Saturday, February 6, 2010

Ghost Prisoners? Indefinite Detention? "Hitherto acceptable norms of human conduct do not apply."

In a report at Truthout, Andy Worthington described a new UN report on secret detention policies by governments around the world. The report, available in an advance, unedited version here (long PDF), concentrates on the situation over the last nine years, with "a detailed account of US policies... and also running through the practice of secret detention in 25 other countries, including Algeria, China, Egypt, India, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Libya, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Uganda and Zimbabwe."
A major new report on secret detention policies around the world, conducted by four independent UN human rights experts, concludes that, “On a global scale, secret detention in connection with counter-terrorist policies remains a serious problem,” and that, “If resorted to in a widespread and systematic manner, secret detention might reach the threshold of a crime against humanity"....

Of particular concern to the authors of the Joint Study — beyond the overall illegality of the entire project conceived and executed by the Bush administration — is the fate of dozens of men held in secret prisons run by the CIA, or transferred by the CIA to prisons in other countries. Based on figures disclosed in one of the Office of Legal Counsel’s notorious “torture memos” (PDF), written in May 2005 by Assistant Attorney General Stephen Bradbury, the CIA had, by May 2005, “taken custody of 94 prisoners [redacted] and ha[d] employed enhanced techniques to varying degrees in the interrogations of 28 of these detainees.”

The 28 men subjected to “enhanced techniques” are clearly the “high-value detainees” — including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, Abu Zubaydah and twelve others — who were transferred to Guantánamo in September 2006, but no official account has ever explained what happened to the other 14 “high-value detainees,” or, indeed, to the majority of the other 66 men.
Tracking the missing men has been difficult, and the report looks into the various black prison sites in Afghanistan, including Bagram. In addition, the report examines "the cases of 35 men rendered by the CIA to Jordan, Egypt, Syria and Morocco, between 2001 and 2004." For many of these "ghost prisoners", we have no idea of where they were ultimately sent, or even if they are even alive.

The Bagram Project

Andy Worthington has begun a project on Bagram prisoners not dissimilar to the research he conducted on the Guantanamo prisoners, which culminated in the excellent book, The Guantanamo Files. Ever since the Pentagon released a list of the names of 645 prisoners it was holding at Bagram as of September 22, 2009 (PDF).

Worthington has been examining this list, and trying to determine who many of these prisoners are, as well as who may be missing from the list.
However, although it is probable that a number of former “ghost prisoners” have been repatriated to face death or further detention, it is not inconceivable that some prisoners were not included in the list because they are being held elsewhere — perhaps in a corner of Bagram to which the list does not extend.

One indication that this is so is the apparent omission from the list of Amanatullah Ali, a Pakistani who was seized by British forces in Iraq in 2004 and rendered to Bagram. His detention in Bagram has been confirmed through letters to his family, and his story, which was told by David Rose in Britain’s Mail on Sunday on December 9, is significant not only because it sheds light on the British government’s complicity in the Bagram rendition program, but also because it reveals the extent to which depriving the prisoners of the right to challenge the basis of their detention perpetuates the same mistakes that were made at Guantánamo.
Andy is producing an annotated version of the Bagram prisoner list, and you can read the initial form of it here. He asks that if anyone has any further information about any of the names on this list to email him.

Obama OLC Supports Indefinite Detention Policies, or Marty Lederman Turns to the Dark Side

As I was reading the articles on the secret detentions, I was reminded that Obama's Office of Legal Council (OLC) has been quite active in promoting indefinite detentions for some of the Guantanamo prisoners. According to Joe Palazzolo at Main Justice, OLC -- which under Bush's appointees Yoo and Bybee had authored the memos approving torture -- has been quite active in advising Department of Justice attorneys who are fighting the habeas cases of Guantanamo prisoners in the federal courts. OLC also "worked closely with the [detention] task force that recently completed a yearlong review of the Guantanamo Bay detainees. The task force determined that of the 198 detainees at the military-run prison, about 50 are unprosecutable but thought to be too dangerous to transfer [i.e., they will be held indefinitely, without charges], underscoring the importance of the habeas corpus cases — the chief means for testing the Obama administration’s detention regime.

One wonders what apostasy former supposed civil liberties proponent Marty Lederman underwent once he joined Obama's Justice Department. But Palazzolo quotes a recent study by Benjamin Wittes and Rabea Benhalim of the Brookings Institution and Robert Chesney of the University of Texas Law School, who expound upon the crucial importance of the Obama administration's legal actions on this front (emphasis added):
They are more than a means to decide the fate of the individuals in question. They are also the vehicle for an unprecedented wartime law-making exercise with broad implications for the future. The law established in these cases will in all likelihood govern not merely the Guantánamo detentions themselves but any other detentions around the world over which American courts acquire habeas jurisdiction. What’s more, to the extent that these cases establish substantive and procedural rules governing the application of law-of-war detention powers in general, they could end up impacting detentions far beyond those immediately supervised by the federal courts. They might, in fact, impact superficially-unrelated military activities, such as the planning of operations, the selection of interrogation methods, or even the decision to target individuals with lethal force….
The other thing the detentions issue reminded me of was a quote from a document I was recently reading. The document has historical significance, and is of great importance in understanding how the dark and secretive forces that are now essentially running this country gained such power and influence.

A Look Back at the Doolittle Report

From the Report on the Covert Activities of the Central Intelligence Agency, commissioned by the President of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1954 (otherwise known as the Doolittle Report - PDF, bold emphases added):
As long as it remains national policy, another important requirement is an aggressive covert psychological, political and paramilitary organization more effective, more unique, and, if necessary, more ruthless than that employed by the enemy. No one should be permitted to stand in the way of the prompt, efficient and secure accomplishment of this mission....

It is now clear that we are facing an implacable enemy whose avowed objective is world domination by whatever means and at whatever cost. There are no rules in such a game. Hitherto acceptable norms of human conduct do not apply. If the United States is to survive, long-standing American concepts of "fair play" must be reconsidered. We must develop effective espionage and counterespionage services and must learn to subvert, sabotage and destroy our enemies by more clever, more sophisticated and more effective methods than those used against us. It may become necessary that the American people be made acquainted with, understand and support this fundamentally repugnant philosophy.
Looks like it took them almost 50 years to fulfill the latter prediction, when Dick Cheney informed us the U.S. was going over to the “dark side”. Of course, they’d made their infernal choice decades ago, and the U.S. citizenry is still catching up with the ramifications of those hidden decisions and multiple crimes.

Also, now the enemy is not world communism, but the forces of Al Qaeda, who (supposed) wish to found a world-wide Islamic Caliphate. Of course, tomorrow the enemy may be world communism again, when the war drive against China is activated in earnest, or perhaps it will be the “Asian hordes” once again.

This is not a time for politics as usual. The "consensus building" of President Obama's administration is a cruel joke upon the people of America and the world. What is needed is boldness in opposition, a readiness to speak the complete truth, and the preparation of the American people to accept this truth, and make the links between Wall Street's stranglehold over any economic "reform", and the insane military drive for extension of U.S. power around the world. The latter has led this country into the darkest crevices of human historical actions: to the secret prison and dungeon, to the torture chamber, to the use of technological devices and sciences to watch, control, and murder countless human beings.

"Hitherto acceptable norms of human conduct do not apply." It is worth considering well the implications of this statement for all of us.

Cross-posted at FDL/The Seminal

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