Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Torture News Roundup: Farewell (for awhile) (updated)

Originally posted at Daily Kos, the "farewell" relates to the decision to place on hiatus the "Torture News Roundup" series that I, Meteor Blades, and Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse had written on alternate weeks over at Daily Kos since earlier this year. I am not saying "farewell" to writing or blogging.

This is not a GBCW (good bye cruel world) diary. TNR is simply going on hiatus, though not without this one final foray into the news of the week. Meteor Blades, Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse, and myself, feel that the initial purpose for these TNR diaries -- to bring torture to the fore as a major issue on this site -- has been achieved. There have been and continue to be diaries almost every day on one or other aspect of the latest news about the U.S. government's use of torture, and the fight for accountability for such crimes, whether by prosecutions, a "truth commission" investigation, or both.

We will continue writing our own diaries on torture topics, as the need arises (and sadly, the need is still acute). We appreciate all the support our work has had from a myriad of Daily Kos readers, and one couldn't ask for a better and more motivated audience. When appropriate, it's very likely TNR will return, when the need for such a format is again apparent.

This diary will look at the latest release of previously classified docs on torture at Guantanamo, at the delay in release of the CIA Inspector General's report on CIA torture, on developments in the UK over their own torture scandal, and more. [The update is a BBC video on Bagram, H/T Vyan -- see below.]

ACLU Gets Release of New Documents

Defense Department Releases Previously Secret Torture Documents
Written by Jason Leopold
The Department of Defense released redacted documents Thursday related to abuse and torture of detainees held in U.S. custody at Guantanamo Bay and other overseas prisons.

The 12 documents were released as part of the American Civil Liberties Union's long-running Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the government.

The Obama administration agreed to reprocess the documents, but it continues to withhold many key details related to the Defense Department's use of torture methods. In some documents, the Obama administration has withheld details that were previously disclosed by the Bush administration.

"These documents provide still more evidence of the widespread and systemic abuse of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and other overseas locations," said Amrit Singh, an ACLU staff attorney. "They further underscore the need for a congressional select committee to examine the roots of the torture program as well as an independent prosecutor to investigate issues of criminal responsibility.
Miami Herald: Documents describe chaos of Gitmo's early months
Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Newly released Defense Department documents and memos about the first years of operation of the jail at the U.S. base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, portray a chaotic and sometimes violent operation that its own commanders described as dysfunctional....

Dunleavy said he was brought in to bring "a commonsense way on how to do business." He had experience with more than 3,000 interrogations going back 35 years.

Dunleavy said he was initially told that he would be reporting to U.S. Southern Command, but that quickly changed.

"I got my marching orders from the president of the United States," he said.

He also wrote, "The mission was to get intelligence to prevent another 9/11."
Pentagon Report Verified Detainee Torture
by Thomas R. Eddlam
Mohamedou Ould Slahi of Mauritana had allegedly recruited some of the 9/11 highjackers and apparently underwent some of the worst torture at Guantanamo up to the time that the documents were written. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld personally approved his interrogation regimen, according to commanding Major-General Mike Dunlavey. A Pentagon Criminal Investigative Division (CID) report explained the approved torture regimen: “The plan included isolation, interrogations for up to 20 hours, the use of various types of sound, deprivation of light and auditory stimuli (whereby Slahi would at times be placed in a silent 'white room'), removal of all comfort items, MRE-Only diet, forced grooming, and sleep adjustment....

After three months of sleep deprivation, isolation, and sensory deprivation nearly identical to the “brain-washing” techniques used by Chinese communists on American POWs during the Korean war to elicit false confessions, U.S. interrogators turned the torture up a notch. Slahi was told that “beatings and physical pain are not the worst thing in the world,” and that much was the truth.... interrogators told him that he should “use his imagination to think of the worst possible scenario he could end up in,” adding that “he will very soon disappear down a very dark hole” where “his very existence would become erased” and “no one will know what happened to him and, eventually, no one will care.” Then interrogators created an elaborate ruse that gave Slahi the impression he was being transferred from Guantanamo in a confusing, five-hour boat ride.
[Note: I have a different view of the claim that the North Korean/Chinese methods of torture and interrogation were meant to only achieve "false confessions." For those interested in this issue, please refer to my article "The Truth About False Confessions."]

The ACLU's Accountability Project garnered the support of a number of prominent bloggers last week, with stories by Glenn Greenwald, Marcy Wheeler, and Daily Kos's drational, among others.

