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News Wed, 06 May 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Emails Show American Psychological Association Secretly Worked With Bush Administration to Enable Torture

New details have emerged on how the American Psychological Association, the world’s largest group of psychologists, aided government-sanctioned torture under President George W. Bush. A group of dissident psychologists have just published a 60-page report alleging the APA secretly coordinated with officials from the CIA, White House and the Pentagon to change the APA ethics policy to align it with the operational needs of the CIA’s torture program. Much of the report, "All the President’s Psychologists: The American Psychological Association’s Secret Complicity with the White House and US Intelligence Community in Support of the CIA’s 'Enhanced' Interrogation Program," is based on hundreds of newly released internal APA emails from 2003 to 2006 that show top officials were in direct communication with the CIA. The report also reveals Susan Brandon, a behavioral science researcher working for President Bush, secretly drafted language that the APA inserted into its ethics policy on interrogations. We are joined by two of the report’s co-authors: Dr. Steven Reisner, a founding member of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology and member of the APA Council of Representatives, and Nathaniel Raymond, director of the Signal Program on Human Security and Technology at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative.


AMY GOODMAN: New details have emerged on how the American Psychological Association, the world’s largest group of psychologists, aided government-sanctioned torture under President George W. Bush. A group of dissident psychologists have just published a 60-page report alleging the APA secretly coordinated with officials from the CIA, White House and the Pentagon to change the APA ethics policy to align it with the operational needs of the CIA’s torture program. The report also reveals a behavioral science researcher working for President Bush secretly drafted language that the APA inserted into its ethics policy on interrogations.

Much of the report is based on hundreds of newly released internal APA emails from 2003 to 2006 that show top officials were in direct communication with the CIA. In 2004, for example, the APA secretly took part in a meeting with officials from the CIA and other intelligence agencies to discuss ethics and national security. In one email, the APA stated that the aim of the meeting was, quote, "to take a forward looking, positive approach, in which we convey a sensitivity to and appreciation of the important work mental health professionals are doing in the national security arena, and in a supportive way offer our assistance in helping them navigate through thorny ethical dilemmas," unquote.

One attendee was Kirk Hubbard, then the chief of operations for the CIA Operational Assessment Division. He would later leave the CIA to work for the private firm set up by James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, the psychologists who were hired as private contractors to set up the CIA interrogation program including the waterboarding of prisoners. In one 2003 email, Hubbard wrote to a top APA official, quote, "You won’t get any feedback from [Dr. James] Mitchell or Jessen. They are doing special things to special people in special places, and generally are not available," unquote. While the APA has attempted to distance itself from Mitchell and Jessen, the newly disclosed emails show the men attended a 2003 invite-only conference called "The Science of Deception," sponsored by the APA, the CIA and RAND Corporation, to discuss so-called enhanced interrogations.

We’re joined now by two of the co-authors of the new report, "All the President’s Psychologists: The American Psychological Association’s Secret Complicity with the White House and US Intelligence Community in Support of the CIA’s 'Enhanced' Interrogation Program." Steven Reisner is a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst. He’s a founding member of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology and adviser on psychology and ethics for Physicians for Human Rights. He’s currently a member of the APA Council of Representatives. Nathaniel Raymond is director of the Signal Program on Human Security and Technology at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative.

We did invite a representative from the APA to join us, as well, but they declined. Last year, the APA commissioned an outside attorney named David Hoffman to conduct a third-party, independent review of the allegations about the APA and the Bush administration torture program. Rhea Farberman, the APA’s executive director for Public and Member Communications, told Democracy Now! the APA won’t respond to the allegations in the "All the President’s Psychologists" report until Hoffman’s review is completed.

Steven Reisner and Nathaniel Raymond, welcome back to Democracy Now! OK, Nathaniel Raymond, why don’t you lay out the core findings in your 60-page report?

NATHANIEL RAYMOND: There are four core findings. The first is that the American Psychological Association allowed, as you mentioned, Dr. Susan Brandon, it appears, who, three weeks before the APA engaged in its ethics process in 2005 on psychological ethics and national security, had been president Bush’s behavioral science adviser—she wrote what appears to be research language in the PENS report, the Psychological Ethics and National Security policy of the APA. That language, we now know because of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report, directly aligns with the legal memos authorizing the enhanced interrogation program, and provided an ethical get-out-of-jail-free card that aligned with the then-classified legal get-of-jail-free card.

Secondly, we see clear deception by the APA, including some outright lies, including the assertion for many years that James Mitchell, the CIA torture psychologist you mentioned, had not been an APA member. We now know he was an APA member from 2001 to 2006. And the APA has also contended, according to Dr. Stephen Behnke, the ethics director, that they had had no contact on interrogations and interrogation techniques with Mitchell and Jessen. We now know that they discussed sensory overload and the use of psychopharmacological agents with Mitchell and Jessen in 2003.

The last two critical findings, Amy, are that the APA, as we see throughout the emails, expressed no concern about clear evidence of abuse that at that point, between 2004 in 2005, was public knowledge. And lastly, what we see in this report is a clear coordination that directly mirrors the timeline inside the Bush administration when Office of Medical Services personnel inside the CIA were raising concerns about human subjects research as part of the program. The APA, whether they knew it or not, allowed the administration to write a policy that basically helped put down that rebellion inside CIA.


NATHANIEL RAYMOND: By allowing psychologists to play a critical monitoring and research role, that was at the heart of the newly—then newly authorized Bradbury Office of Legal Counsel memo. If psychologists couldn’t ethically play this role, if the APA had not engaged in this policy, it is highly likely that the interrogation program itself would have disintegrated.

AMY GOODMAN: You ran, Steven Reisner, for president of the American Psychological Association. Your main platform was speaking out against torture and APA’s involvement with the Bush administration. You didn’t win. Talk about what this means for the American Psychological Association.

STEVEN REISNER: Well, I think the issue is what this means for the entire profession of psychologists and the fact that we are represented by the American Psychological Association, because I think that what we’re finding is that psychologists are feeling betrayed by our association. What has happened is that the ethics code that we are all trained in, that we align ourselves with and that gives us our identity as health professionals dedicated to the public good, that ethics code and ethics policy was twisted to align—not only to align with what the government needed it to do, but in the service of torture. It is a betrayal of what I think we all are expecting from and try to identify with from our association. So, what has to happen right now is that we’ve got to—the membership, the council, any concerned American has to insist that we reclaim our association, put it back on an ethical track, and find a way to expose this, be accountable for it, be transparent about it and make significant change so that we can restore trust.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to go into detail on what the APA knew and when they knew it with Dr. Steven Reisner and Nathaniel Raymond, co-authors of the new report, "All the President’s Psychologists," in a minute.


AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking about a new report that has just come out on the American Psychological Association’s involvement with the Bush administration’s so-called enhanced interrogation program. In 2005, Stephen Behnke, the director of ethics at the American Psychological Association, then and now, appeared on Democracy Now!

STEPHEN BEHNKE: I don’t have firsthand knowledge of what went on at Guantánamo. I know that the APA very much wants the facts, and that when APA has the facts, we will act on those facts.

AMY GOODMAN: Stephen Behnke appeared on the show in a debate with Michael Wilks, chair of the medical ethics committee at the British Medical Association. Dr. Behnke went on to defend the APA’s actions.

STEPHEN BEHNKE: In all fairness, the American Psychological Association is very clear that under no circumstances is it in any manner permissible for a psychologist to engage in, to support, to facilitate, to direct or to advise torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. The American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association issued a joint statement against torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment in 1985. In 1986, the American Psychological Association issued another resolution against torture. So, to even suggest that that would in any manner be permissible is completely out of bounds.

MICHAEL WILKS: Might I ask a direct question, because I’m really interested to know? Could I ask why the APA’s presidential report then specifically recommends that psychologists should be involved in research into interrogation techniques?

STEPHEN BEHNKE: Well, as I have—as I have said, psychologists have been working together with law enforcement for many years domestically in information gathering and interrogation processes. We believe that as experts in human behavior, psychologists have valuable contributions to make to those activities.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Dr. Stephen Behnke on Democracy Now! in 2005. Our guests now are Dr. Steven Reisner, a member of the American Psychological Association, and Nathaniel Raymond. They both co-authored the new report, "All the President’s Psychologists." Nathaniel Raymond, can you respond to what Dr. Behnke said?

NATHANIEL RAYMOND: Well, what we now know, by reading the American Psychological Association’s emails, is that Dr. Behnke’s assertion in 2005 of "bring us the facts, and we will respond" directly contradicts his own words to the Operational Assessment Division of the Central Intelligence Agency in 2004, where he basically says, "We are not going to investigate," in the context of the secret meeting they had, almost to the—basically, to the day that the White House was reauthorizing the enhanced interrogation program—"We’re not going to investigate any claims of abuse or any charges made at that meeting." That directly contradicts what he said on Democracy Now!

