluntary civilian military corps to accommodate the “surge” will add to over half a billion dollars in federal contracts with Blackwater, allowing Prince to create a private army to defend Christendom around the world against Muslims and others.
One of the last things Dick Cheney did before leaving office as Defense Secretary under George H. W. Bush was to commission a Halliburton study on how to privatize the military bureaucracy. That study effectively created the groundwork for a continuing war profiteer bonanza.
During the Clinton years, Erik Prince envisioned a project that would take advantage of anticipated military outsourcing. Blackwater began in 1996 as a private military training facility, with an executive board of former Navy Seals and Elite Special Forces, in the Great Dismal Swamp of North Carolina. A decade later it is the most powerful mercenary firm in the world, embodying what the Bush administration views as “the necessary revolution in military affairs”—the outsourcing of armed forces.
In his 2007 State of the Union address Bush asked Congress to authorize an increase in the size of our active Army and Marine Corps by 92,000 in the next five years. He continued, “A second task we can take on together is to design and establish a volunteer civilian reserve corps. Such a corps would function much like our military reserve. It would ease the burden on the Armed Forces by allowing us to hire civilians with critical skills to serve on missions abroad when America needs them.”
This is, however, precisely what the administration has already done—largely, Jeremy Scahill points out, behind the backs of the American people. Private contractors currently constitute the second-largest “force” in Iraq. At last count, there were about 100,000 contractors in Iraq, 48,000 of which work as private soldiers, according to a Government Accountability Office report. These soldiers have operated with almost no oversight or effective legal constraints and are politically expedient, as contractor deaths go uncounted in the official toll. With Prince calling for the creation of a “contractor brigade” before military audiences, the Bush administration has found a back door for engaging in an undeclared expansion of occupation.
Blackwater currently has about 2,300 personnel actively deployed in nine countries and is aggressively expanding its presence inside US borders. They provide the security for US diplomats in Iraq, guarding everyone from Paul Bremer and John Negroponte to the current US ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad. They’re training troops in Afghanistan and have been active in the Caspian Sea, where they set up a Special Forces base miles from the Iranian border. According to reports they are currently negotiating directly with the Southern Sudanese regional government to start training the Christian forces of Sudan.
Blackwater’s connections are impressive. Joseph Schmitz, the former Pentagon Inspector General, whose job was to police the war contractor bonanza, has moved on to become the vice chairman of the Prince Group, Blackwater’s parent company, and the general counsel for Blackwater.
Bush recently hired Fred Fielding, Blackwater’s former lawyer, to replace Harriet Miers as his top lawyer; and Ken Starr, the former Whitewater prosecutor who led the impeachment charge against President Clinton, is now Blackwater’s counsel of record and has filed briefs with Supreme Court to fight wrongful death lawsuits brought against Blackwater.
Cofer Black, thirty-year CIA veteran and former head of CIA’s counterterrorism center, credited with spearheading the extraordinary rendition program after 9/11, is now senior executive at Blackwater and perhaps its most powerful operative.
Prince and other Blackwater executives have been major bankrollers of the President, of former House Majority Leader, Tom DeLay, and of former Senator, Rick Santorum. Senator John Warner, the former head of the Senate Armed Services Committee, called Blackwater, “our silent partner in the global war on terror.”
#8 KIA: The US Neoliberal Invasion of India
Democracy Now! December 13, 2006
Title: “Vandana Shiva on Farmer Suicides, the US-India Nuclear Deal, Wal-Mart in India”
Author: Vandana Shiva with Amy Goodman