Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Former Guantánamo Prisoner Who Alleged US Torture, Drugging, Sentenced by Algerian Authorities

Originally posted at Truthout

The UK action charity Reprieve, whose attorneys represent over a dozen prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, reports that former Guantánamo prisoner, Algerian citizen Abdul Aziz Naji, has been sentenced to three years in prison in Algeria. Reprieve says the charges were "of past membership in an extremist group overseas - a charge derived from the unsubstantiated accusations the US administration made against him in 2002."

News reports state that prosecutors initially had asked for a ten-year prison sentence, and a 5,000 euro fine (over $6,000 US dollars).

The Reprieve press release states, "During his trial held in Algiers on Monday 16 January, the prosecutor presented no evidence of Mr Naji's guilt - rather, the judge simply questioned him and produced a guilty verdict. His lawyer, Hassiba Boumerdassi, filed an appeal of his sentence and will request that he be released on bail pending retrial."

When Naji was first forcibly returned to Algeria in 2010 - the first Guantánamo detainee removed to a country where he refused to go, for fear of returning there - he was, according to the Jurist, held initially "under a [Algerian] statute that allows for the detention of terror suspects for up to 12 days." The charges under which he was held were never clarified at the time, but presumably were similar or the same for which he was recently sentenced.

Naji was subsequently released in July 2010 under judicial supervision, with the proviso he report to police authorities weekly. At the time, a statement by Algiers prosecutors,reported by Reuters Africa, bragged that Naji's case had been "dealt with in the most complete transparency and in respect for the law, whether in terms of procedure or the length of his detention."

Naji had been forcibly deported from Guantánamo to Algeria with the full knowledge and approval of Congress, which, at that time, had demanded 15 days advance notice of any Guantánamo transfer. Naji had previously stated he feared any return to Algeria, where he anticipated either repression by the government or by Islamic extremists. His forcible return, the first such non-voluntary expulsion of any Guantánamo prisoner, violated the principle of non-refoulement or non-return of prisoners to states where they have reason to expect torture or other mistreatment. The principle is part of the United Nations Convention Against Torture treaty, to which the US is a signatory.

The Obama administration, like the Bush administration before it, relies on diplomatic "assurances" by host countries that they will not maltreat returning prisoners. But a 2007 report by Human Rights Watch described the problems with such "assurances": "Governments that engage in torture routinely deny it and refuse to investigate allegations of torture. A government that is already violating its international obligation not to torture cannot be trusted to abide by a further 'assurance' that it will not torture."

In the case of Algeria, the 2010 State Department report on human rights in that country notes that, while torture is formally illegal in Algeria, there have been numerous charges of torture by state police. Furthermore, the Algerian government obstructs oversight on such matters by non-governmental and UN agencies. The report describes abuse of prisoners in order to obtain confessions. While some government agents have been tried and convicted for such abuse, the State Department reports notes, dryly, that in regards to abuse by state officials, "impunity remains a problem." Even more, local Algerian human rights attorneys have said that prisoner abuse occurs "most often against those arrested on 'security grounds.'"

In regards to prison and detention conditions, the report states, "Prison conditions generally did not meet international standards, and the government did not permit visits to military, high-security, or standard prison facilities or to detention centers by independent human rights observers."

Revelations About Drugging of Detainees, Torture for False Confessions

Since his release, Naji has been vocal about the treatment he endured in US custody. in a July 28, 2010, interview with the Algerian paper El Khabar, only days after his forcible transfer, Naji told the world about maltreatment at the hands of the Americans. He charged Guantánamo authorities with using torture to make detainees confess to terror charges.

"They force detainees to take some medicines for three months to drive them crazy, loosing memory and committing suicide," he said, adding, "I still remember how a Yemeni prisoner killed himself for he couldn't resist to torture and sexual abuse practiced by the prison caretakers." Two of the six purported Guantánamo suicides were Yemeni, Ali Abdullah Ahmed (also known as Salah al-Aslami) and Mohammed Salih al-Hanashi, but it is not clear to which prisoner Naji is referring.

Charges of drugging prisoners have been widespread, but have been difficult to verify. (See this April 2008 report by Joby Warrick at The Washington Post.) A Pentgon inspector general investigation on such drugging was completed in 2009, Titled "Investigation of Allegations of the Use of Mind Altering Drugs to Facilitate Interrogations of Detainees," the report remains classified. A Freedom of Information Act request by this author for the report is now 16 months old. Last September, a Senate Armed Forces Committee spokesperson told Truthout the Office of Inspector General's investigation did not substantiate allegations of drugging of prisoners for the "purposes of interrogation."

The involuntary use of drugs on prisoners would violate a number of domestic and international laws, as well as basic ethical codes of the medical professions. Yet, under the guidelines of the current "Army Field Manual" (AFM), whose protocols govern all interrogations past and present at Guantánamo, only drugs that cause permanent, lasting harm are not allowable for interrogation use. The provision from an earlier version of the AFM that forbid use of drugs that could create a "chemically induced psychosis" was dropped from the manual in September 2006, or even earlier.

