The top leadership of Amnesty International USA, which unleashed a blistering attack last week on the Bush administration’s handling of war detainees, contributed the maximum $2,000 to Sen. John Kerry’s presidential campaign.
Federal Election Commission records show that William F. Schulz, executive director of Amnesty USA, contributed $2,000 to Mr. Kerry’s campaign last year. Mr. Schulz also has contributed $1,000 to the 2006 campaign of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat.
Also, Joe W. “Chip” Pitts III, board chairman of Amnesty International USA, gave the maximum $2,000 allowed by federal law to John Kerry for President. Mr. Pitts is a lawyer and entrepreneur who advises the American Civil Liberties Union.
Amnesty USA yesterday told The Washington Times that staff members make policy based on laws governing human rights, pointing out that the organization had criticized some of President Clinton’s policies.
“We strive to do everything humanly possible to see that the personal political perspectives of our leadership have no bearing whatsoever upon the nature of our findings and the conduct of our work,” a spokesman said.
Amnesty International describes itself as nonpartisan. Disclosure of the leadership’s political leanings came yesterday as the Bush administration continued to lash out at the human rights group for remarks last week by Irene Khan, Amnesty’s secretary-general.
Mrs. Khan compared the U.S. detention center at U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where more than 500 suspected al Qaeda and Taliban members are held, to Soviet dictator Josef Stalin’s “gulag” prison system.
At the same time, Mr. Schulz issued a statement calling Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and other top administration officials “architects of torture.” Mr. Schulz suggested that other countries could file war-crime charges against the top officials and arrest them.
Since Sunday, Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Vice President Dick Cheney; and President Bush have accused Amnesty International of irresponsible criticism.
Yesterday, it was Mr. Rumsfeld’s turn.
“No force in the world has done more to liberate people that they have never met than the men and women of the United States military,” Mr. Rumsfeld said at the Pentagon press conference. “That’s why the recent allegation that the U.S. military is running a gulag at Guantanamo Bay is so reprehensible. Most would define a gulag as where the Soviet Union kept millions in forced labor concentration camps. … To compare the United States and Guantanamo Bay to such atrocities cannot be excused.”
Amnesty International has hit the White House for refusing to treat suspected al Qaeda and Taliban terrorists as prisoners of war subject to the Geneva Conventions; for abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq; and for a list of largely unsubstantiated complaints from detainees at Guantanamo.
Mr. Rumsfeld said “at least a dozen” of the 200 detainees released from Guantanamo “have already been caught back on the battlefield, involved in efforts to kidnap and kill Americans.”
Mr. Schulz posted a statement yesterday on Amnesty’s Web site (www.amnesty.org) that said, in part, “Donald Rumsfeld and the Bush administration ignored or dismissed Amnesty International’s reports on the abuse of detainees for years, and senior officials continue to ignore the very real plight of men detained without charge or trial.”
Amnesty International’s Web site states it is “independent of any government, political ideology, economic interest or religion. It does not support or oppose any government.”