Torture cover ups

 

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US soldiers waterboarding a detainee in the Philippines, durring the US- Philippine war, while combating against the native insurgents defending againt USA occupation

Torture Cover-Ups

So many news items to investigate,

Well let’s get started,

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Middle East peace: Waiting for Superman, or Godot?

Stephen M. Walt
Fri 29 Oct 2010

One of the silliest things ever written was F. Scott Fitzgerald’s statement that, “There are no second acts in American lives.” Fitzgerald obviously wasn’t around to witness the lives of Oliver North, Elliot Spitzer, G. Gordon Liddy, Elliott Abrams, or Madonna’s entire career. I’m even betting Tiger Woods manages a pretty successful second act after his own embarrassing melodrama.

If Fitzgerald were alive today and studying the United States’ Middle East policy, he’d never have written such a silly line. I refer to Laura Rozen’s latest Politico column, entitled “On the Mideast: Waiting for Superman.” Rozen suggests that the Obama administration is thinking about bringing former Clinton-era official Martin Indyk into the government to jump-start the moribund Israeli-Palestinian talks. She also speculates about the possibility of using former president Bill Clinton as some sort of a special envoy, an idea that has been recently advanced by New America Foundation’s Steve Clemons.

Waiting for Superman? More like Waiting for Godot.

There’s little doubt that the Obama’s administration’s handling of Mideast affairs has been an embarrassing failure, but it is hard to see how these personnel moves would help. Nothing personal, but didn’t these guys have the chance to produce an Israel-Palestinian peace in the 1990s — when conditions were a lot more favorable — and didn’t their efforts end in near-total failure? (That goes for Dennis Ross too, who is already a key player on this issue in the current administration, and who seems to be repeating his past mistakes.)  Clinton, Indyk, and Ross were handed a golden opportunity with the Oslo Peace Accords back in 1993, and they spent the rest of the 1990s squandering it. They had plenty of help from the Israelis and Palestinians, but the U.S. record during that decade is hardly one that inspires confidence.

Let’s also not forget that Indyk was the chief architect of “dual containment,” a remarkably foolish policy that achieved the neat trick of putting the United States at odds with two countries (Iran and Iraq) that also hated each other. It also forced the United States to keep large air and ground forces in the Persian Gulf, thereby contributing to the rise of al Qaeda. And as both Ken Pollockand Trita Parsi have shown, a primary motive for dual containment was reassuring Israel about Iran, so that it would be more forthcoming in the peace discussions. Gee, that worked out great, didn’t it?

As for the former president, it’s clear he recognizes the value that a peace deal would bring, and I don’t question his sincerity on this issue. But his own track record isn’t encouraging either. The number of Israeli settlers more than doubled during his eight years as president, and he didn’t lift a finger to stop it. Moreover, he persuaded Yasser Arafat to go to the hastily-prepared Camp David summit by promising Arafat that he would not be blamed if the talks didn’t succeed. But when the talks collapsed, Clinton walked out to the microphones and put all the blame squarely on Arafat, in violation of his earlier promise and contrary to the available evidence. (Arafat was partly to blame for Camp David’s failure, but so were the United States and Israel.) That act of political vengeance contributed greatly to the myth that Israel has “no partner” for peace, a belief that has undermined all subsequent efforts to end this tragic conflict.

When it comes to the United States’ Middle East policy, in short, there are an infinite number of “second acts.” In a country of 300 million people, you’d think we could find a few fresh faces to handle these issues, instead of retreads who have been tried and found wanting. Instead, we keep recycling the same people (mostly for domestic political reasons), who adopt more-or-less the same negotiating strategy, yet somehow we expect a different, happier ending. And so we get the same familiar melodrama, and like any tragedy, the play always ends badly.

October 27, 2010, Foreign Policy

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Who’s to blame for torture? Lawyers probe logs

AFP/File – A woman walks past a television set displaying Al Jazeera news channel telecasting news coverage on secret …

By PAISLEY DODDS and RAPHAEL G. SATTER, Associated Press Paisley Dodds And Raphael G. Satter, Associated Press – 1 hr 14 mins ago

LONDON – It has been one of the most bitter legal debates during the so-called war on terror — who’s to blame for torture and how many degrees of separation are needed to dodge a lawsuit?

The answer may lie in recently leaked documents, which lawyers and human rights groups hope will be a treasure trove of evidence that could prove U.S. and other coalition forces broke a cardinal rule of international law — handing over terror suspects when they had good reason to believe the detainees would be tortured.

The Pentagon has criticized the whistleblowing organization WikiLeaks for publishing nearly 400,000 U.S. military logs detailing daily carnage in Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. In July, the same group published 77,000 secret documents on the war in Afghanistan.

The classified logs on Iraq describe detainees abused by Iraqi forces, insurgent bombings, executions and civilians shot at checkpoints by U.S. troops. They also show that, in some cases, U.S. interrogators thought detainees were speaking truthfully when they accused Iraqi security forces of abuse.

Lawyers say the once-secret logs stand apart from other reports about the Iraqi security agencies because the accounts of mistreatment are recorded — and sometimes corroborated — by the Americans themselves.

“It’s not as if, if we didn’t have these documents, we wouldn’t know that torture was widespread,” said Matthew Pollard, who works as a legal adviser for Amnesty International, a human rights group which repeatedly warned that abuse was widespread in Iraq. “What’s new is confirmation — in their own documents — that they didn’t dispute that.”

Phil Shiner, of U.K.-based Public Interest Lawyers, which represents some 130 Iraqi civilians who allege ill-treatment by Britain’s armed forces, said the law is unambiguous.

“If a state knows that there’s a real risk that a person will be tortured by another state, they simply cannot transfer that person to the other country’s custody,” he said.

But not everyone agrees that torture is avoidable during war — or just how far an occupying power should go to make sure terror suspects aren’t tortured or mistreated — especially in the case of Iraq, which is a sovereign state. Some still dispute the definition of torture or abuse.

“This is an issue that we talked regularly (about) with the Iraqi government, but the same time we have and are continuing to fulfill not only our international obligations, but our obligations to Iraq as a sovereign government,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said on Tuesday, denying that U.S. forces had turned a blind eye to torture.

The leaked war logs carry hundreds of allegations of detainee abuse — from minor assaults during arrests to torture at Iraqi police stations and bases. U.S. forces occasionally intervened — by remonstrating with senior officers or even sleeping over at a police station to prevent late-night abuse — but the U.S. still regularly transferred detainees to Iraqi custody.

Of the 23,000 prisoners held by U.S. authorities in mid-2007, all but 200 or so have now either been released or handed over to Iraqi security forces, according to a recent Amnesty report.

“These documents provide additional evidence for why victims of torture should have their day in American courts,” said Anthony Romero, executive director of the New York-based American Civil Liberties Union.

Since the start of the Iraq war, dozens of U.S. or British troops have been convicted of killing and abusing Iraqis.

In the Abu Ghraib scandal where U.S. troops were seen posing next to naked, hooded and leashed Iraqi detainees, most of the defendants were convicted and sent to prison. In the case of the 14-year-old Iraqi girl who was raped and then killed along with her family, a former U.S. Army soldier was sentenced to life. In Britain, a soldier became the country’s first convicted war criminal when he pleaded guilty in connection with an Iraqi hotel receptionist who died after a British raid.

But few cases have ever been brought against coalition forces for violating non-refoulement, a principle in international law that prohibits the transfer of people if there are fears of abuse or persecution — a principle that grew out of the massive flow of refugees in World War II.

Under the Bush administration, several terror suspects were transferred to countries like Morocco, where they were interrogated and tortured under a process known as extraordinary rendition. Although the practice is widely condemned, prosecutions have been rare — the first and only convictions were secured last year in Italy for the CIA kidnap of an Egyptian cleric from Milan. Even then, the Italian convictions were in absentia and the defendants are sill free and considered fugitives.

And while the Obama administration has vowed to adhere to the Geneva Conventions governing conduct in war, it hasn’t ruled out future renditions.

“I think if there needs to be an accounting, first and foremost, there needs to be an accounting by the Iraqi government itself and how it has treated its own citizens,” Crowley said.

Thousands of Iraqi abuse complaints have been raised against U.S. and allied forces — but they were ultimately tossed out because those forces were given war-zone immunity from lawsuits.

Iraqi judges also are routinely targeted by assassinations, leading most courts to barricade the public from their chambers and grant access only for specific trials or appointments. Years of efforts to reform Iraq’s court system through U.S.-funded programs have shown little progress.

Still, Iraq is one of the early signatories of the Geneva Conventions and the country’s constitution also prohibits torture and human rights violations.

“The problem is in implementing these rules,” said Abdul-Rahman Najim al-Mashhadani, director of the Hammurabi Human Rights Organization in Iraq.

Mazin Younis, an adviser to the U.K.-based Iraqi League, an expatriate support group, said the occupation-era laws make it impossible for Iraqis to sue U.S. or British officials in a local court. Asked whether it was possible to sue Iraqi authorities for mistreatment, Younis laughed, describing a judicial system ridden with cronyism, corruption and abuse.

“Very much you are asking the perpetrators to try themselves,” he said.

Lawsuits are more likely in Europe, which is bound by the European Court of Human Rights and the International Criminal Court. The United States is bound by neither.

The Alien Tort Claims Act, however, allows U.S. courts to hear human rights cases brought by foreign citizens for conduct by U.S. agents committed outside the United States.

Government lawyers on both sides of the Atlantic are examining the documents.

“Although the WikiLeaks documents are raw material and may not give a full picture, they do raise prima facie evidence that could be the basis of some lawsuits,” said Geoffrey Robertson, a London-based human rights lawyer who has worked for the U.N. war crimes court on Sierra Leone.

Associated Press writer Hamid Ahmed contributed to this report from Baghdad.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101027/ap_on_re_eu/wikileaks

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NY Times’s excuse for not calling waterboarding “torture” doesn’t hold water

By now you’ve heard about that surprising new Harvard study finding that news orgs that routinely called waterboarding “torture” for many years suddenly shifted away from the term after it became public that the Bush administration had sanctioned it.

The New York Times has now explained the reasoning behind its decision, and it’s pretty surprising. The paper disputed the study’s accuracy, but it gave Michael Calderone a statement acknowledging the shift and conceding that Bush administration entreaties were partly responsible:

“As the debate over interrogation of terror suspects grew post-9/11, defenders of the practice (including senior officials of the Bush administration) insisted that it did not constitute torture,” a Times spokesman said in a statement.

“When using a word amounts to taking sides in a political dispute, our general practice is to supply the readers with the information to decide for themselves. Thus we describe the practice vividly, and we point out that it is denounced by international covenants and in American tradition as a form of torture.”

The Times’ explanation is that once Bush officials started arguing that waterboarding wasn’t torture, the only way to avoid taking sides was to stop using the word. But here’s the problem: Not using the word alsoconsitutes taking a side: That of the Bush administration.

That’s because this debate wasn’t merely a semantic one. It was occuring in a legal context.

The administration’s critics pointed out that the decision to approve waterboarding was illegal under international law designating it torture. The Bush administration argued that waterboarding isn’t torture in order to argue that it isn’t illegal.

The decision to refrain from calling waterboarding “torture” is tantamount to siding with the Bush administration’s claim that the act it acknowledged doing is not illegal under any statute. No one is saying the Times should have adopted the role of judge and jury and proclaimed the Bush administration officially guilty. Rather, the point is that by dropping use of the word “torture,” it took the Bush position — against those who argued that the act Bush officials sanctioned isalready agreed upon as illegal under the law.

Think of it this way: We all agree that pickpocketing constitutes “theft.” A pickpocket doesn’t get to come along and argue: “No, what I did isn’ttheft, it’s merely pickpocketing, and therefore it isn’t illegal.” Any newspaper that played along with a pickpocket’s demand to stop using the word “theft” would be taking the pickpocket’s side, not occupying any middle ground. There is no middle ground here.

The New York Times Slams Obama’s Torture ‘Cover-Up’

By DAPHNE EVIATAR 10/26/09 10:03 AM

The New York Times’ lead editorial today is a powerful indictment of the Obama administration’s continuation of Bush-era efforts to conceal the facts of U.S.-sponsored torture.

Running through the list of situations that we’ve been reporting on in which the Obama administration continues to conceal evidence of torture — from the efforts of British resident Binyam Mohamed to seek justice for his “extraordinary rendition” and torture; to the administration’s continued efforts to dismiss cases alleging government-sponsored torture and illegal wiretapping by raising the “state secrets” privilege; to President Obama’s continued insistence on hiding photos of brutal detainee abuse — The Times highlights how President Obama, despite his grand promises of openness and accountability in the early days of his administration, has caved to Republicans and some conservative Democrats who want to bury the evidence of criminal and moral wrongdoing by the United States government.

“We do not take seriously the government’s claim that it is trying to protect intelligence or avoid harm to national security,” The Times writes. And it shouldn’t. As we’ve pointed out repeatedly at TWI, the outlines of our government’s abusive and in some cases criminal conduct is already well-known and can hardly endanger us further. Only by unearthing, acknowledging and accounting completely for the past can the new administration finally move beyond it to focus, unencumbered, on making sure it does not happen in the future.

http://washingtonindependent.com/65106/the-new-york-times-slams-obamas-torture-cover-up

May 1, 2005

60 minutes

Torture, Cover-Up At Gitmo?

Former Translator Says Prisoner Interrogations Were Staged For VIPs

By Rebecca Leung

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A former Guantanamo Bay translator tells 60 Minutes’ Scott Pelley, in his first interview, secrets of the interrogation process alleged to be cruel and ineffective.

Sgt. Erik Saar, a former Guantanamo Bay translator, says that prisoner interrogations were staged for visiting VIPs.  (CBS)

Detainees on trial, photos and a history of the naval base.

The Homeland Security Department, the terror alert system, preparedness quiz and more.

Where al Qaeda operates, who’s been caught, how they’re financed and a timeline of attacks on Americans.

(CBS) The story that Sgt. Erik Saar, a soldier who spent three months in the interrogation rooms at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, tells Correspondent Scott Pelley paints a picture of bizarre, even sadistic, treatment of detainees in the American prison camp.

Experts in intelligence tell 60 Minutes that if what Saar says is true, some soldiers at Guantanamo have undermined the war on terror, bungling the interrogation of important prisoners.

60 Minutes also reveals previously secret emails from FBI agents at Guantanamo that warn FBI headquarters that prisoners are being tortured.

“I think the harm we are doing there far outweighs the good, and I believe it’s inconsistent with American values,” says Saar. “In fact, I think it’s fair to say that it’s the moral antithesis of what we want to stand for as a country.”

Saar volunteered for Guantanamo Bay in 2002. He was a U.S. Army linguist, an expert in Arabic, with a top-secret security clearance. He was assigned to translate during interrogations. The prisoners, about 600 in all, were mostly from the battlefields of Afghanistan. And Saar couldn’t wait to get at them after what the administration said: the men were “among the most dangerous, best-trained, vicious killers on the face of the earth.”

With that in mind, Saar went to work, but he was surprised by what he found.


How many prisoners did he think were the worst of the worst – real terrorists?

“At best, I would say there were a few dozen,” says Saar. “A few dozen [out of 600].”

Who were the rest of the guys? “Some of them were conscripts who actually were forced to fight for the Taliban, so actually had taken up arms against us, but had little or no choice in the matter,” says Saar. “Some of them were individuals who were picked up by the Northern Alliance, and we have no idea why they were there, and we didn’t know exactly what their connections were to terrorism.”

However they got there, Saar and the rest of Guantanamo’s intelligence personnel were told that the captives were not prisoners of war, and therefore, were not protected by the Geneva Convention.

“Your training in intelligence had told you what about the Geneva Conventions?” asks Pelley.

“That they were never to be violated,” says Saar. “As a matter of fact, the training for interrogators themselves, their entire coursework falls under the umbrella of you never violate the Geneva Conventions.”

“If the rules of the Geneva Convention did not apply, what rules did apply?” asks Pelley.

“I don’t think anybody knew that,” says Saar.

And so, Saar said, some U.S. military intelligence personnel used cruelty, and even bizarre sexual tactics against the prisoners. Saar has written a book, “Inside the Wire,” about his experiences at Guantanamo. Penguin Press will release it on Tuesday.

He told 60 Minutes about one interrogation in particular, in which he translated for a female interrogator who was trying to break a high-priority prisoner — a Saudi who had been in flight school in the United States.

“As she stood in front of him, she slowly started to unbutton her Army blouse. She had on underneath the Army blouse a tight brown Army T-shirt, touched her breasts, and said, ‘Don’t you like these big American breasts?'” says Saar. “She wanted to create a barrier between this detainee and his faith, and if she could somehow sexually entice him, he would feel unclean in an Islamic way, he would not be able to pray and go before his God and gain that strength, so the next day, maybe he would be able to start cooperating, start talking to her.”

But the prisoner wasn’t talking, so Saar said the interrogator increased the pressure.

“She started to unbutton her pants and reached and put her hands in her pants and then started to circle around the detainee. And when she had her hands in her pants, apparently she used something to put what appeared to be menstrual blood on her hand, but in fact was ink,” says Saar.

“When she circled around the detainee, she pulled out her hand, which was red, and said, ‘I’m actually menstruating right now, and I’m touching you. Does that please your God? Does that please Allah?’ And then he kind of got pent up and shied away from her, and she then took the ink and wiped it on his face, and said, ‘How do you like that?'”

(CBS) Then, the interrogator sent the prisoner back to his cell with a message.

“She said, ‘Have fun trying to pray tonight while there’s no water in your cell,’ meaning that she was gonna have the water turned off in his cell, so that he then could not go back and become ritually clean. So he then therefore could not pray,” says Saar.

“I know that the individual that we were talking that night was a bad individual. Someone who I hope never — I hope he’s in captivity forever, I hope he never goes anywhere. But I felt awful that night. I felt dirty and disgusting.”

“What you have here is a Saudi training at an American flight school, just like the 9/11 hijackers,” says Pelley. “You know, there are people at home watching this right now, saying, ‘Hey, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.'”

“I do understand that, and the fact is No. 1, it’s ineffective,” says Saar. “There are much better methods that were being employed at Guantanamo Bay, that yielded the little bit of intelligence that we did receive, and it wasn’t methods like those.”

60 Minutes talked to three interrogators who were at Guantanamo at the same time that Saar was there. And they told us the sexual tactics were well known, and even had a name they called it the “sex-up” approach.

Did it work?

“It did not work, and from what I later learned, the detainee remained uncooperative,” says Saar. “It’s impossible to try to build a connection and establish trust. We were now relying solely on fear to get the detainee to cooperate, and I think that’s an enormous mistake. I think many of the FBI agents on the base felt as though that was a mistake also.”

The FBI does its own questioning of prisoners at Guantanamo, and those agents have been writing emails, classified secret, to FBI headquarters. They detail abuse by military interrogators. The agents wrote of finding prisoners “chained hand and foot in a fetal position” for up to 24 hours at a time, and of prisoners who had “urinated or defecated on themselves.”

Another FBI document says an interrogator grabbed a detainee’s thumbs and “bent them backwards” and “grabbed his genitals.” One FBI agent reported that he saw a detainee had been “gagged with duct tape that covered much of his head.” The interrogator explained that the prisoner had been “chanting the Koran and would not stop.”

60 Minutes ran the emails and Saar’s story past one of the nation’s most experienced military intelligence experts.

“Unimaginable to me, I just can not imagine what people think they were doing,” says Army Col. Patrick Lang, who was head of human intelligence gathering at the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency.

Lang, who’s now retired, wrote the Arabic and Middle-East studies curricula for West Point. “I mean, what is this?” asks Lang. “A scene from Dante’s Inferno? I mean, what level of hell are we on to? Imagine that we could do such things to people? This is just absolutely wrong.”

60 Minutes also asked Lang to review some of the written statements of prisoners who claim to have been beaten.

“If people were really beaten and kicked and knocked around, and their heads beaten against the floor, and had, you know, deprived of treatment for broken bones and teeth resulting from this,” says Lang. “If these things really happened in fact, to me, that’s a lot more serious than this silliness with having these girls go in and rub themselves all over these prisoners.”

“There is a lot of discussion about precisely what the word “torture” means,” says Pelley. “You’ve been at the top of defense military intelligence. Based on what you’ve seen and heard, is all of this torture?”

“I think that a lot of this behavior which has been allowed is so far outside the pale, that I think that it would have to be considered to be something not allowed in international law or U.S. military law,” says Lang.

But is it torture? “Yeah,” says Lang. “I think it’s torture.”

Continued

(CBS) And one of the FBI agents at Guantanamo thought so, too. He warned FBI headquarters the military was using “torture techniques.” The FBI emails were uncovered and declassified in a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union. The head of the ACLU, Anthony Romero, says that the FBI agents were worried that military interrogators were ruining any chance of getting reliable intelligence.

“Here you have the FBI and its own behavioral assessment unit raising serious questions about the effectiveness or the utility of information gotten under torture techniques,” says Romero.

“When the FBI agents are writing about these techniques, they’re asking their bosses in Washington for what?” asks Pelley. “What’s the point of these memos?”

“They’re asking sometimes for guidance,” says Romero. “FBI agents were being instructed not to be a part of interrogations where they thought torture and abuse was taking place. So what’s curious is here you have the Department of Defense undertaking some of the interrogation techniques. And FBI agents sitting on the sidelines because their own leadership thought it would be inappropriate for them to be involved in these interrogations.”

Based on the FBI emails, and Saar’s story, the Pentagon’s southern command is now investigating whether prisoners have been tortured or subjected to sexual tactics at Guantanamo Bay.

If all this was well known on the base, how could it have been kept largely under wraps for three years, especially when congressmen and senators often inspected the camp? Well, Saar said it may be in part because those inspections were rigged to fool the visiting VIPs.

“Interrogations were set up so the VIPs could come and witness an interrogation, and in fact the interrogation would be a mock interrogation, basically,” says Saar.

“They would find a detainee that they knew to have been cooperative. They would ask the interrogator to go back over the same information that they reviewed on whatever date they had previously interrogated the detainee,” says Saar. “And they would sit across a table and talk as though you and I are talking, and this was a fictitious world that they would create for these VIP visits, because in fact, it’s not what generally took place in Guantanamo Bay.”

“They staged the interrogations?” asks Pelley.

“Yes,” says Saar. “They staged the interrogations.”

60 Minutes asked the Army to comment on Saar’s story, or provide someone to talk about Guantanamo Bay. The Army declined.

But last year, Vice Admiral Albert Church was ordered to inspect U.S. military detention centers worldwide, and he praised Guantanamo Bay’s military police and interrogators, writing that Guantanamo has: “… an effective model that greatly enhances intelligence collection and does not lead to detainee abuse. . .”

He also wrote: “ . . . It is a model that should be considered for use in other interrogation operations in the global war on terror.”

Still, Lang said the picture of Guantanamo Bay’s operation painted by Saar and the FBI memos is unrecognizable to him.

“If we do things like this, if we beat people and we neglect them and we try to use their religion against them, however stupidly, I mean, in fact, we’re debasing ourselves to the point in fact in which we’re losing something, that we should be trying to protect in this war,” says Lang.

“You told us earlier that you were ashamed to hear about these tactics,” says Pelley.

“I was,” says Lang. “As a professional soldier, and someone who dedicated his life to the service of the United States, in fact, to think that United States would stoop to such tactics as this, I find to be a disgraceful thing.”

inued

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/04/28/60minutes/main691602_page2.shtml?tag=contentMain;contentBody

Torture, a cover-up and Labour’s shame

By DAILY MAIL COMMENT
Last updated at 8:35 AM on 11th February 2010

Torture: Guantanamo Bay detainee Binyam Mohamed

Let it be said loud and clear: the Mail carries no torch for Binyam Mohamed, the Ethiopian-born terrorist suspect who has yet to give an acceptable explanation of why he travelled to Afghanistan and Pakistan on a forged British passport in the aftermath of 9/11.

But with equal clarity, let us spell out that torture is the very antithesis of the values that define us as a civilised people.

It can never be justified. Not even in the context of Mohamed’s arrest in 2002, when the world was reeling from the destruction of the Twin Towers and terrified more atrocities were imminent.

On Wednesday, with the release of court papers that our Government fought so long to suppress, it was put beyond doubt that Mohamed was subjected to ‘cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment’ by the United States authorities.

