Sunday, October 31, 2010

Liveblogging Twitter: Khadr Jury Deliberations

Breaking, 5:30pm. After 8 hours of deliberations by the seven-person military jury, the jury reached a decision, sentencing Omar Khadr to prison for 40 years. The decision is subject, reportedly, to the plea deal made with Khadr and his legal team, whereby the young man confessed to murder and other crimes, for a promise of an eight year sentence -- one year in Guantanamo, followed by seven years in Canada. The following liveblogging started earlier today.

+++++++++++++++++++

After a day's break in the proceedings of the Omar Khadr military commissions trial, and five hours of jury deliberation yesterday, the trial picked up at 12: 27pm today, Eastern time. The trial is being live-tweeted by a number of journalists present in Guantanamo, most notably Carol Rosenberg, Andrew Mayeda, Michelle Shephard, Derek Stoffel, French journalist Malorie Beauchemin, and others, who are watching proceedings on a video feed. Other journalists and observers, such as Daphne Eviatar, are in the courtroom, and we can expect reports from them later.

It has been a contentious week, and I'll assume if you're reading this you have already been following the trial. I should mention up front, that I find the military commissions trial of Omar Khadr to be a kangaroo court, meant to produce a false confession for show trial, propaganda purposes. The purpose of liveblogging this proceeding via twitter-feed is to give as up-to-date information on the breaking news of this important trial -- the first trial of a former child soldier in modern, Western history -- and a forum for readers to discuss and process the proceedings.

For those interested in such things, Twitters own license, agreed to by those who sign up via Twitter, says that anyone using Twitter agrees "to make your Tweets available to the rest of the world and to let others do the same." The two relevant feeds from Twitter can be directly accessed here and here.

Right now, it appears the 7-person military jury has asked to have the video replayed of the testimony of Captain Patrick McCarthy, the former legal adviser at Guantanamo, who testified earlier that Omar Khadr had the "potential to rehabilitate."

The following are not inclusive of all the Tweeting being done, but selected samples. Besides the journalists, I'm adding what I feel are relevant or interesting tweets from others following on Twitter:
@DerekStoffelCBC Derek Stoffel
#Khadr jury wants to see transcript of Cpt. McCarthy's testimony. Court has no transcript but Judge Parrish offers to let them see it again. [~1:02pm ET]

@JulietONeill Juliet O'Neill
Following my colleague @mayeda at #Khadr jury deliberations at #Gitmo. Will report Ottawa #cdnpoli reaction to jury decision/plea bargain. [~1:03pm ET]

@carolrosenberg Carol Rosenberg
At 30 minutes into deliberation jury revisiting testimony of Capt McCarthy, the 06-08 prison staff lawyer who spoke by video from Kabul. [~1:05pm ET]

@shephardm Michelle Shephard
They don't have transcript so #GTMO judge is now re-playing a recording of his testimony for 7-member #Khadr jury from earlier this week. [~1:07pm]

@carolrosenberg Carol Rosenberg
While jury watches, we can see prosecutors Jeffrey Groharing and Michael Grant are talking to each other behind their hands. On video...
[~1:08pm]
Now this seems of special interest:
@carolrosenberg Carol Rosenberg
Human Rights Watch observer spotted four #Khadr jurors and widow of soldier he killed taking brunch in same #Guantanamo dining room today. [~12:17pm ET]
This would be before court had resumed for the day.
@carolrosenberg Carol Rosenberg
Debating difference in definition of sequestration between civilian juries, war court. Factoring in #Guantanamo has one Sunday brunch venue. [~1:19pm ET]
@DerekStoffelCBC Derek Stoffel
#Khadr jury spent an hour re-listening to Cpt. McCarthy's testimony. They're now back deliberating. We're back to waiting. [2:07pm ET]

@amayeda Andrew Mayeda
McCarthy testified that #Khadr appeared to have a "positive" influence on other inmates [2:11pm ET]

@carolrosenberg Carol Rosenberg
#Khadr's jury is back deliberating after 1-hour re-run. McCarthy urged different "standard of accountability" for 15 year old than adult. [~2:14pm ET]

@amayeda Andrew Mayeda
#Khadr was originally housed in camp 5, highest security facility at #Gitmo; but eventually transferred to camp 4. for "compliant" inmates [~2:14pm ET]

@amayeda Andrew Mayeda
McC notes that #Khadr never kicked out of camp 4, despite zero tolerance on misbehaviour under #Gitmo rules [~2:14pm ET]

@amayeda Andrew Mayeda
But McC seemed to back down under prosecution cross-examination; prosecution read him several reports by prison guards on #Khadr
[~2:16pm ET]
The deliberations over the potential rehabilitation of Omar Khadr is a staple portion of the sentencing phase of a criminal trial. According to news reports, Khadr has already made a stipulation to guilt, one that has been seriously questioned by many, and it's worth looking at Marcy Wheeler's blog post on this, as well as Daphne Eviatar at the Huffington Post.

Back to it...
@amayeda Andrew Mayeda
"15 year olds, in my opinion, shouldn't be held to the same standard of accountability as adults should be," McCarthy said [~2:26pm ET]

@amayeda Andrew Mayeda
The jury has now resumed deliberations; they're now approaching their sixth hour ... [~2:27pm ET]

@m_beauchemin Malorie Beauchemin
Procès #Khadr. Les journalistes auront 15 min pour se rendre en Cour entendre la sentence. On sursaute chaque fois que le téléphone sonne. [~2:40pm ET] [Google translator: "Journalists will have 15 minutes to go to court to hear the sentence. We jump every time the phone rings."]
Some other commentary on Twitter:
@BridgetGuevara Bridget Guevara
Whaaaat?! // MT @vickersty #Khadr prsctrs trying to use forced plea as evidence he can't be rehabilitated. YOU can't be rehabilitated

@CanadaLiberty CanadaLiberty
If Khadr had been a15 yr.oldAmericanDefendingtheAlamo,He'dBeAnAmerican Hero! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YX_W8Ih8c0A #ondp #lpc #khadr

@GeorgieBC Georgie BC
It is ok for US soldiers to murder children, but it is a war crime for children to murder US soldiers. .. http://tinyurl.com/34fsnfd #Khadr
Now, here's a curious point I had not noticed:
@amayeda Andrew Mayeda
@LadyLibertine22 #Khadr defence never called their mental-health experts to testify
I know that one of the people who had been prepared to testify was Brig. Gen. (ret.) Stephen Xenakis, "Omar Khadr's unlikely defender." See Michelle Shephard's story in The Star:
Xenakis, now 62 and retired from the army, is one of the court-approved medical experts granted access to Khadr over the last few years. He has spent more than 100 hours meeting with the Toronto-born captive and considered an important witness for the defence in the trial that is finally set to begin on Monday....

"There’s nothing that makes me think this guy’s dangerous in any way," says Xenakis. "For us to use him as a symbol or icon of us being hard on terrorists, which is something that has been the position all along, is wrong."....

“I think it’s wrong to take a person who’s a 15-year-old, who’s basically a child soldier, and for us to treat him as something other than an adolescent who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time,” says Xenakis.
3:01 pm ET, via Carol Rosenberg. Jury still out. Total deliberation time: 6.5 hrs.

For readers who may not know, whatever the jury decides, if it is more than the amount of years agreed in the plea bargain (8 years, with approx. one more in Guantanamo, and then supposed transfer to Canada), the plea deal will be honored. If the amount of time decided is less, then Khadr could go free in under 8 years, theoretically. However, the U.S. really threw the book at Khadr to get him to stipulate guilt for their phony show trial.

Additionally, the U.S. has a habit of going back on its deals, most recently in the case of Ibrahim al-Qosi. See this posting by Marcy Wheeler.

3:34pm ET
@m_beauchemin Malorie Beauchemin
Sept heures de délibérations pour le jury d'Omar Khadr, chargé de déterminer la sentence. Toujours pas de décision. [Google Translator: "Seven hours of deliberation the jury of Omar Khadr, charged with determining the sentence. Still no decision."
More background:
@uruknet uruknet
Canada’s role in the persecution of child soldier Omar #Khadr http://bit.ly/bl4KcW #guantanamo #humanrights [~2:57pm ET]
bmaz is answering some questions, with his legal expertise, over at Emptywheel, lots of interesting commentary re possibility of a Khadr appeal, other matters:

http://emptywheel.firedoglake.com/2010/10/28/the-boys-of-war/#Respond

A few new tweets in past half hour, reminding us...
@Perkel Colin Perkel
If sentencing jury at #Khadr can't agree, then convening authority can order new sentencing hearing or impose no punishment.

@Perkel Colin Perkel
Further, for a sentence of 10 years or more, six of seven #Khadr jurors must agree . . .
It's now 4:30 pm, ET, and Michelle Shephard is reporting from Gitmo:
@shephardm Michelle Shephard
Coming up eight hours for #Khadr jury. Past #Gitmo sentence deliberations for Australian, Yemeni and Sudanese detainees was under two hours
BREAKING: Jury will have decision in 14 minutes, reported via multiple tweets -- It's now 4:50pm ET
@brynweese Bryn Weese
#Khadr jury has sentencing decision. About to tell court in 15 mins.

@DerekStoffelCBC Derek Stoffel
Media being told a sentencing decision in #Khadr case will come in 15 minutes.

@amayeda Andrew Mayeda
Reporters at #Gitmo scrambling to get up to court to hear the #Khadr sentence

@carolrosenberg Carol Rosenberg
The Omar #Khadr jury has returned a sentencing verdict in slightly over 8 hours. Media scrambling to #Guantanamo war court.

@amayeda Andrew Mayeda
He will be the first detainee convicted of murder (in violation of the laws of war) by the #Gitmo tribunal
Convicted? Is that how it will be spun? How apart, first detainee to be forced to confess for the Gitmo show trial?

