On Obama’s Cancellation of Summit with Putin and Real History of US Extradition
Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian / The 4th Media News | Thursday, August 8, 2013, 18:00 Beijing
Share on twitterShare on facebookShare on emailShare on printShare on gmailShare on stumbleuponShare on favoritesMore Sharing Services1Print
The US frequently refuses extradition requests where, unlike with Snowden, it involves serious crimes and there is an extradition treaty.
President Obama today canceled a long-scheduled summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in part because the US president is upset that Russia defied his personal directive to hand over Edward Snowden despite the lack of an extradition treaty between the two nations.
That means that US media outlets will spend the next 24 hours or so channeling the government’s views (excuse the redundancy) by denouncing the Russian evil of refusing extradition.
When doing so, very few, if any, establishment media accounts will mention any of these cases:
New York Times, February 28, 2007:
U.S. to refuse Italian request for extradition of CIA agents
Published: Wednesday, February 28, 2007
BRUSSELS — A senior U.S. official said Wednesday that the United States would refuse any Italian extradition request for CIA agents indicted in the alleged abduction of an Egyptian cleric in Milan, a case investigated by the European Parliament.
“We’ve not got an extradition request from Italy,” John Bellinger, a legal adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, told reporters after meeting in Brussels with legal advisers to EU governments.
“If we got an extradition request from Italy, we would not extradite U.S. officials to Italy.”
Bellinger also warned that inquiries into secret CIA activities in the European Union could undermine intelligence cooperation between the United States and Europe. He criticized Europe as unwilling to help Washington solve the problem of the detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
Milan prosecutors want the Italian government to forward their request for the extradition of the 26 Americans, mostly CIA agents. The previous government in Rome — led by Silvio Berlusconi — refused, and Prime Minister Romano Prodi’s center-left government has indicated it will not press Washington on the issue. The Americans all have left Italy, most before prosecutors sought their arrest.
Their trial, which opens in June, will be the first criminal trial stemming from the CIA’s so-called extraordinary rendition program of secretly transferring terror suspects to third countries.
The European Parliament accused Britain, Poland, Italy and other nations in mid-February of colluding with the CIA to transport terror suspects to clandestine prisons in third countries.
A parliamentary report identified 1,254 secret CIA flights that entered European airspace after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, on the United States. It said the flights had violated international air traffic rules, and suggested that some might have carried terror suspects on board in violation of human rights.
Germany, Italy and several other EU countries have been carrying out their own inquiries into secret CIA activities in Europe — investigations that Bellinger said had “not been helpful with respect to necessary cooperation between the United States and Europe.”
He called the European Parliament report “unbalanced, inaccurate and unfair,” and called on EU governments to challenge the suggestion that Europeans need to be concerned about secret CIA flights.
But members of the EU Parliament rejected Bellinger’s criticism and called on the United States to address concerns that some flights transported kidnapped terrorism suspects.
“People are imprisoned without being tried first. That is unacceptable,” said Kathalijne Buitenweg, a Dutch member of the European Parliament. The United States “should open up to us and tell us where they’re flying and who they’re carrying.”
On Guantánamo, Bellinger said the U.S. government wanted to close the detention center in Cuba but had not figured out what to do with the inmates. The United States began housing terrorism suspects at Guantánamo in 2002, and its treatment of the detainees has come under strong criticism from human rights groups.
Panama releases former CIA operative wanted by Italy
By Greg Miller and Karen DeYoung,July 19, 2013
A former CIA operative detained in Panama this week at the request of Italian authorities over his conviction in the 2003 kidnapping of a Muslim cleric in Milan was released Friday and had boarded a flight to the United States, U.S. officials said.
Robert Seldon Lady’s release from Panama appeared to avert the possibility that he would be extradited to Italy, where he faces a sentence of up to nine years in prison for his role in the CIA capture of a terrorism suspect who was secretly snatched off a street in Milan and transported to Egypt.
Lady, who left Panama on Friday morning, was “either en route or back in the United States,” Marie Harf, State Department deputy spokeswoman, told reporters at a midday briefing.