It was also revealed that British intelligence was fully aware of this – as was Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who battled to keep the truth hidden while repeatedly and disingenuously asserting Britain’s opposition to torture.

So much for New Labour’s much-vaunted ‘ethical’ foreign policy.

More…

The seven damning paragraphs released on the orders of the Appeal Court expose the utter hollowness of Mr Miliband’s claim that publication would jeopardise national security.

Even more damningly, in a draft of the judgment that Ministers sought to keep secret, the court effectively accused MI5 of complicity in torture and having a culture of  disregarding human rights.

But even this leaves many questions. When did our security services become aware of our allies’ abominable practices? To what extent, if any, did they aid and abet Mohamed’s torture? And did they or the Government even try to stop it?

Only a full judicial inquiry can provide the answers.

Meanwhile, Mr Miliband claims that the ruling has led to a ‘great deal of concern’ among our American allies. So be it: the remedy is in their own hands.

If the U.S. wishes to restore its proud and hard-earned reputation as the torchbearer for western civilisation, it must abandon the methods of barbarism.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/columnists/article-1250102/Binyam-Mohamed-Torture-cover-Labours-shame.html#ixzz12A17h61h

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/columnists/article-1250102/Binyam-Mohamed-Torture-cover-Labours-shame.html

NY Times’s excuse for not calling waterboarding “torture” doesn’t hold water

By now you’ve heard about that surprising new Harvard study finding that news orgs that routinely called waterboarding “torture” for many years suddenly shifted away from the term after it became public that the Bush administration had sanctioned it.

The New York Times has now explained the reasoning behind its decision, and it’s pretty surprising. The paper disputed the study’s accuracy, but it gave Michael Calderone a statement acknowledging the shift and conceding that Bush administration entreaties were partly responsible:

“As the debate over interrogation of terror suspects grew post-9/11, defenders of the practice (including senior officials of the Bush administration) insisted that it did not constitute torture,” a Times spokesman said in a statement.

“When using a word amounts to taking sides in a political dispute, our general practice is to supply the readers with the information to decide for themselves. Thus we describe the practice vividly, and we point out that it is denounced by international covenants and in American tradition as a form of torture.”

The Times’ explanation is that once Bush officials started arguing that waterboarding wasn’t torture, the only way to avoid taking sides was to stop using the word. But here’s the problem: Not using the word alsoconsitutes taking a side: That of the Bush administration.

That’s because this debate wasn’t merely a semantic one. It was occuring in a legal context.

The administration’s critics pointed out that the decision to approve waterboarding was illegal under international law designating it torture. The Bush administration argued that waterboarding isn’t torture in order to argue that it isn’t illegal.

The decision to refrain from calling waterboarding “torture” is tantamount to siding with the Bush administration’s claim that the act it acknowledged doing is not illegal under any statute. No one is saying the Times should have adopted the role of judge and jury and proclaimed the Bush administration officially guilty. Rather, the point is that by dropping use of the word “torture,” it took the Bush position — against those who argued that the act Bush officials sanctioned isalready agreed upon as illegal under the law.

Think of it this way: We all agree that pickpocketing constitutes “theft.” A pickpocket doesn’t get to come along and argue: “No, what I did isn’ttheft, it’s merely pickpocketing, and therefore it isn’t illegal.” Any newspaper that played along with a pickpocket’s demand to stop using the word “theft” would be taking the pickpocket’s side, not occupying any middle ground. There is no middle ground here.

By Greg Sargent  |  July 1, 2010; 4:06 PM ET
Categories:
Foreign policy and national security , Political media

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/plum-line/2010/07/times_excuse_for_not_calling_w.html?wprss=plum-line

DITORIAL

The Cover-Up Continues

Published: October 25, 2009

The Obama administration has clung for so long to the Bush administration’s expansive claims of national security and executive power that it is in danger of turning President George W. Bush’s cover-up of abuses committed in the name of fighting terrorism into President Barack Obama’s cover-up.

Readers’ Comments

Readers shared their thoughts on this article.

We have had recent reminders of this dismaying retreat from Mr. Obama’s passionate campaign promises to make a break with Mr. Bush’s abuses of power, a shift that denies justice to the victims of wayward government policies and shields officials from accountability.

In Britain earlier this month, a two-judge High Court panel rejected arguments made first by the Bush team and now by the Obama team and decided to make public seven redacted paragraphs in American intelligence documents relating to torture allegations by a former prisoner at Guantánamo Bay. The prisoner, Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian-born British national, says he was tortured in Pakistan, Morocco and at a C.I.A.-run prison outside Kabul before being transferred to Guantánamo. He was freed in February.

To block the release of those paragraphs, the Bush administration threatened to cut its intelligence-sharing with Britain, an inappropriate threat that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton repeated. But the court concluded that the actual risk of harm to intelligence-sharing was minimal, given the close relationship between the two countries. The court also found a “compelling public interest” in disclosure, and said that nothing in the disputed seven paragraphs — a summary of evidence relating to the involvement of the British security services in Mr. Mohamed’s ordeal — had anything to do with “secret intelligence.”

The Obama administration has expressed unhappiness with the ruling, and the British government plans to appeal. But the court was clearly right in recognizing the importance of disclosure “for reasons of democratic accountability and the rule of law.”

In the United States, the Obama administration is in the process of appealing a sound federal appellate court ruling last April in a civil lawsuit by Mr. Mohamed and four others. All were victims of the government’s extraordinary rendition program, under which foreigners were kidnapped and flown to other countries for interrogation and torture.

In that case, the Obama administration has repeated a disreputable Bush-era argument that the executive branch is entitled to have lawsuits shut down whenever it makes a blanket claim of national security. The ruling rejected that argument and noted that the government’s theory would “effectively cordon off all secret actions from judicial scrutiny, immunizing the C.I.A. and its partners from the demands and limits of the law.”

The Obama administration has aggressively pursued such immunity in numerous other cases beyond the ones involving Mr. Mohamed. We do not take seriously the government’s claim that it is trying to protect intelligence or avoid harm to national security.

Victims of the Bush administration’s “enhanced interrogation techniques,” including Mr. Mohamed, have already spoken in harrowing detail about their mistreatment. The objective is to avoid official confirmation of wrongdoing that might be used in lawsuits against government officials and contractors, and might help create a public clamor for prosecuting those responsible. President Obama calls that a distracting exercise in “looking back.” What it really is is justice.

In a similar vein, Mr. Obama did a flip-flop last May and decided to resist orders by two federal courts to release photographs of soldiers abusing prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq. Last week, just in time to avoid possible Supreme Court review of the matter, Congress created an exception to the Freedom of Information Act that gave Secretary of Defense Robert Gates authority to withhold the photos.

We share concerns about inflaming anti-American feelings and jeopardizing soldiers, but the best way to truly avoid that is to demonstrate that this nation has turned the page on Mr. Bush’s shameful policies. Withholding the painful truth shows the opposite.

Like the insistence on overly broad claims of secrecy, it also avoids an important step toward accountability, which is the only way to ensure that the abuses of the Bush years are never repeated. We urge Mr. Gates to use his discretion under the new law to release the photos, sparing Americans more cover-up.

More Articles in Opinion »A version of this article appeared in print on October 26, 2009, on page A22 of the New York edition.

Past Coverage

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/26/opinion/26mon1.html?_r=1

OP-ED COLUMNIST

When We Torture

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By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

Published: February 14, 2008

The most famous journalist you may never have heard of is Sami al-Hajj, an Al Jazeera cameraman who is on a hunger strike to protest abuse during more than six years in a Kafkaesque prison system.

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

Nicholas D. Kristof.

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Mr. Hajj’s fortitude has turned him into a household name in the Arab world, and his story is sowing anger at the authorities holding him without trial.

That’s us. Mr. Hajj is one of our forgotten prisoners in Guantánamo Bay.

If the Bush administration appointed an Under Secretary of State for Antagonizing the Islamic World, with advice from a Blue Ribbon Commission for Sullying America’s Image, it couldn’t have done a more systematic job of discrediting our reputation around the globe. Instead of using American political capital to push for peace in the Middle East or Darfur, it is using it to force-feed Mr. Hajj.

President Bush is now moving forward with plans to try six Guantánamo prisoners before a military tribunal, rather than hold a regular trial. That will call new attention to abuses in Guantánamo and sow more anti-Americanism around the world.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pushed last year to close Guantánamo because of its wretched impact on American foreign policy. But they lost the argument to Alberto Gonzales and Dick Cheney. So America spends millions of dollars bolstering public diplomacy and sponsoring chipper radio and television broadcasts to the Islamic world — and then undoes it all with Guantánamo.

Suppose the Iranian government arrested and beat Katie Couric, held her virtually incommunicado for six years and promised to release her only if she would spy for Iran. In such circumstances, Iranian investments in public diplomacy toward the United States wouldn’t get very far, either.

After Mr. Hajj was arrested in Afghanistan in December 2001, he was beaten, starved, frozen and subjected to anal searches in public to humiliate him, his lawyers say. The U.S. government initially seems to have confused him with another cameraman, and then offered vague accusations that he had been a financial courier and otherwise assisted extremist groups.

“There is a significant amount of information, both unclassified and classified, which supports continued detention of Sami al-Hajj by U.S. forces,” said Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman, adding that the detainees are humanely treated and “receive exceptional medical care.”

Military officials did acknowledge that Mr. Hajj was not considered a potential suicide bomber and probably would have been released long ago if he had just “come clean” by responding in greater detail to the allegations and showing remorse.

Mr. Hajj’s lawyers contend that he has already responded in great detail to every allegation. One indication that the government doesn’t take its own charges seriously, the lawyers say, is that the U.S. offered Mr. Hajj a deal: immediate freedom if he would spy on Al Jazeera. Mr. Hajj refused.

Most Americans, including myself, originally gave President Bush the benefit of the doubt and assumed that the inmates truly were “the worst of the worst.” But evidence has grown that many are simply the unluckiest of the unluckiest.

Some were aid workers who were kidnapped by armed Afghan groups and sold to the C.I.A. as extremists. One longtime Sudanese aid worker employed by an international charity, Adel Hamad, was just released by the U.S. in December after five years in captivity. A U.S. Army major reviewing his case called it “unconscionable.”

Mr. Hajj began his hunger strike more than a year ago, so twice daily he is strapped down and a tube is wound up his nose and down his throat to his stomach. Sometimes a lubricant is used, and sometimes it isn’t, so his throat and nose have been rubbed raw. Sometimes a tube still bloody from another hunger striker is used, his lawyers say.

“It’s really a regime to make it as painful and difficult as possible,” said one of his lawyers, Zachary Katznelson.

Mr. Hajj cannot bend his knees because of abuse he received soon after his arrest, yet the toilet chair he was prescribed was removed — making it excruciating for him to use the remaining squat toilet. He is allowed a Koran, but his glasses were confiscated so he cannot read it.

All this is inhumane, but also boneheaded. Guantánamo itself does far more damage to American interests than Mr. Hajj could ever do.

To stand against torture and arbitrary detention is not to be squeamish. It is to be civilized.

Comment on this column on my blog at: www.nytimes.com/ontheground. I also have guest bloggers there, including a public school teacher in Chicago, a Columbia University public health specialist in Rwanda, a British midwife in Ethiopia and an American aid worker in Bangladesh.

More Articles in Opinion »

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http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/14/opinion/14kristof.html

EDITORIAL

Doctors Who Aid Torture

Published: June 7, 2010

Disturbing new questions have been raised about the role of doctors and other medical professionals in helping the Central Intelligence Agency subject terrorism suspects to harsh treatment, abuse and torture.

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The Red Cross previously documented, from interviews with “high-value” prisoners, that medical personnel helped facilitate abuses in the C.I.A.’s “enhanced interrogation program” during the Bush administration. Now Physicians for Human Rights has suggested that the medical professionals may also have violated national and international laws setting limits on what research can be performed on humans.

The physicians’ group, which is based in Cambridge, Mass., analyzed a wide range of previously released government documents and reports, many of them heavily censored. It found that the Bush administration used medical personnel — including doctors, psychologists and physician assistants — to help justify acts that had long been classified by law and treaty as illegal or unethical and to redefine them as safe, legal and effective when used on terrorism suspects.

The group’s report focused particularly on a few issues where medical personnel played an important role — determining how far a harsh interrogation could go, providing legal cover against prosecution and designing future interrogation procedures. The actual monitoring data are not publicly available, but the group was able to deduce from the guidelines governing the program what role the health professionals played, assuming they followed the rules.

In the case of waterboarding, a technique in which prisoners are brought to the edge of drowning, health professionals were required to monitor the practice and keep detailed medical records. Their findings led to several changes, including a switch to saline solution as the near-drowning agent instead of water, ostensibly to protect the health of detainees who ingest large volumes of liquid but also, the group says, to allow repeated use of waterboarding on the same subject.

Another government memorandum concluded from medical observations on 25 detainees that combining several techniques — say a face slap with water dousing or a stress kneeling position — caused no more pain than when the techniques were used individually. That was used to justify the application of multiple techniques at the same time.

The group concludes that health professionals who facilitated these practices were in essence conducting research and experimentation on human subjects. The main purposes of such research, the group says, were to determine how to use various techniques, to calibrate the levels of pain and to create a legal basis for defending interrogators from potential prosecution under antitorture laws. The interrogators could claim that they had acted in good faith in accord with medical judgments of safety and had not intended to inflict extreme suffering.

The report from the physicians’ group does not prove its case beyond doubt — how could it when so much is still hidden? — but it rightly calls on the White House and Congress to investigate the potentially illegal human experimentation and whether those who authorized or conducted it should be punished. Those are just two of the many unresolved issues from the Bush administration that President Obama and Congressional leaders have swept under the carpet.

A version of this editorial appeared in print on June 8, 2010, on page A26 of the New York edition.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/08/opinion/08tue1.html

EDITORIAL

Legacy of Torture

Published: August 26, 2010

The Bush administration insisted that “enhanced interrogation techniques” — torture — were necessary to extract information from prisoners and keep Americans safe from terrorist attacks. Never mind that it was immoral, did huge damage to this country’s global standing and produced little important intelligence. Now, as we had feared, it is also making it much harder to try and convict accused terrorists.

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Because federal judges cannot trust the confessions of prisoners obtained by intense coercion, they are regularly throwing out the government’s cases against Guantánamo Bay prisoners.

new report prepared jointly by ProPublica and the National Law Journal showed that the government has lost more than half the cases where Guantánamo prisoners have challenged their detention because they were forcibly interrogated. In some cases the physical coercion was applied by foreign agents working at the behest of the United States; in other cases it was by United States agents.

Even in cases where the government later went back and tried to obtain confessions using “clean,” non-coercive methods, judges are saying those confessions too are tainted by the earlier forcible methods. In most cases, the prisoners have not actually walked free because the government is appealing the decisions. But the trend suggests that the government will continue to have a hard time proving its case even against those prisoners who should be detained.

In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that Guantánamo prisoners could challenge their detention as enemy combatants in federal court, under the constitutional right of habeas corpus. Since then, the government has lost 37 of the 53 habeas cases that have been decided, largely because it could not prove the prisoners were terrorists.

In the 15 cases where prisoners have alleged coercive interrogations, according to the ProPublica report, judges have sided with the prisoners eight times. (There are probably more cases than these, but the judges’ opinions have been too heavily redacted by the government to tell.) Only three detainees in habeas cases have actually been let go.

In one compelling example, Judge Gladys Kessler of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia in November threw out the case against Farhi Saeed bin Mohammed, captured in Pakistan in 2001. The government described Mr. Mohammed as a fighter for Al Qaeda, and Judge Kessler acknowledged there was some evidence he had associated with terrorists.

But the main evidence that he was an active terrorist was supplied by another prisoner, Binyam Mohamed, who Judge Kessler said was repeatedly tortured for two years while being held in Pakistan and Morocco at the behest of the United States. His genitals were mutilated; he was deprived of sleep and food; he was held in stress positions and forced to listen to piercingly loud music.

Because the government did not dispute Binyam Mohamed’s torture — and could not otherwise prove that Farhi Mohammed was actively engaged in fighting for Al Qaeda or the Taliban — she ordered him released. The government is appealing.

At least 50 other Guantánamo prisoners have filed habeas lawsuits. Torture could also affect the trial, if there is one, of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who planned the 9/11 attack.

The decisions speak well of the federal judges who are adhering to civilized legal standards even when the decision to release prisoners is difficult. We hope this demonstrated respect for due process will help repair this country’s battered reputation. Had Bush-era interrogators held to similar standards, there would be fewer dubious detention cases at Guantánamo, and the government would have a much stronger case against those prisoners who are there legitimately.

A version of this editorial appeared in print on August 27, 2010, on page

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/27/opinion/27fri1.html

Senators Clash With Nominee About Torture

Stefan Zaklin/European Pressphoto Agency

Though Michael B. Mukasey had a rocky day Thursday, his confirmation was called probable.

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By PHILIP SHENON

Published: October 19, 2007

WASHINGTON, Oct. 18 — President Bush’s nominee for attorney general, Michael B. Mukasey, declined Thursday to say if he considered harsh interrogation techniques like waterboarding, which simulates drowning, to constitute torture or to be illegal if used on terrorism suspects.

Multimedia

Graphic

In His Own Words

On the second day of confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Mr. Mukasey went further than he had the day before in arguing that the White House had constitutional authority to act beyond the limits of laws enacted by Congress, especially when it came to national defense.

He suggested that both the administration’s program of eavesdropping without warrants and its use of “enhanced” interrogation techniques for terrorism suspects, including waterboarding, might be acceptable under the Constitution even if they went beyond what the law technically allowed. Mr. Mukasey said the president’s authority as commander in chief might allow him to supersede laws written by Congress.

The tone of questioning was far more aggressive than on Wednesday, the first day of the hearings, as Mr. Mukasey, a retired federal judge, was challenged by Democrats who pressed him for his views on President Bush’s disputed antiterrorism policies.

In the case of the eavesdropping program, Mr. Mukasey suggested that the president might have acted appropriately under his constitutional powers in ordering the surveillance without court approval even if federal law would appear to require a warrant.

“The president is not putting somebody above the law; the president is putting somebody within the law,” said Mr. Mukasey, who seemed uncomfortable with the aggressive tone, occasionally stumbling in his responses. “The president doesn’t stand above the law. But the law emphatically includes the Constitution.”

The remarks about the eavesdropping program drew criticism from the committee’s chairman, Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, who told Mr. Mukasey that he was troubled by his answer, adding, “I see a loophole big enough to drive a truck through.”

The questioning by the Democrats was tougher still regarding Mr. Mukasey’s views on presidential authority to order harsh interrogation techniques on terrorist suspects, including waterboarding, which was used by the C.I.A. on some of those who were captured and held in the agency’s secret prisons after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

“Is waterboarding constitutional?” Mr. Mukasey was asked by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, in one of the sharpest exchanges.

“I don’t know what is involved in the technique,” Mr. Mukasey replied. “If waterboarding is torture, torture is not constitutional.”

Mr. Whitehouse described Mr. Mukasey’s response as a “massive hedge” since the nominee refused to be drawn into a conversation about whether waterboarding amounted to torture; many lawmakers from both parties, as well as civil liberties and human rights groups, have said it is clearly a form of torture. The administration has suggested that it ended the practice after protests from Capitol Hill and elsewhere, although it has never said so explicitly.

“I mean, either it is or it isn’t,” Mr. Whitehouse continued.

Waterboarding, he said, “is the practice of putting somebody in a reclining position, strapping them down, putting cloth over their faces and pouring water over the cloth to simulate the feeling of drowning. Is that constitutional?”

Mr. Mukasey again demurred, saying, “If it amounts to torture, it is not constitutional.”

Mr. Whitehouse said he was “very disappointed in that answer; I think it is purely semantic.”

“I’m sorry,” Mr. Mukasey replied.

While Mr. Mukasey still seemed almost certain to win Senate confirmation, a vote in the Judiciary Committee could be delayed until he provides written answers to questions raised Thursday by Mr. Leahy. The senator said he did not intend to hold the vote until after the responses were received and reviewed.

The committee’s ranking Republican, Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, said that while he shared some of Democrats’ concerns about Mr. Mukasey’s views on the limits of presidential authority, “I think you are virtually certain to be confirmed, and we’re glad to see the appointment and glad to see somebody who is strong, with a strong record, take over this department.”

Other Republicans joined in the praise. “I’ve listened to your testimony here, and it seems to me that you are extraordinarily well-suited for this position, pretty much as well as anybody who hasn’t served in the position before could be,” said Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona.

Among the Democrats, Mr. Leahy was especially critical of Mr. Mukasey, wondering aloud whether he had been pressured overnight by the White House to defend the administration’s view of its expanded powers in dealing with terrorist threats.

“In your answers yesterday, there was a very bright line on questions of torture and the ability of an executive, or inability of an executive, to ignore the law,” Mr. Leahy said. “That seems nowhere near as bright a line today, and maybe I just don’t understand.”

“I don’t know whether you received some criticism from anybody in the administration last night after your testimony,” he said, “but I sensed a difference, and a number of people here, Republican and Democratic alike, have sensed a difference.”

Mr. Mukasey insisted there had been no pressure from the White House on Wednesday, saying, “I received no criticism.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/19/washington/19mukasey.html?

Huge NYTimes AD! Conservatives Running Scared on Torture? (Update II)

May 14, 2009, 12:48PM

Calling itself a “grassroots plea” – a HUGE one page ad in the New York Times this morning (page 19 in my print edition), by the Conservative “media watchdog” group, Accuracy in Media, seems to be part of a new push by the Torture loversto shut down Media reports on torture.

Right-Wing propaganda machine in full Panic Mode!
Are we making progress in getting media attention? Apparently so! These folks must be really running scared to pay for a full page in the Times.  Is this ad in other newspapers?

Here’s the ad (as best I can reproduce it) but you have to imagine the word,TORTURE, in two-inch high letters at the top of the page!

TORTURE

Throughout the Entire World
The Word ‘Torture’ means Intense,
Lasting, Brutal Physical Agony

Why is the U.S. News Media Eagerly
Spreading An Incalculably Harmful Lie
That Can Only Motivate Terrorists To
Further Attacks On America?

A Grassroots Plea To
The U.S. News Media

Stop Misleading The World
That Our Country Condones Torture

*  You now know as a result of the recent release of what you
choose to call “The Torture Memos” that these are the
14 interrogation techniques permitted by the United States:

*  Sleep deprivation… Dietary manipulation… Abdominal
slaps… Facial slaps… Attention grasps… Facial holds…
Forced nudity… Water dousing… Stress positions not designed
to produce pain… Cramped confinement in a dark space…
Confinement with insects such as a caterpillar… Pushing
against a wall… Wall standing… Pouring water on a person’s
face to induce the feeling of drowning (waterboarding).

*  As you know, waterboarding has not been used for 5 years and
was used on only 3 detainees.  Our own troops are subjected to
waterboarding as part of their training.

*  By your continual use of the word ‘Torture’ to describe these
interrogation techniques you have been misleading the world that
the United States condone techniques of barbarous cruelty.  The
consequences could be horrendous.

It’s Time For The Truth

We are losing the goodwill of people across the
world and you are aiding al Qaida in recruiting
terrorists for future attack on America.

Torture Truth Project
A project of Accuracy in Media Inc., 4455 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20008 / (202) 364-4401
There you have it!  How many lies does it contain? Here’s an initial accounting:

  1. The ad does not use the definitions of what is outlawed by the Geneva Conventions or the Convention Against Torture – what is illegal under international law.
  2. The media hardly uses the word “torture” when called for.  Indeed, many have complained that the Media does not use the word torture enough!
  3. Grassroots Plea?  Hardly! This is a well-funded, right-wing organization’s ad.
  4. Scare Tactic:  Tell the US public that learning about the truth isdangerous!
  5. The world knows about the torture and is calling for War Crimes Tribunals.  It has long been a recruiting tool of Al  Quaida.  Arguably, exposing it will lead to world approval!
  6. The 14 interrogation techniques do constitute violations of Geneva and the CAT.
  7. We have no proof waterboarding has not been used for 5 years.
  8. SERE training of our troops, if it includes waterboarding, isvoluntary.
  9. We do know many of these techniques are still approved for use by the US.
  10. Time for Truth?  Absolutely! Time for a Special Prosecutor!
  11. Losing goodwill around the world?  Not the media’s fault!  That was lost under the previous Badministration’s disastrous policies!

