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Torture -- It's time to resist
page 3
Reports and resources from January through October, 2008

The latest reports, beginning in November, 2008

Reports on torture from October 2006 through December 2007 >>
Postings on torture from March through September, 2006 >>
Posts on torture from November '05 through February 06 >>
For earlier postings on torture, from June through October 2005 >>
It's time to say No to Torture >>

Ecumenical Advocacy Days will include workshop on ending torture     [2-12-10]

March 19-22, outside Washington, DC

The National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) is a co-sponsor of the Ecumenical Advocacy Days which will take place March 19-22 at the Double Tree Hotel in Crystal City, VA, near Reagan National Airport.  It is a significant gathering of Christians who come to DC to strategize and lobby on a variety of issues.  You can learn more and register at: http://www.advocacydays.org/.

On that Saturday NRCAT will sponsor an important workshop and we hope you will be able to join us:

Ending Torture - At Home and Abroad
Saturday, March 20, 2010
2:50 - 4:20 pm
Double Tree Hotel, Crystal City, VA

Workshop Description:
Come learn about three areas of work to end torture at home and abroad: 1) Ending U.S.-sponsored torture of post-9/11 detainees; 2) Ending torture in U.S. prisons; and 3) Advocating for U.S. policies and practices that help end torture by other governments.

Panelists will include:

bulletLinda Gustitus, NRCAT's President;
bulletLance Tapley, investigative journalist, who has covered an ongoing campaign to pass legislation limiting the use of solitary confinement in Maine;
bulletSteve Rickard, Executive Director of the Open Society Policy Center, who has many years of experience working for an end to torture around the world.

The session will include concrete suggestions for how people of faith can work to end torture in 2010, and Q/A with the panelists.

If you have any questions about the event, please contact John Humphries.

Sincerely,

Linda Gustitus, President
Rev. Richard Killmer, Executive Director

The National Religious Campaign Against Torture urges:

Ask Senator-elect Scott Brown to rethink his support of waterboarding and other forms of torture.

[Dated 21 Jan 2010 -- Posted here 1-22-10]

Please email Senator-elect Scott Brown and ask him to rethink his position on waterboarding and other forms of torture.

On Tuesday, January 19th, Scott Brown was elected to represent Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate. During the campaign Mr. Brown publicly proclaimed his support for the use of waterboarding and other forms of torture. He said waterboarding is not torture and that the U.S. has not used torture. He is mistaken on both fronts.

Since Mr. Brown will now be voting in the U.S. Senate on key legislation concerning the conduct of interrogations and treatment of detainees, we think that it is important that we attempt to explain to him that waterboarding and other "enhanced" interrogation techniques are forms of torture, are illegal, are immoral, and are contrary to American values.

Please email Senator-elect Brown and tell him that waterboarding and other abusive techniques are forms of torture. Further, please explain to him that you would hope, as a U.S. Senator, he would stand for U.S. values and the rule of law and would oppose the use of torture. Click here for a model email which you can modify and then send to Senator-elect Brown

Thank you for your help.

Sincerely,

Linda Gustitus, President
Rev. Richard L. Killmer, Executive Director

Thanks to Betty Hale for suggesting this for posting

National Religious Coalition Against Torture urges action to close Guantanamo     [12-9-09]

Please join NRCAT and other organizations in urging Congress and the Obama Administration to move quickly in closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, a prominent symbol of our nation's use of torture.

January brings two important anniversaries that offer good opportunities for local organizing – January 11 and January 22.

Monday, January 11 - 8th Anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo 

•          Mark this day with an interfaith prayer service or candlelight vigil.

•           Gather signatures on NRCAT's Guantanamo petition.

MLK Weekend (January 15-18) - Highlight Guantanamo during religious services

•          Use NRCAT's interfaith prayer and bulletin insert during services.

•          Gather petition signatures or signed letters after services.

Friday, January 22 - Anniversary of executive order calling for Guantanamo's closure 

•          Hand deliver petitions and signed letters to local congressional offices.

•          Consider organizing a press conference with religious leaders immediately before or after delivering the petitions and letters.

All of these resources and an online registration form are available here.

If you tell us what you're planning by registering online, we'll be able to send you updated information and resources, including a sample media advisory. And if we have a large enough response, we will be able to seek some national or regional media coverage, as we have done successfully for previous coordinated actions.

Thank you for all that you do to help end U.S.-sponsored torture forever.

Sincerely,
Linda Gustitus, President
Rev. Richard Killmer, Executive Director

Delegations to visit Congressional offices across the country in witness against torture

Solemn Procession to the White House

from the National Religious Coalition against Torture
[10-31-08]

Dear Friends:

We are eager to give an update of our plans for the National Day of Witness for a Presidential Executive Order to Ban Torture on November 12th.  