Naji also told El Khabar "about how some detainees had been promised to be granted political asylum opportunity in exchange of a 'spying role' within the detention camp. He added that once released, they are maintained as spies serving for the US, under the cover of political refugees."

The use of spies recruited by the Americans from among Muslim detainees and suspects has been reported in numerous instances. Abdurahman Khadr, the brother of Guantánamo prisoner, Omar Khadr, was an admitted "asset" for the CIA, who once describedhow he was sent to Guantánamo as a fake prisoner to spy.

More recently, the Tarek Mehanna case raised a good deal of controversy with charges from Mehanna and supporters that he was targeted by the FBI because the 29-year-old Sudbury, Massachusetts, man repeatedly refused to become an informant.

The "Case" Against Abdul Aziz Naji

No public report has indicated to what "extremist group" Naji is accused of belonging. In the May 2008 Joint Task Force-Guantánamo Detainee Assessment leaked by WikiLeaks last year, US intelligence maintained that Naji had belonged to the Pakistani-based group Lashkar-e-Tayyiba. It also accused him of being "an identified al-Qaida courier." The bulk of the accusations against him were levied by torture victim Abu Zubaydah, who supposedly said he had recruited Naji to be part of his "Martyrs Brigade." Another torture victim, and one who the US relied upon to place Naji in Afghanistan, was Abd al-Rahim Abdul Razzak Janko, who was arrested by the Americans even though he had been tortured by the Taliban.

Abu Zubaydah was infamously tortured by the CIA, including being waterboarded 83 times, held in stress positions, had his head banged against a wall, suffered sleep deprivation and isolation. Mr. Zubaydah was flown from one CIA black site prison to another in the four or so years he was held in CIA captivity. Under later Department of Defense detention, it is not known exactly what ill treatment he may have endured, though it is known he is held in solitary confinement, and like the other Guantánamo detainees, is subject to interrogations under the current AFM. The manual has a special appendix known by the letter M that describes special interrogation techniques that cannot be used on regular prisoners of war. All told, AFM techniques used on Mr. Zubaydah could include, besides solitary confinement, modified forms of sleep deprivation, modified sensory deprivation or overload, stress positions, use of drugs and interrogation approaches meant to generate fear and humiliation.

Mr. Janko, who was released from Guantánamo in 2009, had provided supposedly incriminating information about approximately 20 other detainees, coerced from him via torture. After arrest and torture by the Taliban in 2000 for alleged sexual and espionage crimes, Mr. Janko was arrested by the US after 9/11 and was tortured from his first days while incarcerated at Kandahar Air Base. While the Taliban had used electric shock, stress positions, beatings on the soles of his feet (falaka) and water torture, to get Mr. Janko to falsely confess to sexual crimes and being an American and Israeli spy, the US relied upon sleep deprivation, stress positions, physical assault, attack by dogs and forced exercise to make him admit he was a terrorist. The US even used a Taliban videotape of Mr. Janko's "confession" and tried (unsuccessfully, ultimately) to pass it off as the martyrdom video of an al-Qaeda suicide bomber.

Mr. Janko's mental state deteriorated seriously, and he spent years in Guantánamo's psychiatric ward, given antidepressant, antiseizure and antipsychotic medications. He subsequently filed suit against the US government for the torture, and is said to live under an assumed name in Belgium.

Both Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim Abdul Razzak Janko were two of the primary sources used to build the case against Naji. The other Algerian arrested with Naji, Musafa Hamilil, was released from Guantánamo without charges in July 2008 and returned to Algeria at that time. Once in Algeria, Mr.Hamlili was charged with "counterfeiting and affiliation to a militant group that is active abroad." He was acquitted of those charges in February 2010.

But Naji was not so lucky. According to the Reprieve story, Naji is suffering "serious health complications" in regards to his leg, which was amputated after he stepped on a landmine in 2001, while doing charity work in Kashmir. The US accused him of being a landmine expert, but Naji told his Combatant Status Review Hearingthat he had nothing to do with mines or the planting of mines, and admitted to some details because of serious beatings. "I had a difficult time when I was first transferred to Cuba ... I was tortured and made to tell things against myself," Naji told the Guantánamo military hearing. "The interrogators forced me to say these things, because I was scared to be punished."

His family is reportedly concerned about the deterioration of Naji's health while imprisoned at El Harache prison in Algiers. His attorney, Hassiba Boumerdassi, reports his condition is "worsening by the day." Reprieve charges that Naji has been denied adequate health care.

Katie Taylor, a "Life After Guantánamo" caseworker for Reprieve stated, "It is outrageous that Mr Naji is being punished again for the same discredited accusations that the US used to hold him in Guantánamo for eight years without charge or trial - this time in his own country. Algerian authorities must restore his right to a fair trial and overturn his conviction on faulty charges for which the prosecutor did not even bother to introduce evidence."

