Former detainee Murat Kurnaz is interviewed by Russia Today about his experiences at Guantanamo Bay. A must see!
Saturday, July 30, 2011
Former detainee Murat Kurnaz is interviewed by Russia Today about his experiences at Guantanamo Bay. A must see!
* * * * * *
Not Just Rocket Scientists -- the MKULTRA Connection
According to the Air Force "Space History," Paperclip was limited to the operation to move the Nazi rocket scientists. But Paperclip and assorted similar programs brought hundreds of Nazi scientists to the U.S. According to Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair in their book, Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs and the Press (out of print), these included Kurt Blome, "who had tested Sarin nerve gas on prisoners at Auschwitz;" Hermann Becker-Feyseng and Konrad Schaeffer, who conducted hideous experiments on prisoners at Dachau, injecting salt water into the veins, or forcing salt water down the throats of dozens of prisons, all of whom died.
According to Cockburn and St. Clair, "One of the most despicable cases was that of Nazi aviation researcher Emil Salmon, who during the war had helped set fire to a synagogue filled with Jewish women and children. Salmon was sheltered by US officials at Wright Air Force Base in Ohio after being convicted of crimes by a denazification court in Germany."
The list of Nazi scientists goes on and on, especially those employed by the Air Force. Consider the case of Dr. Hubertus Strughold, dubbed the “Father of American Space Medicine.” In 1995, the Anti-Defamation League got Secretary of the Air Force "to remove Dr. Hubertus Strughold's name from the Aeromedical Library at Brooks Air Force Base near San Antonio, Texas.... "Dr. Strughold headed the Third Reich's [Luftwaffe] Institute of Aviation Medicine during the war, which subjected concentration camp inmates to abuse and torture, thinly disguised as 'experiments.'" (X-File fans might remember the character of Conrad Strughold, who was based upon Dr. Strughold.)
Among the most secret of the Paperclip scientists were those brought to Edgewood Arsenal. Investigative journalist Hank Albarelli, Jr., in a fascinating article on Paperclip, wrote about one of the scientists brought to Edgewood as part of Nazi importation program. (Disclosure: I have also co-authored a few articles with Albarelli, and hosted his FDL Book Salon for his landmark book on the killing of Frank Olson, A Terrible Mistake.)
Dr. Friedrich “Fritz” Hoffmann... came to America in 1947 through the Paperclip pipeline. During the war, Hoffmann had been based in Frankfurt and Gatow, a district of Berlin, where he conducted a myriad of chemical experiments for the Third Reich.Hoffman later turned to LSD experiments at Fort Detrick’s Special Operations Division, Frederick, Maryland. According to Albarelli, "primates would be fed a steady diet of psychotropic drugs in efforts to study various stages of induced 'psychotic behavior.' These experiments would quickly evolve into human experiments conducted among U.S. service personnel at Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland and several federal prisons," including Atlanta federal penitentiary.
In the U.S., Hoffmann was initially posted at Camp Detrick and Edgewood Arsenal, where he continued his work with refining lethal sarin and tabun gases for warfare objectives, utilizing a specially built gas chamber, put together along with Edgewood Arsenal research chief Dr. Seymour Silver, within which countless animals were destroyed, and at least 25 alleged ‘volunteer’ American servicemen were experimented upon. Reports that several servicemen died in these experiments have persisted for decades, but the Pentagon refuses to release any documents concerning the experiments.
Why does the United States Air Force, in their teaching materials provided to ICBM missile combat crew at Air Force Global Strike Command, present such a sympathetic portrayal of former Nazi scientist and SS officer Wernher von Braun, and why does the Air Force limit their discussion about Nazi involvement in the U.S. space program to "only one man," von Braun?
The reason is simple, but shocking to many, as the history has been largely covered-up, or relegated to out-of-print history books: the U.S. missile program, and much of its military science program in the post-World War II period, was imported wholesale from the Nazis, including their leading scientists.
A jaw-dropping new article by Jason Leopold at Truthout discusses the use of Christian religious ideology in the teaching of the Air Force nuclear missile combat crew. As outrageous as that fact is, a further search of FOIA documents linked in the Truthout article shows that the reference to Von Braun in an Air Force slide presentation on "Ethics" is no anomaly. The documents include a revisionist history of the U.S. missile program, presented as a series of readings provided to students in the class that trains the operators of America's nuclear missile arsenal.
According to Leopold, "The Air Force documents were released under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and provided to Truthout by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), a civil rights organization."
(Disclosure: I have worked closely with Jason Leopold on a number of articles at Truthout, including on DoD human experimentation policies, the administration of drugs to Guantanamo detainees, the SERE-linked CIA/DoD torture program, and revelations surrounding DoD's Joint Forces Intelligence Command's aborted search for Osama bin Laden and intelligence about pre-9/11 attack planning that included the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.)
In one of the Air Force documents, titled "Space History," "chapter one" of an "Air University Space Primer," there is a brief discussion of the U.S. recruitment of Von Braun, who went on to become the director of the Development Operations Division of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency and later the head of the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) at Redstone Arsenal, Huntsville, Alabama. The Air Force's track record in covering-up their history with Nazis is on display at Von Braun's biography at the Marshall Space Flight Center website, which mentions his involvement with the development of the V-2 rocket at Peenemünde in Germany.
The MSFC biography cites the use of "forced labor" at the factory, but never mentions that Nazi slave labor from the Dora concentration camp involved over 60,000 slave laborers, or that 20,000 of them -- Jews, Russian prisoners, Poles, French partisans, and more, including an African-American U.S. soldier -- died in the underground Mittelwerk V-2 rocket factory, where Von Braun was a key figure, some of them publicly hanged for "sabotage." The site only notes, "Scholars are still reassessing his role in these controversial activities."
According to the Air Force's "Space History," "German rocket development... between 1932 and 1945 involved only one man, Wernher von Braun." The Air Force deletes from history Arthur Rudolph, the Operations Director and engineer at Mittelwerk, another key Nazi brought to the United States after World War II as part of a top secret program known as Operation Overcast, and later Operation Paperclip. As we shall see, he is only one figure among scores disappeared from the Air Force record, which presents Paperclip as primarily an operation to bring Von Braun and a few co-workers to America and save precious technology from falling into the hands of the Soviets. Moreover, outrageously, it is presented as a religious decision.
Arthur Rudolph and Operation Paperclip
According to a website that documents the history of the Dora concentration camp:
Faced with shortages of labor, Arthur Rudolph, the chief V–2 production engineer, in a memo of April 12, 1943, recommended that the missile program at Peenemünde adopt the exploitation of SS camp labor like that he saw at an aircraft factory. The first prisoners arrived at Peenemünde on June 17. Following the Royal Air Force bombing of the site, von Braun, technical director of the V–2 project, chaired a staff meeting on August 25 that recommended producing missiles underground with camp labor.By 1950, Rudolph, safe in the United States, became director of the Pershing Missile program at the Ordnance Guided Missile Center at Redstone Arsenal. Meanwhile, ignored was Rudolph's interrogation file. After his capture his interrogator assessed Rudolph, a later recipient of the US Army's Decoration for Exceptional Civilian Service, as documented in former CNN reporter Linda Hunt's book, Secret Agenda - The United States Government, Nazi Scientists and Project Paperclip, 1945 to 1990 (large PDF): "100% NAZI, dangerous type, security threat... ! ! Suggest internment." (Emphasis in original.)
Rudolph became technical head of V–2 production at the underground Mittelwerk factory; he and von Braun requested that the SS provide more prisoners for V–2 production, most clearly in an August 15, 1944, memo in which von Braun described his trip to the Buchenwald concentration camp to select prison workers and arrange their transfer to Dora....
Despite the complicity of some engineers, the United States did not include the engineers in the 1947 Nordhausen trial or any other war crimes trials. As later US citizens, von Braun and Rudolph later earned awards for work on the Saturn V launch vehicle that took men to the moon.
Rudolph subsequently became the project director of the Saturn V rocket program.
But later, in the 1980s, an Office of Special Investigations investigation at the Department of Justice uncovered his Nazi connections and his role in the slave labor at Mittelwerk, and he fled the U.S. His case became a cause célèbre. The Germans held a bogus investigation, clearing Rudolph, and granting him German citizenship after his U.S. citizenship was taken from him.