Maybe I missed a few lies. Feel free to fill them in.  Links?  I’ll do that later.

http://tpmcafe.talkingpointsmemo.com/talk/blogs/therap/2009/05/huge-nytimes-ad-conservatives.php

MURDER cover up at Gitmo

The Guantánamo “Suicides”: A Camp Delta sergeant blows the whistle

By Scott Horton

[Image]

This is the full text of an exclusive advance feature by Scott Horton that will appear in the March 2010Harper’s Magazine. The issue will be available on newsstands the week of February 15.

1. “Asymmetrical Warfare”

When President Barack Obama took office last year, he promised to “restore the standards of due process and the core constitutional values that have made this country great.” Toward that end, the president issued an executive order declaring that the extra-constitutional prison camp at Guantánamo Naval Base “shall be closed as soon as practicable, and no later than one year from the date of this order.” Obama has failed to fulfill his promise. Some prisoners there are being charged with crimes, others released, but the date for closing the camp seems to recede steadily into the future. Furthermore, new evidence now emerging may entangle Obama’s young administration with crimes that occurred during the George W. Bush presidency, evidence that suggests the current administration failed to investigate seriously—and may even have continued—a cover-up of the possible homicides of three prisoners at Guantánamo in 2006.

Late on the evening of June 9 that year, three prisoners at Guantánamo died suddenly and violently. Salah Ahmed Al-Salami, from Yemen, was thirty-seven. Mani Shaman Al-Utaybi, from Saudi Arabia, was thirty. Yasser Talal Al-Zahrani, also from Saudi Arabia, was twenty-two, and had been imprisoned at Guantánamo since he was captured at the age of seventeen. None of the men had been charged with a crime, though all three had been engaged in hunger strikes to protest the conditions of their imprisonment. They were being held in a cell block, known as Alpha Block, reserved for particularly troublesome or high-value prisoners.

As news of the deaths emerged the following day, the camp quickly went into lockdown. The authorities ordered nearly all the reporters at Guantánamo to leave and those en route to turn back. The commander at Guantánamo, Rear Admiral Harry Harris, then declared the deaths “suicides.” In an unusual move, he also used the announcement to attack the dead men. “I believe this was not an act of desperation,” he said, “but an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us.” Reporters accepted the official account, and even lawyers for the prisoners appeared to believe that they had killed themselves. Only the prisoners’ families in Saudi Arabia and Yemen rejected the notion.

Two years later, the U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service, which has primary investigative jurisdiction within the naval base, issued a report supporting the account originally advanced by Harris, now a vice-admiral in command of the Sixth Fleet. The Pentagon declined to make the NCIS report public, and only when pressed with Freedom of Information Act demands did it disclose parts of the report, some 1,700 pages of documents so heavily redacted as to be nearly incomprehensible. The NCIS documents were carefully cross-referenced and deciphered by students and faculty at the law school of Seton Hall University in New Jersey, and their findings, released in November 2009, made clear why the Pentagon had been unwilling to make its conclusions public. The official story of the prisoners’ deaths was full of unacknowledged contradictions, and the centerpiece of the report—a reconstruction of the events—was simply unbelievable.

According to the NCIS documents, each prisoner had fashioned a noose from torn sheets and T-shirts and tied it to the top of his cell’s eight-foot-high steel-mesh wall. Each prisoner was able somehow to bind his own hands, and, in at least one case, his own feet, then stuff more rags deep down into his own throat. We are then asked to believe that each prisoner, even as he was choking on those rags, climbed up on his washbasin, slipped his head through the noose, tightened it, and leapt from the washbasin to hang until he asphyxiated. The NCIS report also proposes that the three prisoners, who were held in non-adjoining cells, carried out each of these actions almost simultaneously.

Al-Zahrani, according to the documents, was discovered first, at 12:39 a.m., and taken by several Alpha Block guards to the camp’s detention medical clinic. No doctors could be found there, nor the phone number for one, so a clinic staffer dialed 911. During this time, other guards discovered Al-Utaybi. Still others discovered Al-Salami a few minutes later. Although rigor mortis had already set in—indicating that the men had been dead for at least two hours—the NCIS report claims that an unnamed medical officer attempted to resuscitate one of the men, and, in attempting to pry open his jaw, broke his teeth.

The fact that at least two of the prisoners also had cloth masks affixed to their faces, presumably to prevent the expulsion of the rags from their mouths, went unremarked by the NCIS, as did the fact that standard operating procedure at Camp Delta required the Navy guards on duty after midnight to “conduct a visual search” of each cell and detainee every ten minutes. The report claimed that the prisoners had hung sheets or blankets to hide their activities and shaped more sheets and pillows to look like bodies sleeping in their beds, but it did not explain where they were able to acquire so much fabric beyond their tightly controlled allotment, or why the Navy guards would allow such an obvious and immediately observable deviation from permitted behavior. Nor did the report explain how the dead men managed to hang undetected for more than two hours or why the Navy guards on duty, having for whatever reason so grievously failed in their duties, were never disciplined.

A separate report, the result of an “informal investigation” initiated by Admiral Harris, found that standard operating procedures were violated that night but concluded that disciplinary action was not warranted because of the “generally permissive environment” of the cell block and the numerous “concessions” that had been made with regard to the prisoners’ comfort, which “concessions” had resulted in a “general confusion by the guard and the JDG staff over many of the rules that applied to the guard force’s handling of the detainees.” According to Harris, even had standard operating procedures been followed, “it is possible that the detainees could have successfully committed suicide anyway.”

This is the official story, adopted by NCIS and Guantánamo command and reiterated by the Justice Department in formal pleadings, by the Defense Department in briefings and press releases, and by the State Department. Now four members of the Military Intelligence unit assigned to guard Camp Delta, including a decorated non-commissioned Army officer who was on duty as sergeant of the guard the night of June 9, have furnished an account dramatically at odds with the NCIS report—a report for which they were neither interviewed nor approached.

All four soldiers say they were ordered by their commanding officer not to speak out, and all four soldiers provide evidence that authorities initiated a cover-up within hours of the prisoners’ deaths. Army Staff Sergeant Joseph Hickman and men under his supervision have disclosed evidence in interviews with Harper’s Magazine that strongly suggests the three prisoners who died on June 9 had been transported to another location prior to their deaths. The guards’ accounts also reveal the existence of a previously unreported black site at Guantánamo where the deaths, or at least the events that led directly to the deaths, most likely occurred.

[Image] 

Satellite photograph from Terraserver.

2. “Camp No”

The soldiers of the Maryland-based 629th Military Intelligence Battalion arrived at Guantánamo Naval Base in March 2006, assigned to provide security to Camp America, the sector of the base containing the five individual prison compounds that house the prisoners. Camp Delta was at the time the largest of these compounds, and within its walls were four smaller camps, numbered 1 through 4, which in turn were divided into cell blocks. Life at Camp America, as at all prisons, was and remains rigorously routinized for both prisoners and their jailers. Navy guards patrol the cell blocks and Army personnel control the exterior areas of the camp. All observed incidents must be logged. For the Army guards who man the towers and “sally ports” (access points), knowing who enters and leaves the camp, and exactly when, is the essence of their mission.

One of the new guards who arrived that March was Joe Hickman, then a sergeant. Hickman grew up in Baltimore and joined the Marines in 1983, at the age of nineteen. When I interviewed him in January at his home in Wisconsin, he told me he had been inspired to enlist by Ronald Reagan, “the greatest president we’ve ever had.” He worked in a military intelligence unit and was eventually tapped for Reagan’s Presidential Guard detail, an assignment reserved for model soldiers. When his four years were up, Hickman returned home, where he worked a series of security jobs—prison transport, executive protection, and eventually private investigations. After September 11 he decided to re-enlist, at thirty-seven, this time in the Army National Guard.

Hickman deployed to Guantánamo with his friend Specialist Tony Davila, who grew up outside Washington, D.C., and who had himself been a private investigator. When they arrived at Camp Delta, Davila told me, soldiers from the California National Guard unit they were relieving introduced him to some of the curiosities of the base. The most noteworthy of these was an unnamed and officially unacknowledged compound nestled out of sight between two plateaus about a mile north of Camp Delta, just outside Camp America’s perimeter. One day, while on patrol, Hickman and Davila came across the compound. It looked like other camps within Camp America, Davila said, only it had no guard towers and it was surrounded by concertina wire. They saw no activity, but Hickman guessed the place could house as many as eighty prisoners. One part of the compound, he said, had the same appearance as the interrogation centers at other prison camps.

The compound was not visible from the main road, and the access road was chained off. The Guardsman who told Davila about the compound had said, “This place does not exist,” and Hickman, who was frequently put in charge of security for all of Camp America, was not briefed about the site. Nevertheless, Davila said, other soldiers—many of whom were required to patrol the outside perimeter of Camp America—had seen the compound, and many speculated about its purpose. One theory was that it was being used by some of the non-uniformed government personnel who frequently showed up in the camps and were widely thought to be CIA agents.

A friend of Hickman’s had nicknamed the compound “Camp No,” the idea being that anyone who asked if it existed would be told, “No, it doesn’t.” He and Davila made a point of stopping by whenever they had the chance; once, Hickman said, he heard a “series of screams” from within the compound.

Hickman and his men also discovered that there were odd exceptions to their duties. Army guards were charged with searching and logging every vehicle that passed into and out of Camp Delta. “When John McCain came to the camp, he had to be logged in.” However, Hickman was instructed to make no record whatsoever of the movements of one vehicle in particular—a white van, dubbed the “paddy wagon,” that Navy guards used to transport heavily manacled prisoners, one at a time, into and out of Camp Delta. The van had no rear windows and contained a dog cage large enough to hold a single prisoner. Navy drivers, Hickman came to understand, would let the guards know they had a prisoner in the van by saying they were “delivering a pizza.”

The paddy wagon was used to transport prisoners to medical facilities and to meetings with their lawyers. But as Hickman monitored the paddy wagon’s movements from the guard tower at Camp Delta, he frequently saw it follow an unexpected route. When the van reached the first intersection to the east, instead of heading right—toward the other camps or toward one of the buildings where prisoners could meet with their lawyers—it made a left. In that direction, past the perimeter checkpoint known as ACP Roosevelt, there were only two destinations. One was a beach where soldiers went to swim. The other was Camp No.

3. “Lit up”

The night the prisoners died, Hickman was on duty as sergeant of the guard for Camp America’s exterior security force. When his twelve-hour shift began, at 6 p.m., he climbed the ladder to Tower 1, which stood twenty feet above Sally Port 1, the main entrance to Camp Delta. From there he had an excellent view of the camp, and much of the exterior perimeter as well. Later he would make his rounds.

Shortly after his shift began, Hickman noticed that someone had parked the paddy wagon near Camp 1, which houses Alpha Block. A moment later, two Navy guards emerged from Camp 1, escorting a prisoner. They put the prisoner into the back of the van and then left the camp through Sally Port 1, just below Hickman. He was under standing orders not to search the paddy wagon, so he just watched it as it headed east. He assumed the guards and their charge were bound for one of the other prison camps southeast of Camp Delta. But when the van reached the first intersection, instead of making a right, toward the other camps, it made the left, toward ACP Roosevelt and Camp No.

Twenty minutes later—about the amount of time needed for the trip to Camp No and back—the paddy wagon returned. This time Hickman paid closer attention. He couldn’t see the Navy guards’ faces, but from body size and uniform they appeared to be the same men.

The guards walked into Camp 1 and soon emerged with another prisoner. They departed Camp America, again in the direction of Camp No. Twenty minutes later, the van returned. Hickman, his curiosity piqued by the unusual flurry of activity and guessing that the guards might make another excursion, left Tower 1 and drove the three quarters of a mile to ACP Roosevelt to see exactly where the paddy wagon was headed. Shortly thereafter, the van passed through the checkpoint for the third time and then went another hundred yards, whereupon it turned toward Camp No, eliminating any question in Hickman’s mind about where it was going. All three prisoners would have reached their destination before 8 p.m.

Hickman says he saw nothing more of note until about 11:30 p.m, when he had returned to his preferred vantage at Tower 1. As he watched, the paddy wagon returned to Camp Delta. This time, however, the Navy guards did not get out of the van to enter Camp 1. Instead, they backed the vehicle up to the entrance of the medical clinic, as if to unload something.

At approximately 11:45 p.m.—nearly an hour before the NCIS claims the first body was discovered—Army Specialist Christopher Penvose, preparing for a midnight shift in Tower 1, was approached by a senior Navy NCO. Penvose told me that the NCO—who, following standard operating procedures, wore no name tag—appeared to be extremely agitated. He instructed Penvose to go immediately to the Camp Delta chow hall, identify a female senior petty officer who would be dining there, and relay to her a specific code word. Penvose did as he was instructed. The petty officer leapt up from her seat and immediately ran out of the chow hall.

Another thirty minutes passed. Then, as Hickman and Penvose both recall, Camp Delta suddenly “lit up”—stadium-style flood lights were turned on, and the camp became the scene of frenzied activity, filling with personnel in and out of uniform. Hickman headed to the clinic, which appeared to be the center of activity, to learn the reason for the commotion. He asked a distraught medical corpsman what had happened. She said three dead prisoners had been delivered to the clinic. Hickman recalled her saying that they had died because they had rags stuffed down their throats, and that one of them was severely bruised. Davila told me he spoke to Navy guards who said the men had died as the result of having rags stuffed down their throats.

Hickman was concerned that such a serious incident could have occurred in Camp 1 on his watch. He asked his tower guards what they had seen. Penvose, from his position at Tower 1, had an unobstructed view of the walkway between Camp 1 and the medical clinic—the path by which any prisoners who died at Camp 1 would be delivered to the clinic. Penvose told Hickman, and later confirmed to me, that he saw no prisoners being moved from Camp 1 to the clinic. In Tower 4 (it should be noted that Army and Navy guard-tower designations differ), another Army specialist, David Caroll, was forty-five yards from Alpha Block, the cell block within Camp 1 that had housed the three dead men. He also had an unobstructed view of the alleyway that connected the cell block itself to the clinic. He likewise reported to Hickman, and confirmed to me, that he had seen no prisoners transferred to the clinic that night, dead or alive.

4. “He Could Not Cry out”

The fate of a fourth prisoner, a forty-two-year-old Saudi Arabian named Shaker Aamer, may be related to that of the three prisoners who died on June 9. Aamer is married to a British woman and was in the process of becoming a British subject when he was captured in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, in 2001. United States authorities insist that he carried a gun and served Osama bin Laden as an interpreter. Aamer denies this. At Guantánamo, Aamer’s fluency in English soon allowed him to play an important role in camp politics. According to both Aamer’s attorney and press accounts furnished by Army Colonel Michael Bumgarner, the Camp America commander, Aamer cooperated closely with Bumgarner in efforts to bring a 2005 hunger strike to an end. He persuaded several prisoners to break their strike for a while, but the settlement collapsed and soon afterward Aamer was sent to solitary confinement. Then, on the night the prisoners from Alpha Block died, Aamer says he himself was the victim of an act of striking brutality.

He described the events in detail to his lawyer, Zachary Katznelson, who was permitted to speak to him several weeks later. Katznelson recorded every detail of Aamer’s account and filed an affidavit with the federal district court in Washington, setting it out:

On June 9th, 2006, [Aamer] was beaten for two and a half hours straight. Seven naval military police participated in his beating. Mr. Aamer stated he had refused to provide a retina scan and fingerprints. He reported to me that he was strapped to a chair, fully restrained at the head, arms and legs. The MPs inflicted so much pain, Mr. Aamer said he thought he was going to die. The MPs pressed on pressure points all over his body: his temples, just under his jawline, in the hollow beneath his ears. They choked him. They bent his nose repeatedly so hard to the side he thought it would break. They pinched his thighs and feet constantly. They gouged his eyes. They held his eyes open and shined a mag-lite in them for minutes on end, generating intense heat. They bent his fingers until he screamed. When he screamed, they cut off his airway, then put a mask on him so he could not cry out.

The treatment Aamer describes is noteworthy because it produces excruciating pain without leaving lasting marks. Still, the fact that Aamer had his airway cut off and a mask put over his face “so he could not cry out” is alarming. This is the same technique that appears to have been used on the three deceased prisoners.

The United Kingdom has pressed aggressively for the return of British subjects and persons of interest. Every individual requested by the British has been turned over, with one exception: Shaker Aamer. In denying this request, U.S. authorities have cited unelaborated “security” concerns. There is no suggestion that the Americans intend to charge him before a military commission, or in a federal criminal court, and, indeed, they have no meaningful evidence linking him to any crime. American authorities may be concerned that Aamer, if released, could provide evidence against them in criminal investigations. This evidence would include what he experienced on June 9, 2006, and during his 2002 detention in Afghanistan at Bagram Airfield, where he says he was subjected to a procedure in which his head was smashed repeatedly against a wall. This torture technique, called “walling” in CIA documents, was expressly approved at a later date by the Department of Justice.

5. “You All Know”

By dawn, the news had circulated through Camp America that three prisoners had committed suicide by swallowing rags. Colonel Bumgarner called a meeting of the guards, and at 7:00 a.m. at least fifty soldiers and sailors gathered at Camp America’s open-air theater.

Bumgarner was known as an eccentric commander. Hickman marveled, for instance, at the colonel’s insistence that his staff line up and salute him, to music selections that included Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and the reggae hit “Bad Boys,” as he entered the command center. This morning, however, Hickman thought Bumgarner seemed unusually nervous and clipped.

According to independent interviews with soldiers who witnessed the speech, Bumgarner told his audience that “you all know” three prisoners in the Alpha Block at Camp 1 committed suicide during the night by swallowing rags, causing them to choke to death. This was a surprise to no one—even servicemen who had not worked the night before had heard about the rags. But then Bumgarner told those assembled that the media would report something different. It would report that the three prisoners had committed suicide by hanging themselves in their cells. It was important, he said, that servicemen make no comments or suggestions that in any way undermined the official report. He reminded the soldiers and sailors that their phone and email communications were being monitored. The meeting lasted no more than twenty minutes. (Bumgarner has not responded to requests for comment.)

That evening, Bumgarner’s boss, Admiral Harris, read a statement to reporters:

An alert, professional guard noticed something out of the ordinary in the cell of one of the detainees. The guard’s response was swift and professional to secure the area and check on the status of the detainee. When it was apparent that the detainee had hung himself, the guard force and medical teams reacted quickly to attempt to save the detainee’s life. The detainee was unresponsive and not breathing. [The] guard force began to check on the health and welfare of other detainees. Two detainees in their cells had also hung themselves.

When he finished praising the guards and the medics, Harris—in a notable departure from traditional military decorum—launched his attack on the men who had died on his watch. “They have no regard for human life,” Harris said, “neither ours nor their own.” A Pentagon press release issued soon after described the dead men, who had been accused of no crime, as Al Qaeda or Taliban operatives. Lieutenant Commander Jeffrey Gordon, the Pentagon’s chief press officer, went still further, telling the Guardian’s David Rose, “These guys were fanatics like the Nazis, Hitlerites, or the Ku Klux Klan, the people they tried at Nuremberg.” The Pentagon was not the only U.S. government agency to participate in the assault. Colleen Graffy, a deputy assistant secretary of state, told the BBC that “taking their own lives was not necessary, but it certainly is a good P.R. move.”

The same day the three prisoners died, Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly completed a reporting trip to the naval base, where, according to his account on The O’Reilly Factor, the Joint Army Navy Task Force “granted the Factor near total access to the prison.” Although the Pentagon began turning away reporters after news of the deaths had emerged, two reporters from the Charlotte Observer, Michael Gordon and photographer Todd Sumlin, had arrived that morning to work on a profile of Bumgarner, and the colonel invited them to shadow him as he dealt with the crisis. A Pentagon spokesman later told the Observer it had been expecting a “puff piece,” which is why, according to the Observer, “Bumgarner and his superiors on the base” had given them permission to remain.

Bumgarner quickly returned to his theatrical ways. As Gordon reported in the June 13, 2006, issue of the Observer, the colonel seemed to enjoy putting on a show. “Right now, we are at ground zero,” Bumgarner told his officer staff during a June 12 meeting. Referring to the naval base’s prisoners, he said, “There is not a trustworthy son of a bitch in the entire bunch.” In the same article, Gordon also noted what he had learned about the deaths. The suicides had occurred “in three cells on the same block,” he reported. The prisoners had “hanged themselves with strips of knotted cloth taken from clothing and sheets,” after shaping their pillows and blankets to look like sleeping bodies. “And Bumgarner said,” Gordon reported, “each had a ball of cloth in their mouth either for choking or muffling their voices.”

Something about Bumgarner’s Observer interview seemed to have set off an alarm far up the chain of command. No sooner was Gordon’s story in print than Bumgarner was called to Admiral Harris’s office. As Bumgarner would tell Gordon in a follow-up profile three months later, Harris was holding up a copy of the Observer: “This,” said the admiral to Bumgarner, “could get me relieved.” (Harris did not respond to requests for comment.) That same day, an investigation was launched to determine whether classified information had been leaked from Guantánamo. Bumgarner was suspended.

Less than a week after the appearance of the Observer stories, Davila and Hickman each heard separately from friends in the Navy and in the military police that FBI agents had raided the colonel’s quarters. The MPs understood from their FBI contacts that there was concern over the possibility that Bumgarner had taken home some classified materials and was planning to share them with the media or to use them in writing a book.

On June 27, two weeks later, Gordon’s Observer colleague Scott Dodd reported: “A brigadier general determined that ‘unclassified sensitive information’ was revealed to the public in the days after the June 10 suicides.” Harris, according to the article, had already ordered “appropriate administrative action.” Bumgarner soon left Guantánamo for a new post in Missouri. He now serves as an ROTC instructor at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.

Bumgarner’s comments appear to be at odds with the official Pentagon narrative on only one point: that the deaths had involved cloth being stuffed into the prisoners’ mouths. The involvement of the FBI suggested that more was at issue.

6. “An Unmistakable Message”

On June 10, NCIS investigators began interviewing the Navy guards in charge of Alpha Block, but after the Pentagon committed itself to the suicide narrative, they appear to have stopped. On June 14, the interviews resumed, and the NCIS informed at least six Navy guards that they were suspected of making false statements or failing to obey direct orders. No disciplinary action ever followed.

The investigators conducted interviews with guards, medics, prisoners, and officers. As the Seton Hall researchers note, however, nothing in the NCIS report suggests that the investigators secured or reviewed the duty roster, the prisoner-transfer book, the pass-on book, the records of phone and radio communications, or footage from the camera that continuously monitored activity in the hallways, all of which could have helped them authoritatively reconstruct the events of that evening.

The NCIS did, however, move swiftly to seize every piece of paper possessed by every single prisoner in Camp America, some 1,065 pounds of material, much of it privileged attorney-client correspondence. Several weeks later, authorities sought an after-the-fact justification. The Justice Department—bolstered by sworn statements from Admiral Harris and from Carol Kisthardt, the special agent in charge of the NCIS investigation—claimed in a U.S. district court that the seizure was appropriate because there had been a conspiracy among the prisoners to commit suicide. Justice further claimed that investigators had found suicide notes and argued that the attorney-client materials were being used to pass communications among the prisoners.

David Remes, a lawyer who opposed the Justice Department’s efforts, explained the practical effect of the government’s maneuvers. The seizure, he said, “sent an unmistakable message to the prisoners that they could not expect their communications with their lawyers to remain confidential. The Justice Department defended the massive breach of the attorney-client privilege on the account of the deaths on June 9 and the asserted need to investigate them.”

If the “suicides” were a form of warfare between the prisoners and the Bush Administration, as Admiral Harris charged, it was the latter that quickly turned the war to its advantage.

7. “Yasser Couldn’t Even Make a Sandwich!”

When I asked Talal Al-Zahrani what he thought had happened to his son, he was direct. “They snatched my seventeen-year-old son for a bounty payment,” he said. “They took him to Guantánamo and held him prisoner for five years. They tortured him. Then they killed him and returned him to me in a box, cut up.”