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Petition to Close Guantanamo

The following is posted with permission from the website closeguantanamo.org. Disclosure: I've already signed the petition. Take the time and do so, too.
It's three years since President Obama promised to close Guantánamo

Remind President Obama of his promise. Sign the petition on the White House's "We the People" website urging him to honor his promise. 25,000 signatures are needed by February 6 to secure a response, so please sign up, and please spread the word.

What happened to President Obama's bold promise?

Three years ago, on January 22, 2009, President Obama issued an executive order promising to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay within a year, but he did not move swiftly to implement his promise, and Congress then stepped in with onerous restrictions on the release of prisoners or their transfer to the U.S. mainland for any reason, even to be tried or imprisoned.

Instead of being closed, Guantánamo still holds 171 men, even though 89 of these men were cleared for release more than two years ago by the interagency Guantánamo Review Task Force, which was established by the President after taking office.

Some of these cleared men, like the Uighurs (Muslims from China's Xinjiang province), remain in Guantánamo because they cannot be safely repatriated, even though the Bush administration conceded they had been seized by mistake, and even though a District Court judge granted their habeas corpus petitions in October 2008.

Others - 28 in total - are Yemenis, whose release was approved by the Task Force but prevented by the President after a Nigerian man, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who had been recruited in Yemen, tried and failed to blow up a plane bound for Detroit on Christmas Day 2009. Although these men had nothing to do with Mr. Abdulmutallab, their release is prevented solely on the basis of their nationality. We believe that this is wrong, and that continuing to hold these men makes a mockery of claims that the United States believes in fairness and justice.

30 other Yemenis are held in what the Task Force described as "conditional detention," a category of prisoner invented by the Task Force, and designed to prevent their release until, by some unknown mechanism, it is decided that the security situation in Yemen has improved sufficiently for them to be released.

We call on the President to release these 89 prisoners, and to bring to an end the unacceptable situation in which those cleared for release are indistinguishable from those recommended for trials or for ongoing detention, because of the unfair obstructions imposed to prevent them being freed.

Again, please sign the petition, and then tell others about it. Let's make 2012 the year that we close Guantánamo.

Also, please note that the petition can be signed by anyone, not just U.S. citizens. When registering from outside the U.S., just leave the "zip code" section blank. Good luck, and thanks for the support!

By Andy Worthington

Friday, January 20, 2012

RIP Johnny Otis (Harlem Nocturne)

1945 Excelsior recording, Rene Block on Alto Sax
Johnny Otis, 1921-2012

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

PTSD and the "Mind-erasing" pill

RT America interview, talking about PTSD, research into new drugs, and the "pissing Marines" scandal.

Can memories be erased? Check out the interview.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Ten Years of Guantánamo: A Discussion with Andy Worthington & Jason Leopold

In a rare U.S. appearance, author and filmmaker Andy Worthington will speak in two Bay Area venues on January 13. He will appear with renowned investigative journalist Jason Leopold (Truthout.org). Worthington is in the U.S. to participate in events marking the 10th anniversary of the infamous U.S. prison at Guantanamo, as part of a national speaking tour.

Ten Years of Guantánamo: A Discussion with Andy Worthington & Jason Leopold

Presented by the Hastings Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, World Can't Wait (SF Bay chapter) and The Center for Constitutional Rights, from Noon to 1:30pm at UC Hastings College of the Law Louis B. Mayer Lounge, 198 McAllister Street, San Francisco

Andy Worthington will speak on Guantánamo, indefinite military detention, the new National Defense Authorization Act, and the fight for justice against torture and rendition. His path-breaking work continues to bare the truth about Guantánamo and the hundreds of prisoners held there illegally without charge or trial, and tortured.

For more info, see https://www.facebook.com/events/348714821821473/

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Guantanamo Prisoners Protest on 10th Anniversary of US Gulag

A report from Democracy Now on a protest and hunger strike by prisoners at Guantánamo on this 10th anniversary of the opening of the detention center.

Other stories and reports about Guantánamo are widely available on this depressing anniversary, including:

"It was a sunny day"
- an article by Jason Leopold at Truthout, who interviews former Guantánamo guard Brandon Neely on his experiences in the early days of the camp's opening.

Live From Guantánamo - Truthout op-ed by Center for Constitutional Rights Senior Staff Attorney, Wells Dixon, who is currently in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba visiting one of his clients.

“Close Guantánamo” Campaign and Website Launches: Retired Military Personnel, Lawyers Call for the Closure of Guantánamo After 10 Years - Article by Andy Worthington, who has reported more on Guantánamo than just about anyone else.

What's Ahead for Guantanamo Camps in New Decade? - by McClatchy reporter Carol Rosenberg, who has covered Guantanamo since the detention center's opening

This Gitmo Anniversary Needs to Be about Bagram, Too - by blogger Marcy Wheeler, who reminds us that the fate of Guantanamo is inextricably tied to other US detention sites where indefinite detention has become the new normal.

