Thursday, November 24, 2005

Police Mistreatment of Transgender Women

A Women's E-News feature here discusses some of the issues transgender women face in terms of profiling by the police and other injustices within the criminal justice system.

Monday, November 14, 2005

The Plea

From the synopsis of the PBS documentary, The Plea:
It is the centerpiece of America's judicial process: the right to a trial by jury system that places a defendant's fate in the hands of a jury of one's peers. But it may surprise many to learn that nearly 95 percent of all cases resulting in felony convictions never reach a jury. Instead, they are settled through plea bargains in which a defendant agrees to plead guilty in exchange for a reduced sentence.
The 90-minute documentary can be downloaded in six parts right here.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Torture = Mass Destruction

It's very sad to think how many lives could have been saved if the U.S. refrained from torture and international war crimes. From an article posted at
Sunday's New York Times carries a story about Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, an al-Qaeda prisoner captured shortly after 9/11. According to a newly declassified memo, not only did al-Libi provide us with false information suggesting that Iraq had trained al-Qaeda to use WMD, but U.S. intelligence had a pretty good idea the information was false as early as 2002. Colin Powell nonetheless presented this to the UN as credible evidence of Iraqi WMD programs in February 2003, shortly before we invaded Iraq.

Via Atrios, it turns out that we had excellent reasons to be skeptical of al-Libi's testimony. As Newsweek reported last year, al-Libi was one of the first test cases for Dick Cheney's campaign to introduce torture as a standard interrogation technique overseas, replacing the FBI's more mainstream methods:

Al-Libi's capture, some sources say, was an early turning point in the government's internal debates over interrogation methods...."They duct-taped his mouth, cinched him up and sent him to Cairo" for more-fearsome Egyptian interrogations, says the ex-FBI official. "At the airport the CIA case officer goes up to him and says, 'You're going to Cairo, you know. Before you get there I'm going to find your mother and I'm going to f--- her.' So we lost that fight."

No wonder DIA was skeptical of al-Libi's information. Not only did the details of his testimony seem inconsistent with known facts, but DIA knew perfectly well he had given up this information only under torture and was probably just saying anything that came to mind in order to get it to stop.

As Mark Kleiman points out, this is the pragmatic case against torture: not only is it wrong, but it doesn't even provide reliable information anyway...

American Timeline: 1801-2004

Though this is not prison-related per se, I think it is a great piece to frame the mentality that the U.S. government has historically harbored for various citizens of the world. It is certainly not an exhaustive or fully representative timeline; discussion in the comments is welcome.

View it here.