On that day, we will be asking Members of Congress to endorse the Declaration of Principles for a Presidential Executive Order and to urge the President-elect to issue an Executive Order as one of his first official actions.  We will also ask them to support our call for the appointment of a Select Committee of Congress to investigate the use of torture since September 11, 2001.  Both the new President and the new Congress need to take immediate steps to reverse the policies authorizing torture and to begin rebuilding our nation's moral leadership.

We now have nearly 40 confirmed delegations or events happening all across the country.  To see a list of those delegations, click here.

At least 15 more delegation organizers are still working to secure appointments with local congressional offices, and we will continue to update the list in the coming days.

A few delegations have initiated dialogue with the congressional staff about the possibility of securing public statements of support on the 12th, a development that could make this coordinated witness even more powerful.

In addition to the meetings at congressional offices across the country, there will also be a Solemn Procession to the White House in Washington, D.C.  Organized by the Washington Region Religious Campaign Against Torture (WRRCAT), this public witness will begin at The United Church (G St. and 20th St., NW) and culminate in a press conference in front of the White House.  For information, click here.

We are also organizing a national press teleconference at 10:30 a.m. EDT.  National and local media will have an opportunity to hear statements from, and ask questions of, prominent religious leaders and connect the national story with local events across the country.

If you are organizing a delegation or some other type of event for November 12th and we haven't yet included it in the list, please contact John Humphries with the relevant information (jhumphries@nrcat.org; 860-216-7972).  You should also contact John with any questions about the National Day of Witness.

All of you can help to strengthen this witness by urging members of your congregation and community to endorse the Declaration of Principles.  Each delegation will be delivering to their Member of Congress a list of endorsers from their state.  We will also be delivering the national list to the President-elect's transition team during the weeks following the election. You can endorse online right now, by clicking here or by clicking "Tell the President: Ban Torture!" on the NRCAT homepage.  You can also gather endorsements using this petition form and returning it to the NRCAT office in D.C.  

And don't forget that we have a variety of resources (including banners, bumper stickers, posters and bulletin inserts about the Declaration of Principles) available from our online store.

Thank you for all your dedicated work.  This is a very busy time, but we have faith that, together, we can end U.S.-sponsored torture.

Sincerely,


Rev. Richard Killmer
Executive Director

More >>

Five steps to end torture
[10-9-08]

George Hunsinger, professor of systematic theology at Princeton Theological Seminary and the founder of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT), tells of the advice of Darius Rejali, a distinguished torture researcher and analyst, who lists “five steps which would bring torture to an end.”

He summarizes them: “In short, there must be (1) a single set of operating procedures, (2) a clear chain of command, (3) outside monitoring by accredited agencies, (4) a fair and timely grievance procedure and (5) above all, a strict observance of procedures for accountability.”

You can read his brief article in The Christian Century >>


 

 

[9-15-08]

An important message from the National Religious Campaign Against Torture:

Please contact your Senators tomorrow morning, Tuesday, September 16, 2008!

The Senate is currently debating the FY 2009 Defense Authorization bill, and one of the pending amendments, Amendment Number 5369, would provide the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) with access to all detainees.  The ICRC functions as an independent observer whose function is to ensure that prisoners are not denied their basic human rights.  Allowing the ICRC access would help to end the use of torture and other abusive practices.

Please call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask to speak with each of your Senators' offices.  Tell them that you would like the Senate to vote on Amendment Number 5369 to the FY 2009 Defense Authorization bill, and that you hope that they will support providing the International Committee of the Red Cross with access to all U.S.-held detainees.

Thank you for your good work in the fight to end torture.

Sincerely,

Rev. Richard Killmer
Executive Director, NRCAT

            STILL
TORTURE IS ^ A MORAL ISSUE
[9-9-08]

The National Religious Campaign Against Torture has sent a new communication to its supporters, suggesting very specific things we can do over the next few months to end U.S. sponsored torture. The main focus of these actions is to urge members of Congress to support NRCAT’s "Declaration of Principles for a Presidential Executive Order on Prisoner Treatment, Torture and Cruelty," which calls for an Executive Order by the President of the United States to put an unequivocal end to all US sponsored torture, secret prisons and rendition for torture.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dear Friends,

We have important work to do over the next few months to end U.S. sponsored torture, and we are asking for your help.