Von Braun, of course, was famously a major Nazi figure, despite attempts to minimize his role under the Nazis. According to Hunt, Von Braun "had joined the SS at the personal behest of SS chief Heinrich Himmler and had risen to the rank of major." He conspired with other major figures to withhold information from U.S. officers, so that the U.S. interrogator screening the rocket scientists for trustworthiness before they left Germany, judged granting these criminals security clearances was "an obvious absurdity."
American officers in Europe were trying to locate V-2 rocket diagrams they believed were still hidden in Germany. When asked about the documents, von Braun told the Army he knew nothing about their location. Dornberger later told von Braun's brother that Army officers didn't trust von Braun and that officers had even told him that von Braun had lied to them. Von Braun then sent a map to his family in Europe showing the location of a burial place where sketches stuffed in a cigarette box were hidden. He told them to deliver the map to Dornberger's wife, since the general still was being held in a British POW camp. The way this scheme was supposed to work, the documents then would be located and given to German scientists, who would turn them over to von Braun when they arrived in the United States under Paperclip.But, according to a Powerpoint presentation given to students in the Air Force rocket crew program, Von Braun is quoted as saying he and his colleagues gladly gave Nazi rocket documents to the U.S. "because we felt that only by surrendering such a weapon to people who are guided by the Bible could such an assurance to the world be best secured." (According to the Wikipedia webpage on Von Braun, he quote is attributed to an interview with Mike Wallace in a television biography of Von Braun in the late 1950s-early 1060s.)
U.S. officers reported that von Braun "apparently intended to use the location of certain hidden documents as a bargaining lever with U.S. officials."
The Air Force portrays Von Braun as "pressured" by the Nazis to work on their missile program. But the documentation shows Von Braun was an adamant Nazi, "joined the SS at the personal behest of SS chief Heinrich Himmler and had risen to the rank of major" (Hunt).
Rudolph and Von Braun were only part of the Mittelwerk Nazi rocket scientists transferred by Paperclip. General Walter Dornberger, the head of the entire V-2 program was also brought to the U.S. According to the Spartacus website, it was Dornberger who recruited Von Braun to the Nazi rocket program, and in 1937 took charge of the secret work at Peenemunde. The V-2 rocket became operational late in the war. From 1944-45, over 5,000 V-2s were fired on Britain. However, only 1,100 reached their target. These rockets killed 2,724 people and badly injured 6,000."
The Atlas missile, the first U.S. ICMB missile, was based on modifications to the V-2 design.
Dornberger was interrogated by the British War Crimes Investigation Unit for the use of slave labor at Mittelwerk, and spent two years in internment in South Wales. But he was released under Paperclip and brought to the United States, where the Air Force used him in the development of guided missiles. He subsequently became a major figure at Bell Helicopters. According to his Wikipedia entry, which cites a 1957 Time magazine article, he also helped develop a surface-to-air missile for the Strategic Air Command.
Another Air Force recruited Nazi was V-2 rocket scientist Kurt Debus, who became the first director of the Kennedy Space Center in 1962, and was, according to Hunt, another "member of the SS, the SA, and two other Nazi groups." He earlier worked as assistant technical director to von Braun at the Redstone Arsenal. Today, the the National Space Club of Florida presents an annual Debus Award "to recognize significant aerospace achievements in Florida."
Tomorrow, Part Two considers the use of Nazi scientists brought to the U.S. as part of Operation Paperclip, expanding the coverage to those used in government military/intelligence programs other than rocket or space science, including the government mind control program known as MKULTRA.
Originally posted at FDL/The Dissenter
Sunday, July 24, 2011
Wittes' tongue may seem somewhat in cheek, but he really means it. "Government proxy" how? In my earlier article criticizing both Wittes and Adweek columnist Alex Koppelman for their poorly resourced and vituperative articles attacking Scott Horton's investigation of the 2006 deaths of three Guantanamo detainees, published by Harper's Magazine in January 2010. Department of Defense investigations had labeled all three deaths suicides.
Moreover, when both Koppelman and Wittes were cited in a footnote to a Department of Justice brief (PDF) defending numerous government officials against a lawsuit brought by parents of the dead detainees -- Koppelman and Wittes' stories were cited as examples of “numerous articles addressing serious flaws with the HARPER’S MAGAZINE story"-- I noted that the two authors "wittingly or not" had become "government proxies in the matter of the Guantanamo suicides controversy."
Wittes replied, sarcastically, "Wow, I'm Verklempt." He continued:
Turns out that DOJ, in a footnote in a brief before the D.C. Circuit, cited this post of mine from some time back – in which I expressed dismay that Scott Horton and Harpers had received a National Magazine award for a feature article devoted to the spurious suggestion that U.S. service personnel had tortured three Guantanamo detainees to death. The passing citation in the brief prompted this howl of rage from a new blogger over at Firedoglake named Jeff Kaye, who had earlier written a defense of the Harpers article....Wittes, who saved his strongest complaint for a typo of his name in the post, repeats the lie that Horton's article claimed the three Guantanamo detainees -- Salah Ahmed Al-Salami, Mani Shaman Al-Utaybi, and Yasser Talal Al-Zahrani -- were "tortured to death" by "U.S. service personnel." In fact, Horton never makes any such claim in the article. It is true that the Al-Zahrani's father is quoted in the article as asserting his son was tortured and killed, but that is very different than Horton coming to such a conclusion. Instead, Horton built a case, based upon contradictions in the government's investigations, eye-witness testimony, independent autopsy, and revelations concerning a CIA (or JSOC?) black site at Guantanamo, that the deaths were "possible homicides."
Happy to be a government proxy on this one. Robert Loeb and Barbara Herwig, who filed the brief, hereby have my blessing to use any Lawfare post their hearts may desire in defending this suit. I’ll live with myself quite happily, thank you.
By claiming Horton implicated "service personnel" in torture or possible homicide, Wittes means to tar Horton with irresponsible attacks against rank-and-file U.S. servicemen and women who have sacrificed much to serve their country. If suspicion falls on anyone, it is on interrogators or agents for the CIA or JSOC. Since writing the story, Horton has been calling, as have the parents, for an independent investigation.
Wittes' portrayal of the DoJ citation of his work is strangely spurious as well. He says that the citation in the brief filed with the D.C. Circuit came from a "post of mine some time back." In fact, the post was dated May 23, 2011, the same day as Koppelman's Adweek screed. The brief, signed by government attorneys in DoJ's Civil Appellate Division, Robert Loeb and Barbara Herwig, as well as by Assistant Attorney General Tony West, was filed on July 13, a mere seven weeks after the Koppelman/Wittes articles. Perhaps we should allow for the subjectivity of time sense and grant Wittes his belief that his article had appeared "some time back" in relation to the government brief. My subjective sense of the affair is that it was quite contemporaneous.
I have very little patience for academic apologists for torture like Wittes. I suppose some, including Wittes himself, might take umbrage at such labels, but an apologist is what he is, no matter how even-handed and reasonable -- a man who supposedly takes no extreme positions -- he presents himself. Take, for instance, his defense of his friend William Haynes' approval of torture techniques at Guantanamo. In an article for The New Republic last year, Wittes defended Bush administration attorneys like Haynes, Jack Goldsmith, John Yoo and Jay Bybee, castigating “the vilification of government lawyers involved in the war on terror.”
Admittedly, Wittes said, Haynes was a friend of his "about whom I do not pretend to be neutral." But rather than forgo comment because of his personal connection (Jack Goldsmith, too, is a personal friend and a professional collaborator, having written articles with Wittes; Goldsmith also is one of two other major contributors, with Wittes, to the blog Lawfare), he defends Haynes's actions, and apologizes for torture.
Wittes in TNR:
Haynes’s long tenure at the Defense Department was a complicated affair. He made mistakes, mistakes I probably would have made too had I been in his shoes. He also behaved very admirably at important junctures.And what were the "certain modestly coercive techniques" Haynes approved? In a November 27, 2002 memo from Haynes to then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Haynes approved all "Category I and II" "counter-resistance techniques" that had been requested by Major General Mike Dunleavy, Commander of Task Force 170, Guantanamo. He also approved one of the "Category III" techniques. But as Wittes notes, he did not approve some others, including a version of waterboarding, and the making of death threats.
