David Slesinger's blog

Why Donald Rumsfeld Can’t Be Sued for Torture


Donald Rumsfeld Can’t Be Sued for Torture
By Katie Mesner-Hage | Posted Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012, at 5:12 PM ET
| Posted Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012, at 5:12 PM ET

Why Donald Rumsfeld Can’t Be Sued for Torture

His latest and biggest court victory.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Donald Rumsfeld can't be sued by two Americans who were allegedly tortured. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.
Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld may not be sued by two U.S. citizens who were tortured by members of the military. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, which issued the decision, is the third appeals court to let Rumsfeld off the hook legally. But the 7th Circuit decision goes further than the others. By a vote of 7-4, its judges said that no member of our military—presumably even one who personally inflicts torture—can be sued for his related conduct in office.

Airport security checks are vulnerable to fake boarding passes, experts warn

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Airport security checks are vulnerable to fake boarding passes, experts warn

By James Ball, Published: November 3

More than 11 years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, it remains possible to use fake boarding passes to get through airport security checks, according to new evidence from security researchers and official documents.

The security vulnerabilities could allow terrorists or others on “no-fly” lists to pass through airport checkpoints with fraudulent passes and proceed through expedited screening. They could even allow them to board planes, security analysts warn.

The Washington Post was alerted to the vulnerabilities by concerned passengers and verified them through independent security experts. At the request of U.S. officials, The Post is withholding details that would make it easier for the vulnerabilities to be exploited.

The security gaps center on airline boarding passes, which can be issued up to 24 hours before a flight’s departure. According to security researchers, the bar codes on those passes can be manipulated with widely available technology to change the information they contain: passenger identification, flight data, and codes indicating whether a passenger has qualified for expedited screening.

Information about reading and altering boarding pass bar codes has circulated on online forums for several months, and has recently been picked up by security researchers. Many of them note that the potential for tampering with the passes has been exacerbated by the proliferation of smartphones that can read the bar codes and free software that can manipulate them.

US investigates possible WikiLeaks leaker for 'communicating with the enemy'


US investigates possible WikiLeaks leaker for 'communicating with the enemy'
US military's new legal theory threatens to convert unauthorized leaks into a capital offense. Who is the real 'enemy'?

An Iraqi man reads newspaper with news on the Wikileaks documents in Baghdad. Photograph: Mohammed Jalil/EPA
Glenn Greenwald
guardian.co.uk, Thu 27 Sep 2012 12.27 BST

A US air force systems analyst who expressed support for WikiLeaks and accused leaker Bradley Manning triggered a formal military investigation last year to determine whether she herself had leaked any documents to the group. Air Force investigative documents, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, show that the analyst was repeatedly interviewed about her contacts with and support for WikiLeaks - what investigators repeatedly refer to as the "anti-US or anti-military group" - as well as her support for the group's founder, Julian Assange.
The investigation was ultimately closed when they could find no evidence of unauthorized leaking, but what makes these documents noteworthy is the possible crime cited by military officials as the one they were investigating: namely, "Communicating With the Enemy", under Article 104 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).
That is one of the most serious crimes a person can commit - it carries the penalty of death - and is committed when a person engages in "unauthorized communication, correspondence, or intercourse with the enemy". The military investigation form also requires investigators to identify the "victim" of the crime they are investigating, and here, they designated "society" as the victim:
How could leaking to WikiLeaks possibly constitute the crime of "communicating with the enemy"? Who exactly is the "enemy"? There are two possible answers to that question, both quite disturbing.
The first possibility is the one suggested by today's Sydney Morning Herald article on these documents (as well as by WikiLeaks itself): that the US military now formally characterizes WikiLeaks and Assange as an "enemy", the same designation it gives to groups such as Al Qaeda and the Taliban. This would not be the first time such sentiments were expressed by the US military: recall that one of the earliest leaks from the then-largely-unknown group was a secret report prepared back in 2008 by the US Army which, as the New York Times put it, included WikiLeaks on the Pentagon's "list of the enemies threatening the security of the United States". That Army document then plotted how to destroy the group.

Secret Surveillance

OCTOBER 30, 2012, 10:41 AM
Secret Surveillance

At the Supreme Court on Monday, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. told the justices that they should not allow judicial review of a secret surveillance program in order "to preserve the separation of powers" among the government's three branches. But if the court lets the executive branch prevail in this dispute, its power will be almost unlimited for surveillance and the power of the judiciary will be gutted: it is possible no court will ever rule on the constitutionality of the program.