Al-Zahrani was a brigadier general in the Saudi police. He dismissed the Pentagon’s claims, as well as the investigation that supported them. Yasser, he said, was a young man who loved to play soccer and didn’t care for politics. The Pentagon claimed that Yasser’s frontline battle experience came from his having been a cook in a Taliban camp. Al-Zahrani said that this was preposterous: “A cook? Yasser couldn’t even make a sandwich!”

“Yasser wasn’t guilty of anything,” Al-Zahrani said. “He knew that. He firmly believed he would be heading home soon. Why would he commit suicide?” The evidence supports this argument. Hyperbolic U.S. government statements at the time of Yasser Al-Zahrani’s death masked the fact that his case had been reviewed and that he was, in fact, on a list of prisoners to be sent home. I had shown Al-Zahrani the letter that the government says was Yasser’s suicide note and asked him whether he recognized his son’s handwriting. He had never seen the note before, he answered, and no U.S. official had ever asked him about it. After studying the note carefully, he said, “This is a forgery.”

Also returned to Saudi Arabia was the body of Mani Al-Utaybi. Orphaned in his youth, Mani grew up in his uncle’s home in the small town of Dawadmi. I spoke to one of the many cousins who shared that home, Faris Al-Utaybi. Mani, said Faris, had gone to Baluchistan—a rural, tribal area that straddles Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan—to do humanitarian work, and someone there had sold him to the Americans for $5,000. He said that Mani was a peaceful man who would harm no one. Indeed, U.S. authorities had decided to release Al-Utaybi and return him to Saudi Arabia. When he died, he was just a few weeks shy of his transfer.

Salah Al-Salami was seized in March 2002, when Pakistani authorities raided a residence in Karachi believed to have been used as a safe house by Abu Zubaydah and took into custody all who were living there at the time. A Yemeni, Al-Salami had quit his job and moved to Pakistan with only $400 in his pocket. The U.S. suspicions against him rested almost entirely on the fact that he had taken lodgings, with other students, in a boarding house that terrorists might at one point have used. There was no direct evidence linking him either to Al Qaeda or to the Taliban. On August 22, 2008, the Washington Post quoted from a previously secret review of his case: “There is no credible information to suggest [Al-Salami] received terrorist related training or is a member of the Al Qaeda network.” All that stood in the way of Al-Salami’s release from Guantánamo were difficult diplomatic relations between the United States and Yemen.

8. “The Removal of the Neck Organs”

Military pathologists connected with the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology arranged immediate autopsies of the three dead prisoners, without securing the permission of the men’s families. The identities and findings of the pathologists remain shrouded in extraordinary secrecy, but the timing of the autopsies suggests that medical personnel stationed at Guantánamo may have undertaken the procedure without waiting for the arrival of an experienced medical examiner from the United States. Each of the heavily redacted autopsy reports states unequivocally that “the manner of death is suicide” and, more specifically, that the prisoner died of “hanging.” Each of the reports describes ligatures that were found wrapped around the prisoner’s neck, as well as circumferential dried abrasion furrows imprinted with the very fine weave pattern of the ligature fabric and forming an inverted “V” on the back of the head. This condition, the anonymous pathologists state, is consistent with that of a hanging victim.

The pathologists place the time of death “at least a couple of hours” before the bodies were discovered, which would be sometime before 10:30 p.m. on June 9. Additionally, the autopsy of Al-Salami states that his hyoid bone was broken, a phenomenon usually associated with manual strangulation, not hanging.

The report asserts that the hyoid was broken “during the removal of the neck organs.” An odd admission, given that these are the very body parts—the larynx, the hyoid bone, and the thyroid cartilage—that would have been essential to determining whether death occurred from hanging, from strangulation, or from choking. These parts remained missing when the men’s families finally received their bodies.

All the families requested independent autopsies. The Saudi prisoners were examined by Saeed Al-Ghamdy, a pathologist based in Saudi Arabia. Al-Salami, from Yemen, was inspected by Patrice Mangin, a pathologist based in Switzerland. Both pathologists noted the removal of the structure that would have been the natural focus of the autopsy: the throat. Both pathologists contacted the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, requesting the missing body parts and more information about the previous autopsies. The institute did not respond to their requests or queries. (It also did not respond to a series of calls I placed requesting information and comment.)

When Al-Zahrani viewed his son’s corpse, he saw evidence of a homicide. “There was a major blow to the head on the right side,” he said. “There was evidence of torture on the upper torso, and on the palms of his hand. There were needle marks on his right arm and on his left arm.” None of these details are noted in the U.S. autopsy report. “I am a law enforcement professional,” Al-Zahrani said. “I know what to look for when examining a body.”

Mangin, for his part, expressed particular concern about Al-Salami’s mouth and throat, where he saw “a blunt trauma carried out against the oral region.” The U.S. autopsy report mentions an effort at resuscitation, but this, in Mangin’s view, did not explain the severity of the injuries. He also noted that some of the marks on the neck were not those he would normally associate with hanging.

9. “I Know Some Things You Don’t”

Sergeant Joe Hickman’s tour of duty, which ended in March 2007, was distinguished: he was selected as Guantánamo’s “NCO of the Quarter” and was given a commendation medal. When he returned to the United States, he was promoted to staff sergeant and worked in Maryland as an Army recruiter before eventually settling in Wisconsin. But he could not forget what he had seen at Guantánamo. When Barack Obama became president, Hickman decided to act. “I thought that with a new administration and new ideas I could actually come forward, ” he said. “It was haunting me.”

Hickman had seen a 2006 report from Seton Hall University Law School dealing with the deaths of the three prisoners, and he followed their subsequent work. After Obama was inaugurated in January 2009, he called Mark Denbeaux, the professor who had led the Seton Hall team. “I learned something from your report,” he said, “but I know some things you don’t.”

Within two days, Hickman was in Newark, meeting with Denbeaux. Also at the meeting was Denbeaux’s son and sometime co-editor, Josh, a private attorney. Josh Denbeaux agreed to represent Hickman, who was concerned that he could go to prison if he disobeyed Colonel Bumgarner’s order not to speak out, even if that order was itself illegal. Hickman did not want to speak to the press. On the other hand, he felt that “silence was just wrong.”

The two lawyers quickly made arrangements for Hickman to speak instead with authorities in Washington, D.C. On February 2, they had meetings on Capitol Hill and with the Department of Justice. The meeting with Justice was an odd one. The father-and-son legal team were met by Rita Glavin, the acting head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; John Morton, who was soon to become an assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security; and Steven Fagell, counselor to the head of the Criminal Division. Fagell had been, along with the new attorney general, Eric Holder, a partner at the elite Washington law firm of Covington & Burling, and was widely viewed as “Holder’s eyes” in the Criminal Division.

For more than an hour, the two lawyers described what Hickman had seen: the existence of Camp No, the transportation of the three prisoners, the van’s arrival at the medical clinic, the lack of evidence that any bodies had ever been removed from Alpha Block, and so on. The officials listened intently and asked many questions. The Denbeauxes said they could provide a list of witnesses who would corroborate every aspect of their account. At the end of the meeting, Mark Denbeaux recalled, the officials specifically thanked the lawyers for not speaking to reporters first and for “doing it the right way.”

Two days later, another Justice Department official, Teresa McHenry, head of the Criminal Division’s Domestic Security Section, called Mark Denbeaux and said that she was heading up an investigation and wanted to meet directly with his client. She went to New Jersey to do so. Hickman then reviewed the basic facts and furnished McHenry with the promised list of corroborating witnesses and details on how they could be contacted.

The Denbeauxes did not hear from anyone at the Justice Department for at least two months. Then, in April, an FBI agent called to say she did not have the list of contacts. She asked if this document could be provided again. It was. Shortly thereafter, Fagell a Justice official [see update] and two FBI agents interviewed Davila, who had left the Army, in Columbia, South Carolina. Fagell The official asked Davila if he was prepared to travel to Guantánamo to identify the locations of various sites. He said he was. “It seemed like they were interested,” Davila told me. “Then I never heard from them again.”

Several more months passed, and Hickman and his lawyers became increasingly concerned that nothing was going to happen. On October 27, 2009, they resumed dealings with Congress that they had initiated on February 2 and then broken off at the Justice Department’s request; they were also in contact with ABC News. Two days later, Teresa McHenry called Mark Denbeaux and asked whether he had gone to Congress and ABC News about the matter. “I said that I had,” Denbeaux told me. He asked her, “Was there anything wrong with that?” McHenry then suggested that the investigation was finished. Denbeaux reminded her that she had yet to interview some of the corroborating witnesses. “There are a few small things to do,” Denbeaux says McHenry answered. “Then it will be finished.”

Specialist Christopher Penvose told me that on October 30, the day following the conversation between Mark Denbeaux and Teresa McHenry, McHenry an official [see update] showed up at Penvose’s home in south Baltimore with some FBI agents. She had a “few questions,” she told him. Investigators working with her soon contacted two other witnesses.

On November 2, 2009, McHenry called Mark Denbeaux to tell him that the Justice Department’s investigation was being closed. “It was a strange conversation,” Denbeaux recalled. McHenry explained that “the gist of Sergeant Hickman’s information could not be confirmed.” But when Denbeaux asked what that “gist” actually was, McHenry declined to say. She just reiterated that Hickman’s conclusions “appeared” to be unsupported. Denbeaux asked what conclusions exactly were unsupported. McHenry refused to say.

10. “They Accomplished Nothing”

One of the most intriguing aspects of this case concerns the use of Camp No. Under George W. Bush, the CIA created an archipelago of secret detention centers that spanned the globe, and authorities at these sites deployed an array of Justice Department–sanctioned torture techniques—including waterboarding, which often entails inserting cloth into the subject’s mouth—on prisoners they deemed to be involved in terrorism. The presence of a black site at Guantánamo has long been a subject of speculation among lawyers and human-rights activists, and the experience of Sergeant Hickman and other Guantánamo guards compels us to ask whether the three prisoners who died on June 9 were being interrogated by the CIA, and whether their deaths resulted from the grueling techniques the Justice Department had approved for the agency’s use—or from other tortures lacking that sanction.

Complicating these questions is the fact that Camp No might have been controlled by another authority, the Joint Special Operations Command, which Bush’s defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, had hoped to transform into a Pentagon version of the CIA. Under Rumsfeld’s direction, JSOC began to take on many tasks traditionally handled by the CIA, including the housing and interrogation of prisoners at black sites around the world. The Pentagon recently acknowledged the existence of one such JSOC black site, located at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, and other suspected sites, such as Camp Nama in Baghdad, have been carefully documented by human-rights researchers.

In a Senate Armed Services Committee report on torture released last year, the sections about Guantánamo were significantly redacted. The position and circumstances of these deletions point to a significant JSOC interrogation program at the base. (It should be noted that Obama’s order last year to close other secret detention camps was narrowly worded to apply only to the CIA.)

Regardless of whether Camp No belonged to the CIA or JSOC, the Justice Department has plenty of its own secrets to protect. The department would seem to have been involved in the cover-up from the first days, when FBI agents stormed Colonel Bumgarner’s quarters. This was unusual for two reasons. When Pentagon officials engage in a leak investigation, they generally use military investigators. They rarely turn to the FBI, because they cannot control the actions of a civilian agency. Moreover, when the FBI does open an investigation, it nearly always does so with great discretion. The Bumgarner investigation was widely telegraphed, though, and seemed intended to send a message to the military personnel at Camp Delta: Talk about what happened at your own risk. All of which suggests it was not the Pentagon so much as the White House that hoped to suppress the truth.

In the weeks following the 2006 deaths, the Justice Department decided to use the suicide narrative as leverage against the Guantánamo prisoners and their troublesome lawyers, who were pressing the government to justify its long-term imprisonment of their clients. After the NCIS seized thousands of pages of privileged communications, the Justice Department went to court to defend the action. It argued that such steps were warranted by the extraordinary facts surrounding the June 9 “suicides.” U.S. District Court Judge James Robertson gave the Justice Department a sympathetic hearing, and he ruled in its favor, but he also noted a curious aspect of the government’s presentation: its “citations supporting the fact of the suicides” were all drawn from media accounts. Why had the Justice Department lawyers who argued the case gone to such lengths to avoid making any statement under oath about the suicides? Did they do so in order to deceive the court? If so, they could face disciplinary proceedings or disbarment.

The Justice Department also faces questions about its larger role in creating the circumstances that led to the use of so-called enhanced interrogation and restraint techniques at Guantánamo and elsewhere. In 2006, the use of a gagging restraint had already been connected to the death on January 9, 2004, of an Iraqi prisoner, Lieutenant Colonel Abdul Jameel, in the custody of the Army Special Forces. And the bodies of the three men who died at Guantánamo showed signs of torture, including hemorrhages, needle marks, and significant bruising. The removal of their throats made it difficult to determine whether they were already dead when their bodies were suspended by a noose. The Justice Department itself had been deeply involved in the process of approving and setting the conditions for the use of torture techniques, issuing a long series of memoranda that CIA agents and others could use to defend themselves against any subsequent criminal prosecution.

Teresa McHenry, the investigator charged with accounting for the deaths of the three men at Guantánamo, has firsthand knowledge of the Justice Department’s role in auditing such techniques, having served at the Justice Department under Bush and having participated in the preparation of at least one of those memos. As a former war-crimes prosecutor, McHenry knows full well that government officials who attempt to cover up crimes perpetrated against prisoners in wartime face prosecution under the doctrine of command responsibility. (McHenry declined to clarify the role she played in drafting the memos.)

As retired Rear Admiral John Hutson, the former judge advocate general of the Navy, told me, “Filing false reports and making false statements is bad enough, but if a homicide occurs and officials up the chain of command attempt to cover it up, they face serious criminal liability. They may even be viewed as accessories after the fact in the original crime.” With command authority comes command responsibility, he said. “If the heart of the military is obeying orders down the chain of command, then its soul is accountability up the chain. You can’t demand the former without the latter.”

The Justice Department thus faced a dilemma; it could do the politically convenient thing, which was to find no justification for a thorough investigation, leave the NCIS conclusions in place, and hope that the public and the news media would obey the Obama Administration’s dictum to “look forward, not backward”; or it could pursue a course of action that would implicate the Bush Justice Department in a cover-up of possible homicides.

Nearly 200 men remain imprisoned at Guantánamo. In June 2009, six months after Barack Obama took office, one of them, a thirty-one-year-old Yemeni named Muhammed Abdallah Salih, was found dead in his cell. The exact circumstances of his death, like those of the deaths of the three men from Alpha Block, remain uncertain. Those charged with accounting for what happened—the prison command, the civilian and military investigative agencies, the Justice Department, and ultimately the attorney general himself—all face a choice between the rule of law and the expedience of political silence. Thus far, their choice has been unanimous.

Not everyone who is involved in this matter views it from a political perspective, of course. General Al-Zahrani grieves for his son, but at the end of a lengthy interview he paused and his thoughts turned elsewhere. “The truth is what matters,” he said. “They practiced every form of torture on my son and on many others as well. What was the result? What facts did they find? They found nothing. They learned nothing. They accomplished nothing.”

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Murders at Guantanamo:

Exposing the Truth about the 2006 ‘Suicides’

By Andy Worthington
The Public Record
Jan 18th, 2010

It’s hard to know where to begin with this profoundly important story by Scott Horton, for next month’sHarper’s Magazine (available on the web here), but let’s try this: The three “suicides” at Guantánamo in June 2006 were not suicides at all. The men in question were killed during interrogations in a secretive block in Guantánamo, conducted by an unknown agency, and the murders were then disguised to look like suicides. Everyone at Guantánamo knew about it. Everyone covered it up. Everyone is still covering it up.

Establishing a case for murder — and the disclosure of a secret prison at Guantánamo

The key to the discovery of the murder of the three men — 37-year old Salah Ahmed al-Salami, a Yemeni, 30-year old Mani Shaman al-Utaybi, a Saudi, and 22-year old Yasser Talal al-Zahrani (photo, left), a Saudi who was just 17 when he was captured — is Army Staff Sgt. Joe Hickman, a former Marine who reenlisted in the Army National Guard after the 9/11 attacks, and was deployed to Guantánamo in March 2006, with his friend, Specialist Tony Davila. On arrival, Davila was briefed about the existence of “an unnamed and officially unacknowledged compound,” outside the perimeter fence of the main prison, and explained that one theory about it was that “it was being used by some of the non-uniformed government personnel who frequently showed up in the camps and were widely thought to be CIA agents.”

Hickman and Davila became fascinated by the compound — known to the soldiers as “Camp No” (as in, “No, it doesn’t exist”) — and Hickman was on duty in a tower on the prison’s perimeter on the night the three men died, when he noticed that “a white van, dubbed the ‘paddy wagon,’ that Navy guards used to transport heavily manacled prisoners, one at a time, into and out of Camp Delta, [which] had no rear windows and contained a dog cage large enough to hold a single prisoner,” had called three times at Camp 1, where the men were held, and had then taken them out to “Camp No.” All three were in “Camp No” by 8 pm.

At 11.30, the van returned, apparently dropping something off at the clinic, and within half an hour the whole prison “lit up.” As Horton explains:

Hickman headed to the clinic, which appeared to be the center of activity, to learn the reason for the commotion. He asked a distraught medical corpsman what had happened. She said three dead prisoners had been delivered to the clinic. Hickman recalled her saying that they had died because they had rags stuffed down their throats, and that one of them was severely bruised. Davila told me he spoke to Navy guards who said the men had died as the result of having rags stuffed down their throats.

As Horton also explains:

The presence of a black site at Guantánamo has long been a subject of speculation among lawyers and human-rights activists, and the experience of Sergeant Hickman and other Guantánamo guards compels us to ask whether the three prisoners who died on June 9 were being interrogated by the CIA, and whether their deaths resulted from the grueling techniques the Justice Department had approved for the agency’s use — or from other tortures lacking that sanction.

Complicating these questions is the fact that Camp No might have been controlled by another authority, the Joint Special Operations Command, which Bush’s defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, had hoped to transform into a Pentagon version of the CIA. Under Rumsfeld’s direction, JSOC began to take on many tasks traditionally handled by the CIA, including the housing and interrogation of prisoners at black sites around the world.

The construction of the “suicide” narrative, and the widespread cover-up

This is disturbing enough, of course, and should lead to robust calls for an independent inquiry, but the problem may be that almost every branch of the government appears to be implicated in the cover-up that followed the deaths.

As Horton describes it, an official “suicide” narrative was soon established, and widely accepted by the media, if not by former prisoners and the dead men’s families. With extraordinary cynicism, Rear Admiral Harry Harris, the commander at Guantánamo, not only declared the deaths “suicides,” but added, “I believe this was not an act of desperation, but an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us.” What was not mentioned were the rags stuffed into the prisoners’ mouths, even though this knowledge was widespread throughout the prison. Horton adds that when Col. Mike Bumgarner, the warden at Guantánamo, held a meeting the following morning, “the news had circulated through Camp America that three prisoners had committed suicide by swallowing rags.”

He also states:

According to independent interviews with soldiers who witnessed the speech, Bumgarner told his audience that “you all know” three prisoners in the Alpha Block at Camp 1 committed suicide during the night by swallowing rags, causing them to choke to death … But then Bumgarner told those assembled that the media would report something different. It would report that the three prisoners had committed suicide by hanging themselves in their cells. It was important, he said, that servicemen make no comments or suggestions that in any way undermined the official report. He reminded the soldiers and sailors that their phone and email communications were being monitored.

Despite being “on-message,” Bumgarner let slip to two visiting reporters from a US provincial newspaper — the only ones who were not immediately hustled off the base — that each of the men who had died “had a ball of cloth in their mouth either for choking or muffling their voices.” As punishment for straying off the script, Bumgarner was soon suspended, and had his office searched by the FBI.

Just as cynical were the authorities’ attempts to silence the prisoners and their attorneys. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), which was assigned to investigate the deaths, confiscated every single piece of paper in the possession of the prisoners, and, a few weeks later, “sought an after-the-fact justification.” As Horton explains:

The Justice Department — bolstered by sworn statements from Admiral Harris and from Carol Kisthardt, the special agent in charge of the NCIS investigation — claimed in court that the seizure was appropriate because there had been a conspiracy among the prisoners to commit suicide. [The] Justice [Department] further claimed that investigators had found suicide notes and argued that the attorney-client materials were being used to pass communications among the prisoners.

It is now apparent that the authorities were desperate to ensure that no word of the events of June 9 was disclosed from prisoners to their attorneys. As David Remes, the attorney for 16 Yemenis, explained, the effect of the seizure “sent an unmistakable message to the prisoners that they could not expect their communications with their lawyers to remain confidential,” but as part of its mission to blame attorneys for the deaths, the authorities went so far as to claim that Clive Stafford Smith, the director of the legal action charity Reprieve, had persuaded another prisoner, the British resident Shaker Aamer, to call for the deaths from his cell. Speaking to the BBC’s Newsnight in October 2006, Zachary Katznelson, an attorney at Reprieve, explained that he was told by one of his clients in Guantánamo in August 2006 that interrogators were trying to blame Stafford Smith, saying that “it was Clive’s idea, Clive’s brainchild, that people had to commit suicide to bring attention to the base and to then force the government to close it.”

As Horton reveals, far from being the mastermind of a triple suicide, Shaker Aamer was himself beaten severely on the night of the deaths. As I have explained inprevious articles, Aamer, an eloquent, charismatic man, who stood up relentlessly for the prisoners’ rights, was regarded as a leader within Guantánamo by both the prisoners and the prison authorities. Held in solitary confinement after the suppression of a short-lived Prisoners’ Council, convened in the summer of 2005, for which he was the Secretary, he was, nevertheless beaten severely for two and a half hours on the evening of June 9, around the same time that the three other men were in “Camp No.”

As Horton also notes:

The United Kingdom has pressed aggressively for the return of British subjects and persons of interest. Every individual requested by the British has been turned over, with one exception: Shaker Aamer. In denying this request, US authorities have cited unelaborated “security” concerns. There is no suggestion that the Americans intend to charge him before a military commission, or in a federal criminal court, and, indeed, they have no meaningful evidence linking him to any crime. American authorities may be concerned that Aamer, if released, could provide evidence against them in criminal investigations. This evidence would include what he experienced on June 9, 2006 …

In the years following the deaths in June 2006, every official response has been a whitewash. The NCIS reluctantly produced a report in August 2008, accompanied by a brief and unenlightening statement, which I discussed here, and in December 2009 the Seton Hall Law School produced a devastating analysis of the flawed report, which, as Scott Horton explains, “made clear why the Pentagon had been unwilling to make its conclusions public. The official story of the prisoners’ deaths was full of unacknowledged contradictions, and the centerpiece of the report — a reconstruction of the events — was simply unbelievable.”

As for the accounts of Sgt. Hickman and three other men (including Specialist Davila), Horton explains that they offered their accounts willingly and were not approached to do so. The trigger was Hickman, whose tour of duty ended in March 2007. As Horton describes it, however, “he could not forget what he had seen at Guantánamo. When Barack Obama became president, Hickman decided to act. ‘I thought that with a new administration and new ideas I could actually come forward,’ he said. ‘It was haunting me.’”

The cover-up continues

Hickman approached Mark Denbeaux of Seton Hall, and his son Josh (also a lawyer), and told his story, followed by the other three men. However, although the Denbeauxs approached the Justice Department, and had a meeting in February last year with Rita Glavin, the acting head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, John Morton, soon to be an assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security, and Steven Fagell, counselor to the head of the Criminal Division, little came of it. After hearing the whole sordid story, the officials thanked the Denbeauxs for “not speaking to reporters first and for ‘doing it the right way,’” and, two days later, Mark Denbeaux was called by Teresa McHenry, the head of the Criminal Division’s Domestic Security Section, who told him that she was starting an investigation and wanted to meet directly with Hickman.

Hickman met McHenry, and gave her the names and contact details of corroborating witnesses, but then the trail went cold. In April, “an FBI agent called to say she did not have the list of contacts” and “asked if this document could be provided again,” and soon after, Steven Fagell and two FBI agents interviewed Davila, who had left the Army, and asked him if he would travel to Guantánamo to identify the locations of various sites. “It seemed like they were interested,” Davila told Horton. “Then I never heard from them again.”

In late October, as Mark Denbeaux was preparing to unveil the Seton Hall report, there was brief communication with McHenry again, but on November 2, she called to say that the investigation was being closed:

“It was a strange conversation,” Denbeaux recalled. McHenry explained that “the gist of Sergeant Hickman’s information could not be confirmed.” But when Denbeaux asked what that “gist” actually was, McHenry declined to say. She just reiterated that Hickman’s conclusions “appeared” to be unsupported. Denbeaux asked what conclusions exactly were unsupported. McHenry refused to say.

