Friday, February 26, 2010

Two More Essential Articles on OPR/OLC Torture Scandal

I'm too busy to be writing up my own article today. Luckily, there's a lot of excellent work being done right now on the torture situation, coming on the heels of revelations in the DoJ's OPR report on the torture memos, and its ignoble conclusion by DoJ fixer David Margolis to overrule the judgment of the report.

Here's an article by Marcy Wheeler at Emptywheel, who has found a crucial piece of extra evidence by carefully sifting through the OPR report, and drawing on her knowledge of the torture scandal:

What If They DID Use Mock Burial with Abu Zubaydah? 

In my last post [The Mock Burial in the OPR Report], I showed that the CIA asked DOJ to approve the use of mock burial, but DOJ refused. I noted that the ICRC report doesn’t appear to show that Abu Zubaydah was subjected to mock burial (though he was subject to confinement in both a small and a larger box).

But what if he was? What if, in the period before the torture memos, James Mitchell subjected Abu Zubaydah to mock burial, and DOJ later refused to give it retroactive approval?

After all, John Yoo specifically said that mock burial violates the torture statute. If he said that–and OPR has records–then what does that mean for those who authorized and carried out mock burial?
Wheeler goes on to describe what she found in the OPR report to back up this thesis. Raw Story picked up her analysis and now has published their own story about it.

Meanwhile, Scott Horton continues his excellent deconstruction/analysis of the Margolis memorandum which exonerated torture memo authors John Yoo and Jay Bybee, concluding their collaboration with the CIA in constructing the torture program was merely, in the matter of writing the torture memos, "bad judgment."

More Investigations for the Torture Lawyers

I am just back from the Alliance For Justice’s panel discussion on the OPR Report, at which I spoke, at the Washington office of Wilmer Hale. The show-stealer was the presentation by Georgetown professor Michael Frisch, one of the District of Columbia’s leading legal ethics experts and a long-time enforcer for the D.C. Bar Council.

Frisch eviscerated both the OPR report and the David Margolis memo. The key ethics inquiry, he argued, was under Rule 1.2(d)—whether Yoo, Bybee, and Bradbury were actually counseling a crime. In this case, the evidence that their advice was designed to facilitate torture is clear-cut, torture is a felony, and multiple players putting a scheme in place to torture is a conspiracy to torture. Yet neither the OPR report nor David Margolis even considered this question, focusing all their energy instead on two weak and rarely enforced provisions of the ethics code dealing with the duty of candor and the duty to exercise independent professional judgment....

... the [New York] Times [25 February editorial] zeroes in on what strikes me as the fishiest part of the whole DOJ ethics escapade: the “disappearance” of John Yoo’s and Patrick Philbin’s emails. Emails at an institution like the Justice Department don’t just “disappear.” Someone deleted them. Moreover, for a deletion to be effective enough to avoid an investigation, extraordinary steps have to be taken. In a criminal investigation (as should have taken place), this would have been an act of criminal obstruction. What’s out there that they don’t want us to see?
We, the American people, must demand clear, open, and fair investigations of the government's torture program, and this investigation must be allowed to go wherever it must -- into the executive branch (military, CIA, Justice Department), the Congress, private contractors, etc. A clear evil is eating away at our society, and its most serious symptom is the torture and murder of human beings, and the covering up of these crimes.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Leahy Calls One-Day, One-Witness Hearing on OPR Report: Who is Gary Grindler?

“Do you know who the Rosenbergs are?” [the agent] asked.

“I heard of them, yeah, I heard them mention,” Dr. Lee said.

“The Rosenbergs are the only people that never cooperated with the federal government in an espionage case,” she said. “You know what happened to them? They electrocuted them, Wen Ho.”

I couldn't find much online about Acting Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler, the man tapped by Sen. Patrick Leahy to appear at the Senate Judiciary's hearing this Friday, February 26 (H/T Bob in AZ).

The one-day minimal hearing is supposed to show the Senate registering oversight on the OPR report and the Margolis intervention to clear John Yoo and Jay Bybee of "professional misconduct" in the torture memos affair.

Did I say that Mr. Grindler is also considered an excellent attorney, having won the The Best Lawyers in America award in the area of white collar criminal defense?

I also see that he played a minor role in the controversies around the Wen Ho Lee investigation and incarceration. At the time (circa 1999-2000), Mr. Grindler was Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General in Janet Reno's DoJ. Wen Ho Lee, a Taiwanese-American, had been a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico for approximately 20 years prior to his arrest.

The situation was this: the FBI and DoJ had bungled their investigation of possible spy Wen Ho Lee so badly that the supposed evidence in the case was hopelessly compromised. Nevertheless, after he was arrested, Lee was placed under onerous Special Administrative Measures (SAM). Ultimately he spent nine months in strict solitary confinement, until he agreed to a plea agreement on a felony count of improperly downloading Restricted Data. He was released from custody and served no subsequent jail time.

According to a Senate investigation in 2001:

Specifically, Dr. Lee’s confinement consisted of 24 hour supervision by a rotation of guards, permission to speak only with his attorneys and immediate family members (his wife, daughter and son) and in English only, non-contact visits from his immediate family members limited to one hour per week, no personal phone calls, and that he remain secured in his cell 24 hours a day./246/ Further, Dr. Lee was to remain in full restraints (leg and hand irons) anytime he was to be out of his cell being moved from one location to another./247/

As previously noted, Dr. Lee’s lawyers protested his conditions of confinement almost from the beginning.

An Internet site set up to support Dr. Lee elaborated on his situation:

A chain around his belly connecting to his handcuff prevents him from raising his hand above his head. We were told that two U.S. Marshals with machine guns accompanied him whenever he goes within the confine of the prison and a 'chase car' with armed Marshals follows Dr. Lee when he is moved from Santa Fe to Albuquerque and back.

The judge who initially denied Dr. Lee a pretrial release, nevertheless admonished the government “to explore ways to loosen the severe restrictions currently imposed upon Dr. Lee while preserving the security of sensitive information.” But the government wouldn't have any of that. As to the kind of interrogation Dr. Lee received, a small piece of the transcript is quoted at the lead of this article.

When Janet Reno told Gary Grindler that there were protests about Lee not getting enough exercise time, Grindler wrote a memo back to her:

A January 12, 2000 memorandum to the Attorney General from Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler demonstrates that at least some of the concerns of Dr. Lee’s lawyers were taken to the highest reaches of the Justice Department. The memo notes that the Attorney General had “advised that some individuals have expressed concern about Dr. Lee’s access to exercise,” and explains that the order for Special Administrative Measures that she was being asked to sign “does not limit Dr. Lee’s access to exercise. According to the Santa Fe County Jail rules, Dr. Lee will be limited to one-hour per day of exercise, as are all administrative segregation prisoners.”

I can’t access the memo, but I wonder if Grindler mentioned that the exercise hour was conducted in shackles, and continued so until July 2000.

The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Department of Justice Oversight concluded:

While the government may have believed such harsh conditions were necessary, they have not made a convincing case. Judge Parker was not convinced by the government’s arguments, and granted Dr. Lee’s renewed motion for pretrial release on August 24, 2001. In his remarks at the plea hearing, Judge Parker expressed his sentiments, telling Dr. Lee that “since by the terms of the plea agreement that frees you today without conditions, it becomes clear that the Executive Branch now concedes, or should concede, that it was not necessary to confine you last December or at any time before your trial.”

…. After careful review, it becomes apparent that the government was right to reach a plea agreement with Dr. Lee, whose actions did constitute a serious threat to the national security, but was wrong to hold him virtually incommunicado in pretrial confinement for more than nine months.

Not too much to go on here, but Grindler’s association with abusive conditions of imprisonment should be explored, given the nature of his testimony and appearance in this context. But leaving aside Grindler and the issues associated with him, Leahy's hearing feels almost like a joke, a kick-in-the-teeth to those of use who are extremely concerned and disgusted about the way this country has handled the torture issue. Where is Yoo? Bybee? David Margolis or Eric Holder? These are the people you'd think any competent Congressional committee would call on the carpet. But all the power of Congress these days vis-a-vis the Executive Branch appears it could fit in a teacup.

As psychologist-activist-blogger Stephen Soldz put it in an article on the OPR report and Margolis memo:

A beautiful job, now completed by Obama-Holder Justice Department hack Margolis. Future lawless administrations now have a ready template to use to provide legal rationale for any abuses they desire.

As a postscript to this story, it should be noted that:

In June 2006, Lee received $1.6 million from the federal government and five media organizations as part of a settlement of a civil suit he had filed against them for leaking his name to the press before any formal charges had been filed against him. Federal judge James A. Parker eventually apologized to Lee for the government misconduct of which he had been the victim.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

OPR Report Whitewash: U.S. DOJ Officially Alibis Construction of Torture Program

Selections from two outstanding articles covering the OPR torture report scandal. Other important articles have appeared as well, both at, for instance, Andy Worthington's blog, and at Marcy Wheeler's Emptywheel.