Guantanamo Bay: A Wound We Won't Let Heal - article by Andrew Cohen at The Atlantic, chronicling the story of one of the prisoners, Mustafa Ait Idr. (I wrote about the water torture inflicted on Idr at Guantanamo in an article at Truthout last August.)

The Guantánamo facility at 10: an assault on our constitutional government - an op-ed by Todd E. Pierce at the National Law Journal

“None of these cleared [Gitmo] prisoners is likely to leave any time soon..." - by Gotta Laff at The Political Carnival, highlighting a LA Times op-ed on the case of Guantanamo prisoner Fayiz al-Kandari (see also the Facebook page, "Free Fayiz and Fawzi")

An Innocent Man in Guantanamo
- an ACLU podcast interview with Lakhdar Boumediene, who spent over 7 years without charges or trial in the Guantanamo hell. (See also ACLU's new webpage, Close Gitmo.)

Shut Down Guantánamo on its 10th Anniversary! - Center for Constitutional Rights, who was in the forefront in providing legal representation to Guantanamo prisoners, has a webpage up with news and actions, meeting, etc.

Guantanamo Remembered - the UK charity, Reprieve, which has also been instrumental in providing legal representation to Guantanamo prisoners, has posted videos of former Guantanamo detainees speaking about their memories of those still imprisoned there, like the last British man held there, Shaker Aamer, who has never been charged with an offense, and who was tortured at Bagram and Guantanamo. (The video is embedded for viewing below.)

See also the UK schedule of events surrounding the 10th anniversary at the Cageprisoners website.

Cyptome.org has also posted a number of photos of Guantanamo's detention facilities in a nod to the 10th anniversary.

And this late addition (h/t Jason Leopold), Dahlia Lithwick at Slate, "The Great Gitmo Blackout":
In the foreign press they are saying that the camp “weighs heavily on America’s conscience” and that “the shame of Guantanamo remains.” But most Americans are experiencing the anniversary without much conscience or shame; just with the same sense of inevitability and invisibility that has pervaded the entire 10-year existence of the camp itself: inevitability in that we somehow believe the camp was truly necessary and nobody ever really expects the conflict to be resolved; and invisibility in that nobody really knows what’s happening there, or why....

It’s hard to say anything new about 10 full years of Guantanamo, beyond the fact that most of what we wrote two, four, and seven years ago still holds mostly true. But given that Americans have an increasingly hard time thinking about the camp, and the rest of the world can think about little else, perhaps we can agree that pretending it isn’t there probably isn’t the answer.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Lawsuit Seeks Release of Videotapes of Gitmo Torture Victim

Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), which "has led the legal battle over Guantanamo for the last 10 years – representing clients in two Supreme Court cases and organizing and coordinating hundreds of pro bono lawyers across the country to represent the men at Guantanamo, ensuring that nearly all have the option of legal representation," released the following press release last Monday.

CCR is seeking the release of videotapes and photos of the torture of Mohammed al Qahtani, the only Guantanamo prisoner the government admits was tortured. The existence of the videotapes came to light due when "CCR and co-counsel, Sandra Babcock, filed a motion for discovery in March 2009 seeking any video tapes of Mr. al Qahtani’s interrogation and numerous other records." After seven months of litigation, a US judge ordered the government to produce the tapes and photos (47 photos and at least one video).

The filing comes on the 10th anniversary of the opening of the prison torture "strategic interrogation" center, called a "Battle Lab" for interrogation by officials of the US government.
CCR Decries Lack of Transparency, Stresses Public's Right to See Tapes

January 9, 2012, Washington, D.C. – Today the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit seeking public disclosure of video tapes of Mohammed al Qahtani, a Saudi citizen who has been detained in Guantánamo for nearly 10 years. Mr. al Qahtani was the victim of the pentagon’s “First Special Interrogation Plan” —a regime of aggressive interrogation techniques amounting to torture authorized by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
Mr. al Qahtani’s treatment – which included a litany of abusive techniques ranging from severe sleep deprivation, 20-hour interrogations, isolation, threats by military dogs, exposure to extreme temperatures and religious and sexual humiliation - was partially detailed in a military interrogation log leaked to Time Magazine on March 2, 2006. As a result of this treatment, the senior U.S. official in charge of military commissions determined that U.S. personnel tortured Mr. al Qahtani. Mr. al Qahtani’s attorneys have viewed some of the tapes but are not allowed to discuss the contents. The lawsuit argues it is crucial for the public interest that the tapes be publicly released.

“The story of Mohammed al Qahtani summarizes everything that is abhorrent about Guantanamo,” said Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) Legal Director Baher Azmy. “Yet 10 years after the opening of the prison camp, the whole story, in all its horror, still remains to be told. The American people are entitled to know exactly how the government has betrayed fundamental American values and the rule of law. That will not happen until these videotapes are released.”

The suit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, is brought against the Department of Defense, the Department of Justice, the FBI, and the CIA, based upon their failure to turn over the videotapes pursuant to a FOIA request made on behalf of the Center for Constitutional Rights in 2010.

