Monday, June 22, 2009

Torture News Roundup - U.S. Held al-Queda Torture Victim at Gitmo for 7 Years

Originally posted at Daily Kos

June 25 is Torture Accountability Day. At the close of this diary, you will learn how you can submit evidence of torture to the Department of Justice. You will also learn how you can help initiate a California State Bar investigation of Donald Rumsfeld's torture lawyer, William Haynes.

In today's TNR, we will cover breaking news on a Guantanamo detainee release, and ongoing revelations about the mysterious death of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi in a Libyan jail, a story first announced in the U.S. by Daily Kos Torture News Roundup on May 10, following a report by UK journalist Andy Worthington. Meanwhile, the long-awaited release of the CIA's Inspector General report on torture was delayed another week. Other revelations this past week include new information about a leading psychologist working for both the CIA and the Mitchell-Jessen torture firm; a British policy of covering up U.S. torture; ongoing political shenanigans over releasing hundreds of torture photos; human rights reports on torture centers in Zimbabwe; and more.

Top Stories

Judge Orders Release of Syrian Detainee

The court's full opinion can be read here (H/T Stephen Soldz).

The pending release of Abdulrahim Abdul Razak Al Janko was due to a habeas suit, and the judge's ruling, as you can see drew a rebuke by the judge of the government's position. How many more in Guantanamo or other U.S. prisons, like Bagram, where most prisoners lie outside the reach of habeas corpus, by degree of President Obama, are imprisoned on such flimsy, if not outrageous "evidence." (Quote from Washington Post story below has emphasis added.) Note: the U.S. still has to find Al Janko a safe place to be released. Obama's position, forced, it seems upon him by right-wing Republicans and frightened members of his own party, is that no Guantanamo prisoners will be resettled in the U.S. The issue remains a sore point with many.

From the Washington Post article on the Al Janko habeas decision:
A federal judge today ordered the release of a 30-year-old detainee from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, saying the government's legal position on his continued confinement "defies common sense."

The detainee, a Syrian held at the military facility since early 2002, was tortured and imprisoned by al-Qaeda and the Taliban before being captured by U.S. forces and sent to Guantanamo Bay.

U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon ruled today from the bench that such circumstances make it "highly unlikely" that the Abdulrahim Abdul Razak Al Janko was still a member of the terror groups.
CIA Delays Release of Inspector General's Report on Torture (Jason Leopold)
The CIA has delayed by one week the release of an inspector general's report on the Bush administration's torture program, the Justice Department said in a letter sent to the American Civil Liberties Union Friday.

In the letter, Lev Dassin, the acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York said the CIA's "reprocessing of the [report] is largely complete. Given the need for inter-agency review of the reprocessed document, however, we will need additional time to make a final determination as to what additional information, if any, may be disclosed from the report"....

The May 2004 report about the agency’s use of torture includes details of how at least three detainees were killed in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Helgerson's still secret findings led to eight criminal referrals to the Justice Department for homicide and other misconduct, but those cases languished as Vice President Dick Cheney reportedly intervened to constrain Helgerson’s inquiries.
See more analysis on the CIA delay at FDL/Emptywheel

See ACLU statement: Obama Administration Should Release CIA Inspector General Report Without Substantial Redactions, Says ACLU
The following can be attributed to Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project:
"It's not surprising that the CIA is fighting for the suppression of documents that would provide further evidence that its torture program was both ineffective and illegal. Over the last few weeks, the agency has also suppressed cables relating to illegal interrogation methods and transcripts in which prisoners explain the torture that was inflicted upon them in the CIA's secret prisons. President Obama should not allow the CIA to determine whether evidence of its own unlawful conduct should be made available to the public. The president has rightly recognized the importance of restoring the rule of law at home and the moral authority of the United States abroad, but neither of those things will be possible as long as the CIA is permitted to conceal evidence of its crimes. The public has a right to know what took place in the CIA's secret prisons, and on whose authority."
Battle Continues Over Release of Secret Photos of Abuse and Torture

Senate Quietly Passes Bill to Hide Torture Evidence

On Wednesday night, the Senate quietly passed legislation to exempt photographs of detainees being tortured by U.S. personnel from the Freedom of Information Act. Further stunning the spirit of open government, they did so by unanimous consent.