From Stephen Soldz at Op-Ed News:

Justice Department protects the torture lawyers, persecutes the ethical
The torture memo author John Yoo is excused, according to DoJ hack David Margolis, because he simply demonstrated "poor judgment" in claiming that the abhorrent and patently illegal was legal. Jay Bybee was excused because he, according to Margolis, didn't pay attention when he signed off on torture.

The circle is now closed and smoothed:

* White House desires torture
* CIA demands legal cover
* OLC asked to provide legal rationale
* CIA and White House tell what they want OLC memos to say; CIA provides the so-called "evidence" of safety of torture techniques
* OLC writes the memos, following instructions
* Obama White House then says no one can be prosecuted because they followed the memos
* Memo authors are immune because there was no standard saying that incompetent work on demand designed to legalize hitherto illegal activities is unethical
* Thus, patently illegal activities are able to carried out with no legal culpability for anyone

A beautiful job, now completed by Obama-Holder Justice Department hack Margolis. Future lawless administrations now have a ready template to use to provide legal rationale for any abuses they desire.
Dahlia Lithwick at Slate:
Torture Bored: How we've erased the legal lines around torture and replaced them with nothing.

So murky is the line between torture and tough talk that Dick Cheney can now admit to having endorsed water-boarding on national television. Mark Thiessen, the Bush speechwriter turned Washington Post columnist, can appear on a Catholic television program, not merely to defend torture but to find it consistent with Catholic teachings. Thiessen excoriated CNN's Christiane Amanpour for even calling what we did to prisoners "water-boarding" since we don't, after all, use a big box. And when Bob Barr, former U.S. attorney for the northern district of Georgia and a member of the House of Representatives, suggested at CPAC this past weekend that water-boarding is plainly torture, he was booed. Because it's become an article of faith that whatever Americans do cannot be torture. That's not a legal definition. It's magical thinking. Today there is plenty of room for water-boarding in our sub-basement, and we've thrown in a pinball machine and a jukebox so CPAC can party down there.

And now here comes the long waited report from the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility, pushed out late Friday, Timid Mean Time, after having been drafted and redrafted and then papered over with legal analysis that shows that the lawyers tasked with advising the president on the legal floor for torturing prisoners were not fully responsible for being unable to locate it. And because there can be no legal boundaries unless lawyers locate and police them, the conclusion is inescapable: If there is no lawyer competent to identify it, there is no longer a floor at all.

For reasons mostly bad, as David Luban explains in Slate today, DoJ career lawyer David Margolis argued for downgrading OPR's conclusion that the Bush lawyers committed professional misconduct to the far lesser sin of "poor judgment." That means that while Tiger Woods apologized to the nation for his personal marital infidelity, there will never be an apology from anyone for the humiliation and abuse of our captives. According to Margolis, Yoo and Bybee made some bad calls, but, to paraphrase Prof. Jack Balkin, since lawyers are weasels and write their own rules, how much could we really expect from the Bush legal team? In declining to refer Bybee and Yoo for disciplinary proceedings, Margolis determined that the standard for professional misconduct for a lawyer is both ambiguous in theory and astonishingly low in practice.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Trailblazing Film on Psychiatric Hospital Horrors, "Titicut Follies" Now Online

Long forbidden for public viewing -- the only U.S. film ever banned for reasons other than obscenity or national security -- a copy of Frederick Wiseman's award-winning 1967 film Titicut Follies has been made available online, thanks to The film is distributed for public sale on DVD by Zipporah Films.

According to the film website IMDb:
The only American film banned from release for reasons other than obscenity or national security, Titicut Follies was filmed inside the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Bridgewater, a prison hospital for the criminally insane. After the Commonwealth of Massachusetts sued the filmmakers, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the film constituted was an invasion of inmate privacy and ordered the withdrawal of the film from circulation.
Zipporah Films describes the film thus:
The film is a stark and graphic portrayal of the conditions that existed at the State Prison for the Criminally Insane at Bridgewater, Massachusetts. TITICUT FOLLIES documents the various ways the inmates are treated by the guards, social workers and psychiatrists.
Robert Coles at The New Republic wrote of the film:
After a showing of TITICUT FOLLIES the mind does not dwell on the hospital’s ancient and even laughable physical plant, or its pitiable social atmosphere. What sticks, what really hurts is the sight of human life made cheap and betrayed. We see men needlessly stripped bare, insulted, herded about callously, mocked, taunted. We see them ignored or locked interminably in cells. We hear the craziness in the air, the sudden outbursts, the quieter but stronger undertow of irrational noise that any doctor who has worked under such circumstances can only take for so long. But much more significantly, we see the ‘professionals’, the doctors and workers who hold the fort in the Bridgewaters of this nation, and they are all over…TITICUT FOLLIES is a brilliant work of art...
The film carries stark associations for those of us who have lived through the years of Abu Ghraib, Bagram, CIA "black site" EIT torture, and Guantanamo, and in particular have witnessed the collaboration of medical and psychological personnel in the implementation and operation of the torture practices at these sites. It has long been rumored that Bridgewater State Hospital was a site for MKULTRA mind control and drug experiments in the 1950s and 1960s.

While I could not verify the latter in a fashion that was compelling, in the well-regarded book by Alan Scheflin and Edward Opton, Jr., The Mind Manipulators, the authors describe experimental studies in cytogenetics and the brain conducted at Bridgewater in the early 1970s, at least four years after the release of this film. The researchers were looking for ways to identify subjects for psychosurgery to "control violent behavior in some destructive individuals." The Law Enforcement Assistance Administration gave a $79,900 grant (almost $425,000 in current dollars) to Dr. Lawrence Razavi, who would use prisoners at Bridgewater to see if "individuals suitable for psycosurgery could... be identified at reasonable cost by using the filter of routine fingerprints" (pp. 292-294).

The connection with prisoner abuse at Bridgewater -- including widespread use of isolation and nudity, and force feeding of hunger strikers -- is tantalizing since Dr. Robert A. Fein worked there from 1976 to 1985. Dr. Fein is today one of the "three members of the [CIA's] Intelligence Science Board, a panel that reports to the director of national intelligence", and a central consultant for President Obama's plans to reform U.S. policy on interrogations. The other two members of the panel are former Deputy Attorney General and current Harvard law professor Philip Heymann and former CIA official John MacGaffin.

Heymann was "the number-two official in Janet Reno's Justice Department," and publicly has spoken about reconciling the need for democratic liberties with counter-terrorism policy. MacGaffin was formerly "number two spymaster for clandestine operations", and later a liaison between the FBI and CIA. According to PBS's Frontline, MacGaffin is
... critical of taking a law enforcement approach to terrorism when there is the possibility that a suspect can be used to gather intelligence about an organization. He argues that during the Cold War, the FBI was very effective at infiltrating the Communist Party inside the U.S. and that it can and should try this approach with terrorist organizations. MacGaffin, along with five other former U.S. national security officials, is the author of a July 2003 article published in The Economist titled "America Needs More Spies.
As for psychologist Robert Fein, there is no reason to believe he was associated with any abuses at Bridgewater. But it would be interesting to know what conditions existed at the prison hospital during Fein's stay there, and how he was affected by it.

One thing is certain: it is difficult to watch the film and not be powerfully affected by it. It is almost a cliche to call it "graphic." It is disturbing and enlightening. Warning: contains scenes of nudity, obscenity, and strong emotional intensity.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Politicizing Crime, the OPR Report and the Degeneracy of the Ruling Elite

"Know thou this, that men are as the time is." -- Shakespeare
In an excellent post at Inside-Out the Beltway on the controversy over the shameless refusal by the U.S. Department of Justice to formally charge former Bush-era torture memo attorneys John Yoo and Jay Bybee with professional misconduct for their work in legitimating torture on behalf of the U.S. military and CIA, Chris in DC makes a very, very important point in a response to one of his commenters (bold emphasis added):
Cetamua asked whether future administrations could prosecute Cheney and others for war crimes even if this one doesn't. I replied that this was theoretically possible (many of these crimes have no statute of limitations), but that the problem with delaying any kind of accountability for high-level misconduct is that, as time passes, the misconduct is seen as condoned by society and thus becomes much more difficult to punish.

This is especially the case where, as here, the establishment mantra throughout that time is that prosecuting the conduct is "criminalizing politics" (when, in fact, the precise opposite is happening: politicizing crime). In fact, establishment acceptance of this cynical distortion is even more harmful than mere reluctance or refusal to prosecute, because framing the criminal activity in a purely political context allows it to become openly advocated in mainstream forums by the political factions that most benefit from a failure to prosecute (e.g., Dick Cheney).

The outcome, then, of the politicization of crime caused by the "criminalizing politics" meme is that the debate shifts from whether the activity is reprehensible and punishable to whether the activity is smart and desirable. Hence, we see the continuing, unashamed arguments from right-wingers not only that brutal torture is not a crime (when done by or for the United States), but that torture is in fact wise and imperative national security policy, with its opponents cynically cast as weak and unserious for even suggesting otherwise.