Mr. al Qahtani was seized in December 2001 and transferred to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba shortly thereafter. Almost seven years later, the Convening Authority for Military Commissions dismissed all charges against al Qahtani because it found he had been tortured, but left open the possibility that he would be re-charged at a later time. To this date, Mr. al Qahtani is still in Guantánamo and no charges have been filed against him.

Lawrence S. Lustberg and Alicia L. Bannon from Gibbons, P.C. and Sandra L. Babcock from the Center for International Human Rights at Northwestern Law School are co-counsel in this case.

Colbert analyzes new NDAA indefinite detention provisions

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Word - Catch 2012
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive
H/T Stephen Soldz

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity Expose Lies Used in US Drive for War with Iran

The following statement by Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) has been posted across the web, and this reposting is meant to assist in getting their position out. The points they make about the manufacture of false "evidence" to mobilize the country, even the world, for a US war with Iran, are important and worth greater attention.

The statement reproduced below is from the website globalresearch.ca:
Avoiding Another "Long War": Intelligence Officials Reveal "Dubious" IAEA Report on Iran's Alleged Nuclear Weapons Program

Exaggerated coverage of a dubious report by the International Atomic Energy Agency about Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program has spurred a rush toward a new war in the Middle East, but ex-U.S. intelligence officials urge President Obama to resist the pressures and examine the facts.


FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)

SUBJECT: Avoiding Another Long War

As professionals with collectively hundreds of years of experience in intelligence, foreign policy, and counterterrorism, we are concerned about the gross misrepresentation of facts being bruited about to persuade you to start another war.

We have watched the militarists represent one Muslim country after another as major threats to U.S. security. In the past, they supported attacks on Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya and Afghanistan, as well as Israel’s attacks on Syria and Lebanon — nine Muslim countries – and Gaza.

This time, they are using a new IAEA report to assert categorically that Iran is building a nuclear weapon that allegedly poses a major threat to the U.S. Your intelligence and military advisors can certainly clarify what the report really says.

As you know, the IAEA makes regular inspection visits to Iran’s nuclear facilities and has TV cameras monitoring those facilities around the clock. While there is reason to question some of Iran’s actions, the situation is not as clear-cut as some allege.

Mohamed ElBaradei, a Nobel Peace Prize recipient and former IAEA director-general, said recently, “I don’t believe Iran is a clear and present danger. All I see is the hype about the threat posed by Iran.” He is not alone: All 16 U.S. intelligence agencies concluded “with high confidence” in a 2007 National Intelligence Estimate that Iran had halted its nuclear-weapons program as of 2003.

We are seeing a replay of the “Iraq WMD threat.” As Philip Zelikow, Executive Secretary of the 9/11 Commission said, “The ‘real threat’ from Iraq was not a threat to the United States. The unstated threat was the threat against Israel.”

Your military and intelligence experts can also provide information on unpublicized efforts to derail Iran’s nuclear program and on the futility of attempting to eliminate that program – which is dispersed and mostly underground – through aerial bombing.

Defense Secretary [Leon] Panetta and other experts have stated that an air attack would only delay any weapons program for a year or two at most.

Former Mossad head Meir Dagan said that an air force strike against Iran’s nuclear installations would be “a stupid thing,” a view endorsed in principle by two other past Mossad chiefs, Danny Yatom and Ephraim Halevy. Dagan added that “Any strike against [the civilian program] is an illegal act according to international law.”

Dagan pointed out another reality: bombing Iran would lead it to retaliate against Israel through Hezbollah, which has tens of thousands of Grad-type rockets and hundreds of Scuds and other long-range missiles, and through Hamas.

We are already spending as much as the rest of the world combined on National Security and $100 billion per year on a Long War in Afghanistan. The Israel lobby has been beating the drums for us to attack Iran for years, led by people with confused loyalties like Joe Lieberman, who once made the claim that it is unpatriotic for Americans not to support Israel.

Another Long War is not in America’s or Israel’s interests, whatever Israel’s apologists claim. Those are the same people who claim that [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad said he would “wipe Israel off the map.” Persian specialists have pointed out that the original statement in Persian actually said that Israel would collapse: “This occupation regime over Jerusalem must vanish from the arena of time.”

What we have is a situation where Israel’s actions, for example in sending 300,000 settlers into the West Bank and 200,000 settlers into East Jerusalem, are compromising U.S. security by putting us at risk for terrorist retaliation.

We have provided Israel with $100 billion in direct aid since 1975. Since this is fungible, how has funding settlements contributed to our security? You agreed to provide $3 billion in F-35s to Israel in exchange for a 90-day freeze on settlements. What you got was 90 days of stonewalling on the peace process and then more settlers. What more do we owe Israel?

Certainly not a rush to war. We have time to make diplomacy and sanctions work, to persuade Russia and China to make joint cause with us.

James Madison once wrote that “Of all the enemies of true liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded.... War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes.... No nation can preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”

We are currently winding down what you labeled a “dumb war;” we should not undertake another dumb war against a country almost three times larger than Iraq, that would set off a major regional war and create generations of jihadis. Such a war, contrary to what some argue, would not make Israel or the U.S. safer.