The Guardian, September 9, 2012:
America’s refusal to extradite Bolivia’s ex-president to face genocide charges
Obama justice officials have all but granted asylum to Sánchez de Lozada – a puppet who payrolled key Democratic advisers
Follow Glenn Greenwald On Security And Liberty by emailBETA
theguardian.com, Sunday 9 September 2012 14.22 EDT
Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada protest, 2003
Thousands of Bolivian Indians rallying in La Paz to demand the resignation of President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, 16 October 2003. The sign reads, ‘Goni, Zorro, murderers of the people’, in reference to the president and his defense minister. Photograph: Reuters/Carlos Barria
[Updated below – Update II (Mon.)]
In October 2003, the intensely pro-US president of Bolivia, Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, sent his security forces to suppress growing popular protests against the government’s energy and globalization policies. Using high-powered rifles and machine guns, his military forces killed 67 men, women and children, and injured 400 more, almost all of whom were poor and from the nation’s indigenous Aymara communities. Dozens of protesters had been killed by government forces in the prior months when troops were sent to suppress them.
The resulting outrage over what became known as “the Gas Wars” drove Sanchez de Lozada from office and then into exile in the United States, where he was welcomed by his close allies in the Bush administration. He has lived under a shield of asylum in the US ever since.
The Bolivians, however, have never stopped attempting to bring their former leader to justice for what they insist are his genocide and crimes against humanity: namely, ordering the killing of indigenous peaceful protesters in cold blood (as Time Magazine put it: “according to witnesses, the military fired indiscriminately and without warning in El Alto neighborhoods”). In 2007, Bolivian prosecutors formally charged him with genocide for the October 2003 incident, charges which were approved by the nation’s supreme court.
Bolivia then demanded his extradition from the US for him to stand trial. That demand, ironically, was made pursuant to an extradition treaty signed by Sánchez de Lozada himself with the US. Civil lawsuits have also been filed against him in the US on behalf of the surviving victims.
The view that Sánchez de Lozada must be extradited from the US to stand trial is a political consensus in Bolivia, shared by the government and the main opposition party alike. But on Friday night, the Bolivian government revealed that it had just been notified by the Obama administration that the US government has refused Bolivia’s extradition request:
“‘Yesterday (Thursday), a document arrived from the United States, rejecting the extradition of people who have done a lot of damage to Bolivia,’ leftist [President Evo] Morales, an outspoken critic of US foreign policy in Latin America, said in a speech.
“Calling the United States a ‘paradise of impunity’ and a ‘refuge for criminals,’ Morales said Washington turned down the extradition request on the grounds that a civilian leader cannot be tried for crimes committed by the military …
“Sanchez de Lozada’s extradition was also demanded by opposition leaders in Bolivia and they criticized the US decision.
“Rogelio Mayta, a lawyer representing victims of the 2003 violence, said ‘the US protection’ of Sanchez de Lozada was not surprising.
“‘It’s yet another display of the US government’s double moral standard,’ he said.”
Because he has yet to be tried, I have no opinion on whether Sánchez de Lozada is guilty of the crimes with which he has been formally charged (Bolivian courts have convicted several other military officers on genocide charges in connection with these shootings). But the refusal of the Obama administration to allow him to stand trial for what are obviously very serious criminal allegations is completely consistent with American conceptions of justice and is worth examining for that reason.
Let’s begin with two vital facts about the former Bolivian leader.
First, Sánchez de Lozada was exactly the type of America-revering-and-obeying leader the US has always wanted for other nations, especially smaller ones with important energy resources. When he was driven into exile in October 2003, the New York Times described him as “Washington’s most stalwart ally in South America”.
The former leader – a multimillionaire mining executive who, having been educated in the US, spoke Spanish with a heavy American accent – was a loyal partner in America’s drug war in the region. More importantly, the former leader himself was a vehement proponent and relentless crusader for free trade and free market policies favored by the US: policies that the nation’s indigenous poor long believed (with substantial basis) resulted in their impoverishment while enriching Bolivia’s small Europeanized elite.
It was Sánchez de Lozada’s forced exile that ultimately led to the 2006 election and 2009 landslide re-election of Morales, a figure the New York Times in October 2003 described as one “regarded by Washington as its main enemy”. Morales has been as vehement an opponent of globalization and free trade as Sánchez de Lozada was a proponent, and has constantly opposed US interference in his region and elsewhere (in 2011, Morales called for the revocation of Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize as a result of the intervention in Libya).
