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In Protest of Attorney General Nominee Mukasey’s Tortured Response on Whether Waterboarding is Illegal: We Drown in Silence

Posted by stoptorture on 30th October 2007

Shame and Mourning


Posted in Activism, Human Rights, International Law, Torture, U.S. Law | 44 Comments »

Happy Constitution Day from Gonzo to the incoming Harvard Law School class

Posted by stoptorture on 17th September 2007


Alberto Gonzales - official DoJ photo

Greetings fellow Harvardees! I honestly can’t recall a finer Constitution Day than this one. Today, I quit my job as Attorney General, and everyone is cheering me on. I even got my first compliment from the New York Times! When I said I was resigning, they wrote, “Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has finally done something important to advance the cause of justice.” Whew, knocked one in there for justice just before the buzzer!

As a send-off, I decided to celebrate my Constitution Day by doing a few of my favorite things. First, I had your phone tapped. Just kidding! Well, even if I did, you’d never know, so stop worrying 😉 Second, I fired a few good senior prosecutors. Who? Funny thing is I don’t recall! Third, I instructed my staff to take the newbie, whoever he is, and give him a good old half-drowning, CIA-style. That’ll put him in the right mindset.

The folks at the office were real nice too. Cheney gave me Geneva Conventions toilet paper. I thought that was funny. Bush gave me Scooter’s old Get-Out-of-Jail-Free card. That’s was a relief, though it might expire in 2008…gotta get before that grand jury soon. Ashcroft didn’t come to the goodbye party, which made me a little sad. He’s still angry about that whole hospital thing. Next time = flowers.

But nothing has been better than all the support I got at Harvard. Students wore some very festive orange costumes to greet me at my 25th reunion last spring. I’d like to thank you for that. Afterwards, a whole bunch of my Class of 1982 buddies wrote me a fine letter recognizing some of my achievements. Best of all, the Dean gave me a proud mention in her commencement speech last year: “One lawyer who issues expedient and unsupported legal opinions to justify whatever his client (in this case, the government) wants to do…” Read the speech, and you’ll see that was so me. One day, that could be you too! Just keep those priorities straight!

So friends, as you start your legal careers, remember what Archibald Cox, special Watergate prosecutor and former HLS professor, said in a press conference after he was fired by Nixon for subpoenaing the White House tapes: “Whether our government shall be a government of laws and not of men is now for the American people to decide.” Will you be an Archie or a Gonzo?:

Uphold the law, and get fired in glory. Bend it, and resign in shame.

Harvard Law Class of 1982 letter to Gonzales

Posted in Activism | 94 Comments »

High school students join calls to stop torture

Posted by stoptorture on 26th June 2007

A very brave group of 50 high school senior receiving the Presidential Scholars award at the White House delivered a hand-written letter to President Bush yesterday at the ceremony, according to the AP. Seems like the students prepared it impromptu. The president was apparently a bit surprised by this unscripted form of citizenship. He read the letter in front of them after it was handed to him and talked to the young woman who gave it.

Way to see through the lies and express yourselves high schoolers. It is proof that a group of 50 high schoolers from around the country who barely know each other have a greater sense of national morality than the present government.

The White House came out with its usual statement about how the US does not torture, which of course, uses code words that allow for the loopholes the president thinks exist (ie. no torture as the administration defines it, but yes cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, especially in facilities outside the US run by intelligence services if the president determines it is necessary for national security).

Posted in Activism, Human Rights, Torture | 130 Comments »

Shameful, Pathetic, Inappropriate, Tasteless

Posted by stoptorture on 1st May 2007

I wanted to comment on a response to our protest, posted by a visitor to our friend Andrea Saenz’s blog. It is typical of a small number of comments or blog posts that have cropped up, from students who think our actions against the Attorney General were inappropriate and in poor taste. I should say, though, that this particular comment is extremely mild in comparison to some of the posts out there, many of which pitch personal and vileful attacks on some of the students involved. Click here , here , here and here for the most intelligent and thoughtful criticisms of fellow protester, Thomas Becker. To save myself further blogger’s breath, I thought it worthwhile to post a student’s comment and my reply below:

Disapproving HLS Student:

Sadly, it is the students of the law school who dropped the ball and not Gonzales. We acted like idiots and embarased the institution with this childish partisan demonstration. I thought this school was better than that, and can show respect for anyone who comes here. This is supposed to be an academic institution open to freedom and inviting to anyone who wants to come avail themselves of it. Especially prominenet governmental figures coming bach for a class reunion. This is shameful and pathetic. Posted by: | April 30, 2007 at 09:03 AM


The demonstration was not partisan. The only positions it took were against torture, indefinite detention, and the use of state power and the legal profession to subvert the rule of law. I would have demonstrated with the same vehemence against the Attorney General if he were a Democrat.