Unsurprisingly, the Detainee Records Photo Protection Act of 2009 (S 1285) was sponsored by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT). Contrary to public statements made by the administration, Graham stated that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel made it clear that President Obama wanted to see legislative action to stop the release of the photos.
In an article by Jason Leopold on the vote, it's reported that Sen. Graham got assurances from Emanuel that Obama would issue an executive order to block the photos from ever being released. This promise supposedly ended a filibuster threat by Graham on the defense spending bill for Iraq and Afghanistan, to which the amendment calling for a block on release of the photos was appended. Graham was worried the House of Representatives would not vote for the ban.

Now, with passage of the war supplemental in both houses of Congress, the issue of the torture photos will be taken up in joint committee. Obama is pushing for inclusion, and Senate Democrats seems willing to oblige. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she is opposed to the Lieberman-Graham proposal. We will have to see what comes out in the final bill, but Obama has already promised that, one way or another, these photos will never see the light of day.

When you consider that wanna-be terrorists in the Middle East have seen far worse than anything Americans have seen, in terms of photos of U.S. atrocities from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, of torture, etc., then it's clear the only reason to suppress these photos is to control the political agenda domestically, and that is unacceptable.

New Revelations on Psychologists, Contractors and Torture

Nathaniel Raymond at Physicians for Human Rights Blog had an important story this week: New Yorker: Former APA President Worked with CIA and on Board of Mitchell and Jessen (H/T, again, to Stephen Soldz) (emphasis added)
Perhaps the most interesting revelation in Jane Mayer’s latest New Yorker article on the CIA and US torture policy comes as an aside, towards the end. Ongoing investigations by PHR and others, including investigative journalists, are discovering disturbing connections between American Psychological Association officials involved in developing the ethics standards governing psychologists’ participation in interrogations and those involved in overseeing and facilitating the Bush administration’s CIA and US military programs of torture....

Mayer notes, parenthetically, that she has learned from the CIA’s Kirk Hubbard that former American Psychological Association president Joseph Matarazzo sat on the CIA’s professional-standards board at the time when psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen were developing an interrogation program for the CIA, based on the US military’s SERE training program. Much more remains to be known about the involvement of Mitchell and Jessen, as well as other psychologists, including former senior APA officials, such as Matarazzo.
For more on APA, see Stephen Soldz's ongoing coverage of how APA is responding to criticisms of their policy on psychologists and interrogation.

For further coverage on the Mitchell-Jessen story this week in From the Blogger's Basement on Jane Mayer by Marcy Wheeler
Mayer also notes something I've been sensing too--that John Durham's investigation into the torture tape destruction may well have to investigate the reasons why the CIA had to destroy the tapes, most notably all the torture they did before OLC had authorized it.
I took up the Mitchell-Jessen story in an article that concentrated on the contractor angle, in “Targets of Opportunity”: Corruption, Contractors, and the Origins of the SERE Torture Program.
According to ProPublica journalist Sheri Fink, Mitchell, Jessen and Associates was recently discovered to have decamped from their Spokane headquarters, and currently share an address with Tate, Inc. in Alexandria, VA. But this isn't the first time the two have been connected. Tate president, David M. Ayers, was listed by Washington State Corporations Division as one of four "governing persons" for the Mitchell-Jessen LLC. Then there's Tate's Director of Training, Roger Aldrich, who was yet another "governing person" for Mitchell-Jessen. Other reports have placed other SERE psychologists besides Mitchell and Jessen as employees for Tate, Inc. Back at JPRA, the TATE employees running around the various departments were referred to derisively as "TaterTots."

The farther one goes with these contractor connections, the denser the thicket. Randall Spivey is president of another private contracting firm working with survival/recovery training, RS Consulting, whose offices are in the same Spokane office building where Mitchell-Jessen long resided. Spivey was the fourth of the primary figures at M-J. [RS Consulting and Mitchell-Jessen also shared phone numbers! -- see here.]
Military Attorneys Fight for Fairness at Torture Trials

Military attorneys risk careers to criticize practices at Guantanamo
The article recounts the story of a number of Guantanamo military attorneys, including the tale of Gitmo prosecutor Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld, who saw injustice so severe, he flipped and started working for the defense.
His tipping point came in June, when he came across a statement made by Mr. Jawad in 2002 about mistreatment in Bagram while glancing through a binder with another detainee's records -- a statement he had never seen and did not know existed even though it should have been provided to him.

"There is no way I would have gotten access to that statement" had he not come across it by chance, he said. "That's when I decided I couldn't ethically go on. I just couldn't do it."

For a "millisecond," he said, he thought about putting the binder back. Instead, he faxed the statement to Maj. Frakt, the defense attorney.