Authorized by a 2008 amendment to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (which retroactively ratified what the Bush administration had been doing since soon after 9/11) the program empowers the government to intercept every international communication between Americans and non-Americans that potentially contains "foreign intelligence information." Mr. Verrilli contended that the plaintiffs don't even have standing to sue, because they have no hard evidence that they have been subjected to surveillance or suffered any injury.

The trick here is obvious: it is almost impossible for the plaintiffs to have evidence since the program is secret. But since the plaintiffs are lawyers and human rights, labor, legal and media organizations whose work requires them to be in communication with clients, colleagues and others outside the United States, it's likely that the government has intercepted at least some of their emails and phone calls. The plaintiffs contend that the statute violated their rights against illegal searches and seizures, and led some of them to change how they communicate, including by travelling to Afghanistan, Pakistan and other distant places for face-to-face conversations (at considerable expense, a legal injury).

At least some of the justices seemed sympathetic to the plaintiffs' arguments. The statute "greatly expands the government's surveillance power," Justice Elena Kagan said. Justice Anthony Kennedy said "it's hard for me to think that the government isn't using all of the powers under the law." And Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg acknowledged the secrecy problem for evidence: "There may be dozens of concrete applications affecting the plaintiffs in this case, but we will never know."

Muslim spying troubles John Jay president


Muslim spying troubles John Jay president
Published: October 28, 2012 9:54 PM
By DAVID B. CARUSO. The Associated Press
The president of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice said he is "deeply troubled" about reports that the New York Police Department sent a paid informant to spy on the school's club for Muslim students.
School president Jeremy Travis sent a letter to students and professors Thursday reacting to an Associated Press report on the 19-year-old informant, Shamiur Rahman, who said he quit working for the NYPD at the end of the summer after growing uncomfortable with the job.
Rahman said his assignments included attending lectures hosted by John Jay's Muslim Student Association, photographing people attending its events, and identifying its members and leaders.
The Manhattan college is attended by thousands of students hoping to pursue a career in law enforcement.
In the letter, Travis said he was unaware of the spying, and expressed concerns about using informants for surveillance where there was no evidence of a crime.

Documentary examines physician involvement in detainee torture ‘Doctors of the Dark Side’ screening and panel hosted by UMass He


J. Wesley Boyd Ellen Lubell
The new documentary Doctors of the Dark Side examines the role of physicians and psychologists in torture at U.S. military prisons. The student group Health Professionals for Human Rights (HPHR) will host a screening and panel discussion of the film at UMass Medical School on Thursday, Nov. 8.
According to the producers, the documentary exposes how psychologists and physicians implemented and covered up the torture of detainees in U.S.-controlled military prisons. Director Martha Davis spent four years investigating the controversy and produced the documentary with an award-winning team.
Guest panelists will be Ellen Lubell, JD, a lawyer who represented a former Guantanamo detainee, and J. Wesley Boyd, MD, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, who teaches medical ethics in military settings.



News, analysis and primary source documents on terrorism, extremism and national security.

Sunday, October 28, 2012


Documents obtained by Salt Lake City attorney Jesse Trentadue reveal new details about the FBI's rules of conduct for informants.

The FBI released 147 pages of heavily redacted manuals and policies related to the use of informants, in response to a FOIA request by Trentadue, who is engaged in a years-long lawsuit with the FBI over documents related to the Oklahoma City bombing.

Read the documents here

The documents pertain to unspecified training for "confidential human sources," including chain of command, dispute resolutions and other topics. The vast majority of direct guidance to informants is redacted, including even chapter headings.

Trentadue filed a related complaint alleging that the FBI has engaged in a practice of using informants within the news media to receive advance notice of potentially unfavorable stories.

As an exhibit in that complaint, Trentadue submitted an FBI FD-302 record related to a previously reported claim that the Oklahoma City bombing had been carried out by Iraqi intelligence agents, a lead that was of dubious origin and that did not ultimately pan out. The document was previously published on INTELWIRE.

The document states the FBI received information about the Iraq allegation from "a senior official employed by ABC news for over fifteen years," The source had been assigned an identification number and "had provided highly accurate and reliable information in the past."

Cuomo assesses damage of WTC site The vehicle security center's underground ramps literally funneled storm surge into the floode


Cuomo assesses damage of WTC site
The vehicle security center's underground ramps literally funneled storm surge into the flooded construction pit.

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By Daniel Geiger @dangeiger79
October 30, 2012 2:44 p.m.

