Sunday, December 13, 2009

Free Fayiz Al Kandari: New MSNBC Interview with Major Barry Wingard

Crooks and Liars has posted a recent interview with Major Barry Lingard, the Guantanamo attorney defending Fayiz Mohammed Ahmed al-Kandari. Al-Kandari is a Kuwaiti citizen, imprisoned at Guantanamo since 2002. Al-Kandari's case has been championed by well-known blogger GottaLaff at The Political Carnival.

Like a number of idealistic Muslims, Fayiz al-Kandari was caught up at a young age by the suffering of Muslims in the war in Bosnia. He became very active in charity work, and this work led him to Afghanistan. As Andy Worthington told it in a recent essay:
After realizing that Afghanistan was one of the poorest countries in the Islamic world, and that its people might benefit from his assistance, [Fayiz] decided to visit, to provide assistance to the Afghan people, but was shocked to discover, on the ground, that “those people had less than anyone I had ever met.”

In a village, he met up with local officials, and agreed to provide work for some of the local people, building two wells and repairing a mosque. Life was peaceful and productive for two months — and the dreadful events of September 11, 2001 were far away, and of little import in this remote location — but in October, after the US-led invasion began, he recalls hearing the sounds of explosions in the distance and was surprised when the village erupted in celebration, as the locals were overcome with joy that they were again at war.

The reason was not to do with fighting, but with the opportunity to make money from the war’s fallout. As al-Kandari explained to Lt. Col. Wingard, in the days that followed, the local people clambered onto trucks and drove towards the places where bombs had dropped the day before, hoping to gather shrapnel to sell as scrap metal before rival villages beat them to it. Because they were short of manpower, the villagers sometimes took their children and sent them out to watch for explosions across the mountains, and al-Kandari recalls the children demonstrating how they would handle metal that was still hot by bouncing it between their hands.
But Fayiz became one of a number of Arabs (he is originally from a well-to-do Kuwaiti family) who was sold to the Americans for bounty money.

Andy Worthington describes what happened next:
In Guantánamo, Fayiz al-Kandari’s refusal to accept that “there is no innocent person here” has marked him out as a particularly resistant prisoner — and resistant prisoners are given a particularly hard time. Over the years, he has been subjected to a vast array of “enhanced interrogation techniques,” which, as Lt. Col. Wingard described them, “have included but are not limited to sleep deprivation, physical and verbal assaults, attempts at sexual humiliation through the use of female interrogators, the “frequent flier program,” the prolonged use of stress positions, the use of dogs, the use of loud music and strobe lights, and the use of extreme heat and cold.”

Despite all this, he has not been “broken,” and has been able, unlike Fouad al-Rabiah and numerous other prisoners, to resist making false confessions about his own activities. He has also refused to make false confessions about the activities of other prisoners, despite being offered many opportunities to do so, and despite being told about others who have made false allegations against him.
Al Kandari's attorney, Major Barry Wingard, has made clear that the evidence against his client is based on far-fetched hearsay evidence. Wingard has been outspoken in his criticism of the Guantanamo military commissions and the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques" and other inhumane types of treatment.

Fayiz al-Kandari, along with over a hundred other Guantanamo prisoners, deserve their fair day in court. The prisoners who have been granted release via habeas petitions or other legal remedy, but who are still held in Guantanamo for an indefinite confinement, should be released immediately. Let them be allowed to live freely in the country that incarcerated and held them illegally, and tortured them. If there is some chargeable crime, and evidence of such crime, let them be tried as anyone would be, in a court of law, not a bogus military kangaroo court.

From a Washington Post op-ed by then Lt. Col. Wingard, last July 1:

Guantanamo has become a dark symbol of the standard of justice the United States has meted out in the "global war on terror." Protecting American lives is paramount, but it is not true that we can be safe only by ignoring our country's values and imprisoning people for the better part of a decade without their legal rights.

Each time I travel to Guantanamo Bay to visit Fayiz, his first question is, "Have you found justice for me today?" This leads to an awkward hesitation.

"Unfortunately, Fayiz," I tell him, "I have no justice today."
(H/T Tosfm)

Jason Leopold on ACLU's Indictment of Obama Over Lack of Torture Accountability

Jason Leopold has a fantastic, comprehensive article up at Truthout on the ACLU's reaction to the Obama Nobel Prize speech, in the context of the congealing policies of the Obama administration in opposition to demands for accountability for torture. The article also updates the current situation regarding any possible investigations or hearings on U.S. torture. (Hint: don't hold your breath, but don't give up all hope, either.)