The memo for which he has been pilloried is also the reason that the military, unlike the CIA, never waterboarded anybody. [Djamel Ameziane might disagree with that assertion.] Haynes recommended approval of certain modestly coercive techniques—the use of which later spun out of control—but he drew the line at several highly-coercive techniques, waterboarding included. Though they might be legal, he wrote, the military was trained in a tradition of restraint and shouldn’t use them. In other words, he behaved exactly the way the Left often criticizes the CIA for not behaving; even in a crisis setting, he refused to let the criminal law define military interrogation policy. Why is that fact not even part of the conversation about him?
The actual techniques, derived from SERE torture training conducted by DoD, were described by Dunleavy's staff intelligence director, Lieutenant Commander Jerald Phifer, in a memo that accompanied Dunleavy's request, and which Haynes approved, in large part.
What techniques did Haynes approve? From the Phifer memo, they included all these "Category II" techniques:
(1) The use of stress positions (like standing), for a maximum of four hours.According to Benjamin Wittes, these techniques are "modestly coercive." I wonder if Wittes himself were to be subjected to these, under conditions of indefinite detention, no less, he might not find himself truly "verklempt," or something far worse.
(2) The use of falsified documents or reports
(3) Use of the isolation facility for up to 30 days. Request must be made to through the OIC [Officer in Charge], Interrogation Section, to the Director, Joint Interrogation Group (JIG). Extensions beyond the initial 30 days must be approved by the Commanding General. For selected detainees, the OIC, Interrogation Section, will approve all contacts with the detainee, to include medical visits of a non-emergent nature.
(4) Interrogating the detainee in an environment other than the standard interrogation booth.
(5) Deprivation of light and auditory stimuli
(6) The detainee may also have a hood placed over his head during transportation and questioning. The hood should not restrict breathing in any way and the detainee should be under direct observation when hooded.
(7) The use of 20 hour interrogations.
(8) Removal of all comfort items (including religious items).
(9) Switching the detainee from hot rations to MREs.
(10) Removal of clothing.
(11) Forced grooming (shaving of facial hair, etc...)
(12) Using detainees individual phobias (such as fear of dogs) to induce stress.
Famously, Donald Rumsfeld scribbled on the bottom of the Haynes memo, "However I stand for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to 4 hours?" In Wittes' world, I suppose Haynes is to be congratulated for holding stress positions to only four hours maximum at a time.
But then, I suppose for the Wittes, the intrepid scholar, this post of mine is just another "howl of rage from a new blogger over at Firedoglake." Referencing my notice of Wittes' peculiar sense of time above, I should note I've been writing at Firedoglake since April 2009, a year longer than "Lawfare" has been in business.
One last thing: Mr. Wittes, you cited favorably at your original post on Horton a May 17 blog post by Cully Stimson, former deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs at the time of the prisoners’ deaths. In Stimson's post, which you extensively quoted, Stimson claimed, "According to published reports, previously classified documents released by Wikileaks show that the suicides were indeed suicides, and were deliberate acts by the detainees." Could you or Mr. Stimson refer us to these "published reports" or "previously classified documents"? In the name of publishing the truth, and furthering your critique of the Horton article, I can't see why you'd ever refuse.
Cross-posted from The Dissenter/FDL
Thursday, July 21, 2011
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Terry Hicks, David’s father, called the move “absolutely disgusting,” and according to my sources, the Hicks family is said to be “devastated.”
According to a report by The Australian, under Australia's Commonwealth Proceeds of Crime Act "a person cannot profit from proceeds derived from the commercial exploitation of their criminal notoriety arising from a foreign indictable offence." The "offense" in this case is Hicks' guilty plea before the spurious U.S. military commissions to supposedly "providing material support to terrorism."
But as Australian barrister Ben Saul, who has advised Hicks in various matters, noted last February, responding to earlier propaganda beseeching the Australian government to confiscate Hicks' book earnings:
Yet, it is almost certain that such offence did not exist in law at the time of Hicks’ conduct. As a result, his conviction is retrospective and contrary to international law. The conviction for that bogus offence also resulted from a procedurally unfair trial, and probably torture.Saul also commented in the same article on the irony that calls have gone out to confiscate any profits David Hicks might receive from his book, while former Australian Prime Minister John Howard is free to profit from his own memoir, recently published, Lazarus Rising. Howard, Saul notes "has evaded comparable scrutiny, principally because his suspected crime - the illegal, aggressive invasion of Iraq - is not covered by Australia’s proceeds of crime laws."
Indeed, not only was Howard guilty of using his executive powers to commit Australian forces to the U.S.-organized 2003 invasion of Iraq, he was also heavily involved in decisions made around the incarceration of Hicks himself, as the former Guantanamo detainee and torture victim describes in his book (which again, I stress, is unavailable through routine retail outlets in the United States). It was only through the intervention of Dick Cheney, and his hand-picked military commissions Convening Authority Susan Crawford, on behalf of U.S. authorities desperate at the time to conclude at least one of their military commissions prosecutions, that a plea deal was ever struck.
Interestingly, the plea deal allowed an Alford plea, which meant Hicks could plea guilty to the single "material support" charge, while never formally agreeing to admit to guilt in his actions. In his book, Hicks clearly states that he pleaded guilty in order to get out of Guantanamo, and that up to that time, he had been in fact considering suicide.
Susan Crawford, after negotiating with my lawyers and saying no to serving less time, agreed to allow me to enter an Alford Plea if I chose, as an incentive to cooperate. Under this US legislation, a person can plead guilty without admitting to the act they are accused of. In other words, contrary to media reports, I did not ‘admit’ or ‘confess’ to providing material support to terrorism; I pleaded guilty without accepting guilt to the charge so I could return home. To plead guilty was really saying that the system was unfair and I could never win, not that I ever provided support to a terrorist organisation.The plea bargain also included other onerous conditions, including a one-year gag order, an agreement he would assign all monies from his story to the Australian government, a statement that he was not coerced into accepting the plea bargain, and an agreement to cooperate with U.S. and Australian security officials for the rest of his life, among other ridiculous stipulations.
I had two choices: take the Alford Plea and face all ramifications and consequences that would follow, or return to my cell, resign myself to hopelessness and follow through with my suicide plan.
It is difficult to know why the CDPP has decided now to officially go after Hicks' royalties. One wonders if it had anything to do with the warm reception and ovation he received when he spoke to "a packed audience of 1000 people at the Sydney Writers' Festival" last May. At the same event, Hicks "also warned that Julian Assange could face a similar abandonment by the Australian government, if the US government get their hands on him."
Certainly the Australian government has not taken kindly to the fact that David has chosen not to remain silent about the abuses he endured, or the criminal activities that took place at Guantanamo. Last year, he submitted an affidavit (PDF) to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, detailing numerous breaches of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights relevant to his case.
One of the items concerns the charges of "material support":
In 2007, a United States (US) military commission at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, convicted Mr Hicks of the offence of ‘providing material support for terrorism’ under section 950v(25) of the Military Commission Act 2006 (USA) (‘MCA’) (Annexure C). That offence was unknown to international law or US domestic law at the time of Mr Hicks’ alleged conduct and Mr Hicks was thus subject to retroactive criminal punishment, contrary to article 15 of the ICCPR. By entering into a Prisoner Transfer Arrangement (Annexure Q) with the US, to enforce Mr Hicks’ sentence of imprisonment in an Australian prison, and by enacting related domestic legislation, Australia assumed direct responsibility for the unlawful, retrospective criminal punishment of Mr Hicks. Such conduct was not justifiable and reasonable alternatives to it were available in order to achieve the humanitarian purpose of securing Mr Hicks’ release from Guantanamo Bay.Nevertheless, according to The Australian article, University of New South Wales law professor George Williams thought the CDPP had "a strong case." "But that is subject to a court giving weight and recognizing the validity of Hicks's plea and the conviction. This may well be an opportunity for David Hicks to open up questions about those matters," Professor Williams said.
Torture and Medical Experimentation
Why would a man plead guilty to something to which he was innocent? Why was such a plea -- or suicide -- preferable to continued detention in the U.S. Cuban island prison?