Tortured to Death: New Details On Detainee Abuse Prove Bush Officials Are (Literally) Getting Away With Murder
By Suzanne Ito
Today, several prominent bloggers are writing about detainees who died in U.S. custody, using documents released through the ACLU’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. We’re not talking suicide, or death by "natural causes." No, this is death as a result of torture and abuse while in custody.
Torture and Britain

Binyam Mohamed launches legal fight to stop US destroying torture images
Former Guantánamo detainee Binyam Mohamed has launched an urgent legal attempt to prevent the US courts from destroying crucial evidence that he says proves he was abused while being held at the detention camp, the Guardian has learned. The evidence is said to consist of a photograph of Mohamed, a British resident, taken after he was severely beaten by guards at the US navy base in Cuba.

The image, now held by the Pentagon, had been put on his cell door, he says....

In a sworn statement seen by the Guardian, Mohamed has appealed to the federal district court in Washington not to destroy the photograph, which neither he nor his lawyers have a copy of, and which is classified under US law....

The photograph will be destroyed within 30 days of his case being dismissed by the American courts – a decision on which is due to be taken by a judge imminently, Clive Stafford Smith, Mohamed's British lawyer and director of Reprieve, the legal charity, said today....

Mohamed was seized and held in Pakistan in 2002 before being secretly renditioned to Morocco. He was subsequently flown to Afghanistan before being sent to Guantánamo. Mohamed says he knows of other photographs taken of him in Morocco and Afghanistan, but he has not seen them. "These pictures including photos of my genitals," he said. "Although the US authorities still apparently deny it and refuse even to admit that I was rendered to Morocco, I was horribly tortured there and had a razor blade taken to my genitals".
MI5 accused of bribe offer in Rangzieb Ahmed torture case
The Security Service MI5 is being accused of attempting to pervert the course of justice by offering a man inducements to drop his allegation that its officers colluded in his torture.

Rangzieb Ahmed had three of his fingernails ripped out after MI5 and Greater Manchester police (GMP) drew up a list of questions for officers from a notorious Pakistani intelligence agency who had detained him in Pakistan. He was later deported to the UK and jailed for terrorism offences. Ahmed says he was visited in prison by an MI5 officer and a police officer who offered to secure a reduction in his sentence or a payment of money to withdraw his torture complaints when his appeal against conviction is heard later this year.
And, in a story that should make every American sit up and take notice, there is this story out by The Guardian yesterday.

Inquiry agreed into alleged torture of Iraqis by UK soldiers (emphasis added)
An independent inquiry is to be held into allegations that British soldiers mutilated and murdered civilians in Iraq – and the government has been forced to admit that key documents had not been disclosed.

In a letter read out in court today, the defence secretary, Bob Ainsworth, said he "profoundly regrets" the failures to disclose relevant documents. Though he denied the allegations, he said he was now prepared to set up an inquiry under European human rights convention articles enshrining the right to life and prohibiting torture, or inhuman or degrading treatment.

The government made the concession after documents, which contradict claims made on oath by officials, were belatedly disclosed to the high court.

They reveal that ministers, possibly including Tony Blair, knew much more about the incident than they have admitted.
Delay in Release of CIA Inspector General Report on Torture Interrogations

Obama Administration Wants CIA Torture Report Withheld Until August 31 (includes copies of the letters by the Department of Justice and reply letter from Amrit Singh, staff attorney for the ACLU
article by Spencer Ackerman
Word’s coming now that the Obama administration is seeking to withhold the CIA’s 2004 inspector-general report on the implementation of its former “enhanced interrogation regime” until August 31. The ACLU, which had an agreement with the administration to declassify the report as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, is going to challenge the administration’s efforts....

The Justice Department argues that the volume of material it needs to go through in the CIA’s 2004 inspector general report is just too great to meet any pre-August 31 timetable. Not only is the IG report itself 200 pages, that’s just one of 319 documents under review as part of the case.

The ACLU replies that the CIA and the Justice Department have already missed three deadlines for the agreed-upon disclosure, and lawyer Amrit Singh writes that she’s “disturbed by the clear trend emerging in the government’s repeated delays in disclosure of documents critical to a complete understanding of the CIA’s interrogation program.” She says that instead of delaying, Judge Alvin Hellerstein should order the “expediting the reprocessing and release of all CIA documents at issue.”
Justice Dept. again delays release of CIA interrogations report
In a letter to Judge Alvin Hellerstein, Justice officials said the 2004 Inspector General's report had to be considered in relationship to 318 other documents under court-ordered review.
The Battle over "Indefinite Detention"

White House Drafting Executive Order to Allow Indefinite Detention; Move Would Bypass Congress
By Dafna Linzer and Peter Finn,
The Obama administration, fearing a battle with Congress that could stall plans to close Guantanamo, has drafted an executive order that would reassert presidential authority to incarcerate suspected terrorists indefinitely, according to three senior government officials with knowledge of White House deliberations.

