Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Death of a "Dirty Bomb" Frame-up

Andy Worthington has an excellent article at AlterNet analyzing the recent decision by Bush's Justice Department to drop "dirty bomb" charges against British resident and Guantánamo prisoner Binyam Mohamed, the so-called co-conspirator with Jose Padilla to construct and detonate a "dirty bomb" on U.S. soil.
For over three years, Binyam's lawyers at Reprieve, the London-based legal action charity, have been arguing that the allegations against Binyam were extracted through the use of torture -- in Morocco, where Binyam was tortured for 18 months, after being rendered by the CIA, and at the CIA's own "Dark Prison," near Kabul, where he was held for four or five months from January 2004, before his transfer to the U.S. military prison at Bagram airbase, and his eventual arrival at Guantánamo in September 2004.
U.S. authorities got Binyam to "confess" under torture that he had met with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah, Sheikh al-Libi, Ramzi bin al-Shibh and Jose Padilla to discuss the "dirty bomb" plot. Except guess what? Abu Zubaydah and al-Libi were already in U.S. custody on the date of Binyam's "confessed" plot. The U.S. knew this, too, and continued to torture and prosecute Binyam. And now that the Justice Department has dropped its charges, the Department of Defense, which is conducting the notoriously unjust military tribunals at Guantanamo says it's still "reviewing" Binyam's case.

Mohamad was one of five Guantanamo detainees who had charges dropped against them. (They are not free, however, and the U.S. says there are other charges and further investigation and review to be undertaken.) In Binyam's case, it's widely suspected dropping certain charges were meant to forestall the release of documents proving torture and other mistreatment, and British High Court judges have been highly critical of U.S. conduct in the case. "Torturers do not readily hand over evidence of their conduct," the judges are quoted as saying.

The military tribunals are so unfair that one of its chief prosecutors, Lt. Col. Darrel J. Vandeveld, quit over the handling of evidence in the Mohammed Jawad case, and went public with his criticisms of the frame-up trials. He was the fourth prosecutor to resign from Bush's military kangaroo courts. A Los Angeles Times article on Vandeveld described the former prosecutor's actions:
Vandeveld's claims are particularly explosive.

In a declaration and subsequent testimony, he said the U.S. government was not providing defense lawyers with the evidence it had against their clients, including exculpatory information -- material considered helpful to the defense.

Saying that the accused enemy combatants were more likely to be wrongly convicted without that evidence, Vandeveld testified that he went from being a "true believer to someone who felt truly deceived" by the tribunals. The system in place at the U.S. military facility in Cuba, he wrote in his declaration, was so dysfunctional that it deprived "the accused of basic due process and subject[ed] the well-intentioned prosecutor to claims of ethical misconduct."
Vandeveld is a hero for trying to expose what he called "the creeping rot of the commissions." The reaction from his military colleagues? While some have been supported, there was also "outrage and condemnation," and now this Army Reserve officer fears for his safety and that of his family.

But then this is the final act of a brazen coven of war criminals. George W. Bush announced the other day that he was not going to close Guantanamo -- in fact, he had never even considered it. Meanwhile, his Defense Department made it clear that if it was up to them, no one would ever be released from that facility. The U.S. government is trying to undo the sentence of Salim Hamdan, whose years at Guantanamo were to be counted in his final five year sentence, administered as part by one of the Pentagon's military commissions. While Hamdan should be freed in December, the government is appealing, hoping to keep Hamdan in prison at least another five years, and maybe forever.
“The length of the sentence is a matter of indifference to us,” Morris said. He said that if the jury still wants Hamdan released on Dec. 31, it could resentence him to however many days remained until then.
Marcion has covered the recent events in some depth over at Daily Kos, and his article there is worth reading. His summary makes some essential points:
And for anybody who thinks that the Guantanamo horror stories are the exception, and that after the detention center is closed under the next administration, or after these terror show trials end, that all will be back to normal, I have to say - this is normal. These publicized cases are merely shedding light on an inherently unfair and fixed system. Just as the Trotsky/Bukharin show trials revealed the truth about the entirety of the fixed Soviet justice system, these show trials reveal the same truth about the American system. Our prisons are filled with people whose only crime was attracting the attention of some cop cruising for an arrest. Once somebody is arrested, the prosecutors go to work trying to fix the case so as to get the maximum sentence possible, and the cops cooperate with providing the evidence or testimony that the prosecutor will need to get the conviction, by torturing their prisoner within the bounds of the law (i.e. no permanent bruising). The majority of jurors, being good Americans, are also convinced that justice equals longest sentence possible, and that cops never lie, but defendants always do. Any jurors that show any hesitation or moral qualms are kicked during voir dire. A prosecutor or cop who shows some qualms about pulling out all the stops sees their career come to a grinding halt quickly, while the guys who get convictions get promoted and eventually become judges.
The "justice" of Guantanamo has already come to America, along with the torture and the indefinite detention and obliteration of civil rights. As a follow-up, the reader could go read my recent posting, Battle Over Habeas -- Torture Inc. Comes to America.

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