Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Life after GitmoIn other ACLU-related news, check out this article at truthout, "Obama Urged to Fully Comply with Anti-torture Treaty":
Today, the Los Angeles Times reports on the struggle of former Guantánamo detainee Mohammed Jawad to readjust to freedom after spending roughly a third of his life in detention. In August, as a result of the ACLU’s habeas corpus petition on behalf of Jawad, he was finally released and sent home to Afghanistan after six-and-a-half-years in U.S. custody.
While in U.S. custody, Jawad, one of the youngest prisoners held at Guantánamo, was held in solitary confinement and subjected to the infamous “frequent flyer” sleep deprivation program. He attempted suicide in December 2003 by repeatedly slamming his head against his cell wall. Two judges — first his military commission judge, then a federal judge — ruled that evidence gleaned through Jawad’s torture and coercion was inadmissible.
The LA Times story sheds light on the difficulties of adjusting to life after Guantánamo:[Jawad]…suffers from frequent headaches, he says, and often rests during the day. Prison memories haunt him, something doctors warn may never end. He worries about those left behind, his de facto family. He’s out and they’re not, and that’s a source of guilt. Though the Obama administration has said it will close Guantánamo, hundreds of detainees remain there and at Bagram.In spite of this, Jawad has hope for the future. The article states that Jawad wants to be a doctor and “[h]e wants to resume his education, he says, even if it means sitting with 13-year-olds at tiny desks.” Jawad goes on to state, “That’s my dream… I don’t know if it’s possible. But that’s my dream.”
He asks a reporter to tell President Obama, the United Nations, someone, to help them. “People there are sick,” he says. “They should be treated. They should be freed.”
As his anger rises, his uncle tells him not to think about the lost years.
But it spills out. He talks about having his hands bound behind his back and being forced to eat like a dog, being kicked, beaten and pepper-sprayed and subjected to excessive heat, loud noise, solitary confinement.
After a year, Guantánamo records show, Jawad tried to commit suicide by banging his head against his cell wall repeatedly.
“I was tortured and faced many problems,” he says. “They also play with your mind.”
The story also quotes one of Jawad’s military lawyers, Eric Montalvo, as saying, “We need to do more than just dump him on the corner with a bus ticket after seven years and say, ‘Have a nice day.’”
Promptly and justly handling the cases of remaining prisoners is one part of the Guantánamo challenge. Honestly confronting the crimes committed in America’s name at the notorious prison camp is another. Americans deserve to know who authorized, condoned and encouraged the abuse and torture of detainees like Jawad; let Attorney General Eric Holder know that you stand with the ACLU and support a thorough investigation of torture crimes.
The fifteenth anniversary of the U.S. ratification of the United Nations Convention Against Torture passed last week with little fanfare and virtually no press attention from the mainstream media here.Bravo to the ACLU for all their great work, and a special thanks from this activist, who has made opposition to use of the current Army Field Manual as a template for interrogation, for reasons noted by the ACLU and amplified in articles of my own, a central component of my anti-torture writing.
But according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), "U.S. policy continues to fall short of ensuring full compliance with the treaty."
For example, the organisation said that an appendix to the Army Field Manual (AFM) can still facilitate cruel treatment of prisoners and detainees at home and abroad.
The Convention Against Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment (CAT) is the most comprehensive international human rights treaty dealing exclusively with the issues of torture and abuse. It came into effect in 1987, and has been ratified by 146 countries....
After taking office, President Barack Obama issued an executive order prohibiting torture. But under an appendix to the 2006 revised U.S. Army Field Manual - the most recent edition - practices considered incompatible with CAT and international law are still allowed. These include force-feeding, psychological torture, sleep and sensory deprivation.
And under Appendix M to the AFM, detainees can be "separated" or held in isolation from other detainees for 30 days, or longer with authorisation, and allowed only four hours of continuous sleep per night over 30 days, which can be prolonged upon approval.