Second is his continued assertion that somehow the American Psychiatric Association, which endorsed in 2006 a clear ban on participation in all interrogations, direct participation by psychiatrists, is analogous to the APA position, is entirely specious. The fact of the matter is, is the American Psychological Association position in that PENS report, that we now know was the direct result of coordination with the intelligence community and, in some cases, elements of that community writing language in the report, critical research language, is—it is entirely different to look at the APA position and the American Psychological Association position for one reason. The American Psychological Association based its policy on U.S. definitions of torture at that time, which we now know from the declassified Office of Legal Counsel memos had an entirely different view of what constituted, quote, "torture" and what constituted cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. So, saying that those positions are the same is just not the facts.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain what changed.

NATHANIEL RAYMOND: What changed is—there was two periods of change. The first is immediately after 9/11. We have evidence in the public record that the American Psychological Association changed a large portion of its ethics code related to research, and basically it wrote out international and domestic protections on consent for human subjects research. We know, by different names, some of those protections, such as the Nuremberg Code and the Common Rule. They allowed for the revocation of consent when consistent with a lawful order or regulation.

That then combined with the second set of changes, which is the 2005 PENS report. The Psychological Ethics and National Security Task Force report then not only allows, but exhorts psychologists to have a research role in not only interrogations, but—this is the key sentence, Amy—in determining what constitutes cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment. Now, last time I checked, psychologists were not lawyers. This is outside the professional competency of psychologists to make a legal determination based on research. The question is, why were they being asked to do that, in language that we now know from the emails appears to have been written by a White House—former White House official? The fact of the matter is, that’s exactly what the Bradbury memos, that were then protecting the Bush administration from potential torture charges, required. And that’s exactly the concern that was being raised by the Office of the Inspector General internally at CIA, we now know from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. So that one sentence about research into what constitutes cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment positioned psychologists to be the legal heat shield for the president of the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Reisner?

STEVEN REISNER: Well, we listened to Dr. Behnke say that the APA is opposed to torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment at the very moment when they are writing into our ethics code a policy that permits psychologists’ very presence at those sites, researching, overseeing and monitoring, that the psychologists being there is what makes it fall outside the definition of torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment concocted by the Justice Department in order to legally allow the torture. So what we have is a working together between the psychologists, the American Psychological Association, the CIA and the White House to create a cover story that says that torture is not torture, that it’s not legally torture under these rules. And while Dr. Behnke is claiming that psychologists don’t torture, psychologists are in fact torturing, and the APA seems to know it, according to these emails and according to what was in the press. But so what he’s doing is he’s parsing the facts and funneling it through a bent and distorted APA ethics code that has been changed simply to allow that program to continue.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to read another one of the newly disclosed emails. This is from Dr. Geoff Mumford, director of science policy at the APA, to CIA psychologist Dr. Kirk Hubbard, who was then chief of operations for the CIA Operational Assessment Division. Dr. Mumford writes, quote, "I thought you and many of those copied here would be interested to know that APA grabbed the bull by the horns and released this [Psychological Ethics and National Security] Task Force Report today." The PENS Task Force. "I also wanted to semi-publicly acknowledge your personal contribution ... in getting this effort off the ground over a year ago. Your views were well represented by very carefully selected Task Force members," unquote.

In another email from 2005, the APA’s Dr. Geoff Mumford admitted former White House adviser Susan Brandon, who was then at the National Institute of Mental Health, helped craft language for the PENS report. Mumford wrote, quote, "Susan serving as an Observer (note she has returned to NIMH, at least temporarily) helped craft some language related to research and I hope we can take advantage of the reorganization of the National Intelligence Program, with its new emphasis on human intelligence, to find a welcoming home for more psychological science."

OK, Nathaniel Raymond, talk about who Mumford is. Talk about also the significance of the Susan they are referring to, Susan Brandon, and her position today.

NATHANIEL RAYMOND: Well, Geoff Mumford, then and now, was executive director and is executive director of science policy at the American Psychological Association. And while he is one of the most prominent officials in these emails, I want to make clear he’s not the only one. We also see Rhea Farberman, the spokeswoman who denied any coordination between the APA and the Bush administration in James Risen’s New York Times story. We see Steve Behnke. And we also see—and this is new to our report—that the deputy CEO, Michael Honaker, deputy CEO of APA, was also CCed on one of the emails about the secret 2004 meeting.

Dr. Brandon, then, was, as you described, at NIMH. She served in a variety of roles.

AMY GOODMAN: National Institute of Mental Health.

NATHANIEL RAYMOND: Yeah, National Institutes of Mental Health. And she served in a variety of roles in the Department of Defense and elsewhere. But she also had been, during the time of the planning of the 2003 conference that Mitchell and Jessen attended, an APA employee, previously. Now she is the chief scientist of the High-Value Interrogation Group of the FBI. And in that role, she is basically the senior interrogation research scientist in the U.S. government. And thus, the High-Value Interrogation Group, which advises the National Security Council at the White House, is the leading interrogation group in the intelligence community. What we’ve seen in the—

AMY GOODMAN: She’s head of it now. She’s heading it now.

NATHANIEL RAYMOND: She’s head of it right now. And I think that’s something that’s been missed in the coverage so far, is that this is not just about what happened five years ago. It is about a currently serving Obama administration official. And I want to say that Mark Fallon, the former assistant deputy director of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, came out—


NATHANIEL RAYMOND: NCIS—came out a few days ago calling for an independent prosecutor in these matters, including the issues raised in our report. He is serving as chair of an advisory group to the High-Value Interrogation Group. So I want to make a point here that we have master interrogators, people who are affiliated with the current interrogation group, who are raising real concerns about the allegations in our report and are saying this isn’t old news. This has direct implications for accountability on these matters, involving, in this case, a current administration official.

AMY GOODMAN: In 2007, psychologist Jean Maria Arrigo stood on the dais before a standing-room-only crowd at the annual American Psychological Association meeting in California. This came two years after she participated in an APA panel known as the PENS Task Force, that we’ve referred to today, that concluded psychologists working in interrogations play a, quote, "valuable and ethical role." Dr. Arrigo criticized the findings and makeup of the panel she was on.

JEAN MARIA ARRIGO: Six of the 10 members were highly placed in the Department of Defense, as contractors and military officers. For example, one was the commander of all military psychologists. Their positions on two key items of controversy in the PENS report were predetermined by their DOD employment, in spite of the apparent ambivalence of some. These key items were: (a) the permissive definition of torture in U.S. law versus the strict definition in international law, and, second, participation of military psychologists in interrogation settings versus nonparticipation. Those are the two principal issues. And because of their employment, they have to decide the way they do.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Dr. Jean Arrigo. Talk about the significance of what she was saying. Democracy Now! was there covering these meetings as the APA even tried to cut down public access to the public parts of the meeting. But, Dr. Steve Reisner, she served on the PENS committee.

STEVEN REISNER: That’s right. She served, believing that it was a committee that—of interested and knowledgeable psychologists to actually review ethics policy and national security. What she found was that the task force seemed to have a predetermined agenda, that the members of the task force were involved in the very commands that were implicated in the abuse, and that the majority of the conclusions seemed to have already been drawn before they began. It was a guided operation.

AMY GOODMAN: She attempted to take notes during the meeting, is that right?

STEVEN REISNER: That’s right, and she was asked not to, which is totally bizarre for a meeting that is trying to generate a new policy. She was taking notes. She was participating as if it was a regular meeting. It turned out that the meeting was a meeting of, as the emails reveal, carefully selected members. And that email was to Kirk Hubbard. The members were carefully selected in order, it seems, to guarantee what the CIA and the White House needed from that meeting. And that’s what Jean Maria realized and what she’s talking about in that—on that panel.

AMY GOODMAN: She talked about having a meeting for a few hours and then being handed the resolution of the committee—

STEVEN REISNER: That’s right.

AMY GOODMAN: —before she had even weighed in.

STEVEN REISNER: That’s right. The drafts came fast and furious. This meeting lasted two-and-a-half days. And then the very final draft, where they added the piece on research, that came between the end of the meeting and, I would—and just, you know, 12, 24 hours later. The final rewritten version was sent to the members for them to just give their OK. It was whirlwind. They were told that this had to go to the Pentagon, it had to go to the White House. It was hurried, and there was very little room for critique.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Nathaniel Raymond, who do we now know wrote these drafts?

NATHANIEL RAYMOND: Well, we know from the PENS listserv and from Jean Maria Arrigo herself and others that Dr. Stephen Behnke was responsible for being the keeper of the draft and, during lunch breaks and in the evenings, wrote the language in the report.

But that’s not the whole story. From what we see in the emails, as you mentioned, Dr. Brandon’s avowed role by Dr. Mumford in the research piece raises the broader question of: Who were the observers in the room, and how did they get there? What we see from the PENS listserv, the listserv of this task force that Jean Maria Arrigo has helped the world to see, that listserv shows that Dr. Gerald Koocher and Dr. Barry Anton, who is the current president right now of the APA, was responsible for approving the observers in the room. We now know that one of those observers was a senior administration official who had never— and still now never—been publicly acknowledged by the APA as having been in the room. So it’s not just who was writing the report, who was Dr. Behnke; it was who put those other people secretly in the room. And we now know it was Drs. Anton and Koocher, according to the listserv.