This is why you cannot play games with matters as severe as these. Backing away from the only morally and legally sane response to war crimes - full criminal investigation and prosecution - is not a "trans-partisan" invitation to politely overcome the rancor and monstrousness of the past, it is the crucial first step to normalization and continuation of that same monstrousness and criminality.
While many will look at the legal aspects of the case, at the Congressional investigations supposedly to follow, etc., the overwhelming effect of reading the Office of Professional Responsiblity (OPR) material (see, for instance, Emptywheel's site, where Marcy Wheeler and a number of associates are dissecting the various components of the OPR report) is of a totally bankrupt, politically criminal government. These people operate at the moral level of an Eichmann. They are infected with the virus of torture, which in its later stages, metastasizes into feelings of omnipotence, delusions of grandeur, malignant narcissism, and outright sociopathy.

I don't believe I've seen such depictions of moral depravity at a fundamental level since the shenanigans of the distaff state of Salò.

Meanwhile, much of the population believes that Barack Obama, Eric Holder, and their associates are somehow going to change all this, even as they have taken clear steps -- not least placing David Margolis in charge of defanging the OPR report (which is from my standpoint underplayed anyway... letting Stephen Bradbury off, for instance) -- to make sure none of the governmental and military/intelligence criminals are ever held to account.

This failure to hold people accountable because the extent of U.S. criminality and illegal actions would become known has poisoned all political action in Washington, and no doubt extends to other components of government, and other issues (as in the recent failure to pass substantive health care reform).

The OPR report is a symptom of the extreme reactionary content of these political times. It is a gauntlet thrown down to the society at large. Are we really what these criminals represent? How can the mainstream press be so morally obtuse that they are not screaming about this from day one? What use a society such as this?

Links (h/t Emptywheel):
See also Jack Balkin's Justice Department Will Not Punish Yoo and Bybee Because Most Lawyers Are Scum Anyway, and Jason Leopold, DOJ Report on Torture Memo: Yoo Said Bush Could Order "Massacre" of Civilians.

Update -- from David Swanson's Yoo, Bybee and Disinformation (I thought this worth quoting at length, especially since I agree with David's suggestions about what to do now):

Everything you're reading about torture lawyers John Yoo and Jay Bybee getting off the hook is wrong. They are not torture lawyers, they are not off the hook, there never was any hook, they may not be lawyers for long, impeachment and indictment are on the agenda, and you have a role to play.

Calling these men "torture lawyers" is dramatically dumber than labeling Al Capone a tax cheat. These are people who provided "legal" cover for aggressive wars, who put down in documents treated as secret "laws" that any president can launch any aggressive war at his whim, without regard to domestic or international law, Congress, the Supreme Court, you, me, or morality. The very report that is the subject of the latest "news" flurry quotes Yoo declaring that, "Sure!", a president can order a village massacred....

Yoo and Bybee are openly guilty of conspiracy to engage in aggressive war, banned by the U.N. Charter and Article VI of the U.S. Constitution, and of conspiracy to torture, a felony under 18 U.S.C. § 2340A-c and § 2441, and to spy without warrants, banned by the Fourth Amendment. Their memos are public. The fact that everyone waited for years to do anything about it, until they could see the Justice Department's own report on the matter doesn't change the absolute irrelevance of such nonsense. Yoo's and Bybee's actions, no matter what you make of them, consist entirely in authorship of a series of written documents available for all to read. And those documents constitute overwhelming grounds for impeachment and indictment....

The report concludes that these war lawyers "committed intentional professional misconduct". The fact that some schmuck in the DOJ adds a note saying that they don't really mean it, doesn't change the fact that any institution in which Yoo's and Bybee's behavior did not constitute misconduct would need to be destroyed in its entirety beginning with actions to newly identify as unacceptable Yoo's and Bybee's crimes. And that they are crimes is not really impacted by whether or not they are "misconduct".

Of course the war lawyers can and must be disbarred, and you can help at

Senator Patrick Leahy and Congressman John Conyers understand the need to at least pretend that they are not taking their orders from an agency conducting a transparent fraud.... the reports are now public and the fraud out in the open. But Leahy is asking Bybee to resign, Conyers is avoiding the word "impeachment," and neither one of these gentlemen -- stand-out frauds in their own rights -- is talking about subpoenas.

Two things are needed here. First, we need to deter ongoing crime through punishment....

Second we need to find a way for the public to re-enter our government and gain some modicum of control over what it does. That is going to require restoring powers to Congress, and that is going to require at least one committee at the very least enforcing its own subpoenas through the Capitol Police force, if not the Congress impeaching and removing from office someone who used to work in the so-called executive branch. There is a campaign building pressure to demand Bybee's impeachment at

The Justice Department has been publicly and lawlessly ordered by the president not to enforce laws against the war lawyers. The threat of the DOJ issuing an official recommendation of disbarment does not exactly qualify as a hook (to be let off of). Nor does impeachment, although it serves the critical purpose of shifting power back to Congress, sufficiently deter ongoing crimes. What's going to be needed in the end is prosecution. But that's going to have to come through massive public pressure and intense pressure from Congress, from abroad, and from a strengthened independent communications system.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Pretty Boy Floyd in 21st Century America

Yes, as through this world I've wandered
I've seen lots of funny men;
Some will rob you with a six-gun,
And some with a fountain pen.

And as through your life you travel,
Yes, as through your life you roam,
You won't never see an outlaw
Drive a family from their home.

-- Woody Guthrie

Friday, February 19, 2010

DoJ's OPR Report Released on Yoo, Bybee Torture Memos (and David Margolis's Whitewash Memo, too)

Attorney General Eric Holder has ordered the release of the report of the Office of Professional Responsibility's (OPR) investigation into the culpability of the Office of Legal Counsel's activities in constructing the torture memos of August 2002 and beyond. These memos, written by John Yoo, Jay Bybee, Stephen Bradbury and others were rescinded in whole by Barack Obama soon after becoming president.

The OPR release is both interesting and frustrating. It contains both the first draft of the report, the second draft, the final report itself, and the memorandum for Holder written by David Margolis, which, as a Newsweek report predicted, partly exonerated Yoo and Bybee from charges of professional misconduct found in the OPR report itself, reducing their culpability to the much lesser charge of "bad judgment." (I wrote about Margolis's history at DoJ in running point guard on such cover-ups in an article at Firedoglake/The Seminal on a few weeks back. Scott Horton at Harpers also wrote his own article on some of Margolis's checkered career.)

Marcy Wheeler is currently holding forth, with her distinguished crew of commenters, in an open thread on the report over at Emptywheel/FDL. My H/T for the links above for the report go to her; and she also has links to the official replies of both Yoo and Bybee to the reports earlier drafts.

My frustrations regarding the release center around the amount of redactions. Many, if not most of them center around discussions or interactions concerning the CIA. It's clear the CIA played a central role in the vetting of the supposed safety of the SERE-centered torture techniques. CIA psychologists are said to have made representations regarding the safety of the "enhanced interrogation techniques," and solicited similar statements from SERE's parent agency, JPRA. CIA-contract psychologists, including James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, apparently ran the torture interrogations in the Spring/Summer 2002, for which the initial torture memos were written as after the fact justifications. One thing the OPR report does is corroborate that such "EIT" interrogation took place before the memos were written.

What is not well-known is that both government military research, funded through Ft. Detrick, with the participation of CIA researchers, were involved in studying the "uncontrollable stress" of SERE-style torture in 2002. The actual deleterious effects of such torture were well-known to the military and CIA, who either kept such information from the OLC attorneys (which seems less likely now, given the amount of interaction between Yoo and the others with CIA and military attorneys like William Haynes), or lied about it to them, or they all collaborated in submarining such information.

When CIA psychiatrist-expert Charles A. Morgan (one of the key researchers in the Ft. Detrick study mentioned above) denied that his research was for anything but PTSD studies, and also denied links to the CIA, going so far as to scrub such attributions from his Wikipedia page, he didn't count on the fact that online references to his military research, which was not related centrally to PTSD, was available (see long PDF), or that an early draft version of the Intelligence Science Board's Educing Information report specifically lists him with CIA organizational ties, listed as part of the study's twelve man committee of interrogation "experts." (These are documents in my possession, not currently online.) This is a story I will be telling in full in the very near future.

Center for Constitutional Rights has released a statement on news of the report's release, and makes the following points:
In response to the release of the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) report on the conduct of the lawyers involved in crafting and providing legal cover for the illegal torture program, the Center for Constitutional Rights issued the following statement:

At first look, the long-awaited OPR report makes it abundantly clear that the decisions about the torture program took place at the highest level, and the damning description of the program further show that the torture memos were written to order by the lawyers from the Office of Legal Counsel who played a key role in creating the program. The report underscores the need for a more thorough investigation that has more scope and powers to follow the evidence.