Monday, October 19, 2009
Saturday, October 17, 2009
On Thursday, the House approved a Department of Homeland Security spending bill that included a provision to amend the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and grant Defense Secretary Robert Gates the authority to withhold "protected documents" that, if released, would endanger the lives of US soldiers or government employees deployed outside of the country.Leopold quotes Democratic Congresswoman Louise Slaughter as saying "the language was quietly reinserted in recent weeks, 'apparently under direct orders from the administration.'" The bill's language is a cover for Obama, who was otherwise threatening an administration petition to the U.S. Supreme Court to stop the release of the controversial, unseen "torture photos."
According to the bill, the phrase "protected documents" refers to photographs taken between September 11, 2001 and January 22, 2009, and involves "the treatment of individuals engaged, captured or detained" in the so-called "war on terror." Photographs that Gates determines would endanger troops and government employees could be withheld for three years.
Will we hear much protest from the progressive blogosphere? Not likely, as the torture issue slips off the radar, and the trudging submission of the progressive punditry to Democratic Party faux-ameliorism continues (there are exceptions, and you know who they are). Millions more on unemployment. Wall Street dances in blue chips. War continues apace, and the torture industry revs up for more high-tech adventures in breaking individuals down. No pictures of war. Nothing messy. Just bright baubles, Nobel Prizes, and proud words about equality... some day. No one in a position of power must lose a wink of sleep: that's how change is measured in America these days.Congress Fails, But Justice Speaks Out
Meanwhile, over in Great Britain, per the UK Guardian, some very welcome news:
In a devastating judgment, two senior judges roundly dismissed the [British] foreign secretary's claims that disclosing... evidence would harm national security and threaten the UK's vital intelligence-sharing arrangements with the US.Readers might remember the case of Binyam Mohamed, who was seized by the United States in Pakistan in 2002, secretly renditioned to Morocco, and later held at Bagram and Guantanamo "terror" prisons, suffering torture in all these sites. He is one of the plaintiffs in the Jeppesen case, a suit brought by the ACLU. That case engendered a decision last summer by the Ninth Circuit Court, which was one of the last legal victories in the U.S. in the struggle for accountability for torture.
In what they described as an "unprecedented" and "exceptional" case, to which the Guardian is a party, they ordered the release of a seven-paragraph summary of what the CIA told British officials – and maybe ministers – about Ethiopian-born [Binyam] Mohamed before he was secretly interrogated by an MI5 officer in 2002.
"The suppression of reports of wrongdoing by officials in circumstances which cannot in any way affect national security is inimical to the rule of law," Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Lloyd Jones ruled. "Championing the rule of law, not subordinating it, is the cornerstone of democracy."
In 2007, the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit against Jeppesen DataPlan, Inc., a subsidiary of Boeing Company, on behalf of five victims of the United States government's unlawful "extraordinary rendition" program. The suit charges that Jeppesen knowingly participated by providing critical flight planning and logistical support services to aircraft and crews used by the CIA to forcibly disappear these five men to detention and interrogation. Shortly after the suit was filed, the government intervened and inappropriately asserted the "state secrets privilege," claiming further litigation would undermine national security interests, even though much of the evidence needed to try the case was already available to the public. In April 2009, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court dismissal of the case, ruling that the government must invoke the state secrets privilege with respect to specific evidence, not to dismiss the entire suit. The case is remanded back to district court, providing the first opportunity for Bush-era torture victims to have their day in court.
Friday, October 16, 2009
Court Rules Government Can Continue To Suppress Detainee Statements Describing Torture And AbuseWhile we're looking at the ACLU's latest activity and news, take a look, too, at their report on the dismal Patriot Act Reauthorization by the cowardly, anti-civil liberties Congress:
Transcripts Of Combatant Status Review Trials Essential To Accountability For Torture, Says ACLU
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 16, 2009
CONTACT: Rachel Myers, (212) 549-2689 or 2666; email@example.com
WASHINGTON – A federal court today ruled that the government can continue suppressing transcripts in which former CIA prisoners now held at Guantánamo Bay describe abuse and torture suffered in CIA custody. The ruling came in an ACLU Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit to obtain uncensored transcripts from Combatant Status Review Tribunals (CSRTs) used to determine if Guantánamo detainees qualify as "enemy combatants."