More Mayeda:
@amayeda Andrew Mayeda
Also, #Khadr is the first #Gitmo detainee to be sentenced who committed his crimes as a juvenile
Flash - 40 years sentence:
@DerekStoffelCBC Derek Stoffel
BREAKING: #Khadr military jury recommends 40 years in prison.

@DerekStoffelCBC Derek Stoffel
#Khadr jury recommends 40 years... BUT plea deal Khadr signed limits his sentence to 8 years - can apply for transfer to Canada after 1 yr.
At first they couldn't hear it:
@carolrosenberg Carol Rosenberg
Omar #Khadr is standing. The sentence was announced but the jury wasn't miked and we in #Guantanamo's filing center didn't hear it.
So, the military jury says it will ignore the child status of Omar Khadr at the time of capture, or ignore the torture of Omar Khadr. They appear to be channeling the racist demagoguery of hand-picked psych expert, Dr. Michael Welner. What was the purpose of this show?

More from Guantanamo, 5:11pm:
@carolrosenberg Carol Rosenberg
Tabitha Speer, #Khadr's victim's widow cheered at the sentence. The Toronto-born war criminal looked straight ahead.

@carolrosenberg Carol Rosenberg
RECAP: Omar #Khadr's military jury returned a 40-year sentence and the judge told him, out of earshot of the panel, that he will serve 8.
And the reaction on Twitter at #khadr? A sampling:
@habibahamid habiba hamid
Breaches UN convention on rights of child @amayeda #Khadr sentenced to 40 years, military confirms

@RS_Chang Richard S. Chang
Really wonder how jury came to 40-year sentence for Omar #Khadr, who was a 15-year-old child soldier when he was caught on battlefield.

@dgardner Dan Gardner
A fitting conclusion for an unconscionable and unjust proceeding. RT @DerekStoffelCBC: #Khadr military jury recommends 40 years in prison.

@progress_report Brodie Conley
are you f*cking kidding me? 40 years recommended sentence. what do you expect from a jury made up of military personnel. #khadr

@rmazar Rochelle
WTH this is how we deal with child soldiers?! RT @DerekStoffelCBC: BREAKING: #Khadr military jury recommends 40 years in prison
Michelle Shephard notes:
#Guantanamo sentence 15 more than even Pentagon prosecutors asked for in #Khadr case.
The verdict will be used by right-wing commentators to "prove" that Khadr was "worst of the worst," and by implication all of the prisoners at Guantanamo. This propaganda show is one example of how prisoners are used for exploitation, i.e., psychological warfare purposes. It is no different than the Stalinists using show trials of dissenters, complete with confessions and fake juries, the entire panoply of juridical proceedings, but with none of the content.

A sad, shameful day for America. A country that will not own up to its own use of torture. How much irritating crap will I have to read about this or that little political mini-tempest on various blogs, while the soul of the country shades into infamy?

What now?
@carolrosenberg Carol Rosenberg
#Khadr attorney: "Omar was given a choice to plead guilty or be prosecuted in an unfair process with the possibility of a life sentence."

@carolrosenberg Carol Rosenberg
#Khadr is #Guantanamo's youngest and last Western detainee among 174 now held in the prison camps. He is now the convicted 3rd war criminal.

@amayeda Andrew Mayeda
Am told by military spokeswoman here that the plea-deal docs (and hopefully diplomatic notes between Canada-US) will be released

@carolrosenberg Carol Rosenberg
He had been held in #Guantanamo's communal camp for cooperative detainees. Now he goes into single cell, maximum security confinement.
Back into solitary confinement, i.e., back into torture, since isolation is a very specific kind of torture. What a massive clusterfuck! Submit Khadr to this charade, kill his sense of self-integrity via false confession, then shove him into solitary with the "belief" (and how can I not this put this word into quotes?) that he will be released to custody in Canada for another seven years...

Omar Khadr is you or me. This is what the U.S. rulers have in store for anyone who they decide to make an example of.

More on the reality that solitary confinement constitutes torture. From a Wired interview with psychologist Craig Haney, who has worked on this subject for a long-time:
...let me note that solitary confinement has historically been a part of torture protocols. It was well-documented in South Africa. It’s been used to torture prisoners of war.

There are a couple reasons why solitary confinement is typically used. One is that it’s a very painful experience. People experience isolation panic. They have a difficult time psychologically coping with the experience of being completely alone.

In addition, solitary confinement imposes conditions of social and perceptual stimulus deprivation. Often it’s the deprivation of activity, the deprivation of cognitive stimulation, that some people find to be painful and frightening.

Some of them lose their grasp of their identity. Who we are, and how we function in the world around us, is very much nested in our relation to other people. Over a long period of time, solitary confinement undermines one’s sense of self. It undermines your ability to register and regulate emotion. The appropriateness of what you’re thinking and feeling is difficult to index, because we’re so dependent on contact with others for that feedback. And for some people, it becomes a struggle to maintain sanity.

That leads to the other reason why solitary is so often a part of torture protocols. When people’s sense of themselves is placed in jeopardy, they are more malleable and easily manipulated. In a certain sense, solitary confinement is thought to enhance the effectiveness of other torture techniques.
And, no press appearance from the jury:
@shephardm Michelle Shephard
#Guantanamo prosecutors, #Khadr lawyers on the way to media hangar for press conferences. #Military jurors have declined to be interviewed.

@carolrosenberg Carol Rosenberg
Pentagon spokeswoman advises: All seven military officers on #Khadr jury were asked if they'd take questions from the media and all refused.
For those who felt Omar Khadr should not have taken the plea deal, consider this from Michelle Shephard:
@shephardm Michelle Shephard
If #Khadr had not taken the plea deal of 8 years and was instead given the jury sentence he would be 64 when released.
It's time for me to sign off here. Carol Rosenberg and others are headed for the news conference. Carol tweets:
@carolrosenberg Carol Rosenberg
Off to a press conference in the Camp Justice hangar with prosecutors, observers. Story updating regularly here. http://ow.ly/32f0Z
My thanks again to all the reporters and commentators who have worked on this story. I look forward to what those in the courtroom saw and felt, the feedback from Khadr's attorneys, the prosecutors (gag), and assorted media.

A low and sad day for justice. A terrifying day for Omar Khadr. And to Mrs. Speer and others, who thought they would never see this day, a thought or two:
"Vengeance taken will often tear the heart and torment the conscience."
Arthur Schopenhauer

"The noblest vengeance is to forgive."
Proverbs
Postscript, thanks to harpie:

DoD Statement on Khadr’s sentence
http://www.defense.gov/releases/release.aspx?releaseid=14023

Exchange of Diplomatic notes on Khadr
http://media.miamiherald.com/smedia/2010/10/31/20/dipnotes.source.prod_affiliate.56.pdf

Jury sentences ‘child soldier’ to 40 years at Guantanamo; Carol Rosenberg; 10/31/10
http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/10/31/1901309/khadr-jury-deliberates-second.htmlv

from US Diplomatic note to Canada:
The Government of the United States proposes that were Mr. Khadr to request a transfer to Canada to serve any sentence there, the United States and Canada could implement such a transfer under the Treaty between Canada and the United States of America on the Execution of Penal Sentences (the "'Treaty") and existing domestic authorities....

The Government of the United States specifically understands that such transfer would result in Mr. Khadr being subject to Canadian law pertaining to detention and in Mr. Khadr being able to apply to the National Parole Board (an independent administrative tribunal operating autonomously from the Government of Canada) for parole following the completion of one-third of his sentence. The Government of the United States understands that eligibility for parole does not mean that the release will be granted; only that it will be considered.
from Canada's Diplomatic Note to the US:
The Government of Canada shares the view of the United States that were Mr. Khadr to request a transfer to Canada to serve any part of his sentence in Canada, the United States and Canada could implement such a transfer....

The Government of Canada therefore wishes to convey that, as requested by the United States, the Government of Canada is inclined to favourably consider Mr. Khadr's application to be transferred to Canada to serve the remainder of his sentence, or such portion of the remainder of his sentence as the National Parole Board determines, provided the aforementioned conditions are met and the Government of the United States approves Mr. Khadr's transfer to Canada.
"Inclined to favorably consider..." "Could implement such a transfer" -- Perhaps this is simply diplomatic language, but I look forward to hearing more analysis on this. Not that I trust what I hear anymore, or even what I see. But there it is, and I hope the U.S. and Canada hold to their agreement.

None of this takes away from the truth Mr. Khadr lives at this very moment, returned to solitary confinement, a form of torture, having had to endure the ignominy of a forced confession and the huzzah of blood lust from his purported victims.

Nice country, this, eh?

Final addition (really):

Omar Khadr's Oct. 13 Plea Deal Agreement (PDF) (my bold emphasis)
I understand that this agreement permits the Military Commission to find me guilty for all offenses to which I plead guilty without the need for the government to present evidence that would prove my guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. I offer to plead guilty because it will be in my best interest that the Convening Authority grants me the relief set forth in this agreement. I understand that I waive my right to a trial of the facts and to be confronted by the witnesses against me, and my right to avoid self:incrimination insofar as a plea of Guilty wilI incriminate me.
Some more interesting material there. For instance, as Carol Rosenberg notes, "Omar #Khadr's plea bargain spelled out the only four people who could testify on his behalf at #Guantanamo sentencing hearing. Page 4 C3".
I will not seek to offer the testimony, either in court or via VTC of any witness, other than: (I) Dr. Katherine Porterfield: (2) Dr. Steven Xenakis. (3) Captain McCarthy; and (4) Dr. Arlette Zinck, all of whom the Government has agreed to produce at U.S. Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay. Cuba for sentencing. [understand that sentencing proceedings will not be delayed to of these witnesses are unavailable.
But they certainly did not all testify. Where was Dr. Xenakis?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Anti-Torture Psychologists Call for Major Overhaul of APA

The psychologists with Coalition for an Ethical Psychology have released a statement about the state of organized psychology nearly ten years after 9/11. They suggest that if after reading it you would like to support their call for change, go sign their petition at www.thepetitionsite.com/1/reclaiming-psychology/. You can also sign up for email updates at www.ethicalpsychology.org.
Reclaiming Our Profession: Psychology Ten Years After 9/11
Next September 11th will mark the end of a difficult and pivotal decade for American psychology. The path taken in the months ahead will help determine whether this period is remembered as the decade that forever tarnished the profession or, instead, as a watershed decade in which psychology firmly established its moral bearings.