Here's what we are asking Members of Congress to support this fall:
bulletOur "Declaration of Principles for a Presidential Executive Order on Prisoner Treatment, Torture and Cruelty," which calls for an Executive Order by the President of the United States to put an unequivocal end to all US sponsored torture, secret prisons and rendition for torture.
bulletOur call for a Select Committee of Congress to investigate the use of torture by the United States on detainees in response to 9/11.
bulletLegislation pending in Congress to give access to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to all US held detainees in prisons outside the US.
Here's what we need you to do to help:
 
bulletGATHER ENDORSEMENTS THROUGHOUT THE FALL:

We need each of you to collect endorsements from as many people in your congregation as possible, as well as from other people of faith, for the Declaration of Principles for an Executive Order on Prisoner Treatment, Torture and Cruelty. We will be delivering these endorsements to the President-elect shortly after the election.  Delegations across the country will also present lists of local endorsers to Members of Congress on November 12 (see below), so it's critical to gather a large number of endorsements in your community and state.  Please click here for more information and to endorse the Declaration.  To download a document with ideas for gathering additional endorsements, click here.

bulletDISTRIBUTE OUR NEW BANNER POSTER BEFORE THE END OF OCTOBER:

We have designed and printed -- 5,000 copies -- a powerful poster highlighting the more than 330 congregations that displayed anti-torture banners during this past June.  We will deliver a copy of the poster to the Washington office of each Member of Congress.  We ask that you reinforce the message by delivering a copy of the poster to the district or state offices of your Members of Congress and asking them to support NRCAT's legislative initiatives, including the creation of a Select Committee and the ICRC legislation.  NRCAT will try to help connect people within the same congressional district.  Please click here for more information and to sign up.

bulletMEET WITH YOUR MEMBERS OF CONGRESS IN NOVEMBER:

On November 12th, delegations of religious leaders and people of faith will meet with Members of Congress in their district or state offices, asking them:

1.  to endorse the Declaration of Principles for an Executive Order;
2.  to support the establishment of a Select Committee of Congress to investigate the use of torture by the United States since 9/11; and
3.  to urge the President-elect to issue an Executive Order banning torture during his first days in office.

NRCAT will try to coordinate the November 12th events by helping to identify point persons in specific states or congressional districts and connecting them with other participants in their area.  This is an exciting opportunity to influence the direction of the new Administration and the new Congress.  We need your help to get started with the organizing right away.  Please click here for more information and to sign up.    

bulletDISPLAY YOUR BANNER:

If your congregation already has a banner against torture, we ask that you display your banner during the months of November and January to highlight the need for an Executive Order to ban torture.  If you have not displayed a banner, yet, you can order a banner on the NRCAT website.  Please click here for more information.

For additional suggestions of "Good Things To Do This Fall To End US-sponsored Torture," including activities sponsored by the NRCAT Action Fund, please click the appropriate red box in the center of our homepage.  

Thank you for all your efforts to end U.S.-sponsored torture.  If there is any way that NRCAT can your local work, please contact John Humphries, NRCAT's Director for Program Coordination at jhumphries@nrcat.org or 860-216-7972.

Sincerely,

Linda Gustitus, President, National Religious Campaign Against Torture
Rev. Richard Killmer, Executive Director, National Religious Campaign Against Torture

Habeus Corpus isn’t dead yet!

Supreme Court rules terrorism suspects at Guantánamo can appeal to civil courts in US
[6-12-08]

The New York Times report begins:

Foreign terrorism suspects held at the Guantánamo Bay naval base in Cuba have constitutional rights to challenge their detention there in United States courts, the Supreme Court ruled, 5 to 4, on Thursday in a historic decision on the balance between personal liberties and national security.

“The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the court.

Their full report >>

People for the American Way has sent this announcement to its members:

Today the Supreme Court gave us a narrow 5-4 victory for habeas corpus over the Bush administration in Boumediene v. Bush. People For the American Way Foundation filed an amicus brief in the case, and because you've stood with us in the fight to save habeas and other fundamental civil liberties, I thought you'd be interested in the statement I sent to the press:

The Supreme Court has rebuked President Bush's vision of the presidency as an office of limitless power, and declared that the president of a free nation cannot simply lock people up and throw away the key like some third-world dictator. This is a stinging blow to the administration's lawless policies and its allies in Congress.

It's chilling that the case was decided on a single vote, 5-4. One more Bush Justice on the Court, and the decision would likely have gone the other way. That's why it's so important for Americans to realize that in this election year, the Supreme Court is on the ballot. John McCain has already promised the GOP that he would nominate Justices to the Court exactly like those Bush has brought to the bench. This year, we must reverse the tide, and begin to restore a Supreme Court that upholds our individual rights and the laws that keep us free.

Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Scalia both offered their own frightening dissents, also joining each other’s along with Justices Alito and Thomas. If there was just one more Justice on the Court in the mold of these conservative Justices, the fate of this fundamental constitutional right would have been decided very differently. Habeas corpus was on the line today – but tomorrow it will be free speech, religious liberty, reproductive rights, equality for all, voting rights – every essential right that's a part of the American way. That's what's at stake with the Supreme Court on the ballot this November.

A huge THANK YOU to you and the other 37,500 People For activists who took action with us to save habeas -- your support allows People For and People For Foundation to fight these fights. We are so grateful you'll be by our side as we fight together to Save the Court!