So, this extradition refusal is, in one sense, a classic and common case of the US exploiting pretenses of law and justice to protect its own leaders and those of its key allies from the rule of law, even when faced with allegations of the most egregious wrongdoing. If the Obama DOJ so aggressively shielded accused Bush war criminals from all forms of accountability, it is hardly surprising that it does the same for loyal US puppets. That a government that defies US dictates is thwarted and angered in the process is just an added bonus. That, too, is par for the course.
But there’s another important aspect of this case that distinguishes it from the standard immunity Washington gifts to itself and its friends. When he ran for president in 2002, Sánchez de Lozada was deeply unpopular among the vast majority of Bolivians as a result of his prior four-year term as president in the 1990s. To find a way to win despite this, he hired the consulting firm owned and operated by three of Washington’s most well-connected Democratic party operatives: James Carville, Stan Greenberg and Bob Shrum. He asked them to import the tactics of American politics into Bolivia to ensure his election victory.
As detailed by a 2006 New York Times review of a film about the Democratic operatives’ involvement in Bolivia’s election, their strategy was two-fold: first, destroy the reputations of his two opponents so as to depress the enthusiasm of Bolivia’s poor for either of them; and then mobilize Sánchez de Lozada’s base of elites to ensure he wins by a tiny margin. That strategy worked, as he was elected with a paltry 22.5% of the popular vote. From the Times review:
“‘[The film] asks a more probing question: whether Mr Carville and company, in selling a pro-globalization, pro-American candidate, can export American-style campaigning and values to a country so fundamentally different from the United States …
“‘It’s a very explosive film in Bolivia because it shows close up a very deliberate strategy,’ said Jim Shultz, an American political analyst in Bolivia who recently saw the film with a group of friends. ‘The film is especially explosive because it’s about a candidate – so identified with the United States and so hated by so many Bolivians – being put into office by the political manipulations of US consultants.’
“Mauro Quispe, 33, a cabdriver in La Paz, said he saw slices of the film on the television news, and it raised his ire. ‘I was stunned,’ he said. ‘He was being advised by the Americans, and everything they said was in English.'”
There’s no evidence, at least of which I’m aware, that any of these Democratic operatives intervened on behalf of their former client in his extradition pleas to the Obama administration, but it rather obviously did not hurt. At the very least, shielding a former leader deposed by his own people from standing trial for allegedly gunning down unarmed civilians takes on an even uglier image when that former leader had recently had leading US Democratic operatives on his payroll.
Then, there are the very revealing parallels between this case and the recent decision by Ecuador to grant asylum to Julian Assange, until his fears of political persecution from being extradited to Sweden are resolved. Remember all those voices who were so deeply outraged at Ecuador’s decision? Given that he faces criminal complaints in Sweden, they proclaimed, protecting Assange with asylum constitutes a violent assault on the rule of law.
Do you think any of the people who attacked Ecuador on that ground will raise a peep of protest at what the US did here in shielding this former leader from facing charges of genocide and crimes against humanity back in his own country? In contrast to Ecuador – which is fervently seeking an agreement to allow Assange to go to Sweden to face those allegations while simultaneously protecting his political rights – the US has done nothing, and is doing nothing, to ensure that Sánchez de Lozada will ever have to face trial. To the contrary, until Thursday, the US has steadfastly refused even to acknowledge Bolivia’s extradition request, even though the crimes for which they want to try him are plainly within the scope of the two nations’ extradition treaty.
Then there’s the amazing fact that Democrats, who understandably scorn Mitt Romney for piling up massive personal wealth while he advocates policies harmful to the poor, continue in general to revere these types of Clintonites who, arguably to a lesser extent, have done the same. Indeed, Democrats spent all last week wildly praising Bill Clinton, who has made close to $100m in speaking fees alone by traveling the globe, speaking to hedge funds, and advocating globalization and free trade.
In this case, one finds both the prevailing rules and the prevailing orthodoxies of American justice. High-level leaders in the US government and those who serve their interests are exempt from the rule of law (even when accused of heinous acts of terrorism); only leaders who run afoul of US dictates should be held accountable.
Even in the civil case against him, an appellate court ultimately ruled that he was immune from damages or civil lawsuits, overturning a lower court ruling that there were sufficient allegations of genocide and war crimes against him to allow the suit to proceed. As usual, US federal courts are the leaders in ensuring that the most politically well-connected are shielded from the consequences of their acts.
