UN Torture Report Condemns US Human Rights Abuses

Originally published on December 1, 2014, at NationofChange.org

The United Nations Committee Against Torture released a report addressing a myriad of human rights violations committed by the U.S. government. While commending President Obama for qualifying enhanced interrogation techniques as torture, the U.N. Committee decries his administration’s lack of transparency, refusal to prosecute, and inability to prevent rampant abuse.

In its first review of the U.S. since 2006, the U.N. Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment held hearings in Geneva throughout November. U.S. Representative to the Human Rights Council Keith Harper and State Department Acting Legal Adviser Mary McLeod gave statements during the proceedings, while the parents of Michael Brown testified against police brutality.

“The United States is proud of its record as a leader in respecting, promoting, and defending human rights and the rule of law, both at home and around the world,” stated McLeod. “But in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, we regrettably did not always live up to our own values, including those reflected in the Convention. As President Obama has acknowledged, we crossed the line and we take responsibility for that.”

In the conclusion of its report, the Committee applauded President Obama’s statements qualifying enhanced interrogation as torture at a press conference on August 1. The president admitted, “In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, we did some things that were wrong. We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks. We did things that were contrary to our values.”

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2 More Nuclear Commanders Fired Amidst Disciplinary Scandals

Originally published on November 7, 2014, at NationofChange.org

Following a recent series of scandals and misconduct, the U.S. Air Force has fired two more nuclear commanders and disciplined a third. Since June of last year, at least 16 senior nuclear officers have been fired, resigned, or had disciplinary action taken against them. As President Obama upgrades and revamps America’s nuclear stockpile, he continues to place these weapons into the hands of officers afflicted by low morale and poor leadership.

On Monday, the U.S. Air Force fired Col. Carl Jones and Lt. Col. Jimmy Brown due to a loss of trust and confidence in their leadership abilities. Second in command of the 90th Missile Wing at Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming, Col. Jones was responsible for 150 of the air force’s 450 Minuteman III nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). Although Lt. Col. Brown was relieved of command at the 91st Missile Wing at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota on the same day, the air force asserts the timing of these firings is merely a coincidence.

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Blackwater Operatives Found Guilty of Committing Iraqi Massacre

Originally published on October 24, 2014, at NationofChange.org

Four former Blackwater USA contractors have been convicted of murdering 14 unarmed Iraqi civilians and wounding 18 others in the 2007 Nisour Square massacre in Baghdad. The defendants falsely claimed they had been under attack when the shooting occurred, but surviving witnesses and fellow Blackwater operatives testified against them in federal court. After lying under oath to Congress, Blackwater’s founder and former CEO Erik Prince later fled to Abu Dhabi to elude Justice Department investigations.

On September 16, 2007, a Blackwater convoy codenamed Raven 23 disobeyed orders from US Embassy officials to remain in the Green Zone and instead established a blockade at Nisour Square. While driving his mother to an appointment, Ahmed Haithem Ahmed Al Rubia’y stopped his white Kia sedan at the checkpoint and waited for the Blackwater mercenaries to let them pass. Hiding inside the convoy’s command vehicle, Nicholas Slatten aimed his SR-25 sniper rifle through a gun portal and murdered Ahmed.

As Ahmed’s head exploded, his car slipped into neutral and slowly began to approach the Blackwater convoy. While attempting to stop the car, Iraqi police officer Ali Khalaf Salman raised his left arm signaling the shooters to stop firing. Inside the sedan, Ahmed’s mother, Mahassin Mohssen Kadhum Al-Khazali, clutched his bleeding head screaming, “My son! My son! Help me, help me!”

A turret gunner, Jeremy Ridgeway, opened fire killing Ahmed’s mother. Another Blackwater shooter launched an M-203 grenade that caused the sedan to erupt into flames. Unleashing sniper fire, machine guns, and grenade launchers, the Blackwater convoy murdered ten unarmed men, two women, and two boys, ages 9 and 11. At least 18 victims were wounded. The only damage inflicted upon the convoy’s command vehicle came from shrapnel by an American grenade fired at close range by a Blackwater operative.

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Less Than 4% of Pakistanis Killed by CIA Drone Strikes Named as al-Qaeda Members

Originally published on October 23, 2014, at NationofChange.org

Although the U.S. government claims only confirmed terrorists at the highest level are being targeted in drone strikes, the CIA does not know the names or identities of the majority of people the agency has killed in Pakistan since June 2004. After a decade of drone strikes in Pakistan, less than 4% of the victims have been identified as named members of al-Qaeda. Since the inception of the drone program, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have unconstitutionally murdered at least four American citizens.

According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the CIA has launched 400 drone strikes in Pakistan killing at least 2,379 people. Only 704 of these drone strike victims have been identified. 295 have been classified as militants belonging to either the Afghan Taliban or the Pakistani Taliban, while only 84 have been positively identified as members of al-Qaeda.

At least 168 Pakistani children have died in drone strikes, but only 99 have been identified by name. Sixty-seven of these children were executed in a drone strike on a madrassa in October 2006 that left 81 civilians dead.

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Secret Service Director Resigns After Caught Lying to Congress

Originally published on October 2, 2014, at NationofChange.org

After providing slippery testimony to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Secret Service Director Julia Pierson has resigned amidst multiple scandals and incompetency surrounding her agency. Failing to adequately provide protection for the president and the First Family, Pierson openly lied to congressional members regarding her failure to disclose all security breaches to President Obama.

On September 19, Iraq war veteran Omar Gonzalez leapt over the fence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and broke into the White House. Equipped with a three-inch serrated knife, Gonzalez was finally arrested by two off-duty agents after breaching five levels of security. According to an anonymous Secret Service official, the security alarm near the front entrance had been disabled because White House staff had found it annoying.

During a visit to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention three days earlier, President Obama entered an elevator accompanied by an armed private contractor with three convictions for assault and battery. Refusing orders to stop recording the president with his cell phone camera, the contractor was interrogated by Secret Service agents after Obama exited the elevator. The contractor was fired on the spot when agents ran his name through a database and discovered his criminal background. Secret Service agents were completely unaware the contractor had been armed until he turned over his gun.

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Success: Marine Sanctuary Expanded to Prevent Overfishing

Originally published on September 30, 2014, at ForceChange.com

Target: Barack Obama, President of the United States of America

Goal: Applaud the president’s decision to dramatically expand the marine sanctuary near Hawaii

The steady decline of coral reefs and sea life has prompted President Obama to significantly expand a marine sanctuary near Hawaii. A previous ForceChange petition warned of the hazards of overfishing and the destruction wrought upon Hawaii’s marine life and ecosystems. This decision to expand the sanctuary is a huge step in the right direction, and the president should be commended for taking this action.

Established in 2009, the Pacific Remote Islands National Marine Monument has now grown from 82,000 square miles to 490,000 square miles. The president’s decision has allowed the preserve to grow six times larger and nearly three times larger than California. Many endangered and species occupying this area include dolphins, whales, sea turtles, groupers, reef sharks, pearl oysters, coconut crabs, bumphead parrotfish, and giant clams.

Although Hawaiian tuna fishing companies fought against the idea, the White House has produced the largest marine reserve in the world completely off limits to commercial fishing and resource extraction. By invoking the Antiquities Act of 1906, the president is granted the authority to enshrine unique natural and historic sites without congressional approval. The law has previously been invoked to protect landmarks including the Grand Canyon and the Statue of Liberty.

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