Among others, the lawyers John Yoo, Jay Bybee and Steven Bradbury have caused incalculable damage to our country and to thousands of victims as a result of the twisted legal advice they provided while at the Office of Legal Counsel. The OLC opinions were intended to provide legal cover for what everyone knew was illegal conduct. They advised the establishment of the prison at Guantanamo outside the law through the purposeful evasion of the Geneva Conventions and they advised the creation of a secret detention network for “enhanced interrogations” in flagrant violation of domestic and international law. Once unthinkable, they authorized and justified torture, rendition and secret CIA detention, often in a hands-on manner so detailed that it gives the lie to the notion they were giving abstract legal advice rather than making policy decisions to use torture

Ultimately Jay Bybee must be impeached, tried and removed from his seat as a federal judge on the 9th Circuit, but he should have the decency to resign immediately.

While the OPR should have recommended state bar associations professionally sanction the attorneys for ethics violations, and it is clear these men should be disbarred and prevented from ever practicing law again, we call on Attorney General Eric Holder to order these men criminally investigated by an independent special prosecutor who is allowed to follow the facts where they lead, all the way up the chain of command. We further call on the state bar associations, who are in no way bound by the conclusions of the report, to sanction the torture lawyers.

In addition, we demand that the OLC and CIA release the all of the records CCR is seeking with co-counsel through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in Amnesty International, CCR, et al. v. CIA, about the CIA’s torture, rendition and secret detention practices. The time has come for the public to see all of the documents that show the role these lawyers played in fashioning one of the most shameful sets of practices ever to emanate from Washington. A review of the OPR Report further confirms the illegal nature of the CIA’s practices; the government cannot abuse the FOIA to conceal these illegal or embarrassing government actions.

Torture, Rendition Programs Began During the Cold War

The Real Roots of the CIA's Rendition and Black Sites Program

by H.P. Albarelli and Jeffrey Kaye

Originally posted February 17, 2010 at Truthout

On Tuesday, February 10, the British High Court finally released a "seven-paragraph court document showing that MI5 officers were involved in the ill-treatment of a British resident, Binyam Mohamed." The document is itself a summary of 42 classified CIA documents given to the British in 2002. The US government has threatened the British government that the US-British intelligence relationship could be damaged if this material were released. The revelations regarding Mohamed's torture, which include documentation of the fact the US conducted "continuous sleep deprivation" under threats of harm, rendition, or being "disappeared," were criticized by the British court as being "at the very least cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by the United States authorities," and in violation of the United Nations Convention Against Torture.

The Mohamed case is the most prominent of a number of cases that have come to public attention. While the timeline of Mohamed's torture places the implementation of the Bush administration's so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" many months prior to their questionable legal justification in the August 1, 2002, Jay Bybee memo to the CIA, the use of torture and rendition has a much earlier provenance. Over the past decade, many Americans have been shocked and disturbed about the CIA's secret program of rendition and torture carried out in numerous secret sites (dubbed "black sites" by the CIA) around the globe. The dimensions of this program for the most part are still classified "Eyes Only" in the intelligence community, but the program's roots can be clearly discovered in the early 1950's with the CIA's Artichoke Project. Perhaps the best and strangest case illustrating this can be found in the agency's own files. This is the so-called "Lyle O. Kelly case." The facts of this case are drawn from declassified government documents.

An Early Example of Torture and Rendition: "The Kelly Case"

In late January 1952, Morse Allen, a CIA Security Office official, was summoned to the office of his superior, security deputy chief Robert L. Bannerman, where he met with another agency official to discuss what Bannerman initially introduced as "the Kelly case." Wrote Allen, in a subsequent memorandum for his files, the official "explained in substance the Kelly case as follows: "Kelly, (whose real name is Dimitrov), is a 29-year-old Bulgarian and was the head of a small political party based in Greece and ostentively [sic] working for Bulgarian independence." The official described Dimitrov [whose first name was Dimitre] to Allen as "being young, ambitious, bright ... a sort of a 'man-on-a-horse' type but a typical Balkan politician."

The official continued explaining to Allen that months earlier CIA field operatives discovered that Dimitrov was seriously considering becoming a double agent for the French Intelligence Service. "Accordingly," states the memo, "a plot was rigged in which [Dimitrov] was told he was going to be assassinated and as a protective he was placed in custody of the Greek Police." Successfully duped, Dimitrov was then thrown into prison. There he was subjected to interrogation and torture, and he witnessed the brutal torture of other persons the CIA had induced authorities to imprison. Greek intelligence and law enforcement agencies were especially barbaric in their methods. Highly respected Operation Gladio historian Daniele Ganser describes the treatment of prisoners: "Their toes and fingernails were torn out. Their feet were beaten with sticks, until the skin came off and their bones were broken. Sharp objects were shoved into their vaginas. Filthy rags, often soaked in urine, and sometimes excrement, were pushed down their throats to throttle them, tubes were inserted into their anus and water driven in under very high pressure, and electro shocks were applied to their heads."

According to Allen's memo, after holding Dimitrov for six months the Greek authorities decided he was no more than "a nuisance" and they told the CIA "to take him back." Because the agency was unable to dispose of Dimitrov in Greece, the memo states, the CIA flew him to a secret interrogation center at Fort Clayton in Panama. In the 1950's, Fort Clayton, along with nearby sister installations Forts Amador and Gulick, the initial homes of the Army's notorious School of the Americas, served as a secret prison and interrogation centers for double agents and others kidnapped and spirited out of Europe and other locations. Beginning in 1951, Fort Amador, and reportedly Fort Gulick, were extensively used by the Army and the CIA as a secret experimental site for developing behavior modification techniques and a wide range of drugs, including "truth drugs," mescaline, LSD and heroin. Former CIA officials have also long claimed that Forts Clayton and Amador in the 1950's hosted a number of secret Army assassination teams that operated throughout North and South America, Europe and Southeast Asia.

There in Panama, Dimitrov was again aggressively interrogated, and then confined as "a psychopathic patient" to a high-security hospital ward at Fort Clayton. Allen's memo makes a point of stating: "[Dimitrov] is not a psychopathic personality."

The Artichoke Treatment

This remarkable summary brought the official to the purpose of his meeting with CIA security official Morse Allen. After months of confinement in Panama, Dimitrov had become a serious problem for the agency and the military officials holding him in the hospital. Dimitrov had become increasingly angry and bitter about his treatment and he was insisting that he be released immediately. Dimitrov, through his strong intellect and observation powers, was also witnessing a great deal of Project Artichoke activity and on occasion would engage military and agency officials in unauthorized conversations. The official explained to Allen that the CIA could release Dimitrov to the custody of a friend of his in Venezuela, but was prone not to because Dimitrov was now judged to have become extremely hostile toward the CIA. "Hence," explained the official, "[CIA] is considering an 'Artichoke' approach to [Dimitrov] to see if it would be possible to re-orient [Dimitrov] favorably toward us."

Wrote Allen in his subsequent summary memorandum: "This [Artichoke] operation, which will necessarily involve the use of drugs is being considered by OPC with a possibility that Dr. Ecke and Mike Gladych will carry out the operation presumably at the military hospital in Panama. Also involved in this would be a Bulgarian interpreter who is a consultant to this Agency since neither Ecke nor Gladych speak Bulgarian." Allen noted in his memo that security chief Bannerman "pointed out" that this type of operation could "only be carried out" with his or his superior's (security chief Sheffield Edwards) authorization, and "that under no circumstances whatsoever, could anyone but an authorized M.D. administer drugs to any subject of this Agency of any type." (The "Dr. Ecke" mentioned above was Dr. Robert S. Ecke of Brooklyn, New York, and Eliot, Maine, where he died in 2001. "Mike Gladych," according to former CIA officials, was a decorated wartime pilot who after the war became "deeply involved in black market trafficking in Europe and the US," and then in the early 1950's was recruited to join a "newly composed Artichoke Team operating out of Washington, DC.")

Allen also wrote that Bannerman was concerned that the military hospital at Fort Clayton may not approve of or permit an Artichoke operation to be conducted on the ward within which Dimitrov was being held, thus necessitating the movement of Dimitrov to another location in Panama. Lastly, Bannerman stated to the official and Allen that "[the CIA's Office of] Security [through its Artichoke Committee] would have to be cognizant" of the operation, and may even want to "run the operation themselves since this type of work is one which Security handles for the Agency. Here it is interesting to note that among the many members of the agency's Artichoke Committee in 1952 was Dr. Frank Olson, who would about a year later be murdered in New York City.

Morse Allen concluded his memo: "While the [Artichoke] technique that Ecke and Gladych are considering for use in this case is not known to the writer [Allen], the writer believes the approach will be made through the standard narco-hypnosis technique. Re-conditioning and re-orientating an individual in such a matter, in the opinion of the writer, cannot be accomplished easily and will require a great deal of time.... It is also believed that with our present knowledge, we would have no absolute guarantee that the subject in this case would maintain a positive friendly attitude toward us even though there is apparently a successful response to the treatment. The writer did not suggest to [Bannerman and the CIA official] that perhaps a total amnesia could be created by a series of electro shocks, but merely indicated that amnesia under drug treatments was not certain." Interesting also is that Allen noted in his memo, about thirty days prior to his meeting, an official in the CIA's Technical Services Division, Walter Driscoll, discussed "the Kelly case" with him. No details of that discussion were provided.