AMY GOODMAN: Why were psychologists so important to this whole process? I mean, what was happening with the psychiatrists of the United States? What was happening with other physicians?

NATHANIEL RAYMOND: This is where it can get complicated sometimes, and I want to try to express this as clearly as possible. In the enhanced interrogation program, you had two roles for health professionals, and these roles were conjoined. Role one was actually designing and implementing the tactics. And that’s what James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen did. The second role is this monitoring and indemnification role, to say that we have not crossed this threshold of severe and long-lasting harm. Now, that role changes throughout the program. It begins with Yoo-Bybee making sure that a line hasn’t been crossed. But by the time we get to—

AMY GOODMAN: Bybee now being a federal judge. Explain his role.

NATHANIEL RAYMOND: Yeah, he was assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel. And John Yoo worked for him in that office, and he was responsible for primarily crafting the first torture memo.

AMY GOODMAN: Now at the University of California, Berkeley, law school.

NATHANIEL RAYMOND: Yes, at Boalt Hall. And now we move forward in time. And so, what we can see in these emails is that at the time the APA was really working hard—its engine was going overdrive on these issues between 2004 and 2005—in direct contact with the CIA, you have another process going on, which is the creation of that new legal authorization that we now know George Tenet asked for upon his resignation. And that’s what we call the Bradbury memo. In that memo, there is a significantly changed role for this second group of health professionals, putting Mitchell and Jessen aside: the monitors, the researchers. And it moves from them determining whether you crossed the line to determining the line. And to determine the line, that required research. And so, we see in the Bradbury memos very clearly, as we documented in the Physicians for Human Rights report, "Experiments in Torture," in 2010, is that they were having to look at the effect of the tactics to the whole detainee population over years and determine what the line was, because there was no clinical literature on torture.

AMY GOODMAN: Last December, psychologist James Mitchell, who was contracted by the CIA to design its interrogation program, appeared on Fox News to talk about his role in the waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah. He was interviewed by Megyn Kelly.

JAMES MITCHELL: Zubaydah shut down. And they asked me to come back to the campus. And it was clear to me, when I was at the campus listening to what people were saying, that there was so much pressure about trying to head off this second wave that was coming, that they were going to use some kind of physical coercion. And so, I have been—spent a lot of time in the Air Force SERE school, and I see what happens when people sort of make stuff up on the fly. And in the course of the conversations, I said, "If you’re going to use physical coercion—not that you should use physical coercion, but if you’re going to use physical coercion—then you should use physical coercion that has been demonstrated over 50 years not to produce the kinds of injuries we would like to avoid.

MEGYN KELLY: OK. So you—were you the one actually conducting the techniques on Abu Zubaydah, or were you in more of a sort of background role?

JAMES MITCHELL: It depends on when you’re talking about. Initially, I was in a background role. Then, after we shut down and the enhanced interrogations were approved, I was in an administration role.

MEGYN KELLY: OK, so did you personally waterboard him?


MEGYN KELLY: We’re going to get to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a minute, but sticking with Abu Zubaydah for now, were all of the methods that were cited in the Senate report employed, like nudity, standing sleep deprivation, the attention grab, the insult slap? Were those all used?

JAMES MITCHELL: The ones you mentioned were used.

MEGYN KELLY: The facial grab, the abdominal slap, the kneeling stress position, walling?

JAMES MITCHELL: Walling was used. The others—if they showed up on the list, they were used. We didn’t typically use a lot of those stress positions. We didn’t use any stress positions with Abu Zubaydah, because he had an injury.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s psychologist James Mitchell, who was in the APA from 2001 to 2006, admitting on Fox News that he waterboarded Abu Zubaydah, the prisoner. Dr. Steve Reisner, we are wrapping up right now. Your response to Mitchell?

STEVEN REISNER: Well, this was—this is chilling to listen to the description of a psychologist dedicated to the public good and individual well-being talking about destroying a prisoner’s mind and body. And it was chilling to the medical professionals in the CIA, who were pushing back. It was chilling to the inspector general, who was pushing back. The program was shut down. And just at that moment when the program was shut down, the Office of Legal Counsel, the White House, some members of the CIA and the American Psychological Association appear to have all worked together to revive that program and to find the rationale for psychologists to be able to help that program continue.

AMY GOODMAN: So what are you looking for now? What is the next step that’s taking place right now with the American Psychological Association, Nathaniel?

NATHANIEL RAYMOND: Well, as we heard from Senator Feinstein when James Risen’s article came out last week, there’s clear congressional interest in what happens next. And she said in her statement that she is looking forward to the results of the Hoffman investigation, the independent review of alleged collusion between—

AMY GOODMAN: Now, is this independent? He has been hired by the American Psychological Association?

NATHANIEL RAYMOND: Yes, it is called by the APA the independent review. Dr. Reisner and I and our co-authors have met extensively with David Hoffman, and obviously the proof will be in the pudding when the report is released. But right now, the next step—

AMY GOODMAN: Did the APA say they will release the report?

NATHANIEL RAYMOND: Well, this is a big issue, Amy, is the APA has said that the board will review it and, after it reviews it, will release it. And as we’ve been calling for, they need to release it to the public right now. When you have Senator Feinstein saying she wants to see this report, there cannot be a half-step before it goes to the public. The key issue now is to put pressure on the American Psychological Association to release the report to the public as soon as it is completed.

AMY GOODMAN: Your response to what Kirk Hubbard said, the former CIA psychologist, who in a 2012 interview with the Constitution Project’s Task Force on Detainee Treatment said that "Detainees are not patients, nor are they being 'treated' by the psychologists. Therefore the ethical guidelines for clinicians do not apply, in my opinion. Psychologists can play many different roles and should not be forced into a narrow doctor-patient role."

NATHANIEL RAYMOND: The Declaration of Helsinki and the Declaration of Tokyo, the Nuremberg Code, U.S. law, the Geneva Conventions are not based on whether someone’s a patient. It’s based on whether someone’s a human being. And the fact of the matter is that those codes were mangled and, in some cases, written out of what the APA did. So the issue is not about doctor-patient relationship here. It is about war crimes and about crimes against humanity, which are not contingent on someone being your patient.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you both for being with us. Nathaniel Raymond and Dr. Steven Reisner are co-authors of the new report, "All the President’s Psychologists." We will link to it at This is Democracy Now! We’ll be back in a minute.

News Wed, 06 May 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Human Rights Watch: Saudi-Led Coalition Bombing Yemen With Banned US-Made Cluster Munitions

Human Rights Watch is accusing the Saudi Arabia-led coalition of dropping banned cluster bombs manufactured and supplied by the U.S. on civilian areas in Yemen. Cluster bombs contain dozens or even hundreds of smaller munitions designed to fan out over a wide area, often the size of a football field. They are banned under a 2008 treaty for the high civilian toll they can cause. The treaty was adopted by 116 countries - although not by Saudi Arabia, Yemen or the United States. According to Human Rights Watch, the U.S.-supplied cluster bombs have landed near rebel-held villages in northern Yemen, putting residents in danger. On Monday, the State Department said it is "looking into" the report’s allegations, adding it takes "all accounts of civilian deaths in the ongoing hostilities in Yemen very seriously." We are joined by Stephen Goose, director of Human Rights Watch’s Arms Division and chair of the Cluster Munition Coalition, and Belkis Wille, Yemen and Kuwait researcher at Human Rights Watch.


AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to Yemen. More than a thousand people have died since the Saudi-led bombing campaign began in late March. More than half the victims are civilian, including 115 children. The precise toll from the airstrikes is not known, because many areas are hard to reach. But the U.N. and several major human rights groups have raised the possibility of war crimes in the scores of documented bombings so far. The U.S. has played a key role in the campaign, expediting weapons shipments and providing intelligence to Saudi Arabia, including "direct targeting support" for the coalition’s strikes.

Now Human Rights Watch has accused the Saudi-led coalition of dropping banned cluster bombs manufactured and supplied by the United States. Cluster bombs contain dozens or even hundreds of smaller munitions designed to fan out over a wide area, often the size of a football field. They are banned under a 2008 treaty for the high civilian toll they can cause. The treaty was adopted by 116 countries, although not by Saudi Arabia, Yemen or the United States. According to Human Rights Watch, the U.S.-supplied cluster bombs have landed near rebel-held villages in northern Yemen, putting residents in danger. On Monday, the State Department said it’s looking into the report’s allegations, adding it takes all accounts of civilian deaths in the ongoing hostilities in Yemen very seriously.

For more, we go to Washington to Steve Goose, director of Human Rights Watch’s Arms Division, involved in the preparations and formal negotiations of the 2008 convention banning cluster munitions. He’s also chair of the Cluster Munition Coalition.

Can you talk about what you understand is happening right now in Yemen?