Horton notes correctly that “the Justice Department has plenty of its own secrets to protect,” because it “would seem to have been involved in the cover-up from the first days, when FBI agents stormed Colonel Bumgarner’s quarters,” which was “unusual.” He also explains that, when the Justice Department sought court approval for the NCIS seizure of all the prisoners’ letters:

US District Court Judge James Robertson gave the Justice Department a sympathetic hearing, and he ruled in its favor, but he also noted a curious aspect of the government’s presentation: its “citations supporting the fact of the suicides” were all drawn from media accounts. Why had the Justice Department lawyers who argued the case gone to such lengths to avoid making any statement under oath about the suicides? Did they do so in order to deceive the court? If so, they could face disciplinary proceedings or disbarment.

In addition, Horton notes the role played by lawyers in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, who, of course, “had been deeply involved in the process of approving and setting the conditions for the use of torture techniques, issuing a long series of memoranda [widely known as the ‘torture memos’] that CIA agents and others could use to defend themselves against any subsequent criminal prosecution.” Pointing a finger at Teresa McHenry, he explains that, “As a former war-crimes prosecutor, McHenry knows full well that government officials who attempt to cover up crimes perpetrated against prisoners in wartime face prosecution under the doctrine of command responsibility,” and quotes Rear Admiral John Hutson, the former judge advocate general of the Navy, who told him:

Filing false reports and making false statements is bad enough, but if a homicide occurs and officials up the chain of command attempt to cover it up, they face serious criminal liability. They may even be viewed as accessories after the fact in the original crime.

In conclusion, Horton suggests that everyone charged with accounting for what happened on June 9, 2006 — the prison command, the civilian and military investigative agencies, the Justice Department, and Attorney General Eric Holder — “face a choice between the rule of law and the expedience of political silence,” and, to date, have chosen the latter.

In passing, he mentions that the death of another prisoner in June last year — a 31-year old Yemeni named Muhammad Salih — also raises disturbing questions (as was reported by former prisoner Binyam Mohamed in an op-ed for the Miami Herald), and to this he could have added that the death of another Saudi, Abdul Rahman al-Amri, on May 30, 2007, also remains suspicious.

I urge you to read the whole report, as this précis has been little more than a way for me to try and grasp the main points presented in the article, which contains much more detailed and disturbing information, including shocking information about the autopsy (and information about the torture to which the men were clearly subjected), a touching meeting with Yasser al-Zahrani’s father, General Talal al-Zahrani, and a detailed reiteration of some other important facts — that none of the three men killed in June 2006 had any connection to terrorism, and that two had been cleared for release, but had not been told.

Despite studying Guantánamo on a full-time basis for nearly four years, this is one of the most chilling accounts of the prison that I have ever read, and one which should not only lead to an independent inquiry, but also to calls to press ahead with the closure of Guantánamo — and the repatriation of as many prisoners as possible — without further delay.

Scott Horton doesn’t ask another pertinent question — whether it is feasible that the three men died as a result of “enhanced interrogations” that went too far, or whether they were deliberately murdered. The panic that greeted the arrival of the corpses at the clinic on that dreadful day suggests the former, but on reflection it seems unlikely that three accidental deaths could occur in such a short space of time. As Guantánamo takes on a new name — the Death Camp — these doubts need to be addressed one way or another. Neither murder nor manslaughter is acceptable, of course, but neither is it acceptable for this disgraceful cover-up to continue.

As Yasser al-Zahrani’s father explained to Horton:

The truth is what matters. They practiced every form of torture on my son and on many others as well. What was the result? What facts did they find? They found nothing. They learned nothing. They accomplished nothing.

Andy Worthington, a regular contributor to The Public Record, is the author ofThe Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison and the definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009. He maintains a blog at andyworthington.co.uk.

http://pubrecord.org/torture/6626/murders-guantanamo-exposing-truth/

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Gitmo – the gift that keeps on giving — that is, if you’re trying to inspire a new generation of jihadi terrorists. Via Raw Story:

Four members of a US military intelligence unit assigned to Guantanamo Bay are questioning the government’s official version of the deaths of three detainees in the summer of 2006.

The soldiers are offering a very different version of events than the one provided by the official report carried out by the Naval Criminal Investigation Service. Their stories suggest the three inmates may not have killed themselves — or, at least, not in the way the US military claims.

“All four soldiers say they were ordered by their commanding officer not to speak out, and all four soldiers provide evidence that authorities initiated a cover-up within hours of the prisoners’ deaths,” reports Scott Horton at Harper’s magazine.

According to the US Navy, Gitmo detainees Salah Ahmed Al-Salami, Mani Shaman Al-Utaybi and Yasser Talal Al-Zahrani were found hanged in their cells on June 9. 2006. The US military initially described their deaths as “asymmetrical warfare” against the United States, before finally declaring that the deaths were suicides that the inmates coordinated among themselves.

But a report from Seton Hall University Law School, released last fall, cast doubt on almost every element of the US military’s story. It questioned, for example, how it would have been possible for the three detainees to have stuffed rags down their throats and then, while choking, managed to raise themselves up to a noose and hang themselves.

The report (PDF) stated:

There is no explanation of how each of the detainees, much less all three, could have done the following: braided a noose by tearing up his sheets and/or clothing, made a mannequin of himself so it would appear to the guards he was asleep in his cell, hung sheets to block vision into the cell—a violation of Standard Operating Procedures, tied his feet together, tied his hands together, hung the noose from the metal mesh of the cell wall and/or ceiling, climbed up on to the sink, put the noose around his neck and released his weight to result in death by strangulation, hanged until dead and hung for at least two hours completely unnoticed by guards.

Army Staff Sergeant Joseph Hickman told Harper’s magazine that he was made aware of the existence of a secret detention center at Guantanamo, nicknamed by some of the guards “Camp No,” because “No, it doesn’t exist.” According to Hickman, it was generally believed among camp guards that the facility was used by the CIA.

Hickman also said there was a van on site, referred to as the “paddy wagon,” which was allowed to come in and out of the main detention area without going through the usual inspection. On the night of the three detainees’ deaths, Hickman says he saw the paddy wagon leave the area where the three were being detained and head off in the direction of Camp No. The paddy wagon, which can carry only one prisoner at a time in a cage in the back, reportedly made the trip three times.

Hickman says he saw the paddy wagon return and go directly to the medical center. Shortly after, a senior non-commissioned officer, whose name Hickman didn’t know, ordered him to convey a code word to a petty officer. When he did, the petty officer ran off in a panic.


http://crooksandliars.com/susie-madrak/soldiers-say-there-was-suicide-coveru

Detainees Were Also Murdered at Bagram in Afghanistan

Thursday 25 June 2009

by: Jason Leopold, t r u t h o u t | Report

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Bagram Air Base. (Photo: Getty Images)

A new report documenting the torture of more than two-dozen former prisoners held at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan between 2002 and 2008 comes several months after a bipartisan Congressional committee linked the murder of two detainees held at the same prison facility to policies enacted by George W. Bush and ex-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

The April report released by the Senate Armed Services Committee on the treatment of prisoners held in US custody in Iraq and Afghanistan concluded that a combination of various torture techniques coupled with a series of brutal beatings administered by military interrogators caused the deaths of the two prisoners in December 2002.

One of the detainees, identified in the report as Dilawar, was the subject of the Academy Award-winning documentary “Taxi to the Dark Side.”

According to the Armed Services Committee report, another detainee identified as Habibullah was killed two days after Rumsfeld authorized the use of “enhanced interrogation” techniques against prisoners in Afghanistan. Dilawar was murdered six days after Habibullah was killed. The report labeled their deaths homicides.

According to a detailed account in 2005 in The New York Times, Dilawar, a taxi driver, was apprehended December 5 by US forces and taken to Bagram and interrogated about a rocket attack on an American base.

Dilawar was chained by his wrists to the ceiling of his cell for four days and brutally beaten by Army interrogators on his legs for hours on end to the point where he could no longer bend them. He died on December 10, 2002.

Lt. Col. Elizabeth Rouse, an Air Force medical examiner who performed an autopsy on Dilawar, said Dilawar’s leg was pummeled so badly that the “tissue was falling apart and had basically been pulpified.”

“Had Dilawar lived,” Rouse told Army investigators in sworn testimony, “I believe the injury to the legs are so extensive that it would have required amputation. I’ve seen similar injuries in an individual run over by a bus.”

In fact, as The New York Times reported in May 2005, when Dilawar was murdered, “most of the interrogators had believed Mr. Dilawar was an innocent man who simply drove his taxi past the American base at the wrong time.”

The US military never produced any evidence to prove that either Habibullah or Dilawar had connections to the Taliban or al-Qaeda. The detainees interviewed by the BBC during a two-month investigation said they were also apprehended and indefinitely imprisoned at Bagram on suspicion of being members of the Taliban or al-Qaeda.

The details of the murders of Dilawar and Habibullah at the hands of military interrogators have been previously reported. But the Senate report included new information about the behind-the-scenes meetings that took place between high-level Pentagon officials in the months before their deaths where “enhanced interrogation” policies implemented at Bagram were discussed.

Those policies were also directly responsible for the torture of some of the prisoners who were interviewed by the BBC.

Previous reports, including one from the Army’s criminal investigative unit, pinned Dilawar’s and Habibullah’s murders on rogue soldiers and on-the-ground military officials, but had never linked the murders directly to the interrogation policies enacted by the Bush administration.

Indeed, a report into detainee abuse commissioned by Rumsfeld and completed by his handpicked investigator in 2004, former Naval inspector general Vice Adm. Albert T. Church, cleared Pentagon officials stating they “did not promulgate interrogation policies … that directed, sanctioned or encouraged the torture or abuse of detainees.”

The Church report said Dilawar’s and Habibullah’s deaths were isolated incidents that a few rogue soldiers were responsible for. But the Church report failed to take into account Rumsfeld’s directive to military officials at Bagram to get tougher with detainees and obtain “actionable intelligence” through “detainee exploitation,” which, according to the Armed Services report, resulted in widespread abuse at Bagram, Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.

In February, the American Civil Liberties Union obtained, under a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, two pages from the Church report that had been classified for the past five years. Those documents included details of two detainee deaths at Bagram in December 2002 believed to be Dilawar and Habibullah, but those pages did not identify the detainees who were killed by name. The ACLU said they believed the two pages were withheld by the Bush administration to cover-up evidence of war crimes.

A declassified version of the 360-page Church report, delivered to Congress in March 2004, said there was “no policy that condoned or authorized either abuse or torture,” which critics of the Bush administration believed was a cover-up.

But the Armed Services Committee report undercuts those specific conclusions and flatly states that policy directives authorized by Rumsfeld were a contributing factor to the deaths of Dilawar and Habibullah.

The report says, “The use of stress positions and sleep deprivation combined with other mistreatment at the hands of Bagram personnel, caused or were direct contributing factors in the two homicides.”

The report makes clear it was Rumsfeld’s interrogation directives and a February 7, 2002, action memorandum signed by Bush suspending the Geneva Conventions for al-Qaeda and Taliban prisoners that “opened the door” to the systematic abuse of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The committee traced the murders of Dilawar and Habibullah to interrogation policies at Bagram that were first proposed by Pentagon officials in October 2001, just days after the US launched an attack against the Taliban government.

At that time, a Special Mission Unit Task Force (SMU TF) was charged with interrogating prisoners they believed were linked to al-Qaeda and the Taliban. The Armed Services Committee report said in October 2001 the SMU TF was sent to Afghanistan “with a mission,” and the rest of the description contained in the report from that point was redacted.

“While SMU TF operators conducted a limited amount of direct questioning, or, ‘screening’ of detainees while on the battlefield, it appears that they did not conduct interrogations until at least October 2002,” the report says. “Prior to that point, SMU personnel had observed interrogations conducted by Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF-180), which had assumed control of US and coalition forces in Afghanistan at the end of May 2002.”

A footnote contained in the Armed Services Committee report notes that Vice Admiral Church “examined interrogation techniques used by SMU in the USCENTCOM area of responsibility.”

But Church’s report “did not discuss the SMUs” work interrogating prisoners.

The Armed Services Committee report goes on to say that SMU TF members gleaned interrogation techniques for Bagram from Guantanamo during a two-day visit there in October 2002.

The visit took place “just as the [Joint Task Force-170 stationed at Guantanamo] were finalizing a request submitted to SOUTHCOM … to use interrogation techniques including stress positions, removal of clot?ing, deprivation of light and auditory stimuli, hooding, use of detainee phobias such as dogs, exposure to cold weather or water, and non-injurious contact such as grabbing, poking and pushing.”

Dilawar and Habibullah were subjected to a combination of those techniques, such as stress positions and hooding, and that played a major role in their deaths, the Armed Services Committee report concluded.

In late October 2001, the SMU TF returned to Afghanistan and a proposal was made to the SMU Commander there. SMU TF “outlined a rationale” for conducting its own interrogations at Bagram.

They recommended the “imaginative but legal use of non-lethal psychological techniques (i.e., battlefield noises/chaos, barking dogs, etc.)” as well as stress techniques such as “sensory deprivation (hoods, silence, flex cuffs), sensory overload (shouting, gun shots, white noise, machinery noise) and manipulation of the environment (hot, cold, wet. windy, hard surfaces).”

Those methods are identical to the torturous techniques the two-dozen detainees interviewed by the BBC said they endured while imprisoned at Bagram. SMU TF also proposed to Lt. Gen. Dan McNeil, the commander of the Joint Task Force-180, building an interrogation facility for “high-value” detainees co-located at the Bagram Collection Point, where Dilawar and Habibullah were held and interrogated.

When The New York Times revealed in 2005 that Dilawar and Habibullah were tortured to death, McNeil was quoted denying reports that the detainees were chained by their wrists to the ceilings in their prison cells.

“The briefing stated that CJTF-180 was focused on the detention mission rather than the interrogation mission, that ‘no advanced interrogation techniques’ including ‘sensory deprivation/overload, sleep deprivation, psychological manipulation’ were employed by CJTF-180, and that current procedures were having only ‘limited success[es],” the report says.

“While the SMU briefing noted that ‘advanced interrogation techniques’ were not in use at Bagram prior to November 2002, Army investigations into the deaths of two detainees at Bagram in early December revealed that, by early December 2002, at least one of the techniques, sleep deprivation, was apparently in wide use there.”

Again, a torture technique the prisoners interviewed by the BBC said they had endured.

A day before Habibullah was taken to Bagram, Pentagon general counsel William Haynes sent Rumsfeld an action memo advising the defense secretary to approve a list of “enhanced interrogation” techniques, including standing for up to four hours and the use of military dogs, to use against prisoners at Guantanamo. But, as the Armed Services Committee report stated, the interrogation policy “became known to interrogators in Afghanistan.”

Two days before Habibullah was killed, Rumsfeld signed the action memo presented to him by Haynes.

The Armed Services Committee report said those “aggressive interrogation techniques conveyed the message that physical pressures and degradation were appropriate treatment for detainees in US military custody.”

“Shortly after Secretary Rumsfeld’s December 2, 2002 approval of his General Counsel’s [William Haynes] recommendation to authorize aggressive interrogation techniques, the techniques – and the fact the Secretary had authorized them – became known to interrogators in Afghanistan. A copy of the Secretary’s memo was sent from GTMO to Afghanistan.”

The Armed Services Committee report further added, “Captain Carolyn Wood, the Officer in Charge of the Intelligence Section at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, said that in January 2003 she saw a power point presentation listing the aggressive techniques that had been authorized by the Secretary” a month earlier.

Wood was singled out in an Army criminal investigative report as having lied to investigators by saying that the shackling of prisoners in prolonged standing positions was done to protect interrogators from being harmed. The Army’s internal report said the technique – authorized by Rumsfeld – ?as used to inflict pain and sleep deprivation.

Wood went on to establish the interrogation and debriefing center at Abu Ghraib where the systematic torture of prisoners has been well documented. Defense Department reports into the abuse at the prison said she was responsible for interrogation procedures there that went above and beyond those approved by Army commanders.

On Wednesday, Jonathan Hafetz, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project, said, “Torture and abuse at Bagram is further evidence that prisoner abuse in US custody was systemic, not aberrational, and originated at the highest levels of government.”

In April, the ACLU filed a FOIA request for documents related to the detention and treatment of prisoners held at Bagram, including the number of people currently detained, their names, citizenship, place of capture and length of detention.

http://www.truth-out.org/062509A


This work by Truthout is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

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Torture of Solitary Confinement and other means: Torture As American As Apple Pie

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Torture of Solitary Confinement and other means:

Torture As American As Apple Pie:

News and Views about US Prisons,

and yes, allegations and evidence about

torture

also see

Support Daniel Boyd’s Blog

Information about the case of Daniel Boyd and co-defendants, etc

Links about political prisoners of conscious, torture, etc

http://supportdanielboyd.wordpress.com/links-about-political-prisoners-of-conscious-etc/

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Daniel Boyd and some of his co defendants are in solitary confinement.

Yet they have not been convicted of any crime.

What is prolonged solitary confinement?

Nothing less that torture, as the experts inform us, and as seen below.

<> “Torture . . . any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person . . . .” – U.N. Convention Against Torture, Article 1.1

<> Hmm,,, The LAW

18 U.S.C. § 2340 : US Code – Section 2340: Definitions

As used in this chapter –

(1) “torture” means an act committed by a person acting under

the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical

or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering

incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his

custody or physical control;

(2) “severe mental pain or suffering” means the prolonged

mental harm caused by or resulting from –

(A) the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of

severe physical pain or suffering;

(B) the administration or application, or threatened

administration or application, of mind-altering substances or

other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or

the personality;

(C) the threat of imminent death; or

(D) the threat that another person will imminently be

subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering, or the

administration or application of mind-altering substances or

other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or

personality; and

(3) “United States” means the several States of the United

States, the District of Columbia, and the commonwealths,

territories, and possessions of the United States.

18 U.S.C. § 2340A : US Code – Section 2340A: Torture

(a) Offense. - Whoever outside the United States commits or
attempts to commit torture shall be fined under this title or
imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both, and if death results to
any person from conduct prohibited by this subsection, shall be
punished by death or imprisoned for any term of years or for life.
(b) Jurisdiction. - There is jurisdiction over the activity
prohibited in subsection (a) if -
(1) the alleged offender is a national of the United States; or
(2) the alleged offender is present in the United States,
irrespective of the nationality of the victim or alleged
offender.
(c) Conspiracy. - A person who conspires to commit an offense
under this section shall be subject to the same penalties (other
than the penalty of death) as the penalties prescribed for the
offense, the commission of which was the object of the conspiracy.

http://codes.lp.findlaw.com/uscode/18/I/113C

<> A New Yorker article entitled,

“HELLHOLE”

with the subtitle

“The United States holds tens of thousands of inmates in long-term solitary confinement. Is this torture?”

….excerpt…

“…. Most hostages survived their ordeal… Yet none saw solitary confinement as anything less than torture. This presents us with an awkward question: If prolonged isolation is—as research and experience have confirmed for decades—so objectively horrifying, so intrinsically cruel, how did we end up with a prison system that may subject more of our own citizens to it than any other country in history has? …..”

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/03/30/090330fa_fact_gawande

<> Dept. of Amplification: Charles Dickens on Solitary Confinement

HOODEDINMATE-thumb-150x264

This week, Atul Gawande writes about the rise of solitary confinement, long held to be among the most cruel forms of punishment, throughout the United States prison system. He cites the 1890 Supreme Court case In re Medley, in which Justice Samuel Miller noted the extreme penalty of the practice in deciding whether the punishment could be applied ex post facto in the case of a man who had already been sentenced to death. Miller quoted from the American Encyclopedia to explain how solitary confinement had come into use:

The first plan adopted, when public attention was called to the evils of congregating persons in masses without employment, was the solitary prison connected with the hospital of San Michele at Rome, in 1703, but little known prior to the experiment in Walnut-Street Penitentiary, in Philadelphia, in 1787. The peculiarities of this system were the complete isolation of the prisoner from all human society…and no employment or instruction.

The dreadful repercussions of the Walnut experiment gave rise to a new system—ironically and perversely, a reform attempt, based on the notion of “penitence” (hence “penitentiary”)—conceived by the Philadelphia Society for Ameliorating the Miseries of Public Prisons. The new system did not do away with the practice but instead refined it. Though still isolated, prisoners were now given the opportunity to work in their cells; and, to insure that they never caught sight of a fellow-inmate, their heads were covered with hoods on leaving or returning from them. It was this modified system that was in place when Charles Dickens, in 1842, made his great tour of the United States, which included a visit to the Eastern Prison, outside Philadelphia. In his travelogue, “American Notes for General Circulation,” he wrote about his experience inside the prison’s walls:

Looking down these dreary passages, the dull repose and quiet that prevails, is awful. Occasionally, there is a drowsy sound from some lone weaver’s shuttle, or shoemaker’s last, but it is stifled by the thick walls and heavy dungeon-door, and only serves to make the general stillness more profound. Over the head and face of every prisoner who comes into this melancholy house, a black hood is drawn; and in this dark shroud, an emblem of the curtain dropped between him and the living world, he is led to the cell from which he never again comes forth, until his whole term of imprisonment has expired….He is a man buried alive; to be dug out in the slow round of years….

And though he lives to be in the same cell ten weary years, he has no means of knowing, down to the very last hour, in what part of the building it is situated; what kind of men there are about him; whether in the long winter night there are living people near, or he is in some lonely corner of the great jail, with walls, and passages, and iron doors between him and the nearest sharer in its solitary horrors.

Dickens visited with several of the penitents, all of whom exhibited a similar disturbed affect. One of them had been confined for a mere two years, and his release was imminent. Curious about how prisoners conducted themselves just before they were to be freed, he speculated to his guide that “they trembled very much”:

“Well, it’s not so much a trembling,” was the answer—“though they do quiver—as a complete derangement of the nervous sytem. They can’t sign their names to the book; sometimes can’t even hold the pen; look about ’em without appearing to know why, or where they are; and sometimes get up and sit down again, twenty times in a minute. This is when they’re in the office, where they are taken with the hood on, as they were brought in. When they get outside the gate, they stop, and look first one way and then the other: not knowing which to take. Sometimes they stagger as if they were drunk, and sometimes are forced to lean against the fence, they’re so bad:—but they clear off in course of time.”

The tour had a profound effect on Dickens’s views on solitary confinement; it did away with any traces of ambivalence he formerly had, and cleared the way for him to set forth his own opinion as to why the practice was unconscionable, an opinion that Justice Miller himself would likely have joined:

I believe that very few men are capable of estimating the immense amount of torture and agony which this dreadful punishment, prolonged for years, inflicts upon the sufferers; and in guessing at it myself, and in reasoning from what I have seen written upon their faces, and what to my certain knowledge they feel within, I am only the more convinced that there is a depth of terrible endurance in which none but the sufferers themselves can fathom, and which no man has a right to inflict upon his fellow creature. I hold this slow and daily tampering with the mysteries of the brain to be immeasurably worse than any torture of the body; and because its ghastly signs and tokens are not so palpable to the eye and sense of touch as scars upon the flesh; because its wounds are not upon the surface, and it extorts few cries that human ears can hear; therefore the more I denounce it, as a secret punishment which slumbering humanity is not roused up to stay.

PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF EASTERN STATE PENITENTIARY

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2009/03/dept-of-amplifi-2.html

<> About Solitary Confinement

What Is Solitary Confinement?
Solitary confinement of prisoners exists under a range of names; isolation, control units, supermax prisons, the hole, SHUs, administrative segregation, maximum security or permanent lockdown. Prisoners can be placed in these units for many reasons; as punishment, while they are under investigation, as a mechanism for behavior modification, when suspected of gang involvement, as retribution for political activism or to fill expensive, empty beds, to name but a few.