While the CIA released heavily-redacted versions of the documents in June, it continues to suppress major portions of the documents, including detainees' allegations of torture. In August, the government filed a motion arguing that it should be able to continue suppressing the documents because releasing them would reveal "intelligence sources and methods" and might aid enemy "propaganda." In today's ruling, Chief Judge Royce C. Lamberth of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia declined to review "in camera" the documents the government is withholding in order to determine if they should remain classified.
The following can be attributed to Ben Wizner, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project:"The court's ruling allows the government to continue suppressing these first-hand accounts of torture – not to protect any legitimate national security interest, but to protect current and former government officials from accountability. While much is known about the Bush administration's torture program, the CIA continues to censor the most important eyewitnesses – the torture victims themselves.Attorneys on the case, ACLU, et al. v. DOD, et al., are Wizner and Jameel Jaffer of the ACLU National Security Project, Judy Rabinovitz of the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project and Arthur B. Spitzer of the ACLU of the National Capital Area.
"The public has a right to a comprehensive record of what took place in the CIA's secret prisons. The CSRT records will provide critical missing information about how the CIA's torture program was actually carried out and whether interrogators followed, or exceeded, Justice Department legal guidance that purported to authorize brutal interrogations.
"The courts have the authority and the responsibility to ensure that the administration does not deprive the public of critical information for improper purposes. The ACLU will appeal today's decision."
Today's ruling is available online at: www.aclu.org/safefree/torture/41291lgl20091016.html
More about the ACLU's CSRT FOIA is at: www.aclu.org/safefree/torture/csrtfoia.html
The bill makes only minor changes to the disastrous Patriot Act and was further watered down by amendments adopted during markup.
The following press release was issued today by Center for Constitutional Rights. It concerns the important ongoing fight to get accountability for the practice of torture at U.S. "war on terror" prisons.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASETo read the Bond Appeal Legal Brief, click here.
October 15, 2009
CONTACT: Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR)
Louisiana Court Battle Over Guantanamo Psychologist Continues Today
State Psychology Board Challenged over Refusal to Investigate Alleged Ethical Violations by Dr. Larry James
BATON ROUGE, La. and NEW YORK - October 15 - Today, attorneys filed an appeal before the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal, in the case Dr. Trudy Bond v. Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists. Toledo-based psychologist Dr. Trudy Bond is calling on the Louisiana State Board of Examiners to investigate Louisiana psychologist and retired U.S. Army colonel Dr. Larry C. James, a former high-ranking advisor on interrogations for the U.S. military in Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib.
According to his own statements, Dr. James played an influential role in both the policy and day-to-day operations of interrogations and detention at the prison camps. Publicly-available information shows that while Dr. James was at Guantanamo, abuse in interrogations was widespread, and cruel and inhuman treatment was official policy.
Allegations of abuse during Dr. James's January to May 2003 deployment include beatings, religious and sexual humiliation, rape threats and painful body positions. Canadian citizen Omar Khadr, who is still imprisoned in Guantanamo, is one of the prisoners who has alleged brutal treatment in the spring of 2003, when he was only 16 years old. James was also stationed in Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison in 2004 and returned to Guantanamo in 2007. In 2008, he was named Dean of the School of Professional Psychology at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio.
In compliance with her ethical obligation to report abuse by other psychologists, in February 2008 Dr. Bond filed a complaint against Dr. James before the Board, the agency that issued and now regulates his psychology license. Dr. Bond alleged that Dr. James breached professional ethics by violating psychologists' duties to do no harm, to protect confidential information and to obtain informed consent, and she called on the Board to investigate whether action should be taken against Dr. James.
As Chief Psychologist of the Joint Intelligence Group and a senior member of the Behavioral Science Consultation Team (BSCT) at Guantanamo, Dr. James had access to the confidential medical records of people he was charged with exploiting for intelligence. According to former Guantanamo interrogators, BSCTs used information from patients' records to help interrogators increase the patients' psychological duress, including by exploiting their fears. The very purpose of these mental health professional teams, the interrogators said, was to help "break" the prisoners. Dr. James denies that claim, but an extensive government paper trail supports the interrogators' accounts.
The Board summarily refused to investigate Dr. Bond's complaint, claiming that the statute of limitations had run, despite conclusive information to the contrary. Dr. Bond then filed suit against the Board in Louisiana's 19th Judicial District Court, which in July 2009 dismissed her case without looking at the merits. Today's brief before the First Circuit Court in Baton Rouge argues that the District Court should have reviewed the Board's clearly wrong legal decision.
