Monday, March 2, 2009

Some Interesting Headlines

Blackwater- CNN is reporting that Blackwater's (now known as Xe) founder, Erik Prince, resigned from the company to "tak[e] on new challenges." Also, Gary Jackson the long time president of the company is also leaving. This move by Prince comes close on the heels of Blackwater losing its contract with the State Department in May. The CNN article says that that contract made up one third to one half of Blackwater's revenue. It also comes soon after five Blackwater employees plead not guilty to federal manslaughter charges stemming from the infamous Nisoor Square shooting in Baghdad. That case will be very interesting as it is the first high-profile case to be charged under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act. I'll keep an eye on that one and report on it as things develop. In summary, Blackwater has had a rough go of it lately and I can't say I'm surprised at this announcement. It will be interesting to see what happens with Blackwater/Xe as it gains new leadership, and it will be equally as interesting to see where Prince heads after this.

Waterboarding- New Attorney General Eric Holder came out today and said that the Justice Department will not condone waterboarding as an interrogation technique. This comes as no surprise and is a little redundant given the fact that President Obama signed an order on January 22nd limiting interrogation techniques to those acceptable under the rules in the Army Field Manual (the Army Field Manual explicitly forbids waterboarding). While it may be redundant it is probably good to be redundant in this situation. Holder explicitly said that waterboarding is a form of torture, something that the Bush administration would never say. He also said that many interrogation techniques will receive review over the next few months, but that waterboarding would not because they would never consider using it. I like this move because it shows that the Obama administration is taking a hard line on the issue, and I think it is especially important now given the reports over the last week or two from former Gitmo detainees that said they were tortured.

Interrogation tapes- The government disclosed today that the CIA destroyed 92 tapes that documented interrogations conducted by the Agency. Some of the footage on the tapes showed prisoners being waterboarded. The disclosure was made in a letter from the U.S. Attorney's office to Judge Alvin Hellerstein (Southern District of New York) and said that the 92 tapes were destroyed, but that federal authorities planned to furnish as much material as possible that describes what was on the tapes. The letter was made in response to a motion by the ACLU to hold the CIA in contempt for destroying documentation of interrogation techniques. The contempt motion is in relation to two requests by the ACLU made under the Freedom of Information Act for records relating to interrogation techniques. The contempt motion asks that if the court finds the CIA in contempt then the court should order the CIA to make numerous written responses that will detail the interrogation techniques used in the videos, identify those in charge of destroying the videos, and various other forms of relief. ACLU attorneys say that the letter admitting the destruction of the videos is proof of contempt, and that the CIA should be ordered to do the things requested in the motion.

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