Although conditions vary from state to state and in different institutions, systematic policies and conditions of control and oppression used in isolation and segregation include:

  • confinement behind a solid steel door for 23 hours a day
  • limited contact with other human beings
  • infrequent phone calls and rare non-contact family visits
  • extremely limited access to rehabilitative or educational programming
  • grossly inadequate medical and mental health treatment
  • restricted reading material and personal property
  • physical torture such as hog-tying, restraint chairs, and forced cell extraction
  • mental torture such as sensory deprivation, permanent bright lighting, extreme temperatures, and forced insomnia
  • sexual intimidation and violence

Recent History of Isolation
Beginning in the early 1970s, prison and jail administrators at the federal, state, and local level have relied increasingly on isolation and segregation to control men, women and youth in their custody.

In 1985 there were a handful of control units across the county. Today an estimated 44 states have supermax facilities confining more than 30,000 people. Prisoners are often confined for months or even years, with some spending more than 25 years in segregated prison settings. As with the overall prison population, people of color are disproportionately represented in isolation units.
(AFSC’s Justice Visions Briefing Paper, Prison Inside the Prison provides a more complete history.)

Mental Health Effects of Isolation
Increasingly isolation units house the mentally ill who struggle to conform to prison rules. An independent investigation from 2006 reported that as many as 64% of prisoners in SHUs were mentally ill, a much higher percentage than is reported by states for their general prison populations. Contrary to the perception that control units house “the worst of the worst’, it is often the most vulnerable prisoners, not the most violent who end up in extended isolation. The AFSC Healing Justice staff worked with 60 Minutes on the production of The Death of Timothy Souders, a riveting testimony. Numerous studies have documented the effects of solitary confinement on prisoners giving them the name; Special Housing Unit Syndrome or SHU Syndrome. Some of the many SHU Syndrome symptoms include:

  • visual and auditory hallucinations
  • hypersensitivity to noise and touch
  • insomnia and paranoia
  • uncontrollable feelings of rage and fear
  • distortions of time and perception
  • increased risk of suicide
  • PTSD

If one is not mentally ill when entering an isolation unit, by the time they are released their mental health has been severely compromised. Many prisoners are released directly to the streets after spending years in isolation. Because of this, long-term solitary confinement goes beyond a problem of prison conditions, to pose a formidable public safety and community health problem.

Solitary Confinement Violates Basic Human Rights
Prison isolation fits the definition of torture as stated in several international human rights treaties, and thus constitutes a violation of human rights law. For example, the U.N. Convention Against Torture defines torture as any state-sanctioned act “by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person” for information, punishment, intimidation, or for a reason based on discrimination.

For all these reasons – for the safety of our communities, to respect our responsibility to follow international human rights law, to take a stand against torture wherever it occurs, and for the sake of our common humanity – prison isolation and segregation must end.

http://www.afsc.org/stopmax/ht/d/ContentDetails/i/33476

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What goes around comes around.

The Quakers first believed that solitary confinement could reform criminals, and to that end Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, was built, At one time among the most infamous and expensive prisons in the world, ESP opened in 1829 and remained in operation for 142 years, closing in 1971. Its radiating, spoke-like panopticon design of individual cell blocks guarded by a central rotunda kept its prisoners in near-constant solitary confinement (but for light work and their Bibles) and was based on the Quaker notion of penitence, and the assumption that once so confined, criminals would revert to a stage of “natural” innocence. The prisoners housed at ESP faced sentences of very little human interaction and most turned mad as a result.

http://blogs.nationalgeographic.com/blogs/intelligenttravel/2009/03/philadelphias-eastern-state-pe.html

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<> Timeline: Solitary Confinement in U.S. Prisons by Laura Sullivan Library of Congress

The Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, where the first American experiment in solitary confinement took place.

Pentonville is a prison built in 1842 in North London. Its design was influenced by the “separate system” developed at Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia.

San Francisco Bay Area Press Photographers Association

Thirteen years ago, Pelican Bay State Prison was cut out of a dense forest near Crescent City, Calif. The highlight of the Supermax prison was the Security Housing Unit (SHU), where 1,300 of the state’s most hardened criminals are kept in near isolation.

July 26, 2006

An overview of key moments in the history of solitary confinement.

1829 – The first experiment in solitary confinement in the United States begins at the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia. It is based on a Quaker belief that prisoners isolated in stone cells with only a Bible would use the time to repent, pray and find introspection. But many of the inmates go insane, commit suicide, or are no longer able to function in society, and the practice is slowly abandoned during the following decades.

1890 – In an opinion concerning the effects of solitary confinement on inmates housed in Philadelphia (Re: Medley, 134 U.S. 160), U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Freeman Miller finds, “A considerable number of the prisoners fell, after even a short confinement, into a semi-fatuous condition, from which it was next to impossible to arouse them, and others became violently insane; others still, committed suicide; while those who stood the ordeal better were not generally reformed, and in most cases did not recover sufficient mental activity to be of any subsequent service to the community.”

1934 – The federal government opens Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay to house the nation’s worst criminals. Most inmates spend many hours outside in the yard and on required work details. But a few dozen are kept in “D Block,” the prison’s solitary-confinement hallway. One cell in particular is called “The Hole” — a room of bare concrete except for a hole in the floor. There is no light, inmates are kept naked, and bread and water is shoved through a small hole in the door. Although most inmates only spend a few days in the hole, some spend years on D Block. Conditions are better than in The Hole — inmates have clothes and food — but they are not permitted contact with other inmates and are rarely let out of their cells. The most famous inmate on D Block is Robert Stroud, known as the “Birdman of Alcatraz,” who spends six years there. A 1962 movie about Stroud — and subsequent media reports on the conditions on D Block — made solitary confinement a fixture of the American imagination for the first time.

1983 – Two correctional officers at a Marion, Ill., prison are murdered by inmates in two separate incidents on the same day. The warden at the time puts the prison in what he calls “permanent lockdown.” It is the first prison in the country to adopt 23-hour-a-day cell isolation and no communal yard time for all inmates. Inmates are no longer allowed to work, attend educational programs, or eat in a cafeteria. Within a few years, several other states also adopt permanent lockdown at existing facilities.

1989 – California builds Pelican Bay, a new prison built solely to house inmates in isolation. By most accounts, it is the first Supermax facility in the country. There is no need to build a yard, cafeteria, classrooms or shops. Inmates spend 22 1/2 hours a day inside an 8-by-10-foot cell. The other 1 1/2 hours are spent alone in a small concrete exercise pen.

1990s – The building boom of Supermax or control-unit prisons begins. Oregon, Mississippi, Indiana, Virginia, Ohio, Wisconsin and a dozen other states all build new, free-standing, isolation units.

1994 – The U.S. Bureau of Prisons builds ADX Florence, the federal government’s first and only Supermax facility, in Florence, Colo. It’s known popularly as the “Alcatraz of the Rockies.” It currently houses 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, “American Taliban” John Walker Lindh, Unibomber Ted Kaczynski, former FBI agent and convicted spy Robert Hanssen, Olympic Park and abortion-clinic bomber Eric Rudolph, and many others.

1995 – A federal judge finds conditions at Pelican Bay in California “may well hover on the edge of what is humanly tolerable” (Madrid v. Gomez). But he rules that there is no constitutional basis for the courts to shut down the unit or to alter it substantially. He says the court must defer to the states about how best to incarcerate offenders.

1999 – A report by the Department of Justice finds that more than 30 states are operating a Supermax-type facility with 23-hours-a-day lockdown and long-term isolation. The study finds that some states put 0.5 percent of their total inmates in this kind of facility, while other states lock up more than 20 percent of their inmates this way.

2005 – Daniel P. Mears, an associate professor at Florida State University, conducts a nationwide study and finds there are now 40 states operating Supermax or control-unit prisons, which collectively hold more than 25,000 U.S. prisoners.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5579901

And now the Quakers are in the forefront of those condemning this form of torture!!!

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The U.N. Commission on Human Rights in an April 2003 resolution noted that “prolonged incommunicado detention may facilitate the perpetration of torture and can itself constitute a form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or even torture.”48 In interpreting Article 7 of the ICCPR on torture and other mistreatment, the U.N. Human Rights Committee stated that “prolonged solitary confinement of the detained or imprisoned person may amount to acts prohibited by article 7.”[ U.N. Human Rights Committee, General Comment 20, Article 7, Compilation of General Comments and General Recommendations Adopted by Human Rights Treaty Bodies, U.N. Doc. HRI/GEN/1/Rev.1 at 30 (1994), para. 6.  Article 7 of the ICCPR states: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”]

The harm inflicted by solitary confinement is exacerbated by other aspects of the detention.  Cell conditions are especially poor: underground cells and cells filled with artificial light 24-hours a day appear designed to inflict maximum physical and psychological discomfort.   Incommunicado detention deprives detainees of access to family and counsel, allowing sole contact with interrogators and guards. This is psychologically damaging.  Furthermore, incommunicado confinement is considered the single highest risk factor for torture because of the absence of external monitoring of the interrogation process. [See Camille Giffard, The Torture Reporting Handbook (Human Rights Centre, Univ. of Essex 2000), p. 17.]

The European Commission on Human Rights has stated that, “complete sensory isolation coupled with total social isolation, can destroy the personality and constitutes a form of treatment which cannot be justified by the requirements of security or any other reason.” [European Commission on Human Rights, Kröcher and Möller v. Switzerland, Application No. 8463/78 (1983); See also Nigel Rodley, The Treatment of Prisoners Under International Law (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), pp. 294-297 (citing the view of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture that ‘solitary confinement can, in certain circumstances, amount to inhuman and degrading treatment.’)]

http://www.hrw.org/reports/2004/iran0604/5.htm#_Toc73505653

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<> Solitary Confinement: The Invisible Torture

Wired Science interviews UCSC’s Craig Haney, a psychologist who’s an expert on long-term solitary confinement, and concludes that solitary confinement is unequivocally torture. It makes people go insane. And 25,000 Americans are in long-term solitary in the US penal system…. solitary confinement has historically been a part of torture protocols. It was well-documented in South Africa. It’s been used to torture prisoners of war.

Read the article here

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/04/solitaryconfinement/

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SOLITARY CONFINEMENT TORTURE IN THE U.S.

http://sonic.net/~doretk/Issues/98-09%20FALL/solitary.html

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Survivors of Solitary Confinement

June 3rd, 2009

President Obama recently declared that “we have banned torture without exception.” However, some would take exception to this claim. The practice of isolating a person in solitary confinement for extended periods of time causes severe sensory deprivation and has been denounced as torture by the United Nations. But tens of thousands are locked up in solitary confinement in American prisons. Producer Claire Schoen met nine formerly incarcerated people, who described what it’s like not to talk to or touch another person, for years at a time

http://www.radioproject.org/archive/2009/2209.html

<> Solitary Confinement in U.S. Prisons is ‘Torture’

July 29, 2008    Earl Ofari Hutchinson, New America Media

OneWorld.net note: The removal of three wrongly-convicted Louisiana prisoners from solitary confinement after more than thirty years is a small victory for human rights, but more needs to be done to protect the mental and physical well-being of prisoners in America, writes author Earl Ofari Hutchinson.

http://us.oneworld.net/article/solitary-confinement-us-prisons-torture

<> Solitary Confinement In U.S. Prisons Making Thousands Psychotic March 26, 2009

Sherwood Ross

www.opednews.com, March 24, 2009

TheUnited States today is housing tens of thousands of inmates in long-term solitary confinement, a form of numbing mental torture that drives about one-third of them psychotic, induces irrational anger in 90 percent, and ups the likelihood they will commit violent crimes upon release.

“It’s an awful thing, solitary,” U.S. Senator John McCain once wrote of his two years spent in a fifteen by fifteen foot prison cell in Viet Nam. “It crushes your spirit and weakens your resistance more effectively than any other form of mistreatment.” Testimony from other notables that have endured long stretches in solitary have elicited like comments….

Sherwood Ross worker as a reporter for the Chicago Daily News and as a columnist for wire services. He currently operates a public relations company for worthy causes. Reach him at sherwoodr1@yahoo.com.

http://rogerhollander.wordpress.com/2009/03/26/solitary-confinement-in-us-prisons-making-thousands-psychotic/

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Solitary Confinement: A Brief History

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2009/03/solitary-confinement-brief-natural-history

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Solitary confinement at Guantanamo

http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/torturingdemocracy/interviews/pressroom_clips.html

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The National Security Archive is an independent non-governmental research institute and library located at The George Washington University

Torture Archive

http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/torture_archive/index.htm

torturing democracy at

Moazzam Begg

Detainee #558

Moazzam Begg, a British citizen, was seized in January 2002 by Pakistani officers who burst into the Islamabad apartment were he and his family were living. As recounted in his 2006 book, “Enemy Combatant: My Imprisonment at Guantanamo, Bagram and Kandahar,” after first being sent to the U.S. prison at Kandahar, he was transferred to the military detention facility at Bagram Air Base. Here he witnessed prisoners being subjected to strappado, and was himself hog-tied, sleep deprived, and led to believe his wife was being tortured in a nearby cell. In Guantanamo, Begg was held for almost two years in solitary confinement…..

http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/torturingdemocracy/interviews/moazzam_begg.html

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for lots more

http://www.torturingdemocracy.org/

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Solitary Confinement at Guantanamo Bay

Approximately 70% of the men imprisoned in Guantánamo are in solitary confinement or isolation. 2

Virtually none have ever been charged, and most will never be charged or tried. Yet, they remain in “super-maximum security confinement” conditions – held by a federal judge to “press the outer bounds of what most humans can psychologically tolerate.” 3

http://ccrjustice.org/learn-more/faqs/solitary-confinement-guantanamo-bay#1

http://ccrjustice.org/files/Solitary%20Confinement%20summary.pdf

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<> Document – USA: Three years on — Ali al-Marri remains in solitary confinement without charge or trial

http://www.amnesty.org./en/library/asset/AMR51/095/2006/en/40bee28a-d41b-11dd-8743-d305bea2b2c7/amr510952006en.html

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from the August 13, 2007 edition – http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0813/p01s03-usju.html

US terror interrogation went too far, experts say

Reports find that Jose Padilla’s solitary confinement led to mental problems.

By Warren Richey | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Miami

Jose Padilla had no history of mental illness when President Bush ordered him detained in 2002 as a suspected Al Qaeda operative. But he does now.

The Muslim convert was subjected to prison conditions and interrogation techniques that took him past the breaking point, mental health experts say.

Two psychiatrists and a psychologist who conducted detailed personal examinations of Mr. Padilla on behalf of his defense lawyers say his extended detention and interrogation at the US Naval Consolidated Brig in Charleston, S.C., left him with severe mental disabilities. All three say he may never recover.

Padilla’s psychological condition is important because his situation marks the first time an enemy combatant in the war on terror is in a position to present a verifiable claim of abuse at the hands of US interrogators. Padilla’s mental health itself is a form of evidence, mental-health experts say, and it strongly suggests that – at least in Padilla’s case – the government’s harsh interrogation and confinement tactics went too far……

http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0813/p01s03-usju.html

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<> Judge Allows Civil Lawsuit Over Claims of Torture

By JOHN SCHWARTZ

Published: June 13, 2009

The decision issued late Friday by a judge in San Francisco allowing a civil lawsuit to go forward against a former Bush administration official, John C. Yoo, might seem like little more than the removal of a procedural roadblock.

John C. Yoo

But lawyers for the man suing Mr. Yoo, Jose Padilla, say it provides substantive interpretation of constitutional issues for all detainees and could have a broad impact.

Mr. Padilla was held as an “enemy combatant” in solitary confinement for more than three years in the Navy brig in Charleston, S.C. Mr. Padilla, who was convicted of supporting terrorism and other crimes, demands that Mr. Yoo be held accountable for actions that Mr. Padilla claims led to his being tortured……

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/14/us/politics/14yoo.html?ref=global-home

<>  U.S. wartime prison network grows into legal vacuum for 14,000

… Captured on battlefields, pulled from beds at midnight, grabbed off streets as suspected insurgents, tens of thousands now have passed through U.S. detention, the vast majority in Iraq.

Many say they were caught up in U.S. military sweeps, often interrogated around the clock, then released months or years later without apology, compensation or any word on why they were taken. Seventy to 90% of the Iraq detentions in 2003 were “mistakes,” U.S. officers once told the international Red Cross.

Human rights groups count dozens of detainee deaths for which no one has been punished or that were never explained. The secret prisons — unknown in number and location — remain available for future detainees. The new manual banning torture doesn’t cover CIA interrogators. And thousands of people still languish in a limbo, deprived of one of common law’s oldest rights, habeas corpus, the right to know why you are imprisoned….

….

http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2006-09-17-american-hands_x.htm

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<> The systematic destruction of Jose Padilla

Written by Stephen Soldz
Saturday, 09 December 2006 08:00

“……In the brig, Mr. Padilla was denied access to counsel for 21 months. Andrew Patel, one of his lawyers, said his isolation was not only severe but compounded by material and sensory deprivations. In an affidavit filed Friday, he alleged that Mr. Padilla was held alone in a 10-cell wing of the brig; that he had little human contact other than with his interrogators; that his cell was electronically monitored and his meals were passed to him through a slot in the door; that windows were blackened, and there was no clock or calendar; and that he slept on a steel platform after a foam mattress was taken from him, along with his copy of the Koran, “as part of an interrogation plan.”

Was this treatment because Padilla was violent, a threat to the guards or to others? Evidently not:

One of Mr. Padilla’s lawyers, Orlando do Campo, said, however, that Mr. Padilla was a “completely docile” prisoner. “There was not one disciplinary problem with Jose ever, not one citation, not one act of disobedience,” said Mr. do Campo, who is a lawyer at the Miami federal public defender’s office.

In his affidavit, Mr. Patel (another attorney) said, “I was told by members of the brig staff that Mr. Padilla’s temperament was so docile and inactive that his behavior was like that of ‘a piece of furniture.’ ”

Rather than any necessity to control him, Jose Padilla experienced the total isolation that is at the core of the U.S. government’s decades-under-development program of psychological torture. According to Padilla’s attorneys:

“his interrogations… included hooding, stress positions, assaults, threats of imminent execution and the administration of ‘truth serums.’”

Compare this with Alfred McCoy’s description of the CIA’s psychological torture techniques:

While these CIA drug experiments led nowhere and the testing of electric shock as a technique led only to lawsuits, research into sensory deprivation proved fruitful indeed. In fact, this research produced a new psychological rather than physical method of torture, perhaps best described as “no-touch” torture.

The Agency’s discovery was a counterintuitive breakthrough, the first real revolution in this cruel science since the seventeenth century — and thanks to recent revelations from Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, we are now all too familiar with these methods, even if many Americans still have no idea of their history. Upon careful examination, those photographs of nude bodies expose the CIA’s most basic torture techniques — stress positions, sensory deprivation, and sexual humiliation.

We don’t know about sexual humiliation, but the rest of these techniques were apparently used upon Padilla.

[An excellent account of these these techniques, with extensive quotes from the CIA’s now declassified KUBARK interrogation manual are provided by Daily Kos diarist Valtin in his Torture 101: CIA text on teaching “coercive interrogation”]

As the Times article indicates, Padilla is textbook case of what these techniques accomplish:

Dr. Angela Hegarty, director of forensic psychiatry at the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in Queens, N.Y., who examined Mr. Padilla for a total of 22 hours in June and September, said in an affidavit filed Friday that he “lacks the capacity to assist in his own defense.”

“It is my opinion that as the result of his experiences during his detention and interrogation, Mr. Padilla does not appreciate the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him, is unable to render assistance to counsel, and has impairments in reasoning as the result of a mental illness, i.e., post-traumatic stress disorder, complicated by the neuropsychiatric effects of prolonged isolation,” Dr.

Hegarty said in an affidavit for the defense….

Mr. Padilla’s lawyers say they have had a difficult time persuading him that they are on his side…….

……

http://www.atlanticfreepress.com/news/1/413-the-systematic-destruction-of-jose-padilla.html

<> History of CIA Torture: Unraveling the Web of Deceit, Part I to 5

Military Torture, Legal Fig Leaves & Premature Exculpation…

By Ernest A. Canning on 5/6/2009 12:07PM

Guest Blogged by Ernest A. Canning
Part I of a Five-Part Special Series
(Part II is now here. Part III is now here. Part IV is now here.)

“When any modern state tortures even a few victims, the stigma compromises its majesty and corrupts its integrity. Its officials must spin an ever more complex web of lies that, in the end, weakens the bonds of trust and the rule of law that are the sine qua non of a democracy. And, beyond its borders, allies and enemies turn away in collective revulsion.” – Prof. Alfred W. McCoy, A Question of Torture (2006).

Truth and justice are essential components of democracy and the rule of law. We cannot move forward unless we honestly examine our past. Accuracy is vital to every decision we make, be it impeachment, prosecution or a restoration of our nation’s honor and integrity.

This is the first in a five-part series of articles which will strive to correct misperceptions arising from the erroneous blending of military and CIA torture. This task has become especially relevant now that the Justice Department’s the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), the very section which had issued the torture memos, tasked by former Attorney General Michael Mukasey with investigating itself, has now released a recommendation that none of the authors of the torture memos be prosecuted. This recommendation stands in stark contrast to our nation’s post-World War II decision to prosecute German judges for war crimes at Nuremberg…..

http://www.bradblog.com/?p=7100

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US PRISON TORTURE AND YOU

SOLITARY CONFINEMENT

http://www.webspawner.com/users/usprisontorture/

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<> Document – USA: Conditions must be improved at Tamms Correctional Center in Illinois

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL

PUBLIC STATEMENT

AI index: AMR 51/042/2009 25 March 2009

USA: Conditions must be improved at Tamms Correctional Center in Illinois

Amnesty International is calling for measures to improve conditions at Tamms Correctional Center, Illinois – the state’s only super-maximum security facility – stating that the harsh conditions of isolation endured by many prisoners for years on end appear to be unnecessarily punitive and may breach international standards for humane treatment.

http://www.amnesty.org./en/library/asset/AMR51/042/2009/en/22860b6c-a20b-4cc1-8485-2cbec988a725/amr510422009en.html

<> Mentally Ill Inmate Gets Nine Months in Solitary

During his confinement, Horton was not allowed to bathe, exercise, or see a doctor, according to reports. The video and news

News Channel 5.com  – October 30, 2008

http://www.newschannel5.com/Global/story.asp?S=9269456

<> IN THE CELLARS OF THE HOLLOW MEN: USE OF SOLITARY CONFINEMENT IN U.S. PRISONS AND ITS IMPLICATIONS UNDER INTERNATIONAL LAWS AGAINST TORTURE*

By Tracy Hreskot

PACE UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW — INTERNATIONAL LAW REVIEW

Volume XVIII, Number I Spring 2006

http://digitalcommons.pace.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1240&context=intlaw

<> Torture Is Now Part of the American Soul

By George Monbiot, The Guardian. Posted December 18, 2006.

http://www.alternet.org/rights/45613/

http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/America/Torture_AmericanSoul.html

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<> Case Study: Omar Khadr

He was captured by American forces at the age of 15 following a four-hour firefight with militants in the village of Ayub Kheyl, Afghanistan. He has spent six years in the Guantanamo Bay detention camps charged with war crimes and providing support to terrorism after allegedly throwing a grenade that killed a US soldier.

….In February 2008, the Pentagon accidentally released documents that revealed that although Khadr was present during the firefight, there was no other evidence that he had thrown the grenade. In fact, military officials had originally reported that another of the surviving militants had thrown the grenade just before being killed…..

http://reference.findtarget.com/search/Omar%20Khadr/

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torture-ag211

Courtesy from “Fire John Yoo” dot com

http://www.firejohnyoo.org/2009/04/

John Yoo wrote the famous (Bush-Cheney ?) “torture memo,” a legal opinion filed on Aug. 2, 2002, by the Office of Legal Counsel, a section of the U.S. Department of Justice. The memo examined what methods of inflicting pain and suffering constitute torture, legal basis for so-called “enhanced” interrogation …

….Yoo concluded that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) could not “restrict the president’s ability to engage in warrantless searches that protect the national security” and that “unless Congress made a clear statement in FISA that it sought to restrict presidential authority to conduct warrantless searches in the national security area – which it has not – then the statute must be construed to avoid such a reading.”

http://www.worldcantwait.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=5767:the-truth-about-torture-why-john-yoo-should-be-fired-disbarred-and-prosecuted&catid=117:homepage&Itemid=289

<> Mordechai Vanunu (Hebrew: מרדכי ואנונו‎, born in Marrakech, Morocco on 14 October 1954) is an Israeli former nuclear technical assistant[1] who revealed details of Israel’s nuclear weapons program to the British press in 1986. He was subsequently lured to Italy and kidnapped by Israeli intelligence operatives. He was transported to Israel and ultimately convicted of treason and espionage. According to Norwegian lawyers’ support group, Vanunu is a political prisoner, denied democratic freedom of speech.[2]

Mordechai Vanunu spent 18 years in prison, including more than 11 years in solitary confinement.