Blistering Indictment Leveled Against Obama Over His Handling of Bush-Era War Crimes:
To many human rights advocates, however, Obama’s high-minded declaration rang hollow in light of fresh reports that his administration continues to operate secret prisons in Afghanistan where detainees have allegedly been tortured and where the International Committee for the Red Cross has been denied access to the prisoners.

Obama has substituted words for action on issues surrounding torture since his first days in office nearly one year ago. Last June, on the 25th anniversary of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Obama said the US government "must stand against torture wherever it takes place" and that his administration "is committed to taking concrete actions against torture and to address the needs of its victims."

But it’s clear that his pledge does not apply to torture committed by Bush administration officials....

"We're increasingly disappointed and alarmed by the current administration's stance on accountability for torture," said Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU’s National Security Project, during a conference call with reporters. "On every front, the [Obama] administration is actively obstructing accountability. This administration is shielding Bush administration officials from civil liability, criminal investigation and even public scrutiny for their role in authorizing torture."
Read the whole article.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Call for Inquest into Bogus UK Investigation Into David Kelly's "Suicide"

According to an article in the Daily Mail, six UK doctors will release a report sharply criticizing the Hutton Inquiry investigation into the supposed suicide of British scientist and weapons expert David Kelly in 2003.

Kelly was reportedly believed to be behind a leak to "the source of a [BBC] story that Tony Blair's government 'sexed-up' its dossier on Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction to justify invading Iraq." According to the Daily Mail, Kelly predicted he might be killed. Yet the coroner's investigation into his death was halted by the British government, which declared an inquiry by cronies of British Prime Minister Tony Blair would be sufficient. After years of controversy, the protesting UK doctors are not only preparing release of a dissenting report, they are asking the British High Court to reopen the inquest into Kelly's death. The law firm of Leigh Day and Co. are assisting them.

From the Daily Mail article:
The six [doctors] are Michael Powers, a QC and former coroner; trauma surgeon David Halpin; Andrew Rouse, an epidemiologist who established that deaths from cutting the ulnar artery – as claimed in Dr Kelly's case – are extremely rare; Martin Birnstingl, another surgeon; plus Stephen Frost and Chris Burns-Cox.

Lord Hutton concluded that Dr Kelly killed himself by severing an ulnar artery in his left wrist after taking an overdose of prescription painkillers but he skated over the controversies about the causes of death....

Dr Kelly's death certificate states that he died of a haemorrhage, but the results of a post mortem examination have never been made public....

We have concentrated on the finding on the death certificate that the primary cause of death was a haemorrage. We are spelling out why he could not have died from a cut to the small ulnar artery.'

One of the doctors, who preferred not to be named, added: 'When the Romans committed suicide they would slit all four arteries in a warm bath, which keeps the blood flowing. The arteries would close up in the open air and you would not lose that much blood.'

A book on the unanswered questions surrounding the case by Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker concluded that Dr Kelly may have been murdered by Iraqi exiles – but the finger has also been pointed at MI5 and the CIA.
H/T to The Anomaly at Daily Kos, whose diary on the UK proposed investigation is worth reading in full.

And I know, I've written a number of stories lately about suspicious suicides affecting key figures in the U.S. Global War on Terror. But I didn't invent the stories, and it certainly may have a lot more to do with U.S. and UK SOP in these affairs than it does with any morbidity on my part. Only one way to know for sure: let's open the investigations and expose truth to the light of day.

Obama's Nobel Speech a Pathetic Cover-up for U.S. Crimes

Barack Obama's Nobel Prize acceptance speech was lauded by most of his supporters, even though it was one of the most bellicose speeches ever given by a Nobel Peace Prize winner. The irony of awarding the prize to a man who is escalating the war in Afghanistan by tens of thousands of soldiers, and uses unmanned aerial drones to assassinate individuals, irregardless of the known innocents killed in the process, was not lost on some.

Here's David Lindorff at The Smirking Chimp, a site well-known for skewering George W. Bush and his policies for years:
It's not a[s] much of a travesty as when Henry Kissinger, a war criminal of the first order who was an architect of the latter stages of the Indochina War, and was personally responsible for the slaughter of well over a million innocent people, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973, while that war was still raging, but the awarding of the latest Nobel Peace Prize to President Barack Obama is travesty enough.