Human rights advocates, and increasingly the general public, have come to view our profession as home to the architects, abettors, and practitioners of abusive interrogations -- even torture -- and other ethical violations as part of a national security apparatus run amok. And they are not wrong. Regrettably, such misconduct has often overshadowed the very many psychologists who have played valuable roles as dedicated helping professionals, researchers, and educators during this time.

But a profession's legitimacy and reputation are neither established nor maintained by a simple count of those who act decently and responsibly compared to those who do not. Psychology rises or falls depending upon whether principle and integrity are chosen over expediency and opportunism. Such choices are not made solely by individuals and then reflected in their personal actions. Of even more importance, these choices are made by organizational leaders representing the profession as a whole.

It is now well documented that the leadership of the American Psychological Association (APA) has comprehensively failed in this crucial stewardship role. As a result, the larger tragedy does not revolve around particular psychologists who took an abhorrent approach to interrogations, who compromised science for career opportunities, or who succumbed to situational pressures. Disappointingly, our core ethical imperatives in psychology, including bedrock tenets of "do no harm" and informed consent, were cast aside at the highest levels of the APA, in exchange for increased access, status, and funding.

Indeed, over the past several years the evidence of misconduct and questionable judgment within the APA -- primarily through associations with CIA and Department of Defense intelligence operations -- has steadily risen. Like expanding floodwaters, one new revelation has followed another. They now threaten to breach the makeshift dam built piecemeal from APA’s denial, stonewalling, intimidation, and double-talk. At risk are not only those who have acted irresponsibly. The casualties may well include many bystanders -- decent and dedicated APA members brought down by misplaced allegiance and trust in their organization’s leaders, and non-member psychologists whose practices and careers have been tainted as well.

The ongoing efforts of our fellow "dissident" psychologists to change APA policies have been invaluable. But as this tumultuous decade draws to a close, it is clear that a far broader grassroots movement is needed. APA members and non-member psychologists alike must come together in large and growing numbers and stand firm in their simple demand: "No More, This Must End."

The necessary changes are far-reaching. They will meet resistance at each step, but they are attainable. Otherwise our professional organizations likely will repeat the errors and failures of the last decade during future periods of crisis. New leadership for the psychology profession is crucial. At this point it remains an open question whether the APA is capable of reforming itself, including replacing compromised leadership, or whether new organizational forms will ultimately be needed. At a minimum, accountability for those responsible for wrongdoing is essential. If the APA is to survive as an ethical organization, a restructuring of its governance and bureaucracy is critical, so that processes at all levels become more transparent and power is no longer held in so few hands. A thorough reevaluation of priorities and relations, including links to the military-intelligence establishment, must be undertaken.

This is a tall order, but anything less is unacceptable. The approaching tenth anniversary of 9/11 must coincide with the rebirth of a principled American psychology, truly taking "do no harm" to heart. If not, it may represent a eulogy for our once proud profession. We owe it to those who have tragically suffered at psychology’s hands; we owe it to the next generation of psychologists; and we owe it to ourselves.

This statement is also available in PDF form at www.ethicalpsychology.org/materials/Coalition--Reclaiming-Our-Profession.pdf

Monday, October 25, 2010

"Gitmo Guilty Plea Is A Sad Day for U.S. Rule of Law"

Good article, Daphne, on a very sad day. But this is more than just a bad day for the rule of law, it is a low day for humanity itself. The use of coerced confessions through torture is as old as the Inquisition, but it was the Stalinist USSR that used this particular form of psychological torment as a major tool of social control.

Forced confessions are themselves torture. They destroy the inner integrity of the person who is made to give pronounce his false crimes. And they destroy the outer integrity of the institutions, and even the society surrounding these institutions, that would allow such blatant dishonesty and totalitarian coercion to occur.

I can't blame Mr. Khadr, tortured, left in solitary, knowing not one day of adult freedom, hoping his torment in Guantanamo now will not see another October.

I'm not sure where all this is heading. This news dovetails with the news from the Wikileaks documents that the U.S. was complicit in hundreds or thousands of cases of Iraqi torture, and that the U.S. had broken treaty law in allowing the return of prisoners to the torturing Iraqi government. Wherever we're heading, it doesn't look good.

Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Sunday, October 24, 2010

NY Times Tale of US Soldier Intervention Against Torture is a Lie

Much more is certain to be written and reported from the 400,000 or so documents from the Iraq War released today by Wikileaks. The government is putting forth its own spin, claiming damage to U.S. security and troops, while the press has its own version of spin. One example comes from the New York Times, who along with the UK Guardian, Der Spiegel, and Le Monde, are releasing all or some of the documents, often with fancy and very interesting interactive graphs and databases.

Last July, I noted that the New York Times had listed the total number of individuals on a secret U.S. commando “capture/kill list” as "about 70," while the European press reported the more accurate number of 2,058.

Well the Times is up to its old tricks, and it is an object lesson in not believing what you read, and the necessity to review the original documents yourself.

An October 22 story, Detainees Fared Worse in Iraqi Hands, Logs Say, by Sabrina Tavernise and Andrew W. Lehren, details some of what the Times found in a review of the Wikileaks documents concerning abuse by Iraqi forces. Buried in the article is the lede, i.e., that the U.S. had a deliberate policy of ignoring wide-spread torture by their Iraqi allies (or puppet government, take your pick). At first, Tavernise and Lehren write that the "abuse cases... seemed to have been ignored, with the equivalent of an institutional shrug..." But five paragraphs into the story we learn that the indifferent "shrug" was really a deliberate policy, as it's revealed there is a "report dated May 16, 2005, saying that if 'if US forces were not involved in the detainee abuse, no further investigation will be conducted until directed by HHQ.'”

This is the now notorious FRAGO-242 (FRAGO being short for fragmentary order). According to the UK Guardian, it was issued in June 2004, not May 2005, as the New York Times article implies. So far as I can tell from the various news stories, this policy begun during the Bush years is still in effect. It certainly was as late as 2009, well into the administration of President Barack Obama.
According to the UK Guardian:
Frago 242 appears to have been issued as part of the wider political effort to pass the management of security from the coalition to Iraqi hands. In effect, it means that the regime has been forced to change its political constitution but allowed to retain its use of torture....
With no effective constraint, the logs show, the use of violence has remained embedded in the everyday practice of Iraqi security, with recurrent incidents up to last December. Most often, the abuse is a standard operating procedure in search of a confession, whether true or false. One of the leaked logs has a detainee being beaten with chains, cables and fists and then confessing to involvement in killing six people because "the torture was too much for him to handle".
But the particular New York Times article in question here has a more egregious example of spin than burying the lede. In the following paragraph, an American soldier's witnessing of torture is reported as if the soldier intervened to stop it. In fact, the very documentary evidence the New York Times links to demonstrates the exact opposite.

Here is the relevant quote from the article (emphasis added):
In August 2006, an American sergeant in Ramadi heard whipping noises in a military police station and walked in on an Iraqi lieutenant using an electrical cable to slash the bottom of a detainee’s feet. The American stopped him, but later he found the same Iraqi officer whipping a detainee’s back.
Here's the document this paragraph links to -- note, you will not find any evidence of the soldier stopping any torture. A report is made, no investigation is initiated, and the prisoner and his torturer are said to remain at the Ramadi jail. The case is closed five days later.
*ALLEGED DETAINEE ABUSE BY IRAQI POLICE IN RAMADI ON 17 AUG 2006

SUSPECTED DETAINEE ABUSE RPTD AT 171100D AUG 06
1. DESCRIPTION OF INCIDENT/SUSPECTED VIOLATION (WHO REPORTED INCIDENT AND WHAT HAPPENED):
SGT –––––, 300TH MILITARY POLICE COMPANY, REPORTED IRAQI POLICE COMMITTING DETAINEE ABUSE AT AN IRAQI POLICE STATION IN RAMADI. SGT ––––– WITNESSED 1LT –––– WHIP A DETAINEE ACROSS HIS BACK WITH A PR-24 STRAIGHT SIDE HANDLED BATON AND 1LT –––– KICKING A SECOND DETAINEE. THAT NIGHT SGT ––––– HEARD WHIPPING NOISES WALKING THROUGH THE HALLWAY, AND OPENED A DOOR TO FIND 1LT –––– WITH A 4 GAUGE ELECTRICAL CABLE, WHIPPING THE BOTTOM OF A DETAINEE*S FEET. LATER THAT NIGHT, SGT ––––– CAUGHT 1LT –––– WHIPPING A DETAINEE ACROSS HIS BACK WITH AN ELECTRICAL CABLE. SGT ––––– DOCUMENTED EACH EVENT ON A SWORN STATEMENT FORM AND REPORTED THE INCIDENTS.
2. LOCATION (GRID COORDINATES OR OTHER REFERENCE): 38S LB 37142 99770
3. TIME OF OCCURRENCE AND TIME OF DISCOVERY: REPORTED 17 1100 AUG 06
4. WHO CAUSED (IF KNOWN) OR IDENTITY OF FRIENDLY AND ENEMY UNITS OPERATING IN THE IMMEDIATE AREA (IF KNOWN):
IRAQI POLICE FROM THE AL HURYIA IRAQI POLICE STATION
5. NAME OF WITNESSES (W/UNIT OR ADDRESS): SGT –––– ––––– –––––, 300TH MP COMPANY, MP PIT TEAM
6. UNIT POINT OF CONTACT: CPT –––– – –––– AT DNVT 551-2044 OR ––––.––––@–––––.ARMY.SMIL.MIL
7. EVIDENCE GATHERED AND ITS DISPOSITION: SWORN STATEMENTS AND PICTURES ARE ATTACHED
8. WEAPONS/EQUIPMENT INVOLVED: 4 GAUGE ELECTICAL CABLE, PR-24 BATON
9. DESCRIPTION OF DAMAGE OR INJURIES TO GOVERNMENT/CIVILIAN PROPERTY AND PERSONNEL: CIRCULAR WHIP MARKS, BLEEDING ON BACK, DARK RED BRUISING ON BACK
10. CURRENT LOCATION OF SUSPECTS AND VICTIMS (JAIL, HOSPITAL, AT SCENE, ETC.) BOTH ARE STILL AT AL HURYIA POLICE STATION
11. HOW IS THE SITE BEING SECURED? N/A
12. INVESTIGATING OFFICER. STATUS OF INVESTIGATION: NO INVESTIGATION INITIATED AT THIS POINT.
CLOSED: 22 AUG 2006
The American sergeant documents each incident of torture, but there is no evidence of any other intervention.