Such an order would embrace claims by former President George W. Bush that certain people can be detained without trial for long periods under the laws of war. Obama advisers are concerned that bypassing Congress could place the president on weaker footing before the courts and anger key supporters, the officials said....

Since the inauguration, 11 detainees have been released or transferred, one prisoner committed suicide and one was moved to New York to face terrorism charges in federal court.

Administration officials said the cases of about half of the remaining 229 detainees have been reviewed for prosecution or release....

Three months into the Justice Department's reviews, several officials involved said they have found themselves agreeing with conclusions reached years earlier by the Bush administration: As many as 90 detainees can not be charged or released.
Obama uneasy over indefinite Guantánamo detentions

Obama Seems to Rule Out Executive Order on Indefinite Detentions
President Obama appeared to rule out issuing an executive order to establish indefinite detention Thursday, nearly a week after White House officials first acknowledged that it was an option.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Obama said that if he goes ahead with indefinite detentions for terrorism suspects that he would ask Congress to approve it by law.

"It is very important that the American people and Congress, in conjunction with my administration, come up with a structure that is not only legitimate in the eyes of our constitutional traditions, but also in the eyes of the international community," he said, according to the AP....

The possibility of carrying out such a policy through an executive order was widely criticized by civil rights groups last week, including the American Civil Liberties Union.
The Mohammed Jawad Case

Must Read from Bob Herbert - How Long Is Long Enough?
by teacherken
It begins like this
No one seems to know how old Mohammed Jawad was when he was seized by Afghan forces in Kabul six and a half years ago and turned over to American custody. Some reports say he was 14. Some say 16. The Afghan government believes he was 12.
The penultimate paragraph
There is no credible evidence against Jawad, and his torture-induced confession has rightly been ruled inadmissible by a military judge. But the Obama administration does not feel that he has suffered enough. Not only have administration lawyers opposed defense efforts to secure Jawad’s freedom, but they are using, as the primary basis for their opposition, the fruits of the confession that was obtained through torture and has already been deemed inadmissible — without merit, of no value.
Read the column.
Will Obama Now Defend Torture In Court?
by Andrew Sullivan
I wish I knew that the answer was categorically not. But we've learned the hard way that the Obama Department of Justice can defend things it doesn't allegedly believe in, using arguments from the far right of the Bush administration. Well, as Chris Good explains, we may soon find out:
According to U.S. court precedent, now that Jawad's lawyers have questioned his confessions as coerced, the burden now shifts to the Department of Justice to show that they weren't. The court will hear arguments about the statements at a hearing scheduled for August 5-6, according to Hafetz.
Torture Effects and Death by Torture

The Lingering Effects of Torture
Scientists assess the long-term effects of torture on the human mind
by Devin Powell, July 03, 2009 (emphasis added)
New research that tries to untangle the horrors suffered by torture survivors was recently presented at the 11th European Conference on Traumatic Stress in Oslo, Norway. Metin Basoglu, a psychiatrist at King’s College London, described the statistical techniques he used to single out the mental impacts of "cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatments" that range from threats and isolation to electric shocks and beatings on the feet.

His previous work suggested that the distinction between the harshness of "physical" torture and the mildness of "psychological" torture is a false one. When torture victims from the former Yugoslavia rated the distress caused by different forms of abuse on a scale from zero to four, those techniques that did not involve physical pain were just as distressing, or even slightly more so, than those that directly inflicted pain. "The threat or anticipation of pain may be worse than the pain itself," said Basoglu.
The suppressed fact: Deaths by U.S. torture (Glenn Greenwald)

When Torture Kills: Ten Murders In US Prisons In Afghanistan (Andy Worthington)
How long it would have taken the US military to investigate the murders, if left to their own devices, is unknown. Instead, they issued a press release, announcing that a prisoner had died of a heart attack, and then refused to release any further information. Investigating further, the journalist Carlotta Gall (in another impressive story for the New York Times in March 2003) traced Dilawar’s family and was shown his death certificate, on which an army pathologist stated unequivocally that, although he had coronary artery disease, his heart failed because of “blunt force injuries to the lower extremities.” The extent of his injuries was later summed up by two coroners: one said that his legs had “basically been pulpified,” and the other said, “I’ve seen similar injuries in an individual run over by a bus.”