After agonizing over his continued role with the Military Commissions, in September he sought reassignment to Afghanistan or Iraq. Instead, he was released from active duty and testified for the defense Sept. 26 after Maj. Frakt ordered a subpoena for his testimony.

Read more:
RobinElliot had an email exchange with another attorney profiled in the Post-Gazette article, Major Barry D. Wingard, attorney for long-time Guantanamo prisoner, Fayiz al-Kandari.
To your knowledge, did any private contractors interrogate Fayiz? Who exactly did?
Fayiz was interrogated over four hundred times, sometimes by military, civilians, and combinations thereof. What is interesting is that hundreds of photos were taken of him along with medical records in various stages of being broken physically. Unfortunately all the information above has been classified as top secret for "your protection," it has nothing to do with the exculpatory nature of the evidence.
....Is there anything you or anyone, including Fayiz, can do to lessen the resentment, fear, etc. that's so prevalent?
As long as the US government continues to use justice like a magician uses a rabbit in his show, then no, I have little faith. Currently the government is preparing to create a system "not designed to help me" Fayiz says.

To date, the government has not produced a single tangible piece of evidence against Fayiz, just like Boumedian who was released last week after 7 ½ years. Amazingly Fayiz wants to be released and go home and start a business and a family....
International Torture News

Tony Blair knew of secret policy on terror interrogations
The policy, devised in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, offered ­guidance to MI5 and MI6 officers ­questioning detainees in Afghanistan who they knew were being mistreated by the US military.

British intelligence officers were given written instructions that they could not "be seen to condone" torture and that they must not "engage in any activity yourself that involves inhumane or degrading treatment of prisoners".

But they were also told they were not under any obligation to intervene to prevent detainees from being mistreated.

"Given that they are not within our ­custody or control, the law does not require you to intervene to prevent this," the policy said.

The policy almost certainly breaches international human rights law, according to Philippe Sands QC, one of the world's leading experts in the field, because it takes no account of Britain's obligations to avoid complicity in torture under the UN convention against torture. Despite this, the secret policy went on to underpin British intelligence's ­relationships with a number of foreign intelligence agencies which had become the UK's allies in the "war against terror".
UK journalist Andy Worthington comments on the UK news:
In an article for the Guardian’s Comment is free, lawyers Philippe Sands and Alex Bailin explained why ministers should be worried, noting that, although the English courts have not interpreted Article 4 of the 1984 UN Convention Against Torture, which criminalises “an act by any person which constitutes complicity or participation in torture,” and that any future case for prosecution “will turn on its particular facts,” existing rulings in international law, decided before 2002, when the British government’s secret intelligence policy was formulated, “­provided guidance on the standard needed to avoid charges of complicity.”
WORLD EXCLUSIVE: New Revelations About The Torture Of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi

Andy Worthington has been following up the story of the death or "suicide" of Ibn al Shaykh al Libi last month, citing a story from an anonymous Libyan source who spoke with al-Libi not long before he died. The story was relayed to former Guantanamo prisoner, Omar Deghayes.
According to Deghayes, the Libyan source explained that al-Libi told him that, after his capture, when he was held briefly in Afghanistan (in the US prison at Kandahar airport, and on the USS Bataan, according to a previous report – PDF), he was rendered to Egypt, Mauritania, Morocco and Jordan, and was then rendered back to Afghanistan, where he was held in three separate prisons run by, or under the control of the CIA. He also explained that he was subjected to torture in all these locations, and provided disturbing details of how he was manipulated by his interrogators.
According to Worthington, one of the prisons al-Libi was held in Afghanistan was the mysterious Panjshir prison, about which very little is known. Furthermore, it appears al-Libi was moved around in part to be shown photographs of "terror suspects" per the information of the intelligence services in the different countries to which he was rendered. And it's highly likely these ID sessions were held under torture.

A Newsweek article back on May 25 gave further details on the U.S. response to al-Libi's death in a Libyan prison.
The Obama Administration is pressing the Libyan government to explain the reported prison death of a former CIA detainee—an incident that U.S. officials fear could reopen questions about the agency's "extraordinary rendition" program and further complicate the president's plans to shut down the Guantánamo Bay detention center.... U.S. officials are skeptical about the supposed suicide, which was first reported in a newspaper owned by Libyan leader Muammar Kaddafi's son. Two weeks earlier, al-Libi was visited for the first time by human-rights workers investigating allegations that he had been tortured into making false claims connecting Saddam Hussein's regime and Al Qaeda....