I suppose the authors may have been unaware of what they wrote. The savagery and butchery may have made them unconsciously prettify the picture, and project fictional heroism by the American soldier. But the truth is ugly, and can't be covered up. That's the beauty of having actual documents, and we owe a great debt of gratitude to Wikileaks and the anonymous leaker(s) for bringing us the truth.

No doubt there were cases where U.S. military personnel intervened to stop torture, but even in the documents I've seen thus far, plenty of victims are left in control of their captors. The news reports seem to emphasize the wide-spread nature of the crimes.

Among whatever other truths are to be revealed, one truth stands out, and the UK Guardian headline is clear in its reporting: Iraq war logs: secret files show how US ignored torture. The truth. Both under the administration of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, the United States forces in Iraq countenanced the use of torture on a massive scale by its allies in the Iraq government. They did not publicize what was happening, and to this day, they say this policy is acceptable.

The stories of the torture are horrific, as are the murders, the deaths of tens of thousands of non-combatants. And the casualty figures cannot themselves be trusted, as the U.S., for instance, reports no civilian casualty figures for the attack on Fallujah.

This is a country without a moral compass. War crimes on a massive scale, and a populace too afraid, too inured, too ignorant or self-satisfied to do anything about it. A terrible reckoning is coming, but it will not be from Al Qaeda, or from terrorists, or from God. It will be when the people of this country wake up and throw the rotten murderers and torturers and their apologists out of power.

Through its wide-ranging acceptance and tolerance of torture, the U.S. destroys its own integrity. I await the outrage or lack of it in coming days, but I won't hold my breath. The country has been made stupid by its addiction to elections funded by the wealthy, elections that only perpetuate the same evil powers, and offer little if any real choice to the voting public.

By claiming these documents will aid the enemy, the U.S. rulers only reveal their own guilt. It is not tactics and procedures they fear will be released, but an image of their own crimes.

UPDATE: Since first writing this diary, more material related to U.S. complicity in wide-spread and systematic torture by the Iraqi government is coming to light, as well as information about other war crimes. One of especial interest is a video at UK Guardian, which also has an interview with New York Times correspondent Peter Maass, who was allowed time with Iraq's notorious special commandos, Wolf Brigade. Maass puts Gen. Petraeus special adviser, James Steele, a "retired United States Army colonel who also helped develop the special police as a member of General Petraeus's team", in the same room as himself when both heard an Iraqi being tortured in another room.

A January 2007 article by Dahr Jamail noted the connections between Steele and his old El Salvador counterinsurgency boss, John Negroponte, who was U.S. ambassador to Iraq in 2004-2005. Negroponte then was U.S. ambassador as FRAGO 242 was put into operation.
It is Negroponte who oversaw the implementation of the "Salvador Option" in Iraq, as it was referred to in Newsweek in January 2005.

Under the "Salvador Option," Negroponte had assistance from his colleague from his days in Central America during the 1980's, Ret. Col James Steele. Steele, whose title in Baghdad was Counselor for Iraqi Security Forces supervised the selection and training of members of the Badr Organization and Mehdi Army, the two largest Shi'ite militias in Iraq, in order to target the leadership and support networks of a primarily Sunni resistance.

Planned or not, these death squads promptly spiraled out of control to become the leading cause of death in Iraq. Intentional or not, the scores of tortured, mutilated bodies which turn up on the streets of Baghdad each day are generated by the death squads whose impetus was John Negroponte. And it is this U.S.-backed sectarian violence which largely led to the hell-disaster that Iraq is today.
Of course, Jamail didn't know of FRAGO 242, but the implication of his article have been borne out with a vengeance, as the U.S. appears to have organized and unleashed torture and death squads in Iraq, much as they did in Latin America over the decades, in Chile, Paraguay, Brazil, El Salvador, Guatemala, Argentina, etc.

As for Steele, his presence in Iraq told ominously of the real U.S. mission there. As a 1988 article in The Nation explained, "as head of the U.S. Military Group at El Salvador's Ilopango Air Base, [Steele] was a critical operative in the contra resupply outfit run by Oliver North and Richard Secord. Steele made sure the Enterprise's planes could come and go from Ilopango." According to a 2005 New York Times Magazine piece by Maass, Steele was close to Iraqi General Adnan Thabit, leader of the Special Police Commandos. One of the latter's projects was a TV show broadcast over the U.S.-financed Al Iraqiya television station -- "Terrorism in the Grip of Justice" -- which broadcast insurgents' confessions, which appear to have been largely induced by torture.

The very first thing anyone who considers themselves progressive in this country must do is hold the current administration responsible for what is happening right now, end the FRAGO 242 policy, and begin the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq and Afghanistan. The "don't look back" policy of Obama must be renounced, and a movement for accountability and social justice began in this country. Otherwise, the torturers are waiting to take over. They already have control of much of the military.

Time is short.

My thanks to the brave folks at Wikileaks. With some luck, there will be enough time, but not unless we give up illusions in washed-up U.S. politicians who have no intent on changing the course of Empire, an empire built on terror, murder, and torture.

Cross-posted from Firedoglake and Daily Kos

Friday, October 22, 2010

Judge Denies Guantánamo Prisoner’s Habeas Petition, Ignores Torture in Secret CIA Prisons

Cross-posted, with permission, from Andy Worthington's blog

On September 22, in the District Court in Washington D.C., Judge Reggie B. Walton denied the habeas corpus petition of Tawfiq al-Bihani (described in court documents as Toffiq al-Bihani), a Yemeni who was raised in Saudi Arabia, giving the government its 18th victory out of 56 cases decided, with the other 38 having been won by the prisoners.

However, as in the majority of the cases in which the prisoners have lost, there was nothing in the ruling that could be construed as representing the delivery of justice after the eight and a half years that al-Bihani has spent in US custody, as he has been consigned to indefinite detention in Guantánamo, on an apparently legal basis, despite the fact that there is no evidence that he ever took up arms against anyone, or had any contact with anyone involved in preparing, facilitating or supporting acts of international terrorism.

Moreover, in examining his habeas corpus petition, Judge Walton appeared to remain blissfully unaware that, despite being, at most, a lowly foot soldier, al-Bihani was held in a variety of secret CIA prisons in Afghanistan before his transfer to Guantánamo, where he was subjected to torture.

As revealed in the background to al-Bihani’s case, accepted by both al-Bihani and the government, he cut a depressing figure prior to traveling to Afghanistan in the summer of 2000. As Judge Walton explained, “During the time he resided in Saudi Arabia, the petitioner was abusing various drugs, including alcohol, marijuana, hashish, crystal methamphetamine, and depression pills,” Judge Walton also noted, “The petitioner began to ‘increase [his] intake of alcohol and drugs,’ when his fiancee ended their engagement due to her concerns that ‘she would fall out of grace with her father if she married a Yemeni against his wishes.’”

Apparently persuaded to travel to Afghanistan by his brother Mansour, described as “an experienced fighter who fought against the Russians in Chechnya,” and who “had close relationships with senior Chechen fighters and other individuals who were engaged in training men to fight in Chechnya and in other countries,” he traveled to Afghanistan with his brother, where, as Judge Walton concluded, he “received, at a minimum, weapons training” at the al-Farouq training camp, established by the Afghan warlord Abdul Rasul Sayyaf in the early 1990s, but associated with Osama bin Laden in the years before the 9/11 attacks, and also stayed in Afghan guest houses reportedly associated with al-Qaeda.

In authorizing al-Bihani’s ongoing detention, Judge Walton gave weight to al-Bihani’s admission that he “became, and was part of, al-Qaeda at least during the five months period he was training at al-Farouq,” even though he also noted that his training was far from rigorous. “Although he was enrolled at al-Farouq for approximately five months,” Judge Walton explained, “he only ‘received approximately two months of training,’ because he would train for approximately ‘a week or two weeks’ before feigning illness in order to leave and ‘do hashish or tobacco.’” Judge Walton added that al-Bihani “repeated this cycle several times,” and also explained, “Towards the end of his time at al-Farouq, the trainers at the camp informed him that he was ‘not ready physically because [he] keep[s] leaving and going back, — adding that the trainers reportedly “concluded that he was of ‘no use,’ and ‘they kick[ed him] out of the camp.’”

Personally, I find it troubling that an obviously drug-addled, inconsistent and unreliable recruit can nevertheless be regarded as “part of” al-Qaeda, as it tends to render meaningless the supposed threat posed by al-Qaeda if useless recruits can legitimately be held, even when, as with al-Bihani, they had no knowledge of international terrorism, and not even a demonstrable commitment to al-Qaeda’s military activities in Afghanistan.