We're talking about a man whose practically first act upon taking office early this year was to escalate the ugly and pointless war in Afghanistan with the addition of some 20,000 troops, and who, even as the Nobel committee was discussing his award, was meeting with his military and political advisors to consider expanding that war even further, both in Afghanistan and across the border into Pakistan....

...under President Obama, Guantanamo's terrorist prison is still in operation and is holding people whom even the government admits are guilty of nothing. Under President Obama, the US has also blocked the Goldstone Report which condemns Israel of war crimes in its recent assault on Gaza. And under Obama, the US military in Afghanistan has continued to slaughter disproportionate numbers of civilians through its wanton use of aerial bombardment, pilotless Predator drones, and antipersonnel weaponry.
Lindorff also noted the failure of the Obama administration to ratify the international anti-landmine treaty. Bill Moyers noticed that too, and wrote an article with Michael Winship looking at the obscenity of giving a "Peace" prize to a man who can't stop a policy that kills thousands each year, many of them children.
The United States has not actively used land mines since the first Gulf War in 1991, but we still possess some 10-15 million of them, making us the third largest stockpiler in the world, behind China and Russia. Like those two countries, we have refused to sign an international agreement banning the manufacture, stockpiling and use of land mines. Since 1987, 156 other nations have signed it, including every country in NATO. Amongst that 156, more than 40 million mines have been destroyed.

Just days before Obama flew to Oslo to make his Nobel Peace Prize speech, an international summit conference was held in Cartagena, Colombia, to review the progress of the treaty. The United States sent representatives and the State Department says our government has begun a comprehensive review of its current policy.

Last year 5,000 people were killed or wounded by land mines, often placed in the ground years before, during wars long since over. They kill or blow away the limbs of a farmer or child as indiscriminately as they do a soldier. But still we refuse to sign, citing security commitments to our friends and allies, such as South Korea, where a million mines fill the demilitarized zone between it and North Korea.
One could write a treatise on the number of lies and sick doctrine enumerated in Obama's speech. But because it was said by a popular Democrat, and not by a Republican -- especially by the Chimp himself, Bush -- it's given a pass.

The fact the United States launched an illegal war in Iraq, killing many tens of thousands, and likely hundreds of thousands, still occupies that country, and in the process tortured an untold number, breaking international laws and covenants willy-nilly... this went unmentioned.

There are plenty of noble sentiments voiced in the speech, talk about dignity, hope, and freedom. But U.S. leaders have spewed such pablum for decades. Talk of a "just peace" in Afghanistan mimics Nixon's appeal for a "just peace" in Vietnam.

Obama (who used the term "just peace" three times in his speech):
This brings me to a second point — the nature of the peace that we seek. For peace is not merely the absence of visible conflict. Only a just peace based upon the inherent rights and dignity of every individual can truly be lasting.
Nixon, in his famous "Silent Majority" speech, Nov. 3, 1969:
It has become clear that the obstacle in negotiating an end to the war is not the President of the United States. It is not the South Vietnamese Government.

The obstacle is the other side's absolute refusal to show the least willingness to join us in seeking a just peace. And it will not do so while it is convinced that all it has to do is to wait for our next concession, and our next concession after that one, until it gets everything it wants.
Obama appeared for one moment to have a seizure of bad conscience, telling the world (emphasis added):
We are fallible. We make mistakes, and fall victim to the temptations of pride, and power, and sometimes evil. Even those of us with the best intentions will at times fail to right the wrongs before us.
Maybe Obama once had good intentions. I believe that he does think he's doing the right thing. But then you twist up your mind and conscience after you've sold yourself to the powers that be, and have worked on their behalf for so long.

No, Obama will not right the wrongs of this world. But he's not even trying any more. Instead, he has become President Huckster, trying to sell the U.S. Democracy brand to foreign and domestic consumers. Standing in the unemployment line, one is not likely to be so willing to buy it this year, fancy Nobel bauble or not. The same for the children of the dead and tortured, who instead will line up to staff the new HQ of the "insurgents", the "terrorists" and disgruntled who just won't settle for the fact that U.S. runs the world, and you'd better listen to what they say, or they will blow you up.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

For When Your Spirits Are Down

Daniel Barenboim conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in a stellar performance of Tchaikovsky's 4th Symphony in F minor for the opening concert of Carnegie Hall's 1997 season.