About a month later, according to former CIA officials, after Artichoke Committee approval to subject Dimitrov to Artichoke techniques, a high-ranking CIA official objected to treating Dimitrov in such a manner. That objection delayed application of the techniques for about "three weeks." In March 1952, according to the same former officials, Dimitrov was "successfully given the Artichoke treatment in Panama for a period of about five weeks."

In late 1956, the CIA brought Dimitrov, at his request, to the United States. Apparently, the Agency felt comfortable enough with Dimitrov's diminished hostility and anger to agree to bring him to America from Athens, where he had returned for undetermined reasons. CIA files state, "The Agency made no further operation use of Dimitrov after he came to the United States, however, former CIA officials dispute this and relate that Dimitrov was "used on occasion for sensitive jobs."

This, however, was not the end of Dimitre Dimitrov's story.

After being relocated to the United States, Dimitrov either remained bitter or resumed his bitterness toward the CIA. In June 1960, he contacted the CIA's Domestic Contact Division and requested financial assistance for himself and additional covert support and assistance for activities against Bulgaria. In 1961, he contacted an editor at Parade, a Sunday newspaper magazine then with reported strong ties to the CIA, with the intention of telling his story. A Parade editor contacted the CIA and was informed, according to CIA documents, that Dimitrov was "an imposter" who was "disreputable, unreliable, and full of wild stories about the CIA."

About ten years after the JFK assassination, Dimitrov, operating sometimes under the aliases Lyle Kelly, James Adams, General Dimitre Dimitrov and Donald A. Donaldson, informed a number of people that he had information about who ordered the murder of JFK and who had committed the act. Reportedly, he had encountered the assassins while he had been imprisoned in Panama. He also told several people that he knew about military snipers who had murdered Martin Luther King. In 1977, Dimitrov actually met with US Sen. Frank Church, head of a Senate Committee investigating the CIA, and President Gerald Ford to share his information. Dimitrov said after the meeting that Ford had asked him to keep the information confidential until he could verify a number of facts. Immediately following the March 29, 1977, death of Lee Harvey Oswald's friend George de Mohrenschildt, Dimitrov became extremely frightened and contacted a reporter with a foreign television station who either mistakenly, or intentionally, revealed Dimitrov's name publicly on American television. Not long after this, Dimitrov disappeared in Europe where he had fled. He has never been seen or heard from since. Former CIA officials say privately, "Dimitrov was murdered" and "His body will never be found."

A 1977 memorandum written, before Dimitrov's disappearance, by an attorney in the CIA's General Counsel's Office, A. R. Cinquegrana, states: "[It appears] to me that the nature of the Agency's treatment of Dimitrov might be something which should be brought to the attention of appropriate officials both within and outside the Agency. The fact that he is still active and is making allegations connected with the Kennedy assassination may add yet another dimension to this story."

Binyam Mohamed's Torture

Dimtrov's story takes on added significance when one considers the latest stories of the unraveling torture conspiracy and operations conducted by the American CIA and Department of Defense, in conjunction with their British allied organizations, and a host of other governments, including Israel, Jordan, Morocco, Pakistan, Poland and numerous others. After a series of exposures during the 1970's, many assumed the worst excesses of the Cold War torture research program, and its implementation in programs such as the CIA's Operation Phoenix in Vietnam were a fixture of the past. However, subsequent revelations, e.g. the appearance of a US-sponsored torture manual for use in Latin America in the 1980's, including documentation of torture by US forces in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 and the invasion of Afghanistan, demonstrate that a direct line exists between the torture and rendition programs of the past and the practices of the present day. Recently, articles have detailed how the 2006 rewrite of the Army Field Manual allowed for use of ongoing isolation, sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, induction of fear and the use of drugs that cause temporary derangement of the senses.

The Binyam Mohamed story is unfortunately not unique, but it does demonstrate that the implementation of a SERE-derived experimental torture program began months before it was given legal cover by the memos written by John Yoo and Jay Bybee. Other stories, for instance of "War on Terror" captives being drugged and tortured, have been related by the prisoners themselves, by their attorneys, and by US and international rights agencies, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, whose report on the torture of CIA "high-value detainees" was leaked to Mark Danner of the New York Review of Books.

While Binyam in many ways had a very different personal background than Dimitrov, like the Bulgarian political leader, he was rendered to a US foreign ally for torture. He was drugged. He was considered unreliable and a "disposal" problem for US leaders, who kept secret the actual treatment they endured. Both were victims of a torture program run by the CIA. Both were sent from their foreign torturer back to US custody, where they endured intense psychological torture.

Binyam Mohamed was arrested in Pakistan in April 2002, where his torture, as evidenced by the latest UK court release, was supervised by US agents. This torture was akin to the treatment meted out to Abu Zubaydah. Binyam was subsequently sent to Morocco in July 2002, where he was hideously tortured for 18 months, including a period where multiple scalpel cuts were made to his penis, and a hot stinging fluid poured on the wounds in an attempt to get him to confess to a false "dirty bomb" plot. (The US only dropped the bombing claims in October 2008.) At one point, a British informer was used to try to "turn" Mohamed into an informant for the US or Britain, just as the Artichoke treatment was used to "re-orient" Dimitrov in a pro-US direction. Mohamed also indicated that he had been drugged repeatedly.

In January 2004, Binyam Mohamed was flown to a CIA "black" site in Afghanistan, the infamous "Dark Prison." Mohamed is one of five plaintiffs in an ACLU suit against Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen DataPlan Inc., which ran the aircraft for the CIA's "extraordinary rendition" program. According to an ACLU account:

In US custody, Mohamed was fed meals of raw rice, beans and bread sparingly and irregularly. He was kept in almost complete darkness for 23 hours a day and made to stay awake for days at a time by loud music and other frightening and irritating recordings, including the sounds of "ghost laughter," thunder, aircraft taking off and the screams of women and children.

Interrogations took place on almost a daily basis. As part of the interrogation process, he was shown pictures of Afghanis and Pakistanis and was interrogated about the story behind each picture. Although Mohamed knew none of the persons pictured, he would invent stories about them so as to avoid further torture. In May 2004, Mohamed was allowed outside for five minutes. It was the first time he had seen the sun in two years.

Amazingly, this was not the end of Mohamed's ordeal. From the Dark Prison he was sent to Bagram prison, and then later to Guantanamo. In August 2007, the British government petitioned the US for release of their subject. Eighteen months later, and after being subjected to more abuse at Guantanamo, he was finally able to leave US custody and return to Britain.

The Use of Drugs in Torture by the United States

The allegations of drugging by Mohamed and other prisoners are redolent of the use of hallucinogenic and other powerful mind-altering drugs by the US in its Artichoke, MK-ULTRA and other programs. A recent account, by Joby Warrick of The Washington Post, described some of these allegations of drugging of "detainees." The Post article subsequently led to an ongoing DoD Inspector General investigation into Possible Use of Mind Altering Substances by DoD Personnel during Interrogations of Detainees and/or Prisoners Captured during the War on Terror (D2007-DINT01-0092.005) "to determine if DoD personnel conducted, facilitated, or otherwise supported interrogations of detainees and /or prisoners using the threat or administration of mind altering drugs." According to his attorney's filings in the Jose Padilla case, Padilla, who was also originally implicated in the "dirty bomb" so-called plot with Binyam Mohamed, was forced to take LSD or other powerful drugs while held in solitary confinement in the Navy brig in South Carolina.

Another former Guantanamo prisoner, Mamdouh Habib, an Egyptian-born Australian Muslim released in 2005, has consistently told his tale of being subjected to electroshock, beatings and drugging while in US custody.

The CIA has been accused of involvement in continuing interrogation experimentation upon prisoners. The recent release of the previously censored summary of Mohamed's treatment in Pakistan notes that "The effects of the sleep deprivation were carefully observed." As Stephen Soldz notes in an article on the British court revelations, "Why were these effects being 'carefully observed' unless to determine their effectiveness in order to see whether they should be inflicted upon others? That is, the observations were designed to generate knowledge that could be generalized to other prisoners. The seeking of "generalizable knowledge" is the official definition of "research," raising the question of whether the CIA conducted illegal research upon Binyan Mohamed." The role of doctors, psychologists and other medical professionals in the CIA/DoD torture program has been condemned by a number of individuals in their respective fields, and by organizations such as Center for Constitutional Rights and Physicians for Human Rights.

Most recently, in an important article by Scott Horton at Harpers, the reexamination of the evidence in the supposed 2006 suicides of three prisoners at Guantanamo pointed to the possibility that the prisoners were killed in a previously unknown black site prison on the Guantanamo base - "Camp No" - run by the CIA or Joint Special Operations Command. This raises the question of why they were taken off site at all. One prisoner, 22-year-old Yasser Talal Al-Zahrani, had needle marks on both of his arms. The marks were notably not documented in the US military's autopsy report.