…. Vanunu said Israel’s Mossad spy agency and the Shin Bet security services tried to rob him of his sanity by keeping him in solitary confinement…..

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mordechai_Vanunu

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<> A Thousand Little Gitmos

How the federal courts turned into star chambers for terrorism cases—and why Obama may keep them that way.

—By Petra Bartosiewicz

…..Today Hashmi, who is 29, sits in a windowless cell, in solitary confinement. He is not allowed to watch television or listen to the radio or read a newspaper unless it is at least 30 days old and censored. He is not allowed to speak to guards, other inmates, or the media, or to write anyone but his attorney and his family (once a week on three single-sided pages). The only people cleared to visit, besides his lawyer, are his mother and father, but he couldn’t see them for three months after he was caught shadowboxing in his cell—an infraction that cost him visiting privileges. Hashmi’s lawyer, Sean Maher, says the isolation is slowly driving his client mad.

Hashmi is not in Guantanamo Bay, nor is he an enemy combatant. He’s a US citizen, born in Pakistan and raised in Flushing, Queens, facing trial in federal court in Manhattan. His home for the past two years has been the Special Housing Unit at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, a stone’s throw from the Brooklyn Bridge. Hashmi might be guilty, he might not. We may never know—because when he goes before judge and jury later this year he won’t get a fair trial. Much of the government’s evidence against him is secret, and he can’t see it because he doesn’t have a security clearance. Maher, who does have a security clearance, can’t see much of it either. Maher finds this incredible…..

…. Prosecutors have also had wide latitude to use secret witnesses, as well as information of questionable origin. A 2005 case involving Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, a US citizen, hinged on a coerced confession obtained by Saudi authorities. During the trial, which Amnesty International declared unfair, prosecutors used a controversial tactic called the “silent witness” rule to show some evidence to jurors but not defense attorneys…..

…All the secrecy might make sense if it involved truly sensitive information. But when such evidence has been exposed, it’s often proved to be flawed or irrelevant….

…the fact that most of the people tried on terrorism charges since 9/11 have only been charged with “material support,” which can mean helping terrorists or merely thinking about doing so someday….

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2009/07/thousand-little-gitmos

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By the way,

water boarding torture has a long history in the USA military,

as this Life magazine front page testifies , and note the date:

life-magazine-may22-1902-waterboarding

hmm,,, those were the days of the Philippines “conquest” (for an Asian extension of the empire into the ‘open door’ of markets in China) after the Spanish American War,  and some say that the sinking of the the USS Maine was  a false flag operation.  Mark Twain in those days was one of the notable members of  Anti Imperialist League:  but who remembers these historical things anyways, and reflects on their bearings upon our current situation?

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OBAMA CONTINUES TORTURE POLICIES

YESWECANISTAN By William Blum

author of:

  • Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2
  • Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower
  • Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire
Yeswecanistan By William Blum 

December 09, 2009 “Information Clearing House” — All the crying from the left about how Obama “the peace candidate” has now become “a war president” … Whatever are they talking about? Here’s what I wrote in this report in August 2008, during the election campaign:

We find Obama threatening, several times, to attack Iran if they don’t do what the United States wants them to do nuclear-wise; threatening more than once to attack Pakistan if their anti-terrorist policies are not tough enough or if there would be a regime change in the nuclear-armed country not to his liking; calling for a large increase in US troops and tougher policies for Afghanistan; wholly and unequivocally embracing Israel as if it were the 51st state.

Why should anyone be surprised at Obama’s foreign policy in the White House? He has not even banned torture, contrary to what his supporters would fervently have us believe. If further evidence were needed, we have the November 28 report in the Washington Post: “Two Afghan teenagers held in U.S. detention north of Kabul this year said they were beaten by American guards, photographed naked, deprived of sleep and held in solitary confinement in concrete cells for at least two weeks while undergoing daily interrogation about their alleged links to the Taliban.” This is but the latest example of the continuance of torture under the new administration.

But the shortcomings of Barack Obama and the naiveté of his fans is not the important issue. The important issue is the continuation and escalation of the American war in Afghanistan, based on the myth that the individuals we label “Taliban” are indistinguishable from those who attacked the United States on September 11, 2001, whom we usually label “al Qaeda”. “I am convinced,” the president said in his speech at the United States Military Academy (West Point) on December 1, “that our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is the epicenter of violent extremism practiced by al Qaeda. It is from here that we were attacked on 9/11, and it is from here that new attacks are being plotted as I speak.”

Obama used one form or another of the word “extremist” eleven times in his half-hour talk. Young, impressionable minds must be carefully taught; a future generation of military leaders who will command America’s never-ending wars must have no doubts that the bad guys are “extremists”, that “extremists” are by definition bad guys, that “extremists” are beyond the pale and do not act from human, rational motivation like we do, that we — quintessential non-extremists, peace-loving moderates — are the good guys, forced into one war after another against our will. Sending robotic death machines flying over Afghanistan and Pakistan to drop powerful bombs on the top of wedding parties, funerals, and homes is of course not extremist behavior for human beings.

And the bad guys attacked the US “from here”, Afghanistan. That’s why the United States is “there”, Afghanistan. But in fact the 9-11 attack was planned in Germany, Spain and the United States as much as in Afghanistan. It could have been planned in a single small room in Panama City, Taiwan, or Bucharest. What is needed to plot to buy airline tickets and take flying lessons in the United States? And the attack was carried out entirely in the United States. But Barack Obama has to maintain the fiction that Afghanistan was, and is, vital and indispensable to any attack on the United States, past or future. That gives him the right to occupy the country and kill the citizens as he sees fit. Robert Baer, former CIA officer with long involvement in that part of the world has noted: “The people that want their country liberated from the West have nothing to do with Al Qaeda. They simply want us gone because we’re foreigners, and they’re rallying behind the Taliban because the Taliban are experienced, effective fighters.” 1

The pretenses extend further. US leaders have fed the public a certain image of the insurgents (all labeled together under the name “Taliban”) and of the conflict to cover the true imperialistic motivation behind the war. The predominant image at the headlines/TV news level and beyond is that of the Taliban as an implacable and monolithic “enemy” which must be militarily defeated at all costs for America’s security, with a negotiated settlement or compromise not being an option. However, consider the following which have been reported at various times during the past two years about the actual behavior of the United States and its allies in Afghanistan vis-à-vis the Taliban, which can raise questions about Obama’s latest escalation: 2

The US military in Afghanistan has long been considering paying Taliban fighters who renounce violence against the government in Kabul, as the United States has done with Iraqi insurgents.

President Obama has floated the idea of negotiating with moderate elements of the Taliban. 3

US envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, said last month that the United States would support any role Saudi Arabia chose to pursue in trying to engage Taliban officials. 4

Canadian troops are reaching out to the Taliban in various ways.

A top European Union official and a United Nations staff member were ordered by the Kabul government to leave the country after allegations that they had met Taliban insurgents without the administration’s knowledge. And two senior diplomats for the United Nations were expelled from the country, accused by the Afghan government of unauthorized dealings with insurgents. However, the Afghanistan government itself has had a series of secret talks with “moderate Taliban” since 2003 and President Hamid Karzai has called for peace talks with Taliban leader Mohammed Omar.

Organizations like the International Committee of the Red Cross as well as the United Nations have become increasingly open about their contacts with the Taliban leadership and other insurgent groups.

Gestures of openness are common practice among some of Washington’s allies in Afghanistan, notably the Dutch, who make negotiating with the Taliban an explicit part of their military policy.

The German government is officially against negotiations, but some members of the governing coalition have suggested Berlin host talks with the Taliban.

MI-6, Britain’s external security service, has held secret talks with the Taliban up to half a dozen times. At the local level, the British cut a deal, appointing a former Taliban leader as a district chief in Helmand province in exchange for security guarantees.

Senior British officers involved with the Afghan mission have confirmed that direct contact with the Taliban has led to insurgents changing sides as well as rivals in the Taliban movement providing intelligence which has led to leaders being killed or captured.

British authorities hold that there are distinct differences between different “tiers” of the Taliban and that it is essential to try to separate the doctrinaire extremists from others who are fighting for money or because they resent the presence of foreign forces in their country.

British contacts with the Taliban have occurred despite British Prime Minister Gordon Brown publicly ruling out such talks; on one occasion he told the House of Commons: “We will not enter into any negotiations with these people.”

For months there have been repeated reports of “good Taliban” forces being airlifted by Western helicopters from one part of Afghanistan to another to protect them from Afghan or Pakistani military forces. At an October 11 news conference in Kabul, President Hamid Karzai himself claimed that “some unidentified helicopters dropped armed men in the northern provinces at night.” 5

On November 2, IslamOnline.net (Qatar) reported: “The emboldened Taliban movement in Afghanistan turned down an American offer of power-sharing in exchange for accepting the presence of foreign troops, Afghan government sources confirmed. ‘US negotiators had offered the Taliban leadership through Mullah Wakil Ahmed Mutawakkil (former Taliban foreign minister) that if they accept the presence of NATO troops in Afghanistan, they would be given the governorship of six provinces in the south and northeast … America wants eight army and air force bases in different parts of Afghanistan in order to tackle the possible regrouping of [the] Al-Qaeda network,’ a senior Afghan Foreign Ministry official told IslamOnline.net.” 6

There has been no confirmation of this from American officials, but the New York Times on October 28 listed six provinces that were being considered to receive priority protection from the US military, five which are amongst the eight mentioned in the IslamOnline report as being planned for US military bases, although no mention is made in the Times of the above-mentioned offer. The next day, Asia Times reported: “The United States has withdrawn its troops from its four key bases in Nuristan [or Nooristan], on the border with Pakistan, leaving the northeastern province as a safe haven for the Taliban-led insurgency to orchestrate its regional battles.” Nuristan, where earlier in the month eight US soldiers were killed and three Apache helicopters hit by hostile fire, is one of the six provinces offered to the Taliban as reported in the IslamOnline.net story.

The part about al-Qaeda is ambiguous and questionable, not only because the term has long been loosely used as a catch-all for any group or individual in opposition to US foreign policy in this part of the world, but also because the president’s own national security adviser, former Marine Gen. James Jones, stated in early October: “I don’t foresee the return of the Taliban. Afghanistan is not in imminent danger of falling. The al-Qaeda presence is very diminished. The maximum estimate is less than 100 operating in the country, no bases, no ability to launch attacks on either us or our allies.” 7

Shortly after Jones’s remarks, we could read in the Wall Street Journal: “Hunted by U.S. drones, beset by money problems and finding it tougher to lure young Arabs to the bleak mountains of Pakistan, al-Qaida is seeing its role shrink there and in Afghanistan, according to intelligence reports and Pakistan and U.S. officials. … For Arab youths who are al-Qaida’s primary recruits, ‘it’s not romantic to be cold and hungry and hiding,’ said a senior U.S. official in South Asia.” 8

From all of the above is it not reasonable to conclude that the United States is willing and able to live with the Taliban, as repulsive as their social philosophy is? Perhaps even a Taliban state which would go across the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, which has been talked about in some quarters. What then is Washington fighting for? What moves the president of the United States to sacrifice so much American blood and treasure? In past years, US leaders have spoken of bringing democracy to Afghanistan, liberating Afghan women, or modernizing a backward country. President Obama made no mention of any of these previous supposed vital goals in his December 1 speech. He spoke only of the attacks of September 11, al Qaeda, the Taliban, terrorists, extremists, and such, symbols guaranteed to fire up an American audience. Yet, the president himself declared at one point: “Al Qaeda has not reemerged in Afghanistan in the same numbers as before 9/11, but they retain their safe havens along the border.” Ah yes, the terrorist danger … always, everywhere, forever, particularly when it seems the weakest.

How many of the West Point cadets, how many Americans, give thought to the fact that Afghanistan is surrounded by the immense oil reserves of the Persian Gulf and Caspian Sea regions? Or that Afghanistan is ideally situated for oil and gas pipelines to serve much of Europe and south Asia, lines that can deliberately bypass non-allies of the empire, Iran and Russia? If only the Taliban will not attack the lines. “One of our goals is to stabilize Afghanistan, so it can become a conduit and a hub between South and Central Asia so that energy can flow to the south …”, said Richard Boucher, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs in 2007. 9

Afghanistan would also serve as the home of American military bases, the better to watch and pressure next-door Iran and the rest of Eurasia. And NATO … struggling to find a raison d’être since the end of the Cold War. If the alliance is forced to pull out of Afghanistan without clear accomplishments after eight years will its future be even more in doubt?

So, for the present at least, the American War on Terror in Afghanistan continues and regularly and routinely creates new anti-American terrorists, as it has done in Iraq. This is not in dispute even at the Pentagon or the CIA. God Bless America.

Although the “surge” failed as policy, it succeeded as propaganda.

They don’t always use the word “surge”, but that’s what they mean. Our admirable leaders and our mainstream media that love to interview them would like us to believe that escalation of the war in Afghanistan is in effect a “surge”, like the one in Iraq which, they believe, has proven so successful. But the reality of the surge in Iraq was nothing like its promotional campaign. To the extent that there has been a reduction in violence in Iraq (now down to a level that virtually any other society in the world would find horrible and intolerable, including Iraqi society before the US invasion and occupation), we must keep in mind the following summary of how and why it “succeeded”:

  • Thanks to America’s lovely little war, there are many millions Iraqis either dead, wounded, crippled, homebound or otherwise physically limited, internally displaced, in foreign exile, or in bursting American and Iraqi prisons. Many others have been so traumatized that they are concerned simply for their own survival. Thus, a huge number of potential victims and killers has been markedly reduced.
  • Extensive ethnic cleansing has taken place: Sunnis and Shiites are now living much more than before in their own special enclaves, with entire neighborhoods surrounded by high concrete walls and strict security checkpoints; violence of the sectarian type has accordingly gone down.
  • In the face of numerous “improvised explosive devices” on the roads, US soldiers venture out a lot less, so the violence against them has been sharply down. It should be kept in mind that insurgent attacks on American forces following the invasion of 2003 is how the Iraqi violence all began in the first place.
  • For a long period, the US military was paying insurgents (or “former insurgents”) to not attack occupation forces.
  • The powerful Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr declared a unilateral cease-fire for his militia, including attacks against US troops, that was in effect for an extended period; this was totally unconnected to the surge.

We should never forget that Iraqi society has been destroyed. The people of that unhappy land have lost everything — their homes, their schools, their neighborhoods, their mosques, their jobs, their careers, their professionals, their health care, their legal system, their women’s rights, their religious tolerance, their security, their friends, their families, their past, their present, their future, their lives. But they do have their surge.

The War against Everything and Everyone, Endlessly

Nidal Malik Hasan, the US Army psychiatrist who killed 13 and wounded some 30 at Fort Hood, Texas in November reportedly regards the US War on Terror as a war aimed at Muslims. He told colleagues that “the US was battling not against security threats in Iraq and Afghanistan, but Islam itself.” 10 Hasan had long been in close contact with Anwar al-Awlaki, a US-born cleric and al Qaeda sympathizer now living in Yemen, who also called the US War on Terror a “war against Muslims”. Many, probably most, Muslims all over the world hold a similar view about American foreign policy.

I believe they’re mistaken. For many years, going back to at least the Korean war, it’s been fairly common for accusations to be made by activists opposed to US policies, in the United States and abroad, as well as by Muslims, that the United States chooses as its bombing targets only people of color, those of the Third World, or Muslims. But it must be remembered that in 1999 one of the most sustained and ferocious American bombing campaigns ever — 78 days in a row — was carried out against the Serbs of the former Yugoslavia: white, European, Christians. Indeed, we were told that the bombing was to rescue the people of Kosovo, who are largely Muslim. Earlier, the United States had come to the aid of the Muslims of Bosnia in their struggle against the Serbs. The United States is in fact an equal-opportunity bomber. The only qualifications for a country to become an American bombing target appear to be: (a) It poses a sufficient obstacle — real, imagined, or, as with Serbia, ideological — to the desires of the empire; (b) It is virtually defenseless against aerial attack.

Notes

  1. Video on Information Clearinghouse
  2. For the news items which follow if not otherwise sourced, see:
    • The Independent (London), December 14, 2007
    • Daily Telegraph (UK) December 26, 2007
    • The Globe and Mail (Toronto) May 1, 2008
    • BBC News, October 28, 2009
  3. New York Times, March 11, 2009
  4. Kuwait News Agency, November 24, 2009
  5. Pakistan Observer (Islamabad daily), October 19, 2009; The Jamestown Foundation (conservative Washington, DC think tank), “Karzai claims mystery helicopters ferrying Taliban to north Afghanistan”, November 6, 2009; Institute for War and Peace Reporting (London), “Helicopter rumour refuses to die”, October 26, 2009
  6. IslamOnline,US Offers Taliban 6 Provinces for 8 Bases“, November 2, 2009
  7. Washington Times, October 5, 2009, from a CNN interview
  8. Wall Street Journal, October 13, 2009
  9. Talk at the Paul H. Nitze School for Advanced International Studies, Washington, DC, September 20, 2007.
  10. Christian Science Monitor, November 17, 2009

William Blum is the author of:

  • Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2
  • Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower
  • West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir
  • Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire

Portions of the books can be read, and signed copies purchased, at www.killinghope.org

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article24147.htm

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Not Just Guantanamo:

U.S. Torturing Muslim Pre-trial Detainee in

New York City

by Bill Quigley


April 3rd, 2010,
Dissident voice

Today in New York City, the U.S. is torturing a Muslim detainee with no prior criminal record who has not even gone to trial.

For the last almost three years, Syed Fahad Hashmi has been kept in total pre-trial isolation inside in a small cell under 24 hour video and audio surveillance. He is forced to use the bathroom and shower in full view of the video. He has not seen the sun in years. He takes his meals alone in his cell. He cannot see any other detainees and he is not allowed to communicate in any way with any prisoners. He cannot write letters to friends and he cannot make calls to anyone but his lawyer. He is prohibited from participating in group prayer. He gets newspapers that are 30 days old with sections cut out by the government. One hour a day he is taken into another confined room where he is also kept in total isolation.

Children are taught that the U.S. Constitution protects people accused of crimes. No one is to be punished unless their guilt or innocence has been decided in a fair trial. Until trial, people are entitled to the presumption of innocence. They are entitled to be defended by an attorney of their choice. And the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.

The punishment of Mr. Hashmi has been going on for years while he has been waiting for trial. In addition to the punitive isolation he is subjected to today, he was denied the attorney of his choice. He was allowed only counsel investigated and pre-approved by the government. He is not allowed to look at any translated documents unless the translator is pre-approved by the government. He is not allowed any contact with the media at all. One member of his family can visit through the heavy screen for one hour every other week unless the government takes away those visits to further punish him. The government took away his family visits for 90 days when he was observed shadow boxing in his cell and talked back to the guard who asked what he was doing.

If the Constitution prohibits cruel and unusual punishment, what is the impact of forced isolation? Medical testimony presented in his case in federal court concluded that after 60 days in solitary people’s mental state begins to break down. That means a person will start to experience panic, anxiety, confusion, headaches, heart palpitations, sleep problems, withdrawal, anger, depression, despair, and over-sensitivity. Over time this can lead to severe psychiatric trauma and harms like psychosis, distortion of reality, hallucinations, mass anxiety and acute confusion. Essentially, the mind disintegrates.

That is why, under international standards for human rights, extended isolation is considered a form of torture and is banned. The conditions and practices of isolation are in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the U.N. Convention against Torture, and the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

In 1995, the U.N. Human Rights Committee stated that isolation conditions in certain U.S. maximum security prisons were incompatible with international standards. In 1996, the U.N. special rapporteur on torture reported on cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment in U.S. supermax prisons. In 2000, the U.N. Committee on Torture roundly condemned the United States for its treatment of prisoners, citing supermax prisons. In May 2006, the same committee concluded that the United States should “review the regimen imposed on detainees in supermax prisons, in particular, the practice of prolonged isolation.”

John McCain said his two years in solitary confinement were torture. “It crushes your spirit and weakens your resistance effectively than any other form of mistreatment.” The reaction of McCain and many other victims of isolation torture were described in a 2009 New Yorker article on isolation by Atul Gawande. Gawande concluded that prolonged isolation is objectively horrifying, intrinsically cruel, and more widespread in the U.S. than any country in the world.

Who is this man? Syed Fahad Hashmi grew up in Queens and attended Brooklyn College. He became an outspoken Muslim activist. He moved to London and received a master’s degree in international relations there.

Yet the federal judge hearing his case continues to approve of the forced isolation and the rest of the restrictions on this presumably innocent man.

The reason that this is allowed to continue is that Hashmi is accused of being involved with al Qaeda.

Mr. Hashmi is accused of helping al Qaeda by allowing rain gear (raincoats, ponchos and socks) that were going to Afghanistan to be stored in his Queens apartment, he allowed his cell phone to be used to contact al Qaeda supporters and he made post-arrest threatening statements.

Supporters of Fahad have demonstrated outside his jail, set up a website and have worked for years to alert the public to his torture. Articles by Amy Goodman, Chris Hedges and Jeanne Theoharris have been written over the past several years documenting and protesting these human rights violations.

But, once accused of connections with terrorism or al Qaeda, apparently, the U.S. constitution and international human rights apparently do not apply. Torture by the U.S. is allowed. Pre-trial punishment is allowed. The presumption of innocence goes out the window. Counsel of choice is not allowed. Communication with news media not allowed.

Bill Quigley represented Pere Jean-Juste many times in Haiti along with the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux in Port au Prince and the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti. Bill is on leave from Loyola University College of Law in New Orleans serving as Legal Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights. He can be reached at: quigley77@gmail.com. Read other articles by Bill, or visit Bill’s website.

http://dissidentvoice.org/2010/04/not-just-guantanamo-u-s-torturing-muslim-pre-trial-detainee-in-new-york-city/

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More on Syed Fahad Hashmi’s inhumane torture by 24/7 solitary confinement while AWAITING trial, in other words he may be ruled as innocent  and is innocent until proven guilty, according to law, so why then  this torture for someone not aggressive and dangerous???

Feel Safer Now?

By William Fisher

Formerly served State Department and Agency for International Development

Posted: April 6, 2010 09:03 AM

I write a lot of stories, news mostly. They’re carried by InterPress News Service. I’ve been doing this for a very long time, so I’m usually able to separate myself from what I’m writing about so I don’t get emotionally involved.

But there are those times when I find myself getting so angry over the subject of the story I’m writing that I can’t write it.

Usually, when that happens, I distract myself. I write another story. I watch a ballgame. I play some old standards on the piano. Something.

But this time, none of my usual distractions helped very much. I am still angry; in fact, I am furious. Furious enough to try to tell this story. Here goes:

This is a story about a fellow named Syed Fahad Hashmi. For the last close to three years, this guy has been living in solitary confinement in a federal lockup, awaiting a trial.

He is under 24-hour video and audio surveillance, even when he uses the toilet. He eats all his meals in his small cell. He is not allowed to communicate with other prisoners. He is a Muslim but is not allowed to participate in group prayer. He is not allowed to phone anyone but his lawyer. He did not even have his free choice of that lawyer and had to take one approved by the government.

The newspapers he receives have whole sections cut out of them by the government. They are always at least a month old. Once a day, for an hour, he is taken to another room where he remains in isolation. He cannot read any translated documents unless the translator is pre-approved by the government. Contact with the media is forbidden.

For one hour every other week, one member of his family can “visit” through a heavy screen. No touching or hugging is allowed or possible. Sometimes the government takes away his family visits as punishment. He once lost his visits for three months; he was seen shadow boxing in his cell and when asked what he was doing his response apparently failed to pass muster with the authorities.

Who is Syed Fahad Hashmi? Well, for starters, he’s an American citizen. He grew up in Queens and attended Brooklyn College. He is an outspoken Muslim activist. Does that mean he’s a terrorist? Only if you’re Steve King.

After Brooklyn College, where Hashmi’s profs remember him as a guy who loved to engage in debate, he moved to London where he earned a master’s degree in international relations. And that’s where his current troubles began.