Obama FAIL on Healthcare (Petition)

Jane Hamsher has posted the following at FDL, which a copy of an email being sent out in the wake of breaking news of the full sellout on healthcare reform by the Democrats, brokered by the Obama administration. I fully endorse Jane's message, and encourage readers to sign the petition.
Obama FAIL

The Senate is cutting a deal to kill the public option by giving the President the “trigger” that his Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, has been fighting for since he took office.

Shoveling taxpayer dollars into “too big to fail” insurance companies is not the change I voted for. The failure to establish a public option to control medical costs and increase competition is President Obama’s failure alone.

Sign our petition to President Obama: the triggered public option is your failure, and it’s up to you to fix it. Click here to sign:

When Barack Obama announced his health care plan in 2007, he said insurance premiums for a family of 4 would be cut by $2500. This plan will see premiums increase $1000 each year.

Obama said “coverage without cost containment will only shift our burdens, not relieve them.” This plan does nothing to meaningfully contain spiraling health care costs.

Obama said “it’s time to let the drug and insurance industries know that while they’ll get a seat at the table, they don’t get to buy every chair.” This plan includes a deal between the White House and PhRMA that guarantees there will be no negotiation for Medicare prescription drug prices.

Obama said he’d go after the drug companies who “sell the same exact drugs here in America for double the price of what they charge in Europe and Canada.” But the White House deal not only doesn’t do that, it bans the reimportation of cheaper drugs from Canada.

What does this deal do? It forces Americans to buy the products of large corporations, then the IRS penalizes them if they refuse.
The Senate’s triggered public option is a failure of Barack Obama. Let him know. Click here to sign our petition:

Obama is the only one who can save the public option and make these statements more than mere campaign promises. The fight isn’t over, and we need to let Obama know that a failed public option will be his fault. Thanks for all you do.

Jane Hamsher
Click here to sign the petition.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

New Soldz Article Pounds Gelles/FBI Story on Al Qahtani Interrogation

Psychologist Stephen Soldz has written a scathingly accurate article on ex-PENS task force member Michael Gelles, and the truth behind the myth that Gelles and others intervened at Guantanamo and tried to stop the abusive interrogation of Mohamed Al Qahtani and replace it with a benign and more effective form of "rapport"-based interrogation.

Soldz describes, in The "Ethical Interrogation": The Myth of Michael Gelles and the al-Qahtani Interrogation, how the FBI and other interrogators working in the Criminal Investigative Task Force at Guantanamo in late 2002, proposed an interrogation approach to a psychiatrically debilitated Al Qahtani that would exploit months of isolation and abuse with -- another year of near-total isolation! 

Soldz quotes "former police investigator and veteran Army counterintelligence operative David DeBatto" on the likely result of the plan Gelles was proposing:

"That [the initial three-months isolation] is an excessively long time and on the face of it, violates the UCMJ [Uniform Code of Military Justice] and international law. Two major problems I have with this is first, solitary is a punishment reserved for the worst kind of behavior by inmates in a prison, not for refusing to answer questions. Second, it is the worst possible way to interrogate anyone and will almost always produce negative results."

There's a lot more I could say about Dr. Soldz's excellent article, but for now I simply want to direct my readership to it. I'll have more to comment in a few days.

In the meantime, I'll note that in the same batch of material from the ACLU FOIA release upon which Stephen drew for the article, I found this strange admission from an anonymous member of the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit, in a memo addressed to Raymond S. Mey in FBI's Counterterrorism Unit, Marion Bowman (Senior Counsel for National Security Affairs) and various Special Agents in the Bureau's Miami office. The memo's date is 5/30/2003. (Note, Mey's name is redacted on the latest version of this memo, which otherwise unredacts much of the text; but Mey's name appears on earlier versions.) Emphasis is added to quote below:

Although SERE techniques may be effective in eliciting tactical intelligence in a battlefield context, the reliability of information obtained using such tactics is highly questionable, not to mention potentially legally inadmissible in court.
Now, since this memo was written to complain about the use of "aggressive interrogation tactics" at Guantanamo, which we know were based on the SERE techniques, it's interesting to see this FBI agent note that such techniques "may be effective" on the battlefield. Why even make this comment? Was it understood that Special Forces were already using such techniques in theater operations? Is torture okay in certain circumstances?