Steering Group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)

Phil Giraldi, Directorate of Operations, CIA, retired
Ray McGovern, US Army Intelligence Officer, Directorate of Intelligence, CIA, retired
Coleen Rowley, former Special Agent and Minneapolis Division Counsel, FBI
Ann Wright, Col., US Army Reserve (ret.), former Foreign Service Officer, Department of State
Tom Maertens, Foreign Service Officer and NSC Director for Non-Proliferation under two presidents
Elizabeth Murray, former Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Near East in the National Intelligence Council
David MacMichael, former history professor and CIA and National Intelligence Council analyst

Psychologists Speak Out on Effect of Trauma on Challenging 9/11 Government Narrative

The following video presents a number of psychologists speaking about the psychological effects of witnessing the 9/11 tragedy, and how the effects of trauma intersect the problem of "hearing information that confronts our world-view." The cognitive dissonance (fear and anxiety) that confronts Americans as they consider the extent to which their government has lied to them on this very distressing topic has near paralyzed political discussion of what really happened on 9/11.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Iraqi Torture Scandal Touches Highest Levels of NATO

Originally posted at Truthout

A scandal unfolding in Denmark over the transfer of Iraqi prisoners by Danish forces to Iraq authorities, even as they knew they would be tortured, threatens to implicate the current Secretary General of NATO Anders Fogh Rasmussen, formerly prime minister of Denmark from 2001-2009.

The defense ministry in the government of former Prime Minister Rasmussen is charged with withholding its knowledge of Iraqi torture from legislators when a copy of a 2004 inspection at Al Makil prison in Basra was sent to Parliament.

According to an article last month in the Danish paper Politiken, portions of the report describing prisoner abuse were "blacked out," with the reason given that such "information could harm Danish-Iraq cooperation."

Yet, three months before the prison inspection, in May 2004, during a debate in the Danish Parliament concerning Iraqi prisoners, according to the paper Dagbladet Information (English translation here), then-Prime Minister Rasmussen said the government would "disclose information about torture, if the government becomes aware that it occurs." But evidently, this did not occur.

According to The Copenhagen Post, a Danish English-language daily, the July 2004 investigation by Danish Army legal adviser Maj. Kurt Borgkvist revealed that "prisoners in Iraqi prisons had been burned with cigarettes, had their molars crushed and been beaten around their genitals. Some were even missing fingers, Borgkvist reported." The resulting report included photographic evidence, which has been described as "Abu Ghraib-lignende" ("Abu Ghraib-like") by the previous Danish defense minister.

Rasmussen, leader of Denmark's Liberal Party, resigned as prime minister in April 2009 in order to accept a position as NATO's secretary general. Most recently, he was an outspoken supporter of NATO's military support to the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime in Libya. Last November, the Liberal Party and its coalition partners lost power for the first time in almost a decade, losing to a coalition led by the Social Democrats. Rasmussen was also a key supporter of the US campaign to go to war in Iraq in 2003, ironically citing in a UN address Iraqi violations of international anti-torture treaties.

The scandal first arose in 2010 from documents released by WikiLeaks in the "Iraq War Logs." A November 2010 article at Ice News reported how a memo released by WikiLeaks described an inquiry by "a Danish Defence Ministry official" regarding "what happened at the American Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq after media reports of torture and abuse in 2003." Subsequently, "Danish soldiers continued to hand over prisoners to the facility, however, even after the torture was officially confirmed several months later."

"'That Denmark didn't intervene in time simply shows that someone must have stopped the criticism at the political level', said Social Democratic Defense Spokesman John Dyrby Paulsen. 'That is also why we want an inquiry into all of this', he added."

An October 2010 story in Dagbladet Information noted that "coalition forces share military reports" and "the Danish military has also had access to accounts on Iraqi police methods," indicating that all the coalition forces, Denmark included, "had knowledge of the situation which was consistent with several highly critical warnings from organizations such as The International Red Cross and Human Rights Watch."

A government commission into Denmark's involvement in the Iraq war is expected later this year. The last Danish forces left Iraq last November.

The WikiLeaks logs also revealed that Danish forces in Iraq had been involved in turning greater numbers of prisoners over to the Iraqis than the Danish government had previously revealed.

According to a report at WikiLeaks Press, former Danish Defense Minister Søren Gade previously told the Danish Parliament that Danish troops had only 21 prisoners. But according to the leaked "War Logs," "the actual number of prisoners taken in the period at a minimum of 95. Of these, 62 were handed over to Iraqi authorities, who were well known to be carrying out torture in Iraqi prisons." In reply, the Defense Ministry "argued that the reason for the great disparity between the reported number of prisoners was due to the fact that many of the prisoners had been captured by British troops and that the Danish troops therefore could not be held accountable."

But recent revelations have seen the number of prisoners actually handed over has grown from a later admitted 200 to a reported 500 or more. The higher number surfaced in a memorandum from Defense Chief Gen. Knud Bartels to the new Defense Minister Nick Hækkerup. (Bartels, himself, has recently assumed the position of NATO's Military Committee chairman.)

