Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Judge Bybee: Coming to a Court Room Near You

From time to time Seattle has the dubious honor of hosting Judge Bybee, one of the infamous authors of the torture memos.
He sits on the 9th District Court, a lifetime appointment awarded to him by President Bush for providing legal cover (albeit thin) for the Bush administration's brutal interrogation practices. Since the date of these memos, more than a hundred people (that we know of) have died in US custody. Many more have been permanently injured in mind and body.
There is evidence that "enhanced interrogations" were used to provide justification for the extra legal invasion of Iraq.
Under domestic and international law, torture is always crime. There are no mitigating circumstances and no statute of limitations. Conspiring to commit torture ( Bybee's gig) bears the same punishments as torture.
To his credit, Bybee has expressed regret for having written the memos. Regret is not the same as doing time for doing the crime. It is a stain on the character of our new president (or worse) that that Bybee continues to sit in judgment instead of in a cell.
A dozen or so patriotic citizens decided to provide a welcome for Judge Bybee outside the courthouse where he was presiding. It would be a small demonstration that including pictures of Bybee's victims, a large paper mache statue of Justice, peeking through her blindfold and a motley assortment of peace and justice folks. The most aggressive thing planned was to hand out literature and postcards addressed to the Attorney General.
When the demonstrators arrived, Homeland Security was waiting. In addition to the usual courthouse security , there were SEVEN white vans each containing uniformed, armed guards ssurrounded the building. Several were parked in right in front of the demonstration. There was an assortment of plain clothes officers looking like Mormon missionaries. There were no terrorists for Homeland Security to sniff out and the most dangerous person, aside from themselves, was Bybee.
How they knew we were coming is puzzling. It was an ad hoc event put together through frantic phone calls and last minute email messages. Were they reading our email, listening in on our cell phones or is there a mole?
How would Homeland Security react if we were to stand around in front of their headquarters
with guns strapped to our hips and a cadre of men in black suits with cell phones clapped to their ears. How much did it cost tax payers to provide that much intimidation?
My apologies to good cops everywhere, but I have yet to encounter a situation where police involvment didn't mean that things were going to get a lot worse. This was no exception.
About 40 minutes into the demonstration the man in the picture took out a camera and began aggressively photographing all the demonstrator's faces, including myself. When I began photographing him, he and his ICE badge hot-footed it up the stairs. He looked haunted.
A short time later this same man had a short middle aged woman arrested. Two armed Homeland Security officers grabbed her roughly by the arms and marched her up the steps into the building. She was charge assault??? and banned from court property.
During the Bush years I had read accounts of demonstrators being harassed and spuriously arrested. Riding rough shod over citizen's constitutional rights was one of Bush's favorite pastimes. It was outrageous but not surprising.
In my wildest dreams I never imagined that this would continue under a new administration. It had all the stupid militancy of a Banana Republic, legitimizing itself by force. The message was clear: "sit down and shut up, or else". This is not the America I know and care for.
This was a journey to another country; one I wish I had not taken.
Carol DW

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