STEPHEN GOOSE: Well, we documented airstrikes involving cluster munitions on April 17th and likely on April 27th, as well. We don’t know if ongoing strikes are occurring right now, because, as you say, it’s very difficult to get fresh information out of many of the areas. But Saudi Arabia has, in fact, acknowledged—this is not an accusation—Saudi Arabia has acknowledged that they are using these weapons. They want to claim that they’re only using them against armored vehicles. But the treaty that bans these things doesn’t ban them only in certain circumstances. It’s in all circumstances, whether you think you’re only attacking armored vehicles or civilians, because in the long run they’re going to affect civilians. That’s been proven by their use in so many other countries prior to this ban treaty.

AMY GOODMAN: What’s the role of the United States here, Steve?

STEPHEN GOOSE: With respect to the cluster munitions, the U.S. supplied these CBU-105 sensor-fused weapons. They’re a more advanced type of cluster munition, but they are banned under the treaty. The U.S.—U.S.'s closest military allies, its NATO allies, almost all are part of this ban treaty, and they all agreed that these weapons, that perhaps have a lower failure rate than some other cluster munitions, also need to be banned, because they pose unacceptable dangers to civilians. The U.S. supplied them to Saudi Arabia. They've supplied them also to the United Arab Emirates, which is part of the coalition that’s conducting the airstrikes now.

AMY GOODMAN: Belkis Wille is also with us, Yemen and Kuwait researcher at Human Rights Watch. She has been based in Sana’a for the last two years, but she’s joining us from Istanbul, Turkey. Can you talk about when you came to suspect that Saudi Arabia was using cluster munitions in Yemen, Belkis?

BELKIS WILLE: Thank you for having—

AMY GOODMAN: Belkis, I’m sorry, we’re not hearing you.

BELKIS WILLE: Sorry. I was saying, we have had concerns about the use of cluster munitions in this war because of the fact that Saudi Arabia actually used cluster munitions in 2009, when it participated in a war in northern Yemen. On the first day of the war, we issued a press release calling on the Saudi-led coalition to state on the record that it would not be using cluster munitions in this war. A press conference the next day led to a Saudi spokesman saying they were not using cluster munitions. However, several days later, we received video footage that looked very much like cluster munitions were being dropped by coalition airstrikes in northern Yemen. And several days later, we received photo evidence that showed the actual munitions, including unexploded cluster munitions on the ground in a location 36 kilometers away. We were able to match, through satellite imagery, the exact location from where the film was done, so we were able to verify that this was indeed a film made in Yemen showing the landing of cluster munitions. Unfortunately—

AMY GOODMAN: Unfortunately, yes? We’re going to have to go back to Steve—


AMY GOODMAN: Belkis, go ahead. We’re having trouble with her again. Her audio stream is coming from Istanbul, Turkey. Steve, if you could take over from there. You both work with the same organization, Human Rights Watch. What has been the U.S. and Saudi response to the allegations that they’re violating a treaty, not that they’re signatories to—the U.S., Yemen and Saudi Arabia are not part of that 2008 cluster bomb treaty.

STEPHEN GOOSE: Yes, Saudi Arabia, initially—well, before we presented this evidence, they said they weren’t using cluster bombs. And then when they first saw our report, they tried to deny that these were cluster munitions, cluster bombs. But in fact, these weapons clearly are captured by the definition of a cluster munition in the 2008 ban treaty. Then, the following day, they in fact started saying, "Yes, we’re using these particular weapons, called the CBU-105, but that we’re only using them against armored vehicles." That is still a violation of the convention. They have not signed up, but this convention is creating a new international standard of behavior which rejects any use under any circumstance, because one of the big problems with cluster munitions is not only that they spread out over a huge area during strikes and oftentimes kill and injure civilians during strikes, but many of the munitions don’t explode when they’re supposed to and end up laying on the ground and acting as landmines. And we’ve seen this kind of failure with these CBU-105s, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Steve Goose, what about the civilian casualties? And what do you think needs to be done right now?

STEPHEN GOOSE: We don’t know what kind of casualties these weapons have caused. As Belkis was mentioning, we’ve got photographic evidence and video evidence of the attacks themselves, but we’ve not been able to get to this area on the ground to do interviews and identify potential casualties. But you can bet on it that there will be civilian casualties. If they didn’t occur during the attacks, they will occur at a later date from the so-called duds that lay on the ground and act like landmines.

AMY GOODMAN: What are—

STEPHEN GOOSE: The U.S.—I’m sorry, go ahead.

AMY GOODMAN: Go ahead. Go ahead.

STEPHEN GOOSE: The U.S. has had a very muted response so far, saying they’re going to look into it. The U.S. shouldn’t be exporting any kind of cluster munition to anybody, but it does have a ban in place on export of almost all U.S. cluster munitions except this particular type, the CBU-105, because it’s one of the latest versions that, in theory, has a lower failure rate than others. We think the U.S. should abandon this loophole in its export prohibition.

AMY GOODMAN: Steve Goose, I want to thank you for being with us, director of Human Rights Watch’s Arms Division, involved in the preparations and formal negotiations of the 2008 convention banning cluster munitions, also chair of the Cluster Munition Coalition. I also want to thank Belkis Wille for joining us from Istanbul, Turkey, a Yemen and Kuwait researcher at Human Rights Watch, speaking to us from Istanbul.

News Wed, 06 May 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Fast Track: A Gut-Kick to the Progressive Movement

The administration's push to ram massive new trade and investment deals through Congress is an unambiguous concession to corporate power.

In a move that elicited a collective groan from virtually all of progressive America, the Obama administration and congressional Republicans reached a deal on April 16 on so-called "fast track" trade authority. This is the legislation needed to ram new trade agreements through the U.S. Congress with limited debate and no amendments.

It was a gut-kick for labor unions and environmental, consumer, human rights, and other groups that have long called for a change of course on U.S. trade policy. Instead, the fast track legislation shows we're still stuck in the same old failed model of the 1990s. The bill lays out trade policy objectives that elevate the narrow interests of large corporations and undercut efforts to support good jobs, the environment, and financial stability.

Nowhere is this corporate bias more explicit than in the "investor-state" dispute settlement mechanism. In fact it would be hard to find in any U.S. policy a stronger example of excessive power granted to large corporations. Under this mechanism, private foreign investors are allowed to sue governments in international tribunals over actions — including public interest regulations — that reduce the value of their investments. The fast track bill makes clear that future trade agreements will continue to grant this extreme corporate privilege.

You would think the proliferation of such "investor-state" suits in recent years would give policymakers pause. Here we are, for example, in the middle of the climate crisis, and yet investors are allowed to sue governments over policies to encourage renewable energy. In the wake of the Fukushima disaster, we have a case against Germany over its decision to phase out nuclear power. And at a time when tobacco-related health costs total about half a trillion dollars per year, Philip Morris is suing the governments of Australia and Uruguay over anti-smoking laws.

What I find particularly galling is that in the wake of the financial crisis, we still have trade agreements that allow private investors to sue governments if they use capital controls to deal with destabilizing hot money flows. Good grief, it was back in the aftermath of the 1990s global financial crisis that reasonable people started pointing out the foolishness of such policies.

Daniel Tarullo, for example, now a member of the Federal Reserve Board, gave congressional testimony in 2003 saying that prohibiting capital controls is not only "bad financial policy and bad trade policy," but also "bad foreign policy."

He went on to lay out what would likely happen if a government bound by these rules were to use such controls during a severe financial crisis: "As the country struggles to emerge from its recession…U.S. investors file their claims for compensation. And, of course, under the bilateral trade agreement they are entitled to that compensation. Thus the still-suffering citizens of the country are treated to the prospect of U.S. investors being made whole while everyone else bears losses from an economic catastrophe that has afflicted the entire nation. Regardless of what one thinks of the merits of capital controls, one would have to be naïve not to think that an anti-American backlash would result."

A dozen years later, the International Monetary Fund has come around to Tarullo's way of thinking. After the 2008 crisis, it recommended that several countries use capital controls to address volatility. In 2012 the fund adopted an official institutional position in support of these policy tools in certain circumstances.

But the fast track bill still instructs U.S. negotiators to continue to insist on capital control restrictions. (In tradespeak, it says that a "principal objective" of U.S. trade agreements should be to "secure for investors important rights" including "freeing the transfer of funds relating to investments.")

Recently, WikiLeaks made available a draft chapter of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, one of the trade agreements that the Obama administration hopes might be approved through fast track authority. This leaked chapter reveals that some of the other 11 governments involved in those talks are pushing back against the hard U.S. line on capital controls. While the text includes the standard "free transfers" language, it also includes an annex with two proposed safeguards for government actions to control volatile capital flows. In a joint memo I co-authored with Boston University economist Dr. Kevin Gallagher and trade law expert Annamaria Viterbo, we laid out several recommendations for strengthening these proposals to allow governments the flexibility they need to prevent or mitigate financial instability.

After more than two decades of failed trade policies and a devastating financial crisis, it's time to put people and the planet above giant corporations and Wall Street.

Opinion Wed, 06 May 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Guilty of Mental Illness

Annie Parker remembers the day she brought her son Alex Bailey home.