Said Dr. Bond, "The five psychologists on the Louisiana Board were given plenty of credible evidence, but they chose not to investigate the head intelligence psychologist of prison camps notorious for their use of psychological torture. I don't think Louisiana lawmakers intended to give five fellow professionals total, unchecked power to make arbitrary decisions that deeply affect the public welfare."
Said CCR Cooperating Attorney Deborah Popowski, "The Louisiana Board is fighting awfully hard to turn a blind eye to serious allegations of abuse. We wish the Board would devote its resources to investigating unethical conduct instead. Everyone, including the people of Louisiana, would be better served." For more information on the involvement of health professionals in torture and abuse visit the Center for Constitutional Rights website http://whenhealersharm.org.
CCR has led the legal battle over Guantanamo for the last six years - sending the first ever habeas attorney to the base and sending the first attorney to meet with a former CIA "ghost detainee" there. CCR has been responsible for organizing and coordinating more than 500 pro bono lawyers across the country in order to represent the men at Guantanamo, ensuring that nearly all have the option of legal representation. In addition, CCR has been working to resettle the approximately 60 men who remain at Guantánamo because they cannot return to their country of origin for fear of persecution and torture.
Update, 10/17/09: I see that Stephen Soldz has published an article on Col. James and Dr. Bond/CCR's suit over at OpEd News. Click here to read and give a recommendation.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Alliance for Justice announces the release of its new documentary, Tortured Law, which examines the role lawyers played in authorizing torture. The film is being used to spark debate across the country, and calls on Attorney General Eric Holder to uphold the Constitution and the law by releasing the Justice Department's report on the "torture memos" and authorizing a full investigation of those who ordered, designed, and justified torture.H/T for this video to Marcy Wheeler, who has an interesting post up on the latest delay in the Office of Professional Responsibility report on the OLC torture memos of Yoo, Bybee and Bradbury. She links the delay to the review of CIA attorney John Rizzo, and/or the CIA generally.
I'd say she is absolutely right. The reason is, I believe, in part due to the fact that the CIA's own Office of Technical Services (OTS) wrote an extensive report on the SERE-derived torture techniques for use by the Office of Legal Counsel in their construction of the first of the torture memos. The OTS report to OLC lied about the medical and psychological consequences of the proposed techniques. We know they lied because researchers in the same directorate of the CIA had themselves been studying the severe effects of these techniques going back at least to the 1990s.
The CIA must be working overtime to redact almost every culpable portion of the OPR report that links the OLC memos to the initial OTS/CIA report vetting the "enhanced interrogation techniques." If the latter comes out -- and the OTS paper is still classified, and according to my sources, until recently ACLU was not even aware of its existence -- then we will have a very clear picture of the culpability of the CIA in the construction of the torture program, just one short step away from the Oval Office orders, which Dick Cheney and Bush have already indicated they gave.
If the American public, and society in general, cannot totally dismantle this torture apparatus, bring its actors to the bar of justice, and ensure that this kind of serious criminality is stopped and prosecuted, then I fear for the future of this country... because it won't be very long before whatever the United States was, it will cease to exist, except perhaps in name only. It will be something too awful to contemplate, and a long dark chapter in history won't be ending, but just beginning.
The event features artists, writers, and other anti-torture activists reading from recently released secret documents -- torture memos, declassified communications, and testimonies from prisoners -- in an effort to promote awareness of acts of torture and abuse carried out by the U.S. government since 9/11.
Featured authors and artists include: Don DeLillo, Paul Auster, Jonathan Ames, Eve Ensler, Nell Freudenberger, Art Speigelman, Ishmael Beah, and Susanna Moore, among others.
The event also features Constitutional law scholar, David Cole (who recently wrote the introduction to a published edition of the Bush Administration Torture Memos); former senior military interrogator, Matthew Alexander; former CIA special agent Jack Rice; and former ACLU attorney, Amrit Singh.
Anthony Appiah, President of PEN American Center, and Jameel Jaffner, Director of the ACLU's National Security Project, will give opening and closing remarks.