Judge Walton, however, seemed unconcerned that there appeared to be no basis for concluding that al-Bihani had ever posed a threat to the United States. Proceeding to an explanation of how he was captured, he explained that, in late 2001, having become separated from his brother Mansour (who was “ill” and was transported to Quetta in “a tractor-trailer truck” for those “who appeared sick or injured”), al-Bihani traveled through Pakistan to Iran, “with a group of other men.” Near Zahedan, he was supposed to be reunited with his brother, and with Hamza al-Qa’eity, who ran a guest house in Kabul described by al-Bihani as “one that jihad fighters used as a transition point.” However, as Judge Walton explained, at “the exact time” that al-Qa’eity arrived to pick him up from the house of an Iranian family, where he was staying, the Iranian police — or intelligence services — “descended on the house and apprehended” him — and, presumably, Hamza al-Qa’eity as well.

The hidden story of ten men rendered from Iran to Afghanistan — including Tawfiq al-Bihani

As I mentioned in the introduction to this article, what Judge Walton appeared not to know — or ignored in his ruling — was the fact that, after al-Bihani was subsequently “flown to Afghanistan” and “transferred to United States custody,” he was held in a variety of secret CIA prisons.

This information is readily accessible, because I explained in my book The Guantánamo Files that al-Bihani was one of ten men seized in Iran who were flown to Afghanistan and then handed over to US forces. One of these men, Aminullah Tukhi, an Afghan released from Guantánamo in December 2007, explained that six Arabs, two Afghans, an Uzbek and a Tajik had been delivered to the Americans, and I was able to identify six of them — Tukhi, Tawfiq al-Bihani, Walid al-Qadasi, a Yemeni transferred to the custody of his home government in April 2004, Wassam al-Ourdoni, a Jordanian released in April 2004, Rafiq Alhami, a Tunisian released in Slovakia in January this year, and Hussein Almerfedi, a Yemeni who won his habeas petition in July this year. Unaccounted for are the other four men mentioned by Aminullah Tukhi — an Arab, an Afghan, the Uzbek and the Tajik — although it seems possible that one of the disappeared was Hamza al-Qa’eity.

Confirmation that al-Bihani was one of the men came from an unexpected source. Abu Yahya al-Libi, one of four prisoners who escaped from Bagram in July 2005, described, in a post on an obscure French language website, which has since disappeared from the Internet, 12 prisoners who were held with him in Bagram, one of whom was Tawfiq al-Bihani. He also explained how all the men had passed through a network of secret CIA prisons in Afghanistan, where they had endured “hard torture,” and added, in al-Bihani’s case, that he was captured in Iran at the start of 2002, that he had met him in June 2002 in a prison he identified as “Rissat 2,” and that he was taken to another prison in September 2002, after which he never saw him again, and thought that he may have been transferred to Guantánamo.

Al-Libi also explained that Tawfiq al-Bihani thought that his brother Ghaleb, who had also been in Afghanistan, had been killed, but that the Americans had told him that he had been captured — and it later emerged that this was correct. Ghaleb al-Bihani lost his habeas corpus petition in January 2009, on the basis that he was a cook for Arab forces supporting the Taliban, and also had his appeal denied in January this year, consigning him to the same form of court-approved indefinite detention as his brother.

The torture in secret CIA prisons of three men rendered from Iran to Afghanistan

The accounts of three of the men rendered from Iran to Afghanistan are publicly available, and they are, to be blunt, horrific. Al-Ourdoni, a missionary seized with his wife and new-born child, explained after his release that his American captors “put me in jail under circumstances that I can only recall with dread. I lived under unimaginable conditions that cannot be tolerated in a civilized society.” He said that he was first placed in an underground prison for 77 days, and stated, “this room was so dark that we couldn’t distinguish nights and days. There was no window, and we didn’t see the sun once during the whole time.” He added that he was then moved to “prison number three”, where the food was so bad that his weight dropped substantially, and was then held in Bagram for 40 days before being flown to Guantánamo.

In an interview with a UN rapporteur, Walid al-Qadasi provided the following explanation of his treatment, which, like al-Ourdoni’s account, was included in a major UN report on secret detention earlier this year:
He was held in a prison in Kabul. During US custody, officials cut his clothes with scissors, left him naked and took photos of him before giving him Afghan clothes to wear. They then handcuffed his hands behind his back, blindfolded him and started interrogating him. The apparently Egyptian interrogator, accusing him of belonging to al-Qaeda, threatened him with death. He was put in an underground cell measuring approximately two meters by three meters with very small windows. He shared the cell with ten inmates. They had to sleep in shifts due to lack of space and received food only once a day. He spent three months there without ever leaving the cell. After three months, Walid al-Qadasi was transferred to Bagram, where he was interrogated for one month.
In a lawsuit filed in April 2009, Rafiq Alhami stated that, for a year, he was held in three CIA “dark sites,” where “his presence and his existence were unknown to everyone except his United States detainers,” and where, at various times, he was “stripped naked, threatened with dogs, shackled in painful stress positions for hours, punched, kicked and exposed to extremes of heat and cold.” Moreover, at Guantánamo, he told a military review board that one of the prisons was the “Dark Prison” near Kabul, which I have previously described as “a medieval torture dungeon with the addition of ear-splittingly loud music and noise, which was pumped into the cells 24 hours a day,” based on accounts by prisoners who were held there, including the British resident Binyam Mohamed, who described his time there as “the worst days of his captivity” — worse than the 18 months in Morocco, where the CIA’s proxy torturers regularly sliced his genitals with a razorblade.

Alhami told his review board that he was tortured for three months in the “Dark Prison,” where, he said, “I was threatened. I was left out all night in the cold … I spent two months with no water, no shoes, in darkness and in the cold. There was darkness and loud music for two months. I was not allowed to pray … These things are documented. You have them.”

The torture of Tawfiq al-Bihani

However while Judge Walton may not have come across my book, or the inclusion of this information in the UN report on secret detention earlier this year, I can’t understand how he would not have known about al-Bihani’s treatment from his lawyer, George M. Clarke III, because, in the book The Guantánamo Lawyers: Inside a Prison, Outside the Law, published last year, Clarke reproduced a letter from al-Bihani in which he provided a detailed explanation of what had happened to him after he was delivered to Afghanistan from Iran.

In his letter, al-Bihani explained that he was initially held in a vile Afghan prison in Kabul, where he and the other prisoners from Iran were hidden from Red Cross representatives until one of their fellow prisoners informed them of their existence. His first encounters with US agents — he believes they were from the FBI — took place in this prison, and he described his first interrogation as follows:
I was handcuffed behind and they put a hood on my head so that I could not see anything. When I entered the interrogation room, the American guards pushed me down to the ground in a very savage manner. They started to cut my clothing with scissors. They undressed me completely and I was nude. They made me sit on a chair and it was very cold. I was also afraid and terrorized because the guards were aiming their weapons towards me. The interrogator put his personal gun on my forehead threatening to kill me.
Al-Bihani explained that he stayed in this prison for around ten weeks, and was then moved to another prison where he was held in solitary confinement for “approximately five months and ten days.” He added that the guards were Afghan, that they handed out “very bad treatment,” and that “The interrogation was also very savage.” He was then moved to a third prison, which appears to have been the “Dark Prison,” and en route US soldiers “started to hit me and strangle me, they would put a rope around my neck and I was about to die.” This is his description of the “Dark Prison”:
This was absolutely the worst prison. It was a very dark prison and there was no light, no bed or a carpet, the floor was semi cement. The restraints on my feet were very tight; they put me into a cell and kept me hanging tied to the wall for almost ten days. […]
The irritating music 24 hours a day was very loud and hard banging on the door. When I used to go for interrogations, I was unable to walk because of the restraints on my legs and tightness on my feet.  Would fall down to the ground and scream that I cannot walk. They would pick me up from the ground and I would walk with them while they were hitting me on the way to the interrogation until I would bleed from my feet. When I would fall to the ground, they would drag me while I am on the ground. Then they would bring me back to the cell and sprinkle cold water on me. Sometimes they would put a weapon on my head threatening to kill me using some provocative statements which I cannot mention in this letter.
After ten days, they brought me down from the hanging position and made me sit on the floor. Then they tied my hands upwards for approximately one month so that I could not lie down on the floor for comfort, therefore I was unable to sleep except for quarter of an hour every day.
After one month and ten days, they removed all my restraints, however I was unable to rest or sleep because of extreme hunger and cold and the loud irritating music and the banging on the door. I stayed in this prison for approximately two months and a half and I had no idea whether it is day or night as it was extremely dark and oppressive conditions.
After this, al-Bihani was moved to Bagram, where, he said, “the treatment was very bad there as well,” and was then flown to Guantánamo.

A bleak conclusion

Beyond a rather obvious question raised by the accounts above — did Tawfiq al-Bihani confess that he was “part of” al-Qaeda (when he so obviously wasn’t) because of the torture to which he was subjected in Afghanistan? — what this apparently overlooked torture account most vividly and balefully demonstrates is how effortlessly the torture of al-Bihani has become irrelevant to his case.
The exposure of torture has derailed other habeas petitions challenged by the government — in, for example, the cases of Mohamed Jawad and Fouad al-Rabiah (who were subsequently released), Farhi Saeed bin Mohammed, an Algerian who is still held, and, less successfully, in the cases of Saeed Hatim and Uthman Abdul Rahim Mohammed Uthman (whose successful petitions are being appealed by the government).

However, in Tawfiq al-Bihani’s case it is difficult to escape the conclusion that, even had Judge Walton known, or chosen to pay attention to these reports, it would not have fundamentally altered his conclusion that this failed recruit was sufficiently involved with al-Qaeda to justify his ongoing detention. That, as I concluded above, already demonstrates that the classification process for determining who may be legally detained is far too loose, but when evidence that al-Bihani was tortured in secret prisons is also removed from the picture, the end result is far bleaker.