In a January 2 article, The Copenhagen Post reported that Denmark's former Defense Minister Søren Gade would be called as a witness in an upcoming trial, stemming from a lawsuit by six Iraqis who were arrested in winter 2004 by Danish forces supporting the US-led coalition forces in Iraq. The prisoners were turned over to Iraqi forces and subsequently tortured.

As the Post notes, "According to international law, soldiers may not deliver prisoners of war to another authority they suspect of mistreating or torturing prisoners." This international prohibition is written into the UN Convention Against Torture, which states that no signatory to the treaty can return or refoule any person to a state authority "where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture."

In a January 5 editorial, the Post insisted that "ordering soldiers to turn a blind eye to the likely mistreatment of detainees amounts to a cold-blooded disregard for the well-being of others." The paper called for the Danish military to cooperate with any investigations, "even if that means allowing top brass, former ministers or senior statesmen to be felled in the process."

A further dimension to the scandal concerns not only the number of prisoners involved, but also the ways the Danes tried to hide their culpability.

The Bartels letter to Hækkerup also described, according to Politiken, how "'in a few cases' Iraqi prisoners were illegally handed over to Iraqi authorities and that in many cases Danish troops avoided defence directives by letting British troops detain Iraqis during joint missions in order to avoid responsibility."

The controversy over handing over prisoners to be tortured by Iraqi forces has not been limited to Denmark. Indeed, after the release of the WikiLeaks "Iraq War Logs," numerous reports of such transfers of prisoners, despite knowledge of torture practices, were published in the British and US press.

According to the publication of one of the "Iraq War Logs" by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, in at least one case, a US military interrogator threatened a prisoner with being turned over to the notorious Iraqi Wolf Brigade, "where he would be subject to all the pain and agony that the wolf battalion is known to exact upon its detainees."

Similar charges of coalition forces turning prisoners over for torture in Afghanistan have also raised controversy. Last September, NATO announced it was suspending many such transfers after years of reports of torture by Afghan security and military personnel.

The Obama administration has pointedly refused to initiate any investigations into US torture, while the British government has announced formation of a government commission to look into the torture charges. The British commission, which has yet to begin its work, has been boycotted by human rights groups, who describe the commission as "toothless" and lacking "meaningful, independent" review.

NATO headquarters did not return a request for comment as of press time. In addition, attempts to verify details of "Iraq War Logs" information were stymied by what appears to be an Internet-wide suppression of the formerly available documents.

Note: This posting has been updated to correct the date of Anders Fogh Rasmussen's resignation and the titles of two Danish news publications.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

American Journal of Public Health article calls for compensation for Guatemala Syphilis Experiment Victims

Last month, the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH) published an article directly related to the Guatemala Syphilis experimentation scandal, where the US Public Health Service killed at least 83 people in the process of purposely inoculating Guatemalan hundreds of subjects with venereal diseases. Even more egregiously, this was done without the informed consent of the subjects, who were mostly poor, or prisoners and insane asylum inmates.

Leading members of a Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues that looked at the scandal harshly criticized U.S. researchers for covering up the research and its horrific outcome. John Donnelly at the official blog for the Presidential Commission said researchers did more than fail to get consent, they used "intentional deception" in their recruitment of the Guatemalan subjects.

The AJPH article, by Glenn Cohen (Harvard Law School and the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics) and Dr. Eli Y. Adashi (Warren Alpert Medical School, Brown University), proposes that U.S. apologies for the affair are "insufficient" and the authors "call for a restitution program directed at the aggrieved parties."

"Surviving family members should also be made whole for harm incurred, whether direct (e.g., disease transmission) or indirect in nature," the authors contend. But "contrition is not enough and [the fact] that compensation and remediation are expected may obviate gross violations of research ethics in the future." I imagine the statute of limitations for these crimes are likely expired, or those guilty, who I suppose could be arraigned for murder, are all now dead.

But as Cohen and Adashi note, "Instead, history appears littered with misdeeds characterized by drawn-out, grudging acceptance of responsibility by the alleged perpetrator."

In March 2001, seven Guatemalans, "former soldiers, orphans, prisoners, and mental health patients in Guatemala who were purposefully infected with the venereal disease syphilis, or their heirs and the family members who were also impacted by the disease," filed a complaint (Garcia v. Sibelius) in the U.S. District Court for the District Of Columbia. Their attorneys note, "The class action lawsuit names several U.S. Government entities and addresses the despicable human rights violations that took place in the course of non-consensual human medical experimentation on Guatemalans in Guatemala by U.S. health authorities beginning in 1946." (See PDF of filing, or Spanish summary of the case.)