He wasn't a newborn swaddled in a baby blanket; he was a frightened 12-year-old foster child with whom she had started to develop an emotional bond.

"You're gonna be my mama," she remembers him saying happily.

A few hours after he arrived, however, she was startled by a commotion in one of the bedrooms and rushed inside to check. Alex was crying and banging his head against the headboard of his bed.

His behavior was disturbing, but it was not a complete surprise to Parker. As his foster-care mother, she had visited him at Riveredge Hospital, a Forest Park psychiatric facility.

Twenty years later, Parker, 72, continues to be flustered about the behavior of the son she adopted in 1998 and loves as if he were her biological child. Bailey, now 32, has been arrested and charged 34 times as an adult, mostly for minor crimes like retail theft.

He was locked up in Cook County Jail in July after his latest arrest.

Parker, a home care worker, feels overwhelmed by years of trying to solve a problem no parent can fix alone: How to keep her mentally ill son from cycling in and out of jail.

On average, about 2,000 of the jail's 9,000 detainees are living with at least one mental illness, making Cook County Jail among the largest psychiatric facilities in the nation.

Like Bailey, most detainees funnel into the jail from ZIP codes on Chicago's South and West sides, and the majority-black south suburbs, where mental health services are in short supply. They are part of what can be described as a neighborhood-to-jail pipeline.

About 70 percent of the jail population is African-American.

"There is an injustice inherent in our criminal justice system here," says Cara Smith, executive director of Cook County Jail, commenting on whether the detainees are part of a neighborhood pipeline.

Addressing mental health issues before people are incarcerated should be the solution, but it isn't, experts say, because of a lack of services in the very communities from which most of these inmates come. The problem, however, is citywide. Chicago's patchwork mental health safety net has been fraying for years, and now people are falling through the holes, according to advocates, who raised the issue during the recent mayoral election.

Criminalizing mental illness is costly, inhumane and counterproductive, they argue. On average it costs $143 a day to incarcerate someone who is not mentally ill, but twice as much if the individual has a psychiatric condition and requires doctor's care, medication and extra security. Experts say the money used to lock people up could be better spent helping people get the mental health and other social services they need to live productive, meaningful lives.

Incarceration can also exacerbate psychiatric illness, especially when detainees are placed in segregation.

Smith sees people like Bailey circling through the revolving doors of the county's criminal justice system every day. Many of them have committed so-called crimes of survival.

"These are cases people should care about," she says, "because I don't know how being in jail is a good answer for this type of crime."

From foster care to jail

Bailey's path to incarceration included several foster-care placements. It's not an unusual route, says Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, who is responsible for the facility.

Bailey lived with a long-term foster-care family for eight years before he was briefly placed with a second family, and then a third. He moved in with Parker in June 1995.

He had been diagnosed with depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Bailey could not be reached for comment because jail officials would not allow The Chicago Reporter to interview him without the permission of his lawyers. The Public Defender's Office, which represented him, said it would not approve an interview because Bailey's case was pending.

According to school records provided by Parker, Bailey was categorized as being TMH, shorthand for trainable mentally handicapped. He attended classes for students with emotional and behavioral disorders and severe cognitive delays.

"Alex is functioning at an overall cognitive level commensurate with a 5½- to 6-year-old youngster," according to school records dated Aug. 8, 1995, when Alex was 12. "He appears emotionally very fragile."

The documents paint a gloomy picture of his psychological state: "He hears voices. He cried during reading because he can't read."

As a teenager, Bailey worked a series of fast-food jobs. When he was 18, his performance at a White Castle on North Milwaukee Avenue was considered satisfactory, even outstanding for some tasks. Except when it came to reading his shift schedule, his boss says in a report to the Illinois Office of Rehabilitation Services, which is now a division of the Department of Human Services.

Bailey had already quit the White Castle job when the report was written.

Soon after, he started stealing and getting arrested.

About four years ago, Parker toted his records to court in a worn, three-ring red binder to show attorneys and judges documentation of his troubled history. But she says no one seemed interested.

"He's persistent on trying to do things, but he'll be doing the wrong things. He's not a dangerous person. He's a sweetheart," says Parker, throwing up her hands in frustration. "He needs help, and I can't seem to get it through them people's heads that that's what he needs."

In July, Bailey hurled insults at a criminal court judge during a court appearance after he was arrested for stealing liquor. The judge hit him with a contempt charge.

In jail, many find treatment

Detainees wait in a holding area near the intake section at Cook County Jail, which has become one of the nation's largest psychiatric facilities.

Loud voices echo against grimy walls in the intake section of the Cook County Jail on a weekday morning last December. New arrivals wait in caged holding areas or on long, worn benches.

Elli Petacque Montgomery, a licensed social worker and deputy director of mental health policy and advocacy at the sheriff's office, supervises the intake process for new detainees. Before being shipped out to bond court, each person under arrest is briefly interviewed to collect information used to determine if mental illness may have played a role.

Many are there for committing survival crimes, which include retail theft, criminal trespass to property and minor drug crimes — offenses involving people trying to get something to eat, find a place to sleep and just get by.

They are asked about medications, psychiatric diagnoses and symptoms such as "racing thoughts," among other things. An intake form also records whether they are homeless, have health insurance or use illegal drugs.

By 11 o'clock, 36 men have been processed, including three sitting on a bench nearby. One is a fragile-looking elderly black man with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder who told Montgomery he had run out of one of his anti-psychotic medications.

"When they can't get medication, they 'self-medicate' [with alcohol and drugs] to drown out the voices," Montgomery says. She turns toward the bench and nods. "That's someone I have some concern about."

There are other stories this day:

  • A man diagnosed with schizophrenia has been arrested for retail theft of less than $100. He is homeless with a history of taking illegal drugs. He hears voices and sees things that aren't there, Montgomery says.

  • A man diagnosed with schizophrenia reports having hallucinations of graveyards. He says he tried to kill himself multiple times and hears voices that tell him to hurt himself and commit crimes. He is an alcoholic who also uses cocaine and marijuana to self-medicate.

  • An HIV-positive man who is diagnosed with bipolar disorder arrived in jail "bordering on the color green," Montgomery says. He has been shooting heroin for so long the veins in his arms have collapsed. Montgomery remembers him going through intake a year ago.

"This is a place where poverty, lack of education, homelessness, drug addiction [and] mental illness all sort of come crashing together," Smith says.

Mental illnesses run the gamut from mild to severe — from anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder to schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

"But it costs money to get someone well," Montgomery says. "You can't do therapy in jail. You can't do true intensive treatment in jail. … We do pretty good. But we don't give them the treatment they really need, compared to a therapeutic environment."

Closures worsen problem

This storefront at 2354 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Logan Square was the former home of the Northwest Mental Health Clinic — one of six shuttered by the city in 2012. A gourmet macaroni and cheese restaurant is slated to open in the space this summer.

In Cook County, vast swaths of the South and West sides and south suburbs are considered "mental health deserts," areas where such services are scarce.

These are communities where negative social factors such as unemployment, discrimination and poor education tend to cluster, and these negative social factors frequently lead to poor mental health, says Dr. Ruth Shim, a psychiatrist in New York and expert on mental health disparities.

"Things we consider commonplace in our communities — like violence and crime — are really damaging to our mental health," Shim says. "We take that for granted but people act out. Instead of addressing mental health problems, we put people in jail."

Mental health deserts make it difficult for people who live in those communities to get the help they need, says University of Chicago law professor Mark Heyrman, chairman of the public policy committee of Mental Health America of Illinois.

"It can take several bus rides to get to places where there are services," he told a recent forum on mental health issues at Columbia College. "And that's a serious problem."

In an effort to find community-based services for detainees when they are released, the sheriff's office started mapping facilities in the county that provide mental health services.

"The thing that is startling, when we started mapping it out, is the absolute lack of services when you hit 75th Street south to the border of Will County," Dart says. "It's absolutely stunning how few services are out there. It just screams out when you look at the map."

When hundreds of state psychiatric hospital beds were taken out of service decades ago in an effort to shift patients into community-based care, sufficient funding for community programs never followed, says Heather O'Donnell, vice president of advocacy for Thresholds, a large social service provider.

Illinois "de-institutionalized nearly 35,000 people in the 1960s and 1970s," she says, "and we never fully invested in a community-based mental health treatment system and affordable housing. The state cut $113 million out of community mental health services. At the same time, utilization of emergency psychiatric services rose 18 percent."

From 2009 to 2011, Illinois was the state with the fourth-largest cuts in mental health spending with budget cuts of $113.7 million, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Psychiatrists play a critical role in providing services because they prescribe and monitor medications.

Cristina Villarreal, director of public affairs for the Chicago Department of Public Health, says currently one full-time and one part-time psychiatrist staff the city's six mental health clinics, which have a total patient caseload of almost 1,000. A temporary psychiatrist works part time.

The city raised the salary of psychiatrists last October to attract qualified candidates and retain their current doctors. And the department aims to hire six full-time psychiatrists and additional staff, she says, adding that the goal is to help residents avoid involvement with the criminal justice system.

