Saturday, April 19, 2008

ACLU Uncovers Spies, Wiretaps, Torture Regime

The following is a sample of some of the stellar work done by the ACLU lately. The lead story here regards further documentary evidence regarding the implementation and spread of torture across the military, stemming from the reverse-engineering of SERE training in torture methods, and the impetus of this from high Bush Administration figures. (Jason Leopold at reminds us that Bush himself was intimately involved in the use of illegal torture techniques himself.)

Documents Obtained By ACLU Describe Charges Of Murder And Torture Of Prisoners In U.S. Custody
Newly Released Government Documents Show Special Forces Used Illegal Interrogation Techniques In Afghanistan
NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union obtained documents today from the Department of Defense confirming the military’s use of unlawful interrogation methods on detainees held in U.S. custody in Afghanistan. The documents from the military’s Criminal Investigation Division (CID), obtained as a result of the ACLU’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit, include the first on-the-ground reports of torture in Gardez, Afghanistan to be publicly released.

“These documents make it clear that the military was using unlawful interrogation techniques in Afghanistan,” said Amrit Singh, an attorney with the ACLU. “Rather than putting a stop to these systemic abuses, senior officials appear to have turned a blind eye to them.”

Special Operations officers in Gardez admitted to using what are known as Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) techniques, which for decades American service members experienced as training to prepare for the brutal treatment they might face if captured.

Today’s documents reveal charges that Special Forces beat, burned, and doused eight prisoners with cold water before sending them into freezing weather conditions. One of the eight prisoners, Jamal Naseer, died in U.S. custody in March 2003. In late 2004, the military opened a criminal investigation into charges of torture at Gardez. Despite numerous witness statements describing the evidence of torture, the military’s investigation concluded that the charges of torture were unsupported. It also concluded that Naseer’s death was the result of a “stomach ailment,” even though no autopsy had been conducted in his case. Documents uncovered today also refer to sodomy committed by prison guards; the victims’ identities are redacted.

“These documents raise serious questions about the adequacy of the military’s investigations into prisoner abuse,” added Singh.

The ACLU also obtained today a file today related to the death of Muhammad Al Kanan, a prisoner held at Camp Bucca in Iraq. The file reveals that British doctors refused to issue a death certificate for fear of being sued for malpractice:

In October 2003, the ACLU – along with the Center for Constitutional Rights, Physicians for Human Rights, Veterans for Common Sense, and Veterans for Peace – filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act for records concerning the treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody abroad. To date, more than 100,000 pages of government documents have been released in response to the ACLU's FOIA lawsuit.

Attorneys in the FOIA case are Lawrence S. Lustberg and Melanca D. Clark of the New Jersey-based law firm Gibbons, P.C.; Jameel Jaffer, Singh and Judy Rabinovitz of the ACLU; Arthur Eisenberg and Beth Haroules of the New York Civil Liberties Union; and Shayana Kadidal and Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

In addition, many of the FOIA documents are also located and summarized in a recently published book by Jaffer and Singh, Administration of Torture. More information is available online at:

The documents received in the ACLU’s FOIA litigation are online at:

All of today’s documents are available at:

It's hard to read over and over about the crimes and abuses of the U.S. government in the phony war on terror. One wants to DO something about it. The other day, I advocated signing the CondiMustGo petition that various groups put together after the revelations in the press about the meetings of the White House "principals" group in the early planning and implementation of torture -- meetings chaired by now-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. I took some heat from various colleagues for (supposedly) singling out Rice and supporting this campaign.

I disagree with these colleagues, and note that this campaign was initiated and supported by some very influential people (and not the clever GOP operatives that some people imagined). The people involved with the Condi petition are Howard Dean's group, Democracy for America; Robert Greenwald's group Brave New Films (Greenwald, who directed the Condi video, is the maker of 21 Hrs. at Munich, The Burning Bed, Iraq for Sale, and a critical documentary on Wal-Mart); and True Majority/USAction. True Majority is Ben Cohen (of Ben and Jerry's) group. USAction is a mainstream Democratic Party kind of group, stacked with labor officials(AFL-CIO, AFCSME), various citizen action groups, and a president associated with Rainbow Coalition/PUSH. In other words, the campaign to oust Rice originated with the mainstream of the Democratic Party activist core.

I do agree with one colleague who advocated support for the ACLU's campaign call for an independent prosecutor "to hold President Bush, Vice-President Cheney and other high-ranking officials accountable for their role in condoning and/or authorizing U.S. involvement in torture." I strongly urge my readers to go to the ACLU site and sign their petition!

Meanwhile, also of great importance is the ACLU's report, "Total Information Awareness Lives":
A stunning new report indicates the NSA has effectively revived the Orwellian “Total Information Awareness” domestic-spying program that was banned by Congress in 2003. In response, the ACLU has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for more information about the spying. And, we moved the Surveillance Clock one minute closer to midnight.
It's hard to accept just how disturbed and scary a world it is that we live in. But if we close our eyes to this, if we do not take every reasonable opportunity to push back against the forces that propagate war, torture, and attacks against our civil liberties, then we will surely lose the battle against these forces. Such a result is too terrible to contemplate for ourselves and for the world.

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