Cohen and Adashi contend that establishing a government compensation program "would allow Congress to end the pending litigation," and cite precedents for this.
Recognizing its responsibility in the face of a failed class-action lawsuit (Allen v United States),11 Congress passed the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act of 199012 to make “partial restitution” to eligible individuals “for the burdens they have borne for the nation as a whole."
Cohen and Adashi see this kind of result as "a swifter and surer form of resolution that can benefit a larger swath of possible victims rather than merely those who bring suit or are represented in the class action."

I don't know. While the Presidential Commission did a lot of investigative work, it's possible that discovery in the process of a suit could bring up more vital information. On the other hand, the victims have been waiting for decades. As Cohen and Adashi point out, a class-action lawsuit brought on behalf of the Tuskegrhee experiment victims was settled out of court for $10 million dollars.

In any case, the article and its subject matter deserve wider circulation and discussion. For more on the Presidential Commission, see Cheryl Welsh's article at Daily Censored, "Bioethics Commission Failed Obama’s Mandate in New Report."

A selection from her article:
The Commission issued a report last December 14th and concluded that current U.S. rules are adequate and would prevent such abuses from happening again. 
However, the Commission disregarded the lack of legal reforms for nearly half a million victims of unethical Cold War government research. The Cold War research was often conducted in secret and without consent. The ethical consensus today is that a person must agree to participate in any research and must be informed about the possible risks, known as informed consent. But bureaucratic roadblocks prevented crucial legal reforms from being implemented, including the requirement of informed consent in classified research. Today, U.S. law still allows for a waiver of informed consent.... 
The Common Rule is found at 45 U.S. Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 46. CFR 46.101(i) allows a director of a federal department or intelligence agency to waive any of the Common Rule requirements, including the informed consent requirement and to do so in secret. The waiver effectively nullifies the regulations, and as happened in past Cold War experiments, allows for a complete lack of protections for human subjects in classified research, at the discretion of top officials. 
The endnotes of Obama’s Commission report briefly mentioned the current rules that cover classified research; an Institutional Review Board (IRB) must include a nongovernmental member and must review classified research, and expedited review is not allowed. However, without the consent requirement, U.S. rules still fail to meet even the minimal standards for adequate human subject protections today. 
Nonconsensual human experimentation is a violation of the Fourth, Fifth and Eighth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. government has acknowledged as much in a U.S. Department of State report and past presidential commission reports.... 
It is true, most experts believe that the ethical standards and U.S. rules in place today would prevent the large numbers of Cold War experiments from happening again. While that may have been the thinking of the Commission, this disregards the overwhelming evidence that the legal requirement of informed consent in classified research is essential for adequate human subject protections.

Report Calls for Investigation and Prosecution of Top Government Officials for Acts of Torture

The following is a press release from Human Rights USA about an important new effort to press for prosecutions of U.S. war criminals for the torture.
WASHINGTON, D.C., January 4, 2012: In the aftermath of the attacks on September 11th, high-ranking U.S. government officials planned and authorized acts of torture against detainee terror suspects in violation of both domestic and international law, said Human Rights USA in a report released today.

The report, Indefensible: A Reference for Prosecuting Torture and Other Felonies Committed by U.S. Officials Following September 11th [PDF link], details the voluminous evidence indicating that illegal interrogation techniques were the official policy of the Bush Administration.

More than ten years after the onset of the Bush Administration’s post-9/11 anti-terrorism policies, not a single torture survivor has succeeded in holding a top government official accountable in a U.S. court for the indefensible act of torture due in large part to legal maneuvering by both the Bush and Obama Administrations. The report serves as a practitioner's reference, addressing the domestic and international laws implicated by the actions of certain former high-ranking government officials, and laying the groundwork for litigation of those prosecutions.

“Repudiation of torture and accountability for the government officials who authorized it is essential in order to restore the rule of law in the United States and prevent similar acts of torture from being repeated in the future,” said Allison Lefrak, litigation director of Human Rights USA. “Our country’s legal system relies on the fundamental principle that no one is above the law – even top government officials.”

While certain actions taken by President Obama indicate his desire to break with the lawless ways of the Bush Administration, he has failed to fulfill his international legal obligation to investigate these crimes of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. This failure to investigate acts of torture committed by top U.S. government officials provides them with an unacceptable veneer of legitimacy.
The report is a call for action. If accountability cannot be achieved through the courts, it becomes even more critical that the U.S. government properly investigate acts of torture either through the appointment of a Special Counsel or alternatively by Congressional enactment of a Commission of Inquiry.

The report is the result of a multi-year collaborative effort between Human Rights USA and the International Human Rights Law Clinic at American University Washington
College of Law. Information about the upcoming release event and an online version of the report is available online at http://humanrightsusa.org.

Human Rights USA is a non-profit organization in Washington, DC that seeks to enforce human rights responsibilities in the U.S. legal system. Using impact litigation and other legal strategies, Human Rights USA seeks to obtain justice for survivors of human rights violations, to hold the perpetrators accountable, and deter future violations.

The International Human Rights Law Clinic at American University College of Law carries out its mission of client representation in a broad range of cases and projects – all of which share a commitment to justice through the advancement of international human rights law, both domestically and internationally.

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