Just asking...

Monday, December 7, 2009

Seton Hall Report on Guantanamo "Suicides": "Death in Camp Delta"

Marcy Wheeler reports this morning on the new Seton Hall University School of Law/Center for Policy and Research report, Death in Camp Delta (PDF). Drawing on evidence in the Seton CPR report, she notes that government claims that the three men found dead by purported suicide, June 10, 2006, were in reality practitioners of "asymmetrical warfare," i.e., not suicide or homicide victims, is highly dubious:

As the report describes, for the three detainees to have really committed suicide, they would have all had to have done the following:
  • Braided a noose by tearing up their sheets and/or clothing
  • Made mannequins of themselves so it would appear to the guards that they were asleep in their cells
  • Hung sheets to block the view into the cells, a violation of SOPs
  • Tied their feet together
  • Tied their hands together
  • Shoved rags in their mouths and down their throats
  • Hung the noose from the metal mesh of the cell wall and/or ceiling
  • Climbed up on to the sink, put the noose around their necks and released their weight, resulting in death by strangulation
  • Hung dead for at least two hours completely unnoticed by guards
The amount of surveillance of prisoners at Guantanamo makes most of these suicide stories suspicious. The new report (which at over 100 pages I haven’t fully absorbed yet, am much beholden to EW for taking such quick notice and posting) makes it clear that the prisoners were under constant surveillance. Note that autopsy reports demonstrate that two of the prisoners had been dead for two hours prior to being discovered. One of the prisoners had a broken hyoid bone, a clear sign of manual strangulation.

I’m working on a follow-up to the story of Mohamed Saleh Al Hanashi, another purported Guantanamo "suicide" from earlier this year. While that story is not complete yet, I can reveal one thing from that material. Lt. Commander Brook DeWalt, the Director of Public Affairs at Guantanamo, told me in a telephone interview on Nov. 24 that while he couldn’t confirm the extent of video surveillance, he could confirm that “all detainees are on line-of-sight” monitoring, “or at most a 3 minutes check on every detainee in the facility.” How these three prisoners, who were in separate, non-contiguous cells, were able to do all that Marcy notes above, and not be noticed for hours boggles the imagination, and suggests — no, demands, a fuller investigation.

While one is thinking of the all the great work done by Mark Denbeaux and the whole Seton Hall University School of Law team, it would do everybody some good to go back and look at their December 2007 report, Captured on Tape: Interrogation and Videotaping at Detainees in Guantanamo (emphasis in original):
More than 24,000 interrogations have been conducted at Guantánamo since 2002.

Every interrogation conducted at Guantánamo was videotaped.

The Central Intelligence Agency is just one of many entities that interrogated detainees at Guantánamo.

The agencies or bureaus that interrogated at Guantánamo include: the Central Intelligence Agency and its Counterterrorism Center; the Criminal Investigation Task Force (CITF); the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); the Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) of the FBI; Defense Intelligence Analysis (DIA); Defense Human Intelligence (HUMINT); Army Criminal Investigative Division (ACID); the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI); and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS). Private contractors also interrogated detainees….

One Government document, for instance, reports detainee treatment so violent as to “shake the camera in the interrogation room” and “cause severe internal injury.” Another describes an interrogator positioning herself between a detainee and the camera,in order to block her actions from view.

The Government kept meticulous logs of information related to interrogations. Thus, it is ascertainable which videotapes documenting interrogations still exist, and which videotapes have been destroyed.

This earlier Seton Hall report on the suicides has more information about the prisoners. One of the latter, Yassar Talal Al-Zahrani, was only 17 years old when he was arrested by anti-Taliban forces in late 2001. He was never accused of being al Qaeda, but he was, again, like Hanashi, one of the prisoners at Mazar-i-Sharif at the time of the prisoner uprising in late 2001 (where John Walker Lindh was also captured). It’s unknown if, like Hanashi, he was later sent to Shabraghan Prison, where he could have heard of the mass killings by Dostum and (arguably) U.S. Special Forces.

Meanwhile, in the current report just released, readers may wish to take a look at Appendix J, “Missing and Redact ed Pages.” One hundred eight-six of 191 photo pages in the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) investigative file are listing as “missing”. The photos are said to be located at parent Guantanamo command, SOUTHCOM. Another big chunk of missing or redacted pages: 250 SOUTHCOM documents.