– Kathryn Kolbert, President, People for the American Way

Presbyterian churches display anti-torture banners

Nationwide effort coincides with ‘Torture Awareness Month’
[6-9-08]

Evan Silverstein of Presbyterian News Service reports:

Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson, AZ, is joining in a public witness against torture by displaying a banner outside its building during June, which is being called Torture Awareness Month. Photo by Rachael Eggebeen

Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson, AZ, has erected a new sign in front of its rustic, southwestern-style, adobe building just like the one Nauraushaun Presbyterian Church has placed in front of its modern, red-brick edifice in Pearl River, NY.

The new additions are 3-foot by 9-foot black vinyl banners that declare in white letters that “Torture is wrong.”

The Arizona and New York congregations are among at least 30 Presbyterian churches from all corners of America, along with one presbytery, that will display banners this month condemning torture as part of the “Banners Across America” initiative.

The effort is the brainchild of the Presbyterian-founded, church-backed National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT), which is calling June “Torture Awareness Month.”

So far nearly 300 congregations from across the faith spectrum in all 50 states and Washington, DC, have joined the cause by hoisting the black-and-white banners proclaiming “Torture is wrong” and “Torture is a moral issue.”

The full story – including a list of churches displaying the banners >>

June is Torture Awareness Month
[6-2-08]

Three Good Things to do during Torture Awareness Month to halt US-sponsored torture:

1 - Interfaith Prayer of Recommitment
2 - Ask the Candidates
3 - Order a Banner for Your Church


1 - Interfaith Prayer of Recommitment

Please join members of the National Religious Coalition against Torture in an interfaith prayer during religious services the weekend of June 6-8 to observe the first full weekend of Torture Awareness Month.

Two months ago, President Bush vetoed legislation that would have banned the use of torture by US intelligence services. The faith community has worked hard to win passage of that legislation by both houses of Congress. This June we will publicly recommit ourselves, as people of faith, to continuing the struggle to end US-sponsored torture.

Adapt this interfaith prayer to meet your congregation's needs and use it throughout the month.

An Interfaith Prayer of Recommitment
Torture Awareness Month
June 2008

Dear God of Many Names ....

At the heart of our longing, there is a cry for compassion. In the midst of war as we work and pray for peace, all the world's people must nourish a kernel of compassion from which a true and lasting peace may grow.

Mighty God, as you have stood with the saints, sages and prophets of the past, and as you have stood with our ancestors who have cried, "Peace, Peace" when there was no peace, we pray to feel your strength and presence. We honor your name when we courageously speak out against those actions that harm the soul of our nation, none more than the torture of body, mind, and spirit of one human being at the hands of another.

We hold in our hearts those who have been tortured. Their suffering will not be forgotten or silenced so long as we give voice to their plight.

We hold in our hearts those who have engaged in torture and pray they will take up the powerful path of redemption. May they cease and desist and turn away from this path that corrupts their souls.

And for those who would sully our nation's name out of fear, our hopeful prayers envision a new day, when leaders will find strength in the power of compassion and peace.

By our prayers and actions may we attain forgiveness for what we have allowed to occur in our name. May we be worthy to do good deeds in Your eyes.

And let us say, Amen.

Thanks to Rev. Carolyn Patierno for writing this prayer.

2 - Ask the Candidates

The campaign season provides a unique opportunity for people of faith to ask presidential candidates questions about torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of detainees.

It is important during the campaign season for people of faith to ask presidential candidates questions about torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of detainees.

Please think about what you can do to ask the candidates about torture policy and practices. Some suggestions for asking questions of Presidential candidates when they're in your area are:

 •          Arrive at the event early so you can get a seat in front, if possible. 

•          Be pleasant, not hostile, in your tone. 

•          When recognized, introduce yourself and state that you are a Christian and a Presbyterian. 

•          Introduce your question by trying to connect it to something the candidate has already said. For example, if the candidate has talked about stopping terrorism, you may want to say something like: ''I believe it is very important to stop terrorism, but I'm concerned about how we do that. As a person of faith, I believe it is never O.K. to use torture. On that subject I have the following question...."

Consider asking questions like: 

•          Right now the U.S. Army Field Manual prohibits torture, but the CIA is not covered by it. Would you require the CIA to comply with the Army Field Manual on Interrogations? 

•          Is waterboarding torture and would you allow it? 

•          Would you stop the CIA program of "enhanced interrogation techniques," secret prisons and rendition for torture? 

•          Do you believe the President has the authority to act outside the law with respect to interrogations in the name of national security?

3. Order a banner for your church

 The National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) has launched its 2008 Banner Project to have anti-torture banners displayed by member congregations in all 50 states and DC during Torture Awareness Month (June). You can choose between two slogans ("torture is wrong." and "Torture is a Moral Issue") and two sizes (2'x6' and 3'x9'). Each banner will have the NRCAT logo, and you can order the banners online. Click here to order .


