Friday, March 27, 2009

Britain Complicit in Bush-Cheney Torture Conspiracy

It makes sense. Bush-Cheney could not have pulled off their rendition campaigns without the complicity of foreign governments in Europe. It is an international scandal.

The attorney general is to be asked to investigate two more cases of alleged MI5 complicity in torture of men detained in Pakistan. Lawyers representing Rangzieb Ahmed and Salahuddin Amin are to ask Lady Scotland to consider possible criminal wrongdoing.

The move comes after Scotland called in the Metropolitan police to investigate allegations that MI5 colluded in the torture of Binyam Mohamed, who was held for almost seven years in Pakistan, Morocco, Afghanistan, and finally Guantánamo.

There are also reports that MI5 and MI6 have admitted there are other cases in which their officers raised concerns about the possible torture of detainees in US custody in Afghanistan during the conflict that followed the 9/11 attacks.

Citing "security sources", today's Daily Telegraph reports that "senior officials in both MI5 and MI6 have reviewed their files and fear that 15 similar cases could also lead to police investigations".

However, lawyers for British citizens held in Pakistan and Egypt, and allegedly tortured, say the official policy, known to have been devised to allow UK intelligence officers to interrogate detainees shortly after 9/11, was later employed to facilitate the torture of people held during British-led counter-terrorism operations.

President Obama Internet Townhall Transcript: 3-26-09

Read the full transcript. Excerpt below:

DR. BERNSTEIN: Thank you, Mr. President. Our first question comes from Boston, Massachusetts, on the topic of education: "The Founding Fathers believe that there is no difference between a free society and an educated society. Our educational system, however, is woefully inadequate. How do you plan to restore education as a right and core cultural value in America?"

THE PRESIDENT: Well, it's a great question, and -- let me see if this mic works so that I'm not stuck at this podium. I'm here only because of the education I received. I wasn't born into wealth, I wasn't born into fame, but I had parents who cared about education and grandparents who cared about education, and I was lucky enough, through scholarships and sacrifice on the part of my family, to get the best education that America has to offer.

Too many of our children aren't getting that kind of education. It's not because their parents don't believe in the value of education; it's not because these young people are less talented. It's because of two reasons: One, in many cases, our schools are under-resourced. There aren't enough teachers; the teachers aren't getting enough of the training they need for the classroom; there's a shortage of supplies. Some of the schools that I visited during the course of traveling around the country just shock the conscience. There are schools that I've seen that were built in the 1850s that are still being used but haven't been upgraded the way they need to.

Now, there's a second problem, though, and it's one that money alone cannot solve, and that is that we have a school system that was designed for the agricultural era -- there's a reason why we've got three months off during the summer. That's supposed to be when everybody is working on -- out on the farm and bringing in harvest. And it's not just the amount of time our kids are spending, it's how our classrooms are designed, how curriculums are structured, how things like teacher promotion and training happen.

So a lot of times in Washington we get an argument about money versus reform. And the key thing to understand about our education system is we need more resources and we need reform. If we just put more money into a system that's designed for the 19th century and we're in the 21st, we're not going to get the educational outcomes we need. On the other hand, if we talk a lot about reform but we're not willing to put more resources in, that's not going to work.

So let me give you just a couple examples of what we need to do. Early childhood education we know works. Let's invest in that. That's what my budget calls for -- substantial investment; every dollar we invest in early childhood education, we get potentially $10 back in improved reading scores, reduced dropout rates, reduced delinquency rates and so forth.

Number two, let's focus on the most important ingredient in the school, and that's the teacher. Let's pay our teachers more money. Let's give them more support. Let's give them more training. Let's make sure that schools of education that are training our teachers are up to date with the best methods to teach our kids. And let's work with teachers so that we are providing them measures of whether they're effective or not, and let's hold them accountable for being effective.

Now that doesn't mean just a single high-stakes standardized test. It also means that we're working with teachers to determine, what's the best way to discipline -- maintain discipline in a classroom? What's the best way to get kids excited about science? Giving them the time and the resources to improve, but also having high standards of expectation in terms of their performance.

If we do early childhood education, if we focus on teacher training, if we invest in math and science education, which is vital -- and we're falling behind other countries on that front -- then I actually feel pretty confident that we can out-compete any country in the world. But it's going to take more money and it's going to take more reform and it's going to take, by the way, openness to innovation on things like charter schools or performance pay. There are a whole range of things that may work, in some cases may not work, but we've got to try some new things because right now too many of our kids are stuck, and we can't afford to lose them.

DR. BERNSTEIN: The next question is on homeownership, from Heather from Ohio: "President Obama, what benefits from the stimulus plan are there to those of us who are paying our mortgages but living paycheck to paycheck?"

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I mentioned this in the opening remarks. This is something that I really want everybody to understand. Our housing plan -- and we're devoting $50 billion to it -- has a number of different components. One component is setting up a mechanism where people who just can't afford their mortgage right now are able to renegotiate with banks, and the banks lower their interest, and the homeowner assures that they're going to make a commitment to pay a certain amount every month, and the government helps to step in to bridge the gap. But the point is, it's going to be cheaper, not only for that family but also potentially for the entire community, if they stay in their home.

And so that's -- that part of the housing plan is targeted for folks who are really in distress. They're getting close to the point where they might be losing their home.

But there are a whole bunch of folks out there who are not about to walk away from their home, but are getting killed right now because their home values have dropped drastically; they're still making payments, but they're in trouble. And for that huge set of responsible homeowners out there, I want people to understand what we've done is created mechanisms in the credit markets that have lowered mortgage rates down to historic levels, and what we've done is we've opened it up so that FHA loans that used to be only for people with a certain mortgage level, that we are using FHA and other mechanisms to open up refinancings to a whole bunch of homeowners who previously weren't qualified.

So now what you've got is a situation where 40 percent of the people sitting here, 40 percent of the people who are participating in this virtual town hall, could potentially refinance their mortgage. And they've got to take advantage of that. We are providing additional support from the government in order to facilitate those refinancings. We're starting to see refinancings go up significantly.

So you have the potential to cut your monthly payments, but you've got to take advantage of it. And if you need more information, you can go on our web site,, or you can contact your local bank and find out whether you qualify to participate in this refinancing.