In Our Name

By Al Miller

The Task Force on Detainees Treatment web site ( and the report of The Constitution Project’s Task Force on Detainee Treatment provided
information for this article.

“The Constitution Project’s Task Force on Detainee Treatment is an independent, bipartisan, blue-ribbon panel charged with examining the federal government’s policies and actions related to the capture, detention and treatment of suspected terrorists during the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations. The project was undertaken with the belief that it was important to provide an account as authoritative and accurate as possible of how the United States treated, and continues to treat, people held in our custody as the nation mobilized to deal with a global terrorist threat.”

The Task Force released its longawaited report on April 16, 2013. And in spite of its sobering findings that it “is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture,” and that our “nation’s highest officials bear some responsibility for allowing and contributing to the spread of torture,” not very much media coverage or analysis followed.

Since the conduct and actions spelled out in this 602 page report were all done “in our name” by the people we collectively elected and the officials they appointed, and especially since both President Obama and the post-Bush Congresses have failed to investigate and seek any accountability for the illegal acts done in the post 9/11 years, we all need to understand the contents and implications of The Report of The Constitution Project’s Task Force on Detainee Treatment.

Unless we do something to demand change, the conduct, actions, and policies described in this report will forever be considered as acceptable to Americans, in spite of what it says in
our Constitution and code of laws. Now, reading all 602 pages may be a stretch for most of us, but the writers of the report have made it easier for us by starting their report with what amounts to an Executive Summary. A Statement of the Task force is included in pages 1 to 8, and their Findings and Recommendations with some explanatory comments are covered in pages 9 to 24.

The complete report can be down loaded at You can also down load the Statement and the Findings as separate chapters at this site.

What follows is a sample from the Statement to “whet your appetite.”

Statement of the Task Force
This report of The Constitution Project’s Task Force on Detainee Treatment is the result of almost two years of intensive study, investigation and deliberation.

The project was undertaken with the belief that it was important to provide an accurate and authoritative account of how the United States treated people its forces held in custody as the nation mobilized to deal with a global terrorist threat.

The events examined in this report are unprecedented in U.S. history. In the course of the nation’s many previous conflicts, there is little doubt that some U.S. personnel committed brutal acts against captives, as have armies and governments throughout history.

But there is no evidence there had ever before been the kind of considered and detailed discussions that occurred after September 11, directly involving a president and his top advisers on the wisdom, propriety and legality of inflicting pain and torment on some detainees in our custody.

Despite this extraordinary aspect, the Obama administration declined, as a matter of policy, to undertake or commission an official study of what happened, saying it was unproductive to “look backwards” rather than forward.

In Congress, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont introduced legislation to establish a “Truth Commission” to look into the U.S. behavior in the years following the September 11 attacks. The concept, successful in South Africa, Guatemala and several other countries, is predicated on recognizing the paramount value to a nation of an accurate accounting of its history, especially in the aftermath of an extraordinary episode or period of crisis. But, as at the White House, Congress showed little appetite for delving into the past.

These responses were dismaying to the many people who believed it was important for a great democracy like the United States to help its citizens understand, albeit with appropriate limits or legitimate security concerns, what had been done in their name.[Emphasis added]

Finally, in the Task Force’s opinion:

“Perhaps the most important or notable finding of this panel is that it is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture.

“The second notable conclusion of the Task Force is that the nation’s highest officials bear some responsibility for allowing and contributing to the spread of torture.”

Anyone who does not have access to the Internet but would like copies of the 24 pages recommended for reading may contact Al Miller ( or 510-526-4874). Please leave your name and address and he will get the pages to you.

The Sequester Hits Home for West Contra Costa County Seniors

By Carla Hansen

Information in this article comes from article written by Laura Anthony for ABC News, provided by Gabe Quinto.

Nine percent of the federal discretionary non-defense budget has been hacked away by sequestration cuts and the largest effect the public has heard about is longer lines and delays at airports! Although slow in implementation, these cuts are now effecting more than travelers. According to ABC News, Contra Costa County residents depending on Meals on Wheels for daily sustenance will see a decline in services provided due to these sequestration cuts.

The Federal government provides $500,000 per year to Meals on Wheels in Contra Costa County. The “sequester” cut this appropriation by 20%! This amounts to about 200 less meals per day provided throughout the County.

This leaves elderly and disabled folks who rely on Meals on Wheels for their daily hot meals and, in some cases, their only daily contact, left to spend additional money to have groceries delivered or go without food and contact.

Meals on Wheels hopes to make up this 20% budget cut with private donations. Donations can be sent to Meals on Wheels of Contra Costa, PO Box 3195, Martinez, CA 94553 or made via their website at

Much like the CDP DEM2014 program, you can set up a recurring monthly contribution ($10.00 minimum) at their web site. You can also arrange to donate a car there!