General Assembly Guidance:

The 217th General Assembly (2006)

Affirmed "that the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) opposes the use of torture and all forms of ‘cruel, inhuman, or degrading' interrogation by all agencies, employees, or agents of the United States government[ , and all foreign governments and/or combatants, and] supports the application of the Geneva Conventions to all enemy soldiers and the humane treatment with due process for all combatants held by U.S. forces anywhere in the world, and supports the provisions of the Bill of Rights and the principles of judicial review and congressional oversight over Executive branch operations, now including counterterrorism, Homeland Security, and domestic surveillance programs, both classified and publicly acknowledged."

For more than you want to know ...

About torture, detentions, trials, and all that
[5-17-08]

Carol Wickersham of No2Torture recommends the blog, FreeDetainees.org

It offers short summaries of news stories from the U.S. and other sources (including the Middle East), links to detainee profiles and action websites, and much more.

A couple examples from the May 17 posts:

Detainees Drugged and Deported
From Washington Post reports:

“Pre-flight cocktails” of dangerous psychotropic drugs were forcefully given to foreign detainees by federal employees during trips back to home countries, The Post’s Amy Goldstein and Dana Priest report today in the last installment of the four-part series into medical treatment provided to immigrants by the federal government.

The drugging of detainees without a medical justification is a violation of some international human rights codes. Included in many of the more than 250 cases the Post identified as improper are instances where detainees were given Haldol, an antipsychotic medication; Ativan, which is used to treat anxiety and seizures and is given to patients before surgery; and Cogentin, a muscle relaxant that works within the brain.

U.S. Has Detained 2,500 Juveniles as Enemy Combatants
By Walter Pincus, Washington Post Staff Writer

The United States has detained approximately 2,500 people younger than 18 as illegal enemy combatants in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay since 2002, according to a report filed by the Bush administration with the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Although 2,400 of the juveniles were captured in Iraq after the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, only 500 are still held in detention facilities in that country. The administration’s report, which was made public yesterday by the American Civil Liberties Union, says that most of the detained Iraqi youths were “engaging in anti-coalition activity.”

On torture:

History Will Not Absolve Us
[5-2-08]

George Hunsinger, professor at Princeton Theological Seminary, founder of the Religious Coalition Against Torture, and author of the forthcoming book Torture Is a Moral Issue, offers sharp reflections on the recent revelations of the Bush administration’s deep involvement in decisions taken beginning in 2002 to approve and further the use of torture.

He begins:

According to an explosive ABC News report on April 9, dozens of top-secret meetings took place in the White House, beginning in 2002, in which the president’s top advisors approved the use of torture. Those involved were members of the National Security Council’s “Principals Committee” — Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, George Tenet, and John Ashcroft. Unfortunately, however, these dramatic revelations have been largely ignored by the media and the public. Yet we now know more clearly than ever before that it is because of these senior officials — and not just Animal House on the night shift — that America is regarded around the world as a Torture Nation.

Noting that “no one up the chain of command has been prosecuted for the torture,” he urges that accountability must be required if the U.S. is ever to recover from this moral stain within its own life.

The full essay is published by Common Dreams >>

We encourage you to read Hunsinger's essay, then write a letter to your local newspaper.  (See next item below.)

from National Religious Campaign Against Torture:

Top Administration officials planned and approved torture – write your local newspaper!
[4-25-08]

National Religious Campaign Against Torture
Torture is a moral issue!

Dear NRCAT Supporters:

We now have strong evidence that, as many of us have suspected, the abuses perpetrated on detainees over the past 7 years were not simply the acts of "rogue" agents or low ranking soldiers, but were instead planned and approved of by top Administration officials – including the President himself, as well as Vice-President Dick Cheney. ABC News and the Associated Press recently reported that the President's top national security advisors met in the White House, on numerous occasions and with the President's approval, to authorize interrogators to torture high-value detainees (by waterboarding them and subjecting them to sleep deprivation, among other abuses). Unfortunately, these dramatic revelations have been largely ignored by the media and the public.

Please help inform the public about the fact that top Administration officials were directly involved in planning the torture of high-value detainees by writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper expressing your deep concern about learning that your leaders participated in the torture planning meetings and your disappointment that the media and the public have not responded to the news about the meetings with the appropriate vigor and outrage.

Letters should be short and direct. If at all possible, they should refer to an article that was recently printed in your newspaper. You can check your newspaper's website or call or email the Editorial Department to find out the best way to submit your letter and any guidelines they might have for writing letters. Many newspapers may have word limits or deadlines for responding to articles. Don't submit your letter to more than one newspaper at a time.

A sample letter is provided below our names. Please re-write it in order to make it relevant to your newspaper and your community. If your letter is published in your local newspaper, please let us know and send us a copy of your letter.

Thank you for all you do to end U.S.-sponsored torture.