Somewhere along the line, questions need to be raised not only regarding the justification for continuing to hold insignificant individuals at Guantánamo who never raised arms against anyone and were not involved in terrorism, but also regarding the ease with which detailed information about the torture of prisoners in a series of secret prisons run by the CIA can be so thoroughly ignored that Judge Walton failed to mention it at all.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Psychiatric Demonization of Omar Khadr

Originally posted at FDL/The Seminal

As the intense negotiations over a possible plea bargain for former child "soldier" Omar Khadr come to a head, "internationally acclaimed" forensic psychiatrist Dr. Michael Welner has given an exclusive interview to Steven Edwards of the Canadian National Post. Khadr, captured at age 15, has been imprisoned for eight years in U.S. custody, and tortured at both Bagram and Guantanamo, accused of killing a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan in a firefight in July 2002. Dr. Welner has consulted for the FBI, and is a frequent guest on network television. He is a vigorous self-promoter and has been a forensic examiner on a number of high-profile criminal cases.

From Edwards story:
There is no evidence that Omar Khadr has ever independently sought to promote peace with the West and renounce Muslim Jihad, the internationally acclaimed forensic psychiatrist who pioneered efforts to quantify evil reveals ahead testifying about his examination of the Canadian-born terror suspect....

“When one leaps to the conclusion about Omar Khadr’s future because he is friendly, one might recall that Osama bin Laden has always been described as gentle, likeable and charming,” New York-based Welner told Postmedia News.

“There is no record of (Khadr’s) publicly repudiating al Qaida, as civilized Muslims should, not even a letter composed for him by Dennis Edney,” he added in a reference to one of Khadr’s two Canadian lawyers. There is “no call... to radical Islamists to mature beyond their elemental intolerance.”
By the use of terms such as "elemental intolerance", Dr. Welner exposes his bias and political animus towards Mr. Khadr. It carries the same whiff of fanaticism as the statements of former Chief of Neuropsychiatry at Guantanamo Bay, Dr. William Anderson, who wrote that Islamic "hard-core zealots" had "brains that are structurally and functionally different from us," and that 100,000 "zealots" within the Muslim body politic would have to be eliminated, the way "malignant [cancer] cells" are removed from a healthy body.

One wonders what responsibility the young Mr. Khadr had to reach out to "radical Islamists." The entire accusation is preposterous on its face. The attempt to link Mr. Khadr to Osama bin Laden is even worse. It is character assassination, and the evident bias shown by Dr. Welner should be more than enough reason to have his entire testimony and evaluation thrown out of court.

But then this isn't any old court. It's the kangaroo proceedings that are the Obama revamped Military Commissions, a judicial setting that allows no courtroom observers, that banned reporters for stating the name of a witness that was otherwise a matter of public record, that allows the judge to admit hearsay evidence from third parties who were coerced, as long as the judge finds it doesn't cross over into "cruel, inhuman, or degrading" treatment as defined in the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005.

As Daphne Eviatar pointed out last year:
While that sounds good, remember that the Detainee Treatment Act was interpreted by the Bush administration’s Justice Department to allow such “enhanced interrogation techniques” as sleep deprivation, food deprivation, shackling, forced standing in stress positions, and a variety of “corrective techniques” that include physical slaps and grabs – either alone or in combination. The new “protections” in the MCA amendments are therefore not all that reassuring.
Omar Khadr was to be the first sample of "justice" in the new Obama-blessed military commissions. We got a sample of what kind of justice that would be when last August, the MC judge, Army Col. Patrick Parrish, announced there was "no credible evidence" of torture upon Mr. Khadr. And yet, even in the testimony in the case thus far, early interrogations of the then-15 year old prisoner were proven to contain theats of violent rape. Moreover, the U.S. has been contemptuous of international protocols that juveniles under 18 years of age require "special attention", and that "the physical and psychosocial rehabilitation and social reintegration of children who are victims of armed conflict" of such child prisoners is of essential importance.

Andy Worthington described the torture of Omar Khadr in an article last May (or read Mr. Khadr's own affadavit describing his treatment - PDF):
Khadr stated that he was short-shackled in painful positions and left for up to ten hours in a freezing cold cell, threatened with rape and with being transferred to another country where he could be raped, and, on one particular occasion, when he had been left short-shackled in a painful position until he urinated on himself:
Military police poured pine oil on the floor and on me, and then, with me lying on my stomach and my hands and feet cuffed together behind me, the military police dragged me back and forth through the mixture of urine and pine oil on the floor. Later, I was put back in my cell, without being allowed a shower or a change of clothes. I was not given a change of clothes for two days. They did this to me again a few weeks later.
Ethical Transgressions?

The rest of the Welner interview continues the doctor's rant. "Civilized Muslims" have repudiated Al Qaeda, implying that without a strong statement from Mr. Khadr doing the same, he is not "civilized." According to Edwards, Dr. Welner states in the interview that "Khadr is known to have expressed peace-loving intentions only to “those advancing [h]is public image...” Even more, Dr. Welner describes Mr. Khadr as "socially agile, charming and more sophisticated," only to remind us -- "lest we forget" -- that Omar's father looked "good" enough to gather money for an orphanage, "'yet he was raising money for al Qaida, and (was) a high-ranking member' of the terror group."

In reference to Dr. Welner's last example, what should people think who believed once that the politicians who told them they were activating the defense of the United States and promoting the safety of their loved ones from a WMD-armed Iraq, only to find out their tax money was used to invade a country that had no WMD, that the entire story was gamed by the top leaders of the United States to destroy the infrastructure of another nation, kill 100,000s of people, and turn millions more into homeless refugees? These crimes make Omar Khadr's father look like a mere amateur.

It is difficult to discern the motives behind Dr. Welner's interview, but the fact there is pending a possible sentencing hearing for Mr. Khadr, or that the issue of Canadian repatriation of the former child soldier is currently a matter of some controversy in Canada (Prime Minister Stephen Harper is adamantly against it), calls Dr. Welner's actions into some question.

One wonders if Dr. Welner has ever read the Specialty Guidelines for Forensic Psychology (PDF):
Ordinarily, forensic psychologists avoid making detailed public (out-of-court) statements about particular legal proceedings in which they have been involved. When there is a strong justification to do so, such public statements are designed to assure accurate representation of their role or their evidence, not to advocate the positions of parties in the legal proceeding. Forensic psychologists address particular legal proceedings in publications or communications only to the extent that the information relied upon is part of a public record, or consent for that use has been properly obtained from the party holding any privilege.
Perhaps Dr. Welner, who is a forensic psychiatrist and not a forensic psychologist, does not feel himself bound by the ethics of his sister profession. Even so, the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law's Ethical Guidelines for the Practice of Forensic Psychiatry state that as a matter of confidentiality in a forensic, legal setting, "A forensic evaluation requires notice to the evaluee and to collateral sources of reasonably anticipated limitations on confidentiality. Information or reports derived from a forensic evaluation are subject to the rules of confidentiality that apply to the particular evaluation, and any disclosure should be restricted accordingly." Moreover, the process of gaining consent for an evaluation should include "notice... to the evaluee of the nature and purpose of the evaluation and the limits of its confidentiality."

Did Dr. Welner tell Omar Khadr that he planned to give a public interview to the press on certain aspects of his evaluation of him, an interview moreover on the eve of an important legal hearing for him?

Edward's interview liberally cites Dr. Welner's credentials, but never mentions that he has worked closely with the FBI, or that his highly-touted "Depravity Scale" project is the subject of much academic controversy.

It is hard to believe the extent to which the advocates of the demonization of Omar Khadr will go. The U.S. government, and their ally in the Canadian Prime Minister's office, evidently will go to no end to press their vendetta against the Khadr family. This is the morality of the mob, the morality of true moral depravity. Dr. Welner, look in the mirror.

Or better yet, review this videotape of an interrogation of Omar Khadr in 2004. Did the young man, then age 16, use the opportunity to "call... to radical Islamists to mature beyond their elemental intolerance"? You tell me.



H/T to skdadl for tipping me to the Welner interview

Andy Worthington's Coverage of Berkeley "Just Say No to Torture" Week Events

Andy Worthington has been reporting on his participation in the City of Berkeley's "Just Say No to Torture" week. As reported earlier, the event was sponsored by World Can't Wait, School of the Americas Watch (SOAW) East Bay/SF, National Lawyers Guild, Boalt Chapter (NLG-Boalt), Code Pink, Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists Social Justice Committee, Progressive Democrats of America, Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute, and FireJohnYoo.org.

Andy's latest posting is from day five of the event. (I appeared at some events on day six, and will post on that later.) Here's a bit of Andy's coverage, and one of the posted videos.
Humanizing the prisoners has been a harder sell in the United States than, say, in the UK, where 14 former Guantánamo prisoners — nine British nationals, and five British residents — have told their stories, and, in some cases, appear regularly in public to talk about their experiences, and I was vividly reminded of the power of personal testimony on Thursday morning — Day Five of “Berkeley Says No to Torture” Week — when, as part of a round of media appearances, I was invited onto Rose Aguilar’s “Your Call” show on KALW Public Radio in San Francisco with Justine Sharrock, author of Tortured: When Good Soldiers Do Bad Things (with whom I had previously appeared at a book reading and a panel discussion on torture), and Patricia Isasa, a survivor of the reign of terror in Argentina from the 1970s until 1983.

When she was just 16 years old, Patricia was seized and tortured, and in profoundly moving testimony she described how she had been determined that her torturers would not destroy her. She also spoke animatedly, and with great authority, about how torture does not produce the truth, and only produces lies.

Patricia also spoke with Rose about how, 30 to 35 years after these atrocities, those responsible for the torture in Argentina are finally being held to account for their crimes against humanity, which gave us all the hope that, although the struggle for justice may take decades, it is possible to imagine a world in which the Bush administration’s torturers are finally brought to account.

Patricia’s testimony also reinforced my notion (sharpened by the week’s events) that the battle to hold America’s torturers to account — which is part of the wider struggle against endless war, the sidelining of the Geneva Conventions, and the acceptance of arbitrary detention without charge or trial at Guantánamo — is nothing less than a battle for the soul of America.