It looks like it will a fascinating and revealing night. I encourage all to attend. Only $15.00 at the door, $10.00 for students and ACLU/PEN members.
Tuesday, October 13, at 7:00pm at The Great Hall, Cooper Union, NYC
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
OPEN LETTER TO ATTORNEY GENERAL HOLDER
We, the undersigned, are writing to request that you hold firm against any attempts by former Vice President Dick Cheney, the CIA directors, and the media to silence those who demand that the United States hold accountable those who have committed and authorized torture.
We call on you to appoint a special independent prosecutor who is not part of the Department of Justice to investigate and prosecute all those who ordered, approved, justified, abetted or carried out the torture and abuse. The people who are held accountable should not be limited to low-level operatives.
We are particularly disturbed by the efforts of the reporters at the Washington Post to distort the facts and ignore the illegality of torture. They cited anonymous sources who allegedly said that torture works; these "reports" contradict the newly released report of the CIA’s Inspector General.
Cheney’s claim that your decision to open an investigation into the conduct of the CIA is a politicization of this issue is shameful. If anything, political pressure has led to your office taking too narrow an approach to the investigation.
The world community has expressed its revulsion at the use of torture in any form. Torture is illegal under all circumstances. The prohibition against torture is considered in international law on par with laws against genocide, slavery and wars of aggression. Under the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court, it is a crime against humanity.
The United States is a party to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) and the Geneva Conventions. Both treaties expressly require the United States to either extradite or initiate prosecution of persons who are reasonably accused – this is a legal obligation.
The U.S. Torture Statute that Congress passed to fulfill our obligations under the CAT outlaws torture committed outside the United States. The U.S. War Crimes Act punishes torture as a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions. In 2006, the Supreme Court affirmed in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld that all prisoners in U.S. custody are protected by the Geneva Conventions.
There are many who claim we should ignore the facts and the law and refuse to hold accountable all those responsible for the use of torture. Whether actionable intelligence was gained is not the issue. Nor is the morale in the CIA.
We believe the oath of office you took requires that you not pick and choose those laws you will enforce.
National Lawyers Guild
Center for Constitutional Rights
U.S. Human Rights Network 2
American Association of Jurists
International Association of Democratic Lawyers
Psychologists for Social Responsibility
The Coalition for an Ethical Psychology
Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International
Lawyers Against the War (Canada)
Japanese Lawyers International Solidarity Association
National Association of Democratic Lawyers in South Africa
European Lawyers for Democracy and Human Rights
Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers (England)
Progress Lawyers Network (Belgium)
National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (Philippines)
Italian Association of Democratic Lawyers
Marjorie Cohn, President, National Lawyers Guild; Professor, Thomas Jefferson School of Law
Michael Ratner, President, Center for Constitutional Rights
Bill Quigley, Legal Director, Center for Constitutional Rights
Ajamu Baraka, Executive Director, US Human Rights Network
Jeanne Mirer, President, International Association of Democratic Lawyers
Roland Weyl, First Vice President, International Association of Democratic Lawyers
Micòl Savia, UN representative in Geneva, International Association of Democratic Lawyers
Vanessa Ramos, President, American Association of Jurists
Max Boqwana, General Secretary, National Association of Democratic Lawyers in South Africa
Mike Mansfield QC, President, Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers
Liz Davies, barrister, UK, Chair, Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers
Richard Harvey, Bureau member of International Association of Democratic Lawyers, Executive member, Haldane Society
Bill Bowring, Professor of Law, University of London; President, European Lawyers for Democracy and Human Rights; International Secretary, Haldane Society
Sister Dianna Ortiz, U.S. Torture Survivor and founder of the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International
Harold Nelson, Advocacy Coordinator, Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International
Gail Davidson, Chair, Lawyers Against the War
Osamu Niikura, President, Japanese Lawyers International Solidarity Association
Edre Olalia, Vice President, National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers
Neri Colmenares, Secretary General, National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers
Jan Fermon, representative, Progress Lawyers Network
Fabio Marcelli, Executive Committee and Speaker for International and European Affairs, Italian Association of Democratic Lawyers