Sincerely,

Linda Gustitus, NRCAT Board President
Rich Killmer, NRCAT Executive Director

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dear Editor:

As a resident of _(town name)_, a member of _(name of a congregation or other faith community)_ and a long-time reader of the _(paper name)_, I am writing to express my outrage regarding the recent ABC News reports that President Bush's top national security advisors (including Vice President Dick Cheney and now Secretary of State Condolezeea Rice) held numerous meetings in the White House to approve the use of abusive interrogation techniques (including waterboarding and sleep deprivation) on high-value detainees. Not only do these meetings implicate top Administration officials in condoning illegal acts that constitute torture, but, as ABC News reported, the President himself admitted that he was aware of these meetings and approved of them.

I am indescribably saddened by this compelling evidence of the fact that our highest leaders condoned and participated in acts of torture. Furthermore, I am also disappointed by the relatively mild response from the media and from the public to these revelations. I would have expected that news of the President's top advisors meeting, with his knowledge and permission, to authorize interrogators to illegally torture detainees would have been met with a widespread public outcry, and with a deluge of press interest in the issue. Unfortunately both the public and the press seemed to have responded with a collective yawn. I hope that this newspaper will take the opportunity to editorialize against the use of torture.

According to ABC News, after one of the meetings, the then-current Attorney General John Ashcroft asked "Why are we discussing this in the White House? History will not judge this kindly." John Ashcroft was right; history will not be kind to the top Administration officials who allowed detainees to be tortured. If the American media and the American public do not respond to these revelations with the outcry they deserve, then history may judge us unkindly as well.

Sincerely,

(Name)
(Address)
(City, State, Zip Code)
(Daytime Phone Number)
 

The White House Torture Memo, and the Outrage

Responding to a New York Times report on April 2, about a Justice Department memo which in 2003 “gave military interrogators broad authority to use extreme methods in questioning detainees and argued that wartime powers largely exempted interrogators from laws banning harsh treatment,” Curt Goering of Amnesty International USA wrote this:

It’s high time that the authors of the Bush administration’s legal recipe book for torture be brought out of the kitchen and into the courtroom. Yet despite volumes of highly credible evidence of human rights crimes, or even war crimes, a negligent Congress continues to fail miserably in its responsibility to mandate proper investigations into these cruel policies. 

The United States’ moral and political standing in the world have completely eroded, and legitimate prosecutions of crimes against humanity against the United States have been compromised. Congress must finally face its own complicity in torture with concrete measures — not shortsighted hearings — by ordering a full, independent investigation into how torture became United States modus operandi and holding those responsible accountable.

More good comments >>

Fly a banner against torture   [4-3-08]

The National Religious Coalition against Torture invites congregations to join in a public witness against torture by displaying a banner outside their place of worship during Torture Awareness Month—June 2008.

Three excellent resources on torture
[3-18-08]

The National Religious Campaign against Torture website has recently listed three very helpful resources on the sad subject of torture. 

For NRCAT’s extensive listing of articles and other materials on torture >>
 

NO MORE
No Torture. No Exceptions.

The latest issue of Washington Monthly includes a wide variety of articles by authors as diverse as former President Jimmy Carter, former interrogator Eric Fair, current and former senators, generals, admirals, intelligence officials, interrogators, and religious leaders. The editors write: Some are Republicans, others are Democrats, and still others are neither. What they all agree on, however, is this: It was a profound moral and strategic mistake for the United States to abandon long-standing policies of humane treatment of enemy captives. We should return to the rule of law and cease all forms of torture, with no exceptions for any agency. And we should expect our presidential nominees to commit to this idea.”

bulletJanuary/February/March 2008 issue of Washington Monthly
bullet Read all the articles (in PDF format) >>
bullet Choose each article separately by author (in HTML format) >>

~~~~~~~~~~~

LETTER FROM HOLLYWOOD

WHATEVER IT TAKES
The politics of the man behind "24."
by Jane Mayer

in The New Yorker magazine

"This past November, U.S. Army Brigadier General Patrick Finnegan, the dean of the United States Military Academy at West Point, flew to Southern California to meet with the creative team behind "24." ... Finnegan and the others had come to voice their concern that the show's central political premise-that the letter of American law must be sacrificed for the country's security-was having a toxic effect. In their view, the show promoted unethical and illegal behavior and had adversely affected the training and performance of real American soldiers. 'I'd like them to stop,' Finnegan said of the show's producers. 'They should do a show where torture backfires.' "

~~~~~~~~~~~


How Hollywood Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the (Ticking) Bomb
by Scott Horton

Published March 1, 2008
by Harper's magazine

"In the last eighteen months, Antonin Scalia, one of the most influential judges in American history, has twice suggested that he would turn to a fictional television character named Jack Bauer to resolve legal questions about torture.... This is evidence of the unprecedented influence of a television program on one of the most important legal policy issues before our country today. And it is, or should be, very troubling....

"We should start with a frank question: has "24" been created with an overtly political agenda, namely, to create a more receptive public audience for the Bush Administration's torture policies? I think the answer to that question is now very clear. The answer is "yes." In "Whatever It Takes," Jane Mayer has waded through the sheaf of contacts between the show's producer, Joel Surnow, and Vice President Cheney and figures right around him. ... I take it as a given that Surnow is working to develop public attitudes which are more accepting of torture; to overturn centuries-old prejudices against torture....