After Patricia spoke, Justine and I discussed our work and our aims with Rose, who was a wonderfully engaged presenter. I was pleased to have the opportunity to explain how important it has been this year to travel throughout the UK showing the documentary “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and myself) with former Guantánamo prisoner Omar Deghayes (still, like all the former prisoners, regarded as an “enemy combatant”), and how disappointing it was that plans to bring two cleared prisoners to live on the US mainland were shelved by President Obama last year, in the face of Republican opposition, when their presence in the US would have done more than anything to puncture the prevailing myths about the prison holding “the worst of the worst,” and would also have demonstrated, without a shadow of a doubt, that enormous mistakes were made in rounding up the 779 men held in the prison over the last eight years and nine months.

I’m delighted to report that the whole show is available here as an MP3 (introduction here), and to note that, after the show, Rose asked me to elaborate on some of the points I had made in a further interview that she filmed on a funky little Flip video recorder. This two-part interview, in which I presented a brief synopsis of who the Guantánamo prisoners are, and told a few particularly pertinent stories (of Fayiz al-Kandari, a Kuwaiti aid worker who is still held, and of Adel Hassan Hamad, a Sudanese hospital administrator freed in December 2007) is posted below.

Le Rebelle

Le Rebelle

Un Ange furieux fond du ciel comme un aigle,
Du mécréant saisit à plein poing les cheveux,
Et dit, le secouant: «Tu connaîtras la règle!
(Car je suis ton bon Ange, entends-tu?) Je le veux!

Sache qu'il faut aimer, sans faire la grimace,
Le pauvre, le méchant, le tortu, l'hébété,
Pour que tu puisses faire à Jesus, quand il passe,
Un tapis triomphal avec ta charité.

Tel est l'Amour! Avant que ton coeur ne se blase,
À la gloire de Dieu rallume ton extase;
C'est la Volupté vraie aux durables appas!»

Et l'Ange, châtiant autant, ma foi! qu'il aime,
De ses poings de géant torture l'anathème;
Mais le damné répond toujours: «Je ne veux pas!»

— Charles Baudelaire, Les Fleurs du Mal (1868)


The Rebel

Falling abruptly like a bird of prey from the sky,
A furious angel seizes the sinner by his hair
And says, "I will teach you to behave, do you hear me? I
Am your good spirit!" And shakes him angrily in the air.

"I will teach you to be kind — to love, without making a face,
The poor, the deformed, the depraved, the uncivil, the dirty, the dumb
That you may help with your charity to prepare a place
Here upon earth for Jesus when he is ready to come.

"Such is true love — the only virtue that exists,
The only happiness that endures. Take heed, before
Your heart is completely petrified and your senses rot."

And pounding upon his victim with his colossal fists
In love and in fury, the angel cannot cease to implore —
Nor the accursèd one to answer: "I will not!"

— George Dillon, Flowers of Evil (NY: Harper and Brothers, 1936)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Soros' Foundation Links AFM's Appendix M to U.S. Torture in Afghanistan

Cross-posted from The Seminal/Firedoglake

Last week, George Soros's Open Society Foundations (OSF) published an important policy brief, "Confinement Conditions at a U.S. Screening Facility on Bagram Air Base." The report has been widely described in the press, as in this article by AFP:
The US military is mistreating detainees -- and violating its own rules -- at a secret prison in Afghanistan, a US think tank said Friday in a report.
The 16-page report by the Open Society Foundation said Afghans call the secret site "Tor Jail," or "Black Jail," and that consistent accounts from detainees refer to being kept without adequate shelter or food or other basic rights.
The independent investigation by OSF is consistent with news reports of torture and abuse at secret black sites run by JSOC in Afghanistan, including articles by the New York Times and Washington Post. Last May, BBC reported that they received confirmation on the existence of the black site from a Red Cross spokesman, while Marc Ambinder of The Atlantic described the JOSC black site as being "manned by intelligence operatives and interrogators who work for the DIA's Defense Counterintelligence and Human Intelligence Center (DCHC)... [performing] interrogations for a sub-unit of Task Force 714, an elite counter-terrorism brigade." The spate of news articles led Physicians for Human Rights to opine last May whether it was "possible that officials were relying on Appendix M of the 2006 Army Field Manual on Human Intelligence Collector Operations (AFM)," noting that the "appendix authorizes the use of two of the tactics — sleep deprivation and isolation — allegedly being applied to detainees."

In an article for The Seminal, also posted last May, I noted that the Chief for Research for the DCHC’s Behavioral Science Program, psychologist Susan Brandon, was a primary organizer of a CIA/American Psychological Assocation/Rand Corporation workshop on "deception" in July 2003. This workshop asked questions about how to use sensory overload techniques and truth drugs to "overwhelm the senses" of prisoners, in order to detect deception. Scott Horton also picked up the connection between Brandon and the torture reports from Afghanistan. In a major investigative report at Truthout last week, Jason Leopold and I reported that changes in a DOD directive on human subjects experimentation protections signed by Paul Wolfowitz in March 2002 were implicated in "a top-secret Special Access Program at the Guantanamo Bay prison, which experimented on ways to glean information from unwilling subjects and to achieve 'deception detection.'"

There is most likely much more to the detention story in Afghanistan than we know thus far, but the new OSF report is a welcome corroboration of most unwelcome and brutal facts about U.S. prisoner abuse and counterinsurgency practice in Afghanistan. But whether it's AFP, AP, Reuters, BBC, or even Aljazeera, with only one exception, no press article on the OSF report indicated that as one of the OSF report's "main findings" the abuse in the Bagram secret prison derives from the use of the Army Field Manual's Appendix M. Appendix M is a portion of AFM dealing with prisoners who are held in other than Prisoner of War status. Appendix M techniques, concentrating on isolation, sleep and sensory deprivation, use of fear techniques, and ambiguous "prohibitions" on "extreme" environmental manipulations, amount to torture and/or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and they are in use today. Only my fellow psychologist and anti-torture activist, Stephen Soldz, noted this most salient finding of the OSF investigation.

A link to the Army Field Manual, with its Appendix M, can be downloaded in PDF format here.

Jonathan Horowitz, author of the OSF report (PDF), described how he determined the use of Appendix M techniques:
The interviewees consistently described being held in a location where they were interrogated and held in small single person cells that prohibited verbal and visual communication with other detainees. This strongly suggests that the detainees were “screened” and subjected to interrogation methods described in Appendix M of the U.S. Army’s Human Intelligence Collector Operations Field Manual 2-22.3, which allows detaining authorities to physically separate detainees from other detainees and the outside world for the purposes of intelligence gathering—a technique known as “separation.”
Horowitz's mention of Appendix M is not incidental. It is mentioned on fifteen different occasions in the text of the report's 16 pages. OSF is very specific about its concerns regarding the current Army Field Manual on interrogation:
Despite the government’s insistence that Appendix M meets the minimum requirements for the protection of detainees under international law, analysts from the Open Society Foundations have expressed concerns with Field Manual 2-22.3 prior to this research, especially with regard to its authorization of sleep deprivation, refusing to classify stress positions as torture, and the deletion of key policy statements that, prior to the 2006 update of the manual, had informed interrogators that “[e]xperience shows that the use of prohibited techniques is not necessary to gain the cooperation of interrogation sources.”14 As this report demonstrates, additional concerns with the Field Manual 2-22.3 are warranted....
Field Manual 2-22.3 states, “[w]hile using legitimate interrogation techniques, certain applications of approaches and techniques may approach the line between permissible actions and prohibited actions. It may often be difficult to determine where permissible actions end and prohibited actions begin.”
The report notes that the totality of conditions and interrogation abuses at the Tor (or "Black") prison at Bagram call into question whether fair assessment of enemy status can be made by the new-fangled Detainee Review Boards, meaning God knows how many innocent people are being picked up and held as prisoners, awaiting the day that a viable Afghan court system can supposedly try these "insurgents".
The Detainee Review Boards taking place at the DFIP [Detention Facility in Parwan] prohibit the submission of information and evidence obtained through the use of torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. If detainees are being held in conditions at an interrogation facility that rises to this level of abuse, the information obtained from those detainees should be rejected by the Detainee Review Boards.
I have been writing on the serious, indeed criminal, problems with the Army Field Manual since the new version was introduced in September 2006. I wrote a major piece on the problems with it for AlterNet in January 2009, and have followed up with reporting at Firedoglake (see here and here, for example; also coverage at this site by Emptywheel/Marcy Wheeler and bmaz).

But this kind of exposure, and the work of others, like Matthew Alexander, Stephen Rickard, Physicians for Human Rights and Center for Constitutional Rights, among other, has not been enough to fix the centrality of the use of Appendix M torture in the general political consciousness of the population. This can be largely attributed to the massive silence by politicians on this issue, and the assurances of the Obama administration that the AFM and Appendix M are safe, legal, and humane. So when a complacent and cowardly press and blogosphere are faced with the truth of the situation emanating from an establishment source such as the Open Society Foundations, what do they do? They ignore the truth.

Such is America in 2010, lost, rudderless, obsessed with trivia, as a monstrous war/intelligence/surveillance apparatus lurches on to either conquest or disaster (or maybe both) in its overseas campaigns, oblivious to how many are killed (the U.S. claims it doesn't keep track of the killed in Afghanistan), maimed, displaced, lives destroyed and national ideals trampled.

It's time the campaign against Appendix M went mainstream.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

"Some men wish evil and accomplish it"

Crush out the fly with your thumb and wipe your hand,
You cannot crush the leaden, creaking machine....

Some men wish evil and accomplish it
But most men, when they work in that machine,
Just let it happen somewhere in the wheels.
The fault is no decisive, villainous knife
But the dull saw that is the routine mind.