An acquaintance from America phoned him at his London apartment and asked if he could stay with Hashmi. He brought a suitcase, later discovered to be filled with raincoats, ponchos and socks.

Now Hashmi was accused of being involved with al Qaeda because the government claims that the rain gear in the suitcase was “military gear” reportedly headed for Afghanistan. Hashmi also allowed his cell phone to be used, and whoever used it allegedly contacted some bad guys from al Qaeda.

Hashmi was arrested based on the testimony of Junaid Babar, an informant attempting to get a reduction in his own 70-year prison sentence. This was the guy who had briefly stayed in Hashmi’s apartment in London

So, because of a suitcase full of raingear, and a cellphone allegedly used by someone to contact some unsavory dudes, an American citizen is held in solitary confinement for almost three years?

The answer is yes – which will be totally counter-intuitive to anyone with even a passing familiarity with the U.S. Constitution. Fashmi is held under Justice Department rules known as SAMs – Special Administrative Measures. He is held so he won’t escape. He is held so he can’t contact any Al Qaeda operatives.

Now, I have no idea whether Hashmi is guilty or not. That’s why we have trials.

But what about the Constitution? What about the presumption of innocence until proven guilty? What about the Constitutional guarantee of a speedy trial? And an attorney of our choice?

Those rules are evidently abandoned the instant someone utters the words Al Qaeda.

And how about the proscription against cruel and unusual punishment? Does three years in solitary sound “cruel” and “unusual?”

Well, the medical testimony presented in this case concluded that “after 60 days in solitary people’s mental state begins to break down.” According to Bill Quigley of the Center for Constitutional Rights, “That means a person will start to experience panic, anxiety, confusion, headaches, heart palpitations, sleep problems, withdrawal, anger, depression, despair, and over-sensitivity. Over time this can lead to severe psychiatric trauma and harms like psychosis, distortion of reality, hallucinations, mass anxiety and acute confusion. Essentially, the mind disintegrates.”

That’s why extended isolation is banned by international treaties as a form of torture. Just ask John McCain whether his life in solitary confinement affected his mind.

Meanwhile, Hashmi’s case has become something of a cause celebre. His supporters have staged demonstrations outside his jail, launched a website (www.freefahad.com) and worked to alert the public to his plight. And prominent figures such as Nat Hentoff, Amy Goodman, Chris Hedges and his old Brooklyn College professor, Jeanne Theoharris, have all written articles about Hashmi and his vanishing Constitutional guarantees.

Now, finally, Hashmi has a trial date — April 28. He will be tried for conspiring to send money and military gear — socks and rainproof ponchos — to al Qaeda associates in Pakistan.

And my lawyer friends tell me that the way the “material support” statute is written, you could convict a ham sandwich of supporting al Qaeda.

If this case didn’t make you angry, you need to take a refresher course in American History or Civics 101.

And you need to do it right away! Before the Constitution disappears altogether.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/william-fisher/feel-safer-now_b_526675.html

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Tortured Justice

Using Coerced Evidence to

Prosecute Terrorist Suspects

http://www.humanrightsfirst.info/pdf/08307-etn-tortured-justice-web.pdf

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Obama and the torture files

‘The past is a foreign country’?

Obama and the torture files

Opinion – n°0, May 2009
by Alexandra Barahona de Brito

Obama_and_the_torture_files.pdf

http://www.iss.europa.eu/uploads/media/Obama_and_the_torture_files.pdf

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The US has used torture for decades.

All that’s new is the openness about it

Naomi Klein

By ignoring past abuses, opponents of torture are in danger of pushing it back into the shadows instead of abolishing it

It was the “Mission Accomplished” of George Bush’s second term, and an announcement of that magnitude called for a suitably dramatic location. But what was the right backdrop for the infamous “We do not torture” declaration? With characteristic audacity, the Bush team settled on downtown Panama City.

It was certainly bold. An hour and a half’s drive from where Bush stood, the US military ran the notorious School of the Americas from 1946 to 1984, a sinister educational institution that, if it had a motto, might have been “We do torture”. It is here in Panama, and later at the school’s new location in Fort Benning, Georgia, where the roots of the current torture scandals can be found.

According to declassified training manuals, SOA students – military and police officers from across the hemisphere – were instructed in many of the same “coercive interrogation” techniques that have since gone to Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib: early morning capture to maximise shock, immediate hooding and blindfolding, forced nudity, sensory deprivation, sensory overload, sleep and food “manipulation”, humiliation, extreme temperatures, isolation, stress positions – and worse. In 1996 President Clinton’s Intelligence Oversight Board admitted that US-produced training materials condoned “execution of guerrillas, extortion, physical abuse, coercion and false imprisonment”.

Some Panama school graduates went on to commit the continent’s greatest war crimes of the past half-century: the murders of Archbishop Oscar Romero and six Jesuit priests in El Salvador; the systematic theft of babies from Argentina’s “disappeared” prisoners; the massacre of 900 civilians in El Mozote in El Salvador; and military coups too numerous to list here.

Yet when covering the Bush announcement, not a single mainstream news outlet mentioned the location’s sordid history. How could they? That would require something totally absent from the debate: an admission that the embrace of torture by US officials has been integral to US foreign policy since the Vietnam war.

It’s a history exhaustively documented in an avalanche of books, declassified documents, CIA training manuals, court records and truth commissions. In his forthcoming book, A Question of Torture, Alfred McCoy synthesises this evidence, producing a riveting account of how monstrous CIA-funded experiments on psychiatric patients and prisoners in the 1950s turned into a template for what he calls “no-touch torture”, based on sensory deprivation and self-inflicted pain. McCoy traces how these methods were field-tested by CIA agents in Vietnam as part of the Phoenix programme and then imported to Latin America and Asia under the guise of police training.

It is not only apologists for torture who ignore this history when they blame abuses on “a few bad apples”. A startling number of torture’s most prominent opponents keep telling us that the idea of torturing prisoners first occurred to US officials on September 11 2001, at which point the methods used in Guantánamo apparently emerged, fully formed, from the sadistic recesses of Dick Cheney’s and Donald Rumsfeld’s brains. Up until that moment, we are told, America fought its enemies while keeping its humanity intact.

The principal propagator of this narrative (what Garry Wills termed “original sinlessness”) is Senator John McCain. Writing in Newsweek on the need to ban torture, McCain says that when he was a prisoner of war in Hanoi, he held fast to the knowledge “that we were different from our enemies … that we, if the roles were reversed, would not disgrace ourselves by committing or approving such mistreatment of them”. It is a stunning historical distortion. By the time McCain was taken captive, the CIA had launched the Phoenix programme and, as McCoy writes, “its agents were operating 40 interrogation centres in South Vietnam that killed more than 20,000 suspects and tortured thousands more.”

Does it somehow lessen today’s horrors to admit that this is not the first time the US government has used torture, that it has operated secret prisons before, that it has actively supported regimes that tried to erase the left by dropping students out of airplanes? That, closer to home, photographs of lynchings were traded and sold as trophies and warnings? Many seem to think so. On November 8, Democratic Congressman Jim McDermott made the astonishing claim to the House of Representatives that “America has never had a question about its moral integrity, until now”.

Other cultures deal with a legacy of torture by declaring “Never again!” Why do so many Americans insist on dealing with the current torture crisis by crying “Never before”? I suspect it stems from a sincere desire to convey the seriousness of this administration’s crimes. And its open embrace of torture is indeed unprecedented.

But let’s be clear about what is unprecedented: not the torture, but the openness. Past administrations kept their “black ops” secret; the crimes were sanctioned but they were committed in the shadows, officially denied and condemned. The Bush administration has broken this deal: post-9/11, it demanded the right to torture without shame, legitimised by new definitions and new laws.

Despite all the talk of outsourced torture, the real innovation has been in-sourcing, with prisoners being abused by US citizens in US-run prisons and transported to third countries in US planes. It is this departure from clandestine etiquette that has so much of the military and intelligence community up in arms: Bush has robbed everyone of plausible deniability. This shift is of huge significance. When torture is covertly practised but officially and legally repudiated, there is still hope that if atrocities are exposed, justice could prevail. When torture is pseudo-legal and those responsible deny that it is torture, what dies is what Hannah Arendt called “the juridical person in man”. Soon victims no longer bother to search for justice, so sure are they of the futility, and danger, of that quest. This is a larger mirror of what happens inside the torture chamber, when prisoners are told they can scream all they want because no one can hear them and no one is going to save them.

The terrible irony of the anti-historicism of the torture debate is that in the name of eradicating future abuses, past crimes are being erased from the record. Since the US has never had truth commissions, the memory of its complicity in far-away crimes has always been fragile. Now these memories are fading further, and the disappeared are disappearing again.

This casual amnesia does a disservice not only to the victims, but also to the cause of trying to remove torture from the US policy arsenal once and for all. Already there are signs that the administration will deal with the uproar by returning to plausible deniability. The McCain amendment protects every “individual in the custody or under the physical control of the United States government”; it says nothing about torture training or buying information from the exploding industry of for-profit interrogators.

And in Iraq the dirty work is already being handed over to Iraqi death squads, trained by the US and supervised by commanders like Jim Steele, who prepared for the job by setting up similar units in El Salvador. The US role in training and supervising Iraq’s interior ministry was forgotten, moreover, when 173 prisoners were recently discovered in a ministry dungeon, some tortured so badly that their skin was falling off. “Look, it’s a sovereign country. The Iraqi government exists,” Rumsfeld said. He sounded just like the CIA’s William Colby who, asked in a 1971 Congressional probe about the thousands killed under Phoenix, a programme he helped launch, replied that it was now “entirely a South Vietnamese programme”.

As McCoy says, “if you don’t understand the history and the depths of the institutional and public complicity, then you can’t begin to undertake meaningful reforms.” Lawmakers will respond to pressure by eliminating one small piece of the torture apparatus: closing a prison, shutting down a programme, even demanding the resignation of a really bad apple like Rumsfeld. But he warns, “they will preserve the prerogative to torture.”

· A version of this article appears in the Nation www.thenation.com

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2005/dec/10/usa.comment

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Impunity for CIA torture is incompatible

with USA’s international obligations

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Stuff of Life – Amnesty International film

© Amnesty International

17 April 2009

Four previously secret memorandums released by the new US administration give an insight into how its predecessor lost its legal and moral compass in turning to torture and other ill-treatment in the name of counter-terrorism.

The release of the memorandums, written in the US Department of Justice in 2002 and 2005 to provide legal cover to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to use “enhanced” interrogation techniques in its secret detention program, is welcome. Amnesty International has long called for all such documents to be published.

However, accompanying statements issued by President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, effectively conferring impunity for acts of torture – crimes under international law, are incompatible with the USA’s international legal obligation to bring perpetrators to justice.

International law is clear. Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment can never be justified. They are never legal. Even in a state of emergency, there can be no exemption from this obligation.

International law is also clear about the state’s duties when this prohibition is violated. States must ensure that independent and impartial investigations are carried out into allegations of torture or other ill-treatment and that anyone found responsible is brought to justice.

In a letter to CIA officers, President Obama said: “In releasing these memos, the men and women of the CIA have assurances from both myself, and from Attorney General Holder, that we will protect all who acted reasonably and relied upon legal advice from the Department of Justice that their actions were lawful.

“The Attorney General has assured me that these individuals will not be prosecuted and that the Government will stand by them”.  But there is no such thing as torture perpetrated in “good faith” or “reasonable” circumstances.

Read More

USA: Torture in black and white, but impunity continues: Department of Justice releases interrogation memorandums (Briefing, 17 April 2009)

http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/obama-accused-quotcondoning-torturequot-20090417

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USA: Torture in black and white, but impunity continues

Department of Justice releases interrogation memorandums

17 April 2009 AI Index: AMR 51/055/2009

International law is clear. Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment can never be justified. They are never legal. Even in a state of emergency which threatens the life of the nation, there can be no exemption from this obligation.

International law is also clear about the state’s duties when this prohibition is violated. States must ensure that independent and impartial investigations are carried out into allegations of torture or other ill-treatment and that anyone found responsible is brought to justice. Victims of violations must be provided with remedies that are not only available in law, but are accessible and effective in practice.

On 16 April 2009, the US Department of Justice released, largely un-redacted, four memorandums written in the Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) in 2002 and 2005. The documents, which the previous US administration had classified as Top Secret, give an insight into how that administration lost its legal and moral compass in turning to torture and other ill-treatment in the name of counter-terrorism.

The release of the memorandums by the new administration is welcome. Amnesty International has long called for all such documents to be published. However, accompanying statements issued by President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, effectively conferring impunity for acts of torture, crimes under international law, are incompatible with the USA’s international legal obligation to bring perpetrators to justice.

All four OLC memorandums were directed to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and provided legal approval for various interrogation techniques that the CIA had used or wished to use in the USA’s secret detention program operated on foreign soil following the attacks of 11 September 2001.

The techniques variously approved by the OLC, for use singly or in combination, included:

  • abdominal and facial slapping.
  • confinement in small dark spaces, such as a box. If the space was large enough to stand in, confinement could last for up to 18 hours. For a space in which the detainee could not stand, confinement was restricted to two hours. This technique could be combined with exploitation of phobias, such as putting an insect in the box with a detainee who had a fear of insects.
  • forced nudity. One of the 2005 memorandums notes that “this technique is used to cause psychological discomfort, particularly if a detainee, for cultural or other reasons, is especially modest… [I]nterrogators can exploit the detainee’s fear of being seen naked… For the purposes of our analysis, we will assume that detainees subjected to nudity as an interrogation technique are aware that they may be seen naked by a female”.
  • stress positions such as forcing the detainee to kneel while leaning back at a 45 degree angle.
  • sleep deprivation for up to 11 days. One of the 2005 memorandums notes that “the primary method of sleep deprivation involves the use of shackling to keep the detainee awake. In this method, the detainee is standing and is handcuffed, and the handcuffs are attached to a length of chain to the ceiling…. The detainee’s feet are shackled to a bolt in the floor…. Should the detainee begin to fall asleep, he will lose his balance and awaken, either because of the sensation of losing his balance or because of the restraining tension of the shackles”. Another method of sleep deprivation, the memorandum noted, is to shackle the detainee to a small stool: “The stool supports the detainee’s weight, but is too small to permit the subject to balance himself sufficiently to be able to go to sleep”.
  • ‘dietary manipulation’, or the denial of solid food and its substitution by liquid nutrients.
  • dousing with cold water; one of the 2005 memorandums notes that “cold water is poured on the detainee either from a container or from a hose without a nozzle. This technique is intended to weaken the detainee’s resistance and persuade him to cooperate with interrogators”.
  • ‘water-boarding’, commonly known as simulated drowning. The 2002 memorandum found that the technique “constitutes a threat of imminent death”, but approved it on the grounds that it would not cause “prolonged mental harm” and therefore did not amount to torture under US law.

The cold detail of these memorandums written by Justice Department lawyers to provide “legal cover” for CIA operatives interrogating detainees held in secret detention should be read alongside the allegations of how these techniques were put into practice, as reported by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The ICRC’s confidential February 2007 report to the US government based on the organization’s interviews in Guantánamo in late 2006 with 14 detainees who had been held for up to four and a half years incommunicado in solitary confinement in the secret program before being transferred to the US Naval Base in Cuba has recently been leaked into the public domain. The ICRC concluded that:

“The allegations of ill-treatment of the detainees indicate that, in many cases, the ill-treatment to which they were subjected while held in the CIA program, either singly or in combination, constituted torture. In addition, many other elements of the ill-treatment, either singly or in combination, constituted cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.”

The ICRC also concluded that the 14 detainees had been subjected by the USA to enforced disappearance, like torture a crime under international law.

However, both President Obama and Attorney General Holder said that anyone who had relied “in good faith” upon the legal advice in the OLC opinions would not be prosecuted. The Director of the CIA, Leon Panetta, said that he would “strongly oppose any effort to investigate or punish those who followed the guidance of the Department of Justice”. The Director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, said that “it is important to remember the context of these past events…The CIA was struggling to obtain critical information”. The interrogation methods, he said, “read on a bright, sunny, safe day in April 2009, appear graphic and disturbing… We will absolutely defend those who relied on these memos and those guidelines”. Again, under international law there can be no justification for torture and other ill-treatment.

In a letter to CIA officers, President Obama said: “In releasing these memos, the men and women of the CIA have assurances from both myself, and from Attorney General Holder, that we will protect all who acted reasonably and relied upon legal advice from the Department of Justice that their actions were lawful. The Attorney General has assured me that these individuals will not be prosecuted and that the Government will stand by them”. But there is no such thing as torture perpetrated in “good faith” or “reasonable” circumstances.

President Obama’s letter to the CIA continued: “This is a time for reflection, not retribution…. Nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past”. There is justice and respect for human rights to be gained, however, and this is what drives demands for an end to impunity. Impunity breeds abuse. It is time for truth and accountability. It is time for the USA to meet its international obligations. This should include establishing an independent commission of inquiry into all aspects of US detention and interrogation practices since 11 September 2001.

AI Index: AMR 51/055/2009 Amnesty International 17 April 2009

http://www.amnestyusa.org/document.php?id=ENGAMR510552009&lang=e

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Extraordinary rendition by the United States

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extraordinary_rendition_by_the_United_States

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Truth, Torture, and the American Way:

The History and Consequences  of U.S. Involvement in Torture

Jennifer K. Harbury

From Publishers Weekly

When torture photos from Abu Ghraib became public in spring 2004, Americans reacted with revulsion: how could our military commit such horrible acts? In fact, Harbury’s well-documented volume reveals, American representatives abroad have been involved in torture for decades, much of it in Central America, where U.S. agents apparently encouraged the kidnapping, maltreatment and murder of left-wing fighters and their suspected sympathizers. Harbury’s own husband became one of the Guatemalan victims-she described his fate in Searching for Everardo-and this new volume alludes to his story repeatedly. Its central chapter compiles testimony from Latin American torture survivors, making a case for U.S. involvement in “torture by proxy.” Harbury accompanies her evidence with passionate if unsurprising denunciations, calling torture not just inhumane and illegal but ineffective: since tortured suspects confess to anything, she says, their statements may be worth nothing. Making use of her Harvard Law training, Harbury suggests legal avenues through which even federally sanctioned torturers may be held responsible. If her book holds few surprises for those who have followed these stories closely, its cases will certainly stoke the fires of outrage. Radio host Amy Goodman, of Pacifica’s Democracy Now program, contributes a foreword (not seen by PW).
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Description

Jennifer Harbury’s investigation into torture began when her husband disappeared in Guatemala in 1992; she told the story of his torture and murder in Searching for Everardo. For over a decade since, Harbury has used her formidable legal, research, and organizing skills to press for the U.S. government’s disclosure of America’s involvement in harrowing abuses in Latin America, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East. A draft of this book had just been completed when the first photos from Abu Ghraib were published; tragically, many of Harbury’s deepest fears about America’s own abuses were graphically confirmed by those horrific images.

This urgently needed book offers both well-documented evidence of the CIA’s continuous involvement in torture tactics since the 1970s and moving personal testimony from many of the victims. Most important, Harbury provides solid, convincing arguments against the use of torture in any circumstances: not only because it is completely inconsistent with all the basic values Americans hold dear, but also because it has repeatedly proved to be ineffective: Again and again, “information” obtained through these gruesome tactics proves unreliable or false. Worse, the use of torture by U.S. client states, allies, and even by our own operatives, endangers our citizens and especially our troops deployed internationally

Another

I found this a hard book to read because of the information presented. It is depressing to learn that America has such an oppressive government and sponsors torture and right wing terror throughout the world. After reading this book I have researched many more instances of torture funded by the CIA, etc. and it has spurred me to join Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, among other human rights groups. Overall I found the book enlightening and well written and it has made a definite difference in my life

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Torture by proxy

By Reuel S. Amdur

Saturday, 10.04.2008, 04:29pm

This is a book that should make you angry, depressed, and ashamed.  Ashamed to be Canadian, ashamed to be American.  It tells in graphic and gruesome detail of the tortures inflicted on innocent Muslim men. The tortures resulted from faulty information provided by Canadian and/or American governments about Maher Arar, Ahmad El Maati, Abdullah Almalki and Muayyed Nureddin.

As is well known by now, Arar was a victim of “extraordinary rendition,” ending up first in Jordan, where he was beaten and then transferred to Syria, where he was severely tortured.  Arar provides the foreword, in which he speaks of “many” fellow prisoners in the Far’ Falastin Prison in Damascus who were “rendered to Syria courtesy of the U.S. government and its allies.”

Of course, there is a lot more blame to go around.  Did the Italian government know about Presidential Aviation’s role in Arar’s rendition when it stopped over in Rome?  And then there is of course the behavior of Jordan, Egypt, and Syria, all of whom seriously mistreated one or more of the men and all of whom routinely mistreat prisoners.  Pither names some of the torturers.

Canada participated in the “war on terror” hysteria which precipitated this inhuman treatment because, as then Deputy Prime Minister John Manley put it, “from the Canadian point of view, the primary objective was economic.”  Canada had to be seen by the U.S. to be doing its share in the war on terror in order to keep the border open to commerce.  Besides, Canadian security had fumbled badly in losing track of Ahmed Ressam, the so-called millennium bomber, and in failing to deport him even after his deportation was ordered and even when he was incarcerated for criminal activity while under order for deportation.

Gar Pardy, was, before his retirement, the Director General of the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade’s consular division.  He was involved in dealing with the four cases, and he had unkind words for RCMP involvement.  ”We had inexperienced and, up to a point, inept people dealing with a subject matter that they know nothing about and absolutely no supervision of the people at a level that should have been taking place.”  Even after the victimized Muslim men returned to Canada, the shadowy men in “intelligence” kept feeding doctored information to the media to cast doubt on the lack of the men’s culpability.  True “cover your ass” behavior.

Pither is not prepared to leave the matter of responsibility at that.  There is also the question of the role of the Canadian Security and Intelligence Agency (CSIS), and beyond the various public servants there are their political masters.  Why are people like former cabinet ministers Jean Chrétien, John Manley, Justice Minister Anne McLellan, and Solicitor General Wayne Easter not made to pay for their role in all of this?  Pither does not specifically mention criminal responsibility but why not?  And of course there are American officials who share the guilt, beginning with President George W. Bush at the top.  The answer of course is that people at the top rarely pay for such crimes.

http://www.arabamericannews.com/news/index.php?mod=article&cat=BookReviews&article=1553

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British detainee’s tale of US ‘torture by proxy’

A west London man claims he is a victim of the US alleged “torture by proxy” policy, and has given the first account of abuse he says is inflicted on “ghost detainees” around the world.

Benyam Mohammed, 26, is accused of planning al-Qaida attacks. He says he spent 2½ years in prisons in Pakistan, Morocco and Afghanistan before being taken to Guantánamo. During that time, he says, he was subjected to physical and mental torture. He also says he was questioned by American and British intelligence agents he believes to be FBI and MI6 officers

Mr Mohammed is accused of plotting to explode a “dirty bomb” in a US city – which he denies – as well as planning to blow up apartments.

Among allegations of torture in a dossier by his lawyer are being beaten, having his genitals slashed, and being forced to listen to loud rock music for long periods. He left London for Afghanistan “to find out whether it was a good Islamic country or not”, and was arrested in Pakistan in 2002. He says he was flown to Morocco on a US plane and tortured in a secret prison.

One diary extract tells how four men entered his cell: “They cut off my clothes with some kind of doctor’s scalpel. I was naked. I tried to put on a brave face …One took my penis in his hand and began to make cuts. He did it once, and they stood still for maybe a minute, watching my reaction. I was in agony. They must have done this 20 to 30 times, in maybe two hours. There was blood all over. ‘I told you I was going to teach you who’s the man,’ [one] eventually said.”

His claims cannot be independently verified, and some groups affiliated to al-Qaida are believed to be taught to make allegations of torture. But his account of a prison near Rabat tallies with the Temara torture centre identified by the US organisation Human Rights Watch. The Guardian has obtained records showing CIA jets flew in and out of Morocco on the dates he specifies.

The Foreign Office said the UK “unreservedly condemns” torture and would never allow the intelligence services to use it. US and Moroccan authorities did not return calls. The CIA declined to comment.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2005/aug/02/terrorism.humanrights


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