George Hunsinger, Princeton Theological Seminary
Richard Falk, Albert G. Milbank Professor of International Law Emeritus, Princeton University
Dr. Thomas Ehrlich Reifer, University of San Diego; Associate Fellow, Transnational Institute
Jordan J. Paust, Mike and Teresa Baker Law Center Professor, University of Houston Law Center 3
Terry Karl, Gildred Professor of Political Science and Latin American Studies
Department of Political Science, Stanford University
Marc Falkoff, Assistant Professor, Northern Illinois University College of Law
John W. Lango, Philosophy Professor, Hunter College of the City University of New York
Elizabeth M. Iglesias Professor of Law & Director, Center for Hispanic & Caribbean Legal Studies, University of Miami School of Law
Ray McGovern, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)
Michael Avery, Professor, Suffolk Law School
Michael E. Tigar, Professor of the Practice of Law, Duke Law School; Emeritus Professor, Washington College of Law
Andy Worthington, journalist and author of The Guantanamo Files
Michael Rooke-Ley, Professor of Law Emeritus, Nova Southeastern University
William J. Aceves, Professor, California Western School of Law
Phyllis Bennis, Fellow, Institute for Policy Studies
Noam Chomsky, Institute Professor, retired, Dept of Linguistics & Philosophy, MIT
Alfred W. McCoy, J.R.W. Smail Professor of History, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Susan Rutberg, Professor, Golden Gate University School of Law
John Ehrenberg, Professor and Chair of Political Science, Long Island University, Brooklyn, NY
Radhika Balakrishnan, Professor, Rutgers University
David Swanson, author of Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency
Kristina Borjesson, Member, Robert Jackson Steering Committee
URL http://www.nlg.org/10-0-09%20Holder%20letter.pdf (PDF)
Monday, October 5, 2009
Government Admits Guantánamo Detainee Mohammed al Qahtani’s Torture VideotapedJudge Hogan did not release all the video and audio tapes the government has.
CCR Blasts Government for Failing to Disclose Existence of Videotapes for Seven Years
October 5, 2009, New York – The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) learned today of the existence of video and audio tapes of the abusive interrogations of client Mohammed al Qahtani, the victim of the “First Special Interrogation Plan” personally overseen by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
“After the intense scrutiny of the government’s torture and interrogation of Mr. al Qahtani, it is shocking that the government has hidden the existence of these tapes from the public for so many years,” said CCR Attorney Gitanjali S. Gutierrez. “The government’s interrogation of him has been the topic of multiple military, Justice Department and congressional investigations. These tapes should have been acknowledged long ago.”
Until recently, the Government had adamantly denied that any U.S. personnel engaged in acts of torture during Mr. al Qahtani’s interrogation, but on January 14, 2009, Military Commission Convening Authority Susan Crawford conceded that by subjecting Mr. al Qahtani to systematic 20-hour interrogations, prolonged sleep deprivation, 160 days of severe isolation, forced nudity, sexual and religious humiliation, and other aggressive interrogation tactics, the government had engaged in acts of torture. Much of this information appeared in interrogation logs leaked to the press as early as 2006
Said CCR Executive Director Vincent Warren, “Mr. al Qahtani’s torture is already well-established, with a clear paper trail that leads all the way up the chain of command to the desk of Donald Rumsfeld. The revelation of these tapes indicates the government carefully documented horrific evidence of torture and abuse at Guantánamo. The only question that remains is whether the people ultimately responsible for it will be held accountable for breaking the law and breaking faith with our system of justice.”
Mr. Al Qahtani has been incarcerated at Guantánamo since February 2002. Throughout his imprisonment, he has consistently maintained that he was repeatedly tortured and threatened with torture by U.S. military and civilian interrogators. And since Mr. al Qahtani filed his habeas petition in October 2006, he has continued to assert that any alleged admissions he made to U.S. personnel were extracted through this torture and threats of torture.
The government never disclosed the existence of these tapes as exculpatory information in Mr. al Qahtani’s habeas case. CCR had filed a motion in February 2009 to compel the government to turn over exculpatory evidence in their client’s case and to hold the government in contempt for it’s “flagrant violation” of a judge’s November 2008 order to do so. Judge Thomas F. Hogan issued an order in November 2008 (amended in December 2008) requiring the government to turn over promptly any exculpatory evidence it had on the men detained at Guantánamo to their attorneys. The government filed what was essentially a second motion for an extension of time on January 30, 2009. Since the original filing in June 2008, the government has twice delayed its compliance with the court’s orders, engaging in what CCR attorneys described as “improper self-help by granting itself an indefinite extension of time.”