Updated: October 30, 2012 3:50 p.m.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday said the World Trade Center site had suffered extensive flooding as a result of Superstorm Sandy.
"What I saw last night in downtown Manhattan were some of the worst conditions I had ever seen," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said during a press conference on Tuesday morning, providing the first official description of the impact of the storm at the WTC site. "The Hudson River was literally pouring into the Ground Zero site with such a force we were worried about the structure of the pit itself."
Patrick Foye, the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the bi-state agency's top New York official, said he doubted the storm surge had caused any structural damage at WTC site but that equipment and electrical systems being installed may have been damaged by the flood waters.
"There was a substantial incursion of water," Mr. Foye said. "I think it's fair to say that salt water and modern electrical equipment don't mix well. We don't expect structural damage but damage to equipment. That assessment is underway and is a high priority."
Mr. Foye said that West, Washington and Cedar streets, roadways that surround the WTC site, were all flooded during the storm. The storm surge swept into the WTC site, a construction pit largely open to the elements, primarily through the Vehicle Security Center on the southern end of the project. The security center will have ramps to allow traffic to pass underground via subterranean roads and parking areas. It appears those ramps served as a chute for the storm's oncoming water.
The WTC site is especially vulnerable to flooding because its located in low lying neighborhoods. Metropolitan Transportation Authority CEO Joseph Lhota said in a press conference Tuesday morning that the nearby South Street station at the southern tip of Manhattan had been completely flooded during the storm.

Surveillance and Accountability


October 28, 2012
Surveillance and Accountability
Nearly seven years after the disclosure of President George W. Bush’s secret program of spying on Americans without a warrant, the Supreme Court is about to hear arguments on whether judges can even consider the constitutionality of doing this kind of dragnet surveillance without adequate rules to protect people’s rights.

President Obama’s solicitor general, Donald Verrilli Jr., will be calling on the court to toss out the case based on a particularly cynical Catch-22: Because the wiretaps are secret and no one can say for certain that their calls have been or will be monitored, no one has standing to bring suit over the surveillance. The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit rejected that avoidance of accountability, and so should the Supreme Court.

How Ordinary Americans are Surveilled Locally and Nationally, and What Can Be Done About It


How Ordinary Americans are Surveilled Locally and Nationally, and What Can Be Done About It
Posted By admin On October 25, 2012 @ 10:05 am In Feature Stories | 2 Comments

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While the issue of civil liberties was a hot topic under President George W. Bush’s tenure, particularly over the creation of the Homeland Security Department and the passage of the USA PATRIOT Act, little is heard in the public discourse these days about on-going infringements of people’s rights. President Obama’s administration has largely continued, and in some arenas, expanded on the Bush-era intrusion into Americans’ lives via warrantless wiretapping and other secret initiatives of the National Security Agency, as well as through so-called “fusion centers” scattered throughout the country.

World Trade Center project and corruption, nepotism in N.J. government





The colossal public-private project to rebuild One World Trade Center should symbolize America’s greatness and liberty, but instead it appears to be symbolizing two other American achievements: mismanagement and nepotism.

The Port Authority, which owns the skyscraper and all the transportation links between the Center, appears to be awash in debts compiled over the years by the governors of NY-NJ from 2002 to present-day. If there ever were bipartisanship, this incompetence is the singular issue. Okay, it’s safe to assume that the re-building of this project wasn’t exactly going to be a simple assignment, free of competing bureaucratic interests, greed, and corruption. But it’s really turning out to be a haphazard melange of all three and, much like when anytime the "stuff" hits the fan in government, the blame game takes precedent.

According to Nicole Genis of the New York Post, “One WTC will cost $3.9 billion. The PATH station has soared to $3.7 billion. And we can’t get back the federal money that pols spent on a sports museum and on the Bank of America and Goldman Sachs towers.

That’s how the Port Authority got caught on the hook for $7.7 billion (after money from other sources) for WTC rebuilding.”

Worse yet, it’s all on borrowed money and the Port Authority now owes $19 billion.

Larry Silverstein’s Got 99 Problems, But Jay-Z Ain’t One


Commercial Observer

The Sit-Down
Larry Silverstein’s Got 99 Problems, But Jay-Z Ain’t One
"It doesn't make any sense to me. Why this language? It was horrendous language. Look, I’m 81 years of age, so I can’t relate to that. It’s impossible. But I did appreciate him enormously as a performer..."
By Daniel Edward Rosen 10/04 5:32pm

Hip hop impresario Jay-Z kicked off the opening of Forest City Ratner’s Barclays Center with a series of eight sold-out concerts last week. And while thousands of rap and pop music fans descended on Brooklyn to welcome Hova back to his native borough, more surprising, perhaps, were the boldface real estate titans who lined up as guests of Bruce Ratner to witness the spectacle. Besides Dan Tishman of Tishman Construction and Vornado Realty Trust’s Michael Fascitelli and Steven Roth, Mary Ann Tighe of CBRE described the evening as electric. “The only Jay-Z song I recognized is his New York song, which he performed early in the show,” wrote Ms. Tighe, who added in an email to The Commercial Observer that she also enjoyed the arena’s menu of Brooklyn-based restaurants. “Best arena/stadium food ever,” she wrote.