Al-Libi's death highlights a predicament facing Obama officials: returning detainees to countries that practice torture.... a State Department human-rights report recently concluded that Libyan security forces "routinely tortured" prisoners by applying electric shocks, breaking fingers, pouring lemon juice on open wounds and burning them with cigarettes.
Rights Report: Zimbabwe Abuses Could Constitute Crimes Against Humanity (emphasis added)
The director of the Harare-based Research and Advocacy Unit, Tony Reeler, says a review of investigations by numerous rights groups shows that torture and gross human rights violations in Zimbabwe have been perpetrated for decades on what he calls an epidemic scale.

He says the abuses have been widespread and systematic which fulfills a definition of crimes against humanity.

He adds that victims have identified senior Zimbabwean officials as being behind the violence. And they have testified that torture centers were set up in government-owned buildings such as schools and clinics....

A researcher with South Africa's Center for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, Glen Mpani, said a major impediment to peace and reconciliation is the culture of impunity that has evolved. "Zimbabwe has gone through processes of announcing national union and reconciliation in the past and these processes have all been geared towards providing impunity and allowing perpetrators to go scot-free," he said.
The Struggle for Accountability

ACLU Campaign for Accountability for Torture
We are finally beginning to learn the full scope of the Bush administration's torture program. Government documents show that hundreds of prisoners were tortured in the custody of the CIA and Department of Defense, some of them killed in the course of interrogations. Justice Department memos show that the torture policies were devised and developed at the highest levels of the Bush administration.

The ACLU is committed to restoring the rule of law. We will fight for the disclosure of the torture files that are still secret. We will advocate for the victims of the Bush administration's unlawful policies. We will press Congress to appoint a select committee that can investigate the roots of the torture program and recommend legislative changes to ensure that the abuses of the last eight years are not repeated. And we will advocate for the appointment of an independent prosecutor to examine issues of criminal responsibility.

We can't sweep the abuses of the last eight years under the rug. Accountability for torture is a legal, political, and moral imperative.
Send Evidence of Torture to the DOJ

Use this Online Tool to Send Letters to the Editor

Tell State Bar: Torture Lawyers Should Not Be Practicing Law in CaliforniaThe National Lawyers Guild San Francisco Bay Area Chapter has begun a campaign to investigate former DoD General Counsel William Haynes, who was directly responsible for helping implement the reverse-engineered SERE techniques at Department of Defense sites, such as Guantanamo, approving the use of such torture, and sending on such approval to his boss, Donald Rumsfeld, who signed off on the torture. You can read Mr. Haynes testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on his actions here (PDF, but an amazing read of an actual member of the neocon core leadership uncharacteristically called before Congress and made to account for his actions).
William Haynes was attorney for Donald Rumsfeld and the Department of Defense (DoD). His legal work is directly linked to the torture abuses that occurred at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. He is now certified to practice law in California, and is working for the Chevron Corporation. You can tell the state bar of California that they should take immediate action against Mr. Haynes....

We are calling on concerned residents of the United States to file this complaint (PDF) with the California State Bar. This Citizen Complaint demands that the State Bar at least investigate Haynes, and provide a written decision on his moral character.

We believe that torture is wrong. If you believe the same thing, then please fill out this form and mail it back to:

National Lawyers Guild
558 Capp St.
San Francisco, CA 94110
It's more clear than ever that citizens of the United States cannot sit back and wait for their elected representatives to do the right thing. We must make our voices here. It's our country, and if we do nothing, then we might as well hand it over to the torturers and their enablers. It won't take long to do any of these proposed actions, and you may make a difference that will change history.

Please get involved today!

For more that you can do, see the latest in Something the Dog Said's Daily Kos series, Weekly Torture Action Letter 14 - CIA IG Report.

Other Torture News Links:

Froomkin, How Cheney Bent DOJ to His Will

UN Rapporteur: Rumsfeld in Trouble

Bush Lawyer: Prolonged Indefinite Detention Is Already Widespread

Mirandizing prisoners
Has the Obama Justice Department ordered FBI agents to adopt a new policy of reading Miranda rights to high value detainees held at facilities in Afghanistan? The Weekly Standard reports that this is what’s happening, and Drudge is going nuts.

But Justice spokesperson Dean Boyd emails our reporter, Amanda Erickson, that while some of this has been going on, there’s been no overall policy change. He says:

“There has been no policy change and nor blanket instruction issued for FBI agents to Mirandize detainees overseas. While there have been specific cases in which FBI agents have Mirandized suspects overseas, at both Bagram and in other situations, in order to preserve the quality of evidence obtained, there has been no overall policy change with respect to detainees.”
===== Thanks to Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse!

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