April Meeting Recap

By Hilary Crosby

We opened the meeting by welcoming Damian Alarcon from Congressman Miller’s office; immigration matters are included in the issues he monitors for the Congressman. Then members announced upcoming events that took place prior to our publication date. We hope to receive follow-up reports at our May meeting on the West Contra Costa Unified School District Strategic Plan meeting held on Saturday, April 27th to get community input. School Board member (and ECDC member and endorsee) Todd Groves, and the Portola Middle School principal Matt Burnham introduced these programs which have started to “turn things around” at Portola.

Also, in the afternoon prior to our meeting, several of our club embers met with the Alameda County Board of Supervisors to request them to direct the Alameda County Sheriff’s department to stop using county resources to pursue people for ICE Secure Communities Program.

Vice president of programs Gabe Quinto reported on the California Democratic Party (CDP) Convention. He, and ECDC members Janet Abelson, Rochelle Okimoto-Pardue, and Hilary Crosby, were delegates, while newsletter editor Carla Hansen attended as an observer with Emerge California. He and Janet, along with other delegates elected from Assembly District 15, attended most of the caucuses. The resolutions passed included support for split roll property tax and a resolution to urge the State of CA and the Federal government
to reform our country’s immigration policy. (You can see all the resolutions passed at the convention on the CDP website at:

Betty Brown announced that the El Cerrito Committee on Aging, along with other groups, would be showing the Healthcare Movie locally three times as follows:

•  Saturday, May 18, 10:30 a.m., The Health Care Movie and Discussion (free), City Hall Council Chambers, 10940 San Pablo Avenue, El Cerrito
• Wednesday, May 22, 2:30 p.m., -The Health Care Movie and Discussion (free), City Hall Council Chambers, 10940 San Pablo Avenue, El Cerrito
•  Saturday, June 8, The Health Care Movie and Discussion (free), Pinole Library, 2935 Pinole Valley Road, Pinole 94564 (Call 510-669-9719 for time.)

Our main speaker was J. Craig Fong, an attorney focusing on immigration who practices in Los Angeles. He grew up in El Cerrito and graduated from ECHS in 1973. His practice embraces intercountry transfers and family issues. Prior to our meeting, he had completed reading almost half of the 800-page bill introduced in Congress the week before our meeting.

Mr. Fong reminded us that immigrants in the United States are a very diverse community—all kinds of folks, not just Asians or Latinos. Canadians who look and sound just like us as well as those from Asia or those who cross our southern border are taking high value jobs.

Our immigration system is broken. It’s not doing what it’s supposed to do, and it has become a political football.

In reality, the new bill covers 8 basic areas:

  • Legalization
  • Family based change
  • Employment based immigration—Nobel prize winners, PhD’s, etc
  • Temp workers
  • E-verify
  • H-1b visa numbers increased
  • Asylum—now individuals must apply within 1 year of landfall in US. The new bill would get rid of the time limit
  • Fraud—if you’re caught, you’re toast

Legalization is not “amnesty” or a pathway to citizenship. Official estimates put the current population of undocumented immigrants in the US as between 9 million and 12 million, although Mr. Fong believes that number is high due in part to recent reverse migration as the economy deteriorated. College grads and unskilled workers who couldn’t find work went home. However, this meant that skills and training that were acquired in the US are no longer available for our economic growth.

The new law proposes that an undocumented immigrant who can prove s/he was in the United States on 12/31/2011 can apply for legalization. For the application to be approved, the applicant must (1) have proof of being in the US prior to that date, (2) pay any back taxes owed, and (3) pay a fee of $500. Under the proposed act, registered prospective immigrants
(RPIs), would pay taxes annually and an additional $500 fee every 6 years.Since most of the eligible applicants are working and probably paying into the Social Security system using false social security numbers, the “devil is in the details” of figuring out how much would be owed in “back taxes.”Once approved, the RPI would receive an Employment Authorization Card, a social security number for paying social security and unemployment taxes, and eligibility for insurance and a driver’s license. S/he would also receive travel documents allowing him or her to travel out of the US and return. The “right of return” would be a huge improvement over the current law which says that if an individual is in the US “out of status” for more than one year and leaves the country, s/he can’t return for 10 years. If s/he left US, a subsequent visa application would be denied for 10 years. As Mr. Fong put it, “This [proposed law] would help so many people—the number is staggering!“

But approved applicants won’t get green cards until the US border is secured; whatever that means. When asked what would happen to applicants during the time between application and approval, Mr. Fong said, “If the 86-87-88 amnesty is any example, people who were detained in an “ICE sweep” would be released when they showed their application, unless they were wanted for something else.”

The new bill would make some changes to how country quotas would be applied to first-degree relatives. In some cases it will liberalize the exclusion from quotas, such as those for first degree relatives of green card holders, and in some cases it will narrow it since siblings, who are currently excluded from the quota will be included. In addition, the diversity visa, which has benefited people from Africa, would be eliminated.

This presentation was informative, and the audience stayed involved and attentive to the very end. There were topics we only touched on, such as how the new immigration act would affect same-gender couples.

This is a very complex topic, but I left the meeting feeling more prepared to follow this issue through Congress.