Why, if a man lay dying on their desk
They'd do their best to help him, friend or foe,
But this is merely a respectfully
Submitted paper, properly endorsed
To be sent on and on, and gather blood.
-- from Stephen Vincent Binet's long poem, John Brown's Body

In the portion of his modern epic quoted here, Binet is writing about the POW prisons of the U.S. Civil War, known for their butchery and their violence:
For all prisoners and captives now,
For the dark legion,
The Andersonvillers, the Castle Thunder men,
The men who froze at Camp Morton and came from the dungeons
With blood burst out on their faces.
The men who died at Salisbury and Belle Isle,
Elmira, St. Louis, Camp Douglas -- the Libby tunnellers --
The men in the fetid air.
Binet is scornful that any accountability can occur, especially inside the insanity of war:
The sun shines, the wind goes by,
The prisoners and captives lie
In a cell without an eye....

The band blares, the bugles snort,
They lose the fort or take the fort,
Someone writes a wise report.

Someone's name is victory.
The prisoners and captives lie
Too long dead before they die.
And yet change does happen... how does it happen?
There is no sudden casting off of a chain,
Only a slow thought working its way through the ground,
A slow root growing, touching a hundred soils,
A thousand minds -- no blossom or flower yet.

It takes a long time to bring a thought into act
And when it blossoms at last, the gardeners wonder...

2006 Navy Report: Lack of Oversight Allows DOD Human Experimentation Abuses

A new article at Truthout describes how Paul Wolfowitz issued a military directive in March 2002 that loosened rules against human experimentation and protections for subjects of such research that had been in place since the early 1970s. According to sources within the Department of Defense, the Wolfowitz Directive, "Protection of Human Subjects and Adherence to Ethical Standards in DoD-Supported Research" (PDF), was used to support a top-secret Special Access Program at Guantanamo funded through the Defense Department’s black budget involving “deception detection”, interrogation, and other research upon detainees.

Jason Leopold and I researched this article for seven months, including "interviews with more than 15 current and former Pentagon and intelligence officials, ethical scholars and Army officers stationed at the Guantanamo Bay prison facility," and to summarize it here would be difficult. As is the case with such a long investigation, there's much of value that didn't make it into the final story, but is worth pursuing in order to fill in the outlines laid down in the original article. One such addition involves a closer look at the 2004 review of DoD-wide research programs with an eye to compliance with Federal regulations and DoD directives.

According to the Truthout report:
In January 2004, the Director of Defense Research and Engineering (DDR&E) initiated a DoD-wide review of human subjects protection policies. A Navy slide presentation at DoD Training Day (PDF) on Nov. 14, 2006, hinted strongly at the serious issues behind the entire review.

The Navy presentation framed the problem in the light of the history of U.S. governmental "non-compliance" with human subjects research protections, including "U.S. Government Mind Control Experiments – LSD, MKULTRA, MKDELTA (1950-1970s)"; a 90-day national “stand down” in 2003 for all human subject research and development activities "ordered in response to the death of subjects," as well as use of "unqualified researchers."

The Training Day presentation said the review found the Navy "not in full compliance with Federal policies on human subjects protection." Furthermore, DDR&E found the Navy had "no single point of accountability for human subject protections."
The review was ordered in late January 2004, only a few months after the Supreme court had agreed to hear the case later known as Rasul v Rumsfeld, which would decide that the Guantanamo detainees did have the right to challenge their detention. When finally begun, the DoD-wide review would come over two years after the Wolfowitz directive had indicated such procedures should be in place. As a result, none of the required assurances by the different Defense Department components regarding their human subjects protection policies had been filed with DDR&E. In effect, there was little or no oversight over DoD research policies at exactly the time when both DoD and CIA were engaged in an experimental torture program, or using detainee prisoners as human guinea pigs for the study of the effects of torture and harsh detention.

Whatever the specific reasons that prompted the review, the situation had apparently been serious enough that the Defense Research and Engineering agency within DoD threatened to stop all Defense Department research by the end of 2004 if the requisite assurances of adherence to ethical guidelines were not submitted to it by the end of that year. As it was, most of the DoD components asked for extensions of time, which were granted, and ethical assurances were not filed until 2005, or 2006 in some instances.

When asked about the over two-year delay in implementing the oversights demanded by the Wolfowitz directive, the Department of Defense refused comment.

Retired Maj. General Ronald Sega was the director of Defense Research and Engineering from August 2001 through August 2005, the key compliance officer during the early years of the Wolfowitz Directive. During his stint as director, Sega also served as the Reserve Assistant to the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, which appears to have been a possible conflict of interest, as the Joint Chiefs were implicated in the approval of the new interrogation program. In addition, the SERE program is operationally under JCS control. During these same years, personnel from the SERE program -- most famously James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, but not limited to them -- were involved in the reverse-engineering of SERE methods of resisting interrogation for use by the CIA and DoD in torturing detainees in Guantanamo, Iraq, Afghanistan, and secret "black site" prisons around the world.

Sega, now a professor at Colorado State University, did not return a request made through his office for comment.

2006 Navy Training Day Describes Part of the Problem

The 2006 Navy Training Day presentation went into a great deal of detail regarding Department of the Navy (DoN) "Adverse Events and Incidents of Non-Compliance." Besides those noted in the Truthout article, the DoN noted a a 90-day national “stand down” in 2003 at the Department of Veterans Affairs "for all human subject research and development activities to focus attention on a proactive review to ensure the protection of human subjects and the ethical conduct of research. The 'stand down' was ordered in response to the death of subjects; invasive research conducted without IRB review and approval; unqualified researchers conducting research; and failure of the IRB to meet minimal standards."

The presentation described some of the approximately 30 year history of human radiation experiments by DoD, the Department of Energy (formerly the Atomic Energy Commission), and other government agencies, in conjunction with several universities and hospitals from the 1940s-1970s. The scandal erupted in the 1990s, and President Clinton appointed a commission to investigate and make recommendations. Their full report can be viewed online.) According to DoN, the government investigation found "that government agencies, including the military services, kept critical information secret from subjects; failed to obtain informed consent; and presented interventions considered controversial at the time as if they were 'standard practices,' some of which caused injury to subjects."

The DoN Training Day Presentation was not done. They also referenced the history of Projects SHAD, Copper Head, Flower Drum, Shady Grove, Autumn Gold, among others undertaken from 1963-1970. According to the Navy: "More than 5,800 Naval personnel aboard Navy ships exposed to nerve agents and biological simulant aerosol spray released by aircraft to test protective clothing, gas masks, and ship vulnerability to penetration." But, as in some other portions of the Training Day presentation, DoN downplayed or lied about the seriousness of the experimental abuses. While some of the tests used simulant aerosol sprays, the Shady Grove experiment in particular, by the government's own admission elsewhere (PDF), "actual agents were used in addition to simulants."

As I wrote about Project Shad in an article recently that otherwise described the recent revelations of U.S. Public Health Service experiments deliberately inoculating Guatemalan prisoners and asylum inmates in the 1940s with syphilis:
Project Shad was a DoD experiment that exposed at least 4,000 Navy men to various chemical agents and decontaminant chemicals, "including Bacillus globigii (BG), Coxiella burnetii [which causes Q fever], Pasteurella tularensis [which causes tularemia or 'rabbit fever'], Zinc Cadmium Sulfide, Beta-propriolactone, Sarin, VX, Escherichia Coli (EC), Serratia Marcescens (SM), Sodium Hydroxide, Peracetic acid, Potassium hydroxide, Sodium hypochlorite, ‘tracer amounts’ of radioactivity and asbestos, [and] Methylacetoacetate." So outrageous were these experiments, denied by the government for 35 years, that there were Congressional hearings (PDF) in 2002, and major news reports by CBS Evening News. Today, the story has dropped off the radar, though thanks to some Congressional pressure, and the activism of some of the Shad victims, veterans and the government can get more information on Shad and its land-based twin experiment, Project 112, at this Veterans Administration webpage.
The research violations were not limited to what might seem to some as ancient history. The DoN report describes a 2003 research project at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. The researchers at the Orthopedic Surgery Department injected 48 subjects with contrast dye, even though they had not submitted the experiment to any review, nor was it approved by any Command Institutional Review Board (IRB). According to DoN, the study was "not properly supervised by a physician; poorly designed... [with] inadequate informed consent procedures. They do not mention what harm, if any, was done.

The deeper one looks into these matters, the darker and more disturbing the revelations. The number of different regulations that supposedly are there to protect individuals from dangerous experimentation, or vulnerable potential subjects, such as prisoners, are poorly enforced, or subject to bureaucratic and economic stressors that cripple effective oversight. The rules are themselves a tangle of legalese and a veritable maze of confusing regulations. Even the experts are at odds over what they say and how they should work. And then there are the ongoing admissions, as in this 2006 Navy directive (3900.39D - PDF) implementing still current regulations concerning research on "Severe or unusual intrusions, either physical or psychological, on human subjects (such as consciousness-altering drugs or mind-control techniques)." (On a side note, when the DoN Training Day presentation described the new Navy directive 3900.39D, they explained how the Undersecretary of the Navy would be responsible for the research surrounding "severe or unusual intrusions," but left the part about drugs and mind-control out of their description.)

The Truthout article describes how Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and others, from DoD and its entities, such as Joint Personnel Recovery Agency and its SERE division, to DIA, JSOC, and the CIA, walked through this confusing mass of regulations, rewrote them, massaged the fine print, and used these supposed protections as a legal cover for the institution of torture and the propagation of unethical and illegal human experimentation.

The story is only half written. There is much still to be learned, and without effective, public, and wide-ranging investigations, this will all be left to happen again, if it is not still happening. None of the changes in human subject protections implemented by the Bush administration have been undone. As pointed out by Physicians for Human Rights in their recent "white paper" on CIA experiments in torture, changes to the War Crimes Act as part of the Military Commissions Act gutted the WCA of the protections connected to the Geneva Conventions, including protections on biological experimentation.

The readers of this article, and others like it, will write the next half of the story. Without strong public pressure upon the government, and agitation in the press, real, effective oversight and change will not take place.

Originally posted at FDL/The Seminal as 2002 DoD Directive Changed Rules to Allow Experiments on Detainees

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