These are not partisan issues. They are issues of legality, morality, and professional ethics, and the AG has failed on all counts. While the architects of these criminal policies are most directly to blame — and in this case, they happen to be Republican — I also hold in contempt both the Democrats and Republicans who have not done everything within their political power to put an end to these policies. I vote in NJ, and Senators Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, both Democrats, voted for the Military Commissions Act. I published a letter in the Trenton Times renouncing my affiliation with the Democratic Party, and I can safely say that I will never vote for them again.

The use of torture is a violation of domestic, international, and humanitarian law. It applies to all state officials, red and blue. And all who sit by and watch in silence, whether they be public or private citizens, are acquiescing and playing their own small part in the web of complicity.

Furthermore, none of us ever said that the Attorney General did not have a right to come to his reunion. All we did was exercise our right to express that he was not welcome there. While we obviously cannot represent the sentiments of the whole school (some, like you, disagree with us), there are many others who do agree with us, and they have thanked us profusely for voicing that sentiment.

A very small minority of students have called our actions “shameful,” “pathetic,” “inappropriate,” or “tasteless.” One student expressed that this was the Attorney General’s “quiet time” and that we should respect it.My response is that creating policies that authorize the torture, cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, and indefinite detention of hundreds of human beings is worse than all the adjectives above. It is immoral and, most clearly, illegal.

The Attorney General should be prosecuted for war crimes. But as long as he remains Attorney General, and as long as the President remains in power, he will not be brought to justice. Therefore this was not an action to protest policy we simply disagree with — although we would have had a right to do that as well. As the children of the disappeared in Argentina said, at a time of impunity, when those responsible for the kidnapping and murder of their parents roamed free on the streets: “Where there is no justice, let there be shame.”

Finally, I would say to those students: “shameful,” “pathetic,” and “tasteless” is the sharing of drinks, smiles, and niceties with this man, while human beings continue to be severely harmed thanks to his policies, and the law in the most influential democracy in the world continues to be corrupted thanks to his actions. Shameful, pathetic, tasteless — and immoral, disgusting, and tragic is to sit in silence reading Constitutional Law while that man strolls through the library of your legal institution.

Posted in Activism, Human Rights | 26 Comments »

600 Letters to Congress on the Way

Posted by stoptorture on 29th April 2007

We just handed off our letters to Ellen Lubell, attorney for an Algerian detainee in Guantanamo, who has kindly agreed to take them to Washington, where they will be distributed among the rest of the habeas counsel and delivered to the appropriate Congressional offices. We collected almost 600 letters from almost 200 people to Senators and Congressmen from the following 22 states:

Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Washington.

Hopefully these letters will make some members of Congress take heed. As was to be expected, almost exactly half of our letters wil be going to Massachusetts folks. Receiving over 80 letters from his constituents may not have too much of an impact on Representative Capuano of Cambridge and Somerville — who must already be one of the most liberal members of Congress! — but it doesn’t hurt to remind Senators Kennedy and Kerry that this is an issue that their constituents care deeply about. The Democratic leadership has been a big part of the problem, and they, too, need to be pushed.

More than anything, though, this week’s action did wonders for re-energizing and re-mobilizing us (we had about 30 students actively volunteering), for sparking discussion on campus with students, children, and visitors — and giving us the tools and random coincidences that we needed to pull off the impromptu Gonzales protest … which has ended up getting a huge amount of coverage. Here’s to hoping that every little bit helps.

Thank you CCR for the call for action, and for launching this network of students. I hope we can continue to use it for bigger and better actions in the future.