Where Do We Go From Here?

The tale of Dmitri Dimitrov documents the existence of a US-run torture and rendition program decades before the post-9/11 scandals of the Bush administration. Both the CIA and the Department of Defense have been implicated in both the research and implementation of torture for much of post-World War II US history. And yet, aside from the famous Church and Pike Congressional investigations of the 1970's, and the hearings and report from the Senate Armed Services Committee in 2008-09 on detainee abuse, the perpetrators of these crimes have gone unpunished. The current administration of President Barack Obama has clearly stated that it had little appetite to "look backwards" and seek accountability for the abuses of the past. Yet these abuses are never really "past," as the suffering of the victims and their families continues into the present. Additionally, the practice of torture, or use of "cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment" of prisoners has not ended, and the same generals, colonels, admirals and intelligence agency bureaucrats and politicians who have been linked to past programs are free to research or implement ongoing abuse of prisoners and experimentation.

This country needs a clear and definite accounting of its past and present use of torture. Like a universal acid, torture breaks down the sinews of its victims, and in the process, the links between people and their government are transformed into the naked exercise of pure sadistic power of rulers over the ruled. The very purpose of civilization is atomized in the process. We need a full, open and thorough public investigation into the entire history of the torture program, with full power to subpoena, and to refer those who shall be held accountable for prosecution under the due process of law.

H.P. Albarelli Jr. is the author of "A TERRIBLE MISTAKE: The Murder of Frank Olson and the CIA's Secret Cold War Experiments." He has written numerous newspaper and magazine articles on biological warfare and intelligence affairs. He can be contacted through his Web site:

Jeffrey Kaye, a psychologist living in Northern California, writes regularly on torture and other subjects for Firedoglake. He also maintains a personal blog, Invictus. His email address is sfpsych at gmail dot com

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

ICE Uses Threats of Deportation to Produce Terrorism "Intel"

Cross-posted from FDL/The Sentinel

It's bad enough we know that the government tortured Abu Zubaydah, Binyam Mohamed, and countless others in an attempt to produce false confessions, faked intel about Iraq, and in general hype up a "terrorism" threat that would justify the billions bilked from the U.S. treasury for the bogus "war on terror."

But now apparently the campaign to find terrorist boogie-men has come home with a vengeance. Just ask Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) informants Emilio and Analia Maya of Saugerties, New York. According to a fascinating Associated Press report by Helen O'Neill, on November 17, 2009, Emilio was surrounded by nine ICE officers in flak jackets with guns.

"We are deactivating you"

"We are deactivating you," the officers told their former Argentinian immmigrant informer. The prisoner, who recognized agents who some years earlier had recruited him, was taken to jail over 100 milies away, and held over two weeks without charges.

Emilio and his sister Analia had made a deal with ICE back in March 2005. They could get S visas, "often known... as the 'snitch visa'... because [it's] given to aliens who assist US law enforcement to investigate and prosecute crimes and terrorist activities."

But as O'Neill reports, quoting New York immigration lawyer Claudia Slovinsky, ICE and parent agency the Department of Homeland Security ever actually award anyone the S visa. Instead, "they use the most vulnerable people to do dangerous work, make them all sorts of promises and then just abandon them."

The AP story relates how the Mayas got involved with ICE, the dangerous missions they went on, the undercover work. When the brother and sister tried to back out of the informant game, they were told they had to continue or they would be deported. In fact, it turned out later that a deportation order for Emilio had been shuttling around ICE since December 2005, while for years they used him as an informant.

The Coerced Production of "Intelligence" on Terrorism

But the most interesting part of the story concerns what happened after Emilio and Analia had been working for ICE for some three years (emphases added):

In 2008, they say, the agents began demanding information on terrorism and guns - information the Mayas simply couldn't provide. The brother and sister continued offering tips about local activities, but they were no longer sent on undercover jobs....

At a meeting in the Price Chopper parking lot [in May 2009], Emilio says, agents bluntly told him that unless he delivered information on weapons and terrorism, his work permit would not be renewed and he would be deported.

What seems clear is that the government, failing to get the easily controlled Mayas to drum up some kind of terrorist plot in order to feed the agency's need promote itself and get a larger slice of the anti-terrorism funds sloshing around Washington, D.C., put the strong-arm on these immigrants, and when they couldn't get them to produce, has prepared to deport them.

It doesn't matter if a Congressman or a Senator intervened, as they did in this case. ICE and DHS apparently have little to fear from congressional inquiry. They are in a bureaucratic war to justify their existence, and in DC, it's still, in the Obama years, all about terrorism.

Take a look at ICE's own website, where it touts itself as "A Federal Leader in Combating Terrorism."

As the second largest federal contributor to the nationwide network of Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) plays a critical role in protecting the country against the threat of terrorism. With agents assigned to counter-terrorism investigations across the United States and around the world, ICE lends its expertise in enforcing immigration and customs laws to the over 100 JTTFs to investigate, detect, interdict, prosecute and remove terrorists and to dismantle terrorist organizations.

What are the JTTFs?

Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs) are small cells of highly trained, locally based, passionately committed investigators, analysts, linguists, SWAT experts, and other specialists from dozens of U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies. It is a multi-agency effort led by the Justice Department and FBI designed to combine the resources of federal, state, and local law enforcement.

The picture is clear: ICE wants its seat at the table with the other 40 or so agencies now associated with the national JTTFs. It's like a big assembly line feeding raw intel to the FBI and Department of Justice, and what matters is that you keep producing. The quality of the intelligence, as evidenced by the attempt to squeeze "terrorism" "tips" out of the hapless and unconnected Mayas, is evidently not so important. What is important is that everyone get paid and the gravy train keep rolling.

"We're Going to Change Your Brain"

The saddest thing in the O'Neill story is to read about the impotence members of Congress have when soliciting the protection of their constituents with agencies from the executive branch.

But the scariest thing is to reflect upon similarities between the ICE/Mayas case and the torture of prisoners in the "black sites", rendition hellholes, Guantanamo and Bagram. Rather than the use of blackmail and extortion to coerce informants to produce bogus reports about terrorism, the U.S. abroad has resorted to outright torture.

The torture of prisoners like Binyam Mohamed -- much in the news lately with the revelations by UK judges that Mohamed was subjected to CIA "enhanced interrogation technique"-style torture as early as March 2002 -- was not about, or at least not solely about, the collection of information. It was about the manufacture of information, including false confessions and fingering others for prosecution or further torture. In an interview a few years back with Binyam Mohamed's attorney, Clive Stafford Smith of Reprieve:

Binyam explained that, between the savage beatings and the razor cuts to his penis, his torturers “would tell me what to say.” He added that even towards the end of his time in Morocco, they were still “training me what to say,” and one of them told him, “We’re going to change your brain.”

This emphasis on brainwashing -- for that is the popular terminology for such an assault on the psyche of a prisoner -- is a key component of the kind of psychological torture that was researched by both the United Kingdom and the United States in the years following World War II. It highlighted the use of isolation, sleep deprivation, fear, stress positions, manipulation of the environment, of food, the use of humiliation and both sensory deprivation and sensory overload upon the prisoner. The idea was to overwhelm the nervous system and make a human being collapse without a blow being made, without scars, without evidence usable in court.

In an article at Truthout by H.P. Albarelli and Jeff Kaye, the connections between the old CIA mind control and torture research programs and those of today are documented. The conclusion is that radical change is needed if these crimes are not to consume our nation:

The allegations of drugging by Mohamed and other prisoners are redolent of the use of hallucinogenic and other powerful mind altering drugs by the U.S. in its Artichoke, MK-ULTRA and other programs....

The CIA has been accused of involvement in continuing interrogation experimentation upon prisoners. The recent release of the previously censored summary of Mohamed's treatment in Pakistan notes that "The effects of the sleep deprivation were carefully observed." As Stephen Soldz notes in an article on the British court revelations, "Why were these effects being 'carefully observed' unless to determine their effectiveness in order to see whether they should be inflicted used upon others?".... The role of doctors, psychologists, and other medical professionals in the CIA/DoD torture program has been condemned by a number of individuals in their respective fields, and by organizations such as Center for Constitutional Rights and Physicians for Human Rights....

This country needs a clear and definite accounting of its past and present use of torture. Like a universal acid, torture breaks down the sinews of its victims, and in the process, the links between people and their government are transformed into the naked exercise of pure sadistic power of rulers over the ruled. The very purpose of civilization is atomized in the process. We need a full, open and thorough public investigation into the entire history of the torture program, with full power to subpoena, and to refer those who shall be held accountable for prosecution under the due process of law.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

DC Court Rules Against Suit from Families of Controversial Guantanamo "Suicides"

Center for Constitutional Rights is reporting at their site on the recent district court ruling against the suit of the families of two Guantanamo prisoners who were suing over torture and indefinite detention at Guantanamo. As the article elaborates, the two prisoners, Yasser Al-Zahrani of Saudi Arabia and Salah Al-Salami of Yemen, were victims of a bogus military investigation, which ruled their 2006 deaths as "suicides," when all evidence points now to their murder at a CIA or JSOC black site prison at Guantanamo. When he died, Al-Zahrani mysteriously had needle marks on both of his arms.