"The current season of "24" set to begin shortly features a senate investigation looking into Jack Bauer. A Senator is out after our hero, but he defends himself brilliantly and in the end, the senate committee, we are told, sees the light and comes to understand Bauer's heroic qualities, including his willingness to use torture."

Thanks to the Rev. Betty Hale for these suggestions.

                 TORTURE IS A MORAL ISSUE

A call for contacting Congress
from the National Religious Campaign Against Torture    
[3-10-08]

On Saturday, March 8, President Bush vetoed H.R. 2082, an important piece of anti-torture legislation that would have banned the use of waterboarding, stress positions, induced hypothermia, and other so-called "harsh" interrogation techniques by requiring all U.S. intelligence agencies, including the CIA, to abide by the restrictions in the Army Field Manual while conducting interrogations. H.R. 2082 was passed by a majority of both houses of Congress.

Sometime this week, possibly as soon as tomorrow, the U.S. House will vote on whether or not to override the President's veto. It is very difficult to override a veto (it requires a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress), so the attempt to override may not be successful. That said, we want to make every effort to convince as many Members of Congress as possible to vote for the override.

Please call your Representative in Congress and urge him or her to vote to override the President's veto of H.R. 2082, the Intelligence Authorization bill. To contact your Member of Congress you can call the Capitol switchboard at (202)224-3121 and ask to speak with your Representative.

Thank you for your efforts to end U.S.-sponsored torture.

Sincerely,

Linda Gustitus, President, NRCAT
Richard Killmer, Executive Director, NRCAT
National Religious Campaign Against Torture

Take Action to Stop Torture!

Tell Your Senator to Support Section 327 of H.R. 2082

[2-11-08]

from Witness in Washington Weekly, from the Washington Office of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Those who oppose torture have an opportunity in February to end the CIA "enhanced interrogation techniques" program. A vote in the Senate, which we expect to take place in mid-February, will decide the fate of very important anti-torture legislation (Section 327 of H.R. 2082 - the Intelligence Authorization bill). That bill would require the CIA to comply with the restrictions in the Army Field Manual on interrogation of detainees. The U.S. Army Field Manual prohibits torture, as well as cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

Several senators have threatened to raise procedural roadblocks to Section 327 (the anti-torture provision), so we will need 60 votes in the Senate to keep Section 327 in the bill. It would be very helpful if you would take a few minutes to contact your Senators to urge them to support the Army Field Manual provision in the Intelligence Authorization Conference Report.

You can contact your Senators by calling the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121. Alternatively, you can look up your Senators' direct lines and email addresses at http://www.pcusa.org/washington by entering your zip code and then clicking on the names of your Members.

Few moments occur when a clear legislative victory is within our reach. This is one of those moments, and we are asking you to do everything you can to help make it happen. Please take time this week to contact your Senators to let them know how important it is for them to support the Army Field Manual provision in the Intelligence Authorization Conference Report.

We are deeply grateful for your support and your effort.

Fact Sheet on Section 327 of H.R. 2082
(the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008)

   1. Section 327 prohibits all agencies of the U.S. intelligence community, and their contractors, from subjecting detainees to any treatment or technique of interrogation that is not authorized by the Army Field Manual on Human Intelligence Collector Operations. In effect this would extend the McCain torture ban (which currently covers only the military) to all U.S. intelligence agencies. The text of Section 327 can be found at the bottom of this document.

   2. H.R. 2082 (which includes Section 327) is a conference report - that is, it is the final product of a compromise between House and Senate conferees on two versions of the same bill. This conference report passed the House in December on a 222-199 vote. It is now before the Senate for its approval. The text of the conference report can be found at: http://intelligence.senate.gov/conference2008.pdf

   3. Senate Republicans have placed a hold on H.R. 2082 pending the outcome of a parliamentary objection to Section 327. Since Section 327 was not part of either the original House or Senate versions of H.R. 2082, Republicans will probably be able to raise a point of order against Section 327 in order to strip it from the bill. To overrule a point of order requires 60 votes. The U.S. Senate will probably vote on the bill in mid-February.

   4. Senate Republicans have also threatened to filibuster H.R. 2082. To defeat a filibuster also requires 60 votes.

   5. There are a number of Republican Senators who have voted against torture in the past, so even though we need 60 votes to pass this bill, it is possible.