As David Hicks outlined in his book, he was subjected to numerous kinds of torture, in addition to probable medical experiments. Last February, investigative journalist Jason Leopold published at Truthout the first in-depth interview with Hicks. In his introduction, Leopold summarized the torture Hicks endured at the hands of Guantanamo authorities:
Hicks was brutally tortured. Psychologically and physically for four years, maybe longer. He was injected in the back of his neck with unknown drugs. He was sodomized with a foreign object. He spent nearly a year in solitary confinement. He was beaten once for ten hours. He was threatened with death. He was placed in painful stress positions. He was subjected to sleep deprivation. He was exposed to extremely cold temperatures, loud music and strobe lights designed to disorient his senses. He was interrogated on a near daily basis.In Guantanamo: My Journey, Hicks described one of the medical experiments:
I was given an injection. Within an hour or so I couldn’t help but huddle in a corner of the cage. Physically, I felt comfortable, even though it was an odd thing for me to do. In the back of my mind I knew it was strange, but as long as I stayed in that corner I had no real thoughts at all. When I tried to move from that position, whether to eat or go to the toilet, I became extremely agitated and nervous. I would quickly resume my huddled position. Getting the slight shakes was another side effect of this medication. Some time on the second day I began to feel normal again and came out of the corner. I knew I had acted unusually but, because most of that period was a blank in my mind, I could not decide if the injection was responsible. I think it was the day after, when I began to feel normal again, that I was given another injection. I was scared and pleaded for them not to, but I was threatened with an IRFing if I did not cooperate. [The Immediate Reaction Force (IRF) was a riot squad mobilized to brutalize Guantanamo inmates.] A majority of detainees were being IRFed by then for refusing medication, so I just surrendered my arm, thinking that the needle might snap off in my shoulder if they jabbed me during a beating. I was quickly aware of the results. I went straight to the corner again and curled up but, unlike last time, I was under no illusions about what was happening or why. I tried to fight this chemical reaction but was powerless. My mind was clear and alert, and I could identify my behaviour as abnormal, but my body would not listen to my mind. I had no control and remained in the corner, despite wanting to move. This time around the experience was very distressing. All I could do was wait for the effects of the medication to wear off a full day later.In the United States, outrageously there has been next to no interest in pursuing charges of medical experimentation upon detainees held by the United States. Similar stories of such experiments have been given by a number of released detainees. Additionally, Jason Leopold and I have published a number of articles about the abusive administration of an unprecedented mass administration of a controversial antimalarial drug, melfoquine, known for serious neuropsychiatric effects, on all Guantanamo detainees as part of their initial in-processing. (See here, here, and here.)
Once again it was the ICRC [International Committee of the Red Cross] that saved us. This period of forced injections and pills coincided with another visit from the only group of people on that island who did not wish us harm: the ICRC. Before I was given a third injection, MPs came and escorted me to an interrogation building, where I had a private interview with an ICRC employee. I pleaded with him to do something about these medical experiments. He told me that nearly every detainee he had seen so far had reported the same program and its effects. Almost instantly after that interview the injections and tablets were stopped, and I did not have to endure another injection. Instead of nearly daily doses, it went back to the normal – at least one injection every two months, including having blood samples taken.
A FOIA of an Inspector General report on drugging of detainees has been in process for this reporter for nearly a year, with such delay belying claims of "transparency" and prompt Freedom of Information response by the Obama Administration.
Clearly, the attempts to seize royalties from David Hicks is part of an attempt to impugn his work, and to punish or isolate him for truth-telling. Such bullying can only be stopped by international and Australian protest.
Update: The Justice Campaign, an Australian human rights, anti-torture organization formed largely to help publicize the David Hicks case has released a statement on the CDPP legal actions.
The Justice Campaign (TJC) is appalled at the news that the Australian Government has moved to recover the proceeds of David Hicks’ book, Guantanamo: My Journey.
TJC patron, the Hon. John Dowd said today “David Hicks has not been convicted of a crime in Australia. He has not been convicted of an offence under US law. There is no basis for removing any profits from the sale of his book.” Justice Dowd said.
“The Military Commissions Charges were invalid under US law and he was coerced.”
TJC spokesperson, Stephen Kenny said today “this is a blatant move to shift the focus of the Australian government’s responsibility to thoroughly and openly investigate torture allegations....
The Justice Campaign remains committed in calling for an investigation into David’s credible allegations of torture and the political interference in his eventual plea deal.
(Note: differences in spelling of some words, i.e. between U.S. and Australian spellings, has been left intact in this article, when Australian spellings were included in quoted material.)
Crossposted at FDL/The Dissenter
"The blaze, the splendor and the symmetry,According to the UK legal charity Reprieve, "the first large array of photographs depicting the devastating impact of US unmanned aircraft ('drone') attacks on innocent civilians in Pakistan" go on display today at at Beaconsfield Art Gallery, 22 Newport Street, London. The show, which displays the work of Noor Behram, a 39 year old photographer from the North Waziristan Agency (NWA), runs until August 5. Reportedly, photos from 28 of 60 drone attack sites visited by Behram can be viewed at the London gallery.
I cannot see -- but darkness, death and darkness."
-- John Keats, Hyperion: A Fragment
Last month, the U.S. prevented a Pakistani attorney, Mirza Shahzad Akbar, who is suing U.S. authorities for the drone strikes in his country, from traveling to the United States to address a human rights conference at Columbia University law school. "If seeking justice through the law – instead of violence – is the reason for banning my travel," Akabar said, "then mine is another story of how government measures in the name of 'national security' have gone too far." Akabar has a record of cooperation with the FBI in terrorist cases, and previously consulted with the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Yesterday, according to The Scotsman, "lawyers acting for relatives of those killed close to the border with Afghanistan lodged a formal case [in Islamabad, Pakistan] against John Rizzo, the former acting general counsel for the American intelligence agency [CIA], accusing him of murder for his role in sanctioning targets." The lawyers include Akbar and attorneys for Reprieve. [See Update at end of article for comment by Center for Constitutional Rights.]
Rizzo famously told Newsweek reporter Tara Mckelvey earlier this year that until his retirement in 2008, he had been the CIA official in charge of authorizing the so-called legal assassinations, or "neutralizations" in CIA-speak, of purported terrorists by remote-control drones.
At times, Rizzo sounded cavalier. “It’s basically a hit list,” he said. Then he pointed a finger at my forehead and pretended to pull a trigger. “The Predator is the weapon of choice, but it could also be someone putting a bullet in your head.”Rizzo was also the CIA attorney who sought approvals for CIA torture for former President George W. Bush's "enhanced interrogation program" of torture.
Last month, according to a report by Ken Dilanian at the Los Angeles Times, President Obama's counterterrorism adviser (and former CIA official) John Brennan told a group of academics at Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University in Washington in regards to the drone strikes, ""there hasn't been a single collateral death because of the exceptional proficiency, precision of the capabilities that we've been able to develop."
But a July 18 article by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism says U.S. claims are "untrue":
According to Brennan, Barack Obama himself has ‘insisted’ that US drone strikes are ‘exceptionally surgical and precise’ and ‘do not put… innocent men, women and children in danger’.According to Reprieve's Project Bugsplat, which has been gathering evidence on the human cost of the U.S. drone strikes, "It has emerged that up to 2,283 people have been killed by US unmanned aircraft, or ‘drones’ in Pakistan since 2004 -- with the numbers rapidly escalating in the past two years under President Obama. As many as 730 victims have been wholly innocent, according to one official source."
Yet a detailed examination by the Bureau of 116 CIA ‘secret’ drone strikes in Pakistan since August 2010 has uncovered at least 10 individual attacks in which 45 or more civilians appear to have died.
