Sunday, January 25, 2009

Meanwhile, back at Gitmo... Hey, where's the files?

If there were no better evidence of Bush administration and Defense Department malfeasance, then the fact the the files on the prisoners at Guantanamo are, according to this latest Washington Post story, "in disarray" would seal the case.

According to the article, "incoming [Obama] legal and national security officials [were] barred until the inauguration from examining classified material on the detainees." Why? No one could say exactly, but there was this:
Several former Bush administration officials agreed that the files are incomplete and that no single government entity was charged with pulling together all the facts and the range of options for each prisoner. They said that the CIA and other intelligence agencies were reluctant to share information, and that the Bush administration's focus on detention and interrogation made preparation of viable prosecutions a far lower priority.
What was going on at Guantanamo? Was it really even a detention center? Even a lousy county jailhouse keeps better records than this:
In a court filing this month, Darrel Vandeveld, a former military prosecutor at Guantanamo who asked to be relieved of his duties, said evidence was "strewn throughout the prosecution offices in desk drawers, bookcases packed with vaguely-labeled plastic containers, or even simply piled on the tops of desks."

He said he once accidentally found "crucial physical evidence" that "had been tossed in a locker located at Guantanamo and promptly forgotten."
What kinds of information was the CIA and defense intelligence agencies unwilling to share? After years and years of detention, much of it in isolation and subject to various torture techniques, including possible drug administration, what kind of valuable intelligence was really available anyway? Suspicions among some that Guantanamo was really a vast experiment, or a giant laboratory for psychological torture research, such as occurred during the MKULTRA CIA program of the 1950s and 1960s starts to seem like something more than irresponsible speculation.

Although the article doesn't mention it, who can read of such disarray, such misplacement and scattering of documents and not think that what we are seeing is the aftermath of one giant document purge and shred-fest?

Those investigating committees and prosecution grand juries better get underway quickly, before all the relevant evidence is destroyed about whatever did happen at Guantanamo.

And then there's a little fact like chain of evidence, access to documents, etc.

Why take a year to dispose of the prisoners' fate? Why not free all the Gitmo prisoners now? Their rights have been trampled upon, and many tortured. There is no way to guarantee there has been no evidence tampering. There is no way we can now believe anything the government has to say about any of these prisoners.

I don't expect any such large-scale release. I'm not sure what I expect anymore. But the news has some other items of very important interest. There was this, from the United Nations:
Manfred Nowak, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, told a German television network that Bush and Cheney should be brought to trial for the torture of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay.

Manfred Nowak says prosecution is legally required, because the U.S. has ratified the UN convention on torture. Last month, a bipartisan Senate report accused Rumsfeld and other top Bush administration officials of direct responsibility for abuse and torture at Guantánamo and other U.S. prisons.
And this from Jordan Praust, a contributing editor at the Jurist:
International laws that President Obama must faithfully execute during an armed conflict include common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions as well as all other treaty-based and customary laws of war, the Convention Against Torture, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (which also prohibits torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment in all circumstances, including in times of relative peace), and related customary international laws. President Obama’s executive order to replace unlawful authorizations and orders during the Bush Administration with the requirement that such laws be faithfully executed by all U.S. nationals and certain other persons covered by the Order is the constitutionally proper and necessary response.

What should ultimately follow is presidential execution of treaty-based and customary international legal obligations to either initiate prosecution of or to extradite all persons who are reasonably accused of having authorized, ordered, abetted, or perpetrated war crimes and/or crimes against humanity. For example, Article 146 of the 1949 Geneva Civilian Convention expressly and unavoidably requires that all Parties “search for persons alleged to have committed, or to have ordered to be committed, ... grave breaches [of the Convention] and shall bring such persons, regardless of their nationality, before its own courts” for “effective penal sanctions” or, “if it prefers, ... hand such persons over for trial to another High Contracting Party.” The obligation is absolute and applies with respect to alleged perpetrators of any status. As a party to the Geneva Conventions, the United States must either initiate prosecution or extradite to another state or, today, render an accused to the International Criminal Court. “Grave breaches” of the Convention include “torture or inhuman treatment” and transfer of a non-prisoner of war from occupied territory. Similarly, Article 7, paragraph 1, of the Convention Against Torture expressly and unavoidably requires that a Party to the treaty “under whose jurisdiction a person alleged to have committed ... [for example, torture or “complicity or participation in torture”] is found, shall ... if it does not extradite him, submit the case to its competent authorities for the purpose of prosecution.” There are no other alternatives.
The criminals are busily trying to cover their tracks. They should be arrested as soon as possible, and that means Rumsfeld, Bush, Cheney, relevant personnel at DoD Office of Legal Counsel, relevant personnel at Joint Personnel Recovery Agency and SERE, and at CIA and DIA. Those who have left their jobs since the crimes were committed should be given an offer to surrender themselves.

And someone is going to have to put together the Augean stable that is the mess of documentation at Guantanamo.

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