Senators who might vote either way on Section 327 include:

OR - Smith
NH - Sununu
FL - Martinez
KS - Brownback
TN - Alexander
ME - Collins
PA - Specter
MN - Coleman
IN - Lugar
OH - Voinovich
AZ - McCain
VA - Warner
NE - Ben Nelson
CT - Lieberman
IN - Bayh


General Assembly Guidance:

The 217th General Assembly (2006) affirmed “that the General Assembly of the PCUSA opposes the use of torture and all forms of “cruel, inhuman, or degrading” interrogation by all agencies, employees or agents of the United States Governments, and all foreign governments and/or combatants, and supports the application of the Geneva Conventions to all enemy soldiers and the humane treatment with due process for all combatants held by US forces anywhere in the world”… The assembly endorsed “congressional and judicial remedies for the use of torture and illegal detention by agencies of the US government, such as the appointment of a special counsel, open hearings, appropriate investigation, and legislation outlawing the use of extraordinary rendition and extraterritorial prison facilities.

Seeking ways to confront “terror, torture, and security”

by Doug King [2-6-08]

Spending three days talking about torture may not sound like much fun. It’s not. But about sixty people came together at Columbia Theological Seminary, in Decatur, Georgia, from Sunday evening, Feb. 3, through noon on Tuesday, Feb. 5, to do just that. Nearly half the participants were students, mostly at Presbyterian-related colleges and seminaries, looking for ways to act against something that seems to betray all they believe in about the Christian life, and about the values of the United States.

The group responds to presentation by Dr. Edward LeRoy Long, Jr.

The conference was sponsored by Presbyterian-based No2Torture and the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, along with the denomination’s Presbyterian Peace Program. Three seminaries also joined in sponsoring the event: Columbia, which provided generous hospitality, along with Princeton and Fuller. All three were represented by faculty members and/or students, and there were students also from Harvard Divinity School, Union Theological Seminary (both of them, in New York and Richmond), San Francisco Theological Seminary, probably others that I missed.

The meeting was held with one specific goal: finding ways to help Presbyterian congregations deal with an urgent issue which most of them seem desperate to avoid. Various participants spoke of their experiences in trying to deal with U.S. use of torture, whether in sermons or in less “weighty” situations. And the general reaction has been “We just can’t talk about that here.”

More >>

http://action.aclu.org/site/R?i=V9TGxBSR_-G6IdmNtE1hfg..ACLU urges protest against Guantánamo
[1-8-08]

Witherspoon member Betty Hale has suggested that many of you may be interested in this appeal from the American Civil Liberties Union.  It begins:

This Friday, you can join thousands of people across the country in marking a sad anniversary with an act of hope.

The first prisoners arrived at the U.S. prison at Guantánamo Bay on January 11, 2002. Guantánamo quickly became an international embarrassment. It has made a mockery of our laws and values for six long years. We won't allow seven; this is the year we are going to end the national disgrace.

Nationwide, the ACLU has set January 11th as a day of protest, declaring that it's long past time that we put an end to illegality and close down Guantánamo. The ACLU and organizations across the country are asking people of conscience to wear orange to protest Guantánamo. I hope you will consider standing in solidarity by wearing orange on Friday as well.  More >>

Reports on torture from October 2006 through December 2007 >>
Postings on torture from March through September, 2006 >>
Posts on torture from November '05 through February 06 >>
For earlier postings on torture, from June through October 2005 >>
It's time to say No to Torture >>

Some blogs worth visiting

 

PVJ's Facebook page

Mitch Trigger, PVJ's Secretary/Communicator, has created a Facebook page where Witherspoon members and others can gather to exchange news and views. Mitch and a few others have posted bits of news, both personal and organizational. But there’s room for more!

You can post your own news and views, or initiate a conversation about a topic of interest to you.

 

Voices of Sophia blog

Heather Reichgott, who has created this new blog for Voices of Sophia, introduces it:

After fifteen years of scholarship and activism, Voices of Sophia presents a blog. Here, we present the voices of feminist theologians of all stripes: scholars, clergy, students, exiles, missionaries, workers, thinkers, artists, lovers and devotees, from many parts of the world, all children of the God in whose image women are made. .... This blog seeks to glorify God through prayer, work, art, and intellectual reflection. Through articles and ensuing discussion we hope to become an active and thoughtful community.

 

John Harris’ Summit to Shore blogspot

Theological and philosophical reflections on everything between summit to shore, including kayaking, climbing, religion, spirituality, philosophy, theology, politics, culture, travel, The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), New York City and the Queens neighborhood of Ridgewood by a progressive New York City Presbyterian Pastor. John is a former member of the Witherspoon board, and is designated pastor of North Presbyterian Church in Flushing, NY.

 

John Shuck’s Shuck and Jive

A Presbyterian minister, currently serving as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton, Tenn., blogs about spirituality, culture, religion (both organized and disorganized), life, evolution, literature, Jesus, and lightening up.

 

Got more blogs to recommend?

Please send a note, and we'll see what we can do!

 

Plan now for our 2010 Ghost Ranch Seminar!

GHOST RANCH SEMINAR

July 26-August 1, 2010

WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER
CONFRONTING THE STRUCTURES OF INJUSTICE

 

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