The court's ruling is a setback in the fight for accountability, and a blow for those of us who are fighting to roll back government torture policies. While we must fight in the courts -- and no one does that better than CCR -- we also must begin to look for other political avenues to challenge this government and build a strong movement for investigations and prosecutions of torture.
Ruling: No Court Can Hear Abuse and Wrongful Death Claims from Guantanamo


February 17, 2010, New York – Yesterday evening, the district court in Washington, D.C. ruled against two men who died in Guantanamo in June 2006 and their families in a case seeking to hold federal officials and the United States responsible for the men’s torture, arbitrary detention and ultimate deaths at Guantánamo.

Following a two-year investigation, the military concluded that the men had committed suicide. Recent first-hand accounts by four soldiers stationed at the base at the time of the deaths, however, raise serious questions about the cause and circumstances of the deaths, including the possibility that the men died as the result of torture.

In dismissing the case, the district court ruled that the deceased’s constitutional claims that it was a violation of due process and cruel treatment to detain them for four years without charge while subjecting them to inhumane and degrading conditions of confinement and violent acts of torture and abuse, could not be heard in federal court. The men were held on the basis of an “enemy combatant” finding by a Combatant Status Review Tribunal later found by the Supreme Court itself to be inadequate.

The district court held that the claims were barred by a jurisdiction-stripping provision of the 2006 Military Commissions Act that bars any challenge by a Guantánamo detainee to their treatment, conditions, or any other aspect of their detention, while failing to address the plaintiffs’ arguments about the unconstitutionality of the provision itself. The court also dismissed the deceased’s claims under the Alien Tort Claims Act, following a holding by the D.C. Circuit Court in another detainee case that found that even torture or seriously criminal conduct can fall within the proper “scope of employment” of a government actor. Last, the court failed to consider the merits of plaintiffs’ claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act, including for emotional distress by the families, by holding that the U.S. military base at Guantánamo is still a “foreign country” for the purposes of the Act.

“These men were tortured and detained for four years on the basis of an arbitrary designation of ‘enemy combatant’ and died in the custody of the United States military. They and their families should have the right to have their claims heard at the very least,” said Pardiss Kebriaei, staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights. “The court’s decision is all the more troubling in light of recent information that seriously undermines the official account of how these men died, and creates an even greater urgency for transparency and accountability.”

On January 18, 2010, Scott Horton reported in Harper’s Magazine the accounts of four soldiers assigned to guard the camp where the deceased were detained at the time of their deaths. The soldiers’ eye-witness accounts, including that of a ranking Army officer who was on senior guard duty the night of the deaths, strongly suggest that the deceased were taken to a secret “black site” at Guantánamo on the night of their deaths and died at that site or from events that occurred there. The undisclosed facility was thought to have been used by the CIA or the Joint Special Operations Command of the Defense Department to hold and interrogate detainees at Guantánamo. The soldiers further describe a high-level cover-up initiated by the authorities within hours of the men’s deaths, and say they were ordered by their superiors not to speak out.

Additional reports by Seton Hall University School of Law analyzing the military’s investigation files reveal major unanswered questions and information gaps in the official account of the deaths, including failures to review relevant available information and interview material witnesses.

In June, a sixth man died at the base, Muhammad Ahmad Abdallah Salih, also known as Al Hanashi, a 31-year-old Yemeni who had been detained at Guantánamo Bay since 2002.

CCR represents the families of Yasser Al-Zahrani of Saudi Arabia and Salah Al-Salami of Yemen, two men who were reportedly found dead along with a third detainee, Mani Al-Utaybi of Saudi Arabia, in their cells at Guantanamo on June 10, 2006. At the time of their deaths, Al-Zahrani and Al-Salami had been detained incommunicado for more than four years without charge. In letters found following their deaths, the men described their conditions and abuse, including being beaten by teams of military police known as the “Extreme Reaction Force,” deprived of sleep for up to 30 days at a time, subjected to desecration of the Qur’an and forced shaving, and denied necessary medical care. Al-Zahrani, who was 17 at the time of his arrest, wrote of the “continuous oppression” of being isolated in a small cell each day and prohibited human contact.

For more information and case documents in Al Zahrani, click here.

CCR has led the legal battle over Guantanamo for over eight years and has been responsible for organizing and coordinating more than 500 pro bono lawyers across the country in order to represent the men detained there. CCR also works with men who were formerly detained and their families to seek justice and accountability for the abuses suffered during their imprisonment.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Seven Paragraphs Are Not Enough: Release the 42 CIA Documents on Binyam Mohamed's Torture

Originally posted at Firedoglake

The recent decision of the UK High Court to release a seven paragraph summary of the torture perpetrated by U.S. agents upon Binyam Mohammed in April and early May 2002 is welcome news.  The summary, written by a British court, was derived from  42 classified CIA documents delivered to the British legal authorities as part of an investigation into the actions of MI5 in the torture and interrogation of Binyam Mohamed and other prisoners held by Pakistan. These documents purportedly describe the torture of Mohamed, and indicate the collusion of U.S., British, and Pakistani authorities in the torture.

The seven paragraph summary was enlightening on a number of points, though the information that Mohamed had been tortured in a fashion similar to Abu Zubaydah, was first reported in a book by Mohamed attorney Clive Stafford Smith in 2006. In Britain, outrage is focused upon the actions of British intelligence agency MI5, which, despite an effort by the government to censor a damning portion of the seven paragraphs, focused, according to the UK Guardian, on the charge "that MI5 had treated basic rights with contempt and had lied to the parliamentary watchdog which provides its only oversight."

In the United States, John F. Burns at the New York Times noted:
What was starkly new, however, was the Foreign Office’s conclusion that the treatment Mr. Mohamed endured, had it been carried out under the authority of British officials, would have breached international treaties banning torture. It was the first time that Britain has been so blunt about its disapproval of the interrogation techniques approved by former President George W. Bush and curtailed last year by President Obama.

“Although it is not necessary for us to categorize the treatment reported, it could readily be contended to be at the very least cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by the United States authorities,” the document posted on the Foreign Office Web site said.
Burns failed to note that the summary paragraphs stated that Mohamed's sleep deprivation had been "carefully observed" for its "effects." The UK Guardian did not miss this point, noting:
It is also clear that the CIA, on whose behalf the Pakistanis were holding Mohamed, was ­monitoring the effects upon Mohamed.
The NYT story also buried the significance of the timeline in the torture case. As both blogger-investigative journalist Marcy Wheeler and blogger-psychologist-activist Stephen Soldz have pointed out in articles Wednesday, the use of CIA-style "enhanced interrogation" torture was directly "conducted by the United States authorities prior to 17 May 2002 as part of a new strategy designed by an expert interviewer." This puts the use of these techniques approximately ten weeks or more before the John Yoo-drafted Bybee memo on August 1, 2002, supposedly authorizing such abuse.

What about the 42 Classified CIA Documents?

Lost in all the hullabaloo around the struggle to release the seven paragraph summary of Binyam's torture is the fact that there has long been a battle over the 42 classified CIA documents themselves. Originally only seven of the 42 documents, heavily redacted, were released to Binyam Mohamed's attorneys. After a legal battle, they finally obtained the full set. The British High Court then took in October 2008 what Clare Algar at Reprieve called "the unusual step of inviting the press to make an application for the publication of details of Binyam’s mistreatment which had been removed from its original judgment at the request of the Government."

The press made their application, and also asked for the secret documents themselves, i.e., not just the redacted summary. In response, British Foreign Secretary David Milbrand shocked everyone by claiming that the U.S. had threatened to cut intelligence-sharing ties with Great Britain if the summarized information or the documents themselves were released. Evidently, this threat on behalf of the U.S. continued over from the Bush to the Obama administration.

The case was then duly litigated, leading to the release on February 10 of the seven paragraph summary. But the 42 classified documents, with all the possible information they hold on the process of the interrogation, on its planning, on the personnel involved, on the collaboration with British authorities, and on any possible experimentation based on the monitoring of the torture, remain classified and unavailable.

It is important to remember that what the documents call "sleep deprivation," was really a set of joined techniques. As I described it in an article last June, "sleep deprivation" included standing sleep deprivation, shackling in forced positions, nudity (save for a diaper!), a near-starvation diet, suspension, and, initially at least, up to 240 hours of continuous sleep deprivation. They weren't monitoring only sleep deprivation, they were monitoring a full torture program!