"Bugsplat" is said to be the term U.S. officials use for the people killed in the drone strikes. But according to journalist Allan Nairn, this highly offensive term originated in the civilian kill ratios calculated by the Pentagon in Iraq. He told Amy Goodman at Democracy Now! in January 2010:
But even when they’re not targeting civilians, which is probably most of the time, they end up killing massive numbers of civilians. The Pentagon has a word for that, too. They call it “bugsplat.” In the opening days of the invasion of Iraq, they ran computer programs, and they called the program the Bugsplat program, estimating how many civilians they would kill with a given bombing raid. On the opening day, the printouts presented to General Tommy Franks indicated that twenty-two of the projected bombing attacks on Iraq would produce what they defined as heavy bugsplat — that is, more than thirty civilian deaths per raid. Franks said, “Go ahead. We’re doing all twenty-two.” So that adds up to, you know, about 660 anticipated, essentially planned, what in domestic terms would be called criminally negligent homicide, at the least, probably second-degree murder. You might even be able to get it up to first, first-degree. And that, just if — if that was the actual toll, the bugsplat estimate of the toll on the first day, that right there would give you a third of the World Trade Center death toll, just on the first day of the Iraq operation. And, of course, the Iraq operation has gone on. And that’s essentially what’s happening in Afghanistan and Pakistan.Extradite Former CIA Counsel John Rizzo to Pakistan
In an excellent article yesterday, Chris Hedges discussed the conviction last week by an Argentine court of retired Gen. Hector Gamen and former Col. Hugo Pascarelli for the torture of 2,500 people during Argentina's "Dirty War" of the mid-1970s. The state terror by the Argentine government resulted in the disappearances, torture and murder of tens of thousands, and was an integral part of the U.S.-backed, Chilean-organized Operation Condor in the region. Hedges additionally noted that a military doctor, Maj. Norberto Atilio Bianco, was extradited last week from Paraguay to Argentina for baby trafficking.
The U.S. has refused to declassify documents related to the Argentine Dirty War. The House of Representatives defeated a proposed amendment by Democratic Rep. Maurice Hinchey (NY) on the declassification of U.S. intelligence files regarding the 1976 Argentine generals coup and the bloody seven year dictatorship that followed.
Hedges compared the actions of Rizzo in approving targeted assassinations by drone, and the criminal negligence of targeting civilians. "Rizzo, in moral terms, is no different from the deported Argentine doctor Bianco," Hedges wrote, "and this is why lawyers in Britain and Pakistan are calling for his extradition to Pakistan to face charges of murder. Let us hope they succeed." Drone attacks have quadrupled under Obama from the days of the Bush administration.
The United States has had a policy of torture and assassination for many decades. It began during the Second World War, with the justification that it was necessary in the war against Hitlerite fascism and aggressive Japanese imperialism. Then it was justified as necessary to defeat the Soviet Union during the "Cold War." For a brief historical period, assassinations and torture were outlawed by U.S. law and treaty, although the U.S. still used proxies to do their dirty work. But no one was ever held accountable legally for the decades of earlier assassination and torture. (Click here to read the CIA's assassination manual, now declassified.)
The Obama administration has announced it has no intention to investigate or prosecute any U.S. official for torture, despite overwhelming evidence of guilt for such war crimes among former administration officials (including George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, George Tenet, and a host of government attorneys and military officials). Following in the steps of other human rights activists, Human Rights Watch recently produced a report documenting the torture crimes and calling for investigations and prosecutions of government officials, by U.S. courts, and lacking that, by international courts, under the principle of "universal jurisdiction" for war crimes and crimes against humanity. This was the same legal principle used to indict Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1998.
The Obama administration is itself involved in war crimes, most notably by the increase in drone assassinations and the killing of civilians (including targeting of U.S. citizens), although it apparently has also continued the operation of CIA black sites (as evidenced by this report by Jeremy Scahill), the holding of ghost prisoners on Navy ships, backing the indefinite detention of prisoners at Guantanamo, using isolation and sleep deprivation and fear-based techniques (and possibly drugs) as part of the official Army Field Manual on interrogation, all amid claims of ongoing torture and abuse at one or more prisons at Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan.
As Chris Hedges concluded in his Truthdig article the other day:
The only way the rule of law will be restored, if it is restored, is piece by piece, extradition by extradition, trial by trial. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, former CIA Director George Tenet, Condoleezza Rice and John Ashcroft will, if we return to the rule of law, face trial. The lawyers who made legal what under international and domestic law is illegal, including not only Rizzo but Alberto Gonzales, Jay Bybee, David Addington, William J. Haynes and John Yoo, will, if we are to dig our way out of this morass, be disbarred and prosecuted. Our senior military leaders, including Gen. David Petraeus, who oversaw death squads in Iraq and widespread torture in clandestine prisons, will be lined up in a courtroom, as were the generals in Argentina, and made to answer for these crimes. This is the only route back.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=96oR36im7cY&feature=player_embedded
Update, 2:50pm PDT: Center for Constitutional Rights has put out a press release on the filing of a "First Information Report" (FIR) in Islamabad, seeking an arrest warrant for John Rizzo. They make a good point about the psychological collateral damage on those who aren't killed, but who live in proximity to such terror. Note, "last year, the Center for Constitutional Rights filed a lawsuit challenging the authorization for the targeted killing of a U.S. citizen in Yemen in Al-Aulaqi v. Obama, which was dismissed by the district court in Washington, DC, on jurisdictional grounds."
In addition to the deaths and destruction caused by the strikes, the communities in the region, where more than half the population lives below the poverty line – more than three times the national average – have endured psychological trauma by living under the constant threat of bombardment. The combination of poverty and political instability has further isolated the historically distinct region from the rest of Pakistan, contributing to the lack of political will by the country's leadership to confront the CIA’s drone program, and allowing the killings to continue largely unchallenged. The high civilian death toll has also been fuel for anti-American sentiment throughout Pakistan.
Originally posted at FDL/The Dissenter
Sunday, July 17, 2011
The conditions at Security Housing Units (SHU) at Pelican Bay Prison, and other Supermax prisons, clearly constitute torture and/or cruel, inhumane treatment of prisoners. It relies on the use of severe isolation or solitary confinement, the effects of which I've written about before in the context of the Bradley Manning case (see here and here). At Pelican Bay, the prisoners in "administrative segregation" are locked in a gray concrete 8'X10' foot cell 22-1/2 hours per day. The other time (if that privilege is granted) is spent alone in a tiny concrete yard. There is no human physical contact. No work, no communal activities. If the prisoner has enough money they can purchase a TV or radio. Meals are pushed through a slot in the metal door.
An end to solitary confinement, and in particular to long-term solitary confinement, of an indeterminate nature, is one of five "core" demands of the hunger strikers (see Word document).
Another key demand concerns the onerous and sinister "debriefing" process. The prisoners are asking the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to:
A) cease the use of innocuous association to deny an active status,Dr. Corey Weinstein elaborated on the "debriefing process" in an article at Prison Legal News:
B) cease the use of informant/debriefer allegations of illegal gang activity to deny inactive status, unless such allegations are also supported by factual corroborating evidence, in which case CDCR-PBSP staff shall and must follow the regulations by issuing a rule violation report and affording the inmate his due process required by law.
More than 50% of the men in SHU are assigned indeterminate terms there because of alleged gang membership or activity. The only program that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCr) offers to them is to debrief. The single way offered to earn their way out of SHU is to tell departmental gang investigators everything they know about gang membership and activities including describing crimes they have committed. The Department calls it debriefing. The prisoners call it “snitch, parole or die.” The only ways out are to snitch, finish the prison term or die. The protection against self incrimination is collapsed in the service of anti-gang investigation.The "debriefing" process is set up by statute (PDF). It is a long-term process, whereby the prisoner "volunteers" to "debrief," i.e., to snitch upon other prisoners and identify them as "gang" members. The debriefing prisoners are segregated in their own unit for many months, often more than a year. If they fail to finish the "debriefing" process, they lose whatever credits towards good behavior and release they may have accumulated during the debriefing process.
The Case of Tcinque Sampson
An example of the arbitrary nature of the "rewards" allowed to debriefed convicts can be determined by a filing a few weeks ago in the California Court of Appeal, First Appellate District, Division One in the case of Tcinque Sampson (Word doc). Sampson was sent to prison in 2008 for two years eight months for grand theft. He was subsequently "known to be a Validated Member of the prison gang known as the ‘BLACK GUERILLA [sic] FAMILY’ (BGF) per Institutional Gang Investigator (IGI), Officer G. Garrett," and sent into "Administrative Segregation" (SHU unit). If he could get enough credits for good behavior, he could have possibly been released in December 2010. In an effort to get out of isolation sooner, he volunteered it appears sometime in 2009 for the "debriefing" program.
But then, in January 2010, the CDCR changed the rules. From then on, no prisoner who was a "validated gang member" in a SHU could earn credits towards earlier release. For Sampson, this meant another 107 days in prison, even if he followed the rules, and even though he'd agreed to snitch (or make up incriminating evidence) about other purported gang-affiliated prisoners. According to the legal brief, "During a hearing with the chief deputy warden on September 23, 2010, petitioner inquired why his original release date had not been reinstated, given that he had submitted all of the information that had been requested of him with regard to debriefing. On September 29, 2010, petitioner was informed that he 'was "on the list" but the "list" was very long and that is why it was taking so long.' A few days later, Sampson told prison officials he “was no longer interested in debriefing because the institution had not honored its bargain with [him] to grant credits in exchange for debriefing . . . .”
Last December, the Del Norte County Superior Court granted, in part, a pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus, saying the new CDRC regulations about credits "violated the Ex Post Facto Clauses of the federal and state Constitutions." But the Appellate court overturned that ruling. Their reasoning tells us a great deal about how state authorities define who is or isn't a "validated" gang member. In the end, as we shall see, Sampson's refusal to engage in the debriefing process supposedly proved he was a gang member, and worthy of administrative segregation (or long-term solitary confinement). Bold emphases in quote below are added for emphasis:
... petitioner’s ineligibility for conduct credit accrual is not punishment for the offense of which he was convicted. Nor is it punishment for gang-related conduct that occurred prior to January 25, 2010, since petitioner was not stripped of conduct credits he had already accrued. It is punishment for gang-related conduct that continued after January 25, 2010.The Appeal court was even more concrete in a later portion of the brief, when they stated, "By aborting the process, petitioner demonstrated that after January 25, 2010, he continued to associate with the BGF, continued to pose a threat to prison security, and continued to warrant housing in a SHU. " In other words, if you don't participate in their snitch program, you must, by the logic of the prison authorities, be an active gang member. Review of possible "inactive gang status" takes place "after six years" of solitary confinement, assuming the prison authorities determine you to have been "inactive" during this time. But meanwhile, there's a long "list" of debriefing or debriefed prisoners, any of whom, after many, many months of interrogation by prison officials, may have fingered you as gang member.
Petitioner maintains he “did nothing” after January 25, 2010 to bring himself within the ambit of the amended statute, but we see the matter differently. “ ‘Gangs, as defined in [California Code of Regulations, title 15] section 3000, present a serious threat to the safety and security of California prisons,’ and ‘[i]nmates and parolees shall not knowingly promote, further or assist any gang as defined in section 3000.’ ” (In re Furnace (2010) 185 Cal.App.4th 649, 657.) The “validation” of a gang member involves no more and no less than the CDCR’s recognition of at least three reliable, documented bases (“independent source items”) for concluding that an inmate’s background, person, and/or belongings indicate his or her active association with other validated gang members or associates, and at least one of those bases constitutes a direct link to a current or former validated gang member or associate. (Ibid.; See Cal. Code Regs., tit. 15, §§ 3378, 3321.) For purposes of placement in a SHU, active gang membership or affiliation is considered “conduct [that] endangers the safety of others or the security of the institution” and “a validated prison gang member or associate is deemed to be a severe threat to the safety of others or the security of the institution” warranting an indeterminate SHU term. (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 15, § 3341.5, subd. (c) & subd. (c)(2)(A)(2).)
Once “validated,” an inmate’s continued active membership or affiliation in the gang and placement in a SHU continues until one of three things happens: (1) the periodic, 180-day review of the inmate’s status by the classification committee results in his or her release to the general inmate population (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 15, § 3341.5, subd. (c)(2)(A)(1)); or (2) he or she becomes eligible “for review of inactive [gang] status” after six years of noninvolvement in gang activity (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 15, § 3378, subd. (e)); or (3) he or she initiates and completes the “debriefing process,” thereby demonstrating that he or she has dropped out of the gang. (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 15, § 3378.1.) Unless and until one of these three eventualities come to pass, an inmate continues to engage in the misconduct that brings him or her within the amendment’s ambit.
But these prisoners in Supermax are the worst of the worst, aren't they, in harsh administrative conditions because they have brutally murdered someone, or worse? According to the California Code of Regulations, Title 15, Section 3315, there are 23 "serious rule violations" that can send an inmate to an SHU for a determinate time. These include "acquisition or exchange of personal or state property amounting to more than $50.... tattooing or possession of tattoo paraphenalia.... possession of $5 or more without authorization.... [and] refusal to work or participate in a program as assigned," among others. Certainly violence or "mass disruptive conduct" is included in these codes, but so are "acts of disobedience or disrespect" or the perceived "threat to commit" a disruption or breach of security, including the "threat" to "possess a controlled substance."
From Pelican Bay to Guantanamo Bay
The parallels with the regime instituted by Department of Defense officials at Guantanamo are stunning. Simply replace "gangs" with "Islamic jihadists." And, as at Guantanamo, the emphasis is on coercing cooperation and collaboration with state authorities, with an emphasis on fingering other prisoners, and thereby building up a case for an even greater threat against state authorities, who must have recourse to even more coercion and wielding of state power, all in the name of security, even while constructing the bricks for the edifice of fear out of the very actions of state repression they exercise.
Indeed, quite recently, Jason Leopold and I published documentary evidence that the very SERE techniques that were "reverse-engineered" for use as torture at Guantanamo, Bagram and various "black site" prisons (including, perhaps the new CIA black sites revealed by Jeremy Scahill in an important new article at The Nation), were originally conceived to fully "exploit" the prisoner, including production of false confessions and the recruitment of double agents and informants.
One wishes, at least, that this was all a recent phenomena, one that can be "reformed" by a stroke of a pen. But the institution of state repression has sunk its tentacles deep into the body politic. The conditions at California's prisons are indicative of conditions at other state prisons and Federal prisons, and the situation is out of control. Politicians, wedded to law and order rhetoric, are leery of doing anything to change the situation.
The use of forced confessions, indeterminate sentences, harsh punishments and torture, these were the kinds of inhumane penal conditions that a key member of the Enlightenment, Cesare Beccaria, condemned over two hundred years ago in his influential book, On Crimes and Punishments.
If punishments be very severe, men are naturally led to the perpetration of other crimes, to avoid the punishment due to the first. The countries and times most notorious for severity of punishments were always those in which the most bloody and inhuman actions and the most atrocious crimes were committed; for the hand of the legislator and the assassin were directed by the same spirit of ferocity, which on the throne dictated laws of iron to slaves and savages, and in private instigated the subject to sacrifice one tyrant to make room for another.From Pelican Bay to Guantanamo Bay, the practice of unnecessarily harsh prison conditions, amounting to torture, needs to end. The hunger strikers at Pelican Bay and elsewhere, whether criminals or not, are putting their lives on the line for the sake of basic human dignity. We need to take notice, and then take action. For more information, and to sign their online petition, visit the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity website.
Originally posted at The Dissenter/FDL
BORDC, along with 40 other organizations, including Center for Constitutional Rights, Center for Torture Accountability, Council on American-Islamic Relations, Defending Dissent Foundation and the National Lawyers Guild, among others, wrote a letter [PDF] on July 12 to members of Congress, "request[ing] that you vote against the White House proposal to extend the term of FBI Director Robert S. Mueller, III. The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved legislation to implement the proposal, but did so without adequate process and without meaningfully addressing any of the numerous outstanding oversight issues and constitutional abuses for which the Bureau continues to evade accountability."
As part of their campaign, BORDC has produced a great short video, "The unPATRIOTic Act & COINTELPRO 2.0," in which a number of former FBI and U.S. military figures, along with human rights activists, explain how the Patriot Act and government surveillance of and attacks on current activists, including Quakers and antiwar groups, are redolent of the FBI's infamous COINTELPRO program of the 1950s-1970s. The video is definitely worth viewing.
On the earlier COINTELPRO program, see this 1976 report by the U.S. Senate's Church committee, or this webpage dedicated to the subject at Political Research Associates, which includes links to many of the released COINTELPRO documents.
Despite the fact the FBI used agents provocateurs, forged documents, and various nefarious activities, including trying to drive Martin Luther King, Jr. to suicide, no U.S. officials were ever prosecuted for these activities.
BORDC reminds us that those interested can sign on to their letter to Congress.
Originally posted at The Dissenter/FDL
Friday, July 15, 2011
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What one writes in a blog article can have an impact in the "real" world, for good -- or for ill. The following is a cautionary tale, or an outrage, take your pick.
In a couple of recent articles at Truthout and Firedoglake, I critically examined what I termed a "hit piece" by Adweek's Alex Koppleman attacking Scott Horton's January 2010 Harper's article, "The Guantanamo Suicides."
Horton's article questioned the official narrative the Department of Defense offered after their investigations into three Guantanamo detainees purportedly discovered hanging in their cells the night of June 9-10, 2006. The Harper's investigation relied, among other things, on eyewitness testimony from Army guards in the guard towers that night, on independent autopsies conducted on two of the bodies, and on new information about a black site at Guantanamo, dubbed "Camp No."
Koppelman's article was posted on May 23. The article claimed that Horton relied on unreliable stories from the Army guards. Koppelman derided Horton, whose article had just won the National Magazine Award, for "conspiracy building, favoring the evidence that supports the conspiracy view and minimizing the evidence that does not." His article, despite its misrepresentation of the facts, and got a lot of play in the press, including a big boost from Benjamin Wittes at Lawfare, who wrote, "The Harpers story is nothing more than a set of wholly unfounded accusations of murder and conspiracy directed against our men and women in uniform dressed up as investigative journalism.”
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a new report Tuesday. As they stated in the press release announcing the 107-page report, "Getting Away with Torture: The Bush Administration and Mistreatment of Detainees" (HTML, PDF), there is "overwhelming evidence of torture by the Bush administration." As a result, President Barack Obama is obliged "to order a criminal investigation into allegations of detainee abuse authorized by former President George W. Bush and other senior officials."
In particular, HRW singled out "four key leaders" in the torture program. Besides former President George W. Bush, the report indicts former Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and CIA Director George Tenet. But others remain possible targets of investigation and prosecution. According to the report:
Such an investigation should also include examination of the roles played by National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and Attorney General John Ashcroft, as well as the lawyers who crafted the legal “justifications” for torture, including Alberto Gonzales (counsel to the president and later attorney general), Jay Bybee (head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC)), John Rizzo (acting CIA general counsel), David Addington (counsel to the vice president), William J. Haynes II (Department of Defense general counsel), and John Yoo (deputy assistant attorney general in the OLC).But the key passage in the HRW report concerns the backing for international prosecutions, under the principle in international law of "universal jurisdiction," which was used back in 1998 by Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzón to indict former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet for genocide and murder.
Unless and until the US government pursues credible criminal investigations of the role of senior officials in the mistreatment of detainees since September 11, 2001, exercise universal jurisdiction or other forms of jurisdiction as provided under international and domestic law to prosecute US officials alleged to be involved in criminal offenses against detainees in violation of international law. [emphasis added]Indeed, in an important section of the report, HRW details the failures and successes of pursuing such international prosecutions in the face of U.S. prosecutors' failure to act and investigate or indict high administration officials for war crimes. This is even more important when one considers that the Obama administration has clearly stated its intention to not investigate or prosecute such crimes, going after a handful of lower-level interrogators for crimes not covered by the Bush administration's so-called "legal" approvals for torture provided by the infamous Yoo/Bybee/Levin/Bradbury memos issued by the Office of Legal Counsel.
Nor has Congress shown even a smidgen of appetite for pursuing further accountability: not one Congressman or Senator has stepped forward as yet to endorse HRW's new call. Instead, they demonstrated their obsequiousness by approving Obama's nomination of General David Petraeus as new CIA director 94-0, despite the fact that Petraeus has been implicated in the organization of counter-terror death squads in Iraq, and was in charge of training Iraqi security forces who repeatedly were documented as engaging in widespread torture. It was during Petraeus's tenure as chief of such training for the coalition forces, that the U.S. implemented the notorious Fragmentary Order (FRAGO) 242, which commanded U.S. forces not to intervene in cases of Iraqi governmental torture should they come across such it (which they often did). No one during Petraeus's testimony in his nomination hearings even questioned him about this.
Why this report now?
I asked Andrea Prasow, a senior counsel at Human Rights Watch, why this report was issued now, noting that some on the left had already questioned the timing of HRW's action.
"Because it really needed to be done," Prasow explained. She noted the recent admissions by former President Bush and Vice President Cheney that they had approved waterboarding. Furthermore, "following the killing of [Osama] Bin Laden, we saw the immediate response by some that torture and the enhanced interrogation techniques led to the capture of Bin Laden. And it became a part of normal debate about torture. It shows how fragile is the current commitment not to torture."
Prasow also noted the recent closure of the Durham investigation, which resulted in the decision to criminally investigate the deaths of two detainees in CIA custody, while 99 other cases referred to his office were closed. I asked her whether she felt, as I do, that the announcement of the two investigations were meant to forestall attempts by European (especially Spanish) prosecutors to pursue "universal jurisdiction" prosecutions of U.S. officials for torture.
"I don't see how there's a defensible justification that the investigations Durham announced can do that," Prasow said. "It's pretty clear that there should be an investigation into the deaths of these detainees," she added, "but it's so clear the investigation is very limited. The scope of the investigation is the most important part. Even if Durham had investigated the 100 or so cases that exceeded the legal authorities, it wouldn't be sufficient. What about the people who wrote the legal memos? Who told them to write the memos?" she said, emphasizing the fact that Durham's investigation was limited by Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder to only CIA crimes, and only those that supposedly exceeded the criteria for "enhanced interrogation" laid out in a number of administration legal memos. The torture, Prasow noted, was "throughout the military" as well, including "hundreds or thousands" tortured at sites in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo.
Prasow noted that the Obama administration has made it policy to block attempts by torture victims to get compensation for torture, asserting a policy of protecting "state secrets" to shut down court cases. "But there are other ways of providing redress," she said, adding that "providing redress is part of international laws." The HRW report itself states, "Consistent with its obligations under the Convention against Torture, the US government should ensure that victims of torture obtain redress, which may include providing victims with compensation where warranted outside of the judicial context."
The new HRW report comes on the heels of a controversy roiling around a proposed United Kingdom governmental inquiry into torture. A number of British human rights and legal agencies have said they would boycott the UK proceedings as a "whitewash." As Andy Worthington put it the other day:
As a result of pandering to the Americans’ wishes, the terms of reference are “so restrictive,” as the Guardian described it, that JUSTICE, the UK section of the International Commission of Jurists, warned that the inquiry “was likely to fail to comply with UK and international laws governing investigations into torture.” Eric Metcalfe, JUSTICE’s director of human rights policy, said that the rules “mean that the inquiry is unlikely to get to the truth behind the allegations and, even if it does, we may never know for sure. However diligent and committed Sir Peter [Gibson] and his team may be, the government has given itself the final word on what can be made public.”Andrea Prasow echoed Metcalfe's fears, saying HRW had "some concerns about how much information [in the UK inquiry] was going to be kept secret. I think transparency, making it as public as possible, is most important."
The fight for transparency also makes HRW's call for prosecutions of high government officials, along with "an independent, nonpartisan commission, along the lines of the 9-11 Commission, [that] should be established to examine the actions of the executive branch, the CIA, the military, and Congress, with regard to Bush administration policies and practices that led to detainee abuse," very timely. In a column the other day at Secrecy News -- Pentagon Tightens Grip on Unclassified Information -- Steven Aftergood reported on a Department of Defense proposed new rule regarding classification. While the Obama administration is supposedly on record for greater governmental transparency, the new rule imposes "new safeguard requirements on 'prior designations indicating controlled access and dissemination (e.g., For Official Use Only, Sensitive But Unclassified, Limited Distribution, Proprietary, Originator Controlled, Law Enforcement Sensitive).'"
According to Aftergood, "By 'grandfathering' those old, obsolete markings in a new regulation for defense contractors, the DoD rule would effectively reactivate them and qualify them for continued protection under the new Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) regime, thereby defeating the new policy." Even worse (if possible), "the proposed rule says that any unclassified information that has not been specifically approved for public release must be safeguarded. It establishes secrecy, not openness, as the presumptive status and default mode for most unclassified information."
Much of what we know about the Bush-era torture program is due to the work of the ACLU and Center for Constitutional Rights, who have used the Freedom of Information Act to gather hundreds of documents, if not thousands, that document the paper trail surrounding the crimes of the Bush administration. Reporters and investigators like Jane Mayer, Philippe Sands, Alfred McCoy, and Jason Leopold have also contributed much to our understanding of what occurred during the Bush years. The work of investigators going back years demonstrates that U.S. research into and propagation of torture around the world goes back decades.
The Senate Armed Services Committee has also produced an impressive, if still partially redacted, investigation (large PDF) into detainee abuse by the Department of Defense. Their report, for instance, concluded regarding torture at Guantanamo that “Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's authorization of interrogation techniques at Guantanamo Bay was a direct cause of detainee abuse there."
When one puts together the accelerated emphasis on "state secrets"; the Obama political program of "not looking back" in regards to U.S. war crimes (while supposedly pursuing accountability for torture and war crimes committed by other countries); the political passivity, if not cowardice of Congress; the fact that Obama "has not been transparent on the rendition issue, not even saying what its policy is," according to Andrea Prasow; and finally the lies and propaganda spewed forth by the former Administration's key figures and their proxies, one can only agree with HRW that enough is enough. The time for investigations and prosecutions into torture and rendition is now.
And if they won't listen in Washington, D.C., perhaps they will in Madrid. Or some other intrepid prosecutor in -- who knows? -- Brazil or Argentina or Chile will pay back America, as a matter of poetic but also real justice for the crimes endured by their societies when the U.S. helped organize torture and terror in their countries only a generation ago. There were no U.S. investigations into actions of government figures then, and now we are faced with another set of atrocities produced by our own government. If we do not act now, what will our children face?
Sunday, July 10, 2011
It was back in June 2008 that the British legal charity Reprieve issued a report alleging “the United States may have used as many as 17 ships as floating prisons.” Moreover, the group claimed “about 26,000 people are being held by the U.S. in secret prisons — a figure that includes land-based detention centers.” The Defense Department, of course, denied anything untoward.
Of course, these were the bad, old days of the Bush/Cheney administration, and things were supposed to be different under the new Obama administration. But since Obama came into office, despite claims things would be different, and executive orders issued by the then-incoming President, evidence continues to grow that many of the old habits of torture and illegal detention remain part of the arsenal of the Obama Defense Department.“We do not operate detention facilities on board Navy ships,” said Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman. “Department of Defense detention facilities are in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay.”
Egregious practices amounting to torture still remain in the Army Field Manual, and in particular its Appendix M. Reports have been made by major U.S. press about ongoing abuse or torture at the U.S. Bagram facility in Afghanistan. The administration continues to support a rendition program (with its paper-thin guarantee of “promises” by torturing nations that they won’t torture). And of course, Guantanamo remains open.
Now, with the news about Somali prisoner Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame, we are hearing that — at least — this detainee (and it begs the question how many more like this), was held for two months as a ghost prisoner on a U.S. ship in international waters, uncharged, without access to attorneys or notification of the International Red Cross. In other words, he was held illegally. Now he’s being charged in U.S. courts with terrorism.
It’s not like the military has been completely hiding the fact they have been using naval ships to hold prisoners. As Adm. William H. McRaven told his Senate confirmation hearing last week (McRaven is to be the new head of Special Operations Forces) the U.S. will use ships to detain prisoners captured outside Afghanistan.
As the L.A. Times quoted him, “‘In many cases, we will put them on a naval vessel and we will hold them until we can either get a case to prosecute them in U.S. court,’ send them to a third country or release them.”
Back in 2008, Reprieve explained what their research had uncovered even back then. Reprieve legal director Clive Stafford Smith told Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman:
Today, Center for Constitutional Rights issued a press release condemning the use of ships as floating prisons, and the resulting violations of domestic and international law. The press release also asks a number of pertinent questions. In the reprint of this release, reproduced below, let the press corps take notice, and ask these questions of relevant governmental authorities, from the White House to the Pentagon to Congress.And we’ve identified thirty-two prison ships, sort of prison hulks you used to read about in Victorian England, which have been converted to hold prisoners, and we’ve got pictures of them in Lisbon Harbor, for example. And these are holding prisoners around the world, as well. And there’s a bunch of proxy prisons — Morocco, Egypt and Jordan — where this stuff is going on. And this is a huge concern, because the world focus is on Guantanamo Bay, which really is a diversionary tactic in the whole war of terror or war on terror, whatever you’d like to call it. And actually, most of these people who have been severed from their legal rights are in these other secret prisons around the world.
If Congress had any backbone, and it doesn’t, there would be immediate hearings on this. But the GOP of course isn’t interested, and the Democratic Party is loathe to do anything that might bring the military or interrogation under review going into an election year, and also because, well, they share with the GOP a jonesing for “war on terror” activities. Witness their support for Obama’s military adventure in Libya.While we join with those praising the Obama administration for charging Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame before a federal court rather than a flawed and lawless military tribunal, and rather than holding him indefinitely without charge, we condemn the administration for holding and interrogating Mr. Warsame incommunicado for more than two months on a U.S. naval ship. Under our domestic and international law, he should have been treated like a civilian criminal suspect and brought to the U.S. for trial immediately.
Moreover, according to The New York Times, the administration did not notify the International Committee of the Red Cross of Mr. Warsame’s capture until approximately two months after his detention. This is illegal and inexcusable. It means in effect that Mr. Warsame was disappeared for this period with all the attendant dangers such hidden detention engenders. It is reminiscent of early Guantánamo Bay and CIA “black site” detention.
We also question under what authority Mr. Warsame was captured and detained. The administration must clarify whether it claims authorization to capture and detain him under the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force. Such authority only extends to those involved with the 9/11 attacks, and his relationship to those attacks seems remote or nonexistent. Rather, it appears that the administration is stretching the meaning of that law to capture and detain, perhaps indefinitely, anyone it claims is a terrorism suspect anywhere in the world. Such actions undercut the important criminal protections to which every suspect is entitled. Those protections kick in upon arrest and not two months after the fact.
Even accepting the administration’s argument of laws of war, it is illegal under any circumstance to hold people at sea except pending transfer to land and not for purposes of interrogation outside the law. That provision was written into the Geneva Conventions and U.S. military regulations, most likely in response to Japanese abuses of American prisoners aboard ‘Hell Ships’ in World War II.
The administration must answer a host of questions surrounding this action:
First are questions regarding the legal authority for Mr. Warsame’s capture and detention.
*** Under what legal theory and under what power was the administration operating to justify his capture and detention?
*** If the administration claims authority under the AUMF, how would that have justified the detention given that there is supposed to be an explicit tie to 9/11 in those cases?
*** Does the administration believe we are engaged in armed conflict in Somalia sufficient to trigger application of the laws of war? With the Shabab?
*** If Mr. Warsame was purportedly held in connection with an armed conflict, what does the administration claim his status was under the laws of war?
*** Does the administration claim that Congress has authorized armed conflict with the Shabab?
Second are questions concerning his treatment once captured.
*** Under what authority does the administration claim it may hold a person beyond fourteen days without notifying the Red Cross?
*** How long does the administration claim they may hold a person without procedural protections (e.g., access to counsel and being informed of the right to habeas corpus) before they are prosecuted?
*** How can Mr. Warsame’s Miranda waiver have been genuinely voluntary if he was only read his rights two months into his incommunicado detention and interrogation, even after a supposed “break”?
*** Was Mr. Warsame allowed contact with his family?
*** Separate and apart from authority to detain, what authority did they have to interrogate him?
Third are questions regarding how widespread is the practice under which Mr. Warsame was held.
*** How many other people are floating around on U.S. prison ships?
*** How many of those are unknown to the Red Cross?
The proper way to handle Mr. Warsame was the way the U.S. handled other pirate cases in 2009 and 2010: suspects were brought to the U.S. to face criminal charges in New York and Virginia within days of capture at sea. The Obama administration appears to have created a floating legal black hole, just as Guantánamo Bay was originally conceived: no Red Cross, no lawyers, no habeas – no rights.
We more than ever need an independent political force in this country that will confront the unlawful actions of the military and intelligence agencies. But right now, the Empire is in the driver’s seat, and all we can do is protest and demand that something be done.
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