Meanwhile, 91 pages of documents from the Armed Forces Medical Examiners are likewise “missing.” I suppose we should be thankful the Seton Hall investigative crew got the autopsies. I have a feeling this new Seton Hall study will be worth examining in detail.

Addendum: Scott Horton has an article at Huffington Post on the new Seton Hall Guantanamo revelations, Law School Study Finds Evidence Of Cover-Up After Three Alleged Suicides At Guantanamo In 2006:

The Seton Hall study concludes that the NCIS investigators made conclusions completely unsupported by facts. For instance, they concluded that the three prisoners committed suicide as part of a "conspiracy." But, according to the study: "The investigations... fail to present any evidence of a conspiracy. In fact, all other evidence is inconsistent with the conclusion that the detainees conspired"....

When the NCIS report was finally released, it was redacted so heavily as to make it almost incomprehensible. More than a third of the pages were fully redacted, and very few pages were released without some redaction. The NCIS report itself is highly disorganized, without an index or even a chronological progression in its recounting of events. All this appears intended to make review and criticism of the report much more difficult. While the redaction of names of service personnel is appropriate, it is difficult to understand why many other redactions were undertaken.

Human Rights Watch is calling for the release of the unredacted NCIS report. HRW's Joanne Mariner stated, in response to a request for comment, that "the heavy-handed nature of the redactions to the publicly-released reports of the investigations makes it impossible to get a clear picture of the events of that night. We think that the heavy redactions currently found in the documents -- by which names, dates, and other key facts are completely obscured on many pages -- raise concerns about whether the military is trying to hide embarrassing facts."

Also, here's a link to the PDF of the fragmentary NCIS report itself, released, as Horton points out, two years after the fact.

A Final Update, 10:45 pm -- "Gitmo Meets Lord of the Flies" (Denbeaux):

Glenn Greenwald has an article up on the Seton Hall report:

There is one way that a meaningful investigation could be conducted into what happened to these three detainees: a lawsuit filed in federal court by the parents of two of the detainees against various Bush officials for the torture and deaths of their sons -- who had never been charged with, let alone convicted of, any wrongdoing (indeed, one had been cleared for release). By itself, discovery in that lawsuit would shed critical light on what was done to these detainees and what caused their deaths.

The problem, however, is that the Obama DOJ has been using every Bush tactic -- and inventing whole new ones -- to block the lawsuit from proceeding.

Also, Scott Horton, who was interviewed on the story by Keith Olberman tonight (video), has an interview with the reports main author, Mark Denbeaux, over at Huffington Post.

Using Photos of Abu Zubaydah's Torture to Intimidate and Threaten Other Prisoners

Originally posted at Firedoglake

The set-up of Abu Zubaydah as an Al Qaeda bigwig may have been meant, among other things, for use in intimidation and torture of other prisoners. Andy Worthington recounts how a prisoner captured with Zubaydah, Omar Gharmesh, reported to another prisoner in Syria's infamous Palestine Branch prison, where they were sent via "extraordinary rendition," that he was shown pictures of a tortured Abu Zubaydah and told, “If you don’t talk, this is what will happen to you.”

What has not been reported until now is that another prisoner reports that he and a number of other detainees at Guantanamo were also shown pictures of a tortured and injured Abu Zubaydah.

Ibrahim Mahdi Achmed Zeidan, a Jordanian prisoner transferred from Guantanamo to Jordan two years ago (despite the fact the Jordanians told him they "would beat" him when he was released from Guantanamo), stated in his Combatant Status Review Tribunal (Sept. 27, 2004) that he knew about Abu Zubaydah's torture. Zeidan claimed that Zubaydah's statements identifying him had been induced by this torture. How did he know Zubaydah had been tortured, the Guantanamo tribunal asked, and Zeidan replied (bold emphasis added):
We know from the American interrogators, not only me, but also a lot of other detainees on this island know that he was subject to a lot of torture. There was a picture of him, I didn't see it, and someone else did showing the signs of torture on his body.
Two recent news items  -- the revelation Binyam Mohamed was a victim of the same treatment Abu Zubaydah received, and at about the same time (discussed in my last post); and the repeated use of the fact of Zubaydah's torture in the interrogation of prisoners, including oral statements from interrogators and pictures of a tortured Zubaydah -- demonstrate how little we really know about the particulars of the operations of the U.S. torture program.