It’s been a pleasure,
The Harvard Crew

Posted in Activism, Human Rights | 95 Comments »


Posted by stoptorture on 28th April 2007

Gonzales protest 3

*** Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, second row from top, center, poses with members of the Harvard Law School class of 1982 as law student protester Thomas Becker looks on.***

Cambridge, MA – Attorney General Surprise Visit at 25th Reunion Met by Student Protests Cambridge, Mass. – Alberto Gonzales was confronted by student protesters and forced to leave through a back door on Saturday during a visit to Harvard Law School for his 25th reunion. After two weeks clinging to save his job and defending allegations that he fired eight U.S. Attorneys for political reasons, what might have been a relaxed day of reminiscing with old classmates became instead yet another reminder that both his job and his reputation are in serious jeopardy. The Attorney General was on campus unannounced to students. But word quickly spread that a suspicious motorcade had been spotted by the campus center, and by the time Gonzales and his fellow classmates assembled on the law library steps for their class photo, a group of current students were there to greet him, having donned black hoods and orange jumpsuits. As the photographer told the class of 1982 to smile and say “cheese,” the students yelled out that saying “torture,” “resign” or “I don’t recall” might be more appropriate. The Attorney General’s visit to his alma mater coincided with the third anniversary of the release of photos depicting the torture of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and came the day after a German federal prosecutor dismissed a case alleging that Gonzales was responsible for approving the policies that resulted in those abuses. These facts were not lost on Deborah Popowski, a second-year law student who had just finished organizing a nationwide student sit-in urging Congress to pass pending legislation that would restore detainees’ rights to habeas corpus. “When I heard he was on campus, I was stuffing envelopes with letters to Congress in an office two floors above. I dropped everything. Gonzales needs to know that after approving poorly-reasoned memos that distort the rule of law and justify torture, he is simply not welcome here.” At a time when many in the nation are calling for Gonzales to resign, one third-year student managed to communicate the mood of his own alma mater directly to Gonzales. While the Attorney General’s security detail kept protestors at bay and the photographer prepared the class photo, she slipped though the law library’s front doors and approached Gonzales from behind. “On behalf of many other Harvard Law students,” she said, “I’d like to tell you that we are ashamed to have you as an alumnus of this school. And we’re glad you’re here to be able to tell you that.” Gonzales thanked the student and offered to shake her hand, but was refused. After the class photo was taken, several of the Attorney General’s classmates clapped and approached the protesting students to thank them for their efforts. Following the group photo, Gonzales ducked into the library to take a stroll around the main reading room, which, on the weekend before final exams, was full of students going over their notes. When the protestors caught up with Gonzales, the cavernous reading room, ordinarily a place of hushed whispers, echoed with chants of “shame” and “resign.” Gonzales was quickly whisked down a back staircase, out a basement emergency exit and into a waiting SUV. As the motorcade pulled off from in front of historic Austin Hall, Thomas Becker, a second-year law student, stood in an orange jumpsuit and black hood, waving goodbye. When the cars were out of sight, Becker pulled off his hood, smiled, and said “good riddance.”

Gonzales protest 1

*** Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, holding number 588, poses with classmates from the Harvard Law School class of 1982 as law student protester Thomas Becker looks on.***




Gonzales protest 1

*** Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Harvard Law class of 1982 and holding number 588, poses for a reunion photo as Thomas Becker, a second-year law student, looks on.***

Posted in Activism, Human Rights | 304 Comments »

Day 3 of the Student “Definite Detention” Sit-Out

Posted by stoptorture on 28th April 2007

Today was the culmination of our effort, starting with a handful of dedicated volunteers sitting in Guantánamo jumpsuits in the cold rain in front of the John Harvard statue in the wee hours. At noon, a group of us, joined by habeas counsel Jerry Cohen of Burns & Levinson, LLP, operated an advocacy table in the student center of the law school on what was notably Alumni Day. This is especially significant given the shameful role some Harvard Law School alumni have played in creating and perpetuating the US torture policy, among them Alberto Gonzales and John Bellinger.

Overall, in about 15 hours of advocacy in the past three days, we collected some 300 individual letters to Congresspersons, which, copied to each Senator, amounts to around 900 letters that will be hand-delivered by habeas counsel in DC next week in their push to restore habeas corpus. Let’s hope someone listens.
Below are some of today’s photos of students and Jerry.

I Want My Day in Court


Table with habeas counsel and students


Lost my appetite

Posted in Activism, Human Rights | 82 Comments »