Shim says the closure of half of the city's dozen public mental health clinics in 2012 likely exacerbated problems in underserved communities.

"I think that Chicago stands out because there are clear places where there are high levels of poverty, high levels of violence, and those communities need more intervention and mental health support," she says.

Nneka Jones, a psychologist in charge of mental health strategy at the jail, says access to mental health services in close proximity to one's home is critical.

"I think that's the biggest challenge: access," she says. "There is a shortage of [psychiatric] inpatient, outpatient and residential care, short- and long-term."

Mental health and social service agencies, private and public, are under increasing financial strain. Cuts proposed by Gov. Bruce Rauner in next fiscal year's state budget raise even more uncertainty about access to services.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and city health officials came under fire when they closed the six mental health clinics in 2012. Critics blasted the city, saying some patients ended up jailed, homeless or dead as a result. Dart says the jail saw an increase in detainees from those areas after the mental health clinics closed.

Back in August, then-health commissioner Dr. Bechara Choucair told a City Council health committee hearing that services had not been cutback, only consolidated.

The University of Chicago's Heyrman says his concern is less about the closures and more about the lack of a viable plan to ensure a mental health safety net, even if the city is not directly delivering the care. "The city has never figured out what the priorities should be," he says. "The city should make sure people within its [boundaries] are getting appropriate care."

Every day, 30 people who have been diagnosed with mental illness are discharged from the jail.

To help reduce recidivism and improve community safety, Chicago plans to launch a new initiative in March with the Cook County Sheriff's Office to link every Chicagoan released from the jail who needs mental health treatment to a community provider, Villarreal says.

In August 2014, the county Department of Corrections opened a mental health transition center for high-functioning inmates who are serving their prison time at the jail and will soon be released. It sits on the site of the jail's former boot camp nearby.

Inmates receive therapy for the first six weeks of the program, including training in problem-solving skills. During the final six weeks, they also receive vocational training.

Officials are planning to add a residential division in the near future. The goal is to help inmates obtain the skills they need to successfully re-integrate into their communities.

Many of the inmates are poor and uninsured, says Ben Breit, director of strategic communications in the sheriff's office, who says officials are facilitating sign up for Medicaid to ensure health coverage post-incarceration.

Thousands of current and former detainees and inmates have applied.

"To make the strides we need to make, we're talking about huge shifts in the way we do things," Shim says. "But providing people with serious mental illnesses and substance-use disorders early access to mental health services in their communities instead of in jails and prisons is a start."

'I wanna be free'

Bailey received counseling at Mount Sinai Hospital when he was a minor. But Parker says when he got older and he wasn't in the foster care system anymore, "Voila, things changed."

She tried to help him get Social Security disability benefits, but whenever he needed to follow-up, he was locked up.

"He's never around to get the interview," she says.

Bailey was arrested in April 2014 after a security guard observed him leaving a Target on the North Side with nine bottles of Patrón tequila worth $191.61 that he hadn't purchased.

He was found guilty and received credit for 182 days of time served. But after he was transported to the prison and processed, he was released because his sentence did not exceed the time he had already spent behind bars — a situation known as a "turnaround," Smith says.

In July, he stole liquor from a Jewel store on West Canal Street and was arrested again.

"You have to really wonder how, under anybody's analysis, jail is a good idea for people suffering from mental illness and committing crimes for which there is no real identifiable victim," she says, adding that the store did not lose a penny because Bailey was caught.

During a mental health screening conducted for the courts in May 2010, Bailey reported a 2003 psychiatric hospitalization at St. Elizabeth Hospital where he was prescribed medication for depression and anxiety and stayed for four months. He also reported that he participated in a hospital outpatient program for eight months, but he says he didn't know the name of his doctor or his medications.

According to the same screening report, "The defendant also reports severe alcohol use for the past 10 years, however, has never been in treatment."

In 2010, Bailey tried to hang himself, the first of two suicide attempts in the jail lockup. When correctional officers stopped his second attempt last year, he told them: "I wanna die. I wanna be free."

Bailey's problems have worn down his adopted mother, who says she cannot afford any more collect calls from the jail or trips to court. She also stopped visiting him in jail. On March 23, Alex was sentenced to five years in prison.

Yet, she remains devoted to the young man she bonded with when he was a troubled boy in need of a stable home. When he gets out of prison, she says he is welcome to move back into her West Side home. And she will try to help him.

"He doesn't need to be locked up," Parker says. "He needs to be someplace where he can get help."


The Chicago Reporter is a non-profit investigative news organization that focuses on race, poverty and income inequality.

News Wed, 06 May 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Prosecuting Cops Does Not Equal Justice

I’ll admit to being alarmed that people who call themselves having a structural analysis are rejoicing over cops being charged for Freddie Gray’s death. I am even more alarmed that smart people who know that the current system is unable to offer any actual ‘justice’ are all over my timeline canonizing a state’s attorney whose actual JOB it is in a system that would be ‘functioning’ to prosecute killer cops. The expectations are so low as to be self-defeating. I understand. But I am supremely dismayed.

I want to also add that those of us who have studied, researched, experienced and lived the criminal punishment system cannot suffer from the collective amnesia that pervades at times like these. If your concept of ‘justice’ means convictions for cops, then you should be very concerned because this current system as designed is unlikely to deliver. If your concept of ‘justice’ means prison time for cops, then you should be despondent because this system as currently constituted almost NEVER delivers that either. If your concept of ‘justice’ means Black people being able to live our lives free from state violence, then today is not a day of celebration. Sorry but I have to say it since others are selling something else.

I know for sure that there would not even have been charges against these cops without the uprising of young Black people and others in Baltimore and across the country. And activism, organizing matter tremendously. They do. But to transform a death-making system, our expectations have to be much higher. Celebrating charges is like celebrating crumbs. It really, really is. I understand why people do it but I think according great significance to charges misses the point and it also freezes people in place. It has the effect of demobilizing collective action. Just watch what happens over the next couple of days. The “wait and see” chorus, the “let the system work” chorus will be out in full force. Organizers have our work cut out for us in that climate.

Finally, it feels terrible to have to depend on a system that you know is illegitimate to adjudicate your “worth.” It really does. The criminal punishment system has ALWAYS been a tool in this country for enforcing and maintaining white supremacy. Yet that ‘analysis’ goes out the window as we are compelled by some to ‘celebrate’ charges and to ‘canonize’ public officials who under the rules of said system are SUPPOSED to prosecute killer cops.

P.S. That same State’s Attorney is also likely to be prosecuting protesters and so called ‘looters.’ She’s the STATE’s attorney. Not the “people’s attorney.” Please stay awake. Challenge the conventional narratives that you will be fed. Always be critical. (thanks to Tamara Nopper for always being on the ball).

Opinion Wed, 06 May 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Responses to Baltimore ]]> (Lauren Walker) Art Wed, 06 May 2015 00:00:00 -0400 The US From Abroad: Still Seen as a Strange Liberator

The US can sell itself as a "land of the free" and home of democracy only domestically; outside its borders, this propaganda is either ridiculed or accepted as necessary hypocrisy to achieve a higher goal.

In 1967, Martin Luther King Jr., in his famous "Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence" speech, said: "They must see Americans as strange liberators." Things have not changed that much almost 50 years later.

The perception of the US as a hypocritical power is reinforced by the gap between deed and creed. (Photo: Drazz)The perception of the US as a hypocritical power is reinforced by the gap between deed and creed. (Photo: Drazz)

Recently, the media reported extensively about President Obama's rapprochement with Cuba and the expected agreement with Iran about nuclear weapons. These two developments were hailed as signs that, in spite of opposition in Congress on the part of warmongering Republicans and supporters of Israel, and from Israel itself, Obama had imposed diplomacy as a substitute for war.

It gave the world the impression that, belatedly, Obama was living up to his promise and had started implementing a foreign policy different from the one of his much-hated predecessor, George W. Bush, and more focused on peace and realistic means of achieving it. This view is based on the simplistic notion that the president of the United States is free to decide what he wants as a person and not as part of a huge apparatus shaping foreign policy. It airbrushes contradictions among many aspects of foreign policy and distinguishes it from domestic policy.

The perception of the US as a hypocritical power is reinforced by the gap between deed and creed.

While the United States has decided to put an end to the 50-year-old "Tropical Cold War" with Cuba, it is now putting additional pressure on Venezuela, a country whose regime is close to that of Cuba. The US worries about democracy in that country and puts some leaders on a black list for their violation of basic democratic rights. The US further argues that Venezuela is a threat to US national security. In Latin America, as the latest Summit of the Americas in Panama in April 2015 showed, this US attitude is met with ridicule, even among countries such as Brazil that do not approve of the human rights violations of the Maduro regime. The Argentine president even said it made her laugh.