Relatedly, we find the prevailing sentiment that asylum is something that is only to be granted by the US and its western allies against unfriendly governments. The notion that one may need asylum from the US or the west – or that small Latin American countries unfavorable to the US can grant it rather than have it granted against them – is offensive and perverse to all good and decent western citizens, who know that political persecution is something that happens only far away from them.
The protection of this accused former leader will likely generate little controversy in the US because it was the by-product of the actions of both the Bush and Obama administrations, and because it comports so fully with how American justice functions. The only surprising thing would have been if there had been a different outcome.
UPDATE: One astute commenter on Twitter, noting the Obama administration’s claimed right to assassinate even its own citizens without due process or charges, asks:
Luis Posada Carriles won’t be extradited to Venezuela
by Diana Washington Valdez \ El Paso Times
Posted: 12/30/2010 12:00:00 AM MST
Luis Posada Carriles
Ex-CIA agent Luis Posada Carriles acquitted in perjury case
Gov’t calls rebuttal witness in Luis Posada Carriles case
Defense rests in ex-CIA agent Luis Posada Carriles’ perjury case
US government rests its case against ex-CIA agent Luis Posada Carriles
Reporter: Ex-CIA agent Luis Posada Carriles viewed bombings as ‘heroic’
Passport will be allowed in Posada trial
Cuban medical examiner testifies in Posada’s trial
Judge says trial of ex-CIA operative Luis Posada Carriles can continue
Judge to decide if Luis Posada Carriles trial continues
Cuba cooperating in case against ex-CIA agent Luis Posada Carriles
The U.S. government is not going to extradite Luis Posada Carriles to Venezuela because he faces possible torture by the authorities there, one of his lawyers said Wednesday.
The Venezuelan government is seeking Posada’s extradition for his alleged role in the 1976 terroristic bombing of a Cuban jetliner that killed 73 people, something Posada has denied.
Felipe Millan, Posada’s El Paso lawyer, said a Venezuelan court tried Posada twice on terrorism charges and acquitted him both times.
“Posada escaped because he grew tired of being in prison for nine years for nothing,” Millan said. “He was the national director of intelligence in Venezuela at one time, and his job then was to keep the country in line within democratic principles.”
Nicaragua also wants Posada, who is a native of Cuba, but Millan says he has not seen the arrest warrant.
Millan said Nicaragua wants Posada for his role in helping the Contras, the U.S.-supported group that fought against the Marxist Sandinistas during the 1980s. It was part of the U.S. government’s effort to contain the spread of communism in Latin America.
Posada, a former CIA operative, faces a federal trial in El Paso on Jan. 10 on immigration-related charges. Although Millan said he cannot comment on the coming case, he was willing to discuss Posada’s history.
According to a declassified U.S. government document, the CIA acknowledged having had a relationship with Posada in the past. The document states that Posada “lost his position with (the intelligence agency) in the Venezuelan government in March 1974 as a result of a change in the Venezuelan government and was amicably terminated.”
On Jan. 9, former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark will be part of a “people’s tribunal” to try Posada on terrorism charges. The people’s tribunal is a symbolic proceeding that does not carry legal weight.
Posada, 82, was in Cuba when Fidel Castro launched his revolution and toppled the government. Posada joined Cubans who opposed Castro, and he has waged a lifetime battle to remove the Cuban dictator from power.
Diana Washington Valdez may be reached at dvaldez@ elpasotimes.com; 546-6140.
The US constantly refuses requests to extradite – even where (unlike Russia) they have an extradition treaty with the requesting country and even where (unlike Snowden) the request involves actual, serious crimes, such as genocide, kidnapping, and terrorism.
Maybe those facts should be part of whatever media commentary there is on Putin’s refusal to extradite Snowden and Obama’s rather extreme reaction to it.
Former Bush-era CIA and NSA director Michael Hayden appeared on CNN this week and confirmed that our reporting on the NSA’s X-Keyscore program was accurate, telling the nation that we should all be grateful for those capabilities.
NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen has a superb essay on the behavior of the US media in NSA stories.
Foreign Policy CEO and Editor David Rothkopf becomes the latest establishment figure to recognize, as he puts it in a quite good column: “I have myself been too slow to recognize that the benefits we have derived from Snowden’s revelations substantially outweigh the costs associated with the breach.”
By Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian