Thursday, February 12, 2009

"Hiding Torture" from Obama & Others, Also Killing Prisoners

Scott Horton has followed up on the UK Guardian story, which I also wrote on last night, describing how Reprieve attorney Clive Stafford Smith, whose organization is helping defend Guantanamo detainee and British resident Binyam Mohamed, had information he was sending to President Obama on Mohamed's torture censored by the U.S. Department of Defense.

At Daily Kos, a number of readers were incredulous at the claims I, and by implication, Stafford Smith was making about Obama being kept out of the information loop, suggesting that I was prone to conspiracy theories, or a dupe for grandstanding by Mohamed's attorneys. Some suggested either the Guardian or myself or both had completely misunderstood the situation.

But Horton, who has been following this story carefully, and is known to have excellent sources, reported on the Guardian article much as I had, and added this:
During the transition period, Obama staffers were regularly denied access to information relating to the Bush Administration’s torture programs. Stafford Smith notes that a number of Bush Administration officials involved in administering these programs, although political appointees, subsequently “burrowed” into career positions where they continue to have on-going responsibility and appear to be obstructing disclosure of what has happened.
Horton goes on to describe the continuing fallout around the Mohamed case in Britain, where
Today the High Court in London agreed to reopen the most recent case, involving British Guantánamo detainee Binyam Mohamed, making clear that it was highly dissatisfied with Foreign Secretary David Miliband.
For those looking to understand the timeline and characters associated with Binyam's case, which has engendered controversies from London to San Francisco -- where the other day, Obama's Department of Justice invoked, Bush-style, state secrets to throw a case out of court where Binyam was one of five plaintiffs in a rendition/torture civil suit -- the interested reader should check out Andy Worthington's excellent article, "Hiding Torture And Freeing Binyam Mohamed From Guantánamo".

Worthington comments on the circumstances that unfolded around the Binyam Mohamed case this week:
However, bitter though the truth may be, when it came down to it President Obama and his team must, I think, have been literally besieged by supplicants — from the CIA, from Boeing, from Jeppesen, and from countless other government departments and contractors involved in “extraordinary rendition” and torture in the last seven years — urging them not to open up the floodgates to what David Miliband has been striving, on a smaller scale, to prevent in the UK: prosecution for complicity in war crimes.

Quite where this leaves the struggle for the disclosure of evidence relating to “extraordinary rendition” and torture is unclear, although from my point of view, the most appropriate course of action would be for those directly responsible for implementing America’s “War on Terror” policies — a list that includes George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, David Addington, John Yoo, Alberto Gonzales, and William J. Haynes II, to name but a few — to be pursued for the prosecutions that President Obama is obliged to follow up on, after the admission in February 2008 by Gen. Michael Hayden, the director of the CIA, that waterboarding — a form of torture — was used on a number of “high-value detainees,” and last month’s confession by Susan Crawford, the Convening Authority of the Military Commission trial system at Guantánamo, that she had dropped the charges against Mohammed al-Qahtani, the alleged 20th hijacker for the 9/11 attacks, because “His treatment met the legal definition of torture.”
ACLU Suit's Bitter Fruit: More Evidence of Prisoner Killings

Jason Leopold has published an article describing the latest batch of declassified documents obtained from the ACLU in its FOIA suite against the government. (H/T Scott Horton)

ACLU has released a two-page previously unseen portion of the Church Report that describes the torture and murdering of prisoners by U.S. armed forces, as well as by contract interrogation personnel.
According to the declassified Church Report documents, on Dec. 4, 2002, a prisoner died while in U.S. custody in Afghanistan. Six days later, another prisoner died. Two days before the detainees were tortured and died, on Dec. 2, 2002, Rumsfeld authorized “aggressive interrogation techniques,” leading to “interrogation policies and plans approved by senior military and civilian officials [that] conveyed the message that physical pressures and degradation were appropriate treatment for detainees in U.S. military custody,” the Senate Armed Services Committee report said.

Both deaths, the documents say, "share some similarities."

"In both cases, for example, [the prisoners] were handcuffed to fixed objects above their heads in order to keep them awake," the documents say. "Additionally, interrogations in both incidents involved the use of physical violence, including kicking, beating, and the use of "compliance blows" which involved striking the [prisoners] legs with the [interrogators] knees. In both cases, blunt force trauma to the legs was implicated in the deaths. In one case, a pulmonary embolism developed as a consequence of the blunt force trauma, and in the other case pre-existing coronary artery disease was complicated by the blunt force trauma."

"In both instances, the [detainee] deaths followed interrogation sessions in which unauthorized techniques were allegedly employed, but in both cases, these sessions were followed by further alleged abusive behavior outside of the interrogation booth," the declassified documents say....

Moreover, the declassified documents names a private contractor, David Passaro, who conducted at least one interrogation that allegedly led to the death of a prisoner
Senator Patrick Leahy is pushing for a congressional "Truth and Reconciliation Commission" to investigate the Bush Administration's crimes. Meanwhile, others are pushing for indictments and prosecutions. Obama keeps saying he wants to look ahead and not backward, even as his own people pull the rug out from under him.

The effects of the torture crimes will not go away. The torture virus has become firmly embedded in the political corpus of this society, and it will take strenuous efforts to extirpate it. Wishful thinking will not be enough. Even a "Truth and Reconciliation" Commission will not be enough (although it may have its importance after the big wigs are indicted). The reestablishment of the rule of law, and the end of torture, which is still practiced by the United States, demands the prosecutions of those who have seriously broken national and international law. Only deterrence of this sort, in this instance, will have the needed effect.

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