Gall’s article provoked an investigation into the murders, which, in 2005 and 2006, led to various minor punishments and reprimands for the soldiers involved, although at no point, as with the torture and abuse at Abu Ghraib, was anyone encouraged to look higher up the chain of command to explain why it was that such murderous treatment had become “standard operating procedure.”
By Yoo’s Own Analysis, Army Field Manual Allows Torture with Drugs (emphasis in original)
The use of drugs in interrogations by U.S. agencies is, unfortunately, nothing new, but it is illegal. In the rewrite of the Army Field Manual, supervised by Rumsfeld right-hand man, Stephen Cambone, the Pentagon changed the wording around the use of drugs in interrogations to prohibit "drugs that may induce lasting or permanent mental alteration or damage." Previously, the former AFM had prohibited "chemically induced psychosis." So, unless that psychosis causes "lasting or permanent mental alteration or damage" -- something that is not typical with the use of psychotropic, hallucinogenic, or so-called "truth" drugs, like sodium amytal -- it's presumably allowed in the current AFM.
ACLU Says Government Used False Confessions

ACLU to Argue Against Use of Evidence Obtained Through Torture in Federal Court

A Sliver of Good News
By emptywheel (Marcy Wheeler)
I hate that I'm now clinging to scraps like this to make myself happier about President Obama's efforts to overturn torture, but this is an improvement over the Bush Administration. The acting head of OLC has determined that military commissions cannot use statements gotten through torture to convict detainees.

The Justice Department has determined that detainees tried by military commissions in the U.S. can claim at least some constitutional rights, particularly protection against the use of statements taken through coercive interrogations, officials said.

The conclusion, explained in a confidential memorandum whose contents were shared with The Wall Street Journal, could alter significantly the way the commissions operate -- and has created new divisions among the agencies responsible for overseeing the commissions.
More Torture News

[Added at 9pm, PDT: A link to this excellent diary by Vyan, Bagram AFB:America's OTHER Torture Chamber, and the video that went with it, a BBC report from approximately a week ago.]

Guantánamo detainee interview sites to remain
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- A prosecutor agreed Thursday that the government will not dismantle overseas locations where a former Guantánamo detainee claims he was interrogated by the CIA before he was brought to the United States for trial on terrorism charges.

The prosecutor, David Raskin, told U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan that the United States would preserve the locations for now even though it does not plan to use at trial any statements Ahmed Ghailani made while he was in the custody of any other government agencies.
Torture survivors testify at the U.S. Congressional Human Rights Commission hearing
WASHINGTON – Torture survivors and advocates implored Congress June 25 to investigate allegations of military torture of war prisoners, saying that the U.S. must be an example for other countries in respect for human rights.

The hearing, sponsored by Rep. James McGovern, D-Mass., chair of the Congressional Human Rights Commission, was one of several programs held June 25-27 in observance of the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition’s annual Torture Awareness Month.

The panel members declared that Congress and President Barack Obama’s administration must take concrete action in investigating and prosecuting torture in order to uphold accountability in the world.

“These are issues, not abstractions. ... We know that there is considerable value in precise information,” said Felice Gaer, head of the American Jewish Committee’s human rights institute.

But, Gaer added, simply gathering facts about abuse is not enough.

“Countries need to recognize these obligations and live up to these obligations,” she said.
Disbar the Torture Lawyers Now

Human Rights Groups Critique American Psychological Association's Recent Statement on Interrogations
This has been a painful time for the association and one that offers an opportunity to reflect and learn from our experiences over the last five years. APA will continue to speak forcefully in further communicating our policies against torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment to our members, the Obama administration, Congress, and the general public. (Board letter, June 18, 2009.)
Any meaningful approach to this issue must start by acknowledging the fact that psychologists were absolutely integral to our government's systematic program of torture. When the Bush administration decided to engage in torture, they turned to psychologists from the military's SERE [Survival, Evasion, resistance, and Escape] program for help in designing and implementing the torture tactics. This fact was first reported in 2005, within days of the release of the APA's PENS [Psychological Ethics and National Security] report and was officially acknowledged by the Defense Department in its Inspector General's Report, declassified in May 2007. Other psychologists monitored torture to calibrate how much abuse a detainee could tolerate without dying. Nonetheless, APA leaders continued, and still continue, to pretend that psychologists' participation in abuse was the behavior of rogue members of the profession.

Similarly, the APA Board still refuses to acknowledge the evidence of apparent collusion between APA officials and the national security apparatus in providing ethical cover for psychologists’ participation in detainee abuse. This collusion was most notable in the creation of the military-dominated PENS task force. Only a policy that comes to terms with this APA collusion can begin to reduce the furor among APA members, psychologists, and the general public.

APA leadership has much work ahead to begin to repair the harm they have caused to the profession, the country, former and current detainees and their families.
Much thanks to Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse for help with links on this diary. And final thanks, again, to all Daily Kos readers. We hope you'll be here when we return. In the meantime, we are not really going away, and we hope you'll check in and read our regular diaries --

Because we're not going away.

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