There is clearly a disconnect between the perception that the US has of itself and the perception of foreign countries that have a long history of involvement with the self-described leader of the free world.
The Rhetoric of Freedom and Democracy vs. Torture
The rhetoric of freedom and democracy is the preferred one in US foreign policy. The invasion of Iraq in 2003 was code-named "Iraqi Freedom." It is, of course, almost too easy to deride such a statement today, for we know that the war was based on a web of lies about weapons of mass destruction, and that the US promoted torture more than democracy in Iraq. The perception of the US as a hypocritical power is reinforced by the gap between deed and creed.

The world is not culturally globalized, but information is, and since Western (mostly US) media dominate the world, information about the US spreads instantaneously. The world knows more about the US than the US knows about the world.
Racism and Its Global Impact
The violations of the rights of Black people by White police officers who are subsequently not prosecuted are not a purely domestic matter, but a global one. In the 1950s, racial segregation in the South was a major factor tarnishing the image of the US in the rest of the world. The fight against segregation was prompted, in part, by international condemnations.

How can a racialized "democracy" teach the world lessons about respect for the law when it violates the law?

During the Cold War, the Soviets could easily debunk the proclamations of freedom and democracy made by the US, which did not respect equality at home. How could the US teach the world lessons when it did not grant all its citizens equality? How can a racialized "democracy" teach the world lessons about respect for the law when it violates the law not only outside its borders, but within them as well?

Institutional racism is reported globally and undermines propaganda efforts in the realm of foreign policy. So even when yet another police killing leads to a prosecution, faith in the US legal system is not restored. Although racism, bigotry and inequality are not specific American characteristics, in the case of the US, they undermine the official story the US tells the world about itself.

The racism that leads to police murders cancels out the efforts to promote the image of the US as a prosperous democracy, where diversity is a core value.

Democracy cannot be reduced to elections; it includes respect for human rights, so the US record on this score matters enormously. As a major violator of human rights on the global scale, with drones and illegal wars fought by itself or its allies, the US is in a difficult position to paint itself as the "greatest democracy" in the world. Yet the US also has a major problem with the domestic aspects of its democratic system.

Democratic Deficits in the US

Two researchers, Martin Gilens (Princeton) and Benjamin I. Page (Northwestern), recently demonstrated in a very complex study that the people, the demos, had hardly any input in the political process and that political decisions were the sign of what they call "Economic-Elite Domination." Their conclusion states the problem of democracy in the US in cautious, but very significant terms:

Despite the seemingly strong empirical support in previous studies for theories of majoritarian democracy, our analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts. Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association, and a wide-spread (if still contested) franchise. But we believe that if policymaking is dominated by powerful business organizations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America's claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened.

US democracy also suffers from voter apathy or refusal to vote in elections where there are only two candidates. If elections are mostly a matter of consumer choice between two products chosen by the same "economic elites," which do not address popular concerns, then abstention makes sense. This withering away of the electorate also affects other democracies when the choice of different leaders does not lead to the implementation of different policies. Yet for the US, its democratic difficulties make its public diplomacy or international propaganda less effective, which is not the case for Russia or China, which do not praise "democracy" to achieve their international objectives.

A broken democracy in the US is therefore an obstacle to propaganda based on the rhetoric of "freedom and democracy." US lies or hypocrisy in foreign policy discredit the concepts and values supposedly cherished by the US.

It is actually Americans themselves who are the target of this international propaganda.

If propaganda does not work, and if the rhetoric of "freedom and democracy" does not win "the hearts and minds" of people, the question then remains: Why does the US stick to it? In advertising, a bad campaign is usually scrapped. The answer to this apparent conundrum lies in the real target audience of this rhetoric: It is actually Americans themselves who are the target of this international propaganda. They are encouraged to believe that they are a force for good; they want "freedom and democracy" for others and themselves, as US presidents from Theodore Roosevelt to Richard Nixon and Barack Obama have constantly claimed, even while using a big stick in the Caribbean, Vietnam, Iraq or the whole Middle East.

People in nations on the receiving end of "freedom and democracy" usually know better, from Greece to Chile, to Iraq to Panama. There is nothing really new under this Orwellian sun. Attributing noble motives to oneself and demonizing the other is as old as the history of domination. The colonized did not really believe in France's "civilizing mission" - a fairy tale that imperialist French people told themselves, and sometimes even believed. The countries under the Stalinist yoke did not believe that the USSR stood for anti-imperialist proletarian solidarity.

The US, with its global reach, domination of the media and global cultural presence, can disseminate its propaganda more effectively than most other powers. Its domestic propaganda, known as public relations, has proved very effective in shaping people's "hearts and minds." Democracy itself has become an advertising phenomenon.

Democracy itself has become an advertising phenomenon.

Racism, democratic deficits and torture defeat the propaganda efforts of the US and are exploited by powers that are far from blameless on these scores. The US can sell itself as a "land of the free" and home of democracy only domestically; outside its borders, this propaganda is either ridiculed or accepted as necessary hypocrisy to achieve a higher goal.

In 1967, Martin Luther King Jr., in his famous "Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence" speech, said: "They must see Americans as strange liberators." Things have not changed that much almost 50 years later.

A plutocratic United States promoting "democracy" may be a form of global chutzpah, but domestically, it serves to change the conversation from touchy topics and reinforce national beliefs about American exceptionalism. The US is not really trying to export "democracy" or "freedom," as its track record shows; it wants to maintain its hegemony, or at least contain its decline. The US is not so different from past imperial powers or from China today; only its rhetoric based upon its history differs. American exceptionalism amounts then to a rhetorical exception only.

Opinion Wed, 06 May 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Fifty-Seven Percent of Republicans Want to Undo the American Revolution

Political commentator and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), March 7, 2014.Political commentator and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), March 7, 2014. (Photo: Christopher Halloran /

The United States is a Christian nation.

That's an idea former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has harped on time and time again during his political career.

And while he didn't explicitly talk about it today during his presidential announcement, it's bound to pop up some time during his campaign.

That's because most Republicans agree that the US is a Christian nation. In fact, according to one recent survey, 57 percent of them actually want to establish Christianity as the official state religion of our republic.

That's right - 57 percent of Republicans want to turn our democracy into a theocracy!

Thomas Jefferson must be rolling over in his grave.

See more news and opinion from Thom Hartmann at Truthout here.

The idea that the US is some sort of "Christian nation" is so out of whack with the both the history of this country and the Enlightenment values that inspired its founding that it just boggles the mind.

Despite what Mike Huckabee would have you believe, most of the most influential people who created this country - Founders like Jefferson, Washington and Franklin - were not devout Christians, and many were actively hostile to religion having any role whatsoever in public life.

But the Founders didn't just believe that the US should be a secular nation; they actively worked to make it one.

Thomas Jefferson, for example, was the main force behind Virginia's famous 1786 "Statute for Religious Freedom," which ended the Church of England's role as Virginia's official state religion and guaranteed other faiths an equal footing under the law.

Jefferson was so proud of this law that he made it, along with the founding of the University of Virginia and writing the Declaration of Independence, one of the three accomplishments listed on his tombstone. He designed and wrote his own tombstone, and considered the Virginia Statute to be more important than that he was president for two terms - something he omitted from his tombstone.

Jefferson's friend James Madison, although a Christian, also worked to keep the US secular.

In 1811, he vetoed a bill that would have authorized government payments to a church in Washington, DC, to help the poor, because as he put it, doing so "would be a precedent for giving to religious societies, as such, a legal agency in carrying into effect a public and civil duty."

George Washington was no friend to theocracy, either, and one of his landmark accomplishments as our nation's first president was, in part, a rebuttal to the idea that the US was a Christian nation.

The Treaty of Tripoli, worked out with the Muslim rulers of Libya under Washington's guidance and then signed into law by John Adams in 1797, reads:

As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion, --as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen,-- and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

But for Founders like Washington, Madison and Jefferson, the fight against theocracy wasn't just about what the United States was founded on, it was about what they wanted it to become.

As students of history who were just a few centuries removed from the great European religious wars, the Founders knew the threat theocracy posed to liberty.

And as scholars of the Enlightenment, they saw organized religion as one of the many irrational tyrannies that were holding mankind back from a rational, democratic future.

Thomas Paine, the author of "Common Sense," even went so far as to write that, "Of all the tyrannies that affect mankind, tyranny of religion is the worse."

Only by remaining secular, the Founders believed, could the US preserve its democracy.

They were actually so serious about preserving this secular democracy that some of them didn't want to let Massachusetts into the union because its political system was, for all intents and purposes, a Puritan theocracy.

Today, of course, Massachusetts is one of the most secular and, thus small-d democratic, states in the entire country.

But that doesn't mean threat of theocracy is gone.

Far from it, actually.

The theocratic tyranny our Founders tried so hard to wipe out lives on in the modern day Republican Party, and in politicians like Mike Huckabee who repeat the lie that the US was founded as, and thus always will be, a Christian nation.

In reality, the US was founded as, and thus hopefully always will be, a secular nation.

It's right there in the Constitution: "[N]o religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States" (Article VI), and, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion..." (First Amendment)

Let's work to keep it that way, and reject the posturing and grandstanding of hucksters and hustlers like Huckabee.

Both for our sake, our democracy's sake, and our children's sake.

