Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

November 13, 2005

Shut secret prisons, investigate abuses

We wholeheartedly agree that the secret prisons operated by the U.S. government in foreign countries, used for interrogating prisoners in the war on terror, must be shut down immediately ("Network of shame," editorial, Nov. 6).

These facilities exist in clear violation of international human rights law, the Geneva Conventions and the U.S. Constitution.

However, as local volunteers concerned with human rights, we are disturbed not only that these facilities are used for "holding prisoners without charges, without notice, without end," but also with the ever-growing body of evidence that prisoners in detention centers operated by the U.S. around the world are being subjected to torture.

We feel it is of crucial importance that a light be shined into these facilities so that the American people can learn whether torture is being perpetrated in our name.

Although the U.S. government has conducted numerous internal investigations, none has had a mandate that allows it to look at all levels of civilian and military leadership and determine who is responsible and should be held accountable for policies that set the stage for such abuse.

We believe Congress must create an independent commission of inquiry to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into torture and other abuses in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo and U.S. detention centers around the world.

And we seek assurances that those who perpetrated crimes, and those who contributed to a command climate that facilitated crimes, will be brought to justice.

Dan Berland

Jonathan Pearson

Columbia

The writers are coordinators of Maryland chapters of Amnesty International U.S.A.

Reassert our faith in human rights

President Bush says that we do not torture and that we operate under the law. But he threatens to veto a law that would outlaw torture ("Bush administration faulted for opposing ban on torture," Nov. 7).

Vice President Dick Cheney proposes that the CIA be established as a special class: one that is allowed to commit torture and is exempt from the related laws, international conventions and considerations of human decency.

The president's position is clear: We don't torture - except when we do. We believe in freedom - except when we don't.

We support human rights - except for those people we lock up in secret prisons.

The Bush administration has made the case that we should stoop low to fight terrorists on their own terms.

Sen. John McCain has made the case that torture is ineffective as an intelligence tool, undermines our international standing and helps terrorist organizations recruit new members. Ninety senators supported Mr. McCain.

Today, I hardly recognize my country.

We need to reassert that as a nation, we believe in human rights, respect international law and abhor torture - here or anywhere else.

The public's message must be clear and unequivocal: Mr. Bush, you may not torture anyone - not for any reason, and not in our names.

Mac Nachlas

Baltimore

Violating the rules on criminal records

As someone who has access to the FBI and Maryland criminal record databases, I am appalled that the state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services violated regulations on the release of criminal records ("Lawyers lose use of crime records," Nov. 8).

If the Baltimore public defender's office is or was entitled to this information, why don't private lawyers have access to it? Are their clients not entitled to the same advantages as the clients of the public defender?

No attorneys, public or private, should have access to these databases. Attorneys can ask their clients about their criminal records.

Access to criminal record information from the FBI and Maryland is restricted by regulations and by state and federal law and is available only to criminal justice agencies. People who have that access are required to undergo background checks before such access is granted.

Shame on the public safety department for violating its own rules.

Jeff Mayne

Bishopville

The writer is a police officer.

Pedophile's plea vindicates victims

The guilty plea by Jerome F. Toohey Jr. was an important one on several levels ("Priest pleads guilty to abuse," Nov. 9).

The first is that a child predator will be off the streets.

The second is the vindication of one very brave survivor, Michael Goles.

Mr. Goles came forward and challenged this predator in 1993, only to be ostracized and shunned by his church and community.

He was forced to move out of state and lives out of state to this day. His allegation that he was sexually abused has been validated.

The third is the validation of the actions of CNN news anchor Thomas Roberts, who mustered the strength to step forward. Mr. Roberts' celebrity was put at enormous risk by going public.

Besides helping to put a predator in prison, his act of stepping forward also validated that Mr. Goles spoke the truth in 1993. He deserves the respect and apologies from those who ostracized him.

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