Is it possible they were using newly developed telemetric devices developed under a research program funded by the Army's Ft. Detrick, whose association with the CIA in the development of biological and chemical weapons, including for use in interrogations, goes back to the 1950s? Such a study was underway in 2002, studying how to measure the physiological effects of "uncontrollable stress" on subjects who underwent SERE torture as part of the military's Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape program. The study was entitled The Warfighter's Stress Response: Telemetric and Noninvasive Assessment. While formulated for use on predicting "military performance" and assessing selection procedures for personnel, this research -- and this remains speculative -- could have been used to assess an individual's response to real-life, and not just simulated torture. One of the researchers is linked to the CIA and its Science and Technology directorate, and was also an "expert" on the Intelligence Science Board panel that produced the "Educing Information" document upon which the Obama administration is relying for a purported reform of interrogation policy.

While it was important to fight for the release of the court's summary, the fight to release the documents in this case must not end here. The 42 classified CIA documents represent a keystone in the U.S. government's contemporary torture program. It is my hope that the UK Guardian, the New York Times, and other press interests will not leave off their legal battle to receive these documents, and that the UK High Court itself will see that a full disclosure of this evidence is in the best interests of justice.

It's just possible that the release of the seven paragraphs themselves could augur a release of the full set of CIA documents. The U.S. will do everything it can to avoid this possibility. On the other hand, the summary in and of itself can represent a limited hangout of the torture program information, tantalizing, but without crucial follow-up. American citizens must call for a full, independent, open investigation into the torture program here, with complete access to records and right to subpoena, and refer the necessary cases for prosecution under due process of law.

The media narrative surrounding the release of the latest revelations on the Binyam Mohamed case is being devised even as I write. It is crucial that the demand for the release of the full set of CIA documents be made a primary component of that narrative.

Also posted at The Public Record

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Ghost Prisoners? Indefinite Detention? "Hitherto acceptable norms of human conduct do not apply."

In a report at Truthout, Andy Worthington described a new UN report on secret detention policies by governments around the world. The report, available in an advance, unedited version here (long PDF), concentrates on the situation over the last nine years, with "a detailed account of US policies... and also running through the practice of secret detention in 25 other countries, including Algeria, China, Egypt, India, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Libya, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Uganda and Zimbabwe."
A major new report on secret detention policies around the world, conducted by four independent UN human rights experts, concludes that, “On a global scale, secret detention in connection with counter-terrorist policies remains a serious problem,” and that, “If resorted to in a widespread and systematic manner, secret detention might reach the threshold of a crime against humanity"....

Of particular concern to the authors of the Joint Study — beyond the overall illegality of the entire project conceived and executed by the Bush administration — is the fate of dozens of men held in secret prisons run by the CIA, or transferred by the CIA to prisons in other countries. Based on figures disclosed in one of the Office of Legal Counsel’s notorious “torture memos” (PDF), written in May 2005 by Assistant Attorney General Stephen Bradbury, the CIA had, by May 2005, “taken custody of 94 prisoners [redacted] and ha[d] employed enhanced techniques to varying degrees in the interrogations of 28 of these detainees.”

The 28 men subjected to “enhanced techniques” are clearly the “high-value detainees” — including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, Abu Zubaydah and twelve others — who were transferred to Guantánamo in September 2006, but no official account has ever explained what happened to the other 14 “high-value detainees,” or, indeed, to the majority of the other 66 men.
Tracking the missing men has been difficult, and the report looks into the various black prison sites in Afghanistan, including Bagram. In addition, the report examines "the cases of 35 men rendered by the CIA to Jordan, Egypt, Syria and Morocco, between 2001 and 2004." For many of these "ghost prisoners", we have no idea of where they were ultimately sent, or even if they are even alive.

The Bagram Project

Andy Worthington has begun a project on Bagram prisoners not dissimilar to the research he conducted on the Guantanamo prisoners, which culminated in the excellent book, The Guantanamo Files. Ever since the Pentagon released a list of the names of 645 prisoners it was holding at Bagram as of September 22, 2009 (PDF).

Worthington has been examining this list, and trying to determine who many of these prisoners are, as well as who may be missing from the list.
However, although it is probable that a number of former “ghost prisoners” have been repatriated to face death or further detention, it is not inconceivable that some prisoners were not included in the list because they are being held elsewhere — perhaps in a corner of Bagram to which the list does not extend.

One indication that this is so is the apparent omission from the list of Amanatullah Ali, a Pakistani who was seized by British forces in Iraq in 2004 and rendered to Bagram. His detention in Bagram has been confirmed through letters to his family, and his story, which was told by David Rose in Britain’s Mail on Sunday on December 9, is significant not only because it sheds light on the British government’s complicity in the Bagram rendition program, but also because it reveals the extent to which depriving the prisoners of the right to challenge the basis of their detention perpetuates the same mistakes that were made at Guantánamo.
Andy is producing an annotated version of the Bagram prisoner list, and you can read the initial form of it here. He asks that if anyone has any further information about any of the names on this list to email him.

Obama OLC Supports Indefinite Detention Policies, or Marty Lederman Turns to the Dark Side

As I was reading the articles on the secret detentions, I was reminded that Obama's Office of Legal Council (OLC) has been quite active in promoting indefinite detentions for some of the Guantanamo prisoners. According to Joe Palazzolo at Main Justice, OLC -- which under Bush's appointees Yoo and Bybee had authored the memos approving torture -- has been quite active in advising Department of Justice attorneys who are fighting the habeas cases of Guantanamo prisoners in the federal courts. OLC also "worked closely with the [detention] task force that recently completed a yearlong review of the Guantanamo Bay detainees. The task force determined that of the 198 detainees at the military-run prison, about 50 are unprosecutable but thought to be too dangerous to transfer [i.e., they will be held indefinitely, without charges], underscoring the importance of the habeas corpus cases — the chief means for testing the Obama administration’s detention regime.

One wonders what apostasy former supposed civil liberties proponent Marty Lederman underwent once he joined Obama's Justice Department. But Palazzolo quotes a recent study by Benjamin Wittes and Rabea Benhalim of the Brookings Institution and Robert Chesney of the University of Texas Law School, who expound upon the crucial importance of the Obama administration's legal actions on this front (emphasis added):
They are more than a means to decide the fate of the individuals in question. They are also the vehicle for an unprecedented wartime law-making exercise with broad implications for the future. The law established in these cases will in all likelihood govern not merely the Guantánamo detentions themselves but any other detentions around the world over which American courts acquire habeas jurisdiction. What’s more, to the extent that these cases establish substantive and procedural rules governing the application of law-of-war detention powers in general, they could end up impacting detentions far beyond those immediately supervised by the federal courts. They might, in fact, impact superficially-unrelated military activities, such as the planning of operations, the selection of interrogation methods, or even the decision to target individuals with lethal force….
The other thing the detentions issue reminded me of was a quote from a document I was recently reading. The document has historical significance, and is of great importance in understanding how the dark and secretive forces that are now essentially running this country gained such power and influence.

A Look Back at the Doolittle Report

From the Report on the Covert Activities of the Central Intelligence Agency, commissioned by the President of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1954 (otherwise known as the Doolittle Report - PDF, bold emphases added):
As long as it remains national policy, another important requirement is an aggressive covert psychological, political and paramilitary organization more effective, more unique, and, if necessary, more ruthless than that employed by the enemy. No one should be permitted to stand in the way of the prompt, efficient and secure accomplishment of this mission....

It is now clear that we are facing an implacable enemy whose avowed objective is world domination by whatever means and at whatever cost. There are no rules in such a game. Hitherto acceptable norms of human conduct do not apply. If the United States is to survive, long-standing American concepts of "fair play" must be reconsidered. We must develop effective espionage and counterespionage services and must learn to subvert, sabotage and destroy our enemies by more clever, more sophisticated and more effective methods than those used against us. It may become necessary that the American people be made acquainted with, understand and support this fundamentally repugnant philosophy.
Looks like it took them almost 50 years to fulfill the latter prediction, when Dick Cheney informed us the U.S. was going over to the “dark side”. Of course, they’d made their infernal choice decades ago, and the U.S. citizenry is still catching up with the ramifications of those hidden decisions and multiple crimes.

Also, now the enemy is not world communism, but the forces of Al Qaeda, who (supposed) wish to found a world-wide Islamic Caliphate. Of course, tomorrow the enemy may be world communism again, when the war drive against China is activated in earnest, or perhaps it will be the “Asian hordes” once again.

This is not a time for politics as usual. The "consensus building" of President Obama's administration is a cruel joke upon the people of America and the world. What is needed is boldness in opposition, a readiness to speak the complete truth, and the preparation of the American people to accept this truth, and make the links between Wall Street's stranglehold over any economic "reform", and the insane military drive for extension of U.S. power around the world. The latter has led this country into the darkest crevices of human historical actions: to the secret prison and dungeon, to the torture chamber, to the use of technological devices and sciences to watch, control, and murder countless human beings.

"Hitherto acceptable norms of human conduct do not apply." It is worth considering well the implications of this statement for all of us.

Cross-posted at FDL/The Seminal

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