Finally, CCR and co-counsel, Sandra Babcock, filed a motion for discovery in March 2009 seeking any video tapes of Mr. al Qahtani’s interrogation and numerous other records. After seven months of discovery disputes, the court issued the publicly-filed order today.
The videotapes the government is required to produce will reveal the time period at the end of three months of intensive solitary confinement and isolation that immediately preceded the implementation of the “First Special Interrogation Plan,” a regime of systematic torture techniques approved by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for use against Mr. al Qahtani. In a letter to his superiors reporting possible abuse of men in U.S. custody, T.J. Harrington, Deputy Assistant Director, Counterterrorism Division, FBI described Mr. al Qahtani during this time as “evidencing behavior consistent with extreme psychological trauma (talking to non-existent people, reportedly hearing voices, crouching in a corner of the cell covered with a sheet for hours on end).”
Mr. al Qahtani is represented by CCR and co-counsel Professor Sandra Babcock, Center for International Human Rights, Northwestern University School of Law.
For more information on Mohammed al Qahtani’s case, click here.
CCR has led the legal battle over Guantanamo for the last six years – sending the first ever habeas attorney to the base and sending the first attorney to meet with a former CIA “ghost detainee” there. CCR has been responsible for organizing and coordinating more than 500 pro bono lawyers across the country in order to represent the men at Guantanamo, ensuring that nearly all have the option of legal representation. In addition, CCR has been working to resettle the approximately 60 men who remain at Guantánamo because they cannot return to their country of origin for fear of persecution and torture.
* MAQ Order to Disclose Videotapes (PDF)
* TJ Harrington Ltr 7 14 04 (PDF)
To provide relevant information to Petitioner and yet to ease the burden on the Government, the Court will order the Government to produce only those audio/video recordings of Petitioner created between November 15, 2002 and November 22, 2002.The week in question covers the seven days prior to the beginning of the interrogation log for al-Qahtani, leaked to Time Magazine in 2006. That log begins on November 23, 2002. By Nov. 23, as we know from the log, al-Qahtani had announced he was on hunger strike. He repeats it numerous times during the first day of the interrogation log to which we have access, which speaks to perseveration and already a state of disabled functioning, if not also, a determined will to resist and hold onto a shred of his self integrity.
It’s amazing that we are only hearing of these tapes now. Let’s recall what the torturers were saying about videotaping at Guantanamo in October 2002, during a period prior to that about to be released to Al Qahatani's CCR defense team. Per the minutes of one major meeting at Guantanamo during that autumn:
– At this point a discussion about whether or not to video tape the aggressive sessions, or interrogations at all ensued.
Becker: Videotapes are subject to too much scrutiny in court. We don’t want the LEA people in aggressive sessions anyway.
LTC Beaver: LEA choice not to participate in these types of interrogations is more ethical and moral as opposed to legal.
Fredman: The videotaping of even totally legal techniques will look “ugly”.
Al-Qahtani was also discussed:
LTC Phifer: Harsh techniques used on our service members have worked and will work on some, what about those?
MAJ Leso: Force is risky, and may be ineffective due to the detainees’ frame of reference. They are used to seeing much more barbaric treatment.
– At this point a discussion about ISN 63 [Mohammed al-Qahtani] ensued, recalling how he has responded to certain types of deprivation and psychological stressors. After short discussion the BSCT continued to address the overall manipulation of the detainees’ environment.
* Psychological stressors are extremely effective (ie, sleep deprivation, withholding food, isolation, loss of time)
COL Cummings: We can’t do sleep deprivation
LTC Beaver: Yes, we can — with approval.
Bravo to CCR for all their work on this. Together with ACLU and PHR, the torturers’ crimes and schemes will ultimately be fully revealed. I believe that accountability will be realized, and this country turned around from the disastrous course of the past decade. But the U.S. people will have to help.
Time again to send a donation to CCR, I’d say.
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