Nor do we know very much about what is going on even now, in an era of supposed transparency by the Obama administration. The Washington Post and New York Times each had articles over the weekend about torture occuring at a remaining, "classified" black site prison run by Special Operations at Bagram Air Base. The Post article used testimony from two Afghan teens, one of whom said he had been forced to watch pornography while also looking at a picture of his mother. The Times article, with 42-year-old displaced farmer Hamidullah, described a period of torture that took place since Obama became president.

Also demonstrating how little we still know about the extent of U.S. torture and abusive detention policies, in early November the ACLU wrote to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, "requesting updated data on juveniles in U.S. military custody in Iraq and Afghanistan and information on efforts to bring U.S. policy regarding the treatment, detention and trial of juveniles into compliance with international law."

As for Abu Zubaydah, it seems likely at this point that his torture was singled out for special treatment and photographic propagation because he was being set-up as a major figure. After his cover story as a key leader was embedded in the public's mind (and remember that Ron Suskind found that Bush was the major figure in pushing the importance of Zubaydah). the fact of his torture was then paraded before other prisoners in an effort to scare and intimidate them. Meanwhile, a major scandal and investigation have involved the CIA's admitted destruction of videotapes of Zubaydah's interrogation. Were the photos of Zubaydah's torture also destroyed?

The similar torture of Binyam Mohamed and perhaps others, even quite early on, took place in total secrecy. For this part of the torture narrative, the United States and its British ally have been trying mightily to suppress all knowledge, but thanks to the intrepid morality of some British judges, they have failed.

As Andy Worthington noted, propagating knowledge of this "evidence of widespread torture and abuse prior to the August 2002 torture memo... may well have to be the focus of our pressure as writers and activists if, as anticipated, the OPR [Office of Public Responsibility] report on the OLC [Office of Legal Counsel] lawyers ends up having had its teeth removed."

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

UK Revelations Challenge Known Torture Narrative

Originally posted at Firedoglake

The fight in a United Kingdom courtroom over secret documents related to the torture of former Guantanamo prisoner and rendition victim Binyam Mohamed has resulted in a striking new revelation, as reported by Mohamed's attorney Clive Stafford Smith and British journalist Andy Worthington. Newly unredacted material from a previously censored portion of an earlier ruling by a UK court significantly expands the timeline and scope of the introduction of SERE-style "enhanced" interrogation techniques."

The newly released passage in the court's previously censored ruling describes how the torture techniques described in the infamous August 1, 2002 "Bybee memo" (PDF) -- written to provide a green light for the torture of Abu Zubaydah -- were used on Binyam Mohamed by unnamed U.S. agents while Mohamed was held in custody in Pakistan in April and May 2002. This was some four months or so before the authorization "authorization" of these techniques.

Here is the key unredacted passage, from the UK court's latest filing on the case (PDF), emphasis added:
One of those memoranda dated August 1 2002, from Mr. J.S. Bybee, Assistant Attorney-General, to Mr. John Rizzo, acting General Counsel of the CIA, made clear that the techniques described [as used upon Binyam Mohamed] were those employed against Mr. Zubaydah, alleged to be a high-ranking member of al-Qaeda.”
The court is talking about techniques used by U.S. agents against Binyam Mohamed while he was first held in Pakistan. The unredacted paragraph makes it "clear" that the techniques in the Bybee memo were earlier used upon Mohamed. The court had originally described these techniques in a seven-page summary of documents that were provided by the U.S. to the UK government concerning Mohamed's Pakistan interrogation. The seven-page summary, written by the judges themselves in lieu of publication of the full documentation, is currently classified at the behest of the British government, and against the protest of the judges themselves. (Marcy Wheeler discussed some of the intricacies of the document trail in a recent posting.)

What is often forgotten about these first interrogations in Pakistan is that they were reportedly performed by the FBI. If that could be established as definitive, then the role of the FBI in the propagation of torture would be significantly different than what is usually reported, i.e., that the FBI forswore torture for rapport-building-style interrogation.

Search for Info/News on Torture

Google Custom Search
Add to Google ">View blog reactions

This site can contain copyrighted material, the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. I am making such material available in my effort to advance understanding of political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. I believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.