Opinion Tue, 05 May 2015 00:00:00 -0400
The Chickens Come Home to Roost in Baltimore

Once again, the nation watches as prosecutors deal with the killing of an unarmed black man.

"[The officers] failed to establish probable cause for Mr. Gray's arrest as no crime had been committed by Mr. Gray ... Accordingly, [he was] illegally arrested," Baltimore state's attorney Marilyn Mosby declared, as she announced the filing of criminal charges against the six officers implicated in Freddie Gray's death.

Gray made "eye contact" with Officer Brian Rice. Gray then ran from Rice, and Rice began chasing Gray. It was after Gray surrendered to Officers Garrett Miller and Edward Nero that Gray was taken on his fatal "rough ride."

A "rough ride" is an unsanctioned technique that some officers use to injure arrestees without physically touching them with their hands or weapons. The driver typically takes intentionally rough or rapid turnsß around corners or makes sudden stops. Since the suspect is handcuffed, he is unable to brace himself so he falls forward, often bashing his head against the inside of the van.

Like so many African American men before him in this country, Gray was guilty of nothing other than "walking while black." In his case, Baltimore's sordid history of racial and class oppression, combined with the war on drugs, made for a deadly combination.

"Probable cause was distorted by the drug war," David Simon, creator of "The Wire," said in an interview with Bill Keller. Set in Baltimore, the award-winning HBO series portrayed the conflict between the police and African Americans in the streets, in a compelling work of historical fiction. "[T]he drug war was as much a function of class and social control as it was of racism," Simon added. "The drug war gives everybody permission to do anything. It gives cops permission to stop anybody, to go in anyone's pockets, to manufacture any lie when they get to district court." In short, under the guise of the war on drugs, Baltimore police have been harassing people for years. Simon added, "My own crew members [on "The Wire"] used to get picked up trying to come from the set at night ... Driving while black ... Charges were non-existent, or were dismissed en masse."

Scholar Richard Rothstein, a research associate at the Economic Policy Institute, documented more than 100 years of "federal, state, and local policies to quarantine Baltimore's black population in isolated slums." Rothstein does not think the answer lies in improving the quality of the police. He recognizes the frustration of those who engage in violent protest, as they have been denied the opportunity to become part of mainstream society. "When disadvantaged children are concentrated in separate schools, as they are in Baltimore, their disadvantages are exacerbated." Rothstein found, "Baltimore, not at all uniquely, has experienced a century of public policy designed, consciously so, to segregate and impoverish its black population."

The Supreme Court held in Illinois v. Wardlow that flight in a high-crime area may constitute reasonable suspicion for an officer to briefly detain an individual and determine whether there is evidence of criminal activity. After Miller and Nero handcuffed Gray, they put him in a prone position with his arms handcuffed behind his back. Gray said he couldn't breathe and requested an inhaler, "to no avail," according to Mosby. The officers found a legal pocketknife in Gray's pocket. But instead of releasing Gray, they put him back on his stomach and restrained him with a "leg lace" while waiting for the police wagon to transport him.

Miller and Nero loaded Gray into the wagon, which Officer Caesar Goodson drove. At no time was Gray secured by a seatbelt, in violation of Baltimore Police Department (BPD) policy. At Baker Street, Rice, Nero and Miller placed handcuffs and leg shackles on Gray. They then placed Gray on his stomach in the wagon, head first.

"Following transport from Baker Street," Mosby said, "Mr. Gray suffered a severe and critical neck injury as a result of being handcuffed, shackled by his feet and unrestrained inside of the BPD wagon."

Goodson stopped to check on Gray but "at no point did he seek nor did he render any medical assistance for Mr. Gray." At another stop, Goodson and Officer William Porter went to the back of the wagon to check on Gray, who requested help, said he couldn't breathe, and twice requested a medic. "At no point did either [Goodson or Porter] restrain Mr. Gray per BPD general order nor did they render or request medical assistance."

"Despite Mr. Gray's obvious and recognized need for medical assistance, Officer Goodson in a grossly negligent manner chose to respond to the 1600 block of West North Avenue with Mr. Gray still unsecured by a seatbelt in the wagon without rendering to or summoning medical assistance for Mr. Gray."

During still another stop, Officer Alicia White, Porter and Goodson "observed Mr. Gray unresponsive on the floor of the wagon." White, who was "responsible for investigating two citizen complaints pertaining to Mr. Gray's illegal arrest spoke to the back of Mr. Gray's head. When he did not respond, she did nothing further despite the fact that she was advised that he needed a medic. She made no effort to look or assess or determine his condition."

"Despite Mr. Gray's seriously deteriorating medical condition, no medical assistance was rendered or summoned for Mr. Gray at that time by any officer," Mosby added.

Goodson failed to restrain Gray with a seatbelt at least five different times.

"By the time [officers] attempted to remove Mr. Gray from the wagon, Mr. Gray was no longer breathing at all." A medic, who "was finally called to the scene," determined that Gray "was now in cardiac arrest and was critically and severely injured," Mosby stated.

Gray was finally "rushed" to the hospital where he underwent surgery and died seven days later.

The Maryland Medical Examiner concluded Gray's death was a homicide, "believed to be the result of a fatal injury that occurred when Mr. Gray was unrestrained by a seatbelt in the custody of the Baltimore Police Department wagon."

Mosby described multiple stops during which Gray was never secured by a seatbelt or provided with medical care. Almost one hour passed before he received any medical attention.

The state's attorney charged six Baltimore police officers as follows:

Goodson: second-degree depraved heart murder, involuntary manslaughter, second-degree negligent assault, manslaughter by vehicle by means of gross negligence, manslaughter by vehicle by means of criminal negligence, misconduct in office by failure to secure prisoner, failure to render aid.

Porter: involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, misconduct in office.

Rice: involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, misconduct in office, false imprisonment. 

Nero: second-degree intentional assault, second-degree negligent assault, misconduct in office, false imprisonment.

Miller: second-degree intentional assault, second-degree negligent assault, misconduct in office, false imprisonment.

White: involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, misconduct in office.

In order to secure a conviction of second-degree depraved heart murder, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, the prosecutor must prove that Goodson killed Gray by acting with a conscious and extreme disregard of a very high risk to Gray's life. Taking Gray on a "rough ride" while he his arms and legs were immobilized caused his death.

Two other men from Baltimore, Jeffrey Alston and Dondi Johnson, became paralyzed after riding in police vans in two separate cases. Alston settled his lawsuit for $6 million in 2004. Goodson should thus have been on notice of the very high risk to Gray's life from his "rough ride."

Professor Alan Dershowitz doubts that prosecutors could secure a conviction of Goodson for second-degree depraved heart murder because "Nobody wanted this guy to die, nobody set out to kill him, and nobody intentionally murdered him." If Dershowitz were to read the Maryland statute, he would learn that second-degree depraved heart murder does not require the intent to kill.

To be convicted of involuntary manslaughter, which carries a maximum of 10 years, Goodson, Porter, Rice and White must have unintentionally caused the death of Gray while doing a negligent act or negligently failing to perform a legal duty. Failing to secure Gray with a seatbelt and get medical assistance for him constituted negligent acts, which caused Gray's death. The officers had a legal duty to protect a prisoner in their custody.

Second-degree assault, which also carries a maximum sentence of 10 years, requires that the officers caused physical harm to Gray as the result of an intentional or reckless act. Failing to secure Gray with a seatbelt and get him medical assistance constituted acts intended to hurt him, causing physical harm (death) to Gray.

Preliminary hearings are scheduled for May 27, but prosecutors have 30 days from the date of the filing of charges to seek a grand jury indictment. There is ample evidence to support the charges against these officers. But whether they are indicted by a grand jury, and if so, ultimately convicted, remains to be seen.

Gray's family certainly has a good section 1983 civil rights lawsuit for violation of Gray's Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure, and his Fifth Amendment right not to be deprived of his life or liberty without due process of law.

Sonja Sohn, who portrayed Detective Kima Greggs on "The Wire," wrote in the New York Times, "there was a hopelessness on the streets of Baltimore that ran so deep that it seemed to have killed the spirit of the people." She attributes the recent "violence" to a "public betrayal of trust" as well as "the culture of police brutality that was so pervasive that underserved Baltimoreans accepted it as a fact of life." When Mosby announced the charges against the officers who were complicit in Gray's death, Sohn "sensed something lift. It is a break from the defeat I felt when I had to take a breather from my nonprofit ["ReWired for Change," that served formerly incarcerated youth in Baltimore]. It's a reprieve from the despair that I felt all those years ago, struggling to act in the reality of the Baltimore poor."

The elation felt by hundreds of demonstrators in Baltimore was understandable. If the officers are indicted, they will be tried in a community in which the police have long enjoyed a culture of impunity. But Gray's death took place in the context of killings of several unarmed black men, including Michael Brown and Eric Garner, by police in high-profile cases around the country. This may give jurors pause when they consider whether the officers in Gray's case could have committed these crimes.

News Wed, 06 May 2015 00:00:00 -0400