Perhaps the one attendee who was most impressed with the Barclays Center and its booming sound system, however, was Larry Silverstein, the iconic developer behind the ongoing redevelopment of the World Trade Center. Mr. Silverstein revealed his first impressions of the Barclays Center with The Commercial Observer and shared his opinions on Jay-Z and the venue’s body-shaking bass system.

The Commercial Observer: So a tipster told us they saw you at the Jay-Z show last Friday.
Mr. Silverstein: We attended the concert Friday night, and it was a transformational experience.

Really? How so?
Well, first of all, I have never experienced anything like this before in my life, and I have only been around for 81 years. In fairness, I am not used to going to these concerts. These rap concerts or this type of music, I am [not] an ardent fan. I am on the board of the New York Philharmonic, and classical music is my thing, so this was extraordinarily different by way of an experience for me.

Why did you go?
The only reason why I went is… well, two reasons, really. Number one is Bruce Ratner extended the invitation to my wife and to myself to go out there. As it turns out, my wife said, ‘why don’t you take one your granddaughters?’ I wanted to take both of them. As it turns out, one of them could make it and the other one couldn’t.

Final W.T.C. Deal with Silverstein Faces Delay


he Neverending Story
Final W.T.C. Deal with Silverstein Faces Delay
By Eliot Brown 8/04/10 8:34pm

The tentative restructuring of the World Trade Center financial deal between developer Larry Silverstein and an array of governmental players is taking longer than expected to complete.

A tentative deal between Silverstein Properties, the Port Authority, the Bloomberg administration and the Paterson administration was struck on March 25, with the parties giving themselves 120 days to reach a final agreement.

That 120 days came and went on July 23, and, tomorrow, the Port Authority is holding its monthly meeting, and the Silverstein deal will not be on the agenda, according to multiple people familiar with the deal.

Government officials hope to complete it within the coming weeks, and there don’t seem to be any major sore points—at least not yet.

Still, the deal needs to be approved by the Port Authority’s board, and at least as of March, some leading board members and the agency’s staff weren’t exactly on the same page.

In World Financial Submarket, Silverstein, Brookfield Rule the Roost


The 1 World Trade Center tower, which seems to spring into view from every vantage point these days, symbolizes different things to different people. To commercial landlords and brokers, it represents both a flagship for the Downtown area and a potential surge in competition. For those with a direct stake, it means the recovery from the terrorist attack is finally reaching the finish line.

“The sense of momentum and progress, which was not universal for years, is now palpable,” said Janno Lieber, who oversees design and construction at the site for Silverstein Properties, the landlord of the two towers that were destroyed 11 years ago.

World Financial submarket.
Passersby can now see three of the four planned office buildings rising from the site, and about 5 million people have visited the 9/11 Memorial since it opened at the complex on the anniversary of the attacks last year, he said.

Silverstein owns 7 World Trade Center, which was the first building to open on the site of the attacks, as well as three of the four towers in progress. Silverstein’s 4 World Trade Center, which topped out at about 1,000 feet, will be open in a year, and the other two are expected to be complete by 2017, Mr. Lieber said.

“As the World Trade Center marches toward completion, concerns are rising about the potential for a glut of space to flood the market at a time when demand remains somewhat evasive,” Cresa, a tenant advisory firm, said in a third-quarter report.

Brutal 9/11 ad takes center stage in Wisconsin Senate race


Brutal 9/11 ad takes center stage in Wisconsin Senate race
By Aaron Blake , Updated: October 23, 2012

Eleven years after Sept. 11, 2001, that day’s terrorist attacks are rearing their head in a major way in one of the hottest Senate races in the country.

Former Wisconsin governor Tommy Thompson’s (R) campaign today launched a brutal new ad attacking Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D) for voting against a 2006 bill commemorating the fifth anniversary of 9/11.

“It’s a slap in the face to every one of their families and anyone who has ever served in the United States military,” a retired Navy veteran says in the ad. The man adds: “What would you do if these were your children? How would you feel?”

Baldwin did, in fact, vote against the bill. But as her campaign noted Tuesday, it was because the bill also paid tribute to more controversial and contentious things like the Patriot Act — a piece of legislation that Baldwin and many Democrats opposed.